Wow, I churned through a lot of stuff this month. I'm not even sure where I found the time for it all, yet here we are. Angels, robots, zombies, space travel, time travel, period dramas – and of course, lots more Star Wars. It was a good month for variety, though firmly within the speculative fiction genre. It's not a coincidence there are so many sci-fi films below, as my father put in a request and I ended up watching most of them myself.
There was also an attempt to familiarize myself with Wonder Woman before her big screen debut, and revisit A Wrinkle in Time (which I first read years ago) as filming kicks off in New Zealand.
As it happens, I've just gotten my hands on the Rogue One novelisation and prequel (yes, there's a prequel to the prequel) so I'll probably devote a separate post to the added light each one shines on the film.
I had been looking forward to watching The Living and the Dead for a while, knowing as I did that it was a period ghost story set in late 19th century England. That's got my name written all over it. However, about a week before settling down to watch I heard the news that it had been cancelled. This surprised me since I had assumed that there was nothing to cancel; that the show was a miniseries with a beginning, middle and end.
As it happens, you can watch The Living and the Dead as a complete story, with each episode including both a self-contained tale and elements of an overarching plot that's spread across all six parts. The ending is quite definitive, but in the show's final few seconds there's a tacked-on cliff-hanger – one so random and pointless that it feels more like a badly calculated attempt to get the show renewed rather than any organic continuation of the story.
And since the show didn't get renewed, its presence becomes even more annoying.
Here's my final review for the last episodes of The Legend of Korra's second season, as written back when it first aired. It's fun looking back at what I made of it before the ship righted itself with Book Three, and before I became a fully-fledged Korrasami shipper (at this point I thought Mako/Asami was the better option!)
Now I can really start looking forward to the comic book in June!
Rapunzel is one of my favourite fairy tales, mostly due to what is left unsaid and unexplained. It has an underlying sense of cohesion to it: a deal is made and followed through, a taboo is broken and duly punished, a miracle occurs that reunites a family, but at the same time we're given little understanding as to why all this happens.
Why does the witch want the infant Rapunzel in the first place? To raise a child of her own or to punish the girl's parents? Why does she lock the teenage Rapunzel in a tower? Is it a sincere attempt to keep her safe from the outside world, or because she's a controlling monster? And why is she so furious to learn that Rapunzel had been visited by the prince without her knowledge? Because her rules have been broken or because she's jealous that her daughter's affection has been bestowed elsewhere? Because she's projected herself onto her daughter's youth and beauty or because she once had her heart broken and can't bear to see anyone else happy?
We can make a vague guess at certain things, but never really know for sure. Whether we think of the witch as a cruel oppressor or a confused mother, the fact remains is that we know absolutely nothing about her true motivations. What remains are the bones of the story, and the ability to project what we like onto the characters involved (or at least one of them – unsurprisingly it is the villain who has the most agency, and therefore holds the most opportunity for different interpretations).
But in broad strokes, Rapunzel is a story of stolen childhood and twisted motherhood, in which a woman futilely tries to keep her daughter a child forever. So what does Shelley Duvall do with this template?
This review of the novel and 2015 miniseries has major SPOILERS beneath the cut.
The first time I read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None it was a blazing hot summer day. By the final chapter I felt chilled to the bone. It was not only a great book, but a great reading experience, and I have clear memories of enthusiastically describing it to my mother at the time.
I'm eight episodes away from finishing all six seasons of Xena Warrior Princess, a project that I started way back in 2011 after receiving the DVDs from a friend. I've been digging in my heels a little as I approach the finish line, as a part of me doesn't want it to end (that and I know what to expect in the two-part finale).
It may surprise you that I've gone for Gabrielle and not Xena – feminist/gay icon and game-changer – as the Woman of the Month, but as influential and important as Xena is (and remains) it was really Gabrielle who went through the most profound character development over the course of the show.
Starting as a simple country girl with big dreams, she chooses to follow Xena on her adventures based on nothing more than her conviction that it's the way to a richer and more meaningful life. In terms of personality she's the complete opposite of the stoic, statuesque Warrior Princess, but her sunshiny nature and strong moral compass soon gets under her companion's skin.
In many ways Gabrielle embodies Xena's ongoing search for redemption, acting as her guide and conscience, but as she grows in confidence and abilities it becomes clear that she's a reflection of what might have been had Xena never gone down her dark path. For all the controversy surrounding the finale (I haven't seen it yet, but I know what it involves) the single scene of Gabrielle catching Xena's chakram and claiming it as her own is a perfect "full circle" moment for both their characters.
In the early years of the show, her character often talked her way out of dangerous situations, or performed acts of kindness that had far-reaching consequences for the future, again as a stark contrast to Xena's more physical methods of problem solving. Even as she became proficient with a staff, and then a pair of sai, the show never forgot her roots as a bard, recording and spreading stories of Xena's heroism.
But she wasn't without her own foibles, and the writers constantly explored the loss of Gabrielle's innocence in relation to her attitude toward killing. The struggle to reconcile her gentle nature with the need for violence in life-or-death situations made for several fantastic story arcs (and at least one misguided pacifism phase) which led to much soul-searching and unanswerable questions in a show that was ostensibly just about leather-clad beauties beating up bad CGI monsters.
With talk of a reboot on the horizon, it'll be interesting to see how Gabrielle evolves further – not just as a character, but as a concept. Will it keep her dorky sense of humour? Her love of storytelling? Her role as a light to Xena's darkness? Her excruciating moral dilemmas as she weighs up the sanctity of life against the greater good? Time will tell...