[[folder: The Reader ]]
''': But are The Plague Dogs then to drown\\
And nevermore come safe to land?\\
Without a fight to be sucked down\\
Five-fathom deep in tide-washed sand?\\
Brave Rowf, but give him where to stand--\\
He'd grapple with Leviathan!\\
What sort of end is this you've planned\\
For lost dogs and their vanished man?
-->-- '''Richard Adams''', ''Literature/ThePlagueDogs''

Making your villains a credible threat to your heroes is what makes any conflict interesting. In some series, most notably ScienceFiction and HighFantasy, it may even be necessary for your villain to be [[SlidingScaleOfVillainThreat a threat to the entire world]]. A powerful villain and flawed heroes will make for a good story, so it stands to reason that in a lot of stories, the villain is more powerful than the heroes in some capacity.

But there ''is'' a balance to it.

Eventually, the villain is [[InvincibleVillain so many orders of magnitude above the heroes]] that there's absolutely no chance for them to win with any of the capabilities we know them to have. We all know what's coming: a DeusExMachina. The heroes aren't going to save themselves; the ''author'' is going to save them.

This AudienceReaction describes a situation in which, when you should be thinking, "How are the heroes going to get themselves out of this one?" you're instead thinking, "What contrived plot device is going to arise at the last minute and rescue them?"

'''The major criteria for this idiom are as follows:'''
#The villain, threat or situation must be [[InvincibleVillain much more powerful than the heroes]], perhaps even a VillainSue;
#The heroes must not have [[ChekhovsGun previously shown]] that they have powers or skills that would help them escape this situation, and
#The situation must ultimately be resolved with a DeusExMachina.

See also ThePlotReaper, LikeYouWouldReallyDoIt and StrongAsTheyNeedToBe.

'''May contain unhidden spoilers. Caution advised.'''


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Phibrizo from ''[[LightNovel/{{Slayers}} Slayers Next]]'': The credibility point was broken about at the point where he [[spoiler:killed all of Lina's friends without much effort at all, then backpedaled, said he only killed their bodies, and then threatened to destroy their souls as well. And then we got the very literal DeusExMachina...]]
* ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}'' has a habit of this:
** ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'': Myotismon (Vamdemon) gets more and more powerful, shrugging off the heroes' best attacks... so the {{Upgrade Artifact}}s spontaneously generate energy chains to hold him in place. Apocalymon, the final enemy, is so powerful that he can ''destroy both universes in one shot'' if he feels like it. Again, UpgradeArtifact AssPull to the rescue, as they form a force field to contain the explosion.
** ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02'': Averted to the very end, until the final enemy, who feeds on sadness, is defeated by "hopes and dreams." While it's not completely out of the blue like the season one examples, it's still pretty lame. It would probably have been better received if ''the dreams in question'' weren't invented wholecloth for the episode with no previous explanation. (Okay, Jou at least got a {{retcon}} where he decided to enter the medical profession after all... [[AllThereInTheManual in a drama CD]]... [[ShaggyDogStory after spending a good portion of season one convincing his parents to let him do something else]].)
** Completely avoided in ''Anime/DigimonTamers'', but ''Anime/DigimonFrontier'' gives us the way the kids suddenly became indestructible near the end. Power levels get [[OverNineThousand DBZ-ish]], and you have Lucemon slamming the heroes into the ground so hard the moon they're on ''is destroyed with enough force to take out the two other moons.'' The kids... just aren't hurt. The villain's final defeat made enough sense, but to last long enough to make it happen, unprotected humans were simply ''not being hurt'' by world-destroying forces for about three episodes.
* ''Anime/MegaManNTWarrior'' falls into this in ''Stream'': when the main villain's [[TheDragon Dragon]] is already pretty much invincible, and her boss can [[spoiler:erase Earth and violate every natural law with a ''thought'']], how are the heroes supposed to win?
** [[CrowningMomentofAwesome By having Bass.Exe utterly defeat her by impaling her with his arm]].
* That's how ''Manga/ShamanKing'' ended. By the look of it, the heroes are completely screwed. Due to ExecutiveMeddling, the series was [[CutShort canceled]], and fans were left with a NoEnding, or worse, a presumed DownerEnding. The author has since released the ending, which is fairly satisfying.
* This is one of the primary problems with the "Chapter Black" arc of ''Manga/YuYuHakusho''. Sensui walks in and shatters the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil with a power level far beyond anything Yusuke could possibly obtain in the short amount of time he has before the portal to demon world opens. Cue the last minute DeusExMachina bloodline power up. This is then horribly subverted by revealing [[spoiler:the sides were uneven in the other direction - King Enma's men show up and seal the portal with a minimum of fuss. All of the damage was for ''[[ShaggyDogStory nothing]]''.]]
