Season Two of BRASS, like Season One, ends on a cliffhanger, as despite the heroic efforts of the family and their allies Ponder Wright and Lord Whitestone, the Crime Minister’s plans are carried through to their cataclysmic conclusion. How could the Brass family possibly survive such destruction?
One of the primary inspirations of BRASS were the classic radio adventure serials of the ’30s and ’40s, particularly the legendary “I Love a Mystery,” in which a trio of detectives trek the globe seeking fortune (rarely found) and adventure (always found). Carlton Morse, the show’s creator, was infamous for being a “seat of the pants” writer who would begin each story with no outline or even any clear idea of who had committed whatever mystery the three detectives were trying to uncover. This may sound like it would create an ungodly mess of a story, but Morse was a master of narrative drive, and 80 years after they first aired, the shows are ridiculously addictive.
But do cliffhangers still work? In the era of Peak TV, shows like Breaking Bad, Deadwood and Game of Thrones challenge our assumptions about the classic character arcs by killing off virtuous, much-loved or simply wonderfully intriguing characters left and right. This creates a different sort of narrative tension-and-release from the classic “saved at the last minute” stories. Unsure of the safety of our protagonists, we surrender our trust in the storyteller to give us a “happily ever after” ending to instead provide a satisfactory conclusion of another sort. Sometimes this works–for how could Breaking Bad‘s chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White end his tale without losing all he loves?–though often it doesn’t. Fans repeatedly peel off from shows when they feel that characters are being killed off not for narrative effect but simply because the writers don’t know what they’re doing. The momentary surge of story-adrenaline received when yet another random pretty person in Lost met their end eventually felt less like narrative complexity and more like a shrug of shoulders in the writer’s room.
Things just aren’t going to go well for him in the end.
The world of BRASS is still in its early stages. Indeed, we don’t even have firm plans yet for a Season Three! (though yes, more BRASS is coming soon–the new horror-themed mini-series The Devil in Whitechapel, which pits Lord and Lady Brass against a conspiracy of sinister occultists.) But the story of BRASS, for better or worse, is one of optimism, where good people faced with what seem to be impossible challenges beat the odds through their wits, their skills and their unconquerable determination. Rest assured, while things look bad indeed for our friends, their story won’t end soon–at least as long as our listeners and supporters want to hear more stories.