Friday, July 31, 2015

In Which I Review Under the Dome (3x7)

It's like an apocalypse out there. On this weeks episode, "Ejecta," it's the end of the world as we know it and all the main characters inside the Dome handle it about as well as we expect them to handle the destruction of mankind: badly. Some are feisty and feel as though the embers of the burning world provide a delightful aphrodisiac for some BBQ-ing; some are figuring out a way to stop the Borg Collective of Chester's Mill; some are getting drunk; and some are giving long winded expositional speeches that finally, at long last, confirm once and for all that these buggies are aliens from a different world. Thank you Bug!Little Crazypants; beating around the alien bush was getting old. You know, like so much of this plot. Very little plot was advanced this week, rather we looked at how each of the little groups handled all the destruction at 1 am and then again at 7 am. Because in the span of 6 hours people should be expected to come to grips with the end of everything they once knew? Hint: no. Grab some falling pink stars and let's go. 

When the world comes crashing down around you, how would you respond? You're safe in your upside down goldfish bowl, but everyone else not so much. Do you feel the compelling, and ultimately human, need to save everyone and mourn their loss when you prove ineffectual? That is, for the most part, the main thrust of this episode. For some, the end of the world means rediscovering your humanity, the thing that makes you tick as a walking and talking bipedal ape. Joe and Norrie have stumbled into the correct "human equation" that is going to be the downfall of the Borg Collective of Chester's Mill. It's human emotion, our ability to move beyond the basic and baser instincts of hunger, need for shelter, work, and reproduction. It's fear and rage and grief and if Under the Dome is cliche enough (and it is) love. Those are apparently the defining attributes of a human being. It's also, for what it's worth, the defining attributes of tons of non-humans. Take a dog. A dog can feel fear (whimpering, tail between legs), rage (teeth bared, growing, biting) and a dog can feel grief (keeping to themselves, whimpering, lethargy). While the idea that humanity can be saved by emotions and emotional response and that this is what separates us from the animals is perfectly fine--and goodness know it's a science fiction cliche of the highest magnitude--it's also illogical given that in reality animals are capable of feeling emotions. And, in fact, the Borg Collective of Chester's Mill also seem to have this capability. Were they not jumping out of buildings because of a collective ennui when their Borg-ish-selves detected that Christine had abandoned them? Did they not feel the collective suspicion of Jorrie last episode? They feel emotion, but it's of the collective shared variety instead of being unique to each soul. So instead of tapping into raw, almost archetypical, emotion--like rage, fear, and grief--the new Resistance have to tap into a singular emotion that will resonate to each individual or person. Jorrie, Julia and Big Jim are going to need to brush up on each person left standing in Chester's Mill if they are going to save them from being full on Drones. What works for Mrs. Jones isn't going to work for Mr. Smith just like it was grief that saved Joe, anger that saved Norrie, and fear that saved Hunter.  I don't know what saved Sam. Drink and sex, I suppose. Please tell me we aren't about to see a full on Chester's Mill bacchanal....


The other option in the face of destruction is despair, to drink yourself to oblivion and accept that you are the last living humans on the face of the planet. What a great pity party, Julia and Big Jim! You two are quite the hoot, amirite? Julia laments that she married Peter (you remember Peter. Barbie killed him and then Julia totally forgot all about that because Barbie made her feel safe and loved for the first time in her whole life. Ah, romance. It's...complicated) and that she never became a big shot reporter who traveled to Paris. Big Jim has regrets but he isn't exactly opening up about them but it's okay cause Julia also has a degree in psychology and realizes that Big Jim regrets his treatment of Little Crazypants and trying to make Junior into Big Jim's second chance. Maybe I'm being unfair to Julia. After all, in my 1x03 review of Under the Dome, I said the exact same thing when I analyzed Big Jim and Junior's relationship and my educational background is not psychology. Julia is right; it's a total cliche. Julia and Big Jim both are cliche. She's the plucky, young, and intrepid reporter who got her head turned by a dark and mysterious guy and then got bent out of shape when her main squeeze turned out to be...dark and mysterious. Jim's the football star who made nothing of himself and resented everyone because of it. Together they are woefully inept and blandly drawn. Maybe by the writers openly acknowledging Big Jim and Julia's cliche nature, they are setting us up to stop expecting the un-cliche. Go with the cliche flow, folks! Which is why, of course, Julia and Big Jim team up with Jorrie (and a miraculously cured Hunter) to take down the Borg Collective of Chester's Mill, one drone at a time. Good luck with that--what am I saying? Of course they'll win. It's cliche.

Miscellaneous Notes on Ejecta

--I more or less passed over Barbie and Eva because they bore me to tears but they represent another type of response in the face of destruction: not caring and moving on (omg, drink). Eva has gotten her claws (and teeth) into Barbie and now he's determined to forget all about humanity and his quest to save all the things. Instead, he turns toward the new world order of the Borg Collective of Chester's Mill and openly embraces his role, whatever that is.

--Also, Eva, put your clothes back on. Now is not the time for BBQ. 

--Little Crazypants gave us some vague exposition about the destruction of a former home world and all the death of "last time." I guess, without saying it, this confirms that these little critters are aliens and they fled because they had no place else to go. It sounds like meteors also destroyed their home world but that leads to the question of how did the falling pink stars follow them to Chester's Mill? Also begs the question of why the bug aliens didn't put up a Dome over their home world to protect themselves from a destructive meteor shower?

--Sad Linda shout out!

--Is Junior planning on feeding Sam to Queen Bee?

--"It's no longer about right or wrong. It's about survival." Wait. Isn't that what Under the Dome has always been about?

Friday, July 24, 2015

In Which I Review Under the Dome (3x6)

Just whistle while you work. Or while your mind and body are being taken over by an alien parasite and you become part of a hive collective that is all about Communism--or community. Same thing, really. Here's something somewhat (okay, totally) shocking: this weeks episode, "Caged," had two distinct themes. This isn't to say that those two will be handled well in future episodes, but at least it's a step in the right direction from the normal meandering and multi-forked gibberish of a plot. These two themes were, one, the idea of being caged or trapped--either by design of another person or symbolically trapped by a totalitarian society. The other theme, one that has less significance to the current plot but might be more relevant to the show as whole, is the idea of civilization and how we define a prosperous civilization. Is it built by creative individual leaders, charismatic thinkers and doers who shape from the top down? Or is it the followers, working together in a group (a kinship you might say) to build something together, as a team? In other words: Great Men Of History or the efforts of the everyman? Philosophically deep and interesting but most likely never going to get the proper treatment it deserves here in Gibberish Land simply because the great men of Chester's Mill are all terrible people and the little townsfolk who suffer under them are currently being mind-warpped by sex juice from a cave. So, everyone, grab a tuna can and let's go!

