Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale, Season Two, Episode Two, Season Thirteen

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There are so many things to unpack in this season finale.  Eden's death is still resonating throughout the Gilead. The task of gathering up her few belongings falls to June and Rita. Because of her so-called sins, Eden won't even be given a proper burial and will instead be hung on the wall and then fed to animals in order to reduce waste. Don't you just love Gilead's idea of environmentalism? Rita in particular is troubled by Eden's death, feeling guilt that she never had a kind word to say to the young woman. The truth is, in her position as a Martha, there's little Rita really could have done to make things better for Eden anyway. 

When going through her things, June finds Eden's bible filled with notes, hidden between some clothing.  June decides to share this with Serena who is quick to dismiss this discovery as truly unimportant, claiming that her daughter (read kidnapped child) will be raised to follow the rules of God. It's left for June to point out the obvious, if her daughter is not allowed to read, how will she know what the rule of God truly is? It's a salient point which hits the mark expertly. It's a reminder that Gilead isn't really about Christianity at all because if that were the case, the bible wouldn't be forbidden to women. June shouldn't have had to make this point to Serena.  It should have been obvious to a woman who is so intelligent that the trap she helped create has ensnared her and her descendants.

This season, the writers have worked hard to make Serena more dimensional by showing her frustration with the system she has found herself in, as well as the labour Serena does to maintain Gilead. This is why Serena was shown mobilizing the mothers of girls to petition the council in order that their daughters would grow up and read the word of God. It quickly became apparent from the dismissive attitude that Fred displayed that they were only interested in patronising the women.  Serena upped the ante when she actually read from Genesis to prove the goodness of the word of God, causing some of the women who came in support of her to leave.  Instead of reinforcing Serena's point, reading actually was deemed threatening to the all male council and so they responded by removing her pinkie finger.  Fred actually stood by and watched as his wife was taken off to be maimed by two Guardians. 

I know that Serena's awakening is meant to evince sympathy but there is more here than being careful what one wishes for. Serena worked hard to bring Gilead into being and she has supported the system every step of the way, including playing the dutiful wife on Fred's trip to Canada.  There's also the fact that she's been actively cruel to June, and even went as far as to hold June down so that Fred could rape her and hopefully induce labour.  On every level that you can think of, Serena is a horrible person and yet the writers seem convinced on suggesting that a woman in June's situation would have empathy for her oppressor.  It makes sense to me that June would attempt to push Serena to thwart the rules for Holly's sake but to attempt to comfort Serena when she gets what is coming to her is just a leap I am unwilling to make. There is no difference between Serena and Fred in terms of their culpability and I am unwilling to go along for the ride and believe that by virtue of her gender that Serena is even remotely a sympathetic figure.  

It seems that every step of the way that the writers are determined to give us scenes with a redemption arc for Serena.  Having Serena stop June when she is about to escape with Holly and simply say a teary goodbye to the child without raising the alarm because she has finally decided to act in the best interest of the baby, is meant to once again cast Serena as moral and good. I don't believe that Serena would have let that baby go without a fight having done so much to ensure her conception and with the sure knowledge that having a baby elevates her family in Gilead society.  

The narrative clearly has to move beyond the Atwood novel, not only because the writer are out of source material but one can only show maimed and brutalised women for so long before it becomes pointlessly gratuitous. This means some real change needs to happen in Gilead. We've watched as the writers teased us with June's escape attempt only to be brought back to the Waterford home. Then we had June giving birth to Holly, being sent back to the red center and of course, ending up in the Waterford home.  This time, June has a chance to escape when she is told by Rita that through the Martha network they can both June and the baby out. Nick even brandishes a gun at Fred when Fred figures out what is going on to stop Fred from raising the alarm.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Accidental Demonslayer (Demon Slayer #1) by Angie Fox

Lizzie was living a perfectly ordinary life when a demon appeared in her bathroom. And her dog started talking to her

Turns out she has inherited the legacy of the Demon Slayers and her guide to this new world is her long estranged grandmother, witch, biker and expert in the many uses of road kill.

