Saturday, October 29, 2016

Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 3: The Foundary

This week brings us a pretty standard monster of the week which then ramps the creepy up to 11 because it involves creepy dolls and creepy kids

There’s nothing creepier than creepy dolls and creepy kids. Throw in clowns and we’ve got the trifecta.

There’s not a huge amount to go into on this mission – we have ghosts and a twist and fighting and banishing

The main issue of the plot is not the hunt –but Mary joining the hunt and Mary definitely having issues. She is very much not adapting to the modern world. She asks Castiel when he first felt he was fitting into the human world. Of course, Castiel never really has fit in with humanity… but insists Mary is where she should be because she’s human. But she’s a human 30 years out of time and those last 30 years have been very rapidly moving years

This is also a perfect study on how Dean and Sam deal with issues, especially emotional issues. Dean goes into complete denial. This isn’t happening. All is good. Everything is going to fine. Denial denial denial. Especially as he is the one who remembers their mother – and they bond over similar taste in food and music

While Sam wants to talk it out but the others are classic Hunters. They do not speak about emotional issues.

As they investigate, including Mary taking the lead as fake FBI agent, we see Mary as a very skilled, capable hunter – but also clearly a hunter who is 30 years out of date and she’s feeling that badly.

At the end Mary confronts what’s hitting her. She’s not only having trouble fitting into the world, but she’s also mourning. She’s mourning her husband but also mourning her kids – which is hard to do with them both actually still alive and around – but they’re adults. They’re not children, not her baby and small child: full grown adults, not the kids she lost. Them being there only makes it harder for her to confront and accept her grief. She has to go away to find herself…

This is all well and good but how exactly is she going to function and live? Is it that practical? I mean, I like this scene, it’s very real and I can completely understand the turmoil she’s going through. Sure, here’s Sam and Dean calling her “mom” – but HER Dean is like, 6 years old. Her Sam is a babe in arms – she’s supposed to look at this 6’+ man and see her baby? And not think of the missing years or her dead husband?

Friday, October 28, 2016

American Horror Story, Season 6, Episode 7, Chapter 7

While this episode has a lot of tension – I really think this season of American Horror Story has done horror story tension and creepiness way better than any previous – but it’s also going far too fast and suffering from moving waaay too fast and us already know the ending with that whole “one person will live.”

See, I only know three of these characters – so I already know it’s going to be one of those three since there’s been no attempt to make me care about the others or invest enough to think they’re going to live (Shelby, btw, Shelby’s so going to survive). And I think the show has really missed a huge opportunity in not having all these characters – the people and the actors who played them – interact with each other. Lee trying to sponsor the alcoholic Monet? Audrey and her happy married against Shelby’s wreck of a love life? Kathy Bates chewing the scenary in the corner? That would have been pretty good.

Instead everyone’s dying way too quick. At the very beginning of this episode Sid, the cameraman and a random intern are all hacked to bits by Agnes who is full on scenery chewing now, ranting and raving, dropping into and out of her accent, alternating between Butcher rants and grief and horror about what she did (especially poignant is her going from “my land!” to “she was a mother! I robbed that child of a mother!”). But you spend all that time setting up Sid’s reality TV nonsense and then kill him off already? (I’m going to take the high road and not at all mention having Cheyenne Jackson fully clothed for both the episodes he’s been around) Too soon! Too Soon!

I do have to say Kathy Bates killed it though. Though, of course, mental illness as a source of danger, the insane murderer, the violent mentally ill person – that’s a horrendous trope. It’s overplayed and damaging, the vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous yet a ridiculous amount of portrayals of mental illness are violent and dangerous.

Kathy Bate’s incredible, frightening and pitiable performance here doesn’t change how damaging it is – her excellence doesn’t change the awfulness.

Agnes continues to rave her way around the scene – attacking and badly injuring Shelby with a cleaver, before being slammed into a mirror and later shot by Lee. She still keeps on coming back going more and more off the deep end.

The Walking Dead: The Implications of Glenn's Death

The Walking Dead returned for the much anticipated and dreaded season 7. Like many, we wondered which character would actually die at the hands of Negan and Lucille. Turns out we were wrong - but there’s a lot to talk about concerning the demise of one of the characters. On this opening episode of The Walking Dead, Abraham and Glenn died. And we’re going to look at Glenn’s death in particular, and what that means

In many of our posts we have talked about the deaths of minorities - which is why we’re focusing on Glenn here. Yes, Abraham died as well, but many of the issues that surround and are affected by Glenn’s death simply do not apply to Abraham. The positives are not noteworthy and the negatives are not damaging because Abraham is a cishet, able bodied white man in a sea of powerful, valued, important cishet able bodied white men in The Walking Dead, in the genre and in media in general. Abraham’s death will never cause waves in the same way a drop is unnoticed in the ocean

While Glenn is a torrent in a very shallow pond.

