Saturday, May 26, 2018

Apocalypse Nyx (Bel Dame Apocrypha) by Kameron Hurley

Nyx was a soldier. Nyx was a government backed assassin and bounty hunter. Now she works for herself with her own rag-tag team making a living in the grim, war-torn land of Nasheen

Life isn’t good, a centuries long war has turned Nasheen pretty apocalyptic and winning is surviving to see the next day - and maybe earning enough money to drink enough not to remember yesterday

This book with all its short stories is gritty with a capital grit. At many points in the story I expected something - I expected Nyx to soften, I expected her to see her crew as more like family, I expected her to see her to melt towards Rhys especially.

But everything about this is gritty, dark and messy. There’s no love, there’s just the release of casual sex. There’s no companionship - there’s just people Nyx works with (and that grudgingly) and every time we feel like we’re getting closer to something more

I say all this not as a criticism of the book, or even as a warning but as a clear depiction of what the book is. And in some ways it’s unique for it. I’ve read a lot of books that bring in the melodramatic grimdark, usually with lots of rape and torture for the sheer gratuitous purpose. But few pull off the gritty, certainly unrelenting gritty, gritty without some bright sparks, gritty without some sense of a happy ending or a happy moment or something. For unrelenting grimdark, this book works and is just perfect for it

This works because this is the world that Nyx lives in, this world far from Earth but clearly colonised but Earth people, this world where two nations have been at war for generations, a brutal horrific war complete with weapons of mass destruction used with such regularity that they have become a normal part of everyone’s day, with a border where the atrocities have piled up so much that mounds of bodies just don’t even feature. We have a state, Nasheen, where large branches of quasi law enforcement are dedicated to little more than hunting down deserters from the devastating wars, where we have people bred expressly for that war and conscription that consumes entire lives

On top of this we have both the grittiness of the war - chemicals, weapons, violence etc, but also the dangerous nature of the world itself with its multiple suns and high cancer rates which translates into some really strong messages on class divide as the poor obviously can’t spend time inside behind filters so they are susceptible to skin lesions and cancer - while the rich have smooth skin that is saved from the touch of the sun

In this we have Nyx, a deeply unlikeable character… which is perfect. Why should she be likeable? She’s a war veteran from a war that has destroyed her country from before she was even born. She’s been destroyed, remade, suffered immense trauma, watched many people around her die, been on an array of missions most of which have not exactly gone well, worked some rather unsavoury professions. She’s led a terribly traumatic, awful life, in a terrible traumatic, awful world: why would she be nice or pleasant or likable? Why would she even care about these things? It would break this whole theme, world and story if she were a woman with hope and positivity or had somehow managed to come through all of this still shiny would completely change the whole tone of the book. Even as Nyx has regrets and moments of guilt she drowns them in alcohol and so many times I think she’s so close to making the kinder choice…

Friday, May 25, 2018

iZombie, Season 4, Episode 12: You've Got to Hide Your Liv Away

Liv can’t bring herself to carry out Isobel’s last wish - to eat her brains. She just can’t face the body. Which also gives Ravi more time to experiment at least

And they have another tragic drama brewing - Curtis their captured coyote, is due to be executed by Chase Graves unless “Renegade” gives herself up.

Liv, naturally, is all for this. Ravi and Levorn are very insistent that she better not. I get it form the whole personal connection but the idea that Liv is utterly central to the organisation given how recently she joined them is a little dubious

Chase is also seeming increasingly disillusioned with Chase with Captain Hobb from admin dropping in to basically sound Major out on a coup - preferably with Major in charge. Which Major is willing to listen to after the killing of Captain Seattle last week (and Jordan, camping with Major while recovering, is all in favour of this). Unfortunately it seems Hobb is secretly working for Chase in his paranoia who is feeling out whether Major is still the loyal golden boy

Just because he’s right doesn’t mean Chase isn’t paranoid.

As Liv begins to sneak out to give herself up, Major is there to stop her: declaring that she’s right

And can I just say a resounding “fuck you” to Major here? Sure it’s easy to be outraged by injustice and death when it’s someone you care for who is being hurt - but he was right there while Mama Leone was being executed. You were there firing guns to intimidate journalists. So, yes, Major is in my shit box.

