Writing Challenge: Progress / Reversal

To kick off Act Two, I thought it’d be best to look at both the Progress and First Reversal sequences. The reason is that a lot of times scripts merge these two into one sequence, with the set up showing the progress and then the sequence ending with the first major setback that the protagonist faces. Similar to any other sequence, we want to remind ourselves and the audience what it is that the protagonist wants. Something needs to get in the way of it, over and over and over again through the second act so that the journey is not difficult.

For today’s example, we’ll look at the classic “D2: The Mighty Ducks”. Why the second one? Well because it is, without a doubt, the best film out of the trilogy. Honestly, people are always going on and on about how “Godfather 2” is the best sequel ever, no. People are wrong, it’s this one (I say this both humorously and with complete honesty haha). For those who have somehow blocked Act One of “D2” from their memories, Coach Gordon Bombay has returned to Minnesota after a bad injury in a minor league hockey game. He’s approached to coach Team USA in the Junior Goodwill Olympic Games, bringing together the Ducks we remember from the first film and have them join a new group of kids from around the country.

Sports movies almost always included a full sequence for progress and it usually includes the training montage. As you’ll see in the below, the setback at the outset of the Progress will challenge the protagonist, but the skills that they typically use to get out of tough situations will prevail. It is then followed by the First Reversal which provides the first REAL setback. The one that makes the protagonist rethink what he or she is doing. It can also be the the first time we really see the personal (negative) antagonist of the film, as we’ll see here.

“The Mighty Ducks” is not a perfect script (more on my decade of frustration with some stuff later) but it does both of these sequences really well.

The Breakdown

Progress

Set Up
– The Ducks show up at the Olympic rink to meet the new additions. Luis Mendoza flies across the ice, he’s the fastest they’ve ever seen. He crashes into the wall. He doesn’t know how to stop.
– Dwayne, a kid from Texas, makes everyone laugh at him and roll their eyes at his Southern twang. They’re quickly impressed though as he starts showing his skills with a puck.
– Everyone attempts to score on Julie “the Cat” Gaffney, with Gordon telling Don they already have Goldberg. Goldberg is easily scored on while Julie doesn’t miss a single puck. Gordon concedes they “could use a back up”.
– Figure skating champ, Wu, is clearly talented by Gordon doesn’t know what he’s doing playing hockey. He does a fancy, mid-air spin, flying past the defense and proving that he’s untouchable.
– Portman, a huge teenager for his age, is the team’s enforcer. He shoves a couple of the Ducks and fight breaks out between the two teams. They’re clearly going to start at odds.

Action
– The teams scrimmage. The Ducks are very rusty, easily getting handled by the other kids.
– The team meets their tutor, Ms. McKay. They try to weasel their way out of school, but she easily takes hold of the situation and they acquiesce to going to school.
– Gordon ties all the teens into a group on the ice, telling them they need to learn how to move and work as a team. They quickly fall down, not listening to one another.
– Once the teens succeed in moving together, Gordon wants to remind them that hockey is meant to be fun. He tosses Dwayne a lasso and they play a game while all becoming friends in the process.
– The team is excited to get their new USA gear. Charlie is disappointed that they’re no longer the Ducks, but Gordon tells him not to worry about it.
– The kids are tutored on US history. They are inspired as they hear how they are like their own country.
– At Team USA’s first game, an audience member heckles the team, pissing off Jesse, who takes his anger out on the ice and winds up in the penalty box.

Climax
– Fulton and Portman make a splash on the ice. Don quickly hails them as the “Bash Brothers”.
– The team wins the game 9-2. They celebrate at a post-game press conference.

Reversal #1

Set Up
– At the press conference, the Iceland team shows up and mocks Team USA. Gordon is shocked to see Iceland has a professional, violent, NHL player as their coach (Stansson).
– Miss McKay tries to talk to Gordon and blows her off for CNN.
– Gordon is nervous to leave the team alone in the dorms… until he sees the lush house by the beach he’s staying in.
– The kids play a prank on Dwayne and the Bash Bros. blast music as they’re trying to sleep. Basically, the teenagers are still acting like teenagers.
– Gordon runs into the Iceland trainer, Madeline. Shes nice to him but Stansson sends her away.
– Stansson puts Gordon down. Gordon attempts to pretend like winning doesn’t matter.

