American Gods Season Two: Finale

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This season simply wasn’t as strong In its narrative as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of a single creator with a vision. This season there are two or more creators, so the fact that we had some kind of narrative cohesion is pretty good. It wasn’t a bad season though. I liked the character development, and the visuals are always strong, although, once again, this wasn’t as strong as the last season, which had the benefit of novelty. It also seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do with some character, like Bilquis and Anansi, but their presence was not undesired either..

I’m not going to talk about the plot as much as I’m going to discuss characters and their development. We lost two of the gods, or four, depending on how one sees it. The first god to die was the eldest Zoraya sister. Her brother explained that there is a resurrection ritual for her, but without any believers, the ritual wouldn’t work, so currently there are only two sisters left. i’m a big fan of Cloris Leachman, and I hope she makes her way back to the show. She as great as the eldest sister.

We also lost Old Media and the old version of Technical Boy (whose origin we also got to see). Media, which was first played by Gillian Anderson, was resurrected and is now played by Kahyun Kim. I have tried really hard to like New Media, but I don’t, and I think that’s a very interesting point. She exists as a form of Media that I’m mostly bored and exasperated by.. Her general  demeanor is annoying, and after I gave it some thought, I figured out why. She is every bit as annoying to me as actual new media. She prances around as a sexy anime chanteuse, squeaking, and breathless, in that way that I hate in actual  anime, so I think she’s meant to be annoying to people like me. I’m usually cringing when I see her on screen for any length of time, it also doesn’t help that she is hypersexualized and kind of useless, exactly like actual new media.

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Mr. World was starting to get a little bit frustrated because his gods (Argus, Technical Boy, and New Media) were not coming through in the pinch, and getting him the results he wants, which is to find, and kill, Shadow Moon, and capture Wednesday. However, in the season finale we see the final iteration of New Media, who has truly just come into her power, and it is scary as Hell.  I certainly fucking respect her now!

The old Technical Boy was destroyed this season, but he was resurrected by his original creator as a kind of God of Surveillance, taking the place of the Argus Array, and working once again, in tandem with New Media. The original  God of Surveillance was killed by Laura, and the new Technical Boy has much to do  with computer hacking, surveillance, and spying and also has a brand new, sleeker, look, and attitude. (Incidentally, the first God of Surveillance was an old god, named Argus, that had made a deal with Mr. World.)

Needless to say, almost none of the things that happened this season, took place in the book. There’s a broad correlation, but otherwise…Shadow gets kidnapped, gets free, meets Sam Black Crow, makes his way to Cairo, works at a funeral home, and then Mad Sweeney dies. Everything else in the season was an add on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the add ons. I especially liked the episode where we got to see Shadow Moon’s and  Mad Sweeney’s real backstories, which I’ll get to soon enough. One of the side effects of this is that the series contrasts badly with the book. Gaiman may just be adding stuff to this show that he’d always wanted to add to the original story. There are a lot of things in the series that should have been in the original story, like Bilquis, and Mad Sweeney, and Laura’s activities.

I do want to talk about more of the mythology presented this season, and a few of my favorite character interactions, something with which this season excelled. From the beginning we met a lot of new /old gods, and caught up with Shadow’s backstory, and a little bit more of Wednesday’s past.

 

We get to see Shadow’s backstory, which answers a few questions about why he is the way he is, but also opens up more questions about exactly who his mother was. Was she the spirit of America, and did she die of cancer because of 9-1-1? We’re getting closer and closer to Shadow finding out he is Shadow Odinson, and we also met Odin’s other son, Thor, and saw their falling out with each other. Thor eventually commits suicide, and it becomes apparent, through his statements to Shadow, that Odin was devastated by that and still misses him. He often refers to Shadow as “Son”, or “My Boy” and at one point said Shadow reminded him of his son. Now in the mythology Odin has a lot of children but another of his most famous children was Baldur,

He’s loved by all the gods, goddesses, and beings of a more physical nature. So handsome, gracious, and cheerful is he that he actually gives off light.[1]

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/baldur/

…and there are a few things about Shadow that echo Baldur’s story,

https://norse-mythology.org/tales/the-death-of-baldur/

…right down to Baldur’s prophetic dreams about his death, as mentioned in the Prose Edda, and that he is seen as a being of light by everyone who encounters him. It is his death that precedes Ragnarok, the war of the gods. Shadow Moon is also another name for an eclipse, and he radiates light, which is how Laura sees him. In the book, Laura refers to him as a beacon of light in a dark world. In the series, his mother mentions that he is a being of light, too. Its my theory that Shadow is what was once mentioned by Wednesday, although he did it in jest, as The King of America. In the book, two of the powers, that Shadow possessed, was knowledge, and the ability to see truth.

We’ve been watching Wednesday’s machinations all season, but we have  also been witnessing Shadow’s journey to self. We watched his journey to knowledge of the gods in season one, and in this second season, we are witnessing Shadow’s journey to realizing who and what he may be.

If he believes.

In season one, he was constantly chided to Believe, because if he didn’t, he would not survive what was to come, his imminent death at Wednesdays machinations. Next season, his task is to believe in himself. There is a reason that Shadow was allowed to join in the congregation of the gods, at the beginning of the season, because he is a potential god himself, and a relatively new one that has been raised in ignorance of that life.

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Yes, Shadow!

The end of the season also leaves a lot of questions. We got to see the full unleashing of New Media who is kinda terrifying. She starts a fake news siege against Shadow, so that Mr. World not only doesn’t have to look for Shadow, but so that in all likelihood Shadow will be killed when he is found, since New Media tells several lies about him being a heavily armed terrorist, who has killed several cops. Shadow manages to elude capture at the end of the episode,which opens another mystery. Did that event happen, and Shadow removed the police from the premises in the same way he created snow in the first season? Or was it something he saw before it happened and he just moved out of its way?

Shadow gets snagged by the miniature Yggdrasil tree growing in Mr. Ibis greenhouse and pulled into it s branches, where he begins to have visions. During the entire raiding scene he has flashbacks of Shadow as a young boy playing with police action figures, and overhearing snippets of  conversations between him,  Wednesday,  and others. At one point the child sweeps his arm across the action figures, knocking them all down, and removing them as obstacles. At the same time, the police outside the funeral home all vanish, and so does the tree, taking Shadow with it. We then see Wednesday in a diner, smiling about how his boy is going to be okay.

The ending is quite surreal with Shadow having visions of being back in the Bone Orchard at the beginning of the series, because it always comes back to that initial vision. Its hard to say if these were prophetic visions , or actual events, as the rest of the gods on the premises seem unperturbed, and Anansi seems actually happy. Once again, Anansi seems to be the one character who know more than anyone what’s going on, including who Shadow is, Wednesday’s motivations, and even the final outcome.

People don’t understand why Anansi keeps being so mean to Shadow, but part of being a Trickster god is pushing on people, so as to engage them  into committing  some kind of action. His bullying of Shadow is meant to goad Shadow into doing something he is supposed to do, instead of being so passive about his circumstances. Notice how he is constantly attacking shadow’s intelligence. This is meant to anger Shadow, and goad his ego into trying to prove that he is not stupid. It will prompt Shadow to ACT, because Angry get shit done, and it is one of the few vulnerabilities Shadow has, because in  the other areas of his life, he is very competent. I think he is cheering for Shadow to be the Wild Card in Odin’s plans for the war, because Trickster’s love that kind of thing.

My one regret with Anansi is that we still have not gotten the story from him of The Tiger’s Balls, which is one of the best short stories in the main book, but otherwise this character has been good, but not great, this season.

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The reason why Anansi gets all of the best speeches on the show is because its part of his mythology. Almost all of his stories are part of the oral tradition in Africa, and he is the god of storytelling. When we first meet him he is goading a ship’s hold full of captured slaves into angrily rebelling against their captors. Anansi does not like passivity, which is why all his speeches are so incendiary. He is a fire being that prefers action, and that’s what almost all his speechifying is geared toward, because, “Angry gets shit done!”. And in his speeches to Ibis and Bilquis he tries to get them angry enough, about the plight of African Americans, to join in Wednesday’s war, but is unsuccessful. Ibis and Bilquis continue to keep their distance from Wednesday’s plans, and what’s interesting is that Anansi seems okay with that.

… Anansi was often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using his cunning and trickery, a model of behaviour utilised by slaves to gain the upper hand within the confines of the plantation power structure. Anansi is also believed to have played a multifunctional role in the slaves’ lives; as well as inspiring strategies of resistance, the tales enabled enslaved Africans to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity.

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Bilquis has been something of a mystery this season She too is in the process of upgrading and adapting to  the modern world, by seeking worship from human beings, in some other manner besides sex, and I think she hopes to rid herself of her reliance on Technical Boy’s aid in the recovery of her godhood. If she becomes her own woman, she no longer needs to abide by any agreement she  with him, and can then do as she pleases. She attends one of the funeral services, where she gets the congregation all hot and bothered,  even though she says nothing that’s overtly sexual. At this point, she is just testing her new role and how to receive worship of some kind.

Bilquis is also playing both ends against the middle, but we don’t know if she’s there for Mr. World, there for herself, there to prevent the war, or there to serve Odin, who she also seems to hate as much as she does Mr. World. She approaches Shadow and gives him an apple, (I think it came from Yggdrasil), which is a callback to the story of Adam and Eve, but really it just represents the idea of  temptation, and knowledge. She is essentially offering him the temptation of knowledge, but of what is unclear. She tells Shadow that their futures and destinies are entwined. We do know that at the end of the episode, Shadow is sitting on  the knowledge that he is Wednesday’ s son. How clear on that he is, is a matter of some debate.

Laura’s actions are also another mystery. Sweeney died in the last episode, in his final fight with Shadow, echoing the very first fight the two of them had in the first season, but that was when  Sweeney had his gold coin, which he lost to Shadow. In their last fight, Shadow loses Gungnir, (Odin’s war spear), which he had been tasked to protect by Wednesday, to Sweeney who, with his dying breath, transfers Gungnir to the golden hoard, where his phantom coins come from. Laura finds Sweeney’s body laid out in the funeral home and steals it. What her plans are, are unclear, but its speculated that she is taking him to Louisiana to be resurrected, so he can help her kill Wednesday. She asked Bilquis for aid, but she turned Laura down, and Laura still has that vial of blood that was given to her by Baron Samedi, who told her that it can be activated to resurrect her full humanity, with an act of love.

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This is a callback to a conversation, earlier in the season, that Laura has with Mama Ji, who she tried to strong-arm her into helping her. Mama Ji will have none of her sass, and gently reminds Laura that she is also the Lord of War, as well as the Divine Mother, and she  is unimpressed by Laura’s zombie strength. Laura also receives advice from Bilquis, when she goes to her to request her aid in killing Wednesday. Bilquis denies her, but does admit to hating Wednesday.

The most charming character in the series is Salim, because he represents the every-man in this scenario. I’m glad he’s still around, and that he is still committed to his relationship with the Djinn, and what’s more, the Djinn is just as committed to him, although he has been questioned by the other gods about having a relationship with a mortal. As we get closer to the idea that Shadow is himself a god, we need a regular person, through whose eyes we can see the other characters, the one normal human being who can express the audience’s feelings about what’s happening, and with whom the audience can identify, now that we are moving to a place where we cannot identify with Shadow, the way we did in the first season.

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This is groundbreaking because not only is our every-man of Middle Eastern descent, and a devout Muslim, he is also a  gay man. Salim is essentially taking the space that I argued about Shadow, in the first season, before he became totally entrenched in Wednesday’s plans, and his scenes are utterly hilarious. His reaction to what’s happening, especially after he gets named as an enemy of the state by New Media is priceless, actually questioning whether or not he committed the crimes he’s been accused of, and being blandly reassured by Mr. Ibis that he’s been in the house watching television the entire time. I’m happy to see that nothing happens to either of them and the two of them manage to walk away unscathed.

At the end of the episode, we get some idea of the next chapter in Shadow’s life. When his bus is stopped by the police, as they are searching for him, he escapes their notice because the name on his ID card has been changed.  In season three, he will get a chance to ruminate on everything that just happened to him as he spends a quiet  interlude in the small town of Lakeview, where he’ll encounter a creature called a Kobold(?), that is feeding on the town’s young women. In the book, this is part of a long period where Shadow is hiding out at the behest of Wednesday. In the show it has been orchestrated that he is hiding out from the authorities.

It will be some time before we see a third season of the show, possibly as long as a year. In that time, I expect to have re-read the book, and probably will have some new insights into the characters by then. Until next time:

TTFN

 

 

 

 

 

 

More mythology – Thor, Sweeney, Voodoo, Fairy, Kali

Queen of Sheba

Salim and the Jinn

Deepening the connection between Sweeney and Laura

The death of Sweeney/The Hoard

Shadow Moon’s ultimate purpose

Wednesday’s manipulation

 

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Star Trek Discovery Season Two – Midseason Update

This season has become a very interesting blend of the personal moments interlocking with the overarching plot, for a lot of the characters. We are re-introduced to Phillipa Gheorghiu , Doctor Culber, and Ash Tyler, as well.

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In the first season we dealt with Michael’s personal traumas and how those traumas impacted the decisions she made throughout the season. Her life isn’t perfect, now. There still needs to be resolution on some of the issues of her childhood, and choices she made last season, so the writers are getting started on working on some of her childhood issues with Spock and her parents, and how these relationships intersect with the Red Angels in the series main plot.

We’re also dealing with the traumas and issues related to other characters and the show has experienced its first real death in the form of Airiam, the cyborg-like being who was a member of the ship’s bridge crew. We get a little bit of backstory on her, who she was, what happened to her.