She and a handesome shapeshifting griffin need to train her in this new world - especially since there’s a very powerful demon looking for her

There’s some elements of this book I really like, especially Lizzie’s origin. Lizzie was a nice, normal, school teacher. She has a nice, safe, mundane life and she’s dragged to her supernatural legacy by her grandma

And I love the grandma. Her grandma is part of a rather elderly coven who have managed to survive, alone of all the covens, in the face of a demon hunting them because they’re gloriously unconventional. They’re nomadic, bikers and their Earth Magic draws upon a whole lot of scavenging and road kill. And I kind of love this - I love this take on magic not being pretty or nice. I love how it’s by being so unorthodox that the biker granny witches have survived and I like that we have this really excellent collection of kick arse older women each doing their own thing and being decidedly indecorous about it. The coven rocks.

And I really like how Lizzie fits in with granny and this coven - i.e. not at all. She’s a nice conventional, a little boring, school teacher. She doesn’t ride motorbikes. She doesn’t fight demons. She doesn’t get dirty. She doesn’t eat road kill. And I like how her rejection of this kind of screws up Lizzie and the coven for a while with Lizzie making a major mistake because she IS human. I love how it sets up this conflict of Lizzie trying to adapt to this new life - while slowly learning to embrace it (I especially love the ending here).

There’s also a magical companion dog but meh, doesn’t mean a lot, manages not to be annoying or intriguing which is kind of weird for magical companion animals but does manage to make Lizzie look a bit of a dick for caring more about this dog than various people.

Anyone who has read my reviews knows the review is now going to take a negative turn as I talk about THE ROMANCE. I hate the romance in this story.

We have Dmitri, a Griffin (of course) who is… ambiguously secretive for no damn good reason for most of the book. I mean we get the answers right near the end for some pointless romance conflict but there’s no reason he couldn’t have been introduced with all of this. I mean he appears and Granny is all “we can’t trust him even though all he’s done is help us and we’d all be dead” but there’s never any reason why Granny doesn’t trust him or can’t explain a little about why she’s suspicious. Or even say he’s a Griffin! I mean, sort of relevant? Instead we have this convoluted mystery so Dmitri and Lizzie can fast forward themselves into a “romance” (if your only criteria for falling for someone is “he’s hot” is it even a romance? Because we know nothing else about him) and Lizzie can continually bounce between “zomg he’s so hot” and “Granny said not to trust him”. I mean this whole unnecessary mystery is there JUST so Lizzie can be conflicted about the relationship. And then when the inevitable happens and we find out that *GASP* Dmitri was looking for a Demon Slayer to take down the big bad for his own reasons and Lizzie is super offended by this because… reasons? It feels like another romance trope that is just shoe-horned in there because this is what romances are supposed to look like: mysterious hot guy, convoluted misunderstanding, etc etc conflict because conflict

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Originals: Season 5, Episode 10: There in the Disappearing Light

Klaus is trying to help his evil daughter Hope, deal with the evil darkness inside her. By slapping him around with magic

While I generally approve of this, it’s not enough because Hope is the only person in the world who doesn’t want to hurt Klaus. She wants to hurt Roman

Hey I’m all for hurting Nazis

Klaus grabs Roman and brings him back to the Originals mansion so she can torture him horribly to death. I’m all in favour of this. Bring on the Nazi torture! And then by killing him they will purge all the darkness inside her at least for a little while.

Elijah disapproves of this - he wants to get Vincent to help with Hope and her massive shadow problem but Vincent is, for once, far more involved in half of his coven being dead and all that and not the Mikkaelson’s endless drama.

Elijah is concerned that letting Hope torture someone to death may be deleterious to her innocence and all. Also Antoinette isn’t thrilled to hear that little brother is going to get all murdered. Waaaaah the poor kid.

Yeah can everyone please stop whining about this kid - this “kid” was around before world war 2. He’s a grown, adult, nazi. Not a child with mummy issues. Make with the killing already.

Hope begins zapping him and Nazi boy keeps whining about how his mother is totally dead as well and he didn’t know what he was doing with his naziness. Alas, Hope doesn’t want to kill him because she’s too nice which is a problem because she’s being consumed by darkness and evil and nasty whispering which is going to be bad

While Klaus doesn’t trust Elijah, thinking that he’s maybe adopted Antoinette’s viewpoints a bit too much and may not entirely be loyal to the Mikkaelsons any more. But he doesn’t have a great deal of choice in the matter.

