Follow TV Tropes

Following

Put on a Prison Bus

Go To

Having a character get arrested is often a convenient way to have them exit the story. This is especially common for villainous characters, in which case their arrest will be treated as their final defeat in the story. This is a good way to get rid of the villain if the creator doesn't want them to die, but still get punished for their crimes.

Sometimes, this may be followed by a quick scene of the villain in jail. This makes for a good The Stinger scene. However, we will usually see nothing more than that. The character's trial and other events leading up to their imprisonment will almost never be shown due to Law of Conservation of Detail.

Advertisement:

This trope works on the Offscreen Inertia principle: if a character is last seen in legal custody, the audience assumes they remain in custody (though presumably moved to an actual prison at some point) until shown otherwise.

May overlap with Cardboard Prison if the character gets arrested at the end of one episode or entry, and breaks out of prison at the beginning of the next, especially if it keeps happening. May also overlap with Big Damn Heroes if the police show up just in time to arrest the villain.

This trope is frequent in crime shows, mysteries, and superhero comics. Not so much in superhero movies, though. See Superhero Movie Villains Die for that.

Sister trope to Sealed Evil in a Can, when a villain is defeated by being magically sealed away. Contrast Karma Houdini, along with Killed Off for Real, Disney Villain Death, and other Death Tropes.

Advertisement:

Not to be confused with Role-Ending Misdemeanor, in which a Real Life arrest leads to an actor or other creator disappearing from the public eye. Related to Put on a Bus to Hell.

No Real Life Examples, Please! People get arrested all the time, but although they may disappear from the public eye during their sentence, they will still be known by other prisoners, prison staff, or other people around them. Even if someone died during their own arrest, other people would still have to deal with their body, records, etc. One does not simply disappear from the story of real life, not even by arrest.

This is an ending trope, so beware spoilers!


Advertisement:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

  • In the first volume of Accel World, Araya, the resident bully who frequently torments Haruyuki at Umesato Junior High School, is taken into police custody a second time after his attempt to kill Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime fails. After that, he's never seen again.
  • In The Asterisk War, the Starter Villain Silas Norman is last seen being captured by Claudia Enfield and Eishiro Yabuki.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • In the Grand Magic Games arc, the Rune Knights take Raven Tail into custody after Laxus Dreyar exposes their cheating.
    • At the end of the Avatar arc, the Avatar cultists are arrested by Gajeel Redfox and the Magic Council, never to be seen nor heard from again.
  • In Volume 10 of Magika Swordsman And Summoner, tabloid journalist Turtle Oota is preemptively captured by the Knight Order and put in "protective custody".

