Even when you have a great piece of fiction, sometimes one of your characters just falls flat. Maybe it’s their backstory, maybe the author didn’t know what to do with them, or maybe they’re surrounded by better characters that highlight how boring their stupid suckass faces are. What’s more, these character’s faults can affect the overall quality of their story, no matter how good it is. Looking back, though, it’s clear how some of these characters forgotten by their plots could have better served their story.
Breaking Bad: Walt Jr.
Breaking Bad: Walt Jr.
Breaking Bad will go down as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and rightfully so. The superb acting, the excellent camera work, and the near-perfect pacing changed television and reminded viewers, “Oh, yeah, AMC exists.” But one of the biggest complaints fans have about the show is the uselessness of the character Walt Jr. to the story. Walter White’s son is primarily relegated to complaining about not having Raisin Bran Crunch at breakfast, and making the website that is briefly used to launder Heisenberg’s drug money. It really does seem weird that on such a tightly written show, he isn’t ever given anything to do.
There are legitimately no photos of Walt Jr. where he doesn’t look ready to kill for some breakfast.
The Fix: Make Him The One Who Has Cancer
Walter White’s raison d’etre is to cook and sell enough meth to support his family after he dies of lung cancer. But, what if he isn’t in danger of dying, but his son is? Walter Jr. contracting cancer or some other terminal disease instead of his father could create a more interesting dynamic for his son without damaging the rest of the show. Walter still gets into cooking meth — to pay for his son’s medical bills — and can still alienate his family and humanity as he descends into full-on villainy as a drug kingpin.
An underlying theme of Walt’s transformation from Mr. Chips to Scarface is the rediscovery of his masculinity through cooking meth and providing for his family. This is shown all the way back in the first episode of the show when he satisfies his wife in bed after cooking meth for the first time, instead of settling for the lackluster hand-job he gets earlier in the episode. The ultimate perceived end-goal of masculinity is to ensure your genes continue to live on through your children. Walt Jr.’s sickness can parallel Walter’s meth cooking, and how he is destroying his own legacy as a good man by destroying thousands of lives with his meth.
Walt Jr. also affords another opportunity that the show couldn’t do: what if he died? Suddenly, Walter’s personal crisis over continuing to cook has a different context, but a clearer answer, since he doesn’t have to pay for his son’s treatment anymore. By season two, Walter is in remission yet spends enough time agonizing over whether he wants to keep cooking or not that the audience can still hold out hope that he can end up, overall, a good guy who took a bad detour once. But now, with Walt Jr.’s death, the lines are much clearer, and the audience can accept that, no, Heisenberg is wrong and we shouldn’t be applauding the fact that he can “win” in the end by saving Jesse, killing the Nazis, and setting up college funds for his kids.
Walter is a villain, an engaging one to watch, but nonetheless a villain who has destroyed his family, his community, and his legacy with his actions. All of this can still happen if Walt Jr. is dying instead of him, but the metaphorical poison of his meth cooking is now not solely focused on his own health, but that of his son and his legacy. Walter is a horrible person who ultimately cooked meth for himself, not his family and the death of his son would solidify the end of his journey, and would give Walt Jr. more to be sick of than sub-par cereal.
Star Wars: Mace Windu
Star Wars: Mace Windu
Samuel L. Jackson in a Star Wars movie should’ve been amazing, thanks to his history of playing badasses with cool one-liners and commanding presences. But like pretty much everything else in the Star Wars prequels, Jackson’s character Mace Windu was left uninteresting and underdeveloped. I mean, this guy got to fight Darth Sidious and still managed to be part of the stiffest and blandest lightsaber fight in the prequels, and that was one of the only things those films could do right! While he’s not the only wasted actor in the series, his role hurts just a little bit more than most.
Even after he asked Lucas to not have Windu “die like a punk.”
The Fix: Make Him Leader Of The Jedi
Whether because George Lucas wasn’t sure how to do it, or didn’t know he should’ve done it, the prequels didn’t dwell a huge amount on the moral quandary of peacekeepers being in charge of the military. But with a character portrayed by one of cinema’s most intimidating actors, one allowed to tap into that mystique to inform his Jedi character, it’s easy to see how the Jedi could get swept up in their leader’s call to chop people’s faces off for the sake of peace. Windu, at least in the old pre-Disney canon, was written in supplementary material to be more aggressive and skilled in combat than his contemporaries, implying a certain interest in fighting beyond Jedi-approved levels. He even created a new form of lightsaber combat to dominate his opponents, one that had a tendency to push its users towards the dark side. Making him more gung-ho about war than others would be an easy extension of that.
Windu is now a foil for heroes like Obi-Wan and Darth Podrace, with each of them reacting to his militarization of the Jedi in different ways, graying the lines of the notoriously rigid Jedi/Sith dynamic shown in the movies. But ultimately, when Windu confronts Palpatine in Revenge Of The Sith, and Anakin finds him about to kill the Chancellor, the audience can now accept why Anakin might be ready to accept Palpatine’s lies about Windu and the militant Jedi having betrayed their ideals to overthrow the Republic. Trying to follow the Jedi way as espoused by Windu while still being true to the Jedi Code makes Anakin’s turn to the dark side less sudden and can let us see the internal conflict more clearly. In other words, it becomes Justified Emo.
But if Windu is now the leader of the Jedi, what does this mean for the current leader and everyone’s favorite frog puppet Yoda? Well, now his characterization can also be changed for the better. The Yoda of the original trilogy is a calm, weathered old alien who is one with the Force and never without some simple-yet-deep messages for an impatient Luke. In the prequels, however, he sits around all day until he can go jumping around in lightsaber fights with sick flips and spins, which kinda betrays his teachings from Empire with his talk of “wars make not one great.” But if Windu was the head of the order, Yoda could instead be written as someone who had transcended such titles because of his connection with the Force.
Someone as powerful as Yoda should be above the day-to-day minutia of the Jedi, as well as someone who’s willing to let Padawans and Masters solve problems on their own instead of running to him for broken-English wisdom. But as Windu begins militarizing the Jedi more and more, even Yoda couldn’t keep his opinions to himself, and would eventually have to try and convince the Jedi to hit a blunt and chill the hell out. Sadly, he would find that his words fell on deaf ears thanks to the subtle corruption of Sidious and the allure of glory in the Clone Wars. Now we have a huge, yet narratively coherent, fault for Yoda: he was too complacent after the fall of the Sith a thousand years ago, and didn’t believe it necessary to keep preaching to the choir. He failed the Jedi and retreated into exile because of it. His reaction to Luke leaving for Bespin is now informed by this desire to keep teaching Luke as long as possible, the exact opposite of his actions in the prequels. When he tells Luke the only way to bring balance back to the Force is to chop the shit out of his father, a way of redemption for his failures, Luke’s decision to take the third option and redeem Anakin is another powerful way to show how Luke is going to change the Jedi for the better.
Batman V Superman: Bruce Wayne
Batman V Superman: Bruce Wayne
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was, simply put, one of the most abysmal attempts at making a superhero movie since Steel. But what most people seem to agree on was that Ben Affleck wasn’t that bad as Batman. True, their last chance to see Affleck as a superhero was Daredevil, so it could just be a comparison game. But, despite the agreements on his acting, a lot of fans found the Batman of this movie to be too far removed from his regular incarnations. He was willing to kill, hated Superman, and was so devoid of humor and lightness that his presence sucked all the color out of the film stock.
The Fix: Have Bruce Work With Luthor
An easy answer to fixing Bruce Wayne was to pull him back towards his regular incarnations. But I think that it’s okay to create new incarnations of Batman/Bruce not constrained by the past. We went from ’60s camp to Burton’s darkness to the Animated Series to the Nolanverse, and each one has things to recommend. Nevertheless, I don’t believe this version of Batman works, because he’s still portrayed as a genius who doesn’t realize that Luthor is a douchebag.
His impetus for hating Superman in this movie, however, is the destruction of Metropolis, and his pure hatred for this should obviously cloud his judgement. And if his better thought process is confused, and is supposed to be emotionally damaged from his years of crime fighting (and … well, dressing like a goddamn bat), why not have him resort to teaming up with the other rich guy who wants to bring down the devil from above? Bruce working with Lex shows how far he’s willing to go to kill Superman, working with a guy he probably doesn’t know a lot about, in exchange for access to his R&D department. But, no matter what universe you’re in, Bruce should know better than to trust any version of Lex Luthor.
Luthor’s additional resources at his disposal, ones he does flex in the movie, show how easy it is to frame Superman for horrible crimes, like blowing up the Capitol or killing soldiers in Africa. While others might question it, Bruce will trust Luthor’s version of events thanks to confirmation bias, and continue to work on kryptonite weapons. Luthor’s plan becomes simple: let Bruce/Batman spend the time and effort to make the weapons, let his paranoia get either Batman or Superman killed, then pick off the survivor. Like a Hunger Games, except with way more capes.
This characterization also shows how even someone as brilliant as Bruce can be tricked by Luthor, emphasizing his danger as a villain and as a puppet master who can feed on all of your insecurities with a simple conversation. Instead of the cowardly pussy that Superman regularly beat the shit out of in the old movies.
Game Of Thrones: Rickon Stark
Game Of Thrones: Rickon Stark
If there’s one thing George R.R. Martin probably regrets a lot about his masterwork, A Song Of Ice And Fire, aka Game Of Thrones for show-watchers, it’s that he gave Ned Stark so many kids. Every child, save one, is given a unique story, from Arya’s assassin training to Robb commanding a war against his father’s killers. But poor Rickon spends the first season doing nothing, spends the second and third hanging out with Bran, and then disappears until he’s killed as a ploy for Jon Snow to fall for. Now we don’t know what will happen to him in the book series, but I have little hope when his direwolf avatar is literally named “Shaggydog.”