He can’t talk Liv out of it so he drugs her and kidnaps her

Yes, he’s definitely in my shit box. He even leaves a message with Jordan to tell Ravi and Levorn not to worry but he’s kidnapped Liv until after Curtis is executed (never mind him or his pregnant wife).

Major then makes himself even worse by giving him and Liv the brains of an ancient happily married couple, turning her into a 1950s housewife. Oh but don’t worry, Liv Cleaver does make it clear that this only works because she likes Major anyway. Yes, we know she likes Major, they were betrothed. But she’s also ragingly pissed with him and we know exactly how much brains control Liv’s behaviour. Major, you are the worst for this attempt at mind control Stockholm Syndrome. The utter worst

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Westworld, Season Two, Episode Five: Akane no Mai

Image result for westworld

The continual juxtaposition of Maeve and Dolores leads me to believe that this season is leading up to stand off not between the robots and humans but between Maeve and Dolores.  It's clear now that Dolores's only goal is to burn it all down, whereas; Maeve has no greater purpose than finding her daughter. As long as these two don't get into each other's way everything will remain fine but I believe that their paths will cross again and that this time, it won't be so peaceful.

This week, we finally got to see the long awaited Shogun world, billed as a place for those who find West World too tame. It makes me wonder why the Man in Black has spent his time in Westworld when he could have lived out his dark impulses in Shogun world. Perhaps the appeal of Westworld over Shogun world is that the first time William lost himself in tech, he was wearing a white hat.  Maeve is captured by Musashi and his men and tries to use her powers right away but is quickly gagged.  It seems the character don't recognise Maeve's orders because she's speaking English rather than Japanese. It's not long before it becomes painfully obvious that there's something familiar about Shogun world, despite the very different aesthetic. It seems that because of a tight timeline, Lee reused the elements of Westworld and simply add a Japanese aesthetic. This results in Maeve and the others meeting their doppelgangers. Lee is concerned that the collusion of the two worlds will lead to some unpleasant results. We watch as Hector displays an almost irrational anger towards Musashi and Amistice a game of mirror with  The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (read: her doppleganger)  Even the robbery happens, though it's a geisha's home instead of Maeve's saloon. I gotta say that if I were Hector, I might be a little jealous of Musashi, who is clearly an upgrade on him. 

At this point, Maeve is forced to deal with the reality that she is simply a highly recognizable archetype. Maeve doesn't even pause and instead argues that they have free will but how free are they when Akane, Maeve's double shows determination to protect her adopted daughter? Akane murders one of the Shogun's men rather than sell Sakura.  This for Maeve serves as proof that they are evolving but this reasoning only works if you ignore the fact that though both Maeve and Akane are off script, they are both driven to protect a daughter and willing to do anything to do so.  Maeve and Akane may have deviated from the script written by Lee but given their actions, they're very much following a script.

Akane's actions result in the most epic ninja attack where the crew struggles to hold their own. Maeve is being choked out and therefore cannot use her speaking power and in desperation, thinks the action that she wants her attacker to make and he complies.  After witnessing what happened, the other ninjas get spooked and take off, calling Maeve a witch.  Maeve doesn't quite understand what happened but she is more than happy to have another weapon in her arsenal.  The ninjas were not able to kill the crew but they did manage to kidnap Sakura, thus beginning Akane's quest to get her daughter back. Does this sound familiar?

The Shogun attacks again and this time Maeve enlists Hector, Musashi and Armistice to offer up a distraction while she slips away with Akane, Lee and the rest of the human contingent.  The plan is to approach the Shogun, pretending to be emissaries from China, but it all backfires when they learn that the Shogun not only damaged his own ears, he had his men cut off their ears after learning about Maeve's sorcery.  This makes the Shogun even more dangerous because now, he's broken. They manage to strike a deal, with the Shogun promising to release Sakura if she and Akane perform for them. As the women prepare, Maeve listens as Akane tries to comfort Sakura, who has revealed that the Shogun branded her entire back with a lotus blossom. The words Akane uses are familiar to Maeve because of course she's said those same words herself.

