What’s up with that middle thing?
Case in point: There is an epic film trilogy, set in an alternate world where Good battles Evil. The trilogy follows the story of a callow young fellow who has been growing up in a small rural backwater. Under the tutelage of a mysterious and powerful, yet kindly old mentor with great powers, he ends up being thrust into the very center of the epic battle. You’ve probably seen it.
In the second of the three films, a strange gnomish figure appears. He is short and unsettlingly alien in appearance, and is incredibly ancient. He moves with an odd ungainly grace and speaks very strangely, with a noticably garbled syntax. This character is brought to life on the screen by the latest in Hollywood special effects puppetry. We soon come to realize that this strange little being is at the very center of the struggle between good and evil.
I’m speaking, of course, of Yoda. I mean Gollum. I mean Yoda. I mean Gollum (insert famous scene from Chinatown here).
Here’s another example: A laid back singer/songwriter writes and sings a song during the hippie era about a mysterious and elusive woman named Suzanne who has clearly touched him deeply. The first and third verses are about the emotional effect she has had on him. But that second verse is different — he doesn’t mention Suzanne at all. Instead, in he takes a detour and sings about Jesus. And somehow it all works.
I’m speaking about Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. I mean James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. I mean Suzanne. I mean Fire and Rain (cut to Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway).
This idea of a surprising, yet crucial, new character appearing suddenly in the second part of a three part narrative seems to be a recurring trope in popular culture, and maybe there should be a name for it. I’ll go with Kevin Klein as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, who almost certainly would have called it “that middle thing”.