Saturday, December 5, 2015

American Horror Story, Season 5 (Hotel), Episode 8: The Ten Commandment Killer

So, evil little girl Wren just ran into traffic and died – so John charges to the hotel and demands a grieving Liz produce the 10 Commandments Killer. Liz is not impressed, not intimidated and meets John threat for threat

Sally arrives and agrees to take him to where the 10 Commandment killer is hiding – to where there are “answers.” She takes him to James’s old office, throws in a brief history lesson and shows him a hidden room.

Inside which are the trophies from each of the 10 Commandment Killer’s victims – one for each commandment, all of them grisly – including some trophies that must have come from police evidence.

John panics and has a flash-back melt down (with Sally trying to comfort him) as the obvious becomes clearer and clearer – John is the killer.

He goes to the police station to confess to his partner, Detective Andy Hahn. Complete with all his restored memories – and how his killing and first entry into the Hotel Cortez was 2010 though he had since forgotten. Back in 2010 he went to the hotel after a particularly awful case and Donovan took him to James and the Countess’s one night a year thing they have. They’re all very intrigued (and delighted) by the horrible deaths he just saw and how it affected him.

James is so eager to work on his new protégé, he’s willing to cut his Countess night short. They talk auras (John’s is black), elaborate language and police brutality and vigilante “justice.” James is sure that John will be the super-duper perfect serial killer (dismissing the others with added homophobia). To push him over the edge into serial killerness, James encourages the Countess to kidnap Holden.

We also see that he and Alex didn’t exactly have a sunny marriage before Holden’s kidnapping – John’s drinking and disappearance was not all funsies.

John continues to recap how his life fell apart after Holden disappeared and he spent more and more time at the Hotel Cortez with James being recruited into serial killing as he becomes more disillusioned by the system and him being lured into his first kill of a paedophile. He tried to hang himself

Into the Badlands, Season One, Episode Three: White Stork Spreads Wings

This episode begins with the showdown that we all knew was coming, the fight between the Widow and Quinn. Quinn leads an assault on the Widow's region with Sonny riding shotgun.  As Sonny's Colt, M.K. lines up with the other colts.  Though the colts are warned to remain outside, M.K. seizes the opportunity and sneaks into the Widow's fortress and steals a book with the emblem of Azra on it. Heaven forbid M.K. follow an order.  As Quinn and the widow battle it out, M.K. hides as the Widow's daughters escape the fortress using a secret passageway. M.K. calls out to Tilda and she acknowledges him but keeps moving. Quinn moves in for the kill shot on the Widow but stops and grabs his head when he feels a piercing pain. The Widow moves to turn the tables but Quinn is saved by Sonny.  The Widow then uses the opportunity to escape.

While the battle has been raging, Lydia and Jade sit at Ryder's bedside.  Lydia is clearly not pleased to be so near the Baron's next wife and the tension in the room is fierce.  Jade explains that she is there because Ryder is going to be her family soon but Lydia is not buying it in the least.  Jade is clearly playing the long game and does not yet trust Lydia enough to admit that while she is due to marry Quinn, the man she really loves is Ryder.  Lydia makes a point of telling Jade that she is nothing more than a distraction to feed Quinn's ego.  Jade tries to claim that she is not the enemy and points out that since she has been inside the house since she was a girl, she understands more than Lydia realises. Lydia makes it clear that the Baron's house is a battlefield because Quinn loves to fight and asks Jade to leave so that she can be with Ryder in private.

Before Jade can comply, they are informed that Quinn is leading the Clippers back from battle. Outside, M.K. gives Sonny the book and says that he cannot read it.  Sonny is not impressed that M.K. went into the house and orders him to follow.

A bruised and bloodied Quinn enters the house and Lydia does not exactly give him the conquering heroes welcome.  Lydia makes a point of mentioning that the last war brought shortages and death but Quinn is more interested in keeping his reputation in tack.  Lydia then brings up Ryder's health but Quinn isn't interested in seeing his only son and instead takes Jade into the next room for a booty call.  On every level, Quinn is a disgusting power hungry man.

Quinn may not care about Ryder and Lydia may not want her intervention but Jade cares enough about Ryder to go and see Veil and ask for help. This is a tall order given that Veil's parents were just killed by Quinn for daring to inform him that he is dying.  Jade plays upon the fact that she and Veil are life long friends and are both negotiating situations beyond their control. Veil calls Jade out on being in the big house.  Yeah, I'm not like the antebellum slave analogy with this one at all.

Veil makes her way to the big house and wants to alleviate the pressure on Ryder's brain but is initially stopped by Lydia, until Lydia learns that without the procedure, Ryder will be dead by nightfall. Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, Quinn then confronts Veil about the fact that she is Sonny's girl.  I guess there isn't much that this man misses.

After treatment, Ryder awakes and reveals that he was set up by a "doll" (read: prostitute) named Angelica at the Tick Tock Clock. Quinn sends Sonny to investigate the incident.  Sonny takes M.K. with him and orders him to wait on the balcony. M.K., always the contrarian, decides to wait on the ground.  Sonny and Angelica start to battle as on the ground, M.K. talks with Tilda about what is going on.  Tilda is convinced that M.K.'s story does not add up.  Angelica falls to her death rather than revealing the Widow's location to Sonny and M.K. tells Tilda to run away quickly.

