Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x7) and (1x8)

I don't understand. Those are my first and final thoughts for the two hour, two episode, Extant event. I hate two hour episodes. One episode always feels like filler and another one stretches my ability to sit still and focus for any length of time. Nevertheless, Extant did a two hour/two episode special this week, "More in Heaven and Earth" and "Incursion." And once again, so many plot lines! More were introduced this week and it's frustrating to have to keep track of people I didn't think mattered. Why is there suddenly an anti-machine terrorist organization that has decided Ethan should be their first target? Too much, Extant! The main thrust of the episode was more or less revving up for some conclusion that is, I think, two weeks away. A lot of big plot points were developed this week, though I still find the alien baby plot to be among the weakest and dullest of the series. I think instead of going episode by episode, I'm going to tackle each person and give an overview of where they are by the end of the two hours. 

John: trying to find Molly, worried about Ethan, questioning his own work.

I like that John and Molly are very much a team when it comes to the alien baby. He's by her side, giving Molly the kind of support she needs in a crisis like this. Apart from being the support system, John is rather detached from the alien baby plot line. His center, as it has always been, is Ethan and the work John does with humanics. John is beginning to question if Ethan is advancing too far for Ethan to even be considered human anymore. Humans develop, to be sure, but at a so-called natural rate. I did not wake up this morning with the ability to speak Japanese, for instance. Ethan, however, did. And that's terrifying for John. This rapid fire development might prove his critics right: the humanic cannot be a human because it is fundamentally a machine and even if it becomes self-aware, it is self-awareness of being a machine and thus more than human. How long before the self-aware machine decides it is better than self-aware humans? The worry John has is to the point where he wants to turn off Ethan and try to fix this rapid development so that Ethan develops at a more normal rate. Essentially: kill the kid and remake him in my image. You are not God, John. Various people around John are opposed to this, like Julia and Molly. Just because Ethan is advancing quickly doesn't mean he's not human; you can argue that people develop at different rates as well. It is said that one of the hallmarks of humanity is self-preservation; it's a trait we hold dear, that our lives are important and need to be protected. Well, Ethan seems to developing that trait as well. When John decides to go through with turning Ethan off, he is locked out of Ethan's computer system by Ethan himself.

Ethan: finding his function

Machine or human? The lines are very blurry when it comes to Ethan right now. He has advanced development like the ability to suddenly speak Japanese and ride a bike, despite never having been on one. But at the the same time, Ethan is displaying traits that are at the core of what it means to be human. He's self-aware and has been from the start of the show; he has a sense of self-preservation, as shown by shutting John out of his computer system so he cannot be turned off; Ethan has a compassionate streak in him. In the second hour, Ethan is attacked by some bullies after he witnesses them blowing up another machine, a non self-aware one at that. Ethan insists that John bring the machine home with them because, "it needs our help." John sees this machine as just that--a machine. It doesn't have a higher function or life and is not self-aware. But Ethan sees a peer, another machine just like him who cannot be left out in the cold, because if this machine can be, then so can he. And finally, Ethan questions his own existence. When Julia tries to explain that the non self-aware machine no longer has a function, Ethan's response is "what is my function?" It's probably the most basic human question of them all: what is my purpose, why am I here, why was I created? (Side note but the writers of Extant are clearly big fans of the first Star Trek movie and the idea of Veeger) John is actually getting exactly what he set out to create: a machine that could go beyond mimicking humans to being human. But be careful what you wish for.

Sparks and Hidecki: unhinged and creepy.

I don't know what to make of these two. They are working together but are they at cross purposes? Hidecki is clearly the one in charge but Sparks seems have his own personal agenda, which revolves around his dead daughter. Sparks has come to the conclusion that he must eliminate Molly who has finally uncovered the truth (most of it anyway) about Katie's death. Sparks does feel guilty about this since he was always fond of Molly, but the project is more important. Which I don't understand. The project in question seems to stem from Hidecki and the fact that his time on this earth is running out. He is clearly much older than we've been told and has been keeping himself alive with "the substance." Now, the substance, we are told, was found out in space and Sparks sent his daughter and her team out there to mine it in secret. But what they found was alien life and that changed everything. The substance Hidecki uses is only temporary and is running low, but apparently he thinks that the alien life they found is more important? I think what Hidecki intends is to transplant his brain, his higher functions, into this alien body and live forever. I find this problematic because it implies that the aliens are immoral but what we've seen of them so far suggests that they grow and develop like any other creature. So how does this ultimately save Hidecki from certain death? I am so confused about the alien plot overall. The final moments of the show this week show Sparks shooting Molly, but it turns out to be an manifestation of Katie who cryptically says, "he needs our help." Is "Katie" referring to the alien baby or...someone else?

Molly: becoming a mother.

There has always been a question in the back of my mind about how Molly would view the baby that she had carried. As Kryger (who is not dead) tells her, "you're not its mother, you're its host." But that's not how it works with Molly or with other mothers, I guess. The baby is partly hers, it has her DNA. So wouldn't Molly feel some sort of maternal instinct toward the alien baby boy? The answer is yes. Molly, Kryger and the body guard who switched sides apparently, come up with an elaborate plan to get Molly inside the secret chamber and see her...baby. Except of course it has gone missing but the important part is that Alien Baby also seems to recognize that Molly is "mom." When it appears that Molly is in danger, the baby transplants its consciousness (or something) into another man and opens fire, killing everyone who is about tho hurt Molly.
Molly's journey outside of becoming a mother was more focused on getting answers. She is taking the fight to Sparks instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for things to come to her. There was a lot of information that was given out in this episode that was delivered at such a rapid pace that I missed some of it but Molly is the one who learns about the secret mining operation in space that discovered alien life; she's the one who tracks down a payload specialist to talk about what happened on the doomed mission (the guy kills himself before Molly can talk to him, but she get credit for trying.) At the end of this episode, I'm not sure what's next for Molly except that she is probably going to become very protective Momma Bear over Alien Baby.

