Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Librarians, Season 4, Episode 8 and the Hidden Sanctuary

Opening prologue: a boy abandoned and alone in the woods happen to find a fairy which he frees…

Now to the Library - and Cassandra having a terrible nightmare/memory of a recent mission in Ecuador which nearly went badly because everyone was relying in Cassandra and she panicked and had a meltdown.

More terrifying - Jenkins is losing his vision and reminding us of his mortality...

Jenkins encourages her to talk because Jenkins is made of awesome. She faced death and panicked - and though she has faced death before it was the certainty of it. She was terminally ill, she knew she was going to die soon. Knowing that she could die on missions meant less to her when she didn’t have much life left, when the possibility of a long, normal life was completely out of the question… now it’s possible to have that long life she’s afraid to risk that. And that fear stops her thinking

Jenkins sympathises, as a man who has had his own life so tragically shortened (nooooooooo!!!!!) has spent time reflecting on his own life, what his purpose is and what he wants to do and what he wants to be. He doesn’t share his own answers (immortal and around forever as a pillar of endless awesomeness) but suggests Cassandra do the same.

She does - and decides to take a sabbatical to the normal world. As we’ve seen in previous episodes, Cassandra doesn’t know what this means. She’s never had a normal life - she needs to experience this if she wants to make an informed decision.

Eve freaks out. And it’s perfect. From seeing her team dissolve, to the abandonment she already feels after Flynn to a HUGE dollop of mother-figure-empty-nest-syndrome, Eve is not remotely happy with this. But Jake and Ezekiel are much more supportive

So she chooses a town that is the safest in America. There she finds… an improbably nice and peaceful with dubious barbershop and creepily friendly town. I would be running but Cassandra fits right in. She rents a room from Karla (who has a son called Freddie who is far far more sensible than anyone else in the town). She gets a job improbably easily as a librarian and quickly fits in in this impossibly perfect town, taking up baking, public events, quilting and all to a superior degree because she’s a Librarian and awesome. It’s in the job description.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Magicians, Season 3, Episode 1: The Tale of the Seven Keys

Last season in between the train wrecks of rape, misogyny, homophobia and general dear-gods-whyyyyy that so characterises Magicians we left with a number of cliffhangers

The Olde Gods, parents of lesser gods like Ember and Umber are Not Amused by their kids being murdered decided to strip the world of magic. This made Brakebills much safer, much more boring and much less useful (unless there’s a career in theoretical magic studies?). Except Julia may have some sparks. I can think of several theories why this is. Some of them involve me hitting things with axes

Also Alice, after her little sojourn as a nifilin may have made enemies. And Fillory is full of elves being all graceful and creepy and indolent. And Penny works for the Library. He may be dying but I’m not even sure if he was

And we open with Quentin and Julia discussing why she has random specks of magic she can’t control or harness; suspecting they were either left by the Goddess Persephone when she restored Julia’s shade after her son raped Julia. Or because Renard raped her. This would be the axe moment - let us have a season where Julia’s power and ability does not come from her rape.

Julia is losing hope and despairing but Quentin is determined to do something - and be Julia’s sidekick (adding to the growing theme that whether he’s the protagonist or not, Quentin ain’t that special). Quentin even wants to get in touch with the old gods to find out more about magic

Julia, with her greater and more horrific experience of gods, is duly suspicious of this. Not least of which because they have no real idea how to do this - though they get help from a random source, Josh, the side character

Josh connects them with a god - Bacchus -who tends to show up at parties and then turn them to the extreme (honestly I am disappointed Magicians because this party is REALLY tame for something Bacchus is involved in). Josh gets in - but Quentin and Julia have to prove they’re not boring. Which means drinking and cringing dance moves. Maybe Bacchus just doesn’t have the best taste

He also has little inclination to talk about gods or magic - but to do shots and take drugs causing Quentin to hallucinate about Alice (who apparently left, unable to deal with lack of magic and her issues with Quentin) and Julia to continue to struggle with PTSD. She also comforts Josh in a really excellent scene in which he talks about what magic utterly means to him and how devastated he is without magic - to provide some comfort that magic is still around

Quentin freaks out about her showing off magic - but Julia can’t not help. Because she can’t fall into the trap of not trusting anyone again. She can’t live like that despite her experiences. Though he sadly points out she is literally showing off the biggest magic the world has left.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Year of the Knife by G. D. Penman

Oh wow there is such a lot here. So very much here.

