Wing Wednesday: The Ep.13 That Almost Was

The episode of MSAGW that we released last week is very different from how it started. So different, in fact, that I thought it would be fun to show its original concept to you for this Wing Wednesday. [I’d also contemplated making it a video, but since Wing footage is hard to show without getting flagged by Bandai, a blog’s just easier. :’) ]

“So There I Was” Pt.2

Many of you have pointed out how this felt like a sequel to Ep.9, the “context” episode. And it’s definitely true that Ep.13 uses a flashback setup to tell its story out of order and draw some laughs! The big difference between “So there I was…” and “Yep! That’s me…” however, is that “So there I was…” was intended from the start.

We conceptualized Ep.9 as an experimental episode that would tell two simultaneous stories through flashbacks. We’d jump back and forth between each being told through their characters’ perspectives– one with Heero/Trowa, the other with Noin/Zechs– to sum up all the events that led them to Antarctica. It was also a way to give Sylvia something to do, because honestly, I didn’t know what to do with her otherwise. Her subplot of avoiding Oz is kind of inconsequential and weird in the original show. This gave her a reason for being here.

Every episode we make has a throughline to its story: the episode starts with a character in one spot, and finishes with them in another. Ep.1 starts with Heero losing his Gundam to the ocean, and ends with him blowing it up with torpedoes. Ep.6 starts with Wufei chasing Treize, and ends with him sulking to the bottom of the sea. Ep.13, much like Ep.9, was difficult to find that “throughline” because characters were so scattered and no singular event could carry an entire episode on its own. The best one we had was Duo getting caught, then seeing Deathscythe destroyed, but he was so disconnected from events between those two moments that it wasn’t really his story. So much like Ep.9, we had to make it everyone’s story.

We ultimately landed on “Yep! That’s me…” but it started as something else:

A Story in Reverse

Oftentimes as the head writer, I want to experiment to make each episode structurally different from not only Wing itself, but also our own episodes and other abridged series. Part of the fun of retelling Wing is doing so in ways you don’t expect, so you can still be surprised despite already knowing how the story plays out. When originally outlining Ep.13’s events, I had a crazy idea: what if we told the story backwards?

Yep. I wanted to pull a Memento.

See, we had a few chief problems to address within our canon:

  • How did Trowa go undercover at Oz and why does Une trust him so much
  • How do we give any weight to the “twist” of Trowa showing up in Oz gear when we all know he’s not actually the bad guy
  • If Deathscythe blowing up is the episode’s climax, how do Heero and Wufei get captured if Trowa isn’t undercover yet for most of the episode

And I thought… what if the surprise isn’t what happens, but why or how it happened?

The first idea that set us on this path was Une knowing that Trowa was a Gundam pilot, but opting to use him as her guinea pig. Essentially, we’d start the episode with him blowing up Deathscythe, have his big reveal, then immediately undercut it by showing Une’s conversation with Nichol to say, “Yeah, I know.” This would give the rest of his appearances a comedic kind of dramatic irony, where he’s trying to be super top secret and sneaky, but everyone in Oz knows who he is.

With that as our new throughline, the script became a puzzle we had to put together. How and when does Duo get captured then freed by Heero? When does Zechs get involved? Wufei? Tuberov? We began writing the script in reverse order with each scene relating to the one before it in a clear way. For example, Zechs showing up as “Milliardo Peacecraft” led to the fight between him and the new Oz suits. That scene then led to Heero getting captured by Trowa, etc. etc. We wanted the first scene set in the future to be given new context by the next scene set in the immediate past. And for many scenes, it was working!

The problem was… we had no idea how to end it. Unlike Memento, to keep that comparison, there was no satisfying meeting point between current events and flashbacks. There was no “aha!” at the very beginning for a payoff to telling the story backwards. The episode’s chronological events kind of had to begin with Duo getting captured by Dolls, because nothing else could happen until he did. Heero couldn’t free him from prison, nor could he get caught by Trowa. Zechs couldn’t fight them until Heero was caught. Deathscythe couldn’t be destroyed until it was in Oz’s hands. Etc. And that being how the episode ends just wasn’t satisfying.

“Yep! That’s me…”

Enter Treize. He was our final shot at making this backwards plan work. Since our Treize apparently knows everything that’s going to happen before it does, he could be the satisfying ending we needed. He became our new throughline.

