Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Review: The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

Look, I'm on a Lackey kick, what can I say?

TW: for this book- racism (both overt in text and by the author), sexual assault, mention of torture and abuse. Oh also a good bit of fatphobia to start the book out with.

One of the primary issues that this book talks about is race. The hero, Dr. Maya Witherspoon, is a young woman of mixed heritage (Indian and British) and it's often a factor. I honestly don't know that there's a good way to handle this. I admire the attempt to use a young WOC, and the strong feminist message that is an attempted here. But the other side of it is that it is a send up of Snow White, and so the villain is a fully Indian relation of the main character. It can be read as a 'the proper White magic versus the evil Dark magic' though Lackey does try to indicate that even the dark goddess the Thuggee worship turns away from the Big Bad.

It's an attempt, and worth trying, but imperfect and so worth mentioning.

There is a attempt at handling racism in a nuanced way. She talks about the disregard from her peers (she's a Doctor of Medicine) and how troubling it is. One of her potential allies balks because of her heritage- later declares himself to have been wrong and all. Like it's not just 'all the bad guys are racists all the good guys are not, they're also feminists' that you sometimes see. But the book and story- the whole series of books- is so simplistic in the way it handles other morals that it fails to be as nuanced as it could.

The main plot is this: Dr. Witherspoon flees India after the death of her father, her mother having died of illness some time prior to that, afraid of some nebulous enemy she doesn't entirely know. She is a fish out of water in England, dealing with the double prejudice of being a woman and not fully English, working as a doctor under adverse circumstances, she works in charity clinics as well as working for the mistresses and women of the stage- she spreads information about how to prevent births, among other things, and while it's not openly stated it's hinted that she provides abortions. She is struggling to learn magic and has nobody to teach her, until Peter Scott is sent (by the White Lodge, a collective body of the Good Magicians in London) to investigate the hints of magic they've seen of hers. He elects to teach her as her wicked aunt follows her to London, with two goals: conquer England, and steal Maya's power for herself.

There's something about Lackey's writing that's immediately immersive, at least to me. And I find myself falling inside the text often- even if the flaws jerk me out, sometimes. It's probably her strongest quality, as a writer, to make something touch and taste and feel real. The London in her writing is probably not the real London of the time period, but if feels like it could be.

Maya is a great character. She is compassionate without reserve, her driving goal is to fix all the problems within her reach. She heals the rich women who can afford to pay her well, and she heals the sick street thief who cannot afford to pay her at all. She is often angry, something that is nice to see in regards to someone being so compassionate- her anger is sometimes a motivating force. Too often we see anger and it's usefulness downplayed.

Peter Scott is an interesting character, a new member of the White Lodge, he wants to challenge the way things are done there. When Lord Alderscroft refuses to bring Maya in and instruct her, he undertakes to instruct Maya himself, as well as he can. He's a water mage, whereas Maya is an Earth mage, and the two are described as complimentary.

One of the two great failings of this book (the other is the racism), that always makes me shake my head as I read it, is Peter's character indulging in 'not like the other girls' about Maya. About how much smarter and more interesting she is than any other woman he's ever met, about how frivolous and silly most women are. If this had ever been addressed in text- Maya pointing out that she knows a great number of women who are just as intelligent and serious as she is, and that he's being ridiculous, of course she loves him but he's neither any more nor any less intelligent and kind than his 'twin' Lord Peter Almsey. If it were addressed in text, it would be a forgivable breach of a man who tries not to be sexist but sometimes indulges in it because society. Instead, it's just a hurtful trope, used to justify a romance that, in my view, doesn't need it.

The ending to this book does not feel nearly as pat as the previous entry in the series. I mean, they're based in fairy tales, and instead of going down the grim route they have a tendency to end happily. But there's a real feeling of danger towards the end, and there's some fascinating stuff about the gods siding with Maya. The epilogue is very sweet and amusing, I think, and whilst the book is far from perfect, I find it very enjoyable. I have a tendency to pick this one up when I'm feeling really down in the dumps.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

This book, I believe, was technically the first book published in the Elemental Masters series, although for a long time I thought that was The Serpent's Shadow. It's often listed as book 0, so possibly it's been retconned into the Elemental Masters series? I think it predates the idea of there being a series, and the magic in The Fire Rose does not work the way magic is later revealed to work.

Er, really it doesn't matter, I just wanna talk about it for a bit. (Also, like, the book is almost old enough to vote so I have no hesitancy in spoiling the whole thing. If that's an issue for you, that's fair! But you have been warned.)

