Saturday, January 30, 2016

The 100, Season Three, Episode Two: Wanheda: Part 2

Lexa is back.  I for one am not overly excited about this given that the last time we saw her, she was  breaking her agreement with Clarke, thus forcing Clarke to make an impossible decision. Yeah, I'm old fashioned and want Clarke to settle down with a nice girl. I'm totally team Niylah. Don't mind me, I know I'm in the minority. I really should have seen this coming, particularly given that when Roan had the chance to hand Clarke over to the Ice Nation, he chose to hide her.

Okay let's start back at the beginning.  The crew is out searching for Clarke having learned from Indra that Clarke is in danger.  They follow the trail but end up in an ambush and are quickly over powered by you guessed it, their own people.  It seems that the ark people that they were looking for have not only landed on earth, but had made quite a go of  surviving.  What I want to know is why team rescue Clakre were ambushed in the first place given that the Grounders don't have the kind of technology to run that vehicle.  It's a bittersweet moment for Monty, who is reunited with his mother, only to learn that his father died in an attack by the Ice Nation. We also got a new character of colour in the form of Pike.  I absolutely love Michael Beach and think he's an awesome actor.  I do however wonder how long he will live given how much he hates the Grounders and refuses to make any distinction between the various factions?

An injured Nyko makes his way to  Arkadia. Despite Abbie's best efforts, she is unable to save Nyko without the advanced technology of Mount Weather.  It's a risk to take a Grounder to the mountain given their history with it but with the only option being allowing Nyko to die, Lincoln makes the call.  Abbie for some reason  decides to take Jasper along for the ride. I suppose this is meant to be a confront your demons sort of moment.

Jasper has more manpain over the loss of Maya. The whole thing is well acted by Deven Bostick but I'm not really sympathetic.  Jasper has known Maya for a New York minute and as a viewer, I was never particularly attached to this character. Abby takes the opportunity to warn Jasper that if he doesn't get a grip, he is going to end up like Finn. Jasper however counters that Clarke killed Finn as well. Ooooh mega mega burn; however let's all remember, Finn was responsible for a mass murder and by killing him, Clarke saved him a shit ton of pain.

Then we have Jaha, who has totally embraced the City of Light where there's no pain and no death. I love that Murphy wants no part of the kool aid.  Murphy makes his escape with Emori, who I expect will betray him again at some point, even if she is momentarily thankful that Murphy saved her life when she tried to steal ALIE's tech. My big guess right now is that all humans are going to become avatars and that will finally solve ALIE's Malthusian obsession with the over population of the world. That Jaha has bought into this shows how far gone he is.  When he finally arrives back at Arkadia, Jaha is going to be a problem.

I don't think Wanheda Part 2 was nearly as polished as the first episode of this season. The point seemed to be the big reveal that not only is Lexa still alive, she wants something from Clarke.  It's clear that Lexa needs Clarke's help because the Ice Nation is on the move.  It's also clear that as much as Clarke doesn't want to help Lexa, she will have no choice because the Ice Nation will pose a threat to Arkadia.  Clarke didn't kill three hundred Mt. Weather people to turn around allow the Ice Nation to kill off her people.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 12:Judgement Fae

That sound you heard was the tortured Lost Girl cannon finally screaming and giving up any attempt at coherence.

Anyway through a random dead Black person, the gang learns that Zeus hasn’t actually been banished (y’know, there were a literal 10,000 ways they could possibly have revealed this without a random Black lady dying but of course it had to). Everyone has a bit of a panic especially since she’s gone to see Hephaestus for a shiny new weapon.

This, naturally, worries everyone so they need to go see Hephaestus themselves (conveniently Zeus-depossesses Elizabeth so she can be both annoying and give everyone lost and lots of guidance on how to do this).

This involves some kind of weird test that means Bo has to play lawyer in the weirdest court room ever. This convoluted test basically is meant to be a big life lesson about how you need to support the people you love rather than “protect” them by making decisions for them. It’s so clumsy as to make Bella Swan look like an elegant ballerina.

This does get Bo to see Hephaestus and Zeus drops in – now possessing Lauren to basically say that Hades is super terrible awful and not to be trusted (in case we never realised this) and that the fae-conduit thing in Lauren is totally not good for her health (she’s also been forgetting things throughout the episode to prove the point). Hera makes a brief appearance to possibly kill Bo but then she and Zeus decide not to and instead to return to eternal banishment in Myth. But not before having Hephaestus make Bo a horseshoe and embracing Bo as her niece. Because that’s useful. I suppose we all have that one relative who buys weird presents we end up putting in the loft and dragging out once a year so we don’t offend them.

I honestly can’t even begin to grasp what Zeus is up to at this point. Even Tamsin’s motivations have been more stable. She wanted to take over the world, then not. Unleash Nyx, then kill Bo now save Bo and who even knows any more? And now she’s decided to banish herself and Hera? Why? What sense does this make? Hera’s even saying “hey we hated it in there!” but Zeus just says “trust me” because she can’t possibly explain her complete lack of anything resembling motive. Or sense.

So Bo has her shiny horseshoe which, I’m sure, will be so very important at some point.

Time to hit some relationship drama – but don’t worry, they also have the same utter lack of anything resembling common sense as well.

