21.1.14

4 Great TV Show Plot Twists (That Made Their Shows Suck)

Stand up and clap if you're excited about my brand new blog post.


Thank you, you may now sit back down.

Normally this is the part where I explain what prompted me to write this post, or what inspired it. Sometimes I share some news about my life (like how I have an interview with a school this Wednesday -- WISH ME LUCK!), or shamelessly promote my projects (BUY MY BOOK!). Not this time, however. This time I'll go straight to the point.

OK, since you insist, some background info first.

(Qué pesados.)

So, I've had this idea for a while, but my main problem has been that I have only had two shows that really matched it. About a month ago, I shared the idea with my sister, and she came up with entry #3. I was still shy of one entry, however. (I make a point of having at least four categories in list-based posts.) I read a few "Shocking TV Plot Twists!" articles from various entertainment websites and made a list of all the TV shows I've ever watched, trying to come up with a fourth entry... and then, just as I was about to fall asleep on the tube the other morning (it was 6 a.m.), it came to me and I started making notes. So you'd better enjoy this article, because it took a lot of effort. OK?

So, here we go. Spoilers ahead for Alias, Dexter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Skins.




1. Alias - Sydney Takes Down SD-6

The Context: It's Season 2. Sydney has spent the past season and a half trying to take down SD-6, along with every other cell of the Alliance of Twelve, by working as a double agent for the CIA. She has also spent a formidable amount of time flirting with Michael Vaughn, her assigned handler.

(Do you blame her?)*

It feels like a never-ending fight, until Sydney comes across a set of documents revealing a server weakness that could mean that the CIA could invade all twelve SD cells and destroy the Alliance once and for all. After a bit of tech stuff nobody really understands but everyone finds cool, that is exactly what they do. And it is there, among the debris of what used to be SD-6, that Sydney and Michael kiss for the first time. No words. No explanations. Just a long, passionate kiss.

(Bitch.)

The Twist: But wait! Actually, the takedown was orchestrated by Arvin Sloane, the director of SD-6, who was fed up with being The Alliance's bitch and has decided to continue with his crazy Rambaldi mission on his own. So, basically, the rules of the game have changed, the bad guy has a new agenda, and Sydney has to figure out what it is and find him.

Oh, and did I mention that her best friend has been killed and replaced by a spy clone?

(Very few scenes from TV or films have haunted me as much as this one.)

Why it ruined the show: As mentioned above, taking down SD-6 was a game-changer. It was a bold and risky move that gave the show the opportunity to reinvent itself and keep things fresh. Also, Francie as a secret agent was a cool plot which didn't overstay its welcome.

BUT.

(Of course there's a "but".)

First of all, there was no format anymore. Sydney wasn't a double agent anymore; she was just an agent. Which would have been fine, if the writers had any idea what to do next. But you have this cool concept of this woman who works for the enemy while secretly liaising with the CIA, and you take it away to replace it with...

With?

Alias writers...? I'm waiting.

After SD-6's destruction, the focus of the show shifted from Sydney's double life to the Rambaldi prophecy, which became insanely boring as soon as season 3. It's no surprise that Season 5 is considered a relatively good season, considering that the writers tried to return to the basics with the introduction of characters such as what's-her-name (Rachel?),

(This one.)

who was basically Sydney in Season 1. But for the entirety of seasons 3 and 4, the show felt disjointed and aimless. And since season 5 was the final season, it barely managed to find its footing again before it had to wrap things up (with a horribly written finale, but that's a topic for another post).

And then there's the second thing...

With Francie dead and Will gone by season 3, Sydney wasn't even leading a double life anymore. There was no 'hiding' element, no family. Everyone she knew was either a spy or an agent or involved in espionage in one way or another. There were no more normal, everyday people in the show. Friendships and relationships between characters were benched in favour of complicated, illogical sci-fi artifact searches and prophecies. They did try to bring that element back with the introduction of Nadia, Sydney's half-sister, but it felt...awkward. Also, she was involved in espionage as well, so it was completely different. As implausible as it might have been for Sydney to work for SD-6, spy for the CIA and study full-time as well at the university, it was still better than 24-7 CIA stuff.