The women take the stage and the Shogun decides to kill Sakura, proving that the robot has most definitely lost his mind.  Akane begins the dance as commanded but as soon as she's close enough, she pulls a knife out of her hair and kills the shogun.  Of course, chaos ensues but it's all quickly handled when Maeve uses her mind power and gets the forces to fight each other.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale, Season Two, Episode Five: Seeds

Seeds focuses on two storylines: June's despondency in the wake of her broken mental state which is juxtaposed to Janine's optimism and spirituality. Although all women have been abused and oppressed in the Gilead, we've never really been given reason to root for Janine, who more than anyone seems to have lost contact with reality.Janine has been made victim in The Handmaid's Tale more often than she has been presented as a fighter.    

When Janine arrives at the colonies, she leaps into Emily's arms.  Emily, being the caretaker, doling out whatever minimal comfort she's able to instructs Janine on how things work there but despite the desolation and the cruelty, Janine's spirit remains buoyant, as though none of the horror actually touches her. It's Janine who sees the beauty of Fiona and Kit's relationship, even though Kit is dying. It's Janine who sees a flower in the field and stops to marvel at its beauty, spreading the seeds so that more may bloom.  It's also Janine who keeps talking about God and parroting some of the nonsense taught to her by Aunt Lydia.  Janine's view of the Gilead and the colonies is not like any other character; she's irrepressible.

Emily is not initially comforted by Janine's hope, particularly her discussion of God and with good reason.  Emily is quick to ask where God was when the Gilead took Janine's eye or her clit. It's clear that not only is Emily angry, she feels abandoned by God. Things come to a head when Janine organises a wedding ceremony for Kit and Fiona. It's extremely touching even though Kit is dying and the ceremony is only possible because they are in the colonies.  The wedding however angers Emily because all she can see are the risks but Janine argues back that at least Kit and Fiona got to experience a brief moment of happiness before Kit died. The next day, Fiona kisses a dead Kit goodbye and Emily touches the flowers so lovingly placed on Kit's body.  It's in this moment she realises the beauty of the brief happiness of the women. Kit's body is taken out and it's Emily and Jannine who bury her in a field already marked with far too many crosses.

June has finally become a model handmaiden. Aunt Lydia does a check up as Serena Joy looks on, clearly irritated with Aunt Lydia's intrusion in her home.  Aunt Lydia makes it clear that it's important to keep on top of June's pregnancy and ensure the home environment is good, a comment which Serena sees as a dig. When Aunt Lydia picks up a pencil to note June's advancing pregnancy, a jealous Serena Joy about swallows her tongue, forcing Aunt Lydia to explain that it's a special dispensation for aunts.  Aunt Lydia instructs June to bathe twice a day now because she's begun to smell pungent. As Aunt Lydia leaves, she runs into a commander and they make small talk about the possibility of the child being a boy.  What Aunt Lydia doesn't realise is that this is a sore spot with the commander because no matter the gender of the child, Nick is the biological father.

Just because June is finally compliant doesn't mean her relationship with Serena Joy has improved. Serena may not have the daily brutalities of June but she is just as trapped by virtue of her gender in the Gilead.  Serena forces June to go for walks under the guise that the exercise is good for the baby. It's in these moments that Serena's loneliness comes through the strongest in this episode.  What Serena really wants is a friend - someone she can gossip with about other wives and handmaids but she and June can never be that for each other and Serena is frustrated by the truth of it. Serena's frustration comes to a head when Nick decides to discuss June with her. Nick has noticed that June seems broken and that her mental health is clearly an issue and so suggests that June be taken to see a psychiatrist.  Instead of having a moment of self reflection, Serena decides to up the ante on her cruelty and casually mention Nick at breakfast with the commander. If June won't play girlfriend, then Serena will see that she suffers. The commander is more than willing to play a part in the game in order to disrupt Nick's relationship with June and to reassert his power because Nick was the man who impregnated June.

What neither the commander or Serena don't know is that June has begun to bleed.  Rather than letting anyone know that is possibly miscarrying the baby, June simply continues to go through her daily activities. It's only Rita who notices that something just doesn't seem right about her but when June denies that she is ill, Rita is given no choice but to go about her duties.

