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Deus ex Machina

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"Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating."
Emma Coats

A Deus ex Machina (pron: /diːəs ɛks mækɪnə/ for Britons, /deɪuːs ɛks mɑːkɪnə/ for Americans; /deus eks maːkʰinaː/ in the orginal Latin) is when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in a sudden, unexpected way. It's often used as the solution to what is called "writing yourself into a corner," where the problem is so extreme that nothing in the established setting suggests that there is a logical way for the characters to escape. If a bomb is about to go off, someone finds a convenient bomb-proof bunker in easy reach. If a protagonist falls off a cliff, a flying robot will suddenly appear to catch them. A Million-to-One Chance of something occurring is accomplished by a bystander who didn't know what they were doing. If The End of the World as We Know It is about to happen and nobody is able to stop it, it will be stopped thanks to some scientist's otherwise useless invention.


The term is Latin for "god out of the machine" and originates in ancient Greek theater.note  It referred to scenes in which a crane (machine) was used to lower actors or statues playing a god or gods (deus) onto the stage to set things right, often near the end of the play. In its most literal interpretation, this is when a godlike figure or power, with all the convenient power that comes with that, arrives to solve the problem. A Divine Intervention need not always be a Deus ex Machina or the sole way this trope plays out however.

Note that there are a number of requirements for a sudden plot development to be a Deus ex Machina:

  1. Deus ex Machina are solutions to a problem. They are never unexpected developments that make things worse, nor sudden twists that only change the understanding of a story.
  2. Deus ex Machina are sudden or unexpected. This means that even if they are featured, referenced or set-up earlier in the story, they do not change the course of nor appear as a natural or a viable solution to the plotline they eventually "solve".
  3. Deus ex Machina are used to resolve a situation portrayed as unsolvable or hopeless. If the problem could be solved with a bit of common sense or other type of simple intervention, the solution is not a Deus ex Machina no matter how unexpected it may seem.
  4. Deus ex Machina are external to the characters and their choices throughout the story. The solution comes from a character with small or non-existent influence on the plot until that point or random chance from nature or karma.

The concept eventually came back into vogue during the early years of the film industry thanks to The Hays Code. Villains, and anyone else who didn't toe the moral line, were absolutely not allowed to get away with their crimes. But, more often than not Evil Is Cool. The solution was to let the bad guy be awesome for the duration of the movie, then drop a bridge on them in the last five minutes.

Remember, even the notorious Deus ex Machina can be pulled off. Sudden resolutions are perfectly capable of leading to satisfying conclusions - see the entire "Rule Of X" series of tropes: Rule of Cool, Rule of Cute, Rule of Empathy, Rule of Fun, Rule of Funny, Rule of Romantic, Rule of Scary, Rule of Sexy (for those ever-so-fun Deus Sex Machinas), Rule of Symbolism, and especially Rule of Drama. Apparent Deus ex Machina also happen plenty in real life, given reality is far more complex and random than most fictionalized versions of it.

For more information about this Trope.See Only the Author Can Save Them Now.

Compare to the Reset Button, Non-Protagonist Resolver, Diabolus ex Machina, Coincidental Broadcast, You Didn't Ask, "Eureka!" Moment and Suspiciously Specific Sermon. Not to be confused with the tropes Deus Est Machina, Deus Exit Machina or Ave Machina. Nor the works Deus Ex, Deus ex Machina, Ex Machina or Ex Machina.

Please make sure an example meets the criteria before submitting. This is not a place to Complain About Plot Twists You Don't Like.

Examples (Warning: Ending Spoilers)

