Saturday, November 3, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode 4: Mint Condition

We open with an angry rage nerd being attacked by a possessed Panthero toy

Yes, it’s going to be one of THOSE Supernatural episodes where we focus far more on the weird and whacky than anything deep. And yes, I usually give these episodes a lot of eye rolls and snark -but honestly, they work. Supernatural can be so mopey at times, it helps to have something just a little fun and dramatic.

Also Dean laid on his bed watching horror movies is just adorable. Umf. Also he puts on glasses this episode. Double Ummmf.

So Dean is lurking in his bedroom watching endless horror film marathons and generally avoiding everyone. Sam tries to poke him to encourage him to leave (which comes with lots of brother snark because Dean will always taunt and poke at Sam because they’re fun like that) and seeing as Dean is completely unwilling to discuss his feelings, he dangles this case in front of him

A possessed Thundercat toy is Dean Winchester kryptonite. He’s up and away

They move in, posing as insurance investigators to learn about the violent toy which focuses on a comic shop with Stewart the nerd rage who is more than a little annoying. Samantha who runs the place and is more sensible and aligns closely with Sam and Dirk who is enthusiastic happy nerd. The three of them run the comic shop, the previous owner having left it to Sam and Dirk (not Stewart - he was fired for stealing and it’s apparent the former owner had a big big big thing about people stealing) who rehired Stewart despite his many many faults because he is their friend

The episode is very old school Supernatural - which, again, i like. I like to see the brothers dealing with evil spirits - these used to be the bread and butter of their work and it’s nice to come back to it, nice to see them handling this day to day evil rather than just dealing with the biggest, scariest world destroying monsters out there. These daily monsters still matter and it’s so much fun to go back to them,

So we follow the same paths, tracking down the recently dead, why he has a grudge, figuring out what cursed object the evil spirit has been attached to - and then burning it, saving the day and destroying the horror movie villain brought to life in the process - all alongside Dean’s issues with horror movies and Sam’s issues with hallowe’en.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Venom in the Veins (Elemental Assassin 17), by Jennifer Estep

Gin fears someone is gunning for her friend, and chairman of Ashland’s biggest bank. But Gin, the assassin known as The Spider, doesn’t sit back when someone she cares about is under threat.
But when she learns the mysterious and deadly Circle are involved, she wonders why - why would they be invested in this? Gin needs to know if she’ll ever hopes to take on the force that killed her mother

Of course, as an assassin, Gin has left some orphans in her own wake… and when confronted by one of those Gin has to face that the pain she lives with every day is also something she has inflicted on someone else

I have to say, in some ways Gin is the worst assassin there is. Sure she always kills her mark but she is kidnapped by her enemies and tortured like every single time. There has to be a better strategy for killing people than being kidnapped by them and then managing to stab them as you escape. This is not a sensible tactic and, honestly, it’s kind of tired at this point - I mean this is the 17th book and we have these torture porn scenes in almost every book. It feels just overdone now.

Especially since Gin is supposed to be so powerful and so scary and lethal. Can we see
that? I mean, all her magic, all her skill with knives - there was never even any real reason why the big bad in this book would be that big or bad. She has no great super powers or great training - we could have had an enemy

I don’t think it even fit with this book. The whole conflict of the book up until the inevitable kidnapping, was finding out what the enemy wanted and protecting Mosely from her attacks. It was even about letting the big bad show her hand and trying to discover what she wanted what she was doing and why the Ominous Circle was involved. And that was interesting and really different- because for most of this book we were in that investigation phase and there was never any real question of whether Gin COULD kill the bad guy, so much as whether she’d have to. Or, perhaps, whether the enemy would give Gin a reason, or an excuse, to do so. Because Gin isn’t a bad person - and there’s a whole interesting conflict there on whether Gin, the assassin, can hunt someone down because she’s PRETTY SURE the bad person is bad, even if she’s not entirely certain. Because she is the good guy and she can’t just kill people because she thinks they’re bad. Apart from anything else she’ll be very very busy in Ashland

And this all worked - and most of the book is interesting and even a little different because of that. Why is the Circle involved. What does the big bad want, why are they supported and can Gin protect Mosely and continue her ongoing investigation into the big bads that ultimately killed her mother. Ongoing with that and Gin’s personal issues these worked really well together We didn’t need another “aargh, I’m captured and tortured” moment or Gin nearly dying to take down her target AGAIN.