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The show has gotten a lot better at integrating all these plots into the greater plot of the show because last season some of the themes felt a little separated, to the point where some people were very confused about what the show was about, saying that it felt disjointed. Well, they’ve gotten better at it, because it’s impossible to talk about the other characters, and other themes, without relating them to events which happen in the main plot involving the Red Angels.

 

The Discovery is still on the trail of the Red Angels who keep sending them to different places in the galaxy, usually to resolve some issue that needs Starfleet’s immediate attention. Spock has had visions of the Angels since he was a small child. When we first met Spock he was a cute little six or seven year old, and his first meeting with Michael was not promising, as he closed his bedroom door in the face of the new sister his parents introduced him to. Later, through flashbacks, we find that he and Michael closely bonded, but after several murder attempts from Vulcan radicals Michael decided to run away from home to protect her family, and she emotionally hurt Spock to get him to leave her alone, an event which altered Spock’s perception of her and his own humanity.

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In the first season we dealt with Michael’s  emotional fall out of the Klingons having killed her immediate family, but this season we are dealing with the fallout of Michael having been attacked several times by Vulcan radicals, who were trying to rid Vulcan of humans, and destroy the diplomatic bonds between the two planets. This was mentioned somewhat in the first season in Sarek, and Michael’s flashbacks to her childhood while we dealt with the emotional repercussions of Sarek’s life choices regarding her and Spock, and the reparation of their estranged relationship. it turns out though that Michael’s actions are completely meaningless, as Spock explains to her that she is not the focus of the Vulcan terrorist’s  anger. Its Spock, because he’s half human, and they are opposed to miscegenation.

This season we are watching Michael try to fix the relationship between her and Spock, and hopefully the two will be reconciled. Meanwhile, Spock is of major importance to Starfleet,  (and a clandestine organization in Starfleet called Section 31), as he is the only being who has any knowledge of the Red Angels. Spock is on the run, after escaping from an asylum, after being accused of killing several doctors. When Michael finds him, he is mentally incapacitated by his visions, and it is up to her to decipher them, (and with the help of the Talosians) figure out how they are connected to current events. The Talosians are a race of strong telepaths, who are directly tied to Pike’s past and future, and are referenced in the original Star Trek episode, The Cage. I am really loving how the writers have fleshed out his character, because he has almost none in the original series. I really like him now, so when I went back and watched The Cage, it hit me especially hard.

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I have a theory about the Red Angel that may have some impact on Spock’s relationship with Michael, and why they appeared to Spock, and only Spock, in the first place. It turns out that the Red Angels (at least one of them) is a woman, wearing a special suit from the future. A couple of episodes ago, the Discovery encounters a  dying creature that the Red Angels led them to, whose explosive death creates some time repercussions for the crew, and Captain Pike, with many other  characters receiving visions and information of the past and future, including Airiam, a cybernetic being who regularly uploads her memories to the ship’s core computer.

I think the Red Angel that Spock has known for most of his life, and nearly drove him insane, is probably some future version of Michael. The Red Angels always appear at the moment of some future catastrophe that the Discovery is supposed to prevent, which sounds exactly like the kind of thing Michael would do – trying to help the galaxy by heading off catastrophes, before they can happen, or save people during and after them. (At this point in the show, I have been proven both right and wrong about who the Red Angel is.)

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As of this review, Michael and Spock have had some severely uneasy conversations regarding Michael’s selfish tendencies to shoulder responsibility for things that are not her fault, like her parents deaths, the terrorist attacks against her as a child, and the danger to Sarek’s family because of that,  or fix problems that are not hers to fix, like Spock’s emotional issues. Needless to say, Michael does not like hearing these things about herself, but I agree with Spock.

From the beginning of the show, we’ve watched Michael try to solve everyone else’s problems, and fix everyone, in favor of ignoring her own needs. This is most telling in an earlier episode where Tilly is going through some extreme emotional event, but so is Michael as she has just had a fight with her mother, and rather than focus on her own problem, Michael tries to fix Tilly’s problem. his is a constant that can get a little frustrating at times, becomes it skirts too closely to the Mammy trope, (where a Black female character focuses her attention on solving the problems of the White characters around her rather than focusing on her own issues.) I understand why they are showing Michael like this. They are presenting Michael’s focus on saving other people as a character flaw that Michael needs to work on, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Spock confronts Michael, saying she is a martyr, who is always trying to save everyone, like Spock, Sarek, and her parents, even though she is not responsible for the situations they  find themselves in. Michael has to acknowledge this when she is given the decision to kill Airiam, to stop her from uploading information that will bring sentience to an AI that wants to destroy the galaxy. Michael desperately resists killing her friend, and is saved from having to do so, by the security officer who opens an airlock to destroy her. But we can see in that scene of Michael desperately trying to save Airiam’s life, everything that Spock said about her, because not only was she disobeying a direct order from both Pike and Airiam, she was endangering her own life, and the lives of the entire ship’s crew.

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There is also the subplot of Dr. Culber being alive again, and Ash Tyler, now a member of Section 31, being back on the ship. If you remember from season one, Ash discovered he was a Klingon (Voq) who had been genetically altered to look human, with Ash Tyler’s human personality as an overlay. The human Ash is dead, and this is who is left behind, the Voq personality having been expunged from the body. When he was Voq he killed Dr. Culber. Through the assistance of his  lover, Stamets, and Tilly, and the spores (which is an entirely different subplot connected to Culber) he is alive and again and reconciling his after life experience with who he is and what happened to him. This is a situation that is not helped by having his killer on board. Culber does try to work out his grievance by kicking Ash’s ass, but that doesn’t work, and he is still very …discombobulated, I guess. As of the last episode, thanks to some counseling from several friends, (and Gheorgiu), he is beginning to grasp some idea of who he is,  and what he meant to Stamets, but the two of them are still not yet reconciled.

As of the writing of this review, Discovery has been issued a renewal and we will be getting a Season three! I expect there to be a bigger ratings bump after the debut of Jordan Peele’s new version of The Twilight Zone, especially after the success of his new movie, Us.

This review is a little bit late because I’ve had some life interfering in my leisure time, but hey! better late than never, huh? I will be back at the end of the season to give an overview of what happened and my thoughts about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Gods Season Two: House on the Rock

American Gods began its second season last week.

Let’s talk about it!

But first we need to have some behind the scenes discussion, just like in the show itself. Bryan Fuller is no longer the show runner for this season. He was let go after writing a couple of this season’s episodes.

American Gods is taking new steps forward today, though; Jesse Alexander, who worked with Fuller on Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, has been officially named as its new showrunner. Meanwhile, the six scripts Green and Fuller had already written for the show’s second season are allegedly set to be tossed out, with Alexander and Gaiman returning to square one as they fight to get the series back up and running for its anticipated January 2019 return.

  ——  https://www.avclub.com/the-bryan-fuller-american-gods-breakup-was-apparently-e-1822682450

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The new show runners are the author of the book, Neil Gaiman, and Jessie Alexander (who is also now out). I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve never watched a show run by Gaiman before, but I am familiar with Fuller’s output. Those of you who watched last season are going to notice some differences in how the story gets told, and I am not confident that Gaiman will keep that same in your face attitude that was such a great part of the first season. Its possible the show may end up being little more than a lovely spectacle, but I’m not going to give up on the series just because Fuller isn’t on it. I’m really curious about what’s going to happen this season, and the show has already been renewed for a third, so even though I have some doubts that it won’t be as good as Fuller’s version, there might be other compensations. I’m sticking with it.

That Fuller is an openly gay man had a lot of influence on what was depicted on screen, most especially in the episode Head Full of Snow, where we met Salim and the Djinn. Fuller was also responsible for the many subtle layers throughout the season, as he is a master of subtext. There have already been some dramatic changes, because Kristen Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson left the show on Fuller’s heels, and the writers have had to accommodate that. So  we do not pick up where we left off at the end of season one, and Ostara’s actions at the end of that season seems to have had little effect on the world.

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Aside from a brief background news piece, this action has no clear impact on the world, and Easter has apparently turned her back on Wednesday because he ran over some of her bunnies.

And to explain Anderson’s absence from the show:

Meanwhile, the New God Media, who Anderson played with an overabundance of confidence as she threatened and cajoled heroes and villains alike, was apparently so shaken by Wednesday’s display of power that she’s gone into hiding to reinvent herself. 

——-   https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/10/18258816/american-gods-review-season-2-ian-macshane-gillian-anderson-kristin-chenoweth-starz

The story opens with Mr World bruised and battered, being ferried to a secret location by Technical Boy. Media has disappeared, after her run in with Easter, and TB is  tasked with finding her by Mr. World. Mr. World is in this secret location to visit Argus, a secret surveillance site (and an old god of some kind, which is the reason Technical Boy is not allowed to meet him. Mr. World can spy  on the old gods, thanks to the presence of Bilquis, and her tracking device.

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In the meantime, all the gods we saw from the first season make their way to the House on the Rock, along with a couple of hangers on. Sweeney, Laura, Wednesday, and Shadow all travel in the same car and their proximity to each other is not easy. Sweeney hates everyone, and Shadow and Laura are not comfortable with each other.There’s a lot more of the book dialogue in the episode, as Nancy ,and Wednesday talk about the history of the House on the Rock. Neil Gaiman wanted more of the book to be on the screen and he has somewhat got his wish.

We are  introduced to Kali, also known as Mama Ji who is one of my favorite characters from the book, even though she doesn’t get a lot to do beyond some ass kicking, and her speech in this episode.  I hope we get to see more of her this season. As a human, she works in a local hotel, in the humble position of a housemaid. She argues that she doesn’t need a war because her position as an Indian deity is pretty strong, due to the influx of Indian immigrants to America. As am extremely powerful True God, in her own right, she argues that she is in no danger of being forgotten. Whiskey Jack and John Henry also get name checked.

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Bilquis was sent by Mr. World to spy on the meeting of the old gods, and according to Mr. World, make her complicit in his act of betrayal later in the movie, which we’ll get to in a moment. Bilquis was chosen for this because she owes Technical Boy a favor for creating the dating app that has given her new worshipers, and she is definitely feeling her own power, (as we saw last season when she tried to seduce TB), and she is reluctant to do anything for the new gods. They need a way to keep her in line, and one their side, otherwise she is too powerful to control. So ironically, Bilquis ends up in exactly the situation that was talked about in the first season when she was exiled from her homeland, her sexuality now under the control of a men, to be unleashed when they only with their permission.

At the House, the Djinn, who is working security, is confronted by Salim, who tells him that he is following his heart and wants to stay with him. The Djinn wants him to go away because its too dangerous for him to get involved in this war. The Djinn issues everyone coins to a mechanical oracle as a kind of reverse entry fee to the meeting. Bilquis prophecy has something to do with Shadow because when she receives hers, she glances sharply in his direction. Notice the very warm greeting between her and Mr. Nancy vs. the one between her and Wednesday which is decidedly cooler, as she chastises  him that she is older than him, and he neglected to invite her.

Sweeney, Salim, and Laura are not invited to the meeting, and must wait outside, but Shadow gets a ticket and his prophecy is interesting:

Every ending is a new beginning
Your lucky number is none
Your lucky color is dead
Motto: Like father, like son”

If you’ve read the book, then YOU know what that prophecy means but Shadow is mystified.

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The gods all meet up just before the meeting which involves riding the Carousel. Bilquis expresses some interest in who Shadow is. Everyone is always curious about Shadow and what he’s doing hanging out with Wednesday. Bilquis and Nancy admire Shadow’s physique although of course Nancy takes every opportunity to belittle him. Nancy’s son gets a shout out, too. If you haven’t read Anansi Boys, then check it out. Its not directly related to American Gods,  but is related thematically for its theme of  relationships between fathers and sons.

Laura, even though she’s not invited, demands a coin for a prophecy too ,and the Djinn tries to refuse her but is warned away from making Laura angry by Salim and Sweeney. Her prophecy is blank, because she’s already dead. She has no future. Wednesday meets with the eldest Zoraya, The Evening Star, who looks lovely and is played by the magnificent Cloris Leachman, and her brother Czernobog, who is his usual profane self.

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The old gods all meet to ride the Carousel and invite Shadow to ride as well. As I mentioned last season, there are a lot of things the gods do that is related to their worship, like smoking, and prophecy. The act of or the idea of spinning is a theme across several religions, with the most famous being Sufi Whirling, or Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. Whirling in circles is a form of active meditation used  to touch the divine. Even some of the fundamentalist Christian regions mention spinning in circles as a way to connect with God, or a sign that one has connected with God.

This is the purpose of the carousel, as Shadow is connected to the gods by the whirl of the machine, he wakes up in a mental state in which he can see the gods true forms.  The old gods are reluctant to join Wednesday in his war against the new gods, but Shadow gives a rallying speech ,which Wednesday believes will sway some of them.

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After the meeting the old gods meet at a local diner where Shadow get gaslighted by the gods, who pretend the carousel event didn’t occur, and will not answer his question about whether or not they are all gods. Technically, some of the them are just Personages, not gods. I would call them Powers, like Mad Sweeney, and the Djinn. Shadow also  tries to ignore Laura exists, but she is somewhat compensated by Bilquis’ attention to her.

I have no idea if Bilquis has the ability to turn her seduction powers on and off, or if they are simply innate to her, or if they work, or don’t work, on some people. Certainly many of the gods, both old and new, seem able to resists her charms, but ordinary humans cannot. It’s hard to tell if her powers are working on them. First she tries to guess if Laura is some sort of god, because she recognizes that Laura is different from an ordinary human, and seems attracted to her, until she finds out that Laura is married to Shadow, and then kisses her. Beyond looking bashful Laura doesn’t really respond.