* The whole fiasco in ''Manga/FushigiYuugiGenbuKaiden'' regarding Urumiya. Haagasu is Urumiya, at least one half. His brother Tegu is the other half of Urumiya and they need to have both on their side to summon Genbu. Haagasu has the ability to absorb and copy the other senshis' power, making himself stronger in the process and Tegu's ability involves nullifying their powers, which also causes them pain. Tegu is also trapped somewhere and both parties are trying to find him. [[spoiler: It's resolved when some of the senshi and Haagasu find Tegu at pretty much the same time, Haagasu performs a HeroicSacrifice to stop Tegu from being killed and he also reveals that he was slowly dying, anyway, and one of them needs to die to properly become the Genbu senshi Urumiya.]]
* The final BigBad of ''Manga/ZatchBell'', Clear Note, happened to be so far above the rest of the cast, that previously-established rules of the story had to be broken into pieces to allow his defeat. [[spoiler:Basically, just about every previously-banished mamono temporarily comes back to lend the titular character their strength.]]
* The last episode of ''Anime/EurekaSeven'' begins with the [[spoiler:Scub Coral command center destroyed, with Eureka now forced to become the new command center... except that [[BigBad Dewey Novak]] gave her a virus that will spread to destroy the rest of the Scub Coral on the planet. Meanwhile, Scub Coral antibodies are threatening the good guys. Just when everything seems set for a DownerEnding, ThePowerOfLove transforms the Nirvash and [[TheHero Renton]] goes off to save Eureka and the day.]]
* This happened recently in ''Manga/MagicalRecordLyricalNanohaForce'', in a pretty Goddamn stupid way. The heroes are currently getting pummeled by the Huckebein, a group of people who specialize in AntiMagic, forcing them to use ridiculous weapons that don't work right, in a sort of in-universe example of FakeDifficulty. To make matters worse, their leader suddenly shows up and proves how strong she is by [[CurbStompBattle one-shotting three heroes in one chapter]]. How are they going to get out of this? Why, she just lets them go, of course! The only reason the protagonists have ''any'' kind of victory (grabbing the LivingMacguffin after they disappear) is because she can apparently predict the future, so what they do doesn't matter.
* A commonly made prediction within the ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'' fandom. Guts' mission of killing the {{Nigh Invulnerab|ility}}le BigBadDuumvirate of the [[CrapsackWorld Berserkerverse]] already seems impossible enough. And with the [[spoiler: [[GodIsEvil Idea of Evil]]]] thrown into the mix...
** Guts has possibly gotten one major thing in his favor, ironically caused by the Godhand themselves: [[spoiler:Griffith's plan to obtain his own kingdom involved fusing the LayeredWorld into a single plain of existence--before this they only existed in a spirit realm separate from the mortal world, meaning any encounter Guts could have before then was nothing but FightingAShadow.]]
* It's common in ''Manga/FairyTail'' for Natsu to win the final battle of any given arc by means of random temporary power-up. The first time was against Jellal, when it turned out he could eat Etherion, then with Zero when [[spoiler:Jellal]] gave him a special magical boost. DoubleSubversion in the Tenrou Island arc where Natsu is losing and suddenly gets the ability to also use lightning [[spoiler:from Laxus]] only to continue to lose, but then it turns out that the Exceed who wandered off earlier stumble upon the BigBad's weakness.
* [[spoiler:The real Uchiha Madara]] from ''Manga/{{Naruto}}''. To make a very very long story very short, he has [[spoiler: basically every power that Naruto, Sasuke, Pain and Hashirama ever had, all turned UpToEleven.]] By his own admission, Kishimoto [[WritersBlock has no idea]] had to beat [[spoiler: Madara]] that point. [[spoiler: It took Naruto and Sasuke were being revealed to be reincarnations of the Sage of Six Path's youngest and oldest sons, respectively, and the omnipresent Sage himself giving them both some of his chakra to fight Madara, until Madara got his other Rinnegan eye,]] returned stronger than ever, and proceeded to [[spoiler: activate the Moon's Eye Plan, leaving everyone but Team 7 under his control.]] This lasts for about a page before he's [[spoiler: abruptly killed off and supplanted as BigBad by [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere Kaguya]], the series's mythological BigBad that even the Sage of Six Paths couldn't defeat alone.]] [[spoiler: And then [[FauxActionGirl Kaguya puts up much less of a fight then Madara ever did]] [[AntiClimaxBoss and was offed in about ten chapters]] while it took Madara over a hundred to finally go down.]]
* In the first ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' movie, Dead Zone, Goku and Piccolo end up fighting the immortal Garlic Jr. And while he has the two on the ropes, [[spoiler:Garlic Jr summons a portal to eponymous Dead Zone, [[HoistByHisOwnPetard and he is promptly knocked into it by Gohan]]]].
