Saturday, October 14, 2017
There are some nights when I don't quite know what to write about this show. Tonight is one of those nights; I went into the hour thinking I knew what I'd want to discuss after the episode aired. It mostly involved contemplating if the transition from a female-centered drama to a male-centered one was a good idea. Even with all the history between the audience and Henry, as I talked about last week, this is a show that has prided itself--somewhat foolishly--on having strong females at its center. Would it not be better, from that standpoint at least, to make Cinderella the center of season seven, not Henry? This think piece would then lead into a discussion of Emma's final moments in the show in which she's asked to do precious little besides fret over Henry, make eyes at her husband, and announce that she's pregnant. It's not as if Emma being pregnant is a surprise; Hook and Emma did just get married (because the passing of time is weird on this show) and it's natural that they'd want to start their own family. What's odd about it is the fact that it was clearly written as a way to placate certain sections of the fandom. Not for a single second is Baby Captain Swan going to matter to the mythology of this show. The baby will be born off screen, possibly announced to Henry via a phone call at the end of the season and never seen nor heard from. The baby doesn't herald anything except the writers needing to appease rabid fans who frothed at the mouth all summer about their ship being taken away. The baby makes no narrative sense outside of that. However, I'm not going to spend this blog ruminating on any of that. Neither the idea of transitioning to a male centric show nor Emma's agency and questioning whether this was a ever a strong female centric show are important because the episode itself relegated them to footnotes. Season seven will be male-centered with flashes of different kinds of females interwoven in: the two "old guard" ladies in Regina and Victorian, both vying to remain dominant but for different reasons; the two plucky new combers in Jacinda and Sabine. Emma's agency remains as it ever was post season four or so, which is to say that her agency is mostly given over to Hook and the Captain Swan relationship, which is now blessedly over or at least off our screens forevermore. The topics this episode should have brought to bear are so minor and inconsequential that writing at length about them would only be tedious for writer and reader, both. Instead, this episode decided to go full balls to the wall crazy with plot spaghetti.
--I love that Henry’s apartment has tons of knick-knacks like Neal’s NYC apartment did.
--Andrew J. West is still doing good work as Henry; I find him cute, endearing, and slightly silly, which is basically Henry all over. He’s got that cute flustered stutter thing that Emma used to do.
--Regina doesn’t even blink at Henry being in his thirties! That’s just not a normal reaction for a mother. She should be lamenting missing all that time with her son. I find it extremely hard to believe that Regina and Emma would not have gone after Henry after a certain length of time had passed.
--“I never thought Captain Hook would find love…” Look, Killian Jones may have taken a new moniker but he still loved Milah, for crying out loud.
--Henry asks about the entire town of Storybrooke and his family except for Rumple, Belle, and Gideon. Ouch, Henry. Ouch.
--I didn't notice it so much in the premiere but Lady Tremaine's accent and mannerisms really bother me.
--So who's Hook's daughter? And who is the mother?
--I will take more of devious cop Weaver, please and thank you
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Stop me if this sounds familiar. Long ago--but not so long ago as to be the mythological past--a boy and a girl had a chance encounter in a far off magical land. The encounter was not one that instantly led to true love, but one filled with snark, sass, and obvious wait-for-it chemistry. Meanwhile, in the vaguely sketched present day of a totally different realm, the boy and the girl were separated by some nefarious means. One of these erstwhile lovers met a child with the power of belief in their heart who tried to convince them to undertake an adventure. No, it's not season 1 of OUAT, it's season seven but all those too familiar beats of Emma, Henry, Snow, Charming, and Regina are there in Henry, Lucy, Cinderella, and Lady Tremaine. It's easy to criticize this set up as too expected and too much of a rehash of OUAT's former seasons (and, to be blunt, former glory) but there's a different angle to all this: the universality of the hero's tale and the common threads that are found within that trope no matter who is playing what role. Sure, Lucy showing up at Henry's door and asking him to believe in magic and curses and then to bring back the happy endings to a bunch of down-on-their-luck fairy tale characters is almost beat for beat the same as Henry showing up at Emma's door six seasons prior but, broadly speaking, the woe begotten, despondent hero being called off on an adventure to save the world/universe/people because they are the only ones who can...is exactly how this story should start. It's how the vast majority of hero stories begin. Fairy tales are, after all, built on tropes that exist across multiple stories and cultures--the hero, the villain, life and death, monsters and the supernatural, good and evil--and to criticize season seven's opener because it's telling a very familiar story would be failing to recognize the commonality of all stories. Because these legends and fables are so common, with only hints of divergence based on culture mores (Cinderella's famous slipper--glass, wood, or fur for instance) it's fitting--if a bit of a head scratcher at first--to have a different Cinderella and Alice appear in the opener without having to retcon portions of season one and--almost laughably--the entire spin off series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. In the Original Enchanted Forest, Cinderella may have been a blonde, blue eyed serving girl who found happiness with her Prince, but in this New Realm Enchanted Forest (I will pause here to say that the language we, as fans, have to invent to talk about the new season is cringe worthy) Cinderella is Latina, doesn't want anything to do with the Prince, and is possibly an assassin of some sort. Original Alice might have been an adventurer who fell in love with a genie and is currently living happily ever after in Victorian London, but this Alice is a rogue and epic badass who really doesn't want to be associated with just Wonderland (I mean, you take one trip and it's all your known for!). This new set up and introduction of new characters does cause some whiplash but it fits with how fairy tales operate here in our reality. There are different versions of all these "well known" stories as both young and adult Henry point out. In other words, to sum up what I'm saying, Henry's story doesn't need to be brand new; it is possible to tell an old story well and that's where we need to focus for this episode.
