Monday, September 26, 2016

The Vow by Laura Daleo

Claire Matthews has returned home from college to spend the summer with her family.  It's supposed to be a great time in her life but when she lands at the airport, her usually punctual parents aren't there. Claire takes a cab to her childhood home only to find police swarming all over the place. Though Claire prays desperately that her parents and her little brother are fine, it doesn't look good. When Claire learns that her brother is missing and that her parents are indeed dead from an apparent vampire attack, despite the vow which hundreds of years ago ended vampires hunting humans, Claire is determined to find her parents killer and her missing brother.  The investigation will see her team up with a vampire as she negotiates the vampire world for the first time.

I had my doubts about The Vow from the first page.  To be clear, dead parents are absolutely a trope in this genre and in this case, both of Claire's parents are found murdered at the beginning of the book, making it far from an auspicious start. It also didn't help that Claire was absolutely alone in the world. How is it that she grew up in that home and didn't have a single friend to turn to? Did they all just disappear when she left for college? I understand that the purpose is to further isolate Claire but it really doesn't feel believable to me. However, Daleo did a good job portraying Claire's pain viewing her parents bodies and her fear that her brother might also be dead.

Where Daleo loses me is Claire's hunt for her parents killers.  Claire actually accuses the first vampire she sees with nothing to base her accusation on.  She casually decides that said vampire is shifty because he won't submit to interrogation by her and leaves at the first opportunity. Daleo then doubles down by having Claire volunteer at a vampire center (read: feeding area) and then interrogate random vampires coming in for nourishment.  She ends up agreeing to meet with not one but two vampires and of course it ends badly.  If that is not enough, a vampire priest sends her on a wild goose chase which turns out to be a trap and then Claire follows up on this faulty lead by disturbing a vampire in its lair during day sleep.  I quickly found myself wondering how it is that Claire is still alive. Sure, her vampire boyfriend and the police are there to pull her ass out of the fire but at some point she should have learned that simply walking off to meet vampires in isolated locations is not a good idea. Daleo attempts to explain Claire's repeated stupidity by employing Claire's grief over her parents death and fear for her missing brother as justification.  In the end, Claire simply comes across as a bimbo, making me wonder how she got into college in the first place?

Despite all of the focus on Claire's vampire hunt and her family legacy of vampire hunting, I don't feel like I really know who she is. It doesn't help that we are continually reminded just how beautiful Claire is and that her blonde hair and blue eyes practically make her vampire catnip.  It makes me wonder if this is intentional, so that the reader can place themselves in Claire's position? The problem however is then magnified because Daleo employs this tactic with all of the other characters in the book.  Neither Daniels (the investigating cop) or Conner (the vampire boyfriend) feel at all real to me either. I'm going to chalk this up to the very limited character development in this story.

Fear The Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Thirteen: Date of Death

Just as the ending scene from last week promised, this week's Fear the Walking Dead told us the story of Travis and Chris after leaving Madison and Alicia. With the two hour season finale coming next week, it's clear that the writers are putting the characters into position to finish off the season.  I highly suspect that we will see the end of the Colonia and have everyone reunited at last.

Madison turned on the hotel light hoping to attract her ne'er-do-well son and just as Alicia pointed out, anyone could see the the sign lit up.  We saw Travis see the sign and start to head in the direction but so did many other people.  They all end up upside the hotel gates begging to get in while the hotel residents deny them entry and offer apologies.  It's only when Madison spies Travis that they open the gate long enough for him to enter.

Travis has clearly been affected by his time with Chris and bluntly rejects Madison's offer for food and a hot shower.   On one hand, Travis is thankful to be reunited with his wife but on the other, this means now he must relate what he believes to be his biggest failure - losing his douchebag son.

When we last saw Chris and Travis, James had been shot by the farmer as a result of the dudebros thinking that they could just come along and take the farmer's chickens.  Having been taught some first aid, Travis gets to work sewing up James's bullet wound as James screams in pain.  Chris takes a moment with Travis to talk about what happened and it's quickly clear that father and son are not on the same page.  Chris is still certain that they need the dudebros and points out that with Travis's quick thinking in helping James, this has moved Travis up a notch in the estimation of the dudebros. Travis however is not the least bit interested in playing hero to the group of douches.

