Good morning. I hope you’re enjoying your Saturday. I totally was, until I watched Hostages.
Now, this isn’t a review blog or anything by any means, but I admit that I do watch television with an eye on the writing. I know what you’re saying, that writing for network television is a totally different animal than writing a book, and I agree (else John Rogers will appear on my twitter feed and remind me of this, in intense terms), it’s just that bad writing is not limited to medium or genre. And I love to talk about bad writing, and how it could be made better.
Hostages is a new show on CBS, a network that has a few things I like (Person of Interest, Elementary), and a whole spate of things I cannot stand (all the CSI procedurals and variations). I miss Murder She Wrote. Watching this new show this morning made me miss it more.
So here’s what I knew about the show before I pressed ‘Play’: A doctor is taken hostage and has to kill the President of the United States during surgery. That’s all I knew. I didn’t knew who was in it, who wrote it, or anything else. I’d like to point out that an American television season is anywhere from 10 to 22 episodes, and requires a through-plot (a big overall plot that covers the whole season from beginning to end) you can divide up across a whole season. The premise of this show seems at best like it’s a Movie of the Week, or that it should be like a miniseries divided up into: Family Gets Attacked, Doctor Has To Perform Surgery, Doctor Either Does or Doesn’t Perform Surgery, Attackers Either Kill Family or Family Fights Back And Saves The Day. What’s that, like four parts? Maybe two parts if you use big chunks of time?
A weak premise is a hallmark of poor writing. When someone asks what’s your fiction about, you should be able to express the idea broadly (Sherlock Holmes solves crimes in modern New York; Government agents save the world from evil superheroes; A master criminal helps the FBI catch other criminals; etc), but when you can tell me the whole active premise as “A Surgeon has to kill the President or else her family dies”, that’s like … an episode. In fact, that WAS an episode of Person of Interest in the first season. They wrapped that whole sucker up in 43 minutes, and the surgeon wasn’t even the focus of the show.
I will disclose that after watching it and before I started writing this, I did go online to do more digging, and found out that this is an American version of an Israeli show that will be out soon. That fact, that this show is based on a show that isn’t out yet, was the red flag that jump-started this writing.
Generally, when you have an American version of a show (The Office, The Bridge), the original show has been out, and you can find enough material to compare the two side by side. And you can say things like, “In the original…”, because there’s time between the source and this version. Here though, we’ve got some Time Lord, Doctor Who chicanery because this show is based on a show that isn’t even out yet. This is a lot like me saying my new game is based on a game I’m releasing in five years. How does time work again?
That aside, let’s get into the meat of the episode.
The Surgeon – I don’t know a lot about her, other than she’s a surgeon, and apparently good at her job. At first blush, she doesn’t seem to be clueless or a poor parent, though she doesn’t know about some of the things her family is doing, but not in some way that she’s completely out of touch or in denial. I also found out that this character has some kind of brain inflammation or tumor because she has random outbursts of really inexplicable behavior, and there’s no rational explanation.
The Husband – He’s a real estate broker or corporate guy, I know this because he has an office and a secretary. He’s played by the guy who I remember as the guy who played all kinds of sporty jerks in the 80s and 90s. I think at one point he was on Matlock as a tennis player who killed someone, and I think he was a jock bully in some bad movies. Either way, this actor is familiar to me, and that’s kind of comforting, since I know so little about this show.
The Son – I don’t know who this is, I don’t like this character. He’s way too into his dog, he’s got a weird poorly defined B-plot (a plot that’s parallel to the main story, often centering around a single character’s growth or actions), and the kid can’t act.
The Daughter – I kind of like this character. She’s got a clear B-plot, and she’s at least able to show some emotion. But I don’t know much else about her.
Dylan McDermott – He’s Dylan McDermott. He’s been in other shows (there was that show where he was a lawyer, and as an unconventional cop), but I always get the sense that he’s always going to play Dylan McDermott. Like if you’re writing something, and you need a guy with stubble who squints a lot, just get Dylan McDermott. He has the most confusing arc out of all these characters, but hey, he’s Dylan McDermott.