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    Comic Strips 
  • In the final stretch of the Mars arc of Safe Havens, Fasttrack One is struck by space junk on final approach to Earth and, having already been damaged by a previous incident, starts to break apart. The entire crew makes it to the emergency escape shuttle. Everyone except Remora, who's stuck in mermaid form at the moment and her tank is too far away for anyone else to rescue her before the ship comes apart completely. In desperation, Samantha encourages her to try and tap into her Martian heritagenote  and change into something that can reach the shuttle in time. Remora manages to turn into an octopus and shoot through the ventilation system in the nick of time. Though this does have consequences for Remora: She finds she can't resume her mermaid or full fish forms. She can either become full human or human top/octopus bottom hybrid.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Great Pokemon Fight, Tommy is mortally wounded by Greymon during a heated battle to save the Poke-Digital World... And just as Greymon tries to finish off Tommy, he, along with his army, then just disappeared. Like, poof, bye bye. Heck, the story even says that they just disappeared for no reason. No one even questions this as they were too busy on the dying Tommy. Then he dies, and suddenly, Mew comes out of nowhere and revives him. In total, there's two Deus ex Machinas in the span of a minute.
  • A Crown of Stars: Deliberately invoked. After the events of canon and the preceding fic, Shinji and Asuka were physically burned-out and emotionally wrecked. This story's author wanted to try to give them a happy end, and he thought that it would be ironical that it would take actual divine intervention to get them to fricking talk to each other. So that in the first chapter a God-Emperor called Daniel appeared in front of Shinji and Asuka and offered to help them. It is more justified than other examples since Daniel serves as a plot device to start the story, rather ending it, and although he can help them, he can not automatically fix all of their troubles or changing the past, and the story focuses on Shinji and Asuka and their struggles to recover from their traumas and repair their relationship. And when the main external conflict begins, the main characters are cut off him, so that he can not bail them out.
  • During “Reluctant Choice” in Arc-Ved Protagonists, Yuri has no cards on his field, and just one card in is hand, which can't help him at all against 3 monsters each with more attack points then he has life points, and where two can get effects that can either destroy any monster he is able to summon, or just deal enough effect damage to win that way. Zarc then starts speaking to Yuri and activates his Awakened state, seemingly giving him access to Super Polymerization just in time for Yuri to add it to his hand with a graveyard effect and then win the duel.
  • Specifically averted and its absence discussed by characters in the Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk. Raynor points out that "This Blizzard ain't gonna be around to write some-last-ditch save in this time."
  • In In This World and the Next, Harry and Hermione are sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss for killing Ron the Death Eater. Instead, the Dementor explodes and releases their life force, allowing them to go back in time. A bit more Justified than other examples, serving as a plot device to start the story, rather than the more common use in ending it.
  • In the season 4 finale of Jake English's Mysterious Theater of Scientific Romance from the Year 3000, after being rescued Zeus declares all the other plot threads to be resolved.
  • Knowledge Is Power: There's not really any other way to describe Harry and Hermione being sent into the past by the ghosts of James and Lily when a ceiling falls on them.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic:
    • The Uniforce. A force of good only unicorns with golden horns can summon to amplify their magic by shouting that they believe. It is never explained what it really is, why only golden horned unicorns can use it and how the Grand Ruler discovered it, but it is the main attack to kill all Big Bads.
    • Mystic Light, the finishing move of The Grand Celestial Ruler.
  • Chillingly done in the Pokémon fic No Antidote. After realizing a poisoned trainer is completely an Empty Shell, a ghost Pokémon, under orders from Giratina, takes control. The motives claim to be for the benefit of the "Starter" Pokémon that unquestionably follow their leader but...
    Ghost Controlled Trainer: This is the most fun we've had in decades!
  • Lampshaded at the climax of Hetalia: Axis Powers High School A.U. Outcast. Just as the vengeful spirit of Ancient Scandinavia (who has possessed Sweden to carry out his plan) is about to kill Finland and shatter the Foundation Stone that has bound his spirit to the mortal realm with a single mighty hammer blow, Denmark appears out of nowhere and uses the twisted remnants of his ancestral battle axe to crack the stone — breaking Ancient Scandinavia's hold on Sweden and saving Finland's life in the process. He also delivers an Incredibly Lame Pun just for the occasion:
    "Looks like I got here just in time," he said, grinning. "That's what I call a deus axe machina."
    I had never been so happy to see that grin or hear such a lame joke.
  • Pony Age: Catalyst: The Spirit of Justice who comes out of nowhere to save Twilight and Lyra from the Sloth Demon.
  • In Tealove's Steamy Adventure, the cast face a seemingly hopeless fight against a giant, mobile pear tree. Then, Fluttershy appears from nowhere (the narration just states that she was hiding behind a cart the entire time) and summons a flock of fruit bats to take out the tree.
  • This fic's version of Valdemar has a variant of the trope; the 'Herald Ex Machina'. It is an accepted and expected event in Valdemaran plays for the protagonist to be saved at some timely moment (and have his/her heroism validated) by a Companion arriving and Choosing them to be a Herald. (That's because the same thing has happened to so many of Valdemar's historical figures.) For example, their version of My Fair Lady is about the same as ours, except that the ending also involves Eliza becoming a Herald; in this particular example, the 'Herald Ex Machina' doesn't resolve the plot so much as provide a handily built-in And the Adventure Continues.
  • Happens a bunch of times in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure:
    • The new lead guard takes an arrow to the knee before he can shoot Twilight. This is in a setting where guns are the weapon of choice and no character is ever shown to have a bow.
    • At one point Twilight notices a hatch in the ground with a ladder in it inside a broom closet which helps her avoid a space shark.
    • Slenderman appears out of nowhere to save Rainbow Dash from the gay snake.
    • ADMIRAL Awesome comes Back from the Dead to save the heroes at the end of the Last Part.
  • Deus Ex Rannoch, a minor Mass Effect fic where the Refusal ending is overwritten by a hidden geth/quarian empire big enough to defeat the Reapers.
  • Episode 75 of Sonic X: Dark Chaos has a big one. Maledict has lured the heroes into his trap and takes the entire galaxy hostage with the Galaxy Crusher in exchange for the Chaos Emeralds, leaving the heroes in a literally hopeless situation. Suddenly, a gigantic Angel fleet led by Jesus Christ himself suddenly shuts down Maledict's trap and ambushes his fleet.
  • The ending of The Story to End All Stories. Lampshaded by Mike and the Bots.
  • In Harry's Happy Christmas Santa Claus gives Harry a repaired wand, the Sword of Gryffindor, Voldemort (in doll form) and all of the Horcruxes for Christmas.
  • Features to a degree in Mercy, when Batman and Zatanna go to Paradise Island to ask Persephone for help after Diana is trapped in a Black Mercy 'dream' by Circe; Persephone cannot release Diana from the Mercy's influence, but she does manage to capture Circe just as the witch in question was apparently planning to turn Tim Drake into an actual robin.
  • A relatively minor example occurs in The Chronicles of the Fellowship when the Pevensies arrive in Middle-Earth and find their weapons and suitable clothing all waiting for them just outside the cave they arrived in, giving them time to change before meeting anyone else; Lucy immediately suspects that it was Aslan who did this.
  • In the Supernatural fic "Heart's Desire", after the Winchesters travel to an alternate universe where Jess survived and Sam's counterpart is now trapped in Hell, after the alternate John completes the Trials to seal Hell, Sam is nearly trapped in Hell when the angels of the other world remove his soul to try and use as a bargaining tool to get the Apocalypse back on track, but Chuck steps in after Dean, Castiel and Jack are sent back to their world and restores their Sam to his body in his world.