The Fix: Give Him Warging Powers
In the Game Of Thrones universe, wargs are people who can transfer their consciousness to an animal and command them as an extension of themselves. Bran Stark, Rickon’s brother, has this power, but is so powerful that he forgoes animals and instead jumps into the body of Hodor. But since the show tried to pair up Rickon and Bran in the early seasons, why not let Rickon get in on that warging action too? And if Rickon is going to warg, what better animal to serve as his out-of-body avatar than Shaggydog?
Rickon, as a child, would obviously enjoy the thrill of turning into a big scary direwolf, serving as another part of Bran’s protection detail as they head for the Wall. If Bran still sends him away at the Wall, he and Osha can now defend each other from enemies, instead of hiding out at a castle only to be betrayed and given to Ramsay like a cheap, shitty office Christmas party gift. In the books, Jon, Bran, and even Arya have moments where they dream about warging into their direwolves, but the show has no such scenes. Letting Rickon have these experiences can emphasize how Bran isn’t alone in the Stark clan, and can hint at future development for his siblings. But even if all the stuff with Ramsay still happens, Rickon’s adventures in Shaggydog give him a unique way to stay alive. Or maybe he can be really good at basketball while in dog form — hey, it worked for Air Bud.
Jon had previously killed a warg, Orell, who upon his death, was able to warg into the body of his eagle, allowing him to escape death. Rickon can do something similar, warging into Shaggydog after being used and killed by Ramsay in some sadistic way. Shaggydog is now the last bit of Rickon still alive, yet he’s still a big wolf who can help Jon fight his enemies or tear out Ramsay’s throat. The show now also faces the weird, but cool, concept of working with a direwolf with the consciousness of a human permanently inside it, and the consequences of it when Rickon’s mind starts to disappear completely into the animal. It’s another take on the classic “man-becomes-monster” story while allowing the youngest of the Starks to have at least some sort of narrative point. Or that basketball thing. I’m good with either scenario.
Ghostbusters II: Winston Zeddemore
Ghostbusters II: Winston Zeddemore
Ghostbusters is one of the greatest comedies ever made. Its sequel, not so much. But while the second one was criticized for being a retread of the original, it’s not like the first one was exactly perfect. Especially when it comes to Winston. Introduced halfway through the first movie with little fanfare, he was basically all but forgotten in the sequel’s script, even though he helped save New York just as much as any of the other Ghostbusters.
The Fix: Have Him Get The Gang Back Together
If we have to stick to Ghostbusters II‘s overall conceit that everybody thinks the Ghostbusters faked everything in New York, which is kind of dumb but whatever, we can still give Winston a starring role. While Venkman, Spengler, and Stantz are each shown to be comfortable in their new lives after their busting days are over, Winston doesn’t imply he has anything going on other than showing up at kids’ birthday parties. Using the first movie as a base, where he took the job since it had a paycheck, he probably doesn’t have a lot of marketable skills and would likely miss the rush of a career where he made a genuine difference.
Winston, whether the movie admits it or not, is a main character and a Ghostbuster, so he should have a major role in the story. Forgetting he exists does his character a disservice, since he is the “normal” member of the team who can play off Egon/Ray’s scientific mumbo jumbo and Peter’s general dick-ishness in some funny ways. So, in this version, Winston can be the one who finds the river of emotion slime underneath the streets of NYC and, thanks to his previous experience, knows this a job for the Ghostbusters. We now follow him as he spends the first act of the movie convincing the other guys to get back in the game to save New York, making him a driving force for the narrative. As the only non-scientist on the team, he’s a logical tether for the audience as we also want to see him succeed in remaking the Ghostbusters to take down that weird painting guy.
If we change the central conceit of the film, just have the Ghostbusters succumb to inter-team fighting and breaking up in between movies, investing us more in Winston’s goal to bring them back together. Basically, make them the Van Halen of the busting world. He’s now the glue that holds them all together, and is able to act as that mediator for the obvious conflicts someone like Venkman would have with Ray. Winston is now the antithesis of that emotion slime that’s causing the resurgence in ghosts. Whereas the goop wants to let out the hatred inside, Winston will bring out the positives in the team’s relationships, helping them realize that they did, and can still, work well together. Basically, bustin’ makes them feel good.
If anything, adding more Winston and cutting down on the amount of Venkman (I know, a blasphemous claim) would at least give Murray some more time off, so maybe he wouldn’t be as uninterested and bored as he looks in the film. As the central character, Winston gets the role that should be afforded to a main character, and lets Ernie Hudson feel like the audience surrogate he probably should’ve been all along.
That, or just make the final boss fight into a basketball game of them versus a dog.