A practice of the Slave to PR
In Tropeland, people tend to get captured quite often. Therefore, when your favourite character is slapped in irons and thrown into the brig, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Stuff like this happens all the time, and you can be assured he'll be free again by the next commercial
Wait, what's going on? Why's he just sitting there doing absolutely nothing
In many characters' lives there might come a moment when leaving a prison would be against everything they stand for. After all, if they
can't obey the law, how could they demand it from anyone else? Besides, they didn't do it
, so there's nothing to worry about
Other characters stick around just because they're better off behind bars. There they are safe from the evils (or goods, as it may be) of the world, possibly lulling their enemies into a false sense of security. Alternatively, they're there just because this week's Plot Coupon
is there as well, and the easiest way in happened to be through the front gate.
with the characters demonstrating just how easy breaking out would be. They might also be forced to insist to be let to stay, if they are in danger of getting freed prematurely. If they're waiting to get legally released, they may just escape as the order comes, to show that they can
Usually takes place in a Cardboard Prison
or a Luxury Prison Suite
. If the character was arrested to foil some Evil Plan
when getting arrested was their true goal, than its a form of Xanatos Gambit
. When capital punishment is involved, it's Forgiveness Requires Death
. When they invoke the aid of another character, it often overlaps with No Matter How Much I Beg
or Kind Restraints
. A character who normally does this may break out when he's the Protector Behind Bars
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- In the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kamina is thrown in the village lockup after trying to break out. He chills in the jail for a while until Simon shows up and says he found something interesting. At that point he casually snaps his wrist restraints and walks out.
- Fujin and Raijin in Naruto. They are strong enough to bend the bars of the cell and leave at any time but as long as they have food they are content enough to stay there.
- In the actual manga, Tobi pulls this off after a failed attempt at kidnapping, where he is bound by Yamato's Wood style and takes the opportunity to gives some exposition before leaving like he could have at any point.
- Light in Death Note, as part of his Clear My Name Memory Gambit.
- In Soul Eater the villain Medusa lets herself get captured by the good guys for absolutely no reason other than to taunt them by forcing them to make a deal involving her safe release in exchange for information. During the negotiation she asks them to remove her bindings, and when its pointed out that she could've done so herself at any time responds with "There's no meaning to it if I do it myself." Magnificent Bitch indeed.
- In the manga however, this is to gain the DWMA's trust so that they allow her to take command of the students during the raid on Arachnaphobia. She lies and tells the kids that her purpose for this is that Arachne has taken Crona. Her REAL purpose is to get her sister Arachne out of the way and take her body. Medusa later reveals to Maka that she was using them the entire time and that Crona has gone too far off the deep end to go back Maka and co. Most definitely a Manipulative Bitch.
- When Kid is visiting the Witch world he initially humors them by pretending to be restrained by the ropes they tied him up with, but eventually points out he could break them and kill everyone in the room. He then breaks the ropes, but only so he could ask for help in the Pose of Supplication.
- In the last episode of Weiß Kreuz Gluhen, Ken is shown to be in prison - which, we discover, is apparently by his own choice, and it's implied that he can get back out whenever he wants but is simply using it as a form of self-imposed penance and a chance to think.
- Subverted in Monster, when Tenma gives a false confession just to be able to escape during a transfer to another prison. (But he would easily have gone along with being locked up for a crime he didn't commit if no one on the outside was imperiled.)
- In the first episode of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro initially makes no effort to escape from jail, even passing up a chance to grab the keys. When he hears that Zeed kills women and children, he bends open the bars to his cell to kick some butt-ugly ass.
- AKB0048: Nagisa's father does this initially when Nagisa shows up to break him out of prison. Her father is a government official on a planet in which entertainment is banned, and was subsequently thrown in jail when Nagisa joined a high-profile entertainment group.
- In Astérix and the Laurel Wreath, the heroes get imprisoned and break out of their cell during the night to search the palace above, only to return once they don't find what they're looking for.
