Season 4 (part 5) – Antithesis & Beginning of 2nd Era

Season 4

Dramatic Evolution

Has two main elements:

  • Antithesis
  • Beginning of Second Era

Antithesis

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

In the same way that season 2’s statement:
“With great power, comes great freedom”

was the antithesis of season 1’s thesis statement:
“With great power, comes great responsibility”

Season 4’s antithesis statement, will be on the opposite side of the spectrum from season 3’s thesis statement.

  • Season 1: we had a thesis.
  • Season 2: we flipped it.
  • Season 3: we combined and transcended them both.

This season 3 theme was then simultaneously the new thesis, and season 4 will once again flip it:

  • Season 3: new thesis.
  • Season 4: flip it.

So in our Spider-Man show, season 3’s statement was:

“With great power, comes great honor.”

Now in season 4, our dramatic evolution thematic statement could be:

“With great power, comes great corruption.”

From one perspective, “corruption” is the direct opposite of “honor.” It’s the antithesis.

Notice how this naturally leans into both “shaking things up” and “upping the ante.” Throw in some “weirdness” and “disbandments” and you’ve got yourself a season 4.

Beginning of Second Era

We’ve already discussed this a couple of times, but let’s bring the point home:

The season 1, 2, 3 era is over.

Season 4 starts the season 4, 5 era.

What does it mean to be the beginning of a new era? You’ve gotta start off a whole new chunk of story. You’ve gotta set off into uncharted waters.

We see this in Friday Night Lights:

In the first era, Eric Taylor was the coach of the Dillon panthers. One of the best high school football teams in all of Texas, and possibly the country. They had the money, the reputation, and the fans. But at the end of the era, right at the end of season 3, the school administration is dealing with some redistricting and wants to replace him. They do however offer him the job as head coach at East Dillon High, a school re-opening after years of being closed.

In season 4, we see him take the job and build the school’s football team from scratch. This is the new era – no money, no rep, no fans. Stripped down and lean. This is Coach Taylor building up and leading the Lions of East Dillion High. New Team. New Era.

Solid work to keep the show moving in new directions, and keep it evolving.

When crafting your season 4, be sure to create an antithesis to the dramatic evolution statement of season 3, and to do what you can to set the stage for the brand new season 4, 5 era.



Season 4 (part 4) – Even Trade of Characters & Promotion

Season 4

Dramatic Pace

Has two traits:

  • Even Trade, for your roster of characters
  • Promotion

Even Trade

In season 2, our previous separation/negative/deviation season, we had a change in our roster of characters with “new blood.” That meant we were bringing in new people – explicitly adding to the story’s roster of characters.

For an “even trade” in characters, this means…

We’re gonna lose some, and gain some, in equal measure.

What does this look like? Let’s take a peek:

In season 4 of Friday Night Lights they traded show regulars:

  • Street
  • Lyla
  • Smash
  • Tyra

for

  • Vince
  • Luke
  • Becky
  • Jess

That’s 4 for 4. That’s a straight even trade.

Glee did the same thing. After season 3, most of the glee club graduated. And while we kept up with some of them, like Rachel, Kurt, and Santana – others fell by the wayside, only making the occasional appearance, like:

  • Mercedes
  • Quinn
  • Mike

With a lot of the group having graduated, the club needs new members. So in come:

  • Jake
  • Marley
  • Ryder
  • Kitty

Generally speaking, that’s an even trade. Out with the old and in with the new, as life goes on.

An even trade of this size works best on large ensemble shows. The smaller the cast, the smaller the trade.

Promotion

What this means, is a little difficult to pin down. But basically:

The quality of your show has to go up. The show has to get better.

You’re giving your story a “promotion” in the eyes of the audience. The show was good before, but now it’s really killin’ it.

Why? Why do we need to specifically make the show so much better than before? Well, it’s been 3 full seasons now. Most shows don’t last even that long.

If your show is going to go for a second era, then you’ve got to show your audience that there’s more story to tell. You’ve got to open up the story to bigger and better things. You’ve gotta show them that the best is yet to come.

Let’s take a look at a story that really nailed the promotion:

LOST.

