Saturday, November 8, 2014

Vampire Diaries, Season 6, Episode 6: The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get

The title of this episode is ominous – I predict consent is not going to be very well respected here.

Ivy and some other vampires are in Trip’s happy van of death while he tries to pretend he’s doing the murdering for their own good. He then tortures them with horrendous music. They enter Mystic Falls and all die from whatever it was the vampires used to kill them when they turned them

Where does Tripp keep finding these van fulls of vampires?

Despite massacring vampires left, right and centre, Tripp has still kept Enzo captive and Matt is serving as Tripp’s errand boy and conspirator and decides it’s all ok because Stefan turned Enzo in. Enzo points out a few flaws in Matt’s awful plan: 1) Stefan is hardly the paragon of moral decision making and 2) Tripp is keeping him alive so he can spill about all the other vampires out there; all of which are Matt’s friends. Really Matt should have realised this. Just to remind Matt of this, Tripp shows up to be menacing

Anyway to the main characters and Damon is back – which makes Stefan happy. Caroline tells Elena and to my utter shock Elena asks about Bonnie. Alas, no she’s still stuck after pointlessly sacrificing herself for Damon (actually, pointlessly sacrificing herself so Damon can go home one day earlier). Damon has decided to make it “easier” on everyone by not telling anyone about Bonnie except Stefan, instead he claims she wasn’t there.

Of course, Damon wants to see Elena but she still hates him even though Alaric points out she only erased her own memory because she didn’t think he was coming back and doesn’t she want to re-assess now? Alaric is also pretty sure Damon is going to be really not happy with him. Elena insists on keeping the compulsion because nothing good could balance the bad (AHAHAHAHAH!)

Alaric is still concerned about Jo being all compulsion proof last episode

Jeremy is not dealing with Bonnie being gone forever well (he’s the only one because of that prevailing lack of giving a damn) and Sarah doesn’t understand why he’s all upset

Matt finally realises how much he’s screwed up and decides to tell Caroline and Alaric. He makes a pouty remark about not knowing good vampires from bad vampires before admitting that Ivy is dead. And Stefan shows up to tell them he made the whole problem worse.

More complication – Matt spying on Tripp gets a visit from Sarah trying to find out who her parents are – having revealed that her dad was a Salvatore last week (and that both her parents were killed by Damon – she’s figured out a vampire was involved). As they snoop through his office they find Ivy’s phone – which recently dialled Caroline so Tripp probably knows what she is.

Caroline helpfully tells Stefan just how ridiculous his whole plan to hand over Enzo was, just in case anyone missed it (oh Vampire Diaries you don’t need to lampshade the bad decision making of your characters, we know. Oh gods do we know). It being Vampire Diaries all the killing et all Enzo did means nothing compared to Enzo being Damon’s friend and Stefan upsetting Caroline – priorities!

Alas it’s back to Damon visiting Elena and them doing the angsty talking through a door thing (which would Elena be troubled or conflicted?) She decides to jump out a window and then call Stefan to angst about how she’s happy with her magical denial and she’s afraid she may actually feel what she doesn’t want to feel if she actually has to face reality rather than the nice, fake story she’s told herself. Also she kissed Liam.

Instead she decides to go follow Jo around to investigate her whole compulsion immunity thing; paying  special note to Jo’s special necklace. Jo also wants to talk to Elena since she’s spoken to Liam and heard about the girl Elena miracle healed (with vampire blood). Jo makes it clear – she knows what Elena and Alaric are and she wants them to stop stealing blood bags. Elena is slightly freaked out by how utterly blasé Jo is about having vampires around and figures out Jo is a witch. Jo suggests they both refrain from asking personal questions about one’s supernatural nature. Also that Alaric should not use compulsion to avoid messy relationships.

And Damon goes to visit Alaric and rely on their vampiric nature to protect them from inevitable liver decay. He wants to talk to Alaric about the whole mind wipe which does not amuse him but Alaric won’t fix it without Elena’s consent – something she won’t give because, of course, she can’t remember why she’d want to.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The 100, Season 2, Episode 3: Reapercussions

Clarke has found the big storage room full of people in cages, including Anya – she uses a bar to pry open the lock (because Anya is so trustworthy). After a tense moment of near discovery, she helps Anya out (leaving the rest behind. Sorry guys, only people who have repeatedly threatened Clarke’s life get rescued) through a door that has a big warning sign about protective clothing on the front. There’s then a trap door, a chute – and Anya and Clarke end up in a mine cart full of bodies.

There’s a convenient stash of clothes by the skip. Anya doesn’t want to come and also reminds Clarke they are actually enemies – but then Reapers can be heard moving in – and cannibals trump all other concerns. Clarke and Anya pretend to be bodies in the mine cart to hide from them… wait, pretending to be dead people to hide from the cannibals? Is that a great idea?

Rather not shockingly, the Reapers take the mine cart full of snack food.

She and Anya manage to escape while the Reapers have a nice cook out – though Anya needs to be dragged away from fondling the bodies. They run and as they do Clarke explains that the Mountain Men are using Grounder blood for super-duper wolverine healing. Then Anya runs off going her own way because, as she keeps having to remind Clarke, they’re not actually friends.

Clarke gets cornered by Reapers – but is rescued by Mountain Men with a strange noise device that attacks the Reapers but not her. They take her with them. But she manages to escape when Anya arrives and takes off their masks – exposing their vulnerability to the irradiated planet. Others chase them but decide they need to take them alive for… reasons? They escape by jumping off a giant waterfall.

Once their free, Anya again reminds Clarke they’re not actually friends and takes her prisoner – since she lose 300 warriors trying to attack Clarke & co she now needs to have SOMETHING when she returns to camp.

