Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead, Season Three, Episode Eleven: La Serpiente

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When last we left Fear the Walking Dead, Madison had just purchased Strand's debt. The plan is is to head to the damn that Strand knows of in the hopes of setting up a long term deal to trade for water which the ranch so desperately needs. This means it's road trip time. 

On the road to Tijuana, they come across their first stoppage when a huge herd heads in their direction. If that were not enough, the road is also blocked by overturned cars.  Walker is instantly irritated but Strand throws a beeper out of the window and the zombies are supposedly distracted enough by that to change their path. We have to pause. Look, to watch this show, you kind of have to suspend reality but having Strand throw that beeper and have it actually work is beyond ridiculous. A teeny tiny beeper is somehow louder and more forceful than the engine of a truck? With the zombies out of the way, Walker slowly pushes the cars aside enough for his truck to get through. 

Their next stop is at a car lot.  Victor has to rush to close the gates to stop the zombies from following them in.  This is the second unbelievable moment of the episode.  The zombies are pressing all of their weight on a chain link fence held closed by a flimsy chain and yet somehow, it all holds together with no sign of collapse. Do better writers, it's been barely 15 minutes and you've slipped very far very quickly. Walker is impatient with Victor, as he searches for a car.  Walker's impatience turns to outright suspicion once the car is found and an entrance to the sewer is revealed. Walker does not like the idea of traveling through the sewers following Victor's lead in the least.  Victor assures Walker and Madison that this is the fastest way forward, leaving Walker no choice but to agree when Madison makes it clear that she is following Strand's lead. 

In the tunnels, Walker's impatience appears again and this time it's because he's certain that Strand is actually lost and is leading them in circles.  Strand maintains his facade in front of Walker but confides in Madison that Walker is right. It turns out that he's been looking for the symbol of an eye which will indicate which tunnels lead to the damn.  Madison is not willing to go up and convinces Strand to keep looking. Victor also confesses that Daniel is at the damn but this is not a concern for Madison because of course, Ofelia is at the ranch. 

Strand finally locates the correct tunnel and Walker says that they have to hurry because they are being pursued by zombies. They move quickly down the tunnel only to find the ending blocked by a zombie who has become inexplicably stuck in the opening. For some reason, the zombies who are in pursuit stop following when the trio reaches the end of the tunnel.  Madison, being a pragmatist, hacks away at the zombie until she manages to cut it loose from the tunnel entrance. 

Daniel is riding away with the water truck and being pursued by a group of thirsty people.  When they shoot, Daniel returns fire, killing one person in the process.  Daniel's response is frowned upon Efrain, who clearly is still in rainbow and unicorn land about how dangerous of a situation they are actually in.  Daniel and Efrain argue, with Efrain promising to see Lola about Daniel's actions. Yes, that makes Efrain a damn snitch.
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Daniel starts to close the gates when he spies movement in the bushes and so heads in that direction. Daniel fires off a shot and manages to miss Strand, who he is not pleased to see.  It's only when Daniel spots Madison and she orders Walker to lower his weapon that Daniel finally relaxes. Madison is quick to explain that Ofelia is safe on the ranch and that Walker saved Ofelia's life. Madison doesn't waste anytime letting Daniel know that the ranch is desperately in need of water.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Last Ship, Season Four, Episode Six: Tempest

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I think this episode would have been better titled, "A Game of Chickens and Three Captains", because it essentially encapsulates the episode far more than Tempest does. When we last left the Nathan James, they had taken on some refuges, unaware that a member of her majesty's navy was aboard for the ride. Fletcher was given the choice of country or the friendships he had made aboard the Nathan James. And Mike, was dealing with feelings for loss once again. 

There are actually three captains onboard the Nathan James right now but since the men are giving each other latitude, this means that it's working for now.  Poor Meylan is supposedly in an XO position, Mike continues to be the captain and Chandler, while maintaining the rank of captain, is functioning more like an adviser. Yes, this means that Tom still gets to give orders to those of lower rank but he doesn't speak over Slattery or contradict his orders. This works out well when both Mike and Tom decide that the best way to ditch the Greek naval ships which are surrounding the James and threatening to herd it into position is to steer the ship into a storm.  Cue triumphant American patriotic music. 

