Hannibal Season Three: Antipasto

Hi!

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

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

Hannibal Season 4 Needs to Happen: Here’s Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Note:

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

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon

 

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                   SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now for some speculation.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sunny: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Veil:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Widow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Baron Chau

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

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

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

 

Quinn:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

American Gods

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

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Peter Stormare as Czernobog

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Odin)

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

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


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

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

By David M. Perry

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


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Crispin Glover as Mr. World (Loki)

American Gods Is a Gorgeous Mess

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

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


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Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon)

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


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

Inside the mind of the African trickster god.

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

 


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

TV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz


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Yetide Badaki as Bilquist

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

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


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

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Gillian Anderson as Media

The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman

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

By

 

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The Walking Dead: Season 7 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick

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

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

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

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

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Michonne

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

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

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

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

Morgan

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

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

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

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

Carol

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

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

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

So, Ezekiel would be good for her.

Negan

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

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

 

Sasha:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eugene

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

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

 

King Ezekiel and Jeffrey:

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

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

 

Shiva

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

 

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

 

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.

Midnight Texas

Based on Charlaine Harris series called conveniently Midnight Texas, this new show will be airing this Summer (July 25th) on NBC.

I have a distrust of network TV  as they seem to want the audience that goes along with SFF shows, (they want that geek cred), but are unwilling to stick with the shows long enough for fans to get a foothold, or they simply don’t invest in the shows and don’t care about them. (We’re looking at you Sleepy Hollow.)

Anyway this show looks pretty good, for what that’s worth. I’m reluctant to get attached to it because, like I said, network TV has a talent for fucking over fans of these types of shows. I love the diversity in the show, the black vampire, the angel, and also a witch. Some of these characters are holdovers from True Blood, a show I liked. I don’t expect this show to be like True Blood, though I respect the showrunner for Mr. Robot. I haven’t yet read the books but I plan to get to those before the show airs.

ABOUT THE SHOW

Welcome to a place where being normal is really quite strange. From the visionary director of “Mr. Robot” and based on the hit book series from the author behind HBO’s “True Blood” comes a journey into a remote Texas town where no one is who they seem. From vampires and witches to psychics and hit men, Midnight is a mysterious safe haven for those who are different. As the town members fight off outside pressures from rowdy biker gangs, ever-suspicious cops and their own dangerous pasts, they band together and form a strong and unlikely family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samurai Jack: Season Five Premiere

 

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Samurai Jack is quite possibly one of the most uniquely gorgeous cartoons on television. Now in its final season, it’s pulling out all of the stops for some truly groundbreaking and beautiful art. The plots of each episode  aren’t complicated but the overall arc of the season is complex enough to make watching it a worthwhile endeavor.

*Fifty years have passed, but I do not age. Time has lost its effect on me, yet the suffering continues. Aku’s grasp chokes the past, present and future. All hope is lost. Got to get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack.

— Jack, in the opening sequence

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Voiced once again by Phil Lamarr from Pulp Pulp Fiction, and MadTV, it’s  some fifty years in the future, and Aku has finally succeeded in taking over the world. But he’s become bored and jaded. He’s no longer interested in hunting Jack, or trying to kill him. He let’s his robot drones and cultlike followers do his dirty work for him. A new group is hunting Jack called The Daughters of Aku.

Jack lost his legendary sword long ago and wanders Aku’s corrupt landscape, with no purpose. He failed to stop Aku from taking over the world but he can’t or won’t die. One of the side effects of having gone through the time portal to kill Aku is that he no longer ages. He longs to die, but out of long habit, fights Akus servants, over and over.

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It’s a gorgeous looking show with lots of action, and is rather mordantly funny, with the humor found in unexpected places. In one of the earlier sequences we watch as Aku goes about his day, receiving  penitents, eating breakfast, and doing some stretching and deep knee bends, because the Evil Ruler of the World has to remain nimble.

In fact, Samurai  Jack and Aku have a lot in common, as they navigate a world radically different from what they thought things would be. They’re old, jaded, weary, and tired of fighting, but just can’t seem to stop. Jack is  facing new foes, old friends, and trying to live in a world he failed to save. Aku realizes that ruling the world isn’t as wonderful as he thought it would be, but he can’t stop either. So,  the show contains a surprising amount of depth and pathos, where you have two former foes, who are tired of being foes, but have invested too much in it to stop doing it.

The art takes a bit of getting used to, because its wholly unlike any other cartons on TV, and is very minimalist and deco.

Its an excellent cartoon ,worth watching on  Adult Swim, Saturdays at 11 PM.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead Season 7: Rock in the Road; New Best Friends 

So, I’m back and cautiously attending the show. I was looking forward to this episode, as it’s mostly Negan-free, and it’s nice to see Rick getting his mojo back. Plus, I’m partial to Jesus, and he’s just really pretty, and he got to say some lines during this episode, so…

We open this episode with Rick and the Gang, walking with new pep in their steps, into Hilltop to confront Gregory about joining them in taking down Negan. Greg is at his infuriating worst, calling everybody out of their names, until Rick starts to lose his shit. My favorite moment is when Michonne, realizing her bae is about to lose it and slap Greg into the next episode, pulls her man back from the brink with a single touch, stepping in to save Greg’s sorry life. She grounds Rick in a way absolutely no one else can. Watch her face as Rick starts to get more and more agitated in discussion with Gregory, after Greg calls him Ricky. Incidentally, why is Greg in charge? He is a total trash coward!

