The Booth at the End: A Masterful Example of Tell, Don't Show
"The Booth At the End" is a fascinating webseries for many reasons, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of it is its flagrant disregard for one of the most fundamental storytelling rules: it consists almost entirely of telling, with little to no showing.
In a nondescript diner, in the titular booth at the end, sits a mysterious man (Xander Berkeley). People come to him with wishes for what they want (to be prettier, to get the money to save their father's restaurant, to save a child or a husband's life) and he gives them a task they must complete. These tasks are never in the slightest related to the wish, and are often very nasty acts (killing a little girl, robbing a bank, or protecting a dirty cop, for example), but somehow, by accomplishing the task (and sometimes by refusing to accomplish the task) you get what you asked for.
The Man is easily the most fascinating character. HIs reactions are so subtle that you just find yourself captivated just trying to figure out what's going on in his head. Berkeley's natural warmth makes a character who could quite easily have seemed an evil sociopath seem even more intriguing, as you get the impression he likes the people he interacts with even as he gets them to do things they never thought they could do. I also found it very interesting how he is insistent that he is not forcing or causing the effects of people's actions: all he is doing is directing them to a path they can take in order to achieve their goal, even if the cause and effect do not seem connected in the least. It adds a totally different and utterly fascinating element to both the character of the Man and to the world of the series.
The series consists only of people coming to visit the Man and describing what they have done. While this sounds like it could be boring, the quality of the acting and the briefness of the scenes somehow makes the scenes mesmerizing. As the series goes on, it reveals interactions and connections between all of the characters as their quests to complete their tasks cause complications or solutions for others. The effect makes the story transcend its simple nature, becoming a fascinating study in the unpredictable consequences of actions.
I am not sure if this series will have a second season, but I hope that it does. The last episode of the first season ties up all of the storylines of the characters, while also giving a hook for future elaboration. I want there to be more episodes, if only to see what will happen with this new situation.
All in all, a wonderful little webseries. There's 5 episodes, all of which are currently available on Hulu. Check it out if you want to see an amazing series of wonderful simplicity and deceptive depth.
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