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

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

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

 

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

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

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Hannibal Kills

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I was asked recently, by one of my readers, (The Laughable Cheese) to elaborate on my thoughts  about the whys and wherefores of Hannibal’s murderous motivations on the show. Now, I’m no psychologist, so what I’m about to write is sheer speculation on my part, based mainly on my thoughts about the series version of Hannibal.

Throughout the series we’ve seen him kill to aid Will Graham, out of spite and anger, to satisfy his curiosity, out of a sense of whimsy, to protect himself from being captured, or manipulate others, but it is not until season two that we get any deeper reason for his murders.

Acc­ording to Holmes typology, serial killers can be act-focused (who kill quickly), or process-focused (who kill slowly). For act-focused killers, killing is simply about the act itself. Within this group, there are two different types: the visionary and the missionary. The visionary murders because he hears voices or has visions that direct him to do so. The missionary murders because he believes that he is meant to get rid of a particular group of people.

Process-focused serial killers get enjoyment from torture and the slow death of their victims. These include three different types of hedonists — lust, thrill and gain — and power-seeking killers. Lust killers derive sexual pleasure from killing. Thrill killers get a “kick” from it. Gain killers murder because they believe they will profit in some way. Power killers wish to “play God” or be in charge of life and death.

— http://people.howstuffworks.com/serial-killer1.htm

I think Hannibal kills for a multitude of reasons, but seems to fit the model of being a process killer. The act is drawn often a long drawn out event, which has a lot of meaning for him. We can see that in his killing and eating of Abel Gideon, in season two and three.

A lot of fans speculate that Hannibal kills because he can, and that’s as good a reason as any other, but I don’t feel that goes deep enough. Hannibal’s reasons are complex. Why does he feel he can? Because Hannibal likens himself to God. Why does he want to assert himself as God’s equal? For the same reason that many others seek to assert their power. Because, on some level,  he knows how it feels to be powerless.

In season one, Hannibal mostly kills the rude (for food), or to protect his identity. He kills Georgia Madchen because he believes she saw him killing Will’s doctor. He killed Will’s doctor because that man knew too much about his unethical manipulations of Will Graham, and could blackmail him for it.

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The first time we encounter one of Hannibal’s kills,  is when the body of Cassie Boyle is found in an open field. Hannibal has impaled her on a rack of antlers, (and removed her lungs, so that he can eat them.) Crawford and his forensic team discover her body after Will is confounded  about  the murder  of another young woman, named Elise.

Hannibal kills Cassie to provide what Will calls “a negative” to the body of Elise. Will thinks Cassie Boyle was killed to aid him in his search for Elise’s killer, and he’s not wrong. That is one of Hannibal’s motivations for killing the young woman, but another motivation, and this is just my speculation, is that he was also inspired by Elise’s killer, to create a more elaborate death. The way Cassie Boyle was killed was simply a way he hadn’t tried before.

In fact, no mention is made of how the Chesapeake Ripper (also Hannibal) killed or displayed his victims prior to the show’s opening, although the Chesapeake Ripper is mentioned as someone Jack has been hunting for many years. His killing and display of Cassie Boyle is the first mention of what Will calls “Field Kabuki”, which stands in direct contrast to how Elise was killed by Garret Jacob Hobbes. That contrast is what helps Will develop a picture of Hobbes, but also has the side effect of  bringing Hannibal to Will’s attention.

Now remember at this point, Hannibal has only  just met Will, after being given the task by Jack Crawford, of being the caretaker of Will’s sanity, while Will helps the FBI catch serial killers. Already we can see that he is fascinated by Will, and wants to get closer to him. He wants to be friends. So he was willing to take that risk to aid Will. He would get to see how Will’s mind works and better understand him. So one could argue that Cassie’s death was an overture of friendship to Will (although Will does not know that.).

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The very first meal that Will and Hannibal eat together is Cassie’s breakfast scramble. Prior to that we are shown Hannibal eating this alone in his house. He doesn’t appear to have any friends until he meets Will. After feeding Cassie to Will, he seems to have developed a sense of satisfaction from feeding the remains of his victims to his acquaintances, because he continues to do this throughout the entire series run, feeding his victims to Jack, Will, Alana Bloom, and various dinner guests. In the movies, Hannibal is shown feeding his victims to dinner guests, so there is precedent for it, but that’s  only shown in the TV show once, and only after he meets Will Graham. After that he mostly feeds his victims to his “friends”.

Hannibal kills for multiple reasons in season two. He also manipulates people into attempting to kill others. He manipulates Abel Gideon into  killing Alana Bloom, so that Will Graham will be forced to kill Abel to protect her. He does the same to Miriam Lass, using her PTSD against her, to get her to kill Frederick Chilton, who he has framed as the Chesapeake Ripper. He and Will attempt to orchestrate the killing of Mason Verger, and Lecter  successfully manipulates Will Graham into killing Randall Tier, by sending Tier after him at his home.

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Hannibal kills others for  a dinner party. One is a doctor who was rude to him, and Sheldon Isley, a land dealer who opposed the salvage of some wetlands. Lecter kills him out of spite and plants his body within a tree. It is the clues from Sheldon’s body that lead to the discovery that Miriam Lass, (a detective whose disappearance had been attributed to The Chesapeake Ripper), is actually alive.

