Saturday, January 20, 2018

Supernatural, Season 13, Episode 10: Wayward Sisters

This is clearly a back door pilot for Wayward Sisters - and much better than the ill prepared hot mess which was Bloodlines

This is how you do a spin off properly. The whole point of a spin off is to take some of the beloved characters of a show and develop them and make them more - its to build on the history you’ve already built. It’s the key to success: and something Bloodlines didn’t have. But Jodie, Donna and their charges? This is exactly what a spin off needs

More importantly - THE SOUNDTRACK! THE OPENING MUSIC! I swear at least 10% of Supernatural’s success is the awesome choice of music (Carry on Wayward Son is iconic and if you don’t like it you have no soul). And how Halestorm’s: I Am The Fire

We start by seeing Claire kill some werewolves - continuing her aim of hunting solo and being a completely awesome badass capable of murdering all kinds of monsters with lots of viciousness. Because she’s lethal and has been killing a whole lot of monsters

Which is when she gets a call from Jody asking her to come home because Sam and Dean are missing.

It’s a lovely reunion with lots of hugging between Claire and Jody and with Alex. They introduce her to Patience and Claire has some hostile moments at Patience moving in with her ominous visions of Claire’s death. She wants to dismiss it, doesn’t like Patience moving in but at the same time she does acknowledge that she was the one who left. Alex and Claire do have a good sister relationship

A voice mail message left by Sam reveals they were looking for Kaia, which is a mission for Jody & co as well. Claire and Jody clash over claire hunting alone, not believing Patience’s vision of her death and having a general principle of charging in without a plan: because not charging in without a plan can get victims killed. While Jody asks what about

Alex now works the night shift in a hospital. Claire and she clash a little over Alex still keeping up her job rather than focusing on the hunt. But that sister relationship continues and when Claire comes to the hospital to speak to her: Alex makes a point that she supports Jody even if she doesn’t want hunting - and Claire looks guilty on her leaving.

This is where this recap gets difficult because every interaction between the women here has a whole lot of levels, love and respect, anger, but caring, guilt and so many other elements. It’s really well done and makes me really look forward to this show because we have such excellent relationships already

With Alex’s hospital contacts they find Kaia - who really really doesn’t want to get involved again. She tries to leave and is attacked by a monster. Jody and Claire deal with that straight away with their usually awesome skill.

Well that recruits Kaia and she has an awesome heart to heart with Claire, comparing scars as Kaia explains her visions of the Bad Place and how the monsters attacked her and left her with scars - though she opted to flee not fight

Inside they do a necropsy - with us seeing more of Alex’s expertise while Kaia warns them that these creatures run in packs in the Bad Place. The presence of this monster means there is still a gate open there - so they can rescue Sam and Dean. Though Kaia thinks if they’ve been in the bad place for this long then they’re probably dead

Patience thinks that she’s delivered her warning and it’s time to leave and go back to her dad especially in light of Claire’s doubts; but Alex asks her what she wants, whether she wants to ignore her powers and, yes, again it’s another excellent character moment (especially when P. Especially when Alex points out she’s not a fighter either but that they all help in their own way (which is another excellent thing this show does). Patience starts to leave when she gets a vision of the Bad Place monsters attacking - she runs back in to warn them. Claire wants to stand and fight but Patience calls her out -she’s given up a lot to help them for Claire to now dismiss that sacrifice.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Magicians, Season 3, Episode 2: Heroes and Morons

Quentin reads the first chapter of the book that may be the key to bringing magic back to the world: it describes a knight and his daughter (who he loved though wanted a boy) and that knightg being captured by a witch. Said daughter then goes on an epic quest to find the 9 keys and save her dad (and, I guess, implied she proves that he should be just as happy with a daughter as a son).

But the story ends after chapter 1, the rest is magically blank. They have the clues to the first quest - to go to this mystical island - which is in Fillory and Elliot is already on that. But, as Josh points out, it would be good if they could go to Fillory with Elliot and help him with that. And they have the magical clock of teleportation to Fillory - they just need the magic to power it

And to do that they need Myakovsky’s special magic batteries. So they need to find him. They don’t have magic but they do have the internet - and find Myakovsky being turned into a bear in a hedgewitch bar.

