Saturday, June 3, 2017

12 Monkeys, Season Three, Episode Two: Guardians

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This episode begins Paris, where 6 people dressed in dark clothing approach the Eiffel Tower with a box.

Jennifer is in Paris and she's writing postcards which she gives to a priest and asks him to mail them to America in 95 years.  The priest of course is incredulous at Jennifer's request. Jennifer does not give up on her desire to send a message to the future.  Jennifer tries to talk the owner of a theater into helping her and makes her way inside and onto the stage.  When Jennifer begins to tap dance, she catches the attention of the owner.  Jennifer does a show pretending to be the little tramp, stealing from Jaws, Aliens and other popular movies.  Finally, Jennifer gets around to telling the story of a time traveler fighting against the Witnesses. She talks about the army of the 12 Monkeys and traveling back in time with a splinter machine. Of course, by this time, her popularity has waned and people are no longer paying attention. Jennifer's performance of the Army of the 12 Monkeys is a failure. All over Jennifer's dressing room are drawings of the people from the future and she talks to them about her fear that they are not okay.

One of the men who was carrying the strange box at the beginning of the episode happens to come across one of Jennifer's drawings of the Monkeys. He decides to pay Jennifer a visit. He is adamant that Jennifer is not supposed to be there and moves to attack but Jennifer tries to escape. The man uses some sort of magnet on his chest to draw Jennifer back to him and question her about who is with her. Before he can kill her however, he is shot several times by Cole and Jones. 

Cole shows Jennifer the news paper clipping and of course she takes issue with the fact that she's described as an obscure actress. Cole questions what happened to Ramse and Deacon and Jennifer is pissed off that she's been stuck in 1922 for five years and hasn't asked about how she is doing.  Jennifer is also pissed off at Jones as well for not picking up on all of the messages she left for Jones in time. Jones of course points out that Jennifer used a stage name.  Jennifer pulls out a drawing of the men carrying a paradox in the box and refers to them as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. 

Jones checks out the machine on the dead man and declares that he is wearing splinter technology. Jones is convinced that something important is happening with the 12 Monkeys. Now they have to figure out where the hell the other three horsemen are. 

Cassie dreams about her labour and when she awakes, she's no longer pregnant. Mallick visits Cassie and explains that she was sedated for her own safety and that she will be escorted to her son.  Cassie enters a room where a gramophone is playing but instead of a child, she's presented with one of the 12 Monkeys masks and told that this is her son. Mallick says that this is her son's history and that these items represent who her son will become. Cassie of course denies this because her boy is just a child.  Mallick says that the child is many things and is present now but also in the past. Mallick promises that soon the Witness will return to Titan and lead the faithful to salvation. Mallick confides that some have lost fate and that he's offering Cassie a chance to leave Titan soon. Cassie doesn't want to leave without her child but Mallick argues that now that Cassie has given birth, her life is no longer as precious as it once was. Mallick warns Cassie that she must prepare herself for what must come. Cassie once again begs to see her son. 

Cassie, Jones and Jennifer are still in the theater and Jones examines the device that the dead man is wearing, saying that it changes the game entirely. James explains that the future him was wearing the same device.  James then asks Jennifer to summon up some primary powers and help them out. This rightfully sets Jennifer off because all she's ever done was to help Cole and instead of thanking her, he's treating her like some kind of servant and throwing his weight around. Jennifer points out that she spent WWI in a POW camp. Cole argues that they didn't come all the way to 1922 to rescue her. Jennifer asks Cole what he needs and if she should just go and draw some more of her insanity for them. Jennifer is hurt that Cole and Jones don't see her as part of the team and she walks out.  Jones isn't interested in following Jennifer because she is certain that the device is going to change things.  Jones argues that the enemy is here doing God knows what with the technology, meaning that they don't have time to deal with Jennifer's hurt feelings


Ramse is at a camp fire having a drink with Olivia. They talk about their concerns with the exiles. It's clear that these two have teamed up. Ramse talks about his son Sam, who is now a man and how Olivia had his son for decades. Ramse attacks when Olivia claims that she has been protecting Sam for decades; however, Olivia is not concerned because killing her will get Ramse nowhere. Olivia promises Ramse that his son is safe and that he only needs to be patient. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Panther Prowling (Otherworld #17) by Yasmine Galenorn

Delilah is ready to party – it’s her sister’s Camille’s birthday and Menolly has just managed to re-open her bar; in the lull in the war in the Otherworld they can have a break; a night off

Until their human cousin, Daniel, runs into their bar chased by an angry Viking ghost.

Unfortunately their professional thief relative has acquired a cursed and haunted sword – which comes with a family curse and a whole lot of dangerous haunting and consequences which only his magical cousins are equipped to deal with.

This series is huge. It has run for a huge number of books. It has an absolutely enormous cast of character. It has a huge world setting – several huge world settings. We have several metaplots all running alongside each other, all intertwining and related and touching on each other. And we have three protagonists all with their own lives and conflicts and relationships. We have a household that not only has the three D’Artigo sisters but has Camille’s three husbands, has Menolly’s wife, has Delilah’s husband. We have Hannah and Vanzir and Rozuriel and Iris and her husband and her twins and Chase and his daughter and then the gargoyle Maggie. And all of them have things going on. And this is without looking at Roman, Rozuriel’s ex-wife, Smoky and Shade’s extended families, the fae queens, Morgaine and the whole Arthurian legend group, the various powers of the Otherword and then loads of friends and neighbours dotted around the city…

We have a lot. We have so much. This world is huge and rich and full of lots of important characters each with their own stories and enough details to give each of them a realness and a presence that gives the whole story and world depth

But my gods there’s a lot. And when we were introduced to the sisters’ human family a couple of books ago part of me cringed because there was no need for this to add to this already very full world and these sisters’ already very full lives with very full missions. Especially when it turns out that dear brother Daniel is a master thief ex-special forces magical specialist – which means that’s a whole lot more complexity and storylines and distractions added to what I already a very full series.

