main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Stupid Surrender
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.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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 Hot Shots! Part Deux. 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.
  • 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...

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Giovani is a skilled assassin who has been in the business for years. The plot is set off by he and two of his sons being captured by fewer guards than his surviving son, Ezio handles in most fights in the game. Seriously. Pretty much every fight in the game involves more enemy soldiers than that in which the Master Assassin is captured.
  • In the old Mission: Impossible game for Nintendo 64, at the start of the first mission, you go into a building with a single guard seated behind a desk. When you go in, he raises his hands but threatens to call for help, which he will eventually do if you don't shoot him fast enough. You are supposed to use the Face-Changer gadget to disguise yourself as him right after you kill him, but if you don't, a single guard will rush in and aim a pistol at you, causing your guy to instantly put up his hands and surrender, even though you also have a pistol. The REALLY stupid part is if you're fast enough, it's possible to shoot the 2nd guard dead too, 1 second before he tells you to surrender.
  • In The Witcher, the protagonist surrenders to a few city guards in order that he later be roped into doing something as a way of getting out of prison. Of course, he may have been thinking more about not getting off-side with the law than of the threat posed by the guards.
    • Considering that he has a favour to ask from the King, it would be prudent not to slaughter his soldiers first.
  • Tales of the Abyss makes you surrender to a threat that you're probably at a level to beat, or at least, to make a credible attempt at beating.
  • Xenosaga, where the party surrenders to some guards they could have easily trounced, in a Cutscene Incompetence type way.
  • A sort-of example is in the original Starcraft campaign, when Mengsk orders a retreat and leaves Kerrigan to be captured by a massive number of Zerg. It's not entirely unreasonable for the player to have beefed their defenses up enough to hold off the Zerg attack, or at least have time to build a Drop Ship to get Kerrigan to safety. Even worse if Kerrigan is already in a Drop Ship.Kerrigan was the Ghost that assassinated and decapitated Mengsk's family, so he used her until he had an opportunity to kill her off without anyone noticing.
  • In Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, when sneaking through the Gerudo's Fortress, Link will remain rooted to the spot if a Guard sees him, rather than letting you run away or use any of your numerous weapons.
    • In Wind Waker, the whole first dungeon requires stealth. Seems likely, since Link is missing a sword, but he can easily outrun the guards. Even more ridiculous are the spotlights, which result in instant capture when stood in. I guess Link just stands there with his arms above his head for ten minutes while they send some guards down there to pick him up?
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is quite possibly the Crowning Moment of Stupid for this trope, more so because Rockstar Games had, even when the game was first released, developed a reputation for hanging lampshades and Painting the Medium. Carl Johnson not only surrenders without a fight the moment crooked cops Tenpenny and Pulaski point guns at him, but even spends several hours digging his own grave with Pulaski standing over him after Tenpenny has left to do more important things than keep a gun trained on a guy wearing 200% armor, 200% hit points, and strapped with weapons ranging from katanas to rocket launchers to rocket jetpacks. Only when Pulaski is about to execute the compliant CJ does he drop his gun for no apparent reason at all, which is apparently the trigger CJ needs to start trying to fight back... but only after he lets Pulaski climb into his (explosion and bullet proof but strangely not impact proof) cop car parked several meters away. Because the goal of the mission is to kill Pulaski, and it just has to be done only after engaging in a car chase along the entire length and breadth of the game map.
  • Metal Gear Solid has a few scenes where Snake gets jumped by a few guards in close quarters to force the player into combat. Unfortunately, one of them is a cutscene, so Snake is captured instead of just punching their lights out. The fact that Sniper Wolf, who's a bit more competent than the guards, shows up as well might have something to do with it.
  • Averted in the first Max Payne. Max is at one point cornered in an office, by about fifteen mooks who are blocking the only exit and are all armed with assault rifles. Even with the arsenal that Max has at this point, if the player had the control, there would be no way to survive the battle that would ensue (he still manages to kill three of them before realizing how badly outnumbered he is).
    Max Payne: I could tell when I was outgunned. It was time to take another beating.
    • Played very straight in the third game, though.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Elite Force II when the main character, Munro, has just finished defeating two gigantic monsters in a pool of water and heads for the now open exit... and three soldiers appear in his path. They are the same type he has been slogging through most of the level, but they tell him to surrender and that they are taking him to the Big Bad of the mission. Munro allows the soldiers to knock him out and drag him away, presumably because it would be faster than fighting his way there.
  • Happens with the papal knights in Tales of Symphonia. The party surrenders to them and allows them to capture your healer and mage and lock the rest of the group in a basement. After getting out you fight them anyway and they're not that tough. They continue to be treated as a great threat despite becoming increasingly weak as you level up and the party frequently has to flee from them.
  • An example in the online game "Battalion: Nemesis". After beating the last level, a few dozen stealth tanks appear, completely covering the player's starting base. The player character then says that you can't fight them, and must airlift out. It's done in order to set up the next game, but it's still silly since at this point it would be trivially easy to block them in and destroy them.
  • Final Fantasy X: When the party arrive to save Yuna from her arranged marriage to Seymour, they have to fight through several waves of mooks with guns (depending on your level, difficulty will fluctuate between mildly challenging to barely noticeable). When you finally take out enough guards and reach the steps where Yuna is, the party is rendered powerless by... the very same mooks pointing the very same guns at them. Also a case of Cutscene Incompetence.
  • Happens at least twice in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. The worst part being that both times, Ratchet surrenders to enemies he's massacred throughout the level without any fear whatsoever.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.

Stupid SacrificeContrived Stupidity TropesToo Dumb to Live
Stupid ScientistStupidity TropesStupidity Inducing Attack
Stupid ScientistAdded Alliterative AppealStutter Stop

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy