Monday, December 17, 2018

Z Nation: Season 5, Episode 10: Hackerville

Time to follow this nonsensical storyline further - they need to bypass Altura’s security so they have gone to Hackersville, an old telephone switching centre which is now occupied with Hackers who have been hacking into Altura’s systems. At one point we even see people using mobile phones

To which I have to ask… how?! Why? For most of this series people have been hard pressed to even find electricity - and a radio mast is something unique and special. The whole power of Citizen Z was that he still had the technology to speak to the world. So where did this all come from?

And why does Altura even have public network? How are the Hackers attacking this? Why does Altura have a network that isn’t self-contained? Given that outposts are pretty self sufficient in this new world, why would it have any kind of open internet which the hackers can access? And why would they connect their CCTV to it? My own firm doesn’t link their CCTV to the internet! Why is Altura? Why can Altura connect to the internet?

But hey let’s not let common sense get in the way of a plot. So they go see the Hackers and shenanigans ensue. There’s a series of geeky clues to get in which is solved by George kicking down the door. The head of the hackers can be a little awkward but Warren keeps pointing a gun at him. Because she has no time for arguments. Also Citizen Z is super protective of Kaya and it’s nice to see the power of their love… but at the same time there’s way too much jealousy about it all

There’s a brief attack by zombies and some nifty drones hunting them down which everyone loves except Warren who has no time for these nonsenses.

Between them they do guide Kaya through Altura and past the security to find Estes’s laptop. There they find about his plan for “The Final Mercy” which has some unpleasant words about elimination. This is not good.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

The Faceless Man, Martin Chorley, is moving closer and closer to his mysterious but doubtlessly destructive final goal. But the Folly has gathered all its resources, all it connections to begin Operation Jennifer which will final stop him once and for all

And Peter Grant, detective constable and apprentice wizard, boyfriend to a river goddess is going to be in the centre of the front line

I like Peter a lot, as a character. There’s so many aspects to him which are so refreshing and fun to read. Perhaps most surprising of them is he’s a person. A real person with a life. He’s a police detective and a wizard but he also goes home to his mum for dinner and fending off her massively spicy Sierra Leonian cooking. He has a pint. He goes home to Beverley. In a genre where so many people, especially detectives, seem to just exist for the drama, he actually has a home life. He’s not sitting there declaring “I am Police! My Life Is Fighting The Crime!”

I also like that he’s a good man - and how he’s a good man. Peter isn’t naive. He knows there are times when being a bit of a bastard would be more effective and safer. He overtly thinks that there would be a better way to do things - but those would involving not caring for people, not following the rules and, ultimately, not being a good man. Peter isn’t a fool and is aware that he is sometimes actively making his life more difficult and dangerous -but these rules matter to him. But nor is he self-righteous, he doesn’t think he’s better than other people, he isn’t judgemental. He’s hopeful without being naive and he’s cynical without being bitter. He doesn’t expect the world to be better but he is determined to make it better. And oh my gods, can I say how much I love seeing a fictional police officer who cares about the rules? It seems to be a staple of fiction to have the police break the rules gleefully and we’re supposed to support it. I like to see a fictional police officer who actually cares about the law. I really like how Lesley stands as counterpoint to him - because again she isn‘t super demonised as all evil - but because maybe she just doesn’t have his same lines. And she maybe has a point? These rules and laws have been put in place for completely non-magical people and do they even apply, can they?

And he’s extremely funny and fun with a lot of very wry observations which were hilarious. I love Peter, I love his voice, I love how we get this incredible hard balance of being a good person without being naive or bitter is just hit perfectly. He’s wonderful.

He also fits the world - this wonderful setting in London, full of research and knowledge and pure love of the city - but that love is the same as Peter’s goodness. It’s love that is mixed with cynical knowledge of reality - whether it’s Lesley’s angry retort that London sucks all the wealth and attention from the rest of the country or Peter’s cynical knowledge of London Traffic, funding, neglected areas, some truly awful architecture and more - he sees ALL of it and loves it despite it.

Legacies: Season 1, Episode 6: Mombie Dearest

It’s Lizzie and Josie’s 16th birthday. Which means a big party and Lizzie making everything about her as usual. There will be a lot of teen drama about this. Yay.

