From an article by Marissa Skudlarek:
“Second-act problems” are a proverbial part of playwriting, but I propose that we could also call them “third-quarter problems.” When people say “second-act problems,” they don’t mean that the very end of the second act sucked (when that happens, they just say “the ending sucked”) — they mean that the playwright had trouble getting through the second act, managing the climax without bungling it….
Playwrights have been having second-act or third-quarter problems since our profession existed — frankly, you could even make the case that Hamlet has third-quarter problems, what with Hamlet being sent to England, captured by offstage pirates, etc. And human beings, too, have always had third-quarter problems; indeed, isn’t a “midlife crisis” the archetypal “third-quarter problem”? Third-quarter problems — the plateau, the struggle, the eventual breakthrough — are common to most people and most narratives. So, despite everything, they bring us together. So, despite everything, they’re problems I love to have.