There comes a time when characters are planning something big. Maybe they're planning to Take Over the World, or steal someone's boyfriend, or win a contest. Whatever their goal is, someone else threatens to prevent that goal from happening—perhaps The Hero, or the boy's girlfriend, or the contest frontrunner. To ensure their plan goes off without a hitch, this other character needs to be dealt with somehow. While sometimes Murder Is the Best Solution, softer works or less aggressive characters will instead decide to lock up or restrain their enemy instead, keeping them out of the way, but alive, unable to stop them but also otherwise unharmed—well, usually.
This trope pops up when a character's plan hinges on someone else not interfering. It can be malicious, often with bullies or villains locking the hero away in a room so their evil plan can work. It can also be done with more heroic or neutral intentions, in which case the audience is more likely to root for the victim to stay locked away. However, it's important that the plan isn't about locking someone up; that's just an important factor, a step toward success, not the end goal in and of itself. Regardless of who is behind it or why, it's just a part of their plan, not the plan. It is, however, a very important part of the plan—it won't work if the victim isn't removed from the equation.
Of course, the most common scenario involves the culprit being an antagonist or villain, and this is because the victim is entirely sidelined. While an outsider can easily help them escape, while locked up, the victim is at the complete mercy of whoever locked them in, and in some cases, this very scenario can be incredibly isolating, humiliating, or discrediting. There are also some dark implications for what would happen to the victim if they don't get rescued—which, luckily, they almost always do. So, if a character is pretty nasty, but also pragmatic and not as willing to get their hands dirty, they're more likely to pull this sort of trick than a more heroic character. But heroes can do this as well, and it's ultimately not portrayed as an inherently good or evil act—the morality of the act depends solely on who is doing the locking, and what they hope to gain from it.
Not to be confused with Locked in a Room, where two characters are trapped in a room and wind up having to talk with each other, and Closet Punishment, where being locked in a closet is done as a punishment, not as a way to eliminate an enemy. Also don't confuse for Sent Into Hiding, which is when a character is hidden away from the rest of society. Contrast Saved by the Punishment, in which being locked up is a punishment and ironically saves the character. Compare and Contrast Improvised Imprisonment, which uses similar methods for different reasons.
Compare Thrown Down a Well, which is a similar concept but on a more extreme and isolating level, as well as Locked Up and Left Behind, where someone is just trapped and forgotten about. Both concepts might overlap with this one. The character may wind up Locked in the Dungeon. Also see Protector Behind Bars.
- Date A Live: After joining DEM, Origami leaves Shido tied to a chair in an isolated room to keep him out of the way while she goes after the already sealed Spirits.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: In a non-villainous example, Aramaki arranges for Togusa to get sidelined in a jail cell for the majority of the last arc as Section 9 is falsely demolished. This is because Togusa is both a family man and the member of the team with the least cybernetic upgrades and stood a real chance of getting killed in the ensuing purge. Of course, this nearly backfired when Togusa, freed from jail after the faked deaths of his friends, decided to avenge them by taking down those he believed are responsible. Fortunately, Togusa is not quite as alone as he thought himself to be...
- Pokémon Adventures:
- In the GSC arc, 16 Gym Leaders are gathered in the Indigo Pleateau, where Team Rocket would crash the exhibition match by hijacking the maglev. The Gym Leaders go inside the maglev to prevent the Rocket grunts from entering the stadium, where the maglev then closes and speeds away, locking all the Gym Leaders inside the vehicle.
- When Rose announces his plans for the Darkest Day, Oleana informs the heroes that he's at the Hammerlocke Power Plant, and Rose appears to be there when they and the Gym Leaders go inside. However, it only turns out to be a visual projection, and Rose locked the facility so that the heroes don't get in the way of his plans.
- Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches: When archery club leader Karen Kimishima refuses to agree to vote yes on replacing the old high school building, student council vice-president Nene Odagiri has her sidekick Ushio Igarashi lock Kimishima in the club room on the day of the vote so that they'll have a de facto unanimous vote anyway - which will get Odagiri in good graces with the president.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: A movie company once tried to shoot some scenes at a school but Ludvig Von Drake, who is portrayed as a teacher there, insists on hogging the scenery and telling the others how to do their jobs. To get him out of the way, the Principal tricks him into rehearsing a line in a room and locks him inside it. Unfortunately, the room is full of chemical products and Ludvig blows his way out. To make matters worse, Ludvig lands on the camera, ruining all the work and prompting the company to leave. Ludvig ends up getting an extra job as a janitor to pay the the damages caused by the explosion.