- Later, in Asterix and the Banquet, they let themselves be captured, but as the roman attempt to wrap them in chains, they keep moving and breaking them because of the magic potion, to the Roman's smith's great distress.
- Superman. Because he's the Superman.
- The Amerimanga Gold Digger has Crush, a former superheroine who was blackmailed into serving a supervillain; she accepted her prison sentence and refuses to seek parole, despite being a model prisoner who helps keep her prison in order. She's trying to repent for "going native" and killing a petty criminal who was actually an undercover policeman.
- Later the main character Gina Diggers joined her temporarily for trying to steal a device from one of her unscrupulous rivals in order to save her lost sister, when the authorities, include Gina's pops, were already there to pick it up legitimately from said rival
- In one of the Captain America novels, Cap is kidnapped by a militia group to be put on "trial" for not doing enough to help "real Americans." Cap can and does break out of jail, but he does it secretly to pass along information to other superheroes and law enforcement. He then breaks back in, with the militia none the wiser. This ensures they stay focused on his trial and keep all the best militia members guarding him, so only the B-squad is available to carry out the actual nefarious plan, which is thus thwarted by Cap's partner The Falcon.
- A lengthy plot in New Warriors involved Marvel Boy accidentally killing his abusive father with his powers, and being found guilty of manslaughter. When the rest of the Warriors show up to break him out of prison, he refuses to go—he did the crime, he'll do the time.
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick allows bounty hunter Toombs and his goons to capture him and take him to the prison planet of Crematoria where he has unfinished business. It is unclear whether the entire Crematoria plot is actually a Gambit Roulette of Riddick's...
- In Hancock, when he turns himself in to improve his public relations he is basically kept there on the honor system. This is demonstrated at one point when he jumps over the fence to retrieve a basketball and then goes right back in.
- In Serenity, River is handcuffed and locked in a sealed storage room after she goes berserk. She stays in there for a while as the movie progresses, but she eventually manages to puzzle through her own telepathy-induced schizophrenia and realizes she needs to access the navigation computer - at which point she slips out of her restraints and knocks out Jayne when he comes into the room, making it clear that if she wanted to she could have escaped at any point. She instead stayed there because the rest of the crew were terrified of her.
- Marv in the film of Sin City: He gets chained up and interrogated, then breaks his chains just as he's about to be let free. He explains that it's because he Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
- Another Sin City example is Hartigan, who actually had to claim to have committed a crime, but was innocent. His refusal was partly because of his distrust of his captors (who were paid off by a corrupt US senator who wanted to make him pay for trying to take down his son), and partly because he didn't want to be associated with the seriously heinous crime in question.
- Also Wallace in Hell And Back is arrested by the Basin City police, and as they reach his cell, he removes the handcuffs himself.
- In Support Your Local Sheriff, James Garner's character has one of the bad guys so badly buffaloed that he's willing to stay in a jail cell that has no bars, just a line drawn on the floor to indicate where the bars should be.
- And a splash of red paint.
- Another Superman example: promo material for Man of Steel shows our hero being handcuffed, detained and calmly taking questions from Lois Lane in a room with a two-way mirror.
- During that scene in the movie, Kal gets up to address the General who is standing behind the two-way mirror, casually breaking the chain of the handcuffs without so much as stopping to glance at them.
- In the Discworld novel Guards! Guards! Vetinari is usurped and thrown into prison. He has anticipated this, and the most secure cell happens to have its lock on the inside.
- Leonard of Quirm could escape any time he wants to, but prefers the peace of prison.
- Leonard of Quirm designed his own prison cell, and the traps in the hallway leading up to it! He's practically a boarder.
- In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer convinces Jim that he can't just walk out of his cabin, and has to make his escape in a properly epic fashion. Jim's already legally been freed but Tom's keeping it a secret
- Horatio Hornblower, after being released from a Spanish prison to aid in a rescue mission at sea, refuses to stay on British ship that eventually picks them up, because he had given the Spanish his parole.
