Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episode 4: A Blade of Grass

I have been rather dreading this episode. So far this season we have been seeing a very previous thing – Vanessa being happy. Vanessa getting help. Vanessa being healed. After two seasons of horrendous suffering, we needed this

And now we have her hypnotism based memories of her time in the asylum, complete with all the horrendous torture she endured this

We really don’t need to see more of this. And seeing that John Smith was her orderly and potentially involved in this abuse when we have already seen these two characters have connected. I don’t want that connection to be based on abuse neither of them remember

It wasn’t that bad. While we had Vanessa being horrendously agonised and tormented. Yes the acting is incredible yet again, the stares amazingly intense and her utter collapse are painfully poignant to see. While she suffers there is Dr. Seward trying to help her out of her fugue state and it’s also awesome and powerful and touching and beautiful

And we’ve done this. Yes it’s all so incredibly well done, it’s amazing, it’s emotional and I want to applaud the skill, the direction and the utterly perfect acting. No-one can fault the immense skill, emotional power and general impressive power of this scene. But enough of Vanessa’s suffering. Enough. Please.

Beside her suffering, at least Orderly John Smith develops a very touching relationship. He cares for her. He worries for her. It’s heartbreaking how he genuinely tries to reach her, how her tries to beg her to be well. His faith in his superiors and the institution he is part of crumbles more and more as he comes to agree with her that she is being tortured. It’s beautiful and well developed as they grow closer together and he sees the asylum for what it is. At the same time it’s clear that he is just a cog in the wheel of the institution, too poor to quit and too lowly to break the regulations

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On the Edge, (The Edge Series #1) by Ilona Andrews

Living on the Edge, Rose lives very much between worlds, desperately trying to scrabble an existence while living between worlds and with scant resources.

Even her magic did little but make life more difficult – drawing her to far too much negative attention. The latest of which is Declan, magical aristocrat who has his own agenda and is definitely going to draft Rose into it.

While Declan is a problem, the beasts also moving into the Edge are a far more lethal threat demanding attention.

Another Ilona Andrews series, so much glee! Given some of the books I’ve been reading lately, I think I deserve this. Of course, I risked disappointment – but I’ve never read a book by Ilona Andrews I didn’t love. And this is no different

I love the world building of this. The whole concept of the three worlds – Earth (Broken), the magical world (the Weird), rich in magic and, clinging between the two, able to travel to each but not part of either, The Edge

The people of the Edge have magic, but rarely anything like enough magic to compare with The Weird. They eke a living on the edge of both realms, trading with both, working in the Broken without the resources that could access as full members of the society. They live on a tiny sliver of land with very little resources, desperately trying to scratch a living. And with magic – which is not always benevolent as curses and odd creatures can abound. For people on the very edge of their resources, the extra randomness that magic can bring just makes life even harder

This is really well shown with Rose’s siblings – George has the awesome power of reincarnation: except the cost of it and his compassion is killing him. It’s a terrible conflict – how do you tell a child not to care? While, a shapeshifter, doesn’t quite think like a human which Rose has to gently work round (which awesomely contrasts with yet more in depth and complicated world building from how The Weird treats their shapeshifters).

As ever with an Iona Andrews novel, we have a lot of detail – into how magic works, into the world building of both The Weird (I love their concept of how aristocracy as an almost meritocracy – it’s such an original little concept), into the politics and into the daily lives of the people of The Edge. There’s so much detail so well conveyed but none of it delivered via clumsy info dumping. We have so much here but none of it is delivered awkwardly or in a way that feels unnatural. It works, like it.

Rose’s story is also an excellent one. Her struggles raising her brothers. Her relationship with her grandmother. Her difficult childhood and parents (yes, she’s a semi-orphan and yes that’s a tired trope. I also don’t like how her mother was portrayed – it was sympathetic and surprisingly non-judgemental given her mother’s mental illness contributed to her sleeping with other women’s husbands, but it also served to really create Rose’s story of burden and sorrow rather than actually flesh her out into a character or person in her own right).

Preacher, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Well… that was… absolutely out of its every loving mind. It’s also brutal, violent and pulls not one tiny punch ever. Every violent encounter of which there are more than a few does not even try to And it actually packs a whole lot in in a very very small space.

