Friday, February 2, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 3: The Pollywog

So, Dustin found a new pet - it’s slimy and looks kind of like a tadpole and is general awful. Very very awful. It’s slimy and nasty

After dodging his mother, he evicts his tortoise to give it a home and starts feeding it American chocolate. Clearly he wants it to suffer.

The next day he researches his pet monsters and then grabs the gang to show off his monster - including Max - and explains his rather impressive research (he thinks it’s a terrestrial tadpole or “pollywog”) but everyone is kind of freaked out by it because it’s nasty. Dustin thinks he’s got a new species though and is spying fame and fortune. They convince him to show it to their very supportive science teacher…

Until they’re interrupted and stopped by Mike and Will - because the monster has caused Will to have flashbacks. It’s from the Upside down. It’s rapid transformations seem to confirm that. Will is firmly on the side of kill it, kill it dead while Dustin insists they don’t know it’s an evil monster (it so is) and protects it. This leads to a scavenger hunt through the school to find the monster and Dustin hiding it while Will falls into another flashback

We see some wonderful flashbacks of El and Jim, how he moved from leaving food for her to inviting her to his grandfather’s abandoned cabin which they then fixed up, secured and turned into a home: complete with security measures. And rules - don’t open the curtains, don’t open the door without Jim’s special knock, don’t go outside in daylight. It’s all extremely sweet and full of d’aaawww

But that was nearly a year ago. Now El is losing patience. She wants to see Mike, she’s increasingly angry that Jim keeps saying “soon” after hundreds of days. Even bribes of eggos don’t thaw her - and El acting out involves telekinesis which is slightly concerning

She decides to see Mike and when Jim is out breaks all of Jim’s rules and makes her way to the school - but not before being noticed first - but at the school she sees Mike and Max together. Mike doesn’t like Max, in some odd and I can’t help but think sexist way, thinking her a replacement for El (room for one girl?) and Max tries to win him over - and El uses her telekinesis to know Max off her skateboard. Mike notices but doesn’t see El and she’s gone before he can reach her - but this is definitely worrisome.

Jim’s day job involves more tracking down of the weird slimy plant deaths and demanding that the scientists at the Ominous Lab do some tests because the slime seems to be centred on their facility. They deny it but Jim is tough and won’t budge - he demands they test and they test. Because Jim may be a big melty teddy bear around El, but is generally quite tough

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Blood, Dirt and Lies (Death Witch #3) by Rachel Graves

Mallory the Death Witch can talk to ghosts which should really help her as a murder detective. But cryptic messages from a drowned ghost aren’t that helpful in actually solving their murder

When a second almost murder happens nearly right in front of her - and both victims seem to be heavily politically connected which brings even more of a level of pressure and complexity - and personal risk. These are powerful enemies to make

This book adds nicely to the world building in nicely gentle, non-info-dumpy ways. I really like how the book expanded on Selkies, giving us lots of hints about their culture without necessarily sitting us down for a lecture. Similarly the references to how magical beings had obviously faced brutal persecution and predation was referenced - and by referencing it we got the full history and ideal without actually having to lay it all out there. Similarly we have references to different magical creatures beyond the immediate ones we’ve seen as well as the different gods of the witches: and how those can blend with other traditions (one of Mallory’s friends is Jewish and a witch)

I really like how the world building is done in this book - in this series - this general gentle build, the exposure to many elements of the world time after time but never actually throwing a lot of it at us in a way that is false or confusing or irrelevant, making it all grow naturally

And I really like its depiction of police work, complete with so many red herrings, frustrations, complete lack of leads, going back, trying again, and again, looking for some clue. No easy fx, not quick answer with lots of wild theories on the way. And at the same time the police actually have lives, none of this idea that they should all spend every waking moment on the job. Yes they have lives and friends and hobbies and exercise and go running on a full moon through werewolf haunted woods (hey I didn’t say they did sensible things in their free time. Though, honestly, while I this is the kind of decision that would normally make me roll me eyes, I really like how this was portrayed. With mallory planning her perfect day, having it disrupted and promising herself that she could still salvage it, she could still get in that run, even as it increasingly became obvious she couldn’t, she promised herself it and couldn’t let it go. I can see that - because it’s the sort of thing people who do. Who like running, I guess. I mean, i find the whole thing quite bizarre, but if you sub in “pizza” for “run” then it makes a lot more sense). And they don’t spend all their time focusing on one case either. This murder matters - but there’s a lot of crime out there!

