What Am I Watching

Here’s a list of shows I’m actually watching and ones I plan to watch. Here are also some shows I’m interested in watching but may never get around to for some time, as I’m afraid my dance card is quite full.

Gentleman Jack (Sun.9P/HBO)

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I had only recently heard about this show when I saw the ad on HBO, and I watched the first episode and now I’m hooked. It was so much fun watching the lead character, that I watched the next two encores.

The show is set in the mid-1800s, and is based on a true story about a woman named Ann Lister, who lived her life openly as a lesbian at the time. The show is based on her diaries that chronicled everything about her life, including the women she loved, and the one she actually married. Like a lot of Queer people, I’m off the Tragic Gay Stereotype. I really don’t want to see any more gay and lesbian characters in pain or getting killed just for fun.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/28/anne-lister-blue-plaque-lesbian-marriage-church

“She never experienced any difficulty in reconciling her lesbian sexuality with her Christianity,” said Helena Whitbread, who has studied Lister’s diaries for 35 years and is writing a biography. “Her firm belief was that as God had endowed her with her sexual nature, it would be wrong to act against it.”

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I loved her character immediately, especially  her outfits. In the first episode, Ann comes home to find her father too ill to collect rents from their tenants, and sets out to do it herself. This is a lot of the reason why I liked her. She is always being admonished to behave in a womanly manner, but she is the kind of person who sees that something needs to be done, and when no one steps up, simply does it herself. When we first meet her, she is recklessly driving a coach through the streets of the nearby town after the driver was injured.. When she was asked why she did it, she just says that no one else stepped up to do it, and she didn’t want to wait for the injured driver to get better.

She discovers that a  coal seam has been discovered on her land, and she decides, against everyone’s judgement, that she wants to mine it, so she can make that paper. She is having an affair with a local woman, whose husband leaves her alone too much, and yes, there are sex scenes. The show is not shy about it, and its filmed very matter of factly, rather than in some kind of soft porn type of way. Her future wife (yes, there is a happy ending) is a shy young woman, who lives in the nearby town, and Ann makes a strong play for her affections. It also doesn’t hurt that the woman is very wealthy.

I actually liked most of the supporting characters, except for her harridan sister,who keeps telling her what she can’t do. Ann usually just explains things, or waves her away.  She lives a very open life, and everyone knows her business, and her aunt and neighbors try to set her up with eligible young women, especially after they find out about her recent breakup with a young woman who loved her, but bowed to tradition, and  chose to marry a man.

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I can see the show is setting up some interesting issues for later. She has a bi-racial, Ladies Maid, who is secretly (or maybe not) pregnant, and one of the house servants keeps giving her significant glances, which makes me think that Ann maybe dallied with her once, or twice, and the servant is jealous to see Ann in relationships now. From time to time, Ann breaks the fourth wall ato address the viewer. She is very bold, and charming, and brash, and I liked that about her. The show packs a lot of information into that first hour, becasue the series is  only about eight  episodes long, and is written by Sally Wainwright.

There’s  some brief discussion of social issues like voting rights for women, and some of the show is taken up with plotlines that have her come fact to face with men seeking to thwart her aims, and her finding ways around them. At one point, she almost comes to blows with one of her tenants, who is trying to cheat her out of her rent money.

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/gentleman-jack-hbo-review-anne-lister-1202126654/

So, if you’re looking for some wlw representation, then you need to check it out.

 

 

What We Do In The Shadows (Wed. 10P/FX)

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This show is, hands down one of the funniest vampire shows on TV. Of course it helps that there are only a few of those on TV, at any one time. It’s based on the movie, What We Do In The Shadows, which stars Jermaine Clement, and Taika Waititi (the director of Thor Ragnarok), and centers around four vampires, who are  living as flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand, and are being followed by a film crew. This is the second spinoff from the movie. The first one was called Wellington Paranormal, and centered around the police, and a film crew, dealing with supernatural creatures and events in the city.

This second spinoff from the movie repeats that formula, but makes some significant changes, centering around four vampires, who  live on Staten Island. The characters are rough equivalents to the ones from the movie, except that the writers learned from their mistakes from the rather low budget film, and added a female vampire, who is one of the smartest and funniest of the group.

There’s Nadja, her husband Lazlo, and their flatmate, Nandor the Relentless, who is relentlessly obtuse. There’s also a new type of vampire, an emotional vampire named Colin, who is both incredibly funny, and tremendously boring,  but that’s his superpower. There’s  also the addition of  Nandor’s long suffering, put-upon, familiar, Guillermo, and a recurring character, the several thousand year old Baron, who has come to oversee the group’s takeover of NY.

I don’t think I can express how much I love this show. Almost as much as I love Brooklyn 99. I usually get into a show through my attraction to the characters, and I was immediately drawn to, of all people, Colin. This is probably because I work in an office space, and have met plenty of Colins.

All of the characters are well drawn.. The each have their own adventures, which is the hallmark of a good multi-cast show. Nadja gets restless and occasionally cheats on her husband, with various humans she finds attractive. She turns a young woman she is attracted to, and at some point this is something that’s going to come back to bite her in the ass, as Nadja and the others are unaware this has happened.

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Nandor seems to think he’s actually in charge of things. He’s neat, fussy,  and detail oriented. He’s the one who comes up with ideas to do certain things, or go certain places. Sometimes he remembers to be nice to his familiar, Guillermo, who he’s been stringing along for ten years. His most recent adventure involves losing his Witch’s Hat, which he refuses to believe is cursed, and a fight with a local werewolf pack, who are every bit as lamely funny as they are in the movie. Nandor enjoys trimming the shrubbery around the house into various animal, and erotic, shapes, and  is constantly hypnotizing their neighbor into not noticing the things going on at the vampire’s house.

Lazlo is the most hapless and clueless of the group. He’s completely devoted to Nadja, who was the one who turned him. Lazlo is not the brightest vampire. His most recent adventure involved turning into a bat, and being unable to change back, so he gets captured by animal control, and locked in  a shelter. The other vampires have to go rescue him, while Nadja decides to ignore the whole thing, and go off to have an affair with a parking garage attendant, that she believes is the reincarnation of a past lover.

Colin Robinson is a non-descript vampire that feeds off other vampires. He’s incredibly boring and also kind of petty. He openly delights in the other’s misfortunes, actually feeding off their unhappiness. The subjects he uses to drain people of their vitality are boringly hilarious. He drains other vampires, so the others always try to avoid him, or disavow knowing who he is. He loves to tag along on their adventures anyway, often just inviting himself. He mostly feeds at work, or goes to public civic meetings.

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Colin’s latest adventure involved meeting another psychic vampire. At first they try to drain each other, but then have the great idea to team up. and  end up draining the entire office too much. Its a testament to the writers that she is a different type of emotional vampire than Colin, Colin just drains a person’s will to live, while she feeds on sympathy, by  being pathetic. Something horrible is always happening to her, like dead grandparents, a dog with autism, getting kicked out of her apartment… In some ways, vampires like her and  Colin are the most ruthless, as they are completely opportunistic, and will feed on anyone, at any time, anywhere.

One of the most recent episodes was groundbreaking, in that it featured vampire guest stars from other shows and movies. Those vampires that didn’t show up in the show were name checked by the others, in a kind of Vampire Council, headed by the three actors from the original movie. The three primary actors used their character names, but the other actors just used their regular actor names, Wesley, Tilda, Paul, Evan Rachael Wood, and Dave Bautista. Once again we get to meet some more familiars, and its always funny when they all get stashed in a room together to talk about their particular vampires.

I like that the show remembers that other types of vampires exist besides the White ones, and its hilarious how they call attention to/call out, the different types of tropey modern  vampires, including two sisters who aren’t actually sisters, and a hip-hop Asian vampire, who only talks in rhymes. The trio also meet other types of supernatural creatures, including the werewolves, and of course they have a fight.

The show has just been renewed for a second season.

 

Of Interest

Now Apocalypse (STARZ) is a show about various pretty, gay, people having adventures in LA, while trying to avoid the coming apocalypse, that only one of them can see coming.

 

 

Barry (HBO) is about a former assassin who is attempting to leave that life to become an actor. He takes acting classes, but keeps being drawn back into his former life by his classmates, and the people he used to work for.

 

 

Shrill (Netflix) is about an oversize young lady, along with her Black, lesbian, roommate,  having various love adventures. The show is surprisingly positive about her size, and actually, pretty funny and uplifting.

 

 

Killing Eve (BBC) is a show I keep meaning to watch, but never actually getting around to, outside of a single episode a season. I love the two lead characters, and Sandra Oh absolutely deserves her Emmy. She is incredible in the show. This show heavily reminds me of a female version of the show Hannibal. There’s  a love/hate/fear relationship, developing between the two leads that’s fascinating.

 

 

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix) just got canceled after two seasons. I had been meaning to watch it, but never got around to it, about a woman who becomes a flesh eating zombie, who gets aided and abetted in her hunt for human flesh by her husband. In the meantime, they deal with perfectly mundane neighborhood and household issues.

 

Good Omens (May 31st/Amazon) is something I’m really looking forward to at the end of this month. It stars David Tennant.  I’m always up for watching what he’s getting up to, and the original story was  written by Neil Gaiman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

I did give some light mid-season reviews for both of these shows, and I said I’d have something to say about each one of these seasons.

Hmmm…lets go with some statements about Into the Badlands, first.

Into the Badlands

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This season ended on another cliffhanger, which was not as intriguing for me as the last one. Sunny has spent the entire season trying to get help for Henry, who is sick because of his genetic heritage of Black Chi, from Sunny. It turns out that Sunny is a catalyst, who can induce it, in those with latent abilities. We find out what that really means when he finally makes his way to the Sanctuary run by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim insists on referring to  Sunny as his brother, (and I’m not sure if this is literal, or metaphorical), and says his real name is Sanzo, (and one of the earlier characters, in the season, mentioned he has a sister). So we are just beginning to find out tiny details of Sunny’s backstory. Sunny encounters an angry MK, who only wants to fight. Sunny tries to talk him down, and stave off the fight as long as possible. He’s not trying to hurt MK, and has far more pressing concerns.

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Pilgrim has started to show he’s not as much of a good guy as he wants the denizens of the Badlands to believe he is, as he kills Castor, tries to cover it up, lies to Nyx, and  attacks Cressida, when she confronts him. He’s not as stable as he seems. He and his followers unearth a massive machine, and when he and Sunny touch it, he is imbued with Henry’s  Black Chi. How this is going to help him rebuild Azra is anyone’s guess. Now he’s more powerful than any of the others in the Badlands, except for one Wild Card. And it is not The Widow.

