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Why Isn't It Attacking?

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Rudolf isn't attacking for some reason.
Alm: What's going on? Why won't you attack? What are you planning, Rudolf?!
Rudolf: ......

On your Stealth-Based Mission, you'll need to hide from a horde of flesh-eating Always Chaotic Evil ubiquitous mooks. Normally you'd fail the mission immediately even when some enemy thinks you are there nearby and triggers the alarm, but surprisingly, sometimes a Mook has been watching you the whole time... and hasn't attacked or revealed your location.

"Why Isn't It Attacking?"

There are a few possible reasons, and not all are good. On the positive end, he may be a rebel good guy, or a good guy disguised as a a bad guy, or the bad guys are really Dark Is Not Evil, or their motives for chasing them were benign but misinterpreted. Or maybe this was the orc she saved years ago repaying the favor, he was once a human and feels pity, or he's lonely and wants a companion. He will usually demonstrate his good intentions by protecting Alice from other threats, which may involve knocking her out and/or taking her to his home. When she wakes up, she may think she's Exploring the Evil Lair, and before long she'll be asking "Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?" followed by his puzzled "No...?" By the time Bob shows up, she'll likely have to stop them both from a fight over her. If the author wants to be cruel, Bob will kill him before Alice can explain.

More dangerously, he may be a Boss in Mook Clothing feigning the above as part of a dastardly plot to earn her trust so he can betray her later. Even if he genuinely does want to protect her, he can always go psychotically possessive and only protect her to possess her. Or of course, there might be a bigger monster behind her. Or just waiting for reinforcements. And there's always the off chance that she's Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth. If he simply flees past and ignores her, it may be an example of Foreboding Fleeing Flock. Alternatively, what Bob is doing is Just as Planned, or she has other things going on that would be ruined by revealing him.

Or maybe they're either asleep, dead, or a cardboard cutout.

Note that the "attacker" can be monster, animal, or human.

Sister Trope to Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?. Contrast Get It Over With, Would Not Shoot a Good Guy. See also Zombie Advocate.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Attack on Titan, where one of the soldiers of a band of Titan killers is cornered by one of the smaller Titans, who (thinking that she is one of the Titans in human form) desperately tries to hold back its Horror Hunger (to the point of clawing its face until drawing blood), and tries to communicate. This clues to her (and the audience) the unsettling revelation that the terrifying, humanoid giants that have plagued humanity after nearly exterminating them several hundred years ago... the seemingly unintelligent creatures who have devoured humans and caused untold atrocities for their last remaining stronghold... are not only intelligent but transformed humans. Eventually the Titan succumbs to hunger and, in obvious despair (and possible anger about being wrong about her identity), devours the unlucky scout before she can escape.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers: Paint it, White!, after escaping the alien mothership, the nations wonder why the Pictonians paused their attack upon seeing Italy. Turns out that because the Pictonians have no faces, they were confused by his extreme expressions.

    Fan Works 
  • DC Nation: During the "Strangers" plot where several Titans were swapped out with their Evil Counterparts, the thing that tipped the heroes off to something being amiss was that the people they thought were their enemies weren't attacking. Connor Hawke was the first to voice this aloud, able to read Troia's body language and quickly assess that her posture was not that of an attacker, preventing Arsenal from firing a fatal shot.
  • The Ghost of Ochs: During the defense of Remire, Petra wonders why one of the demonic beasts attacking the village doesn't attack her and her friends. Said demonic beast was a young boy mutated by an artificial Crest Stone and is too scared to attack them knowing that he's greatly outnumbered and out-equipped. He avoids them and attempts to attack a Knight of Seiros standing by himself but gets stabbed to death for his trouble.
  • I don't want to forget: Asuka wonders why the New Jet Alone is not attacking her until she realizes that it is trying to buy time and waiting for her Eva's inner batteries running out of power.
  • Reality Is Fluid: After ending up in fluidic space and trying to hide, the USS Bajor becomes surrounded by over eighty Undine ships, far too many for a single damaged Galaxy-class starship to overcome. But to the crew's bafflement, they don't attack immediately, and Lieutenant Esplin realizes after looking at them that their hull markings are different from the ones that have been attacking the Federation and its allies, possibly signifying that they're part of a different faction. Eleya decides to try talking her way out.