Which is the feeling I had through this book – we had Daniel and the sword and Viking ghosts to try and deal with but it felt very peripheral to the sisters’ lives. And we had moderately high stakes to make sure they pay attention to it –but it felt like a distraction because there’s a lot of other things going on. In fact, the attack on their house almost felt like a way to drag them into the story again and make it all feel more relevant to them since we haven’t really built that much relationship with Daniel yet. With Camille’s new role with the Earthside Fae courts and Delilah’s issues with the Autumn Lord which also includes some expanding powers and possible consequences and we have love triangle issues with Hannah and Rozuriel with more looking at what it means to be an incubus since we’ve been mentioning it for a while but never really seen it developed. And there’s some sorcerer following Camille around which is important or worrisome but it’s mentioned at the beginning and we don’t really return to it. We add in a dose of

LGBTQ Marketing Ploys: Teasing & Exploitation

Recently we have seen a number of films announce their historic and revolutionary LGBTQ inclusion. And then when the actual product has been released it’s clear that all that hyping in the press has been… rather exaggerated.

We saw this with Beauty and the Beast which widely spread across the media as having DIsney’s first openly gay character on film! And with Power Rangers loudly proclaiming they have the first gay superhero! Yaaaay!

As an aside - can we not all leap in with lists of “queer-coded” Disney villains - i.e. nearly all of them - as evidence of previous gay representation? Any kind of coding/implication/subtext is not representation and it’s extremely problematic that LGBTQ people are continually expected to accept these as representation. We’re repeatedly told that we have to celebrate subtext as inclusion while the erasure of actual LGBTQ people continues - we deserve better than to be the Love That Dare Not Do More Than Imply Its Name. It’s also a pernicious homophobic trope to “gay/queer code” villains: presenting markers of LGBTQ sexuality as evil is tired, common and in no way should appear anywhere as praiseworthy or representative. So, please please do not do this.

As these films actually hit cinemas it quickly became clear that the actual representation was… lacking. LeFou in Beauty and the Beast after spending the whole film working through a checklist of gay stereotypes ended up dancing oh-so-briefly with a man. It wasn’t even something he sought out, it just kind of happened. While it may shock you, your very brief dance partner does not actually indicate your sexuality - just look at all those tedious reality-TV-dance competitions that adamantly won’t pair gay contestants with their own gender.

Ground breaking representation it was not.

Similarly in Power Rangers we see that Trini, the supposed lesbian/bisexual character, turned out to be a teenager with “a lot going on” trying to figure out her life. Someone snarks at her about “boyfriend/girlfriend” trouble without her confirming either way

Well, damn, I’m amazed cinemas didn’t have to deck the rooms in rainbows to respect the sheer power of the representation here?

Even with these not exactly being hailed and universally praised by LGBTQ people, it has kept on happening.

Marvel is becoming an expert - from taunting about Captain America, they teased with Black Panther, then crushed the hopes, then the echoes hadn’t even died before they decided to pull the same damn nonsense with Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Any guesses as to there being an LGBTQ character there? No guesses needed - it didn’t happen. DC is getting in on the action already teasing hints about a female love interest for Wonderwoman.

Star Wars is such a repeat offender of this - and despite repeatedly teasing the possibility of a gay relationship it’s never emerged. Yet even while saying that the next film will not have LGBTQ inclusion - again - they’re still teasing the vague, ill-defined possibility in the film after this. Anyone holding their breath?

It’s opposite number, Star Trek pulled a Le Fou with Sulu - and then cut it down and reduced it because blink-and-you-miss-it is portrayal now.

Fantastic Beasts 2 is also teasing the possibility of a gay romance - of course with no confirmation at all so, again, don’t hold your breath. But this is the habit - writers, actors, producers go to the press, they tease, they torment, they raise hopes then they crash them. Of course, this just seems like it’s continuing the habit of the book - because people are still praising JK Rowling for her awesome - but completely non-existent - LGBTQ inclusion. Hey, Word-Of-Gay counted as inclusion in the books, why wouldn’t we let it pass on television?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Southern Spirits (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #1) by Angie Fox

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Things aren't going well for Verity Long.  The entire town is gossiping about her for standing up her fiance at the alter and now she has to find a way to pay for the wedding thanks to the mother of her gilted ex fiance. Verity has been forced to sell virtually everything she owns and the bank is foreclosing on her house. Verity is hopeful that somehow she will find a way to save her home but she never could have imagined that the answer would lie with a long dead mobster she just accidentally trapped in her garden. 

Clearly Southern Spirits is paranormal chick lit, so don't even pick this up if that's not your thing.  It's exactly as advertised which for me, is the perfect way to spend a hot spring afternoon with a cold beer. It won't change your life, or reveal the mysteries of the universe but it's easy to relax with and a fun little journey.

The only way for Verity to earn enough money to save her home is to figure who is haunting Ellis's restaurant with help of her mobster friend ghost Frankie. Given that it's Ellis's brother that she walked away from and people are already talking, being seen around town with him is decidedly not a good idea in terms of redeeming her reputation. I helps a lot that despite his wealth, Ellis is the family's black sheep. I know that cops see a lot of weird things in their life, but it really is a leap for Ellis to decide that Verity is the one to deal with his ghost problems just based on her knowing where his dead uncle's lighter is. Fortunately, because this book is chit lit, I say just run with it. 

One of things that I really liked about this book was the discussion of class running through. Being in debt and without a job meant that Verity struggled to survive.  Her home had no electricity and she was forced to use a camp stove to heat up her ramen noodles.  Ramen basically became the staple of her diet and she was only able to eat other things when the people in her life treated her. Verity's conversation was regularly peppered with details of what could be found at the dollar store. Even having a fluffy towel after a bath was a luxury because she had no drier for her clothing.  Even with how far Verity had fallen, she realised that she was lucky enough not to have to squat in an abandoned home and that while she was surviving things could actually be worse.

Then we had Harry, who was actually homeless before Ellis managed to get him into social housing.  Harry isn't a very social person and seems to have a problem with alcohol at the very least. Based in the aforementioned, Verity was quite ready to assume that he was responsible to the damage of Ellis's property and even the murder of Ellis's uncle.  Ellis however never wavered in his conviction that Harry was innocent based on his gut instinct, even though the facts all reasonably pointed to Harry.  This of course is yet another case of suspending reality.  Ellis's faith in Harry served to cement the goodness of his character, even though in reality, someone like Harry is exactly who cops would suspect.  Cops have a way of going after the underclass and failing to see their humanity.  Their mandate may be to protect serve but that only applies to the 1% and their corporate masters.