Take the introduction of Jesse. In the first few minutes we see him we see he is scarred, hard drinking, hungover and tormented with both daddy issues (and a dead dad) and a very dark, violent past. We get all of that in about 5 minutes. Full backstory all covered

 He also runs a little church in Texas which is deathly boring and has a very very unengaged congregation. And those who are engaged are very very very petty. Or very sad – like the boy with the abusive father who hurts his mother – which kind of acknowledges that everyone thinks Preacher Jesse can bring some nasty violence if he needs to while also showing how afraid he is to do so.

We also get a nice summation of the town he’s in. And it’s not pleasant. In addition to the wife beater, we have the sheriff who doesn’t give a shit (and doesn’t bat an eye over Jesse sat in a car about to drive off drinking a bottle of whiskey) and full blown brawl because people replaced their offensive Native American mascot with one that wasn’t terrible.

Jesse sums it up with “wife beating squirrel murdering redneck vote”. As well as the fact he’d pray if he thought there was anyone to listen. Well, that’s grim. (And yes, I laughed at the church sign. I’m a bad person).

Jesse does care, though, even without the violence: trying to help the abused wife. Except it turns out to be a BDSM relationship. Well, Preacher, you almost approached an actual issue with complexity and either made it EVEN MORE complex or turned it into a one off joke…

Badly disfigured man has to drink through a straw, sheriff’s son, kept kind of isolated away from everyone. Looking for own redemption which apparently dances all on Jesse’s issues and fear he isn’t forgiven.

Jesse does snap when said possible wife beater and his gang of confederate civil war re-enactors (because this show seems to specialise in bizarre visuals) threatens to beat a child. Jesse not only puts them all down with minimal effort and a small smile on his face, but then deliberately breaks the arm of the helpless man. A nasty compound fracture at that. Oooouch. It does get him arrested.

Introduce second character – Tulip O’Hare and my gods I LOVE HER. Chased through a corn field brutally fighting and killing 2 men (and it is brutal, I say again, no fight scene in this show pulls punches) before teaching kids how to make a bazooka out of cans and moonshine. After which she brings down a helicopter and a small army. Because she is already vying for the title of Most Awesome. Her opinion on love is also slightly terrifying since she’s apparently going to hunt down a lover who left her and eat him alive

That lover may be Jesse. Though she’s a bit kinder than implied even as he refuses her job offer. Lots of history there.

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 5: The Door

This episode is the episode of the Stark children – so let’s cover the others first:

Over in Meeren, Tyrion is quite happy that his newly brokered peace actually seems to be holding – being a consummate politician he decides to double down and follow up with a PR coup. They need  a powerful, well respected and incorruptible body to spread the wonders of Daenerys far and wide.

He reaches out to the Red Priests. Who quite like Daenerys because the whole rising from fire thing really resonates with supporters of R’hollor. There are two downsides though which Tyrion may not have considered and could come back to bite them all:

1) The Red priests are fanatics and not into religious tolerance. Daenerys’s empire is cosmopolitan and she intends to stretch it to the Seven Kingdoms as well – having people on side who like to burn the sinners and unbelievers is going to be damn hard to handle

2) The Red Priests also have terrifying woo-woo as we’ve seen before and as the priestess demonstrates again with Varys. Varys loathes her with the super fiery passion of a thousand suns.

This may backfire on Tyrion.

At the Iron isles we have Theon, sort of son of the Starks, pledging his full support to Yara at the kingsmoot to choose the new ruler. He rejects any chance to make him king (though some tried) and gives an epic speech for Yara. Yara also has an epic yet brutally honest speech about the Iron Born – great sailors but not up to taking the soldiers of the mainland. They raid until they become too annoying then they get squished (as has been recently seen). They need a new tactic and a new vision. Her vision includes a gazillion ships

Unfortunately in comes uncle Euron to claim the throne. I curse him because I want Yara to be queen but his plan: to ally with Daenerys (who badly needs a fleet) actually makes more sense. Ultimately Yara and him could both see the problem but only Euron really has a solution – her plan of a thousand ships was basically more raiding and destruction. Euron has a solution and Euron was also the one who ended the disastrous war by killing the last, useless king. I can see why he’s convincing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fear the Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Seven: Shiva

Yes, we're already at the midseason finale and what better way to end it than with fire.  Everything is absolutely falling apart as our little crew of survivors begins to break under the pressure of living in a zombie apocalypse, though it all came to a head a lot sooner than I expected. This is the first lesson the survivors have learned about investing in a safe haven.

