I can’t stop thinking about Stan in the latest episode for a few reasons. Thinking about his character arc in this episode hurts a lot and makes me sad with the possible writing implications. I mean…
He’s feeling overshadowed by his brother as though Ford is the “cooler” one (Mabel even calls Ford a hero). Stan went through all of these troubles to get his family’s approval, to have some love and care returned to him after all that he’s done for the twins.
This episode, the dialogue is really telling on how aware the writers AND Stan are of his age. “I’m old, and I’m not getting any younger.” Stan talked about his gravestone freaking twice if not a third time I missed in this episode alone.
He looks so dang sad when he’s talking to the kids about running for Mayor. So sad that it’s when he talks about his age in a negative way and talks about his gravestone for the first time as far as I remember. You know what really hurts about this? He doesn’t want to be known as the “grifter” when he’s gone. He wants to be worth something before he dies. He wants to be deemed important and loved by his family. They’re the only family he has left after all, right?
Stan spent 30 years getting the portal back up and running without the other 2 journals. 30 years he spent until he got the other two journals and got everything else he needed to finally bring his brother back. The portal caused so much damage… It was dangerous… But he just wanted to save his twin.
And now? This poor man hasn’t been thanked or rewarded with the same love and selflessness in return for all he’s done and been through. He risked his life and everybody else’s lives to get his brother back…. For whatever is going on now.
Where Mabel feels like she doesn’t have much time left to continue being a kid, Stan believes he doesn’t have much time left in his life on its own. I can just imagine him thinking every night that this is the last summer he CAN see and spend time with the twins. Maybe the whole “there aren’t that many [months/years] left” instead of Halloweens like Mabel said in Summerween.
This is a time he finally got his brother back and he can’t even feel close to him like old times. His brother hasn’t shown much interest in spending time with him. Ford mostly seems interested in spending time with, AND impressing the twins. That’s great and all, I guess, but don’t leave your own darn twin brother out of the family picture, Ford…
So… Then I get to the part of this episode that really gets me. There are firework explosives all over the inside of that monument. Stan is rescuing his only family and in the moment the fireworks are about to explode, he talks about his gravestone again. He talks about this as though it IS his last moment alive and he just wants to make sure the twins survive if he doesn’t. Stan also wants that grifter status to not be on his grave. He committed heroic actions in this moment - GENUINE hero moments compared to Ford just putting in the new lightbulb that Mabel called heroic - and he probably would’ve wanted to be remembered for that instead. He’s more and more accepting of his potential death… Just wishing for others to see more in him.
And that’s what really bites and hurts. I’m sure many of us want to accomplish something we’ve dreamed of before we move on from our lives in this world. We want to feel worth whether it’s by our standards or not. When the time comes, we want to be remembered for what we’ve done even in the little ways.
Stan… He’s done so much for his family. He really has. He goes through all this garbage of being kicked out by his dad, feeling unloved by his own brother, and now he seems to feel like his only family is being taken away from him as Ford seems “cooler” than him. All he probably ever desires is to just feel that in return. To be certain that his family is aware of his worth and his importance before he’s not there anymore.
When I think of this more and more, I just hurt more for this poor old man. It worries me that the direction of the writing for his character arc isn’t going to conclude with him remaining alive if the show is to kill off characters later on… To the extent that Alex makes a big deal of future character deaths saying something along the lines of people dying and the audience will cry. What character deaths would make us cry? Not the past mayor. Not some background character with few character arcs, screen time or lines.
The character would have to be a character that’s had an impact on the audience. A character whose arc and development are grand and seemingly coming to a close. It would have to be a character with great opportunity, from an emotional writing standpoint, to tear the audience’s feeling apart. It could be an outright painfully sad death, or a bittersweet death.
Painfully sad death: The character that’s gone through so much, likely sacrificed so much, dies without much reward for his actions and without goodbyes, etc.
Bittersweet death: Same as the other kind of character death, but with a little positivity in the mix. The death is caused by the character’s sacrifice, they probably get to have their goodbyes, and they’re finally recognized for everything that wanted to be recognized for - at the cost of their life. It’s horribly sad that they die either way, but the fact that get rewarded and recognized for what they wanted makes life in the fictional universe seem more hopeful and well-concluded.
So… These are my thoughts… And if we indeed lose a main character, I fear that the direction of writing for Stan is definitely coming to a close sometime soon.
I’ve suspected this for a while because it DOES make story-writing sense to lose Stan, but this episode has only further convinced me that it’s highly probable to happen.
Plus, what’s a big part of growing up and handling the harsh realities of the world? Life endangerment. Believe me when I say that losing grandparents as a kid is the most painful thing to go through. It still hurts when you’re older, but as a kid you cannot grasp the reality of death that easily. It’s new territory, it’s terrifying, and downright depressing. The grandparents that took care of you, babysat you, spoiled you, cease to exist in this world.
This show is about family, and it’s also about growing up. Whether or not Disney allows it doesn’t matter. They’ve let Alex have more freedom, and one of the storyboard artists has claimed that the show gets much darker than they expected to get away with at all.
And… Well… I’ll conclude with that…