The Originals: Season 3, Episode 8 The Other Girl in New Orleans

As the title alludes to, this week is really about which woman truly has Klaus's heart, Cami or Aurora. The problem for me is that I don't care given that Klaus is a violent serial killer. Having captured Cami, Aurora takes her to St. Anne's in order to torture her and find out a little bit about her competition. Aurora begins by revealing that she has learned all about Cami's family history from Google, remarking what a wonderful thing the internet is.  Aurora decides to play her own violent version of truth or dare, demanding that Cami answer her questions honestly or face death. Yep, mean girl to the extreme.

At the Mikaelson compound, Freya has Tristan trapped in a circle ready for interrogation.  Freya notes that Elijah is still miffed at her for torturing Aurora, simply because he likes to control how his invited guests are treated - ever the control freak. Hayley shows up to take her part in the torture show with Hope in hand and admits that Jackson is off sulking the Bayou.  Freya gets sent off to babysit Hope, while Hayley has fun biting Tristan repeatedly.  Mary shows up at the apartment so Hayley is forced to vouch for her with Freya.  Elijah happens to overhear the conversation and so Hayley admits that she didn't chase after Jackson because she thought she might be needed.  Clearly despite her marriage vows, Hayley is still very much invested in the Mikaelsons, or at least Elijah. Elijah decides to tell Hayley to take care of her family.

Freya takes a moment to speak to Tristan, who brings up Finn.  Tristan says that he knew Finn well and that Finn was an hounourable man. I thought that the title of the hounourable one was Elijah's title. Tristan suggests that Freya speak to Finn, that is if Finn will agree to a conversation.  Freya grabs the pendant around her neck. Wait, is Finn in her necklace and how did that happen given that he is supposed to be dead?

Klaus and Lucian are busy following the clues Aurora left behind in her latest game.  Lucian is not pleased with what Klaus is doing and sees Cami as a needless mortal distraction.  Lucian takes care to point out that no matter how much Klaus may want to kill Aurora that he cannot because Aurora knows where Rebekah is hidden.

Marcel gets a visit from Aya, who is not impressed that Davina has been taken out of the game. Naturally, Marcel denies his involvement in this.   Are they actually going to do something about the sexual tension between Aya and Marcel? Aya decides to test Marcel's loyalty by giving him a weapon that will take out an Original and tasking him with freeing Tristan.  Aya says that by following orders, Marcel will secure his place with the Stryx and should he refuse, he will die. Aya points out that if Marcel is successful, it will mean that they will have secured two Original vampires.

Back at the compound, Freya has weakened Tristan as much as she can without killing him. Elijah looks into Tristan's head and sees the word, "Cepheus", but has no idea what it means.  Before Elijah can find out more, Marcel shows up and demands that Elijah release Tristan, saying that otherwise, the Stryx will tear the Quarter apart and start a war.  Elijah however is not interested, certain that he can take of himself and family

Hayley is busy packing a bag while she talks with Mary about what happened between her and Jackson.  Mary is quick to explain that Jackson left because he was hurt.  Mary points out that though Hayley is determined to be there for the Mikaelsons, they are the most powerful vampires alive and she is only 25 years old.  Mary asserts that every time Hayley intervenes, she is putting herself at risk and adds that Hayley has Hope to think about. Hayley stops listening when she hears the fight in Mikaelson compound and leaps through a window to help Elijah.

Vampire Diaries, Season 7, Episode 8: Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me

Time for future-vision again – at some point these random points will make sense. Last week Damon was captured because he walked into a trap. His capture is Lily which means, alas, no-one’s going to kill her.

Now to the present and the plotting to kill Julian. Damon agrees with me – just kill Lilly while everyone else wants to keep her alive for Reasons! Because she was very very silly and bound her life to Julian’s (in the bizarre and surprisingly accurate belief that people who hated her gave a damn whether she lived or died because Vampire Diaries doesn’t have to make sense) this means they need to get Julian’s blood and then convince a witch to undo the silliness. For extra bizarreness, rather than going to their usual subservient witch-for-hire (actually that’s wrong, if she were for hire they’d actually pay her) Bonnie, they decide it’s better to convince one of the Heretics to do it (which means Bo, Marie Louise or Nora rather than Valerie, the only witchpire who actually WANTS Julian dead. Because Vampire Diaries).

Instead they decide to use Valerie to convince the other witchpires to help curse Julian’s blood… is everyone on this show drunk or high? Oh, wait, drunk, of course they are

Anyway at chez witchpire, it’s Mary Louise and Nora’s anniversary which means they may actually go for an episode without sniping at each other. Lily completely forgot but Julian covers and of course they’re planning a party.

There’s a party on Vampire Diaries once every three episodes. It’s a rule. Also Enzo and Lily are getting all couply which surprises no-one

Caroline is still mystically pregnant and planning to tell Stefan. Right in the middle of their murder plans. Rude! Ruder? Saying “hi girlfriend, we shall have to talk about the whole pregnancy thing later because I have a party to go to later.”

This party launches with a huge number of compelled guests (that must be the saddest party ever if you have to compel guests). All of them are the people Julian has been capturing and “fattening up” (like that’s actually a relevant thing, but Vampire Diaries) so they can serve as snack food. Lily has brief moral outrage (because vampire Diaries loves random morality) but goes along with it so she doesn’t end up playing mean parent to contrast with Julian’s fun parent.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Z Nation, Season Two, Episode Twelve: Party with the Zeros

The group have finally made it to the Mexican border, only to find a big wall blocking them from crossing.  I cannot believe Z Nation is playing with the whole wall along the border thing.  Warren & co fight off the zombies until they find themselves cornered, only to be saved by the drug kingpin, Escorpian. Well, we all knew that he would show up again because up until this point, his story has been unfinished.