Negotiations with Hilltop are a bust, so Jesus takes the crew to The Kingdom, where they meet up again with Morgan, who lies about Carol’s whereabouts, even though he sees Daryl standing right there, and knows the two had a connection. The funniest moment is when Rick and the others meet King Ezekiel for the first time, and are staring, rather goggle eyed, at Shiva, when Jesus apologizes for not remembering  to tell them there was gonna be a tiger. The look on Jesus’ face is priceless.

They strike out at The Kingdom. King  Zeke is reluctant to get involved in a war, but he  needs to understand that his relationship with The Saviors, is already tentative. They are bullies who can decide, on a whim, to change the dynamic of their relationship with him at any time, (and I’m certain they will, because that’s what sadistic people do.) The King’s people are always in danger from them, no matter what he does.

The group is on a time stamp, because Daryl’s escape has been discovered, and Rick knows The Saviors will come directly to Alexandria to look for him, and terrorize his people. (They know this because Jesus managed to steal one of the Saviors walkie -talkies.) They need to get to Alexandria before the Saviors do. On their way back home they meet a roadblock of cars and bombs, and make plans to take the bombs with Rosita’s help. Can I just say that Rosita is seriously getting on my nerves. I know why she’s acting the way she is but it’s still irksome. Nevertheless, I hope she doesn’t bring harm to herself. She’s in a kind of fatalistic depression that is going to get her, or someone else, killed. Again.

While  stealing the bombs, a horde of Walkers appears, and the Richonne team take most of them out with a couple of cars and some wires. Can I just point out how batshit this show has become this season? I loved this scene. (I won’t even mention the scene, a few episodes back, where Jesus backkicks some zombies, at Hilltop.) Afterwards, Michonne has to talk Rick down when he has a panic attack, at the realization, of just how much danger he just put his bae through. Rick has always had to consider others, but there was a power differential, with Carl and the others, that could create some control for their safety. The same isn’t true in his relationship with Michonne. She has a level of autonomy that the other characters lack, and she’s not like his late-wife, who would stay put when he told her. He needs to start considering the kind of danger he used to just walk into, with an understanding that the others would stay behind. Michonne isn’t going to stay behind. I think he’s just starting to realize that this woman would walk through the Gates of Hell for him, so  he may have to rethink doing that kind of stuff.

Father Gabriel makes off with Alexandria’s supplies, before Rick and the others can get back, but  Rick is just in time to meet The Saviors, and assure them that Daryl isn’t there, although The Saviors wonder at why they don’t have anything. Why do nasty people, when searching for stuff, always break things and topple things over? This is a trope I’ve seen in every TV show and movie, with the villains toppling over chairs, tables, and picture frames, as if whatever they’re looking for can be found in that bottle of orange juice they just smashed on the floor. Incidentally, this  also shows the viewer what type of villains they are, and how important, and/or meaningful, their search is. The Saviors issue  some threats and leave. Rick investigates Gabriel’s disappearance. He trusts Gabe wouldn’t do what he did without a reason, and finds a note from Gabe to go the boat, from which came  their last batch of supplies.

When they arrive, they’re attacked by a new group of people, who live on heaps of garbage. Right now fans are calling them the Scavengers. Rick however is unbowed. He smiles because what he sees is an opportunity to make new allies.

Now:

And that’s sort of what happens, after some very rough negotiating techniques, where Rick has to fight a spike covered zombie, in a garbage-dome, while Michonne yells out helpful hints, like “Use your environment, dude!” Well, I’m kind of paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. I like how the writers are showing the dynamics of their relationship, since they got together. The creators said the two of them were long destined to be a couple, so we’ve seen some of this dynamic the entire time, but this season we get the full outlook, and it’s interesting to watch Rick have these epiphanies, brought about by his relationship with her. Michonne, is an anchor, she’s a sea of calm. Like I said, she emotionally grounds him, and he is her emotional safety, where she can freely express herself, without judgment.(For example, notice who receives most of her smiles.) They keep each other from spinning out of control, as we saw that first few months in Alexandria.

This new group of people are really weird, though, as the show just seems to be throwing all manner of craziness into the plot. They dress like extras from Star Trek, and the leader, Jadis, talks like a constipated Vulcan, and has a low concept of personal space. If the Hilltoppers are the Hippies, I guess these are the Goths of the Apocalypse, (which is a great name for an Industrial Rock band.)

Rick makes a deal with Jadis, to take down the Saviors, for a third of the spoils, and there you have it. This is Rick’s first step in the war, I guess. Now he needs to get Hilltop and The Kingdom on board. King Ezekiel is still surreptitiously checking on Carol even though she is vehement that no one bother her. He manages to weasel around her decrees very nicely, while still managing to give her stuff he knows she likes, like Cobbler. On a more humorous note, Jerry, Zeke’s second, is my new boyfriend. He is exactly my physical type, and I think I’m falling in love with his happy ass.

In the meantime, Daryl comes across Carol and there’s a happy-sad reunion. I like the relationship these two abuse survivors have built. Daryl still tries really hard to be stoic and manly around her, but she’s one of the few people who can see right through it. Of course, Carol wasn’t there for Glenn’s death, and when she asks if everyone is okay, Daryl lies to her, saying they are. I have mixed feelings about that, though. I don’t like that he lied. I disagree with him lying to her, but I’m also glad he did because I understand why. Carol is going through some kinda shit and needs to decompress. The Alexandrians are just going to have to opt out of nuking the Saviors from orbit, which is what Carol would do, were she available. She and Daryl sit down to have a quiet dinner.

