River Song: How impossible?
The Doctor: Two minutes.
This trope is when someone receives an extremely difficult task which should take them a long time to complete, if at all, but they finish much sooner than anyone expected. This task doesn't need to come from someone else; maybe they challenged someone to a contest of some kind not knowing their opponent was the world champion at that particular activity. The important thing is that the person performing the task not only succeeds, but greatly surpasses expectations.
Can overlap with Achievements in Ignorance. Compare Impossible Task, for when the task is merely completed, possibly even just by technicality. Also compare Scotty Time, where a challenging task is ordered to be completed unrealistically quickly. Also see We Do the Impossible for characters who are likely to accomplish this kind of thing.
- Dragon Ball: Master Roshi took 50 years to develop the Kamehameha Wave, and is first seen using it to extinguish a burning mountain. He levels the mountain, but that's not the point. The point is, Goku performs a weaker version of it almost immediately after seeing this feat, leaving Roshi absolutely stunned.
- The last (so far) non-canon movie, The Path to Power, has Goku perfectly recreating the large blast Roshi used against the Red Ribbon Army's navy, led by General Blue.
- Mr. Satan told his daughter, Videl, that she was only allowed to date a boy who could beat him in a fight. So she did.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Initially Played for Laughs when Kenichi's rival Takeda seeks training from the retired boxer James Shiba, who immediately sends him on a Snipe Hunt for a "two-headed" pachinko ball. No sooner has he closed the door does Takeda find one, forcing him to come up with a more elaborate Snipe Hunt (which Takeda also completes, albeit with endurance as well as luck).
- Naruto: Like the above example, Jiraiya trained with Fukusaku to use Sage Mode, something he couldn't really master perfectly, even in his 50s. Naruto too undergoes the same training, with a problem though: Kyuubi won't let Fukusaku sync with him to accumulate nature energy. Naruto is forced to master the thing in around a month and use clones to gather energy for him. Justified, as Naruto accumulates the collective experience of his clones (so he can train more in the same amount of time), and has greater chakra reserves than Jiraiya.
- Naruto learned nature transformation and soon after figured how to add his nature transformation to a rasengan, something that Kakashi and Minato had tried to do for years and that Kakashi gave up on. He also accomplished this by using clones.
- By Word of God, his son Boruto developed the vanishing rasengan by accidentally adding his nature transformation to an otherwise ordinary rasengan.
- The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius: People from a parallel universe enlist Barry — Child Prodigy and Badass Bookworm — to retrieve a MacGuffin from a Temple of Doom that no one has ever survived. They acknowledge it's a desperate task, and they just hope that in the time he can spend in their dimension (two days) Barry will find some clue they can build upon. When they finish explaining, they realize with horror that Barry has already left for the temple — and he gets back one minute later, MacGuffin in hand.
- This is generally what happens when you take any villain of cosmic power in the Marvel Universe and pit them against Squirrel Girl.
- In Batman (Tom King), during his attack on Arkham Asylum, Bane kidnaps the Riddler and gives him five minutes to hack a security door. Riddler notes that it's of New Genesis design, the creation of beings vastly more advanced and intelligent then us, impossible for a human to break...and he'll only need two.
- In Mega Man Reawakened, the police give Wily a huge bail sum of a billion dollars, hoping it will deter him until the trial. Glyde pays it right off and he goes free.
- In Pokémon Strangled Red, Steven catches Missingno with no Pokémon with which to battle, just by saying, "Mine."
- Iron Man: Tony Stark is captured by would-be conquerors, locked in a cave with a box of scraps, and commanded to build a Jericho Missile of his own design. He instead designs a miniature Arc Reactor, builds it, designs a suit of Powered Armor, builds it, and escapes. All in just one week.
