Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Season Three: Narrative Structure

19 November 2013

Now that Fairly Legal Season 2 is being broadcast in worldwide markets, I keep seeing people ask what season 3 would have been like.
Several of us who’ve done a lot of writing have discussed this, and I’m sad to say that others have come around to my point of view. In short: I believe this was answered in the first scene of the second season.

Specifically, it’s this line:

No. No. I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.

That’s the proverbial Chekovian gun on the mantlepiece. Since it didn’t happen at the end of season 2, my guess was that it was intended for the end of season 3.
Sarah Shahi has said that Kate was going to be very “Sex and the City” in Season 3, dating lots of guys. Implication being anyone other than Ben.
And, honestly, in the sense of keeping a longer-running show around, it was too early to put Ben and Kate together. Look at how long the romantic lead-up was in Castle. Or CSI. (In CSI, I like that it didn’t turn out to be Happily Ever After for Grissom and Sara, but then there’s the awkward part of the relationship being shorter than the buildup.)

Show Longevity Revolves Around UST

Where UST = Unresolved Sexual Tension. That’s what sells advertising, and TV shows live or die based on ad spend. You can throw a believable male/female spark between the primary characters, press them -> very long. Several hundred thousand words (aka several books) long. Here’s a Twilight one that tops half a million words. A Star Wars one that’s 300k words. A 400k Glee fic. (Note: I haven’t read any of these; I generally limit myself to ones that are no more than typical novel length.)
As a footnote, I’ve come to a new understanding of serious fanfic writers: fanfic is like improvisational jazz for writers. You get to take someone else’s motif and play with it. I like the pieces that subvert the underlying work’s tropes or add meta layers to them. I love weird crossovers (Fairly Legal/V anyone?). A piece I admire concept-wise (but have only read a bit of) is this meta-fanfic where Bella is a fanfic writer and Edward is one of her readers. Note: half a million words and a lot of UST.

Dividing Loyalties

The love triangle’s a hard one, and I think Fairly Legal lost ratings because it divided crucial viewers between the Justin camp and the Ben camp. Most of the new viewers were solidly in the Ben camp, and it’s interesting to note that essentially all the fanfic written after Season 2 started was about Ben and Kate, not Justin and Kate.
Working backwards from the final scene of season 2, I get why it happened the way it did, but it would have been far more sympathetic to the Justin shippers for Justin to find a new and compelling possible romance to give the Justin fans something to look forward to.
Worse, Kate’s Sex and the City antics in season 3 would have lost many of the Ben shippers, including me if it had gone on too long.

Character Arcs

The opening bar scene in season 2 made me wonder: was Ben intended to be a two-season character? Or not? As someone who loved the character, had he stayed disappeared after the end of season 3, I’d have stopped watching. My expectation for the season 3 ending would have been that Ben would have disappeared sometime in the final episode and Leo and Lauren–and possibly even Justin–would have pushed her into going to look for Ben, with the final moment being them seeing each other, leaving that moment hanging in the air. Because, you know, season finales and cliffies go together like strawberries and whipped cream.

That Word

Speaking of, I have to say that I really, really love where season 2 of Fairly Legal wound up. I think it was one of the best moments I’ve ever seen for a show ending, because it both closed off a lot of possibilities, but left the new season (if there were to be one) open in the way most season endings don’t.
I need a word for that. It’s almost the opposite of a plot chokepoint.
Said ending caused my plot brain to go into overdrive for months. Every morning, I’d dream a new plot that could stem from that moment.

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