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Doomed Fellow Prisoner

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If there is a another person in a prison, something bad will happen to them

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
bulmabriefs144 on Feb 24th 2013 at 11:26:59 PM
Last Edited By:
bulmabriefs144 on Feb 24th 2018 at 2:41:09 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Up for Grabs

The main character in prison or other cell-based captivity. Generally, they are entirely innocent, arrested on the flimsiest of excuses, possibly as a test subject for a mad scientist's experiment or some equally insane magical ritual.

You want to reveal this. But you don't want to sacrifice your main character, since you have, after all, devoted hours of screen time (or hundreds of pages). So, you introduce this trope. All you need her is a name and a face, and a few lines of backstory. The next day, something will happen to them.

The Law Of Conservation Of Detail is heavily to blame for this trope, as the story needs to elaborate on what is going to happen to the prisoners, but they can't use the main characters, so they need a Red Shirt to suffer instead.


Examples:

Comic Books

  • Inversion: Anytime The Punisher goes to prison, his cellmate dies very fast—usually at his hands.
    • This usually is the case for Ghost Rider too. Anyone who doesn't measure up to his standards of innocence gets the Penance Stare.

Live-Action Film

  • Inverted in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. When the Black Pearl attacks Port Royal, the pirates in the neighboring cell are freed by a cannonball knocking down the wall, but Jack is still stuck in his cell.
    "My sympathies, friend. You've no manner of luck at all."
  • In Snow White and the Huntsman, the title character is in a cell near a young girl. After the witch gets through with her, she's an old hag.
  • Subverted in Legend. Jack and his friends slide down the tunnel into a cell in Darkness's dungeons. They find a fellow prisoner: a fairy who worked for Darkness but betrayed him and was punished with imprisonment. While they're talking to him, one of Darkness's minions enters his cell and takes him out to be baked in a pie (no blackbirds, though). They eventually rescue him before he meets his fate.
  • In Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance, Bloodrayne just happen to be thrown in a cell next to the last living member of the Brimstone Society, and they are both scheduled to be hanged. Rayne, being a dhampir, survives the hanging, but her cellmate, being a normal human, doesn't.

Live Action TV

  • In Starhunter, Dante's niece Percy gets arrested. They talk about how some of the prisoners are in "demand" by males, and she shrugs it off. Later, one of the other prisoners gets hauled off to be raped to drive the point home.

Literature

  • In Players of Gor, Tarl is imprisoned with Nim-Nim, a member of the Urt People. (Urts are giant rats about the size of a small pony. Urt People are humans who live within a herd of urts, are vaguely urt-like in appearance, and can "speak" urt.) Nim-Nim "helps" Tarl to escape, which turns out to be a joke on the part of the Big Bad, who planned the escape so that Tarl will be killed by the urt herd that Nim-Nim brings Tarl to. Nim-Nim excitedly rejoins the herd, but during his time in prison he has lost the herd scent, so he is descended upon and killed as an outsider—which is also Tarl's intended fate. Instead, Tarl kills an urt and uses its carcass to make the other urts think he's an urt, at least long enough to cross the herd and escape unscathed on the other side.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel. Kip is being held prisoner in the Wormfaces' base on Pluto. Two of his cellmates are the enemy's human minions who are going to be Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves because the Wormfaces decide that they have outlived their usefulness. First one of them is removed from the cell, then the other. The second one to go tells Kip their fate: to be cooked and eaten by the Wormfaces.
  • In Airman, young and innocent protagonist Connor finds himself imprisoned in a subterranean penal labor camp. The harsh conditions are alleviated only by the presence of his cellmate, the blind composer Linus Wynter, who promises to help Connor through his new life. But on the second day, Connor returns to his cell to find it empty, with the warden saying only that Linus has been "released". Subverted when, years later, Connor learns that Linus actually was released on a clerical error, and the warden's usual idiom had for once been literal.

Mythology & Religion

  • In The Book Of Genesis, innocent Joseph is put in a cell with two other prisoners. He decides to predict their futures by interpreting their dreams. He predicts that one prisoner will be pardoned by the Egyptians and one will be executed. He was correct on both accounts.

Tabletop Games

  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "The City Without A Name". If the investigators are captured in the title location they will be put in individual prison cells. Each day one of them will be taken and fed to the immature chthonians.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, module X4 Master of the Desert Nomads. If the bhuts capture the PC party they will chain all of them inside cells. Each night they will take away one of the prisoners (starting with any NP Cs) and eat them.