Travis keeps checking in on James's pain level and James lies claiming to be fine when he clearly is not.  After eating all of the chickens, though Travis warned that should have only eaten the eggs, the dudebros decide that it's time to move on.  Even though Travis has warned them that there's nothing in the U.S., they are determined to see it for themselves.  Travis tries to call in Chris for backup to agree with what he has said; however, Chris claims that they didn't see it all.  Travis then brings up James, whom he believes in not ready to travel but James, acting in fear claims that he will be just fine.

Travis looks through the house and finds the driver's licence of the man that Creepy Chris killed. Travis carves a date of birth and death on a marker for his grave, much to the irritation of Chris who just wants to get going with the dudebros.  Chris makes it clear that his father doesn't fit in (ya think) and suggests that Travis start playing the game.  Travis however still isn't having it.

They manage to get James in the back of the truck and Chris and Travis ride back with him.  The moment the truck starts moving, James begins to show signs of pain.  James begs Travis not to stop the truck but when James passes out after only driving a few feet away from the farm, Travis is forced to get a very unimpressed Brandon to stop the truck.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Z Nation, Season Three, Episode Two: A New Mission

Last week we had a flashback episode to introduce a new antagonist.  It didn't really feel like a season opener to me at all.  Though this is the second episode of the season, to me it's episode one because we finally caught up with our hardy band of survivors. 

At the end of season two, we were left with a bunch of questions.  What's going to happen to Citizen Z now that he is has left the base?  Did Murphy and 10K get blown up with the submarine.  Finally, what's up with Warren and company? This episode answered all three questions and set about giving us a direction for season three.

Let's begin with Murphy and 10K, who did indeed survive.  After finding out about Zona's mission to save the top 1%, Murphy comes up with a new plan - hybrids.  This works for him because with his power he would be able to control everyone.  Murphy firmly believes that humanity has come to an end and that the world will be populated by those who are part zombie and part human, with him of course as the leader.  There is no visible mark on 10K unlike those who Murphy has taken hostage from the sub but he seems pretty content to do exactly what Murphy wants him to do.  Even when Murphy refuses to go and look for Roberta and company, 10K is along for the ride.

Murphy's big goal is to get out of there as quickly as possible.  Along their travels, they come across a herd of zombies who are attempting to feed on each other because there are not enough humans left. To Murphy this represents the way the world is now and yet another sign that his hybrid plan is the only way to move forward.  Two zombies fall off the pile of rolling zombies and Murphy orders 10K to take them out which he duly does.  This is when Murphy notices that 10K has stopped counting his kills. 

Up North we have Citizen Z, who as aforementioned walked away from the base.  He was saved by an Indigenous woman who takes him back to her home. Once there, because he's almost frozen, she gets naked into bed with him and they sleep.  Citizen Z is actually out for two days.  When he awakes, he finds that Kaya, the woman who saved him is a fan of his show.  Her deadpan delivery is priceless. Citizen Z learns that because the area wasn't extremely populated, the risk of zombies is low.  He sits back with Kaya, her grandfather and grandmother and enjoys the view of the Aurora Borealis.

Warren and the gang are captured by the Chinese.  It seems that the forces of Asia holed up behind the walls of the Imperial City.  Asia was not spared the apocalypse and so they pooled all of their resources to gather a team to collect Murphy's blood.  It's Doc who points out that even when Murphy isn't with them, he's causing them trouble.  Sun takes a sample of the team's blood hoping that even without Murphy they might provide some key to their survival. 

The team quickly becomes impressed with the tools that Sun and her people have brought to the fight.  When a zombie moves to take out Sun, it's Warren and Hector to the rescue.  Sun is touched by the fact that Warren gives the zombie mercy. Warren explains that they do it to retain their humanity and for the sake of the human that the zombie once was.  It's really a touching moment and reminds us that yes, Z Nation can be serious. This is enough for Sun to order the return of Warren and Co's weapons.

The goal is now to get to the supplies that the Chinese dropped but unfortunately, they aren't the only ones anxious to get to the supplies.  After a run in with the Enders, Sun is the only one left.  She's given no choice but to give mercy to a team member that she cared for. Sun is ready to give up on her mission and talks about the fact that she feels that she let her people down.  Warren assures her that they can work together as long as Sun promises that the cure won't only be for the Chinese but for everyone.  The plan now is to team up to get Murphy.

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 2: Seen You

Ok, it has to be said that the first episode didn’t exactly impress me. Of course, if Vanessa were to stab Axel or a vampire eat him or something we could be making some supreme improvement.