Miscellaneous Notes in More in Heaven and Earth/ Incursion

--So there's an anti-machine group who is going after Ethan. And it's lead by Julia's new boy toy and Hidecki's lover. The group believes that humanity is outsourcing themselves to machines and that they've lost their souls to machines. Have these writers seen Battlestar Galactica? I think they have....

--"He needs a normal life." "What is that?"

--"He's not the baby Jesus!" This is my new favorite line.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Which I Review Under the Dome (2x8)

Was there a point to this episode? I'm honestly asking because I don't know what I was supposed to get out of this week's "Awakening." There are too many damn storylines on this show. Reduce, for crying out loud! Just because Dean Norris is your big star does not mean that you need to give him some random thing to do each and every single week that has nothing to do with the overall Dome-plot. If they removed the Big Jim, Rebecca, Junior aspect of this weeks trip into the bizarre, we could have had a much tighter story. It's all over the place this week. And I'm not quite sure why the name of the episode is "Awakening." No one was really awoken. Lyle, I suppose, came back to himself but that's about it. I sincerely hope that next week we get some answers to the bigger mysteries--and hopefully not in a "magnificent" display of exposition like when they answered the Melanie question. 

Papa-Q is shady as hell. His energy company, Aktaion Energy, has a lot of government contracts and have been studying the Dome since it went down. They--and they alone--have figured out how to get past the barrier and deliver a message to the residents inside the Dome. Or something. Honestly, I'm not overly sure what they're doing. Studying the Dome? Trying to bring it down? Making sure it never gets brought down? Feeding the Dome the souls of 7 virgins every night? Anyway, Papa-Q can get a message to Julia inside the Dome to let her know that Barbie is okay and that he'll try to find a way back. The message Barbie sends to Julia tells her to take a leap of faith, but when Julia gets the emails (by way of Joey) the email also tells her to bring the Egg. The catch? Barbie never put anything about an egg into the original email. Cue dramatic music! So Papa-Q wants the egg. The egg really is the Ring, isn't it? Everyone and their freaking brother is out to get this damn glowing Egg. Oh man, when Melanie finds out that they want her precious Egg, she's going to go nuts. Or more nuts, I suppose.

Oh look. It's some guy we've never met before who waltzes into the plot with information and skills that are vital to our heroes and protagonists. Please tell me his name isn't Max. Nope, it's Hunter. And why do I care about Hunter? I don't. Hunter has been following Barbie because he recognizes that Barbie is from Under the Dome (roll credits). Hunter is a technological wizard and works for Papa-Q. Hunter has all manner of helpful gadgets and gizmos to help Barbie! Isn't Hunter fun!! I'm being sarcastic, obviously. Hunter is deus ex machina with funny glasses. Hunter is also the web designer of Hounds of Diana, the website that made such a brief appearance earlier this season that I had forgotten it existed. The website is used to tell others the real truth about the Dome--but Hunter doesn't bother divulging what that truth is. Once Hunter proves to Barbie that Papa-Q messed with the email the two men become allies. Barbie gets another email off to Julia telling her (in code) to meet at the Dome at sundown. Aw. That's sweet. Also, really good timing seeing as Julia was about to send a message to Barbie and then jump off the cliff if Barbie could prove he was really alive.

This is such a great disguise, Barbie! No one will recognize you now! Seriously. Aren't you like some Army Ranger or something? Shouldn't you know how to create a disguise that isn't just a pair of glasses and a hoodie? And can you please wash the blood off your neck, already? It's a dead give away. Using his super cool disguise skills, Barbie "sneaks" into Chester's Mill, moving past the scary army men in black. At night, he and Julia meet up at the Dome. Their reunion is brief because Barbie is discovered by the army men and taken but not before he tells Julia "don't jump." I really thought he was going to write, "Not Penny's Boat." It would have been an awesome inside joke seeing as this episode was directed by Jack Bender, LOST veteran. So Barbie is taken away by the police/army/whatever and Julia does a lot of yelling. But the real "twist" is that Big Jim, who learned that Barbie "died" last episode, is standing in the bushes watching all of this. So now Big Jim knows that Barbie got out and that everyone has been lying to him. Oh no! He's probably going to take it out on Rebecca. I rather hope so because even though she's the town scientist, her plot line is officially dead so I think it's time for her to be dead as well. Sorry, Science Teacher Pine.

Ok, last plot line that actually matters. Lyle has gone from saying "Melanie" all the time to saying "It's in the cards." Sure, Lyle. Whatever you say. Lyle is out of his mind, but thankfully there is a wonder drug that cures madness! How lucky! I am rolling my eyes so hard here. Sam and Pauline break into a secret stash of medicine (because in the loony bin, nothing is monitored or kept under incredibly tight security). Once they give the meds to Lyle, he is sane once more. Or relatively sane, I suppose. Lyle tells Sam and Pauline that he was referring to all the postcards Pauline sent him over the years; these postcards were the events of the Dome long before they happened. The last postcard is the most significant; it's the red door. When asked why she drew it, Pauline has no idea nor does she know what it matters. Because our prophet is useless! Ugh. What was the point of all this? Why did Lyle go mad? We already knew Pauline was seeing things and drawing them, so why reinforce all this once again in this episode? So much tedious storytelling!

