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09 March 2010 @ 11:07 pm
The Grimness of Third Season  
In femme_fic's fkficfest invitation thread, malinaldarose noted that she recently purchased FK's third season on DVD.  She had watched third back in 1995-1996, but her memories of it are wispy bookends.  I offered some virtual armor in the form of spoilers, if she wanted it.

I don't want to spoil anyone unawares, or take away the amazing, precious chance to watch it again as if for the first time!  I do love third season on its own terms.  But.  Third season hurts.  I know people still bleeding from it.  Perhaps a little virtual armor should be available, if one wishes to don it?  Spoilers ahoy!  If spoilers for what third season often wields against us are what you want, putting it very briefly, my take:

Tiny Spoilers: Before Third Season Began

FK changed owners between second and third seasons.  The new owners at the USA cable network had a different vision from the previous leadership in syndication (second season) or at the CBS broadcast network (first season).  It was reportedly proposed that Cohen, Schanke, Janette and Natalie all be removed from the series.  Catherine Disher's job was saved, but John Kapelos's, Natsuko Ohama's and Deborah Duchene's were not.  The buzz was that they wanted a "younger, sexier" cast.

(I wonder what that alternate reality would have been, that vision of no Natalie, as well as no Schanke, Cohen or Janette.  What did they have in mind?  Nick on the road followed by Lacroix would make sense, but I don't think their budget would have supported changing sets every week.  The idea of Nick in Toronto alone but for Lacroix makes me recoil.)


  Major Spoilers: Early Third Season As Aired

Schanke is dead.  Janette has left.  Lacroix has taken over the Raven and, apparently, lost his pride, taste and ability to see in color (see "Lacroix Lite").  Sets and costuming show a different design sense and, arguably, the different budget.  Characters are all frequently unhappy, except Tracy, who earns a reputation for perkiness (thus her faction's name, as much as the coffee reference, I think) by contrast.  Reese, Tracy, Vachon, Screed, Urs and the others are welcome, but it can be tough going at first, learning where they will fit. 

"Night in Question" was considered the end of the "early third season" run, as I used to see it discussed, happily received as a turning point toward increasing quality, when the big changes have shaken out and begun to click.


  Overwhelming Spoilers: Late Third Season As Aired

Lacroix has recovered his equilibrium and dignity and, to some extent, his wardrobe.  Vachon is no longer in the opening credits.  Natalie and Nick are both sliding slowly downhill from trauma to trauma, occasionally arrested by a happy ending before stepping off the next cliff.  Tracy, now plagued by unhappiness like everyone else, shows the grit that inspires her "Dark Perks."  Janette returns in an episode buffeted by competing interpretations of what exactly happened and just exactly how it happened, on top of which some of us thought (until corrected by our peers) that a major character had died here, too.  But people do start dying, with Screed, and keep on dying right to the end, blow after blow, as we lose, among recurring characters, Fleur, then Urs, then Vachon, then Divia, then Tracy, then Natalie and then Nick.  If Lacroix goes, too, at that point, well -- many a fanfic.

Some people count various late third season episodes among the best crafted in the series.  Some people love the ending, for exemplifying something they enjoy or artistically fulfilling the whole of the season, or even the series.  Many more, frankly, hate it, either for celebrating a theme they reject, or for missing the mark on another theme, or straightforwardly for the battering losses of beloved characters.


So, yeah.  Third season has sharp edges.  It also has shine and luster and depth of its own.  Handle with care.  Then go back and watch first season again! ;-)  And write fanfiction to share your opinion of it all. :-)

Addendum November 8, 2012: This post is getting so many spams that I've had to lock commenting. If you'd like to discuss it for real, please comment on Dreamwidth or contact me privately. Sorry!

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(Anonymous) on March 10th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
FK 3
1. One wonders why USA Network bothered to "purchase" FK if they wanted to make all the changes they were talking about. It was a successful syndicated series and they wanted to change the things that made it successful? Does this make sense? Of course, if I could figure that out, *I*'d be a successful TV exec.

2. The season didn't seem particularly grim to me. Nick, in "My Boyfriend is a Vampire" was positively cheerful except for Natalie, but that worked out. On the other hand, the last 3 or 4 episodes, I simply dismiss -- got the DVDs, never watch disc 5. But I see that as a problem with USA -- it wasn't working out, so they lost interest and essentially dropped the series. I'm surprised it got to 22 episodes.

