I used to have so much faith in sequels. As a kid, I longed for my favorite books and movies to come out with sequels and my favorite TV series to produce new episodes forever. Do you still feel that way?
The first crack in the damn holding back the reservoir of distaste I have for sequels came with Highlander 2. Before Highlander 2, I’d expected sequels to be like Empire Strikes Back–extensions of the genius introduced in their preceding tales and arguably even better than the story that spawned them. ButHighlander 2 could not be reconciled with the awe and mystery invoked by the first movie. That sequel was a mess that not only embarrassed itself but actually degraded the original film from which it sprang.
My faith in sequels still hadn’t been fully flooded by cynicism, though, even after that. It took another decade of disappointments to realize that sometimes–arguably most of the time–it’s better to let a great piece of fiction exist as it does. No one’s dying for the sequel to Hamlet or Great Expectations. Once a good story ends, it should be over.
Of course, taking too strict a stance against sequels would exclude some great stories. Empire Strikes Back is an obvious example. The Vampire Lestat would be another example I could think of where a sequel surpassed the story it preceded from. And more important to me personally, I love to write in sequel arcs instead of throwing one novel down and calling a story done.
Are sequels a necessary evil? Would BSG still be thought of as a masterpiece if it had continued on for many more years and devolved into drivel? What makes a good sequel? If a sequel sucks, should that degrade our view of the original? And do we have an obligation to count a sequel as existing at all if we find it ruins what we once loved?