Friday, October 30, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x5)

And thus, Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills packed their bags and headed off to the Jeffersonian to meet Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennen and Seeley Booth. Yeah, that's right. It's crossover time. When this crossover was announced, I was skeptical, to put it mildly. I had been a semi-regular viewer of Bones for the first six years it was on the air before giving up that ghost. Procedural cop shows have never been my cup of tea but the characters on Bones were delightfully quirky and fun and they kept me hanging on until I decided to call it quits. My point is that I have, at the very least, a passing acquaintance with the show and characters; enough to know that for Bones--scientific, pragmatic to a fault Bones--to come into contact with Ichabod--a time traveling, monster hunting, man from the 18th century--and not have it fundamentally alter the way she views the world (through her myopic and science-only lens) would be disingenuous and that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. And this was my problem with the crossover when it was promoted. How could those characters possibly exist in the same world? Abbie and Booth? Sure, no problem. Even Booth and Ichabod could find common ground since Booth has a lot more faith and belief than his other half. But Bones and Ichabod could not possibly exist in the same universe, to say nothing of interacting. But, with all that said, this two part episode "The Resurrection in the Remains" (the Bones half) and "Dead Men Tell No Tales" (the Sleepy Hollow half) was fun. A lot of fun, to be precise. The overarching mystery isn't exactly important and nothing was really added to the mythology of either show, but it was a good romp. Sometimes, that's all you need. 

This one is going to be rather brief. As I said above, this isn't a mythology building episode (or episodes). It's about what happens when we take our characters and put them outside of their comfort zones (Sleepy Hollow, each other) and watch them interact with people who do not understand--and even know about--the world in which Ichabod and Abbie find themselves every week. The biggest surprise here, honestly, was the chemistry and interaction between Ichabod and Bones. Abbie and Booth seem to get each other and thus, while they might rub each other the wrong way initially, have similar cop mentalities that mesh. Ichabod and Bones are on opposite ends of the spectrum, so while having these two interact was my original complaint about this crossover, the actors and writing sold me on why it was important and necessary to have the man out of time with the soul of a poet and the woman with the heart, soul, and mind of a scientist engage in various tet-a-tet's. Whether it be love vs science or the higher mysteries vs skepticism, Bones and Ichabod will simply never see eye to eye. It doesn't matter that Ichabod can point out that love is more than just a series of numbers (and use Bones's own relationship with Booth as the linchpin in that argument); to Bones it all stems from a need to procreate, one of the most basic urges in the universe. Conversely, it doesn't matter how many scientific proofs Bones can point to for why faith, art, and feelings of love exist, Ichabod will see beauty in the universe, in art, in poetry, in religion, in love, in humankind. Of course, much of this comes from their own experiences and the experiences we witness every week with both casts. Bones deals with murderers on a daily basis; these murderers kill for the most mundane of reasons: jealousy, lust, money, greed, ect. Ichabod deals with the supernatural forces that are only stopped by belief in Abbie, in the mission, and that good can overcome evil. For Bones, the only thing that overcomes evil is science and evidence. Her belief is in the numbers (though, Bones would never deign to call it belief). It is as Ichabod himself says, in my favorite line of the night, about Bones: "she'd dismiss Moloch as a tall man with a skin condition." While I was very (very) skeptical at first about Bones and Ichabod meeting, it turned out much better than I envisioned because the driving home point is really that both mentalities--the scientific and the poetic--are valid and one does not cancel out the other. They can exist together. Bones need not be radically altered after meeting Ichabod Crane because her own preservation of self would never allow for such an alteration; Bones's essence will forever find a scientific rationalization for the bizarre and otherworldly. But that's okay; Ichabod has enough belief in the otherworldly for everyone. After all, he's (one half) of a hero team destined to save the world.

Miscellaneous Notes on Dead Men Tell No Tales 

--Ichabod did not beam from the planet Vulcan, everyone. Just to be clear.

--"I was referring to the four of us getting along." Ichabod got the best lines of the night.

--General Zombie Howe and his zombie army were very scary. Once again, props to the CGI team behind Sleepy Hollow this season.

--The one scene with Betsy Ross was pointless, solidifying my belief that her insertion into this show is completely unnecessary.

--Jenny and Joe have a little adventure that is probably highly relevant to the overall season but thus far continues to be a "watch and see" plot line. I'm fine with that.

--Ichabod does his own sewing and embroidery. He's a crafter. Like me. We belong together. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x5)

Well this episode happened. Here’s the thing; this week's episode "Dreamcatcher" is very hard for me to watch, analyze, and discuss because right now I hurt. That’s the thing with OUAT. It knows how to bait and reel you in. Obviously, the Neal references tonight were just…yeah. All over and they hurt. The problem (THE PROBLEM) is that I know that the references and hints were all bait and they were all there to try and appease a group of fans and that, in the long scheme of things, they don’t mean anything. The show will continue to promote another ship (and bait, still, another one) and Neal will be forgotten once more. Notice how they don’t even say his name–Hook gets to say Baelfrie, but Rumple can’t even say “Bae.” Sure, because that makes logical sense. I guess, if anything, this episode continued to prove to me that SwanFire was always endgame but somewhere along the lines it got…killed. In other news: this week's episode was 100% better than last week in terms of morals (well, mostly) and a lot better in terms of plot, though still with the abundance of Magical McGuffins. Seriously, stop that! Right now it’s tying with 501 for best episode of the season and it also feels like we are actually beginning to advance the plot a bit more, which is always welcome. How about we shed our tears and dive in? Let's go!

You Don't Know You Have A Heart Until It Breaks

The biggest theme of this episode was heartbreak over your first love. Henry and Violet; Regina and Daniel; Emma and Neal. Those three relationships--all of which ended badly or were somehow tainted by the machinations of others--took center stage this week as we learned that losing your first love is often the catalyst for knowing you have a heart to begin with. It is with this theme that I want to spend most of my time instead of going from past to present. Author's prerogative, I guess. I hope I don't get sucked into a book by an old Apprentice. When we first met young Violet, I was against Henry having a love story, even if it was puppy love. The fact is, our young Swan-Mills-Cassidy boy wonder is too damn young to have a girlfriend when he doesn't even have a single friend and spends most of his time either kidnapped, trying to make his various mothers stop killing people, or hanging out with his fuddy duddy grandparents. The boy is lacking in the social graces, is what I'm saying. How about we develop Henry with his peers without making it romantic? But, of course, here on OUAT, you're not really a character until you're romantically liked with someone of the opposite sex. However, I will put all of those quibbles (which still stand, by the way) aside in order to say that I found this week's version of VioletBeliever (cute ship name or really silly? I can't decide) to be heartfelt and sweet. It wasn't presented as a new epic love story; it was actually just a boy and a girl having similar interests and common backgrounds and fumbling their way around each other because they honestly don't know how to interact at this stage. But, hey, none of us knew how to interact with the objects of our affection when we were thirteen (side note: Henry is thirteen? Is that...real? Does that match anyone's timeline or am I just supposed to nod and go along with it? Right, nod and go along). What struck a chord most between Henry and Violet was that they've both lost a parent. When Violent announced that she had lost her mother some time ago, I actually rolled my eyes because of course she had. That's how OUAT tells stories: everyone loses a parent--though, that's just rather common to fairy tales. But what really mattered is that Henry can relate; Henry knows the pain Violet is in because he's in it too. There are things, he tells the young lass, that he wishes he could tell Neal, things they could talk about. I have maintained, through it all, that if ABC absolutely mandated CaptainSwan, then fine, I'd deal but Henry deserves his father and Neal deserved a chance to be a father. Taking that away, robbing OUAT of a chance to explore that father/son dynamic (while Neal was helping to heal the breach with Rumple) is powerful storytelling and should have been at the heart (correction: it was the heart of the show) of OUAT. The fact that Henry is sharing in this pain with Violet speaks to a level of self-awareness about their characters and human nature that I didn't think Adam and Eddy still possessed. Right on, boys.