** Later on in the series, Garlic Jr returns, only to [[WhatAnIdiot do the exact same thing]]. Keep in mind again: Garlic Jr has CompleteImmortality. He could defeat literally anything in the universe by just poking it repeatedly. He went for this solution ''[[TooDumbToLive twice]].''
** In ''WebVideo/DragonBallZAbridged'''s take on it, the plot of Dead Zone is a script Krillin is pitching to Nappa. When pressed on the issue, Krillin [[LampshadeHanging admits that he wrote himself into a corner]]. Funny enough, this trope isn't so much in place, as Shenron responds to the wish by saying that he can't wait to see how Garlic Jr. manages to blow this.
* The finale of the ''Manga/{{Claymore}}'' manga. At one point, the main villain Priscilla got so overpowered, that active readers at the time were sure that nothing but an ass pull could save the day. They did not know how right they were. [[spoiler:In the end, the main protagonist, Claire, awakens, a process that gives a Claymore an enormous boost in strenght and agility, but makes them lose their humanity. Except none of those two things happen, but she becomes Theresa instead, a warrior considered to be the strongest Claymore there ever was, who then proceeds to ''awaken as well'' and turn Priscilla literally into dust in a matter of panels.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The ''ComicBook/XMen'' storyline [[ComicBook/TheDarkPhoenixSaga Dark Phoenix]] has to give Jean a split personality (before the {{Retcon}}), or else there would be no way to stop it. WordOfGod: The writers of the {{Retcon}} were basing it on clues in the original storyline. Jean ''did'' say something about the Phoenix being part of the cosmos and needing to be sent back where it belongs.
* This was a mainstay in the ''Franchise/{{Tintin}}'' series, especially in the earlier albums. Tintin's reputation for smarts and ingenuity is only half-earned, because it was convenient luck that tended to save him most often.
* When the ComicBook/FantasticFour faced ComicBook/{{Galactus}} for the first time, it was clear that they had no way of defeating an omnipotent cosmic being. Instead, Johnny was sent to retrieve the Ultimate Nullifier -- that most infamous of comic book asspulls -- to cow Galactus into leaving Earth.
* {{Invoked}} in the fight between ComicBook/ScottPilgrim and Todd Ingram, when Scott acknowledges that only a contrived DeusExMachina could save him. Cue the Vegan Police.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/DickTracy'': Chester Gould's seat of his pants writing style meant that he would often put Tracy in death traps without necessarily knowing how he would get out of them. Part of Gould's genius was being able to work his way out of his traps without resorting to this trope, but one DeathTrap is worth mentioning: Tracy is put in the bottom of a deep pit the villains have dug in the ground, and a boulder only slightly smaller than the diameter of the pit is dropped in, slowly but steadily grinding its way down to crush Tracy. Any attempt to dig around the boulder will make it fall faster, and none of Tracy's allies know he's in the trap. Gould's admitted this one stumped him, and suggested to his editor that Tracy ask ''Gould himself'' for help, as a giant hand would come in and free him. His editor shot this down because... well, because it was a terrible, terrible idea. In the end, Tracy escaped by digging down and coming across a mine shaft, which he escapes into just as the boulder is about to crush him. An obvious lucky escape, but at least not a logic breaking one.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Sluagh'' is the second book in the [[Fanfic/DumbledoresArmyAndTheYearOfDarkness DAYD canon]], focusing on Neville Longbottom. In it, a 22-year-old Neville takes the remaining members of Dumbledore's Army into battle against another Dark wizard, and [[spoiler: Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville's new wife Hannah are brutally, horrifically slaughtered.]] Except the first book in DAYD canon had an epilogue that contradicted all of that, so you just ''knew'' there'd be a big magic ResetButton lurking somewhere...
* An example of "Only the ''Original'' Author can Save Them Now": mirroring the final attack to the final boss in ''VideoGame/EarthBound'', in ''[[http://www.fimfiction.net/story/125344 An Earthbound Journey]]'' the one who ends up doing the final prayer and help winning the final battle for the heroes is [[spoiler:the show's original creator Creator/LaurenFaust.]]
* In chapter 35 of Fanfic/LightAndDarkTheAdventuresOfDarkYagami, the author admits that he made the villain too strong, so he decided to reset the story by having the protagonist randomly find a [[ResetButton Reset Note]].

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* PlayedForLaughs in ''Film/MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail''. Our heroes only survive the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh because [[AuthorExistenceFailure the animator suffers a fatal heart attack]]. Director Terry Gilliam admitted in the DVD commentary that he wrote himself into a corner in that scene and had no idea how the characters could get out of their dilemma. Thankfully the film is over-the-top comedy so he could come up with the solution of just killing himself (since he was the animator) off.
