Season 1-Session 2

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
I agree with you that the 'unprovoked' attacks on the Maiar make Ungoliant a little bit more clearly evil - in a completely depraved kind of way. It also seems rather in character for her to try to eat light whereever she finds it, though, and if there is some illumination around the Maiar and Valar as they travel about Arda...that's going to attract her attention. I am fine with dropping this side story, though, if it creates too many problems. The purpose of it was to:
  1. Create a mystery to generate audience curiosity for the next episode
  2. Allow for a problem-that's-not-directly-Melkor's-fault *after* his arrival
  3. Generate wounded Maiar who cannot easily be healed to explain that 'physical' danger is a reality for our angelic beings (relevant to the audience buying that Nessa is in true danger) as well as highlight the need for the gardens of Lorien.
So, basically, it's a set-up for a bunch of things that will come into play later, but Episode 4 can likely survive without it. Setting up the need for Lorien could happen in the aftermath of the destruction of the Lamps, but that may seem too convenient if, after the first injury in thousands of years, they suddenly meet a healer who has been there all along.

I think we are all agreed that Ungoliant makes no appearance whatsoever in the Music of the Ainur (Episode 1). So, we have three Episodes in which we could 'introduce' her prior to her main appearance in Episode 5.

If we introduce her in Episode 2, then she is being defiant to the Valar directly prior to Melkor entering Middle Earth. This seems to me to be problematic as it immediately takes away her 'mysterious outsider' vibe. Having her speak at the gathering at Almaren is almost as out of place as having Tom Bombadil speak there. Yes, both of them are loners who would reject Manwë's invitation for communal living....but they are such loners that they would never respond to the summons or take part in the group debate either. Right? Having them there feels rather artificial - they don't belong. Also, any motivation she would have that would be tied to Melkor wouldn't make any sense at all, because the audience has not yet seen him interact with her. It also removes a lot of the mystery from her meeting with Nessa later on, which concerns me. I am fine with a brief wordless teaser cameo of her being 'missed' when everyone is gathered, but I am uneasy with her showing her face in front of such a large gathering. It also will make Nessa's invitation to 'come, join us' into a bit of a duplicate of Manwë's invitation that she's already rejected - that can either strengthen or weaken it, I suppose.

Introducing her in Episode 3 allows us to show that the first person she ever met/spoke with was...Melkor. Thus, her twisted nature is tied to him (and the potentially corrupting nature of the Void) very explicitly. It would be possible to introduce her in Episode 2, and then show her meeting Melkor as a flashback in Episode 3 as well. Giving her a prominent role in Episodes 2, 3 and 5 and then dropping her until the penultimate episode of Season 2 might feel like a cheat, though. The audience is going to wonder why she was played up so big and then just disappeared. I'd rather have her interaction with Nessa be the first time we see her speak with someone within Arda. That makes her into a bit more of a one-time villain who is scared off, clearly capable of returning later...which is what she is.


Anyway, that's my understanding of how things stand: a brief appearance in Episode 2 (no dialogue), an appearance in the Void with Melkor in Episode 3, off-screen attacks in Episode 4, and then the interaction with Nessa and Tulkas in Episode 5, only to be scared off and flee into a cave at the lighting of the Lamps....and then not to be seen again until Season 2.
I don't know that she needs to be wholly absent from episode 1. She could be one of the first to change her song to match Melkor's. This would give her all of three or four seconds of screen time, but it could be valuable if we do want to make her a major player in the proceeding episodes.

Does having her appear again in Episode 2 to announce she wants no part in the Almaren project really shatter her status as a mysterious outsider? If anything it seems to me to make it more explicit. Maybe that's a telling moment instead of a showing one, but I would kind of like a bit of a hook in the main story to take us into the next episode, and if Ulmo gets on board, then there kind of isn't one. I don't want to end this episode with the sense that everyone is totally 100% into Manwe's plan, but if the main dissenter comes around, how exactly do we make it clear that the ones who do leave are in fact leaving and not coming back? Either some one needs to speak up, or Elrond's needs to do a voice over, it seems to me. If we want to give that line to Elrond's so that we don't have to have Ungoliant or anyone else explaining themselves, maybe that could preserve some of their mystery? Something to the tune of: "So they all got together and started work on Almaren?" "Well, not ALL of them...." Etc., etc.
 