Salzar, is haunted by all of the murders that the has committed in his life.  His problems begin when he dreams that Ofelia has turned.  In a desperate bid to get his daughter off the compound, Salazaar injures one of Celia's men, causing her to order that he be locked up because he has become a danger to himself and others.  This is actually the first and only sensible decision that Celia makes for the entire episode.  While he is in lock down, Salazar start to hallucinate and he sees his wife. Griselda talks to Daniel about the fact that while she was alive, she served as his confessor and yet he didn't take the time to bury her.  Daniel flashes back and forth between Griselda reminding him of his obligations and memories of the first man he killed.  It's clear that all of that blood weighs heavily on his conscience but Griselda makes a point of saying that he is also a victim.  The first time Daniel killed, it was his father who put the gun in his hand.

Things are going well for Chris either.  Having been caught red handed standing near the sleeping Madison and Alicia with a knife, he decides to take off.  Travis tracks his son, only to find Chris holding a gun to the head of child.  Travis does his best to talk Chris down.  Chris throws down his weapon and heads outside, only to be tackled by his father. Chris actually uses a knife to attack his father and Travis quickly gets the upper hand.  Travis is wracked by guilt over what has become of his son. Chris makes it clear that he cannot head back to the compound because of how people look at him. Yeah, people tend to give you the side eye when you kill without cause and then threaten the people who are supposed to be your family with violence.  Of all of the pain on Fear the Walking Dead, Chris's irritates me the most.  Yes, he lost his mother but at this point, people are starting to lose those they love without heading to the dark place that Chris has.

For quite some time, I have had problems with Nick's character. He's far too competent for someone who just got clean.  In this episode, it seems that Nick has dealt with his problems with addiction by substituting worship of Celia.  In Sicut Cervus, Nick had his first meeting with Celia and he admitted that he was sick of the killing.  Celia offers comfort by saying that the dead aren't really monsters and are just changed from the way that they know them.  Celia firmly believes that taking out a walker is murder.  Yeah, it's all shades of Herschel and feels extremely recycled. Madison is all too aware of the unhealthy influence which Celia has over Nick but she is powerless to stop it.

Celia is a true cult leader and people clearly agree with her position on the walkers.  This is why she cannot let go of the fact that instead of killing himself to join Thomas, Strand instead gave Thomas mercy.  For Celia, this is an act of betrayal and murder and she orders Strand off the property. Surprisingly, it's Madison who steps up to the plate to defend Victor, calling him her friend.  Celia offers a compromise and allows Strand to stay long enough bury his lover. While Madison has not always approved of Strand's methods, it seems that everything they have been through together has built a bond. This however does not mean that the pragmatic Strand is down with being described as a friend.

It's Nick who further diffuses the situation by covering himself in zombie blood and tracking down Celia's walker son Luis. Celia is grateful to have her zombie son back and decides to allow Nick's family to stay with the understanding that he will be responsible for the things that they do. Madison is upset that once again Nick went out wearing zombie blood, but Nick is confidant that his actions will not cause him to die. It very much seems like Nick has developed a false sense of superiority. Has walking around covered in Walker blood gotten to his mind?

Rogue (Shifters #2) by Rachel Vincent

There’s another serial killer targeting women. And this one isn’t focused on tabbies – but is completely focused on Faythe. She is paying a hard price for her limited freedom.

This book is pretty bad – but what makes it far worse is the epic awful misogyny of the first book that is carried on, brushed over and justified. It’s that last part which especially annoys me.