Sense8, Season One, Episode Eight: We Will All Be Judged by the Courage of Our Hearts

In the aftermath of watching the coma patient killing himself, Nomi and Amanita sit watching the sunrise.  This is a moment of dissonance for Nomi because the sunrise is so beautiful yet she is very much haunted by what she experienced in Metzger's apartment the night before.  We move right to another moment of dissonance and this time, it's Kala crying at a movie in a theater while her entire family is crying.  Kala excuses herself to go to the washroom and it's there that she sees Wolfie. Clearly, Kala is feeling Wolfie's sadness.

Kala and Wolfie move to a hospital in Germany, where Wolfie is sitting by Felix's bedside.  Wolfie blames himself for what happened to Felix, saying that he wanted to prove something.  This is clearly a reference to Wolfie's daddy issues.  Wolfie talks about how he met Felix in detention.  Felix was a regular and for Wolfie it was his first time.  We learn that Wolfie and Felix used to cut school as kids to watch movies together.  As a Russian, Wolfie was the kid everyone hated but Felix always stood by his side.  Felix even protected Wolfie from his drunk and abusive father.  Wolfie calls Felix his brother "and not by something as accidental as blood but by something much stronger." While this conversation is about Wolfie and Felix, it also speaks to the relationship the Sense8s have to each other. It's something which they cannot define which connects them though they have no blood relationship and come from different places, just like Wolfie and Felix.

Lito awakes to a call from Daniela, who is calling to say that everything is okay now and that he doesn't have to worry.  It's telling that Hernando's concern is about whether or not Daniela is coming back and Lito wants assurances that the problem has been handled.  Hernando questions if Daniela agreed to stay with her abuser while Lito can only fixate on what he perceives to be good news.

Capheus pays a visit to Jela and is not given a warm greeting by Jela's wife.  When Jela complains that his marriage is strained because he is home, Capheus suggests that it's time for Jela to come back to work.  I suppose seeing a man's hands shopped off in front of you is reason enough to understand that it's time to leave before the same thing happens to you.  Capheus wants to do clean work. Jela's wife is excited to be rid of her husband when she learns the news.

Sun continues to struggle with sewing and so her helper turns to aid her.  Sun notes that the woman will never get to go outside if she continues to offer her aid. The bully attempts to take Sun's teachers finished work and is tripped by Sun.  Oh it looks like things are going to get rough in prison. Finally finished her sewing, Sun is let out into the yard where she sees her teacher painting a mural of happier times.  Sun is offered a paintbrush and is told that sometimes it feels good to remember.  Sun paints herself and her mother but its quickly ruined by the bully who is not happy about being tripped. The bully accuses Sun of thinking that she is better than she and quickly attacks.  Sun gets the upperhand and asks the women and her henchmen to stop fighting because she doesn't want to hurt them.  Sun is stabbed for her trouble but manages to take out the bully before the guards arrive and separate the women.  Sun is placed in solitary and a prisoner delivers her some food in thanks for what she did for her teacher.  Among the utensils, Sun finds a paintbrush.  Will this be a new form of expression for Sun?  In many ways she has been so crafted by her father.

Will is dressed and ready for work but finds himself in Riley's childhood home.  Riley gives him a tour, stopping to point out Gunnar's piano.  Will notes a picture of Riley's mother, Riley reveals that her mother passed away.  Gunnar delivers a coffee to Riley and Will learns that they take their coffee the same way.  Will questions why Riley stayed away so long given how nice her home and how nice Gunnar seems.  Riley isn't interested in answering and simply says that a lot of things are hard to talk about. Now it's Riley's turn to visit Will in his apartment and he invites her to come to Chicago, promising to show her around. Riley returns the favor offer to show Will around Reykjavik.  Will wants to see  Eyjafjallajökull in particular.  Riley is overwhelmed when she sees a train go by. Their mutual fascination with each other's homes turns to attraction and the two kiss. Unfortunately for Will, Diego walks in and to Diego, it looks like Will is just kissing air and not a person because he cannot see Riley. Will does not even try to make an excuse.

Kala sits with the wedding planners who believe that the horoscope for the new date is even better. The planners ask about holding the wedding at the temple of Ganesha and Manendra is clearly not impressed. It's not surprising given that he sees everything Indian as backward.

Shiro is feeling much better and is up on her feet cooking for Capheus. Shiro teases Capheus about being far too thin.  Shiro knows that something is wrong and Capheus explains that he won't be able to get the medicine anymore but Shiro simply says that troubles like this don't seem so bad over a full stomach.  Githu bursts in and interrupts the family moment. Githu explains that he had a sister and they were as close as Shiro and Capheus, that is until Silas killed her.  This is another example of the men in in Capheus's circle connecting to their humanity by the women in their lives.  When Githu points his gun at Shiro, Capheus stands in front of his mother.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Divinity Circuit (Senyaza #5) by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Corbin and Marley circled around a relationship – until he disappeared without a trace for a very long time.

Now he’s back – and he’s changed. He’s consumed by rage and anger and hate against his family and the Senyaza corporation he worked for. That same corporation also wants Marley to bring him back into the fold… while quietly hiding why they may deserve his scorn

It doesn’t help that Senyaza is also suspected of shenanigans by the government organisation  Branwyn’s sister works for – which would be enough to enrage Branwyn – if it weren’t for another her creations in the hands of a potentially murderous angel which will lead to more of her morals being compromised.

