Writers need to stop trying to outsmart their audiences (WARNING: Very long post! Spoilers for a variety of media inside!)

BDS

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,921
Warning: This thread contains spoilers for Lost, Westworld, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Avengers: Endgame, and yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi


I give up. I'm tired of having my expectations subverted. I'm tired of surprise for surprise's sake.

I'm not one of those people who spends time coming up with elaborate theories about plot events. I can generally go with the flow; if I trust where you're taking the characters, I'll sit back and relax and let you take control. I think most viewers are this way. But in recent years, writers with big egos have become obsessed with outsmarting the small portion of the fanbase that spend their time coming up with theories and ideas. They believe that if the audience can guess what might happen that it's an indictment of their skill as a writer. This phenomenon is a relatively recent one, born out of the social media age where creators can instantly see in real time what fans are predicting and how they're reacting to the story. As a result, they have come to feel that the worst sin they can commit is being predictable, that they must instead pull twists and surprises out of nowhere lest the audience manage to guess what's happening in advance. Obviously, a story that is too predictable is boring, like watching a slow-motion train crash. But the whiplash in the other direction over the last few years has been noticeable and I think we're reaching a breaking point.

I've cited a few different examples of notable media works in the last decade that have played to different aspects of this phenomenon. Some are good, some are very bad, and some have veered into other directions entirely. You may disagree on one, some, or all of my examples. But all of them represent this new symbiotic relationship between creator and fan, between the people making the work with the best intentions of entertaining the audience and the people who consume it. This is a very long post and I hope you at least skim it or read the sections most relevant to your interests.

Previously, on Lost: Fan theories are a strange game. The only winning move is not to play
Damon Lindelof said:
The other thing I remember so fondly is that feeling that you were a part of something. The feeling that you were a part of this community of people who were watching the show and arguing about this show and theorizing about this show and and just the intense speculation about the mythology. The passion in people's voices when they would talk about the show.
Lost was not the first TV show to have twists or suprises or mysteries, but it was the first to explode in the social media era, to create virtual watercooler discussions with millions of people instead of the handful at your workplace. Lost was a complicated show with two dozen characters, multiple major storylines, and a litany of unsolved mystery plots that would go unanswered for many seasons at a time. The show, by its nature, openly invited speculation. What's in the hatch? The characters are wondering it, why shouldn't the audience? Where did that polar bear come from? What the hell is that monster in the jungle? But the characters aren't necessarily as invested in these mysteries as the audience is; their goal is to get home, and over the course of the series they come to realize that maybe going home isn't the right choice for all of them.

What is now clear with a decade of hindsight is that the writers were always more interested in how the mysteries affected the characters than the actual explanations behind the mysteries. The creepy man in the DHARMA videos isn't a clone or a mad scientist, he's Miles' estranged father who he thought abandoned his family but was actually protecting them from the secrets of the island. The smoke monster doesn't take human forms because it's a nanomachine swarm or an ancient god, it's because the writers wanted a vehicle for the characters to interact with the people they've lost and confront their past sins. It was clear by season 5 that this was the direction the show was heading, that the writers were uninterested in any grand unifying explanation of everything, but the fan theory machine was self-sustaining at this point. Maybe there was no ending to Lost that would have satisfied everyone. The theories people became attached to were so elaborate and so mutually exclusive that confirmation of any one theory would piss off proponents of six others. I remember once reading some incredibly elaborate 10,000 word essay about how Egyptian mythology was the key to everything and how like 10 of the characters perfectly matched Egyptian god counterparts and how all of this was important to the endgame, and I remember thinking how did this guy ever think any of this was going to be revealed in the show? Was he nuts? Yet the creativity of it was astounding nonetheless.

In the end, Lost decided that the only way to win the game of fan expectations was not to play. Instead of attempting explanations for some of its more unusual elements, it chose instead to tie everything into a pseudo-religious philosophical framework where the characters landed on the island because they were meant to be there, to find each other and live a better lives together than they had individually. Some viewers felt this was a profound attempt at grounding the show in its beloved characters. Others felt this was deeply unsatisfying, kicking the can rather than making any effort to provide answers for the questions fans had devoted so much of their time to solving. The ending was, and remains, one of the most controversial in fiction history. But what is interesting about it in the context of our modern media landscape is that the writers neither attempted to fulfill every fan theory, nor did they attempt to constantly outsmart the audience. In the end, for better or for worse, they realized they could never beat anything the audience had already come up with, and decided to simply go in an entirely different direction.

