Bad to Worse or Vice Versa

I was awoken this morning from a perfectly horrific nightmare by an unbearable pain in my back. It got me thinking about the contrast of going from bad to worse or worse to bad. In this case I am still not sure which direction it went. A common goal in writing fiction is to build tension and create drama. Very simplified I realize, but that's what it amounts to. So often when I am watching movies and especially these cookie cutter television shows- the part comes that pisses me off as a viewer. I know they are just trying to build up drama but they made me upset. When its an idiotic plot twist it makes it even better. Occasionally I catch the end of this show where one of the characters is supposed to be an ex Navy Seal, there always seems to be a huge shoot out with dozens of rounds spent and only one person gets shot. Is that why he is an ex Navy Seal? I guess the point I am making is, the action taking the character from worse to bad or vise versa should at least represent the character as the reader knows them and not too far from what seems like a reasonable decision. In my opinion, going too far away creates an unavailability which will actually detract from the story.