- The British captain is little pleased by this. Even less when Hornblower points out that the Spanish with him must be released as they were engaged in rescue at sea. British Naval regulations must be cited before the Captain agrees, but he did agree.
- Hornblower ends up being exchanged early as a result though, and promoted to Lieutenant.
- A couple of Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker books have done this. Alvin can pretty much go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, but allowed himself to be kept imprisoned twice, though I seem to recall he eventually broke out the second time because there was an emergency.
- In J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Merry and Pippin get captured by the Uruk-Hai, manage to free themselves and then keep wearing their bonds while they wait for the right moment to escape.
- Subverted when Frodo is captured - Tolkien makes no mention of any sort of restraint on him AND his guards have almost completely annihilated one another, but seeing as he's malnourished, in mental anguish from being separated from the Ring, and also sick from Shelob's poison, he is unable to escape.
- Subverted in Arsène Lupin in Prison as there's no question that Lupin is guilty or could easily escape. The only reason he stays in prison is so he is able to pull off a caper that could only be done if he were in prison. In the next story The Escape of Arsène Lupin his first escape from prison is part of a plan for particularly spectacular escape.
- In Stephen Pressfield's Tides of War, this happens with Socrates, representing the Truth in Television event, at least if Plato's Crito is accurate.
- Happens briefly in Codex Alera, when a group of Alerans are imprisoned by the Canim. They are put on the top of a tower, with no nearby buildings to jump to, no way to climb, and generally no way down. The only way to escape the prison would be to fly. Which most adult Alerans (and every single one of the "prisoners") can do. They stay because they need to talk to the person who threw them in prison.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville, Heat, Clark is arrested for arson. Chloe talks him out of breaking out. Which he did anyway.
- In Lois and Clark, Superman promises to not use his superpowers since the people of Metropolis thinks that he is the cause of a localized heat wave (it was actually Lex Luthor). When he saves someone, he is arrested and put in holding, where one of the other detainees starts to mess with him, ("I just tugged on Superman's cape!"). When the jerk tries to punch him, Supes dodges and the bum lands his punch on another guy. The other guy is not happy and Superman just kinda shrugs at the first one, "Kinda sucks to be you right now."
- Supernatural: The Winchesters purposely trip a motion detector to get themselves arrested so they can investigate a haunted prison.
- In another episode they allow themselves to be committed to a mental institute to investigate the deaths of patients. When they are done, they just walk out of the place with minimum of effort.
- How can we forget Andre Linoge?
- As part of her Heel-Face Turn on Angel Faith turns herself in to the police and is sent to prison for a murder she committed back on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her breakout when a Slayer is needed 3 seasons later proves she could have escaped any time.
- On Bones, not only the main character's father, but her brother, do this to restore her respect in them.
- Zack also demonstrated the ability to escape quite easily.
- An early episode of Stargate SG-1 has Teal'c captured and put on "trial" for killing a man years ago (when he served Apophis). It's an absurd Kangaroo Court, the team is fully armed, the locals have only medieval weapons, and the Stargate can't be more than thirty feet away. The only complication: Teal'c is guilty as charged, and refuses escape. Even after the Goa'uld attack and Teal'c is freed and armed to join the fighting, he shows up for his scheduled execution.
- Needless to say, the locals have changed their mind about sentencing by this point.
- One episode of The Outer Limits (the newer series) has a self-aware robot called Adam that had just killed its creator after said creator, on the behest of the government, tried to erase Adam's personality and reprogram him as a mindless weapon. Most of the episode consisted of a trial determining whether or not Adam should be considered a person fit to stand trial or a piece of haywire machinery that should be immediately scrapped. The entire time he is cuffed with rather hefty restraints. In the end Adam wins the right to stand trial as a person. However, as everyone is leaving the courthouse, the prosecuting attorney who argued against Adam's humanity accidentally walks into the path of a truck. Adam effortlessly breaks his restraints and pushes her out of the way, sacrificing himself in the process.
