"I could have escaped at any time. I just stuck around to keep an eye on you clowns."Congratulations! You just captured the notoriously dangerous and evasive adversary. You've got him Bound and Gagged, and using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, he still won't budge. Finally, he asks a question: "I'm bored. Can I go now?" and then he proceeds to break free like he could have done it at any time. Highly related to Breaking the Bonds, except that the prisoner decides to hang around for a while before breaking free. May sometimes be a form of I Surrender, Suckers, when the person deliberately allows himself to be detained. Sometimes, the captive might not bother to escape, and just hang around until the end of his prison sentence (but still heavily imply that he could have walked out at any time). Occasionally, the prisoner stays in prison because there's no real reason to escape, since he's working his schemes just fine from inside. This is a useful skill for the Trojan Prisoner. It also often shows up as part of a villain's escape from a prison that's apparently made out of cardboard. This Trope can be a dangerous foil for The Jailer, and often is. Also a common case for powerful heroes who have been Wrongly Accused. They often stay around to show their respect for justice, and because breaking out would convince people of their guilt, as well as getting them into unwanted fights. It can also be a form of protective custody from their point of view. Compare Captured on Purpose, where a character lets themselves be captured as part of a plan and can't necessarily escape easily.
— Batman, Justice League, "Injustice for All"
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Kyosuke Hyobu in Zettai Karen Children sat imprisoned, letting B.A.B.E.L. think their countermeasures against him were effective until it was time to set his plans in motion. When one of his people was captured, he simply told him to rest up and that they'll bust him out when they need him.
- A funny moment in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, when Rena tries twice to take Hanyuu home with her. The rest of the class ties her up. Rena waits until she decides it'd be funniest, then easily bursts out of her ropes and tries for a third time to steal Hanyuu.
- Isis Eaglet in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. Her Genre Savvy captor even lampshaded it, noting that she has a "these restraints are no big deal, but I should hear you out for now" expression. Naturally, her captor was right, and the moment that the place she's in came under attack, she proceeded to casually snap her restraints in half.
- Baki the Grappler:
- Biscuit Oliva is the strongest man in the world, at least in raw strenght terms. He lives in an Arizona Prison called "The Black Pentagon". His inmates call him "the Unchained", because no walls nor doors are strong enough to restrain him. His rival, "Che" Guevara, also seems to be totally free into the prison, and he later disappears without no one noticing it until he's gone.
- Speck uses the Japanese prison as a free room.
Speck: Yeah! Nice food, clean air... but the portions suck! -then he goes out, buys some chinese buns, goes to the policemen WCs, gets the police chief to eat a bun (without washing his hands) and goes back to the jail to take a nap.
- Axis Powers Hetalia: During World War I, Germany captures Italy. He then becomes so annoyed by Italy's antics that he demands why Italy is not trying to escape, walks him to the door, opens it, and tells him he can go. Italy's reaction? He walks outside, flirts with a few girls, and comes back in. This is most likely because they are A Match Made in Stockholm. Italy himself says "As long as I'm with you, I get fed and nobody picks on me. I like living here!"
- In Black Butler, Battle Butler Sebastian does this on his master's orders. Really ironic when he confesses to causing the Black Death, and they protest that it happened several hundred years ago.
- Hatenkou Yuugi:
- In the first volume, Alzeid was forced to become the pet of a spoiled rich girl, who locked him in a giant birdcage. After a while, he told her off, bent open the cage's bars, and went back to his hotel, because he had to go to the bathroom. The rich girl did offer him a duck-shaped training potty.
- In a later volume, the gang get arrested because they happen to run into a certain boy. After hearing the boy's story, Alzeid offers his help getting revenge. The three remove their handcuffs and leave without any effort. Baroqueheat didn't even get to try prison food.
- In Immortal Rain, Rain is this in the rare times he gets caught. The warden lampshades this by getting angry that he uses the high-security zeppelin-prison as a taxi, getting caught only when he needs to get someplace far.
- Used to some awesome results in the second episode of the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, where Ed lets himself be captured to expose Father Cornello. Cue Cornello's surprised face when Ed casually starts eating his prison food, something that had been impossible moments earlier when he was chained up. Then he reveals the microphone that Ed used to broadcast their private conversation to the entire town.
- In the Impel Down arc One Piece, Luffy asks Emporio Ivankov if he wants to help him bust out his brother Portgas D. Ace. He first replies that he'll only escape when the time is right, which would be the time when Dragon the Revolutionary begins to make his move against the World Government. When he hears that Luffy is his son, he decides that the time is now, and sure enough, a massive jailbreak does occur, albeit barely succeeding partly due to another break-in at the same time.