I did enjoy seeing Daryl bonding with Shiva afterwards. Apparently, he can identify with her, in a way no one else can. Not even Jerry gets close to her, but Shiva likes Daryl, it seems.

Later, Daryl confronts Morgan, about why he lied about Carol’s whereabouts. Morgan is once again trying to talk someone else into taking the peaceful way out. I understand his point of view, but its extremely impractical in a world with such being as the Saviors. He’s starting to work my last damn nerve, too. He and Rosita. Rosita is flailing wildly at anyone that wanders into her orbit, on one extreme, and on the other extreme, you have Morgan, who thinks people can just talk their way through everything. Hey Morgan, guess what? There’s such a thing as the middle path.

I think I saw this same argument on Tumblr. You cannot reason with the unreasonable. You certainly cannot reason with people who mean you gross bodily harm, and only understand that they shouldn’t hurt you, when they have some skin in the game. In other words, some people only stop being violent when they realize how much that shit is gonna cost them. When we were kids my mother used to say this about bullies,” You got to bring some ass, to get some ass!” If a person wants to hurt you, make that mf pay for it, if you can, or rethink their actions, if you can’t. (In other words, there’s no such thing as a fair fight.) Morgan, in his zeal to salvage his conscience, can only get other people killed. This is a philosophy that only works in a world filled with honorable people, who don’t enjoy violence, for its own sake.

Also, I’m getting a little tired of the writers creating these useless Black men for the show. Black men who are cowards, or liabilities, who can’t, or won’t fight back. It’s interesting when you consider the show is written by White men who think they’re being nuanced and are trying not to stereotype them, and that’s all well and good, but in my life I’ve not met a single Black man that won’t, at least, attempt to put his foot in your ass, if you step to him. As a Black woman, I think I know a lot more Black men than the writers. They’ve written some wonderful Black women into the show, and I wish they could do the same for the Black men, and they could, if they weren’t being hampered by this idea of trying  to avoid stereotypes of Black men, I think.
Okay, I’m skipping next week’s episode, because I have a special intolerance for Negan, who is  prominently featured. But I will read the recaps and reviews, and maybe reblog one or two of those, instead. I hate the Negan centered episodes, even though sometimes they’re important, but I mostly don’t want to see Eugene being tortured, as he’s such a precious cinnamon roll, and really, I can’t watch that.

So TTFN!

Geeking Out About: Brooklyn 99

Brooklyn 99

Today I am  singing the praises of one of my favorite sit-coms, Brooklyn 99. I don’t often watch comedies, because most of them  aren’t particularly funny to me, try too hard, or I just don’t have time for them, and I was not going to watch this one, because I have trouble watching cop shows, (Apparently I can watch cop comedies, I guess.  I loved Reno 911, and thought this might be similar to it. It both is and isn’t.)

Brooklyn 99 is just as ridiculously over the top as Reno 911, but the characters are much more likable, and competent. They’re certainly less raunchy, as this is a Primetime show. The 99’s characters are the kind of people you want to meet and make friends with. The characters from Reno 911 are  much more like  your annoying co-workers, that you’d  like to punch in the  neck. The 99 characters are the kind of people you laugh with and cheer for. The Reno characters are the kind you laugh at, while hoping they don’t  blow anything up. What’s refreshing about Brooklyn 99 is, you start the series with what you think are just a bunch of standard tropes, and gradually, these characters become fleshed out, and more complicated, but not in the usual ways.

This show is also an example of getting diversity right. (Except for the lack of Asians, which it really needs at least one. ) I love the attitudes of the characters. They really do act as if they are a family.

There’s none of the passive-aggressive hostility that passes for humor in other ensemble shows. The characters acknowledge that they are very different from one another, there’s occasional teasing about that, but no one is ever made to feel ashamed of, or less than, for who they are. The only time characters are ever made to feel ashamed, is when they behave badly, and their friends call them on their shit. There’s a general acceptance by the other characters when someone is just a certain way, even if that way is mildly annoying, like Charles Boyle, or in Rosa’s case , occasionally terrifying. The closest you get to meanness in the show is Rosa, but she makes up for it by only kicking the asses of people who mess with her friends, (or inanimate objects that ain’t actin’ right.)

One of the things  I really like about this show is when characters make mistakes, they’re willing to acknowledge they made the mistake, and either apologise, or atone for it. They’re willing to not only  admit when they’ve been foolish, but when they’ve been doubling down on their foolishness too, which is a refreshing change from the real life model of people who actively work at being their worst possible selves. Brooklyn 99 makes me like people, and is a perfect example of how to Grownup.

Here, in some kind of order, are:

Det. Rosa Diaz  (Stephanie Beatriz)

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Rosa is the kind of girl you want to have your back in a fight. If I was arranging a team of people to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, Rosa would be Michonne. She has an appetite for destruction that is awesome. In fact, one of the best birthday presents Gina ever gave her, was a hammer, and some time alone in a soon to be demolished house. According to Rosa it was: The Best Birthday Ever!

Strangers see me like  Rosa, or Captain Holt, depending on their personal anxiety levels. Rosa began the series as a typical anger management case, which is funny when you contrast that with how model pretty she is, and this is part of the show’s charm.The humor comes from the character traits and how various teammates respond to the events in the show. They’re usually involved in some situation that requires them to react, and because their personalities are all so different, you get some spectacularly funny moments. Occasionally the show likes to give us a real treat and put certain personalities together to solve some issue. Hilarity often ensues.

