An Experiment in Analysis: Part IV - Storytellers' Finn Avery in "Finn" Delineating the Non-universality of Realities
One of the most common quests in human epistemology is trying to find aspects of humanity that are completely universal, like death. That is, we look for universalities. What we’ve come to find as a global society is that there are very few concepts, ideas, or phenomena that can be found across every human being. Counting, for example, was once thought to be a universal trait of language, that all languages had the ability to enumerate specifically, in some way, the objects that its speakers come into contact with. Yet, there have been languages documented without this feature, such as Pirahã, which can only really specifically refer to sizes of groups, but no specific integers.
There are also aspects of life that some thinkers, such as Erwin Schrödinger, of Schrödinger’s Cat fame, posit as unable to be completely known, like sensations of color. Is your red the same as mine? What about your perception of saltiness? They’re subjective measurements that we are unlikely to be able to completely normalize among human beings. The term qualia (singular quale) has been used to refer to such “unknowable” subjective measurements. In this vein, there are aspects of reality that can be referred to as such qualia. How witty is Oscar Wilde? How pretty is Venus? James Joyce: brilliant or blowhard?
In the fourth episode of Storytellers, “Finn,” a quale of sorts regarding reality becomes an element of the narrative. As observed in the first episode “Hunter,” there appears to be some sort of animosity or rivalry between Finn Avery and Hunter. Sure, they still appear to have a friendship, but not all friendships are made of purely amicable interactions. Rather, in this episode, we see Finn portrayed differently than in “Hunter,” in which we see him as something of an annoying tagalong who’s filming things incessantly. However, in this episode, he is far more witty than before, and Hunter seems much more unstable and much less confident than he was before. Taking into account that the character telling the story is the “hero” of said, it’s important to note that these differences underlie the tension between these two lead male characters. Finn’s shift is notable: he seems more affable and lively, and Jake Thomas plays these two distinct representations of Finn expertly. The distinctions between Hunter and Finn’s images of themselves and each other serve to show the viewer the overall premise of the episode: a “reality” for a person is constructed in their mind and personal, and while there may be similarities between the realities of two different people, they will always be distinct overall, for there is no universality in realities, which must encompass both the objective and the subjective.
The episode opens on a shot of Finn before the campfire, looking slightly nervous or uncomfortable. He rubs his head to accentuate these emotions. “It’s getting a little dark, don’t you think?” he asks (0:19). Hunter responds that that’s why the fire’s there, but Finn clarifies that he’s “talking about the stories, not the time of day, asshole” (0:25). Celia and Hunter tease him for his hesitancy, calling him a “scaredy-cat,” which Mai calls out before Finn admits it and remarks, “this whole, uh, go out in the middle of the forest, tell spooky stories around the campfire deal? Not my thing. But hey, when in Rome, right?” (0:40). This exchange is the viewer’s first bit of insight into how Finn’s mind works, as he hasn’t had that much dialogue in the previous episodes, and a lot of it really only revealed that he’s a little nerdy. However, the viewer now comes to know that Finn is reluctant to continue the story because it’s macabre, people dying and being possessed and such. The rivalry between him and Hunter is also visible through the gibes that are delivered in this exchange. But, as Finn decides to continue the story, it’s apparent that he’s going to play along, and he’s not going to play nicely. His attitude when finally agreeing to continue the story is one of accepting a challenge, which, in this context, means that he’s going to narrate some of the characters into a hellhole from which it should be nearly, if not completely, impossible to escape unscathed.
The next scene opens with Finn and Hunter in a room, discussing Hunter’s superpowers. “Can I please have some powers?” Finn asks (1:04). The first remark of the interior story, it’s rather comical. Finn just found out that Hunter, his friend, has superpowers, and, even though Hunter’s girlfriend just died, he asks him if he can have some. It’s a lightness that hasn’t been seen in the character before, seemingly having appeared because Finn sees himself as such a comical or witty person. Hunter then is shown to be much less confident than he was before, much less knowledgeable, responding, “I don’t think they’re exactly transferable,” to which Finn responds with body language expressive of an “aw, shucks” feeling (1:07). Hunter, here, is no longer the hero that he was before. He has superpowers and was able to use them to save Mai from her possession, but now he’s unsure and meek. Finn continues to press him, asking, “Can you at least tell me what you can do?” (1:17). Hunter answers that he “really, just [doesn’t] know” (1:21). This lack of assuredness and knowledge about himself is striking. It was mentioned in the first episode that he was going to Yale, a school of the highest prestige. Being admitted to such a school typically implies that you’re beyond just smart, which usually entails some kind of introspection to find out things about yourself, so it’s reasonable that Hunter would know more about his powers than he just admitted here. Yet, he comes across as confused, showing he hasn’t done much introspection, and his answer doesn’t even have so much as a guess. It’s a dramatic difference between when he was able to characterize himself, when he came across as cocksure and intelligent, and when Finn is characterizing him, making him much less confident and not quite as self-aware as he would’ve been expected to be. These disparate characterizations evidence to the viewer one of the ways in which realities can differ between people in that their perspectives about themselves and others are different.
