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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Women of the Year: A Brief Retrospective

Okay, so I have one more thing to post before getting to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.



For the past year I've been choosing one woman per month to showcase on my blog, and it's though it's been a difficult task, happily the difficulties have arisen from a surplus of great female characters, not an absence. Now that the year has come to an end, I've posted my twelve Women on the Month on Tumblr, and I thought I'd expand the project to some of the ladies who didn't make the cut – not because they weren't fab in their own way, but because – well, when you limited yourself to only one per month, not everyone can be included.
So here's my list of the great female characters I discovered or revisited this year; those who I found the most inspirational, the most enjoyable, the most well-rounded, the best written and performed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Downton Abbey: The Finale

Well, that's it. Downton Abbey is over.
I'm...not entirely sure what to say. It's been six years since the show's inception; that's over half a decade of these characters in this setting, and now it's all come to a close in a rather swift and unsentimental manner.
As it happens, I've had all six seasons playing as background noise whilst going about my daily chores during the gap between the end of the last season and Christmas Day, so I had everything that preceded this finale fresh in my mind while watching.
Well, almost. I saw Star Wars the day before watching this, and my thoughts have been pretty much obliterated by the experience. So I have no idea whether Downton Abbey's final episode felt lacklustre in the wake of a mind-blowing movie, or if it really did go out with more of a whimper than a bang.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E04

The advantage to shows which start slowly is that as they continue, they get discernibly better week-by-week as the plot kicks in and the tension ratchets up a notch. I was pretty riveted from start to finish this time around, with the various detectives pooling their resources in the hopes of finding Delplanque before he dies of hypothermia. Elsewhere, subplots that have seemed rather irrelevant are getting sewn into the fabric of the murder case, with various clues dished out as to how the killer is pulling all this off. It’s like watching a huge jigsaw puzzle be slowly pieced together.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The 100: Long Into An Abyss, Spacewalker, Remember Me

Okay I cheated. I couldn't resist the siren-song of the third season's trailer, so I went ahead and marathoned all the remaining episodes of this season. As such, from this point on I'll be reviewing with foreknowledge of how things pan out, which eliminates the chance for any speculation, but at least lets me examine these three-episode portions from within the context of the entire season.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: The Others

So was anyone else watching The Others fifteen years ago? Probably not, as it sometimes feels I'm the only person in the world who knows it ever existed in the first place.
Not to be confused with the Nicole Kidman film of the same name or the bad guys of LostThe Others ran for a single season of only thirteen episodes back in 2000 before getting cancelled without much fanfare. It's never been released on DVD and probably never will be. There was no critical acclaim, no cult following, no fandom campaigns to save it – the show just slipped quietly into that goodnight.
But as it happens, I have a fascination with shows that are prematurely cancelled. There's something so unfulfilled about them: that although their premise was strong enough to get them on the air, they just didn't manage to garner enough of an audience to carry their story through to its natural conclusion.
I couldn't tell you what it was that drew me to The Others in the first place, as it was too long ago that I watched its original broadcast. However, I ended up with all the episodes recorded on videotape which I staunchly refused to erase for years on end, so obviously it had some effect on my teenage-self – and when I happened to chance upon the full episodes on YouTube last month, a walk down memory lane was in order.
SPOILERS for a show that ended fifteen years ago...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Arrow: Seeing Red

I'm so close to the end I can taste it...
This episode is essentially forty minutes of misdirection before it swerves into a game-changing murder. While the audience is distracted by Roy and the effects the mirakuru have on him, sending him rampaging around the city and focusing his hyper-rage on Thea, the episode is all the while setting up Moira Queen's swansong.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E03

So I’m beginning to get the hang of this show’s format. Every week the detectives inch closer understanding what the killer is trying to achieve, whilst new side characters are slipped in and given their own subplots that may only seem tangentially connected at first, but eventually end up being fairly crucial to the overarching flow of the series.

