Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Doctor Who, Season 11, Episode 2: The Ghost Monument

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

This is the Charmed reboot. I know a lot of people were quite hostile towards this - and I was most definitely not one of them, being in general open to reboots and being quite welcoming to a Charmed reboot in particular. Especially since there was more than a whiff of homophobia about a lot of the negative commentary

So you could say I was more than a little inclined to be positive towards this show. In light of that I will say… it has potential. I guess. While reminding myself this is just the pilot and things can change a lot

This episode felt very very uneven with some serious issues. One of which was the writers clearly deciding to go for a more humorous tone and not really hitting it. And there’s few things worse than a show which tries to be funny but fails to be. Henry is amusing at times but otherwise it’s fairly flat

But on the plus side, this episode is very much split in two. And it’s the early part that fails so badly - to draw the inevitable Original Charmed comparison, this is the part when we meet the three sisters as people, not as witches. We establish their baseline, their personalities, what their goals are in life and what conflicts exist between them. It fails so badly at this. So utterly badly

The youngest sister is Maggie. She wants to join a sorority and… actually that’s kind of it? She has an ex called Brian who is still hanging around vaguely. But this is kind of all I know of her. She’s going to university and I don’t even know what she’s studying. Hobbies, goals, life - there’s nothing there

Mel is the middle sister, I know she had a girlfriend and she’s passionate about social justice issues especially the #MeToo movement. While I definitely think it’s excellent to involve important and vital social justice movements in media this is kind of ALL MEL is. I don’t know if it’s well meaning, lazily fobbed off or just because all the sister’s characters were so poorly developed at this phase but she’s just wandering rage ball of buzz words. She works as a grad student for… again we have an academic and I have no clue what she is actually studying - perhaps Woman’s Studies like her mother

Macy is the eldest sister and the one who is estranged, believing her mother dead when she was two. She recently moved to town to follow a job and she’s just realise that this is where her mother lived. She’s a scientist - again we’re super vague here: is she a biologist? A chemist? A physicist? An Astronomer? A botanist? “Scientist” is an impossibly vague term.

The opening also really fails to establish the sisterly relationship - partly because Macy meets her two younger sisters for the first time because she decides to knock on the door and say “hey I’m your sister!”. While Mel and Maggie are both dealing with their mother dying due to magical woo-woo in the opening scene (after she tells her daughters who different and special and united they are because this show is subtle like that). Everyone thinks it was an accident except Mel who is raging and determined she was murdered.

Her mother was also reporting a professor at the university for abuse - his victim now in a coma. With her dead more and more people dismissed it as a witch hunt, Mel is driven by more anger to pursue this and putting up #MeToo posters. When a male student defends him she punches him.

Again the relationship between the sisters would be much more easily developed, I think, if we got to see them more before or much after the trauma when they’d started to deal with it we could actually see their actual personalities and relationship more and build in a conflict (like, say, Charmed Original had between Phoebe and Pru) that was less centred on one event.

We meet Mel’s ex, Niko who is a police detective and left Mel because of her all consuming constant rage.

When the three sisters first meet it’s weird because who just knocks and says “hey I’m your sister” - but Maggie is cautiously welcoming and Mel just viciously hostile and drives her out. But all together means they have activated the woo-woo and put out the power before all going back to their daily lives only now with powers: Macy telekinesis, Mel freezing time and Maggie mind reading - I’m guessing because visions are too much of a passive power? I’m wondering if this may be a mistake since visions are also really useful Deus Ex Plot Hook.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 2: A New Life

Warren and Cooper are all wonderful together and it’s so sweet and loving and real - so it’s definitely going to go to hell

And it does when Murphy arrives. He runs into Cooper first who is duly suspicious of this bright red guy suddenly appearing asking after Warren. As Murphy talks it becomes increasingly clear he is who he says he is and Cooper is faced by the realisation that Warren has friends in Newmerica she may want to be with.

That Warren may leave him

So he knocks Murphy out and locks him in the trunk of his car. Which isn’t very effective because Warren quickly finds out, sees Murphy in the trunk then slams it closed again to confront Cooper.

He protests that he’s doing it for them and he desperately wants her to promise to stay with him and try to explain things - even adding that this “devil” is going to destroy their dreams. Warren is enraged and sad and confused and repeatedly hits Cooper even as he tries to drag up an explanation for what he did. Warren’s not having it, there is no justification for this and she knocks him out

She frees Murphy and locks Cooper in the same car boot Murphy was restrained in. She then leaves him - telling Murphy that she’s leaving it to Darwin.

And that’s just sad… because I liked Cooper and Warren together - it was good, it was sweet, it was beautiful. And I think if they were going to go with his obsession over her and delved into his own guilty and loneliness they could probably have done more with this. But then he’s not technically dead so this could still happen.