* "He didn't get out of the cockadoody car!" Present in both the film and the novel, ''Literature/{{Misery}}'' gives us a meta-example of the story's villain lecturing its protagonist about the evils of pulling contrived crap like this. She tells a story about how her experience of serialized action films was ruined when [[CliffhangerCopout a hero clearly shown in a car plummeting to his death at the end of one serial is shown narrowly escaping the car at the beginning of the next]]. The story's author protagonist admits that although this forces him to travel through very complex circumlocutions to fully justify what happens in the novel he's writing for the villain, it ultimately makes for a better story.

* The original [[Literature/TheThrawnTrilogy Thrawn trilogy]] of ''Franchise/StarWars'' books by Creator/TimothyZahn would be a good example. Although the Imperial and New Republic forces were mostly equal on paper, Grand Admiral Thrawn held the initiative and never let go for an instant. 2 3/4ths of the three books were dedicated to the heroes struggling not so much to win as to survive. At the climax of the final book, Luke and Mara were trapped on Thrawn's clone world at the mercy of Joruus C'baoth and the majority of the Republic navy were warping right into a massive trap at the site of their planned counterattack against Thrawn's forces. Only a series of increasingly catastrophic and unlikely setbacks in the final quarter of the third book allowed the heroes to win the day. The author himself even commented that writing a plausible ending was difficult because he had "written himself into a corner" by establishing Thrawn as such a MagnificentBastard.
* In the ''Literature/SwordOfTruth'' series, the last eight or so books have a constantly advancing horde of Imperial Order soldiers advancing little by little across the New World. The heroes have minor victories here and there, and during the fighting retreat led by Kahlan under [[TryingToCatchMeFightingDirty Operation Fuck Your Shit Up]], the D'Haran army slaughtered the Order by the dozens for every casualty they took, but the Order [[MillionMookMarch had the sheer numbers]] to [[ZergRush overwhelm all opposition]]. In the end, the Imperial Order had cut right through the middle of the Midlands and had advanced to D'Hara, where the only army of consequence left in the New World was holed up in a city on a plateau surrounded on all sides. Even sending cavalry into the Old World to [[MoralDissonance pursue a policy of total war]] as part of Operation Fuck Your Shit Up ''Twice'' barely made a dent (partly because said cavalry was fought off by [[spoiler:a witch riding a Dragon]]). The only way the heroes managed to pull out a victory was to find the MacGuffin from the first book and eventually use it to [[spoiler:create a new world (which is, incidentally, implied to be [[EarthAllAlong Earth]]) and magically banish everybody that shared the Imperial Order's philosophies there to live out their lives without magic, wonder or the hope of an afterlife. [[IronicHell Essentially, the sort of world they were trying to create in the first place.]]]]
* ''Literature/TheNightsDawnTrilogy'' by Peter Hamilton paints the heroes into a corner with its galactic ZombieApocalypse, and then has to end with a literal DeusExMachina. [[spoiler: The Naked God is a machine with godlike powers, used to save the human race.]] This is built up throughout the trilogy, with what at first appears to be a minor part of the plot involved in investigating various possible sources of external power, and the revelation that the problem has been solved before by SufficientlyAdvancedAliens. It is also made clear that the problem is likely solvable by human technology, but only at immense social and economic cost.
** He does it again in the Literature/VoidTrilogy, perhaps even more literally - [[spoiler: The Anomine machine makes a protagonist, Gore, into a god.]] Subverted in that the god powers [[spoiler: are not actually used; the fact that they can exist is enough to convince the Firstlife to un-create the Void.]]
* Early in ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy1'', Arthur and Ford are thrown out of an airlock without spacesuits. The narration explains the maximum length of time one can expect to survive in that situation, and the sheer improbability of being rescued during that time, at which point they ''are'' rescued by [[ItRunsOnNonsensoleum a ship that runs on improbability]]. Douglas Adams admitted that he wrote the situation with absolutely no idea how to get them out of it, and came up with an improbability-based solution as a result of watching a TV show about judo.
* In the [[Literature/TheWindThroughTheKeyhole final book]] of his Franchise/TheDarkTower saga Stephen King does this literally by sending his characters a letter to warn them of a trap. He even {{lampshade|Hanging}}s it in the note with a sentence to the effect of "Here comes the Deus Ex Machina!" Notably, the whole incident leads to them meeting the mysterious Patrick Danville, who eventually [[spoiler: kills the Crimson King by harnessing his unexplained ability to [[ArtInitiatesLife create living artwork]] to erase him from existence]]. It's heavily implied that King himself sends Danville to the Ka-Tet as a "secret weapon".
* This is a staple of ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen.'' The author seems to have created the [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil House of Azath]] for exactly this purpose.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter''
** In [[Literature/HarryPotterAndThePhilosophersStone the first book]] Harry's about to be killed by [[spoiler: Quirrel, but Quirrel suddenly starts grabbing him with bare hands rather than with magic, like he did just before, and it turns out [[ThePowerOfLove his mother's sacrifice infused him with power to burn evil on contact]]]].