- We first see Silvers Rayleigh as a prisoner in a human trafficking operation. He later escapes easily, and admits to a fellow escapee that he only allowed himself to be caught so he could rob whoever bought him at the next auction. He then realized that no one was going to pay for an old man like him, so he decided to cut out the middleman and rob the slave shop.
- In Trigun, Vash bumbles his way into a volatile scene and gets captured and tied up. He frequently escapes his bonds and does something weird to keep the situation from getting deadly but insists on staying there, getting tied up again, even at one point trying to re-tie himself up.
- Mikoto does this to some extent in K, because he's way stronger than anyone in SCEPTER 4 besides Reisi. Mikoto only breaks free after finding out where Totsuka's killer was and setting off to find him.
- At one point in Nisemonogatari, Araragi wakes up to find himself chained up and restrained by Senjogahara. Given their... interesting relationship, he plays along for a while trying to get her to tell him why she did this. But the moment he hears that his sister is in trouble, he snaps the chains and leaves, although it's later revealed to technically have been Shinobu who broke them for him.
- Lupin III: If the title character is ever caught, he treats the prison as this. Although sometimes the prison may show him it isn't that easy. This is even assuming he didn't plan this as a Get into Jail Free gambit. Similar to his ancestor (see the Literature examples), if Lupin the Third is in prison, it's because he wants to be.
- In Spice and Wolf, when Holo gets kidnapped, Lawrence carefully negotiates and then hires trained professionals to rescue her. When she is returned to him, she is extremely upset and reminds him that she is a goddess and could have escaped at any time. The only reason why she waited was because she wanted him to heroically bust in, defeat the bad guys, and sweep her off her feet.
- Dazai sort of does this in Bungou Stray Dogs when captured by the Port Mafia. Chuya comes along and, after some talking, breaks Dazai's chains off of the wall so they can fight. Dazai then reveals that he'd actually managed to unlock the shackles on his wrists and thus could've gotten out whenever he wanted.
- Ban from The Seven Deadly Sins spent five years in a prison, being nailed to a wall with huge steel stakes. He was deprived of sunlight, food and even movement. However, after he heard about captain's return, he pulled stakes out of his limbs, kicked the door down and went to the exit, while effortlessly defeating anyone who tried to stop him. When knight, who originaly caught him attempted to stop his escape, he revealed that he let himself be jailed and tortured out of boredom, and proceeded to kill the knight with his own weapon.
- In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog issue 40, after Sonic is tried in a Kangaroo Court for treason after the Mecha Madness scenario and declared guilty, he shreds off his handcuffs in a fit of rage, declaring he could have done so at any time.
- Whenever The Punisher is jailed, it's usually because he allowed himself to be (usually he walks up to a police station and says "I surrender"), so he can kill one or more guys who are unreachable otherwise. Given that he's the friggin' Punisher, only a few prisoners ever give him trouble.
- Supergirl: In Adventure Comics #424, Linda Danvers -the titular heroine- allows herself to be held prisoner by a mob gang so she can track down their boss. As soon as she gets what she wants, she breaks free, beats the whole mob up and jails them.
- After the Roman army captured Panoramix, Asterix went to rescue him. After a brief discussion, he decided to surrender (which took some effort since the Romans were scared) and have Panoramix brew a special potion. The first one was a hair growth potion to trap the soldiers; the second was claimed to be a potion to stop the hair growth but was really a soup. The magic potion was brewed alongside the soup to make Asterix surprisingly powerful in an instant, just before a high-ranking official came to inspect the camp.
- In Asterix in Britain Obelix, after being captured while drunk and put in the Tower of Londinium, simply decides to walk out and effortlessly rips his chains from the walls and pushes down the door.
- In Asterix and Cleopatra, when the heroes are imprisoned after being falsely accused of attempting to poison the queen with the Special Iced Arsenic Cake. They use the time in prison to prepare a defense and when they are ready to present it to the queen Obelix all but ignores their restraints and guards.
- In Asterix and the Goths Obelix repeatedly breaks down the prison door to request various ingredients from the guards (are you noticing a trend?)
- The first issue of Batman: Gotham Adventures sees the Joker brought to the Batcave for safekeeping (it's a long story). When the rest of the team is called out on a mission, he is handcuffed to a rail and Batgirl is left to guard him. After annoying her for a while with his Talkative Loon qualities, he quotes Roger Rabbit almost word for word: "I could have gotten out of these cuffs any time I wanted. I just had to wait until it was funny." And then he does.
- Invincible: Allen the Alien allowed himself to be held prisoner by the Viltrumites until a particular point in time. His jailers probably should have suspected something when their multiple execution attempts utterly failed.
- Paperinik New Adventures: After a...difficult first encounter, Paperinik traps Xadhoom in a energy cage built specifically for her. Before he can explain that he doesn't want to fight her, some Evronians arrive and try to take both,only for Paperinik to kick their asses. Seeing this, Xadhoom is finally convinced they are on the same side... and then breaks the cage, explaining she only stayed inside it because she wanted to see if he was an ally or an enemy.
