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Hey, it’s almost June! That means it’s BEA TIME!

May 25, 2015

In two days, I will be in New York City at BookExpo America, basically one of my favorite things to do. Again, I’ll be going it alone–but with shoulder surgery coming up, I’ve been allowed the use of a rolling bag, so that’s a figurative and literal weight off my shoulders. Given that it looks like BookCon is eating BookExpo (is this still supposed to be the last year?), it’s no surprise that I’m looking at the guest list and not feeling it. As a return attendee, I’ve already met a lot of these authors. I’m mostly in it for the free books this year, and also a chance to see my friend’s new baby. I hope new baby doesn’t keep me up all night.

So: bag post coming soon, I think.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my head in my tablet–again figuratively–with Marvel Unlimited. Oh, the things I have read! I will make a post about them soon, because I don’t want to not talk about them, and we all know if I miss writing in a week, I’ll probably miss writing for a few weeks. It’s all about sitting down and actually doing it. Today would be a wonderful day to do catch-up if not for the guilties I get for blogging rather than getting together yet another cover letter for another job application.

But it is almost the middle of the year, and my lowered expectations have really helped a lot: I’ve already met my one hundred-book goal for the year. I’ve been putting in the Unlimited reads as their trades (and trying to read whatever the trade says it has in it), so that put me over the top. One less thing to stress about.

When you factor in the September and October reads from 2014, I’m at 19 of 20 new books, and BEA always gives me enough galleys to ensure that will be fine even without the new added-months goal-stretch. Where I’m lagging a little are my “JRI” books: Just Read It. It’s a cute name my friends and I came up with a few years ago when we were looking to motivate ourselves to read more of what we had at home unread rather than the shiny new books at the library. At first, I was putting the Marvel Unlimited books under my JRI tag on Goodreads because they’re ebooks and I have until now always put my ebooks under JRI. But, unlike the books I have downloaded or purchased, when I finish a title from a streaming service like Marvel Unlimited I have created no extra space for myself, on a shelf or on my tablet. So it seemed unfair. I am at 19 of 50, but BEA books also count toward JRI, so it will be fine.

I’m going to try to be pickier about what I keep from BEA this year, although perhaps not what I pick up. After all, if it’s not something I’ll likely love, I can always pick it up at the library.

All right, it’s dinnertime here, then I’ve got to pack for BEA since I won’t be home much tomorrow. I’m only packing one book this year–okay, maybe two–but I’m hoping to come home with dozens.

Nerd Heaven! Marvel Unlimited is Comic Book Netflix

May 19, 2015

I found out the last day of the promotion that Marvel was offering a month of their Unlimited service for free. While I basically signed up just because I could, within an hour I was FREAKING OUT. It’s not 15,000 really old comics that I had no interest in, which is kind of what I expected. It’s everything I couldn’t keep up with during the height of my comic book reading because of money and library access. It’s more Ms Marvel comics than I currently have in my collection. It’s INFERNO, for Madelyne Pryor’s sake! It’s…everything.

And, hilariously, the background is full of stars. Probably on purpose.

So in the two days I’ve had this service, I’ve only put it down to finish my book club book and do things like laundry and dishes and work and watching Daredevil with my husband. (No spoilers!) So I’m mostly reading at night.  “One more issue…this makes up the whole second Young Avengers trade, so I’ll put it in my Goodreads as that…” I’ve been going to bed a couple hours later than I meant to.

Like Netflix, the sheer volume is overwhelming. At least with Netflix, when you pick something it’s usually in a good order and you’re usually sure you’re not missing on anything they don’t have.  With Marvel, of course, it’s a bit of a mess.  Even going by Publication Order doesn’t help much, since it seems to be weekly.  Weekly doesn’t sort everything for me.  But even when you don’t think something is there, it can be.  I searched by Character, for my beloved Jessica Jones, of course, and she only came up in 2 of 14 Pulse issues.  I thought they only HAD 2 Pulse issues. When I searched for “Pulse” under Series I got nothing, not realizing it would be under “The Pulse.” Still no Alias, though. :(

So I’m not really sure how well the search function is, but at least, unlike Goodreads who will return Harry Potter for every darn search you do, it’s not coming up with Spider-Man for everything.