The Handmaid's Tale, Season One, Episode Eight: Jezebels

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The title of this episode is extremely apt because this time, we are shown a darker side of the Gilead.  It's still a case where men don't take responsibility because the women are blamed for the sexual depravities of men and called Jezebels.  The biblical Jezebel was blamed for causing her husband to worship false idols because she continued to worship Baal. Before being murdered, hoping to seduce Jehu, Jezebel dressed in beautiful clothing and applied makeup to avoid death but she was tossed to the dogs. Jezebel is understood to be the corrupter of men and has been linked to licentious behaviour ever since.   Jezebel implies that men are not responsible for their choices and are only immoral because women can't or won't be chaste and tempt them into sin. It's easy to understand why this biblical story is particularly compelling to the men of the Gilead. 

Serena Joy is gone for the night to visit her mother and the commander decides to use the occasion to take June out for the night.  First, he shaves her legs and June surmises that based on the way he does this, that he has done this with someone else. It turns out that she's right on this score because this episode we learn that the Eye is aware that Waterford has been sleeping with handmaidens thanks to Nick, whose job it is to inform on the commander. June is then given the most garish makeup to put on, along with a dress and some high heel shoes. The commander is in control of every single aspect and even takes down June's hair when she chooses to wear it up.  June is then given one of Serena's blue robes to wear to hide her illicit outfit. 

As they drive, the commander is proud to point out the changes in the city. Everything is solar now and the Gilead tore down a poor area to put up a park. The commander is proud of how easily they can get through a checkpoint just based on his say so. At the second checkpoint however, June is forced to hide because women aren't allowed beyond this point and she's officially considered to be contraband. They make their way into a hotel through the back way and Nick stops before they get on the freight elevator.  It seems Nick's male privilege will only take him so far and besides, he needs to trade drugs for alcohol and other items. Nick however does turn down an offer for some pesto from a James Beard nominated chef and he turns down sex. Perhaps his relationship with June is getting to him.

The first time Nick and June had sex may have been at the urging of Serena Joy, but they they've moved far past that now. June and Nick now cuddle like an old married couple in the morning and she attempts to memorize his face, afraid that she'll forget it the way that she's beginning to forget Luke's face. June is very self aware when it comes down to this affair. She's not saying a big fuck you to the patriarchy, she's trying desperately to end her loneliness and in the cage that the Gilead has created for her, human touch feels good. Who wouldn't try to find a little bit of comfort in this horror?

June is absolutely shocked when she enters to see women sprawled all over commanders half dressed and for his part, Waterford seems to be pleased as punch to be able to shock her.  Yes, Fred's even more creepy than we all thought. Across the room, June spies a familiar face - it's Moira. Moira and June haven't seen each other since they became separated on the train platform three years ago. The commander tells June that there are several educated women here who are quite capable of intelligent conversation if one chooses to talk.  We all know that the men aren't there to debate the issues of the day. The men are there to sexually abuse and exploit these women. 

June and Moira manage to escape to the bathroom together and Moira finally has the chance to apologise for leaving June on the platform all of those years ago. The reunion is short lived because an Aunt is quick to inform Moira that she just had a bathroom break. Moira and June agree to meet later at the dorms.

When June leaves the bathroom, she's immediately propositioned by a man. He simply starts stroking June's arms. It's a sign that the women here aren't people but commodities for male pleasure. The man backs off when Waterford approaches and claims June. The man doesn't apologise to June for taking liberties with her person and instead apologises to Waterford. June is Waterford's property and in the Gilead, it's Waterford's rights of ownership that were trampled upon, not June. 

It's time to head to the room, and Nick spots Waterford escorting June. We are given a flashback to Rita finding the last Offred hanging from the ceiling light and screaming her head off. It's Nick who cuts her down but it's already to late because the last Offred is dead. Serena Joy and Waterford stand outside as the body is removed from the home and in any angry whisper, she asks, "what did you think would happen?" This heavily implies that Serena Joy is more than aware of what is going on in their home.  Perhaps this is why in her first meeting with June, Serena told her not to get any ideas. Serena knew then that the Commander would have his with June. 

iZombie, Season 3, Episode 9: Twenty-Sided, Die

Wow, a whole lot happened in this episode – so many new side storylines were raised that I wonder just how broad this is going to get especially since there are only 4 episodes left; this is a lot of storylines to prune and deal with.

The crime of the week is that of a DM who plays Dungeons and Dragons. Of course, Liv eats his brain and we’re treated to a rather bizarre idea of how a Dungeon Master acts, including rolling D20s to decide whether she does anything and feeling a desperate need to narrate everything.

Add to that we have a group of players who are pretty much stereotypes – including all four men being utterly obsessed with the single female player. There’s lots of theories and possibilities over who has killed him and why – including the love quadrangle, the idea that they murdered their dungeon master because he killed their characters, the amount of money and expensive items he had and, apparently a secret room he had with computer plans for a Russian nuclear power plant – so now shortage of motives.

Liv helps with visions and to help prompt them, Liv, Ravi, Clive, Major and Peyton all play a game. I have played many of these games (albeit with D10s because White Wolf Gamer) and every single player in my group is of Peyton’s “let’s kill the quest giver and rob them of the reward” mentality. The visions are helpful but more Clive really gets into it which is a nice touch on top of the stereotyping by having Clive realise how much fun it is (also nicely subverted with Ravi, the nerdiest, sneering at nerds and looking silly because he is the nerd already).

All this investigation goes nowhere though because the case is taken off them by the FBI – who believe that the Russians killed the victim because of cyber crime. The FBI Agent is… Dale Bozzio. And yes, she and Clive has history and Clive definitely has feelings for her still – resurrected storyline!

Ravi visited the anti-zombie group this week and they have a plan to watch suspected zombies – including the mayoral candidate (who is a zombie). Which definitely makes Ravi nervous. What makes Ravi more nervous is their plan to kidnap a zombie, starve it and then photograph it when it goes all full-on-zombie scary. Ravi quickly tells the group who he is – and they verify his credentials as a medical examiner and ex-CDC and warns them that a single scratch from a zombie is contagious – so trying to kidnap one and hold it could very much start the zombie apocalypse they fear. Instead he promises them a vaccine – which is a total lie but will hold them off. They appreciate that because a whole lot of the anti-zombie group aren’t that far gone and are not in for kidnapping. This, apparently, includes Rachel, a photographer who makes friends with Ravi.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The concept of this book is a fascinating one – where people who are murdered instantly returned to life in their own home, transporting across the wold if necessary.

