Season 5 (part 5) – Synthesis/Thesis & End of 2nd Era

Season 5

Time to wrap up season 5, and the entire second era of your story with its…

Dramatic Evolution

Has two main elements:

  • Synthesis/Thesis
  • End of Second Era

Synthesis/Thesis

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

  • Season 1 had a “thesis.”
  • Season 2 had an “antithesis.”
  • Season 3 combined and evolved out of them in a “synthesis.”

That season 3 “synthesis” simultaneously served as the new era’s “thesis.”

So…

  • Season 3 was a “thesis/synthesis.”
  • Season 4 was its “antithesis.”

Here in season 5, it’s time for another “synthesis.”

A “synthesis” of the “dramatic evolution” themes of seasons 3 and 4.

What’s that look like? Let’s recap:

Season 3’s thesis:

“With great power, comes great honor.”

Season 4’s antithesis:

“With great power, comes great corruption.”

For season 5’s synthesis, how about:

“With great power, comes great humility.”

You can see how this idea grows out of the previous two. Our hero had great power and carried it with honor in season 3. In season 4, he was corrupted by it. Now, coming out the other side of that corruption, he’s come to a place of true humility with regards to that power.

Once again, we’ve synthesized and evolved the dramatic evolution themes.

“With great power, comes great humility.”

This “synthesis” also, simultaneously, serves as the “thesis” for the next era.

  • Season 3 was the “thesis” for the second era.
  • Season 5 is the “thesis” for the third era.

So when we get to season 6 comin’ up, it will be an “antithesis” to this season 5 “thesis.”

End of Second Era

This season 4/5 era, needs to come to a close.

Let’s take a look at how Friday Night Lights did it:

The second era, seasons 4 and 5, was all about Eric Taylor coaching the East Dillon Lions. At the end of season 5, Eric and his wife Tami leave Dillon Texas, so that Tami can accept her dream job as Dean of Admissions at the prestigious Braemore College in Philadelphia. Eric takes a position out there as well, coaching yet another high school football team.

The era of Eric Taylor coaching the East Dillon Lions, has definitely come to a close. He’s moved towns, he’s moved schools, he’s moved on.

When crafting your season 5, your dramatic evolution demands that you make season 5 a synthesis of the previous two seasons, as well as pay attention to closing out the end of the story’s second era.



Season 5 (part 4) – Impossible Decision & Point of No Return: Emotionally

Season 5

Dramatic Pace

Has two traits:

  • Impossible Decision
  • Point of No Return; Emotionally

Impossible Decision

Your characters face a decision that just seems straight up impossible.

Usually it looks like this: Your characters are faced with two equally terrible choices, and are forced to pick one.

That’s the most common expression of this “impossible decision” idea.

In some rare cases, you’ll present your characters with two terrible choices, and they’ll engineer a third choice out of thin air. This works, when the third choice is just as terrible as the two being decided upon. It’s not as great, when the third choice is some kind of cop-out where the problem’s solved and everyone lives happily ever after. That undermines the stakes. And creatively, it’s a terrible idea.

The decision you’re presenting to your characters is impossible, because no matter what they choose, they can’t live with that decision.

Usually, you’ll place the impossible decision at the very end of season 5. But you don’t have to.

Examples!

At the very end of season 5 of The Sopranos, we see one hell of an “impossible decision.”

Back in the day, Tony Soprano grew up with his cousin Tony Blundetto aka “Tony B.” They were close. In the eighties though, Tony B went to jail – for 17 years. Now, here in season 5, he’s finally out. He tries to go straight, but falls back into crime, and kills the wrong guys in a New York power struggle. Johnny Sack, from New York, demands that Tony Soprano hand over his cousin. Specifically to be tortured and killed for what he’s done.

Tony’s got an “impossible decision” to make. If he doesn’t hand him over, he’s at war with New York. If he does hand him over, he’s sending his beloved cousin to be tortured to death. It’s a pickle. But Tony’s a smart guy, he comes up with a third option. His solution is to track down Tony B himself, and give him a quick, non-tortured, death. He then tells Johnny Sack where to find the body.

Tony B dies, but at least it wasn’t horrifically painful. And though they’re unhappy, Tony’s avoided going to war with New York.

A solid resolution to an excellent “impossible decision.”

Let’s look at a different example:

Season 5 of LOST.

We’ve learned by season 5, that there was an “incident” on the island that the DHARMA Initiative dealt with by building the hatch and instating the numbers and button-pushing protocol.

Now stuck back in the 1970s, Daniel Faraday theorizes that if they detonate Charles Widmore’s H bomb, in the right place, they can stop “the incident” before it ever happens. They can nullify the electromagnetic pocket completely. Meaning the hatch, the button pushing – it doesn’t have to happen. Desmond doesn’t fail to push it one day, and Oceanic 815 never crashes. Our characters never end up on the island.

The impossible decision becomes: should they do it?

Do they purposely detonate a hydrogen bomb? Doing so could alter the timeline and prevent all the death and tragedy they’ve suffered since the crash. They could completely undo the history of all the events up until this point. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? It could do absolutely nothing to the timeline and just explode in their faces and kill them all.

It’s a tough call. After a lot of debate, and back and forth, Juliet sets off that bomb.

In this case, there were two choices, and one was chosen.

Point of No Return – Emotionally

Close out the era, in an emotionally impactful way.

In season 3, we had a “point of no return” that emphasized circumstance. This time, we want a “point of no return” that emphasizes emotion.

We see this in season 5 of Rescue Me. At the end of season 5, Tommy encourages everybody to fall off the wagon and get back into booze. This results in a fatal car crash for Teddy’s wife. Teddy blames Tommy for her death.

For Tommy, this is a big “point of no return; emotionally.” He’s indirectly caused his Aunt’s death. And his beloved Uncle just put a bullet in him for it.

Moving forward, things are never going to be the same, emotionally.

Grey’s Anatomy season 5:

At the end of season 5, George gets hit by a bus. The doctors desperately try to save him, but his injuries are too great and he dies.

This is a big “point of no return; emotionally.” One of their own, a fellow resident they’ve been working along side this entire time, a dear friend, has died. Things will never be the same for any of them.

So when tackling your season 5, be sure to deal with your dramatic pace by creating a compelling impossible decision, and a point of no return that focuses on emotional effects.



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 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!