The Sturm and Drang of Head Explody

The Sturm and Drang of Head Explody, Killt, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, Bionic Commando

The Red Wedding shocked the buh-jayzuz out of me — twelve years ago, when I read A Storm of Swords.

Wait, don’t mash the back button just yet! I don’t aim to condescend or claim superiority over the unread masses. Contraire! I just need to be clear that the Red Wedding plot twist was gut-wrenchingly gnarly in the innocent days of 2001, back in the age when a man could drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon as unironically as he could throw around the term "spoiler alert." Back in those simple, early millennial times, when the pinnacle of fantasy on television was the climactic final season of Xena: Warrior Princess, a person didn’t have to work so damned diligently to avoid knowing all manner of stuff about things.

I’ll do my best to tip-toe around Game of Thrones spoilers here, but I’d guess that fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones who hadn’t already read George RR Martin’s books were, at the very least, hep to the jugular-julienning jive surrounding season three’s penultimate episode, and, while I’m sure many viewers experienced genuine shock and awe at the outcome, I doubt any but the most sand-buried GoT headz didn’t have at least an inkling that a major plot twist was in the offing. If nothing else, the Game of Thrones track record of previous ninth episodes must've had most fans’ spidey senses tingling in anticipation of that knuckle-taped fistful of surprise hurtling towards their collective faces. That's dandy if you're the Marquess of Queensbury, but when it comes to entertainment, I'd prefer the uppercuts not be telegraphed. Be it a sprawling 10,000 page fantasy series or an indie-developed retro platformer, I'd rather be left lying on the mat, spitting bicuspids after a clock-cleaning that I never saw coming.

But a smartphone ain't a tomato can on a string, and the infobarrage pulsing through my smartphone is an E. Honda Hundred Hand Slap. Ducking and dodging topics even remotely in the pop culture zeitgeist requires relentless, ever-vigilant dis-observance.

On a typical weeknight, I'll lounge on the futon with my hole-toed socks kicked up in front of the ol’ LCD, watching Netflix stutter away on the Xbox. The Arizonan heat of a laptop fan blisters my thighs, a ring-stained $500 iCoaster rests on the coffee table, and an insomniac smartphone pings a half dozen servers from my sweatpants pocket. I’m relaxing, but assaulted by a cacophony of dings and guitar riffs and sirens and pop-up windows and text bubbles, alerted in audiovisual triplicate to every instance a friend of a co-worker in my circle “likes” a thumbnail of a link to a Pinterest image of a Reddit post of a YouTube puppy video.

This makes it damned tough to not know that I’m going to die before I die. I found out my girlfriend was going to die with a sword in her back. I discovered both my wife and I would die in a hail of bullets. I found out I was the evil Jedi the whole time! I also found out I was Dracula. Twice. Hell, there’s a major twist or two in BioShock that I know about, and I’ve never even played it!

I’ve stumbled across a number of Metal Gear plot spoilers, too. On the positive side there, the story in Metal Gear appears to be so impenetrable that almost none of what I’ve read would appear to mean anything to anybody not named Hideo Kojima (and even then, one can’t help but wonder), so if I ever get around to slogging through the rest of the Metal Gear series, I’ll probably have to go back and re-read plot summaries just to understand what happened anyway.

Admittedly, every instance of let-down can’t be blamed on an internet connection. Even in the ancient times, trudging the path of the spoiler-free was no easy task. In one instance, my buddy from whom I’d borrowed Symphony of the Night asked how far I’d progressed, and when I couldn’t remember what percentage the menu screen said I’d completed to that point, he asked, “Well, have you got to the upside-down castle yet?”

I hadn't.