The group is taken to meet La Reina (the leader of the Zeros) and are made an offer they cannot refuse a la the Godfather style.  Warren decides that it's best to bide their time sure that if they wait long enough they will be able to escape with Murphy in tow.  We learn that Zeros haven't just been maintaining their drug dealing empire but actively working towards a cure for the zombie apocalypse. It seems that they have managed to contract the services of Dr. Kurian, who quite like the mad scientist that he is, has been experimenting on humans.  With Murphy now under the control of the Zeros, la Reina plans to have Dr. Kurian make up a vaccine using Murphy's blood.

When we last met Dr. Kurian, he made it clear that he believed that humanity is at an end and that Murphy and any other beings like him would be the ones to inherit the earth.  I suppose he hasn't heard that that job was meant for the meek. Okay, okay I know, but I couldn't help it. After showing Murphy his handy work, Kurian reveals that it's all been one big ruse.  It seems that instead of looking for a cure, Kurian has been torturing his suspects to make it look good for La Reina, which is just what you would expect of a scientist of Kurian's nature.  Kurian is quick to let Murphy in on his scam explaining that he had to keep up appearances so that the Zeros would keep him around; however, now that he has access to Murphy and Murphy's blood, his plan is to replicate Murphy.

Murphy still hasn't picked a side in terms of whether he is human or zombie. Clearly, Murphy's allegiances are going to have to be declared soon.  As this point however, Murphy is enjoying being the center of attention and eating up the tribute of flowers that the Zeros have to offer.  Naturally, Warren calls him on his shit but he is quick to blow her off.

Over the past few weeks, the sexual tension between Warren and Vasquez has been building.  That being said, Warren didn't allow that from stopping her from following Vasquez to find out where he kept sneaking off to.  It was then that we learned that Vasquez, a former DEA agent was looking for the man who killed his wife and child.  When Vasquez sees a tattoo on Escoprion's arm, he realises that he has found the man that he is looking for.  Ever observant, Warren is quick to pick up on what Vasquez wants to do.  Vasquez makes it clear that he needs vengeance for the loss of his wife and child and Warren is just as adamant that they need to stay on mission, after all there is the fate of humanity to think of.  Vasquez however decides that he cannot wait and decides to attack Escorpion and deciding that she has no other choice, Warren steps in to save Escorpion's life.  This is absolutely the right choice to make but it's clear from Warren's expression that this is not how she wanted it to go down.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 8: Just My Imagination

We have little girl with an imaginary friend (who may actually be real but invisible – and a kind of unicorn thing) and parents with… interesting parenting skills (boundaries people! Rules!)

And then someone murders the imaginary friend. There’s a psychiatrist out there who would charge soooo much money to analyse that one.

Sam wakes up in the morning kind of like me – (but with less coffee) and a whole lot of sugar and sweets unsurprisingly left there by… an imaginary friend. Yes, Sam has an imaginary friend too, called Sunny. Thankfully we’re spared a huge chunk of this episode with Dean wondering what Sam is smoking and why he isn’t sharing because Sunny has the ability to make himself visible to anyone.

This episode is going to be gimmicky and annoying. At least Dean is willing to get his gun. Sunny wants their help hunting down a killer of imaginary friends. Dean thinks this is rather outside the hunter remit. Even accepting imaginary friends are actually spirits that help and mentor kids (Zana), Dean still thinks saving non-human lives is beyond their remit.

Of course they end up investigating. And we get some poking at childhood issues with the fact Sam, as a lonely child, wanting the imaginary friend and Dean being a little offended that Sam considered himself lonely with some nice flashbacks going along.

Sam and Dean pose as child grief counsellors to interview the child, Maddie – they have no credentials but they do have cardigans. Everyone trusts the cardigan and Dean’s oh-so-trustwrothy-face.
The cardigans allow them to speak to the child and even examine her bedroom alone (helped by Sunny to let them see the corpse and blood). Seeing the mother walk around the horrible blood stained room without even seeing the blood she’s smearing about is both awful and kind of funny. Especially since the blood is sparkly.

And we have another Zana murder – this time a mermaid called Nicky and more past insights with Sully and Sam and how Sully wasn’t just a friend but a mentor who generally was great at advising and encouraging Sam.

American Exceptionalism in Speculative Fiction

Much of the media in this genre is created in the United States, which is hardly surprising given the hegemony of American pop culture.  Because of the pervasiveness of American pop culture it has come to constitute a form of American soft power.  No country ever wants to see itself as anything but the center of the world but American pop culture has exceedingly made a point of this not only in the fantasy genre but in pretty much everything it produces.  In the eighties, it was all about some brave American taking on a Russian threat and ending up victorious; the hero often wrapped in the stars and stripes, delivering a big dose of patriotism with their knock out punch.  In the nineties, with the end of the cold war, we saw a brief time of antagonists coming from different geographic areas but the hero resoundingly remained American.  With the dawn of the 21st century and the rise of the McWorld vs Jihad dilemma, antagonists have overwhelmingly been Middle Eastern, while the hero remained American. The point of all of these stories is to suggest to the reader, viewer and consumer that no matter the situation or the villain, America is always on the side of right and will emerge victorious based solely American exceptionalism.  The bigger the threat, the faster and stronger the American response will be and whether by might or intelligence, some American will have the right answer to the situation.

