Saturday, October 15, 2016

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 3, Episode 7: La Llorana

Aiden has discovered a Culebra cult – yes, Culebras worshipping and sacrificing to Itzpa, a demon, who in turn passes on the energy/mojo to Amaru. This happens via scalping with a Xibalban blade and then handing them over when they’re all helpless and alive for Amaru to suck on their souls. Most unpleasant

Over at… well I’m not going to call them Team Good Guy given the givens, but with our protagonists Burt is concerned that Freddie has left the group after Richie used his mojo to force them to reduce their already paltry female representation even further. Freddie has decided to crawl into a bottle with a side order of casual sex and doesn’t want the Geckos near him. Burt, being more sensible, less emotional and generally not willing to lose a soldier to angst, decides he’s going to try and help Freddie through this somehow

Richie himself is rather troubled by the whole possession thing, as one would be, and his doing his research: discovering that when the Lords of the Culebra first arrived probably also possessed. The possession has also left him with issues – and possibly the ability to psychically eavesdrop on Amaru and her minions

Despite being under manned and Richie having issues, the whole gang decides they’re going to raid this cult with a chance of grabbing Amaru. This is a very bad idea

And it works…

The fact it does work should really have been a wake up call to everyone. After all, Amaru herself is super dangerous, Brasa with his sun-hand was nowhere to be seen and the cult of Culebras basically did very little

But they shackle her and manage to get her to Burt’s shop where he has a cage which will hold her – which he’s not amused by them bringing this to his home (he brings Freddie with him)

When they have her they decide to exorcise her – using a rack that Cortez brought other that once belonged to Torquemada. I have a major problem with this

Implying that this rack that Torquemada had actually works to remove possession implies that the Spanish Inquisition is right. Further we have it being brought to the Americas by Cortez, a Conquistador expressly to exorcise the Aztecs and other Indigenous Americans – and, again, it’s implied it works. This is a gross sanitation of two incredible evil events in history

Also, you’re going to haul a rack – especially such a simple rack – across the ocean?

The exorcism is brutal and horrific and does manage to break through to Kate – briefly. But Kate isn’t a fan of Seth – she doesn’t forgive him and with that line pretty much brutally pokes his sorest and most vulnerable spot – guilt over what happened to Kate. She also reveals that, basically and obviously, this was all a trap (hence how easy it was to capture Amaru)

Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 1: Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s the show that never ends, it goes on and on my friends.

How long will this show last? Until Jensen Ackles is no longer hot. We have many seasons left

Oooh new opening music. Is it just my love of classic rock or does Supernatural have the most awesome soundtrack?

So last season Amarra brought back Mary Winchester, Dean and Sam’s mother. On the one ide this show could use some more front and centre female characters. On the other hand this is Supernatural, the master of the very stocked fridge – and Mary has been defrosted and put back in waay too often already. I’m not eager for another fridging

The reunion between her and Dean is very touching, contains lots of emotional moments, lots of awkward moments (her seeing the Impala is both). She has a lot culture shock dealing with 30 years of being dead and how far technology has come. As well as Dean trying to explain so much that has happened in h last 11 seasons. They’re joined by Castiel who, along with the blood trail, tells them that Sam is in trouble.

It also introduces Mary to angels and the fact that Castiel’s solution to every problem at the moment appears to be to beat witnesses until they talk which seems very unangelic to her

This is all very nice and emotional et al but it all feels a little… slow? I mean, Sam is missing and there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of emotion there or even a great sense of urgency

Meanwhile Sam has been taken by Lady Antonia Bevell of the British Men of Letters and after having a vet remove a bullet from his leg she decides to question him

Ok, she SAYS she wants to know anything about American Hunters and their hierarchy (which I don’t think they have) so she can help. See, in Britain there are no monsters because the British Men of Letters have warded ever possible point of entry and the minute a monster shows up they go find it and kill it. Britain is monster free (this could be an interesting debate considering the number of “monsters” who are neutral or struggling against their nature we’ve seen). And they want to help the Americans make America monster free as well – and to do that they want to torture Sam lots and lots to make him co-operate

So, I’m going to say now I don’t believe her because obvious sinister character is obvious. More she even made a good point last season that Sam & Dean may have stopped the world ending several times but they’d also kind of caused all those apocalypses in the first place. Stopping Sam and Dean loose cannons would make more sense

Because this plan? Doesn’t. First of all going to the US doesn’t make huge sense because the US is so huge and relatively sparsely populated – maybe you could start in a region and spread out, but there’s a reason why most of Sam and Dean’s escapades don’t take place in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago-  they’re all in Middle-of-Nowhere Ohio or Look-At-All-the-Corn Kansas collective population your average shopping mall. Warding and rapid response seems like a big if in those conditions. If you’re going to do it why not start in another country where it could work: smaller, more densely populated: you could work your way through Europe and then have a larger stack of hunters to help with the wide open spaces of the US.

