Six Characters With Poorly Handled Arcs

A reformed Kallus with Zeb.

Anyone unfortunate enough to have lived through the Star Wars prequels knows that a bad character arc can ruin the story. We love watching characters grow and change over time, but when that change feels forced, contrived, or otherwise unbelievable, it’s worse than no arc at all. And this isn’t just a problem for Anakin Skywalker, either.* Character development is hard, and authors fumble with it all the time. On the bright side, that means we don’t have to look far to find cautionary examples to learn from.

Spoiler Notice: Nancy Drew, The City in the Middle of the Night, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

1. Chief McGinnis: Nancy Drew

Chief McGinnis looking peeved.

As someone who has never read Nancy Drew and was only vaguely aware of it as a franchise, the CW network’s new Nancy Drew show has seriously impressed me with its quality. The characters are fun and witty, the mysteries are compelling, and the conflict is urgent without feeling overwhelming. Plus it’s got cool ghosts and spooky rituals! For the most part, it’s a great show.

But then there’s Chief McGinnis of the Horseshoe Bay Police Department. At first, he’s a simple antagonist. He doesn’t like Nancy meddling in police affairs, and he jumps at any chance to put her behind bars. He’s also blackmailing one of Nancy’s friends to spy on her – how rude! McGinnis is a fine character who supports the show’s premise. Mysteries would be too easy for Nancy to solve if she had cooperation from the police, so the antagonism makes perfect sense. It’s also cool that McGinnis is a Native American character who isn’t stereotyped as wise or mystical…

…Until episode eight, anyway! Then, out of nowhere, McGinnis does a complete heel-face turn and starts using the mystic knowledge of his people to help Nancy figure out what’s going on with all these ghosts. This was a terrible idea based solely on racism. I don’t know if the rituals McGinnis performs are based on real beliefs or entirely made up, but either way, it’s a terrible look for urban fantasy to use Native American religions as part of a magic system. White people have been exoticizing and appropriating indigenous culture for way too long, and we need to stop.

But putting aside the racism, McGinnis’s turn doesn’t work from a technical perspective either. Suddenly he wasn’t actually blackmailing Nancy’s friend, he was just calling in a favor. And he really cares what happens to our heroes. In fact, he’s super nice now. His entire demeanor changes, to the point that he doesn’t seem like the same character anymore. Even the character’s portrayal is less believable, like actor Adam Beach spent a bunch of time getting into character for this jerkass police chief and then was suddenly told he needed to be a wise Magical Native instead.

It’s not impossible that McGinnis could have turned into a good guy, but such a development needed longer than the approximately zero episodes it was given. He’s such a major asshole that it would probably have taken most of the season for his attitude toward Nancy and her friends to thaw out. The show would have first needed to make them uneasy allies, putting them in situations where they had to work together despite their animosity. From there, actual friendship could have grown.

Apparently that wasn’t in the cards, but we do get a final indicator of how much this turn didn’t work: McGinnis nearly disappears from the show afterward. Remember, Nancy can’t have the police as her allies or her job is too easy, so the show has to bring in not one, but two new characters to be antagonistic cops in McGinnis’s place. I don’t know if they wrote McGinnis out when they realized this nice version of him didn’t work, or if they rushed the change because of actor availability, but it’s a failed arc either way.

2. Mouth: The City In the Middle of the Night

A silhouetted city on an alien world.

Heel-face turns and redemption arcs aren’t the only type of character arc out there, and that’s what brings us to Charlie Jane Anders’s Hugo-nominated novel The City in the Middle of the Night. In this story, the oddly named Mouth goes through an arc that eventually takes her from total badass to total pacifist. That was already going to be an uphill battle, since readers tend to like badass characters, but the world is also so grimdark that pacifism seems far-fetched. Seriously, this is a setting where everything is trying to kill you, from fellow humans and local wildlife to the environment itself. That makes it incredibly easy for a nonviolent character to come across as naive or in denial.