This world is vast and strange and huge and original. With the celestial beings (angels and Kaiju), the fae, the various offspring of these beings and their myriad powers, a very original magic system, celestial machines with a will of their own and even sentient buildings – there’s a huge amount there

And none of it is simple. It would be easy to create a vast world and then have the good creatures and the bad creatures and the naughty organisation and the nice one. But it’s not that simple because everyone and everything is scrabbling to hold their corner while the whole world is changing with the recent revelation of the supernatural. It leaves no organisation necessarily evil and none necessarily good – but all of them doing things that are… unpleasant and dubious as they try to keep up with the newly changing world. Whether that’s the government agency that Bronwyn’s sister works for weaponising her inventions, working with dubious angels and trying to set up magical-people registers or Senyaza callously risking the life of one of their own for an advantage and, again, perverting one of Branwyn’s creations way beyond her expectations

And our protagonists aren’t immune to this – making deals with Senyaza, making deals with Kaiju, working with beings that were once their sworn enemy. It’s hard to stick to your morals when family and loved ones are involved.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 11: Into The Mystery

This week we had a monster of the week episode which was kind of fun. I think that Supernatural does well to have some of these on a regular basis even if I would call it filler on most other series. Supernatural is so damn long – 11 seasons now – and so often uses GREAT BIG META that it really needs these random monster missions in order to remind us that the brothers are hunters, to hold on to the core of the show. They are hunters, not people who come back from the dead so often they could start a thousand new religions in between saving and imperilling the world. These stories remind us they are hunters, they are doing good things and are generally out there fighting the good fight

It leaves me little to say about the plot – the standard happens: monster, red herring, research, kill.

The introduction of Eileen was good – she’s a deaf hunter who wants to bring down the Banshee who killer her parents (with requisite “revenge won’t save you” speech which we always always always got. Seriously the genre needs to just copy and paste that and stop pretending it’s new). She is physically capable (unusual for any representation of disabled characters), she is knowledgeable about Banshee ways (she is not only equipped but shows Sam and Dean some of the skills she has for taking down the Banshee) and she (aided by Mildred) is the one who actually kills the Banshee. It was also nice to see a capable, skilled female character who didn’t need to be taught by Sam and Dean

And she lives. Yes I did expect her to become a corpse. She was a good character, capable and on part with Sam and Dean.

I think Mildred was interesting. In general the media doesn’t do well with the depiction of a sexual older woman: they’re often shown as pathetic or comic relief. While I think Mildred was meant to be FUNNY, I don’t think she was meant to be comic – she was meant to be fun. If we laughed it would be with her, if she was funny it because she was playing and having fun; and while Dean started out obviously uncomfortable to begin with, he warmed into it without him being repelled or horrified.

But the flip side and why I’m uncertain is would this be seen as fun and cute if she WEREN’T seen as inherently sexless and completely non-sexually-threatening. If she was seen as a valid sexual person making advances on someone who was uninterested would it be seen as cute?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Doctor Who: The Stone Rose (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #7) by Jacqueline Rayner

Doctor Who: The Stone Rose

An excited Mickey brings Rose, The Doctor and Jackie to the museum because he has a surprise for them.  When Rose sees a statue of herself she cannot believe how the sculptor captured every last detail about her.  It's not long before she realises that this means that she has to travel back to Ancient Rome to sit for it.  In a blink the Doctor and Rose find themselves caught up in a search for a missing boy and trying to out think a Genie.

Often books based on television series tend to miss the mark in their characterisation but I am happy to report that is not the case with The Stone Rose.  Rayner gave us the Doctor's anger, his logic, his quick wit and more than anything else, his love and concern for Rose.  The banter between Rose and the Doctor was absolutely perfect and reminded how much I loved the two of them together.

As much as I thought that Rayner nailed her characters, the story itself felt confused and a bit all over the place.  When Rose and the Doctor first land in ancient Rome, they begin by looking for a young boy who has gone missing.  Then the issue becomes about a young man who has always wanted to be an artist and develops the ability to  turn living people into stone.  This quickly shifts to AI (artificial intelligence) genie which grants wishes and nearly destroys mankind.  If you can follow all of that then there are the paradoxes and the leaping around in time. Yes, Doctor Who is all about a clever man with a blue box travelling through time but it should be somewhat easy to follow. By the end of the story, I couldn't tell whether I was coming or going. In short there were too many paradoxes to make sense. 

Some of the characters also felt extremely extraneous.  Lucius Aelius Rufus exists simply to get the Doctor into the Colosseum to fight as a gladiator - a scene which essentially added nothing to the story whatsoever. Yes, the Doctor is always running around in an almost manic state and often takes on the bad guys in battle but it is supposed to fit into the framework of the story and not feel like an additive.  It's almost as though Rayner went into this determined to get the Doctor into the Colosseum and twisted the story to ensure that it happened.

Teen Wolf, Season 5, Episode 14: The Sword and the Spirit

Gerard and Chris are still around (and Gerard hasn’t been killed) exploring the tunnels under the town because that’s what everyone here seems to do when they have some down time. At least the Dread Doctors are there so they’re not just randomly exploring for funsies. They makes lots of foreboding noises about the Beast not being killable (except, apparently, by a young woman with a spear). I think Chris is supposed to be impressed and intimidated by this family story but, instead, he manages to convey “my granddad was really stoned if he believed that”

They don’t find the Beast. Gerard is not horribly horribly murdered – but they do find a whooooollllle lot of bodies: the Dread Doctors have been hiding the Beast’s kills.

Those bodies are brought to the hospital where it worries Parrish who has had ominous dreams about said bodies. It also has the Sheriff dish out the REALLY BIG GUNS to the police and then send them wandering around school (the police actually look no older than the students and this generally looks like a really really bad idea. Besides, isn’t like half the student body werekanimawendigos now?)

