Saturday, February 23, 2019

Siren: Season 2, Episode 5: Primal Instinct

So, Ben, Maddie and Ryn wake up all in bed together. Apparently they didn’t go beyond kissing because they didn’t know how far Ryn wanted to go - and Ryn is super super super interested in doing more which everyone is really happy and slightly embarrassed about.

They do belatedly realise that maybe they should discuss what sex actually means for humans and merfolk as well as sex without the aim for children. Oh and not only are merwomen violent but it is not unknown for them to kill their male lovers. So maybe some discussion first is not a bad plan

Which they kind of touch on but not really about the mechanics of sex or could Ryn please not break them with her super strength? Or hey what genitals look like for merfolk - how do they even have sex? Fish do not have sex remotely like humans do.

Instead they discuss how unequal merfolk society is and I get that they’re trying to say how bad this is while at the same time Maddie is trying to avoid being judgemental of Ryn’s culture especially since she knows so little about it - and she DOES say it is occasionally unequal on land. But wow that’s like something of a huge understatement and a lot of me cringes to see the woman of colour say “yeah it’s sometimes unequal on land” when the focus is how unequal sex in the water is. I kept expecting Maddie to just 4th wall turn to the camera and say “really”.

Also they’re talking equality and consent which is super nice but can we also talk about not breaking things with super strength oh and how sex even works.

Anyway they’re also spotted by Donna’s daughter Cami who is getting more conflicted and still really sad over her dead mother. Ryn tries to comfort her by taking her to her mother’s grave but that’s not much comfort to Cami (would merfolk even have a concept of graves?) who is completely focused on  how humans killed her mother and how angry she is about this - and how she thinks Ryn is too human

Which I get but didn’t we just have the message a few episodes ago that merfolk move on and don’t hold grudges which is why Levi and Ryn don’t really understand why Xander is still angry with them? For that matter we have Katrina running around a great big simmering body of anger and resentment? I love building an alien viewpoint and all but it has to be consistent!

Speaking of Katrina, she’s all healed up and Xander still wants to make a deal with her - either way she goes out to try and recruit the others to leave Ryn and come back to the water: which starts with Cami (after Sarge says no).

Ryn does takes the idea of equality to heart and when Helen brings a little food she insists that the male merfolk eat at the same time as the women rather than waiting as they usually do. An lo, presumably generations of cultural norms are defeated? For that matter, if merfolk culture is so female dominated and in control shouldn’t that have stood out more in season 1 when Ryn’s main point of contact was Ben? When she started communicating more wouldn’t she focus more on Maddie? I love creating alien cultures - but make them consistent!

Our journalist friend is around to tell Ben that oil company is bad and doing more badness and it’s all so very bad. Xander catches up with Ben to tell him that he’s totally onside with stopping the badness and getting rid of the mermaids and telling them all about Katrina. I think this begins with his trying to get his hands on Levi but that kind of expands to genuine concern about the evil oil company which will destroy his livelihood as well

Friday, February 22, 2019

Fianna's Awakening (Warriors of Myth and Legend #1) by Ron C Nieto

Aisling is one of the Fianna, charged with protecting Ireland from supernatural threat - even if the other Fianna are less than accepting of that

And Ronan is one of those supernatural threats - a Tuatha de Danann, exiled from Ireland by the Fianna on pain of death. But he’s back, desperately looking for the four treasures to save his people

When one of those treasures emerges, their paths are bound to cross in a mess of secrets - but while they are old enemies there may be a common enemy far darker than either

I am left with a sense of… disatisfaction. And not just because we have a book devoid of minority characters.

Looking back I can think of all the good things about the book - the concept of the setting, the Fianna, the Irish history and mythology, the hints of the Tuatha De Danann - I mean these are all things that are designed to hook me in. The writing was also really good, excellently paced with some awesomely immersive action scenes that still managed to bring in introspection. (There are authors but write tangents into their action scenes and I just picture the protagonist staring into space for 10 minutes while the fight rages around them).