- In Loki: Agent of Asgard young Loki saves Thor from a very dangerous parasitic influence, and delivers it in a jar to the All-Mother, who promptly imprison it (an older, more powerful and unrepentantly evil version of Loki) in the most secure cell in the deepest dungeons of Asgardia. Where it, or rather they, pull an Orcus on His Throne while occasionally engaging in evil schemes pretty much unrestricted just for the lulz.
- Aquila: One of the gifts bestowed on Aquila by the evil goddess that resurrected him is that no lock or chain can hold or bind him for longer than he wishes. When he's first introduced having been chained up by an old man, he calmly listens to the man explaining his reasons for wanting revenge before casting off his chains and killing him.
- In Alias, Jessica Jones is taken in for questioning in a murder case (the murdered party being her client). The cops know she has superhuman strength and durability, and note that if she wanted to, she could just get up and walk out, with none of them able to stop her. Jessica agrees this is true, and when pressed as to why she doesn't do that, observes that at the moment, she's only being questioned; whereas leaving the precinct (with presumably at least some force needed) would get her in a lot more trouble.
- This is essentially the plot of Princess Celestia Gets Mugged. Celestia takes a day off and assumes pony form. As a result, she gets mugged and the muggers decide to kidnap her upon discovering proof of her nobility. She could escape and kick their collective flanks any time she wants, but decides to play along because she's bored and it looks like it will be exciting.
- The Bridge:
- When Godzilla Junior is getting escorted out of the dungeons by a large number of guards while wearing large manacles and a thick muzzle, it’s made abundantly clear that he could break out and escape anytime he wants but simply goes along with it, at least until a particularly obnoxious guard begins antagonising him repeatedly prompting Junior to snap his restraints, burn through the muzzle and knock said guard into a wall before promptly holding out his hooves to be chained again. He later explains that he didn’t break out earlier because of the chance innocents might get caught in the crossfire and also because he was starting to suspect the whole brawl happened due to a misunderstanding. Later, after seeing all his allies in the throne room, he promptly breaks out of them again by accident to run up to them.
- Xenilla allows himself to get arrested by the Crystal Empire so that he'll be in the perfect position to ambush King Sombra. However, while he was strong enough to easily break free, he didn't anticipate that the prison would have an alarm system, so he needed Blade Dancer's help to escape without alerting Sombra.
- Paul in With Strings Attached, when he's seemingly mind-controlled by Bayanis, and plays along for a day to stall for time while he finds out where the others are. (“I didn't want to go off sort of half cocked.”) As soon as he knows they're okay and coming to rescue him, he wraps up Bayanis.
- Paul again in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, at the White Tower, when again he's seemingly mind-controlled (the others definitely are), and he waits to see what their captors expect of them before dropping the pretense and scaring them away.
Films — Live-Action
- Sin City: Marv, bound by Gail, plays along with an interrogation until his captors understand he wasn't the one who killed the missing girls. Then he just gets up and shrugs off the ropes.
- Johnny 5 in Short Circuit II, is handcuffed to a metal shelf in the stolen property room at the police station. When his buddy Ben shows up he tells Johnny "O.K. number Johnny 5, you can go now" at which point 5 just lifts his arm and the cuffs snap off.
- Innocent Blood: Marie (who's a vampire) asks her human companion to handcuff her so he'll feel safe making love to her. After they're finished she calmly uses her vampiric strength to break the handcuffs.
- Heroic example from the movie Hancock, where the eponymous superhero allows himself to be imprisoned to win back the hearts of his chosen town, after being a bit careless about property damage during his career. One scene involved him jumping over the prison fences to go fetch a basketball.
- The Joker in The Dark Knight just wants his phone call.
- In the climactic battle of Time Bandits, Evil faces the combined forces of good drawn from all history. He looks mildly annoyed as the first wave — heroic cowboys — surround him, lasso him and bind him securely. He then hands them their heads in a manner that only Terry Gilliam could have dreamed up.
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick uses this trope with the bounty hunters sent to collect him, in order to get to a specific prison planet to find someone, knowing that the relatively short-ranged bounty hunter's spacecraft could only go to one of a few prison planets.
- In The A-Team, Face has such a comfortable prison life (including sex with at least one attractive female staff member) that it's pretty clear he could get out simply by asking. Of course, he has his own tanning booth, so why would he want to leave?
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger handcuffs himself to Eddie at one point. Once Eddie gets a hold of a hacksaw to cut the cuff off with, he notices Roger slipping his own hand in and out of the cuff when he thinks Eddie isn't looking.
Eddie: You mean to tell me you could have taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?
