Lately, it seems like every time storytellers, on television in particular, can disappoint, they do.
My question here is: Is it them, or is it me? Is it wrong to expect something really clever that I couldn’t come up with myself or that holds up, to my mind, the premises set forth? Am I setting the proverbial bar too high?
This article addresses a lot of the problems with one program in particular in words that are at least as good as any I could come up with. There are other issues, but what they said is a big part of it.
SPN, Heroes, Star Wars, Dark Tower, BTVS/ATS Comics,
Supernatural has been on a downward slide since Season 3 was cut short by the writers’ strike. They elected to cut short the plot that had been informing the atmosphere of the show since the beginning: What was up with Sam and how will it affect things? When they came back, everything took a different direction and where they dealt with anything from pre-Season-4 it was in a “and this is what happened while we weren’t looking, but we won’t go into that” way. It was very perfunctory. Things fit if you squinted, but it felt like a left turn and the heart of the show was altered and ignored in favor of the new “Look! Angels!” mythos storyline, as though what they had was not good enough. Dean was stripped of his essential “Dean-ness” and though we did already know that he had deep self-esteem issues, they weren’t addressed so much as accentuated and used to break him. Two years later, they haven’t rebuilt him in any recognizable form and Sam has been relegated to “When we don’t have any other monsters, we’ll hate on him” status.
Of course Lost left me wondering at the end of its run, too. I have not yet gone for the big rewatch and made any statistical data on mystery-to-“character” moments and look for clues that we were going to be left high and dry. The truth is, I love the characters, and I would have been upset with something that left them ambiguous… and really, this sort of did. It told us that the island was the most important thing time in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care what the survivors did with the rest of their lives. Still, eventually they all reunite and “move on” is cool enough. However, the more I thought about it, the more I got this feeling: This was a cop out on the mysteries of the show. They set up some genuine puzzles and then just walked away with a mysterious look in their figurative eye. It was something of a screw you to the people who really made the show what it was (and no, I don’t mean the Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Juliet ‘shippers, although they were a fun group to watch get wound up). I enjoyed the “Hi, we’re Sci-Fi, but look, we’re also a soap opera” dichotomy, but to choose one in the way they did insults the other.
So I was disappointed again.
Heroes started strong. It started really strong. I loved Hiro and Ando and HRG (later revealed to have a name, Noah Bennet, but he’ll always by mysterious HRG, man with a plan, to me) and kind of hated Mohinder and Nathan and wanted to know what Sylar was all about. I wondered why the Wincesters didn’t go absolutely bugnuts over the always-touchy Nathan and Peter (maybe they did, I won’t pretend to know all about fandom, but I never saw it explode like the other did). I loved the serial nature of the show and the “Look! We’re a comic and live and awesome!” thing they had going. Even the (presumably) TV-Budget limited “final battle” or the “We’re evolution!”/”We’re mutation!”/”We’re genetic manipulation!” didn’t make me less jazzed about what was to come. Turns out what was to come didn’t even know what it was, and (again) the writers’ strike (people, actors are pretty, but they’re not all smart enough to come up with the brilliant words and situations on their own… pay the brains!) kind of probably screwed things up, but Season 2 was the last time we really saw HRG be truly awesome. TV resents awesome. Much like Season 4 Supernatural didn’t like allowing Bobby to be outstanding or Dean to be action heroic or Sam to be smart and dedicated, the people at Heroes decided they didn’t like HRG being without powers and on top of everything. Therefore, they decided to strip him of his daughter and start making his plans fail pointlessly. I say pointlessly because I’m ranting and because they never gave us a real payoff for his crises. It was fail for fail’s own sake. Later, that wasn’t enough so they also took the perfect villain and played “Good guy!” “Wait, no bad guy!” “Wait, no, he’s neither, and now we’ve retconned away his origins sense with bad makeup and storylines that only vaguely dovetail!” They added supers that weren’t necessarily hiding and eclipses that effect things and storylines that got picked up and dropped like hot potatoes. Mostly, for me, though, it was when they took HRG the ultimate badass family man and stripped him of all his adjectives.
So, of course, I’m growing twitchy. I want to believe in Fringe. I want to give affection to Chuck in the face of waffling. I’d like to think Dexter will keep not dropping the ball. I want No Ordinary Family to do what Heroes didn’t, but it can’t be the same. I’m burned, though… and what I finally have to ask is, “Is it me or you, TV?”
I can think of a dozen ways the shows I talked about could have gone. These ways would have made me happy. These ways would have had some great jumping off potential. I know of other people who are rolling their eyes at the developments in my subject shows. I see a lot of fandom sites squeeing their butts off, though, about the same stuff (Heroes less so, but there are plenty of “Give ’em another chance, guys” folks out there).
Maybe I just love too much and expect too highly. I have to admit, that mockingly low expectations made Supernatural and Heroes (until the final blow) watchable in their death throes (or should have been, Supernatural is in a Season 6 that I can’t even really watch through internet-friend-group-mockery lenses). Maybe my tastes are just not what the world likes. I want strong characters and resolution. I don’t like it when emotion is overused and angst becomes the main coinage. These things have more weight when used sparingly. Sometimes characters need to win. Some characters need to win big. We can’t know if people are sad if they are never allowed to celebrate and be happy.
When I write, and I admit I’m having doubts about me these days, I try to plan for wins as well as losses. I want my characters to be strong with a dash of difficulty. Maybe if I went on, there would be need for more (if you will forgive the chatspeak, I always imagine these overwrought emotions in the language of butthurt web posters) OMGMOARANGST! because things get caught up in the weight of their own mythology and history.
I’m not going to apologize, though, TV. You hurt me, Fredo. You broke my heart. Oh, yeah, don’t get me started on Godfather III. I haven’t read the follow up book. I’ve been caught there before. Not again… until I get bored.