One positive we definitely do have about Glenn’s death is the impact on the audience and other characters. We’ve mentioned before that the death of POC on the Walking Dead has pretty much the same emotional impact as your 7 year old’s goldfish: it’s moderately sad but not exactly worth getting upset over, and pretty soon Goldie III is going to be replaced by Goldie IV and if you’re lucky, little Timmy won’t even notice. T-Dog, Noah, Tyrese, Bob, Jacqui (remember her?) Oscar (remember him?) Caesar, Shrumper (you didn’t even know they had names, admit it), Dr. Caleb (if I didn’t call him doctor you wouldn’t remember him either) - these characters died, we barely noticed them, they certainly didn’t matter and often they were replaced.

We can safely say that Glenn was not one of those unnoticed deaths. In fact, we even noted in the review that we viewed Abraham’s death as a relief. We weren’t exactly rooting for Abraham to die but if someone had to die, it might as well be Abraham. Abraham was one of the more preferable choices…. And then Glenn died. Abraham was a relief. Glenn was a punch to the gut. Abraham didn’t matter much to us. Glenn did. With Glenn, The Walking Dead developed a character, gave him a storyline, gave him a family, gave him people to care about and who cared about him. Glenn was a character, not a replaceable extra, Glenn mattered. That’s important.

Unfortunately, while the impact of Glenn’s death was important, part of how that impact was portrayed was extremely problematic.

Because this death was all about Rick.

Why was Glenn killed? Was it because of anything Glenn did? An action he chose? A mistake he made? A choice he made? Was Glenn’s death about Glenn at all?

After Abraham is killed, Darryl reacts in protest and Negan promises there will be a consequence.  The consequence is the death of Glenn.  Think about that for a moment.  Darryl is the one who committed the offense and Glenn was the one sentenced to pay for it. This very easily could have been Darryl’s death and in fact, it makes no sense for Negan at the time to then turn his fury to Glenn.  The only reasonable explanation of this is that Negan saw in Darryl strength that he could use to better his position and did not see the same in Glenn. This plays into the racist idea that Asian men are not as masculine as white men and certainly not men to be taken seriously.  This is quite the opposite of how The Walking Dead has chosen to portray Glenn ever since his meet up with the Governor in Woodbury. Why then would they return to this just to have Negan slaughter him?  The bottom line is that they decided when they published issue 100, that this was always going to be Glenn’s death. Whatever they had to do to get there and still hopefully surprise the audience along the way, they were willing to do, hence the decoy death of Abraham.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Elusive Elixir (An Accidental Alchemist #3) by Gigi Pandian

Zoey has travelled to Paris to try and find some answers to Dorian’s condition before the gargoyle turns completely to stone. But she finds few answers – and worse, seems to be recognised as the alchemist who lived their 70 years before

Fleeing back to Portland, trouble seems to have followed her. She may have finally found the backward Alchemists she has been looking for, but they’re not as helpful as she’d hoped – and may present a whole new risk as well as bringing revelations about her past she never imagined.

I think this book improved on many of the issues of the previous book. The storylines that Zoey was involved in actually made sense. She had a reason to get involved in the murder investigation, she was personally invested either directly or indirectly in all of the events that took place. She either had to protect friends and people she cared about or she was directly affected as it was a threat to her and her alchemical secret

This made the whole thing a lot more interesting especially as we build on more of Zoey’s past, her relationship with Ambrose as old figures from her past come back to haunt her. It fills in more gaps and also really develops the nature of Alchemy and the concept of Backward Alchemy. I really like the revelation that Zoey has here about Backward Alchemy – the whole idea that, ultimately, Alchemy is really really hard work. Alchemy take study, dedication and a lot of work and research. Backwards Alchemy isn’t so much evil or wrong or broken as much as it is lazy – it’s the ultimate short cut which leads Zoey to question whether she is actually going to find any solutions from Backwards Alchemy. Which in turn comes with a whole lot of soul searching and the creeping, horrible realisation of what it may actually take to save Dorian… and whether that is worth it.

The antagonists come with a lot of twists back and forth – assumptions are challenged and challenged again and then challenged again. We also get some really difficult positions when we see friends of Zoey make difficult, painful decisions and face terrible moral quandaries… and fall short. And I like that. Far too often in books characters seem almost impossibly good. They are willing to sacrifice everything, they’re willing to drop their hopes even their own survival for the greater good. Sometimes people just aren’t that perfect – especially when it comes to life and death. I like the clarity of the conflict there.

There are still parts that, for me, don’t make sense. She talks about the persecution of alchemists in the past and the need for secrecy but there’s no real bringing that up to date. Why would she believe that would happen today? Especially since she says she loves Portland precisely because it is so new agey and accepting. Equally, there’s a whole side plot where she desperately flees France because an old woman claims she remembers Zoey when she was a small child. This is a reason to run?

Aftermath, Season One, Episode Five: A Clatter and a Chatter

I think I've finally come to an understanding with Aftermath. Yes, it's the end of times but it's also a situation where they throw whatever shit they can think of at their characters without any rhyme or reason.  We know that all of the mythologies of the world for some reason have decided to run amok, we simply have been offered no explanation as to why and offered up the Copeland family as a unit to identify with and root for.  This is a problem because the Copelands are all white, straight, cisgender and able bodied.  Inclusion has obviously been given a minimum of concern on Aftermath.