Friday, October 14, 2016

American Horror Story, Season 6, Episode 5, Chapter 5

Time to for some flashbacks – read by an actual historian to preserve this interesting documentary theme which I’m actually starting to like. It’s a nice twist and gives it all a realness feel that works quite well.

We’re going back to the building of the House buy the very rich Edward Mott (who, by the hinted exposition, is revealed to be Dandy Mott’s ancestor in one of those little connections that this show likes to do between the different seasons.) Rich, socially awkward and art obsessed he builds his house in the middle of nowhere so he can avoid all that pesky company (except for his servants)

Except for one – his lover Guinness. Yes we have a gay character (that’s two in as many episodes). Yes they’re going to die because he’s building a house on The Butcher’s Land and she will be around soon to massacre them all with her terrible accent. After going ballistic and torturing and locking up his servants in the root cellar after some of his precious art is destroyed – along with the ableist trope linking Edward and Dandy it’s clear this whole family is supposed to be dangerously insane.

The Butcher does her thing and Edward ends up dead, Guinness accused of his murder and the servants forgotten all about until they die in the cellar. Death death everywhere.

Of course being dead is not necessarily the end since, like season one, the dead hang around, terrified of the Butcher.

Back in the present, Shelby and Matt continue to be too stupid to live, are now surrounded by a mob of the Butcher’s determined to kill them all and torture them with terrible accents. They run through the house tormented by various ghosts including an uber creepy weird crawling one until ghostly Edward turns up to lead them out through his tunnels because he wants them to escape and leave him alone – not add to the passel of ghosts he has to put up with.

Of course escape isn’t easy and they and Flora end up in the woods by the same farm where we previously saw the horrifying kids suckling on a pig. The house is occupied by a family of cannibal redneck stereotypes who just need a few less teeth and more married cousins to complete the list. They’re eating and killing Elias who wasn’t too badly inconvenienced by the arrows – but was by the family eating him

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Aftermath, Season One, Episode Three: In Our Empty Rooms

I think we have pretty much established a pattern with Aftermath. Yes, I know it's only been three episodes; however, it seems like each week the show focuses on some creature from mythology coming to life that the family has to deal with.  This of course is always juxtaposed with the difficulty of living through an apocalypse.

We're going to have to break this up because with the family split apart, it still very much feels like two shows inside a single episode.  When we last left Brianna,  she had just watched as a dragon flew away with a horse.  Brianna is back on the road determined to meet up with her family in Seattle. She comes across a couple of guys who are camping and asks if they might have any food to share. Brianna is told she can pay for the food with "ass, grass, or cash". This highlights a danger that would be common to women travelling alone in a situation where the rule of law has broken down. Brianna tries to back away but when the men get more aggressive, she pulls out her gun and shoots at one of them.  Now that she's in control of the situation, the men are backing down afraid for their lives. Mary and Devyn arrive in what looks like a golf cart and promise Brianna food if doesn't kill the men. Not being bloodthirsty, Brianna orders the men to lie on the ground face down and hops onto the back of the cart.

When Brianna arrives back at the compound, it's clear that she doesn't exactly fit into this insular religious community.  Brianna learns quickly that saying things like damn, gees, and butt is offensive to this community.  Mary, in particular, takes great relish in admonishing Brianna and even goes as far as to tell the woman in charge about Brianna's gun.  Brianna is forced to choose between staying and eating without her gun or having her gun forcibly removed from her and then escorted off property. Being in a closed in society, I guess no one ever told Mary what happens to snitches.

Brianna is quick to recognize that she's made an ally in Devyn and tries to talk to him about stealing her gun back and getting access to a car.  Devyn isn't sure about the gun but promises that when Reverend Brother gets back, he's sure to give her a lift because he's such a good man.  Yeah, we all know the head of a religious cult is not going to be a good guy.

At any rate they are all outside when Brianna hears a loud and familiar sound.  Brianna is quick to tell everyone to get in the barn because (drum roll please)
That's right, our friendly neighbourhood dragon is back and this time it has a taste for a cow. The boss lady is instantly suspicious and sure that Brianna brought a demon into their midst. That's what happens in an insular community - anyone from outside is suspicious.  Brianna waits it out for a little while in the barn but after going quiet for some time, Devyn and the head lady decide to step outside to see what is going on. Brianna tries to tell them that it's too soon but they head out anyway. They don't make it six feet from the barn when the dragon returns.  Brianna quickly instructs everyone to lie on their stomachs and not to move.  The dragon flies over closely and then takes off to do whatever dragons do when they have a cow to digest.

