When I listed different methods for ending the either or problem with a third choice, I didn’t give any examples because, honestly, the article was long enough already. So if you wanted some examples of each type, you’re in luck! Here are 12 examples of ending the either or problem with a third choice.
Warning: there may be a lot of spoilers.
Examples that End an Either Or Problem with a Third Choice
Here are some examples of how this technique has been used.
- The Fellowship of the Ring: Frodo is fleeing to Rivendell on Glorfindel’s horse, and the Nazgul are catching up. He can either be caught as he tries to flee or turn and fight. Suddenly, the river rises up and sweeps the Nazgul away thanks to Elrond.
- Speaking of Tolkien’s Middle Earth series, this technique is also used when the Eagles arrive to take them from the fiery trees (every time the Eagles arrive really), when Gollum takes the ring back at the end, and probably a number of other situations that I’m not remembering.
- The Lion King: Simba and Nala are cornered by angry jackals. They have to fight, and they’re either going to win or die. Then, Mufasa appears and sends the jackals running thanks to Zazu, which Simba and Nala didn’t even know was an option.
- The main characters are taken captive, but just as they are about to be killed, their captor’s enemies attack. So… they’re free of the first group (mission accomplished). Unfortunately, now they’re someone else’s captives (which generally leads to an opening that wouldn’t have existed with the first captor). (Yes, I know it’s not a specific example, but you can think of a couple, right?)
Actually, these should all seem pretty familiar.
Sudden Epiphany or Reveal
Only 2 for this one: one book and one movie.
- In Disney’s Moana,Te Kā rears up thanks to the fight with Maui, and Moana sees the spiral pattern on the demon’s stone chest, which makes Moana realize what she needs to do to return the stone to Te Fiti.
- A Wrinkle in Time uses this, as well. At the climactic moment, Meg’s two choices are to join IT (something she is struggling against constantly) or to continually fight to figure out how to defeat IT. She has no idea how to defeat IT until IT (through Charles) makes a comment that inadvertently reveals to her what she has that IT doesn’t (Thanks, IT!).
That’s enough to give you an idea, but if anyone wants to add more examples in the comments, you’re welcome to.
I know this has been used in spy movies, but I can’t think of any right now. So these 4 examples are what you get!
- River’s ability to shoot in Firefly is the perfect example: a character is in desperate straights (fight and die OR don’t fight and die), and a character with no background in shooting appears and saves the day. Thanks to River’s already mysterious abilities (who knows what was done to her?), this doesn’t mess up the characterization.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: To Scout, Atticus is a smart father that she obviously adores but is also a bit embarrassed by because he is a bit older, wears glasses, and prefers to read rather than hunt. When a mad dog comes into town, the obvious options to the children are completely derailed by Atticus being asked to shoot the dog with a rifle because they had no idea that he was a crack shot (a slightly vague example as far as an either-or choice; however, the secret skill reveal was too good to leave it out).
- In Ghost Hunt, Ayako is established as pretty useless – until the last storyline of the tv show where she saves them all from a horde of spirits and leaves them all wondering, why on Earth haven’t you ever used this before? She had an excellent answer, so it works as a plot device (and doesn’t make the rest of the series seem like a lie).
- For Trigun, Vash gets out of deadly situations because of skills the audience (and other characters) doesn’t know about for a long part of the series. It’s an intriguing use of the technique because it uses the secret skill to save the characters yet manages to keep the skill secret for quite a while – not an easy feat!
All the other examples I can think of at the moment come from anime. Hmmm… interesting.
Oh, that crazy unexpected. Here are 2 characters that thrive on it.
- Miles from the Vorkosigan Saga: His claim to fame is his brain and ability to think of things no one expected. Granted, it gets him into a lot of trouble, but it also often gets him out of said trouble. For example, when he finds himself in a bad situation where the obvious options are 1. surrender and beg for mercy or 2. run, he picks option#3: taking over the mercenaries against him through fast-talking.
- Then, there’s Peter Quill. At the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, he can either try to fight Yondu or hand over the stone. He chooses one of the best third options – appearing to make one of the obvious choices while actually doing something else.
There you go! Examples of each kind. I’m sure there are plenty more out there. You probably thought of other examples while reading this.
You know where those should go? In the comments. Lets make this a major resource, people!