Chapter 21: Ready to Head to the Finale
That chapter title might be a little overeager, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, even if it wants us to.
In fact, a related complaint: I want to mention about how the ongoing, “plot coupon” structure is leaving us with no tension in the build-up to the finale. We’re one plot coupon away from the finale and this doesn’t rightly feel any different from the last few missions, or honestly better than filler in general. I’m reminded of “Twenty-THANXty Six,” a Homestar Runner cartoon that would probably take too long to contextualize, but I’m going for it. The cartoon in question is a Thanksgiving episode parody, of the kind you’d see in American cartoons in the 80s, but set in a poorly-localized anime for, uh… well, Homestar Runner’s AUs are a little hard to explain, so just roll with it. Give it a watch if you haven’t, though again, it may be too weird out of context, there’s not much I can do to fix that. Anyways, to the point! Holiday episodes can be great, but they usually aren’t. In fact, they have a reputation as being infamous wastes of time, especially in continuity shows, as they often break continuity even more than even the worst filler. Notable tropes include: “It’s suddenly a different season and will stop being that season soon as the episode ends,” “ham-fisted and even fourth-wall-breaking aesops in shows that might not even bother having life lessons,” or “the villains literally trying to steal Christmas.”
The final joke in “Twenty THANXty Six” surprises by flipping the script, declaring that the episode isn’t just in continuity with a (supposed, fictional) ongoing show, but is incredibly important to the ongoing plot, rewarding the characters with one of the show’s plot coupons as a prize for finding the true meaning of Thanksgiving. What elevates the final gag, in my mind, is the observation that infamous holiday eps and bog-standard plot coupon eps actually aren’t all that different, and that it doesn’t take more than a teeny, tiny nudge to make a “non”-filler plot coupon episode (especially a poor one) look indistinguishable from the pariah filler of holiday episodes. That’s the lesson I’ve remembered from it for the past eleven years.
In short, Before Crisis has (sort of) 25 chapters, and we’re four chapters from the end with no feeling of incoming resolution whatsoever.