- The Last Hero: Leonard da Quirm is ordered by the gods to paint the ceiling of a massive chapel in Ankh-Morpork with suitably epic art, and is given 10 years to do so. Everyone present reacts as though this is too short a time. A week later, he has finished painting the chapel with a view of the Discworld, as seen from directly above
- Going Postal: At the climax of the book, Postmaster Moist von Lipwig has challenged the clacks system, which is a form of sending messages over long distances with flashing lights (used as a stand-in for the internet in Discworld), to a race. Whoever can deliver their copy of a message to its destination on the other side of the Disc first, wins. Subverted, as instead of even trying to deliver the message, Moist sends his own clacks message, claiming to be the spirits of people who died as a result of the antagonist's actions, thus enabling an investigation into the antagonist's shady dealings, simultaneously setting back the clacks development long enough for the postal system to regain its footing.
- The Last Continent: Rincewind, with a bit of help from a talking shapeshifting kangaroo, completely shatters the record for speed sheep shearing, having never tried it before.
- Interesting Times: Rincewind is running away from his latest pursuer so fast, he runs over the surface of a fish pond. But he isn't the recipient of this trope this time. That honor goes to Pretty Butterfly, who caught up with him.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden ends up doing these from time to time as the series goes on and he accumulates more power and enemies.
- Changes: Harry has just found out that he has a daughter, who has been abducted by the Red Court. Within a matter of days, he tracks down where they're keeping her, picks up nearly every weapon at his disposal including the power of the Winter Knight, fights his way through hundreds of vampires, takes down a powerful sorceress in single combat, takes down The Red King, and finally turns their ritual spell against them, resulting in genocide of the Red Court of Vampires.
- Cold Days: The plot of the book involves Harry being tasked with killing an immortal. Before a day has passed, Karrin Murphy shoots his target, Maeve, on Halloween night, the one night a year immortals... aren't. His task was considered completed by proxy.
- The Doctor of Doctor Who does this fairly often. On one occasion, he restored all of time and space, within about two thousand years.
- On Star Trek: The Original Series, Kirk often asks Scotty to perform impossible feats of engineering, generally involving completing repairs in a much shorter time than Scotty claims that he needs. He always comes through. In the third movie it's revealed that Scotty always multiplies his estimates by a factor of (at least) four, so that his tasks only seem impossible. Geordi La Forge on The Next Generation may be a better example of the trope. In one episode, when a visiting Scotty learns that the estimates Geordi gives Picard are actually accurate, he asks, horrified, "How do you expect to be considered a miracle worker if you tell them how long it will really take?" And yet Geordi still manages to pull things off just in time, and well under the given estimates.
- On Stargate Atlantis, McKay uses this as a Badass Boast.
"I'm Dr. Rodney McKay, alright? Difficult takes a few seconds; impossible, a few minutes."
- When McKay is trapped on an island full of criminals and is forced to try to figure out how to open the gate to let them escape (they're kept as Wraith food), the criminal in charge brushes off McKay's claims that it's impossible, pointing out that he knows McKay's type. They'll complain about the impossibility and then figure out how to do it just to make themselves seem even smarter.
- Angel: A time-traveling demon named Sahjhan has been manipulating events to kill Angel, but it's not going fast enough, so he enlists the help of Wolfram and Hart:
Sahjhan: I have a plan. But for it to work, I require a very rare and valuable ingredient. Getting it will be difficult, if not impossible. I need the blood of Angel's son.Lilah: Got it.Sahjhan: Beat What do you mean, 'Got it'?
- On Green Acres, Mr. Douglas had spent days trying to find a part for his old tractor. Since the company that made it was long since gone, it was impossible to find. Mrs. Douglas added the part to the list for a scavenger hunt for some kids she was babysitting, and they found it in a few minutes.
- In Hindu Mythology, the ancient king Yayati conquered the whole earth in just six days.
- Rama's ancestor, King Mandhata was said to have conquered the earth in one day.
- Some of Heracles' twelve tasks from Greek Mythology were accomplished within ridiculous time limits, particularly cleaning the enormous and spectacularly filthy Aegean Stables in a day and another where he managed to sleep with and impregnate 50 Amazons in a single night. Though, he was a demigod.