The Show Breakdown
00:01 We’re shown suburbia at night. Night is frequently used to show mystery or danger, because there’s still something primal in us that makes us afraid of the unknown in the dark. Sure, it’s a little cliche, but whatever, it’s an opening shot.
00:19 The camera pans across a family on the couch. We see the mother, and the son, both are looking down and away from the television playing in the background. That’s weird, you might think, why aren’t they looking AT the television, or at each other? The camera continues to pan to the husband, WHO LOOKS UP AND AT SOMETHING CLEARLY ABOVE HIS EYELINE. This is the first clue we get that something’s wrong, and also the first clue that the husband is the one who can act.
00:33 Surprise! There’s a group of four masked people surrounding the family on the couch at gunpoint. One of them, clearly the ringleader, even does a dramatic slow-walk to the middle of the couch after turning off the TV and we see he’s a white dude, with stubble. This makes me wonder: Has ski mask technology not advanced in forty years? We know the bad guys are bad because (a) they’re in masks (b) they’re in black and (c) they’ve got guns. Any two of those elements would be sufficient, but CBS tends to be really aggressive in the “We Want You To Understand What’s Going On” department sometimes.
My rewrite – The show opens in surburbia, at night. The camera tracks in through a big window or glass patio door to a family about to eat dinner. We see a mom at the table, laughing with her kids, a teenage daughter and maybe a younger son, and in a nice reversal of trope, the dad dressed casually in an apron bringing dinner to the table. They appear happy, enjoying each other’s company and everything seems great. Until the dog starts barking. And until the door gets kicked in. Two mooks in masks with guns come in, and order the family to freeze. Once one of them yells “Clear!”, two or three other mooks in masks with guns arrive, and finally an unmasked man strides into the room, and sits himself down at their dinner table. He fixes his eyes on the family, and maybe the camera pans to show us their reactions, and he says, “Hello Doctor [Family’s Last Name], we need to talk.” CUT TO TITLES.
01:04 We’ve flashed back 12 hours, because the titles told us so, and we’ve seen a motorcade leave Washington DC, because we’ve seen the Capitol building, but we’re taken to a press conference at “Maryland College Hospital”. Now, don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, because it’s not real, but that’s only one of the problems in this opening.
Before we dissect the visuals, let’s talk about some basic facts.
Presumably, the motorcade is carrying the President. We have to assume that, since the show is about the President’s surgery. But doesn’t the President either (a) have a hospital that will take care of him (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) or (b) have the ability to go to ANY actual hospital we the audience may have heard of? Like, can’t the dude pick up the phone and say, “Take me to Johns Hopkins, I want the best” or something, because he’s the leader of the free world?
And why are we holding a press conference on the front lawn of this fake hospital? Isn’t this something that the White House Press Secretary should be announcing from inside the White House? You know, from like inside a safe place? (you’ll see why I say that in a second). I suppose we’re holding it at the hospital so that we can see that Surgeon-Mom is a big deal and that we remember she’s a surgeon.
Here’s the shot.
Here’s what we can see:
1. The guy in the dark suit and purple tie is likely the President.
2. That’s the Surgeon-Mom at the microphone.
But let’s look at some problems (aside from the fact that we’re at a fake hospital)
i. The white dude and the black dude who are book-ending the shot (no, this is not a subtle metaphor for race relations), I guess they’re supposed to be Secret Service. But they’re facing AWAY from the crowd, or at the very least facing a crowd we can’t see. If the attack came from somewhere we couldn’t see, the audience would be deprived of a sense of danger to the President, and that’s really sloppy writing and shooting in a fixed-camera shot to have an attack leap-in from off screen. That’s like amateur hour filmmaking class.
ii. Look behind the group. There’s one guy with his back turned, over on the left. I don’t see that guy’s counterpart on the right. So there’s this big open space BEHIND the President of the United States, and there’s literally a whole side of the shot unprotected. I think I know where I’d attack from.
iii. Who the fuck are those people in the background? Sure, the two people in labcoats must be doctors (remember costumes = characters), but what’s up with the Tommy Wiseau-looking guy dressed a little like he’s an extra from a Russian submarine movie? And why is there a haggard woman in a green coat behind our Surgeon? Is she the tired Queen of the Hospital? Is she the Ghost of Surgeon Future? Who staged and blocked this shot?
