No, I’m not talking like Elmer Fudd. 🙂 After angsting about the crazy length of the fourth season, and preparing for next season’s start (which should be by the end of spring), I finally bit the bullet and decided that sixty-three episodes are just too much for one season to bear.
Part of me dislikes the decision; I always intended the fourth season to end a certain way, and that was with the Laurie/Victor wedding. That stubbornness is why I stuck to my guns (um, pun not intended) and forged ahead with the season, episode after episode, until the season bloated to a crazy length and finally, at long last, that damn wedding finally made its appearance.
But it is bloated, and I just can’t get around it. The bulkiness of the episodes is daunting for anyone to look at, much less newcomers to the serial, and I just don’t want people reading through ASF to make it through three seasons, only to find themselves at the fourth and seeing sixty-three episodes still to go. That would overwhelm anyone. (And these are generally not short episodes, either! The last four episodes alone are nearly 100K words!)
As serendipity would have it, there was a set-piece big enough (almost) for a finale: the destruction at PlayCity, which comes at #4.38, or a little over the midway point. The episode itself is full of action involving the biggest storyline of the season (at that point), with four characters in grave jeopardy, and a ticking clock that keeps things moving forward. There’s also the smaller cliffhanger involving Martina, Mike and a certain DVD.
Splitting the season there left (originally) 25 episodes for the new Season 5. Relatively short (compared to the previous three seasons) but respectable nonetheless. And, storywise, things move forward with the aftermath of the PlayCity storyline, and pushing ahead until the focus shifts to Operation Mousetrap.
Not content to leave well enough alone, I also made the executive decision to do some episode splitting when it came to the more massive episodes. Basically, anything in the new Fifth Season that was longer than 12 scenes, and had a decent cliffhanger at the midpoint, has been split off into its own episode.
This doesn’t really affect much… until one gets to the final batch of episodes. Three out of the last four episodes, consisting of “Operation Mousetrap: The Bait,” “Operation Mousetrap: The Switch,” and “Season Finale Part 1, Throwing the Bouquet,” are each split into two acts totalling either 12 or 13 scenes. And the very last episode, “Season Finale Part 2, Torn Asunder,” had three acts with 21 scenes! That’s just insanity.
So now each of these episodes has been split into two separate entities. Only “Torn Asunder, Part 2” has a two-act structure within it, because while I could have hypothetically split it into three episodes, thematically and emotionally the episode, particular everything that begins with the actual ceremony, needs to be kept together. As a result, in order to maintain a strong enough cliffhanger/ending for Torn Asunder Part 1, that meant moving around some scenes within the episode. Luckily this wasn’t difficult to do, and none of the chronology was affected at all; I am 100% convinced that no one will notice that the scenes have been moved around, it’s that subtle a difference. Oh, and of course I had to change all of the recaps to reflect the differences, including adding NEW recaps for episodes that didn’t exist before. And splitting up the print episodes accordingly. Whew.
As a result of all this, the new Fifth Season has 29 episodes, with the very last episode–“Torn Asunder, Part 2″–containing a much more reasonable 12 scenes.
To be honest, when I began this process, I had no idea how much effort it would take to accomplish such a major restructuring. And I’m not yet finished, either, even though the hardest part is done–renaming the episodes, creating the new file structure, rejiggering the scenes, ensuring that the links work, and updating the episode references in the text itself (in page titles, in navigation breadcrumbs, at the start of each episode, at the end of each episode, in the print episodes…). Very fortunately, the HTML editor I use, Dreamweaver, is very good about updating links if you’re assiduous about using their file manager to move documents around. So in other words, when I changed the files for episode #4.39 to #5.01, that meant moving them to a new main folder called s05, and a subfolder called 01, and renaming each individual file from (for example) 043901.html to 050101.html. Once I made these changes, the program automatically updates every link from s04/39/043901.html to the correct new path, s05/01/050101.html.
Sounds ridiculously complex, right? Well, this is why it took me so long not just to make the decision to change, but to perform the change. I have literally just finished updating the file structure after two full days of work. That doesn’t mean I’m done, as I said. I still need to:
1) Update all of the episode graphics post #4.37. (Even #4.38 now needs to be updated to reflect that it’s the Season Finale of the fourth season.)
2) Update all of the opening credit sequences to point to these new images.
3) Update the episode archives and create a new “season five” tab.
4) Create redirects for each episode post #4.38. This is to ensure that if anyone, anywhere, happened to link to (say) Ep. #4.53, the page won’t result in an error, but will instead switch to Ep. #5.15. (Oy, that took some calculating…)
5) Go into the ASF Forum and change all the episode threads to reflect the new names, including links and graphics within the thread. (If I’m successful with the redirects I may not need to do the links…)
So, yeah, as you see, this has been a major undertaking and it’s obviously nuts of me to do this. But my gut tells me it’s the right decision, and should have been my decision all along–if I’d pulled the trigger as I should have once the PlayCity building went poof, I wouldn’t be going through this tsuris now. However, as I’ve stated before, the reason I didn’t want the season to end with #4.38 was the simple fact that Season 03 ended with a building being destroyed. I didn’t like the idea of repeating myself. However, I guess now I can kinda say that there’s a parallelism going on: the person who caused the building to explode in the finale to Season 03 (trying to avoid some spoilers) is actually the one trying to stop the building from exploding in the finale to Season 04. (Though he’s kinda responsible for it anyway.) Hey, it was totally artistically intentional all along! Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Very very long story short: The new structure will be launched later this week. And when the new season begins, it will be Season 06. Bring out the confetti!