The villain needs something done, but they just don't have the resources to accomplish it. But they know that the hero would likely have better luck, after all The Good Guys Always Win
. So instead of foolishly wasting their own resources only to possibly fail, they either kidnap the heroes' wife
or a Bus Full Of Nuns
and use that as coersion. This is inherently different from a mere kidnapping ploy or Bruce Wayne Held Hostage
, as such things are meant to just lure the hero into a trap.
A similar variation is the villain just trying to test out the skills of the hero. Using a similar incentive (innocents in danger) they want to watch the hero push their skills and intelligence to their limits.
The core of the story is the hero receiving messages and instructions to do seemingly random things, all the while often trying to determine the goal involved, the identity of the enemy and how to escape the ordeal without anyone dying. In the end there are usually two scenarios present
, either ignore the villain and innocents die or help the villain and they get what they want. The only way out of the problem is to Take a Third Option
Compare Criminal Mind Games
- An episode of Angel had Wolfram and Hart use an evil psychic to send visions to Cordelia (who normally receives visions from The Powers That Be to instruct the team) that end up leaving physical injuries on her. As the team realizes they were putting together an Artifact of Doom Angel confronts W&H. Lila explains the ultimatum, release a demon from a prison in another dimension and they'll stop hurting Cordelia with those visions. Angel went along with the plan, and once he released the demon "Billy" to them he killed the psychic and told Lila that will be the last time he negotiates with them.
- The exact name of the "game" played in Die Hard With A Vengence is "Simon Says," after the villain of the movie Simon. Having a fixation on John McClane and needing a distraction, this whole plan had a two-fold nature: getting revenge on McClane and throwing the entire New York police in disarray trying to figure out his ultimate goal. The leverage they used was a series of bombs planted around the city.
- Sherlock used this as it's main plot in the third episode. A mysterious individual is directing Sherlock to not only identify but also solve specific cases (some of which have not even been identified as criminal cases), using a hostage strapped with explosives to call him up and give him clues, directions and a time frame to complete it in. As it turns out, the entire ordeal was to keep him distracted from an earlier case that Holmes had initially dismissed, and even then the whole thing was a fun game for Moriarty.
- Several episodes of Psych have Shawn matching wits with the "Ying Yang" serial killer, who approaches the entire thing with a sadistic glee and nothing else.
- Michael Westen of Burn Notice has also found himself in similar problems, twice just with the recurring villain Brennan. Michael, being skilled at the Batman Gambit himself, will constantly try to twist the scenario to his advantage and both times he escapes the situation because of the work done by his team. In season two he found himself "employed" by the group that burned him and the Myth Arc of the first half had him doing various projects without knowing the ultimate goal, which he managed to piece together by never letting himself get too far behind. Unique in that scenario is that Michael had the option of backing out with no problem, but he stayed in solely because he wanted to disrupt their plans from the inside.