Mysteries, Ghosts, and Doubled Narratives: Why the New Nancy Drew Series Doesn’t Work

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Every whodunnit mystery has two narratives. The first is the crime at the center of the story. How the murder was planned and carried out. The history between killer and victim. The red herring clues that point to innocent parties, and the backstory that makes those parties credible suspects. And so on. All of that comprises a complex narrative that, at the beginning of the book, is hidden from the reader and the protagonist.

The second narrative is the one the reader reads, in which the protagonist investigates and uncovers the first narrative.

Many ghost stories have a similar structure. There’s a hidden narrative of a terrible crime or crimes that created the ghost(s) and the specific details of the haunting itself. The story of the people who experience the haunting often depends on the revelation of that hidden crime for its resolution.

You might think that similarity in the two structures would mean they’d combine well, but the new CW series NANCY DREW shows how difficult that can be.

A lot of folks think that the main pleasure of a whodunnit (or any kind of mystery, really) is that things are be set right at the end. Something awful happens. Someone uncovers the culprit. They’re arrested or killed. Order is restored.

I dunno. I’ve never experienced them that way. For me, the main pleasures of a mystery are the characters, because you need a lot of contrast to tell all those suspects apart, and the hard work.

Me, I wasn’t much of a Nancy Drew fan until after VERONICA MARS showed me that the whole teen detective thing could have real bite to it. Then Emma Roberts appeared in the 2007 NANCY DREW, and I thought that movie was delightful. Much lighter than VM, but it still portrayed the protagonist as intelligent and hard-working, someone who kept digging for clues long after I would have given up.

But ghosts take all that away. Characters don’t have to act on their own initiative because they are terrorized by the supernatural elements of the story to take action. Ghosts push them toward clues. Visions of the past reveal the hidden narrative.

In other words, what would be revealed through the brilliance and diligence of the main character in a whodunnit is now forced upon them.

For example, in the most recent episode, a ghost keeps breaking screens in Nancy’s house. Only after the third one, on her laptop, does Nancy realize they’re all breaking in the same pattern. Nancy, being brilliant, recognizes her small town in the edges of the pattern, calls up Google Maps, and realizes the breaks are pointing toward a specific place: her high school.

Cut to a scene where she’s breaking into the school, complete with black knit cap and flashlight. A ghostly glow directs her to the trophy case/memorial/(?) where she finds a photo tucked away that proves another character lied to her in Act 2 of the episode.

So, sure, it’s smart to recognize the pattern and it shows initiative to break out the lock picks (by my count, Nancy has done a B&E in three out of four episodes this season and she really ought to be better at it) but it still feels like the mystery is being handed to her. Check out the school. Look in the case. In the first episode, a medium tells her to look in the attic, where she finds a bloody dress locked away in a trunk. It’s just another example of “Go here. Find clue.”

Not only is this sort of plot easier on the main character, it’s easier for the show’s writers. You don’t have to brainstorm a reason for Nancy to hunt for that photo at the school. You just have to brainstorm a way for the ghost to point the way in a spoooooky manner.

See also, the movie ODD THOMAS, which is a reasonably effective thriller as long as you don’t think too hard about the way Odd’s magic powers lead him by the nose from one plot point to the next.

See also, redux, this quote: (Source)

The Force is really The Plot

I don’t object to the way the Force is used in STAR WARS any more than I object to Eleven’s powers in STRANGER THINGS. It keeps things moving and doesn’t take away from the story. But then, the heroes in those stories aren’t detectives. I’m not watching because I’m hoping to see brilliance.

Honestly, I think I’d like NANCY DREW a lot more if the main character wasn’t named Nancy Drew. I wouldn’t have come to it hoping to see a bright, energetic young person doing the work that the older generations couldn’t.

The ghosts are fun, though. Maybe in the back half of this first season or in season two, they’ll have ghosts who mislead or interfere rather than help. I hope so.

If you’ve read this far down, you should hear a few facts: Progress on THE IRON GATE continues, although not as quickly as I’d have hoped. In fact, I was all set to take part in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time ever, but then I took a close look at the actual numbers and chickened out. Still, even if I’m digging a ditch with a shovel instead of a backhoe, that ditch is going to get dug.

