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: 

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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:

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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: 

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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:

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

 

Enormous

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Badlands Season Two: Character Review (Pt. 1)

I like how short the seasons are for this show because it means that the plot can move quickly with a minimum of filler episodes. Despite that, the show still manages to throw some surprises in our direction. One of those surprises was the re-introduction of Baron Quinn. Another pleasant surprise, was the addition to the cast, of Nick Frost as Bajie. We got some major worldbuilding going this season, as the story fleshed out the where and the when of this show. I’m going to do this in three parts because otherwise its going to get too long. I’ll start with the the top four characters, around which most of the plot revolves.

Sunny: 

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The vast majority of the plot this season concerns Sunny’s search and return to Veil who, by this time, has given birth to a boy she names Henry. Veil is currently being imprisoned by Sunny’s nemesis, and former employer, Baron Quinn. Everything  is leading to the showdown between these two pivotal characters.

This  is all about Sunny coming to grips with his demons,  and laying the spiritual foundation for him to be a father for Henry. He feels he can’t do that until he puts his past as a killer for hire behind him. From episode one (Tiger Pushes Mountain), and his theme song, I’m Only Human by Rag ‘N Bone Man, to episode seven (Black Heart White Mountain), we see Sunny dealing with all the killing he dealt out in his past, and what kind of man that makes him. Last season we were given the idea that Sunny was sort of superhuman. At the beginning of this season we see him very much humbled. We watched him fall, and now we get to watch him rise up.  In order for him to do that he needs to acknowledge certain things about himself.

He also needs to choose a side. One of the most frustrating things about Sunny’s character last season was his passivity. He simply refused to make hard decisions, and would allow things to happen  to the people around him. Not only  would he not do anything, but he often refused to pass judgment. Adopting MK was the first pro-active decision we saw him make. after that it became easier to choose things for himself and his own happiness.

But the primary catalyst for his self reflection this season, like it is for a lot of men, is the birth of his first child, and his encounter with a legendary Clipper named Silver Moon, in the episode Red Sun Silver Moon. Pay attention to the titles here, because many of them refer to Sunny, or the people he encounters, like Silver. Silver has been waiting for a worthy opponent so he can die in style, so you can guess what the Red Sun means in the title. Sunny bests him but in keeping with his new vow, doesn’t kill him.

Sunny, like Silver, had made a vow not to kill anymore, for unnecessary reasons. He’s going to fail at this, as circumstances will require he keep at it. After escaping the mines, with a new companion named Bajie, he sets out to find his wife and son.  Whereas last season he pretty much lived according to Quinn’s whim, we see him fully committing to something unabashedly selfish. His own future happiness. He has a number of adventures along the way that require him to engage in violence to defend himself, as no one in the Badlands can be trusted. His journey into the Badlands is also a journey into his past and his self.

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Sunny has always been a kind of true neutral. Last season, he often held himself aloof from moral decisions, like when he stood by and watched Quinn kill Veil’s parents. There was a kind of curious moral paralysis, which Veil called him on towards the end of the season. This new moral version of Sunny is best illustrated in  episode five, Monkey Leaps Through Mist. He makes the decision to save a young girl from being sold into prostitution. This is major moral act for Sunny, who has always tried to shy away from being a savior. I think part of Sunny realizes that “not killing” isn’t enough. He is going to have to engage with the world to make it a better place, and  can’t just stand by and do nothing, if he hopes to become the kind of man he wants to be, that his son can be proud of.

Sunny also has to learn to work with, and trust others. Last season Sunny was very much a loner. This season he meets Bajie and the two of them have to work together to get back into the Badlands, defeat the Monks who want MK returned, and find and save Sunny’s  wife and son. This is made incredibly difficult because Bajie has ulterior motives of his own, and appears utterly untrustworthy.

In Black Heart White Mountain, Sunny literally confronts the many dead he’s responsible for, after being put in a coma like state by one of the Monks. He dreams of what his life could be, but he realizes on some level that he cannot have that life until he deals with his violent past. Reunited with MK, in  Leopard Stalks In Snow, he is then prepared to acknowledge that he can’t do what he needs to do alone,  that MK is his family, and he has a responsibility to him.

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In Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, Sunny makes and breaks alliances with Baron Chau (the only other prominent Asian woman we’ve seen), and The Widow. Taken prisoner by Chau who is in hiding from the Widow, he convinces her that they have one thing in common, they both want Quinn and The Widow dead. Upon contact with the Widow, she convinces Snuny to spare her life, because she knows where Veil is, so he allies with her. That alliance is broken when he discovers she betrayed Veil to form an alliance with Quinn.

Unable to trust the Widow, and having lost MK again, he prepares to go it alone, after entrusting Bajie to find and care for his protege. He’s come a long way since the first episode when he could barely bring himself to look at, or even speak, to Bajie.

Sunny finally makes it to Veil’s side and we get the reunion we’ve all been waiting for, with  lots of kissing, soaring music, twirling cameras, and some tears. But its not to last, and we should’ve known that happiness, normality, and a white picket fence on a farm was never going to be in Sunny’s future.

 

Veil:

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Veil has been one of the most frustrating characters but I was starting   to understand her and why Sunny fell in love with her. Its not just her pleasant nature. We saw in season one, that she was willing to challenge others when she was in a position to do so. She was never a floormat when she could help it. The key to understanding Veil is that she was a relatively powerless individual. She had no martial skills, she had no political power, and no kind of social clout, but what power she did have she wielded carefully.

How she operated in the Badlands was by showing a level of integrity, and honesty, that many of the other character’s entirely lacked. Jade, Lydia, Quinn, all the people that Sunny knows, are people willing to manipulate and deceive to gain their own ends in the Badlands. Veil was unwilling to do any of those things, was unwilling to compromise her principles to get ahead. Her moral compass remained strong.  Sunny gravitated to her because he could trust her. She was the one steady component in his life. She was honest with him in ways no one else was and so he trusted her like no one else.

Its not that Veil didn’t engage in immoral behavior. She did occasionally try to lie. But only  as a form of self defense, or to protect Henry, and usually  her attempts at deception weren’t successful.  She occasionally relied on her helplessness to win mercy from others which we saw in Palm of the Iron Fox, where she lies to, poisons, and eventually kills a Clipper named Edgar, when the poison doesn’t work. Later, she tries to claim she killed him because he  attempted to rape her, only to be told that was unlikely because Edgar was gay. So she does engage in immoral behavior sometimes, but it never proves profitable for her, and she is never rewarded for it.

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Her moral certitude is illustrated best in  Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, when Quinn forces her to marry him so that he can claim her son as his own. All pretense she made of caring about Quinn in her efforts to protect Baby Henry earlier, fall to the side. She makes no secret of her fear and contempt of Quinn, and shows little patience for the foolishness he keeps spouting to her and Henry. Eventually he has to lock her away to control her.

I have to admit, I was getting very frustrated with her inability to simply go along to get along, in the hopes of getting Henry away. That she would just chill and pretend she liked Quinn like before, but I get now why she didn’t do that. That kind of manipulative behavior simply does not come naturally to her, and she has no talent for it really. Her deceptions are always uncovered. In episode three, Red Sun Silver Moon, we find that she’s been lying to Quinn about his x-rays, substituting healthy x-rays for his, and that deception gets discovered in the next episode. I understand she’s been doing that because if Quinn doesn’t think she’s curing him he might kill her and Henry.

By the end of the season, Veil has formed an alliance with Lydia, against Quinn, and I have to applaud the show for writing it this way. Lydia is well used to manipulating and deceiving Quinn, and Veil needs someone like her, and I like that the writers show these women as allies against  their oppressor, rather than as competition for his attention. There’s a reason for Lydia’s behavior which I’ll get to in a moment.

I also liked that Veil got to be a love interest at all. The show definitely had that Django Unchained/Ring of the Nibelung vibe, where Sunny has to walk through ten kinds of Hell, the Widow’s  Butterflies, and Quinn’s wingnut Clippers, to win back his beloved, and I’m all kinds of here for that when its a Black woman, because we rarely get treated like that in genre narratives. That’s something that’s been the sole province of White women, and I have it on good authority that they find that shit kinda chafing. Its very interesting that neither Jade, nor Lydia, got that kind of treatment in the story.

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Unfortunately this is all we’re ever  getting about Veil, since she dies in the season finale, protecting Henry. I feel some kind of way about this and not just because I’m so tired of women of color being ‘fridged and watching  the show runners  sit back and make up bullshit excuses for why that happened.

But to be fair though, I wasn’t watching the show for her. I didn’t even know who Madeline Mantock was before watching it,  but I faithfully reported on her activities, gave her the benefit of the doubt, and followed what little of an arc she had. My faith in the showrunners was entirely misguided though, believing they might want, at some point, to do something with this character besides kill her off, but Gough and Millar seem unable to see much purpose in having PoC in their narratives except as cannon fodder.