We have a completely amazingly different alternate world. A modern day British Empire - with all the issues of Imperialism and Colonialism attached and examined. This isn’t some excuse to just play with the aesthetics - the Empire is not a benevolent force by any means (though there is some fascinating complexity there. I love how while definitely an issue, it also stands out as one of the few nations that don’t brutally persecute vampires). But also with magic and demons equally drastically changing the shape of the world. From the United Nations of Native Americans who most certainly have not been conquered, to mainland Europe badly overrun by demons. On top of this we have a definitely steampunk aesthetic which is always beautiful and fascinating

We have a complex and fascinating magic system with so many possibilities and implications - from how magic is used in the Industrial Revolution to how powerful mages are treated, to the maths and formula talented and skilled magic users perform while at the same time having some excellent takes on how magic is treated in different regions, different talents and how they can certainly match or surpass more formal training.

I can’t stress enough, the breadth and fascination of the world building, the different nations, the different branches of the government and forces, the

To that we have some awesome action scenes, lots of exciting and dramatic magic, a brutal and terrifying police investigation with lots of mystery, lots of battles and some generally excellent, fast paced writing (generally, I’ll get to that) and some really genuine creepiness as well.

And my gods there was a definite twist there. A truly excellent twist that brought all the myriad plot points together truly awesomely.

Our main character, Sully, is powerful, intelligent and capable both as a magic user and as an investigator. She doesn’t have any real respect for authority - but that doesn’t make her a mouthy rebel without purpose. She’s passionate, excellent fun and a definite force to be reckoned with. She’s an excellent protagonist. And she’s a lesbian, and she’s sexual - both casually and with a long term albeit fraught relationship with another woman. And there are definitely issues with their tumultuous relationship it is nothing to do with their sexuality and far more to do with vampirism and commitment issues and previous bad experiences.

The pathologist is a fascinating and eternally curious Indian man, her main conspirator and fellow researcher into the murders is a deeply academic, ferociously intelligent and amazingly well connected, politically astute Black man. One of her fellow cops and one she most relies on is a definite Man of Colour and we have a presence from the United Nations - of Native Americans. It’s a definite diverse book with clear depictions of minorities, all alongside ongoing examinations of persecution, imperialism and even how, for example, Sully can awkwardly fit in the system as an IBI officer and give people a heads up who may be hurt by the system

Stranger Things, Season 1, episode 8: The Upside Down

Last episode Joyce and Jim were captured by the Ominous people

They try to convince Joyce to join sides by telling her about the monster that eats people and they totally want her to help them save people because they’re good people who just want to save people, Joyce

These would be the people who faked the death of her son, presented a fake corpse to her to bury in a fake funeral. In other words, Joyce would like to set them all on fire then hit them with hammers.

While they’re questioning Jim with tasers and planning to fake is death via drug overdose. But Jim remains confident and strong and makes a deal - a deal which seems to involve giving up El in exchange they get to see the portal they have in the basement. They’re dressed up in Haz mat suits to head into the ominous black void - all the while Jim has devastating flashbacks of his daughter dying from her illness as they examine the alien landscape, the ruins of Will’s camp, ominous eggs and general ominousness, looking for Will

Nancy and Jonathan are not hanging around, they gather all their monster tools, all their weapons, set an array of weapons and are totally ready to take the monster down. Which is when Steve arrives to make nice with Nancy and then freak out when he sees the state of the house and Nancy and Jonathan on high alert waiting for the monster to come. He won’t leave, he and Jonathan argue - and Nancy points a gun at him

Ok, I want a spin off series of Nancy the monster hunter, I’m just saying.

The lights blink… the monster arrives and since Steve keeps freaking out she just kicks him out. I say again, spin off

The monster tries to eat Jonathan and Nancy’s bullets don’t do a whole lot - but Steve comes back in time to part save the say so they can lure the monster into a trap. And set him on fire

Seriously, these three, monster hunters. Nancy the boss. Make it so Netflix, make it so.

In the void, Jim and Joyce find evidence of the monster’s burning injuries.