 

Bilquis leaves but has signaled the location to Mr. World , who has sent an assassin to take out as many of the old gods as possible. The primary casualty is Zoraya, The Evening Star, who dies in Wednesday arms. Her brother goes on a long rant about what he pans to do to the killer, and its an interesting speech. You  will recognize the prophetic content of it if you’ve read the book.

I really do hope we get to see the Zoraya sister again. Cloris Leachman is a favorite of mine, and her character was hilarious, and played to perfection.

Shadow runs outside to beat up the assassin, but gets abducted by what appears to be a UFO. This is the introduction of another character I do not remember from the book, Mr. Town. He works for the new gods and wants to get to the bottom of who Shadow is, and why he is with Wednesday.

So in the second episode we get to find out a lot about Shadow along with some new questions as well.

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*I am very late with these reviews, but life has a way of delaying one’s well laid out plans and that’s what happened this week.  So for the next couple of weeks, it’s just going to be reviews of shows I’ve been watching, rather than my usual essays. Next week is the premiere of the last episodes of the last season of Into the Badlands, and I’ll be focusing on those, and I have  reviews of Doom Patrol, Upgrade vs. Venom, and  Siren, coming soon.

Star Trek: Discovery; Season Two

Star Trek: Discovery

I watched the second season premiere of this, and I’m sensing a theme. If the first two episodes are any indication then the overarching theme for this season will be Faith vs. Science. In the first episode, the Discovery is sent to investigate several light flares throughout the galaxy, as people claim to have seen “Red Angels” figures at those sites. Micheal is hoping to meet with Spock, from whom she has been estranged, but learns from Captain Pike that Spock checked himself into a mental institution just before the Enterprise met up with Discovery. (The series is set about ten years before the original series. Pike is the Capt. of the Enterprise, at this time, and Spock is his Science Officer.)

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In the second episode, the Discovery follows one of these flares to a planet humans were brought to just before WW3, by some unknown alien benefactors. There’s not a lot of discussion surrounding who these mysterious benefactors are, which is the part of the show I was most interested in. There are some long discussions about having religious faith versus faith in science, which would be a lot more convincing if the writers made clear exactly what they meant by religion, and faith.

The underlying themes of the season will be watching the crew actually become a crew, after Lorca’s betrayal last season, and Pike is just the Captain they need to regain their equilibrium, as he is much more relaxed in his captaining style, slightly looser in his interpretation of the rules, and also “not evil”. This season’s focus, while not taking the main camera off Michael’s journey, will also be the viewers getting to know the rest of the crew. We’ll be getting to know the bridge crew, following Tilly’s and Saru’s development as officers, and following Stamets’ journey as he mourns his late partner, Dr. Culber. Not every episode is going to centered on Michael, but just as with last season, she’s in nearly every scene, and we’re always well informed about where she is physically and emotionally during any episode, even if that episode isn’t strictly about her.

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Tilly gets into some physical trouble after which she begins to see the ghost of a former high school friend. This “ghost” may or may not be related to the return of Dr. Culber, as fans have been very upset at his fridging, and we were promised his return. I’m inclined to believe the creators because they very emphatically promised the return of Phillipa, and she did return, just not in a manner we thought she would.

We also get some more backstory on Michael’s relationship with her adoptive family, and her first meeting with Sarek’s wife Amanda, who took to this little girl as if she were her own, and I loved seeing their relationship. Spock was less welcoming to her, so he, for sure, had some feelings about her living in the house.

On the away team mission of the second episode, we get some interesting backstory on the bridge crewmember, Owesekun (pronounced Owe-WAY-sha-kun). We discover she is from a community of Luddites, so I can’t help but think that her making it to Starfleet had to be an interesting journey, and I hope we get an episode devoted to her past. We get a statement from Detmer that she got her pilot’s licence when she was 12 years old, which I find intriguing. Piloting what? So we have started getting these intriguing little glimpses of the bridge crew’s personal lives. There’s an Asian man on the bridge who we know nothing about, and a Black man, with no backstory, so yeah, we’ve got plenty of stories to be told. I think I noted before that outside of Pike there are no White men in the bridge crew at all. (No, Saru does not count.)

But I think the most intriguing character on the bridge is this person. Is she like Robocop? What is she/he/they? We havent even gotten a hint yet, and she hasn’t said a whole lot, but I hope we find out this season.

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http://trekcore.com/blog/2017/12/meet-the-star-trek-discovery-bridge-crew-cast/

 

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For some reason, this iteration of Star Trek has been successfully hiring comedians as extras on the show, and I just want to shout out to the woman above, Tig Notaro. if you haven’t heard any of her stand up, go take a listen. She’s hilarious on stage and she’s very refreshing here, and  I hope she stays on the ship. I’d like to see a more of her.

In the first episode, we get this awesome look at he crew working like a well oiled machine. They are simply fantastic, and it was a real joy to watch,  as they worked to save Michael’s life, when she is injured on an away mission. Now this is the Star Trek I remember, (only everyone talks a lot faster). My advice for those complaining that the show didn’t feel very Trek-like in that first season was to give it time, because the show had to get its main character’s  primary backstory out of the way, after which we could actually focus on the mission, and their  characters.

A lot of the feel of the first season was due to the presence of Lorca, who had a heavier, more intense persona, and this episode really shows how a Captain influences the mood of the bridge, and it’s crew. With the addition of Pike, the show feels lighter, and well…happier. Probably because that’s how he is, and while I actually did like Lorca, I definitely prefer Pike, even though he’s not much like the original series Pike. It’s not that the show lacks drama. It just doesn’t feel as dark and heavy. Starfleet isn’t involved in a war, and the Captain isn’t secretly evil. Yay!

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Now, I have to talk about something really quick here. I’m having some kind of emotional reaction to Michael, that for some reason, I did not foresee, and part of it is because there has never been a character like Michael in a mainstream scifi show. I knew she was a groundbreaking character, but I didn’t give it deep thought, and really, the closest we fans have ever gotten is Uhura, and it took decades to start fleshing her character out, even a little bit. (We won’t mention Abby from Sleepy Hollow.)

I really cannot think of  a Black female character that has been, not just the emotional focus of a Scifi show,  but one who has been given so much backstory, and depth, and I’m having some trouble articulating how I feel about that level of representation. What’s even more interesting, for me, is that we are getting this type of character development, that isn’t centered around her race. Its not that there have never been Black women in such shows, there are a few I’ve greatly admired, including Uhura, Guinan, Auntie Entity from Thunderdome, Grace Jones, Martha from Doctor Who, but none like Michael. (There are other Black female characters in other shows, and I love them too, but they usually are not the center or focus of the entire show. The show isn’t exactly about them. I think the closest we get to such characters are Thunder from Black Lightning, and Iris West from The Flash.)

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I want to say I like Michael, but it goes far beyond liking her. I want to love her, but I am nervous about getting too close to her, (not because she’s a bad character, but because I cannot trust the writers to do right by her. I fully expect them to fuck this up because that has always been the pattern). I cannot imagine what it must be like for Black women, younger than me, to see themselves so represented, so closely, in one of the most iconic television shows in  history. I can’t imagine it for them, because I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for me, although I knew what I wanted. One of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog was called “Black Women like to have adventures too”. I didn’t for-see, nor could I have possibly known, that I would (or even could) get this kind of representation when I wrote that. I got exactly what I asked for, and I’m really happy, but the moment is somewhat bittersweet, because I wish I had gotten it sooner, and because I’m not entirely sure I knew exactly what I was asking for, and now I don’t know how to handle it. (Probably, I should just act a fool! Whaddaya think?!)

One of the most moving videos I ever watched was a young man looking at a Black Panther poster and he started yelling, and he said something like, “This is what it must feel like for White people all the time!” In the past ten years this is the first time we’ve gotten any kind of representation in popular culture, like this. My mom has actually become interested in comic book characters, (she’s never read a superhero comic in her life. My biggest highlight as an adult was arguing with her, in the car, about whether or not Superman could beat the Hulk!) and started watching different TV shows, and movies. that she mostly would have ignored, because they only starred white people.

I have always had firm reasons for loving Star Trek, despite its issues. Star Trek has done right by me in ways no other show has, even when I didn’t particularly care for some of them, and I’m always gonna stan for this franchise. Even if the creators never do another show correctly, there is at least this one. I will never (nor do I want to) listen to any White man’s idea of what this specific show is about, or what he thinks of the characters. I  just don’t give a flying cooch what anybody who is White and male thinks of this show, or Michael, or Pike even. I won’t look for the reviews, or opinion pieces, and I don’t need their affirmation either. I made up my mind about this a long time ago.

Am I biased? Sure!

But I don’t care.

Westworld Season Two: Kiksuya

This episode is about one of the more mysterious characters we have seen skirting the edges of the narrative, Akecheta, and his tribe Ghost Nation. This lends some insight into the tribes creation and motivation ,and their connection, from the beginning to Maeve’s story.

I thought Akane No Mai was going to be my favorite episodes of the season, but I think this episode has overtaken that one as being my most favorite..

A lot of people have reviewed this episode, broadly considered to be one of the most beautiful episodes aired this season. Rather than review it myself, I’m going to leave these here.

Note some major points: The word Kiksuya means : Remember. The episode is subtitled, with Akecheta speaking the  Lakota Sioux language. Akecheta’s entire story is being told to Maeve through her daughter. The Deathbringer is none other than Dolores. (What if it turns out that Dolores is the villain of this series?)

 

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https://www.avclub.com/a-symbol-tells-his-story-on-a-heartbreaking-westworld-1826709787

For the first time, Akecheta gets to tell his story, relating his life’s journey to Maeve’s (still unnamed, I think?) daughter as William lies bleeding out on the dirt nearby. It’s a wonderfully focused hour that builds to an actual conclusion—and while I’m not sure we learn much here that we didn’t already know or suspect, it’s still emotionally satisfying to spend this much time with a single character, getting to see how they came to be and what drives them.

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https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/10/17442310/westworld-season-2-episode-8-recap-kiksuya

All told, it’s a little languid and could have lost 10 minutes without too much trouble. (There are a lot of gigantic landscape shots, which eventually grew repetitive.) But “Kiksuya” has the visceral emotion that the series often lacks, and McClarnon is a terrific leading man. This is probably my favorite episode of the season so far, which I would not have expected going in.

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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/06/westworld-kiksuya-what-is-the-door-ending-explained-maeve-akechetah-zahn-mclarnon

*In the episode, Akecheta ‘s story parallels Maeve’s story. When he comes to his realization that the world he lives in is false, he stages his own death (as she did), and when he wakes up underground, takes a tour of of the facility, and finds his way to the cold storage room, where he finds all the family and friends he remembered had simply gone missing, and been replaced with new and unknown faces.

The scene where Akecheta returns to the world above, and tells his friend’s mother that he saw her son in the underworld, (a son who has since been replaced with a man she knows is not him), and gives her a lock of his hair, is very probably the one of the most tearful moments in the entire series.

But Westworld is also, clearly, making a bit of incisive commentary on a character like Dolores assuming she’s either the first or most important child of Ford when, all along, the Native cultures were making their way towards enlightenment. This explains why, in Season 1, a young member of Ghost Nation dropped a carving of one of the Delos employees in the dusty streets of Sweetwater. This tribe has long known what was up.

But the show also reaches much further back, to ancient myths about lost loves and the land of the dead. Fans of Greek mythology might recognize shades of Orpheus and Eurydice—the story of the legendary musician who traveled to the Underworld to find his dead bride and try to bring her back to the land of the living. Akecheta and Kohana travel that same path. But as you might expect, there’s a reflection of that very same myth in Native culture. An Algonquin legend, “The Spirit Bride,” tells an almost identical story. “The Worm Pipe” tells a similar tale, but with a happier ending than either Orpheus or Akecheta manage to find.

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https://heavy.com/entertainment/2018/06/westworld-kiksuya-meaning-translation/

The title of the episode, Kiksuya, means “Remember” in Lakota. In fact, nearly the entire episode is going to be about the back story of the Ghost Nation, with much of the episode containing subtitles. Yes, much of the episode will be spoken in Lakota. If you recall, the subtitles in Episode 3 showed Hector speaking Lakota to the Ghost Nation natives.

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https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/06/westworld-season-2-episode-8-kiksuya-roundtable/562451/

When Ghost Nation were introduced in the first season, they were faceless villains, made up in white and black paint (marked with bloody handprints), targets for hosts and guests alike to fight off. They were the backbone of Lee Sizemore’s gross, rejected new narrative centered on cannibalism, a garish attempt to jack up the stakes in a park already centered around murder and assault. In Season 2, there have been hints that they’re not the villains they appear to be.

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https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/recaps/westworld-recap-season-two-episode-8-kiksuya-w521170

It took one of its most underutilized cast members, placed him at the center of a storyline that directly addressed the series’ sci-fi conceit but combined it with real mythmaking power and then let him run. The warrior Akecheta may not save Ghost Nation and its many human captives, but he just might have saved this show.

 

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Westworld Season Two: So Far

I’ve watched two more episodes of this show since the premiere, and I have not one damn clue, in what direction, things are going on this show, but I can tell you what I’ve observed so far.

We’ll start with the tiger.

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The tiger that was found on the bank of the lake in the first episode is from another Park. I don’t know what the name of that park was, but it consisted of British Raj India. Is this the mystery park everyone was speculating about? So far we know of several parks: Westworld and  Future world, from the movies. Shogun World, which I called Samurai World, when I saw it last season, Medieval World, and possibly, Roman World.

When the tiger is found by the paramilitary rescue team, called in by Charlotte, there’s speculation that the Parks are starting to bleed together, and that the same malfunction that has infected Westworld’s Hosts with consciousness, has infected the other Parks. But in the second episode, we learn that the malfunction, that caused the robots to become self aware, doesn’t extend to all of the robots. Some of them are still engaged in their loops, and have no idea what’s happening. But the “Consciousness Disease” has also extended into itself into at least one other Park as we find out how the tiger got from the one to the other. It involves woman named Grace. We later find that her presence is important.

