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Friday, June 30, 2017

Orphan Black: Beneath Her Heart

It's the seasonal Alison-centric suburban hijinks episode! However, the show managed to shake up its usual formula, adding plenty of continuity and a little poignancy, thereby reclaiming some of the show's magic.
We get a flashback to the early days of the Clone Club, in which Beth was still around, Sarah not yet on the scene, and Cosima and Alison about to meet for the first time. In fact, this may be the earliest chronological flashback we've had so far, back when Alison's life was first starting to crumble under her feet.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Reading/Watching Log #18

It's been a very slow month in terms of my reading/watching habits, mainly because I've just finished three intense weeks of job training. But I got through intact, and am looking forward to establishing a routine that'll allow me enough time for my usual pop-culture intake. Until then, it's slim pickings: a couple of books, a couple of movies, and no television shows (save American Gods, which I've written about separately).
did however manage to revisit three versions of Murder on the Orient Express: the original novel, the 1974 film and the ITV adaptation. As you've probably guessed, it was indeed brought on by the trailer for Kenneth Branagh's take on the famous mystery, out this November. Be warned, I may talk obliquely about the solution under the cut.
(And yes, my Orphan Black review is coming).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

American Gods: Come to Jesus

Here we are, the end of season one. I was interested to see on what note this season would finish, and I have to say I'm surprised it was a tease of The House on the Rock. They've certainly paced themselves considering that particular location was an early pit-stop in the novel, but at the same time it's been fascinating to see what changes have been made – both here and in the story still to come.
And finally, Kristin Chenoweth appears!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Orphan Black: Clutch of Greed

So is anyone else feeling an odd disengagement? All the pieces are in place: the clones, the conspiracy, the suspense, the twists – and yet I don't feel myself as pulled in as I usually do. This may have had something to do with the "Rachel targets Kira and has to be smuggled away" plot playing out for the millionth time (albeit with lampshade hangings and an eventual subversion) or the shock death that was as unpleasant as it was perfunctory, but I'm just not feeling it this season.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: Wonder Woman

I'll admit I was a little trepid about seeing Wonder Woman: as I seem to mention all the time, I'm a little fatigued by the overload of superhero movies, not to mention prequels and origin stories. Wonder Woman is all three, and though I desperately wanted it to be good, I had my reservations.
But it turns out those early reviews were correct: Patty Jenkins has given us a film that's joyous, poignant, exciting, colourful and even thought-provoking at times. Despite the fact there's nothing hugely surprising or original in terms of the plot (I foresaw every beat), it's told with such clarity of purpose and reverence for its lead character that it's impossible not to be drawn in.
SPOILERS

American Gods: A Prayer for Mad Sweeney

I loved this episode. Let me just start by saying that. It was funny, poignant, dark, sweet, and I was moved to tears by the ending. Back when I first read Gaiman's novel, I'd have thought you crazy if you'd said I would one day get choked up over the interactions between a walking corpse and a six-foot leprechaun.
(Insert obligatory "I can't believe he's Porntache!")
Granted, the episode is a strange choice for a season's penultimate episode, and it's a definite misstep to side-line Shadow and Wednesday this close to the finish line. It reminds me of Galavant's second season, which focused on King Richard at the expense of the actual protagonist.
It wasn't that Richard was a bad character, but you have to time these things. For instance, Avatar: The Last Airbender knew it had to wait until the second season before airing an episode that centred entirely on Zuko.
But when taken on its own merits, this is one of my favourite episodes – not just of American Gods, but of any show – period. There's something profoundly satisfying about stories that go "full circle". You see it in the final words of The Lord of the Rings ("I'm back") or when Jack closed his eyes for the last time in the finale of LOST.
It's a natural part of storytelling, providing balance and resolution, and this episode was all about the beauty of coming full circle with both characters and plot.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Orphan Black: The Few Who Dare

So the fifth and final season of Orphan Black – my absolute favourite show – has started airing at a very inopportune time: the middle of job training, in which my attention and energy is almost exclusively elsewhere.
I want to be able to savour this final adventure with the clone club, and I debated whether to hold off watching it until training was over ... but I don't have that kind of self-discipline. Thankfully I'm already halfway through the three initiation weeks, so in a matter of a few days I can settle down with the final stretch of a truly great show.
(I've also got Wonder Woman and the latest episode of American Gods to review, but we'll get there!)