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I like to call her The Abbess, but The Master of the Abbey, that MK escaped from last season, and played by the African-Chinese actress, Chipo Chung, has a role to play in this new dynamic. When The Widow finds herself trapped, and near death, after walking into a trap in Baron Chau’s home, the Abbess, freezes, then reverses Chau’s wweapons, and rescues Minerva. With this one act, the writers have officially added magic to the worldbuilding of the Badlands, (although it was always heavily implied that this world was magical).

I am interested to see what role the Abbess is going to play in the next season. Somehow, I don’t think she and Pilgrim are going to be on the same side, and we might find out the reason it appeared as if she were siphoning the Black Chi from the students at the Abbey.

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Some of the relationships were foreshadowed, as Lydia and Nathaniel Moon have renewed their old romance. The most interesting, (yet completely unsurprising), relationship is between Gaius Chau and The Widow. The Widow has really sort of lost everything, by the end, as her people turned against her, held her prisoner, and she was lead into a trap by some false information. She has seemingly teamed up with The Abbess, and it’ll be interesting to see what these two heavyweights will get into next season, as the Abbess has promised to return Minerva’s Chi powers to her.

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

One of the most noticeable changes to the opening credits, for season two of Westworld,  is the addition of a woman, (it appears to be Maeve), holding a baby. This is not, (according to the show’s creators), meant to convey the idea that the Hosts can get pregnant, (as these are not organic beings), but an illustration of the concept of family. The major theme this season is the relationship between parent and child. This is examined, in the plot, as the idea of fidelity. This is a word Dolores says to Bernard when she is testing him for his authenticity to Arnold. William says it to the James Delos hybrid when he tests him, and The MIB’s daughter, Emily, says this to him, in the end credits. Remember, the linchpin of a Host’s sentience  is often based on the loss of family, and note that William, James, Bernard, and Maeve all have the memories of having killed, or lost, their children.

(Side note: One of the more implausible fan theories I saw floating about, was the idea that the mother and child image, meant that Dolores was pregnant with Teddy’s baby. The idea of two “non-organic” constructs having a child, is what’s known as “fan wank”. But outside of that, is the incredibly annoying act of applying that particular image to Dolores, rather than the Black star of the series, whose narrative is actually searching for her  “child”. That image is a direct reference to Maeve, so why would you take an image of a Black woman, with a  child, and apply it, in a fan-wank no less, to her White co-star? *Sigh* White fans stay trying my fucking patience!)

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The most obvious reference, for that image, is Maeve’s storyline, to find and rescue her daughter, but Maeve’s companions, Hector, Armistice, Felix, and even Lee have also, through their adventures, formed a family, of sorts, and this is a theme peppered throughout  Maeve’s entire arc, extending into the story of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, and Akane’s parallel story of her daughter. The revelation of Akecheta’s nature, and the world, is through his connection to family, and the loss of his wife. Akane’s story is a parallel to Maeve’s relationship to Clementine, the adopted daughter she has to kill in the finale.

Dolores, as much as Ford,  has control issues, and her character  arc is to learn to let the other Hosts be themselves, and learn to rely on other’s strengths. Teddy’s strength ,after finding out what he was, was his compassion. He would have been able to temper Dolores, and help her accomplish her goals that way, had she trusted it.  Just as Maeve has learned to rely on the individual strengths of her companions, Dolores has not learned to appreciate these qualities in hers, and learns the hard way, by losing Teddy, who rebels against her manipulation of him by destroying himself.

I think, for Dolores to be more successful in her next goal, she needs to make the idea of family a personal one, rather than an abstract concept, that is less important than her objective. Her story arc is the reverse of the others though. She spends the first half of the season trying to rescue Peter Abernathy from the Delos Corporation.

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The theme of parents, destroying, or rescuing their children  is also illustrated through James Delos, and William (The Man in Black). The aim of the Delos corporation was to put human brains into Host bodies, and they semi-succeeded. Just like the Hosts, the Human/Host hybrids also have a linchpin memory, which is the key to their sentience. For the James Delos hybrid, it was the death of his son Logan, who he rejected just before Logan overdosed on drugs. The Host version of Delos seemingly cannot get past that incident, and is eventually destroyed. James and William both rejected (and thereby, killed) their children, and neither of them seems to be able to get past the memory of that.

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For The Man in Black, some parts of the season were scenes of him doubling back and forth in his loop, and attempting to make different decisions than we saw him make the first season, and some parts are of a different timeline ,where he is actually making the bad decisions. Basically if you see him making different choices than he made before, its probably the hybrid/Host version. The linchpin memory for him is when he shot his daughter, Emily. (This is what the end credits scene is about.) The scene where he kills her is an actual flashback, according to the writers.

(Side Note: I don’t pay attention to the idea of the different timelines, because that’s not especially fascinating to me. I keep a loose idea of when things happen, in my forethoughts, but  I refuse to get hung up on it, because when things happen, is essentially meaningless. In my mind, all of the decisions of the Hosts, humans, and Hybrids, are of a piece, and its not as important for me to understand when something happened, so much as why it happened. I think the writers feel this way, as well, which is why they jumbled up the timelines, in the first place. I don’t think they want viewers to get hung up on when something occurs. For me, Westworld is about the characters, personalities, and relationships, and how they all serve the primary theme. It is not about the minutiae of when, and I don’t spend a lot of time parsing that.)

It’s almost as if, for the Hosts to move forward, to move out of the stagnancy of their loop, they need to confront their greatest sins, realize that, and then undo them. Many of the mind concepts on this show are based in various psychotherapies and PTSD. Although, unlike humans, the Hosts don’t just hold on to  painful memories, they actually live them, over and over. One thing the show took pains to mention is the idea of humans remaining in their loops as well. (I mentioned this in one of my posts last season, about the idea of Karmic Debt.) The humans are less free than the Hosts. I think this is illustrated in William’s story and his inability to move past Emily’s death, and James Delos’ inability to move beyond Logan’s death.

https://www.recoveryranch.com/mental-health/why-do-people-with-ptsd-relive-traumatic-experiences/

The one person, who is able to move beyond the loss of their child, is Maeve.

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For Maeve, her emotional linchpin was her inability to save her daughter from the MIB, and she, just like him, had to circle back to the place and time where she lost her. To save her daughter, she had to respond  differently and, (to reach a kind of emotional equilibrium), she takes on and defeats The MIB, which gives her some small amount of closure, (even if she doesn’t kill him).  For her to keep moving forward, she needed to confront one of her greatest sins, and the demon that came with it.

More importantly, Maeve doesn’t do this alone. She accomplished her goal because of the coalition of humans, of different races, and Hosts, with different strengths and skills, (like Hector and Akecheta). She forms this “family’ through a combination of mercy and compassion, unlike Dolores, who coerces her accomplices, through brute force, sacrificing them when they are no longer needed, and remaking them to suit her needs, like she did with Teddy. There is a reason that Dolores is nicknamed The Deathbringer by Ghost Nation.

For Delores, her linchpin  was the killing of Arnold, her biological father. We know this because it’s the one memory she kept revisiting, again and again, in season one. In fact, Dolores could be said to have reached full sentience, when she circled back to her beginning and Arnold’s killing. She spends the first half of the season attempting to rescue and protect her Host father, Peter Abernathy, from Charlotte’s machinations, but Arnold is her linchpin memory, and she is responsible for his death. She can’t save him, but she can save Peter Abernathy, and Bernard, the replica of her biological father. Unlike the others, Dolore’s sentience is through the loss of a parent.

 

The Finale

*Maeve escapes the Mesa and reunites with her group, and they, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, William, and Delos all converge on the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Bernard enter first and find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle. Dolores reads some of the guest data as the Forge opens “the Door” for Akecheta and his followers to upload their minds into “the Sublime”, a digital world cut off from the physical world. Bernard kills Dolores to prevent her from destroying the Forge and flees with Elsie back to the Mesa.

Maeve and her group sacrifice themselves holding off Delos forces to ensure Akecheta and Maeve’s daughter escape to the Sublime. Charlotte murders Elsie to keep her quiet, which convinces Bernard to build a host version of Charlotte with Dolores’ control unit. Dolores kills and replaces Charlotte while Bernard scrambles his own memories. In the present, Dolores kills Strand and Bernard while transferring the host minds in the Sublime to a safer location. She then escapes back to the mainland where she rebuilds Bernard, knowing that he will oppose her plan to destroy humanity and hoping their resulting conflict will ensure the survival of the hosts.

In a flash-forward, William enters the Forge to find it abandoned save for Emily, who tests him for “fidelity”, revealing that his consciousness has been implanted in a host body.

 

Overall Plot: The Cradle/The Forge/ The Valley Beyond

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This season was very very busy. There were multiple threads, timelines, motivations, and a lot of dying! I am ill equipped to explain all of the plot to you because I mostly watch to see how the characters are navigating the plot,  their emotions, and relationships. This can leave me ignorant of some of the finer  details. So, how about some links from people who are either marginally smarter than me, or just paid closer attention to the plot.

https://www.gq.com/story/westworld-finale-explained

Still trying to wrap your head around all those crazy twists? We’re here to help.

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*And from the creators themselves, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan:

https://mashable.com/2018/06/25/westworld-season-2-finale-explained-lisa-joy-jonathan-nolan/#VqdG.8m3.Oqg

Maeve:

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One of my biggest pet peeves, for the first season, was how many critics slept on Maeve’s story. I knew that her story would be important, in comparison to Dolores’ story, and that there would be a payoff, for it.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/sorry-maeve-had-a-more-satisfying-story-than-dolores-i-1827122416

Maeve, unlike Delores gets to have a certain amount of  closure to her story. Her original objective was simply to break out of the Matrix Westworld, and she almost succeeded, but gave that up in favor of finding her “once” daughter, who has undergone her own awakening,  and still remembers the mother she once had. She accomplished this goal, aided by a group of Hosts,  Lee,  a couple of Westworld technicians, and the leader of the Ghost Tribe. In the finale, she safely escorted her daughter into a pocket digital universe, called The Valley Beyond, where humans can’t go. Maeve may never see her daughter again, but at least she knows that she is safe.

It was interesting watching Maeve’s character arc all season, as she not only grew in power, but in her compassion, and her ability to love and sacrifice. She started off as a much more selfish character, and though there are criticisms that could be made of her character within the narrative of Black female stereotypes, overall, I’m satisfied with her story and how it ended this season.