The key issue with this, however, is how disconnected he is from every event in this span of the show. Within the original canon, he does… nothing here. The fact that power is being taken away from him at this point in time is a major plot point, and why Une kind of goes off the rails. So we would need to somehow connect him to everything happening, have his influence be felt in every decision. And that’s what we tried to do.

Why does Une know Trowa is a Gundam pilot and decide to use him? A call from Treize. Why does Trowa decide to do this in the first place? An emailed Oz application, sent anonymously by Treize. How is Wufei caught after flying away from Barge? Treize convinces Dermail to send Tuberov to that exact location, knowing he’ll be too tempted to capture the Gundam rather than destroy it. We were trying to retrofit Treize subtly into everything that occurred so that we could end with him at his desk, looking smug, and just saying, “All according to plan.”

But while in concept this sounds cool as hell, in practice it felt… underwhelming? Mainly because there was no real payoff yet. His “plan” didn’t accomplish anything significant within this episode. Deathscythe was destroyed, yes, but they still have a mole in Oz, Zechs is sort of… there, and half the major cast– Quatre, Relena, Noin, Sally– are unaccounted for. There was no major turning point that Treize could be smug about, really. I didn’t like it.

But there was something I did like: In transitioning from scene to scene, we started letting each character have their own “Yep! That’s me…” freeze frame to connect the current scene to the next one. This culminated in Treize saying it, with the final scene being him at his desk in the dark outright breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience what he did. While I no longer thought that telling this story backwards was feasible, I’d gotten kind of attached to the silly “Yep! That’s me…” meme. So we kept it.

With most major scenes already written, now all we had to do was put them back in order. “In order” wan’t clear cut, though, because we were back to the problem of what our throughline was: if we started with Duo getting captured, we had to end with Duo screaming “NOOOO!” right?

Who Destroys Deathscythe?

As previously mentioned, Trowa needed to already be undercover before Deathscythe’s destruction, if Deathscythe blowing up was going to be our climax. We had a few options here:

Trowa could still blow up Deathscythe. This would be a ‘test’ of sorts, to see how far Une could push her new toy. And it could create tension between Duo and Trowa when they next meet. But our Trowa doesn’t really see “the Gundams” as sentimental or even a team. He outright told Quatre that in Ep.11, how he was tired of babysitting and if he had to fight Oz by himself, he would. He has no attachment to Duo or his Gundam. We could, of course, use this for a punchline– imagine Nichol trying to make it a big deal before Trowa just casually shoots before he’s even finished talking– but that didn’t feel satisfying.

Hilde could blow up Deathstythe. Our recent episodes have ended with twists to make you rethink what you know about this show (Ep.10’s Sylvia reveal, and Ep.11’s “Sandy” reveal). And there was a period of time where we considered making Hilde our twist for this episode. The footage is all there: just take shots of her in a Leo cockpit, cut her into the parts where Trowa should be, and have her be the new recruit that Oz gives the honor of destroying Deathscythe. It would be gut-wrenching, seeing her so upbeat and positive while Duo suffers. But… what would it do for the show going forward? We gave this serious thought, as our very next episode will be about Duo and Hilde. In the original show, Hilde is eventually won over by Duo’s kindness and persistence in accomplishing his goal, and we felt like manufacturing drama between them by making Hilde the one who destroyed his baby ran counter to that. Since Hilde and Duo need to reconcile quickly, we didn’t want that reconciliation to feel rushed or out of character.

Just some Ozzie could blow up Deathscythe. While lacking in any ‘twist’ or the like, this option let Deathscythe’s destruction be about Duo, and Duo alone. If we diverted attention away from Duo’s emotional moment by revealing the pilot who pulled the trigger, we would be telling the audience, “THIS IS IMPORTANT,” and distract from the real point of the scene: that Duo has lost everything. This is why we don’t show the pilot who did it. They’re unimportant. This is also why we show Trowa watching it happen live: he’s not the one who did it. In this sense, Duo’s loss and ire can be pointed directly at Oz and no one else, and I think that’s more fitting for what we’re trying to do.

Bonus: Treize could blow up Deathscythe. There was a very brief moment where I considered bringing back the “all according to plan” ending and just putting Treize in the cockpit. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen, but I thought you all should know it did cross my mind.

And that’s it! A little behind-the-scenes look at the scripting process and how ideas change over time. If you guys have any other burning questions about the show’s process, let me know in the comments and I might just answer yours in a future blog post.

See you next Wing Wednesday, on August 2nd!