What are the implications to the world where murder is no longer possible – or almost not?

What does it mean when the most surefire way of providing emergency first aid is to kill a person rather than let them die from disease or accident?

What does it mean in a world where someone shooting you in the head is more likely to save you than an ambulance rushing you to hospital?

What does it mean in a world where deliberate mortal injuries are no more than a temporary inconvenience? What ludicrous things will people get up to if they know death has been taken out of the picture?

And what does it mean when those murders still have a small percentage chance of still leading to death?

And what is the psychological impact of killing someone/being killed?

And are there any terrible implications to a world where life can be extended so?

And the joy of this is all of this is touched on in this book. The whole world is changed – from the obvious like Dispatchers (trained people to kill when required – to save lives) being in hospitals to kill people in case an operation goes wrong, through to the completely bizarre with young fools having outright armed duels without fear even as they hack each other to pieces

We see both the official and illicit uses of the Dispatchers and how that has changed the world – and all of it adds into the story of Tony Valdez. A trained Dispatcher who has stepped on both sides of the tracks, the illicit and all the grey areas between. His experiences excellently get us to see this world and the many many many implications of a murder-resurrection society. And I can’t praise enough

Lucifer, Season 2, Episode 18: The Good, The Bad and the Crispy

Thanks to various odd shenanigans happening with the episodes of Lucifer this is now the season finale

We have Charlotte who has just been inconveniently stabbed and is no leaking lethal white light absolutely everywhere. She runs to medical attention – or Dr. Linda, who is duly a little annoyed by the celestial family demanding things of her which are way beyond her expertise, but Charlotte isn’t playing nice. No matter how comically inept she is, she is still the lethal, all powerful goddess and is equally beyond caring about the welfare of humans. Thoroughly intimidated, Linda applies. duct tape. She’s right, it’s amazing stuff

Of course the real cure for this would be going to back to Heaven – so it’s to Amenadiel and Lucifer trying to put the sword together now they’ve found the key. The trouble is that Amenadiel has had a completely different change of heart now he realises that he’s the favourite son.

Amenadiel’s completely neglected storyline this season has been his fall from grace, his losing faith in God and his siding with his mother because his father has so disappointed him, taken his power et al. Basically Amenadiel started ignoring his orders and supporting his mother because he thought god had forsaken him – with extra bitterness because Lucifer was the favourite son

But now Amenadiel is proven as the favourite son. He’s the special one. This rekindles Amenadiel’s faith in god while, at the same time being disappointed with himself – because clearly his powers being taken was because god was testing him (all revealed through him taking up Dan’s suggestion of going to Improv. Badly). This means Amenadiel has completely leaped back to Team God – and God doesn’t want his mother back in heaven. As the loyal warrior, Amenadiel is now faithfully following God’s will and not letting Lucifer reunite the sword (we also get to see the brothers play keep-away).

I think there’s been a really missed opportunity to develop Amenadiel this season which has not only sidelined one of the most prominent POC on this show, but has also failed to fully lay the foundations of this. Hey, it would have been nice to see him at Linda’s as well – afterall, if the supernatural getting therapy is the schtick of this show, they could have run with it. We could then have seen Amenadiel’s bitterness with god, his loyalty, even his need to have someone to follow, his experience of always having orders and not knowing what to do without a parental figure to guide him (hence why he so quickly became faithful follower of Charlotte). We could have seen his own fall from grace and laying the foundation for how he has now changed with his faith restored.

This does leave to the awesome line of Lucifer asking Chloe about her experience with “emotionally fragile men” which has Chloe’s awesome come back of “You’re self aware today”. Points to Chloe. They are heading to a crime scene though – and it’s Chett’s body which has been incinerated by Charlotte’s holy fire and dumped by professional “cleaners”

Lucifer realises who is responsible and is very very worried. He’s worried because, as I predicted, he realises his mother’s power returning means she’s going to burst soon and kill a whole lot of people and, at the same time – Chloe is good, annoyingly good at what she does and covering this up is not going to be easy.

The Leftovers, Season 3, Episode 7: The Most Powerful Man in the World (And His Identical Twin Brother)

Ok, so… that happened. I guess.

Leftovers is a show that repeatedly leaves me looking at the screen with a look of utter bemusement on my face – because everything is just so, plain, weird. I honestly think that half – or more – of every episode happens simply because a load of people in a room got really drunk and really high and just decided to write down whatever came to mind. I honestly read that the scene with Kevin checking his penis on the biometrics was added, along with last season’s karaoke, simply because the writers wanted to troll Justin Theroux. And I wonder, is that the secret of this whole show? Does it actually exist just because the writers want to see what weird shit they can make the actors do? This whole thing is one epic trolling?

So we have this episode, which is peak Madlib since it involves Kevin in his parallel world/near death experience/hallucination. He has decided to drown himself – his dad and disciples all wake up to stop him befoee accepting that yes this is kind of what they asked him to do, so he’s back to drowning himself for revelation. Remember he needs  3 things: Grace wants to know why her kids had no shoes, John wants to pass on a message of love to Evie, his dead daughter and Kevin Senior wants to appropriate from Aboriginal Australian culture even after death to stop a new biblical flood

The plus side? This involves Kevin naked again. And I will forgive a lot for more of this man naked, yes yes I will. Sure I’m shallow but I need to find some joy for that. After that it gets weird – a random eastern European man (I don’t know which language) trying to kill him and someone else rescues him to set him up as an assassin. And his job is to kill the president of the USA. No pressure then.

Also he needs to avoid  mirrors or “they” will find him. But a random other person who goes by “god” because why not tells him to use the mirror. Looking in the mirror lets him flip between the heads of two Kevins: unbearded Kevin and bearded Kevin

And Bearded Kevin is the President of the Unites States, who unbearded Kevin needs to kill – why not. President Kevin seems to be a Guilty Remnant member, reading a speech about banning the family and how they used to do the whole smoking thing. While giving a speech he manages to talk to Grace’s kids and even have a moment with Evie – who isn’t exactly thrilled with him since his regime apparently killed her whole family with a drone strike (which is, of course how she died). That’s two missions completed as he reports to the land of the living before drowning himself all over again for Kevin The Worst, his dad.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cold Reign, (Jane Yellowrock #11) by Faith Hunter

For a long time the European vampires have been threatening to come to New Orleans and challenge Leo, the master of the city. There have been plots brewing for decades – and now the time has come

With a wave of impossible Revenants, deadly magic and ancient vampires pursuing vendettas and plots, they have arrived, and Jane must run from attack to attack and unravel some extremely convoluted, ancient plots, drawing on all her resources to try and stem the tide.