Miscellaneous Notes on Awakening

--"I get over zealous" Big Jim's plot this week was so stupid. Shock! People don't like him and are out to get him! Shock! The perpetrator was Phil! Shock! Nothing came of this except Phil being locked up. 

--"We're never getting of here alive."
"Yeah, we all got problems."

--"That's what you get for jumping off the cliff, thinking you'd bring the rapture."

--I predict that the red door will magically lead everyone back to Chester's Mill.

--Why is Joey making a vlog? You cannot post this vlog. This vlog is useless.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x6)

Things are getting decidedly more freaky on this weeks episode, "Nightmares." This show has a tendency to run a little dull in the middle and then leave you with something intriguing to draw you back in the following week. For example, the sub-B plot for this week was totally unnecessary. I don't care about Julia or robotic limbs or her romantic exploits. None of that matters in the grand scheme of this alien baby drama. I am also confused as to why I am now getting some sort of attempt at world building. This show is six episodes in and now they begin to dedicate some time to world building? That's backwards. A few blog posts ago, I talked about how the show wasn't interested in showing me the world in which Molly and John live because of limited time constraints. It's obviously set in some distant future because the technology is quite progressive, but the fashion is very 2014, and people's bigotry has simply moved to artificial intelligence rather than flesh and blood humankind. But this week, we learned that many people have robotic limbs and that there are cafe's where someone can go to get "juiced" by, what I assume has to be, some sort of drug paraphernalia. This last little bit reeks of A Clockwork Orange and its only purpose was to figure out a way for one character to move back into the plot. But now I'm left with "world questions." The overall thrust of this episode was to answer questions, and to an extent it did to do that, but it raised ones that I don't think needed raising. "Nightmares" tried to tie most of our storylines back together since the show is now halfway through. 

The episode picks up where last week's left off; John and Molly are trying to figure out what the bizarre light particles are that somehow impregnated Molly. However, their ponderings are interrupted when Ethan begins to scream. The little robot-boy is having a nightmare. How...fascinating. Once again, I am more interested in the robot-boy turning into a human story than the alien one, but at least this episode tried to tie it all together. Ethan is not programed for any sort of dream ability--positive or negative. John tells us that they are years and years away from replicating the REM cycle. But there's Ethan, screaming and clutching his mom and asking her to sleep next to him. It's very sweet and for a moment I think we all forget that he's really a bunch of wires and code. In Ethan's dream, something bad was happening to Molly, who tries to explain that dreams are just part of our subconscious. When Ethan asks what that means, Molly tells him that the subconscious is the secret part of you. Now, do we really think that somehow Ethan has magically progressed to the point where he has an actual subconscious? That is incredibly human; in fact, I'd argue that a subconscious--or if you like, soul--is the very essence of humanity. How did Ethan advance so far overnight? No one knows, not even his father. John takes Ethan into the lab the next morning to see if he can find the record of the dreams inside Ethan (how inhuman!) and figure out how the code got Ethan to dream, but when they open the little boy up (again with the incredible inhumanity while trying to explain something that is human) there is no record. It's as if it didn't happen at all. But dreaming isn't the only thing that's different about the robot-boy; his reflexes are also much faster than they were a week ago. So, on the one hand, Ethan is Pinocchio and is becoming a real boy, but on the other hand, he's advancing past the stage of his robotic structure to become some sort of ubermensch? Why am I almost more worried about Ethan than the alien baby?

I say almost because it turns out that the alien baby is kind of mean. While inside the box, and growing, it (he?) somehow manages to infect a doctor who was working and observing it (him?). Those weird circle symbols that keep cropping up everywhere were almost burned into his skull. Within a short time afterwards, the infected doctor was raving, and ended up killing a cohort. When he was finally calmed down (somehow) he explained that he killed his fellow doctor under orders from a woman who was appearing to him. This woman was an old friend or lover...but the catch here is that she's been dead for some time. This actually fits neatly with what we know so far. Molly saw her dead ex-boyfriend Marcus and then Marcus' brother, Tim; Harmon saw his dead mother. The alien baby manifests as a dead loved one. This means that somehow the alien baby is able to tap into your memories, weed out what your weak point is and then use it against you. Now you could argue that it first must come into contact with you, but that's not how it happened with Molly and Harmon who saw their ghosts before the alien ever touched them. Or did they?

This is where we get some pretty hefty plot development, though it's weighted by exposition galore and characters suddenly remembering vital information (which is annoying). We've known for awhile now that this all has something to do with Sparks' daughter, Katie. Until this point, Molly and Harmon haven't discussed the strange circle formations that keep showing up. When they finally meet and do so, Harmon recalls a time when he was in space during his year long solo mission and a message came through to the station. It was encoded but it was the circle pattern. He was told by the computer to ignore it and dismiss the message, but not before learning that it was a "distress" test call. Harmon explains this was months before he met his ghost mother on board and so he never connected the two. Harmon, previously, has broken into the space company (it has an acronym but I can't remember it...) and stole some files from a mission that occurred even before his own. On this mission was Katie Sparks, the daughter of the chief guy who's trying to bring Molly to heel. Sadly, the information on this file is heavily encrypted and John can't break it. Well, do we know anyone who is far advanced and can help us out? Yes, Ethan saves the day by breaking the code and we get to see the final transmission from Katie before her death. She is in a lot of distress, she has the crazy circle symbols on her stomach, and her fellow cohorts have gone crazy from the infection and become murderous. Katie very clearly tells the people back home, "don't recover the ship!" In other words, do not send people back out to these stations because they will become infected and die just like me. Katie gets into an escape pod and dies out in space. So, yes, Katie is dead but she did not die in the manner that Sparks has been telling people.