Roger: Not at any time! Only when it was funny!
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- This is part of Black Widow's MO. In The Avengers, she's tried to a chair in a warehouse, being slapped around by Russian thugs who want to know what she knows, when Coulson calls:
- In the same movie, Loki lets himself get captured so he can lead his troops to the Helicarrier and have Hulk destroy the place.
- In Civil War Bucky is imprisoned in a secure mobile cell. When Zemo starts saying the Trigger Phrase, he breaks out relatively easily (though not quite in time)—he was just staying there previously because it was the right thing to do.
- In Skyfall, James Bond allows himself to be captured and brought to the Big Bad, Silva. He's activated a tracking device that's leading MI-6 right to them, and until they arrive, he's content to let Silva explain the hows and whys of his evil plans. Once he's had enough, he quickly kills the guards and takes Silva captive until MI-6 arrive. Silva, meanwhile, getting captured is part of his plan all along.
- Clyde Sheldon in Law Abiding Citizen. First he gets himself sent to prison, then he kills his cellmate to be sent to solitary. This is because he dug tunnels to the cells in solitary confinement, so he could get locked up and send the cops on a wild-goose-chase looking for his "accomplice", while he was sneaking out and back in the whole time.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: In his climatic confrontation with Moriarty, Holmes reveals how he had been out-thinking Moriarty throughout the movie. He needed to steal the notebook Moriarty always carried in his pocket without Moriarty noticing. So Holmes let himself be captured, knowing that Moriarty would torture him for information and wouldn't be able to resist leaning over Holmes so he could threaten him face to face. Holmes used this as an opportunity to steal the notebook and replace it with a fake one.
- In Man of Steel, Clark is naturally one of these when he willingly goes into military custody. Lois indicates that he agreed to be handcuffed, and he explains it as a way of allowing his captors to feel secure. Shortly afterward, he effortlessly breaks the handcuffs to show that he is complying out of good faith, not because the military could actually hold him.
- In Bringing Up Baby, David is put in a jail cell that the guard forgets to lock. He casually opens the door at one point, and even gets the guard to join him inside the cell, but makes no attempt to escape.
- One of the eponymous entities in Killer Klowns from Outer Space lets himself be locked up in the town jail, before finally killing the arresting officer and turning him into a ventriloquist's dummy.
- Towards the end of Terminator Genisys, when T-800 is apprehended together with Sarah and Kyle on the bridge, he plays along to save the lives of his friends, but once they have a chance to escape, T-800 breaks his chains with ease.
- The Rite of Ashk-Ente supposedly binds Death to an octogram drawn on the floor. Really he just stays there to be polite. Unluckily for Susan, when she gets drafted into Death's role for a few days, she is actually bound.
- Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters.
- In Thud!, Detritus the troll decides to not break out of some weak field chains he's been put in due to a misunderstanding. This is good since, as Vimes immediately realises when he meets up with him (and chews out his captors over it) they were hoping he would break out so they had an excuse to kill him.
- In Guards! Guards!, Lord Vetinari is thrown into his own dungeon. Interestingly enough, his cell has all the bolts and bars on the inside to keep people out. Naturally, being Vetinari, he could escape any time he wished (While the lock was unpickable, a copy of the key was stored inside the cell).
- Leonard of Quirm is technically a prisoner of Lord Vetinari, who keeps him locked in a trapped, secret room of the Patrician's Palace since his genius combined with his naive personality is far too dangerous to society. As the end of Jingo reveals though, he can leave whenever he wants since he's the one who designed his prison and all the traps. He just prefers to stay in prison since it's peaceful, it's free lodging, and Vetinari provides him with all the supplies he asks for.
- Whenever Arsène Lupin is arrested, he tends to stick around in prison as long as is convenient for him. At least once he continued to orchestrate crimes from the inside.
- In the Fritz Leiber novel The Knight and Knave of Swords, the Grey Mouser captures a girl and ties her up. She submits to this at the time, but later she grows spines out of her body and uses them to cut through the bindings.
- This was the core of a Herman Melville short story called "Benito Cereno," in which an entire ship of slaves had revolted, but had to pretend to be slaves again when the main character and his crew boarded the ship. Meanwhile, their prisoners played the servants.
- In The Night Angel Trilogy, Kylar is arrested for killing the queen. He could escape, but chooses to stay so that he can be sentenced to death by the new king, who would be falsely suspected of involvement if he didn't come down harshly on the culprit. Some of the guards who come to his cell are a bit rough, thinking that the legendary Night Angel isn't all that dangerous, and Kylar ends up locking them in the cell which was supposedly imprisoning him. He lets them out and accepts "capture" again only when they agree to be more respectful.
- Jan Guillou's spy hero Carl Hamilton does this towards the end of his career.
