Friday, November 3, 2017

Waxing Moon (Calling the Moon #2) by Sarah E Stevens

Julie is getting used to raising her powerful werewolf baby - and is still determined to do so alone, in her own home in her own town despite pressure to move to join the rest of the Pack

But when her house is burned down by a supernatural force she never knew about which may be in direct opposition to the powerful werewolf Carson is becoming. Can she assert her independence as a mere human in this world of dangerous supernatural beings fighting over her child?

In my review of the last book, I questioned how this series would continue after the events of the first book. I did suspect there would be some really convoluted way that Julie would end up being bitten and become a werewolf and then have many exciting adventures.

Oh how very different this turned out to be.

The conflict of this book is how much Julie gets to live her own life and how much control she has over raising her own son. It exposes a lot of the glaring problems with werewolf culture that have been briefly touched on but not explored in the last book

None of this is done clumsily. I mean, I would have frowned at this if all the nice people from the first book suddenly turned into hateful monsters. Instead we see it in their general attitudes, who is valued. Who is respected. Looking back among all the action of the previous book we see a lot of subtle or not overly flagged actions now from a very different light. Even how everyone is utterly fawning and excited over her son Carson; lots of little moments

And given how powerful Carson is, to Julie this is just all the more important why she needs to separate him from the damaging prejudices of a society that could have him absorb so

Again, it’s done really subtly, with the battle they’re fighting serving as a perfect background for people to make harsh decisions in the name of “safety”. It’s balanced to be very realistic - perhaps even something we could easily understand and go along with if it weren’t for Julie’s excellent insight.

This also brings excellent further exploration of Julie’s insistence of living her own life in her own town - but I think the best part of this was also looking at Julie’s extremely good friend Eliza. Loyal, supportive, passionate, determined, a good woman AND WRONG. Because you can be a good person and still be part of a deeply flawed, prejudiced system; you can be a good person and perpetuate inexcusable things within that system and being a good person doesn’t make it ok. That’s a nuance that is far superior to the simplistic narratives we see elsewhere

Thursday, November 2, 2017

American Horror Story, Season 7 (Cult), Episode 9: Drink the Kool-Aid

It’s time for another episode of American Horror Story

And this begins with a quick tour of murderous suicide cults, told from the point of view of Kai all played by Evan Peters. And you may think that maybe it’s tasteless to use so many desperately tragic mass deaths for entertainment foddder

This is American Horror Story

This counts as his bedtime story he tells his own cult of sleep-over mindless cultists all wearing Mormon underwear

I am sure there’s a porn site that looks so much like this.

Kai makes the not-so-subtle point that he wants true loyalty and everyone being ready to die for him and all these guys will for reasons we won’t go into because they’re extras and who cares?

He’s also ranting nonsense at the city council meeting and using his goons to intimidate them into agreeing to his rule that all internet in town is banned except through a specific server which filters the internet

Even assuming the town can possibly afford this, the lawsuit from this will be hilarious. He also wants to run for the Senate. Like people would elect a violent bigoted avatar of vileness for…

...honestly I don’t even know why I began saying that. His dyed hair is likely to be more controversial than his violence

He also notices that the women are all missing

Time to catch up with Ally and Ivy - and Ally is officially done. Having waved her magic wand and banished all of her mental health issues, she demands some explanations from Ivy about why everything

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lucifer, Season 3, Episode 5: Welcome Back Charlotte Richards

This week brings us the death of a man who makes pudding for a big pudding company. (I am reminded that pudding is what Americans call flavoured custard which for some reason they eat from pots like yoghurt without even the pretension that it’s healthy) who ends up dead face down in one of his vats of pudding. According to Ella he is scalded to death.

I think this is definitely in my top 16 ways I do not want to die.

Wait we need the opening cuteness scene with Lucifer finding out that Chloe has Trixie putting money into a swear jar to teach her not to use bad language. Lucifer is outraged because of the arbitrary rules around what makes something a bad word and tries to give Trixie money so she can swear to her heart’s content

You have to kinda sorta love Lucifer for that. Of course Chloe intervenes, so Lucifer teaches her words which are technically ok but don’t sound like they are.

