When the Little Things Pay Off

Hey everyone! The semester is over, and it looks like I finally have enough time to get back to having weekly posts. So for this week, I decided I would discuss my favorite examples of foreshadowing in pop culture. Foreshadowing is something I love. It can be a subtle indication to the audience of what’s coming later on, and it can add great re-watch/re-read value to a story. I greatly appreciate when all the tiny details in every line of dialogue means something. Here are some of my favorite examples of this.

Spoilers For The Incredibles,  Rick and Morty Season 3 premiere, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Game of Thrones up to the end of Season 6, and light-spoilers for Hot Fuzz.

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If you get nothing else from this post, remember this: one of The Incredibles’ most iconic lines is actually crucial foreshadowing. When Mr. Incredible pitches ideas for his new uniform to his outfitter, Edna Mode, she says, furiously, “No capes!” After this, she lists various instances where a superhero’s cape resulted in their death – one snagged on a missile, another stuck in an airplane turbine, another sucked into a tornado. Quite macabre for a children’s movie, but quite amusing. It’s just a funny bit, right?

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Nope. Huge implications for the end of the movie. None of the Incredibles has a cape on their suits, but the villain Syndrome does. Where does he end up? Sucked into an plane turbine, in the same manner that was shown earlier. That shit’s brilliant.

In the Season 3 premiere for Rick and Morty, as Rick makes his escape from an Intergalactic prison, he mentions that he’s been taking improv classes and that he’s learned “Comedy comes in threes.” Then, as he needs to sneak past other people, he uses the same excuse three times – “I’m gonna go take a shit.”

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This has been mentioned before, particularly on this post on Imgur – Chewie’s Bowcaster from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At various points throughout the movie, Chewie shoots Stormtroopers with his Bowcaster, and completely destroys them. At one point, even Han asks to use the Bowcaster, and he remarks that he likes it. Towards the end of the film, Chewie shoots Kylo Ren with the Bowcaster, but doesn’t do the same amount of damage. During Kylo’s duel with Rey and Finn, we see that he’s bleeding. The frequent mentions of the Bowcaster is very deliberate; it sets off what happens in the final act of the film. The payoff of Chewie’s Bowcaster is that it shows just how strong Kylo Ren is.

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Here’s a nice little one: throughout the book of Fellowship of the Ring, the narrator makes frequent references to the Hobbits’ inability to swim. It is clarified that yes, there are some hobbits who live at the edge of the Shire, along the river, who can swim, but that certainly does not include Frodo, Sam, or Pippin. (At one point, Merry mentions that he was raised on the shore of the Brandywine river, so he’s not unfamiliar with water.) Mentioning this throughout the text is probably seen as regular worldbuilding, but it pays off. The book and its film adaptation end with Sam chasing after Frodo as Frodo tries to sail away. This is, of course, meant to show Sam’s commitment to Frodo. But in the book, it means even more to us since we know so well that Sam risks his life.

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Of course, the film doesn’t have the same time to explain all the minutia of hobbit swimming abilities. But having that little extra layer of information makes Sam’s sacrifice just that much better.

As I’ve said again and again, I can’t go more than five minutes without talking about Game of Thrones, which is convenient, because Thrones is loaded with these moments.

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In Season 1, Jorah discusses the differences between Westerosi warriors and Dothraki warriors with his Dothraki friend. His friend calls armor a “steel dress,” but Jorah says that it can save a man’s life. In the penultimate episode of the season, Jorah duels a mutinous Dothraki bloodrider, who hits him in the side with his scythe. This blow certainly would have killed Jorah, if he were not wearing armor.

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In Season 2, when the Night’s Watch Rangers go beyond the wall, they are told to listen for the horn – one blast indicates Rangers returning from a ride, two indicates a Wildling attack, and three indicates White Walkers. The first time we hear the horn blown, the Rangers have a look of fear on their face, but we discover that it’s just other men of the Night’s Watch returning. The second time, Wildlings attack, and the fear becomes more real. Season 2 ends with Sam and his friends hearing three blasts, and the iconic shot of the White Walkers.

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Probably the most deliberate case of this comes in Season 4. When Robin Arryn mourns his mother, and says that he’s afraid to go out into the world and live his life because he might die, Littlefingger tells him there’s nothing to worry about. He lists the way various people die, saying that “people die in their beds, people die squatting over their chamber pots.” This foreshadows two deaths in the Season 4 finale – Tyrion kills Shae in his father’s bed, then kills his father while he is using the facility (though he uses a privy, not a chamber pot).

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Earlier that season, when Tywin asks the newly-crowned King Tommen what he thinks makes a good king – trying to coax the young ruler to an answer which will increase his trust in Tywin – Tommen says that holiness is the most important quality. After this, Tywin tells a story of a holy king who met an untimely end as a result of his faith. This foreshadows the fact that in the next two seasons, Tommen is so easily swayed into trusting the High Sparrow and the Faith. And lo and behold, Tommen’s desire for holiness and trust in the Faith results in his death.

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In regards to comedic payoffs, let me say that Hot Fuzz is the best. Every line in the movie either is a joke or sets up a joke later. In this regard, it’s one of the best-written movies I’ve ever seen. Every little thing pays off. It’s amazing. In an early scene, Danny, an officer from the countryside (played by Nick Frost), asks Nicholas, an officer from London (played by Simon Pegg) about his experience as an inner-city cop, thinking it’s just like his favorite action movies.

Danny: “You ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?”

Nicholas: “No.”

Danny: “You ever fired one gun whilst jumping through the air?”

Nicholas: “No.”

Danny: “Ever been in a high speed pursuit?”

Nicholas: “Yes, I have.”

Danny: “Ever fire a gun whilst in high speed pursuit?”

Nicholas: “No.”

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And of course, he ends up doing all those things by the end of the film. Of course, if I tried to talk about every little line of foreshadowing in Hot Fuzz, this post would need to be several thousand words longer.

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No spoilers, but has anyone read American Gods and started watching the TV show? There was a small line which foreshadows a tremendous twist coming up further down the line. It’s all these little things which have me excited for this show. These little things are always fun to see. It shows how a book, show, or a film can show genuine brilliance with every little line.

2 thoughts on “When the Little Things Pay Off

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