However, his most notable and memorable killing, in season two, is the judge in Will’s case. Having framed Will as The Chesapeake Ripper in season one, Lecter now regrets his actions, and misses Will. The judge dismissed the testimony he gave in his attempt to free Will. In a fit of spite, Lecter simply removes the judge, which has the added side benefit of freeing Will, as his case gets thrown out.

Most of his reasons for killing in season three are pragmatic.  In season three he kills to protect his identity, as when he kills Reynaldo Pazzi, a detective who recognizes him from a previous case, and Anthony Dimmond, a man who tried to blackmail him. He kills to establish a new identity when he kills and eats Roman Fell and his wife.

But the most notable killing in season three are the flashbacks to the  killing and eating of Abel Gideon, the man who tried to steal his name and reputation as the Chespaeake Ripper, and knew too much about his manipulations of Will Graham. It’s especially horrifying as he spends most of that time talking with Gideon about what he’s doing to him, and forcing Gideon to partake of his own flesh.

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Note that what Hannibal does with his victims bodies afterwards is not the reason he kills them. He is not necessarily killing them to help Will, or send messages, or be artistic. He is making art out of something he already feels compelled to do. For example, he didn’t kill Dimmond to make the origami heart for Will. He just took advantage of a death he caused to leave Will a message. He killed Dimmond to protect his identity as Norman Fell.

Lecter has also talked, at length, about ethical killing, claiming to Bella Crawford that he employs an ethical butcher, who doesn’t make the food suffer before killing and eating it, and in season two he chides Will for terrifying Freddie Lounds too much before killing her, saying that it makes her flesh taste acidic. What he is saying is that the method (the process) by which he kills is important to him.

Miriam Lass, in her testimony to the FBI, also claimed that the Ripper never tried to cause unnecessary pain, informed her of his actions beforehand, and taking care to see that she didn’t experience undo anguish. So one could make the argument that Hannibal is definitely a “Process” type killer.

One of the theories for why Hannibal kills goes back to his childhood and the loss of his little sister Mischa. In the book version of his back story, (Hannibal Rising) he lost his sister during the war, when a group of enemy soldiers took his family prisoner, killed his family, and ate his sister, which he witnessed. Subsequently he hunted, killed,  and ate each of  them in turn, and this is a habit he simply developed and continued. Killing and eating people he thinks were rude to him.

In the show, this has been changed to;  witnessing his sister’s death, and then eating her himself, after he had pledged to always protect her. But Hannibal’s motivations on the show parallels his motivations from the books. He says to both Will Graham, and Margot Verger, that killing bad people feels good. Of course Hannibal’s criteria for “bad” is fairly loose, in that almost everyone can meet it. Hannibal likens their behavior to disrespecting God (himself).

Of course Will is allowed to be as rude to Hannibal as he likes. His motivation for trying to kill and eat Will, in season three, is not because Will is rude, but because Bedelia suggested it to him, as the only way to relieve his heartache over Will.

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Because Hannibal doesn’t see his victims as people, he sees them as creatures far beneath him (a theme that will more heavily come into play late in the second season, after Mason Verger is introduced). A much truer version of his thoughts is heard in season two when he says that God kills with impunity, and so should he. When killing the “Eye of God” killer, he explains that he is God’s equal and uses that argument to persuade the Eye of God killer to sacrifice himself for his art.

This thirst for power over people, to be godlike in his killing of them, may have derived from the vigilante killing of his sister’s killers. Having helplessly stood by and watched her be killed would be excellent motivation for taking back his power by killing her killers. In a sense, Hannibal is a kind of vigilante killer, only killing and eating those people who his cellkeeper Barney, in the movie Hannibal, referred to as  “Free Range Rude”. And what may have started as a form of vigilantism, to avenge his sister’s death, or to right the wrongs of the world, has simply evolved into a lust for power. Put all these reasons together and Hannibal definitely comes across as a Power type of Killer.

 

Star Trek Discovery

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So I did watch the first and second episodes of this show, but I won’t be watching any more of them, I guess, because the show sits behind a paywall. In order to watch Discovery in the US you have to subscribe to a streaming channel called CBS All Access, the first week of which is free. Also, I can’t watch this on my TV, because I can’t add any channels to it.  The streaming channels are preset on my DVD player too, so I can only watch it on my Ipad, or at my computer, which is inconvenient for me.

Now, I generally don’t watch network television anyway, that is the top four networks of  Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC. I don’t watch them because their programming isn’t particularly interesting to me, and I’m extremely wary of liking a show, only to see it get canceled after one season. I’ve been burned waay too many times by  network TV.

I subscribed to CBS All Access, but after scrolling through the shows available on the streaming network, I figured out that I was really just paying for each episode of Star Trek, (like about 2 or 3 bucks an episode, which isn’t bad, but still) and decided to unsubscribe. It’s not a bad price per episode, as the six dollar fee is only once a month, and there are three or four episodes per month, but there is literally nothing else I watch on that network. Maybe later I’ll change my mind, so I can binge watch all eight of them during the hiatus in December.