We're going to rest of the Copelands for while.  Okay, so they arrive in Seattle to find cars simply abandoned on the road with no sign of anyone.  Karen of course is suspicious and sure that things are going to get a little risky when looters show up.  They find a news camera and Joshua watches the tape trying to figure out what happened to the people of Seattle.  Back in the RV, Joshua reveals to Karen that whatever is happening, is happening across he U.S. and he knows this because all of the camera feeds died at the exact same moment. Karen is not up to dealing with this news and lies down. They head to Joshua's dads place, only to discover that he is among the missing. 

 It seems that Joshua got his love of mysticism and religion from his father, who has an extensive collection of Maori artifacts. Aunt Sally however is more focused on little practicalities and starts digging up granddad's garden much to the consternation of Dana.  Dana is then attacked by a rabid dog which Aunt Sally scares off with a hose.  Fortunately, Aunt Sally is a nurse and cleans the wound but knows that Dana is still going to need shots.  Dana, Aunt Sally, Joshua and Karen all hop into the RV and search for medicine while Matt stays behind in case Brianna shows up.

Hostage to Pleasure (Psy/Changeling #5) by Nalini Singh

Ashaya Aleine is the M-Psy responsible for the Psy Council’s controversial new hive mind project… and she wants out. But the Council does not accept resignations and are holding her son hostage to ensure her co-operation

Only with the help of the Dark River wereleopards – including Dorian the sniper – can she manage her and her son’s escape

But whether Dark River can trust her – and how she can stay out of the Council’s clutches – is an ongoing battle, especially since Ashaya has a far more insidious threat to avoid: her sister.

I continue to be at war with myself over this series – a war that continues with this book

There’s so much I love about it. I love the world building. I love how the ongoing debate about Silence is becoming more and more complicated and involved. I love how layered this is. Ashaya repeatedly tells them – just like Judd did before - that some people need Silence to protect themselves from their own powers. And not just the lethal powers for Psy like Judd – but from the demons in their own head. We’re repeatedly told that the Psy were tormented by psychosis, murder and suicide before Silence was implemented

Ashaya says it best – ironically for a race that is so lacking in emotion – but the Psy are genuinely terrified of themselves. With Silence fraying more and more we’re seeing consequences of that, and a lot of that isn’t good or even close to good. Murder, suicide – the Psy perpetuated and suffer from horrors while living with Silence – but Silence is there to protect them from another nightmare of horrors the whole race is funning from.

On the Council side we have another interesting reaction – with the emergence of the “Pure Psy” – as more and more Psy are breaking silence we have a push back – led by factions in the Council. Brutal and ruthless and in many ways rather trying to close the stable door long after the horses has bolted – but that’s very human nature, to throw in extreme backlash when defeat seems inevitable.

Which means we also have ongoing political shenanigans with the Council – between Nikitia and the Scotts – there’s a lot of complexity within the Psy Council without them being simplistically reduced to just the designated bad guys.

I also like the continued hints of the third race that makes up this series – the humans. Humanity, the Human Union represents a growing threat simply because they are so invisible and overlooked – I look forward to see how this develops because it would be so easy to dismiss and ignore humanity next to the supernatural power houses of the Psy and Changelings. A third faction, coupled with the internal politics of the Psy, the rebellion, the Pure Psy and the Council politics all lends itself to layers of multi-faceted storylines and world building

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 3, Episode 6: Straight Jacket

This episode contained a whole lot of fighting (which From Dusk Till Dawn has previously used as filler because they’re not even super fight scenes) with one important incident – and by important I mean enraging.

Last episode Richie was kidnapped by Amaru and taken to the mental hospital where she was locked up, the bloody words still on the wall. With a flashback we’re shown a new power of Amaru’s – the ability to turn people to their dark side and make them evil and violent: marking them with blood red eyes.

She then uses this power on Richie – turning all three of his eyes (including the eye on his palm) red, raising his shadow self and convincing him to serve her sending all of his fellows to a “better place”

Which basically means killing them and sending them to Xilbalba

So when the gang arrives to save him he starts picking them off one by one and imprisoning them. Yes he’s not killing them because he has a plan which defies even Amaru – he needs to capture them so Seth can join them in Xilbalba (apparently he can only get there by killing the others? I don’t know, Richie logic)

Most of the episode is spent on these battles and cat and mouse games

Look, I like action, I do. And a well choreographed fight scene is a joy to behold (just look at any episode of Into the Badlands, that is awesome and beautiful). But From Dusk Till Dawn has many of the same terrible problems that we’ve seen with Vampire Diaries and Originals when it comes to supernatural power –it varies. A couple of episodes ago Burt took down Richie and Seth like they were small children because he was the eternal hunter and Just That Awesome. This episode Richie takes him down with minimal effort. Seth is human yet seems to manage better against Richie than Burt does. Scott has these amazing sword skills from nowhere. We see this a lot with From Dusk till Dawn, a character’s skill, power etc will change episode to episode at the convenience of the plot.