So, when last we left the Copelands, they were about to face down some fever heads who had escaped from the base. They make a run for it but quickly come across an ocean that has no business being there, thus blocking off the road. You'll note that we aren't offered even a plausible explanation as to why the ocean is suddenly there.  At any rate, they find themselves surrounded with no method of escape, when who should appear but a masked man on a horse with a grenade launcher no less. Devyn, being hyper religious, goes straight up book of revelations, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him".  No need to worry for the Copelands because it turns out that the rider is none other than Lamar Boone, a friend of Karen's from the military.  Is it me, or does Karen seem to know every single military person they run into?

Boone and Karen have some history, evidenced by the fact that he calls her, "booty". He even has the nerve to do so in front of her husband and talk about how they used to have a thing.  I'm happy to see Aftermath introduce another person of colour and I hope that since Boon is played by none other than Wayne Brady, they don't plan to kill him off right away. It is however worth noting that the death of Doctor Rawlins preceded the introduction of Boone which very much gives this whole thing a T Dog chain feeling.  At any rate, it seems that Boon was one of those survivalist types and now that the weirdness has hit the fan, all of his pre planning has come in handy.  He's created a safe base and invites the Copelands to meet him there.  When giving directions, Boone actually tells the Copelands to turn right a the bodies strung up from the trees. It seems that Boon has no problem hanging people who cross the line which immediately jumps out as problematic to Joshua. I really hope that this is the center of tension between Boone and Joshua and not some love triangle between Boon, Joshua and Karen. 

Aftermath seems to be the kind of show that just doesn't like to keep it's characters together. Last week, Sally chose to stay behind with Cottrell to help manage the feverheads but with the base over run, the two have no option other than to flee.  They head into the woods and that is when Cottrell finally admits to being ill; however, he has some secret stash of meds in a cabin the woods and hopes to make it there on time to stop the progression of his illness. 

Back to the rest of the Copelands.  They head out to follow Boone's directions but come across a crater in the road blocking their path.  They hop out of the RV to investigate and this is when Karen hears the banshee scream for the first time.  She's the only one who can hear it.  Joshua decides that Karen and Brianna will stay behind with the RV while the others look for a path around the crater.  Matt and Devyn are together when Devyn spies a severed hand, freaks out and declares that he's not meant for this type of thing.  Joshua and Dana briefly separate and Dana is attacked by a Jubokko. Yep, Aftermath is once again mining culture of colour for woo woo.  Joshua and Matt manage to free Dana and they all rush back to the RV.  

They decide that they better get moving but unfortunately the RV won't start.  It turns out that the Jubokko has surrounded the RV and even entered the engine.  Fortunately for the Copelands, this is when Martin and Jane arrive/ Martin and Jane throw salt at the Jubokko, which drives it off.  It seems because of the delay arriving at Alamo (Boone's camp) Boone sent Martin and Jane to find out what was taking the Copelands so long.  Martin immediately gets his flirt on with Dana and she's quite receptive, despite the clear age difference between the two. I know the world is coming apart but neither Joshua or Karen is concerned about a grown as man making the moves on their daughter?

Cottrell and Sally make it to the cabin only to find it ransacked already and all of the medication gone. Cottrell gives Sally a gun and tells her that he is a danger to her now. Sally decides that they can make it out of this and heads outside to see if the feverheads dropped the meds on the ground while they were escaping.  

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 3, Episode 9: Matanzas

Time for lots of fighting. Lots and lots and lots of fighting and cheesiness. So much cheesiness. We have Burt impale 4 people on a sword at once. We have Seth leaping through the air holding a revolver open to catch a bullet in the chamber. Yes, this level of cheese. I do appreciate some silly cheese.

This all takes place in this abandoned ghost town with Freddie leading a begging Venganza to the town to be part of the sacrifice to get Amaru her body back. They pass along a road where Culebras are tortured by sunlight and Venganza reminds Freddie just how terrible Amaru is

Meanwhile, Seth and Richie organise themselves, Scott, Burt, Aiden, Carlos, Santanico and a bunch of redshirt extras to launch an attack on the town, on the church where the ritual will take place during the eclipse (of course the eclipse). During daylight which means culebras are prone to burning if they lose their protection. Group A: Seth, Richie and Red Shirts attack openly to provide distraction while everyone else sneaks through some convenient tunnels into the church, helped by Freddie who is a secret plant all along

Something they didn’t share with Venganza it seems.

Brasa raises some extras of his own – a lot of undead cowboys. Apparently this is something Brasa, demon of sunlight/sungod can do. This is where Seth and the redshirts have a long long long gunfight with bullets dipped in culebra venom featuring the aforementioned leaping-reload shot. After many many deaths all the pesky extras and zombies are cleared away leaving Richie and Brasa to face off

Now, some would say that a sungod vs human ends quickly but a) Brasa wants Seth’s body (which I totally understand) to possess and b) Seth is up their with Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Walking Dead for the power of their plot armour. Seth also have bombs, powerful powerful bombs with woo-woo which manage to squish even a sun god. A truck full of explosives beats sun gods apparently

Actually can we talk about this? Because the whole premise of this is Amaru will open Xibalba and unleash all kinds of hell on the world. But is this prophecy out of date? I mean, if one of the most powerful Xibalbans can be taken out by a truck full of explosives, perhaps a hellish invasion will meet 21st century technology and we’ll have a lot of very surprised demons?

