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Reviewing the 2016 Giants

After convincingly wrapping up the Even Year Trilogy, the Giants came back for a fourth installment. Could it possibly hold up?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The fourth installment in any franchise is going to be tricky. There’s a reason why we use the word “trilogy” without blinking but have to look up the word “tetralogy.” Trilogies meet our expectations of what a narrative should be, and they allow for a three-act structure within the three-act structure. They’re clean. Simple. Elegant. Familiar.

Which is why it was surprising to see the Giants return with a fourth installment, The Death of Even-Year Bullshit. Everything was wrapped up so neatly in the original trilogy. There were no unanswered questions. The progression of Cody Ross to Marco Scutaro to Travis Ishikawa was sublime and unexpected, even as we thought we knew the Giants’ tricks. The Giants started with a pair of homegrown starting pitchers who were talented enough to start an All-Star Game, then they were down to one, and then they were down to none.

There were quibbles -- couldn’t they win at least one of the championships at home? — but the stories worked just as well on their own as they did in the trilogy. Why bother with a fourth installment? Could it possibly hold up?


Oh, my, yes.

This is the year that the Giants’ Even-Year Bullshit finally had to grow up and face the cold, real world. This was Harry Potter getting kicked out of Hogwart’s and into Brakebills. This was darkness, pure darkness and malevolence, and while it’s nearly impossible to write about it without spoilers, it’s safe to note that the season was built on our expectations and familiarity with previous bullshit, and that familiarity drives every single plot point throughout the whole thing.

The story begins a little different from previous installments, with a loud, active, and expensive offseason that made Giants fans optimistic. They had a problem in the odd year, and they used money to address it in the offseason, which is a new wrinkle on a familiar storyline. The Giants don’t just meet the expectations at first; they wildly surpass them. The first half of the season ends with Madison Bumgarner throwing a memorable shutout on national television, and the Giants have the best record in baseball.

And then.

Oh, and then. It’s easy to get sucked into the inevitability of it all halfway through. This is how the trilogy gets expanded, you think, with minimal effort and creativity. This time there won’t be a surprising hero or twist ending. There will just be sustained success, and who would have blamed them? It still would have been wildly popular and made a ton of money.

And then. The lurking horrors escaped from the club’s collective subconscious and feasted on your expectations. The team didn’t finish the season with the best record in baseball. They barely made the postseason, suffering one ninth-inning deathblow after another, punishing their fans for being spoiled, paying their previous excesses back with flesh and interest. This wasn’t the season that Giants fans wanted. This was the season they probably deserved, but it wasn’t the one they wanted.

And then. The postseason starts the same way the third one ended. The same hero comes charging over the mountain, riding the same blue ox with his same magic hatchet. A new unlikely hero tags along and stuns the world with him. It’s akin to the similarities between A New Hope and The Force Awakens, with old themes blending into the new themes intentionally and effectively. It’s what allows you to feel safe.

And then.

It’s worth debating the resolution, if it could have occurred later, with even more at stake, but it’s impossible to be unimpressed with just how deftly we’re guided, at every turn, thinking we know the heartbreaking ending, only to think we’ve figured out the happy ending, only to think we’ve know the heartbreaking ending again. We realize we’re right back to the ending we should have predicted the entire time, the one that always made the most sense.

After three feel-good, fantastical masterpieces, the Giants presented us with something entirely different. They wrenched us out of the highly realized fantasy world and used our belief in the implausible and impossible to make the ordinary feel like science fiction.

And then? Well, and then we all had a good laugh and a cry. While I understand and empathize with those who lament the shift in tone for the franchise, preferring the popcorn thrills and feel-good vibes of the first three, The Death of Even-Year Bullshit is the only possible way to end the Even-Year Bullshit series, even if we don’t know it until the credits role.

There cannot possibly be a fifth installment. The idea behind the original trilogy has died a noble, grisly, and necessary death. But what a ride to get here. What a dizzying, heartbreaking, euphoric, and nihilistic ride of pure entertainment. It was never boring. Except for the hundreds of hours of boring parts, it was never boring.

The Death of Even-Year Bullshit
Starring Madison Bumgarner, Santiago Casilla, Bruce Bochy
Rated: R
Run time: 550 hours