If you read script-writing books about creating the opponent then you have more than likely come across terms like ‘Unity of Opposites’, ‘The Antagonist completing the Protagonist’ etc..
While these definitions are extremely important they can sometimes be hard to grasp without applying them to a concrete example.
Karen Crowder’s character is very interesting from a screenwriting point of view.
She is clearly the protagonist and it’s her desire to close the U-North deal that drives the story. If the dramatic question posed is ‘Will Karen Crowder succeed is closing the U-North deal’ then by the end of Act 2 this is answered. From her standpoint the main opposition to the deal being successful, Michael and Arthur, are now dead and she can move to close it.
For half of the script Michael and Karen share the same goal to contain the Antagonist, Arthur Eden.
This leads to an interesting question about creating your opponent character. Instead of creating two different characters whose actions serve your plot, and then spend your time trying to find a common ground between them, would it not be better to make them the same at the beginning?
Karen and Michael are both in the legal profession, both lawyers, and trying to fix the same problem. I use the word ‘fix’ here because it’s quite relevant, as Karen is trying to fix a problem using the methods Michael uses on daily basis. In another story you could see Michael and Karen working together at some capacity. Michael would not even question Karen’s methods only for the fact that she has taken ‘fixing’ to the next level, by killing Arthur, giving Michael the moral jolt that he needed.
So the main difference between them both is the question of morals when fixing a problem. How far is too far? This moral difference is gives the protagonist and antagonist characters depth and is directly linked to Michael’s character arc. If all Karen and Michael fought about was the success of the U-North deal, and Michael didn’t change, then the story would feel hollow and unsatisfying to an audience.
This script is so beautifully orchestrated. Michael, suspicious that the U-North deal is going ahead when Arthur has died, moves into the Antagonist role. Michael can now find out who murdered Arthur and expose them. This would be a perfectly acceptable ending where Karen goes to prison, the U-North deal is eventually closed, and Michael goes back to his job as a legal janitor. But Gilroy has set the stakes up all the way, the failing merger, the 80k loan from Marty, the NDA, so Michael has to sacrifice everything to change and make the morally correct choice.
Possible Premise: How far will an immoral man have to be pushed, before he will make the right moral choice, no matter what the cost?