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 7 (part 4) – Resolution of the Core Conflict & Point of No Return: Geographically

Dramatic Pace

Two traits:

  • Resolution of the Core Conflict
  • Point of No Return; Geographically

Resolution of the Core Conflict

Way back in season 1, as part of the dramatic pace, we established a “core conflict” for our story. A sentence, typically formulated as a “can” or “will” statement. This statement embodied the central conflict that ran through the entire story.

Now, here in season 7, it’s time to resolve that “core conflict.”

How did The Shield do it?

Back in season 1, the “core conflict” was established as: “Will Vic Mackey get away with all the things he’s done. Will they get him?”

At the end of season 7, we get the definitive answer to that question. The answer is yes, he does get away with it all.

He managed to manipulate his way into an all-encompassing immunity deal. He’s free from prosecution for any of the crimes he’s committed, as long as he admits to them on tape and then well-behavedly rides a desk for the next 3 years at ICE, writing up reports on gang activity. It’s not ideal, but far better than jail.

Notice the subtlety though. Vic has avoided jail, but:

  • Lem was murdered.
  • Shane killed himself.
  • Ronnie is going to jail.
  • Mackey’s family went into witness protection to get away from him.
  • He loves working the streets, but now he’s chained to a desk.
  • He lost his badge, his reputation, and his power.

So did he really get away with everything he’s done? Yes and no. For a series about moral grey areas this is a solid resolution to the core conflict and the story as a whole.

Point of No Return – Geographically

Close out the era, and the story, with a massive physical change.

If season 7 is the end of your series (which ideally it would be) then you want to end it with a geographic change – to really seal the deal and bring everything to a crystal clear close.

Back in season 1, we started with a “new world.”

Season 1 was all about starting the story of this new world. Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and now 7 all told the tales of this place. And now that it’s coming to an end – it’s a good time to leave this place behind. Physically. Geographically.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it. They literally turned Sunnydale into a crater in the Earth. They can’t stay in Sunnydale anymore, there’s no town to stay in.

This big change is easier to do when season 7 is the definite end of your series. All things are possible at the true ending of your story. But even if you plan to continue on to a season 8 – utilize the geographic change anyway. The location shift will only help your story move forward in bold and exciting ways.

That’s what Smallville did. After season 7, Clark moved from small-town Smallville to the big city of Metropolis. Their show’s even named after the original location, but they still moved after season 7.

Smallville has its faults, but it did some things perfectly.

So when crafting your season 7, be sure to respect your dramatic pace by resolving your core conflict and being sure to execute a point of no return, geographically.



Season 7 (part 2) – Individuality

Season 7

Dramatic Structure:

Season 7 has 3 areas of concern:

Positive

Season 1 expressed its positive theme via “new world.”
Season 3 expressed its positive theme via “creation.”
Season 5 expressed its positive theme via “salvation.”

Season 7’s positive theme:

“Individuality”

We mostly see individuality expressed in two ways:

  • Loss/Gain
  • Mentorship

Loss/Gain

In season 7, characters either lose their individuality, or gain it.

We see some loss of individuality in season 7 of Smallville.

This season sees the arrival of Clark’s cousin Kara. She too is an alien from Krypton and has all of Clark’s powers here on Earth. Clark’s no longer the only super-powered survivor of Krypton. There’s now another, just like him. He’s lost his individuality.

We see some gaining of individuality in season 7 of Rescue Me.

In season 7, Tommy is being pressured to retire from the firehouse. His wife is asking him to break away from his crew and take a desk job – for the sake of their new baby. At the same time, the crew is a tight-nit group as it always has been, but everyone spends the season considering their singular, individual, futures. Everyone’s gaining their individuality.

You see this a lot in stories that are based around a team. As their story comes to a close, teams, groups, or families, tend to go their separate ways. They gain their individuality from the group.

Mentorship

This is really a special kind of “loss of individuality.” By definition, it is one person teaching another person everything they know, taking on a protégé and communicating all the wisdom they have to share. If they do their job right, then they’ve definitely lost their individuality a bit. They’ve purposely made a kind of copy of themselves.

Let’s take a look at this idea in action.

In House season 7, current medical student Martha Masters is put on House’s team. She’s young, green, overly naïve, and for moral reasons refuses to ever lie to patients. She is the opposite of House in every way. House, now put in the position of the reluctant mentor, spends his time demonstrating the value and necessity of deception and pessimism. He’s trying to teach the most valuable lesson he knows – that everybody lies. In his attempts to teach her this, he’s trying to make her more like him. Classic mentorship.

Sure, it’s an unusual type of mentorship. You could almost argue it’s a little negative, and corrupt-y. But it’s mentorship all the same.

If you want an example of your garden variety, more positive-based mentorship…

Take a look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7. All season long, Buffy plays mentor to the potential Slayers she takes in. Protecting them, teaching them, training them. And ultimately, magically sharing her Slayer power with all of them.

There used to be one Slayer (more or less) in all the world. Now there are hundreds of them. That’s a big loss of individuality, and definitely mentorship.

So in season 7, be sure to explore this positive theme of individuality. Loss, gain, and sometimes specifically expressed in the context of mentorship.



Season 6 (part 4) – Character Roster Deficit & Test/Trial

Season 6

Dramatic Pace

Two traits:

  • Deficit, for your roster of characters
  • Test or Trial

Deficit

You lose some characters, and you don’t replace ’em.

In season 2, we had an influx of “new blood.” You added characters to the roster. In season 4, we had an “even trade.” You lost some characters, but you replaced them with about an even number of new people. Here in season 6, you lose some characters, and you leave ’em gone. You don’t replace them, you let the audience feel their absence.

We see this in season 6 of Weeds.

The Botwin clan has to get out of town quick, so they hit the road – leaving behind a bunch of regular characters: Celia, her husband Dean, her daughter Isabelle, and Nancy’s new husband Esteban. They all get left behind, and the show doesn’t replace them. Moving forward, the character roster is full of nothing but: the Botwins and Doug.

Test or Trial

Here you really challenge your characters.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally, literally, whatever works best for your story.

We see this in season 6 of Smallville. At the very end of season 5, Clark is thrown into the “Phantom Zone.” A desolate prison for intergalactic criminals. He spends months surviving without his powers.

That’s a serious test.

When he eventually does get back to Earth – his release brings a bunch of space criminals along with him. These “Zoners” then go about terrorizing the planet and it’s all Clark’s fault. He then spends all of season 6 trying to return these escapees back to the Phantom Zone.

That’s a pretty big trial.

When you get down to it, the “test or trial” can be anything. Get creative. Find what works best for your story. Just make sure it’s hard. Make sure you really drag your characters through the mud.

When putting together your season 6, be sure to lose some characters and keep them gone. And be sure to put your characters through some real heat. Put ’em through a test, a trial.