Saturday, July 7, 2018

The 100, Season Five, Episode Eight: How We Get To Peace

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Unsurprisingly, the various factions have different ideas about how to achieve peace. It seems however that only Charmaine has any idea of what to do with that peace if and when it actually happens.  For the last few episodes we've seen the planning stages of what is to be an epic show down between Octavia and Charmaine and for me at least, it's starting to drag. 

Madi had been made Octavia's second and Clarke is all too aware of the threat that this represents. After hours of telling Madi about Octavia's adventures and the people hidden in the bunker, Madi views Octavia as a hero and doesn't realise that the power which Octavia welds could be a danger to her. Clarke makes a deal with Charmaine to surrender unequivocally and in exchange, they agree to share the Valley. Bellamy however has one proviso, he won't kill his sister.  It's hardly a surprise that killing Octavia would be the line in the sand for Bellamy, despite how terrible Octavia's rule has been. Indra is drawn into Clarke's plan and together with Bellamy, they decide to kill Cooper using the worms believing that if Octavia's biological weapon is rendered useless that she will have no choice but to abandon her invasion plans. 

The only one to have any kind of reservation about the plan is Monty, who has been hard at work creating algae in the hopes of offering an alternative to raiding the Valley.  At this point, Monty has seen enough blood and death to last him a lifetime and it's become increasingly clear that he is a haunted man.  All Monty needs is some time to perfect the algae because for some reason, the first batch he tried back in space put Murphy into a coma for a month.  Cooper is the first to burst Monty's bubble when she reveals that what he is doing is worthless because the invasion of the Valley is going to happen soon. The second time it happens is when Monty is forced to become complicit in Cooper's murder, despite all of his pleas about how there always seems to be another justifiable murder that needs to be committed. 

At the Valley, a bloody Shaw is brought into the same room as Raven and Echo.  Echo sees betraying and murdering Shaw as an opportunity because he is the only pilot that Charmaine has.  Shaw's death would mean that  Raven would be in a position of power and in the process it would also eliminate some of Charmaine's tactical advantage because without the ship, it would even the playing field. Raven however is nowhere near as ruthless and Echo and so she's not on board with killing Shaw. Raven and Echo don't get to talk about it for long because she's called to assist Abby. 

At first, Raven is absolutely overjoyed to see Abby.  It's a great reminder that these two do have a history and a bond. Abby wants help making some medical equipment to cure Charmaine's people but when Raven learns that they are dying, her position is that it would be better for everyone if Abby did nothing.  Abby tries playing righteous at first, claiming that she made an oath and that as a doctor she has an obligation to heal them. When that doesn't work, Abby says that Charmaine threatened her and that's enough to get Raven moving. 

When Raven finishes the work that Abby needs, she discovers Abby unconscious. The betrayal comes when Raven learns that Abby's real motivation is to feed her drug addiction and that it was the drugs that rendered Abby unconscious. Raven is quick to realise that Charmaine has been feeding Abby drugs and she's mad as hell - mad enough to threaten to destroy the equipment she just finished building. Abby then does the unspeakable and uses the shock collar to stop Raven, while crying and apologising the whole time. 

It cost Abby dearly but she is successful in curing one patient and  given that it's Vinson, whose been given a new lease on life and his seeming fascination with both Abby and Raven, I'm pretty sure that we can expect something creepy.  Charmaine is of course happy with Abby's results but always the strategist, decides to keep the news of the cure to herself and threatens Abby to keep her quiet. 

It's only when Raven is back to her regular holding room in a heart to heart with Shaw, we learn that how personal this whole experience is to Raven. It turns out that Raven's mother was an alcoholic and that the disease ultimately killed her. 