Meanwhile Richie and the surviving Jaguar warrior head off into the desert to have their own private duel. Ending in stalemate so he and Seth can have a radio conversation that sounds a lot like a poignant goodbye.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bloody Acquisitions (Fred, the Vampire Accountant #3) by Drew Hayes

Fred's new undead life as an abandoned vampire in Winslow, Colorado has been busy and full of trials but he's settled now, having built a family out of the friends he's managed to acquire in recent years. Even Fred's business as a paranormal accountant is booming, causing him to work both and night and day to deliver on his contracts on time.  All in all, other than having more business than he can handle sometimes, Fred is pretty content.  As the saying goes however eventually every shoe must fall.  When a new vampire clan moves into town intent on filling in the power vacuum, Fred must choose between staying and fighting for the life he has built or moving to a town run by fellow paranormals.

This is the third installment in the Fred, the Vampire Accountant series. My major concern in the first two books is that they read like a collection of short stories rather than one continuous novel from start to finish.  Hayes does much better this time around though at times the he does drift into little side stories that don't have much to do with the main plot.  Because I find the idea of a vampire accountant who simply wants to do right by his clients and be with his friends so novel, when the distraction happens, it's easy to just go along for the ride, particularly because the distraction usually comes with some sort of ridiculous nonsense which is laugh out loud funny.   It is however worth noting that Blood Acquisitions does have a problem with line editing which might be an issue for some readers.

What continues to make Fred, the Vampire Accountant series so fascinating to me is Hayes treatment of gender. Normally in a vampire story, it's the vampire who fits into the role of anti hero and the vampire who is strong enough to induce fear in anyone or anything he meets.  Fred, the Vampire Accountant series puts this all out of balance because Fred, with his infamous sweater vests, is never the strongest person in any room and in fact, when the opportunity arises for him to amass more power, Fred turns it down. With the exception of a human female lawyer who Fred absolutely sees as an equal, all the women in Fred's life are significantly more powerful and knowledgeable about the paranormal world than he is. Even Fred's agent girlfriend Krystal, sees it as her job to protect Fred.

What I like the most about Fred is his loyalty to his friends and his clients.  When the Turva sets up residence in Winslow, Fred quickly finds that he's running out of options.  He heads to see a dragon to ask about other vampires and when offered a sample to increase his power or the opportunity to have all of his problems simply whisked away, Fred refuses. It would be so easy for Fred to have all of his enemies killed, thus assuring him that no other group of vampires would try to set up stakes in Winslow for at least a hundred years but Fred instead considers the innocent vampires who would lose their lives. Even when he's about to forced into making an alliance with Turva, essentially making him subordinate to their leadership, Fred refuses to lean on his much stronger friends because he sees that as taking advantage.  He's determined to stand on his own two feet come what may.

The Strain, Season 3, Episode 8: White Light

It’s time to reveal what nefarious thing Eichorst and the Master are building in Eldritch’s factories. Sadly, it’s the same as in the book

It’s a big plant where humans are loaded up, exsanguinated and their bodies incinerated and they want it to work faster (and human lackies are apparently willing to work on this).



Is speed of exsanguination a problem?

Is killing humans for food in vast and quick numbers even a viable

This is obviously scary scary genocide because we’re reaaaaaly trying to stretch that with some desperate and frankly offensive comparisons and thematic links to the holocaust and Abe.

But not only is it insulting to compare the very real horror of the holocaust to this story, but it makes no sense. The vampires cannot possibly wipe out their primary food source, that’d be utterly ridiculous. This whole factory makes no sense – the vampires don’t have a problem killing and feeding on humans.

Now an extraction factory that took a lot of blood from people but left them alive, basically vast warehouses akin to what we saw on the Matrix, humans bound in cells from birth and constantly bled but kept alive (which provides both blood and stops them being turned by being bitten). That would be horrific and make sense. This? Does not make sense. This is a mutual extinction machine.

A now healthy Palmer, buzzing on the White, gives enough information to Abe and Vasiliy to allow them to track down the crate that was delivered. There’s a gun fight but in the end Eichorst manages to escape with the crate and its mysterious cargo. But they also learn about the death factory

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski

A man wakes up, face down in the pool with a bullet wound in his chest. He doesn’t remember his name, his life or how he got there – or how he died. Or how he’s still walking around.

He is a zombie and he has so much to learn about that – a full list of questions in fact. As he learns how to survive as an alcohol soaked member of the undead he finds his habit of asking questions sets him up to solve many other cases.

Braineater Jones, zombie PI, with many questions, few answers and a whole whacky noir world to navigate.