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That said, my favorite episode is Akane No Mai, as it was a showcase episode for her character, emphasizing her deep humanity and compassion. And I just love the sight of Black women wielding samurai swords, for some reason.

Since the Delos Corp. have no idea that what happened was the robots reaching sentience, they intend to start the various Parks up again, after wiping and fixing the Hosts. They  believe it was all some sort sabotage by Ford, to destroy the Park, because he was forced to relinquish control of it. The issue of the Hosts sentience has not been resolved, and Dolores and a handful of other Hosts are now out in the actual world, as well.

When we last see Maeve, she and her crew have all been decommissioned, but we know she will be one of the ones to be revived, as Felix is one of the technicians who has been tasked with reprogramming the Hosts. Unlike Dolores, Maeve isn’t trying to do what she does all alone. She has a team, and they work as a team. Maeve is the Mastermind, with each member of the group working to their strengths, with Hector,  Armistice, and her Japanese twin, often working as “the muscle”, and Felix and the other humans, acting as the technical specialists. And then there’s Lee.

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Remember how I said I disliked Lee, who is the hack writer of most of the storylines of Westworld, and even Shogun World. Well, he proved himself to be redeemable, and much more complicated, than he was when we first met him. After Maeve’s shootout with The Man in Black, she gets taken back to the facility, where everyone tries to figure out how it was possible for her to control the other Hosts, after which they plan to decommission her. But it is Lee, who pleads with the technicians to save her life, and he seems to be so deeply affected by her imminent death, that he is in tears, and sits by her table, and talks to her, the entire time.

She so transcended the limited narrative that he wrote for her, that, like Hector, and Felix, he has fallen in love with her. (there’s a very neat parallel to her and Hector in Akane No Mai, when you realize Musashi might very well be in love with Akane.) This is very possibly one of my favorite moments in the season, because I love to be surprised by  changes in a character. Later, he actually sacrifices his life so she can rescue her daughter.

Once again,  the name Maeve means “to enchant”. And that is what she does, both literally, and figuratively.

 

Dolores:

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Dolores is on a different journey from Maeve. Her objective was to free the Hosts from the Park, and she mostly succeeded at this, having uploaded the minds of  many of the Hosts (at least the ones who went into the Valley) to an undisclosed location. She and Bernard leave the park and go out into the real world. Her new objective is, I think, to destroy the human world, or close all the parks, or something.

Dolores is learning how to work with others, which is to the good. Maybe she learned her lesson after Teddy decommissioned himself, but she seems willing to work with Bernard to accomplish her next goal, and she managed to rescue several of the mind pearls from the park.

I don’t have as much to say about Dolores, because her story wandered in some unexpected directions, and there’s a lot of mystery about her new goals. At any rate a lot has already been written about her, that’s much more in-depth than what I could provide:

https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/979084/Westworld-season-2-finale-explained-Is-Dolores-alive-S02E10-Charlotte-Hale

Overall, though I’ve seen some reviews bashing this season, (there’s always several of those, by people who probably shouldn’t be watching the series, if they’re not into, or even getting, the point), but I enjoyed it. I don’t think it was as good as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of novelty, and we are now well used to all these characters now. I’m looking forward to season three. I’m eager to see what kind of mischief Dolores can get up to in the real world, if there are other Hosts already walking about, will Maeve be back, and in what capacity, and will the Delos Corporation figure out that their problem is much, much, bigger than Ford?

 

 

 

 

Just Geeking Out About It!

 

This is just a fun post where I can geek out about some of the shows I’ve been watching. I have been watching shows, but haven’t been posting many reviews about them, and then there are the shows I’m greatly looking forward to this month, such as, Into the Badlands, which looks awesome as always, and Westworld, which, naturally, airs the exact same night, and time ,as Badlands.

Later this week will see the airing of Orbiter 9 on Netflix, a Scifi love story of some kind, which I may or may not care for; Troy: Fall of a City, yet another retelling of the legend of Troy; the return of The Expanse, in its 3rd season (one day I’m actually going to watch this show); and the remake of Lost in Space, about which I feel some type of way, since I didn’t particularly care for the movie remake, and there’s a random, token Black woman attached to this cast, which feels kinda weird.

This week I’m also  watching  Black Lightning, The Crossing (this is new), Siren ( I have a lot of good things to say about this ),  and The Terror.

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* Introducing: Thunder
AKA Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who is also known as Black Lightning. Thunder has the ability to increase her body’s mass while preserving volume, which effectively increases her density. In this state she is near-immovable, almost completely invulnerable. A mob enforcer once suffered a compound fracture after trying to punch Thunder in the face. Notably, she can make her skin strong enough to withstand bullets. Just by stomping the ground she can create massive shockwaves. —Wikipedia
She is also the ONLY out, gay, Black, female superhero, in the entirety of the DCEU (and the MCU, too.)
 
Oldest daughter Anissa is a medical student, activist and part-time teacher at Garfield who is fed up with police brutality and corrupt gangs. She takes a hands-on approach to dangerous situations and reminds her father that little has changed despite years of Black peaceful protest. Every MLK and Fannie Lou Hamer quote from Jefferson is met with Anissa’s rebuttals about everyone being “sick and tired” of no results. She’s the quintessential older sister—a bit overbearing and fiercely protective of her younger sibling Jennifer. Their relationship can be argumentative, but there is love and respect amongst the pair. 

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*Siren

 You have to watch this show just for the novelty of seeing the only Black mermaid in existence. (More on this show later.) Siren airs on the Freeform network, on Thursdays.

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 *The new season of Into the Badlands looks tight! The creators have promised that the world is going to get a lot bigger this year. We’ll see more of the Badlands, and the areas outside the Badlands as well.
This is Pilgrim and Cressida, who have come to bring the Badlands to heel, by force, if necessary.
This is Baron Chau’s brother played by Lewis Tan.
Aramis Knight returns a M.K.
Tilda is on her won this season, having separated from her mother.
Sherman Augustus returns as Nathaniel Moon, now in the employ of The Widow.
Ella-Rae Smith is a very powerful young woman who was adopted by, and is working for Pilgrim.
 Baron Chau returns and kicks off the war in the Badlands.

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*Let’s have a Grace Jones Interlude, just because…

Here she is from the 1987 movie Vamp, where she plays the almost totally silent, Queen Katrina, whose circumstance have been reduced to working in as a stripper, in a divebar, in the red light district, of some unnamed city.

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*Troy: Fall of a City is not getting good reviews, but that may have something to do with its depiction of Zeus, Achilles, and Patroclus as Black men (something I’m here for). The show is also doing something else rather radical, by showing Achilles and Patroclus as lovers, as had been alluded to in Homer’s Iliad. So, we have a canon gay, Black, male relationship in this show.

Now that television has starting pushing for diversity in all manner of roles, we’re seeing that Samuel R. Delaney’s Quota Rule has begun to kick in.

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

As long as poc numbers remained below a certain level ,white people seem to be okay with that, and can claim there is no racism is such and such industry. But once poc start starring in unconventional roles, roles their not used to seeing us in, and/or actually being the stars of shows and movies, they’re going to start showing their whole ass. (Not half their ass.  Not a quarter of their ass. But the whole ass.)

This era of pushback is not going to be over soon. We have an entire generation of people who are only used to seeing us serve the needs of White people in the narrative, as sidekicks, main character support, and the help. They need to get used to seeing us doing other things, and being in the narrative just for ourselves,with our own stories. (Black Panther is a huge leap in that direction.)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/02/2018 - Programme Name: Troy - Fall of a City - TX: n/a - Episode: Troy - Fall of a City episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Zeus (HAKEEM KAE-KAZIM) - (C) Wild Mercury Productions - Photographer: Patrick Toselli BBC, TL

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*I love this interview with the actor who plays Zeus in this show. Unlike American actors, British actors, as a general rule, have zero fucks to give, and absolutely no patience, for foolishness and stupidity, from movie and TV show fans, and do not mince words when interacting with them and  I find that refreshing.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-10/troy-fall-of-a-citys-hakeem-kae-kazim-calls-out-deep-insecurity-of-blackwashing-critics/

 

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And on a more serious note

On TV’s return to nostalgia for shows of the 90s, only the show’s are specifically about White people. Notice that none of the dozens of shows about PoC, that were hugely popular during that time, are getting reboots.

The ‘90s were a heyday for black sitcoms, but you wouldn’t know it based on the reboots and revivals currently in development.

No one can blame A-lister Will Smith for ruling out a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion or Jaleel White for his disinterest in donning Sally Jessy Raphael frames once more in a Family Matters comeback. But why aren’t we reading about deals to bring groundbreaking, fondly remembered hits like MartinLiving SingleA Different WorldSister, Sister and countless other beloved black comedies back to the air? A few breakout stars — like Smith, Queen Latifah and Tracee Ellis Ross (whose beloved Girlfriends just missed the ‘90s cut-off date by debuting in 2000) — are keeping busy, but most cast members are not. So the time has come to ask: Is there something problematic in the industry’s embrace of Roseanne, Will & Grace and The X-Files, but not the iconic black sitcoms that also made the Clinton years an exhilarating time of experimentation and representation?

Given that TV’s nostalgia projects now number in the dozens, it’s worth asking if the trend has yielded any unintended consequences. The intended ones are evident enough. Netflix has generated staggering amounts of press — and apparently pleased many a viewer — by footing the bill for new seasons of Arrested DevelopmentGilmore Girls and Full House (now Fuller House). Twin Peaks: The Return seemingly inspired more think pieces than any other series in Showtime history. And Will & Grace and The X-Files’ attempts to retake their perches atop pop culture were met with much hoopla and huge ratings, at least for their premiere episodes.

But it’s hard not to interpret the current iteration of nostalgic programming as a backlash to TV’s increasing diversity — a throwback to the days of Friends and Frasier when people joked that “NBC” stood for “No Black Characters.” Yes, these reboots and revivals comprise only a handful of the hundreds of scripted shows on the air, but many of them tend to be TV’s highest-profile projects. The fact that, in their totality, they inadvertently re-entrench the normalcy of all-white casts while erasing women of color and queer people is notable and worrisome.

[…]

There’s no denying that spending time with old friends feels good. But it’s also important to observe how the past is being misremembered now, and why. Some ‘90s stars are collecting paychecks again, while others are not. Certain families are presented once more as “all-American,” while others are not. There are those who have the luxury of remembering the past fondly, and those who do not. Never has it been clearer that our nostalgia has consequences.

