Friday, February 23, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 7: The Lost Sister

After a season which seemed to have rather neglected El (which is odd given she’s the one with the woo-woo) we finally have an episode that focuses on her

I’m also going to start calling her Jane, as it is the name she starts using, the name her mother gave her, rather than the number that her captors and tormentors tatooed on her arm.

She’s with her aunt Becky and describes the vision her mother Terri shared with her - they focus on the girl who was in the rainbow room with her and believe this is why Terri wanted her to come. When Terri was looking for Jane she produced many files about missing children, including a girl of Indian descent kidnapped from London - Kali.

Jane uses her powers to search the darkness for Kali and has a clue to her location. While she’s doing this Becky tries to call Jim (who is busy with other drama) since he may be able to help them find Kali. But Jane is worried about her contacting home and decides to run

She takes a bus to Chicago and doesn’t exactly fit in in the big city - but she has a confidence that comes from being able to kill people with your mind. She follows her vision to find a gang of people squatting and tells them she’s looking for her sister.

They recognise Kali from the picture, and one of them, Axel, threatens Jane, worried that she’s managed to find them even though Mick is less happy with him threatening a child. Surprisingly it isn’t Jane smashing the weapon from his hand that stops Axel, but the illusion of being covered in spiders which does it

Kali has arrived

Janes introduces herself -as Jane (and why I’m not calling her Eleven any more) and shows her abilities to Kali and explains who she saw Kali. She sounds much more confident. She mentions the Rainbow room and shows the tattoo on her wrist: Kali has the number 008

They call each other sister and hug. And I’m as happy with this as I am curious about the other 9 children.

Jane gives Kali a bit of history - especially how she doesn’t really remember anything - but that Jim is looking after her and thinks he can make a deal with the Ominous Lab to keep them safe. I would share Kali’s cynicism of this if it wasn’t for the Kindly leader last episode. As well as suspicious (she warns Jane they’ll always be “monsters” to them), Kali also  notes that Jim isn’t exactly encouraging Jane to develop or encourage her powers. Kali also explains her own powers - she has the ability to make people see (or not see) anything. And she shows off a pretty version of it with a beautiful butterfly

I like that she’s showing Jane some joy from their gifts - as well as describing how she feels “whole” around Jane.

The rest of the gang somewhat mocks Kali’s “hick” sister - but Kali points out that Jane can find people with nothing more than a picture - which is just what they need for their mission. So much that they’re willing to go out tomorrow to keep hunting - though there’s some concern that they’re still “hot” after killing one of their targets

Their targets are people who worked for Hawkings Lab - the Ominous Lab. Any of the mena and women who hurt the children and experimented on them - it’s a revenge quest. Kali quiets that concern - saying that Jane is “hurting” and needs this. I think there’s a definite sense that Kali is projecting a LOT on Jane - that doesn’t mean she’s wrong but still she hasn’t known Jane very long for deciding she knows what Jane needs. Especially since we see Jane picking up a heartfelt message from Jim about being sorry.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 6: The Spy

Dustin is with Steve trying to lure out Dart the slime monster, and finally manages to get in touch with Lucas to get him to come help

Dustin and Steve check the basement where Dustin left the slime monster - only to find slime, what looks like an open cocoon or shed skin, and a tunnel. Dart has escaped which is not good.

They decide to lure the creature and, along the way, Steve gives some dating advice to Dustin. This ranges from the good: that keeping an interdimensional slime monster as a pet is unlikely to impress girls to the very awful: that the best way to impress a girl is to completely ignore her and shun her so she will then become obsessed with you. This is terrible, awful advice and thankfully crashes and burns

He also tells Dustin how he does his hair meaning that a) yes his hair is like that on purpose and b) he is trying to perpetrate it on others. The 80s had much to answer for. Also this teenager is completely devastated by his break up with Nancy and more than a little pouty

They leave a trail of meat behind them to the abandoned bus yard where they plan to ambush it with big clubs and fire since that kind of worked with the adult demigorgon

