Over the years, I began to realize how important the first episode of a series is, and how some some series don’t care and ultimately fail.
The very first episode, the pilot, has so much more work than many of the later episodes. It has to capture the overall atmosphere of the show without showing all of the cards. It has to introduce the world of the series, or at very least intrigue it. It has to introduce the characters and make you care about them. It has to establish the general plot so we know what the story is trying to do.
Bojack Horseman is a fantastic show. But, I hate its first episode. While the opening shows that under all that glamor of Bojack’s Hollywoo life lives incredible and crippling void, the first episode doesn’t do much to support that. The show is truly great, but the first episode had these cut-aways that rivaled Family Guy, I mean that in a bad way. The first episode feels so different from rest of the series, it feels like they didn’t know what they were doing at the start. I was actually put off by the first episode, I dropped the series, but my brother assured me that it was great, and I am so glad I gave it a second chance.
Manga has it a bit easier as the magazines feel less restrictive. Most Shonen manga has about 19 to 21 pages per chapter, but the first chapter of a new series usually seem to get around 45 to 55 pages, hell, I’ve seen some go up to 75 pages or more. Manga’s first introduction is not limited by time as it is a medium where the pace is chosen by the reader.
Fate/ Zero had this “prologue” episode, claiming it was not the first episode, but it was. I have a mixed feeling about his one. As a fan, this 45 minute long episode was both fan service and familiar exposition, and I loved every minute of it. Later, I was watching a review talking about this episode. The reviewer, Gigguk (his channel is great by the way) was not a fan of the series and did not like the first episode as it was 45 minutes of jargon and references to things non fans will not know. Then the question is, is Fate/ Zero’s first episode good? I was hooked by reintroduction to the world I loved, but non-fans seem to be more confused. I can’t really say.
A number of game studios, most notoriously Telltale Games, are publishing their games in pieces, by episodes. I have multiple feelings about this, I will expand on it some other time. But this first episode should do all of the things I mentioned as well. Telltale’s Walking Dead season 1 episode 1 was fantastic. It introduced us to Lee and Clementine, quickly established what kind of relationship they will have and how the player will affect it. It shows the dangers of the zombies as well as other survivors, but it did not give everything away.
On the other hand some games do not do this as well. Let’s talk about the Witcher 1. The game is divided into chapters, and while I still enjoyed it, chapter 1 was a huge mess. it is riddled with a ton of inefficient fetch quests, terrible map, and little relevance to the overall plot. It was the worst way to introduce the players to the game. For what I’ve heard, many players quit after finishing the lackluster first chapter.
One of the worst first episodes I’ve seen is probably Kotoura-san series. The first episode is dark and bleak as shit, but the rest of the anime is so bright and light hearted. The first episode is a terrible introduction for a comedic series. Maybe they could’ve hinted at the dark past rather than dedicating the whole first episode to it. The series is a cute soft-ecchi slice of life comedy, apart from the first episode, there is hardly any remotely dark episodes. I have no idea what they were thinking with its pilot….
Sometimes, I think the opposite happens, when the first episode is so good that it eclipses the whole season. When I think of an example of this, I think of Shingeki no Kyojin aka Attack on Titan. The first 2 episodes, which feels like one episode chopped in 2, was so freaking great. The titans were terrifying beyond words, Eren’s mom’s death was heartbreaking, and you had no idea how the characters would rebuild themselves after this. This might be just me, but I don’t think any of the episodes after that made the titans scarier, or had a scene that was more tragic. When I want a good Shingeki no Kyojin moment, I return to the first episode, not any of the other ones. I am not saying the show is bad, hell, I like show a lot, but I think its best was the first episode. One other example of something similar is probably the first 8 minutes of Pixar’s Up.
Well, that was a random thought. What are some of your favorite or worst first episodes to anything? Let me know!!