Star Trek Discovery is a very different show for CBS. They have no track record for diversity, either. In fact most of their lineup seems to consist of  mediocre detective style shows, of which the only interesting one is Elementary (Lucy Liu is a goddess!), which I can watch reruns of anywhere else, including at my library. So basically, Discovery is like nothing else on that network.

After watching the first two episodes, I decided that I did indeed like the show, but I’m going to have to forgo this  pleasure until later. I’m also to understand that the rest of the season will be a whole new animal from the pilot, although from the trailers it still looks  pretty good.

 

 

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What I Liked:

Soniqua Martin-Green (Michael Rainsford) naturally  gets a lot of screen time, as the show’s lead. A lot of the episode rests on her shoulders and I feel confident that she is  up to the job. She turned in a very strong performance. I had a few quibbles about some of her character’s decisions during the episode, but the show was suspenseful and compelling, only requiring a little tweaking, for consistency.

I loved everything about Michael and it was a real joy watching her and the captain banter with each other. We don’t get to meet any of the rest of the crew really, and there’s a reason for that. We won’t be seeing any more of them beyond Saru (the alien scientist played by Doug Jones.) Another thing I like is that there is quite a contingent of White women who seem to really like Michael too, and are coming to bat for her.

The only people who seemingly hate the show, and nitpick every single tiny detail, so as to do so, appear to be White men, and I expected as much from the ones online, because they stay disappointing me on the regular. (Its funny! The real life White guys are know are some of the nicest, most considerate people. Are they even the same species  as the ones online?)

The plot of the first two episodes is basically background stuff for Michael’s character for the rest of the season. We’re introduced to the person she was so we can get to know and understand the person she will be. Michael is orphaned during a Klingon attack on an outpost and is adopted by James Frain’s Sarek. (You may remember Frain as the vampire who was obsessed Tara Thornton in the show True Blood.) I like Frain’s version of Sarek. I liked the other versions too, but Frain’s version seems less stiff and formal. He seems like the type of man who is just very used to being comfortable around humans, while still remaining uncompromisingly Vulcan. My favorite moment is him whispering “Behave!” to his young charge just before he leaves her alone with Gheorghiu, because that’s such a ‘parent- type’ thing to do, (This is the kind of behavior he might well have learned from raising his spirited, half human son.)

I liked that the show isn’t filmed in quite the same way as other Trek shows. For one thing, we get flashbacks to Michael’s upbringing on Vulcan, and I wish we’d had more of those, rather than showcasing the Klingons. In one of the first flashbacks we see her as a child having a moment of PTSD in one of the learning pods, and witness Sarek’s reaction to her.

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I have to admit I have never been a fan of the Klingons. I’m simply not now, nor ever have been, impressed by their existence, language, culture, any of it. So I didn’t particularly enjoy having to look at the Klingons for half the episode. What made them even more annoying was that their makeup was hard to look at, and they were difficult to understand, and not just because they were speaking their native tongue. They sounded like  people speaking through masks, and quite frankly,  a Klingon with a lisp is not scary. (Plus, they all spoke very slowly, as if they had all suffered  recent head injuries.)

Klingons have always been “coded”as Black people and I don’t really have a problem with that. My problem is with their depiction as one of the more violent races on Star Trek. On the other hand, the show does have a very good track record for giving them depth and making them likable, and sympathetic characters, the most notable one being Worf from STNG. Now there is an element of colorism involved in their depiction, as there is a Klingon with albinism, who seems to have to prove himself to be more Klingon then all the others, after being kicked out of his family. I’m reminded of the discrimination of albinos in certain parts of Africa, but I don’t know that this calls back to that or not.

I liked the Klingon  costumes, though. The costumes had this beautiful Elizabethan look that just kinda suited them. I liked all the costumes in the show really, and I liked all the tech stuff that Trek is famous for. This is an extremely pretty show, that’s just nice to look at. The color scheme and design reminds me of DS9, and the Federation outfits seem almost Bajoran. Well, Bajoran with lots of bling, and I like bling, so that didn’t bother me. That’s probably  due to Fuller’s influence since DS9 was the last Trek show he worked on.

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Michael joins the crew of the Shenzhou with Michelle Yeoh’s  Captain Phillipa Gheorghiu. I loved the relationship between these two women and hope to see that replicated in later episodes, because showing that type of rapport and mentorship between women is important. After Michael encounters and kills a Klingon (a race of people that the federation had not had contact with in some 100 years), on Sarek’s advice, she argues that the Shenzhou should fire on the Klingon ship, to show greater strength, hence the name of the episode, The Vulcan Hello. Gheorghiu disagrees with her and Michael gives her the Vulcan Sleeper Pinch, and takes over the bridge.

When Gheorghiu gets back on the bridge, her Federation backup has arrived, but because she still refuses to fire on the Klingons, even though their backup arrived first, this starts a skirmish in which the Federation loses. Michael, who has been stashed in the brig during this fight, manages to escape just before her imminent death, by logicking at the computer. She goes back to the bridge and proposes the idea of capturing the Klingon leader, so as not to make him a martyr. Michael and Gheorghiu board the Klingon ship,  but their attempt to capture the Klingon leader (T’Kuvma) is unsuccessful, and Gheorghiu is killed.

At the end of episode two, Michael is convicted of assaulting her captain, mutiny,  (and exacerbating an already tense  situation). The rest of the season is her (and Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca) dealing with the aftermath of her conviction.