Lucas has not given up on reaching out to Max, going to her house to try and meet her. She continues to be afraid of her brother, the arsehole’s reaction since he hates Lucas (probably due to racism) and is generally a terrible person. She seems to be trying to repair her skateboard which after his threats last episode suggests he broke it

Lucas has come to collect her to show her proof, taking her to the bus yard with Steve and Dustin so he can show her the slime monster and offer proof for her story. Dustin tries his new found tactics on Max who duly shuns him for being a sudden arsehole. Instead she gets closer to Lucas as he expresses an interest in her, her family (her father is still in California) and her toxic relationship with her abusive step-brother. He reassures her, offers praise and is generally pleasant to her and interested in her. This is much better than Steve’s advice

Which is when the slime monsters arrive. Yes, plural. Dart is not alone and Steve is nearly caught outside by them before he hurries to hide in the bus with the others, desperately trying to defend themselves. It seems inevitable that they’ll all be eaten very very soon - when something calls all the monsters off. More on that lately

Catching up on Nancy and Jonathan doesn’t take much. For the most part they celebrate spreading their little exposure tape with the media, drink a lot of vodka and deal with creepy guy being way too invested in their relationship. Even if he is extremely accurate and insightful about their obvious issues between them

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wolf Blood: The Werewolf Apocalypse Begins (Lycanthropic #1) by Steve Morris

The apocalypse is beginning

Werewolves have come to London, and subtly put their plans in motion. Their actions lost and mistaken for a rampant increase in serial killing and a new deadly plague taxing the resources of the city.

As people react to the growing panic, the growing demand on emergency services - very few people guess the truth and several people find themselves on the front line of the upcoming war.

This book is a dystopian development story, as we begin the eve of an apocalypse - this time with werewolves rather than the more traditional zombies.

Which is a grossly simplistic way to sum up this book. Like many of the good dystopians, this is less about the specific creatures in question or even their evil so much as it is a study of how society and people react to the slow collapse

Here we see a lot of insights into growing fear, panic, vigilantism and prejudice as immigrant groups in particular are scapegoated as is all too often common

One of the more unusual elements of this book is the very large number of characters, most of whom aren’t connected to each other in any real way (unless you count “living in London” which is a pretty nebulous definition of connection given the size of this city) but each of which have very different experiences, opinions and viewpoints to the creeping disaster caused by the explosion of werewolf numbers

This also includes a number of werewolf characters or characters who become werewolves, adding a level of nuance to the big dangerous threat far more so than you’d get from, say, zombies

It is interesting to see such a wide range of characters each adapting to the horrors of the growing werewolf encroachment, each of them reacting differently. My favourite and chosen protagonist is Liz the policewoman who is determined to hold this together, despite her criminally inclined father encroaching on her life and her sudden adoption of a Romanian child. I like her and I’d love to follow her story above all. There’s the reclusive agoraphobic woman, the father with Alzheimer's she cares for and her sister - who uses sex to steal from wealthy man while loving the thrill and risk of the whole thing (she’s also a character I’d kind of love to see despite not loving her storyline so far). The Sikh boy who forms an unlikely alliance with the boy bullying him as well as trying to protect his sister along with upholding and thinking on Sikh values (perhaps a little much for a young teen). The deeply religious Catholic gay teenager facing a desperate moral and ethical battle over his sinfulness of being gay and a murdering cannibal (and these being put kind of together is not… ideal, even if the storyline and his relationship to a gay Black werewolf contains more levels than this). A computer nerd who becomes an obsessive survivalist as he’s the only one who sees the way it’s going. A biker gang. A woman who may be a sociopath and her university professor. A Carribean nurse full of amazing compassion…

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Stargate Origins, Season 1, Episode 1-3

Ok, full disclosure before I begin this - while I’ve always been sort of intrigued by Stargate and caught several episodes, I came to it late and never really set aside the time to catch up on the sheer size of the whole thing. This leaves me aware of the franchises and the basics of it, I know what a Goa’uld is, who Norse Mythology got added in there and a few of the characters but not much beyond this. I looked on this release as a way to enter the franchise without necessarily needing to know a great deal about it given it’s a prequel; but don’t be surprised if I miss more than a few Easter Eggs along the way - do feel free to draw my attention to them in the comments.

