The parallels in the present-day story really do work. Maggie, Charley, Tracy and Natalie. Four women in four very different but comparable frustrating relationships that mix personal and professional involvement, hopes and facts, understandings and misunderstandings. "Wellness and unwellness love," if we must.
First, we have Tracy and Maggie: the newer relationships.
Tracy is very near the beginning of her interactions with Vachon. Her hopes and illusions are as much those of the stage of her acquaintance as of complications from Vachon's vampirism or specifics of him as an individual. She wants a relationship with him, she says; it doesn't yet exist. She's conscious that she's negotiating a space where her and his understandings and desires haven't yet synced, if they ever will. She's like Natalie in that the other person in this relationship really is a vampire and that she perceives the border between hope and fact; she's like Maggie in that her relationship is new and light; she's not much like Charley.
Maggie's situation seems pitiful and condemnable to us -- an ongoing fantasy with an adulterous coward who doesn't really respect or love her, and a new one-night-stand with Jerry who thinks (perhaps correctly) that she's mentally ill -- but she was evidently having fun and was satisfied with herself and the story she'd chosen, whether or not she really understood that line between her reality and fantasy. She's like Tracy in that her relationships don't (yet, in Tracy's case, perhaps) run very deep; she's like Charley in that she's perhaps lost her grip on the difference between reality and fantasy; she's not much like Natalie, although her self-presentation on the talk show makes Natalie see herself and Nick in a different way.
Next, we have Charley and Natalie, who have been in their respective relationships far longer and far deeper than Maggie and Tracy, and who are reaching breaking points.
Charley's break is murder and attempted murder, first of her rivals and then of Jerry himself. (She evidently loses her grasp at the end such that she doesn't understand the line between television and reality, if she did before, which brings out her parallel with Maggie.) It's important to recognize that Charley's and Jerry's careers are closely tied, not unlike Natalie's and Nick's, and that Charley has been working her heart out on behalf of Jerry's goals for years, while Jerry gets the recognition; again, not unlike Natalie's work on Nick's cases and cure, while she's obscure in the morgue and he's hero-cop on the news and cause célèbre in the vampire community. It's also significant that while Charley and Jerry have had romantic encounters in the past, as Natalie and Nick have (e.g. "Be My Valentine"), Jerry honestly doesn't perceive any ongoing romantic attachment between them, while Charley does... and Nick wouldn't have slept with Marian in "Blackwing" (and run to Natalie bursting with afterglow) if she thought at that time that he and Natalie were having an ongoing romance.
Now, Natalie's break is completely unlike Charley's! Natalie makes the sane, sensible and proportional choice at that point of "giving up on" Nick for her own health and future... and perhaps to wake him up? Natalie walks away. It's gorgeous and perfect! Third season is falling apart thematically from earlier stances; Nick is no longer striving personally as he did in first season, and the episodes, by structure and script, even when the mysteries are solved and the criminals apprehended, are constantly asserting a randomness, an incomprehensibility and helplessness, that first season and the best of second fought hard with Nick's convictions and experience, Natalie and Schanke's support, and the triumph of the good and the right. (Natalie once again stands in for fans, but I won't go there just now.) Natalie's choice is a tipping point! If you didn't know what comes next...
...but of course we know. Convenient Plot Device. The syndicated '90s TV reset button. That dratted card and whatever it says. (Y'all know about "the card challenge" on fkfic-l, right? Fanfic to reveal what's in that card to so magically make everything better between them?) We miss this exit and continue on the road to "Last Knight."
Even under the exigencies of television at the time, which abhorred continuity in general and plots spanning multiple episodes in specific, surely Natalie's stand could have been a turning point for her and Nick and the entire show! Surely there could have been worthwhile pain, lessons learned and taught on both sides, and a restart of much greater proportions and impact, reigniting the garlic pills, sunbed, protein shakes, raw hamburger and all that they symbolized! The tag scene is clearly at least days, and perhaps weeks, after the rest of the episode, with Jerry's bullet-holed arm in a sling as he interviews Tracy seriously on The "New" Jerry Show. It could have been more than just what that card says that brings Natalie back to the loft, and things could have credibly changed significantly from then on, fighting harder for goals made more clear...
What third season didn't do, fanfic still can. Thank goodness.
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