- Sword of Truth: Zeddicus allows himself to be held in a Rada'han by Prelate Annalina rather than bother her with the fact he can get out.
- Alvin Maker in Heartfire happily stays in handcuffs all through his witchcraft trial, only to break them and casually walk out the moment he is acquitted.
- A more mundane version happens in In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a Dramatization of the lives of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic. When Minerva and Maria Teresa are put in prison for protesting against the government, they are given a pardon and allowed to leave, but they don't because Minerva thinks that implies that they committed a crime.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Luke Skywalker on several occasions. In Rebel Force he actually pretends that efforts to brainwash him have worked, the better to foil plans from within. At some point during Marvel Star Wars he trails behind some inept captors while bound up in order to see how dangerous they are, and when someone says with surprise that he's enjoying this, he cheerfully confirms it.
- It is stated that Jedi in general are impossible to detain against their will. To quote Admiral Bu'watu in Dark Nest Trilogy: "She [Princess Leia] was never your prisoner, she was just being polite." To detain Jedi, the Order itself uses a lizard called a Ysalimri, which blocks all access to the Force in a radius of ten metres, stun cuffs, multiple guards, and large amounts of sedatives.
- In Shadows of the Empire, Leia, Chewie and Lando have Guri bound to a chair as they interrogate her master, Prince Xizor. Once Guri agrees to arrange a meeting with him, she just stands up and walks out the door. Note that they didn't undo the carbonite restraining cuffs first.
- During Galaxy of Fear, Hoole is once vigorously clocked over the head to render him unconscious. It doesn't actually work, but he pretends to be out of it so he can find out more and break loose at the most opportune time... which happens to be while Strapped to an Operating Table, but he's a Shape Shifter, that doesn't slow him down.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, the girls deliberately get captured so they can trick Jack Frost.
- Elijah in Last Mage, being The Fettered paragon of virtue and responsibility, does not evaporate his prison. He does, however, try more mundane means to keep his friends from getting punished along him.
- In Babylon 5, after Lyta is released from prison, it is requested that the guards release her from her manacles. She simply shatters them immediately with her psychic powers, saying she only left them on "to make other people feel safe". Plus she "kind of liked them".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this when Faith and Angel (who was pretending to be bad) captured her, in order to find out the Mayor's plot.
- When Faith became The Atoner, she willingly went to prison for her crimes. The moment Wesley informs her that Angel needs her help, however, she proceeds to break out with incredible ease, with Wesley in tow.
- In season 3, Billy Blim willingly turns himself into the police to get out of his solitary confinement on his family estate. The arresting couple turns out to be a male-female duo, and Billy induces the male into fighting with the female and takes advantage of the chaos to slip away.
- At one point in Farscape, former Big Bad Scorpius is imprisoned on Moya. Three episodes after this, however, he breaks out to avoid capture by hijackers- forcing the cell door open with his bare hands. When one character asks "You could have broken out any time you wanted?" he replies, "I never wanted to." This goes a long way toward showing that they can at least trust him- to a certain extent, anyway.
- Variation in Hogan's Heroes. The prisoners of Stalag 13 could escape at any time they want, but choose not to so that they can sabotage the German war effort
- Doctor Who:
- After an entire season of repeatedly pulling a Villain Exit Stage Left, the Master is finally captured and imprisoned at the end of "The Daemons". In "The Sea Devils" the Doctor pays him a visit, finding that he's rather content and resigned to his certainly centuries of confinement... because, as he later finds out, he's got the entire prison staff working for him and is just biding his time before he unleashes the eponymous Monster of the Week.
- In "Bad Wolf", the Doctor is briefly rendered catatonic after believing Rose to have been killed. After a while of staring blankly at the wall, he turns to Jack, tells him "Let's do it" and proceeds to knock out the guards in a matter of seconds.
- The Master plays along with his captors in "The End of Time" to further his own ends, then uses his freaky superpowers to break free.
- River Song appears to be able to break out of the Stormcage whenever she wants, and will actually waltz back in when she finishes whatever she left to do. And then, after telling them that they can turn the alarm back off as she's in her cell, order room service.
- From "Day of the Moon": Why won't it be enough? Because the TARDIS is sitting cloaked at the back of the cell. The jailor's actually on the Doctor's side anyway, just had to keep the whole operation covered up from the Silence.
The Doctor: You're building me the perfect prison... and it still won't be enough.
- There's also the Silence in "The Wedding of River Song".
The Doctor: The pyramid above us. How many Silents have you got trapped inside it?
Madame Kovarian: None. They're not trapped. They never have been. They've been waiting.
- In an episode of Lois and Clark, Superman is put in jail. The warden tells him he knows that Superman can leave any time he wants to, but asks him to stay.