Now that they have a prisoner, Emori and Murphy try to use their leverage. It turns out however that Charmaine isn't interested in getting McCreary back because his faction represents a threat to her hold on power. Rather than agreeing to trade Raven for McCreary, Charmaine tells Emori and Murphy that they are welcome to kill him. This of course shocks Kane, who once again goes into mentor mode and wonders what kind of leadership they are getting from Charmaine. He knows that Octavia is bad but given everything Charmaine has done so far, she may not be much better. For some unknown reason, Charmaine reveals her pregnancy and begins to talk about building the Valley into a home, openly wondering about building a school for her daughter. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale, Season Two, Episode Eleven: Holly

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Though June is clearly the protagonist, this is the first time that Elisabeth Moss has been given nearly an entire episode to carry on her own. Holly is only a success because Moss is an absolutely brilliant actress and it would not surprise me to see just on the strength of this episode, a new Emmy awarded to Moss. Elisabeth Moss has away of infusing June's words with such power and a facial expression can tell hours worth of story.  I simply couldn't imagine this role being played by another actress and if I had any doubt, this episode proves this. 

When last we left June, she had been left alone after Nick had been taken into custody.  At first, June is stunned but she quickly gets into action. I found myself second guessing a lot of June's decisions in this episode until I realised that I was sitting comfortably on my couch and not in any kind of real danger. I really wanted June to take off running but really, how far would she have gotten in the middle of winter without supplies and heavily pregnant? Running would have put her life in even more danger. It's one thing to plan meticulously for months to escape and another to be thrust into a situation where freedom is potentially in your grasp but riddled with so much danger. 

When the Waterfords arrive to search for June, we are treated to one of the few unguarded and honest conversations between the two; like June, we are listening in. Even before Fred beat Serena to assert his power and control, it was clear that the Waterford marriage is absolutely devoid of any love. After everything Serena has been through, she feels betrayed by the very movement she helped build and now, the one thing that she wanted in return - a child, has potentially been ripped from her grasp.  Their search through the house for June is desperate and both worry that a handmaid missing a second time could lead to them both on the wall. Serena blames Fred for raping June and he is quick to point out that this was her idea. Even Serena's wails about a child hold no sway with Fred, who quickly points out that Serena wanted so much more than that and he even goes as far as to assert that June is missing because Serena didn't show her any kindness. The Waterfords play the blame game until it becomes physical, with Fred grabbing Serena by the neck. Realising that they might be well and truly screwed, they decide to return home and try to come up with a cover story.

I wanted June to kill them where they stood. For the first time, she had the chance to hurt them the way that they have hurt her. June struggled with her finger on the trigger but in the end decided not to shoot. I wonder if in that moment, June thought that by killing the Waterfords that she would be as bad as them? I'm fairly certain that this is what the writers wanted us to believe - that June didn't shoot because she didn't want to become a monster. I think that June's failure to act is perhaps the only unrealistic part of the episode. I simply cannot rationalise it given everything that she has been through. June clearly wasn't afraid of missing, so the quandary must have been moral and as a moral problem, her inaction doesn't work.

With the Waterfords gone, the viewer becomes the wolf as it takes in June's fear and frustration. We watch as she races through the house in a panic trying desperately to create an escape plan. First she can't get into the garage and she kicks it viciously. Then she races back to the house to find the keys and along the way stumbles on the little minutia of life. When she does finally find the keys, the garage has the most conspicuous get away cars. Surely, this is a hint as to how powerful the man who is kidnapped and is raising Hannah is. June however is in flight mode and doesn't pause to think about how the car will stand out on Gilead streets that only seem to be driven on by black SUVs. Now it's back to the house to get supplies but when she finally does return to the garage, the doors won't open. June however is not about to be defeated and she starts up the engine and tries to burst through but as powerful as the engine is, it's no match for a garage door that refuses to be open.  Finally, if she can't burst her way out, she tries to dig her way out and it's this that finally defeats June.  The wolf watches June curiously and even howls, signalling its location and June knows that it's time to give up, as the first labour pains hit her. 