The kids are still hold up in the school gathering pudding for an exhausted El and arguing what to do (there’s talk of helping Nancy but everyone recognises now that Nancy has taken several prestige class levels of badass and probably doesn’t need them). El and Mike keep building on that chemistry, talking about dances, El joining Mike’s family and them eventually kissing.

This moment is interrupted when the Ominous squad arrives to try and kidnap El

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dead Eye (Tiger's Eye Mystery #1) by Alyssa Day

Jack Shepherd, soldier, weretiger, veteran, is returning home to Dead End, a tiny town in isolated rural Florida, to handle his dead uncle’s affairs. And his pawn shop

A shop part owned by Tess, a young woman who is determined to keep the business going, is good at what she does and has little time for him

Whatever conflicts they may have can’t be spared any time though when a body appears on the shop’s doorstep: and it’s not the fist. No-one told Jack how his uncle died.

Looking at this cover I was struck by an overwhelming sense of Sookie Stackhouse Series. Now, normally I shy away from comparisons to other book series as it inevitably tends to cast the books your talking about in a shadow: but I’m going here because a) I don’t think many authors are going to dispute the dominance of the Sookie Stackhouse series in the genre and b) I’m comparing favourably

Because it has many of the interesting themes of that series - the small town and close community feeling. A character who is very much an every-person without being the specialist-special-person of supreme Sueness. A world that is extremely magically diverse with magic and wereanimals and witches and hints of many things more. It takes a nice small town setting we don’t often see in books (in this case a pawn shop - and doesn’t that have the chance for so many supernatural shinies to show up?)

But it also has many elements that improve the concept: we have characters getting involved in a murder investigation for an actual legitimate reason rather than just randomness (considerable suspicion of the law enforcement and their collusion with the big bad). We have a small town that suggests and actual reason for the supernatural to be there - with it’s own not-defined-but-often mentioned independent history and hidden supernatural community suggests there’s a good reason why the supernatural is here. And a similar reason why outsider authority doesn’t run in

The world is aware of the supernatural- but this has been developed into more than “there are vampires”. There’s suggestion of a broader history, wars, cultural context all from the revelations of the supernatural to the world (which I believe have been covered in different books by the same author). But this book very carefully focuses on the town - we have a wonderful sense of the greater, wider world but this town is what is relevant at the moment.

Tess isn’t a character defined by either super powers or Spunky Agency, she rarely makes decisions that makes me despair and she doesn’t hate all other women! Her best friend, Molly, is clearly a big part of her life, competent, accomplished and fun. She loves her aunt and uncle who she lives with (and despite not living with her parents isn’t overwhelmed by her Tragic Past) and has a fun female co-worker at the pawn shop (despite her lack of gun skills). She seems to respect the other characters around her, her neighbours in general and generally be a pretty decent character rather than use her internal monologue as a way to try and establish why she doesn’t belong or is superior to those around her

Superstition, Season 1, Episode 10: Green on Blue

We have something dubious and supernatural shenanigans going on at a boot camp. This concerns the local barman in LaRochelle since he’s a veteran like Cal and his nephew is currently in said boot camp running the risk of being eaten by something gribbly and nasty.

Cal tries to play oblivious when he’s recruited  but the barman has been in LaRochelle for a while - he’s also been barman for a long time so has heard a lot of drunken gossip. He knows what the Hastings do and what they’re up to.

Calvin’s in and they go speak to the commander/colonel who runs the camp. I assume they get this kind of personal attention because they’re veterans. The barman runs his mouth about hauntings and obviously is dismissed out of hand for being a damn fool. Calvin is more reasonable, discussing how they’ve had an utterly ridiculous number of missing recruits and it’s only a matter of time before the camp is shut down, they’re investigated and her career is officially wrecked. So she might as well let Calvin look around discreetly

Ok, part of me is a little leery here because she allowed these people to roam around her camp with very little reason at all. But I think this could be a comment on the world building - or maybe I’m just reading too much into it. I’ve said before that in a world where the supernatural exists then people are going to be less… cynical? Disbelieving? More inclined to believe that some nasty shadowy monster is eating their recruits.

Calvin also reads the riot act to bartender when he tries to go public after his nephew is attacked - you call the Hastings for help, you do it THEIR way.

