Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Which I Review Under the Dome (1x10)

At some point during this week's "Let the Games Begin" (yes, I'm serious) I set down my pen, paused the video, and started banging my head on the desk. 

God, I wish I was kidding. 

Are the writers drunk? Are they pulling ideas out of a hat? Are they watching the best movies of the past 15 years and going, "oh let's rip on that one!" This show has got to decide what it is: small town David Lynch-ian drama or supernatural teen angst. 

My head is spinning. I'm going to do something a little different this week.

Stupid Thing #1: Max No-Last-Name is Jack's Smirking Revenge

 So it turns out Max No-Last-Name is actually Tyler Durden. Who would have thunk it, eh? In the wake of the Dome falling, just 9 days ago, Max set up an underground fight club complete with betting, drinking, drugs, and all kinds of vices. Because she had time on her hands. You know, along with spying on everyone in town--because not only does she know about Barlie BBQing, she also knows that Junior held Angie in an underground shelter for days. I'm not even going to pretend I understand this. I don't even want to feign interest in this nonsense. This is bad writing. This was an excuse to literally have a seedy underbelly expose with bad dialogue and poorly choreographed fighting. Every other word out of Max No-Last-Name's mouth was a threat about Peter Shumway. We get it. You know Barbie killed him. Was there any point to this at all? And seriously, where did all these ruffians come from? Who are these tattooed thugs and muscle shirt wearing hoodlums? Did they all magically follow Max No-Last-Name into Chester's Mill seconds before the Dome fell and then hide out in her mansion house on the lake until her Fight Club was open? Barbie, please just kill her.

Stupid Thing #2: The Agatha-Formerly-Known-As-Clare

In an effort to figure out how to defeat their common enemy, while Barbie was playing whack-a-thug in the basement, Big Jim takes a boat out to an island on a lake that belongs to Max No-Last-Name. This three story extravagant house is part of Max No-Last-Name's legitimate business dealing out of the Osiris Corporation. My religion spidey-senses are tingling but frankly it's probably a red herring. (Osiris, god of the Underworld in Egyptian mythology. Was killed by brother and scattered across the world for his sister-wife Isis to find. Magic death sex yielded Horus). At this house, Jim finds a nice woman named Agatha who claims to be the caretaker. Rule number one, never trust someone who says they are the "caretaker." Turns out she's Max No-Last-Name's momma and a former classmate of Jim. She went by Clare then. She changed her name because of reasons and was a prostitute (thus clearing up the random comment Max No-Last-Name made about how she doesn't deal with hookers). Boy am I glad we learned about one more person in this town. There just weren't enough people and backstories and idiotic throwaway plots. Agatha threatens to expose Jim's secrets and she even knows about Barbie, all of which she tells to a surprised Jim. Of course, Jim can't have this so when she falls off a boat in the lake, he lets her drown. Attaboy, Jim. One more life on your conscious. Anyone else notice how often he was referred to as a used car sales man this week? How upset he got? A small reminder that he isn't an all powerful, in control bigwig, but a local small town nobody. And his control further slips as Linda learns about his roll in the drug "Rapture." Will Jim kill Linda now?

Stupid Thing #3: You Killed My Husband, But Lookit All This Moneh!

 In an incredibly dull portion of this weeks episode, Linda and Julia go on a girl-power adventure to the local bank where Julia discovers life insurance papers. Linda also finds a letter from Duke from beyond the grave that explains his part in the drug scheme. Man, do I not care; I would have cared 6 or 8 episodes ago, but this mystery got dragged out longer and longer. Did we know that Duke had a son? Do we even remember Duke? Isn't Duke Lapidus? He flew everyone off the island, so whateva. Anyway, Julia finds out that Peter left her a lot of money! Oh joy! Her problems are solved. And then through some warped logic and roundabout thinking, she realizes that Barbie killed her husband, but that Peter wanted to die all along, so really it's all ok. Mostly I think Julia likes BBQing. If you know what I mean. (I mean sex). Julia makes Barbie promise that they'll be no more lies between them, so naturally he tells her all about Max No-Last-Name and the Fight Club.
Lol. Just kidding.

Stupid Thing #4: Convenient Information Means I Forgive the Psychological Torture.

And in the plot that actually matters, that is important and interesting and should stop being treated like a second string, Angie realizes that Junior is the fourth hand print. You see, Junior once passed out at a dance. Because this isn't overkill at all. The painting his mom made of the pink stars falling wasn't enough; they needed to add in the seizure thing to make it more believable. So Angie, all in a dither with this information, tells Jorrie about her many days inside Junior's luxurious 5-star shelter. Except it's totally OK because they are now connected and so we can forgive the smelly clothes and the chaining her to the bed thing. All is forgiven. Because Angie is a dumb.
Also, Joey, shut up. We don't care if it's a cacoon or it's a whatever. What's more important is that there is a monarch butterfly inside the mini-dome. And it shall be crowned!!!!! *rolls eyes*
When all four kiddies placed their hands on the mini-dome the lights go out and pink constellations appear. Here come our alien overlords, though why these four kids are special, I don't know. But it's ok, cause I don't think the show does either.