- In the Battlestar Galactica (1978) episode, "The Long Patrol", there is a prison in which descendants of people originally imprisoned live in cells. The guards are the descendants of the original guards. The locks stopped working (or stopped being locked) many years ago. Starbuck finds this out after shaking the cell door angrily.
- In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena and Gabrielle are surprised to see King of Thieves Autolycus captured along with them on a boat headed to a slave mine. He claims he was caught while committing a burglary, but Xena is not fooled and calls him out on it. He grudgingly removes his shackles and admits he's only pretending to be captured to steal some diamonds at the mine.
- In the Blake's 7 episode "Rumours of Death" Avon allows himself to be tortured for five days in Federation Central Security so as to get at Shrinker, the torture technician who killed his lover. On his signal, the Liberator crew teleport down for them.
- Andre Linoge in Storm of the Century brutally murders an old woman, then deliberately waits around to be arrested for it. As he proves later in the story, he's fully capable of breaking out of the town's rickety jail cell whenever he feels like it, but getting himself captured and pretending to be their prisoner for a while is all part of his master plan to get what he wants.
- Due to hiding his magical abilities from everyone, the title character of Merlin is this whenever he gets stuck in a cell. He can escape whenever he wants, but chooses to make it look like he escaped by mundane means or never left at all. Of course, since this is a Cardboard Prison staffed by complete morons, pretty much anyone can escape whenever they want.
- In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode Shadows, Carl "Crusher" Creel enters a secure military base to steal a powerful item for HYDRA by getting captured and locked up in said base, then using his superpowers to easily escape.
- In Season 4, Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) initially agrees to accompany SHIELD in exchange for keeping his brother safe, but when it's discovered that he's on the Zephyr without the approval of Director Mace, Mace orders him held in the containment cell (where he, his brother, and Daisy were hiding anyway). Robbie proceeds to transform into the Rider and bust out of the cell relatively easily, something no one else has ever been able to do on their own. After he calms down, Mace and Coulson discuss that while they don't trust him, they literally have no way of keeping him prisoner unless he wants to be.
- Lucifer. In "A Good Day to Die", Dan insists that Lucifer go along with everything he does and not interfere. Unfortunately this ends up with them handcuffed to chairs while Dan is being beaten by thugs. Lucifer wants to know if this is All According to Plan, and on discovering otherwise, releases his handcuffs and disarms the gun-toting thugs.
Dan: Are you kidding me?! You could've gotten out of those this whole time?!Lucifer: Of course I could.Dan: Why the hell didn't you stop them from beating the crap out of me?!Lucifer: Because I promised you I wouldn't do anything without your permission!
- In The Flash (2014), Music Meister is eventually captured by Cisco, Wally, and J'onn and placed in the Pipeline. At the end of the episode, he somehow gets out, applauds Barry and Kara, and vanishes into thin air. It's implied that it was all a part of his plan.
- In Geneforge 4, Khyrk (a master Shaper) is captured by Shaper Monarch (a madman with dreams of world conquest). When the player character is sent to rescue him Khyrk reveals that he could have freed himself at any time, but chose to stay captive to learn Monarch's weaknesses and tell them to you.
- Haedraline, in the final chapter of Neverwinter Nights, implies that she only accepted the indignity of being locked up in Castle Never so that she could talk to you.
- Subverted in Loom. Bobbin is put into a cage, which he unlocks easily with his magic Distaff. Turns out that was just a plot to get the Opening draft out of him.
- Batman: Arkham Series:
- In the PS2/XBOX game The Punisher, the Punisher surrenders to the police at the beginning of the story, with most of the game being a How We Got Here flashback. Turns out Frank allowed himself to be captured by his police buddy Soap so that he could be in Riker's Island when Jigsaw started a riot to cover his escape. Frank kills Jigsaw in the riot and escapes the prison easily.
- In Shadow Hearts: From the New World the party is captured by pirates after going through some interrogations Natan simply rips the door off and walks out, much to the surprise of Johnny. They could have gotten out at anytime but Shania and Natan wanted to assess the situation.
- In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the party first encounters Piers when he is imprisoned in Madra after being Wrongly Accused of association with the recent pirate raid. Not only does Piers have an alibi, he's also a powerful Mercury Adept... but he would rather wait for the mayor to prove his virtue, because he doesn't want to use his powers inappropriately (and his alibi would raise further questions).
- Dr. Wily comes along quietly at the end of Mega Man 6, because he has a Dead Man Switch already set up, which awakens Burst Man, Cloud Man, Junk Man and Freeze Man after six months of no contact. No wonder Mega Man is frustrated at the end of 7.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when you're arrested, you can choose to serve your sentence, or pick the lock on either the cell door (which lets you out near the evidence chest with your inventory) or the floor grate (which is easier to pick, but doesn't allow for easy item retrieval). You only get one pick, but with the Unbreakable perk, you can pick the cell lock without issues, and escape if you so choose.
