Inside most heroes’ journey, in order for them to win, they must first lose; to have their face slammed to the ground, their motivation crushed, as they cry and hopelessly grasp for air when a deep realization sinks into their heart—this is it. Everything is lost: hopes, friends, smiles, and even the last ray of light. The darkest hour, has descended.
But, what exactly is the darkest hour?
Inside every storytelling, especially the ones revolving around a quest or heroes, you’d undoubtedly notice that at a certain point in the plot, the events begin to gradually slip down the hill until BOOM. The effects of the downfall rush into you as the scenes unfold before your eyes. The prime example of this in movies would be in Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos snapped after Thor didn’t manage to kill him, and the movie ended on a grim note.
It’s an overwhelmingly effective tool because at that moment in the cinema, as the credits scenes roll, it was devoid of any voice. No one was cheering or celebrating. We, the audiences have only realized that the traditional justice-always-win mindset has just blown on our faces, as half of the humanity has been wiped clean in that instant.
This is because by showing how devastated the characters are, it creates a resonating effect to the audiences that the stake is real. It evokes this uneasiness through the characters’ facial expressions, their inner monologues, their plans (backups, including) all foiled, and the momentum that they carry with them, our eager feelings to support them all come to a sudden halt.
A silent realization.
This is also employed in the match between Karasuno and Aoba Johsai High in Haikyuu!! Season 2′s ending. The unexpected happens. The kings are dethroned. All their practice matches, sweats, hardwork, determination, and future plans are for naught. All those talks about getting to national, excitement over sleepless night, encouragement over exhausting days—are just bitter memories, tinged with regrets.
Similar to Avengers: Infinity War, they prey on two different types of downfall: physically, and mentally. Physically, because there’s nothing more they could have done, even after pouring out their strength and the last drip of their adrenaline, even if they have upgraded themselves and ran all the possible tactics. Emotionally, as they cannot think of any other options to conquer the challenges before them, and have disappointed people who believe in them, but most importantly, they have betrayed their own expectations.
It’s an utter, complete defeat, yet, sensible; which is why it is so powerful.
Over the course of a story, or a franchise especially, the darkest hour represents the darkest, lowest point in a story-line, but ironically, it is also the brightest point. And, it is at this point that character development plays an important role alongside the plot itself. It adds depth to their characteristics, adds meaning to their motivation, demolishes the fact that they are merely fictitious, and creates a mirror for us to reflect ourselves in.
The darkest hour, embodies this moment of realization, where we are the closest to the character’s heart.
If it’s all good, then the main characters move on from their pathetic states, evolving from their wimpy, weak, non-cooperative mindset to triumph over the villains, or achieving their goals. Sometimes, even if the goals are not achieved, as long as lessons are learnt, experiences are made, casualties are justifiable, overall journey is worthwhile, the cathartic sense of satisfaction and relief can and will still be felt.
But, if the darkest hour persists, or even becomes darker to the point of no return, then the plot has taken a different direction to the land of misery. If all the characters that we care about are gone, the world destroyed, then there’d be no point of winning against anything anymore, isn’t it?
This is why the darkest hour hangs on a delicate balance between bitterness and sweetness; if it’s overused, it loses its credibility and effectiveness, but when added right, it can surely achieve wonders.
Thanks for reading.