Elsewhere in the Mountain Base, Jasper and Maya continue to establish their romance (in case anyone in the audience cares). Monty tries to bring up his worries about Clarke disappearing but Jasper is more focused on Maya but the longer Clarke is missing the more worried he gets. He also insists they can trust Maya so they definitely can’t (that’s how this works)

They ask Maya about Clarke and she says Clarke had a breakdown and pulled out her own stitches (true on the latter point, it was her escape plan). And now she has been locked in the psych ward without being able to see anyone.
Outside, Marcus has discovered the little team has disappeared from last episode, including the prisoners, but still won’t authorise a search team because there are scary people out there. He’s far more concerned with finding the people who defied his authority – enter Abbie. She doesn’t even try to lie and is less than impressed with him waving his Chancellor title when no-one voted for him (though the line “you got the job because Thelonious beat you to redemption” is kind of awesome since it remembers all the evil shit he pulled in season 1. About time someone remembered).

He orders Major Bryne to watch Abbie and confine her to quarters but the major isn’t happy because the crimes Abbie committed (giving guns to prisoners) should face a much harsher, draconian punishment. He points out he’d rather move away from the draconian, extreme government necessary on the Arc while she’s more concerned with losing control of the camp. They’re interrupted by the guards bringing in a Grounder prisoner which causes a mob, in which one man is shot. Abbie takes over getting the shot man to medical and Byrne gives Marcus angry eyes about the doctor taking over in a medical situation.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 5: Pink Cupcakes

Back to a swanky party at the museum with the con artists, Stanley and Esmeralda in the crowd: the display is opened, showing Paul’s body on display. This turns out not to be real – but the plan Stanley is presenting to Esmeralda in his hotel room. Esmeralda is still firm that she will not commit murder – which is still Stanley’s plan. He also drops some vintage gay magazines and Esmeralda warns him the town hates “poofs” even more than “freaks.”

This does not bode well.

Esmeralda does agree to go ahead with the murdering – for a bigger share of the cut.

At the Mott household, Gloria discovers Dora’s murdered body. Dandy insists that someone broke in but Gloria doesn’t believe it for a minute; of course after a brief protest that Dora was a mother, she’s more angry about having to clear it up than Dandy’s murderousness.

That clearing up involves a ridiculously deep flower bed and Dandy apologising for “putting Gloria out”.  She puts it down to the same problem his dad had – lots and lots of inbreeding which means “having a psychotic or two in the line” is just one of those quaint eccentricities of the upper classes. Dandy insists that he wants to be an actor – Gloria promises to find a solution because in 1952 one cannot just kill vagrants, they’re missed.

At the show, Stanley drops by to convince Elsa he can make her a star – but he presents himself as from a television network which Elsa is very very much against; motion pictures are too special for little TV boxes.

It’s a full house and Jimmy is actually getting stage fright, Esmeralda arrives to flirt, reassure him and read his palm (which Jimmy is pretty self-conscious about); she tells him a man is coming to talk to him who will be a liar – and that he needs to leave asap. She seems to have gone soft on Jimmy and to be warning him about Stanley. She tells him how smart and handsome he is and how he will succeed – he tries to kiss her and she backs off. Jimmy pulls back all pouty.

Dell is missing much to everyone’s annoyance, but Desiree still takes a moment to defend him to Jimmy – because once they were good together though he neglects her now. Jimmy has his own depression moment about Meep and collapses into tears because Meep was killed for a murder he committed. Desiree comforts him – which ends up with kissing and making out – and Jimmy doing his lobster handed thing; but something goes wrong and Desiree starts bleeding. Jimmy helps her outside shouting to get her medical attention but Ethel takes over because Jimmy is needed on stage.

Ethel and Desiree go to Ethel’s friendly doctor’s office. Ethel stays to hold her hand while she sees the doctor (which means she gets to hear what Desiree was doing with Jimmy) when Desiree asks her to stay. Desiree explains how the midwife thought she was a boy until puberty, but the doctor matter-of-factly explains things: she has an excess of testosterone and an enlarged clitoris; not a penis. From a physical examination he tells her that “physically and genetically” she’s 100% female. And she was bleeding because she’d just miscarried. Desiree is reeling from the shock she can have a baby – a baby with Dell.

Sleepy Hollow, Vanishing Diversity and an Angry Fandom

Sleepy Hollow until recently was one of the lucky few shows on television which had managed to get a great twitter following. Why, you ask, is this important? Well, if people are tweeting about your show, not only are they actively engaged, they are advertising for you  free of charge. The problem, however, with having a good social media presence is that you cannot control the message. Black twitter, once a strong social media fanbase for Sleepy Hollow, recently had much to say about how the characters were being portrayed and the direction the storyline has taken. Using the twitter hashtag #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter and #cranewreck, they vocally displayed their displeasure with the reduction of the once prominent characters of colour to instead feature the relationship drama of Ichabod and Katrina.

An all White show, or a show which featured largely White characters, might have been more acceptable in the era of Friends or Seinfeld but we are in a Shonda Rhimes world now and people are starting to actively demand that they see their experiences reflected and that said experiences not be cast to the sidelines. People are not willing to fall for the bait and switch that happened in Person of Interest to Taraji Penda Henson

What initially drew many people to Sleepy Hollow in the first place was the racial diversity of the cast. I know that the British with their air of superiority over those snooty accents being reduced to demons of the apocalypse sounds like it’s cool but trust me, it was the racial diversity. Sleepy Hollow was largely sold as an ensemble cast featuring Lt. Abbie Mills, Frank Irving and Ichabod Crane, with various characters of colour taking on a supporting role. Sleepy Hollow further stood out by having equality between the characters. Lt. Abbie Mills and Ichabod were a true partnership and once Frank and Jenny found out what was going on and agreed to help, they filled out the team. These characters were not cardboard cutouts and had well established backstories. Sleepy Hollow suddenly became must see tv based largely on its racially inclusive nature. You would think that with this successful formula, in an age where network television is struggling thanks to HBO, Netflix, Hulu and other online programs that Sleepy Hollow would ride this all the way to the bank, but alas, it seems that is not the case.

