Star Trek Discovery S01E03 Review: Context Is for Kings — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

In “Context Is For Kings,” we finally get to meet the namesake of Star Trek: Discovery. The U.S.S. Discovery is a brand new ship on a mysterious mission. It’s a scientific vessel, but with locked lab doors and black alerts. And it may hold the secret to winning the war against the Klingons.

via Star Trek Discovery S01E03 Review: Context Is for Kings — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

 

I did not watch this particular episode except in a couple of snippets online. It was very uncomfortable viewing, but I guess that was meant to be like that. I didn’t expect Michael to receive warm welcomes on the Discovery, but I was dismayed at the shitty behavior displayed by the rest of the crew towards her and wanted to “Force Choke” every single one of them, including her roommate. I understand their feelings about her, but it still felt and looked bad, and I’m not used to that level of sneering contempt from a Star Trek crew, (although the STNG crew was occasionally pretty snobbish.)

On the other hand, it does make for great drama, so I guess that was the point. I liked this review though, which gives a great overview of the episode, without any spoilers, which is totally unlike my overly-detailed ramblings. I can’t watch the show, but I ‘ll watch the snippets, and forward these lovely reviews from the Supernatural Fox Sisters.

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The Problem with White Critics

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I think I began several different iterations of this post, but finally settled on making this as positive as possible, rather than making it just a rant, because what I want to do is encourage people to do something that’s helpful to everyone, including themselves.

We don’t have enough critics of popular media who are people of color ,and we desperately need more.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/does-racism-impact-the-way-reviewers-rate-tv-shows/

The  problem I have with so many white critics is that they don’t see color. No really, they just don’t see it. We’re experiencing a time where PoC are being increasingly cast in roles, or sometimes have their own vehicles, and most white critics either don’t know enough about other cultures to adequately critique that media, or who have such a deep seated discomfort with acknowledging other cultures, that they simply ignore characters of color in the media. They really just don’t see them, they erase them, forget they’re there, diminish their importance in the narrative, and there are some cases where I would consider certain reviews to be overt micro-aggressions, themselves, like the review of Hidden Figures, and Moonlight, by the racially tone-deaf, British critic, Camilla Long.

“The received wisdom on Moonlight, a film about gay love in the black ghetto, is that it is ‘necessary’ and ‘important’. It is an ‘urgent’ and ‘relevant’ examination of forbidden attraction in a world, ‘the streets’, that is largely hostile to gay men.

Only, relevant to whom? Certainly not the audience. Most will be straight, white, middle class. Nor is it particularly ‘urgent’: the story has been told countless times, against countless backdrops.”

https://www.themarysue.com/tone-deaf-moonlight-hidden-figures-reviews/

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In Westworld, there are two major threads of robot cognition occurring on the show, between Dolores, a White coded woman , and Maeve, a Black coded character. I found it impossible to find critiques of Maeve’s storyline, especially from an intersectional feminist perspective. Most White critics ignored her entirely, focusing all of their attention on the character they felt was the show’s star, Dolores.

Critics  of color, have long pointed out White Prioritization in media narratives, but this prioritization also extends to fandom and critics as well, where, if there is a single White person in narratives that involve PoC, fans and critics will focus entirely on that character, neglecting, erasing, and sometimes  even re-writing the contributions of the characters of color in the story.

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We’ve directly witnessed fandom engaging in this with Finn from Star Wars, and  Nick Fury from the MCU, with fans often re-writing the narrative to villainize or  erase their contribution to the story. But this was notably illustrated on the show Sleepy Hollow, when, during the second and third seasons, the show’s Black female lead, Abbie Mills, was often sidelined in favor of the more marginal, White character’s storylines.

Maeve had nearly the same character arc as  Dolores, but no one was writing about her, and the people who did write about her didn’t take her race into consideration for how she was treated as a character, or how her race impacted her storyline vs. Dolores. Either White critics just didn’t see it, or they just didn’t care. Pick one!

I couldn’t find any posts on the topic of White female stereotypes vs Black female stereotypes in media, so I had to research it, and make my own. Ten minutes after that post was published, I was contacted by a young woman who said she’d just been searching the Internet, looking for exactly that type of post for her intersectional feminism paper, and citing that post  on a similar topic. Since then, that post has become one of my most popular, getting at least a couple of hits every day. (For the record, I’m not an  academic. I work in the Social Science and Research Dept. of a major library.)

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When Luke Cage, and Beyonce’s Lemonade were released, I stated that I was specifically seeking critiques from Black critic perspectives, because no white critique would have been able to capture the nuances of either. Not being a part of Black American  culture, White critics would be unlikely to catch all of the Easter eggs, and details that made this media so important to us. Some things you just have to be a part of the culture to understand.

I’ve watched many, many, movies from other cultures and critiqued many of them, but have always kept in the back of my thoughts, that I’m not a member of that culture, and I’m unlikely to understand many details, so am able only to speak to a certain depth on films with primarily Latinx, or Asian casts. I would entirely understand if people from any of those cultures dismissed my reviews.

http://splinternews.com/theres-a-huge-divide-between-how-black-and-white-critic-1797478105

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This is the same problem that’s found in the movies of White directors of Black culture. Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit suffers from a lack of nuance. It’s two hours of Black pain, with no  depiction of the regular everyday life of the Black people in the city of Detroit. Their personal lives are lacking or given short shrift, and it lacks any depictions of the roles Black women played in the resistance to their oppression. I’m not arguing that Bigelow is a racist, but she is recreating a Black story through a White woman’s lens, so no matter how awake she may be as a person, her perspective on the issue is going to be limited, as she does not come from the environment she is portraying. I don’t object to Bigelow directing the film as she’s an excellent filmmaker. I’m just wondering if the film would’ve been better served by having a director from the same culture as depicted in the film.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-and-the-problem-with-watching-black-pain-through-a-white-lens_us_597f8907e4b08e143004bbf1

One of my favorite genres is the martial arts film. Jet Li is one of my favorite actors, and one of his early movies is Once Upon a Time in China. I watched this film in the nineties when my brother gifted me with the entire boxed set for Christmas. I really enjoyed them. They also came with a commentary from famed martial arts writer Bey Logan, who taught me exactly what I was missing when I was watching those films, many of which also have Easter eggs, like the names of streets signs, character names, and character fighting styles. Bey Logan is not Asian, but he does know more about the topic than I ever will, so I defer to him. (Ideally, I would read Asian writers writing about movies depicting them, which is what I did for Ghost in the Shell.)

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Logan gave backstory on  characters that it didn’t occur  to me to ask, and answered a few questions that had been bubbling in the back of my mind regarding cultural issues, such as why you almost never see Chinese couples kissing in movies. These are all things I would never have known (or sometimes noticed) because I’m not Chinese, or a member of that diaspora.  I can enjoy the films only to a certain depth, but Bey Logan did teach me a lot about what to look for, and what to critique in such films.

I’m not saying White people can’t critique movies and TV shows that are primarily about people of color, just that their perspective isn’t going to carry the same weight as that of a person who is from the culture being depicted, and there are some critics, like Ms. Long mentioned above, who seem actively hostile.

My aim is to follow in Bey Logan’s footsteps, and  deepen understanding of characters and culture, by critiquing the media from my perspective, through my own lens, as a Black woman. I don’t just want to point out what White owned media, and fandom gets wrong about their depictions of characters of color, but to point out how, and why, it’s wrong, and teach viewers what to look for when watching events like Luke Cage, Lemonade, and Jessica Jones,  and movies like Detroit, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures. So from now on, when I write reviews on these types of productions, I intend to add more cultural and historical information, as I did when reviewing American Gods.

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I’m standing in a very different spot than White men (and women) when viewing pop culture, and when it comes to media involving Black American culture specifically, my perspective is that of someone fully immersed in that culture. White male is certainly one perspective, and it has its merits but, once again, a lot of  nuance and history will probably be missed.

Right now, I’m following a White critic who regularly dismisses or erases Black characters, (he simply doesn’t mention them, and when he does, is often clueless as to their impact and importance in the narrative) although he is otherwise a perfectly decent reviewer. I don’t think he knows he’s doing it, but the cumulative effect of forgetting to mention certain characters, or not remembering their names, is one of dismissal of characters of color. He is a perfectly acceptable reviewer though, and we agree on a great many issues, but he is simply unwilling (or what is much more likely), incapable of seeing what I see in even the shows and movies we both like.

He’s standing where he’s standing, and I’m standing where I’m standing, and he can’t imagine what I’m seeing from over here. I don’t really expect of him, to be honest.

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Before Iron Fist, and Ghost in the Shell were  released, I deferred to the opinions of Asian Americans, and boosted their voices on topics of concern, as much as possible. I can’t speak for them, although I do try to notice if they’re being treated fairly in a narrative. They are the only ones who really KNOW the issues that are of paramount concern to them, as part of the culture being shown onscreen, and whenever possible I prefer to let people of their own culture speak for themselves.

So here’s my encouragement and a challenge: If you’re a person of color, who is interested in TV and film, and you know anything about history, or social justice,  or just care about those issues, you can be a reviewer. It’s easiest to start with television shows since those are much more accessible, but there’s no academic credentials, or specialized knowledge required to blog about it. All you have to do is be a person of color, who loves movies and TV, and have something to say about it.

Pick one show you especially enjoy, and write an essay on how it makes you feel (this is an example of Meta). Pick a movie you liked and talk about its themes or ideas that captured you. Pick a character that speaks to you, with whom you identify and talk about that. It doesn’t have to be like the newspaper reviews. It doesn’t have to be an academic treatise. It also doesn’t have to be negative. Saying how much you love something, and why, is still a review.

Is it a rant? Is it something you hate that movies keep doing? Is it something you love and want to encourage? Go for it! Do you actually have some specialized knowledge on a topic movies keep getting wrong? Let us know!

Trust me, you will find an audience. Its slow going, at first, but I promise to signal boost you. I will give you a platform. If you are a person of color with a movie and TV review blog, let me know, and I’ll reblog your stuff.  Got some meta on Tumblr? Just send me a link and I’ll post it.

We need more critics of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://howlround.com/the-need-for-cultivating-theatre-critics-of-color

 

 

 

American Horror Story: Cult Election Night

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I didn’t like this episode.

Not because it was a bad episode, but because it was really, really hard to sit through.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with clowns. Clowns don’t particularly bother me, but I do have a problem with the rhetoric spouted by Evan Peter’s character (Kai) during this episode, and Sarah Paulson’s character’s panic attacks.

It’s extremely difficult to watch someone have a massive panic attack, when you suffer from anxiety yourself, and I had no idea in advance of those scenes, that they were going to happen. Ally (Paulson) didn’t  have just one attack either, she had at least three of them, and seemed at least mildly  hysterical the rest of the time.

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The episode is named after last year’s election night. On that night, we see Ally have her first attack, which I, at first, thought was a bit over the top (only because that wasn’t my reaction to the election), while acknowledging that she had some good points. Her reaction after the election was bad enough, but Ally is a person without any down points in her emotional makeup. She seems to be upset all the time, if only by a matter of degree. She is beset by a host of various anxieties, phobias, and panics, and the rest of the time she seems barely holding on by her fingernails.

Now couple that character with Evan Peter’s Kai, who saw the election as an opportunity to engage in unrestrained assholery, (just like plenty of White men did in the real world), and a speech he later gives at a local government meeting on the nature of fear, and you can see why I found this episode less than entertaining. I get the writers rather heavy handed point, but I still didn’t like hearing it, as it ‘s not too different from the kind of shit actually being said by the president right now.

This wasn’t helped by the show’s usual overwrought style of writing, and the general plot. The whole thing, when it wasn’t triggering my own issues, was also  unbelievably over the top.

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After the election, Kai goes upstairs in his house, and smears his face with what appears to be Cheeto dust, Ally’s neighbors are murdered in a parody of the movie The Strangers, or The Purge, I’m not sure which, and Ally gets menaced/chased by clowns at the local store, while two of the clowns have sex in the produce section. (I had the distinct impression that that may have not been a consensual act, which upsets me even further. I will not watch rape scenes!) On top of all that, the young lady, who is hired to babysit her and her wife’s son, has all of the acting range of a lobotomy patient, and happens to be an associate of Kai. I guess her job is recruit Ally’s kid, or something.

When Ally’s neighbors are murdered by clowns, she later finds out that the babysitter had taken her son to watch the event through the window. This is really the point where I gave just up and just checked the fuck out. I don’t know, and don’t wanna know, what happened between any of these characters. At that point, I decided I really needed to watch something else, or just turn off my TV.

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Lets face it. This show has finally defeated me.

It upset even my less than delicate sensibilities, and that’s saying something, since I’ve been a fan of this show for the past three years, and sat through some of the most  blatantly outrageous bullshit that the writers could possibly dream up. And that may very well have been the writer’s point. If so, then they won! I give up! They’ve finally gone so far that even I can’t watch this show without laughing, scoffing at it,  or crying, and sometimes all three at once.

Either that, or this show just struck too damn close to home for me to be able to comfortably watch it. I watch some shows to get away from reality, which is bad enough in Trump’s America, with its daily list of atrocities committed against PoC. On the weekends, I usually turn off all social media, just as a matter of self care. The last thing I ‘m going to find entertaining, right now, is a parody of my own  terrifying reality, (although I realize that this may be a form of coping for other people.)

I don’t know that I’ll watch this for the rest of the season. I’m loathe to stop, but I don’t know if I can sit through any more of this. Ally is a really hard person to get past, although her wife has the patience of Job. I like her. (As someone who not only deals with her own issues, I also happen to be the caregiver for someone who is not unlike Ally, so I could identify with her behavior.)

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I love that the show depicts a loving and supportive relationship between these two women, where they talk it over,  and work at trying to do and be better, instead of simply fighting, for extra drama. They show love and affection for each other without it turning into titillation for the male gaze. It’s just another relationship, like hundreds/thousands, of other relationships. Their son is adorable too, but I’m also not here to watch their child be corrupted into whatever Kai is, which seems to be the babysitter’s plan.

Plus, there’s all the damn clowns. I get that clourophobia is a thing, but it isn’t my thing. I just don’t find clowns to be all that scary. They’re  less scary than all the other shit happening in the world of the show. And oh yeah, that skin crawling feeling you get at looking at images of human flesh dotted with holes, that’s called Tripofobia. I know you’re just going to ignore my advice, but nevertheless, I feel I absolutely must caution you DO NOT GOOGLE THAT WORD!!!!!

I probably won’t be reviewing any more episodes unless there’s a huge event of some kind.

How can a show be both terrifying, and absolutely ridiculous?

Get Out: The Importance of Black Friendship

Over the years, its been a thing for White people to ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the lunchroom?” A question that’s almost as famous as “Why is there no White history month?” When I was asked that first question, in my youth, I had no answer. I knew there was a reason for it, and I tried to articulate why, but in the early 90s, words like micro-aggressions, and implicit bias, had  either not been  invented yet, or were not widely known to the public.

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An analogy: In my last post about American Gods, I addressed the issue of why we’re never seen Shadow Moon interacting with other PoC, or human beings, and I connected that to how “marginalized people”  need each other to touch base with, and ground them in their sense of reality, as they navigate spaces that are not considered to be theirs. An excellent illustration of this is Shadow believing he is slowly losing his mind in the presence of the supernatural creatures he is surrounded by.  Shadow isn’t only isolated from a racial standpoint, he is isolated from a human standpoint.

However, as a Black man, Shadow has had many years of practice  navigating White spaces, and no experience, at all, navigating supernatural ones, as a human being, and as a result, believes he’s losing his grasp on sanity. Without other humans present to acknowledge the events he’s been experiencing, he can only rely on his own shaky understanding of reality, which is not strong enough to keep him from believing that he’s losing his sanity. He cannot hold onto his sense of self. He can  adopt the prevailing attitudes of the supernatural creatures surrounding him, (just give in and accept it, which he has done by the end of the season), or he can declare that none of what he has experienced is real, and that he is actually insane, or he can find some human beings to ground him, and shore up the  assurance of his own humanity.

And this is not unlike the kind of choices that PoC make when we have no option but to navigate White spaces. (By White spaces, I mean public places, primarily populated and run by White people, like school and work, where close contact between Whites, and PoC is encouraged.) Do we adopt the prevailing attitude of the people around us, even if it’s detrimental to our sense of self, and well being, or do we retreat to more comfortable spaces with other members of our specific ethnicity (i.e. run away).