  • In Harry Potter and the Mystic Force, after the Rangers ask the Tribunal to help them restore the original history after the events of "Dark Wish", the Tribunal not only give the Rangers their enhanced powers as in canon, but also bend the rules indirectly; Madison attempts to save Hagrid from his past death (Harry having been framed for Hagrid's death) by giving the Hagrid of the new timeline a Time Turner so that he can go back and replace his original self, the Tribunal acknowledging that they preserved the alternate Hagrid despite the destruction of his timeline so that Madison's plan could succeed.
  • In Infinity Crisis, the heroes of the Arrowverse are alerted to the cause of so many people dying by the Phantom Stranger, while the Justice League receive a similar update from Doctor Fate, that directs them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to assist the Avengers against Thanos.
  • A literal case played to awesome effect in Ashes of the Past: After dying and coming Back from the Dead, Ash summons Arceus from the GS Ball to defeat the Original Team Galactic.
  • Tantabus Mark II: Discussed with Daring Do's dream. If Moondog is the protagonist, then it showing up to save Daring from being Mind Raped is perfectly fine, because it fits with how the story flows and Moondog's known capabilities. If Daring is the protagonist, then it's a horrible Deus ex Machina because a new character appeared out of nowhere to save her from a situation that had already been established to be impossible for her to escape on her own. This is a problem, since Daring writes accounts of her adventures as fiction. With Moondog's help, Daring finds a solution: Rewrite earlier chapters so that Princess Luna was the one who sent her on the mission, has been checking on her in her dreams since, and therefore is in a good position to jump in to help when she gets attacked.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney film The Black Cauldron. While the cauldron is the first artifact and/or character introduced, the way it qualifies is how it takes out The Horned King. While it was explained that a living person entering the cauldron of his or her own free will would seal its powers, it is not explained why it kills the guy and destroys the castle. It's implied that it's just that evil, but that's a rather flimsy explanation. It is also highly anticlimactic, because the King doesn't get to DO anything, despite being hinted as being a powerful sorcerer. Another is supplied by the witches, who revive the person that jumped into the cauldron. And why is it that the witches have this cauldron in the first place and the heroes practically fall on top of apparently the only society that knows where they are?
  • A literal case in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Big Bad spends the movie on a reign of terror that he proclaims to be for a higher cause, sings a Villain Song that's an inverted confession of sins, and assaults a cathedral. When he's swinging a sword and raving about how He shall cast down the wicked, the gargoyle under his feet roars at him and breaks off.
  • A semi-literal example is the Welcome to the Real World scene in The LEGO Movie, in which Emmett dives into the void to retrieve the Piece of Resistance and falls out of the model into the real world, where he sees a vision of the child playing LEGO... and his rather less fun father. He eventually manages to persuade the kid to give him the Piece and put him back into the story, with him zooming out of the portal like Neo at the end of The Matrix.
  • An example in Mulan II, when it is employed in the original style as Mushu climbs into an idol of the Unity Dragon and makes supposedly divine pronouncements (punctuated with a bit of fire-breathing) that neatly resolve what has become a very tangled situation.
  • The end of the The Secret of NIMH film just screams Deus Ex Machina. Supposedly, the "stone" that does something... powerful manages to respond to Mrs. Brisby's... emotion and then pulls the cinderblock out - with no loss of life (or mud, which had been flooding the house). Auntie Shrew likely survived because she fell into a Plot Hole when the mud started flooding the house.
  • Played for Laughs in The Simpsons Movie, where Maggie shows up to defeat the villain completely out of nowhere by dropping a rock on him as he’s about to shoot Homer and Bart.
  • Towards the end of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Canadian comedians Terrance and Phillip are gunned down by Kyle's mother, triggering Satan and Saddam Hussein's takeover of the world. All seems to be lost until Saddam insults Satan one too many times after receiving several brutal electric shocks from Cartman's V-chip. Satan finally stands up to Saddam and kills him, thanking Kenny for giving him the courage to get out of his abusive relationship, and grants him one wish. Kenny's wish is for all the horror and tragedy of the US-Canada war to be undone, even if it means going back to hell himself. Within a matter of seconds, everyone who died in the war is revived and Canadian/American relations are restored. Also, instead of going back to hell, as a reward for his sacrifice, Kenny is sent to heaven where he is greeted by large-breasted angels.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants Movie writes itself into a corner that can only be rectified by a wonderfully ridiculous parody of Twisted Sister's I Wanna Rock. The villain's plans are undone by the explosive power of rock music. Once the smoke clears, SpongeBob is left dangling on the end of a rope suspended above the stage, which is a literal reference to the original deus ex machina trope of ancient Greek theatre.
    • There's also David Hasselhoff who shows up out of nowhere and offers Spongebob and Patrick a trip back to Bikini Bottom.
  • The Secret of the Hunchback has an egregious example: In the ending, Quasimodo seems to fall to his death, but then... he GROWS WINGS!
  • The healing tears at the very end of Tangled. While the movie is different in many ways from the original fairy tale, this detail comes straight from the source material. The fact that her healing powers were rather mysterious to begin with may also be a factor. However, nothing in the movie itself foreshadows it in any way (unless you believe the theory that the drop of sun from the intro is the tear that saved Flynn).
  • THE CLAW at the end of Toy Story 3 is a literal Deus Ex Machina, as the DVD commentary points out, given that the LGMs treat "the claw" as their deity and it is also the machine that saves all of the toys from burning in the garbage furnace. Its arrival is accompanied by a choir of angelic voices on the soundtrack.
  • The Amnesia-inator in Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension. Even though it was established that O.W.C.A. has been duplicating Doofenshmirtz's Inators, that one was never seen before in a previous episode. Likely Played for Laughs; Doofenshmirtz's response of "I think I'd remember building something like that!" suggests that the original backfired and gave him amnesia, thus forgetting he built it. Ironically, the previous episode "I Was a Middle Aged Robot" actually introduced a memory eraser, owned by O.W.C.A. no less. Apparently, they forgot about this.
    • In the climax, Candace attempts to invoke this by bringing their mom out to the battlefield to see it. She believes that the "magical force" that always sweeps away her brothers' activities before she can show their mom will take care of things.
  • This is truly the only thing keeping A Troll in Central Park from having one of the worst Downer Endings in the history of animated cinema, as Stanley is turned into stone in the climax - the very thing he was afraid of happening to him the whole movie - and the only thing that saves him in the end is the little boy just somehow getting Stanley's Green Thumb powers for no given reason that restore him.
  • Pinocchio: When Pinocchio is locked in a cage by Stromboli in the Disney adaptation of the story, Jiminy Cricket finds himself unable to pick the lock, leaving Pinocchio as Stromboli's prisoner. Just then, the Blue Fairy appears and delivers some exposition to Pinocchio before freeing him. Different from most examples, it's acknowledged that the Blue Fairy is doing a deus ex machina here and she says that this is the one and only time that she'll use her powers to help him, and it really is — she doesn't appear again until the very end to reward Pinocchio by turning him into a real boy.note 
  • In Quest for Camelot, Ruber fused his arm with Excalibur. In the climax, Kayley (with Garret's help) tricks him into thrusting the sword back into the stone — as he is not the rightful king, he cannot remove it. This is clever, and not this trope. However, it then turns out the inherent magic of the stone, which was only hinted at visually, serves as the legitimate example since it kills Ruber and heals everyone except Garret.

