The heroes torture Lincoln with whips, stabbing implements, and electric wires in order to find out the antidote for the poisoned knife he used on Finn. It doesn't work, though; through the entire torture session, Lincoln refuses to say a single word, trying to convince them he doesn't know English. They do end up getting the information out of him using threats, but not in the usual way: Octavia cuts herself with the same poisoned knife that Finn was cut with, forcing Lincoln to reveal the antidote or let her die.
In the second season, Kane and Indra suggest torturing Emerson for information on Mount Weather, but Clarke, drawing on her experiences with Lincoln, insists that torture doesn't work.
An early episode of Agent Carter had Agent Thompson using this on a Roxxon inside man in an example of Deliberate Values Dissonance, thankfully the same method was not used when Peggy herself was interrogated later in the season.
Jack Bristow of Alias has his moments with this trope also. In the episode "Nightingale", Sidney is trapped in a nuclear-powered killing machine and Jack learns how to save her by coming into the control room with a gun, pointing it at the operator, and telling him "You are going to tell me what I want to know. The question is how much pain you want to be in when you tell me."
Spike is mentioned as doing this and being good at it, having learned how from Angelus, torturing the doctor off-screen in Series 5, remarking that "I got screams, various fluids, and a name: Illyria."
Babylon 5's Michael Garibaldi is very good at making people think he'll use this sort of interrogation technique, but when all is said and done, he's entirely anti-torture, going so far as to turn in his badge when Sheridan tells him of his intention to torture a suspect in custody.
Recurring antagonist Alfred Bester did this with his telepathic abilities.
Subverted in the new Battlestar Galactica: When Starbuck tortures Leoben for information... Leoben spends seven hours giving misinformation and trying to Mind Screw Starbuck. Only when the torture stops does he admit he's been lying about the existence of a bomb. And even then he manages to Mind Screw Roslin.
The Cylon talked about God quite a bit, a valuable psychological insight, which Starbuck ignored.
The Cylons also tortured Baltar for information after he seemingly sent a Basestar to its death. Thanks to Head-Six, the result was infinitely squicky and full of Mind Screw, with Baltar managing to both convince his interrogator of his innocence and get into her bed. Needless to say it was one of the strangest scenes in the show and an excellent moment in what was otherwise a terrible episode.
The Pegasus crew tried this on their Cylon prisoner Gina, but got no useful information from her in the process. Baltar did manage to get information about the Resurrection Ship from her after applying the carrot, however, because she was so traumatized that she wanted the Resurrection Ship destroyed so that she could die properly.
An episode of Blade has Marcus Van Sciver's people capture Shen, Blade's tech guy. Van Sciver tells Krista to extract Blade's location from Shen using torture. When Krista points out that she has no experience with tortute, Van Sciver reminds her that she served in Iraq and must have seen torture first-hand. Shen nods to her, and she removes one of his fingernails with a scalpel. When that doesn't produce results, she pretends to break one of his fingers, while breaking hers instead (being a vampire, she heals instantly) while he screams in pretend pain. Luckily, an outside event forces Van Sciver to leave.
Realisticallysubverted in the pilot of Blue Bloods. Danny beats the living daylights out of a child predator to find a kidnapped girl. Said predator's lawyer successfully argues that the confession is inadmissible, forcing Danny to find other evidence to put him away. In later episodes he does get away with such tactics, though (like walking a potential lead down to the riverside and threatening to murder him execution-style unless he gives up the location of a Cop Killer), and he regularly shoves and slaps uncooperative subjects during interrogations.
Subverted in the episode where Danny's wife is kidnapped in order to silence him from testifying against a notorious drug baron. He asks for an isolated interrogation of the suspect, implying he will do something of the sort, but he merely reaffirms that he will not be intimidated and that, if anything does happen to his wife, he'll spread news around the prison that he received cooperation from the suspect and let them sort it out. He leaves the room without even laying a hand on the perp.
The Boys (2019): Discussed when Hughie suggests to Butcher that they get information from Translucent. Butcher dismisses the idea, noting it took six months of waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Muhammed for him to talk (and only once, after 183 sessions), and they don't have that time.
