Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Preacher, Season 2, Episode 6: Sokosha




Opening odd foreshadowing weirdness to remind us of the weirdness that is just Preacher: a man ominously buying some white powder extracted from poor, desperate people for a moderate sum of money - and then sold to very rich, desperate people who pay much larger sums of money to use it to cure alzheimers.

Ominous -and yes there are comments to make about class and exploitation - but, c’mon, it’s not exactly subtle or require a nuanced examination.

Cassidy, Tulip and Jessie are still squatting with Dennis the odd French man (Cassidy continues to have a conflicted relationship with Dennis) and things are… happy but tense. Everyone is playing nice but there’s a lot of tension and unresolved ish under every word. But they make nice while they do that odd American thing of having dessert for breakfast

While Viktor’s daughter leads the Saint of Killers to their door

Well, their neighbour’s door anyway. The Saint of Killers works his way through them one at a time with gun and knife - one of his bullets making it’s way to Dennis’s fridge and alerting Jessie that there’s something going on - they run.

And brainstorm how to stop the Saint. Of course, Tulip’s very sensible suggestion that they just run and stop using the Word doesn’t work for Jessie who is still hunting god. So they need a plan B:

Lots of research - it turns out that there are a lot of very very very accurate stories, comics, romances and books on tape about the Saint fully filling in his past. But before they can decide how to use that against him Cassidy remembers Dennis is coming home and going to run into the Saint

They call him and hear the Saint attacking - to save his life Jessie uses the Word and says he’s on his way

It’s a huge gamble - but when he arrives he manages to convince the Saint not to kill him. He guesses that Fiore made a deal with the Saint - kill Jessie and god will reward him by sending him to Heaven to be with his dead wife and child rather than in hell reliving his worst day forever more. A nice offer - except, as Jessie proves (for a given definition of prove... ) with the audition tape that god isn’t around so he isn’t getting to heaven

Not by god anyway. But Jessie has sent someone to hell with the word, Heaven can’t be that much different. But there’s one missing piece - he needs a soul. The Saint of Killers, his mythology says, is the one man in Earth without a soul.

The Saint agrees to give Jessie a chance - and one hour to get him a soul. And he’s holding Jessie, Tulip and Dennis captive until Jessie gets back.

The time is especially tense because Dennis is ill and needs a hospital - which plucks at Cassidy’s heart because Dennis is his son… yes son and yes Dennis speaks no English and Cassidy no French: Cassidy admits to not being the best father but still he cares. Tulip tries to appeal to the Saint to let Dennis go but he just lifts her to the ceiling by the throat

Midnight Texas, Season One, Episode One: Pilot

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This series is based on the Charlaine Harris novels by the same name.  Given that this story originates with Harris, I'm going to admit that I went into it with a certain set of doubts, despite her success with True Blood. Let's be honest, Charlaine Harris is no lover of women and doesn't write marginalised characters very well at all. 

The first person we meet is Manfred, who is a psychic.  One of his sessions goes a little bit further than he planned and a ghost ends up taking over his body. Fortunately, Manfred is able to fight off the ghost but it still leaves his client freaked the hell out.  Proving that a bad day can get even worse, Manfred gets a call from a man who is threatening him. Fortunately for Manfred, because he sees ghosts, he is able to take the advise of his dead grandmother which is to move to Midnight Texas because he will be safe there. 

On the outside, Midnight Texas looks to be a sleepy small town where nothing ever happens, except that it is filled with supernatural beings. This means that Manfred blends in quite well. Midnight Texas has angels, werewolves, witches, an ill tempered talking cat and vampires; together these creatures have formed a community of sorts.  The supernatural beings are actually a lot more welcoming than the local motorcycle gang the Sons of Lucifer. 