The very first time I became aware of this phenomenon in speculative fiction was the movie Independence Day.  Yeah, it was great to watch Will Smith, as Captain Steven Hiller, take on the aliens but it’s telling that it was Jeff Goldblum, as David Levinson, who came up with the solution to the alien invasion. Yes, Levinson graduated from MIT and was an environmentalist but am I really supposed to believe that there was no one else outside of an American smart enough to figure out the invasion countdown clock? And what about the fact that the rest of the world seemed to be sitting around waiting for someone else to come up with a solution? Not only did Hiller and Levinson take the war to the aliens on behalf of the rest of the world, the Americans co-ordinated the attack which occurred on July 4th.  Could American exceptionalism be any more obvious?  Even President Thomas J. Whitmore, played by Bill Pullman, joined the fight because he was a former Vietnam vet. If that were not enough, Whitmore declared July 4th the Independence Day for the world. It's not like the independence of any other country from colonial rule could possibly be significant.

“Perhaps it’s fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution -- but from annihilation.
We're fighting for our right to live, to exist.
And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:
"We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on!
We're going to survive!"
Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Considering that the Americans would not have gotten to their Independence Day without the French, one really had to suspend belief to buy into the whole rally the troops moment delivered by the impassioned Pullman, as President Whitmore.  Naturally, the president had to get into the action because like the rest of his people, he was a problem solver and epically brave. Thank goodness this is fiction because despite having the title commander in chief, there has only been one president since Eisenhower to actually serve in an active duty position.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Walking Dead, Season Six, Episode Eight: Start to Finish

Though this is the eighth episode of this season, very little time has actually passed for the characters.  What we have actually seen is a period of approximately 2 days and what has happened to the characters separately because they were split into groups. We were also treated to an episode dedicated to what happened to Morgan before he managed to join up with the group.   By the end of this episode, the characters had still not reunited but the level of danger and panic continues to be high.

At Alexandria, a section of the wall has come crashing down, just as Maggie receives the signal that she has long waited for - proof that Glenn is alive.  The dust comes pouring into the town and  the residents are forced to flee for cover.  Deanna comes to the aid of Rick but still seems to be shooting wildly.  How many times do Alexandrians need to be told to go for the head?  Rick scoops her up and heads into a house with Carl, Michonne, Jessie and her two kids.   Carol ends up housed with Morgan and in a lower level of the house, are Denise and the Wolf. In the garage of the same house, are Rosita, Tara and Eugene.  Sasha, Abraham and Darryl are still making their way back to Alexandria and Glenn and Enid are stuck outside of the walls, watching in horror as the zombies invade their home.

With all of the zombies entering Alexandria this mid season finale should have been epic but instead it was anything but.  It's been clear for some time that there's tension between Carol and Morgan due in part to the fact that they have opposing views on how to survive a zombie apocalypse.  Carol's mentality is based on doing whatever is necessary for the group to survive.  We have seen this manifest in pretending to be a harmless housewife and in offering no mercy to the invading Wolves. Morgan does not believe in taking life, so much so, that he let five of the attackers leave Alexandria and is keeping one captive.  This is a critical point because it's clear that while zombies remain a threat, the remaining humans can be that much more so.  We have seen this play out with Terminus and the Governor.  Both have valid reasons for their positions but what I don't understand is exactly why with zombies piling into Alexandria and their lives at risk that now is the time for this confrontation.

Carol attacks Morgan despite his repeated call for calm and suggestion that this could be settled later. Yes,the Wolf that he is trying to rehabilitate is a threat to the group but not more so than the horde of zombies pouring through the walls.  I found myself shaking my head repeatedly at this.  The Carol that we have come to know would have known this and acted accordingly.  It seems that the writers were simply determined to force a confrontation whether or not it fit the characters that they have created or not.  Why did this have to happen?  It's almost as though the writers didn't know what to do with the characters once they were separated into smaller groups.

We knew when Rick decided to teach Ron how to defend himself that it would lead to a problem.  At the end of Head Up, we see Ron stalking Carl with a loaded weapon.  It's clear that had the walls not crumbled, Ron would have shot Carl.  As with the confrontation between Morgan and Carol, this fight made little sense.  Are we supposed to believe that Ron really has that little sense of self preservation?  Let's just say that he managed to kill or wound Carl, how was that going to work out for him with Rick in the house, even with Jessie there to plead for him?  Carl being so much more experienced than Ron managed to fight him off but then chose not to tell Rick what happened.  I know that we are meant to see this as a sign of Carl's maturity, especially given that when put in a less dangerous situation outside of the prison, Carl pulled the trigger. The difference however between the incident outside of the prison and what happened with Ron, is that Ron does actually pose a danger, much like his porch dick father did.  Carl's actions however do fall in line with Glenn's choice not to turn in Nicholas.  Despite all of the drama and speculation as to whether this would be the scene in which Carl lost his eye, it all felt really anti-climactic and unnecessary. This is a confrontation that didn't need to happen when it did and end up feeling like filler.

City of Light (Outcast #1) By Keri Arthur

The world was torn apart by the war – Shifters and humans fought, civilisation was destroyed and, in the aftermath of the bombs that finally won the war, new dark forces have been unleashed driving people to hide in well lit cities

Despite the war being 100 years ago, Tiger is a product of that conflict – a designed supersoldier, a déchet, created to fight for humanity. Most of her kind has been destroyed and is in hiding – but she cannot abandon a child in need and one charitable act of rescue quickly pulls her out of hiding and directly in a dangerous fight with the sinister forces that rule the night.

What I’ve always liked with this author’s books is the world settings – and this is no exception

A dystopian future following a devastating war between shifters and humans that left the world devastated and at the mercy of sinister and unknown monsters from beyond the void – as well as the vampires that have always been in the shadows – but in a newly devastated world are so much more of a threat.

