Season 4 (part 1) – Disbandments

Season 4

It’s a new era Animals!

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

First up, it’s all about that…

Separation

Here in season 4, this separation idea is expressed through:

“Disbandments”

We see all kinds of disbandments in season 4, but…

The most common types you’ll see are:

  • Partnerships
  • Marriages

Partnerships

The disbandment of a “partnership” would be like what we see on The Shield:

Season 3 ended with the Strike Team having a big fight over the cash they stole from the Armenian money train. When we pick up with them in season 4, the Strike Team has disbanded. Shane has transferred to another station and is working Vice with a new partner. Lem is working for the juvenile system. Vic and Ronnie are still at the Barn, but they’re basically on desk duty.

The Strike Team has been dismantled, separated, disbanded.

We see something similar on House:

At the end of season 3, House fired his diagnostic team. Now in season 4, his old team has scattered to different departments in the hospital and House spends the season putting together a new team.

The old one has been disbanded.

Marriages

In season 4 of Mad Men, we see a definite disbandment.

At the end of season 3, Don and his wife Betty called it quits. When we pick up with Don in season 4, he’s single, living in an apartment in the city, and basically dating every woman he’s ever met. Betty is pursuing a new husband in Henry, the man she met last year as her marriage was slowly falling apart.

For season 4, the Don/Betty marriage has completely disbanded.

We see an interesting example on Sons of Anarchy:

Most shows, will blow a relationship up at the end of season 3, and then move forward with a disbanded duo in season 4. Sons of Anarchy does it a little differently. They spend season 4 actively disbanding Clay and Gemma’s relationship. We get to see the “how” and “why” as their marriage slowly implodes over the season. It’s not a common way to pace this piece of story, but in S.O.A.’s case, it works pretty well.

So when dealing with this separation idea in season 4, make sure to pay attention to your disbandments. And if it helps, go ahead and express it through partnerships and marriages.



Season 3 (part 5) – Synthesis/Thesis & End of 1st Era

Season 3

Time to talk about season 3’s…

Dramatic Evolution

Here we’re not just finishing up season 3 – we’re finishing up the entire first era of your show.

The “Dramatic Evolution” of season 3 has two elements:

  • Synthesis/Thesis
  • End of First Era

Synthesis/Thesis

First, this refers to the fact that season 3 synthesizes the dramatic evolution themes of seasons 1 and 2.

In our “Spider-Man” show we had…

The “thesis” statement for season 1:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

We flipped this idea in season 2:

“With great power, comes great freedom.”

And now in season 3, we need to smash these two ideas together and transcend them, to create a third idea.

This is where dramatic evolution truly gets its name. This third idea needs to both combine, and evolve, the two ideas.

For season 3, let’s say:

“With great power, comes great honor.”

To understand how honor is the synthesis of responsibility and freedom, we first have to define honor. Having honor – is dedication (like responsibility), but done willingly and by choice (like freedom), for a greater purpose.

This idea, that the responsibility and freedom combine into a more refined idea of freely-chosen-dedication, is how this “synthesis” theme not only combines the previous ideas, but adds to and evolves from them.

There’s a natural progression at play here, an evolution from one idea to the next, to the next.

Another way to say it would be:

  • “It’s a burden to be Spider-Man.”
  • “It’s a blessing to be Spider-Man.”
  • “It’s an honor to be Spider-Man.”

Then, this new idea:

“With great power, comes great honor” serves not only as the dramatic evolution “synthesis” for the first era. It is also, simultaneously, the “thesis” for the next era.

So when we get to the dramatic evolution “antithesis” of season 4, it will be a reaction to this season 3 “thesis.” As we’ll see when we look at season 4.

End of First Era

In discussing season 3’s dramatic pace, we discussed the “point of no return.” This “point of no return” is the way in which you tell your audience that the era is ending.

But this idea that season 3 is the “end of your first era” isn’t just about how you narratively end the season. It’s about how you treat the entire run of the season.

This is the last season with these particular circumstances.

So tell all the stories you want to tell that belong in this “first era,” because their days are almost over.

Let’s look at Prison Break:

The first era was all about prison. Fox River in season 1, fugitives on the run from prison in season 2, then back in the chaotic Sona prison for season 3. At the end of season 3, the prison circumstances have run their course. It’s time to move on.

In the second era, the show shifts from the prison theme, to the conspiracy theme we see for the rest of the story.

So when looking at your dramatic evolution for season 3, be sure to synthesize seasons 1 and 2 into something that combines and transcends them both – but also make sure to close out the circumstances of the era, because after this season – it’s all new!



Season 3 (part 4) – Fallout & Point of No Return: Circumstantially

Season 3

Dramatic Pace

Season 3 has two traits:

  • Fallout
  • Point of No Return; Circumstantially

Fallout

The events that take place in season 3 as a natural and direct result of the events that occurred in season 2.