Meanwhile Vincent is surprised by all the dead witches waking up again - because they’ve all been fed vampire blood and poison. Which means they can now drink blood and become vampires… which is not an easy choice, apparently. Well not for Ivy, we don’t really check in with the others. She was born a witch, intends to die a witch and has absolutely no intention in becoming a vampire especially since she’s had lots and lots of pretty visions of the afterlife which seems like a pretty nice place.

Unfortunately it’s all a lie. Vincent reveals the Afterlife is a terrible place where all the ancestors kind of hang around the well of power - because all that New Orleans ancestor magic is created by imprisoning the dead in a kind of limbo (ignore the numerous examples of Ancestors outright dictating to the living for the past 4 seasons). And he doesn’t want that for Ivy

So he gathers the witches together to tell them this thing they’ve been doing for generations is totally unjustified and wrong when it’s going to affect someone he loves. And they should really stop it… and everyone agrees. I mean we cut from Vincent making a big dramatic point about how unjust it is to everyone casting the spell to delete the well of power. Welp I guess he was very very very very convincing. This means Ivy can now shuffle off her mortal coil and hopefully whatever afterlife she ends up in will give her at least one plot line. I assume all the other vampire witches die as well. I guess? It’s not really explained.

Declan is getting all angsty and deciding to research his dead clergy relatives (they died back in season 1? Or possibly 2? Honestly I don’t care enough to click links to find out. They’re dead anyway) and Josh has to play supporter for a brief moment before actually flirting with a guy. Oh my gods the show remembered he was gay. Oh my gods the show remembered he has a life outside of serving others. And oh my god the show remembered Aidan who is dead… but only so Josh can push the other guy away. Yeah way to remember grief that had been forgotten for several seasons just so you can nip any possibility of a storyline with this guy

But it’s worse! Yep - this is for pathos. See Marcel has been lured into an ambush by the Nazi vampires and despite being super powerful awesome he’s easily captured because they have a witch and on this show the relative power of witches and vampires and originals all changes every 5 minutes depending on what the plot needs

Why does a witch want to capture Marcel and help the Nazi vampires establish vampire supremacy? Who even knows, it’s The Originals no-one’s motive has to make sense. Especially not nameless Black cannon foddder!

So the Nazi vampires are extracting Marcel’s hybrid venom because they think it can kill Hope - I mean, there’s absolutely no indication that a bullet won’t kill hope - but why not. Josh comes to the rescue, killing the nameless witch and allowing Marcel to slaughter the others. But Josh gets stabbed with a syringe of venom they just happened to have ready. In the heart.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Damnation Marked (Descent Series #4) by S.M. Reine

Elise has come through a lot in the last few years and is still reeling - but Reno is her territory and she’s determined to protect it

When a new dark threat rises from beneath, it may be beyond the limited resources she has left to deal with it… especially when she’s so alone. But is she ready to look to the Union for support?

And is this something the Union can deal with? Or can only Elise, the Godslayer, take down this threat? And at what cost?

I swear this series is my white whale. I read a book or two and then blink and S.M. Reine has written 8 squillion books in the same world and part of me thinks “no way can I catch up with them all” and then I’ll read another book in a different series and realise it’s in the same world and declare, that by Ahab’s ghost, I will tackle this whole series.

I imagine a lot of people are going to be very put off by Elise on account that she is pretty much a deeply unpleasant person. And at times for me I was frustrated - not by her exactly but by the people around her - like why are you hanging around this woman? She’s made of terrible and awful! Anthony, James - put some distance between you and her!

But I don’t dislike her. Her life has not been easy - including a lot of flashbacks this book which really bring home why she is called “the god killer” who she is, what her connection with the divine and infernal actually is and her rather terrible experiences because of it. We see her history and early days as a Kopis, and kopides with their high death rate and constant struggle against the various evils of the world.  We see her own activities in the past with James when she was much younger hunting terrible monsters.