    Music Videos 
  • In the Music Video for Cyndi Lauper's "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough", André the Giant appears out of nowhere (literally, just a puff of smoke, and there he is) to chase off the bad guys.
  • The climax of Clamavi de Profundis's first Chieftain saga, "Strong", features a literal example when the Villain Protagonist is stopped by an angel from killing a monk whose monastery his troops were raiding.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Funnily enough, there are many times in Greek Mythology where the gods and goddesses fail to do this all the way through; they may do something which only partly rectifies the situation or has its own shortcomings to it. Not all instances from classical mythology are subversions, though. For example, at one point Hera offers her aid to the Argonauts to get them through. In fact, the entire name of the trope came from the theatrical device used (via a cherry-picker like machine) in ancient Greek plays based on the Greeks' myths.

  • While writing the first installment of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams found himself faced with a writer's dilemma: His characters had just gotten thrown out an airlock, and would pass out and die from lack of oxygen in 30 seconds, and it was so utterly improbable that another spaceship would come around within those 30 seconds to rescue them that to have had that happen would've been nothing short of this trope. This gave him the idea for the Infinite Improbability Drive.
    • The Quintessential Phase, which adapts Mostly Harmless, at its conclusion has the Babel Fish suddenly turn out to have an ability to teleport itself out of danger when facing certain death. This was done to avert the Kill 'Em All ending of the book, and is naturally subject to liberal Lampshade Hanging when Arthur asks why it's never come up before.

  • Alpha Team: Mission Deep Freeze RPG had a recurring Deus ex Machina where characters on the brink of death would be confronted by a mysterious voice telling them "it is time", but could be convinced to bring people back. This was basically invented by Kotua in Space as a means of getting his character, who had been reduced to a ghost forced to possess vehicles in order to stay in this world, back into a physical human body in an easy and feasible manner. This happened several times with the same people. Given the context, this might very well be a literal case of Deus ex Machina. This was later parodied by Dino Attack RPG, in which the voice outright scolded a man for trying to convince it to bring him back. The parody is taken even farther in a non-canon post, where the voice doesn't even give another character a chance to speak for himself and sends him straight into the afterlife.
  • Dino Attack RPG has a number of Deus ex Machina instances of its own. There are probably too many in number to list them all, but here's a few notable examples:
    • When the Dino Attack Team arrived at the base of the Ogel's Island volcano, they had no means of ascending the mountainside. Quite conveniently, Reptile's T-1 Typhoon crash-landed into the volcano and dropped off some climbing gear.
    • Although set up and foreshadowed several posts before it arrived, the stampeding Triceratops herd that ended the battle for the Aztec Village was lampshaded as a Deus ex Machina. Interestingly, unlike most examples of lampshading, this was not Played for Laughs but For Drama, since Rex realized that relying on a Deus ex Machina to save the day is a poor strategy that could easily backfire. Rex later attempted to defy Deus ex Machina by setting up a Big Damn Heroes in advance, only to be punished for it by the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, when Leon is about to die in battle, a black wolf appears all of a sudden and saves his life. It later turns out that the wolf was in fact Kagetsu I whom Leon had unknowingly freed earlier. Technically Kagetsu was only a half-god, though.
  • Critics of the ending to Survival of the Fittest v1 tend to claim that the only reason that Adam Dodd won was a series of these. Others who believe that the alternate universe "Afterlife" RP signifies the existence of the supernatural in SOTF claim that the spirits of his dead friends may have been protecting him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, the high-level Cleric spell Miracle allows you to request intervention from your deity. It costs experience points to use in that fashion, but other than that the only stated downside is that the deity might refuse.
    • In 5th Edition, Clerics can eventually gain a feature that lets them beseech their deity to offer assistance in their time of need. The roll for it is very unlikely to succeed, but having a more limited but reusable version of the Wish spell is nothing to scoff at.
    • The 2nd edition setting Al-Qadim puts a great deal of emphasis upon Fate, and a Zakharan player character may call upon it to intervene and even the odds of a desperate situation. This may involve being suddenly captured alive rather than killed outright, or the glint of sunlight from a magic weapon in the sane. Most characters have 2% odds of success at best, but Clerics of Order can have it as high as 18%, gradually reduced as they gain levels (Fate favors the young).
  • Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok allows player characters to ask a deity to help them in battle. A sacrifice is performed, runes are drawn, and if the aforementioned deity is in a good mood, Deus ex Machina may occur. However, if your prayer has angered it, the divine intervention will benefit your opponents!
  • In GURPS, a character can buy an Advantage called Serendipity, which allows one extremely fortunate event per game session to take place at the player's discretion. The Gizmos advantage is designed to let players imitate fictional characters like Batman and James Bond, as described above.
  • The parody RPG Ho L has the "Grace of God" pool, which players can put points in by rolling Critical Hits during the game. If the character cannot get out of a situation and has points in Grace of God, they can say "Praise Jesus", which allows the DM to use any random, nonsensical, and/or inexplicable means they can think of to solve the character's dilemma.
  • In the tongue-in-cheek RPG In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas, which is played with rolls of 3d6, anyone rolling 111 means a direct and usually over-the-top divine intervention happens. Which can be a very good thing if you're playing an angel, and a very bad thing if you're a demon. And of course, a roll of 666 causes a direct satanic intervention. Also, any angel can try to summon his archangel, and any demon can try to summon his demon prince. And yes, it can work... If you're lucky.
  • Magic: The Gathering has the "Miracle" mechanic. Cards with Miracle are all powerful, expensive spells. However, if they're the first card their owner draws in a turn, they can be immediately played for their (deeply discounted) Miracle cost, making them a sudden solution to many a hopeless scenario.
  • Lampshaded in Munchkin: There's a card called Deus Ex Machinegun that has the gods come down with a machine gun and kill all the monsters, take all the treasure, and make the combat just magically go away.
  • Shadowrun actually has a rule about this, called Hand Of God. When a PC ends up in some sort of hopeless situation, the PC's player can invoke the Hand Of God, having the GM save the PC via some form of Deus ex Machina. There's a catch, of course: it has a hefty experience-point cost, and it can only be used once per character.
  • In Spirit of the Century players may use their characters' Aspects, a Declaration, or even certain Stunts to make an unlikely coincidence happen. Players can also have gadgets and artifacts with undefined abilities, so you can decide that they do exactly what you want at the right moment (of course, once you've decided it stays that way at least until the end of the adventure)
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Dark Heresy have the Fate Points, which will unfailingly pull a character out of certain death and put them in a position where you are safe for the immediate moment. For small stuff a Fate Point will turn a killing blow to a glancing one, cause the enemies to take you prisoner instead of killing you on the spot, or let you dodge that lethal fall pit, but it becomes one of these when, say, you've just been killed by being spaced, caught inside a collapsing mine or building, or by having a daemon biting your head off.
  • This is Modus Operandi for the Legion of the Damned chapter of Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000. They appear without warning and aid beleaguered Imperial forces against the enemies of mankind, then disappear as soon as the battle is won just as suddenly as they came. Notably, this is one that creeps out the Imperials something fierce. Interestingly, one of the theories behind the Damned Legionnaires' appearance is that they are extensions of the God-Emperor's will. Although he's more like Deus IN Machina. You know, the Golden Throne?
  • An actual game mechanic in World of Synnibarr (really). If your character is on the verge of death with no hope of salvation, you actually get a dice roll to see if your patron deity turns up to haul your arse out of the fire.
  • For some Game Masters, this is going to happen eventually. Whether it be a Total Party Kill where it shouldn't be, the players making a decision that turns out to be much worse than they could imagine, or other misadventure, a group of players will find themselves in a situation where the only way out is to basically cheat. Some GMs will just rewrite the then-latest events, but for GMs who like to maintain the narrative, this may be the only way out.

