Saturday, May 28, 2016

The problem with trying to be clever

This is something that came from the recent season three finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  If you don’t watch the show – or if you haven’t seen the episode yet – I’ll be as vague and generic as I can. 

About halfway through the season, one of the main characters met a character who when you touched them you saw a vision of the future where somebody died.  One of the visions she saw was a very vague (almost as if the vision was shot by a TV show trying to be mysterious) where she saw a golden crucifix necklace.  Such a necklace belonged to a minor character.

For the last month or so of the season, the commercials for the show talked about how one character would die.  Was it to be this minor character with the necklace?  Well, the episode before the final two episodes that were aired back to back, this Character A gave the necklace to Character B.  So for a week everyone wondered if B was going to die.  Then, Character B – after trying to give the necklace back – put it in his pocket, where it slipped out to be picked up by Character C, who put it in his pocket.  But then he saw that Character D was cold, so he gave her his coat, and she found the necklace in the pocket.  And then Character E – who knew of the vision – stole it so that he could save everyone and really drive the Jesus imagery home.

When Character C came into the mix, I realized, Oh, it’s going to be that way.  They wanted to give the necklace to as many of the characters as possible to hold the suspense for as long as possible.  They were trying to be clever.  And it didn’t work.  Of course, it may not be the writer’s fault.  One thing I skipped, is that the character who saw the vision had an earlier vision that came … true, but only when looked at from a specific way.  And if one only saw the episodes, one would assume that this second vision could be “solved” the same way.  And then you would have been shocked when this one character did actually die. 

Instead, for the month or so leading up to the finale, we saw promotions for the show proclaiming that ONE CHARACTER WILL DIE!  WHO WILL IT BE?  So instead of being carried along in this story and then being shocked by the turn of events, the viewers became detectives searching for clues, and then the necklace may as well have had a flashing neon sign on it reading, “Watch this!”

If they had passed this necklace – or some other memento – around for most of the season, or if instead of a necklace it had been a medal or something, and then at one point three or four characters receive such a medal, that would have been cleverer.  Being clever really only works when you’re subtle.  And having promos asking, “WHO WILL DIE?” is not subtle.  It’s almost as if the people managing and promoting the show don’t know – or care – to keep things suspenseful.

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