Friday, March 24, 2017

Doctor Who Season 10 Trailer

Okay Whovians, as you might know the new season starts soon. I trust that I am not alone in dealing of feelings of withdrawal. It's particularly bittersweet because this will be Capaldi's last season as the Doctor.  Don't worry, there will be plenty of time to argue about who should replace him.  In the meantime, to help you get through the wait until April 17th which is the start of the new season, I thought you might enjoy having a look at the preview if you haven't already seen it.  From the looks of it, Matt Lucas is going to reprise his role as Nardole.  It looks as though the Doctor, Nardole and Bill (Pearl Mackie) the Doctor's new companion are going to have an awesome set of new adventures. 

Well, what do you think?

The Magicians, Season 2, Episode 9: Lesser Evils

So Fillory. As Margo put it, it’s lucky they don’t have polling in Fillory because this is a hot mess of awful with their army deserting because of the mass tree killing, the treasury still kind of empty and magic still cutting out because Ember shit in it. This is looking pretty terrible.

Except there turns out to be one loop hole – rather than a war they can have a duel between kings! And it will make them super popular – as Margo puts it, Eliot is already seeing the statues.

Except he can’t fight. And the king of Loria can.

This is a bad idea. They quickly brainstorm for other possibilities and come up with magic: namely, Fenn’s blacksmith ancestors have a sword and spell that was especially prepared for High Kings who didn’t really want to go to the effort of actually learning how to fight. This goes along with a big speech from Fenn about how her husband and child are all important and her family (reminder again about how not into this Elliot is)

He’s still nervous though so it’s over to Margo and her spell which makes everyone have an impromptu Les Miserable performance.

And it’s awesome.

Ok, time to be torn. On the one hand, it’s Les Mis. Anyone who doesn’t love the score of Les Mis has no soul. Secondly it’s an awesome performance (except… I think Margot may not be there… either that or Eliot and Fenn are just leaving her in the shade). How can you not love every second of this? Of course I love every second of this. It’s awesome. Rewind it and watch it again, it’s awesome.

On the other hand? This show, with all its gross gay stereotyping, just sent the High King into battle singing a musical. And I really want to just love it, I want to ignore that, I want to just revel in the music but… I can’t really get pasty that issue.

Also it’s almost worth it to see Prince Es’s and King Idri’s faces as they approach the duelling field singing. Also Prince Es also starred in Les Mis.

Aside - can we talk about what the Lorian's are wearing because wardrobe - what are you aiming for with the king here?! 

Did the Wardrobe people raid Rick Ross's used clothing dumpster?

So time for a duel between Elliot and Idri and they quickly end up relocating to the forest (because, apparently, running away isn’t actually banned). They fight back and forth until the magic goes down and Elliot hides in a tree which King Idri then begins trying to cut down with a sword. This may take some time.

This does give them some time to talk. King Idri thinks his people are so used to hardship they won’t even notice the missing wellspring while Elliot thinks Fillory seems to be almost trying to destroy itself. They both commiserate over how annoying being king is. Elliot also talks about the utter sexual frustration of being married.

Grimm Women and Power

Image result for women of grimm

Grimm has now been running for six seasons and like any show that has been running for that length we can see some disturbing patterns developing - patterns beyond the standard Oh Hell No which we have been calling out for a long time.

One of those patterns that has clearly developed is how women are treated on Grimm - especially women with power.

Or not - because for much of the early seasons of Grimm we simply didn’t have strong women. Nick lived in a very male world and the only women who really dinged the radar were Adalind (a villain) and Juliette (ignorant and so uninvolved in the story). It was a recurring issue for far too long in Grimm before Rosalie was finally introduced alongside the eventual semi-inclusion of Kelly and Truble to add some occasional female power

But the “occasional” here is relevant. Kelly and Truble were both reduced to guest roles, not allowed to cast too great a shadow on the men of the plot - and Kelly was eventually killed off. To add to the insult of this, there was no real come back of this. Juliette - or Eve - was even accepted back by the gang despite this murder: bad enough this awesome, strong female character was so poorly used but to the have her death so casually handwaved?