We don’t get that but I am left with a serious question:

Why wasn’t this episode first? Seriously this episode has all the world building, it introduces the main cast – it does everything the first episode should have done. Whhhhhyyyyy wasn’t it first? This would have made the series much more… approachable

Anyway back in 2016 to a backdrop of a smaller volcano in Yellowstone erupting and scattering the US with ash, we follow Vanessa and her daughter Dylan. Vanessa is clearly pretty poor, she lives in a ratty apartment, her best friend and neighbour is Sarah, a sex worker being abused by her pimp (until Vanessa beats him thoroughly proving she’s always been kind of badass). Vanessa sells her blood to try and buy her daughter a birthday present

Poor Dylan is not only embarrassed by her mother dishing out violence to violent pimps (really, c’mon Dylan your mother is awesome) but also has to deal with her estranged dad who hasn’t sent a present and is skipping out of seeing her so he can hook up, apparently.

The blood that Vanessa donated ended up in the hands of a vampire lurking in the basement

- Ok, can we go back to look at the feral vampires in the first episode? Because if they exist at this time how could they possibly hide from humanity. And if they don’t exist then what happened?

Anyway, the vampire dips into the blood himself and takes the rest to ridiculous creepy vampire boss Dmitri along with his minion Rebecca. This villain is terrible – he is such a caricature, I can barely understand him because he mutters and mumbles everything, occasionally drops into Russian and feels the need to ramble on about philosophy and ruling the night and utter nonsense. Honestly he’s comic. Said boss vampire realises Vanessa’s blood has turned his minion human – and quickly dispatches a vampire to go collect/kill/whatever her

This leads to a brutal, vicious fight in Vanessa’s flat with the vampire attacking her, being stabbed, but eventually overwhelming her…and biting her. The scene is utterly brutal, especially since Dylan witnesses all of it

You’d think Dmitri would have warned his minion against drinking her blood

Vanessa is taking to the morgue where she is examined by Doc Sarah – yes, Doc from the first episode who is a vampire. She quickly notices that something is up, what with Vanessa being dead yet having surprising living symptoms. She tells her sister Grace who is some kind of bigwig and declares everything classified: and causes the military to swoop in to claim the body

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 1: Help Me

The first episode of Van Helsing aaaand…. Hmmm… yes… hmmm

My first “hmm” actually comes from the fact Syfy has provided us a huge guide on how the apocalypse happened, the different kinds of vampires et al

Which is nice? I mean guides like this are great on, say, Defiance which is bringing two different media (TV and computer games) together or on Game of Thrones which has been running forever and built so many many plot lines

But if your new show requires a wikia? That kind of suggests “hey we suck at world building communication. Go do your homework”.

Then we have the fake lead in – where we start with the action half way through the episode: Vanessa Helsing being attacked by vampires as she lays comatose and having a nifty, but seemingly excessively gory fight scene.

Before cutting to “36 hours earlier”

I hate this trick, I hate this a lot in any episode – but if you’re doing it in the pilot, you’re virtually announcing that the first half of the very first episode has absolutely nothing to convince a watcher to keep watching. This doesn’t bode well

To the actual episode we get a nice little text lead in – it’s 2019. 3 years since “The Rising” began and civilisation has fallen

Wait wait… that’s 3 years from now… zomg it’s a dystopian world where Donald Trump won!

Vampires rule the streets… ah, not Donald Trump supports. Don’t worry guys, it’s not as bad as that! We also have a human saviour, y’know, conveniently labelled in case you don’t get it from the first episode (honestly it’s not exactly subtle. Actually, the whole dystopia isn’t exactly hard to see either – this show does love to beat you about the head with things to make sure you get it).

So to the ACTUAL beginning of the episode – we’re introduced to Vanessa in a secure hospital place where she has been snoozing for a very very long time. She is guarded by Axel, a marine who is all on his lonesome except for Doc, who is now a vampire so he keeps her locked up and feeds her blood. Doc and Axel apparently had a thing. I’m going to need someone to address this character rather than have her stuck in a cage making animalistic growling noises.

He is finally joined when one of his fellow marines returns, Ted, bringing a whole posse of survivors with him who all join them in the bunker after a fight against raging vampire-zombies (honestly at this stage vampire/zombie is fairly interchangeable. Bites infect, the vampires are “feral” so pretty mindless).