My rewrite – We flashback now, 12 hours, to the White House Press Room. The Press Secretary is speaking to a room full of reporters about the President’s condition. The Secretary announces that Doctor-Surgeon-Mom will now answer a few questions. The Press Corps goes nuts as Surgeon-Mom walks to the lectern and nervously answers questions in a very textbook, medical and technical fashion. The reporters hound her again as she retreats to a different room. Waiting for her is an aide who says the President wants to see her. She’s nervous, but is escorted to the Oval Office. The President is there, and he introduces his Chief of Staff, THE SAME GUY WE SAW IN THE OPENING AS THE ONE WHO CAME INTO HER HOUSE WITH ARMED GOONS. The three of them talk about the surgery and what needs to be done, and eventually Surgeon-Mom leaves, but not until the camera lingers a little too long on the Chief of Staff who eyes her as she exits.
01:15 JARGON! We know the Surgeon-Mom is good at her job because she’s using medical terms. And doesn’t the President have his own doctors? You know like people who are incredibly vetted? And why is the Press Corps so quiet? Wouldn’t they, like have a lot of questions like “Who’s gonna run the country while this happens?” and “What’s the chance for survival?” and “What the hell does thoracoscopically mean?”
01:32 The President wouldn’t end his own press conferences. That’s what he has a Press Secretary for.
01:53 “Glad to know you care so much …” The President is in the limo with “generic staff guy”, and the camera hangs out a little too long on him. That’s basically TV code for “THIS GUY IS A BAD GUY”, although the dialogue should have telegraphed so the camera didn’t have to. So let’s call him BAD GUY, because I have no clue what his White House job is.
02:03 We’ve cut to a ‘Hostage Situation’, as though the snipers and armed cops surrounding a building couldn’t tell us that. The cut from the limo to over the shoulder of a sniper was crazy jarring, since the color palette doesn’t match, there’s no audio transition and there’s nothing to clearly link any of the first part to the second part. This is like taking a section break in your chapter and moving us from a scene about puppies to an elevator repairman in an office building.
02:42 “I did. I’m the Agent in Charge now.” This whole terrible scene reminds me of this. Also, I want you to get a good look at this face:
This is the squinty face of Dylan McDermott. You are going to see this face throughout this episode, This is how you know the man means business, but plays by his own rules. The only way this could get more irritating would be if it somehow turned into this.
04:39 “What if you’d been wrong?” “I wasn’t.” Dylan McDermott has ended the hostage negotiation, not by squinting, but by shooting the hostage taker who traded clothes with the hostage. Because he forgot to change his shoes (something the camera didn’t show us until after the guy was dead), Dylan McDermott dropped him with two shots to the chest. The fact that shoe reveal came post-shooting deprives us of connecting to Dylan McDermott, and the fact that he quips and exits the scene makes me think that Dylan McDermott’s job in this show is to be the loose cannon hero, who might save the Surgeon’s family by disregarding the rules. In a show called “Hostages”, this is a guy who rescues hostages, so THIS IS OUR HERO. This is further told to us because there’s a BITCHING GUITAR RIFF THAT UNDERSCORES HIS DEPARTURE.
My rewrite – We cut to a police or FBI office, where we hear someone yelling at someone else before we see them. A boss figure, let’s make her a woman, is yelling at and ultimately suspends Dylan McDermott for “an incident that costs lives”. She makes it sound more like an expense, that the people didn’t matter, but we can see that Dylan McDermott is clearly haunted and not wholly paying attention to his suspension. We don’t know what the incident was, just that it was bad. This ambiguity will let our minds wander. He is ordered to take a month off, with no pay, until the investigation clears him. He tosses his badge and gun to her just before he silently exits. Dylan McDermott hasn’t said a word in this whole introduction scene.
04:54 We are reminded again that Surgeon-Mom is really good at her job, because she talks to Generic-Black-Lady-Doctor-Friend about how her boss resents her being picked for this assignment. With all the clarification of how good she is at her job, was I supposed to doubt it? Should I be doubting it now?