This love story, of course, is not without its issues (because, again, that's how OUAT rolls). Oh, Emma. Emma Emma Emma. You became Cora. That was a twist I did not anticipate and whenever OUAT can surprise me, in a good way, I will genuinely applaud it. I knew that Emma's descent had to be a dark one (how could it not? Savior turning into the Dark One should be dark) but I didn't expect the victim in Ms Swan's descent to be her son, Henry, and his new girlfriend (who is just a girl and just a friend for now). Henry, of course, has been manipulated by a mother before, but that was always on Regina's shoulders. Regina had no problems magicking her son or trying to poison Emma or convincing Henry that he was crazy for believing that the town was full of fairy tale characters who lost their memories (spoiler alert: they were and they did!) While Emma may not have believed Henry way back in season one, she did not try to emotionally manipulate him so that Henry would do as she wanted. She never went behind his back. Remember what Henry said? "You don't have to be mean, I can tell you like me." Henry saw through Emma's walls because he knew she was the hero he needed. For Emma to pull Violet's heart out and command the young girl to break Henry's heart in order to gain her weekly Magical McGuffin (tears of the broken hearted mixed together with other random potion ingredients in no set measurement to free a wizard from a tree. This show y'all) is a level of low that is...well, it's low. Let's just say that. It's a Malcolm and it's a Cora level of low. However, while it's low there are two other things I'd like to point out about HeartSnatch! Gate. Here’s the thing that bothers me: the idea that Regina’s heartbreak wouldn’t be strong enough. Just because you move on with another person doesn’t mean that the pain still isn’t there. It doesn’t mean that those memories don’t still have a hold on you. Regina can love Robin all she wants but losing Daniel was a major turning point in her life. Probably THE turning point. The idea that this lost isn’t strong enough comes across as a weak sauce of an excuse just so we could see Emma do something hurtful. The writers wanted to kibosh the whole Regina-Daniel thing so that they could simultaneously kibosh using Emma-Neal’s death and simultaneously (lots of simultaneously’s) split up Emma and Henry as a team and make Emma look like a true villain because true villains take hearts (Rumple, Regina, Cora, Zelena). As soon as Regina's heartbreak tears over Daniel did not work, I thought we'd be watching Emma holding Neal as he died. Of course, that would be thematically important and would show that Emma was still human inside (something utterly important in Dark One portrayal--we saw it with Zoso wanting to be free, and we saw it in spades with Rumple) so, naturally, it couldn't happen that way because SwanFire must be baited but never explicit. Instead, Henry's heart is broken for various plot filled reasons. All of that I have a problem with, but the next bit, not so much. The other aspect to all this is a reoccurring motif: desperate souls do desperate things. This fits so seamlessly into the show that I can't hate the plot line of it, not entirely. The more dark magic Emma uses, the more she becomes addicted and the more addicted she becomes, the scarier it gets and the more desperate Emma becomes to rid herself of that dark magic but this only drives her to use more dark magic. It's a horrible cycle and it's a narrative through line that OUAT actually sticks to. I give them credit when credit is due, and it's due here. Now give poor Violet back her heart, Swan!

Speaking of the Lady Swan, she is not over Neal. Not even by a long shot. As I said above in the opening, I know all of these Neal references were bait, but they were so carefully crafted as to make Neal look like an absolutely stellar man. Someone you would fall in love with and someone you would stay in love with for a long time. Like Emma, back in season three, confessed to her parents, "I never stopped loving him." There is something heart wrenching about watching Dark One Emma Swan cry over a dreamcatcher after hearing Rumple talk about his lost little boy and how you always lose the ones you love. My friend has a great metaphor for OUAT that I think I'd like to share. The story of OUAT was a bridge and it was really Emma's fairy tale. When we meet the Swan, she is broken hearted and closed off and has her famous walls but over the course of the show, in the end, with villains and magic and plot along the way, she opens up and becomes a fully realized Savior. Emma was always supposed to go dark (heroes journey 101) but on the other side of that darkness were her home and her family. Part of this narrative bridge was Neal and SwanFire. It was part of the structure that held up that bridge. The story of Emma becoming the fully realized Savior and a fully realized Emma Swan was finding a new kind of Tallahassee with Neal and Henry in the town of Storybrooke with the Evil Queen, Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumple, and Belle and everyone else. It was the idea that Tallahassee need not be the actual Floridian city but a feeling--it was the feeling of home. Never forget that this entire series began with Emma being cast out of her home. The ending is clear: Emma Swan comes home at long last and is embraced by and embraces all those she loves with open arms. What happened, along the way, was the the show removed those structural beams and replaced them Styrofoam. The narrative is still there: Emma will still go on her heroes journey and still rise as a fully realized Savior and fully realized Emma Swan but the poetry, the magical poetry of OUAT, is long gone. Instead of Neal, we have another character who doesn't have the same resonance and poetic appeal that Neal did in terms of Emma's journey to find her home and now with our current plot of Emma's battle with the darkness. Who better to know what it means to be lost to the power of the Dark One if not Nealfire Cassidy? This entire show centered around a young boy who watched his father be over taken by the Darkness, flee from that father, and then that father seek out a way to find him again and create a Savior in the process. Hook's character is periphery to all of that and that's why the narrative bridge is now so lackluster and full of holes. It can't hold up under the scrutiny it once did because it has removed its support beams. There were some other really beautiful SwanFire moments in this episode but I'll leave them until the notes. I'll just say, in closing of this section, that SwanFire was supposed to be end game. It was always supposed to be Neal and Emma finding their way back to each other, to their respective families, and finding Tallahassee in a quiet town in Storybrooke.

Behind The Mask And Under The Tree

We've got one more love story to tackle and it's a shorter one. Raise your hand if you're surprised that Merlin lost the only woman he's ever loved to the Darkness. If you have your hand raised, then I'm going to assume it's being done sarcastically. It is, of course, exactly how OUAT rolls (I keep saying that this week, don't I?) Let's just be open and honest here: the first Dark One was also Merlin's lost love and it's probably Nimue. There’s a reason the writers put that person in a mask. There is a big reveal to be had later on. Nimue is the First Dark One and Merlin’s lost love and he couldn’t kill her because he loved her so much, but she couldn’t kill him either, so she turned him into a tree. It would be keeping with Arthurian mythology that Merlin loved Nimue and she eventually put him in a tree for reasons that are complicated but here will likely be reduced to "darkness inside her." It's not very fresh nor innovative and while it sticks with mythology, it's rather rote and expected. However, I'm going to be very glad to get that story because, at long last, we'll have some answers about the Dark One and how he/she/it came about and more importantly why. I have no idea why Nimue is the First Dark One or how that happened. Was it a magic spell gone wrong? Was it fate? Did Merlin mean to tether the Darkness to Nimue? Was it an accident? Was he trying to tether it to himself or to the sword/dagger? Also, where is Merlin now? We haven't seen him in Storybrooke. Oh god. Did Emma kill him!? Please tell me she did not kill a person of color Merlin. Plus, he's kinda cute, amiright? I'm willing to leave it all to speculation right now and just wait and see. The themes of the episode were enough this week; the plot can wait. And now, I think I'll go look at the dreamcatcher I made in honor of SwanFire and Neal and mourn over the love I lost for this show. (Yes, that was dramatic of me, I know).

Miscellaneous Notes on Dreamcatcher 

--"I liked your dad because he was always himself."

--"Changing so someone likes you never works." Wise words, Emma Swan. Now if only you would follow them.

--"Only You" the song Henry played for young Violet is the same song Neal used to play for Emma because "it always works." So basically, it's a SwanFire song: "Only you can make this change in me. For it's true, you are my destiny. When you hold my hand, I understand the magic that you do. You're my dream come true. My one and only you." Yup, that's pretty SwanFire to me.

--Regina shooting down Hook trying to teach Henry how to woo a woman. Attagirl, Tiger Mom!

--Could the writers please stop using "many years ago" for Camelot. How many is many? 50? 100? 10000? 2? See, no one knows! 

--The front porch conversation between Emma and Regina felt very season one, especially with Regina switching to calling Emma "Ms. Swan."

-- What is this Rumple and Merida NONSENSE. Seriously. What is this story?? It’s stupid is what it is. Since when is learning how to fight a sign of bravery? And wasn't Rumple already brave when he faced his father and sacrificed his own life for the sake of his family? Also, how does Merida know about the book?

--I want Regina's red dress. Now, please.