Liam and Scott also investigate the tunnels because this town just has nothing else fun to do on a weekend (and Malia told Liam to tell Scott to go there – and Liam being Liam he decided to go alone. AND STILL DIDN’T DIE! Really, a damn fool teenager goes into spooky tunnels alone, I demand they get brutally murdered for the sake of the gene pool!). Scott and Liam kinda sorta reconcile except Liam still has all kind of guilt. Which he totally should. Shaaaaame on the baby wolf! Shame!

They also run into Gerard and Chris (how does ANYTHING hide down these tunnels? Down a side passage they find the cheerleading squad and the chess club is meeting past the third storm drain) and Scott is every bit as much a fan of Gerard still being alive as I am. Still he apparently knows useful things. Except “useful” means “the beast is dangerous and kills people and also makes ominous murals!” which is not exactly news. One of those murals also indicates the big bad enemy of the Beast – a Hellhound

Yes, that would be Parrish. They decide to test his hellhoundness by trying to burn out his eye with a blowtorch (because Gerard is awful). I though his houndiness had already been confirmed before the break? This also comes with a story of Parrish as a soldier in Afghanistan (reminding us, again, that he’s far too old for Lydia) and how a bomb blew off all his clothes except the curiously resistant army shorts. They should make tanks out of that stuff.

Malia is still working with Braeden to find her mother, the Desert Wolf, and Deaton her belatedly remembered captive. She decides to accept Theo’s help

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anna and the Vampire Prince (Anna Strong Chronicles #9.5) by Jeanne C. Stein

Anna and the Vampire Prince (Anna Strong Chronicles, #9.5)

Anna has finally found happiness and love in her romantic life with her shifter husband Frey. Unfortunately life often delivers the good with the bad and for Anna this means mourning the death of her mother. When Frey and her step son John-John return to the America, Anna decides to stay behind and help her father and niece adjust to their loss. 

Someone has been kidnapping young girls and even after the parents pay the ransom the girls are still murdered.  This new story goes from something awful to something close to home when Trish's best friend is abducted one day.  Deciding that poor Trish has suffered enough loss for someone so young, Anna decides that no matter she is going to find  Cecily but to do that she has to enlist the aid of one the world oldest vampires - Vlad.  With time quickly running out Anna learns that there's much more to this rash of kidnappings than what the human authorities think.

 Anyone new to the Anna Strong Chronicles will really not have a hard time following this story though it is 9.5 in the series.  Stein does a good job of telling her story without requiring readers to have a lot of knowledge about her world; however, this means that for longtime readers, there's really not much on offer except the fact that Anna has settled into married life which we knew at the end of Blood Bond.   That's not really a lot to offer readers after a three year hiatus, particularly when we were lead to believe that Blood Bond would be the last in the series. I understand that a short story is meant to be a vignette but this just felt shallow particularly given that Anna got her HEA at the end of the last book.

It really is not helped that at least a good portion of the plot is recycled.  Once again we were given the specter of vampires seeking to take over the earth and use humans as blood bags and servants.  This issue was already settled so the only reason to go over this territory again is perhaps a shortage of ideas on the part of Stein.  Fortunately, because this is a short story, it didn't last long enough for me to be completely bored but it reading it was about as exciting as watching we paint beige paint dry bland...bland...bland.

Where Stein did go right was the discussion of France's xenophobia and it's treatment of migrant workers.  Given recent world events like the murders at Charlie Hebdo, the Paris attacks, and the UN calling out France for its failure "to curtail the soaring trend of violence, hate and xenophobic speech against foreign communities", the plot line of Anna and the Vampire is at least on point when it comes to current events.  The problem is that something this series cannot even remotely begin to be discussed in one book, let alone a short story. It's reductive at best and fails to give the subject matter the seriousness that it deserves.  I don't object that Stein went there, I object to the fact it felt like she barely committed to the point she was trying to make, particularly when the last part of the book is filled with Vlad's abdication of power and his declaration of love for Anna. 

Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, Season One, Episode Three: Dead Man's Party

So. when last we left this wretched show, Simon had been kidnapped and Clary learned that she's Valentine's daughter.  The mission is now to get Simon back.  Naturally, Alec is against helping Clary and spends his time pouting and yelling at Jace. I am totally getting the whole bros before ho's vibe thing here and it's so dated and not at all cool. Someone is jealous alright; however, I don't see why I should give a shit whatsoever. 

Just like Clary, we are learning about the Shadow world.  It seems that not only do Shadowhunters exist but so do vampires and seelie.  Clary is determined that they need a plan to save Simon because Simon would do anything for her.  It's worth noting that despite her earnestness and determination about saving Simon, naturally she has to take time out to flirt with Jace and this is unfortunate for us because these two have some awful onscreen chemistry.  Despite Alec's determination, Jace goes against the wishes of his parabatti and decides to help Clary but first they need to get weapons.

Jace and Clary make a little run to a vampire bar and Jace decides to use Clary as bait.  Clary is quick to be caught up in the vampires magic but not to worry, it's Jace to the rescue and they steal the vampires motorcycle.  In the meantime, Isabelle is off to see a Seelie for information and naturally she has sex with him to procure it. I swear Victoria Secrets models pose less than Isabelle did in this scene.  Is the show trying to hawk the lingerie they had the actress wearing?  This btw is one of the worst sex scenes I've ever seen. 

