I know it’s been a while, but that was mostly just because I ran out of steam. I no longer wanted to push myself into writing reviews of every single thing I watched on this app.
So, instead, I’m gonna do something a bit different: I’m gonna write casually. I’m gonna write quick little articles about whatever the heck I want, whenever the heck I want.
First up? I wanna talk about betrayals in media.
You all know what I mean. Those moments when you realize a character isn’t who you thought they were, or isn’t loyal to who you thought they were. Do it right, and these moments can absolutely sting! There aren’t many things in a story more heart-wrenching than starting to hate a character you used to love — and then having to watch everyone around them deal with that themselves. I can recall quite a few amazing betrayals of different kinds, so let’s go through some of those kinds, shall we?
The Sudden Pang
The kind of betrayal where: It’s expertly hidden until the moment it happens.
This happens all the time in wrestling media especially. But there are two instances that many wrestling fans remember the most vividly: Seth Rollins and Adam Cole. These two cases occurred several years apart, but there were plenty of things they both had in common. They both led to the dissolving of a faction that fans always thought were tighter than that. Adam and Seth’s characters both became wildly hated in the fallout weeks, because the writing rapidly turned them from heroic to heartless at the drop of a dime. They both led to some incredible, intense matches. And they both left their victims (Roman & Dean; Kyle, Bobby, & Roderick) looking stronger than ever!
Another great example, I think, is Hunter Zolomon from The Flash Season 2. I mean, did anyone predict that he was gonna end up being the main villain of the season? I mean, I’m sure the fact that he disguised his identity helped with throwing off the comic readers (which I am not). But even despite that, he was written so charismatically that it was difficult not to love him before the turn, thus leaving us with one of the most shocking scenes of the entire series!
The Long Time Coming
The kind of betrayal where: It’s a slow burn; very much hinted at, and it’s only a matter of when.
I think the best known example of this is with Anakin Skywalker, and with good reason. His betrayal of the Jedi Order is slowly built up throughout Attack of the Clones, as well as Revenge of the Sith. Viewers realize it’s going to happen very soon in (or, if this is their first foray into the franchise, then they’ll at least have a suspicion or a dread). But these movies take you on a journey with the character that still leaves you just as heartbroken as the people around Anakin when the betrayal happens.
A more recent example (and yes, I’m talking about wrestling again) is Bayley’s betrayal of Sasha on SmackDown. Most fans knew it was gonna happen. It’s not like the show really tried to hide it, either. Every single week begged the question of whether or not they will break up. But, at the end of the day, did anyone really care? It was still an awesome storyline that they had, and their dynamic was great! Personally, what really sold me on it was the dialogue between them, which was heartbreaking on a whole new level. I guess that just shows that, when writing a betrayal (especially of this kind), you have to think beyond The Moment!
The “I Should Have Known!”
The kind of betrayal where: They make it extremely obvious — and yet you still fall for it!
Otherwise known as the Mysterio kind. Remember Far From Home? Remember how they wrote a shadowy hero character who seems like a great “new Iron Man,” even as opposed to Peter, who the writers gave just enough sympathy to to keep us from seeing all of his shadiness (and remembering that he is legit a well-known comics villain) until The Moment? Yeah, three years later, and I still have no idea how they did that. Maybe it was his chemistry with Peter, or maybe it was the excitement at seeing a multiverse in the MCU for the first time. Or maybe it was just because they made us feel bad for him. No matter what, it worked!
Or what about Ursula, from the Spirit of Ursula McJuggerNuggets series? We find out in the penultimate episode that Ursula’s “ritual” involved murdering one of the four protagonists for it to work. Not that we particularly liked her before, as viewers. She was incredibly shady. Even the four themselves knew that. But it’s not like she was completely unsympathetic, either. She was pretty self-absorbed and demanded a lot from our four, but we also really felt for her and wanted the ritual to work. We wanted the satisfaction of seeing her free, just not at our protagonists’ expense.
While Marvel injected their traitor with a large dose of sympathy to hide his shadiness, and while MJN struck a fairly equal balance between both, Last Life (another YouTube series) managed to hit the opposite end of the spectrum with its shadiest character, The Watcher (otherwise known as “???” or The Shadow Voice). Basically, one of the players in the series’s eponymous game starts hearing this mysterious voice that promises that he and his team will “see the end” if he listens to what it says, but this turns out to not mean exactly what he thinks it does. These sorts of “voice in my head” storylines are an amazing way of writing these kinds of betrayals without necessarily having to make your traitors sympathetic. Heck, as I wrote that, I realized that Be More Chill did something very similar with The SQUIP! Did we ever like the Watcher or the SQUIP on any level? No! But the first things we saw were how Martyn and Jeremy (respectively) took their “guidance” to heart and how it worked for them at first — before it didn’t. And we still like them, so it still hurts when The Moment inevitably happens.
The Kind Of, Maybe, Not One?
The kind of betrayal where: You see enough of the traitor’s perspective to understand where they’re coming from, at least a little bit.
When I think of this kind of betrayal, three things come to my mind immediately: Last Life (again), Cobra Kai, and the Heathers musical. All three of them did this a bit differently, though. Heathers showed Heather Duke being heavily mistreated, to the point where we’re thrilled to see her gain power herself — until she lets it go to her head and betrays Heather McNamara. The show leaves audience members horrified by her, by having her sing lines like “You don’t deserve to live” at this poor girl who used to be one of her best friends, when we were actually rooting for her in Act One.
Cobra Kai has Robbie Keene join up with Kreese’s eponymous dojo and turn against both his Sensei and his father at the end of the third season. Throughout the three seasons up to that point, we saw him lose touch with both his parents, get arrested, and generally end up with no one else to turn to but Kreese (or so he believes at the time). That’s how he ends up fighting against his former friends in Season 4. But, as we can see through his interactions with Tory and (especially) Kenny, he never completely loses his heart.
Finally, Last Life has the complete breakup of BigB Statz and former closest ally Cleo following his actions with the Boogeyman curse. For anyone unfamiliar, players decreed the Boogeyman at the start of a game day have to kill someone to avoid losing all but one life themselves. BigB ended up killing Cleo, not seeing any other choice. Cleo was extremely upset, and their alliance was immediately over. This is unique compared to Heather D. and Robbie’s situations, not only because it left the fandoms (and characters) more divided than theirs about whether he really did wrong, but because BigB is the only one of the three to feel immediate regret for what he’d done. Heather D. makes a complete turn, and Robbie makes a partial one, but I think it’s fair to say that, although BigB gives up his alliance with Cleo, he doesn’t really turn at all.