WaltD
Amy R.: Nick Solemnbrightknightie on March 11th, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)
Re: FK 3
>"One wonders why USA Network bothered to "purchase" FK if they wanted to make all the changes they were talking about..."

For what it's worth, USA was just beginning to transform its image at the time, starting to build what eventually became today's "characters welcome" approach. FK arrived at USA only to air alongside the likes of shows that they already had, like Silk Stalkings and Duckman and wrestling. But, putting the best light on it, FK may perhaps fit in better with today's USA than yesteryear's: did it fit the eventual vision, where it did not fit the immediate slot?

Just musing. It's hard to grant the perpetrators of third season's changes and cancellation their good intentions, but I'm sure they had them...

>"Nick, in "My Boyfriend is a Vampire" was positively cheerful except for Natalie, but that worked out."

One of the joys of FK is that so many of us see canon from so many different angles! :-)

Nick did have fun teasing Tracy in MBIAV.

The way I read third season, it's tragic that Natalie allowed Nick to sweet-talk her back into the status quo at the end of MBIAV. The status quo was destroying them both; that was an opportunity to fight for both their lives, and they let is slide. Whatever that card says, it can't possibly mend all the fractures in their relationship or Natalie's life at that point. (The woman who asked Nick only to keep searching for mortality in "Cherry Blossoms" becomes the woman who dares not let him go in third season. This is part of the grim cloud over third season in my interpretation.) She's falling apart so obviously in that episode that the "re-set button" approach to it, sweeping it under the rug, seems to lead directly to "Last Knight," via the shock of "The Human Factor." If she had stood her ground and insisted on change for them both back in MBIAV...

One of the fkfic-l story challenges is "The Card Challenge." The game is to write a story explaining what is inside that card Nick gave Natalie, that caused the reaction we saw. It was very popular! I've never managed to tackle it, because I keep wanting to change what both of them did. :-)

>"I'm surprised it got to 22 episodes."

Cancellation was announced when filming wrapped for Christmas in 1995. If I recall correctly, "The Human Factor" was the last episode in the can at that point, and so would have become the series finale by default.

FK fans did what they had done before, and swung into a letter writing campaign to convince TPTB to film and air the rest of the season. Success on this front rolled into SOS-FK, the remarkable "Save Our Show" campaign to beat cancellation. Fannish efforts and the obvious inherent value of FK brought at least one offer to buy FK, to take it off USA/Sony's hands. But they wouldn't sell. Can't let someone else make a success of the thing you pronounced a failure, can you? So we won the full 22 episodes, but lost a fourth season.
Elycia: Because I Can by Elyciaelycia on March 10th, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
I was one of the lucky ones, I think; "Black Buddha" was the first FK episode I ever saw in its entirety (and I was IMMEDIATELY hooked), so I didn't have the expectations and loyalties of the first two seasons to weigh me down, as it were. I fell hard for Vachon, so any episode that featured him was a delight for me, even as the screams of despair from FKSPOILR fell by the dozens into my in-box ("Trophy Girl" is a prime example). I didn't quite understand why Nigel was so upset--and vocal!--about the turn his character had taken. When he won the Gemini for the second season's "Curiouser and Curiouser," I borrowed it and watched it to see why, and it made no sense to me AT ALL.

But a kind friend gave me copies of the first and second seasons on tape, and I watched them at a rate of about two a week, more or less in sequence. And then I watched then again. And again! And now I like second season the best (even though I'm still a loyal Vaq!), and I can see quite clearly why so many people found the third season to be a travesty. For my part, I think USA was foolish in the extreme to try to reposition the show to a new target demographic when it already had a loyal and significant fandom. I can't imagine anybody on this earth any "sexier" than Deborah, who is still one of the most gorgeous and sensual women I have ever seen in my life. And I still refuse, steadfastly, to believe that Vachon, Tracy, Nick, Natalie, and LaCroix are dead. I can even deal with some of the theories that have saved Schanke and Cohen. Screed, sadly, is gone, I think, but his death at least had meaning, unlike the last bloodbath.

I think Ger gave us a real gift in his direction of "Last Knight" in that he duplicated so many of the camera angles and techniques that suggested hallucination in "Curiouser and Curiouser." He made it easy for us to believe that LK was an aberration, not canon. And I still think somebody should have spiked Jim Parriot's breakfast cereal with Prozac for a couple of weeks before they let him submit that script. ;-)

Thanks for a thought-provoking trip down memory lane!
hearts_blood on March 10th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
He made it easy for us to believe that LK was an aberration, not canon.