To bring this back to Molly, this means that Sparks knew all along what was up in space and chose to send Molly anyway, hoping to make contact. She was the bait, in other words. Rather terrible business practice if you ask me. But the question is, why? What does he hope to gain by bringing the clearly angry light/alien/thing down to earth? Is it just scientific progress? Curiosity? Does he hope to somehow bring back his daughter? We know that Sparks visits the baby alien and asks to see his dead daughter, which the alien baby happily provides. But yet Sparks doesn't become infected or crazed like the others. And what about Harmon? He was infected as well, saw his dead mom, but he clearly can't become pregnant like Molly. So why was he sent up? Lots of questions that need to be answered. To bring this back to Ethan, it turns out that not only is he seeing Molly in distress in his nightmares, he's also seeing the crazy circle patterns. The ends up drawing them much to Molly's horror. We only have 7 more episodes to go, and apparently there is a big break before the series finale, so I hope we manage to get more answers and less questions.

Miscellaneous Notes on Nightmares

--Did they kill Harmon? I can't tell. One moment he was standing, the next not so much.

--I really and truly do not care about Julia and whatever is going on with this robotic limb thing. However, I did pity her when she's trying to express her feelings toward John as caring for him and Ethan, and he literally just blows her off.

--John wasn't shirtless in this episode. Tragic.

--Molly spied on Sam quite a bit this episode and learned that Sam is on her side but being bribed. Glad we got that out of the way.

--Where is Hidecki? What role does he play in all this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Which I Review Under the Dome (2x7)

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Best delivered line of the night, in my opinion. Rivals Darth Vadar. I have no idea what is going on with this show anymore; in fact, I'm willing to bet that I never knew what was going on with this show. Time travel. Portals between cities. Cave of mystery. Supposedly dead relatives not being dead anymore. People going crazy. Just another week in Chester's Mill, I suppose. In this week's episode "Going Home," we finally learn what's at the bottom of the Cave of Death. Hint: it is not death. I think I said a few posts ago that if the Cave of Death had a way out of the Dome I was going to freak. Well, the Cave of Death does have a way out of the Dome but I'm not freaking. Why? Because of course it does. I shouldn't be surprised. They've been hinting all season that there is another town somewhere where all our questions will receive "answers." Answers is in quotation marks because I honestly wonder if the writers and producers know what an answer is. 

After Sam's magical trip down the Cave last week, Barbie is finding it hard to sleep. Sam told Barbie a lot of disturbing things, like that he killed Angie and that the other children need to die if they want to leave the Dome. When Barbie and Julia fill in Joey, Norrie, Junior and Melanie about Sam's extracurricular activities, Junior refuses to believe it. So naturally, Barbie thinks he should venture down into the Cave of Death, fetch Sam's body, and use it as evidence for Junior that Sam killed Angie. And because this is the plan, miraculously, climbing equipment appears. You live in Maine. Does Maine have mountains to climb? Did someone lend you this climbing equipment? Did you steal it from your local sports store? Anyway, Barbie makes a slow descent into the Cave of Death while Julia and Science Teacher Pine look on. Rebecca was there for moral support? Apparently we're all friends now. One heart to heart with Julia last week and everything is a-ok; this more or less annoys the living daylights out of me because Science Teacher Pine officially has no reason to be on this show if she's not part of Big Jim's antagonistic posse, which now only consists of him. Rebecca is there to spout some science-y things when science-y things need to be spouted. The Cave of Death is pretty unremarkable, though it goes on forever. Without warning, though, something begins to pull at Barbie and drag him down faster and further. The compass Rebecca conveniently has on hand begins to spin wildly in all directions (oh no!). Julia and Rebecca try to haul Barbie back up to the top but the pull of whatever is down below is too strong. Barbie, deciding to be a hero, tells Julia to cut the rope and let him fall. Julia refuses because she's deeply in love with this man she met three weeks ago and who killed her husband and lied to her for a better part of these three weeks. When Barbie realizes that Julia won't let go, he cuts the rope and falls to his death. RIP Barbie.

Julia thinks they need to keep Barbie's death a secret from Big Jim and the rest of the town for awhile. Meanwhile, Joey finally says the thing that every viewer worth their salt has been wondering, "where did these tunnels come from?" The school was not built on tunnels (thank god), and the basement of the school has always just been a basement. Why did no one think of this earlier? Did anyone, besides Joey, stop to think, "this was a really dumb place to build a school." When Joey tells Julia this, a light bulb goes off over her head (not literally, but this show is so cartoon-y at this point, I wouldn't have been shocked to see a literal light bulb float above her red head). If the tunnels were never there to begin with, then the Dome created them and maybe somehow Barbie survived his plunge into darkness and nothingness. Joey produces a flying robot plane thing. Where did this come from?! Was this another science project? Is there anything that this town doesn't have? The flying robot plane thing travels down into the Cave of Death but the signal goes wonky and eventually crashes. I'm sure that's a good sign. Melanie has brought along the egg because she is actually Gollum. I'm not kidding. Watch the episode again and see how obsessed she is with this thing. When danger comes a-knocking, Melanie grabs the egg and runs. She carries it in her bag. It's only a matter of time, folks, before she starts calling it her precious. I have no idea why she brought it to the Cave of Death (except for plot reasons) but once inside the Cave of Death, it lights up and sputters out pink stars. Freaking pink stars again! This time the pink stars make the image of a town, complete with the obelisk from Zenith. Ah, this town again. I think it's probably important.