** In [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets the second book]] Harry's about to be killed by [[spoiler:the Basilisk, but Dumbledore sends a phoenix to his rescue]].
** In [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire the fourth book]], [[RunningGag Harry's about to be killed by]] [[spoiler: Voldemort, when it turns out that their wands share cores and can't fight against each other, and there's a conveniently placed Portkey nearby]]. This is clearly planned all along since the fact of the shared cores was mentioned in the first book when Harry was buying his wand, but it comes across as a contrivance because Harry (and thus the reader) was never told what effect this would have.
** This trope was lampshaded in [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix the fifth book]], when both the above examples are touted by Hermione and other members of the DA as evidence for why Harry was qualified to teach the DA, much to the frustration of ''Harry'', who keeps trying to explain that those things happened completely by coincidence and had nothing to do with his intelligence or skill (everyone just ignores him and points instead at the things he ''did'' do all on his own).
** In [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows the seventh book]] when Voldemort needs someone to check if Harry is alive, the one who chooses to do so is the only one who would lie for information only Harry would know. But of course, that was the point.
* As indicated in ''Literature/ThePlagueDogs'', the book seems about to end with the dogs miserably drowning, to the point where the Reader intervenes and begs the Author to save them. The Author obligingly pulls a DeusExMachina out of his... backside. The movie opted to follow through with what it had started and conclude with a DownerEnding.
* ''Literature/OutOfTheDark'' is a hard-SF tale of an alien invasion of Earth. Near the end of the book, the aliens, having run out of other options, decide to simply destroy Earth completely with a massive asteroid, and it's been established many times that humanity has no defense whatsoever against orbital bombardment. The day is saved thanks to a DeusExMachina in the form of [[spoiler: Count Dracula and an army of vampires.]] In what, up until that point, had been a "realistic" hard science fiction novel!
* The destruction of the One Ring in ''Literature/LordOfTheRings.'' [[ArtifactOfDoom The Ring]] was overwhelming Frodo's resistance at the last, and it was simply not believable that he would be able to throw it into the Cracks of Doom. Then Gollum attacked - and died a DisneyVillainDeath that just "happened" to take the One Ring with him. [[TropesAreTools This ties into one of the themes of the book]]: that [[HumansAreFlawed humans CANNOT redeem themselves entirely on their own]] and must simply do the best they can and rely on [[DeusExMachina divine grace]] to take care of the rest.
* In ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'', Bella has slipped away from Alice and Jasper, meaning that they have no idea where she is and no way to get to her in time even if they did. She is trapped in a ballet studio with a murderous vampire, with no means of defending herself or escaping. He breaks her leg, throws her around, and bites her... and then Edward and his family show up in time to kill the vampire and suck the venom out of Bella.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/StargateSG1'':
** Somewhat the attitude some fans had about the practically god-like Ori. In fairness, though, the writers have found reasonably believable ways for the Ori to be battled -- but the eventual resolution in ''Film/TheArkOfTruth'' was nevertheless a DeusExMachina, involving an impossibly convenient and previously unmentioned piece of LostTechnology.
** "Reckoning" suffers from this. Clusters of Replicators? MoreDakka, or the disruptor introduced at the season start. A galaxy-spanning swarm of Replicators that almost instantly adapts to weapons used against them? Meh, let's use the previously unmentioned Ancient superweapon that wipes them all at once. It seems that (''repeatedly'') the writers decided that the Replicators had outlived their usefulness to the plot and handed the heroes a never-before hinted at way to eliminate them, then changed their minds and nullified the heroes' advantage so that the Replicators could be a threat again... requiring them to hand the heroes a ''new'' way of winning.
* Creator/RussellTDavies did a good job resurrecting ''Series/DoctorWho'' after its long hiatus, but he was not very good at writing a satisfying finale to the series broadcast while he was executive producer. He was very bad in that particular area, in fact, so the finale of each Davies series suffered from this trope. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS28E13Doomsday Unlimited armies of Daleks and Cybermen?]] Easy, use something that [[KeystoneArmy takes them all out]] at once. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS29E13LastOfTheTimeLords The Master rules the Earth?]] [[FanNickname Tinkerbell Jesus]] [[ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve to the rescue.]] [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E13JourneysEnd Another army of Daleks with the power to DESTROY! REALITY! ITSELF!?]] Donna develops [[LeetSpeak 1337]] Time Lord hacking skills and... they explode, somehow. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E17E18TheEndOfTime The Master has turned everyone on Earth into copies of himself?]] [[spoiler:The Time Lord President Rassilon [[EvilerThanThou fixes it with a flick of his wrist.]]]] This has led to the term "[[{{Pun}} Davies Ex Machina]]" being coined by fans.