This book gets definite points for originality. Sentient zombies – but sentient rotting zombies, sentient rotting zombies with a shelf-life, memory issues and a society which semi-acknowledges them but only to put them on the very bottom of the social ladder. It’s definitely an interesting concept

That setting is the late 1920s/early 1930s and has a very film noir setting with shades of Prohibition (prohibition is over but the town is still dry) which is especially difficult for the zombies who need alcohol to keep their mental facilities. Without which they degrade quickly and become braineaters, marauding monsters of movie legend. Which is a fate that awaits them eventually anyway as their bodies and minds rot

This makes Braineater a slur among their community and more than one vampire is outraged by Jones, who doesn’t remember much or anything of his human life, chooses to use it as a name.

The story itself is very very twisty in classic Noir style. We have shocks and surprises. We have twists and turns. There’s lots of double crossing and lots of misdirection and lots of people being the complete opposite of what you expect them to be. The whole idea of what’s being explored and examined changes from chapter to chapter with Jones both desperately trying to drag up some memories of his past life, some indication of who he was and why he died – or who killed him since he has a big bullet hole. Throwing in just learning what it means to be a zombie on tip of that – there’s a lot to get through.

And that’s something of the problem. There’s a lot to get through and the book isn’t that long and we just sprint through it all. Along the way we kind of lose things like motivation, development or exploration. I don’t know why Jones has decided to become a detective. He doesn’t exactly do a lot of work to figure out who he was nor to really try and regain his memories. He becomes super suspicious about people and I’m not quite sure where the suspicion comes from. He develops friendships and positions where I’m not sure where they’ve come from and many of them apparently become passionate and deep very quickly.

It feels like we have an excellent book, or even an excellent series of books, with complete interesting world building and a really twisty complex storyline. But then it felt like an over-eager editor decided to cut huge chunks of development and exploration from the book leaving it all a bit too fast and just a bit hollow and unsupported in places.

Lucifer, Season Two, Episode Five: Weaponizer

Last week's episode ended with Chloe getting into a car accident.  This is significant because Lucifer made a deal with God to save her life in exchange for taking his mother back to hell.  As we know, Lucifer didn't follow through on his end of the bargain.  It turns out that Chloe's accident wasn't an accident after all and was in fact orchestrated by Uriel.  That's right, there's a new angel in town to join Lucifer's dysfunctional family on earth. Even better, the role is played by Michael Imperioli.

Like all episodes, Weaponizer does have a crime which needs to be solved but this time, instead of the crime being used to highlight some existential problem Lucifer is dealing with, this week's crime seems to exist to show that Lucifer and Dan share a common love of action flicks of all things.  Their shared love causes them to repeat lines from the movies, high five each other and have a dudebro bond moment.  Perhaps this will make detective douche more palatable to Lucifer as the series continues.

What's interesting about Weaponizer is not the crime drama but the peril that Chloe is in and how Lucifer deals with it. When Uriel arrives, Lucifer isn't immediately concerned because he has a secret weapon in his back pocket - his older brother Amenadiel. Unfortunately, Amenadiel isn't quite himself and has lost his powers, a secret he has kept from Lucifer.  Maze however thinks that the solution is simple and suggests that Lucifer simply take mommy dearest back to hell and fulfill his end of the deal. Lucifer however is insistent that he is fulfilling the agreement because he is punishing his mother on earth.  Amenadiel tries to suggest that Lucifer should simply hide Chloe and their mother until Uriel gives up and returns home.  This is enough for Lucifer to suggest that maybe the problem is that Amenadiel has been on earth too long and forgotten the power that he is. Lucifer points out that Uriel is the younger brother and that as the eldest, they were all in a awe of him.  Amenadiel gets the idea that all Uriel needs to see is him in his full glory.

Amenadiel meets with Uriel on a rooftop wearing his angel outfit and looking fine as hell.

Amenadiel assures Uriel that he has everything under control but Uriel points out that not only is Lucifer living on earth but their mother is now.  Uriel claims that he only wants to help.  Amenadiel goes all bad ass and points out that he is Amenadiel and is the one who delivers the wrath of God not, Uriel the diminutive little brother.  This is enough for Uriel to cower a bit in fear and agree to go home.  Amenadiel believes his business is done and starts to leave but is stopped by Uriel, who punches him in the face. It seems that Uriel figured out right away that something was wrong with Amenadiel by the fact that Amenadiel spent so much time talking instead of kicking his ass.  Uriel releases his wings and proceeds to give Amenadiel the beat down he's been dying to issue since the dawn of the universe.

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 5: Street Rats

Time for a history lesson back to Agrabah, suffering under the yoke of Jafar, with poor people turned into rats for stealing (honestly this seems like a terrible way to deal with any problem, creating a plague of rodents).

Jasmin sneaks into the city to find someone she is sure can help her – Aladdin, the thief who can help her steal the Diamond in the Rough. He’s not exactly eager to help the dedicated Princess, but when she threatens to frame him for theft he gives in and joins her to the cave of wonders

Along the way we get some interesting little hints at more depth. While Jasmin is furious that Aladdin is so selfish, Aladdin points out that their city wasn’t exactly a utopia before Jafar arrived and really Jasmin only cares because Jafar has breached her happy rich bubble as a princess. It’s a nice analysis and suggests more nuance than Once Upon a Time usually applies to their monarchy. Of course, we could point out that we’re getting a nuance of a less than perfect but not outright evil royalty with Jasmin and the Sultan but not the oh-so-pure-and-inept Snow White.

