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Nonviolent Initial Confrontation

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Vinny: Then War Machine came out for a staredown with Kingdom because you see, the winners of the first great match and the winners of the second great match are now going to fight each other in the pay per view. How novel.
Bryan: Crazy.
The Bryan and Vinny Show, reviewing the 11/14/2015 Ring of Honor on SBG

Mostly an espionage trope, but may crop up in crime fiction and other thrillers. The hero and an antagonist meet in public—a society function, a casino, a coffee shop or some other venue with lots of witnesses (or other limitations, if that might not be enough). Other times even a few witnesses of the wrong type will prevent combat from breaking out. The hero may know who the bad guy is, and the bad guy may know what the hero is doing, but under the circumstances just shooting each other is out of the question. Instead, they duel verbally, with an implied — or even explicitly stated — "the next time we meet things will be different" vibe.

The function of the scene is to build tension by establishing personal conflict between the two, not just mission-based conflict. In-story, the purpose of the scene is usually information gathering, and feeling out weaknesses of the opponent.

Related to Overt Rendezvous. Subverted by Conspicuously Public Assassination. If a subordinate antagonist is involved and genders align properly, can mutate into Duel of Seduction. A Chance Meeting Between Antagonists might turn into this, but more usually at least one of those involved is seeking the other.

A subtrope of Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene. Can easily set up We Meet Again. Compare Go-Karting with Bowser. Not related to We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill.

A commonplace in James Bond films (and novelsUmberto Eco calls this the "First Check" scene in Ian Fleming's stories).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Toriko, the unexpected encounter between Toriko, Komatsu, and Starjun at Bar Meria. At this point, Starjun could probably have stomped them with ease, but states that he's just there looking for an ingredient, not a fight, and leaves peacefully.
  • In a chapter of Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Negi and Fate agree to meet in a public coffee shop to attempt a diplomatic solution. This almost ends up failing, however, when they begin arguing over whether tea or coffee are better and the proper way to make tea and almost come to blows because of it. Then it ends up failing anyways because Fate's attempt to manipulate Negi is outed.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Shinohara visits the ghoul cafe, Anteiku, to share a last cup with the cafe's manager, Yoshimura aka the Owl, before the CCG mission to kill the powerful Owl ghoul.

  • In Batman Returns Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are dancing at the Max-squerade Ball when each figures out who the other is.
  • Happens in Blade (1998). The evil vampire Deacon Frost lets Blade find him in a public park and forces him to have a peaceful chat with him by holding a little girl hostage by his side. He tries to sway Blade over to his side and interrogate the vampire hunter's motives, but it becomes clear that Blade won't leave without a fight, so Frost throws the hostage into traffic so he can get away without a fight. This lets the villain and hero interact a bit and build some animosity while building more anticipation for when they actually come to blows.
  • Heat: the cop (Al Pacino) and the thief (Robert De Niro) meet at a coffee shop for a private conversation.
  • Highlander: Before their final confrontation, Connor and the Kurgan meet in a church in New York. Due to the immortals having a tradition against fighting on Holy Ground, they have a talk. During this talk, Connor finds out that the Kurgan raped his beloved wife back in 1542 and vows to settle the score in their next meeting.
  • Predictably common for James Bond:
    • Goldfinger: The golf match between James Bond and Auric Goldfinger.
    • Thunderball: The gambling scene between Bond and Emilio Largo.
      • Never Say Never Again has a not surprising variation (as it used the same basic plot) with Bond and its version of Largo.
    • You Only Live Twice: The "business meeting" at Osato's chemical company. However, Osata orders him killed the moment Bond leaves the room, and his goons try to gun him down in the carpark.
    • Played with in For Your Eyes Only, where we don't realize it's happening, because we don't know the bad guy (Kristatos) is the bad guy yet.
    • Octopussy: The auction scene and a backgammon game between Bond and Kamal Khan.
    • A View to a Kill: The horse sale at Max Zorin's estate.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond meets Elliot Carver at his fancy network launch party. Played with since Bond trolls Carver so blatantly about his Evil Plan he almost immediately summons some mooks to bring Bond to a back room to beat the shit out of him.
    • The World Is Not Enough: Bond meets Elektra King at her father's funeral unaware that she arranged her father's murder.
    • The fencing match between Bond and Gustav Graves in Die Another Day starts out like this, but it quickly turns violent as the sparring gets more literal).
    • Casino Royale: Bond meets Le Chiffre at the Casino Royale hotel for the poker tournament. Le Chiffre knows who he is right away, and Bond expected that.
    • Quantum of Solace: Bond and Dominic Greene have a high tension one at Greene's party where the latter tried to kill Camille. Beforehand, they traded glances at the Bregenz opeera where Bond ruined a Quantum meeting and killed several of their henchmen.
    • No Time to Die: Technically, Lyutsifer Safin's first encounter with Madeleine Swann was violent as he tried to kill her in her childhood. But as for her adult life, he comes back into it pretending to be one of her new patients as she's a psychiatrist, reveals himself to her at her office, and simply has a conversation with her, tasking her to (unknowingly) infect herself with Heracles, which will kill Blofeld when she comes back at the latter in his prison cell.
  • Subverted in Kill Bill (part 1), The Bride and Vernita Green (Copperhead) initially agree not to fight in front of Green's daughter. That doesn't last.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Danny and Benedict first meet at a restaurant and politely trade banter.
  • In The Punisher (2004), the Punisher is visited by an assassin while drinking coffee in a small diner who seems to be a Johnny Cash impressionist. Harry Heck opens the large guitar case he brought with him, but it actually contains a normal guitar rather than a weapon. He sings a song with lyrics that just barely veil why he has come here. Afterwards, he and Frank talk, and both go their ways (until a later scene, when they actually fight to the death).
  • A version shows up in The Shadow when Shiwan Khan breaks into the Shadow's hideout to ask him to join him in his plans of domination. Not public, but nonviolent.
  • Subverted in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Irene Adler arranges a meeting with Professor Moriarty in a crowded restaurant, implicitly so that they can have a civilized conversation without anybody trying to kill anybody. At the end of the conversation, Moriarty casually reveals that everybody else in the restaurant is in his pocket, and there's nothing to stop him from killing her if he wants to.
    • It's then played straight between Holmes and Moriarty, who have a tense yet perfectly civil conversation together following a lecture by Moriarty.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Kenner and Maruta go to a Yakuza-owned club to speak to Yoshida, the man who killed Kenner's parents when Kenner was a child. Kenner knows he can't start anything because he and Maruta are greatly outnumbered, and Yoshida knows that unless they force his hand, he can't kill two cops because too many witnesses could place them in the club.
  • In X-Men, Professor Xavier encounters Erik (Magneto) Lehnsherr outside of a Congressional meeting where Jean Grey and Senator Kelly debate the mutant issue. It is established that the two men have a history, but the scene still works as a set up for the conflict between Xavier's X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood.

