After a week off (unintentional, mind), we’re back with another edition of Trope Tuesday, our weekly sojourn into the great timesink in the cloud that is TV Tropes. We’ve got another trope lined up that’s relevant to our ongoing X-Wing retrospective: The Xanatos Gambit.
A Xanatos Gambit is a plan whose multiple foreseen outcomes all benefit its creator. It’s a win-win situation for whoever plots it.
At its most basic, the Xanatos Gambit assumes two possible outcomes for the one manipulated — success or failure. The plan is designed in such a way that either outcome will ultimately further the plotter’s goals.
Since the Xanatos Gambit can involve an obvious goal’s apparent failure, this is a convenient device on an ongoing series to let the villain occasionally win (preventing Villain Decay) while still giving the heroes a climactic pseudo-victory. The only way to escape a Xanatos Gambit once you’re caught up in one is by somehow foiling both presented options and leaving the organizer thoroughly beaten.
One of my favorite examples of this trope takes place in The Krytos Trap. You would think that the Rogues capturing Coruscant would be a bad thing for Ysanne Isard, but no, you would be mistaken. That was just one way she could prove to be victorious, because on her way out she infected the planet’s alien species with a disease intended to create an unwinnable political disaster for the New Republic. That was just one of her contingency plans to ensure her victory. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite account for the Rogues knack for beating insurmountable odds.