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Torture First, Ask Questions Later

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Interrogations are hard.

Torturer: Just give us the answers we want and I'll stop.

Torture Always Works, of course, but there are some cases when that doesn't happen: Normally, because the torturer got a little excited and started torturing before asking any questions.

Note that this isn't about when the torturer has no desire to actually learn any information; that's Cold-Blooded Torture. This is when the torturer wants information, they think the victim has it, and they want to torture the victim first to soften him up or inflict punishment before getting to the questioning.

Or maybe they just want to show the victim they're serious about inflicting pain.

Compare Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, which is about interrogating by torture, Torture for Fun and Information, which is about being into interrogating by torture.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hange Zoë, from Attack on Titan does this when trying to "interrogate" a corrupt Military Police member. Specifically, she starts ripping out the man's fingernails without asking him any questions. The man even lampshades this. However it's actually subverted as, it wasn't that she forgot, but that the finger nails were vengeance since it was the same torture technique the officer had used on one of her friends, she was just showing him how it felt.
    • They still managed to get a few dark laughs out of the scene, because the guy getting tortured became rather... exasperated with Hange's clumsy methods.
    Djel Sannes: Wait!! What are you doing!?! I don't even know what you want!!
    Hange Zoë: Shut up! It's my first time torturing someone!
    Djel: If it's torture, you're supposed to ask me something first, THEN start pulling fingernails!!
  • Fate/Apocrypha: Jack the Ripper captures a young magus and tortures him with knives. When he cracks and says he'll talk, she gleefully stabs him several more times, and only asks her questions on Yggdmillenia's defenses when he's about to die.
  • Happens with the pair of wrestling sisters in Futaba-kun Change!. They beat people up for information, but forget to ask the question before beginning the beating, so the poor victim has no idea why he's being beaten.
  • This is a common for Kakihara on Ichi the Killer as torturing is his hobby. He makes sport out of starting to torment his victims right off the bat to break them before they can even get to tell the information they're getting tortured for!

    Comic Books 
  • In Kick-Ass, the title character gets tortured for information by having a car battery attached to his nuts. He immediately folds, letting them know that he'll tell them anything, but is informed that the questioning won't start for another 20 minutes yet.
  • One of the many running gags in Groo the Wanderer. He enjoys slaying and sometimes when he greatly needs information from someone he kills them first. Afterwards, he reminds himself that he should ask questions first next time.
  • In Trolls de Troy, it's once said that past a certain level of pain, the victim can guess the question without help (and if they're wrong, that extra info can always be useful).
  • In an Asterix and Obelix book, Obelix starts hitting a suspect upside the head while demanding "Aren't you going to answer? Well, aren't you?" Asterix points out that they haven't asked him anything yet.
  • In Sidekick, one of the heroes the protagonist tries to sidekick under has a tendency to search for thugs and goons, threaten them while asking them questions, then kill them mid-answer. The hero genuinely thinks this is a standard interrogation technique and is confused about why he hasn't obtained any useful information.
  • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: Its not exactly torture given they're robots being beaten to bits but the Shoot First ask Questions Later mentality is lampshaded in "Not Included"
    Barda: Destroy them first, then we can ask!
    Diana: That's fairly backwards Barda. Don't get lost in the heat of battle.
  • Invoked by Rorschach in Watchmen, though by that time his reputation is big enough that the Bad-Guy Bar he's in coughs up what he's looking for immediately.
    "Don't worry. Won't insult legendary underworld solidarity by suggesting you surrender name without torture."
    [Everyone in the bar immediately stares at the perp he's looking for]

    Comic Strips 
  • The subject of a The Far Side cartoon, in which the phrase "shoot first, ask questions later" is taken too literally by a Western gunslinger.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Pan's Labyrinth, Vidal does this intentionally to one of the captured guerillas. It's because he claims that he won't believe anything the guerilla says unless it's a result of torture. The rebel does talk a little as a result, but it's flat-out implied that Vidal doesn't necessarily believe what he says, he just does it anyway, because he can. There's a good reason why Vidal is considered one of the worst villains to grace 21st century screens.
  • Star Wars
    • In the original Star Wars, nearly the first thing we see Darth Vader do is lift a rebel officer by the neck and begin choking him. Then he starts asking him questions. And then he keeps squeezing until things break.
    Darth Vader: Where are those transmissions you intercepted?
    • Darth Vader tortures Han Solo to within an inch of his life in The Empire Strikes Back. When Han is taken back to his cell, he weakly remarks that they didn't ask any questions. This is because Vader doesn't want any information from Solo (or Chewbacca, who is tortured with high-frequency sound). He just wants Luke to sense the suffering of his friends and come to Bespin to rescue them; also, to test whether Han Solo can endure the painful process of being encased in carbonite.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angel (under possession of his evil former self, Angelus) took a time-out from his impending world domination to blithely torture Giles, who may or may not have the information needed to help him, because it had been hundreds of years since Angelus last tortured somebody. He openly admits he hopes Giles is either ignorant or defiant, because it'll give him an excuse to torture him longer.
    Angelus: I mean, the last time I did it, they didn't even have chainsaws.
  • In the pilot episode of You Have Been Watching, Charlie Brooker played a clip from 24 where Jack Bauer threatens to shove a towel all the way down a guy's throat, leave it for a few days to work its way into his stomach lining, and then pull it out. David Mitchell asked, "At what point in that scenario is he supposed to talk?"
  • Foyle's War:
    • In an episode, the murderer plays Russian Roulette on a guy he wants information from, and kills him on the third try before he hears what he needs. Judging by his Oh, Crap! face, he didn't really consider this as a possibility.
    • In another episode, Foyle is investigating the death of a conscientious objector. From one look at the guy's former cell, he deduces that the poor sod was hosed down until his weak heart gave out. Nobody actually wanted to ask the guy any questions — they just wanted to punish him for not wanting to go and get killed. Foyle's disgust at the torturers is palpable.
  • In Agent Carter, the Jerkass Agent Thompson plays the bad cop in questioning a Leviathan agent. He brings in a carrot and a stick and after the suspect says that he won't talk, Thompson responds to the effect that he doesn't expect him too, and then has him bite down on the stick before proceeding to pummel him.
  • Doctor Who. Strax (the Battle Butler of the Paternoster Gang) is fond of this trope. Being a Sontaran Warrior, the subtleties of criminal investigation are often beyond him.
    Strax: Suggest we melt his brain using projectile acid fish, and then interrogate him! [beat] Other way round...
  • In The 10th Kingdom, Blurry, Blabberwort and Bluebell have Virginia strapped to a chair with the intentions on torturing her for information on her "kingdom". She makes it clear that she'll tell them anything they want without torture, but they make it clear they plan on torturing her first because they take pride in their work and it is important to do these things in the proper order.
    "Rush a torture, ruin a torture."
  • Stranger Things: Sullivan really doesn't give the poor agent he's captured any time to answer before deciding to continue torturing him. The guy is clearly traumatized from the experience and clammed up in response, and rather than let him recover enough to talk he decides that he needs more torture.
  • One episode of Yonderland had the Big Bad order his minions to torture Elf. While his intention was this trope, he forgot to inform the minions of that and they weren't sure what information he was after anyway. The intended victim avoided torture by simply chatting about family gossip for hours until he was rescued.