During the standoff between the two women, Michael makes a bunch of emotional decisions, but she’s been raised on Vulcan and has never dealt with the PTSD of what happened to her as a child, so she has not learned how to handle her emotions in an environment with a lot of other emotional issues. Well, she doesnt seem to have learned, and this incident is a direct callback to a highly personal event that she’s never had to think about while safe on Vulcan.

She seems to be having difficulty telling the difference between decisions she makes through logic, and ones made through emotions, which makes her a wonderfully complex character. I’m interested to see how she grows and changes throughout the season, and I hope the writers don’t pull a Sleepy Hollow, and sideline her in favor of Captain Lorca. This first season should be all about Michael and her journey. Later, we can get more  into the stories of the other characters.

I loved the special effects, even if I didn’t like the makeup on the Klingons. The transporter effect looks a little different and Gheorghiu explains that it’s because the Shenzhou is using older technology.

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Doug Jones (you may remember him as Hellboy’s Abe Sapien) has great makeup, but those stilt things he has to walk around on look deeply uncomfortable, and I worried that his feet hurt, even though surely, he must be used to that sort of thing. I liked the character too and enjoyed the rapport between him and Michael. It reminded me of the threesome from the original show.

 

Things I Could’ve Done Without

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As I said, I hated the Klingon makeup, not because I thought it was especially bad, but because they all look like they’re trying to talk through Kabuki masks. I’m used to Klingons looking expressive, and their faces (the makeup) makes that impossible. Another thing I don’t particularly care for with Klingons is all the group yelling. I’ve always found that annoying.

I wish they would’ve shown more of Michael’s background, as I could’ve used a lot less of the Klingons, and I also get the impression that the people who wrote this show don’t understand Klingons very well. I understood their reasons for attacking the federation but those reasons still were not well articulated for me.

I think they could have ditched the ten minute prologue  of Michael and Gheorghiu on the desert planet. It was a cute scene, that introduces the two characters and the nature of their relationship, but ultimately it was unnecessary. That was made clear when the two of them first met, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of that first meeting. Or they could have done away with the first two episodes altogether and just jumped right into Michael’s new life, and new captain, for the rest of the season. The plot feels like a bait and switch and I didn’t like that, although I understand that Gheorghiu will be making plenty of cameos in the form of flashbacks, so the show began as it means to go on. Its flashbacks all the way in.

There wasn’t a lot I disliked  about the show itself, and I think the show is really worth watching. Part of me hopes it succeeds but as I said i’m probably not going to be watching it because I don’t want to pay for it. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way because I heard it’s one of the most pirated shows online. I’m not going to pirate the show, but maybe I’ll sign up later.

You’re probably going to see a lot of comparisons between this show, and another one called The Orville, led by Seth MCFarlane from Family Guy. If you’re lookng for something like Star Trek, but a little lighter, than the Orville is your show. In the last episode I saw, things got just a bit heavy, dealing with the issue of gender change, in an interesting way, and I think it was handled well, (but it would be up to transgender people to say whether or not it was actually handled well).

The first couple of episodes are an odd blend of seriousness and humor. Now, I don’t watch Family Guy, because I don’t find the  show not particularly funny. McFarlane’s dudebro humor doesn’t mesh well with mine, but The Orville is a different side of McFarlane. He wants to be taken seriously as both a comedian and a showrunner and it shows. The show still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, but once it figures that out, it can be a really good show, and I actually enjoyed watching it. The humor is scattered all over the place, but its not raunchy or especially offensive, if that’s your worry.

The closest comparison would be Galaxy Quest, (although it’s less funny), as the show is very obviously a love letter to Star Trek, if a somewhat irreverant one. The show still needs some  degree of tweaking, but it’s not a bad show. And I hate to say it, but it’s a lot more fun than Discovery. Discovery is a heavy show with very little humor, and although I enjoyed it, it’s a very different type of show than The Orville. The two don’t really compare, inasmuch as they are both offshoots of Star Trek.

So for those of you who can’t get your Trek fix, I think The Orville is a good enough substitute, and this is coming from an OG Trekkie, who also loves Galaxy Quest.

American Horror Story: Cult Election Night

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I didn’t like this episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lets face it. This show has finally defeated me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Defenders Season Review

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Instead of reviewing every episode, one by one, like most other reviewers, I’ve decided to just review the entire season.  Rather than 13 episodes, the series has been reduced to eight, which I feel was a really good idea, as this helps the story move along a lot more swiftly, and with less filler, than in the individual shows.  Since the plot is moving faster, and interludes are shortened, it’s not possible to get too irritated by any particular plot point (The Villain), or character (Danny), because you just don’t have much time for it.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. I can definitely say that I like certain characters much better in a team setting, than I did in their individual stories, because a lot of their weaknesses of character aren’t on full display here, and when they are on display, there’s a reason for it. I especially enjoyed all the team action, even just sitting around and talking to each other, because these guys are  a lot of fun together. Their fighting styles and attitudes just mesh really well, and they have great chemistry with each other, which makes for some interesting, and cool fight scenes, and some funny and snarky dialogue.