Let's start with the first theme of the night: being caged. On a literal level, almost every major character ends up caged somehow this week. Obviously, Big Jim (and Hero Indy the Dog) are in a physical cage, trying to sweet talk and flatter his way into getting Queen Bee (who is likewise in a cage) to confess her dastardly plans so that the lone scientist in his white lab coat will let Big Jim loose on the world. Jorrie are caged in the broom closet--the same broom closet, I believe, where they officially put Joe's amply supply of condoms to good use. Julia is tied up and gagged (which is really the best way to have Julia at all times) by Junior and the rest of the Chester's Mill Borg Collective. See, literal levels. But on a more symbolic level, the Chester's Mill Borg Collective are caged as well, and not by the upside down goldfish bowl. It's true that they've literally been caged for about 3 weeks (that's all? really?) inside the Dome, but now their cages are their minds and bodies, not a physical manifestation. I would be interested to know if any of the former "person" resides in the new hollowed out Borg form. There must be something intact because Norrie snapped out of her momentary lapse and thus far Joey hasn't been affected at all, even though he was inside the cocoon. However, Junior (and Queen Bee to Big Jim) insists that there is nothing of James Rennie left inside the tall, muscular, lusciously lipped Little Crazypants. But I think that's wrong, not only because of the aforementioned Norrie, but also because Queen Bee has been very careful in how she manipulates her Chester's Mill Borg Collective. She tosses around ideas like kinship and being "for the group" when in public (which is just politics and thus akin to local amateur theater full of shadows and dust) but on an individual level--say Queen Bee and Junior--she uses the host's life, quirks, flaws, and traits to bend them to her will. When Queen Bee is manipulating Junior for the first time, she doesn't talk about the greater good of the group; she uses Junior's own traumatic past (namely the emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of Big Jim) to get him to burn down the Rennie house (another cage). Having found in Queen Bee what he never got from Big Jim, Junior is more malleable and open to suggestion, like sex in the Cave of Wonders. I think Queen Bee knows that she is playing a dangerous game; her plan to turn the residents of Chester's Mill into her Borg Collective is teetering on an edge. One strong gust--say from Julia or Jorrie--and it could all fall to ruin. The individuals have to be gotten rid of if they won't play by the rules because once you introduce independent thought and creative genius (even if it's crazy creative genius) into the mix, the masses will open their eyes and blink away the effects of their drug. This does bring one question to mind: would the Chester's Mill Borg Collective consider Queen Bee their goddess as well as their leader? They certainly revere her in a manner that is not unlike revering a god. They stand around (whistling) while they wait for orders; there is no forward motion for the Chester's Mill Borg Collective unless dictated by Queen Bee. Now, that's a monarchy (tyranny, really) but it's also a (highly) negative and cynical look at religion. And at this stage, if there is an apotheosis a'coming for Queen Bee, then I am reminded what Marx said about religion: it's the opiate of the masses.

That is also a nice bridge to our second theme of the night: civilization and the merits of what makes one "good" and what makes one "bad." Under the Dome seems, in my mind, to be setting up a dual and oppositional dynamic here: the individual, non-cult-like flavor of a few select Chester's Mill residents against the drugged out, cult-like (with some potential religious connotations) of the Borg Collective. It's an us vs them mentality, but given the language Queen Bee was using in her conversation with Big Jim, it's more than that. It's that individuality must be suppressed. You--the core of what you are--do not exist. The collective, the kinship, the fellowship, the herd exists. But you do not. You are a cog in a machine that is intricate and far more important than your tiny bit. As I said, it's more than an us vs them mentality; we can extend to it to religion (atheism vs organized religion); to political systems (republics vs communism) and so on and so forth. Perhaps this isn't what Under the Dome is intending--and, actually, given their track record of thinking small and only in cheesy cliches, I would be stunned and amazed to learn that they had put this much thought into their show--but nevertheless, it's where my brain went and given that TV is subjective, I'm running with it. I'm not even sure that Under the Dome wants to come down on one side of this issue. Being part of a collective is serving the residents of Chester's Mill on one level: they are fed; they are being put to work; they are whistling (I assume) in happiness. Yes, they've lost their individuality, but their needs (if we go by Maslow's woefully outdated pyramid) are being met. On the other hand, being a leader isn't that great. Big Jim was a leader and he was hated and despised. Queen Bee is a leader but Sam stabbed her through the stomach this week because of her choices. Yes, they get to call the shots but they aren't exactly living the high life. I strongly suspect that Under the Dome will come down in the middle--you need to work together as a kinship (but sans sex juice) with the help of strong, charismatic leaders--to survive. And if that fails, then you better have a Cave of Wonders with some sex juice to wrap you tightly in a cocoon while you return to health. See. Just when it gets deep, Under the Dome reminds you not to give it too much thought.

Miscellaneous Notes on Caged      

--Queen Bee is "not of this earth, but something very foreign." Please just use the word "alien." Come on; we all know they are aliens.

--Anthropologists were hired to find fragments of a meteor that fell to earth. I really don't think Under the Dome has any idea what anthropologists do.

--The drawing Junior found: what are they plans of? A way to reach the aliens still up in space who need to come to Chester's Mill? A way to bring down the Dome? The next orgy?

--"We mean no harm, but we will defend ourselves." What does 'mean no harm' even mean to you then, Queen Bee? Cause lots-o-people have died.

--Why has Joey been totally unaffected and why did Norrie snap out of it? Please don't say true love.

--Queen Bee orders Eva to have sex with Barbie. How romantic.

--RIP Barlie? No more BBQ-ing I guess. 

--"I've seen the movie, Mrs. Spock." I'm going to pretend Under the Dome did not just riff on "Wrath of Khan."

Friday, July 17, 2015

In Which I Review Under The Dome (3x5)

And just when the Grinch thought he had won, he heard a sound. It was the sound of singing. Yes, even though the Grinch had stolen the Who Pudding, all the Whos of Whoville came out to hold hands and celebrate Christmas. And the Grinch's heart grew three times in size that day. Oh, it's a Christmas (or some other indeterminate point in time) miracle in Chester's Mill! Big Jim Rennie, the car salesman, politician, propane hoarder, thug, and all around bad egg (pun!) finally learned how to love. And no, it wasn't because of his son or his dead-then-alive-then-dead-again wife, but because of a dog. A dog named Indy. The hero of Chester's Mill is a scrawny mutt named Indy. Let's hear it for Indy, everyone! Okay, but back here on planet Earth and not on Planet Dome where people smear amniotic fluid on unsuspecting faces and speak in utter Gibberish, this weeks episode "Alaska" was really an exercise in exposition and reinforcing the main idea of the season which is an "us vs them" mentality with a focus on the collective hive mind versus the free and independent states of Jorrie (with a side of Julia). A lot of this was--you guessed it--utter nonsense. When your exposition just leaves more giant question marks and only serves to show that your narrative is too ridiculous to even explain properly, then maybe you need to rethink your narrative. Grab your favorite pet and hold him tight. Let's go. 