Breaking Bad and giving the audience what they want
Vince Gilligan said:
There was a version [of the ending] kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. [...] I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money. But on the other hand, the family emotionally is scarred forever. So it’s a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished.
It wasn't until the third or fourth season that Breaking Bad started to catch the internet's attention. Fans quickly binged through the first few seasons on Netflix and then sat with rapt attention each week as Walter White spiraled further down his path of death and destruction, hurting his family that he loved so much in the process. While it didn't have polar bears or smoke monsters, Breaking Bad nonetheless cultivated a devoted audience of theorists, who scoured every frame looking for narrative or thematic clues for how Walt's journey might end. As the ending rapidly approached, people waited with anticipation to see if the ending could live up to, in any way, the expectations they had set.

The result was...a good ending? Unlike most TV shows, Breaking Bad seems to have mostly satisfied its audience and critics. Walt manages to secure his family's financial future, rescues Jesse, and goes out guns blazing to kill the gangsters who have threatened them. Walt dies hated by everyone he loved, but on his own terms, and with his family safe and secure. He doesn't get exactly what he wanted -- but many people in the audience did. They always knew there was likely no ending where their power fantasy protagonist gets away with it all, but they wanted to see him succeed. It is, after all, the basic premise of the show, a man driven to criminality by a broken healthcare system and an egotistical desire to leave his mark on the world. He starts the series with a goal, and many viewers hoped, in some way, that he would achieve that goal. And he does. It's not a happy ending, but for many people it is a satisfying one, because it largely plays into our expectations of how the story should end based on the threads and ideas established throughout the series. There were certainly more shocking, brutal, and unexpected ways the story could have ended, and for some people, that was what they wanted. Ultimately, Vince Gilligan and his crew chose to go with the ending they felt was most satisfying to them, and to the audience, and they are remembered fondly for it to this day.

Westworld and the desperate quest to outsmart Reddit
Jonathan Nolan said:
I love the community on Reddit who spends their time picking the show apart. It represents a very small portion of the audience that wants to engage very aggressively with the story that's being told, because it's part of the enjoyment for them, and that's awesome. And for the general audience, I hope next season people will be careful to avoid spoilers, and maybe in writing about the show, understanding the difference between a theory and a spoiler, which is complicated itself.
The first season of Westworld was a tightly-wound clock, an intricate puzzle with multiple major twists that are hinted at repeatedly throughout the season: Bernard is a host who thinks he's a human. William's story is actually taking place thirty years in the past, and the Man in Black is actually his present-day self. Dolores is retracing her steps from thirty years earlier. Ford is secretly trying to unleash the hosts on the world.

Reddit's Westworld subreddit quickly developed a reputation for being able to predict these twists in advance. People joked about the subreddit being a genius algorithm that was deliberately "spoiling" the show, and expressed their genuine interest in staying away from the online conversation lest they end up having the second season spoiled for them too. But in interviews, series creator Jonathan Nolan repeatedly hinted at his frustration that his mystery box had been cracked so easily by the sleuths on the internet. And when Westworld's second season debuted, his proposed solution became clear. Westworld season 2 is almost incomprehensible. Timelines within timelines, flashbacks within visions within dreams. Characters are dead, but they're not dead, they live on as memories or visions. The story rapidly jumps back and forth across multiple time periods, often with little explanation of when scenes are set in relation to each other, either temporally or geographically. Storylines and characters are abruptly cut off for shock value. Entire scenes and sequences are fabricated to trick the audience into thinking one thing when something else is happening. Characters no longer have arcs or development, they exist solely to cover up the breadcrumbs that could otherwise allow the audience to figure out what the hell is going on.

Nolan became convinced that the audience guessing the plot of season 1 was the mark of a bad writer. He became consumed by the desire to trick the audience at all costs, to maintain the allure and the secrecy instead of a story that actually makes sense.