Of the three Black people in the show this season, who had any lines,  they’ve all been killed. Edgar had a handful of lines, attacked Veil, and was killed. There was a Black Butterfly in The Widow’s camp, and she was unnecessarily singled out, and unceremoniously killed, by one of Quinn’s Clippers. I know a lot of women had feelings about that scene. And then there’s Veil. She’s been locked away, betrayed, assaulted multiple times, nearly raped, and then she sacrificed herself to kill Quinn. I think I saw the writing on the wall as soon as she walked into that room with Sunny, who was about to fight Quinn.

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This will not stop me from watching the show next season. I wasn’t watching the show to see Veil, but I was happy about her presence. Unlike some people I never had the luxury of just picking and choosing  which shows I was going to boycott. I grew up in a time of genre scarcity, where EVERYTHING I watched had problems, and nothing and no one was enlightened. I’m not going to boycott a series for one or two problematic elements. (It would have to be a really bad problem like what happened with Sleepy Hollow, or whitewashing, like with Ghost in the Shell.) I’ll watch the series and just keep complaining as loud as possible about the one problem. My attitude towards this type of thing is to reward the good behavior, and beat Hollywood with a rolled up newspaper, when they act a fool.

 

The Widow:

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We spent the bulk of our time this season shuttling back and forth between the Widow, Sunny and Quinn, the three major players in the narrative. We watched as the Widow connived, lied, and killed to consolidate her power, falling  even further into the dark side.

I must admit I was dismayed to see what became of Minerva this season. Its not that I ever thought she was a good person, but I was championing her cause. I believed in it. But it turns out that she really isn’t any better than the Barons she hopes to succeed. It turns out that power corrupts because the Widow had the most disappointing character arc of the season and has mostly just gone darkside at this point.

With Waldo (Sunny’s former Clipper teacher) as her adviser, she was willing to try diplomacy. When Ryder calls a Conclave of all the Barons in Palm of the Iron Fox, to assess what rules the Widow has broken in her rise to the top, she tries to play the game the way Waldo asks, but she is betrayed by the other Barons, who either attack her, or flee. She is saved by Tilda, who disobeyed a direct order to stay behind.  The event seemed to  crystallize something in Minerva, and she rejects Waldo’s advice, and starts following her own decisions from that point forward.

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Unfortunately, the Widow  doesn’t have a very good moral compass to follow. She makes all the wrong decisions. Decisions that both Waldo, and Tilda, two people with much stronger morality than her, attempt to talk her out of. She forms an alliance with Quinn which was galling enough to Waldo, but to do that, she returned Veil back to his custody, which Tilda found untenable. I never thought of her as a good person, as she always had an “ends justifies the means” attitude, but she lost me as a fan when she displayed complete hypocrisy in returning Veil  and Henry to  Quinn, in Leopard Stalks in Snow.

This is a woman who has championed the rights of Cogs and Women all of last season. I suppose I should have seen the writing on the wall after she kidnapped Veil in season one, as that was a bit extra. She cannot talk about protecting the women of the Badlands and be willing to send another woman into bondage for power. Not only that but it has also become clear that she has been using her emotional link to Tilda to get her to serve her cause. Its not that she doesn’t care about Tilda, but just as Veil said, she is willing to send little girls to fight and die for her cause. this makes her little different from Quinn.

In Nightingale Sings No More we get some backstory on the Widow (Minerva). How she used to be like MK, was kidnapped by the same Monks who took MK, and they drained her powers from her. Part of the reason she wants so desperately to decipher the book in her possession is she believes it can give her her powers back. That book that everyone has been passing about, that no one could read, is actually something that belongs to her. She owned it as a child, when she first encountered Bajie, a Monk who named her Flea.

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Baron Chau

We also get the mother /daughter fight that’s been long in the making. This has been coming since season one. Tilda always had the privilege of speaking freely with her, and the Widow trusted her like no other. We started seeing the cracks in their union in the first season when Tilda questioned her mother’s warmongering.

This time, Tilda, because she has a much clearer sense of morality than her mother, rightfully calls her out for betraying Veil, and challenges her mother to a duel, which she loses. Minerva can’t bring herself to kill her though, even though Tilda challenges her to do it. She locks her up instead. Tilda is rescued by a young woman named Odessa.

After she beat up Tilda,  Waldo turns his back on her too, believing her to be as corrupt as the other Barons. I guess next season we’ll have a brand new Big Bad as the Widow consolidates her  power.

 

Quinn:

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He’s the one person everyone seems to be hunting at some point. Yes, he’s still dying, and still insane.  He spent the first part of the season quietly terrorizing Veil and Henry,  losing it completely after he kills Ryder at a Conclave of the Barons, that Ryder arranged in Palm of the Iron Fox. After that, he must have been haunted by what he’d done  because Ryder’s hallucination taunts him for the entirety of the next episode, Monkey Leaps through Mist. Why his tumor hadn’t killed him yet is anybody’s guess. Why is Quinn still alive? That tumor was the size of a golf ball.

Lydia’s attempted capture of Quinn sets off explosives that he booby trapped throughout the compound, (an old transit station) and in the confusion, Veil escapes and goes to the Widow. Quinn forms an alliance with the The Widow, to take down the other Barons in exchange for Veil’s return, in Leopard Stalks in Snow, but the alliance doesn’t last  long. Neither of them can remotely trust the other, and  turn against one another at the first opportunity.

 

I’ve always been somewhat in awe of Quinn’s ability to talk complete bullshit and have it be believed, and  we get to see it in full force, up close and personal, all season. We saw him doing this last season but the only people he managed to hold in thrall were all Clippers. Lydia, Jade and Sunny all appeared to be immune to this superpower. I think this says a lot about the Clipper mentality, really.

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Quinn gets a lot of speech time, hissing, whispering, and conniving to anyone within earshot, to get what he wants. We get to watch him Jedi a young man named Gabriel, his entire Clipper force, and even tries his wiles on Veil, although I think she might have some immunity. His alliance with the Widow comes to an abrupt halt after he talks Gabriel into a terrorist attack in the Widow’s courtyard. He spends the rest of the next two episodes, Nightingale Sings No More, and Wolf’s Breath Dragon Fire, wiring the entire compound with explosives, waiting for Sunny to arrive.

It takes Sunny four tries to kill Quinn! At one point I was simply screaming at my TV because, for some reason, Sunny simply would not take this asshole’s head. Every time he thought the Baron was down, he would wander off and drop his weapon, and Quinn would just get back up, and cause more mischief. This complete inability to finish him off, was the reason  Quinn was alive at all. I was also pretty salty at the writers because it was all rather clumsily done. I really don’t want to have to look at Quinn all of next season again. I was getting pretty tired of all his speechifying. Not that I don’t like Martin Csokas. He played the Hell out of this character. Its just that a little bit of Quinn goes a long way and in this season was a bit too much.

In Part 2: Bajie, Tilda and MK get character reviews along with Lydia, one the few other people from season one, who survives to see a third season.

American Gods Season One: The Secret of Spoons

Shadow’s savior from the last episode is nowhere to be found, and Wednesday  was holed up in a hotel, putting his thing down. Shadow gets himself patched up, (note the wound in his side), and he confronts Wednesday about what happened to him, and although Wednesday tells him he is angry about it, he is otherwise non-committal. The funeral over, Shadow still alive, they continue their road trip. Next stop: Chicago.

 

Thoth

 Ibis -Demore Barnes

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The first god we see is Ibis, in every episode, also known as Thoth. In Egyptian mythology he was the scribe of the gods. In most traditional depictions he has the head of an ibis bird, with a long curved beak. This Ibis has a human head and round, rimless glasses. When the show opens, he’s writing a history of Odin, the All-Father of Norse mythology, god of war, wisdom, and poetry, among a host of  other things. In the second episode he’s writing how Anansi came to America, on what else? A slave ship!

You may remember Demore Barnes as one of the serial killers, in the series, Hannibal. We’ll get to see more of Ibis, later in the series,  when Shadow finally meets him.

 

Odin
Mr. Wednesday- Ian McShane

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On Odin: http://www.uppsalaonline.com/odin.htm

According to legend, Odin sacrificed his left eye in exchange for a drink from the Well of Wisdom (which we may be encountering in a later episode.) And yes, Mr. Wednesday has a glass eye. Odin is also a god of war, so that’s part of the reason he’s traveling around, trying to get all these other gods to commit to a war with the noobs.

When we meet Odin, he looks like he’s  fallen on hard times, but he’s a con man, and we’ll get to see more of this in the third episode, in one of the book’s best scenes, the Bank Heist. We already saw him con his way into a first class ticket on the plane where he met Shadow. According to Mr. Wednesday conning people is: “… all about getting people to believe in you. It’s not the cash, it’s the faith.” Bilquis does something like this too, so pay close attention to the various ways the old gods get people to believe in them vs how the new gods get people’s belief. As far as I can tell the new gods of media and technology seem to rely on hype-men, while the old ones have to do it all by themselves.

