Main Deusex Machina Discussion

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06:07:11 AM Dec 27th 2016
edited by MemeMagic420
Surely the Harry Potter series is riddled with examples of Deus Ex Machina and is used as the conclusion of almost every book.
  • Philosopher's Stone: Harry is trapped in a room facing Prof. Quirrell and Voldemort; two people of vastly superior wizarding ability with no chance of escape then all of a sudden Harry touches Quirrell's face and he melts and dies.

  • Chamber of Secrets: Harry is trapped in the Chamber facing Voldemort and the Basilisk with no chance of escape when all of a sudden a Pheonix flies through the window, blinding the Basilisk and presents Harry with a sword. After defeating the Basilisk, Harry, without any way of possibly knowing how, defeats Voldemort/Tom Riddle by stabbing the diary with the Basilisk fang (in fact, the actual quote reads: "Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the Basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book").

  • Prisoner of Azkaban: Peter Pettigrew escapes, Buckbeak is killed and Sirius Black is sentenced to receive the "Dementor's Kiss", all hope is lost but then it is revealed that Hermoine possesses a time travelling device that was bestowed upon her so that Hermoine, a Year 9 student could take a few extra classes. They use the time-turner to resolve all of their problems and then never use it again in any of the subsequent books despite its obvious advantages (this is a debatable example of Deus Ex as Hermoine's time travelling abilities are hinted at at several earlier points in the story).

  • Goblet of Fire: Harry is trapped in the graveyard surrounded by Voldemort and his legions of followers facing certain death with no chance of escape however, when he and Voldemort duel it is revealed that two wands made from the same core cannot be used against each other, Voldemort's wand releases the most recent spells it performed which provides a distraction allowing Harry to escape.

  • Deathly Hallows: As Harry is preparing to face off against Voldemort at the climax of the story, out of nowhere he reveals to Voldemort that the Elder Wand's loyalty transfers upon the defeat, not necessarily the killing, of its previous master. Although Voldemort believes he had killed the true master of the Wand (Snape), in fact Draco Malfoy had earned the Wand's loyalty on the night of Dumbledore's death by disarming him just before Snape arrived, meaning Snape was never its master. Therefore, Harry is the wand's master, even though neither Draco nor Harry ever physically held it. The Elder Wand refuses to act against Harry and the spell rebounds, killing Voldemort. (Whilst the logic behind Harry's theory of the wand's ownership holds up and makes sense within the context of previously established rules set out earlier in the series, this idea was never suggested as a possible solution to defeating Voldemort in the novel nor at any point prior to this moment was it revealed that Harry even realised that the elder wand was technically in his possession all along).
08:26:05 AM Dec 27th 2016
  • I'd say the PS example doesn't count any more than Harry surviving Voldemort's attack as a baby, since it's explicitly the same spell.

  • Chamber qualifies. Fawkes just happens to fly in, and by the way the Sorting Hat can produce a magical sword? Seriously?

  • POA: Way too foreshadowed.

  • GOF: Yeah, that counts. The "wands don't work on each other" comes out of nowhere.

  • DH: Honestly, I don't remember well enough.
12:47:07 PM Feb 8th 2016
edited by Bronnt
"Films" included an entry for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, about the moment where Azeem busts through a door at the end and throws a scimitar through Mortiana just as she attacks Robin Hood from behind. This seems to fail on multiple levels. (1) Azeem's quest to save Robin Hood's life was his character motivation the entire film. (2) The Witch was never a "hopeless" or "unsolvable" problem. (3) Mortiana's death at the hands of Azeem was heavily foreshadowed throughout the film. (4) Azeem's entrance does not come out of nowhere, as he can be heard still banging on the door at prior points during the scene.