  • In the prologue to his Amphitryon, the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus parodied and lampshaded this trope somewhat by having the god Mercury explain to the audience that there's a precedent for having the gods be active characters in this play: wasn't it just last year that somebody performed a play on this very stage in which someone in dire straits called on Jupiter and (lo and behold) out popped Jupiter to save the situation?
  • In the musical City of Angels, writer Stine finally snaps after witnessing the culmination of the Executive Meddling on his Film Noir screenplay, and the producer sics the studio cops on him. Detective protagonist Stone (appearing as Stine's Spirit Advisor after his part was brutally miscast by the studio) goes over to Stine's typewriter and does a little Rewriting Reality, making Stine beat up the cops and defeat the producer. For an encore, Stone types a little more and reunites Stine with the wife he cheated on: "A Hollywood ending!"
  • In John Milton's Comus, the Spirit complains that the brothers let Comus get away with his Magic Wand so they can't free their sister — but wait. He recounts the tale of how Sabrina (previously unmentioned) became a goddess and then calls on her to help them, which she does.
  • Spoofed, perhaps even deconstructed by Woody Allen in his one-act play God, an excellent if strange production which has No Fourth Wall whatsoever; it's nominally about two Ancient Greeks trying to put on a play right there, when Trichinosis shows Diabetes his new invention, a machine for lowering the gods to the stage in order to solve characters' problems. (He boasts that he's going to make a fortune with it: "Sophocles put a deposit on one. Euripides wants two.") Unfortunately, when turned on, it winds up strangling the actor playing Zeus.
    Diabetes: God is dead.
  • Hell-Bent Fer Heaven: The dam has failed and everyone seems doomed to die in the impending flood—when Sid reveals that he wrangled a boat on his way back from the dam.
  • The Mozart opera Idomeneo includes a literal example. Idamante is about to be sacrificed to Neptune, when the god's voice proclaims that he is to live instead and take the throne from his father.
  • Euripides was so well known for using this device that in Poetics, Aristotle singles him out when discussing why it's bad, while Aristophanes made Euripides a character in one of his plays and had him at one point enter the stage with a crane. Examples include:
    • Iphigeneia in Tauris ends with Iphigeneia, brother, and his friend being pursued by enemies over the sea. A wind appears to make their escape more difficult — but Athena appears to order the pursuit to stop. Many critics have noted that apparently Euripides introduced the wind, which serves no other plot function, solely in order to have an excuse to make Athena appear.
    • Alcestis resolves the seemingly unsolvable dilemma at the center of the play (the title character has agreed to die in place of her husband, and Death insists on taking one of them) by having Heracles show up and wrestle Death into submission.
    • In Iphigeneia at Aulus, after Iphigeneia finally agrees to be sacrificed so that Artemis will stop holding back the winds keeping the Greek fleet from sailing, the priests come down in the final scene and say that when they looked away Iphigeneia had been replaced with a pig. Not highlighted for spoilers since she obviously lives if there's a sequel.
    • In Orestes, Orestes and his sister have been condemned to death for murdering their mother (which Orestes was ordered to do by Apollo, since their mother killed their father, which she did because the father had killed their sister...). The two of them and Orestes' best friend Pylades have escaped, taken Orestes' fiancée hostage, and are holed up in the palace ready to burn it all down around them... when all of a sudden Apollo pops in, orders everyone to stop fighting, and ensures that all of the leads are friends and/or married. This ending is traditionally read as Euripides having written himself into a situation where none of his characters could be expected to solve things without divine intervention. However, more modern readings of the play as a Stealth Parody (as in Anne Carson's super-snarky translation), suggest that we are fully meant to notice how arbitrary Apollo's solutions to the characters' problems are.
  • Mrs. Winter's arrival at the end of Nice Work If You Can Get It serves only to resolve all plot conflicts, clear a few mysteries, and allow for a happy ending for all.
  • In Pokémon Live!, the original Mewtwo shows up and saves the day, using his telepathy and Ash's heart to give MechaMew2 a Care Bear Stare. There was no way he could defeat Giovanni on his own, especially since Pikachu had already been knocked out.
  • Parodied in P.D.Q. Bach's The Stoned Guest. At the end of the opera, every character is killed or otherwise dies. Then, for literally no reason at all (other than the arbitrary decree of the composer's patron, who didn't like the original ending), they all spring back to life and sing about how it's a happy ending.
  • Molière tended to lean on this to wrap up many of his comedies. In Tartuffe the protagonists are saved in the last act when a police officer shows up out of the blue with an order from the king arresting the villain. The conclusion of The School for Wives is so bizarrely complicated that we're still not quite sure what happened, but the gist is that the star-crossed lovers' respective families show up to let them know that they had arranged their marriage years ahead of time (without either of them knowing it).
  • Bertolt Brecht:
    • Parodied in The Threepenny Opera, where the playwright actually goes to the length of having his characters explain that the play really ends differently... but, for the sake of a happy ending, a royal official enters on horseback to make everything better. The play ends with a comment saying how unlike real life this is.
    • There's an inversion of this trope in another Brecht play, The Good Person of Szechwan. Just as things have got as bad as they can possibly get for the protagonist, Three Gods (who have been present on Earth since the opening scene, and in fact were responsible for the protagonist's predicament in the first place), pointedly do not step in to resolve matters, and instead mount a giant pink cloud and ascend into the heavens.
    • Brecht was very fond of parodying - and thwarting - an audience's need for closure and happy endings, as it was part of his theatrical manifesto to leave an audience unsatisfied, and thus hopefully motivated to go out into the world and change things for the better.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan often used these (or very out-of-left-field Third Options disguised as these) to resolve their plots. Which ones are straightforward Deus ex Machinas and which ones are parodies or subversions can be an interesting subject for debate.
    • H.M.S. Pinafore is certainly one of the more genuine examples; although Little Buttercup often hints that she has a dark secret, and there is a more subtle clue in Ralph's erudite vocabulary, nothing in the play could remotely help an audience think that Ralph and the Captain being switched at birth is even plausible in the world of the play, let alone that Buttercup would have been involved plus on board at the right time to reveal it, etc., etc. But hey, look at that, it happens to solve both the A- and B-plots in one fell swoop! Cue the finale, it's time to go home!
    • The Pirates of Penzance, on the other hand, is a definite parody. Not only have wacky plot elements been present from the beginning of the operetta, but there has been plenty of foreshadowing of Ruth's final revelation (that the pirates are really noblemen); from the first line of the first song, in fact! (Examples: they drink sherry instead of rum or grog, they hold fast to their code of honour even when it leads to their constant defeat in battle, and there is an entire song about how it's better to be a pirate king than a real one). In the same opera, the police deliberately try to invoke this. At the moment when they are most hopelessly defeated in battle, they... call on Queen Victoria: The mere mention of her name makes the pirates give up instantly out of loyalty to her.
  • William Shakespeare was generally good at averting and subverting this. Measure for Measure has an ending that probably seems like Deus ex Machina to the characters, but the audience spent the entire play watching the Chessmaster set it up. A Midsummer Night's Dream ends amicably when the fairies step in and fix everything with magic, but it takes them three tries to get it right and in the meantime they screw everything up even worse. The ending of The Winter's Tale is either this or Fridge Brilliance, depending on how you read it (although it did name a trope that is usually a DEM).
    Some straight examples:
    • The final scene of As You Like It has a normal one and a literal one: Jaques, the never-before-seen brother of Oliver and Orlando, shows up inexplicably in the Forest of Arden to announce that the usurping Duke Fredrick has found religion and restored his dukedom to his banished brother. But before that, Hymen, the literal god of marriage, shows up to resolve romantic subplots and make predictions in rhyming couplets.
    • In The Comedy of Errors an abbess we've never seen before shows up, and she's the long-lost wife of Egeon and mother of the Antipholuses, one of which had been living in the same town with her all this time and never knew.
    • Occurs offscreen in Shakespeare's Hamlet, between 4.4 and 4.6: on the way to England, Hamlet is kidnapped by pirates, who kindly return him to Denmark.
    • In The Merchant of Venice, Portia produces a document at the end which reveals that Antonio's ships didn't sink after all and he is still rich. It is never explained how she got this information or why she didn't reveal it before Shylock lost everything he owned and Antonio nearly died.