Pay attention to the use of transition scenes. They’re usually done by pointing the camera skyward, before moving to the next destination in the narrative. In particular, pay close attention to weather phenomena as it relates to Shadow’s presence, or when transitioning from a scene in which he was just speaking.

In this episode, we learn that Wednesday hates telephones and highways. I get why he’d hate telephones, as that’s a direct connection to Technical Boy, and he can’t have that. I do wonder about the real reason he won’t use highways. Is there a highway god? It makes sense that in America there would be car gods and highway gods.

Since Wednesday can’t call to make his plans, he has to meet everyone face to face. He sends Shadow off to buy gifts  for Czernobog and Zorya Sisters, and while he’sshopping, Shadow meets Media, played by Gillian Anderson.

God name: Bilquis – Yetide Badaki

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Bilquis, the woman in red, is what’s left of the Queen of Sheba, not technically a goddess, but worshiped for her beauty and power. In this episode, we witness a montage of her consumption of  various men and women. The way its shown, she appears to be ravenous. We don’t know how long her vigor lasts after she eats, but we’re given the idea that these events happen over the course of several hours or days.

We also get to see what’s inside her magical va-jay-jay. I won’t tell you what, but it is pretty awesome, and you understand why her partners are so ecstatic about  what’s happening to them. I thought this was hilarious but I have weird humor. This show is Bryan Fuller completely unleashed. There is full frontal in this episode, along with  dick pics. If you have delicate  sensibilities, you may want toskip this series.

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Later, we see Bilquis visiting the  display at a museum, of a fertility statue, supposedly of her, and she has  enough power to rearrange a display of gemstones, thought to be representative of her, with her telekinetic powers, (this isn’t something from the book), and I wonder if that was what all her extra feeding was about, just so she could have the power to do that. At any rate, we get a glimpse of how powerful she is, in that scene.

Loki

 Low Key Lyesmith- Jonathan Tucker (from episode one)

Mr. World – Crispin Glover

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Once you start looking for them,  most of the people Shadow encounters are actually ancient gods. His friend in prison, played by Jonathan Tucker, goes by the name Low Key Lyesmith. We saw him in the first episode when Shadow was in prison. I said initially that Mr. World was Loki, and he is. Low Key is just who he was, when he was  in prison with Shadow.

In prison, Lyesmith is preoccupied by the lack of hangings in America, “no gallows dirt, no gallows deals.” This doesn’t make much sense to Shadow, but it makes more sense if you consider that  he’s Odin’s blood brother. Odin is the gallows god, too. He  sacrificed himself by swinging from a noose tied to a branch of Yggdrasil, the great World Tree of Norse legend, which sneaks into Shadow’s dreams, and is represented by the tree on which Shadow was lynched, at the end of episode one. In exchange for nine days and nights in the noose, Odin received some of the greatest secrets of existence. Shadow hung on the tree briefly, but is about to be privy to a great revelation; the existence of gods.

Jonathan Tucker is also an alumnus of Hannibal. He played another serial killer,who tried to hang Hannibal, and was shot by Jack Crawford.


Buffalo Man
Voiced by: Ian McShane

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In addition to the great tree, Shadow keeps having visions of a talking Buffalo, with flames spurting out of his eyes.  The Buffalo isn’t a god. He’s the land, (or so he tells Shadow toward the end of the book). But he’s god enough to need the same thing all the rest of them need: Faith. He has one piece of advice for the dreaming Shadow: Believe.

I initially thought this vision was one of the Plains Indians Buffalo legends.

http://www.native-languages.org/legends-buffalo.htm


Anansi
 Mr. Nancy- Orlando Jones

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In one of the greatest introductions of any character in a Bryan Fuller Joint, we get to see another Coming to America story. Anansi is a trickster god who originated with the Ashanti people, from what is now Ghana. He’s often depicted as a spider; here, in 1697, crossing the Atlantic in the belly of a slave ship, he’s dressed in a loud plaid suit and depicted as a messenger from the future. He’s the god of all stories, and he’s got an important tale to tell this group of men: “Once upon a time, a man got fucked,” he begins.“That’s the story of black people in America.” He then launches into a rousing speech , and I totally smell an Emmy nom in Orlando Jones’ future.

*Every once in a while, a monologue comes along that seems destined to be recited by theater students and auditioning actors until the sun burns out. Tonight, Starz’s Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods granted the world such a monologue and put it in the mouth of Orlando Jones. As Mr. Nancy, the well-dressed, anthropomorphization of African trickster spider-god Anansi, he delivers a blistering soliloquy to a ship full of slaves on their way to colonial America and it seems writ by fire, torching the lies we tell ourselves about the ways black people are treated in the U.S. Continue reading “American Gods Season One: The Secret of Spoons”

American Gods

As y’all should be well aware, tomorrow night is the premiere episode of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. TV ads have been hyping the Hell out of this, so I predict that this is going to be cable’s next big hit, and my newest obsession, following close on the heels of Westworld.

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Peter Stormare as Czernobog

 

There are a whole bunch of reason why I know I’m going to love this show. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, and have read most, if not all, of his books. I’m also a Bryan Fuller fan. A better marriage between director and writer I couldn’t even make up. The lead character is a Black man named, of all things, Shadow Moon. How cool a name is that? And it features a truly astonishing cast: Ian Mcshane who I fell in love with in Deadwood, is the embodiment of Mr. Wednesday; Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy is absolutely perfect; Crispin Glover is Mr. World (AKA Loki); Gillian Anderson is Media,; and Fuller didn’t forget the sisters, either , as he cast the actress  Yetide Badaki as Bilquist, a fertility goddess.

 

 

I still haven’t finished the book but that’s okay. I’m 3/4 of the way  through the book and will be finished before the second episode airs. For those of you not into the book experience, who haven’t read it, there’s always the audiobook option, or if you’re really pressed for a primer, Wikipedia gives a complete rundown of the book’s plot, which I can attest is accurate.

In anticipation of the premiere, here! Have some links:

Why You Should Read the American Gods Novel Before Watching the TV Show


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Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Odin)

American Gods may have finally nailed the modern-fantasy formula on TV

Come for Ian McShane; stay for a faithful, 16-years-later retelling of Gaiman’s classic.


‘I Thought I Understood America’: Talking With Neil Gaiman About ‘American Gods’

As Starz launches its adaptation of the sprawling Gaiman novel, the show’s creators address its new and unexpected meanings in the Trump era.

By David M. Perry

https://psmag.com/i-thought-i-understood-america-talking-with-neil-gaiman-about-american-gods-5f892dab8711


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Crispin Glover as Mr. World (Loki)

American Gods Is a Gorgeous Mess

The new Starz show, adapted from the 2001 book by Neil Gaiman, is extravagantly ambitious and frequently absurd.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/04/american-gods-starz-neil-gaiman-bryan-fuller/524742/


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Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon)

American Gods Star Ricky Whittle on Becoming a Neil Gaiman Fan and on the Non-Book Season Finale


American Gods: Exclusive First Look at Mr. Nancy as Orlando Jones Talks Anansi BoysSpin-Off

Inside the mind of the African trickster god.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/03/american-gods-mr-nancy-anansi-orlando-jones-anansi-boys-spin-off

 


Image result for american gods photosTV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz

TV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz


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Yetide Badaki as Bilquist

Neil Gaiman’s obsession with identifying the metaphor, in one Americans Gods passage

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/27/15436034/neil-gaiman-american-gods-metaphor


We’ve Seen Your New Favorite Show, and It’s American Gods

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Gillian Anderson as Media

The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman

The beloved author’s American Gods — now a TV show — is more politically relevant than ever. And that scares him.

By

 

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I’m Watching TV (Well, Duh!)

Well yeah, it’s one of my skillz, so y’all betta re-con-ize!

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That’s Right!!!

 

Actually, there’s no need to “reconize”,  as I haven’t had as much time to practice this particular set of skills, because…life! I’m just one of me Mum’s primary caregivers, so between her many dialysis adjacent appointments, taking her shopping,  and a full time job, I’m usually catching up on my sleep. I’ve begun a new tradition now, of writing these things when I can, and then queuing them for later, which kind of leaves spontaneous TV  reviews by the wayside. I don’t get to actually watch the shows in a timely manner, and dammit, these networks keep making fascinating new shit, that I don’t have time to look at.

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UGH!

 

Well, here’s what I have been looking at, so far. Some of these don’t get a full review because nothing greatly, bigly, hyuuuugely, is happening on them, and some I’ve yet to watch. Some I’ve made plans to watch later, if I remember that I told you that.

