Lies of (in)convenience

I just started iZombie season 2 and right at the outset, an issue that annoys me comes up. The situation is this: main character (Liv) is a zombie (she hides it under makeup) and, at the end of season 1, her younger brother was badly injured and needed a blood transfusion. He’s also a rare blood type, which she shares… or shared, when she was alive. She obviously can’t give him a blood transfusion now, which could easily kill him or turn him into a flesh-craving horror like herself, so she refuses.

Season 2 picks up where Liv’s trying to see her brother in the hospital, but he won’t see her and her mother won’t let her in either (refusing to donate blood to save a sibling’s life without explaining can have that effect on family dynamics) and Liv’s mother tries, again, to understand why Liv wouldn’t give her brother blood when he almost died and it was only sheer luck that there was another donor available.

This is where the problem comes in. Liv’s mother demands to know if the problem is drugs or what and Liv, rather than offering an explanation, gives the most cockamamie, bizarre and stupid response she could. ‘I can’t tell you because you wouldn’t believe me and if you did, you’d only make things worse for everybody’. Which sounds like complete BS, like she’s just making it up on the spot. She even admits later that if she lied and said she was using heroin, her mother would be pissed but would forgive her (we never get a resolution to this throughline, just the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and that she made the right choice), which begs the question – why doesn’t she lie and say she was on drugs? Or that she contracted a rare blood disorder, or picked up a parasite from the bodies she works with as a coroner?

Because if she did that, we wouldn’t have the manufactured and contrived drama with her family. Her nonsense explanation doesn’t serve any point but to artificially drive this wedge and makes her look stupid because it’s been days or weeks since the accident – surely she should have come up with some appropriately shameful ‘secret’ to reveal to explain why she couldn’t give blood? But she didn’t and doesn’t, because the story needs Liv to be at odds with her family and that outcome was railroaded in through the dialogue.

It’s something that you see in other shows, too. People not explaining something that they could or should and that generating cheap, fake drama. One example of this (I think it might actually have been my first instance of noticing writing quality in a film) was the Denzel Washington movie Out of Time. He and his wife are both police officers and are getting divorced. He has a one night stand. His partner is murdered as an attempt to destroy him, and rather than tell his wife from the get-go which would have ended up with him being cleared as a suspect, he goes to increasing lengths to cover his actions up all while appearing guiltier and more suspicious until the climactic fight scene. Because if he didn’t act like he actually had killed someone, there wouldn’t have been a movie.

Do some people act like that and cause their own problems? Sure. But in certain instances you can see the writer’s hand on the wheel, driving the script. The person has to act secretive and irrational even when there is no reason for them to do so because otherwise you couldn’t force events the way you want them. And it bugs me because there are many, many other ways to get to the same result that you want, but all too often you see stories and scripts that take the lazy and easy way out to get the drama and story beats they want to have without putting in the work to earn them.

1 thought on “Lies of (in)convenience”

  1. Aaaaand… In full agreement. I do particularly like your writing for that same reason – your self-stricture of demanding that every single character motivation makes sense to the world they live in is what makes your writings stand up for me. This then snowballs into emergent complexity and depth to the writing, besides making the plot branch into satisfying ways – it is internally consistent enough that we can predict some of the character´s actions, and have the mental reward of ocasionally outguessing the plot after hours of fevered discussion in the forums, while introducing unpredictability when multiple character agendas collide. Too many writers treat characters as shoehorned plot contrivances, with a ranking in order of importance – your method makes them feel people and introduces minor characters having sudden and realistic impacts as they refuse to “keel over to the mysterious forces of plot demands”, invariably and reproducibly (which, incidentally, I feel would make you an excellent writer for the tabletop RPG industry – have you ever took a stab at it?). In an age of a certain inmaturity to plots and Hollywood brain-dead scripts, your style stands up all the more as refreshing news.

    Liked by 1 person

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