Mystery, does it keep you watching?
In the not too distant past, less channels had original content. We have more shows being produced and consequently more shows being cancelled. At one time, for the majority of shows, there was only a passing awareness of seasons. Did we know when we passed from The Simpsons season six to seven? Probably not. We also weren’t as aware of narrative arcs. We didn’t anticipate the finale or have a sense of a main protagonist for a show.
In short, the way we watch TV has changed.
The big question is whether this changes us or whether our expectations have changed the shows? It is a bit of a chicken and an egg question. What we do have is an increasing awareness of rating and show cancellation. Does this make us invest more in our shows? Do we establish a sense of ownership when our shows are threatened? Currently, there is some uncertainty about the future of Agent Carter. The ratings have been falling across the season and you can show your support with #RenewAgentCarter.
The Walking Dead finale has caused a little contention with its mystery death. Should we have been told who was killed? Should we have to wait weeks to see the next episode? Are we just being dragged along for the sake of it or is this gripping TV?
Another good example is The Flash’s midseason break. We have one big reveal with the identity of the main protagonist Zoom, but we still have the ongoing mystery of the man in the mask. Like Walking Dead, the identity of the masked man has created multiple online discussions (I won’t go into my thoughts but I’m between Wally West and Eddie/Eobard Thawne). Is that the point?
The Flash example is a good one because it pushes us towards becoming engaged with the mystery. After just unmasking Zoom, we are reminded the mask purposefully hides an individual’s identity and the reason why Zoom was hiding his identity was because he was (possibly) one of the good guys. Zoom’s identity also reminds us we should have been able to figure out his identity because it was right in front of us. Its stands to reason we should be able to figure out the identity of the man in the mask. Everything about the man in the mask encourages us to anticipate the return of the show and discuss the details online. Is that the point? Is that how we have changed? Are we all just people who read the last page of a mystery novel after the first chapter? If there is someone on a show we think we know or are confused about a plot or eager to find out what happens? What do we do? Wikipedia.
In a world of Wikipedia, do we need the mystery in shows to keep us watching?