Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
Zuko, Snape, Eleanor Shellstrop -- What makes a good redemtion arc?
Characters that present as villainous at first and nobly heroic nearing the end, have always fascinated audiences. Zuko from Avatar The Last Airbender, presents as a particularly striking example of this. Here we have a young teenager who just fills an antagonist role so well. He constantly is hunting Aang and company in the hopes to restore his honour. As the story progresses however, through various trials, tribulations, self-reflection, and personal development, he ultimately finds his own honour in helping the Avatar. Eleanor from the show The Good Place has a similar arc where self-development, understanding, and personal growth prove key to her redemption.
One can argue that Snape in Harry Potter doesn’t quite follow this redemption arc, and while many fans think his redemption proves just as valid, a case can be made against it. Snape arguably doesn’t make any effort in his own redemption, and his love for Lily and grand reveal that ‘he was actually one of the good guys all along’ just doesn’t seem to offer that same ‘satisfaction’ for lack of a better word as the other redemption arcs previously mentioned so much as it seems to play more into the role of a plot twist than a redemption arc. We don’t see the same focus on growth and becoming a better person here.
This begs the question- what makes a good or bad redemption arc and what differentiates a redemption arc from a plot twist?