Okay, The Nathan James is sailing into a massive storm and now Fletcher has to decide where his loyalties lie. Sinclair fakes a heart attack and is taken to medical which is conveniently where the seeds are being stored. The resident doc checks out Sinclair and decides that he's had a panic attack because he can see no cardiac symptoms.  Sinclair waits until the doctor's back is turned before killing him and taking off with the seeds. 

Having placed a call earlier to allow the Greek ships to be able to track the Nathan James, Fletcher is running against to the clock to do his part in ensuring that the seeds make it safely off of the ship.  Unfortunately for Fletcher, his cover is burned when a crewperson in communications recognises the number he called. It's a short leap from there for the crew to realise that Fletcher is the snitch/traitor.  Tom pulls the alarm and the crew gets armed, determined to stop Fletcher and Sinclair's escape. The situation becomes urgent when Tom finds several bodies in sick bay and of course, no seeds. 

Unfortunately for O'Connor, who is outside doing some work to stop the engine from going kaput, he doesn't hear the alarm which alerted everyone else to take action and pay attention. When O'Connor comes across Sinclair, he thinks that Sinclair is a refugee who got panicked by the storm and fled. Sinclair attacks and ends up stabbing O'Connor in the neck.  Tom heads outside and when he spies Sinclair, Tom shoots him.  An injured O'Connor falls to the ground, as Sinclair takes off.  Tom rushes to O'Connor's side but isn't able to save him.

Sinclair, having put some distance between himself and Tom, isn't in any kind of shape to leap off the Nathan James, into a massive storm.  Fortunately for Sinclair, this is when Fletcher arrives. Sinclair hands the seeds to Fletcher, telling Fletcher that the future of the world is now in his hands. Fletcher hesitates but he takes the seeds and heads towards the stern. This of course is when Sasha makes her way outside.  Fletcher and Sasha make eye contact before he disappears. 

The next day, helicopters do a grid search to see if they can find any sign of Fletcher but they come up empty. Coming up empty in the search, the leadership of the crew get together to discuss events. They spend a few moments discussing the five crew members which were lost in Fletcher's escape.  Tom is absolutely certain that Fletcher is still alive, though he has no proof of this assertion.  You just know he is going to go all Ahab over this one. With everything on the line, it's time for the ship to go balls to the wall and hunt down Fletcher. Slattery declares the meeting over and everyone heads out with the exception of Sasha and Tom. Sasha declares that Fletcher could not have fooled them all of this time and that he was with them until the Nathan James picked up the group of food refugees.  Sasha's feelings are clearly hurt because she cared about Fletcher but she is also wary about her ability to correctly judge someone and their intentions.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Top 10 Most Watched Netflix Fantasy Shows

If there's one thing Netflix truly delivers it has to be the freedom to watch the best fantasy and sci fi shows going. Let's face it, everyone needs a little escape from the daily grind now and again, so why not chill out and embrace a fantasy world upon occasion? The problem is choosing which to watch! Some of the top 10 most watched Netflix fantasy shows are long running series, while others are just a single season young. So taking this into account, let's run through the top ten most watched and popular fantasy shows currently hosted on the worlds premier streaming site. In no particular order:

1) Black Mirror

The acclaimed British series delves into the deepest and often darkest aspects of our dependency upon technology. Each individual story (there is no concurrent storyline) presents a fascinating analysis of where we could maybe be heading. Writer Charlie Brooker leaves little to the imagination with certain topics, with key episodes involving the infamous 'The National Anthem' and 'The Waldo Moment'.

2) The Vampire Diaries

Now concluding its eighth season, this complex yet thoroughly entertaining series engages in the various moral aspects of being a vampire. Do you drink the blood of humans, or take the moral high ground and just feast upon squirrels and such forth? In the background, there's a lot going on, with the story stretching over the hundreds of years since the key characters were 'turned'...

3) Star Trek - Next Generation

Time for a little sci-fi after the first two rather sinister options! Who better to place your faith in that Captain Luc Picard - played by Patrick Stewart in an iconic role - as he leads the Starship Enterprise crew through the universe. Sure it may be twenty plus years old but it stands the test of time. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon little dose of escapism and dare we say it - nostalgia.

4) The Walking Dead

Quite possibly the show hosted on Netflix that most divides opinions, the long running zombie saga is nevertheless incredibly popular. Is Rick Grimes a hero or villain? Truth is the show is not really about the zombies all that often, it is more about how humans band together in times of crisis, remorseless in showing the good - and bad - aspects of how it could play out where society to suddenly collapse.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Stranger Things, Season 1, Chapter 5: The Flea and the Acrobat

Hopper continues his infiltration of the sinister lab by means of lots of punching until he finds the scary basement with the weird plant/tunnel/monster/thing

At which point he’s captured and dumped at home expected to sleep it off and forget everything. Instead he tears apart his house looking for a bug - and just when it seems like he’s just being paranoid he finds one.