I had not heard that possibility before... maybe if I think along those lines, I'll actually be able to watch the episode! In the meantime, may I direct you to a story which expounds upon this theory? ;)

Amy R.: Trio Vachon's Crewbrightknightie on March 11th, 2010 07:05 am (UTC)
A friend of mine used to say that Tracy and Vachon's crew seemed set to spin off into their own series when they first showed up, as if at any minute Janette and Schanke would return, and the new characters would leave for their own timeslot, having been suitably introduced.

I enjoy the third-season characters! Still, as you say, once you know, it's easy to understand how the anger at their predecessors' departures fell on their shoulders, however unfairly.

>"I can't imagine anybody on this earth any "sexier" than Deborah..."

That anyone could chuck Janette as insufficiently sexy is eternally boggling. Could they see? Could they hear?

>"Screed, sadly, is gone, I think, but his death at least had meaning, unlike the last bloodbath."

I think you're very perceptive, there. We should chat through the relative thematic resonance and story support of the assorted third-season deaths sometime. Who died for good reasons inside the story, and who died solely for reasons outside the story, and how does the quality of the episodes compare?
chelseagirlchelseagirl on March 10th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
You are making me so nostalgic for my First Online Fandom; we were All In It Together in a way that I don't feel about anything now. I'm not playing fkficfest, because I'm just not writing fanfic at present -- I'm not getting enough of the writing I *need* to get done, done -- but I am looking forward to reading the results.
Amy R.: Janette Againbrightknightie on March 11th, 2010 05:48 am (UTC)
First Online Fandom
>"we were All In It Together in a way that I don't feel about anything now"

Yes, I know just what you mean. It was an incredible shared experience! The good and the bad. For all the idiosyncratic reasons of time and technology and our very special ratings-challenged show, it was a more complete community than any online group I've seen since.

>"but I am looking forward to reading the results."

I have an idea how much writing you have to do for your career! So while I would have been excited to get to read a new story from you, I'm equally very glad and grateful that we'll get to play with you as a reader! (With a week of sign-ups to go, we're up to 14 committed players!)
hearts_blood on March 10th, 2010 11:35 am (UTC)
I never had the opportunity to see FK while it was still airing; I began watching it entirely by accident when it was in syndication, towards the end of its run on the Sci-Fi Channel (oh, those were the days...).

I think I've mentioned this elsewhere, but my first episode and the one that hooked me for the series was "The Sons of Belial," so the latter half of the 3rd season are the eps I'm most familiar with. (I, er, still haven't watched 'Last Knight.') And I was very surprised by the optimism and buoyancy of the earlier seasons--it's like a completely different show! Which, as you've just demonstrated, it pretty much was.

This is probably why I gravitate towards stories with a more 3rd-season feel to them, simply because it's what I was first introduced to.
Amy R.: N&Nbrightknightie on March 11th, 2010 06:52 am (UTC)
>"I began watching ... towards the end of its run on the Sci-Fi Channel"

Each fleeting generation of newbies brings important differences in perspective on the story, influenced by how long they had to wait between episodes, what time of day they got to watch, which episode they came in on, and all the rest.

>"I, er, still haven't watched 'Last Knight.'"

There's an episode I've never seen, either. :-) I have a pet theory that it's good for me to know that I don't know everything, even about FK! ;-)

"Last Knight" has a lot going for it as a piece of filmmaking. They did the best they could with what they were given -- and you know how good they can be when they try.

The very first time I saw it, I remember thinking that they had made it such that I couldn't hate it. I fell for the interpretation they wished me to that night. Only on further reflection did I become angry about the despair, surrender and suicide elements, not to mention the insulting "workaround" of Nick's "Last Act" statement, "never by my own hand." But that's me...

>"This is probably why I gravitate towards stories with a more 3rd-season feel to them, simply because it's what I was first introduced to."

"Sons of Belial" is a great episode by third-season standards, and a good episode in any season.

"Night in Question" is the episode that brought me across, though "Queen of Harps" was the first I ever saw. (Long story. HL and FK aired opposite each other where I lived until third season.) So I'm a third-season newbie. :-) But I fell in love with first season as soon as a kind fan first sent me an Nth-gen SLP VHS tape for the cost of supplies and shipping.

