Saturday, December 15, 2018

Supernatural: Season 14, Episode 9: The Spear

Time for an epic opening with an epic voice over from Dean about how they are the people who monsters are afraid of. Which is, yes, kinda epic. But this is Supernatural. Epic pre-ambles to any kind of find finale need classic rock. It is known. Know your brand, Supernatural.

So we have a bit of domestic moment with Jack eating late night cereal and asking Castiel not to tell his other dad, Sam, who disapproves of high sugar food. Which is kind of cute and I think a lot more of these would have done a great job of turning Jack into someone I actually care about rather than that extra who keeps tagging along for no apparent reason. But really these scene is for Castiel to remind Jack not to tell anyone about the deal he made with the Empty

We’re already setting that up for a lot of angst because Dean is so super happy because they managed to bring Jack back from the dead and nothing went wrong and they didn’t have to pay a price and everything is awesome

So that’s definitely going to be future angst. But can I say again that we have another angst or personal drama moment that is centring on Dean even when this should be more Cas’s woe. Dean doesn’t have to be the centre of all.

But we’re back on track with Michael. Naomi has told them where Michael is. Kansas City. And he has a new body, a woman’s.

And I’m sure there are many reasons why anyone, let alone an Archangel, would go to Kansas City

I’m sure.

I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure they exist. Yes.

Sam has also snuck Garth into Michaels’ orbit. Since Garth is a werewolf so fits his whole army of monsters thing. Garth hopes to actually not consume the Michael Blood/Grace potion… which doesn’t go to plan because it’s hard to deceive an Archangel and he ends up taking the upgrade potion which is definitely not going to end well.

Between this spying they know Michael’s plan - send his army into Kansas city and turn every one there into more monsters. I am sure there are many… sensible reasons to begin your invasion of North America in Kansas City…

So the counter plan is to get the angel-killing spear from Dark Kaia (Dean and Castiel on that) and Ketch has some mystical golden egg which will help imprison Michael which he’s put in the post. Yes there are convoluted reasons but he still put it in the post. Sam and Jack are off to collect that.

Predictably it all goes horribly horribly wrong

To begin with Sam and Jack are attacked by Michael and it goes horribly wrong because, well, Michael is an Archangel which makes him pretty unassailable. He knocks Sam out, doesn’t kill him because… because… the script says so that’s why! He also destroys the magical egg so that’s out of the picture. Personally I don’t remember the egg was in the picture so there’s that.

Friday, December 14, 2018

POC as Origin Story

An ubiquitous element of the superhero genre is the origin story. How did this extraordinary individual get these amazing powers? Is he an alien from a dead planet powered up by our sun? Was he bitten by a radioactive spider? Was she forged from clay and empowered by the Greek gods? Did he have a ridiculous budget and some deeply unhealthy coping mechanism after the death of his parents?

In Urban Fantasy we see a trend of another origin story to explain the special magic a protagonist has. Being a POC - or having a POC ancestor at very least.

To be clear here, we’re not talking about having a magical POC protagonist. This is Urban Fantasy, your characters will have magic or other woo-woo, it’s kind of what this genre is about and we’re definitely in favour of several of those characters being POC.  Awoke, The Shadowmancer, The Keys Trilogy, Rayne Whitmore Series, World of the Lupi and many others are not problematic because they have POC who happens to have magical abilities - far from it. They have magic and are POC but at no point did the books try to suggest that their woo-woo exists BECAUSE they are Black or Asian.

Equally we’d expect many of these POC, their lives and their magic to be affected by their ethnicity and culture. We love and celebrate books like The Black Dog’s Drums, which excellently incorporates Yoruba derived religions into the setting, the world building and the characterisation. The same applies to the Habitat Series and the Egyptian elements of the Shadowchasers Series. The Jane Yellowrock Series links a lot of Jane’s woo-woo to her being Native American - but being Native American also informs her characterisation and her history. It’s not just a convenient label to justify her accessing exotic woo-woo. The Changeling Sisters has a lot of the magic related to Korean, Latinx and Hawai’ian culture - but that’s because it has Korean, Latinx and Hawai’ian characters whose ethnicity is an integral part of who they are, the world building and the story. Ultimately they work because there is considerable research and respect for the source material - something we can see with depictions of western mythologies like Irish and Norse in, for example, the Iron Druid Series.

