Saturday, May 21, 2016

The 100, Season Three, Episode Sixteen: Perverse Instantiation: Part Two

Well, after all of this build up, season three went out with whimper and tons of angst as far as I am concerned.  I called it right from the beginning that at least some point, Clarke would end up with the flame in her head, cause you know, Clarke's a total one woman saving the world machine with her extra special specialness.

This episode essentially was about free will and living with regret.  As we know, Clarke's got a pretty big death count and is very much haunted by the deaths of the mountain people.  There's also the fact that Lexa, the woman she loves died because of a bullet which was meant for her.  Life on the ground has been hard. Bellamy who is back on team good guy, regrets his part in the slaughter of Indra's army; however, even after all he's seen, Pike is still very much playing the us versus them card, though he is willing to work together for now to stop A.L.I.E.  This however doesn't mean that Octavia is willing to play the same game.

knife rene russo ill kill you i will cut you the thomas crown affair

The first opportunity Octavia gets, she slices Pike's leg leaving him wounded to fight off the chipped. She stands back like she's eating popcorn and watching some sort of festival.  Bellamy appears and is shocked by Octavia's decision.  They manage to withdraw and Bellamy tells Octavia to get her head on right. Sure, there's such a thing as time and place but Bellamy is no position to be lecturing anyone right now.

The battle to protect Clarke occurs.  As a last line of defense, Abbie stands next to her daughter willing to shoot anyone who gets to close.  Everyone puts up a good fight but there are just too many chipped people.  Kane is choking the life out of Bellamy and Octavia is down on her back fighting for her life.  Pike sees what's going on and throws off his attacker in time to save Octavia. Octavia is clearly surprised by Pike's decision but this doesn't make them equal.

Inside the city of light, Clarke is starting to struggle because the rate of the blood transfusion has started to slow down. The people in the city have started to take notice of her. Luckily for Clarke, Lexa makes an appearance and takes out the people trying to hurt her. I was glad to see Lexa again especially given how she died.  It's all bittersweet for Clarke but Lexa says that she knew her spirit would choose wisely.  They make their way to the kill area which becomes visible thanks to the work of Raven. I suppose this at least partially redeems Raven for screwing up last week.  Lexa sends Clarke on ahead and promises to keep the chipped people out.  I love this moment even though it's very much a retcon of Lexa's death. I love the idea that Lexa got the warriors ending that she so richly deserved.

Wynonna Earp, Season 1, Episode 8: Two Faced Jack

Last week, Wynonna and Officer Hawt were captured by the last member of the seven and while Hawt is quickly kicked out to a hospital to vanish, Wynonna is still imprisoned

But a brutal, serial killing doctor (a human) who is working for an even more brutal, serial killing Jack, Revenant who enjoys cutting human women up and messing with their organs. Which is what happens to Bethany who we thought died last episode but has been kept around for one more episode before being disposed (and ye gods that was horrendous to see).

Wynonna is tough as a boiled owl (Doc’s words) and not one to be imprisoned often or to believe the lies of the “doctor” (yes it’s the fun pathologist from last episode) trying to convince her that she has been paralysed (and shows her extreme toughness by not reacting even when he tries to cut off her toe). Toughness we expect from Wynonna, intelligence, cunning and restraint not so much, it’s nice to see that.

Wynonna tries several times to escape and is pretty awesome while doing it even if she doesn’t succeed. She needs rescuing

Which falls to Doc and Dolls who follow several clues provided by Waverley’s ever awesome research, including one that leads them to an underground fight club. Yes that old trope. While I appreciate Doc skewering the silliness of “no-one talks about the fight club”, I also am tired of this whole trope because we know that Dolls and Doc are going to end up in that ring

And yes, they do. Of course they do. Only to make it real, the fight club organiser shows Doc a file he got from Bobo. A file on Doc which Dolls sent to his superiors to make them keep them happy. As I pointed out last episode it had to be him of Wynonna. So the powers that be are very interested in an unaging immortal and are very eager to have Doc in a facility to be poked and prodded and experimented on. For the greater good

Zoo, Season 1, Episode 11: Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Most of the gang arrives in Zambia, looking for the mutated leopard that hasn’t been mother-celled yet. While the mutated leopards are looking for them… and well, everyone. As we’ve seen in the media slowly as the show develops, the animal pandemic is escalating. Zambia is in chaos.

The leopards quickly finish off Ray – because that’s one excess character we didn’t need – and we continue with many tense scenes to navigate leopards as huge numbers of civilians are displaced.

They do find a leopard cub – the best mutated animal to carry around that won’t eat them. Though it is immensely cute. They also find some militia which is a somewhat shallow view of Zambia (and, after Argentina and the general lack of global presence of this show, is frown worthy) but they also find an apparent state of the art hospital which excellently pulls back from that. Especially since last episode they seemed to think finding medical equipment in Africa would be difficult.

Even with leopards and crocodiles and bats, oh my, they do manage to make it to the hospital and Mitch makes a cure from Adorable Leopard Cub’s tooth. With Abe catching a dog to test it on (because testing the cure on a wild animal is difficult: how do you know if a wild leopard trying to eat you is a mutant or just a wild animal trying to eat you?)

Of course, not everything goes that smoothly. The hospital is overwhelmed by leopards, Jackson is shot (but a doctor puts him back together again) and everything is shaky. Abe continues to be awesome – gently but firmly chiding Jackson for his endlessly reckless leadership and how he has pretty much assumed leadership by not giving anyone else a chance to lead or offer ideas (to be fair, there’s no indication that any of them have had ideas to offer). He also leads Mitch through his initial set backs, also awesomely

Abe is my favourite character on this show – but his excellent insight and advice and support does tend to express itself through the other characters. He is, perhaps, the heart of the group, the backbone, the one who keeps all the brilliant but slightly uneven characters around him steady. This is an excellent role and definitely not a useless or weak one: but the role of advisor/supporter is one POC often occupy.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Orphan Black, Season Four, Episode Six: The Scandal of Altruism

I am absolutely freaking the hell out.  Just wow. When Orphan Black decides to bring it, it's out of this world.  Did the writers just sit around and think how can we rip out the hearts of our fans and leave them gutted on the floor? Yeah, they must have because the last few minutes of The Scandal of Altruism, left me staring at the television with my mouth gaping open in awe and pain. Damn Orphan Black.