But there’s still a story about this shiny knife of why-has-Alaric-kept-this-my-gods-doesn’t-the-supernatural-world-have-someone-more-qualified-to-handle-this-aaargh-I-can’t-even-get-up-without-asking-Hope-for-help to deal with. And the latest monster to collect the knife is… Alaric’s dead wife Jo

Jo, as we recall from the Vampire Diaries trainwreck, is Josie and Lizzie’s mother who was killed on her wedding day to Alaric by her evil twin (since her whole family has twins and oh, one is destined to kill the other at age 22 and no-one has told Lizzie and Josie this yet) and her family magically stuffed the babies into Caroline’s womb. Vampire Diaries went to some strange places.

Alaric is pretty suspicious about his dead wife coming back from the dead and points a crossbow at her. Well, I get the suspicion but, as Jo points out, this is Mystic Falls. Everyone has come back from the dead at some point. She also makes a hilarious comment about Alaric looking “seasoned” since he’s 16 years older than she remembers.

Alaric tries to keep this from his daughters but they quickly find out and don’t remotely respect his no because he’s helpless and useless anyway so discover their biological mother. Lizzie is kind of hostile to Jo, having the idea that bonding with her is somehow disloyal to Caroline. While Josie instantly wants a closer relationship. Alaric wants to keep her away from them until he is sure that Jo is who she says she is. Which involves testing and that huge huge hugely useful lie detector orb which really really could have been really super useful in The Originals. Where were you little plot breaking orb? All the tests point to her being the real deal

Dorian’s research does turn up the idea of people being resurrected in order to murder someone though. So she’s still a risk

Teenaged angst time! So Hope is all crushing after Landon but at least she is self-aware enough to recognise this. She also tries to make peace with Rafael - he’s super angry at her for kicking out Landon for his own good but he also needs Hope’s help. He agreed to be Lizzies date for the party and, especially since he just slept with her (which he regrets) he feels he needs to do right by her. Which means learning all the ornate, rather old fashioned party etiquette which Mystic Falls loves so much. Hope is happy to teach him since Aunt Rebekkah has a weird fixation with this kind of nonsense.

This gives them chance to bond, Rafael admit he’s not all that into Lizzie and Hope to realise that he’s still mourning for his dead girlfriend and kind of working through his issues by being afraid of letting Lizzie down. Honestly that amount of angst means you probably need to not date for a while. Hope seems to agree and encourages him to be honest with Lizzie

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Supernatural: Season 14, Episode 9: The Spear

Time for an epic opening with an epic voice over from Dean about how they are the people who monsters are afraid of. Which is, yes, kinda epic. But this is Supernatural. Epic pre-ambles to any kind of find finale need classic rock. It is known. Know your brand, Supernatural.

So we have a bit of domestic moment with Jack eating late night cereal and asking Castiel not to tell his other dad, Sam, who disapproves of high sugar food. Which is kind of cute and I think a lot more of these would have done a great job of turning Jack into someone I actually care about rather than that extra who keeps tagging along for no apparent reason. But really these scene is for Castiel to remind Jack not to tell anyone about the deal he made with the Empty

We’re already setting that up for a lot of angst because Dean is so super happy because they managed to bring Jack back from the dead and nothing went wrong and they didn’t have to pay a price and everything is awesome

So that’s definitely going to be future angst. But can I say again that we have another angst or personal drama moment that is centring on Dean even when this should be more Cas’s woe. Dean doesn’t have to be the centre of all.

But we’re back on track with Michael. Naomi has told them where Michael is. Kansas City. And he has a new body, a woman’s.

And I’m sure there are many reasons why anyone, let alone an Archangel, would go to Kansas City

I’m sure.

I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure they exist. Yes.

Sam has also snuck Garth into Michaels’ orbit. Since Garth is a werewolf so fits his whole army of monsters thing. Garth hopes to actually not consume the Michael Blood/Grace potion… which doesn’t go to plan because it’s hard to deceive an Archangel and he ends up taking the upgrade potion which is definitely not going to end well.

Between this spying they know Michael’s plan - send his army into Kansas city and turn every one there into more monsters. I am sure there are many… sensible reasons to begin your invasion of North America in Kansas City…

So the counter plan is to get the angel-killing spear from Dark Kaia (Dean and Castiel on that) and Ketch has some mystical golden egg which will help imprison Michael which he’s put in the post. Yes there are convoluted reasons but he still put it in the post. Sam and Jack are off to collect that.

Predictably it all goes horribly horribly wrong

To begin with Sam and Jack are attacked by Michael and it goes horribly wrong because, well, Michael is an Archangel which makes him pretty unassailable. He knocks Sam out, doesn’t kill him because… because… the script says so that’s why! He also destroys the magical egg so that’s out of the picture. Personally I don’t remember the egg was in the picture so there’s that.