For the first three seasons, LOST was doing fantastic things with the stranded-on-an-island idea. But to “promote” the story, they moved past the mysterious island angle and opened up the story to bigger and better things. We’re shown that in the future, some of the survivors get off the island. Things get weirder, more complex, as mystery upon mystery teases itself into the future. More intricate mythology, and deeper, wider reaching questions, about not just the island, but: Why these people? Why go back to the island?

This is what we mean when we say “promotion.”

They even took it one step further in promoting not just the story content of the show, but the format as well. Season 4 ditches the flashback format from the previous era, and instead utilizes the flashforward format in the new era. That’s a definite promotion. Good work, LOST.

A more subtle example would be something like Dexter.

Season 4 pushed the quality of the show to new heights. The first three seasons were quite good, but season four really hit its stride and arguably achieved the series’ high point: Rita’s death.

Now, we understand this “promotion” idea can be fairly subjective. Especially when one of its main components is:

“Hey, make it ‘better.'”

But keep in mind, the general idea of the promotion is to open the show up to greater possibilities. Breathe new life into the overall story by leaving behind what’s already been explored – search out new vistas. Specifically new, cooler, more interesting vistas. Season 4 should feel like the meaningful culmination of everything that’s come before.

It’s like reinventing the show in a way. By season 4, you need to communicate to your audience that not only is there more story to tell, but better story to tell.

But what if you don’t promote. What’s the harm? Well, then you’ve got what we call a:

Slump

If the quality of your show was solid all through seasons 1, 2, and 3. And then you stick to the same general level of quality in season 4, then you’ve “slumped.” The show can’t stay the same level of quality. Because even if they don’t consciously realize it, the audience unconsciously needs things to get significantly better after the first era’s over.

Promoting isn’t an option, it’s a necessity for the longevity of your story.

If season 4 doesn’t take the story to new heights, then it’s no longer building with forward momentum, it’s sliding backward into inferiority. The best days of the story will be behind you and your audience will feel it. They will lose interest and stop watching. They’ll be thinking:

“The show peaked, what’s the point?”

It makes sense right? The first chunk is over, and they want the next chunk to be that much cooler. They want it to be an improvement upon the foundation set by the first era. If it’s just more of the same, they’re going to lose interest.

A lot of shows have suffered a slump in their season 4, and then never really recovered from the lost momentum:

  • Nip/Tuck
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Rescue Me

They all had more seasons, sure. But the quality of the show never really recovered. Nobody really loved the show as much as they did previously.

They all coasted too much in season 4. These season 4’s weren’t necessarily worse than seasons 1, 2, or 3. But not explicitly better either. As a result, you’ve got no “promotion,” but a “slump” instead.

You can recover from a slump, but it’s an uphill battle.

Arguably The Sopranos did it. Season 4 was not great. It was too much of the same from the past 3 seasons. The circumstances weren’t very different, no real shake-up, nothing bigger, badder, more interesting, higher stakes. It was just continuing on from season 3, still playing out things that probably should have been wrapped up last season. As a consequence: it’s a slump.

Not a huge one. But a noticeable one.

Season 4 was arguably their weakest season, when it needed to be one of their strongest. But, season 5 got things moving again. It’s arguably one of their strongest. It picked the quality back up, and things worked out in the end.

What if your season 4 isn’t the same level of quality, but noticeably worse?

Oh boy…

What if you’ve “run out of ideas” and season 4 is worse than any part of the season 1, 2, 3 era? That’s a true slump that’s very difficult to recover from. A noticeably bad season 4 is a show breaker.

So when putting together your season 4, make sure to swap out an even number of characters for new ones. And go out of your way to up the quality of your show. Open it up to new ideas, grand new story threads, and a general sense of everything getting more meaningful and even better than ever before.



Season 4 (part 3) – Shake Up

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

Time for that…

Deviation

Season 4 deals with its deviation theme via:

“Shake Up”

How can one shake things up?

Two main ways:

  • Changing the Circumstances
  • Upping the Ante

Changing the Circumstances

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

The first era, seasons 1, 2, and 3, had a shared circumstance. In season 4, you need to change that circumstance – shake it up.