  • The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. KGB thugs torture a Dutch fence of stolen diamonds by Hand Gagging him and breaking his fingers one by one. When the thug takes his hand away, the fence is begging to be asked questions.
  • In The Lost Fleet Captain Geary actually questions his senior Intelligence officer to make certain the Alliance hasn't started doing this while he was busy being a Human Popsicle, to which the young lieutenant responds that of course they don't; that sort of thing spoils the lie detector results. Having just caught his subordinates preparing to leave enemy crewmembers tied up on the captured ship he'd ordered them to scuttle, Geary is slightly reassured by this.
  • Not actual torture (just threats) but the same idea in Men at Arms, when Lance-Constable Cuddy is threatening Gerhardt Sock, the head of the Butchers' Guild, with a dwarfish war-axe:
    Cuddy: You give it to me right now, or I'll make you eat your own nose!
    Sock: But —
    Cuddy: Don't you argue with me! I'm an officer of the Watch, I am!
    Sock: But you —
    Cuddy: You've got one chance, mister! Give it to me right now!
    Sock: What is it you want?
    Cuddy: Ah. Ahaha. Didn't I say?
    Sock: No!
    Cuddy: I'm pretty sure I did, you know.

    Video Games 
  • Silverstar, a psychotic elven rogue added in one Baldur's Gate 2 mod did this during a sub-quest.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • In the first game, in order to interrogate someone, you must first beat them into submission. Note that you can't just ask them what you want to know before you start attacking them.
    • In the second one, you usually have to fatally stab them. The conspirators get very generous with their Last Words, apparently.
  • Volgin in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater winds up actually giving critical information to the interrogated during the torture scene.
  • Played for Laughs in Armed and Dangerous when someone in the Big Bad's torture chamber decides to 'soften up' one of the captives before interrogation by pulling out his tongue. For some strange reason, he doesn't say a word during the interrogation. The torturer then picks another prisoner and replaces his head with a large cauliflower, but for some reason he doesn't say a word either.
    The Dragon, apologetically: "He's new."
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, both the IAA and the FIB torture Mr. K on the grounds that he knows the whereabouts of a suspected terrorist. However, they just skip straight to the torture before asking him anything, even going so far as to cut him off when he's willing to provide details they want. In fact, during the last session of torture, he can even give information, but Trevor will still torture him anyway. Worse yet, it's very strongly implied that Mr. K is just a regular civilian and got tangled up in both agencies' incompetence and willing blindness to his innocence; Mr. K ends up just being asked leading questions and tells his torturers what they want to hear. This ends with another random citizen getting murdered, ostensibly as a counterterrorism action.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krab Borg". After convincing themselves that Mr. Krabs is a robot impostor, Squidward and SpongeBob tie him to a chair and plan to interrogate him about the location of the "real" Mr. Krabs. Said interrogation begins like this:
    SpongeBob: [slaps Mr. Krabs]
    SpongeBob: Oh yeah. [to Krabs] What colour is my underwear? [slaps Krabs again]
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "24 Minutes". Upon learning that Nelson knows the identity of The Mole, Bart immediately begins subjecting him to Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques, but doesn't actually ask him who the mole is until Nelson protests, "I'm unclear on what you want!"
  • A variation of this tends to happen in Time Squad, for example where the heroes must help Confucius, who instead of writing short maxims to express his Aesops, writes books thicker than a dictionary to convey them. Officer Buck Tuddrussel tries to fix this the only way he knows how: by beating the Chinese sage repeatedly within an inch of his life until he changes his ways. At the end, it was revealed that the reason Confucius kept writing long anecdotes despite his beatings was because Buck forgot to tell him what he was supposed to do instead, having bothered only with the violence.
  • Since Gladys in Trollhunters hit Toby with a tranquilizer strong enough to keep him from escaping, it also keeps him from being able to talk properly. Since she did this with intentions of interrogating him, it is obvious that she had every intention of torturing him with her dental equipment first.

    Real Life 
  • This was the standard practice for interrogating slaves in Ancient Greece and Rome. The assumption was that the slaves would lie, either out of loyalty or fear, to toe whatever line their master wanted them to. Therefore, the authorities tortured slaves as a matter of course before their questioning, because a tortured person is 100% likely to tell the truth.