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This is one of the choices that Chris has to make in the movie Get Out.  A choice between an assimilation that will destroy his sense of self, or flight. During the course of the film, Chris wavers between these two impulses, but it’s his relationship with his best friend Rod, rather than his romantic relationship with Rose, that prompts him to not only deeply question what is happening to him, but to make the choice to flee (almost too late.)

One of the reasons that movie has such a resonance for Black people is that  we recognize, not just ourselves in much the same situations, but our “ride or die” friends, who we often commiserate with, after being in such spaces. Our friends help us  confirm our reality,  and criticize, and fight back, against our experiences, when we’ve been pressured to conform, or accept, that what’s happening to us is normal.

In the movie Get Out, Chris has such  a “ride or die” friend in TSA worker, Rod, played by actor/comedian LilRel, who also functions as the movies comic relief, and another version of the Everyman, with which we’re meant to identify. Rod is the character who explicitly states what the Black audience is thinking, and you could also argue that  Rod is  the hero of the movie.  Chris, alone in the wilds of White suburbia, often calls  on Rod, to touch base, to check facts, to affirm his experiences, and to confirm his sense that he is not the one who is crazy. It is everyone else.

Chris calls Rod after every questionable event, and Rod makes an effort to assure Chris that not only are his experiences are real, they are not normal, thereby confirming for Chris that his feelings are valid.  If you watch carefully, Rose does not do this. Chris calls Rod after his first meeting with Rose’s family, and Rod warns him against being hypnotized, elucidating all the things that could go wrong. Although Rod’s suppositions are comical, his distrust of someone hypnotizing Chris is spot on. Rose, however,  considers hypnotism harmless, and makes no effort to talk Chris out of  his misgivings. Instead, she deflects their discussion of how he feels, to how embarrassed SHE is  about her family, thereby derailing the discussion onto her feelings..

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Chris also calls Rod after he meets the other Black people there, because their behavior is unusual, and Rod assures him that his feelings are correct. Their behavior is wrong. Rose, while agreeing that the behavior is unusual, makes excuses for why it happened.

It is Rod who first warns Chris that he needs to leave, after he does a basic search on one of the Black people Chris met that weekend. Rod also confronts Rose about Chris whereabouts, when he can no longer contact him, and tries to trick her into giving herself away. He researches the other people Chris has met, and goes to the police with his concerns. When the police don’t respond, he takes it upon himself to find and rescue his friend, if that’s what’s necessary.

Shadow Moon, in American Gods, has no such friend. There’s no one to turn to to confirm the weirdness he just saw, and there’s no one to rescue him from an environment that is emotionally, and physically, dangerous to him.  Mr. Wednesday acts very much the way Rose does. He deflects , glosses over, and occasionally outright lies to Shadow, to keep him from fleeing the situation. Shadow eventually chooses to believe what’s happening to him. He assimilates. You can see the parallels to the victims who came before Chris,  but thanks to Rod,  he gets saved.

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Chris is in an environment where he is pressured to keep silent about his misgivings because he doesn’t want to make a scene, or upset Rose. Whenever he expresses doubts or misgivings, they’re rationalized away, not acknowledged, or dismissed as not being real.

Chris’ feelings are invalidated by the White people around him, with every one of the tactics used to discredit PoC feelings, in racial discussions with White people. The Black men and women  who are present, may look like him, but have been fully assimilated into that environment, and cannot be trusted. Chris needs Rod’s distance from the event,  emotional grounding, encouragement, and support, if he is to get out of the situation with his “self” intact. Shadow’s friends were killed (by Mr. Wednesday for the express purpose of isolating him from other humans), so Shadow has no touchstone, and the result  is Shadow BELIEVES, thereby ensuring his eventual downfall.

This is no different from Rose choosing her family’s victims based on how isolated they are from other Black people. The people she chooses don’t have close ties to their own family, or community. She chooses people that won’t be missed, that no one will look for. In Chris, she made a mistake in thinking him isolated. He has Rod, and she did not appreciate how far Rod would go for his friend. Rose’s brother isn’t so discerning. Lacking the ability to cajole, or seduce Black people, into being friends with him, he randomly ambushes isolated individuals. That was a mistake, because it’s his lack of discernment, that allows Rod to research his last victim. His family was looking for him.

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The movie resonates with Black people, in particular, because any one of us, who has been in such a situation, can identify with Chris , but we can also identify with Rod.There have been times when we’ve had to be that comic relief for a friend, the anchor that grounds their emotions, and lifts their spirits. Or we have had to be the touchstone that acknowledges that what happened to them that day, was actually real, and wrong. We have had to affirm a friend’s sense of normalcy, after a long day of working in a White corporate environment, where they are pressured to not speak out against the micro-aggressions lobbed in their direction.

It feels good to vent to friends about the insanity, and frustrations, of the job. It’s those Black friends who will  confirm that:

“Well, yeah, Becky was wrong to tell you to go get her coffee when you’re the only Black Executive Sales Manager, and she never makes that request of anyone else with your job description. ” (Confirmation of micro-aggressions)

“Yes, it is  horribly wrong for Coby, from Accounting, to keep calling you LaQuetta, when your name is Felicia. LaQuetta is the Secretary five cubicles down from you, is five inches shorter, three shades lighter, and has a French accent!”

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In the movie Hidden Figures, the women have not only a strong sense of their inner selves, Kathryn, Dorothy, and Mary, also have a strong bond with each other. There’s a scene of the three women drinking and dancing at home. Their friendship (something rarely shown of Black women in films) uplifts them, and confirms their humanity, in an environment that does nothing but try to undermine it. Many of us work in such environments, and its our friendships with members of our own race, that make such circumstances bearable.

For those who are absent a strong sense of self, or are unused to navigating White spaces, a lack of Black friends would have you thinking that sort of treatment was perfectly okay. It might have you joining in, instead of questioning, whether or not it’s a good idea to rub soup in your hair,  before your next date.

Black people have kept each other sane, supported each other, and confirmed our reality for each other, since our beginnings in this country, and it has helped us to survive tremendous hardship. Black friendship doesn’t just save one’s sanity, but in the movies, as in real life Black friendship can often save a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiderman Homecoming

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Just in case you hadn’t guessed, there are going to be lots of spoilers. I’m basically gonna be talking about the plot, in detail. So if you haven’t seen this movie, its time to check out of this post, right now.

I’ll wait for you to come back!

 

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So yeah! I went to see Spiderman Homecoming this weekend, along with about a million other people, because Spiderman totally blew the fuck up this weekend. There are some movies that I get a good feel for their success, and others not so much, but this one I felt good about.  This is an instinct  that’s based entirely on my own own enthusiasm for a movie, so it’s not some infallible thing, where I’m always right.

And yeah, the movie is every bit as entertaining as everyone says it is. I took The Potato with me, and she seemed to really enjoy herself. It isn’t a very deep movie, but I wasn’t expecting depth from a Spiderman movie, so that’s okay. I don’t require every movie be an intellectual exercise, (just Christopher Nolan’s.) Sometimes you just want a movie to be a lot of fun, or bring the feels, and Spiderman does both of those. I found myself more interested in the relationships and dialogue, than the action scenes, although those were good too. I’m also glad to see that they didn’t do an origin story. We’ve had a bunch of those already.

I don’t normally see movies with teenagers in them, as most of the time they aren’t written very realistically as teens, and they always look like people with mortgages. I’ll tolerate a high school setting for the sake of a good story, but I generally don’t seek out material with that setting, on purpose.That said, I really enjoyed this because these are some of the most realistically written teens I’ve seen in a movie. I especially enjoyed these kid’s relationships with their parents, and the parents relationships to their kids, which is often written as being fraught with emotional drama, with sullen and unlikable teens. I even liked most of the kids. I liked that they looked, dressed, and acted like kids, instead of runway models, or future serial killers.


Most of the drama remains between Peter and  Michael Keaton, as The Vulture, or Peter messing up a situation that was already under control, because he wants so badly to be a superhero. Tony tells him he’s not ready for the big leagues, even though he was the one who picked Peter to go fight Captain America, in Civil War. So Peter gets a taste of the big time, and because he doesn’t believe Tony believes in him, ends up proving Tony’s point, that he’s not ready. When he almost gets all the people on the Staten Island Ferry killed through his interference, Tony takes away the suit he gave him at the end of Civil War, and  Peter spends the rest of the movie trying to prove he’s worthy. There’s a not insignificant portion of the movie spent with Peter trying to figure out how to work the suit. His origin story is glossed over in a few lines. We don’t even get a flashback, for which I remain grateful.

The Vulture is not one of my favorite villains from the comic books. (That would be Dr. Octopus) but I liked him okay, mostly due to Keaton’s ability to sell being warm and friendly, while also being  pantshittingly scary. There’s a scene, just before the Homecoming Dance, when he figures out that Peter is Spiderman, and confronts Peter about his secret identity, that scared the bejeebus out of me. You expect the typical events to occur, where he threatens Pete’s friends and family, or holds Aunt May hostage during the Homecoming Dance, and then Peter spends the rest of the movie trying to rescue somebody. Thankfully the writers skip over all that, and the fight remains between The Vulture and Spiderman to the end.

This  is indeed one of the most diverse MCU movies, I’ve ever seen, though I’m still mad about Miles Morales not being Spiderman. It’s like the MCU is punking us, or something. But there’s hope for a future teamup between the two Spider-men, because Miles’ uncle gets a funny cameo and mentions his nephew. The central characters are still white guys, but the PoC are not ill treated,  and get lots of screen time. None of them are developed characters, because it’s a pretty huge cast, and the movie is already two and a half hours, and the focus is all on Peter’s character. Peter’s teen crush, Liz, gets almost no character beyond being pleasant and pretty, for example. She is bi-racial, and I think it’s intriguing that   this movie shows two white men being  romantically interested in Black women. Peter’s best friend is Ned, who gets a little bit more character work, and is played by Jacob Batalon. He was a lot of fun and gets almost as much screen time as Tom Holland.


There are a number of characters I really enjoyed and I’m going to go through this by the  character names:

Aunt May – Marisa Tomei

I really liked Marisa Tomei’s version of Aunt May, who is supportive and funny. I still have no idea what she does for a living but she is apparently well known in the neighborhood as a hottie. It’s referred to a couple of times but not to the level where it becomes creepy. Also, she’s not prone to the speechifying of the Aunt May from the first  Spiderman movies with Tobey McGuire. I sometimes got tired of hearing her talk, even if what she said was supposed to be inspiring.

At no point, in this narrative, do they  damsel Aunt May, for which I am eternally grateful. At one point Peter,who has been invited to the Homecoming Dance by the girl of his dreams, Liz, enlists Aunt May’s help in getting him ready. She gets him a suit, teaches him to tie his tie,  and even teaches him how to boogie. That poor boy can’t dance a lick, though. aunt May can at least keep a beat.

 

Ned – Jacob Batalon

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Ned gets almost as much screen time, as he’s Peter’s best friend, and is the first person to find out he’s Spiderman. Jacob is just as charming as Tom Holland and I totally fell in love with his cute, little nerdy self, with his Legos, and his big mouth, although my niece wasn’t too impressed with him, though. He manages to get Peter into trouble with his peers,  because he’s so excited that he’s friends with Spiderman. Earlier in the movie, he asks Peter if he can be Spiderman’s “Man in the Chair”, who gives the hero instructions while in the field, and during the Homecoming scene, he, very happily, gets  his big chance.

Jennifer Connolly is the voice of Karen, The Spidey Suit

She talks to Peter through his Spiderman suit, and even she gets a couple of great lines. The suit’s voice is something that was added just for the film. In most of the comic books, Peter’s suit isn’t made by Tony Stark and doesn’t talk much. (There is an alternate version of Spiderman, in a gold and red suit, that was created by Stark, but he’s not Spiderman Prime, as it were.)

 Adrian Toomes – Michael Keaton

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Keaton plays the movie’s least funny character. But he’s also a sympathetic character, having lost his salvage and demolition business to Stark’s politicking. In the aftermath of The Avengers movie, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do, and Toomes set himself, and his crew, to be a salvage team. Unfortunately, a lot of the salvage is alien technology, that really shouldn’t be in the hands of civilians, and during the course of the movie you can see why, as the civilians use this technology to act a fool, lose control of the technology, and occasionally even lose track of it.

Adrian is also Liz’ Dad, which Peter doesn’t find out until half the movie is over, and he’s already asked her to the Homecoming. All three are sitting in the car, on the way to the dance, when it slowly begins to dawn on Adrian that Peter is Spiderman. Talk about tense and Awkward!!!

Toomes is married to Garcelle Beauvais, and he’s a great father, he loves his family, and is dedicated to taking care of them. His argument that he is only making money by selling weapons, the same way Tony’s family made theirs, is justifiable, and I didn’t have a problem with his reasoning, up to a point. My problem is that he and his garage buddies are stealing the technology,  and they aren’t qualified to handle alien tech. At one point he accidentally kills one of his people (Shocker #1) because he grabs the wrong weapon. Can you imagine your dumb-assed  neighbor cobbling together some alien tech in his garage? I think not!

 

Shocker #2 – Bokeem Woodbine

When Shocker #1 gets killed, Bokeem’s character inherits his weapon. I really like this actor, and I’m semi-interested in seeing him become one of Peter’s Rogues Gallery, which is what they call Spiderman’s regular coterie of bad guys, in the comic books. Most of Spiderman’s villains, who insist on jumping in and out of prison, have animal names, but the Shocker is something of a change from Dr. Octopus, The Scorpion, The Vulture, Chameleon, Black Cat, The Goblin, Rhino. That said, I would love it if Kraven the Hunter showed up in one of Spidey’s movies, or the life-eating Morlun, who is a kind of ageless, spiritual vampire. But so far, all we got is  Shocker.

Coach Wilson – Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress gets a funny turn as Peter’s gym coach, who is also the head of detention. What few scenes he gets are hilarious like when he’s required to show Captain America’s stupid PSAs in his class, while he briefly wonders; isn’t the Captain a Federal criminal, now?

 

Michelle – MJ – Zendaya

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I’m surprised to say that this is one of my favorite characters in the entire movie and I wasn’t expecting that. She is funny as hell, and although she’s not in a lot of scenes, she steals almost every one of them, due mostly to Zendaya’s comedic timing and delivery. The Potato loves her Disney show, KC Undercover, and was delighted to see her.

She’s just a  funny weirdo in the movie and I loved her. She shows up to detention, and when Coach Wilson asks why she’s there because she doesn’t even  have detention, she says she likes to come there because she likes drawing people in crisis. She then shows him a picture she drew of him. That just tickles the hell outta me, and makes me wish I had thought of doing that when I was in art school. Later, when Peter is looking depressed in class, she flips over her paper to show him  the drawing she did of him. I think this tickled the rest of the audience.

Oh ,and it actually turns out that the filmmakers lied about Zendaya being Mary Jane. She’s basically a future Mary Jane with a new name, Michelle. I guess they did that to throw off the scent of the idiot fan-guys who protested making Mary Jane a Black girl. Yes, her hair is annoying for the entire movie.

She claims to be unaffected by her high school life but you get the impression she really does have a low-key crush on Peter. She pays a lot of attention to him, even though she claims she doesn’t care,  telling the class she doesn’t have a crush on him, and is just highly observant. What a strange girl.

Flash Thompson is played by Tony Revolori, and he’s every bit as annoying as you’d expect a bully to be, but is also deeply funny, often referring to Peter as Penis Parker, and gleefully wondering when Peter will be expelled. You get the impression that he’s not bullying Peter because he has some deep dark secret in his home life, because its not really that kind of bullying. This version of Flash isn’t a jock, because its not that type of school, so his teasing of Peter is mostly due to academic rivalry, more than anything else.

Compared to the comic books this is the one most like the 90s comic books, and the Mark Millar version. This is one of the funniest Spiderman movies, too. The MCU understands this character the best, and how they’d like to depict him, and it shows. The original movie, starring Tobey MacGuire, had its moments, and I particularly enjoyed the second movie with Dr. Octopus, but Peter wasn’t funny in any of them. He was hapless, and a loser, but he didn’t make me laugh, even if the supporting cast was hugely funny. This Peter is a loser, but not in a depressing sort of way, like the Raimi version. The movie manages to remain lighthearted, even when Peter is being put into embarrassing ethical positions by his friends. This version of Peter is hapless because of his intensity, not because life seems to have it in for him.

The second iteration of Spiderman, with Andrew Garfield, brought a lot of feels, and I really liked those movies but, once again, they were not very funny, although funnier than McGuire’s version. The humor level drops  a notch  when this Peter  is in costume, but that’s okay, because its hard to  drop quips, when you’re getting your ass kicked. I’m glad the humor isn’t limited to the rest of the cast, though, and that Peter  remembers to be funny when he’s in costume.