This book is action packed – completely and overwhelmingly action packed. To a degree that I don’t even get when Jane actually gets to sleep. The European vampires are here and there’s some really long running plots happening, with lots of manipulations that have been put in place decades ago because this is how vampires plot. When you live for centuries, it’s standard to make plans that may span centuries.

And because they span centuries, they call upon characters and concepts and storylines that have appeared throughout the series, including the blood magic of the Damors and the different vampire families and prominent characters and antagonists. On top of that we have magical items that come not just from the main book series but also from some of the short stories. We have vampire enemies that have been referred to and being part of the metaplot for a very long time

We also have Jane’s developing powers and how they’ve been skewed both by Beast borrowing DNA she finds interesting and, of course, the angel Hayyel and his own special brand of magic – which in turn is linked to the Anzu and the Aranciel which have also appeared in other books

Basically, unless you have an incredibly good memory or have recently had a re-read of the entire series? This book takes a lot of work to follow. Especially since very little is actually explained in great detail as Jane and her crew run from battle to battle with rising Revenants and vampires attacks and strange lightning magic and time acting up and powerful, dangerous euro-vampires and kidnapping. It’s full of action and its awesome action and exciting and powerful and contains a lot of excellent fighting and confusion and investigating and more battling. We have this overlaid with Jane’s ongoing moral quandary over who she is, especially as she continues to be put in a position where she has to kill humans, not just vampires and her continued concern as to exactly where her moral compass is. There’s a really awesome moment with Hayyel in this in which she definitely doesn’t just take his reassurance for it.

So it’s a very good, very action packed read with some really good personal focus on Jane – but my gods it is easy for you to get lost and forget chunks and think things like “Adrianna? Wait, she was a thing? Do I remember her? Should I?” and occasionally getting lost between the duelling vampire plots. At the same time that does kind of set the tone of the book – after all this level of chaos and confusion is how Jane – and we – are supposed to feel when confronted by decades old duelling vampire plots.

A few books ago, this series finally addressed its complete lack of meaningful LGBT inclusion by handwaving pretty much every vampire as bisexual. Despite very little of that being shown in previous books and even now it’s only something that is mentioned: even in his book when Leo is actually in a bed with his two lovers, Kate is clearly in the middle (mentioned very carefully in case we think Leo actually touched another man). On top of this, their bisexuality seems to be linked to how Jane sees vampires as sexually debauched hedonists. But more than this referred-to-but-never-actually-seen representation, there’s the way Jane refers to that male lover: Grégoire. It’s demeaning, belittling and shaming – lots of references like “boy toy”. (And the fact he is very young and repeatedly raped also is a major part of this character). She never refers to Kate or any women Leo has slept with in those terms. There’s a strong whiff of homophobia about the entire portrayal.

Shadowhunters, Season 2, Episode 9: Bound by Blood

Last episode it turned out Valentine had another reason to want to hunt down Clary beyond her terrible acting and now the cast has to keep her safe so we have to continue to endure her.

This is Jace’s excuse to stop her making out with Simon and getting more acquainted with his rippled torso. Jace seems to have a side job of chief cock-blocker. He’s the only one in this series who’s allowed to get it on.

Jace wants to keep Clary in the Institute so Valentine knows exactly where to find her, especially since he’s already proven he can get into the Institute with demons whenever he wants.  Because this is Shadowhunters and everyone makes terrible decisions and has the IQ of algae

Speaking of, Clary’s hand starts turning black because of that pesky blood oath she made with Iris when displaying her algae intelligence. She has been told to go find Madzie the child warlock. Since she hasn’t done this she’s going to die horribly

This is confirmed by Magnus. Of course they go to Magnus, when do they not go to Magnus when anything is happening? He was trying to discuss with Alec his apparent issues which lead him vulnerable to jumping off buildings but as ever Alec’s well being and their relationship has to go on hold because Clary’s on the doorstep again.

Magnus, just leave New York, just leaaaave them, it’s not worth it. Leave them all behind, just take Alec and Simon’s torso with you.

So it being confirmed that there’s no loopholes from Clary’s terrible decision making (and can we take a moment to realise it took an actual death curse for the gang to be concerned about an unaccompanied child), it’s time to go hunt for warlock kiddies.

Only Jace doesn’t want Simon to help because he hates him for making out with his sister – not in an Alpha Arsehole Big Brother way but more in an incesty jealous arsehole-wants-to-sleep-with-his-sister way. Because ew (and yes I’ve read the books so know the twist – still, ew).

Time to check in at the Institute where super creepy Victor is impressed and/or disappointed that Izzy is doing so well with her Yin Fen withdrawal! And here he was hoping to find her desperate and hurting when he asked her out – since she isn’t she tells him no. He tries again and almost makes it an order…. And someone really needs to murder this guy.

Also, isn’t Izzie like 17? Victor needs murdering.

American Gods, Season 1, Episode 5: Lemon Scented You

Well it all happened this episode, the lines are drawn, supernatural open and clear and the battles ready

The introduction was ideal showing us an old god, Nanunini, god of the people who crossed the land bridge from Siberia to North America. Like pretty much every god we’ve seen, he was empowered/created by sacrifice, human sacrifice. But, as the narration is clear, humans hold the true power. Gods are born in the hearts of men – and when mankind forgets a god, the god dies

And lo, we have the whole core of what Wednesday and his fellow much reduced gods are facing – being forgotten and dying.

Before we get to the war we have the very heavy and very awesomely acted and highly emotional moment of Shadow reuniting with his dead wife. There’s a lot of excellent emotion from Shadow here – anger and grief and shock and just plain on-the-edge-of-breaking trying to understand everything. Laura seems to try and hold up the idea that hey-miracle-I’m-back-let’s-focus-on-this but Shadow isn’t as quick to run with it. After the last few days, coming back from the dead isn’t going to distract him. Or, maybe, after the last few days coming back from the dead is just something else he can’t even absorb at the moment. There’s a definite sense of Shadow reaching a breaking point.

