You know that moment in a mystery when the guy who has all the answers promises to explain everything and then doesn’t? Usually this is because the phone lines are cut or he suddenly dies or it’s time for a commercial. It’s cheap, but effective. It’s a vital part of pacing. It drives episodic TV. Hopefully your show won’t get canceled before it sputters to something resembling a finale.
One of the things I’m enjoying about Virtue’s Last Reward is its approach to “I’ll explain everything later” teases. This is a mystery that begins with the intimacy of Saw — two people who don’t know each other wake up in the same room with no idea why they’re there — and quickly expands to encompass, well, a whole lot more than I expected. In most mysteries, it’s predetermined when I get to know which reveal. But Virtue’s Last Reward lets me freely work my way down the various branches of a storyline that splits apart like a narrative vascular system. I won’t get the full story until I’ve traveled the length of each of these branches. In whatever order I choose.
So that guy who promises to reveal something will reveal it, but I control when. Unwittingly, perhaps. But it was I who made the decisions that shunted the story down this particular path when I learned this particular detail, which may very well color what I hear down another path. It’s lends the mystery a gratifying sense of self-determination.