Queen Bee is suspicious. We get that, right? No one needs clarification on whether or not we should trust Christine Price? Good. Perhaps it's her tendency to record all her thoughts on a Dictaphone while she's trapped under a giant upside down goldfish bowl and therefore no one in the outside world can hear her thoughts on the progress of her "One of Us" experiment. Maybe it's her need to tell people to kill themselves by praying on their weakness and insecurities. It could be her flaming red hair coupled with a sneer of disdain as she watches the little ants march to and fro, stop and go. Or maybe--just going off the cuff here--it's the fact that has sex with teenage boys that she's controlling with hippy dippy drugs and then proceeds to smear the same drug on the face of her closest..."friend" in order to get said friend to join the hive mind and then carry Barbie's baby to term. Because the baby is the Prince that was Promised (wrong series?) and is going to replace her as Queen Bee, She of the Purple Caves, Lady of the Pods, and Her Majesty, The Royal Liar Liar Pants on Fire. Yeah, it didn't make much sense in the TV show either but honestly I think I just did a great job explaining it to you. We essentially got two shots of exposition this week. One was silly and the other was...sillier. The purple goo that is nurturing the pods down in the Cave of Wonders is really amniotic fluid; it's drying up because the energy supply is failing after Big Jim Rennie destroyed the Precious. When Gollum (actual Hobbit-esque Gollum) fell into Mount Doom with the Ring, Sauron was vanquished but here in Chester's Mill destroying the Precious means that you must work doubly hard to ensure that your herd of cattle do not stray from their (read: your; read: Queen Bee's) chosen path. That's just silly. Amniotic fluid? Feeding pods? Better still, feeding empty pods? There is no more life force in those pods. The people hatched. They came forth in slime and creamy goodness (I know, ew) and now the life force is inside them. So who cares if the happy drug runs out? Some members of Chester's Mill are resisting their life force. Like Joey and Norrie (because they shared True Love's Sex, obviously). Anyone who resists the life force needs a face full of slime--I wish I was making that up. Queen Bee literally smears Eva with a face full of amniotic fluid in order to make her behave. Queen Bee is all about control; people must play by her rules, they must work together, play together, live together, moo together (favorite line of the night; from Norrie, of course).

If you follow Queen Bee's rules, you get rewarded, like Junior who got to bang the Queen in her Cave of Wonders (double entendre for the win!) If you don't behave or if you deign to take away one of Queen Bee's workers then you get beat up, killed, berated, or a stern talking to. Is Christine Price an actual menace? Both yes and no. She's of the subtle type of menacing. I will admit that she has a certain Ben Linus type of nature about her; Queen Bee controls behind the scenes, moving pieces into place and doing away with pawns (like Angry Marine Man) as she sees fit. It could be considered genius and the way the herd of Chester's Mill turned on Jorrie on a dime was actually horrifying in the traditional "Children of the Corn" way; but then she spouses nonsense about amniotic fluid and gets taken captive by Julia with nothing more than a gun and a toss of the Monarch's flowing locks and suddenly Queen Bee seems pretty incompetent. It's also completely ridiculous that the show introduced her just this season, giving no indication that a Queen Bee was lurking somewhere in Chester's Mill. We've had other threats before, but nothing that would suggest Queen Bee and Eva were hiding out somewhere having found the egg just before the Dome came down. It's an obvious ass-pull from the writers who can't do anything better and don't want to find a way to rework their narrative to make an already established character into the Big Bad. I could buy Julia being Queen Bee; after all, she's the Monarch (whatever that means). Or even making Norrie the new Queen. Heck, make Big Jim the King Bee since it fits his overbearing and controlling persona, but Christine Price is just another Max No-Last-Name, a character who stumbles into the narrative when the writers are struggling with what to say.

 The other piece of exposition of the night gives us our title of Alaska. If you remember (and why would you since the show can barely remember a cogent plot line from week to week) back in the first episode of the season, the state of Alaska was cryptically dropped into the storyline as an obvious Chekov's Gun. We knew it had to come back up because one does not mention a state on the opposite (literally) side of the continental United States without it having some sort of significance later in the story. It was nothing revelatory; it seemed mostly like what I had suspected: some 25 years ago, archaeologists (not anthropologists!) in Alaska discovered the fragments of an egg inside a crater. The shards of the egg emitted an electrical charge when touched and gave off an energy that was different from all other types of energy on this planet (aliens!); this energy was clean and not radioactive and obviously became a hot commodity. The issues was that the eggs infected people and resulted in some strange behavior. Thanks, I'm sure, to the foresight of the scientists that were infected, they recorded their own suicides after the leader (former Queen Bee) jumped off a building because whatever the leader does, so too her little hive. History is more or less repeating itself now with Christine playing the new Queenly role. She was hired (because this is actually a job anthropologists do??) to find the first intact egg. I have no idea how she found it in Chester's Mill (the show writers told her to head north east, apparently) but there you go. Aktion is trying to harvest the energy of the egg without the nasty consequences of body snatching. Ah well. Too bad; egg go boom.

Miscellaneous Notes on Alaska 

--Joe and Norrie declared their love for each other before copulating again in a field. How romantic.


--Julie, in her infinite wisdom as a world class news reporter, has the opportunity to ask the lead scientist inside the Dome any question she wants and she asks "What happened in Alaska?" Really? An incident you were just alerted to because of a file on a computer that says "Alaska" is the first question to come out of your mouth? You didn't think to ask "what is up with this huge upside down goldfish bowl and how do I get out?" Julia is dumb.

--No more fake-out dog violence please.

--RIP Abby. I guess? And RIP Angry Marine Man. I guess? If Under the Dome wants death to have an impact, then stop killing people that are introduced one episode beforehand.

--Hunter fell off a roof. That's unfortunate.

--"Moo on." (omg, I just realized that's a pun on a the "move on" line that was uttered approximately eight hundred million times in the season premiere)

Friday, July 10, 2015

In Which I Review Under the Dome (3x4)

Oh. I get it. The aliens that sent the egg that caused the Dome to drop--are the Borg. It all makes sense now! Having never managed to capture and assimilate the Enterprise and being forever frustrated--as much as a hive collective with no discernible personality can be--by this failure, they clearly decided to send themselves back in time to Chester's Mill, USA circa 2013 and trap a bunch of whiny, good for nothing, idiots inside a Dome in order to upgrade humans as part of their collective. The Borg have changed a wee bit since the good ol' days of Star Trek; now they have love triangles! Lots of love triangles. Likes, OUAT-levels of love triangles. At any rate, I'm not entirely sure that anything happened on this week's episode "The Kinship." Mostly couples split up, had sex, fought, and used their Dome-sized situation to engage in tired metaphors about kinship, family, herds, and over all togetherness and harmony. Oh and Queen Bee was outted as a pervert. Grab a condom--or if you're Joey, grab several--and let's go!

In a stunning turn of events, the people inside Chester's Mill are about to run out of food! Shocking isn't it. It's not like we've ever done this before or been in this exact same situation (sarcasm). But don't worry, Evarbie found cattle feed that will sustain the residents until the corn begins to grow. All hail the dynamic and romantic duo that are Eva and Barbie. Lord. Save me from this. I don't care about Eva. I barely care about Barbie, so by the law of mathematics, I certainly don't care about Evarbie. She's overly weepy, he's overly....dull. Together they are weepy and dull. At least Julia is somewhat crazy (and perfectly coiffed. Seriously, girlfriend, how do you still have an ample supply of conditioner and mouse for such bouncy curls? Shouldn't your hair be more akin to a bird's nest by now?). In case you missed it, the cattle metaphor was not subtle. Cattle are part of a herd. Herds work and live together for the betterment of all herd-kind. You might even call them a kinship. I call it rote and trite. After a year in Pod Status, the residents of Chester's Mill are forced to make decisions about which life they prefer--the Matrix or the Real World. Blue pill or red pill, Neo? Barbie, it appears, is choosing his rabbit hole; he is willing to fall, Alice-style, down and down and down and into the weepy and waiting arms of Eva. What a lovely delusion. Of course, it's not exactly free will that's leading Barbie down his Matrix-y lane. It's Queen Bee who keeps manipulating the situations to her advantage. For whatever reason, it's imperative to her that Evarbie be together in her new Borg collective. Julia is not fit for Barbie. Is it because Julia is the Monarch? Does the Queen Bee fear the Monarch? Is it because Julia has better hair than Queen Bee? You couldn't possibly have two red heads living together in the collective. The world could not hold that much soullessness.