Into the Badlands, Season 3, Episode 5: Chapter XXI: Carry Tiger to Mountain

After their dramatic fight against Pilgrim, the Widow travels home to find someone hiding in the boot of her car. It’s Gaius, Baron Chau’s brother

It turns out that Gaius and the Widow - or Minerva as Gaius calls her - have history. The Widow was once the abused cog of Gaius’s evil father (who his evil sister pretty much emulates). Gaius was all kind, evil sister was abusive and Gaius and Widow has some kind of a thing going on, especially since he rescued her. There’s a definite connection there

Not that The Widow is willing to admit this since, as she tells Lydia, she pretty much distrusts all men since they’ve all been abusive arseholes to her. Lydia can relate but she also thinks that she needs to trust someone and Gaius is looking trustworthy

The Widow is also not thrilled with Nathaniel not killing Sunny or trusting his assurance that Sunny doesn’t want vengeance

Now that Chau doesn’t have her own problems because Pilgrim turns up on her doorstep and says he needs a 1000 workers from her. Or they’ll chop off more heads. The problem is that Chau doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of people spare given the whole war thing. Their answer is to send her troops to the Refugee camp and recruit people with a whole lot of violence

Sunny and Bajie finally find Ankara, Bajie’s old mentor and Bajie is really not happy. But she does seem to have a way to temporarily cure Henry - or at least stop him drying right now. It suspiciously involves drowning the baby but seems to work. But it is temporary - she says there’s only one way to actually solve Henry’s problem - take him to see Pilgrim. And she’s super super super excited about Pilgrim

She also does some delving in Sunny’s head - which throws her across the room. It seems he is “the Catalyst” which is ominous but unexplained. He has lots and lots of super Dark One power but has been blocked by some other ominous uber powerful figure when he was a child and my they’re dropping plot hooks galore for the next season.

As Bajie’s mentioned before, he dedicated his entire life to following her quest for Asra putting so much time and effort into sending out a signal for Asra which wasn’t answered. Well Ankara disputes this - it has been answered, apparently by radio using morse code. Y’know I kind of expected something more mystical than morse code here… and she now has a message back from Pilgrim. Yes Bajie is the message that Cressida and Pilgrim have been following. Worse the message Pilgrim is sending back is full of ominous phrases like “cleansing” which Ankara is super happy about because she expects the Badlands to be cleansed with chaos

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fear the Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 5: Laura

This episode is all about John Dorie, his past and his life with Laura/Naomi. Which means it’s less about events and much more about the relationship and feelings

John has his pair of shiny guns and lives in his cabin which is super self sufficient, plenty of fish, a moat to keep out the occasional Walker he kills. He has electricity and running water and it’s all a very nice set up. Except he’s alone and seeing him play Scrabble by himself and repeat words over and over… to hear the sound of his own voice? To maintain his vocabulary? Either way his loneliness is so clear

Until one of those bodies washing into his moat isn’t a walker - it’s Naomi/Laura. She’s super suspicious and doesn’t want to stay but she’s badly injured and she can’t go anywhere. He takes her in and treats her at her direction. He doesn’t ask nosy questions and even gives her the name Laura when she’s reluctant to mention her own.

She does try to leave early but he’s super helpful willing to give her all the supplies she needs to leave but she may want to heal up first. She agrees and they live and survive together but she keeps distance between them: symbolised nicely by the boots he offers her which she refuses to take.

She does ask about his guns and his life as a cop but that’s one thing he’s reluctant to touch. Instead it’s really nice to see them grow slowly together, to see Laura slowly thaw towards him and to see that John really is that rarest of people - a really nice day. And in so many apocalypses everyone is awful for the sake of awful -that seeing a man who is just genuinely nice is super powerful.

They do worry about walkers continually washing up and investigate when they go to the local shop - the shop is long abandoned but John hasn’t stripped it bare, because he’s that kind of guy. He takes what he needs and even leaves reviews for the films he borrows - because he’s an impossibly nice guy.

They discover there’s a hole in the barriers around the edge of the bridge which Walkers keep falling over and get washed over.