ONE MAN continues to be delayed. Maybe I should set a definite release date to stop myself from fussing with this and that and just releasing it.

Randomness for 8/16

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1. The Low-Frills Genre Fiction of 1981. What amazing covers

2. What It’s Like To Own an Electric Car.

3. Almost Every Bob Ross Painting in Existence Lives in a Virginia Office Park.

4. Brewery unveils six-pack ring that will feed sea turtles instead of killing them.

5) My son followed this recipe for making NY style pizza at home, and whaddayano? Video

6) Shipping firm automatically dispatches truck to haul freight, successfully pricing, tendering, booking, then picking up and delivering the shipment without any human interaction at all.

7) Trying to rebuild civilization? This dude is trying to open-source the blueprints for 50 essential machines.

 

13 hours left to back this:

Cover for The Iron Gate

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It occurs to me that I have shared this all around but not here, which is dumb.

On the first morning of the campaign, Fred Hicks sent me a mockup he’d done of the cover and I liked it so much that I’m going with it. Here we go:

Cover for The Iron Gate

And that’s why Ray Lilly will be wearing a tie in the new book.

The campaign is winding down, obviously, but it’s already met its goals. What’s the opposite of “stressing about it”? Hmm, it seems like there should be a word for phrase that means the opposite of stressed but gosh, I haven’t had a use for it in so long…

Anyway, the lack of stress is thanks to everyone who backed the campaign and shared it with their friends.

Other updates: Writing on The Iron Gate continues at a decent clip, and the copy editor is hard at work on One Man. Later today I hope to work on the cover for OM with my son. Work continues.

Here’s the latest status on the campaign:

Some Quick Reviews of S3 Stranger Things, S3 Jessica Jones, and other stuff I guess

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I’ve been meaning to do this for a while so I’m just going to throw these out there:

Stranger Things Season 3

I’ve been a vocal fan of this show (Not as strong a fan as *some*, because I don’t want to be scary, but still) since I first watched it, but season three started off very badly. Characters I’d liked and who should have grown together were now snickering and making fun of each other. Hopper had become a complete mess. He’d gone from real life hero to obnoxious buffoon.

It took me a while to realize what they were doing. Season three had become an homage to romcoms, so we get clips of Sam and Diane, and we get endless bickering between characters who are attracted to each other but can’t admit it. And a show so used to leaning on homages ought to understand that homages of old jokes is just recycling an old joke. It’s not actually funny.

So yeah, that part wasn’t fun.

Everything else about the show? Loved it.

As the kids are getting older, the horror is getting scarier, more action-oriented, and gorier, too. And being Stranger Things, they nail it.

So, yeah. Not my favorite season, except for the parts that very much are.

Jessica Jones Season 3

One of the least interesting story lines a superhero show can tell is the “What does it mean to be a hero?” thing. Usually, it involves getting up off the ground after a round of grueling physical punishment.

I’m looking at you, Spider-Man, into the Spider-verse.

Of course, in superhero stories, the consequences of most fights are to make people feel a lot of pain, and also to make them incredibly tired. That’s why it’s such a struggle to get off the ground. To prove themselves to be heroes, protagonists need to stand up despite the pain and punch-induced exhaustion to return immediately to their pre-fight levels of physical capability, and finally make the bad guy super tired. Through punching.

Jessica Jones (the show, I mean, although the character, too) flips this on its head. When this show asks the question “What does it mean to be a hero?” they don’t mean putting on a mask and beating up “bad people.” It means finding evidence, getting confessions, capturing the criminal, and turning them over to the courts.

Based on her performance in this show, Rachel Taylor really ought to be getting a lot of high profile stuff. If you were annoyed by the way the writers portrayed Queen Whatshername’s descent into murder and darkness, check out the long, slow, tragic journey that Trish Walker makes from Beloved Celebrity Who Pulled Her Live Together into a Villain Who Thinks She’s Doing Right. Trish is all the worst instincts of the superhero genre, and because it all comes from her, and from the depths of her character, it never feels like a cheap commentary.

What I’m saying is, the last season of Jessica Jones might not have been the MCU/Netflix signoff/victory lap/low-budget Endgame remix that people expected, but it’s excellent in its own right.

C.B. Strike Series 1-3

I liked the books (I like private eye novels) and I liked the shows. Things are shortened and simplified, obviously, but these are solid PI stories.

