Saturday, November 10, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode: 5 Nightmare Logic

Maggie is hunting

It’s possible that, like me, your response is “who”? She’s one of the new Hunters in the Winchester cave from the angel hell dimension. Her hunt goes horribly wrong as a thing attacks her

Back in the Winchester Cave Sam is being the big leader, giving lots of advice and training and hunting tips to his new little army of followers and while Dean is being snarky - because every big brother has to be snarky. But Dean is worried about Sam… while impressed by what he’s doing, Sam is working far too hard, barely sleeping and driving himself to the wall

And I really like to see this- Dean frets about his hulking baby brother… but it’s over big epic things like losing his soul or dying etc etc. But worrying about day to day welfare, if Sam’s mental health is ok, if he’s looking after himself? That’s not something Dean does. In part because Sam is way way better at self care than the reckless, permanently self destructive Dean who generally follows the philosophy of “suck it up and move on”. I like to see the maturity that has developed to be a little more

It’s also really really nice to see Sam step forward a little bit and not be in Dean’s endlessly melodramatic shadow all the time.

When Sam learns Maggie has been attacked he instantly gives up on her - it’s not that he doesn’t care about her but because he wants to wrap his guilt around himself and wallow in it as a terrible leader. While Dean is in the odd place of shaking Sam and being the source of hope - and this isn’t entirely out of character. Sure, Dean rarely expects happy fun results, but he doesn’t give up on a fight until everything has been duly stabbed repeatedly in the face. He doesn’t know what hope is, but he also doesn’t know what giving up is- and he insists they head to see what happened

They arrive to find a household with its own private cemetery and assume the identity of historical preservation society members. They meet the household - a nurse looking after a very infirm old man and that old man ‘s daughter Sasha who is there to provide vast amounts of daddy issues.

They also find Mary and Bobby who have assumed exactly the same fake identity to investigate Maggie’s disappearance as well. This slightly annoys Sam because it means they haven’t checked in at the Winchester cave and are generally operating outside the system he set up. While Bobby thinks the new system is terrible and the people leading this (Sam) are Idjits

And that sound is my heart breaking because Bobby may be wrong and I may be expected to disapprove of him. Bobby. Our saintly Bobby.  Nooooo…

Mary steps in to split everyone up - showing she is definitely a mother. Because I have never yet met a mother who doesn’t have the epic ability to quell bickering. She and Sam go off so she can reassure him that Bobby isn’t himself at the moment being really cut off from Mary, not talking and being all hunting all the time. He doesn’t talk… like their father. To which Sam laughs because their father doesn’t come close to being open and sharing and after Mary died (and came back. It’s Supernatural, it’s complicated). It underscores that Bobby was their father figure even when John was alive - Bobby was the man they (we) revered  and loved… and this Bobby is not necessarily that Bobby - but it also shows just how much Sam is hurt by his criticism.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Midnight Texas: Season 2, Episode 2: The Monster of the Week is the Patriarchy

Hail the Cheese!

The Friday Discussion: Midnight Texas - TV series & Book Series

There are a lot of book to TV show adaptations - they’re popular in the same way reboots are: they give you a built in fanbase to carry over and a quick and easy plot. Naturally these vary a lot in terms of quality and faithfulness to the source material (Vampire Diaries barely resembles LJ Smith’s books, while the Dresden Files was moderately faith but poorly executed), sometimes those adaptations and changes deserve some more scrutiny

When Midnight Texas was announced as being adapted I was intrigued: I consider it to be one of Charlaine Harris’s better book series with better rounded characters and certainly better (if flawed) treatment of minorities and slightly less of a single, slightly Mary Sueish, focus. (If this sounds like damned with faint praise… it kind of is. We experienced the horror that was the Aurora Teagarden series).

When the show started I was happy to see it was pretty faithful to the book series - the first season parallels the original trilogy of books (so I have no idea where the story progresses from here) but there are some noteworthy changes that really need analysing

Firstly several characters have have their race changed for the adaptation Lemuel and Fiji were both white in the books. This is not uncommon in book to TV adaptations - look at Tara on True Blood and Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries both of whom were white in their original book series. There are several possible reasons for this but, cynically, I tend to think that in the visual medium of television it becomes much more glaringly obvious when your cast is whiter than a Republican camping trip in Maine. That, coupled with the wider consumption (and a desire to be consumed by POC as a marketable demographic which seems to be less of a concern in publishing), means I think we tend to be MARGINALLY less tolerant of a completely racially erased cast - though usually one or two tokens is enough to placate this minimal objection. In the third book, Fiji does remark on how rainbow and progressive her little town is… and it’s slightly embarrassing since it includes Madonna and Teacher who are vanishingly minor characters, an Asian woman who used to live there but hasn’t for a while and a Native American character who just moved into the area who was, probably wisely, not included in the TV series (she also forgets several latino characters)

In the books this character arrives to explain that Manfred has his powers because of distant Native American ancestry and demons. Which is just an AWFUL trope. In the TV series instead they went for Romany con-man/psychic heritage instead. Which is another awful trope. Honestly this is just pick your poison.