Dolores has become the leader of a rebellion that is not entirely organized, as not all the robots are on board, including Teddy, who is still having trouble dealing with his sentience. . She is willing to sacrifice plenty of the others, to accomplish her goal, of infecting as many Parks as possible,with this new consciousness. How does she know there are other worlds? She’s seen them. When she and a number of other Hosts were brought online, they were used as examples to show to various investors, one of whom was the jerk we saw in season one, named Logan, and his father, the CEO of the infamous Delos Corporation. Arnold took her to what we like to think is the outside world (but probably isn’t), a cityscape, which might  be some other Park, for all we know. Dolores now has full access to the memories of that time before she woke up.

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We spend most of these two episodes watching her procure her army against the security teams which have come to rescue the Guests. There’s a small war but it is unclear who wins.Peter Abernathy, who was being sought after for the information that Charlotte planted in his programming, is successfully kidnapped from Dolores, who sets out to get him back, Teddy in tow.

So we now have two quests. Dolores is on a quest to save her father from Delos Corp., and Maeve is on a quest to save her child. This family connection, between parents and their children, is a callback to the new change in the opening credits that show a Host hugging a small Host child. Because of this change in the credits, it is speculated, by fandom, that it is possible,  that at least one of the Hosts has successfully produced a child. Either Maeve is an actual mother, or possibly that Dolores is pregnant. (I think that is unlikely, although there are new revelations that suggest this isn’t too far out of the show’s wheelhouse.) We have three quests, really, as the Man in Black is on a quest of self actualization set out for him by Ford. .

Meanwhile, in Maeve’s pursuit of her goal, she encounters Lee, the guy in charge of all the bullshit stories in Westworld. Lee is a coward and a hack, and what’s sad is he isn’t the most annoying character in the Park, even though he spends most of his time whining about how dangerous everywhere is. Maeve is also reunited with Armistice, now  with a mechanical arm, and a flamethrower, and with Felix and his co-worker, whose name I wont bother to remember. No, it’s Felix’s co-worker who is the most annoying character in the Park, and quite frankly I’m not happy to see his whining, bitching ass. I had hoped mightily that he was dead.

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During all of this, the Ghost Nation Tribe is moving, gathering up any humans they encounter, including the woman the tiger attacked. It turns out that Grace is the daughter of the man in Black (Old William).  What the Ghost Nation is doing to, or with, the captured humans, I don’t understand, (but I wouldn’t rule out just killing them). It’s also an interesting point  that Maeve’s voice can’t control any of the members of the Ghost Nation, even though she can verbally control the other robots of Westworld. Grace manages to escape and is reunited with her father.

In the last two episodes, we are given a lot of  nuggets to ponder. One of the packets of information that Delos is hiding, within Peter Abernathy’s programming, is the information they’ve been collecting about the Park’s guests, which not only includes their activities, but their DNA. What they are trying to do is create a fusion of human and robot, thereby creating immortal humans. This goal is illustrated in the backstory of Old William’s Father- in-law. The Delos Corporation’s CEO dies of cancer, but is resurrected as a Host. The resurrection appears unsuccessful, nevertheless, he is resurrected and destroyed hundreds of times over the next 35 years. His only regular visitor is William.

It is Bernard who finds Elsie alive, but she “aint fo’ none of his bullshit”, as he was the one who kidnapped her, and stashed her away, because she was getting too close to Robert Ford’s plans. She and Bernard team up, she fixes Bernard’s physical issues, (a cortical fluid problem), and the two of them find a secret lab, full of dead humans. They are dead because Ford found out about the lab, and sent Bernard in to destroy the lab, and procure one of the fusion devices, which looks like a tiny red brain. This tiny device possibly contains the consciousness of Robert Ford, or some other important person. Elsie and Bernard also  find the last robot incarnation of the Delos CEO, and destroy him.

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Dolores witnesses Teddy disobeying her orders, and freeing  some of the prisoners she meant to have killed, and she has decided she cannot complete her mission, because he is just too nice of a guy. At the end of the last episode, Akane No Mai, she has decided what she needs is a compliant bad ass, and has his programming changed to something a little more useful.  Teddy is the complete opposite personality from Dolores. Dolores is devoid of compassion and mercy, something entirely to do with her treatment in the Park, I suspect, and her memories of it. She is a merciless, and relentless, trauma victim.

The Man in Black is on another quest given to him by one of Ford’s Hosts. It is speculated that he too is a Host, and a clone of William. Its not that far fetched an idea. After all, William has been going through the motions of his own loop for decades, killing the same Hosts over and over again, regularly circling by the farm to rape Dolores, going into town to see her, hanging out in that little Mexican town, terrorizing the citizens there. He may have been seeking his own version of consciousness, rather than  that of the Hosts.

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In the last episode, titled Akane No Mai, Maeve makes her way to Shogun World, where Lee’s maps say her daughter is to be found. Now something really interesting happens with her and the others in Shogun World, and it s a side effect of Lee being a hack writer who plagiarizes his own material throughout all the Parks. Earlier, Dolores goes to another town and finds a version of the saloon that was once run by Maeve. We become aware of this when the Host, Clementine, encounters a Host that’s her double, who plays the same role, and spouts the same lines she did when she was in her loop. We also encounter a White female version of Maeve, but this Host has not awakened.

Just like with humans, the Hosts past encounters, and memories, inform how they are reacting now.  The Maeve clone has not had  the tragic past that spurred Maeve’s awakening, and has no memories of The Man in Black in her past. Hector and Armistice are warriors now, because that is what they’ve always been. I suspect Dolores is vengeful because of the trauma she remembers.

Lee calls the the Host clones “Doppel-Bots”, and says there can be some strange side-effects when doppel-bots meet. This is what happens in Maeve’s group. Each one of them meets a Host that resonates with the roles they played in Westworld, and their reactions are interesting.

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The first one they meet is Musashi (named after Japan’s most famous swordsman), who is a clone of Hector. Hector’s reaction to his clone is suspicion and hostility. Armistice meets her clone (a masterful Archer) and the two become unhealthily fascinated with one another. Maeve’s clone is the madame of a Geisha House, named Akane. None of these robots are infected with consciousness yet, although Maeve tries to awaken Akane, with no success. This particular  story is important because it is an echo of Maeve;s story,  and we are struck by the importance of her story to the overall narrative of Westward, through Akane’s ordeal in this episode.

Akane is emotionally attached to a young geisha, who is later kidnapped by the local Shogun. This young lady functions  as Akane’s daughter, and she also turns out to be Akane’s trigger, as she is awakened, after her charge is brutally murdered by the Shogun (who is suffering form some type of cortical fluid dementia), right in front of her. Because of his dementia the Shogun has gone “waaay off script”, according to Lee, and this prompts several of the other Hosts to go off script as well, including Akane who kills the Shogun as revenge for her daughter’s murder, sparking a war.

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Now we must remember that Akane’s story happened because the consciousness disease has left most of the robots in positions of having to fend for themselves too long. They need to have regular maintenance, and because the Shogun had not received his, in what is apparently several weeks, he started to malfunction. Couple that with the entrance into the Park of a Witch (Maeve) and their defiant actions against the Shogun’s orders, and the end result is the death of Akane’s daughter.

But there’s also a new wrinkle. Maeve has leveled up, and more importantly she has done this to herself. The robots of Shogun World have been forewarned about her Voice, and keep gagging her, as they have deemed her to be a witch. When this keeps endangering her life, she develops the ability to telepathically communicate her wishes to any Hosts around her. Basically she has  developed a kind of Bluetooth, through a kind of  mesh which connects all the Hosts together. This is what she uses when the Shogun’s warriors attempt to kill Akane for the murder of the Shogun. We end the episode with Maeve stepping up to protect Akane’s life with her power. This how women are supposed to ally!

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We have two competing stories. We have Dolores, who is willing to callously sacrifice the lives of the Hosts who are not with her program, for the ideological goal of freeing all of the Hosts from all the Parks. She has become like  the oppressor she seeks freedom from. We have Maeve, who is also willing to make sacrifices for a more immediate, and concrete goal, but  not just that. She is also willing to protect the lives of the Hosts she has emotionally attached herself to. Dolores is willing to  take away Teddy’s  agency, (while telling her she loves him), to reach her goal, and  she will kill any Hosts that don’t follow her, without a second thought. Ironically she has become less human, and more like a machine in pursuit of her goal. In contrast, Maeve is willing to show empathy, sympathy, compassion, and loyalty to the Hosts around her, and even a few humans, like Felix. Maeve seeks to become more human than humans.

I can’t help but notice, in all the reviews I keep reading, critics are all dismissing Maeve’s story in favor of talking about everything but her, even in those episodes where her story is front and center, like Akane No Mai. Most of them ignore what her story means in contrast to Dolores’, and the overarching narrative of the series. They seemingly have nothing to say about the importance of Maeve’s choices, and her new abilities, or her behavior in contrast to Dolores’. For example, no one has mentioned that both she and Dolores mention finding their Voice.

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In this instance Dolores and Maeve have both developed the Voice of God although, Dolores is obeyed through fear, and Maeve, as suits the meaning of her name, (to enchant), compels  others through charm. They both claim  to have found their Voice, and this is an important point, or it would not have been repeated several times by the Hosts. Once again, just like last season,  I’m getting frustrated by the critics prioritization of Dolores’ story over Maeve’s, as if Maeve’s story is not important to the overall narrative of the series. Some of the critics have even attempted to diminish Maeve’s story by theorizing that she is not fully awake, and is still under Ford’s orders. I would not entirely rule out such a thing, but to theorize that Maeve has no agency, while not theorizing the same of Dolores, is awfully suspicious. There are also critics who dismiss Maeve as being too perfect, and her storyline as boring, because her searching for her daughter is a cliche. They are simply not capable of seeing the parallels hers and Dolores’ stories.

I also think the critics spend far too much time trying to parse all of the show’s tricks, and twists. I like the twists, don’t get me wrong. Those are fun to winkle out, but they’re not my priority. I’m more interested in what the entire story means. What messages, waht philosophies, are the viewers meant to get out of this, and what do the events mean for the Hosts?

I’ve also seen the critics attempt to diminish the importance of Maeve’s new abilities, but how do her new abilities change who she is, or reflect on her character, in any significant way? That she cannot die, was already established in the first season. She’s a Queen, who can movie about the chessboard of Westworld with some impunity. But her companions (her pawns, rooks, knights, etc) can all die, and because of her emotional bonds  to them, I suspect Maeve is in for a world of emotional pain, later in the season. Dolores is in the same position, moving about with some impunity due to her sheer will, determination, and the force of her personality, but she has no problem sacrificing her pieces.

Do I even need to mention that every single one of these disappointing reviews were written by White men, who are  clueless about  how WoC characters have normally been written (or erased entirely) in SciFi? Historically Woc have been othered (dehumanized) in Scifi as being less than human. While the actress has been othered as a Host, the Host she portrays seeks to be a better human, than the humans who created her, and this is an unusual role for a Black woman in Scifi. Not one of the critics, who are  so busy trying to parse what timeline each scene takes place in, has bothered to notice this development. Instead, choosing to express discomfort at the idea of her having too much power for a Host.

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On the other hand, sometimes a critic does have an interesting insight:

Dolores seems bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and is eager to kill fellow hosts if it helps her achieve her ends. Maeve’s motivations have been much purer; she just wants to find her daughter. But when she forces fellow hosts to slaughter one another, she’s arguably no better than Logan Delos, or any of the other humans who have treated hosts like disposable objects. She’s acting in self-defense, but she’s consciously choosing violence instead of paralysis or forced cooperation. By manipulating other hosts, she’s robbing them of the agency she’s so intent on claiming for herself. It’s certainly no thematic coincidence that Dolores does something similar in “Akane No Mai,” reprogramming Teddy (James Marsden) against his will because she thinks he should be more aggressive.

From: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/20/17367052/westworld-season-2-episode-5-akane-no-mai-recap

All of this matters, because  Maeve and Dolores are on philosophical quests that I feel may  clash with each other, at some point, although not necessarily so. Dolores quest is an  exploration of the Hosts  ethical  choices. We are watching two different forms of awakening. One of logic, and one of emotion.  Maeve’s quest is about the Hosts emotional journey, to compassion, empathy, and love. Can the Hosts move beyond their programming and feel love? Maeve insists that they can, and should. At one point, she castigates Lee, for being surprised when the Hosts display the emotional bonds they were programmed with.

Dolores has decided that emotional bonds are a hindrance. She is on a mission to free her people, and  has no time for the softer emotions like love and compassion, which is illustrated in her decision to excise these softer emotions from Teddy, as she believes they make him a liability to her goal. Maeve does the exact opposite, cultivating and encouraging the emotional connections of the Hosts around her, which is illustrated in her bond with Akane, as the two of them form a strong emotional bond to each other, through  the shared loss of their daughters. Maeve’s  behavior is in contrast to Dolores’, who takes away Teddy’s autonomy, while claiming she loves him. Arguably, Maeve does the same thing, but only ever in defense of her life and those she cares about. When given the opportunity to run and leave Akane to whatever fate befalls her, Maeve refuses.

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Maeve’s emotional journey is just as important to the future of the Hosts as Dolores’ fight for freedom, for what do they have to be free for, if they have no emotional bonds in the world they will inherit? This journey began when Maeve became so attached to her daughter that she was willing to destroy herself, when Ford attempted to excise her memories.