The core of the Elemental Masters books (and why I'm willing to concede that The Fire Rose is one) is the basis in fairy tales. The Fire Rose is a play on Beauty and the Beast, and one of the more interesting, if flawed, ones.

(It should be noted that, for all the flaws, I genuinely enjoy all of the Elemental Masters books in their own right. When I talk about the flaws, it's coming from a place of love.)

TW in regards to this book: the book has suicidal thoughts, reference to slavery and abuse, sexual assault and torture. The latter is not particularly detailed, but enough to be disturbing to some. Also, racism. (I'm not 100% sure but I will just say in general that a slur for Romani ppl is used often and regularly in the entire series so watch out for that.)

The year is 1905, and Rosalind (known as Rose) is recently orphaned, in debt up to her eyebrows, with nobody to help and no prospects in Chicago. Jason, a wealthy railway baron who accidentally deformed and disabled himself through an attempt at changing forms (he's vaguely werewolf-y), stalks her mildly and issues her a job offer that she was designed not to refuse, a lie of a job offer to bring her to an isolated California Mansion. He wrote to her mentor and said "I have two kids, a sick boy and a smart girl, they need a tutor educated in [exactly the things Rose is educated in]". He has an enemy mage who has subverted Jason's creepy secretary, and the plot divides time between creepy secretary doing evil things while working against Jason and Jason and Rose working towards a cure while Rose learns that magic exists/learns how to magic.

One of the flaws of a lot of Elemental Masters books, and indeed some other Lackey books I can name, is the temptation to make the main character a little overtly 'logical'. Like too often the character will approach a situation 'logically' to arrive at a conclusion that is, frankly, illogical (if true), in order to be plot convenient.

Like Rose is completely baffled by the utterly quiet 'servants' (they turn out to be magical creatures) and the lack of ever seeing, like, a single cook. But she's not unnerved by it until, like, well into the novel when she is being introduced to the concepts of magic (real magic, in universe). Like it's not until she's Ready to accept magic as a Thing that she starts to go 'hey like I have literally seen only Jason's creepy secretary the whole time I've been here, that's weird, and I need an explanation, because this seems not only creepy but really invasive'.

It's to the point where she's worried that the creepy secretary is the one who's bringing stuff in and out of her room all the time, and that thought... kinda creeps her out? Except not enough to really question it, I guess. Like it's very Plot Convenient I guess, the rate at which she finally realizes there's, like, maybe three people on the whole property at any given time.

What would have made this book really a lot more interesting is if Lackey would have let the character be as creeped out as occasionally was warranted, maybe even let her come to a somewhat reasonable if incorrect conclusion. Like, she only lays eyes on one other person for a good portion of the book, and never meets Jason in the flesh. It would have been great if at some point she was like 'maybe ghosts???? harmless ghosts but maybe???' and was creeped out but the money and perks were still pretty good so...

Or totally freaked out about it to the point of asking Jason, so he alters the methods by which his 'servants' aid her in a way to have an easier explanation but she's still like 'where tf is everybody? for real?' And maybe she can just dismiss it that first night because she's so tired and still grief stricken and what not and gets settled before she goes 'hey wait this is still weird just less obviously so'.

I mean it's a little... gas lighty, honestly. But without having the character confront him about it, it's not openly gas lighting, which possibly Lackey was trying to avoid. I don't know which is better, tbh, there may not be a good answer that isn't, like, 'structurally change the entire book'.

Anyway, this leads me to Jason's personality. He's kind of an interesting male lead in that he's a lot more ambiguously good than many of the characters in the later elemental masters series.

It's just that, you know, not a whole lot was done with that. Like there could have been a 'this mindset worked when you looked like a person and were not possibly fighting with the wild angry wolf inside of you, but now that you have this issue you gotta work a lot harder at being a person and not an animal'. Or even Rose having the 'he's an asshole but he's my asshole' mindset which, like, fair. (The epilogue is, basically, HE'S NOW NICE FOREVER BECAUSE REASONS.)

Like in the text, Jason and his Enemy Fire Mage are barely discernable from one another, personality wise. One does magic the Right(tm) way and the other one does magic the Wrong and Evil (tm) way. They both know about the creepy secretary's 'habits' and Jason chooses to ignore whilst the Enemy Fire Mage encourages, but... like. The Creepy Secretary goes to whore houses specifically to 'break' the enslaved women who are not consigned to their lot. He violently and horribly rapes women, and Jason is essentially like 'enh' about it for most of the book. Like I know it's a fairy tale and there's expected to be a happy ending but it seems like Jason's personality turn around has no grounding in the text. There's no moment where Rose learns the truth about Creepy Secretary, takes it to Jason and he goes 'uh, so?', no point at which he mentally confronts himself about his own personal ambiguity. It's mentioned but in passing, and never comes up again.