Miscellaneous Notes from Let The Games Begin

 --Jorrie tied themselves together so Joey wouldn't wander off at night. This is what you do to a disobedient three year old. What's next, a cow bell?

--For a horrible moment, I thought the show killed off Dodee. She is the only tolerable human in Chester's Mill. Though why didn't she remember what happened to her after the mini-Dome knocked her backwards? Why isn't she special? I can assure you, she is more special than Angie or Junior.

--Max No-Last-Name needs to wear a bra. I can see your nipples. I don't even want to see your face, let alone your nipples.

--"But...what does it mean?" Thank you Junior for setting up the plot of the final episodes of the season.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In Which I Review Project Runway (12x6)

Under normal circumstances, I would be loathe to write a review of Project Runway (or any reality TV show) for a few reasons.
First, reality television is a genre that is constructed around the of idea of being over the top. There is a reason why casting calls are put out for reality TV and they don't just pick random people off the street. The people who get on these type of shows have to be one of three types; the "colorful" characters are the ones who will provide the most drama and turmoil amongst their fellow competitors, normally by inducing rage and hysteria in their peers; the second are the "talented" characters or the ones who actually have the potential to go all the way to the end. Reality TV would not be the phenomenon it is today if it didn't showcase some measure of talent. And finally, the "misc" characters who skate rather precariously in the middle of the other two. They aren't extreme enough to warrant good drama but neither are they talented enough for us to sit up and pay attention. In the case of Project Runway they stay in the middle until all the really poor designers are done and then are quickly Auf'ed by Heidi because they can no longer hide in the skirts of lesser people. Because reality TV is built around these (now) unsurprising archetypes, the outcomes is almost known before the season even ends. At this point, there have been six episodes of the twelfth season and I already know who is going to fashion week (or should go anyway) based on how PR works. Not really fun for bloggers (unless you're Tom and Lorenzo who are so unbelievably fabulous they make me wish I was a bitchy gay queen so I could examine PR like they do).
This brings me to my second reason for lack of PR blogging, despite being an avid viewer for years now: I am not a fashion expert. I suppose we could say that I'm not a TV expert as well (my education is in history, religion, classics, languages and other mishmash) but I do know how to deconstruct symbols and read a "text." But in all honesty, I know little of fashion. In the morning, it's jeans, a black My Chemical Romance shirt, ponytail, and hot pink shoes. That's my go-to outfit. I own a grand total of one dress and one skirt. My knowledge of the fashion industry extends to my own personal aesthetic, though you could argue that this is all fashion is when you break it down to its core.
And third, is my own moral huffiness over reality TV (it's more scripted than a network drama) only extends so far. I will continue to watch no matter how increasingly clear it becomes that the producers are playing the audience like a perfectly tuned accordion.

This weeks episode of Project Runway, involving an "exotic" glamping trip into the NYC woods pissed me off to the point where I've been writing this blog in my head ever since my viewing.

This is Justin. Justin is a really sweet guy. He's low key, down to earth, keeps his head down and does his work. He doesn't get swept up in the crazy drama (of which there has been an extreme amount this season). He stitches, he sews, he draws, he shows. His teammates and fellows love him. He wear a bow tie and a jaunty little hat. He's polite. He makes little jokes. He has never been in the top and until Thursday he was never in the bottom. Sound familiar? He falls so squarely into our "misc" category that it pretty much proves my entire thesis on the casting of PR. The garments Justin produced thus far are the three D's: dull, dependable, and finally disastrous.

For example, these are the clothes Justin has put out thus far:
While I'm fond of pink this is so retro that his model looks dated. But it wasn't as bad as others  
Dull, dull, dull, dull. But again. Perfectly acceptable because others were worse
Terrible. The skirt is tacky, the top is a mess and that glue gun lace is crafty. This had every right to get Auf'ed. There may have been one dress that was worse (pee stained tent dress) but this was a very close worst second place. And it did get the Auf. And then something happened..

Justin got saved. In an effort to shake up the now tired format of PR, the producers this year gave Time Gunn a "save." One time during the season, Tim was allowed to veto the judges and save the designer about to pack up their space in Parsons Work Room. And this week, Tim used it on that travesty pictured above. 

Because here is what you have to understand, gentle reader. Justin is a decent designer, but not good enough to get to Fashion Week, and he isn't a dramatic and colorful character. But you know what Justin is? Justin is DEAF.  Justin comes equipped with his own external hearing aid, sign language, and an incredibly fashion forward translator. After I watched PR, I got on to Twitter to go through the reactions of those watching live and was shocked to read things like the following:
"Tim please save Justin! He's such a nice guy!"
"Tim Gunn better use that save of his; Justin deserves it!"
"Thank you Tim for saving Justin. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!" 

Are we watching the same show? Are YOU watching "Make New Friends Runway?" Are we looking at the same dress? Because the dress I'm looking at needs to be put into the back of a closet somewhere and forgotten about.
Somewhere, in some dark shadowy corner, a producer is rubbing their hands together, giving a Monty Burns-esque chuckle and swimming in money. This episode alone proves that the producers of PR are terribly wonderful at their jobs. Justin is a second rate designer who is NOT going to go to Fashion Week but he is disabled (a first for PR!) and automatically everyone thinks he must be treated like fragile china. 