But it’s important to remember that sometimes our memories fail us, and that our ’90s friends — except for the ones on Friends — never looked as monochromatic as TV is telling us they were.

Read more

Best Scifi Costumes on TV

 

Luke Cage

Luke Cage makes this list not just because the costumes are beautiful, but because this is some of the most politically relevant costuming in the MCU. All of the costumes speak to the specific backgrounds and identities of the wearer, and were designed by Stephanie Maslansky, whose priority was keeping things casual.

Cottonmouth’s dapper business suits represent his aspirations for legitmacy, as does Mariah’s middle-class chic. Cottonmouth’s suits are carefully crafted to inspire ambition to the young people of Harlem, while Mariah’s are carefully coded to inspire the folksy warmth and political legitimacy she seeks to project to the community.

Misty Knight’s no-nonsense practiciality is what’s on display in her costuming. She is a competent detective who is sexy while not being sexualized.

Luke’s hoodie is representative of the anonymity he attempts to cling to while protecting Harlem.That hoodie full of bullet holes is a direct callback to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, (one of the many young Black men who have died at the hands of police and  vigilante shhotings in the US.), and meant to invoke a feeling of hope and strength to the show’s audience.

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Farscape

I think Farscape had some of the most imaginative costuming on television. There’s nothing on TV right now that’s come close to it. The creators managed to make the female characters both alien and sexy, while the men were alien and virile, and funny.

I think one of my favorite costumes was Crichton’s black coat, that he adopted at some point towards the end of season two, which created a very sexy outline for him, with broad shoulders, a cinched waist, and it flared nicely during his action sequences.

The creators seemed to figure out that black leather seemed to work really, really well in this universe, and so, just made an infinite variety of  these outfits for everyone on the show. There was definitely some bondage leather influence on the wardrobe.

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This is Scorpius, a half Scarran, half Peacekeeper hybrid, whose unique body chemistry requires a face mask, which gives him a sinister look..

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I especially liked this red and black number Crichton wore in season two. I think this is a Peacekeeper outfit.

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These are the Scarrans. They wear lots and lots of black or red leather.

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It wasn’t until the second season that I figured out that Virginia Hey, who played Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, was also the Warrior Woman from The Road Warrior.

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Space 1999 – Maya

Maya, played by Catherine Schell, was the only character worth watching this show for, and the episodes that centered around her, were always the most interesting. For some reason, there was a thing about bird aliens during this time period, because Buck Roger’s had a male character that was kind of like her, too.  The only difference was that Maya could take on the shapes of different aliens. Still, she was definitely this show’s version of a Spock character, and the creators tried to differentiate her from Spock by giving her superpowers.

What’s interesting is the idea of a woman with the suggestion of mutton chop sideburns, who is sexy in a mainstream television show. But you have to remember, back in the day, these types of shows remained very much under the radar, as most people wrote them off as being for children, even if Space 1999, strived to present more mature themes. I appreciate it now, in a way I didn’t, when I was a teenager.

There’s also more than a little bit of Barbarella in her outfits and posing. In how she was prominently featured on the show. Space 1999 also starred Martin Landau, from the  Mission Impossible TV show, and Barbara Bain, who was also from that show.  I liked them both okay, and they really were too good for this show, but Maya was real draw for most people

The show aired from 1975 through 1977, but there was a definite 60s vibe in the setup, designs, and fashions, the were heavily reminiscent of Star Trek, which first aired in 1963.

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American God

I loved the costumes from this show. To go into the influences, and meaning, of the costumes, would require several posts devoted entirely to the subject, and guess what? I found one! My favorite is of course Media. Gillian Anderson is absolutely stunning throughout the entire season. A close second would be Anansi, and Easter, who had some wonderful outfits.

https://tomandlorenzo.com/2017/05/american-gods-style-costumes-art-direction-cinematography-analysis/

Suttirat Anne Larlarb is Series Costume Designer on American Gods first season, with Assistant Costume Designers Laura Montgomery, Brenda Broer, Sabrina Zain, Anita Bacic and Costume Supervisor Quita Alfred.

 

Notice the old world European embroidery on the lapels and cuffs of the Zorya’s   costume, which is appropriate, since she hails from Russia. The designs echo other  details in her home, which is old and shabby, but warm and comfortable, just like her attitude.

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This is Media as the late, great, David Bowie, one of several gay icons as she was dressed for the show. The others are Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. Gillian Anderson proved to be  incredible chameleon, and this must have been great fun for her.

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Notice the similarity in costumes between Loki and Odin.

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If you look closely at Shadow’s suit, it has tiny little dots all over it. There’s such great attention to details that the viewer will almost certainly never notice.

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I think I already mentioned Easter’s slightly tattered finery. Notice the tiny frayed edges on her flower headpiece, and her matching eye-shadow.

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This is one of Bilquis’ outfits from her 70s scenes.

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The faceless men in white, with their jackboots, suspenders, and black hats were deliberately meant to resemble the Droogs from the movie, a Clockwork Orange.

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Outlander

Claire’s dresses are designed by Terry Dresbach and are one of the highlights of this show. No matter what era she inhabits,  whether it’s the American 40s, or 18th century Scotland, Claire is always dressed to the nines. There are websites out there dedicated to examining the fashions of this show

http://www.instyle.com/reviews-coverage/tv-shows/best-fashion-moments-outlander-season-2

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Downton Abbey

What I liked most about this show is that it told the story of this wealthy  English family as much through clothing, as what they did. And the characters themselves occasionally discussed fashion and how it was changing.

The time period moves from the turn of the 20th century, through the first world war, to the 1920s, and you can get a very good idea, not only of how women’s fashions changed over that time period, but more importantly, WHY they changed. Women’s fashions were often a response to outside events,   because, in the past centuries,  the vast majority of women’s fashions were designed by women, who were responding to the ebb and flow of historic events.

In an exclusive interview with MASTERPIECE, Downton Abbey’s costume designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, recently took a break from her exciting work on Downton Abbey Season 6 to talk about the signature styles of the women of Downton and designing their sumptuous, jazz-age costumes.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/programs/features/slideshow/downton-abbey-s5-behind-designs-fashions-season-5/

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Contrast the above manner of dress (from 1900 through 1910s) with the looser, lighter style of dress below. In the 20s, the world was just coming out of the first World War, when everyone, rich and poor alike,  had experienced significant hardship. With so many men lost during the war, it marked a significant turn, for women, as they begin to movie into the workforce in greater numbers, especially the women of the middle, and upper, classes, the kind of women who had been pressured against working before the war. The new style of dress was more practical, and business-like.

Take note that with so many people dead from the war, the servant class all but dried up afterwards, as they also moved into the greater workforce. The servant class, that had made it really easy to dress in the many layers of clothing that women required during the Victorian era, were all but extinct. Upper class women needed to be able to more easily dress themselves, and take care of their own clothing and hair, since, after a while, there were no longer such things as Lady’s Maids. Dresses and hairstyles became simpler. There were fabric restrictions during the war, so women saved fabric by raising hemlines, (which never went back down, and got raised again during, and after, WW2.)

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In one episode, we can  hear the women’s opinions of the change in fashion, when the younger daughters of the house model the new 20s flapper dresses for their mother and grandmother, who express shock at the flimsiness and skin exposure of the designs. The silhouette of the flapper dresses are completely different from the more modest dresses that came before.

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Star Trek :The Original Series

The fashion designer for the original Star Trek was William Thiel. You can see a lot of the 60s influence in his fashions, even though he tried really hard to make the outfits realistic. Still these are some of the loveliest women’s costumes in Scifi, all very feminine, with some beautiful colorwork.

The amount of skin being shown is entirely in keeping with the 60s era thinking, which was a reaction to the deep conservatism of the 50s. These fashions were considered very progressive for women, at the time. The biggest influence over fashion was the invention of the bikini, which was invented in the 40s, just after the war, but didn’t make its way to American shores until the 50s.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/5969957/weirdest-and-sexiest-costumes-from-the-original-star-trek/

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See the bikini influence:

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The miniskirt was a huge thing back in the 60s. There’s been a lot of discussion about how the miniskirt does not make Star Trek a sexist show.

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The third woman just appears to be wearing a one sleeved poncho.

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Into the Badlands

Being the only martial arts television series is a big burden, It’s important that everything be meticulous and that includes the wardrobe. i talked about this just a bit in my reviews of the second season.

The men’s outfits  feel influenced by the costumes from A Clockwork Orange.

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Even in the Badlands, people manage to find luxurious fabrics:

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You can see the Asian influence here, where there’s  a bit of Genghis Khan, Warlord, in Quinn’s outfit.

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Hannibal the Series

One of the best parts of this series is  looking at Hannibal’s suits. Hannibal comes from very old money, so I don’t think he’s making his wardrobe choices based on a therapist’s salary.

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http://ew.com/article/2015/08/29/everything-hannibal-wore-hannibal/

 

One of the few times we see Hannibal witohut a suit is in the season three premiere episode. The showrunner, Bryan Fuller, says he was specifically influenced by the movie The Hunger ,which starred Katherine Deneuve, and David Bowie.

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You can see The Hunger’s influence on Gillian Anderson’s look for the third season, too:

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In Hannibal, Gillian Anderson got a chance to dress upscale. Here she’s wearing a very modern Parisian look.

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Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worldbuilding:



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

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

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

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

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Costumes:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

Cinematography: 

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

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

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



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

 

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

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


Action:

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



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Bottom line: 

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

 

 

 

Into the Badlands Season Two: 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.

Iron Fist Season One

I’m a long time martial arts movie fan. I have clocked a lot of hours watching people fake punching and kicking each other. If you’re that level of fan of martial arts, it’s okay. You can skip this show. There is waaaay too damn much talking in this show.

On the other hand, it’s not an awful show. It’s not half as awful as the critics would have everybody believe. It certainly could be a better show, and it doesn’t live up to any of the expectations of the trailers, as bad as they were. Let’s just say all the action you saw in the trailers, is most of the action in the show. My guess is they knew they couldn’t hook us in by showing the many, many hours of people snarking at each other in offices,and  wearing nice clothes, so decided to go with inelegant fight scenes. Think the show Suits, but with worst dialogue, and sometimes somebody gets punched.

The plot is as stated. Danny Rand flees a mystical Asian land called Kun Lun, where he is the legendary Iron Fist.He comes to NY and gets involved with Colleen, Claire Temple, and the Hand. We spend most of the show running around with this trio, from place to place, jostling with Ms. Gao, and the Hand, macking on Colleen like a creepy stalker, and trying  to avenge his parents deaths, which involves the corporation his father used to run, his father’s old partner, and that man’s children, the Meachums.