Over the years we find out many surprising things about Rosa, like she’s occasionally intimidated by people too, she used to be a ballet dancer, and  that she was raised by nuns, but when we first meet Rosa she’s beating up a copy machine, with a battering ram, and at first you think she’s just a stereotypical “Spicy Latina”. Thankfully, anger isn’t all there is to her. She’s also honest, forthright, insightful, supportive, loyal, and encouraging to her teammates. Rosa is the shows truth-teller. She specializes in stating uncomfortable truths, and doesn’t shirk from that, even when those truths are about herself.

 

 

Gina Linetti  (Chelsea Perretti)

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If I had to choose someone to be friends with, it would be Gina. She’s that best girlfriend, who always knows where the latest get-togethers are, and how to finagle her way into them. She’s carefree and deeply self involved, but not in a neurotic way, because this is a woman who has realized her fabulousness and is very comfortable with her greatness. The funny thing is, she is pretty fabulous, mostly because she acts like it, and truly believes it. She has a deep and abiding love affair with her phone, through which she receives copious amounts of gossip. She’s also totally  unwilling to let others forget how wonderful she is. Gina is also one of the laziest assistants to ever be in an office. She’s so fabulous however that not only does she not make any secret of this, she is hilariously quite proud of that, (and her interpretive dance skills).

One of the most surprising things,on the show,  is her relationship with Jake, which I truly enjoy. They’ve know each other since they were little children, having grown up in the same neighborhood, and they have one of the best platonic friendships I’ve ever seen on TV. One of my favorite moments is when Jake gives Gina the forehead kiss, as if she were his little sister, and she lets him do it, although she really isn’t affectionate, like that,with anyone else on the show, and I think she’s older than him.

 

Det. Jake Peralta  (Adam Samberg)

Jake Peralta is everybody’s cool best friend (and Charles Boyle would be more than happy to tell you this).

Jake begins the show as an irresponsible, sloppy, childlike character, but you can see his growth over the course of three seasons, as he learns to be honest with himself and others, and even manages to win Amy’s affections, after being so annoying to her at the beginning of the show. Heck he was annoying to me, and definitely to Captain Holt, but I’ve actually grown to like, and even admire  him.He has matured throughout the seasons but not so much that he doesn’t still think that frosting his hair blonde looks really cool.

When I first started watching this show, I was watching it for Andre Braugher, and I initially dismissed Jake as someone I would have to simply tolerate. I thought he’d be the typical White male protagonist who is the center of all the stories, and  everything he did and said, would be treated as gold. But that’s not what happened. Adam Samberg is willing to step aside from time to time, and let the other characters shine, and  teach his character how to grow up. Samberg understands he doesn’t need to be the center of every episode. He’s no William Shatner and that’s refreshing.

Jake always had trouble showing affection, not because he didn’t want people to think he was gay, but because he had father issues, and is still immature enough not to know how to handle affection from others. But he has grown, over the course of the show.

Witness his gradual change of character, as he attempts to become the kind of man who deserves to have someone like Amy, in his life. Jake is still immature, but he genuinely loves Amy, and tries to be the kind of man who can make her happy. Amy’s  love encourages him to want to be a better man. The distinction is subtle but there.  Amy is  the polar opposite of him, and he acknowledges that keeping her with him might require him to act more mature. Jake is also willing to acknowledge his mistakes,  apologize for them, and attempts to do better, not just for Amy, but for all those he considers his friends.

 

 

 

Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher)

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Captain Holt is the father figure of The 99. He’s the no-nonsense, emotionally restrained, backbone to the department. Or at least that’s  how it starts. I love the way this character has grown since the beginning of the series. He started out as real hard-case, coming down  hard on Jake, to get him to be more responsible and adult. He has since come to  understand Jake a lot more, understanding that Jake is at his best when he’s allowed to just be himself, realizing his influence over Jake, and he’s even begun to loosen up  just a bit, under Jake’s influence.

Throughout the seasons, we’ve witnessed Holt loosen up a more, finally becoming comfortable with his detectives, and allowing them to see just a little of his silly side, although he would probably be insulted at that description, not having ever believed in, or condoned, silliness or frivolousness, of any kind. At first, I just saw Holt as The Inscrutable Negro, mysterious, and unflappable. Now I really enjoy this character and I’m always eager to see how he’ll surprise me, during an episode by, for example, having an impromptu dance-off with some street thugs.

Over time, Holt has come to admire Jake, and think of him as a son, which is a total turnaround from when they first met. After all, Jake possessed every quality that Holt disdained, and he didn’t believe Jake took his job seriously, but now he’s very proud of Jake and encourages him to do his best. Jake, who spent the earliest part of his life trying to please his absentee father, and never measuring up, has found the perfect father-figure in Holt.

Holt’s team  admires him, and  strive to make him proud of them.  Captain Holt is an out, gay, Black man. His job might care about him being gay, but his team doesn’t, and they are always respectful of his relationship with his husband Kevin, treating the two just  like every other couple on the show.  For example, when Holt wanted to visit Kevin, who was on Sabbatical in France, Amy, Charles, and Jake, volunteer to dogsit the couple’s Corgi,  Cheddar. The humor doesn’t come from “Oh, these gay men have a cute dog.” No, the humor comes from the usual wackiness that ensues because Amy, Charles, and Jake are such different personalities which clash over babysitting Cheddar.

The show doesn’t browbeat you over the head with After School Special moments, though. How Holt handles his sexuality, in an environment where it is much more likely to meet with resistance, is done with grace and dignity. His gayness isn’t the joke. In fact, no one’s race is ever a joke, and no one’s gender is ever used as a joke.