--Impressive CGI for freeing Merlin, with both light and dark magic. Pretty thematically heavy. Well done, OUAT.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

In Which I Review Doctor Who (9x6)

Companion-lite episodes are a long standing tradition on Doctor Who. The Doctor, without his trusty sidekick, embarks on an adventure where he gets to interact with other people whom the audience will never see again, most likely; but overall it's a chance for the Doctor to stretch his legs and get out of the sometimes very rote storytelling of Doctor + Companion + Danger = episode. However, in this week's episode, "The Woman Who Lived," a follow up to last week's phenomenal episode, the Doctor himself became the companion as we followed a broken and dark Ashildr around the 1651 English countryside and got an answer to what would happen if the Doctor was alone for too long. This episode was not as funny as last week's, but it absolutely fit in the overall theme of the season as a whole which is examining the Doctor's influence on his friends, companions, and even his enemies. From the Mistress, to Davros, to Clara, to Ashildr, we are tasked with answering if the Doctor's magical and mythical influence on us is as beneficial as we sometimes believe it to be. It's a hard question because as mundane people living our ordinary lives, we want to believe in the extraordinary. We want that taste of the divine; but Ashildr is proof: sometimes tasting the divine is like falling into Hell. Grab a mask and let's go! 

I'll start off with something that was probably fairly obvious if you were paying even half attention: Ashildr is a stand-in for the Doctor. There are some big clues like the immortality and the need for adventure, but there was also her desire to forget her own name, to take on an identity that sounds strange to everyone except herself. For the Doctor it's...."Doctor." For Ashildr it's "Me" which she uses to remind herself that she cannot become attached; she is her own companion and alone in this very lonely world. Other companions die and become like smoke that blows out when a strong wind comes. See. Another Doctor parallel. How many companions has the Doctor had now? A lot. Let's face it; we can't count them all (well, I could look at Wikipedia, but I'm trying to make a point here). The Doctor takes on companions and he loses them. He mourns them, telling himself that they are leading better lives and that he gave them something spectacular in the short time they were with him--and, of course, conversely, his companions gave the Doctor something as well. Their mayfly existence reminds him that life is beautiful because it is so fleeting. In the end, though, they break his heart(s). Ashildr has lost that perspective, that wonder she had when she first began her own adventure. She sees the endless years stretching out before her, never ending. One day after the next, looking for her next adventure, her next score, her next battle with the dreary world she inhabits. Unlike the Doctor, Ashildr doesn't have a TARDIS. She can't pop off to another planet or another time and still make it home for tea. She has to witness the end of life and cultures and eras as they happen in real time. The Doctor, in many ways, is lucky. He knows history backwards and forwards and sideways and can avoid the more painful aspects, like the Black Plague. Ashildr had to live through the horror, losing three children in the process. You can argue that the Doctor had that experience--the nightmare of day to day living without being able to escape--in the Time War (where he also lost children. See, parallels) which is why he still runs, but Ashildr does not have this option. The Doctor's influence on those he comes into contact with is almost always painted as "good." After all, the mad man in his box normally saves the day so what's not to love. But the fact is that he has astounding influence on those he meets and for all the good he does, there are bodies and lives that fall in his wake. For all the grief I give him, Moffat has done a fine job of slowly dismantling the idea that meeting the Doctor is all sunshine and roses. It's not. He changes you; he changes everything. And that doesn't necessarily bode well. Look at Clara Oswald; her character thesis is a study in addiction and abuse. Look at Ashildr. What has immortality done to Ashildr, and maybe more importantly, what would immortality do to the Doctor if he didn't have his companions? In short: nothing good.

When we met Ashildr in the Viking village, some 800 years ago, she was an energetic, enthusiastic, lovable and passionate young girl. The "Me" we meet now is a withdrawn, introverted, dark, and cold woman. Over the course of so many years, Ashildr likes to believe that her heart has turned to stone, or perhaps vanished altogether. After all, why have a heart when everyone you love dies? Sound familiar? It should except the parallel character happens to have two hearts, which I'm sure only adds to the pain. Ashildr wants to escape, to see the stars and other worlds  and have other adventures that aren't the same ones she's having everyday. Ashildr wants to travel with someone who understands her, and the only person who does is the Doctor, a being who is reluctant to let her step foot in the TARDIS. Along the way, the girl we knew lost bits and pieces of herself in the various villages she inhabited. When Ashildr tries to save peasants from Scarlet Fever, she is drowned as a witch; we can only imagine that this same scene plays out many times over the course of centuries. As she loses bits and pieces of herself and her heart hardens, Ashildr starts to believe that she simply doesn't care for any of these mortal mayflies. They can die or live, it makes no matter to her. Life will go on with or without them and so shall she, forgetting their existence the longer Ashildr is alive. This is, in other words, exactly how the Doctor would begin to act if he were left alone too long. We've seen episodes in which the Doctor has clearly been apart from a companion too long and is more maniacal and clearly has a more alien approach to the current plot. He's frantic, moving to and fro, talking to himself. Several companions, like River or Clara have warned him against being alone too long, knowing the toll it would take on him. On his own, the Doctor would become more like Ashildr and I have to wonder if he'd being to forget humanity (and his own humanity to be perfectly honest, if you'll forgive the reference given that he is a Time Lord). Would the Doctor forget his companions or the rich history and experiences he has shared with them like Ashildr has (or at least claims she has)? Possibly. His mind is obviously bigger than her's but I think he'd start to force himself to forget what he has lost. Eternity, Ashildr reminds the Doctor, frightens him. And that's the real reason the Doctor has a companion; he cannot be alone; it's too scary. To be alone is a fate worse than living forever with a hand to hold or someone to hug. Being alone turns you into someone who forgets what it is to care. Ashildr, in the end, remembers that she cares because, as expected, the people around her are in danger. One threat from above and she (and the Doctor) remember that their hearts are bigger than their loneliness and that, in spite it all, they really do care. The loneliness will come, of course. You can see it written on the Doctor's face in the final frame when he watches Clara, still wide eyed as she beholds the spinning gears of the TARDIS before it takes off in flight. He'll lose her sooner rather than later. He'll lose them all. But, the Doctor will pick up the pieces, find another friend, another soul who can behold the universe with its infinite wonders and he'll remember: he cares.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Woman Who Lived

--This season is really hitting it out of the park. Out of the six so far, 5 have been truly spectacular with one mostly very good (but not astounding) episode.

--Could we possibly have Maisie Williams come on as a full time companion. I'm sure she can do Game of Thrones when Doctor Who isn't filming, right? Please?

--"What took you so long, Old Man?"

--"What happened to you?" "You did." This little exchange between Ashildr and the Doctor is a nice callback to last week's conversation between the Doctor and Clara in which the Doctor wonders what he's "done" to Clara.

--Very little Clara this week, obviously, but the bit she was in was quite nice but also sad as we near the end of her run.

--Love the Jack Harkness shout out. If we ever manage to get him back, I demand that he shoot some arrows, though. (Malcolm Merlyn reference for the win!)  

--"I live in the world you leave behind."

--The final conversation between the Doctor and Ashildr highlights another theme of this season in which the lines between friends and enemies are blurred beyond recognition. The Doctor can save the world, but Ashildr is going to save the world from him. Friends? Enemies? Who can tell.

Friday, October 23, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x4)

Sisters are doing it for themselves. Or at least in this week's episode, "The Sisters Mills," sisters are doing it for each other as they battle an evil Tooth Fairy. Yeah, that's right; the Tooth Fairy has come to Sleepy Hollow and this is not the fluffy and fairy like creature we know. This creature is terrifying! The monsters this season have been fairly on point in terms of supernatural terror. But, apart from the Ebisu and her soul stealing tendencies, this episode largely focused on Abbie and Jenny Mills and their sisterhood. One of the smartest things this show could ever do was add Jenny as a full time cast member; Jenny's story with Abbie--the story of loss of innocence and being forever hunted and haunted by something evil and supernatural--has gotten a lot of mileage on this little campy show of ours. The show revisits this story often and it's to their credit; when Jenny speaks to the young girl in the hospital (clearly a stand-in for young Abbie and Jenny) and says that she knows how hard it is to open up about something scary, you feel the weight of all that history between the Sisters Mills. You feel the tension, the loss, the pain Abbie and Jenny have experienced through their various trials and tribulations because the show takes the time, each season, to show you. But through it all, the Sisters Mills have each other (and now a delightful chap named Ichabod Crane who works so magnificently well with both of them without it getting sexual or romantic. Imagine that, men and women being friends!). Everyone grab a silver coin to ward off the creepiest Tooth Fairy ever and let's go! 

