I’ve started watching “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix. I think it’s bad for a number of reasons, but what’s annoyed me most that it’s predictable. SPOILER ALERT— which isn’t really a spoiler because it’s, um, predictable—but whenever a new character shows up with intentions that are meant to be concealed from us, those intentions are, on the contrary, obvious; whenever a character presents one way, it’s obvious they are, in fact, the opposite. “The Queen’s Gambit,” which everyone loves soooo much, is similarly plagued, though its contrivances are worse for being kinda racist and stupidly utopian (read: the Black Angel (who *didn’t* see that coming?) and the ludicrous meritocracy of chess). Fine. The thing is, there’s a slim line between the predictable and what, instead, powerfully ratifies our suspicions, which, when it happens, is enjoyable. Take a writer like Elizabeth Strout, who is expert at seeding her fiction with clues and foreshadowing that, when sprouted, make us feel smart (not bored) for having been right. A story like “Incoming Tide” is a great example. It begins:
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