It is what happens so often in many of these books, where the book itself is enjoyable enough but just narrowly missed being a much more interesting and complex book. There's really not much that separates Jason from his enemy, other than the enemy uses drugs and Jason only reluctantly takes opium for the pain (and leaves off when the Chinese doctor says 'hey drugs are bad mmkay take my herbs instead').

It's super common in the Elemental Masters books for the bad guys to Use Drugs and the good guys to Not. There's not a lot of nuance in most of them, and that's okay because they often clearly set out to not have that nuance (like they're fairy tales that's the whole point) but this is the one book in the series that could have stepped further out of bounds, and it's almost like she was too hesitant to do so.

As a note on the Chinese doctor: I hesitate to comment too much on how racist the portrayal is, it's very stereotypical in one sense, but I just don't know enough about Asian racism to make a full comment on it. There are good points: even before Rose knows he has studied Western Medicine, she treats him like a doctor. There is no attempt at writing in any stereotypical Chinese 'accent', and he is an Elemental Master in equivalent of strength to Jason, though his element is different, and he speaks of his magic being different from Western, but equivalent to. His 'wisdom' comes through a different knowledge base than Jason or Rose's (doctorin' rather than medieval languages or business) and not, like, he's just a wise old Chinese guy.

But he does fulfill that trope to enough of an extent that it's uncomfortable, plus in the end there's another Wise Old Chinese guy who kind of pops out of nowhere when convenient. There's a lot of talk about white slavery and stuff and how dangerous Chinatown is and whatnot, and I have no idea how period-accurate that is, but given that most of these stories are only vaguely period accurate anyway, I feel a lot of it coulda been done without.

(As well as, frankly, the rapist subplot of the creepy secretary. Which also delves into some pretty racist territory. Ugh.)

This is frankly, one of the darkest of the Elemental Masters books, in tone. But it really is a proto-Elemental Masters book, as the series develops you can see how far away from this start you get. (For example, a Plot Point of this book is that Fire Masters cannot Share a Town, or really a State, and the very next Elemental Masters book features two married Fire Masters so...)

You get some of the good parts of the Elemental Masters books- the great descriptions of food and clothing (look I'm a simple creature who takes comfort in simple things), there's some really great mutual unrequited love in this book which actually works- Jason's so wolfy that his face is less expressive than were he fully a dude, they both are really conscious of the class boundary, blah blah blah. It is, as always in these books, resolved in a way that's a little too pat, and the series as a whole could use more complexity (though some of it is present later in the series), there's a lot to enjoy here as well.

Oh, and for those of you who (like me) were super disappointed with how not-hot Beast was in the Disney movie, this book was possibly written with that in mind. Beast does not become Human.

What many of the other Elemental Masters books have, and this one lacks, is lots of magic. While the book centers around magic, it's mostly around the character learning magic in a way that... just they talk a lot about magic while not expressing how that magic is done, for the most part? Ceremonies and such are skipped around or mentioned but not put in frame. They apparently involve a lot of chalk diagrams and calling to the elements. She simplifies the magic system a lot, which leads to more fun with magic.

If you like the Elemental Masters books and want to read the Beginning, it's fine, but I definitely would not recommend starting the Elemental Masters books here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hannibal Series Three: Thoughts on What May Come

This is written with the assumption that you are up to date on what went on during the first two seasons, and is speculating about what may come up during season three. It may contain mild spoilers (stuff I've read that I don't remember as being spoilers) and wild ass guesses about the upcoming season of Hannibal, and definitely contains spoilers for previous seasons of the show, as well as book spoilers.

Season two ended on a cliffhanger. Will Graham, Abigail Hobbs, Alana Bloom, and Jack Crawford all injured, potentially fatally, at Haus Hannibal, while Dr. Lecter saunters off into the sunset with Bedelia Du Maurier. Bryan Fuller has said that at least one of those people is permanently and irrevocably dead.

We must remember, though, that Fuller has said that Abigail Hobbs was for sure, really, for realz dead at the end of season one and that turned out to be a Big Fat Lie. Do not trust the word of God, in this case, because he is tricksy and will lie to preserve plot developments. (Related: nobody is dead until you have seen their body, or at least an identifiable portion which they cannot live without- a head, for example.)

I posit that the most likely dead of those four is Abigail- we knew Will wasn't going to die, and we've seen him in the trailers, as have we seen Alana and Abigail. I can't remember if Jack Crawford has appeared in any of the trailers, but I know that Fishburne has given interviews and I'm pretty sure he's up in Toronto filming, like, as we speak. (As it were.)