I admire the hell out of this character. Hilariously he’s the character that most people who don’t know me well, see me as. My close friends find that hilarious, btw.

 

Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews)

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Terry is like everybody’s fit  uncle. He looks intimidating, but after a while, you find out that Terry is merely extremely health conscious and an actual Teddy Bear. Terry is such a gentle soul, that he has to be carefully talked into using his tremendous strength ,and has deep anxieties about firing a weapon. I love how the show bucks stereotypes of Black men, by having two very intense looking black men, who  are nothing like they first seem.

Terry is a devoted family man who truly, madly, deeply, loves his two twin baby daughters, even though he thinks they are possibly trying to kill him. Known for speaking of himself in the first person, Terry  also loves yogurt, exercise, and his job, which mostly involves wrangling all these different personality types, to focus them on one thing together.Terry is the Peacekeeper. His job is to make sure everybody is getting along and ready to work. He’s strong, encouraging, and always speaks up,and goes to bat, for his people. Captain Holt depends on Terry to run the day to day operations, and considering the types of personalities he has to work with, Terry is doing an excellent job.

 

Det. Amy Santiago

Amy is the girl I was in High School, except I was a lot more snooty. Amy is that best friend , that you hated just a tiny bit, because not only is she smart, organized, and ready, she’s a classic goody-two-shoes, (with just a tiny competitive streak). In fact, I think when that description was created, Amy was who they had in mind.

Amy is an extremely moral and ethical person, who believes in strictly following the rules, and lots and lots of planning. She dislikes how Jake likes to cut corners, or sometimes just wing it. Amy doesn’t wing anything if she can help it. She loves to please people she admires, and will go out of her way to get Captain Holt’s approval, going so far as to cook him a large and tasteless Thanksgiving dinner, or agreeing to babysit his Corgi, Cheddar.  I love Amy because she really is a girl after my own heart. Like me, she is a stickler for prudent planning,  and  loves a nice sized binder of information.

But Amy’s life is so rigidly defined that she needs a little chaos, and that’s where jake comes in. Initially, I think she hated him because Jake is everything she isn’t, but as Jake began to prove his love for her, presenting her with options of when and where to be with him, and then waiting for her to decide, she began to see Jake’s true colors. As I said,

 

Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio)

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Charles is everybody’s favorite grandma and/or best friend. Hes loving , admiring, supportive, encouraging, and Jake’s right hand man, even though Jake didn’t choose him for it. He’s the kind of guy who always has a bowl of candy on his desk to offer to co-workers who are feeling a bit down.

I love Charles because, well…he’s just lovable. Joe Lo Truglio, formerly from Reno 911, is the complete opposite of his character, on that show. On 911 he was a venal, angry drug user, but  Charles is a warm, gracious, polite, foodie, and that you believe this, is a testament to Joe Lo Truglio’s acting skills. Charles is always upbeat and optimistic. He always looks on the bright side of a situation, no matter how horrible that situation may seem to others, like when his best friend, Jake accidentally shot him in the butt, or when his dog died. Charles was the only one capable of seeing the silver lining. He has a tendency to be a floor mat because he always puts others needs before his own. Now that he has a young son, whom he adopted, he has someone at which to throw all his tremendous caring.

He’s very devoted to Jake and I love the show has this depiction of a close m/m friendship without screaming no homo, everytime he and Jake show affection.

 

Det. Adrien Pimento

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Adrien is the newest recurring character at Brooklyn 99. Having suffered an emotional breakdown, after going undercover with some mobsters, Adrien is in a very  fragile emotional state, when he returns to his job as a detective. He’s paranoid and full of anxiety, and definitely suffering from some form of PTSD, but his mental state is never made the butt of the joke, and is not actually connected to his zany behavior. He acts wild, not because of his emotional fragility, but because he is thoroughly lacking in any boundaries, like breaking into Jake’s apartment to do Tai Chi, in his underwear. The humor comes from the reactions of his co-workers, who never have any idea what Adrien might  do next, not from making fun of his emotional state. The show skirts a fine line between acknowledging his emotional disability, and  understanding that it doesn’t necessarily inform  his behavior.

Adrien is definitely what’s known as  Chaotic Good.

Adrien is a good man, which is why the rest of the team accepts him. Also,  he and Rosa develop an intense, frantic, (and inexplicable) attraction to each other, although Adrien  explains, at first, that he’s not capable of having a relationship with her, they do eventually decide to get married.  Rosa seems   okay with Adrien’s unpredictability, and takes most of his decisions  in stride. She never tries to change Adrien, or make him behave, (although when she first met him she called him a freak, that she will only fall in love with). After a while, she just accepts him for the wild card that he is.

Actually, once everyone has gotten used to Adrien, they  just try to work  with him, or around him, for example, Gina is one of the few people Adrien will actually obey, when she tells him to do something, and Charles pretty much loves everyone, when he’s not terrified of them. Over time, the team’s acceptance  and trust starts to heal Adrien’s emotional wounds, and he starts to feel confident enough to form healthier relationships with others.
I’m geeking out about Brooklyn 99 because it’s an example of a show thats getting its humor and diversity right, with smart, funny, well rounded characters. It resumes its fourth season on April 11th, on the Fox network. Go figure!

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

The Walking Dead Season 7: The Cell

Normally, I’d review this episode myself, but it’s the night before the election, I just got through a harrowingly emotional episode of Westworld, and I’m not in the best frame of mind. I know my emotional capacity and I’m just not ready to watch  Daryl, one of my favorite characters, be tortured for an hour. My brain is tired. Nope! I’m not ready for it.

