After seeing both the recent episode of Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, I walked away wondering why I felt slightly unfulfilled. I’m going to go into spoiler territory here, so if you haven’t seen either GOT or Endgame it might be best to steer clear of this week’s article, just to be sure.
You’ve been warned.
Are those people gone? Good! We can continue.
So, the importance of setup and payoff was really highlighted to me in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, but I began thinking about this after seeing Endgame. I have watched nearly every Marvel movie, (except for Antman; I wholesale avoided that one. He turns into an ant using science, movie done!) and upon leaving the theatre after watching Endgame I wondered why I felt slightly disappointed.
At first I thought it might be the time travel aspect that was bugging me the most, but it wasn’t until I watched a review from The Cosmonaut Variety Hour did I finally realise why this movie bothered me. He made the point that, at its core, Endgame was a movie about the original Avengers, in particular Ironman and Captain America which got me thinking, “Then why have me watch any of the other movies in the franchise?”
The implicit setup of the MCU was that Endgame was the final stand and that the Avengers was bigger than the original team. I felt like there was no point to me having invested emotional energy into Spiderman, Captain Marvel and Black Panther, because really they were there more as cameos than as an actual team. The biggest offender of this being Captain Marvel, who, in my opinion, could have been cut from the universe and replaced easily by some other narrative device. She was introduced at the beginning and then kept away as a deus ex machina for a later date. So, I felt that the setup of these characters ultimately had little payoff, leaving me feeling like something was missing from the movie.
Fast forward to the last episode of Game of Thrones. The Long Night. Boy did it feel like it but not in a good way.
This episode was THE payoff of Game of Thrones. This fight has been built up over EIGHT very, very long seasons. And we couldn’t even see half of it! But technical aspects aside, these are the points that had been setup for us from day one.
Azor of High
The Prince that was Promised
The White Walkers/Night King is coming
The biggest battle of Westeros
The fact that all the petty house squabbles will amount to nothing compared to the threat of the Night King
I could go on.
There are two main issues with the payoff of this episode. Firstly, that the Night King was taken down by what amounted to a raptor attack and secondly, the placement of the episode in the season. This episode should have been the second to last episode. THIS was this climax! The setup was that all of Westeros had to come together to defeat the Night King.
Instead we got a poorly lit skirmish with barely any characters that we care about dying, other characters just being plain silly, a library scene that went for too long and served no purpose, bad battle tactics and the most dangerous threat to Westeros being taken out by a cheap sleight of hand!
When you fail to “payoff” on your “setup”, your story loses all sense of emotional investment. There is no reason to continue with Game of Thrones, as the characters dealing with Cersei feels more like a shitty, tacked on DLC rather than a climax.
These two pieces of media promised that the payoff would be worth the amount of setup that they did and at the end of the day all I feel is a sense that my time and therefore my life were ultimately wasted.
I will say though the fact that Tony Stark saved the universe for Peter Parker warms my heart. How’s that for a payoff! *DROPS MIC*
How do you feel about the setup and payoff of these movies/series? Was it worth it to you? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!
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Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, May 3, 2019
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