There’s a gazillion of these people, most of whose names I don’t remember and I imagine will die over the next few episodes – ablative extras. The ones to note:

Sam, a deaf man (which is very unusual in a post-apocalyptic scenarios to see any disability) and Mohamad a Black man. While neither of these are developed characters, they quickly support Axel during conflicts so will probably continue as Important Sidekicks

We have John who repeatedly fights with Axel because his wife was left outside and he’d kind of like to go out there and save her and Axel won’t let him.

There’s also Dead Lady, Cynthia (who gets upset over dead lady) and Nicole (who is generally hostile)

We have a fair bit of everyone sniping because Axel has all the diplomacy skills of a bull running at Pamplona and keeps pointing guns at people while the survivors have a couple of people who are just arsey for funsies and don’t really like Doc the vampire not being properly murdered.

There’s also Ted wandering around acting like Axel’s best friend in a totally not suspicious way. Oh and Vanessa is still unconscious as she has been for several months for reasons.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

American Horror Story: Season 6 (Roanoke), Episode 2: Chapter 2

Let me begin this recap by saying that everyone in this show deserves death. Absolutely deserves to die

Staying in this house by half way through this episode is just elaborate suicide. Natural Selection demands people with this little survival instinct be removed from the gene pool. And I don’t care how much money you have invested in this house – run! RUN people!

The dramatic re-enactment continues with Shelby making it back to the house because Lee managed to find her stumbling through the forest running away from hillbilly human sacrifice (with some rather cool chanting)

Still no-one really believes her – that starts to become a theme of this episode where absolutely no-one believes the weird tales everyone tells… which could be a paranoid subplot but, honestly, it’s been done so many times that I really am happy that it was sacrificed quickly. Because pretty much everyone has a terrible spooky experience and really no-one can doubt anyone else

Lee decides it’s great to have her daughter visit despite the spooky corn dolly redecorating the house’s foyer. She does have a really poignant and devastating exposition of how she lost custody of her daughter during her horrendous rock-bottom experience (she has such an excellent acted depiction of her self-anger and shame) and we can see how this is really important to her

Still, bringing your daughter to the creepy murder house, that’s bound to help your custody case

Said daughter, Flora, finds an imaginary friend. The imaginary friend happily tells her how she intends to murder Flora’s entire family and save her to last


Mason, Lee’s ex, is unsurprisingly not impressed by his daughter imagine ghostly murder children and he is sensible enough to get her out of there!

They all still hear spooky things in the middle of the night – and this time Shelby decides to run out into the forest with a baseball mat. Getting lost in the woods at night once clearly wasn’t enough for them. On their lawn they find a giant burning corn dolly covered in strips of meat

Matt compares this to a worst kind of burning cross on his lawn. Ok, I think appropriating actual atrocities is appalling and really fiction should stop doing it. At the same time, at the moment Matt and Shelby’s theory is that they’re being scared off by racist hillbillies so it would be unusual for Matt not to draw a comparison when he finds a giant burning symbol in his garden.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms (The Walking Dead #26) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard (Contributor), Stefano Gaudiano (Contributor)

In the wake of the attack by the Whisperers, Rick has a lot to juggle.  With Ezikiel dead, the Kingdom is going to need a new leader and Rick is determined to get someone he trusts in that position. If that were not enough, Dwight not only refuses to head up the Sanctuary, he's not keen in taking a central role in the militia. Now that Rick has gotten control of Alexandria again he has to prepare his people for war.  This means going outside of the gate to practice killing walkers.  It's just what the people need but unfortunately since the paranoia is high, mistakes are going to be made.  Rick's main focus is getting the people to redirect their anger from him and so to prepare for an upcoming war, he doesn't see the danger an old enemy just might pose to all of his plans.

Volume 26 starts off very slowly. A large part of the problem with this volume is that there are still too many characters. Yes, I know that they just slaughtered quite a few, including poor pregnant Rosita, but there are too many to keep track of.  It's so bad that I had to google a few characters to figure out who they were in relation to the different communities and their history.  It's clear with things heating up between Alexandria and the Whisperers that there is a big slaughter on the horizon. I wonder if someone big will die, or if the writers will simply use this as an opportunity to trip the fat from the cast of characters?

One interesting development this volume is the fact that Eugene made contact with someone on the radio. He's clearly despondent with the loss of Rosita and her child that he is reaching outside for something.  Eugene tries to be crafty but being Eugene gives away far too much information about Alexandria, the challenges the face and even the number of people they have.  Both Eugene and the person he is speaking with agree not to tell anyone in their respective groups about their little chats until both are satisfied they can trust the other.  This could really go down one of two ways: Eugene is talking to someone who will later pose a threat to Alexandria, or Eugene is actually having a mental breakdown and speaking to himself. We have seen the later when Lori died and Rick supposedly spoke to her on the phone.  Given the fact that The Walking Dead seems to at the very least be rehashing things (see Negan), we might very well be seeing a mental breakdown.

