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Late to the Realization

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"The audience loves the slow thinker."

In any form of comedy and/or drama, whether it be Eastern or Western, important characters will be painfully oblivious to the events that are occurring right in front of them. This is a thing that usually happens to main characters for plot pacing reasons, leaving it up to the rest of the cast to take note of the painfully obvious clues and figure out what's going on. Said support then inevitably tries to get the information to the protagonist with unsuccessful results. When the main character eventually does find out what the others have been trying to tell him/her, one of the two outcomes will happen, depending on the situation:

  1. If in a comedy, the character will step back, stunned, and contemplate the news before properly freaking out.
  2. If in a drama, the character will usually be confronted by the villain, who will deliver a pre-mortem or James Bond-esque zinger, with the main character attempting a desperate What the Hell, Hero? or "The Reason You Suck" Speech, with results that vary wildly with each work.

Supertrope to Late to the Punchline and Delayed "Oh, Crap!". Often coincides with Idiot Hero, Too Dumb to Live, and Genre Blindness. May involve some elements of Failure Is the Only Option, and might become a Running Gag if used on more than one occasion. For the romantic varieties of this, see Everyone Can See It ("It" being the fact that a couple is in love/attracted to each other, which is a known fact to everyone except the couple) and Oblivious to Love (where one person is oblivious to either someone else's affections, or the stirrings of their own heart.) If it becomes the entire character's mindset, it is destined to become Flanderization. Compare Remembered Too Late, where the crucial knowledge didn't even need to be pieced together, but merely recalled. "We're Live" Realization is likely a subtrope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The thirteenth episode of Baccano! ends with Isaac and Miria finally catching on to the fact that they've stopped aging...after seventy-two years.
  • In his debut episode in Hetalia: Axis Powers, Sealand went for a whole 3/4's of the episode believing that the countries were ignoring him just to be jerks. It takes him to the last quarter of the episode, while nicely enjoying a meal with himself, that the reason that the other countries ignored him is because he hasn't been recognized as a country himself.
  • In the movie version of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (though notably not in the original seriesnote ), the Evil Matriarch Precia Testarossa suddenly remembers that her late biological daughter Alicia had always wanted a little sister and that Fate — Alicia's clone whom Precia had previously exploited almost to death to bring Alicia back to life — had been just that all along. This memory finally makes her realize just how bad a mother she proved to be... just as she is plummeting to her death.
  • One Piece:
    • At the start of the Drum Island arc, most of the crew realize that the temperatures were dropping as they approached the winter-seasoned island and take appropriate measures to keep themselves warm before they even reach the dock. At first, they spend a little time in the village so they get to know what is going on around the island and gather supplies for the long trip up to the mountain in the center of the island. After leaving the village, roughly three hours into the trek up the mountain, Luffy finally realizes that it's cold.
    • Surprisingly both played straight, subverted, and averted within the span of a few minutes during the halfway point of Luffy and Foxy's match during the Groggy Boxing round of the Davy Back Fight. While hunting down Foxy in Foxy's own cabin, who had just used his Foxy Face Transformation in an attempt to throw Luffy off. Luffy runs into a random room where he crosses paths with Foxy, who is donning a ridiculously-oversized Paper-Thin Disguise of a woman's mask. Luffy, being the Idiot Hero that he is, actually falls for it, only to walk out for a few seconds and then put the connection that the "woman" had the same chin as Foxy, bringing his own train of thought to the conclusion that the "woman" that he just encountered was Foxy's sister. Luffy still holds on to this belief, even after Foxy launches a surprise attack and makes a break for it right in front of his face, believing that Foxy's "sister" was purposely distracting Luffy from Foxy's "true whereabouts".
    • In Impel Down, Ivankov talks with Luffy about Dragon, and keeps talking for nearly a minute before realizing Luffy offhandedly mentioned he's Dragon's son.
  • A visual example in the first episode of Ouran High School Host Club, Tamaki was the very last person to figure out that Haruhi was a girl, visualized by the six lightbulbs, Tamaki's being the sixth and final one to light up, at which point the camera pulls back to show that the bulbs spell out the kanji for woman. The rest of the Host Club had a hell of a good time making fun of him for that.
  • In SD Gundam Force episode "Undercover Mission! Learn the Gundam Force's Secrets!", a pair of Zako Soldiers show up at Shute's house, both in a Paper-Thin Disguise, claiming that they are reporters who want to interview the Gundam Force. The Force quickly sees through their act...except for Bakunetsumaru, who's tickled pink to be on television. Later, after the Zako throw off their 'disguises'...
    Bakunetsumaru: They are Zako Soldiers in disguise!
    Captain: (While Zero and Shute Face Fault) Are you saying that you just figured that out?
  • Gourry from Slayers becomes known for doing this a few times across the series. It'll take him numerous episodes for him to make the connection that someone is the bad guy. This length of time almost crosses into Brick Joke territory for taking so long. Though it's amusingly inverted in one specific case: When the group first met Xellos, Gourry instantly realized he was a Mazoku, and was in fact the only member to figure it out on his own. When asked why he didn't say anything, Gourry explained that it was so obvious he thought they'd call him stupid for pointing it out.