Video Games

  • Castle Wolfenstein (1981). The introductory screens have information given by the PC's cellmate. It ends with the other prisoner screaming as he's being dragged away by the Nazis to be tortured.
  • In the opening cutscene of The Suffering, the player character's cellmate (and...pretty much everyone else in the block) has the dubious honour of being the first victim of the monsters.
  • In Tales of Legendia Shirles meets a friend in the cell adjacent to her. She soon gets dragged off.
    • This turns out to be an inversion. She's the one who eventually gets used for an experiment.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Zelda mentions something happened to the other princesses, before Link saves her.
    • Later subverted, as she finally finds out what happened to the other maidens, being banished to the Dark World and turned into a crystal, in order to break Ganon's seal.
  • At the beginning of ''Life is Strange'''s fifth and final episode, "Polarized", Max wakes up tied up in a chair by the Big Bad. Depending on the player's choices Victoria might be there, drugged on the floor. Later on, after returning to the same situation via Time Travel, it's revealed Jefferson has killed her, and he's about too do the same to Max.

Fan Works

Western Animation

Feedback: 30 replies

Feb 25th 2013 at 2:51:32 AM

Literature

Tabletop Games

  • Call Of Cthulhu supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "The City Without A Name". If the investigators are captured in the title location they will be put in individual prison cells. Each day one of them will be taken and fed to the immature chthonians.

Video Games

  • Castle Wolfenstein (1981). The introductory screens have information given by the PC's cellmate. It ends with the other prisoner screaming as he's being dragged away by the Nazis to be tortured.

Feb 25th 2013 at 11:53:56 PM

In Players of Gor Tarl is imprisoned with Nim-Nim, a member of the Urt People. (Urts are giant rats about the size of a small pony. Urt People are humans who live within a herd of urts, are vaguely urt-like in appearance, and can "speak" urt.) Nim-Nim "helps" Tarl to escape, which turns out to be a joke on the part of the Big Bad, who planned the escape so that Tarl will be killed by the urt herd that Nim-Nim brings Tarl to. Nim-Nim excitedly rejoins the herd, but during his time in prison he has lost the herd scent, so he is descended upon and killed as an outsider - which is also Tarl's intended fate. Instead, Tarl kills an urt and uses its carcass to make the other urts think he's an urt, at least long enough to cross the herd and escape unscathed on the other side.

Feb 26th 2013 at 12:02:26 AM

Probably related to You All Meet In A Cell.

  • Doubly Subverted in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion: Valen Dreth, who occupies the cell next to you in the prologue, never has anything bad happen to him despite being a huge jerk. That is, during the prologue. If you follow the Dark Brotherhood quest line, you get to sneak back in and assassinate him.

Mar 1st 2013 at 11:26:43 PM

Shows up in the episode of Supernatural that's set in a prison, naturally.

Mar 2nd 2013 at 4:16:34 AM

In I Love You Phillip Morris, the Screamer is introduced and then beaten up the next day.

Mar 2nd 2013 at 9:58:57 AM

  • In Transformers The Movie, Kup and Hot Rod are imprisoned on the Quintesson planet. Next cell over is Kranix, who gets fed to the Sharkticons in order to show the Quintesson's "justice" system.

Mar 2nd 2013 at 1:18:38 PM

  • Inversion: Anytime The Punisher goes to prison, his cellmate dies very fast.
  • The Damnation Crusade comic shows us exactly how badly the Space Marine's genetic enhancement process can go wrong. The four savages (including our hero Raclaw) are deemed fit for inclusion into the Black Templars, and are put in separate cells as the process begins. One of Raclaw's fellow clanmembers rejects the implants, turning him into a ravenous monster, and he is told to end it as part of his initiation.

Apr 19th 2013 at 2:53:06 AM

Film

  • Subverted in Legend. Jack and his friends slide down the tunnel into a cell in Darkness' dungeons. They find a fellow prisoner: a fairy who worked for Darkness but betrayed him and was punished by being put in a cell. While they're talking to him one of Darkness' minions enters his cell and takes him out to be baked in a pie (no blackbirds, though). They eventually rescue him before he meets his fate.

Apr 19th 2013 at 5:11:27 AM

  • In the opening cutscene of The Suffering, the player character's cellmate (and...pretty much everyone else in the block) has the dubious honour of being the first victim of the monsters.

Apr 19th 2013 at 10:04:41 AM

Someone in a cell next door isn't a "cellmate." If the Laconic is supposed to be the controlling thing here, I suggest expanding slightly to fit the inevitable misuse.

Apr 19th 2013 at 12:56:43 PM

I too am confused about whether this is strictly for "the prisoner in the cell next door" or also includes prisoners in the same cell as the main character.

Because of this, Punisher and Ghost Rider may not be inversions, or else the examples need clarification (are they inversions because the protagonists are doing the damage instead of the personnel?)