With all of those obstacles, it would have taken a masterful arc to convincingly take Mouth from badass to pacifist, and that is not what the book gives us. The first problem is that we never actually see Mouth being a badass. The book tells us she’s a badass, but only in the past. In the present, she’s inexplicably frozen with fear or indecision in nearly every fight and action sequence. I can only assume this is meant to provide contrast, but she’s never shown doing anything else. She just feels like an ineffectual character.

The book goes on in this manner for a while, until its next big trick: Mouth completely loses her ability to fight. The way this happens is bizarre, to say the least. Mouth is part of a battle that the book describes almost entirely through summary, which makes it seem unimportant. Then, the next time we see Mouth, she suddenly can’t hold weapons anymore? After a few paragraphs of confusion, the book explains that this apparently happened after the summarized battle, implying that Mouth was so traumatized that she now can’t perform violence of any kind.

So now we have two problems at once. One: a major character change happens offscreen. Two: this fight feels too routine. It wasn’t particularly brutal by the book’s grimdark standards, nor did Mouth have to do anything morally abhorrent. Or at least, she didn’t do anything more abhorrent than what she’s done in the past. This makes the change feel contrived, like the author wanted Mouth to be a pacifist but didn’t know how to get her there, so she just deployed some handwavium and hoped we wouldn’t notice.

Worst of all, I’m not even sure what this contrived arc was for. Mouth does solve a couple of problems without fighting, but they’re problems that couldn’t have been solved by fighting anyway, so it seems pointless. It’s like there was some requirement that she have an arc, any arc, and this one was chosen by throwing darts at a wall.

The only purpose Mouth’s arc seems to serve in the story is to put her in a low place so she can be cajoled into joining the book’s Alien Savior Cult. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Well, the book has some aliens and the only way for humanity to survive is to accept the aliens as our lords and saviors. I know, it surprised me too. Like any good cult, this one recruits Mouth when she’s at her lowest, but I think that’s an accident since all of the book’s language indicates these aliens are supposed to be good. Even if this was actually the goal, there are far easier ways to make Mouth vulnerable to Alien Jesus.

3. Agent Kallus: Rebels

Agent Kallus and a group of Stormtroopers.

Look, I said we were going to talk about characters other than Anakin, but I never promised no Star Wars. Agent Kallus is our main recurring villain for Rebels’ first two seasons or so, and wow is he bad at it. Not only does he constantly fail, but there are even a couple of episodes where the heroes walk right into one of his ambushes and still fight their way out with ease. On top of that, Kallus is not at all likable. He’s casually cruel and has presided over at least one genocide. He even carries a weapon from the people he wiped out, in case you didn’t hate him enough.

With this unique flavor of evil and incompetence, surely Kallus ends up getting Force choked so someone better can take over, right? NOPE. Instead, the writers thought it would be better to give this bag of war crimes a redemption arc! Can you feel that low rumbling in the Earth? That’s me groaning at what a terrible idea this was.

We start the redemption arc with an episode where Kallus is trapped on an ice world with one of the good guys. They have to work together, or they’ll both die. The good guy in question is Zeb, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s a member of that species that Kallus did a genocide on. WHOOPS. Don’t worry, though, they retcon that a little bit: Kallus reveals he didn’t order the genocide, he just participated in it, and the weapon he carries is something he won in an honorable duel. An honorable duel during a genocide. Sure.

Good, good. Instead of a Jew having to work with Adolf Eichmann, now it’s just a Jew having to work with a concentration camp guard. That’s probably fine, right? If you can get past the gross taste that leaves in your mouth, you might be able to see the next problem: Kallus’s personality completely changes after this episode. Before, he was just a jerk. Now he suddenly cares about civilian casualties for some reason? That certainly wasn’t a priority in previous episodes. But now he cares so much that he’s eager to completely betray the empire and join Team Good.

If this is where you started watching, everything would seem fine. Kallus is clearly an imperial officer with a conscience. He’s conflicted about his loyalty to the empire, but he also knows that imperial atrocities are wrong, so he eventually does the right thing and quits. He’s even competent! But the character of Kallus didn’t just spring into existence as this decent man who can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

If the writers wanted Kallus to have a redemption arc, then they needed to make him someone worth redeeming from the start. He should have been an honorable opponent and a worthy adversary, not someone who would happily kick a puppy. The whole genocide backstory needed to go as well. Maybe he can still have the weapon from Zeb’s species, and the good guys assume he looted it, but then find out it’s a family heirloom or something. Anything that avoids forcing Zeb to make nice with a man who slaughtered his people.