I, naturally, do not object to these characters becoming POC but it is interesting how this has caused the characters to change elsewhere. Like Lemuel - he’s an absolutely excellent character in both the books and on television but the most dramatic change is that in the books he was a cowboy when he was alive. On TV that has changed to him being a slave. Neither storyline is particularly bad, but I can’t help but think that too much of our media is incapable of seeing Black people in historic roles that don’t involve slavery. Especially since the mythos of the cowboy in the US has missed just how many of them were Black - and how many more were Latino for that matter. The TV storyline isn’t bad, but it speaks volumes of how historic Black characters are too often limited to this single narrative.

I have more issues with Fiji - and how she and Manfred’s roles have changed. In the books I would say it’s difficult to point to one character as protagonist - Manfred starts prominently in the first book, but by the final confrontation with Kolkonar Manfred is definitely a much more minor character - not insignificant but certainly not the protagonist or the main fighter against the demon. If anyone is central to this conflict, it’s Fiji. This is Fiji’s fight, not just as someone who needs rescuing. It is Fiji’s… ritual that defeats Kolkonar, not Manfred’s epic confrontation with dark spirits.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Walking Dead: Season 9, Episode 5: What Comes After

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 4: Exorcise Your Demons

Apparently we need an emotional prequel to really get Mel invested this episode and to properly feel bad so we’re going to have a prequel to when Angela was reporting being molested by Professor Frost Demon to Mel and her mother and she was worried about the consequences since the professor was so influential and powerful. Her mother wisely offers support but leaves the decision to Angela - while Mel pressures her to report

Now to the present Angela is tied up in the attic burning rats to death and generally being demonic and scary. They’re waiting for the elders to drop in and tell them what to do so they can get rid of the spooky demonic houseguest.  Also Maggie is worried about flunking and Macy makes a quip about her never attending class. Oh Charmed poke that fourth wall, lampshade that she has never actually attended a lesson

For more complications, Niko and her partner Tripp drop in to ask about Angela because she was last seen at their party. It doesn’t help that they’re super nervous and awkward. Thankfully, mid interview, an elder arrives. Charity is classy, clever and clearly capable of pulling out some awesome cover stories to shoo the police out of there. She’s also skillful, magically awesome, able to silence Harry when he insists on talking too much, runs a progressive organisation providing micro-loans to develop female entrepreneurs and is generally someone who is pretty impressive to everyone

She also reveals that the Elders are actually senior witches (and not necessarily super old) and that their mother, Marisol, was also one. This should be a surprise to no-one but everyone acts surprised mainly because it’s a departure from old Charmed canon but also weird because Mel was calling them “hasbeing witches” last episode… so did she have sudden amnesia

In all I quite like her introduction because she’s not a caricature of awful. It’s clear there’s a lot about Charity to respect and honour - if not necessarily to be as obsequious as Harry is. I do like it when authority figures aren’t presented as incompetent monsters just to make rebellion easy and cool - I like the added conflict that comes from disagreeing with an authority figure who is worthy of respect and may actually be right.

Which is the situation they have here - because Charity’s plan to stop the Harbinger is to kill Angela, something they need the power of three for and some big big daggers. Mel is, of course, super against this. Maggie is aghast they’re being asked to make such a big decision. Macy, however, is more clinical and factual - she thinks Mel is being super emotional about all this and they should consider the Elder’s wisdom and maybe killing one to save many is necessary.

Charity gives them various tasks and Macy goes to work and her studies kind of confirm her theory - the rat the demon killed has like Super Smallpox and if the Harbinger escapes (scheduled for that full moon) then everyone is going to be squished. But when talking to Galvin she’s surprised that he doesn’t agree that killing one person to maybe save everyone is a good idea: that maybe is a hook. He also thinks it’s a very cold decision and while logical lacks emotion - and asks why she thinks emotion is so unimportant. It gives her more to think on even as she ducks out of another date with him

Maggie actually attends class and tells Lucy, the kappa head, that she’s really struggling so she offers up the services of her boyfriend Parker to help tutor Maggie

