There is a big difference between and idea and the execution of that idea. Great idea to go to the Moon but it took a very long time, and some really smart people to make it happen.
The idea of a morally grey character is a good one. It fits in with the times of leadership trying to make the best of a bad situation.. and society’s fascination with anti-heroes. We understand altruism and evil, but it doesn’t interest us anymore. We need the complexity.
I’ll refer to a memorable character for me, and that’s Mark Purefoy’s portrayal of Marc Antony in HBO’s Rome.
The question of why he’s interesting is the point. He is an anti-hero… in fact often times he’s simply a villain. His quick to emotions, egotistical, violent, and will hit on anything that moves. His is the embodiment of borderline control… as clearly he’s moved up the Roman ranks. The audience can empathize with his situation in nearly all cases, if not outright support his actions. When he does die, he does it on his terms.
His arc is known well in advance, given that there are still records of his actions from history. It’s still an interpretation granted, and writer’s discretion does exist for some steps. The point is that even we he makes reprehensible decisions, things that clearly will not work out in the long run (like his perpetual bender in season 2), viewers are still interested and wondering what will come next. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.
In comparison, no less well written is Augustus, who represents technocracy and lack of emotion. He goes from petulant child, to isolated adult with world domination in mind. By the end, he’s lost all his close allies. Which again, is based on historic records. He makes the same difficult decisions, and without emotion. He cuts off his family when he believes they won’t help the longer game. Essentially the other side of the coin to Marc Antony, who acts with this heart.
In both cases, regardless of the actions taken, they are always in the scope of their character. They may not make rational decisions based on the viewer’s set of moral/ethics, but they do may them based on their own.
It’s a real testament to the writers and to the actors that this is pulled off.
No question, in the short term most HBO shows that are green lit have solid writing for the first few years. Few can keep going past 3 seasons, arcs are generally done. And they get a lot of pitches over the years, they have the luxury of picking the best ones and going forward. It’s not like we’re raining Sopranos.
I think the downside here is the lack of consistency and direction. Story arcs are years in the making. They clearly knew that Teldrassil was going to burn in order to allow their CGI team time to make the video, and build an expansion around it. They are often 2 years in the future. It’s based on concepts. Great!
Then you get shoddy execution. Yrel is very good example. She’s a freed slave to start WoD, then becomes the world leader at the end. No idea how that actually happened, since the middle act of WoD was never released, and it seriously looks as if Blizzard is ignoring anything that came from that expansion (except Garrosh’ death).
Relating to Sylvanas and her actions, Rohan has a good point:
In my opinion, the problem is the writers’ use of emotion. Emotion must be anchored in reason. If emotion is divorced from reason, the character is irrational. And no one likes following irrational leaders. It’s especially bad for Sylvanas, who’s basic character is the cool, calculating, ruthless archetype. A night elf talks smack to Sylvanas, she gets mad, and burns the tree in a fit of anger? That’s so far out of character that it’s just senseless.
Legion had plenty of morally grey stories, along with lot of redemption. It feels real and rational. Suramar works in particular because of this… the story is just a bunch of bad options and people trying to make the best of it.
The bridging novel and comic have some interesting threads. It’s a good thing that they brought Christie Golden to help with the overall story arc. It’s jarring to have such quality provided in a consistent fashion, and then have the past few weeks of delivery that are rough. Time will tell if that improves.