He’s not exactly ready to let go of the whole cheating on him even as she describes her mindset and assures him that she does truly love him. She tries to seduce him but I’s all faintly surreal with her doing things like bathing in hot water to raise her body temperature for him – it’s all faintly surreal, slightly creepy. When she kisses him, her heart beats – pointing to him giving her some sense of life. Laura is confident and certain about what she wants but Shadow just feels kind of lost, needing time to just absorb everything. I can’t say enough how good this scene is with all the emotion and eerie feel and poor Shadow just being kind of lost in the middle of it.

Though he’s interrupted by Wednesday who has just been woken up by one of his ravens – Hugnin or Munin (and this episode is definitely the one where all of the could-be-maybe-is-it-magic becomes Oh yes, magic and gods clearly on display) warning him about the police arriving; who promptly arrest Wednesday and Shadow for bank robbery. Oops.

At the police station Wednesday pulls out his full dementia act and then doubles down on it by telling them the truth – that he was recruiting and ancient terrifying god which even the new gods are afraid of. He’s duly confused his police officer while Shadow is wisely stonewalling his, demanding a lawyer repeatedly. She ominously tells them about the dangerous enemies Wednesday has – someone sent them a fax detailing exactly where they were, to actual map grid references and the vin number of the car. And the fax machine wasn’t even plugged in.

Putting them both in the same room, presumably to record their conversation Wednesday warns Shadow they need to get out quickly before they’re seen – and killed. Wednesday is eerily afraid but thankfully Nancy is there to open the cuffs.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode Seven: Pyramid at the End of the World

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Bill is on her date with Penny and as they walk, Bill tells Penny about the Doctor, and the fact that their fake date was broken up by the Pope. It seems that Bill is never going to have a private life because it ends when soldiers burst in followed by the Secretary General of the United Nations.  It seems that he's looking for the Doctor and felt that Bill would know where to find him. Are companions on some kind of watch list? How is it that leaders of the earth always seem to know who the Doctor is hanging out with at any given time?  Bill of course denies knowing the president because she thinks the Secretary General is talking about Trump, only to be informed that in times of crises, the Doctor is the president of the world. This of course is when Penny decides that maybe it's time to just call an Uber. Poor poor Penny.

The Doctor is in the Tardis when Bill knocks on the door complaining that he's been in there for hours. Even when Bill tells the Doctor that the Secretary General wants to see him, the Doctor says no.  Clearly the UN must know exactly who they are dealing with because the Tardis is already on a plane headed for Turmezistan, where a pyramid has just appeared. The pyramid is right in the middle of a hot zone because the Russian, Chinese, and American military have formed a sort of stand off in the area and war is looming.  Once they land, the Doctor announces that the pyramid is a show of strength and decides that earth's military should simply target it and destroy it. This is clearly the Doctor acting out of fear because his first action is never violence - he doesn't even really to turn to violence as a last resort. The Doctor outsmarts people and beats them at their own game. Of course, the attack is unsuccessful and as Nardole points out, violence is never the answer.

One of the complaints I had about Extremis, is the fact that we don't know what the red robbed aliens really want? In the Pyramid at the End of the World, we learn that the aliens want to make the earth theirs.  To accomplish this they have studied earth and have chosen this particular moment in time to make their move. The aliens have determined that the earth is going to end and to prove their point, they show the leaders of the American, Chinese and Russian military, along with the Secretary General of the UN and the Doctor what the earth will look like in a year without their intervention. The robed aliens offer to intervene but only if they are asked to do so by someone who has power and it must come from a place of love.  Even though the Doctor begs him, the Secretary General of the UN decides to surrender but his surrender is not deemed legitimate because it is coming from a place of fear. The Secretary General quickly turns to dust. Damn, these aliens are not messing around. 

To ensure everyone knows just how much shit the earth and humans are in, the aliens set the doomsday clock to three minutes to midnight.  This means that whatever is going to bring about the end of the world is already underway. The leaders of the army decide that they aren't going to follow orders and refuse to fight each other but this does nothing to reduce the threat.  It's enough for the Doctor to realise that the pyramid and threat of a war are actually nothing more than a distraction to what the real issue is.

Shadowhunters, Season 2, Episode 8: Love is a Devil

We have a brief appearance from Luke, thoroughly pissed that Clary and Jace et al didn't share that there's a weapon of mass downworlder genocide, but hey this is Shadowhunters everyone keeps secrets for no apparent reason. Especially from people who may help.

Speaking off, we have Izzy keeping her yin fen addiction (remember she's addicted because Victor decided giving his Shadowhunters vampire-venom based addictive drugs is totally a good idea. Because this is Shadowhunters and everyone is terrible and has the intelligence of a slime mould)  has now turned to vampires to get bitten from the source. Raphael steps in before she got herself killed (Why? Remind me again why Raphael cares about any Shadowhunter? Or do Downworlders just line up to try and save Shadowhunters from their own bad decisions? Is there like a council? "Fred, you need to go to Edinburgh, the Shadowhunters there have decded to jump off high places while yelling 'angel wings'. Try to stop them") and advises her to sweat it out, endure and defeat her addiction. He knows - because Magnus saved him (because Magnus exists to serve everyone. It's a rule). She ignores him and gets one bite from him - before returning and tempting him with her too powerful shadowhunter blood. This will not end well. Someone get Magnus on speed dial, he has another mess to fix.

We also have Simon finally telling Clary he loves her and Clary, remembering his very impressive 8 pack, decides she's totally good with this. They're in a relationship.

This episode brings us the return of Maryse Lightwood, the mother of Alec and Izzy, step-mother of Jace and general candidate for the Worst Person Ever.

She's a homophobe who hates downworlders so you can imagine what a great fan of Alec she is. She also was happy to stand by when the Clave decided to kill Jace. Because she's that awful. She's also passed on all her awful opinions to Max, Alec and Izzy's little brother. Since her husband/their dad Robert is still in Idris this means he can't be around for Max's coming-of-age new rune ceremony and traditionally he gets a party which Alec has to organise

And Alec decides the best way to do this and tell his mother to go fuck herself is to get Magnus to run it

Y'know, I'd love if a declaration that Alec truly loves Magnus didn't come more as a "fuck you mother" rebellion (especially sicne that rebellion is less "this is who I am you homophobe" and more "how dare you do this to Jace" which seems to reduce Alec turning to Magnus to be more about serving Jace - again- than about actually standing up for himself.) I'd also love it if his rebellion didn't involve Magnus serving. I mean, is anyone paying Magnus for the use of his house, the booze, the entertainment or anything else? Or is this just another chapter in the endless litany of freebies Magnus dishes out.