    Fan Works 
  • Every single Jedi in Back From the Future (including both Ahsoka and Obi-wan) fails to realize Anakin and Padme are in a relationship until after their children are born. By contrast, every Clone Trooper in the 501st figured it out immediately.
    • While Anakin and Padme guess almost immediately that Darth Vader and Luke are Anakin and his son from the future, Ahsoka takes over a year, despite spending most of that time with them. At least she's better than Obi-wan. He didn't figure it out until his timeline's Luke and Leia were eight, and even then, only because Luke outright said he was a clone of the older Luke.
    • Yoda takes quite some time to figure out that Luke was the one who healed him and just what it means. Once he realizes that Luke must have come from a Bad Future, and why the Jedi Order fell, Yoda quietly adds Luke to the order's registry as a Jedi Master with hundreds of padawans in the form of the Clone Troopers.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Vegeta is prone to being the last horse.
      Piccolo: Trunks? What are you doing here?
      Vegeta: Ha! That's a girl's name.
      Krillin: Isn't that the name of your kid?
      Vegeta: What, are you trying to imply that this wannabe Super Saiyan from the future is my saaaaaahhhhh...
    • It's really bad because even Goku had realized that Vegeta had never actually fought Piccolo before Vegeta did.
  • Jaune in Service with a Smile doesn't cotton on to the fact Roman and Neo are criminals until they outright tell him. Likewise, he doesn't learn Cinder, Emerald, and Mercury are as well until Roman tells him.
  • In Spots Off, Adrien tells Marinette that he's been in love with Ladybug, and by extension, her, since Stoneheart, and she responds by leaning in to kiss him. But it's not until a few minutes later, when he sees his photo in a collage on her computer desktop, that he starts to realise just how long she's liked him back. She privately acknowledges that a kiss isn't quite the same thing as a confession, but it still should have clued him in. She then clarifies that she's had a crush on him since just after the gum incident, and to his credit he does manage to make the connection with the time he gave her his umbrella.
  • What It Takes: Laurel is perfectly aware she is The Unfavorite, and most of her loved ones figure it out fairly easily after seeing how far Quentin is willing to go to "punish" her for keeping Sara's death a secret from him. Meanwhile, the rest of the Lances (including Sara) are blind to the dynamic. Sara figures it out after confronting her father and seeing the Double Standard he has for both sisters, which horrifies her and what causes her to estrange herself from Quentin. Quentin himself realizes it once everything is over, but by that point is unable to reconcile with Laurel. Dinah is the only who remains oblivious by the end.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done dramatically in Avengers: Infinity War, as Gamora needs Red Skull to all-but spell it out for her that there is someone Thanos loves
  • The Big Lebowski: The entire plot takes place because Jackie Treehorn's thugs broke into the home of the Dude, a middle-aged slacker, and peed on his treasured rug, because his real name was Jeffrey Lebowski, just like the wealthy businessman they were actually after, and they didn't grasp their mistake till well after the fact.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End:
    • When Tia Dalma uses her sand crabs to locate and bring Jack back to the crew of the Black Pearl, it takes a while for "Witty Jack" to figure out that his ship is suddenly being ferried, without effort, across Davy Jones' Locker. It takes even longer for him to realize that the ship is moving at breakneck speed, and he will soon be left behind if he does not catch up.
    • Also, at the end, Jack is taking his ladies to see the Black Pearl, but they only find a dinghy. It takes him a moment to realize his ship is missing. Again.
      Scarlet: Is that it? The Black Pearl. Not very big.
      Jack Sparrow: Love, that is a dinghy. My vessel is magnificent and fierce and huge-ish...And gone. Why is it gone?
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Khan is sharing his (heavily glossed-over) backstory about how he and his followers wound up on Ceti Alpha V, which has since turned into a Death World, before realizing that Chekov and Capt. Terrell mistakenly thought they were on Ceti Alpha VI.