We want more of this, so much more; with both white and western dominated media there are so many stories this genre could be telling by integrating POC and the mythologies and magic of other cultures and I’m still mourning that some of these series have come to an end.

But that isn’t achieved by having books treat Voodoun beliefs, Rroma heritage, or Native American ancestry as the same as a Freak Lab Accident, super-soldier serum or a Green Lantern Ring.

A glaring example of this, as well as why it’s so problematic, comes from Midnight Texas. This has the special prize of having Manfred have his psychic powers in the books because of a Native American ancestry. And in the TV series because of his Romani ancestry. It says a lot about how a minority culture has been represented that you can easily exchange one for another and not really change the story, magic or anything else.

Ancestry is a common trick in these origin stories - after all, if Superman can get his powers from being an alien, why can’t Jeremy in the Otherworld series get his hands on some quasi Japanese Ofuda from his absent Japanese mother? Hemlock Grove threw in some basic Romani stereotypes to go with their using being Romani as why characters were psychic and… werewolves somehow. Twilight is also notorious for creating an entirely fake Native American mythology to justify the presence of a pack of werewolves. The appalling on several levels Houseof Night series also went with that Native American woo-woo - deciding to have the protagonist, Zoey, be Cherokee - but only so they could introduce lots of woo-woo and turquoise and smudge sticks and a whole fake mythology while the Mercy Thompson Series is pretty notorious for treating all the Native Americans in the book as walking avatars of woo-woo. Literally all of them.

In all of these cases the actual ethnicity, culture or characterisation that should stem from having a POC character is absent. The writers weren’t interested in creating fleshed out, well researched and developed POC characters or in respectfully portraying and representing non-western cultures in a way that showed research and regard. They want the woo-woo. They want the different, the exotic, the alien.

In many ways it’s similar to how many book and TV series will introduce a monster from a non-western culture for a more “exotic” episode-of-the-week that we’ve spoken about tbefore… why have a werewolf when you can have a wendigo? And it shares the same flaws -  deciding one of your main characters is POC or has POC ancestry purely so you have some backstory for their woo-woo isn’t representation or respectful. It’s appropriative and it’s belittling - it clearly sends the message that the writers are pretty indifferent about these actual cultures and just wants something suitably dehumanised and “exotic”, something that is sufficiently “other” to most of their readers to justify why they would have such different powers. For DC that meant an alien from Krypton. For Urban Fantasy a Romani or Cherokee are considered alien enough.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Doctor Who, Season 11, Episode 10: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

It's the last episode of Doctor Who as we hit the season finale other than the New Years Day episode (she's coming back though!)

We've loved this Doctor,  she has been amazing and endearing from the start - but the writing has not supported her - the treatment of Yasmin (and utter failure to development) and the lack of classic Who elements was an issue. This Doctor deserves better writing

Doctor Who: Season 11, Episode 9: It Takes You Away

Apologies for Renee who has the dreaded death plague and sounds like she's auditioning to be a particularly low budget Who villain

Another episode of Doctor Who with excellent emotional development for some characters and ongoing gross neglect of everything Yazmin could have been

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Charmed, Season 3, Episode 9: Jingle Hell

After being clonked on the head by one of the Sisters of Arcana, she wakes up to find Jada saying that it’s totally a mistake and she’d totally like her in their club, what’s a little concussion between friends. Also here are our spooky crows which were present when your mother died, honestly they were on her side, pinkie-swear

Mel goes to Harry and Maggie to say that, hey, these people may have killed my mother. Maggie and Harry thinks it’s super dangerous and they really should back off but Mel’s all for it because being a witch is all about danger. I mean they’ve spent as much time on danger as they have the dubious relationships

Speaking of, clearly we need to spend far less time on this secret witch society because we have romances to deal with.


