Over the past week I managed to binge all of From during a trial of MGM+. It’s mostly a sort of Lost meets Under the Dome meets Wayward Pines, and while I found it diverting enough I’ve one enormous quibble.

In recent months, I’ve watched a couple of other “high concept” sci-fi shows. When I had Netflix, I binged and then finished Manifest, which I’ve described as what the eventual television shows written by large language models will be like. When I had Peacock, I was watching La Brea but gave on that altogether because I just couldn’t.

(For the record, I don’t think there’s been a natural successor to Lost since Sense8, because it understood that the premise was not the story, which when Lost was at its best it understood like few other genre shows, and certainly more than most that have tried to be the next Lost.)

Most of my interest in getting around to From was that it was pitched as a horror series. I’m not sure how much more of a horror show it is than Lost, really.

At one point Sara decides to listen to the voices she hears that tell her everyone can escape the town if she kills a child. I think the show would be more of a dive into “horror” if it turned out that this was the truth, because it would set up the tension and terror of who will want to do it and who won’t.

That was just an idle thought, however. It’s not my enormous quibble.

Somewhere along the line, Tabitha ends up trapped in the underground tunnels servicing as the daytime sleeping quarters of the monsters. Eventually, she finds her way out through the very exit used by the monsters themselves.

At no point does anyone think to just collapse this exit from the monsters’ underground lair.

I understand why: the writers needed Jade later to head into the tunnels in an effort to solve the riddle of a symbol he keeps seeing in visions and in drawings and which Tabitha saw underground. This wouldn’t be possible had they collapsed the exit.

This is a thing I hate maybe more than any other piece of television writing. It’s not enough to know that you need something for later, if basic common sense should dictate that your characters obviously would get rid of that thing. It’s your job as the writer or showrunner to figure out a way for the characters to take an obvious step toward their own safety and still make that thing available again later on.

I can forgive a lot in my television, although probably less than most. I can’t forgive this sort of thing.

If your characters don’t behave like real people would, I’m no longer going to care about them as people, because narrative needs are trumping character needs. If you don’t respect your characters’ needs as people, why should I care about what you’re doing with them?

I’ve said it before, including in the post about Manifest. All stories by definition are technically contrived, but there’s a difference between contrived and contrived.

It’s not a fatal error in the sense that I won’t bother with season three, should it in fact happen once the Hollywood strikes come to an end. It’s enough of an error, however, and an unforced one at that, to change the nature of the way I finished the binge, and the way in which I will watch later episodes.

Television writers, I swear to you that you’re more talented than this. You have it in you to make a story element work both for the obvious ways in which the characters would react to it and for the narrative reason you’re going to need later on.

Do better.