So what happened to Barbie when he fell? He went to Zenith, Ohio of course. I wish I was kidding. He suddenly wakes up, on the ground of some children's playground. And no one noticed. I mean...really? How does no one notice that a man either fell from the sky or magically appeared out of thin air? It's a thing you would notice, people! Maybe Zenith is fake. It's an imagined town and all of this is a dream. Oh, what's that? Sam is there too? Is he having the same dream as Barbie? Most likely not. So, they really did transport themselves to another town entirely. Barbie and Sam do not meet up but instead decide to pay a visit to old family members. Let's start with Sam. He goes to a psych ward where Pauline is. How did he know she was there? Sam has an address on a piece of paper, but where did he get that from? Pauline is on a locked ward, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense because she's clearly in full possession of her faculties. She just happens to think that an invisible magical Dome would follow her if she left Chester's Mill. But you know, other than that, totally normal. Lyle is also in the psych ward, but he's lost his mind and all he does is sit and say "Melanie" over and over. How...strange. Why? No one else went crazy when they went through the vortex (or whatever the hell is actually down at the bottom of the Cave of Death). So what's Barbie doing? Visiting dear old Dad, of course. Never mind how Barbie got to Papa-Q (I'm going to call him that until I learn otherwise), it's not important and frankly dull. Papa-Q and Barbie don't get along. They haven't spoken in two and a half years but now Barbie has been magically transported out of the Dome and he needs to find a way back in or to get a message inside. Thankfully Papa-Q has magically convenient connections that will facilitate this! Of course he does. What if Papa-Q had just been a teacher or a lawyer or something more mundane? Barbie would have been doomed to a life without Julia. Oh. The horror! Whatever. Papa-Q agrees to help out because he can see that Barbie has changed and if there is a woman involved then Hot Damn!

Miscellaneous Notes on Going Home

--Melanie and Junior wake up in each others arms. No. Just...no

--"There's something so much darker in him." Gee, you think?

--Max No-Last-Name shout out!

--What is the red door in the ground? Why is there a red door in the ground? Does it take people back to the Dome?

--NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! (because reasons)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

In Which I Review Outlander (1x1)

People disappear all the time....

I've been keeping my eye on this series for awhile now. Goodreads often recommends the books to me, though at present I haven't read any of it. The reviews always seem contradictory; either the readers rave about how gorgeous the work is or it gets labeled as self-indulgent soft core porn. Not that there is anything wrong with soft core porn, mind you. So I went into the first episode, "Sassencah," a little hesitant about how interesting the show could be. I knew the basic premise: 20th century wife gets transported back in time to Highland Scotland, meets another man, falls in love, and apparently there's a lot of sex. Take out that last bit, and it could be an episode of Doctor Who. I will say this: I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot. It was exactly what I expected--exposition and set up--but it was enjoyable. I didn't feel weighted down trying to follow plot lines or the history of the main characters. And can we talk about the gorgeousness of the Scottish Highlands? Stunning. The views of Scotland alone might be worth the viewing, if the story does little to peak your interest. The first episode might feel a little sleepy since more than half of it is devoted to setting up the present day story, instead of moving you into the more important past time period after a bit of time travel. But the on screen chemistry of Jamie and Claire is already palpable, to the point where I'll be tuning in again next week. Overall, I'm going to recommend the first episode, though with the caveat that, as I understand the basic storyline, this is a somewhat cheesy romantic time travel adventure. There will be angst and drama. And apparently quite a bit of sex. Explains why it's on Starz at least. 

Quick, down and dirty plot break down. Claire Randell has spent the past five years as a nurse during World War II. Prior to the war, she and her husband, Frank, were inseparable and deeply in love. Frank's a historian by trade and spent the war sending men to their death on covert operations. The war has, naturally, changed both of them, and the strain of their time apart is apparent in the opening few moments where a car ride to the Scottish village feels heavy instead of light and happy. At Frank's suggestion, he and Claire travel to Scotland for a second honeymoon, an attempt to reconnect and rebond. The town Frank has chosen for this honeymoon is a tiny little Scottish village that still practices a few of the old Druid ways, even if most of the residents are devout Catholic. When Frank and Claire arrive, the harvest festival has come around and several doors are lined with blood and it's a time when spirits and ghosts and ghouls come out and play. Halloween, folks. It was a thing long before you dressed up as a sexy kitten and got wasted at a frat party. It's a fairly common polytheistic ritual (side note but no historian worth their weight is going to use the term pagan, though I know Frank in his 1940s mindset doesn't realize why this term is wrong); in order to thank the gods/spirits for a bountiful harvest, you offer up various offerings (sacrifices) and celebrate the end of a season. We don't get to see much of the festival or celebration itself; Frank is far more interested in his own genealogy. In particular, he is looking into his ancestor "Black Jack," a British Captain who plagued the Scottish clans back in the 17th century. The Randall couple explores castles and the landscape and the honeymoon seems to be doing its job--there are 3 sex scenes in the first half an hour, so we've got that going for us.