Friday, December 14, 2018

POC as Origin Story

An ubiquitous element of the superhero genre is the origin story. How did this extraordinary individual get these amazing powers? Is he an alien from a dead planet powered up by our sun? Was he bitten by a radioactive spider? Was she forged from clay and empowered by the Greek gods? Did he have a ridiculous budget and some deeply unhealthy coping mechanism after the death of his parents?

In Urban Fantasy we see a trend of another origin story to explain the special magic a protagonist has. Being a POC - or having a POC ancestor at very least.

To be clear here, we’re not talking about having a magical POC protagonist. This is Urban Fantasy, your characters will have magic or other woo-woo, it’s kind of what this genre is about and we’re definitely in favour of several of those characters being POC.  Awoke, The Shadowmancer, The Keys Trilogy, Rayne Whitmore Series, World of the Lupi and many others are not problematic because they have POC who happens to have magical abilities - far from it. They have magic and are POC but at no point did the books try to suggest that their woo-woo exists BECAUSE they are Black or Asian.

Equally we’d expect many of these POC, their lives and their magic to be affected by their ethnicity and culture. We love and celebrate books like The Black Dog’s Drums, which excellently incorporates Yoruba derived religions into the setting, the world building and the characterisation. The same applies to the Habitat Series and the Egyptian elements of the Shadowchasers Series. The Jane Yellowrock Series links a lot of Jane’s woo-woo to her being Native American - but being Native American also informs her characterisation and her history. It’s not just a convenient label to justify her accessing exotic woo-woo. The Changeling Sisters has a lot of the magic related to Korean, Latinx and Hawai’ian culture - but that’s because it has Korean, Latinx and Hawai’ian characters whose ethnicity is an integral part of who they are, the world building and the story. Ultimately they work because there is considerable research and respect for the source material - something we can see with depictions of western mythologies like Irish and Norse in, for example, the Iron Druid Series.

We want more of this, so much more; with both white and western dominated media there are so many stories this genre could be telling by integrating POC and the mythologies and magic of other cultures and I’m still mourning that some of these series have come to an end.

But that isn’t achieved by having books treat Voodoun beliefs, Rroma heritage, or Native American ancestry as the same as a Freak Lab Accident, super-soldier serum or a Green Lantern Ring.

A glaring example of this, as well as why it’s so problematic, comes from Midnight Texas. This has the special prize of having Manfred have his psychic powers in the books because of a Native American ancestry. And in the TV series because of his Romani ancestry. It says a lot about how a minority culture has been represented that you can easily exchange one for another and not really change the story, magic or anything else.

Ancestry is a common trick in these origin stories - after all, if Superman can get his powers from being an alien, why can’t Jeremy in the Otherworld series get his hands on some quasi Japanese Ofuda from his absent Japanese mother? Hemlock Grove threw in some basic Romani stereotypes to go with their using being Romani as why characters were psychic and… werewolves somehow. Twilight is also notorious for creating an entirely fake Native American mythology to justify the presence of a pack of werewolves. The appalling on several levels Houseof Night series also went with that Native American woo-woo - deciding to have the protagonist, Zoey, be Cherokee - but only so they could introduce lots of woo-woo and turquoise and smudge sticks and a whole fake mythology while the Mercy Thompson Series is pretty notorious for treating all the Native Americans in the book as walking avatars of woo-woo. Literally all of them.

In all of these cases the actual ethnicity, culture or characterisation that should stem from having a POC character is absent. The writers weren’t interested in creating fleshed out, well researched and developed POC characters or in respectfully portraying and representing non-western cultures in a way that showed research and regard. They want the woo-woo. They want the different, the exotic, the alien.

In many ways it’s similar to how many book and TV series will introduce a monster from a non-western culture for a more “exotic” episode-of-the-week that we’ve spoken about tbefore… why have a werewolf when you can have a wendigo? And it shares the same flaws -  deciding one of your main characters is POC or has POC ancestry purely so you have some backstory for their woo-woo isn’t representation or respectful. It’s appropriative and it’s belittling - it clearly sends the message that the writers are pretty indifferent about these actual cultures and just wants something suitably dehumanised and “exotic”, something that is sufficiently “other” to most of their readers to justify why they would have such different powers. For DC that meant an alien from Krypton. For Urban Fantasy a Romani or Cherokee are considered alien enough.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Doctor Who, Season 11, Episode 10: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

It's the last episode of Doctor Who as we hit the season finale other than the New Years Day episode (she's coming back though!)