That is an epic and fascinating world to begin with, but there’s also fun additional elements and details – like the nature of vampires as almost mindless monsters which is very refreshing in a genre which has so many very very sex vampires. Or little things like the reliance on light to protect the populace safe from vampires and shades has led to generations who have lost the ability to see in the dark. There’s a lot of excellent detail in creating this world

And then there’s Tiger, a déchet, a hybrid being created to be a warrior for the humans before most of her kind were annihilated. There’s a lot about her that comes close to being very tropey yet continually moves back

She has special woo-woo powers (and is one of the few of her kind left alive so they’re unique woo-woo powers), but while they give her advantages they don’t make her uber powerful and book breaking. But while they make her useful they don’t make her a weak object in possession of other people. And, yes, inevitably she has the special woo-woo of sexy-times since she was made to be a “lure” but even that has not gone the predictable route of her tripping into bed with the designated love interest (though I will lays odds that they are definitely headed towards sexy times). But even the way she uses her sex as a weapon she does so in a way that is very different from what I’ve seen in most other books with the woo-woo sexiness (even if it actually makes far more sense).

iZombie, Season 2, Episode 8: The Hurt Stalker

Liv shares with her room-mate Gilda (who still reminds me so much of Zelena from Once Upon a Time) that she and Major are getting back together. Since Gilda and Major had a kind of thing, Gilda is not a happy nemesis.

This week’s crime of the week has a man attack a woman called “Regina” telling her to “stay away” from someone. Regina is not putting up with that and nearly stabs her attacker
To the crime scene – and Clive is hit hard because he knew Regina, they dated once. And she was shot with Clive’s gun. To make matters worse the detective in the case is Kavanagh who everyone rightly hates (well Ravi – and since Ravi is awesome I’ll say rightly). Sadly Kavanagh’s also not wrong when he points to a fair whack of evidence pointing to Clive (though, honestly, there’s a bit too much for a murder planned by a cop).

Brain munching time (not that Clive needs it honest, but yeah just in case). And Ravi, being Ravi, raises the possibility of Liv having a vision of having sex with Clive.

Regina was also the woman who left the package on FBI agent Dale’s doorstep which she now hands over to Liv and Ravi (in the hope of a vision). It’s Regina’s rather obsessive stalker diary. Yes, the horror dawns that Liv has just eaten the brains of a woman unhealthily obsessed with stalking Clive.

In between this horror, Ravi and Liv also realise that Clive’s habit of keeping his professional and personal lives separate means they know absolutely nothing about him – Dale certainly knows him better.

Liv doesn’t become obsessed with Clive – but she does become all jealous and extreme with Major. Even knowing it’s her brain playing up she checks his phone. Not a good idea, nope nope.

Major is duly annoyed that she has decided to invade his privacy this way. She explains the brain but also recognises that isn’t an excuse and she has to resist it. Of course when she goes, Major realises he has to hide his zombie-killing items. This leads to more Liv paranoia from the brain.

At the police station Clive would prefer they not make the case more difficult by interfering but he does go into details about why their relationship ended – she had a fetish for cops which he didn’t like. He points them towards a potential suspect – a dissatisfied customer (Reina was a wedding planner).

And Liv gets a vision that Regina and the husband of the happy couple, Michael, had a relationship and she sent one of her obsessive stalky kits to the wife. He was also a cop.

Liv continues to fight stalker brain – and Gilda encourages it. She does use her stalker insights to try and pursue leads and finds that another of Regina’s ex’s was a police chief. This clumsy investigating ends up with Liv in prison where she is worried – that she will hurt other people.

Ravi and Major visit Liv and she’s worried about her growing hunger. At least her stalkery-ness is fading.

Liv is released just before she eats other prisoners and Ravi is waiting for her with a brain smoothy – which, alas, is more Regina.

Still the investigating did give them some clues and lead back to the disgruntled client and her brother (who is injured – he was the man who attacked Regina and was stabbed for his trouble).

They catch their suspect and Liv, against all procedure, gets to be in the interview so Clive can show the Chief of Police that Liv is a damn good investigator and an asset especially for a Medical Examiner. Also, it helps that by letting Liv off the hook for breaking into his car, the scrapbook showing him and Regina can also be kept quiet

On stalker brains, Liv goes home and begs Major to open the safe… inside which is her engagement ring (he has removed his zombie killing tools).

That night when Major’s phone buzzes she answers his texts – and gets Gilda (under the name Rita) pretending to be planning to hook up with Major.

We have a return of one of the Big Bads – Vaughn. Gilda is still gloriously scathing of her dad/boss. She’s worried that Liv being close with Major may expose the zombie murdering plot and then use her police contacts to cause problems. Vaughn annoyingly, rightly points out that’s unlikely as Liv has a vested interest in keeping the secret – though Gilda does raise the happy idea of Liv eating Vaughn’s brains. She seems to be quite happy with the idea too

Her contempt is glorious. Yes, I like her. Also in the zombie lab they’ve found a way to make their terrible drink make rotting zombies super fast and strong (not compared to unrotting ones –or ones who go full-on zombie). Of course Vaughn would much prefer this to be sold to humans with a much larger, richer client base.

Major still has to work as Vaughn’s personal trainer – and Vaughn tests the new drink on himself and does give himself super strength. I imagine there will be a side effect – which appears to be vicious rage. He gives Major some more drinks to help him hunt zombies with.