Side note but seriously, look how gorgeous this picture is! Anyway, curiosity gets the better of Frank and Clarie and they sneak up to an ancient set of stones (think Stonehenge) and watch an ancient Druid ritual that brings the sunrise. This was my favorite part of the episode. I keep using the word gorgeous, but honestly it's the best way to describe it. The music was stunning, the way the dancers moved, the slow rise of the sun over the valley, that feeling of something otherworldly that came across on screen and was reflected in Claire's eyes...it was all spectacular. The mystic nature of the episode is not only highlighted by this Druid ritual, but in Claire's tea leaves and palm reading. Her leaves are contradictory and her palm reading doesn't fare much better--how can she have two marriages but that aren't divided? I'm sure there is a ton of foreshadowing in this passage but I don't need to worry about it now. While Frank is off doing more research into his ancestor "Black Jack," Claire decides to pay another visit to the stones to look at flowers. There is a very loud windy noise that seems to beckon Claire to one stone in particular, and when she reaches out to touch it, the world goes black. Just pretend the stone is the TARDIS.

When Claire wakes, she's in the same place but something seems off. She can't find her car or the road. Oh. And there are real life Redcoats firing real bullets at her. She manages to run to a stream and finds a man who looks startling familiar. This man looks exactly like Frank, except it becomes quite clear that it is not Frank, but rather his ancestor Black Jack. And Black Jack is not a gentleman. Claire is saved from Jack by a Scotsman who takes her to tiny hut where the other Scotsman try to determine if Claire is a whore or not. Brief aside, but it will take your ear a moment or two to get used to the brogue. Or maybe it was just me, but it is rather thick at first. One of the clansman has a dislocated shoulder and Claire steps in to fix it for him. Yes, this is Jamie. He of the incredibly chiseled face. Seriously, was this man carved from stone? Claire and Jamie are a bit snippy with each other (naturally) but Claire saves the clansman from an ambush and decides not to run away--because honestly, where is she going to go? She can't exactly find a telephone and call her husband now can she? Claire continues to prove her worth to the clansmen and they take her to Castle Leoch and as Claire says, "her adventure had just begun."

 Overall the episode is well done. It's hard to judge a pilot like this because chances are you know the basic story going in. It was sold as a time travel romance story, so you expect that to be set up in the beginning. There are some underlying mysteries that must play out: who was the "ghost" Frank saw in the village? How will Claire and Jamie come together? Can Claire get back to her own time? When Claire's voice over says that she would still make the same choices, what choices are those? Why do I feel like there is something much more sinister to Black Jack than meets the eye? The actors do a perfectly fine job; Claire is particularly enjoyable--smart, witty, independent, and I love that she tells Jamie and the other Scotsman off when they think that her language is less than lady like. I feel really sorry for Frank, if I'm going to be honest. I get the feeling this romance story is really about Jamie and Claire and poor Frank is going to get the short end of the stick. However, Black Jack I can go ahead and hate. Oooh. Contradictions! In short: check it out and enjoy.

Miscellaneous Notes on Sassenach

--Sassenach means "Outlander" in Gaelic.

--I hope they go into Druid myth and ritual more. It's not something I know a lot about (my religion degree does not really extend up to England or Scotland but I've always been curious about it).

--Seriously, the Druid ritual at the stones are breathtaking.

--So much pretty landscape! Have I mentioned that yet?

--Jamie, at the moment, is a wee bit colorless but he was only on screen for about 20 mins so I'll hold tight. Apparently I'll love him by the end.
 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x5)

Watching this week's episode, "What on Earth is Wrong?" with my good friend Ranisha when the following happened: "wait. She has no legs. NO LEGS! NO LEGS! NO LEEEEEEGS!" It's not quite the 11th hour for the show, but nonetheless, unexpected character history was unexpected. It's the second week in a row they've done this: shed some light on a heretofore unmentioned character trait. Last week, Sam got a crazy brother. This week, Julia apparently has no legs and has been fooling us all. Outside of legless Julia, this week's episode presented the idea that maybe Molly is simply crazy and there never was any pregnancy. This whole episode has a dream like quality to it, to the point where sometimes you--the audience--began to wonder whether or not it was all false to begin with and the past four episodes have been some sort of psychotic break. Don't worry, though. You're not going crazy. It's not a dream, there is a baby. It's a boy!

Molly, aboard the good ship SS Medical Experiment, is having all sort of weird dreams. She dreams of being back home, being very pregnant, only with Marcu's baby, and of floating gravity defying orange juice. And apparently the two astronauts feel the need to write "Earth is Awesome" on their fridge in colored magnets. All of this screams dream world. As of this moment in the episode, we're not sure what the medical team is doing to Molly, but based on the laser involved, I think it's safe to say that they are removing the baby. John, meanwhile, finds Molly and Ethan passed out in the woods and calls for the squad. Molly is whisked away to the nearest hospital, John informing the team that she is pregnant, while he tries in vain to wake Ethan up. The batteries in the robot-boy are fully drained and Ethan calls in Julia to help. Now, I don't object to legless Julia except that it came completely out of left field. Julia's is nothing more than a tertiary character; her purpose was as John's employee who happens to be in love with him and has a strong bond with Ethan. There's nothing you really need to add to that. Suddenly making her part robot via limb feels forced and contrived, a way of strengthening her bond with Ethan. "We're both robots, kid!" It also turns out that Julia never wanted John and Molly to adopt Ethan. She thinks the robot-boy should have gone to a home like originally planned but that John acted selfishly. Ah, love. It's fickle, is it not?