BrainDead (2016): The "enhanced interrogation techniques" the FBI almost uses on Laurel, such as immersion (which is not waterboarding, as it uses slightly less water). Jack Bauer himself is name-dropped in support during the Senate committee debate on the issue, in a reference to the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doing this (which is also mentioned).
This is the standard interrogation technique for Buffy. Of course, it's a lot easier to justify when the fate of the world is at stake, and the subjects are frequently demons. Her methods are implied to be especially brutal specifically because the vampires and other nasties are either immortal or extremely difficult to kill.
Read the 24 example above? Remember Jack describing the Russians forcing a towel down people's throats so when they drag it up their intestines do as well? Buffy does this with a cross. Having her torture someone with a piece of metal on a chain sounds bad enough, but the victim is a vampire. Guess what the cross does.
However, it should also be noted that Buffy was, at the time, undergoing fairly severe PTSD and this was a sign that she wasn't her normal self.
Also, demons aren't known for their loyalty, and therefore tend to crack rather quickly.
Rupert Giles deserves a special mention here for two examples in particular: Ethan Rayne in "Halloween", whom he repeatedly kicks in (hopefully) the ribs, and one of Glory's mooks in "Tough Love", whom he convinces to talk in a single joint-crackling off-screen second. This harmless tweet-clad English gentleman used to be nicknamed "Ripper". He may not have Buffy's combat prowess, but do you ever not want to piss him off.
Whether as Angel or Angelus, the eponymous character is quite fond of this.
Deconstructed thoroughly by Burn Notice. Michael states explicitly that torture never works - the person you're torturing will say whatever they think you want to hear to get the pain to stop. Both Michael and Sam have been interrogated in this fashion and never crack, and whenever they interrogate bad guys, it's never strictly physical torture.
From Michael's voiceover in an S2 episode:
Michal Westen:[narration] The fact is, torture is for sadists and thugs. It's like getting groceries with a flame thrower; it doesn't work and it makes a mess.
And in "The Hunter", all of Fiona and Sam's threats and actual violence on a suspect don't get them the information they need. Mama Bear Madeline walks in, lights a cigarette, and proceeds to talk the guy into confessing everything he knows.
They love smashing this trope on this show. The episode "Friends Like These" gives us the quote "Torture just gets you the fastest lie to make the pain stop," after Barry suggested Michael and Sam use a car battery on a bad guy. Granted, they've never hesitated to threaten or imply torture, usually as an added incentive on an already cracking target and letting their imagination do the job for them.
Camelot: Arthur tortures an injured enemy soldier after they capture him to reveal that Morgan is the one who hired the mercenaries whom he's with.
Carnival Row: Absalom Breakspear tries to beat Ritter Longerbane into giving up Jonah's location, since he's sure Longerbane is behind kidnapping him. He's innocent however, so this doesn't work. Piety Breakspear poisons Longerbane, then claims he'd told her the location before he died, because she's the one who had really gotten Jonah abducted.
Late in season 3, Ryan and Esposito shoot a man non-fatally and then question him while threatening not to call 911. Then, for more info, Esposito shoves the still hot barrel of his gun into a bullet wound...
Another example from that season is in the second episode of a two-parter in which the Homeland Security Agent taking point on the case throws the suspect down and threatens to shoot him.
In an earlier season 3 episode, Beckett is interrogating a man named Vulcan Simmons who is believed, thanks to false information from a retired cop, to have had something to do with her mother's death. He taunts her and manages to hit her Berserk Button, causing her to grab him (and he is not a small man) and slam him into the two-way mirror, shattering it, and threatening him before Ryan and Esposito run in to pull her away.
Castle himself engages in this, off-screen, when Alexis is kidnapped.
Beckett attempts this in the season 7 premiere to get info from a junkyard employee. She nearly breaks a finger and threatens to break them all, but unfortunately it doesn't work.
A similar justification to the Buffy example above is used on Charmed to the point that the girls casually discuss later plans to stun demons rather than killing them explicitly so they can be tortured for information.
Piper: But I so like killing them.