- Very high-level Dungeons & Dragons characters (especially at epic levels) can pull this off. For instance, creating a masterwork sword within seconds, or taming a powerful wild beast within a minute.
- This is the domain of the Exalted in general, and the solars in particular. Of special note is that killing any one of the primordials was supposed to be theoretically impossible, but the Exalted killed half of them in a war lasting as little as 2 weeks according to some sources
- Mass Effect: Pretty much everything Commander Shepard does. Suicide mission to Ilos, which features The Dragon, the Big Bad, a Nigh-Invulnerable dreadnaught backed up by an entire fleet of geth? Done. What's next? Oh, another suicide mission that takes the previous accomplishment up a notch? Done, possibly without losing a single person. As Shepard can say, "They say it's a suicide mission. I intend to prove them wrong." And s/he does. And makes it look easy.
- Which is what makes the fall of Thessia in Mass Effect 3 even more of a gut punch. Before, even being killed couldn't stop Shepard. This mission is the absolute nadir of Shep's career, because Thane's killer got away with the Catalyst data, the asari homeworld and cradle of the oldest civilisation in the current cycle is forsaken to the Reapers, but most of all, Shepard couldn't save the day. It's the only legitimate defeat that Shepard suffers in the entire trilogy. Needless to say, this was a sobering moment for the Normandy.
- Kingdom Hearts II: Sora destroys 1000 heartless in hardly any time at all. The awesomeness of this is dampened as all of said heartless had an attached Reaction Command which allowed the player to kill many at once.
- Touhou Project: Kaguya's spellcards are all themed around this trope. In-game, that means you have to defeat her (fairly difficult) spellcards. Of course, if Kaguya is involved, "instant" and "eternity" might as well mean nothing...
- And then there is Youmu, the sole gardener of Yuyuko's impossibly vast garden in the afterlife...
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The Link in this game has no connection to the Hero of Time from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but manages to get wrapped up in Ganon's plot after his sister, Aryll, is kidnapped. He then proceeds to power through his Butt-Monkey status, wield the Master Sword, repower the degraded Master Sword, earn the Triforce of Courage and the title of Hero of Winds, and win a Duel to the Death with Ganon. All in a matter of weeks, if not days.
- Also toyed with in-game during the pirate ship minigames. The pirate to whom you are swabby challenges you to complete tasks that took him months, if not years, to accomplish. Skilled players can often complete this tasks on a few, if not a single, attempt.
- Borderlands 2 has a few instances of this. For example, Wilhelm, Handsome Jack's right-hand man — well, more like half man, half fifteen-foot-tall dump truck — is set up to be an immensely powerful force to be reckoned with, having nearly killed the original Vault Hunters. Given the right equipment your player character (or team of characters, as the case may be) can vaporize Wilhelm in a matter of minutes.
- Handwaved by Handsome Jack on his Twitter feed and a Dummied Out line in the game itself; he mentions having poisoned Wilhelm before the encounter with the Borderlands 2 Vault Hunters, to trick them into taking a fake power core to Sanctuary.
- A later patch increased Wilhelm's HP and made him much tougher to take on solo — apparently he was supposed to be much easier to beat than expected, but not quite as easy as he ended up being originally
- Early on, Claptrap gives the player a quest that involves a series of either incredibly tedious, difficult or humiliating challenges so that they can access his secret locker. Said secret locker happens to be poorly hidden and simply a few steps behind you.
- Drive (Dave Kellett): The nameless maker was told to build a device which could isolate and contain a single quark— which the quantum physicists in the audience will note is impossible. With inadequate materials. Within a week. While fasting. He could have spent an extra day making it really impressive, but he wanted a sandwich, so he finished in an hour.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: According to this strip, if sex didn't exist, we'd conquer heaven in two months.