And I need a moment to talk about Lucy. Part of me wants to praise Charmed for not making Lucy a vapid mean girl shallow stereotype of awfulness… but I’m also not entirely sure the writers realise that’s what they’ve created? I just get this idea I’m supposed to roll my eyes at her even though by all accounts she’s kind, she cares about Maggie, wants to help her and even tried to get Mel booze at their dry party (when Mel through baking powder at her). Which sounds ridiculous - but considering Lucy has every reason not to like Mel, she was still going out her way to make Mel feel welcome. She may not be the deepest pond but she seems to be a good person.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Discovery of Witches: Season 1, Episode 8

The final episode of A Discovery of Witches and I am immensely frustrated. Oh, British TV shows, every part of my soul wants to say how inherently superior you are to American shows - but no we have to have these teeny tiny seasons where absolutely nothing gets space or time to be developed!

It’s something American shows TEND to do better (I say “tend” because they also tend to have marathon seasons of So. Much. Filler).

So we reach this last episode with Juliette the disposable and pointless threatening Diana and dramatically declaring she was created by Gerbert expressly to seduce Matthew and Matthew just rejected her and so she’s just been his whipping girl and servant and now is totally jealous of Diana.

And oh dear gods this character. We will revisit this in the conclusion when I have had a drink and can handle the level of cringe here. The cringe is high

Juliette decides to stab Matthew after making him kiss Diana because, well, she’s not a character, she’s a caricature of woman scorned. Matthew ends up bleeding and dying and Diana pulls another magical power out of her back of Deus Ex tricks and shoots Juliette with a bow made of fire. Bye Juliette.

Oh and that “fire was the only element she doesn’t have” of course she has it?

She worries about poor Matthew who is now dying and she prays and begs saying she’ll do anything to get him back. Thankfully the goddess is all into that, warns her there’ll be a price but Diana’s all ANYTHING FOR HIM and feeds him her blood and lets him bite her.

Y’know if blood was what he needed they had 2 other witches, 2 vampires and I’m sure a passing bunny or something to help spread the load. Someone could even sponge up Juliette.

She also throws up a magic circle to stop anyone else interfering so he can drain her to death

Which of course he doesn't do because that whole “craving” thing just means nothing and was kind of thrown in the first couple of episodes for some Twilight-esque shout outs but then never actually went anywhere. Diana does realise he does crave her and has been resisting tearing out her spleen and sucking on it every minute they’re together

She thinks this is sweet and romantic

There’s something badly wrong with this woman. She needs help. She needs an intervention.

Midnight Texas, Season 2, Episode 1: Head Games

Monday, November 5, 2018

Legacies, Season 1, Episode 2: Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Landon lied to Hope so now she knows all men are terrible ever and she will never trust again and everything is terrible and…

Ye gods, she’s certainly a Mikkaelson, isn’t she? Spare me from the melodrama.

She’s been lectured by school councillor Emma about using dark magic and how bad it is. She does cover for Josie but then yells about how she had to do it because it’s alllll her fault that Landon took the knife and she has to do everything she has to find him and it’s all on her

Oh. My. Gods. We have a protagonist as melodramatic as an Original and as self absorbed as Elena. Gods preserve us all.

She also wants to go out there to take down Landon with her best dark magic revenge spells. Why she even has access to dark magic revenge spells I don’t know.

Lizzie and Josie are also having drama because Josie helped Hope with dark magic and didn’t tell Lizzie - which annoys Lizzie and doesn’t help with her general insecurity that no-one cares about her or values her with both her father and sister seeming to be more focused on Hope. Lizzie’s issues are not helped by Alaric skipping out on the school football game which Lizzie’s part of in order to go Landon hunting.

Penny is still a caricature of awful. And they’re pissed at MG for being in her presence.

So on that Landon hunt - Alaric decides to take Hope and Rafael.

Alaric… this is a problem. Is this a problem with having a human run the school because he relies on his students to actually help him do stuff. I mean, it’d help if they dropped in one super powered co-teacher (Caroline, wherefore art thou Caroline?) or had an Original or powerful witch on speed dial for major issues. Instead he decides to take two of his students on a road trip to hunt down a threat to the school. One of which is on a rage filled black magic revenge kick and the other is brand new to the supernatural and convinced that Landon could do not wrong

This is not good decision making.

Hope insists that Landon is the worst thing ever while Rafael insists he could do no wrong ever. This is a fun road trip.

They arrive at the site of the bus incineration and find an oddly mute woman in a rather dated dress looking all scorched and traumatised. Alaric decides she needs to go to a hospital so he’s going to go with her while Rafael and Hope go looking for Landon alone.