Even though they've survived car crashes, trips to Purgatory, demons, Henry Parish, and the Apocalypse That Was Not, Abbie and Jenny are not without their troubles and drama. But, what I love most about this relationship, is that their issues are not based on the supernatural goings on. Make no mistake, the otherworldly goings on act as a catalyst and serve as a parallel, but they do not define Abbie and Jenny's talk and fight in this episode. The sisterly tension is 100% gloriously mundane and human. So much of Jenny's life has been dictated by Abbie. The older informing the younger, from the way to view their very absent father; to how to rationalize their traumatizing experience with the demon Moloch when they were children; to locking Jenny away in the psych ward, believing her sister to be crazy and nothing more complex than simply following in the Mills's women footsteps, like their mother. When Abbie learns that Jenny found their father five years ago and kept it from her, and moreover was outraged at the information, I took a step back and questioned Abbie, reminding her (yes the fictional character--that's how good media works; you can talk to the creations) that she and her sister were not speaking. Abbie was trying to live a normal life while Jenny went gallivanting off on missions that Abbie assumed were "no good." In other words, five years ago the Sisters Mills were not even speaking to each other to any extent that Jenny would feel comfortable or willing to tell Abbie anything. Abbie's anger is justified because it is potentially life changing information, but it's a reminder that five years ago the Sisters Mills were worlds apart, metaphorically and literally, from where they are now. Also, there is some revisionist history in Abbie's head regarding Jenny and their father. As I said already, Abbie has dictated most of Jenny's life, including the idea that Jenny hated their father. I'm sure Jenny holds no love for PapaMills but she hated him largely because of Abbie's own hatred for her father. Abbie's attitude informed Jenny's but Abbie believes Jenny's vitriol to be organic and natural. Turns out, not so much. Jenny has no interest in PapaMills, then or now, much to Abbie's shock because Jenny has come to terms with their father's low life tendencies. Their fight was very realistic, and I think fits their characters from Abbie's pragmatic and calm approach to telling Jenny and Jenny's history of running from anything bothersome. But, as Jenny says at the end, no fight is ever going to keep The Sisters Mills apart ever again.

Let's go back a wee bit and talk about our two other ladies this season, Pandora and Betsy Ross. I discussed Pandora quite a bit last week in my analysis while pondering if Pandora was effective as a villain. My verdict after this episode: yes, very. Her endgame is still questionable and I don't know what she wants as a whole, but she does the soft, repressed villain thing quite well. She's menacing but in a totally understated way. We did get a bit of Pandora's back story in this episode, at least in piecemeal and through something that amounts to a fever dream from Abbie. Pandora is old, very old. Like...Assyrian old. Pandora's name might be Greek but as Ichabod points out, Pandora is a universal construct meant to instruct (evil of women, danger of secrets, importance of following the gods, how evil got into the world) but this Pandora sounds like she had her own very hard childhood. Her father beat her until she forgot all language and then sold her as a slave--and if I had to guess, I'd say sex slave and not hard labor slave--but then Pandora remembered language (demonic intervention?) and she fed her father to a lion. So, she's got that going for her. I enjoy my villains complex, like Henry last season, so adding a more human and haunted story to Pandora works in the show's favor to make her more than just an evil for evil's sake villain. Now, what is not working for the show is the white bread she-warrior known as Betsy Ross. I try not to be overly harsh on Sleepy Hollow because it sticks its landing 90% of the time, but this is the one time when I simply need to voice some concern. Sleepy Hollow is defined by its campy nature that is effortlessly delivered by its two leads, Ichabod and Abbie, the man out of time and the woman of color who stands apart in her own time. They make for a wonderful dynamic. However, since season two Sleepy Hollow has felt as though it needs to spice up this dynamic but does so with white and, ultimately, dull characters who only weigh down the narrative. Hawley, for example, was pretty pointless in the end except to add that "sex" element that this show does not require. Katrina was more important to the narrative but so underwhelming and frustrating while failing to connect with the other characters that the show quickly dismissed her. But 'lo here comes another character cut very much from both the Hawley cloth and the Katrina cloth. Betsy's there to add the sex element, with our leading man, Ichabod, in her exposed corset and her tight pants and her flirty nature. But she's also being set up like she's super important to the story, a la Katrina, Ichabod's last lady love, but thus far Betsy has done nothing but be randomly inserted into Ichabod's flashbacks where she feels forced and awkward. There is no reason to have Betsy in these flashbacks. Ichabod could easily have these supernatural moments without her. The show can't let sleeping dogs lie--the sleeping dog in this case being Abbie and Ichabod carrying the story on their own, something they do exceptionally well. Adding white characters to a story that was celebrated for its diverse cast is bothersome, especially when these new characters' own personal narrative is totally lacking and totally disconnected to the current story. In short, time to run Betsy up the flag pole and move on. Was that pun too much? Ah well. It's Sleepy Hollow. I shall pun it up forever.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Sisters Mills

--"I do not need to study history. I lived it!" Ichabod and Abbie as roommates is one of my favorite things ever. It adds something even more wonderful--something more playful--to their dynamic.

--Ichabod interacting with children. My loins cannot handle that.

--Abbie is "the strongest person I [Ichabod] have ever known. In this or any other time."

--Love that Pandora met Abbie with "Hello, sleepyhead." It's the name of the fandom.

--How about some major props for the graphics department this season? 

--Ichabod at the dentist was one of the best "modern things Ichabod hates" in recent memory. That was pure classic Sleepy Hollow.

--"I'm adorable!!"--a drugged up Ichabod Crane. Bless. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x4)

Nope. What if I left the review at that? Just a declarative nope and went about my week without sitting down and putting ink to pen, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be, and tried to form coherent thoughts about this week's episode, "The Broken Kingdom." Why should I try to formulate anything about such a travesty of an episode? Why should I bother doing it when the writers can't even be bothered to craft any sort of logical and moral tale. King Arthur roofied his wife into loving him and, 'lo, we are smack dab back in the middle of Once Upon A Rape Culture. I am so very tired on this this show and its continuous rape and consent issues. From Regina raping Graham to Zelena raping Robin to Hook getting women drunk (as a tactic) to bring them back to the Jolly Roger, OUAT has become a manifesto to rape and rape culture. And I am so utterly sick of it. So, let's do something different. Let's forget breaking this episode down by past and present--because holy confusing timeline, Batman!--and let's just pick a few choice details that really made my blood boil. Grab your pitchfork. I'm an angry reviewer and I have some things to say. 

Issue Number One: Mystical Roofie Sand

Turns out, King Arthur is kind of a bad guy who doesn't pay attention to his wife because he's too caught up in making his destiny come true. As a story trope, the long suffering forgotten wife who falls into the arms of another man is trite and frankly cliche, but if that's the route OUAT wanted to take, then I'd roll my eyes but not over think it. After all, trite and cliche is par for the course on this show nowadays. Remember when narratives were complex and intricate? Good times. But back to the rape of Guinevere. The first question is should I even be using that word--rape? Yes. That's the simple, straightforward answer to a very heavy and hard question. Culture as a whole tends to use rape in one--and only one--sense, sexual assault in which one person is forced to perform some sort of sexual act against their will. In that very limited definition, then technically no, Arthur did not rape Guinevere on screen. We can assume, though, that Arthur and Guinevere were having sexual intercourse after the mystical sand (drink every time I mention this weeks plot device) incident and because it was done without Guinevere's full natural consent, then yes, it is rape off screen. Guinevere does not love Obsessive! Arthur; she very clearly loves Lancelot. And, to be fair, that's keeping to Arthurian mythology, which I am all for. But the second Arthur transforms Guinevere's mind to be more pliable and more willing to stay with him, love him, sleep with him, support him, do anything that Guinevere in her non-mystical sand (drink!) mind would not willingly do, we are looking at and talking about rape. And I wish, with every fiber of my being, that I could say I was surprised by this twist in OUAT's narrative. But I'm not. This isn't the first time the show has gone down this terrible route of rape and non-consent in order to further their plot agenda without pausing to consider the ramifications of the characters actions. Zelena rapes Robin and is pregnant with his child and while in the season premiere Zelena declares that Robins was just an unwilling participant (read: rape victim) that's as close as the show will ever get to admitting to an on screen rape. Remember Graham and how Regina ordered him taken to her Enchanted Forest bedchamber and how she used him for 28 years in Storybrook for her "council meetings?" According to the showrunners and writers, the audience has no proof that they were having sex in the room so therefore the accusations of rape put to Regina are null and void. Remember in the season three finale when Hook admitted that his tactic to scoring some tail was getting women drunk and taking them back to the Jolly Roger? It's all the same thing; it's rape. It's is horrible, disgusting, offensive rape. And the show will never deal with it; they will never have those rape characters face the consequences of their actions nor will they give the victims any sort of emotional and introspective storyline in which they comes to terms with their victimhood. Graham died; the women from the Jolly Roger were faceless entities Hook simply picked up; and Robin Hood merely shrugs off what was done to him. What does this mean for Guinevere? Who knows. Only time will tell, but while I'm sure what was done to her will come up again (probably after the effects of the mystical sand--drink--are reversed by true love's kiss) it will be cast that Arthur is as much a victim as she is. After all, mean old tree Merlin told Arthur that he had a destiny and that Guinevere was part of that so gosh darn it, Arthur has to do whatever he could to keep his wife! Including taking away her free will and her choice and her sexual agency. Once Upon a Rape Culture marches on.

