Season 5 (part 2) – Salvation

Season 5

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s take a look at that…

Positive

Season 5 expresses this positive theme through:

“Salvation”

This “salvation” usually comes in the form of:

  • Protection
  • Redemption

Protection

“Protection” is when one character is trying to save another. Give them salvation from harm.

We see this in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 5. Buffy and her friends spend the season protecting Buffy’s little sister Dawn, from the inter-dimensional god Glory. Glory is stranded in this dimension, banished from her homeworld, and Dawn is the key to going home. However, to use Dawn as her ticket home, it requires a blood sacrifice (sacrifice, Animals!), that will kill Dawn and unleash the Apocalypse. The entire season is spent hiding Dawn, providing her salvation from this fate. “Protecting” her.

The Shield – season 5. Internal Affairs has got enough evidence on Lem to put him away, but they want the entire Strike Team, especially Mackey. They try to flip Lem but he’s not having it – he’s loyal to the end. Lem spends the season protecting the rest of the Strike Team from going to jail. For better or worse. He is actively providing salvation for his friends. Protecting them.

Redemption

This is a different type of “salvation.”

Our characters feel they need to make up for some great transgression, or flaw. They feel the need to redeem themselves. And once they do, they will finally reach some kind of salvation.

This plays a large role in season 5 of Dexter. At the top of season 5, Dexter blames himself for his wife Rita’s death. As he should, he wasn’t innocent in what happened to her at all. He struggles with his guilt. But when he meets Lumen, he feels he’s found a way to use his special set of skills in service of finding some kind of redemption.

We see something similar in season 5 of Supernatural. At the end of season 4, Lucifer was freed from his prison – the direct result of Sam breaking the last seal. Now freed, Lucifer is trying to bring about the Apocalypse and everyone is blaming Sam for making his escape possible. If Sam and Dean can stop the Apocalypse, if they can put Lucifer back in his box, Sam can redeem himself.

So when crafting your season 5, be sure to pay attention to this theme of salvation. You can explore it however you choose. But commonly you’ll see it expressed as protection, and redemption.



Season 5 (part 1) – Family

Season 5

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

First, let’s address that…

Connection

In season 5, this connection idea is expressed through:

“Family”

The most common expressions of this idea that you’ll see are:

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sacrifice

Loss/Gain

“Loss/Gain” is exactly what you think.

Characters either “gain” family – through a marriage, a birth, an adoption, etc. Or characters “lose” family – through a death, divorce, disownment, etc.

Let’s slice up a plate of examples!

Smallville season 5. Clark loses his father, Jonathan. He dies of a heart attack. That’s some clear and significant “loss of family.”

In season 5 of Mad Men, Don is remarried to his former secretary Megan. He brings her into his family, and embraces hers. That’s some big time “gain of family.”

Sacrifice

Typically you’ll see this expressed as someone making a sacrifice for their family. But occasionally, it’s someone being sacrificed by their family.

Examples!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – season 5. Buffy sacrifices her life to save her sister Dawn and the rest of the world. Pretty cut and dry. She sacrifices herself, for her family.

Sons of Anarchy – season 5. Opie takes Jax’s place in a prison execution. One of them has to die and Opie sacrifices himself to save his brothers. He sacrificed himself, for his (motorcycle club) family.

Notice that when we say “family,” it doesn’t have to be actual blood relatives. Anytime you have a group of people, connected by some kind of shared commonality or caring – you’ve got a “family.”

Alright, both of those examples were people sacrificing for their family. How about the flip side?

We see this on The Shield. At the end of season 5, Shane kills Lem to protect the rest of the Strike Team. Shane sacrificed him, for what he believed to be the greater good.

We see the same thing in season 5 of The Sopranos. Tony sacrifices his cousin Tony B., in order to avoid going to war with Johnny Sack and the New York families. He killed his own cousin, sacrificed him, because he believed it to be the best possible outcome.

In season 5, you can express this “family” theme however you like, but commonly you’ll see people do it with a loss/gain, or sacrifice.



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.