Manfred moved to Midnight with the hope of leading an unremarkable life and not attracting any notice but that all changes when Aubrey's body washes up dead, ruining a local fall gathering. While the town is filled with supernatural creatures, Manfred is the only one who can see an interact with Aubrey and so she reaches out to him, bloated body and all.  Having recently had a bad interaction with a ghost, Manfred decides to take some precautions before agreeing to help Aubrey and this includes making a circle and gathering up some holy water.  Using a ouija board, Manfred communicates with Aubrey and she gives him a location. The conversation however is cut short when Manfred realises that by opening the door to Aubrey, he also allowed several other spirits to make themselves known, including something red and ominous underneath his floor.  

Manfred's weird behaviour brings him to the attention of the police and so to stop them from looking into him, Manfred reveals the location that Aubrey gave him. The cops are suspect of Manfred's tip but when they drag the lake and pull up the gun which killed Aubrey, they decide that he is now necessary to the investigation and cannot leave town.  Unfortunately, the retrieval of the gun leads to BoBo, Manfred's landlord, owner of the local antique/pawnshop, and Aubrey's ex boyfriend. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms #2) by Christine Pope

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Rhianne Menyon is just months away from her 20th birthday and as the eldest sister, she is due to marry. Rhianne however is far more interested in painting in her fathers pottery shop despite the fact that isn't suitable work for a woman than tying herself to a man.  

Marriage as it turns out is the least of Rhianne's worries. One night she dreams that the dragon who rules the castle high in the mountains has put out a banner signalling that it is now the duty of the town to provide him with a wife. Given that there will be 100 young women in the lottery, Rhianne believes that the odds of not being selected are in her favor. When Rhianne's engaged best friend is selected in the lottery, given her lack of prospects, Rhianne decides to take her friends place.  This could very well be a death sentence but the 1000 gold coins that will be paid to her family will keep them in comfort, even if it does land her in a cold grave.

I'm all for fairy tale re-tellings because the good ones are creative and add something new to a story that a reader is overly familiar with. As you may have guessed, Dragon Rose is a version of Beauty and the Beast.  Unfortunately however, Pope adds very little to the story to distinguish it from the original . There isn't a tea cup named chip or excessive singing but it's just as saccharine as the Disney version. The changes are so insignificant, it's enough to make me wonder why Pope bothered at all.  Obviously, Rhianne is now dealing with a dragon instead of a beast; however, this change adds nothing to the story and feels random for the sake of random.  

Theran (the dragon) acquired this condition because he told a young woman that he wasn't into her and she responded by taking her life.  What Theran didn't know is that the young woman's father was a mage. The mage decided to punish Theran by turning him into a dragon until he could find a woman who could see through the horror of his being to who he truly is.  What is the moral here? In the original, the Beast was turned into a beast because of his mean and horrible behaviour; it was a teaching lesson.  What exactly did Theran learn from being turned into a dragon for five hundred years? Theran's mistake was simply not being into someone, that's it.  

You would think that given the boring way in which Theran became a dragon that we would at least have an interesting reveal but you would be wrong.  Pope drops it all in the last few pages of the novel, once he is cured by seeing Rhianne's painting of his pre-cursed self. This is particularly irksome after Theran went on a big rant about how they aren't living in a fairytale and that Rhianne cannot simply change him back with a kiss.

The Strain, Season 4, Episode 2: The Blood Tax



This is another episode of catching up where everyone is. All the while Partnership propaganda plays about how wonderful the new world is. Desai, one of the men Eichorst recruited, is starring in them.

The theme of this episode is, I think, collaborators. Either active participants or people just trying to keep their head down and live and easy life. Abe even paraphrases the “triumph of evil line”: talking about how we assume progress is safe, lower our guard and don’t stop the evil creeping back in and dragging us back.

Dutch and Abraham were together, trading with Gus (Augustin) who is now running what looks like a Black market, allied with Creem (the pair have put aside their differences somewhat in the aftermath. And, as Abraham points out, all of the wealth he’d acquired meant anything in Strigoi controlled world).