Since the second season began we have seen a strong step back from the racial diversity that so characterised the first season and engaged so many fans. In particular, Abbie has been greatly reduced this season to increasing fan disappointment.

This came to a head in the latest episode where Katrina had her demonic pregnancy; the entire episode was consumed by relationship drama between Ichabod and Katrina. Abbie desperately tries to follow up her ongoing warnings to try and keep Ichabod focused on mission, but Ichabod and Katrina’s romance overwhelmed the whole episode. Abbie was reduced to helping and supporting Katrina (playing nursemaid to her no less! There could be few more problematic images than Abbie being pushed into that role), her opinions and warnings overruled (literally) by the sudden addition of Katrina to the group which, in turn, pulled their whole focus from the actual mission to Ichabod and Katrina’s family issues. Abbie was sidelined, reduced and ignored, the storyline dragged away from any plot lines that actually involve her and reduced the supposed co-protagonist to a side character.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Resurrection, Season 2, Episode 6: Afflictions

We open with a little girl who has apparently not just survived a plane crash but has managed not to spill her soda while doing so. She looks quite irked by the whole experience though

Then flash to the… present? Maybe? Where Bellamy’s name-less boss stops staring into space and holding a can of the same soda to answer a call from Bellamy. He’s really nastily sick and, to prove the point, passes out on the phone. (Side note – do not try this when trying to pull a sicky at work – it never ever ends well)

Bellamy wakes up in spooky hospital ward with a government doctor ready to make with the sedatives. Bellamy says no to sedatives and yes to information and the doctor runs down some info on the virus – brought back with the Returned and only they are susceptible. They can treat it, but they can’t cure it. Bellamy demands to see Lady Nameless (yes, until she gets a name this is her new moniker). Lady Nameless isn’t especially thrilled with Bellamy being awkward when they saved his life, but fills in some of the virus information including mortality rates and disappearance rates. We also learn Lady Nameless’s job – she’s a statistician with a reputation for being able to predict the unpredictable.

While talking to him she recognises the moon-shaped birthmark on his neck, and connects it to the big cliffhanger in the last season (ABOUT TIME!)

Later, Bellamy decides to do more fact finding so knocks out a guard/orderly and goes snooping. He finds Lady Nameless’s office – and she has a name! Angela Forrester! Awww, I didn’t get nearly as much use out of “Lady Nameless” as I wanted. Inside is a whiteboard covered in sciency-mathy-stuff, a cork board covered in clippings plane crashes – and his own file that notes he is a Double Returned; that he was originally Robert Thompson, a baby who was born and died in 1934.

He confronts Angela and she talks him through his history and she confirms that all the Returned were born in Arcadia. He asks after his birth parents and she mentions the Thompsons, Returned who he has already met – unfortunately both his parents have died/disappeared from the virus, only his sister Jenny (a child though technically his big sister) is left. He gets to see her, to comfort her and promise to look after her.

Bellamy is still suspicious so hides his phone in the centre. The send him back to Arcadia with medication – only 10 a day supply. In case we missed it, Bellamy asks about Angela’s interest in all the plane crashes which she quietly avoids answering. She also adds her skills at prediction and how she is show she will be able to predict the Return.

Bellamy is taken back to Arcadia unconscious.

To Maggie who is having major issues with her disappearing mother (and her hair - which may be more traumatic) she’s also super not happy that Bellamy’s nowhere to be found (because dying. Which used to be a great excuse before the Returned ruined it). Elaine is there to provide comfort and declare that, yes, evil Margaret was there when Barbara disappeared.

Angel's Blood, (Guildhunter #1) by Nalini Singh

Elena is a hunter for the guild, her job is to capture vampires who have absconded from their angelic masters and creators – and hunt down the odd rogue. Despite working with vampires and even angels, the incredibly powerful Archangels are things she avoids.

So she’s less than thrilled when the enthrallingly beautiful Raphael calls her in for a job. And saying no is not an option. Worse than dealing with one Archangel is dealing with two – because she’s on the hunt for a rogue, a serial killing Archange. She’s a mortal caught between two Archangels – and that rarely ends well for the mortal.

This book is a Paranormal Romance and, in general, it works as one because the romantic elements are somewhat necessary to the plot. The romance is front and central to this story and an integral part of Raphael’s evolution as a character – if not quite so much for Elena. Angels in general and archangels especially are known for being, well, arseholes. They’re arrogant, supremely powerful, long lived and regard humans as easily broken toys or tools to be used, mangled and discard. Their rule is upheld, at least in part, by the utter fear with which people regard them and reinforced by the frequent brutal and horrific punishment they dole out on their minions or anyone who thwarts them (from a world building point of view, I’d like to see this developed more: widespread fear of angels seems to be understandable common, but so is awe and reverence or at least hefty respect which seems… more out of place).

This is Raphael’s character arc. Starting from this place of utter brutality (albeit, still one of the more “compassionate” archangels) and mellowing as he becomes more humane as the book progresses. Similarly, Elena begins from a position of considerable fear towards Raphael (though she’s determined to keep some lines and most definitely won’t grovel or bite her tongue even if she does fear utter destruction) and then becomes more familiar with him as the book progresses.

The problem is the sexual tension between them hits at the very beginning. Ok he’s angelically beautiful (of course) but that doesn’t have to translate over drooling over him while at the same time as constantly thinking he’s about to kill her. Similarly, I’d have much preferred for him to have grown to respect her before he started coming on to her – especially since he’s making sexual “advances” (to say the least – it’s very physical) while still threatening her life and using his angel mojo to mess with her mind. She even says:

“She was worried less about being killed than being seduced out of her fucking mind.”

