Seven Season Wrap Up!

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!

Season 1

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Identity’

  • Old vs. New Identities
  • Character Roles

“Positive” expressed as ‘New World’

  • New Circumstances/Location
  • Fresh Start

“Origins” expressed as ‘Old World’

  • Old Circumstances/Location
  • World Change

Dramatic Pace:

‘Establish Core Conflict’ and ‘Full Circle’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Thesis’ and ‘Beginning of First Era’

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Stress Tests’

  • Romances
  • Friendships

“Negative” expressed as ‘Meaningful Death’

  • Family or Friend
  • Foe

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Contradiction’

  • Role Reversals
  • Authority Figures

Dramatic Pace:

‘New Blood’ for your roster of characters and ‘Dragonslay’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘First Era Continued’

Season 3

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Power’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sexual Violence

“Positive” expressed as ‘Creation’

  • Newborns
  • Resurrections

“Origins” expressed as ‘Repercussions’

  • Debts
  • Revenge

Dramatic Pace:

‘Fallout’ and ‘Point of No Return: Circumstantially’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis/Thesis’ and ‘End of First Era’

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Disbandments’

  • Partnerships
  • Marriages

“Negative” expressed as ‘Weirdness’

  • Invasive
  • Otherworldly

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Shake Up’

  • Change of Circumstances
  • Up the Ante

Dramatic Pace:

‘Even trade’ for your roster of characters and ‘Promotion’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘Beginning of Second Era’

Season 5

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Family’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sacrifice

“Positive” expressed as ‘Salvation’

  • Protection
  • Redemption

“Origins” expressed as ‘Formation’

  • Relationships
  • Organizations

Dramatic Pace:

‘Impossible Decision’ and ‘Point of No Return: Emotionally’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis/Thesis’ and ‘End of Second Era’

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Role Challenge’

  • Circumstantial
  • Emotional

“Negative” expressed as ‘Bummer’

  • Death
  • Trauma

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Destruction’

  • Mistakes
  • Decisions

Dramatic Pace:

‘Deficit’ for your roster of characters and ‘Test/Trial’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘Beginning of Third Era’

Season 7

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Legacy’

  • Descending
  • Ancestral

“Positive” expressed as ‘Individuality’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Mentorship

“Origins” expressed as ‘The Beginning’

  • Story
  • Show

Dramatic Pace:

‘Resolution of Core Conflict’ and ‘Point of No Return: Geographically’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis’ and ‘End of Third Era/Series’

That’s it, Animals!



Season 8 – Like a New Season 1

Season 8

We spoke about long form storytelling in the sense of it being a seven season structure. Seven seasons to tell your story, and then you’re done.

But what happens when you go beyond season seven? Plenty of shows do it. What then?

When you go past season 7, the whole seven season cycle starts over again.

So…

Season 8, is just a new season 1.

You’ll deal with all the attributes of season 1 again:

Identity

  • Establish Old Identities vs. New Identities
  • Establish Character Roles

New World

  • New Circumstances/Location
  • Fresh Start

Old World

  • Old Circumstances/Location
  • World Change

Establish (new) Core Conflict

Full Circle

Thesis

Beginning of 1st Era

Then, as you move forward:

If you’re getting crazy and you go past season 14, then the cycle repeats again. Season 15 would be a new season 1, etc etc etc…

So what exactly do we mean by “a new season 1?”

We mean that you’re going to take a look at all of the things a normal season 1 does, and do those things again here in season 8. But notice, what you’re establishing in this season 8, should be done in stark contrast to what’s come before – in the season 1-7 cycle of the show.

If season 8 is truly a new season 1, then you’ll have to have a world change, a fresh start, a new world, etc. And this new world should be markedly different from the world of seasons 1-7. As different from them as season 1 was from the “old world” that existed before the show started.

So season 8 is in a strange position.

It is, essentially, two things at once:

  • A separation/negative/deviation season, when looked at in the context of the show from season 1 onward.
  • A connection/positive/origin season when seen in the context of the new cycle of the show being established (seasons 8-14).

This season serves two masters.

In a perfect world, every season 8 you see would play out this structure and serve as a new season 1.

But the world is rarely perfect, so you’re gonna see a bunch of shows that do something a bit different.

Typically, when a season 8 isn’t a new season 1, then showrunners make it a generic separation/negative/deviation season.

They’re continuing to pulse the seasons between connection/positive/origin and separation/negative/deviation in an effort to keep the narrative alive.

They treat their season 8 like a new, different, version of season 2, 4, or 6. In place of any specific traits for their season 8 (identity, new world, old world, core conflict, etc.), they just do thematically relevant stuff that would fit in any season 2, 4, or 6.

Is this a great idea? No.