What puts them above (and warrants mention here) is Robin’s subplot throughout. She has always wanted to be an investigator of some kind, and has everything stacked against her. But she is determined.

And I loved it. Everyone who has ever worked really hard for a dream that seemed unreachable ought to feel that pull. It’s a small part of the series, but it’s what put that show over the top.

Tolkien

Two terrific scenes, a bunch of great performances, and an otherwise dull movie.

Doctor Who Season 11

I’d given up on this show years ago, but thought I’d give it another shot with a new show runner and actress in the lead role. Verdict: I liked it. Very little frantic nonsense, a fair amount of actual drama and tension. We’ll be watching more of this.

Us

Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Wow. Loved it. I guessed the twist pretty early, but I loved it.

The Boys Season 1

I didn’t like the comic so I was planning to skip the show, but enough people liked it that I gave it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Like the comic, it was dark but not in a childish way. The characters felt real, and so did their problems. If you don’t mind stories about violence, murder, and sexual assault, The Boys was effective.

Hannah Season 1

Based on the movie, which was decidedly more ruthless and brutal than the show. It’s one of the rare spy shows where the characters did things that were better than what I’d expected. Solid stuff.

Boom.

Done.

The Kickstarter campaign for additional Twenty Palaces novels is still ongoing, but it ends Friday. You have until then to secure two books for a minimum of $4.

Til Happiness Do Us Part: Healthy Relationships and Dramatic Tension

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This post contains minor spoilers for Jessica Jones S3 and Stranger Things S3 along with huge, misery-making spoilers for Veronica Mars S4. The stuff I want to talk about in JJ or ST happen in the first episode, but with VM I’m going to talk about the Big Important Ending.

Spoiler space.

A little more spoiler space.

And a jump: Continue reading

It’s Not the Thing You Don’t Know That Get You…

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It’s the things you think you know but are wrong.

For ex:

Everyone was telling me that five cents a word was too low, and I kept responding by saying some variation on, “SFWA set the minimum pro rates (for short fiction) at five cents a word. That’s the number I’m going to use!”

Except I was wrong.

As pointed out to me by another author (and if you have a middle grade fantasy reader in your life, or if you like historical fantasy with lots of Big Romance, you should definitely check out Stephanie’s books) SFWA changed the minimum pro rate months ago. I should have gone with eight cents a word.

Which is hilarious to me. It would have been the work of sixty seconds to check that, but it never even occurred to me that I should.

And of course, nothing has changed about the Kickstarter or the books I’m planning to write, except now I have to explain to my wife that she was totally and absolutely write all along, and with a little more smarts I would have done what she wanted me to do.

Anyway, as you can see by the embed below, one novel is already paid for. You can help make a second happen by pledging $4 or more. (Which gets you two ebooks)

The Iron Gate Kickstarter Campaign at 24 Hours

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screencap from KS dashboard showing 921% of goal

That’s pretty much a novel right there.

After 24 hours, the dollar amount guarantees more than 90,000 words, so I’m thinking The Iron Gate is going to be a novel.

It also looks like the campaign might reach the upper limit, which means I’d have to write the next Twenty Palaces book pretty much right away. (For more info about the upper limit, check the campaign page itself).

This is wild, guys. This is also a lot of work. I spent most of yesterday wandering around my apartment, then checking the pledges, then washing a few dishes, then checking pledges, then vacuuming, then checking, then playing SOTM, checking, scrub toilet, check, open the file for The Iron Gate, then close it again so I can check.

Which means I haven’t been as productive as I need to be. That changes today. If I’m going to get this first book to you in 12 months, I have to do some thinking and some typing.

Anyway, please spread the word to any other fans of Twenty Palaces or contemporary/urban fantasy that you know. I’ll keep tapping away at these keys.

Here’s the updated version:

The Iron Gate, a New (Break) Kickstarter Campaign

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Kickstarter is running a “Break Kickstarter” campaign, which invites creators to use the platform in unusual ways. Not to break their rules, but to organize a campaign in an unusual way.

Until I saw that promo, I hadn’t been planning to use Kickstarter again. To be honest, I was gratified that my 2013 campaign for The Great Way did so well, but it was a crapton of work, and I’m a naturally disorganized person. I screwed up a few times while fulfilling that campaign, and that was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to put myself into that position again.

