Saturday, April 30, 2016

The 100, Season Three, Episode Thirteen: Join or Die

Kane and Pike are brought into Polis, walking through what looks like a river of blood.  On either side of them are people who are in the process of being crucified.  Of course, Pike has to snark about this being exactly what he expected.  It's not long before they discover that Jaha and ALIE beat them to Polis.  When Jaha and Pike finally meet, Pike realises that the can no longer just dismiss Jaha as "crazy".  This is yet another sign of just how incompetent Pike is as a leader.  He fixated on the Grounders, who at the time were not threat to him and just allowed Jaha to chip the people, paying no attention to the results. Both men are offered the key and both refuse.  Jaha says that there are part of the 3% who refuse.  Bags are put over Kane and Pike's head and they are taken away.  Abby offers to work on Kane personally because of their bond.

Kane is taken to what I think are the commanders rooms and Abby rushes in pretending not to be chipped asking about Clarke. Kane tries to reassure Abby but she keeps pushing for more information. They embrace and then Abby kisses him.  With ALIE spurring her on, Abby pushes Kane onto a bed.  This is enough for Kane to realise that he is not actually dealing with Abby and so he pushes her away.  ALIE is out of patience and decides that its time to get tough with Kane and so has him crucified.  Does there have to be a level of acceptance for the chip to work?  This bit of brutality couldn't be for the people because the chip means that they will always obey ALIE's orders and the others are imprisoned and cannot see it? Why not just hold Kane down and force the chip down his throat?

Because Pike wasn't an ally of Clarke's, he's practically getting VIP treatment in comparison to Kane but that does however mean that he is imprisoned with Indra, who firmly believes in the blood must have blood philosophy of life. Indra grabs a knife that she has hidden in the walls and tells Pike that she wants justice which means one cut for every person that he killed.  Pike rips up in his shirt and tells her to get started.  Murphy, also in the same holding area simply turns his back as Indra begins to cut.

It's time for a flashback to the ARK. Pike is called into a room with Abby, Kane and Jaha and told that he has to teach earth skills to the prisoners.  Pike is warned on pain of death that he cannot reveal to anyone what he is doing and he is only given two weeks to teach the kids enough skills to survive. Because they don't know how much they are going to need these skills, the kids hardly pay attention and Murphy is full of snark about the whole thing.

Jaha approaches Kane and gives him one last chance to take the key but Kane refuses.  ALIE comments that Kane is very strong.  Kane suggests that they should just kill him but Jaha conceeds that if he does that, then he won't get the answers he needs.  A gun his held to Abby's head and Kane is informed that if he doesn't take the key, that Abby will be killed.  Kane finally calls uncle and the key is placed in his mouth.  Again, wouldn't it have been easier to just force the key down his throat rather than have all of the his dramatic nonsense?

Pike figures out that the ARK is dying because it's the only explanation as to why he is sending kids rather than scientists to the ground.  Pike begs to go with the kids because they are not paying attention in the class or at the very least inform them what they are up against but Jaha is adamant that no one can know.  Jaha simply tells Pike to give the kids a reason to listen to him. Pike's way of dealing with frustration is violence.  Pike focuses in on Murphy bringing up the fact that his mother drank herself to death after his father was floated for stealing medicine for him to live.  When that doesn't get the rise that he wants out of Murphy, Pike strikes him repeatedly telling Murphy that no one is coming to save him, asking him what he is going to do. Because the beating is so savage, the kids start to work together to protect Murphy.  They manage to get Cain's attention and comes in with some enforcers.  Pike declares that the kids have graduated.  I guess the lesson was that the kids need to work together to survive but there had to be some other way to teach this.  Is Pike ever going to be anything other than one dimensional?

Back in the present, Indra is taking it to Pike and Murphy steps up to point out that the forces amassed against them are huge and that they need Pike because he is strong. Another Grounder steps in to agree with Murphy, who asks, "Do you want want your revenge, or do you want your people alive?" Indra answers, "both," and steps away from Pike. It's clear that she has to work with Pike for now but when this is over, Indra is going to get her pound of flesh one way or another.

