This is when we're told a character has no choice but to surrender, even though we've seen the character easily get out of worse situations before. The tough guy is able to beat up Mooks
by the dozen, but when three of them corner him later in the story, he suddenly decides that he can't fight odds like that and drops his gun. Or some characters think nothing of dodging a hail of bullets in a fight scene, but later are terrified into submission by a single gun pointed at them from across the room. Or a hero kills half an army while Storming the Castle
, only to give up in despair when it turns out the Big Bad has two whole guards
in his throne room.
Why can't the heroes just beat up the baddies like they usually do? Because the plot requires that the heroes get captured at about this point, that's why. The writer has just decided that they want the story to go in a certain direction - maybe this is because they want to write a prison escape sequence, or because they want a hero to be freed by the villain's beautiful daughter
as part of a romance sub-plot, or because they just want some drama
because invincible heroes are boring
. That's fine, but the catch is that if you've spent a long time building characters up as badasses
, you'll need to hit them with one hell of a threat if their backdown is going to look plausible. If you don't, you're asking the audience to believe that enemies who were previously just an inconvenience have suddenly and inexplicably become an overwhelming danger, and people may not buy that.
It's a kind of Plot-Induced Stupidity
, and may be a result of a character being handed an Idiot Ball
. Sometimes generates Fridge Logic
. It can be combined with Stupid Sacrifice
if the reason that the character surrenders is that it gives someone else a better chance of escaping - just not better than if the hero actually defeated the bad guys.
If a writer wants this to happen in video games, there exists a problem in that players will resist surrendering to opponents who they know or think
they can beat. This inconvenient fact can be overruled with Cutscene Incompetence
or by making sure Stupidity Is the Only Option
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- Happens in several of the James Bond movies. If the plot requires him to get caught, hear a villain's speech, and then escape from a death trap, he'll surrender in situations he'd otherwise deal with using an impressive fight scene. The threat to him is usually fairly genuine, true, but when has that been much of a problem for him?
- Played for Laughs in the second Hot Shots! film. Topper is carrying a hostage, has a giant machine gun and knows how to use it. When Saddam shows up with a tiny hand gun, Topper surrenders immediately despite having blown away tons of guys earlier, and even surviving a shot from a Mook just a few scenes earlier while carrying said hostage.
- In the film version of The Hobbit, the dwarves fight the trolls instead of being captured by them one-by-one like they were in the book. They're winning, too, until the trolls grab Bilbo and threaten to kill him if the dwarves don't surrender. Thorin reluctantly agrees to this. Except the trolls don't let Bilbo go when he does so. They didn't even say that they would. So now Bilbo is still going to die, but all of the dwarves are going to die as well. What exactly did they gain from this?
- They all survived a little bit longer, and were rescued. After all, they did know Gandalf might return just in time. Might have been genre savvyness, might have been a case of honour before reason.
- Spoofed in the first The Naked Gun. Nordberg tries to kick in the door to a boat and surprise the criminals inside, but instead puts his foot though it, alerting them. Despite having a half dozen guns pointed at him, he still tries telling them to drop their weapons. One guy actually does so, to the disbelief of his fellows.
- Actually used in-universe in one of the Blake's 7 tie-in novels. Supercomputer and regular Deus ex Machina of the series, ORAC, informs Avon that, in their current circumstance, his only hope of survival is to surrender. Avon follows ORAC's advice, only to realize later that he could have escaped. He thus realizes that someone is controlling ORAC...
- In The Order of the Stick, Elan, Durkon and Lien are "caught" in a net. While Durkon and Lien get out of the net and try to escape, Elan is Genre Savvy enough to recognise the trope and surrender.
- One of the most embarrassing defeats in American military history: the surrender of Fort Detroit in the War of 1812.
- The surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Why is this stupid? The British had 100,000 soldiers in the city against 30,000 Japanese, and surrendered when they still had 90,000 men left. In this particular case, it was because Singapore had a massive defence system built up over the course of centuries that was able to repel almost any possible invasion ... but it only faced out to sea. The Japanese attacked from the land.