05:04 Surgeon-Mom who we learn does have a first name (Ellen), sees a bald maintenance guy, who I’m pretty sure was either a skinhead in Breaking Bad, or a backup Nazi in American History X or maybe an Observer on Fringe, exit her office. This is suspicious, because she has paused to stare at them, then she rushes to her office to see what’s up. No, wait she doesn’t do that. She doesn’t immediately check to see what’s up. She sighs, picks up the phone and calls her husband. Her husband answers, saying he’s got a big deal (that surprise! goes south on him midway through the conversation, but he doesn’t tell his wife — intrigue or just decision-making?) and lacrosse practice tonight, so the two of them hang up the phone, not feeling very satisfied in this conversation. She does notice FINALLY that a photo from her desk is missing.
Good news everyone! I wasn’t satisfied by this conversation either. If two characters talk to each other, they’re supposed to be conveying their emotions to each other about what’s going on in their lives at that moment. She maybe should talk about the maintenance guy, or the missing photo, or how, I don’t know, she’s nervous about Presidential surgery. And he should, I guess, reveal to her that the deal fell through, or maybe go the other way entirely, and stay upbeat and supportive, and then have gotten the news post-phone call. The lack of satisfaction on the end of this call means that I’m supposed to see their marriage as troubled. But since this is the first time I’m seeing their marriage, I don’t know how to feel about it. This is why context and SHOWING (rather than telling) are critical when you’re trying to express a relationship to your audience.
My rewrite – Surgeon-Mom is on the phone already when we cut back to her, the phone is ringing and finally she gets to talk to her husband, who is at the center of a really busy office, making all these deals at his big corporate job. But rather than play it like he’s an oblivious corporate dad, the minute she starts telling him how nervous she is, he zeroes in on her, and supports her. During this conversation, she realizes that a family photo is missing off her desk, and she tell hims so, before nervously hanging up.
If you’re following along at home, we haven’t had any action beats. Sure, Dylan McDermott shot that bank robber, but that’s not relevant to the Surgeon-Mom plot. The family hasn’t done anything other than talk to people or be surrounded by bad guys. Something needs to happen, else I’m going to either go play GTA V or read random Wikipedia pages.
06:30 “This will be an in and out operation.” This line is said by a guy in an electrician’s van. So you know he’s not an actual electrician, but you don’t know who he is. The fact that he’s using the word ‘operation’ might suggest he’s a leader of some sort, but we know from the opening that the hostage-taking leader is a white guy. So maybe this is his second-in-command? He’s talking to an attractive woman who’s complaining about her code name, humanizing her, which I guess is going to pay off later, otherwise why introduce it.
06:52 “You trust this guy we’re working for?” The attractive woman says this to the black leader guy before he exits the van and breaks into a house, which I guess we’re supposed to see is the Surgeon’s house, but the angle doesn’t match up, and in daylight, that jump in logic isn’t clear. But come back to the line, and what it means. So she and the black guy are working for someone else (a guy), and she doesn’t know anything about him and doesn’t know if she should trust him. She’s asking the black guy, suggesting that he knows “the guy” and that based on whatever response she gets, she’ll trust him too.
What does this tell us? That’s she’s new to whatever endeavor she’s working on. That’s she’s a new team member. That she doesn’t have a whole lot of contact with the actual guy in charge. That’s she’s not directly affiliated with whatever group other people are. Maybe she’s a terrorist-temp. Maybe this is Take-Your-Kidnapper-To-Work Day. If you were going to do something nefarious, would you recruit inexperienced people? And would any of those people be new or unknown to you? What if they’re idiots? What if they’re moles or spies or narcs? Who the hell arranged this ‘operation’? Clearly they’ve never seen a heist movie or played Night’s Black Agents.
My rewrite – I cut all of this out.
07:19 “The chemo is hard on your wife.” This line is said by a nurse (Delores) to Dylan McDermott, who still hasn’t shaved, but at least changed his clothes. My problem here is that Delores has said “your wife”, which I know is supposed to tell the audience what’s going on in the scene, but if Dylan McDermott’s been coming to the hospital regularly enough that he can ask how “she’s doing today” and that he knows the nurse’s name, then she would presumably know him and his wife enough to call the wife “HER”, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW HUMANS SPEAK.