** Invoked, inverted, subverted, played with, tap-danced on, and turned sideways in the fifth series finale: with [[spoiler: Amy dead, Rory an Auton, the Doctor locked in the Pandorica, the TARDIS exploding with River inside it, and every star and every planet winking out of existence; everything is hopeless until the Doctor suddenly appears out of thin air and gives Rory the solution to everything. It promptly turns out to be a paradox operating under a StableTimeLoop that breaks all kinds of rules and which the Doctor is only doing because the entire universe is about to be destroyed anyway and the multiple layers of paradoxes cause all kinds of major difficulties for the characters throughout the episode.]]
** Quasi-lampshaded in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", where Clara moans that there should be a 'big friendly button' that pressing it magically solves the problem. At the end of the episode, when reality itself has broken down, she finds a button with the words ''Big Friendly Button'' carved into it, [[strike:presses it]] gets her hand burned by its scalding heat when she picks it up, drops it in the direction of the Doctor, and ''he'' presses it, and it solves the problem. Arguably ''not'' this trope, however, given 1) the perfect memory of Gallifreyans (when they're paying attention, anyway) allowing the Doctor to remember the exact phrase that Clara used, 2) the Doctor having the whole episode to think through what happened and how to fix it if only he could get back to the point in time where it occurred, and 3) the Doctor writing Clara's exact phrase on the button so as to specifically get their past selves' attention (which he obviously does).
** Played Straight in [[Recap/DoctorWho2013CSTheTimeOfTheDoctor "The Time of the Doctor"]]. The Doctor has been given a new set of regenerations from the Time Lords. That's great! But he's still surrounded by a Dalek armada that wants to kill him. That's not so great. But wait! [[spoiler: Regeneration energy can be weaponized and is powerful enough to destroy the Dalek fleet while they just fly around and ''don't shoot the guy who is attacking them!'']] Hooray!
* The GrandFinale of ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' is spectacularly anticlimactic, seeing as the army of EliteMooks is easily defeated by ''two'' separate {{Ass Pull}}s. The fact that the season's BigBad is incorporeal, and cannot be directly fought (thus shooting down any chance of a satisfying FinalBattle against it to begin with) does not help matters.
* Inverted in ''Series/PowerRangersDinoThunder'': the last MonsterOfTheWeek is able to survive a DeusExMachina style FinishingMove. Except for the fact it doesn't, it dies and the footage is then played backwards to revive it. They then pull another DeusExMachina to kill it by [[StupidSacrifice sacrificing their zords]] even though they still had [[HumongousMecha Megazords]] they hadn't even used yet.
** Later in the episode the BigBad is shown to be NotQuiteDead and in the ground battle survives a hit from the Red Rangers [[SuperMode Battlizer]], gets up and proceeds to split into 4 copies. Which they can only stop with a type 3 DeusExMachina (the episode seemed to love those). Worse, the one time they had used that type 3 it wasn't in the real world, it was in a comic book world making it a type 2.
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' gets like this sometimes. The Winchesters have no magical abilities of their own and routinely go up against demons and monsters with telekinesis or other powers that render the boys' weapons (even the magical ones) totally useless. Yet somehow something always allows the boys to pull out a win. Actually an in-universe exploited trope in the early seasons when the Winchesters realized that they were essentially fated to be the [[spoiler: protagonist and antagonist]] in a story being mutually written by the cooperative forces of heaven and hell. They dove right in to several obviously inescapable situations simply because they knew by season 4 that either fate or divine providence would save them, or [[spoiler: if they died the angels would haul them right back]]. [[spoiler: Death]] was not particularly amused by these stunts.
* ''Series/TwentyFour'' pulled this in the seventh season when Jack is infected with a bioweapon and is going to die in hours. The doctor in charge of his condition explicitly states that there is absolutely no cure. Then suddenly in the next hour she reveals that there is an experimental treatment that could potentially exist.
* On ''Series/PersonOfInterest'', the entire situation with Decima Technologies ("Team Samaritan") has reached this ''so hard'' as of the final episode of Season Four. They are an army led by a psychopathic, AGodAmI-believing version of The Machine, a MagnificentBastard EvilBrit [[TheSpymaster Spymaster]] that has run XanatosGambit after XanatosGambit around Team Machine (and is quite the SmugSnake to boot), and nothing that Team Machine has done so far has made ''any'' headway in terms of taking the war to Decima (at best they have managed to stop whatever threat Samaritan has cooked up for the episode, and sometimes not even ''that'', no matter how many [[CurbStompBattle Curb-Stomp Battles]] they pull on Decima's forces). Now they are on the run again, with [[spoiler:one less member]], lesser resources (most importantly, [[spoiler:completely bereft of The Machine]]), and probably no more allies that they can contact. If there is a way to finish this series that doesn't involves a ''Series/BlakesSeven''-style LastStand, it sure is impossible to see as of the time of this writing.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}} (Chronicles)'' may be an example of this. The Armies of Evil (tm) not only have better troops, including the draconians, which can kill even when dying, they also have dragons and gods. If not because a pretty obvious DeusExMachina or two (some of them in the form of an actual god, even) the heroes would have lost, and died.