    Films — Animated 
  • Back to the Outback: An inversion of sorts. When Maddie accidentally falls on Chazzie, both are shocked and huddle in fear, with Chazzie calling for his dad. After a few moments he cautiously glances at Maddie, and realizes that despite what his father has been telling him all this time about the animals they are trying to catch being dangerous monsters, in reality she is just as scared of him as he is of her.
  • Invoked in the most literal sense in How to Train Your Dragon. After Hiccup frees the Night Fury he ensnared (that is, the dragon he'd later name "Toothless"), it corners him, screams in his face, and runs off. This one event essentially kicks off the entire plot, because up until then Hiccup had been taught that dragons will always take the kill shot if given a fraction of a chance. It's implied that Toothless himself has this reaction when it becomes evident that Hiccup is cutting him free rather than stabbing him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Host (2006) looked like it was going to do this when it captured the protagonists' daughter, but it was subverted when it ate her later.
  • The titular character of Fido is a zombie. In the film's universe, zombies are rendered docile by electrical collars, but if the collar shorts out, in theory the zombie reverts to munching on those tasty people. Through several accidents Fido's collar does malfunction, but he doesn't eat either the boy who is his "owner" or his mother. The mother actually even says, "Why aren't you attacking me?" The zombie sort of has the hots for her. It's actually less squicky than it sounds.
  • Warm Bodies is about a zombie who kills a human and eats his brain, but afterward encounters the girl his recent victim was in love with, sparking the zombie's long-dormant feelings and leading him to save her from the rest of the horde.
  • Played with in Return of the Jedi: "Only the fighters are attacking, I wonder what those Star Destroyers are waiting for." Not entirely straight in that the Star Destroyers weren't the threat, the thing that they thought was incapable of attacking was. The Star Destroyers were just there to box the Rebel fleet in, making them easier targets for the Death Star's superlaser.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kruge ponders why the Enterprise, which has a weapon advantage of 10 to 1, hasn't finished him off(it's because the ship is jury rig automated to operate with only 5 crewman because Kirk stole it so taking a single hit anywhere damaged this system and it's dead in the water), and the captain is parleying terms of surrender instead. Kruge is smart enough to call Kirk on his bluff.
    • The climactic battle of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has the Enterprise under attack from an enemy ship that can stay cloaked while attackingnote , causing Kirk to initially order his ship to pull back. Both commanders on either side ask this question about the other: Kirk wonders why his enemy does not press his advantage; his enemy wants to make sure the Enterprise cannot ascertain his exact location before attacking the larger ship.
  • Near the end of Jurassic Park III, Grant and the others are surrounded by Velociraptors who, as Grant points out, aren't tearing anybody limb-from-limb. It turns out they're just after the eggs that Billy stole earlier in the movie.
  • The Matrix Revolutions: A Zerg Rush of Sentinels is about to overrun Zion, only to stop at the last second. Morpheus soon realizes that Neo must be up to something, holding them back.

  • One classic Feghoot takes place on an island inhabited by creatures called Trids. A hostile giant lives on a mountain in the middle of the island and has a habit of punting Trids to their doom when they try to climb the mountain. Thus, the Trids decide to send a visiting rabbi to negotiate with the giant. Upon reaching the mountaintop, the rabbi encounters the giant and asks why it isn't attacking, and the giant responds: "Silly rabbi, kicks are for Trids!"