4. Bellamy: The 100

Bellamy from The 100

The 100 is a show all about angsty character arcs. In fact, Bellamy starts the show with one, where he has to redeem himself after causing a lot of trouble for his fellow Skaikru kids. That worked so well that when season three rolled around, the writers figured they’d just do it again. The only problem is that to have a redemption arc, the character needs something to redeem themselves from, and by season three Bellamy had largely overcome his morally questionable ways.

So what are the writers going to do? Step one is to give Bellamy a girlfriend they can fridge. Her name is Gina, but I have to look it up every time because in my head she’s always “Whatsername.” Gina appears between seasons, and her relationship with Bellamy is based on… them both being hot, as far as I can tell. Anyway, she and several other members of Skaikru are soon murdered by the Grounder faction known as Azgeda.

If you’re not familiar with The 100’s setting, the Grounders are humans who live on Earth’s post-apocalyptic surface, while Skaikru (sky-crew) has recently arrived from the Arc, an orbiting space station. So now, since Bellamy and many others in Skaikru are really pissed at Azgeda, they follow a charismatic demagogue to retaliate against… an entirely different group of Grounders called Trikru (tree-crew). Trikru is actually allied with Skaikru against Azgeda, so this is literally the worst thing they could have done.

This is the bad act that Bellamy now needs to redeem himself from for his second redemption arc, but it doesn’t fit with his character. Sure, some of Skaikru might think all Grounders are the same, but Bellamy knows better. For him, this is like getting attacked by France and retaliating against Belgium. That’s basically the same, right?

As if that weren’t bad enough, the retaliation itself is particularly brutal, with Skaikru gunning down three hundred Trikru soldiers who were actually there to protect Skaikru from further Azgeda aggression. Bellamy’s hardly a perfect angel, but it’s still difficult to believe he’d participate in such a slaughter, and even harder to cheer for his redemption once he does. Murdering your friends for no reason is past the moral event horizon for a lot of people, which means the character is too evil for a redemption to be satisfying.

Fortunately, if you can ignore the events of early season three, then Bellamy does eventually recover and become a good character again. He even gets a girlfriend who didn’t appear from the ether and who has real chemistry with him! But that’s a pretty big “if,” and it’s especially irritating that it happens so late in the show, when the writers really should have a handle on their characters.

5. January: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Flowers and a key from the cover of The Ten Thousand Doors

Oh look, another Hugo-nominated novel. I wonder if someone is rushing to finish them all before Worldcon? This time we have a growth arc for the main character, a young lady by the name of January. She starts the story meek and submissive, then grows into her own by the end, becoming assertive and capable of forging her own path. That’s a perfectly serviceable arc, so what’s the problem?

First, January never seems particularly meek. If anything, she’s rather neutral. She acquiesces to those with power over her, but most people would do that, on account of the power they have over her. It never goes far enough to feel like a character flaw. If anything, she seems overly impulsive, like the time she gets drunk and tells a bunch of powerful men that they’re all evil and racist.* This is what we in the business call an unwise move.

So how do I know she’s supposed to be meek and submissive? Because the narrator keeps telling me she is. It’s explained several times that she has to go along with what other people want because that’s how she was conditioned as a child. Oddly, this is usually brought up in situations where being meek and submissive isn’t relevant.

For example, when January’s abusive guardian declares that he’s sending her to a sanatorium, the narrator talks about how she’s too meek to fight back. But fighting back wouldn’t have accomplished anything. Her guardian had several bulky henchmen at his disposal; going along with his orders was just the smart thing to do. This kind of thing happens several times.

That is, except when being meek and submissive would get January what she wants. Then she’s suddenly incapable of it. You see, she has a magic power where she can make anything happen by writing it down. Yes, that’s incredibly overpowered, but we’re talking about her character arc now. All January needs to escape the asylum is a pen and paper, which they would almost certainly give her if she just acted meek and asked if she could send a letter to her family or what have you.

