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TV/Media Commentary and Societal Insights. With a Beard.
Note: This article contains some massive spoilers from season 2 of Alias. Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the show.
Serious drama is a really hard thing to pull off. That sounds kind of dumb, because drama’s really the baseline for every coherent story you’ll ever tell–even comedies usually have some pseudo-dramatic throughline to make us care about what we’re laughing at. But doing pure, unadulturated, opening-your-heart-and-ripping-it-out dramatic shockers is really really hard. Plot twists go wrong when it feels like they’re twists for the sake of twists, carry no emotional weight, or have been so carefully mapped out that you can predict them, prepare for them, and thus feel no emotional gut-punch that should have been the whole point. Millions have attempted a “Luke, I am your father,” but more fail than succeed. Talking about the history of big plot twists would be a huge endeavor, and it’s not something I have any intention of doing, but I’d like to look at a very massive dramatic twist in one particular show, Alias.
Hindsight is frustrating in real life. Of course sitting at a computer reading blogs and never exercising can make you fat and hurt your eyes. But when those blogs the blind fat you is reading are using hindsight for media, it’s awesome; connecting the dots, tracking the evolving trends, and tying together overarching themes you wouldn’t get from any single installment. This works for any media franchise, but especially television.
While fans tend to discuss the same sorts of concepts and often repeat the same ideas ad naseum, one way to add some freshness to a fandom is by revisiting the entire series again, watching episodes one at a time, sometimes week-to-week, and then analyzing them one kernel at a time. The Time Team has done retro-Doctor Who episodes in Doctor Who Magazine since freaking 1999, so it’s not a new concept. But as many of us get older, the appeal of taking another, more in-depth look at our favorite decade(s) old shows become stronger and stronger.
Retrospective articles and videos are things I plan to post more of, both here and on other sites, but for now, I’m actually going to turn my traffic away, and towards five other bloggers and journalists who are doing a damn good job at retrospectives on their own. Episode-by-episode, these guys break down, analyze and review each story and character, but with a foresight past reviewers wouldn’t have had. Yet, in a way, their eyes are still “fresh”–some haven’t seen these episodes in years and only remember vague details, giving them a unique perspective of viewing it 50/50 as a newcomer and veteran, in a way. If you’ve seen any of these shows, you should check out these sites, in no particular order. Read more of this post