In one of their trips they return to find their home being raided - and on fire. Fearful of the Lumen burning Dutch manages to grab it and hide it somewhere it won’t burn - but both she and Abe are captured and taken to a prison camp: where families are separated

To Abe, holocaust survivor, that’s a stark reminder and he has to resist, even if futilely. They’re separated and Dutch, along with other women with B+ blood is moved into a facility. At every stage we see human collaborators, from the guards at the camp, to the nurses at the facility

And it is a medical facility for B+ women - to artificially inseminate them and have them pop out babies. Women who prove to be infertile disappear (they’re told to a better place but everyone knows what a lie that is). Of course Dutch plots to escape - but is frustrated by some of the women in there just being happy to go along with things or at least endure them - because it is better in there than it is outside. Not wanting things to be worse breaks defiance and rebellion as so many people passively accept their circumstances.

We also have the secondary theme - resistance without thought is equally useless. A woman losing her temper and ranting at the nurses and guards doesn’t achieve anything and Dutch quickly defuses the situation because she’s just going to get herself killed.

It does draw her to the attention of Desai who runs the facility. He wants to recruit her - and he’s a mess of conflict. You can see his guilt, his desperate justifications for how he’s totally making things better by working in the system (oh how often have we heard that before?) and resisting the system is just selfish rather than working to make it better (ignoring the inherent corruption and predation of the system). Oh he carries so many awesome messages and cautionary tales in one rant. All the excuses colluders tell themselves are there. Dutch, naturally tells him where to go.

She has her own plot to escape which ends up going wrong because both the guy she’s blackmailing is cowardly and inept - and she changes her plans half way through to rescue someone else rather than herself

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 2: Stormborn



Time for the epic


Beginning with Dragonstone with everyone making the super dramatic speeches around Daenerys and planning her conquest of the world


First point which comes quickly from Tyrion and is picked up by Daenerys is that they don’t want to launch an all right assault, unleash the dragons and reduce everything to ashes. She actually wants to have a people to rule after this and not a whole load of more massacres.


Which brings us to what for me, was the most awesome part of the entire show: Varys and Daenerys. And I am waving the Varys flag here.


See there’s some unresolved issues between Daenerys and Varys. Varys served her father - and then betrayed him and served Robert Baratheon. And then was behind her marriage to Khal Drogo to try and set up Viserys as king (betraying Robert) and then tried to kill Daenerys at Robert’s command


They have history. While Tyrion repeatedly tries to speak in Varys’s defence, Daenerys points out that Varys has a major loyalty problem. What kind of servant is that?


“The kind of servant the kingdom needs. Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty”


And that’s just his opening line because Varys is on a role - yes he will betray the king because he is loyal to the people. And if you’re a cruel and terrible king (like her father) or an incompetent indifferent king (like Robert) then he will replace you for the sake of the people and the Realm. He’s not a noble or aristocrat, he grew up in the gutter and it is to the people he is loyal


You have Varys’s loyalty when you deserve it. And a knife in the back the second you don’t.


Daenerys seems to accept this - making him swear if he ever thinks she is not serving the people that he should say it to her face… but I notice she doesn’t promise to take note and she does promise to burn him alive if he betrays her.


Still team Varys. Hail Varys.


We also get the return of the Red Priestess Melisandre, still spouting prophecy but not aas confidently as before. She advises a big pinch of salt after her debacle of Stannis (though while Varys tries to rub her nose in it Daenerys notes that she’s decided to “pardon those who serve the wrong king” with extra royal side eye. Royal side eye is an important skill for any monarch)


Her prophecy is about a promised ruler (since the noun is non gendered in Valaryian) who will “bring the dawn” and also links her (and her dragons and dragon glass) with Jon Snow. I wonder how.



She decides to send a letter after Tyrion also speaks up for Jon (and wants to be best man). She also demands he bend the knee.


No not like that.