So Galvin was hit by car last episode. Turns out he’s find and his leg is broken. He’s going home to family and Macy is angsting because she thinks it’s the magic mark of his grandmother. Because his grandmother used magic to protect her son from evil by having him hit by cars and be hospitalised. Because this is how protective magic works. Of course it does. I mean ye gods granny’s going to epic lengths to stop her son getting laid

So when Galvin visits and trips Macy spends an unnecessary amount of time avoiding him while Harry has to make small talk and give him cocito (also christmas cake is awesome, Maggie is just wrong). This is all such a really useful part of the episode. Really.

We catch up with Parker and his evil family. Parker and Hunter go rob an entombed saint in a cathedral in Bucharest. They steal the shiny necklace and are nearly killed by a priest who has a nifty stick of dropping you into a burning basement. Or possibly hell. Or tartarus. Instead Hunter kills him and steals the nifty stick.

This necklace will drain the powers of the Charmed ones if he gets Maggie to wear it then it will drain all the powers of sisters and make him fully demon and alive. This is pushed by his human mother - Jessica Vaughn, Macy’s new boss. Yes she hates the demons in the family but she wants her son to live even if it means draining the Charmed ones and making her son a demon

While Alistair McEvil, his dad has a more sinister plan. Apparently there’s a prophecy that says the Source of All Evil will be born into the body of a human born demon (or something similar) so basically he thinks if he turns his son all demon he will become the Source and their family will be super powerful especially with all those dubious morals and emotions silenced

Hunter the emotionless demon continues to feel affection and protectiveness towards his little brother. This is not a contradiction. Apparently.

So Parker also shows up to the Charmed Ones happy Christmas evening to give Maggie her gift and cough messily everywhere. He gives Maggie the necklace and she says, really Parker? Jewellery? We’ve known each other for a hot minute, isn’t it a bit soon for jewellery how wonderful it is.

Oh. She’s also looking forward to her dad visiting for the holiday. She has lots of positive memories and affection of him while Mel thinks he’s like the Worst and abandoned them and unreliable and Maggie is just too loving and caring and trusts too much and is going to get her heart broken. Yup check that subtle foreshadowing

My personal favourite thing about this episode is how Maggie repeatedly mentions her mind reading as the whole show tries to hand wave how utterly impossible it would be for Parker to actually conceal his identity. Like if they mention it often enough then somehow it will justify this plot chasm.

Anyway, Mel notices that the necklace Maggie has quickly changes colour (Maggie: clearly it’s a really elaborate… mood ring? I mean… really?) and Macy also sees Parker flinch away from touching Galvin with his magic mark glowing as he does. Together the sisters realise something is up, with Macy also contacting Mama Roz to ask “hey if a ward against evil glows and makes someone flinch, is that a bad thing” because they actually had to consult someone about that. Credit to Roz for not mocking them cruelly.

Hunter notices they’re on to him and his little brother and quickly knocks out and ties up Macy and then uses his shapeshifting to imitate her. But is now barred from the house by this magical mark which is… surprisingly powerful? Blocks all demons from the House? Maybe we should check Galvin’s grandma for Charmed One-ness?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 10 State of Mine

Time for some more shenanigans. And yes, of course we have shenanigans

We have a bunch of Talkers at a scrap yard digging up things under the watchful eye of humans in haz mat suits and guns treating the Talkers as disposable animals. Until one of those Talkers bites a battery, there’s a puff of white smoke and he comes to his senses. Rallying and feeding more batteries to his fellow Talkers he leads a rebellion

There’s a big dramatic speech about freedom which kind of falls flat. It sounds like an epic anti-slavery rant from an oppressed group who has spent years under the boot of their oppressors - but Talkers haven’t even existed for years. And these words coming from a Black man is just… yeah… we see what you’re doing there Z Nation and think this is an issue.

The man then charges into the mine and is beheaded. There’s something scary down there

This is when Warren, George, 10k and Doc arrive looking for the secret ingredient in Biscuits (yes I know about the daft spelling, no I’m not spelling it that way.) They see the mining and enslaved Talkers and George realises Altura is behind it. They also see the “Hazardous materials” signs but Warren points out that, hey, it’s the apocalypse.