Laura and John continue to bond, he teaches her how to fish but the idea that she will leave keeps being mentioned until he finally removes her stitches. There’s now no reason for her to stay and she plans to leave which is super awkward. She offers to help him fix the bridge he’s a little sulky about her leaving but she insists it’s the least she can do. They go - and we see John’s anger for the first time when he realises she’s taken one of his guns which he angrily takes back. He insists guns are no good, they just attract more (which he’s not wrong about but it’s equally clear this isn’t his only objection). They fight the crowd and get into a sticky situation which would be solved so much easier if John used a gun - instead he stabs it to death and they both get all covered in gore

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Originals, Season 5, Episode 5: Don't It Just Break Your Heart

So, a conundrum. How do you make your character the good guy when he’s Klaus Mikkaelson and inclined to murder people for funsies? How do you end this, the final season of Originals with Klaus as the hero?


Nazis are the ultimate bad guy, even Klaus can look good while covered in blood and entrails, so long as they’re NAZI blood and entrails. Except the show also kind of wants to have arguments and conflicting sides so suddenly you have previously reasonable characters be sort of sympathetic to Nazis… and then because Klaus always has to have the angst of inflicting his own misery we need to have a tragic past inspiring the Nazis other than, y’know, being Nazis.

It’s all rickety to say the least.

Ok, let’s go with this. Klaus is now massacring Nazis and asking whether they have Hayley and doing more massacring and he’s barely even bothering to ask questions it’s just slaughter. Marcel’s kind of following Klaus around validating the Nazi slaughter in case we needed it.

Anyway, Greta, influential vampire steps forwards to say “hey, I’m the Nazi and I have Hayley!”. She thought this was a good idea… somehow? She ends up being imprisoned and drained of blood and tortured so Klaus can get the vervain out of her system and then compel her. Why did she not expect this?

Her demands are they use magic to bind Hope’s werewolfyness which was done to Klaus by Esther so she can’t create Hybrids. Klaus is super against this because he loathes what was done to him and he apparently suffered mightily because of this. It’s hard to tell because staring moodily in apparent eternal artistic suffering is kind of what Klaus does all the time. And Elijah. And Stefan. And Damon. Occasionally Rebekah. Freya’s getting in there too

Ugh, this whole cast needs like ALL the valium

Josh shows up to be kind to Greta and encourage her to free Hayley, who is a good person, in exchange for a level of compassion from Klaus which is just HILARIOUS. Of course this where that whole Nazi thing gets in the way. Because if Greta were just a normal vampire with, not unreasonable, concerns about hybrids and their ability to kill them, especially after Poppy’s death then her fears are reasonable and Josh comforting her, advocating for her and telling Marcel that maybe he’d like to side with the vampires once in a great while doesn’t sound bad. Except Nazis. Except Greta isn’t saying “hybrids are dangerous” but “hybrids are polluting our pure blood line with their taint.” So suddenly we have this reasonable nice guy - a gay latino man at that - being willing to go to bat for race supremacists.

Yeaaah no.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Once Upon a Time, Season 7, Episode 22: Leaving Storybrooke

It’s time for the final episode of Once Upon A Time ever, barring spin offs (and, let’s face it, there’s a good chance of there being spin offs here). Which means, being Once Upon a Time there won’t be a whole lot of common sense or logic but we will have lots of soaring emotion and tweeness.

So Robin and Alice have gone to Storybrooke to seek help and it all kind of goes wrong because Granny and the Dwarfs all scream “OUTSIDERS!” and try to kill them. The hell is this?! Since when is this a thing? Did they all start supporting Trump or something?

Robin and Alice run to Zelena instead and quickly convince her by throwing lots of insider knowledge to convince her and recruit her on side

Back to the wish realm with everyone stuck in a big magical snow globe and ye gods why why why do villains not just murder their enemies already? Anyway everyone’s cold, evil!Rumple has used Henry’s author powers to completely rob Rumple of his magical powers. So he can’t escape. Instead this leaves Rumple and Killian to play nice and reflect on the bond that years of trying to kill each other has created. And Killian finally asks why Rumple with all his power didn’t just kill him

Haven’t you being paying attention, Killian? Villains don’t kill people. They torment them until they eventually turn around and win. It’s a rule

Rumple instead says that Killian is the closest thing to a friend he has. Which is deeply tragic but we don’t have time to explore this so let’s just say “awww, they’re friends who occasionally try to kill each other”. It’s like friends with benefits but kinkier.