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 3 Episode 5: Shady Glen

This episode brings us everyone bickering with everyone else. Endless endless bickering. And I actually like it. I like it because, sadly, this is humanity. This is what we do. We’re petty, we’re silly, we’re all too often utterly incapable of putting our petty nonsense aside because of the bigger picture

So we have Dakota hating the Geckos. We have Freddie and Richie striking up sparkes as Freddie is reminded he hates the Geckos too. We have Burt and Aiden sniping at each other. We have Scott whining about being given orders. There’s lots of bickering

I also like the role that Seth plays in this. Rather than making him a fighter on par with the other supernaturals (though I do appreciate his work out scene, though it should have been shirtless) which was always ridiculous, they make him more of a leader. He is the one who repeatedly steps in and demands everyone focus. He is the one who silences the arguments, who reminds people what they’re facing who gets everyone on track. Seth the combat monster alongside Richie, Ximena, Aiden and Freddie doesn’t work. Seth the tactician and leader who keeps his eyes on the bigger picture and doesn’t let current issues cloud matters? That works. That’s a role he can fill. And to a lesser extent he has for a while – I mean, Richie was reluctant to seek out Santanico but it was Seth who cut through the emotion and pointed out it was necessary. Seth is the pragmatist, possibly because he is the outsider.

So the demon this week is Cipactli, an Azetc primeval monster – and it comes with a swarm of insects as well. It heads into the sewers and pollutes the water (thankfully this town has its own limited isolated water supply) which makes people who drink it into cannibals who insatiably attack their nearest and dearest like they’re made of Baileys Truffles

I would also note now that if something makes my family taste like Baileys truffles they are all dead. And they understand this.

All of this is explained by the research guys: Aiden and Burt (who has seen this before) who both snipe at each other constantly

This is a shift from Amarra’s usual tactics of targeting the Culebras and leaving humans out of it. And that’s one of the reasons they manage to get Dakota onside. Yes, Dakota went to Freddie to tell him that Richie is still alive and survived a shotgun blast and Freddie quickly tried to distract her and get her out of the way. That obviously didn’t work so instead she followed Freddie and found out he’s working with Richie. The man who claims to have been raised by her father is now working with the man who killed her father.

Dakota was not amused

Thankfully a flash of culebra fangs and a small town full of cannibals seemed to be enough to get her to put her antipathy to one side and try and get in with the gang for the time being. Oh she intends to catch up with the murdering later but she’s willing to put it to one side while dealing with a cannibal plague. I respect a character who has priorities like that even if it takes, as I said before, Seth to try and keep them focused.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Immortal Nights (Argeneau #24) by Lynsay Sands

Things have not been going well for Abigail.  After her mother is diagnosed with cancer, Abigail feels that she has not choice but to drop out of medical school to care for her.  For months she acts as her mother's caregiver, putting her life on hold but its a sacrifice she's willing to make.  When Abigail's mother dies, the only relief that Abigail has is that the money she had saved for medical school and the sale of the house is enough to pay off all of the medical debt.  Unfortunately, this leaves Abigail with a few hundred dollars to her name, no job, no plan and feeling alone.  When she gets the chance to visit her childhood friend, Abigail jumps at the opportunity never guessing that will lead to her involvement in a kidnapping and ultimately, change her life forever.

It's book twenty-four and it's fair to say that there's nothing new about this story.  By this point, Sands is clearly writing her books by the numbers making it even more predictable than other paranormal romance novels.  Declaring a human a life mate is a short cut to get the romance happening thus explaining how one can claim to be in love after only eight days.  Even if I could tolerate the insta love, the idea of fooling around with a man you found in a cage after sneaking onto an airplane, while his captors are in the cockpit no less is beyond ridiculous.  Even the woo woo that is essential this this kind of story could not stop me from giving the whole thing the side eye.

I want to know where the humor went in this series? Sure, the earlier books were certainly formulaic but at least they had laugh out loud moments to distract you from how unoriginal the whole boy meets girl plot is.  The entire point of this book seems to be to rush Tomasso and Abigail quickly into sex.  They don't even know each other's names and yet they are quickly going at it.  I have no objection to porn but I do however object to bad porn masquerading as romance.