The Charmed Ones usually preferred a different approach where Piper (whose power was to freeze time) would freeze a demon and then unfreeze his head so they could question him freely. The only time they actually resorted to interrogating humans was when they knew for sure they were guilty such as a murderer identified by his victim's ghost and a criminal framing a woman for murder.
In the pilot of City Homicide, Simon, Duncan and Matt arrest Sean Macready, a serial arsonist and child-killer on his way out of his latest target. To force him to tell them where he locked the children, Duncan and Matt physically pull him back into the burning house while they search. Macready is killed when he attempts to throw himself and one of the children into the fire, and the cops escape any punishment.
Shirley then provides a straighter example as she threatens to cut Jeff up with a pizza slicer.
Subverted in "Lessons Learned" of Season Two of Criminal Minds, where Jason Gideon is asked to help with a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay prison. Instead of torture, he just tricks the prisoner into thinking his plan had already happened, so he would tell them what it was, just to gloat. It's implied that the man has already *been* tortured, and that it hasn't worked for exactly the reasons described. All it's done, in fact, is reinforce his belief that he is a hero, that America is the embodiment of evil, and that it needs to be destroyed - none of which makes him at all eager to give up any information.
Well, partially subverted: this was part of Gideon's plan. He wanted to be "the good guy" so that the prisoner would confide in him and feel comfortable, giving him information that his previous interrogators- who roughed him up- could not get out of him.
This episode won a human rights award for this portrayal of torture.
Danny has intentions of doing this in 'Heroes' when Mac is questioning a guy suspected of killing Aiden. Mac warns him off by telling him they have to do it right and working the guy over won't help the situation. Turns out he wasn't the killer anyway.
Toward the end of season 7, Mac's first partner, William "Wild Bill" Hunt, returns and threatens to do this to a recently released perp they had put away 17 years earlier and who is out to get both of them. Mac warns him off, too, but he doesn't listen. It ends badly for both Hunt and the perp.
Daredevil (2015): It's one of Matt Murdock's preferred ways to get information out of street-level crooks when going after bigger fish like Wilson Fisk or the Hand.
Dark Matter: An artificial human is fitted with a neural stimulation device by a Mikkei soldier to get information from him. It acts by causing him to feel the pain of, say, having his finger cut off, with no actual damage, so his nanites won't be triggered for repair.
In the "Nazi Waffen-SS vs. Viet Cong" episode of Deadliest Warrior, the dramatized fight begins with the Waffen-SS leader being beaten up and harshly interrogated by a Viet Cong squad, whose leader has pointed a gun at his head. He refuses to talk and is rescued soon after by his own comrades. The fight ends with the Waffen-SS leader obtaining his revenge by torching the Viet Cong leader with a flamethrower.
A Defiance episode reveals that Votanis Collective agents have planted a bomb in New York City. One of their agents in Defiance is Mahsuvus Gorath, an Irathient male prostitute working at the NeedWant. The Earth Republic forces capture him (while he's "busy" with a client), and Nolan is ordered to get the location of the bomb out of him by any means necessary. Having fought in the Pale Wars, Nolan knows some very unpleasant techniques for getting someone to reveal information. However, Mahsuvus is a trained soldier and spy himself and knows how to resist this sort of interrogation. Even when Nolan uses shrills (flesh-eating spores), Mahsuvus simply takes it in stride.
In one episode of Dexter, a police officer looking for the murderer of his brother interogates a suspect by shaking up a soda bottle and shoves it up the guy's nostril as it goes off.
Averted in "The Time Warrior", in which a Sontaran named Linx crashes to Earth in the Middle Ages and finds himself a guest at the evil Irongron's stolen castle. At one point, Irongron's men have captured an enemy spy, and are about to torture him for information. Linx simply produces a little wand from his holster and shines a light in front of the man's eyes, crowing "I have unlocked his mind." Sure enough, the captive sings like a canary without even knowing it.
Jack Bauer's predecessor was Madeline in the TV version of La Femme Nikita. Created years earlier by 24 producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, Nikita featured the world-class "Torture Twins" and their employer Madeline... who was revealed in one episode as being better at torture than they were. Yeah, these were the good guys, too - although this question presented a theme throughout the show: How much evil can you do and still remain "good"? In one episode, for example, they were shown tormenting one of their own agents just because 'he made a mistake' - he went AWOL and told someone about his double life as an agent of Section One. As always, this method was shown to be hideously effective.
