All Things Being Equal, It’s Better if Things Make Sense

A recent episode of the Hawaii Five-O reboot—spoiler warning!—built up to Danny finding out his brother Matt (or Chris, depending on which website you believe) had made some poor financial decisions and was now in over his head with bad guys and in serious legal trouble. Danny counseled Matt to turn himself in and promised to help him in every way possible. Matt appears to agree, but then ditches Danny to flee the country with a load of cash. Danny figures out the ruse and catches up with Matt at an airport about to board a small jet. A tall chain-link fence separates the brothers so, following his cop instincts, Danny draws his gun and orders Matt to stop.

“You’re going to have to shoot me or let me go,” Matt says. Danny looks overwhelmed: what can he do? He can’t shoot his own brother. His shoulders slump, and he lowers his weapon, watching Matt get on the jet as a wanted man abandoning his family.

Certainly those were horrible alternatives to choose between…except for the fact that the either/or was complete nonsense. How many other ways could he have stopped his brother? Let’s see, shoot the tires of the jet, get the attention of the pilots and flash his shield, call the tower and tell them to hold the plane, get back in his car and crash through the fence…need I go on? The only real reason to let the brother go was if Danny simply didn’t want to see his brother in jail no matter what the consequences. But given the heartfelt plea he’d made to Matt to turn himself in, why the change of heart?

To me this was a clear case of the writers not taking enough time to make sense. They wanted the story to end in a certain way, but they didn’t write us there in a believable way. Episode after episode relies on the magical power of WTF moments to drive the plot forward. We’ve all been guilty of this, no matter what medium we write for. I’ve had stories come back from beta readers who have called me out on certain elements (or entire stories, to be honest) that just didn’t pass the does-it-make-sense test. TV and movies have an easier time of distracting us from those weak points with lots flashy effects, fast editing, and stars in swimsuits, but we can do it in print as well, with similar intercut scenes, action sequences, and Obi-Wan in the background giving a wave of his hand and a casual, “This isn’t the plot point you’re looking for.”

I do like the fun, but I wish more movies and TV made sense. That can separate great fun from the truly great.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s