Shipped in Shackles

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The only way to travel.

Sure, you can build a fancy Tailor-Made Prison for when your Omnicidal Maniac or Complete Monster is hidden away, but what happens when you have to move the little bastard? He can't be thrown in the back seat of a black-and-white with just a uniformed officer for supervision. No, he's got to be Shipped in Shackles.

This trope is about taking extreme measures to secure a prisoner and/or their intended route during transport. Simple handcuffs and couple of escorts won't suffice. This is when the guards feel they must chain the prisoner hand and foot, wrap him in a straightjacket, secure him to a hand truck, give him a Hannibal mask, cart him around in an armored vehicle full of strapping young guards toting high-caliber weapons, or all of the above. If he has superpowers, expect the guards' weapons to be loaded with the appropriate Kryptonite Factor. If he's a Manipulative Bastard notorious for talking his way out of being captured, he may even be gagged.

This may be to prevent the prisoner's allies on the outside from pulling off a daring rescue during transit, or to keep him from contacting such allies, but more likely it serves the same purpose as a stationary oubliette: to show the audience that this guy is so tough that it takes a quarter-ton of purpose-built restraints to hold him, or so dangerous that his captors want to ensure that the odds of him escaping are exactly zero.

Of course, these restraints prove ineffective as often as not, especially since most villains realize that escaping from a few measly chains while under constant armed surveillance is still easier than getting out of their usual prison cell.

Compare Tailor-Made Prison, which refers to custom-made prisons for similarly dangerous prisoners. If the prisoner fights while still restrained, that's With My Hands Tied. Has nothing to do with (relation)shipping.

Examples of Shipped in Shackles include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the Spider-Man "Maximum Carnage" storyline Cletus Cassidy was being transported via the chained to hand cart method. Unfortunately for the guards his symbiote chose that moment to re-awaken.

Film[edit | hide]

  • One of the most familiar examples comes from The Silence of the Lambs, where Hannibal is transported from his usual maximum-security cell by being chained inside a straightjacket, wheeled around on a hand truck, and wearing his iconic mask.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand blurs the line between this and the Tailor-Made Prison with the government's mobile prison-van. Mystique is kept behind bars and with her hands shackled to the ceiling. Juggernaut and Multiple Man both got locked in standing metal coffins to seal off their abilities. The guards on the van were also armed with weaponized Mutant Cure.
  • In The Boondock Saints, Il Duce (pictured above) is moved from his cell to the ground floor for a parole hearing. He is cuffed hand and foot, chained to a rolling platform, and wheeled down to the parole board. The entire prison is put on high-alert, with shotgun-wielding guards on every floor, all to move one man down a few flights of stairs. Once he's there, they even put him inside a metal cage to protect the parole board.
  • Lecter-expy Garland Green (Steve Buscemi) in Con Air was introduced wearing similar restraints as Lecter.
    • Invoked with DJ Qualls' character in the 2002 film The New Guy, who is delivered by a sympathetic prison staff to his new school in a straightjacket and mask as a shout-out to Green (and by extension, Lecter). The whole thing was a sham to convince his new peers that he was a formidable badass, rather a reversal of his former image.
  • Star Wars: Han Solo was frozen in carbonite following his capture by Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back to be transported to Jabba the Hutt. Fett didn't like the risk to Solo's life (and, thus, his bounty), but Vader was willing to write him a compensation check if Han died. The whole procedure was justified a trial-run to make sure Vader could freeze Luke Skywalker, who would turn out to be dangerous cargo otherwise.

Literature[edit | hide]

Music[edit | hide]

  • In an homage to Silence of the Lambs, Disturbed opens many of their shows by having their lead singer wheeled out on stage in a straight jacket and restraining mask, strapped to a hand truck while a roadie (usually dressed in a white coat) releases him to sing.

Television[edit | hide]

  • Played straight and subverted in Prison Break. Linc is usually moved around like this, but sometime subverted when the guards go easy on the shackles because he's a good prisoner/they want him to break out.
  • Zach Galifianakis was carted in Hannibal Lector-style in a "Scared Straight" sketch on Saturday Night Live.
  • This happens to Baek San and Sa-Woo toward the end of the Korean drama Iris. It doesn't work.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Joker is a frequent candidate for this treatment, with deliberate parallels to Lector. In the opening of Batman: Arkham Asylum he is wrapped in a straitjacket and chained to a hand-truck for delivery to the asylum. The guards seem to wish he was gagged as well. Batman later gets the same treatment in a fear-gas induced hallucination.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at the beginning of the game, when Ulfric Stormcloak is captured, he has a gag over his mouth to prevent him from using the Thu'um.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • On her first appearance in Skin Horse, Tigerlily Jones is wrapped in a straitjacket and strapped to a handcart.
  • The condemned contestants arrive this way in Last Res0rt (Some leg irons might have been a good idea in Slick's case!)
    • Daisy is even brought in strapped to a wheelchair, though at least part of that is thanks to her missing leg...
  • In Order of the Stick, the Empire of Blood transports its arena champion (Thog) in this manner.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Simpsons: C. Montgomery Burns was given the Hannibal Mask treatment once when he was dragged into court for illegally dumping radioactive waste in "Marge vs. the Monorail".
    • So was Bart when he was accused of stealing the church collection money on season six's "Bart's Girlfriend." Marge even lampshaded how excessive the punishment was.
  • Muzzle from Road Rovers was kept restrained exactly like Hannibal, complete with a muzzle. And he was one of the good guys! See the page image for the series.
  • In Transformers Animated, Decepticon prisoners are usually transported in stasis cuffs (which paralyze the prisoner from the neck down) and gags. The handcart makes an appearance for Megatron, not due to being dangerous, but because Optimus beat him so badly he couldn't walk.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the bounty hunters who captured Toph stuck her in a metal box for transport so she couldn't use her earth bending to escape. Of course, Toph gets out by inventing metal bending. See the series' CMOA page.
  • An episode of the original Batman: The Animated Series opened with Killer Croc being transported to prison with his arms and legs in shackles. He escapes by biting through the chains and uses their remains as evidence that he was a prisoner in a freak show. After Batman recaptures him he is taken away chained, straight jacketed and muzzled.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants the police nab the Tattletale Strangler (for littering, of course) and proceed to wrap him in several miles of handcuffs, chains, manacles, and even eye-cuffs. All of which he slithers out of about five seconds later.
  • In the 2002 He-Man series Kobra Khan is shackled and muzzled when transported. The muzzle is left on in his prison cell due to him being able to spit acid-like venom.