So we have Catherine Langford and her dad Professor Paul Langford who have found the Star Gate at an archaeological dig in Egypt. And they’re all enthusiastic about it until 10 years go past, she grows up and they still don’t know a single damn thing about it. Understandably their funding is getting cut because no-one is going to keep paying for a vague shrug and “I dunno”. You can’t write many papers on that either

Despite that, her father is super Disappointed and Upset that she would actually pursue a career beyond staring bemusedly at an object for 10 more years (nor does he or anyone really acknowledge the impressiveness of a woman getting that kind of recognition. Especially if her prime study has been staring confusedly at an object for 10 years).

We also meet Captain James Beale, a British soldier and impossibly pretty man who is sort of dating/courting/whatever you call it back then her. And his friend Wasif, an Egyptian man and another soldier of the British Empire who is largely dragged around by James and forced to do what Catherine wants because James does in an attempt to impress her rather than rely on his great prettiness.

Catherine and her dad’s scholarly confusion is interrupted by Nazis, which just ruin everyone’s day. Nazi Dr. Brucke, his camerawoman Eva and some collected Nazi extras swoop in with guns and menacing threats and generally speaking accented English but occasionally speaking subtitled German… which really I’m going to need Starget Origins to choose. Either have your characters speak accented English and let us assume they’re speaking German, or have them speak German. Otherwise we have weird times where all these Nazis are speaking English to each other

These Nazis capture everyone and hold them all at gunpoint and try to play the whole civilised monster schtick. Dr. Brucke has done his own research and has basically figured out what the Stargate is, how it works and how to make it work.

Professor Langford’s academia looks rather lacking really.

So, the Nazis force Langford to go with them while leaving a token Nazi behind to guard Catherine since Catherine’s safety is being used to convince Langford to be borderline useful. There is lots of creepy touching her and she bites him and he slaps her and it’s all kind of cliched. Someone needs to say “I likes a girl with spirit.”

They leave her with the weakest of Nazis and she escapes, how surprising.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 5: Dig Dug

So, Joyce has a mystery - this means it’s time to radically redecorate her home! I have to say this habit of plastering random stuff on every flat surface every time something odd happens is more than a little disturbing. I like to think that this is only happening because of supernatural nastiness

Actually that’s a terrible lie. I like to think this is a constant habit and any random problems will set her off into a series of truly bizarre collages, because that would be kind of hilarious.

So she has plastered Will’s tunnel network all over her home, while Will is comforted by Mike. Will is not doing well, clearly disturbed by all the shadowy stuff he sees and is now sweating profusely presumably due to the big monster’s love of cold. Mike offers the hope that since Will senses what the big monster senses he can be some kind of awesome spy.

Jim has been examining the Ominous tunnel - and some random tentacle goo creature on the wall squirts poison nastiness into his face, leaving him unconscious on the floor. And the hole he dug is then plugged by vines. This is not good. Even when he manages to regain consciousness, he still stumbles around, tries to find a way out, tries to dig through a wall (for some reason) and in general is in a creepy horror set full of slimy, tentacle nastiness. Eventually he ends up on the floor, covered in tentacles. Really really not good.

Luckily for him, Will psychically senses this and dreams of where he is - pointing it out on his map, which no-one can read. Oops.

Well along comes Bob. Who is quietly awesome. Here to provide some kind of help and comfort for Will who he thinks is sick. After initially worrying that Bob is going to see her disturbing collaging, Joyce realises Bob is super clever and can be really useful in interpreting the pictures - so recruits him on the understanding that he asks no questions

Ah, Bob. He is the definition of a nice guy. And I mean nice guy, as in genuinely decent, caring human being, rather than Nice Guy, arsehole who thinks he can buy sex with common decency. Bob is very worried that both Will looks kind of ill and Joyce has reacted to this by taking up Disturbingly Craft Projects  and though he respects her wish for him not to ask questions he is clearly concerned. But he’s also a brilliant lover of puzzles who, after quickly realising the collage is a map, excellently starts pinpointing where it corresponds to and gets completely lost in the joys of the puzzle and figuring it out

