"We’re still trying to be … firmly ensconced in the world of science fact, I don’t think we’ve shown anything on the show yet … that has no rational explanation in the real world that we all function within. We certainly hint at psychic phenomena, happenstance and … things being in a place where they probably shouldn’t be. But nothing is flat-out impossible. There are no spaceships. There isn’t any time travel."
– Damon Lindelof* Sci Fi Wire interview Jan 05*
As a storyteller, you make promises to your audience. As the story begins, you use verbiage to communicate these promises. Good writers can communicate those promises subtlety. Bad writers don’t even know such promises exist.
Let me give you an example.
We spent two years telling the Clan War storyline for Legend of the Five Rings. Some of the story we knew up front and some of it we left open for story tournaments. At the beginning, we made a promise: a tournament will determine the ending. I wrote a different ending for each of the Clans, including the possibility that evil might win the day, casting the Emerald Empire into "A Thousand Years of Darkness."
Now, we all knew the chances of that happening were very slim. There were very few Shadowlands decks in play and they weren’t very strong decks. There was a chance… but not a very good one. Just enough of a chance to make the rest of the players very nervous.
(And yes, we were always betting on Toturi. We didn’t make it happen, but a lot of us were hoping it would.)
At the Day of Thunder–the end of the L5R Clan War storyline–someone at Five Rings Publishing offered bribes to the finalists to switch their Clan affiliation to "Shadowlands" so the storyline could end with "A Thousand Years of Darkness."
When I found out about this, I went ballistic. It was a violation of the basic promise we made at the beginning of the story. Yes, there was a chance evil would win, but such an ending would have made all the sacrifices the heroes of the story made pointless. All the suffering, all the pain, all the plot lines would fall by the wayside. The players would have lynched us. We would have broken a promise. A promise we made them at the beginning of the story. The Clans will save the Empire. One Clan will fall and one Clan will be redeemed. The Seven Thunders will face the Unspeakable One and, as they did before, they will restore the Empire and lead it into a new age. Many of the Thunders will die, but their sacrifices will save the Empire.
It wasn’t even so much that the Clans might fail–we planned on that being a possibility–but that Five Rings Publishing was orchestrating it to happen. Wanted it to happen. Trying to make it happen. That was even worse. We were not only breaking the promise but flagrantly breaking the promise. And why?
For the sole purpose of extending the game. After we promised the story would be over with the Clan War.
Oh, and because "It would be cool." Exact quote.
I bring all of this up because last night I watched the ending of a six-year story. And at the end, the biggest promise of all was broken.
I was told that all the actions and deeds of the characters meant nothing. They had no consequence. All the suffering, all the sacrifice, all the death and pain meant nothing.
Because everything’s going to be all right! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel that magically makes everything okay! Everyone is forgiven and everyone is welcome! It doesn’t matter if you lied, raped, murdered or tortured. It’s okay! Everything’s okay! Everything’s going to be all right! And everyone is forgiven!
Bull. Fucking. Shit.
What about Michael? What about the other people who "can’t move on?" If I’m in that church at the end with everybody hugging and smiling, I’m asking, "What about Anna Lucia? What about Mr. Ecko? We have to go back for them! We have to go help them! And what the fuck is Ben doing here?"
I was specifically told that everything that happened on the island was based in science. That everything could be explained. I’m willing to accept that the island comes from the future, got stuck back thousands of years in the past and has been slowly moving forward to get back to where it belongs.
(That was my own theory there.)
I’m willing to accept that. Time travel is a well-accepted science fiction trope. I’ll take that.
But ending the whole thing in some kind of fucking… ugh. We jumped right off the science fiction boat and swam over to the fantasy boat.
Let me say this. I watched that show with a
And then, at the end, telling me that everything that happened really didn’t matter at all…
Thanks, assholes. Thanks.
When Nick and Surena came home later–after the show was over–they asked me what I thought. I told them. I should have said something else. Here’s what I should have said.
Ro. Jessica. Nick. Surena. And everybody else I advocated to watch this show…