In First Wave, Cade attempts to do this in an early episode to a Gua named Joshua (incidentally, this is also when he learns that the aliens are called "Gua"), after the latter ends up impaled on a tree branch. How? He sprinkles some salt on the wound, figuring that no one can stand such torture. After about a minute, he is shocked to realize that Joshua is high off his gourd. Apparently, the genetically-engineered husks the Gua use treat table salt as crack. Strangely, this defect is never corrected, but the Gua High Command has declared salt to be strictly forbidden and has addicts executed. Of course, given how easy it is to obtain salt on Earth (just to go any fast food restaurant for salt packets)
How Chandler from Friends compares Monica's massage.
"It was like she was torturing me for information and I wanted to give it up, it's just, I didn't know what it was."
The Gifted: After John is captured by the Purifiers, they start torturing him for information. Still, Jace keeps them from bringing out the power tools, sticking with loud rock music over headphones (as John has very sensitive hearing).
Guerrilla: The police use brutal torture to get information on the Bishop-Mitre Gang.
Homicide: Life on the Street made it a point to avoid this as detectives who hit suspects can not only wreck their case but put their job at risk and can even risk Assault charges.
Parodied in the House episode "The Down Low", when House is trying to get information in order to treat a drug dealer:
House: I need the drugs. Eddie: We're in textiles. House: I NEED THE DRUGS! (pauses) Hmm... works for Jack Bauer.
The Indian Detective: This appears to be the only method of interrogation Inspector Devo uses, though in the second case we see, it doesn't work.
Inspector George Gently: In "The Burning Man", Commander Empton of Special Branch lays a beatdown on a suspect inspected of being involved with the IRA, to Gently's obvious disgust.
Nine times out of ten, Stabler is able to get away with it because the guy he assaults/tortures is the perp, or at least dirty, and no one believes a police brutality claim from a suspect. Usually. The times he doesn't get away with it, he's usually reprimanded, and has, on at least two occasions, been suspended. That being said, it's stated early in the show's run that SVU detectives are supposed to be in the department for two years, tops, due to the increasing desensitization and violence exhibited by officers in that position. Why the SVU detectives of the show haven't been rotated out after eight years is anyone's guess. Especially considering the increasing insanity.
One episode of the fourth season saw Detective Stabler visit the Czech Republic in cooperation with European police agencies investigating a child pornography and prostitution ring that intersected a case Stabler had been working in New York. When Stabler and the European police apprehend the suspect, with all the freedom from those pesky U.S. laws and restrictions regarding treatment of prisoners... let's just say that it puts what he does in New York to shame.
Used at least twice on UK Life on Mars (2006). Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt lock a murder suspect in a freezer until he confesses that his boss did it, and he dumped the body. And there was the incident where Ray Carling had a suspect held down and forcibly given cocaine. The suspect dies in custody, and Ray gets demoted. Oops.
Also used in the spinoff, Ashes to Ashes, involving a naked suspect and a pool table. You have three seconds to work out what it entails, and any guesses after the first don't count. Starting now.
Sayid from Lost. This was Sayid's entire job in the Republican Guard and since landing on the island it's been something he's been called upon occasionally to do. Somewhat subverted in that it never really seems to work as intended (most notably when he tortured Ben, which yielded nothing and merely freaked out Jack enough to press the button). However, not quite entirely subverted as Sayid still claims that the torture allowed him to confirm that the man wasn't who he said he was.
Monk has two examples, both courtesy of Captain Stottlemeyer:
The episode "Mr. Monk Stays In Bed" has Stottlemeyer doing a mundane version of the trope. He and Randy go to a club to interview John Delancey, a likely suspect behind the disappearance/murder of Judge Jillian Garr, and tries to question him on what he knows about her disappearance. When the subject they find at Delancey's table denies it, he then dunks his tie into his porridge after asking if he likes "Thai food", and supplies his own tie to the man out of guilt after Randy tells him that they have the wrong table. Only, they discover a few seconds later it was the right man all along, so we then see Stottlemeyer helping Delancey with his newly acquired tie by tightening it to borderline stranglement.