Contrasting Evabrie are Jorrie (with a rather rape culture-y side story of Horrie). If Barbie is gladly falling back down his rabbit hole, then Norrie is running from the Queen of Hearts (oh hey...Queen Bee does like red!) and back into the real world. Norrie got caught up in the pretty and perfect world that the Pod gave her. She was loved and she loved back. She was desired and she desired back. For once, Norrie was rather normal. Or as normal as a girl who spent several weeks inside a Dome can be. There were pretty dresses and sororities and friends and acceptance. But that's not who Norrie is. Norrie, in the real world, hates everyone (Norrie is an obvious stand-in for the audience, by the way). Maybe that's the point. At the heart of the matter, Barbie really is a Savior-type figure, albeit one that is rather rough around the edges. So the dream world that he experienced in the Pod is pretty close to how Barbie sees himself on a daily basis. It's easy to fall back into that world when it's one that already matches your preconceived notions about yourself. Whereas with Julia, he can be the Savior, but he's also the Killer and the Thug and last season he was the guy who almost agreed that killing the weaker members of Chester's Mill would be a good idea. With Eva, he's the guy you can cling to in a sand-and-hail storm. But for Norrie, the reality she was given inside the Pod is not who she really is; not even close to it. The bubblegum pink version of her does not match who Norrie sees herself as, and thus the Kool-Aid Queen Bee is passing out fails, ultimately. Sure, Norrie dips her big toe into the pond by way of a heated make out session with Hunter, but in the end, Norrie is a rebel who falls back into her life with Joey. And then Joey proceeds to fall into her vagina. What? Too much? If the Dome shatters because of the power of Jorrie love making, I may have to give up TV forever. And in other news, Queen Bee took Junior down to the Cave of Wonders and then showed him her Cave of Wonders (yes, that's a sex metaphor) and my eyes need some serious bleaching. UGH. WHY?! Just....why? Is this like in "V" when the Queen needed to mate while the other aliens got into place and prepared? But we did get a look at Queen Bee in all her Queeny glory; bugtastic and ugly as sin. Good luck with that one, Junior. Let's just hope Queen Bee doesn't have to eat her mate after they consummate their love.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Kinship

--Does Queen Bee have to touch you in order for you to fall under her spell? She keeps touching everyone, like Jacob on LOST.

--Big Jim was kidnapped by men who managed to get inside the Dome. The men wanted the Egg. Because killing Gollum did not end the magical quest for the godforsaken egg. Look, the egg is gone!! Take the shows advice and MOVE ON.

--How is it that Science Teacher Pine didn't know that you could magically turn cattle feed into human food? She knew everything science. She science'd that science harder than anyone has ever science'd the science.

--"All you care about is screwing me!" RIP Horrie

--Who the hell is Abby and why do I care about her drunk troubles and her drunk sex with Sam? Have we ever seen her before?

--"Does this mean I should get a condom?" And the best line of the night goes to....

Friday, July 3, 2015

In Which I Review Under The Dome (3x3)

In the promo for this weeks episode, "Redux," we were promised that all would be revealed. And we got....answers? See, I'm actually asking because I'm not sure. When the words functioning collective from purple goop (mixed with Oxycontin, apparently) were uttered, I almost turned the channel. This really is a bad 1980s science fiction movie, isn't it? Or it's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's a good thing that this episode was titled Redux because that's what it is: a rehash, a revival of past drama. Yes, the characters say that they feel different because of their experiences inside the Alternate Reality, but it's the same old same old. Julie and Barbie have a fight because someone comes in between them (season one it was Julia's husband, whom Barbie killed. Season two it was Science Teacher Pine who wanted to thin the herd through careful selection); Jorrie are having issues as Hunter makes a move on Norrie, just like Melanie made a move on Joe back in season two. Barbie and Big Jim fight; Big Jim and Julia fight; Big Jim and Junior fight; Big Jim and a dog fight. Okay, that last one is new, but the rest? Same old. Same old. Same old. The song remains the same here in Chester's Mill. The one semi-new, yet somehow just as ridiculous and mind numbingly tedious as previous plot lines, is Queen Bee who is one part bitch, one part alien, and all parts homicidal. So was all revealed? Nope, not even close. Grab a match and let's set this on fire! 

Who sent the Dome? We don't know. What is the Dome? We don't know. Why Chester's Mill? We don't know. Why is Julia the Monarch? We don't know. Why are Joey, Angie, Junior and Norrie the Four Hands? We don't know. Why did Pauline receive visions of what was to come? We don't know. Why is Barbie so important? We don't know. So what do we know? Well we know that the purple goop is a wicked brew of Oxycontin and that when you combine it with an alternate reality it makes cocooned people into a functioning collective after life forces have been transferred to said pod people. No, I am not going to break down that long winded sentence and explain it to you because first someone is going to have to explain it to me! What on God's green Earth...? This was the supposed big revelation from Queen Bee (who was inside the Queen Pod--her words, not mine!). Queen Bee and Gollum meet in the underground lair of Evil to discuss how Gollum only had ONE JOB and failed to do it; she couldn't even cocoon people correctly. Well, that's Gollum. Useless, annoying, and thankfully by episode end, deader than a doornail. I can only hazard a guess at this point but I think the egg had literal life forms in it and that those life forms were in the process of being transferred to the good (not so good) people of Chester's Mill when Big Jim interrupted the coital transfer (yeah it's sex, let's just own up to this...those are sperm moving into a cocoon shaped eggs and hatching little Pod People) by placing the egg on the Queen Bee Pod. Or something. Queen Bee did say that the purpose of all this was to survive and propagate, so my underlying theory of long ago that these are aliens looking to colonize, to branch out, to expand, might actually be true. I honestly don't care if it's true. I just want the story to do more than give me the same refrain over and over. Ooooh a mysterious stranger who might have answers to the Dome and the questions posed at the start of the series? Yup, we've never had that before (sarcasm). Oooh, relationship trouble between people who are only connected through extraordinary circumstances and most likely would not have even been remotely interested in one another outside of the Dome? Yup, we've never had that either (sarcasm!) Oooh, the townspeople don't trust one another! Yup, we sure as hell have never had that before either! I think I just broke my keyboard with all that sarcasm. We did learn a little bit more about Queen Bee and Eva (does she need a nickname?) Apparently they are anthropologists who have uncovered lost civilizations in their travels (which included North Dakota?) Look, I don't know what kind of college you went to but anthropologists don't exactly uncover lost civilizations. You get that the anthro in "anthropologists" means people right? It's Greek so you can trust me on this one. Archaeologists, maybe. Also, isn't Eva a little too young to be some hot shot anthro/archo/scholar person? Or at least too young to be one that has uncovered lost civilizations? But whatever; these two--Pinky and the Brain, if you will--found the egg before the Dome fell and Queen Bee touched it which is why she is now the Queen Bee. The egg infused her with its yolky goodness. Or something.