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 3: Sweet Tooth

So, the theme for this episode is social justice concepts that the writers don’t seem to entirely understand and then actively sabotage!

Anyway, the sisters are training in a simulation to fight big bad demons with Henry and it all goes wrong because Maggie starts texting her sorority sisters mid battle, Macy freezes up and can’t use her powers and Mel decides to cast a super powerful spell she’s learned which catches them all in the blast radius

So, lessons learned: Macy needs to stop overthinking things and actually just go with the low and use her powers. Maggie needs to stop letting her sorority concerns distracting her. And Mel needs to be less reckless with her magic

I mean, even low level D&D adventurers know to watch your spell blast radii

Henry also has a big dramatic speech about the big bad Harbinger that they’ve heard so many times before they can quote it. He reveals that the Harbinger must have possessed someone - so Mel wants to charge in throwing magic around campus which Macy and Maggie don’t agree with and Henry suggests they wait for the elders to give them some input. Mel mocks the very idea, deciding they’re washed up has beens

Hey, y’know passion for social justice should not really come with dismissing experienced people because they’re old: especially since there’s a strong implication they’re female as well.

Mel decides she wants to cast a spell that will lure all demons within 20 miles so they can find the Harbinger. Macy is less thrilled with this plan and suggests they listen more to Henry since he was right about the whole spirit board thing. Mel will not succumb to his patriarchal control

So we have the reckless magic theme - in addition to throwing magic nukes within spitting distance and wanting to being mass attacked by who knows how many demons, Mel also repeatedly freezes entire rooms full of people, just asking for people to come in and find the room frozen or for her to unfreeze and not be stood in the correct place and everyone will notice her teleporting (or notice they’ve lost time). Henry, exasperated, puts a magical tracking bracelet on her to alert him when she uses magic

She is, naturally outraged by this because it is restrictive, infantilising. I could now have a discussion about having female characters show agency by having them repeatedly make obviously ridiculous and dangerous decisions, react with aggression when criticised for them and eventually have a man control them and seem JUSTIFIED because their decision making is just so bad it feels like someone has to. But I don’t have to - I just have to drop this Spunky Agency link here.

Macy does some science and they realise the Harbinger could probably be exposed if it ate sugar. Uh-huh, in the US? It better not eat. Anyway this prompts Macy to bake lots of biscuits (Americans, Henry is right) so they can get people to eat them and expose their monsterness. They go around pressing biscuits on people - including Angela. Angela was the woman who went into a coma when she was attacked by the Ice Demon professor and she has woken up - just as the Harbinger arrives. Mel is quick to realise they may be a link and talks to her, offering biscuits and reconnecting. It doesn’t work - which I’m honestly thankful for because otherwise the universal presence of sugar would make this the shortest possession ever

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Discovery of Witches: Season 1, Episode 7

Diana and Matthew make their goodbyes to Ysabeau and Marthe (who are now totally on side with Diana now) and get in a helicopter to go to Diana’s aunts in America

Can a helicopter cross the Atlantic? I assume it’s just taking them to the airport.

Anyway they arrive in Madison and their aunts house - which is haunted - or magical; either way it’s extremely nifty, fun, a little creepy and an extremely convenient source of Deus Ex Machinae since it can do a whole lot of stuff. The house likes Matthew (of course) and if your magical house doesn’t even keep undead blood drinking monsters from your door, what’s the point.