  • Happens quite a bit in BIONICLE, but three particular examples stand out:
    • In the final moments of the Bohrok-Kal arc, Tahu summons the Kanohi Vahi, which gives the Toa Nuva just enough time to defeat the Kal, who were literally only seconds away from victory. There was no prior indication that Tahu had the Vahi (though the novelization Makuta's Revenge fixes this).
    • In the Toa Inika's battle with Vezon, Jaller pulls out a unique Zamor Sphere that freezes Vezon in stasis when Vezon, who's in the middle of a rage-induced Villainous Breakdown, attempts to inflict a Fate Worse than Death on Matoro, allowing the Inika to recover the Mask of Life. Unlike the Vahi example, there was a scene of Axonn giving Jaller the sphere, however its power was never explained,note  which raises a lot of Fridge Logic.
    • In the Grand Finale Journey's End arc, completely out of the blue, the Mask of Life creates a mystical set of Golden Armor for Tahu, which is capable of annihilating every single Rahkshi soldier and gaining all their abilities. Granted, the Mask Of Life has done and created some pretty crazy things with its power before, but this is said to be a contingency plan of the Great Beings for if The Makuta ever rebelled. It was never mentioned prior to this, and you'd think it would've activated a lot sooner if it supposed to be a fail-safe.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the characters are forced to make a Sadistic Choice: either A. "Graduate", which would replace their memories of being the most dangerous terrorists alive who brought about the end of the world with the memories of the time they spent in the virtual world, reforming them and giving them hope for the future. This, however, would release a malevolent Artificial Intelligence (specifically that of their leader during their time as terrorists) which would infect every person on the planet, essentially turning it into a world of nothing but copies of said leader, plunging the recovering world into a permanent state of blood, horror, and, most especially, despair. Oh, and it would also trap a couple surviving characters from the first game inside the virtual world. Or B., activate the "Forced Shutdown", resulting in them losing all of the memories they've acquired in the virtual world and revert back to being the horrible terrorists (who are also physically mutilated), with a chance of being executed. However, this would completely destroy said malevolent AI, saving the world. They choose option B. The ending of the game reveals that after getting out of the program, the characters decide to stay on the island and try to revive their friends who died inside the virtual world (of which there is a very, very small chance of pulling off), peaceably seeing off said first-game characters who put them in the program in the first place. Obviously, they didn't simply revert to their old terrorist selves; either the Forced Shutdown replaced their terrorist memories with their virtual ones, or they now have both sets of memories. Either way, there was no foreshadowing or explanation given for how or why the program would behave in such a way.

