Roundtable: Jumping Ship

It’s happened to all of us. We pick up the first book of a series, or maybe catch an episode of a television show, or an issue of a comic, or watch a movie, and you know what happens? We fall in love. It’s the most amazing thing ever, and what’s even better is that it’s part of a series! So what do we do? We consume it. We read or watch or play every single installment as fast as we’re allowed, and depending on the nature of the series itself and when we jump on board, that can take years.

But what happens when there’s a turning point that changes what we loved about the series to start? Some people like to call that “jumping the shark,” but all too often, that term is misused. The Urban Dictionary defines it as such:

a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

However, not all turning points are bad for a series. Sometimes, turning points are exactly what the series needs to get new life and new energy. But that doesn’t mean longtime fans have to like the change. Heck, sometimes there isn’t even a turning point in the series before longtime fans a hard look and decide it’s time to jump ship, no sharks needed. So I asked the contributors of Speculative Chic:

What book/comic/television series or movie/gaming franchise were you in love with that had a turning point or decline in quality that made you jump ship? What was that specific moment, and why did that indicate the series no longer deserved your loyalty?

As you can imagine, this generated quite a lot of spoilery and possibly controversial responses, so gather around, hear what they have to say, and share your own jumping ship moments in the comments!


Lane: Fastest jumping ship ever — Sleepy Hollow.  I LOVED IT when it came on.  I watched it out of morbid curiosity — they’re bringing Ichabod Crane to modern day America where he will solve crime with a spunky police officer? Are you kidding me? This is going to be so dumb…. oh, is that Clancy Brown? Hey, Tom Mison is funny and charismatic, and omg, Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills, so wonderful! I fell in love fast. I loved that their relationship was funny and friendly and exasperated. I loved the craziness of the writers going, Well, what if we give the headless horseman a machine gun, that’d be something new and interesting, right?

Sadly, I fell out of love just as fast. I blame John Noble.  He’s a great actor, but I hated his character in Fringe so much that he rendered the show unwatchable and tainted himself forever. (I know, I’m a philistine). I also didn’t particularly care for Katrina. By the end of the first season, I was teetering. Loved the Ichabod and Abbie show, loved Jenny, loved a lot of the characters. But I didn’t like the plots. It started to feel too much like Supernatural, where plot becomes less important than the angst. I love Supernatural.  I’m behind, but I intend to catch up.  There’s only one room in my head for angsty supernatural detective monster mash-up shows with family drama. Plus, there were Crane’s constant flashbacks. I got tired of those in the Duncan MacLeod Highlander years. So I was visually “skimming” parts of episodes.

Then they made Abbie crazy and I left, only to hear that they killed off her character! Screw that, I’m never coming back.  Thankfully, the rest of the world thought likewise, and the putative next season got canceled.


Merrin: I have this theory about TV shows that is best expressed by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” I’m hard pressed to think of TV shows that went longer than five seasons or so that should have actually gone longer than five seasons or so, and no, I’m not counting formula shows like Law & Order. I will even throw my beloved The X-Files under the bus here and ask everyone if that 9th season without either Mulder or Scully was truly truly necessary. (Spoiler: it wasn’t. I will fight you about seasons 7 and 8 though.)

Which brings me to my actual focus, Supernatural, CW’s show about two demon hunting brothers wandering around small town America in their classic car with their classic rock and classic . . . ly beautiful faces. In the beginning, this show felt tailor-made for me and I watched every second, even the bad seconds (here I remind you of the 8th episode of that TV show, “Bugs”) with an unholy fervor. At the time, more than ten years ago, I was a Sam girl in a fandom completely populated by Dean girls and am not so unself-aware that I can’t accept that some of the waning of my love had to do with the introduction of Castiel as a new bro-pal for Dean while Sam’s storyline was going super dark.

I will tell you the precise second I stopped watching it, but the decline really began before that, with Sam’s storyline in season 4. I had signed on to this show to watch two brothers who care about each other more than almost anything else and also fight a bunch of supernatural bad guys. Yeah, sure, the overarching mythology plot lines were fine, but I was actually there for monster of the week episodes. Season 4 had those, but it also had Dean sitting on the trunk of the metallicar every episode and crying about being in hell and I was just over it.

And then, in the first episode of season 5 (the last episode I’ve ever watched), you get Dean telling Sam he can’t trust him anymore, driving a wedge between them and opening it up for more buddy pal screen time with Castiel instead. Maybe it made sense for the plotline they were following at the time, but it wasn’t a plotline I was interested in pursuing. After sticking with Dean through all of his tears and manpain about “climbing down off the rack” and opening the first seal, I was done. The fact that it’s already renewed through season 13 makes me happy for the actors and that’s about it.


Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Casey: It is no secret that I am fond of horror stories, especially those that feature the undead. Zombies are especially frightening to me, because they’re so damned plausible. When Spouse introduced me to The Walking Dead, I became as hooked as anybody else. Here were these characters from all walks of life banding together and trying to do their best to survive after the zombie uprising. What could be better? There was such humanity and hope in those early episodes. These survivors cared for each other and sometimes quite literally died to save others. It was admirable and so very poignant. It gave me hope for humanity, strange as that might sound.

