hyponyms

An Experiment in Analysis: Part VI - Storytellers' Celia in "Celia" as Influenced by the Hierarchy of Solving Problems

According to Maslow, we satisfy our needs in order of direness. Food, water, and shelter come before finding friends and helping others. It’s a hierarchy of needs. Naturally, it makes sense to extend this idea of hierarchical satisfaction to other aspects of life, like problem solving. Under this paradigm of satisfaction, it’s predictable that we as humans focus on more immediate problems first. And, we do. Watching a show on TV when your cake in the oven catches on fire? Barney Stinson can wait; your cake ardently wants your attention. Playing a game and the urge to defecate arises? You’re going to ask your friends to excuse you for a moment; no one will enjoy your shouts of “Yahtzee” if they’re accompanied by wafts of the mess you just unleashed in your pants.

But what is an “immediate” problem? It’s one whose resolution is more important than the one you’re currently working on, and it’s usually more urgent. From these rankings comes the hierarchy, and it’s naturally ingrained in our minds. This hierarchy is highlighted in Storytellers’ sixth and final episode, which is double-length, “Celia.” The two fraternal Crowley twins, the titular Celia and Hunter, exhibit all the common signs of sibling rivalry, trying to outdo each other and playing games with each other (though never with the intent of destroying their relationship). All is fun and games until their long-thought dead mother reappears, and they drop everything to focus on this new “problem.” Celia, portrayed in all her wicked ways skillfully by Devyn Smith, is notable in this episode as both someone who drives and participates in problems, but she eventually becomes the ultimate evidence of the hierarchy of problems and their immediacy, driving it home to the viewer.

This final episode opens to Celia before the campfire pontificating about the monomyth. “All these stories are the same,” she says (0:18). After being interrupted by Hunter, she continues, “Maybe all stories are the same, told over and over and over again” (0:26). This first bit of dialogue is the foundation of a universal idea to be planted in the viewers’ mind. If this story truly is but one realization of a singular, universal one, it stands to reason that the broader aspects tying the events together would be universal as well, an idea that gets implicitly suggested to the viewer through this dialogue.

In order to develop the sibling relationship between Hunter and Celia, the next scene in the episode centers on them during their birthday a year ago. Hunter gives Celia a bracelet that was their mom’s from before she died/disappeared/apparently-became-a-firewitch. Hunter secures it around Celia’s wrist as they exchange sentimental words with each other, Celia offering that she “thinks about [their mom] every day” and Hunter responding that “she’d be proud of us” (1:07; 1:15). What would normally appear to be semi-trite dialogue without the framing device of the campfire here allowing this chapter of the story to be seen as a hyponym of the monomyth actually speaks, through its pervasion in our minds as typical of siblings who’ve lost a parent, to the softer, more intimate relationship (check your thoughts of incest at the door, please; this is amicable, consanguineal, not amorous) the two siblings have in order to allow a more striking scene later on when they turn on each other.

Cue a crossfade into the scene with the journal from the last episode. Celia walks upstairs to her room, where she finds herself in Blazer’s presence. Remarkably, she’s not scared, as she’s actually in bed with him as the orchestrator of the demonic happenings concerning the gang, and she’s actually rather pleased to see him. “You’re late,” she says as she telekinetically closes the door behind her, a wicked smirk sliding across her face after as she snickers, demonstrating her expectance of Blazer in her room and signaling that she’s begun to create a problem for Hunter, which creates a problem for her in a reciprocal manner as she begins to antagonize Hunter (1:51). Blazer and Celia proceed to woo each other with words (his made more seductive midway through the conversation by his then newly bared torso, complete with pecs and six-pack abs), and the viewer comes to know that Celia and Blazer “know” each other and are “in bed with each other” in more than just the business sense of the phrase.

A scene with Mai and Finn is presented after Celia and Blazer’s tryst. The two are discussing whether it’s actually necessary to kill Hunter or not. “I was told I have to kill Hunter before he turns 18,” Mai says (3:49). Taking the bombshell incredulously, Finn responds, asking, “Why? Because he has superpowers?” (3:54). The scope of Celia’s game with Hunter, as the viewer understands it, grows much wider with this exchange, to the extent, it seems, that Hunter’s friends are ready to kill him. Among most siblings, this would seem psychotic, psychopathic, but among kids who appear to be deities among mere mortals, it should really be looked at more as if Celia had told Hunter’s friends he didn’t like them anymore, or that he called them fat. While it may seem, now, that Celia didn’t really have any relation to why Mai’s now out to kill one of her own friends, the viewer should keep in mind that Celia is in cahoots with Blazer, and, as the viewer comes to find out, instigated the car crash that started this whole thing, including Mai and Finn’s delving into Japanese lore and mythology to discover Mai’s destiny to be a part of a demon-hunting order.

The next day, Finn and Mai show up at the Crowley house with the intention of investigating the prophecy of Hunter becoming some sort of Lucifer incarnate/anti-Christ ready to send the world asunder with his oh-so-as-of-right-now-not-that-scary telekinesis, which would evolve into some malicious powers—or so the prophecy goes, it seems. Celia answers the door and sends Finn up to Hunter’s room when he asks where he is. Mai stays behind, a look reminiscent of the “I-got-laid-last-night” expression on her face. Her high is quickly lowered when Celia intimates to her that she’s not okay. The scene shifts to Finn and Hunter discussing Hunter’s dark powers, but for the sake of continuity, we’ll come to that after Mai and Celia’s conversation. Mai and Celia, once the focus is back on them, are seated on the couch. Lying through her teeth expertly, Celia aggrandizes the problem of Hunter in Mai’s mind, telling her, seemingly on the verge of tears that “last night, Blazer came into” her “room, and he tried to attack” her (6:27). She goes on to punch home the message to Mai, just in case she didn’t quite get that (as far as Celia wants her to know) Hunter’s a bad dude, saying she thinks “Hunter might try to kill Blazer” at their birthday party that night (6:53). As a final nail in the coffin, she shows Mai a journal she created but claims belongs to Hunter, filled with macabre drawings and psychopathic writings and captions. As far as Mai is concerned now, Hunter is the embodiment of bad, of evil forces, and needs to be eradicated. The viewer from this scene can draw, essentially, that Celia’s plan is very elaborate, and she’s putting a lot of effort into the plan, which will make it all the more drastic when she drops everything.