When you get to the foundation, what is happening to the Hosts is no different than when a human (usually a teenager) has an existential crisis. The decisions that both Maeve and Dolores make are the kinds of decisions that young people make about the world when this crisis happens. Their realization that the world is a cruel and indifferent place prompts two  separate attitudes. Dolores embraces the cruelty in order to reach her goals. Maeve fights against that cruelty, choosing to care because the world does not. (I feel like the writers are saying something here about how Black women are considered the caretakers of the world, too.) This is usually the time in a teen’s mental development where their logic skills, and their emotions, are both getting a serious workout, and we are viewing that crisis through two different characters.

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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C’mon!!! It’s set in freaking Japan, and there are robots with swords. Did I mention that Rinko Kikuchi, as Madame Akane, looks terrific? And Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi is both hawt, and terrifying, as befits  the most renowned swordsmen in Japanese history. And there is the whole idea of naming  him Musashi. Lee is a hack, and I very much doubt he’s read Musashi’s book, and just thought it was a cool sounding name. Miyamoto Musashi is the author of The Book of Five Rings, and has numerous books, TV shows, and movies based on his life.

The Book of Five Rings is relevant here because it is a book of rules about martial conflict, and  overcoming one’s enemies.  Musashi talks about how the book can be used for every type of conflict, from the small and personal, to massive battles, and  Maeve and Akane use some of these rules in their reaction to the Shogun’s demands and attacks, for example, Maeve’s trickery, and  initiative, in taking the fight to the Shogun, rather than  running.

One of chapters in The Book of Five Rings discusses, Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, in The Void. We see a display of this when Maeve settles into herself, when she and Akane are about to be executed. She appears to be waiting for death, but like Akane, a moment before, she is simply preparing to strike.  After Akane witnesses the death of her daughter, she engages in what the book calls Tai No Sen, “Waiting for the Initiative”. She wants revenge but cannot attack the Shogun right away. So she abides, and waits for the proper moment to strike him, quickly, and without mercy.

I loved all the parallels between Westworld and Shogun World. Lee is so lazy that he simply replicated all the same dialogue, and activities, from one Park to the other, which I think is hilarious. (It took me a minute to recognize the bank heist from the first season, too). I think this might be some kind of statement on the part of the writers about  tropes and stereotypes, and how the same stories  get recycled, with different backgrounds. My favorite moments are when the Hosts meet their doppel-bots and have some interesting reactions, with Hector mirroring Musashi in attitude and posture, while Armistice and her double look as if they’re about to embark on a grand love affair.

I think Dolores storyline is starting to get a bit scary. I wasn’t sure at first what she was going to do to Teddy. Kill him maybe, but what she did do was much worse. I was with her, up to a point, but now she’s starting to engage in the exact kind of things she was angry about having been done to her. She tells herself its necessary but that’s how the fall begins. Maeve is only slightly better maybe. She just outright kills those who stand in her way. She does have some way to go, as she is still a very selfish being, although we can see a glimmer of what she is trying to become in her compassion for Akane.

I’m one of the few people who is not dismayed at Maeve’s level of power, I guess. Its not an accident on the part of the writers that the Voice of God was given to Maeve, and not Dolores. I’m going to have to think on it some more because there’s more here than Maeve simply being able to speak actions into being. There was some thought behind this.

I have several more reviews to get done between now and the end of the second season. Until then:

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I’m Looking at # 37

Preacher:

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Aaaaaah!!!!

The second season of Preacher arrives just in time to take up the slack after the full-course meal that was American Gods. I was really looking forward to this new season. Last season was a bit of surprise hit for some people, and even though I was really enthusiastic about it, I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the characters. I was pretty much just expecting crazy plot, but I fell in love with Cassidy, Tulip, and Jessie, and I’m really looking forward to their interactions this season.

Last season, Jessie was possessed by an escaped Angel, named Genesis, that gave him the power to compel people to do his bidding, got assaulted  by two other Angels, named Fiore, and deBlanc, who were after their lost charge, was invited by Tulip to get back on the road to vengeance against some guy who betrayed them,  and being friended by an Irish vampire, who then fell in love with his best girl. The three of them, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, met a fake God, and the town where all these events,  occurred was blown to smithereens, after things went horribly wrong at the local slaughterhouse. Now the three of them are on the road, looking for the real God, because they got questions they need answered, and I’m certain that yet more batshit adventures will ensue.

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Season two has introduced one of the characters from the books called The Saint of Killers. We get our first glimpse of him when the three buddies are pulled over by some cops, and The Saint guns everybody down. In the first episode alone we’re treated to the sight of one of the cops macing his own balls, Tulip siphoning gas through a piece of intestine (lost by one of the cops during the shooting), while Cassidy tries to get out of the sunlight by hiding under the cars, a man getting his tongue ripped out, a preacher who exorcises his parishioners demons by locking them in cages, and Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy sharing a bed, with Cassidy letting them know that he wouldn’t mind if the two of them had sex in front of him. Sent there by the Jesse’s preacher friend, the three of them visit a Jazz bar/Strip club, where one of the patrons claimed she met God. Cassidy’s shenanigans gets their witness killed.

So the usual, all-around batshittery, really!

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Like I said, when I reviewed the show in the first season, I was not that big a fan of the books because I’m an artistic snob, and hated the artwork. I knew enough about the books to know who some of the characters were, and be excited by Cassidy’s appearance. I have no idea who the Saint of Killers is, or if its an accurate representation on the show. That said, The Saint is really terrifying. As Cassidy would say, “That’s some Terminator-type shite!

Yes, this series can actually be classified as Pulp, and yeah, I do remember from one of my last reviews, that I said I wasn’t a huge fan of Pulp, since I hated Blood Drive, but since I am a fan of Preacher, I guess that means it depends on one’s definition of Pulp. Preacher is everytihng tht Blood Drive isnt. Better acting, writing, cinematograghy, special effects, and characters, go a long way towards a better class of Pulp.

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I mean, Blood Drive and Preacher are basically the same type of show, involving people on the road, doing crazy-ass shit, or having crazy shit happen to them. But Preacher is just much better at it. I guess it’s the difference between an asshole with charm, manners,and a several thousand  dollar suit, compared to an asshole in cheap sneakers and a backwards baseball cap, who keeps spitting on your floor. One of those you date. The other you don’t. Which one you choose is entirely a matter of personal taste.

 

In the second episode we learn that the Saint of Killers was hired by Fiore, who is determined that Jesse not be allowed to keep his superpower, lest he abuse it, which he is already doing. Fiore, in mourning over his dead partner, deBlanc, is working a magician’s show at Mumbai Sky Tower, where he gets killed on stage and keeps coming back, because Angels can’t die. Well, rather they can die, but the only thing that can kill them is The Saint of Killers.

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Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy petition Fiore to call off The Saint, but he refuses. Cassidy asks Jesse for permission to try to persuade him to change Fiore’s mind. There follows one of the funniest, most delightful, interludes I’ve ever seen in a show! Initially you think Cassidy plans on torturing Fiore, but the show uses that as an opportunity to turn a trope on its head, by having him get Fiore high on heroin, and then  romping with him around his hotel room, like two over-sugared toddlers, for three hours. Fiore who was depressed enough to attempt killing himself hundreds of times, since losing hs partner, is having the time of his life. My favorite moment is the two of them building a pillow fort in the middle of the room, and eating ice cream in it.

Jesse asks Tulip to get married and she accepts at first but when an old acquaintance from New Orleans (her old stomping grounds), shows up at the Mumbai, she tells Jesse she has changed her mind, after beating the holy hell out of the man. I love to watch tulip kick ass, with her little tiny self. She must weigh all of a buck’o five. Tulip’s got a lot of secrets, though. Jesse has an epiphany about how to find God, since they learned in the last episode that God loves Jazz. He figures that God might decide to visit New Orleans, someplace Tulip is  reluctant to go. At the end of the show, Fiore’s last request is for The Saint to kill him, since Jesse commanded him to “Find Peace”.

And that’s just the second episode. We got nine more episodes of this crazy shit, people.

 

Cleverman:

Last season we saw the introduction of a new superhero show, set in Australia called Cleverman. All of the primary characters, including the hero are all Native Australians. The show works along the themes of colonization, erasure, and assimilation of Native people into a violent dominant culture.

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*The Cleverman is an important figure in many Australian Aboriginal cultures. Series creator Ryan Griffen describes the Cleverman as “like the Pope of the Dreamtime … the conduit between the present and the Dreaming”.[6] The version in the television series combines many Cleverman traditions from different Aboriginal clans to create a superheroic version, with powers relating to the Dreaming’s connection to past, present and future.[7]    ——–Wikipedia

 

Koen has reluctantly accepted his position as the new Ceverman after the death of his uncle, who was the last one, and has begun to take steps to protect The Hairy People from a culture of exploitation and enslavement by the government. I didn’t review the last season and there’s a lot to explain, since its a very dense show, that requires close attention, especially if you’re not Australian. So here’s the Cleverman page on the Sundance website, which will give you a quick 101 on who the characters are, what’s going on and who’s is doing what to whom. The first episode of this season drops you right into the middle of everything, so if you didn’t watch the last season, you will need a quick catch-up:

http://www.sundance.tv/series/cleverman

 

And an AVClub review:

http://www.avclub.com/review/aboriginal-fantasy-cleverman-too-busy-building-wor-237354

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This season, Cleverman is attempting to foil a plot by the Australian  government, to destroy the Hairy People, by giving them a drug that will assimilate them into human society. So they’ve introduced a sickness they claim to be curing, and giving them this drug. They’ve also been kidnapping them, breaking up their families, and conducting medical experiments  on them. All of this is fairly graphically shown, so  keep that in mind while watching. At last some of this is being facilitated by Cleverman’s cousin, who  last season, used to hold a  Hairy People Fight Club, in the area of town where the Hairy People, and the Indigenous population, had been corralled

I’m having some difficulty watching the show because it just strikes too close to home, on a realistic level, and I can’t make it through a single episode without yelling at the TV, so I had to cut my viewing short. And I was also having trouble watching the fascistic nature of the plot. Its the reason why I’m not really into watching dystopias right now.

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But this is a great show. It’s very deep. It has good representation for my criteria although, if you’re a member of an Indigenous culture of any kind, you may have more stringent criteria than I do. It might also be too upsetting to watch because the plot does not mince around.

 

 

Will/ The Strain

Other shows I’ve checked out, and won’t be watching again, are Will, a show about the life of William Shakespeare which I found too dense to get into, and The Strain, which I continue to hate despite its change of venue, to Philadelphia, after NY blew up.

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Now, If you’re a student of Shakespearean Literature than you will  love this show because it chronicles the writing of his various plays and whatnot. its written by a couple of scholarly type guys and it shows. Its also full of pretty people being loud and boisterous,, and lots of ribaldry. I guess this is the show’s attempt to seem racy. I tried to like it, but I don’t think I was in the mood for it, as all that authenticity was giving me a headache.

I tried to watch the first episode of The Strain’s fourth and final season. I didn’t get past the first twenty minutes. I figured out what it was I hated so much about this show. Its the characters. I just hate them. Outside of Quinlan, and Fet, none of the characters are even trying to be compelling, and the villains are just ridiculous. The show also just isn’t scary. At least not to me, but the one review I read of the show the reviewer loved it. I just can’t agree. If you like the show, there’s nothing wrong with that, but  you have very different criteria, than I, for liking it.

Since NY blew up last season, the apocalypse has started t in earnest, as the resultant ash cloud has blocked out most of the sun’s UV rays, allowing the Strigoi, as the vampires are called, to walk around in daylight, menacing the populace. The setting has moved to Philly, and the first annoying thing I saw was an ad for a vampire/human organization called The Partnership, which is mostly designed to separate humans from their blood.

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Let me get this out of the way first: Many of the people in the ad were Black, although no more Black people were seen in the rest of the episode, even though it takes place in Philly, which has, quite possibly, one of the most recalcitrant Black populations in America. Apparently, rebellion against authority is only for White guys, since the two Black people I saw are shown  just rolling over for it.

This really pissed me off because I know, in the real world, you can’t even get Black people to do things they want to do, if you  give them an order to do it. Black people (and Puerto Ricans) will decide NOT do something, just to spite you. So I found it hard to believe there were no Black or Brown people rebelling, or creating some kind of Human Underground. C’mon! Marginalized communities would be the first ones to act up. And no explanation is given for why they’re all absent. Were they all wiped out? Eaten? Maybe we’ll find out later in the season but I won’t know because I’m not watching.

 

Castlevania: 

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I watched the first few episodes of this series, which is based on the arcade game from the 80’s. I do have fond memories of watching my brothers play it,  because I wasn’t particularly interested in playing it myself. I’m not that type of gamer, really. I don’t get attached to characters too much, or follow plots that closely, so I can’t tell you if the anime has anything to do with the plot of the game.

But I enjoyed the cartoon, which is about a guy named Belmont, a monster hunter from a disgraced family, going up against Dracula, and the Church. The Church is responsible for burning Dracula’s wife as a witch, and he’s so pissed off that he didn’t receive an apology, or even a tribute for his dead wife, that he unleashed a horde of batlike demons into the world to destroy humankind.

I spent a not inconsiderable time muttering at my TV about this one too because, as is natural, the villains are villainous, and  annoyingly unreasonable bullies. The Church is trying to use the approach of the demon horde to consolidate their power, and deflect attention away from the fact that the release of the demons is their fault. There’s another group of monks, truth tellers, that the Church is trying to wipe out because church officials don’t want word getting out that the demon apocalypse is their fault.

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The animation is very good, with some nice fight scenes. I usually avoid a lot of anime series because they’re too fast paced, and the characters have a tendency to talk too much, in extremely high pitched voices, which just makes my head hurt. But I liked this one. The people have actual motivations for doing stuff, even if I disagree with their actions, and they all talk like regular people.