Issue Number Two: Our World Don't Need No Stinking Rules 

After five years and almost 100 episodes, do you know which episode I hate the most. Yes, you guessed it: Quiet Minds. Bet you can't guess why. Or maybe you can. Anyway, in that episode Nealfire (sob) went to a vault, opened a door, and he died after darkness came forth. In this episode, Charming, Snow, Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot went to the Vault of Eternal Goo, opened it with a key code (instead of a key), went down inside, faced the darkness and lived. There is a disconnect. Neal was trying to resurrect a life, I know, but in both scenarios the characters literally did the same thing except one ended up merging with his father and dying. Because reasons (hint: those reasons wear a lot of guyliner and never changes out of his pirate clothing). I know that Neal's death affected me a lot because he was my favorite character and thus I'm not as objective about these current scenes as I would wish, but there is something so "middle finger" to him and his fans in this episode except that, like the instances of rape and rape culture, it's not the first time and it's not the second time; it's one more instance in a long line where the elephant in the room--Neal--is ignored not only at the expense of his character and his story but the larger story. Last week it was using Hook's cutlass (side note but turns out that the show used the wrong sword and forgot to go back and watch "The Crocodile," so the sword Emma used last week shouldn't have worked at all). This week it was revisiting Neal's actual place of death without giving any thought to the rules previously established. In other breaking their own rules news, how can Rumple create a portal? There is a door in the Dark One's vault that leads to a very terrible CGI jungle where Rumple is keeping his dagger on a bench? How? What? Rumple cannot create portals--it's actually one of the biggest plot points of season one. Yet here's a door that leads to the Jungle of Nightmares. Also, Rumple was clear that he kept his dagger on him at all times. But once again this is in line with OUAT and it's spaghetti-to-the-wall style of writing where nothing sticks, everything slides off and instead of picking up the pieces, the writers just throw more of a mess at the wall every single week. There is no structure; there is no logic. There's just a mess. Now we could reasonably say that Rumple did not create this door/portal and that it was created by the Darkness or Merlin, but then they need to explain that. Like the rape sand of Avalon, the writers simply input new plot devices and never develop them, explain them, or even try to explore them.

Issue Number Three: Woman Are Pretty And Empty 

Remember when Emma Swan was haunted by her past but was still a tower of strength? She could face bad guys, darkness, magic, dragons, and do it all by believing in her son, her family, and herself. Now she has a bad nightmare and goes to lay down, comatose, while her big strong pirate stands over her, clenching his jaw and speaking to her in dulcet tones in case the "patient" (actual word used!) gets into a state and freaks out and goes dark--even though back in the season premiere, Hook says it's Emma's choice if she goes dark or not. And Emma's solution to getting rid of the voices in her head is to go on a romantic horse ride with Hook, and then kiss him in a field of flowers, literally mimicking every single Harlequin romance ever written. There is also the issue that becoming the Dark One turned Emma sexually aggressive. In Camelot, while she's fighting the Darkness inside, Emma is dressed in virginal white and leans on Hook has her bedrock because she simply cannot fight the Darkness on her own. In Storybrook, with the Darkness having finally gained the upper hand, Emma is sexually forward, pouncing on Hook all while wearing skin tight mini dresses. We never saw this with Rumple; in fact, his interest in Belle was guarded and shy, not sexually overt. Women who fall from grace are cast as sexually promiscuous in this show; the writers did it with Regina too, from her costuming to her relationship with Sydney and Graham. OUAT has some truly twisted views on women. Guinevere's only plot line thus far is to be the object of affection for two men, one whom loves her but can't have her, and one whom has her but doesn't love her enough. Guinevere has no personality, no dreams, no desires outside of those two men. Then she was raped, thus solidifying her status as object. Regina hasn't said boo to her son in a long time but Robin's been by her side in almost every single scene (in the other ones, she's with Emma because Queer Baiting). Snow hasn't been in a one on one scene with her daughter at all, but she can sure as heck march to and fro with Charming and Lance. Belle is non existent and we should really forget all about her. Merida's story is centered around Rumple. I'm sure we'll revisit her brothers and her captured land at some point, but her main story is to turn Rumple into a hero by teaching him how to be Brave (roll credits!) Can you teach someone to be brave? Do you throw them in the lion's den and force them to sleep next to the giant beast and that instills bravery in you? I don't think that's how it works. I think you're either brave or your not. It's not really a learned trait but gosh darn it, Merida is going to be the one to do it! Because her movie is called BRAVE, you guys. So clearly she's the best one to teach Rumple how to be a hero. My point is this: the writers have a very bizarre view of women. They like to harp on writing strong women but I don't think they know what that means because their versions of strong women include rapists, mad women, sexually aggressive Dark Ones, shrill wives and overbearing mothers, and sexy librarians. It's like "strong women" is a buzzword for the writers; they don't know what it means but they like say it because it sounds really good.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Broken Kingdom

--In spite of all the vitriol for this episode, I did enjoy Snowing getting the upper hand on Arthur. It's nice to see them working together.

--"The pony is smarter than the pirate."

--Emma is making dreamcatchers. I'm going to go drink.

--The timeline is a disaster and I have no idea how the flashbacks were happening 5 years ago.

--"Those two can outlive a cockroach." Yeah, okay, I LOL'd.

--Merlin has been in the tree for a long time meaning that OUAT is doing Arthurian mythology in name only. There is nothing genuine in their version that matches the established Arthurian mythos except that people with the same names appear.

--I hate to say it, but Guinevere's actress is really dull and one note. I get no sense of her at all.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In Which I Review Doctor Who (9x5)

Good news everyone! Arya Stark managed to get out of Braavos. Oh come on; did you really expect me to not open with a 'Game of Thrones' joke? It was absolutely necessary. But now that I've gotten it out of my system, this week's episode 'The Girl Who Died' was, hands down, one of the best episodes of Doctor Who I have seen in the past two years. I really want to dig in and examine the Doctor's savior and God complex--because it was all over this episode--but hot damn...I also want to rave and squeal like a fan girl about how amazing this hour of TV was. Was this really written by Moffat? Are we sure that he gets partial credit for this genius level writing? The joke were spot on; the story was through provoking and fresh; the acting was outstanding--Capaldi nailed the entire episode from yo-yo start to sad eye finish. I promise I'll analyze and unpack what I thought was going on cosmically and mythically, but know that I have a giant grin on my face and I can't stop gleefully clapping. Grab a Odin Yo-Yo and let's go!

