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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E08

Last week I was left wondering where the plot would go now that TT's five truths have been completed. As it turns out: personal vendetta.
SPOILERS

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Reaper

There's a fine line between bad and So Bad It's Good. This episode ... did not cross that line. It's just bad.
The impression I have of Terry Brooks is that he's quite an easy-going writer, which is to say I don't think he's precious about his work. He doesn't refer to his books as his children, he doesn't insist on absolute fidelity when it comes to adaptations, and he was probably more than capable of simply accepting the cheque MTV offered and leaving the project in their hands.  
But I do find myself wondering what he thinks of this episode, as it marks a definite tonal shift. Of course, there's already been more blood, gore and sex on display here than there ever was in the books, but now we've seen a marked change in the portrayal of a fairly important supporting character.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The 100: Blood Must Have Blood Part II

I had hoped to get this finished before season three started, but (unsurprisingly) that deadline wasn't met. So I'll get this review under my belt, discuss the first two episodes of season three as a single instalment, and carry on for the rest of the season one episode at a time. Got it? Got it.
In hindsight, it feels like the entirety of season two has been leading up to the moment Clarke and Bellamy put their hands on that lever. In many ways it's a parallel to the first season's finale, in which Clarke made the call to ignite the dropship fuel and destroy the attacking Grounders, only taken to a much more devastating and morally-compromised degree.
This time around the act of killing her enemies to save her people involves the death of innocent people, including children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Changeling

This show would have us believe the insides of trees are hollow and filled with roots, so I'm going to chalk that down to this one being a magical tree. Amberle gets some nectar squirted in her face from a flower that blossoms right in front of her (I'll refrain from making any Freudian jokes) and so finds herself in one of those frustratingly obtuse Secret Tests of Character.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E07

This was definitely the best episode yet. Last week I felt oddly disconnected from the father/son drama, but it turns out that the only thing I needed to be roped back in was a bus-load of kidnapped school children. It certainly didn't hurt that this episode also had the most of Angel Coulby that we've seen thus far.
So TT's latest truth is to shine light on the exploitation of children in sweat-shops by kidnapping a group of kids and their bus-driver, demanding that the public riot against various stores that stock goods supplied by child labour. The public duly complies, but things take a turn for the truly dark when two children are left shackled in the barn: a white girl and a black boy. It was at this point I felt ill, for it was pretty clear where this was headed.

Arrow: Unthinkable

I made it, I finally made it! Season two of Arrow is in the bag. I started watching back in October 2014, which is much longer than I thought it would be, and certainly not at the same pace as weekly viewers.  
As a season finale, this was pretty much what I expected. All the main characters are given a moment of heroism, a bevy of guest stars brought in to assist or hinder, the overarching themes wrapped up, the villains defeated, and the hooks established for next season.
To kill or not to kill: that is the question of this episode.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The 100: Resurrection, Bodyguard, Blood Must Have Blood Part I

Watching these three episodes brought to mind this comic strip:

Remember it, as I'll be referring to it again later.
We start with the immediate aftermath of the blast: the injured, the dying, the dead, and Clarke trying to process it all. Perhaps unsurprisingly all of our main characters have emerged relatively unscathed, but the emotional fallout of Clarke's decision to keep quiet about the attack is explored across all three episodes.
We get four reactions to Clarke's decision: Abbie's horror, Octavia's anger, Kane's understanding, and Indra's grim acceptance. Between them, I think that the show ultimately condones Clarke's decision: that it was a tough one, but the right one in the context of the war they're fighting.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Fury

It's back to the Four Lands in search of CGI demons, Manu Bennett enjoying himself, great sexual tension between a Rover girl and an Elf princess, and ... some other guy. He's there too I guess.
I'm not even going to try and summarize the plot of this episode since the show doesn't lend itself to any sort of in-depth meta (instead being made up of standard "go there and do/get/destroy the thing" fantasy staples) so prepare yourself for reviews that'll be high on snark and low on analysis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E06

This time I only have a few brief notes...
So it turns out that Stephen is just a Red Herring? I can't say I'm surprised but – wow. That's a lot of screen-time and built-up to spend on a red herring, especially one that was so obviously not going to turn out to be the killer.
I'm not even sure if it's possible for someone to die of slit wrists that quickly, though the preceding scene in which he takes a woman hostage was fairly suspenseful, all the more so because it was so downplayed. That is probably how a situation like that would unfold in real life, without all the yelling and panic and gunplay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Arrow: Streets of Fire

Penultimate episode! And yet strangely enough, this felt very patch-work-y (sorry, that's the best word I can come up with to describe it), with a lot of subplots haphazardly grafted onto the main narrative thrust of Oliver trying to track down the mirakuru cure.
It's not that scenes involving the Lance family drama and Thea's reunion with her biological father are bad, only that they have very little to do with the most important thing that has to happen in this episode: Team Arrow getting their hands on the cure sent in from Star Labs.
It involves a lot of shuffling around of the various characters, but this close to the finish line surely it's time to draw them all together, not pull them apart.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The 100: Survival of the Fittest, Coup de Grace, Rubicon

