I watch a lot of TV. I’m not sure how, exactly, I fit it all in, but I do with minimal issues. Sometimes I fall a few weeks behind, but for the most part I manage to keep up, at least with my favorites (and anything involving Gordon Ramsay). In a few of these shows, I’ve noticed there’s an extra character, someone that the writers seem to need to keep around either for a predetermined endgame reason or because the source material demands that person’s presence, but that the writers just cannot seem to figure out. This character seems to get to try on storylines to see if they fit, and then we as the viewers have to suffer the character saying things that don’t seem in-character, doing things that don’t mesh with how they’re presented to us on-screen, or just simply wasting air time with their vacuous half-hearted storyline while we wait to get past their scenes and back into the action.
Because I’ve come to call these types of characters “The Laurel of [Their Show],” I’m going to start with Laurel.
Laurel Lance, of Arrow
Because of the Green Arrow comic series’ main plot and character collection, Laurel is a permanent fixture on the CW’s Arrow. But the writers seem to have a hard time thinking of things for her to do. In season 1 her plot was small, but at least she had one: we saw her angry at Oliver for his role in her sister’s death and we saw her fall in love with and lose Tommy Merlyn. On occasion, she played the role of damsel in distress for Oliver to save. In season 2, the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with her, so they gave her a substance abuse problem and occasionally had her spew some misguided emotions at other characters, usually at inopportune times, and we even got to see her play the damsel in distress some more. Sometimes even in a way where she purposely distressed herself and then got mad when Oliver called her on it, much to my chagrin.
Finally in season 3 they seem to have an idea of where they want her to go, but in the process of taking her there, they’ve wasted both the character’s potential and a lot of viewers’ good will towards her and the actress who portrays her, Katie Cassidy, whose acting skill is often called into question (whether it’s her or the bizarre writing around Laurel, though, honestly remains to be seen). Hopefully the new trajectory she is on is the turning point and she’ll stop being the dead weight on this otherwise well-balanced show.
Katrina Crane, of Sleepy Hollow
I’m honestly not sure why the writers haven’t written Katrina out at this point, considering her chemistry with Ichabod is practically nonexistent and her character seems to exist solely to find herself in trouble that Ichabod and Abbie need to then rescue her from. The trouble with Katrina, in my view, is that the writers know what they want her to be but can’t get what they want in their heads to come out in their scripts.
The question used to be “Is Katia Winter just unable to do this role justice?” but as season 2 has gone on it’s become clearer and clearer that the problem is the writers. They say that Katrina is an incredibly powerful, incredibly brilliant witch–but then they show her repeatedly getting outsmarted, captured, and endangered, something that a supposedly powerful, brilliant witch would be able to handle on her own. Her capabilities as a witch are hugely inconsistent depending on what the plot of the episode needs her to be able (or unable) to do, and her brilliance has yet to be shown in any substantial way at all. Because of the wild inconsistency surrounding Katrina but her seeming importance to the plot and to Ichabod in particular, her character is now in danger of being the problem that tanks this entire show.
Jack Porter, on Revenge
While it may be tempting to say that this problem lies solely in the writing of female characters on network television, Jack Porter exists to prove that the problem can just as easily affect men. As the endgame of this show clearly seems to point toward Emily Thorne (Amanda Clarke) and Jack Porter ending up together, the writers are reluctant to do anything to Jack that would endanger his well-being or his standing with Emily–at least in any way that would not be easily overcome. In the seasons that this show has been on the air, he has gone from a somewhat stupid side character who runs a bar and doofily gets in Emily’s way as she does her sinister revenge plots to the husband of the faux Amanda Clarke to his most recent role, a local cop.
His storyline always, always (and often inexplicably) ties him to the crap Emily is up to so that she’s always having to either save his ass or do something to purposely distract him, to the point that in this past season he–a rookie cop, mind you–was chosen to help the FBI work on the Conrad Grayson murder case, just because the writers had to make sure he tied in somehow to the season’s main story arc, logic be damned. Considering this show’s ratings are in the toilet it’s probably too late for the writers to do anything to try and fix him, so he’s likely going to continue to be this show’s biggest drag through the season finale.