But no, instead she goes berserk and attacks nurses, orderlies, and a doctor in a vain bid to get a pen. Naturally this doesn’t work, and it certainly doesn’t feel like something she’d do if she were indeed raised to be meek and submissive. Later on, she finally has her big moment and is able to escape after suffering some severe injuries. This is supposed to mark a major turning point in her arc, but it’s not particularly satisfying because she never demonstrated a need for that arc in the first place.

So why did this happen? Part of it is definitely the story trying to navigate around the fact that January has godlike powers. There needed to be a reason why she couldn’t just write herself out of the asylum, character consistency be damned. For the rest, it’s a case of telling when showing was needed. If we had actually seen January’s meekness cause problems for her, then it would have demonstrated a need for growth.

6. Kylo Ren: The Rise of Skywalker

Kylo Ren in the rain from Rise of Skywalker.

Naturally, we end this list in a galaxy far, far away, because Star Wars really loves its redemption arcs. But where Darth Vader’s redemption in Return of the Jedi was super simple, Kylo Ren’s in The Rise of Skywalker (RoS) is not.

To be fair, redeeming Kylo Ren in the third sequel film was never going to be easy. In The Force Awakens, he tortures people for information, creeps on Rey, and then murders Han Solo in cold blood. This puts him way over the moral event horizon for a lot of viewers, and on top of that, he acts like a spoiled child half the time, making him hard to like. The Last Jedi toys with the possibility of redemption some more, but instead has him double down on being evil, seeming to close that door forever.

But previous films had also done too much work foreshadowing a redemption for RoS to just ignore it,* so what’s the big thing that will turn Kylo back to the light? There isn’t one, it turns out. Instead, we get a handful of little things that the film hopes will do the job together. They don’t.

First, Leia sends Kylo some kind of Force message. This seems to cost her life, which is pretty confusing on its own. It’s also unclear if this message is supposed to somehow break the Dark Side’s hold on Kylo, or if it just distracts him so Rey can stab him. If it’s the former, then that’s hardly redemption; it’s just someone casting Dispel Magic to break Kylo out of being mind controlled. If it’s the latter, then it means nothing and is just a waste of time.

Next, we have Rey healing Kylo. That’s certainly a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t seem like enough to turn him against the Dark Side, especially since she’s the one who stabbed him when his guard was down. She also says she wants to be with him as Ben Solo, his pre-evil identity. That could maybe push him toward the light, since he’s into Rey, but he turned down exactly the same offer at the end of Last Jedi, so it’s not very satisfying when he goes for it half a movie later.

Finally, Kylo talks to what’s either Han’s ghost or his memory of Han. By this point, Kylo seems to already have turned good, and he just needs a little encouragement. And that’s it. Kylo is firmly on the side of good for the rest of the movie. It’s supposed to be a big part of the emotional drama, and yet it feels like nothing. Kylo’s turn is completely empty because we have no idea what motivates him.

Compare this to Kylo’s grandfather. Not only does Vader avoid most of what makes Kylo hard to like, but it’s really obvious what drives our masked badass to turn good: his love for his son wins out over his loyalty to Palpatine. This isn’t at all abstract. Palpatine is torturing Luke to death, and only Vader can stop it.

In order for Kylo Ren to have a similar moment, we’d first need to know what it is that actually makes him tick. What keeps him evil versus what’s drawing him toward the light? Then we’d need a moment where those motivations clash and he chooses his better nature. RoS gives us neither of those things. No one involved with the sequel trilogy seems to know what’s motivating Kylo Ren aside from his infatuation with Rey, and that’s hardly strong enough.

Every one of these failed arcs has something in common: storytellers forcing an arc where one doesn’t fit. There are two ways to avoid this problem. First, you can change the character and story so the arc does fit. Second, you can cut the arc entirely. The first option is usually more work, and if you aren’t willing or able to do it, go with option two. It might be disappointing to lose that arc, but it’s better than the alternative.

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  1. Cay Reet

    Star Wars sure loves its redemption arcs, doesn’t it?

