Another month gone by, and I managed to get some reading/viewing done for material that has been on my waiting list for a long time. This includes Big Fat Historical Epics and Equally Big Fat Fantasy Sagas, as well as a new kiwi cult classic, the latest from Disney animation, ITV's bid to fill the void left by Downton Abbey, and an all-singing, occasionally-dancing television spectacular.
So just when I was about to call it quits on The Legend of Korra, the show churns out a couple of really intriguing episodes. There were a few dodgy bits (don’t worry, I’ll get to those), but what I was starting to enjoy in The Sting was the wide sense of scope and newfound emphasis on the ensemble.
I didn’t even realize until the final few minutes that Korra only had one scene in this episode – instead the focus was on Asami and Mako, and though I don’t have a problem with Korra in the way others seem to, I liked that she played a much smaller part. It gave me the feeling that the story is branching out; that this was only a small piece of a much larger tapestry. I think splitting up the gang and following only a select few around at a time was a good idea.
Or perhaps I was just happy to see Lin Bei Fong back again. The whole show just seemed to perk up at her presence.
Well, here we are. I get the feeling I've enjoyed this final season of The Musketeers more than most, though at the same time there's definitely been something missing from these episodes. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly it is – perhaps the BBC's complete indifference in promoting or even AIRING the show on schedule; perhaps the lack of a decent villain in an action-adventure costume drama; perhaps the shift from strong standalone episodes to a more wonky season-long arc.
First, let's get one thing out of the way: I'm long past the days when I go into meltdown mode over television shows. That happened years ago with the death of Marian on Robin Hood, and what I took from the whole debacle is that it's not worth the time or energy to get over invested in long-running stories that run the risk of (best case scenario) growing stale or (worst case scenario) going completely off the rails.
And as a survivor of both Robin Hood and Merlin, which can be aptly described as precursors to this take on The Musketeers, I can say confidently that this season has still been better than the endings those other shows thought fit to deliver. I've been enjoying the show despite knowing that fandom has been largely dismissive of it – though I've had the advantage of learning in advance some of the season's more dubious creative decisions.
But having said all that, I can understand why viewers would find this episode particularly frustrating, built as it is on two characters who should know better making terrible, terrible decisions.
It's official: my last assignment has been completed and handed in. I have finished my diploma, and there is no more studying left for me to do.
That means there's also no excuse left to keep putting off the last three episodes of The Musketeers, which I've been procrastinating over partly because I don't want to say goodbye, and partly because the fandom seems to be extremely ticked off by what occurs in its final stretch. I've set my expectations accordingly, and all I'm really worried about at this point is Constance. It hasn't been a good year for fictional ladies, and if these writers kill her off they can easily point to the book as justification.
Yeah, I’m just not feeling this season. And I hate that, because I really, really want to love this show, but there’s just something missing. As such, I only have a small list of observations instead of a proper review…
In many ways this show is trashy and exploitative, but I have to say I never expected it to provide such an interesting character as Mary Sibley. Since the end of Merlin I've been trailing most of the actors from show to show, and Janet Montgomery has managed to land quite a juicy role with this project. In the show’s prologue Mary is a young woman in love with John Alden, only to find herself pregnant and unmarried in an 18th century Puritan community. Big no-no. In order to get rid of the child, she goes with her servant Tituba to the forest where a strange ritual takes place – one that leaves her womb empty.
Picking up again several years later, Mary more or less presides over Salem. Her husband is mute and wheel-chair bound, and she exercises considerable influence over the townspeople. All well and good, but it’s soon revealed that since we last saw her, Mary has become a powerful witch and leader to the coven hiding in the woods, as well as the mastermind behind the witch trials – all designed so that her people might accumulate enough bodies to perform their Grand Rite.
For a long time it's not entirely clear whether she’s the show’s protagonist or antagonist. Are we meant to be rooting for or against her? But the gaps in her transition from naïve girl to ruthless matriarch are gradually filled in as the show goes on, revealing a surprising level of complexity. Despite being the puppet-master pulling the strings of the witch hunt, she’s not beyond showing mercy or regret, and though her ultimate goal of ushering the devil back to earth is (obviously) something the audience can't get behind, her reasons for doing so make a twisted amount of sense.
She has a range of intriguing relationships with other characters – in fact, perhaps with every other character, making her the most important player on this particular chess-board. She has ideas of her own concerning the direction the coven should be taken, resulting in power struggles with other witches seeking to undermine or influence Mary towards their way of thinking. Both powerful and powerless, sympathetic and detestable, full of agency and yet swept along in events she cannot control, Mary is very much the centrepiece of Salem.