But, I came across this excellent review, at Supernatural Sisters. I couldn’t reblogged the post but I can steer you in their direction. The owners of this site are Af-Am women with an acute interest in all things Horror. It’s rare to find Black women who are interested in horror, so naturally, I fell in love.

They also do some top notch Supernatural, Game of Thrones, and Teen Wolf reviews, book recommendations, and posts on Horror mythology and cryptozoology . It’s great! Check it out!

Here’s Sunday’s review of The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead S07E03 Review: The Cell

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Westworld Season One: Contrapasso

Contrapasso is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, where the sinner in Hell suffers a punishment related to  the sin that was committed when they were alive. Literally the “counterstrike ” or the “counter-suffering”, which describes the relationship between the sinner and the resulting justification for their torture in Hell.

I was being a bit silly last week when I said I wished the robot rebellion would get started. I don’t actually wish that, really. I’m having  too much fun parsing all the events in this show. It’s just such a rich brew, I was jittering around in my seat like a three year old.  I heard this fifth episode was going to be mind-blowing, and the actress who said that, (Guess who?), wasn’t kidding. So I re-watched all the episodes from the beginning, so I could try to get a good handle on what’s going on. I think I succeeded in understanding about fifty (maybe 60) percent of what’s happening. I’m no dummy but (just like the writers of Hannibal) the people writing this show are waay smarter than me. But here’s my recap anyway, and perhaps by doing this I can understand what the hell I’m watching.

But before I get started I just want to talk about Westworld’s theme song at the opening of the show. If you listen carefully, it’s a parallel of what happens during the course of the series. I noticed this while watching a YouTube video of someone playing the song on piano. The theme is only about a minute and a half long, but during it, more and more discordant notes start to creep in. The song becomes darker, as flatter and  lower notes are added, so that what started out as a harmonious, innocently lovely tune, ends as something ominous, echoing the direction not just of the plot of the show, but the character arcs of the Hosts as they begin to reach for self awareness. Just like that first thunderous note, is an echo of the Park’s first death, this is a machine that has been running without a hitch for some thirty years, but lately has some troubling signs that all isn’t well, as the various anomalies start to build on each other, just like the notes of the theme.

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Okay, I have to admit I have no fucking clue who the Man in Black is,  but I’d like to believe it’s Arnold, the maker who “died” in the park. Yes, yes! I know I could be wrong because as I’ve stated before, accurate speculation is not a superpower I possess. However, I’m going to forge ahead with this theory anyway, because I like it, and there have been too many ambiguous statements from Guests, Robert Ford, and the MIB himself, leading me to believe that the MIB lost himself in the park, and reinvented himself as this villain which everyone refuses to name. My biggest clue was when Logan was talking to William about the Park’s origins, and said there were no photographs of Arnold, and that he had the hardest time finding information about him. There was also last week’s guest who recognized the MIB from the real world.

Ford is in the basement with one of his old robots talking about how he used to own a greyhound, and when he let it off its leash, it ran wild and killed a cat. He’s obviously talking about the Park, and the Hosts, which he intends to let off their leash, I guess. Ford knows what’s happening to the Hosts.  He even has some idea of what the outcome could be and he is allowing all of it to happen. The show keeps having the characters make allusions to  the violent retribution that would occur should the robots ever have their restrictions removed. Those restrictions being programmed to not harm humans and the lack of memories of what the Guests do to them.

What Ford’s ultimate purpose is, I don’t know, but it may have something to do with the rival business interests that Logan represents, and this big narrative that Ford has been designing that has been disrupting the Park’s other narratives. I’m convinced that the new backstory he gave Teddy last week, involving his relationship with Wyatt, is also a part of it all. Wyatt is the boogeyman no one has yet seen.

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Ford talks to Dolores about what happened 34 years ago. (I noticed the dates keep changing. Its 33, or 35, or 30 years ago.) We learn that Dolores was the last person to interact with Arnold. It’s also mentioned, in an earlier episode, that there hasn’t been a death in the park for over thirty years, (Arnold) and that Dolores is the last Host left from that era. Either the MIB is Arnold, or he killed Arnold. This is my supposition until I get new information, which might change next week, since this show insists on confounding me. I’m still not completely ruling  out that the MIB is a Host with Arnold’s memories loaded into it like a memory card.

Dolores divulges, in her conversation with Ford, that Arnold told her her purpose was to help him destroy Westworld. Ford is attempting to find out if the Hosts are hearing the Voice of God commands they were first programmed with. But she is lying to him about that. Someone said the most frightening thing is not a robot that can pass the Turing Test (A test to see if a robot can pass for human by engaging with a human. None of the robots in existence today have passed this test, so calm down.) but a robot that deliberately fails a Turing Test.  Dolores is deliberately pretending to be less aware than she is in this scene. She may also be doing this with William and Logan, too.

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Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, along with Slim, and we meet El Lazo who happens to be a copy of the Lawrence Host that’s been accompanying the MIB on his travels. His name is Lawrence, too. Their meeting with El Lazo doesn’t start off well. He tasks them to steal a shipment of nitroglycerin from the Union army, to prove they can be trusted. It’s interesting that in this narrative, the Civil War is referenced. In the real world, the Southwestern part of the US was flooded with former slaves, after the war. There still aren’t enough Black people  in Westworld, but since this is the Southwest, the number of Hispanics is pretty high and that’s good. I’ve seen no Asian Hosts at all, and I know there were thousands working the railroads in the Southwest at that time, but that could be explained by not having the railroads be  part of Westworld’s narratives. (Why not?)