We've loved this Doctor,  she has been amazing and endearing from the start - but the writing has not supported her - the treatment of Yasmin (and utter failure to development) and the lack of classic Who elements was an issue. This Doctor deserves better writing

Doctor Who: Season 11, Episode 9: It Takes You Away

Apologies for Renee who has the dreaded death plague and sounds like she's auditioning to be a particularly low budget Who villain

Another episode of Doctor Who with excellent emotional development for some characters and ongoing gross neglect of everything Yazmin could have been

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Charmed, Season 3, Episode 9: Jingle Hell

After being clonked on the head by one of the Sisters of Arcana, she wakes up to find Jada saying that it’s totally a mistake and she’d totally like her in their club, what’s a little concussion between friends. Also here are our spooky crows which were present when your mother died, honestly they were on her side, pinkie-swear

Mel goes to Harry and Maggie to say that, hey, these people may have killed my mother. Maggie and Harry thinks it’s super dangerous and they really should back off but Mel’s all for it because being a witch is all about danger. I mean they’ve spent as much time on danger as they have the dubious relationships

Speaking of, clearly we need to spend far less time on this secret witch society because we have romances to deal with.


So Galvin was hit by car last episode. Turns out he’s find and his leg is broken. He’s going home to family and Macy is angsting because she thinks it’s the magic mark of his grandmother. Because his grandmother used magic to protect her son from evil by having him hit by cars and be hospitalised. Because this is how protective magic works. Of course it does. I mean ye gods granny’s going to epic lengths to stop her son getting laid

So when Galvin visits and trips Macy spends an unnecessary amount of time avoiding him while Harry has to make small talk and give him cocito (also christmas cake is awesome, Maggie is just wrong). This is all such a really useful part of the episode. Really.

We catch up with Parker and his evil family. Parker and Hunter go rob an entombed saint in a cathedral in Bucharest. They steal the shiny necklace and are nearly killed by a priest who has a nifty stick of dropping you into a burning basement. Or possibly hell. Or tartarus. Instead Hunter kills him and steals the nifty stick.

This necklace will drain the powers of the Charmed ones if he gets Maggie to wear it then it will drain all the powers of sisters and make him fully demon and alive. This is pushed by his human mother - Jessica Vaughn, Macy’s new boss. Yes she hates the demons in the family but she wants her son to live even if it means draining the Charmed ones and making her son a demon

While Alistair McEvil, his dad has a more sinister plan. Apparently there’s a prophecy that says the Source of All Evil will be born into the body of a human born demon (or something similar) so basically he thinks if he turns his son all demon he will become the Source and their family will be super powerful especially with all those dubious morals and emotions silenced

Hunter the emotionless demon continues to feel affection and protectiveness towards his little brother. This is not a contradiction. Apparently.

So Parker also shows up to the Charmed Ones happy Christmas evening to give Maggie her gift and cough messily everywhere. He gives Maggie the necklace and she says, really Parker? Jewellery? We’ve known each other for a hot minute, isn’t it a bit soon for jewellery how wonderful it is.

Oh. She’s also looking forward to her dad visiting for the holiday. She has lots of positive memories and affection of him while Mel thinks he’s like the Worst and abandoned them and unreliable and Maggie is just too loving and caring and trusts too much and is going to get her heart broken. Yup check that subtle foreshadowing

My personal favourite thing about this episode is how Maggie repeatedly mentions her mind reading as the whole show tries to hand wave how utterly impossible it would be for Parker to actually conceal his identity. Like if they mention it often enough then somehow it will justify this plot chasm.

Anyway, Mel notices that the necklace Maggie has quickly changes colour (Maggie: clearly it’s a really elaborate… mood ring? I mean… really?) and Macy also sees Parker flinch away from touching Galvin with his magic mark glowing as he does. Together the sisters realise something is up, with Macy also contacting Mama Roz to ask “hey if a ward against evil glows and makes someone flinch, is that a bad thing” because they actually had to consult someone about that. Credit to Roz for not mocking them cruelly.

Hunter notices they’re on to him and his little brother and quickly knocks out and ties up Macy and then uses his shapeshifting to imitate her. But is now barred from the house by this magical mark which is… surprisingly powerful? Blocks all demons from the House? Maybe we should check Galvin’s grandma for Charmed One-ness?