 Ethan is taken to the lab to be rebooted, if such a thing can even happen to him without damage, while Molly and John await the news at the hospital. In a bit of a twist, the Doctor comes in and tells Molly that she is going to be okay, and better still, there was no baby. Ever. Molly was never pregnant. Huh? How is that possible? All traces of her pregnancy--fetus, hormones, stretching of uterus--have vanished. John is told by the Doctor that Molly is suffering from some sort of break and reminds John that John himself never saw any evidence of the baby, but only had Molly's word for it. Molly remains convinced that she was carrying an alien baby, while John slowly begins to doubt. Add in the fact that their other child is currently a slab of hardware and circuits, lying half naked on a table being re-uploaded, and you've got a rather tense marriage. Molly and John need to cover all their bases, though, so Molly has the bright idea to go talk to Sam who has been in the know since the beginning. Sadly, we know that Sam isn't going to be much help; she has already sold Molly down the river by agreeing to tell her lies to save her brother. Sam's "what baby" only reinforced what John is coming to believe: his wife is crazy. But clever Molly has one more trick up her sleeve. Remember how she was bitten by a dog last episode? The bloody towel is still at her father's, covered in blood. And blood means DNA. Once the towel is collected, John and Molly analyze it and discover that she was, in fact, pregnant but all evidence was erased by the medical team. It is also learned that the DNA of the baby has Molly's own DNA (naturally) but also a DNA sample never before seen. In other words, John you are not the father! Poor John. Also, the medical team must have been working at lightening fast speed to take out the baby, drain Molly's blood and give her new blood all within one night. A plan is put into place by John and Molly to go about their lives, pretend everything is copacetic and gather intel. This plan always go off without a hitch, by the way.

And this is where it gets weird(er?). Back at work, Molly is analyzing samples from her trip into space (and keeping one eye on the door as men in black keep passing by) when her assistant tries a new algorithm--this is not something I understand or something that they are going to explain because science fiction in science fiction and you just gotta roll with it sometimes. The new algorithm shows a new energy that seems to have washed over the samples at a certain point during Molly's mission. Gee, I wonder what point in time that would be...yeah it was baby-making time. Molly and John watch the video of the day Molly saw Marcus and using the new algorithm, they see the same light wash over Molly. She was impregnated by light! How very odd. Are those the aliens? Are we dealing with non-corporeal alien beings? Do they want bodies? Is that where this is heading? It's all so odd. And of course, we couldn't leave the audience hanging about the fate of the baby. Sparks has him, in some sort of test-tube like box. And yeah, it's a boy. And very human looking. How is that possible? Shouldn't it have some alien features? The ability to glow, for instance.

Miscellaneous Notes from What On Earth is Wrong?

--Ethan spent this entire episode pretty much passed out except for an extremely creepy moment where he sat up and began to talk. It was very "the robots are coming to kill us all!"

--"I know when I'm hallucinating. I've gotten a lot of practice lately."
"Nothing would make me happier right now than to be crazy."

--I almost felt bad for Julia when John told her that they were not partners, but that she is his subordinate.

--Impregnated by light. Just gotta toss that out here one more time. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Which I Review Under the Dome (2x6)

Chester's Mill is sitting on the Hellmouth isn't it? This is how the series will end; Buffy Summers comes riding into the Dome (because Willow did some magic) and slays all the Big Bads, gives a speech about living your life and then goes back to Sunnydale. Not that I object to this idea, mind you. It's certainly better than what we're witnessing on screen. At any rate, on this week's episode "In the Dark," things happen! I don't mean that positively. I mean many inexplicable things happen for everyone because apparently you must have as many crises per episode as possible. Cavernous cave of doom? Check. Apocalyptic wind storm? Check. Teenagers left unsupervised who try to take matters into their own young and impressionable hands? Check. Pick a crisis, Under the Dome! You do not need all the things. In fact, all the things are becoming laughable. This episode attempted to force connections between people previously defined as enemies or at the very least antagonistic toward each other. But, I must give some credit here, there were quite a number of good lines. And by good lines I mean the characters said things I've been saying on this blog for weeks now. Maybe they're reading this, in which case: kill the Science Teacher, refocus your energy of Dome mythology, and enough love triangle silliness. 

 I get that actor Dean Norris is one of the big selling points for this show, but honestly Big Jim's plot line this week was utter filler. What better way for Big Jim to worm his way back into the hearts of Chester's Mill residents than by saving the day! There is some science mumbo jumbo about red rain and topsoil but I wasn't listening. I do that sometimes (always) when Science Teacher Pine talks. Chester's Mill is suddenly set upon by horrific windstorms that cause a lot of dust. This dust gets into the pores of the Dome and if it's not cleared up, those trapped inside will slowly suffocate because air can't get in through the pores. The Dome need a facial scrub, in other words, but instead of blackheads, everyone will die. The issue (besides the impending suffocation) is that no one wants to listen to Big Jim and his ideas about the windmill (which naturally came from Science Teacher Pine but she's too busy building a bomb...no I'm not kidding). Ever since the secret about the kill-everyone-shake-the-trees virus came out, the people of Chester's Mill haven't wanted to listen to Jim, but have turned to Julia instead. Julia wants to put power back into the citizens hands, an idea that Big Jim finds repellent because without his power, Jim is just a used car sales man again (remember when that was his job?) Big Jim is forced to sit on his hands as the residents of Chester's Mill vote against his windmill plan and choose to ride out the dusty windstorm instead. But don't worry. Fate just needed a little push. I seem to recall this Long Haired Asian Skateboarder from season one. Ben? Was his name Ben? I don't care enough to look it up, obviously. But apparently he has asthma and because he is playing "dumb teenager" of the week, he goes out into the storm without his inhaler and ends up choking only for Big Jim to come to the rescue...and do you see where I'm going with this? The people of Chester's Mill suddenly realize just how dangerous the storm is, and are now ready to follow Big Jim's plan. The people of Chester's Mill are bleating sheep who go wherever they are told. Jim makes short work of the windmill; how did he get this thing built in so short of a time? We know it didn't take long because of the other stuff happening around Chester's Mill that did not progress a significant amount in order for this windmill to be built in such short order. I don't know. It was a miracle, let's go with that. The windmill goes up, there is water involved, mist dispersal, clouds part, people breathe, and I'm wondering what the purpose of this entire crisis was, until you realize that it was to put Big Jim back on top. Everyone wondered where Julia was. Good question.