Part of me wants to raise my fists and cheer Regina for nearly killing her attacker, even if it didn’t get her anywhere and female physical strength does need to be seen more often… except… Regina was a Black woman and the strong, violent Black woman (especially one who ends up dead anyway) is, if anything, far more prevalent than the image of a delicate, fragile Black woman who needs (or deserves) protection. Is this furious defence a subversion of the trope of female weakness or a perpetuation of the trope of Black women being unwomen?

Especially since the other noticeable Black woman on this episode was a loud angry prisoner who exists to be as annoying and obnoxious as possible. She is literally there just to be the source of all things annoying in Liv’s presence in prison.

Note as well that, by the argument of the killers, Regina's furious defence of herself is WHY she was killed. Her strength is not even presented as an asset to her

I’m also not loving where we’ve gone with Gilda here – skilled, brutal, highly intelligent, deliciously sarcastic – but in this case almost sabotaging herself because of jealousy?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Into the Badlands, Season One, Episode Two: Fist Like a Bullet

The Widow enters a bar that screams western steampunk to speak to Teague, her former regent.  It seems that Teague doesn't believe that the Widow will find the support she needs among the other Barons and doubts that they will allow the widow destabilize the oil supply  The Widow makes it clear that she has been accepted by everyone but Quinn and suggests that this is the reason that together, they need to take Quinn out.  Because Quinn has marshaled the most Clipppers, Teague does not believe that this is possible. Their conversation is cut short when an assassin attempts to kill the Widow but instead misses his mark and launches his axe directly into Teague's forehead.  Say bye bye Teague.  The Widow then proves that she is more than a pretty face and some serious ass kicking ensures. And when I say serious, what I mean is EPIC. The Widow stalks a wounded assassin and questions who hired him.  The assassin is quick to drop a dime on Ryder and his honesty is followed by some snark about Ryder's imagination and a quick death via CFM boots.

M.K. has spent the night putting as much distance between him and the fortress as possible.  He stops at some marker posts to grab a drink of water out of a puddle.  When MK looks up, he sees Matilda stalking a squirrel.  Matilda throws the knife, killing the squirrel and then sneaks up on M.K., putting a knife to his throat.  This kid better gets some skills beyond turning all super ninja and rage when he bleeds if he is going to survive.  Matilda is quick to notice that M.K. doesn't have a brand and he explains that his parents are free range farmers and that he escaped from the Fortress the night before.  Matilda offers M.K. some bread which he chokes down as quickly as possible.

M'K. introduces himself and compliments Matilda on her skill.  Matilda simply replies that she practices because her mother says that, "natural ability is no substitute for hard work."  Hmmm who exactly is the mommy dearest who is raising this little bad ass?  When they hear Quinn's tracking dogs in the distance, Matilda instructs M.K. to come with her.

Sonny and Ryder arrive at the Widow's border and Ryder wants to press on in his search for M.K. Sonny is adamant that they cannot go into the  Widow's border with a Clipper force because it would be considered an act of war.  Sonny orders the Clippers back to the Fort and tells Ryder that if he doesn't like it, he should take it up with Quinn.

Matilda leads M.k. to the Widow's fortress.  This does not bode well, as last week, the Widow tried to get Sonny to bring M.K. to her.  M.K. learns that Matilda just happens to be the the Widow's daughter.  Matilda enters the fortress and interrupts her mother's training to inform her of their new arrival.

Back at Quinn's fortress, Sonny explains that M.K. crossed into the Widow's territory. Quinn questions what M.K. risked his life to steal and Ryder hands over M.K.'s amulet. Sonny reveals that M.K. said that his pendant came from his mother but is quick to lie about recognizing the symbol. Quinn declares that they have a traitor in their midst and Ryder is quick to promise to try and root that person out.  Quinn tells Ryder that while he appreciates his pledge, there's also the issue that last night, The Widow and her regent were attacked.  Quinn stops just short of accusing his son but a look says it all.  Quinn didn't get to the position of Baron by being a fool.

Matilda pours a bath for M.K. because he stinks but stays to watch as he disrobes and gets in the tub because the Widow said that Matilda is not allowed to let M.K. out of her sight.  M.K.  starts to relax in the tub, only to find that Matilda has left the room and he is now in the company of the Widow. The Widow starts to wash M.K.'s back as she questions him.  Is anyone else finding this at all creepy? The Widow is quick to call M.K. out on his lie about being a farmer because his hands are lily white and unmarred. The Widow is quick to assure M.K. that she is not like Quinn and has been searching for a boy his age. When the Widow shows M.K. an image of his pendant ,M.K. lies and says that he has never seen the image before and that there's nothing special about him.  Mercifully for M.K., and us, the bath is cut short when the Widow hears the sound of a horn and leaves to investigate the car that is approaching her fort.

At Blade's Edge (Rowan Summerwaite #4) By Lauren Dane

Rowan has been betrayed by the Hunter Corp, there’s a rot within it and she is done with it, she is done with tolerating it and she is done with good Hunters dying

Heads will roll.

Of course she’s also a married woman – which in many ways is far more daunting than something as simple as rebuilding the Hunter Corp from the ground up.

The problem I have – which is always difficult when I love a series as much as this one – is that this book doesn’t feel perfectly executed. This could, in part, be due to my very very high expectations. The big showdown with Roth and the Hunters seems just…. Way too simple. They kind of just moved in, yelled at people and made it happen, no twist, no issue.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not everything has to be a struggle after all, and one of the defining features of Roth is that he is incompetent. It’s one of the defining features of Hunter Corp in general – that they have the field agents who are experienced and skilled and the Office Agents who have no experience in the field and have spent far too much time dealing with things in theory and not nearly enough actual practical experience. So, yes it does make sense that Roth wouldn’t be a major challenge – that’s an ongoing issue through the books and it makes sense. Nor does everything need to be such an epic struggle and it’s not bad to have something handled well both because Rowan is so skilled, and, because Rowan is just this damn sick of this shit.