To find which bar they recruit Kady with proof of Julia’s sparks of magic. Kady is pretty much DONE with all of them but she’s willing to endure their company long enough  to get enough magic to help Penny

They track the woman Mayakovsky was with - it’s Emily. She claims Mayakovsky, finally free from Brakebills South, and finally came back to her, professed his love and married her while they got very very very drunk. But she didn’t turn Mayakovsky into a bear and he didn’t transform himself. Nor is he the only source of magic in the city

So Kady, Josh, Quentin go out into the city to follow these trails including a manifested dinosaur from a kid’s drawing and a group of people in the park having an orgy. Alice also joins them since she’s also looking for magic and is super smart. She’s not there for a 1-2-1 with Quentin though

She also has a kitten - a young kitten is her early warning system that the Lamprey is close.

They find the woman who was using magic - preparing to jump off a tall building. Quentin goes to her, desperately trying to talk her down. It’s professor Lipson and she despairs of a land without magic, they both share just how utterly wretched it is and how little they appreciated magic when they had it. Oh and the magical battery idea? Her idea, she was the one who showed Mayakovsky how to do it and both warned him and gave him the idea. And she was very Unpleased when he then decided to run off with Emily and not her. But she didn’t turn him into a bear - instead she used her last, now empty battery, to do things he never would: bring joy and wonder.

Quentin manages to catch her before she falls - and the battery is destroyed in the process. There’s a little dwelling on that but not enough to be tasteless about him saving a woman’s life.

Then Alice’s cat explodes. Yes, Alice’s warning that the Lamprey is close is exploding kittens. Messy, exploding kittens. She leaves

Which Characters Matter?

When talking about inclusion and diversity and media, we have repeatedly discussed erasure, tokenism and which characters get to be protagonists or major characters. Ultimately these discussions all rest on a simple question: Which characters matter? And from what it follows, since media shapes culture: which people matter?

“Which Characters Matter?” Cuts very much to the core of a lot of representation of minority characters. When we see briefly appearing tokens who show up to tick some inclusion box so the writers/etc can meet their diversity quota, we know these characters don’t matter. A character who appears once every few episodes or for a few brief passages in the book clearly doesn’t matter: maybe they’ll get a Very Special Episode but never really exist outside of that. The T-Dogs from Walking Dead, a good handful of pathologists or similar CSI experts on many shows, Dr Deaton on Teen Wolf, any POC in the Anita Blake Series. We’ve seen a lot of these characters who regularly disappear into plot boxes, hang around in the backs of crowds and generally exist because the writers don’t want to be seen as prejudiced but don’t actually want to put in even a modicum of real effort not to be. We know they don’t matter.

But just because a character appears more regularly hardly means they matter - and just because a character is commonly on screen or even is otherwise very prominent doesn’t mean that they’re not a token - or tokenised. A character can appear regularly in a story yet still be utterly meaningless to it or basically exist as a placeholder with no real storyline, development or presence

Jeremy on Wynonna Earp regularly appears in the show, has almost become part of the core crew since his addition: but can we say he is more than a token just because he is in more episodes than not? He’s there, but does he matter? Do we know anything about him and, tellingly, can we replace him with basically ANYONE? Can we completely rebuild his character from the ground up and not really change the story? Can we even remove his character and not really change the story? We can, ultimately, Jeremy doesn’t happen and if he is removed there will be no Jeremy shaped hole in Wynonna Earp

Or we can look at Luke on The Vampire Diaries: he was necessary to the plot in that his magic was useful and he needed to die. But any sacrificial lamb could have sufficed, it didn’t need to be Luke with his personality or characterisation. All that was needed was for Liv, the character who actually did matter, to have a twin. For live to have a twin to die for her. Luke didn’t matter - his corpse did.

This can apply even to characters who are regularly involved in the plot line, like Felix on Orphan Black. He is a constant source of support for Sarah, Allison and the rest of the clone club. They rely on him, they use him and he appears constantly… And yes, if we removed Felix I think the whole storyline would radically change - but only because so many characters rely on him as a servant. If we radically changed Felix and made him, say, a straight female accountant who loves Apple products and is still slavishly devoted to the rest of the cast? The story doesn’t change. If he was replaced by a 60 year old man called Bob who is being blackmailed by Sarah and secretly hates her? The story doesn’t change. Felix has no storylines, he has no relevant characterisation, every single aspect of his personality could be cut away and replaced and so long as he still serves, the plot doesn’t change. His removal would cause a hole on Orphan Black but it would be a generic hole - not a Felix shaped one. Ultimately, Felix, as Felix, doesn’t matter.