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
I agree with you that the 'unprovoked' attacks on the Maiar make Ungoliant a little bit more clearly evil - in a completely depraved kind of way. It also seems rather in character for her to try to eat light whereever she finds it, though, and if there is some illumination around the Maiar and Valar as they travel about Arda...that's going to attract her attention. I am fine with dropping this side story, though, if it creates too many problems. The purpose of it was to:
  1. Create a mystery to generate audience curiosity for the next episode
  2. Allow for a problem-that's-not-directly-Melkor's-fault *after* his arrival
  3. Generate wounded Maiar who cannot easily be healed to explain that 'physical' danger is a reality for our angelic beings (relevant to the audience buying that Nessa is in true danger) as well as highlight the need for the gardens of Lorien.
So, basically, it's a set-up for a bunch of things that will come into play later, but Episode 4 can likely survive without it. Setting up the need for Lorien could happen in the aftermath of the destruction of the Lamps, but that may seem too convenient if, after the first injury in thousands of years, they suddenly meet a healer who has been there all along.

I think we are all agreed that Ungoliant makes no appearance whatsoever in the Music of the Ainur (Episode 1). So, we have three Episodes in which we could 'introduce' her prior to her main appearance in Episode 5.

If we introduce her in Episode 2, then she is being defiant to the Valar directly prior to Melkor entering Middle Earth. This seems to me to be problematic as it immediately takes away her 'mysterious outsider' vibe. Having her speak at the gathering at Almaren is almost as out of place as having Tom Bombadil speak there. Yes, both of them are loners who would reject Manwë's invitation for communal living....but they are such loners that they would never respond to the summons or take part in the group debate either. Right? Having them there feels rather artificial - they don't belong. Also, any motivation she would have that would be tied to Melkor wouldn't make any sense at all, because the audience has not yet seen him interact with her. It also removes a lot of the mystery from her meeting with Nessa later on, which concerns me. I am fine with a brief wordless teaser cameo of her being 'missed' when everyone is gathered, but I am uneasy with her showing her face in front of such a large gathering. It also will make Nessa's invitation to 'come, join us' into a bit of a duplicate of Manwë's invitation that she's already rejected - that can either strengthen or weaken it, I suppose.

Introducing her in Episode 3 allows us to show that the first person she ever met/spoke with was...Melkor. Thus, her twisted nature is tied to him (and the potentially corrupting nature of the Void) very explicitly. It would be possible to introduce her in Episode 2, and then show her meeting Melkor as a flashback in Episode 3 as well. Giving her a prominent role in Episodes 2, 3 and 5 and then dropping her until the penultimate episode of Season 2 might feel like a cheat, though. The audience is going to wonder why she was played up so big and then just disappeared. I'd rather have her interaction with Nessa be the first time we see her speak with someone within Arda. That makes her into a bit more of a one-time villain who is scared off, clearly capable of returning later...which is what she is.


Anyway, that's my understanding of how things stand: a brief appearance in Episode 2 (no dialogue), an appearance in the Void with Melkor in Episode 3, off-screen attacks in Episode 4, and then the interaction with Nessa and Tulkas in Episode 5, only to be scared off and flee into a cave at the lighting of the Lamps....and then not to be seen again until Season 2.
I mean, Tulkas' altercation with Ungoliant is pretty open ended, so I agree that the audience may be anticipating her return in Season 1, but I kind of love that they have all of Season 2 to forget about her and focus on Melkor. Anyone who's been on board for all of season one gets a great big ah-HAH! when we roll up and get an over-the-shoulder shot behind Melkor of her lair, and anyone who's only picked up after episode 6 is like "ooooh, what's in the spooky darkness-cave?", y'know?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I don't know that she needs to be wholly absent from episode 1. She could be one of the first to change her song to match Melkor's. This would give her all of three or four seconds of screen time, but it could be valuable if we do want to make her a major player in the proceeding episodes.
If Ungoliant lives in the Void, there is some question of whether or not she came to the Timeless Halls for the Music of the Ainur at all. Remember that her origins are considered to be quite mysterious compared to the Valar and the Maiar - she's not just supposed to be a Maiar who took on a bestial form, and the other Valar don't seem to remember her from the Timeless Halls. There was a suggestion here that her 'part' in the music could be the silences or rests, so that her experience of the Music was completely different from everyone else's.

The first to follow Melkor's music should be the proto-balrogs (who I suppose I should be calling Valaraukar). Then, others of his followers, and eventually some of the Maiar of the other Valar (such as Ossë or Mairon?). If Ungoliant is there, she would follow him as well....but not really, if she's just silence anyway.

I feel the need to object strongly to calling so much attention to a minor evil character such as Ungoliant in all 5 of the first 5 episodes. Only Varda currently appears that much! To then have her disappear for a long time. That will feel like we didn't know what we were doing when we planned it out, and then 'wrote out' her character after the Nessa sequence was not well received by audiences.