Which… yeah I don’t think “seduction” is the exact word there. On top of this we have a completely unnecessary element of angels and some vampires being able to exude some sexual scent that Elena is super-duper sensitive to – again leading to all kinds of sexual pressure just from smelling these beings. I don’t really see it as being remotely necessary for the plot either – romance between Raphael and Elena was, certainly, but the timing and the super-sex chemicals not nearly so much. Equally, I can understand Raphael being blasé about the risk and threat he represents, but it’s galling to have Elena feel guilty for trying to defend herself against the all powerful archangel when he, she makes it very clear, intimidates, threatens and tries (and succeeds) to terrify her

This Week in Book Covers 27th October - 31sth October

Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab #1) by Karen Chance

Behold, Dorina Basarab, niece of Dracula, Dhampire, warrior… well, behold her arse anyway (she’s arching her back to make sure we don’t miss it). Of course, we have the super-tight leather; now some people would talk about how leather is useful because it’s tough and can act as some kind of armour. To which I point out she’s wearing a tank top - one that doesn’t cover the small of her back at that so I think the whole “armour” excuse is… lacking.

Also, that looks a lot like an orgasm face.

The Basilisk's Creed Omnibus by Eme Strife

Well it’s certainly different and interesting - a golden egg in a nest. I can’t say anything wrong with it per se - but at the same time I do kind of expect it to be a fairy tale.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sleepy Hollow, Season Two, Episode Seven: Deliverance

Katrina lies in bed dreaming about the past she shared with Ichabod. The dream suddenly shifts from Katrina and Crane in bed, to a man holding Katrina down and dropping some kind of insect her mouth. Katrina wakes coughing and reaches for some water. 

Abby and Crane head to the polling station where Crane gets on his soapbox to complain about the low voter density rate.  He does of course mention everything he went through for Americans to have the right to vote and complains bitterly that Americans would rather vote for American Idol than vote in a midterm election.  Yeah, as much as I hate when he gets preachy, he has a point on this one. To her credit, Abby snarks back that colonial America was not a golden age because Black people and women were not allowed to vote, which means she would have been turned away twice. Crane adds that because she doesn't actually own property, it would have been twice over.  A laughing Abby says that maybe she could afford property, if she weren't paying for all of Crane's bills. An idealistic Crane talks about how far America has come and Abby replies that it took 180 years and two constitutional amendments for her to win this freedom. Crane tries to follow Abby into the booth but Abby quickly gives him the boot.

Katrina stares at herself in the mirror, as Abraham brings her something to drink.  Abby says that there is some kind of poison inside of her and Abraham professes that this is not his doing.  Parish bursts in with a group of men he claims are there to care for Katrina.  Katrina struggles, as she is being examined and Henry explains that he is here on Moloch's command.  Abraham begs Henry to wait until he can talk to Moloch himself but Henry says that there is no time and that Moloch does not tolerate disobedience.  Katrina is dragged out and when Abraham tries to fight back, Henry turns him back into the headless horseman and opens the shutters to the light, causing Abraham to begin to burn.  Katrina and Abraham continue to struggle and Katrina manages to get away, running through the woods.  Katrina rushes towards a gas station screaming for help and falls into the arms of two attendants.

Abby and Crane are still at the polling station where Crane continues his rant.  Sheriff Reyes walks in with other officers and Crane comments that Abby's exclusion from Reyes inner circle must sting. Abby however understands that Reyes only wants to clean up the town.  One of the officers tells Abby that they got a call about a Jane Doe who was picked up just outside of town.  He adds that the woman is a redhead in full colonial get up.

Dead Shifter Walking (The Succubus Executioner #1) by Kim Schubert

Olivia is a succubus and the enforcer for the local supernatural council. She is the one who keeps people in line and chops off heads that step a little too far out of line. It’s a demanding job.

A job that wasn’t made any easier by the vampires, watching far too much modern media, decided it would be a great idea to reveal themselves to the world. Now humanity wants to get involved in supernatural business: Olivia is not welcoming of the idea.

But when an ever growing number of humans are being killed by an apparent supernatural being, Olivia has to act quickly - and with mortal authorities – to stop the killing and put an end to the backlash. If it were all Olivia had to worry about it would be enough – but werewolf and vampire politics are both pulling at her attention as well: one of them coming very close to her own family.

This world setting is extremely rich and diverse and immensely deep. There are a huge amount of different supernatural beings in this book as well as some pretty involves structures around them. So we have vampires, werecreatures, witches and succubae; which lots of magic and the undead all really filling up this world. On top of that all of these creatures don’t just exist in our world, there are political structures and positions and hierarchies and how all of that relates to human politics in this newly revealed supernatural world.

Each of these supernatural creatures also has their own political structure, their own ways of running their societies and even their own cultures which themselves are interesting to delve into – like the way the werecreature pack works. Or the vampires and their very major elements of consent and fidelity in their culture; I especially liked the consent issues that are really powerfully included in their interactions, their sex lives and their feeding. (I think this was especially vital since we have so many books in the genre where vampires are very dubious when it comes to consent).

There’s also the individual creatures, magic and a whole lot more – because this book doesn’t rely entirely on “here’s a vampire, you know what vampires are” and dispense with further description; in addition to their involved culture we have to also consider exactly what they are – this is especially true with Succubae and their emotional manipulation abilities which is not quite feeding and is very involved and layered while being at the heart of who Olivia is, how she interacts with the police, the supernatural community, her role as Executioner and the friends and co-workers she lives with.

Speaking of, there are a lot of characters in this book all of whom seem to fill pretty important roles in the world. Several vampires, several wereanimals, her fellow succubae who live with her in the dance club, Grams who is an associate of hers, a chauffeur/witch, a police contact and a few others. All of them actually feel developed and all of them do have a sense of their own stories or a hint of them at least – even if we don’t see it they feel like more than names.