I removed the entry, but am an inexperienced troper so it is possible I am in error.
11:22:28 AM Apr 7th 2015
It's listed under Western Animation: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that the way the main cast defeated Lord Tirek in Twilight's Kingdom pt. 2 by opening the box was a deus ex machina, even though the entire driving purpose of the season was OPENING THAT BOX. Even earlier in part 1 of that episode, they attempt to open the box, only to reveal they need a sixth key and they foreshadow at what that sixth key may be. I think this may be the furthest example of what a deus ex machina truly is.
05:39:11 PM Mar 27th 2015
The live action film Interstellar (2014). The plot twist at the end is a very good example of Deus ex Machina. Basically, mysterious offscreen magical "5th dimension" people fix all the problems and then the humans are alright.
07:52:19 PM Mar 27th 2015
Not really... there's way too much foreshadowing. Those mysterious 5th dimensional people are referred to right from the very beginning. It's hardly out of nowhere.
06:26:14 PM Mar 28th 2015
edited by Can_Not
I don't see where foreshadowing would make it not Deus ex Machina, it still meets the 3 criteria. Also, despite there being some level of foreshadowing, the "5th dimensional beings" still appeared "out of nowhere".
02:06:30 AM Mar 29th 2015
Three criteria for a sudden plot development. A foreshadowed thing is not "sudden".
12:09:38 PM Mar 31st 2015
edited by Can_Not
sudden or unexpected. Also, I don't see how you can have the plot event that "humans were suddenly/unexpectedly rescued by some force utterly outside the context of this narrative", then foreshadow it at the beginning, then suddenly it's not Deus Ex Machina because it was foreshadowed? That makes no since. "foreshadow" is not in the criteria nor in the article. The closest possible reference foreshadowing is in the criteria itself, summarized as even if they are featured or referenced earlier in the story.

We've never even discussed what the "foreshadowing" was, so I'll assume it's the mysterious ghosts manipulating gravity at the begining, while the Deus Ex Machina was Cooper not dying a horrible spaghettifying death in the blackhole. Except that, Cooper being the ghosts is the direct result of the Machina and the intention of the Deus. So essentially you are saying that because a Deus Ex Machina could "foreshadow" itself via timetravel, it's not a Deus Ex Machine?
01:59:15 AM Apr 1st 2015
Sudden is most definitively part of the criteria.
07:32:19 PM Apr 2nd 2015
Hey, I feel like you neither read my points nor read the criteria. I reread the article and criteria this time and the previous time you said that, and I already pointed out (less clearly before than I will do now) that the criteria specifically says "sudden or unexpected", not "explicitly sudden". Also, a quick google of define sudden returns occurring or done quickly and unexpectedly or without warning. So that is pretty much exactly how it happened in the movie.
08:51:07 PM Apr 2nd 2015
"there are a number of requirements for a sudden plot development to be a Deus Ex Machina." Emphasis mine. Being sudden is the fundamental aspect of the trope, before even the three criteria.

The "foreshadowing" is the warning.

The fifth dimensional beings were established right from the getgo as being important, powerful, and going to play a role. And take a look at criteria 2... "even if they are featured or referenced earlier in the story, they do not change the course of nor appear to be a viable solution to the plotline they eventually 'solve'." They set the entire plot into motion, with the implication they're behind everything that's happening. They have such far-reaching effect on the plot from the beginning they've completely changed the course of every plot in the movie.
11:09:36 PM Mar 4th 2015
So, as I'm not the most experienced Troper, I try to run by edits that I have any doubts about making by other Tropers to get some feedback, and that's what I'm doing here. So, I feel that, perhaps, the action known as "topdecking" deserves a place as an example of a Deus ex Machina. For those of you who don't play CCG's, TCG's, LCG's, or any other game where deckbuilding is a core mechanic, allow me to explain what this term means. Basically, "topdecking" is when a player, typically at a serious disadvantage, draws a card that will at least give them a fighting chance, and at best almost guarantee a win. This does happen, I've been playing these types of games long enough to know that. As a result, I think this qualifies as a Deus ex Machina, though I may be incorrect. Also, if it is a case of this trope, does it go under Real Life or Tabletop Games? Any feedback is appreciated.
11:49:19 PM Mar 4th 2015
That seems like a technique that may or may not produce a good result and is dependent upon luck. I would not qualify that as Deus ex Machina.
02:34:19 PM Mar 5th 2015
I suppose you're right. A good player who knows their deck would be aware of the possibility of drawing that one card that could change the game in their favor, and, no matter how slim the odds, knows that it could happen. So, there is some expectation on the part of the player being saved. In many cases, they'd actually be hoping for this card. Thanks for the advice.
01:01:57 PM Sep 22nd 2014
edited by
Also from the Literature folder:
  • In the Harry Potter series, the Seeker's catching the Snitch is often this. Since catching the Snitch almost always wins the game (earning 150 points when a goal earns a paltry 10), the entire rest of the game is completely invalidated by the Seekers' actions. So, a good Seeker is often a Deus ex Machina for the underdog.

