It's been a rather slow month on the reading/watching front. I only read two books (there was a time I could manage twice that in a single week!) and watched a handful of movies, including Captain America: Civil War. It's one of only two Marvel films I've seen in theatres, and the only movie I've ever been to in which the audience applauded at the end.
Indian Summers came to an untimely end, which is disappointing considering it had a five-year plan, but apparently its ratings couldn't compete against The Night Manager. I also remain (somewhat idiotically) faithful to Merlin by tracking down another cast member's projects, and sought out another – somewhat obscure – reiteration of the Superman mythos.
I've seen a lot of complaining that this episode didn't push the story forward, but that's what Breather Episodes are for: to give characters (and audiences) the space they need to react to devastating events, let them regather themselves, and set up the board for the final stretch of episodes. In that, this succeeded.
And if we had jumped headfirst into the next bout of action for the Clone Club, I've no doubt people would be complaining about the breakneck pacing instead.
If you've been wondering why I missed reviewing last week's episode of The Tunnel, it was because my usual torrent supplier temporarily vanished. We're back on track now, but I'll merge episode six and seven into one post.
The big reveal of these episodes are that Eryka is one of the masterminds behind this entire plot, working with Koba* towards some nefarious end. I suppose it's fitting in an ironic sort of way that in the same week we learn Delphine is still alive, we're also treated to an evil bisexual who deliberately seduces one of our protagonists to throw her off her game. The universe giveth, and the universe taketh away.
*Yes, it's Koba – not Cobra as originally thought. In my defence, the characters made that mistake too.
Well, between this and the last episode of Game of Thrones, it's been a good week for getting emotionally wrecked by television. And I mean wrecked in the best possible way, not through cheap deaths or shock value, but by satisfying payoff to carefully sown plot-points, development that sheds insight into what makes characters tick, and unexpected turns that still make sense within the context of the story.
This week's episode of Penny Dreadful was the Bottle Episode. I knew it would turn up sooner or later (putting Eva Green in a single room and letting her do her stuff was too juicy to resist), but taking place as it does entirely within the white room of the mental asylum, it's also merged with the seasonal traditional of a Whole Episode Flashback.
It became apparent very quickly that this episode would reveal what Beth got up to on the night she died; which occurred a lot sooner in the season than I expected. In fact, in many ways this felt like a season finale. So what did we learn?
Like The Builder, this giraffe was also situated in The Commons, which used to be the site of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I remember going there with my aunt whenever we wanted to act posh, and pretending to have a room at the hotel as an excuse to ride the glass elevator (in my defence, I was a kid at the same – though I'm not sure what Auntie Carol's excuse was).
It's now an open bit of land that's used for stalls, sculptures and picnic areas, and (being near the centre of town) was a great location for a giraffe covered in images of the city: the trams, the birdlife, the Avon River and the Bridge of Remembrance.
Created by Jane McIntosh and called Aroha. Love Canterbury, it was one of the most popular giraffe sculptures, and is now situated in the Christchurch City Council building – I see it whenever I have to visit. As you can see from the photos below, it was beautifully detailed (and keep in mind that many of the landmarks it features no longer exist):
We're at the halfway mark already! Time certainly flies.
In some ways this was a patchy episode, but also one that provided a surprising amount of insight on the show's various mysteries. Plus it saw the return of a fan-favourite (sadly, not the French blonde) and some great character dynamics.
I suppose after last week things were bound to be a little less exciting, but now that we're halfway through the season (only eight episodes this time) I'm surprised that we're not inching a little closer to getting things wrapped up.
I'm also nursing a few flu symptoms, so this'll be a bit shorter than usual.
Although I see the narrative appeal of dividing the gang and then bringing them back together, at the start of this season I was also a bit leery of what it could lead to. It certainly gave John Logan the chance to explore the characters individually, but without the relationships that bound Vanessa, Malcolm, Victor and Ethan together, there was every chance the show could lose some of its heart (or what counts for "heart" when your cast of characters are all monsters of one sort or another).
And yet Logan is pulling this off brilliantly. He's compensated for the lack of a central dynamic by giving everyone a new (or newish) character to bounce off of, and all of the story arcs he's crafting are compelling in their own right.
I was hoping to post a Watching/Reading Log at the end of every month, but April got the better of me. Still, better late than never. Thanks to my current Polytechnic course I managed to track down some new books by old authors and old books by new authors, whilst my Eighties Fantasy Film column on Helen Lowe's blog continues.