Meanwhile, at the TARDIS Locker of Doom, Junior and Sam decide to go down into the depths of hell and investigate because Lyle could be hiding down there. The giant cave is part of a basement that no one knew existed (shock) but leads to an intricate cave system that no one knew existed (seriously?!). Sheriff Barbie shows up to help as well. Yes, you read that right: SHERIFF Barbie. They made him a Sheriff. Look, I'm not anti-Barbie; I get that he's our reluctant hero, but does anyone (anyone!?!!) remember that he opened this series by killing a man and was basically working as a hit man? Why would you make him sheriff? Because he's sleeping with the Red-Head? Anyway, there's a cave-in because...of course. How else are you going to get Sam and Barbie alone to have tortured manufactured conversations about sin and darkness? Junior escapes from the TARDIS Locker of Doom but Sam and Barbie are trapped behind rubble. The two decide to investigate the cave and discover A GIANT CAVE OF DEATH. Jesus Lord. What is this?? Why is there is a never ending pit of doom under this school? Who the hell built this school? What's down in the Cave of Death? Is it the Satan-like creature of Doctor Who season 2? I bet it's the Satan monster and the Doctor is going to come and save them all (he can bring Buffy). Since Barbie and Sam are trapped, they take this time to grill each other about their pasts. Sam knew who Melanie was all along but didn't say anything because who would believe him? And because the Dome brings nothing but pain.

So, let me get this straight, Sam. You knew that someday a giant Dome would fall over your hometown and that it would bring pain...and you stayed? Why?? You're a reasonably intelligent guy, why didn't you just get out of town? Because now you appear to be trapped along with everyone else, except, unlike others (except Big Jim) you're on a murder spree. Sam tells Barbie about that night in the woods 25 years ago and explains that Lyle killed Melanie because the "egg was screaming" and Pauline was complaining about the noise. Bitches be trippin'. Do the writers even read what they're writing anymore? Sam also declares that Melanie was the love of his life which I find hilarious as I'm pretty sure it was established that Melanie was only in town a short time before her murder. But hey, teenage love, right? Even though Barbie and Sam have had this heart to heart about darkness and whether or not their murder victims will be waiting on the other side, Barbie notices the scratches on Sam's chest and realizes that Sam killed Angie. Sam doesn't even bother denying it: "it's a sacrifice that I had to make to save everyone." Sam explains that if the 4-Hands die, the Dome will come down. Sam is willing to kill these kids, but in the end, he'll kill himself once the town is saved, or Barbie can kill him, which ever Barbie prefers. Okay, then! Sam is obviously a whack job. Sam tries to force Pauline's journal on Barbie because now this gruesome task is in Barbie's hands. Why? Because Sam is going to jump off the cliff down into the Cave of Death. Why? No idea. Guilt? He is Chief Crazy Pants? Well, there goes Sam, over the cave wall. We hardly knew ye, or hardly cared about ye.

 What are the children doing this week? After Junior gets out of the cave-in, he takes Melanie and the two have some weird bonding. This is creepy. Junior looks like Sam did as a teenager and apparently Melanie really likes that (of course she kissed Joey previously so I don't think the girl has a type. Or manners). Having collected Norrie, the three go in search of Joey who is sulking in Angie's old room. Which...what. Wasn't this house destroyed? In the season opener, didn't the farm house get torn to bits? Are they in a different house? And if yes, how did Norrie, Melanie and Junior find Joey? Does Norrie have a "find Joey" detector? Whatever. The new foursome decide that they need to get the egg, the one Julia dropped into the lake because "the Dome told her to." The foursome head out to the Lake (in the middle of the tragic dust storm?) and get into a boat. This is safe, I'm sure. Using their combined powers of touching (giggle) they summon the egg out of the water. I wish I was making this up. I really do. They take the Precious back to Joey's where Melanie gazes it at it intensely. Seriously, Gollem, get a grip. It's an egg. Wanting to know what happens if all 4-Hands touch the egg at once, they gather round and.....pink stars. The unexplained pink stars are falling. At least they are pretty? A few of the stars gather together and to make a a sign: "Surrender Dorothy." No, I'm just kidding, it makes the Zenith Tower that Junior saw in his dream at the beginning of the season. And of course, the Tower is in Melanie's (and Barbie's) hometown. Naturally. What does it all mean? Oh who knows. Probably that Melanie and Barbie are long lost twins who must have sex to make the Dome fall and Junior has to dance to the sound of Big Jim and Julia fighting while Norrie and Joey listen to Rebecca Pine explain how the universe was created. That's how you make the Dome fall, kids.

Miscellaneous Notes on In the Dark

--Best lines of the night!
"You are normal!" "I died."
"The town barber makes bombs?"
"Is there a brain under that hair?"
"All science is your area!" (THANK YOU)
"The egg knows we're here."

--Rebecca and Julia bonded over their sad tales. I can't even begin to care. Rebecca needs to be the next victim of the Dome cause I can't take her anymore.

--RIP Sam? Bet he's still alive.

--Melanie just flirts with everyone, doesn't she?

--The only thing the Dome has brought is pain. Much like the show.