She gathers her advisors - all of them. This includes Yara from the Iron Isles, Ellaria from Dorne and her supreme awesomeness, Olenna from Highgarden. There is much snarking (Olenna is in the room) but ultimately everyone is impressed with her plan: the Tyrells and Dornish siege Kings Landing therefore dispelling the idea that scary, dark-skinned, savage foreign types are invading, with Yara using her ships to transport the Dornish. While Grey Worm takes the Unsullied and brings down Castlery Rock, smashing the Lannister’s power. It’s extra powerful that Tyrion describes this plan helping to assuage any doubts people may have about his loyalty (though he and Ellaria have issues over Mycella’s death)


It’s a good plan and gets lots of approval - though Olenna does hang back to add her own advice: people are stupid, she’s outlived all the smart men, and aristocrat or commoner, they need to fear her, she needs to be the dragon. I don’t know how much of this is wisdom and how much of this is bitterness because Margaery did play the game of being the most popular monarch around - and still died.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bleeders (Daemons of London #1) by Michaela Haze


Sophia was a barmaid in London. She had a life, friends, a job, a family

And then her sister died. Sophia fell into a deep, dark depression to which she is sure only vengeance against her sister’s murderers can possibly release her.


The hitman she reaches out to is a daemon - and though he is able and willing to do what she asks, in doing so she risks dragging herself, mind and soul, even further into the darkness

This book is a somewhat hard one to review - which is appropriate because it is a hard book to read.


The book is… powerful. Powerful is a good word: because it’s not fun. It’s not an easy story to read. It isn’t packed with action or even, for that much of plot or world building. Both are certainly there and create the setting and background for Sophia, but this book is about Sophia and her journey


Sophia does not lead an easy life. She suffers from extreme mental illness - depression, schizophrenia. She is pulled down by alcoholism. Most of this is triggered by the tragic death of her pregnant sister and her inability to get over this as well as her rage at the men she considers responsible for this. Sophia is a deeply damaged and hurting person and a lot of the book examines this. Her struggle with her mother, her struggle with mental illness, her alcoholism, self-harming, pushing friends away who care for her, her house denuded of all furniture for fear of invoking her sister’s memory while still maintaining a shrine to her sister.


The book is told from two different time periods - the present when Sophia is confined to a mental institution, suffering from some severe hallucinations and recounting her past while plagued by delusions and hallucinations. The other is the actual past she’s describing, drowning in depression and pain. Both are stark, brutal and very powerful


This continues when she find Henry and she starts to move out of her pain - and I admit I have a big note here screaming “gah, magical healing penis!” because she seems to be getting over her issues quickly. I then crossed it out - partly because of the woo-woo, but mainly because this is the next stage of her rollercoaster ride: obsession with him, abandonment, another addiction and hitting a whole new low of rock bottom as she transmutes her issues from one to another which does an excellent job of subverting the idea of romance healing all mental health issues


I also really like how even the base of her tragedy - her sister’s death and even her mother’s callousness are all just a bit more complex than she initially presents in her complete obsession. I like that, I like that things aren’t as simple as her angry, hurting mind portrays and that there are layers to her experiences which go beyond simplistic villains who hurt her.

Orphan Black. Season Five, Episode Seven: Gag or Throttle

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Orphan Black is winding down as a series which means that secrets are coming out, history is being reflected upon and sides are being chosen.  Will the sestras triumph after everything they've been through? To some degree the sestras are all having an episode which heavily focuses on them and this week, it seems that it's Rachel's turn, though I really don't see her as part of clone club. 

Cosima

With the help of Ira, Cosima managed to get off the island with Charlotte. Cosima and Charlotte navigated with a map and compass and made it safely to shore before set the boat adrift, to be found by Neolution. Cosima makes her first appearance at the hideout and is reunited with Scott. It's been a minute since these two have seen each other and the reunion is short but touching.  Cosima's first task is to have a video chat with Sarah and Allison about Dyad's plans to harvest Kira's eggs. Because Kira has just had the hormone injections that means that they have a little bit of time before the procedure is performed.  What clone club needs is something they can leverage to assure Kira's safety.  This is when Cosima reveals that truth about Westmoreland and promises to work with Scott to find out who he really is. After doing some research, Scott and Cosima discover that Westmoreland's real name is John Patrick Mathieson and that he was presumed dead in 1967.  Scott and Cosima quickly send this information to Sarah, although it isn't immediately clear to me how knowing Westmoreland's real identity is a huge bargaining chip, given all of the resources available to him.