- Downplayed in Doomsday Clock: After Rorschach and Ozymandias bring Mime and Marionette to the DC universe, they handcuff the two villains in the hopes of keeping them out of trouble while Rorschach and Ozy look for Doctor Manhattan. Naturally, Mime and Marionette manage to escape.
- Firefly: The Sting:
- The head nun locks Zoe tied up in a pantry to stop her from disrupting the ceremony.
- When breaking into Logar's mansion, the crew runs into a housekeeper. They lock her in a closet to keep her from raising the alarm.
- Flashpoint: Penthesilea, Wonder Woman's aunt (and one of the chief reasons the Flashpoint universe is so awful), had the witch Circe locked away in an ice cave when she found out Penth was responsible for the war between Atlantis and the Amazons. When Traci Thirteen frees her, Circe's pretty bitter, and figures the Amazons can be left to their fate.
- Gaston Lagaffe: One episode has three of the magazine staff gang up on Lagaffe to throw him bound and gagged in a supply closet, with one of them guarding the door. Prunelle then goes to get de Masmaeker to sign the contracts with Lagaffe safely out of the way... which of course fails because he hadn't seen Lagaffe's cat sleeping in de Masmaeker's chair. The cat woke up furious, scratching up de Masmaeker, who left without signing the contracts. As usual.
- In Justice, the bad guys have to get very creative in locking away the Green Lantern because his ring is pretty much the only effective countermeasure against Brainiac's Mind Control bugs. As they cannot just kill him (because then his ring would just pass on to the next GL candidate), they instead teleport him outside the confines of the known universe — so far that even his ring wouldn't have the energy to bring him back or even to contact other Green Lanterns.
- Lyras Ultimate Item Emporium: Trixie is locked in her shop by Amber Glow to stop her from sacrificing herself, and then Amber goes off to sacrifice herself instead.
- A Zootopia illustrated fanfiction by Lenmue 0 (viewable here, though mostly in Korean) depicts an alternate Darker and Edgier ending to the Disney story. Trapped in the storage section of the museum, Nick and Judy are being hunted by the rams. Nick places a badly wounded Judy in a cage and locks it as a protective measure. Nick then eats a Joker Serum pellet, wondering if the effects will be permanent. Regardless, the sheep are about to discover why foxes are hated and feared. Bon appetit.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "A Short Break", Ami cuts a deal with Tserk, whom she locked in her bedroom to keep them from revealing to anyone not already in the know, that Snyder is aligned with the gods of Light Is Good, because she doesn't want Snyder to be harassed, given that the majority of her employees are of the opposing Dark Is Evil side. (And she doesn't want her dark-worshipping employees to know her own loyalties, either.)
- With This Ring: Richard Simpson attempts to get Gemma Masters out of the way for a few days — not because he's worried about what she'll do, but because he wants to leak news of her whereabouts to John Constantine to keep him occupied rescuing her. He didn't anticipate that Gemma would have backup, though; before he can pressure her into agreeing to his terms, Paul gets the drop on him.
- Cinderella sees Cinderella getting locked in her room by her Wicked Stepmother just as the Grand Duke arrives to check the glass slipper, as she's aware Cinderella was the girl from the ball and doesn't want her to be with the prince. With the help of Gus and Jacques, Cinderella manages to escape just in time to prove she's the girl they're looking for, to her stepmother's horror — even when Tremaine shatters the slipper in question, Cinderella produces the other slipper that she kept with her.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Miles is determined to accompany the Spider-Gang as they go to destroy the Supercollider because of what Kingpin did to his uncle and to fulfill his promise to his dimension's Spider-Man. However, the Spider-Gang are concerned that Miles's inexperience will make him a liability in the field and get him killed, so they web him to a chair in his dorm room to keep him safe. Downplayed in that they give Miles every chance to demonstrate control of his powers before webbing him.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Inverted during the climax- Mindy tries to stall King Neptune from frying Mr. Krabs with an extended discussion about stalling. When he finally loses his patience, Neptune throws her out of the Krusty Krab and magically wraps the place in chains and padlocks.
- In Ratatouille, the rats cooking in the kitchen chase after the health inspector and another witness and toss them Bound and Gagged into the food storage room so that the restaurant won't be forcibly closed right in the middle of a food critic's visit. The rats have to let their captives go afterward, and the restaurant is shut down, but not before the critic published his review.