- Eek! The Cat: Eek is sent to hell, and forced to clean out an infinitely large litterbox. He finishes in three seconds. Played for Laughs.
- A core part of Phineas and Ferb. Hey, Ferb! I know what we're going to do today! Something that should take a crew of engineers months!
Baljeet: You can build a roller coaster in a day, but it takes you 12 minutes to pump up a tire?!
- The show being what it is, this is lampshaded to the end of the world and back. Like when Candace asks them to fix her absolutely destroyed phone, Phineas points out it took almost a century to perfect the technology so it should take... 38 minutes.
- Averted and Lampshaded by Baljeet while Phineas is inflating his bike's wheel.
- Played for Drama in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Katara tries teaching Aang an advanced waterbending technique that took her quite a while to master... and she is pissed when he learns it in a few minutes, and proceeds to outdo her... without understanding why she's so angry. Justified Trope: Aang is the Avatar, and has the advantage of channeling the experience of all his ancestors, even when not in the Avatar state.
- That said, most Avatars get years if not decades to master the elements. Because of an upcoming comet that's going to power up his enemies, Aang only gets a few months. He pulls it off while on the run.
- Though he actually only mastered Airbending (which he already mastered prior to the start of the series) and Waterbending, the element he spent the most time learning in the series proper. He was a relative novice with Firebending and Toph admitted his Earthbending still needed quite a bit of work (and he had mental blocks with both that he did not have with Waterbending). What he did is still incredible however, and if not for Sozin's Comet forcing a deadline on him to master the elements so he wasn't instantly stomped by Fire Lord Ozai he likely would've had all four elements truly mastered with maybe another year's time which is an incredible accomplishment.
- An episode of South Park has Kyle's parents telling him he can go to a concert for a band named "Raging Pussies" if he shovels the driveway, cleans the garage, and brings democracy to Cuba. Kyle does the first two, then sends a letter to Fidel Castro with a song about how if he had one wish, it would be for a free Cuba and how sad he is that they aren't. Castro is touched by the letter, and decides to change Cuba's government. Kyle's parents still don't let him go.
- Central Park: In Season 2 "Sir Bricks-A-Lot", Molly's art teacher in her story posted a description of a drawing on his chalkboard that's nearly impossible to draw for extra credit for his student and tells them that anyone who's able to draw it will be a famous artist and Molly is able to complete the drawing the next day. Although it's rather downplayed since Molly depicts the description in her story as impossible and the so-called challenge is "draw a turtle playing basketball underwater Garfield-style".
- One of many stories about mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss's early life involves a lazy teacher assigning his class the busy work to add up all numbers between 1 and 100. Within less than a minute, Gauss presented his answer of 5,050. He'd thought about it a moment, and realized that it's a set of 50 pairs of numbers that each add up to 101.
- Mathematician Clifford Cocks was recruited by GCHQ in September 1973. A few weeks later, his mentor Nick Patterson told him about 'a really whacky idea', a theorical public-key cryptosystem (by colleague James Ellis) that was missing a fitting mathematical function. Cocks then proceeded to solve the problem in thirty minutes, unaware that GCHQ's brightest minds had been struggling with it for three years and that he had made one of the most important cryptographic breakthroughs of the century. Full story here.
- Some teachers invoke this trope by including unsolved problems (usually math problems) on a test, under the reasoning that a student without any preconceptions of the unsolvability of that problem will accidentally hit on a solution.
- Projects like Folding@home or Foldit using the brute force of millions of CPUs and GPUs, respectively gamers´ intuition, for various scientific goals that are based on this trope. One example for all.
- An Urban Legend has it that, for his final exam, a philosophy professor puts a chair on top of a desk and announces to his class, "Prove that this chair does not exist. You have one hour." While the other students are scribbling furiously in their bluebooks, one student takes a thoughtful moment, writes (very) briefly in his, hands it in and leaves. The professor opens up the bluebook and reads, "What chair?" (The student gets an A.)