The more I re-watch shows and movies, the more I simply cannot ignore the success of emotional executions that went on to become some of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. They know how to make you feel just the right amount of whatever they want you to feel before choosing to either fill you with happiness or tug at your heartstrings and ruin you without remorse. And no, I’m not talking about those generic, sappy Rom-Coms you spend your Sundays glued to. I’m talking about REAL writing.
One exquisite example of this kind of sentimental attainment is ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’. The depressing scenes work here so well because the majority of the movie is a comedy. It knows how to make you laugh effortlessly. Then, you see Batman looking at the old framed picture of him and his parents and you realise the writers have just made you feel Batman’s loneliness in what was seemingly just going to be a funny endeavour due to the comedic nature that was projected. The entertainment hides his fear of further loss and when it does get brought to the surface, back and forth, you’re speechless.
And I haven’t yet mentioned the pain of his own The Joker goes through! Hurting from Batman telling him that he’s nothing to him, he spends the movie attempting to get Batman to admit he needs him, that he is his greatest enemy. Like his live-action, Heath Ledger counterpart, LEGO Joker knows how to be incomparably manipulative and in doing so, almost destroys Gotham and finally gets Batman to admit the truth: The Joker is his greatest enemy. It’s truly difficult not to feel something by a piece of writing that tells a story of fear and desire, especially when it’s a LEGO movie!
Another insurmountable example of emotion is Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man 2’. We get to see Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker’s struggle to balance his personal & superhero lives. He’s at the top of his game as Spider-Man, bringing smiles to the entire city, but fails to keep the smile of the love of his life in the process, Mary-Jane. It isn’t until Peter loses the majority of his powers that he’s able to make more time for her. This movie perfectly balances Peter’s life of love and loss by constantly having one aspect that’s made him who he is while being without the other. It’s both a satisfying and a frustrating narrative, but still isn’t the most emotionally-riveting arc.
As the hero deals with one form of gain and forfeiture, Dr. Otto Octavius’ comes from a much, much darker place which ultimately leads to him becoming the villain known as Dr. Octopus. Long story short, he loses his wife after a demonstration of his work goes horribly wrong and gains now-sentient mechanical tentacles, becoming influenced by them as the events of the movie progress. Peter Parker’s lack of balance comes from light and Dr. Octopus’ comes from darkness, ironically balancing the movie itself perfectly. It’s no wonder how ‘Spider-Man 2’ still remains as one of the most emotionally-riveting movies of the superhero genre.
As far as emotional execution goes, I’ve left my favourite chunk of work for last – The story of Buffy Summers and Angel. What makes this piece so unique is the telling of a 16-year old girl and a 240-year old vampire with a soul not only loving one another, but learning to love in general for the very first time. The more Angel appears, the closer he and Buffy become. From one season to the next, their attraction builds and slowly turns into something indescribably intimate for them. The intimacy peaks when they spend the night together and looked as though they were getting a happily ever after. Until, a huge plot twist emerges.
Every ounce of love that was built up completely dissipated after it turned out that Angel was cursed with his soul so he could feel the rushing remorse for what he had done eat him up inside for the rest of life and even one single moment of perfect happiness would rip that soul away from him and turn him back into one of the most prolific killers who ever existed, Angelus. From here on out until the end of Season 2, heartstrings weren’t just tugged at, they were mutilated by Angelus’ joy of hurting Buffy in the worst way possible and murdering those around the people she cares about the most.
The expression of love, the sudden impact of the pain caused and Buffy learning to distinguish between Angel and Angelus in order to feel brave enough to kill the ‘Big Bad’ with the face of her lover made the Season Finale, and season overall, the most engaging of the series. If there’s such a thing as perfect emotional writing, it’s this!