Last week, Cosima met with mommy dearest and a deal was proposed regarding trading the source material in order to attempt a cure for Leda and removing the mouth maggot from Sarah.  The downside of this is that it would give mommy dearest the genetic information needed to create another line of clones.  Given what is at stake, Cosima was partial to the idea and so floated it by Sarah who also agreed.  It's not all is smooth sailing because of course, Siobhan wouldn't be down with anything which might endanger her mother. Together they decide to approach Kendall without telling Siobhan. Once things are set in motion, Sarah drops the news on a very unhappy Siobhan, defending her decision by pointing out that this is about their lives and therefore this is their decision to make.

There are several ways in which this could wrong and chief among them as far as Cosima is concerned is giving Mommy Dearest the genome to work on Castor. When Castor clones have sex with women, it results in the infertility of their lovers. The unfortunate by product of Kendall's leukemia means that they can separate Leda genetic information from Castor. It's not the ideal situation for Mommy Dearest but she agrees to it and promises Ira that they will figure out something to save his life as well. I guess this puts a crimp in their little incestuous romance (yeah I'm still ewww about this). Mommy Dearest's only caveat is that she be there when the blood sample is withdrawn from Kendall.

Cosima is saddened by handing over her research but Scott says that if they had had enough time, they could have cracked this.  It's a great reminder of how much these two have come to mean to each other.  It's been decided that Cosima will go with Sarah to Brightborn, and then stay behind after the removal of the mouth maggot until Mommy Dearest gets the genetic information she needs from Kendall.  What could go wrong right?

There is one little glitch.  Art comes across Krystal, who is busy trying to report to the police that she needs protective custody because Dyad and Brightborn are out to get her. The sergeant at the desk clearly thinks that Krystal is off her medication. Krystal is completely in the dark about who and what she is and fortunately for her, Art runs interference for her which means Duko walks right past her. Art then takes control of the situation and brings Krsytal back to his place.  With everything going on, no one really has the time to deal with Krystal, so Siobhan enlists Felix.  Yep, he's always there to serve.  Siobhan however does throw Felix a bone and says that when this is all over, she wants him to bring his sister back because she is part of the family.

Felix shows up at Art's dressed in the most ridiculous Sherlock Holmes costume I've ever seen. When Krystal recognizes Felix, Art is quick to claim that Felix is from Scotland Yard.  Felix sits down and tells Krystal that she is right about the cosmetic companies genetic testing and she responds by pepper spraying Felix.  It's all played for comic relief but I couldn't help but think that Felix always seems to get the shaft one way or another.  Attempting to control the situation, Felix warns Krystal to leave everything for now because they are investigating.  When Krystal brings up a French doctor, Felix realises that Krystal is talking about Delphine.  Krystal reveals that the she was there when Delphine was shot.

Sarah gets the mouth maggot removed with Cosima assisting in the procedure.  Sarah asks about the purpose of the mouth maggot and Evie explains that it didn't work because Sarah is still alive. Damn that shit is cold as ice. Cosima, with clear regret hands over her research.  Sarah heads back to Felix's place and she finds Kendall's smokes on the ground in a pool of blood.  That's right, as soon Kendall left, Duko grabbed her up. Realising that something is wrong, Sarah rushes into Felix's place and destroys the samples that Scott was creating.  Mommy Dearest is appalled and is quick to deny that she is behind whatever is going on.  They head out and then find that Ira has overdosed.

As soon as Evie gets word that Mommy Dearest is out of communication, she grabs up Cosima, stopping her from getting in touch with Sarah.  Cosima is taken to a field where Kendall is sitting in a van and Duko is guarding her.  Cosima begs Evie not to do this but Evie feels that 100 years from now she will be lauded as a revolutionary and that clones are about as progressive as Betamax.  Evie gives Cosima a few precious seconds to say goodbye but Duko stops the women from embracing.  Kendall, strong until the end, advises Cosima not to cry because their captors aren't worth salt. Kendall then advises Cosima to turn her back. Duko then shoots Kendall in the head and sets the van her body is lying in on fire, thus destroying any trace of the genome.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 22: We Happy Few

The end is getting closer, I can almost hear the Wayward Son

But first, having rescued Lucifer, they now have to convince him to side with Chuck

Y’know I should find Castifer playing the role of stompy, bad tempered teenaged son ridiculous. I should. Yet whether it’s the acting or just the silliness of it, I do kind of love this scene. Yes even the ludicrousness of Lucifer shutting himself in his room playing loud music.

He wants an apology. And Chuck is kind of an arsehole about it. Really. As we saw with Metatron, Chuck has issues with getting personal and emotional, and continues to push the “practical” idea of what he, god, had to do with his broken tool, Lucifer (having Lucifer carry the Mark after they sealed Amarra sent him over the deep end). While Lucifer wants more of an acknowledgement that his dad betrayed him – not god/creation but father/son

Eventually they get their emotional break through and it’s time for a plan. See, to weaken Amarra to seal her before took 4 Archangels – and Michael’s MIA, Raphael and Gabriel are both dead and resurrecting Archangels is time consuming. So they need some other force to rally to match the archangels

Force 1: The witches. Recruiting Rowena who is currently pursuing a plan to go back in time several centuries so avoid the apocalypse. She is convinced to get on side by a godly enhanced Sam and her friend Clea. Clea could be an awesome character. Clea also makes an excellent point the time periods Rowena is choosing since Clea, a Black woman, is very aware of how crap history can be. Clea could have been many things but she’ll never be those things because this is Supernatural and awesome characters who are not cis, straight, white, men die. It is known. And lo, to my utter lack of shock, so does Clea

Force 2 is the demons – led by Crowley, recruited by Dean, who is trying and failing to get his crown back. Crowley apparently doesn’t die. Are we shocked by this?

