This month's instalment may seem a little obscure, as I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who's been watching Thunderbirds Are Go (that said, it's been renewed for a second season, so obviously it's popular somewhere) but Kayo was an unexpected highpoint.
My memories of watching the original Thunderbirds show are a little dim, though I'm under the impression that Kayo is not so much an original character as she is a reconception of a slightly dated character called Tin-Tin, who according to Wikipedia was introduced to the show to "redress the balance of the male dominated cast". Naturally, they ended up doing nothing with her.
As a quintessential Affirmative Action Girl, there was the risk that the writers of this remake would be equally inept at utilizing her properly in the narrative – but thankfully we've come a long way since the 1960s. Although the focus remains on the Tracey brothers, Kayo is given at least two episodes all to herself, in which she's portrayed as competent, intelligent, resourceful and pretty badass. The episode Fireflash in particular showcases her skills, and she's been given a dark family secret that will no doubt be brought to life in the season's second half.
Now don't get me wrong, Thunderbirds definitely makes for very light viewing, but it's worth appreciating the fact that Kayo is treated as the Sixth Ranger of the team (her portrait hangs alongside the Tracey brothers in their main room) and – in what is my favourite touch – is a mentor to the youngest sibling Alan.
It's not perfect – after gifting her with a brand new Thunderbird at the end of the pilot episode, we never see her actually use this plane in any subsequent missions (especially annoying since Wikipedia also tells me that she's the first female Thunderbird pilot in the history of the franchise) but it's early days yet and plenty of time to see Thunderbird Shadow in action...
Well, we're definitely in endgame territory now, but thank goodness there's a season three on the horizon. Only one minor subplot gets wrapped up in this episode, so there's no way John Logan will be able to bring everything that he's introduced this season to a satisfactory conclusion in just one forty-five minute finale (heck, he didn't really manage to do that last season in regards to Mina's anticlimactic death).
Thankfully, when it comes to this show the overarching plot is less important (and interesting) than each individual scene.
So for some reason I was under the impression this miniseries would be ten parts long; which meant I was a little confused to find we had arrived in Venice so quickly. In my mind, Venice occurs at the very end of the book, and there didn't seem to be enough material left to cover four more episodes. Then I looked up the show on Wikipedia and discovered there are only seven episodes, which means next week is the finale!
Whew, talk about whiplash. All of my current shows are ending within a few weeks of each other!
Well, that was certainly a packed episode! Lots of interesting parallels between various characters and their situations, a clearer understanding as to who is pulling all the strings in these games, and most surprising of all – no Vanessa or Ethan. I wonder if perhaps this episode and the last were written especially so that both could be filmed at the same time in different locations.
It's an episode of mirrors, paintings, memories and fetish dolls, allreflectingthe characters in various ways, their individual arcs moving in and out of each other like a dance, each scene echoing the last in regards to what characters say and do. And although a few of these scenes are given short-shrift (after keeping us in suspense for one and a half seasons, the reveal of Dorian's portrait almost inevitably comes as an anti-climax) you can tell that the pieces are being put into place for the season finale.
It's been a long time since I've done one of these, but in my defence I've been swamped with Polytech assignments. Thankfully the trimester is complete (though the next one is looming) and I've got some time to catch up on catching up.
Over the past few months two things have stuck out: one is that I can now cross "seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera" off my bucket list, and the second is that I attended an event to celebrate the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, one of which I received for Best Fan Writing.
You have to admit; these guys know how to write a finale.
Though the beginning of this season was a little fragmented, I think in its entirety it's been a stronger run of episodes than season two. We got concrete answers as to the whys and wherefores of the clones, some truly lovely character interaction between various pairings, a few fantastically unexpected twists, and some interesting new faces (namely Ferdinand and Krystal, though I suppose in the latter's case it's not exactly a "new" face). And despite fandom's grumbling over the inclusion of the boy clones, I enjoyed Castor as this season's villains much more than I did the Proletheans.
So, let's get down to this episode, which made the most of practically every available second.
This one might be a bit of a rant, and I promise it's not just because the episode departs from the book (or at least, doesn't relate this part of the story in the same way the book does). There are also some rather dodgy additions here which don't reflect very well on the characters involved.