They then leave on a Tractor

The rest of the gang have arrived at Altura, one of the larger outposts that is looking to become part of Newmerica. They’re all heading up to the Signing the Constitution to form this new nation - even though the Constitution isn’t exactly written, the vote is more a vote on the concept of Newmerica. Of towns working together for common value as a nation state in which both the living and the dead have a presence.

And central to that is George who is clearly one of the greater founders of this movement and massively respected by everyone, even people who disagree with her. She wants this to go ahead not just because it’s her dream, but since the Black rain zombie attacks are becoming more frequent and more intelligent - as she explains to Roman Estez, the founder of Altura, rich guy and genius (yet so far not evil - and rich + genius = evil unless there’s angst. It’s a TV law) that if they don’t decide to unite then a lot of the smaller outposts will be on their own and totally devastated by the new menacing zombies

The gang go through quarantine and medical testing though this seems less exclusionary and more to make sure they pick up everyone who is a “Talker” so they get their biscuits. 10k (oh, they fill in his paperwork as 10k which is amusing - but everyone is now calling him Tommy) fuzzes the radar a little - after all he’s been through he’s not exactly living and not exactly a zombie but who knows what he is. He is adorable. They get work orders - but that again will be super liberalised with the new constitution (I do think they put a whole lot of hope in this change)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Van Helsing, Season 3, Episode 1: Fresh Tendrils

Last season brought us… nonsense. So much nonsense. And everyone not having a damn brain in their heads. But Vanessa did release this super old powerful vampire and he bit her.

So let’s rejoin the randomness starting with a flashback to 1986 where we learn that one of the Van Helsing children, Scarlett, was dumped on the Harkers while Vanessa was taken away, there was a car crash and she entered the foster system - but not before some shadowy veiled figure took her hand all ominous like

I think this is supposed to be why Vanessa is a lone wolf made of rage?

Anyway in the present she wakes up on a hospital bed and, lo, the Elder is there. Being Vanessa she attacks him and he fights back by changing his appearance to look at various people she cares about. Honestly it’s pretty useless as it’s pretty clear what the vampire is doing.

Until eventually he turns into Susan - her dead friend and neighbour - and that gives him chance to create a woowoo connection between her and Scarlett. This allows Scarlett to infodump the whole last episode to Vanessa because the writers realised that, oops, Vanessa needs to know a lot of shit and she doesn’t. So, along with a dying mother, Abbie, which everyone’s supposed to be sad about though she’s only just appeared, no-one really has spent enough time with her to care about her and honestly meh to her dying. Vanessa is also angry. Because she’s kind of always angry? Anyway Vanessa learns that the Elder is pledged to their family so has to obey them. The Dark One, first vampire, is super super bad and should never escape (he is so going to escape) and they must never ever face him (they’re so going to face him) and to stop it they need to collect the magical shiny things each elder has. Because who doesn’t like a nice collection quest? We drop in family angst about them being infected by the First Vampire’s blood which is why they are the most Special of Specialness. Oh and there’s the family book which has some mysterious clue. Ancient tomes, super special protagonists with Destiny and special blood and a collection quest? Someone’s gone all out for storytelling staples

Abbie dies because tragedy. And Vanessa is returned to her body with Elder!Susan (she will be continuing like this from now on to spare the make up department the effort of making up the Elder every time). Vanessa also believes this vision and the obedience of the Edler… despite the fact we already have proof that the Elder is really really good at messing with people’s heads. But we need her to know all this so run with it.

Vanessa does a wander through the lab and kills some wounded guards so she can feed on blood. She’s pretty savage on it - Vanessa is definitely embracing her full dark side. She runs into the woman who pretended to be her mother and Is Not Pleased. She calls her out and evil lady decides to reveal she was the one who deliberately taint the blood of two small children out of sheer curiosity (what? What kind of supervillain nonsense is this? It’s not even “for science!” it’s for shits and giggles!). She also shoots Vanessa which does nothing because super powers - and gets brutally, slowly and agonisingly stabbed by Vanessa. Vanessa is sprinting towards the darkness. She also gets her family book back

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode 1: Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s back - and whatever else you have to say about Supernatural I have to praise the sound track

And these “the story so far” just get steadily more ridiculously epic.

So last season Lucifer died, Gabriel died, nearly all the angels died, Heaven is near death because of lack of angel batteries, a load of alternate world characters are hanging out and we have an Alternate world Archangel Michael who is made of awful.

He’s currently asking random people from all walks of life, what they want. And then getting all judgy if they’re not sincere

He interrupts a devout muslim during prayer to ask him what he wants - and being a good man he says “peace” and “love.” And Michael scorns him - because if he believed in peace he would have stayed in Syria, a war zone, and saved his friends who died (waaait… in the name of peace stay and fight? This does not seem consistent or logical). And if he believed in love he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife

And here we have the problem with the “good” Archangel Michael. His standards are too high. He doesn’t understand that humans can hold lofty goals that they don’t quite live up to - but that those goals are still very real and passionate and noble. No-one can live up to Michael’s impossibly stringent ideals especially since he fails to recognise Trying. And because of this he intends to purge everything.