Then, sadly, things started to take a turn for the bleak. It all just started getting darker and more violent as each season progressed. There were a few shining stars among the cast that kept me going. These were people who retained goodness and a generally positive outlook, despite the hellish world that they were thrust into. My favorite of these characters was Hershel Greene, a kindhearted, well-meaning (if somewhat misinformed) veterinarian who takes in the original Atlanta group and allows them a place on his farm. Hershel very quickly loses his innocence when he is forced to accept the fact that there won’t be a cure, and those zombies that he was keeping in the barn are going to remain mindless flesh-eating monsters. Nevertheless, after that moment of truth, Hershel continues to attempt to do the best that he can to keep the group grounded and healthy. Even after losing a portion of one of his legs, he continues to care for the group and administer as much medical care as he is able. This goes on for a while until tragedy strikes in season 4.

Here be spoilers.  Read on at your own risk.

During season 4, an outbreak of some sort of affects the camp at large. People begin to die. While taking the dead away to be burned, Hershel and Michonne are ambushed and captured by the treacherous Governor. After Rick’s failed attempt to sway the Governor to free Hershel and Michonne, the Governor heartlessly decapitates Hershel in front of his daughter and the rest of his chosen family. This was heartbreaking. It was a step too far for me to see this truly good man executed so terribly. Then, to rub salt in the wound, the show runners thought it would be a great idea to show Hershel’s decapitated head biting and snapping on the ground later in the episode. Michonne dispatches the zombie head quickly, but this was such a horrific scene that I had forgotten about it until I was reviewing the episode to write this column.

This, to me, was when the series went too far. I gave up watching. I tried to stay with it, but just didn’t have the heart after that.  RIP Hershel Greene.


J.L. Gribble: Because I write urban fantasy that involves vampires, I figure I should be up on other popular culture that involves vampires. In retrospect, that’s a poor reason to to watch a television show. My husband and I binge-watched the first two season of True Blood (probably because it was like watching a train crash), then watched season 3 as it aired. When season 4 rolled around, we both realized that we honestly didn’t care enough to tune in again.

Which is weird, because everything about that show should have appealed to me. I loved a bunch of the individual characters (though Sookie’s wishy-washyness grated on me after a while), and all of the different supernatural elements fascinated me (though the baby fairies were a bit much, and the rapey wereleopards were a line I didn’t need to see crossed). Honestly, it was all just…too much. I could have handled it in smaller doses, but it was like the show took every possible urban fantasy trope, threw them in a blender, and set the speed to “soap opera levels of ridiculousness.”

There are other shows and book series that I’ve given up on and resolved to go back when they’re complete. But I chose True Blood for this entry because even though I know the show is complete, I have absolutely no desire to return to that world. Since I watch other HBO shows, I was constantly exposed to the episode trailers after I stopped watching, and it looks like the ridiculous levels never stopped rising.

As much as I need more Alexander Skarsgård in my life, I’m not sure I have the mental energy to withstand everything else that comes with him enough to finish this particular soap opera.


Shara: Once upon a time, I fell in love with the show Once Upon a Time. It was hard not to. Disney had taken their fairytale properties and mashed them together into one show, and during the first season, I kept hearing over and over what a great show it was. I finally caved in the summer after that first season aired and binged it on Hulu (and also, I wanted to see if the rumors of it ripping off the comic book series Fables were true; spoiler alert: not so much). Once Upon a Time became a must-watch in my television rotation for its multiple and complex female characters, for taking true love’s kiss to different levels (before Frozen did, thank you very much), and for mixing up well-known tales and surprising me with new ways to tell those stories.

But I ended up jumping ship after season four ended, for several little reasons and one big reason. The little reasons all centered around repetition: how the viewers were reminded over and over that magic comes with a price. How the Charmings’ history kept getting more and more complicated to the point that it didn’t feel organic so much as contrived so that the conflict in the current storyline could still center around the Charmings, Emma, and the Queen. Then there was how everyone seemed to be related to each other, or how soap opera-esque the triangle between Regina, Robin Hood, and Zelena became. I also decided Belle’s and Rumple’s romance was decidedly creepy instead of romantic (that age difference kept bugging the shit out of me). But the real kicker for me boiled down to the writers’ treatment of Emma, and how with the Frozen storyline, I realized Emma wasn’t just the Savior, but rather she was whatever the writers needed her to be.

See, when Emma discovered she had magic, things were fine. But in Season Four, and the Frozen characters were introduced, we suddenly have Emma interacting with Elsa, and Elsa, as any Frozen viewer knows, is at odds with her magic, and everyone around her is at odds with her magic too. Part of Elsa’s story is becoming comfortable with herself and her magic, yes? So the writers decided that needed to be Emma’s arc too. Which would’ve been fine….if season four had truly been the first time Emma discovered she’d had magic. But it wasn’t. Yet suddenly her entire family is frightened of her ability? Of her? I smell bullshit. Oh, wait, that’s just bad writing.