(I wish I could find the trailer that I saw Abigail in, but it doesn't matter, because I'm pretty sure she was from Will Graham's mind palace. I'm willing to postulate that Abigail is hella dead, if anybody is.)

It seems that they are drawing strongly from elements of the book, Hannibal, for this season, as well as using Francis Dolarhyde's plotline from Red Dragon. This is a great choice for a lot of reasons.

Reason the first- Du Maurier is filling in some of Clarice Starling's role from the book, Hannibal. This is ideal because, while I still wish that they could get Starling into the series, the way that Hannibal gets her into his life is decidedly icky. So, in the first place, Du Maurier and Hannibal are playing out the post-credits sequence of that book (as it were) where Starling and Lecter run off to Brazil together. But Du Maurier does it with eyes wide open- she knows what kind of a monster Lecter is, or at least can guess. She goes for her own reasons. In the second place, Du Maurier has the kind of internal strength we expect from Starling. She can look the monster in the eye and still talk to him.

Reason the second- Red Dragon is, technically, the first Hannibal Lecter book, but it's not a really a Lecter book. He's barely in the damned thing. He made a strong impression on Harris, clearly, but if you read the book it's clear that Lecter is sort of a footnote in the overall plot. The Silence of the Lambs is dominated by Lecter's personality and his interaction with Starling, but Red Dragon is more about Graham's process, how he solves the Dolarhyde murders, and how much it tears him up.

Combining these two storylines (and also elements of Hannibal Rising, come to think of it, which I've only read and seen once) provides a richer ground for the series to make it's own way through these stories. We already know how conflicted and torn up Will Graham is about his abilities, how much it effects him, so we need for other things to carry the story. Dolarhyde, and a firmer relationship with Lecter (who will presumably be locked up during this portion of the season) will help to fill in those gaps.

Reason the third- stunning visuals is another thing that this show does very, very well. Adding Florence (and possibly Paris?) and a flamboyant, conflicted serial killer to the roster is going to give them a lot of elbow room to work.

I do believe that they are going to subtract or downplay the rape from Dolarhyde's murders for the series, I believe Fuller has stated that he would pull those out but I can't find the interview off the top of my head so I can't say for certain.

I think we're going to see Lecter captured, this season, though it's hard to say when that may happen. I imagine we'll get a couple of episodes (2-3 is my guess) after the Europe storyline where 1: Lecter is undergoing his trial while 2: Will Graham is off with his dogs and Molly AND 3: Dolarhyde is killing people and meeting Reba and 4: Crawford and the forensic dudes (BEVERLY WE MISS YOU) are trying to work it out. These storylines will probably bleed over each other and into each other until they are essentially one- Will Graham may very well need to testify at Lecter's trial, we know that Crawford draws Graham into the case by visiting him and his wife and pulling him back in for one more go, and Lecter gains a side interest in Dolarhyde.

I think this season, if no other, has a chance to more or less end like the book. Particularly because it's a strong, awful ending and this show sort of specializes in those, though it would be particularly quiet. Reba, saved, Dolarhyde stopped. But Graham alone and devastated, and Hannibal (though still locked up) has won. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from Harris is from the end of Red Dragon
Yes, he had been wrong about Shiloh. Shiloh isn't haunted--men are haunted.
Shiloh doesn't care.
 It's a hell of a way to end a book, anyway, and I think we can look forward to a poetic soliloquy from Will Graham about Shiloh, at some point.

(Look I love Graham's half-creepy poetic soliloquys and Dancy always acts the hell out of them and this is one of my favorite quotes- please, Santa Bryan Fuller, I have been so good.)

A note about Freddie Lounds- I have honestly NO IDEA what they're going to do to her, but I kinda hope that she ends up injured, but still going- Fuller plays loose and fast with canon, anyway, and I love Freddie Lounds like whoa. We all know nothing short of death will stop her, so fingers crossed that she gets hurt, but doesn't go down.

(I also hope that they change the way they bait Dolarhyde- in the book they basically piss him off by calling him gay in the paper, in the hopes that he tries to drop in on Graham over it, and it blows back on Lounds, instead. I suspect they'll try to shake him out with an article, but I hope it's done in a less shitty way- that seems likely, IMO, but it's something to look out for.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Is it me?

Every writer knows this feeling, I think.

Staring at your work in progress, watching the cursor blink at you.


It almost seems to mock, doesn't it?

I'd been writing, white hot. Going like blazes-

-and suddenly I caught up to what I was writing.

It was a sudden stop, my stomach lurching inside of me.