They meet Emily and Sarah - Emily is super welcoming, Sarah would rather have a squad of MAGA hatted zombies vomiting on her porch. But Diana’s main concern is to confront them in a rage demanding to know if they knew she was spellbound. Sarah is horrified at the idea that she had been spellbound… but Emily suspected that Diana’s parents were involved

Sarah is horrified - her emotions run from high to outerspace - and Diana is devastated at the idea that her parents thought she was such a terribad awful monster that she needed to have her magic bound (remembering that this is generally only done to evil witches who are terribad awful). The house steps in to give us a useful flashback

Her parents magically bound Diana when she was a small child to try and protect her from Knoxx who is terribad awful and was heading over to examine her magic and discover her specialness. Because they bind her they stop her being revealed to Knoxx.

With Diana safe, her parents then leave because they know Knoxx will hunt them now and they leave Diana with Emily and Sarah… Emily suspected something was going on

Diana mopes a little but it quickly turns into this romance of awfulness because her mother talked all about her Shadow Prince. And that’s probably why her spell binding broke. Because they were meant to be

Hey, remember when he craved her blood and he had to flee to Scotland in order not to murder her? Anyone remember that? No?

Emily and Sarah have their own angst - because Sarah is deeply upset that they didn’t tell her about all this. She’s hurt but also somewhat guilty - thinking Rebecca (Diana’s mother) couldn’t trust her because she’d fly off the handle and go into a rage while Emily would be careful. I mean, we’ve barely seen these characters but… yes? Emily’s even sensible enough not to challenge this pretty accurate assessment of her character - but pulls out the plus of this. Rebecca trusted her to look after her daughter - knowing she would be a passionate warrior and carer for Diana.

This little snippet of their beautiful relationship really makes me wish they’d appear more often

The Walking Dead, Season 9, Episode 4: The Obliged

Monday, October 29, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 4: Pacifica

In Altura, Estes is leading the funeral series for the dead after the attack. They have a fascinating funeral rite of preserving the blood of the dead in a wall for all time so their DNA is kept for all eternity

10k and Red attends the ceremony, but 10k is deeply traumatised by the loss of his hand and the loss of his ability to shoot. He’s withdrawn, angry, snappish and demands impossible things like Sun Mei sewing his preserved hand back on - or that he get a prosthetic - any prosthetic - that will allow him to pull a trigger. Red tries to get him out of his funk but can’t - and 10k won’t even look at the stump of his wrist (which does not seem to be healing well)

Sun Mei is still experimenting on Talkers to isolate what causes them to be Talkers… including one deeply traumatised Talker (which has some uncomfortable messaging about it being better to be dead than living as he is - which is uncomfortable since his injuries have removed his legs: the idea that this kind of disability is not worth living is problematic. Yes he’s grieving for his dead family - which means he has ever reason to wish for death himself - but it does not fit for other people to think someone who is GRIEVING is better off dead). She is still not making any progress - but she is doing some odd experiments on the blood at the wall

She also has a time limit - Estes warns her that if they don’t find a way to deal with the Talkers and synthesise more brains they may run out of Biscuits - and zombies need to be treated like zombies, whether they can talk or not.

I do think someone needs to tell us where these biscuits come from - where are they coming from, how are they made? And why are they not being delivered? Is there a shortage? We need more answers

Ominously, Estes is also speaking to the other outpost leaders - and there are more rumours about other outposts being attacked

Warren & co are heading to Pacifica, another outpost and one where Citizen Z and Kaia have set up there home. It’s a former university campus and has a large library of books. George describes it in extremely glowing terms and when they run into Henry, one of her former professors who also lives there, he adds that it’s a wonderful equality utopia

Warren is more cynical about this. She’s also increasingly doubtful about George’s unerring faith in Dante’s innocence but diplomatically simply points out if the vigilantes find him it won’t matter and they need to get him first - they also find a dead Talker, who has had their brains eaten

When they arrive it seems Warren’s cynicism is right. Initially it looks good with Warren & co meeting Kaia for the first time and Citizen Z and Kaia’s child and seeing there’s a Talker child in the nursery. And Pacifica has a beautiful mural that traces all the people and families of the people who live there - living, dead, zombie and talker.