Oh, come on! Read the requirements, people! This item fails two of them. First, the use of the Golden Snitch to win Quidditch matches is not "sudden or unexpected". The Snitch has been part of the game for centuries, and every team has a player (the Seeker) whose only purpose is to pursue and capture it. Second, winning Quidditch matches is not an "unsolvable or hopeless" problem.

If you think the rules of Quidditch are ridiculously flawed, that's fine — in fact, I agree with you. But this article is not the place to complain about it. Item deleted.
12:45:40 PM Sep 22nd 2014
edited by
One more problem entry from the Literature folder:
  • In an Isaac Asimov's short story, Earth has just busted out into the universe, where there are three kinds of cultures: Shielded worlds with tech to keep everyone else out, who use it; conquerors; and subject races. Earthling conquered several races but babble out creating a culture that the Shielded worlds would be willing to associate with. When two aliens conclude this makes them extremely dangerous and they should be targeted by a massive alliance of all conquering races, they get a message — the first ever known — brought by a ship captain from a Shielded World. It says, "Don't."

I have been an obsessed Asimov fan since the early 1970s, and have read all of his fiction (except for a couple of very obscure short stories that have never been reprinted and are impossible to obtain). The summary above does not even vaguely resemble any of Asimov's stories, and my Google searches have failed to find any evidence that such a story exists. Since the troper who wrote this item didn't provide a title, I suspect he or she based it entirely on memory, and was thinking of a story by some other author. Accordingly, I am deleting this item. If you can identify the correct title and author of the story, and if it really is a Deus ex Machina (which seems doubtful based on the information above), then of course restoring it to the article would be a good thing to do.
12:16:52 PM Sep 22nd 2014
edited by
In the Literature folder, we currently have this:
  • Peter F. Hamilton horrifically abuses this in The Night's Dawn Trilogy with the most literal interpretation of Deus Ex Machina as a computer so advanced as to have the powers of a God literally turns a character into a God so they can fix everything. Most of the last book is spent searching for the Deus Ex Machina plot device, but once it is found basically everything wrong in the universe is fixed within a dozen pages.

There are a couple of problems here. First, the entire thing is a blatant case of Complaining About Plot Twists You Don't Like, which is expressly forbidden at the top of the page. Second, it fails one of the requirements of the trope, that a Deus Ex Machina must be sudden or unexpected. The resolution of the Night's Dawn trilogy is the result of a subplot that begins with evidence of an encounter with an actual god, clearly described as such, in the ancient records of an alien species. This results in a deep-space expedition whose specific purpose is to track down this god and ask for its help, because no one can think of any other way to combat the unstoppable threat that is currently destroying human civilization. All of this happens in a book whose title is The Naked God. In other words, it is not possible for Hamilton to more clearly telegraph where the story is going and what kind of ending it is likely to have. This is the exact opposite of "sudden or unexpected".

Accordingly, I am rewriting this item to (1) remove the complaining and (2) point out that it averts the trope with a lampshade the size of the Greater Magellanic Cloud.
11:56:18 AM Sep 22nd 2014
The Literature folder currently contains this:

  • Michael Crichton novels live on this. The main characters work heroically to try to solve a problem (which as often as not was created essentially by a couple of bad decisions, followed by a series of events where exactly the worst possible thing happens in each case), almost but not quite succeeding at several points, only to find out in the end that the problem effectively goes away on its own.