White Knights, Easy Moral High Ground & Hollow Heroes

Often, writers look for short cuts. Quick easy tropes, themes, concepts or scenes to helpfully convey an idea to the audience without necessarily going into too much detail. This can be an excellent way of quickly getting a point across without being sidetracked. It can also be lazy, shallow, characterisation and world building

One such habit is what TV Tropes calls “Kicking the Dog” itself apparently a Hitchcock reference. Basically having your villain do something pointlessly cruel to show that we have a genuinely evil person here. Their evil is pointless, it’s shallow, it achieves nothing other than cruelty for the sake of cruelty

This simple villain labelling is now being rebranded from "kicking the dog" to "being a bigot, as media in general at least pretends to be more aware of marginalised people and prejudice, now starting to use bigotry as the dog kicking. Your Designated Bad Guy won’t kick a puppy, but they will drop the N-word or F-word or say something grossly and gaspingly misogynist.

The flip side to this is when our designated hero - or otherwise designated good guy, gets a special White Knight moment. Bigotry happens and they get to stand up and nobly declare that Prejudice Is Wrong, guys, sometimes with a convoluted PSA dumped into the story to make it clear how very much this character Does Not Approve of these things.

On the face of it this sounds like a good and noble intention - after all challenging bigotry is always good, right? But the point of these scenes are not to challenge bigotry or declare bigotry as wrong - these scenes use bigotry to build up their main character as a nice person we should support. The prejudice they’re challenging is somewhat irrelevant - the character could achieve the same effect by hugging a kitten or volunteering in a soup kitchen or being nice to their granny. The actual victim of the prejudice is generally forgotten or irrelevant; any analysis of the prejudice is incidental to the main point: that the Hero is a Good Person. It’s like the scene in Game of Thrones when Daenerys is hailed as “Mhysa” and raised up by a crowd of brown people: that scene wasn’t about liberation, freeing people, ending slavery - it was about the greater glory of Daenerys.

It’s not even a half way decent indication that the writers are even basically aware of the issues they’re challenging. Some classic examples include Mist using some random extras using the f-word to insult Adrian and Jay, eventual good guy and heroine’s love interest, championing him. This is from a show which managed to be one of the most epicly homophobic shows we’ve seen: and this was certainly not a show that covered the homophobia Adrian faced even remotely well. Or there’s the infamous House of Night Series where Zoe has several convoluted moments where she calls out homophobia, racism and sexism when faced with blatant, easy take downs to remind us she’s a good person (while doubling down on ableism, because someone once challenged the author on her repeated use of ret*rded so she had to include a DEFENCE of that). Yet this series fails on… just about every possible level one can fail on and most certainly does not develop any of these marginalised characters in anything resembling a decent fashion.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Frankenstein Chronicles: Season 2, Episode 5: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

And lo we learn that not only is everyone really creepy and really evil but quite possibly all working together as well

Except Sir Robert Peel - but he’s desperate to get his admittedly very nice sounding reforms passed so is willing to work with just about anyone to make that happen despite the opposition of the evil dean of Westminster and his evil murdering coroner Renquist. We’ve already seen him willing to work with Dippel and now he introduces his new advisor who will hopefully convince Prince William (heir to the throne, brother to George IV, current king who seems to side with the the Dean but is also not in great health) to support him. Oh Sir Robert, such good intentions, such terrible bed fellows

His whole moment is somewhat disturbed by Nightingale's body washing up, minus heart

Seriously show, I’m not going to forgive Nightingale's wasted death.

We see Queenie, naturally, consumed by grief over this - revealing she loved him and also fears she may have been responsible for his death by telling him about the creepy things in creepy Dipple’s creepy home. She is convinced to go to the police with this but the Inspector isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea that a ranting Nightingale may have gone after one of the richest men in London because he thought a hanged man had committed a murder. He dismisses her

But when Sir Peel comes to him to point out they’re now competing with evil church people so there better be some leed, the Inspector seizes on it as better than nothing

Marlot has gone full angst mode because Sean Bean, that’s why. He’s driving poor Esther off, convinced that everyone around him dies because Nightingale’s death is good for some Manpain. He does ramble about being haunted by the ghosts of murdered people he can’t help. Which sounds bad but it’s not like any of these ghosts even invest in chains or anything. It’s pretty low key haunting

He does get a lead on Lord Hervey though, from Boz, who is more than a little miffed that the church Coroner Renquist feeding him lies has made him look like a fool. Boz recruits Marlot and tells him LORD HERVEY LIVES and is working for the Home Secretary.