And that brings me to the real purpose of this random installment of PR blogging: the condensation of people with disabilities for profit and gain. In my hearts of hearts, I know Tim didn't want to use his save this week. I have a vision of poor Tim, who used to have such an air of legitimacy about him, being pulled aside and commanded to use his save because the producers knew how it would play on TV. And Tim with dollar signs in his eyes gladly marched off to the holding room, pulled out his little pocket square and made it seem like the next Oscar de la Renta had been Auf'ed. 
This is quality drama at its finest. We see Justin, poor helpless deaf Justin who flat out told everyone in the first episode of the season "just be normal around me!" (BECAUSE HE IS NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OF US AND SHOULDN'T BE TREATED AS SUCH), and instantly "we must help him! We must save him from the harsh world because life has been so cruel to him already." It's condescending. It took away Justin's normalcy and made him into something more than he is and it irked me so much that the producers would manipulate not only US but HIM in this way that I had to take to the blog.  
The save was wasted and if Bradon or Dom, designers with a real eye and incredible point of view, get kicked off I will be not be happy. (So help me, Bradon will win this thing if I have to fly to New York and pull Heidi by her blonde hair and kick Zac Posen.)  
One final note: this obviously should have won on Thursday. It's funny how the judges gushed and gushed and then someone else won it. Someone who designed "poopy" pants (though the top was pretty chic). But of course Jeremy couldn't win this week and of course it had to be Alexandria who won because she got yelled at last week and that's how the producers roll here on Project Runway. 
This dress though is fantastic. And little London Gay Boy knows how to get the judges to eat out of his hand. "I wrote a letter to my husband because he is the center of my life and the woods reminded me of the world and our own little centers." Mon Dieu. 
This is exactly what you say to a room full of people with a certain artistic temperament. Nicely played, London boy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

In Which I Return to Literature

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled TV reviews to bring you book reviews! 

Unlike some of my other book reviews, these pieces really have no thematic link outside of "I've read them recently" and frankly I need a bit of a palate cleanser from all my Under the Dome blogging as of late. I continue my quest of reading 50 books from December 2012-December 2013. 41 down. Nine to go.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Nazi's and spies. One of Hollywood's favorite tropes and time periods, Wein takes the typical spy novel and turns it upside down. For instance, her spies are not James Bond-esque men who wear tuxes, have nifty little gadgets, and can hold up under any kind of physical or psychological torture. Her spies are women and feel very real. Code Name Verity is broken into two parts; the first part centers on the English spy "Verity," known back in the real world has Lady Julia (Julie to her friends). Verity has been taken prisoner by Nazi interrogators in 1943 France (aka: not a great place to be).  We are spared some of the more maudlin details, but after several weeks in the care of her captors, Verity agrees to tell her story, to write it out in piecemeal. She has only a few weeks to divulge her secrets before she is to be shipped off to a lab where she will be a specimen for the Nazi scientists. The story she tells, which she claims all throughout, is the absolute truth, is of how she met her best friend, Maddie, and how they came to be in France. Their story is at times touching and a little heartbreaking. The two are almost totally polar opposites and yet they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Julie is strong and take-charge with an uncanny ability to deceive and lie; her ability to speak both French and German made her an ideal spy and interrogator for the Brits, and she is damn good at it. Maddie is from the countryside and is a nervous gun shy pilot who only truly feels free and courageous when she is in the air. They work together, pilot and spy, in a war that changed the landscape of the world and of what it meant to be female. The second half of the book, in which "Kittyhawk" takes over, tells the other side of the story and then meets the first half in the middle so that the two weave together. The narration style of the first takes some getting used to, though once you do, Wein's ability to not only write properly but as a woman under that kind pressure really comes through. Verity's tale is punctuated by real life moments that exist outside of the Julie/Maddie story, whether it be the status of her fellow inmates or explaining her living conditions or detailing the facts about her captors. The first half of the novel is truly captivating but the second half fails to meet it. The beginning of the "Kittyhawk" section is a tad underwhelming after you've finished Verity and are on the edge your seat wondering what would happen to the spy. It's slow and rather plods along at an unacceptable pace. Instead of being plot driven, it's more internal. Kittyhawk must be hidden away and is thus given very little to actually do. Once the second half beings to pick up threads of the first half, however, it moves along at a much nicer pace. Here, events from the first half that were never really explained or stood out as odd are revealed and a plan and narration in full begins to form. The question of: what is truth and how much of the story can we really believe come into focus. The ending is truly heartbreaking, though it again drags after the climax. Wein obviously spent a lot of time researching this time period and women spies and it does her credit; the story of Verity and Kittyhawk felt as though it were more biography and fictional.
Overall Rating: B

