Saturday, December 8, 2018

Midnight Texas, Season 2, Episode 4: I Put a Spell on You

We also have some highly dubious Romani tropes

Romance: Persistence is not a Virtue

The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3) by Don Allmon

JT and Austin are finally facing one of the worst demons of their lives - the wizard Firelight and the heist that went so wrong. The man who killed Austin’s sister, the man who imprisoned them, the man who experimented on them. Now it’s time for a rescue rescue - and a time to do it right

I’ve said it before, one of the difficult parts of writing a review of a series is when you love the same thing about the books - because how do you write a review without being repetitive? Take the Blue Unicorn Series - how do I write this review without repeating what I’ve already written twice before?

Because everything I said there still applies. I love this magical cyperpunk world (I am so desperate to start playing Shadowrun every time I play this game). I love the mix of the magical and the technological. I love how the internet is almost a parallel dimension with such real life applications. I love how hacking and spellcasting feel so similar. I love how we can have the combination of druids and wizards with weird sea god patrons. I love the combination of the giant, terrifying dragon and the virtual godzilla which has almost as much destructive potential even though it only exists in cyberspace. This magical cyberpunk setting is excellent

And the dystopian elements are really well maintained as well - there’s no grand “the world is over!” drama nor are they travelling a lot to show the broken world like we saw in Apocalypse Ally. But still there are references, among all the excellent high tech world building, that makes it clear the nations we’re used to no longer exist, that for all the shiny technology there’s also a lot of desperation and  poverty and evidence of things being broken - especially looking at Austin and JT’s past

I also really like the plot. This is a heist book - preparing the team, checking all their skills, balancing everyone, having everyone use their various abilities to get it all together and make it work. And then it all going wrong. Of course it all has to go wrong. But before that I think it’s really cunning and imaginative and was great fun to watch - I think I’d like to see these characters perform successful heists, no violence, just to see them succeed and all the imagination and intelligence. The heist is great.

We also have all the characters here, all prominent in various ways. I think we have a three way protagonist - Austin, JT and Dante with Comet and Buzz being prominent but taking a back seat. I think that was a good plan because this helps us delve a lot into the various character’s issues - we have Dante dealing with being both an Orc (and seen as less and facing a lot of stereotyping) and a Black woman who has also been injured and disabled. She has moments of self doubt, a lot of thinking that she’s unworthy or incapable. She feels out of place but still fights back against that and reasserts her own worth and strength while also showing off their own capability

JT and Austin are gay and in a relationship - if you can call the hot mess of them together a relationship. And I like the messiness - because the messiness definitely follows through their own issues, the issues with elven glamour, their own utter denial and fear of scaring the other away, their own lack of self worth and their own tragic childhood. I know I’m not a fan of over dramatic relationships - but usually that’s because they are usually so very convoluted and unnecessary. But these work, this drama is based solidly on their characters and characterisation - it makes sense.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Charmed: Season 1, Episode 8: Big a Boo

After last episode the sisters chase after the apparent lightning demon with the Scythe but she has shields and teleportation and is juuuust a little out of their league. So they stop and regroup and head back to the house

Which would make sense if lightning woman didn’t have the power to open that evil prison cell - which she does

I mean, regrouping is sensible. Regrouping when your quarry is about to do something apocalyptic? Slightly less so.

So back to the house and calling the elders - Charity - to try and brainstorm what bad wrong naughty things are happening. This will largely involve Mel and will be important. But this being Charmed each sister has a storyline so let’s jump on those first. And they are both free to go do their thing and live their lives because, unlike ol Charmed the powers that be seem ok with them having normal lives.

So - Maggie issue. Or rather Maggie and Parker. Parker is the New Cole, only more angsty and dying from his Humanness. We have this established with a scene with his evil dad, Alistair McEvilName and his older full demon brother, Hunter. And while Alistair is all pissy that he can’t make Maggie do his bidding, his evil demon shapeshifting smoke brother is really supportive and protective of his baby half-demon brother

Which is kind of weird because he’s also worried that his baby brother is really falling for Maggie which only humans do - this whole caring emotional thing isn’t demonic. Except Hunter obviously cares about his brother and they don’t see the contradiction of that.

Anyway apparently to help Parker live he needs a serum made up of the Charmed One’s blood and he needs it soon as he’s definitely getting worse. While trying to get Maggie a job with his company in Chicago and then a fake drug test (using blood? Not urine?) fails, just saying he’s dying and needs a plasma donation so of course Maggie volunteers (it helps that he’s always thinking JUUUUST the right thoughts when she touches him. Honestly, telepathy on these shows makes me think my brain is even weirder than I know it to be - someone reading my mind wouldn’t get useful coherent thoughts but coffee obsessions, random fantasies and freaky non-sequiter questions about camels in Peru).