And today’s drama from Lucifer is he’s deciding to blame not being around to save Chloe last episode on God because everything’s his fault and so Lucifer doesn’t feel guilty about it. Yes he’s all about self-absorption again. This means he spends the whole episode deciding random stuff is god’s doing for just lots of random non-sequiters being spouted by him which Chloe has to endure.

So we have lots of investigations over who would want to kill pudding guy between rival companies wanting to steal his recipe and people wanting him not to leave with it and it all being complicated by a merger. Noteworthy elements include Chloe outright asking Lucifer to use his “what do you desire” woowoo - which is interesting to see Chloe outright recognising that Luicifer has magic - can we run with this? Can we finally let her into the secret

We also get a company exec hating on her own sexually exploitive advert.

But mostly we have the return of Charlotte Richards, the woman who Lucifer’s divine mother possessed. She is having a difficult time, trying to convince everyone she remembers the last 6 months so they don’t think her mentally ill, but not having a clue what happened to her while she was possessed - or how she got the scars. She is representing the various suspects in this case and is being pretty obstructive for a murder investigation (I am pretty sure you can demand CCTV footage of a murder and manage to keep corporate secrets removed from it).

This also leads to Daniel getting the cold shoulder, even though he was sleeping with her, she doesn’t remember. Daniel plays wounded puppy and to the confused and informs Charlotte that Lucifer seemed to be the only one who could understand her very confusing ways

Lucifer, of course, thinks Charlotte’s presence is all a ploy and all about him - because everything is all about him. He tests her to see if his mother has returned, he suspects god and he holds on to that belief right until he returns home and finds Charlotte waiting for him. She kisses him. She’s interpreted “you and Lucifer were close” as she was sleeping with the tall dark and handsome one - something in her broken, confused life that would make sense. While Lucifer’s reaction is pretty strong

Since he still sees his mother and he promptly vaults a piano to get some distance between them

To which Charlotte cracks. She talks about losing 6 months of her life she can’t explain, about how during that time she lost custody of her kids, she doesn’t even have visitation rights and her whole life fell apart and she doesn’t understand. Lucifer finally drops his self-absorption to see the innocent who was caught up in his family’s machinations

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fall From Grace (Exile of Angels #1) by Ron C. Nieto

The Archangel of Secret Knowledge has been released from his long imprisonment in Hell and now has one major task - to free his brethren from their infernal imprisonment

But occupying a body - a life, a family - that is not his own comes with its own guilt and complexities; how do you explain to a mortal brother that you are trying to free demons from hell?

Especially when that mission becomes far more complicated, with more actors and manipulations with their own sinister motives than he imagined when he first found freedom.

This book has some really fascinating concepts

Fallen angels and demons are not unknown characters in urban fantasy - but I think this is the first time I’ve seen one with this kind of outlook. Henry is neither angsting about being unworthy of god and self-flagellating; nor is he raging about an unjust most High who must pay for his dastardly deeds. He is sensibly and doggedly trying to rescue his brethren. It’s a very personal story, one very much focused on him and not on big grand themes and revelations.

I also like Henry’s character - introverted, snarky, socially awkward but not in the arrogant-and-brilliant-way we see with so many protagonists. Just an inexperienced demon in the body of a man who was socially inept anyway. There’s a general sense with Henry that he’d much rather just be left alone with his books if he could get away with it.

I really like the conflict over what he is - because he possessed the human Henry Black. But he has all of Henry Black’s memories - and his opinions and even his mannerisms - including Henry’s OCD. Henry Black is dead… but how much of the angel/demon occupying the body is angel/demon and how much is Henry?