The other redux of the night was that the Pod People are acting...like Pod People! Everyone who emerged from the pods are having major issues readjusting to real life because to them being inside the alternate reality was very real. It felt like a year of healing, coping, and moving on (drink!) happened. In a way, that's a very interesting storyline: trying to suss out memories and realities and decide your own fate after you have two lives in your head. It's almost classic OUAT, actually. But of course, for Under the Dome, all that means is that these townsfolk once again demonstrate what terrible people they are by being selfish and self-righteous. Norrie still cares for Joe but she's grown up because of her Pod Experience (which was joining a sorority and I can tell you that does not necessarily age you in the way you think it should) and this means that she'll kill pigs in the woods, Katniss Everdeen style. Hunter is suddenly a beef cake who can see without his glasses (because purple goop!) and he and Norrie make eyes at one another while dancing to punk rock in a dead woman's house (after moving her corpse outside because it smelled funny.) Barbie has feelings for Eva (who is not pregnant) but is also still in love with Julia and can't quite figure out how to be with one or the other. Junior wants to be his own man and be free of Big Jim but could only do that inside the cocoon. Or by burning his house down in the real world. No, I don't understand that either. How...does this not kill people? I know the Dome is porous but a house on fire inside an enclosed goldfish bowl...doesn't that greatly reduce the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon dioxide? Shouldn't everyone be choking and wheezing and having smoke inhalation problems? But they aren't. They are staring at the moon like it holds the secrets of the universe. No, don't ask me to explain that. I don't get that either. Did the egg come from the moon? (Moon is goddess, woman-wife to Sun. It is known. Or it's a dragon egg, Khaleesi. If you don't get this reference...then I give up). Is Queen Bee a Moon Martian? Is anyone anything? Or, are they Pod People living in a fishbowl, being controlled by writers who clearly have no plan, no agenda, and no narrative. No, don't ask me to explain that either. The show itself speaks volumes in that regard.

Miscellaneous Notes on Redux

--"What was it like for you when I was dead?" Really, Julia? You couldn't just start with a "hi honey. Glad you're alive."

--Joey gave an actual Matrix reference. The writers are reading my blog, aren't they?

--Queen Bee to Gollum: "YOU HAD ONE JOB!"

--Why is Big Jim being followed by a dog? I don't get this. But I don't get anything.

--Hunter + Norrie = Horrie. I have spoken.

--Sam is going to run the support group? The guy who brutally murdered a teenage girl less than two weeks ago? We think this is a good idea??

--"We are what we do." Thank you Queen Bee for that lovely psychobabble-new-age-philosophy. To bad it's nonsense.

--Did someone put out the fire at Junior's house? Doesn't that waste precious water? 

--RIP Gollum. I guess.

--No seriously. Why the hell are they staring at the moon?

Friday, June 26, 2015

In Which I Review Under the Dome (3x1 and 3x2)

It's baaaaaaack. Like the proverbial bad penny, Under the Dome has returned for its third season which means 9 weeks of my snark, my eye rolls, and my silly nicknames for characters I can't be bothered with. I've had almost a full month off of real reviewing but now is as good a time as any to dive back in--lest we forget, Under the Dome was one of the first shows to appear on this blog of mine. The season three opener "Move On" and "But I'm Not" (oh, so many jokes. So little time) has everything right where we left it. There's Barbie and Julie still doing their BBQ-ing; there's Little Crazypants Junior and Papa Crazypants Big Jim; there are Joe and Norrie--the incomparable Jorrie--making moon eyes at each other and acting like their love struck teenage shtick is real and will last. In other words, the opener for the (most likely?) final season of Under the Dome is a big giant mess full of weird pacing, weird acting, and weird plot lines that feel as though they are going nowhere. Ain't it great to be back? When we last left the residents of Chester's Mill, Barbie was about to lead them through an underground tunnel (of love?) full of butterflies (naturally) until Melanie (our residential Gollum) appeared and told everyone to follow her. Crazy is as crazy does, so of course everyone happily trotted after Gollum through the Cave of Wonders. What's on the other side? Answers? No, of course not. Suspense? Not really, mostly confusion. New characters that I really don't care about? You betcha. Oh Under the Dome...I am prepared for the terrible writing and overused cliches. Are you ready for my sass? Let's go!

Pod people! Like, actual pod people! Normally when we talk about pod people in media, it's a commentary on the poor character representation based on what has come before (see for example: Emma Swan in OUAT S3B and beyond. Too soon for OUAT snark?). But with Under the Dome, it's scarily literal. Let's be up front on this: these two hours of TV were weird. And confusing. And like something out of a bad 1980s science fiction film, complete with purple goop and cocoons. It felt like a hot mess because it was a hot mess. Future alternative realities that are being controlled by Gollum in an underground lair which houses the real residents of Chester's Mill, asleep in giant larvae? What were the writing tripping when they came up with this one? However, I will say this: it was so bad that it was almost good. This was campy; ridiculous camp that wasn't trying to elevate itself above campiness. I am fine with campiness; what I am not fine with is when a campy show forgets that it it's supposed to be grounded in the absurd.  This episode, thankfully, had that going for it. Basic premise: everything you saw in "future" Chester's Mill is fake. The Dome did not come down; Julia and Little Crazy Pants are not dead; Norrie did not join a a cult--sorry, sorority. Everyone is not "moving on" (and yes, you should take a shot for every time someone on the show mentioned the idea of moving on.) The concept of moving on seems very important to the aliens (can it really be anything other than aliens at this point?) in charge of the Dome. They want the residents to feel like they've moved past (shot!) the trauma of living in a fish bowl. Why exactly? Why create a false life for the people that you're....harvesting, or doing whatever to. Is there an empathetic streak to these aliens? Possibly, but I think, rather, that it's easier to control livestock if they think everything is perfectly normal. If you introduce an agent or stimulus into a carefully controlled environment, the animals can tell. They panic. For example, Junior suddenly showing up in Fake! Chester's Mill when everyone believed him to be dead causes Barbie to realize that things in this new, shiny, un-Domed town in Maine are not quite up to snuff. What is frustrating, though, is that none of this Fake! Chester's Mill is real so therefore anything that you learned isn't going to matter because it was all a construct. They're inside the Matrix, in other words (I'm pretty sure I made a lot of Barbie = Neo jokes last year...). Joe and Norrie? Not a struggling young couple trying to figure out how to be friends in the wake of romance. Junior? Not a Dudley Do Right who is out building homes for the poor and saving the world. Barbie? Did not go to Yemen to take down terrorists, one cell at a time. Any development the characters are perceived to have had is just that...a fraudulent perception that falls once the cocoon has hatched its new butterflies. Once I realized that the Future Chester's Mill was really Fake! Chester's Mill, nothing mattered in that timeline or that story. It all becomes muted and superfluous. Well. Maybe not everything--or everyone.