Which, I think, is another important element to point out – this goes so simply because Rowan is Done. She is Done with this. She is furious, she is betrayed, she is enraged and she is making sure this ends and things are changed. The simplicity reflects the strength and determination and power of Rowan who will Get Things Done no matter what.

But it still feels simple – I can understand it not being difficult, but it seemed to involve so little as well. It wasn’t only easy – but there wasn’t a lot to do. And when we handle that there’s just…. not much more left. Outside of the story we have Rowan and Clive’s relationship and them finding their position as husband and wife

The Leftovers, Season 2, Episode 9: Ten Thirteen

Time to catch up with Meg – apparently taking cocaine. I don’t know if this is Guilt Remnant behaviour or not, but it may not be relevant as it appears to be a flashback to before the Departure and when she still planned to get married. There’s a definite sense that Meg – and her mother – are both driven women when they have a cause. At least her mother was before her heart attack over lunch. That’s just rude (and an extreme way to dodge the bill!). She died a day before the Departure.

Meg went to visit Miracle with her fiancé – before the Guilty Remnant and the town was, even then, turning into a highly restricted police state. They go on the tour which includes some of the more eccentric members of the town. She also seems to have a habit of visiting psychics – including the hand-print psychic Isaac who quickly grasps exactly what Meg’s issues are.

Meg wants to know what her mother wanted to tell her before she died – but Isaac wisely points out that her mother didn’t know she was dying, the chances are that whatever she didn’t have chance to say would be so very mundane and irrelevant – and ultimately will not help Meg. Meg dismisses Isaac as a fraud since she’s sure the words must be so significant – and Isaac reveals he knew what her mother was eating at the café

See, this is one of those moments when my whole “everything about this show could be woo-woo or could be part of the problems and hysteria of the characters” pushes me much closer to the woo-woo side.

He tells her whatever it was – and she returns to her husband claiming he was fake. She sits and cries on a park bench and is met by Evie who comforts her with carrots, bad jokes and the sad claim that no-one finds what they’re looking for in Miracle.

And now Meg is and her Guilty Remnant re throwing grenades onto school buses – fake but still way out of line. Even her fellow GR are not happy about that – especially since Meg starts talking. Meg has gone so far they (GR bigwigs?) talk back to her. They claim they fear authority backlash – but Meg doesn’t buy it, especially since they’re willing to “stone each other to death” (which puts a very different spin on the death of Gladys). She’s also not buying the cryptic nonsense – nor does she think the GR is achieving it’s goal of preventing people from forgetting. People are moving on and healing. She wants a more violent approach – and is buying bombs and setting up her own little inner-cult.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Soul Warrior (Age of Kali #1) by Falguni Kothari

Karna, the Soul Warrior has a followed his duty for centuries – but he never imagined he would have a new duty pressed upon him: raising and training the 5 children of his brothers. And, surprise of all, his own child.

And, contrary to what the gods implied, they are all female. He never anticipated having to raise and train 6 women. And not while an ancient enemy is rising and his newly found daughter seems to be intimately connected to the upcoming battle.

That’s aside from her fraught relationship with the mother of those women.

I find myself on very uncertain ground while reading this book. This book is based extremely heavily on the Mahabharata, all the characters are drawn from the Mahabharata, the history is from the Mahabharata and most of the world setting, legends et al are from the Mahabharata.

By the prologue and explanatory notes make it very clear that the author has done a lot of research and study into the Mahabharata and is clearly very very very familiar with this story, its characters and its legend. I get an overwhelming sense that the author loves this story and this story and legend is immensely important and vital to her – and you can feel that in the book. This is a book by someone who has loved this epic and wanted it to continue, wanted to follow it further, not wanted it to end and wanted it to go on for far more awesomeness. The preamble also makes it clear that liberties have been taken with the original text and also that there are many different theories and takes on the original epic and which ones the author has chosen to follow.

While I, I am not immersed in or knowledgeable of the Mahabharata. I’ve read some of it though I have no idea how good or true those translations are. I am not even remotely qualified to say how true these characters are to the original epic, whether the author has done an excellent job of preserving the style or the feel of the original. I’m not going to try, I will only say there is a strong sense of effort, research and familiarity in this book.

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 10: Broken Heart

Killian and Zelena have a helpless Emma – and both bind her magic with Zelena’s leather cuff and strip her of her memories (Killian being a Dark One after all after the amazing and startling revelations of the last episode). Killian considers himself reborn – he has a bad history of darkness

And we have some flash backs of bad Dark one moments he had before his rebirth as his newly robed self. He gets his own hallucination Rumplestiltskin guide as well (who he tries to kill which is pretty hard to do with your own inner voice). Rumple starts tempting him straight away, trying to lure him with the temptation of vengeance against, uh, Rumple. That’s probably Freudian.

Back in Storybrooke Emma fills everyone in on her whole Killian is a Dark One thing. Regina is Not Impressed. Neither she nor Mary Margaret of the Wet Lettuce are particularly happy with her plan to kill Zelena either (Mary Margaret is only happy with the kidnapping and sacrifice of children. Still not over it). I wish to make it clear that I would have been totally pro-murdering-Zelena. And evil sexy leather Dark One pirates in eyeliner for that matter. Go Dark Swan, go!