Not only does this get him Maggie’s blood, but Mel donates at the same time so bonus. + 10 points for Parker

Along the way Maggie decides she doesn’t actually want to go to Chicago to work or as an intern over the summer as she’d much rather spend the summer with her sisters since they could all die at any time.

Which brings us to Macy. She’s working away and her boss looks at this hardworking employee putting in unpayed overtime and declares that she needs a better work life balance! Go home you can totally be a workaholic later! Uh-huh. I’ll believe in witches, magic and all kinds of demons but I’m not buying this boss being all concerned her staff are working too hard.

Maggie agrees and thinks Macy needs to date more and be more outgoing and fabulous (and also touches Macy’s hair which Macy quickly tells her is a complete no-no and should not be happening which is nicely addressed) in part to try and get her to sign up for a dating app. Macy is reluctant, pointing out that because of sexual racism, Black women and Asian men are the least likely to be swiped on dating apps and it’s not worth her time… at least it’s not worth her time until Maggie agrees to the do the dishes

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Legacies: Season 1, Episode 5: Malivore

So, Alaric is off doing some monster wrangling, leaving the school in the hands of his students


This man has no idea how to headmaster or how schools are supposed to work

Anyway he’s worried that the students don’t think they have enough power in their lives so he’s going to set up a Student Council with 1 witch, 1 vampire, 1 werewolf and Emma (or Emily? Honestly this character is so irrelevant I’m not looking it up) to represent the little kids.

And this Council will have the power to free Kaleb (who is locked up for feeding on humans) and deciding whether to kick Landon out.

Uh… Student Councils shouldn’t have this kind of power. This is not how they work.

So it’s electioneering. Lizzie goes all out for the witch candidate - not actually campaigning, she expects Josie to do it. Lizzie just accepts it as her due that she will win because she’s just that special.

MG is campaigning for himself because he wants to free Kaleb and stop feeling guilty about him being locked up.

Rafael, meanwhile, is running around trying to convince people who are going to be council members to vote to keep Landon around. This involves Lizzie blackmailing him to go on a date with her which is more than a little creepy, MG agreeing - and Rafael trying to convince the werewolf alpha (who will obviously win the werewolf vote) but Jed is an arsehole and refuses to even listen because he treats the pack as his servants, including making them do his home work. So, obviously, Rafael beats him in single combat and becomes the new alpha.

Hope is continuing to test Landon for any kind of supernatural woo-woo and getting nowhere. He has no apparent supernatural abilities and the truth spell she uses reveals he knows nothing about his ancestry (has only a picture of his mother), has no abilities, no idea why he’s glamour proof and no idea why he wants the knife. They also bond over their mutual suspicion of others and inability to trust because of painful childhoods.

Interestingly Hope does a legacy spell on him to check his lineage for magic and finds none. Which Emma considers weird because everyone has a little.

This lack of supernatural powers is a problem because Jed blames him for losing his alphadom and he beats Landon up. Hope becomes super concerned about him and whether he feels safe at this school. Landon says yes. The lie detector spell says no

And my gods why hasn’t the eternally paranoid Klaus got one of these? WHY?! Like 80% of the Originals plot lines could have been solved by one of these.

So the Council election: Rafael becomes the werewolf leader no surprise there. But Kaleb wins the vampire leader which may point to the vampires really not being happy with Alaric. MG is super sad since he only wanted to make up with Kaleb. And the witch vote goes to… Josie

Turns out that Evil Ex Penny has been campaigning for Josie above Lizzie. Lizzie is devastated and super upset and Josie tries to comfort her and even offers to give up the role for Lizzie - and Lizzie doesn’t refuse but apparently Lizzie wasn’t even the runner up. Penny, when she rubs salt in that wound is right, the witches don’t think Lizzie will represent them. And she’s not wrong - Lizzie is very self focused. But the main reason why Penny hates Lizzie is because of how she treats Josie - Josie exists to serve and support Lizzie. We’ve already seen Josie backing off Rafael because Lizzie is interested and, as Penny points out, Lizzie didn’t even pause to see whether Josie would like to be council head before running for it.

Maybe Penny won’t be so demonised.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 9: Water Keepers

Today Z Nation is taking our merry band of misfits to a Native American tribe

It’s at this point my sense of cringe rises and I look for a way I can pass the episode to Renee and otherwise try to do anything I can to avoid the embarrassing awfulness that has a good chance of following.

I bit the bullet and… it wasn’t that bad? Exactly. Compared to my expectations

So 10k and Doc are captured and we’re introduced to a random captured Talker rambling incoherently about saboteurs. They’re rescued by George and Warren and then there’s arrows and Native American warriors in full war paint. And I’m duly wary that we’re going to go full woo-woo

But while several warriors do wear war paint, this is more something they’ve integrated into their culture as a separate tribe and people but not to become a full on stereotype: these 21st century Navajo (the language referenced) haven’t suddenly stripped back to some Hollywood impressed of what pre-colonisation Navajo.

