[Quick Summary: Based on King Lear. The Great Lord Hidetora turns over his empire to his eldest son, and it triggers in-fighting and great destruction.]
I feel bad for Hidetora, but I also don't.
He obtained his land by violence, and now it's coming back to bite him. Ironic, yes?
My favorite "gotcha" moment is the scene below.
1) How the writers innocently set up Hidetora for a big payoff. I didn't see it coming.
2) How they get us to empathize with the occupant. This is key to making the comeuppance more emotionally satisfying.
ex. "INT. - STRAW HUT - DUSK
...TANGO: Excuse us for coming in with our shoes on, but our lord was suddenly taken ill... [Setup: Hidetora and company barge into someone's house. So unclassy.]
He steps up on the wooden floor and, together with Kyoami, carries Hidetora over to the hearth and, laying him there, addresses the occupant of the house, seemingly a woman.
TANGO (looks at the occupant): He is wet. Do you have something to cover him with? [More setup: Then they demand help. No 'please'? No manners?]
The occupant stays seated and does not move.
TANGO: Answer me, woman!
OCCUPANT: Are you talking to me?
The occupant of the house silent rises and goes to a corner of the room. Tango and Kyoami watch the person suspiciously. The occupant, seen from behind in the dim light, appears to be looking for something. [We get why the occupant is reluctant to help these intruders.]
The occupant rises and comes over, silently handing something over. Tango receives it - it is folded clothing. He opens it, puts it on Hidetora, and stares in surprise. It is a beautiful robe with a colorful design, out of keeping with the humble hut. Tango and Kyoami are amazed and curious as they look at it. [1st surprise/payoff: They are wrong about the robe.]
TANGO: Speak up...woman!
OCCUPANT: I am not a woman. [2nd surprise/payoff: They are wrong about the occupant.]
TANGO: What? It is so dark, I... Bring me a lamp.
Tango reaches for a stick of lighted firewood in order to take a good look at him, and notices a cane leaning by the side of the hearth.
TANGO: I am sorry. Is your eyesight poor?
He holds up the stick of firewood. The occupant of the house is illuminated in the light from the burning stick. It is the face of a blind but handsome youth. Kyoami pulls back with a start and looks at Tango. [3rd surprise/payoff: They're wrong about his disability.]
TANGO (shocked, gazes at the youth): Are you Lade Sue's younger brother...Master Tsurumaru?
Hidetora sits up, turns his eyes, and stares at the youth. Then, his voice trembling, he mutters with a frightened voice.
TSURUMARU: It has been a long time...Lord Hidetora.
HIDETORA: Do you remember me?
TSURUMARU: How could I forget you? I was just a child, but how could I forget the one who gouged out my eyes in exchange for sparing my life...the day you burned down my father's castle?" [4th surprise/payoff: They've dug themselves a deep well. We see why Hidetora should be ashamed and feel justified at his current comeuppance.]
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When there's a good setup and payoff, we see why the comeuppance is justified...and it feels so cathartic!
by Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni & Masato Ide
Based on "King Lear" by William Shakespeare
Translated by Tadashi Shishido