The last act of a story has to be lean and mean. The story’s first three acts (or two or four or whatever) have burned away everything but this final push, our protagonist is in the crucible, and there’s only one real mandate: Fight Back.
In a hundred-thousand-word book, my last acts are usually around 15K sometimes less. That’s seven, eight, maybe ten scenes, tops, for my protagonist to pick herself up, get to the antagonist, and end the damn thing one way or another. This isn’t just for pacing purposes, this is for the reader/viewer, too. She’s waited a long time for this, so I don’t stop for anything else isn’t directly related to getting to that climax. This is the top of the roller coaster; don’t slow down on the final drop. Continue reading
Today is an extremely important day in the Argh Universe because it’s Wear the Lilac and Carry Your Towel Day. And this year is especially poignant because we lost the guy who wrote the lilacs, Terry Pratchett, and the guy who voiced the robot who worked for the people who carried the towels, Alan Rickman. Continue reading
So the first move after the crisis is the reset: the protagonist picks herself up and charges back into the fray, changed irrevocably from where she began and now determined to bring down the antagonist and achieve her goal or die trying. (Since this is Person of Interest, “die trying” is not an exaggeration.) And the first three episodes of Season Five did this: the five remaining Gang members (I’m counting Bear) are relatively safe back in their undiscovered subway lair (or in Fusco’s case, the police station), the Machine is relatively back to normal (big asterisk on that one), and the numbers are coming again. So this is the time for the Gang to move from recovery to assault; this is the last act and it has to move swiftly. And with “6741” and “ShotSeeker,” it does. Continue reading
So here’s the problem with last acts: You have to pick up after the splat of the crisis (“Oh, my god, we’ve lost!”) and show how the protagonist charges back into action without stopping to explain too much. My favorite solution to this is one from an old radio series (although this may be apocryphal) about Jack Armstrong who, at the crisis point, falls into a tiger pit and is surrounded by snarling cats who advance on him . . . followed by “Tune in next week!” Then the next week begins, “After Jack Armstrong got out of the tiger pit . . .”
But 2016 has a much pickier audience than the 1930s, so there’s no “after the Machine Gang escaped from the Samaritan forces,” PoI has to show how they did that, which gives us “B.S.O.D.” aka, “The Blue Screen of Death,” which is what you get when a computer (and a big plan to save the world) crashes. Continue reading
The last two episodes that make up the fourth season finale of Person of Interest, “Asylum” (Andy Callahan & Denise The) and “YHWH” (Dan Dietz and Greg Plageman), are another crisis point, which brings up the problem of the long-running series: How much worse can things get without the turning point of the season finale being just one more horrible thing that happens to people we love? Continue reading
We’ve been talking about time in story so much, I thought “Terra Incognita” would be a good episode to look at to discuss time and reality disruptions, specifically the differences among flashback, memory, dream, and hallucination, and how they can break or–in this case–make a story.
My love for “The Devil’s Share” as great emotional storytelling will probably never be surpassed, but “If/Then/Else” gets my vote for the most mind-boggling forty-five minutes of scripted TV I’ve ever seen. And it’s all because of point of view, the wonkiest of writing techniques.
Point of view is a pain in the ass to navigate because it’s always a win/lose choice: Continue reading
One of the major problems of this season is that it’s so damn complex. Finch has to be a professor and deal with students, Shaw is still selling perfume and driving the getaway car for thieves, Reese is buried under paperwork while trying to save people, and only the Machine knows what Root is doing. And then there are the numbers . . .
“Nautilus:” Samaritan is recruiting, luring a brilliant young mathematician into danger to dismantle a Blackwater analog that’s in competition with Samaritan. Finch tries to save her, but in the end, it’s Samaritan who rescues Claire and enlists her on its side. This is not good.
Which brings us to “Wingman.” Continue reading
In any long-running series, no matter what the medium, writers come up against the same conundrum: People want the same but different.
They want the same things that have made them love the story over the course of several films/years/books, they don’t want anything they love to go away (SAVE BEAR!).
But at the same time, everything they love about the story is the reason it’s starting to feel shopworn: we’ve been here before. “Didn’t they do that in Season Two?” “I love X, but if she says/does Y one more time . . .” “Really? Another number of the week to save?” Continue reading