The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare is everywhere lately, isn't she? When she's not answering questions on Twitter or her Tumblr, she's at Comic Con promoting the release of the movie City of Bones (which I swear I will see and review if it kills me). The Infernal Devices trilogy is the second (of five) series concerning the Shadowhunters. Previously, I reviewed the Mortal Instruments series, the original series in the Shadowhunters saga. The Infernal Devices is a prequel and takes place in London around 1880. Despite being a prequel, I would recommend reading the M.I. series first as the final book of the I.D. series picks up some of those strands. Like the original series, the I.D series revolves around the Shadowhunters--part angel, part human fighters who defend the Earth against demons, rouge vampires and werewolves, and more often than not, restless Shadowhunters with big egos. I was taken back at first by how similar Clare had written her two main characters to her previous ones. Tessa Gray seemed a bit too much like Clary (barely knew her parents, ignorant of the Shadowhunter world, oddly powerful); Will Herondale was clearly a take on Jace but with dark hair instead of light (both sarcastic and little asshole-y, both too afraid to let people get close). However, what makes them different from their predecessors are their stories and like The M.I series, Clare knows how to craft a narration. The series opens with Theresa Gray (Tessa) coming to England from America to meet her brother, Nate. She is abducted by two very sinister sisters who force her to "Change." This ability, being able to shapeshift into another person by simply holding an object that belonged to them, was unknown to Tessa before her abduction. She is rescued, in due time, by Will and his best friend Jem Carstairs, seventeen year old Shadowhunters. Once rescued, Tessa's eyes are opened to the Shadowhunter world. What makes Tessa different is that no one can quite figure out what she is. Her abilities show her to be a demon, yet she has no demon mark. It's a full three book mystery, only revealed at the end. Along the way, a love triangle forms between Will, Tessa, and Jem and while it gets more attention than maybe it ought, it's a hallmark of Young Adult Fantasy Literature (side note: I have read that for the next part of this sage, Clare will be doing away with love triangles altogether). The main plot is stopping a man only known as the Magister who has constructed horrible clockwork creatures to destroy the Shadowhunters and the British Empire. I found these creatures a tad unbelievable; I had to really suspend disbelief that mechanical creatures, yes imbued with magic, could wreck the kind of havoc they did on London. However, the real villain, the Magister, is delightfully insane and evil. One of the things that I like most about Clare's work is that she enjoys giving you characters who it is perfectly ok to hate, if you are so inclined. Jessamine Lovelace, for example, had my ire directed at her more than once. But while she is making you hate one character, Clare also gives you a great deal of depth into others, perhaps making you like them against your will. I really did not want to like Will because he was a bit too much like Jace but in the end I, of course, did. A few of the characters from the M.I series make an appearance, specially Magnus Bane because a Shadowhunter book without Magnus makes no sense as he is, in fact, totally awesome. On the whole, anything Clare writes isn't exactly groundbreaking. She stays safely in the confines of the Young Adult Escapist/Fantasy genre; her heroes are a bit too handsome, her heroines a bit too pretty, even if they themselves cannot see it (I will say, though, that the way Tessa saves the day--as heroines do--is very unexpected and new and I enjoyed that part wholly). Everyone gets matched up with a romantic partner; good always wins. So while it's not revelatory, it is far superior to other series of the same vein. It is perfectly fun, relaxing, and enjoyable.
Overall Rating: B+

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rotfhfuss

If Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones had a love child, it would look something like this first book of the Kingkiller Chronicles. It is a mix of "boy wizard goes to school" and "epic/slightly historical fantasy" and it is wonderful. The book opens on a small inn in a village; in typical epic style, men have gathered around the hearth and are telling mythical tales of giants and magic and wizards. The innkeeper, Kote, is a pleasant fellow who keeps the mead flowing and occasionally knows more about the story being told at his table and the actual storyteller (spoiler: this is your first hint that there is more to Kote than meets the eye). The fun is interrupted by a man claiming to have seen a demon on the road and the customers reveal themselves to a be a superstitious lot. These events come together rather quickly when a scribe, calling himself Chronicler, comes to the inn having discovered that Kote is really Kvothe (pronounced Quothe), one of the most powerful wizards in memory. His deeds are legendary and the Chronicler wants an accurate retelling. After much haggling and threats, Kvothe gives in and they sit down at a table where he begins his tale. Book one takes us from his earliest childhood days with his performer parents to his midteens studying at the University.  Forewarning: this is a long book, though I find it reads very quickly. Young Kvothe is highly gifted; he is able to grasp tiny bits of magic being imparted on him by his first teacher very quickly. He is a talented musician, actor, and storyteller. He is not, however, perfect. He is a bit arrogant, a bit cocksure. And he is not without tragedy. After the devastating loss of his family, a significant middle of the book is devoted to his life on the streets as a beggar and homeless wanderer. He lives by his wits, which are considerable. Naturally, he does find a way out, but only after Rothfuss has shown that Kvothe isn't a perfect boy wonder. Even at the University where he excels academically, Kvothe remains poor and is troubled by his very own Malfoy.  Looking back, the parts I relished most were the stories within stories. Rothfuss knows how to write mythology; the tales told to Young Kvothe about the gods and saviors felt like any other myth I've read or studied. The story is occasionally interrupted to take the reader back to the present day of Kote sitting in his inn, sometimes explaining his actions of the story thus far. This works well for the whole narrative and gives deeper insight into the man Kvothe became. This book is not without fault however; the last 100 pages dragged for me. I grew a little weary of Kvothe's adventures and the episode with the dragon felt a little forced. The world of Kvothe felt so real that the appearance of the dragon (though it is never called a dragon and in fact Rothfuss goes to great lengths to have Kvothe explain why dragon is not a proper term) was a little too fantastical. The leading lady, Denna, is not fully fleshed out, though I suspect that this criticism will fall once I read the next two books. However, for the moment she is a little vapid and self-centered, thought I greatly appreciate that Kote acknowledges that she can be cruel and unfair. Rothfuss has stacked mysteries well; there is a lot of water to be had from this series and the reader is eager to return to the well for answers: will Kvothe and Denna end up together; will Kvothe ever graduate; will Kvothe ever defeat his school nemesis, Ambrose; will he ever find the begins who killed his parents; and what exactly lies behind the great stone door in the school's Archives and why do I feel as though finding out the answer to that will have lasting repercussions? If you're a fan of fantasy and epic, I highly recommend you pick this up.
Overall Rating: A-