- Neal Caffrey on White Collar broke out of prison 3 months before the end of his sentence to find his girlfriend. This suggests that he could have left at any time. It is also ridiculous that the 'tracking anklet' he has in the first season can literally be cut off by a pair of scissors. If he wanted to leave, 5 minutes would be more than enough time to disappear. The real problem for Neal is what to do after he escapes. He does not have the funds to live comfortably in another country and does not fancy a quiet life as a nobody in some backwoods town. Baring those options, he knows that sooner or later Peter and the FBI would track him down and put him into a maximum security prison for a long time. It is easier to just finish his two year probation while living in a penthouse apartment in the middle of Manhattan.
- Played for laughs in Arrested Development when GOB ends up in a coalition-run prison in Iraq. The whole thing is actually a government trick to get him to lead them to some evidence against his father, and they keep intentionally giving him opportunities to escape, but he just points out their "mistakes" each time rather than taking advantage of them.
- Corner Gas: Davis voluntarily goes to jail for charity; the jail cell hasn't had a proper lock for years.
- At least until "The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone" River Song of Doctor Who is imprisoned in the Stormcage Prison for some not-yet-specified crime (implied to be murder, possibly of the Doctor himself). When she needs to (normally to go off on some adventure with the Doctor), she will happily escape and even let the guards see her packing her bags and inform them of her plans, and then return to her cell willingly when the adventure is done. Why she does this instead of just leaving for good is not clear, although it is possible that, in her ridiculously convoluted time-travel relationship with the Doctor, she needs somewhere where she can reliably be expected to be.
- As of "The Wedding Of River Song" we know that she is indeed imprisoned for killing the Doctor, but didn't really, and that part of the reason she remains in prison is to provide clear historical evidence to the Silents that the Doctor was, in fact, killed.
- In "The Jailhouse Job" on Leverage Nate, arrested in the season 2 finale, refuses the team's offer of rescue until someone else is in trouble.
Mythology and Religion
- Christ Jesus, who willingly gave himself up to suffer something as terrible as crucifixion so we wouldn't have to, making this Older Than Feudalism: "Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and he will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53 NKJV)
- In the same book, two missionaries (Paul and Silas, to be exact) are locked up in jail when a miracle happens and the jail wall collapses. The guard freaks out that he'll be punished, but then sees that they just stayed in their cell singing hymns.
- The story says that the guard was getting ready to kill himself because he was afraid of punishment from his bosses for losing the prisoners. Paul actually has to tell him, "Do yourself no harm for we are still here." The guard falls down to his knees and asks Paul the most important question of his life, "What must I do to be saved?" and the response given is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." The story notes how the guard is converted by the wonder of the occasion, that a prisoner would stay behind to help his prison guard, on that day Jesus did save him.
- In Pokémon Live!, upon hearing Team Rocket has Pikachu, when Jessie and James arrive to capture him Ash lets them. They're put off by this.
- Cody from Street Fighter Alpha 3 has a tendency to leave his prison cell, pick fights with other fighters, then return to the cell. He also wears handcuffs that he can remove at any time. He's a bit hard to take seriously, even by his Final Fight compatriots.
- In Breath of Fire, you encounter Karn for the first time when you get thrown in jail. He's sleeping there. Bug him enough and he'll open the doors so you can escape... then go back to sleep.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Izoold has been damaged by several acts of arson. The man in jail for these crimes is Regal Bryant, wearing his trademark shackles. After you clear his name, he is released from jail, whereupon he immediately breaks his shackles and suggests that Izoold use a stronger brand (from the Lezareno company, natch).
- Regal did this in earlier in Tales of Symphonia, using a Kamehame Hadoken to destroy the prison cell he and the party were stuck in. He only did this once the party had exhausted all other options, and it took little effort on his behalf. He refuses to use his hands to destroy anything, as he had to Mercy Kill the woman he loved with them.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, Rinoa surrenders herself to be imprisoned and have her sorceress powers sealed in order to prevent the Big Bad from being able to possess her. Then Squall breaks her back out anyway, but it was a nice thought.