    Films — Animation 
  • Near the end of Big Hero 6, Callahan gets arrested after taking on the identity of the Big Bad. He is seen in a couple of episodes of the spin-off series, still in prison and remorseful of his actions.
  • In Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Cousin Mel is last seen being led away in handcuffs after she confesses to the entire scheme to take over the Spankenheimer store and arrest and sue Santa Claus.
  • Towards the end of Hey Arnold! The Movie, the Big Bad Alphonse Perrier du von Scheck is last seen being arrested by the police after his plans to destroy Arnold's neighborhood backfire.
  • Near the end of The Iron Giant, the Big Bad Kent Mansley is last seen getting arrested by US soldiers after being stopped by his titular arch-nemesis.
  • Monsters, Inc. has the Child Detection Agency place Henry J. Waternoose in their personal vehicle once his involvement in the child-kidnapping scheme is exposed.
  • Pinocchio was originally going to have a scene near the end where the con men Honest John and Gideon are arrested, however, this scene was cut, leaving their fates ambiguous.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Lawrence is taken into police custody at the end for conspiring with the Big Bad, Dr. Facilier, to take over New Orleans. Facilier himself meets his end at the hands of his supernatural Friends on the Other Side.
  • Plankton is arrested at the end of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie for taking over Bikini Bottom and framing Mr. Krabs for the theft of King Neptune's crown, which almost lead to Krabs being fried by Neptune. Since the movie is meant to be the end of the series proper according to Word of God, despite lasting several more seasons and two movie sequels, this can be considered Plankton's final fate.
  • Toy Story of Terror! ends with police officers coming to arrest the motel manager, who had been stealing guests' toys and selling them online. The suspect tries to get away in their squad car, but crashes into the motel sign and then runs away, with the implication that he didn't get far.
  • Zootopia: Bellwether ends up getting caught and arrested by the ZPD after being tricked into revealing herself as the mastermind behind the Night Howlers conspiracy by Nick and Judy, and is last seen unhappily in prison watching the Dance Party Ending.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman has the opportunity to let the Joker fall to his death, but following his Character Development, he instead catches the Joker with his grappling hook, letting him dangle upside down for the police to take him away. He was made absent in The Dark Knight Rises due to Heath Ledger passing away, but the novelization confirms he's still in Arkham. Or so it's hoped.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • Switchblade Sam's last scene in Dennis the Menace involves him being arrested and put in a police car after being defeated by Dennis the night before, with the cops telling Sam he can tell everyone in the big house that he met Dennis. Before the police car leaves, Dennis notices that Sam left his switchblade behind and gives it back to him. Sam is about to stab Dennis with it, but Dennis is saved when one cop shuts the door on Sam, causing him to drop his switchblade down the sewer.
  • Rambo in the film First Blood is placed into handcuffs, arrested, and put into the back seat of a police car at the end of the film. The original ending, like the book, was for the character to be Mercy Killed by Colonel Trautman, but Sylvester Stallone didn't like that and had the ending re-written to allow the character to live.
  • The Flintstones ends with Cliff Vandercave's henchwoman Sharon Stone being taken into police custody after Fred Flintstone thwarts Cliff's plans.
  • In the The Fugitive the last time Dr. Nichols and one-armed man Sikes are seen are when they are handcuffed and placed inside a squad.
  • Home Alone: The Wet Bandits are arrested by the police after their defeat at the end of the movie. There was originally going to be a scene showing them in jail, but it was cut. They do come back for the sequel, then get arrested a second time.
  • The James Bond franchise has a few examples, which particularly stand out because usually the villains wind up dead (whether killed by Bond, one of his allies, Hoist by Their Own Petard or Killed Offscreen):
    • In Dr. No, Bond deals with Dr. No's spy Miss Taro by calling the local police to take her away.
    • The Man with the Golden Gun: Non-villainous example with sheriff-turned Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist J.W. Pepper, who's last seen being taken away by Thai police.
    • The Living Daylights: In a rare case of a main villain not being killed outright, the wily Georgi Koskov is ultimately arrested by the Russians after all his schemes unravel. His last scene leaves it open to interpretation whether they're going to imprison him or simply execute him but in either case, he's taken away and never seen again.
    • Casino Royale: villain Mr. White ends up victim of Karma Houdini Warranty after fleeing with the $150 million that Bond won at the Casino Royale poker tournament, as Bond catches up with him, knee-caps him and arrests him. He escapes in the next film.
    • Quantum of Solace: Bond finds out Yusef Kabira (the man responsible for seducing Vesper Lynd into becoming a double agent, leading to her death) is alive and finds him in Russia, holding him at gunpoint. Despite the case being personal since he loved Vesper and saw her die, Bond lets MI6 arrest the guy since what he knows is too invaluable.
    • Spectre: for the first time in the franchise, Ernst Stavro Blofeld neither escapes nor dies. He gets arrested instead, with Bond sparing his life. He shows up again in No Time to Die, still in prison.
  • Johnny English: When English is accidentally crowned king of England, he himself places Sauvage under arrest for attempting to take over England. Afterwards, a Spinning Paper tells the audience of Sauvage's arrest, and adds that he may be executed for his crimes.
  • Knives Out: After a failed, last-ditch attempt at killing Marta, the Big Bad is last seen being taken away by the police.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Senator Stern is last seen getting arrested towards the end of the film. Considering that his actor died two years after the movie's release, we can safely assume that this is the last appearance of the character in the franchise.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Helmut Zemo is taken to prison by Black Panther before he can commit suicide, ultimately sitting out the next few years until his return in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming: Unlike most MCU villains, Adrian Toomes/The Vulture is arrested and sent to prison instead of dying. There is a quick scene near the end showing Toomes in prison, where he meets Mac Gargan, a minor villain from earlier who also got arrested.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Sonny Burch and his associates are last seen being arrested by the FBI.
  • In Miss Congeniality, Kathy Morningside is last seen driven away in the back of a squad car after she and her son tried to kill the winner of the Miss America pageant.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Due to a combination of writer's block, No Budget, and everyone getting fed up with the film's Troubled Production, Arthur and his knights prepare to storm the French castle and are then promptly arrested by modern police officers for the murder of a historian killed by a random knight halfway through the film, without so much as closing credits.
  • Ian, the lead villain of National Treasure, exits the scene when Ben sics the Federal agents on him.
  • Superman: The Movie and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace both end with Superman taking Lex Luthor to prison.
  • In The Warriors this is Ajax's fate. After he lags behind the others to chat up a woman, he becomes sexually aggressive with her and she handcuffs him to a bench, revealing herself to an undercover police officer. Snow and Cowboy go back for him, only to see him being taken away by the cops and they're unable to help him. In a 2009 comic miniseries, the Warriors bust Ajax out of jail but in the film itself, this is the last we see of him.
  • At the end of Yogi Bear, the Big Bad Mayor Brown is taken into police custody after the heroes expose his evil schemes to shut down Jellystone Park.