Well that’s the idea I think. But then he goes to the angel Anael (playing preacher Jo) who claims to like shiny shiny fashion labels but Michael calls her out on lying when she really wants love and family. Like a human which he’s so against. Which I guess kind of fits - he disapproves of humans because they can’t match their own ideals. And he disapproves of angels for emulating these lesser creatures

Except then he decides to be totally on side with a vampire because it’s honest about his intentions - it just wants to eat. Well… yes? I just want to know how this is going to be developed. Because as it stands Michael seems to value… honesty? But even that has to be viewed as being caused by a, to be generous, extremely simplistic world view which lacks things like understanding of the greater good or working for something better - it’s simplicity that rests at the very bottom of Laslo’s hierarchy of needs but it’s not exactly… aspirational? This creature is honest because it’s starving is not exactly a… moral basis

I mean they could work on this - it could even flash back to the whole idea of the apple in Eden and knowledge being evil: the ideal world would be where everyone is reduced to basic needs. Except I don’t see Supernatural going there because it’s a level of depth the show tends… not to have? And it would be inconsistent with what we’ve seen of this world’s Michael and the many Archangels and angels in general up to and including Metatron. None of them are really upheld the idea that the true and proper position of humanity is to be bestial.

Aaaand… I’m going to say it. Despite the weird wardrobe choice I really don’t think Jensen Ackles is carrying this

So, that’s Michael - over at team Winchester we have Mary and Alternate Bobbie, some girl called Maggie who will probably end up with Jack at some point mainly because they’re opposite sex of similar age and in close proximity which in televisionlandia makes things inevitable. See also Mary and Bobby

Friday, October 12, 2018

Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews

Hugh D’Ambrey, the great Biblical wizard’s Warlord, has been banished from his presence. For decades, longer, Hugh was Roland’s servant and a lethal, terrifying fighting force and general. And now he doesn’t know who he is

But his soldiers rely on him, people hold grudges, his rival Ness especially. They need safety, they need a home - but who would trust them

Ilara and her people need protection. They’ve been driven to run for too long but are now secure in an actual castle… but they have no soldiers. And Ness wants their land.

It’s not a romantic match… but it is a practical one.

It is so hard to review an Ilona Andrews book. It’s hard because the things that make these books so special - the awesome world building, excellent characters, massively fun storylines and tight, descriptive yet well paced writing are pretty much the same in every book. Early on they set the bar at awesome and kept repeating the same levels of awesome and that leaves me with a happy stunned with joy, grieving because I’ve finished it and then flummoxed on how to produce a review that isn’t a duplicate of the last review

This book follows Hugh D’Ambrey - a very different standpoint from Kate given how he has been such a major villain for much of the Kate Daniels Series and how he is, pretty much, The Worst. I admit to having some reservations - I’m not against redeemed villain narratives but all too often they’re done far too simplistically which rarely if ever actually touches real redemption and usually amounts to a handwaving of their past

But this worked. Because it didn’t try to redeem Hugh. Hugh is a monumental bastard and always has been. He doesn’t claim to be different, Ilara doesn’t think he’s different, even the fact he wants to preserve his people isn’t presented as making him a good guy. Even exploring his toxic relationship with Roland and how Roland controlled him isn’t used to redeem or excuse him (though it does include some really excellent character growth moments as Hugh basically learns how to be Hugh without Rolan’s overwhelming presence). Even meeting old enemies who are grudgingly willing to work with him isn’t presented as forgiveness, even when he apologises. Even his own levels of self-hatred and self-recrimination: all of this is here but, at the same time, I don’t think the book ever intended me to think “Hugh is a good guy now”.

And I really like his relationship with Ilara. Firstly she’s an equal - she has her people and he has his both are the supreme leaders who have earned a vast amount of loyalty and even as the two factions begin to blur, it never happens in a way that undermines either of them. Neither are ever the junior partners and while he clearly has combat advantages over her in some situations, she is equally clearly the one with by far the most powerful magic.

And they hate each other which I love. Yes, I know I talked about persistence not being a virtue and love interests whose dislike is worn down by one party’s persistence. But that isn’t happening here - Hugh and Ilara marry for political reasons, so people will believe that their alliance is real (especially since Hugh. under Roland broke a whole lot of alliances). But Hugh and Ilara despised each other from the very first day and their sparring is glorious. Their searing loathing for each other (even as it slowly melts into respect but is never ever not a battle) is hilarious and mutual - Hugh isn’t setting out to win Ilara’s heart and Ilara