But if there’s an opportunity to flout the usual expectations? I’m signing on for the next Twenty Palaces story, The Iron Gate.

Here’s what’s going to be unusual in this campaign:

No video
No stretch goals
One reward: an ebook (although you could decide not to take a reward if you prefer)
One pledge level: (although KS lets you pledge more if you want)
You decide how long The Iron Gate is going to be

The Twisted Path was a novella, and some readers really wanted me to go back to novels. I’m not sure how much demand there is for this, but let’s find out.

For every $50 pledged to this campaign, I will write a thousand words. That’s the minimum professional rate, established by SFWA, of five cents a word.

In practical terms, I’ll look at that as a minimum word count.

So, if the campaign meets its goal of $500, I’ll write a 10,000-word novelette, which is about the length of “The Home-Made Mask”. If all twelve-hundred-ish people from the Great Way campaign pledge $4, that’ll be about enough for a novel.

I’ve set an upper limit, too. If you want to know what that is, or have other concerns, please check out the campaign. Also, if you’d like to take part.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/harryconnolly/the-iron-gate-break-kickstarter

Randomness for 6/10

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  1. Why Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse has the most inventive visuals you’ll see this year.
  2. Europe’s first underwater restaurant.
  3. How to actually, truly focus on what you’re doing.
  4. The Kentucky Derby as Told by the Horses.
  5. Grocer Designed Embarrassing Plastic Bags to Shame Customers into Bringing Their Own.
  6. The Queens of Sicily: 1061 to 1266. 18 biographies about 18 powerful women.
  7. Stun Gun Myths Rewatching VERONICA MARS got me wondering how likely (initial hypothesis: not very) it was that you could render someone unconscious by zapping them. Of course, my hypothesis was [spoiler]. 

What are the Odds? Half-assed Guesses about Stranger Things 3

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Between Christmas and New Years–right before the MS-DOS/date announcement promo was released–I kept thinking about what was in store for season three of Stranger Things. Not about who gets to live and who gets to die. The show has always been fairly gentle on the main cast, even thought it can be deadly for the supporting cast. #JusticeforBarb #JusticeforBenny #JusticeforMews #JusticeforHeather(pending) But what about the other story developments on the way?

So I made a list of predictions and bullshitted up the odds of them actually happening.

Here’s the list I came up with back at the end of December, the odds that indicate how likely I think it is, why I think it might happen, how, and a little commentary on the back end about it. Story talk! I enjoy story talk, and this one’s mainly about structure and foreshadowing.

1. Nancy discovers that Ted is not her biological father: 3:1

Basis: While shooting at cans in the woods, Nancy says she has no idea why her mother and father got married. And neither does the audience. “He was older and came from a good family” doesn’t really cut it. Why Karen and Ted?

Plot reveal: I’m thinking that, as a teenager, Karen had a shitty boyfriend who got her pregnant, then ditched her. (Who? Cary Elwes as the mayor is my current frontrunner, but if Jake Busey’s character is a long-time Hawkins resident, he’s a possibility, too).

To avoid a small-town scandal and spare their daughter a reputation that would have made her life hell, Karen’s parents paired her with Ted, who was older, had a good job, and needed a wife for “respectability”.

Foreshadowing to watch for: Any middle-aged male character who, in the first or second episode, asks Nancy how her mom is doing. Especially if they smirk when they ask.

Commentary: Obviously, I think this one is fairly likely, but I’m not sure how it would play into the season as a whole. In other words, why include it? The most obvious answer is “Billy,” as Ted (or someone) discovers Karen having an affair and is all “This again?”

Alternately, this season’s monster might be thematically related.

Finally, if this is true, I’d expect this to be common knowledge among the other parents. The kids and the teens might be shocked, but the grownups would sort of shrug and say “Well, I mean… yeah.”

2. Ted is gay and closeted: 12:1

Basis: See above. Ted acts like his home life is a bear trap he can’t escape and he shows zero affection for his extremely hot wife.

Plot reveal: Ted has a secret life, one where he’s not, you know, a great guy or anything, but he gets to be his real self. I’d expect it to connect him to another supporting character who is also in the closet. Maybe the mayor. Maybe Officer Powell or Calahan. Maybe Billy.