- Miss Dynamite from the webcomic of the same name stays in jail (at the first chapters) just because they keep her comfortable.
- A recent plot development in Girl Genius has Agatha posing as a murderer because the prison itself is the latest Plot Coupon.
- Implied to be the case with the inhumanly strong and almost literally unstoppable Mister Inertia in General Protection Fault, as he seems to be waiting for something while in UGA captivity.
- Frequently subverted in Schlock Mercenary. The company policy is that when a mercenary is arrested they stay put and don't break anything, because posting bail is fairly cheap and doesn't have the drawback of making the government issue a warrant for you in case you want to come back to the system. Unfortunately, mercenaries get bored.
- Schlock has broken out of prison and then had to break back in at least once.
- In It's Walky, Sal is sent to prison. It would take no effort to bust out of there using her superhuman strength, but she stays on principle.
- In The Order of the Stick, Roy tells his companions not to free him and Belkar when they were imprisoned by the Empire of Blood... or at least not until they've secured information about Girard's Gate from General Tarquin.
- In The Specialists, Hartmann. Whose motive is that La Résistance hasn't killed him yet, and the Nazis will.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Avatar Day", Aang refuses to break out when one of his previous incarnations is accused of murder. He even gets slapped into stocks. The problem is they're designed for adults, so Aang, who is pretty skinny anyway, has no trouble at all taking them off when he wants to.
- Later, in "The Earth King", rock restraints are put on Aang's wrists. Since Aang has been training as an Earthbender, this is pointless, but Aang lets them stay on so he can make a good impression. He even briefly takes them off to wave, then puts them back on.
- This happens to Bumi when he is imprisoned by the Fire nation, he willingly restrains himself until the Firebenders lose their powers so it is easier for him to not just escape, but take back his whole city by himself.
- Played with by Fox of Gargoyles. When Coyote is breaking out all of other members of The Pack, she decides to stay. The thing is, the entire set up was a Xanatos Gambit by her lover, Xanatos himself, to significantly reduce her sentence for good behavior. If she joined the break out she'd have to worry about being re-arrested. The actions of the Pack were meaningless to achieve this goal and Xanatos knew they'd be swiftly recaptured.
- Xanatos himself served his prison time quietly during a significant chunk of Season 1, despite having the impressive resources of his multinational corporation to call upon.
- Demonstrated several times in the Justice League series.
- Green Lantern John Stewart is tried and convicted of destroying a planet, and although he could easily resist arrest and escape (particularly with the help of the rest of the JL), he doesn't because he feels people with that kind of power need to be held accountable (plus, the set up is so good that even he thinks he's guilty).
- When Flash is mind-controlled and commits a crime in "The Brave and the Bold". Green Lantern hauls him out of the confession room, informing the police that Flash must be innocent; if he were guilty he would already have escaped. Flash then proceeds to demonstrate how he can't be held by handcuffs. He'd been willing to stay, but Lantern was too impatient to wait for him to be exonerated.
- The Justice League is accused of firing their BFG on a government base, and six of the founding seven (Batman refuses) turn themselves in. As they're going into custody, one MP asks if they should cuff the superheroes. His superior scoffs, saying something to the tune of, "Do you really think that would make a difference?"
- On The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are put in prison, and Bugs finds that prison life agrees with him; free meals, free gym, and best of all, protection from the other prisoners so he can insult them indiscriminently ("It's a smart-aleck's paradise!"). When they both escape shackled to each other, all Bugs wants is to turn himself in. And once they have served their sentence, Bugs has to be dragged out kicking and screaming.
- Ricochet Rabbit, "Jailbreak-In" has a bad guy refuse to leave the jail, as he enjoys the free room and board there. After several unsuccessful eviction attempts, the sheriff finally does toss the bad guy out, leading to him blowing up the jail in frustration: "If I can't stay there, no one can! Goodbye, jail!" BLAMMY! AT the very end Sheriff Ricochet puts him to work building the new jail, which will end up holding the stubborn bad guy once again.