  • In the climax of Holes, the protagonists are surrounded by the deadly yellow-spotted lizards, leaving the villains to believe that they don't even have to shoot them because they're about to die a far more horrible death. Fortunately for the protagonists, they've been living on onions for the past few days, and this diet is repellent to the lizards, allowing them to survive.
  • In Jingo, the mere fact that the D'regs are not attacking is enough to convince a veteran commander to surrender to Captain Carrot on the spot, having first insisted that these can't be D'regs because D'regs would be attacking.
  • In Life of Pi, the title character ends up on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, and an injured zebra. He wonders why the hyena hasn't attacked him or either of the other animals yet. When the hyena makes its move, Pi learns that the hyena didn't attack because a tiger was hiding under the tarp.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who there are a couple of instances of Daleks not attacking despite all logic. Often justified by their weapons not working, though notably in Waters of Mars it was because the target was due to die at a fixed point in time, and even the Daleks aren't crazy enough to screw with fixed points.
    • In "Victory of the Daleks," the Daleks play nice under Winston Churchill as his personal WWII lap-robots so they can deceive London into giving them a very important voice print they need to activate their inert war machines: The Doctor's testimony that they ARE Daleks, because they've been slightly mutated and the war machines refuse to acknowledge their existence.
    • And taking the cake is "Asylum of the Daleks", where the Daleks outright spare the Doctor because they need him to do something first before they can exterminate him: disarm or destroy the giant asylum planet filled with "raving mad"-insane Daleks who make Caan look like a funny clown.
    • In "The Witch's Familiar," this trope helps the Doctor to realize that the Dalek is actually an empty casing with his companion Clara stuffed inside as a Batman Gambit to try to trick him into accidentally killing her.
  • In an episode of Stargate SG-1 as the team is hiding, they are spotted by Amunet as she, Apophis and a group of guards are leaving though the gate, but she does not signal their presense. The host Sha're, Daniel's wife, was using her willpower to distract Amunet
  • Occurs in Season 2 finale of Battlestar Galactica. The Caprican Resistance walks into a Centurion ambush and a bitter firefight ensues...until the Centurions just stop firing. The Resistance spend the whole night awake wondering what the frak is going on.
  • Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Mimmi is cornered by the Water Dragon that took out most of Weilan's pod and destroyed Evie's mermaid form. The dragon merely sniffs her, but only becomes hostile when Zac, Ondina, and Weilan arrive on the scene. After sniffing the helpless Mimmi some more, it retreats back into the water, much to everyone's confusion. It turns out the dragon is actually Mimmi's mother under a Forced Transformation, and still retains enough of herself to not attack her own daughter.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Q Who", when the Enterprise encounter the Borg, the Borg cube takes hold of the Enterprise with a tractor beam, slicing out a section of the saucer to analyze, the Enterprise fires a few shots that seem to stop them. When Riker, Worf, and Data beam aboard the cube, they realize that the Borg haven't finished them off because they've been focused on repairing themselves, so the Enterprise tries to get out of there, but the Borg pursue them and almost destroys them till Q decides to take the Enterprise back to Federation space, having sufficiently scared them about the threat the Borg pose.

  • BIONICLE: In Empire of the Skrall, Tuma drops his weapon after being ambushed by a couple of baterra robots, which cause them to immediately stop attacking him. The baterra are programmed to only attack beings they perceive as threats, and since Tuma was now unarmed, they no longer considered him a threat. They still just stood there, though, until someone made them leave.