Sense8, Season Two, Episode 11: You Want a War?

In many ways, Sun's story arch this season has been the most compelling. From her daring escape from jail, to her reunification with her dog and Sun's determination to get justice, she's really just been the one to watch.  Sun started off as detached and quite stone faced, it's clear however that her entire life she's fighting against the male members of her family who have sought continually to entrap her and to smash her spirit. Sun's strength as a fighter belies her soft underbelly and the fact she's extremely vulnerable and fragile. 

Sun shows up at the J Bak Summer gala in a pink wig ready to find a way to isolate her brother and have him admit the things that he's done. Joong-Ki shows up at the gala and gives a speech about his father and it's sickening given that he's guilty of patricide and has attempted to have Sun killed. Sun instantly sees red and gets ready to move into action but Detective Moon shows up to arrest Joong-Ki.  Proving that he's a coward, Joong-Ki grabs a gun and shoots Moon and then has the nerve to blame it on Sun. Joong-Ki takes off but he spies Sun in the crowd. The killing of Detective Moon, erases the last of the reservations Sun's cluster has and Kala declares, "get the motherfucker". Yeah, that's Wolfie coming out in Kala. 

Sun goes chasing after Joong-Ki, though she's not exactly dressed for battle. Sun hops on a motorcycle with Capheus and the chase is on through the city and it's freaking epic, so epic that Joon-Ki calls Sun a terminator.  Scenes like this are exactly why it took so long between the release of season one and season two. When Sun finally gets Joong-Ki to stop, she approaches him like a stalking tiger as he backs away and starts to beg. Despite everything that Joong-Ki has done and everything Sun has gone through to get to this moment, Sun cannot bring herself to kill her brother. She's a far better person than he will ever be.  Of course, the cops catch up with them and it's Sun who is arrested despite the fact that Joong-Ki shot detective Moon in a room full of witnesses.  Joong-Ki is escorted to a waiting limo like some kind of crowned prince.  

This would have been bad for Sun had it not been for the fact that she's not alone. Having spent time as a kid breaking out of his father's handcuffs, Will has no problem talking Sun through doing the same. Nomi, who is awesome in so many ways, breaks into the traffic system and causes an accident which flips the van upside down. Sun makes her way out of the van but she still needs to get out of the area. Thankfully, this is when Puck, who has heard what's going down thanks to the Archipelago shows up. Of course, he has to make a slimy remark about Riley, but he gives Sun a lift.

Now that Sun is on her way to safety, her cluster can finally relax.  Nomi decides to check in with Amanita to ensure that she's okay with everything that's been going on.  Amanita has had to live a life on the run, she's risked incarceration and her life has been completely altered in order to support Nomi.  It turns out that not only is Amanita okay with all of this, she wants to do this for the rest of her life.  Amanita rushes to grab a ring so that she can propose to Nomi and as it turns out, Nomi also has a ring because she was planning on proposing to Amanita. If you're not all up in your feelings at the moment you have no heart. I love that Sense8 has made these two the most stable and loving couple of the show.  They are absolutely beautiful together. 

It's time for Kala to come clean with Rajan about her plan to leave, except she doesn't get the chance to. It turns out that Rajan is involved in a scandal which includes Ajay, which is why he freaked the hell out when Ajay dropped off a wedding present for them. It turns out that the company is part of this scandal and he's decided for Kala's safety that she needs to leave the country. Rajan confesses that this might well be the end of their marriage but he wants Kala to stay safe and has therefore rented her an apartment in Paris. Kala may not have been able to confess her secrets but leaving India is exactly what she wanted. 

Sun has made it to the safety of the Love Motel and she watches the news with Riley. Together they learn that Detective Moon is going to make it. Thank goodness because I want to see a hell of a lot more of Detective Moon. Puck continues to be gross and has decided that for saving Sun he is deserving of sexual favours. I know that Puck is being played for comic relief and that Riley and Sun are forceful in both their rejection of him and his expectations but I cannot help but be disgusted. I will admit that I loved Sun breaking Puck's toes and ordering him to sit. Will wants to use this opportunity to get information from Puck regarding the Archipelago; however, Puck says that the cannibal is hunting. At this point, Puck makes it clear that they can either kill him or let him go because he's done talking.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode Six: Extremis

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To date, all of season ten has been one off episodes which haven't lead to a larger over arching narrative.  This is perhaps my least favourite style of story telling on Doctor Who.  I love having the big pay off in the end and trying to figure out where the story is going.  In Capaldi's first season, he spent it trying to figure out whether or not he's a good man, only to determine that he's an "idiot with a box". Season nine was taken up with the exit of Clara Oswald and determining exactly who the hybrid is.  This becomes important because though the Doctor claims to have an in-built set of codes he lives by, he tossed them aside at the urging of Clara, leading eventually to Clara's death. When the Doctor goes all Time Lord Victorious bad things happen. Up until Extremis, other than introducing Bill, whom I love, the story has been disconnected. Yes, we know that the Doctor is guarding someone in a box but that's hardly an overarching plot. I think that Exremis is the start to the larger narrative this season, particularly because it's a three part series. 

For me, it really feels as though with release of Extremis that the season has finally begun. Yes, I'm frustrated with the ending because it left us with so many unanswered questions but I recognise that this is how it should be so that Whovians can spend way too much time thinking about where the season is going and the various nuances of the show.  Who doesn't love to argue with other Whovians about what is going on with the Doctor? 

Extremis flips through the timeline to reveal that Missy is the one inside the box. It seems that Missy unsurprisingly has been sentenced to death and since only a Timelord can carry out the sentence, the Doctor is there to see it done. The relationship between Missy and the Doctor has always been complicated because they are different sides to the same coin.  At the end of the day, neither wants to see real harm done to the other, as Missy's rescue attempt in The Magician's Apprentice. It's not an accident that it was Missy who received the Doctor's confessional dial. This is why, I didn't believe for a moment that the Doctor would actually kill Missy, even if she does attempt to kill him from time to time. 

