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a scattershot of things

Does "things" have a collective noun? Shouldn't "things" have a collective noun? Can I put up "a scattershot" for consideration? A murder of crows, a parliament of owls, a flamboyance of flamingos, a crash of rhinos, a scattershot of things. I mean, I'm open to other options, but I think that's a pretty solid starter. Enough to be getting on with, anyway.*

Speaking of getting on with, here's a thing: for the last few years, I've by and large been kneecapped by chronic fatigue. I can't say it's been fun, trying to claw my way back by inches to being a functional human being, but to be fair, it has been interesting in its own way. Maybe more in the "Chinese curse" way than anyone would find comfortable, but still, interesting. Just not in the way that I've had the interest – or, crucially, the energy – to discuss here before now.

In any case, the lowered output around here hasn't been a case of lack of interest, or bailing for a different fandom platform, but simply lack of energy to pursue it; what I have been able to post here has been peak production levels, and every single thing I've managed to scrabble together has felt like a little victory just for myself. Engaging anything anyone else has been doing, outside of my own little sandbox, has been flatly impossible – again, not because I don't care, but because I do not have the resources to sustain anything of the sort.

And although I am oh so very far from the end of this tunnel, I have lately been feeling like that far-off light seems just a little brighter and a little closer. I'm hoping (though not expecting, necessarily) to show more signs of life around here, to try to produce more even if it's just random thought fluff, now that it doesn't seem to take quite so much out of me proportionate to what I actually have to spend. Wooooo, for doing what you can when you can, even if that's by definition a transient state. And on that optimistic note....

One thing I have been able to do is consume media, since it requires very little outlay. Hooray for passive consumption! Somewhat tangentally, this does not include SPN or TWD, since I literally can't be passive with either one, and I don't have enough energy to deal with all the emotional tsunamis and grind of real life, let alone those of my favourite shows. So they're staying on the backburner, until I have the energy to dig in and enjoy them; basically, I haven't watched past the last point I posted on here about, S9 and 5.0 respectively. It's really kind of nice to feel them accumulating far out there on the horizon, waiting to welcome me back to the land of the living when I'm ready. <3<3 However, this means I've had to cast around for other things to occupy myself that fall in the sweet spot of entertaining-enough without making me care – or, far more often, get annoyed – too much.

Which, o hai, The Good Wife. Not that I've watched any more of that, either – its function as soothing white noise really seriously only works in bulk, and thanks, I'll wait until I can get a good solid shot of JDM before jumping back in – and at this point I don't think I'm ever likely to care enough to finish out those thoughts (although I'm still tempted to moderately stan for Johnny Elfman). However, I did spot this article a few weeks ago, and what I don't understand is how anyone can watch the show and still somehow be at all surprised by the way the Kings dealt with the "Kalicia-gate" interview. Like. ?!? Of course they tried to completely control the framing, of course they tried to morally dismiss any part of the reality of the situation that they couldn't navigate/spin from a position of strength, what show have you people been watching.

In contrast, let's talk about Suits. I know, I'm terribly late to the party, but in my defence the very small amount I knew about it made it sound a) all about Mike and b) bland and awful (the two may possibly be related; I refuse to be drawn on the subject except, no, Mike's bland and awful). What I had not been made aware of was a) how fantastically fucking gorgeous Harvey is and b) how he wears the hell out of those suits. An oversight remedied by this recruiter vid, which immediately got me watching on that consideration alone (that's not completely true; there are two shots in that vid that genuinely piqued my interest, the one where Harvey gets punched in the face, and the one single shot of Gina Torres and her glorious expression).

And I have not had cause to regret it so far; Jessica and Donna are a delight and Gabriel Macht is everything advertised and more, and I've had a little soft spot for Rick Hoffman for years. And, bonus, absolutely fantastic music. However, my watching was so shallow in scope that it took me a while to notice it was doing, like, actual story thingies. I mean, it's a USA show, but still, more substance there than I was anticipating. (Mr Robot has a few too many Hard Nopes for me to get into, which is intensely sad to me because HOMG RAMI MALEK AND CHRISTIAN SLATER, I should be smack-dab-centre of this show's demographic, but. It is Not To Be. I'm glad USA looks willing to try things that are a little less slick and dig a bit deeper, though.)

Anyway, when I started paying (very slightly) more attention, I realised I was enjoying it effortlessly on a level I couldn't connect to TGW on, which was all to do with how differently it approached truth/reality and how that intersects with appearance. I mean, I imagine most lawyery shows tread this real estate; these are really the only two I've ever watched, but it seems the obvious preoccupation for drama about practicing law. But in this case, Harvey is all about reality, about the power inherent in leveraging what's real; he has several lines he won't cross (all, of course, tested by the narrative at various times, because otherwise why even have them at all?), but the one they frequently make a point of is that he won't perjure himself. Enemies come at him through trying to prove he buried evidence, the thing he walked away from the DA's office and his mentor over. Et cetera and so forth. (Which makes his willingness to hire Mike and lie about it a quirk that's very difficult to reconcile – though, with enough twisting and handwaving, not impossible – that's unfortunately foundational to the entire conceit of the show.)

