Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

I'm pretty new to trying any type of editing, so I thought I'd ask on the discussion first how best to add an example from a recent issue of Jack of Fables where it's blatantly obvious because the character who shows up is actually named Dues Ex Machina, or Dex for short. Shortly after saving them, one of the characters even begs to have them save her injured sister since he has to power to do so, to which he replies:

Dex: Sorry, my dear. I only work every once in a while. After that I get old. And I'm too young to get old.

I'm sure there's other things that need to be picked out of the scenes as well, but I figured I try and start small. I'll probably look around the site for 'How tos' and whatnot, but I figured I'd start asking about it here to see if it's legitimate enough for me to add it. Thanks. -akaiLV

Vampire Buddha: Sorry about taking so long to get back to you, but nobody reads the discussion pages. Anyway, if you're still here, I'd say that example would fall under "Deliberately averted with Lampshade Hanging in Jack of Fables, when...". As for HowTos and such, you might want to check out some of these:
Looney Toons: Moved the following from the main entry:

//The Q example made some sense, though, as it was Q who delivered them to the Borg's quadrant to begin with.

Idle Dandy: I think either that bit belongs, or the Q example doesn't belong. Q snapping his fingers is not really Deus ex Machina if the entry requires that the easy solution has not been properly set up.

Kendra Kirai: Yeah, it's not like Q just happened to show up out of the blue when the Enterprise encountered the Borg on their own and saved them for the hell of it. He basically said "I brought you here, I can send you back, if you beg like a good little doggy." Deus Ex machina is when something comes out of nowhere to save the Hero or resolve a plot point. I'm removing the Q example.

Looney Toons: Whatever. I just moved it because it's discussion and doesn't belong in the main entry.

(random passer-by) I haven't seen the miniseries of Steven King's "The Stand," but I read the book many years ago. The ending of the book certainly isn't a graceful narrative development, and I found it to be a Wall Banger; it seemed to me not so much an actual ending as a stopping place, and I came away with the strong impression that King was tired of the story and just basically said "screw you people, I'm out of here." Does the miniseries actually end more or less the same way?

The big problem, of course, with the deus ex machina as a plot element was summed up in this pithy quote from H. G. Welles: "If anything is possible, nothing is interesting."

Scifantasy: Sorry, meant to hit "minor edit." And yes, I know, Grammar Nazi, but I guess the thought of "the last minuet" conjured too many images of incomplete symphonies...

Kilyle: ROFL! Sweet catch, there. Related: Since the "a" in "cat" is a pretty rare sound especially in Italic languages, shouldn't that be mock-ee-nah or mock-ee-nuh? Or, well, any alternate that doesn't make Americans pronounce the first syllable like "Mack truck".
Looney Toons: I haven't removed it, but I came real close. What is

When a Deus ex Machina works, expect it to straddle the line between that and Chekhov's Gun.

supposed to mean? What is "that" to which the sentence is referring?

Robert: 'Working' — which falls into one of the areas where English grammar is fuzzy. There's a lot of variation in how wide a selection of referent people find acceptable for words like 'that', with this example falling towards the middle of the range.

Still, this would be better rephrased.

Looney Toons: It certainly would. Something can't straddle the line between itself and something else, because that would mean it both is itself, and isn't itself.

Morgan Wick, much much later: I'm guessing it meant "If a DEM works, it almost ceases to even be a DEM, becoming more of a Chekhov's Gun." Hey, makes sense to me.
jjmcgaffey: Dodgeball is referenced twice in the examples - with and without a spoiler protection. I don't know which is more appropriate.

xwingace:I'm tempted to argue the Doctor Who example, because although the literal meaning of 'god from the machine' is true in Parting Of The Ways, the Deus Ex Machina ending at that point isn't. The TARDIS' ability to do something like that is introduced in Boomtown, so an ending like that for POTW is reasonably logical plot progression. But of course it is a Deus Ex Machina in Boomtown...

Ununnilium: IMHO, it still counts; it's just that "Boom Town" takes it from "annoying" to "acceptable". (After all, turning someone into a baby is different from imbuing them with godlike powers.)

Fast Eddie: pulled ...
It is a type of Magic Hat.
... 'cuz it isn't, really.
Andyroid: A few things with regards to Monstrous Reigment. First off, it was Jackrum who revealed that nearly half of the officers, and quite a few soldiers, in the Borogravian army were women in disguise, not the ghost of the Duchess. Second, I think Pratchett handled the minor divine intervention quite realistically. It stopped the war, but as I indicated in the entry, the war threatens to start up again at the very end of the book. Which is a disappointment to me, as I want to know what happens next. Like Pratchett said in Thief of Time, I wanna know the whole story now.
Darktalon: Moved the Lord of the Rings example to be with the general point about Tolkien's use of Eagles.
Vampire Buddha: I've rewritten the first two paragraphs to make it more clear that a Deus ex Machina isn't always supernatural. I've also done a bit of trimming:

* Kind of justified in Dogma, given the nature of the story and the fact that the Big Bad took steps to prevent it, which the heroine eventually had to undo via attempted Heroic Sacrifice.