Logan does mention that at the outer fringes of the Park, things are wilder, and  less well managed.  He says he hasn’t visited those areas but I ‘m guessing that he’s too busy laying on his back to do much exploring. Logan pretty much just thinks with his dick. Yet, he’s not all that different from any of the other humans I’ve seen in this show. It’s not them being sexual creatures that bothers me, it’s that a lot of their thoughts about sex could be kept to themselves.  It turns out that the secret representative that Ford mentioned to Theresa in the last episode is actually Logan. He’s from some kind of rival business or something, looking  to invest heavily in Westworld. I’m only partially interested in this part of the narrative.

At Pariah, we get to see quite a number of Black Union soldiers in this episode stationed in the town. Also there are what El Lazo calls The Confederados. His purpose is to sell the nitro to the Confederates. Logan, William and Dolores complete their task but Slim gets shot down. Dolores later discovers it’s all a ruse, as El Lazo plans to use the nitro for his own ends, replacing what he’s given to the confederates with tequila. Dolores also has several visions of herself, and the maze, and is told she must follow it. She can feel herself becoming a new person and she does, in a sense. As a bandit, she gets a brand new wardrobe, and later when William is attacked by the Confederates, angry about the tequila sham, she is definitely “born again hard”, as she shoots down all three men threatening them. In the aftermath, she tells  William she imagined not being the damsel.

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I stood and I applauded!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 Whoo!!! And thanks to her Host reflexes, she’s a perfect gun (wo)man. Excellent stance, shooting from the hip, and fast as fuck.  It was awesome! She also shows some tactical ability when El Lazo threatens to shoot her and William, when they try to escape on his train. Instead of aiming at him, she aims her weapon at the nitroglycerin loaded bodies sitting in coffins in the cabin with them. She is still hearing the voice in her head, as she spots the image of the maze on the train’s cargo.

Logan is in for a rough time of it when the Confederates find out they’ve been swindled. They can’t kill him but they’re going to beat his ass for a while. Apparently, the Hosts, in these  fringe narratives, can and will beat your ass if you step to them. They won’t kill you though. Earlier that evening, during the town orgy, Logan,  feeling in his element, brings out Willam’s dark side by goading and poking him about how useless his life and morality is in such a place.

William does have a dark side, though. When Logan calls for help during his beating, William,  very obviously, turns his back on him and leaves with Dolores. It’s okay. Logan will be aaiight! But I bet shit just got real for him in a way it wasn’t before. Contrapasso is definitely a reference to Logan, as he gets to experience, first hand,  something of what he’s been dishing out to the Park’s inhabitants for so many years. Dolores and William will be joining El Lazo in some kind of revolutionary war in Mexico. This will be another part of the Park we’ve not yet seen.

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As for Maeve, she is once again in house, getting her body repaired. One of the technicians servicing her, Felix,  is  just a bit wary of having her in the body shop with them. The other technician I hope has a quick and nasty death, not because of how he treated Maeve, but how he treated Felix, who has been practicing his coding skills on a small robot bird. When the other technician finds this out he screams at Felix about how he’ll never be anything other than what he is. The man is a more of an asshole than Logan, and that’s saying something. But then none of the humans in this show impress me much. I do get  the impression that this is a co-worker and not someone who has any power over anything Felix does, as Felix continues his efforts after his co-worker leaves. He’s successful at repairing the bird, but his celebration is cut short when he sees that Maeve, supposedly still in sleep mode the entire time, is wide awake and ready  to have an important conversation with him. I am looking forward to that convo myself.

Elsie is stunned to discover that the  robot she was sent to retrieve has some spy tech in its body. In order to procure access to the body, she threatens one of the young male technicians in the Body Shop, who has been having sex with the decommissioned robots, with public exposure. Next to Felix’s dress down by his co-worker, that was one of the uglier things I saw a human do, in this episode, which is important when you consider that nearly all of the humans are deplorable. She goes to Bernard with her concerns but he is noncommittal.

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But the standout event in tonight’s episode was the meeting between Ford and the MIB. After finding Teddy in the desert strung up by Wyatt’s men, he takes him with him. When Teddy’s health quotient gets too low, he bleeds out Lawrence, to give Teddy a transfusion. Accompanied by Teddy, they meet with Ford at a saloon, where Ford tries to parse out exactly what the MIBs purpose is, and if it’s really worth it. Harris character says he wants a worthy adversary to prevent him from reaching his goal. It seems like Dolores is being set up to be that Rival, as she is following the maze too.

There is no surprise in Ford’s meeting with him. The two act very much like old, if not friends, then certainly acquaintances. We get to see Teddy be a little badass. I like the how the show is gradually introducing us to  what the Hosts are capable  of. They’re not superhuman but they are more than. They’re certainly faster and stronger. We get a glimpse into how fast during Dolores shootout, and in Teddy’s automatic reaction to protect Ford, when The MIB threatens Ford with a knife. But the robots are held back by their cognitive limitations. They have no memories, don’t know what they are and there are human things they don’t comprehend, like death.

There have been a number of theories bandied about the show. One of the theories is that the scenes  with William and Dolores are flashbacks to thirty years ago, to the life of the MIB, and chronicles how he went from being a White Hat to  a Black one. That the MIB is actually William. This would also explain his acquaintance with Dolores. I’m not sure what to think about that theory though. There are certain people and characters whom we never see interact so its easy to reach that conclusion. The  Westworld logos during William’s entrance into the Park, and the ones we see with the old Ford are different.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/westworld-season-1-episode-5-recap-contrapasso-timeline-theory-lawrence-bernard-is-arnold-clone-robot

Next week, the robot rebellion begins, after which we have four more episodes to the big finale and what I would consider a successful first season for the show.