The part where we talk about The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson said:
I guess the first thing to say is coming into writing [The Last Jedi] or any story the object is not to subvert expectation, the object is not surprise. I think that would lead to some contrived places. The object is drama.
Were your expectations subverted? Mine weren't.

In fact, I exited Star Wars: The Last Jedi feeling very satisfied that what I had predicted had come to pass. Having always felt that Snoke was a two-dimensional mystery box cutout, I felt it would be best for Kylo Ren's character arc if he struck the empty suit down and took his place, assuming a very different role in Episode IX than what Vader had played in Return of the Jedi. I felt that making Rey into just another member of the Skywalker bloodline would undercut the fresh new feeling of the new trilogy, that heroes can come from any place and any "bloodline" so long as they embody the ideals of a Jedi. And I felt that making Luke into a sword-waving badass legend would misunderstand the tradition of the Jedi, that a true warrior defeats his enemies without firing a shot, that death is only the end of our physical bodies and not our life, that by striking me down I become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. And so when The Last Jedi paid off every one of these ideas I left the theater feeling utterly vindicated, that my interpretation and understanding of Star Wars had always been true.

In case you haven't heard, some others did not feel the same way.

With a year and a half of hindsight, I can understand now why some people felt disappointed, let down, and deceived by this film. I don't agree with them, but I understand their frustration. There are times when I, too, feel annoyed that we never got that grand meeting of our original trilogy heroes (although that's a problem laid squarely at the feet of J. J. Abrams, not Rian Johnson). There are times when I, too, feel disappointed that we didn't get to see the most legendary Jedi Master of all time engage in the coolest lightsaber fight of all time, because lightsabers are fucking cool. There are times when I rewatch the film and I, too, feel confused by the immense lack of accomplishment by the heroes, how nothing they seek to do ends in success. The reason I feel these things is because what I want out of the film and what I recognize are best for the story are not always in sync. I would love to watch an incredible show of Force abilities as Luke and Snoke duel to the death. I also understand that this would make no sense and undermine the themes of the franchise. But Star Wars is a very big franchise and I can understand, now, why people might have a different perspective, having played games and read books and experienced the franchise in a way that led them into that theater expecting one interpretation and instead watching Luke throw it over his shoulder and tell him that no, it doesn't matter. Rey's parentage doesn't matter, Snoke's identity doesn't matter, Luke's raw power doesn't matter.

I fundamentally believe that The Last Jedi is not a movie trying to subvert your expectations and is not a movie trying to outsmart its audience. But it is a movie with a very specific vision of Star Wars and what Star Wars can be, and unfortunately, that will result in the catastrophic alienation of everyone with a different perspective. There is a version of The Last Jedi that makes more of an effort to please the entire audience, one that I would likely enjoy too. But we didn't get that version, and I think I'm glad we didn't.

We're in the Endgame now
Thor said:
Avengers: Endgame is not a surprising movie. It is, in every way, intended to be immensely satisfying to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it's not breaking new narrative ground or taking bold storytelling risks. It is the antithesis of The Last Jedi, for better or for worse, in every regard. You wanted to see all the MCU's biggest heroes team up? You got it. You wanted everyone to come back to life? You got it. Wacky recreations of past movie scenes? We've got a bunch. Callbacks to famous lines? We could do those all day. An endless parade of cameos? Everyone is here. The inevitable sacrifice of the MCU's biggest hero? Yep, that too. This is the ultimate fanservice film and it has been rewarded in kind with over two and a half billion dollars in box office receipts and counting.