    I think that with the prequels (what prequels?), they were thinking ‘well, everyone knows what happens to him, anyway, so we can sideline Anakin’s development, throw them a few bones, and then just make him Vader’ and then they came up with all that political stuff and all those marketable aliens.

    • Dernhelm

      It’s a real shame since, in hindsight, the Prequels had many scenes with some great potential in showing why people in democratic societies would fall for fascist ideas. If you ignore the corny acting, the picnic scene with Anarkin and Padme is a great scene in showing how a person with good intentions can wind up advocating for a dictatorship.

      It’s a great scene of showing him growing disillusioned with the overly bureaucratized systems of the senate, but he’s not advocating for and evil emperor to take over, he simply suggests a strong leader take charge in times of need.

      It’s a shame the prequels didn’t try to build more on that theme and just focused on bad CGI and marketable aliens.

      • Cay Reet

        Yes, the prequels had potential to be good – which makes what they made of them even more aggravating.

        ‘A strong character takes charge in times of need’ is often the precurser to ‘fascist regime’ or ‘evil empire’, though, so at least there the prequels actually did do things right.

        • Dernhelm

          Exactly, and you could even draw some interesting parallels to the Weimar Republic or ancient Rome with some of the events in the Prequels, and this is why, even though they had so many cringey scenes and rushed character developments, I still think the prequels had a better narrative than the Disney one, because almost nothing about the first order makes sense from a logical perspective.

          If the prequels were a parallel to the Weimar Republic, the new trilogy would essentially be a sci-fi version of a post-war Germany where Hitler had been defeated and replaced with a democracy suddenly being taken over by a second but slightly different national-socialist party coming out of nowhere, led by a clone of Hitler trying to start a new world war using the exact same strategy as the last war.

          Basically the prequels had bad acting and effects but a good base for a story while the new trilogy has good acting and effects but no good base for the story.

          • Cay Reet

            There’s really no way to save the train wreck that was the new trilogy – mostly because it’s not a trilogy, there’s no overarching plot structure, nothing which ties the three movies together, especially as two and three are so set on undoing everything done in the one before. That’s something a producer should have nipped in the bud, making the directors play nice with each other (or handed the trilogy to one director only). Disney should have and could have enforced a real overarching plot, that much is for sure.

            Yes, they could have cut back on the cringe-worthy romance and the weird aliens (made for merchandise) for the prequels and dived into the descent into a fascist government (as, clearly, the Empire is fascist) from an unstable democracy (the Weimar Republic is a good comparison here, although the Republic was old, so the Roman Empire also would have an influence). That would have made the whole political theme more relevant to the story.

          • Dernhelm

            Indeed, I think that many of the prequels flaws came from people not being willing to rein in George Lucas more eccentric ideas and poor decisions, what with him still being seen as the big genius who created the first trilogy at the time, the Disney trilogy tried to avoid that so hard that they instead got the stark opposite problem with multiple creators dead set on deconstructing and undoing each others ideas instead.

  2. SunlessNick

    This seems to cost her life, which is pretty confusing on its own.

    Whatever your opinion on Rise of Skywalker, I think it deserves a pass when it comes to Leia, since they had to work round Carrie Fisher having died.

    • Steve

      You could give it a pass, if said plot point wasn’t the plan before Carrie died

      Although leia would have lived in duel of fates, she redeems kylo by sending him a force message in the original draft of episode 9 by Colin trevorrow.

  3. GeniusLemur

    It doesn’t seem like the title of this article is quite right, since most of these example arcs aren’t “poorly handled” so much as “nonexistent.” The characters just change out of the blue and/or discard traits they don’t actually have.

  4. PatrickH

    On Kallus’ character arc, I could be remembering things incorrectly, but wasn’t there an episode where he witnessed one of his colleagues being killed by their superior officer, because of a mistake that guy had made? It was the point when Kallus realized that, no matter how loyal he was or how much service he had provided for the Empire, ultimately it wouldn’t count for much. It was after that he turned against the Empire.