The arrival of Nardole as an emissary for River Song speaks of a larger connection between the two than was originally hinted in The Husbands of River Song. Nardole arrives with River's famous blue diary and makes it clear that River would not approve of his actions.  Of course, the Doctor does not in fact kill Missy but he does imprison her and promise to guard her for 1000 years.  In the present we see the Doctor talking to Missy through her prison, recalling what has past between them and his fear that his blindness will impact his ability to protect earth.  Missy is perhaps the only person who the Doctor can admit his vulnerability to. Nardole suggests that the Doctor doesn't tell Bill because then he would have to deal with the reality of his situation but I think it's because he knows that Bill is dependent upon him to know what he is doing, to see all of the angles and keep her safe. It comes down to the Doctor's belief that he has a duty of care. 

Extremis sets up a situation in which the earth is about to be invaded by robe wearing aliens. To prepare, the aliens have created a fake world in order to be able to predict how earth's defenders will react. What's interesting is that not only do the include the Doctor, the Doctor is blind in this alternate reality as well.  It begins when the Doctor gets a visit from the Pope. It seems that some priests have all killed themselves after reading a text.  Nardole is the one who fills in the blanks for the Doctor because he cannot see.  The Doctor decides to investigate and to do so, he has to pick up Bill, which involves interrupting Bill's date.  This is the first time that Bill experiences how being a companion on the Tardis can really be a problem for one's private life.  When Bill's date sees the Tardis, along with the Pope and a group of Cardinals in Bill's bedroom, she runs out screaming. Given that the Catholic religion has not been kind to LGBT people, her reaction makes perfect sense.

The Doctor brings a device to temporarily restore his eyesight but involves borrowing from his future regenerations. It's a temporary fix which means that we are probably not going to see a resolution to the Doctor's blindness until he regenerates. To read the book, the Doctor sends Nardole and Bill off to investigate a gunshot.  Bill and Nardole's interactions are cute and this marks the first time that Nardole hasn't actively irritated me since his introduction to the series.  It's Nardole who figures out first that they are not real and more like manifestations on a hollowdeck (yes, another Star Trek reference). Bill manages to track the Doctor down in the oval office of all placess and similarly breaks down when he explains to her what is going on.  They aren't real and therefore when the imaginary people living in this world discovered that, they do the only act of resistance they can - they delete themselves.  The fake Doctor confronts the aliens about what they are doing but at this point, having faced this version of the Doctor, they are not concerned.  The Doctor however warns them that they should be concerned and then emails the real version of himself everything that he's recorded in this adventure.

The real Doctor has been sitting outside of Missy's cell this entire time talking about her death sentence and his fears about being able to protect humanity while blind.  When he gets the email, the Doctor contacts Bill and suggests she asks out the same woman the fake Bill was dating. The Doctor now knows that something is coming which will challenge him and this time, he's not certain that he's up to the task.  This is a real moment of vulnerability for the Doctor and certainly not an emotion that we see from him often and with good reason. Given that in the Veritas world, the Doctor and humanity died many many times, this suggests that the monks are well prepared for the challenge ahead. What I'm interested in is what Missy's role will be.  Yes, Missy has tried to save the Doctor but she's also tried to kill the Doctor.  Missy has promised to try and be good, a promise I think we know that she cannot keep. The fact the alternate world didn't include her suggests that the role she plays in defeating the monk aliens will be vital.

I have tons of questions but that's as it should be since Extremis is part one in a three episode arc. How much longer can the Doctor hide being blind from Bill? Given that he was already moving more slowly in this episode than the previous one, I don't think he can keep up the charade for much longer. How did Missy survive the Daleks she met in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar two-parter? Finally, what is the end goal of these new robed aliens?

Lucifer, Season 2, Episode 17: Sympathy for the Goddess

Lucifer is more focused on getting all the pieces for his new burny sword (honestly, I’ve always wondered about burning swords. I mean, you’ve been stabbed – while I’m sure burns don’t make things any better, if you’ve been stabbed bonus cauterisation isn’t necessarily going to make it worse either) – and one of Charlotte’s client’s insists that he can get it. We see just how little Charlotte understands of humanity (very little but it’s hilarious to watch Amenadiel and Lucifer watch her be conned – though I really have to question how she’s functioning as a lawyer if she’s this naïve) before her contact and client inconveniently gets himself all murdered: their money and sword-piece missing

So that’s this week’s murder –which means dragging Chloe in with less than subtle manipulations from our celestial gang. I would say that they must be better than this – but has Lucifer ever had to manipulate someone who isn’t prone to his demonic charm?

They track to killing to Chet Ruiz, the son of Bianca Ruiz, one of Charlotte’s clients which means she’s involved in all kinds of nastiness (Because all of Charlotte’s clients are involved in all kinds of nastiness). Chloe sees an opportunity to try and aim for Bianca

Charlotte is following them around the whole case because she is interested in getting the sword piece back and really doesn’t give a damn about the conflict of interest in investigating her own client. Chloe is concerned but since Charlotte’s actually providing useful insider info and has the tickets to get where they need to go… she also makes not-so-subtle comments about being a very different person from the original Charlotte.

Investigating takes them to a party – Charlotte and Chloe and Charlotte takes several pot shots at Chloe’s clothing so of course she shows up dressed to the nines. This is a rule. I do like Charlotte’s respectful nod – sure she’ll snark but she’ll concede when she loses a round.

Following Chloe’s plan, Charlotte spills to Bianca that her son is suspected with murder to which she has a word with her most incompetent son about A) killing one of her best people out of ignorance and b) leaving his phone behind with lots of compromising information. Oh Bianca, it’s one thing to raise a murderer, but to raise an incompetent murderer? Shame, shame, shame.

Speaking of, we also have to cringe over Chloe pretending to like Chet’s music. They do learn that the phone I super important because the not-very-bright Chet has uploaded all of his mother’s illicit business dealings onto it. Bianca knows this too – so tries to get Charlotte to get it back with the offer of the sword piece she’s so desperately after

Which involves Charlotte interacting with the oh-so-awesome Ella who is just so sweet and innocent and easily manipulated. But Chloe catches her and after an exchange of near truths and lies, Charlotte sees Bianca while wearing a wire.