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A thing I am wondering about with regard to characterization (Spoilers for No Time to Die & WoT) Cannoli Send a noteboard - 14/10/2021 07:51:46 AM

In case you have not seen, or had spoiled for you, the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, James Bond dies in the end. He has to operate a control system to open an underground facility so that a missile strike he has called in can blow up the bad guy's doomsday weapon inside the hardened facility. He does all this and is heading out, only to have the villain we thought had left prematurely because that's what Bond villains do (see my review of Spectre this film's predecessor), closes the hatches and fights Bond. He loses, because he's the size of Rami Malek and Bond is the size of Daniel Craig, but not before he manages to inject Bond with a targeted contact poison, that never ever leaves his system, but keeps replicating itself and while it will do no harm to Bond, will be instantly fatal if he ever so much as touches his One True Love and their daughter (yes, he has a kid; I get the impression that's not a Bond thing, but if you're watching these five movies as a solo thing it's a reasonable development). Anyway, wounded and staggering after his fight (the villain sucker-punched him before the fight, with bullets. From a gun), after the villain has gloated about the poison bit, with the missiles already launched and bearing down on the facility, Bond goes back ino the control room and reopens the hatches to expose the target once more. While Q & M are listening and urging him to get away, he points out that it's too late, and asks to be connected to his love interest, so he can say goodbye to her. Then the missiles hit and it's about as certain as you can get without watching his body vaporize in slow motion that he's dead. But he saved whatever was threatened by the bad guy's weapon (villains with accents who mumble their exposition aren't always great at establishing precise stakes) and the Love Interest is telling her kid about a man called Bond. James Bond. and all the MI-6 characters with names gather in M's office to pour one out for Bond and then credits.

And then there was Wheel of Time, where Egwene, while dueling one of he villains in the Last Battle, has lost her Warder and husband. She has a really, really horrible personality, and spends most of her time in the book series being really mean to her friends and especially horrible to the two love interests she has, and coming as close to cheating on the first one as is possible while maintaining a G rating for sexual content in the first three books. So it's pretty much clear that she has lost her one chance at True Love. Plus, the books have made pretty clear exactly how traumatic the death of a Warder is, and how the effects can even skew the judgment of the Aes Sedai to whom it happens.
And like James Bond, Egwene makes a fatal decision to prevent a danger to, let's say, "others", because as with Bond, the prior writing does not do a bang-up job of establishing the world is actually in danger. In both cases, they say so, but I can't help but notice that what we know of the threat does not exactly add up. In any event, scale does not matter. Giving your life to save or protect another person is just as good as saving the whole world. Quantity is irrelevant. A life is a life.

And I can't help up think in both cases the decision to specifically and pointlessly excise the hero's relationship with their love interest somehow cheapens their heroic sacrifice. There is barely time to reflect on the evil of the villain's plan in NTtD, because Bond has to go back and open the hatches. No one liked Gawyn or was all that invested in his relationship with Egwene. He was clearly the stupidest of the main characters or their love interests, some of who are characterized in the text as the sort who would "climb a tree to see the lighting better" and yet are way ahead of Gawyn. I know at least a few Egwene lovers didn't think he was good enough for her, or didn't like her having a boyfriend, so no one gives a crap about his death. Maybe Egwene's death could be unusual and interesting if she makes the conscious choice to die knowing she's killing her husband too. Maybe Gawyn could have redeemed himself in the fandom's eyes, by telling her "do it". Maybe she can only release one Warder, and they agree it has to be Leilwin, because Gawyn is too badly hurt to deliver the message without the benefits of a Warder bond.