And the main character, a strong capable woman without either a desperate need to go it alone nor a refusal to accept help. Who has agency without a hint of spunkiness, pushes back against sexist patronising without being ridiculous or cliched or without the situation being cartoonishly silly. Magic and fighting and fun… She is the only woman in the book which would generally be an issue but it also kind of underpins a central conflict of her character. She’s not an exceptional woman and certainly doesn’t seem to regard other women with contempt or negatively. But she’s the only female fianna surrounded by men who don’t give her the respect she is owed.

Ronan’s story, the refugee of a broken people trying to bring some hope and salvation to his people - but it’d be nice to see that more developed, explore what a Tuatha De Danaan actually is - and what a Fianna actually is. Still these are great things I definitely liked.

And yet….

And yet I’m not hooked in. Oh I can talk myself into being hooked in because I love these elements. But I feel this book maybe went too far in for plot and not enough in for world building. We introduced the concept of some of these creatures and beings but it’s brief. We get an idea of Aisling’s struggles in the Fianna and her place in it - and it’s really well presented as Aisling constantly expects behaviours from Ronan he doesn’t display. It’s woven into how she’s clearly had to live and work and it feels more natural and real because of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Charmed: Season 1, Episode 12: You're Dead to Me

After a bizarre little hiatus

In fact, aside, why do American shows do this? Why? I mean I can get skipping an episode because there’s a holiday or something. But several weeks? Several? Why do you do this Americans? Whyyyy?

Anyway so after digging through various letters Macy, Maggie and Mel know the big secret of Macy’s past

So, it turns out Marisol and her husband were distraught by their dead baby daughter Macy so Marisol does the sensible thing and summons a necromancer from Tartarus - see this why she had the scythe to open Tartarus which no-one questioned. Marisol offers the freed necromancer anything in exchange for her baby coming back to life. I know I know, desperate mother and all but I lose all respect for a witch who makes bad open ended bargains like that - because really?

So after much very ominous black magic and hubby being kind of nervous, Macy is resurrected but there’s a price! The price is they can be together for 2 years after which if Marisol sees Macy, Macy will die, like Cinderella without the spinning wheels

Which… ok? I mean hey as far as sacrifices go it’s sad but the baby came back to life. I think you got off pretty easy. And also, this kind of addresses multiple episodes of angst over why Marisol never contacted Macey in a wonderful way. Hey she couldn’t or you died but she loved you so much! ANGST OVER

Angst over?

Why is this angst not over?

So Macy is now super unhappy because she’s DEAD and now ALIVE which makes her UNNATURAL and AGAINST SCIENCE.

Y’know, like telekinesis, teleportation, stopping time, reading minds and everything else you’ve been doing. The UNNATURAL AGAINST SCIEnCE train left the station several episodes ago Macy. She’s super sad so no-one can comfort her but Henry shows up to empathise because he’s also like totally dead and brought back to life. UNNATURAL AGAINST SCIENCE TWINS and it would be super hilarious if he was really offended by what she said but he’s not his all; understanding and says he understands that now you feel out of place and lacking a purpose - but how answers help

I call shenanigans. We’re milking this angst

Anyway - back to Macy in a moment since she’s the main plot line. Lucy, who is kind of awesome, invites Maggie to a Traffic Light party. Which is kind of a party where you have to colour-code your sexual availability? I dunno, it sounds like a much more boring Hanky Code for straight people. Maggie is upset because of Parker to which Lucy awesomely points out that this is not how you get over someone. Anyway, this party where no-one is allowed to look good in black will be relevant later.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Walking Dead: Season 9, Episode 10: Omega

Lydia has been imprisoned in Hilltop and is now locked in a cell opposite Henry the sympathetic who wants to know her life story

She talks a lot about her life just after the apocalypse - and we get a flash back to her, her dad and her mother and them living in a shelter. In her recap, her dad was kind of an arsehole, being harsh and uncaring while her mother tried to comfort her and convince her that the world wasn’t ending while her dad was uncaring and awful and wanting to run off and generally snarling.

