I’ve been up to my ass in alligators so I’ve been going full speed ahead just to clear the swamp. Then at night, I sit down with crochet and watch stuff from my video library, just to get the vibrating down a notch. I’ve gone through my Marvel library, and I really have too much to do right now to watch an entire movie anyway, so I thought, “Pick an episode of something you know is wonderful.”
If you asked me to describe a great story, I’d say romance and humor first, but the episode I went to was Person of Interest‘s “The Devil’s Share,” a bleak, violent story of people trying to recover from the loss of someone essential to them. This is not my kind of story, but every time I watch it–and I’ve watched it a dozen times at least–it amazes me all over again in the way it shows the complexity of the characters (in part in flashbacks that are both chilling and wonderful) and the simplicity of the plot: Get the man who murdered the woman they all love. Some of them want to kill him and some of them want to send him to trial, and some of them aren’t sure until the last minute (Fusco’s monologue still makes me weep, even after all these viewings), but they all move inexorably toward a conclusion that I didn’t see coming and yet is still fitting. It’s a marvelous piece of storytelling, made better by really, really good actors.
Which led me to this question: If it isn’t our personal preferences in storytelling (romantic comedy for me) that makes us say, “This episode, this story, was so excellent I will watch it over and over,” what is it? Certainly for me, the emotional impact is strong: the Johnny Cash song that plays over the opening minutes of the episode is a real rip-your-heart-out montage. Definitely characters I care about in conflict with worthy antagonists. But there must be something more. “The Devil’s Share” is nothing I would choose on its description alone, and yet I love that story.
I’m still pondering my reasons, but I think I’m too close to this one, so I want to know, is there an episode of a TV series like that for you? Not the whole series, just one show where you watched and said, “This. This hour/half hour/whatever is storytelling perfection for me.” And then the key, why? What was it about that single story in the series that lifted it above good into great?