Doctor Who Season Ten

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big Whovian, as Dr. Who fans are called.  I know enough to find my way around a few favorite episodes and have some favorite Doctors. For example, I love the Weeping Angels, and will watch any episode they’re in, but I think the Daleks are kinda ridiculous, and I usually won’t watch those episodes. I can’t stand Matt Smith, not because he’s not a good Doctor but because the man has a head shaped like a lightbulb, and that shit is distracting. I love David Tennant, (who always looks like he just sniffed a lemon),  and Peter Capaldi, (who kinda looks like that uncle, who has had enough of your shit), and of course, Martha is my favorite companion. (Not that the other companions are less worthy. I like Clara  too.)

I’m also really liking Bill Potts as Peter Capaldi’s new companion, and it’s not just because she’s Black, and gay, (although that is a factor). Its because she’s really good with Capaldi. She sets him off well, and Pearl Mackie is, quite simply, adorkably cute. She also has real acting abilities, and that’s always to the good. I like that the show doesn’t tease us with the idea of her being gay. Its made very clear that she is, and there’s no guessing about it.

This episode’s plot centered around Bill falling in love with a young lady, named Heather, who promises never to leave her. The girl is subsequently consumed by an alien puddle of water, and starts to pursue Bill, because it has absorbed Heather’s feelings for her. Capaldi’s doctor gets involved when Bill goes to him for help, after she realizes he knows weird things. I really loved this episode, and Pearl acquitted herself very well. It was a  beautiful and heartbreaking story, as well. The scene where Bill discovers the Tardis is wonderfully shot, evoking all of the wonder you would expect to feel, if you were in that situation. It was just a really well-done episode, even bringing tears to my eyes at the end.

I also have to point out that Capaldi is one of the more sympathetic doctors. I like his acting style, and the gravity he brings to his position. He also manages to capture a great deal of the sadness that comes with being an immortal being.

I’m all set to continue watching the rest of the season.

Class

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I don’t actually know a whole lot about this show. I know it’s an offshoot of season nine’s Dr. Who, and is set at the school where the Doctor’s former companion, Rose or Clara (I’m not sure on that one), used to teach. From the trailers and snippets, it looks pretty diverse, with plenty of PoC, and various sexualities represented. I haven’t had a chance to determine how good the acting is, but I will be recording the episodes in the hopes of actually looking at the episodes, at some point in the future, and I’ll let you know what I think. It looks interesting, although since it involves a lot of teenagers, I’m not greatly enthusiastic.

 

The Vet Life

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I do like Animal Planet, but I wasn’t happy about the introduction of various reality shows to the lineup, and I’d stopped watching that channel for a while. There’s only so many shows a person can watch about different types of veterinarians.

Well leave it to the Animal Planet to actually make a show about Black veterinarians, and actually  get me to look at it. I really like this show, not because of the plots or drama, but because representation in all areas, matters. It’s not enough to show Black people being heroes in movies, playing sports, or singing. We need to be shown doing just regular shit, like doctoring, teaching, and lawyering. So I’m all for these kinds of shows that just have us being regular, silly, happy, grumpy, or whatever. Not all of us live our lives around protesting, BLM, or activism. We do all the same shit all people do, everyday, and its time television reflected that too. Yeah, we need heroes, but things like ghostbusting, healing sick animals, and cookouts also help cement the idea that PoC are just regular folks, with jobs we love, kids getting on our nerves, parents gloating about that, and plenty of bills.

All that said, I actually like the show. The show is set in Texas, and the guys Diarra, Aubrey ,and Michael, are laid back and funny. It’s really about all I can mentally handle at the end of a long day, really. There’s not too much drama, we get to meet the vet’s families, who are really cute, and supportive, and I get to watch various  animals visit the vet.

 

Captain Fantastic

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Since I have a subscription to Amazon Prime, I got to watch this movie for free. I was intrigued because Viggo Mortensen is in this, and I thought the premise sounded interesting. After his wife commits suicide, a man and his brood of five or six kids, have a clash with the parents she left behind, to go live a survivalist lifestyle with him, in the California woods.

It was interesting. Not great, or compelling. I did watch all of it because I found their lifestyle fascinating, and the movie had its funny moments. The kids turned in some great performances and it has a semi-happy ending.

What impacted me was how he raised his kids, and how that clashed with the lifestyles of regular folks, really pointing out how modern kids are kind of coddled, and not very self sufficient. The kids know how to hunt, fish, make their own clothes, everything really. Not only that, but I was supportive of the idea of him being informatively blunt with his kids. This is a man who simply doesn’t believe in lying to his kids, or pulling his punches, regarding the truth.

He’s also turned them into political radicals who are critical thinkers about politics, even at the age of six, which I thought was pretty impressive. And they don’t just parrot what he wants them to think. They have grown up, reading , debating and arguing their ideas with him, so they know what they’re talking about when they voice an opinion, which is a refreshing change from most people, who know nothing at all about a subject,  thinking that the way they FEEL about it is sufficient. I guess you can tell I’m a fan of of the critical thought process.

When their mother dies , he flat out tells them she committed suicide, without sugar coating it. He’s not mean or angry about it. Its just information, and he lets them react however they want to react, without chastising them. For example, his youngest son gets angry, and approaches him threateningly with a knife. He doesn’t react to this. He just lets the boy work it out for himself. He’s right  there if he needs him.

The oldest son is college aged and decides that he needs to know more about how people relate to each other, after he meets a young woman who catches his fancy. He has no experience of socializing, dating, or pop culture, which becomes apparent when she tries to get him to talk about things he likes, for which he has no answers. Later, caught up in his feelings for her, he proposes marriage to her, in front of her mother, and is puzzled when the two of them think its hilarious.

But most of the movie is taken up with the relationship with the dead mom’s parents, who feel that he isn’t a good parent, and fight with him over how their daughter should be interred. She didn’t want a church service ,and requested to be cremated. Her parents get their way, but later, he and the kids dig up their mother’s body, cremate it ,and scatter her ashes over the nearest body of water, like she asked.

During this adventuring, one of his daughters breaks her arm while playing lookout on a rooftop, and he realizes that the grandparents are right,  he is leading them in a dangerous lifestyle. He tries to leave them with their grandparents but the kids stowaway on their family bus with him. I have to confess, although I agreed with how he raised his kids, I could see both sides of the issue. The viewer is pretty much left to make up their own mind on who is right, and which side you choose, says more about your values, than what the movie is saying.

The movie is pretty funny at times though. The above gif is when the entire family, who have been barred from the funeral of their mother unless they behave themselves, crash the funeral anyway, dressed in all their 1970s finery, and causing a scene. There’s also a gif of the entire cast raising a fist at the SAG Awards, and chanting “Down with The Man!”, which is hilarious.

I liked the movie. Its not a great film, so I don’t get all the hype about it. For me, it was a well acted, middle-of-the-road, comedy- drama. I’d recommend it for some quiet Saturday evening viewing, and a few chuckles.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

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I just finished Aaronovitch’s latest novella, starring Detective Inspector Peter Grant, and I’m very very satisfied. It’s certainly enough to tide me over until Ben’s next full length Peter Grant book, which I can’t wait to see in hardcover, one day.

I can’t recommend this series enough. I’m thoroughly addicted, but I can’t explain exactly why this series is so compelling to me. Is it the low key use of magic? Is it Peter Grant’s mordant snarkiness? Or the fact that he’s of African descent?  Is it the side characters, like Toby the Ghostfinding dog, or Peter’s magically inclined niece, who talks  to the foxes of London, or just the common, everyday,  police procedural stuff? Probably all of the above.

I especially liked this book which I finished it record time, for me anyway, although I do wish it had a bit more Beverly Brook in it. Beverly is one of the physical incarnations of one of the rivers of London. She and her sisters are some of my favorite recurring characters.  Her sisters are the incarnations of the rivers Fleet, Tyburn, and Lea, while their mother is the female incarnation of the Thames. This just tickles the Hell out of me, btw. All of them look African, which I think is an odd/but not odd thing, considering it’s London. I like Beverly, because she has a snarky sense of humor too, and she’s dating Peter.

How do I describe the mood of these books. Well, it’s very low key as I said. There’s magic in it but it’s so subtle as to appear almost mundane. Also Peter, the narrator, is so used to magic, that he describes the most extraordinary events as if they were commonplace. The books are more like police procedurals, with an overlay of magical events, rather than the deep magic world of the Jim Butcher books, which I also love. The series isn’t much like those, if that’s what you’re imagining. First of all, they’re set in London, and the author fully recognizes the diversity, with a large cast of different races of people, most of whom are cops. So Peters magical activities are fully sanctioned by the authorities, and explained away, with no one actually acknowledging their magical origins. There’s magic in this world, and quite a few people encounter it, and believe in it, but it’s so quietly done, that most regular people don’t recognize, or want to realize, that’s what they’ve just experienced.

Peter Grant comes from a musical family, and some of the books go deep into magical theory, and music, which is interesting. His father is a somewhat famous Jazz musician,who is suffering from some, not quite clear, mental illness. I love that Peter is not some lone, token black guy, as he comes from a fairly large family, on his mom’s side, which he mentions visiting from time to time. But for most of his time, he’s at work for The Folly.

