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Mr. Weisman, I watched "The Edge" today and found myself amazed by how well you and the writers (in this case, Michael Reeves) pulled off your surprise endings. They were always shocking without feeling 'cheap.' This is because they always make perfect sense in the context of the episode, once you know what's really up. I think the way you accomplished this, without resorting to manipulative or dishonest tactics, was to make the viewer feel like he was in control. For instance, in "The Edge," the viewer is happy to believe Xanatos has created a new, more advanced Steel Clan robot. That would have been a cool plot development in and of itself, and something the viewer felt he grasped better than the gargoyles did. In "The Price," the viewer knows that Macbeth is immortal, while the gargoyles do not, so he feels more in control than the gargoyles. Perhaps this even results in a sort of gracious laze-of-mind in the viewer, by which you and the writers used the gargoyles' naivete, both of the modern world and of the show's arching plot, as a way of lulling us into a false sense of security. Was this a conscious tactic? Is it something you and the show's writers saw yourselves pulling off or was it business-as-usual? Is such stuff taught in television writing classrooms? I've never seen another show pull off its surprise endings quite as remarkably as Gargoyles. The very first time you pull one off is "The Thrill of the Hunt," an episode that could well have ended, just as "The Edge," after the gargoyles turned to stone. But like "The Sixth Sense," you kept going, and in the process, turned what would have been merely "good" stories into great ones. These episodes and the others like them were not created for the sole purpose of their surprise endings. They were flesh-and-blood stories that you and the writers ended with surprises nonetheless. Most of the praise for Gargoyles goes to its multiethnicity, its voice cast, its music, its gothic atmosphere, the dialogue (which you claim was sixth-grade level, but I've never read a newspaper article as verbose as Goliath), and all deservedly so, but one of the most enduring aspects of all were the shock endings.
I'm glad that stuff works for you. It worked for us.
The main drive behind endings like that was a desire not to undercut our lead villains. Villains get tiresome when they lose all the time. And heroes are pointless if they lose all the time. (It's fun and dramatic and right to have both sides lose occasionally. But if either side loses ALL the time... well then where's the drama?)
But if a hero wins the battle and then we secretly reveal (in our patented Xanatos tags) that he may still be losing the war, then that keeps both sides interesting.
So it's not shock value for shock value's sake. But it lead us down a path that gave you the surprises you enjoyed. It forced us to always look BEHIND the obvious. Forced us to work harder. Then, I think the trick is to play fair. We may not reveal all, and -- your right -- our characters (human and gargoyle alike) may make incorrect assumptions about the situation, but all the clues are there from the moment the "PREVIOUSLY ON GARGOYLES..." starts to roll. (In fact, sometimes I feared that too many clues were planted.) By playing fair you get that double whammy at the end... both the surprise but also the "Of course..." That feeling that it's right. That it's not cheating. That in fact nothing else could possibly make sense.
Perhaps the ultimate example of that was the Owen/Puck revelation.
As for whether that's taught in writing classes? None specifically that I've taken. I've touched on it, here and there, in a couple of the classes that I've taught over the years. But I don't think I've ever focused a lesson plan on this point either. It's very much at the fine tuning end of the spectrum. Not something you'd get into in a survey course.