This is why you should read your dialogue aloud, and make sure other people read it too – it should sound like actual people saying actual things. The conversation should go like this:
“How’s she doing today?”
“Chemo was rough on her this morning, but there was a little improvement. Go on in. She’d love to see you.”
Because in that conversation both speakers have a pre-existing relationship with “her”, and the writer is trusting the audience enough to get what’s going on – that someone has cancer, it’s rough, but that both characters care for the sick person.
My rewrite – Suspended from his job, Dylan McDermott arrives at the hospital to see his stricken wife. She’s weak, but conscious, and smiles when he walks into the room and holds her hand. He kisses her on the forehead before a doctor pulls him out in the hallway. The doctor delivers some bad news: maybe she needs another surgery, maybe this round of chemo isn’t working and she needs something more aggressive. He takes it in stride, then goes back to his wife, all smiles and happy. She tries to make him tell her what the doctor says, but he lies and says she’s doing great, that her test results look promising and he’s really proud of the progress she’s making. She looks relieved and asks about work. He again lies, saying everything’s fine and that he talked today to his boss and he thinks maybe he’ll get promoted real soon, and then, when she’s feeling better, they’ll go on that vacation they always wanted. She smiles at this fact and closes her eyes to rest. He wipes tears out of his eyes and gives her hand a squeeze.
08:03 Surgeon-Mom returns home, just as Black Guy and Attractive Woman are wrapping up the installation of surveillance equipment. Given the premise and the opening scene, the amount of premeditation here is staggering. I mean, it’s nowhere near Skyfall, Loki’s Avengers Plan, or The Dark Knight for levels of complexity and coincidence, but still, if you were going to hold a family hostage and make someone do something, wouldn’t it be far easier to piggyback their internet traffic, bug their phones, track their cars and stick armed guards on them? Do we really need a near-Truman Show camera setup? Is this going to be regularly intercut with footage, the way CCTV is used in Person of Interest (a touch I really like on that show)?
My rewrite – Collapse this scene into a later scene when we cut back to present time and show the family with the masked people. Show the masked people doing this work then, not in advance.
09:13 The first introduction of the Daughter. This scene doesn’t do anything for me.
09:25 The first introduction of the Son. I actually got up and got a cup of tea here. It’s 10 minutes into the show, the pacing is glacial, the tension was all the way back about eight minutes ago, and I’m busy thinking about what I want to do for dinner tonight.
10:11 Dad confronts the team about a large bag full of cash he found. His Son and a Teammate lie about what its purpose is, and after Dad departs, Teammate and Son argue about the lie being told. This teases the Son’s B-plot, without actually saying what it is. I’m still bored, unless the kid was getting bribed to take a dive or (I can only hope, but I doubt) that the kid was in on the hostage-taking by giving up the family’s schedule.
My rewrite – I’d either make the son younger, like elementary school age, or I’d remove him entirely. One child (a teenager) and their B-plot is more than enough.
10:40 Dylan McDermott is a bad (?) father. He’s got a daughter that has some kind of custody arrangement with his wife’s father. I have no idea if the daughter is really tall for her age, or somehow disabled, but she’s clueless as to her mom’s condition. This is annoying trope that does not make me care at all about Dylan McDermott’s arc. She’s whiney, and she goes from “I don’t want to go” to “OMG Grandpa!” took quickly.
My rewrite – Cut this.
15:08 I’m skipping ahead because I want to bail on this show, but I’m writing this blogpost. I feel like I’ve been watching this for easily 40 minutes, but no, we’re FIFTEEN minutes in. All the B-plots have been brought up: The money Dad found, the money Son owes, the Daughter have teen pregnancy problems. Also, she’s got a boyfriend on the side that I thought attractive woman was going to shoot, but that doesn’t pan out. Dear sweet deities, please let this episode end soon.
15:41 “I’ve got the dog.” The family dog runs afoul of the hostage takers now surrounding the house. Now we’re led to believe that they’re going to kill the dog, as if I needed another reason to stop watching the show. It’s not that I care so deeply about dog shooting (kids, don’t kill your dogs), but because it’s really corny to shoot the dog to prove either you’re a bad guy or that you’re thorough in your actions.