(At least the opening credits got progressively cooler.)

What pissed me off so much, however, was that this reinvention was not needed. At least not yet. Things were going well as they were, the show was nowhere near the point where everything starts to become predictable. Sure, The Alliance's destruction made the second half of the season twice as cool, but the creative well dried up quickly after that. Would I sacrifice the shock of witnessing that:


...for a little bit more of friendship and double-life stuff?

Actually, I wouldn't, because I've seen LOST and I know J.J. Abrams is just shite at maintaining quality throughout the run of his shows.

*Exclamation: That whole "Michael Vartan is a hottie" was a joke.

I much preferred Bradley Cooper.



2. Dexter - Trinity Kills Rita

For a more detailed report on why the Dexter finale was a pile of crap that the writers shot out of both ends after consuming a full bag of these Haribos, please check here.

The Context: For what must be the gazillionth time, Dexter has found a new best friend he will inevitably have to murder at the end of the season in Arthur Mitchell, a beyond-suspicion family man who is actually a serial killer, dubbed "Trinity".

(Who among us hasn't been in this awkward situation before?)

Trinity has earned his nickname through his M.O., which is to commit his murders in cycles of three, always following the same pattern: first slashing a young woman's wrists while holding her hostage, naked, in a bathtub filled with water until she bleeds out; then, forcing a second woman (always a mother of two) to jump off a rooftop to her death; and then bludgeoning a man with a hammer until his skull cracks.

(Uhm... Everyone's got issues, I guess...?)

So, we have reached the end of the season and, overcoming the few obstacles on his way, Dexter has finally captured Trinity, killed him, and is now on his way to enjoy his honeymoon or whatever with Rita, his lovely wife, and their three children. Just another happy Hollywood ending.

The Twist: Basically, this.




That's Rita, by the way, the aforementioned lovely wife, and their recently born son, who's sitting on the bathroom floor in a pool of his mother's blood and crying loudly.

Trinity got to Rita before Dexter got to him, and he gave her the victim #2-in-his-M.O. treatment.

Fade to black.

Why it ruined the show: I'll be honest: I've rewritten this section at least three times so far. There are too many things I want to mention, such as:

(1) Arthur Mitchell was a creepy, complicated and fascinating villain with a unique backstory and killing pattern that made him genuinely frightening, so the standards the writers set for themselves with his creation were so high that they were doomed to fail.

(2) The season 4 finale broke the show's pattern of wrapping up everything neatly at the end of each season, offering us a grim, haunting cliffhanger instead. Anything that followed would've been disappointing because, again, there were so many expectations.

(3) Rita was an amazing and popular character, so her loss was devastating, even though it was the result of a well-planned and well-executed plot twist.

All of these are true. Except the last one.

(Sorry, Julie. You know I love you.)

But, really, it all boils down to one thing: Dexter's writers were useless.

At least, they were useless when it came to following up on great ideas. I can think of three game-changers that took place throughout the run of the show, and one possible game-changer that was avoided in favour of a half-arsed and pathetic happy ending, and all but one flopped like cakes without flour.

The harsh reality is that Dexter's writers are just not cut out for the big format changes. Which is why Doakes was killed by Lila instead of Dexter, and why LaGuerta's death was followed by a tribute in the form of a bench. It's also why the only thing that changed after Rita died was that her annoying kids were shipped off to their grandparents' house.

(Not really complaining, mind you.)

We should've seen Dexter try to be a single dad (with a teenage daughter and a baby, no less) and a murderer at the same time, damn it. We should've seen someone question Trinity's family and connect the dots between Dexter and that Dexter-resembling Kyle Butler dude who suspiciously entered their lives recently and became pals with the psychopathic dad. We should've seen him go through a phase of solitude, or not killing anymore, or killing continuously and recklessly. Something should have changed. Something.

