Monday, June 19, 2017
--The art director for this show deserves all the awards not only for every single shot of Easter's house but also for the carefully constructed sewing room at Mr. Nancy's. Talk about gorgeous!
--"Once upon a time...see it sounds good already. You're hooked." Anansi doing what Anansi does best, telling a tall tale.
--Can we start a petition to have Ricky Whittle dress in grey and lavender all the time? Damn.
--"Worship is volume based; whoever has the most followers wins the game."
--I don't think I'd welcome Wednesday into my house either if he kept running over my bunny rabbits.
--"What are you pissed off about?" "You just cut off your friends head!"
--"People create gods when they wonder why things happen. Why do things happen? Because gods make things happen."
--There is a great power in sacrifice, most religious texts and traditions will tell you that. Notice that Laura was a sacrifice to get Shadow to where he is now, literally and mentally. Also, take note that Odin dedicates the deaths of the faceless men to Ostara which seems to give her some sort of power that she previously lacked.
--"Do you believe, Shadow?" "I believe." "What do you believe?" "Everything."
--I have enjoyed every single second of this show and reviewing it this season. The writers, actors, the producers, and everyone else have done Neil Gaiman and his magnificent work proud. Thanks to everyone who read! See you in season two.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
It might be helpful, when discussing this week's episode, to think about it terms of contrast to last week's. There was so much done right in comparison to last week's wrong--or if not outright wrong, than at least underwhelming and rote. Like last week, the mission to parts unknown is spurred on by a mystery, though this one is (literally) grounded to Earth and comes from Bill's insatiable curiosity for the unknown and nothing stumbled upon on a way to a different mission. Pausing quickly, but this is one of the better through-lines of this season; Bill's entrance into the TARDIS and into the Doctor's life is not one of mystery. She isn't a puzzle to figure out, clues carefully hidden throughout the text, her every word and mannerism supposed to telegraph something unknowable. Bill is simply....Bill and much like Rose or Donna before her, her adventures with the Doctor come from her desire to learn and to know. The universe, all of time and space, is the mystery for Bill to puzzle out and it's to the show's credit that they let her reason things out on her own, not needing the Doctor's (glaringly male) hand to guide her into realizations big and small. For example, past companions have needed the Doctor to explain why everyone in space speaks English (they aren't, of course, but the TARDIS and the Doctor are able to auto-translate what babble the aliens or peoples of the past/future are saying); but Bill didn't get the same explanation. She figured it out on her own in a particularly funny Latin/English exchange with a Roman soldier. Since this review is all about the contrast from last week's episode, Bill's active role is a good one to focus on for the moment. Last week, Bill didn't have much to do and, in fact, my most major complaint about the episode was how it missed the mark on letting Bill and the Empress of Mars present a unique version of feminism on and off world. This week, while femininity isn't exactly on display in an obvious way, Bill's active role is. Bill sets off on her own, wanting to solve the mystery of the Roman legion before the Doctor can; when she stumbles (er, falls down a hole) into the remaining bits of the legion she does not simply wait for rescue but uses her time with the lads to tell them about the Doctor and his way of seeing the universe. When Bill realizes that her long sought after Romans are really just boys with swords, she takes charge, she tells them how they are going to get away from the monster. Bill has been one of the season's best surprises, turning Moffat's typical (and often maligned) female companion on its head. I've used the word refreshing on Bill more times than I can count but it bears repeating: she is a breath of fresh air in a show that can often get bogged down in formula.
--Just in case anyone thinks it's all sunshine and roses from me this week, the titular monster is one of the blandest and least developed of the era.
--As poignant and sweet as the episode was, the crow “Kar/Caw” thing was eye roll inducing. There’s a line, Doctor Who, between heartfelt and sickly sweet.
--Remind me to use popcorn as an escape mechanism if ever I’m in trouble.
--The Doctor not only lived in Roman times but he also juggled and was a Vestal Virgin, second class.
--“It’s called charm.” “I’m against that.”
--The final thread of this week's episode is the continuing Missy saga. I've already expressed misgivings about this plot because the moments of redemption or reflection on Missy's part are like this one here: kept and confined to the final few moments of the episode. Redeeming the Master/Mistress isn't something that should be left until the the end of an arc; this is a villain almost as old as the Doctor himself and there's a lot of ground to cover.
--However, there is a really nice push/pull between the Doctor and Missy; the former wants to hope that he might get his old friend back but the idea that she is pulling a long con on him fits with Missy's modus operandi more.
--Going along with that, though, it does look like Missy will be a focal point of the show for these last few episodes. Can the writers sell it? We shall see.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
--It sounds like all the gods are headed for the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Hopefully, we aren't too far behind because--no exaggeration--it's my favorite part of the novel.
--"In truth, the American colonies were more of a dumping ground.
--"I will eat you!" Honestly surprised more people do not threaten Huginn and Muninn given how annoying they can be.