Truble didn’t die - but my they put her on the bus with regularity. I wonder sometimes if there’s one writer they keep in a cupboard who eventually breaks out, yelling “no more damsels!” and then we get 3 episodes of Truble before they’re restrained

Rosalie is better - but even then there’s some gender coding in deciding that she would be the physically weaker, more cunning, Fuchsbau to Monroe’s dangerous Blutbaden. Rosalie is definitely one of the more powerful characters on this show in terms of intelligence and cunning but it would have been interesting to see her be cunning and intelligent - and dangerous.

But that brings us to the dangerous women of this show who have actually managed to hang around. Adalind and Juliette/Eve

Every thinking writer knows that simply setting up a woman to become a damsel in need of continual saving is not a marker of good writing anymore. Women are demanding more nuanced characterisation and less female victimhood. Grimm’s way of meeting these demands is to create powerful female characters; however, it comes with the caveat that strength equals  evil which, while moving aside from position women as eternal victims, reifies a sexist trope that a strong woman cannot possibly be good and is inherently dangerous to men. It’s a way of disciplining women into submission by the simple virtue of strength/power being equated to evil and a lack of attractiveness. Yes, we see you Grimm.

Adalind was introduced in the very first episode as an antagonist.  It became clear very quickly that Adalind was not someone to be played with.  Over the years, Adalind, whose hatred of Grimms was absolutely epic, made no secret of her desire to rain down misery upon Nick’s life. As a Hexenbiest, one of the more powerful Wesen, Adalind absolutely had the chops to back up any threat that she made and when her power couldn’t directly cause a problem the spells in her arsenal absolutely could, as evidenced by her poisoning of Juliette.

It’s telling that despite Adalind’s animosity towards Nick a lot of her spells actually directly attacked Juliette, thereby hurting Nick by proxy. Adalind, for example, used a cat to put Juliette into a coma and she also crafted a spell to give Juliette the hots for Renard (also, who needs a spell for that?). This, of course, furthered the narrative around Juliette as damsel in distress for the majority of this series, even as it affirmed Adalind’s oh so evil persona. Adalind’s final bad act ended up in rape by deception which resulted in the pregnancy redemption. The Adalind at the end of this series is the exact opposite of the Adalind who we met in the beginning. Gee what could have induced such a drastic change?

All of these tropes are really emphasised when we look at Nick, Adalind and Juliette because it really brings home which women are allowed to be powerful.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The 100, Season Four, Episode Seven: Gimme Shelter

Image result for the 100 season 4

For awhile now, The 100 has been beating a drum about changes to earth making it uninhabitable for humanity.  Each episode has been filled with dire warnings but thus far, we really haven't seen it impact the cast.  They've been like bears preparing for a long winter, stock piling water and food while droning on about how desperate the situation is. The problem with this is that we know that unless The 100 is suddenly canceled,  whatever problem the writers throw in front of their characters, will be solved, it's always only a matter of how. For the first time, rather being told how dire the situation is, Gimme Shelter began to show us how desperate the world had become.  

Raven has warning everyone about the dangers of black rain and it turns out that it's even more dangerous than she thought and will force our merry band of survivors to make some tough decisions. For some, they will find themselves morally in a grey place with no easy answers. 

After denying her desire to kill Ilian, Octavia has decided that it's time to get the hell out of dodge.  It's not long before Octavia notices that Ilian is following her and she decides to confront him and send him on his merry way.  Ilian believes that wherever Octavia is going that she's going to need help. They don't get to argue about it for long because the black rain starts to fall and they are forced to seek shelter.  Octavia and Ilian make it to a cave and are forced to rapidly rinse off in a stream because the rain burns.  After they're cleaned up, Octavia tells Ilian to make a fire because he's good at that, while she cleans off her horse. 

After they are settled in, Octavia is still not trying to hear a damn thing that Ilian has to say.  Ilian talks about how he has no place to go and that he cannot go home because it is filled with memories of him killing his family. I'd have to say that's a pretty fair assessment.  Ilian then tries to encourage Octavia to talk about her demons but Octavia is not in a sharing mood.  Ilian tries to suggest that there's still good in Octavia based in the fact that she didn't kill him but this simply triggers Octavia.  When she cannot take it anymore, Octavia tries to run out into the rain, causing Ilian to chase her and haul her ass back into the cave. Ilian basically has to hold Octavia down to stop her weak ass suicide attempt. Octavia responds by kissing Ilian much to his surprise. It's only when Octavia tells Ilian that she needs to feel something different that he finally consents and they have sex.  On a side note here, I'll take more shirtless Ilian please. 