I think the show played up the reluctant hero angle a bit too much. The characters are always having conversations about how they’re not heroes, and don’t want to be heroes, especially Luke and Jessica. Matt is trying to quit  the superhero game as if he were going cold turkey from some kind of -ism. Danny is the only one who wants to be a hero, and he’s not  remotely equipped to be one.

 

Luke Cage:

 

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We get a slightly deeper understanding of Luke as a person, although there are no huge revelations, or anything. He still doesn’t want to be a hero, he’s still living in Harlem, still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, all of this is just as in his own show.  We see the opening moves of a friendship between him and Danny, and Luke and Claire finally go out for that coffee, before being awkwardly interrupted by Luke’s former one night, Misty.

All of the characters get a chance to interact, one on one, during the series, although there’s not a lot of forward momentum in their characters, or relationships. Just hints of things to come. We get hints of a reconciliation between him and Jessica. In the comic books, the two are married and have a baby, but I don’t know if these shows will move in that direction. I’m opposed to it because of Jessica having killed his wife, (and then lied to him about it), and Jessica is also  not in any kind of emotional shape to have a relationship with anyone. Also, she is, ethically speaking, the complete opposite of  Luke, and I just don’t see those two  styles of personality meshing well.

As I mentioned, the showrunner doesn’t do anything new with the character. Luke remains a deeply principled guy who, while okay with kicking ass, is opposed to killing. He is not afraid to call someone on their shit, the way he does to Danny.

I love that all the characters have their place and purpose  in the team, and how their differing fighting styles are showcased. Luke is like Superman. He’s invulnerable to most harm, and is often a shield for the others, when the guns come out. He’s not completely invulnerable though, as Danny is one of the few people that can knock him off his feet (well…Danny and unexpected trucks). Seriously, the man is like a tank. He’s even immune to fire.

The team needs Danny whenever they need a huge, loud distraction, as in the finale, when they needed to reach a safe place, but The Hand was being an obstruction. Danny is like a large explosive device, delivering concussive sound and force, and I like the way his powers are used here, although yeah, the glowing fist still looks kinda silly. Still, Luke and Danny are definitely the team’s two heavy hitters.

One of the most annoying parts of the show is the Rap music that appears whenever Luke shows up on screen. To the showrunner: Hey! Luke does not  need a soundtrack to announce his presence!

Matt is the resident Ninja, and while Danny isn’t too bad in that department, Danny has a different purpose. Matt is the kind of team member who can move in and out of a situation quickly and quietly, warn the team of any impending danger, (and get them out of trouble with the law,  if necessary, I guess.)

 

 

Matt Murdock:

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Matt spends a lot of the first couple of episodes trying not to be heroic, or save people. I think we’re meant to believe that he gave it all up after losing Elektra, but since I wasn’t buying his relationship with her, I didn’t care. The two of them have no chemistry, and the emotional intensity of a pair of titmice, especially when it comes to passionate exchanges.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing him put his lawyer-ly shit down, it was nice to see Foggy and Karen again, and I’m glad the three of them made some effort towards reconciliation, especially after last season’s events, when Karen found out he was Daredevil. The two of them treat, and talk about Matt, as if he were a recovering junkie, so that’s kind of weird, made even weirder by scenes of Matt “staring” longingly at his Daredevil outfit, as if it were an ice cream sundae.

Actually, a lot of Charlie Cox’s acting is off in this series. There’s story movement, but his character remains pretty much the same. His fighting skills are awesome as ever, but Charlie looks like he’s phoning in  his performance. When I called him a Floor Lamp Ninja, I meant that he could pretty much be swapped out by any other martial arts actor, and this would not  greatly affect the plot.

I did enjoy the scene where he tails Jessica on the streets and she susses him out, and when they meet for the first time in their superhero guises. Matt steals that big gray scarf she wears everywhere, to wrap around his face, and Jessica rolls her eyes at him.

 

 

Jessica Jones:

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This show went a long way towards making me like this character. As much as she hates people, Jessica really does work well in a team setting. She takes nothing seriously, which ends up making her the funniest person in the group. Her one on one interactions with Matt are especially funny, and she gives absolutely no fucks about who  Danny is, and is quick to say so, which I thought was hilarious.

A lot of the weakness of Jessica’s show is that its very White Feminist, and her mistreatment of PoC in the show really started, not just to grate on my nerves, but to make me actively dislike her, no matter how much I sympathized with her issues. I know and understand  that she is dealing with the severe trauma of what Killgrave did to her, but trauma is not an excuse for her abuse and mistreatment of characters of color.

I actually had a problem, not just with her,but with the show’s writers as well. Despite women’s trauma issues being  the center of  the story, they still managed to erase  WoC entirely, which is something White Feminism keeps doing, in stories that are supposed to be empowering to women. (The stories end up being empowering only  to White women.) But I still applaud the show for its messages and the general treatment of its (White) female characters. I see why some people liked it, but ultimately the show wasn’t for me.

That’s just the logical reasoning for why I disliked the show. The other reason is there was a lot of triggering shit in that show. I had to stop watching it, for my own self care, because I was not ready!

