Monday, December 6, 2021

Character Arc Problems in a Long Series and Sequels.

One of the things that make a character so interesting is that they start out with at least one character flaw. A problem that we want to see resolved at some point. This is what usually makes character interesting. For some of us, if we happen to have a similar flaw then we can relate to that character, which makes it even better. We become interested in how the character will overcome their problem. 

However, I have noticed that over a long series and even some sequels difficulties seem to come up regarding this character arc. 

For example, Michael Burnham from Star Trek Discovery. She started out as a person who would go against authority when she thought he or she was making a mistake. This landed her in prison. She went around withdrawn and angry. Now on Season four, episode one she is a captain, happy and proud of her crew. I like seeing a character at the end of a story being happily ever after, but for the beginning of season four Burnham was not all that interesting. There was a lot of action, and some characters, including Burnham that were put in danger, but the danger didn't feel real to me. Only at the end was there a statement by a federation leader that Michael would risk the lives of the many to save a few because she had to fix everything. In other words, the writers know that they are going to have to drag out this flaw if they are going to stay with the same main character. 

On Lost for example, all the main characters have tragic backstories. This makes us sympathize with them and we want to see them resolve these problems. John Locke has anger issues, and he keeps getting burned by people he trusts. Jack has to save everyone. Sawyer longs for revenge. Kate runs from her past. Charlie struggles with drug addiction. It seems they are on the island to overcome their problems, and I love seeing the moments where they really come through. However, they often fall back into their ruts. These episodes are long, so the problem here is that these character arcs feel dragged out and frustrating. Yet, the writers have no choice if these characters are going to stick around. 

Star Wars wasn't really meant to be a character arc story, but it seems because of current trends it kind of became one. I was disappointed to see that in Star Wars episode seven, Han Solo had gone back to smuggling and his relationship with Leah had fallen apart. Sure, his son had gone to the dark side, but hadn't he reached a point where he would never go back to his former life? In his case, I think he would've still been interesting without that happening. Instead, it came across as comical. Luke was also disappointing, falling from a hero to some sort of hermit in hiding. 

Jack Sparrow is similar to Han Solo. It had seemed like he had changed for the better at the end of the first movie, but in the sequel, he goes right back to being a goofy pirate. Pirates of the Caribbean had a lot of funny moments, and it seems it was meant to be part comedy. Perhaps the writers thought it would be funny for Sparrow to fall back into his weird self, but I didn't find it funny. Instead, it was corny. In the case of Jack Sparrow, his character arc really wasn't even over before he relapsed. He still could've been interesting and funny struggling to go from pirate to hero. 

All this being said, I will continue with Star Trek Discovery because I feel it will get better based on previous episodes. There is a lot I like about each season. 

As a writer, I can see these difficulties and sympathize with the challenges. Fans want that happy ending at the end of a story, but fans also want longer stories. How do we keep stories and characters interesting over the long haul? At least these shows have the advantage of several talented writers that can come together and figure out things faster than the lone writer. Yet, they are under deadlines, and they have other problems to resolve, like plot holes. It's not an easy job and perhaps sometimes, they just need to get the job done.

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to keep characters growing. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in this season of Discovery someone has to die so she can have that to deal with. Saru would seem like an obvious choice to kill since they had pretty much already written him out at the end of the previous season.

    The problem with the Star Wars sequels was because so long had gone by they couldn't use Han or Luke as main characters. And they just slapped the first movie together in two years, so it didn't really get the consideration it needed.