The Folly is run by one Thomas Nightingale, whose age is indeterminate, but he’s old enough to be considered a Master Magician, and did some magic, for the Crown, during WW2. Peter is his new apprentice, after having run into a magical serial killer in the first novel. In the current  novella, Peter is doing most of the heavy lifting, as he and a colleague track down a missing woman, who disappeared on the Metro. Her disappearance has incited some very public ghostly activity, which is momentarily frightening to the passengers, although they don’t often remember the scare long enough to tell him the details. Since ghosts are involved, and the Folly is the Special Crimes Investigation Unit, Peter gets the call.

I love the side characters in this series.  From Walidd, the physician who specializes in autopsying magical deaths, to Molly, who is some type of supernatural creature, working as a domestic at The Folly, to Peter’s arch nemesis, The Faceless Man, and his new apprentice, Leslie May, who used to be Peter’s girlfriend.

It’s also been fun watching Peter’s rather innovative, and unorthodox, approaches to magic, to the headshaking chagrin of Nightingale, and Peter’s growing abilities over the course of seven books. He is also starting to get a reputation, among his fellow officers, for blowing things up. There’s at least one major explosion of something in each book, that Peter is at least partially responsible for, although sometimes Nightngale gets in on the action.

The bottom line is, I love this series. I think it’s one of the best British Urban Fantasy series out there. Heck, I love British Urban Fantasy in general.  There are no love triangles, nothing so mundane as vampires or werewolves, and no lone White heroine, worrying about her supernatural boyfriend, or which shoes to match with her weapons. There’s little melodrama, clever writing, and likable, quirky, and diverse, characters. A lot of the magic is based on British History, much of it unique to London, and it’s wealth of magical locations, and objects.  The plots are somewhat involved, but no more so than your typical police novel. With occasional magic.

It’s not too late to get in on this series, which is fun Summer reading material. Each book builds on the next, but it’s not required that you  read them in order, as they are also standalone books.

The Rivers of London or Midnight Riot is the first book,

followed by:

Moon Over Soho

Whispers Underground

Broken Homes

Foxglove Summer

The Hanging Tree

And now The Furthest Station.

*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free. If  you have a platform, and you’d like to review books for Netgalley, it costs nothing to sign up.

The Walking Dead: Season 7 Review

I was waiting for the season finale to write a review for this season, as I wasn’t here for every episode. There were a few I  liked but I didn’t want to give my opinions about them until I saw how things would play out. I normally enjoy writing episode reviews but TWD, is just really not the kind of show I want to relive twice, once when I view it, and again when I write the review.  And sometimes it can take a few days to digest what was seen.

A lot has happened since the beginning of the season. I think I was still depressed and reeling after Glenn’s death because my enthusiasm for the show took a real turndown. I just wasn’t feeling it and started skipping episodes. But the interesting thing was how those earlier episodes got to play out in the finale.

From the tail end of the season, you can see how the writers maneuvered people and events, to get them into their proper places, for the finale. While this seemed pretty slow for us (we’re used to a much faster place, as regards the plots on this show), you can see how each episode set the stage for decisions that people make later in the season.

For example, although I skipped it, it turned out that we needed to visit the Saviors Sanctuary, not just to get more of Negan, but to help us understand how he  maintains control, and how that later backfires on him. It helps  us understand the drawbacks of maintaining one’s leadership skills through pain, and intimidation. These episodes help us to understand the fundamental (and subtle) differences between Rick and Negan.

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For example, having Eugene be taken into the Saviors, puts him in the  position of being able to help Sasha in a manner that only he can, in a way that having Daryl there, wouldn’t. Its only at the end of the season that we can see how these individual pieces fit together. I sort of knew this is what the writers were doing but just didn’t have the heart to watch certain episodes because I was in no mood to listen to Negan’s self aggrandizing bullshit for entire episodes.

My favorite episode for the entire season is The Cell, because we get to be introduced to King Ezekiel, Jerry, and  Shiva. The King is a ridiculously over the top character, but he did bring some much needed levity to the season. Tara visiting Oceanside, Rick’s supply run, and his meeting with  the Scavengers, Carol’s relationship with King Ezekiel, and Dwight’s punishment, all figured in the finale, as far as plot and character motivations. Not everything fits, though. There were some plot points that have yet to play out and haven’t gone anywhere yet, like Gregory’s departure.

Now that I look back on it, I have to say this season was well done, despite my upset and  misgivings during the first half, in the wake of Glenn’s death, but I understand if Glenn fans want nothing else to do with this show ever again. I was  dissatisfied with how that was handled, and then we spent the first half of the season watching Rick be bullied by Negan, and that shit was just demoralizing. On the other hand, that makes Rick’s partial victory over the Saviors, during the finale, feel that much sweeter. (Yes, I’m still upset about Glenn and wish he could’ve been there to see it. I think I’m always gonna be pissed about Glenn and Abraham.)

Rick

For the first half of the season we watched Rick lose, and lose again, and be completely beaten down by Negan’s reign of terror. He simply couldn’t catch a break. So it was especially nice when we came back after the hiatus,  to see Rick getting his mojo back. It was actually enjoyable to watch Rick swaggering into other people’s territories and negotiating with such confidence. I thought the episode with the Scavengers was especially fun, and the one where he and Michonne have a kind of honeymoon, was really sweet.

Its about time we saw Rick (and crew) get a win. For a brief moment during the finale, Negan had him down, but the moment got saved by an unexpected source. The look on Rick’s face as Negan rides up to Alexandria, with Eugene on the bullhorn, is priceless.

Another hilarious moment, is the look on Rick’s face when the Scavenger leader  asks Michonne if she minds if she sleeps with Rick when its all over. You can tell that sleeping with her never crossed Rick’s mind, and he had no idea how to think about that.

I also enjoyed the moment when, even under threat of the deaths of his entire family, he refuses to kowtow to Negan’s authority.  Good for him!

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Michonne

I think this was Michonne’s season, as she was really the heart, and soul, of the show. I credit her with being, at least, partially responsible for most of Rick’s turnaround, in the second half of the  season. At least part of that was because they kept their relationship so low key, that she was able to escape Negan’s notice.

The Scavenger leader, asking Michonne if she minded if she slept with Rick was apparently a deal she made with Negan, as a  ruse to confirm exactly what the nature of Michonne’s relationship to Rick was, as Negan wasn’t sure, and then, once confirmed, to kill her.

I feel certain that if Negan had noticed Michonne earlier, he would have killed her (which would have been the end of Rick), or taken her from him to the Sanctuary. She was able to hold onto the fire, after everyone else’s had been extinguished because, at no point, did Negan focus his attention on her.

I fully support their relationship. They’re so much better together than they are separate. They hold each other up, and anchor each other in a good way.  She lifts him up, and he anchors her in place, and I like that. Rick is the first man she has opened her heart to, after her profound depression when  the group first met her, and its been fascinating watching their relationship develop. (Rick is just about the only person she gives that smile to). I didn’t actually think it would happen, really. I thought the writers would just keep teasing us  about a relationship that would never happen, because television is notoriously chickenshit about showing interracial relationships.

Morgan

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I know a lot of the fans were disappointed in Morgan when he was re-introduced. Once again, we get yet another Black man who has decided to be peaceful and make boneheaded decisions about not killing. First there was Tyrese, who decided he couldn’t kill, then Bob, who everyone thought was a coward, and  Father Gabriel, another coward, that no one respected, and now we get Morgan, who also doesn’t want to fight.

I wasn’t happy with Morgan’s new philosophy either, although I understood why. I still found myself yelling at my TV a lot, but what made Morgan different, is that he is actually very lethal, and he will fuck a person up. He just won’t kill them.

We saw Morgan adopt and mentor another young man while he was at the Kingdom, and then lose him to the Savior’s whimsy, and I think that just broke Morgan. I feel like maybe his philosophy of not killing was him trying to hold on to the last shreds of his sanity. Remember where he was last season before he hooked back up with Rick. He was killing anyone and everything that crossed his path, and he was pretty far gone, until he was given this philosophy to cling to, in the episode Here’s Not Here, in season six.

After the last couple of episodes, Morgan is, emotionally, right back where he was after the loss of his son, and on another killing spree. Only this time its  aimed at the Saviors. For the second time, since he rejoined Rick’s group, we watch him pick up a gun and kill. The Saviors have a knack for bringing that out in people.

Carol

Carol, like Morgan,  was also going through a crisis of conscience, after she met the Saviors. She’d removed herself from any human contact, but the Saviors bullying (the killing of Abraham and Glenn) brought her back into the fray. I think, on some level, she felt responsible for the death of Glenn. Not only did she kill a lot of the Saviors, she probably felt like she could have saved the two men, if she’d been there, rather than in hiding.