And even then I kind of love how when hunting down a creature that is eating pigs and human babies she asks “why pigs”. James is all horrified “why babies!” is what he asks - but hey ALL big bad darknessess want to eat babies. It’s what they do. It really does show how even young Elise is thoroughly jaded and worn down by the life she leads. We even see this really nice

Throw in the recent death of Betty who wasn’t just her best friend but kind of the cornerstone of her humanity, the one who made Elise more than just a hunter and we have a wound right to her soul. It’s all really well done to produce a character who is, well, deeply unpleasant - but deeply unpleasant for powerful reasons that really make up her characters

And that isn’t lessened by the sometimes terrible things she has to do in this book coupled with just how utterly overwhelmed she is with the job of running Reno, protecting its inhabitants (including demons - which in itself is something that puts her at odds with not just other Kopides but even James as they can’t accept that chaos =/= evil) and protecting the holy gate.

Throw into this we have a lot of conflicts with the people in Elise’s life - whether that’s Anthony who is probably just too human to be in Elise’s life. Or there’s James who, because of their mystical bond, is just too close and she keeps pushing away (it’s also interesting in that James is built on to have so many more things in his own life as well, perhaps diverging his priorities from Elise and further making her unable to trust him). Her chaotic connection with Tom, a mysterious power who she certainly isn’t able to entirely trust - or even trust at all - and we have a character who is overwhelmed, facing impossible circumstances with little to no actual reliable support network from which to do anything about the dire threats that face her city

Friday, July 13, 2018

Romance: Persistence is Not a Virtue

There are many times in life where persistence and patience are rewarded. Times when we - and certainly the characters we read - should fight on no matter what, against all obstacles, in the teeth of the most vicious opposition. After all, a hero winning against all the odds is always good for an epic story. And it’s almost a trope now that if your hero gets into a fight this will start out badly for them, they’ll be beaten until they rally, the dramatic music plays and they give their enemies a good kicking. Everyone loves a scrappy underdog story and there’s nothing quite so underdog as rising from the ashes of defeat

Then we come to romance and… this trope continues. Not only continues but it has been thoroughly embedded in our society - faint heart never won fair lady, women play hard to get and, most toxically “no means yes”. We have entire genres of romance, rom-coms and more centred around the plucky male underdog, being rejected and refusing to take that no for an answer, persevering and then winning the reluctant woman’s stubborn heart. All “no” means is that you need to try harder, try again and again and again until you wear her down.

Or, to put it another way, men don’t take no for an answer and continue to stalk, harass and generally annoy a woman until she gives up. These stories don’t show love or romance and these men don’t approach their prospective love interests as people - but as prizes to win, obstacles to overcome to earn their eventual reward.

This can be very prevalent in long running Urban Fantasy series where a relationship is a slow burn rather than an insta love.

It takes Kate Daniels several books before her relationship with Curran became a thing. Oh he fixated on her quite early in the series but she wasn’t buying, despite being impressed by his physique. She resisted him, insulted him generally tried to make it clear that they were never going to be a thing. While he pursued her, pushed her, challenged her and even broke into her house (this seems to be a theme of these relationships - it’s not true love if the guy hasn’t broken into her house at some point).

I love Kate and Curran’s relationship. I love it, they’re awesome together - but they way they got there was a problem. Kate said no, Kate refused but Curran pushed and pushed and persisted and thought and… won.

We see this with the Otherworld series’ original partners - Elena and Clay. Their relationship starts in the rockiest possible way with Clay biting Elena and risking her life turning her into a relationship without her consent. After some rocky beginnings she runs - yes she has other issues as well prompting her to run, but after leaving the country she is very clear that she doesn’t want Clay in her life. Like a good Urban Fantasy protagonist, he takes this as a challenge, pushing back into her life, using circumstances to move into her home (and wedge between her and her actual fiance) and even getting handsy. Elena says no to Clay, Elena does not want him in her life - yet he persists. And he wins.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale, Season Two, Episode Twelve: Postpartum

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Postpartum marks the penultimate episode of season two.  When last we left June, she had just given birth alone after briefly reuniting with Hannah and watching Nick get dragged away by a pair of Guardians. Just as Serena promised, June has been seperated from her daughter and is once again in the Red Centre awaiting a new position. Any mom will tell you that labour and delivery is just the start of the journey and that the real work begins when you are handed this tiny human who wants attention all of the time. It's tiring, it's stressful but these moments are filled with the most selfless love. This is an experience June is being robbed of and instead, she's being treated like a dairy cow, forced to express milk for Holly every three hours. June's only reward is a bran muffin from eager couples looking to have her become their handmaid because she's delivered a healthy child.