Emma tried to isolate herself to control the darkness and in doing so she lost her support network and guidance of her friend and fellows. Regina offers to step in again while Mary Margaret wants their memories back to help fix the whole mess by dripping wetly on it. But Killian (“Captain Dark One” in the words of Regina) has stolen Emma’s Dreamcatchers

And he has gone (Dark One Killian not only has eyeliner and leather but also looks all rumpled and dishevelled. Evil is a good look on him) to visit Belle and Gold to unleash vengeance on Gold by challenging him to a duel (he also sexily creepily has adopted some of Rumple’s mannerism) on his ship – and with Gold being able to use Excalibur which can actually kill him

He may be easy on the eyes but he sucks at revenge. It doesn’t have the power to control him now because it’s whole but it can still kill him. Also Dark Killian has an amazing sexy evil grin.

Team good-guys-ish (Emma, Gold and the Charmings are included so… yeah… sorta good guys) consult and Emma is leery that Killian must be planning more than vengeance or why erase her memory? She also reveals who Nimue was since Merlin told them all that she’s the key to stopping the Dark One which is… somewhat cryptic. And no-one’s taking off Emma’s magic cuff. Not even Henry – because not even he trusts her any more.

Emma takes issue with Henry forgiving Regina and Gold (a fair point) but not her – though Henry points out they worked for it, they showed him they changed (ugh… yes for Regina. Gold?) while Emma has not – and she’s only shown herself wanting to work alone rather than part of a team. Henry leaves, Emma is devastated and of course Regina has

Monday, November 30, 2015

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 3, Episode 6: Liberum Arbitrium

Riario is back to visions and eye-drugs and general despair and someone/thing calling him “the monster of Italy” and generally not being well. Except Leo who is apparently trying to cure him.

Curing him involves chaining Riario up for his own sake and for the sake of the whole of Florence and having Leo of all people trying to bring him to lucidity. Leo has seen through Riario claiming he’s not part the Labyrinth along with an epic rant of having nothing to do with the Turks, Sons of Mithras, Labyrinth or anyone else demanding obedience and destruction in the name of god (who he doesn’t even think exists but think would be thoroughly disgusted if he did).

There follows some theological discussion with Leo thinking humanity is too terrible to be designed with Free Will while Riario defends it (an interesting twist. Personally I think free will + commandments on pain of pain = dubious free will anyway). Leo doubles down – Riario is the embodiment of man’s struggle between good and evil since he seeks piety and is a murderer. He says this while accusing Riario of the recent serial killings in Rome and Florence (including Clarice and Dragonetti). Riario splutters and tries to deny it while panting and hyperventilating and confused and lost.

The Labyrinth has damaged him, along with his doubts of them that stops him ever being “one” with them. Though he puts this down to his flaws, not the Labyrinth’s. He also saved Leo because, after everything they’ve endured, he couldn’t let Leo die – which Leo takes as a sign that Riario is redeemable. Riario of course starts ranting and lashing out with all a full on multiple-personality rant about how Leo broke him by introducing guilt and shame.

Time for chemistry (including with poison arrow frogs? What did he bring them back from South America? When? Why?) and more multiple personality rambling from Evil!Riario talking about… uh… Also-Evil!Riario.

Of course, this scene is starting to be about Riario – we have to quickly change it to be about Leo and he accuses Leo of being terribad evil and even worse than him because of all Leo’s shiny war machines.

Zoroaster and Leo had a field trip planned for research but Leo has to hastily cancel with Riario ranting and rambling and cackling away in the background (and this show really really should never ever try to make gay jokes under any circumstances).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Haven, Season 5, Episode 22: A Matter of Time

Haven is now trapped in the Void – desperately trying to move a huge rock while at the same time feeling all kinds of woozy because humans and the Void are not a good combination (kind of like me and the seaside). William is still convinced Mara is out there, ranting away until Nathan snaps and tells him that Mara is well and truly gone.

Oddly, the cave bleeds Aethur when Nathan throws a rock in frustration. William smugly knows Nathan will now help him so William can give him a new Trouble with the Aether. Nathan isn’t a fan of this plan but lacking options he gives William Aether. And he promptly betrays Nathans and creates a wolf-man to lift the rock pinning him because of course he does.

While being pinned by the big monster, Nathan tries to convince William that Mara only used William and instead jumped right on Duke as soon as she could, never looking for William

In Haven Duke and Audrey look for Hayley who wants to keep her Trouble even as Audrey is sure there must be a downside – there is, it’s dangerous. To emphasise that point they find Hayley merged with an iron fence which looks most unpleasant. She is alive – but she’s stuck on the bars of the fence which are the only things stopping her from bleeding to death.

Audrey writes her off – Hayley is dead dead dead – so can she open the portal please? (She manages to be a little kinder than that). So it’s Duke’s job to convince her – she decides everything is everyone else’s fault and she’d rather die than save the whole town.

Audrey suggests plan B – Duke kill Hayley and absorb her power. Duke vetoes that plan – he’s going to talk her into it.

Duke does both – tragically saying goodbye, telling her she has a chance to do something good and as she slowly dies he speeds things up by pulling her a little further on the bars (lots of praise for this scene – it was excellently tragic). Duke absorbs her power and her blood. Duke has his angsty moment of being destined to save Haven – but what he has to do for it is terribad tragic.

They open the Thinny – and in the void William rescues Nathan and lets him go. For… reasons? Nathan decides to give William his ring so William can find his own way home to his people before Nathan joins Duke and Audrey (I’d laugh so hard if Nathan dropped the control crystal).

He hasn’t – so they can make the new barn and banish Croatoan. Except, of course, they have absolutely no damn clue what to do with it.