Wynonna Earp, Season 1, Episode 5: Diggin' Up the Bones

Did I mention that I really love the theme song for this show? I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet

So we begin with Wynonna’s bad dreams and Waveley’s insight that Wynonna continually killing people and pretending it doesn’t affect her. This lays the groundwork for some emotional Wynonna moments

This, I think is partly being used to justify Wynonna flying off the handle when Dolls and her try to serve a search warrant on Bobo. It doesn’t end usefully with no Revenants dead, no-one arrested and a judge very very pissed off.

About that judge, Dolls keeps trying to play nice with that judge because he has so much power – but given that his agency wiped an entire town off the map in New Mexico I don’t buy they don’t have more local pull. I mean, really? They have two settings, “demand Dolls follows the commands of local authority” and “nuke it from orbit”?

Dolls does play the game a little before finally telling the judge to screw it. Dolls is definitely beginning to melt a little around the edges which I like a lot. Also he can be shirtless more. Yes yes yes yes he can. Oh yes.

We have another lead on the 7 – the Revenants who killed her father and big sister. A Revenant knows where there’s a picture of all 7 of them, allowing her to identify them. But in exchange he wants her help in finding his boyfriend who was mixed up in something with Bobo – yes we have a gay revenant. Don’t get excited yet.

Wynonna follows some leads to find this guy – which involves her having to torture a revenant with the ability to speak with her father’s voice, just in case we haven’t emphasised how much emotional wreckage is being thrown at her. And she does torture him, despite Doc Holliday’s belief she wouldn’t be able to bring herself to it

Vampire Diaries, Season 7, Episode 20: Kill 'em All

So the whole gang is now on vampire killing duty to try and kill all of Rayna’s long long list of people she needs to kill. Do I need to repeat my previous point about how they’re slaughtering lots of vampires without even a second’s thought about whether or not this legion of massacred vampires deserves to be killed?

This means everyone – including Matt, Caroline and Alaric all killing vampires.

But it’s not fast enough so Damon makes a deal with the Armoury – which does have the resources to kill loads of vampires everywhere: they do the slaughtering and he will hand them Bonnie to open the vault

Which is a problem since Bonnie just spoke to Virginia again who makes it clear that naughty, bad, awful things await those who open the vault.

But the Armoury fulfils their end of the bargain – there’s a full on massacre. They also kidnap Alaric and Caroline to make sure Bonnie co-operates. And Bonnie does.

Sort of.

Bonnie uses her magic to open the vault – and lo, the imprisoned sister is, indeed, very very dead. But something is in there speaking with her voice and killing the armoury staff. Alex tries to leave – but Bonnie has sealed the entire building. She’s just made the vault a little larger. Because she’s Bonnie and she’s awesome.

Of course everyone is still pissed at Damon, especially Bonnie who is now incensed she was forced to work for the Armoury by Damon. But Damon is finally pushing back at everyone blaming him for everything – and he angrily and excellently explains to Enzo that he’s made this decision, saved Bonnie so Bonnie and Enzo can be together while he remains the villain. Basically, he’s making the hard choices none of them can manage. He’s being the bad guy for them. He’s making awful choices so they don’t have to.

Zoo, Season 1, Episode 8: The Cheese Stands Alone

It’s time for another terrifying animal attack of the week – this time back in the US, a holiday island. An island that is being overrun by a gazillion rats after a cargo container full of Reiden grain lost all their crew to enraged bitey rats that multiply many many times over

The island has nice childhood memory associations for Jackson, including Sherriff Becky, a childhood friends. It also has a hotel where all the rats have decided to gather in their many many many many many thousands. I’m not someone afraid of rats but yes, that’s nasty. Them staying in one hotel which is abandoned also means we get lots and lots of sinister fighting rats in the dark

Honestly there are few settings more scary than an abandoned hotel in the dark?

They’re here to kind of stop the animal outbreak but more for research (given that they have the mother cell, there’s not really as much need to go find various creatures and see what’s happening. They know what’s happening). But the limited research they do it (it’s mainly spooky rat corridors) shows that the rats are multiplying by cloning – even the male rats having litters – and some great rat queen is then feeding them all

They make the huge logical leap that the mother cell isn’t just speeding up evolution, it’s directing it; turning each animal into a more tailored tool for human destruction: bears get armour, lions telepathy to work together, rats become even more numerous.