We see this as well in the House of Night series where Zoey is followed around by her sycophantic circle. They’re in every book. But if Damian and Shaunee were replaced - or removed entirely and the authors decided you only needed 3 elements to complete a circle (or everyone got two elements each) the plot wouldn’t change - except to become marginally less offensive. They have no storylines, they have no relevance, they exist to creep after Zoey like abused cult leaders following their supreme leader. They do not matter

While a common thread with these characters is a lack of their own storyline or development, it is also possible for these characters to have their own plotlines (albeit usually brief) but for them to still not overly matter to the main plot. They’re a side-plot, their own storyline is not deemed important, certainly not a plot line that the main characters are involved in

A good example of this is True Blood where Tara, Lafayette and Jesus all technically had their own storylines. Even long, involved storylines that spread over several arcs. And did Sookie give even the slightest shit about these storylines? Did any of the main characters? Except when these characters were useful in the main plot were they ever remotely relevant to the main characters or core plot line? Even when their plots involved rape, kidnap, imprisonment, near death and actual death very little actually rippled to the central cast. There were separated, quarantined even, from the main plot line - they could have been removed and other than the show being shorter, the actual plot would not have changed. You could edit all three of these characters out of True Blood and barely notice because none of their plot lines - their presences - were foundations to the show.

Another really good example of this is Penny Dreadful. We have a painfully clear, more obvious token in Sembene. He’s completely undeveloped, has no back story, no real motive and no purpose and less screen time. A classic, pointless, rather insulting token. But also look at Dorian. No-one can argue he wasn’t prominent, nor can we say he didn’t have sweeping, involved plot lines. But how involved were any of the other characters in those plot lines? How important was he or his activities to Vanessa & co? If he - and all his plotlines - were removed from the show, would anything about that show have to change? Would the ending be fundamentally different? Dorian managed to live in his own little island, almost a second show pasted onto the main plot. And I liked Dorian’s character and I really liked the plot they told - by saying these storylines were quarantined doesn’t mean they were bad; it just means they were separated. They were there, they were even interesting and powerful, but they didn’t MATTER

Thursday, January 18, 2018

James: Witch-Hunter by K.S. Marsden

James has managed to get a scholarship for Oxford University. He expects challenges from academics, from sports, from being a poor notherner in the elite college. He even could handle a dangerous and unpleasant room mate

He did not expect murder. He certainly didn’t expect witches, witch hunters and being in the middle of an ancient war.

One of the hardest kind of reviews to write is for a book that…. Isn’t terrible? Especially when that kind of covers everything you need to say about it. Honestly I find reviews like this are both harder to write than a review that condemns the books very existence and an utter offense to the eyes of everyone who read it and in some ways more damning. I mean, everyone can read my passionate loathing for a book yet somehow it feels better than my… mild amusement?

But unfortunately mild amusement is the best this book gets from me: I don’t dislike by any means, I enjoyed it, it was an entertaining read, but there was nothing especially unique or compelling about it that drew me in or made me want to pick up the next book

Like the enemies - they’re witches. I do appreciate that the book took steps to distance evil, non-human witches and actual wiccans so we’re not demonising a whole religion, so applause (I also like that secrecy in this case is maintained because past witch hunts have shown what damage revelations can bring). But the book also did very little to define what witches were other than “evil”. Inherently evil - evil for being born, power hungry, ruthless and dangerous. It feels.. Cheap to just decide “hey evil” especially when your antagonist is so very near-human. This leads to things like the Council “binding” witches magic so they can’t use power - does this happen every time or just witches who commit crime? Is there any kind of nuance in terms of sentencing? Can witches be seen as possibly innocent? Do all of them need binding? These are all elements that aren’t explore and even james, as a man who chatters incessantly as he tells us, fails to look at even remotely.

There’s also very little exploration of magic beyond “it exists” and less real making magic an actual appreciable of the story or the witch’s existence. You could, honestly replace “witches” with vampires, demons or wereracoons and not appreciably change the story. The actual nature of the bad guys is pretty much irrelevant, they’re just a rather Generic Bad Thing to fight

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stranger Things: Season 2, Episode 2: Trick or Treat, Freak

We look back at how El ended up with Jim as we see a series of flashbacks

After El killed the demigorgon last season she didn’t vanish - she went into the Upsidedown and searched through it for Mike - eventually finding an ominous red hole leading back to the real world. She quickly used her powers to expand it so she could return to the real world

That ominous red light seems to be a worrisome theme.

She made her way to Mike’s house - only to find it surrounded by Ominous people trying to convince everyone she’s a dangerous weaponised Russian spy. Mike isn’t remotely co-operating and Karen doesn’t seem to be a big fan either.