The concept of angelic power is also an interesting one - the nature of the word, the angelic inability to not speak truth and in changing reality to make it true. Divine power, the power angels can wield but cannot carry because only beings with a soul can do that. This idea that angels wield incredible power but that, ultimately, that power is human and divine and not their own. It’s a nice twist

Henry himself is both albino and has OCD. Both are parts of his character but while mentioned do not consume him. It’s good to see a disability which doesn’t become a character’s sole defining characteristic, but at the same time I rather think the OCD in particular was brushed over. We’re told Henry has OCD but that largely manifests with a need to have everything around him neat and tidy rather than actual compulsive behaviour

Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 2: The Damned

This episode was not plot heavy - we had lots and lots and lots of killing Saviours which I’m not going to recap because it basically involved everyone charging around being big damn heroes, especially Morgan who has levelled up to infinite-bullet badass and is just leaving corpses by the dozen in their wake

Oh we also have a lot of dull artsy montages which feel like pure filler. Seriously we open with 2 minutes of this and close with 2 minutes more just watching people’s faces. I don’t even recognise some of these people.

We have some tactics with Aaron leading his group with the tactic of shooting Saviours pinned in a courtyard who are then relatively helpless when their dead raise as zombies. Of course, a few grenades would have made this way easier. Eric - remember him? Because I didn’t even recognise him (or Aaron for that matter. Walking Dead if you want us to recognise characters as main characters they need some screen time or they blur with the extras) - gets shot so I think we can expect his death in the not too distance future

Carol, Ezekiel and co are going for another compound but need to kill a scout first so they’re not warned - they fail so they know they’re coming. Ezekiel continues regardless. The main issue here is Ezekiel with his melodramatic delivery, his constant smiles and his epic speeches is just damn inspiring. He makes it clear to Carol, dropping his act for a split second, “fake it until you make it.” And Ezekiel is inspiring and I’m sure people would follow his dramatic, theatrical self into hell - but they may be following him to their death. Confidence alone doesn’t win battles

The main battle this episode is a moral one - and whether all Saviours should be massacred or not. Remember Rick said that only Negan had to die. Equally Rick convinced Morgan that slaughter is a-ok. We have several images back and forth on this one. At one point Maggie and Jesus find a surrendered prisoner - Maggie calls for murder (partially driven by revenge because of Denise -and Glenn and Abraham) while Jesus insists that it says more about them that they’re going to kill an unarmed prisoner. Said prisoner then kidnaps Jesus and holds a gun to his head - showing the cost of this kind of trust. Of course grabbing Jesus when he’s a kung fu master isn’t exactly a good plan and the guy ends up defeated - but still tied up despite Maggie’s disgust. Later there’s a whole team who surrender - Jesus says not to shoot them unless they shoot first though as Diane (she has an apparent automatic bow, able to fire 2 arrows in as many seconds) points out, if they shoot first then some of them dies… there’s this constant reminder that being merciful is dangerous. Equally from Jesus there’s a reminder of what it makes them if they’re literally willing to massacre a crowd of surrendering unarmed people.

Star Trek, Season 1, Episode 7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad

Michael is now settling into her life on the Discovery, winning the war, making friends and having lots of complex feelings about Ash because she is still socially pretty inept. We also see a party - and I think this is definitely something we don’t see enough in Star Trek - parties!

Especially Tilly with so much drunken fun not-so-subtly pushing an inept Michael at Tyler which she duly messes up before they’re rescued by a call to the bridge

On the way they run into Stamets and WHY IS NO-ONE CONCERNED BY THIS MAN?! Stamets is showing a drastically different personality - in fact I’d say he’s outright losing coherence and no-one seems to think this is a problem?

On the bridge the Discovery has come across a Jormagandr - a space whale. Since they’re endangered due to being too busy doing their job they forget to fuck (hey there Michael did you catch that not-even-slightly subtle allegory?) it is the law that they must be moved to a space zoo for preservation

Upon beaming it on board a man steps out of it and kills a load of people. It’s Harry Mudd. Yes that annoying Mudd who they should have killed two episodes ago. He has a woo-woo device that resets time allowing him to learn new ways to take over the Discovery with every attempt (not helped by the Discovery apparently having terrible security and allowing a complete stranger with no official credentials to take over the computer and be recognised as captain). He’s planning on selling the ship and the secret of the Magic Mushroom Drive to the Klingons for lots of money and revenge. And to reset time dozens of times so he can kill Lorca over and over again.