Still, there have been more than a few twists that I didn’t see coming, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these are the twists that have really stuck in my memory over the years. While I knew of the impending identity reveal in Knights of the Old Republic, I wasn’t expecting the fact that half of homeboy’s face was missing! I had no idea Samus Aran was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, stone-cold fox of a space pirate until well after I’d conceded defeat to the Mother Brain and Justin Bailey’d my way out of the sticky spots of Planet Zebes. Since I’m not the biggest fan of straightforward run-and-gun shooters, the copy of Modern Warfare 2 that I borrowed from my dad surprised me with all kinds of unexpected death and mayhem involving the main characters (who shall remain nameless since they aren’t memorable) — not unlike the mayhem and unexpected death in Game of Thrones.

The earliest and most enduring shock of my videogaming life exploded in front of my spectacled, pimply face yet another twelve years before A Storm of Swords hit the bookshelves, when Capcom captured my imagination with a mind-blowing plot twist. The mind was Adolf Hitler’s.

In December of 1988, Capcom released Bionic Commando to the US market for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Famicom version upon which Bionic Commando was based, released in Japan six months earlier, does not bury the lede. The translated title is Top Secret: Resurrection of Hitler. As the story goes, once Nintendo of America’s censors got their puritanical little phalanges on the game, the swastikas hit the cutting room floor, replaced by red flags touting vaguely Teutonic eagles, and the mustachioed madman’s moniker was changed to the inscrutable "Master-D."

Oh sure, the Japanese title is terrifyingly cool. But the US localization’s beauty lies in its mystery. There’s no plot twist to be had when you name a game The Nazis Want To Wake The Evilest Mofo Ever From The Dead And We Think You Should Stop It With Your Cool Robotic Arm. The US-localized Bionic Commando’s plot began with some indecipherable garbage about some creatively named evil dudes called The Badds who wore snappy uniforms and were apparently up to some kind of no-good that included kidnapping your buddy Super Joe, the hero from Capcom’s original Commando, and working on the nebulous "Albatros Project". As far as video game plots go, it was a fairly routine affair on the surface, especially to a 12 year-old kid immersed in Nintendo-ese.

With no twitterverse #HitlerIsTheAlbatrosing the surprise right out of the plot, I marched along unwittingly from area to area, rescuing my buddy Super Joe and hurtling towards a showdown with Generalissimo Killt, head of the dastardly Badds and brains-behind-the-soon-to-be-resurrected-brains of the “Albatros project,” a Death Starry laser-gun-toting mech-ship that can only be completed with the help of some mysterious dead dude.

There I am, a 12-year old kid blessed with an armful of bionics, a brainful of war movies, and the godless notions of a heathen belief system. I march into Generalissimo Killt's chambers thinking we are going to tangle. Next thing I know, he's fried in a blast of electricity.
Then Adolf Freakin' Hitler, the modern-day secular devil himself, barks in my face that I'm a damned fool and he’s taking over the world.

The true stroke of genius (or dumb censor-driven luck) is that Master-D's true identity is never actually made explicit. You jump off a cliff and fire a rocket into his face. His head erupts into three chunky frames of eyeball and brain matter, and, as you make your grand escape, your sixth-grade races, piecing together movie scenes and textbook snippets, and it dawns on you that you just blew Adolf Hitler’s head off with a bazooka while mom and dad thought you were hopping around on turtle shells and rescuing fairy princesses.

I played through the game three more times before my thirteenth birthday and loaned it out to all my friends just to let them in on the goose-stepping, gob-smacking secret of it all. The mechanics of the game were incredible for the time, and the graphics were top notch, but no gameplay mechanics could ever top the shock I felt experiencing that first playthrough, as the tingle of anticipation was blown wide open with an eye-popping, audacious twist.

If the original Bionic Commando’s release date were spring of 2014, Capcom’s teaser trailer of Hitler’s resurrection chamber would’ve probably debuted at E3 2013 or been leaked by a disgruntled developer and gone viral on Youtube. With answers to all your questions riding shotgun in the pocket of your skinny jeans, the thrill you experience from a plot twist is directly proportional to the willpower you exert towards your own ignorance. A virgin mind is a rare prize, now more than ever.