But the most charming moments  occur at the beginning of the movie, when we pick up the story, with Tony recruiting him to go fight the other Avengers in Civil War. Normally, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to large battle scenes in movies, but that scene in Civil War is, hands down,  one of the funniest fights I’ve ever seen in an American action movie.  Peter’s narration of it just gives it a new dimension of silliness. Peter is such a goofy mess, a hyperactive 10 year-old, as he personally films the event, which he’s not supposed to be doing. Incidentally, Tony’s presence in this movie goes a long way towards making up for recruiting a 14 year-old boy into his Avengers war, but yeah, I’m still mad at Tony for lying to Peter about why. Just add that to the list of things that make you wish Tony would catch these hands.

Oh, and you should stick around long enough to get trolled by, of all people, Captain America, who made me roll my eyes twice while he lectured the audience on the virtues of patience. That’s totally NOT funny guys!😜

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So yeah, I really, really liked this movie. It’s better than The Amazing Spiderman 2, and that Raimi production, Spiderman #3, even though I’m one of the five people who seemingly  liked that one. On the other hand it’s just not as good as the Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman 2, because that one starred Otto Octavius and it’s hard to top a good villain. The creators do need to stop making Spiderman films for a little while, though. I don’t want to see any more Spiderman movies until he’s in college. If you haven’t seen Spiderman Homecoming yet, I’d definitely recommend it.

The next movie I’d like to see is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I may not get the chance to see that, however, for budgetary reasons, but Me, Mom, and The Potato, will definitely be sitting in the theater for The Dark Tower on August 4th.

Hannibal Season Three: Antipasto

Hi!

This is me beginning season three of my Hannibal re-watch. For some reason, during the time of its airing, there was a huge drop off in critical analysis for this show, after season two. I was hard pressed to find anything on the third season. (If you got a rec’, holla at me.) For some reason, most reviews stopped at the Season Two finale, and I sort of understand why, but still, there’s a whole ‘nother season after that, that none of the reviewers seemed to care about. I actually liked season three, although I do have to (somewhat shamefully) confess to blowing off the first five, or six episodes, when they aired, and having to go back to watch them later. Where here’s where I make up for that

In season three, we begin the Hannibal and Red Dragon arc of the books. The first two seasons were Bryan Fuller’s version of a pre-quel to The Red dragon, when Will and Hannibal first met. Between the season two finale, and the Red Dragon half of the third season, Fuller managed to squeeze in the primary  plot of the book, Hannibal aka Mason Verger’s Revenge.
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There will be lots of call backs to specific dialogues in the books, and some Silence of the Lamb references, throughout the entire season. But since the DeLaurentis didn’t have the rights to Silence of the Lambs, (and the show got canceled), we never got a chance to meet Fuller’s version of Clarice Starling, Well the rights to Silence of the Lambs reverts back to the DeLaurentis this August, and Fuller, who is now the showrunner for American Gods, along with the Martha DeLaurentis, has been in talks with  Mads Mikkelson, and Hugh Dancy about returning for a fourth season. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this happens.

Hannibal Season 4 Needs to Happen: Here’s Why

At the end of season two, Hannibal took down everyone during what’s now called The Red Dinner, or for the more pretentious among us, Le Diner Rouge. Everyone who knew Hannibal, and converged on his home, left there in an ambulance. Will, Jack, Alana, Abigail… Of the four, its Abigail who dies from her injuries. The others make a comeback this season to try to recapture Hannibal.

Season three picks up with Hannibal, in black leather, riding through the streets of Paris on a motorbike, which is never how I pictured him from the first seasons. He is stalking a new victim, Roman Fell, a Library Curator from Italy, whose identity he plans to adopt as his own. There are flashbacks to the direct aftermath of The Red Dinner, we go with Hannibal to Florence, Italy, we get answers on how Bedelia and Hannibal ended up on that plane together, and about what hold he seemed to have over her.

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After leaving the House of Blood, Hannibal heads to Bedelia’s  home/office, to shower. Bedelia, who had just been called in by Jack Crawford to testify against Hannibal in preparation for his intended capture, assumes that its safe for her to drop in.  She discovers Hannibal in her shower, and in a classic pulpy, film noir, image, she holds a pistol on him when he steps out. He manages to talk her down, but really, she  could have done what no one else in the show seemed capable of doing, except she’s suffering from the same problem that WIll Graham seems to suffer from. Fascination. 

Every time Will  Graham had an opportunity to pop a cap in Hannibal’s ass, he hesitated, or wasn’t really serious about it, (to be fair, the first time it happened, Jack shot him), because there’s just something about Hannibal that made him not really want to. Bedelia does the same thing here, putting down her weapon and listening to whatever Lecter has to say. I  never completely understood why these people listened to Lecter, because I’m not impressed by the things he says. But then I’m immune to a lot of  things real-life evil people say to me, so I do struggle to understand the motivations behind why people in these narratives always listen to any  villain’s self-serving bullshit.

Bedelia, having gotten the Jedi treatment from Hannibal, flees with him to Europe. Now to be fair, one of the reasons he has such a hold over her, is just plain fear. A year or so ago, he sent a patient to her that she killed. It wasn’t entirely her fault, but Hannibal’s argument to her, was that it looked deliberate. Hannibal sent her a patient who was unstable, paranoid, and violent. When the patient (played by Zachary Quinto aka Spock) loss control, he had a seizure (it’s implied that this was something subliminally implanted in him by Hannibal, and is a direct callback to the scene in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal makes “Multiple Miggs” eat his own tongue.) Bedelia, thinking she was helping him, tried to grab his tongue with her hand (something you are NOT supposed to do) and she killed him instead. Hannibal has been holding that death over her head for some time now.

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There’s also this: she was granted immunity by Jack Crawford in exchange for any testimony against Hannibal. Perhaps, since she believed since Jack was dead, that the  immunity he had granted wouldn’t be honored, and she’d still be held accountable. So she sort of owes Hannibal a debt for not telling on her. There’s fascination, and her own fear for her future, but there’s also plain ol’ fear of Hannibal. She is terrified of him the entire time she’s with him in Italy, but that terror doesn’t exactly spur her to leave him. (I’ll have more on this in a moment.) Perhaps there’s also the fear that he could easily track her down, and she’d never know when or where he’d be. It may be her idea of keeping her enemy close. And they are close. But I wouldn’t ever call them friends. Or even frenemies.

They are very, very close, though I don’t believe they have slept together. There are scenes of Hannibal helping her out of her clothes, and scenes where they’re half naked together, and even a scene where Hannibal washes her hair, but I never got the sense they were lovers. I think Bedelia is too terrified of Hannibal to be his lover, and Hannibal only really loves Will Graham, for which Bedelia is not a substitute. Although he greatly admires Bedelia, and is charmed by her intelligence and beauty, I believe he merely covets her, and you can see that he lacks the level of respect for her, that he’s displayed towards Will. I think it’s because of her lack of killer instinct.

Will can, and does, kill people, without hesitation when the mood takes him. There’s a deep well of darkness in him, that Hannibal has been trying to access, since he first saw Will in action waaay back in episode one, when Will took down Garrett Jacob Hobbes, without breaking a sweat. He greatly admires Will’s cool ability to kill without remorse, even with his empathy disorder, and Bedelia simply doesn’t have that in her. She lacks both Will’s levels of darkness and his, paradoxical, empathy.

She and Hannibal first travel to Paris where Hannibal stalks,  kills and eats Dr. Roman Fell, a curator for a Museum in Florence, and his wife. While staking out Dr. Fell, he encounters Anthony Dimmond who, I feel, is totally mackin’ on Hannibal, at this point. There’s no other way to see that scene except as a flirtation. I have no idea how Hannibal sees it. Anthony used to be a TA for Dr. Fell, and claims to  dislike him. Bedelia and Hannibal travel  to Florence, as Dr. Roman Fell, and his wife Lydia, where he assumes Dr. Fell’s position, as a guest lecturer on Dante, at the Library.

Dr. Fell’s name might be a reference to Bishop John Fell, who is  mentioned in The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, when one of the characters remarks that he doesn’t like Mr. Hyde. This same man is also the subject of a nursery rhyme of the same name called I Do Not Like Thee Dr. Fell. This is basically the theme of the first third of the episode as at least two people claim to dislike Dr. Roman (an anagram of Norman) Fell. (This is  an example of Fuller’s very dry literary humor.)

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/a32-i-do-not-like-thee-doctor-fell.htm

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Throughout all of this, we are treated to flashbacks of Abel Gideon (The Man Who Would Liked To Have  Been The Chesapeake Ripper) being forced to eat himself, as Hannibal slowly takes him apart, limb from limb. In an especially horrific touch, he feeds Gideon snails, acorns and wine, then feeds parts of Gideon’s body to more  snails, to make the snails  taste like Gideon, and then makes him eat those. How snails take on the flavor of whatever they eat is a recurring theme in the first three episodes. Gideon snarks at Hannibal about his future, and warns that Hannibal will soon become a hunted man. He  refers to Hannibal as  the personification of the Devil, paralleling the discussion about Dante that appears afterward.

At a party in Florence, Hannibal and Bedelia dance, and Hannibal is accosted by one of the one of the library’s professors, Professor Sogliato, who hates Dr. Fell because he is a foreigner, and who questions his knowledge of medieval Italian history. Lecter, who loves to play to a crowd whenever possible, dazzles everyone with his ability to speak fluent Italian,  by quoting Dante’s first sonnet. Dante’s first sonnet by the way is the basis of La Vita Nuova (The New Life), which is also the basis of the operetta by Patrick Cassidy, called Vide Cor Meum, which is the central musical theme in the movie Hannibal. Bedelia tries to distract Sogliato by requesting a dance, but that man has already signed his own death warrant, by questioning  Hannibal’s credentials in a public place. We learned from his reactions to  Alana and Chilton, in season two,  that Hannibal dislikes having his credentials second-guessed.

After the party, Bedelia dreams she is drowning in her bath. People being submerged in water is a recurring theme throughout the entire series. Whenever a character is feeling overwhelmed, or trapped, they often dream of being submerged in water, while unable to move, or help themselves. Both Will and Alana have had this recurring dream. In the first season, Will was struggling to hold on to his sanity, as he also suffered from encephalitis.  In season two, he struggled to hold on to his sense of who he was, as he got closer  to capturing Hannibal. Alana experienced this same sensation when she entered a romantic relationship with Hannibal and began to realize he was not who he seemed. That Bedelia is having this dream now, means  she is losing herself in Hannibal’s world, and is struggling not to be overwhelmed. Hannibal just seems to have this effect on people.

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       – Drowning in a dream is  about struggling to survive as a person, so it applies to your identity as it is dealing with relationship with other people, but also with your own internal world of instincts, body activities and needs. This is about being or feeling overwhelmed by something.

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Bedelia is in the habit of shopping at Vera Dal, and making the exact same purchase, once a week. There has been a lot of speculation about her actions in Florence, but I think the consensus that was reached, is that she knows people are looking for Lecter, and maybe her, and is trying to be found. At one point, she goes to a train station, not to escape, but to be seen on the station’s camera, just in case anyone is looking for her. I believe she’s trying, to be rescued. Notice how her Vera Dal bag is carefully turned towards the camera above her, and she makes sure to turn her face up to it. She has to be subtle about this, because she knows Hannibal is planning to eat her and if she is too blatant, in her attempts to leave,  he will kill her that much sooner. She escaped his intentions before by fleeing, but knows he won’t let her get away with that a second time.

I just want to point out that while in Florence, Bedelia’s hair, makeup, and outfits are on point. She was always a well-dressed woman, but in all her scenes, her costuming is absolutely superb.

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Lecter encounters Anthony Dimmond again, and invites him to dinner with him, and his wife. He doesn’t tell Dimmond who he’s impersonating, but invites him to one of Dr. Fell’s lectures, as well. At dinner, we find that Hannibal has been treating Bedelia to some very specific foods, much as he did with Abel Gideon. Lots of Oysters, snails, and other types of invertebrates, as Bedelia sadly jokes, that she’s trying not to eat anything with a central nervous system, because her husband wants her to taste a certain way. So yeah, they both know he was planning to kill and eat her, at some, unspecified,  point. Dimmond mentions that the Romans used to do the same thing to the animals they would eat, but  thinks Bedelia is flirting with him, perhaps suggesting a three-way. Meanwhile, Hannibal watches all this, with a great deal of amusement.

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Until this season, we’ve gotten only glimpses of Hannibal’s sense of humor. We know he has a very dry one because of the things he’s said in preceding seasons, but we rarely got a look at him actively making jokes, or reacting with happiness or glee. This season we get to see a Hannibal that is much freer in his display of emotions. He tells Bedelia that he has removed his person suit. Especially after he gets captured midway through the season, when he just has a very  “I Really Don’t Give A Fuck” attitude about the entire situation. This season Mads Mikkelsen appears to be having a great time all season.

After discovering that Hannibal is posing as Dr. Fell, Dimmond tries to blackmail Hannibal. Its an interesting discussion, as Lecter asks if  Dimmond is trying to fold him into some new shape. We never learn what their deal is because Lecter kills him in the apartment, in front of Bedelia. Bedelia was already terrified for Dimmond when he had dinner with them. When Dimmond shows up at Hannibal’s lecture, she runs back to the apartment, packs a suitcase, and attempts to escape, but Lecter and Dimmond show up before she can get out the door. This is the first time we’ve really seen Bedelia lose her carefully designed composure since making the decision to accompany Lecter to Europe. What it shows is a woman in the grip of extreme terror. Earlier, Lecter walked past her and touched her on the shoulder, when Dimmond walked into the lecture hall and that seemed to galvanize her. She is ready to run.

Lecter bashes Dimmond’s over the head as Bedelia watches. Before he breaks Dimmond’s neck,  Lecter asks if she is observing or participating, and reaches the conclusion, based on the fact that she knew what was coming, yet did nothing to prevent it, (including warning Dimmond to stay away) that what she is doing is participation. After this we see Bedelia in tears as she contemplates that this is her possible future. This is why she is not Will Graham’s substitute. She makes no pretense of her ability to handle watching Hannibal do this. In Hannibal’s mind she has no instinct to kill, despite her big talk to Will about it, later in the season. Will would not have tried to run. Will would’ve tried to kill Hannibal, or just taken it in stride, as he did when he watched Hannibal make Mason Verger cut off his own face.

Later, we find that Lecter has folded Dimmond into an interesting new shape, (just as he joked to him earlier) as he travels by train to the  Norman Cathedral in Palermo. During his trip, he folds a paper image of Michaelangelo’s Vitruvian Man into the shape of a heart, while thinking about Will Graham. ( I spoke about this in a previous post on how Will is Hannibal’s perfect man.) Will is very much in Hannibal’s thoughts after Dimmond’s death. He wonders if Will is still alive, and is in a pensive mood while on the train to Palermo.

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He places Dimmond’s body on display in the middle of the Norman Chapel over the image of death that is inscribed in the floor. He has folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, and pierced it with three upraised swords, like the Three of Swords from the tarot.

The Three of Swords represents rejection, sadness, loneliness, heartbreak, betrayal, separation and grief. Such events feel so painful because they are unexpected. However, the Three of Swords often serves as a warning sign to show when one or more of these are possible. By preparing for this difficult event, the emotional blow can be minimised or even prevented entirely.

https://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/minor-arcana/suit-of-swords/three-of-swords/

I don’t know if he knows that Will is alive. I think he suspects it, but  Hannibal often does things just to see what will happen, or just to artistically express himself, and this could be one of those times. If the display is meant for Will, then it’s Hannibal’s psychotic version of an apology to him, saying that he forgives Will for hurting him, and misses him.

 

 

So, this episode was entirely from Lecter’s point of view. The next episode will be about what happened  directly after the “Diner Rouge”, from Will Graham’s  point of view.

Note:

Since the airing of American gods, I’m hoping these reviews of Hannibal helps people to look more deeply into the meanings and expressions in that American Gods. As I said, in my reviews of that show, Fuller loves to put meaning into everything you will see on the screen, and that almost  nothing you see is accidental. Every image, name, and line of dialogue is, at the very least, some type of in-joke, if not foreshadowing for some later event, or an illustration of the episode’s theme. So if you are a literary student, or history major, you will find all manner of easter eggs in his work.

