Eleventh Hour: Pinocchio

Eleventh Hour aired last night. As if to protect me, my TV only provided me with the background music (which was lovely!), and no dialogue track. Amazingly, this did not affect the show-watching experience whatsoever. It turns out there is a subliminal function to all the repeated frowning-and-pointing at translucent DNA maps. Who knew?

This episode, “Pinocchio,” is about cloning babies to provide organs for the terminally ill. Ignore all the scientific, ethical, and dramatic implications of that—they do!—and instead get ready for a lot of pearl-clutching by Dr. Rufus, who doesn’t realize he’d be ten times more interesting if he sometimes took a more ruthless scientific approach to some things instead of constantly being appalled that people do science things like freeze their own heads.

However, in addition to the charming silent-film homage, this episode is an excellent adventure in how to structure an overarching hero/villain standoff. Some storytelling tips below, from the bottom of Rufus Sewell’s heart to you.

1. If you introduce a villain (such as Geppetto the Baby-Cloner) in the first episode, you might want to bring them back again before Episode Thirteen, but no rush. Nothing says “important arch nemesis episode” like someone who hasn’t even been mentioned in the last twelve weeks. Surprise the hero and your audience at the same time!

2. When at all possible, outsource the grunt work of your evil empire. In this case, use a truckload of illegal immigrants to smuggle clone quadruplets across the Mexican border. Sure, three of them are caught by Immigration agents (and sent back to the warehouse? Left on a hill as sacrifices for Zeus? I’ll never know), but one makes it to safety in the hands of a concerned set of parents, making your chances of success a reasonable 25%.

(It also makes this the thirty-fifth Eleventh Hour episode in a row about how heterosexual married parents are more virtuous and deserving of happiness than any other family unit, but that’s a different list.)

3. When you reintroduce your hero’s arch nemesis, have her talk a lot on a Blackberry headset while other people do all the work of tracking down clone babies and shooting guest-star police officers. A good villain knows when to delegate!

4. If you’re going to have a tense standoff between your hero and his arch nemesis, make it as vague as possible. Everyone loves references to things that have never come up before and aren’t explained; it leaves mystery for when your bad guy reappears thirteen episodes from now.

5. After the climactic standoff, arrest your arch nemesis without incident while she’s terminally ill, feeble, and shackled to a hospital bed. SCIENCE!

Watch every breathtaking moment below! (If you fall asleep, just hit Replay.)

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