- Act 1
- Act 2
- Act 3
- Act 4
- All Videos In Release Order
- Dramatic Evolution
- Dramatic Pace
- Dramatic Structure
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Season 7
- Season 8
- Seven Seasons
- story shamans podcast
The Shield, The O.C. kinda…, Game of Thrones kinda…
Seven Season Wrap Up!
The seven seasons are all done. For convenience sake, we’ve put the entire structure in one place for easy reference.
Let’s get started!
- Old vs. New Identities
- Character Roles
- New Circumstances/Location
- Fresh Start
- Old Circumstances/Location
- World Change
- Family or Friend
- Role Reversals
- Authority Figures
- Sexual Violence
- Change of Circumstances
- Up the Ante
That’s it, Animals!
A while back, we defined “seasons” as a particular chunk of story with particular attributes. Much like an “act” in a movie. We then took you through all the different attributes of each season.
The seasons are defined by these attributes, it’s what makes a particular season different from the rest. This is an important distinction to understand when “variations” come into play.
Here at Story Shamans we make a clear distinction between a show’s “season”, based on structural content, and a show’s “year” based on the schedule in which it was released to an audience.
Ideally, your “seasons” and your “years” would line up perfectly.
Like we see with:
- The Shield
- The West Wing
- The Wire
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Sons of Anarchy
But, a “year” of a show and a “season” of a show won’t always be the same thing.
When this happens, it’s called a “variation.”
These variations come in many forms:
- Continued Season
- Season Jump
- Mislabeled Season
- Mash-up Season
When a season of content keeps on going into the next year.
The content should shift from one year to the next, moving the story forward from one season to the next. But with the “continued season” variation – it doesn’t.
It just keeps the same season content, across two (or more) years.
Dexter did this with its last year. Their season 8 is really just season 7 continued. Their season 7 started in year 7, and continued on through to year 8. It was just a big two parter.
One Tree Hill did the same thing for its fourth year. Year 4 wasn’t season 4, it was season 3 continued. Everybody is still in high school, playing out the events of their senior year, dragging out that first era.
When you jump to the next season, mid year.
Maybe you’re in season 4 and it turns out you’re getting cancelled. You don’t want to end your story on all the weirdness and shake up of season 4. So half-way through the year, you jump to season 5 content, to close out the era and the show.
This is exactly what The O.C. did. Year 4 starts out with our main characters living their post-high school lives. Scattered and grieving the loss of Marissa. That’s “change of circumstances,” “disbandments,” and “beginning of new era.” All season 4 stuff.
Then at the midpoint of the year, they resolve all of this stuff and jump straight into season 5 content:
Ryan’s Dad Frank comes to town to patch things up with his son – “family” and “salvation.” Ryan finds emotional solace in his new relationship with Taylor – more “salvation.” Sandy and Kirsten are going to have another baby – more “family.” Julie is dating both Bullit and Frank and has to choose between them. Will she marry for money or love? – “impossible decision.”
The show clearly transitions from season 4, straight into season 5. All in one year.
Prison Break did the exact same thing in their fourth year. Halfway through, they resolve the season 4 content, and move full-on into season 5 content.
Imagine your favorite show is truckin’ along.
- Year 1 = season 1
- Year 2 = season 2
- Year 3 = season 3
- Year 4 = season 4
- Year 5 = season 5
And then suddenly, the coming episodes are being advertised as “season 6 part 1,” and then “season 6 part 2” after that.
This variation is just a quirk of labeling.
It typically has nothing to do with the actual content and “seasons” of the show.
We see this happen with:
- The Sopranos
- Rescue Me
- Mad Men
- Breaking Bad
- Teen Wolf
- The Walking Dead
For The Sopranos, their seasons matched their years, all the way up until the end – when suddenly they had “season 6 part 1” and “season 6 part 2.” That’s what the marketing team called them anyway. But really, content-wise, it was just season 6 and season 7.
With Entourage, their season 3 was supposedly broken up into “season 3 part 1” and “season 3 part 2.” But structurally, it was really just season 3 and season 4.
These distinctions are usually business decisions, not creative ones.
With the “season jump” variation, we saw clear examples of shows blowing through two seasons worth of content, over the span of one year. And they did it sequentially. Year 4 of The O.C. first spent time on season 4 material, then moved on to season 5 material.
The “mash-up” is different. Instead of doing two seasons sequentially…
You’re doing two seasons simultaneously.