Race on The 100 #2

We have previously written a post about Race on The 100, but like many shows that last for more than one season, the extra time gave them more chance to double down on their awfulness and our old post badly need updating

So we have to look again at the treatment of POC on The 100, especially in light of Lincoln’s death among so much other awfulness

We already spoke about the problems with Lincoln’s early depiction in our previous post about Race on The 100  - almost instantly willing to abandon and turn on his people for the sake of a White female love interest, spending episode after episode being brutally tortured. Then spending more time as a brutal, animalistic medical experiment. Honestly, it’s almost astonishing that they could do more to Lincoln to exacerbate this given how utterly terrible it was.

Well, they do - partly by not doing anything to him. Lincoln, the man who is both a Grounder and Skaikru affiliated, straddles both worlds in a way only matched by Octavia and maybe Clarke, a man who could bring so much knowledge and insight to Skaikru and should be in every scene providing information, seemed to pretty much fade into the background. Not only did this waste his potential, it quite literally made very little sense to bench him at all. It was almost plot sabotaging to not have him be more prominent. Of course, being nigh invisible is followed up by the inevitable - death.

Lincoln’s death joins other notorious deaths for how utterly unnecessary it was. Lincoln could have escaped - just as Kane did. The whole idea that he would come back and give himself up for the sake of other Grounders taken prisoners is based on the idea he’d trust Pike not to kill the other prisoners anyway (and why would he trust that? Seriously has Pike done anything to suggest he wouldn’t just kill anyone he considered Grounderish?). We have to note that Kane certainly isn’t willing to get down on his knees and pointlessly sacrifice himself for a group of extras (again, Pike threatened to kill said imprisoned extras unless they gave themselves up - they assumed Pike would be happy with only one of them? This all involves a whole lot of trust of the paranoid, violent, genocidal tyrant, guys!). Aside from the imagery of Lincoln being forced to kneel in the mud and be murdered being repellent , this death is repellent for making no sense.

I know that someone is going to hove in with the old excuse that the actor who plays Lincoln, Ricky Whittle, wants to leave the show. It’s the same excuse that was made about Abbie leaving Sleepy Hollow and, again, it’s equally ridiculous and inexcusable. The actor has not only been sidelined all season but he has been treated pretty abominable by showrunner Jason Rothenberg. You can’t drive someone off then turn round and act like their absence is inevitable!

But let’s assume that, yes, the showrunners are completely blameless in Ricky Whittle’s choice to leave - ok… but he still didn’t have to die. In fact the whole reason why he’s still hanging around with Skaikru at this point seems dubious - even Octavia, the woman he pretty much threw all his old loyalties away for has lost all faith in Skaikru. If they had to get rid of Lincoln then have him and Octavia ride off together. Yes, the actor wanted to leave - which, again, we have to make the point is unsurprising given how he was treated both on the show and off it (and is hardly a defence against racism on this show), but there were very easy ways to achieve this without killing him off, especially given that he has very few real reasons to be loyal to Skaikru (which, y’know, could have been developed in all that time where he was pushed so far into the background).

There was no need for Lincoln’s death - and in the end it reduced this character to nothing more than a source of angst and suffering - a cause of the rift between Octavia and Bellamy. His death wasn’t even about him.

This complete lack of real characterisation has hit other POC characters pretty terribly as well - because it leaves them with no storyline or characterisation to add more depth to what little we see of them. So we end up with characters like Monty the Eternal Suffering. Of course, lots of characters on this show suffer; the show loves this suffering. But Monty has lurked in the background for most of the show, being an extra or sidekick to various other characters (and a witness to Jasper’s eternal epic Manpain) and the only storylines left to him have been ones of suffering. He spent half the season being deeply conflicted about his mother, Hannah’s, loyalty to Pike and killing all the Grounders - this depressing angst could have been interesting if we’d focused on either of them or if either of them were actually a major element in either faction. Of course she took the Allie Pill and not only had to die… but Monty had to kill her.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles #1) by Steve McHugh

Nathan Garrett has had his memory taken from him and has therefore spent the last ten years knowing nothing about himself but his first and last name.  He's spent the intermittent years working as a thief, using magic when necessary to get by.  When a chance meeting leads little droplets of memory returning, Nathan has no idea just how complicated the life he left behind was.  If that were not enough, an old enemy has surfaced and is determined to take make the people Nathan cares about pay to bring about and end to their centuries old feud.

Crimes Against Magic floats between 15th century France and the present day. I normally don't have a problem with flashbacks if they add something significant to the story but found that they kept pulling me away from the exciting action that was happening in the present.  Furthermore, any tension in 15 century France was impossible to maintain for the simple fact that we know that hundreds of years later, Nathan would be facing the antagonist once again.   If anything, the time in the 15th century was used for a blatant info dump about who Nathan is. It certainly didn't add anything to the current days meta.

In what should have been an interesting twist, McHugh created an extremely magically diverse world.  Picture a world in which werewolves, vampires, King Arthur and his court, Mordred, gargoyles, The Fates and Achilles are real and have a role to play. It should have been epic but at times it really just felt like supernatural name dropping. For instance, what is the point of invoking a wizard as powerful as Merlin but then not utilizing him as a character whatsoever? Even Achilles was a fake.

There are several familiar themes running through Crimes Against Magic.  It's best described as Harry Dresden meets Jason Bourne  meets James Bond.   I must admit to being excited by the premise; however, it quickly became clear that Nathan Garrett is little more than an epic Gary Stu. Nathan is so perfect that women either want to play the damsel for him, sacrifice themselves for him, or fuck his brains out.  What they all have in common is that they are all gorgeous.  This means that none of the female characters, even those who are powerful, really get the development that they deserve. Instead, we got the pleasure of having a woman beaten near to death for Nathan's pain. Sure Nathan feels bad but once he figures out who he really is, he's got better things to do than stick around.

12 Monkeys, Season Two, Episode Five: Bodies of Water

It's obvious the threat that the red forest poses in 2044.  Jones is completely at a loss of how to deal with this but not to worry, Eckland is full of snark for her morose behaviour.  While the scenes between these two are brief, it's clear that their unconventional romance works for the both of them and more importantly keeps her on track, even if Jones continues to be in denial about their connection.  I very much love the fact that Eckland seems to enjoy shocking Jones.