This leads to Marlot intimidating Renquist just because he can for some reason but not learning much beyond how evil traders in body parts have lots of ice - so he’s now off to harass Dipple. While Renquist goes to Lord Hervey because it turns out he is Lord Hervey’s protege and has a kind of creepy devotion which may or may not be gay subtext but if it is I’m going to break things because this is nooooot a good look. Lord Hervey reveals his plan to basically throw Dipple to the wolves (because, yes, Hervey knows Dipple. Seriously all the bad guys are working together here) if the king dies and they don’t have a powerful patron. Renquist is smart enough to realise Hervey may do the same to him but too devoted to actually follow through with that

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Elsker (The Elsker Saga #1) by S.T. Bende

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Kristia Tostenson is from a small town in Oregon. Kristia worries that she'll just following along with what is expected and marry one of the few suitable males after finishing university and settling down to a boring life without adventure.  Kristia decides that she wants more and  takes a leap of faith and enrolls in Cardiff university  for a year abroad and thus begins an adventure she could never have predicted, even in the weird dreams and visions she's had over the years.

When Kristia first meets Ull Myher, her world stands still. Ull is not only the most beautiful man she's ever seen, he's actually a Norse god.  The two share a wild wind romance but always hanging over their head is the fact that Ragnarok hasn't happened yet.  It's difficult to make plans for the future when the world could come crashing down at any moment.  When it is announced that Baldr will die soon, thus setting off the beginning of the war that brings an end to the Asgardians, Kristia knows that she has a decision to make.  Will she flee and return to her old life or will she marry Ull and fight side by side against the enemies of Asgard. 

I picked up Elsker because I'm an absolute sucker for any story with Norse mythology as its basis. I even over looked the fact that I'm not overly a fan of YA to give this book a chance.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, I should have left this one on the shelf.  Elsker reads like Twilight fanfic.  I'm absolutely positive that S.T. Bende needs to pay Stephanie Meyer royalties for this hot mess masquerading as a tale about Norse Gods.

Kristia is the same kind of blank slate that Bella was in Twilight. It's clear that S.T. Bende wrote her this way so that any white woman could envision herself in this role. There's absolutely nothing interesting about her whatsoever which makes it all the more astounding that Ull manages to scrape together attributes he admires, making her worthy of being his wife.  Kristia is clumsy and is either always tripping or is in danger of tripping.  Does that remind you of anyone?  She's also incredibly insecure and talks constantly about how plain she is and worries about whether or not she's actually good enough to date or even marry Ull. If that were not enough, Kristia also has a puritanical streak and some pretty archaic ideas about modesty and sexual chastity that are extremely outdated coming from anyone who wasn't forced into a purity ball as a teenager. There's also the issue that throughout the novel, Bende cannot seem to decide what age Kristia is. In parts of the novel she's 20 and in others she's 18. Given that Elsker spans less than nine months, such a discrepancy makes absolutely no sense. 

As a protagonist, Kristia is simply annoying.  Kristia deems all the women around her to be more beautiful than her and more graceful.  It's all she bloody talks about. Given that there are only three male characters, Kristia feels inadequate a lot.  For all of the female characters in this book, you'd think that Elsker would pass the Bechdel Test but you'd be wrong.  The women may talk briefly about their career ambitions but generally speaking, the conversation always seems to revolve around Kristia's relationship with Ull, or how hot Ull is, or how Kristia wants to become a God so that Ull doesn't have to give up his immortality to be with her. I know that they are sophomore University students but they read instead like 14 year old girls excited about a game of spin the bottle.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Preacher, Season 3, Episode 2 Sonsabitches

It’s time for the return of Herr Starr which is going to be both hilarious and terrible. Because this is Preacher and it’s all hilarious and terrible with a side order of freaky.

Which is why we see him gunning down Hare Krishnas with his Grail organisation and they, in turn, are also armed with big guns. For a fire fight. With Hare Krishnas. The reason for this murder spree is apparently to try and get everyone to declare loyalty to Humperdoo - the heir of Jesus. Who isn’t exactly Herr Starr’s favourite choice since he is severely developmentally disabled.