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon

 

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                   SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS

 

 

I’m  going to maybe do a little spoiling ,so if you didn’t read the book….best check out now, although just because it’s in the book, doesn’t  mean it will play out on the show. However, the show is following the spirit of the book, and some of the major plot points  of the book have been struck.

At the end of this first season, it’s difficult to say where we are in the book because the series is showing events out of order. A significant middle portion of the book is taken up with Shadow, alone in a small town, waiting for Wednesday to contact him, as he goes about gathering together the various gods.

One of the major changes from the book is Shadow is with Wednesday, as he attempts to round up the various gods for his war. The end result of this decision by the show’s writers,  is that the focus is now on Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday. Their relationship was not something that was elaborated upon in the book, so by focusing on the closeness of Shadow’s friendship with Wednesday, we can better understand  at least one of the key decisions that Shadow will make in the next season.

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In the Bone Orchard, we’re introduced to Shadow while he’s in prison. The way we see him there, is how we’ll see him for most of the season, reacting to something that’s being done to him. He essentially moves from one kind of prison to another, where he is not in control of any of the events that are happening to him, from his wife’s death, to his early release from prison, to his meeting with Wednesday, and he spends almost all of his time being fought over by various gods, and  reacting, or not reacting, to someone, or something. From the disrespectful airport lady, to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Wednesday roping him into his deal as a bodyguard, to fighting with Mad Sweeney., Shadow spends the entire season reacting to things others are doing to him. (The most decisive things he did all season was to accept Wednesday’s job offer, and Believe.)

How Shadow reacts to the world around him in those first 30 minutes is key to realizing how shaken he is by the events of this season, and what a huge turnaround it is for him to say those words to Wednesday in the season finale. From his early reactions, we understand that Shadow is not a stupid man. He thinks about what’s happening to him, and how he should feel, or respond to it.

For example the airport scene where he thinks back on Lowkey’s warning not to piss off airport ladies, despite that woman’s blatant disrespect of him. He understands that the survival behavior he developed in prison is not going to work outside of it, and adapts his behavior accordingly. You can almost see the exact moment when he backs down from going off on the woman, realizing that more than a few ex-cons ended up right back in jail because they were unable to adapt their prison behavior to their new situations. It is his intelligence and adaptability that will stand him in good stead on his journey into the realm of the gods.

When Sweeney tries to provoke him in the bar, Shadow tries to stand down, because he wants to learn Sweeney’s coin trick, but after a moment, he figures out that Wednesday is testing him, and steps up. When Technical Boy threatens him, he remains calm and  unruffled by TB’s threats, mouthing off to TB as he would to any other convict who tried to scare him. Once again reading the situation correctly, and then adapting his behavior to suit it.

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I said in an earlier post that Shadow Moon is the show’s Everyman. Every fantastic, supernatural show, must have one. They function as a lens through which the fantastic is experienced by the audience. We’re meant to identify, and empathize with this character. Shadow is  remarkable  because the vast majority of such characters are often Average White Guys. It’s  extraordinary for us that a Black man has been cast in such a role because the audience is supposed to project themselves onto his character, and identify with him, and the decisions he makes.

This is only the first season, so much of our time has been spent establishing the world that Shadow has joined. A a result,  Shadow is often a passive, rather than a dynamic character, which I know sometimes frustrated some viewers, but this is quite common.  He’s done very little to move the plot forward, which is in keeping within the tenets of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Think of Luke Skywalker, who starts off Star Wars as a somewhat passive character, who is mostly reacting to things being done to him.

This season has been a journey to get Shadow to do one thing. Make one big decision of his own volition. Believe! After this, much like Luke, in The Empire Strikes Back, Shadow should become a much more active participant in the proceedings, and Bryan Fuller promises that he will.

Like Luke Skywalker, Shadow receives the call to adventure (from Wednesday). As soon as he agrees to it, he’s given supernatural aid, in the form of a magical coin by Sweeney, after his first challenge, which is besting Sweeney in a fight. (Giving the coin away is what actually aids him, at the end of The Bone Orchard. Had that coin never resurrected Laura, Shadow would have died on the tree.)

His second challenge is his checkers game with Czernobog, which he loses. He is then given a second gift in the form of a silver coin, that helps him best Czernobog, when he challenges him to another game. Technical Boy is the Guardian of the first threshold. Shadow has  fully committed to the adventure by the time they meet.  His lynching is his entrance into the Belly of the Whale. He couldn’t back out of the adventure now, even if he wanted to, because the new gods are aware of his presence. Shadow has to keep moving forward now, just like Luke had no choice but to keep moving forward after his first encounter with Darth Vader. Once you become known to the major players, its impossible to back out of  events, as they will keep drawing you back into the game, by coercion, or force, if necessary.

As Shadow moves forward, he is beset by  temptations and challenges, which occur in threes. The first temptation is in the cemetery with Audrey, while one of the challenges is his game of checkers with Czernobog.   Along the way, there are two other temptations: Laura’s return, and Media’s seduction to the dark side, both of which Shadow successfully withstands. Another of his three challenges is the  bank heist, which is successful, and Mr World makes, yet another, offering to him, of flesh and blood,  in the form of Technical Boy’s teeth. So Shadow withstands three temptations, overcomes three challenges, and receives three gifts. Along the way, he is aided by his assistant (Helper), Laura, and mentored by Wednesday.

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Shadow is also shown to have gifts of his own, an ability to prophecy, control of the weather, the ability to do coin tricks, to heal quickly, and to See. One of the  first things we know about Shadow is that he has prophetic/mystical dreams. He dreams about Laura’s death, telling her on the phone, and in his dream that he has a feeling of dread, that something bad is about to happen. The Bone Orchard is his dream about impending danger, of being attacked by Technical Boy’s white clad droogs, in a meadow, next to a tree. In the dream, Shadow stands in a blood covered orchard with bones, while he is attacked by white, bone-like hands reaching out of the trees. Shadow doesn’t know it, but the Bone Orchard represents the deaths of TB’s drones, at Laura’s hands. Later, he dreams about the same Buffalo God that denied entry into America to Nunyunnini, the forgotten god of Lemon Scented You. In his dreams this  god tells Shadow to “Believe.”

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During the scenes where Laura visited her family, Wednesday asks Shadow if he can see her, and Shadow, through glowing  eyelids, perfectly describes Laura, looking through her family’s front window, and deciding that she can’t join them. . So far, he has been shown as having the powers of many of the beings he has seen or met. His ability to prophesy mimics the Zorya Sisters powers. The coin tricks mimic Sweeney’s abilities with coins. Laura’s one heartbeat, when he kisses her, implies he has the powers of Anubis, or Easter, to resurrect the dead. (It is definitely Shadow who resurrects her because the power of  Sweeney’s  coin does not entail resurrection. )The trick with the snow is an echo of the powers of a certain storm god we all know, but who has, conspicuously,  never been mentioned.

We’ve also seen that Shadow is able to heal very quickly. When he was attacked by TB’s henchmen he suffered a stab wound in his side that needed to be stapled shut, but by the time we see Wednesday healing him in Murder of Gods, he only has the tree wound, which is healed by the time of Come to Jesus. Shadow doesn’t act, or move as if he’s in pain, or wounded, shortly after these events.

Not only do we know Shadow through his actions, but we also know him through his emotions. Ricky Whittle gives a beautiful performance  of a man who is hanging on to his sanity by his fingernails. Whittle’s portrayal is remarkable for the depth and breadth of emotions he brings to his character. He’s allowed to be tough and snarky, just like your typical hero character, but he’s also allowed to express vulnerability, without coming across as weak.

Not only is Shadow allowed to be tired, upset, angry, happy, hopeful, and even fearful, he is allowed to express these emotions without censure from the other characters. And even when he’s not openly expressing his emotions, in some of the first episodes we have some idea of what he’s feeling through the weather around him. Whenever we see Shadow trying to keep control of his emotions, the scene transitions indicate his inner turmoil, with shots of heavy clouds and storms. This is also indicated by followup shots that move from Shadows facial expressions to shots of the sky just above him.

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In one of the first scenes in The Bone Orchard, Shadow gives full vent to his emotions on a hilltop, which is followed by a shot of clouds clearing from a blue sky. When he vents, skies tend to be clear. When he tries to suppress or control his emotions, the weather is often an indicator of his inner turmoil. When he first meets Wednesday, their plane is flying through a storm, as he deals with the aftermath of Laura’s death, and this annoying stranger he’s trying not to snap at.

In Secret of the Spoons, we see clouds form, and a storm occurs, just after he is kissed by The Midnight Star, from a sky that was  clear a moment before. He must be feeling a great deal of fear, dread, and grief and guilt, after his wife dies, being threatened by Czernobog and his bleeding hammer, and having some strange girl kiss him. And there are other scenes where we are meant to directly attach the weather conditions to whatever Shadow is feeling at that moment.

In A Murder of Gods,  and The Bone Orchard, we get to see Shadow be scared, and apprehensive. We get to see him react in a realistic manner to the craziness, and potential danger around him. This is a man who, while always acutely aware of his Blackness, doesn’t let that define him, or limit his actions. Shadow is secure in who he is as a Black man, and doesn’t seem to care to engage in fake posturing, or in trying to convince everyone that he’s not weak. This is a man who simply knows he can handle himself. He is not at all intimidated by TB’s bluster, or Sweeney’s rants, and it’s that self-assurance that makes his vulnerable moments all the more touching.

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From  his guarded response to Czernobog’s questioning of his race in Secret of the Spoons, to his naked fear at being in a town with so many White people fondling guns, in A Murder of Gods, he doesn’t hold back from showing what he really feels when in Wednesday’s company. This emotional openness is part of the reason Wednesday likes him. Wednesday is almost never perturbed by Shadow’s feelings about anything. He often steps back and just lets Shadow handle his own business.

One of the highlights, and a subject of some concern to the fans, is Shadow’s relationship to Wednesday. I really want to like it. Actually, I do like it, sort of, but I also  keep in mind the Wednesday is a con man. A user, who is grooming Shadow for some dark purpose. Nevertheless, you can see the genuine affection he has towards Shadow. You know Shadow needs to separate himself from this man who orchestrated, not just his sojourn in a prison cell, but the deaths of his entire family while he was away. It’s easy to forget that when watching the two of them together though. I have to keep in mind that Wednesday thinks like a god,  and is not held to  human morality. He did what gods have always done, which is manipulating humans to suit their needs. I dislike Wednesday because he’s a manipulative narcissist.  He cares about Shadow because it’s in his best interests to care, and yet all of that doesn’t make me actually hate him, probably because there is  a genuine liking for Shadow in his demeanor.

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Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday is complicated. He knows what kind of person he’s with, which is the reason he’s so often angry with him. He knows Wednesday is a con man, a liar, a thief, and a user, but seems unable, or unwilling, to pull himself from Wednesday’s orbit. This isn’t because Shadow is stupid. It’s the opposite. It’s because Shadow is curious about the larger, weirder world, he’s been glimpsing over Wednesday’s shoulder, and he’s drawn to it, even if he resists believing in it. How many of us, if given a glimpse of such a world, could resist becoming a part of it? Of wanting to?

It’s the reason people worship gods in the first place, for a glimpse of something bigger than themselves. Shadow was mostly godless before he met Wednesday. The closest thing to a god he believed in was Laura, and that was smashed by learning of her infidelity. (See how Wednesday needed to squash that belief before recruiting Shadow to his cause? And how Wednesday warns Shadow about getting close too close to Ostara? He is a jealous god, who does not want Shadow setting any other gods before him.)

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Now for some speculation.

My speculations are entirely based on the book, and are subject to total reinterpretation next season. So this will contain spoilers from the book, and maybe, or maybe not, spoilers for the future of the show.

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One of the reasons Wednesday needs Shadow to believe is Shadow agreed to perform Wednesday’s Vigil should anything happen to him. Its part of the bargain Wednesday quietly slips  in,  at the beginning of Shadow’s employment, in The Bone Orchard. A Vigil, at least in Norse culture, is done over the body of a  dead relative. And yes, Shadow is Wednesday’s son.

I have speculated if the writers will make Bilquis Shadow’s mother, as we keep being given subtle hints that the she may well be. That Disco scene in the finale with Bilquis, with the huge Afro, morphing out of a lunar eclipse (which is another term for a shadow moon) is one such hint, and Wednesday speculating about Shadows mother having an Afro, in The Bone Orchard, is another. And having a son is something that could have happened to Bilquis during her fall from power, in the late eighties/early nineties, which would put Shadow at just the right age to be her son. But this is just me speculating. (If this is so, Shadow would be a true-God, not a Demi-god.)


Fuller has promised that Bilquis has an important part to play in the narrative, so everything we’ve seen of her so far, is all setup for a later reveal. Notice how women are instantly sexually attracted to Shadow (outside of Shadow looking like the extremely hot Ricky Whittle). I think this is  deliberate on the part of the writers. From the waitress at the Crocodile Bar who openly flirts with him,  to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Ostara being instantly smitten with him, and Laura’s new obsession ( Is the reason she sees him as an eclipse a sign of his godhood?) women have had strong sexual reactions to him, which could be a sing of Bilquis’ influence, as she is a Love Goddess.

Let me be more specific here: white women all have strong sexual reactions to him, as he hasn’t had any interactions with WoC, yet. If Bilquis is his mother that would explain much of the behavior we’ve seen, and could also be a deliberate statement on the  white supremacy which sees Black men as hypersexual stereotypes. We’ll see!

In the book, Wednesday is killed by the new gods,  to be used by Loki as a martyr, to help facilitate their war. Shadow is the one who performs this Vigil, by being hung on a tree for nine days, just like in Odin’s mythological backstory. Odin hung on the World Tree, for nine days, to receive wisdom, and the price paid, was the loss of his eye.

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In the book, Shadow hangs on an Ash tree for nine days. During that time, he receives wisdom about who and what he is, while traveling through the underworld. Shadow dies, but is resurrected by Ostara, and her fondness for Shadow, in Come to Jesus, is a nice setup for why she would decide to do that.

This also ties into the lynching imagery throughout the series, because that is foreshadowing for when Shadow will choose to hang on a tree for Wednesday, despite the naked fear we see in him. This lynching imagery is used throughout the series as a dreadful reminder of Shadows future. It is literally hanging over his head in his scenes in the jail courtyard, and Vulcan’s front yard. You are meant to be afraid for him. He is being manipulated to sacrifice himself for Wednesday, and cannot do so, if he doesn’t fully understand who Wednesday is, which is why Wednesday’s reveal, and Shadows statement are so awful. Wednesday is that much closer to realizing his plans for Shadow.


All season long Shadow has been admonished to Believe. So yes, even though believing is his downfall, it’s also the only way he can be saved. He has to believe in something, not necessarily Wednesday, but something, or he will never get through any of this intact.

Through the efforts of the other gods, Shadow survives the Vigil. Earlier in the series, Wednesday mentioned that there’s no King of America, which is why the philosophical discussions that happen between Wednesday and Shadow need to be attended closely. They offer clues to Shadows future. Shadow ends the book as a kind of Demi-god, a new King of America, who can see lies, and expose the truth. And this  is also the reason Shadow had to be a Black man. It’s a statement on how Black men are one of the few marginalized groups that have most often spoken truth to power. A black man who can see Truth is just keeping it real.

In the next few seasons we may or may not get to see the war, (in the book, there’s no war), but I’m not very concerned about that, because I don’t think that’s really the series end game either. I’m speculating that Shadow’s  birth as a kind of God of all gods, (sort of like Odin) is what’s at stake on the show. At least that’s where I’d like to see the future of this series turn.

Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


The plot this season was much more intricate, with multiple characters, arcs, intentions, and designs. There was a lot to fit into eight episodes, and that the show managed to keep so many plot lines coherent, while tying up several from last season, is a testament to the skills of the writers. As outlined in the character reviews, everyone got to have a plot. The overriding theme seemed to be everyone seeking power, in the vacuum left behind by Baron Quinn’s rumored death.

The overriding character arcs were the Widow’s corrupt rise to power, Sunny’s search for his wife, MK’s escape, and Baron Quinn’s last hurrah. The writers juggled these four plots with a number of subs, managing to keep most of them untangled, and comprehensible, while still throwing  in a number of unpredictable twists and turns, which I enjoyed. The betrayals were flying fast and furious at one point, and if you blinked you’d miss who was aligning with who.

My biggest complaint is the treatment of the black characters, Edgar, Silver Moon, Veil, an unnamed black teenager at the monastery, and an unnamed butterfly, who were all brutally killed. Of them, only Silver, and Veil, had backstories. The show can do better than that.  I don’t think the show wants to get embroiled in a discussion of anti-blackness, but it will, if it keeps killing off  all its black characters like that.