--Mad Sweeney himself becomes a much more sympathetic figure in this episode as we not only hear about how he fled from a war, but also hear just how far his kind have fallen over time. From kings to fairies to being a joke and mascot for a breakfast cereal. Is it any wonder he'd join up with Wednesday?
--Another thing that shouldn't have worked but did: the 1950 doo-whop soundtrack that played throughout most of the flashbacks.
--"The more abundant the blessings, the more we forget to pray."
Sunday, June 11, 2017
--Speaking of shame, the eponymous Empress of Mars was a one-note character until the end. She did little but bark orders at her warriors and hiss at the humans. The only coloring she got was when she spared the officer's life.
--Well hey there Alpha Centauri! That's a blast from the long ago past if ever there was one.
--"Sorry, I never could resist a countdown."
--Why did the TARDIS zip Nardole back to the present day Earth? And why did Missy keep inquiring if the Doctor was okay when the team was all reunited? I have a feeling this dangling thread will come back before the season is over.
--It would have been very meta if the picture of Queen Victoria kept by the army had born a more striking resemblance to Jenna Coleman given her latest TV project.
--I think this is the least amount I’ve laughed during an episode all season. The only chuckle I got was that the Doctor hasn’t seen classic sci-fi movies like the Terminator or The Thing, but he has seen Disney's Frozen. Go figure.
--"You will die with honor, with bravery, and in fighting for those you have sworn to protect." Geez, foreshadowing the regeneration much?
Monday, June 5, 2017
--In my very first review of American Gods I also posited the question of what exactly was a god. It's something Mr. Wednesday shoots at Shadow as well before trying to explain, "people believe things which means they're real. That means we know they exist. What came first--gods or the people who believed in them?"
--"I got stabbed by Charlie Brown's Christmas tree!"
--My stomach did a whole lot of churning watching Wednesday pull out a root from Shadow's insides.
--“What the fuck are you? I mean, what the fuck are any of you, but first tell me, what the fuck are you?"
--"Did you just name drop Jesus Christ like you know a guy who knows a guy?" Laura and Sweeney's comedic timing is on point and I'm quite enjoying this non-novel insert.
--Speaking of Jesus, RIP Mexican Jesus? That whole scene was darkly funny in that of course the very second the Mexicans get across the river they are gunned down (because welcome to America!) but when the tumbleweed blew across Mexican Jesus and left a tumbleweed crown of thorns, I may have laughed just a little too long.
--"You could sacrifice yourself. You've done it before."
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Miscellaneous Notes on The Lie of the Land
--I talked about the Monks being the Doctor through a mirror, darkly, last week and that idea is carried over in the Monks rewriting human history to include them (and not him) defeating the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Weeping Angels.
--"However bad it is, if people think that's the way it has always been, they put up with it."
--If there's a third thread in this trilogy of episodes, it's Missy's rehabilitation, something that got very little attention thus far but takes a decent sized step forward this week with her 1) explaining how to stop the Monks and 2) thinking about all her past victims. However, we only have four weeks of episodes left and I'm worried that Missy's progress is going to be rushed here at the end.
--Missy wants gifts to aid against the Monks and they include "new boots, a particle accelerator, a 3-D printer, and a pony."
--Missy is "the other last of the Time Lords."
--So how much of Bill's story was inspired by Martha Jones's season three story? It's hard to say because Martha did everything I said I wish the show had Bill do like spending time tracking down sympathizers, converting them, and getting in and out of the most dangerous places in the world. Bill doesn't face that sort of hardship and in the end the Doctor wasn't really held captive by the Monks. But, Martha only plays one part and it's the Doctor who beats back the Master whereas Bill has to offer herself up as a sacrifice to rid the world of the Monks. There's a quasi-positive but also quasi-negative feminist streak in both of these and I'm not sure how to parse it quite yet.
--I'm slightly confused by the ending. Humans don't remember the Monks (either consciously or subconsciously forgetting the past six months) but those six months did happen and we saw that people did die. Either the public executions were fake to curtail rebellion or this is another example of the writers making everything too easy.
--"You're version of good is not absolute. It's vain, arrogant, and sentimental."
--Why does the Doctor put up with humanity? Because in seven billion people, there's at least one person like Bill.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
--The CGI/stop animation/whatever it was of the opening "Coming to America" was amazingly well done. There's a takeaway from this scene that the old cannot stand against the new, at least not without a great sacrifice.
--"The gods are great, but people are greater for it is in their hearts that gods are born and it is to their hearts that gods return."
--Laura's heart beats while kissing Shadow. That's a bit different than it is in the novel. I enjoy that her role has been expanded in the TV series to make her more complex, not just a literal ghost who shows up wherever Shadow might be.
--Media has been around since at least the 1930 "War of the Worlds" drama, one of the first (if not the first?) time millions of people gathered around a media outlet--radio--and not only listened but truly believed what the media was telling them.
--Media as Bowie is also fairy ironic, no? These new gods wish to strip Mr. Wednesday of his individuality. Bowie was nothing if not an individual.