Abigail, is like many of the protagonists in that she doesn't really have many ties, thus making it easier for her to simply run off with her immortal lover.  The one tie she does have have is her childhood friend Jet who she promptly forgets about the moment she lays eyes on Tomasso Notte. In my book, this makes her an awful person.  For all she knew, Jet could have been taken prisoner.  He could have been being abused and violated or even murdered but she was too busy getting it on with Tomasso to think about her BFF from childhood.

Lucifer, Season Two, Episode Three: Sin-Eater

This week it's back to the police procedural.  To make it work, the writers choose to link a case about punishment and Lucifer.  As the devil, Lucifer has spent centuries punishing humanity for its bad acts. This week, he becomes involved in a case which has people being punished for the horrible videos they post on a social media site called Wobble.  Apparently, the videos which are uploaded are so soul crushing that Wobble has a ridiculous retention rate for staff.  How much depravity can one person look at day in and day out? In many cases, the internet is where common decency goes to die. Lucifer is put out by the fact that someone is doing his job, even if he does enjoy seeing someone who has had their nuts roasted off. 

There's some pretty good liners back and forth between Lucifer and Chloe, who mostly takes on the role of disapproving mother.  Lucifer even uses one murder to point out that Chloe is actively making Dan's life miserable.  I absolutely don't agree with his assessment in this. Given what Dan did, the last thing Chloe should be doing is rushing into his arms and pretending that everything is okay, no matter how many times Dan offers up the puppy dog eyes.

Trixie, being a child, wants to spend time with her parents and for her that means a family camping trip.  It's clear that while Dan wouldn't mind participating, spending any one on one time with Dan outside of work is the last priority on Chloe's mind.  By the end of the episode, the two decide that it's time to stop pretending that things are going to be fine. Yes, that spells D-I-V-O-R-C-E.  Thus far this season, we have had less of Lucifer pushing himself on Chloe, though he continues to care for her.  I don't want to see this potential separation between Chloe and Dan used to make Chloe and Lucifer into a couple because I think that it would ruin the show. 

Charlotte continues to try to acclimate herself to the world and for her this includes interrupting Lucifer just as he is about to get lucky.  Talk about pouring a bucket of ice water on any excitement. Interestingly enough, Lucifer always seems to act when Charlotte is even remotely sexual. Living with mommy is something Lucifer feels he must do but it doesn't exactly excite him, particularly given that Charlotte has a steep learning curve and seems to passionately disapprove of Lucifer's chosen profession.  Lucifer sees being a police consultant as an extension of the job he's had for centuries - punisher.  Charlotte however doesn't miss the chance to suggest that Lucifer is doing this to curry favor with his father because he apparently wasn't born for this role.  When Lucifer finally comes to the conclusion that he punishes because he likes it, he comes to the determination that Charlotte needs to take up the life of the body she is currently possessing.  As you recall, Charlotte is supposed to be a practicing lawyer, married mother of three.  As you might well suspect, Charlotte is not really enthused with this idea. It does however allow Lucifer to kick Charlotte out. 

The Strain, Season 3, Episode 6: The Battle for Central Park

This is a grand battle episode – Christine gathers her forces to help get Vasiliy into the Central Park nest hoping to destroy all the strigoi there and stop any further incursions in Manhatten. This includes sending strike teams for support – including drafted prisoners Gus and Angel – while Vasiliy and new love-interest Captain Kate Rogers go into the tunnels to unleash Vasiliy’s silver bombs

With extras who you know are there to die dramatically so we can have tension

Along the way they pick up Ephraim and Dutch so they can continue to study Strigoi communications – well, in theory – but in actuality it’s so Dutch can get all jealous over Kate, of course it is.

I am giving Kate a 30% chance of being dead by the end of this season. 2 established characters with a rocky romance go through an “out” period and new competition arises? She is so dead so Dutch and Vasiliy can get back together. The tropes are strong with this one.

Gus and Angel are forced into battle by 2 cops who are not only inept but also sadistic – insisting that new prisoner (scrounging for things to trade for food got her arrested) Maria go down a strigoi tunnel alone since Angel and Gus were so determined to protect her. Gus and Angel aren’t having that, capture one cop at gunpoint and both cops end up dead through further ineptness. Yup, no-one’s crying over this one.