But describing Endgame solely as a "fanservice" film is something of a disservice to the movie and the MCU as a whole. After all, every fan has their own ideas of what they want to see happen. How did Endgame somehow end up with the vast majority of the fandom all on the same page? Because they put in the leg work to set up ideas that would eventually pay off. Many "theories" about Endgame's plot, characters arcs, and climaxes weren't really theories at all, but the obvious conclusions to ideas set in motion several films earlier. Rather than trying to desperately outsmart an audience that had predicted their biggest surprises, Endgame's writers willingly submit to the inevitability. Age of Ultron hints that Captain America can wield Thor's hammer, and in Endgame he does. It's not so much servicing a "theory" as it is concluding an obvious setup. Captain America is a character who others define by his genetically-enhanced blood ("Everything special about you came out of a bottle") but who is in fact a good, purehearted man no matter what flows through his veins, and picking up the hammer is the culmination of that thread, the proof that fans were right to believe in his moral character. It's not just a silly jerk-off moment where the one hero uses the other hero's weapon; it's the emotional payoff to the character's journey, and a damn cool-looking one at that. Imagine an alternate Endgame where Cap tries to lift the hammer but can't, and Thanos immediately knocks his head off. Haha, didn't see that one coming, did you? Were your expectations subverted? It's a twist for twists' sake, a "surprise" that is devoid of any satisfaction or entertainment value beyond shock.

People came up with all kinds of elaborate, far-reaching theories about how Endgame's plot would play out, and almost all of them turned out to be wrong. Yet they enjoyed the film anyway, because even though their "theories" for the plot might not have panned out, their expectations for the characters and how their stories would conclude were wholly satisfying. If you win over the characters, you win over the audience.

Game of Thrones, Or: A Song of Cause and Effect
David Benioff said:
Themes are for eighth-grade book reports.
Game of Thrones -- or more accurately, the books, A Song of Ice and Fire -- is a story fundamentally built on cause and effect. Nothing happens spontaneously and without reason. Even the most shocking plot twists make perfect sense within the motivations and logic of every character involved. The only reason these twists are surprising is because George R. R. Martin expertly takes us into our characters' point of view, tricking us into following their reasoning even when it might not be true, and allowing us to forget about other characters, factions, and moving pieces in the background. When Robb Stark accepts Walder Frey's invitation to the Twins, all the pieces have already been set into motion for what should be a massacre every reader or viewer expects in advance. But you don't, because you don't remember when Tywin Lannister was writing a letter to parties unknown, or when Roose Bolton inexplicably allowed Jaime Lannister to go free, or when Daenerys had a vision of a dead man with a wolf's head at a banquet table. You don't expect Walder Frey to completely violate the laws of gods and men in such a profane way, and you don't expect Robb, our valiant hero, to be killed in such a tragic fashion. Only in the aftermath of the bloodshed do you realize oh shit, how did I not see that coming? This mastery of complex cause and effect is the gift and the curse of A Song of Ice and Fire, the incredibly convoluted puzzle with thousands of pieces that has forced Martin into endless narrative paralysis as he seeks to untangle the threads and reach the next part of the story.

The same cannot be said for the writers of the TV series who, high on the fumes of their success adapting someone else's masterpiece, have decided that it is more important to trick and surprise the audience than it is to make sure these surprises have any sort of logically coherent connection to the events that happened before them. Arya gets stabbed ten times but somehow lives and gets back to Westeros without issue. Cersei blows up a church with hundreds of prominent people inside and nobody cares. Arya somehow poisons all the Freys and escapes. The Night King kills Viserion with some kind of ice spear we've never seen before. Bran somehow convinces everyone that Littlefinger should be executed, and later convinces everyone that Jon Snow is the rightful heir to the throne, all with no evidence whatsoever. Arya, who has no connection to the White Walkers, stabs the Night King and immediately ends the threat in its entirety forever. Euron Greyjoy's fleet is somehow invisible to the naked eye in broad daylight as his heat-seeking ballistae takes Rhaegal out. Jaime completely abandons his quest for redemption and decides to return to Cersei to die with her. And after years of being portrayed as a goodhearted liberator, Dany's mind snaps after several losses that are entirely the fault of other characters, inexplicably deciding to incinerate a city of hundreds of thousands of civilians for no reason so that the audience can hate her.

An obsession with shock value -- an obsession with making sure the audience can't predict the plot -- has resulted in the writers actively refusing to properly set up character arcs or plot events in favor of surprise. Characters just know whatever they need to know, end up wherever they need to end up, do whatever the plot calls for them to do, regardless of whether it fits any part of their previously established story. "Foreshadowing" -- a random line of dialogue here, an offhand comment there -- is not a replacement for putting in the work to have your story make even a basic amount of sense.