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

I really wanted to like this book. I did. I'm not normally a Zombie girl, but having recently gotten into The Walking Dead, I've been eager for more Zombie Apocalypse pieces. This book was recommended by two YouTubers, NerdyandQuirky and John Green of the Vlogbrothers. My love of John Green is pretty well known and when he recommends books, I pay attention. I'm sorry to say that while this book had a great premise, it quickly dissolved into a typical zombie novella of little substance, not mention some really bizarre writing. The book opens with brothers Michael (17) and Patrick (5) camping out in the woods when the Bellows (Zombies) find them. The book does get you off to a fast start; the beginning is action packed, though given how Martin wrote it, it was really hard to visualize. Once safe from the Bellows (so called because they yell back at you when they hear you speak), the main plot opens up a bit more; the brothers are existing in a sort of game, where the Game Master has told Michael that if he can get to the end with his brother, there will be a victory party. Along the way they collect points and have missions, all laid out by the Game Master. It's very Assassins Creed meets WoW. Sounds really intriguing right? I thought so too. Too bad it's all completely turned over by the author by the end of chapter six. Once the illusion of the Game is totally destroyed, the book looses that which made it unique. It becomes just another Zombie book, though I must credit Martin with building the sibling relationship as believable. There are some interesting elements post chapter six; I rather liked the religious aspect brought in. The main characters are semi-likable; Michael is obviously a tortured soul but has such a a hero complex that it's hard not to get frustrated with him. Patrick, the little brother, would be fun to read if Martin could make up his mind about how to characterize him. At times he is a five year old making fart and poop jokes (too many for my taste) and then at other times it is as if he has aged 10 years and is making rather profound statements. Holly, the supposed unexpected romance promised in the book jacket (not unexpected, in fact totally obvious given that she is the only girl of Michael's age in the whole novel) is mostly the damsel in distress who yells a lot and has overly convenient information. Don't even get me started on the "Captain" who is never fully fleshed out and is just evil for the sake of evil.  The narration switches from third person to internal monologue which is in first person, which is altogether distracting, especially because the internal narration vacillates from sounding like someone on drugs to someone trying to write in the voice of a teenager by writing as if all teens talk and think in LOLs IRL. I fail to see why John Green recommended this book when his entire corpus is about showing that teenagers are just as capable and thoughtful and intelligent as their adult contemporaries. No one actually talks like this, apart from Tumblr but that's because the internet is very much its own world with its own language. It's like traveling to Mexico and being expected to speak Spanish. In real life, no one says "obvs" and Martin's deliberate misspellings for "internet" type lingo is just plain horrible. You do not need to spell it "rawk" when someone is said to "rock." It is not clever, it's distracting. Other problems with narration included the way the Bellow speak, which at first might have been frightening but then just turned uninteresting the more it continued. For the whole book they speak LIIIIIIIIIKE THIIIIIIIIIIS, and because it's too young boys they are echoing, it's often butt jokes. I feel as though the ending was setting up a sequel but I'll be skipping it.
Overall Rating: D+

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Which I Reivew Under the Dome (1x9)

"In my dream the Lord did come to me, and He was a shape. It was He Who Walks Behind the Rows. And I did fall on my knees in terror, and hide my eyes, lest the fierceness of His face strike me dead! He told me all that has since happened; He said, "Joseph has taken his things and fled this happy place, because the worship of Me is no more upon him. So take you his life, and....."

Wait. What Stephen King novel am I in again?

Oh that's right: Under the Dome

So, He Who Walks Behind the Rows, Randall Figg and Roland Deschain should not be in our series, right? And yet...

