Ruining Suspense: A True Blood Lesson in What Not to Do
Series finale spoilers below.
True Blood Season 7, Episode 10, “Thank you”: one of the main conflicts of the season is Eric vs. Mr. Gus, and the writers resolve this in the opening minutes of the finale. It happens out of nowhere, and completely shocked me.
Except from the True Blood wiki:
As Mr. Gus enters the tunnel to chase after Sarah, he yells to the Yakuza in Japanese to kill Eric and Pam. In a flash, the two vampires back-flip over the Yakuza gunmen and snap their necks. Pam starts after Mr. Gus, but Eric stops her and obtains a gas can and a lighter, ominously commenting that Mr. Gus won’t be able to get far. In the tunnel, Mr. Gus approaches the end of the tunnel when he suddenly notices smoke billowing all around him. He stops and turns around at his peril; a wall of fire blasts through the tunnel and incinerates him alive as the tunnel explodes in an inferno.
It’s not shocking that Eric defeated Mr. Gus. That result was entirely predictable. What surprised me is that a story arc that had been developing over most of the season came to such a sudden and abrupt ending, at the beginning of the final episode. Totally blew the built-up tension and suspense, which left little reason to remain interested in what came after.
Now, I know they needed to use most of the episode to tie up all the series-long arcs, but why couldn’t they have threaded Eric vs. Mr. Gus through all that? It would have made for much better storytelling.
And there’s the lesson here. If you want to keep your readers engaged, build the suspense and keep the tension high, and don’t hit that release valve until the last possible second.