They then run into Vasily for reunion time! (And Vasily not being thrilled by the whole drafting thing), Angel gets Maria to safety, her role of damsel in distress and plot object now complete, while Gus join Vasily to kill all the strigoi. I’m glad to see the teams merging, The Strain can get awfully distracted at times

We also catch up with Zach who, alas isn’t dead and…

Wait. Why isn’t he? Why is he not dead? Why does the Master care about him? The only reason was leverage against Ephraim – but Ephraim’s plague failed? Why would the Master even remotely care about him – what is so special about Ephraim that the Master would put Kelly, one of his valuable sentient vampires, in charge of baby sitting, having Eichorst visit the kid and even assign a Feeler (the freaky child vampires) to be his bodyguard/pet/friend? Why is he worth this effort?

Anyway Zach is evacuated by Eichorst because he is That Important.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Curse of the Land (Soul Wood #2) by Faith Hunter

Nell has now joined Psyled as a probationary agent. Newly trained and with some useful skills beyond the arcane, it’s time for her first mission. And maybe something to distract her from the blight that has infected her own land.

But that’s not the only distraction – with Rick LaFleur consumed by his own personal problems, the team has to face a dangerous and unknown entity that is piling up bodies and could leave a swathe of destruction in its wake. Or wake up something even worse

This is one of those reviews which is pretty hard. It’s pretty hard because I’ve read book one in this series, Blood of Earth, and it’s hard for me to review this book without heavily copying and pasting from the last book review. We have the same original world building which excellently draws on the Jane Yellowrock series, expanding on it in wider and broader ways, bringing in new supernaturals and excellent world building and mystery. I also love that it’s willing to have the Unknown. It’s actually surprising in how many urban fantasy books we seem to have complete encyclopaedic knowledge of all the mysterious and hidden mystical stuff in the world. When really far more would be a mystery – it’s refreshing to see characters find a random magical oddness and instead of saying “aha, it’s a werechupacabra voudoun!” instead say “I have no idea this exists” or “we have no name for this because we never knew this was a thing!” I like that

I like the characters that come together that form Nell’s team. And I really like Neil – the way her character is so affected by her upbringing, both rebelling against it and being shaped by it as she is exposed more and more to the world around her and grows slowly as a person. She doesn’t lose her church roots – but they are just roots and don’t shape entirely how she grows.

It’s not that it’s the same of the last book – but the things that make this book so much fun are pretty much the same as the first book. That is the foundation of this book and it works so well. We have Nell with her extremely original powers and relationship with her land. We have her developing relationship with her family, growing from the first book. We have the team coming together – introduced in the first book we now see much more of their interactions and purposes especially characters like T Laine and Jojo who were more side characters in the first book.

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 3: The Other Shoe

Everyone is now aware that the Evil Queen is back in play and everyone’s worried about how to deal with it. Snow and David offer to help Regina because they’ve so much experience fighting and beating the EQ.

Is it me or is this the most passive aggressive thing to say ever? They’re totally rubbing it in.

Like everyone else they’ve decided the source of all evil knowledge is the imprisoned Hyde and they plan to bribe him with Lasagne. Alas he’s already working with EQ who has a much more extensive menu. And can someone please explain to me why this person isn’t under 8 dozen sleeping curses and occasionally being tortured by Snow White speech? Someone really really needs to be paying more attention to him and everyone needs to not keep going to him with all their questions

With Hyde no help, everyone frets over the EQ – and even Zelena is torn. She’s angered by Regina’s almost parental/patronising need to tell Zelena to avoid EQ (after all, cannot Zelena look after herself?) while the EQ continues to try and get her onside pointing out how much more EQ and Zelena has in common than Regina and her. Y’know, Zelena hasn’t come close to filling her redemption arc for her to go all dark side.

It’s time for the return of Ashley – Cinderella – who how has her happy life with Tom and Gus, the human mouse (and this show really doesn’t have enough POC for this to be one of the few roles – a servile animal) and her new baby and all is shiny.

This comes with lots of Cinderella flashbacks which, really, I don’t need to go into because does anyone not know this story? Though I do have to question the political sense of duty that any prince, heir to the throne no less, has if he decides to marry a woman based on one night’s dancing and her peculiar taste in footwear rather than considering the alliances his wedding could bring. In fact, I question, in a feudal context, any prince marrying for love when his marriage is such an asset to this kingdom. There’s one twist – one of the “Evil Stepsisters”, Clarynda isn’t evil and doesn’t want the Prince at all – she’s fallen for the groom. And though she isn’t forced into menial servitude and to wear rags, she is still under the thumb of their mother and her ambitions. Clarynda turns to Cinderella for help – and Cinderella gives her a magic key her mother conveniently decided to leave her which she never used for some reason – this key lets people go to the land of Untold Stories and, effectively, put their story on hold avoiding the fate her mother has defined for her

And that’s the theme of this episode. The land of untold stories isn’t just about people whose story hasn’t been told – but also by people deliberately trying to avoid their ending or trajectory of their story. Making it both a refuge and, in some ways, a prison.

