Sunday, March 12, 2017

TV Viewing Habits: Me Versus My Husband

Couple Bonding

My husband and I watch television together all the time, and while I do have "my" shows and he has "his" shows, still we watch them as a couple. And often discuss them after we watch them. Our discussions can be frustrating for both of us because I generally have all these opinions I want to throw at him, and I expect him to have an equal number of opinions to throw back at me. He usually doesn't, which leads to me going away disappointed and him going away annoyed.

When I Love a Show

If I really love a television show, I'll watch it over and over. My husband likes to do that with movies, but not so much TV shows. It's an odd difference between us.

Because I'm watching my favorite shows numerous times, I generally get a deeper understanding of the characters and the plot than I would otherwise. This leads to some of those opinions I like to throw at my husband. But because he hasn't watched the shows as much as I have, he hasn't had the time to generate many opinions of his own.

A Recent Discussion About One of My Favorite Shows

For those of you who frequent my blog, it's no secret that I love Supernatural. And if you've been a really faithful reader, you may know that seasons one and two are my favorites. The show just went off in odd directions after those early years, and it's never quite been the same. But of the first two seasons, the second is by far the better. And my favorite episode from season two is, in my opinion, one of the bests episodes of any TV show ever.

The episode is "Heart". It aired late in the second season and follows Sam and Dean as they investigate a series of what look like werewolf attacks. They interview the woman who found one of the victims, only to find out that *spoiler alert* she's the werewolf, but has no memory of what she's done. By this point she and Sam have developed a mutual attraction for each other and have entered into a tentative relationship. When they realize what's happening, Sam is the one who has to kill her.

I recently watched this episode for the fourth time. What? I told you I like to re-watch my favorite TV shows. Well, anyway, I watched it for the fourth time in the midst of taking my husband through his second viewing of seasons one and two. Why am I doing that? Because we still watch the new episodes together, and I wanted to show him how much the show has changed since the early days. So we're making our way through the season and we're nearing this episode and I'm going on and on about how it's the best Supernatural episode ever. The best episode of anything ever. Then we finally watch it together.

After it was over, he asked me why I think it's so good. Before launching into my explanation, I asked him if he knew the first rule of good writing (yeah, Supernatural used to be a well-written show before it started contradicting itself every other week). I don't remember his answer, but I think it may have had something to do with grammar or punctuation. I told him no. The first rule of good writing is "show, don't tell". All writers are familiar with that one. It pretty much makes or breaks a story.

Season two of Supernatural is a prime example of "show, don't tell". While in later episodes the bonding moments between Sam and Dean have come off as forced and overly sappy, in season two they were genuine and highly effective. Why? Because we'd been on the journey with them and felt everything they felt along the way.

The season begins with the death of their father. This sparks a role reversal between the brothers, with Sam now being the one who wants to make Dad proud and Dean wanting to say "to hell with it" and go off and find a normal life somewhere. Trying to force a character arc like that can be awkward as all get out, but if it follows naturally from early events, it's quite effective. In this case it followed naturally. Never once did I feel Sam and Dean were stepping out of character. The way they each dealt with John's death was believable to me.

It's eventually revealed that the reason Dean is so fed up with hunting is because John told him something disturbing right before he died. He told him if he couldn't save Sam, he'd have to kill him. Dean carries that burden all through the season. We see him struggle with it. We see his fear that he won't be able to save Sam. We see that he's still really chasing after his father's approval, but with John gone, the only family he has to cling to is Sam, and he clings to him tenaciously. And it's all very believable because we understand everything he's been through up to that point.

We also watch Sam struggling with the concept that he could turn into something evil. That when he was a baby a demon chose him for some sinister purpose and while he has no idea what that purpose is, he's sure he wants no part of it. Again, we suffer with him along the way.

Then we get close to the end of the season, and we have "Heart". Okay, so maybe doing an episode where Sam's love interest turns into something evil, thereby mirroring what Sam fears is going to happen to him, was a little forced. But you know what? This was before Supernatural started doing those kinds of episodes every dadgum week, so it worked back then. The writing leading up to it made us ripe for the emotional roller coaster of that episode.

"Heart" begins light, then gets more and more intense as the story progresses. Because we know what Sam and Dean are going through, we know just how hard this case is for them. Because instead of Sam having to kill Madison because of what she's become, it could very well be Dean having to kill Sam because of what's he's become. And while Sam has a harder time with the case itself, since he's the one who's become intimate with Madison, Dean's the one who wrestles the most with the broader implications of what they have to do. That's why the camera stays fixed on Dean when Sam goes to do what must be done. Because the audience knows, from everything that's come before, exactly what Dean is thinking. He's sad that Sam has to kill someone he cares about, but he's also imagining the day he'll have to do the same thing to Sam. It's also strongly implied that he has a certain admiration for Sam for making what must have been one of the hardest decisions of his life. He knows he won't be able to make the same decision when the time comes. It marks another shift in Dean's character. Things had always been cut and dried for him, as far as the ethics of monster hunting was concerned. Now he's questioning everything.

My Husband's Response

So I finished telling my husband all that, and he said, "I just thought Sam was sad that he had to kill his girlfriend."

"Seriously!" I wailed in response. "You couldn't see all that other crap they were carrying with them as they wrestled with that case?"

He shrugged. "I don't watch television shows and memorize everything the characters have ever thought, said, or felt."

Then I asked, "How do you enjoy watching television if you don't think about all that stuff?"

And my husband said, "How do you enjoy life if you are constantly thinking about that stuff?"

I had to think about that one for a while. When I finally came up with a response, I said, "I spend a lot of time alone thinking about the emotions I'm feeling and what factors in my life may have caused me to feel that way."

To which he replied, "Well, I don't do that. I'm a man."

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