    On Kylo Ren, TFA and TLJ have set things up the following way. Instead of helping Ben with his issues, Han and Leia had sent him off to Luke. Then one night he woke up and saw Luke raising a light saber over him. So Ben concluded that his family was against him, and he turned to the dark side. Given this set-up, the path to redemption could involve Kylo being in danger and needing help, and then his family helped him in spite of what he had done, which caused Kylo to realize he had been wrong to reject his family. Unfortunately, given Carrie Fisher’s death and the decision to have Rey being unrelated to the Skywalkers, that path was not available and we ended up with what we got in RoS.

    • Nowan

      I was sixteen when The Force Awakens came out. I won’t go into detail, but those were not the best times for my mental health and I projected hard into Kylo. I’m much better now, but it’s hard getting rid of how I pictured the character for the first time. I’ll try to explain how his character still makes sense to me, but it has a strong basis on headcanon and things implied rather than said, so take it with a grain of salt.

      When we meet Kylo for the first time, he is dealing with a host of mental health problems, such as depression and anger issues. He feels the pull of both sides of the Force, Light because it’s the moral thing to do and Dark because his confused emotions make him an easy prey (the Dark Side tempts people through their anger, sadness and confusion).

      Kylo sees his grandfather Darth Vader (not Anakin Skywalker, but specifically the figure of scary cyborg warrior Darth Vader) as a figure of power and wants to emulate him, in hopes that having military prowess and an objective will give him a purpose and the feeling of accomplishment will alleviate his suffering. This causes him to fall to the Dark Side, but only partially, because he still knows his actions are morally wrong (“I’m being torn apart.”). The Light Side is still pulling him.

      To stop this pull, Kylo tries to consciously pull himself beyond the moral horizon and kills his father (Reluctantly. He says “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”). It might be something in the construction of the scene, but it seemed to me that Han was aware he was walking to his death and had accepted that the price to his son’s happiness (and eventual redemption) was his own life. The way Han holds Kylo’s lightsaber seems to me to be a moment of acquiescence. He was paying for his failures as a parent and paving the way for Kylo’s redemption by letting him experience “pure dark” and realize it would not make him happy.

      Were there better ways for Han to so that? Yes. Should these complicated feelings and logic be put into the screen? Absolutely. There’s a weird mix of character and storyteller shortsight going on here. I’m in no way excusing the New Trilogy’s poor storytelling, only justifying why I can still see Kylo as a good character.

      The Last Jedi rolls around and Kylo is still unhappy. Killing his father did not make him the accomplished man he tought it would. He’s still being lambasted and pushed around by Snoke and begins to question his choice. His redemption starts when he refuses to kill Leia and veers away at the last moment. At the same time, he tries to convince Rey (and himself, by proxy) that he’s actually very happy and content on the Dark Side, eventually getting her to come see him. When Snoke threatens her, his feelings take over one more time and they team up.

      With Snoke dead, Kylo is Supreme Leader and finally has the power to “finish what [his grandfather] started.” But he now realizes he also needs Rey at his side to be happy. When she refuses to join him, he lashes out and initiates the attack on Crait. This not rational behavior, but Kylo has proves time and again that he’s moved by raw emotion, not logic.

      The Rise of Skywalker is, to put it mildly, a big mess. I can barely remember anything from the movie. But it’s clear to me that Kylo is now on full rage-powered dark mode. He chases Rey down and, on that final duel, is struck by a message from his mother (a metaphor for the memories he has of her love), making him hesitate for a second a get stabbed by Rey.

      In the moments of near-death before Rey heals him, Ben Solo realizes the Dark Side has failed him and his only salvation (both physical and metaphorical) is in compassion and forgiveness (the Light Side of the Force). He has to let go of his anger and of his evil persona, Kylo Ren, just like he begged Rey to let go of morals and follow her heart on The Last Jedi. Ben finally realizes that the path to his happiness is not lashing out at the world around until he’s left alone or everybody has bowed down to his wishes, but to find internal peace and establish healthy connections to those around him.

      The remainder of the film is then just mostly bad storytelling laced with cheap adrenaline rush as the redeemed Ben badasses around and gets his candy. And then he dies. Just because, I guess. Once again, bad storytelling.