Does having her appear again in Episode 2 to announce she wants no part in the Almaren project really shatter her status as a mysterious outsider? If anything it seems to me to make it more explicit. Maybe that's a telling moment instead of a showing one, but I would kind of like a bit of a hook in the main story to take us into the next episode, and if Ulmo gets on board, then there kind of isn't one. I don't want to end this episode with the sense that everyone is totally 100% into Manwe's plan, but if the main dissenter comes around, how exactly do we make it clear that the ones who do leave are in fact leaving and not coming back? Either some one needs to speak up, or Elrond's needs to do a voice over, it seems to me. If we want to give that line to Elrond's so that we don't have to have Ungoliant or anyone else explaining themselves, maybe that could preserve some of their mystery? Something to the tune of: "So they all got together and started work on Almaren?" "Well, not ALL of them...." Etc., etc.
She is no longer a mysterious outsider if all of the Valar have met her. She is currently a stranger to everyone but Melkor until Nessa meets her. Another reason to have 'victims' appear in Episode 4 was to advertise the indiscriminate nature of Ungoliant's hunger, so that 'why Nessa?' is answered with 'because she was there (and glowing)'. We can thus keep the creepy vibe with the undertones of sexual predator without making this explicitly an evil lesbian relationship gone wrong. Everyone seems to agree we should avoid that, but when we come down to saying what will happen between them, we keep circling back to problematic language.

What Season 1 does not need is more scenes where people stand around debating ideas. We've done a good job with the 'show don't tell' for this episode, with Yavanna's sapling, the coastline, and the creation of the island that will become Almaren at the end. I am not seeing the need for an impassioned speech utterly rejecting Manwë's idea after Ulmo changes his mind. Some people shaking their heads and leaving while others cross over into Almaren seems fine with me. Keep in mind that Almaren is an island in a lake, so visually it should be easy to show people hanging back and turning to leave rather than crossing the water to the island.

The ending currently is Estel asking why the world is such a dangerous place if the Valar are working together so well. We were not in agreement about how much of an answer Elrond would go into, but at the very least, he was going to say that there was another Vala they hadn't talked about yet to hook into the next lesson.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I feel the need to bring up Phillip's post from December on this topic:

I envisage [Ungoliant's] story starting one or two episodes before the Nessa/Tulkas episode and the way we can do it would be to have a mystery. Some of the lesser Maiar go missing and/or the almost lifeless husks of them are discovered. This is not a physical assault but a spiritual one in which Ungoliant sucks out their light force or power. Whether they are left "dead' or close to dead can be decided (I think we had decided that the Powers cannot die). The ones found can be of both genders (if all the Maiar have genders) removing the exclusively same sex creepy attraction element. During Nessa's confrontation with Ungoliant we can see that by subsuming the light force from the Maiar she not only weaves darkness but is also using it to start procreation, not necessarily in spider form yet, but some little blobs? which she calls her "children". This also fits with the practice of some female spiders that eat the male after mating. The mating and the eating can be one and the same thing and gender is not an issue because all Valar and Maiar have the light force inside of them. And anyway, gender is just an apparel that the Maiar and Valar wear that suits their personality.
 
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Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I think that we may be overplaying the need for additional pre-Melkor discord. One of the major points of Episode 2 is to show that the Valar find a way to work in harmony. That harmony is interrupted when Melkor arrives. To have such a flat refusal come after we've already done so much to show them coming together seems a bit of unnecessary to me.
 

ouzaru

Well-Known Member
If Ungoliant lives in the Void, there is some question of whether or not she came to the Timeless Halls for the Music of the Ainur at all. Remember that her origins are considered to be quite mysterious compared to the Valar and the Maiar - she's not just supposed to be a Maiar who took on a bestial form, and the other Valar don't seem to remember her from the Timeless Halls. There was a suggestion here that her 'part' in the music could be the silences or rests, so that her experience of the Music was completely different from everyone else's.

The first to follow Melkor's music should be the proto-balrogs (who I suppose I should be calling Valaraukar). Then, others of his followers, and eventually some of the Maiar of the other Valar (such as Ossë or Mairon?). If Ungoliant is there, she would follow him as well....but not really, if she's just silence anyway.

I feel the need to object strongly to calling so much attention to a minor evil character such as Ungoliant in all 5 of the first 5 episodes. Only Varda currently appears that much! To then have her disappear for a long time. That will feel like we didn't know what we were doing when we planned it out, and then 'wrote out' her character after the Nessa sequence was not well received by audiences.