Instead everything was back to normal, except now Dexter was fucking a different blonde. And then another. (He has a type.) And then he became a lumberjack.

The only time a plot twist in Dexter was followed by a satisfactory depiction of the consequences was when Debra discovered that her brother was a serial killer, and even that, I'm sure, was at least 60% due to Jennifer Carpenter, a.k.a. the woman who should've won enough Emmys to build a giant wicker man and use it to burn Nicholas Cage.


(Can we get this woman her own show already?)

The only good thing I can think of about Dexter post-season 4 is that, at least, it's still better than the books.


Actually, I take that back.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Buffy Sacrifices Herself to Save Her Sister

The Context: Buffy's sister, Dawn, is The Key, a mystical element that can momentarily tear down the walls between all dimensions, allowing anyone to travel between them. She's also a very annoying teenager.

(Sorry, Michelle.)

The Key was turned into a human by the Order of Dagon, a monastic order who wanted to protect it from The Beast, a fabulous god from a hell dimension, banished to our world by her enemies. Glorificus -- shortened to Glory -- wants to use The Key to return home. Unfortunately, the only way for the gates to close once Dawn's blood has been used to open them is for Dawn to die.


So, there is Dawn, up on a tower built by crazy people. Glory has used her to open the gates and now all hell has broken loose, with all sorts of monsters coming through. Buffy has defeated Glory a few minutes too late, and she has arrived at the top of the tower to rescue her sister. Unfortunately, Dawn is doomed. Unless she dies, the walls will not come back up and the world as we know it will be consumed by hell-monsters.

(A win-win situation, if you ask me.)

The Twist: Buffy's blood can also shut the gates.

(Dean is confused.)

I'll quote the show itself, because I'm too lazy to explain:

Monk that Glory tortured: "We had to hide the Key... Gave it form. Molded it flesh. Made it human. And sent it to [Buffy]."

Buffy: "I love you. You're my sister. [...] Look, it's blood. It's Summers blood. It's just like mine."

Buffy again: "She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her... and I feel closer to her than... It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn... is a part of me."

(Yes, you are. You're a whiny, useless crybaby.)

Basically, since the monks made Dawn out of Buffy, the gates between the dimensions could be tricked into thinking that Buffy was the Key, so Buffy's blood could shut them as well. When Buffy figured this out, she made the ultimate sacrifice and jumped into the spot where all the gates had opened in order to close them, saving the world and killing herself in the process.

It was sad.

(Incredibly sad.)

THE END.

Why it ruined the show: Because it should have been THE END.

Despite its shortcomings, The Gift (i.e. the episode when Buffy dies) was a perfectly fitting series finale. Buffy had spent five seasons fighting against villains that got increasingly stronger and more difficult to win against, starting from simple vampires and demons and going all the way up to government experiments and hell gods. Her inevitable death had always been a shadow following her around; as a slayer, she was doomed to a short life. Would she be killed by a vampire in a weak moment? By a demon who would manage to trick her? How would she die, and when? Buffy had always had this thought in the back of her head, throughout the show. Dying on her own terms, to save her sister's life, was the best way to go. Also, it concluded the show in a beautifully tragic way: the world would live on; Buffy's friends and her sister would continue their lives, slowly coming to terms with her passing; a new slayer would arrive in town to replace her and fight against the forces of evil, which would always be around. But Buffy herself? She would be finished. She would have done her duty, and died a hero.

(Many, many tears. Seriously.)

I have to hand it to the writers. Their attempt to make Buffy's resurrection have some sort of lasting effect was admirable. They failed spectacularly, of course, but it was a good attempt. There were all sorts of problems, however.

(a) Since Buffy was depressed about being alive again (she had been in heaven, apparently), the whole show became depressing.