Remember what I said about new characters that I don't care about? Well, here's one of them. Now, granted this New! Red (whose real name is apparently Christine Price) is probably going to be pretty important. More so than Max No-Last-Name, Science Teacher Pine and Papa Q (ah, memories) at the very least. You don't go and hire Marg Helgenberger for a one off annoying role like all the above listed characters were. So, in my mind, a cocoon hive needs a leader, a Queen. Thus New! Red is going to be Queen Bee. I have decided that is her new nickname. She was carefully manipulating a lot of the situation in the Fake! Chester's Mill from Joey and Norrie to Sam and even to Junior once he joined the party. Queen Bee was also wearing a very loud purple ring that matched the purple goop that was "feeding" the livestock back in the underground caverns. If I had to guess, I'd say she's the leader of the alien race that crashed in Chester's Mill some indeterminate time ago (though, probably around the same time that those eggs began to drop) and has been waiting for some secret confluence of events to rebuild her race using the humans in Chester's Mill. After all, Gollum kept saying that the people in the cocoons needed to become what "they" needed. Oh, I don't think that's really Melanie. I assume the real Melanie is either dead or never existed at all given her obvious otherworldly quality in this episode. But Gollum did kill Papa Q, so I have to thank her for that. In other "new random characters that I don't care about" category there is Eva, Barbie's imaginary squeeze inside Fake! Chester's Mill who turns out to be not-so-fake and very probably very-really-pregnant. Because Barlie need drama like they need a hole in the head (and they do need a hole in the head) and in TVLand drama means love triangle. I am so excited. Can you tell? And finally, we have Mysterious Corporate Man Who Gave Exposition About Alaska to Papa Q. That's a long nickname, so I'll have to find some way to shorten it (it might just be Benton given that this new man is being played by Eriq la Salle and thus will always be Dr. Benton from "ER"). Raise your hand if you think Alaska is going to come back up along with Mysterious Corporate Man Who Gave Exposition About Alaska's back story about the eggs, the cocoon, and why the Dome fell? What I'm ultimately trying to get at is this: these first two hours of TV gave us a lot of questions, almost no answers, quite a few deaths--though few were real--and enough eye roll worthy moments to make it all taste funny in my mouth. The plot did not advance much and our characters were essentially back where they left off at the end of season two, under a Dome, with lots of mysterious things happening, not trusting one another, and unsure of how to continue living in this giant fishbowl. So...it's business as usual in Chester's Mill. 

Miscellaneous Notes on Move On and But I'm Not

--I will say that the CGI for the Dome falling in the alternative reality was quite stunning.

--Big Jim please stop shooting people, especially your son. I know Junior is Little Crazy Pants but putting a bullet in him is not the answer. Also, please stop declaring that "this is my town!" You're a tool.

--"We have to have the egg!!" Yes, Gollum. We know it is the Precious.

--Someone is going to have to explain why simply setting the egg on top of the largest cocoon caused it to shoot off fireworks.

--If the writers wanted the reveal that Chester's Mill was Fake in the future alternate reality, then they needed to not use the very obvious "purple haze" for each and every single transition to Chester's Mill.

--Obviously Ava and Christine are not natural citizens of Chester's Mill, and probably not of planet Earth. But what is Ava to Christine? Daughter? Lieutenant? Rival?

--How many times was "move on" uttered this episode? I'd really like a tally.

--"There's nothing good on TV anymore, anyway." Meta. Meta as hell, y'all. 

--Actual. Pod. People.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In Which I Review Game of Thrones (5x10)

I promised a season finale review when I wrote my season five opener review for Game of Thrones and I like to keep my promises, like Ned Stark (if you don't know what that means, then please spend the summer reading A Song Of Ice And Fire). But here we are at the end of another season. Jon is dead (maybe), Dany has flown, Arya is blind, Cersei took a walk, and no one has any idea what is going on with Brandon Stark. I am going to be fairly blunt up front: I thought season five of Game of Thrones was the worst one to date. This isn't to say that there weren't shinning moments of brilliance--the episode Hardhome comes to mind--but rather that season five slowed down the narrative to an almost standstill and open gaping plot holes every which way, while refusing to take that opportunity to present an introspective look at what is going on Westeros and the lives of our favorite characters. Let me unpack that a bit. The fourth and fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, "A Feast For Crows" and "A Dance With Dragons," respectively, are significantly slower than the first three books. For two or three characters, AFFC is essentially one giant travelogue and for the rest it's about feeling stuck in situations you can't control--the mean streets of Meereen, the turbulent religious zeal of King's Landing, The Wall and daggers in the dark. You could make the argument that the reason season five of A Game of Thrones felt so much slower was because their source material, the work of George RR Martin, was significantly slower. It's an argument that holds water and has merit EXCEPT in what GoT does not do, but Martin does. AFFC and ADWD might be slower than the three previous books but GRRM takes that time to allow for philosophical, moral and ethical ponderings as well as intense character development, be it of the good kind or the bad kind. And why not? Is that not how war and trauma work? Yes, war is loud and in your face and there are dates and events that become solidified in the public conscious as important, normally circled in red sharpie, but there is also the "after" of war. People wonder why did we do this as they begin to look past the actual conflict and look at the toll it has taken on the world and its people. That is, essentially, what A Feast For Crows is. And it's important. It's essential to have Ellaria Sand speak against the blood lust and vengeance that fuels her family in the wake of Oberyn's death. It's essential to have Septon Maribald speaking about broken men who never return home from war. In a lot of ways, GRRM is writing an anti-war narrative and thus when Game of Thrones only shows the horrors of war and men in general but not the characters reflecting on said horrors, it only gives one side of the story. 

Instead of these introspective and quiet moments, the characters this season simply moved from plot point to plot point in order to reach the desired endgame. I have come to believe, after watching the whole season, that the show runners worked backwards in order to write all of season five. They knew they wanted the final three episodes--Hardhome (Jon's battle against the White Walker), The Dance of Dragons (Dany's flight), and Mother's Mercy (Cersei's Walk and Jon's death)--to be the final images of this season. All three are incredibly powerful in text and certainly could be watchable TV designed to generate buzz. The problem is that the writers still had to come up with enough plot to get the characters to those points. I guess that's one way of writing--instead of letting your characters lead you where they want to go, you come up with their final endgame and then write the narrative to get them to point X. Whether or not that is an acceptable way to write fiction is a debate for another day. In brief, those are my overall thoughts on season five of GoT. Lack of introspective, meaningful, conversation and thought that lead to some awkward storylines full of plot holes and bizarre turns up until the the final three episodes which ranged from spectacular to rage inducing to confusion. And of course this is to say nothing of the continued sexism and torture porn GoT is becoming so famous for. So what in particular worked? And what did not? Grab a flying lizard and let's go.