With the threat of the end of time looming, it's time to go and visit everyone's favourite disturbed woman, Jennifer Goines. Jennifer is willing to see Cole but instructs Jones to wait outside. This is the first meeting for Cole and Jennifer in 2044 and he's clearly shocked by her advanced age. Even though Cole travels through time, his life is lived in a series of days and so for him, it's only been a few days since seeing the young Jennifer while for Jennifer, it's been years. Cole naturally wants to know about the Primes but Jennifer says that she doesn't see things the way that she used to and so to get the information they need, Jennifer says that they must go back to 2016.

Back at the compound Cole relays Jennifer's message and then drops the hammer saying that Jennifer said that Cassie is the one who has to go back.  There's been a lot of bad blood between Ramse and Cassie but the one thing they can agree upon is their mutual dislike of Jennifer. It's actually hilarious to watch as they both team up against Cole regarding their feelings about Jennifer.

So, Cassie heads to the splitter machine and as she is waiting to shift, there's some competitive juvenile tension between Deacon and Cole as they say goodbye to Cassie.  I know that this was meant to seem cute but I found it seriously irritating.

So, back to 2016 where Jennifer is now doing well in therapy, taking her meds and doing it all to an updated version of the Mary Tyler Moore theme. Yeah, I actually loved the music choice here and it so suited Jennifer's journey to get real treatment for her mental health issues now that she is free of her father's controlling behaviour. I like this version of Jennifer a lot.  When Cassie catches up with Jennifer however, she has no respect for what Jennifer is trying to accomplish and instead sets about attempting to trigger Jennifer to get the information she wants on a primary.  This is part the new cold Cassie persona and I simply cannot stand it. A Doctor's first vow is to do no harm and Cassie is so removed from this vow that she is willing to sacrifice Jennifer's new hard won stability for her end game.

Back in 2044, only one man from a five man scout crew returns.  Deacon is immediately suspicious and believes that he has been sold out.  When in frustration the guilty party blames Deacon for the situation that the 7 find themselves in, Deacon responds by shooting him in the head, much to the horror of Ramse.

Ramse is back in the role of playing the moral guide but he doesn't wear it as well this time around given his role in releasing the virus to save his son and Deacon never tires of letting him know this. Both Cole and Ramse are certain that Deacon is more trouble than he is worth and worry about how vulnerable he actually makes them.  After not being able to get Katrina completely onside, Cole and Ramse decide to take Deacon on a road trip which ends with them handing Deacon over to his enemy the Foreman.

Back in 2016, we learn a lot about Jennifer's haunted past.  Her mother tried to drown her and was also mentally ill but not a Primary.  Jennifer constantly sees visions of her mother.  In her childhood room, Jennifer shows Cassie the multiple drawings that she has made.  It all goes a long way to humanising Jennifer, not only for the audience but for Cassie as well.  It shouldn't have taken the revelation of Jennifer's darkest secrets for this to have happened though.  The casualness with which Cassie sought to trigger Jennifer was absolutely appalling.

The relationship between Cassie and Jennifer gets another boost when Cassie is taken hostage by the 12 Monkeys and placed in the tub of travel by Olivia.  It's worth noting that Olivia is starting to have some doubts because of the uncharted territory they are in but that doesn't stop her from getting to work on Cassie.  Cassie is sent walking to the red field towards the Witness and the broken down house.  What the hell is up with the house? It was featured three times and so obviously has some sort of significance. I love the fact that the Witness answers questions by having them appear on the walls of the house, ratcheting up the creep factor.

Containment, Season 1, Episode 5: Like a Sheep Among Wolves

Containment continues to be a mix of powerful, emotional, personal moments and a whole lot of maddeningly ridiculous moments.

On the personal side, we see powerful moments like Jake and the Orphan, Jake burning the bodies, Jake watching his fellow police

In fact, against all of my expectations, Jake is surprisingly becoming the most compelling character here. Overwhelmed, sad, desperate and slowly hurting and falling apart in the face of the utter horrors he has to deal with. And more than anyone else, he is the one on the front lines of this horror. He is facing profiteers (in the form of a highly dubious Black gang of profiteers. This is one time when I’d actually have prefer they didn’t replace the white rednecks who now seem to be there more to say “look we don’t have a racist gang!”), food shortage and the general breakdown of order with a completely inadequately tiny police force. Yes, Jake has attracted my attention.

Xander is also an interesting character who is clearly in way above his head. I’m interested in him.

Jenna has my attention because she and Suzy are excellent and them trying to hold it together sensibly while bonding is wonderful. A shame they’re also locked up with two guys who are trying to compete for the title of The Worst (don’t even try. Katie has that locked).

I’d like to see a bit more of Dr. Cannert because he should also be on the front line and in all kinds of stress.

Unfortunately he is designated villain in the face of Katie who is managing to maximise how utterly insufferable she is. And she was already really insufferable. See she has decided Dr. Cannert’s medical knowledge is all bullshit and, damn it, people who caught the disease first must have caught it first! Never mind that she doesn’t even need to assume greater knowledge than the doctor (which is already ridiculous), she just has to use the knowledge she’s supposed to have as a damn teacher.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Soldier (Talon Saga #3) by Julie Kagawa

Ember is recovering from the horrors she’s had to partake in in a very short period of time – but she has little time to recover or get her bearing. Riley has a new mission, a traitor in his ranks and a possible lead where female dragons are tortured and enslaved to produce young: he cannot let tjhis lead go.

At the same time Garrett uncovers a plot within the Order of St John which similarly demands their urgent attention – and for Garret to rejoin the team.

I mentioned this in my review of the previous book in this series but I really need to reiterate it now because it’s so sad to me – this book series does an incredible job of taking a really interesting, potentially fascinating concept and making it Utterly Bland Paint-by-the-numbers-Paranormal-YA.

It’s frustrating. There’s so much here that could be interesting and different and generally unique and it’s all ignored in favour of telling a story that is so utterly generic and forgettable that it’s genuinely hard to write a review afterwards.