 

“American Horror Story 6: Chapter 7

Wow! Last night’s episode was a total massacre! Literally!!!

Last episode, we found out that everyone involved in the making of The Return to My Roanoke Nightmare died during the Blood Moon. And with the death of Rory, (Audrey’s much younger husband),  killed by the nurses, to complete the lettering in their favorite word, (MURDER), we were off to the races.

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When everyone goes upstairs to investigate where Rory has gone, they find a pool of blood, with no body. When Rory gets killed, Sydney, his assistant and cameraman are taken down by Crazy Agnes. I didn’t name her, that’s what the show’s  writers named her, and since I disagree with calling homicidal people crazy, and ableism in general, I’m only calling her Agnes from this time forward. Agnes kills the entire film crew with some kind of hatchet, or cleaver, then goes to the Roanoke house and attacks Shelby. But not before Shelby kills Matt while Dominic just stands and watches.

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Shelby is saved, from Agnes,  by Dominic, who wrestles Agnes into submission but doesn’t kill her. Earlier that evening Dominic spent  time trying to talk his way back under Shelby’s skirts, (or yoga pants in her case) but had no luck. Shelby is dedicated to reconciling with her ex-husband.

Even though Matt beat Dominic’s ass earlier that evening, he catches this  little episode between the two of them, and tells Dominic to go ahead and tap that because he doesn’t want her. Dominic thinks this is hilarious.

There’s not one of these people that is remotely  likable. Shelby is indecisive and sends mixed messages to everyone. She ‘s a total flake. Matt has no personality at all. Dominic, Audrey, and Monet are just jerks. Agnes is the world’s worst cosplayer, while Lee is the world’s worst TV cop.

Agnes cuts the phone lines to the house, and the film crew are all dead, so no one can call for help. (Remember everyone’s cellphones were taken, and Diana, Sydney’s first assistant died in a car crash.)

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So characterization is just thrown completely out the window, while characters react to the batshitness that’s happening to them. Although everyone does go from not believing any of it is happening, and thinking Sydney is punking them, to using those stupid little cameras he gave them to film their horrific deaths for posterity.  Everybody films everything. One of the strangest moments is when Audrey films Agnes trying to kill her.

Matt is killed by Shelby. I didn’t see this coming but  he really pissed her off.   When Shelby finds him in flagrante with the Celtic witch, he claims he’s in love with her, and Shelby beats him to death with a tire iron.  Here she is turning down awesome sexual escapades with Dominic (C’mon, you just know he’s a dynamo in the bedroom!) for this fool, only for him to turn around and say he’s in love with the creature responsible for killing everyone. Since Matt never had much character to begin with this isn’t exactly the most surprising event.

I have to note,the show is especially graphic this episode. I don’t imagine those of you with delicate sensibilities have even gotten this far into the season, or are even watching the show, but I’m giving the warning anyway. I’m not a fan of torture porn. I always end up covering my eyes during  especially brutal moments, which means there’s a lot of this episode I didn’t see.I’m just here for the aftermath.

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Lee, Monet, and Audrey sneak out of the house, via the underground tunnels, to go get help for Shelby, who is suffering from Agnes’ knife wound. They bring their cameras along. They  end up being  attacked by ghosts, find Rory’s body, and are then captured by the Polks, who are out in full stench this evening, because hey! Blood Moon!  Whooowhee!!! In a moment of surreal humor, they season Lee’s leg and chop it off.

 

Yeah see, this is what is meant by White people not being able to cook. You don’t season a haunch before its removed from its host. Really people! Who seasons a chicken leg before cutting it off the chicken? Although, I guess its a good thing that they remembered to use seasoning at all. (It looked like it might’ve been sage, since it was green.) After wards, they force feed the leg jerky to Monet and Audrey. I don’t know where the rest of Lee is, or even if she’s still alive.

In an ironic twist, Agnes gets cleavered by The Butcher, as Shelby and Dominic watch, with horror, from the windows.

There’s really not much plot to this episode. It mostly consisted of illuminating the circumstances in which everybody dies, and filming it all while it happens.

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So far, Lee, (until we see otherwise), Monet, and Audrey are still among the living. So are Shelby and Dominic. I expect more character revelations to come out of left field, or even a new plot twist, in the next episode.

If you’re wondering why I’m so flippant about the blood and torture during this episode, after watching the Polks season Lee’s leg, it finally completely dawned on me that this is a kind of Horror mockumentary, like those Christopher Guest films, Best in Show, Mascots, (which is hilarious and on Netflix right now), and This is Spinal Tap. I’m not good with humor that hasn’t been spelled out to me, so while I suspected the show was meant to be funny, I wasn’t certain.

My mind tends to have a more literal bent, so unless its clearly spelled out to me that what I’m watching is meant to be funny, I probably won’t see it. Its  not that I don’t have a sense of humor. It just needs to be switched on.  Like a child, my sense of humor isn’t particularly subtle, either. (I get subtle humor, but you have to tell me its subtle first.) So those of you who caught on that this was a parody of Blair Witch shaky-cam, moviemaking styles, I am here right now. (I may be late to the party, but I made it.)

For further, in-depth ideas, read:

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/effective-american-horror-story-roanoke-turns-subt-244901

I loved this review. It tackles racial issues that were implied at the start of the series, and issues pertaining to privacy and filmmaking. This particular post had me rooting for Lee to be the last survivor. 

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