    Video Games 
  • Occurs in Bastion, when you storm the Ura fortress. The kid sleeps while an enemy swordsman watches nearby. No matter how long you wait, they will not attack until the kid wakes up.
  • In BioShock, some Splicers do this to you. A few scripted sections have Splicers pop up right behind you and pointedly not attack. Depending on your paranoia, Sander Cohen might count, since after you kill his enemies, photograph their corpses, add them to Cohen's disturbing quadtych, and fight off his army of Splicers that he sends in a moment of paranoia, he gives you another present and just stands there, true to his word about letting you leave. Unless you attack him or his quadtych.
  • Can potentially be done by the player in BioShock 2. Grace Holloway is in command of the Splicers at Pauper's Drop, and mistakenly blames Subject Delta for the abduction of her former ward, Eleanor. When you finally break into Grace's quarters near the end of the level, she stands before you, prepared to Face Death with Dignity... but you're not actually required to kill her. If you get what you need and leave her alive, she has a Heel–Face Turn of sorts (she won't outright betray the Big Bad, because she still believes in her and thinks she was just wrong about you, but she'll send you supplies every so often).
    Grace: You had me under a gun... and you just walk away? No monster alive turns the other cheek. No monster does that... a thinking man does that...
    • Some of the splicers in Persephone are so broken that you will find them curled up into a ball and they won't react even if you start killing them.
  • And again in BioShock Infinite: Booker is fighting through hordes of Columbia soldiers until suddenly, they all stop attacking and fall to their knees, seemingly in prayer. Cue the entrance of their fanatical religious leader, Comstock.
  • Bloodborne
    • Rom the Vacuous Spider is one. As a mindless Barrier Maiden, it has no intent to do harm; however, this is a But Thou Must! moment, and you have to kill her to uncover the secret of Mensis Ritual.
    • Ebrietas is another one, as despite being an Eldritch Abomination, she is willing to co-exist with humans and even actively aid them; however, if you want to resurrect Queen Annalise after sending Alfred to grind her, you have to kill Ebrietas. Both examples are downplayed in that the entities in question will start fighting back once they've had enough of your abuse.
  • In Dark Souls II, Manscorpion Tark is one, despite having a threatening appearance, he is actually friendly. Should you wear the Ring of Whisper, you can talk to him and hear his story, and in return he becomes your Chekhov's Gunman.
  • The player can invoke this in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, during the Shivering Isles Expansion Pack, by taking a tame Gnarl and quintupling its size in front of a party of adventurers attempting to force their way into the Isles. This ends up driving the rogue insane.
  • In the Fire Emblem series:
    • During Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, a cheeky player might notice that on a few maps, it's possible for some characters to actually confront their former allies or even family members. (Notably Brom and Meg, who are father and daughter.) Sure enough, they won't attack each other.
    • The page quote comes from Fire Emblem Gaiden's remake, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. In both games, if he is attacked by or initiates combat against Alm, Rudolf will never counter or attack. This prompts Alm to ask just what Rudolf is planning. Rudolf is committing Suicide by Cop — he wants his son, Alm, to kill him, and he cannot bring himself to even so much as defend himself against his own son.
  • In Glory of Heracles III, you have to provoke this after the Protagonist is turned into a monster and sent back in time to face his past self's party. By refusing to attack, the party will become confused and eventually stop fighting.
  • Shining Blade in Guild Wars.
  • In the comic book interquel for Left 4 Dead, The Sacrifice, a military doctor asks why the zombie horde isn't following them, but decides that it's a good thing. Louis responds that the zombies aren't attacking because a Tank is approaching, which is definitely not a good thing. Similar scenarios also happen frequently in the game itself.
  • A hint that all is not what it seems during Oersted's story while fighting a demonic boss in Live A Live; unfortunately, winning is a But Thou Must! situation. Congratulations, Oersted, you fell for an illusion and just committed regicide.
  • Happens with a geth in Mass Effect 2, who takes out some enemies for you, and can later potentially join your party.
  • In Mass Effect 3, if the Geth and the Rachni are recruited for the Crucible, an email from some of the personnel mention their initial freakout when they showed up, asking for Shepard to maybe give a little warning the next time they recruit Cthulhu?! In the former case, it led to one of the soldiers having to awkwardly go and apologise to the Geth Prime whose headlights they shot out.
  • Zombie pigmen in Minecraft. Normal zombies, skeletons, spiders, creepers, just about anything else will attack you for no reason at all, but for some reason, zombie pigmen are passive unless provoked. They fight in droves and have powerful attacks, so it's likely done to prevent rage quits.
  • Monster Hunter: As of ''World'', certain monsters will only become hostile if you initiate combat first, some are even content to walk shoulder to shoulder with you! This also applies to certain Elder Dragons, showcasing the intelligence of the creatures and how they are willing to live and let live after a long-past war between the Hunters and Elder Dragons came to a close.
  • In NieR, a few sidequests send you to clear out some Shades that are lingering in a library or outside the town walls, only for you to find that your "enemies" are running and avoiding you instead of attacking. And that Shade in the library had a book on its corpse, almost as if it could read. And where's that little girl who liked to hang out where that little Shade was loitering?
  • The lone Critic Burnt in OFF, which you find in the tunnels of the metro; unlike all other enemies you've encountered, it doesn't attack you at all, instead screaming for help over and over. The Batter refuses to flee, no matter how many times you press the button or if you try to use any items or moves to get it to run away from you, so you're forced to have him kill it, even though it not only poses no threat to you, but is desperately begging you for help. For many players, this is the moment where they start to realize that what they're doing in the name of "purity" might not be so noble at all.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, light-sided Sith Warriors and Inquisitors tend to receive this reaction from various Republic troops, civilians and Jedi they encounter, especially if they'd just provided them with a Villainous Rescue. The Jedi Knight encounters a similar situation with an honorable Sith on Tatooine who'd been raised to believe Jedi were genocidal lunatics.
  • In the third act of Transistor, Red will encounter a number of Processes that, unusually, do not attack her on sight, though Red can still attack them. One room is a "nursery" containing a ton of Youngladies and cells. Disturbing any of them will trigger an extremely difficult (but winnable) fight, but if she refrains she can walk right through without drawing aggro.
  • May happen between players in nearly any PVP multiplayer game. Spotting an opponent who is clearly aware of you, but is deliberately choosing not to attack you or return fire can be pretty jarring, usually leading the player to pause and ask "Why isn't he attacking?"
  • Characters forced to battle Mister X during the events of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown will note how he won't actually fire upon anyone he's chasing, even if he's lined up for a perfect shot. Well, up until the points where he actually does, and is lethally effective. When you realize he's a test pilot, testing both friendly drones and both sides' human pilots, it makes sense.