There’s a lot here and a lot of it is very very good which has really pulled me in

But there’s too much. Or, rather, there’s too much that has been hinted at without a lot of development that left me a little lost. Like the two major vampires Olivia deals with – Blake and Tate; I got the two confused a few times (which didn’t help that one of them is Olivia’s love interest), it took me a while to sort out where they each fit in the hierarchy and I’m still not entirely sure why they decided to follow her around for as long as she did, especially since she’s involved in a murder investigation. I know she’s not the human authorities and outright denies human law – but surely dragging random sex partners with you to crime investigations is an objectively bad idea? Speaking of human law enforcement there was Mercer who liked her then hated her then disappeared for several chapters and seemed to be quite neutral towards her – the book was so full that when he returned I had a “wait… and who are you?” moment. Then there’s Grams who is connected to Olivia but I’m not sure how – it’s somehow related to her dark and tragic past that is alluded to and regularly causes Olivia to have little rage/grief meltdowns but I don’t know much else. It’s also related to the kids she seems to live with who may or may not be Succubae/Incubi. The wereanimals were also guys whose names I often forgot (and mixed up) and it was only towards the end of the book when I realised they were werelions and not werewolves.

I’m still not entirely sure what it means to be a succubus. I’m not sure how their council works how much scope and authority it has, whether she’s one of many executioners or not, and whether she’s defacto leader of the council or she’s just so scary no-one will disobey her which is weird because she doesn’t actually act that scary. She walks around like a colossal badass who every vampire should wet themselves when she comes near them, but when it comes to actual combat? Not so much.

I have to return again and say that I do like these characters, I love this world and I love the potential that has been put in there. I actually suspect the author has really really detailed notes on all these characters and the world that is so deep and rich – but unfortunately that has led to not realising how little of that information actually makes it to the page. There are gaps. I can follow the story, but there are places where I was sure I’d missed something and just really needed some gaps finished.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Originals, Season Two, Episode Five: Red Door

Elijah wakes from a dream in which he stalked a young woman covered in blood, to find himself still in chains and Esther's captive.  When Elijah struggles, Esther tells him to stop struggling because her chains won't break so easily.   Esther then asks Elijah who he dreamed about ripping apart, and Elijah simply rattles his chains without responding.  Esther informs Elijah that she wants him to start over again by entering a mortal body and becoming a witch.  Esther of course believes that this will make Elijah part of the family again. Elijah demands to be let go but Esther taunts Elijah about the morals he has lost over the years.  Esther then brings up the doppelganger Tatia - Elijah's first love. Yep, a small cross over as the Original doppelganger is played by none other than Nina Dobrev.

Yes, it's flashback time.  It's Samhain and the villagers are celebrating, with Tatia right in the middle of the action.  Klaus steals a kiss from Tatia but it seems that it was Elijah who really caught her eye. Tatia explains that fate does not control her heart and that she has chosen to give her heart to another. Tatia makes it clear that she chooses Elijah, so Elijah takes the opportunity to steal his own kiss.

In the present, Esther and Elijah bicker about who and what brought about Tatia's bitter end.

Kol and Cami hover over an unconscious Davina.  Klaus enters and Kol immediately starts snarking about Klaus's anger issues. So much for Kol working under cover I guess. Cami has to yank Klaus outside when he threatens to kill Kol.  Cami reminds Klaus that he had the opportunity to kill Michael but didn't. Klaus hands over the white oak stake, telling Cami to get the car so that they can take Davina to the hospital.  Klaus then confronts Kol, informing him that he recognizes his brother.  Klaus warns Kol that he is making all of the wrong friends but Kol reminds Klaus of his promise to Cami not to kill him.  Klaus calls out for Cami and when she doesn't answer, he rushes to his car to discover both Michael and Cami are gone.

Klaus tries to call Elijah for reinforcements but of course Elijah does not answer.  Klaus tells Kol to wake Davina so that she can order Michael to return but Kol refuses to do as he is told. Klaus tells Kol that it is not over between them before disappearing.  Kol puts a pillow behind Davina's head, saying that it would be really useful if she woke up right now.  Kol's phone rings and it's Finn, who wants to know if Kol has the white oak stake.  Kol tells Finn that he has everything under control and that Davina is working to unlink Klaus's sire line, so that she can have Michael kill Klaus. Kol reports that Davina is working Esther's spells in reverse but Finn says that Esther wants Klaus alive, so if Kol cannot find the stake, he is to destroy the spell, or kill Davina.

Michael is dragging Cami through the woods with Tunde's knife in his hand, saying that he has fought through more pain than anyone.  Michael calls Cami leverage which will cause Klaus to hesitate long enough for Michael to kill him.  Cami calls the confrontation between Klaus and Michael ridiculous, stating that Klaus's fatal flaw is that he was fathered by another man.  Michael says that he hears music and surmises that this means that food is near by.They come across a group of humans partying in the woods and Michael drags Cami forward.

Kol looks through Davina's spells and finds what Davina is using as a binder.  Kol begins to say a spell and Davina regains consciousness.  Kol explains that Klaus destroyed the place and then left to hunt down Michael.  Davina asks about the white oak stake and Kol informs her that Michael took it.  Davina tries to summon Michael but he neither appears or responds.  Davina wonders why her bracelet has stopped working. Kol offers Davina some water to calm her but Davina says that if Michael kills Klaus, then her friend will die as well.  Kol questions how Davina is going to stop Michael because Michael has been trying to kill Klaus for eons.  Davina simply says that she isn't and will instead finish her spell now. 

Riveted (Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook

Annika is looking for her sister, after her own mistake caused her to be wrongly banished from her home. She left her insular, hidden community of Hannasvik to search the entire world for her, if she has to, carefully keeping knowledge of her origin secret. She knows that Hannasvik would not do well if exposed to the prejudices of the outside world.

David is part of a science and exploration expedition to Iceland when he runs into Annika – and hears the accents of his dead mother. After so many years, he now has the chance to fulfil his mother’s dying wish – but Annika is very closed mouthed about her origin, and suspicious of his questions.

But even as they struggle over Annika’s secrets, a greater threat arises – there are powerful men with dangerous plans on the island and more than Hannasvik may be at risk.