If there is one thing you should know, it's that the "gods never actually show up!" This is, let's be frank, one of the most ironic lines the Doctor could ever utter. A Time Lord who manages, each and every single week, to land smack dab in the middle of a problem--no matter the time, place, or people--and fix it with a clever plan, a wink, and some grandstanding, declaring that the gods keep to themselves and don't concern themselves with the goings on of their little underlings? Hilarious. Doctor, I hate to break this to you, but you're the god in this cinematic universe...and you always show up. Even when your companion is floating in space, with some sort of creature about to eat through her space suit. This episode was rather laden with the entire notion of gods. We have the Doctor pretending to be one at the top of the hour in order to (unsuccessfully) baffle the Viking village; we have the false Odin in the sky who is really after the mashed up insides of strong warriors (because apparently they make quite a tasty amuse bouche?) and we have the Doctor fulfilling his god-lite role by bringing the dead back to life and declaring to the universe--the cold, indifferent universe where time just marches on ceaselessly--that he is the Doctor and he *saves* people. It's an interesting thought experiment to ponder out what exactly the writers are trying to say about gods, religion and reality in general. On the one hand, gods don't exactly shine in this episode. The Doctor is useless as a fake Odin; the Odin the in the sky is really an alien warrior who enjoys eating his subjects and, in the end, while the Doctor performs his deity duties admirably by saving the village (with lightening, the popular choice of gods everywhere) and by saving Ashildr, it's not without punishment. Did the Doctor do the right thing in causing those tidal waves in history? Something tells me Ashildr isn't going to be overly happy to see Mr. Blue Box when next they meet--and of course they will. Are the writers trying to say that gods might exist but their actions can be seen only in a negative light, even the ones that are done for positive and good reasons? Are the writers stressing that even when the gods do show up, it's better if they didn't. That's more of a negative slant and I don't believe that's what the writers are going for. The highlight of the episode is really the Doctor telling that cold and indifferent universe to go screw itself; he's going to play by his rules and do what he thinks is right because he's tired of losing people. The writers want us to celebrate this moment, to fist pump and jump out of chairs in joy (both of which, by the way, I did). The writers want us to love that this Doctor-as-God keeps showing up. I give Moffat a lot of (deserved) grief but there is one quote of his that I do so adore and it's absolutely appropriate to this episode: there will never come a time when we don't need a hero like the Doctor. Maybe his God actions are shoddy and maybe there are consequences, but we need him. We need him. The humans of the world--modern or Viking--need the flawed and imperfect god and madman who comes down and helps us fight our demons. That's the god we should celebrate, not the cold and unfeeling universe who looks away because of unforeseen consequences. There will never be a time when we don't need the Doctor.

Since I covered a lot of the more heavy analysis in the above, let's actually celebrate what made this episode such a rousing success. First off, hilarious, amirgiht? I lost track of the number of times I giggled and guffawed out loud. There are times when Doctor Who gets too bogged down in what it's trying to say, or gets too held up on the wibbly wobbly, timey wimeyness of it all and forgets that it's a highly pulpy and campy television show. I don't mind the higher analysis (obviously; I keep writing don't I?) but sometimes you really do just want to laugh and have a space romp. This episode was full of both cheeky and totally in your face hilarity. I may never stop laughing over the Doctor and his yo-yo. When he told Clara that he was reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, I actually burst into applause because YES Third Doctor reference! On top of all that, once again the Doctor does the so-called heavy lifting in the narrative. Do you notice how Clara's roll this season is just to help the Doctor along? She's not responsible for any big ideas nor for defeating the threat of the week. She's just there to remind the Doctor that he can come up with a solution and save the day. What I am about to say next is going to sound rather anti-feminine but it's not: she's in her place. While I've gone on to enjoy Clara more this season than I did last and much more than her first season, her role in the narrative should always be second fiddle to the Doctor. She's a helpmate, a friend, an ear he can bend. She shouldn't be the Impossible Girl who does Impossible things. Why should she? The Doctor is impossible in all ways; let him be out in the cosmos, the mad man and his box. Clara is the grounded one; the one who reminds the Doctor that he can win. Clara (and the companions in general) are absolutely necessary to the Doctor in order for him to be necessary to us, but her (and, again, all the companions) role should never be to take over the Doctor's mythical and divine nature. I've sung the praises of this episode long enough, needless to say it was a smashing good time. Now, if only they had found a way to incorporate Ragnar Lothbrok....

Miscellaneous Notes on The Girl Who Died

--There were far too many funny one liners for me to document them all, but I'm going to spitball a few of them.
"I'm not actually the police, it's just what it says on the box..."
"That's not really Odin, right?" "Of course not. He doesn't even have a yo-yo."

--"Immortality is everyone else dying."

--The Doctor quoted Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law! My sci-fi heart bursts with joy.

--Vikings and Benny Hill. It makes total sense.

--The Doctor continues to believe that he has a duty to care and is actively becoming worried over Clara's well being. Are the writers hinting at how Clara might leave the show?

--The Doctor will run and run in case the pain ever catches up.

--One more time, because I can't resist: "I am the Doctor! And I save people. And if anyone is listening and has a problem with hell with you!"

Friday, October 16, 2015

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x3)

Can a weapon in the hands of just anyone--a regular and random Joe or Jane--still be a weapon? Or is it the person that makes the difference? See, I would argue the latter more than the former. A knife in the hand of a sociopath is a weapon; a knife in the hand of someone who does not revel in bloodlust and destruction is just a tool that can be easily placed aside and not cause any sort of malevolent harm. Sleepy Hollow went a decidedly different route--almost a bit too Once Upon a Time, if we're drawing parallels--this week as the show pulled out a Byzantine dagger that has the power to turn anyone into a Ripper. Yes, as in Jack the. Turns out, Jack was just a victim of the devious cutlery. In this week's episode, "Blood and Fear," a terror from Ichabod's past came back to haunt the little sleepy town (pun!) and our show began to open up the Pandora mystery and reveal what lies beneath the dark eyed witch. Oh and Ichabod wants to become an American citizen so grab your American flag and place your hand over your heart as Mr. Crane prepares to tangle with the United States government--good luck with that, Ichy dear. 

As expected, Pandora isn't just here to stir up trouble for the sake of having trouble stirred up. She-of-the-black-dress has an agenda and it appears to be rather personal in nature; specifically, Pandora knows all about Ichabod's past and is going to use that against Team Witnesses to achieve her goal, whatever that may be. Let's pause here and think about whether or not Pandora is succeeding as a villain thus far. Granted, it's only three episodes into the season so it's hard to get a solid read, but it doesn't hurt to start exploring if the narrative is a success. On the whole, I find that Pandora is more present than Moloch (season one's villain) was. Molcoh may have been locked away in Purgatory, but the season in question was largely about the idea of evil seeping into Sleepy Hollow much to the surprise of a time traveler colonial and a pragmatic cop. Season two's villain was obviously Jeremy and while the narrative admittedly went slightly off the rails in the second half of the season, Jeremy/Henry was openly scary and very present in the first half of the story; moreover, his familial connection to Ichabod made for a deliciously meaty father versus son storyline. Katrina was the final villain and that particular menace was brief, expected, and driven more by the character's total lack of connection and chemistry with her co-characters and the modern world in which she found herself. In other words, Moloch was a minor success; Jeremy a larger one; Katrina both a success and not. Where does that leave us with Pandora? I like that she's got a personal bent; the second tribulation isn't just about bringing about the Apocalypse or having Death roam around the countryside (remember she sucked Headless up into her handy dandy box) but it seems to be a lot more mano a mano. It's directly against the Witnesses instead of being against the world with Team Witnesses getting caught in the cross hairs. With that said, I still don't know what Pandora wants. Yes, it's clearly personal (a plus) but it's so vague at present that it makes it a little more than frustrating. Thus far, every week has had the same pattern: Pandora, hidden in the shadows, calls forth some sort of great evil from her box. The evil goes after Ichabod and Abbie with the intent of taking down Team Witnesses only to fail. Meanwhile, Pandora scopes out the scene in her modern wear and stalks Ichabbie. What is intriguing (let us say) is that Pandora's failures don't upset her; there are no hissy fits when her henchman are taken down. She just pulls out another monster from her box of toys and tries again. Pandora is either infinitely patient or is just playing with the Witnesses and has something bigger and badder planned. At any rate, hint at it a bit faster Sleepy Hollow because while I like patterns, it won't be long before it feels a bit rote.