The rest of the police think he may have lost it - but they tell him that Barb’s car has been found - clearly staged to be found (again by the State police who are so conveniently all involved outside their jurisdiction). And 2 more people have vanished

It seems like Joyce is more stable - but only because Lonnie the terrible is there to help them with the funeral. Jonathan is really not a fan because a) he hates his father and b) he’s now team supernatural doesn’t need someone getting Joyce back on team sensible. Or team withdrawn

At the funeral she is definitely low key, everything focuses more on Lonnie and the whole service is terrible (the pastor runs the worst kind of funeral - one where he seems to spend more time excusing god killing the dead kid than actually focusing on the grieving)

Still Lonnie continues to be helpful, fixing the great big holes Joyce put in the wall searching for Will. He also talks ominously about how the quarry was so very much to blame - yep, Lonnie is planning to sue the quarry. He is here playing kind and nice because he wants to cash in on his son’s death.

Joyce. Is. Not. Amused. Lonnie is giving his marching orders. And out comes the lights again.

Hopper also joins her to tear the house apart finding another bug- and telling Joyce she was right about everything.

The Geek Squad becomes more obsessed with the idea of an alternate dimension which Mike is stuck in and run it past their fellow geeky character who accepts the possibility and throws physics at the idea to try and pass it off as something other than magic. It’s going to need lots of power - so they to El to use woo-woo but first they need to find the place. To which Dustin actually does something and points out all their compassess (apparently everyone carried compasses back in these dark ages before coffee came in 169723 delicious flavours I could order over the internet? What a dark and terrible era). Are pointing the wrong way. Clearly if they go that way they will find the portal

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Travelers, Season One, Episode Ten: Kathryn

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Thanks to MacLaren's sacrifice, Kat survived the plane crash but now the team must deal with her. Kat is rightfully freaked out to be loaded into the back of the Traveler van and restrained.  Kat is frantic to find out what happened to MacLaren and tells the team that her husband is an FBI agent. After a bit of struggle, Marcy is able to sedate Kat, much to Carly's relief.  Carly actually wonders how Maclaren can stand Kat. Wow, the jealousy here is strong. With Kat now sedated, Marcy calls MacLaren's cellphone and it's answered by the Traveler EMT,s who suggest that the team deal with Kat and then return to the base of operations. 

Kat is taken home and placed in bed. Trevor and Philip empty a couple of wine bottles to make it look like Kat and MacLaren tied one on to explain why she won't remember anything when she awakens. Marcy says that this is necessary because the memory inhibitor is going to feel like the worst hangover ever. 

Back at headquarters, the team is greeted by D13 with D standing for Doctor, or in this case Derek. The Director has sent an elite medical team which flies across the globe taking care of heads of state to treat MacLaren. This suggests that whatever faults the team has, the Director must value MacLaren a lot. MacLaren is in rough shape and even with nanites fast at work, he might not survive. Trevor volunteers to grow new organs for MacLaren, which apparently is quite painful. 

While the team of Doctors and Marcy work on MacLaren, Grant gains access to his hosts memories.  He remembers falling in love with Kat and what a good relationship the original Grant had with Kat. He remembers the pain they had when Kat had a miscarriage and their ongoing fertility issues. MacLaren is confused by these memories because he now feels for Kat with his host felt for Kat.  

As planned, Kat wakes the next day and is completely out of sorts. Kat wanders into the kitchen and is stunned to see the empty bottles of wine. Confused about what happened the day before, Kat texts MacLaren and it's Philip who answers since Grant is still in surgery. There are still loose ends which need tying up so Philip heads to the airport to pick up MacLaren's SUV.  Philip quickly draws the attention of security and he is stopped when he tries to exit the parking garage. Philip is forced to incapacitate the guards but that doesn't stop them from contacting the FBI about what they believe to be a stolen vehicle. Forbes becomes concerned about MacLaren when he learns about the vehicle and starts to investigate. Forbes tracks the car and using dashcam video, is able to see that it's Philip who's driving. With police fast on his tail, Philip is forced to abandon the SUV and contact Carly to help him escape. 