Not a Deus ex Machina: the entire movie built up to this, and Bethany made particular effort to bring the result about.

* When writers must make use of a Deus ex Machina ending, they can take an object lesson from the Mini Series The Stand, which actually made a Deus ex Machina ending work. It worked because it had appropriately built up to and foreshadowed the ending over the course of the Mini Series, so that viewers were left saying, "Ah yes, that's how it had to end," not "Huh?? Where the $#&*@ did that come from?" which is the response that most Deus ex Machina endings inspire.

If it's built up to and foreshadowed, it's not a Deus ex Machina. Also, Trashcan Man went to some effort to get the nuke; a proper Deus ex Machina would be if there happened to be a nuke buried under Las Vegas and it was accidentally set off, killing Flagg and all his followers.

* Transformers has the Autobot Matrix of Leadership; its first appearance was a good example of Chekhov's Gun, but every so often since then it's been used as an instantly-solve-the-problem plot device.

The Matrix was introduced in the movie as an artifact of great power which can do a whole lotta stuff. Not a Deus ex Machina, but rather a Chekhov's Gun.

* Just about every single episode of the long-running The Fairly OddParents ended with Cosmo and Wanda fixing everything with a wave of their wands. Usually the wands had to be lost or stolen or come to life and run away to fill in the 11-minute gap.

This may be annoying, but the wands are established as having Reset Button powers right from the start, so it doesn't qualify as a Deus ex Machina.

* As predicted by Aang himself, the first season finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender concludes with the ocean spirit unleashing a "crazy amazing spirit attack" on the invading Fire Nation forces.

Aang spent most of the episode and the previous one trying to bring about just such a result. If the heroes are shown trying to make something happen, it's not a Deus ex Machina.

* Justified: Sluggy Freelance features a literal Dea Ex Machina who is not a literary Deus Ex Machina in the That Which Redeems story arc. The goddess of good has been trapped in the Demon King's refrigerator since the conquest of her world, but as the story had been told within the comic years previously, her appearance was widely predicted by the readers. So when she's freed from the fridge and sets things right, no one's really surprised.

So she's named after Deus ex Machina, but isn't actually one? I hardly see how that counts. Also, if the story had previously been told, the readers already know what happened, and so it's not a Deus ex Machina.

There's also a few I'm uncertain about:

* Used magnificently in the climax of O Brother Where Art Thou, in which after saying their prayers, the four main characters are miraculously saved from hanging by a scheduled flood, lightly mentioned earlier within the film.???

I haven't seen this movie; it sounds like if it was mentioned earlier, it wasn't a Deus ex Machina, but rather a Chekhov's Gun.

** The Lord of the Rings catches some flak for the last-minute appearance of the Eagles to rescue Sam and Frodo. It isn't exactly a Deus Ex Machina, as Gandalf's connection to the Eagles through his fellow wizard Radagast is mentioned early on in The Fellowship of the Ring, but it's tough to expect a casual reader to remember such a tiny detail.???

Yeeaah, if it was mentioned previously, it's not a Deus ex Machina.

* Used in the book/movies War of the Worlds. The aliens are conveniently defeated because bacteria in the Earth's air kills them - although the book foreshadows it, making it less of an outright Deus Ex Machina.???

Haven't seen this; just how well foreshadowed was it?

* This trope makes a literal appearance at the end of the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment: Wazzer, who's spent the entire book praying to the Duchess, suddenly channels her at the climactic court martial, whereupon she begs the top brass to sign a peace treaty with Zlobenia and stop praying to her. Such endings are the sort of thing Terry Pratchett usually makes fun of... but people on the Discworld are notorious for disbelieving the evidence of their own eyes. So while the Duchess's timely appearance stops the war, at the end of the book we are Left Hanging as to whether Polly and the notebook she got from Sergeant Jackrum listing the Borogravian officers who are secretly women in disguise can keep the war from starting all over again.???