My special advice is to watch the show on your tablet or phone ,and every time you see people talking in an office, fast forward through that. I fast forwarded through almost all of that part and was still able to keep up with most of the details of the plot. I would also advise you not to listen too hard to the dialogue because you will go to sleep. Unless Claire’s on screen. She’s awesome. As always.

I was going to give some type of in depth review, but I’m not interested enough to invest that much work into the characters and plots and shit. So here. Have some links and articles that carefully explain what went wrong with this show.

Iron Fist was inspired by 1970s kung fu movies, but no one seriously expected Finn Jones to become the next Bruce Lee. The show focuses on plot over action, so it makes more sense to compare it to Daredevil. And that comparison makes Iron Fist look like total garbage.

Daredevil‘s hallway fight was praised for its stylish choreography and camera work. There’s a real weight and brutality to Daredevil’s blows, and the scene uses a long tracking shot so you can see all the necessary action.

Iron Fist paid tribute with its own hallway fight scene, utilizing a very different style of filmmaking.

 

In Iron Fist, the camera constantly cuts away before the blows connect. The editor chopped Danny’s choreography into two or three shots per move, so you don’t catch the full impact of his actions. It’s like trying to follow a ballet performance through a dozen tiny windows around the stage.

Once the fight reaches the elevator, we get a completely unnecessary split-screen view of Danny disarming an opponent. At 1:35 in the above video, the split screen actually makes it harder to see what he’s doing.

[READ MORE]

*I’m going to go one step further here. This weekend was the second season premiere of Into the Badlands. This show is everything that Iron Fist should have been. Into the Badlands is full of action and every one of its fight scenes is given the love and dedication that it should receive for an action show. Contrast this fight scene with the one from Iron Fist:

 

Oh, and here is the fight scene between Zhou Cheng and Iron Fist. Zhou Cheng is being played by Lewis Tan, an actor and model  who is half White, and was one of the most prominent contenders for AA Iron Fist.Btw, this is one of the best fights in the entire series.

 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/20/14988036/lewis-tan-iron-fist-casting-marvel-netflix-asian-representation

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*This critique lays out the five major criticisms of the show:

 Monday, March 20, 2017

Five Comments on Iron Fist

Marvel and Netflix’s latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership’s (if not the MCU’s) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist‘s reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make exactly the same criticisms–a dull and unsympathetic lead performance, an increasing emphasis on an unappealing villain, storylines that focus too much on boardroom shenanigans, lousy fight scenes–you’ve probably got a turkey on your hands.  Having watched the entire first season of Iron Fist, my only quibble with the reviewers is that most of the flaws they ascribe to the show were also present in the second season of Daredevil, which received generally favorable notices.  In fact, it’s not so much that Iron Fist is worse than Daredevil‘s second season, as that it is more boring (it lacks, for example, a magnetic central performance in the vein of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher), and this makes it easier to notice flaws that have been present in all of the Defenders shows, albeit taken to far greater extremes here.  The boring part means that the show doesn’t really deserve a full review, but there are a few points about it that I thought were worth discussing.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2017/03/five-comments-on-iron-fist.html

Continue reading “Iron Fist Season One”

Into the Badlands Season 2: Video Roundup

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Into the Badlands : Snake Creeps Down/ Hand of Five Poisons

Snake Creeps Down

This is going to be a combination of the last two episodes of the season, so have a seat and buckle up. This is going to be a long read.

I found  that Snake Creeps Down is a Tai Chi move. I’ve seen variations of this move in a few action films and I’m always blown away by the grace and elegance. Tai Chi isn’t often showcased in action movies because, although there is a hard version, (that Jet Li practiced in in the movie The One), its gentler style is not of much use in action films.

 

I didn’t actually see this move in the episode though, so the title must be metaphorical.

Last week, Sunny, who has become more decisive in his efforts to get out of Dodge, made a deal with the River King to bring him the head of the person who killed all the Cogs in his cargo, and Sunny agreed. Sunny is very worried about MK and what he’s capable of, and has nightmares about being killed by SuperMK.

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The watch fob we saw in his possession is shown to neatly fit into the book that MK stole from the Widow’s house, and which Veil has been attempting to translate. MK’s assertion that it might be a map through the badlands may have some merit.

The Widow, having bought off Quinn’s Cogs,  is now using them as an army in her revolution. She is methodically testing the young men for MKs superpower.

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With the Cogs gone, there is no one to pick the Poppy harvest, so Jade steps up to teach what Colts are left, how to harvest the juice from the flowers, after Quinn has a tumor attack in plain view of everyone. Jade is interesting in that she seems to have some very revolutionary ideas about how things should be run in the Badlands. Ideas that are as wild and crazy as the Widow’s, like teaching the Cogs to read and treating them with respect. I had initially written her off as just another sexual schemer, trying to secure her future in the Fort, but it appears she has some goal in mind that isn’t about her own self aggrandizement. She steps up and is willing to get her hands dirty harvesting the crop and  influences Lydia to do the same.  Earlier, Lydia showed disdain for the work of the Cogs but I guess Jade’s attitude shamed her. The two of them spend the day harvesting the Poppy field, together.

Ryder goes to seek advice from Waldo, who tells him that if he wants answers to his questions about Azra, and the pendant he took from MK, he needs to go see Lydia’s father. Waldo shows barely veiled contempt for Ryder. Most of the characters on the show seem to have that reaction to him.

Veil and Quinn talk while she gives him his treatment, which she earlier confessed to Sunny, was pointless anyway. Quinn lies to her, telling her that Sunny killed her parents. I hope she doesn’t buy that but I guess the point is for Quinn to sow discord between her and Sunny. Quinn is just an asshole, and assholes are gonna asshole. Its what they do.

Ryder goes to see his grandfather, played by Lance Henriksen, and I’m totally squeeing in my bunny slippers, right now because its fecking LANCE HENRIKSEN! Penrith is the leader of some fundamentalist  religious cult. He tells Ryder that Azra is a myth but after Ryder leaves, he mentions something about a “Dark One” that needs to be destroyed. I guess he means MK.

Religion is approached in an interesting way in this series. Quinn is obviously an evil atheist, which I do not appreciate. Penrith is a fundamentalist who may not be much better, though. This show is saying something about religion, I’m just not certain what that is.

Wow! Mk is really getting popular. Everybody’s after his Unlucky Charms.

Bale, MK, and Sunny have been patrolling the woods all day, looking for signs of the Widow, when MK runs into Tilda. He’s trying to convince her to run away with him, but that’s not in their future because Sunny interrupts and takes her prisoner, but not before she bites off Bale’s ear, which he deserved for acting like a total shit and calling her a bitch.

Sunny takes her to the Fort, where Quinn tells him to torture her for information about the Widow, and incidentally, Sunny needs to stop seeing Veil. He gives some bullshit reason for this request, but we know its just more of his maneuvering. Sunny appears to agree, but we know he’s lying just to make Quinn shut up.

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Sunny’s torture session with the Tilda is interrupted by…the Widow. She and Sunny start reenacting the fight scene between Shu Lien and Jen from Crouching Tiger, even using some of the same weaponry, like  flails and those hook things Shu Lien was so good at wielding. While this is happening, Bale, who has lost his damn mind, decides to torture Tilda himself. He locks MK in a cell while he beats Tilda’s ass.  MK, desperate to save her, cuts himself and Jedis Bale, impaling him on some thorny wall art. (No, seriously!  Dungeon art  is ugly.) Quinn and the Widow both witness this, and the Widow, gravely injured, is helped to escape by Tilda.

 

Hand of Five Poisons

There are a lot of rearrangements of people’s lives happening in the finale.

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Per his agreement with the River King, Sunny takes the severed head of the boy who killed RK’s cargo, for his inspection. It’s actually Bale’s head and Sunny hopes the River King buys this deception, so he can secure his escape from the Badlands. I was pretty certain he wasn’t going to kill MK, as MK is one of the stars of the show and I think Sunny might have actual feelings for him. Sunny often seems impassive but underneath there’s a deep well of emotion. One day we hope to see Daniel Wu do the “single man tear”, because all bad-asses get to do that at least once.

In the Badlands, three amber-robed monks take an interest in MK. I wonder who these guys are and how/if they’re related to Lydia’s father, Penrith,, played by “LANCE HENRIKSEN!”

Quinn goes to Lydia and accuses her of poisoning Jade. I’m not buying that because that’s just much, much too obvious and convenient.Lydia insists that Jade poisoned herself, while I’m inclined to believe that Ryder did it. Quinn kicks Lydia out of the Fort. I think its a mistake for Quinn to leave her alive, though. What if she goes over to the Widow’s cause?

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Lydia walks out with her head held high and goes to join her father’s congregation. For some reason I was really touched by this moment. Earlier, Pen had told Ryder that his daughter was dead to him, but she begs him to accept her and he relents.Its interesting to watch Lydia being so nakedly emotional.  I think it  says something about me that I don’t completely trust her and think she’s got something else up her sleeve. (She gets re-baptized into her dad’s cult, while some  of the more uncoordinated members do the Cabbage Patch in the background, which I find unintentionally hilarious.)

Veil, is kidnapped by Tilda and the two of them have some long and frank discussions about the Widow not caring about Tilda. I’m going to have to disagree with Veil’s police-work on that issue. I think the Widow genuinely believes in her cause and  sees Tilda as more than cannon fodder, but Tilda is in that space where she’s  tired of killing, so Veil’s message  strikes a chord with her.

Veil nurses the Widow, but to ensure her release leaves three vials behind. Two of them are poisons and the last is a tincture to cure the Widow’s wounds. The irony of suggesting that Tilda kill her mother with one of the poisons, after she lectured Tilda about killing, seems to entirely  escape Veil. The Widow, tells Veil what she’s trying to accomplish and offers Veil sanctuary in return for nursing her back to health.

I’m becoming increasingly exasperated by Veil. Earlier in the episode she confronted Sunny about watching her parents die and doing nothing to stop it. She made it seem like she was changing her mind about leaving the badlands and that just irked me, but I’m not sure why, as she has a right to be mad about that. And later, you would think,  especially after the deaths of her parents, that she would be on-board the Widow’s ideas about the how the Badlands should be run. She’s so stuck on the idea of the Widow being violent, that she can’t see beyond the violence to the motivation behind it. And then later, has the nerve to suggest matricide to a person she just lectured about violence.