Take the supernatural – we have dragons here. Actual dragons. Not weredragons or vampires or witches or some other magically-enhanced human. No, this is a completely alien species. Think of how we could explore how their minds work, think of the conflict this would cause over them interacting with humans. Think of how their culture would be so vastly different, how completely alien everything about them would be. But I get no sense of Ember and Riley being anything but human. Or even Ember’s brother Dante still working with Talon. Or even the guys he’s working with. No dragon in this series has shown themselves to have anything but a human mind set. Which is especially frustrating because part of the attempted conflict of this book is Ember and Riley wondering about whether or not they are becoming too human or not human enough: but they’re not inhuman! We also continue to have the weird “my dragon thinks/does/act” statements which makes no real sense. Again, it’s like someone copying a generic “wereanimal” storyline and not trying to actually adapt it to the original world building of this world.

This is especially frustrating with the romance. I mean, how would a romance even happen when the love interest is a huge lizard? “Let us press our squishy mouth parts together, small warm blooded hairy monkey creature.” Why does Ember even look at Garrett or Riley in human disguise and think of them in a sexual way? I’m not saying don’t have this romance – I’m saying develop this. Work with them AS alien beings finding love rather than just ignoring it and pulling out a storyline that could easily sit in any werewolf book out there.

Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episode 3: Good and Evil Braided Be

Ethan and Hecate continue their wandering through the old west which is all full of deserts and death as we’re reminded frequently. No really, everyone has to tell us how deadly the landscape is probably because we’re not seeing a lot of said deadliness.

Except Hecate. She totally wants to follow Ethan to his dad’s and kill lots of people so they can all be super dark and evil rulers of… everything? It’s an ambitious albeit vague plan. Ethan is against this and her murdering people to get their horses (though he still takes the horses and supplies. That’s a convenient evil companion to have around – don’t want to do anything morally questionable? Let your evil companion do it, judge them and then enjoy the result).

Hecate isn’t exactly on side with his judgement, or moral grey areas. She doesn’t particularly see a whole lot of moral room between her choosing to kill people and Ethan losing control and killing people – the bodies are still on the ground. Obviously there are flaws in her reasoning but it also begs the question of how much Ethan must restrain himself before the murders he causes are intentional. Especially when they are convenient – like escaping his captives.

They’re being followed by Inspector Rusk who continues to have a lot of class and coolness. He tries to introduce Marshall Franklin Ostow to the concept of the occult.

They’re also being followed by Kaetenay, the endlessly cryptic and Malcolm. Kaetenay predicts all kinds of spooky bad things happening if they can’t keep Ethan on the side of goodness. His prediction sounds almost apocalyptic… albeit vague. It isn’t helped when he discusses Hecate’s presence with Michael and they find the bodies she left behind

Malcolm also champions Kaetenay against some nasty racists… there really feels like a kind of forced redemption narrative with Malcolm this season. Taking the imperialist explorer with the characterless Black servant and now making points about how imperialism is wrong and racist segregation is terrible? I mean, obviously they are wrong and terrible, but it feels more like an attempt to make it clear Malcolm isn’t like Those Imperialists more than anything else.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mage Catalyst by Christopher George

Devon is, in so many ways, a normal Australian teenager, like so many other teens

Until he runs into Renee in a nightclub and learns something awesome – and terrifying – about himself

He is a mage: a being of incredible potential power. But there are few things more corrupting than power.

The core of this book is that Devon is, ultimately, an ordinary person. He’s an ordinary teenager who discovers something surprising has happened to him. That’s the defining feature of how this book is laid out, starting from its very ominous beginning where we clearly expect something very unordinary and pretty horrifying to happen. This book is the origin story. This is where the vaguely mentioned ominous things find their beginning

This is where we have the ordinary man begin to become something so much more

So the very ordinariness of the book is the point. Devon is a teenager, an 18 year old with very 18 year old problems.

He has friends who aren’t always good people but who he cares about. He has romantic issues with Tina and lots of fumbling awkwardness. He’s not academically gifted and school is both a struggle and a trial. He has clashes with teachers but, unlike so many other narratives, it’s quickly clear that his teachers do actually care and aren’t just terribad awful people he has to navigate around. He has some concerns about the future but is largely ignoring it even as other people try to get him to take it more seriously. It’s a very normal reaction – he’s a kid trying to avoid hard questions he has no answers to.

He has a lot of very real world problems and it is excellently portrayed.

The problem is… I don’t really care.

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 23: An Untold Story

Hyde’s steampunk world looks kind of awesome, to be honest. I want to see a lot more of its shininess. This is apparently a world where all the lost stories play out.

Jekyll isn’t entirely defeated, or so it seems, he may have lost the wand but he does still dare to try and release the Charmings, Killian and Zelena so they can help him make a potion. One that will finally separate him from Hyde.

And it works. Because Hyde wants it to. He quite likes the idea of being separate from Jekyll all the time and not being suppressed – especially since he’s super strong and highly magically resistant. The good guys have to run and still have no way to return home

In New York, Emma and Regina have discovered that the inept foursome have been sucked into another world

Emma: My Parents, Hook and Zelena got pulled into a portal!
Regina: Again?!

That’s some quality 4th wall scratching snark there Regina.

So they need a plan – especially since, with Gold having the crystal, they have no magic. Unless they work with him; which is what Regina tries to do, portraying her recent tragedy as having pushed her back over the edge to full blown evil queen mode.

Gold doesn’t buy it. Nicely skewering everything Regina said last episode, he says she has changed too much, become too good a person to slide back into evil queen-ness. Her Redemption Train is too complete. And he plans to kill them all

Except Henry and his anti-grail he happened to just run across with which he sucks up all the magic. Which means no death. But it also means no way to open a portal. Now what are they going to do?

See an Asian stereotype of course! A man called The Dragon who came straight out of central-casting for Enigmatic Asian Mystic is duly cryptic and vague in advising them that there is magic in the world if they just believe

It comes to something when even Once Upon a Time where everyone, his dog and his puppet has magic, still has to resort to POC-woo-woo to help the predominantly white cast.

This inspiring vagueness and a little CGI with a terribly rendered flower now puts Henry back on team Magic (I know teenagers are supposed to have mood swings but c’mon!) and he’s willing to open a portal to a completely unknown realm by convincing a crowd of New Yorkers to believe in magic next to a wishing well

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 22: Only You

Regina is having the worst day ever. The love of her life is dead and at her funeral she has to enduring the sappiness of the Charmings and then her lover’s rapist trying to comfort her

All it needs now is Emma Swan to arrive with her love magically resurrected from the dead appearing and… oh hi there Emma and Killian

Regina, if you want to curse this town again I’d totally understand.