The plot just works with all this, her friends work with this and I love the world building

An element about Mallory and Jakob’s relationship - it is rare and interesting to have a series start with a relationship rather than have them fall in love and build a relationship during the series. I like the idea of that as it starts us in a very different place and also avoids fast forwarding the relationship. We also have Mallory and Jakob living very different lives which is also very different from most of the genre. Jakob is a vampire but he’s also a businessman, he has his own life and job and it doesn’t really intersect with Mallory’s job as a police detective. This is, again, really unique and I like it - I like that they have a relationship and don’t constantly live in each other’s lives and Mallory doesn’t have to fall back on Jakob’s woo-woo, resources or anything else. It’s surprisingly unique and I like it a lot

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lucifer, Season 3, Episode 13: Death Do Us Part

Lucifer has promised to kill Cain - but he has no idea how to do it. Especially since Cain has tried repeatedly over the years, including chainsaws and volcanoes.

Even Maze’s hellforged steel doesn’t work - and that stuff kills angels. It also means that Maze has nothing to add because all of her killing tactics end with stabbing with demon blades because they do kill everything. Except Cain. She does suggest finding out whatever it is about Chloe that makes him vulnerable - and they both realise that god is all about loop holes and silly rules. There must be a vulnerability.

So Lucifer decides to psychoanalyse Cain… which is awkward because Cain is not a sharer.

This week’s murder is a woman pushed into a woodchipper (and there’d be so so so much more mess than that) only it seems she already died 3 years ago: she faked her own death. Digging into her background they find she was a cook for a gang producing their very very very best drugs and she faked her own death to get away from them after she started skimming off the top.

A fair bit of this information comes from Lucifer who a) was a regular customer and b) sells the drugs at his club and has a dealer bartender

Lucifer drops in on that gang and using lots of violence (I would say that he surely killed someone here which is supposed to be a no-no but it’s possible he just used them to kill each other) before reaching the head of the gang

Who then reports to Chloe, confessing everything but that he didn’t murder the victim - she had reached out to him to pay him back the money. But he wanted her to work for him - she was very very very good at what she did and his profits have suffered since she left

Ostensibly he did this because Lucifer agreed to give him her formula for the drugs and a few years in prison is worth it for the expanded profits. Or possibly Lucifer used woo-woo. They also discover Sandra was producing new drugs more suited to suburbia (Pierce: Did your partner just admit to snorting evidence?)

Investigating more, they find that the victim, Sandra, had received threatening notes and they decide they need to canvas the neighbours. Which means someone has to rent the house there undercover: but they only rent to couples. So it’s Pierce and Lucifer pretending to be a married couple and generally being very very very annoying, especially since Lucifer continues to push Pierce to open up so he can find his weakness.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Star Trek, Season 1, Episode 13: What's Past is Prologue

Lorca is continuing his revolution against Georgiou, releasing all his minions who have been locked up and tortured forever. Personally I think someone who has been suffering constant torture for a year or so may be less function than these people because they all come out the agony boxes raring to go

This is also why you need to KILL YOUR ENEMIES GUYS! Evil empires, stop leaving your enemies around to plan epic revenge. It’s a bad idea, just kill them

And if you are going to imprison them, maybe not on your royal throne ship within stabbing distance of the Emperor?

They also have Terran Landry which doesn’t make up for discarding her so quickly but it’s something I guess

Lorca’s first stop is to Stamets because he knows lots of shiny things. He also sold Lorca out but he’s nicely slimy so is quite willing to change his allegiance at the drop of a hat and can I say yet again how the Terran empire could not be functional. Lorca also explains how he ended up in Prime universe in the first place: transporter malfunction. And if we know anything about Star Trek the only thing more likely to malfunction in freaky ways than a transporter is the holodeck. Health and Safety regs are just lacking in the Federation.

Stamets knows where Georgiou keeps her deadly bioweapons so that thins out a lot of her followers

Georgiou isn’t bothered because she’s evil and what’s some dead minions? She plans to go hunt Lorca down while Michael presumes to advise the Emperor. Hot tip, fascist emperors aren’t big on unsolicited advice and she has Michael thrown in the brigg. Since Michael is Michael, she evades the guards and goes into hiding instead.

Meanwhile Lorca calls to remind us he’s a) obsessed with Michael and b) he’s even more fascist than the Emperor just in case anyone was thinking that Emperor Lorca would be better than Emperor Georgiou. He really goes for a record level of evil here

Georgiou and her forces confront Lorca and it goes pretty badly for her - she has to transport out while her people are slaughtered, leaving Lorca free to take over the ship, declare himself awesome and make another plea to Michael to join him in his fascist future. She’s not buying it. Not needing him any more, Lorca also kills Terran Stamets since he can’t be trusted which, to be honest, is fair

Michael has managed to contact the Discovery and they compare notes: she tells them all about Lorca the evil, and they warn her that evil Stamets has exploited the Magic Mushrooms which is killing them all and because of that will destroy all life everywhere. Because Magic Mushrooms are important. Saru is bemused at how anyone can be so short sighted as the Terrans

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Librarians, Season 4, Episode 10: And Some Guy Named Jeff

The Librarians have an issue with sabre tooth tigers which they have to deal with with the help of… Jeff

He looks like Jenkins in the mirror but we see a much younger man. Yes, it’s a body swap episode. And fake Jenkins - or Jeff - is much less skilled and knowledgeable that Jenkins. And he is definitely not qualified enough or awesome enough to be Jenkins.