  • In The Wotch, a villager gets this situation during an attack by Xaos's Fallen. Instead of attacking, it almost manages to say "run".
  • In Dragon Mango, Agent Vinegar, sent after a murderer, finds his target, who overpowers him, but doesn't kill him, which leaves him baffled.
  • Happens in Schlock Mercenary, when a commando unit has infiltrated the Toughs' ship and surrounded them.
    Breya: [muttering] So, Captain, what happens if we open fire?
    Tagon: Well, we might take two or three of them down with us.
    Breya: But we'd die?
    Tagon: Definitely.
    Breya: And what if they open fire?
    Tagon: We'd die, they'd all live. We're outgunned, Admiral.
    Breya: This begs the question: with nothing to lose, why haven't they opened fire yet?

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Legend of Tarzan, Jane is captured by the leopard men. When she finds herself in their city, she asks why they brought her there if they weren't going to tear her apart. Turns out they wanted to break the spell that Queen La had put on them so they could return to being regular leopards, but the spell could only be broken by their queen. So they kidnapped Jane so she could take the role as queen and break the spell.
  • Sometimes you wish Valerie Grey would ask this about her "Arch-Enemy" Danny Phantom — who actually isn't her Arch-Enemy, but actually The Hero who never attacks, but she's too blind to see it.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "Gamma World", Thor is fighting Absorbing Man, who has taken on the substance of Mjolnir. Absorbing Man seems to be beating Thor to a pulp, all the while shouting at the god to get up and fight. Moments later, Thor raises his hand and stops Absorbing Man in mid-swing. Thor then shows him why taking on Mjolnir's properties was a bad idea, by controlling him just like he controls his hammer.
  • Godzilla: The Series has a juvenile-sized Zilla, Jr. about to chomp on Nick Tatapolous in the first episode. What stops Zilla from eating Nick is because he had imprinted on the scientist right after hatching and thinks Nick is his "dad".
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode “Short Story”, Rocko (in a loose parody of The Wizard of Oz) wishes to be big and inadvertently wreaks havoc across the city. Really Really Big Man is sent to fend him off, and is surprised to see that Rocko isn’t fighting back.
    Really Really Big Man (after punching Rocko): Is that enough for you?
    Rocko (coughs): Yes!
    Really Really Big Man: What’s the matter? Don’t want to fight Really Really Big Man? What kind of a wimpy monster are you?
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Return to New York, Part 2," the Turtles (and Splinter) are storming the Foot headquarters. When they reach the top floor, four of Shredder's Elite Guard appear and ready their weapons, but do not attack, unnerving the Turtles.
    Raphael: What are they waiting for?
    Leonardo: Orders.


Video Example(s):


The Water Dragon

The Water Dragon corners Mimmi, but leaves without attacking her, unlike what it's done to every other mermaid it's encountered. The main characters are bewildered by this development.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / WhyIsntItAttacking

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