Plus, it gives us one of the worst types of  character trope, in the show’s finale, with the fridging of Sunny’s love interest, a black woman who sacrifices herself, to save her man. It seems no matter how progressive white male writers believe themselves to be, they simply cannot seem to avoid the trope of the Sacrificial Negro.

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That said, my favorite character this season was Silver Moon. I loved this character but I don’t know why. Probably because he reminds me of the character from the RZA’s Martial Arts movie, The Man with the Iron Fists. I also think it’s very interesting that Sunny, even after he had his own sword returned to him, kept using the one he took from Silver, giving his old sword to Lydia. This character had lines and a backstory. They tried really hard to flesh him out, and that’s to be applauded.

Complaints aside, I am glad that the show remembers there are Black people in the future, and in a fantasy setting, just walking around in the background scenes. The show does need to add more Asian characters though, and Baron Chau is a good start. I loved watching her kick some ass, and liked that she lives to see the next season. She’s played by actress Eleanor Matsuuras, who is from Hertfordshire by way of Tokyo, and has mostly starred in British productions.

 

Worldbuilding:



We didn’t get to see much architecture and landscapes in the last season, and what there was, seemed more of an afterthought, but with the show’s bigger budget this season, we got some very ambitious, sometimes epic, background scenery. From the shot of the huge walls that cut off the badlands from the rest of the world, to the  intricate and lush gardens surrounding the Widow’s home, we got treated to some tremendous worldbuilding. And the details of this world are simply incredible, as seen in the Widow’s study, and the map of the Badlands above, that’s only glimpsed in a brief moment in a single episode, which outlines where this takes place in the US, and marks the different baronies.

I remember that first season, I had some major questions about food and textile production, and we get a partial answer, in learning that not everyone grows poppies. There are oil fields, and if that is the case, then there are also textile mills somewhere as well. These things aren’t knowledge that would be lost, since creating fabrics is one of the most basic human skills. Certainly the working and tooling of leather hasn’t been lost, or car repair either, it seems. We got such a small glimpse of the world in the first season, that we were left with a ton of questions, but the show has really built on that in a way that makes sense for the Badlands. This world is set to become even bigger in the third season after Bajie’s Morse code message is received.

We’re also given some startling glimpses into what type of world we’ve joined. Apparently this world is set about a hundred or so years from now, (how far into the future is unclear, so I could be wrong), but it’s long after some sort of soft apocalypse, that left lots of infrastructure, and fewer people. In one of the episodes, MK and Ava visit a long abandoned mall/dept store, that still has Christmas lights and decorations. It can’t be too far into the future because the lights still work. There’s electricity in some places. There’s little literacy, but some knowledge of medicines and machines ( like X-rays) is still available in the Badlands. And then there’s this unseen city (Astra) that everyone keeps talking about.

And it’s not just the landscapes, but all the tiny details inside the homes of various characters, like Baron Chau’s all white interiors, and grand wall paintings, the dark, old-world, furnishings of the Widows home, the dark majesty of Quinn’s home in exile, in an abandoned metro station. We may have started the show traveling through the classic Mad Max dystopia of the mines, but not all of the Badlands looks that way, and it was very exciting to get these glimpses into a broken past.

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Costumes:

The series had some stunning costume work this season, with rich colors, and beautiful, very sexy, outlines. This is very probably one of the sexiest martial arts shows I’ve ever watched, as usually the costumes for this type of genre can be somewhat pragmatic.You can see there’s real intent  to create a feeling of lost majesty/ bygone luster.

And every  character (even the most minor of them) gets the luxury treatment. From Silver Moon’s  old and tattered Clipper outfit, to Tilda’s pragmatic, newly minted Regent uniform,  from Baron Chau’s sumptuous furs and glittery dresses, to Quinn’s scuffed and grubby finery. These details really bring home the kind of lifestyles of the Baron’s, as the Cogs are dressed in the simplest colors and practical, easily cared for, fabrics.

Everything, and everyone, is given gorgeous detail, from hair, to  shoes, to makeup, furniture, and housing. From Baron Chau’s pearl jewelry and on-point makeup, to the Widow’s more action oriented look, with everyone receiving more elaborate hairstyles, including MK. Even Waldo gets some scrumptious blue velvet to wear.

Each Barony has its own color scheme. Quinn’s was dried blood red, but now that it’s been taken over by Jade and Ryder, it’s a fresher, magenta red color. Baron Chau’s color scheme is white. Another Baron’s color is green. The Widow’s colors are a deep royal blue. The monks and MK are wearing various shades of purples, and oranges. After he escapes the monastery, MK is seeing wearing a gorgeous green surplus, that I wanted for myself, along with some more gentle earthtones.

 

Even the lowest, most minor characters, got the full costume treatment. Look at the detail on this Junkyard King, in his darkened purple, and mother of pearl buttons. Contrast that with the  fresher and more vibrant purple of MKs monk’s robes. I love the matching color schemes in these two photos.

The duplicitous and conniving Jade. Her hair and makeup also reflect her character. Contrast that with her more innocent look in the first season.

Veil is often associated with soft natural colors, and earth tones, in keeping with her honest, down to earth, nature.

The details this season are incredible. Check out Waldo’s pince nez glasses, the little crossed cufflinks, and the chair handle ornaments! I also liked MK’s more elaborate hairstyle, with its tiny twists. Most of these things you’re never going to notice during the series, except for a quick second, but the set designers and prop masters went the full one hundred, anyway. This is the first time I really noticed Waldo’s knuckle tattoos, from his time as a Clipper.


I have since learned that the painting in Baron Chau’s home is called “Leonidas at Thermopylae”, and is a reference to Sunny making a commitment to a fight he knows he won’t survive. It’s by a Neo-Classical French painter of the 19th century, named Jacques Louis-David. Sunny’s and Chau’s postures imitate the formal poses in the painting. This was a hallmark of the Classical style in which grand Mythological and Historical themes were painted in a clean, formal manner.

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Contrast Chau’s white minimalist environment, and  the marble columns, with Minerva’s home which is  very Old- World traditional, with lots of greenery, velvet, and hard-wood.  Chau’s home, and costumes are also a reflection of her character, which is just as cool and calculating, as Minerva’s is cool,yet determined.
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I love the details here as one of the girls wears a matching blue ballerina skirt under her coat.Just a touch of whimsy for a little girl Clipper. I also like the natural hairstyles on the black girls. I’m glad this show remembered black women exist, even if they’re not treated especially well.
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Baron Quinn is like the Badlands version of Darth Vader. Everyone is afraid of this grim creature, come back from the dead, to destroy all their lives. Check out the tiny details like the little glimpses of red in his new outfit, a callback to when he used to be a Baron, and the tiny rivets on his  belts. The rough, nubby, texture of his coat is in keeping with his new rugged lifestyle, and gives the viewer some idea of his rough character, and disturbed mindset. Except for his voice, he’s just rough all over.

Contrast Quinn’s look with Jade’s smoothly streamlined look,  since moving into a more comfortable position of power with Ryder, below. There’s more than a touch of the Antebellum South in Ryder’s suit coat, which is a deliberate choice on the part of the costume dept.
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Ryder Welcomes His Guests - Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 3

 

Cinematography: 

Everything this season was given an upgrade, including the lighting and  cinematography. No detail has been spared. There’s a rich three dimensional feel to the environment, which allows the viewer to see every detail of a character, or event, and totally immerse themselves in the show. It’s equal parts dream and nightmare.

There’s some gorgeous lighting happening here, in the final scene of the series, as Sunny walks off into this frosty looking sunset with Baby Henry.

The monastery is full of candle light, giving its inhabitants a deceptively soft appearance. The irony is that these are some of the most lethal beings in the Badlands.



Sunny is fighting the monks in an old, worn, Nativity scene, at an abandoned dept. store. No one knows the meaning of any of the decorations, but check out the penguin with the Christmas wreath around his neck! The old religion has been supplanted by an even older one, that involves dark Chi, and superpowers.

 

I think it’s  really cute that they chose a baby that looks Black and Asian.

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Whenever possible, the creators tried to use natural lighting on all the sets, so we get some wonderfully lit scenes, like Veil with Henry, above, and Sunny’s fight with Silver Moon, below. Veil is often given the Madonna treatment with her  lighting.


Action:

The show has also upped the ante on the fight choreography this season, with much more elaborate stuntwork, and ambitious fight scenes involving multiple highly trained characters. The show also added some explosives work, which is something most shows don’t have a good sized budget for, but the larger budget shows how much confidence the network has in the success of this series. Whereas last season I struggled to get the word out about this show, its popularity has really soared this season because of its move to Netflix, and basic word of mouth. There are also more than a few websites dedicated to the show, on Tumblr.



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Bottom line: 

All of this adds up to one of the most visually stunning action series on television, and I’m so happy to be alive during its airing. I cannot wait for whatever new visual treats we’ll get next season.

 

 

 

Things I’ve Been Watching

The Mist (TV Pilot)

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I’ve only seen the first episode of this, but I’m unimpressed. I think my expectations were a bit high for this show, as it’s nothing like the movie. For one thing, the characters are either bland or unlikable. The characters who come closest to being liked is a young person of indeterminate gender designation, and the tough Mom, of the series.

There’s a mother, dad, and daughter grouping in the movie. The dad is the permissive, easy-going sort, while Mom is a woman of strong opinions and convictions. She gets fired from her job at school for sticking to her principles, and NOT teaching abstinence to her students. I can respect that, even if the local parent’s group can’t. She also forbids her 17-year-old daughter from going to the local  teen party. Dad gives his daughter permission to sneak out to the party, where she gets roofied/raped by the local football star she has a crush on. I saw that coming a mile away, as he just looked untrustworthy to me. He claims he didn’t do it, but her father reports him to the police, and the family gets harassed by the townspeople. The situation is complicated because there is also the possibility that he didn’t.

 

There’s the story line of a young military man, who wakes up in the forest, with no memory of how he got there, just as the mist rolls into town. He heads into town to warn the populace about the mist, only to be arrested by the police. I can definitely say I absolutely DID NOT appreciate watching this Black man get roughed up by the police, just for not answering their questions.  And no, it’s not okay just because that same cop gets eaten by bugs soon afterwards. Just before the dysfunctional nuclear family is about to leave town, the mist shows up, cutting off all escape.

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There are several stories mixed up in this. Various people get trapped in at least three different locations during the mist’s siege of the town. Mom and daughter are trapped at the local mall; Dad, the sheriff, the military guy, and the non-gender designated young person, get trapped in the jail. There’s also a thoroughly unlikable woman who threatens, and insult the non-gendered teen. This woman, who has no connection to anyone else in the plot, was seemingly added just to make me furious with her, and hope she’d quickly be eaten by something. She is so reprehensible, that I seriously considered turning this shit off, and just going to bed, but I put up with crap like that in order to bring you, my loyal readers, the quality snark I feel you deserve.

Oh yeah, there’s also some  people trapped in a church with Frances Conroy, who you can tell is gonna go batshit, in about two episodes, or less.

So basically, this first episode is all set up for the tensions that will reach a boil during the mist’s invasion of the town, which is not unlike the movie I guess. Mom and daughter are trapped in the mall with the parents who got her fired, and who believe her daughter is lying about being raped. The football hero perpetrator is also trapped there. The a-gendered teen is trapped at the police station with a father who refuses to speak to him because he won’t act like a son, and an abusive inmate. And Frances Conroy’s husband gets killed by something in the mist.

The main difference between the show and the movie is that there aren’t really giant monsters in the mist. I had the impression that people are being killed by either a singular malevolent entity, or their own fears and weaknesses, or possibly both. While that’s an interesting idea that’s much easier to sustain for  an entire season, I was still hoping to see giant monsters. Maybe those show up later.

 

Blood Drive:

SYFY syfy grace blood drive eat a dick GIF

If you like this type of over the top excessiveness, then go for it. I ain’t judging. The plot of this seems to involve people being forced to race each other, by some type of post apocalyptic tyrant, who has nevertheless found a way to wear too much Maybelline. The contestants lives are forfeit if they stop for any reason, up to, and including, running out of gas, which prompts some of them to cannibalize their  opponents, (and partners) and use them for fuel.

I am not a fan of excessive pulp. I was cautiously excited about this show from the trailers, and was willing to give it a try, but some things are just too far over the top even for my tastes, which even some others would consider excessive. I think it’s because so much of this particular genre is spectacle, solely for the sake of spectacle, without rhyme, or reason, to any of it. If it’s a crazy image, the creators will throw it in, no matter if it breaks, or creates  characters, or subverts an already established plot, and Blood Drive appears to be no different.

Somewhere, someone is having a grand old-time watching this show. That person is not me. I don’t think I’m the correct audience for this. At every level of creation, the show looks tasteless, cheap, and ugly. The characters, world-building, costumes, and even the plot, is just ugly. I couldn’t sit through more than half of it. By the time we reached the point where the two main protagonists appear to be having sex in a moving vehicle, I had had enough, and turned it off. I would rather hate-watch The Strain.

Blood Drive gets a resounding NOPE!

 

Dr. Strange: 

Image result for dr Strange gif

Yeah, I know I talked shit about this movie but I didn’t spend money to specifically see this movie, and it was on Netflix, so I thought I’d give it a try. It wasn’t a bad film, and I also don’t feel too bad about the whitewashing angle, for reasons having to do with the plot. Let’s just say, I was pissed off that the Ancient One was not Asian, but I would have been equally pissed off if an Asian woman had been cast. So, spoilers ahead.

The movie is the basic origin story type stuff, except now starring an actual asshole, as an asshole who doesn’t actually get to be a better person by the end of the movie, which is rather different. Strange is a first class shit at the beginning of the movie, and although the story, and the actor try really hard to make him a sympathetic character, I didn’t buy it. I liked every character but him. He’s just a full-time douche. I still didn’t like him even after he cleverly saved the world, but I do admit that may have more to do with the actor than the character.

Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One, pretty much the way she plays all of her more soft-spoken characters. I generally dismiss her because, like most white actresses in Hollywood, she is thoroughly clueless on issues race and/or whitewashing. I’m also less than secretly  glad that they didn’t choose an Asian Woman to portray this character because 1.) She dies at the end; 2.)she dies to further another character’s manpain; 3.) she turned out to be a huge hypocrite.

So, there’s this alternate world called The Dark Dimension, which naturally means its evil, but basically, she’s been warning her students against having anything to do with this dimension for centuries. Hannibal…I mean, Kaecilius (which sounds like a nasty bacterial infection) is in contact with the being who rules that dimension and he gets drummed out of the corp. This Dark  Being wants to “try to take over the world” and is just lying in wait for someone to invite him to the cookout, which is what Kaecilius does.

Dr. Strange loses the use of his fine surgical dexterity after a horrible car accident. Do not watch this scene if you have car accident terror, because it’s unnecessarily graphic. He decides to travel the world searching for a cure to his neurological problem, and winds up in Kamar -Taj, where he meets the Ancient One, who teaches him how to be a sorcerer, and her eldest assistant, Baron Mordo. (I do not remember this guy from the comic books, and I should, because he is in them. I’m hoping Baron is his actual name, in the  way that some Black people name their sons Prince, or King.)

For the record, The Ancient One doesn’t actually choose Strange as her successor. See, what happened was…all the other sorcerers of the great houses of the Landsraad…I mean the other sorcery nexi, get murdered by Kaecilius. Strange, Wong, and Mordo are the only ones left alive. So he gets to be a master of Sorcery through a combination of. hubris and default.

Those two, and Strange, spend the bulk of the  movie fighting Kaecilius and his minions. Baron Karl Mordo is played by Chewitel Ejiofor, and Wong is played by a man who is, conveniently, named Benedict Wong.

I liked Wong a lot, although there were some unnecessary scenes of Wong being played for a fool by Strange, that I did not care for. The Ancient One turns out to be, while not exactly a bad guy, her betrayal of the Baron’s trust does lead to him being a villain. So really, the movie isn’t  nice to any of the PoC that star in it.

The break-out character is  Strange’s Cloak of Levitation, a semi-sentient magical object that adopts Strange as a Master. This isn’t like in the books where its the Eye of Agamotto that’s sentient. Why they switched it in the movie is anyone’s guess.

So overall, not a bad movie. It’s got some great eye candy, the magic looks really cool and worldbendy, and except for some serious eyeball rolling moments, I didn’t hate it. If you can get pass watching two hours of Benegeserrit Cucumbersnatch, then the movie isn’t a complete waste. On the other hand, if you had no intention of ever watching this movie, you ain’t missed nothing!