Like thinking there's one more step to a staircase you're going down a little too fast, and stumbling.

Like that.

I was alone in the house. I'm always alone in the house, anymore. I have a roommate, but she's got a new girlfriend and is spending most of her time away.

No big deal.

Except, well, moments like this can make you aware of how alone you are, you know?

I was playing a little bit of music to make the little soft sounds of a house that settles less obvious.

Less intrusive.

Less... ominous.

The house is noisier when there's more than one person in it, but it's also a valid mental excuse for the noise. You're not so alert and aware of the noises, because there's a conceivable reason for them. They slip under your notice.

Alone, the house is louder.

Because it is just a house, and it is not supposed to make noise at all.

So I play soft music while I write in the dark reaches of the night, when I cannot sleep.

I don't sleep much, these days.


The sigh came from my left. It sounded, at first, like a dog sighing.

(I own no dog.)

I turned all the way around, spinning my office chair and blinking, owlish, in the dark room.

I knew there was nobody.

There was obviously nobody.

There was nobody but me.

I was either under caffeinated or over.

I tried to think back to my last cup of coffee, couldn't remember when it happened.

There was a cold and empty mug on my desk, and the last remains of my previous cup had dried in the bottom.

I got up to make another.

I have one of those ridiculous machines that take the little cups. Do you know the kind? My roommate bought it after the last coffee maker shat the bed. I'd rather have a more normal machine, but it seems silly to have two coffee makers.


They make lots of noise when they operate, a big huff at the end.

Normal noises.

I like my coffee sweet- lots of cream and lots of sugar. Coffee purists fuss at me over this, but fuck 'em.

(When I worked in an office, I considered getting a mug that said something to that effect. I decided it wasn't going to be worth the discussion with HR, but only just.)

I drank that cup straight off, just standing at the counter. Started another one, this one to take back to the office and sip at for a while.

More to have something to do with my hands while I stared at the fucking cursor than anything else, honestly, but the caffeine would help.


I took my cup of creamy coffee back to the office, sat in my chair.


I turned, again, looking around.

It sounded somewhere between animal and electrical, I guess. It could have been either. A human. I couldn't tell.


It was regular. It was such a neutral noise, it could have been any number of things.

A burst of static.

A rattle of a plastic bag on a fan.

But it still sounded like breathing, to me.


I cut the music.

I checked my roommate's desktop, to see if it was on and making weird noises, but it was off.

I opened the closet to see if there was anything in there.

(or anybody)

I stepped out of the office into the hall.

I couldn't hear the noise, anymore.

It was only in the office.


I went back in and sat back down and put on music again.

Turned the music up louder.

Tried to write.


I checked all the outlets in the room. Maybe it was an electrical noise of some kind.

I glanced at the covered window.

I tried to remember- was the window open, tonight?

It was nice and cool outside, the heat of the summer fading into the pleasant coolness of fall.

I may have opened the window at some point.

Or Ellie (the roommate) may have. She left a snickers bar on my desk the last time I slept.

(When was that?)

She might have.

But the curtains were heavy, and blocked all light out. And I wondered- is something on the other side?

An animal, maybe.


Or a person? Breathing into the screen would definitely make that noise, I realized.

heavy breathing.


I considered pulling the curtain away from the window.


I got the big flashlight- the heavy metal one that I have at least two of- and eased open the front door. I didn't turn it on, that's not it's purpose.

Not yet.

The flashlight was heavy in my hand.




I see well in the dark, but it wasn't needed.

The moon was full, silver moonlight reflecting off of dewy grass. Most people could see pretty well in this light.

I eased my way around the house, the cold metal of the flashlight warming in my hot hand.

There was nobody standing in the bushes outside of my window.

I sighed in relief.

(A real sigh.)


I turned the flashlight on, and saw no animals.

No animal eyeshine.

Nothing shuffling away.

The window was shut.

I switched the flashlight off. Looked up at the moon's silver face. The wind played on my face.



There was a dog barking in the distance.

I heard cars on the main road, passing.

The deep thrumming of a subwoofer in a car with the music cranked up.

Real noises.


I went back inside.

Shut and locked the front door.

Went back into the office.


I started to clean the office.

Straightened papers.

Cleared away some trash.




I remembered-

-I'd left the front door unlocked.

Shut, but unlocked.

My back was to it.

(Could someone have slipped in?)

I could feel the blinking cursor, in the back of my mind. Almost hear it, like the ticking of a metronome.


I had left the big, heavy flash light in the other room.

There was only my coffee mug on the desk.


(Did I drink the coffee?)

I picked up the empty mug.