Also, I’d like to point this shot out:
This is two hostage takers talking. In the dark. Wearing black. At night. I don’t know who is who, or which one is speaking. I’m not entirely sure that there aren’t three people in this scene. I have no idea what’s going on.
19:15 Finally we’re back to the same timeline as the opening, where the family is together on the couch and the leader has turned off the TV. He unmasks, and it’s DYLAN MCDERMOTT!
Holy shit. Not like “Holy shit, I didn’t expect that” more like “Holy shit are you kidding me?”
See, because up until this moment, we thought he was a hero. He saved those hostages. His wife has cancer. But, no, he’s the badguy. We just spent about half the show following the badguy, not knowing he was the badguy. That’s supposed to come off as crafty or clever, but instead I’m confused. Because when you have a badguy, you’re also supposed to have created enough of a hero to oppose them.
When we reveal Moriarty, we’ve already spent time learning and siding with Sherlock Holmes.
When we reveal Loki, we’ve spent other movies with the Avengers.
In this case, we spent all this time learning about Dylan McDermott, seeing him do his job, seeing his family life. And who’s our hero? The Surgeon? We know more about how good she is at her job than her family life. Her conversation with her daughter is mundane. She is pretty silent when she’s told her son is going to buy alcohol with a stack of cash. She’s pretty tepid about her husband. This is our hero? Where’s her toughness? Where’s the evidence of her strength or courage or cleverness?
When I ask the question, “How is the hero going to overcome the opposition?”, I should be able to at least see the possible avenues for this to happen. Maybe she’ll poison them. Maybe she’ll turn one against the others. Maybe she’ll alert the cops. The obvious solution here is that she’ll not botch the surgery, because we’ve spent so long hearing how great she is. But if she doesn’t botch the surgery, wouldn’t that mean the hostage takers kill her family, and doesn’t that mean she loses?
Oh good grief, we’re only about half way into this show.
My rewrite – Back to the “present”. The Chief of Staff informs the Surgeon that she’s going to kill the President, else they’ll kill her family. And if any of them alert the authorities, guess what, they’ll kill the other family members. The Chief of Staff further monologues to inform them that they’re going to be watched 24/7, and then orders Attractive Woman (who is still masked!) to collect their phones and then bug, tap, or clone them. He orders the family to finish dinner, that his team has work to do and when the Surgeon asks “How am I supposed to kill the President?” he slides her an ampule of some liquid, a contact poison derived from concentrated blah-blah-blah, that’s untraceable, etc etc. He then says that he’s posting guards in every room in her house, including her bedroom, and that they should sleep tight. He exits, leaving the masked guards to watch the family quietly and nervously eat.
In my rewrites, I’m nearly done this episode. I could care less what happens in the actual show, because I’ve set up all the tension of the procedure, without actually doing it. I don’t want the procedure to happen just yet, because that’s the high point of the plotline – once the surgery happens, the hostage takers will either have killed the President or the Surgeon and her family, and then the show should be over. And I wouldn’t make the procedure happen TOMORROW, I’d schedule it for down the road, so that I could keep this show going more than just two weeks (pre- and post- surgery).
But no, I’m not writing this show, so on we go with the breakdown.
34:55 The hostage takers learn all the B-plots, because now we’re just filling time. We’ve had some standoffs with armed gunmen, but basically you can summarize all the scenes with “Family starts to fight back or argue, and then voluntarily backs down.” Because the kids confess their plots (debt and pregnancy, respectively) and because the husband accedes to blackmail (he’s been having an affair, or he had one, it’s unclear) and because the wife won’t cut off her finger (??), the hostage takers are still in charge.
There’s a strange moment here where Dylan McDermott, who’s gone a whole two minutes without squinting, calls his wife’s father to inquire about his daughter. They have a weird conversation, where it’s revealed that the grandfather is either being held captive by the President’s Guy (from the Limo!) or they’re partners who also happened to be the real masterminds behind killing the President. I kind of want them to be masterminds, But this is CBS, and I doubt they’ll make a gay couple over 55 who isn’t either flaming or comedic. Sigh.