In conclusion
I'm not asking for a return to the days of bog-standard Hero's Journey fare where every story has a predictable beginning, middle, and end. But we have instead swung hard in the other direction, to a world where stories no longer make even basic logical sense as writers desperately try to create surprise in an era where every subreddit is a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters programmed to figure out their fiction's darkest secrets.

I know this post is extremely long and I know it's a tinderbox of controversial concepts. Hopefully this discussion is aimed more at the general frustration of "subverted expectations" rather than any specific example I cited. But I also know that you guys love debating Star Wars and Game of Thrones and maybe I just like watching things burn after all. Dracarys.
 
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Divvy

Member
Oct 25, 2017
613
Very well written OP, I think I more or less agree with you on every point.
 

Volimar

Moderator
Oct 25, 2017
10,023
It ends up turning your audience into your worst critics because when they expect the subversion and read into everything (I mean come on with the rings that Varys takes off being significant) nothing you actually write will meet their levels of expectations, even if you're not sloppily rushing through the final season...
 
Oct 25, 2017
9,010
I came in here ready to be all “Don’t you lump TLJ in with this trash.” But I actually agree with what you wrote.
 

Siggy-P

Avenger
Mar 18, 2018
4,110
Subverting expectations only works when we learn something of it or it changes our perspective in a genuinely opening manner. When it was an inevitable outcome and the result of actions and events within the story.

Not when the only thing subverted is the expectation of quality.

"You thought this character would have a complete arc, but hah, no they didn't." Alright, well it's just a shit story then.
 

SteveWinwood

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,369
USA USA USA
One of the laziest and worst responses to any criticism regarding bad writing in some of these examples are people acting like you're offended they didn't go with your personal dumb fan theory (e.g. that dumb tweet in that last got viewership thread). Why would I be mad at that? If only I could come up with things that satisfied me I wouldn't consume any media at all and just write my own shit.

Subvert my expectations all you want, I enjoy it. Just please try to be quality while you're doing it. Because a lot of the time you're not.
 

Dabanton

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,123
Breaking Bad ending was weak imo. using the nazis who Walt had happily used to do his dirty work as the last bosses to make him look good in comparison was tacky.

How it should have ended is his entire family getting taken out by the cartels and him having to live with that in isolation.

The only show that got it right ending was was the Shield. Vic escapes but has to live with his consequences from his colleagues and loses his family and any respect he had
 

Dabanton

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,123
The main problem with Got since the 6th season is certain characters had powerful plot armour that is even more obvious this season.

Remember when you didn't know when a characters time could be up on the show and it kept you on your toes.
 

Kegels

Member
Jan 24, 2019
1,012
happened to westworld season 2


the writers spent a lot of time with reddit, who figured out everything a couple episodes in, so they tried to avoid that in the second season and created some hot garbage


edit: oh you mentioned that lol
 

Scuffed

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,310
When I saw the GoT writers say on "Inside the Episode" they wanted Arya to kill the NK because they "had hoped to avoid the expected," I actually face palmed.

Good post op.
 

Kirblar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
22,492
'99-'01 pro wrestling has some examples of this.

The HHH/Angle match where they don't do the ending everyone expects is a perfect example of screwing it up by going against expectations.

The Steph heel turn at Armageddon, on the other hand, is a perfect example of doing the "expected" ending and making it work because it fits perfectly with the buildup.
 

El Bombastico

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
7,660
happened to westworld season 2


the writers spent a lot of time with reddit, who figured out everything a couple episodes in, so they tried to avoid that in the second season and created some hot garbage


edit: oh you mentioned that lol
What kind of moron let's Reddit dictate how they write their show?
 

Felt

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
2,664
Yeah I agree with this. The original GoT for example subverted our expectations by showing us that war is awful and there are no heroes and people shit when they die and armor makes you slow and heavy and people usually don't get to give a cool speech before they die...

The show wanted to subvert those expectations by going back to fantasy land lol
 

Spinluck

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
5,631
Florida
Breaking Bad ending was weak imo. using the nazis who Walt had happily used to do his dirty work as the last bosses to make him look good in comparison was tacky.