How about we pass over the special Chester's Mill children for a moment and concentrate on the absurdly boring, long-drawn out, B plot of tonight's "The Fourth Hand"
Max No-Last-Name. Oh, ok.
Max No-Last-Name has been in Chester's Mill since the Dome dropped 8 days ago. Oh, ok.
Max No-Last-Name is apparently the big boss of the whole drug ring. Ok, ok. 
Max No-Last-Name has been hiding in an abandoned house for those 8 days, watching the residents. Oh...wait. Really? That doesn't strike you as completely and utterly overly convenient?  You know what that is? That's bad writing is what that is. There is this literary device called foreshadowing. It's pretty famous; maybe your high school English teacher made you learn about it? This chick in her way to tight black dress, perfectly blown out hairdo and (I admit begrudgingly) super swanky leather jacket was not foreshadowed at all. And how was she spying on people, living in a house in the suburbs? All the really important events have taken place either on the Main Drag of Chester's Mill or in the woods! But oh sure, super convenient plot device Max No-Last Name has seen it all. Look out Big Jim, she knows your secrets. Oh, and she knows Barbie's too. MORE CONVENIENCE! Because someone had to finally pull the sex wool off of Julia's eyes so enter Max No-Last-Name who bought Barbie a drink some months ago and knows all about him: including that he killed Peter. RIP, Barlie. We hardly cared about ye.

Ok, that was rant filled. I apologize. The B plot proceeded to plod along to much groaning and gnashing of teeth this week. Barbie and Linda learn from a drug crazed man that Chester's Mill is your one stop shop for a high quality drug called "Rapture" that will make you think you can see heaven. Sold exclusively through Creepy Rev at his funeral home (metaphor alert), this simply divine drug has that oh-so-special-gotta-have-it-can't-live-without-it ingredient: propane. That's Big Jim's role in all this; he supplies the propane for the recipe provided by Max No-Last-Name, who likes to come into Chester's Mill sometimes to check on things. Because Drug King Pins do that. They don't have minions to do these lesser tasks for them. (These people have never seen Breaking Bad) (Overly meta Irony Alert).

Becoming increasingly paranoid about his control slipping away, especially with the arrival of Max No-Last-Name, Big Jim decides that for the good of the town, people should turn over their guns and ammo. This was actually a rather interesting philosophical plot point: is Chester's Mill still part of America where people have a constitutional right to bear arms? Jim seems to think that they may be their own little country right now, and obviously he is King of the Hill. So while the people of Chester's Mill are turning over their guns thinking that they will be locked up out of sight and out of mind, Big Jim instead stores them in his now empty of hysterical teenage girls fallout shelter. Guess who sees him do this? If you guessed Junior, you're right. Now Junior has blackmail against his father. Well this will surely lead to good things!

Speaking of Junior. Boy, I know you wanna get your rocks off, but please take five steps back from Angie. It doesn't matter that she is obviously a dumb shit who has selective memory about the the fact that you locked her in a shelter for DAYS. Just, do us both a favor, and move along. Unfortunately, this show seems to be setting up Junior and Angie up as a legitimate romantic couple. Like I predicted last week, there is more to Junior's mom than we heard. Before she died, she had a dream of Junior standing on a hill looking up and seeing pink stars falling to the earth. Luckily for us she painted it. Or maybe a two year old painted it because that was not the work of someone who has an appreciation for the arts. But I digress. Why is this important this week? Because Angie had a seizure. No, she wasn't touching the Dome. No, she wasn't anywhere near the Dome. She was in the diner, telling Junior where to stick his soft voice and concern when she suddenly fell to the ground, and began shaking, mumbling about pink stars.

Seriously, Mr. King. Call me. I'll explain foreshadowing to you. Thus far, Angie's only roll on this show was to be the sad victim of Junior McCrazyPants. And now, in two episodes, they have realigned her entire character arc and narrative so that she is actually...important? Junior, of course, thinks it's amazing and wonderful that he and Angie have this connection: his mother painted the pink stars of which she speaks. I think it's time for Angie to buy some pepper spray and a whistle.

Speaking of spectacular kids, Joey and Norrie, our beloved Jorrie, go in search of the Mini-Dome after Julia and Barbie realize its gone missing. They spend the whole episode traipsing through the woods (except when they decide to look at Joey's baby pictures on his handy HP tablet. Isn't that nice? Also, tonight's episode has been brought to your by HP Tablets). It's only at the end that they discover the mini-Dome and egg have been uplifted and are in Joey's barn. And how did it get there? Joey, all zombie like, got out of bed at 3 am and brought it to the barn. Angie saw all this but decided not to tell anyone or mention it or even hint at it. Because foreshadowing exists outside of the Dome. Like America and the Constitution.

The three kids gather in the barn that night and decide to place their hands on the mini-Dome. And impressively, THINGS HAPPEN! Norrie supposes that their hands work like keys in a lock but oh no! There is a fourth handprint needed in order to complete the sequence.

Quick! Someone get Issac or Malachi!

Shoot. Did it again, didn't I?

It's Junior, isn't it? Son of a ---!

Miscellaneous Notes of The Fourth Hand

 --The episode began with Joey and Norrie chasing chickens and Joey continually missing. *ahem* In other words, he was getting cockblocked.

--Dodee has enough sense to be freaked out about Jorrie and their connection to the Dome. Attagirl, Dodee. YOU have common sense.

--Linda, my dear, it is NOT a good idea to fire a gun at a building you suspect to be full of propane. Come on now. I know you're stressed because you have a psychopath as a partner, but please think these things through.

--Will Angie figure out that the fourth hand is Junior? If she does, will she tell him? If she has the sense God gave a goose, she won't go near him with this information. So, she will.