Foreshadowing to watch for: If anyone enters a dimly lit bar with only men in it, I’m expecting they’re going to run into Ted. Or, if he and Karen discuss their marriage as an arrangement or a deal.

Commentary: This one feels like a long shot, in part because the first two seasons set up Ted’s disinterest in his extremely hot wife, but not that he’s going out alone or spending time away from the family, which you’d expect if he was leading a double life.

Of course, Ted might be some form of gray asexual, but I honestly don’t think the show is sophisticated enough to go there.

As a character, Ted is not appealing. At all. But he could stand to be humanized. He has this great life he doesn’t seem to appreciate, and right now the show’s explanation is that he’s a drip, but it’s the work of a TV show to alter or invert its characters. It might be time to get a bit more Ted.

3. Ted becomes the major villain: 30:1

Basis: Pretty much none, except that I want it. Hashtag Fun.

Plot reveal: If this happens, it’ll happen early. He’ll be bitten by one of the infected/monster rats by the end of episode one, then will have a short descent into active evil (as opposed to “napping evil”) then full villain mode.

Foreshadowing to watch for: The first episode will have a lot of characters to re-introduce, but if Ted seems to be getting more than his share of screen time…

Hold on. Ted getting screen time? This sounds less and less likely with every word I type. Let me increase those odds to 30:1

Commentary: Given the style and tone of the show, this story choice is mutually exclusive with number 2. If one happens, the other won’t.

4. Will comes out to his friends: 3:1

Basis: Lonnie suspected that his son was “queer” and as much as I hate to admit it, psychopaths are sometimes very good at reading people. Plus, the fans seem to want it.

Plot reveal: That Will has feelings for one of the DnD Four (probably Mike) that goes beyond ordinary friendship, and that he, like Dustin, is unhappy that two of the four have coupled up. With girls.

Foreshadowing to watch for: That lingering half-second-too-long reverse shot of Will’s expressionless face as he looks off camera, if the shot right before the cut was on Mike, Billy, Lucas, Dustin, or some other appropriate male character. That’s how modern film and TV indicate unexpressed longing.

Commentary: One of the problems with the show is that it’s not as diverse as it should be. Letting Zombie Boy, the fragile, trembling prince of Hawkins, come out to his friends would help address that shortfall a bit but still feel like a natural part of his character growth.

5. Billy becomes a major villain
6. Karen and Billy hook up

LOL. These two were overtaken by later events, by which I mean: the first trailer.

The way this is edited makes it seem as if the infected bite on Billy’s arm turns him into the raw meat monster, but maybe they’re being tricksy. (It could be Ted. It could!).

Also, Karen and Billy are totally doing it.

So let’s assume those predictions turn out to be true (and no will be more shocked than me if I get something right) and create a derived prediction:

5a/6a. Karen becomes a monster/zombie. 2:1

Basis: I assumed, from the moment the first teaser featured a new mall in Hawkins, that it would be built over the site of the Hawkins lab and that the plot would involve zombies in some way. When the chapter titles were released, one of them was called “The Bite.” Suggestive, no? Also, “The Battle of Starcourt”? Please. We’re getting zombies this season. (odds: 1:12)

The trailer confirmed some of this. There’s a shot that looks like people doing the zombie-stagger, and Billy gets that bite, and (to cheat a little by referencing something said outside the show) the Duffers said they’d originally planned for Billy to be a bigger threat in season 2, but they had to pull that plot line because the show was already so full.

However! While “The Bite” is a perfect chapter title for a zombie show, it’s been given to the second to last episode. That’s really late in the season for a monster series and can’t be a reference to the _start_ of the spread of the zombies. So it must be referring to a bite on a specific person.

Why not Karen? If Billy’s infected and they’re having an affair, there would have to be a scene where she has to deal with Infected Billy. It’s unavoidable. The only reason I give it a 2:1 instead of a 1:1 is because I figure there’s a 50/50 chance the writers will arrange things so she will escape from Billy instead of getting infected.

Plot reveal: The kids realize that there’s a zombie-ish menace, and Mike returns home to regroup, only to discover that there’s a zombie already in the house! And it’s MOM! Dun dun duuuuun.