Speaking of, how are Team Witnesses fairing this week? Well, they are breaking my heart so there's that. Abbie cradling Ichabod's bleeding and broken body and begging him to stay with her? Yeah, right in the heart and feels, y'all. There was some sad whimpering going on during that particular scene. These two really have hit their proper stride, right? They now move seamlessly as they work together. The handling of the case of the week is like a well oiled machine at this point. Look at how they instantly know how to tackle a situation--from Ichabod's research skills to Abbie's technological savvy and her connections within the FBI, there is no hesitation. They spring into action whenever Team Witnesses are needed. Where Ichabod goes, Abbie follows. Where Abbie goes, Ichabod follows. But more than that, they are truly best friends, connecting in a way that is more than cosmic and Biblical. Ichabod and Abbie rely on each other and have each others back no matter the cost. Abbie now knows that Pandora will target her because of how close Abbie is her to co-Witness but she's willing to face that, head on. Abbie will sit by his bedside and watch over a Malaria infected Ichabod (get better soon, Sunshine!) because to do otherwise is be alone and that is just not how Team Witnesses roll. In other words, Team Witnesses: Represent! And as for Ichabod, well, he's just "most grateful that you and I have found one another once again." Yup. Right in the feelings.

Miscellaneous Notes on Blood and Fear

--What is up with Pandora and her rose bush? What does each rose signify?

--Okay, while I'm sure that the subplot of Jenny and Joe is going to be brought to the A plot sooner rather than later, I'm content to just let this pass under my eyes without thinking it through too much right now. I do really love Miss Jenny standing on her own, though.

--Ichabod grandstanding at the top of the episode was pretty awesome. Love when Ichabod rails against the modern American systems.

--"Ichabod Crane, American. I like the sound of that." Me too, Abbie. Me too.

--Very nice fight sequence between Ichabod and the Ripper.

--I will never say no to an Ichabbie fist bump!

Monday, October 12, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x3)

In Arthurian mythology, the Siege Perilous is the seat left open at the Round Table for the Knight who would one day be successful in finding the Holy Grail. It was left that way by Merlin. This week's episode, "Siege Perilous" is a very old fashioned knightly quest. It's exactly the kind of trope-tastic journey I'd expect when dealing with King Arthur of Camelot, only this time around he brought new good buddy, and equal White Knight stock character, Prince Charming along for the "horse" ride--or leisurely stroll through a really dark forest, as the case may be. Usually, Prince Charming episodes are fillers and disappointing because the writers are never sure what to do with their leading man (well, former leading man). He's never been fleshed out and given any level of complexity. However, this episode works for Charming because the writers gleefully allow Charming to try and be who he is: the white knight, the gallant hearted prince who holds duty, honor, and justice above all else but who still struggles with never succeeding in a quest. In other Prince Charming centered episodes, his honor and mettle would be tested and he'd have some serious self doubts (White Out) or the issue would be riddled with problems, either of a gender variety or a race variety (or, both, if you're the episode The Tower). But this week serves the good Prince and the good King well in that they are both a little bit more complex than their archetype. Grab yourself a magic mushroom and let's dive into a lake infested with mythological zombie creatures (or not). 


Let's just admit this right off the bat: OUAT has far too many Magical MacGuffins. We are at absurd levels of them by now; in fact, I'd say that we're beyond absurd levels. But, has anything been more odious than tracking down a magical toadstool that will somehow allow the intrepid little gang talk to a wizard living inside a tree? See, I can't even write that sentence without falling into a fit of laughter. As was pointed out to me by a friend, OUAT plot lines are becoming like Mad-Libs. The story is that Character X does Action Y in order to obtain Object Z. Then, to make it really fun, you just shout out the first noun and verb that comes to you. And thus you get Charming and Arthur going on a quest to find the magical toadstool in the Forest of Forever Night (but it's totally okay because they had the Unquenchable Flame that apparently came from the Burning Bush because Moses was in the Enchanted Forest, y'all). There are so many things wrong with what I just wrote, but look at all the randomly inserted objects and ideas. There are so many ideas crammed into one little adventure but, for once, I am going to move past this abundance of shiny things (wut?) and move into what I thought was the real heart of the episode: the new friendship of Charming and Arthur. It's a very interesting take that what unifies Charming and Arthur aren't their heroic or White Knight tendencies but instead their feelings of being inadequate, that they will never measure up to the expectations they place on themselves. The entire quest of Charming and Arthur is flat and rather boring and absolutely absurd, except in the conversation that comes because of it at the lake (you know, after the zombie knights are beaten back--because naturally). Charming gives what might be his most self-aware and introspective line in the history of his character, "I don't want to only be remembered as the man who kissed a sleeping princess awake thirty years ago." When you think about Charming's story from start to where we are now, he's had little success in the hero department. His daughter normally does the heavy lifting; his wife does more of the ruling and leading, and, in the past few seasons, the former villains go toe to toe with the villains-of-the-arc and come out the new conquering heroes. Charming has had little to do that shows he's a hero except espouse platitudes and, to add insult to injury, last season he helped steal a dragon-baby-egg. I often just refer to Charming as wallpaper because he's decoration, flat and unremarkable. But this one line gave him some color, some pizzazz. And goodness knows he needed it. How can you be a real knight if you Yes, he's always on the winning side but he's never the Shinning White Knight.

Along the same vein is Arthur who is clearly looking at his life and wondering if he's everything he should be. I'm not surprised that Arthur is also somewhat villainous--it's how OUAT operates with their various heroes and villains. But with Arthur, a little bit like Charming, he's on the winning side but never the winner. He couldn't even pull forth a fully formed Excalibur. He's only a king because of a prophecy. In other words, both he and Charming are looking to still prove themselves as the White Knight and Rightful King (yes, all caps. Welcome to Cosmic Town). Arthur's desire to protect his kingdom stems from both paranoia (I'm sure Camelot has had its problems) but also from needing to believe that he is truly the rightful King for more than just mystical and magical reasons. Like Arthur jokes to Charming at the lake, "some large rock decided I was a hero and a prophecy was fulfilled." Both men come from humble backgrounds and never believed that they were worth anything special. Farmer David and Little Wart were just background characters in the larger story until fate intervened; but it needs to be more than destiny playing fast and loose for them to make them feel worthy. It needs to feel real; like they did something to really earn those white cloaks and monikers. And thus far, it's not going so well--and doubly so for Arthur who is conspiring against his new friend Charming and forcing his loyal knights to commit suicide. You may want to stop that if you want to be a true hero, Mr. Arthur. Is Arthur really a villain, though? His motivations are complicated (at least as complicated as it gets on this show). It's for his kingdom (good intentions) but also his ego (bad motivations). What I really want to know is what else Arthur has done that makes Lancelot (shock: he's alive!) claim that his former best friend is a straight up villain. Something tells me that Sir Arthur doesn't want Merlin out of that tree. Ever.

Rise and Shine 

The present day action of this week's episode was rather lackluster and useless (because I don't touch Captain Swan with a ten foot pole unless I feel really compelled--and no, not today, kids) but I do want to talk about Rumple and his new tabula rasa status. First off, welcome back to the land of the living, Rumple. It's good to see you but I sincerely hate how you came back. Hook's sword, which was used to threaten Peasant Rumple way back in the day, awoke the Imp. There were a few other artifacts that would mean a great deal more--be more poetic--than the pirate's sword. What other objects touched his skin while Rumple was still a man? Let's see: his spinning wheel, his original cane, Bae's toy ball and Bae's shawl. In fact, the last one has always been Rumple's talisman and the fact that it's not used as such here is really strange, except when I stop and remember that this show has a very strict No-Nealfire clause firmly entrenched in its narrative. So, in that case, sure! Use Hook's sword. Why not. Anyway, back to the now awake-Rumple: he is neither good nor light. He just exists. He is malleable. He can be changed and shaped and formed into whatever Dark Swan needs him to be and, in this case, the Leather Swan needs herself a hero to pull forth the sword. But can Rumple really ever be a hero in the ordinary world? It took Isaac rewriting the entire universe to make Rumple a hero last time. And the time before that, when Rumple was on the right path, he fell off for...reasons (again, the No-Nealfire clause). Are Rumple's power hungry tendencies really gone? For good? And if yes, should they be?  That’s not how character redemption should work. It shouldn’t be because of a plot device (sucking hat, for an example) but because of hard work and making good choices. I mean, I know that sounds simple and un-TV like where we can have SHINY things do all the work for us but…let a girl dream. I want Rumple redeemed because he works for it; because he clawed--tooth and nail--to be forgiven and find the light on his own. But this...this is what I'm left with now, a world where the Magical McGuffins do all the work and redemption happens via plot device. As for the larger question of if Rumple can be a hero or not, only time will tell. But like Charming and Arthur, can Rumple really be a hero if he didn't do anything (truly do anything) to earn that title? You can pull that sword from a rock, but that don't make you a hero.