Poor Simon. who is a prisoner of the vampires just don't know what to do.  At first he begs for release saying that he won't report them because he hasn't seen their faces. only to realise that it doesn't matter because he is a captive of vampires. Raphael rightly finds Simon extremely irritating but is not forced to tolerate Simon for long because Camille takes over.  It seems that sex as an interrogation method is the plan for Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments because it's not long before Simon and Camille are getting all cuddly on the couch and he's licking her neck and giving her hickeys.  Did anyone really need a close up of this? Furthermore, why would a vampire as old as Camille apparently is resort to getting cuddly with a mundane when she could just you know, scare the shit out of him?  Sex is supposed to sell, but it's not selling me on this show. 

I'm sure you can guess the rest but if not, here's the cliffnotes version.  The overly dressed and overly stylized scooby crew manages to save Simon. Clary and Simon embrace causing Jace to scowl and get all jealous.  Jace in turn has to check Alec's jealousy and not a damn thing is resolved about Valentine. How exciting folks. 

The Magicians, Season 1, episode 2: The Source of Magic

After the bug creature attack – known rather imaginatively as “The Beast” of last week, we get the aftermath. Between Kady throwing battle magic, the Dean giving a watch to Qunetin and Alice doing something crafty they managed to make the bug creature flee. But then boss lady Professor Pearl does some investigating because she knows that the only way the bug man could have got through the school’s wards is if someone did something very unwise.

Like, y’know, performing a séance.

Lots of stress follows – Alice and Quentin both freak out because the idea of being expelled is terrible for them. Alice needs to find out what happened to her brother (and we learn, through some friendship bonding with Margot, that Alice basically got into the school from sheer awesomeness rather than actually passing the exams). Quentin is supported by Elliot who continually tries to comfort Quentin’s fears and guilt (including a past story of his own accidentally murdering someone as well as pointing out little magical disasters are not unknown at the school).

Margot and Elliot seem to be the background oh-so-amusing supportive friends without any real roles to play.

Quentin also takes a break to talk about how his fantasy books are totally real because the author of the Fillory series had lots of people disappear around him. Quentin that just means your favourite author was a serial killer who is good at hiding the bodies.

Penny has his own issues since he thinks the voice in his head is actually the Beast – which means he’s been lied to and manipulated all this time. He wants to leave school but, when Kady convinces him to stay, he apparently throws Quentin under the bus instead.

Faced with memory wipe and expulsion at least Quentin realises how shoddy his treatment of and dismissal of Julia was last episode. Because he wants something from her. But baby steps I guess.

The Magicians, Season 1, Episode 1: Unauthorised Magic

We begin really nicely showing off the CGI and pretty magic realm and two characters being nicely ominous

Unfortunately they’re being slightly ominous in a very very ropey way. Apparently there’s something big and scary coming, time is running out and they need someone young to save them all

Yes, it’s amazing how many times the world needs to be saved by completely ignorant, untrained teenagers rather than experienced professionals. Funny how that works out

So to out Gary Stu Chosen One – Quentin Coldwater (really? Really? Quentin? We’re going with that?) In classic style he is, of course an outcast and misunderstood and isolated and sad and he’s even taking medication for depression (don’t get your hopes up – this isn’t a case of a disabled protagonist – it’s the woo-woo looks like mental illness trope). Y’know, just once I’d like to see a misunderstood outcast character who didn’t look like they could work as a model. Outcasts don’t usually look like that.

This show does have a very CW-ish everyone must be gorgeous feel to it.

Anyway, Quentin is obsessed with magic and a childhood fantasy book called Fillory while his friends try to convince him to grow up and join the real world. Except, not surprisingly to anyone, magic turns out to be real and there’s even a school to teach potential students this: Brakebills

Let’s be clear now that naming things is not one of this series strongpoint

Brakebills works by magically kidnapping potential students, throwing them into a room and demanding they perform a written exam (which, for some bewildering reason, they actually do rather than yell “what the hell is this and why is the writing moving and oh my god what did I drink?! Did you drug me?! HELP POLICE!”). Quentin-our-definite-chosen-one passes with some nifty CGI (the effects are damn good) which impresses Headmaster Dean.

This leads to a brief introduction of the school where people are sorted into different groups according to their magical specialty which at least makes more sense than mind reading millinery.

We also have the introduction of the 80 squillion characters

Elliot, older student who is sarcastic
Margo, older student who likes fun (also one of the show’s three POC)
Penny, (a man despite the name) student who hears voices (second of the show’s three POC) and has floating sex with Kady
Kady, student who has floating sex with Penny
Alice, over-achieving serious, studious girl who I am really trying NOT to compare with certain over female characters in similar franchises
Julia, the character I actually want to be the protagonist – Quentin’s long suffering childhood friend who keeps trying to support his awkwardness
James, Julia’s boyfriend and Quentin’s best friend who is quite normal as far as I can see

That’s a lot of characters which means a lot of them simply cannot be developed, no way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lucifer, Season One, Episode One: Pilot

Lucifer Morningstar (that's right the devil) has decided to take a little vacation from hell.  This doesn't mean however that he is willing to stop using his powers, enjoying his immortality or inserting himself into the lives of humans.  Lucifer may be enjoying his little vacation but Amenadiel, an angel from heaven has other ideas.  It seems that with Lucifer's absence in hell an imbalance has been created thus giving the demons some unwelcome ideas.   Amenadiel is determined that Lucifer return home but Lucifer is enjoying his time on earth far too much.