The romance in this book is generally one I enjoy and reflects many of the positive points I’ve found in several books in the series. Annika is attracted to David, she likes him, she’s intrigued by him – but is stopped from getting close because of dual concerns – the need to maintain secrecy about her origins and she has an ongoing task to find her sister. This is exacerbated by David actually having an ulterior motive to get to know Annika which she can certainly sense and is duly wary about. She has priorities which, to her, take precedence over romance even if she does care for David, find him attractive or even like him. This is something I really appreciate in a romance – the characters maintaining other priorities than romance and those priorities not being utterly destroyed because there’s a chance of some really hot nookie. I find a lot of romance characters can come across as either deeply self-absorbed or grossly lacking in priorities simply because the romance consumes everything else in their lives, regardless of responsibilities

This also creates a reasonable conflict. I’ve complained a lot about romances that have convoluted conflicts based on dubious misunderstandings, assumptions or rather dubious mis-overheard conversations (or believe that one or other party is dangerous/cursed/hunted by angry vampire bonobos. There’s also of dubious conflict in romance) – but this book works because the conflict is reasonable and makes sense. Annika does have other priorities, she does have people to protect, equally David has commitments and a life to lead. All of this doesn’t disappear because romance is in the offing.

There’s also the story which is pretty excellent. The conniving of the bad guys, the risk to Anna’s home, how David is drawn in all work to create a twisty, interesting, well paced and very fun plot.  The story has a lot of character agency, a lot of the characters being awesome without being ridiculously powerful and it holds together with excellent consistence, not needing leaps of logic or random chance or sheer bizarre luck to hold any element together. It works, it draws me in and is one of those that makes me want to keep reading no matter what’s happening around me.

In turn the romance works so well with the story – it’s tangential to it, it doesn’t draw from it, it doesn’t try to overwhelm the story. David and Annika form a romantic connection while still firmly focused on the actual plot and what is vital at that moment.

It’s also a plot that continues to link to the rest of the Iron Seas series which I like – even though we have a completely different cast of characters to the other books I’ve read in the series, the world is always very present in all the books, the story is directly impacted by this extremely unique and fascinating world to make the whole series feel much more like a whole even without direct connections. This is not a plot that could exist in any other setting because the world Meljean Brook has created permeates the whole series.

The only thing that can match the excellent world building is the excellent characterisation. The characters have history and depth and nuance, they’re not perfect, they do things wrong – and people who like them aren’t all good guys and people they disagree with aren’t all bad guys. They’re nuanced, developed, have their own motives and hobbies and lives – they’re excellent characters.

The diversity of this book is excellent. The protagonist, Annika is a Black woman and her love interest/co-protagonist David is Native American and disabled. Annika is also brought up in a completely different culture from those around her so frequently challenges so many of the assumptions and conventions of “manners” people have. Some of these are basic cultural examination – like the idea that someone’s place of origin is so essential to know, or that she finds delving into someone’s past when they are clearly unwilling to divulge invasive and unacceptable. While at the same time she is open and honest about attraction and relationships that others find taboo which is a nice twist. But she also relates this to her race and sexuality – everyone sees a Black woman and assumes she’s from a certain place (the Liberé territory in this world) even though she points out that their own cities have considerable Black populations – she challenges and mocks the ridiculous assumption, no-one should reasonably have. She also repeatedly, due to her originals, challenges and questions the misogyny of the world, causing David to re-examine several things he generally assumes as basic reality.

Once Upon a Time, Season 4, Episode 6: Family Business

Enchanted Forest flashback opener – with a young Belle having to flee her castle with her mother ahead of a horde of something-or-others that don’t appreciate fine literature. Ogres apparently; and Belle & her mother wait far too long trying to move their entire library and they end up being discovered

And this is why I prefer electronic books. If ogres are invading I can carry my tablet (and charger) as I go on the run.

Belle wakes up in horror, thinking it all a nightmare. But when she leaves her room and looks for her parents she finds her dad – and a group of people gathered around her mother’s coffin.

To the present and Storybrooke with Gold now keeping his magical box-that-is-a-hat secret as well and they’re called into a group meeting for Emma’s new revelation – the video showing Emma’s past with the Snow Queen. Everyone talks kind of admitting that they all know nothing, but Henry points out they haven’t found the Snow Queen’s ice cream truck. David dishes out orders to everyone (is there a bonus to putting the least capable person in charge) and they go searching or to the library.

Enchanted Forest flashback – Belle found a book that tells her of creatures that can restore memory so she can remember what happened to her mother. But her dad angrily forbids her from having anything to do with magic or leaving her room. She ignores him and makes her plan to travel to the creatures –in Arendelle.

Despite this bog flashback, in the present, Belle tells Elsa she knows nothing of Arendelle or Anna.

Time for another flashback to Arendelle this time with Anna deciding not to tell Elsa about their parents fearing her and Elsa introducing Anna to Aunt Snow Queen. And we have a name for her at last – she is Ingrid. Anna is duly suspicious and shares her suspicious with Kristoff who points out what a terrible judge of character Anna is. Anna decides to check with the trolls to learn more – all of this is overheard by Ingrid.

To the present again and they find the ice cream truck. Some brief interaction as they reach it - Robin wants to have a long talk with Regina and she decides she’d rather not revisit that sucking heart wound, thanks all the same. Emma wants to offer help/opinion and Regina, relatively politely, makes it clear how much Emma really really really does not want to go there, given the givens. Especially since she and Killian are also broadcasting lovey-doveyness which is extra galling (also she calls Killian “Captain Guyliner” which may have to be his new name). She also mentions storming an Evil Ice Cream Truck. Because Regina has the Best Lines.

Inside Regina continues to be awesome and they find Ingrid’s detailed stalker file on Emma. Regina and Robin do talk and Regina reveals the real reason she’s avoiding Robin – all her magic can find no way to save Marian. The only way is for Robin to forget Regina and re-fall in love with Marian.