Helena

We really haven't seen nearly enough of Helena this season. Yes, Helena who "kills Gods creatures" is easily one of my favourite clones. At any rate, Helena has been hiding out in a convent waiting to give birth to her twins.  Helena gets a visit from Gracie.  Yeah, Gracie, Mark's wife.  Grace of course is there at Mark's request. 

Mark is brought to the island wearing a cloth bag over his head and handcuffed. He's described as Virginia's guest. With Ira now dead, Mark is the last Castor clone left. It's not really a friendly reunion because Virginia wants a semen sample from Mark and is quick to remind him that he is a traitor and only alive because he's useful. The semen sample freaks me out because it makes me wonder if they are planning on using Mark's semen to fertilize Kira's eggs. Mark tries to forestall Virginia's demands by saying he has information to trade: Helena's location.  Perhaps Mark hasn't heard what happens to snitches. 

Sarah

Sarah has learned that she's got to do things differently and this becomes evident when Sarah stops S from a full on frontal assault on Dyad to free Kira. At this point, Sarah is convinced that they need to be smart and come up with a plan. When Sarah is finally able to talk to Rachel, she reveals that she knows exactly who Westmoreland is but it doesn't seem to have a big impact on Rachel who nonchalantly comments that it's nice to know P.T.'s real name. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wynonna Earp, Season 2, Episode 7: Everybody Knows



Tying up some loose ends from last week, the gang is definitely suspicious of the Widows - Mercedes and her sister. And Wynonna is certainly not playing nice or coy about it.

They’re also conscious that their plans have gone somewhat awry but they only need to break one more seal and then “out love burns bright and true”. Whoever that is. I’m going to say most likely not good.

There’s a moment here where Wynonna and Mercedes use the word “bitch” a lot to refer to each other - which is certainly more of a slur than we like to see on a show - but there’s an interesting moment where Dolls tries to join in with Wynonna’s repeated useage and Wynonna steps in with a “you can’t say that, that’s our..” It’s nice to see her making this point about reclaiming and who is allowed to call her and her friend that - but less nice that she has a pregnancy fainting thing to interrupt her.

There’s also another random weirdness this week - immortal ghostly deputies who have returned from their deep, dusty slumber to hunt down their mark - Doc Holliday - for terribad crimes he committed way back when. They let him know about this with a boy and a brand just so he can spend the whole episode on edge and give everyone the wrong idea. No, really, this whole plot line seems to be about giving people chance to bond and lecture people.

Dolls manages to get a doctor to examine Wynonna (once she confirms that Wynonna isn’t being held against her will): among other things she wants blood tests from both parents to check if anything’s up. That would be Wynonna and Doc.

Or Wynonna and someone anyway… because there’s another candidate for the father position. There’s lots of emotion, Wynonna being torn and Waverley completely freaking out which is really not helpful and to make it worse Doc is being all kind and understanding and saying he just wants Wynonna to be happy which means Wynonna bails telling Doc (especially after Waverley runs for the hills despite her pledge to support).

Points to Waverley on Doc’s emotions: “The more he feels, the less he says. Like a masseuse.”

Instead Waverley has Nicole follow Wynonna around until she can rejoin her. This seems convoluted but hey who cares because they are AWESOME together!

Poor Wynonna now has to be sober since she’s pregnant and she and Nicole are going to go find the man she slept with. Which mean going to a strip club and Nicole drinking for both of them.

Nicole is a hilarious drunk.