  • In the book of Numbers, Baalam's donkey sees an angel of the Lord well before Baalam (who is supposed to be a prophet) does.
  • Krennic in the Rogue One novelization. As he's about to be vaporized by the Death Star's Superlaser, he uses the last seconds of his life to imagine the Death Star as it is - the crowning jewel of The Empire, a technological marvel consisting of years of painstaking work, boasting power unforeseen to the Universe, a triumph of imperial engineering and intelligence made possible by the work of himself, his engineers, and - of course - Galen Erso... and those thermal exhaust ports he had pushed through to deal with the small radiation problem. Those exhaust ports... that could so easily lead all the way down... to the main reactor.
  • Happens Once per Episode in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in the Community episode "Mixology Certification". Abed talks to a guy in a bar for hours about Farscape, during which time the guy has gradually turned from enthusiastic to exasperated as Abed appears oblivious to the fact that he's being hit on.
    Robert: Abed, would you like to have gay sex with me?
    Abed: No, thank you.
    Robert: Wow, OK, so what is wrong with you that you can sit here this whole time and never pick up on the fact that a man is hitting on you?
    Abed: Oh, I actually did pick up on it after a while.
    Robert: You actually...and?
    Abed: I really, really like talking about Farscape.
    (Robert throws his drink in Abed's face)
    Abed: It's a really good show.
    Robert: (storms off) Stargate's better!
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "The Pandorica Opens" the Doctor spends some time complaining to Roman Centurion Rory Williams that he's missing something obvious and that he can't quite get what it is. The fact that he's talking to someone who was erased from existence a few episodes ago and has seemingly come back to life as a Roman only hits him a few minutes later.
    • In the episode "A Good Man Goes to War", the Doctor, usually the first one to twig to what's going on in any particular situation, is the very last person to realize the implications of Amy and Rory's daughter having Time Lord DNA, having to be led through a "birds and bees" explanation by Vastra before he even understands the question being asked. Next, he fails to realize the obvious fact that his capture of Demon's Run was too easy and their recovery of said baby is a trap, having to be told by the villain. And finally, River Song has to literally hold his hand through the final reveal of her identity.
    • In the episode "Let's Kill Hitler", Mels makes a Running Gag out of the main characters not realizing what's going on with her "penny in the air, penny drops" line. First is in the introductory flashback, when Amy finally realizes that Rory is in love with her. Second is when Mels reveals to the Doctor and company what they really should have figured out a while ago: she's Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's daughter, in a new regeneration. To the Doctor's credit, he immediately recognizes the implications of this and takes precautions against her.
  • Very common on Friends with Joey, complete with the other five watching him work through the concept they all got two minutes ago.
    • An extreme case of this occurring was in “The One With Ross’ New Girlfriend” where Joey didn’t realize he was being sexually abused until Chandler went to that tailor.
      Chandler: Yo, paisan. Can I talk to you for a sec? Your a very bad man!
      Joey: Frankie? What are you talking about?
      (Ross enters and pats Chandler on the shoulder, who flinches)
      Ross: Hey, what's going on?
      Chandler: Joey's tailor...took advantage of me.
      Ross: What?
      Joey: No way. I've been going to the guy for 12 years.
      Chandler: Oh, come on. He said he was going to do my inseam, and then he ran his hand up my leg, and then there was definite...cupping.
      Joey: That's how they do pants! First they go up one side, they move it over, then they go up the other side, they move it back, and then they do the rear.
      Joey: [Chandler and Ross stare at him] ...What? Ross, would you tell him? Isn't that how a tailor measures pants?
      Ross: Yes. Yes, it prison! What's the matter with you?
    • Ross thought his childhood pet was sent to the farm until he realized this was a euphemism.
      Chandler: It's like when you're a kid, and your parents put your dog to sleep, and they tell you it went off to live on some farm.
      Ross: That's funny, that, no, because our parents actually did send our dog to live on a farm.
      Monica: Uh, Ross?
      Ross: What? Wh... hello? The Millner's farm in Connecticut? The Millners, they had this unbelievable farm, they had horses, and, and rabbits that he could chase and it was... Oh my God, Chi Chi!
  • Jason of The Good Place died of suffocation while hiding in an airtight safe. His plan to deal with oxygen deprivation? A snorkel. Only after he's been dead for several episodes does he realize why that failed.
  • Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Mimmi and Ondina spend twelve hours mulling over why their attempt to De-power Zac failed, ultimately reasoning that Evie disrupted their spell by swimming into the Moon Pool from below. Only when they recount this to Sirena do they remember what happens when someone is in the Moon Pool during a full moon. Sure enough, they arrive at the dock to see Evie turn into a mermaid for the first time.
  • Twice in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring The Brain That Wouldn't Die:
    • Despite it being spelled out that Dr. Cortner is trying to find a woman to decapitate to restore his wife’s life early on, it takes a good two-thirds of the film for Mike and Crow to express their distaste for him.
    • At the end of the movie, Mike ultimate expresses that being trapped in space “kinda bites”.

