Season 3 (part 1) – Power

Season 3

Dramatic Structure:

There are 3 areas of concern:

Its:

Connection

theme is expressed through the idea of:

“Power”

It’s all about power.

This “power” theme has two common ways of being expressed:

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sexual Violence

Loss or Gain of Power

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Some element of your story, like a character or an organization, will either gain power they didn’t have before, or lose the power they already had.

Let’s look at some examples:

At the end of the second season of LOST, Desmond turned the key in the floor of the hatch station. When we pick up with him in season 3, he’s gained the superpower of having premonitions and mentally jumping around in his own timeline. That’s some power – gained.

In Mad Men season 3, we see Sterling Cooper bought by P.P.L. – Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Our characters now have bosses. Bosses that now control the direction of their company. This is a clear case of power – lost.

Sexual Violence

In season 3, you’ll commonly see instances of sexual violence. Why? Because it’s not really about the sex. It’s all about power.

Let’s put our peepers on some examples:

In season 3 of Nip/Tuck the main bad-guy of the season is “The Carver.” He was first introduced at the end of season 2, but season 3 is all about him. He’s a serial rapist who likes to disfigure people’s faces. Yikes. He’s even attacked one of our main characters, Christian. The character of the Carver is this “sexual violence” idea made manifest. He’s all about rape and violence, specifically as a means of power.

In The Shield season 3, Aceveda gets raped at gunpoint. In that moment, he is powerless to stop it. We see another level of this power idea at play when Aceveda later uses his power as a police captain to completely destroy the life of his attacker. Power lost, and power leveraged.

While we’re talkin’ about The Shield, let’s dig a little deeper.

Season 3 also sees the inclusion of the serial “Cuddler” rapist character, William Faulks. He rapes victims, cuddles with them, and towards the end – starts murdering them. The interesting part about this instance of sexual violence, is that Dutch is convinced that the raping and the killing are all about exerting power. But once the Cuddler is caught, he explains that it was never about that. For him, it was about that unexplainable thing he feels when he watches his victims die. He asks Dutch to explain what that thing is to him. But Dutch can’t do it, he doesn’t understand it. Dutch’s big case culminates in him feeling completely powerless to explain the very thing he thinks himself an expert in – the inner workings of the criminal mind.

Everywhere you look it’s all about power.



Season 2 (part 5) – Antithesis & 1st Era Continued

Season 2

Season 2’s “Dramatic Evolution” has two main elements:

  • Antithesis
  • First Era Continued

Antithesis

Season 2 is an “antithesis” of season 1’s thesis. This antithesis is felt primarily through the expression of the core concept, and the different contradictions employed throughout the season.

In season 2’s dramatic structure, we already saw that you should be contradicting what you established in season 1. If you’re doing this, then your season 2 will already feel a lot like an “antithesis” of season 1. But let’s take it a step further.

It’s important to also have a statement. A theme in season 2, that is the “antithesis” of your statement for season 1.

Let’s go back to our Spider-Man example:

Our core concept was “power,” and we’d crafted a thesis statement for season 1:

Season 1 thesis statement:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

In season 2, the antithesis could be:

“With great power, comes great freedom.”

As we explore this theme in season 2, we demonstrate how freedom comes from having no responsibility. In a way, that’s what freedom is – the antithesis of responsibility.

  • Season 1: With great power, comes great responsibility.
  • Season 2: With great power, comes no responsibility.

That’s a solid antithesis.

So, in season 2 you want your storytelling to lean into that “antithesis” statement. But make it dynamic. The season 2 statement isn’t actually “with great power comes no responsibility.” It’s “with great power comes great freedom.” This is a statement grounded in the fact that it’s an antithesis of season 1’s statement, but it is not wholly defined by it. Explore what this theme has to offer. Dig deep.

First Era Continued

Season 2 is the middle of your “first era.” Therefore, it’s got to continue along that season 1, 2, 3 era. That chunk.

This is usually done by maintaining the first era’s circumstances.

Let’s continue our examination of Prison Break:

  • In season 1, they were in prison.
  • In season 2, they’re out of prison.

And actively, trying very hard to stay out.

As we said previously, the season 1, 2, 3 era is all about prison.

And even though they spend most of season 2 out of prison, the season still revolves around the idea. The circumstance. They are fugitives on the run from the law, the threat of incarceration constantly hanging over their heads. This preserves the first era’s general circumstantial concern: prison.

So, in season 2, you want to do what you can to lean into its “antithesis” statement, while still making the season feel like a cohesive part of the season 1, 2, 3 – first era.



Season 2 (part 4) – New Blood & Dragonslay

Season 2

Dramatic Pace

It has two traits:

  • New Blood
  • Dragonslay

New Blood

“New blood” refers to your roster of characters.

In season 2, you want to introduce new characters.

Add some new blood.

Usually, you’ll see these characters acting as agents of the different season 2 themes. Characters are brought into the story to supply a stress test, or a meaningful death, or any other form of contradiction.

Say there’s a death in the family – maybe an authority figure. Say a main character’s father. Upon his death, Uncle So-and-So comes to town and plans on sticking around. Here you have one character satisfying several different needs for season 2.

Or maybe two of your main characters break up at the end of season 1, and in season 2 they both have new love interests. These new love interests, would typically be your “new blood.”

Let’s look at some examples:

In LOST season 2, we finally get that hatch open and find Desmond inside. He’s some definite new blood, that will be sticking around for the rest of the story. We also meet the “Tailies” – specifically Ana Lucia, Libby, Bernard, and Mr. Eko. Not to mention the mysterious “Henry Gale” aka Ben Linus, who’s pretty much the leader of “The Others.” All new blood – some sticking around longer than others.