I have written this review three times now--and deleted it each time. Thus the lateness and the somewhat scattered nature of this final attempt. As I said in the introduction, I thought this season was simply....bad. One great episode does not a season make nor does it endear me toward the other 9 episodes which were either slow and boring or offensively bad. I wasn't sure if this was going to turn into a season review or an episode review, so I think it's going to turn into a bit of both. All I can say is that I don't know if I can continue to watch Game of Thrones; I don't know if I can continue to watch HBO and the two show runners hack George RR Martin's world to bits the way that they are doing. There are adaptations that work when you taken differences in medium into account (say, for example, the first season of Game of Thrones) and then there are adaptations that remove the heart and soul that it is adapting from. It is like the show runners decided that the best way to craft their narrative was to do the opposite of whatever was going on in the books and add in elements that were never there to begin with, which always--always this season--ended up being a nightmare of epic proportions. Book readers get a bit of a bad wrap in this fandom when we launch criticisms at the show because we are told that we are being snobbish and that the books aren't the show but here's the deal: the characters and the narrative should at least resemble the books in something more than name. Yes there is a Doran Martell in Game of Thrones but his resemblance to the book version ends there. Yes, there is a "For the Watch" in Game of Thrones but the spirit and impetus that lay behind the book version of the same event is lacking to the point of being non-existent in the show. The Brienne of Tarth in the books in no way resembles the kind and caring and somewhat naive Brienne in the books. I considered breaking this review down into "stories that worked" and "stories that did not" except that in each case--from Meereen to the Wall--there were elements that worked and did not work. Except for Dorne. That was just drivel from start to finish. I am only going to hit a few stories and a few points because talking about this episode as a whole would (and already has) left me exhausted. It was bad, guys. It was just bad.

I know that was a lot of text to set up what I'm getting at but here's the crux: Game of Thrones more often than not relies heavily on shock value that is too dissociative from its narrative framework and how they've presented the characters thus far. It is done with very little explanation or understanding of Martin's world and is increasingly being done for no other motivation that to claim to be innovative and shocking and pushing the envelope when in reality, the show writers are relying heavily on some fairly old and redundant tv themes. Is there any agency left for any woman in this series that feels natural and organic? Sansa was raped and tortured and in the end it did not push her to save her own skin or take down Ramsey Bolton like many claimed it would, but instead it opened the door for Theon Greyjoy to become a hero who saves Sansa from her sad fate; a fate that she is more or less accepting of and passively prepares herself for when she is confronted by Miranda in the final Winterfell moments. I have never denied the violence of Martin's world, though a large portion of that violence happens offscreen and is related through various POV's who are either at the center of (but after the fact) or on the periphery of said violence. However, when violent acts do take place, they are not random nor haphazard; they fit into an already established narrative arc that also aligns with the characters as we uncover their multifaceted layers. Arya walking the Riverlands shows the horrors of war and her hardening heart toward such bloody acts, as an example. After the rape scene in episode 506, the internet was abuzz with both praise (for realism in this medieval setting) and outrage at having yet another rape scene for what seemed like pure shock value. I happen to agree with the latter stance but let's work through the former. In one regard, yes this rape kept in line with Ramsey Bolton's character--a non POV sociopath who is only ever seen through the eyes of another, mostly Theon-turned-Reek. Ramsey is known for his ill treatment of beast and man alike and is probably as close to "pure evil" as one can get in Martin's grey speckled world. With regards to the realism debate, I will never deny that marital rape is a very real part of Martin's world: to do so is to deny Cersei and Robert and to deny (the beginnings at least) of Daenerys and Drogo. It is also to deny what happens between Ramsey and his Book Bride, the Fake Arya Stark. The marriage and subsequent rape in the show, however, did not make narrative sense nor did it have any sort of satisfactory conclusion or emotional follow through. It was also heavily cliched. Sansa's rape was for Theon's character development because Hollywood continues to deny the female agency and perspective and instead myopically focuses on the male. I hated the rape aspect as a whole, but from an objective standpoint it is part of GRRM's world, rape in general and marital rape specifically. But during a time when we're supposed to be focused on Sansa's trauma, heartache, and pain...they went to Theon and instead we focused on how Sansa's rape was affecting him. That's a big no-no for me. And in the end, it is Theon who is the hero to poor defenseless Sansa. Nothing about the rape of Sansa and her situation furthers her character. It makes her pitiable but after 3 seasons with Joffery, Sansa is already pitiable. It makes Ramsey a monster but after watching him flay and slice up Theon, he is already a monster. It makes the Bolton family the enemies of the Starks, but after Roose betrayed Robb at the Twins and then took Winterfell for himself, the Boltons already are the enemies of the Starks. In other words, packing Sansa off to Winterfell and having her married and raped by Ramsey Snow served no purpose in furthering Sansa's arc or the arc of the grand narrative. I'll just keep reminding myself that Sansa is really in the Vale, eating lemon cakes, and toying with Harry the Heir at Littefinger's insistence.

Daenerys is presented as a bad ass who feeds men to her dragons when they piss her off (something Dany in the books never does; hell, she barely goes to see her chained up dragons in the fifth book) and forces men to marry her while they cower on their knees in a dungeon. Except, you know, Dany is actually a far more complex and complicated individual than that. One who sends traitors to be tortured, who is constantly trying to renegotiate her own identity in light of ruling Meereen but ends up chaffing and chained under the conventions placed upon her by the patriarchal slavery society. A woman who feels like an avenging dragon after crucifying 163 slavers but then also can't stand the smell and sounds of their dying and tells herself that it was for the children. A woman who avoids her literal dragons once they are chained; a woman is talked into marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq because he can bring her peace even though it is fairly obvious that he too is a Son of the Harpy. A woman who finally, at the end of the fifth book, rips off her veil and takes off her floppy ears and saves her dragon by taming him with nothing but a whip and words because "he is fire made flesh and so am I," who finally remembers her house words and comes to realize that she doesn't belong in Slaver's Bay and that dragons plant no trees because the soil in her new kingdom is rotten and it's her job to be both destruction and creation, two forces living together in one being, a never ending cycle of death and rebirth and...Ok, look. I could go on forever (and have done so in other places) about how much I flipping love Daenerys Targaryen. That is my QUEEN. Yeah, she's got a violent streak and is morally gray and probably the most controversial character in ASOIAF, but she's got a vision of the future and I'll follow her where she goes. Show Daenerys is nothing like this. To the show writers, Dany only works for them if she's being "a badass" like randomly feeding men to her dragons and telling Hizdahr that they're going to be married, no ifs ands or buts and with no outside counsel. Because oh! It's shocking! Dany is a woman but look how strong and badass she is! Let's only ever show her being strong and badass cause she's a woman and it's unexpected and trope-breaking! Please. Woman can be strong and independent and powerful and still be faulty, wrong, morally complex, and be plagued by self doubt. If the writers of GoT actually read the books (because I am no longer convinced that they have) they'd know this. See for example: every single woman in the series!