She is no longer a mysterious outsider if all of the Valar have met her. She is currently a stranger to everyone but Melkor until Nessa meets her. Another reason to have 'victims' appear in Episode 4 was to advertise the indiscriminate nature of Ungoliant's hunger, so that 'why Nessa?' is answered with 'because she was there (and glowing)'. We can thus keep the creepy vibe with the undertones of sexual predator without making this explicitly an evil lesbian relationship gone wrong. Everyone seems to agree we should avoid that, but when we come down to saying what will happen between them, we keep circling back to problematic language.

What Season 1 does not need is more scenes where people stand around debating ideas. We've done a good job with the 'show don't tell' for this episode, with Yavanna's sapling, the coastline, and the creation of the island that will become Almaren at the end. I am not seeing the need for an impassioned speech utterly rejecting Manwë's idea after Ulmo changes his mind. Some people shaking their heads and leaving while others cross over into Almaren seems fine with me. Keep in mind that Almaren is an island in a lake, so visually it should be easy to show people hanging back and turning to leave rather than crossing the water to the island.

The ending currently is Estel asking why the world is such a dangerous place if the Valar are working together so well. We were not in agreement about how much of an answer Elrond would go into, but at the very least, he was going to say that there was another Vala they hadn't talked about yet to hook into the next lesson.
If Ungoliant is an Ainu, she was at the music. I don't think there's much room for speculation on that point. If she is not an Ainu, perfectly acceptable interpretation, and the one I actually prefer, that's another story. But for the purposes of simplification if she's going to be an Ainu, and I think as an embodiment of darkness it's perfectly reasonable to make her one, she needs to be present in the music, not the least reason being that darkness plays a part in Arda's history. To me, if that's the angle we're going to take, then we ought be be consistent. Your objection that a relatively minor character is showing up in all five early episode isn't unreasonable, but you're also suggesting putting her in a thematic place quite apart from the other characters. If she is such a minor character, why are we going out of our way to make all of these exceptions for her within the cosmology?

That Ungoliant would only be silence within the music seems to be at pretty obvious odds with the action she takes in the story. Maybe that's my own musical experience, but it seems to me that the metaphor doesn't hold too well, not to mention it's a kind of reductive understanding of "darkness". I don't feel inclined to conflate "light" with "music" in quite such a 1-to-1, substitutive way.

No comment on how "impassioned" the speech need be, but making motivations clear on screen is not wasted time, and if you are looking for places to cut debates about ideas from season one, I would suggest later in the season would be a better candidate for that than earlier. If there isn't some clear way to represent how things stand at the end of the debate, then we haven't done our job, and wrapping up the debate with "I guess you're right, let's do Manwe's thing" doesn't leave a lot of room for understanding the existence of dissenting voices, let alone what their motivations could possibly be. I'm flexible on whether someone needs to actuall say something within the context of the debate itself, but I am deeply uncomfortable with a couple of shaking heads and a dispersal, because even if it's clear that some are going off on their own, which I'm not convinced it will be, we just had the major dissenting voice change his mind. We've just said one thing and are now showing another without any explanation, and we are not coming back to the issue again. That is at best vague and at worst confusing at a point when we're trying to convey down vague and confusing ideas in a space that is already lacking for detail and specifics. There is no damage to our narrative by taking 10 to 15 seconds of screen time to be clear on what is happening, whether it comes in the moment from a character in the story, or through the frame.

And Nick, it's decidedly necessary because of the direction we chose to go with the upcoming episodes. If we're giving characters like Ungoliant more space as we've chosen, then showing the origins of where and why those conflicts begin is important, especially if our goal is to see the Valar up close in the way we've chosen to.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I do think that episode two does have plenty of space for conflict, I would just like to see the end of this episode with them working together in harmony, rather than have a bunch of folks loudly objecting after we've already resolved the storyline. It makes the harmony of Almaren something of a let-down.

As to who Ungoliant is, I do prefer her to be one of the Ainur, but in our adaptation, I'd like to make her origins as mysterious as Tolkien does. Just because we do not see her onscreen during the music doesn't mean that she isn't there, and just because we don't see her onscreen during the early stages of the shaping of Arda, doesn't mean she isn't there. It also means that she might not be.

In the Silmarillion, we do not see her in the music, but that does not mean she isn't there. We do not see her in the early shaping of Arda, but that doesn't mean she isn't there. We are using her in a couple of places for dramatic purposes, but I would like those to not erase the mystery that surrounds her in the published Silmarillion.
 
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