Keys found, keep searching

Today I dipped a toe into Fight Scene II, prior to which the heroine acknowledges confronting three skilled soldiers will have a much different outcome vs. three inept bandits, so she would prefer avoidance if at all possible. (It’s not at all possible.) I also got to point out that she was trained from childhood to be a weapon—breakable, disposable, forgettable—but since she’s been on the lam, she’s lost her willingness to die, even if she hasn’t (yet) replaced it with anything particular to live for.


I was basically useless Friday, so I succumbed to my daughter’s years-old recommendation to watch Leverage. I’m not a huge TV fan. Not in the “I’m too cerebral for the entertainment of commoners” sense. I’ve just attained the transcendent state of introversion where even people on a screen sap my energy so I dread it almost as much as a real-life social gathering. Since people exhaust me, not even cute actors can motivate me to watch. Plus, I’m just as critical of screenwriting as I am of books, so the more I find fault with the writing, the more like work this “leisure” activity becomes. It’s just really hard for me to get into this media format.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there’s been little to criticize in the three episodes I’ve watched so far. In the first episode, a smart character did two extremely unsmart things: he agreed to meet an angry client in an abandoned warehouse (never in the history of abandoned warehouses has that not been a setup, my dude) and he showed himself with his partner-in-scam before the scamee had even left the screen.

BUT! (I do a happy dance when unsmart things are redeemed.) He trusted the angry client because he didn’t trust his team. His expectation that they would swindle the client was greater than his expectation that going to an abandoned warehouse would end badly for him, and the client used that stronger expectation against him. This is a great example of something that would ordinarily be considered a strength (expecting criminals to behave like criminals) becomes a character’s downfall (because he’s too preoccupied with suspecting the known criminals to suspect the unknown criminal in the middle of it all).

Showing himself prematurely turned out to be calculated. Getting “caught” was part of the plan because it pushed the bad guy to do the actions he eventually gets busted for. Up until that point, it’s the word of a bunch of crooks against a fine, upstanding gentleman. And that expectation is used against him—he expects crooks to throw more crooks at him, not to bring finer, more upstanding gentlemen onto the playing field to make him the less credible party.

Expectations wielded as weapons seems to be a running theme, and it’s effective because even the most aware and self-aware person that will ever live expects events to unfold according to some sort of logic they understand. Even when they account for variables, they’re logical-to-them variables. As soon as something appears to check off one of those expectations, they’re satisfied. The reason your keys are always in the last place you look is because YOU DON’T KEEP LOOKING AFTER YOU FIND WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR. We keep looking, dig deeper, suspect we’ve been duped only when new information reveals we made an oops. In writing, you can schedule deployment of that new information at about the same time the character’s belief they had everything figured out when they really didn’t gets them in trouble. For example:

BELIEF: Criminals screwed over the client.
NEW INFORMATION THAT CONFLICTS WITH BELIEF: Criminals who screwed over the client don’t usually get together for a friendly reunion with said client in an abandoned warehouse, so the client is a lying liar who tells lies.
TROUBLE CAUSED BY BELIEF: BOOM

And suddenly the story has a ton of momentum because the character has to get out of the trouble they’re now in and make that lying bastard pay, which is loaded with all kinds of motivation and short- and long-term goals. It’s good stuff! I’m watching with a notebook handy to jot down cool writing things instead of complaints for a change.

Anyway, I’m watching this through IMDb’s streaming service, which costs $0 and comes with way fewer commercials than regular “live” TV. I’ve found the IMDb TV site itself virtually unnavigable, but if you look up a movie or show on IMDb and it’s available to stream, it will have a Watch Free on IMDb TV button that will take you where you need to go.

Screenshot from the IMDb page for Leverage showing the Watch Free on IMDb TV button

I’m not getting paid to send them traffic. I’m just letting my fellow poors know there’s a free, legal alternative to paid streaming services that might have some of the stuff you want to watch.

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