“I hate that guy.” “Keep going.”
“I feel like this plot line is really going to pay off.” “Keep going.”
“Does it pick up?” “Keep going.”
Are there any two words as encouraging and as frustrating? Certainly not when it’s in the midst of catching up on a show your friend recommended.
Of course, it depends on how much the person plays their hand. A “I think Sheilah is the killer” met with a “just you wait”—depending on the circumstances—can indicate fairly clearly whether you’re right or wrong.
Even as it gives the indication that you’ve stumbled on the same boat a friend was once in, it can feel dismissive in the way hindsight often is. Just because a plot line pays off doesn’t mean it was done right in the moment. The 100 received a whole lot of discussion and outrage over their decision to kill off Lexa immediately after she finally consummated her relationship with Clarke in just the latest “Kill Your Gays” chapter. Many fans were angry that our goodbye to Lexa was a random mishap, not even intended for Lexa at all. Bringing her back later on to go out in a blaze of glory (sort of) doesn’t negate the initial emotional charge of her initial death, even if it may lessen the sting a bit.
But they are, perhaps, the fine line someone can walk when trying to have a conversation with a friend about a TV show they’re hoping to discuss without spoilers. I tend to be a bit cagier about my spoiler intake, but “keep going” feels like heartening; like you’re pulling at a thread of a future conversation of a theme your friend also noticed. Instead of shutting down conversation you’re just moving it forward, earmarking a thought for the future.
Has surprise casting ever worked? I don’t mean like Kevin Spacey at the end of Se7en. More like casting a notable actor in a film (typically a reboot or franchise) as a rando new character before ultimately revealing that—surprise—they were this character all along. Think Benedict Cumberbatch as
John Harrison Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness or Marion Cotillard as Miranda Talia Al-Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises.
At this point fandoms have become accustomed to the studio’s schtick: There’s no such thing as adding a new character to an established franchise, they’re only there if it’s a bait-and-switch. Whether it seems to happen because they want to withhold some plot development later on (see Dark Knight Rises) or they want to be able to justify not casting a POC (Star Trek Into Darkness, and arguably Iron Man 3) without fan outrage, it’s a common enough practice that audiences—especially those that leak, clamor, and obsess over anything released by the studios regarding franchises—aren’t buying it anymore.
I’m all for spoiler warnings and avoiding knowing the plot ahead of time before movies (if that’s what you want, I don’t really see the harm in reasonably facilitating that for yourself). But too often it seems producers just straight up lie in order to avoid—what, controversy? Discussion? All they’re really doing is hoping the can is kicked far enough down the road that viewers will be more sympathetic, or at least understanding, of the artistic junket choices they made. But in my experiences no one likes feeling conned. And when these experiences don’t pay off artistically it makes it all the worse. It’s too simple to say that witholding information like this should enhance a viewing experience not dampen it, because that’s probably what creators thought they were doing with Talia and Khan.
But compared to something like (to grab another Spacey-villain-reveal joint) The Usual Suspects, where the person pulling the strings the whole time is played in a bit of misdirection—even acknowledged misdirection, as we see Spacey orchestrate the initial robberies even as he tells us that it was someone else. It’s nuggets like that that can create repeat and rewarding viewing experiences. Compare that to trying to reboot and slip a villain in under the radar in an established franchise under the wire while keeping it under wraps that it’s what you’re doing and the game is considerably more dicey (and as we’ve seen in both Rises and Into Darkness, prone to failure and letdown).
Perhaps the latest comes with the news that Zendaya won’t be playing a random “Michelle” in Spiderman: Homecoming, she’ll be playing none other than the red-headed heartthrob Mary-Jane. Though I’m hardpressed to believe that (if the rumors are true) there’s any real reason Marvel would withhold this information other than to have a couple more months without the ire of racists on the internet directed towards them, at least for once it’s being used to get a person of color into a white role, rather than the other way around.