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'Breaking Bad' recap: Long-buried bombs explode
Alfred Hitchcock famously said that the difference between suspense and surprise hinges on audience foreknowledge. Picture two people eating. Now imagine a bomb underneath the table, about to go off. Suspense requires the audience to know the bomb is there, to live in terrible anticipation that it will go off and explode two characters we’ve hopefully come to know and like. Surprise is what happens when the audience doesn’t know, and the bomb just goes off. Both methods can work, but in my experience, suspense is generally preferable to surprise. When anything can be a surprise, it tends to breed mistrust in the audience, and mistrust is the biggest enemy possible of good storytelling.
By Todd VanDerWerff
August 19, 2013