And of course the superpower that Sidekick Mike offers to Superhero Harvey is the capacity to very quickly sift vast swathes of information to unearth and deliver with guaranteed accuracy the relevant minutia of reality for Harvey to weaponise (Harvey's superpower being, when armed with the full truth/reality of the situation, he will always win; his achilles heel is when people he trusts hide things from him or destroy evidence that threatens him). Meanwhile, Harvey is undertaking the head-deskingly difficult task of teaching Mike how to read, and respond appropriately to, the pesky considerations of appearances because of how they reflect and influence reality. (The first season was especially pointed about this, like with the associates' dinner, or the mock-trial, but I'm three seasons in now and Mike continues to need a good going-over with the clue bat.)

Which, in turn, made me notice that the inciting incident – the narrative engine of the story, the fundamental problem that churns up the ongoing need for solutions, the paradigm that frames the show's conflicts – for Suits is the moment when a lie is created, whereas for TGW it's the moment when the truth is revealed. (Although, fascinatingly, the highest moral virtue in both shows is personal loyalty.) Which pretty much says it all, really.

I recently went and dug up an old blog post John Rogers wrote about types of shows, which I love, although the central axis he's laying out isn't one that comes naturally to me when analysing shows and story mechanics (though I'm working on it). But I went to look for it to check a more specific, sidebar point he made:

If you want to know what the creators intended a show to be "about", you can usually go back and watch the last scene of the pilot.  In E.R., it's Noah Wylie sitting on the sidewalk, exhausted but changed.  It's going to be a show about how people survive this tumultuous, draining situation, and how it changes them.  I won't spoil the last scene of the Breaking Bad pilot, but it's stunning in its prescience right down to the final line of dialogue.  (Seriously, it makes me want to kiss Vince Gilligan on the mouth.)  The last scene of Leverage is Nate explaining the physics of Crime World, and how he and his crew are going to fuck up The Man.  This show is about those people punching rich guys in the neck.  Because they have Sinned, and Deserve It.

which, somewhat prompted by getting a better understanding of whence the Suits/TGW dichotomy, I wanted to start paying more attention to. (Of course, he uses the word intends, because obviously shows can evolve and migrate (even without a change in creative leadership), a point he discusses regarding Lost in the next paragraph.)

Of course it then turned out not to help with the dichotomy at all, which is interesting in a different way. (In fact, it's probably about the most interesting outcome possible.) For reference, the last pilot scene of Suits is Mike and Harvey strutting together out through the courthouse halls, already on to their next case (Mike having just won his pro bono first case under Harvey's watchful/amused eye, in the physical setting of a courtroom, but "out of court", no judge or anyone but the two parties involved), discussing how Harvey is Batman and Mike's a long way off from moving into Wayne Manor yet. (It's a consistent character note that Harvey always avoids going to court if possible; if a trial is someone having their "day in court", Harvey prefers to fight in the shadow of night, figuratively and often literally, and vigilante-style hates/distrusts the authority of judging/enforcing justice in the hands of someone higher up than him, ie the judge, though he'll win there too if that's how it has to happen. And since courtroom shenanigans – which are often more about presentation than the actual evidence – bore the crap out of me, this is another aspect of the show I really appreciate.)

The last pilot scene of TGW is Alicia returning alone late-evening to her empty law office (after having "won" her first case, by getting the wrongful charges dropped, the "verdict" delivered in the judge's private office where he exercises his absolute authority to warmly approve her and sternly school the prosecutor, who is a personal enemy of Alicia's husband and by extension her; Alicia then strutting justified, victorious and empowered out of the courthouse with Sidekick Kalinda at her side, on the way passing her tearily grateful client and then her husband's nemesis), where Will drops by to give her a bottle of celebratory champagne and news of her next small step up in her career (on one of his cases), and then listening to a voicemail from Peter with news that he might be able to get out of prison/the (rightful) charges against him, and what that could mean for them and their family going forward, ending with "I love you." And dun-dun, Alicia looking conflicted, between these two paths (though note they are still both avenues of effusive affirmation of worth).

Meanwhile, I'll take Rogers's word on what Leverage is about, since he was the showrunner and all, but: the inciting incident of that show is the bringing together of the team, which is cemented by avenging a wrong to themselves. This power, of "his crew", to mete out punishment to the deserving pretty much literally falls into Nate's lap when he is a devastated drunken wreck in the wake of being reduced to utter helplessness in preventing the tragic death of his son, unable to cope on any level with the cosmic injustice of an innocent child dying (of ... cancer? I think).

In his post, Rogers talks about stories connecting with the audience's emotional need, but clearly the reason they do that is because they arise in the first place in response to an emotional need of the storyteller(s), which presumably is crucial to informing the nature of the inciting incident. It also seems to be tied to worldview, which makes sense, since that's the context for expectations and emotional reactions to experiences. It's easier to spot with Rogers giving so much background information to his show, where his anger and despair at real life villainy (and his self-deprecating drunk jokes) occasionally leaks through, though usually with a sardonically light touch, as with his description above. I'm still processing these considerations, and how they all interact, but at the moment I feel like a show is both "about" the broader underlying emotional need/worldview that the inciting incident points to, and the more specific arena/narrative that the story is going to express and explore that the final pilot scene points to. It's the combination of the (broader) question posed, and the story/storyteller's specific answer to it.

... Yeah, I'm going to stop there, in the hope that the other thoughts (and other shows, because this is a fun game) I have about it all will spur me on to post again soonish. Shorter and more frequent posts! It could happen. Right?

* Although now that I think about it, if a collective noun for "things" even exists, it's is probably a collection, because that would make sense. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.


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January 2016
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