Emma goes through the stalking file and finds she was with Ingrid for 6 months and among the documents are all her old school projects which she takes as an indication that Ingrid genuinely cared about her. And a touching card from young Emma to her. She also finds a scroll in Arendelle runes (which look a lot like Norse runes).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 22

It's time for this week's episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast

You can join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel, here, or in our sidebar. All will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST (technology willing)

This week we discuss American Horror Story (the right and the wrong), The Walking Dead (and Beth stepping up), Constantine (sadly tired tropes), Vampire Diaries (and the awful treatment of Bonnie), Z Nation, Grimm and Haven.

To give people a chance to read along with us we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

27th October - 3rd November: The Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
3rd November - 10th November: West of Sunset by Dennis Upkins
10th November - 17th November: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jane
17th November - 24th November: Loki’s Wolves by K.L. ArmstrongM.A. Marr
24th November - 1st December: Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs 

The Walking Dead, Season Five, Episode Four: Slabtown

Damn it, this episode opens Beth waking to find herself in a hospital in Atlanta.  It is extremely reminiscent of the first episode when Rick woke up alone in the hospital. Beth bangs against the door screaming.  When someone approaches the door, Beth backs away, pulling out her IV.  Officer Dawn Lerner  and Dr. Steven Edwards enter the room, assuring Beth that she will be okay and demanding that she drop the needle. They introduce themselves and Beth asks how she got there.  Dawn explains that her officers found Beth on the side of the road, surrounded be marauders.  Beth asks about Darryl but is told that she was alone and had they not saved her, she would be a walker right now.  Ominously, Dawn tells Beth that she owes them now. 

Later, Beth is taken into another room with Dr. Steven Edwards, where he turns off the respirator, saying that if patients don't show any signs of improvement, they pull the plug.   Beth and Edwards roll the now dead man through the hospital and when Edwards stops to talk to the cops, Beth looks up to see a man mopping the floors.  Beth questions how many people are there and Edwards explains that there are just enough to keep them going and that everyone has a job.  Beth asks about burying the man but Edwards explains that they only go outside when they have to, before throwing the body down an elevator shaft for the walkers to consume.

Beth is in the cafeteria making a plate of food, when Gormon introduces himself and explains how he was the one who found Beth and saved Beth from a walker.  Beth is pretty noncommittal about the whole thing and Gormon explains that Beth needs to show gratitude, unless he wants her to make a list of all of the food she is taking because everything costs something around here. Beth picks up the tray and walks away.

Beth heads to Edwards office, where Edwards complains that he is bored but Beth tells Edwards that he is lucky to feel safe enough to feel bored.  Edwards is playing music and says that  music is one of the few perks he gets for being the only doctor there.  Edwards questions where Beth's food is and she explains, "the more I take, the more I owe." Edwards asks if Beth has ever tried guinea pig and asks her to sit down, adding that Dawn doesn't have to know.  Beth tastes the guinea pig and is clearly not in love with it.  They stare at the painting in Edwards office and Edwards explains that art doesn't have a place any more because it is not about survival; it's about transcendence.  Beth says that she still sings.

Gavin is rolled into the hospital by an officer and Edwards calls Gavin a loser, adding that he was told not to waste resources.  Dawn however instructs Edwards to try.  Dawn questions if Gavin is going to make it and Edwards explains that he doesn't have the tools to save Gavin.  Dawn then slaps Beth across the face, telling Edwards to try grasp the stakes here.

Later, Edwards cleans up Beth face and explains that she must put on a new shirt because Dawn likes things neat.  Beth snarks about the mess in Edwards office and he replies that they all have ways of making Dawn pay. Edwards leaves the room and Beth opens her new shirt to find a lollipop tucked in the pocket.

Once again, another patient is brought in and she is told that her choice is to have her arm cut off or die. Joan screams begging to be left alone and Edwards ties her to bed.  Beth tries to leave but Dawn orders Beth to stay.  Joan screams that they cannot control death, as Edwards saws off her arm without anesthesia.

Prince Lestat (Vampire Chronicles #11) by Anne Rice

A Voice has started invading the minds of vampires across the world – wheedling, threatening and begging, it is pushing them to do one thing – destroy their fellows

As the death toll mounts, Benji, vampire fledgling and podcaster, appeals to the elders of the vampire tribe to do something. Anything.

So do I. But then I’ve been begging for several books and they still haven’t done anything.

This book actually greatly exceeded my expectations. Of course, if you’ve read my previous reviews of the Vampire Chronicles you won’t be surprised by the news I didn’t have very high expectations when I started this book. So, when I say “exceeded my expectations” what I mean is the book actually had a plot.

Yes, there was an actual storyline that the characters (more or less… sort of…) stuck to with an actual antagonist and actual events. I would normally consider this to be something of a basic requirement for a book but given the last 5 books in the series had nothing resembling a plot, just long winded expositions of back story (and this is very generously suggesting the tortured quasi philosophical screed of Memnoch the Devil had a plot) of random characters suffering from an obsessive need to recount their memoirs to anyone who will sit still long enough to hear them.

So there was plot. There was an actual threat to vampire kind and Benji shouts out to the airwaves to ask all the super elder powers of the vampire world to pause in their eternal moping, put down their latest diary entry, refrain from falling in love with random passers by and please use their super powers to actually do something.

And they hear the call and proceed to… navel gaze. And mope. And lament. And be ludicrously melodramatic. Seriously, the threat is introduced moderately early in the book and in response we get to see the view points of 80 gajillion vampires all of whom are not actually doing anything but being upset and agitated and dramatic and falling in love with any human/vampire/ghost/passing seagull that catches their eye. In between this is Lestat who is aiming for Gold in the moping Olympics and he is positively lapping the competition.

