Here’s a wonderfully wholesome scene from Freaks and Geeks- a similarly wholesome show.
Scene Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJlVirycg-0
Written By: Paul Feig
This is the final scene of the pilot. Lindsay has been forced to work at the homecoming dance. Her brother, Sam, has been hoping to get a slow dance with Cindy.
- Sam is insecure and doubts himself.
- Lindsay doesn’t know where she “belongs” within the school.
- Both want to feel loved and included.
How It Plays Out:
- Mr. Rosso comes up to the unhappy Lindsay, tending the punch bar. Encourages her to enjoy the dance.
- Lindsay looks wistfully around the dance. Notices her brother, Sam, enter.
- Sam nervously goes up to Cindy, asks if she’d want to dance with him. She happily accepts.
- Sam, self-conscious, takes Cindy to the dance floor.
- The song suddenly changes from slow/romantic to fast/upbeat. Sam panics.
- Cindy encourages Sam to dance. He does so and begins to really enjoy himself.
- Lindsay watches her brother having fun. Her gaze shifts over to the perpetually bullied Eli.
- Lindsay leaves the punch bar, decides to go dance with Eli. She talks to him for a moment before bringing him out to the dance floor.
- They begin dancing. Lindsay sheds her coat and begins to fully enjoy herself as she dances with Eli.
Why It Works:
B Ties up A: Throughout the episode, Sam and Lindsay have been going after their own goals which don’t very much intersect with one another. Sam’s goal is to go to the dance with Cindy as his date, whereas Lindsay’s goal (which is more abstract) has been to develop a sense of self. What makes this ending especially cathartic is how the success of Sam’s plotline is exactly what inspires the shift in Lindsay that allows her to discover her own sense of self. This makes it wonderfully easy to enjoy Lindsay’s ultimate success and love of self- it emerges from her (strained) admiration for her brother! By having the B Plot be the motivator for the A Plot’s resolution, the ending is made wonderfully satisfying.
Music-Based Gag: This scene occurs with Styx’s Come Sail Away playing in the background. Though the writer could have chosen any song that fit the era, this particular song works on two separate accounts. On one hand, it lyrically and tonally matches the journey which we’ll soon be watching these characters embark on. On the other hand, it is masterfully fixed into the scene as a distinct beat that allows for one of the episode’s funniest moments. When you watch the scene, the first half of the song plays as Sam leads Cindy to the dance floor. Sam, obviously, is anticipating a slow dance. But once there, the song jumps tempo and becomes a bonafide dance track, creating a hilarious moment of irony for the audience.
Visualized Emotion: One of the struggles many climactic scenes face revolves around the question of how to show a character’s emotional change. Oftentimes an emotional shift is an inward process, naturally making it a difficulty to show in a visual medium. A poorer scene could have the characters loudly exclaim this shift, or even point out some kind of over-acted emotions in their expression. This scene, however, gives a very clear context for this catharsis- a dance. Both Sam and Lindsay begin their dances tepid and relatively afraid to stand out, only to quickly embrace themselves and find genuine joy in their circumstance. Because it’s a dance, it’s wonderfully clear to see exactly when their emotional shift switches from dread to excitement. Their motion is freed, their bodies shift from rigid to loose, and from this, a simple yet universally relatable theme is established.
Everytime I watch this scene, I’m a bit confused as to why it’s not the season finale. It perfectly wraps up the in-episode arcs of both Sam and Lindsay in a form that’s wholly positive and satisfying, and does so by masterfully manipulating the audience via specific emotional cues. It’s smart, honest, and everything that an ending should be.