So ... it’s been a while. But today, we are taking another break from all things laws, flaws, and tacos to go back to the well of media criticism and address something that has been spreading like kudzu across the Georgia landscape; the post-credits sequence.
A brief digression with a True Fact(tm) (note- not all true facts are guaranteed to be true, or facts)- when I was a wee lad, my great grand-pappy took me to an Al Jolson concert. I still remember that as the show ended, my great grand-pappy told me to light one of those new-fangled “safety” matches and hold it in the air. Well, just as the match burned down almost to my figertips, Mr. Jolson came back to the stage to reprise some of his songs, but with even more blackface and racism. Quite the treat! This encore performance, after the concert ended, was a touching tribute to his fans, and made me feel special.
It was only later that I learned ... it wasn’t special. As I attended more and more concerts, I quickly came to expect two things: first, some drunken frat boy would yell out, “Play Free Bird.” Second, that the musicians would perform an encore. If the musician didn’t (cough, Elliot Smith) that would mean that a) the performer in question hated me, b) I was watching the show in Boston, and the Man was keeping me down, or c) the performer had overdosed prior to the required encore. The encore was not a spontaneous or special act, but, more often than not, a scripted part of a performance. HOW DID PINK FLOYD GET THEIR LASERS SYNCHRONIZED FOR THE SPONTANEOUS ENCORE???
This was the thought that I had after the season finale of Legion (don’t worry, no spoilers, except EVERYONE DIED). All season long, Legion ended when the credits did; except, well, the season finale. And then there was an Easter Egg, a post-credits sequence, a little gift to the fans ... except who would watch, knowing that the show didn’t have post-credit sequences?
There was a time when the post-credits sequence was truly unexpected. The credits rolled on the TV, and you got up for a beer. The credits rolled at the theater, and you left to relieve yourself of the 48 oz. big gulp you just drank. The first time I was truly aware of a post-credits “scene” was the immortal Airplane, but the first time I was impressed with it was in Man on the Moon. In that movie, a ... biopic of types ... of Andy Kaufman, you are left with an lingering questions of his art and death, and it ends with him looking back at you.
Now, however, the post-credits scene is expected. So much so that if a superhero movie (or a bad movie, such as Batman v. Superman) is released, there is a palatable hatred by some that there is no post-credits scene (and palatable relief by others that Zack Snyder’s film is over).
Which leads back to the original premise of the article. There are two types of post-credits scenes; those that are expected, and, therefore, no longer delight, much like an expected encore at a concert. In effect, they can only disappoint. Or those that are truly Easter Eggs, like Legion, in which case you missed it and have to youtube it. But then they aren’t Easter Eggs, and, instead, are just video extras. So why have them at all? Why waste our time?
Here, I would note that it has to do with the grammar of the film; think of the credits as a pause, a punctuation, in the film (whether the “film” is a movie or a television show). If the director/creator wants something additional - a counterpoint, an additional thought, or, (ahem) marketing for the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Franchise that doesn’t fit into the narrative arc of the rest of the story, the post-credits scene is the natural spot for it. In essence, it isn’t part of the story, it’s a video extra. The story is complete- this is beyond the story. In that sense, then, Legion failed. Without spoiling it (EVERYONE DIED) the extra scene tacked on to Legion was a part of the story. A necessary part of the story. While it made sense to have a pause before that scene ... the inclusion of necessary narrative elements in a post-credits scene in a show that does not typically have them is a bad use of the post-credits scene. If they needed a narrative pause, then there are other techniques that could have been used.