What irks me more, though, is that they can't carry that line of thought--Dany is a badass--through when it matters. Dany riding Drogon for the first time is a badass moment; it's a self empowering moment for her. But instead the show made it all about how Dany has to be rescued, so thank god she has a male dragon around (along with her brave knight and sellsword/lover of course)! The wrongness of Dragon's First Flight was followed by the complete and utter bastardization of Dany's final POV chapter in ADWD in which she remembers who she is while out on the Dothraki Sea. In the books Dany is literally walking back to Meereen in the hot sun, while sick and while having a miscarriage. Her walk back to Meereen is all about "vs": Peace vs War, Dragon vs Harpy, Meereen vs Westeros, Monster vs Mother. And all of that--ALL OF THAT--was cut from this "adaptation." They want Dany to be a badass except when it comes to the really important non-dragon, non-fire and blood moments when they clearly find her boring or something (or maybe they don't get her). If I look back I am lost, to go forward I must go back, dragons plants no trees, sitting next to Drogon waiting for the Dothraki, remembering that her house words are "fire and blood...." ALL of those are so incredibly important to who Dany is: she is the balance of life and death, the harmony of the never ending cycle of rebirth and loss of life. She is the Mother and The Dragon. She is war and she is peace. She is Brahma and Shiva. She can create a new world ONLY after she has destroyed the old one. But if you were just watching the show you'd only know that 1) she's hot 2) has dragons 3) has a lot of men that are in love with her and 4) is in deep shit cause oh no! the Dothraki found her! I bet they are mad or something! Golly, I hope those two men who love her so much find her quick cause otherwise she's doooooomed! Poor Sad Female! 

Fun fact: in the books, Shireen and Stannis are about 1,000 miles apart from each other. While I've always seen Stannis as an Agamemnon figure, I've also seen him as someone who subverts Agamemnon, especially where his daughter is concerned. Where Agamemnon kills Iphigenia, I've often predicted that Stannis will arrive too late to save his daughter from his own wife and his Red Woman (who has stopped wearing red in the show...odd). Once again, Stannis burning Shireen at the stake without so much as a blink is a disconnect from what was previously established for the character of Stannis. A few episodes prior to the conflagration, Stannis gave the most passionate speech I think we've ever heard from him about how Shireen is his child, two weeks ago he sent Mel away for even suggesting that they hurt Shireen. And then he decides to burn his only child--his heir--why? It doesn't make narrative sense for Stannis to go from point A to point Z without a layover in point B-Y. How did he get to that emotional point? HOW?! Just because of the lack of food? Because in ADWD, they are at that point and know what Stannis says: "pray harder." Also, they aren't lacking food given that Stannis orders the slain 100+ horses to be cut up into meat. In the books, those he burns are traitors or his enemies, not his own men and not his own family. If Stannis were to arrive back to Castle Black (where Mel and Shireen are in the books) it would be just right after Mel sets Shireen ablaze. That's Stannis's tragedy. He's always just off by a bit. So why have Stannis burn Shireen? Because the writers don't want us to cheer for anyone except Tyrion, Jon, and Dany. Those are their three big damn heroes and everyone else be damned, never mind the very carefully layered book construction that paints all three as far more grey than white hatted heroes. So Stannis burns his child because it's shocking; because it would set the audience's heart aflutter and make them talk and tweet and watch next week to see if the sacrifice was worth it--never mind the fact that R'hllor does not actually exist in Martin's universe. But it was an unearned scene; the situation was not that horrible, no more so than it was the previous episode unless I am willing to suspend all my disbelief and accept that Ramsey Bolton really stormed into an entire army encampment with 19 men and killed hundreds of horses and burned all the foodstuffs without anyone noticing (really...not one person noticed or captured one of the Northmen?) And finally to have it be Selyese, who all season has been Queen Burn-All-The-Things, be the one to suddenly turn into the considerate parent who doesn't want her daughter burned and then kills herself in the finale. It was like watching a Greek farce in which one bad thing happens, one right after the next: Stannis burns his daughter, men desert him, his wife kills herself, and Mel leaves. Why did Mel leave exactly? Mel in the books wouldn't abandon her Azor Ahai (even though he's clearly not Azor Ahai). The writers on GoT just straight up hate Stannis for some inexplicable reason and don't seem to understand him. It isn't ambition that drives Stannis; it's duty. His final words to Brienne (whom I'll be skipping since she is so far removed from Book Brienne I don't even think we can call her Brienne) "do your duty" are actually perfect so I applaud the writers on that, but otherwise they don't get that Stannis is the best commander in Westeros, knows how to conduct war and what it takes to win a war and win a siege, and doesn't actually want the Throne but feels that he has to take it because it's what his duty requires of him since he is Robert's true heir.

The other and last aspect I am going to talk about are the events of the Wall (because I can't touch Dorne with a ten foot pole). If I just said go read the books would that be enough? No, probably not.  There was no build up, no time spent on why the men of the Night's Watch are angry, why this is "for the Watch." In the books, there is a moment--a singular moment--in which Jon chooses something that casts him as an Oath Breaker. Up until that point, the men under him are upset with Jon's decisions but they don't oppose him violently. But when Jon makes his decision to, essentially, break his oaths to the Watch, that's when the men decide to kill him. And it's powerful and sad--the men doing the killing are actually crying. And of course Jon's not really dead but you wouldn't know this from the show. In the books it's clear based on clues to what--or who--Jon really is and it is his final words, "Ghost," that indicate that Jon has most likely warged but we don't even know where Ghost is here in GoT! Does Ghost still exist for Jon? He appeared once this season for Sam..... There was none of this Emo Olly nonsense in the books and this "Olly" insertion is the best example of something that is straight from the minds of the show runners that just abysmally fails. But what angers me more than the messed up For the Watch moment were the final moments between Sam and Jon. In what universe does Sam leave Jon willingly? In what universe does Sam ask to be sent away from the danger? None. There is no universe in which that is true. It is so so so so important to both characters that it is Jon who orders Sam to go to Oldtown and become a Maester. He does it to keep Aemon Targaryen (already dead now) and Mance Rayder's son (who does not exist on the show) safe from Melisandre and her obsession with King's blood. Sam goes to learn more about the Walkers, but it is Jon making a very cold, hard decision that is all about killing the boy so that the man can live. But Sam asking to go to Oldtown reeks of desertion and fear and being a coward. And while Sam might be a coward, he'd never willingly abandon Jon Snow. It just goes to show that the show runners don't understand the characters GRRM handed them on a silver platter. 


Overall, season five was a mess. It really was. It relied far too heavily on shocking moments and titillating out of character events to ever be considered concise storytelling. It continues to move further and further away from the books that GRRM has crafted, and that everyone should read! Shock and titillation have their place so long as they contribute to character development and a cohesive plot. This season failed in that regard. There were so many times when the show just missed the point of these huge moments that happened in AFFC and in ADWD. Honestly, did any of the character move forward emotionally or realistically? It felt as though at the end of 10 episodes they were right back where they began, having never moved forward at all. No one was really pushed or challenged. Almost all the plot lines felt stalled and remedial and in some cases far outside of GRRM's universe. I'm struggling with my continued viewing of the show since so much of it is coming back to torture porn (Meryn Trant, anyone?) or rape or violence for the sake of violence with no careful consideration of what happens after. Be realistic; be gritty; be tough. But be realistic, gritty and tough in all matters, not just when you want to assault a character on screen. Don't just rely on shock value and ignore the narrative at play. I doubt I'll review a GoT episode or season again; being a book snob gets me into far too much trouble with this show. But I keep my promises.