Tomorrow evening AMC is premiering a new show entitled Turn, a tale based on the true story of the Colonial spy ring during the American Revolution in the late 18th century. Recently IGN did a review of the pilot episode (which can be found on their homepage) and discussed whether the show would be able to keep viewers’ interests when the overall ending of the story was known. Does it matter if the audience knows the outcome of the spies’ network? Does it ruin the story if they know the Colonists create their own nation and George Washington becomes president? Or can the audience enjoy the story despite knowing the ending? Not everyone knows the story of just how these guys and gals did their work, after all.
Unless you’re a history buff or have read the book the show is based on. If that’s the case, then yeah…you know the whole story.
But even if the story’s known, you can still enjoy it, right?
Think of your favorite story. A book, a film, a family tale passed on from member to member. Do you still enjoy hearing or reading it? Even though you know what happens, chances are there’s something about that story that makes you enjoy it even though the mystery of the conclusion is gone. Maybe it’s the exciting plot that still gets your heart racing. Maybe it’s a connection with a character that you see a little bit of yourself in. Maybe it’s the jokes that always make you laugh even after all these years. Regardless of what connects you to that story, some stories (even though they are known) still have that “enjoyability” factor.
(On a side note-apparently “enjoyability” isn’t a word since my spell-check is underlining it. Oh well. Maybe in a few years it’ll catch on and become a Twitter hashtag or something.)
The beauty of story is that it isn’t just mystery that makes it unique and enjoyable. Yes, mystery is key to a good story when you first hear it, but once the story is told, the mystery is no longer there. The audience knows what happens, so something else must be used to bring them back. Other elements, be they plot, character, or the lessons gathered from the tale, can keep the story alive and relevant to the audience.
I’m not sure how Turn will be. I’ve yet to see the pilot episode, but as a student of history (and as a major Colonial America fan whose highlight of life was visiting Monticello), I’m really looking forward to learning about a piece of history I knew little about and I hope the show does well. And even though I know the ending of the story (spoiler! Washington becomes president), I’m looking forward to seeing the characters themselves-who they were, what they did, and how their struggles and sacrifices relate to the overall time period in which they lived.
And in this case, with an ending pretty much known, maybe Turn‘s strength won’t be in the destination, but the journey there.