Friday, June 9, 2017

American Gods: A Murder of Gods

I'm in the middle of training for my new job, so this'll have to be a short one (as well as a belated one).
The show goes very much off the beaten track – and Gaiman's written word – for this episode, which may account for its slightly different vibe. If you hadn't read the book, I wouldn't be surprised if you could guess the material here wasn't derived from the novel, as unlike Git Gone, another largely original story which focused on Laura's state of mind, A Murder of Gods didn't quite mesh with the rest of the show. It's hard to put my finger on why.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Woman of the Month: Nomi Marks


Nomi Marks from Sense8
There's only one problem with the entire second season of Sense8 being released on Netflix: I raced through it in a matter of days. Why didn't I pace myself? Why didn't I prolong the enjoyment? Like a kid with a chocolate bar I just didn't have the self-discipline for delayed gratification.
For those not in the know, Sense8 explores the concept of a brand new species of human called "homo sensorium", in which eight people born at exactly the same moment end up psychically connected to one another. It sounds like a simple enough premise, but the Wachowski siblings turn it into something truly sublime. This is a story in which eight people strewn across the globe can not only interact with each other, but pool their skills and resources into a single body.
When it comes to shows with ensemble casts, viewers make much of deciding who is "the heart" or "the mum" of the group. Here, Nomi holds the interesting position of being the mind of her cluster. In this nexus of characters, she's the one who links them together with information and planning, a nice reflection of her hacking skills.
Given her occupation as a political blogger and hacktivist, her strained relationship with her parents regarding her transition, and a frightening first season arc that involves what can only be called "medical gaslighting," you can't help but feel that Nomi represents some very personal issues and opinions held by Lana and Lily Wachowski.
But it's more important to note that they avoid making her a perfect angel, as she's certainly not without her flaws. On being told via her sister that their father considers her narcissistic, she unconsciously proves his point when her speech at her sister's rehearsal dinner ends up being mostly about her (with a few pointed barbs at her parents for good measure).
And yet a little self-absorption isn't a deal breaker. By placing her at the intellectual centre of the cluster, Nomi attains the position of mastermind or string-puller behind the other sensates. When it comes to the overarching mystery of the show, involving past clusters and shady conspiracies, it's usually Nomi heading the investigation. Her hacking skills have frequently been utilized in the cluster's assorted missions; and at times her abilities reach near god-like proportions (from another country entirely, she manages to scare the crap out of a bad guy by threatening him through an automated car park gate).
Funny, clever, and with a firm grasp on who she is and what she wants (I doubt it's a coincidence that her name is phonetically pronounced "Know Me"), Nomi doesn't just contribute technological knowhow to the cluster, but also wisdom and compassion born of experience.
Also, her relationship with Amanita has got to be the most adorable of the entire show. Well, maybe second to Lito and Hernando.

American Gods: Lemon Scented You

By this point the general feel of the show has been established, as well as its overarching plot: there are old gods and new gods, each preparing for war with each other across all the states of America. We're with Mr Wednesday (the Norse god Odin) and his man Shadow as he recruits his fellow old gods for a final showdown, something that hasn't failed to escape the attention of the new gods.
That's it in a nutshell, but it's worth pointing out that it's taken us five episodes to reach these conclusions. The show has not been in any hurry to outline what the plot is, and it's been through several seemingly unrelated vignettes, exploring the existence of the gods in America, that insight (or exposition) has been presented, especially regarding the rules concerning the relationship between gods and mortals.