Personally I think I prefer normal animals just being scary. There’s something more sinister about the mundane, the creatures we’ve completely discounted, rising up and killing us without the need for super powers. I think it’s far more terrifying to have a show depict that the animals all around us COULD kills us (without needing super powers) if they wanted to. They just… don’t.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Walking Dead, Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams (The Walking Dead #133-138) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard (Illustrator), Stefano Gaudiano (Illustrator), Cliff Rathburn (Illustrator)

It's a new world and that means that everyone has a role and a responsibility. Alexandria and The Hilltop both end up dealing with new people leading to a result which sets up the next story arch. Now that Carl is at the Hilltop and Rick is gone,  it's time to fulfill his ambition of becoming a blacksmith.  His famous name still haunts him and people gossip about him.  When a run in with Sophia's bullies turns bloody, Carl discovers that he hasn't left his violent ways that far behind.

Carl's transition from Alexandria to The Hilltop is not at all smooth. He takes the time to catch up with Sophia and the two of them reminisce about what their life was like when they lived at the prison.

One of the things I really liked about Whispers Into Screams, is getting to see Maggie in a leadership role that does not involve extolling the virtues of Rick Grimes.  As the leader of The Hilltop, she hands out assignments as well as punishments, deals with threats and keeps the community working. Unlike Rick however, despite all that Maggie has been through she has not been deified. Given that Maggie is referred to as a "bitch" and a "cunt" several times in this volume it's clear to say that her gender greatly impacts how she is viewed by the people of The Hilltop.

Akin to Rick however Maggie does seem to have at least some degree of plot armor which I was quite happy to see.  When Gregory riles up the citizens about Maggie's failure in their view to harshly punish Carl for beating and nearly killing Sophia's assailants, they decide that it's time to kill her. Gregory's motivation is to regain the position of power that he lost just before the war with Negan. Gregory's big plan is to poison Maggie but for whatever reason, what he used didn't work and Maggie ends up ordering Gregory to be locked up.  Maggie who is full of snark, questions how Gregory would be as a leader when he cannot even murder her successfully.

The one thing that has always been certain about The Walking Dead, is that if things start to go to well, for too long, a new challenge will arrive. In A New Beginning, we met the Whisperers for the first time.  They are a group of survivors who disguise themselves as zombies and even travel with the herd. At this point, they have taken a few people in the fellowship prisoner and killed others.  Jesus goes out riding on patrol and has a run in with the Whisperers.  He manages to kill quite a few of them, rescue a fellow patrolman and take a member of the Whisperers captive.

Lydia is a sixteen year old girl and she is like no one we've met so far.  Because she travels with  the zombies, Lydia has come to see them as her protection and her comfort.  Separated from the zombies and her people for the first time, Lydia is alone and scared.  Carl, who has been locked up until Maggie can get to the bottom of the altercation he was involved in, tries to comfort Lydia and assure her that they are good people.  They get to know each other a little and Carl even gives Lydia the iconic sheriff's hat. Later, Carl argues with Maggie about keeping Lydia locked up, suggesting that Lydia isn't a threat to anyone.  It's only when Lydia refuses to speak to anyone other than Carl that Maggie consents.

Orphan Black, Season Four, Episode Three: The Stigmata of Progress

"To control the evolution of humans. To create a more perfect human being."

Sarah is freaking out about the tech in her mouth which will henceforth be called the mouth maggot. She is desperate to know more and unfortunately, Cosima doesn't know much at this point.  Cosima cannot even say what the mouth maggot's purpose is or how it works. Determined to find out about the mouth maggot, Sarah decides to grab Felix and go and see Dizzy.

Sarah's first stop is to visit Felix, who isn't home when she arrives. Sarah's meets Adele, Felix's half sister, who seems to love drugs and booze just like Felix.  When Felix does arrive, he does the introductions and an impatient Sarah asks to speak to him alone.  Sarah expects Felix to just kick his sister out and go with her but Felix refuses to do that saying he is tired of dropping everything on command. I gotta say, I like this new Felix. Felix explains that spending time with Adele is important to him. My only worry is now that Felix demanding that Sarah at least have the courtesy that has a life of his own and is no her slave to be ordered about that we will see less of his character.