- In the Mark of the Assassin DLC for Dragon Age II, Hawke and Tallis end up trapped in a prison cell at one point. After half an hour, Tallis casually gets up and opens the cell, explaining she didn't do so earlier because she wanted to chat instead.
- Mass Effect 2: During Samara's recruitment mission, the police on Illium are ordered to aprehend Justicar Samara out of fear that she will cause an interspecies incident due to her investigation. Samara agrees to remain in police custody for 24 hours while Shepard investigates in her stead. Her time in custody consists of her lounging in Detective Anaya's office because, as Samara herself notes, any actual attempt to restrain her would be considered an attack by her code, forcing her to resist. Given that Samara could kill half the police force with her powers nobody wants to try it.
- In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, when you first capture Quiet it initially looks like she's escaped confinement by phasing through her cuffs, only to re-appear in Snake's chopper to snipe a jet that was about to shoot them down, then phases back into her cuffs. And it's implied that while she's in a jail cell before officially defecting to Snake's side that she could easily slip out of the cell she's being held in.
- In Reflections on the River, if players go down the appropriate route, it turns out that Prince Shun had actually found and disarmed the traps supposedly keeping him prisoner (which Zheng, the protagonist, had pretended were undetectable magical wards). Being able to observe and study Zheng's work is preferable to him than returning to his boring, pointless life as Spare to the Throne.
- In Drowtales Mel'arnach's debut in the remade chapter one has her knocking out one of her guards and slipping out of her handcuffs easily to she can talk to Ariel. This is also foreshadowing for events later where she absconds from her lair and runs off (being returned once and on the run currently), with the heavily implication that she could have broken out anytime. Her conversations with her brother point to this as well, and it seems that the only reason she has been staying was to wait for Ariel, who is really her daughter, so they could run off together.
- Roll, out of sheer boredom, does this in Stage Select.
- Thomil of Juathuur. His captor even dares him to escape, but staying in prison would be the fastest way to reach his destination, Erab Adur. And then he gets freed due to a misunderstanding.
- The Order of the Stick:
Gannji: Hey, wait. Weren't you tied up a moment ago?
- Ian Starshine let himself be caught, thinking he could recruit other prisoners to help bring down a local dictatorship. Unfortunately, this backfired on him. The smart prisoners don't last long (due to prisoners occasionally being selected to fight in arenas, thus culling out the weakest ones), and just because a master thief can easily escape on his own doesn't necessarily mean he can evade the local law enforcement.
- In #720:
Haley: That was a moment ago.
- In The Specialists, Hartmann. Whose motive is that La Résistance hasn't killed him yet, and the Nazis will.
- In Freefall, Florence actively goes to turn herself in. Then, part of it is needing the protection.
- In Average Joe, the titular character allows himself to be tied up and dakked rather than risking his secret identity by using his super powers to resist...before realizing he's just a stranger to everyone there anyway so it wouldn't have mattered.
- Justice League:
- The page quote is Batman being Batmannote . But he's not the only one to pull it off in the series. When Flash is arrested for robbery, Green Lantern comes to get him. Because the cops have video proof that Flash was performing the heists, they cannot believe another superhero is here to bail him out. GL just gives the guards a funny look. "If he were really guilty, do you think you could have held him here with a pair of handcuffs?" Cue Flash spinning the handcuffs on one finger, having removed them himself. This is, of course, on top of the fact that he's the Flash.
- In a Justice League Unlimited season finale, the main seven excluding Batman (who thinks it's a silly idea) allow themselves to be taken prisoner as an act of good faith to the US government. It's lampshaded by the guy in charge not bothering to handcuff them because it wouldn't stop them anyway.
- The Fairly OddParents! does this, though briefly. In the Channel Chasers story arc, Timmy ties up the older version of him who's secretly part of the resistance to prevent Vicky from obtaining power. When Vicky shows up about to blast them with a giant robot, he breaks free from the ropes and follows it up by saying 'For the record I could have done that at any time'.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- In "Avatar Day" Aang is kept in stocks that he's small enough to slip in and out of at will, while in "The Earth King" he's bound by earthbender-made cuffs which, because he can use earthbending, he can take off and on at will. In both cases Aang played along out of principle and to make a good impression on the people who were holding him.
- It turns out that after the Fire Nation seizes Omashu, King Bumi is one. They keep him locked up in a metal coffin-like cell that only exposes his face, but that's all he needs to be able to bend his way out at any time. Bumi explains to Aang that he's waiting until the right moment to escape, and when it comes (on the Day of Black Sun) he not only escapes, but drives the entire Fire Nation army out at once, by himself.