    Web Animation 
  • Lampshaded in The One Ring to Rule Them All 2. Frodo and Sam escape their lava trap with no other explanation than "plot device, Mr. Frodo, plot device".
  • Super Mario Bros. Z: In Episode 7, Kolorado's grandfather's stopwatch was revealed to house an ancient magic which proved to be the only thing capable of negating the curse trapping the characters within the Minus World, allowing them all to escape. Alvin-Earthworm, the series creator, criticizes himself for writing this into the episode, and he intends to omit this episode from the reboot as a result.

    Web Comics 
  • Bob and George, where rather often various "convenient plot devices" were thrown in (to the point that even the author of the series himself became a regular cast member).
  • T-Rex of Dinosaur Comics explains it in his inimitable style here.
  • In an apparently unintentional lampshaded example, Miranda of Dominic Deegan has taken to calling herself "Deus Ex Momina," being a rather jarring Parent ex Machina in what is neither a sitcom nor starred by a teenager. Word of God states the joke was her terrible delivery of the joke rather than being one of the most Meta Guy moments the comic's ever had. There are other events where this happens, sometimes even being mentioned by the cast.
  • The plot of Errant Story is kicked off when Meji casts a spell to invoke a Deus ex Machina so she can find a way to complete her senior project and graduate from wizard school. As a result, she accidentally discovers, in the school library, the only surviving copy of a book that contains some information that the elves were trying to keep secret. Oddly, despite the name of the trope being mentioned, this is not a normal example of the literary trope, because it serves to drive the plot rather than resolve it.
  • In Game Destroyers, Ferahgo is a purposeful example of this, and Jipples has become a minor, though lazy, example of this as well.
  • Kevin & Kell has seen its fair share of these in its two decades as a comic. One arc from June of 2011 involving factional elections amongst rabbits comes to an end with a completely unexplained, contrived resolution that restores the status quo, just in time for the Dewclaw family to escape their latest conundrum. Made all the more jarring by their salvation in this situation spontaneously appearing and disappearing with no indication from where or why it came and left as it did. Even if the final strip is a hint to who saved the day, it's still never mentioned before or after.
  • Magick Chicks: At the end of chapter 15, Cerise mass teleported the student council to their uncertain doom and she was the only one who knew their location. You'd think it would've paved the way for a Rescue Arc, or that she'd be forced undo the spell and return them. Nope. Near the end of chapter 18, the wand became an all-purpose problem solver by enabling Mel to sense they were alive, instantly whisked her to where they were, and back, in less than a minute.
  • The Order of the Stick: The MitD plays this role in this comic. While the Monster in the Darkness is a mystery to everyone except Rich Berlew; this new ability introduced comes right out of nowhere and at the most convenient of times for our heroes. The fact that it also reunites them back with their friends does not help. This comic also features something that is hard to accept at face value (no air turbulence and coincidence). It's deliberately played off under Rule of Funny so it is excusable, but still tastes like a Writer Cop Out. Receives lampshading here. Also, while it's not quite an example (there are a few hints), the comic lampshades how close it is to this when Julio Scoundrel arrives just in time to save the Order of the Stick from Elan's father in his flying airship. The name of his airship? The Machina.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In Questionable Content the cast are trapped in an alley by a crazed Knight Templar / Anti-Hero and her robot Sidekick until they are saved at the last minute by their own robot sidekicks under the battle cry "Deus Ex Machina!". QC, one should note, is set in a slightly-warped version of the real world, somewhere between Mundane Fantastic and a sci-fi or superhero world.
    • The introduction of Spookybot and quick resolution of Bubbles and Faye's problems with Corpse Witch is arguably another example.
  • In this Real Life Comics strip, Greg wants to buy Diablo II but he has no money. The author then declares he has enough money. In the following strip, the author makes a copy of the Collector's Edition of the game appear in the store.
    • The Author shows up semi-regularly in the comic, usually to get the plot moving in an "It would take too long to get from A to B the regular way." (Such as when she took Liz from "Trying to conceive their second child" to "eight months pregnant" in one panel) One notable exception is when she made sure the newborn Parker Dean was completely healthy, rather than saddled with the health problems his real-life counterpart (plus his parents) had to deal with.
    • Tony and his ridiculous mad science tech can play this role, but Tony tends to be the only one to take advantage (such as when he gave himself immortality. It didn't stick.) He offered to give Mae a perfect transition to female in an afternoon, but "she" decided the "right way" to do it would be the normal, no-shortcuts way...
      Tony: Are you sure?
      Mae: Apparently.
      The Author: For the last time, if I had to suffer, so do you.
  • Justified: Sluggy Freelance features a literal Dea Ex Machina who is not a literary Deus Ex Machina in the "That Which Redeems" story arc. The goddess of good has been trapped in the Demon King's refrigerator since the conquest of her world, but as the story had been told within the comic years previously, her appearance was widely predicted by the readers. So when she's freed from the fridge and sets things right, no one's really surprised.
    • Also in that unsealing the goddess was a Torg's deliberate goal that he struggled and sacrificed for, whereas a Deus Ex Machina is by definition easy and out of nowhere. This is really more Sealed Good in a Can (though if it were a can instead of a leaky ziplock, we'd be short several plotlines).
    • The "Holiday Wars" arc plays with it and provides a Double Subversion. We learn that there exist three magic "Deus ex ova", Latin for "God from the eggs", magic eggs created by the Greek gods that will hit the Reset Button if broken, and that Bun-Bun's main antagonist Santa Claus has one of them. Finally, when Santa is left with no other options, he tries to use it, but Bun-Bun, being the Easter Bunny, has hidden the egg. Later, Bun-Bun himself is forced to use it to save his own life, magically bringing all of his enemies back to life and defeating him, but leaving him alive.
    • The end of 'Oceans Unmoving' literally has a god from out of nowhere, or at least his blood relative. While the sudden appearance of the brother of a Time God living in the basement of a timeless dimension is thematically consistent, he really seemed to appear just in time to wrap up the storyline quicker. Bonus points for wrapping the continuity to the beginning of the series though, and explaining Bun-bun's appearance without revealing any mysteries about his past. This is lampshaded, since Uncle Time automatically assumes that Bun-Bun solved his riddle, which led him there. Bun-Bun has never even heard of the riddle or Uncle Time, despite all of the lore and myths that the story invokes.
  • Schlock Mercenary on several occasions. Also lampshaded here.
    • The Petey-focused extra story in the printed version of book 7 is actually called "Deus ex Nausea", as scenario after scenario is resolved by sudden Fleetmind interference. He's actually trying to subtly kill the literary device in several cultures in an attempt to make them more self-reliant, which gets awkward when he's simultaneously acting as one.