We have the coming out episode of SlayerCarol. After Daryl’s and Morgan’s visit with her, the wily and lethal version of Carol is definitely born again. I can appreciate her wanting to get away from killing people for a while, considering what it was doing to her. But, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, killing is her main superpower, and she mostly uses it for the good of others. Unfortunately, this is the kind of world where someone like Carol finds a purpose or gets dead.

One of my favorite things this season, is watching the slow burn, between her and King Ezekiel. She told him she didn’t want any contact, with him or his people, but he kept cleverly finding ways around this rule, without being intrusive, or breaking her boundaries. He is very obviously smitten with her, but I like that he respects her right to make up her mind, about whether or not she wants a relationship with him, and seems prepared to wait as long as it takes, while occasionally reminding her  that he hasn’t lost interest. Carol has been closed off since Tobin. She and Daryl are too damaged to give each other what they need.

So, Ezekiel would be good for her.

Negan

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Negan began this season all confidence and smiles, and ended the season surprised and humbled. In this episode, he swaggered up to Alexandria, secure in the knowledge that he had the upper hand because of his deal with the Scavengers. He had Eugene’s loyalty, and thought he ‘d gotten Sasha’s too. After Sasha’s surprise, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Things went so wrong that even he had to  express some surprise. Michonne wasn’t killed, there was a fucking tiger eating his men, Morgan and Carol were set loose, and the Scavengers turned tail. What seemed like a sure win,  bringing  Rick to heel, turned into a  total route. Negan got his ass handed to him, probably for the first time in a very long while.

I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but I still think Negan talks entirely too damn much. I’m cautiously enthusiastic about his return next season.

 

Sasha:

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What can I say about Sasha? Well, she has completed the long character arc that brought her from being so closed off, when we first met her, to sacrificing herself for her family.

I’m not surprised at her death, and I’m not angry about her death, the way I was at Glenn’s. I kind of figured  she might be killed off the show because she is starring as the lead  in another show, which I consider much more important than TWD, and that’s Star Trek Discovery. I also strongly suspected she was going to die, after she explicitly told Negan that only one person needed to die, after he tried to get her to agree to killing three. I’m okay because I knew she wouldn’t be able to do both shows, her death wasn’t pointless, or even especially brutal, and actually turned the tide in Rick’s fight against Negan.

We get to see her have some lovely memories (and imaginings) of what she could have had with Abraham, as Michael Cudlitz makes a cameo. It was nice seeing him again. I consider this whole scene to be about Sasha coming to terms with her death, and mourning what could have been, vs how things turned out.

After breaking into the Sanctuary, Sasha is held prisoner. When one of the Saviors threatens to rape her, Negan kills him, and leaves his body in her cell to turn, but also leaves a weapon for her to defend herself. When Negan returns, she has dispatched the zombie, something Negan admires the Hell out of and tries to make a deal with her. Its clear he’s very taken with her, and some of my favorite moments are their scenes together. Soniqua brings her A game, and it was a delight watching her square off against him, plus she looks gorgeous in those scenes, with those large, expressive, eyes.

Knowing that he’s going to use her to harm her family, she persuades Eugene to bring her something to kill herself with. Eugene is against this, but uses his considerable skills to make a  homemade cyanide capsule for her. Negan, suspecting that Rick is up to no good, takes Sasha to Alexandria in a coffin, to tease Rick about her death. But Sasha takes her suicide pill before they reach Alexandria, and when Negan opens the casket, Sasha’s zombie attacks him at a crucial moment.

I don’t care how outraged the kids on Tumbr are, (they’re always very angry about a lot of TV shows, it seems), as far as I’m concerned, Sasha went out like a boss! I absolutely refuse to be upset about it.

 

Eugene

I know everybody was mad at Eugene for switching sides, but I’m not. I can get where he’s coming from, although he hasn’t articulated his motivations very well. I’m not even sure why people were surprised. He lied to Abraham,  Rick, and the others, when he first met them, because he desired safety. That’s always been Eugene’s primary concern from day one. I guess he figured he couldn’t be any  safer from the devil, than in the devil’s arms.

At the end of the episode, Negan has some deep suspicions about what happened to Sasha, and Eugene’s part in that. So now I’m worried for him again. Maybe being so close to the devil isn’t as safe as it seems, huh Eugene?

 

King Ezekiel and Jeffrey:

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These are two of my favorite characters. I’m surprise at how easy it was to get attached to Jerry, and really, considering the death rate on this show, I shouldn’t do that. Jerry is just a lovely, light note, in such a grim show, and and I kept muttering to myself during the entire firefight, “Please don’t kill Jerry! Please don’t kill Jerry!”

Also, I like King Ezekiel because  he’s so overdone! Who talks like that, naturally? And everyone just sort of takes it in stride when he talks like that. And c’mon! The man owns a fucking tiger! These are two of the most fun characters in the show. I would totally watch a spin-off of him, Shiva ,and Jerry, and their adventures before the founding of The Kingdom.

 

Shiva

Yeah, my girl gets in on the action during the firefight with Negan, literally jumping in, during a crucial moment. Even Negan had to stop, and marvel, for a quick second, that there’s a tiger! I know a lot of people loved that moment. Go to the 10:30 mark:

 

Well, this is my idea of a review of season seven. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

 

Kong: Skull Island

First of all this review contains lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen  the movie, you know the drill.

 I had no plans to go see this movie. Not to say I wasn’t intrigued. I love giant monsters as much as the next person,  but I had a choice between Get Out, Logan, and Kong, and I had chose Logan. I’ve since seen both of those movies, thanks to friends with more money than me, who enjoy my company. I still hadn’t planned to see Kong. 

Well, Mom had other plans. She saw the trailer, and because it hit all the check marks for her entertainment, we were gonna be seeing it. 

Big guns! Check.

 Monsters! Check. 

Samuel L Jackson! Check.

I had read some  reviews, which seemed neither bad nor good, and I had the impression it would be sort of like Apocalypse Now with monsters. I was, and was not wrong.  It was very entertaining, mostly as a war movie with monsters, than a straight up monster movie. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and it’s got more than a few parallels with that movie.

Me, Mom, and two of the little tikes; my niece, The Potato and her baby sister, who we like to call Lil’ Momma, had a girls day out. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time between amusing Lil Momma with treats, hugging her when she got scared, and being scared shitless myself. There’s a reason I don’t see too many scary movies in a theatre. I can’t turn them off, and walk out.

But it was still a helluva lot of fun too, and not exactly what I thought it would be. Most of the tropes of King Kong movies were neatly, and deliberately, subverted.There was a lot more talking but that was okay because most of it was setup for the action scenes. It’s not a very deep film. Well, it didn’t have a deep message in it,  but I think y’all should know that King Kong movies (and those Planet of the Ape films) have always had a deep meaning for Black Americans. We always found subtext in them. This movie manages to neatly set aside that subtext, which in itself ends up creating subtext. 

The year is 1974 and the US had just made the decision to pull out of Vietnam. Jacksons character is depressed and enraged by this, which informs his motivation for the rest of the movie. Hiddlestons character is set adrift and looking for adventure. Goodman’s character is considered something of a crackpot conspiracy theorist with his Hollow Earth, and Lost World beliefs. Him and his partner, played by Corey Hawkins, have been petitioning the government to fund an expedition to search for one of these lost worlds. They’re finally granted permission and have to assemble their crew. Tom Hiddleston is a bland, but brave hero, who didn’t really stand out to me, very much. Samuel Jackson plays the Colonel, for whom Kong becomes his white whale, after Kong nearly kills his entire team. Brie Larson is a photographer along for the ride. I barely know who she is, as there ain’t any white actresses, under 45, whose careers I pay any attention to. She wasn’t bad though, and the movie didn’t do with her what I was afraid it would do, which was fetishize the awesome purity of her blonde whiteness to Kong. There’s another woman in the movie. She’s Asian. She and Brie’s character don’t say so much as a hello to each other. It’s almost like they’re in separate movies. 

Kong does form an attachment to Brie’s character, but not because of her looks ,which is how the director sidesteps the subtext black people see in these movies. Kong likes her because of something she does, and he approves of. At no point do the Natives try to sacrifice her to him, and the rest of the crew don’t spend all their time rescuing her. Tom Hiddleston’s character does so, but only because he likes her, and she’s very brave. At one point he asks her to do a very dangerous thing, to save their lives, and she successfully carries it off. He’s not protecting her because he thinks of her as a delicate woman, and the only person who mentions her femininity at all, is Reilly’s character, and he sounds ridiculous, when he does. 

The writers neatly sidestep the native issues by having there be no Natives. The people on the island are the leftover crew members from a Japanese ship that crashed on the island and became trapped there. They’re fierce but not mindlessly hostile, and appear to have developed their own peaceful culture. Storms have caused a lot of crashes there, so there are a lot of shipwrecks lying about.  There’s a giant wall on the island, but it’s not there to keep Kong out, just the hostile wildlife at bay, and  it turns out his job is protecting the people.  Since the rest of Kong’s family were killed by the island wildlife, he’s seemingly adopted these trapped humans as his clan. Make no mistake, Kong is the star of this movie. He is the lead character, and the protagonist, and survives to the end.