Lydia adds her own commentary about how her dad was the worst but her mother was strong and did what she had to - including at one point having to kill a man who was noisily panicking about being surrounded by scary zombies. Something Daryl thinks was necessary and understandable to survive since the apocalypse has you make hard choices. Later her dad ends up killed trying to save her from a zombie

This added to the lessons Lydia learned from her mother - you had to be hard, you had to be strong, and other bizarre ideas like “hunger is a gift”. She’s also convinced that settlements like this cannot possibly last becsause the world belongs to the dead and instead they have to wander around with zombies, catch blood poisoning from all the rotting meat and eat earth worms or anything lese they can just about scavenge without alerting the rotten nastiness around them

This makes perfect sense

Meanwhile Henry, listening to all this, decides it’s a great idea to tell Lydia about his parents and the other settlements in the area - until Daryl intervenes because they’re supposed to be questioning her and how can Henry possibly be this clueless? HOW?! Henry insists Lydia is a nice person and Daryl is a big ol’ mean meaning for not trusting the enemy agent who tried to kill one of them

Henry also sneaks her out in the middle of the night to eat earth worms (because that’s a thing the Whisperers do) and nearly get hit in the head by a hammer before she realises that maaaybe this settlement might actually be here to say

And Daryl confronts her - he recognises the marks on her arms as that she has been beaten - and guesses rightly that it was by her mother. As a man abused as a child himself he can see some parts of her story that don’t make sense - how her father has been cast as the villain but the story is inconsistent.

While I like Daryl examining his own past (and Henry bringing in Carol and how she cut her hair to avoid her abusive husband using it as a way to hurt her and has only grown it out now she feels safe which is a nice touch), I do think that this is somewhat simplistic - I mean “my abuse didn’t look like that” is not a valid way to criticise another’s abuse. Nor is pointing to an abuser’s acts of kindness proof that they weren’t/aren’t an abuser.

With Daryl poking a different story emerges - Lydia’s father was the supportive, caring, protective one and all the bad actions Lydia has ascribed to her dad actually came from her mother. Her mother told her her version of events over and over and over and over so many times that Lydia herself came to believe them (classic gas lighting); from simple things like cutting her hair through to the violence and willingness to leave

And, above all, her dad’s death - not at the hands of a zombie, but at the hands of Lydia when he refused to abandon their friends when they were struggling against the newly raised walker.

Again I’m going with good but simplistic here -on the one hand gaslighting like this is such a common abusive tactic - telling Lydia the beatings make her stronger, how they have to be hard and how weakness is terrible while at the same time stressing that her dad was the bad guy.

What I consider simplistic is that Lydia, after years of believing this, could apparently be turned by a couple of minutes of Daryl’s doubt.

But Lydia now recognises her mother as the big bad - which is awkward, because her mother arrives with a strong of Whispers all within easy mow-down-with-nows range to demand her daughter back

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Walking Dead: Season 9, Episode 9: Adaption

The new reboot continues and we have to remember Jesus is still dead, after being already only blink-and-you-miss-it gay and having his storyline vastly cut from what it was. No, I’m not amused. Oh yet Negan is alive and free. Of course he fecking is

And we have the introduction of a new enemies, a group of people in a post technology world that exist by hanging around with lots of rotting bodies. They call themselves the Whispers. I call them the Sufferers of Septicaemia. And, of course, all the settlements have turned against each other for not apparent reason, perhaps only because without The Supreme Lord Rick everything must collapse because all hail Rick.

Which means we open with Jesus’s corpse (not over this) and Michonne and Darryl doing a fighting retreat while everyone withdraws. And having to learn that fighting human led Walkers is awkward - after all a closed gate is no longer an impassable barrier

Alas we do have to catch up with Negan and he isn’t just eaten. He is lurking around being sinister and trying to escape and is found by Judith holding a gun. He tries to talk her out of shooting him - but wisely realises she is Not Bluffing. Judith is a child of the apocalypse and ruthlessness will be baked into her.

At least I would have thought so -but she still lets him go. Aaaargh really? WHY IS HE NOT DEAD?! Everyone has to agree that “You won’t shoot” “yes I will - bang” would have been awesome.