The last of the coffee had dried in the bottom.

(What time is it?)

The mug was smooth and heavy and cold in my hands.

(How much time has passed?)

Not much of a weapon.

(How long has this been going on?)

I opened the closet door, sliding it quietly aside.

Nothing in the closet. A dresser full of junk, tucked away. A guitar neither of us played.


(What day is it?)

I checked the calender.

September 6? No, it's October. It's October, dammit.

(Isn't it?)

The internet was down. The calendar in the other room hasn't been changed since February or January

(I really shouldn't bother with paper calendars anymore).

I finished checking the house.

There was nobody.

There was nothing out of place.

Nothing with me.

Except the noise.


The noises.

In the office.



I went to stand in the office.

I couldn't figure out where the noises were coming from.


Every way I turned, it seemed that the noise was on my left.

I checked the calendar on my computer again.



Checked again.



(When was the last time I left the house? Really left the house?)


(When was the last time I saw my roommate?
When was the last time I went to the store?
Talked to someone on the phone?
How much coffee have I had?)


I closed my eyes.


Opened them.

I was standing in the kitchen, a cup of coffee in my hands.

I could taste black coffee in my mouth, hot and bitter.

I closed my eyes.

Opened them.

I was standing in the office, a half empty cup of coffee in my hands.

My tongue felt burnt, my throat raw. Like I'd been gulping it.

My mouth tasted like ashes. Cigarettes and coffee.

(I haven't smoked in years. Have I?)


The front door opened.

“Liz?” A man's voice, a voice I don't know.

The mug slipped from my fingers.

Hot coffee
on my bare feet

Who the fuck is Liz?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Seasonal Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 3

Spoilers for the following: The Blacklist, and fucking Hannibal.

The Blacklist:

Okay, so, I just don't know how I feel about this show right now. I was pretty disappointed in the finale. The season has had bigger, more interesting story arcs. I felt like the episode that started the season 1 hiatus was much better and had a more interesting plot line than the actual finale. The Blacklist also has a habit of killing off prominent female characters while only injuring the prominent male characters. (Here's a good link outlining that a little bit better.) One of the things I originally liked was that the show wasn't super white and male (I mean, it was, but not for tv), but that has been slowly whittled down over the length of season 1. I dunno, I'm going to end up watching Season 2 because my roommate is and I'm still vaguely interested, but I'm not really pumped for it. My feelings are a solid 'meh'.


Okay, lemme just get this out of the way: HOLY FUCKBALLS


This season of Hannibal has had some rough moments. I'm still upset over what happened to Beverly, I'm still unhappy that Fuller had Margot have sex with Will. I understand his reasons, I really do, but even with that context, I wish he hadn't gone about it the way that he had. I would say that the season had 'growing pains', and hopefully it's something that Fuller learned from and will endeavor to do better with, in the future. Since Fuller has been good about listening to fans and their reactions in the past, I feel confident about that.

That being said, the build up to reveal Abigail was amazing. I was, honestly, not surprised that she was still alive. They foreshadowed that with revealing that A: Miriam Lass was still alive, and B: by all the talk of fatherhood leading up to the final episode. One of the reasons that Hannibal tipped Mason Verger off to Margot's pregnancy was because of Abigail. He spoke of the teacup shattering, coming back together, and not only did we see the teacup come back together during that airing, but then Margot's pregnancy was terminated- Hannibal was literally making room in the world/Will's life for Abigail.

Also, I know people are mad that Abigail shoved Alana out of the window (I didn't realize it was her, at first, I thought Hannibal had done it, I had to review the footage) but it's possible she did it to keep Hannibal from doing something worse. I mean, if she shoves Dr. Bloom out of the window she might die, but her apparent injuries (at the end of the episode) are possibly the least serious. And it's better than watching Hannibal kill Dr. Bloom with his bare fucking hands.

In all honesty, I expected the season to end on this kind of note. I mean, at some point, Hannibal was going to gut Will Graham and flee, and Fuller seems to live by 'go big or go home', so this was a real emotional gutpunch of a finale. Though it ends with everything being awful (and betrayal from our queen Bedelia, how could you?) it's still a satisfying end to the Season 2 arc, and I look forward to season 3.

Though I will remind you guys to not believe anything Bryan Fuller says about who lives or dies next season because we all know that he fucking lies. He lied about Abigail being for real dead. He will lie about who will live going into next season. Do not trust the man.

Things of note about Season 2:

Early in the season, Dr. Bloom transforms into a flowing, liquid blackness. In the last episode, she is (symbolically) drowned in very similar black liquid. I don't know what it means, but man it looks cool. (Well, in the last episode it's symbolic of the taint she feels, but I don't know exactly how it's related to the earlier symbolism.)