You don’t just start all new material in season 3. Instead, you want to dig into the fallout, the repercussions, the effects of all that occurred in season 2. If you did season 2 right, then you did a lot of major stuff: your “meaningful death,” “dragonslay,” etc. The “fallout” of these events are played out in season 3.

At the end of Supernatural season 2, Azazel, aka Yellow-Eyes, succeeded in opening a Devil’s Gate right before Dean shot him. When the Devil’s Gate opened, a whole bunch of demons escaped. Season 3 is then spent trying to take out these newly escaped demons. The Winchesters spend season 3 trying to clean up the “fallout.”

But it doesn’t end there, the end of season 2 also saw Sam getting killed, and Dean made a deal with a crossroads demon to bring him back. Dean has one year until that debt is collected and the hellhounds come for him. Season 3 is spent trying to get Dean out of this deal. More “fallout.”

Breaking Bad has an interesting amount of fallout in season 3.

Season 2 culminates with the death of Jesse’s girlfriend, Jane. Her distraught father is an air traffic controller, and his grief causes him to crash two planes into each other. Season 3 plays out the aftermath of this plane crash as pieces of the wreckage literally fall out of the sky. We’ve got some literal, and metaphorical: “fallout.”

Jesse checks himself into rehab trying to deal with his grief and his part in her death. That’s more “fallout.” Walt deals with his part in what happened. He could have saved Jane, but deliberately chose not to. While he does seem to be struggling with that choice (fallout), he’s doesn’t feel any real guilt. Maybe just a debt to Jesse.

The biggest form of “fallout” we see is with the Salamancas. In season 2, Hank killed Tuco the crazy drug dealer. In season 3, Tuco’s cousins come looking for Hank, to settle the score. That’s some big time “fallout.”

You get the idea.

Point of No Return – Circumstantially

Season 3 is the end of the season 1, 2, 3 era. And at the end of an era, you’ll always see a “point of no return.”

The moment that closes out the era.

A way of defining what’s come before, from what comes next.

For season 3, this “point of no return” is specifically about “circumstance.”

The first 3 seasons have some kind of unifying circumstance. At the end of season 3 you need to close out this era by leaving that circumstance behind. Like graduating high school or quitting a job.

At the end of House season 3, Dr. House fires his diagnostic team: Foreman, Cameron, and Chase. Up until this point, it had been the four of them solving medical mysteries. Their partnership had defined the first era. But now that House has fired them, he’s changed everything. It’s a circumstantial “point of no return” for the show.

At the end of LOST season 3, we see a flash to the future, and learn that some of the survivors eventually make it off the island. This is a big deal for the story. The show’s narrative then transitions from the flashbacks of the first 3 seasons, to flashforwards that will be used for the next era. For the show, it’s a “point of no return” in not just the events of the plot, but also the storytelling narrative itself. Impressive work.

So when pacing your story, make sure season 3 deals with the “fallout” of what’s come before, and lands on a solid “point of no return; circumstantially” in the end.



Season 3 (part 3) – Repercussions

Season 3

Season 3 has 3 areas of concern:

Check your watches, Animals. It’s time to talk about:

Origin

In season 3, the origin theme is expressed as:

“Repercussions”

There are two common ways you see this repercussions idea play out:

  • Debts
  • Revenge

Debts

This is where someone is owed something. We then see the repercussions of paying that debt.

We see a prime example in Supernatural. In season 3, we learn that the thief Bela made a deal with a crossroads demon once upon a time. She sold her soul, to rid herself of her abusive parents. Now, a decade later, the hellhounds have come to collect that soul. They’re here to collect that debt. This parallels Dean’s own struggle all season, to get out of his crossroads deal and avoid going to hell. But a debt is a debt, and the hellhounds always collect.

Let’s take a look at how debts play out on The Shield. In season 3, Vic Mackey’s old partner shows up asking Vic and the Strike Team for a favor. Vic feels compelled to help, even though he’s knee-deep in his own troubles. Vic feels he owes him a debt, so he helps him out.

Revenge

Here, past actions have incurred someone’s wrath. A past mistake is chasing down our characters to hurt them back. It almost feels like a specific kind of “debt.”

In Angel season 3 we see the demon Sahjhan pull vampire hunter Daniel Holtz from the past, and bring him to the present. Back in the day, Angel and Darla killed Holtz’s family. Holtz is here to exact revenge. That’s some big time “origins” and “repercussions.”

For a more subtle, real world, example – let’s look at the new 90210 – (2008-2013).

In season 3, scumbag Oscar shows up. He and Ivy used to be friends when they were kids. Turns out, Oscar blames Ivy’s Mom for his own mother’s suicide and he’s here to get his revenge. First he seduces Ivy’s Mom.

Yikes.

Then he breaks up Ivy’s relationship with Dixon, and seduces her. He even takes her virginity for good measure. It’s kind of an odd way to get revenge. But hey, revenge is revenge.

So whether it’s through debts, or revenge, make sure you service that origins idea in season 3, via “repercussions.”