  5. LeeEsq

    The professional police aren’t obviously fashionable at the moment but I always thought that an interesting, and to my knowledge not existing subversion of the amateur detective genre, is where the amateur detective really does mess everything up and it’s up to boring police people following boring established procedures and practices rather than eccentric methods to find the real criminals.

  6. LeeEsq

    I’m long passed my teenage years but I’m finding that I’m not really liking the updated woke versions of things like Archie or Nancy Drew on the CW. They have changed so much from the original that they really should just take a risk on a new production with new characters rather than try to establish a tenuous connection with past media, that very few members of the target audience are really going to be aware of, let alone read.*

    *I’ve recently encountered a twenty-something that never saw any of the India Jones movies. This kind of shocked me. I was a toddler or in elementary school when the first three came out and I’ve seen them all. I associate them with something that is such a part of American pop culture that most people watched them as part of family movie night at home. Apparently, I was wrong. This seemingly mainstream young woman did not see any of them.

  7. Sharmake Farah

    Another failed arc is Snape from Harry Potter. I will try to list the problems with his redemption arc:
    1. In the first book, he is willing to see Harry and James die so that he can presumably be back with Lily. The plan only fails because Lily sacrifices herself. Dumbledore calls him out on it but I don’t know why he is with him at all.
    2. In the third book, he is willing to see Remus and Sirius’s souls sucked out because of a grudge from the Marauders Era. The plan only fails because of time travel.
    3. In the fifth book, we see Snape’s memories that James bullied him during the SWM scene, and James trying to exchange his bullying to go out on a date. Thankfully James understands consent but still. However, Snape gets him out and tries to murder him with an explosive jar. Thankfully this fails because Harry is good at dodging.
    4. In the 6th book, he tries to punish Harry for his use of Sectusempra. Now normally I would be okay, even glad but the circumstances make me defend Harry because Draco had tried to torture Harry with the crucio curse. His punishing of Harry while leaving Draco unpunished speaks to huge biases.

    Lastly, Snape, along with Draco allowed and even joined the Death Eaters in the First Battle of Hogwarts in the 6th book. It’s a relief no people die or get seriously injured but that speaks more to the skills of the students than to Snape and Draco. All in all, the redemption arc couldn’t work since as Mythcreants puts it, he crossed the moral event horizon, thus he couldn’t be redeemed.

    He would have been better as a villain because he is intelligent and actually is better characterized than Voldemort.

    • Cay Reet

      I’ve always said that Snape’s motivation was shown way too late – we have no idea why he hated James Potter that much until the fifth book (let’s be honest, just saying he and James got into fights doesn’t mean much – regular school boys from enemy houses, we see how it is in Hogwarts). The whole story isn’t really resolved until his death and that is far too late to give him redeeming qualities.

      Yes, Snape would have made an excellent villain. He has the character traits for it, he is intelligent, and he was close to Harry for most of the story, so he could have learned about his weaknesses and then completely exploited them (which is what a Slytherin should do, after all – they’re cunning).

      Keeping back with Voldemort for so long might also have been a mistake. Bringing him back earlier or having more about his past in the story (more prominent as it was – for most of book 2, we have no idea that the story unfolding has an actual connection to Voldemort’s past). While it’s always good to make a villain mysterious, Voldemort was clearly going to be the big bad, so have him more prominently featured earlier would have been good.

    • Circe

      Doesn’t George Weasely losing his ear count as a serious injury inflicted by Snape?

  8. Erynus

    I stopped watching The 100 when they decided to unceremoniously kill one of the best characters in the dumbest possible way. There are a couple of other shows that provoked such rage-quit feeling.

  9. Innes

    …does having a character named ‘Mouth’ make any more sense in context?
    I read the word mouth so many times in that entry that its lost any meaning and is now only inexplicably gross, like the word moist

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Not really. In the setting she’s from a culture that seems to be made entirely of obnoxious new age white people tropes, and part of that is that you don’t get a real name until some ceremony which Mouth never got. So “Mouth” is a child name, after which they get regular names like Linda. It’s weird.

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