She flees to the forest, scraping a living killing squirrels with her mind so she could cook them… she was found by a man who seemed to offer help - but possibly discovery too. She used her telekinesis to throw him against a tree… dead or injured we don’t know. But she flees with his jacket and hat; definitely torn and guilty by this.

Until she finds the food Jim leaves her….

And now it’s Hallowe’en and El wants to go out - she can wear a costume and not be recognised… but Jim nixes it. The Rules mean there’s no risk. There’s a huge confrontation and she pouts when he lays down the law. So he offers her a compromise - he will buy lots of candy and they can both get fat eating it. And teaches him the word “compromise”

Awwww they’re soooo cute together. Utterly utterly cute: and El is still learning English

Over to the others: Joyce is still supe concerned about Will. She has great trouble letting him out of her sight and is also very troubled by his clear pictures of the Upside Down. Will, tired of people fussing, lies about having more episodes though Joyce doesn’t believe him. Jim does try to sooth her - because Will’s symptoms are very much like PTSD and they need to support him.

At the same time Jonathan is an awesome, supportive big brother. We also have nice little hints of everyone else’s family as well which is nice to see

The nerd club in geeky fashion have all dressed as ghostbusters (which is cool but also a problem since no-one else at school is in costume and a lot of adults don’t recognise it. But it does have a nifty argument from Lucas at the idea that he must be Winston since he’s Black).

Lucas and Dustin are still obsessing over and stalking Max. Hey I guess it’s ok that they’re getting their own storyline but can it… not be this? She does call them stalkers and call them out for their presumption.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Star Trek: Discover: Season 1, Episode 11: The Wolf Inside

Another episode of Star Trek: I Am Not Fucking Impressed, also known as STD which amuses me because I Am Five.

And still pissed

So Culber is still dead and Stamets is still near comatose. At least this can’t get any worse…. Oh yes, Culber is found in babbling Stamets’s arms so everyone assumes Stamets killed his partner

Let’s cover this now so I can stop thinking about it. So Tilley steps up in eight kinds of awesome to try and help Stamets because they think that’s better than any medical intervention. She has some great ideas assuming Stamets is confused, based on his brain scan, that his brain is all connected to a thousand worlds and places so needs magic mushrooms to be healed.
 She also says how special mushrooms are because they’re they only thing that connects life and death… because… rot? I mean… consuming the dead isn’t a mushroom thing?

Not a Mushroom

Anyway she thinks she can add spores and fix him. And does such a good a job that Saru is full of praise and they’re planning commander training for her and it seems to work… and then Stamets apparently dies 

Pfft, no way. You. Wouldn’t. Dare.

No, really, I think even the writers for Da Vincis Demons, The 100 and Constantine (my current lines for writers whose homophobic fuckwittery requires them to be stoned with Angry Armadillos) would draw the line at going through the media saying “our Kill the Gays trope is special honest!” and then kill your other gay character in the next episode. But, hey, fuck you for suggesting even for a moment that we had yet another gay death on this show. How about no more killing or labotomising your gay characters, pls thnx, ‘kay?

He does, eventually, come back to life but his mind is now wandering around the pretty blue mushroom forest of nifty fibre-optic effects. There he meets… himself! Who was waiting for him to arrive to get on with special mushroom work.

Hey, Star Trek Discovery, if your “epic romance” ends up with Stamets and Culber in the magical mushroom forest we will not forgive you.

Right, that’s behind us - now let’s join the more epic and less awful but oddly predictable storyline.

Michael does some excellent voice overs about how utterly traumatic and horrifying the Mirrorverse is, how everyone lives in constant fear and it’s full of all the awfulness ever and how she desperately relies on Tyler to be her rudder while facing the terribleness of this world, trying to fit into it and not be corrupted by it

Which is obviously a major parallel to Tyler who is, pretty much confirmed, to be doing exactly the same thing albeit as a klingon. But he calls Michael his “tether” - basically the subtext is that he is stopped from being all Klingon because of the power of love

Oh gods I hate the power of love trope so much - but honestly this comic makes it so much more fun.

Michael also meets Mirror-world Saru. He has no name, he’s a slave who exists to attend her grooming; which Michael tolerates while clearly deeply torn and tormented by having to tolerate such an impossible offront to everything she holds dear.