The one person other than Mudd who can remember the time loops is Stamets thanks to his Tardigrade DNA - and this is an interesting twist on an old trope. Usually when we’re stuck in a groundhog loop we follow the person who can see through it. But here we’re following Michael who isn’t - and seeing Stamets mention dozens of flashbacks we’ve never seen and try to convince her of the truth.

He does this over several loops trying to stop Mudd, trying to convince her, trying to get more information about Mudd from Ash, Mudd’s cell mate by encouraging Michael and Ash’s relationship including bizarre scene of Stamets and Michael dancing together. Stamets gives a series of romance lessons to Michael and in among all the loops she and Ash kiss.

Which yay, but y’know murderous terrorist and all that.

Eventually they learn that Mudd is using a time crystal which is basically woo-woo but this is irrelevant because they don’t actually use that in any way. Instead after many deaths and resets (including a final one where Michael forces Mudd to reset the loop by revealing who she is, how much the Klingons want her - and then committing suicide so he also brings Ash back) they apparently surrender to Mudd

And I really want to know how they convinced Lorca to do this in the, say, 10 minutes they had.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 1: Mercy

Time for some scene setting: Rick all mopey in the graveyard remembering the loss before making a big big dramatic speech about creating a new world of freedom and fairness and amazingness and awesomeness and we just have to kill the big bad evil people. Namely Negan, Negan has to die - his followers can live if they abandon him but collaborators may have to die.

Rick always gives good speech. Ezekiel’s speech is shorter but he’s so dramatic, so theatrical and has a tiger, so I’m much more impressed by Ezekiel. Maggie, for Hilltop, is less grandiose but I think a very solid personable leader, less dreamy, for personal focused. Gabe and Rick talk about how it is just Negan who is the problem and how it’s amazing one man can do so much - to which Gabe says one man has led the Resistance. Rick disagrees, this is not about him

Oh. Bull. Shit. Great Steaming Elephant Turds. Not all about Rick? Really? The Walking Dead? Nonsense! Shenanigans! This whole show has been about Rick since he woke up in the hospital in the first episode of this show.

Despite his speech about only Negan has to die, when Carl finds a man begging for help and showing no risk, Rick drives him off by shooting over his head just in case he’s a spy/traitor  etc etc. Carl is not amused by Rick’s callousness. I’m trying to remember if we had a character moment last season that stopped Carl being a serial killer in training.

The gang have a plan checking through a list of targets to hit, quietly and carefully bringing down Saviours in various locations. And pacifist Morgan is definitely team Violence again, as is Carol. Rick and Michonne are still a thing, but Michonne and Carl are staying back to defend the base. Michonne, apparently to make Carl feel better tells Carl she’s helping him and it’s his show. Walking Dead, don’t even joke about that. Seriously.

Rick also has a moment with Maggie where he implies he expects Maggie to be the one to take over after this battle is over. Yeah, no, not believing you

Their main plan is to gather a horde and herd it slowly using noise. Lots of unnecessary explosive noise, Daryl’s bike etc (yes it looks cool but isn’t the bike sufficient to make noise?). Part of this is to lure out several of Negan’s forces which get duly blown up.

Ahead of them, Rick leads a group of armoured vehicles to Negan’s front door and calls Negan out. For some reason despite sniping several guards, they don’t shoot Negan. That would make sense. Instead they exchange speeches - Rick pointedly ignoring Negan and appealing to his Lieutenants to surrender and he’ll spare them. Negan tries to sound reasonable as is his schtick, but Rick doesn’t engage. Negan pulls out Gregory - yes, of course Gregory ran to Negan, as Jesus pointed out - who tells everyone from Hilltop to go home or they will be banished forever from the colony. No-one is impressed. No-one leaves. Maggie says everyone must make their own choices - and they all, as Jesus puts it, support Maggie.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Z Nation, Season 4, Episode 5: The Unknowns

The gang is still heading east following Warren’s visions when they reach an abandoned truck. Murphy wants to search it - but when Warren sees no-one in the cab of the truck - and it still moves to follow them, everyone else is duly terrified and decides to get the hell away.