--Welcome back to the weekly reviews! While I was glad for the break this summer, I've missed writing so it's nice to have something to sink my teeth into again.
--Should we ponder where Henry gets his gas in the Enchanted Forest for his mothercycle?
--I think we're gonna skip right over the big "where's Emma Swan" question. I'm sure we'll get that answer sooner rather than later.
--Henry has the swan keychian on his keyring. Cue my sighs and sobs.
--Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack is a delightful reference to LOST. I wonder if Jacinda ever heard of Hurley.
--As much as I loved Original Alice, I was instantly taken by New Alice. She's the perfect blend of surprise, mystique, and intrigue. Anyone else wanna place bets on her being Belle and Rumple's daughter because I got strong Stiltskin family vibes from her.
--Let's not try to figure out when "present day" is exactly, mmkay?
--"My wings!" "I cut them off when you were sleeping. Surprise."
--Quite possibly the worst version of Bippity Boppity Boo ever, amiright?
--Who does Jacinda think Lucy's father is? Since she clearly didn't recgonize Henry she must have some idea who fathered her child.
--Did Hook's curse fully break or was Rogers just jolted at seeing Emma?
--Operation Glass Slipper. Because...of course.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
--"It's hard to say; I'm of two minds but fortunately the other one is unconscious." Michelle Gomez and John Simm have fabulous chemistry and it was a real treat to see these two play off each other.
--However, for the last time Moffat, dick jokes are not funny and are beneath this show.
--"Nothing wrong with being kind. Jelly baby?" Yes, 12. Get your 4 on!
--Is anyone going to go back for Nardole or the ship that is currently teetering on the edge of a black hole? That's a rather big plot thread to leave hanging, no?
--I had thought, some 6 seasons ago now, that the Master was dead and then we have been led to believe that Missy was dead twice over, so I won't say that we won't be seeing Missy again but it sure did look like this was her final hurrah.
--"Is the future going to be all girl?" "We can only hope."
--"I'm not a doctor. I'm The Doctor. The original you might say."
--"I'm not trying to win...I do what I do because it's right, it's decent, and it's kind. Just kind."
Final Episode Ranking for Season 10 (lowest to highest)
12. "Empress of Mars" (10x9)
11. "Smile" (10x2)
10. "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" (10x7)
9. "Extremis" (10x6)
8. "Knock Knock" (10x4)
7. "The Lie of the Land" (10x8)
6. "Oxygen" (10x5)
5. "The Doctor Falls" (10x12)
4. "The Eaters Of Light" (10x10)
3. "The Pilot" (10x1)
2. "Thin Ice" (10x3)
1. "World Enough And Time" (10x11)
Final Grade for Season 10: B
--Well, that's it! Barring any fly-by movie reviews, I'm done for the summer. See everyone in the fall when our TV shows return.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
--Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress."
The relationship between the Master/Mistress and the Doctor has always occupied a rather complicated sphere. They are antagonists, to be sure; the megalomania of the Master matching the Doctor's heroic streak point by point. Over the course of this very long series, they've engaged in more fights and battles than I could possibly detail here, but what makes the Master/Doctor relationship so meaty is that it does not just occupy the enemies space. There is a delicate push and pull of regret and longing that we don't find in, say, the Doctor's relationship with the Daleks or, as is more appropriate for this week's episode "World Enough and Time," the Cybermen. Behind the Doctor's unrelenting need to stop whatever plans the Master has concocted this time around to burn planets and destroy anything and anyone the Doctor loves, is a hope that our hero in a blue box can save his oldest friend. Nostalgia; it gets us all in the end. Trusting Missy, believing that she can be redeemed and be good, is possibly a very stupid move on the Doctor's part, especially by episode's end when we--and our Time Lord--are confronted by one of the most dangerous versions of his foe to date--but he wouldn't be the Doctor if he wasn't constantly trying to save everyone. It's a heartbreaking episode that also ramps up the stakes for the finale next week. Grab your ever present IV and let's go!
Miscellaneous Notes on World Enough and Time
--If the flashforward at the top of the episode is any indication, the Doctor will regenerate alone, in the cold snow, in anguish. I'm not ready for this.
--The music this episode--particularly the motif where we are examining the space ship and the Black Hole--were stunning.
--I wish I could quote the whole Missy speech in the beginning but a smattering of funny lines will have to suffice: "Hello, I'm Doctor Who. These are my plucky assistants, Thing One and the Other One."
--"What does he call you? Companions? Pets? ....Snacks?"
--"These are my disposables...exposition and comic relief."
--"Are you human?" "Oh, don't be a bitch."
--Missy (and the writers) casually trolling the fandom by insisting that the Doctor's name is really Doctor Who was possibly the most meta piece of exposition this show has ever done. I was laughing a bit too hard at "I've known him since a child and his real name is Doctor Who! He dropped the 'Who' later because it was a bit too on the nose"
--The Doctor addresses one of the peskier elephants in the room for the show as a whole when he insists that the Time Lords are the most advanced civilization in the universe and are beyond human obsession with gender and stereotypes...only to be called out by Bill that they still call themselves "Time Lords." Well done, show. Well done.
--I am troubled by the image that the show's first full time LGBT companion is killed off by a character we've never met before and to serve as a narrative point for a white man but there is something deeply political about that same LGBT character's story being a horrifying look at "conversion" to become "just like everyone else."
--John Simm, it has been too long. Welcome back to your classic role. I really look forward to seeing what goes down between the Doctor, CyberBill, Nardole, Missy and the Master next week! One to go....
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."