 

The Accountant:

Image result for the accountant gif

I had no intention of seeing this movie. It was on HBO last weekend and I  was not doing anything in particular that needed my eyeballs, so I ended up watching this movie. I’m not a Ben Affleck fan, but I liked him in this movie, and it was surprisingly good.

Here he plays an assassin who has autism. His father began teaching him how to kill people, as a child, in an attempt to make him more independent, and he became exceedingly good at it. He comes across some corruption at a tech company and feels like he has to protect the young woman he was working with on that case, when she’s targeted by another assassin. The other assassin turns out to be his estranged brother, and I found that particular drama  intriguing.

I initially though the movie was a ripoff of the Bourne Trilogy, but it turned out to be nothing like that, with more heart, and more depth than any of the Bourne sequels. I liked the relationship that developed between Affleck and his co-star, which she thinks is supposed to develop into romance, but he is not particularly interested in her interest. It’s a romance that never develops, even though he likes her, and I thought that was a refreshing change.

The movie kept upending my expectations, and Affleck comes across as a smoothly competent killer. The movie also doesn’t end in car chases, explosions, or dramatic surprises, but in a quiet conversation between two brothers, who have some shit to hash out between them, before they could move on, and I  liked that. I would recommend watching this on some quiet Sunday evening.

 

Alien Covenant: 

Image result for alien covenant gif

Oh, my gob! This movie was bleak, bleak, and even more importantly, it was bleak. It was even bleaker than the very first Alien movie, if you can believe that. I mean, basically, everybody dies. Well, rather say, that any humans that  were walking around at any point during this film, ain’t walking around by the end of it. If you liked the first Alien movie, then you will like this one, as it is effective at scaring the shit out of you, even when you sort of know what’s going to happen. I mean, Ive watched the first Alien movie multiple times, and I still get scared.

Oh, did I forget to mention that this movie also stars Michael Fassbender, and get this…another Michael Fassbender. So it’s like getting two Fassbenders, for the admission price of only one of them, (even though I spent no money to watch this movie.) Did I mention that I love Michael Fassbender. I feel like I may have mentioned that in some earlier post, or something. If not, then let me reiterate..I love Michael Fassbender who, I am absolutely certain, is a total dick in real life. (If he is, don’t tell me. )

I would talk about the plot, but really that’s all there is to it. Somebody’s gon’ die! and people do stupid shit, to help facilitate their deaths, just like in the first movie, Prometheus. Things like, taking their helmets off just because they can breathe the atmosphere, running towards danger, or wandering off alone, or trusting strange androids.

Not to go off on a tangent, but why do people on strange new worlds always take off their helmets as soon as they learn the atmosphere is breathable? Have they never heard of airborne pathogens? Which is exactly what happens in the case of one of the characters, when he steps on a plant, that releases spores, that go into his ears. His demise is suitably horrible.

Later, the two Fassbenders, David, from the first movie, and some new guy named Walter,  get into a fight, as Walter tries to protect the remaining humans. I would have preferred some loincloth mud-wrestling, but that probably would not have been in keeping with the mood of the film, which is, well…kinda bleak.

 

Suicide Squad:

Image result for suicide squad  gif

Apparently, I’m one of five people on Earth who enjoyed this movie. Its been airing on HBO recently and I’ve watched it multiple times. I think the main reason I enjoy it is because I’m a Will Smith fan and will watch movies with him that I normally wouldn’t pay attention to. Not that the movie isn’t flawed, annoying, and occasionally stupid,  it’s just those moments were not enough to detract from what I was enjoying about it, which is namely Will Smith, and Viola Davis, in an anti-superhero movie together.

I could go through and list everything wrong with this movie, because it’s got a lot of problems, but IT’S WILL SMITH!!!! I love Will Smith!!! Will Smith makes every movie worth looking at, just by being in it. Plus, he’s with Viola Davis, and they actually get to exchange words in the movie, rather than pretending the other doesn’t exist.

Okay, I did like the other characters, too. In fact, my only reasons for liking the movie, was some of the characters, and the action scenes. I enjoyed seeing Killer Croc, onscreen for the first time, and Diablo turned out to be a huge favorite of mine, but then, I’m a fan of seeing Incan Fire Gods in movies, so yeah, his scenes were both hot, and cool.  Outside of Deadshot, I got really attached to Harley Quinn, who I enjoy in the comic books, and the nascent friendship I saw developing between the two of them. I’m here for a Deadshot/Harley Quinn team-up movie, as long as Amanda Waller can be in it. Viola Davis perfectly captured the idea of the Amanda (The Wall) Waller that I had in my head, as the only human on Earth, who can get away with dressing down the Batman.

The plot was deeply, (and I do mean deeply), fucking stupid though, and I have no idea what the villain’s motivation was, or how she actually hoped to accomplish her goals. Yeah, some of the characters were totally undeveloped, like Katana, or just straight up hateable,  like Captain Boomerang, and The Joker. But the movie was pleasant eye candy for its two-hour running time. It’s not a good movie, but I found it mostly inoffensive, unlike some people who found the movie deeply offensive to their intelligence. I can say that part of the reason I’m okay with the movie is because I went into it expecting nothing more than to be distracted for a while, and the movie accomplished that goal. The trailer looked like fun, and that’s what the movie delivered.

Its okay if you haven’t seen this movie, you can rectify the problem of not having enough Will Smith in your life, by watching…Concussion!

 

Note:

I’m still watching stuff because new shows keep being released. Next week I should have a review of the new season of Cleverman, now airing on the Sundance Channel, and the second season of Preacher, on AMC, which looks like a lot of fun, so far.

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

This episode is Mad Sweeney’s elegy. He is also one of the more unlikable characters in the show., but it turns out he’s not actually a bad man, and has heart of gold. In the real world, someone like Sweeney would get their ass kicked on a regular basis, (actually he does in the show, too) but he is a great character.

Normally, I like fictionalized assholes as much as I like real world ones, which is to say not at all, but from time to time I get captured by a great depiction, and Sweeney is one of those. Pablo Schreiber plays the hell outta this guy, and I have to give him some props, especially when I had no idea who he was before this show.

One small dislike for me  is that this is another filler episode, that distracts from the greater narrative revolving around Shadow and Wednesday. I didn’t dislike this episode, it’s just that I’m less interested in what Laura and Sweeney are up to. But tonight’s episode was devastating in its implications about the relationship between Laura and Sweeney, deepening it, and explaining a lot of the dynamic between the two of them.

The episode begins at the Anubis funeral home, where Mr Ibis and Mr. Jaquel not only lay out corpses for burial, but can even predict when corpses will arrive. I thought it was interesting getting a glimpse into their relationship. Are they a couple? Are they brothers? Just friends? They’re always considerate and polite to each other, and know each other too well.  Mr. Ibis tells Sweeney’s story through the eyes of an Irish girl named Essie, who looks suspiciously like Emily Browning. Laura is not the reincarnation of Essie, though. Its  that Laura reminds Sweeney of Essie, and I think he’s starting to like her.

The episode is split between Laura’s and Sweeney’s  modern day road trip, and Sweeney’s past, when he knew Essie. This  follows the book pretty closely. Essie has a very colorful life, as a thief, an indentured servant, then a  wife and mother, and finally grandmother, where she often traded on her looks to get ahead, aided by her gifts to, and stories, about “The Good Folk”. Notice that whenever Essie stops giving to the good folk, they stop giving to her.

There’s  a scene where Essie is in Newgate prison, after having not made an offering for a time, and Mad Sweeney is in the next cell, and she tells him stories. She tells him about her wish for a good life, quiet and settled, a tree, some children. She makes an offering to the Good People using the only food she has available, a piece of rotten bread. Eventually she gets out of Newgate and gets sent back to America where her wish comes true, because she made an offering of her last bite of food.

Eventually she has to stop telling her stories about the Fair Folk, realizing that there’s no place in her current world for belief in such things. But she never stops believing, and upon her death, it is Sweeney who comes to collect her soul.

The term Good Folk is a reference to the Fay, or any Fairy creatures of Celtic folklore. The general idea in most people’s minds are the tiny, butterfly beings that frequent rings in meadows, or Tinkerbell, but the term encompasses a greater variety of creatures than just those, (some of which are pretty horrific, deadly, and not at all tiny. See any book by the painter/illustrator, Brian Froud.)  Irish folklore is pretty complicated  though,  and you could spend your entire life studying the subject.

 

*For background on Faery lore, and myth:

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

 

*And for background on the real mythology behind Mad Sweeney:

http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/folklore-of-ireland/carlow-folklore/the-story-of-mad-sweeney/

Sweeney, Salim, and Laura stop at the site of the White Buffalo statue.The legend of the White Buffalo is somewhere around 2,000 years old, and was originally a tradition of the Lakota Sioux, a Plains Tribe. This particular scene, like all the modern day scenes, which involve Laura and Sweeney, don’t happen in the book.

http://lightningmedicinecloud.com/legend.html

For those of you concerned that there haven’t been any Native gods depicted, I think Shadow’s dreams count. In the book, they don’t play a pivotal role until much much later, and are responsible for interfering in the war, coming in on Shadow’s behalf. I expect we may not see them until well into second season. Although I do agree they should be introduced in some greater form beyond the forgotten Nunyunnini.

 

While at their rest, Sweeney is visited by one of Odin’s birds, who he harshly chastises. He mistakenly lets Laura know that all the gods are meeting at a tourist attraction/resort called House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Now that she knows where Shadow is going, Laura decides to release Salim from his bargain to take her to a resurrectionist friend of Sweeny. She tells Salim to go get his Jinn. He happily leaves, but not without (hilariously) informing Sweeney of what a vile creature he is. (Yes, he is, but Sweeney also has a lot of secrets.)

That morning, Laura talked with Salim, asking him if he loved God, or was “in love’ with God. He answered in the affirmative. I think Laura is seeking an answer to her own questions of how she feels about Shadow. She may not have loved Shadow when she was alive, but I think she is certainly loves him now, (or is obsessed or something) and part of that may be the supernatural connection that exists between them, because I dont tihnk she is “in love” with him.

Laura hasn’t looked at peace since she was resurrected, so I just want to point out, during this episode, we often see her quietly smiling to herself when contemplating Shadow. I think she is finally at peace in a way she never  was in life. She has a goal and a purpose now, that was missing, when she was alive. Shadow is her purpose. He’s her god, now. He is literally her reason for living and not only has she realized that, she’s okay with it. She even seems happy about it. Yeah, she is stalking Shadow, but if you’ve ever read John Campbell’s Hero’s Journey books, then there’s a purpose to it.

While driving, Sweeney gives Laura some more background. He tells her about his hoard of gold, that he used to be a king in Ireland, that he was once a bird, and then a saint according to the prevailing beliefs of whatever time period in which he lived. He ran away from so long ago war in which he knew he would die. He gave up his sword and vowed not to get involved again, but he owes Wednesday a war, which explains his objections to Wednesday’s warmongering between the old and new gods, but also  his refusal to leave.

Keep in mind, Sweeney is a leprechaun, which  is a kind of  Celtic deity. Although Laura is more powerful than him, he is not without power of his own, as illustrated by him easily stomping a park bench, without breaking a sweat. His speech to Laura is a reference for how diminished the gods have become as people’s belief in them changed, and leprechauns have been demoted to cute cartoon characters on cereal boxes, something which bears almost no relation to what he actually is, or even looks like.

One of the rules of being a Fey is one can only take what’s freely given, so when we see Sweeney throw the coins out if the vehicle, its becasue he took the ice cream out of the freezer, and the owner wasn’t there. When he and Laura stole the truck, Laura gave the owner of the truck all of his money, so he doesn’t object to that. He didn’t have to leave anything behind in return for stealing Salim’s taxi because he was interrupted before he could finish.

One of the questions that is confusing to a lot of people about American Gods is if these gods can die. If all it takes is a belief in them, then can they really be killed. Vulcan is is killed in the last episode. But he is definitely a god, people actually believed in a version of him. Does that mean some other version of him will take his place? Does Wednesday’s curse prevent this from happening? Just as there are different versions of Jesus, there are different versions of ods like Wednesday and Sweeney, wherever they are believed.

 

For example, in one of the last scenes from the book, Shadow meets a more authentic version of Wednesday in his home country. He is a more original form in his country of origin, and acknowledges Wednesday as an offshoot of him. I don’t think the gods can travel to anyplace where they are not believed in. Wednesday can’t leave America, and hasn’t done so, as he says to Shadow in one of their earlier discussions. When the new gods offer to make a missile in his name, over North Korea, Wednesday refers to it as a form of exile, and it would only be that way if belief in him were transferred, from America, to the missile system over North Korea.

Another treat we get in this episode is the white rabbit. The white rabbit is a sign of the goddess Easter,  or Ostara, a pagan fertility goddess. She is also the goddess of Spring and renewal. Her imagery often involves hares and rabbits. We will meet Ostara in the season finale. When a White rabbit hops into the middle of the road, Laura swerves to avoid it, crashing their vehicle. She flies out the windshield, and loses the coin, after which there is another revelation, as Sweeney contemplates her dead body.

 

Sweeney was the one who caused Laura’s first death in a car crash, and he feels some kind of way about that. Incidentally the words he’s screaming, after the truck crash, are in Old Irish, not Gaelic. Something along the lines of, “Why is this shit happening to me? Haven’t I suffered enough? And I’m not an evil man!” Which is ironic after being told by Salim that he is an unpleasant creature.
Wednesday has been trying really hard to keep Laura and Shadow apart, and was the orchestrator of her death. He was responsible for hiring Sweeney to kill her the first time, and I’m certain he’s responsible for hiring Ostara to crash their vehicle this time, since the rabbit which caused it, is her symbol. Laura is meant to die again and she does, when the coin, that Sweeney has  made clear that’s all he’s interested in, pops out of her open chest cavity.  Sweeney retrieves his coin and he could walk away, but flashing back to the night he first killed her, he changes his mind and places the coin back in her chest. He immediately regrets it, of course, when Laura punches him out, for touching her. The two of them continue their journey.

I also want to mention the music in this episode is so  spot on, it’s hilarious. During the scene where Essie absconds with her latest husband’s money to become a market thief, the theme is Runaround Sue by Dion. Daddy’s Home by Shep and the Limelights, is the song that plays the first time she offers bread to the Good Folk in America, an unknowingly summoning Sweeney.

Next week is the season finale, titled Come to Jesus, so I guess there will be some Jesus involved.  The show has already been picked up for a second season, and if we’re lucky it will continue for many more beyond the story of the book.

 

 

Superheroes on TV

So, just as Superheroes have taken over the movie theaters for the next few years, they’re also coming to a television near you. Here’s a partial list of most, if not all, of the superhero, and  superhero adjacent, shows coming to TV this Summer and Fall.

I’ve read most of the comic books associated with these titles, so those I’m looking forward to. I will probably watch the pilots for at least half of these, but as to whether or not I’ll make them a regular viewing habit, I can’t say.

Shows In Development 

The Inhumans (9/1)

I was never a fan of the books, but many of these characters have been featured in other works, so I know about Black Bolt and Medusa. I like Black Bolt but I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about this show because it looks seriously cheap, and the show runner is the same lack-skill that worked on Iron Fist, Scott Buck. I have a special level of contempt for him, so you must forgive me if I decide to skip this.

 

The Gifted (Fall)

I was under the impression that this is based on The New Mutants comic books. I’ve always been a  huge fan of that comic, but I’m thoroughly incurious about this show. I’m not interested in watching earnest looking teens with superpowers.

 

Bright

This is the new Will Smith D&D movie airing on Netflix. I’ll watch Will in pretty much anything.

 

Black Lightning (2017)

Yeah, I’m gonna actually try to watch this. I’ve only read a single one of the comic books, so I’m walking into this one with no preconceptions, and no knowledge outside of: he’s got some daughters, and they got superpowers.

 

The Punisher (November – Netflix)

I’ve never been a Punisher fan. I’ve always thought of him as boring, and unimaginative, but I know a lot about him because he kept starring in every other character’s book. Marvel loves crossovers. I was pretty impressed with Jon Bernthal’s portrayal in Daredevil though, so I’m looking forward to the show.

 

The Tick

I’m not a Tick fan. I know something about this character because I have a friend who loves him, and insists on telling me about him, but I’m not feeling any particular way about it. I hope its as funny as my friend says it will be.