And then they find out that a town meeting has been called - one that is human only, no Talkers allowed with two factions - those who hate the Talkers and those who value their Talker friends and family. George and Warren go in to speak passionate peace and justice and equality, countwering every argument that the Talkers are dangerous (by the rhetoric in the room, so are the humans) that they can’t be trusted (pretty sure the Talkers don’t trust them either). George leads with a lot of hope - while Warren shoots the ceiling to get some quiet so she can throw her own passionate speech about the kind of country they want to build. I think there’s a definitely difference in tone between the two: George speaks personally about these people, these people she knows, about friends and family and neighbours. While Warren, perhaps aware that friends and family and neighbours can and do turn on you and not knowing these people, speaks less on how good people are and more on what they want to build, what future they want. George is personal and aspirational, Warren more focused on them making something better than what they are

Legacies: Season 1, Episode 1: This is the Part Where you Run

It is time for Legacies, the third iteration of the Plecverse that started from the Vampire Diaries and just will not end. This zombie horse is being flogged over and over

This first episode is pretty much about vaguely introducing us to the 8 squillion cast members and giving them all some brief drama and trying to establish some kind of theme. This begins with Hope Mikkaelson (ok, tangent - I still want to write Hope Klausdottir since the Mikkaelsons were vampires - but then we had Rebekkah Mikkaelson as well which was just WEIRD and it’s like the writers sort of understood how this naming convention works but not really) have a big voice overs about dichotomies: hero, villain, good and evil, saviour and lost cause (umm.. That last one doesn’t work) and basically introducing shades of grey even though her whole family is The Worst.

So our protagonist is Hope. She is very very isolated and alone, she won’t make any friends because everyone around her dies horribly and she is super sad about this. Alaric, headmaster for the school, spends a lot of time with her trying to draw her out.

We have Alaric’s daughters - Lizzie and Josie. Lizzie is outgoing and popular, not a fan of Hope who she has reached out to repeatedly but Hope keeps rebuffing her and she’s not a fan of how much time Alaric spends with her. Lizzie has issues because she has a habit of losing control and having terrifying magical freak outs destroying many many things. Alaric puts this down to the family legacy of the Gemini coven. Josie is less inclined to freak outs but Alaric describes her as co-dependent and she herself describes herself as repeatedly having her heart broken because she cares too much and too quickly. Josie is also bisexual

Her most recent ex is She Who Will Not be Named, Penelope, a witch, who is widely regarded as evil by just about everyone, is borderline slutshamed and she also brings out a line that someone attracted to one sex is dated - which is homophobic nonsense progressives need to stop already.

We have Milton “MG”, a vampire teacher assistant who does Alaric’s woo-woo mind control issues.

Our plot opens with Rafael and Landon. Landon is the ordinary human Hope befriended in Originals who knows nothing of the supernatural, while Rafael is a newly activated werewolf. They’re both in foster care, very loyal to each other and everything starts going really wrong when their foster parents decide to take Rafael for an exorcism to deal with his werewolfness. This would probably result in a priest who believes in exorcism being eaten, which is not a bad thing, but instead Hope and Alaric intervene and take Rafael and Landon with them back to the school - once he’s turned into full wolf.

They’ve brought Landon with them because they’d really like to know who Rafael killed - because he must have if he’s a werewolf and Alaric would rather not have a murderous werewolf on campus. Landon confirms Landon was driving a car that had an accident and killed his girlfriend and woooooo, the definition of killing someone for the werewolf activation is getting broader. I suppose so we can have multiple werewolf characters without it being the Saltzman School for Serial Killers.