Dizzy isn't pleased to see Sarah and she explains that she's M.K.'s sister and needs help finding her. Unfortunately for Sarah, Dizzy has no idea how to contact M.K. because M.K. is the one who does the reaching out. It's only when Sarah shows Dizzy the mouth maggot that he decides to talk to her. It seems that Dizzy has been hearing about the mouth maggots for awhile and some people think that it's a monitor which delivers diabetes meds or even narcotics but Dizzy believes that because of the proximity of the brain, the mouth maggot must have a nefarious purpose. Dizzy does have more than scary ideas for Sarah, he has a name - Alonzo Martinez.

Sarah then heads to see Art, who informs her that someone by the name of Alonzo Martinez, has recently removed back to Colombia but they did return for a one day to visit a dental clinic which specializes in dental implants. Sarah heads to the clinic and is recognized as Beth by the hygienist. The woman is resistant to helping until Sarah/Beth reveals that she has a mouth maggot.  Once the hygienist closes down the clinic, she sits Sarah/Beth in a chair and pokes her cheek with an instrument explaining that if she moves, she could die.  It seems that the hygienist feels that Sarah/Beth is lucky to have been chosen for the mouth maggot and has therefore called her superiors. For her trouble, the hygienist has her throat slit but none other than Ferdinand (yep, he's alive).   Ferdinand pulls the instrument out of Sarah's mouth explaining that if the hygienist had punctured the mouth maggot, she'd already be dead. Ferdinand reveals that he got a message from Rachel Duncan, my least favourite clone.

In this Rachel update (did anyone really care what happened to her?) she's in captivity with Charlotte and Ira and is being held by none other than Mommy Dearest, or should I say Susan Duncan.  We watch as Ira (a castor clone not raised with his brothers) gives Rachel a treatment to try and make her high tech new eye look more normal. Rachel is physically slowly getting better and her mind is sharp as ever.  Rachel is quick to deduce that Susan has been outsmarted by Sarah and did not find the Original.  We also learn that Charlotte is a direct clone of Rachel. Clearly, the reunion between Rachel and Susan isn't warm and is more like a horrible family gathering that you have to get drunk to survive.

Rachel gets hers though.  We see her sit down to paint with Charlotte and because of the size of the easel, they are able to hide what they are doing from the eye in the sky.  Rachel uses this opportunity to check and see if Charlotte delivered her message.

Helena is living with Hendrixs.  After learning that Sarah has a mouth maggot and that Cosima cannot do anything until she has a sample to work on, Allison decides that they need to dig up Leekie. Donny is not down with this plan but Allison is determined to help Sarah.  Helena is not at all pleased that she has been left completely out of the loop, saying that Sarah won't even return her calls.  Allison tells Helena that they don't need her kind of help and Donny encourages her to focus on gestating.  I'm so not cool with Helena being shoved to the sidelines.  Helena is left to watch the kids while Donny and Allison get to work in the garage.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 19: The Chitters

So that was a little unexpected

It’s a fairly standard monster of the week episode (monster cicadas who go dormant every 27 years then arise, possess people and make them have lots of sex before burying them to unleash a new generation in 27 years for more murders and orgies). The episode also has a bit part for Kandyse McClure, which I only mention because she’s my “oh hey it’s her!” actress – y’know you always recognise them but can never place them (she’s also tragically underused).

What was surprising was that one of the random young victims was gay (ok he’s dead now, so no points – but a young tween gay kid? Not common on TV even if his screen time is 10 seconds then death) and, much more notable, a couple of hunters they run into who are also hunting the monster turn out to be a gay couple (they badly need to go back to acting school, but still. Actually, that’s wrong, “back” implies they actually went.) And they manage to dodge the usual full Dean freak out (oh so common) and go for a much more easier-to-swallow surprise and any other terrible tropes. The two even live. Between this and the lesbian couple earlier in the season and the fact that both couples included POC and the presence of Rufus in Safe House almost makes me think a writer has finally looked back on some elements on Supernatural’s record and said “what have we done?!”