In Alexandria a whole lot of people whose names I don’t remember are being organised by Tara and Enid. And Luke, one of the new guys I guess whose name I better remember, volunteers to help to get in with the group, teaming up with Enid’s boyfriend Alden

Alden is so going to die. He’s such angst fodder. They talk music but I’m not going to pay much attention to them until I know one or more of them is going to actually live

Either way it’s all pointless because Michonne and co make it back fine anyway. On the way they run into some Walkers and Daryl has found a convenient way to tell who is actually a Walker and who is a Whisperer… shoot them in the leg and when they scream they’re a human. And about to get eaten by all their fellows

Which kind of puts a big question on how effective the Whisperers are since they have to stumble around one trip or sneeze from being eaten, they’re incapable of running or seeking cover when faced with range attacking and have to go into battle while method acting. This has flaws as a battle strategy

Exploiting this, they manage to grab a captive to drag back to Alexandria. There everyone is sad about Jesus being dead. They quickly remind us as well that they want like ALL THE VENGEANCE because they totally care about Jesus. Honest. Unlike the writers

My bitterness rises

Michonne, after bonding with Daryl over the whole dead Rick thing, decides it’s time for her to head back to Alexandria, with Aaron declaring how he’s totally agreeing with Michonne on how they should hunker down and never co-operate with their faithful friends to launch a co-ordinated response to the army threatening them

Because… reasons? Yeah that made no sense at all.

She leaves Daryl behind to question the fragile little remaining Whisperer - he intimidates her a lot in which she talks about how grim everything is, they need the dead to survive and, oh, all settlements like this fail eventually. She mentions her mother but her estimate of the numbers of Whispers are clearly lies. Also they don’t have names.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Siren: Season 2, Episode 4: Oil and Water

Ben is listening to recorded siren song. This is a bad bad bad idea.

A very bad idea.

And while he listens to it Ryn also dreams of Ben. This feels more and more like supernatural shenanigans and not a good sign. Ryn is especially confused because mermaids don’t dream and Maddie has to explain the concept to her - and add that it means she’s thinking about Ben and wants him. Which is kind of weird coming from Maddie - like she’s trying to resurrect her relationship with Ben but also trying to set up Ben and Rynn

But there’s a new merfolk drama - it seems while they all consider each other to be family et al, their views on family are much like mine: fine in concept but that absolutely doesn’t mean you need to spend more than 2 hours in their company. The merfolk are snarling at each other constantly, they need to be separated. Also in the sea, the merfolk are always hunting and fighting and doing something - inactivity is not something they’re used to. So time to get them all

Levi is coming with Ben and learning how to be a human man (which Maddie throws in more mixed signals by saying that Ben is the best rolemodel and kissing him). Levi promptly kisses a confused and shocked Ben - because like Rynn he still doesn’t understand how human interactions work. Ben does emphasise consent.

He wants to learn - so it’s down to Ben to teach him television, music, beer, sports, family and friends and not fighting. The last is especially important because though merfolk are a martriarchal society, the men are soldiers and protectors so Levi expects to fight and Ben has a nice speech about not fighting

There’s also the Xander issue and Ben tries to talk to him about how Levi is basically a soldier and can’t really be held responsible for Sean’s death. Unsurprisingly, Xander isn’t hearing this - because Xander has his own issues and plot for revenge

Xander has found the injured Katrina and is keeping her on his boat, trying to trade her freedom for Levi’s location (which is awkward because Katrina doesn’t actually know). It’s also dangerous because Katrina is a dangerous and crafty mermaid and quite willing to rip his face off - so he takes her out to sea. Unable to enter the water because of the death noise and can’t kill him because she can’t pilot a boat. So they strike a deal - he helps her get rid of the death noise and she will then help him get Levi

Which means both sides are kind of promising things they can’t keep.

Rynn and Maddie are living together with Donna’s daughter as Maddie moving out to get her own space to allow this. This does rather disturb Sarah who thinks her daughter is leaving because of her -but Maddie assures her it’s not and even has lunch with her as a peace offering. It’s a nice bonding moment but… awkward. Sarah clearly sees this as beautiful and meaningful and nostalgic and has even engraved one of Maddie’s necklaces with “love mom” on it which is nice. While Maddie is distracted, clearly viewed this as a sop to her mother, doesn’t have the same shiny memories or nostalgia and generally isn’t taking this as nearly as seriously. Awkward.

