Deux ex machina:an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, esp. as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.
This is a plot device I have a massive issue with in contemporary literature and even on the silver screen and the small screen. A writer can use a deus ex machina, of course, but in order to pull it off effectively, it has to be done rarely and it has to be done reasonably. Take, for example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of the Great Eagles as a deus ex machina both in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings. In the former, when all hope seems lost outside the Misty Mountains, where the party of dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo are surrounded by orcs and wargs, the Great Eagles appear, swoop in, and deliver the company to safety. In The Lord of the Rings, the Eagles are also used as a deus ex machina, but less so (although Peter Jackson’s film adaptation gives them a greater role than the books happen to do). Tolkien’s usage of deus ex machina, contrary to many contemporary usages of the device, actually appears to be logical, reasonable, and rare.
Many writers of the current age seem to have become much too cavalier, especially certain television scriptwriters. Take, for example, the show Arrow on the CW, based upon the DC Comics’ character Green Arrow, who happens to be one of my favorite comic characters of all time. I remember one episode in particular, where the Huntress is about to send a crossbow bolt into a villain’s head, and then (deus ex machina!) Green Arrow jumps in to stop her bloody vengeance. Then Arrow is about to finish the Huntress and (deus ex machina!) other characters suddenly show up, preventing Green Arrow from accomplishing his mission, and letting the Huntress escape.
This use of deus ex machina to move the plot along not only cheapens the plot device, it also renders the plotline extremely difficult to place any sort of faith in, and utterly kills the suspension of disbelief. The amount of contemporary films and television shows that overuse deus ex machina is staggering. I challenge you to watch a piece of cinema or an episode of a show and actively search for usages of deus ex machina. You may be surprised.