All of this said from the point of view of a reviewer who is super not informed enough about Native Americans in general or Navajo specifically to say this is good or bad - just that it is much less awful than I anticipated. Because I expected worse

We also have several characters from the much much worse Grand Canyon episode, Kuruk and Ayalla. Ayalla spends lots of time with 10k, getting him a new antler hand with a little bit of woo-woo but mainly Ayalla mocking him for his adorable naivety and how easily she can confuse and trick him by referring to silly woo-woo which he takes seriously despite being ridiculous. It’s a nice send up of Native American stereotypes. And, yes, 10k is just impossibly adorable.

The rest of the gang meets Kuruk and she and Doc kind of circle around some very not there chemistry can we not. But Kuruk lays out the conflict - they are constantly being attacked by zombies and Talker saboteurs are attacking the dam cutting off power and water.

There’s another conflict with Kuruk wanting to leave to save her people while Eddie, her dad, insisting that they should stay with their ancestors (spiritual, Talker and Zombie) and their own homeland. Largely to draw upon lots and lots of references to Native Americans being driven from their lands which is grossly unsubtle but, at the same time, does it need to be? We don’t need to subtly weave in why these Native Americans may be invested in holding onto this land for big historical reasons - there’s no problem with it being overt. There’s a similar ongoing conflict between whether to trust Newmerica because, again, many many many betrayed treaties. When George tries to invoke the agreement between Newmerica and the Native Americans, Kuruk is quick to snap that no way is she to use the word “treaty”. Again, it’s not subtle and equally, subtlety isn’t required.

This links into survival again, though, because Eddie doesn’t just want to stay on their land but thinks they need to work with Newmerica because there’s simply not enough of them to go it alone. Which may be true - but this kind of feels like a lot of handwaving. Like, at the end of the episode Kuruk is totally in to George’s vision and supporting Newmerica which kind of feels like all that unsubtle but necessary references have all been resolved - rather than Kuruk being more “look we need this, we’ll work with you but we’re also totally watching you” which i think would both keep them on side while still preserving these messages of reasonable distrust of agreements and warily guarding their territory.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Silver Silence (Psy/Changeling # 16 Psy/Changeling: Trinity #1) by Nalini Singh

Silver Marcant is the scion of the power, influential, Marcant family. She is also the assistant of Kaleb Krycheck, de facto leader of the Psy. She also runs the global emergency response network

She is a busy woman

She has little time for people trying to kill her, or big clumsy werebears trying to insert themselves into her life

This book marks the transition of the Psy/Changeling series into the new series, the Trinity era - and I really have to praise how excellently this has been structured, as I referred to in Allegiance of Honour the transition book in the series. That book excellently summed up where nearly everyone was in their lives, the position of the world and what would be the new conflict coming forwards. The overarching story of the last 15 books has been the fall of Silence

Silence is over. Silence is done, that chapter is closed and with Allegiance of Honour setting up the new foundation we have the new conflict: what happens now? Where is the world? Especially as it becomes apparent that the different races need to be more united than ever

Behold the Trinity - where Silence has fallen and the whole world has changed - and with it the whole tone of the series is much broader as well. The previous series felt more focused… we had a couple and the werewolf pack/psy group they were part of. And it was pretty much localised. Yes there was the fall of Silence, but largely the battle against Silence for most of the Psy characters for most of the books has been survival. Even the Arrows, the Shapeshifter packs, Devraj Santos’s hidden group, are all stories of survival (well and romance, obviously). Survival against the evils of Psy Society, against discovery and occasionally about their survival against their own exploding psy abilities. Yes society is changing in the background but that’s more a side effect of their quest for survival rather than a goal they’re actively pursuing until the last few books

And so now we have Trinity and I think branching a whole new series was the ideal way to do that and emphasise how the foundational theme of the series has changed. Trinity, forged from the Humans, Changelings and Psy to create a more hopeful, united future. And paradoxically, a more diverse one (in terms of factions): the Psy have somewhat broken or, rather, with the fall of the Council the divisions have become more relevant. We don’t have “the psy” we have the Arrows and the Empath Collective and the Nightsky group and Kaleb’s faction suddenly being more individually defined even as they work together. Or the shapeshifter packs who are distinct entities rather than the unity of the Wolves and Leopards. I think they’ve always been so divided but rarely were they all so involved in the close, personal focus of the previous books.

Which brings me to the excellent choice of Silver as the protagonist for this book - Silver Mercant so nicely bridges all of this and brings the new collective focus on several factions since she’s the head of the global emergency network while she herself is both perfectly aligned with Kaleb Krycheck while at the same time being a member of the powerful Mercant family which is allied with him but definitely not in his pocket. Silver represents the different factions being balanced but ultimately acting in unity that truly defines this new series. She’s an excellent choice of protagonist to herald in this new era