Action
– Goldberg gets cocky in Italy game. Other team tries to beat him up.
– Team USA scores. The heckler from the previous game reluctantly applauds, impressed.
– At a photoshoot, Gordon relishes his moment in the spotlight.
– Later at a party, Gordon meets and schmoozes with people who encourage him to dream bigger. He starts pitching his own idea like “coach loafers for kids”.
– The kids get into a Beverly Hills store and relish looking at the models. The owner realizes she’s been deceived and kids them out.
– Julie talks to Gordon about proving herself on the ice. Gordon promises her she’ll get her chance.
– The Bash Bros. spot Gordon on a date with Madeline, the Iceland trainer. They’re shocked and betrayed.
– Gordon shows up to the their next game looking like the Iceland coach (slicked hair and suit). The kids make fun of him, with Fulton and Portman even bringing up the date.

Climax
– The game with Iceland starts with a tough face-off. Portman runs in and gets kicked out of the game when he takes out the ref. Gordon is frustrated.
– The team struggles to get control of the game. Gordon is frustrated and Portman rages in the locker room.
– Gordon scolds the kids for their gameplay. They come out feeling dejected.
– Julie finally gets put in the game. When the opponents make sexist comments she punishes both, knocking them to the ground getting herself kicked out of the game.
– Banks scores! The Iceland slam him in the arm, sprains his wrist.
– The Ducks lose and Don scolds Gordon, telling him he has to win or there’s not big money contract coming after this.
– Gordon scolds them for losing. The team blames Gordon for them not being prepared the way Iceland was.
– The team is shocked when Bash Bros. reveal he went on date with Madeline. He demands they say late for practice.

Resolution
– Charlie tells Gordon that this isn’t fun. Gordon doesn’t care and pushes more drills.

As you see in the above, the Reversal kicks off in the very same scene where the Progress ends. They’re two distinct sequences here, but one is clearly showing the team learning to work together and then the second sequence introduces us the film villain: Stansson.

Stansson is a classic Negative Antagonist. He is the worst possible version of Gordon achieving his dream of something “bigger” and we see how quickly Gordon falls into the trap of being him. One of the downfalls of this film is that Gordon completes his arc halfway into the movie. Honestly, ten minutes after this sequence, he’s burning a cardboard cut out of himself and is “cured”. It’s fine, because all the audience wants is to watch the teens create mayhem and that’s what happens the rest of the film. Regardless of the rest of the film, these two sequences are solid and do a great job of telling a complete sequence for Gordon’s storyline while also including beats for the larger ensemble cast.

Now, a quick complaint about Julie “the Cat” Gaffney, because I just can’t help myself… it was frustrating enough that in the first film you have Connie’s whole identity being based on her smiling at the much older Gordon all the time (gross), and then in this film she gets one beat the beginning where Guy (pronounced Gee?) is upset because their kiss is interrupted. Then at the end of this film, Charlie warns her that the Iceland team is warning her and Dwayne suddenly feels compelled to rescue her. Why? WHY are they gunning for her? No one every targeted her in other match ups. WHY is DWAYNE suddenly her hero? Guy was the one that was into her. I know the answers here are that they targeted her because she’s a girl and Dwayne is a cowboy from Texas who wants to be a hero… but like the only person with less to do on this team than Connie is fucking Guy.

AS FOR JULIE… Gordon is the worst coach ever if he actually started the season with Goldberg between the posts and not Julie. I understand that it’s a big reveal/moment when she gets the puck at the end, but if he’s so determined to “win” and “be the best” then he would’ve built a team of all-stars who just want to shoot like crazy, because you never need anyone helping Julie out. She’ll catch everything all day every day. They’re making a new show based on this franchise and I guarantee you they right this horrible wrong. I’d love it even better if they actually went as far to bring Julie back though, cuz she was the shit. End story.

Alright, Happy Writing everyone!

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