And now I have a mental image of Killian and Rumple and kinky things and leather and that’s just distracted me from the rest of the episode.

Anyway, Maui’s hook just appears (this isn’t explained at all) which lets them break out. This gives them chance to angst a little more, plan the future and for Rumple to have a heartbreaking scene where he realises he will never be with Belle again

Meanwhile young!Henry has Regina captured and wants to make her suffer for killing his grandparents (I’m assuming this is Wish Realm Regina but at no point does Regina make more than a token effort of explaining that wasn’t her). Regina is super focused on telling Henry how he can be good and forgiving and nice and shiny and how she’s totally his mother in another dimension. In some ways this is why Regina doesn’t really want to convince him of her innocence because she wants Henry to embrace goodness and innocence and forgiveness et al.

Henry isn’t listening and expects to fight Regina in a duel. Of course he doesn’t just kill her because it’s a villain rule. Regina does have a happy dream of Robin, the original Robin, mainly because this is the last episode so everyone needs to have a cameo. Hey they went to Storybrooke just to throw in some dwarfs and even then they could only manage three of them.

Time to check in on Evil!Rumple’s evil plan: he has written a book for every single character ever and he’s going to use Henry’s dark-Author powers to suck everyone into a book containing their own personal hell. If by “personal hell” you mean “being alone”. Honestly you’d think he’d be more creative than that - there’s so much you can do with bamboo skewers or electrodes or disco CDs

And this “villain rule” is getting a little silly. Honestly why why why don’t you just KILL PEOPLE? You wouldn’t need Henry’s Dark Author powers. You wouldn’t need to watch while portals suck them in. You wouldn’t need to bring the blue fairy back just to throw her in a portal without even giving her a speaking line.

The gang goes to rescue Regina with Robin (young) and Killian providing a distraction for the guards (and Robin asking for Killian’s blessing in marrying his daughter and it’s sweet and awesome and shiny and yes the whole concept of a father giving his blessing for a marriage is rooted in patriarchy and sexism but context also matters: a same-sex couple getting any kind of familial blessing means a lot more in the context of the sheer number of LGBTQ people who are rejected by family on top of their relationships not being acknowledged.)

The Black Tide (Outcast #3) by Keri Arthur

Tiger has finally taken the first steps against the sinister forces experimenting on children for their own dark aims. But more children are missing - and those experiments are gaining ground: the some vampires are walking in sunlight

To finally stop this she needs to bring down Ciara the sinister architect behind this. But Ciara can change her shape to look like anyone and apparently has influence at the very top of government.

This book is action packed - we open with Tiger charging into battle against these sinister facilities and it doesn’t let up from there

And it’s really satisfying to follow with this book of concrete action and results after the sometimes confusion of the previous books. We had a lot of random events before and a whole lot of confusion from the large scale, highly convoluted and multiple levels of conspiracy that was exposed but still pretty hard to follow in the last two books

Now we have answers. Now Tiger knows what she is up against and what needs to be done. And this born weapon is going to charge into battle and kill everyone she needs to do to bring this world ending conspiracy to an end. She knows who is responsible, she knows their sinister plans - now the investigation has finished and it’s time to blow it all up.

And can I say now that I was pretty wary of Tiger for a while - the fact that she was designed to be a seductive assassin made me think of a lot of terrible tropes: but we dodge that. She is a lethal trained commando and warrior: we have no lethal seduction, but a lot of guns and explosions.

This does come with some interesting moral quandaries: especially in relation to the experiments here. I.e. the people these illicit labs have created, the babies, what they are, whether they can be saved, whether they should be saved, whether they’re acceptable collateral damage. All of this is extra poignant to Tiger, an artificially created being herself who saw so many of her people, especially the children whose ghosts she still treasures, were destroyed as being unfit to live.