When she contacts the Discovery and Saru (with some lovely words of confidence from Tilly) she can’t bring herself to tell Saru she’s seen his mirror-version - and he can’t tell her that Culber has been murdered.. She also can’t just send the data they need to the Discovery because it’s huge and well encrypted

We see more of the Terran’s awfulness with crew being sentenced to death by being Transported into space for the crime of “Malicious thoughts against the Emperor”.

Michael continues to be concerned by how it is getting easier to play this role and she worries about how all these people ARE human - this darkness does exist in all of them. This potential for evil is in all of them. Tyler is definitely someone she’s clinging to

As part of holding on to her morals, she names Mirror-verse Saru.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 1: MADMAX

We open with the introduction of a bank robber who seems to have powers - seeing the future and able to cast illusions. She has an 8 tattooed on her arm - I never thought about it but the fact Eleven is, well, Eleven does suggest there are at least 10 more out there.

She does need some advice though - if you’re going to rob a place, do it with a co-conspirator who doesn’t have a mohawk. Really, I don’t care what kind of mask you’re wearing, if you have a mohawk you’re identifiable

After that we catch up with where everyone is.

The central kids: Mike, Dustin and Lucas are getting on with their lives rather happily with no great dramas - mostly concerned by a new student Maxine (Max) whose awesome arcade game skills means she’s completely blasting Dustin’s high scores. This leads to them following her around in awe with more than a little stalking.

Mike is having some family friction as he’s been acting up and stealing money from Nancy (which given her badassery is an act of considerable courage) and Karen is addressing that being supremely awesome (though that Regan sign in her front line has collapsed my faith in her. Oh Karen no).

Will is having more troubles. He still has “episodes” where he suddenly finds himself in the Upside Down only the dark and ominous ruined space now has a raging, red-lightninged storm tearing the place up.

Joyce is clearly worried about Will and trying to not hover over him in overprotective smotheriness. She and Sheriff Jim (who is awesome and supportive) take Will to the hospital to continue to be examined about these episodes. The doctor considers this to be PTSD and gives quite good advice and support to Joyce and Jim about what they need to expect and be prepared for - including more visions, more nightmares and increasing irritability. Above all the doctor insists they need to trust him and the Ominous People are gone

The Ominous people are in the basement and their Ominous computers are Ominously freaking out over the Ominous red storm. They’re also using flamethrowers on the portal.

Will himself is getting more agitated with both the storm and pressure and bullying from others. He snaps at Jonathan about how everyone is treating him - either the freak who came back from the dead or Joyce and Jonathan who are treating him like he’s made of glass. Jonathan continues to be supportive, awesome and the best big brother ever (hey, and points to Stranger Things for positive sibling relationships rather than having younger siblings constantly at war with the elders)

Joyce is also dating a guy. He seems… nice. Jonathan and Will kindly tolerate him. Joyce is also still paranoid about her phone ringing

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Superstition, Season 1, Episode 11: Back to One

It’s time for the Groundhog day trope. Honestly I find this worrisome that any show in its first season is pulling a Trope show: Groundhog Day, bodyswap, musical or clip show: usually it’s a sign of a scraping the bottom of the barrel of ideas.

On the plus side this episode spends relatively little time actually going through the loops since everyone remembers what’s going on pretty quickly and tries to figure out how to break them. The minus side is that the show presents these loops in a weird order, not beginning at the beginning of the loop means it takes a while to even piece together the actual chronology of the loop.

But to tease it apart:

Isaac is totally happy with Cal killing the djinn last week but if Cal’s going to run off with the weapon of last resort ring he should totally tell Isaac.

The demon mayor knows something is going on so contacts Isaac since both of them are in the not quite human category and Isaac is getting woo-woo headaches. Everyone else is feeling more and more fatigue with each loop which will eventually leave them unable to escape.

Things in the loop happening: Tilly has a standard autopsy. Russ and Garvey grow closer together and Bea decides to go through magic with them - introducing them to tarot. And running a spread that happens to produce a series of devil cards when there’s only supposed to be one which is ominous.

There are lots of references to Aunt Nancy and spider webs crawling in everywhere

At the end of each loop they find Aunt Nancy and the mayor has decided the best way to solve all their problems is to kill Aunt Nancy with a Hindu lightning artefact. Each time he arrives in time to kill someone random - Cal, May, Tilly - but none of which actually stops the time loop resetting over and over. Aunt Nancy continues to be insensible and staring at the memory crystal in front of her (we’ve seen these before)

Not knowing what to do, Cal accepts a deal with the Dredge in his ring - who guides him to destroy that memory crystal and collapse the time loop and save everyone