♥ Tape-trees! ♥
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on March 11th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
There's an episode I've never seen, either. :-)

I didn't know that! People we've known for years can still surprise us. :-)

Do you let on which one?
Amy R.: Caddybrightknightie on March 12th, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
Rumplestiltskin!
>"Do you let on which one?"

Rumplestiltskin! ;-)

Actually, once, elsewhere, privately, you answered a question for me about the episode I've never seen, so that I could reference it correctly in a story.

I didn't pick it to be unwatched! It was, by complete coincidence, the very last episode I'd never seen. When batdina gave me a VHS tape with the last three episodes I'd never seen -- the episodes no one ever discussed, no one's favorites, the ones no one had bothered to send me before -- this was the last of the three as she had dubbed them. After watching the second, it struck me that this next was the last new-to-me FK in existence, and I began saving it. And saving it. And saving...

If I ever need that refuge, comfort and inspiration, it will be there.

And I've come to think that a reason FK is still so open in my imagination, compared to other shows, is this nugget of open canon. I remember how I felt after seeing the last new-to-me back episode of HL; it closed something for me.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on March 12th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Rumplestiltskin!
Ooooooh, intrigue! I love it. :-)
PJ1228pj1228 on March 13th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Rumplestiltskin!
>If I ever need that refuge, comfort and inspiration, it will be there<

Oh, what a wonderful treasure! That episode must be as tempting for you as a bottle of human blood is for Nick. ;) I marvel at your strong will to leave it untouched. I don't think I could have resisted that long.
greerwatsongreerwatson on March 12th, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
"Each fleeting generation of newbies brings important differences in perspective on the story, influenced by how long they had to wait between episodes, what time of day they got to watch, which episode they came in on, and all the rest."

This is so true. I can't help but wonder if one reason why Forever Knight is so dear to my heart is simply the fact that I found it so hard to get hold of. The Skinner Box in action (if I've got the right psycho-gadget): to get another food nugget, I had to keep pecking harder.

Certainly, having the series dropped by CTV when I'd only seen five episodes of Season One and six of Season Two was exceedingly frustrating; and I waxed joyful when I found that there was a Buffalo station that had it on at midnight. Then there was the fact that the TV Guide did not mention Forever Knight that September in their article on returning syndicated shows. The empty space in the listings that week seemed sadly inevitable (but it turned out that the Buffalo station had merely changed the day).

And the pre-emptions for anything else.

Not to mention the fact that the Sci-Fi Channel in the States showed the re-runs a year before Showcase in Canada. Very frustrating, when I was hoping to get to see the first season. (But more joy when they did put it on, and I discovered that Season Two had ***26*** episodes!!)

I have had dreams now and then about an undiscovered Season Zero.
greerwatsongreerwatson on March 12th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
"Last Knight" has a lot going for it as a piece of filmmaking. They did the best they could with what they were given....

But boy what a stinker of a script they were given! "Last Knight" is exceeded only by "Let No Man Tear Asunder" for sheer bad writing.

You understand, I'm not talking about the natural resentment of anyone watching the finale of a favourite show, nor the recoil of a fan watching three of the principals murdered in a single episode. I'm talking about such "minor" things as characterization, motivation, and plot.

And suspense. I do want just a tad of suspense—beyond saying to myself, from the start of Act Two, "Surely they can't be that obvious. They must have a trick up their sleeve, some final twist." But Tracy did get shot; and Nick did bite/kill Natalie and then commit suicide (albeit by proxy).

If I want to watch for the first time a story whose ending I already know, let it be written by Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, I agree: the actors did what they could, and that was a lot. But the best acting in the world can't actually save a bad script.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on March 10th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
An insightful, beautifully worded analysis. Not that it's any surprise from you, of course, but still appreciated.

Will definitely be bookmarking for future newbie education purposes.
Amy R.: Thanksbrightknightie on March 11th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Thank you! You are very generous, and your lovely compliment boosted me terrifically this morning.
dj_clawsondj_clawson on March 12th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I would like to meet the people who liked the finale, all three of them. And not including GWD and James Parriot, who are still enamored of themselves for thinking of it, the one other person.

I can't watch most of season 3, but "Ashes to Ashes" is in my opinion the best episode of the entire series. By far. Fortunately I had no attachment to any of the characters slaughtered mercilessly in it, so there's that.