Why GLASS ONION soars while KALEIDOSCOPE goes splat

These two shows both have a great leading actor, talented supporting case, and an interesting mystery/thriller premise.

So why did Daniel Crag & Co. entertain us so well with a sequel better than the original–and why did Giancarlo Esposito & Friends fail to satisfy?

And yes, I’m going to spoil the hell out of one of them, but not the other, because you should still go watch Daniel Craig having the most fun in his acting life.

First up: GLASS ONION.

This movie is a disguised mystery, with the real murder not revealed until halfway through the movie after ANOTHER murder to cover help the first.

The movie then starts over from another POV, and the clues start to make sense.

What GLASS ONION does so well is give the audience the emotion it wants in surprising ways.

And aside from the first murder victim, every character gets basically what the deserve, especially the villain.

GLASS ONION also happily passes my acid test: would I watch this movie again? YES.

All the ways KALEIDOSCOPE crashes and burns

Here’s the trailer if you are not familiar.

So the premise is interesting, and the episodes are shown to you in random order–except the end, where you watch the characters six months after the heist, then see the heist itself.

The ending is where it all falls apart.

I enjoyed the episodes leading up to the final two. Great acting with interesting, flawed characters put into tough situations.

Here’s why the ending kills a promising start: This is a heist movie, where the audience expects the heist go wrong before it surprisingly goes right due to the cleverness of the gang. OCEANS 11 is a great example of the genre.

Instead, our main character, Leo, doesn’t pull off the heist. They break into the impossible vault and think they stole the money only to get fooled. He fails, though he does successfully set up his rival for a long prison term. But that rival gives a disgruntled gang member, Bob, the info he needs to track down Leo and his bent lawyer girlfriend. She gets killed, then Leo is later shot in the back.

The ending is sending a message that greed doesn’t pay, and criminals end up dead or in prison.

Except it’s the wrong genre and setup for that kind of ending. That’s not a heist movie where the main character is the leader of the gang pulling off the job. Stories with this ending and message rightfully have the POV of law enforcement.

It’s true that this sort of ending happens in BREAKING BAD, with Walter White dying at the end. But he’s the villain of his own story, and his downfall is deserved. Walter White chose to go down a bad path that led to the destruction of his family and the death of dozens and dozens of people.

Leo is a sympathetic character, not a killer. Despite the mistakes of his criminal past, he’s kind to his team and his daughter.

So the second-to-last episode loses the audience and kills any desire to see how the heist fails.

It wouldn’t be hard to fix this. A heist story needs to end with a successful heist, and switching the bearer bonds is a neat trick.

Let the bent lawyer with a gun fetish win her gunfight with Bob’s thug, and let Leo live to push his granddaughter around in a stroller.

Most importantly, make the heist in this heist story truly work. Instead of Leo’s daughter switching the bonds to benefit the crooked Triplet billionaires, swap the bonds and wheel them out to share the spoils with Leo and the surviving gang, except for Bob, because screw Bob.

Now we have a heist story about a real heist, one that worked, that gives the audience the emotion it expects in an unexpected way.

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