They constantly downplay how Faythe is treated (also can I say now that every time I have to type the abysmally spelled name “Fayth” I lose some more brain cells. This keeps up and I might even enjoy the last book. If that happens dear readers, please hunt me down and kill me for my own good). There’s no acknowledgement that the whole reason Faythe is there is because her father is blackmailing and threatening her. There is no acknowledgement that Marc once nearly beat a fellow werecat and friend to death because he presumed to be interested in Faythe. Not even by the werecat he nearly murdered (but what nods there are to it seem to blame Faythe for not being obedient property) There’s no acknowledgement of the fact that Faythe’s renewed relationship with Marc is down to him finding her when she was drunk and vulnerable. There’s no acknowledgement that her love interest There’s no acknowledgement that the whole foundation of this relationship is because Faythe’s parents have basically groomed her into this since she was a small child. They make little jokey side references to the weeks when her father literally locked her in a cage, forcing her to use a coffee can as a toilet because she dared to try and live her own life.

All of this is lightly, even jokingly referenced. The sheer horrendous abuse her family is inflicting on her is never ever acknowledged by anyone. Not even Faythe.

But worse is, as I said, the justification. There’s no women on the leadership council because they totally don’t want to be part of the leadership. Woman don’t want power all women, every last one of them, want to stay home and be full time mothers and wives. And yes, some women do want that – some men want that – but this is used to excuse a complete lack of female leadership. This book tries to make lots of little references to how secretly awesome Faythe’s mother is – but none of that is ever shown, it’s clear she’s turned her back on all of that and her motherhood has actually damaged the pride. Even the moment where she steps up and is presented as awesome feels very lacking. She turns into a cat to take down someone who is still in human form… and fails. If Faythe hadn’t stepped in she’d be dead: in previous books we’ve pretty much seen a werecat in cat form easily taking down one in human form. Her moment of awesome is played up as awesome – but when looked at without the spin we see a really low expectation for her capabilities. We’re even told that she hardly ever shapeshifts – everything about her being a werecat is downplayed

This is just a prelude to the worst – the antagonist in this book is directly caused by Faythe daring to have sex with a guy other than the man her parents have chosen and deemed appropriate. Even while she outright tries to call her brothers out on how they sleep with a gazillion human women each but they all judge her – but her sex life is the one that has literal serial killer consequences. She is the one who is presented as WRONG for having sex.

This is what is the utter worst about this book – both of these books – and the treatment of misogyny. We’re presented with a deeply, disgustingly and inexcusably misogynist society. Faythe speaks out against it. AND THEN SHE IS PROVEN WRONG. This isn’t just the depiction of a misogynist society that is then challenged. It is a depiction of a misogynist society that is challenged and then the challenger is put in her place and the OBJECTIVE REALITY of that world backs up that society and puts Faythe back in her place.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Grimm, Season Five Finale: The Beginning of the End: Part 1 and 2

"It is better to die on your feet
than to live on your knees."

I really feel as though the finale was a long time in coming.  One of my ongoing complaints with Grimm, is that it too often forgets the meta to focus on Wesen of the week stories.  This week however, Grimm was all in and it brought, death, action, creepiness and mega plot advancement. Just freaking wow.  It almost makes up for how slowly this season moved at times.

With Renard now officially the mayor of Portland, Black Claw is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The big plan is to get Wesen into low level seats of power and then have them advance. Black Claw's dream is for Wesen to live openly.  I know I am supposed to be team Nick; however, the writers of Grimm simply didn't give me enough reason to see Black Claw as bad.  Yes, Black Claw kills people and they go after Nick and everyone he cares about but to me, it read like an uprising of an oppressed group. All of the Grimm tales that we have been introduced to into the books tend to talk about the Grimm hunting down Wesen and killing them on sight whether or not they've done something wrong and this in fact is what makes Nick so unique.  Nick follows the law, doesn't play judge jury and executioner and is simply content to allow Wesen to go about their lives as long as they stay within the law. Given that Grimm have even killed Wesen children without cause, why exactly is it that I am supposed to hate Black Claw?  The writers really didn't do a good job with this at all. There is no such thing as a bloodless revolution and if anything, the actions of Black Claw are measured in comparison to what they've been put through over the centuries.

You name the Wesen and we saw it these last two episodes.  The most impressive was obviously the Zauberbiest Bonaparte (couldn't the writers have chosen a less cliche name?) Up until this point, I had believed that Hexenbiest were the most powerful Wesen but it seems that there's always a bigger dog.  I suppose Bonaparte found that out in the end thanks to Diana.  Bonaparte's death was pretty much foreshadowed throughout both episodes.  What I want to know is how a Wesen smart enough to orchestrate the various things that he did, didn't see Diana as a threat, particularly after Diana killed Renard's lover?