    Video Games 
  • In the story mode of Mario Party 9, each board is preceded by a cutscene where Bowser describes what the upcoming board is like, before calling upon his henchmen to go stop Mario and friends. In the cutscene right before the final board, he gets ready to send out his minions like always, only to suddenly realize that the stage he just described is his own current domain, after which he and Bowser Jr. decide to take things into their own hands.
  • In Psychonauts, it's only after the fight with the first brain tank that Raz realizes Oleander is the villain.
  • At one point during the "Future" arc in Tales of Graces, it's revealed that Hubert has an Arranged Marriage he doesn't really want to go through with. While Malik and Richard quickly figure out the reason for this (and use the opportunity to tease the hell out of him), his brother Asbel spends the entire conversation wondering what everyone's talking about...until he finally gets it at the end.
    Asbel: HOLY CRAP!
    Malik: I think your brother has finally figured it out. What do you think, Asbel?
    (dramatic pause)
    Asbel: Hubert's in love with—
    Hubert: That's enough! We're done talking about this!
  • In Tales of the Drunken Paladin, we get this line from our Idiot Hero Anebriate, some time well after meeting with a new character named Karla.
    Karla: Zhat is correct, paladin. But zhat is not even zhe peculiar zhing. After zhat, zhe man stood up and valked avay.
    Anebriate: Wait, wait wait...did you just say "valked?"
    Karla: ...Yes, he valked avay. Zhat is vhat I zaid.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Church, Tucker, and Caboose notice a grenade on the ground right by them and start arguing over who dropped it. Only after about a minute of passing blame does it occur to them that someone must have thrown a grenade at them. Then it explodes.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Sarah realizes that "Box" is Adrian Raven's mother only right before falling asleep for the night despite thinking about them throughout her bedtime routine.
  • One Scandinavia and the World comic shows a bunch of Vikings deciding to make their own coins after they steal a bunch from England. A few centuries later, one of the Vikings suggests making coins with their own kings on them, instead of the King of England.
  • This VG Cats comic has Cloud/Leo realizing a bit late that Vincent is gone.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Stan Smith is subject to this trope a lot.
    • One noteworthy example is the episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", in which Roger has just revealed that the delicious ingredient to Francine's potato salad is breast milk from his reproductive cycle. Despite Roger giving a rather Squick-worthy demonstration, followed by several Vomit Indiscretion Shot from the Smith family, Stan is completely oblivious to what is in the salad until the next commercial break.
    • An even bigger example is Stan didn't realize Greg and Terry were gay until it was spelled out to him over a season later.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy would've been able to fix the messes he caused as a result of his wishes if he stopped Tempting Fate as well as stopped constantly thinking everything was going just as he planned as soon as things went south.
  • Family Guy:
    • In a third-season episode, Lois Griffin stumbles upon Villain Protagonist Stewie's hidden lair while cleaning. It takes her a while for her to realize that her son is an evil genius bent on world domination, to which Stewie slowly claps his hands and says something to the effect of "And the last horse crosses the finish line", executing her. Too bad it was All Just a Dream.note 
    • Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: "Wait a minute" (Fires blaster, cave rumbles) "Hang on a second" (Fires blaster again, cave rumbles slightly louder) "What's going on here?" (Fires blaster a third time) "Something doesn't add up..." (Fires blaster a fourth time) "Just a minute." (Fires blaster a fifth time) "Time out!" (Fires blaster a sixth time) "This ain't quite right" (Fires blaster a seventh time, cave rumbles violently) "Oh now I get it, we should run!"
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum: In the "Brain Freeze" special, both FB and CC arrive at the Frosty Mart to try out its new Radioactive Red flavor, but when they don't see any sign of it, they decide to take their usual flavor Berry Pink instead. The boys somehow didn't realize at first that Berry Pink has been replaced by Radioactive Red, and they quickly recognized the taste was different upon drinking, to which Lenny reveals the awful truth, shocking them to the core.
  • Parodied in a U.S. Acres segment in Garfield and Friends where it takes Bo the sheep MONTHS to realize some bad news.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Phil Ken Sebben was the last one to figure out Birdgirl (whom he had been hitting on since they met) was his daughter Judy. He promptly accused her of trying to seduce him. Birdman was the second-to-last one to figure it out.
  • Kappa Mikey: The episode "Big Brozu" featured Ozu's Elder twin brother, Brozu. Gonard spends most of the episode wondering how "Ozu" managed to be in two places at the same time.
  • King of the Hill has Dale, a Conspiracy Theorist who's too busy fixating on aliens and shadow governments to realize that his wife Nancy has been cheating on him for years with the hunky John Redcorn and that his son Joseph is biologically Redcorn's. In this case, however, the Last Horse isn't Dale but Peggy, who was the last person to learn of the affair and has to be convinced not to tell Dale (for fear that the betrayal would send him off the deep end).
    • Every so often there is an episode where the universe itself seems hell-bent on beating Dale over the head with his wife's infidelity to finally make him realize it, only for him to miss the point entirely. For instance, he once realizes that nine months before Joseph was born, he was off in the desert chasing a UFO sighting. He ends up coming to the conclusion that Nancy was impregnated by the aliens he was chasing, and therefore Joseph is half-alien. Later, he changes this theory to include the aliens abducting him and using his own sperm to impregnate Nancy, mostly because Joseph believed Dale's alien theory and was feeling bummed about it.
    • Another episode had John Redcorn, desperately trying to be a part of his son's life, take Joseph on a Native American Vision Quest. Much to Redcorn's annoyance, Dale tags along just for the hell of it. Dale ends up being the only one to have a vision, seeing a man in an elaborate Native American headdress having sex with Nancy, and then seeing Joseph being born wearing the same headdress. He comes to the only logical conclusion: "I must be Native American!"
    • Interestingly, Dale's last line of the series is ambiguous enough that it could be seen as him telling Nancy that he's known all along.
    • In "My Own Private Rodeo", Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer don't figure out that they're at a gay rodeo till they hear an announcer say so, despite seeing only men in attendance, people dancing along to the Village People's "YMCA" or stands selling rainbow shirts. This also makes them figure out that Dale's father is, in fact, gay himself.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Migration", Luka reveals to Ladybug that he knew she was really Marinette, but she doesn't notice and continues with their conversation as if he said something completely normal. He has to address Ladybug as Marinette a second time for her to realize what he said.