Shifting back now to the scene between Finn and Hunter in Hunter’s room, Finn starts by asserting that he thinks they’ve seen enough to “know this whole prophecy thing is real” (5:53). Without needing any kind of further proof, Celia’s subconscious suggestion seems to have worked on Finn as well, given that he’s going around claiming supernatural stories as fact. Some tension arises as Hunter and Finn discuss the prophecy briefly, but Finn remains unswayed, which isn’t helped by Hunter using it to his advantage to offer Finn a threat (there’s that friendly rivalry stemming up again!). When added to the conversation between Celia and Mai before, the viewer can assume that Celia has been completely successful in pitting Hunter’s friends against him, realizing the first steps in her sibling prank and finally instantiating the problem (Hunter’s friends no longer like him—or they wouldn’t really set out to kill him; Celia’s driving the situation, instigating her in the problem too) that she and Hunter will have to work through.

The next scene important to the development of Celia’s problem for Hunter is at their party scene. Notably, Simon Curtis’ “Superhero” from R∆ is playing, suggesting to the viewer that, despite what may be implied from the evil attributed to Hunter and Celia’s powers, they’re actually “superpowers,” which are markedly good, at least as far as our lexicon will allow us to believe in current times (8:57). The next phase of Celia’s plot against Hunter begins when Mai shoots a crossbow at Hunter, who was just minding his own business until he took an arrow to the knee (it seems; might’ve been his outer thigh, but the camera shots don’t really facilitate understanding where it hit) (9:31). Mai then attacks him with her katana. Eventually, Hunter talks her out of it, saying, ultimately, that he doesn’t want to kill Blazer. Mai buys it right up, and Celia seems to explode for a moment out of frustration as she shifts into the villainess that seems many times more fitting than her innocent sister facade. Her plan, it turns out, wasn’t to alienate Hunter from his friends (though this was a side effect of the plan), but to force him to awaken his strength.

The problem Celia’s created now shifts: she herself needs to make Hunter’s powers awaken, and he needs to defend himself from her. She and Hunter enter into a duel of superpowers, bringing the full, ugly face of the problem to bear: Hunter has untapped powers, and Celia can’t get him to realize them. Not by forcing them into a car wreck by means of Blazer, nor by having Mai attack him with a sword and crossbow, nor even by intimidating him verbally. No, she must attack him. And he, therefore, must defend himself. And, finally, his powers seem to flow freely. After a few moments of being manipulated like a puppet, Hunter shoves Celia into a stack of cardboard boxes and makes her bracelet start burning her skin.

Her plans finally realized, and the problem she’d created for herself and Hunter being worked in, she seems pleased. “See,” she says through gritted teeth as Hunter burns her, “it’s fun, isn’t it?” (15:54). Hunter begins to raise her in the air, immobilizing her, as her wrist burns, but something catches their attention: the doors to the warehouse slide open, an inferno outside dancing around a woman. Who might that woman be? Their mom. And in the one scene that instructs the viewer of the hierarchy of problems, Celia and Hunter drop everything and ask in unison, “Mom?!” as the episode shifts to the people around the campfire leaving to come back another day, ending on a cliffhanger (16:24). This is the most meaningful scene, at least respecting the theme of the hierarchy of problems. Celia and Hunter were fully engrossed in what seemed a significant problem, at least, considering that they were attacking each other with telekinesis, but when their mom showed up, they both knew something much more pressing, or immediate, was upon them that would involve them both. Celia dropped everything, even after all the effort that she went to to make Hunter realize his powers, evidencing just how grave the situation was then. It’s like how two fighting siblings know they’re in deep shit when a parent catches them and they stop immediately. And thus, the idea that we deal with problems that are more immediate first is conveyed to the viewer.

In dealing with problems as human beings, our first instinct is to take care of those most pressing, or immediate, first. A relative being hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke is more immediate than that little stain of wine in your best white shirt that you just can’t seem to get out no matter how many times you wash it with copious amounts of bleach. Along that vein, a once thought dead parent arriving in the midst of a fight between siblings is much more threatening and pressing than whatever the squabble was about, not just because they’re a parent, but also because they’ve arisen, it seems, from the dead, and that’s just not something that happens all too often. As “Celia,” the sixth and final (insofar as this possibly being the only season) episode of the Storytellers webseries suggests, there’s a hierarchy to the way we solve problems. Devyn Smith’s titular Celia represents a person following this hierarchy extremely well, plotting as much as she can to implicate herself and Hunter in a problem to awaken his powers, but ultimately stopping the resolution of that problem in order to confront the larger one of her mother pulling a Lazarus to exemplify to the viewer just how this hierarchy works. Naturally, we follow this order of precedence for problem solving, and doing things out of order leads to what we recognize as procrastination, which we tend to feel, whether in our nature or not, a subversion of the suggested order of resolution. In the end, this final episode seems to be suggesting something to us: we need to follow the natural order we feel for solving problems. It’s just what heroes do, after all, and we are all, as the first episode said, the heroes of our own story.