I liked Jessica in The Defenders, because the focus wasn’t on Jessica’s pain, so we got to see her reacting to other things. She’s still an unlikable, alcoholic, snarky mess, but that’s okay. Who says heroes have to be likable? Its especially interesting because unlikability is rare in female characters, and Jessica is thoroughly unapologetic about herself. At one point she very openly steals a can of beer, from a passed out homeless man on the subway, (because she’s had a long day,) right in front of Matt and Luke, who handle  the act with no more than raised eyebrows.

Jessica is definitely the team’s Tony Stark to Luke’s Steve Rogers. There’s much of the same personality dynamics present, except some of the motivation for  Jessica’s rather  loose ethics stem partially from her trauma at the hands of Killgrave.

 

Danny Rand:

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Yeah, for someone who talked a lot of shit about the Iron Fist series, I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised that I didn’t actually dislike Danny Rand in this show. As I mentioned, the shorter running time for the series means that Danny’s scenes are kept to a minimum, so he doesn’t have as much time to be irritating. Not that he doesn’t give it a big try.

Finn Jones has also had the benefit of some practice on his fight choreography, and better directors and it shows. His fight scenes aren’t the trash fire that they were in Iron Fist, so he actually ends up looking competent. Plus, he just works better with a team of people, than he does on his own.

The team dynamics go a long way towards making Danny likable here, and really, in the next season of Iron Fist, the show runners really need to lean in to the ridiculousness of his story, rather than playing it straight, because yeah, Danny sounds like he’s insane. None of the other team members take his backstory seriously, rolling their eyes every time he mentions he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, an attitude I thought was incredibly funny. And then there’s the silliness of him walking around with a large dragon tattoo on his test. His powers aren’t funny, and the audience is never given to laugh at those, but his backstory is kinda nuts. Mr. I Punched a Dragon!

Another reason I like Danny here, is because the showrunner makes an effort to make his character understandable, in a way that he wasn’t in his own series. In his own series, his behavior is incredibly rage inducing, and frustrating, (and I can’t help but think that this change has at least a little to do with the showrunner being a man of color, who understands the issue in a way the last showrunner didn’t). But here, Danny’s behavior is in smaller doses, and he has more well developed characters reacting to his wtf*ery, so he’s  a lot easier to understand. Granted, if the character had been cast as Asian to begin with, we wouldn’t need all these careful repairs.

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/luke-cage-iron-fist-marvel-defenders-netflix-privilege-1201868048/

For example, at one point, he and Luke square off, with Luke confronting Danny about his privilege as a rich White man, who chooses to come into his part of town and beat up the impoverished Black people, rather than finding some other way to defeat The Hand’s purposes. The Hand is able to operate with impunity in such neighborhoods because all they have to do is offer money. Luke’s statement is a reminder to Danny that there’s a bunch of other things he could’ve done, as a wealthy White man to defeat the purposes of The Hand, besides beating up the citizens. But then you notice that Danny’s go-to, when dealing with The Hand, is only ever violence. He never tries to thwart them any other way, and thinks he can  simply punch his way to the proper outcome.

For example: Danny and Colleen find a warehouse full of bodies. The Hand is hiring young men from Luke’s  neighborhood to  clean up any evidence that might lead to their organization. Danny and Colleen do not know this. They don’t ask questions, have not investigated the situation, and haven’t bothered to understand the why of any of it. The two of them immediately jump to kicking ass. Danny and Luke first meet when  Luke steps in to protect one of the young men, who has lost his family to The Hand, and feels coerced to work for them.

Luke’s statement about his privilege is meant to remind Danny that there are other perspectives  besides his own. It’s made very plain  that when it comes to The Hand, Danny has a huge blind spot.  Danny doesn’t  think, he just reacts, and that was what happened at the warehouse, which  resulted in Danny brutally beating a (Black) teenage boy. He’s  reckless, impulsive, and has anger issues. He and Colleen don’t have any kind of a plan, beyond destroying The Hand. This gets mentioned a couple of times during the show.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/18/16118680/the-defenders-netflix-marvel-iron-fist-sucks

On to the good part: Danny doesn’t get any better at being impulsive, but he does listen to what gets said to him. And the showrunner is a lot better at making clear what Danny’s motivations are, something which is cloudier on his own show. Danny is looking for a purpose. Since he abdicated his responsibilities to K’un L’un (Why?), he’s not only been looking for a way to atone for that, but looking for a new purpose to replace it, and probably looking for a new family too, as he’s one of the few characters that’s at all excited about teaming up. But again he is blind to his rage about The Hand, and as long as he remains blind to his lack of control, as regards them, he can accomplish nothing.

When the rest of the team find out the the The Hand is specifically after Danny, they try to get him to stand down, and stay out of their next fight, rather than just running up on ’em, without a plan. I’m always here for Danny getting his ass handed to him, which the team has to resort to, to keep Danny from fucking up, yet again. There follows a long interlude with him and Luke getting to know each other, and Danny trying to at least understand Luke’s perspective on the world.

So yeah, this show went a little way to making me, if not like Danny, at least understand where he’s coming from in terms I could easily grok.

 

Alexandria:

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Sigourney Weaver turns in a beautiful performance, as I expected, before being unexpectedly dispatched near the end of the series. My biggest problem is that her motivations as a villain are so vague and ill-defined I was completely unable to care what her goals were. We know what she and the other members of The Hand want to do, but we have no idea why they want to take over the world, other than just wanting to do it.

