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Thwarted Escape

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"Keep going, just a few minutes more and we'll be safe."
(Bad guy steps out from behind a tree)
"That's what you think."

Any escape attempt — be it from from a kidnapper, unjust imprisonment, or the like — that is shown getting within sight of a point beyond which the escapees will be undeniably and irrefutably safe will always be interrupted, sometimes fatally. Commenting on how close you are to safety is just Tempting Fate and provides a cue for the interruption.

A Sub-Trope of the Hope Spot. Compare and contrast Tricked into Escaping, in which the captor allows their captive to escape for some reason.

Due to the nature of the trope, expect some unmarked spoilers.


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    Fan Works 
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: Petyr Baelish escapes his trial by taking Bran hostage and fleeing on a horse. Unfortunately for him, he finds himself being pursued by Wulfrik the Wanderer's flying ship, and very quickly subjected to a humiliating death. There's a good reason one of Wulfrik's nicknames is "the Inescapable".

    Film — Animation 
  • An American Tail: Fievel wanders into the underground lair of the Mott Street Maulers, who try to capture him. He manages to make it back to the surface and is about to run back to safety when one of the cats grabs him and drags him back into the sewer.
  • Toy Story:
  • In Turning Red, Mei tries to leave her house by her window and gets halfway out when she hears the knock on her door making her need to scramble back in. Her second attempt which is unseen succeeds however.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In All the Money in the World, Paul manages to set fire to a field to distract his captors, break out of his cell, hitch a ride to the nearest town, reach a police station, and call his mother only for his kidnappers to re-capture him at the station.
  • Used to Heartbreaking effect in The Great Escape. Hilts was inches away from safety when he got caught, and out of 76 escapees only 3 make it out of German-controlled territory - and 50 out of the other 73 are murdered in cold blood after being recaptured. Worse, this actually happened, and the Nazis had a knack for deliberately setting up this trope (see Real Life below).
  • Played with in Gulag (1985). The escapees from a Soviet prison camp see a border fence and stagger through the snow towards it, only for an armoured personnel carrier to race up and hold them at gunpoint. Just as they despair at having been stopped just before reaching their goal, they discover they've been captured by Norwegian soldiers, as they've crossed the border without realising it.
  • At the beginning of Solo, Qi'ra and Han Solo make a daring escape across Coronet City with a stolen vial of coaxium, hoping to bribe their way past an Imperial checkpoint and start a new life away from the crime and corruption of Corellia. Unfortunately, just as she's about to step through the gateway after her boyfriend, Lady Proxima's Mooks snatch Qi'ra and the Imperial officer sounds the alarm, leaving Han trapped on the other side of the gate and unable to reach Qi'ra. He's forced to leave her behind, though he swears he'll come back for her.
  • In Super Mario Bros. (1993), Daisy is able to escape her cell with help from Yoshi, but is recaptured when Koopa uses his tower's surveillance cameras and microphones to find her location.

  • In The Bible, Jonah wants to go anywhere that isn't Nineveh. His escape is thwarted by God Himself sending a huge sea creature to swallow Jonah.
  • Moist Von Lipwig digs himself out of prison in Going Postal only to find his tunnel blocked by a rock. Vetinari placed that rock there on purpose, to give the prisoners something to focus on without letting them escape, and even left Lipwig a new spoon to try to remove the well-mortared stone with (Lipwig having destroyed the old one removing the old mortar from the stone he had removed to start the tunnel).
  • The short story "A Torture by Hope" by Villiers de L'Isle-Adam is this trope meets Yank the Dog's Chain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Magical Place," Coulson manages to pick the locks on his handcuffs, take down the guards he encounters, and make it outside... where The Dragon calmly informs him that his captors have set up shop at an unused and abandoned nuclear testing site from the '40s, and that there's nothing but empty desert for miles around. Coulson is given a few moments to let it sink in before he's knocked unconscious and dragged back inside.

    Video Games 
  • Around World 6 of Super Mario 3D Land, Peach attempts an escape from Bowser's castle and ends up with his entire army chasing her. By the start of World 8, Bowser has recaptured her and keeps her in closer proximity.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Kirumi was driven to kill Ryoma after her Motive Video revealed she was the Prime Minister of Japan and her people are in danger. When she's voted the Blackened, she decides to make a break for it while the others cheer, only to discover Monokuma planned for this and Kirumi winds up literally running right into her execution.

    Real Life 
  • This was a common strategy of the Nazis; when they found out that the prisoners were attempting to escape, they would show no signs of this knowledge while secretly stationing guards at the escape point, thus luring the escapees into a false sense of security right at the most dangerous part of the escape.