She even had an experience herself when she was a recruit which she explains after they do some investigating and hear about electrically charged air and check in with Isaac and Tilly for some reasearch. They confirm that the enemy is probably a kind of djinn - a shiqq (and points to world building in doing a little more research rather than just saying “hey, genie!”). The colonel identifies a possible witness, and they find a recruit trying to kill himself but prevented from doing so by the shiqq. It seems likely he’s made some kind of devil-at-the-cross-roads deal to basically get him through training since everyone expected him to wash out. The shiqq tries to kill the bartender and Calvin jumps on him after the ring whispers at him

His demon ring is doing it’s best to seduce him to use his power, to “ally” and defeat their enemies. I’m not sure if that’s what happened here because he just kind of leaps at the shiqq and wins. So I’m going to assume yes and that the monster wasn’t just body slammed to death

But this monster of the week episode wasn’t the main point. We had two more intriguing side quests going on.

Firstly we have Tilly and her heavy history. She returns from her holiday early for various reasons but between her distractions she mentions her mother has died

And it’s apparent their hinted at fraught relationship was very very very fraught indeed. Which is even more fraught since her will asks to be buried at the Hastings family cemetery.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Star Trek, Season 1, Episode 10: Despite Yourself

I used to look at new Star Trek Episodes like:

From now on my attitude is more likely going to be:

So the Discovery just ended up in a new place, completely unknown and Stamets, their Magic Mushroom wizard is alternating between catatonic and mumbling about castles. And apparently being able to throw Culper across the room

Wait, is it possible Sarek isn’t super strong? Do the writers just not know how hard it is to actually throw another human being?

Also Tyler is setting off Sarek’s threat ganglia which sounds like it should be a euphemism. Tilly is trying to annoy Stamets back to consciousness which doesn’t work - she worries Culper may blame her for not revealing that mushroom jumping was smushing his brain. Culper assures her he doesn’t blame her. Unlike Lorca who he blames 200% and politely invites him to fuck himself twice with a cactus of his choice (well the sentiment is there). Lorca makes noises about official protocol being that a new doctor not connected to Stamets should be called in. Culper points out protocol also says don’t melt your crew member’s brains arsehole so guess they both need to do some studying (perhaps not in so many words).

Culper is not a member of the Lorca fanclub

Lorca continues to be extra shady, with ongoing hints that he did this dimension jump on purpose, a seeming desire to derail them into exploring this world rather than hurrying back home where said shadiness could result in some richly deserved consequences and even a moment which MAY be a touching moment of faith and loyalty between him and Michael but to me kind of feels more like he’s trying to remind her who she owes/where her loyalties should lie especially since he can see her and Tyler are having a Thing (and way more than  mutual oral hygiene practices).

So what is this shiny alternate world? Well when they arrive they get attacked by a ship - a Vulcan ship. Which is rather unusual - but they’re rescued by another Human ship who seems quite casual about killing Vulcans. They do some exploring and find a klingon ship with Vulcan tech and Andorran bodies and doing some exploring of the data there they get the information:

There is no Federation. There is the Terran Empire. A human empire that loathes all things other, a fascist Empire controlled by a shadowy Emperor that revels in brutality and strength and murder

Because Star Trek Discovery needs to go even more Grimdark

The visible shock of everyone is perhaps the biggest exploration of the values of the federation that this is the very opposite of everything they hold dear: this whole episode exploring the shock of it shows more of what the federation is than they’ve really covered all season. Especially with Michael’s excellent speech to Tilly about how the Terrans are strong because they have to be - because they’re constantly afraid and under threat; while they’re strong because they support each other

Monday, January 8, 2018

Van Helsing, Season 2, Episode 13: Black Days

Dmitri is still looking for the elder so he goes to the Sisterhood (who are following Scab for ridiculous reasons) who happen to have an oracle which no-one happened to mention before. Said oracle spouts lots of random cryptic nonsense after forcing Dmitri to kneel. She gives Dmitri a burning GPS to find the elder and then goes on a random killing spree because why not?