In the cave we learn the obvious truth – Aladdin is the Diamond in the Rough and he even has magic, Saviour Magic. He can save Agrabah… though Jafar shows him the cost of that, Jafar shows him that Saviours have a short shelf life. He has a solution to that – the sheers of fate. They will cut Aladdin from his destiny as a Saviour – no longer a hero but no longer doomed to die.

Of course he doesn’t take it and swoops in to rescue Jasmin. Though Jafar leaves him with the sheers for the future. He also is still out there doing mischief. Despite chemistry Jasmin and Aladdin don’t become a couple because they’re focused on duty- or Jasmin is. She’s taken Aladdin’s words to heart and won’t run off with him when there are still flaws in their kingdom to address.

In the present Emma finds Jasmin, following birds and dead oracles. She’s sure that Jasmin isn’t the killer though because of that rarely remembered lie detecting power. Instead it gives Jasmin chance to talk about Aladdin the Saviour which offers Emma hope: because Aladdin is apparently alive. Aladdin alive means all Saviours don’t die. It means maybe Emma’s visions won’t come true, maybe Emma can live.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Westworld, Season One, Episode Four: Dissonance Theory

It's now episode four and it seems as though Westworld is beginning to journey into the rabbit hole now that we have some sense of who the players are.  We begin once gain with Bernard having a sit down with Dolores.  It's almost comforting at this point to see the same opening each week.  This week, they talk about the fact that Dolores has just seen her parents die and the grief she feels.  It's a direct parallel to the grief Bernard feels at the loss of his son.  Bernard offers to take the pain away from Dolores but she refuses because pain is all she has left of her parents. Unfortunately, after questioning, Dolores reveals that this is a scripted response.  Bernard however does offer Dolores a carrot - find the center of the maze and maybe you can be free. Yes, the same maze that the MIB (man in black) is looking for. 

When Dolores awakes back in the park she is with William and his soon to be Dudebro brother in-law Logan. Okay, this is a big one because it means Dolores's little conversation with Bernard was a flashback.  Does that mean that all of their chats so far have been flashbacks, handed out piecemeal each week? Considering that her parents are murdered nightly, we don't even know to which murder this conversation referred to. This however does come in line with one of my pet theories, William is the MIB thirty years ago.  This doesn't bode well for Dolores because his fascination with her moves from wanting to protect her to raping her repeatedly.  Hmmmm?  Possible? Yeah, I'm not sure yet. 

Like many of the fans watching this show, I have my own theories about what is going on and they all hedge on whether or not Westworld is telling a linear story or not.  Could it possibly be that William is the MIB?  He starts off wanting to play the hero and be the good guy but dudebro (read: Logan) having been forced on an adventure away from his robotic prostitutes wants fun in the form of violence and suggests that they go the black hat route.  William isn't down with this until dudebro threatens Dolores.  For some reason, even though he only saw her once in town, William is absolutely fascinated with her. 

For dudebro, Westworld is just one big game whereas for William, it's all still exciting and new (and not in a Love Boat type way either). It's why Dudebro has no problem with simply killing with expedience, leaving the staff to clean up his mess. It's why Dudebro believes that Dolores's sudden appearance in their camp is because the staff noticed William's fascination with her. It's why Dudebro was able to convince William to go black, by suggesting they had just discovered an Easter egg in the game - a chance for them to experience something few people do. If William is indeed the MIB, this could be the start of his craving to discover new things in Westworld.

Coyote's Creed (Broken Mirrors #1) by Vaughn R. Demont

Spencer Cain is barely making it through high school but it's not for lack of intelligence. With his mother battling mental illness, Spencer as no choice but to run cons to keep food on the table.  This all would have been so much easier if his deadbeat father hadn't decided to walk out one day.  When Spencer gets word that his long absent father has died, he believes that at least the man can do him and his mother no more harm, at least until he finds out the truth about who his father really was.  It seems that Spencer is half human and half Coyote.  This knowledge quickly launches Spencer into a supernatural world that he is scarce prepared to deal with despite the fact that he has spent his eighteen years running cons.

This book is pretty action and plot driven – we hit the ground running. Spencer learns he is supernatural and almost immediate begins charging through the plot at great speed. We quickly get him running head first into this world, pulling of tricks and learning as fast as he can do. We get some decent stories and history from Rourke and some entertaining hints of the nature of the competition between the three races, the sneaky, fun, yet sometimes lethal and serious nature of these prankster races constantly battling for bragging rights against each other.

It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s funny. Did I mention fun? Because that’s the main tone I have from this book, certainly to begin, Spencer is out of his depth but while so many protagonists would mope and despair, Spencer ran with it. I found myself reading this book extremely quickly because it happily pulled me in. It was one of those books where I blink and then see the book has finished.