Finn asks more silly questions, and Hunter gets a little annoyed and asks to talk about his powers later. Finn obliges after Celia and Mai walk by and mention that they’re going to be late to Skyler’s funeral if they don’t get moving. The scene shifts now to Skyler’s funeral. There are looks of sadness across all the attendees’ faces. Someone then calls Hunter up to deliver a eulogy. As he walks to the front of the church, two older gossipy ladies are overheard whispering to each other about how Hunter and Celia’s mom died in a house fire, which one of the ladies suspects may have been a convenient way for their dad to murder her. This piece of gossip suggests that the real Finn, the one around the campfire, wants to dig as large a hole as he can for the remaining storytellers to crawl out of, having been challenged. So, he plants that little tidbit about Hunter’s mom possibly having been murdered by her husband. This seeming mild hostility is actually markedly similar to the irritation that Hunter showed back at the party in “Hunter” when he noticed that Finn was filming people at the party for his vlog. What this similarity suggests to the viewer is that there are, indeed, aspects that are the same across two or more people’s realities of the world.
Hunter gives a semi-sappy and overwrought eulogy to the crowd, which seems uncharacteristic of someone purported to be as smart as he is. He mentions the sad story that Celia and he didn’t really have any friends as kids, but then Skyler became their friend. Later, he offers the choice “she was the glue that held us all together” and manages to shed a tear afterward (3:38). This Hunter is a far cry from the Hunter that’s been seen before; he’s sensitive, sappy, and weepy, characteristics traditionally seen as weak. It wouldn’t seem amiss for Hunter by the campfire to be embarrassed as Finn says that his character reacted this way. It’s really a subversive way for Finn to get a dig in a Hunter and suggest that he’s not the well put together guy that he presented himself as before, that he has doubts, and that he feels emotions deeply. However, he also retains that femininity from “Hunter,” which seems to be Finn reinforcing the message that gender doesn’t affect worth from that episode. That being said, these two aspects further the aim of this episode to present the notion that reality is unique to an individual. Hunter here is weaker than he was before, reflecting what Finn thinks of him, or thinks he would become in the face of a tragedy, but there’s still the commonality between the two realities of his femininity, which qualifies the distinct qualities of realities such that similarities are also allowable.
Hunter returns to his seat, and then the scene shifts to outside the church. Hunter sees Celia and Blazer talking by a tree and rushes over to them. He pushes him against the tree and interrogates him about his odd presence, mentioning that he saw him at the accident before asking, “You do something to make us crash?”, his voice tinged with righteous anger at having perhaps found the reason that his girlfriend is now dead (4:38). This is a huge mood swing from the melancholy Hunter that was seen just moments before to the wildly upset Hunter that’s now threatening Blazer. It’s uneven, suggesting that Finn is calling Hunter unstable by means of this portion of the narrative, another subversive gibe.
Blazer disappears, and then Finn and Mai notice Hunter seemingly holding on to the tree. Neither Hunter nor Celia seem caught off-guard that Blazer just up and vanished, which seems another dig from the narrative, this time at their intelligence. “Hunter, what the hell? Are we fighting trees now?” asks Finn as he and Mai make their way over (5:06). It’s another witty one-liner that Finn set himself up for to showcase just how witty he is and thinks others should think him, another suggestion to the differences and influenceability of a personal reality.
The group then travels to Mai’s house where they look through Mai’s history professor-of-a-mom’s books about supernatural things. They talk for a moment about Hunter’s powers, and Finn is then allowed the opportunity for another witty question, asking Hunter, “Can you please just let me fight crime with you?” (5:56). This is, yes, yet another witty remark, the number of which is growing very quickly, showing Finn’s image of himself as supremely witty and sardonic, able to poke fun at people through ridiculous (though funny) questions, distinct from his previous representations from the other storytellers’ perspectives.
The group discusses the mystical powers that they assume are governing Hunter’s powers briefly, then Mai’s mom kicks the guests out of her house. She discusses with Mai that she’s in an order of people determined to drive evil spirits and entities from the world. She implies that Hunter is such an entity and that he might cause a dark prophecy to become fulfilled before intimating to Mai, “Mai, if you want to be a part of the order, part of your own destiny, then, before his 18th birthday, you have to kill Hunter Crowley” (8:39). In another act of subversive destruction, Finn lays the groundwork for infighting among the group members to get one of them to kill Hunter, offering some proof of the turbulence that exists in their friendship, aligning this time with what was observed of the friendship earlier. Finn then closes the story: “Yeah, endings aren’t really my strong suit. Not much of a fan of scary movies, either. Good luck getting yourself out of this one” (9:02). He smirks as he finishes, providing the last piece of evidence in this episode of the friendly rivalry between him and Hunter, which implies that they see each other in critical ways, seeing some of their flaws as greater than they really are as a subconscious act of competition, subtly altering their personal realities from what is actually real. And thus, the viewer is presented with one of the reasons that the divergence of realities exists: competition.
The quale presented in this episode of Storytellers concerns the unknowable state of realities among different people. Some people may see red as other see yellow, and it’s likely impossible to ascertain what others see. While they can try to describe something as best they can, their description, when given at enough length, will differ from everyone else’s. So, when Jake Thomas’ Finn in this fourth episode “Finn” presented a differing reality about the aspect of his character and that of Hunter from the one Hunter offered in “Hunter,” it can hardly be considered surprising. Finn’s Finn is witty and affable, and his Hunter is vulnerable and sappy, whereas Hunter’s Finn is annoying and rather bland, and his Hunter is strong and sure. There are very few universal aspects of humanity in the world, and perceptions of personalities and likabilities are not of those, as they are, even at their most basic, subjective. A reality is unique to its possessing person and to all other realities. That is to say, reality lies in the eye of the beholder.