Dream Eater (Portland Hafu#1) by K Bird Lincoln

Koi can read other people’s dreams – it’s a curse she’s had from childhood; a curse that brings consequences every time someone touches her. It’s made life almost impossible, but she’s finally getting it together… though she’s not ready to look after her father with Alzheimer’s

And then Ken comes to town and he seems to be carrying a whole lot of mystery with him – and one of her university professors has some terrifying dreams. And he’s fixated on her.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Koi. There’s a lot about her characterisation, her struggle, the affect her power has on her and how she is struggling to make a life despite that often in the face of scorn from her sister.

I really think her experience is closely related to disability. She struggles a lot with daily life, crowds, dealing with people and in general making it very hard to go out, shop, go to school. At the same time she is criticised sharply and condescended to by her sister who doesn’t understand why Koi can’t just do better – not knowing what she has to struggle with and just seeing her failing.

I like the nature of Koi’s power as a really unique element that I haven’t seen in many places and Koi’s experience of them is a good element. She does have a tragic-dead-mother and a father with Alzheimer’s – but while both weigh on her and shape her character, she isn’t consumed by it. They’re not used as quick and lazy characterisation for her, they have meaning, they’re actually shaping her

Unfortunately while I like these elements, Koi herself tends to annoy me. One of that is unfortunate word choice. Authors ”said” is an acceptable word – stop looking for synonyms.  In this case, stop using “snapped”. Koi seems to be constantly snarling and snapping at everyone around her. And I don’t know if this is intentional or just bad word choice. Especially when later, Koi decides she absolutely has to put herself at risk because she wants a burrito. And maybe that would make it a little better if we’d better establish how much she needs to eat after using her power.

It doesn’t help that I really don’t like how she interacts with Ken. It seems to bounce between over the top unnecessary sexual attraction (which, yes, I get it – Koi’s power means she can’t touch people easily so meeting a guy she can kind of touch without consequence is a wonderful thing. But my gods that’s an overused trope!) and then back to really excessive antagonism which feels like someone has decided to take a long love/hate attraction storyline, speed it up and shoe-horn it into the story.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Time After Time, Season 1, Episode 4: Secrets Stolen

Time to keep up the most important part of this series – John is half naked again! Still confined by Brooke she spends a goodly amount of time in a towel while Brooke tries to make friends with him

Yes, despite the fact that John is Jack the Ripper, Brooke wants him to trust her, wants him to be her friend and possibly with benefits. Oh Brooke, I get that he’s hot but he’s also a serial killer. Look but don’t touch there.

She wants to experiment on John – she’s a biotechnician and wants to use DNA to alter brain patterns. Including de-serial killering John. The problem is, she assumes that John actually wants that. She’s done a lot of research on him – she knows his name, his birth even the son he had (which even he didn’t know about) but hasn’t figured out that he quite likes being a serial killer. She’s also pretty loose lipped, telling all about Vanessa and her relationship with HG Wells. My isn’t she well informed

John decides he wants nothing to do with this and tries to leave. Failed attempt one ends up with him in a cage with a man wielding some dangerous amounts of roid-rage – looks like an old experiment of Brooke’s. He commits the terrible crime of punching John repeatedly in the face before he’s being stopped

His second attempt works, though, despite Brooke’s bodyguard being disturbingly resistant to tranquiliser (or… well… realistically resistant. Really, tranqs don’t generally put you down all that quickly, not without being dangerous. There’s a reason why hospitals employ anaesthesiologists and don’t just dart you) and ALSO committing the supreme sin of face punching (not his beautiful face!)

Brooke is not amused.

We must now catch up with HG and Jane who is rapidly joining the Wet Lettuce Sisterhood with her general dampness. She’s concerned that she’s flirting with HG but he’ll think she’s a forward sluthussyjezebel because of his Victorian values

Uh-huh, Victorians talked a good game but my gods they could be dirty sex pigs behind closed doors. You’re a historian Jane, don’t buy into this whole moral probity veneer.