Because Preacher

A lot of this show is basically “because Preacher.”

We also get a prequel of what Jesse did for the Angel family when he was younger - basically selling his grandmother’s magical services. In one example to a school teacher who molested a student and then accused her of being obsessed with him and needed her to go away. Magic successfully makes her forget him and not ruin his career and marriage… but when he misses a payment he gets beaten tortured- and his soul sucked out for Grandma. Apparently this is part of her health regimen.

In the modern day, Grandma has great plans for Jesse, trying to revitalise her business, open up the ominous “tombs” and get her lots and lots more souls since Jesse is their chief salesperson. This may also be why her health isn’t doing so well without a nice diet of souls.

Tulip is back and Jesse and Cassidy are still hissing each other for their very very very annoying love triangle. Jesse tries to get Cassidy to leave which certainly isn’t happening. While Cassidy tries to get Tulip to leave with him and plants lots of suspicions in her mind about Jesse and his plans, his messiah complex et all. Tulip isn’t having it though since Jesse defeated the Saint of Killers and gave up his souls for them, which is pretty huge so Tulip isn’t willing to abandon him

She also claims not to remember what happened when she died, exactly, though she does remember her family scenes. And has vague memories of dog-god.

Tulip does want to get on the revenge train and hunt down the Grail people who murdered her and kill them. Kill them so very very much. Jesse can see that but first he needs to escape from his grandma. And for that he needs Genesis - which is still on the fritz. And for that he needs his soul back from Herr Starr - so he call Herr Starr and offers to become his messiah if he brings his soul back.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Frankenstein Chronicles: Season 2, Episode 4: Little Boy Lost

Spence has previously warned us that going against the Dean of Westminster will get you murdered. But when he sends out a directive to have his reverends spouting that the plague is the fault of the naughty naughty sinners his temper snaps since he knows the well is being deliberately poisoned. He speaks up, ranting in church

And the Dean catches up with him, wielding a knife to stab him into silence - while also making an evil evil speech about how he likes to listen to the noises people make as he murdered them. Just in case we were under any real illusion about how evil this man is. He just needs an evil moustache to twirl.

This doesn’t make Merlot’s life any easier because he discovers Spence’s body and is duly horrified and grief stricken and, well, Sean Bean. Honestly when this man smiles the world will end.

He’s also discovered near the body and chased by the police who naturally suspect he is the murderer. He’s even seen by Nightingale leaving the scene which leaves Nightingale convinced he’s the murderer

Of course telling the Inspector that a dead man is behind the murders reassures no-one: and his Inspector suspends him on account of the fact he’s accusing dead men of murder and that’s not a good look in a policeman.

Merlot does follow Billy Oate’s lead on the dead man in the well and finds that a ship was quarantined due to plague. Following that they find the rest of the crew - where they’ve been put in an abandoned room basically to die. Merlot walks through the gauntlet of ghosts they’ve left behind - this time not reacting. It looks like he’s finally accepted what they are.

Meanwhile at the House of Dipple-this-man-is-definitely-a-serial-killer Queenie the maid continues to be freaked out by the creepy serial killer house she’s living in. She tries to tell Nightingale (who may live there? They’re both foundlings from the same orphanage which is their link) but she’s distracted comforting him about seeing dead people and his unresolved issues over Flora.

Dipple is holding a party to show off his murder doll and he invites Esther - who in turn invites Merlot to be her plus one because she needs another poor person to be super awkward and out of place in the rich guy’s home.

There the doll is every bit as creepy as you can imagine and Dipple focuses on emitting the most intense serial killer vibes ever. Even though the doll is a woman in make up it still manages uncanny valley. For some reason rather than watch the marionette in case it launches itself at the crowd and starts killing people, Merlot decides to go wandering through the house instead. As one does. Seriously I can see no reason why Merlot decides it’s appropriate to do that. He finds Dipple’s secret spooky door but Queenie the maid shows up to shoo him off for appalling house guest manners.