How it should have ended is his entire family getting taken out by the cartels and him having to live with that in isolation.

The only show that got it right ending was was the Shield. Vic escapes but has to live with his consequences from his colleagues and loses his family and any respect he had
Walt did lose his family, though. We don't need them brutally slaughtered to get that point across.
 

muteKi

Member
Oct 22, 2018
5,402
a sunken pirate ship
I think you're right with the implication that this is part and parcel with the desire to copy lost's success as that water cooler discussion thing. It's funny though, because even mysteries, stories that are usually about the process of developing and solving these puzzles, usually are very open about their clues. I would argue that the good mysteries still don't put the puzzle up front and center in comparison to theme (And Then There Were None basically concludes with a statement of thesis for chrissakes) and characterization.

Surprises in narrative can have purpose. One of the more obvious ones is to highlight protagonist overconfidence and to complicate their strategies. (As they say, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.) If the point of a surprise is to be surprising, though, then I think it's lazy writing that attempts to use shock value as an alternative for critical engagement.

I don't really like trying to tease out clues of a story absent a wider context of meaning. I'm definitely on the side of the critical theorists who dislike treating stories like puzzle boxes.


the writers spent a lot of time with reddit, who figured out everything a couple episodes in, so they tried to avoid that in the second season and created some hot garbage
Oh my god that sounds like the worst D&D session ever
 

The Adder

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,606
I called every 'twist' people accused TLJ of doing to 'subvert expectations' back in April of 2016. Maybe the movie wasn't trying to outsmart anyone. Maybe y'all weren't paying attention.
 

Dabanton

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,123
Walt did lose his family, though. We don't need them brutally slaughtered to get that point across.
Half agree.

Walt got away clean he got a 'heroic' ending and got to take out every single one of his enemies in a variety of OTT ways.

For such a piece of shit character it was soft on him.
 

Kinthey

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
5,015
It's all about execution. In game of thrones, the fight of the Hound vs the Mountain was long expected by fans but it felt quite flat to me as the whole situation about how it came to be felt so manufactured
 

Hollywood Duo

Member
Oct 25, 2017
14,181
Thing is, people will just complain if there is a cookie cutter ending too. You as an artist need to come up with a vision and stay true to that whatever it may be.
 

El Bombastico

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
7,660
yeah it’s rough, i can definitely understand how someone guessing everything you’re hiding behind a mystery can sour you on it though.
I mean, that whats obsessed fans DO though. They're always gonna obssess over a work and therefore figure things out quicker than the casual audience. Imagine if GRRM had gotten mad that people figured out Jon Snow's parentage (and people figured it out quick, I saw a forum post from like 2002 that talked about it) and decided to change everything...
 

Dabanton

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,123
What kind of moron let's Reddit dictate how they write their show?
I can see how you can fall into it.

Especially if you want to see how your ideas are coming across and you engage with that community.

but this is also the problem of shows who try to create intricate smartass 'puzzles' you invite that kind of crowd to dissect your show.

Three of the best shows ever the Wire and The Sopranos and Six feet Under never had those problems.
 

Tomasoares

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,003
I agree with you about TLJ, people got the "subvert expectations" wrong in that movie. It's was meant to subvert expectations of the characters, not the audience.
 

Grunge_Hamster

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
2,944
I got no opinion on the subject at the moment.
I just wanted to say, very nice write-up OP, I'm really enjoying reading it all.
 

LakeEarth

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,104
Ontario
For Endgame, killing off Thanos early in the movie certainly subverted my expectations. Of course he came back through time travel shinanigans, but when it happened so early in the movie, I was quite surprised. But in a good way.
 

HStallion

Member
Oct 25, 2017
26,386
Part of the issue is using a mystery to sell your story at the start and either having no real or decent resolution in mind from the start leaving from a mad scrabble near the end or worse yet is that mystery is solved early on in the story and without that narrative anchor its has to fend for itself on its other merits. This latter issue is a big one for a lot of modern TV that has a focus on some central mystery in the first season only to drop the ball in following seasons without the crutch of the "mystery".
 