 

Krypton (Fall)

Image result for krypton comic

I’m not particularly interested in this but I’ll give it a look-see. I don’t find life on Krypton to be especially interesting, and I was not clamoring for this, but I’m curious as to what the show will be like, so I’ll take a look.

 

Cloak and Dagger (2018)

I read the comic books like a religious duty, so I’m a huge fan of the characters, but the show doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the books. I hope that’s a good thing because the books did have some issues. I will take a look at the pilot and  hope its some good.

 

Jessica Jones 2

I was disappointed in the first season of this show because of its lack of intersectional feminism, and its shabby treatment of PoC, so I’m not on board for the remake. I hope it’s better than season one because I can get PoC abuse and erasure in a much better show than this.

 

Iron Fist 2

*Sigh* I’ll watch this if it has a different show runner attached. Scott Bucked really fucked this up, and I have no confidence in him, so if he’s still attached to the second season, then I’m out.

 

In 2018:

Runaways 

Titans

New Warriors

 

To Be Announced:

Scarlet

Image result for scarlet  comic character

I actually like this character. She always reminded me of Xena Warrior Princess though, for some reason. Anyway, if this gets made, I’ll take a look at it. So far, I’ve only heard that its in development.

 

Hellfire Club

Image result for hellfire club

I had mo interest in the comic book version, and have no interest in this, so it will probably turn out to be an awesome show that will be canceled because I was the only person watching it.

 

Umbrella Academy

Image result for umbrella academy

I enjoyed the book version, but I think its a series that’s hard to film and get the flavor of it right. I’m really curious about who will star in it, and what  it will be like, though. So far, its just in development.

 

Concrete

Image result for concrete comic

I’ve never read the books, but I have friends who love this. For their sake, I hope it gets made, and that its as good as they say the books are.

 

Static Shock

Related image

All I know about this character, I learned from the cartoon. This is only in development though. There are no names attached and I don’t even know if it will be live action. If you know more, let me know.

 

Rasl

Image result for rasl

I liked this book, but I didn’t continue to read beyond the first collection. The book was kind of confusing but I loved the artwork.

 

 

Y: The last Man

Image result for y the last man

Didn’t care for the book. Hope the show is some good.

 

Enormous

Image result for enormous comic

I just bought this on Comixology, and enjoyed it. Its mostly about strange giant creatures taking over the Earth, and wiping out humanity, which sounds awesome. With a good budget, and some care, this could be like a Kaiju version of The Walking Dead.

 

I’m familiar with these three comics but I haven’t actually read them.

Happy

Scalped

Locke and Key

Why I’m Watching Still Star Crossed

I’ve always loved period films. From Downton Abbey, to The Remains of the Day, to The Three Musketeers, I love the costumes, and dialogue, and plots. I try to make some effort to seek out those films with prominent characters of color, like anything set in pre-reformation  Japan, or the movie Belle. So I’m cautiously excited by the airing of Shonda’s new Joint, Still Star Crossed. I’m cautious because I know there are forces working really hard to discredit this show, so I don’t know how long it will last.

This is the new show on ABC by Shonda Rimes based on the Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet, and the book by Melinda Taub. The show picks up right at the end of Romeo and Juliet, after the two teens are dead, after their forbidden affair, and to keep the peace, so that a feud doesn’t break out between the Montagues and the Capulets, Rosaline and Benvolio are forced to marry each other by their families. Neither of them wants to be married and they don’t even like each other.

Just in case some viewers are confused, because they’re not fans or readers of Shakespearean history, this is what completely colorblind casting looks like, and this is often traditional with Shakespearean plays. Both families are made up of different races of people, and so are most of the officials and citizens of Verona. So it’s perfectly normal for people to have white and black children, or parents, or East Asian cousins. As is the case nowadays, anytime women, or PoC, wander into the orbit of a genre show, you’re going to get some white people expressing dismay at the idea that the narrative isn’t centered around them, or cries about historical accuracy,  by people who don’t know a damn thing about actual history, except what they’ve seen on whitewashed television shows.

This show has nothing to do with historical accuracy. Its set in an Italian city, written by an Englishman,who never visited Italy. It’s a fictional story, there were never any Montagues and Capulets. Verona is an actual city, but it’s a port city where people from many different cultures would have mingled, and the history of Moorish colonization would have been know there. I’ve seen some people very upset that there were black people in this show, citing Historical accuracy while not complaining about any of the white English speaking, and Australian, members of the cast. Hell one member of the cast is East Asian and no one complained about her. Make of this information what thou wilt!

This is particularly galling coming from white women in fandom. Apparently, the princess narrative is meant to be the sole province of white women, and WoC who get to wear beautiful period costumes, go to the ball, fall in love with the prince, and live happily ever after, do not belong in it. There are several shows on TV with this particular type of fairy tale historical setting: Reign on the CW; Outlander on Starz; and The White Princess on, again, Starz. Whenever WoC have been prominently featured on these types of shows like Merlin for example, even though these shows are not realistic, and bear only the most shallow resemblance to actual lived historic events (and in some cases no relation to actual historic events because they’re fairy tales)  they receive pushback in the form white people arguing for historical accuracy.

The professional  critics (who are just as draped in unexamined racism as any casual viewer), are panning the series based on this one episode, criticizing it for following various fictional tropes,  tropes  that are also on prominent display in the above named shows. I personally didn’t see anything particularly wrong except for the show being rather busy, as there was a lot to digest in the pilot. Hopefully the show will slow its pace just a bit the rest of the season.

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So once again, just like with Luke Cage, and Get Out,  I’m going to ignore any reviews from white reviewers because there’s little they have to say that would be relevant to me, a Black woman. I recognize how groundbreaking this particular show is, and they can only be uncomfortable with it. It is exceptionally rare that a dark-skinned black woman gets to be featured in such a story, without being little more than an accessory to the white characters. Black women rarely get to be Shakespearean damsels, who get to fall in love with,  and  be loved by, the hero. The idea of the strong black woman who “don’t need no man” is a  black female stereotype that has made its way into countless films and TV shows. It’s a stereotype that masculinizes and de-sexualizes, black women, and is often used as a excuse to deny black female characters fragility, vulnerability, and love, which in American culture is also coded as the definition of White  womanhood. The irony is that White women have  been fighting against that particular stereotype of themselves, for over two decades now, but some of them are willing to embrace it, if it means keeping black women away from it.

White American reviewers are just as unused to seeing prominent black characters in such narratives as I am, and most of their reviews will only reflect their discomfort with it. But for WoC, its empowering to see PoC in these beautiful period costumes, speaking in such lofty language, who are more than  servants and maids. They are princesses, and rulers, and statesmen. It’s as empowering for us as it might seem to be disempowering for white women. This is the very nature of intersectional feminism, recognizing that different kinds of women are treated differently, in the narratives we’ve watched over the years.

During the show, race is not mentioned, and is largely unimportant to the narrative. Certainly we are going to view the show through the lens of race, but the actual characters do not, and race is not the motivation behind much of the character’s behavior. For example there’s the temptation to view Lady Capulet as a racist because she is mean to her nieces, but it’s not because they are black. It’s because she was jealous of their mother, who managed to marry the man she wanted for herself. She seeks to punish these very young and beautiful women, with their entire futures ahead of them, who should never, in her mind, have been born.

There are shades of Cinderella in the narrative with Rosaline, and her sister. But the most prominent reference is the singer, Brandy’s, 90s version of the fairytale Cinderella, with its color blind casting, where Whoopie Goldberg has a white husband, and an Asian American son, and Cinderella’s stepsisters are white.

Still Star Crossed is mostly based on the book of the same name by Melinda Taub. While it is a sequel to the original play, the show is  not going to strictly adhere to the events of the play, and the plot, I’m told, will be very wide ranging and include events from other Shakespearean plays. I’m not going to talk about the plot so much as I will my impression of the actors and characters.

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Rosaline Capulet is the lead female character. She is the niece of Lord and Lady Capulet, which is why they took her and her sister in after their parents died. She is interesting because she at first fits all the stereotypes of the strong black woman who doesn’t need a man, which is later turned on its head. She claims to not need a man, but this is merely a cover for her true love, Prince Escalus, with whom she is having a  forbidden affair. Their affair is forbidden, not because of race, or because he is married,  but because he is the prince of the realm, she is below his social station and he has just married her to Benvolio.

Rosaline and her sister are in a precarious situation because their evil stepmother has them working in  her house as servants, since their parents died. They have no set status, and are at the mercy of others who will decide their future.

Livia Capulet is one of my favorite characters. She’s a delightful mix of optimism and genuine bright eyed happiness, and reminds me of one of my little sisters.  She seems the opposite of her older sister, who is more likely to challenge the status quo. Rosaline wants to escape their predicament, but Livia loves Verona, and her dreams are more traditional. She wants to stay in Verona, get married to a handsome husband, live in a palace, and be a mother.

Livia later falls in love with Count Paris, who is injured in the city-wide fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets.

Benvolio Montague, along with Rosaline, were the only two witnesses to the forbidden marriage between Romeo and Juliet, aided by Friar Lawrence. The two of them have some obvious chemistry, and I’m kind of rooting for Rosaline to like him, although she has made it clear she has no use for him. Benvolio, on the other hand, seems intrigued by her, and seems to want to be friends.

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Prince Escalus inherited the role of leadership over Verona even though its his sister, Princess Isabella, who is more suited to governing the city. The city of Verona is beset  by other city-states that seek to conquer it, but if he doesn’t stop the near constant fighting between the Montagues and Capulets, Verona will be destroyed from within. To that end, he decides the best way to end the fighting, is to bring the two families together by marrying Benvolio, and Rosaline.

Lord Capulet is played by Buffy alum, Anthony Stewart Head. He is possibly the only Englishman in the  cast, although there might be more. Lord Capulet, and his wife Lady Giuliana, decided to take in their nieces Rosaline and Livia after their parents death. But Lady Capulet hates the two girls, referring to their mother as a Jade, and she treats the girls like house servants. When Rosaline confronts her about her attitude, she adds physical abuse to her repertoire of shitty behavior.

Incidentally, after this fight, and the Lady’s threats to make her life even more miserable, this is the only time we ever see Rosaline cry, and although I didn’t take pleasure in seeing it, its still remarkable because, up to that point, we’ve only ever seen Rosaline as the strong and invincible stereotype.

So yeah,  I’m going to keep watching the show as long as it remains on the air, although I might not always review it.  I liked the action, and the characters, although the plot, as I said is a bit much, and I hope it slows down a little. I have no confidence in the ABC network, though, and there are forces working really hard to kill it and/or make ABC believe that no one cares about the show or supports it. Of course, ABC might decide to cancel the show just on a whim and I’m ready for it to get yanked off the air,  or just not return for a second season.

Why Historical Accuracy Is A Shitty Cover For Your Racism

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This just in.  We have now taken a break from posturing over “racist Americans” to complain about black people being portrayed as fictional Italians. Not the other non-white members of the cast who aren’t black, no just the black people.   You know, we never actually fight to represent black Italians and have a terrible reputation on how we treat black people in general, but this backlash is totally in good faith.  It is totally racebending, which only works in America because there’s such a booming black population that’s respected and represented and…oh wait, there isn’t any of that.

We could go back to watching the majority of all media (in Italy OR America, even though the show isn’t filmed in Italy and wasn’t formed for an Italian audience) where white people are the majority and all Italian representation has pretty much been white (no matter what the ethnicity of the actor actually is)  We won’t complain about white Italians taking roles from PoC but we take issue with colorblind casting for a Shakespeare play because the very implication that we have *black people* in our culture would be culturally insensitive.  .

Black people weren’t invented till the 1960s.  You can’t adapt Shakespearean works with black people in the main cast unless they’re servants or something because black people didn’t exist in fictionalized Verona.  Clearly adapting it with white people is fine though, no matter where they come from.  Black Italians don’t exist and have never existed, we’re all light skinned until its time to justify whitewashing.  And even though this is a fictionalized story written by someone who has never lived in Italy and was never meant to be historically accurate, we now must all be armchair historians because black people are on screen.

Oh, apparently Othello was a white man all along. And don’t bring up those prominent black and mixed race Italians (because accuracy is only accurate if its supporting racism), because they don’t count anyways and just because we had black Italians doesn’t mean we had black Italians (logic!).   Please don’t steal this *valuable* representation from people who never once cared about Shakespeare as representation of any ethnic group *any* other time.

Oh this isn’t backlash against a show showing black people in prominent positions in a European fantasy, no its totally about historical accuracy (where we erase most of actual history because that’s the only way we can pretend there were were no black people where black people were…)

Its just culturally insensitive to cast black people in Still Star-Crossed.

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The Stars of Shonda Rhimes’ ‘Still Star-Crossed’ Know They’re on TV’s Most Diverse Show—But It’s Complicated

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*Speaking of fact, here’s the truth about historical accuracy: Mainstream history, for the most part, was written by old white men who only chronicled their points of view. So while conservative viewers (read: racists) might balk at a Persian princess and a black prince, guess what? Verona was a port town with plenty of diversity. Portraying everyone as white is inaccurate, not to mention irresponsible. Continue reading “Why I’m Watching Still Star Crossed”

American Gods Season One: Lemon Scented You

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In tonight’s episode the New Gods and Old Gods meet for the first time in the narrative. This episode is a lot less confusing for some people in that it’s pretty straightforward. (Okay, except for that crawling tree-thing in the police station. ) Anyway since the plot was actually understandable, I can focus on the characters. Namely, the gods who are the four main players in both the book, and the series. They will be joined by others later, like Anansi and Easter, who both have  big parts to play, but for now, the major characters are Technical Boy, Media, Mr. World, Wednesday, and I’m including Shadow.

While we were not confused by the plot, Shadow spent most of the episode reeling and coping with the strangenesses around him. Til now he’s been a real trooper, handling all this batshitness like a boss, but I think this episode knocked him for a loop, because the hits just kept coming. He’s visited by his dead wife, and it’s not a dream; he’s arrested by the police after trusting Wednesday; the man who tried to lynch him apologizes for it; Marilyn Monroe is floating into his jail cell; there’s spiders running around; all the police are massacred; he gets attacked by a giant crawling tree. It’s not that weird stuff hasn’t happened before it just didn’t happen all at once. There was time to digest.

That was all a bit much for one night!

The episode isn’t frantic, or fast paced, but there is a lot to understand. There’s no plot movement but Fuller and Green are very aware that, at this point, the viewers need a breather, so some shit can get spelled out for us, we can take a minute to absorb, see where everybody is standing, and get some idea of the layout.

For four episodes now we’ve had Wednesday telling us of how frightened he is of being forgotten. Remember, the gods don’t die like humans do, there is no afterlife for them. When humans have forgotten about their existence they become nothing, which speaks to their non-corporeal existence. They come from nothing, are only what we make them out to be, and go back to nothing. And we witness this in the prologue of tonight’s episode, in a scene taken directly from the book.

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Nunyunnini (NUN – you – nini) was worshiped by the first people to cross the land bridge to what is now America. Notice the ritual where the priestess calls on the god to inhabit her and how it involves smoke. Remember what I said, in an earlier post, about smoke/and smoking being a part of many summoning rituals, and how when we’re introduced to a lot of these gods and goddesses, on the show,  there is smoking involved.

After facing many hardships, including the death of their priestess by the Buffalo god ( in the book he’s called a spirit of the land) N’s worshipers are offered a new god by the people already living there, in exchange for survival. Eventually, it is never remembered that N was worshiped at all, and  his name is forgotten. This is what Wednesday is afraid of, and this is important because he wants to be relevant again, and his war is one way  to accomplish that. The choice to make this scene animated was a deliberate choice on the part of the creators. Using live action would’ve given a modernity and immediacy to Nunyunnini’s story that would not have reflected its great age.

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Shadow walks into his motel room to see his dead wife and takes it rather well, I think. He seems more focused on her having cheated on him, than the how and why of her return. Shadow is the protagonist of the show, but he’s also our stand-in. Our Everyman character we’re meant to identify with, and through whose mind we’re meant to process the craziness happening on the show. Til now, no one has bothered to explain what’s going on to him. If you’ve read the book, you know more than Shadow, which changes the dynamic of your relationship to the character, than if you didn’t read the book.