Yes, I realise I’m giving rather a heavy positive slant on something I would just give a nod to in most shows: after all, 11 seasons and managing a couple of episodes of non-recurring LGBT/POC characters that weren’t terribly troped isn’t exactly worthy of a parade and fireworks – but it speaks volumes for how low my expectations of this show have sunk. So I’m almost torn, a lot of me is really happy to see this – but a fair part of me is a little annoyed by my own happiness because is it really enough to be worth this much hope and even potential glee?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is at the precipice that has life has been leading to.  He's incredibly smart and about to have his interview for entrance into an Ivy League school.  It's what is expected and yet after all of these years of hard work, it feels somehow anticlimactic.  Quentin is then offered the opportunity he never thought existed - a chance to attend the exclusive Brakebills - a school for modern magicians.  Brakebills represents everything he's always secretly wanted an escape from the mundane. For years Quentin has been re-reading fantasy novels about the magical world Fillory and while it may all be a story, Brakebills offers him the chance to closest to the the dream world he's always dreamed of visiting.

The Magicians sets itself up to be a cross between The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter.  It has young adults going to a magical academy and then traveling to a fantastical world in search of a quest.  The problem with Grossman's work is that it has none of the delight of either series and is filled with characters who are self involved,  who seem to delight in wallowing and are incredibly selfish.  Grossman tries to to give the impression that his characters are sophisticated yet they wade through life with such self generated disillusionment it makes it impossible to relate to them, let alone like them.  In 420 pages, not one of Grossman's characters is even remotely likable. It's not necessary for characters to be likely for to tell a good story but the reader should be able to relate to them.

Grossman should have called this book White people's problems, or even Western problems.  Quentin is filled with melancholy and despair. From the outside, everything in Quentin's life is perfect. He has class privilege, two parents who love him, and even acceptance to the exclusive Brakebills.  No matter what opportunity is offered to Quentin, he seems determined to never be content and at times seems miserable for the sake of being miserable. He is absolutely insufferable and as the narrator of the story, made if feel like wading through mud. I found that I could not feel empathy for Quentin's depression because at the end of the day,  Quentin is callous and pretentiousness. Quentin's proverbial position in life is that the glass is half empty and this wars against his hidden feelings of hope.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that Grossman doesn't really have a typical antagonist in this book despite the fact that Martin (one of the infamous Chatwin siblings) has become a monster.  The antagonist is Quentin's battle between his melancholy and hope that around the corner he will find something shiny to at least divert him from his feelings of sadness.

There's absolutely no character progression in The Magicians.  When we first meet Quentin, he is 17 years old and by the time the book ends, he is almost in his mid twenties.  During that time period, Quentin has been trained as a magician, left his life with his parents behind, travelled to a magical world, defeated the equivalent of a magical beast, watches as his first lover died while he lay helpless and finally engaged on a quest to find a magical beast.  That's a lot to happen to one person and yet Quentin reads exactly the same on the first page as he does the last page.  Having lived through even one of the aforementioned incidents should have been enough for some growth, let alone all of them.

Every woman Quentin meets he assigns value based on whether he wants to fuck her or not.  Women aren't really people to him but exist only to the degree that they excite his lust. Repeatedly when Quentin is in a close proximity to a woman, he has to caution himself not to look at her breasts.
December slid by on silent runners, in a sleepless dream of constant toil. The work had lost all connection to whatever goal it was supposed to be accomplishing. Even Quentin’s sessions with Professor Sunderland lost their spark. He caught himself staring bleakly at the radiant upper slopes of her achingly full and gropable breasts when he knew he should be devoting himself to far more pressing technical issues like correct thumb position (pg 69-70)
Quentin's  longest relationship in The Magicians is with Alice, who is a shy but extremely talented magician.  He refuses to acknowledge his dependency on her throughout their relationship at Brakebills and when they leave, he treats her like an anchor who constantly spoils his fun.  Alice quickly moves from being his girlfriend to a mother figure because she doesn't think that drinking all night, each and every night, is a legitimate way for an adult to pass time.  Quentin doesn't even pause to think about the fact that Alice actually forestalled her education in order to be with him during his stage of excessive over indulgence. He is a child while she stands as a woman.  When he ultimately cheats on Alice with Janet, it is only then that he begins to even contemplate what Alice means to him.  Alice does not forgive and instead has sex with Penny, a fellow magician and Quentin actually has the nerve to get angry. When Quentin cheated he blamed Janet and the booze, refusing to take any kind of personal responsibility and when Janet slept with Penny, rather than acknowledging his role in that interaction, all he can think about his hurt and his pain.   It sets Alice up to be a toy that Quentin now only wants because another kid has started playing with it.  In the end, Alice sacrifices herself to save Quentin's life thus giving purpose to his melancholy at last.