They gush a bit and he talks about how routine sex is in the modern world which means all the passion is missing (only if you’re doing it wrong HG). But it was hilarious to watch him play with the internet and discover pop-ups and dodgy pawn.

You think learning about the second world war will reduce his idealistic faith in humanity? Let him browse the net for 20 minutes, we’ll break him so hard.

Into the Badlands, Season 2, Episode 1: Tiger Pushes Mountain

Time for Into the Badlands to return and it opens with stunning visuals and good music. No matter what else this show is, it’s a sensory feast – a truly beautiful program – 6 months have passed since the end of the last season

Even when following Sunny who has been sold to slavers who are “mining” (prospecting for remains of our society anyway) and we’re quickly treated to an awesome fight scene showing off the glorious battle choreography. He doesn’t escape but my does he look awesome being recaptured.

Chained and set to work, Sunny meets Bajie, fellow prisoner, crafty opportunist who offers to be his guide in the prison being a confidant, teaching him the rules (including needing to meet your quota or face lethal gladiatorial combat – oooh Sunny is interested in that). With Bajie’s help he begins to put together an escape plan. But we also see Bajie is ruthless. He repeatedly calls himself an opportunist but we see that also involves a willingness to attack and use his fellow human beings.

When Sunny makes it clear that Bajie is not part of his escape plan Bajie makes his own plans – and sells Sunny out to their captures as a clipper and therefore someone valuable.

MK was kidnapped by some monks last episode and is now being trained by an Abbot in combat and presumably control. He’s a bit sulky and pouty, demanding to speak to the Master. Normally I’d roll my eyes are whiny acolyte demanding to be treated as all special but since he was actually kidnapped I’m going to give the guy a hard pass here. It’s not like he signed up for this

One of his fellow supplicants also wants to escape – he wants to return to his Nomad tribes where he was respected and worshipped for his power. Yep, they all have the lethal fighting power when they’re cut: his fellow nomads used him as a weapon to protect themselves. Apparently too many cuts will eventually kill them but he considered this a small price to pay for his own people.

Eventually frustrated, MK goes seeking the Master and finds her (points for the Master being a Black Asian woman) and her awesome broom throwing power. She clearly has some major mojo and knows all about MK and the people he left behind. He isn’t that thrilled about learning and really wants to go home to the people he left behind

She will allow this if he can get past a paper bird with sharp edges without using his powers. It’s nifty Origami – and opens a shallow cut making him go all dark-eyed and scary. He attacks her – and you know that’s not going to work. She stops his super powered punch with one hand and then with some carefully applied pressure points she puts him on the ground

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Isle of Spirits (Keys Trilogy #2) by Anna Roberts

Blue has had a whole new world shown to her – a world of werewolves and magic and witchcraft. She has come into this world just as the entire world seemed to fall apart.

With Gloria, ancient witch matriarch who held most of the Keys together, now a wolf and not really talking. Northern Florida is overwhelmed by swamp wolves with a habit of cannibalism and the aging werewolves are facing their own personal fears

Blue is in the middle of this and perhaps the only person who can put this all together and try and find an answer

I continue to love the unique world setting of this series and this book really does bring it home especially in relation to the curse of the werewolf. More and more we see werewolf-ness as generally being a useful thing for characters in most Urban Fantasy books. You get super healing and strength, complete control of your animal forms and often a metabolism which allows you to eat all burgers all the time without putting on any weight. But here we have a very different story – we have werewolves who are literally monsters in animal form and legitimately terrified over what they may do (and upset over what they have done). The change is depicted in a truly horrific, agonising manner making to clear every month this is something to dread and desperately prepare for.

We see with “elderly” werewolves a sincere concern over their health and eating correctly because each change could be their last and if they’re not looking after themselves it may be too much for them to handle. We see the horror that any of them may suffer when the change can go wrong – from when the change WILL go wrong? Because it is an inevitable which leads them all to consider if this will be the day they commit suicide or if they can trust their friends to kill them.

And that old age is 30s – because changing every month is killing them. It adds to the underlying tension and pain these characters come from and which characterises their lives.

This is also linked with the fact that the werewolves live in a largely lawless community – because they’re both off the grid and covering things up due to being werewolves but also generally poor and forgotten so it’s not like they could expect the usual legal authorities to care about them