Foreshadowing to watch for: If Billy is getting it on with Karen, he’ll be getting it on with one of the other pool moms, too, and the show will establish the danger to Karen by having him bite and infect one of them. If Karen sees this zombified other woman, she’s more likely to escape from her scene with Billy without getting infected. If she does not, she’ll be less prepared and more likely to be monster-ized.

If the show establishes early that “Baby” Holly sometimes stays out of the house, it’s more likely that Karen will be infected. If Holly becomes infected herself, the infection is almost certainly curable.

Commentary: The 80’s had an awful lot of horror movies where character got themselves offed right after they had sex. It was puritanical and unwelcome, and I’m sort of hoping this plot line won’t play out that way.

7. Kali returns 1:1

Basis: Structure. Nothing else. Just structure. Linnea Berthelsen does not appear in the trailer or other promotional videos, and her name isn’t in the cast list on Wikipedia. (I can’t check imdb for the moment), but I’m still expecting her to make a surprise appearance, if only because it makes no sense to drop her.

Plot reveal: If Kali does turn up, she will either appear as a villain, just at the moment Our Heroes think they’ve escaped/defeated the monster, or she’ll ride to Jane’s rescue. Probably the latter. If neither happens, I’ll expect to see her in the last scene of the last episode, staggering wounded into Hawkins looking for Jane’s help, or else being chained and drugged in a cargo hold of a ship on its way to the Soviet Union.

Foreshadowing to watch for: In the first season, Hawkins Lab surveilled the cast with work vans. The trailer hints at Soviet agents appearing in the plot, so expect them to have some sort of nondescript vehicle that trails the characters. But if there’s an additional vehicle, one that looks more ordinary (like it’s been stolen), that’ll probably be Kali.

Commentary: The Kali episodes were not exactly fan favorites, but I liked the character and would be disappointed if she’s written out of the show. Of course, with Erica getting a bigger role, and Max and Billy and Murray making their return, plus at least four new characters, the cast is getting pretty full. I expect her to return without her crew.

8. Mike and Jane break up: 100:1

Basis: One of my flaws as a writer is that I try to make things too “realistic”, especially when the realistic choice is something readers don’t want. But still, what are the odds that Jane (I’m not using her dehumanizing lab name no matter how cool it is) would form a long-lasting relationship with the very first boy who was kind to her?

Seem like a long shot? It does to me.

But if Mike and Jane realized they weren’t compatible–she was bored by the stuff he likes, and vice versa, or she gets sick of being the one who has to do all the killing while he does nothing but tell people what to do–the show’s die-hard fans would swarm Netflix headquarters and strangle the executives with blue hairbands.

So, it probably would make sense for it to happen, but it won’t.

Plot reveal: They wouldn’t do this as a reveal. It would build in the narrative until the conflict reached a breaking point, like the Jane/Hopper conflict in season two.

Foreshadowing to watch for: Arguing, I guess?

Commentary: All I’ll say is, I’m glad they kept them apart for season two, so enough time could pass and the actors could be… what, 14 and 15 while their characters played out their big Young Love storyline. Maybe I’ve been trained by TV shows casting 20-somethings as high school kids, but Millie Bobby Brown looked awfully young for that kiss at the end of season one, when she was eleven years old.

9. Lucas and Max break up: 50:1

Basis: Neil.

Billy tried to split Max from Lucas in season two, and since Neil is a) Billy’s origin story, b) Max’s stepfather, and c) a colossal dick, he might try to split Max and Lucas, and he might apply that pressure through Max’s mother, Susan.

Plot reveal: Again, I don’t see this as a reveal. It might happen over the course of the show, with Max ending things with Lucas not because of Neil’s disapproval, but maybe because of his violence.

Foreshadowing to watch for: If Susan nervously asks whether Max is really happy with Lucas, then maybe.

Commentary: I’m not sure fans are as invested in this teen romance the way they are in the Mike/Jane paring, which makes it a better candidate for a Romantic Turmoil plotline. It also creates a way to keep Neil and Susan invested in season three, and since the title of the first chapter is “Suzie, do you copy?” and Max’s mother is the only Susan on the show, I’m guessing we’re going to be spending some time with them.

