A Good Time To Die
I’ve just begun watching This Is Us (on Hulu; I forget which network it’s from but I think NBC), and in the Pilot, one of the subplots involves a man taking his wife to the hospital to deliver their expected triplets. It’s the man’s birthday. And this is a complicated pregnancy.
The old doctor delivering their baby (Gerald McRaney, in a stellar supporting role) is briskly professional, but compassionate. The story plays through a familiar scene for drama: a complicated birth.
When stories take time for the birth to happen, there is an automatic, implicit drama at work. Hulu’s first promo-shot for the show, just before each episode begins, is of the expectant father sitting on a chair in the hospital waiting for……
Not birth, but a death.
When they came in, there was a murmur about how “this is a complicated birth”, which she reassures him will be alright. He is confident: it’s his birthday. Hell, he even says that — almost visibly leaning into the dramatic tension.
The lives of his wife, and their three children, hang in the balance. He was dragged out of the Room by the nurses hours ago, and now can only sit biting his thumbs and staring at the green hospital lanoleum (sic?) => linoleum. Thank you, wordchecker.
Which is a perfect moment to move on to something verymuch the same, but in an entirely different context.
In a 1994(orso) interview about True Romance, Quentin Tarantino talks about the brutal fight-scene between Alabama and one of the Mafia hitmen (played by the inimitable James Gandolfini), and WHY it is such a nervewracking scene.
To paraphrase (as it’s 12:51 ayem & the only nextime I stand up will be when I move from here to my bed): “This fight falls in the third quarter of the film. At this point, it would make sense, narratively, for Alabama to die. Avenging her could be how Clarence spends the last part of the movie.”
Playing on viewers’ sense of that potential plot-progression.
And things. Gawd, but I’m beat. There’s a last part of this blog, but I’m just gonna lay it out quick. Don’t have the energy to come up with some clever tie-it-all-together ending.
The last bit, then, is the connection from This Is Us’ PiLOT to another excellent childbirth-drama scene, from the opening of BLANCANiEVES. The story opens in an arena, as a prominent bullfighter is about to skewer six in a row. The first five slide by in an elegant little montage, but just before he turns to face Bull #6 (somewhat ominously named Lucifer), he turns to his pregnant wife up in the stands and says one of the single. Most. Laughably foreboding. Things. I have ever heard.
“To you, and to the child we are expecting!”
The dramatic irony is so thick, it might as well appear in the cast-list.
That’s why I wrote this. Partly, originally, just to pass the time for a long upload (now at 98% — just as this blog is wrapping up, too! 1:01am), and also to convey this funny three-bit-link that occurred to me @ work today, in a brief convo w/a coworker about This Is Us.
But more significantly: the thing of having a birth-scene.
It’s a lodestone of drama. Cuz everyone involved is intensely concerned for what is about to (is, right NOW) happening. Life and death hang in the balance, in a very palpable way.
[trying to come up w/a way of saying “most stories skip over the…” but I can sense that sentence would be trouble. Generalizations like that can easily expose you to correction &/or mockery, from folx who wanna poke holes in things.]
Something, something. Birth and life. I’m too damn tired, and this is too important a subject to …… aw, hell. I’m clearly not gonna end this any better any how, so…..