I can review Justified City Primeval with a single word, ghastly. Just ghastly. I have a number of friends who rave about Justified although I haven’t seen it. I can only assume it has nothing in common with the action mess I just witnessed.
Normally I’d move along without bothering to write a review but the episode I just saw gives me an opportunity to discuss the trend of a punchy one-liner following an action sequence.
What is a Punchy One-Liner
I can’t say for absolute certain when the trend of punchy one-liners following an action sequence began. My personally memory is Roger Moore in James Bond. Sure, Sean Connery threw them out now and again but it was James Bond with Moore as the actor who really cemented the practice.
After an action sequence the protagonist must utter a witty or cutting one-line summation of what just happened. Fans liked it. Heck, I liked it. What happens when people like something? We get more of it. A lot more of it. More of it than this fellow can stomach.
Scenes Designed for the Punchy One-Liner
It’s one thing to have a punchy one-liner at the end of an action sequence but it’s entirely another to have scenes written for the sole-purpose of delivering that punchy one-liner.
One of the most egregious examples I can think is the Battle of Helms Deep in the Two Towers. The entire battle sequence seems to be merely a setup for a line about tossing a dwarf.
It’s gotten to the point where half the action scenes in a movie don’t forward the story in any way, they exist solely for the punchy one-liner the protagonist utters at the end. The audience laughs.
I’ve written about scene over story in the past so I won’t get too in depth here. The result of the desire to get in these quips is scene bloat. We get a variety of scenes that don’t serve the plot, don’t tell us about the characters, don’t do anything at all.
It’s not always the action sequences any more. Pretty much at the end of any scene it’s mandatory for a character to say something cutting, witty, or pithy about what just happened. The result is we get more and more scenes that don’t serve the story.
It’s important to understand there are runtime restraints. Every time a scene that doesn’t serve the story is inserted, that’s one less scene which might inform the audience, engage us, make us care. Instead, we are served a fleeting laugh at best.
An Entire Episode of Scenes with Almost no Story
Justified City Primeval is largely a series of scenes manufactured to deliver such lines. The kidnappers on the highway. The gas station robbery. The courtroom scenes. The attempt at comedy from the buffoons who want to kill the judge. The judge’s murder sequence, a shocking display of utter stupidity from beginning to end.
I’m not against a punchy one-liner if it makes sense and comes at the end of sequence that serves the story. What I see nowadays is not that. I have a funny one-liner. Let’s write a scene, who cares if it fits the story? Maybe it’s the writers. Maybe it’s the producers demanding it. I’m not sure but I know I’m not going to watch the second episode of Justified City Primeval.