When a woman whose career, Lucifer gave a helpful nudge is gunned down right in front of him, Lucifer is determined to make the guilty party pay.  That is after all what Lucifer does right?  Enter Detective Chloe Dancer. who for some reason seems immune to Lucifer's charms.  Though she's told to quickly close the case, Chloe is determined to get to the bottom of things. This has Chloe and Lucifer butting heads until she agrees to allow him to aid in her investigation.

I have to say that almost from the word go, I loved this first episode.  It introduced us to the world, was well acted and written and the soundtrack was killer. Tom Ellis as Lucifer is some of the best casting I've seen in a long time.  He really carries the show.  It's clear that we have some sexual tension going on between Lucifer and Chloe from the onset; however, for me, it really served as a distraction. I can already tell that this is going to go down the will they or won't they road, which far too many shows employ as a device. That being said, going forward, the idea of Lucifer as a detective investigating crime is well odd so we will have to wait and see how long they can keep the cheese good.

Lucifer seems to be able to get people to tell him their darkest desires.  It's a skill that we see him use on both men and women, yet somehow when it comes to his sex appeal, it only seems to work on women.  This makes absolutely no sense.  He gives off such strong sexual vibes why wouldn't men be turned on?  It's only the first episode and they are already amping up his hypermasculinity by presenting his supposed heterosexuality.  I think a being like Lucifer would be outside of the sexual bullshit that humans engage in. Furthermore, Lucifer is set in Los Angelos of all places and thus far, we have yet to meet an LGBT character.  It's about as ridiculous as an all White New York City. that we saw on Friends or an all straight San Francisco that we saw on Charmed.

So far we have been introduced to three characters of colour:  Amenadiel, Mazikeen and Dan.  Dan it turns out is Chloe's ex husband and he is not at all supportive of her.  When I saw that Dan is being played by Kevin Alejandro, I immediately wrote this character off though he is in 13 episodes. It's not that I don't like Alejandro, it's just that he has a tendency to suddenly die on whatever show he appears on.  Mazikeen is a demon and she is not impressed that she left hell with Lucifer to work as a bartender.  Clearly, she is going to play the role of his sidekick and so I hope that they develop her into a worthwhile character quickly.  As aforementioned, Amenadiel, is an angel from heaven determined to send Lucifer back to hell. This week, we got Stric9. a rapper whom Lucifer originally believed had something to do with the death that he is investigating.  I really dislike watching this white man (yeah, I know he's playing Lucifer) go on a rant about how he disliked rap but approved of Blues.  I don't care that he's Lucifer, Black people don't need a white man issuing orders about which parts of our culture he approves of. Thanks but no thanks.

Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands, Season One, Episode Four

It's time for the vote to decide who will be the next Jarl.  Rheda is not the least bit certain that the vote will go her way and is worried that should it not, she will be forced to fight to the death.  The only thing that Rheda has determined is that no matter what happens on this day, she will emerge victorious and claim the title of Jarl.  This determination leads to an unexpected alliance.  It seems that while Rheda is not willing to tie herself to a man for the sake of power, she is not above forcing Slean to marry.  Rheda does this with the full knowledge that Slean is in love with Elvina.  Later, Rheda justifies her decision to Beowulf claiming that that she has seen the way that Elvina looks at him and it's certainly not the way that she looks at Slean.

Slean does have one card to play.  He knows that the traitor is actually his uncle Abrecan.  Instead of coming clean with this fact, Slean decides instead to blame Rate and his people.  How this makes any possible sense is beyond me.  At any rate, as far as Slean is concerned, Abrecan now owes him one and Rheda got to have her show of strength by pushing Rate and his people out of the alliance. Abrecan however makes it clear that he is better suited to ensure that Slean becomes Jarl than Rheda. The only that's clear thus far is that Slean is clearly hedging his bets.

To complete her position, Rheda must now send a dowry of swords and so she tasks Beowulf and Elvina with this task.  Naturally. Brecca tags along as Beowulf's second.  After a small run in with Vishka. in which she claims that Brecca is not man enough to be her mother, Brecca is irked to say the least.  Really, for Vishka, this is about the fact that despite being a good fighter her gender keeps her from having any excitement at all.  Vishka decides to follow along behind and not having any experience, stumbles into a sacred burial ground and takes a sacred item. It seems that Vishka took on more than she could handle.  This leads to Vishka being injured and the crew having to go on the run for the offence she unintentionally committed.

On one hand, I think that the fact that Vishka got into so much trouble and is injured evidences that she lacks real life experience.  No matter how skilled she is with a sword, nothing makes up for that. On the other hand, it also feels a bit like punishment for Vishka daring to step outside of her gender role and seek adventure, rather than being content to just listen to the stories and celebrate the male heroes that she is presented.  I hope that as this little journey moves forward,  Vishka will have a chance to show her skills beyond weapons forging.

Now that Rheda is officially Jarl, she is not content to follow Abrecan's lead and this pisses him off to the point that he gets snippy with her and has to apologise.  Rheda is forced to make it clear to her brother that she intends to rule.  For her, this means making a set of standard rules which all will follow.  This will take power away from the Thanes, who are used to presiding over justice in their territories.  It's a bold move considering that her rule hangs by the balance and she has yet to solidify anything, I'm not certain it's the wisest.  At this point, I have really become a fan of Rheda.  She is a strong character who refuses to hide behind a man and intends to leave her own mark.