Which is when the truck releases a terrible, high pitched noise which knocks them all unconscious

They wake in creates - or Warren does. When it opens a woman and a man emerge from their own creates and she promptly kills him for the only crowbar. She explains she’s been there for a month or more and they have to do what the bosses want because they can’t fight the noise. All they do is kill anything that moves - or zombies. This mission includes clearing an elevator - which they do but the woman gets eaten in the process. Once Warren escapes into the lift and begins to ascend, the noise starts and she’s unconscious again. She ends up back in a crate

Doc and 10K have their own crate experience, only they come out together. In a gas filled corridor with only one gas mask to share, they try to close the leaks and kill the charging zombies. While doing so Doc nearly dies and 10K has to resuscitate him while sharing a gas mask. It’s improbably but dramatic

And I’m going to say this here - the whole concept of this episode and the whole way it’s depicted complete with lighting and atmosphere, is absolutely terrifying. There’s a really horrible horror film here.

When the whole gang is gathered in their crates to recap that they’ve all been through these situations. They’re released from crates, kill Zombies, clear an area and then the sound knocks them out again and they wake up in their crates again.

While in their crates, Lucy senses many many zombie, even Warren can sense them. Murphy says he can’t because he’s all cured - but he is eating his own flesh. Which is not healthy

And Murphy has a panic attack - but is talked down by Sergeant Lilley in awesome fashion. She is so skilled at it because she herself has experience of PTSD when she had to hide in the boot of a car for months when her family was turned to zombies.

Superstition, Season 1, Episode 2: The Dredge

After the pilot everything seemed to be terrible, the city was been torn up by snakey people, Bea was in a magical coma, Isaac was dead, Calvin traumatised and everything just falling apart. Add to this we now have May slowly beginning to panic as the town falls into chaos

Tilly shines through as the one on point - she keeps Calvin focused on keeping the land safe (helped by May) and helps May focus on getting Bea out of her magical coma; after which they can deal with everything else. Tilly is an excellent crisis leader

They use various woowoo with the collected coins, cupping and magic words to reach Bea and it all looks frightening and awful.

Bea is healed so that’s one bright spot, and greets the family after Calvin comes in from another awkward conversation with Garvey (he keeps calling himself her father, she points out father’s raise children - he’s a sperm donor. It’s all tense and complicated).

With Bea back they have to tell Bea about Isaac being dead… she keeps asking where he is as they euphemistically dance around it and think she hasn’t absorbed the truth until she says “I heard you, where is his body?”. She insists no matter what they say and shuts herself in a room with his body - and begins using Woo-woo. This woo-woo has a lot of Isis symbology (Isis the Egyptian goddess, obviously) and at the end of it Isaac is alive.

Bea comes out to tell everyone it was a close call and he’s sleeping. Everyone, especially Cal, isn’t exactly buying that on account of the whole decapitation and everything. This is not normally something someone gets over. Still she silences them for now and puts a pin in the conversation.

The next day I can only assume all the snakey possessed people have been dealt with as Calvin has time for another talk with Bea who tries the “some mysteries are better unknown” tactic which Calvin is not buying. Instead she says Isaac should tell them - and Calvin takes a moment to express the grief and horror he felt at nearly losing both of them.

He also tries to talk to May about Garvey to which she sensibly tells him that there’s no quick fix here; and he should listen more than he talks. While Garvey herself is getting friend/crush/possible boyfriend Russ to dig in the dark web to see all the info on Calvin he can. Which is that he’s had a very bloody tour of duty and that his last 3 years are super classified. Russ is also creepy and boundary pushing around Garvey.