I can admit that a little foreknowledge probably won’t throw you into your own little personal entertainment eschaton. I expect Xcom on iPad is going to kick ass, and despite having played through the Xbox version, I’m going to buy it. I’ll probably play it with my dirty socks on the coffee table while watching Game of Thrones, and I’ll enjoy every minute of both. But the increasing rarity of shocking resurrections and unspoiled Red Weddings makes the dogged pursuit of the purely experienced plot twist all the more rewarding.

Comments

Thanks for spoiling the ending of Bionic Commando asshole. I was so close to the end too.

jrxl wrote:

Thanks for spoiling the ending of Bionic Commando asshole. I was so close to the end too.

Also, the aliens win in Space Invaders, Pitfall Harry gets eaten by gators, and the blocks in Tetris, uh, fall.

kcander wrote:
jrxl wrote:

Thanks for spoiling the ending of Bionic Commando asshole. I was so close to the end too.

Also, the aliens win in Space Invaders, Pitfall Harry gets eaten by gators, and the blocks in Tetris, uh, fall.

In the end, nobody beats the Kremlin Wall.

Yeah, I've had my share of inadvertently spoiling myself by people not "spoilering" their posts in other sites. I've gotten over it easily enough, though, and often manage to forget the spoilers by not purchasing and/or playing the pertinent titles for months after the fact.

Also, foreshadowing hasn't exactly been subtle either on television, cinema or literature for many, many years almost to the point of being a bit insulting to the consumer... but then again, maybe consumers have become that dumb and find a lot of the bluntly foreshadowed twists to be brilliant.

Or maybe I'm just jaded.

Facebook and twitter are dangerous if you're trying to watch current TV shows.

Although a lot of people are good at general comments... "can't believe that tonight" or "oh my gosh i'm still crying over that show" without revealing exactly what happens.

And then other people are purposely jerks. Saw some co-worker of my wife's on facebook the night of the episode discussed above, spell out a couple of character names and exactly what happened to them in a status update. Just to ruin it for anyone watching on DVR, or the west coast or whatever. Just a jerk. At least that lets me know which people to remove from my news feed.

kcander wrote:
jrxl wrote:

Thanks for spoiling the ending of Bionic Commando asshole. I was so close to the end too.

Also, the aliens win in Space Invaders, Pitfall Harry gets eaten by gators, and the blocks in Tetris, uh, fall.

Altho you type in jest, this makes me wonder -- could there be a statute of limitations for spoilers?

The other day I was surprised when a workmate complained that her boyfriend spoiled the ending in The Crying Game a week ago, which I though was extreme considering that movie came out in 1992. Same too for The Usual Suspects.

Can we simplify things with, say, a ten year rule?

Felix Threepaper wrote:
kcander wrote:
jrxl wrote:

Thanks for spoiling the ending of Bionic Commando asshole. I was so close to the end too.

Also, the aliens win in Space Invaders, Pitfall Harry gets eaten by gators, and the blocks in Tetris, uh, fall.

Altho you type in jest, this makes me wonder -- could there be a statute of limitations for spoilers?

The other day I was surprised when a workmate complained that her boyfriend spoiled the ending in The Crying Game a week ago, which I though was extreme considering that movie came out in 1992. Same too for The Usual Suspects.

Can we simplify things with, say, a ten year rule?

Ten years seems pretty generous to me, especially as time goes on and everybody is wired in to social media. I say any movie made in the 21st century, you probably can't expect more than a six month grace period at best! Plus, I think I would add that any movie that's had a sequel (or is about to have a sequel) is probably fair game. Like, if it's 1983 and Return of the Jedi is about to hit the theater, you can't cry when you're standing in line and somebody breaks out the Vader voice, "I'm your father, Luke," right?! As far as TV goes, you get the current season only. You can't expect me to keep it a secret that the Lannisters killed everybody in Downton Abbey last season, can you?

I often post false spoilers just to freak people out. I posted about the red wedding that I felt bad for the Lannisters and it was something Kings Landing would talk about for a long time. Heh... I got people upset and truly shocked when they actually watched.