Oh - Easter Egg, are those the Game of Thrones house banners?

Baratheon and Greyjoy it seems

Jenkins is clearly in Jeff’s body - which means dealing with frustrations like Jeff’s mother and her vast horde of cats and his three friends, all of which are somewhat bemused by a rather obviously bemused Jenkins. He tries to get back in the Library but Jeff manages to do enough to distract the team so they don’t let him in

This leaves Jenkins to convince Jeff’s friends to help him. There’s some things going for this since it seems that Jeff was completely obsessed with the Librarians and had full dossiers on all the Librarians including Jenkins - so much so they’d turned them into RPG characters

It’s still a stretch that everyone decides to believe Jenkins - and the whole idea that the fact they play DND makes them more likely to believe this is both dubious and a weird misreading of their audience. Seriously, you’re a show about magical artefacts with an arthurian knight, us DnD players (well, I’m more a WoD but I have a players guide and monster manual) are not going to be vanishingly rare among your audience

Still while we do have a lot of tropes with them, we also have them being generally genuinely likeable, intelligent and making a good case for being outsiders WITHOUT falling heavily on the “woe to the geeky” (because “woe geeky” hasn’t been that on point for some time) with some nice looks at Jenkin’s own past

He learns that Jeff had a very bad magical book so he needs to get in the Library back door. Surprisingly the back door doesn’t require magical, say, aura reading or quizzes, but instead a series of puzzles which Jenkins, the man who actually has been in the Library longer than anyone else in history, cannot actually solve. Instead they’re solved by his new friends. And I totally get that the story is to show these folks are kind of awesome, but it seems weird that the emergency entrance to the Library is not actually accessible by Library people but is by random DnD players. This security system needs addressing.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Magicians, Season 3, Episode 3: The Losses of Magic

Alice has a new kitten! She’s going home to her parents to plan her next move with the Lamprey following her

Of course, home reunions aren’t great - Alice never really got on with her mother, Stephanie, in the first place and they start striking sparks instantly. It doesn’t help that Alice has been alive again for months and hasn’t bothered to visit or even inform them - Quentin had to do that. Alice’s paranoia over the Lamprey also makes her hard to talk to in the least.

Life has not gone well for Alice’s parents: the house is falling apart since it was held up with magic. They have no income and no employment skills and they have bills coming in they never had to pay before. Even one of their friends has turned to drink without magic to change how she looks. Again we see how the lack of magic has completely devastated the witches and wizards out there.

Alice’s paranoia leads her to randomly tasing people since electricity hurts Lampreys and driving out one of her mother’s friends. Her mother’s also not pleased that Alice suspected this woman was a lamprey and left Stephanie alone with her.

Quentin - who is actually possessed by the lamprey follows Alice (because exploding cats and all) but after many shenanigans with cellophane and tasers they decide Quentin isn’t infected. As Stephenie and Alice fight we learn a little more about the niffin - how they do anything for knowledge and Alice as a niffin earned the Lamprey’s wrath by killing its whole family, slowly, to research their deaths. This is what niffin are - terrifying and horrible and powerful and Alice, not inaccurately (albeit a past tense would apply), describes herself as “a monster”. She’s clearly dealing with a lot of guilt over this, especially since the Lamprey was just one of many victims

When Quentin tries to comfort Stephanie, she tries to kiss him - which i recall is fairly standard behaviour for her - which leads to Alice panicking and atsig folks. Because the Lamprey doesn’t want to kill her but lay its eggs in the brains of everyone around her. Stephanie is tased. Quentin tases himself to prove his sincerity - leaving Alice and her dad alone and realising her beloved father is possessed. The lamprey makes her confess the real reason she killed its family: they make pretty lights when they die.

Niffin are deeply terrifying creatures.

The Lamprey also claims her dad has a heart condition so can’t be tased… after some agonising, Alice tases him (preferable to having eggs laid in his brain I guess). The Lamprey is exposed and she tases it. It dies… and it does produce pretty lights

Everyone has time to recoup and take nasty potions to remove any eggs left in them - and she and Quentin talk about why she’s pushing him away. Ultimately, this Alice isn’t Niffin Alice, but she isn’t the Alice she was before either (as we can see from her new advanced speed reading). She can’t go back to that and Quentin, with his silent expectations even if he promises he only wants to help, constantly reminding her of who she was and can never be. I think we have to throw a large amount of guilt on that as well as another obvious conflict: she may not be that woman any more, but how much of her wishes she were.