I say, again, Alaric is not making good decisions here. So the traditions of The Originals and The Vampire Diaries continue

They find Landon and, of course, go in with Hope magic blazing despite assuring Rafael he’d have time to talk to his friend (Rafael swears Landon is made of angel’s tears and saintliness) to demand why he stole the knife and slaughtered a bus full of innocent people and lied to her about being compelled.

He admits to stealing the knife - but he doesn’t know why. He admits to lying (because, hey, the alternative was being locked in a basement cage). But he totally didn’t burn everyone. That was another passenger - a fire breathing woman who demanded the knife.

Which would be dubious except Alaric has his phone and watch stolen by the woman he’s escorting to the hospital who then breaths fire.

He runs to them and reveals Landon was telling the truth - oh except he lied about losing the knife because he still has it.

Alaric originally decides that she’s a rare pyromancer witch - but looking at the shiny things she’s stealing they realise hoards riches + breathes fire = dragon. Alaric protests dragons don’t exist and the rest of the cast hit him with a script and a note of the genre he’s actually part of. Of course it exists. It always exists.

Hope uses woo-woo to enchant the knife with dragonfire (because massive woo-woo always helps) so Rafael can stab the dragon and they can call it a win. Victory

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 5: Killing All the Books

Last episode Pacifica was bombed and we have the chaos and the carnage you’d expect afterwards. George, Warren and Doc work there way through the ruins trying to help where they can, save people, fight a massive wave of zombies and do what they can for the new wave of Talkers that arises - especially since they don’t have biscuits

George is grieving and dispirited - she grieves over all the books that have been lost, all the people dead and the humans now scattered all underlying the new hate of Talkers. She sees someone she cares about, Cora, dying and she tries to help her. She can’t help her and when she turns she realises she has no biscuits for her. Warren asks her what she’s going to do… and George says she has to let nature take its course

Which Warren stomps on. Nature? She demands George looks at all the groaning, severely injured wounded and George admits it’s no way to live. They Mercy them…

Ok… I’d like some clarity on what is no way to live. As Talkers? I thought we were arguing about Talkers being equal. As zombies? Sure - but can’t you just restrain them until you have biscuits? As badly injured people? Well again we’re in then highly troublesome zone of declaring disabled people as not having lives worth living which is something we keep skirting on here.

Another thing I’m feeling less comfortable about is George repeatedly losing hope and Warren then picking her up. I like each scene and I love the relationship between these two is excellent. But increasingly Warren is becoming the support character for George. George is repositioned as protagonist while Warren is now becoming a mentor figure. And she’s an awesome mentor figure - but she’s feeling a lot less of a protagonist

Citizen Z is obviously terrified for his family - but Kaia has already called for help, broadcast it and is already hunting for Nana and JZ (who are fine because Nana is a sensible woman who has already got them both to safety). Citizen Z and Kaia get together and carve themselves a path to their loved ones. They have a brief distraction when they help Doc get rid of a zombie with a bomb strapped to his chest… which is also not good.

Examining the dead they discover a lot of the zombies are old zombies: they’re not local and they’re not the recently dead. They shouldn’t be around here

In the horrifying aftermath, many of the survivors are, of course, blaming the Talkers and we have more suspicion and hate from them and more care, trust, hope and sincerity from George. And an ongoing need to find Dante and whoever is doing this… but with an edge suggesting she’s not resistant to the idea they could be the same person. They also see a Talker mercied because they had no biscuits to give her.

In the aftermath help arrives from Altura… they’re here to rescue any humans. No Talkers. No Wounded. They don’t even want the books that are so important to Pacifica. They’re not interested in rebuilding the outpost at all - nor are they concerned that there’s no biscuits left for the Talkers behind

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Van Helsing, Season 3, Episode 4: Rusty Cage

This episode we’re focusing again on Sam and Mohammed and, perhaps, finally drawing them back into the actual plot line rather than have them on one side

We get lots of flashbacks this episode to Sam’s appalling childhood - we’ve seen before how his father tortured him over and over and how Sam lashed out and stabbed the man in the eye. After this his evil dad has him taken to prison mocking and taunting him as he is taken away, telling the police to never let him out - and Sam bites off his hectoring finger. A habit he’s continued in his serial killer days.

In prison, as a small boy who is also deaf he is targeted by bullies who savagely beat him repeatedly. On kind guard tries to protect him and advocate for him, but the system doesn’t care. He tries to teach young Sam metal welding as a trade to help him for the future.