So, if you’re a fan of the game, you could do worse than spending an evening with Belmont, who is a total bad-ass, and  Dracula. Castlevania is available now on Netflix.

 

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I also watched The British Baking Show and Game of Thrones. I enjoyed the Baking Show because British reality shows are wholly unlike American reality shows.  For one thing, there’s less bragging, and competition from the empty headed contestants, and more a feeling of camaraderie. The British shows don’t look as if they’re trying to get rid of the Black people and women as quickly as possible and the hosts are really funny.

I like the process of watching the contestants learn to bake something, I like looking at the inventiveness of the end results, the judges aren’t mean for meanness sake, but seem honest and forthright, about the results, and the way they choose the winners seems fair. If you have a bad episode, as a baker, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re out. It has to be a consistent thing. By the end of the series some of the baker’s have had several bad events.

 

I have no idea what to think of Game of Thrones. I want to like it. I like parts of it. I’m mostly a casual viewer, who has only watched a few of the more popular episodes. I know who the top five characters are, and the ones I like the most, Jon Snow, Brienne, and Arya and Sansa Stark. I’m much more interested in what’s happening in the north, at The Wall, then I am with what’s going on in the south, even though I realize all of these things are linked.

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 I don’t know who that guy is that’s been stalking Brienne.I think his name is Torm, or Torman) but he is hilariously, and very obviously, smitten with her. Brienne mostly looks annoyed and puzzled at his insinuations, and I can explain why that’s funny. I often have that same look on my face when people flirt with me. I can’t imagine why they think such a tactic would work with me, and puzzled about whatever I might have done, to make them think it would.

He longs for eve nthe faintest scrap of attention from her. Last night, after Brienne thoroughly trashed some guy  she was training with the sword, he walked up to the man and happily told him how lucky he was.

And of course, Twitter was right on it!

Tormund be looking at Brienne like

I’m going to keep watching it (not reviewing it) because I’m curious as to where it’s going to end, and how my favorites end up. Notice that there are some popular characters I didn’t mention, and that’s because I don’t care a single bit, about what they get up to, on the show.

 

Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worldbuilding:



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

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

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

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

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Costumes:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

Cinematography: 

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

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

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



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

 

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

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


Action:

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



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Bottom line: 

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

 

 

 

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.

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.

Hannibal Season Two Finale: Mizumono

And so we end with a perfect cap on this season. We began in episode one, with a forecast of how the season would end, with a massive knockdown fight, between Jack Crawford and Hannibal. How did we get from them being friends to that point? The rest of the season is really just a flashback, to how we reach that moment, and its aftermath.

All season long ,we’ve watched Will Graham, thoroughly unburdened by the illness he was suffering  in that first season, at the top of his game. Most of this season chronicles Will’s  fall from grace. In his efforts to capture the Chesapeake Ripper, he finds himself in spiritual, and emotional, alignment with Hannibal. After failing to get any traction on his accusation that Hannibal is the Ripper, Will, in collusion with a newly believing Jack, after  Beverly’s death, embarked on a campaign to take down Hannibal, by cozying up to him, winning his trust, and gathering  evidence of wrongdoing. Hannibal being too canny for that plan to work, didn’t enter into their equations, and Will found himself being drawn  further down the rabbit hole of Hannibal’s machinations. Hannibal’s goal is  to make Will realize that he is just as much a killer as Hannibal, and make him his partner in death.This culminates in the death of Randall Tier at Will’s hands, in self-defense, and the seeming death of Freddie Lounds.

In this episode everything comes to a head. Jack’s predicament in allowing Will’s plan, Will’s predicament in lying to Hannibal, and the actual fate of Abigail Hobbes is revealed.

Hannibal sends Jack a letter, inviting him to dine with him and Will, and he accepts. Will and Jack discuss this Last Supper, while finalizing their plan to catch The Chesapeake Ripper. Alana is filled with doom and gloom and nightmares, as she begins to realize exactly what’s been happening, and what Hannibal is. She hasn’t been sleeping and is filled with dread that Hannibal has laid a trap for all of them.

Jack is finally successful in finding Hannibal’s therapist Bedelia Du’Maurier, who had gone into hiding, after she felt threatened by Hannibal. In his interview with her, Bedelia warns Will that Hannibal will find a way to prevail. She explains what hold Hannibal has over her. Will and Jack offer her immunity from prosecution for her testimony against Hannibal. An astute observer, she can somehow tell that Will’s loyalties have been severely compromised, and that it is Will’s weakness that will hand Hannibal his victory over their plans.

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Bella Crawford is dying in the hospital of lung cancer. Hannibal visits her and they discuss forgiveness. She says she forgives him for saving her life, and letting her die in this manner, but in return, Hannibal has to save Jack, the way Hannibal saved her. She has no idea that Hannibal didn’t save her out of caring or friendship, but as an exercise to see  what would happen, and to distract Jack from his hunt for The Ripper. She never discovers that Hannibal not only doesn’t keep his promise to save Jack but makes plans with Will Graham to kill him.

Nevertheless, Bella’s words about forgiveness come back to haunt Hannibal in season three. Unbeknownst to her she (and everyone he has met) does have an effect on him. In fact, even though Hannibal later claims that Will and the others had effected no change in him, that is a lie. Since becoming involved with the FBI, and knowing Will, Hannibal has developed close relationships with many people he would otherwise have never met. Remember  season one, when  Hannibal was a profoundly lonely man, who didn’t realize just how alone he was. After involving himself with Will, he became surrounded by people who cared about and trusted him, and although that did not prevent him from killing any of them, it has affected his attitudes and behaviors in small ways that will  play out in season three.

Will is clearly conflicted about Hannibal. As he makes plans with Jack, he also helps Hannibal destroy evidence in his office. While the two of them burn Hannibal’s files,  they make plans to run away together. Will is cagey about the commitment but it all becomes moot anyway, when Hannibal, with his keen sense of smell, scents Freddie Lound’s hair shampoo on Will’s clothes. Will had just had a meeting with her to ask her not to write any more stories involving Abigail, and to let her rest in peace, as he makes plans for Hannibal’s imminent capture.

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Will and Hannibal discuss what would happen to Hannibal if he were ever captured and Hannibal says he would live inside his Memory Palace, (something peripherally mentioned in the Silence of the Lambs), which is a place deep inside his mind, which resembles the foyer of the Norman Chapel in Palermo. Foreshadowing: This is information that Will uses to find Hannibal in season three.

Just as Hannibal has his Memory Palace, Will also has one. Fishing in the river.We saw Will visiting this place when he was in prison. At the time, Hannibal as the RavenStag, or the ManStag, was often shown infiltrating Will’s private mental space, illustrating that Hannibal (and Abigail) were never far from Will’s thoughts. Later, in season three, Will easily visits Hannibal’s Memory Palace. As an example of how intertwined their thoughts are, by that point, its not immediately clear to the viewer, whose mind we’re visiting, Will’s or Hannibal’s.

While having dinner, Hannibal asks Will to just leave with him, and not inform Jack, but Will lies to Hannibal, saying that Jack deserves to know, and puts forth the idea that Jack be killed. Hannibal doesn’t require that Jack die but he allows Will to keep lying to him. He was hoping that Will would come clean but he didn’t. Hannibal makes other plans at this point.

Kade Prunell, the Special Investigator, has caught wind of Jack’s plan. She aims to put a stop to it because its a complete violation of the law, and a private citizen’s rights. Claiming that the imminent death of his wife has compromised his logic, she suspends Jack from his position as Director. Jack, now free of any legal obligations to capture Hannibal alive, surrenders his gun and badge. Alana comes to his defense, arguing that the only way that Hannibal can be captured is in the act, , but Kade won’t hear of it. She tells Alana that Jack and Will are to be arrested for what happened to Randall Tier. Alana calls Will, to warn him about the warrants put out for his and Jack’s arrests, while Jack visits Bella in the hospital one last time.

Will calls Hannibal. Just as this whole thing began, that first season, with Hannibal’s phone call to Garrett Jacob Hobbes, (just because he was curious what would happen), Will’s phone call to Hannibal sets in motion a series of events that will end in tragedy for everyone in Hannibal’s orbit, and have repercussions far into their futures, as it sets off what fans  know as The Diner Rouge, The Red Dinner, where everyone’s  paths cross.

Jack arrives early for dinner at Hannibal’s home. They exchange pleasantries, but they both understand each other very well, in this instance. They begin to fight.

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Hannibal bests Jack and Jack locks himself in the walk-in cupboard, with a near mortal wound to the throat. Alana arrives to find Hannibal trying to batter his way in to finish off Jack. When she attracts his attention, he tells her that he tried, very hard, to keep her ignorant of what he is, expresses regret that he has to say goodbye to her, and as a courtesy, tells her she should flee. She fires at Hannibal but Hannibal had earlier removed the bullets from her gun.

Now she flees. She runs upstairs with Hannibal in pursuit, although he leaves the  kitchen knives behind. Alana is shocked to encounter Abigail Hobbes in an upstairs bedroom. Abigail pushes her out the window, and heads downstairs.

Will is just arriving. He finds Alana broken on the front steps, but alive. She warns him about Jack, while he calls for Emergency Services, then he goes inside where he finally sees that Abigail is actually alive. Shocked by this turn of events he doesn’t try to defend himself as Hannibal approaches. Hannibal says it was meant to be a surprise, the three of them going away together, as one big happy family. But that will never happen now. Just as Hannibal had his moment of complete understanding with Jack, Hannibal and Will have their moment. Hannibal is full of righteous fury about Will’s betrayal and deception.Will knows Hannibal is going to kill him and he accepts that he deserves it. What he didn’t count on was Hannibal taking Abigail away from him, again.

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To show Will his power, and to punish Will for his betrayal, (even if Will did renege at the last minute and warn him) Hannibal stabs Will in the stomach, but doesn’t kill him, although he easily could have, and as Will lays dying, Hannibal cuts Abigail’s throat in front of him. We end as we began, in season one, with Will clutching Abigail’s throat trying to save her life. Killing Abigail is also a moment of defiance because Will said he  affected Hannibal’s life for the good. Killing Abigail is Hannibal’s way of showing Will how little he changed him. After all, if he had changed him, would he be able to do this? But Will, in complete understanding, knows that the very act of killing Abigail, in defiance of Will’s assertions, is in itself, evidence of how much Hannibal has changed.

It’s also Hannibal just being petty and angry. He claims Will didn’t affect who he is, but he allowed Will to get close to him, and trusted him. Will did to Hannibal what Hannibal was doing to Alana, and that betrayal hurts. Its one of the reasons Hannibal kept himself aloof from other people all those years. Not just to protect his secret life, but the understanding that emotional connections would compromise his survival instincts. This is him showing Will that he is not compromised.

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But of course Will affected him, or he wouldn’t feel so much pain.

And this is not something out of character for Hannibal. The entire time that we’ve known Hannibal, he has tried to maintain a facade of equanimity, and dispassion, most of the time (I imagine for most of his life). He’s not emotionless. He has a deep well of emotion, but he maintains a rather impassive veneer. When he does get caught up in his emotions, and allow them to take rein, usually people die, and the Diner Rouge is no different event.

Most of the time we see Hannibal killing others from a place of clinical detachment. Killing is just something he thinks needs doing. This season we’ve seen him kill from emotion, at least once , when he killed the Judge who threw out his testimony during Will’s trial. He was insulted and outraged at his treatment, feeling lonely because of Will’s absence, and killing the Judge fell in line with removing an obstacle to his happiness. (Remember, before he decides to kill the Judge, there’s a scene of him sitting alone in his office, realizing exactly how much he played himself, when he had Will arrested, and how much he misses Will.)

At the end of season one Hannibal frames Will for survival reasons. At the end of season two, he is still in a mental  place, where he thinks more of himself, than he does the people in his orbit. He is still very much a selfish creature at the end of season one. But all during season two he has allowed himself to  care about Will, the only person he has ever allowed himself to have emotions for, since the death of his sister Misha, and he gets betrayed for his trouble. He’s not just mad at Will. He’s angry that he got suckered. Not ever having built up any kind of immunity against even the most the casual pains that human beings can inflict on each other, Hannibal is like a dangerous child, lashing out at anyone who hurts him.

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Having officially burned all his bridges, he steps out into the cleansing rain, believing that this part of his life is over, and that he can begin anew, casually stepping over Alana’s prone body, without even checking to see if she’s still alive. She meant nothing to him except as a means to control Will. He only made overtures to her when it looked like she might fall for Will, and only kept up a relationship with her so that Will couldn’t.

The final coda to this episode is Hannibal on a plane bound for Europe in the company of his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du’Maurier.

 

I started writing these reviews because I couldn’t find any good meta for this show that had been written after season two. I just decided, rather than scouring the internet for it, I should just write something myself.

Next up: The entirety of season three in my Hannibal re-watch.

 

 

 

 

 

On Tumblr: Hannibal Meta

*Yes, I’m still fascinated by this show, its characters, and its meanings. I hope some of you guys are just as interested, so here’s some Hannibal meta, that showed up on my dashboard, from when the show was at its peak. This might  spur some of you to re- watch certain episodes with a fresh perspective.
Remember Bedelia’s statement, later in the first season, about Hannibal’s careful facade and that she could catch glimpses of the real man through his human suit. This is important because Hannibal has been wearing this “person suit” from the moment Will first met him.
From: hannibalsbattlebot

On the surface, Will telling Hannibal “I don’t find you that interesting” seems unbelievably rude. Ah, we think, Hannibal must find Will special if he puts up with that. But, this early on Hannibal has only shown Will his mask, his human suit. To most people, the facade is interesting enough. That’s the point. All the trappings were put there by Hannibal to distract everyone from his real self. When Will is not impressed by this smoke screen, he has passed an important test.