  • In the pre-show for Shrek 4D at Universal Studios, when one of The Three Little Pigs questions why the audience are in the Dungeon, Pinocchio responds, "What are WE still doing in here?!" Upon realizing that they're trapped, the pause for a moment, and then promptly freak out.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Deep Space Homer", it takes a full THIRTY YEARS and a few seconds to reflect on what he just said for Homer to realize the final plot twist of the original Planet of the Apes (1968), and that said planet was Earth All Along. Of course, being the brilliant man that he is, he winds up breaking down into tears at a NASA press conference, reenacting the exact same scene from the film, making the NASA officials look like complete idiots.
    • And of course, in "Secrets Of A Successful Marriage", Homer being called "slow" at the poker table. He's left processing that thought well into the night, reacting just in time for Lenny to be getting a midnight snack. This prompts Lenny to say "Geez, you really ARE slow!"
    • And the ever-memetic "Dental plan!" "Lisa needs braces!" Overly-Long Gag in "Last Exit To Springfield".
    • Subverted in "Fear of Flying", when Homer's looking for a new bar and ends up in one in which he's the only man present.
      Homer: There's something bothering me about this place...I know! This lesbian bar doesn't have a fire exit!
    • In "There's Something About Marrying", Marge when finding about Patty's sexuality, not noticing the very obvious signs which included Patty making out with another woman. Lampshaded by Homer of all people.
    • When Jay Sherman insults Rainier Wolfcastle on his show, Rainier shows up later to kill him, having just realized that Jay was making fun of him. Jay distracts him with a "you shoes are untied" lie and books it. Later that night, Rainier finally concludes that he's wearing loafers.
    • A heartwarming example happens in "Bart Gets An F". Bart is so happy to have gotten a passing grade on his exam that he forgets he'd kissed his teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, as he was heading home.
      Bart: I passed! I passed! I passed! I... kissed the teacher! (Spit Take)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Jolly Lodgers", SpongeBob and Patrick cause a sea urchin infestation in Squidward's house, so Squidward decides to vacation at the local Hotel Halibut for the time being while his house is being cleared. However, Squidward didn't seem to realize until several minutes after checking in that SpongeBob and Patrick are staying at the same hotel, because it was hosting a jellyfishing convention — something both Sponge and Pat obsessively love — meaning this is an even bigger pest for Squidward than ever.
  • Played more for heartwarming than laughs; the final episode of Transformers: Prime Bumblebee [[spoiler:is revived by the Omega Lock after being killed by Megatron, and as a part of this his voice box, which was destroyed before the series, is restored. Until Ratchet and Arcee note it, he fails to notice that his voice has returned.
  • In Young Justice (2010), Wally keeps trying to move in on Miss Martian, being the only one oblivious to the fact that she's already dating Superboy. Artemis is the one to finally break the news to him.
    • Ironically, Artemis herself only figured it out because newcomer Zatanna wondered how long they’ve been dating. Her own crush on Superboy prevented her from seeing the obvious.

Alternative Title(s): Late To The Realisation, The Last Horse Crosses The Finish Line, The Slow Thinker


"It. Is. On!"

Rarity and Applejack turn a pillow fight into an all-out war.

How well does it match the trope?

3.4 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChildishPillowFight

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