But Regina stays on team good guy if nothing else because Gold is pulling some shenanigans with the Olympian crystal he took and everyone would rather they didn’t. He’s linking all of the town’s magic to the crystal in order to try and get Belle back – considering he already has the power of all the Dark Ones and the power of the Olympian crystal, adding more is… worrisome. Unfortunately Emma is still suspicious of Regina going all dark again so we have several arguments and Regina, rightfully, being rather angry that a grieving Emma can drag them all into the underworld while Regina has to go to her room.

Seeing his mothers’ fighting pushes Henry over the edge and he and Violet decide to end all magic  he blames magic (not entirely inaccurately) for all the misfortune in his life. And he still has the magical ace in the hole – the author’s pen. I’m not sure why he can’t just use the pen to write magic out of existence – but he can use it to steal the crystal. Which he then intends to destroy – but going to New York

His logic for this is his dad, Neal, also wanted to destroy magic… except… that’s not quite right. His dad wanted to flee to a land without magic (and wanted Gold to come with him). And he succeeded. Why would New York City have ANYTHING magical in there, let alone a magic-destroying trinket? It makes little sense

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 4: Book of the Stranger

We start at the Wall, where Sansa and Brienne have finally arrived. Before Jon Snow left

Yes, I completely expected Jon to have left before Sansa arrived and poor Sansa to spend yet more episodes lost and hopeless. So I was happy to see this

I’m also really happy to see that Sansa is the one showing steel here. While Jon Snow is tired of fighting and just can’t do it any more, Sansa who has been through as much or more than Jon Snow, is determined to fight.  She’s not stopping. She’s not letting her home be occupied by Ramsay

And when Ramsay sends a menacing letter which Jon deems far too nasty for Sansa to read, she insists on reading it aloud. She is not the child she once was (and she apologises for how she treated Jon, her illegitimate half brother), there’s a lot more steel to her and she’s determined to get Jon to rally the wildlings and the lords of the North. Especially when they learn Ramsay has Rickon

Brief interlude with Ramsay who is still terrible and kills Osha. Gah, you bring her back to sacrifice her so casually? Game of Thrones Osha could have been an interesting character. And you’re making Ramsay boring – he always does the worst thing no matter what it is.

Help may be coming from an unexpected quarter – to the joy of no-one, Petyr Baelish is back, manipulating Lord Robin. I don’t think “manipulating” even counts her. Really, Baelish’s talents are wasted on this kid. Anyway, Baelish wants the knights of the Vale to bring down Ramsay because Baelish has finally realised that Ramsay is a feral dog that needs to be put down. Really, considing he’s such a genius manipulator he should have known better. How did he miss this?

The Vale was maybe the one kingdom who had avoided all these shenanigans.

At the capital of the shenanigans, Margaery is still imprisoned but she’s certainly not breaking no matter how many redemption stories the High Sparrow tells. Unlike her brother who is a quivering broken wreck because of course he is. You wouldn’t think he was a skilled warrior and war veteran or anything would you?

Cersei and Jaime have finally got the Small Council to listen, working around Tommen because Tommen is still too worried about Margaery and the High Sparrow. She goes to Olenna and under the threat of Margaery having to endure what Cersei did, Cersei has a plan: the Tyrells (with the second largest army in the Seven Kingdoms) bring their soldiers to town and thoroughly murder the High Sparrow

It’s not a complex plan. It also smells like a plot to get the Tyrells to take the backlash. C’mon Olenna, you’re more cunning than this.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fear The Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Six: Sicut Cervus

Parishioners are gathered in what appears to be a small Mexican church.  The boys choir sings and something about it all is dark and foreboding.  The Padre gives a small ministration about keeping faith and then offers holy communion.  The group heads outside only be met by Tom, who begs them not to fight because they are all out gunned.  It seems that the threat the congregation were intending to fight is not the dead but the living.  Suddenly, the parishioners and the priest begin to bleed from their eyes because they have been poisoned.

Aboard The Abigail, Travis and Chris sit to have a little chat about what happened to Reed.  Travis tries to be cautious as he mentions that the crew doesn't believe that Chris shot Reed because he was turning.  Chris doesn't mince words and quickly accuses Madison; however, Madison never once claimed that she believed his little story.  In fact, last week, Madison was so clearly trying to soothe Chris to keep him from going over the edge even further.

The conversation is cut short when two ships begin to approach The Abigail, forcing Strand to order everyone to head below deck.  This is the confrontation Luis feared, having not brought with him the appropriate fare to enter the supposed promised land.  A struggle ensues and Luis is shot in the stomach but together, he and Strand manage to kill the men who have boarded the ship.  Strand aims The Abigail towards land and Salazaar stabs the dead in the head.  When Salazaar gets to Luis, he's still alive and begs not to be stabbed.  It's Ofelia who stays her father's hand, as Luis calls out for his mother.  Luis holds up a coin, (which Salazaar clearly recognises though pretend he has no idea what it signifies) and asks for it to be given to his mother.  Luis coughs out his last breath, and Daniel tosses the coin in the ocean.

The Abigail is making it's way toward land and though it is being pursued, it's not being attacked. Hmmm could it be that the soldiers don't think the crew of The Abigail can survive what is on land? Naturally, they make their way to the church which opened up the episode and Strand begins to panic when he finds Tom's truck but no sign of Tom.  It's not long before the parishioners who are now zombies make their appearance.  Everyone grabs weapons and begins to fight.  When Madison slips and a zombie lands on top of her, Chris sees but he just stands and watches.  It's Alicia who has to come to her mother's rescue.  Daniel and Nick both have trouble taking out zombie children, with Daniel in particular flashing back to another child who he held by the throat.

By truck they make their way to the community that Tom set up and are welcomed in by Celia but immediately told that they must give up their weapons. Strand takes the time to inform Celia of Luis's death The only one to hesitate on giving up his weapon is Daniel, who rightfully feels that there's always a need for weapons. I don't know why this didn't raise Strand's suspicions, given that he isn't on the best of terms with Celia.