If he was praying to the Duchess for the entire book, it seems like her suddenly appearing would be a reasonable result. Could someone clarify?
In accordance with the natter, Vampire Buddha does some more trimmage:
* This trope makes a literal appearance at the end of the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment: Wazzer, who's spent the entire book praying to the Duchess, suddenly channels her at the climactic court martial, whereupon she begs the top brass to sign a peace treaty with Zlobenia and stop praying to her. Such endings are the sort of thing Terry Pratchett usually makes fun of... but people on the Discworld are notorious for disbelieving the evidence of their own eyes. So while the Duchess's timely appearance stops the war, at the end of the book we are Left Hanging as to whether Polly and the notebook she got from Sergeant Jackrum listing the Borogravian officers who are secretly women in disguise can keep the war from starting all over again.
  • not a true Deus Ex, as it's set up earlier that Wazzer may be truly in contact with and channeling the Duchess, as she has information about her squad that she had no means of knowing otherwise.

*** Conman Moist Von Lipwig pulls off what appears to be one of these toward the end of Going Postal. After the Post Office has been burned down, and all hope seems lost, Moist remembers the $150,000 from previous cons that he'd buried in the countryside. He proceeds to send letters to several temples of various gods, then pretends to be receiving visions from them on the location of the money, using it to rebuild the Post Office.
  • also not a true Deus Ex, because it's set up before Moist is hanged, when the executioners are quizzing him on the location of his ill-gotten gains.

Took this out, because it's not DEM at all-

  • In the Discworld novel, Small Gods, the protagonist Brutha is saved from torture at the last moment by a turtle skydiving from an eagle's grip, and the turtle actually is the incarnation of his god. Some fans claim this to be a Deus Ex Machina; Pratchett claims it's not, because it is hinted at several times in the book that eagles do break turtle shells by dropping them, and that eventually some turtle might learn to take advantage of this.

...because as well, as all the earlier mentions of the fact that eagles behave like this, the example neglects to mention that the turtle in question is a main character, who we follow as he deliberately gets picked up by an eagle, then hangs on until he's directly over the villain's head, then drops.
See also the Dilbert cartoon for Apr 29, 2008.
Vampire Buddha does even more trimming:
When a Deus ex Machina works, expect it to verge on being Chekhov's Gun.

This sentence does not and can not make sense.

* Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured a Deus ex Machina with literal gods-when the Dominion succeeds in bringing down the minefield in "Sacrifice of Angels" and the Alpha Quadrant appears doomed, Captain Sisko takes the Defiant into the wormhole, intending to make a Heroic Sacrifice and take as many Dominion ships with him as he can. The Prophets, however, refuse to let him die, and are thus obliged to make the entire Dominion fleet blip out of existence.
  • It should be noted that in the very first episode the Prophets state that they have decided to allow normal beings passage through the wormhole. Thus is logically follows that they could deny passage. While it is certainly a god-like act performed to help the main characters out of an impossible situation, it is referenced before and is only mildly surprising, only because the Prophets have never acted so directly. This is more of a Chekhov's Gun.

According to the natter, this isn't a DEM.

** To be fair, it's implied in Season 3 that the process of losing your humanity and becoming a demon is something that can take centuries for the strongest-willed people; John Winchester is certainly stubborn enough to have held onto himself for a mere TV season, even in Hell.

I've integrated the relevant text into the main bullet point.

** Actually, the Lord of Nightmares does specifically state that Lina has been consumed by her presence. In addition Phibrizo doesn't actually kill the cast, just makes it look like he did. Once he has gone through everyone he tells Lina that they are still alive, and that if Phibrizzo is destroyed, they will return, presumably as a backup plan should she resist fighting back the first time he 'killed' them. All the Lord of Nightmares did was kill Phibrizzo (Who was literally asking for it), and remake Lina. While the rest of the deal is pretty straight Deus Ex Machina, this troper feels its okay, because it's such a cool scene.

Natter is bad.

* Another showing of when Deus ex Machina works well was in the office-burning conclusion of Office Space. This is an example of a Deus ex Machina bordering on Chekhov's Gun for the aware.
  • This doesn't really count as it was foreshadowed from the beginning.

Deus ex Machina != Chekhov's Gun

** This troper agrees, even to considering the DEM in the original theatrical release to be a WallBanger version of the trope. The extended version, however, seems to have pulled off a bit more subtly. Or as subtly as the trope can be pulled off.

Now Billy, remember what we said about natter?

** No, that isn't quite what Queen Elizabeth does. What the Queen does is inspect Viola and strongly suggest that Viola isn't female—and this Queen should know about such things. It's still a Deus Ex Machina, though.

Integrated into the main bullet point.

** King loves this trick. The most blatant is the end of The Stand, in which the hand of God literally comes down and destroys the western interior of the United States in order to save the pacifist colony in the Rockies from the evil colony in Nevada.

It wasn't the Hand of God, it was a nuclear missile which Trashcan Man spent an entire chapter finding and bringing back to Flagg. Not remotely a DEM.