JCHandsom

Avenger
Nov 3, 2017
3,721
With a year and a half of hindsight, I can understand now why some people felt disappointed, let down, and deceived by this film. I don't agree with them, but I understand their frustration. There are times when I, too, feel annoyed that we never got that grand meeting of our original trilogy heroes (although that's a problem laid squarely at the feet of J. J. Abrams, not Rian Johnson). There are times when I, too, feel disappointed that we didn't get to see the most legendary Jedi Master of all time engage in the coolest lightsaber fight of all time, because lightsabers are fucking cool. There are times when I rewatch the film and I, too, feel confused by the immense lack of accomplishment by the heroes, how nothing they seek to do ends in success. The reason I feel these things is because what I want out of the film and what I recognize are best for the story are not always in sync.
I want the bolded from the OP shouted from the mountaintops, let it ring in the cities and the countryside, let the world know the truth that liking something and that thing being good are two. Different. Metrics.

I can respect that people were let down by the TLJ, but to turn around and say that it’s a bad film because of that? Nah
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,090
England
There's nothing wrong with trying to surprise your audience and, indeed, you really should try to, but if you go out of your way to do something nobody else could realistically think of (and even use fan theories as a guideline on what to avoid doing) there's a real danger that you go so far with it that it ruins the work in question.

There's nothing inherently wrong with giving fans what they want, either. I mean, look at Endgame as the perfect example - it's the perfect end to an eleven year long saga, all it did was exactly what everyone expected it to and everyone loves it for that.

You need a good balance, I think, and sadly it's a lot harder for some people to figure that out than others.
 

Keldroc

Member
Oct 27, 2017
4,346
Definitely agreed, OP. Lot of examples, especially in long-running TV, of writers getting in the way of the story. Let the story be told as the story is told, don't worry about fandom or the internet. It won't always be gold (very few things are), but the internet reactions are fleeting, while the art is forever. Make sure the forever part isn't dictated by the fleeting part.
 

Sephzilla

Herald of Stoptimus Crime
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,811
I generally agree with the OP

And after years of being portrayed as a goodhearted liberator, Dany's mind snaps after several losses that are entirely the fault of other characters, inexplicably deciding to incinerate a city of hundreds of thousands of civilians for no reason so that the audience can hate her.
But man, regarding Dany I don't agree here. The red flags about Dany have always been there. She's openly talked about destroying cities in order to get what she wants.
 
Oct 25, 2017
9,010
For Endgame, killing off Thanos early in the movie certainly subverted my expectations. Of course he came back through time travel shinanigans, but when it happened so early in the movie, I was quite surprised. But in a good way.
The Thanos thing works because it makes sense why it would happen that way. The audience isn’t expecting the villain to die 15 minutes into the movie which is why it’s surprising, but Thanos already finished his arc in the last film so he really has no reason to be a big bad anymore.
 

Spinluck

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
5,631
Florida
Half agree.

Walt got away clean he got a 'heroic' ending and got to take out every single one of his enemies in a variety of OTT ways.

For such a piece of shit character it was soft on him.
I agree in a sense and it was definitely pandering but I think it's about the highest tier of pandering you can get away with for a character like Walt and that series as a whole.

Some wanted a darker ending for the series but I think Walt fleeing after losing everything then coming back after that sudden realization that he was probably going to die without fulfilling his goal was pretty solid (given that this spark totally came from another ego hit from his former partner lol).

It suited the character and the rest of the series perfectly imo. Walt for most of the series was always going up against guys that were bigger pieces of shit than he was. He was just far less respectable and developed an incredibly fragile ego.
 

Doomsayer

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,263
Fantastic post, and I agree with pretty much everything.

I think the age of the internet (especially Reddit) has made writers think they need to focus on super cool twists and bat shit crazy story lines that actual good writing has been thrown to the wayside. I still loved season 2 of Westworld, but they tried to do WAY too much to throw people off.

I'd prefer a linear story with a cleverly thrown in twist over "it happened because no one expected it to happen" every day.
 