Forbes and Kat meet up at MacLaren's SUV and they discuss the changes in MacLaren. Forbes has noticed that MacLaren is suddenly a perfect shot on the range though sucks at squash. Kat brings up the changes in MacLaren's diet and the fact that he does certain things (read: sex) better. Kat is concerned that Grant is missing but Forbes calms her by saying that it isn't unheard of for MacLaren to drop off the radar for awhile. 

Preacher, Season 2, Episode 13: The End of the Road

So we open with another scene from Jesse’s childhood, now working for “grandma” Madame L’Angelle - apparently running a southern style theme park with added woo-woo to a steady stream of tourists. The police are also interested but even child Jesse is skilled in spotting them and hiding from them.

The nefarious becomes more apparent when Jesse gets his arm brutally twisted for trying to hold back some money - and kills his pet chicken in a fit of temper. After which he them goes to Madame L’Angelle to fix it… or maybe to give her a chicken dinner.

Now to the future and we have Starr deciding to stage manage Jesse into the new messiah - which Jesse is clearly having issues with - from being called messiah to Starr trying to write his speech and dictate his wardrobe.

The first step of this is to give a speech. To a bunch of school children in a Catholic school… in or near Armenia or a place which is likely to have Armenians willing to attack and shoot people and be plausible because Jesse’s speech is interrupted by a group of men, apparently Armenians, with gun. They menace Jesse, several nuns and the kids and Jesse tries to use the word. But it fizzles. Again. Instead he resorts to violence. Jesse is very very very good at violence and saves everyone

Which gets him hailed and on a talk show. But doesn’t show off divine power - so ends up with lower billing than Kylie Jenner. Jesse is also smart enough to realise the attack was staged which adds to all of his conflict over being the messiah

The rest of the gang are being more interesting. Cassidy is taking this damn show and is determined to carve a storyline out of it. Somehow. He’s trying so hard. And he is hurting because after spying on Dennis he seems more proof of his blood lust and falling into utter vampire murderiness.

Worse, when Tulip comes back and he imagines having sex with her (for a brief moment I thought that scene was real).. And pictures himself ripping out Tulip’s throat. He is planning on bringing Dennis to with them on holiday to Bimini and asks Dennis if he can be a good boy. And Dennis asks him, archly, whether HE can be a good boy…

...Cass can’t. Not with Dennis around. He pushes Dennis out of the window in full sunlight and refuses to let him back. Dennis burns to death and Cass is all torn up. This could have been a real storyline, the struggle of the vampire and the poignancy of not just killing Dennis to save others - but the cruel, self-analysing selfishness of killing him in order to save himself. There’s a whole lot of levels of pain to analyse there and Cassidy would be real fun to analyse it. We could have had this storyline - instead we had Jesse moping around

And Tulip. Tulip continues her path of angst. She’s aiming for her holiday with a single minded and almost grumpy purpose, goes shopping (and then robs the place because the shop assistant is an arsehole and looking likely racist) before returning home to find Cass all mopey and smoking crack. And she finds the spy camera from the Grail. She realises that Starr has been watching them the whole time and probably manipulated everything. Guessing her friendly neighbour is behind this, she goes to confront Featherstone and Hoover with a sharp object

American Horror Story, Season 7 (Cult), Episode 2: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Time of the second episode of this hot mess. On the plus side it can’t get any worse

On the minus side; I just said that so now feel vaguely responsible for the awfulness I must now endure. Hey if I’m going to be punished like this I suppose I should have done something wrong.

So we begin an hour of Sarah Paulson screaming and my gods American Horrror Story first Lang, then Bassett, now Paulson - how many more actors I like are you going to turn into sources of irritation for me? And we have an important political message: fear turns people into monsters

It’s possibly you may miss it - or so the writers think - because they hit us with the same subtlety of being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.

We open with Ally having a clown moment deciding there are murderous evil clowns in the house and Ivy being either gullible enough or kind enough to treat this seriously and not act like Ally is hallucinating.

Of course the clowns aren’t there.

Oz is also having nightmares about clowns - and Winter continues to mess with him. She plays the same “honesty tell your fears” tactics that Kai abuses her with and among other things advises Oz that if he can’t tell if he’s in a dream or not he should ask.

His nightmares also ruin Ally and Ivy’s sexy time.