* Used in the book/movies War of the Worlds. The aliens are conveniently defeated because bacteria in the Earth's air kills them - although the book foreshadows it, making it less of an outright Deus Ex Machina.

Deus ex machina is not a grey area - soemthing is either a DEM or it isn't. The phrase "less of an outright deus ex machina" does not make sense.

* Aang. Teamed up with the Ocean Spirit. Vs a Fire Nation FLEET. I wonder how that turns out?

Aang spent two episodes specifically trying to bring about that result. Not a DEM, just a plot development

** Unless they are VillainProtagonists, those are Diaboli Ex Machinas.
  • You are right, they are. But still, the way it got lost in the first place was a Deus Ex Machina.

Do you hate natter? I hate natter.

*However, he ultimately gives up and is taken over like all the rest of the Matrix occupants. Things appear to have ended badly. A machine - actually named Deus Ex Machina by the credits - does something fancy through the defeated Neo, wiping out the Smiths from the system before a quick reboot to clear up the damage they made. Did anyone see that coming?

.... um, I did. Throughout the whole climactic battle I kept going, "Dammit, just let him absorb you so's you can blow him up from the insides. Enough with the punching already! It's boring!" Seriously, how many times do you have to watch a guy getting up after being punched through a brick building before you realize that it's an ineffective strategy?

... the fact that I'd just finished reading Carpe Jugulum might have biased me towards that answer, though. Let them eat you, then corrupt them internally till they acquire an unnatural craving for sweet biscuits and tea. Hey, is there a trope for Weatherwaxing the Vampires? *notes own tangent; takes it elsewhere.*

Haven: Took out this quote, since it doesn't really say anything about the trope. Maybe it would work for the quote for Better Than a Bare Bulb.

Deus Ex Machina: Ah, at last, I can live up to my name. Not that the Wachowskis cheekily admitting I'm a deus ex machina redeems my role as such, or anything.
Toastyfrog's Matrix Revolution: Thumbnail Theater

Took this out of the Left 4 Dead mention, since it's not true: They're different planes. The plane that crashes is jet-powered, while the one they watch at the beginning is the same prop-powered plane they find on the runway.

"And again in "Dead Air," you fight across the city to follow a plane you see at the beginning, only to watch it crash as soon as you reach the gates. But luckily there is another plane there with a pilot who just needs to fuel up."

If the Ghost in the shell reference to batou being saved is the one I think it is where he is saved by the tachikoma's from being pulverised by the armoured suit in one of the last few episodes (24 or 25?) then I'd have to disagree that this is an example of deus ex machina... the tachikomas loyalty to batou is set up throughout several episodes, and their coming to his help is set up earlier throughout the episode in which it happens, there is no 'out of the blue' effect of this.

Vampire Buddha: Removed this:
* In the first season of Code Geass Lelouch cast a Geass that commands Suzaku to "Live" meaning that Suzaku can no longer try to kill himself. The Geass doesn't do anything abnormal, and even backfires once. Then in a battle it gives Suzaku SUPER ABILITIES, turning the thing into a powerup with no setup whatsoever. If Suzaku could use it as a powerup why was it never used in his past battles with Kallen, or the time he tried to assassinate Charles? After this he just seems to activate the damn thing at will.

This just looks like someone complaining about a plot point they don't like. The "live" command was given quite clearly in R1, and its effects quickly illustrated simply and clearly. The effect also manifests at various other points throughout R1 and R2 before the finale. You may not like how he uses it in the finale, but it wasn't pulled out of nowhere.

Cripes, I have got to go over this page again.
Mag Bas:removed this:
* The most straightforward way is for Ash to be in the middle of a battle where is on the ropes, most often facing an opponent's single game-breaking Pokemon, when he suddenly recalls a Pokemon in his arsenal that will beat it, and then proceeds to whip tail with it. This may actually be repeated SEVERAL TIMES in the course of the battle.

The viewer sees Ash catch all the pokemon in his team and in more times they are in his regular team. In others cases, it is a MacGuffin, not a Deus Of Machina.
*In Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the captain himself is somewhat of a Deus Ex Machina. For about three quarters of every episode the planeteers seem to be handling things on their own, using their various elemental rings to combat the forces of pollution. Inevitably, though, the crap hits the fan and Kwame (it is ALWAYS Kwame, which must say something about how he faces challenges in real life) shouts out, "LET OUR POWERS COMBINE." Captain Planet shows up and proceeds to make everything right, using elemental magic, brute strength or at times godlike omniscience.

Captain Planet is the title character, summoned every single episode of a well defined mode. In other words,no,just no.