I like Bob. I feel Bob will be eaten by something by the end of this season. But I raise a glass to Bob before this inevitably happens. With his help he pinpoints here Jim is

Let’s also check in on the Ominous People in the Ominous Lab have done some soil sample testing from the various rotting farmers fields and realise that if you apply fire then all of them form disturbing whirlwinds. Note applying fire to one, makes them all whirlwind because they’re all spookily connected. Ominous Lab People decide that this is a definite Oh Shit moment and also head out to try and stop this

Which means when Bob and Joyce find the hole Jim went down, carve their way through vines and rescue Jim (was there any doubt that Joyce would charge in?), they’re soon followed by the Ominous Lab People with flamethrowers

This seems to be their solution to everything. And I approve. So many of the books I’ve read and shows I’ve watched would see all of their problems vanish if they applied the “kill it with fire” method. Also points to Bob and Jim exchanging polite greetings like they’ve just met. It makes my English heart proud to see two men who maintain proper dignity in complete denial of the randomness around them

A downside to this flamethrowy-ness is that Will, connected to the shadow monster, collapses and starts screaming. Only I think it’s less a “I’m in agony and dying” scream and more a “the unholy noise I’m making signals the end times and summons the Thing That Man Was Not Meant To Know” scream.

It is not a good scream. Though I do have a friend who makes a similar noise when she realises there’s no vodka left.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 4: Will the Wise

Joyce hit the war path last episode after realising that Will’s vision are real and very scary. She finds Will lost and confused at school after following Bob’s advice and confronting the giant cthulu smoke monster. After terrifying everyone with a pause, he snaps out of it and Joyce takes it home

There she reveals what she saw on the video camera, that she knows what is happening to him and, above all, that she believes him. This is powerful and supportive and reminds us that Joyce is a) wonderful and b) contains a terrifying level of intensity.

Meanwhile, Will’s friends are all looking for the slimy swamp monster Dirk, which Dustin actually has hidden at home because he wants a pet and evil monsters from the Upside down are unique and totally not going to blow up in his face. Mike tells the others about Will’s visions and reiterates how much they need Dirk for reasons - basically because they don’t really know what they’re doing but they do know that Will as True Sight. They’re also excluding Max a lot from their secrets -which Max is obviously not a fan of and, not unreasonably, assumes this is because she’s a girl

For added layers of problems - her step-brother Billy the awful insists she stay away from the gang - and Lucas specifically. He’s angry and intimidating of her and he doesn’t specify why she should stay away from Lucas beyond “I’m older and know better”. He doesn‘t spell out his motive - but we can’t ignore that Lucas is the only Black character on the show.

Billy continues to be a dick to Steve but seems to be softening on that largely because he’s kind of won. He’s established himself as the dominant alpha arsehole and can now be benevolently condescending to him.

Dustin is all torn at the idea Dirk may be the key to helping Will - but when he goes to see his evil pet he sees it has grown much bigger and has now eaten the family cat… it may or may not try to eat Dustin at the end. Either way KILL IT WITH FIRE ALREADY

El and Jim’s relationship collapses pretty messily when Jim confronts El about leaving and being seen. There’s lots of screaming and shouting and temper and ugly and oh Jim this is not the way. He shouts about safety, she shouts about freedom - it’s ugly and messy and he decides to ground her by denying Eggos and TV and she pins the television and throws things at him with her telekinesis

It’s getting uglier and uglier. The next day Jim clearly feels uncomfortable with his behaviour and tries to extend both an olive branch while still sticking to his safety guns

When cleaning up the cabin, El searches and finds Jim’s box of research on the lab - including pictures of her mother and her real name, Jane. El uses her power to psychically connect with her in the big telepathic darkness - there she sees her and sees her current mental state. When El touches her, she shifts to smoke and disappears, leaving El crying and devastated.

El’s relationship with Jim is powerful and sad and emotional and I’m hoping that we start turning upwards soon - because their emotions are really real, their positions understandable and neither of them are really experts at social interaction so it’s all just...unfortunate.