Laura is unable to manipulate Shadow the way she has in the past. He stays focused and blunt with her, insisting she answer for having cheated on him with his best friend.. At one point she asks for cigarettes, and after smoking one, (she doesn’t exhale any smoke, which is a nice detail), she kisses Shadow, and her heart beats. Once. (Many viewers found it remarkable that cigarette machines still exist in that world, along with pay phones that still work, but Shadow seems okay with it.) When he goes back to his room you’ll notice the number 55 is prominently displayed. I’m told that if you go to page 55 of the author’s preferred version of the book, you’ll be at the exact scene in the show, where Laura and Shadow meet. Later, in his convo with Laura, Shadow tells her he is no longer her puppy. I know a bunch of people stood and applauded this moment, since they see Laura as a manipulative user, who didn’t love him. I personally don’t care what she was, as long as she’s on his side right now.

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Technoboy is having a meeting with Media, and this is one of my favorite scenes from this episode because I’m a huge Bowie fan. Gillian Anderson turns in a wonderful performance as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, imparting to TB that he fucked up (when he tried to lynch Shadow), while using nothing but David Bowie song cues, which I thought was pretty clever. Mr. World is mentioned for the first time, requiring that TB apologize to Shadow for what he’s done. Even TB has a master, it seems.

Wednesday’s raven spy knocks on his door, and either snitches to him that Shadow has company, or that the motel is under surveillance. I prefer the former because it just tickles me to think that. If the raven is telling him about Laura, than Wednesday was attempting to get Shadow out of the room and away from her, which is how I initially interpreted that scene. But if the raven was telling him about the police, then he was trying to get Shadow to escape with him before they got caught. It doesn’t work anyway.  They are both promptly arrested and taken to the little podunk police station.

They’re interrogated and Wednesday puts on his forgetful old man act, while at the same time, he completely explains what’s happening, knowing the officer won’t believe him. Shadow refuses to speak at first,  but is finally convinced, by the detective questioning him, that Wednesday has some pretty huge enemies, because they were tipped off to their whereabouts by satellite surveillance photos, and GPS coordinates of their location. Of course not everything in the episode makes sense. Why don’t the police search Shadows motel room if they though he’d stolen money? They didn’t even bother to go inside his room until much later.

While Shadow and Wednesday are being detained, Sweeney finally catches up with Laura, and demands his coin back. One of the funniest moments for me is Laura throwing Sweeney across the room by popping her finger at him. She’s got some idea of her strength now, and no, Laura is not a nice person. She taunts Sweeney about the coin and he tries to choke her in the bathtub. It is then that he is interrupted by the police, who naturally think he’s insane for trying  to choke a dead woman, in a tub full of water. Why the police show up at that particular moment is still a mystery. Is that just more of Sweeney’s bad luck?

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Back at the station, Wednesday is frantic to leave before company arrives. He’s helped by a tiny friend of Compe Anansi,who unlocks his cuffs. But it’s too late. There’s the sounds of fighting and screams from the rest of the station, and Media arrives in the form of Marilyn Monroe, dressed like her character from Some Like It Hot, and while I admire and applaud Gillian Anderson’s mimicry, I have never been impressed by Marilyn. (Personally, I prefer Eartha Kitt.) I think she broke Shadow, because he nearly loses his shit at the sight of I Love Lucy literally floating into the interrogation room. Apparently, Marilyn was the last straw, after his dead wife. Shadow doesn’t regain his equilibrium for the rest of the episode.

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We finally meet Mr World who walks in on glowing floor tiles like Michael Jackson in Billie Jean. It’s a lovely entrance, (☺️) but not as impressive as Anansi’s. World and Media explain to Wednesday that they don’t want a war, and offer him a merger in the form of a missile named after him. But their charms don’t work on him or Shadow. Mr World calls TB who offers an insincere apology to Shadow for lynching him. World offers Shadow the opportunity to knock out a couple of TBs teeth, and Shadow looks appalled, but when TB disrespects Mr. Wednesday, like the little shit that he is, Mr. World gives him the business end of his tongue, then has Media knock those same teeth out with a blown kiss. Shadow gets his offering anyway. The three new gods exit the station.

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Shadow and Wednesday try to escape, but the police show up with Sweeney before they can get out the front door. They head to the back door, but before they reach it,  Shadow is stabbed in the same spot in his side as his earlier wound , by a giant tree creature, that grew out of one of the desks in the station. They escape via the back door into a thick ground fog, that I suspect was conjured, like the snow in the episode Head Full of Snow, by Shadow.

The police who are dropping off Sweeney are alarmed by the silence at the station. They abandon their suspect, and charge into the station,  guns ablazing. Sweeney escapes the patrol car and runs off into the night, determined to get his coin back. Laura has been taken to the local morgue, where she accidentally kills the nightman when she breaks out of one of the drawers. She gets dressed  but not before examining herself in a mirror. A nice little detail is Laura trying to breathe on the mirror, but there’s no moisture, or warmth, in her to create any condensation, so the mirror doesn’t fog. She walks out into the night. She and Sweeney are on another collision course.

Note:

To those of you who haven’t read the book, how is it going? Was this episode at all helpful? I mean I read the book, and have some frame of reference, and  sometimes even  I’m confused, so I can’t imagine what y’all must be thinking if you have no context . Oh, and it turns out that the tree-thing, that attacked Shadow, might have been Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil is an Ash tree that connecting the nine worlds of Norse mythology, the nine worlds consisting of the various heavens, earth, hells, and the  tributaries of knowledge referenced in The Prose Edda. If the tree thing is Yggdrasil then there’s great significance in its attack on Shadow.

 

New Gods vs. Old Gods

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Mr. World is the god of global capitalism, which is the master of media and the internet, which makes him Media’s and Technoboy’s boss. He knows everything. Just by touching Shadow, he knew everything Shadow liked, loved, hated, how many men his momma slept with, and what he looks like when he masturbates. He’s also a world class shapeshifter. Those of you who’ve read the book already know his real name. Crispin Glover is known for playing eccentric characters and he’s perfect here, smooth, polished, charming, and just a little bit unhinged..

Media and Technical Boy are the new gods everyone is worshiping without knowing they’re doing it. As media says, all she requires is time and attention. She’s the god of television, and movies, which is why she keeps showing up as iconic characters, or people who have used the media to great effect. What better person to chastise Technical Boy over his image problem than the master of his own image, David Bowie. Btw, the songs referenced in Media’s conversation with TB are: Starman, Under Pressure, Cat People, Rebel Rebel, Life on Mars, Space Oddity, and Oh, You Pretty Things.

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The New Gods are not corporeal in the same sense as the old gods. The old gods feed off more material things, like blood and flesh, and as Wednesday says, grant boons and wishes to their supplicants. The new gods give nothing back and take the energy and attention of their worshipers. Notice how the old gods are so physical. Lusty, hungry, angry, dirty, sarcastic, violent, in ways the new gods aren’t. The old gods are sensationalist creatures who are messy, emotional, love blood, sex, a good cigar, and  liquor. They enjoy interacting on the physical plane with their subjects. More human than human. Which is entirely in keeping with the eras in which they were created, when humans had more concrete, basic concerns.

The new gods are cool dispassionate creatures. Technical Boy likes to do his dirty in a virtual, bloodless realm of his own control. Media has no real face of her own, and is a consummate shapeshifter herself. They’re not physical the way the old gods are physical. They’re clean, polished, bloodless, and pretty beings, who do not require physical sacrifices, as they feed on far more intangible things, like time sacrificed to them. But, and here is what they have in common with the old ones, they are just as much grifters and con artists. Especially Media. They both promise all manner of things, power, money, sex, but the problem is they don’t actually deliver those things. The old gods, when they are sacrificed to, give back something physical in return for their worship. Bilquis gives unending orgasmic bliss, Odin will help you out of a tight spot, Anansi will tell you the truth. Even the Zorya sisters tell fortunes. Sure, it’s a con, but it’s a real one. The new gods seduce, cajole, and charm,they promise much, but largely give back nothing in exchange. Some of the other new gods like commerce, or the stock market are even less tangible. Those gods don’t exist on the physical plane at all.

Next week we get to meet one of my favorite old gods: Hephaestus, the Roman version of the god of weaponry, Vulcan.

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The Wayback Machine: The Incredible Hulk TV Series (1978-1982)

Hello There!

I haven’t been posting very often this week because I’ve been working on some things for you guys to read this weekend.  This one was kind of unexpected. I did not think I’d be doing a post on The Incredible Hulk series, but I’ve been watching this lately and kind of enjoying it, and thought I’d share it.

I used to watch this when I was a kid, and the last time I watched it, was some re-runs when I was a teenager, so its been a few decades. I expected it to be hilariously cheesy, like most of the things I watched as a young girl, and it was those things, but it also had emotional depth, and progressive social messages, at least for the 80s.

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The Incredible Hulk television series lasted five seasons and starred Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner, and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Recently the El Rey Network had a three day marathon of all 82 episodes and I watched a significant number of them and was inspired to review the series as a whole. How well does it hold up as far as acting, its messages, and its special effects? But also how well does it hold up to today’s standards as a show?

The answer is: Surprisingly well.

Bear in mind, that I had not watched this show in decades , but I was surprised to find myself becoming very engaged with the characters and messages, in some of the episodes. Once I got past a few plot points, and the 70s wardrobe, I was able to settle in and start liking the characters. By the fourth season the show was less earnest, and a lot more cheesy, especially in its search for new plots, but it still held up really well, even by today’s standards.

I like  Hulk the series more than I liked either of the two films dedicated to him, although I prefer the villains of the films, rather than any of the villains of the show, who were often simply extremely petty criminals, who engaged in random thievery,  various frauds, and some occasional street hooliganism.

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In the series, the character is named David Bruce Banner and is a medical physician, rather than a physicist, being pursued by a tabloid reporter named Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin. I was under the impression that he was modeled afte Kolchak the Nightstalker, but the writers say that wasn’t their influence. Nevertheless, McGee comes from a long line of vexing antagonists, who like to merely hound and annoy the protagonist, rather than try to kill him.

David hitchhikes around the country, taking odd jobs, and getting into various mishaps, which occasionally require the Hulk’s involvement. A lot of the episodes are not unlike Mad Max, or the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s, (starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name), who wanders into a town full of corruption, disrupts that story, and then leaves after everything is settled. On the surface these appear to be standalone stories, but the connective tissue between all the episodes is David’s search for a cure for the Hulk, and his constant pursuit by McGee.

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Like Mad Max, Banner often wandered into other character’s  stories, although occasionally he did have a story of his own.  Banner was a lot nicer person, though, who seemed to genuinely care about the events  and people with  which he became involved. Bill Bixby is a remarkably versatile actor, and his firm, quiet competence lends a note of realism to what were sometimes  ridiculous plots. Like the episode, Prometheus,where Banner has to help a blind woman lost in the woods, near a fallen meteor.  He is  attacked by a swarm of bees, triggering a transformation into the Hulk. Afterwards, affected by radiation from the meteor, he can’t fully transform back into his human state. The acting from the blind woman, played by Laurie Prange, is atrociously over the top, but Bixby, is his usual calm self.  I ended up taking quite a number of plots very seriously only because Bixby was so good at what he did, it didn’t occur to me to laugh at them, like the episode where David is held hostage at a private island, and forced to attend a costume party, or the one where three escaped female prisoners kidnap him, and one of them goes into labor.

There’s the episode Alice in Discoland, which requires Banner to be undercover at a discotheque, where he meets, and has adventures with an alcoholic young woman. The plot sounds pretty stupid, and on the surface it is, but once you get past the horrible costumes, and dancing,  it manages to deal seriously with the subject of alcohol addiction. On occasion, the show dealt with heavy subjects, like police corruption, drug addiction, greed, and PTSD,  with a great deal of respect, and surprisingly little preachiness. A recurring theme though, was the young blond damsel, who has been put in distress by some family member trying to kill them for power, or money.

In the episode starring Lou Ferrigno, as himself, in King of the Beach, Lou plays a deaf man seeking independence from his parents, and hoping to open his own restaurant, by trying to become a famous bodybuilder. Lou Ferrigno himself is deaf, and a champion of Deaf people’s rights. (Incidentally, he is still alive, and looking pretty good for a 53 year old man.) On the surface, King of the Beach sounds silly, and there are some silly moments, but Ferrigno’s character is always treated with respect and dignity, and the subject of his disability is not  the main plot. He’s allowed to speak for himself, and articulate his own problems and issues. At no point is Banner placed as a White Savior. Ferrigno’s character is allowed to make his own decisions, and his disability is just part of the character, and all the other characters adjust to it, finding it unremarkable.

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I think the silliest part of the show, and the part I couldn’t help laughing about most often, is that Banner is sort of required to turn into the Hulk at least two or three times per episode, even if some of these transformations are a bit of a reach. After about the fourth season, just about anything could set him off, as the writers had to keep coming up with new ways to make Banner get angry or stressed.

In the beginning of the series the threats were a little more dire, like being buried alive in cement by mobsters, or perhaps a car accident, but by the end of the series, the writers had to stoop to Banner getting stung by bees or getting thrown into some bushes. And while these two events are certainly stressful, you can tell the writers are getting just a bit hard up for reasons that Banner should Hulk-out. There’s also the fact that Banner really does need to learn some defensive tai chi or something because it’s just waaay too easy to beat him up. One interesting point is that as the series continued, it did get a little harder to predict when he would transform into the Hulk. In the first couple of seasons it was fairly predictable.

I do want to discuss the roles of the women on the show. The show featured a lot of women,and in a lot of different types of roles. Although, sometimes they were damsels, they also showed up as villains and schemers, scientists, show girls, single women, wives, mothers, sisters, etc., and their status wasn’t always a part of the plot of an episode. In one of the episodes, King of the Beach, the lone woman in the story started out as a grifter, who later becomes a trusted friend, and business agent, to Lou Ferrigno’s character. No, the show didn’t pass the Bechdel test very often, but it had no problem depicting women as flawed and complicated human beings. I found it interesting that there were a lot of women scientists featured on the show, who were smart and capable, and not necessarily love interests for Banner, although they did occasionally need rescuing.

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Lou Ferrigno turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance of the Hulk. He got to engage in some emoting. You would think the role would only require some growling, yelling, and throwing things, and sure, there’s plenty of that, but there’s also some emotions in there too. He gets to have reactions to people and things that isn’t just anger. It’s a bit different from any of the movie versions of the Hulk, and not much like comic book versions. This Hulk doesn’t speak, but I understand that was a deliberate choice by the creators. The amount of violence the Hulk engages in is pretty low scale. He likes to toss people around, and sometimes a vehicle. I’m guessing that’s because of budgetary reasons. He rarely if ever punched anything or anyone, and there was never any blood, and that would have been due to violence restrictions on television, at the time. He also gets a lot of cardio in that he runs away a lot.

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There’s still the mystery of the stretching pants, which is something fans have been asking themselves about for years. What is funny though is that every now and then while watching old TV shows like this, I become aware of how different the show would be if today’s technology existed then. While watching an episode I’ll think ,”Hey, that wouldn’t have happened if he owned a cellphone.” Or ,” Now you could just Google that!” From time to time, the Hulk would go running through the streets of Chinatown, or New York, and I can’t help thinking that McGee’s job would’ve become obsolete because he would’ve just been able to watch cellphone videos of it on YouTube.

Overall  though, I had a pretty good time watching the marathon, and not just for the nostalgia. Once you get past the surface stuff, the show has a certain amount of depth. Banner’s situation is always approached with compassion and respect, and most of the humor arises out of people’s reactions to the Hulk, never because Banner, the Hulk, or his patron of the week, are being mocked. Most of us remember the show because of the theme song, a tinkly piano tune called “The Lonely Man”, and the show’s opening voice-over, which went a long way towards eliciting sympathy for Banner. There have been a lot of iterations of the Hulk, from Eric Bana to Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo, but the Bixby/Ferrigno version is still one of my all-time favorites.

The Mist Vs. Nightworld: Writing the Supernatural Apocalypse II

I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as  struck by the similarities,  as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.

Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) ,  was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)

In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by  monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are  allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.

In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different  monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.

First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists,  tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.

Second, you are going to  need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off,  or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.

You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic  critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t  quite terrifying enough,I guess.

Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.

At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.

At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.

Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean,  or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.

Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting  from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.

Intrepid – fearless, unafraid, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, bold, daring, gallant, audacious, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable;

I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things,  like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and  even some indomitable behavior.

Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.

In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although,  I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.

In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty  blond  White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.

And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though,  they never seem to make it to the being intrepid  part of the story.

There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not  required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who  just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world  is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.

Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.

Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the  literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino.  You can break the rules and have there be at least one  woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added,  preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.

Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will  lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.

And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and  that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.

The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.

Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared  people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.

Nightworld  fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from  previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.

And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.

Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.

Gruesomely!