Maddie, Rynn and donna’s daughter all catch up with Ben and Levi in a bar (where Levi went contrary to Ben’s wishes because Ben is trying to teach him how to be his own person rather than just obeying commands). Levi’s doing well with beer pong and teaching Ben how mermaid mating works (which is fairly violent and involves men displaying gleaming neck lights to attract women) since Ben is clearly interested in Ryn. There is a bar fight and Levi manages to avoid fighting, listening to Ben. Ironically Ben is the one who knocks the guy out and then they dance (with Ryn confessing to Ben that she likes singing to him and this makes them think there’s a deeper connection to their longing than just siren song while I think that this actually means siren song is just more powerful than they realise).

Maddie who wants to check up with her mother - only to find out Sarah has been visited by Glen, her dealer, and is high when Maddie gets home. Maddie leaves tearful and angry, going to Ben and Ryn and the three bond and kiss. Is this the much vaunted bisexual representation that has long been teased on this show? Hmmm… maybe? I mean we just established that Ryn actually dreamed for the first time ever after Ben listened to a RECORDING of her song and she’s started daydreaming of him after that. We’ve also seen Maddie, despite the headphones, by definitely affected by Ryn’s siren song. The timing makes this whole thing rather less compelling as authentic - mind controlled potentially dubious consent driven by a mercreature that doesn’t even understand relationships. I can see this super complicated - but not as great un-asterixed representation. Ultimately, mind-controlling woo-woo casts a shadow here

The last drama is Helen - her squirrelly relative does come to visit her and perhaps my assumption of shadiness is unwarranted. Helen talks about how out of place she’s always felt and that’s apparently common ground for both the mermaid hybrids with addiction issues common in the family. As is their funky nasty icky skin. She presents him with a home cure which works which makes him super trust her because no-one has been able to cure his icky skin before

Which is when Helen introduces him to a mermaid to feel the connection -which he does on a mystical level.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wild Hunger (Heirs to Chicagoland) by Chloe Neill

Elise is the first vampire born, the first vampire who has never been a human - and the first vampire with a dark secret presence in her mind

She has left home to live in Paris for several years to try and get some space to find herself. But with the talks to try and establish a lasting peace in Europe, she finds herself back in Chicago

And facing the beast inside her - and a plot to end the peace talks and put the whole city at risk

I… can’t say I’m a huge fan of Elisa? I mean I don’t feel any especially personality with her. And I’m trying hard not to compare her to Merit - but it’s inevitable that since this series is literally the heir to the previous Chicagoland series; the protagonists are going to be compared. And Merit with her love of books and junk food and baseball, her snark and close relationships, her determination to face down Ethan and her father - Merit had personality, Merit was a character and she was surrounded by other characters.

Elise… isn’t? I mean she likes coffee… that’s kind of like the only thing I know about her. Her personality,wishes, desires, hopes, everything is subsumed into both her struggle with the Beast and her I-hate-him-but-we’re-definite-love-interests-Connor.

What’s most frustrating is how much meat there’s there! She’s the first born vampire. She grew up never seeing the sun and literally not knowing what she was and surrounded by supernaturals. She moved away to France and spent years there trying to find herself. How can this not inform her character? How can someone so unique with such different life experiences BE SO BLAND?! Why doesn’t her years in France inform any of her character except her hanging around with French vampires who are shuffled out of the way before we have to focus on them too much. Why isn’t her being the

And there’s the “beast” which is again, blandified. If your character is literally hosting a powerful magical entity that feasts on rage and turns her eyes red I expect it to be… more? I mean now and then she struggles to control it - as in we have a paragraph of her saying no to the Beast, and we move on. And when she loses control? She beats up someone who kind of deserves it? She fights hard in a situation where she’s already fighting? The unwillingness to make Elise do anything truly bad or awful with the Beast (she beat up a man who stole from and was going to sexually assault her best friend? Merit would do that twice, no need for the Beast) makes it all feel limp and, yes, bland

To add to the blandness we have the characters around her. Merit worked because she was surrounded by fun an awesome characters as well -he conflicts and romance with Ethan was interesting. She had Mallory her best friend which waxed and waned, there was Catcher and Jeff and her grandfather and the fraught relationship with her parents and even her frustrating relationship with Morgan. There were PEOPLE in her life and they were all informed enough and interesting enough to add to the story, to her story.