Remy: Stop that health inspector!
- The Swan Princess has the villain Rothbart confine Princess Odette within a well, as transforming her into a swan hasn't stopped her from contacting Prince Derek. With Odette out of the way, Rothbart moves to foist his henchwoman, disguised as Odette, upon Prince Derek. Once Derek proposes to the counterfeit Odette, Rothbart will have the leverage he needs to usurp the kingdom.
- Cinderella (1997), Cinderella gets locked in the kitchen when the prince arrives in an effort to prevent her from revealing herself to him. However, she manages to meet up with him outside anyway, easily foiling her stepmother's plans despite her efforts.
- Ice Princess: The Alpha Bitch traps Casey in the girls' locker room to keep her from making the ice-skating tryouts.
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: To enact his plan of selling the rescued dinosaurs to wealthy clients, Mills locks up not only his boss's granddaughter Maisie in her room due to her constant snooping, but also locks up Owen and Claire to prevent them from stopping him, too.
- The Man in the Iron Mask, the Film of the Book of Alexandre Dumas's The Man In The Iron Mask. Louis XIV, the King of France, has his identical twin brother Phillipe locked up so he can't take the throne. He forces Phillipe to wear the title iron mask so no one will recognize him.
- Radio Rebel: At one point, the Alpha Bitch Stacy locks Tara in a closet so she can't be there to contribute to the drama project the two girls are doing with mutual love-interest Gavin, both in an effort to win Gavin over and to further torment Tara.
- During the climax of Rags, Arthur manages to distract Charlie for long enough to lock him in a closet, minutes before Kadee can begin her search for Rags, knowing that Charlie is Rags. This way, his stepbrother Andrew can take credit for the persona and Charlie stays in his lowly position. While he's rescued by some friends, they're too late to stop Andrew from convincing everyone he's Rags.
- Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars: A New Hope gets captured by The Empire, and is held prisoner on the Death Star. The Imperial military doesn't want her blabbing to the Senate about their ultimate weapon, and they'd like to extract from her the whereabouts of the Rebel Alliance headquarters. However, when The Heroes jailbreak Leia from her cell, Grand Moff Tarkin devises a Batman Gambit: let the Princess escape. She'll make a bee-line for the rebel base, where "we will then crush the rebellion with one swift stroke."
- Played for Laughs in The Brotherband Chronicles when Hal locks Jesper in a storage cupboard to stop him performing the latest instalment of The Saga Of Hal And The Heron Brotherband.
- In Calibans War, Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobby Draper get invited to board an incredibly luxurious spaceship Guanshiyin, together with its owner Jules-Pierre Mao, for a months-long humanitarian trip to disaster-struck Ganymede. Both suspect it's a Gilded Cage to keep them out of the political game for finding out that Errinwright was keeping them in the dark on what Admiral Nguyen was doing around Jupiter, and once they board the shipnote their suspicions get proven right when their communications become monitored, Jules departs prematurely on his private yacht and the staff aboard the ship becomes evasive about giving access to emergency communication systems. Thankfully Bobbie was wise enough to smuggle-in her Powered Armor.
- Dirk Pitt Adventures. In Dragon, Dirk Pitt is about to go on a dangerous mission and tells his friend Al Giordino to use the toilet on the plane to avoid bursting his bladder when they para-jump into the water. Then Pitt has the flight crew chain up the toilet door so Al can't get out.
- The Famous Five: This happens to somebody in almost every book: the Five are locked up by the villains, or the villains are locked up by the Five; either in their bedrooms, or a dungeon.
- James and the Giant Peach: While Aunts Spiker and Sponge are making money inviting hordes of visitors to see the giant peach, poor James is locked in his bedroom.
- Whateley Universe: In "Evil Genius (Part 3)", this is mentioned as to why Tyler was locked in an adaptation a.k.a transformation, chamber, to prevent him from testifying about the villain's "verbal slip-up" they said to him, just in case he actually remembered it.
- In the Blackadder episode "Beer", Queenie tries to gatecrash the boys' drinking party. Blackadder lures her to a cupboard, and locks her in.
- In House of Anubis, Sibuna tries to pull this off on Victor and Denby in order to stop the eclipse ceremony from taking place. While Fabian kidnaps Corbierre in order to lure and lock Victor in the boys' locker room, KT lures Denby into Anubis House to try and trap her in a room. It backfires; Victor manages to escape through a vent, and Denby winds up locking KT in the room instead.