The downside to this fun rocking charge through the plot is that the story doesn’t get into much depth with the world. Which is a real shame because I really really want to know. I want to know more about the powers of a Bard, the power of stories, I want to know more about the three races of tricksters, their histories, their powers, their natures, I want to know more about the curses

I love the idea that then Kitsune are meticulous planners while the Coyotes wing it and have a lot of luck to various degrees of success and stability. I like the idea that the three races of trickster have very different ways of being tricksters – this is great but I want to know far more about this. We only touch on it in passing and then leap forward to the next part of the plot. It generally works – I can still easily follow the book (though more information about the Sorcerers would have helped) but more would have helped a lot

I find Spencer to be a fun protagonist. He’s a rogue – but he’s not malicious with it. He’s fun, doesn’t take anything too seriously but isn’t so light hearted to be frustrating. His relationship with his mother is also utterly, painfully poignant – having to navigate around his mother’s mental illness, respecting her, loving her but deeply strained trying to support and help her. This really does bring out a part of Spencer’s character that is touching, caring and hurting that adds a lot of humanisation to the character. It’s powerful but there is a problem with mental illness basically being used as character development for another character. But it is extremely powerful – we don’t undermined his mother’s authority as his mother, nor the emotional bond between them and minors having to support parents with mental illnesses. It’s very real, very raw and very powerful

Spencer is bisexual – which is definitely a rare find in this genre. We hardly ever see LGBTQ protagonists in this genre and less bisexual male protagonists, so this definitely interests me

I also really like the way the sex is portrayed, being much more graphic than we often see, but also much less formulaic without unnecessary gender roles or patterns I see a lot

What I’m much less a fan of is Spencer’s sexual partner – Rourke. Rourke is an older bisexual man – and I’m quite happy to see an LGBTQ character be older and be portrayed as sexual and sexy (and not older in an “is thousand years old but looks 20” kind of way). This is definitely a plus. What isn’t so much is that Spencer at least begins the book referring to Rourke as “uncle” and clearly sees him in some level of, if not parental then certainly something close to it. No he’s not family, but he was a close friend of his parents and has clearly watched Spencer grow up. Further, some mojo between them makes Spencer and him especially horny. I’m not saying that it removed his consent but it likely increased the amount of sex they had. Finally Rourke announces his love for Spencer very quickly and tries to pressure Spencer into becoming his consort.

The Walking Dead, Season Seven, Episode One: The Day Will Come When You Won't Be

Okay people I'm giving you a spoiler alert. Don't read this if you haven't watched last night's episode.

On Friday, Sparky and I published a piece on our prediction as to who was going to die and as it turns out, we were both wrong. 

For months now, whenever someone mentioned The Walking Dead, it was all about who was going to die on tonight's episode.  The writers didn't make it easy for us and made us deal with the aftermath first.  Rick's loss and rage plays center stage and he deals with it by threatening to kill Negan, which of course was not the reaction that Negan wanted.  Negan wanted Rick and his group to be defeated, to feel powerless and to be broken.  

Negan's first act was to take out Abraham.  As horrible as it may sound, I actually felt relief seeing Abraham die, falsely believing in that moment that the worst was over.  The truth of the matter is that Abraham was supposed to die in the episode where Denise died and so it simply felt as though the writers held over Abraham's death so that they could open with it this season.  Abraham died well, telling Negan to, "suck his balls".  I'm going to miss Abraham and his wonderful one liners, his burgeoning relationship with  Sasha and even his friendship with Eugene.  In many ways, Abraham's character was in a good place and that, as we know, is how the writers like to leave a character before they kill them off.  

Abraham as it turns out was only the appetizer to the main meal.  Seeing Abraham smashed remains an enraged Darryl attacks and actually manages to punch Negan in the face.  For me, that was probably the most satisfying punch to date. Only Tyrion slapping Joffery felt better.  With all things  Negan however, there's a price to pay for challenging his authority.  Negan decides that an example must be made and he goes onto his next victim.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Class, Season One, Episodes One and Two: For Tonight We May Die & The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo

As a Whovian who is desperately missing Doctor Who, I latched onto this with some desperation. Damn you Moffat for taking away the Doctor for a year.  Class is yet another Doctor Who spin off (Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood) and it's based on the idea that Arton Energy has worn down the fabric of space and time and now aliens are able to slip into the school and cause havoc.  This makes sense, given the Doctor's brief position as a caretaker there and of course, Clara and Danny Pink both worked there as teachers. In the case of Danny, as a math teacher, much to the Doctor's surprise.

Okay, so that's the set up for Class. We are very quickly introduced to the main players: Charlie, Miss Quill, April, Tanya and Ram.   Right off the top, the most visible point is that two of the five main characters are of colour.  Class, doesn't stop there because Ram, is disabled, and Charlie is gay.  As much as I love Doctor Who, it certainly hasn't been as inclusive as it's often given credit for, so I was surprised by Class.