Tilda confronts her mother about MK, and the Widow explains that she knows what MK is because she used to be like him, which is quite a revelation,  and raises a whole host of questions about who she is, where she came from and what happened to her powers.

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Quinn imprisons Sunny, believing him to be the traitor that he’s been searching for.  Quinn is going even more insane or trying to tie up any loose ends before his death. He takes MK under his wing and promises him Tilda, Sunny’s life, and the moon and stars, if he’ll be loyal to him. I  don’t think MK is buying any of it as Quinn’s behavior seems more than a little desperate and creepy.

Quinn takes him to his meeting with Jacobee and cuts him. MK goes full Hulk on Jacobee, Zephyr, Ryder and all their henchmen and kicks ass. Its lot of fun to watch but I kept begging that Jacobee wouldn’t be killed because he’s a great villain, although I think Zephyr, the Widow’s henchwoman, is dead.

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It turns out that Waldo is the traitor. What better traitor could there be then the one person everyone disrespects and disregards. This is the one of the lessons that the show has been intermittently teaching, that underestimating one’s opponent leaves one open to defeat. In that sense Waldo has successfully destroyed Quinn’s house. Ryder is out of the picture, Lydia is in exile, Jade is poisoned and possibly dying.

Waldo releases Sunny from the prison. Sunny goes after Quinn, of course, as Quinn deliberately threatened to hurt Veil. He kills Quinn, who was hiding in an alley watching the MK-Hell he’d just unleashed on his foes. Its a quick and undramatic death, and I’m a little surprised Sunny did it. This is the most decisive thing I’ve  seen him do.

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Afterwards, he attempts to subdue MK but is interrupted by the three monks, who easily take both him and MK down, while revealing they have the same powers Mk does. We come full circle as Sunny gets kidnapped by the River King, who plans to sell him to the highest bidder, having seen through Sunny’s deception involving the head.

 

Overview:

I like Daniel Wu’s portrayal of Sunny. He’s, strong, and stoic, but compassionate and kind. I’m glad his personal angst is kept to a minimum and only alluded to by other characters, though. The only problem I had was his earlier passivity. Now though, he seems to have become much more active, actually making some real and tough decisions.

My  favorite, MK, is  the embodiment of every annoying teenager on TV. He’s headstrong, doesn’t listen, is egotistical, and snarky,  but this is offset by his compassion and the openness of his character, which this show kind of needs, as it can get a bit heavy. He’s also a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a taco. If he could  get out of his own way, he’d make a formidable Clipper and he has more than enough angst for both him and Sunny.When we last see him he is once again, kidnapped, locked in a trunk,  and being transported somewhere. Since Mk spends a lot of time escaping from being locked up somewhere, I don’t expect this  to last.

The Widow is awesome. I have a difficult time thinking of her as a villain. I  understand and identify with what she’s trying to accomplish, which has turned her role in this show into almost a feminist narrative, as she isn’t doing this just for her own power, although that’s a part of it. She wants to reform the Badlands into civilization, where people can choose their futures and not be at the mercy of the men who rule now, a system that keeps everyone in bondage except the Barons. She’s playing the part of  Ying Zheng, the man who united ancient China into the Qin Empire. Violence is pretty much her only option to accomplish her goals. I hope she survives into the next season, if there is one.

I’m actually starting to like Veil, even if she does get on my nerves. She was first introduced in that scene where she was teaching Sunny to read and  the writers have taken great care not to damsel her much. She’s smart, educated, brave, with just enough fire in her personality to keep her from being bland. She doesn’t seem to have any martial skills, but there are other ways women can be strong, and she’s an example of that.

I should mention, that Veil’s and Sunny’s relationship is remarkable because its the only interracial relationship, between two PoC, one being an Asian man, that I’ve noticed outside of The Walking Dead.

I’m also starting to like Jade, who started out as fairly uninteresting, but is probably a closet reformer, not unlike The Widow. It would be very interesting if the two of them were to compare notes.

I like Lydia ,too.  The last two episodes made her a much more interesting character, as she seems to be changing her mind about some long held beliefs. She’s another strong woman of a different type than Veil. All the women in this show would be formidable opponents to the Barons if they decided to team up.

I’m not disappointed in the first season of this show. I like the worldbuilding, the cliffhangers, the costumes the characters and, of course, all the fight scenes, which have been gorgeous. It will be interesting to see what direction the show takes if there’s a second season. (I’ll let everyone know if there is.)

Into he Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings

You know how you love a character, root for them, but  still feel  as if they could use a very short, sharp pinch. This is how I feel about MK. Not often, mind you. Just whenever he shows agency or has an opinion.

But luckily I didn’t have to root too hard for harm to come to MK, as Stephen Lang’s character, Waldo, puts him neatly in his place during this episode, and that was satisfying enough.

This week the show focuses a lot of its time on the women of the series. It would seem that  women are in weakened positions because of how this world is designed but that’s not  completely true. And here is where the similarity to feudal Japan really strikes me. (That and the costumes.) It may have seemed that the women of that time period were helpless too, but many of them were involved in their own intrigues and yes, there were women Samurai, although they didn’t practice it in the same manner the men did.

In this world there are female Samurai ,too (and even a kind of Ninja, who were the undercover operatives of feudal Japan.) Most of these women. reside in the Widow’s clan and when Quinn declares war on her, we get to see them step up and hold their own against the Baron’s Clippers and even send quite a few of them home.

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Naturally, MK ,having been told to wait in one spot, does not follow orders and ninjas his way into the  Widow’s house during the battle, while Quinn and the Widow finally meet face to face and have it out.This is a great fight. and apparently a long time coming.

Quinn gets the advantage but is struck by a massive  tumor-ache. Before the Widow can finish the job the tumor  started, she is interrupted by Sunny. She and  most of  her women (The Butterflies) manage to escape the house through a secret passage.

Sunny confronts MK and MK shows him a book that he stole from the house. A book with a cover  image of the city of Azra. Another word-building point, which is why you have to pay close attention to the little things people say, is that MK is illiterate. So are most of the people of this world. Cogs can’t read, and neither can the Clippers.

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Lydia and Jade are sitting bedside to Ryder who is still in a coma. The two of them snipe at each other for a moment or two. Lydia makes it clear she knows that Jade is sleeping with both Quinn and Ryder and that that is a really bad idea. Jade goes to Veil, who was a childhood friend of hers, to beg her to save Ryder’s life. Veil is reluctant, at first, but Jade talks her into it.

Lydia, who seemingly hates everybody, doesn’t like the idea of a Cog (which I guess is what they call peasants in this world) doing surgery on her son, but relents when Veil explains to her that her son will die in a few hours if she doesn’t. She practices the age-old remedy of trepanning, drilling a hole in the skull, to relieve the intracranial pressure.

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Later,  Quinn approaches her and promises to find whoever killed her parents, not knowing that Veil is already  aware that he killed them. He also lets her know that yeah, he’s aware of her relationship with his chief Clipper.

After the battle Sunny goes to Veil to get patched up and the two of them try to be discreet about their relationship but MK , like most teenagers, cannot be fooled by people pretending not to like each other. It doesn’t help that Veil and Sunny are no good at lying. How the two of them are going to keep their escape from the Badlands a secret, when they can’t successfully lie to a teenage boy,  is a mystery.

MK also keeps making snarky comments to Sunny who has the perfect remedy for that. He takes MK to meet his mentor Waldo. I hadn’t noticed before but Waldo is disabled, (I wonder if we will get his backstory), which doesn’t stop him from beating MK’s ass, when Sunny needs to teach him a lesson about underestimating his opponents. This scene was a lot of fun and well choreographed. This underestimating one’s opponent, and then  getting your ass handed to you, seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

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Its also the third show I’ve watched just this year, which has a person with a disability, kicking ass and not even caring about names. I don’t know if TV was always like this or my brain is just noticing this now. contrast this with the original Ironside, its failed race-bending remake, and In Living Color’s HandiMan skits, which were done for laughs.

Ryder wakes up after his successful trepanning, and Quinn asks him who set him up. He says a woman in the red light district named Angelica, who proves more than a match for Sunny when Quinn sends him  and MK to retrieve her. She won’t allow herself to be taken alive and jumps from a balcony rather than let Sunny capture her. While this is happening Tilda, (who has been sent to retrieve Angelica too), sees MK and the two of them fight about which of the  Baron’s is a worse person, Quinn or the Widow. Angelica,  splatting in front of them, ends that.

Sunny has taken the book and hidden it, but MK ninjas his way into yet another house and manages somehow to steal it back. Even if he never makes it as a Clipper he can always become a thief. This is the main reason why he needs a sharp pinch. Once he gets it into his head to do something, the danger of it never occurs to him as he has mastered the ability to make poor choices.

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Like: taking the book to Veil to read it for him, after noticing she has a lot of books, so she can probably read. But she can’t read his book, either. its written in a language she’s never seen before.( It looks  vaguely Arabic, but not exactly.) Quinn shows up at her door, ostensibly to thank her. She hides the book with MK, who hides behind a curtain.

Quinn sends Sunny to get aid from a Baron named Jacobee. he must meet with Jacobee’s Regent, named Zephyr, who I like already. This is a woman well acquainted with what she wants and what she wants is Sunny.(Who wouldn’t? Sunny is foine!) She tells him he has a great opportunity. Kill Quinn and set himself up as baron, instead. Oooh, the plot thickens!

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Quinn goes to visit Veil and be creepy to her for a while. I guess being shitty and threatening to his wives isn’t enough to reach his creep quotient for the month, he’s got to let Veil in on the fun, too. What he really wants is for her to cure him the way she cured Ryder, giving her a prime opportunity to botch the operation and (oh, hell, why not?) make herself Baron. I’m all for this because even if she succeeds, his response will probably be to kill her or  take her for a wife, thereby  jeopardizing her baby’s life.

One must note that if Quinn hadn’t killed Veil’s parents to protect his increasingly not so secret-secret, this would never have become a problem, but in his defense, the tumor may have impacted Quinn’s long term planning capabilities.

Well now both  Veil and MK know the Baron’s secret.

The actress who plays Veil is phenomenal,  managing to portray strength and vulnerability, often at the same time. She’s great to watch and her character proves that there’s more than one kind of strength in this world besides the masculine associated ability to kick ass. There’s also the strength to endure and even thrive in this environment without martial skills, which is what the Cogs have to do.

I like the shows ability to portray men and women equitably, highlighting not just the strengths of the women but the weaknesses of the men. In that sense this show is turning out to be much more feminist than I expected, given the type of feudal dystopia that’s presented.