I finished out season 4 like a good soldier, and then they ended the season with a great big conflict that drove the Darkness out of the Dark One, and in an effort to keep it from going into Regina (and keeping her from going FULL EVIL and not undoing all the character growth of becoming a better that she’s done since season one), Emma takes up the dagger instead. The season ends with her disappearing and her name on the dagger, signifying her as the new Dark One. On one hand, it makes sense: the Savior saves Regina by sacrificing herself to become the Dark One. On the other hand, it makes no sense, because I didn’t believe there was enough darkness in Emma for it to take hold. It was just another example of something not truly earned.

I tried to watch season 5 to see how the “Dark Swan” storyline would play out. Tried as in I logged into Hulu, but I couldn’t even make myself push play on the first episode. I told myself I’d come back to the show one day, and the only time I sat down to watch was the season 7 finale, which — now that I’m emotionally removed from the characters and the storylines — felt rather hollow and unearned, even though I’d read up on what had been happening since I’d stopped watching. I hope fans are still enjoying the show, and I hope they’re happy with the show’s direction, which looks like it has a new turning point and a possible new jumping ship moment, but only time will tell.


Carey: I jumped ship on Lost somewhere in the middle of the third season. I think? It was confusing, and I don’t remember much of it, except for feeling frustrated from watching a lot of people chasing each other through a metric ton of greenery. While I adored the flashback technique that J.J. Abrams used as a frame narrative for every episode, so that I learned something new about each character in terms of secrets and motivations, I just couldn’t keep up with the series as a whole. Keeping track of all the mysteries was difficult and exhausting. What was real, what was fiction? In addition, each mystery — the hatch, the monster, the number sequence, and so forth — was ranked with equal importance. When Desmond Hume was discovered in the hatch, entering a series of numbers because he had been trained to do so by the former “island data entry clerk” for no apparent reason other than bad things happen if he doesn’t, that was when I threw in the towel. I watched a few more episodes, when the main group discovered Ethan and the existence of the Others, hoping that these episodes would redeem the unexplained, but that didn’t happen. One night, I just gave up.  I did not believe I was ever going to get any answers from show, and so the payoff wasn’t in it for me. It wasn’t enough to learn about people’s backstories, and what they were doing now, or what they were hiding — as fascinating as all of those stories were. There were too many mysteries, too many unexplained crises, and I didn’t feel like hanging around to (maybe) eventually find out whatever the hell was going on on this island. Nope. I’d rather get on with my life — or rewatch Dark City, which provides lots of mysteries and answers.

True story: When Person of Interest began airing a few years ago, I almost didn’t watch it because Michael Emerson had played Ben Linus, the leader of the Others. I’m glad I got over that, though.


 

6 Comments

  • J.L. Gribble June 9, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I’m still on the good ship Supernatural for the foreseeable future. I think it’s because I didn’t start watching until season 6, so I was able to binge the full arc of season 1-5, and get through the wedge between the brothers. I fully intended to stop watching Once Upon a Time after the last finale, when I heard that a bunch of the cast were leaving. But the last 30 seconds drew me back in. /shakes fist

    I did give up on The Walking Dead when the cannibals showed up. In a show that was already doing a great job of showing that humans are the real villains, that felt contrived and lazy to me.

    Reply
    • Lane Robins June 9, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Yeah, I’m horribly behind. I think I’ve only seen through season 9 and bits and pieces past that point, but… somehow I keep going back. Even when I know the things that make me crazy will still be there, making me crazy. I’m just invested, I guess.

      Reply
  • Kelly McCarty June 9, 2017 at 10:48 am

    True Blood was a lot of campy ridiculous fun through the end of Season 4. I watched until the end hoping that it would get good again, but it never did. It’s hard to point to a single shark jumping moment. I watched one episode of The Walking Dead but I found it to be gruesome and depressing. I don’t mind graphic violence and beloved character deaths in shows like Game of Thrones because it feels like it is part of the plot but it seems like The Walking Dead kills well-loved characters in terrible ways just for shock value.

    Reply
  • Ron Edison June 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Agree about SLEEPY HOLLOW. I dropped SUPERNATURAL after season 4 but came back for their campy Halloween episodes and am still with it. Most WB/CW series (Arrow, Flash) start well but after a few episodes drift into that same droning tone and formula–same with most Syfy shows. Loved TRUE BLOOD initially but then it got too silly. About the only series that hasn’t disappointed me so far is BETTER CALL SAUL.

    Reply
    • Shara White June 9, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      LOVE Better Call Saul!!! Behind on the last episode though…..

      Reply
  • Shara White June 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    I dropped Sleepy Hollow hella fast after they killed Abbie. In fact, it was my BIG disappointment last year! Never got on board with True Blood nor Supernatural, and I’m still with The Walking Dead (though I nearly quit after THAT Neegan episode). However, I think I’m the only person in the world who still loves Lost. 🙂 I wonder if that will change whenever the husband and I decide to rewatch?

    Reply

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