  • In Jingo, the generals of the armies of Ankh-Morpork and Klatch meet for breakfast, snide remarks, and final demands on the battlefield with the intent of engaging in battle afterwards (though in that regard, things don't quite go according to plan).
  • In Robert B Parker's Small Vices, Spenser has one of these with The Gray Man, a genuinely scary character who returns in later novels.
  • Subverted in Artemis Fowl: Artemis and Spiro meet in a crowded restaurant to make a deal, but it quickly goes south when it turns out everybody in the restaurant worked for Spiro, who steals the Magic Computer (Magitek literally) from Artemis.
  • In Victoria, John Rumford's introduction to Nazi officer and emissary Halsing sees them engaged in polite discussion over a shared breakfast. Unusual in that no witnesses or back-up men from either side are present: both simply trust the other to behave honorably, and correctly so, as it turns out.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Dalinar first meets the Greater-Scope Villain Odium, the God of Evil, in a vision where Odium pleasantly introduces himself and chats a bit about his goals, which happen to include Dalinar's home planet as collateral damage.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Grimm episode "Cat and Mouse", characters Detective Burkhardt (the hero) and Edgar Waltz (henchman to the Nebulous Evil Organization, the Verrat) agree to meet in a public place. Unbeknownst to Burkhardt, he's already met Waltz when Waltz was pretending to be a witness to a nasty murder he in fact committed. See Burkhardt figure that out is part of the reason that Waltz wants to meet him in person instead of just issuing his demands over the phone.
  • Used in Burn Notice when Michael meets Victor for the first time in a chess park. The two trade veiled threats as a way of getting the measure of each other.
  • Game of Thrones. Done along with Rule of Threes between Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark. The first two times, they subtly snark at each other; the third occasion, it's a Sword Fight.
  • JAG: In "Scimitar", Harm and Meg are officially in Iraq (during the time of the Saddam Hussein regime) to act as legal counsel for the captured American Marine, so the Iraqis, including the villain, treat them as welcome guests at first.
  • Hannibal: The whole second half of season two, when Will Graham resumes his therapy with Hannibal Lecter in order to out him as a cannibalistic serial killer and deliver him to the FBI. Hannibal knows what Graham is up to, but is just too genuinely fascinated by Graham's malleable psyche and the prospect of transforming him into a fellow killer. Graham knows that Hannibal knows. Hannibal knows that Graham knows that Hannibal knows. And then it gets REALLY complicated.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In season 1, Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk have two conversational interactions before they finally have their first physical fight: first, a conversation over a police radio as Matt is trying to get information on Fisk out of a wounded Vladimir, and later face-to-face when Matt happens to run into Fisk while at Vanessa's art gallery.
    • In season 3, Matt's first interaction with Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter is when Dex tries to stop him from following Fisk's lawyer through the Presidential Hotel. This is three days (and three episodes) before they'll meet again, this time with Dex now carrying out an attack on the Bulletin in a Daredevil suit given to him by Fisk.
  • Firefly: In "Heart of Gold", Malcolm Reynolds attends a theater to meet Rance Burgess, where he strikes up a conversation with Rance to size him up as an adversary. Mal is shaken by both Rance's overwhelming advantage in resources and Rance's absolute conviction that he is the good guy and anything he does is morally justified that Mal initially decides it's a better move to run instead of fight, although circumstances force him into fighting.
  • On Andor, both the nascent Rebellion and the Empire wind up staking out Cassian Andor's longtime home on Ferrix, both hoping to get ahold of him. Cinta from the Rebellion apparently moves to the planet and gets a job at a local eatery near the house where Cassian's mother lives, while Corv, an agent for the ISB, pretends to be a local while keeping tabs on the comings and going of Cassian's friends and family. The two speak at least once that we see at Cinta's job, with it being implied that they do so on more occasions off-screen. Cinta seems to quickly figure out who Corv really is, but it's not clear that Corv does the same with her; in the season finale during the riot against the Imperials on Ferrix, he seems suspicious of Cinta but appears caught by surprise and totally unprepared when she shanks and kills him with a hidden knife.