- In Season 1 of Killing Eve, Villanelle locked Konstanin's wife in a closet (off-screen) so she could kidnap their daughter Irina and use her to blackmail and threaten Konstanin.
- The Librarians: In "And the Point of Salvation," Ezekiel leads his teammates to a supposed weapons store. Once the whole team is inside, Ezekiel locks the door, saying that he'll come back to get them once he's found a safe way out of the lab they're currently trapped in.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide To Principals", Vice Principal Crubbs is so determined to become the school's new principal that when other applicants show up, he tricks them all into getting locked in a tiny, inescapable courtyard area. Over the course of the episode, more characters get trapped there even without Crubbs' scheming, but they get saved by Mr. Wright, who ends up being the one promoted.
- In the Season 2 finale of Veronica Mars, the Big Bad Cassidy Casablancas does this to his girlfriend Mac, to prevent her from intervening when he goes to kill Veronica, as she's found out it was him who crashed the bus. To make sure she doesn't leave, he takes her clothes out of the room so she's also trapped in there naked.
- A season 1 Highlander episode had the immortal Villain of the Week lock his adopted daughter in a shed because she was trying to stop him from getting revenge on the kid who raped her. Richie heard her and let her out just in time for her to shoot the kid when the kid threatens her dad.
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, Princess Cassima of the Green Isles is being locked up by her evil fiance, Abdul Alhazred, allowing him to claim the princess doesn't "want visitors", effectively keeping her isolated and at his mercy while he can take over the kingdom with little to no opposition. Until Alexander arrives, of course.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Rawk Hawk gets a security guard to lock up Mario and co. before their match with him to ensure that he will win by virtue of his opponent forfeiting the match.
- In the eighth volume of RWBY, the plan to rescue the Atlesians first requires getting the leadership out of the way before it can be enacted. Phase 1 consists of capture and lock-up before moving on to Phase 2. James Ironwood is defeated and locked up so the heroes can evacuate the citizens to safety. Although Arthur Watts jailbreaks Ironwood, it's too late to stop the plan. At this point, Ironwood tries killing Winter Schnee for her betrayal.
- 7-Second Riddles: One riddle involves a girl locking her sister in the bathroom to take her place as the lead singer of her band for the night.
- American Dad!:
- In "Merlot Down Dirty Shame", Roger buries Francine alive to keep her from telling Stan that he kissed her when they were both drunk. Near the end, when Roger decides to tell Stan himself, he buries him alive to keep him from attacking him.
- In "Spelling Bee My Baby" Francine locks Akiko in the basement to ensure that Steve would win the spelling bee. She later lets her out after realizing that Steve truly loves her.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Mask", before Courage sets out to solve the mystery of Kitty and Bunny, he locks the door to Eustace and Muriel's bedroom in case Kitty might try to harm them while he's away, which becomes a problem when Muriel has to go to the bathroom. She eventually unlocks the door with a bobby pin, to Eustace's amazement.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the pilot, Terrance has Mac locked in a closet at their apartment, while in disguise he goes to Foster's and adopts Bloo.
- The Simpsons: "Whacking Day" sees Bart, Jimbo, Nelson, Dolph, and Kearney getting locked in the basement of their school by Principal Skinner so that he doesn't have to deal with them during the latest school inspection. Bart escapes, but Skinner forgets to let the others out until the very end of the episode... several days later.
- South Park: At the end of "Not Funny," Kyle and Ike need to use the computer to save the world, but can't use the computer around Sheila, who thinks Ike is the notorious troll Skankhunt42. Ike swears at Sheila in order to get her to chase him. Kyle then tricks Sheila into thinking Ike ran into the pantry, and once she's in there, they lock her inside and barricade the door with a chair so they can use the computer. By the next episode, she manages to break out of the pantry and is more furious than ever.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "Employee of the Month", SpongeBob and Squidward use several variations of this to sabotage each other's efforts of making it to the Krusty Krab early and winning the Employee of the Month award.
SpongeBob: Hey, Squidward. Going somewhere?
Squidward: I'm going to wring you dry when I get out of here! Now, get me out of here!
SpongeBob: Okay, Squidward. I'll stop by after work.
- In "Party Pooper Pants", this is inverted when SpongeBob hosts a party that proves to be boring and by-the-book, so the guests lock him out of his house so they can throw a real party.
- In "Employee of the Month", SpongeBob and Squidward use several variations of this to sabotage each other's efforts of making it to the Krusty Krab early and winning the Employee of the Month award.