Finally, if I were only going to predict that Neil would pressure Susan and Max to ditch Lucas, I’d give it much better odds than 50:1. This is just a guess as to whether they actually split up.

10. Jane uses her powers at the wrong time/for the wrong reason/under the wrong circumstances: 2:1

Basis: Jane has been pretty good about mostly using her powers for good. Even when she’s in the wrong, she pulls back before she does real harm. During her moment of jealousy in “The Pollywog”, she could have gone all Brightburn, lifted Max above that backboard and dunked her like Dr. J. (Hello, 80s reference). She was stressed enough, but she held back.

But this is the first season where she’ll be living in ordinary society, and ordinary society is full of people who need to be flung telekinetically against brick walls.

Plot reveal: The risks are two-fold: human villains discover what she can do, or the general populace do. This prediction basically covers anything from reflexively giving Neil Hargrove an Exorcist 180 when he tries to beat Max to disarming the (presumed) Soviet agent in that funhouse mirror scene in the trailer, but doing it in front of eye witnesses. Does she get her picture in the paper? Does a squad of Soviet agents target her? Does one of the locals (Neil? Susan? Karen?) get it into their heads that’s she’s a monster who has to be put down?

Foreshadowing to watch for: Speeches from Hopper about the importance of keeping her powers a secret (which are bound to happen even if the show doesn’t hit this plot point) combined with reaction shots of a seriously stressed-out Jane as she sees assholes being assholes.

Commentary: Considering this season is going to be focused on a mall and will presumably involve zombified citizens, I think we can assume that, by the end of episode eight, the secrets that have been haunting the town of Hawkins will be significantly less secret. The big question is whether Jane’s abilities also come into the open. That would mean that season three will be the only time she gets to have that “normal life” Hopper’s been talking about.

11. We meet Steve’s parents (and they get zombified): 5:1

Basis: It’s a zombie story (presumably). Steve is one of the best-liked characters on the show. Is he going to get a scene where someone he cares about has been turned?

He’d better.

Plot reveal: Zombie Dad Harrington shuffles through the mall, arms outstretched toward his own son! And there’s Steve, with his nailed-out bat in his hands. Dun dun dunnnnn.

Foreshadowing to watch for: Dad Harrington will be unhappy that his son has taken a job at Scoops Ahoy, but otherwise has a lot of opinions about the mall, either positive or negative. Extra points if, instead, rich kid Steve is be working at the mall because it’s his dad’s project and he is “starting at the bottom”.

Commentary: In season one, we met The Wheelers, The Byers, and the Ives. In season two, we met the Hargroves, the Sinclairs, and Ms. Henderson. Time, I think, for Steve’s “asshole dad” to make an appearance.

12. The DnD Four (plus Max and Jane) have spent the time between seasons 2 and 3 preparing for another monster attack: A hundred mabillion to one

Hey, if monsters tried to eat me (twice!) and I were a young, healthy person who couldn’t move away, I’d spend at least an hour a day preparing for the next time. Running, maybe. Getting the chief to teach me to shoot. Learning to pick locks, code Basic, fix electrical wiring, and maybe how to drive. Oh, a mall has opened up? How about we buy some mall katanas and a book on kendo. With pictures.

But… yeah. I just don’t believe it.

CAVEAT: I’m the worst predictor of things in the world. If any of this actually comes true, I’ll be shocked.

More predictions that probably won’t happen:
* Brenner is captive of/collaborator with the “Soviet presence in Hawkins” that Murray is so worried about.
* Murray gets a triumphant moment when he uncovers actual Soviet agents. Which is maybe his last moment.
* This season’s monster is the speck of smoke monster that was driven out of Will but couldn’t return to the gate and was too weak to maintain a hive mind.
* The monster has been growing and rebuilding its strength, spreading from one rat to another.
* Calahan and Powell learn about the special dangers of living in Hawkins, and Powell quits.
* Hopper hires Steve to take his place.
* This is the season where we find out exactly what the Upside Down is, whether it’s an alternate dimension or a future where the smoke monster ecosystem has destroyed the world.
* The show thins out the cast with some deaths and/or characters lighting out for distant places
* Jopper, which the trailer makes clear is off to a rocky start, happens but does not last to the end of the season.

Boom. That’s all.

Season 3 is a little more than a month away. I’m looking forward to it.