Three years. Anything that came out within the last three years, I'll happily ask "oh, have you seen or played XYZ" before diving into spoils.

But if it's been out for more than three years, I'm very likely to just steamroll right over a spoiler warning.

Spoiler:

made you look

No statute of limitations. All media must be experienced through direct exposure.

My thought on spoiling media is this - if it matters so much that you experience it without any foreknowledge, then consume the media as soon as it is released. Otherwise accept that people who prioritized consuming said media higher will end up talking about it.

It seems that "spoiling" something has become something akin to a crime. It is kind of silly.

Edit: Good article, btw.

Nevin73 wrote:

My thought on spoiling media is this - if it matters so much that you experience it without any foreknowledge, then consume the media as soon as it is released. Otherwise accept that people who prioritized consuming said media higher will end up talking about it.

It seems that "spoiling" something has become something akin to a crime. It is kind of silly.

Edit: Good article, btw.

I forget where, but someone posted a study that concluded spoiled books are statistically more enjoyable than unspoiled books. I care about some spoilers, but mostly I don't. When I was a kid, someone told me the entire movie of 'The Last Starfighter', and 9 years later I actually watched the film. I remembered the entire thing from his retelling (he did an extremely thorough job) and only loved the film more thanks to his original telling. However, I don't think this was a film that could be spoiled as the plot is pretty basic.

If someone spoiled Darth Vader's father comment scene for me, I would have been upset.

Dakuna wrote:

I forget where, but someone posted a study that concluded spoiled books are statistically more enjoyable than unspoiled books. I care about some spoilers, but mostly I don't. When I was a kid, someone told me the entire movie of 'The Last Starfighter', and 9 years later I actually watched the film. I remembered the entire thing from his retelling (he did an extremely thorough job) and only loved the film more thanks to his original telling. However, I don't think this was a film that could be spoiled as the plot is pretty basic.

If someone spoiled Darth Vader's father comment scene for me, I would have been upset.

In a lot of cases, I think spoiling probably doesn't matter, but that's mostly because you're really not being spoiled. In other words, there's really not a lot a to spoil in something like The Last Starfighter since it's a pretty straightforward goodguys-beat-the-badguys-and-save-the-day kind of thing. I think we probably throw the term "spoiler" around too much. I mean, can you really "spoil" a sit-com or a cop show these days? They recycle the same plots from the umpteen bazillion shows that came before them! I think the problem only really matters when you have big surprises upon which a major plot point hinges, a la Keyser Soze.

Hmm, maybe this has become a more recent phenomenon because movies and games continue to ramp up the number of crazy plot twists they throw at us these days...like you can't have it just be revealed that the character with amnesia is actually the long lost prince, he's got to be the long lost prince who is actually the clone of a long lost prince who is actually an alien who is actually a princess because she had a sex change operation that she didn't know about or something, which makes he/she the prophesied androgynous Martian prince(ss) destined to do...whatever.

I did freak out the first time I saw the Deathblossom, though. That was rad.

While I've watched Buffy through a number of times, I'd never gotten around to watching Angel. I'm finally doing so, slowly, but I'm not through it yet.

I was reading an article about Much Ado About Nothing, and it was annoying but more than a little hilarious that I only just *now* got an important part of Fred's character development spoiled for me and I'm pretty sure it happens before the end of the season I'm watching. It was in an article that's only related to Angel in the sense that they're talking about Joss Whedon and they had mentioned it in an off-the-cuff aside. D'oh!

Blondish83 wrote:

I often post false spoilers just to freak people out. I posted about the red wedding that I felt bad for the Lannisters and it was something Kings Landing would talk about for a long time. Heh... I got people upset and truly shocked when they actually watched.

This is one of the more hilarious variations of the fake spoilers scenario playing out.

I believe I was just starting season 2 of BSG when my brother walked in and said. "That guy's a Cylon".

I should have punched him right in the face.

