The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones (Scientific American Blog Network)
^ So I found this on the Game of Thrones forum (I was there because I heard about the commotion about the finale, so I was curious) and I figure it could of interest on this forum as well since I think, in many ways, Gotham tried to emulate GoT, especially with its death count. I put it in this thread since it can tie into the topic of how Gotham could be redone, since I think the blog's premise- that "sociological storytelling" is better than "psychological storytelling"- fails when you look at a series like Gotham that attempted it but failed completely.
What are those two divergent storytelling options?
As far as I can tell, a "sociological" story is one where characters are forced to act in a certain way because of external pressures- in other words, they have "no choice" in the matter, and it's supposed to be designed so that we, the audience, would say "I'd do the same thing if I was in that situation".
A "psychological" story, on the other hand, is one that is entirely or largely shaped by the actions of one or two sets of characters (however large or small they may be), the "good" set and the "evil" set. These stories are about how the characters' choices affect how the story plays out, with the story examining why those choices were made and the consequences of those actions. Unlike the sociological story, the psychological story allows us in the audience to say "I would have done things differently".
It's a bit heady, but I think it's worth a read.
Now, I'll also state, for the record, that I never watched GoT or read the books, but not because I wanted to be "hip" or something- I just never got around to it. So if I get some details about GoT wrong, feel free to correct me.
Anyway, I want to state, right off the top, that I'm a firm believer that for any story to work there has to be characters we care about. None of their trials and tribulations are going to matter if we don't care about the person who's going through the struggles.
So, characters matter. Even if they're just "reactive" characters, we want to care about those reactions.
Secondly, I believe it's the goal of almost every creative writer to weave a story that is both sociological and psychological. A writer doesn't just want a character the audience roots for or against- they want a character for whom the audience thinks, "they had to do what they had to do". In other words, there's an illusion that the character is in complete control of how the story moves and ends but the reality is that the character is controlled by what happens, and how the character responds tells them how the story will progress.
How it relates to GoT is that I believe- from what I understand of the series- that, while it may have been a show where characters simply reacted, it was still a show that built characters who we cared about how they were going to react. You cared about Daenerys, you cared about Cersei, you cared about Jon Snow, you cared about Arya...you cared about all the players.
What was interesting about GoT was not what happened that sets things in motion- it was about watching about how the characters would respond to this new situation. It's like chess- one character or several characters make a move, so now you wait in anticipation for someone else to make their move in response.
The series, really, only failed when the characters stopped acting in co-ordination with each other and started doing things because...well, the writer needs them to do it for the plot to work.
In other words...lazy writing. Just like in many other series.
How this relates to Gotham is that I believe- very firmly- that the show wanted to created a series that was like GoT- things happened and the characters now have to react to what happened. They wanted to create this world where it forces the characters to have to behave a certain way, because there is no choice for them to act in any other way.
It worked in the first season because there was a commitment to building the ultimate tragedies of the characters. You have Jim, who so desperately wanted to believe in his naive fantasy that if he worked hard and "did things right" he can make Gotham City right again, only for the city to punch him metaphorically in the gut again and again. You had Harvey, who once believed in happy endings and heroism only to be so beaten down by the city that he just gave up trying to make to make things right because it was never going to happen. You had the criminal base- the Falcones and Maronis- who lived the lives of luxury but only did so by constantly looking over their shoulders.
Then you had Bruce who lost his family and his only real protection from the "cruel, cruel world". Still, despite his suffering and his many desires to give in to its darkness, Bruce always clung on to hope, even if he had to deliver it himself, because if he didn't have hope, he'd have nothing left.
Anyway, the seeds were there for a panoramic, GoT-style chess match between all the characters and their various struggles...but then the show forgot to continue building the characters and just decided to make them act randomly, telling us that the "darkness" of the city makes them act out the way that they do.
Again, it's just lazy storytelling, and while I think Gotham was always successful creating this veneer of darkness- not just in the setting but in its story ideas like Hugo Strange and Bane- by the end of the series, I just wound up not caring about what was going to happen because the characters ceased being interesting.
Yeah, things were dark and things were happening...but the characters stopped having meaning, so it all became meaningless.
That's why I have to throw shade on the idea that merely sociological storytelling is ideal. Being panoramic can be a great goal and having a story that forces characters to act in certain ways can be interesting, but if the characters themselves are not interesting, why do I care about how they act?