Strand is taken to see Thomas and discovers that Tom has been bitten and is dying.  The love and care between the two men is obvious.  Tears roll down Strand's face and this is absolutely the most human that we've seen him so far.  Strand picks up his lover and gently carries him to bed where the two men hold each other.

Alicia jumps on the first chance for normalcy she has had in quite some time by sitting on a couch, wrapped in a blanket and watching television.  Alicia doesn't get to enjoy it for long because she is joined by Chris, who wants to know if she is mad at him. Yes, Chris has gone super creepy.  Alicia quickly calls him out on watching as Madison struggled with a zombie but Chris claims that he simply froze and that Alicia didn't see what she thought she saw.  Chris then doubles down on the creepy and actually threatens to harm Alicia if she tells anyone of her suspicions, claiming that this would destroy the family.  Yes, Chris has officially turned into the Shane of Fear the Walking Dead.

Despite Chris's creepy claim of not wanting to hurt anyone, Alicia tells Madison about the incident. Madison then confronts Travis about his creepy ass son. Travis quickly changes the conversation to Madison not being there enough for him, reminding her of how many holes he crawled into to get Nick. Travis absolutely doesn't want to see how sick Chris is and instead hides behind this fact saying that Chris needs help. Umm, this is a zombie apocalypse, there's no therapist on standby. Madison refuses to be guilted and the two end up going their separate ways to spend time with their children.

Travis is not the only one guilty of some parenting fail.  I think if Madison could, she'd wrap Nick up in a protective bubble and never let him see the outside world.  Nick makes his way to the kitchen where Celia gives him some food. Celia reveals that she thinks that the dead have always walked among them and that this time they can see them. Yeah, Celia is creepy. Celia can see the pain behind Nicks' smile and he talks about how the killing is getting to him. Madison interrupts the conversation and sends Nick for a shower.  In Nick's absence, Madison makes it clear that Nick is young and impressionable and clearly warns Celia to keep her distance.

Three Slices. Anthology by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S Dawson and Chuck Wendig

These collection of three short stories have two themes:

One is Tyromancy. The ancient art of predicting the future using cheese (traditionally by cheese making) beyond just “we’re going to have something tasty to eat.” This is actually a thing and our ancestors were odd odd people. I do appreciate this rather unique little twist uniting them,

The second is the old Polish saying “Not My Circus, Not my Monkeys.” A saying basically saying (simplistically) “not my problem.

This is most excellently done in Prelude to War from the IronDruid Chronicles a story between Shattered and Staked which nicely fits into the main plot line of the series, filling in some gaps and expanding on some points. In fact, if I have any criticism about this short story at all it fails one of my tests for a short story: it’s probably pretty incompressible if you don’t follow the main series of books. Since I do, I loved it because it excellently added to that main series, showing how Atticus got the information he needed to track down what he finds in the next book

I also always appreciate Kevin Hearne’s dedication to research – as while the other authors have come up with their own ideas for what Tyromancy involves, Hearne has actually gone to the original definition and method.

The “not our circus” comes in when he finds – and learns she “betrayed him”. A definition she gloriously rejects by pointing out she doesn’t owe him anything. He bought services from her once. He is now buying services from her again. She didn’t swear loyalty. She isn’t his friend. She doesn’t owe him anything – she certainly isn’t required to risk her life or die for the sake of protecting Atticus or helping in a fight or war that doesn’t remotely involve her. I appreciate this even more since Mekera is a Black woman – and a Lesbian or bisexual woman. This genre – and the media in general – is absolutely full of minorities being sidekicks for straight white men, serving straight white men and, of course, sacrificing for straight white men that having Mekera declare firmly that she didn’t sign up for any of that, she isn’t responsible for any of that and Atticus has no damn right to expect that from her is a wonderful subversion of that continued expectation. This isn’t her circus. These aren’t her monkeys. She isn’t involved and she doesn’t want to be and won’t be shamed into it or feel guilty because her loyalty was expected

The story also nicely touches on her last relationship – a deep and abiding love that led her to seek isolation when her lover died which is a nice element of character building I appreciated along with examination of her ethnicity and history. It’s a short story and she’s a briefly appearing character, I could understand her not being well developed. I like that some effort was made to make her more than just the woman who tells the future using cheese.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Vampire Diaries, Season 7, Episode 22: Gods & Monsters

So Bonnie is going to kill everyone, starting with Matta and then just massacring everyone. Death death death death to all, it’s going to be amazing

Oh, wait, we’re trying to stop her killing everyone? Really?

Can we not?



Ok, fine. The plan is now to break into the Armoury which is full of a big bad mystery something in order to kill the last eternal which is powering Bonnie’s murdering spree

Y’know, letting Bonnie kill everyone would be much simpler. Or at least Matt, c’mon a little Matt death? It’s the second to last season, you can’t give me this?

Apparently not. So after many failed attempts they do break into the armoury using Caroline and Alaric’s little siphon-y kiddies (they’d use Valerie but she’s run off to the plot box and decided not to leave her number because using kids allows for more family angst)

Oh, hey, does this mean that Alex had Mary Louise and Nora locked in the Armoury for 3 years and didn’t use either of them to siphon open the Vault despite being desperate to do so? Why yes yes it does. I would say this is a glaring mangling of the storyline but it fades next to the whole Rayna hunter rules changing AGAIN. See, before killing the last Eternal would not only kill Rayna but also everyone she marked with her sword. So killing the last eternal should kill Bonnie, Stefan, Caroline and Enzo. Now it doesn’t. Because. Reasons.

So having used the little kiddies to open the door, Damon decides to go in while Enzo leads Bonnie on a wild goose chase

Bonnie has long since managed to free herself from the useless Matt. She hasn’t killed him, alas. She does have a lot of excellent portrayals of the fear and grief that she’s going to kill everyone she cares about even though they all totally deserve it. Embrace your inner mass murderer Bonnie, make with the killing!