35:32 One of the family members (I wasn’t paying attention) says, “What about school?” implying that if the kids are forced to stay home and be hostages, that the school will get curious. The response is given that. “It’s been taken care of.” And now I know I’m waist-deep in sloppy writing.
You know our old friends SHOW vs TELL? Here, I just got TOLD that a major plot hole (or what could be a possible plot hole) has been resolved and that both the character (and the audience) shouldn’t worry about it. I didn’t see the school get told this. I wouldn’t have really given it much thought, but since it was introduced, it had to be dealt with, and since the writers didn’t really want to deal with it, they hand-waved it away.
Writers – It’s not bad writing if you don’t address everything. No one talks about the bullets cops fire, or the paperwork after they arrest someone. No one shows the CSI labs getting cleaned by janitors. No one is going to ask when action stars stop to eat meals or shower or pee. It is bad though when you introduce something (like kids needing to go to school) and rather than make a point of it (that might further show how thorough the badguys are), you handwave it away. That’s where the bad writing happens. If you don’t want to deal with something, don’t introduce it.
41:04 It looks like Surgeon-Mom is going to go ahead and kill the President, having switched the drug with the vial of McGuffin Dylan McDermott gave her about six minutes earlier. We see her make the switch while she’s explaining (the typo I had there was ‘expaining’, and I thought it was really accurate) AGAIN that she’s really good at her job. Now the last line of the scene is “A nurse will right in to start your IV”, and for a brief second, I hoped that maybe she’d frame the nurse for killing the President (making her partially less guilty?), but NO.
Because the next scene is the Secret Service arriving en masse and the Press Corps saying “I heard something’s wrong.”
HOW. What sort of security leak would allow a journalist outside a building, surrounded by agents to somehow discover, intuit or be told something is wrong. The Secret Service wasn’t even told anything was wrong!
So that line is there to tell the audience that things didn’t go according to plan, which is nice information, if the goal of the show is to deflate our enthusiasm and tension.
41:54 We find out the rest of the tension-wrecking along with the characters, who get TOLD this via newscast. The Surgeon double-crossed the hostage takers and gives a press conference about how she’s not discouraged and “doesn’t give up that easily.” A line which makes ZERO sense in the context of a press conference (it just makes her sound arrogant) and only works as a warning to her hostage-takers that’s she’s going to be the heroine who will stop them, even though we have no idea how, and while she’s being all brave, her family should be catching bullets with their faces, as per the earlier threats.
So we’re lead to believe that either she doesn’t really care about her family, or that somehow between switching vials and walking outside, she gathered all the bravery in the world to stand up to people who may or may not have killed her family.
Thankfully, the show goes to credits after showing us one more squint for the road.
Yeah, I’m so glad we got one more in there.
My rewrite – The Surgeon returns to work the next morning, and discovers that people she normally sees – the guy at the garage, one of the orderlies, the security guard, have all been replaced by people who give her a knowing nod – they’re all in on it, and they’re watching her at work. She goes into her office, and find a camera wired to her computer. She turns her computer on and gets an email with a video in it – her family is still held at gunpoint, and one of the masked gunman, maybe the leader says, “We’re watching you.” the video goes black, but we hear a gunshot before it ends. Surgeon looks horrified, and sits back at her desk, and the camera cuts to CCTV footage of a webcam in her office, showing that she is being watched. CREDITS.
One thing I forgot. Remember when someone was going to shoot the dog? The son discovers this —
and we’re led to think “Wow they did kill the dog, that’s cold.”
But later, his assigned guard reveals to the kid —
“The drugs will wear off by tomorrow” (32:23) … wait, drugs? What drugs? Are the hostage-takers using tranquilizers and not bullets? So that all these guns we’ve seen are just for effect and at best dispense knock-outs? Is this supposed to humanize them?
I’m calling attention to this because if everyone is humanized, who are we supposed to root against? I know the trend is all for blurred lines of sympathy, but in a premise where people want the President killed, it’s okay not to like them.
Nope. There’s way better things to do with my time, like patch holes in socks, watch infomercials and play amazing games with my friends.
I sincerely hope that whatever you’re writing and creating is better than this show. And frankly, it wouldn’t be that hard.