This is what we see on The O.C.

Season 4 sees our main characters having graduated from high school, and now living their post-high-school-lives. Summer’s across the country at college. Seth is waiting to hear from RISD for his late admission. And Ryan’s working and living in a bar, knee-deep in a depressive spiral. Season 4 also plays out how everyone is dealing with Marissa’s death, which occurred at the end of season 3. This isn’t just the new “post-high-school” circumstance, it’s the new “post-Marissa” circumstance.

There’s a bunch of ways to shake things up. Let’s look at a seemingly similar, but very different, way to do it:

The Vampire Diaries is essentially a high school show. But they didn’t want to leave the high school setting behind quite yet, so they changed the circumstance in a different way. In season 4, our main character Elena becomes a vampire. She spent the first three seasons as a human. She also spent the first three seasons romantically involved with Stefan. Come season 4 – she’s no longer human, and her romance with Damon is in full swing. Leaving high school seems like an obvious choice to shake things up, but by digging a little deeper, The Vampire Diaries was able to significantly shake things up, while still keeping their practical setting.

Upping the Ante

By this, we mean to make the stakes of the story that much more dire, that much bigger, that much harder and more intense. From a character point of view, they’ve gotta invest more, they’ve gotta have more to lose.

This means different things for different stories.

In Grey’s Anatomy season 4, our characters went from being surgical interns, to full-blown residents – in charge of their own interns. They moved up a level, and now things are that much harder and challenging.

When a story is based around careers, it’s very straight forward to up the ante in this way. But what about a different kind of story?

Supernatural season 4 ups the ante by introducing angels to the story. For the first era, it was humans fighting demons and monsters. By introducing angels to the story you have greatly expanded the mythos – significantly upping the ante. Especially considering that these angels have tasked the Winchesters with preventing the escape of the devil himself. This is huge for a couple of monster hunters. The stakes just jumped up a couple of levels as they go from two brothers hunting down urban legends, to straight up super heroes trying to save the world.

However you do it, whichever way is best for your story – you have to shake things up. This is usually done by changing the circumstances and upping the ante.



Season 4 (part 2) – Weirdness

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s talk about that…

Negative

For season 4, it’s all about:

“Weirdness”

You can get weird in many different ways but…

The two you’ll see most often are:

  • Invasive
  • Otherworldly

Invasive Weirdness

“Invasive” weirdness, is weirdness that invades the lives of your characters.

We see this on Smallville. In season 4, Lana is repeatedly possessed by a 17th century witch. While possessed, the Countess Margaret Isobel Thoreaux is walking around in Lana’s body, using magic and hunting down the “Stones of Power.” Not only is that weird, but her body is literally being invaded and controlled by someone else. That’s as invasive as it gets.

We also see invasive weirdness in Angel season 4. When Angel’s son Connor knocked boots with Cordelia? She became pregnant. That’s a little weird. When she gives birth to a full-grown woman deity from a higher dimension, bent on enslaving this world through mindless devotion and love? Things get super weird. This deity, Jasmine, used Cordelia’s womb to birth herself into this world. That’s specifically, invasively, weird.

Otherworldly Weirdness

Now, in the examples above, there are some definite “otherworldly” elements:

  • Witchcraft from the 17th century.
  • A god from a higher dimension.

But let’s take a look at some other examples:

Weeds:
At the end of season 3, the “Agrestic” suburb burnt down to the ground. At the beginning of season 4, The Botwin clan have moved to “Ren Mar,” a town near the Mexico border. Nancy gets herself tied up in Mexican drugs, guns, and human trafficking. She’s traded the suburbs, for this whole other world of hardcore crime in Mexico. That’s some “otherworldly” weirdness, for a show about selling weed.

True Blood:
In season 4, Sookie finds herself in the alternate dimension of “Faerie World.” Season 4 then plays out the ramifications of her brief visit. We also see, in this season, the first inclusion of witches. Even for a show like True Blood, this inclusion of faerie business and straight forward magic is pretty weird, and definitely otherworldly.

So when crafting season 4, be sure to address your negative theme by getting into some weirdness. If you’re looking for ideas, go with invasive and otherworldly.