 John C. Reilly’s character is the most fun and memorable character in the movie, and I loved him right away. I’ve found that I enjoy movies a lot more if I can attach myself to a particular character and just follow that character through the plot. His character gives a lot of exposition, but it doesn’t feel like speechifying, when he does it, which is a testament to how good Mr. Reilly is, as an actor. We see his plane crash on the island at the beginning of the movie. His Japanese opponent also crashes his plane, and the two immediately commence to fighting, but are interrupted by Kong. After that they stop and become friends. Kong just has that effect on people. Later, Reilly’s character gets a sweet and happy ending when he’s reunited with his family. He’d been trapped on the island since 1944, and acts exactly the way a person would, after having been separated from a life they missed, for nearly thirty years.

Kong’s motivations are also explained in the movie. He’s a guy who likes everything peaceful and quiet, because when the military expedition starts dropping bombs on the landscape, to track the islands depth, he becomes enraged, and makes short work of all of the helicopters. They were disturbing the peace. So what’s funny is that all of the usual Kong tropes are in this movie but under completely different contexts, with Kong fighting helicopters, or wrapped in chains, or rescuing the blonde damsel. You can tell the writers gave it some thought, playing with our expectations, and knowledge of other Kong movies. The end result of all this is you end up rooting for Kong, as the hero of this movie, rather than the human characters.

Kong is set up as the protector of the island (and possibly the world) from some dinosaur-like creatures, that come out of the Hollow Earth, having been awakened by the bombings. There’s some little ones, and one giant one, with skull-like heads, full of teeth, slithering around on two legs. They’re fast, powerful, and will eat anything, even Kong. He spends a not inconsiderable amount of time fighting these nasty fuckers all over the landscape. He spends a lot of the movie fighting something. At one point he fights a giant octopus, and then eats it. 

There are other monstrous creatures on the island. Some pterosaur like creatures, that like to gang up on a person and carry them off, like in the Riddick movie called Pitch Black. There’s a giant spider naturally, and also what we hilariously figured out was a giant walking stick, and just about as bright. The Potato and I guessed this because it looked like a cross between Groot, and a small Ent, from Lord of the Rings. It scared the shit outta my Mom, when she saw it, even though it’s harmless.  My favorites were the house sized Water Buffalo, because I thought they were dumb but  cute, and more importantly, non- hostile. 

Brie’s  character wins Kongs fondness, when he finds her trying to save one of the big dumb brutes, who is  trapped under a helicopter wing, and he helps her out. He likes her because she was trying to save one of the creatures he has decided to protect, and even allows her to get close enough to touch his face. It’s  telling that his closeness to her never directly endangers him. On the other hand, her proximity to Kong, puts her in danger from the skull dinosaurs. Later, she saves his life, by standing between him and a bullet from the colonel’s gun, after Kong has been hobbled, by being set on fire with napalm. The military is the bad guys in this movie, and Kong kills them indiscriminately. So if you feel some kind of way about the military, you might want to  skip this movie. They’re not totally evil, but they’re not the heroes.
During a significant portion of the movie, everyone has to ride upriver in a hastily thrown together plane/boat combo, and that, and the helicopter intro when they arrive at the island, is what lends it that Apocalypse Now feeling. But I liked the movie a lot and didn’t mind the parallels. I was expecting at some point to be insulted or offended by something in the movie, but the writers were careful to sidestep all the major issues that my Mom and I usually have with Kong movies. Unfortunately, that also took away any depth. That’s okay. The movie makes  up for this lack with a great deal of spectacle. 

Now, I have since seen Godzilla Resurgence, and I heard rumors that both of these movies were being setup for a future sequel,  where Kong and Godzilla would be fighting each other. If that’s true you could watch the setup in this movie, where Kong is being put forth as a good guy protector to the Japanese people, or whatever group of people survive to the sequel. The Kong in this movie is said to be an adolescent who hasn’t reached his full height, and like Godzilla, he’s already as tall as an office building. So the reason Kong looks bigger than ever is because of this future plan for a franchise, of some kind. In Godzilla Resurgence, Godzilla is definitely a bad monster who, sort of randomly, destroys parts of Japan, for no fucking reason. I’ll be reviewing that movie later this Summer. But keep in mind, if these two characters meet, there will be blood.

After a certain age, I stopped watching Godzilla movies, but I did enjoy the remakes, and I liked this movie okay. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy a sequel where these two characters fight, although after watching  the fight scenes in Kong, I anticipate that Kong will win.

Into the Badlands Season Two: Tiger Pushes Mountain/Force of Eagle’s Claw

Okay, this is a long one, so let’s settle in.

We are now in the second season of Into the Badlands and the situation has changed greatly for most of the major characters. In the first episode of the season, we find out what happened to the major players of last season, get introduced to some new characters,  and are introduced to  a couple of surprise guests.

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Sunny/Bajie:

Sunny tried to dupe the River King, when he substituted the head of one of his Baron’s Cogs for MK’s, after the River king asked him to kill the person responsible for murdering a hold full of cargo/people. Seriously pissed off, the River King has sold Sunny to a mining consortium. When the show opens, we get the full on dystopia treatment, and a nice fight scene with Sunny’s first day at his involuntary job. The theme song for this was:

I’m liking the musical choices for this season. They’re much more appropriate to the mood of the show, rather than just some generic background notes. I also hope to see more of the River King this season. He and Baron Jacobi were two of the more interesting characters introduced in the middle of last season.

So far this seems to be one of those alternate worlds where race and skin color doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. none of the characters mention different races or cultures, which is just as interesting as if they did, but for opposite reasons. I like that this is a multicultural world, as I’m always suspicious of alternate worlds where there are no PoC, and I automatically give the side-eye to anyone arguing that those worlds shouldn’t be.

At the top of the episode we get some great fight scenes, some greater world-building, and an introduction to a new character named Bajie, played by Nick Frost. You may remember him from Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead, and he’s a welcome touch of humor for the series, which is pretty grim and gloomy. It also gives Danny Wu the opportunity to be show his sense of humor by playing straight man to Nick’s cutting up. I’m always fascinated by funny Asians on TV,  as the media has a tendency to depict Asian people as grim and moody, or a punchline to someone else’s jokes. I know Indians can be deeply funny, but I love to see Asian people of any culture, get snarky.

If you remember my earlier reviews,  I talked about how Into the Badlands was based on a Ming Dynasty era novel titled Journey to the West. Well, Bajie is based on one of the  characters from that story, named Zhu Bajie.  Zhu means pig. He’s often called an idiot in the original novel, which I haven’t read, but I take it he’s the comedy relief.  The Bajie part of his name is based on the eight precepts of Buddhism, which are much stricter versions of the five precepts. Well, its appropriate because the character, Bajie, breaks every single one of them.

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The Eight Precepts:

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon).
7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

Human  is definitely Sunny’s song. That and the title of the episode are both references to Sunny. The Chinese languages are full of these little pithy sayings, which are like the American equivalents of ,”You can lead a horse to water…”. I couldn’t find a direct translation of the phrase Tiger Pushing Mountains, (its one of the forms of Tai Chi) but once you see the episode, you will understand the references to Sunny.

In episode two, after Bajie betrays Sunny, who has impressed the warden by beating the shit out of his men, while in restraints no less,  Sunny gets drafted to do some pitfighting. In every TV show about prison there must be a pitfight. I believe it’s some kind of law.  Naturally Sunny wins and uses the fight as an opportunity to escape, while attached to Bajie with chains.

The show is a lot more gory than it was last season. There’s a lot more blood flow as one guy gets thrown into a giant spinning fan, and another guy gets his throat cut onscreen.  I also love the banter between Bajie and Sunny. Sunny never had much of a sense of humor last season (the only person he ever smiled at was Veil) and his responses to Bajie’s foolishness gives Daniel Wu a chance to show his acting range, as we get to see him express more than  one emotion.

MK/The Master:

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MK as been secreted away at some type of monastery, where he can learn to use his superpowers correctly. The show gives Marvel a big  middle finger by having The Master of the monastery be portrayed by an Asian- Black woman, Chipo Chung, who has starred in the movies Sunshine, and the show Camelot. This is how you cast an Ancient martial arts master when you don’t want to adhere to Asian stereotypes.

It turns out,  due to the trauma of having killed people with his powers, he has formed some kind of alternate self, that the master says he must defeat, if he’s ever going to leave the monastery. MK is desperate to leave because he thinks Tilda, Sunny and the others needs him. His alternate personality is the master of his powers, and is far stronger than him, so we get a lot of scenes of MK beating the crap out of himself, and the disturbing implication that he may have killed his mother, and doesn’t remember that either.

