Seriality, the ontological concept behind TV series, originated due to consumerist reasons. When literature printing boomed out at the end of the XIX century, writers –most prominently Charles Dickens– had to look for a way to keep readers invested in their works in order to consolidate this new mass producing machine. Accordingly, splitting long novels into different chapters released over time –and with a proper cliffhanger– hooked the readers and allowed the industry to bloom. A century later, TV has adopted the formula literature popularized and even more recently some shows have appeared that have challenged our understanding about what seriality is supposed to be.
One week ago, Mad Men ended with the image of Don Draper smiling into the camera. On the other side of the screen my face, as two ancient Greek theater masks facing each other, was rather the opposite: the face of disappointment. What a lacking finale –if not a complete disaster–, to the point that our own Homecoming Queen, who actually confessed to like the episodes, preferred to discuss the latest Penny Dreadful episodes over the series finales of a series of the relevance of Mad Men. This fact made look back to this year’s fiction and wonder: are we having a bad year?
A fly on the wall, a kidnapping, Tony Soprano’s talking fish dream, a battle on The Wall, a beach house, a sitcom episode form the 90s, Annie’s Boobs, every posible outcome of a speech, a flashback that shows the loss of a child in the 80s, a flashback that show the entire history of an island… These are all special episodes of our favorite series. Episodes that did not follow the scheme we have grown familiar with, episodes that focused on a simple, concrete storyline that did not continue the serie’s plot, but rather highlight a single idea or concept. And then there’s Louie (FX, 2010-?), could a show be only constructed from ‘special episodes’?
Daniel Zelman and the brothers Glenn and Todd Kessler carry the main responsibility for projecting one of the nuances of our contemporary zeitgeist into television: the experiencing of multiple temporalities simultaneously conveying a new way of exploring serial narratives.
Both female main characters from House of Cards and The Americans have lived similar traumatic experiences with unexpected consequences in the last episodes. Death, treason, marriage… what else do they have in common?
In a late scene from House of Cards third season Claire Underwood knocks at the door of a stressed mother to ask for her vote in the upcoming elections. She comes in to find out the sort of life awaiting behind motherhood, chaos and loneliness. The mother dreams with the possibility of all of it gone, her husband and even her own child, a chance to “start anew”. And that’s paradoxically (since her sacrifice was precisely motherhood) Claire’s last straw, the image of a desperate woman renouncing to her happiness for her family’s sake, a life of nothingness just so others can keep up with their goals.
I’m still afraid of Fortitude’s sixth episode. This thriller’s atmosphere has become so dark and oppressive that you can hardly breathe or blink during its 48 minutes. Mainly because you believe that the most horrifying monster can appear and tear everyone and everything apart in any second. The scariest part is that it never appears.