A Deafening Silence in Heaven (Remy Chandler #7) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

The Archangel Remiel, now living as the human PI, Remy is struck low by an assassin’s bullet and apparently dying. Only Francis, Linda, Squire and his faithful dog Marlowe can try and bring him back to life before the assassins finish him off

While Remy’s soul is missing, to a different world, a different Earth – one where the worst has happened and the greatest dream of god and angel has been cruelly destroyed. He must find the truth in this apocalyptic waste land, try to find some way to fix the horrors – and perhaps learn a warning for his own world

I am torn about this book.

A large part of it involves following Remy into an alternate reality. No, let me reassess that – nearly every part of this book, certainly every really relevant part of this book involves Remy in an alternate reality. And… this is book 7 in a series and nearly all of the book was… kind of irrelevant to the overarching series? All the action, the people they met, the foes vanquished, the darkness faced is, at best, a cautionary tale for the main series. All of the action in the book is, at best, a warning for what could happen, a prequel, more than the actual story itself.

It doesn’t help that one of the main twists of the last book and another source of conflict is so… downplayed. The Bone Assassin’s attack on Remy seems to come from a very mundane source. I’m not going to spoil it, and it’s certainly an unexpected twist but, again, it’s another major plot element that doesn’t really seem to fit into the overall scheme of the series.

This gives me the odd feeling that the whole book is a time out, an intermission between the main plot, maybe even a new prologue for the new major plot line. I suspect the latter mainly because of the whole burgeoning storyline of the Unification.

The plot of God forgiving Satan and the Fallen Angels and reunifying the broken lands of Heaven, Hell and Eden is clearly going to be an immense, incredible storyline. Which may be the purpose of this book – while it’s not directly contacted to the main storyline of the series, it is there to tell us what is at stake. This is the worst case scenario. This is exactly what could happen if the following plot lines go wrong. This is just how terribly wrong Unification could go. This shows that, while Unification may be a wonderful, shiny thing, it also takes a whole lot of effort and there is immense risk connected to it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wickedly Ever After (Baba Yaga #2.5) by Deborah Blake


We first meet Barbara and Liam in Wickedly Magical.  Barbara is the modern version of the infamous Russian with. In Wickedly Wonderful along with solving a mystery, Barbara fell in love with Liam, a human sheriff.  Now in her eighties, though she looks to be in her late twenties or early thirties, Barbara is tired of a solitary life. and is relieved to have found a husband and a young child to train as her replacement. Barbara now has the family she never knew she wanted and couldn't be any happier.  Having completed a human marriage Barbara knows that for marriage to really work she needs the blessing of the Otherworld Queen because without her approval, Barbara will far outlive her new husband and be forced to watch him grow old and die.  Naturally, nothing can run smoothly in Barbara's life and she finds the shoe on the other foot when she is given three impossible tasks to complete before she can get the Queen's approval.

At it's heart, this Baba Yaga series is essentially a paranormal romance with a few of the trappings of the Baba Yaga mythos interwoven into the plot.  In truth, this sort of makes me sad.  I was completely sold on Wickedly Magical because it's so rare that we get a Baba Yaga story, let alone one updated to fit our modern world.  The fixation on romance however seems to have taken the teeth out of the mythos altogether making it at times unrecognizable.

In all of the books to date, we are told how scary the Otherworld Queen is because she did after all turn a few maidens into swans when they got on her nerves.  The entire court seems to tremble and back away from the Queen for fear.  In Wickedly Ever After however, the teeth are completely removed when the Queen's impossible tasks are easily accomplished because even she has a sweet spot for love. The whole thing is so damn saccharine.  I knew from the moment Baba and Liam were able to capture the sound of the sea that these tasks would be easily accomplished.  I couldn't help but roll my eyes when they got a seashell from the selkies.  Really? It just evidenced such a complete lack of imagination. 

The entire story was just so completely predictable that I felt no tension reading it.  Even the famous Chudo-Yudo, the dragon who hides as a dog, who protects the waters of life and death seemed to lose his teeth.   He's essentially a glorified baby sitter for Barbara and Liam's  ward and has lost all of the snark I so loved about him in Wickedly Wonderful.

Blake tried to give us humor in Babs deadpan responses to everything.  Having been raised in part by a former Baba Yaga in the Otherworld, her absolute truthfulness throws both Liam and Babs for a loop.  There's also Liam's attempt to raise Babs as a human child and then his shock with Barbara's approach to child rearing. Barbara is fully aware that no matter what they do, Babs will always be different because she is a Baba Yaga in training.  All of it just felt so damn forced to me.  

This series continues to be completely erased.  There are no people of colour, no disabled people and no LGBT people.  I know that all of this is typical for a paranormal romance series but that doesn't make it acceptable.  If Blake can turn the hut which stands on chicken legs into a gulfstream and a dragon into a dog, then there's no reason why there cannot be more diversity in this series.

I think  that setting this world in a paranormal romance actually does a great disservice to the Baba Yaga mythos.  Where is the fear of the witch who is supposed to be anything but nice - someone you call as a last resort?  Where is the oddity?  The more of this series I read, the more disappointed I become. 

The Returned, Season 2, Episode 4: Virgil

Yet again we see that Milan is the worst man ever – and pretty much the demon that haunts everyone.  Think absolutely everyone in his town has been hurt by him at some point

This time we see the new mystery guy who has been hanging around with Camille. His name is Virgil and his parents handed him over to Milan to stop his pesky thieving. Milan does this by brutally and torturously murdering him (and further traumatising Serge so we can properly force the serial killer redemption. There’s this weird unwritten rule that the more tragedy you dump on a bad guy the more you make him a good person).