Miscellaneous Notes on Siege Perilous     
--Arthur can drive a car even though he's a knight of Camelot and does not have "we are both" memories. This sort of stuff drives me nuts because I cannot suspend my disbelief when the show is being totally illogical.

--The poison of Agrabah vipers doesn't make you poof up in smoke. Go ask King Leopold.

--"We've been violated!" Emma took Happy's axe because the writers can't get past the JMo/Michael Coleman Twitter nonsense. 

--Lancelot did not hold the Siege Perilous in Arthurian mythology. It's actually kind of important that he never held it, ie: never found the Grail.

--Regina looked amazing in that red dress, but her "Evil Queen" conversation with Zelena was horrible. Make up your mind, writers. Is she redeemed or not because basically threatening your sister's life = Not redeemed.

--Hook admitting that he was the villain in the Rumple scenario of long ago. First off, FINALLY. Yes you were a villain and you did a terrible thing. But last week Hook was still calling Rumple the bloody crocodile and Hook hasn’t actually done anything to prove he’s sorry for what he did to Rumple (or to those that he hurt after Rumple). It’s one thing to say it out loud, but it’s another to make amends. We’re missing the other half of the puzzle.

-- Once again some terrible morals, or at least twisted ones. Guinevere and Lancelot chose to have an affair. Arthur did not force them to have sex. OUAT has a weird habit of taking away people’s ability to chose and making it someone else’s problem.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

In Which I Review Doctor Who (9x4)

In Arthurian mythology, the Fisher King is the last man in a (very) long line who is charged with keeping the Holy Grail. The King, sometimes referred to as the Wounded King, also has a sympathetic relationship with his kingdom. As one might guess from his moniker, the Wounded/Fisher king is injured (groin, most usually) and as he suffers, so does his kingdom. His injury renders him impotent and since he is unable to sew his own seed and bring forth a son to rule after him, his kingdom, in turn, becomes a barren wasteland. As above, so below. The sympathetic relationship between king and country extends long after the legend of the Fisher King, though I need not document it here. What's important is that the Fisher King is often found waiting for someone to come along and heal him--Percival, Galahad or Bors, depending on iteration of text. As one might expect, these knights who heal the Fisher King can do so because they are the chosen ones. It's a shame, then, that Doctor Who's version of the Fisher King bears so little resemblance to his mythological namesake. The show could have really pulled a few cosmic punches (my favorite kind) by rendering the Doctor as the Galahad figure who heals the would and causes things to grow again. However, I'm willing to overlook it since the episode landed many other punches this time around. In this week's episode, "Before the Flood,' we go on a wibbly wobbly, timey wimey journey in which the Doctor is cast as the conquering hero through a lot of jumps and spins and turns. So, grab a copy of Beethoven's Fifth and let's go! 

I first want to discuss something that has nothing to do with plot or the timey wimey-ness of it all, but rather has everything to do with character. My favorite moment in this episode was the emotional beat between the Doctor and Clara. Too often in the Moffat era, the emotional resolutions or important bits are either cut off at the knees or at reduced to shouting matches that only resolve out of frustration or because the monster of the week is chasing down the main cast. However, in this week's episode, there was a really great phone conversation--happening across time, naturally--between the Doctor and Clara that really sang. This makes two weeks in a row that script writer Toby Whithouse has given a nice, introspective, and heartfelt conversation between the Doctor and Clara; last week, the Doctor felt the need to remind Clara that he's responsible for her and this week, Clara begs the Doctor to come back for her, not to die and leave her. I find, maybe for the first time ever, that I am not bothered by Clara defining herself by a man--er, Time Lord. I suppose in some ways this begging to be rescued or using love as a reason to come back would have disturbed me, but it's not out of line with any of the other Companions the Doctor has had 'lo these 50 plus years and in Clara's case, we're dealing with some serious emotional baggage and trauma. Once more, Danny Pink's death hangs over this episode. Clara cannot stand the idea of losing another person she loves. She's lost the first Doctor she ever traveled with, the 11th, and it took her the span of an entire episode (and almost being eaten by robot machine things) to come around to seeing the 12th Doctor. Clara's lost Danny twice over, first in the mundane fashion, and then in the more fantastical way. But Clara's also lost her innocence; she's lost the wide eye wonder she had back when the adventure was still more magical than adrenaline producing.

I still think the overall thesis for Clara has been tweaked from being in an abusive relationship (with travel, the TARDIS, and the spirit of adventure) to repressing hurtful emotions after the cost of addiction becomes clear; but in this week's episode we see those emotions surface. In other words, we see Clara as human, and so does the Doctor. His willingness to go die speaks volumes about his hero-status (and perhaps, also, his reckless and macabre tendencies) but for a moment he forgets how much his death will hurt the person he cares about the most. I really loved when the Doctor turned the phone conversation private between the two of them--Doctor and Companion--and he began to realize just how hurt Clara would be; laying his head on the TARDIS console, only able to say her name and listen to her emotional plea, it really struck a chord in him and in me. Also, in the same vein, this is what happens when you give Peter Capaldi something meaty to work with; he knows how to play the Doctor as both the egotistical mad man with a crazy box who solves all the problems and as the lonely wounded god who understands that traveling with him changes you in a fundamental way, but he's willing to risk your life and soul in order to not be alone. All of those charged emotions--the remorse, the guilt, the fear, the desire--were there during this phone call. I just wish it had been carried through to the end; we never got a proper emotional closure from either party; the final scene being a narrative timey wimey wrap up. Ah, well. I'll take what I can get, eh?

Outside of the heightened emotional beat I mentioned above, the episode is mostly very good. It's very Moffat-era with the time streams going haywire and too many characters having too little to do and not leaving a lasting impression. The villain never felt very threatening because the motivation of the Fisher King is left unbelievably vague (but also because the Doctor always wins, or at least manages to get him and his companion out of harms way.) In fact, I had to look at the writing credits twice to make sure that Moffat did not co-write this one; he didn't, though, it's pure Whithouse. The Doctor secretly being behind a lot of the plot and time twists, and it only coming to light at the end of the episode, isn't new, much like the plot of last week's episode being rote, but it was an exciting ride nonetheless. What I want to touch on briefly, here in the last paragraph, is the opening segment. That one was...strange. And certainly one that is going to cause some controversy. I'm of two minds. On the one hand, the Doctor's monologue felt like Whithouse didn't think his audience would "get it" by episodes end--that the Doctor was behind the flood (insert your own God reference here), that he was responsible for the Fisher's King's destruction (same parenthetical applies), and, moreover, the lingering question of how the Doctor knew what to do when he ended up changing the future. The opening break in the fourth wall and the Doctor's Beethoven example take away a lot of the narrative punch of the ending and realizing just how much the Doctor was behind everything because, due to the very beginning, you're expecting some heavy timey wimey stuff. You've just been told, by the Author (in the skin of the Doctor looking directly into the camera) to expect some sort of paradox. The resolution of the plot this week likely would have been much more surprising had I not known that we'd be witnessing some sort of time stream madness. However, the Doctor breaking the fourth wall and moving about the TARDIS like a mad man, giving a very impressive and mysterious speech, works well in Capaldi's hands. Once again, I must state that when he is given proper Doctor Who-esque material, he really delivers. In the end, the opening sequence is something that is best left as a one time thing and only in the hands of a very skilled actor. So...who did write Beethoven's Fifth?

Miscellaneous Notes on Before the Flood

--Caution, Doctor Who. Don't overuse the guitar playing gag too much. It's fun, but I worry if you make it common.

--Interesting opening credits too, with the guitar playing in the background.

--Really could have done without the two love stories because the four characters in question left little impression on me. We could all tell that the deaf lady and her translator were in love, but the other two felt thrown in at the last second.

--The Doctor has done 99% of the heavy lifting in the past two episodes. It's really working, especially in contrast to season eight.

--"First proper alien, and he's an idiot."

--"I have to die." "Not with me. You die with the one who comes after me. If you love me in any way, you'll come back."

--So the Fisher King just wanted to invade Earth? But...why? There are thousands, if not millions, of planets out there.

--"Even a ghastly future is better than no future at all. You bent the rules to life and death, so I'm putting it straight." Get down with your mythic self, Doctor. You do you.