Now those people are in Storybrooke, their stories restarting and for reasons that confuse people, Cinderella decides to go hunt her stepsister with a shotgun.

Westworld, Season One, Episode Two: Chestnut

So far, other than the Man in Black, we really haven't seen much of the guests, including how they get into the park or their desire to do so in the first place.  William arrives on a futuristic train with his co-worker Logan, who henceforth shall be described as dudebro because it's the perfect description of this predictable cardboard cutout character. For the most part, everything which happens with William and dudebro feels heavy handed because we've seen this before in so many different shows, films and books. It begins when William is given a choice of what he wants to wear, right down to a white hat or a black hat.  William picks the white hat, telecasting to the audience that he sees himself as a good and decent man.  Dudebro is encouraging William to let go of his inhibitions and be who he is meant to be. Naturally, Dudebro is hoping that this means William will join him in some debauchery and mindless violence.   The job of the residents is to entice the guests into some sort of story line and or fantasy.  I guess if you're paying, someone else should do the work.  Each time a resident tries to draw William in, Dudebro is there to push them away, at one point using a knife to stab through a residents hand. Anyone else curious about a knife which can only harm robots and not humans?

Unlike William, when Dudebro is offered a sexual encounter, he is quick to jump on it and participates in group sex with the robots.  It's worth noting that Dudebro embraces a male robot when they first arrive and later a male robot appears in bed with him.  Westworld could be implying that Dudebro is bisexual but don't hold your breathe folks because his primary interests so far seem to be heterosexual. William is able to resist the sexual temptation claiming to have someone back home he is saving himself for.  We do however see a potential crack in his veil of goodness when he spies Dolores for the first time.

The other guest of note is of course the Man in Black and his continuing trail of violence.  In the last episode, he made it clear before he raped Delores that he plays the game harder than anyone else.  This week he is in search of a maze and to access it, he has no problem killing robot after robot. Sure, he acknowledges that this isn't real and the audience knows that the technicians will gather the bodies and get them functioning again, but this is still inexplicably violent.  Finally, after shooting a mother in front of her husband and child, the child steps forward (and quite out of character at that) to give the Man in Black the information he is seeking.  We can probably expect the Man in Black to become increasingly violent as he searches for the maze, a level not normally accessible to guests.

The residents continue to have glitches.  A major one is set off when Dolores tells Maeve what her father did, setting off some unscripted behaviour in Maeve.  Maeve does her typical script about the bad girl inside her to entice guests into a sexual liaison but she is clearly triggered and remembers her own run in with the Man in Black. It's enough for Maeve to face being decommissioned permanently. In the middle of one of her flashbacks, Maeve closes her eyes, wishing the bad dream away and wakes in the Westworld Lab to find two technicians working on her. Maeve grabs a scalpel, gets away from the technicians and starts to explore only to be caught again.  When next we see Maeve, she's back in Westworld going through her spiel to entice guests into having sex.

What's clear is that no matter how the technicians wipe the robots memories, they are slowly becoming sentient and becoming aware that not only is their world fake but that each day they are subjected to some new form of depravity for the purposes of entertainment.  Dolores remembers the big shoot out that happened last week and that it left the center of town littered with bodies.  Maeve remembers her encounter with the Man in Black, her daughter from another storyline and being held captive by Indigenous robots.  Right now, the robots cannot hurt the guests.  The guns the robots have don't have any effect whatsoever but what happens when they become aware and decide that they are done with the violence and the horror? This is why Dolores digging up a gun at the behest of a mysterious voice deepens the mystery.  Is that a real gun and will Dolores finally have a weapon to use against the Man in Black when he attacks next?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Devil's Daughter (Lucinda's Pawnshop #1) by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Lucinda is the owner of a pawn shop which has the power to appear anywhere in the world. Only those who are going through some kind of moral conflict can enter; once inside, a dark object calls out to them. This object will have the power to greatly influence their lives.  As the devil's daughter, Lucinda collects these objects at the behest of Satan.  Because she is also the daughter of Eve, Lucinda still has a human soul and heart and this means that sometimes she's able to cast wrench into the devil's plans. Lucinda has been playing the long game for quite sometime but when Dominic makes his way to the shop, Lucinda finds herself tempted by a human for the first time in a long.  The fact that he is able to enter means that despite is apparent goodness, there's something dark about him as well.  Will Lucinda have the courage to explore her feelings or will she get caught up once again in one of her father's demonic schemes?