    Literature 
  • Flawed: At the end of the sequel, Crevan's crimes end up being known country-wide. Not only is he voted out of his guild leadership, but he's also sentenced to jail off-screen.
  • Kim: A pair of antagonists are arrested due to an incidental breach of rules at a railway station, i.e. largely unrelated to the reason that they're antagonists. This is the end of their involvement in the story.
  • Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot: Every book ends with the Villain of the Week getting locked up in the same prison building, which gets increasingly full as the series goes on- and just so happens to have nine windows for all nine villains.
  • Sacred Monster: The book ends with Jack telling Hoskins that he'll be back in approximately twelve years after he's arrested for drunkenly killing Buddy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The warlock Ethan Rayne was a repeat antagonist for Buffy the Vampire Slayer in early seasons. He was last seen being taken into custody by Riley and The Initiative in season 4 and does not appear again.
  • In Angel Season 1, at the conclusion of a four part crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith turned herself in for her cross-series crime spree and was sent off to prison. Aside from a cameo in the season 2 opener, that was the last she was heard from in either series until Season 4.
  • An integral part of every single episode of Cold Case is the killer being arrested for their crimes and taken away. Trials are never shown, nor is it discussed what's going to happen to any of them in prison - presuming they make it that far. There are a couple of exceptions in the over 150 episodes, including "Mindhunters" (which ends with the killer walking free), "A Perfect Day" (where the killer was already dead so Stillman had to do a replacement of having his photograph taken down; and in "Torn", every single character except the maid's daughter has already died so there's nobody to arrest. Every other episode follows the pattern. There are also semi examples that play with the formula, like in "The Road" where the killer was arrested at the beginning of the episode, so it couldn't technically happen at the end of the episode, but it did end with the police taking him into custody.
  • Daredevil (2015): The first season ends on a triumphant note with Wilson Fisk's criminal empire being dismantled, Matt Murdock stopping Fisk as he attempts to escape custody, and Brett Mahoney recapturing him. The last shot is of him in a prison cell, staring reflectively at the white walls which are reminiscent of the walls in his childhood apartment. We don't see him again until a two episode arc late in Season 2, which comes to show how he's spent his prison time amassing new resources to take control of the prison from its existing kingpin, eventually allowing him to manipulate Frank Castle into taking out said kingpin for him before setting him loose. The third season is then kicked off when Fisk manipulates the FBI into letting him out of prison. At the end of the season, he's sent back to prison thanks to a posthumous video confession by Ray Nadeem, and the last we see of Fisk is him once again being taken into custody by Brett.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Because of the Netflix Marvel shows' cancellations, the last we see of Trish at the end of season 3 is her being sent to the Raft for murdering three people, including the person who killed her mother, and attacking Jessica. Many fans have speculated that as the secondary lead of the show, Trish was likely going to have a redemption arc in season 4 since it was unlikely the show would keep her locked up in the Raft for the entire season.
  • Madam Secretary: In a close variant, the last we hear of nationalist French President Leon Perrin is that the French parliament is in the process of impeaching him for taking bribes from the Russians to betray NATO.
  • In Misfits this happens to one of the main characters (albeit the Token Evil Teammate), as a way of putting him on a bus. Nathan is last seen in season 3 being arrested in Las Vegas, and never rejoins the other characters.
  • In Season 5 of The Sopranos, Feech La Manna is released after nearly twenty years in prison. As a sign of respect and as a reward for not snitching, Tony allows him to collect money from various illegal activities. However, Feech stills sees Tony as a kid, completely ignores Tony's status as boss and begins to cause headaches. First he breaks the arm of landscaper Sal Vitro to force him to give up some of his routes. Vitro is forced to go to Tony for help and ultimately suffers enough financial difficulty that he has to pull his son from college and landscape both Tony and Johnny Sack's large homes for free. Feech apologizes to Tony and pledges his respect, but when he hears Dr. Ira Fried speak of his daughter's lavish, expensive wedding he organizes a mass hijacking of the guests' expensive cars, causing more headaches for Tony. Knowing he cannot have such a respected gangster whacked, Tony sets a plan in motion. Chris and Benny trick Feech into storing stolen plasma televisions in his garage, then tip his parole officer off. The last scene of Feech in the series is him on the bus to prison, catching as much of the outside world as he can before he returns to prison for the rest of his life.
  • The Wire:
    • The last we see of Ziggy Sobotka in season 2 is him on his way to prison in the ending montage
    • This trope is not in effect for Avon Barksdale's first arrest and conviction at the end of season 1, since Avon still gets a storyline and subplot of his own in season 2 from behind bars where we see him orchestrate a scheme to move up his first parole hearing, which ultimately happens in season 3. But it is the case for his re-arrest and return to prison at the end of season 3 after Stringer double-crosses him and sells out the location of his weapons cache to Major Colvin, to show how the Barksdales have crumbled as a result of the war with Marlo Stanfield. He does come back for one last appearance in season 5, when Marlo has to go through him to get access to Sergei Malatov, a member of the Greeks' organization from season 2.