There was also a trip to the Court Theatre to see a lecture on ghosts that spirals out of control, and to the movies for that superhero vs superhero showdown. You know, the one nobody is talking about except to compare it unfavourably to the most recent superhero vs superhero showdown movie.
And in between all this, I took a trip down memory lane and played some games from my childhood – complete with EGA graphics. Those were the days...
This show really knows what it's doing when it comes to its reveals. They always seem to be in the right place, at the right time, without anything getting strung out too long or being prematurely divulged. Granted, some of the revelations are a bit underwhelming, but there's a consistency to how they're handled that makes me trust what these writers are doing in a way no other show does.
This episode for example opens on MK constructing a bomb. A classic Chekhov's Gun if ever there was one, which the audience thinks has served its purpose when Sarah and Dizzy spot one under MK's front doorstep. But that's not what it's for – the real bomb comes into play at the very end of the episode when Ferdinand is lured into a trap at Beth's apartment. Well played show.
Another example is the reappearance of Evie Cho on a Brightborn DVD at the end of the episode. To the characters watching she means absolutely nothing, but to the audience it's an "oooh" moment, as the last time we saw her (through Beth's point-of-view) was at the start of the season in the company of Doctor Leekie.
It's all so intricately plotted and carefully paid off.
It's that magical time of the year: when Penny Dreadful and Orphan Black are airing concurrently. It makes life complete.
I'll admit I'm going to miss watching Penny Dreadful and Salem on the same night (the latter having been pushed back to October) but Orphan Black's intricate plotting provides a great contrast to the broad strokes of atmosphere and archetypal characterization that makes up Penny Dreadful.
Last season ended with our intrepid not!heroes disbanding and scattering across the world, but already events are transpiring to draw them back together. I've no idea how long it'll take John Logan to complete the full set of Mad Scientist, Wolf Man, Great White Hunter, and Apocalypse Maiden, but there's no doubt they'll have to reunite sooner or later in order to defeat the show's long-awaited Big Bad...
Yup, Dracula has arrived! I kicked my feet like an over-excited toddler.
I've just learned that this season has only eight episodes (as opposed to last season's ten) which certainly explains why things are moving at such a brisk pace this time around.
It's only to be expected from a police drama/political thriller, but I like it when investigative teams are depicted as good at their jobs, as is the case here. Their efficiency is probably to do with the reduced amount of episodes in which they've got to find their targets, but it's always satisfying to see people making proper conclusions from the evidence that's been gathered, especially when the audience is more aware of what's actually happening than the characters are.
Though I still haven’t watched the original Swedish/Danish miniseries upon which The Tunnel is based, I've been told their female protagonist Saga Norén has an Ambiguous Disorder that's heavily hinted to be some form of autism/Asperger's. According to reports, they never specified which so as not to accidentally misrepresent either one.
But this critical aspect of the character has been passed to Clémence Poésy’s Elise, and it’s a key facet of what makes her such a memorable character. A (seeming) lack of empathy, brutal honesty, terrible social skills – none of this makes Elise hugely popular amongst her fellow co-workers on the French police force, but it’s not like it bothers her. In fact, there’s a good chance she doesn’t even notice.
Her outlook and demeanour is a great way of subverting the expectation that a female character has to be friendly and charming in order to be considered "good” (with Ice Queens relegated to the “villain” category) and there’s a rather eye-opening sequence when Elise solicits an attractive bartender for no-strings-attached sex. She’s not in search of a relationship, she just has an itch that needs scratching, and she’s neither embarrassed about it in-story nor slut-shamed by the narrative for it – even when the poor guy starts getting the wrong idea about what's going on between them.
Elise's innate seriousness and bluntness provides a few giggles (“how are your testicles?”) and the all-too-rare pairing of a strictly platonic male/female team gives us a contrast with which to better appreciate her observational skills, her commitment to her work and her complete lack of interest in her physical appearance. Just look at her picture; she’s like the epitome of Unkempt Beauty.
The Tunnel is now in its second season, and Elise has a promotion, leading to sincere but clumsy efforts to encourage and motivate those working under her. And yet despite some of her slip-ups, the audience is never invited to laugh at her. However uncertain she is when interacting with other people, she's brilliant at her job and in partnership with Karl, and it's this dichotomy that makes her (and Saga, and Sonya) such a compelling character.