LOST has a lot of characters already, but in season 2 they add a half dozen new ones. That’s a lot of new blood.

In season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy we see the addition of Addison – Derek’s wife, Derek’s best friend Mark “McSteamy” Sloan – the guy Addison cheated with, and towards the end of season 2, we see the addition of Callie Torres, a love interest for George. All significant characters that remain on the show for many years to come.

New Blood. Add new characters in season 2. You get the idea.

Dragonslay

What’s a “dragon?”

Anything that wasn’t resolved in season 1, and specifically wasn’t contradicted in season 2.

It just stayed the same, playing itself out throughout seasons 1 and 2. That’s a dragon. And it should be slayed, and resolved, by the end of season 2.

Why call it a “dragon?” It’s the beast that’s remained. The beast that keeps growing and thriving until your kill it.

What does this look like in practice?

A Bad Guy your main characters have been fighting since season 1. Maybe you didn’t take him out in season 1. He’s still here in season 2. He’s a dragon. And you better slay him by the end of season 2, or you’re dragging it out too long.

“Dramatic pace” is all about the pace of your story. If something has persisted through season 1 and season 2 and hasn’t really changed, then it’s time to finish it.

How about a different example of a dragon:

You could have a couple who’re engaged in season 1. In season 2 you didn’t contradict it, they are still engaged. By the end of season 2, you should hit that wedding. Or the end of the engagement. If you don’t, you’re dragging that piece of story out too long.

How about some real examples:

In Supernatural, your dragon is the all-powerful demon “Yellow-Eyes” aka “Azazel.” He’s been the big Bad-Guy the Winchester’s have been chasing since day one. And in the season 2 finale, Dean puts a magic bullet in his chest, killing him for good.

Not too long, not too short – that’s a solid pace.

In Alias season 2, we see SD-6 finally get raided and shut down by the real CIA. SD-6 was the dragon, and in season 2 we see it slayed.

So whatever dragons you have lingering around in season 2 – slay ’em.



Season 2 (part 3) – Contradiction

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

Time to talk about:

Deviation

Season 2 expresses this deviation theme via:

“Contradiction”

Season 2 contradicts what you did in season 1.

Everything you did in season 1, if it can be contradicted, do it. Friends are enemies. Lovers are broken up. Mainstay locations are rarely visited, if at all, etc.

The two most common ways you see this “contradiction” idea employed are:

  • Role Reversals
  • Authority Figures

Role Reversals

In season 1, we established roles for our roster of characters.
In season 2, we want to take those roles, and flip ’em.

  • The best friend becomes a rival.
  • The rival becomes a friend.
  • The teacher becomes a student, etc.

If your roster of characters wasn’t that strongly defined, then you could take a more subtle approach:

In season 2:

  • The smart guy is pretty dumb.
  • The meek guy shows a lot of courage.
  • The tough guy shows his sensitive side, etc.

Let’s look at some concrete examples:

As we discussed with “stress tests” – early in season 2 of Nip/Tuck, Sean discovers his son Matt is not his biological son. This gave us a great stress test. But it also gives us a role reversal.

As Sean goes into a grief spiral, he starts acting more like Christian usually does: irresponsible, self-destructive, he’s drinking more, and having sex with Kimber – Christian’s ex-girlfriend. The responsible, conservative, Sean, has become the self-destructive loose-cannon. This also causes Christian, to behave more like Sean typically would. With Sean going into a tailspin, Christian’s holding things together at the office, being the responsible one, the stable one. A complete contraction to the Christian of season 1.

These two guys, these polar opposites, switch places. They reverse roles.

We see something similar on The O.C.

In season 1 of The O.C. we see Ryan constantly getting into trouble. Wrapped up in drama with Marissa, struggling in school, punching people when he thinks he needs to. Seth, on the other hand spends season 1 being the nice kid. Doing well in school, not drinking, always in before curfew.

But when season 2 hits, both of these guys pull a switch.

Ryan is specifically focusing on school and staying out of trouble. He’s staying away from Marissa and her drama, and he’s dating a nice girl Lindsay. While Seth is staying out late, dating the bad-girl Alex, coming home drunk, and constantly getting grounded.

Their roles in season 2, are a contradiction of their roles in season 1. But they didn’t just reverse roles with their former selves, they also reversed roles with each other.

Nip/Tuck and The O.C. would seem to have very little in common, but in this regard – they’re exactly the same.

Authority Figures

In season 2, you commonly see this contradiction theme expressed in the context of authority figures.

A character who didn’t have authority before, becomes an authority figure now. Or an established authority figure loses that authority in season 2.

In season 1 of Roswell, Sheriff Valenti is seen as an enemy, trying to expose and catch our main character aliens.

In season 2, he’s embraced as a trusted friend and ally. He even goes so far as to lose his badge protecting them and their secret.

In season 1, he was the Bad-Guy sheriff authority figure out to get them. In season 2, he’s the the Good-Guy sheriff who loses his authority in his quest to help them.

In Prison Break season 1, Warden Pope is a constant presence, ruling over the prison. In season 2, the inmates escape, leaving the warden and his authority behind them.

While other supporting characters continued to appear on the show, the Warden and his authority appear only once in the very beginning of season 2 and then he’s gone from the narrative all together. His authority was all over season 1, and then very very absent in season 2.

When applying this contradiction concept to your story, you can reverse established roles, reverse your authority figures, or find any other way to contradict what’s come before.

Just make sure you do some contradictin’!