Bonnie chases down Enzo who didn’t have the good sense to fill up with petrol first (don’t let him plan your road trips) so he decides to cook her dinner instead. Enzo, you need something better than a risotto to stop murder – did you at least stock a good wine? Things go badly very quickly as poor Bonnie desperately tries not to kill the guy she loves who she is way way too good for

The Originals, Season Three, Episode Twenty-One: Give 'Em Hell Kid

The center of this story is the Original family.  Though they have all had their many jealousies, betrayals and angst, the Mikaelsons put one thing above everything else and that is each other.  We have seen time and time again the collateral damage around them pile up but it's always in the name of the supposed greater good - keeping a member of the family safe. For someone like Marcel, who has almost always been on the periphery of the Mikaelson family, this poses a troubling question.  Has he been around long enough to truly be considered one them, or will he be disposed of at the slightest threat.

It has become far too common in this genre, to use the death of women to motivate men.  In this case, The Originals has chosen to use the death of Davina (who I'll never miss) and Cami.  Davina's sparsely attended funeral is held in the morning with Marcel, Kol, Vincent and Josh (remember him?) at the graveside.  Cami's much larger funeral, is in the afternoon and it is followed by a full on Irish wake. Marcel shows up long enough at Cami's wake to place a flower and for Klaus to see that things are not good between the Mikaelsons and Marcel.

The only person to attend neither funeral is Freya, who keeps busy trying to find out if they have at last put the prophesy to bed.  It's not long before Freya realises that the threat has moved onto Marcel and that he will bring blood and destruction in his wake.  When Freya realises that the potion which Vincent took from Aurora's heart is missing, what happened becomes all to clear.  Since they cannot get in touch with Klaus, Elijah goes in search of his younger brother.

Klaus is completely unaware of the threat that Marcel poses and actually seems to want to make things right between them.  Klaus takes Marcel to a bridge they visited hundreds of years ago to spread the ashes of Marcel's father.  Klaus repeatedly tells Marcel that he views him as a son but it all very much reads like a well intentioned White Man's Burden speech.  Rudyard Kipling would be so very proud. It's all about how Klaus saved Marcel from slavery and essentially gave him the life that he has today.

All of this is a problem because since season one, Marcel has been cast as the uppity negro who just doesn't know his place.  Klaus even goes so far as to admit that he started becoming abusive because of his fear that Marcel would surpass him.  I couldn't help but wonder at that point, if The Originals had even one writer in the room who was capable of seeing the horrible racial dynamic that they created in this scene? Sure, they kept framing it around whether or not Klaus and Marcel could consider each other family but what I saw is White supremacy's fear that POC would one day throw off our shackles and treat White people as we have been treated.  What I saw was fear of vengeance and our desire for justice.   Marcel goes as far as to say that he only ever wanted equality with Klaus.

Grimm, Season Five, Episode Twenty: Bad Night

"We have to distrust each other.
It is our only defense against betrayal."

Essentially, the purpose of Bad Night, is to move the pieces into place for the big finale. Nick arrives home to find his worst nightmare - Adalind is gone and she has taken baby Kelly.  At this point, Nick is so enraged that he heads straight over to Renard's flat only to find that it is now empty. Unable to get a hold of Hank, Nick heads to see Rosealee and Monroe. Nick's first instinct is to kill Renard, and who can blame him? Rosealee and Monroe actually do a good job of talking Nick down by showing him just how limited his options really are.  With nothing left to lose, they decide to head to Hardrian's Wall, after of course, killing the two Wesen who are trailing Nick.

Nick was unable to get a hold of Hank because he's at Zuri's for a late night rendezvous.  Zuri gets out of bed and lets a member of Black Claw into her home, so that he can steal Hank's phone and download all of the information.  When Zuri returns to bed, Hank is up and she explains her absence by saying that she went to turn up the heat.  It's all well and good until the man enters the home again, this time to return Hank's phone.  Hank must be one light sleeper because he confronts the intruder and quickly takes him out.  Later, in a search of the intruders vehicle, Hank finds a computer and takes it to be looked at by tech.

Adalind has arrived at Black Claw to find Renard waiting for her. When Renard says that he would have sent a car, Adalind makes it clear that she is not going to lead them to where Nick lives. Renard snarks back that they can call the cab company and so Adlind asks what makes them think she only took one cab. Their daughter arrives shortly afterwards and it quickly becomes clear that Adalind may love Diana but she doesn't trust her around Kelly.  Renard and Adalind put Diana to bed and outside of her bedroom, Diana uses his power to make her parents hold hands.  It's perfectly normal for a child to want their parents to be together and form a cohesive family unit but it's also clear that anyone Diana perceives to be a danger to this is going to have problems.  Renard follows Adalind to her room trying to get a bit of action and Adalind makes it clear that this will not be happening.  Renard questions if Adalind fell in love with Nick. Adalind may be there because Black Claw has Diana but she is most certainly not going to betray Nick.

Wu is still very freaked out by what he has become and he keeps having flashbacks to his attack and the Wesen he killed. Finally, Wu decides that he has to see exactly what he has become and thus, pushes himself into a rage to start the transformation.  Wu begins to change and rushes to a mirror to look at himself.  Wu begins to tell himself that he is in control and slowly the transformation stops. It looks like Wu might just get a handle on things.

At Hadrian's Wall, no one has much to offer Nick in the way of help at this point.  They don't think that it's a good idea to go after Renard and point out just how much security he will have around him right now. Nick is unwilling to give up because Black Claw has his son.

A frustrated Nick heads home and Truble quickly arrives.  How does one prove one's loyalty? Why, offering to kill someone of course.  Truble is all team Nick and is completely down with killing Renard on Nick's say so.  Nick however feels that this will put Kelly in jeopardy.  The conversation is cut short when Nick receives a call from Renard of all people, asking to meet at the station.  Once again, Truble offers to kill Renard, saying that she could make it look like an accident in the parking lot. Yeah, I'm all about Truble at this point.  Nick however decides to go this one alone and asks Truble to wait for him.

At the station, Renard tries to recruit Nick. Damn it. I had so hoped that Renard was playing a long game which wasn't evident and hadn't gone all true believer because this puts him squarely at odds with Nick. Renard suggests that sometimes the best thing one can do for one's family is to let them go, reminding Nick that he had little choice but to give up Diana.  Nick counters that he wasn't offered a choice when it came to Kelly.  The conversation ends with both men at odds which makes me wonder if Renard is a dead man walking? Please don't let it be so because Grimm needs more shirtless Renard.