By definition it makes for a pretty generic season. There’s no real change or development. The narrative is now spinning its wheels, pumping out a new season without building toward anything.

Let’s look at some examples:

House, season 8!

At the end of season 7, we saw House drive his car into Cuddy’s living room. Season 8 picks up with House in jail. Foreman gets him out on conditional release and back working at the hospital. Foreman’s actually taken over Cuddy’s position as Dean of Medicine, because she’s split town. Back at the hospital now, House is starting over – putting together a new team. Including new characters Park and Adams, and reuniting with Chase and Taub.

So there’s “separation” – in that Cuddy is gone and House has empty seats to fill on his new team. There’s “negative” – in that House is heartbroken and on probation, one screw-up away from going back to jail. And there’s “deviation” – in that these circumstances deviate from previous seasons.

With all of these things in play, it’s definitely a new era. And it should be. The season 6/7 era is over, so it’s time for a new one.

But!

This is not a new story. It’s not a new season 1. Notice, we’re not starting over. House is still doing his differential diagnosis work at the same hospital with a cobbled together team. The world and location haven’t changed. The core conflict hasn’t changed. We did some character swapping but those who’ve stayed have pretty much the same identities as they did before. Things have changed (in an “era” sort of way) but this is definitely not a new season 1. They’re just squeakin’ out one more year before taking their bow. Squeakin’ out one more season.

Let’s take a look at another example:

Smallville ran for 10 seasons. They did treat season 8 as a new season 1.

We’ve got the new world/location: Clark moved from his home town of Smallville, to working and spending most of his time in Metropolis.

We’ve got the new core conflict: Clark spent the first seven seasons hiding his alien origins and his abilities. In season 8, the core conflict is now all about using those powers, but actively hiding his identity as “The Blur.”

  • “Will they discover that Clark is an alien with super powers?”

becomes

  • “Will they discover Clark Kent is the super powered ‘Blur?'”

It’s a subtle change, but significant.

Our characters get a roster change: Lex, Lionel, Martha, and Kara are all out (for the most part). Oliver Queen, Tess Mercer, and Davis Bloome (aka Doomsday) are all in.

And we’ve also got new identities for those characters stickin’ around:

Clark is now a reporter at the Daily Planet and masquerading as “The Blur.” When we see Lana Lang again she’s used Lex’s Prometheus technology to gain super-powers. She’s a hero of her own now.

Not everyone gets a new identity, but thematically, the season has plenty of focus on this (new) season 1 “identity” idea.

Structurally, Smallville’s season 8 is really solid.

So when building your season 8, go for a whole new season 1.

Start a whole new cycle of your show. You can squeeze out another mediocre year if you want, but really, that’s the bland, boring, way to go.

If you’re gonna go for season 8, really go for season 8. Do it right.



Season 6 (part 1) – Role Challenge

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

Season 6 has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s take a look at season 6’s…

Separation

In season 2, the separation theme was expressed with “stress tests.”
In season 4, the separation theme was expressed with “disbandments.”

How does season 6 do it?

“Role Challenge”

When we say “role challenge” we mean that you take a character’s role in the story, and you challenge that role. You present a genuine difficulty to the part they play in the bigger picture. Who they typically are, or the function the typically serve in the group, is going to be challenged.

When challenging a character’s role…

There are two main ways to go about it:

  • Circumstantial
  • Emotional

Circumstantial

A “circumstantial” role challenge, is what we see in season 6 of Rescue Me.

Throughout season 6, the city is actively trying to shut down the firehouse, leaving our crew out of a job. Their roles as firemen are being directly challenged by the circumstances around them. If you take their jobs, they literally can’t be firemen.

This is a really clear-cut example. They identify heavily with being firemen, and you have circumstances threaten to take that away from them. But that’s not the only way you can have circumstances challenge your character’s roles. You could give them an injury, utilize a location change, force them into a new job, or transform the character into a different way of being.

Emotional

An “emotional” role challenge is a little different.

For a good example of this, let’s look at season 6 of Supernatural.

Coming off of the events of season 5, Sam has lost his soul. Without his soul, he has no conscience. He’s brutal and emotionless. This directly challenges his role as a hunter. It makes him brash and reckless. And almost more importantly, it directly challenges his role as the compassionate side of the Sam/Dean duo. Sam isn’t himself without his soul. Its absence directly challenges his normal role, and his life.

In a general sense, you’ll typically see shows utilize an emotional role challenge as the result of grief. When a character is bummed out, it disrupts everything in their life. They can’t do what they normally do and they can’t be who they normally are. Grief has a way of changing people.

So in season 6, make sure to service the separation theme through some role challenges. Typically, you’ll do this via circumstantial challenges and emotional challenges.



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.