* Dragons can become this if handled improperly in ''TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}}'', and BOY do {{Game Master}}s seem to handle them improperly.
** It should be noted that Shadowrun is pretty explicitly a CrapsackWorld, and if your party has screwed up to the point of getting dragon'd the GM probably isn't going to [[AnyoneCanDie save them now]].
* Always a risk with Classic/Old ''TabletopGame/TheWorldOfDarkness'' games, where the various antagonists were usually in positions of power simply by dint of being unassailable: if they weren't, they would have been dethroned already. If handled badly, this can result in either this trope or FailureIsTheOnlyOption. That said, they don't call it the World of ''Darkness'' [[JustifiedTrope for no reason]], and more than one of their game lines use {{Villain Protagonist}}s.
** One specific example is the infamous VillainSue Samuel Haight. In the final scenario, he's become a powerful werewolf who became ghouled by drinking massive amounts of vampire blood, plus he has a staff that allows him to do high-level magick as well - without fear of [[RealityWarpingIsNotAToy paradox]] affecting him. He's nigh-unstoppable unless he's confronted by characters who have really been bought up. However, the scenario specifically has Haight losing no matter what - his paradox-proofing eventually runs out even if the players are defeated, which results in his death. This can be averted, however, in previous scenarios, up to and including killing Haight before he's acquired any powers.
* A constant problem in ''TabletopGame/LegendOfTheFiveRings,'' thanks to the MerchandiseDriven {{Metaplot}} that requires major story "rewards" for the winners of the annual CCG tournament. SerialEscalation has also long since kicked in, such that one of the [[BigBad Big Bads]] of the setting has already been killed ''twice.''

* In [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Shakespeare]]'s ''Theatre/AsYouLikeIt'', as Frederick is advancing with his army on the Duke and his followers, he meets a hermit and pulls a HeelFaithTurn, suddenly repenting everything and restoring the Duke to his throne.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/HalfLife2: Episode 2'', the Combine Advisor. Something that can throw people with telekinesis and suck out brains? Scary. Something that flies, throws people with TK, paralyzes everyone around it, eats brains, that I can't harm or avoid, and it hates me, and knows where I am? No longer frightening, it's in DeusExMachina's hands now. Since ''VideoGame/HalfLife'' doesn't do cutscenes, they have to make do with [[CutscenePowerToTheMax Scripted Event Power To The Max]].
* The [[spoiler:Shadow Rise]] boss battle in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' has this happening. The Shadow analyzes you and makes it impossible to hit her. After a few turns of attacks missing, a cutscene ensues where she tries to kill you. The only reason you are saved is because Teddie unleashes an awesome power and kicks her ass. Then, [[spoiler:you fight his Shadow.]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'': during the final battle [[spoiler:with Zemus/Zeromus, the heroes are initially defeated, only for their friends to revive them through ''prayer''.]]
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'' had the exact same thing happen. [[spoiler: Killed by final boss, revived by dead super-wizards, HeroicRematch.]]
* The Fate scenario of ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' has a badly wounded Shirou and Saber facing down Berserker, a mythological hero who comes back to life the first twelve times he is killed, and cannot be killed twice in the same fashion. Shirou is on his last legs, Saber has no mana left and is badly wounded and Berserker still has five lives left after having lost six to Archer and one to Rin. Berserker charges... and Shirou is suddenly able to magically create a copy of the magic sword he had been dreaming about throughout the route. The sword, which has up to this point only existed as an image in a dream, turns out to be able to kill Berserker seven times over with a single blow and stop him mid-charge, saving our heroes.
** This example is particularly ridiculous because the sword in question, Caliburn, is weaker then Saber's own sword, [[spoiler:Excalibur]].
* This is kind of how the characters survived a particular situation in ''VideoGame/ProfessorLaytonAndTheUnwoundFuture''. [[spoiler:Layton, Luke, Flora, Celeste, and Prime Minister Bill Hawks are in Layton's car, which has just driven off the edge of the BigBad's HumongousMecha and is plummeting to the earth. Only then does Layton flash back to something that Don Paolo said, which was not previously shown (and, given the events of their conversation that ''were'' shown, seems improbable at best). Pressing a button gives the car the EleventhHourSuperpower of turning into a plane, and they're able to fly to safety.]]