Stottlemeyer does it in "Mr. Monk and the End, Part I" after hitman Joey Kazarinski poisons Monk. He is seen grilling a forger who recently supplied Kazarinski with a fake ID to determine what name Kazarinski is using. The friend asks, mockingly, "What are you going to do? Hit me with a phonebook? There are no phonebooks in here, captain. Nobody uses phonebooks anymore. They all use computers." Stottlemeyer replies, thoughtfully, "Yeah, you're right," as his gaze settles on a laptop in the room. The scene promptly cuts to Stottlemeyer handing Randy a smashed laptop.
Lt. Randall Disher: Did you get a name? Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Yes, I did. Oh, and your computer crashed.
On NCIS we never actually see this but it's stated that before joining NCIS Ziva used this all the time. In fact the first time we see her interrogate someone she sits on the other side of the room so she won't be tempted to break any bones.
Although early on, Gibbs does allow Ziva to employ her interrogation tactics on a woman who knows where a hostage is being held. It's scary because, while the audience never sees the actual scene, when Gibbs returns a few minutes later, the woman is sobbing, terrified and willing to give up information about people who will kill her rather than go through any more questioning.
Gibbs himself almost commits this on a suspect in the episode "Engagement Part 2", when trying to find out what their terrorist plan is and where his brother is... by trying to plant cigarette burns on him (which is exactly what his sister often did to the schoolgirls they captured in Afghanistan) before Leon stops him. It's a probable subversion, as it is implied that the entire thing, including Leon "stopping" Gibbs, was a setup to trick the younger brother into explaining what they were planning to do.
In "Two Daughters", in order to find the location of the woman who had kidnapped Megan, Don leaves Ian Edgerton alone with a suspect (the kidnapper's partner) for several minutes with the blinds drawn. He comes out several minutes later and announces that the suspect gave up a location. (It should be noted that this was not used to build a case at all, but it's still the kind of thing that could get them in serious trouble if the higher-ups ever found out about it.)
Colby later threatens to do this to a subject in "The Fifth Man", and has to be pulled off by David. Particularly noteworthy since Colby was the one who tried to talk Don out of the earlier example. (Admittedly, it's never quite made clear if he actually intended to do what he threatened or if he's just hoping to persuade the suspect with the threat itself.)
In Orphan Black, Alison, suspecting her husband Donnie of being her monitor, not only ties him up, blindfolds and gags him, but drips hot glue from a gun onto his chest. Not only do we hear him wince, we see the third-degree burns this caused, burns he says a great deal of time later still hurt when he showers.
In Outlander, Jenny, the relatively respectable and sensible sister of one of the main characters, unleashes this on an English soldier she's captured because the English army has taken her brother and she wants to know where he is. She heats up the soldier's ramrod in a campfire until it's red hot and applies it to the sole of the man's bare foot until he confesses that he doesn't know and that he's only a courier, prompting Jenny and main character Claire (Jamie's wife) to search the man's bags until they find the relevant documents.
Al in Quantum Leap goes as far as to discharge his gun right next to Lee Harvey Oswald's ear when Oswald doesn't come clean with what he knows.
Ripper Street: Reid, Bennet and Jackson do this to the poisoner Claxton - squeezing his broken arm - in "The King Came Calling" to find out where he sent the consignment of poisoned flour.
Justified appearance on Rome when it appears in the beginning of the season two episode "Testudo et Lepus". Atia tortures the slave boy Duro to find out who hired him to poison her, even though she knows fully well it was Servilia. In republican Rome the testimony of a slave was only legal in court if it had occurred during torture.
In the first season Octavian and Pullo are interrogating a man about the actual father of Vorenus's wife's son. When he won't talk, Octavian tells Pullo, "Torture him." Pullo isn't sure how to torture somebody, since he's never done it before (it's done by specialists in the Roman army). They settle on cutting off his thumbs.
In the first episode crucifying a prisoner gets instant results, to the visible annoyance of the soldier who went to all the trouble of nailing him to a cross.