OldMud wrote:

I believe I was just starting season 2 of BSG when my brother walked in and said. "That guy's a Cylon".

I should have punched him right in the face.

Was on my way to the theater to see Life is Beautiful and my floor mate says

Spoiler:

"oh yeah he dies at the end."

Whenever I see a picture of George Martin my heart does a funny flip because I think its going to be attached to an article telling me he's died. I saw him at C2E2 in Chicago a couple years ago when the comic version of his vampire book came out and I really wanted to give him a gift bag of vitamins.

cabdodger wrote:

Whenever I see a picture of George Martin my heart does a funny flip because I think its going to be attached to an article telling me he's died. I saw him at C2E2 in Chicago a couple years ago when the comic version of his vampire book came out and I really wanted to give him a gift bag of vitamins.

Though I'm nowhere near as invested in Martin's book series, I do fear he may pull a Robert Jordan. The Wheel of Time just wasn't the same after his death and the dude didn't really look like he was taking care of himself before he croaked. Since Martin's such a healthy and stout looking fellow... :/

I was pretty miffed when the Red Wedding was spoiled on Twitter. It's pretty inconsiderate of people to spoil a story for people who, thanks to schedule or geography, may be a little behind the curve.

But I realised it wasn't any major deal and I got over it rapidly enough.

If I care enough about a movie I'll try watch it early enough, if I don't care much I'm not fussed about being spoiled over social media, although people like my mother who have the habit of saying something like, "this is a pretty good movie, the main character dies in the end" mystify me. But then she reads the end of a book first.

Most TV series are tough to spoil thanks to predictability. GoT is a less predictable show than most, but being based on an existing story the information is already out in the wild.

Games are a bit different to me. They require a pretty significant time investment so the buy in is pretty important. I was quite upset that Dragon Age 2 was spoiled in the thread, spoileriffic discussion of that game went on for pages. But maybe expecting that abomination of a third chapter lessened the blow. I should probably be thankful.

I'm not at all sympathetic to game, and movie, spoiling in sequel threads. Dead Space 2 was spoiled for me in the DS3 thread. Ultimately that was my own damn fault for being somewhere I shouldn't have been. Expecting people to bend over backwards to tag details in that sort of context is self centred, IMO.

The Red Wedding has been spoiled for my wife quite badly, although she still doesn't know who is involved (we're almost through second season right now and I have read the books, she has not). The fact that the entire universe is talking about the red wedding is kinda sad, IMO, especially in light of how little anyone talked about it after reading the books (which has been mentioned before). Hopefully, it will still have the intended impact.

I always felt bad even saying "Red Wedding" in front of people still watching the series. The name of it has implications well enough.

My thoughts on spoilers are not rigid. I don't really give a time frame. Hell, even mentioning that there's a spoiler can sometimes be a spoiler. If I had a friend that had never seen The Usual Suspects, I'd want to give them as little info as possible. Tell them it's a heist movie or something. I feel like some things are better left unknown.

However, The Usual Suspects is also a major movie among a certain crowd. A lot of film buffs really like it. People that only see blockbusters regularly are not as familiar, and as a result, they're less likely to know something like that.

Then there are twists that have entered pop culture lingo. Rosebud is a sled. Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father. And in terms of video games, Sephiroth kills Aeris. These are so embedded in our culture, to the point that "Aerith Lives" was graffiti in Wreck-It-Ralph, that you no longer think of them as spoilers.

When I went to school the weekend after seeing Fellowship of the Ring, a few of my friends that had seen it bitched to me that they couldn't believe Gandalf was dead. I had grown up with Lord of the Rings, so I almost spoiled it for them by asking "What are you talking about?" I had to hold my tongue. The very notion that someone didn't know about Gandalf's role in the series was alien to me. It was so embedded in my life that it would be like spoiling Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella by saying "They all lived happily ever after". Well duh! Of course they did.