That settled it’s time to glamour Landon and send him on his way - this is MG’s job, youthful looking vampire of ill-defined age - only it doesn’t work. Everyone assumes that Landon has vervain in his system (this would be Matt, yes, that Matt, they dragged him up from somewhere. Oh and Matt both calls in Alaric and co when there’s a random supernatural event but he’s also dosing random passers by with vervain knowing there’s a top secret school whose secrecy he apparently wants to keep? Matt needs to have a word with himself. Also I await the time when he accidentally poisons someone with his randomly dosing stranger’s coffee). So they need to lock Landon in a cage overnight for the vervain to leave his system. They do this while Hope hilariously tells him he’s not a prisoner - just locked in a cage. She tries to provide him some comfort as he explains he suffers from claustrophobia (due to abuse he suffered as a child).

Rafael is welcomed with open arms by his fellow werewolves and fits in extremely well, he’s loving the new school. Lizzie and Josie give him a tour showing off all the magical shininess, including a Quidditch match because this show knows exactly what they’re ripping off and they’re going to lampshade the hell out of it.

And with him being a good looking guy it’s assumed both will make a play but Josie is quick to back down in favour of her more extrovert sister. Though Lizzie rather adorkably puts her foot in it (honestly liking “hot, broken, hurting” guys is only romantic in fanfic. No man likes to think he’s sexily broken when he’s still grieving for his girlfriend who died in a car accident he was to blame for) and he stomps off which sets of Lizzie’s magic tantrum. Josie is more comfortable with him but she encourages him to give Lizzie another chance. Which is nice but I think Rafael is more interested in her

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Van Helsing, Season 3, Episode 3: I Awake

Last episode of Van Helsing their pet elder decided to send Vanessa into an old memory so she could learn something about the B’ah, another elder.

This involved literally putting her in the body of her ancestor, Lily Van Helsing. Where she arrives takes a look around late 19th century Hong Kong. Of course she’s surprised by this and her first reaction is to threaten violence on her maid Siobahn. Because she’s Vanessa Van Helsing and made of rage. Siobahn is confused but is willing to calm Vanessa down - it helps that Siobahn knows all about her hunt of vampires and the fact she’s a third generation vampire slayer, so probably expects a decent amount of eccentricity.

She’s not the only generational vampire slayer, since the Hong Kong Governor’s wife is also roughly descended from the vampire story and she points Vanessa in the direction of Master Tsui, a local vampire hunter who can guide her towards some vampires that need killing

More difficult is her husband, Edward, who doesn’t believe in vampires and thinks his wife is hysterical, delusional etc etc and should be a nice meek little “tamed” servant who is “useful” to him and his ambitions and he’s totally against all this suffragette nonsense. Because he fears her relapsing and embarrassing him he’d rather she didn’t attend his formal dinner with the head of the East Asian company. Which Vanessa is happy to duck out of since it means she can find Master Tsui and go vampire hunting

She meets him and he tells her about the ominous Shadow Walker, which serves the B’ah and is duly spooky and very very different from the vampires they’ve faced. Master Tsui takes Vanessa aside where he tells her that the Shadow Walkers and vampires were usually a threat in rural areas - but there’s the bubonic plague slaughtering people now which is driving the vampires to the cities where there’s still an untainted supply of blood.

And she’s supposed to train with him. Yes, we’re doing white-person-trained-by-Asian-martial-artist thing. We really are. Vanessa’s even dropping karate kid references and he is vaguely cryptic because of course they are. He criticises her technique because it basically involves endless rages

Oh yes I laughed. Oh how I laughed. A key point of her training is to stop her foaming like a berserker on crack for 5 minutes.

Training montage includes the blindfolded-with-a-sword scene because of course it does.

Yes, moving swiftly on from this gross Asian martial arts fetishism because ye gods are we still doing this?

She goes back to husband who tells her that the important man he was having dinner with has been killed by having his throat ripped out and his blood drunk. But she better not talk about vampires you silly hysterical woman you. So she drugs him so she can go out hunting

And finds a Yang Shih, an important minion of The B’ah who keeps vanishing and reappearing and being so very different from the vampires she’s used to. She manages to kill him with some advice from Tsui who randomly turns up despite not knowing where she is and even then can’t say “look out behind you” but has to deliver some cryptic koan because they’re MILKING this damn enigmatic asian stereotype.