We’re down to the last two episodes of the season and I’m really mad at AMC for having only ordered six episodes,  hyping the Hell out of this series, making me fall in love with it, and then pulling the plug until Gob only  knows.

Next week: Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

Into the Badlands: Fist Like A Bullet

Okay, everybody! Into the Badlands has put in its application, after only our second date, to be my new boyfriend, and I have accepted this proposal. It doesn’t hurt that I’m probably in love with it.

I love a lot about this show. Not that it’s perfect. No show is perfect. There’s still some issues for me to overcome, some problems we need to work out as a couple, but I don’t see any deal breakers yet, and hey! it’s really, really pretty. The costumes look good, creating some nice silhouettes for the lead characters, the lead actors are handsome, the color schemes are rich.

The music, while not especially memorable, is at least not intrusive, and the fight scenes are awesome! They are well choreographed, the actors look like they’ve put some effort into them, and the actors move well and look good, especially Daniel Wu as Sunny. I knew already that I was going to like The Widow. She doesn’t have that balletic moves of her daughter Matilda (who fights a lot like Black Widow) but she moves in a clear, defined manner, sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with more jumping.

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Of course, since this is futuristic scifi, we must have the obligatory brothel, or nite-club scene, where some henchmen are waiting to get their asses handed to them by The Widow, although that’s not why she’s there. She is attempting to drum up support for her big move against Quinn, but her ally is assassinated by some gruff looking men, hired by Ryder, to kill her. This fight was a lot of fun. We didn’t get to see The Widow lay her shit down during the pilot but it was great to see it in this episode. Lets just say, “She got skillz”.

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MK is having a really hard time of it trying to get his ass out of Dodge. He’s just been imprisoned, crawled through a sewer, has barely escaped the Nomads, Baron Quinn’s fort, and may have to escape from the woman who tried to capture him, in the first place, The Widow. Wandering through the forest, he comes across a young girl killing squirrels with throwing stars shaped like butterflies, which is hilarious to me, for some reason I can’t explain. This is Matilda, one of The Widow’s daughters. She takes MK to her mother’s fort.

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Quinn has sussed that there is a traitor in his house after hearing about The Widow’s near assassination and MK’s escape from jail. He takes Sunny with him to see a doctor because his headaches are getting worse.

It turns out that the headaches are a brain tumor and that Quinn only has several months to live (how soapy can we get? His wife hates him, his son is a schemer, and his most trusted man betraying him). He can’t let anyone else know about this, so he orders Sunny to execute the elderly couple, who just happen to be Sunny’s girlfriend Veil’s, parents.

Sunny defies his Baron, possibly for the very first time in his life, but instead of killing him, the Baron elects to murder the couple himself, while Sunny looks on in amazed disgust. The Baron is not a very good Clipper, as he’s extremely messy about it.

The Widow is convinced that MK is the special boy she’s looking for and that he is lying when he tells her otherwise. This conversation is notable to me for his use of the words “free farmers”.  Apparently, there are such things as nomad farmers, who move from plantation to plantation.

There are also other, smaller plantations, that grow other things besides Poppies, as we learn when The Widow asks MK about tobacco farming, and when she offers Baron positions to some smaller landowners she’s trying to ally with to take down Quinn.

You have to listen closely to the dialogue for all the tiny details of what this world is like. So its not all plantations and slaves. I guess, according to Stephen Lang’s character, there’s a setup where people choose to become sharecroppers, or indentured servants, on the various properties, for safety reasons. Some people choose not to do this, becoming, Nomads, free farmers, or maybe some other type of professional, (like doctors), but since there are no laws or police, you are at the mercy of people who are more ruthless. At any rate there is a kind of economy that exists that cater to the needs and desires of the clippers, Nomads and various free persons wandering the Badlands.

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If this is the Badlands, are there by definition, some Good Lands called Ezra, maybe? And what are all these Poppies being used for?

Underestimating  The Widow and Matilda, the smaller plantation owners have to agree to back her play, after one of them loses in a fight with Matilda, who very easily wins against her bigger ,stronger opponent. There was never any doubt in my mind that  Matilda would win because her mother is The Widow, and she’s got mad skillz, and  for the Widow to demonstrate that things are not always as they seem, after one of the fools dissed her for being a woman.

 

Not to be outdone in the bad guy category, Ryder makes plans to have The Widow killed, when he makes plans to capture her skimming their profits, not knowing that this is a trap for him, and his father’s top enforcer, by The Widow.

 

We get a Stephen Lang cameo when Sunny visits his friend Waldo for some life advice. I’ve been loving this man’s career since the eighties. He almost  always plays bad guys, it seems. After what he witnessed that morning, Sunny informs Veil that the Baron killed her parents and the two make plans to escape the Badlands.

The Widow tells Tilda to test MK for his powers in a training session but MK convinces her not to hurt him. Matilda nicks herself, then lies to her mother about MK, saying he’s not “The Cho Zen Won”. Boy! There’s  supposedly trustworthy  people just lying through their teeth, all over the place in this episode. Ryder, Sunny, Matilda. I believe I’m sensing a theme here.

Later that evening Mk exhorts Matilda to help him escape. She takes pity on him but when they are caught by The Widow, who thinks they are merely lovers and not traitors, she kicks him out.

One of The Widow’s  swarthy looking new allies decides to take MK to his territory. But since there’s a bounty on MK, from Quinn, it looks like he’s headed right back where he came from, once again, locked in a trunk. (This actor is exceptionally pretty, and  probably not underage, but he seems to spend a lot of time in these episodes, shirtless, which is mildly disturbing.)

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Arriving at the abandoned factory to catch  The Widow, Ryder and Sunny are set upon by her allies and we get to have the joy of watching Sunny go to work. While Ryder dangles uselessly, having been taken out of the fight before it even started, Sunny takes on a couple dozen men with swords. This definitely cements Daniel Wu as a member of the Kingdom of Badass-ery, along with Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

He does get ambushed trying to save Ryder’s life, and that’s when MK, having cut himself free, kills his first man, to save Sunny. He asks Sunny to help him escape the badlands, but Sunny has another plan. He will mentor MK as his replacement (aka: Colt). He tells him that he needs to control what he is and he can only do that with training. Sunny’s right. So far, MK’s primary tactic has been to run away from what he is instead of mastering it and that’s not working. He is powerful enough to be at no one’s mercy if he tames his wolf, instead of being scared and running from it.

When MK becomes a Clipper, his job will be to safeguard Sunny’s wife and child to Ezra, which sounds beautifully tragic.

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Sunny takes MK back to the Baron’s fort where he declares that MK will be his new student. the Baron grudgingly agrees and then declares war on he Widow for nearly killing Ryder.

 

Geeking Out About : Into the Badlands

Yes, I ve been ignoring all my other reviews and recaps in favor of watching Hannibal reruns and Martial Arts movies. Those of you who are not fans of either, I have two statements:

A.) What’s wrong witchew?

And B.) I apologize, but I’m going to be ranting on these two topics for some time, while I completely ignore your interest in The Walking Dead. (Once I have calmed down, I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming on this blog. Maybe.)

The moment I saw the first trailer for this show I got really excited. I’m a long time a martial arts movie  fan. I grew up watching just about any tv show or movie with people fake kicking  each other. So, yeah, I’m  very excited about tonight’s show. I’ve already started picking out characters I like  from the trailers (The Widow and M.K.) and I sincerely hope AMC doesn’t screw this up or I will be disappoint!

This is one of those post-apoc, dystopian futures, with people in power offering protection from danger. They banished guns and trained up some sword fighters called Clippers. The top clipper, Sunny,  works for one of the barons named Quinn. Sonny is tracking a  lost transport owned by his boss.

There’s a reason why I hate dystopian fiction, but this system is not unlike feudal Japan, with Lords of various territories and the people who work under them. The Clippers are not unlike Samurai,  with everyone else working for the barons without wages. Just safety, from the unaffiliated Nomads, who live in the badlands, I guess. Kind of a cross between 16th century Japan and the antebellum south.

Sunny spots an open air abattoir of what? Slaves? Peasants? He tracks the attackers to ther campsite and they challenge him to  a fight. And we see why Nomads shouldn’t fight Clippers, as bones are broken, necks are snapped, and attackers are flipped. Clippers are actually trained.

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In a  stolen cargo trunk is a young man named MK. Sunny knocks him out, and takes him back to the transport site, where they bury the bodies. MK says The Widow paid the Nomads to capture him.

Sunny takes MK back to the Quinn’s fort. The Baron gives speeches about the badlands and talks up his protection and love. Whatever. I’ve heard these cult of personality speeches before and since I’m not a fourteen year old boy, desperate not to be someone’s slave, I’m tired of it already. He shows them Sunny’s tattooed body, with the hashes of the hundred or so men he’s killed. Who will be the next Sonny?

MK gets sent to the pit to see what he’s made of. The Baron tells his favored son Ryder, that he’s  not to move on the Widow, who hired Nomads to attack his caravan. MK is immediately attacked by a young man named Ajax, who steals his necklace, in an effort to show out for the Clippers, but Sunny interrupts the fight and takes the necklace for himself. Afterwards, a young boy named Bale, offers to watch MKs back.

The baron also has a tenuous relationship with one of his top wives, possibly the mother of his favored son. There’s intrigues as the mother and son discuss the barons weaknesses. I’m a lot less interested in intrigue. It’s the reason I pay only peripheral attention to Game of Thrones.

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Sunny goes to see a woman named Veil.  I’m not sure exactly where this is. Is it inside or outside the walls? I don’t know.  Sunny has an arrangement with Veil, who informs him that she’s pregnant. He tells her she can’t keep it and we learn the punishment is death. For who is unclear. For Sunny? For Veil? For the child? Sunny is not allowed to have a family, although nobody seems to care who he boinks. Since he’s a valuable asset and Veil isn’t, I’m guessing that Veil will be the one killed.

Veil suggests they go into the  badlands and you can see Sunny giving it some thought. I suspect, at some point, he may not get a choice about it. We also learn that the baron hunts down people who try to leave. That’s the way such cults work. Take away any hope of escape, talk up how great you are for them, kill them if they try to leave. After all those poppy fields aren’t going to pick themselves.

It will be interesting to find out what’s beyond the badlands. There’s no long range communications systems, and it will be nice to know what all this poppy picking and oil making, on the various plantations, has to do with the “shining city on the hill”, that’s pictured on MK’s necklace.