--Can the next death be Max No-Last-Name? Then we can just forget about her. Easy peasy.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In Which I Review Under the Dome (1x8)

A theory in two parts

Part One

The alien overlords are coming. The egg-rock thing is not an egg or rock. It is a homing device and is generating a subspace signal telling the Aliens where to land. The more pink lights appear, the closer the aliens come. "The pink stars are falling" refers to the homing device. More of them will be falling around the world as the aliens prepare for an invasion. Chester's Mill is a testing ground. The aliens are studying humanity to know what our weaknesses are and how to defeat us. As they gather information, they will know how to invade without needing the Dome. The Dome around Chester's Mill is a science project--how to humans react in certain situations. Once the aliens have finished their research, there will be no need for domes, and instead, using their prelaunched homing devices, they will land upon our shores. What about Jorrie? The Dome is using them to amplify the signal of the homing device. Why them? They aren't "special" per se but they do resonate the same frequency as the homing device; not many people do, thus why they are "special." (Thank you Fringe).

Part Two

Red Herring:  a literary device that leads readers or characters towards a false conclusion. 
I do not for one moment think that Angie is the monarch. That monarch tattoo screams "deliberate mislead." Following part one of my theory, the "Monarch" is the human that the aliens have chosen to be their representative. The Aliens will either control this person telepathically or take over their body. In my head there are a few contenders:
Barbie: the military man who knows about law, order, and explosives. Also very pretty.
Joey: Connection to the Dome; smart
Norrie: Connection to the Dome
Big Jim: craves power above all else.

Now let's review the actual episode, shall we?

Can we talk about the amount of irony laced within the first few moments of this episode? "Thicker than Water" starts off with Jim confronting Junior about killing the Dundee brothers and says, "who are you to decide who gets punished?" That's a great question, Big Jim, seeing as you have killed--in cold blood!--two people now in order to keep your secrets. Moments later, we see Barbie digging a grave (just like episode one) and Julia approaches and speaking of Carolyn and Alice says, "Can you imagine losing a spouse like that?" Oh girlfriend, you have no idea! Barbie makes a non-commital grunt all the while probably thinking, "yeah about that..."

Two main stories this episode: personal and mythological. The personal storyline was, for me, slightly overkill. The farmers vs everyone else. Junior siding with Aolie Bad-Teeth Farmer was not at all shocking seeing as Junior and Jim have fallen out and given the title (playing off the saying "blood is thicker than water") I wasn't surprised that Junior killed Aolie Bad-Teeth Farmer and saved Big Jim. We got some more information about Junior's mother--apparently she was (I think) schizophrenic and committed suicide. Jim and Junior have a nice little moment but of course it changes nothing. Jim is still a power hungry man and Junior is still...Junior. Barbie blew up the well and redirected the water back to other wells so now Aolie can't lord his precious resource over everyone. Barbie saves the day! If I ever go back and rewatch the show, I'll make a list of how many times Barbie saves the day. I'm telling ya, those alien overlords are gonna pretty interested in Mr. Dale Barbara. However, Barbie is once again noticed by Big Jim and Jim doesn't like what he sees: a competitor. 

It would be nice if the rest of the town--Linda, Barbie, Big Jim, Angie, Junior--could put aside this "fight for survival" stuff and learn about the mini dome and the "egg." I think each of them might have something to add--either knowledge or experience or suggestions. It's time for Lord of the Flies to die and focus on the bigger issues.

Joey "accidentely" lets it slip to Julia that he and Norrie found something in the woods and she demands to be taken to it. Once there, she too puts her hands on it and sees an image. Now here is what is strange: Julia sees Joey but the "real" Joey does not see Joey. So far, the people who've been seen (but are not really there) were Harriet's husband (who is outside the Dome); Alice (who is dead); and Joey (who wonders if he will die). Joey could see Alice so why couldn't he see himself? My running theory is that you have to be touching the mini-dome to see the image it shows you; Joey was not. Does this mean Joey will die? Doubtful. First, TV doesn't kill the kid. Just doesn't work that way. At least not broadcast primetime TV. Second, I think he is the strongest contender for "Monarch" of the Aliens. He's smart but kind of dumb and he thinks the Dome is a bit of a blessing; he's in "awe" of it. One thing is for certain, Joey will be freaking out over the next few episodes wondering if he's going to die.

Miscellaneous Notes from Thicker than Water

 --Angie and Norrie had a nice moment. I think they'd make good sisters-in-law.

--"I didn't want you to know that she chose to leave you." Big Jim is an ass, but that made me sad on the inside. He's a terrible father but like most terrible fathers, he occasionally has bright moments.

--Chester's Mill has now secured water and food. It's time to move past the primal eat-or-be-eaten mentality.

--Jim seems to think the Dome is here to stay; or does he want the Dome to be here to stay?

--What was wrong with Junior's mom? Did she hear voices? Did they warn her of an impending attack or invasion?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Which I Review Under the Dome (1x7)


That's my newest theory: aliens. There is no massive government conspiracy or plot; there is no human experiment; this has nothing to do with drugs and Big Jim Rennie as a drug kingpin. This is all about aliens.