This is not an example. This is a vague generalization. An example would name one or more specific Crichton works and provide some brief specific details on why those works qualify for this trope. Since this item contains no specific information at all, I am deleting it.
10:59:39 AM Feb 25th 2014
I am guessing in nominate Deus ex Machina in the crowner in the "pages that need the ymmv banner" thread. This is a subtrope to Ass Pull, that is ymmv.
12:42:24 PM Nov 27th 2013
There's a series by the same name as this trope, how should that be added to TV Tropes?
01:11:24 PM Nov 27th 2013
Create it in the correct namespace and add disambiguation notes both there and on this page.
10:54:38 AM Oct 22nd 2013
edited by
Suppose a character is in a situation where they are very close to dying, cannot escape on their own (due to being too incapacitated), and the only person within proximity to save them is...preoccupied. And there is no plausible means by which to direct their attention. Then the author literally throws something at them to get their attention so that character saves the dying one. And to really hammer it in, the author outright calls it a Deus ex Machina. Would it be this trope?
01:30:09 AM Jun 27th 2013
Can I add a bit about what Deus Ex Machina means? The whole philosophy thing about god in the machine, or is it politically incorrect?
05:41:33 AM Jun 27th 2013
edited by
Isn't it covered by the second paragraph? What exactly do you want to add?
03:14:55 PM Feb 4th 2013
In Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, after the Average Joes win the finale against the Purple Cobras and it is revealed that Peter sold the gym to Whitey, Peter is awarded a treasure chest full of money allowing him to buy controlling stake in Globo-Gym. The treasure chest has "Deus Ex Machina" on it.
08:32:30 AM Feb 5th 2013
If you want to add an example, just put it on the page.
07:49:17 AM Jan 11th 2013
Seriously, if an example doesn't belong on this page, edit it out. Don't drop a massive justifying edit underneath.
07:00:33 PM Sep 24th 2012
I have a problem with the fourth option, the idea of a "Built in Deus ax Machina" is an oxymoron. What makes something a Deus ex machina is that it comes out of nowhere. If the plot element is sufficiently foreshadowed, then it isn't a Deus ex Machina.

07:01:49 PM Sep 24th 2012
No wait, I get it now. That particular option is for when a character or element is introduced solely for the purpose of solving unsolvable problems, and does nothing else.
09:45:52 PM Aug 20th 2012
Isn't Deus ex Machina when the creator of that show/book/etc. enters in it?
07:53:08 PM Apr 23rd 2012
Is the season one finale of Doctor Who an example? I don't understand why Rose could manipulate reality like that when the Tardis itself couldn't as Idris.
06:53:15 AM Apr 24th 2012
Maybe she could, but her weak body would have died even quicker.
02:06:16 PM Apr 24th 2012
The process involved was killing Rose as well, just more slowly. It still doesn't explain how Rose could manipulate reality with that level of control.
11:27:39 AM Mar 9th 2012
Any particular reason Mass Effect 3 was removed from this page? The Crucible had absolutely no foreshadowing in the first 2/3rds of the series, and while it was built up over the entire game, it really clashes with the setting, and magically solves the Reaper problem.

Of course, its also a Diablous Ex Machina, considering what Downers the endings are.
03:38:46 AM Apr 9th 2012
edited by ey
It might just be nitpicking, but it seems like the Crucible/Catalyst itself isn't the deus ex machina. Rather, the entity/AI you talk to at the end is a *literal* deus ex machina, given that it comes out of a machine and apparently has god-like powers to remake the universe (such as merging organic and synthetic life ... somehow); we already knew about the Catalyst being able to destroy/control the Reapers but the entity/AI explaining the purpose of the Reapers was pretty much out of the blue. I'm just saying that it'd be clearer making that distinction so people don't argue "but the Crucible/Catalyst was a major part of the plot!"
03:55:28 PM Jul 14th 2012
Really its Shepard herself thats the solution, and the Catalyst views her that way, especially in the Extended Cut.
06:56:29 PM Sep 24th 2012
And besides, even though it wasn't foreshadowed in the first two games, it's construction featured heavily in the third game, which is really the only one that's important. Hell, they talked about it so much that it doesn't even count as foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a lot more subtle.
05:29:05 AM Sep 26th 2012
The Crucible should be included, with the caveat that it's a Deus Ex Machina for the trilogy, rather than only ME 3. Mass Effect was built up from the beginning as a planned trilogy where your choices would be carried over from game to game and affect the story. The Reaper invasion was discussed and built up over the course of the trilogy, and how we can defeat them is questioned. If you look at Mass Effect as a single story, as a great many people do, the Crucible is an Ass Pull that first appears at the start of the third act.
12:43:00 PM Sep 11th 2013
First off, the Crucible comes out in the spirit of the first game and the Conduit....if the Conduit can logically exist in that universe, so can the Crucible. Both ME 1 and ME 3 use objects that past civilizations have left behind that help the heroes of the present. So in a way, the Ilos section in ME 1 thematically opens up the possibility of the Crucible. Nevermind Liara an Lot SB tells Shep that there is Prothean data that they haven't used yet.

Second, to view Mass Effect as a single story, you must also include outside of the game works, and Liara's quest for the Crucible is covered. Its just not Shepard's story.