And Sam uses a metal bare to brutally beat in the heads of his attacks and then his new welding skills to turn their teeth into an ornament. Nice guard is somewhat troubled by this, so Sam slits his throat

I’m not sure what they’re going with here - Sam was always inherently evil or that the abuse has turned him evil? Or maybe they’re not even going that far and are just running with EVVVVVILLLL

A shadowy, veiled female figure that kind of reminds me of the B’ah… she encourages him to look after the toothy decoration.

In the present that same spooky spooky shadowy lady encourages Sam to be ready - and to have the one with him be worthy. For Sam this means teaching Mohammed self-control. Mohammed isn’t feral - but he is hungry and desperate and wants blood and doesn’t understand Sam’s demand he doesn’t feed. I suppose in some ways it can be seen as Sam demanding Mohammed be more human and less driven by his hunger and urges. Except what Sam wants from him is probably worse than some evil snacking

We also have a return of bit characters Mike and Chad and the gang of kids they’re looking after. Don’t get excited, this does not end well. Mike decides to teach Felix - who once was captured by Sam to turn him into a replacement Mohammed - how to hunt. Felix is obviously quite traumatised by his experiences and Mike wants to give him purpose a connection to nature and chance to provide for the group and feel better and we have a whole scene of him hunting a deer

Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson

James is crawling into a booze bottle and trying to forget a lot… especially his ex and his old job working for the Facility. He is not happy to return - but to help his sister he sees no choice

And when he gets there, he’s shocked to see how much this Facility for developing the magically gifted has changed, and not for the better. The new subjects have “sponsors” who expect to take possession of their targets, the deadlines for being up to standard are impossibly short and the penalties for not meeting them are lethal

With five of the greatest magical talents ever known now being trained, it’s James’s job to ensure they meet their potential - and survive.

We have some really excellent concepts with this book -  four distinct schools of magic with so much detail and world building that  is really detailed and excellently written. I really do love the implications of each of the separate branches - especially the terrifying possessing demons and the entities that give power at such a terrible price

I’ve also seen very very few books truly give the sense of magic as dangerous - I mean I think we can really feel how dangerous and terrifying these powerful magic users are and how utterly terrifying they would be if they were out of control, how much there is a very real terror of the power and the entities around these magical young people.

Then you’ve got the practicality of running these facility. The huge expence of the training, the facilities, the staff everything all costs money - and who is paying for that? We can see the need for them to get money from somewhere. Through that lens then maybe, just maybe, the involvement of private companies and the military makes sense.

Together this gives such a real foundation for the facility and the story - yes there’s evil and yes there’s a whole lot of prejudice and Miriam is a terrible terrible person - but we can see why it makes sense to begin with, why a sensible and not totally evil person would make the compromises they do - to create this deeply flawed facility and why decent people would want to get involved. We can even see why people would advocate killing these young people -  because they are terrifyingly dangerous individuals, some of them more than a little suicidal themselves

It also gives us a reason why James Martin wants to get involved - we have the hook of trying to help his sister, the underlying importance of what they’re doing, helping these 5 extremely powerful and dangerous young people learn how to control their powers is a definite need - before fully developing into saving them. I like how these underlying causes form the foundation of the plot and motivation and let James’s motivations develop more naturally. He doesn’t come in with the mentality of “burn it all down” but learns to become invested in all of his students, values them and increasingly sees the flaws in the facility driven by resources, driven by the desire of various organisations to exploit them and driven by Miriam’s prejudice both against magic users and against James as a gay man.

I love the characters here - each individual magic user with their own struggles: whether it’s terror of the demons possessing them, desperately trying to control their emotions which trigger their powers, learning coping mechanisms or just being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of their powers. Some just need to learn routines and draw an accord with the demon inside them while others are having difficult struggles with serious mental health issues that compound the problem, others have also turned to substance misuse. What I like is how the facility really serves as an excellent mirror to our own institutions and their failure to take into account problems people are having when trying to achieve their purpose - or the outright evil manipulation of the facts to railroad these youngsters. Chris has been incarcerated into the Facility with entirely false information about his lack of control in order to use him and, effectively, sell him. Camila is considered to have anger and control issues but they want her to control that without addressing her bipolar disorder: an impossible task and really reflects how often we fail to deal with all the issues that may affect someone’s life and instead just look at one - and how impossible this is.

If there’s one flaw in this book’s excellent depiction of the struggles these people have, it’s with both Isaiah and James’s substance misuse. Isaiah resorted to drugs to try and control his powers while James, after his sister’s issues and the death of his last lover resorted to alcohol. While James undergoes a detox (which is dangerous - alcohol withdrawal is not to be trifled with) both of them come through the struggle relatively easily and with little long term consequences even as we do see the underlying issues continue to cause them difficulty