As much time is spent on these periphery characters as it is on our lead investigators, which means that there’s the danger of what I call AAK syndrome (that is, Audience Already Knows syndrome).
Because the viewer is given access to information that the investigators are not, the show spends a fair bit of time showing us Karl and Elise figuring out stuff that the audience is already aware of: that Suze was stealing medication from the nursing home, that Suze and Gemma had the same pimp, that the teenagers who find the veteran are not involved with his kidnapping. But there are a few clever ways in which they manage to avoid the pit-falls that comes with this “viewer knows before character” style of storytelling...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Downton Abbey: Season Three

In the lead-up to the final Downton Abbey Christmas Special, and in preparation of a forthcoming "Best Downton Abbey Moments" post, I've gone right back to season one and started watching from its inception. Well, not "watching" exactly, but I've had it running as background noise while getting on with study/chores/writing. Having just finished season three I thought I'd transfer my original review (posted on LiveJournal) to this blog for the sake of posterity.  

I found some of my predictions and complaints interesting in light of where the show has ended up, and my thoughts on Sybil's death are (I think) still relevant three seasons later – though I couldn't help but add a few little updated comments in italics.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 100: Many Happy Returns, Human Trials, Fog of War

So in my last review I talked a bit a lot about Clarke and her tenacity, and I've come to realize that her behaviour at Mount Weather reminds me a lot of Harry's in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Just as Clarke refuses to give up her suspicions surrounding the Mountain Men, so too does Harry insist that Draco Malfoy is up to something during their sixth year at Hogwarts.
But whilst J.K. Rowling was running a double-bluff, relying on the wrong conclusions Harry drew about Malfoy in The Chamber of Secrets to make us believe he was just being paranoid, The 100 has a fairly straightforward utilization of The Conspiracy.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E02

The plot thickens as the killer’s patterns and motivation begin to reveal themselves, a few more supporting characters are introduced to the mix, and another dramatic murder closes the episode.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The 100: The 48, Inclement Weather and Reapercussions

The airdate for the third season of The 100 has been announced, which means it's time to get season two under my belt. Quickly.
When we last saw what remained of the 100 at the end of the first season, they were largely divided. Finn and Bellamy raced off into the forest, Clarke, Monty and Jasper were taken by Mountain Men, Raven was left abandoned in the drop-ship, Octavia and Lincoln decided to head toward the ocean, Abbie and Kane (and the rest of their people) crash-landed on the planet, and Jaha was left in the remains of the Ark.
So in writing this review of the second season's first three episodes, it's easy enough to follow each separate strand one at a time, as for the most part there's little interaction between the disparate characters (with the exception of Finn/Bellamy temporarily teaming up with Abbie/Kane).
Here goes...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Women of the Month: Donna Meagle


Donna Meagle from Parks and Recreation
Usually these entries come pretty easily to me, but it's been a struggle to decide what female character should be showcased in December. Other potential candidates ranged from Downton Abbey's Mary Crawley to X-Men's Emma Frost to the Loathly Lady of Arthurian legend. But who was the right pick for 2015's final Woman of the Month?  
As it happens, I've spent the last eleven months gradually wending my way through all seven seasons of Parks and Recreation, my logic being that since it ended in February this year, it was as good a time as any to watch it straight through from the beginning. And what a great show. I laughed, I cried, I did all the things a viewer is supposed to do when they're emotionally engaged with a television series. By the time I reached the final episode I didn't want it to end, particularly as I had grown so attached to its cast of characters.
And there were plenty of women to choose from. Leslie Knope, for her ambition and work ethic and inability to give up. The unapologetically sardonic and dour April. Ann, that beautiful tropical fish/rule-breaking moth/powerful musk-ox/poetic land-mermaid. I could have even gone with Jennifer Barkley or Ethel Beavers or Diane Lewis.
But at the end of the day, there's only one contender: Donna Meagle. Why? Because she's the character I most aspire to be.  Donna Meagle has mastered the art of self-love. She knows what she deserves. She values herself. She relishes the finer things in life and sees no reason to feel bad about it.  She truly enjoys her life.
For a long time one of the show's running gags was the richness and mysteriousness of Donna's life outside of work, and it was only in the later seasons that this was given the attention it deserved, focusing on her love-life, family relations and personal goals for the future. We’re also given more layers to her characterization: her warm heart, her beautiful singing voice, and her sharp understanding of those around her.
She's summed up best in the episode that has the rest of the office choosing their individual spirit-dogs – but after much deliberation and a little drama, it's decided that Donna doesn't have one. Because she's a cat.
And of course, we can't forget the precious gift she gave this entire generation, the one we'll all carry with us into the future and pass on to our grandchildren: Treat Yo Self Day.
I love her, and can think of no better New Year's Resolution than to strive to be more like her.