Third, I may actually put the ending up in this trope, as not only an averted example, but an INVERTED one as well.
04:13:00 PM Nov 4th 2011
I want to remove the "Toy Story 3" example because it was foreshadowed. Twice, in fact. Can I do that?
11:33:55 PM Aug 8th 2011
edited by Boradis
A subtype of ass-pull? Seriously? Shouldn't it be the other way around? This is one of the very original, uh, theater tropes — right up there with sexing your own mom.

The only difference I see is that ass-pulls seem to be used to resolve minor issues while Deus ex Machinas are used for major plot points. Therefore, this should be labeled as the "parent" trope.
11:09:48 PM Aug 18th 2011
I agree, especially since Ass Pull is a Subjective Trope, while this one isn't.
07:10:27 PM Aug 6th 2011
If Ass Pull is a YMMV trope, then why isn't this one?
07:36:41 PM Dec 4th 2010
"Note that the Romans and Greeks used type 1 and 2. This was mainly due to tradition; unlike today, audiences in ancient times were openly violently hostile to excessive innovation to the point that they would break out in riots if a writer tried to go too far. Some moderns assume, wrongly, that True Art Sticks It To The Man and always has, and crow that ancient writers were cowed by "royalty" not to be controversial."

This is kind of incorrect. While the Deus ex Machina was used by the Greeks and Romans, it wasn't about holding with tradition, but about introducing the idea that a certain problem (like the conflict between Justice and Vengeance in the Oresteia) was in its current state beyond the scale of human intervention and that this idea or problem had to be dealt with by society.
01:32:45 PM Oct 6th 2010
H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds?
09:49:15 AM Apr 1st 2011
I'd have to say yes to that. Suddenly out of nowhere with no indication the aliens die because they catch a cold? Seems like a textbook example to me.
05:58:06 PM Aug 29th 2010
Whoever edited my usage of DEM in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, has got the plot completely mixed up with the first TF movie. The All Spark is destroyed at the end of the first one when Sam pushes it into Megatron's chest. A shard of it appears in the 2nd movie, but it's The Matrix of Leadership that provide the dual role of Macguffin/Deus ex Machina in the sequel.

I've redited the section again, but I'm not sure if it looks messy now?
06:07:11 PM Aug 29th 2010
edited by
I've just looked at the archived chat and noticed a little piece on TF:ROTF. I disagree with what was said, in the context of the movie we're told it it is used to power the Sun Harvester, but it's only after two of the protagonists die and it brings them back to life that audience is fully aware of it's true power.
08:04:49 PM Jul 23rd 2010
There's an (apparently) incorrect pronunciation guide in the article regarding how Deus Ex Machina is actually pronounced. If my knowledge of words of Latin origin is as good as I remember it being, wouldn't the actual pronunciation be be something closer to "Dey-us eks MA-kee-nah," not "Doos eks MAH-kin-nuh"

This only bothers me because I don't like misinformation. So before I make any edits (which may result in an edit war), can we at least come to a consensus about how we want new visitors on the site, who don't yet have an idea how to pronounce the phrase, to pronounce it?
01:30:33 PM May 24th 2010
I am trying to decide if the tralfamadorians in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan are a Deus Ex Machina. They don't really change the outcome, but it's said that they manipulated the structure of the universe in ways that influenced human behavior which lead all of the characters towards their part in the end of the story. It doesn't really strike me as an Asspull or another type of weak cop-out, but rather an added layer of something to think about. Any suggestions?
09:00:05 PM May 7th 2010
Grammar wise, is Deus Ex Machina masculine? Often characters are referred to as being a walking Deus Ex Machina, which is fine if they're male, but Lina Inverse gets the title in relation to the Lord of Nightmares fragment, would that make her a walking Dea Ex Machina (Machinae? bah my Latin is too many years behind me now) or what?
06:54:36 AM May 8th 2010
Dea Ex Machina looks to be a semi-established term (971,000 Google results).
04:13:08 PM Apr 7th 2010
The second quote doesn't have a source. Too bad, because it's awesome. If I had to guess - 30 Rock. They're ridiculously lamp-shady in that way. Info, Anyone?
02:27:49 PM May 31st 2010
Tried doing a Google search; only place I could locate that exact phrasing was a poster's signature on Deviant Art.
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