- In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the Evil Plan of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans, he let himself be handcuffed and led away. When his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs easily.
- In one episode of the Mister T cartoon, Mr. T is arrested for theft; his friends ask why he doesn't just break out and he then proceeds to demonstrate that he could — and quite easily — but he says that he is innocent and therefore has no need to run away.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer and Bart get arrested in Japan and are put in a jail cell... with paper walls. Only after his bail is paid and the door is opened does Homer walk through the wall.
- In another episode, we see that one of the prisons in Springfield operates on the honor system. And most of the prisoners actually comply.
- In the Transformers Generation 1 2-parter "Megatron's Master Plan", Megatron tricks the world into believing that the Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are good. Despite being easily powerful enough to do whatever they feel like regardless of public opinion, the Autobots submit to arrest, sit through a trial, and agree to be banished from the planet, only deciding to come back after Megatron reprograms their navigation system to fly them into the sun.
- Beast in the 90s X-Men cartoon was once wrongly sent to prison. Magneto, thinking this would make him bitter, broke him out in an attempt to recruit him as an ally - at which point Beast politely asked him to leave, as he wished to stand trial and prove his innocence.
- In the Young Justice episode "Bloodlines", When Impulse appears in the Cave and runs amok, he is knocked out by Nightwing and has his hands and feet cuffed. While Nightwing, Robin, and Beast Boy interrogate him, he stays put. But once Mal Duncan arrives and opens an exit, Impulse simply vibrates his body through the cuffs and runs off.
- In the Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Jailhouse Flock", the good guys get arrested. The Planeteers get bailed out, but not Captain Planet. He chooses to stay, even using his superpowers for the hard labor. It is only when his name is cleared that he leaves.
- Truth in Television, every now and then. A notable example involves a preacher who was sued for libel and refused to post bail to make a point. The prison wasn't particularly nice, either, and aggravated his health problems. OTOH, his accuser was discredited and fled the country.
- If we are to believe the autobiography of the Renaissance goldsmith and sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, he was guilty of several crimes during his lifetime. However, the time he went to jail was for no real crime (a false accusation by his servant). Yet, since it was his "first" offense - he was never caught previously - he was not locked in, but allowed to roam the St. Angelo castle, where he was imprisoned, quite freely. Touched by the kindness of the castle's governor, Cellini stayed in jail freely, despite even the soldiers in the castle offering to aid him in his escape, since they were aware that he was condemned wrongly. Cellini's word, however was a word of honor.
- Nonetheless, this trope was subverted some time later, when the governor, prone to sudden bouts of schizophrenic disassociation (thinking himself a pitcher of oil, a frog and whatnot), as well as paranoia, decided, during one of these, to confine Cellini to an actual cell. The goldsmith took offense and promised to make a jailbreak as soon as possible. He did so in one of the most daring lone jailbreaks known to history, breaking his leg in the process and limping with an open wound about half a kilometer to Florence, where he made his final escape.
- Socrates, having been condemned to death by the Athenians, was urged by his friends to flee the city. Instead, he chose to stay and be executed to make the point that he loved virtue more than life.
- That, and by that time he was old and leaving the city to live with barbarians could be seen as a fate worse than death by him anyway. Might as well die with his dignity and honor intact.
- In more chivalrous times, officers captured in war would be given the opportunity to give their parole, which was usually a sworn promise that they would not fight against the capturers' troops. Mediaeval nobles often ended up as guests of their capturing lord, and many made great inroads in impregnating the local womenfolk. Later on, the fortress-town of Verdun was the go-to destination for British POWs in the Peninsular War. If they were enlisted, they sat it out in freezing, wet cells. If they were officers, they lived in the town and formed the Officers Philosophy Club, which did precious little philosophy and quite a lot of drinking and whoring.