A sacrifice is kind of less meaningful if you don't have anything to live for. In Season Two of 24, Jack Bauer is flying a small plane with a nuclear bomb on board that can't be disarmed on board, but he has to fly it over a mountain range to shield the city of Los Angeles from the blast, and some technobabble means autopilot won't be good enough, there has to be someone's hands on the controls right up to the end, so Jack has to die. But his supervisor, George Mason, whom he has often clashed with, and derided as a coward and a political weasel who puts his ambitions over the mission, has stowed away on the plane. See, earlier in the season, his cowardice indirectly led to him getting a lethal dose of radiation poisoning. He got a bunch of humanizing scenes after that as he comes to terms with his mortality, and says heartwarming good byes to a bunch of the colleagues he has previously butted heads with, and started taking an interest in doing the job again, though he's failing fast and ends up being relieved of duty. And now he's in the cockpit with Jack, and as he points out, he's got enough in the tank to fly a plane straight for a few more minutes, so Jack can parachute to safety. Which he does. THAT is how you use a character as a sacrifice who has nothing left to live for, or is going to die anyway. You do it in place of another person, because it's a specific recognition of how you can help and go out well. Larger than life characters like James Bond or Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne or the imaginary awesome version of Egwene that exists in a lot of fans' heads (we'll call that version Jegwene Bal'Vere to keep them straight) are a whole other thing. That's why Bourne can seem to die at the end of Bourne Ultimatum, only for a little thing to pop up so the female lead can suddenly grin knowing it means he survived. When Bond was making his escape, right before things went to shit, he noticed out of the corner of his eye and went back to get, the stuffed animal his daughter had been carrying around and mentioned that she lost, before she was taken to safety. So I was pretty sure that was going to be the same thing in this movie, especially after the villain revealed the poison and then explained the ramifications for the slow viewers, that the facility would blow and everyone would think Bond died because his tracking device went dark or whatever, but in the coda at the end, the Love Interest would take her kid home and look sadly at something that reminds her of Bond, and the kid comes out of her room saying "Mommy, Doo Doo was on my bed!" And we last saw Doo Doo being tucked into Bond's belt, so we know he's alive and looking after them, even if they can't be together. But then a missile lands, like, RIGHT IN FRONT of his face. So we're pretty sure Doo Doo was fucked, too.

Anyway, back to the point, Mason's sacrificial death made the point that he was NOT giving up, he was finding new ways to help in spite of his limitations and he was searching for meaning in a life he is realizing was not well-lived. Egwene was not doing that (and those who liked her would have been mad if she had started apologizing and acting like she had something to make up for). Bond was not doing that. In fact, M reads a quote at his memorial emphasizing that he considered Bond to have lived his life well. People not as discerning as myself take at face value the assertions of Egwene's victims friends that she was not doing that, not making up for or atoning for her prior misdeeds (I legit think Jordan might have done something in that vein, not necessarily repentance as with George Mason, but tie in her death as a thematic climax to her constant drive to gain more power, with maybe a realization that it's time to do something with her power beyond hoarding it or using it as a building block, or suddenly grasping the futility of chasing something like that; others have a different interpretation of what she was doing in the prior books).

Egwene and Bond are supposed to be heroes. They should not need to have things taken away from them to appreciate what is important and then act to prove their lack of selfishness by laying everything on the line. Instead, their writers gave them a selfish motivation for being willing to die, or stripped them of motivations to go on afterwards, or pandered to make fans not feel as bad about their losses. Maybe it's just me, but I can't help but feel it cheapens the characters and their ends somehow.

Cannoli
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
*MySmiley*
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A thing I am wondering about with regard to characterization (Spoilers for No Time to Die & WoT) - 14/10/2021 07:51:46 AM 183 Views
I see what you did there - 14/10/2021 04:29:27 PM 43 Views
have not watched, yet I think the Craig era is a mistake - 14/10/2021 10:59:57 PM 36 Views
I am looking to see if the sky turned purple because I agree with you - 14/10/2021 11:42:46 PM 45 Views
hey - 15/10/2021 12:01:10 AM 31 Views
It is not a James Bond movie - 15/10/2021 03:13:52 AM 39 Views
Re: A thing I am wondering about with regard to characterization (Spoilers for No Time to Die & WoT) - 15/10/2021 05:11:22 PM 35 Views
But Egwene's act was altruistic - 15/10/2021 05:31:31 PM 35 Views
Re: But Egwene's act was altruistic - 18/10/2021 09:32:49 PM 37 Views
I really need to finish my reread. - 20/10/2021 09:01:38 PM 22 Views

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