Spinluck

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
5,631
Florida
The Thanos thing works because it makes sense why it would happen that way. The audience isn’t expecting the villain to die 15 minutes into the movie which is why it’s surprising, but Thanos already finished his arc in the last film so he really has no reason to be a big bad anymore.
The best part was there 0 satisfaction in killing him. And it happened in the most mundane way.

It was great.
 

Chopchop

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,107
God damn, did that GoT guy really make that 8th grader comment about themes? That's so fucking stupid I don't even know where to begin.
 
Oct 28, 2017
4,004
GOT spoilers...

I agree with everything you wrote but this:

And after years of being portrayed as a goodhearted liberator, Dany's mind snaps after several losses that are entirely the fault of other characters, inexplicably deciding to incinerate a city of hundreds of thousands of civilians for no reason so that the audience can hate her.
Having just finished a full rewatch of the series a couple weeks ago, I can confidently say that you're right about one thing: GRRM did a fantastic job tricking everyone into believing what the characters thought about themselves. As early as Season 1 when she burns the witch alive, Dany has exhibited a nearly uncontrollable and irrational rage. As early as Season 1 when she tells Drogo to get her the throne, she has exhibited a narcissistic attitude wherein she deserves the love and adoration of the people by virtue of her birthright alone.

Dany has never shown that she cares about the common people. Yes, she cares greatly about freeing the slaves -- she was a slave once and the slaves adore her for it. Yes, she is enraged when the masters crucify the children. Dany and her advisors attribute this care and rage to her desire to protect everyone. They describe her as someone who is caring and benevolent. GRRM tricks the audience by telling one plausible explanation and so no one notices when they are shown an alternative, plausible explanation. Dany is not benevolent and caring, she believes she deserves the throne over all others and she believes her authority should not be questioned. She will happily kill anyone and did massacre people by the 1000's simply because they dare to take a different point of view.

So when Dany gets to Kings Landing, she is there to punish those who would not stand behind her. If the people went into the city to flee her, they did not believe in her and therefore deserve to die in her mind. And so she kills them.

Now don't get me wrong, the post-episode behind the scenes illustrates that the showrunners/writers had no idea what they were doing or why, but the action itself is supported by Dany's character and actions from the very beginning. We know GRRM gave the writers a brief version of what he expected to happen to the characters. Presumably, Dany obliterating Kings Landing with innocents inside was one of those things. The writers followed orders, but they failed to understand why. Thus, what should have been another Red Wedding-calibur shock followed by revelation that we'd missed everything the whole time instead fell flat and appeared to be wholly inconsistent.

So the writers did fail us here. But the actual action was not the problem -- it was the reason why.
 

Orochinagis

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,510
The Thanos thing works because it makes sense why it would happen that way. The audience isn’t expecting the villain to die 15 minutes into the movie which is why it’s surprising, but Thanos already finished his arc in the last film so he really has no reason to be a big bad anymore.
On the contrary, movies always try to kill the bad guy every single time. Killing thanos early pushed the movie to the most boring plot to bring the gems back causing paradoxes everycorner.

Leaving thanos alive would lead to a different, complex writing buuuut since we dont have Adam warlock or any other holder who would lend the gems easily the writing was down to "no more gems go for other gems"
 

NHarmonic.

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
3,684
Great post. Especially agree with TLJ and Endgame's thoughts.

However, regarding Breaking Bad, it feels like Walt, an awful human being, managing to complete his "goal" can send a really bad message out there. Besides the obvious implications of everything he did, most people seem to forget the guy actually manufactured a drug, fucking up many people in the process. We see some of those consequences with some side characters but we are blind to most of the victims, tbh. Considering it was never love for his family his actual drive but only his ego, him getting all he wanted in the end feels kinda... cheap. Getting his Hero ending, saving the enslaved Jessie and dying on a lab, it's at the end of the day a way to glorify his character.

The only thing he loses is his life, that considering he was sick and was going to die anyway, it's kinda nothing. He dies in his own terms, tbh.
 

SirMossyBloke

Member
Oct 26, 2017
2,174
I'm not reading the thread, having not seen a couple of the movies shown at the top of the OP, but Now You See Me 1 and 2 are the absolute worst at that. The payoff is laughable and I have no idea why the writers of both thought they were outsmarting us.