We see this in:
- Veronica Mars
- Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
At the beginning of their third year, we see elements of both season 3 and season 4. Veronica is working a new case, chasing down a serial rapist. That’s “power,” “sexual violence,” – exactly what you would expect in a season 3. But she’s also starting college. That’s “shake up,” “even trade of characters,” – exactly what you would expect in a season 4. It’s both seasons, at the same time. Structurally, you would expect one more year of high school playing out season 3 elements. But they’re jumping the gun and incorporating season 4 ideas as well. This is a classic “mash-up.”
When looking at different shows, you’re going to see all kinds of variations. And quite often, you’ll see more than one type of variation during a show’s run.
Veronica Mars had a crazy third year.
Year 3 started as a mash-up of seasons 3, and 4. Then it jumped fully into season 4 territory. Then briefly jumped to season 5, right at the end there. That’s 3 seasons, all in one year.
Alias had a couple of variations as well.
Over the course of the show they had…
- A “jump” variation: Year 2 = season 2, then season 3.
- A “mash-up” variation: Year 5 was simultaneously seasons 6 and 7.
Take a look at the new Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009).
It’s nuts. Once you think you’ve got a firm grasp on the seven seasons, go ahead and watch Battlestar Galactica‘s 4 year run and see if you can piece together just how many seasons they cover.
I’ll give you a hint: It’s all 7.
There are all kinds of combinations and permutations of the seven seasons and how they work across the years a show is on the air. It works best when each year corresponds to each season of a story. But some times, as a matter of necessity, variations are needed.
This is it Animals! Time to wrap up season 7, the third era, and your entire story as a whole.
Has two main elements:
- End of Third Era/Your Entire Story
Most shows, most stories, are going to end completely at the end of season 7. It’s a natural end point. The 7 seasons have run their course, and now it’s all coming to an end. The story is over.
You can go beyond season 7 if you like. But if you do, the seasons moving forward will just be a new cycle of the same 7 season structure. We’ll get into what this means a little later. But for now, for simplicity’s sake – let’s assume that you’re ending your story at the end of season 7.
Season 7 is this third era’s “synthesis.”
You’re taking the dramatic evolution themes from seasons 5 and 6, then combining and transcending them into something that really nails your point home. This isn’t just the synthesis for the third era, it’s the synthesis for the whole series. The whole story.
Let’s finish up our Spider-Man show:
Season 5’s thesis:
“With great power, comes great humility.”
Season 6’s antithesis:
“With great power, comes great hubris.”
For season 7’s synthesis, how about:
“With great power, comes great wisdom.”
In season 5, he was humble about his power. In season 6, he got a little power-inflated. Here in season 7, Spider-Man comes to a place of hard-won wisdom with regards to his power.
How’s that work? There’s a natural progression. It comes from being super humble, then superior, and after having experienced both of those extremes, Spider-Man’s able to find the true middle path. He knows what it means to have this gift, and he also understands where his limits are.
But this “wisdom” comes not just from the humility and hubris of the past two seasons. It also comes from the lessons of every previous season.
- The responsibility he learned in season 1.
- The unique freedom he enjoyed in season 2.
- The honor he felt in season 3.
- The corruption he suffered in season 4.
Then the lessons of this particular era:
- Both the humility he gained in season 5, and the hubris he succumbed to in season 6.
It all culminates, combines and synthesizes in season 7, into “wisdom.” It’s both the synthesis for your third era, and the synthesis for your entire story. You’ve gotta keep that in mind.
End of Third Era/Your Entire Story
This is the last season of your grand, seven season story.
You’ve got to keep an eye on ending not just this third era chunk of story, but also look to end the entire series.
The West Wing.
The third era was all about the general question: “Who’s the next president going to be?”
That question, and era, completely comes to a close when President Santos is sworn into office, at the end of the season.
But, this being the end of the show, they’ve also got to close out the entire story. This is done by closing out the Bartlet Administration’s second term. They’re all done. The presidency and administration we’ve been watching this whole time, is now, definitively, at an end.
The West Wing is a good example of a show that has exactly 7 seasons. How about one that went past season 7 but still had all of this dramatic evolution stuff to satisfy?
Let’s look again at Supernatural.
As previously discussed, their third era was all about “purgatory.” And they close out this era by having Dean sent to purgatory, after taking out the Leviathan King – Dick Roman.
That’s a solid end to the era, a good end to that purgatory chunk. But since the show is still going, they don’t close out the story as a whole. They’re saving that for when they actually do end the story of Sam and Dean Winchester. Whenever that might be.
That’s it Animals! All seven seasons laid at your feet.
There are more details that we could get into, but these are the large pieces. The stuff that’ll definitely get you off and running.
Get to know ’em. Let ’em sink into your bones.
Then go tell your own stories. Do it.