(b) Dawn, no longer being the Key, served absolutely no purpose anymore and became even more useless and irritating than she already was.

(c) In their attempt to make season 6 about the hardships of adulthood, the writers made every single other main character unlikable: Willow became a mind-raping junkie, Xander became an even bigger self-centered arsehole than he already was, and Spike... well, Spike became the new focus of the show (since he was a fan favourite), which made him unbearable.

As for the new Big Bad? It was these guys:


That's right. After fighting against a freaking Hell God, Buffy's new enemy was a bunch of dorks.

I'll be fair: Season 6 was not horrible. Not completely, anyway. But there was a massive decline in quality that tainted the entire show. Some episodes were good, but they were few and far in between. Then season 7 and the Potentials came along and everything went to Quor'toth.

(Sorry, Felicia. I still love you in everything else.)

So, yeah, I wish Buffy had ended with Buffy's death.

And now, on to our final entry...

4. Skins - Everyone Graduates, Effy is Now the Main Character

The Context: Skins was, and I quote Wikipedia, a "British teen drama that follow[ed] the lives of a group of teenagers in Bristol [...], through the two years of sixth form." (Sixth form is the final stage of school in the UK, for those of you who don't know.) "Its controversial storylines [...] explored issues such as dysfunctional families, mental illness (such as eating disorders), adolescent sexuality, substance abuse, death and bullying."

Basically, it was an awesome show that featured an excellent cast, if you exclude this guy,



and which included some of the most intriguing teenage characters in the history of TV, anywhere, ever. The first two seasons, following the lives of Tony and his gang, were an absolute delight to watch. But, of course, by the end of season 2, the much-feared potential jump-the-shark moment was just around the corner: Graduation Day.

The Twist: "OK," the writers said. "We clearly can't keep these characters all together in the same town after graduation without sacrificing every bit of credibility that the show has. What can we do?"

"Oh, look, a shiny red button!"


So they decided to reset the show, let the characters graduate and move on, and introduce a new set of characters, with Tony's sister, Effy, whom we already knew, as the new main character.


It was a brilliant idea.

Why it ruined the show: Erm... How do I put this lightly?

THE NEW CHARACTERS SUCKED.

And not in the "they were not as good as the original generation" sense. They sucked in the "Charmed and Glee had more consistent character development" sense. In the "they were less likable than Made in Chelsea actors" sense. In the "I'd rather shower my eyes with bleach and take a bath in a volcano than be forced to watch seasons 3 and beyond again" sense.

Every. Single. One of them. SUCKED.

(Especially this guy. And I'm not sorry, Luke.)

The storylines sucked, too. What used to be fascinating and controversial turned into contrived, nonsensical ideas purely executed for their shock value. And the relationships between the characters? They felt completely natural and real in Generation 1; in Generation 2 it was like all of them were N'Sync in the Bye Bye Bye video, with a mentally challenged person in charge of the strings.

Nothing, and I mean nothing was the way it was anymore. As soon as the first group of characters departed, it was absolute chaos. Even Effy, who used to be an intriguing, silent figure in Tony's life during seasons 1-2, was completely destroyed by season 3, devolving into a manic depressive, manipulative bitch.

(Sorry, Kaya.)

I'm not even sure what went wrong exactly, to be honest. Did the writers change? Did they collectively suffer from a blow to the head that robbed them of their creativity? Did they make a deal with the Devil to write an awesome show and it expired after two years? I don't know. All I know is that, by all means, the reset should have worked. It didn't.

The good thing is that the first generation remained a self-contained story, so even if the show jumped the shark so much that it had a million little shark babies, that story was not tainted.

Except for Cassie's movie in season 7, but we shall not speak of that abomination here. This is a happy blog with happy posts and things that can lead to massive suicides or murder sprees are not allowed.

(I mean it. Don't make me talk about the movie.)

So, there you have it. Four great plot twists, four ruined shows.

Oh, did I mention I published a book that you really really need to buy?

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