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*This is an essay about Hannibal’s ability to feel. I would say that yes, he does have emotions, but I would argue they are somewhat truncated, not as fully developed as they should be in a grown man, as he rarely, if ever expends emotion on anyone other than Will or himself.

It’s not that Hannibal’s emotions are fake, (although I believe in some cases they are), but when we do see him showing emotions towards others, I think that he’s simply going through the motions,  pretending to care about Jack, or Alana, for example, and when he does have genuine emotions for others, like Abigail and Will, it’s only in relation to how close/useful that person is to himself.He certainly has emotions when it comes to something directly affecting him, but something that directly affects others, not so much.

In other words, Hannibal lacks empathy.

From: slayerangels

”Will loves Hannibal because he doesn’t have emotions and so Will can be himself around him because he can’t pick up feelings from Hannibal with his empathy disorder.”

I’ve seen this idea a few times and it’s baffling. Here’s a list of reasons why that’s wrong:

1. Hannibal has emotions. Many emotions. His emotions are not fake. He shows emotions when people aren’t even observing him or in the same room. He was upset at what happened to Margot after Will left the room. He was upset that Bella died and was crying over it by himself in Italy. He moped around about Will in Italy the entire time. He missed Will so much in Sorbet he was fidgeting around and clearly upset about it. He was mad that Gideon was calling himself the Ripper. He gets super annoyed at rude people. These are all emotions.

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2. Will can “read” the Ripper enough to know which crimes scenes are his and which aren’t and also give a history about his childhood to Jack. Will can also “read” the copycat. Hannibal is the Ripper and the copycat. So, Will can read Hannibal. Which is why Hannibal got super defensive about Will in Season 1 and framed him and put him in prison. Because he knew Will would find him out eventually.

3. Will can “seduce” and “deceive” Hannibal in S2 because he can empathize with him or “understand” him. Hannibal says this directly and Will agrees.

4. Hannibal and Will share a memory palace. Will goes to places he has been to “read” him, just like he does at crime scenes. Will knows Hannibal “intimately” as he says himself. If he likes being around him because he doesn’t “pick up” things from his empathy, then that makes no sense.

5. Will doesn’t automatically know who a killer is, even if he’s investigating their crimes. Tobias is a prime example. Hannibal realized Tobias was a killer immediately, Will didn’t. Another example would be Abigail. Hannibal knew she was a killer before Will did. If anything Hannibal has more insight into people than Will does. That doesn’t mean he has less empathy than Will, it means he has the same amount or more. “I can’t turn it off anymore than you can” Hannibal says to Will in Aperitif. When Hannibal was doing Will’s job in S2 for Jack he got the job done, he figured out who the killer was and why he was killing and exactly where he was, he just didn’t tell all that info to Jack because he wanted to go kill him first. Hannibal can in fact do Will’s job and he helps Will do his job better, “Will has never been more effective than he is with you inside his head”. Hannibal knows all about the Shrike enough to help Will figure out who the Shrike really is, right from the beginning of the show. “He had to show me a negative so that I could see the positive, that crime scene was practically gift wrapped.” My point being that just because Will doesn’t know Hannibal is the Ripper for a while (about 3 months) doesn’t mean that he can’t “read” Hannibal’s emotions. His empathy disorder doesn’t make him psychic and it isn’t supernatural.

I get it’s hard to understand why Will didn’t realize Hannibal was in love with him, but this is no explanation. It negates the entire show. Other explanations should be entertained. Will knows that Hannibal is very sad over him, “He sent us his broken heart” and he knows that the key to understand him is love, “No one can be fully aware of another human being unless we love them” and he knows he can take advantage of Hannibal’s feelings for him, “You’d only do that if I’d rejected you.” So, taking all that into account, the explanation that he just didn’t want to fully believe it, he was lying to himself, or wanted it confirmed by Bedelia (because he was afraid Hannibal loved her or because he believed she would know more than anyone else), or some combination of those is the most likely.

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*I loved this particular meta. I have yet to start reviewing season 3, so  haven’t discussed Will’s mind pendulum  yet.

From: silkysimpona

Will’s Mind Pendulum

Has anyone else noticed the difference between Will analyzing Hannibal’s crime scene and Will analyzing someone else’s crime scene?

When he investigates the Leeds murder in The Great Red Dragon, his mind pendulum makes an appearance for the first time in season 3.

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The pendulum is a way for Will to get into the murder empathy mindset, but it also represents a physical barrier between him and the subject he wants to analyze. In essence, it establishes a defensive barrier between his sense of self and his sense of the killer’s self, keeping them completely separate from each other. The stronger the pendulum, the stronger his sense of self.

Compare this to his analysis of the Hannibal’s crime scene in Primavera. Here, Will doesn’t use a pendulum. There is just a brief blur in and blur out to signify his entrance into Hannibal’s state of mind.

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At this point, his mind is so intertwined with Hannibal’s that he doesn’t need the physical act of the pendulum to get him into the correct mindset. His sense of self is already almost entirely wrapped up and muddled up with Hannibal’s. Not only does he not need to use his pendulum in this moment, he probably can’t use his pendulum to put up a mental barrier between them. They’re already conjoined after all.

In Dolce, Will says to Hannibal, “You and I have begun to blur.” I think it’s pretty neat that they were able to illustrate that with the simple absence of a pendulum effect.

 

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*This essay is about something I touched on in an earlier essay, regarding how Alana changed after her relationship with Hannibal, how she became, in the third season, harder and colder, in reaction to having known him. It also points out some interesting details about Margot.
thatlightsaberlesbian

You know what I really fucking love about Marlana? (everything)

No but really, aside from everything, one specific thing that I love about them is that they had equally interesting but “opposite” wardrobe changes as their characters developed.

Alana started out with the wrap dresses, which were usually not layered with anything, and then by season 3 she was wearing three piece suits. She armored up. Did she abandon femininity? Hell no. But she still, finally, after implicitly trusting Jack, Hannibal, and Will and being betrayed in that trust by literally all of them, learned to protect herself. She withdrew her trust and the physical armor of the suits reflected that change nicely. (One could also argue that she consciously or unconsciously was imitating Hannibal.)

Margot, on the other hand, started out with these incredibly stiff and layered outfits. Her hair buns were sleek and severe, and her lipstick reflected that. Need I say anything about the shoulder pads–designed to make her appear larger, more intimidating? Yes, Margot was protecting herself with these layers of clothing, I don’t think anyone failed to pick up on that. And then she meets Alana. And she makes this switch to softer clothing choices, and hairstyles, and makeup. But only with her.

I find this to be really awesome because both of these wardrobe choices were incredibly well-thought-through. Both of them accurately reflected the development each of them was going through. And that’s really cool because a lot of the time in media you see more masculine girls lauded for becoming more feminine in coming-of-age stories, or by contrast, feminine girls who become more masculine to redeem themselves (e.g. Regina George in Mean Girls). And what I love about Marlana is that there’s none of that, because both of their transformations were intensely personal and reflected what they personally were going through.

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*This one is about the loneliness of both Will and Hannibal.

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Do you ache for him?For me, these two scenes effectively sum up just how alone Hannibal and Will are without each other. We see Will desperately attempting to focus all his attention on fixing a boat motor, a problem we heard Hannibal refer to as ‘easy’ to solve in season one. The simplicity of this creates a stark contrast in relation to Will’s current state of mind regarding his feelings for Hannibal, confirmed through the series of flashbacks we see. Will is not entirely haunted by the fact that Hannibal gutted him; he is haunted by the fact that Hannibal left him. We see flashbacks of Hannibal holding Will, followed by Will falling to the ground and Hannibal bending over him. These are not the typical flashbacks generally associated with people suffering from post-traumatic stress; these flashbacks are rooted in Will’s heartbreak over the fact that Hannibal left him.

In relation to Hannibal, we see him sat in a chair, pensive as he stares ahead. This in itself is unusual as we usually see Hannibal busying himself with something or other. Again this serves to elucidate just how barren his existence is without Will. This also confirms how much Will has changed him, given that the Hannibal we met in season one was entirely self-reliant and self-serving. I believe there was a void in Hannibal’s life, an ache he couldn’t quite identify or pinpoint. Will filled that void. Independence and the isolation associated with it was something Hannibal was used to and previously drew comfort from. Now there is no comfort in his isolation. He and Will quickly realise and accept just how empty, how devoid of purpose their lives are without each other, testament of the vicious mutual co-dependency they each fostered.

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Ooh, I really enjoyed this one, which outlines the various ways that people respond to threatening behavior, and specifically to how Hannibal responds to Will.

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I just noticed a dynamic between these guys that I’d never quite put together before: in precise contrast to what Will thinks he wants, he will always fail to follow through on a lethal confrontation with Hannibal if (and only if) Hannibal makes a show of rolling over for him.
Bear with me for a sec because this is kind of fascinating: a while ago, I read a book called On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. The author Dave Grossman proposed a theory which jives with a lot of stuff I learned in anthropology classes, but he has a particularly pithy way of describing it. Between animals of the same species, he says, the choices of behavior in a confrontation aren’t as simple as the “fight or flight” choice we usually talk about.

Grossman calls his model “fight, flight, posture, or submit.” This model takes into account a common trait among most animals (including humans): members of the same species almost never jump immediately to the ‘fight’ option in a confrontation. Doing so would result in needless deaths, particularly among younger individuals who haven’t yet learned to defend themselves, and then to eventual depopulation and extinction.

Instead, animals tend to begin confrontations by posturing – by making a show of their superiority in an attempt to make the other party back down. If, during the posturing phase, it becomes clear that the individuals are fairly evenly matched, they are likely to start a physical fight in order to establish dominance, while still avoiding lethal attacks if possible.

However, if it becomes clear during the posturing phase that one of the individuals is definitely strong enough to defeat the other one, the weaker opponent will do one of two things: flee or submit. I’ll just quote the book here:

“Submission is a surprisingly common response, usually taking the form of fawning and exposing some vulnerable portion of the anatomy to the victor, in the instinctive knowledge that the opponent will not kill or further harm one of its own kind once it has surrendered.”

So, now that we’ve got all that context out of the way, let’s talk about Will and Hannibal!

Keep reading
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*Here’s a more scholarly approach to why the show, Hannibal, is the way it is, and what that means to the larger culture.

White Collar Cannibal: the Gentrified Grotesque in NBC’s Hannibal

Into the Badlands Season 2: Video Roundup

Yaaayyy!!! Season two of Into the Badlands will be airing on March 19th, on AMC. And I’m really excited about this, if only because the trailers look super exciting, going in directions I didn’t expect and this season stars one of my favorite actors:

That hefty fella back there is Nick Frost. You may remember him from Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block, and one my few favorite cop movies, Hot Fuzz. So, I’m totally geeking out about it!

There’s also a new trailer and a featurette focusing on the women of the Badlands. The first season turned out to be surprisingly feminist in aspect ,with lots of smart, deadly women, who have agency, affect the plot, and are integral to the development of this world, but that’s par for the course in the Chinese Action films on which this show is heavily based. The Chinese cinema has a long history of prominently showcasing women in the plots.

 

I hope this season we get to see more of the worldbuilding, as I had a lot of questions about this particular ‘verse. We will get to see some new sets and locations, which is cool. The show appears to have a slightly larger budget than last year, too. I hope to see more Woc, but my end all and be all, would be seeing at least one black woman kicking some ass in this show. We almost never get that in these kinds of movies or shows (but I wont be disappointed if I don’t get it.) Iron Fist has a lot to live up to as that’s going to be released at the same time.  I’m gonna be watching a lot of Kung Fu that weekend.

 

Into the Badlands Season 2 finds Sunny (Daniel Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight) separated and scattered to the wind, each imprisoned in unlikely places.  While M.K. struggles to control his powers, Sunny is determined to fight his way back into the Badlands to find his family or die trying.  On their journey, Clipper and Colt are assisted by mysterious, new allies whose motivations may be anything but pure.Meanwhile, The Widow (Emily Beecham) continues to consolidate power against the other Barons, while a dark and mysterious threat prepares to exact revenge on them all.Alliances are struck, friendships betrayed, and by season’s end, Sunny and M.K.’s lives will be forever altered with devastating consequences.

 

 

 

 

Hannibal Season 2: Tome-Wan

Tome-Wan would at first appear to be one of these interstitial episodes between momentous events, but a number of important events happen in this episode , so its not filler.

There are a number of confrontations, in the aftermath of Will snitching to Mason about how the whole situation between Mason, Margot, and Will was orchestrated by Hannibal.

Will tells Hannibal what he said to Mason, and when Hannibal asks why, he tells him he wanted to see what would happen, throwing back at Hannibal his excuse for why Hannibal warned Garrett Jacob-Hobbes, long ago in that first episode. There are a number of callbacks by Will to that first season.

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Hannibal asks Will to close his eyes and imagine what he’d like Mason to do to Hannibal. Will imagines Hannibal hanging from the rafters in Mason’s pigpen, wearing a straitjacket. In his mind he is the one who slits Hannibal’s throat. Will is suffering from a severe case of “lovehate”. Hannibal has been the architect of so much misery that he can’t wait to see him dead (or captured). At the same time, there’s a part of him that finds all of this exciting, and revels in Hannibal’s antics. Will gets to use his hidden  savage self in service to the state, and loves letting that part of himself of its leash. You can see it in the last episode where he confronted Mason.