I didn’t focus on her unfathomable motivations. I just tried to focus on her performance.  She and Elektra have great chemistry, reminiscent of Ellen Ripley and Call, the Android from Alien Resurrection, and I found this dynamic fascinating. On a lighter note, I loved her outfits. Alexandra is always impeccably dressed. She just looks like a woman with a lot of money and extravagant but unshowy tastes.

Another problem that I have is that the women in this show rarely get to interact with each other, (although Claire and Colleen get some nice scenes together, and later, Colleen and Misty get to talk). Alexandra spends a lot of time alone. They couldn’t even bother to write her as being friends to Madame Gao, having her treat Gao like a servant, which I found especially distasteful. Here you have a wealthy White woman treating this older Asian woman as if she were the Help, although there are other factors behind why she does it, it was still ugly and racist, even if that was not what was intended.

I still don’t know why the  showrunners bothered to call Sigourney into this show, which she is simply too good for. I had noticed that her presence sidelines the Asian characters putting, them all in a subordinate position to her, and significantly reducing Madame Gao’s street cred, that she’s built over three other shows. As much as I like Sigourney, I feel like the story would have been better served without Alexandra.

 

Elektra:

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I still do not like this character, because I just feel like she’s evil for no  feckin’ reason. I didn’t like her in Daredevil either, because the writers just made her seem batshit insane for no reason. Elodie Young is gorgeous and all, and can actually act, as I’ve seen her elsewhere acting just fine, but I don’t like the way she approached this character. When we first see her here, she has been brainwashed and controlled by The Hand, most especially Alexandra. She’s pretty much a perfect example of the Born Sexy Yesterday Trope.  Later,  she appears to become evil on purpose,and for the life of me, I simply could not care.

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After Elektra’s resurrection, she is mentored in her evil-ness by Alexandra, and it was really interesting watching the relationship between the two of them, but she does eventually betray Alexandra, and turns against The Hand. Once again, for no reason that I could discern than that the writers needed a new villain in the plot.

The show is somewhat formulaic, with the idea of replacing one Big Bad with another, halfway through the season. This happened with Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage, where the viewer starts out with one villain, who gets unceremoniously dispatched by the true villain of the story. Basically, a villain bait and  switch.

I wanted to like Elektra. I just don’t. I couldn’t understand her motivations for anything, and I wasn’t feeling her deep love affair with Matt Murdock. Which is not helped by Matt Murdock acting like  “Floor Lamp Ninja”, throughout most of the series. When she’s not smurking evil-ly, she has a blank, wide-eyed, look on her face, which I found kinda irritating. I got no problem with Elektra’s martial skills. Those were exemplary, as always.

 

Colleen Wing:

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She has even less personality growth here then in Iron Fist. In fact, I found her much more annoying in The Defenders, than I did in that show. She didn’t make much of an impression on me for this show, either. Part of this has to do with the shorter length of the series. There’s just not enough time to develop all the characters, so some of them get short shrift and hers is especially short.

The only thing we get from Colleen’s is more of her being Danny’s support network, (as she is told by Claire) and fighting the same endless fight against Bakuto, that she fought in Iron Fist, with Bakuto making the exact same talking points. Why he wants her is anybody’s guess Is he in love? Wants her as a protege? We don’t know or understand. His motivations are pretty vague. As are most The The Hand’s motivations.

Collen’s motivations are even less discernible to us than they were in Iron Fist. That was a problem that wasn’t even approached here. We don’t know why she loves him, and the two are not especially demonstrative, but nevertheless we are led to believe they are a couple. She may be Danny’s emotional support but she’s doing an awful job at helping him deal with his anger issues ,or his ideas about who and what he is. Case in point, it took a near total stranger, Luke , to point out one of Danny’s biggest flaws. The problem may be that Colleen is unable to point out Danny’s flaws because she’s too much like him. She has a go along to get along attitude with Danny that I found irritating, never questioning what he says or does, and mindlessly following him in his quest. She has no story of her own, seemingly having gave it up to be little more than Danny’s helpmate. The writers need to do better with her. Hopefully, if there is a spinoff show with Misty, she’ll be better written.

As per usual there’s nothing wrong with Colleen’s martial skills. In fact the choreography isn’t bad for the whole series, and at least a few of the directors know how to shoot fight scenes well enough to make them all different, and compelling enough, to keep watching. My favorite fight scenes are the team fights though.

 

Misty Knight:

 

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There’s not much character growth with Misty Knight either, but at least her motivations are clear. We know exactly what she wants in the narrative and why she wants it. She wants to solve her case, and get a promotion, (or not be fired), which is hindered by the fact that the people who could help her solve it, refuse to tell her anything, and the fact that, with The Hand, she is totally out of her league.

Misty is a cop, so she has mostly cop concerns, just as she did in Luke Cage. Shit is happening, her friends are in the middle of it, and they won’t tell her anything, because they realize, but refuse to explain clearly to her, just how far out of her depth she is. I kept admonishing Luke (and Jessica) to make clear to her, that the organization they’re  dealing with  doesn’t give a flying hot damn if she’s a cop, and will happily kill her (and her entire fam), but they kept refusing to tell her this, which was becoming really frustrating.