In the first paragraph, "...in this story, generally..." sounds like a paradox because it suggests a specific story, then shifts to imply a type of story.

Apr 19th 2013 at 2:19:09 PM

Geez, overanalysis. It's whatever works for the story. Some stories have one person per cell, in which case it's the next door (or facing) cell. Some stories have a bunch of people crammed in the same cell. Are you really gonna split hairs over whether or not they're the same cell? They're imprisoned together, and interact with each other, and then something horrible happens to the other person to demonstrate "this is a bad prison"

Ghost Rider and Punisher are inversions, because normally the cellmate is threatened from outside the cell. In this case they have more to fear from the person sharing space with them.

Apr 20th 2013 at 8:07:28 AM

Actually I agree with the nitpick. Doomed Fellow Inmate might be a better title.

Apr 20th 2013 at 12:42:39 PM

I like Doomed Fellow Inmate as well.

  • In Theatre/Chicago, the only one of the Merry Murderesses who is actually executed is the innocent one, who pleaded non-guilty but no-one believed because she was Hungarian.

Apr 20th 2013 at 1:49:34 PM

The Law Of Conservation Of Detail is probably to blame - I mean, if something like this wasn't going to happen it wouldn't be mentioned, would it?

Apr 20th 2013 at 2:06:50 PM

I want to ensure that the title, laconic, and description are consistent so that the scope is clearly defined. Thanks for the clarification on the comic book examples; Ghost Rider is clear enough in that regard, though in the current writeup the Punisher's is ambiguous whether he or someone else is doing the killing.

As for contributing directly to the examples, the Link to the Past example is later subverted when Zelda is recaptured and suffers the same fate as the maidens: being banished to the Dark World.

May 2nd 2013 at 1:39:56 AM

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons And Dragons, module X4 Master of the Desert Nomads. If the bhuts capture the PC party they will chain all of them inside cells. Each night they will take away one of the prisoners (starting with any NPCs) and eat them.

Jun 20th 2014 at 9:32:52 AM

  • In one of the Team Fortress 2 comics Spy and Scout share a jail cell with thug. Said thug ends up with a knife in the back within three pages.

Jun 20th 2014 at 1:13:14 PM

  • Inverted in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. When the Black Pearl attacks Port Royal, the pirates in the neighboring cell are freed by a cannonball knocking down the wall, but Jack is still stuck in his cell.
    "My sympathies, friend. You've no manner of luck at all."

Jun 20th 2014 at 10:05:35 PM

^Made especially ironic given that the freed prisoners had just seconds ago been speaking in horror about how the Pearl's raids leave no survivors.

Jan 26th 2018 at 5:10:44 AM

  • In The Book Of Genesis, innocent Joseph is put in a cell with two other prisoners. He decides to predict their futures by interpreting their dreams. He predicts that one prisoner will be pardoned by the Egyptians and one will be executed. He was correct on both accounts.

Jan 26th 2018 at 6:22:56 AM

Removed the cellmate restriction from the title

Jan 26th 2018 at 10:26:03 AM

  • At the beginning of Life Is Strange's fifth and final episode, "Polarized", Max wakes up tied up in a chair by the Big Bad. Depending on the player's choices Victoria might be there, drugged on the floor. Later on, after returning to the same situation via Time Travel, it's revealed Jefferson has killed her, and he's about too do the same to Max.

Jan 27th 2018 at 7:46:57 AM

  • In Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance, Bloodrayne just happen to be thrown in a cell next to the last living member of the Brimstone Society, and they are both scheduled to be hanged. Rayne, being a dhampir, survives the hanging, but her cellmate, being a normal human, doesn't.

Jan 27th 2018 at 3:31:18 PM

Web Comic:

  • In The Order Of The Stick, when Belkar and Roy are captured in the Empire of Blood for having the wrong paperwork, they're put in a cell with some plot critical characters ( namely Haley's father and uncle) and one random, unnamed character who can't stand Belkar's bullying behaviour. He ends up killed by Mr. Scruffy, revealing that he's been a level 1 commoner all alongnote .

Jan 29th 2018 at 9:17:18 AM

Fan works:

Jan 29th 2018 at 4:00:34 PM

Does Ho Yinsen from Iron Man's origin story count?

Jan 29th 2018 at 8:52:04 PM

Suicide Squad: The team gets an extra member for maybe three minutes just to demonstrate Waller's Explosive Leash failsafe.

Feb 24th 2018 at 2:40:51 PM

I'm gonna launch, I dunno where everything goes without wading through markup so, I'll let everyone add it in later.

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