Last night a pair of posts about HBO’s vaguely infuriating Westworld series — one by Matt of Sleaford, the other by brenkilco — really hit the nail on the head. Together they explain why some viewers feel that good movies, which have to set everything up and pay off within two hours or so, are more satisfying than longform episodics. Here’s what they said in condensed form:
Brenkilco: “The problem with episodic TV narratives designed to blow minds is that the form and intention are at odds. A show designed to run until the audience gets tired of it cannot by definition have a satisfying structure. It can only keep throwing elements into the mix until, like Lost or Twin Peaks, it collapses under the weight of its own intriguing but random complications.
“Teasing this stuff out is easy. But eventually the rent comes due. Dramatic resolutions are demanded. The threads have to be pulled together. And that’s when things gets ugly.”
Matt of Sleaford: “Westworld is a puzzle-box show, which is kind of the opposite of a soap opera. Puzzle-box shows, like the aforementioned Lost and X-Files, can be fun to chew on while they’re progressing. But the solution is almost always anticlimactic. And though it may seem counterintuitive, puzzle-box shows are less effective in the internet era, because someone in the vast sea of commenters is almost certain to solve the puzzle before the end (see: Thrones, Game of).”