  • Occurs twice in Les Misérables between Valjean and Javert, both after lengthy time skips, and neither time does Javert realize who Valjean is. Played somewhat for laughs the second time it occurs, as Valjean escapes at the first opportunity and it requires another character to explain to a baffled Javert why.
    • Marius also has a penchant for doing this. He first meets Javert and Thenardier when he offers to be a witness for Thenardier's attempted robbery of Valjean and Cosette. The former acts as a spy and key member of the force that crushes Marius and Enjolras's revolution, and the latter robs Marius's Not Quite Dead body, among other things (the next time they meet, Marius slaps the shit out of him).
  • In Hamilton, Hamilton and Madison work together to write the Federalist Papers in Non-Stop. One song later, in What'd I Miss, Madison hates Hamilton for a reason never quite explored (probably due to political differences, but it's implied by Lin-Manuel Miranda that there was a personal element to it in real life).
    • Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton meet to discuss politics in The Room Where it Happens, despite their by that point clear political differences. A few songs later in Washington On Your Side, Jefferson and Madison plot with Burr to destroy Hamilton's career.
    • Hamilton and Burr's initial meeting is quite amicable, with Burr buying Hamilton a drink and giving him advice. Less than five minutes earlier, Burr had declared himself to be "the damn fool who shot him [Hamilton]". Granted, Burr (and the rest of the cast) was acting as an omnipotent narrator at that point, and when Burr and Hamilton first meet, Burr doesn't know that he's destined to kill Hamilton.
  • Common in ancient Greek theatre, due to the actual violent confrontations occurring offstage, which created a need to show the tension between characters in another way. Agamemnon features Clytemnestra and Agamemnon arguing about whether the latter should stand on a carpet to celebrate is victory (Clytemnestra successfully convinces him) but keeps Clytemnestra's actual act of murdering Agamemnon offstage. Similarly, Bacchae features Pentheus angrily confronting a disguised Dionysus verbally, and Dionysus ultimately convincing him to dress as a woman to spy on the Bacchae, luring Pentheus to his (offstage) violent death.

    Video Games 
  • Shining Force has the hero encounter Elliot, an enemy general, in one of the towns. Elliot acknowledges that you are enemies, and says that your next meeting will be on the battlefield.
  • In Bionic Commando, you meet up with General Killt in one of the neutral zones. Since nobody is allowed to attack in a neutral zone, he just bad-mouths you.
  • Appears in the Rome hub of Alpha Protocol. Michael arranges to meet a potential contact at a street cafe, but instead Conrad Marburg makes his first appearance, coldly analysing Michael's past actions and telling him to back off.
  • A variant of this appears in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. The initial conversation between Sam Fisher and Normal Soth is non-violent because, while the protagonists know Soth has had a hand in some sort of terrorist action, all the information available to them at the time suggests he's a CIA deep-cover asset.
  • Toyed with in Dragon Age: Origins: Loghain, Arl Howe, and Ser Cauthrien show up at Arl Eamon's estate in Denerim when Eamon calls the Landsmeet to try to persuade/intimidate him into backing down. Depending on your origin story, it may not be the first time you meet Arl Howe and it certainly won't be the first time you meet Loghain, but it's the first time your character encounters them face-to-face since finding out that they're evil. The previous encounters with Loghain and Howe don't involve combat with them directly, either, but they pretty obviously hint that both aren't on the side of good.


Video Example(s):


Holmes and Moriarty

In their first meeting, Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty remain perfectly civil, even conversational with each other - despite the fact that Sherlock knows that Moriarty is a criminal mastermind and Moriarty knows that Sherlock is trying to bring him down. However, the two make it abundantly clear that the next confrontation won't be so friendly...

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Main / NonviolentInitialConfrontation

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