Hmm, I'm not sure how I feel about this episode. I liked it well enough, and it had some really wonderful scenes strewn throughout it, but at the same time it didn't blow me away. And I'm used to that happening on a regular basis when I watch Penny Dreadful.
So this episode managed to get one key theme of the novel across: that men like Norrell can commit terrible crimes and get away scott-free whilst the marginalized: women, servants, people of colour, and mentally ill (or any combination thereof) are ignored and quietly shuffled away – out of sight and out of mind.
In fact, the adaptation has actually expanded on Lady Pole's breakdown by depicting the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which only serves to raise the question as to why exactly no one has confronted Norrell on the obvious correlation between her condition and his magic.
The answer of course is that Norrell is a very important man, and Lady Pole's behaviour is all too easily chalked down to female hysteria – something that's very sad, but not to be investigated too deeply when a gentleman's reputation is on the line.
All my school assignments have been handed in, which means my full attention can once more return to Penny Dreadful! I'm a week behind, but I'm going to devote the rest of this weekend to catching up (on Orphan Black and Jonathan Strange as well).
In my review for the first season of Penny Dreadful, I spoke a bit on the nature of penny dreadfuls and how they gave writer John Logan some wriggle-room when it came to plotting. The myriad of stories upon which this show is based are riddled with plot-holes and inconsistencies, and Logan often leans on the fact that such things are not just inherent but characteristic of his source material.
So a part of me feels that it's a given that Vanessa's psychic powers are entirely in service of the story, and that everyone is missing the painfully obvious strangeness of Malcolm's behaviour, and that the levels of coincidence in significant characters crossing paths are through the roof – but there's a thin line between paying homage to the penny dreadfuls of old and telling a coherent story. I don't think it helps that this season's length has been extended from eight episodes to ten (for as is always the way, it only results in giving the writers more room to add filler), but more fatally: some of the characters are starting to suffer.
This was the strongest episode so far, despite straying further from the text than its past two instalments. Or perhaps it was strong because it strayed from the text; not just in omitting things, but by adding a few original details here and there.
When you have a novel as sprawling as Susana Clarke's, you have to make some cuts – but as with most adaptations, it's also important to at least attempt to put your own stamp on the project, to let it breath and grow on its own terms without slavish devotion to the book.
So we come to our first Penny Dreadful episode that feels ... well, a bit lacklustre. Even with everyone getting laid in the last five minutes (except Ethan of course, because Ethan) not a lot seemed to happen. A lack of action doesn't necessarily mean an episode has to be dull, especially not on this show, where the most compelling scenes are invariably Vanessa staring intently at something, but there was simply something missing this time around.
Every season of Orphan Black has one of these: a light, comedic, semi-filler episode – but even though they're meant to provide a breather amidst the otherwise heavy content of this show, I suspect that (since they're so heavily reliant on switcharoos between the clones) they're some of the hardest episodes to film.
You can tell it's Cosima by what her hands are doing...
I'm afraid there was only one serious contender for this month. The role of Vanessa Ives was tailor-made for Eva Green (seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if it was written specifically for her) and after seeing her in a number of projects that squandered their – and her – potential (Morgan le Fay in Camelot, Serafina in The Golden Compass) it's rewarding to finally see her in a role that's worthy of her beauty, intensity, and raw talent.
Vanessa Ives is that staple component of all Gothic Horror fiction: the dark-haired, pale-skinned beauty haunted by terrible spectres. But Penny Dreadful is all about turning familiar tropes on their head, and Vanessa soon emerges as a formidable opponent to the forces of darkness, even as they try to bend her to their will. This is a woman that can make a witch fall to her knees and a vampire halt in its tracks just by staring into its eyes, and it's clear that despite her mounting fear of the horrors that surround her, she's not going to go down without a fight.
And yet for all she's been through, she's has managed to retain her gentle heart and impeccable manners. Every now and then she interacts with a child or a social outcast in a way that demonstrates she has not been broken by her suffering – in fact, it seems to have honed her ability to empathize with the suffering of others. Such kindness is all the more marked in comparison to the cruelty and vindictiveness of the demon that resides inside her.
The fate of the entire world may very well rest on the state of her soul, but it's not just because of that that we're so invested in her wellbeing. As a very rare example of a Bryonic Heroine, she's aptly described by another character as "the most mysterious creature in London" – and she's also the most fascinating aspect of the show.