For much of this comic, I found Rick to be pretty insufferable.  Due to the challenge to his authority , Rick is determined to create a strangle hold on his power and to place people he can trust (read: manipulate and order around) in positions of power. His first order of business is to place Michonne in charge of the Kingdom in the wake of the death of Ezekiel. This is disturbing given that for a time, The Walking Dead seemed to want to shift the relationship between Rick and Michonne and remind us that they are indeed friends. Now that Rick is threatened however he wants Michonne in a leadership position.  They make this work by having Michonne claim that she was thinking of taking over the Kingdom and simply needed a kick in the ass to do so.  At this point, I really want to see Michonne get out from under Rick and come into leadership and power on her own accord.  I want to see her make her own decisions without always waiting to see what Rick thinks or wants.  Finally, I want her to be so much more than Rick's favourite weapon of choice.

In furtherance of his goals, Rick wants Dwight to take over leadership of his newly formed militia. Dwight left the Saviours precisely because he didn't want to lead anyone but his objections mean absolutely nothing to Rick, who declares that it's too late.  When we later see Dwight take to zombie training wielding the infamous Lucille, it really is a declaration as to where his head is at.  He uses Lucille because he sees it as a symbol of oppression and by not being given freedom of choice to decide what role he will play in the various communities, it's clear that Dwight is once again living under a strongman who simply has the appearance of being kinder.

Somehow, Rick even finds time to be magnanimous while he is having Alexandria covered in propaganda.  In the last volume, we saw that the people responded to the attack by the Whisperers by blaming Rick and questioning his leadership.  Now that Rick has redirected the community's anger by having propaganda posted, he's more than happy to accept thanks from Vincent for not exiling him. It's absolutely gross to read as Rick tells Vincent that he's giving him the chance to do good in the future and make up for his actions.

Colony, Season 1, Episode 8: In From the Cold

Last week we finally kinda, sorta had the big reveal to Will that Kate is a resistance member. But before we get to the drama, let’s expand the world building

Specifically “the Factory”

Now I kind of assumed it was euphemism for some death camp – but it turns out to be an actual factory. On the Moon. Yes, the moon. And we see Carlos, who was sent there way back when. It’s certainly not a happy fun place and something there is making the odd prisoner start coughing up blood – which seems to be expected as they have people read to drag them away screaming. Definitely something ominous going on

So back on Earth we have a continuation of the drama and Will finally having to figure out where his loyalties actually lie. I’d like to know that as well. He’s discovered his wife is actually pro-humanity rather than an Authority traitor (yes, I know I know in review after review I’ve said how more nuanced the whole conflict is and I still think that – but I still find Will’s motivations weird) and he pulls off a huge passive aggressive snit fit over it

See this is what I don’t get. I don’t get why he doesn’t UNDERSTAND why she’s with the resistance. I don’t get why he can’t sit down with her and discuss “I know why you’re doing this, I agree with the motivation” and either support her in this or explain why he has concerns (risk to family etc). This is the problem with Will, his whole working for the Authority should be under sufferance, a means to an end – yet time and again we see him pulling out all the stops and seeming to go all in for Snyder.

On Snyder – his boss dropped in to basically give him a heads up that some bigger boss is coming to review him. The gist of the conversation is, basically, that Los Angeles is actually a super liberal permissive paradise compared to other Colonies – yup there’s that nuance again, and maybe Snyder wasn’t bullshitting, maybe the devil you know is better

While Kate herself is having doubts about the Resistance and tells the woman who appears to be Quayle’s boss she wants out – they’ve lost half their cell, not achieved anything and Quayle is trying to kill her. Boss lady realises that Quayle’s hyper ruthlessness isn’t always useful

The twist this episode that adds to the complexity and tension is Quayle deciding to sell the Resistance out. He’s decided, as he tells Will, that the Resistance is actually not achieving anything (which, to be honest, it isn’t really) and he wants out – he wants out of the Colonies to the land outside which he thinks has bands of free people wandering around. For that he needs Snyder to give him pass to get out the wall. And if Will doesn’t help with that, he’ll sell out Kate