Torture. That word should evoke all kinds of horrible images of pain and suffering and humiliation. Even when it is merely described, it has the effect of reducing many to wailing shivers. It takes a special kind of person to withstand brutal torture. No surprise, those characters make excellent heroes.
An episode about reinforcing how badass the hero is... by showing them completely helpless and at the mercy of someone who doesn't have their best interests in mind. Expect a lot of defiant comebacks. The torturer will almost always be Affably Evil. A Battle of Wits is commonplace also. Permanent psychological damage is a possibility.
Subtrope of Bottle Episode.
- Barbarella: Her brief stint in the Ex-sex-sive machine. It proved that orgasming her to death... would not be possible.
- If the sequel to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial had been made, part of it would have involved evil members of E.T.'s race coming to Earth searching for him and torturing Elliott and his family for information.
- Altered Carbon: In "Force of Evil", Takeshi Kovacs is imprisoned in the Wei Clinic, a facility that places his mind in a virtual torture chamber, and he is repeatedly tortured to "death" during the episode. Highlights include having his legs removed with a blowtorch, having an alien lizard inserted into a stomach wound, and being burned alive. To make matters worse, the Wei Clinic is designed around Everything Is an iPod in the Future, and specifically caters to the rich who want to torture/interrogate their enemies.
- Angel: In "In the Dark", Angel is tortured by a pedophile vampire named Marcus, hired by Spike, to give up the location of the Gem of Amarra.
- Babylon 5:
- After being captured by the Clark Administration, Sheridan was sent to an interrogation center on Mars, where he underwent brutal psychological torture and attempts to subvert his hold on reality. To further portray his isolation, the episode had no B plot, being set entirely within the center. Sheridan fails to crack and prepares himself for death, only for the execution to be a fake, and a new cycle of torture begins under a different interrogator.
- An unusual version in B5 Season 2, Comes the Inquisitor when Delenn spends the episode being tortured by a Vorlon inquisitor. The Vorlons are Delenn's allies. The audience knows from early on that she has volunteered for this as a test of her worthiness to play a leading role in the upcoming war, though that doesn't stop the Inquisitor from getting carried away, especially when Sheridan intervenes. At the end it turns out that the Inquisitor is Jack the Ripper, abducted from Victorian London by the Vorlons so they could harness his fanatical belief in absolutes of right and wrong, an early sign of the Vorlons' true nature.
- Another B5 example: G'Kar, after captured by the Centauri under Emperor Cartagia. As part of his scheme with Londo, he needed to stay alive, and this involved giving up his pride to preserve his life, giving Cartagia his scream.
"I must have my scream."
- Doctor Who: "Heaven Sent" sees the Doctor subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture by unseen tormentors who have trapped him alone in a castle in the middle of nowhere and observe from afar as he tries to figure out the workings of the place and escape a creature with a Touch of Death, all to get information about the Hybrid prophecy from him. He emerges from the experience for the Season Finale "Hell Bent" a ... changed man.
- Farscape: Happened to Crichton at least once per season, starting with that Aurora Chair.
- The Firefly episode "War Stories", where Wash and Mal are captured by Niska and have to endure his worst while waiting for the rest of the crew to bail them out.
- Narcos: The season 4 episode "881 Lope de Vega" has Kiki being tortured by the cartel throughout, and ends with his death.
- Person of Interest:
- In "Alethia", Control tortures Root to gain administrative access to the Machine.
- In "6,741", all the events that happened to Sameen Shaw are shown to be a virtual interrogation to make her reveal the rest of Team Machine or turn her against them. At the end of the episode, they start on session number 6742.
- The writers of Prison Break wanted to add one of these in the second season, but the Moral Guardians didn't approve.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Abyss" is about Jack being tortured for information by Ba'al — mostly information he doesn't actually know.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Chain of Command, Part II", Picard, after being captured by Cardassians, is tortured for information. When the torturer is failing to make any progress in breaking Picard, he attempts to get Picard to tell him (in a pretty direct reference to 1984) that there are five lights on a wall when there are only four. Picard defiantly insists there are four lights, despite being put through a full-body pain experience every time. In the end, Picard doesn't break, and when he is set free after Starfleet demands his release, he loudly proclaims that "THERE! ARE! FOUR LIGHTS!" He later tells his counselor that, in fact, his release happened just in the nick of time, because at that moment he was so broken that not only was he ready to say that there were five lights just to make the pain stop, he could actually see five lights.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "The Die is Cast", Garak, having rejoined his mentor in the Obsidian Order, is given/volunteers to interrogate Odo. The only tool at his disposal is a device which prevents Odo from shape-shifting or even reverting to his true liquid form, painfully trapping him in his humanoid shape far longer than he can maintain it of his own freewill. After hours of Odo stubbornly holding out as his physical form ''decays'' and mocking him about his decision to betray their friends, Garak is the one begging Odo to tell him something, anything, so that he can end their "session" and release Odo from his suffering. Finally, Odo can't take anymore and reveals the one secret he's been keeping about his people, that he still, despite all their crimes and evil actions, wants to be with them in the Great Link. Garak is smug for a moment, proven correct in his assumption that there was something Odo was keeping secret, until Odo quietly (and still suffering) offers his congratulations and hope that this information is useful to him. The look on Garak's face shifts immediately to My God, What Have I Done? and he rushes to disable to anti-shape-shifting field. In the end, what could have been a Moral Event Horizon for Garak, leads to him and Odo becoming friends based on the revelation that they are Not So Different (each of them isolated from, but longing to return to, their own people despite them being their enemy).
- A four-episode arc of Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the Mirror Universe; naturally, several characters (including Captain Lorca) end up in agony booths.
- Adventure Time has "Power Animal", in which Finn is abducted by gnomes and forced to power their doomsday machine by various sadistic means.
- The Question spends most of the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flashpoint" being either tortured or carried out of the torture facility.
- "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted". Though it was All Just a Dream.
- Recess somewhat parodies this with "The Box". The episode deals with Miss Finster's new punishment for the kids, "the box", which is just a square drawn on the blacktop. After T.J. ends up in there, it ends up breaking him and sends him into a Madness Mantra.
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Rebel Resolve", a recently captured Kanan is tortured by the Empire for information. He was deliberately kept out of the loop on the secrets they want, so he has nothing to give.