Calvin continues the surreal tour of not-mentioning-the-immortality when he compares the new arsenal with Tilly. Again he makes a strong point that he has been a marine and he hasn’t forgotten everything from when he fought monsters at 18 - he constantly has to push against the idea he’s the amateur but I’m glad how he does it. He isn’t an arsehole about it, he just quietly reminds everyone he’s not a rookie and not to treat him like one

We finally get some insight into the whole alive thing when Isaac and Bea talk - coming back from the dead hurts more each time but Bea has tricks to make it easier and less traumatic. It’s clear that while Bea helps the process, Isaac comes back from the dead without her. She’s worried by how quickly Cal is chasing back into the fight with lots of reassurance that Cal is more than capable of stepping forward while Isaac heals. They also connect for some happy post-death sex which is heard through all the thin walls but Calvin manages to be mature over

Once Upon a Time, Season 7, Episode 4: Beauty

So we know why Regina is here, we know why Henry is here and we know why Killian is there. But we also have Rumple running around confusing everyone - so why is the Dark One here?

This calls for a flashback: Rumple and Belle living their joyously happy life with age-reversed baby Gideon, all preparing for Gideon’s first baby with Belle getting all stressed (which I never understand since small babies aren’t going to remember their parties) and I’m bemused by the fact Belle has got Rumple a polaroid. A polaroid camera. Really; I get that we’re working with a medieval aesthetic but can’t we get a little updated

Everything is blissful and they have big plans to travel and life so very happily now there’s no drama left in Storybrooke and because Rumple has managed not to turn evil for 10 whole minutes. Their happy life continues, Gideon gets a little older… and so does Belle. Rumple decides he needs to become mortal so he can grow old with Belle and die along side her. In a speech which manages to be romantic, Belle promises to find him a way to die… honestly it should sound creepy and it kind of sort of does. Honestly “I want my spouse to die with me” is creepy and urban fantasy needs to drop it. Unfortunately for Rumple, getting rid of the Dark one dagger and immortality isn’t easy

Perhaps giving us a tiny clue of why this matters we have Rumple struggling with normal life milestones like Gideon going off to college: it could be, like Emma and Regina, not being ready to see Henry go. Or it could be that an unaging immortal does not feel the passing - or the progress of time in the same way as a mortal does.

Belle, aging in each scene, tells Rumple she’s found a fairy prophecy with various clues which leads them to the end of realms, with a sun which apparently takes forever to set. The prophecy suggests that when the sun sets Rumple will have the key to mortality. They decide to move their and live a drearily boring blissfully pastoral life together waiting for the sun to set.

Time for Once Upon a Time’s homage to Up and their emotionally devastating aging montage scene, which, of course has one tragic ending

Belle, an old woman, falls and while Rumple begs to use magic to save her, she says it’s time. And she lied about that prophecy - the sun setting means she will die, the sun of his life. And she’s confident he will pass on the dagger to the proper Guardian and return to her. I’m assuming an afterlife or resurrection is involved her and not her preserved body propped up the front room.

Though, in all honesty, this scene is powerful and beautiful and tragic. Maybe it doesn’t have the same impact as Up (thankfully because I don’t think anyone was expecting a Pixar movie to emotionally maul them in the opening scene) but the acting is deeply heart rending.

Rumple travels to find this Guardian and ends up running into Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland, and Henry on a motorcycle.

So to the present and Hyperion heights where Rumple - or Weaver, who clearly has none of his memories - talks to one of his informants: Tilly, Hyperion Heights Alice. And she is random, cryptic, chaotic and nearly incomprehensible. But she still has nifty quips about puzzles and memories and mysteries and everyone wearing masks. She wears a white rabbit mask as well, of course (it’s hallowe’en).

Also note she makes a passing reference to an ex-girlfriend. And I have to say my faith in fandom is somewhat redeemed by NO-ONE making a fuss about this. Possibly because it’s so damn brief no-one noticed or the death of Belle was so dramatic and painful; but I like to think that maybe one off blink-if-you-miss-it mentions are more due an eyebrow lift than a cheer parade.

She also hates Victoria as the worst person whoever worsted. And she wants everyone wearing masks and scattered to stop them all from seeing the truth. It looks like Tilly/Alice is awake to the curse