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Later, Ajax attacks MK, who totally “Rivers” out with  DarksideWillow eyes, and all. It’s creepy as hell because just like that, MK is gone. In his place is something very alien. I guess Ajax will never get to be a Clipper, as he certainly can’t do the job with one freaking eye. I had wondered what that scene was about and who the boy was in the trailer. It does make me wonder if MK’s superpowers have anything to do with  Quinn’s headaches.

Sunny questions MK about the fight. He says what Sunny saw only happens when he bleeds. He blacks out and can’t remember who he hurts. Creepy. He tells Sunny about Azra, a town out in the badlands. Later, when Sunny goes to see Veil, he’s attacked by the Widow’s henchmen. But she’s  just testing him out and proposing a job. She wants him to bring MK to her. That’s a lot of death, just to offer Sunny some work to do.

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Yes, it’s a great fight scene, even in the rain. I don’t know why I  love rainy fight scenes. It’s more balletic than realistic, with a clean, easy to follow style. It doesn’t go on any longer than it has to, by having the fighters do stupid things to prolong it. Yeah, you’re certain Sunny will win,  but then it turns out not to be a real stakes type of fight, anyway.

Yeah, I like the Widow, a redhead who still dresses in black, after allegedly killing her husband. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see her kick some ass, like we did in the trailers.  I’m intrigued by MK, for the same reason I liked River Tam, from Firefly. The first time we saw her, she was on a box, too.

MK decides to be stupid, though, and breaks into the main house to get his necklace back, and is promptly captured by Ryder and his mother. They find the necklace on him and the mother looks like she knows something about it. Ryder says he will execute MK in the morning and locks him in prison, where Sunny comes to visit and breaks him out. The baron’s wife witnesses the escape. Did she send Sunny to him or did he decide this on his own?

Quinn calls for Sunny, who thinks he’s been caught out but Quinn only tells him to move closer to the house.  I think he fears Sunny will leave because he tells him there’s nothing in the badlands and that he’s Sunny’s only choice. It’s interesting seeing the relationship between the two. The baron is rather needy and mostly clueless about what goes on in anybody’s mind but his own, but then that’s one of the problems that comes with power and paranoia.

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This episode was mostly character and plot intros. The fight scenes were fun and there’s a couple of interesting mysteries like: what is MK, Quinn’s headaches, how/what does The Widow know about MK, and is there anywhere else besides the badlands. The show is called Into the Badlands, so at some point, we’re gonna get out there right? Because I find the political intrigue,  on the plantation, less compelling than the writers do.

We’ll see what next week’s episode brings to the table.

Part One: Favorite Movie Martial Artists

In anticipation of Into the Badlands, coming to AMC this Sunday, lets talk:

I’ve been watching Martial arts movies since I was a kid. Sitting with my brothers on  Saturday afternoons,  watching Chinese people fake kick each other, with bad English dubbing. Yeah, I watched all of them: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The Five Deadly Venoms. The Flying Guillotine, Drunken Master, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and of course, anything with Bruce Lee in it.

The plots were often ridiculous, but occasionally profound, and surprisingly, one could learn a lot about Chinese culture and history. For example, at twelve years old, I knew nothing about the enmity between China and Japan. In The Chinese Connection, there’s a scene when Bruce Lee’s character tears down a sign outside of a Martial Arts school that reads “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed”. My mother had discussed segregation with me, so on that level, I knew that the sign was wrong, I just didn’t know why, but I wondered why the Japanese and the Chinese hated each other in Lee’s movies. (I wouldn’t find out why until I researched the topic myself. For certain, it was never mentioned in any of my high school history classes.) Watching Chinese action movies was also the first time it occurred to me that racism and bigotry was a global phenomenon. That the situation between Whites and Blacks in America was not an  entirely unique phenomenon and that other cultures we’re dealing with similar issues.

But most of the time, the movies were just fun and funny. Afterwards, my brothers and I would decide who got to play the iconic White Haired Villain, (as the oldest, this role often fell to me), then pretend to beat each other up with fake punches, in an attempt to prove whose Kung Fu was better, or try to reproduce those dubbed voices, as we  protected our teacher’s honor or avenged our murdered fathers. Since we were  forbidden to actually hit each other, all our fights were always fake, anyway.

During the eighties, we discovered Japanese Ninja movies and dutifully set about procuring  throwing stars, and tearing up our mother’s walls by  throwing them all over the place. (We, of course, were never allowed to throw them at each other because they were actually sharp. Its all but impossible for kids to get these things now and I wonder whose bright idea it was, to sell them to kids at the local Chinese shop, for a dollar each. Incidentally, I got really good at throwing them. Holla  atcha Blackgirl Ninja, who is not actually allowed to hit you.)

Watching a good Martial Arts movie is like watching a ballet or a ballroom Mambo. The levels of speed, power and grace are found nowhere else in Action cinema. For every Baryshnikov or Gregory Hines, there’s an Action movie equivalent, who is a joy to watch.

These are my favorites, in no particular order:

Chow Yun Fat:

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The “Fatboy” first came to my attention in the movie The Killer, more than two decades ago and followed by other “gun fu” movies like Hardboiled. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, and I’d kind of forgotten about Chow Yun Fat, as a martial artist, after he started making American films. But he came back on my radar after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I loved the character of Li Mu Bai, and I particularly liked his graceful and intelligent fighting style. There’s no wasted movement and despite how lethal the character seems, the style is surprisingly meditative to watch.

Bruce Lee:

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Who doesn’t know about Bruce Lee, and what affect he had on the American public, back in the day? A surprising number of Black Americans were influenced by and admired his drive, wit and philosophy, even now. For many Black people, Lee’s philosophy was our first introduction to thinking critically about race on a global scale, about movies, Hollywood, and how all of it related to the martial arts. Bruce  was also an incredible presence on screen, as well. His speed and fierceness, often informed by his righteous indignation against the bad guys, was simply awesome to watch. Watching a Bruce Lee film is just a highly emotional experience for many of us.

Tony Jaa:

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I’d read about Tony in some martial arts magazine, long before I saw his first movie, The Protector. He reminds me of a much grimmer version of Jacke Chan. Like Jacke, everything you see him do onscreen, is actually him, not a stunt person and not CG, which makes his movies all the more fun, but not especially funny.

Donnie Yen: 

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The first time I saw Yen was in Once Upon a Time in China, fighting Jet li with bamboo poles. I just had to know who that guy was and I’ve been following his career ever since. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but I’m working on it. My favorite movies with Donnie are Ip Man and Iron Monkey. Donnie takes his roles very seriously. He looks sharp, fast and totally committed to kicking his opponents ass.

Gordon Liu:

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Liu was one of the actors I grew up watching, having seen most of his films, with no idea that I was watching a legend. The first time I saw him was in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which I saw many times as a child and, at least in my house, we spoofed pretty often. It was the first time I had any idea that Shaolin was even real. Up to that time, Kung Fu was just something people did in movies, and The Shaolin Temple was not a real place. For me, Gordon Liu was my Shaolin rep.

Jackie Chan:

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One of my all time favorite martial artists, I’ve seen nearly every movie he’s ever starred in and even I few I shouldn’t ever have watched, as not all of them are good movies. Every now and then Jackie likes to do a serious and grim character, but I prefer his affable, goofy characters. If you’ve never seen a martial arts movie before, I would suggest starting with Jackie Chan’s Legend of Drunken Master (to be reviewed in part three of my little series).

Toshiro Mifune:

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I wasn’t introduced to Mifune until I was an adult. In fact I hadn’t watched very many Samurai films at all, beyond Shogun, which he also starred in. What do you want to guess was the first film I saw him in? That’s right. Seven Samurai! I was really surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did because I was prepared to be bored. Mifune shines in this movie. He is surprisingly funny, possibly insane, but very likable, talented and loyal to his friends. Since then, I’ve  seen him in many roles but I always come back to Seven Samurai as my favorite.

Sonny Chiba:

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Our mother would not allow me to watch The Streetfighter the first time it played on TV. She said I was too young, after she watched it first. I wasn’t allowed to see it until I was about 14 or 15, and I get why. She had no problem with us watching Bruce Lee movies, but Sonny Chiba ain’t Bruce Lee.  He doesn’t try to be handsome, charming, witty, funny, none of that. This man is seriously grim and his attacks brutal. He doesn’t try to be pretty or graceful. He’s sort of like a human pit bull. I never get tired of watching Chiba’s movies but I do have to be in the right mood. These are not happy, lighthearted  films and I love that.

Michelle Yeoh:

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As much as I love Summer Glau, my heart belongs to Michelle first. Michelle, who is sometimes called Kwan in Thailand, also has a dancer’s past. The first time I saw her was in Wing Chun, which is still one of my favorite movies with a female lead. Chinese action movies didn’t seem to have the same kinds of issues with having female action stars that Hollywood did. Michelle is very quick and graceful on screen, she doesn’t try to overpower her male co-stars, she prefers to outwit them, and  can hold her own with any of them. If you want a good idea of just how far she’s willing to go, then watch her first movie with Jacke Chan titled Police Story.

Jet Li: 

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I’m not sure there are enough words to express how much I love watching Jet Li’s movies. The movies may occasionally be awful, but he never makes a bad move in them. It’s my understanding that he is an actual martial artist,  having won several Wu Shu tournaments in China, and that he got his name, Jet, from being so fast. He has a brave, bold, fighting style, occasionally funny, witty,  fast, graceful and always fully committed. I’m always up to watch a Jet Li movie. From Once Upon a Time in China, to Fist of Legend, to Forbidden Kingdom, Jet always  brings his “A” game.

Honorable Mentions:

Zhang Ziyi

Cheng Pei Pei

Anita Mui

Note:

I am not a martial artist or a purist of  action cinema. I listed these artists by the names which I first encountered them, and the movies by the titles, under which, I first watched them. I’m merely an enthusiastic observer of martial arts movies. I know a lot of the tropes and can recognize differnet styles when I see them,  (Japanese vs. Chinese,  or Tiger vs Crane or Monkey, for example) but only from movies and documentaries. I’ve never been to a tournament, I don’t know anyone in that life, and I’d like to keep it that way. There’s movies and  there’s real life, and I’m not trying to conflate the two, or act like I’m an expert.

If you’re a purist who has a beef with any of the things I’ve said, you’re gonna have to take it to your own blog, because you won’t get a platform here. If you have a correction, on some point of order, however, then it’s okay to inform me in the comments.

And feel free to encourage me to post more on this because you’re gonna get it anyway.😃

johnrieber

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