    Video Games 
  • Bug Fables: At the end of the "Explorer Check!" sidequest, when Team Snakemouth defeats Cenn and Pisci (who attempted to impersonate the exploration team to smuggle items from the Ant Storage Service worker), they end up attempting to escape but were thwarted by Gen and Eri, who sedated them with the Sleep Bomb trap. Gen and Eri then thank Team Snakemouth for their assistance in apprehending criminals, and the two ruffians were shipped off into prison. Much later, when Team Snakemouth visits said prison in the penultimate chapter during its occupation by wasps, Cenn and Pisci can be seen there, sitting in their prison cells despite the fact that they have a perfect opportunity to escape, implying that they genuinely want to atone themselves by serving out their sentence.
  • Clam Man: After Clam Man exposes the crimes of Mr. Bosman and "Loud Mouth," who he suspects to be the Big Bad Duumvirate, it transitions to a police car pulling away, with the dialogue making it clear that Bosman and "Loud Mouth" were arrested. However, it turns out that they were only pawns of the real Big Bad, who ends up dying at the end.
  • Detective Grimoire:
    • At the end of the first game, when Grimoire finishes The Summation, we cut to the killer, Pete Nubhat, screaming, and it transitions to him behind bars. Cue credits.
    • In Secret of the Swamp, after the killer, Echo, confesses to the crime, he suddenly tries to run away, only to be stopped by Boggy the swamp monster, who is Real All Along. He is then arrested by Officer James.
  • Driver 2 ends with Pink Lenny being extradited back to Chicago from Rio to face charges from his role in the gang war.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: Ludveck is sent to prison following his failed coup at the end of Part 2, and is unmentioned afterwards.
  • Inazuma Eleven:
    • Near the end of the second game, it turns out all the supposed alien attacks are actually from middle-school kids who were given superpowers by a Magic Meteor - except their strongest team, Genesis, which was specially trained to surpass the powers of the other teams from Aliea Academy. This was all part of Seijirou's plan of overthrowing the government for not bringing justice to his son's death, but in the end, he realizes the whole project was a mistake. Even though he pulls a Heel–Face Turn, he's still brought into custody by the police, which is how his screentime in the original series ends.
    • After the Aliea Meteorite is destroyed, Kenzaki slips off with some fragments and forms the Dark Emperors. Unlike his boss, he just wants to take over the world for unexplained reasons. After the remaining fragments are completely nullified, he gets arrested by the police and is neither seen nor mentioned again.
  • Mega Man 6 closes out the NES era with Doctor Wily at last arrested and behind bars. Of course, this isn't the end of Wily, as he gets freed at the start of the next game by Burst Man, Freeze Man, Junk Man, and Cloud Man.
  • Spider-Man ends with a scene showing Rhino, Mysterio, Scorpion, Doc Ock, and a random Mook sharing a prison cell. The sequel, Spider-Man 2 – Enter: Electro has a similar final scene, with Hammerhead, Shocker, and Electro sharing a cell, with the final shot revealing their cell is right next to the one from the first game.
  • A heroic variant occurs in Yakuza 6: Taiga Saejima willingly goes back behind bars to finish his sentence after the events of Yakuza 5, while Goro Majima and Daigo Dojima are arrested as a result of Katsumi Sugai's plot to take over the Tojo Clan. All three protagonist characters spend nearly the entire game out of the picture as a result.
  • If you won't attack anyone in Deltarune and warn enemies so Susie won't hit them, the first chapter will end with the King being overthrown and send to prison while his son, Lancer, becomes the king. Seeing as there is only one chapter released, this is the character's last appearance so far.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Most episodes in the series end with the real killer being arrested, which is usually the last we hear of them. Key word being usually as the Ace Attorney universe has the afterlife, ghosts, spirit mediums, and the death penalty. Put all four together...