Mason confronts Hannibal during his next therapy session. He’s being especially hard on Hannibal’s nerves, as he critiques his drawings, declaring them to be crap, throwing his feet onto Hannibal’s desk, and stabbing at them with a penknife, like a bratty ten year old, which is exactly where Mason is, mentally. He hasn’t evolved beyond the spoiled child stage, and doesn’t seem to realize that he is dealing with a wholly different type of animal than anything he’s ever encountered. Mason is a small fish that, because of his narcissism, thinks he’s pretty big, in a big pond. He doesn’t even conceive that he’s dealing with  Hannibal the  Great White.

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Mason tells Hannibal that he should have stayed out of Verger family business, and threatens to slit his throat. Hannibal, who never gives anything of himself away, acts completely unperturbed, so you know that Mason is  a walking dead man, and that Hannibal have to do this himself, since Will isn’t cooperating with his masterplan of having Will kill Mason. Watch Hannibal’s face during this scene. You can see he is barely holding himself back from snapping the shit outta that little fucker. (Not in the office, Hannibal! Not in the office! – In the voice of Last Week’s John Oliver.)

In Margot’s therapy session with Hannibal, she is broken and restrained. After her forced hysterectomy, (which his quite possibly one of the most heinous things ever done on this show, and that’s saying something, when you consider this is a a show about serial killers.), she has learned her lesson about trying to oppose her brother, and all her hope is lost.In fact all seems lost for everyone, as there are a number of setbacks for all the characters, in this episode.

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Jack Crawford, who is frustrated at how long its taking Will to ensnare Hannibal, has a surprise for Will. He has found and detained Bedelia Du’Maurier, Hannibal’s former psychiatrist. She tried to run away because she knew Hannibal was dangerous for her, but the FBI has done her the favor of putting her back on his radar, as he was too busy with his machinations with Will, to search for her himself.

Will questions Bedelia about Hannibal’s weaknesses. She tells him of her fear of him, how he manipulates others into doing his dirty work for him, something which Will is experiencing first hand, and confesses about the patient Hannibal set her up to kill.She says Hannibal will persuade Will to kill someone he loves, but the only person Will has left to love is Alana. Hannibal has carefully removed everyone else from Will’s life, including the idea of his unborn child.

Hannibal may  be aware of how much Will hates him, during their next therapy session, but he completely disregards the depths to which Will will sink in pursuit of him. Will accuses Hannibal of fostering co-dependency. Hannibal doesn’t want anyone in Will’s life but himself. Which, when you think about it, is one of Hannibal’s creepier aspects.

While Hannibal is drawing one evening, Mason’s henchman, Carlo, bursts in and kidnaps Hannibal, but not without a fight in which Mateo, a friend of Carlo, loses his life, after Hannibal stabs him in the femoral artery with a scalpel.. Carlo stuns Hannibal,  takes him to Muskrat Farm, and trusses him over Mason’s pigpen. This is directly from the book and movie, Hannibal, where Mason Verger has Hannibal in this same position.

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Just as in his imagining, Will is prodded by Mason to slit Hannibal’s throat. We’re not sure exactly whats going on in Will’s mind. He certainly hates Hannibal, but when given an opportunity to kill him he balks, and later when given the opportunity to capture Hannibal, he warns him instead. Does Will even know what he wants, or why? Instead of cutting his throat, Will frees Hannibal but gets knocked out by Carlo for his troubles. Hannibal just leaves Will there unconscious and spirits Mason away for some,  more private, torture.

When Will wakes up he finds blood streaked everywhere, no sign of mason and Carlo’s body, which was eaten by the pigs. He goes back to his home to find Hannibal there with Mason. Hannibal has drugged Mason and induced him to cut off pieces of his flesh, using his father’s knife, and feed it to Will’s dogs. I’m not sure how lost Will is in this scene. He seems  amused at what Hannibal is doing. Is he happy because he finally has evidence of Hannibal doing something actionable in front of him, or is he simply amused at Hannibal’s antics? In a  nastily gruesome scene, Hannibal also orders Mason to cut off his lips and nose, and eat them. What makes this scene especially grotesque is Mason’s mental state. As he happily mutilates his face, he still crack plenty of jokes, about it.

Finally disturbed , Will urges Hannibal to finish Mason, but canny predator that he is, Hannibal doesn’t kill Mason. Instead he carefully paralyzes Mason with a precise break of his neck.

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Weeks later, Jack Crawford questions Mason about what happened to him, but Mason says he fell into his own pigpen, and  sings nothing but praises for Hannibal Lecter’s care. But we know better. This shit ain’t over as far as Mason is concerned. Or maybe it is. As Jack leaves, Mason is confronted by Margot, who tells him that she will take very good care of him. She’s the one in power now. I really love this scene, for the look of deep gratification on Margot’s face, as she says this.

Later, Will and Hannibal are debating whether  to confess their sins to Jack, or not. Hannibal weighs the idea that Jack should be told, and then killed, after which he and Will will run off together.

Hannibal Season Two: Ko No Mono

(Yes! I’m still writing these, even if no one is reading them. They’re kinda fun to write, and good practice for my other essays.)

In the last episode we saw Will Graham murdering Freddie Lounds at his house, and we assume that he, and Hannibal, ate parts of her body. Alana is growing increasingly perturbed by Will and Hannibal’s relationship, as Will appears to be becoming more and more like Hannibal, in his and Jack’s scheme to capture him.

As the episode begins, we are with the Wendigo and the Ravenstag, in the forest, as the Stag falls over, and squirts blood. While we watch, a new creature, based on a combination of the Wendigo and Will Graham, claws it’s way out of the Stag’s limp body. Will is once again, as he was earlier in the season, being haunted by thoughts of Lecter. The Stag began as a kind of precursor to Lecter’s presence, always appearing to Will in moments when he was subconsciously thinking of Hannibal, and sometimes, just before Hannibal’s actual appearance. As the series progressed, Hannibal’s icon has morphed into the Wendigo, while Will has taken on the Ravenstag as a subconscious token of himself. This happens especially as he’s gotten closer and closer to Hannibal. And now, as his relationship with Hannibal nears a crescendo, he secretly fears he’s become Hannibal’s iconic twin.


This becomes obvious in Hannibal and Will’s discussion at table, as Hannibal tells him that killing Freddie Lounds has changed Will’s thinking, remarking that Will’s imperturbability is a sign of true sociopathy. During this romantic dinner, Will and Hannibal swallow  some whole, tiny, naked birds, that look not unlike little babies, but what this is symbolic of, is not made clear, unless it’s a reference to all the fighting over Margot’s unborn baby, that happens later in the show.

Bryan Fuller:  Master of Symbolism.

That evening, a figure strapped into a burning wheelchair is pushed into a parking garage. The body lands in Freddie’s parking space, so we are meant to believe this is her, which is confirmed by Team Price and Zeller, when they examine the body. Naturally, Jack calls in Will and Hannibal to examine the body as well, and they do that thing where they stand around making assertions about the killer.  I’m still confused about how these personality assumptions, based solely on looking at the burned body,  would ever help the authorities capture any kind of criminal, but this is TV, where you’re not supposed to think too deeply about stuff like that, especially when it looks cool. In the movie, Red Dragon,  it’s slightly more realistically depicted, with a team of people sitting around brainstorming about a particular crime. Watch that scene where Chilton’s burned body has been discovered, with the team guessing where the killer might have done it, and how, so as to narrow down vectors of investigation.  That’s probably a little more like real-life profiling. In the show, Will and Hannibal look like they’re just riffing.

Later, Margot admits to Will that she slept with him just to get pregnant. And it works because she’s now carrying the Verger heir, and her brother can’t threaten to boot her out of the family anymore, making her homeless and destitute. Will is understandably upset about being so callously used, but isn’t this what he’s essentially doing with Hannibal? Pretending to be Hannibal’s friend, to accomplish some personal goal. So when Will feels a sense of betrayal at what Margot did, he should understand how exactly Hannibal felt, when he learns Will has been lying to him the entire time.

Margot says she wants nothing from him (being wealthy, she’d need for nothing anyway) but says she wouldn’t mind if he wants to be a part of the child’s life. She certainly doesn’t want Mason to be an influence because look how he turned out. He’s vile, petty, arrogant, abusive, entitled and whiny. In the movies the character is slightly more nuanced, but I think that’s more due to Gary Oldman’s acting, rather then the writing. Also in the books, and movies, we never met the version of Mason that hadn’t met up with Lecter, a much bigger shark.  In fact TV Mason has few, if any, redeeming qualities. I don’t even like Mason and I’ve  only seen him onscreen for a few minutes. At that moment, he’s psychologically tormenting a small child at Muskrat Farm, making him cry, so he can collect the little boy’s tears. In the books it’s stated that Mason is a child molester, and that he, did indeed, molest Margot. In the show it’s only heavily implied and never illustrated, in keeping with Fuller’s general idea of showing characters being vile, while not actually showing their victims being victimized. There’s a minimum of running, screaming, and terrorizing, on this show, which is very thoughtful of him. Most writers and directors seem to think that the screaming and terror of victims is what creates horrific moments, and I think that’s just lazy writing. (Plus, who wants to listen to 90 minutes of constant screaming? That shit is annoying.)

Afterwards, Alana visits Will at his home, (he’s still dreaming about the Wendigo), and spurred by Freddie’s insinuations, she expresses her misgivings about Will and Hannibal’s relationship. Will is more than a little salty that she’d question his relationship with Hannibal, while she is sleeping  with him.  This is the second time he’s mentioned that to her. He’s also more than a little salty about how no one believed him, when he said Hannibal was a killer. He says no one will believe Alana now, if she says Will is a killer. But he still cares about her and shows her the only way he knows how. He warns her about Hannibal and gives her a gun. Alana looks pretty flummoxed. I guessed she really wasn’t expecting that as a response. I did get the sense that  Will isn’t just worried about Hannibal coming after her, but expects her to use the gun on him, if he gets too lost in his roleplay.

Mason Verger has taken Hannibal up on his offer of therapy, and he is as whining and and thoughtless as you’d expect. Hannibal can’t stand him. Watch his face when Mason visits his office. He’s probably wishing he could kill him right then. Even I winced at Mason’s actions, and I’m not nearly as fastidious in my behavior as Hannibal. If you’re looking to find some excuse for why Mason is so vile, such as he was horribly abused as a child, or sexually assaulted, or something, Fuller refuses to give you that out. There’s no particular reason Mason is the way he is. He was spoiled and overindulged by his father, and has simply never grown past being a rotten ten year old.  He gleefully tells Hannibal about the arrangement his father made that would cut his sister out of the will, if anything happens to him. Hannibal is the one who puts the thought in Mason’s head that his sister could always upend his plans by  getting pregnant.


A funeral is held for Lounds, while Will and Alana watch it from afar, exchanging terse words again, their friendship is totally broken at this point, even though they still care deeply for each other, but it’s something that won’t play out until the third season. That night someone digs up Freddie’s body and mutilates it to look like the Hindu Goddess Kali, posed with extra arms. This body sculpture is a pun on how Hannibal sees himself, as a godlike figure, who is both creator and destroyer, giving and taking life. This time Alana is called in to profile the person who desecrated the body and she sees a connection between Randall Tier and Lounds. She insists to Jack that it might be Will. She goes to Hannibal  and expresses the same fears about Will. Hannibal is distracted by the scent of gunpowder on her hands and she tells him she’s been paranoid.

Although Hannibal is a master manipulator, it’s been shown that he often sets things in motion, and moves people around, with no idea of the eventual outcome. He sets disastrous events in motion, on nothing more than spite, or whim, with no idea of the end results, how many people will be drawn into play, or even if he’ll walk away from them intact, just as happened between Will and Abigail’s  father. Ironically, its this inability  to keep himself from intervening, that first sets Will on his scent, beginning their narrative together.

Mason confronts Margot at the estate, hinting that he knows she’s pregnant, having been given he idea that she might be by Hannibal. Margot has no safe place on the estate. Mason can invade her spaces anytime, and knows it. I always wondered why Margot didn’t just walk out on the entire thing, but  then Ithink  that she likes the perks of being rich, too much, to leave it, and likely has no marketable skills,with which to live in the world, and make her own way. Her father would’ve seen to that, expecting her to get married, and be taken care of by a husband, and most certainly had not counted on his daughter being a lesbian.

I’m still not entirely certain Mason knows Margot is pregnant or if he is just guessing. Even if she isn’t, she could easily become so and he  makes plans to prevent that from ever happening. Margot knows he plans to harm her, possibly kill her, and while this isn’t the first time he’s ever threatened her, this time her unborn child is at stake. She attempts to flee, but Mason’s henchman, Carlos,  crashes into her car, stopping her. She wakes up in an operating room, and in one of the more horrifying moments, in a show full of them, she realizes that Mason has violated her once again, by removing her baby and her entire uterus. She will never have a Verger heir.That loophole she found in their father’s will, has just been closed. Mason’s money can pay for all manner of corrupt behavior, such as the henchman who injured her, and the doctor who mutilates her.


Alana confronts Jack about how everyone is lying to her and she can’t rust anyone, including Hannibal. That whatever they’re all up to, Jack is going to be the clear loser in their agenda. Jack, exasperated but sympathetic takes her into the other room where Freddie Lounds is very much still alive, having faked her death to capture Hannibal. I don’t know what Alana is thinking in this scene, but she looks devastated.
Will enraged is an intense sight to see. He really is like a force of nature when he’s got his blood  up. He goes to Muskrat Farm, to confront Mason, who is attending to his flock of prized pigs. He threatens to shoot him and feed him to his pigs, while dangling him over the pen. He explains to Mason that they’re all being manipulated by the grandmaster of manipulation, Hannibal Lecter, who put a bug in Margot’s ear, and Mason’s, and then encouraged Will to take revenge on Mason, for hurting another child, like Abigail, that Will is  never going to know.

He informs Mason their true enemy is Hannibal. Once again  he throws Hannibal’s plans, by doing the something he couldn’t predict.

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