- The only thing imprisoning Iroh did was give him time to work off the extra fat and build up. Then, on the Day of Black Sun, he smashes his way out without any trouble and escapes. Without firebending.
- In the fourth season of The Legend of Korra Ikki definitely takes after her grandfather in this regard. She's captured by two of Kuvira's soldiers and tied to a chair with rope, but is easily able to slip her arms in and out of her bonds at will. When Jinora and Meelo finally show up to rescue her she shimmies out the ropes and complains that she had everything under control.
- Near the end of Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time, several members of La Résistance are captured and put in chains, after which they are brought to the throne room where the rest of the characters are. As soon as the characters who are free start kicking ass, the captured ones break their chains like they were made of paper and join the fun.
- In the premier of Darkwing Duck, Big Bad Tauras Bulba has been running his organization from his Luxury Prison Suite for years. When it finally comes time to break out, he presses a button and the entire cell turns into an escape rocket. Apparently, the guards should have possibly asked more questions about what he was doing in there.
- A small example of this occurs in episode 21 of the third season of Winx Club. Nabu had snuck onto one of the specialists ships when the Winx went to retrieve the water stars they needed to defeat Valtor. Since the Winx at this point weren't sure whether they could trust Nabu or not, they put shackles on him that would apparently prevent him from using his magic. Later when they are attacked by monsters, Nabu easily removes the shackles in order to save Aisha from a monster. Apparently he could've gotten out of them at any time, but he didn't because Aisha had told him not to try anything. After the fight is over, he also tells her to put the shackles back on him since they have more important things to worry about than whether or not they can trust him.
- In Phineas and Ferb, Perry never makes any attempt to escape from Dr. Doofenshmirtz's traps until the very last second, at which point he does so easily. When he was trapped by chair-cuffs, he removed his hand to grab some popcorn, then put it back. At another point Doofenshmirtz mutters that Perry could have been considerate enough to get in his trap during a delay, which he immediately does.
- In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the Evil Scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans he let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
- In another example, Mega Man decides that the best way to get into prison to rescue Roll and Dr. Light is to get himself arrested. He promptly does so, and soon breaks out to free them.
- In one episode of WildC.A.T.s, a friend of Grifter's has just finished a jail sentence. The warden is proud of the fact that he was able to hold a notorious robber for his entire sentence. Grifter simply said "You weren't holding him. He was just serving his time." Said robber proves this right when he breaks out of the prison in a matter of minutes, with the breakout starting the moment his sentence officially ended - just to prove that he could have broken out at any time if he'd wanted to.
- One Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Sonic Breakout", has Sonic pull this. In order to rescue a cartoonist who was put into Robotnik's Alcatrez for an insulting cartoon, Sonic allows himself to be captured by Scratch and Grounder... but not before putting them through the usual shenanigans. Breaking out, however, proves to be tricky as Robotnik has built a specially-designed wing just for Sonic...
- In the Super Friends episode "The Giants of Doom", Bizarro, Sinestro, Toyman, and Captain Cold allow themselves to be captured by the Superfriends and placed in a specially designed cell. Once they are ready, Sinestro reveals that he can control his power ring even when it is not on his hand and they break free. Their goal was to gain access to the Justice League Computer. Amazingly, Bizarro was the one who came up with this plan.
- Magneto in X-Men attempts a prison break to free Beast... who calmly informs him that he has no desire to escape and expects to get his day in court and be exonerated. While Beast may or may not have been able to leave under his own power at any time, he certainly has plenty of powerful friends on the outside who could have sprung him, should he have been so inclined.
- One episde of The Simpsons reveals that Springfield Penitentiary is such a Cardboard Prison that all of the prisoners are just playing along. When they are outside, the only thing keeping them from leaving is an unlocked door with a sign saying "Please do not escape". Snake does so anyway to chase Homer because Homer is driving Snake's old car and fueling it up with regular gas ("she needs premium!"), saying "screw the honor system!".
- Teen Titans episode 60 (Lightspeed): the Hive-Five "captures" Kid Flash and places him inside a metal cage. Instead of directly busting out, the superhero takes his time trying to convince Jynx to redeem herself, and only then he makes it obvious for the Five he was never really their prisoner by dismantling their tower.
- In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien/Generator Rex crossover special, Rex and co have captured Ben for (inadvertently) hurting Six. When Rex taunts him about being their prisoner, Ben laughs and responds with "I stayed to see if I could help. But if that's your attitude.." then proceeds to turn into Big Chill and walk out.
- In The Smurfs episode "The Magnifying Mixture", when giant Hefty decides to take Gargamel and Azrael with him inside a sack as his prisoner to the Smurf Village, the evil wizard and his cat decide to play along as Hefty's captives until they reach the village. Once that happens, Gargamel escapes and ends up trapping giant Hefty in a sack.