--In Gaiman's novel, there are more new gods than just Mr. World, Media, and Technology but it's a smart move on the TV show to really focus on those three and make them out to be a sort of dysfunctional family. Mr. World talks about how everything is a system interlaced and surely globalization is helped--and perhaps even caused--by media and technology. Could the world be as connected and known without those two?
--"You're a fucking asshole, dead wife!" I enjoy that, so far, Mad Sweeney's only role is to get beat up.
--"All you do is occupy their time; we gave back, we gave them meaning."
He often wears a small pin, either on his hat or his jacket of a large tree who's branches run deep into the earth. This tree is the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which is said to hold the nine realms of the universe together. From the Voluspa: "There stands an ash called Yggdrasil/ A mighty tree showered in white hail/ From there come the dews that fall in the valleys/ It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well." The tree, then, is at the center of the cosmos and it too has a story of Odin's quest for knowledge. In this case, his quest to understand the mysterious runes of the Norns, the female maidens who spin out destiny and fate while sitting at the base of Yggdrasil. Like with his eye, Odin had to sacrifice something in order to obtain the wisdom of the runes. This time he didn't just sacrifice a body part; he sacrificed himself. Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil, pierced his side with a spear and hung there for nine days and nine nights slowly dying, waiting for the universe to accept his "sacrifice of himself to himself" and eventually he was rewarded with knowledge of the runes. There is nothing stronger in mythology than a god sacrificing himself; it's a moment of intense mythological significance that usually heralds a new era (think, Jesus on the Cross or any iteration of a John Barleycorn vegetation god). There are other stories about Odin and his importance is not just as a seeker of wisdom. He's also a creator god; he built this realm's land and sky out of a giant called Ymir. Odin also created the first man and woman out of an ash tree and an alder tree. He's also at the head of countless lineages of gods; it's because of this that he is often referred to as the All-Father. Popularly, Odin is known as a war god though not necessarily as a god who enjoys strategy and the outcome of war; Germanic men and women offered up prayers and praises to Odin before a battle in hopes that he would grant them victory but Odin was more concerned with the chaotic frenzy that war inspired. The famous berserkers were held in particular regard by Odin. When a hero or warrior of renown fell in battle and had died a good Viking death, they would be transported to Odin's hall Valhalla in the realm of Asgard where they might drink and play war games for all of time. There are many more stories about Odin, more than I could relate here. He is also associated with poetry (there's a nifty tale there too!), kingship, and with the dead. He has several other animal familiars, a unique relationship with several of his children (like Thor and Baldur) and his ultimate demise at Ragnarok is also fascinating.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
--If the Monks can choose to look like anything (in this case, corpses) then it follows that they can make their ship look like anything. So why a pyramid?
--"I wouldn't have voted for him. He's...orange."
--"The end of your life has already begun."
--There's a nice ticking clock music that plays throughout certain sections of this episode. It's a nice touch given the countdown to midnight.
--"It's not my first dead planet."
--"What do you depend on?" "Air, water, food, beer."
--The sonic glasses can do everything possible except see numbers on an old fashioned combination lock. That's some pretty silly writing, sorry.
--"Hello, I'm the Doctor! Saving the world with my eyes shut."
--"Enjoy your sight, Doctor. Now see our world."
Monday, May 22, 2017
--There's a nice moment early on where Laura learns that she and her card shuffling talent are going to be replaced by a machine. It's a continuation of the through-line established with the likes of Czernobog. Even humans are being replaced by the new god, Technology.
--"All I know is there's more than I know."
--There are a few really great visual touches throughout the episode, like a fly constantly buzzing around Laura before she actually dies and, on the night Laura and Robbie take off on their last car ride, two ravens are perched just outside Laura's house, watching and possibly following.
--Also, a not so subtle visual, but Laura Moon kicked a man in the balls and his entire brain and spinal cord shot out of his head. It was maybe one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
--We meet Anubis's other half, a tall thin man with spectacles. More on him in future weeks, I'd wager. Also, if you were looking close enough we actually met the third companion of this Egyptian trio of gods.
--"Are you haunting me?" "Not on purpose. I needed craft supplies."
Sunday, May 21, 2017
--In a move that is shocking to almost no one, Missy is in the Vault. The Doctor has agreed to watch over her for 1000 years instead of taking the easy path out and killing her.
--Bill's face when the Pope entered her kitchen moments after comforting a skittish girl about them being together was hilarious and felt, if this is at all possible, like classic Bill.
--"You're an idiot." "Everyone knows that."
--I always suspected the Pope had a secret tunnel to get to and from the Pentagon. Didn't quite think it'd come out in a broom closet, however.
--"Are you trying to get rid of us?" "What makes you say that?" "Cause you're sending us into the dark after a man with a gun."
--Surely these aliens have an easier way to learn about Earth? This is not the first time it has been invaded.
--I know the aliens are monitoring everything but their attention to detail is almost a bit too much for a computer game. It was Simulation Nardole that spoke truths to a Simulation Doctor about why the latter won’t tell Simulation Bill about the blindness.
--"I am doing what everyone does when the world is in danger...I'm calling the Doctor."