In Gilead, parenthood, particularly motherhood, grants a certain kind of status. It's no surprise that once he had kidnapped June and Nick's child that Fred was promoted and moved into a bigger office. Fred being petty as fuck of course has to force Nick to hang a family portrait.  Even as he repeatedly tells Nick that he's going to go far, it's clear that it's Fred's objective to point out to Nick that though Nick is the biological father, Holly is his and will always be his. Even when Fred isn't being physically abusive, a strong streak of cruelty runs through him.  When Fred isn't busy pissing on a bush to mark his territory, he alternates between coming onto June, expecting to be rewarded for facilitating her brief reunion with Hannah, and dangling Holly in front of June to stimulate milk production. On every level that you can think of, Fred is a despicable human being. 

I know that there are those who have issues with the ways in which The Handmaid's Tale deals with motherhood, and I can imagine that this episode in particular would cause some consternation. The fact of the matter is that June didn't give up Holly for adoption, just as Janine didn't give up her daughter for adoption. These children have quite literally been kidnapped after being force breed. The idea that a baby needs its mother resonates strongly and I would argue rightfully so given the circumstances of the handmaids.  The wives who participate in child theft and raise them as their own are complicit in a horrible system, regardless of whether or not they love the child as in the case of Serena, or despise the child as in the case of Mrs. Putnam. It's torture to force rape and pregnancy on women and then deny them access to said child and even the title of mother. I think when examining the issue of motherhood re biological versus adoptive, it's important to remember the circumstances of reproduction in the Gilead. There are many aspects of The Handmaid's Tale which are analogous to the real world but not everything translates well. 

One of the most disturbing scenes in Postpartum is Serena's attempt to breast feed Holly. Breastfeeding is just such a deeply personal experience and it helps bond mother to child. No matter how much Serena may love Holly, she cannot give the baby what she needs and instead only ends up further frustrating the child to feed her own ego. That Serena withdraws and apologises to the baby shows that she understands that what she did was wrong.  It's absolutely abusive to breast feed another woman's baby without her explicit permission. It's easy to see this scene through the lens of biological mother vs adoptive mother because the emphasis is on the fact that of course Serena is not Holly's mother and this is when the system in which Holly's custody occurs is important to remember. Adoptive mothers can be just as loving as biological mothers which is why Serena loves Holly so much but in this case, Serena is also Holly's kidnapper. 

For quite some time now, Eden has been the looming threat in the Waterford household. Eden snooped through Nick's things and found the letters written by the handmaids. Eden also happened to witness the Handmaids in the store sharing their real names with each other. Eden was also suspicious of the feelings between Nick and June and even wondered if Nick was a gender traitor when he didn't rush to consummate their marriage. I knew that things would come to an end with Eden in a dramatic fashion however, I didn't expect her to run away with Issac after being told by June that she should hold onto love. Eden's death while unexpected was absolutely haunting. Eden was after all raised to be a good Gilead wife and wanted nothing more but to follow the rule of law because she deeply believed in God. If someone like Eden, who was so committed could not survive, what hope is there for any other woman?

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 2: Two Truths

James returns to the Risen because gods forbid he spend 5 minutes with his wife and child. I’m choosing to think this is a terrible director decision to try and cram everything into this improbably short season and not because James is just an arsehole.

He takes Elisha to the other Risen while explaining about the whole Boundaries changing and their old hide out being ransacked and all - she claims ignorance but James is super suspicious of her now he knows she’s also one of the Risen, possibly caused the others to Rise and hasn’t told any of them.