    Web Animation 
  • Epithet Erased: Mera and Indus are arrested at the end of the first arc for trying to steal the Arsene Amulet from the museum and subsequently disappear from the story. In a similar vein Sylvie, who was injured during the attempted robbery, makes no later appearances after being carted off to the hospital at the end of the arc.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: In the Season One finale, Gideon Gleeful gets arrested and hauled off to actual adult prison (despite being nine years old) for trying to kill Dipper and Mabel and spying on everyone in Gravity Falls to learn their secrets. Despite this, he came back to cause more trouble for the Pines family during the latter half of Season Two - both in and out of prison - and by the end of the series he was out of prison for good after pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Similarly, "The Time Traveler's Pig" ended with the incompetent time traveler Blendin Blandin getting arrested by the Time Police for letting the Pines twins mess around with his time machine (although, unlike most examples on this page, he was never really a villain, just criminally neglectful of his equipment). He came back in Season Two, seeking revenge, and turned good again after the twins set him free and got him his job back out of remorse for inadvertently ruining his life in the first place.
  • Mission Hill: Ron, the Bad Boss who owns the waterbed store Andy and Gwen work at, is arrested by the IRS for tax evasion in the eighth episode. Had the show gone on, he would have been replaced with a man named Don, who was essentially exactly the same character except he would have been a Corrupt Hick instead of a Funny Foreigner.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Most of the show's villains either make a Heel–Face Turn or get sealed away somehow after being blasted by the concentrated Magic of Friendship. It's rare to see them arrested, but not completely unheard of:
    • Lord Tirek in "Twilight's Kingdom - Part 2" is an odd example. He gets blasted with the latest upgrade to the Magic of Friendship, and this time the power of Harmony strips Tirek of his stolen magic, then teleports him into a jail cell in Tartarus.note 
    • "School Raze - Part 2" ends with that season's villain, Cozy Glow, hauled away by the Royal Guard, then locked up in a cage of her own in Tartarus.
  • Ninjago: When the villains aren't either killed, sealed off, some horrific fate or outright leave before they can be caught this trope is what usually happens to them. Among these villains being Pythor in Season 3, The Sons of Garmadon in Season 8, and Lord Garmadon in Season 9.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, character Aloyse von Roddenstein is seen being arrested in the ending of Phineas And Ferb Save Summer and is never seen again.
  • Scooby-Doo. The early seasons of the TV cartoon almost always had the villain who perpetrated the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax being arrested by the police for the criminal operation the hoax was intended to cover up.
  • In The Simpsons, Artie Ziff got arrested at the end of the episode "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner". While the ending to the episode implied that Ziff was gonna get killed off, he continued to make appearances in flashbacks, and eventually out of prison, alive and well.
  • In the fifth season of Total Drama, Duncan, the juvenile hall resident, attempts to defy his Badass Decay, by blowing up Chris' "summer cottage" (actually an elaborate mansion). Chris wastes no time in not only voting him off, but also sending him to big-boy jail for arson.
  • Many episodes of WordGirl end with one or more police officers walking into the scene and leading off the villain of the day after their latest scheme is foiled. Of course, these villains tend to reappear somewhat frequently.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report