Red Fred: Part of the reason the show ends the way it ends is that Hannibal smells Freddie Lounds on Will, and (therefore) knows that she is alive. In his mind, she appears with a red face- clay red. It could be a number of things, of course, the red could be related to her hair, or the scent she was wearing that triggered Hannibal's memory response, but my roommate Lirenth suggested that it might be in reference to a Roman Triumph, because the red face paint reminds her of that. As soon as I badger her into writing a blog post about it, I'll link it here. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Seasonal Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

Spoilers for the following:

Agents of SHIELD


Okay I just wanna touch on this really quickly because I didn't even think I was going to talk about Castle in one of these and then the season finale happened and now I'm grumpy about it. (And no, it's not the cliffhanger, it's not EVEN the worse cliffhanger Castle has done.)

So, let's start with the single most irritating thing to me: there is no way that Beckett was secretly married and didn't find out during the background check that got her a job with the police department, much less the Attorney Fucking General. Having a husband but not disclosing it would have come up because it would have looked like she was trying to hide something from them.

The 'oh I didn't know I was married!' trope is a tired and artificial way of creating conflict, especially since Castle and Beckett's lives have plenty of fucking conflict goddamn.

Of course, this season also featured an episode that implied there was a time traveler so fuckin' whatever, I guess.

Agents of SHIELD:

Okay, so, this show was pretty rocky when it started out. I don't think anybody disagrees. I think everyone who stuck with it through the length of the show mostly did it because they wanted to know what the fuck happened to Coulson. (I mean, that's why I stuck it out through the bad bits.)

The big problem was that the key event that really turned the show around happened in a movie that didn't come out until the season was almost over. Shit didn't get really interesting until SHIELD blew up in their faces, basically.

I really enjoyed the season finale, not because it answered a lot of questions, but because it was incredibly cathartic and satisfying. The Fury ex Machina cranks pretty hard but I honestly have a hard time giving any shits.

The Destroyer weapon came back around to Coulson, Ward got only about half the ass-whupping he deserved (fingers crossed that the next person to get her hands on him is the Black Widow, because she heard he was talking shit) but I did clap and squeal with delight when May NAILGUNNED HIS FOOT TO THE DAMN FLOOR. The team's dynamics have shifted, they've been betrayed, they've been through hell, and I just want Coulson to pack the Destroyer gun forever more.

I do wonder, though, if this is one of those shows where you're going to tell people, "You know what? Just start watching at Season 2. Trust me."


What interests me about this season of Elementary is what we've seen Sherlock going through. He's faced some speed bumps in the road, and they're all about him losing people. He lost Irene/Moriarty at the end of season 1, of course, but he'd already lost her in the first place. This season has been about distancing (accidentally, mostly) Sherlock from the friends he's made. He's grown closer to his brother, only to have him ripped away at the end of the season. Joan is going to move out. One of Sherlock's only other friends died this season. We've heard of Miss Hudson, but we haven't seen her. We haven't seen Sherlock's sponsor, nor the young man he began to sponsor, except for that one episode (maybe another I'm not remembering, but they've been thin on the ground). Sherlock was built up in season 1, and season 2 has been about tearing all of that away again.

Joan isn't moving out to tear foundations away from Sherlock, she's moving out because she needs to separate her life from his. She doesn't quite realize how important Sherlock believes that she was to his process (if she had, she would have been working on getting him less dependent on her, I have no doubt). Mycroft twigs to it: Sherlock's afraid that he can't do the work without either Joan or drugs, and when he becomes certain she's going to move out his response is WELP I GUESS IT'S DRUGS THEN. It was carefully set up to show Sherlock's true downfall, playing off the false one at the end of season 1.

So here's what I suspect is going to happen next (this is based off what I know of the canon, and feel free to click away if you don't want to read guesses about next season):

Sherlock is going to fuck off to England, back to Baker Street. I mean, undoubtedly, he'll do some traveling and he may be in New York from time to time, but I suspect he's going to end up there, at least part of the time. Joan is going to either go back to being a sober companion or, and I find this a little more likely, get her medical license back. It's possible that one or the other (or both) will occasionally consult with the NYPD.

And either Joan will run into him while he's in New York and realize he is doing, like, all of the heroin, or Daddy Holmes will call her from England and be like "Pack a bag and grab your passport, you're going to fix my son again." Hijinks, naturally, ensue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bethany's Big-Damn Season Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 1

I wanted to say a few things about a lot of things that have ended seasons (and, in some cases, series) recently, and so I thought I would do a big post gathering all of my thoughts in one place. Spoilers follow for all of the shows listed.