Milan also has a nasty habit of dropping people into a basement

Which is exactly where Serge dumps him for his inevitable resurrection. Every time he wakes up Serge shoots him again. I approve

Lucy has a more long term solution – she arrives and takes Milan off Serge’s hands. After “forgiving” him while he talks about how he “saved her” she clonks him on the head, chains him to something heavy and drops him in the lake. I don’t think that will hold him, sadly. Though it’s reaching a level of almost comedy that Milan is really this much of a bad guy – he needs a moustache to twirl.

Simon opts out of this whole Milan slaughter thing or even Lucy’s increasing cultyness. He’s more focused on his baby – which he has just kidnapped from Adele at Lucy’s ordering. Lucy then launches a time travel based soap opera by giving the baby to Simon’s own dead and returned parents to raise (they think the baby is Simon) to leave Simon all kinds of conflicted – especially since he hallucinates his father killing his mother and his parents saying all kinds of creepy culty things. Honestly it’s like they read an ominous cult hand book

This is causing Adele some problems with the authorities because no-one (except Alcide) believes her baby has been kidnapped by her undead lover. And given her odd behaviour, her desire to get rid of her child and her general unwillingness to name him or tolerate his presence she’s prime suspect in having done something nefarious.

Simon decides to bring the baby back to Adele and tell her to head for the hells because there’s a limit the creepiness he will tolerate, apparently. Hallucination murder zombie cult parents are across the line. He also helps Audrey back across the lake since Lena has told her that her parents are back looking for her – and believe in the Returned.

Hemlock Grove, Season 3, Episode 4: Every Beast

After last episode having relatively little attention to Roman, this episode has only a relatively brief appearance. He and Sophia have fled from the vampire hunting monster disease thing and roman is all kind of torn with angst since he told Sophia all his terribad secrets.

They deal with angst by, naturally having sex in the weirdest blood bank on record (I’m sure this isn’t the proper medical storage of blood) which is messy. They get found by a security guard who is promptly killed and eaten by Peter – nomnomnomnom. Sophia is consumed with angst over this. Peter considers this a simple case of self defence – but Sophia is in full self-hate mode. She sees the death as an inevitable result of their species – their brutal, selfish, greedy, rapacious species

Actually I kind of like this thinking – the whole question of morality beyond a simple “I had to do it.” Her thinking about more detailed consequences – about how their actions led to that point. That they carry some responsibility for the more long term consequences of their actions than a simple “We had to kill them.”

But that’s far too simple – so we also have Sophia visit Olivia to say she is Olivia’s daughter. Because this show needs more incest!

Also, time line snafu – she didn’t hold any grudge for Olivia leaving her as a child because Olivia couldn’t have been more than a child herself. But didn’t Sophia say she was less than a century old? And isn’t Olivia much much older than that?

Anyway, doubtlessly this will be more pointful later when Olivia is less distracted by both Shelly and by the fact it’s confirmed she’s clearly infected with the vampire killy virus that was clearly designed by Spivak to kill Upir. This would be more interesting if more time were spent on it – and if Olivia hadn’t already had an entire season of succumbing to cancer. Honestly there’s a limit to how many times you can play the “uber-evil powerful woman is brought low by disease” plot line. Can we just have a woman be powerful and awesome and, yes, evil without her having to be brought down several pegs?

Johann’s storyline doesn’t exactly continue so much as circle – he keeps going off the rails and we learn that he’s not just suffering from mental illness but he’s also addicted to his “medicine”. Other than his spiralling to melt-down not much added to his, for want of a better word, storyline.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 11: Sweet Valkyrie High

This week we’re catching up on Tamsin’s many issues. Last season she tried very hard to be Bo’s one and only true love only Bo didn’t like her that way and it was all kind of awkward and messy and we got to see a Valkyrie be a sad lovesick puppy

Which is kind of sad how the Valkyries have been generally treated as kind of pathetic and annoyingly awful on this show.

Anyway, Tamsin springs one of the many annoying elements of terrible Valkyrie-ness, Stacey (currently working in fast food). See, Tamsin was once recruited by Hades to deliver Bo in one of the many mangled plot lines on this show (I’m not even going to try and use coherence on Lost Girl’s canon as it just hurts my brain) and he has tried to recruit her. She’s now decided to bring him down, preferably back to Tartarus. It’s revealed that back in the days of yore, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades all split up the world and Hades got the short straw hence he ended up in the underworld.

Apparently Hades was tricked into this by Freyja seducing him with a magical necklace. Which means they need to go to Valhalla to find her. Which means going to Valkyrie school and connecting with Tamsin’s mentor Acacia

Yes, Valkyrie school, complete with prep rallies and school uniforms and pig tails. Because this show actually manages to make its portrayal of the Valkyries, choosers of the slain, warrior women, even worse than it has before. I’m not even going to dwell on these flashbacks because they’re that awful. Instead we see Tamsin choose Acacia who sticks to the old ways with the Valkyries using all their super power of Doubt to influence wars and battles and generally being the kick arse warrior women they are rather than Freyja who has reduced and sanitised and generally fluffified the Valkyries into becoming a cleaning crew with added nursing.

The end result of which is Tamsin showing she’s more Valkryie than them all, Doubting Acacia (which is that spooky black eyed ting the Valkyries do) to reveal who she’s hiding – Freyja. It seems they’re not the only ones who know about Hades and Freyja and all kinds of unpleasant people have been hunting her so she’s taken to hiding in a cupboard