A rather curious application is used in Sherlock's pilot episode, "A Study in Pink". Jeff Hope has been shot by John Watson and is bleeding out. Sherlock knows there's no saving the guy so he demands to know who hired him before he expires. Initially Hope refuses to give up his employer but then Sherlock reminds him that, while dying, he can still feel pain and proceeds to put pressure on the open wound. This coerces the already-dying man into revealing that he was hired by a man named "Moriarty".
Vic Mackey from The Shield, a lot. He beats a suspect with a phone book in the pilot episode to reveal to location of a kidnapped girl and does similar things throughout the show's run, including threatening to drop off a gang member in rival territory (a ticket to the emergency room at minimum) and beating another to death with a length of chain for killing Lem. The kicker? Shane, the actual killer, was there and trying to convince him to stop.
In Smallville, this is surprisingly common. Most of them are from government agents (or something like that, but no one is sure if they are the real deal).
In season four, Lex, Jason, and Lana all gets this to find out the location of some magic stone.
Somewhat subverted in at least one episode of Spooks. The spies are presented with a ticking time bomb scenario and they've managed to find one of the gang responsible. Pearce, their commander, tells them that "under no circumstances whatsoever are you allowed to use torture to find out the location" (wink wink). Adam Carter, the guy who literally wrote the book on how to survive torture, acknowledges that it's going to be useless trying to torture him as he's an ex spy and would have received training in how to hold out against pain. Instead, they use a variety of "soft" techniques to get him to tell them the location.
The show genuinely aimed for a degree of realism as well, and often played with moral choices such as this. They made it clear that it was never, in any way, guaranteed to work. They also made it very clear that it wasn't going to yield instant results either. Which somehow only made it worse.
Teal'c of Stargate SG-1 normally has no need to resort to this: on a few occasions he successfully "interrogates" prisoners by simply scowling across a table, not even needing to ask questions to intimidate them into admitting the truth. In the 10th season episode "Talion", however, he tortures and then kills two people who were involved in a terrorist attack that killed numerous Jaffa civilians. Partially a subversion, since Teal'c gets little useful information from them, and the "interrogation" was probably as much to punish them as to get them to talk.
Star Trek: The Original Series: What unbearable torture will make a Klingon perp talk? Tribbles!note Though, to be fair, Klingons and Tribbles have a hate/hate relationship. Tribbles screech in the presence of Klingons, and Klingons hate that screeching.
Kirk: Mr. Darvin, you want to talk? Darvin: I have nothing to say. (Kirk holds two tribbles towards him) All right, I did it, I poisoned the grain! Take them away!
The Argents from Teen Wolf are very fond of this method of interrogation and they use it on several werewolves, including Derek, Boyd, and Erica.
And Gerard was totally willing to use this on a very HUMAN Stiles as well.
Hilarious example from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Heavy Metal". Sarah is unable to get a guy to divulge info so she lets him go, but he has to get past Cameron. Next scene shows him nervously driving them to where they need to go. Cameron smiles at him.
In the Torchwood episode "Countrycide", Jack Harkness interrogates Martin to get information about the sinister goings-on in the town.
In a rather gruesome scene in season 2 of Veronica Mars, Weevil has Logan kidnapped. Two PCH bikers proceed to play Russian Roulette with Logan's hands and knees until he tells them whether or not he killed Felix Toombs.
Watchmen: Angela beats a suspect who they believe is part of the racist Seventh Kalvary terrorists until he gives up their hideout's location.
Frequently would appear in Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s Good Cop, Bad Cop game, were the bad cop would frequently resort to this at even the slightest trigger, even if they were doing mundane things like helping fix a broken dish washer.
The pilot for the failed Wonder Woman series included a very egregious use of this. The title character goes to a crook that was in a hospital (by the way, Wonder Woman was the one who put him there) deciding to use torture to get knowledge on a woman she suspected had committed a crime. Of course, before she started to break his fingers, Wonder Woman put her Lasso of Truth on the guy's chest, pointing out it is called the Lasso of Truth, but going with the torture anyway! Hooray for Wonder Woman?