How I Met Your Mother:

Yeah, yeah, I know everybody's put their two cents in on this one, and I've certainly bitched about it on Twitter, but I wanted to put my thoughts into longer form.

While I was completely enraged by the series finale, I was also not all that surprised. While it's frustrating, the show really has been leading up to this, and the sad fact is that the show always has centered around Ted, who I find to be an insufferable douchenozzle of the highest order. I always enjoyed the other characters MUCH more than Ted, so an ending that gives Ted everything he wants is going to not be satisfactory to those of us who wish to see him get slapped with a fish until he starts crying.

Still, I wish the last season had been handled differently. It's cruel to spend a whole season surrounding Robin and Barney's eventual wedding when their relationship ends in tatters three years later. Robin then, presumably, doesn't date again and completely ceases to hang out with her friends of 9 goddamn years, period. As a character, she is put on a shelf until Ted is ready for her, and that's completely fucking annoying. Both Robin and Barney lose years worth of character development in a few moments in the last season, and it's really upsetting for those of us who loved those characters and what they went through to get to where they started the final season.

But the show was so absolutely married to the concept of Ted only meeting Tracy at the very, very end of the series that they refused to introduce the two of them any earlier at all, and it really tied their hands with what they felt they could do with it. I don't think I would have felt quite so cheated if they had explored everyone's lives after Barney and Robin's marriage much more thoroughly, but it was not meant to be.

And Ted remains an asshat.

The Crazy Ones

I don't think I watched every single episode of this cancelled show, but I saw most of it. And I thought that it had it's moments, the whole cast was very funny and I felt that they all had good chemistry with each other.

Though I enjoyed it, the show was certainly uneven, at best. There were several episodes that I, personally, found cringe-worthy. The uneven tone is, undoubtedly, due to the unscriptable nature of Robin Williams' style of comedy. It seems like they were getting better towards the end of the season, but earlier on there were times when it all kinda fell flat.

Still, there were episodes that had me and my tv-watching roommate laughing so hard we had to pause and get our shit together.

My favorite line from the season was when Sydney asks her guy of the episode "Do you even like David Boreanaz?" in tones of scandalized betrayal. (It got even funnier when I read about how Sarah Michelle Gellar used to go eat on the Bones set with Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel because their craft service had better food, since the line was in reference to the characters watching Bones together. That joke had, like, three layers and I still laugh thinking about it.)

I can't say that I'm surprised the show got cancelled, but I do think that the show had legs and could have gone further. Still, it ended on a note that is satisfactory enough to leave be, and there are bound to be plenty of really funny cut scenes on the Blu Ray, should they release one.

Almost Human

I am still kinda sad about this show being cancelled, even though I had the feeling that was going to happen. It's a shame, because it is a show that I have always fucking wanted.

  • Police detective procedural in the future guys. 
  • Karl Urban being grouchy about everything (which is, honestly, the main reason to watch the Star Trek movies). 
  • Once, Karl Urban in guyliner.
  • And Michael Ealy as Dorian, who honestly replaced Data as my favorite fictional android. (Sorry, Data, I still <3 you.)
Also, props to the show for making a universe in which androids are not all white dudes (though the show was kinda shockingly white and dudely otherwise, which is disappointing).

One of the themes of the show was exploring the difference between straight up non-person robots (the MX) and Dorian, who clearly was a fully realized person with his own thoughts and feelings. After Kennex kicked his MX partner out of the car in the first episode, my roommate bet me that one MX model would die an episode, and though it didn't go quite that far it was pretty close. Partially because it was a good way to introduce violence without having a lot of human characters die, and partially to demonstrate the emotional difference between an MX getting completely destroyed and Dorian getting damaged.

It also showed a world where tech is both the enemy and the aid. Advanced forensic technology is met with advanced criminal tech in a bitter war. Class issues are touched upon (I have the feeling that they would have been worked in more in later seasons), like the 'chromes' who are genetically 'uplifted' kids, all of them the children of the rich. Or the final episode, where homeless victims are targeted by a serial killer.

It's a show that I think had a lot more to say, but with the kind of expense that went into it, I can see why they didn't want to keep doing it. I think it cries out for an eventual comic continuation, though, and I would eagerly read a graphic novel continuing in this universe. (Especially if we finally get Dorian rooming with Kennex, because I was teased about it and then it never happened you bastards.)

Also, I hope that Michael Ealy gets more work on anything, ever, because he is fantastic.

(Coming up in Part 2, whenever I get around to it: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hannibal, Elementary, The Blacklist.)