The Master tells him that he’s the most powerful Jedi…uhm, student, she has ever had, after she rebuffs his demon self and breaks her arm. We know because we get to see her magically heal the jutting bones of her forearm afterward. Ugh! I’m loving this character though because she’s like a more stern version of Yoda. She has little patience for MK’s snark. I think its hilarious how he seems to have that effect on all his mentors.

For his part, MK is his usual snarky, whiny self. Yes, he’s annoying, but I still like him because he’s annoying in an authentically teenagery way, that I just find funny. He’ s snarky, impatient, wants to know everything at one time, and seemingly fearless towards people he knows are more powerful than him. And played by Aramis Knight, he’s also distractingly pretty, and you can see, in his face, the grown man that he’ll later become.

Veil/Quinn:

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Veil has given birth to a baby boy she names Henry, after her father. The midwife turns out to be none other than Baron Quinn, who we thought was killed by Sunny last season. He’s still as weird as  ever, and although he claims he isn’t, he’s actually holding Veil prisoner, while making creepy implications that he’d love to be closer to her. He also makes it clear that he has plans for Sunny’s, and Veil’s, child.

Quinn is a snake oil salesman of the first order. He’s always got honey-coated speeches, ready to deploy, against the naive and the gullible. You could see that in the first season. His speeches to his clippers about how wonderful a leader he is, to Sunny about the Badlands, to Veil about Sunny, to MK about Sunny, are all designed to get people to do what he wants, and believe what he  wants, even if he seems to be talking about what they want.

Veil is as lovely as ever, but we have yet to see any backbone from her. She hasn’t made any real effort to escape. Despite Quinn having some kind of  weird, Cult of Clippers Ceremonial Bloodening of the baby, she probably just hasn’t gotten desperate enough. She also has remained unharmed, although the Baron’s men have been leering at her, when he’s not paying attention. We await her further entrance into the plot, probably by trying to escape the Baron’s craziness, and if his brain tumor has been progressing, then he is definitely a noodle short of a bowl of soup.

To be  clear, a show like Into the Badlands is somewhat unprecedented, so I have no idea what to predict for these characters, or where the plot will take any of them. For all I know, Veil might end up having a baby like MK, and ending up at the monastery with him.

Jade and Ryder:

These two are finally as together as they longed to be, and Ryder is as trifling as he always was. He is still trying to live up to his father’s legacy, while being propped up by Jade. I’m sorry, but Ryder doesn’t strike me as the brightest penny in the wrapper. It’s no wonder no one had any respect for him. He tried to take over some of the Widow’s territory but isn’t strong enough to hold it,and loses it back to her because, while he is wildly ambitious, he has no idea how to plan ahead.

Just as I suspected, Jade isn’t half as light and innocent, as she had Quinn believing. She’s got a brand new wardrobe, and new attitude, as the wifey master of Quinn’s territory. In her defense,  she does appear to truly be in love with Ryder, although that’s not really saying much, because she truly appeared to be in love with Quinn, too. I wonder what will happen if she encounters the Baron again, as she turned out to be a lot more duplicitous than I thought she would be.

The Widow/Tilda/ Waldo:

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The Widow gets some of the best action in the entire first episode, despite Sunny’s antics, and she is always going to be one of my favorite characters.  Unlike most people, I’m not at all put out by the idea of women wearing heels, in a fight. I do get kind of exasperated when they’re wearing skimpy little outfits with heels, but I have the greatest admiration for the Widow, who always dresses to the nines, for all her fights. The Widow, with Tilda as her new Regent), mows down a whole crop of Ryder’s Clippers, just to deliver the message to Jade that she was taking back possession of her oil fields.

Tilda is still feeling conflicted over her Mother’s activities and plans for the Badlands. When her mother decides to release a group of Ryder’s Clippers, giving them free passage back to their home, Tilda goes against her mother’s express word, and with a posse of her own butterflies, has the Clippers secretly killed. Tilda’s become more independent of her mother and I see some future betrayal. I wonder if she and MK will meet again, and how they’ll react to the changes in each other’s lives and personalities.

Waldo (Quinn’s former Regent)has joined the Widow, as her adviser, and is fully on board with her plans to reform the Badlands. He has training sessions with Tilda, who he seems to have taken under his wing, and although he can’t walk, he still doesn’t go easy on her, or is very nice to her, either.

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Lydia/Ryder

Lydia was doing well with her father, but after they’re attacked by Nomads, and she kills the two men, her father condemns her again. She killed the men to save her father’s life. We finally get to see Lydia kick some ass. Contrast her fight scene, with Jade’s complete inability to do any kind of fighting, and you get some idea of the formidable opponent she was for Quinn. She’s pretty ferocious, but unlike the Widow, she is completely untrained, too. So everyone in the show has different fighting styles, which is important. I like how the show treats the women. They’re at least as dangerous as any of the men, and although rape is sometihng that is implied, it escapes the Game of Thrones problem of showing it to us, or using it as a plot point, all the time. Its interesting to me that a lot of shows have decided to do away with rape, as the entire plot, point all together, and only imply that it might happen, or that it used to happen.

As a side note, we’ll use The Walking Dead, as an example, where occasionally one of the Saviors might act  interested in raping someone, but it’s never shown. Its explained in the narrative that Negan has forbidden rape, and any man who rapes a woman, he kills. In a show like The Walking Dead, where consequences for one’s actions are not necessarily an issue, I expected it to be one of those go-tos, just like on GoT, and I keep being surprised when they don’t do it.

It was really frustrating watching Lydia’s father  condemn her for killing, saying that killing is only the province of the gods, and what right did she have to step into that space, while entirely neglecting that the nomads kill all the time, and are hardly godlike creatures. In her father’s mind, its perfectly okay to not defend his own life, or even the lives of his people. The irony is that Quinn’s bloodshed is what kept his people safe, and allowed them the space to form such extreme views, or his little cult would’ve gone extinct long ago, having been killed off by others, who are also willing to kill. So Lydia’s father is willing to accept bloodshed, in his name, as long as he doesn’t have to see it, I guess. The moment she killed the men I knew she would be banished though. Her father wouldn’t allow her to have a place there with blood on her hands, so I was not surprised to see her visiting Ryder later.

It turns out, Quinn protected her father’s little cult from the depredations of the Nomads, and she’d like Ryder to continue doing that. But her advice triggers Ryder’s daddy issues and he rejects her request, and her. My advice to her: Go  to the Widow. If Lydia truly wants to keep her father safe, she’ll make whatever deal with her that she can. I’d love to see what kind of mischief the Widow could get up to, with both Lydia’s, and Waldo’s, advice.

As it stands now, most of the characters are paired up, and unaware of what’s happened to the other characters. No one has mentioned Waldo, so I don’t think they know he’s working with the Widow. No one knows Quinn  is alive. Tilda knows nothing about MK’s fate. Veil believes Sunny is alive despite Quinn (with his ain’t shit ass) trying to convince her that Sunny abandoned her.

The World-building:

I also want to commend the world-building, in these episodes, as we get to see a lot more of not just the Badlands but the world outside of them. There’s an entire economy in the Badlands, which is something I had questions about the first season. We also find out, in episode two, that there’s a massive wall separating the Badlands from the supposedly civilized parts of the country.

The Fights:

The fight scenes have been stepped up a notch. They’re even more wild and outrageous than last seasons fights, being more fun and completely over the top Wuxia style fights. Everybody’s fighting styles is different. Bajie doesnt fight like Sunny. His fighting style is more of the Iron Man/Brawler style. He fights like the large man he is. Sunny and the Widow are the two most balletic fighters and eve nstill, the Widow fights like a woman. She’s not dainty, or anything like that, but her fighting style fits her personality. Tilda doesn’t fight like her mother. She is much more pragmatic and efficient, sort of like Quinn.

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Waldo is the most interesting, because the writers have taken the time to come up with a style for a man confined to a wheechair, that’s a believable style. We’ve seen him kick both MK’s and Tilda’s asses from that chair, and part of his ability to do that, is people keep underestimating what he can do from that chair. They think, because the legs aren’t working, that the rest of him is limited too, and one of the low-key messages of last season was people underestimating other people’s fighting abilities, because they were handicapped, or because they’re  women, or because they’re children, and then getting their asses burned. I see this is a theme set to continue this season, as we watch Sunny beat up an entire team of free-roaming nobodies, basically with his hands tied behnd his back both times. The first time, while in stocks, and the second time hobbled, by being chained to Bajie.

This is the first time we’ve seen Sunny as less than godlike. In the first season he was mostly kind of invincible, and I like how they keep showing him get occasionally defeated by someone like the monks, or the guards in the prison.

Well, I’m going to continue these reviews, hopefuly in a more timely manner than this. I’m as enthused and happy about this show as I was disappointed by Iron Fist.