And I must confess, the only reason I didn't spoiler tag anything above just now involving Gandalf is because the marketing materials for the sequels gave all that away for me.

Which is, I think, more annoying. One of the things I've discovered watching Netflix, aside from a lack of commercials, is that you can be surprised again. There's nothing more irritating than a preview for next week's episode saying "Don't miss next week, because SOMEONE! WILL! DIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!"

Oh, thanks. Now I'm going to be making predictions about who it is, which means the only surprise will be if I'm wrong.

Ranger Rick's comment about a spoiler above? Thanks to Netflix, that was a genuine surprise to me...then again, I also don't read the episode descriptions. I've been spoiled by a couple of those, too. But that's territory I would expect more care.

ccesarano wrote:

When I went to school the weekend after seeing Fellowship of the Ring, a few of my friends that had seen it bitched to me that they couldn't believe Gandalf was dead.

Ha! That is a really good point! It's funny, I don't know why I would expect that everybody knew that going in, because now that I think about it, I certainly know more people who haven't read The Lord of the Rings than have. Hell, I saw the movie with my dad, and didn't know anything about it. Yet, it would've never even occurred to me that this was something that could even be spoiled. It's just one of those things like Star Wars to me, I suppose since I first read the books when I was young, I just assumed it was part of pop culture, but obviously that's not the case! That said, if I was to have accidentally spoiled something about LOTR, It think I'd have to claim it as one of those instances where the statute of limitations has run out considering the story has been around for more than half a century!

Interesting.

One of the problems I have that might be unusual is that I can usually spot a plot twist from a mile off, and I can piece together seemingly unrelated sorts of information to parse a number of possible scenarios, generally unconsciously. To my knowledge, the only plot twist that genuinely caught me unawares was The Usual Suspects.

Spoiler:

From the moment Anders asks you to do something without telling you specifically what it is, my head alarms went off immediately and posited several likely scenarios, informed by the nature of what we were collecting. It was clearly heading towards something shatteringly, exploderifically bad.

It feels weird when you come across the plot twist moment and you're like, "Ah, so it's finally happening," when so many other peeps are like, "WTF?!?" I know I'm not alone here. I wasn't at all surprised at the original ME3 denouement and several others were of like mind.

So what do you do when you're possibly spoiling a movie you're watching for the first time?

I'll say, "Oh no."

And my wife is like, "Wait, what?! Tell me! No, don't tell me. No tell me! No, don't! You've watched this before haven't you?!?!?"

...

LarryC wrote:

Interesting.

One of the problems I have that might be unusual is that I can usually spot a plot twist from a mile off, and I can piece together seemingly unrelated sorts of information to parse a number of possible scenarios, generally unconsciously . . .

Same problem here but it's not really unconscious, just apply that old theatre principle: a gun shown in the first act should be used by the third (paraphrased from wherever). Same applies in reverse, if you suspect that a gun is used in the third act, look for it in the first act. Now you know how to spoil yourself

Even if something is spoiled though, the means to get there can still be great. It's really interesting to see how the author cues up the moment if you already know the outcome.

Man, whenever I notice Chekov's Gun scenarios, my mind goes to "OMG they're going to use that! I can't wait!"...

I used to say things like that I want a deeper experience, but I've recently begun telling people that I am more interested in dissecting the pig. It's an explanation that I think avoids saying that my way is in any way superior.

I am very spoiler sensitive and therefore add that to my many reasons not to regularly check social media sites.

Also, showing my wife Star Trek this year because of the new movie. Yes, I mean all of Star Trek. We're currently in DS9, season 4. I really had to bite my tongue not to tell her many, many things yet so she can experience them firsthand. That tongue biting is a game of its own.

I recently did the same with my wife, but it was in preperation for a Star Trek convention. She'd seen all of TNG just because, but we watched all of the original series and the TOS movies. I was quite pleased that I was able to keep the ending of the second movie (and plot of the third) a secret from her the entire time.

Oh DS9. I wish I could erase it from memory and re-watch it in all its glory.