All Elisha is interested in is finding John Doe - or William as we now know - she’s terrified that Norgard has him and insists that Norgard will kill him. Norgard is also the utter worst and she insists she was just a contractor there. She doesn’t know how she came back from the dead, she died of a seizure and Norgard was experimenting on her. Which seems… dubious to experiment on your own researcher. She insists she cares about the others and she came to Yoorana and the head of Norgard to try and find some answers - and protect them from Nicola the ultra big bad

James is similarly doubtful and intends to check with Norgard for himself. And because he doesn’t trust Elisha he’s going to handcuff her to the stove and leave her guarded by Kirstie

But first we have awkwardness with James and Kate - starting with him walking in on her having sex with super sexy neighbour Owen having sex (thank you for the far far too brief visual). So she’s pissed. Unfortunately she decides she’s also coming with him to Norgard. And when James objects (I mean she’s has no credentials or reasons to do so while he is a police officer) she stomps and growls that he can’t tell her what to do

She also decides to assume the identity of a detective. Despite having no qualifications. No badge. No credentials. No ID. She puts on a baseball cap which totally is a detective disguise. Oh and she’s also dressed as… as… honestly I can’t think of a job which would consider her clothes remotely professional.

And this is why I’m increasingly disliking Kate. Because her asserting her independence and resisting James’s control would be good. Her being a little annoyed and put out by the whole ex-husband is now married with a kid is understandable. But her asserting her agency feels like, well, Spunky Agency. She isn’t making a lot of sense, is generally unpleasant and not making a whole lot of sense. She is expressing her agency but her agency isn’t making a lot of sense and is generally annoying

Just in case we had any questions as to who is actually evil, Nicola takes William to Norgard to reveal his history (including being flogged and executed as a murderer) - and that Elisha knew who he was. She also has ominous evidence that Elisha has been feeding her information - she has samples from all the Risen. It looks dubious but Elisha did mention she was trading information in the hope for answers

But if there was any evil doubt, Nicola decides the best way to experiment on the Risen is to tie John down and cut off his fingers to see if they can make them regrow

Yeah, definitely evil there.

Luckily for John he’s guarded by both a highly gullible scientist and this while highly secure facility is guarded by one person (when James and Kate visit they wonder what top secret research facility has a guard. I wonder what top secret research facility only has one guard).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 1: A Rare Bird

We start with a flashback to remind us of the big reveal: Elisha, the doctor who has been our source of science and medicine in this show, is actually one of the Risen herself. She died 4 years ago - before the rest - and then faked her continued death before staggering out of her lab and her life all alone.

This news is passed on to James who is super distracted by it - which is probably a really bad thing because his wife Sarah has just had a baby and could use some support and he’s all distracted by the walking dead. Sarah has every right to be pissed to be honest - not only do they have a new born baby but Sarah nearly died during child birth so some support might be nice. James stop seeing dead people, you got a damn baby!

Another distraction is his colleague Chris who is not an entirely incompetent policeman and he’s noticed that Vic, the evil cop from last season, is missing (dead and buried) and he’s not falling for all the very basic red herrings.

See this is what comes of burying bodies rather than feeding them to crocodiles. Or koalas. Isn’t a body in Australia just eaten by the wildlife if you leave it unattended for 5 minutes?

James herds three of the other Risen off to a cabin he has to try and keep them out of trouble. Kirstie is snarky but obedient. Charlie is a doormat because… he always is and just about everyone challenges him on being a doormat this episode. Except it’s less “stop being a doormat” and more “damn it Charlie, be MY doormat”.

While Kate, James’s not-dead ex-wife has decided to move on a little from the whole Sarah/James/Kate love triangle which is something as a relief. But she’s decided to… act out like an angry teenager? I mean, I totally support her “James you don’t get to tell me what to do!” stance, but her “I’m gonna do this because James doesn’t want me to!” is not exactly something I’m running with and it all feels like she’s just being… petulant because Sarah has a baby? Anyway she falls in with neighbour Owen who is made of hotness and they both go swimming in a waterhole together (in Australia. This must be suicidal). But it’s ok because they’re both local and know where the big scary snake is (hey let’s go swimming and just swim round the… lethal snake. Australians are… odd people). They smoke cannabis and bond and discuss his dead parents and he is very very very very very hot

James is concerned because she’s telling someone she just met her name and possibly exposing herself.

Meanwhile Paddy is rampaging around being Paddy. He wants to prove his land was willed to the wrong people and has a copy of his will - except it’s several decades older than federal Australia and going to be difficult to prove. While he’s trantrumming and pouting his lawyer will do some research. In the meantime he recruits Charlie for shenanigans at the house he intends to “defend”. Charlie goes along because doormat+homophobic slurs