They split up with George pretending to be a Talker, Doc and 10k stalking around and Warren getting stuck in the tunnels

With many shenanigans, they realise that the Altura troops are gathering Lithium, crating it up to take to Altura. They find a semi-coherent Talker who explains lithium takes the edge off and grants clarity but it doesn’t last wrong. They realise this is the secret ingredient for Biscuits - and that Altura is trying to control that because if Estes controls the biscuits they control the Talkers. They can’t have that

There’s more shenanigans with Doc and 10k sneaking around watching the lithium being packed and playing with a crane. Because why wouldn’t you play with a crane? And managing to pass themselves off as Altura operatives by stealing haz mat suits. They all find evidence of people dying in horribly violent and ominous fashion.

While Warren explores the tunnels and discovers the scary force that is mincing people: a giant cyborg Talker. With a buzz saw as a hand. Oh and metal plates that stop him being head-shot and mercied.

Of course we do.

They focus on lithium and arrange various shenanigans to steal the rest of the Lithium and get the rest of talkers to Limbo. Easy enough

Shenanigans ensue, This involves a fight that doesn’t exactly go there way, the convenient appearance of slashy cyborg Talker and the gang all gathered around this giant invulnerable Talker smacking it until they wear it’s battery down. To which Warren reaches out to it as a person so it decides to commit suicide

Monday, December 10, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode 8: Byzantium

This episode Jack dies…

That’s pretty much the opening scene - and I give special kudos to Castiel telling Dean to get back to Jack’s bedside because Jack needs support and this really can’t be all about Dean for five seconds.

So we have lots of grieving. And it’s really sad and these actors have spent the best part of a decade perfecting their angsty sad faces. It’s what they do. And of course, especially with us supporting fully the idea that Jack has three dads, they needed to have this dramatic grief. Which is so well done.


But… I’m not feeling it? I mean, do I care about Jack? Does anyone care about Jack? Have we actually built up Jack into someone we all care about? I’m not the only one here right?

So after we lose half of the episode to dramatic, well acted grief, of course we realise death totally doesn’t exist in this world. Sam points out to Dean that they never ever give up on the dead (which is something I think we could explore more) and he’s looked for a solution

Enter Lily Sunder. So back in season 12 Lily was a woman who had a nephilim child who was killed by angels so she went on a rampage using angel magic (powered by her soul) to kill those angels and living for an unnaturally long time to do it. She’s now much older since she’s not using that magic any more. But by using that Jack could be reborn and keep his body going using a shred of his soul

Dean is really against this because he’s super stubborn and doesn’t like her. But Sam points out they actually always do these half-arsed desperate deals. Which is true. Dean points out that they usually bite them in the arse. Which is also true

But can they really not take the chance?

Dean confronts Lily - what’s the catch. Why did she stop using the magic and allow herself age. She points out her dead daughter is in heaven and, with only a shred of her soul left, she could go to heaven to be with her. Which is nice but she did all that angel killing stuff which means she’s probably not that welcome up in heaven. So she wants the Winchesters to guarantee her passage to heaven.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy Novella) by Ilona Andrews

It is time for Nevada’s wedding and, if her little sister Cataline has anything to do with it, Nevada won’t have to worry about anything except her poor taste in bouquet

But with intolerant, demanding extended family with a ridiculous amount of secrets, a jewelry thief. Oh and a poisoner

Most weddings don’t have this much drama

It’s an Ilona Andrews book. I will now run around, chuckling with glee. There is no such thing as an Ilona Andrews book I don’t love - their work is designed to make me lose sleep because putting their books down is impossible.

This story continues the deadly magical and political world of the Primes - with a wedding. Nevada and Rogan’s which, unfortunately, also involves a whole lot of Rogan’s less than stellar relatives who are trying to ruin things in various ways

Our protagonist is not Navada for once, but her little sister Catalina - and it gives me hope that maybe we will be able to see future books with Catalina in the lead because she is such an interesting character

I think it’s an excellent contrast between Catalina and Rogan’s rich, spoiled cousins - contrasting their entitlement with her hard work. But also contrasting how young they are in comparison to her - how inept their plotting is, how basic their plans are and how they clearly wouldn’t have worked. We see how mature and competent Catalina is

And I think that really has to be emphasised. Catalina is competent, she’s extremely capable, experienced and knows a great deal about her work as an investigator. She’s a professional despite her young age and it shows everything about her skill and character - I like her