The pacing is truly abysmal, so much of the book is spent moving from character to character and them not actually doing anything except monologue in an appallingly excessive fashion, each trying to surpass the melodrama of the last. There are also a free story-line-ish things introduced which are just there – random nuggets of irrelevancy that may be interesting but aren’t even close to developed. They’re just there, taking up pages

Like the founding of the Talamasca. At last, some explanation for the Talastalkers and why they do what they do. We hear all about the founders in rather excessively boring detail and learn that they founded the Talamasca for… for… for… well… ok they founded the Talamasca for reasons which I sure were very important. But… the Talamasca isn’t in this book. They have no presence in this book. They do nothing in this book. And, not matter how much this is technically solving a great mystery of this world, it still grossly out of place in this book and achieves absolutely nothing except throwing in a random intermission. Maybe the Talamasca could hand out popcorn? Or fervent assurances that they will get on with the plot, honest. It’s like reading a World War 2 drama and suddenly having a chapter devoted to Charlemagne – potentially interesting, yes, but not really relevant.

Another potentially interesting yet out of place storyline was Fareed and Seth – science vampires. I was actually intrigued by this, it would be interesting to see one vampire in this world who isn’t a talentless romantic poet who thinks history books would be vastly improved with lots of purple prose. It promised a new direction. It promised a new focus. It promised a great deal – but didn’t deliver a thing. I have no idea what they’re supposed to achieve. They appear, they say grand things about science, the other vampires profess how impressed they are but also how little they understand and then we move on. They only thing they add to the plot is Viktor…

Which brings me to Viktor – why is he here? He and Rose, humans connected to Lestat through means I won’t spoil – but they don’t do anything, they add nothing to the plot line, they’re just there. Again, conceptually, they have potential as mortals thrust into the vampire world in such an unconventional way. That potential is completely wasted as they neatly fit in exactly the same mould as every other human-destined-to-become-vampire does. Oh there’s a kidnapping scene, but the characters are so interchangeable that they could have replaced them with Daniel or David or Gabrielle or Louis or Sybelle or Antoine or Jesse or Everard… well any of the innumerable pointless vampires who kind of lurk around the background of every scene doing absolutely nothing.

Fangs for the Fantasy book of the week

The next episode of our podcast will be starting tonight at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT). You will be able to listen to us on our youtube channel, or by the link in the sidebar or by the post here that will be posted. We hope to see you there

Like all  the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast(archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. 

To give people a chance to read along with us we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

27th October - 3rd November: The Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
3rd November - 10th November: West of Sunset by Dennis Upkins
10th November - 17th November: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jane
17th November - 24th November: Loki’s Wolves by K.L. ArmstrongM.A. Marr
24th November - 1st December: Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs 

You might also like:

Z Nation, Season One, Episode Eight: Zunami

Citizen Z sends out a broadcast regarding a herd and then heads off to check the equipment, before horsing around the desolate station.  He is clearly bored right out of his tree.  Suddenly, someone tries to hack into Citizen's computers and as he tries to follow the signal back, his eyes get blurry. An alarm goes off, but Citizen simply takes a broom and knocks it off the wall.  Suddenly, something flies at the station and Citizen Z assumes it is from outer space.

The team team is desperate for water and all seem down except for Murphy, who claims to conserve his bodily fluids.  They hear a grumbling and  when they look up, a herd of zombies is heading out of a giant dustball straight in their direction.  It's Murphy who has to push the crew to get moving because they are all so dehydrated.   They manage to make it inside an old mortuary, just as the zombies descend on the town.

Citizen Z makes his way  to the base opening and finds bloody footprints on the concrete floor. Citizen Z pulls out his gun and is confronted of all things by a cosmonaut. Citizen Z orders the cosmonaut to put his hands in the air and  cosmonaut complies, adding that he is a friend.  Citizen Z then instructs him to take his helmet off because the air is safe.  At first the cosmonaut does not agree but he eventually complies with a smile and a laugh. 

The herd continues to move through the town as the team hides out.  Murphy is not impressed by their listless reaction.  Otis reveals that the zombies are migrating because they don't like the cold. Apparently ,the Z's are coming from a refugee camp in Alberta, picking up new zombies along the way, making the herd miles wide.  Otis pulls out his flask and shares it with the group, and of course Doc has to take a huge swig to figure out the ingredients of the homemade hooch.  The zombies continue to add pressure to the doors, causing the group to realise that they are not secure.   They just manage to  get into another room before the herd bursts through the door.

Citizen Z sits and drinks tea with the cosmonaut and finally asks him how he got there.  Yuri explains that he was on the international space station when Houston and Moscow went dark three years ago. The food ran out and the station stopped working - heat and air, so Yuri used the escape pod.  Citizen Z asks about the rest of the group but Yuri claims that there was no crew.  Citizen Z pulls out the vodka and they toast to excitement.  The fact that the dog is not reacting to Yuri leads me to believe that he is a phantom of Citizen Z's imagination.

Now trapped in a room, Murphy tells the group that they cannot stay there and wait to die.  They begin to hear sounds in the walls and realise of course that since they are in the morgue, zombies are in the individual freezers which line the wall.  After killing one of the zombies, Warren realises that the might survive this herd  if they get into the freezers made for the dead.

Citizen Z is busy explaining how the system all works.  Yuri calls it a terrible burden to see so much pain and adds that one man shouldn't carry this alone.  Citizen Z explains that they have food for decades and that everything is solar powered.  Yuri finally notices the dog and questions why it is not active.  Citizen Z says that they can find out the reason for the apocalypse together and that they have to be careful because someone tried to hack into this system.  Citizen Z is adamant that no one can be trusted.

One by one the team members get into their individual freezers, until only Warren and Murphy are left.  The final freezer is full of a zombie however.

Citizen Z continues to show Yuri the station;  they play various games and get drunk together.  After putting, Citizen Z looks up to find himself alone.  Yuri is staring intently at the systems which maintain the station. When Citizen Z finds him, Yuri says that they had the same thing on the station. Citizen Z tries to encourage Yuri to finish the game and Yuri replies, "you're an odd duck Simon."