Charlie and Miss Quill are both aliens who have been brought to earth to live out their lives in peace by the Doctor because they are the last of their kind.  Everyone on their planet has been killed by the Shadow Kin - an alien race who moves in shadows and kills when in their physical form. This isn't the first time we've seen aliens who use the dark to their advantage in this universe.  An alien antagonist on Doctor Who has to either be outright ridiculous (yes, I'm thinking of the Daleks) or terrifying, like the Vashta Nerada who we met in Silence in the Library.  Unfortunately, the Shadow Kin are neither really.  I didn't feel the fear of the dark that the Vashta Nerada inspired with their ability to skin people alive, nor did I find myself laughing at their proclamations the way I do the Daleks.  In terms of aliens, the Shadow Kin felt kind of been there done that and not at all inspiring.

Miss Quill makes no secret of her desire to kill the Shadow Kin but she's held in check by Charlie, who's actually a prince.  It seems that Miss Quill has a device in her hand which puts her natural instinct to kill in check and she can only act to protect Charlie. Miss Quill, with her disdain of teaching and her love of violence is full of absolute win. Miss Quill very much feels as though she is Charlie's slave and he repeatedly defends his control of her as punishment for the uprising she lead on their planet. The Doctor also believes that Miss Quill needs punishment but for killing a student at the school.

The main characters all come together to defeat the Shadow Kin with a little help from the Doctor, who makes a timely appearance.  Having had the veil of ignorance blown, our little band is now tasked with fighting off whatever slips through to earth.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 8, Episode 1: Hello Brother

So begins the last season of The Vampire Diaries (before we have a much more awesome Bonnie spin-off. Hey I can hope, right?)

Damon and Enzo were captured by whatever it was The Armoury had decided to stash in the basement and then they went off on a killing spree

This was apparently a bad killing spree rather than, y’know, their regularly scheduled weekend killing spree that happens all the time and we tend to ignore it because protagonist!

When we catch up with them they’re luring people to a serial killing warehouse, targeting evil people (this means their killing spree under the control of the Vault Monster Enzo and Damon are actually more moral in their killing for the Vault Monster than they are when they have their usual fun slaughter fest). The evil people are then put on meat hooks lowered into a pool with the nasty looking monster and promptly eaten. Their remains then left to decorate the ceiling, as one does. Just because you’re mind controlled by a watery serial killer with some kind of conscience doesn’t men you can neglect the interior decorating

Enzo despairs and is angry and sad and generally not happy but this state of affairs

While Damon is almost indifferent – because he’s pretty much broken. He’s turned off his humanity switch to deal with what he’s being forced to do, he’s lost all hope and generally despaired of anything getting better ever. He’s even reduced to reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Bonnie and Stefan are still looking for Damon and Enzo and Bonnie is succumbing to utterly bleak despair, clinging to the memories of Enzo and her to try and convince us that this relationship wasn’t made up with no basis after one of the writers got into the hard drugs and everyone was still desperately trying to find an excuse to keep Enzo around because he was too hot to dispose of.

Stefan can Caroline are now a thing in their on again off again on again off again on again off again romance. Caroline and Alaric still co-parent their (kinda) little girls and have new nanny Selene to help patch things up.

I have to say Caroline and her desperate attempt to organise everything and her constant worrying and fretting to be the only character I’m still invested in. I mean, I like Bonnie, but I honestly just want her to leave Mystic Falls so far behind her that she’ll forget everything about this place.

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 6: Nothing Matters

Well. Shit. That episode was an utter kick in the teeth and the feels. But looking back, at the end, what exactly could they have done differently? I mean, I know what they could have done – but that’s easy to say when you don’t have to live with the decision. I know what the “right” answer is – but the right answer comes with a vast amount of risk which is easy to discount when you’re not taking it.

So, the other plot lines first:

Vanessa and Susan make their way through the tunnels filled with naked feral mutant vampires. They get out and, in the process, have some excellent bonding moments and shows us really clearly what excellent friends they are. They get free – but not before Vanessa is bitten

Julius’s minion tries to follow but eventually retreats, scared off by the mutant vampires. Julius isn’t convinced Vanessa is dead, he knows protagonist plot armour when he sees it.

Sheema’s resistance cell uses her information to run right into an ambush. Oopsie. The survivor of the ambush blames this on Sheema and is willing to torture and kill her for her betrayal but she is saved by… Rebecca. Ominous sexy vampire who let her go last episode

Sheema didn’t betray the resistance but, as Rebecca told her, she “has her scent”. She could smell where Rebecca was and which tunnels she’d been in. With this cell dead she now wants clues to the Resistance leader – known as Taka. And she’s going to use Sheema to get it

Now to the hospital – and one of Brandon’s group and the little girl Callie go exploring and decide all the dramatic “stop” “keep out” signs are just there for funsies and set off one of Axel’s booby traps which would have killed Callie if she weren’t a little girl and short.

Brandon’s group, especially the woman who saw Callie nearly die, is absolutely enraged and furious and wants to kill Axel for this

Ok, there’s a whole lot of reasons why I’d want to kill Axel dead. But him booby trapping his besieged base of operations while constantly being under attack by vampires and then having the decency to warn people about said booby traps isn’t one of them. It’s quite reasonable, this is actually one decision of Axel’s I actually agree with