    Web Original 
  • Chronicle of the Annoying Quest features a character named "Dues X. Machina" (Pronounced "doose"). The name seems to be an ironic joke, however, as he doesn't actually do anything plot-related in his first appearance (though he does provide another excuse for hilarity to ensue...)
  • The 7th Chrono Hustle story, which is in fact title Deus Ex Machina, involves a situation where Jack Masterson is about to be raped by Aphrodite. He has no way out of the situation when suddenly Hermes, who had not been so much as mentioned up to that point, shows up. He doesn't actually save the day, but does provide enough of a distraction to give the rest of the main cast time to show up.
  • Dream: In "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE," after he goes underwater and digs down, he finds some diamonds. Christmas music starts playing.
  • In Keit-Ai, an unexplained deus ex machina is responsible for letting a boy get the phone number of his crush, only to realize later that it was actually from the alternate universe version of his crush instead.
  • The Lay of Paul Twister: When Paul Twister is right about to get caught by a guard, an angelic warrior whose life he had saved at the beginning of the story shows up to conveniently provide a distraction, just long enough for him to get away. Paul is a bit freaked out by this, since it seems to have come out of nowhere and required knowledge that she shouldn't have had, and he figures that whatever he's caught up in is probably about to get worse.
    Things like that just didn't happen to me, suddenly being bailed out by an unexpected ally, just seconds after being caught flat-footed. And she was a Celestial, to boot. Seriously, all that was missing was the ''machina''!
  • Anything classified as Thaumiel by The SCP Foundation essentially works as this trope, being objects that could be of benefit to the Foundation. Of particular note is SCP-2000, which basically acts as a Reset Button to clone humanity in the event of an apocalypse.
  • Played for Laughs in The Onion Sports Dome reporting a collapse of the Staples Center had brought an early end to a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns where the home team Clippers were on the losing end of a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Frequently delivered by random old men in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. Cao Cao apparently has a subscription with Deus Ex Machina Services, Inc.

    Web Videos 
  • In H.Bomberguy's video on the 2017 British Election, the horror of having to live through another Tory government is immediately resolved when the money birds come back home
  • The Nostalgia Chick: Averted during the course of "The Dark Nella Saga" with the jar of mayonnaise. While it does allow for teleportation and resurrection it was shown being injected with "a plot device" by Lord MacGuffin early on in the saga. The only remaining question is how Dr. Tease got the jar in the first place...
  • Some Jerk with a Camera: After accidentally erasing his own birth at the very end of his "It's a Small World" review, Jerk is saved by a dimensional figure called The All-Being, who transports him to an alternate universe that's exactly the same as his old own.
  • Averted in Video Game High School, season 2: The Law Is saved from Shane's men by Robot ShotBot. It is a Deus Ex Machina even more considering that he is saved by a machine, but we must consider that ShotBot's intervention was foretold in the beginning of the episode, and that his presence really is useful for the next events: ShotBot stays on track and makes the narration progress.
  • Noob: La Croisée des Destins: At the very en of the movie, Gaea, a Starving Student who's trying to live off schloarship as long as she can according to All There in the Manual, get an inverted case of Heroism Equals Job Qualification (in that the act that lands her the job is awesome, but otherwise villainous). The character who offers her the job is a pre-existing minor character that gave absolutely no previous indication of being in a position in which he could offer her such a job.
  • The Champions has one in the Season 3 finale: after the Champions League goalkeepers fail to prevent The End of the World as We Know It via meteor strike, the damage is reversed by the intervention of Galactic VAR.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dei Ex Machina


Lightning Strikes the Stage

The Anderson Farm is a concert stage rigged with a stage-show and a fake dragon that is miraculously activated by a lightning bolt.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (2 votes)

Example of:

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Main / DeusExMachina