From The Writers' Room Featuring ReMade

Andrea Phillips on writing ReMade E13: “Memories of Arcadia”

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remade_episode13_875x1400_300dpi_wtextDo you remember back in the Episode 9 notes when I said “Whiteout” took me three days to write? Magic all the way through? “Memories of Arcadia” is magic, too, but it’s the kind that needs a little blood and suffering from you before it works.

Memories of Arcadia is a very different episode to the rest of ReMade, and it’s all because of who’s telling the story: Arcadia herself. She hasn’t been ReMade. She’s not a teen. She isn’t even human.

Along the way, I made a few subtle technical decisions to help convey this sharp difference in point of view. For one thing, this episode is in present tense, where until now everything has been past tense. That’s because for a computer, the past is never over; it’s always under negotiation, always being updated or written over. Things that happened centuries ago and things that are happening now are side by side, woven together as it there were no difference between them.

About half the episode are things that are happening “now.” I was hoping that this would come off like The Tales of Ba-Sing-Se, a gorgeous episode from Avatar: The Last Airbender. That episode follows each character in a short vignette showing a bit of something about their lives and personalities.  It’s a beautiful piece of character work.

I wanted to replicate that depth and poignancy here. To linger a bit over Cole’s grief, Hyrum’s innocence, Nevaeh’s urgent need to provide for others. Almost everyone gets a turn in the spotlight, and we get to see who and how they are in this world when they don’t have to fight for their lives.

But even beyond trying to touch on the full cast, “Memories of Arcadia”—the episode—is a technically difficult piece of writing. That’s because for Arcadia, memory itself is difficult. There are places inside of her that are broken, erased, lost. There are places that she has intentionally lost or rewritten, and she continues to do so through the episode.

In a way, Arcadia is in the double bind of a person with a mental health disability. She knows her thoughts and memories are unreliable, but that knowledge doesn’t give her the power to change herself. She’s trying her best and hardest, but come what may, she is what she is.

If I’ve done this bit of magic well enough, suffered and bled enough on the page, then there are two things you should be feeling by the end of this episode. One is that open-mouthed gasp of understanding as the pieces start to fit together. This is an answers episode, and we finally give you some new clues about the Caretakers and the secrets of this world.

But the other thing I want to leave you with is heartbreak for Arcadia. Not because I’m cruel, no. It’s because to write Arcadia, for a little while I had to be Arcadia. My heart was already broken. It would do me a world of good to know I’m not alone.

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