In this weeks episode of Under the Dome, "Imperfect Circles," things get a little freaky (-ier). Let's start with our favorite couple: Jorrie. So, that escalated quickly. One minute it's "let's kiss because it's the end of the world;" the next it's "full on make out session" with the sole purpose of trying to bring down the Dome. Joey and Norrie have become convinced that they alone have the power to bring down the Dome. Norrie suggests talking to the Dome and making out on the Dome, though she draws the line of having sex on the Dome (thank the TV gods). However, wunderkind Joey suddenly has a brilliant idea. The Dome is like an atom and all atoms have a middle, a nucleus which is the (if you'll excuse a rather mixed metaphor) beating heart of the entire operation. Using maps and Joey's abnormally large Wesley Crusher-esque brain power, they begin traipsing through the woods toward the center. Normally, I would expect Jorrie to come up short, to hold out the mystery a little longer. However, this week, I was rewarded with something slightly crazy and slightly weird and slightly ridiculous. Joey and Norrie come up on a large pile of leaves, perfectly dome shaped; uncovering it, they discover a clear Dome--much like the Dome that has the town of Chester's Mill trapped. Washing off a fine layer of grime (it's only been 4 days, how did that much grime and that many leaves pile up on that thing? Is someone aware of the mini-Dome?) they find inside....an egg. Or a rock. Or something that is egg-rock-shaped. Seriously, the frack is that thing?

I honestly expected it to crack open and for some Turtle universe-carrying God to spill forth and deliver some ominous end of the world speech. And what's more, Jorrie were apparently able communicate with it! They tried shouting, they tried being polite but it took the combination of them touching the mini-Dome and being polite for something to happen. And what happens? An image of Alice appears in the woods. She doesn't speak or do much of anything but simply stand there and stare before disappearing. The kicker? Alice is back at Joey's house delivering a baby. And the physical reaction she has, seemingly at the same time Jorrie are touching the mini-Dome, is catastrophic. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind.

Barlie's day starts off with a bang (sexual pun intended) as well. Julia, girlfriend, have you lost your mind? Two episodes ago, you kicked this man out of your house and he still hasn't told you that he murdered your husband! Jumping into bed with him is perhaps not the smartest move. Anyway, sexual barbequing (oh hey, that's funny) aside, Julia's next door neighbor, Harriet, goes into labor after seeing an image of her husband who is outside the Dome. Jorrie weren't anywhere nearby and they have no connection to Harriet (that we know of) so what's up with that? Are the "aliens" playing mind games? Do they need this baby to be delivered? Is Ben Linus secretly behind all this? While trying to get Harriet to the hospital, Julia and Barbie are waylaid by the Dundee brothers. Remember them? They killed Zelda Rose. Linda and Junior go after them, Junior making pathological threats against the Dundee brothers lives the entire way. Linda at least has the good sense to realize that her only deputy might not be running on a full cylinder. Julia and Barbie get Harriet to Alice (who is insisting that she feels better) and there Alice helps deliver the baby; except half way through, things take a turn for the worse. As Jorrie are becoming one with the mini-Dome, Alice becomes quite sickly and finally her system begins to shut down, with the help of a heart attack. Norrie gets home just in time to see her mother die. Distraught, she runs outside and bangs on the Dome, begging it to bring her mother back. I was on the edge of my seat; I honestly thought the baby (named Alice because cliches are cliche) was suddenly going to die and big Alice would come back to life. It was at this point, that the viewer went back to the mini-Dome and egg-rock, and it started to glow. Purple lights traveled up the edges and met at the point. What. The. Heck. What is in that thing? Is it alive? Is it responding to Norrie?

In another storyline, Big Jim realizes his power is slipping as Aolie-Bad-Teeth-Farmer-Man decides to just take all of his propane supply. Jim spends the episode getting drunk before committing murder again, in an obvious effort to show Aolie who is really boss.  People have got to catch on soon; he is always so close to the edge of losing it and going full on crazy that eventually someone has to notice. Like his son, Big Jim is not working with a full deck. What's next for Big Jim? If he figures out that some "alien" force has landed in Chester's Mill, I suspect he may want to strike a bargain with them. He wants to be the hero, to be known for saving the town. If he can swing it so it comes out that way, I know he will. However, makes me wonder if he hasn't somehow been in on this all along; it just had unintended consequences or he made a deal he didn't fully understand.

Miscellaneous Notes from Imperfect Cirlces

--"Got him." And with that Junior is officially certifiable and someone needs to take away his gun right now.

--Angie's look of sympathy when she witnessed Big Jim throw Junior out of the house (and slap him) makes me fear that she'll soon run back to him. Though, she did hold her ground nicely when he showed up at the dinner.

--Return of long-haired Asian skateboarder. Apparently his name is Ben. At least this episode I got a little respect for him, refusing to leave Angie's side.

--"Do you ever wonder why it picked us?" Why did it pick Jorrie? What is so special about them? Joey, I understand a little. He is obviously super smart. Norrie has a non-traditional family but that's about all. She is good at lying and stealing, though. She has survival instincts. Maybe together they represent whatever the "egg" is looking for.

--Will Jorrie tell anyone about the egg? I'm guessing not. They'll want to work out the mystery themselves. So who discovers it next? My money is on Jim or Barlie.