These episodes all revolve around a single theme: what it takes to be a good leader.
Clarke is obviously at the epicentre of all this; adjusting to her new role, getting unsolicited advice/demands from everyone around her, and struggling with how tough it really it. As Kane said: "heavy lies the crown."
But there are plenty of other characters vying for leadership roles (Abbie, Lexa, Thelonious, Cage, President Dante) and these episodes explore the different kinds of leadership they embody, as well as how their choices tread the fine line between what's good for their people and our collective understanding of right and wrong.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Chosen

I don't have time for this. I need to finish reviewing The 100 before the next season starts. I can't start a new show, and yet here I am, starting a new show. 
The Shannara Chronicles are based on the novels by Terry Brooks, which number about thirty-three in total (divided into various duologies, trilogies and tetralogies) and have an interesting history in terms of their importance to the fantasy genre.
If you're wondering why they're adapting the second book in the series (The Elfstones of Shannara) rather than the first (The Sword of Shannara), it's presumably because The Sword is a thinly disguised rehash of The Lord of the Rings, with the names of the characters changed and all the intricate world-building removed.
How'd he get away with it? Because when it was first published back in 1977, the formula still felt very fresh, and once it went on to become the first fantasy-fiction novel to appear on The New York Times bestseller list, it essentially proved there was an audience for mainstream fantasy. Basically, Brooks was the first to do Tolkien second, and he opened the floodgates for all the High Fantasy novels that followed.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E05

Despite steady improvement over the past four weeks, this episode stalled a little in terms of the investigation and the climax.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I have officially joined the ranks of those who have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I feel that fact has to be announced, as currently the world's population is divided into those who have and those who haven't seen it, and the worst crime anyone can commit is deliberately giving anything away.
Suffice to say, this review contains SPOILERS. And it's huge. Seriously, don't start reading this if you've got something on the stove. 
With the exception of a few minor details, I went into the theatre with no preconceptions about what the film involved, which definitely worked to my advantage. As I've said in earlier posts, I'm about a seven out of ten when it comes to Star Wars, which is to say that I was invested enough to avoid all spoilers, but wouldn't have been particularly devastated if it was a flop. I enjoy the original trilogy, but have no strong feelings on the prequels (just a vague sense of disappointment that they weren't anywhere near as good as they could have been).
After this, I'm sitting at a nine – and am very happy that Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have been in a hit movie. They deserve all the good things.
So here we go, The Force Awakens...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Arrow: City of Blood

This ended up being something of a Breather Episode in the aftermath of Moira's murder, but with a low-scale twist halfway through. Oliver doesn’t appear for a significant portion of the episode's length, but in all the time we think he's out there getting ready to unleash hell on Slade, it's eventually revealed that he's slipped into a Heroic BSOD, with no plan that goes beyond giving himself up to Slade.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

Woman of the Month: Mary Crawley


Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey
Yes, Mary Crawley is 2016's first Woman of the Month. Fight me.
I know she's a contentious character amidst Downton Abbey viewers, regarded as everything from a snob to a bully to an Ice Queen. And I'm not arguing with that. She's cold and proud, conscious of her own status and beauty, and bathed in wealth and privilege. I can understand completely why many viewers don't like her, but I've always appreciated the fact that Julian Fellowes never felt any pressing need to make her likable. (As the old saying goes: fandom wants complex and flawed female characters until they actually get them).
But the interesting thing is that Mary herself doesn't consider herself particularly likeable. Her Character Establishing Moment is striking: on hearing that her cousin/fiancĂ© has died on the Titanic, she goes to her father and asks: "does this mean I have to go into full mourning?" He's visibly taken aback, but it's not until later, in the privacy of her own bedroom, that she confides her to sister: "I'm not as sad as I should be – and that's what makes me sad."
It soon becomes obvious that she has some grounds for grievance. Her father will not break the legal entail for her sake, and so despite being the most highly qualified person to inherit the estate, she has no choice but to watch her father's home and mother's fortune be passed on to a complete stranger. With her mother's attempts to pair her off with every suitor that comes to call, Mary soon realizes she's little more than an inconvenient pawn to be married off and ushered out of the way.
As the series goes on, we gradually peel back some of her layers. She has a degree of integrity, as when she apologizes to Bates when she's caught with a guest prying into the servants' rooms, and is more perceptive than most people give her credit for (she's the only one to notice the quickly-stifled commotion Branson makes when he tries to tip gunk over a dignitary's head, and five years later is the only family member to find the revisiting Gwen familiar).  
She also has the very human trait of having a small circle of favourites – Sybil, Carson, Anna – that she's devoted to, and though she can bestow kindness on her rivals (Lavinia) she's also capable of heaping great cruelty on those she should love more (Edith).
You'd be hard-pressed to admit she wasn't the focal character of the show's six-year run, and we see her at her best and worse, as a debutante, a wife, a widow and a mother. She experiences happiness and tragedy in equal measure, and though I wish we had seen more of her relationship with George and reconciliation with Edith, what we're finally left with is her softer side, her sense of fairness, and her determination to push Downton into the future regardless of all the obstacles that surround her.