Also he’s only allowed to take two other vampires with him. Because KILLING SPREE (and if he had an army then Abby and Scarlett would die because and the plot would get AWKWARD)

While they head to the elder hiding place, so does Scarlett and her mother Abby and…

...and there’s no nice way to say this but this whole scene about Scarlett feeling all resentful about her absent mother and them both throwing it back and forth would be so so so much better if the acting wasn’t so cringeworthy. Honestly this wasn’t sold at all - it’s even worse than trying to see Dmitri as an actual villain. I have no connection here - it’s clunky, the dialogue doesn’t work and Scarlett’s emotions are all over the place.

Among the mess and resentment we confirm what we already knew (including Scarlett using the SAME test as Vanessa to see if Abby is really her mother - she knew where the key was hidden so she checks out). That they got out of the farm when Abby realised Doctor immortal evil wanted to experiment on her little girls - and also said little girls started showing of their super strength

I have to mention how super super inconsistent Van Helsing has been about the powers of Vanessa. At age, what, 5? She was able to throw a grown man across the room. How did she even reach adulthood - AND protect her best friend from an abusive partner without realising she was superwoman?

Also Abby has a necklace full of Dark One blood passed on from her grandmother after her parents were killed by evil vampires. And grandmother also tested baby!Abby’s reflexes with a battleaxe so this family has always been hardcore.

And about that Dark one - apparently the first vampire who has a whole Wheel of Time don’t-say-his-name thing going on (hey I know most people would reference Harry Potter, but nod to the epic that did it first). Scarlet is surprised he’s even still alive - but hey, immortal vampires and all. Abby wants to pass that vial on to Scarlett but since Abby was around when she and Vanessa were experimented upon and they apparently got contaminated with all that nasty Dark One Blood. I’m not sure why she’s leaped to this rather than assuming standard vampires were used to experiment on them… but hey the script says so

Scarlett also says she can “barely feel Vanessa” so she can still feel her

They arrive at the cave of the Elder where Dmitri has used his key already - now the cave has mystical hallucination woo-woo. For Abby and Scarlett this means they get convenient pictures to go alongside their recapping. The vampires get horrible memories

Ivory, one of the Sisters, gets an image of being tortured by Christians to try and force her to convert. It’s a shame that this character has never really appeared before this. Scab has the memory of how his fellow workers tormented him because he broke a picket line - which was made especially odd by him maintaining his vampire mannerisms while in his memory as a human

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Librarians: Season 4, Episode 7: And the Disenchanted Forest

It falls to Eve to tell the rest of the Librarians that Flynn has gone - and not on a temporary jaunt as is his habit: he’s actually resigned. There’s lots of theories as to why - what the Library did to Nicole. Nicole herself but Eve thinks it’s because of Dare’s notes about more than one librarian being a disaster. They interpret this the most impossibly noble way - rather than ask one of them to resign, Flynn has resigned to lead the others by example

I think they’ve rather put Flynn on a pedestal here.

Of course they begin arguing over who should resign - Jake and Cassandra musing that they have considered normal lives while Ezekiel isn’t playing this game and he definitely wants to be a Librarian.

Eve steps in she’s clear: Flynn is wrong. Dare is wrong. The Library invited them all and didn’t revoke any of those invitations: They are a team and will definitely continue as one

Go Eve - just because there was a war before doesn’t mean these Librarians - who have always been an excellent team together.

More tragically, the immortal Jenkins is ill. Jenkins!

And to prove it she decides to find a mission - and they find one at a camp - a corporate team building camp. Eve leaps on this with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm, pushing the Librarians to join in, to work together to work as a team and listen to all the nonsense claptrap these places like to spout.

At the same time Cassandra dives in with an adorable hyper-enthusiastic love for camp and pranks and fun and generally just loves every second of it while driving everyone up the wall

As Ezekiel comments - he seems to be the only adult left. I assume Ezekiel doesn’t camp because he’s Australian and camping in the Australian wilderness sounds like an especially unpleasant way to commit suicide. He keeps trying to get the guys back on topic; finding something supernatural that the Library has sent them to.

We have some good character confrontations: Ezekiel, sick of Cassandra’s pranks demands to know why she’s doing it. Her ideas of camp have all been from television - which sums up Cassandra entirely. As Ezekiel, perhaps cruelly, tells her - she has no idea how real people live, how real people have fun. It’s harsh - but not inaccurate: Cassandra hasn’t seen to real world except through the media (and lots of terrible teen camp movies)