I’ve also seen some shitty meta about how she’s a bad character because she keeps attacking people she needs help from, and I’m like Bish please! She’s not attacking your White faves! She is being a cop, who knows that the information that will allow her to do her job, is being withheld. She’s got one job in the damn show, which is solving her case, and  she can’t do it, because  the four people who know something about it, won’t tell her anything. So yeah, she gonna be irritated, and not afraid to show that irritation.  This is called DRAMA, people!( I’m trying to  remember that I’m dealing with the hysterical children of Tumblr, who think any time  characters of color show irritation at a White character’s actions,  that it automatically makes them a villain. Yep! This is the level of logic I’m dealing with on Tumblr, guys!)

But she comes through in the end anyway, and lets the team handle their bidness. Although, I suspect she’s mostly there because Luke and Claire were in danger. (Remember, Misty doesn’t know who  any of those White people are. They are just mysterious somebodies who are obstructing her job. Luke and Claire are the ones who are her friends..)

Misty is known in the comic books for having a silver bionic arm, and for teaming up with Colleen to be the Daughters of the Dragon. (On an alternate Earth, she even gets to carry Steve Rogers shield, sorta like a female Bucky.) So,  we may get to see her new prosthetic in season two of Luke Cage, and if we’re lucky we’ll get to see her and Colleen team up. Hey! If side characters like the Punisher can get their own show, they can make a Daughters of the Dragon series, (possibly in the style of the Foxy Brown Blaxploitation movies of my youth.) The series should of course be helmed by a Black or Asian woman, because I absolutely do not  trust a White, male, showrunner to get a Black woman, and an Asian woman correct.

http://mashable.com/2017/08/18/the-defenders-misty-knight-arm-daughters-of-the-dragon-spinoff/#KKkkf8UKpmqx

 

The Hand:

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https://www.bustle.com/p/who-are-the-five-fingers-of-the-hand-the-defenders-reveals-whos-pulling-the-strings-77358

Unfortunately, the shorter the running time of the series does not seem to allow much clarity on who, or what, The Hand is, or why they want what they want. We have some idea of what they’re doing globally, not just in New York, but that’s pretty much all we get.

New York starts experiencing a spate of seismic disturbances, which are being caused by The Hand digging near some sort of fault line, under a plot of land they built an office on. Why they are digging is slightly unclear. I think some dragon bones are involved becasue its briefly mentioned tat this has something to do with how Iron Fist got his power. For some reason ,they also need to capture Iron Fist and beat him up, or make him angry so he can open some kind of doorway to K’un L’un, so the five leaders of The Hand can go back home.

I did pay attention but really that’s the best I can do regarding the rather lackluster plot. I really didn’t care, although i guess its supposed to be some sort of revelation ,that the five leaders are all incredibly old, exiled citizens of K’un L’un. Even the facts of why they’re exiled in the first place isn’t made abundantly clear. I really hope the showrunner and the writers were making some kind of point about cloudy motivations, or something becasue the villains are a mess.

Alexandra gets unceremoniously dispatched and replaced by Elektra, who gives a self important speech about how she’s now the leader of The Hand. I don’t know if its the actress, or the writing, but I was bored by the whole thing. Why we were introduced to new memebers of The Hand only to have them killed right away is anyone’s guess.

Since The Hand is an egalitarian organization there’s a Japanese guy, whose name I don’t remember, a Brazilian guy named Bakuto, an African (Haitian?) guy named Sowande, and Ms. Gao, who I assume is Chinese. Sowande reminds me of the lead character from the movie Beasts of the Southern Wilds who was a procurer of child soldiers. Sowande is brutally tortured and killed by he Defenders after they capture him in an attempt to find out his people’s plans, something which did not sit well with me. And before you come into my inbox and start mansplaining about how the other members of The Hand also get killed, I have to remind you, that none of the other members of The Hand were brutally tortured first. This happens to the sole Black member of The Hand, by people who are, supposedly, the good guys.

Couple that scene with Iron Fist’s brutal beating of a young Black boy in an earlier episode,Jessica jones treatment of its Black male characters,  Daredevil’s treatment of its Asian characters as some type of Yellow Peril (which even the presence of a White woman leader cannot resolve), and Iron Fists White Savior issues, and it becomes clear that the the MCU has some serious racial issues that need addressing. The only disability on display is Matt Murdock’s blindness. Jessica Jones treament of one of its lesbian characters was, quite simply, abominable, and outside of that there is no LGBT representation in any of it. Marvel comic books are doing much better in regards to these issues than the MCU.

One of the ways they can address some of these issues is by hiring different types of showrunners, and writers and treating the creation of these shows (and the movies which have all the same problems) the same way they approach the comic books. The newest phase of MCU movies have gotten a little bit better as far as racial issues (but not by much) and it’s seriously lacking in LGBT and disability representation, and the creators of these projects need to think more deeply about these issues, most especially in its treatment of Asian characters across all of the MCU, as it’s becoming creepily apparent that maybe don’t like people of the Asian diaspora.

Despite all my criticisms though, I actually enjoyed watching it. I’m still glad I didn’t have to spend 13 hours watching it, instead of the eight. The strongest part of the series are the scenes of The Defenders working together as a team. There’s a lot of room for improvement but also a lot of promise for a season two.

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

 


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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!