** Though [[spoiler: Don Paolo is established as a MadScientist, he did fix the Laytonmobile beforehand, so it's not ''too'' unlikely that he made some Deus ex Modifications]].
* You cannot defeat Giygas. Seriously, the final battle of ''VideoGame/EarthBound'' is [[UnwinnableByDesign Unwinnable]] by any normal, in-game means. You have to [[spoiler:invoke Paula's [[RandomEffectSpell Pray]] ability, which before now has only had certain randomized and often dangerous effects. She calls on many of the characters you've seen so far in the game, but even [[HeartIsAnAwesomePower their support]] is not enough to defeat Giygas. Only after she calls out in desperation for ''anyone'' to help does [[BreakingTheFourthWall the player]] finally pray for Giygas to die, effectively saving the party with the sheer force of wanting to win the damn game.]]
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'' had this in full force, with the series establishing it early on how advanced and beyond the galactic civilizations the [[EldritchAbomination Reapers]] are. In the first game it took an entire fleet of warships to take down '''one''' Reaper, and the second game ends with a [[OhCrap shot of thousands approaching the galaxy.]] In the third game [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure Admiral Hackett]] outright tells the PlayerCharacter that the Reapers can't be defeated conventionally. True to form, surprise! A DeusExMachina is introduced early in the game and is the only way to win -- or, depending on your point of view, a DiabolusExMachina is introduced that lets you choose which way you want to lose.
* ''VideoGame/StarWarsTheOldRepublic'' does it with the Sith Emperor. He's an immortal EldritchAbomination who's resurrection and planet devouring plans occur no matter what actions player takes. The heroes are informed he's far weaker than his previous incarnation, but that only amounts to eating planets one at a time, instead of dozens at once. The player only survives from being a snack by fleeing the planet beforehand.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* {{Invoked|Trope}} in ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', where [[spoiler:the Handmaid]] tries to [[BreakingTheFourthWall break a]] [[PlayingWithATrope fifth wall]] to allow Andrew Hussie's AuthorAvatar to save her from [[PhysicalGod the current narrator]]. The author literally charges in to rescue her like a BigDamnHero [[spoiler:but ultimately fails. She escapes from the current narrator, but is immediately caught by his master, who's even worse.]]
** Invoked a second time when Hussie rescues [[spoiler: Spades Slick from the destruction of the troll universe]] offscreen.
** Incidentally, Hussie can't save anyone now [[spoiler: [[RageAgainstTheAuthor because Lord English killed him.]]]]
** Technically, none of the events that Hussie is in are real, as the Handmaid doesn't actually end up going anywhere and Doc Scratch dies with the destruction of the universe regardless of Hussie's intervention.
** Eventually played straight with the [[AssPull Ring]] [[DeusExMachina of]] [[BackFromTheDead Life]] and whatever that... transparent hole [[CosmicRetcon retcon device]] is.
* The author of ''Marauder Shields'' saves the day via [[DeusExMachina the titular character]] after the author decided that [[PlayerCharacter the main character]] [[Franchise/MassEffect of the series]] [[DiabolusExMachina was indoctrinated.]]
* Also {{invoked|Trope}} in ''WebComic/LsEmpire'' to defeat Dark Star. After all; [[spoiler: what could stop an [[AuthorAvatar author]], aside from another author?]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''Roleplay/GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse'': This was a regular occurrence in the Golden Age campaign. However, being set in UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks, the players knew that this would happen frequently going in, and eventually started suggesting bigger- and more-over-the-top ways to implement this trope.
* {{Parodied|Trope}} by Blog/HowToWriteBadlyWell: "[[http://writebadlywell.blogspot.com/2010/05/write-yourself-into-corner.html Write yourself into a corner]]"

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In the fourth season of ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' Slade came BackFromTheDead, with fire powers and immortality that let him [[CurbStompBattle manhandle all the Titans without breaking a sweat]]. And he was ''nothing'' compared to the BigBad Trigon, who [[RealityWarper turned the entire planet into a fiery hellscape]] within ''seconds'' of [[DemonicInvaders entering our world]]. It's only through a handful of plot contrivances that the Titans even ''survive'' until the finale, and they only win in the end by Raven [[StrongAsTheyNeedToBe suddenly becoming the most powerful being in the universe]]. This is somewhat foreshadowed by Raven [[spoiler: being the [[DemonicInvaders Demonic Invader's]] daughter and heir all along, with the SuperpoweredEvilSide you might expect]].
* An InUniverse example in the WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck cartoon ''WesternAnimation/DuckPimples'', where the characters in a mystery novel Don is reading come to life and accuse him of being a thief. Just when things look blackest for Donald, the novel's author appears to reveal the true culprit (although he has to go back and read his own book to remind him). [[spoiler:It turns out to be the detective, who then threatens to shoot Donald; fortunately, his gun turns out to be a BangFlagGun.]]