Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sinbad, Season 1, Episode 2: Queen of the Water-Thieves

Cook is giving the inexperienced sailors a crash course in how to actually sail a boat – including the importance of being able to tie good knots if you don’t want your head crushed by a boom.

After the crash course and over lunch they discuss exactly what they want to do. Anwar, the doctor, and Sinbad are all for adventure – they have their own ship, time to see things. Nala wants to go her own way and return to her own life and Rina and Gunnar point out they have nothing in common and have their own things to do. Cook, who seems to be the practical one of the whole group, says they go to shore because they need food and water – and the charts point to the nearby island of Sind, abandoned of people with only wolves inhabiting it.

That night on the boat, a child sneaks aboard to eat. Nala catches him in her cabin, but is tricked into lowering her knife by the child’s fear, seeking to reassure him instead. At which point the kid pulls a knife on her. On deck, Sinbad is ambushed by another who knocks him out

The next day, they wake and the whole crew has been captured (except Cook) and held at knife point by children, though they are joined by a few adults who row them, and the ship’s supplies, to the island. There is an ancient, partially ruined city of step-pyramids – and Sinbad worries about his grandmother’s curse. He cannot set foot on land for more than 1 day.

The Cook is still on board, with 2 guards and his emergency supplies – and he is cooking for them. I think Cook may actually be awesome, he’s rapidly becoming the most amusing character.

They are taken before the Razia, Queen of the Water Thieves, who singles out Gunnar and orders the rest caged – before Sinbad, of course, speaks up and convinces her to take him instead (by amusing her with his bravado). She rewards her people by feeding them bread (which they scramble over wildly from a trough) and promising them meat (yes, not ominous at all).

Sinbad is delivered to her chambers where he meets her pet (a massive bird of prey), learns that overpowering her would be… difficult to say the least and gets a lecture on leadership. He claims he’s the leader of the crew but misfortune brought them together – she says misfortune binds people together and a real leader sacrifices and risks for their people. She has a lot to say about the costs and burdens of leadership before bringing Sinbad to her bed.

After a visit from Razia’s son he’s given an extreme lesson on how ruthless Razia is and how impossible it is to earn her favour – she shows no favour to her son and killed both his father and her other lovers.

The rest of the crew are in cages and discussing Sinbad. Nala is disgusted and thinks he’s going to save his own neck, though Rina says she’d do the same in his situation. Anwar is convinced Sinbad has a plan for their rescue and Gunnar doesn’t understand why Anwar –or Nala for that matter – thinks Sinbad owes them any kind of loyalty or consideration.

One of their guards arrives to speak about putting them in gladiator matches – including Rina vs Anwar – and it becomes clear that Gunnar won’t fight for some reason (something Rina challenges)

Because Gunnar refuses to fight, they dress him in women’s clothing, he won’t “die as a man” and make him serve at the feast. Rina and Anwar are brought out to fight to the death with no weapons. Anwar thinks it’s play fighting for a plan – but Rina is clear, it’s every man for himself. Anwar refuses to hit her back because she’s a woman (something that makes Razia roll her eyes) and Rina continues to beat him up.

Meanwhile Sinbad is playing with the bird and, after a convoluted speech where he rants at it for… actually it’s incoherent and full of self-pity, but the bird decides to get out of his way and not just eat him. Sinbad is faced with a choice – run for the ship and abandon everyone, or go and rescue them. Of course, all the leadership lectures have paid off and he runs to help his new friends.

He opens the basket full of food that spills into the trough, so all the people run to eat. This allows Nala and Rina to run around knocking people unconscious because they’re so mesmerised by the food. Gunnar picks up one of his tormentors to… throw him I guess and Anwar rushes in to earnestly beg him not to kill their kidnappers (why?)

This ends when Sinbad grabs Razia’s son and holds him at sword point – and tells the gathered people he’s Razia’s son (gasps of horror). They urge her to prove she favours no-one above anyone else – and to kill her son to serve them. Because… actually no, I have no real idea why this is supposed to make sense. So they can kill and (presumably) eat Sinbad and co? Because killing one of the group to feed the rest is really going to suit all their needs? She cannot do it – and in her love her facial tattoos disappear (they’re symbolic of the cold mask of a leader she wares). She is seen as weak – and one of her people kills her son instead, leaving her collapsed in grief while the rest of the people chase Sinbad’s crew.

Except Sinbad, stealing the key to the chains of the giant bird, he runs and frees it – but not before Razia catches up with her. He urges her to open her heart and lead her people like that and she tries to kill him, while his necklace strangles him because the Sun is rising. She dramatically pushes him over the cliff (rather than stabbing him) and he is, predictably, saved by the giant bird.

They escape on the ship (Cook having dealt with the guards) and off they sail – and Nala asks Sinbad where they’re going (rather than insisting as she did at the beginning of the episode).

Back at team villain, the Emir is unveiling grand plans to improve the city of Basra, but Akbari is furious that he be wasting his time with piffling civil improvements when he should be hunting down Sinbad, who killed his son, especially since Sinbad has fled the city. He wants to use magic. The Emir is not pleased by the suggestion and has the sorceress Taryn removed from his presence. He urges his brother to avoid magic, all it does is blacken the soul.

Akbari isn’t moved from his obsession and demands Taryn find Sinbad – regardless of the cost – and refuses to listen to her objections or concerns. He insists she uses the black arts, again, despite the Emir’s concerns and her purported worry (though she seems most eager).

Tazim, Sinbad’s guard friend also arranges to get his catatonic mother out of the city before the guards come to use her to find Sinbad – he urges Sinbad’s grandmother to leave as well, but she refuses, she insists on staying and waiting for Sinbad to return to Basra.

After last episode’s only brief indulgence in stereotypes, here we have a full parcel of exotic savages in tribal face and body paint who growl and make animal noises. Eating bread from a chute and trough, to the broken language (their Queen speaks clearly enough) – it’s all designed to scream “savages.” We also had the completely unnecessary “you will be shamed by making you dress as a woman” scene.

I think the episode was also clogged in severely heavy handed lessons. Sticking together, the nature of leadership, opening your heart, freedom, the mask of leadership. It was also a lot of telling, not showing. Lots and lots and lots of lectures and rants. Sinbad even ranted his lesson at the damn bird. This episode was Sinbad’s After School Special of Important Moral Lessons. With extra exposition.

I also hope that this isn’t it with the conflict of where to go – Sinbad’s saved their lives so they’re willing to abandon their old lives? Nala’s words suggest it.