We also have new neighbours who start to freak out the already constantly freaked out Ally even more. They’ve moved in while the blood of the last residents still stains the carpets. Also they keep bees so we can be reminded of Ally’s fear of holes and move in big barrels which makes Ally extra paranoid. Harrison and Meadow conveniently decide to info dump their entire lives in one painful convoluted splurge. With added awfulness: Meadow stereotypes her new lesbian neighbours. Also Harrison is a gay man who married Meadow because gods alone know why, apparently 35 year old gay men and 35 year old cancer surviving women decide to marry because reasons and she throws in gay snark as well. yay.

To sum up the rest: she’s survived skin cancer, he’s a gun nut (and parroting shallow nonsense about Obama and the second amendment), they’re Nicole Kidman fans and they’ve had financial troubles. Also he talks about Hives being the ultimate society because there are no individuals only The Greater Good. Which is more Unsubtle politics.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jot of Blood, (The Coventry Years #1) by Katherine Bayless

Lire is returning to school and she’s not looking forward to it. As a clairvoyant she’s resigned to being an outcast - even her teachers are wary of their secrets being accidentally read through Lire’s skin.

But this school year not only brings some excellent friends - Cal the werewolf and Zach the Hidden, but no shortage of adventure as well: with murders, missing werewolves, and considerable attention from some of the most important people in the magical world.

It’s time for Lire to leave her shell

This is the book I never asked for but turned out to want anyway.

I love this series, I like the characters, the world is awesome and I can’t wait for Lire’s story to continue after the events of the last book.

So hearing there was a new book starring Lire and set in this world and I’m doing my happy dance and all ready to sign up. Then I hear it’s a YA story of Lire in her school days. And I want to pout in a corner because I didn’t ask for this - who asked for this - bring back Adult Lire on whom the fate of the world rests who has gone through lots of epic shenanigans.

I pouted, I sulked, I opened it up grimly ready to snark or be passive aggressive. But I liked it a lot.

Hey, a magic school where people learn stuff! Every other magical school I’ve read produces a population of young sorcerers who are experts in divination and potion making but cannot read or master basic arithmetic. But Lire’s school teaches foreign languages and English and maths, y’know actual subjects. I give so many points for a magical school that actually teaches!

I love the exploration of the different magical systems and curses, how this occasionally results in the school being divided and the accommodations that have to be made for people with different magical gifts. I really like the Hidden - the magic around the Invisible Men - is a nice unique element.

There’s also an interesting insight into how teachers treat pupils, how they bully their students - not through the very obvious. There’s some comparisons to disability discrimination and I don’t generally like - comparing marginalised people to actual super-powered people - but it’s an well done comparison of when people need accommodations. The problem of singling people out, of drawing attention to their needs in front of the whole class, giving accommodations you assume the people want without actually consulting them - and not asking what they actually need.

One of the reasons this works is that even while Lire and Zachary do have considerable magical powers, those powers come with severe drawbacks as well. Lire’s inability to touch anything comes with strict dietary requirements, special clothing and a constant awareness. Similarly, Zach being completely invisible leads to different ways he is regarded by others to say nothing of the difficulty of not having people sit on him. The parallels of disability are not inaccurate.

The story itself is very personal to Lire and I’m generally not a great fan of character driven high school stories. Not a judgement of those stories, just not my thing. But the connection to her powers, the wider world and hints of things to come all add a series of plot lines; including lots of nice action, investigation, foreshadowing and other fun things all while making Lire very much her age and experience. I like how we have the broad world, the meta-plot, the murder investigation, the characters and Lire’s own high school struggles. The balance is really well done, I love it.

I am a little dubious at the sheer number of very important people decide they need to be involved in high school student disputes. However there’s a definite hint that More Things Are Involved than high school politics.

The book is not diverse. There are several women - but I can’t say any character other than Zach and Cal are actually close to Lire and there are two women (Amber and one of the teachers) who are Designated Bad People. Similarly we have few meaningful POC: Deidra is Asian but appears very late on, we have a latino vampire and that pretty much sums his character up in his entirety. There’s an Asian truthsayer who is a nice character - but only briefly appearing. There are no LGBTQ characters

I still want book four in the Clairvoyant’s Complicated Life series. I want that very very badly. But, not having that, The Coventry Years is a wonderful addition to this world and Lire’s history, her old friends, her old contacts and some of the shape of the world. It was fun, it was a great insight into a fascinating world. I liked it a lot

And now we can have book four in the Clairvoyant’s Complicated Life series.