Speaking of Renard, thanks for the shirtless Renard Grimm.   I have very much been disappointed with the treatment of Renard this season.  He seemed to just be so easily manipulated by Black Claw which felt very contrary to the relationships he's built up over five seasons, particularly with Nick, Hank and Wu.  Even when Bonaparte threatened Meisner, the best that Renard could come up with was to kill Meisner quickly so he didn't suffer.  Even this wasn't enough for Renard to reconsider his decision and he actually had the nerve to be upset that Nick would want Kelly and Adalind back. By the end of The Beginning of the End Part 2, I didn't even recognize Renard. Would he have just stood by and allowed Bonaparte to kill Nick?  Renard defended his actions as pragmatism and suggested that he wasn't really taking a side but I really don't think that this is the case at all. Renard was pretty much onside even before Diana became involved, so he doesn't even have the same excuse as Adalind.

The Originals, Season Three, Episode Twenty-Two: The Bloody Crown

I had to describe this season finale in two words they would be: convoluted angst. Rather than being something to inspire the viewing of season four, The Bloody Crown is quite literally The Originals at its worst. The writing was bad and the acting simply over the top. Someone really needs to teach Daniel Gillies how to cry on command.  I found myself anxiously awaiting the end of this absolutely torturous last hour.

Much of season three has revolved around a prophesy which was set about to bring about the end of the Mikaelsons: one by family, one by friend and one by foe.  Throughout the season, the Mikaelsons have fought the Stryx and their powerful witches, Aurora and her brother and finally Lucien. Being an Original vampire is a powerful thing and as we know, only wood from a specific tree can kill them and furthermore; until recently they all had the added protection of knowing that if they die, so does their entire sire line.  It's a great bonus because anyone attempting to kill their sire would end up dead themselves.

The Mikaelson family motto is: Family first. Always and Forever.  None of the Mikaelsons take this vow lightly even if they have had their spats over the the millennium.   The Makaelsons are willing to do anything in service of the family, even if it means heinous murderous acts.  Marcel had long believed that he fell under that banner until Elijah ripped out his heart in Give 'Em Hell Kid. Marcel's rage is as much about the death of Davina Claire, as it is about learning that while the Mikaelsons seem to care for him, he will never really be family to them.

Marcel's outsider status is confirmed when in their grief, Hayley and Elijah choose to have sex.  Poor Elijah, he's just so broken up he has to knock boots with the woman he loves. If anything, Elijah seems more upset about the fact that Klaus hasn't forgiven him for killing the man he viewed as a son, than the act of murder itself.  Klaus however is another matter altogether.  Klaus holds Hope and acknowledges that whenever he gets close to someone, something bad always happens.  Klaus promises his "littlest wolf" that he will always do right by her.

It's time to get the show on the road.  Marcel meets with Vincent at the graveyard and compliments him on severing the link to the ancestors.  Vincent wonders if Marcel is going to follow through on his half of the plan and Marcel confirms that since Elijah killed him, he no longer has any doubts. Oh Vincent, you just made a deal with the devil dude.

Freya decides to do some spell work after not sleeping the night before. She is uneasy about how things stand.  It's not long before Freya realises that all of Klaus's enemies are converging on NOLA.


Oh oh. The Mikaelsons prepare for battle, confidant that at least they are protected in the compound because it's in Freya's name.  That comfort doesn't last long because Marcel has the compound foreclosed upon and Freya poisoned.  The vengeful vampires make their appearance.  Fortunately for Freya, Hayley shows up and sneaks both her and Hope out of the compound. While Freya and Hayley are busy getting gone, Kol confronts Marcel about his actions saying that this is not what Davina would have wanted. Yeah, Kol has never been the brightest Mikaelson and this is not an argument he should have made, considering that he fed on Davina until she died.  Marcel is quick to take his revenge upon Kol by biting him.  When Elijah joins the fight, he's bitten for his trouble.  Klaus's eyes go all wolf at the sight of his wounded brothers but before he can attack, Rebekah shows up and she's all, I got this, "Marcel won't hurt me." This buys enough time for the Mikaelson boys to sneak out of the compound licking their wounds.