I honestly had by doubts about this book.  I read the description several times and because I kept coming back to it over the course of several days, I decided to read it.  It's a decision I absolutely do not regret.  There have been lots of tales about Satan and his evil plans for this world and so it wouldn't be fair to say that the Devil's Daughter is unique but yet, I found it a compelling read and simply could not put it down.  I love the idea that the devil can not act directly and so is forced to create far reaching plans, moving people around like pawns on a chessboard, instead directly influencing humanity.  Free will in this universe is paramount, making the evil that we do entirely of our own creation.  Yes, each person reaches a critical moment when they must choose between right and wrong but the choice at the end is always theirs.  It is however worth noting that there are times when the authors stray and become somewhat didactic as it relates to things like pre-marital sex and the importance of believing in the divine.

This notion of free will and the potential intrinsic evil of mankind only really becomes a problem for me when the authors bring up the holocaust.  The authors claim that Hitler was influenced by the devil and this is what lead to the holocaust.  Lucinda blames herself in part because she didn't see the plan coming together until it was too late.  Appropriating an atrocity in this fashion is never going to be acceptable because it reduces human lives to a plot point. Given that intrinsic evil is something the authors explored there's no reason supernatural machinations needs to apply to Hitler.

On some level, I found each of the characters interesting.  Lucinda and her self doubt about her own goodness based on her parentage reminded me of the question of original sin.  Even Eve, who didn't physically appear in this book finds redemption when the writers suggest that Eve isn't the one was cast out of heaven, nor did she eat fruit from a forbidden tree.  Eve chooses to join Adam on earth after being raped by the devil.  The authors didn't directly paint what happened between Eve and Lucifer as rape because it is rape by deception but at no point did they imply that this act isn't an extreme violation. Nathaniel, the enigmatic angel fascinated me the most.  He's a fallen angel and yet he promises to watch over Lucinda.  I very much get the feeling that he was assigned to fall to guide and help Lucinda.  I really want to know his backstory more.

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 4: Coming Back

Doc has now been turned back into a human which leads to some of the scenes this show is starting to do well – the conflict that humans feel after being turned back from a vampire is difficult to live with to say the least. Flesh is utterly tortured, filled with self loathing – especially since we see his past: how he was turned and then killed his children. That’s a whole lot of guilt to live with. Flesh is happy to be human again though – being human means feeling which is something that vampires no longer do.

He also appears to be something of budding evangelist – trying to convince the other vampires to let Vanessa turn them human again, let them feel. There’s a definite sense that he’s clinging to this, this purpose, to keep going. Especially since he mentions that he does think he deserves to die – but on his terms. He will die; but not before he completes his mission

Of course, Doc is even more newly human and she is deeply traumatised by the experience – and not really taking a lot of comfort from Flesh saying “hey you got lucky, you didn’t eat friends and loved ones!”. While I can see his point, it’s equally understandable that Doc isn’t ready to see “bitten by vampires and locked up for months near starving” as “being lucky”.

There’s another potentially dangerous scene with Flesh and Sam – where Sam describes the many physical advantages of being a vampire: including super senses and old injuries being healed. Sam, ominously, asks if Flesh misses it… I am concerned that we may be looking at a disturbing “disability cure” storyline here

We also get what I find to be an interesting little hint into Axel again – I’m reminded that Axel basically spent several months completely alone (unless we count vampire Doc and unconscious Vanessa). That has an effect on people – and one seems to be how Axel has basically created entire relationships out of pretty much nothing. Whether or not, as his fellows implied, he had a crush on Doc before she became a vampire, he definitely built something up in his head while he was feeding her. But, as she points out, he doesn’t know a damn thing about her. Axel is, in some ways, rather fixated on both of them and the empty, one-sided relationships he built up with them while they were both effectively insensible

That doesn’t in anyway justify the extremely predatory, hella skeevy behaviour towards Vanessa, but if they expand upon this it could potentially explain some more of his character. It also potentially explains something of his ridiculous obsession with his “mission” and his current plan to wait forever for orders that every sensible person knows is never actually going to arrive – a lone survivor living alone for months, completely out of his depth, desperately needing a chain of command that he’s lost without.

I may be clutching at straws here to find more depth in a character we have to endure.

This is also why Doc seems to be the one who can genuinely get through to him and convince him to abandon his useless, pointless mission and actually focus on what they have. It could also be why she manages to convince him not to run out chasing after Vanessa – because she represents an even deeper, obsessive relationship than Vanessa does

Yes, Vanessa leaves the compound. On the one hand I’m kind of frustrated at her constant desire to run off without any kind of plan or preparation into certain death. On the other, the alternative is to stay with Axel forever since he has no plan. Basically it’s stay still until they starve, following Axel’s ridiculous plan, or go out to near certain death looking for her daughter in a wasteland.