In two days, I’ve caught up as much as I can on Ms Marvel, read the third Pulse storyline and related Avengers Annuals that came up afterward, and reread Young Avengers, which was just as good as I remembered! I don’t even know where to go next.  Captain Marvel? All-New X-Men? Inferno? (Shut up; I love Madelyne.)

OMG, they have Spider-Girl??

Should I just try to read it all?  No, seriously, I can’t do that right?  I have a surgery coming up early next month, and I’m wondering if this is going to be how I spend my recovery time.

I’m okay with that.

What about that OTHER thing in the Natasha/Bruce relationship?

May 13, 2015

[Spoilers for Age of Ultron.]

Although I am admittedly trying not to delve too deeply into the Avengers: Age of Ultron Black Widow debate, there’s one thing I haven’t seen in article after article about her character, and I think it’s the most telling and important part of her character.

While many are focused on the scene at the farmhouse, and believe that Natasha equates her Red Room “graduation” to her being a monster (um, no she doesn’t), and others are annoyed that she’s captured by the enemy and held until someone else comes for her (fair, but the pregnant actress needed a break from what I’ve heard), and I’ve seen some lovely comments that rightly call them both broken and drawn to that brokenness in each other, I’m in awe that I am not seeing what was incredibly obvious to me from the beginning: that Natasha could not be more of a badass in that she has only one weakness in the first movie, and she’s basically conquered it by the second.

I’m not saying out there on the interwebs there aren’t articles and comments about this, but I haven’t seen them come up. Maybe they’re drowned out by the big sterility debate. I’m not going to go searching because I can only take so much of this “Natasha says she’s a monster because she can’t have baaaabies” bs. I hit my limit when io9, which is usually a great site, quoted Nat’s words with two important lines missing, and no indication that there’s anything removed. I’m pretty sure they didn’t do it on purpose, but my God, that was misleading and frustrating.

Anyway, let’s talk about Natasha’s fear in the first Avengers movie. Here’s this woman who has TRICKED A TRICKSTER GOD, and she only has one thing that makes her nervous: the Hulk. A monster made of pure rage, something she can’t manipulate. I remember after the first one there were a few conversations about how if Natasha, who fears nothing, fears the Hulk, we the audience know the Hulk is scary as hell. I have to admit, it took me about four or five viewings of the movie before I accepted that as being a part of the narrative. I thought originally that it made her look weak, but when you rewatch the scenes where she’s out-thinking everyone, from goons to mob bosses to Loki, the contrast is stark. (No pun intended.) I’m on board now. The Hulk is terrifying and, just as important, he’s extra terrifying to Black Widow because he’s the one thing that’s out of her skill set.

In the second movie, we see Black Widow not only working with Bruce’s Hulk, but actively engaging him. She’s the one who deploys the “Lullaby,” a series of phrases and actions that are meant to calm the Hulk enough to trigger his transformation back into Banner. She puts herself right there in front of him and hopes for the best, trusts in herself and her teammate. She has taken control of her fear.

This is only solidified by our trip into Widow’s mind thanks to Wanda’s manipulations. Although in the last movie, Widow was terrified of the Hulk, he doesn’t appear at all in her visions (dammit, no pun intended). Fear conquered.

I could get into what’s actually going on in her head, and The Conversation, and how her being sterilized is the ultimate lack of agency, a not-subtle metaphor on feminism and choice, but what I’d really like to see is more conversation about whether Natasha dating Bruce is her actively courting her fear to aid her getting over it, and whether that’s Natasha being a badass and/or a risk-taker and/or self-destructive. Is her turning away from Bruce at the end her choosing to end that self-destruction? Or is it that she’s conquered her fear by turning both Hulk and Banner into more characters she can manipulate? Because that would be super cold.

Let’s debate that instead.

Stop Saying Joss Whedon’s “Thing” is to Kill Characters

May 4, 2015

[Light (name-free) spoilers for Whedon stuff, including Age of Ultron.]

“Well, you know, he’s gotta kill SOMEONE, he’s Joss Whedon.”

Variations of this comment have been going around the internet for a while now. Whedon’s latest movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is now in theaters, and now everyone’s patting themselves on the back.

“I don’t like Whedon because he kills characters just to kill them.”

Oh, honey. You are so wrong.

Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first came to the small screen–or even on the big screen!–Whedon has been killing important characters. From characters in the movie to the gotcha on TV, when we’re introduced to Buffy’s new Sunnydale friends and one of them immediately is killed by a vampire, Whedon began his career with death. But it’s not because killing his characters makes you gasp, or surprises you. It’s because without death, the stakes (heh) stay low. And without death, they always would.

Whedon’s talent isn’t saying “Look, that character is happy, so it’s time to kill their significant other.” It’s saying, “This is a dangerous situation. The people involved have put themselves in mortal danger. They may get through it–but perhaps not all of them–but there will be a cost.”

And for this I say “bless Joss Whedon.” I no longer want to live in the (media) world where everyone lives all the time, because it feels fake and plastic. There’s no challenge without fallout. The joy comes in those moments where everyone gets away.  For example, the “Everybody lives!” scene in the first season of New Who. You can’t have a Doctor who takes such joy from that moment if there hadn’t been moments in his life where almost everyone had died.

If you want to be that person who wants everyone to be okay, to keep the stakes low and the heroes overpowered, that’s cool. You can totally be that person and you’ll never get any judgment from me. You have decades of television to keep your spirits high. You can see every person parachute out of a falling plane, break through the water after their car flies off a bridge. You can have every scene at a hospital bedside where everyone’s relief that their hero will be okay is plastered across their faces. Maybe you’re not the kind of person who sees it for the 400th time and feels anything but relief with them.

But I am not that person, and I want high stakes. I want actual danger, and personal sacrifices, and to feel like lives are on the line.

For me, death doesn’t have to happen often, but it has to happen.

You can not want this type of media. But don’t say that Whedon is just killing his characters to kill them. Whedon has always given us real life wrapped up in metaphor, and part of life is death.

 

Buffy: Does it ever get easy?

Giles: You mean life?

Buffy: Yeah, does it get easy?

Giles: What do you want me to say?

Buffy: Lie to me.

Giles: Yes. It’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and… everybody lives happily ever after.

Buffy: Liar.

Dr Veronica Mars + American William the Bloody = iZombie

April 10, 2015
Brother, Can You Spare A Brain?

Full disclosure on this one: I am absolutely unfamiliar with the source material. I’m having enough problems finding popular Marvel trades in this state, let alone a Vertigo title. Considering there’s a “were-terrier” in the comic and the main characters don’t even have the same name, I’m guessing “loosely adapted” is an accurate expression for what’s going on here.

The CW’s new show, iZombie, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer by way of Veronica Mars. We all knew that was going to be a thing when we heard VMars creator Rob Thomas (not THAT Rob Thomas) was creating a new supernatural procedure. But what I did not expect was Rose McIver’s dead-on KBell vocal impersonation. Uh, no pun intended. McIver, a New Zealander by birth, could do the voice work for a VMars cartoon, she’s so close to Bell’s speaking voice. Fortunately, McIver’s role as Olivia “Liv” Moore (say it aloud; it’s easy to miss and then impossible to forget) is not Veronica 2.0. She only sounds like her. 

Liv was a successful young medical resident when, in the first few minutes of the show, she’s invited to a party where a creepy drug dealer is handing out a new drug. The drug has some terrible, zombie-like effects on the partygoers, and Liv is scratched by the drug dealer. She wakes up in a body bag. Cut to five months later and her life is terrible: because of her infection, she’s given up her promising career to work in the morgue, which gives her access to the brains that sustain her and keep her from going full-on zombie. Her hair is white and her skin is pale; she’s lethargic but that might just be the depression. Worst of all, she’d had to give up her relationship with her sweet, funny fiance, Major Lilywhite (I kid you not; I had no idea that was his last name), because she’s terrified of infecting him as well.

When Liv eats the brains of the people in the morgue, she can occasionally get flashbacks of their lives and takes on some of their traits too: kleptomania, sociopathy, passion, artistic talent, horniness, fear of pigeons. The usual. She ends up using this information to help Detective Clive Babinaux solve cases. Her boss, Ravi, has guessed her secret–the boat party massacre wasn’t exactly low-profile, and Ravi used to work for the CDC until they decided he was too obsessed with the idea of biological apocalypses–but he tells Babinaux that Liv is psychic to help her hide it.

Also, there’s Liv’s roommate and former BFF, her mom, and her brother, who are all upset that she’s so different than she used to be. They all accept she has PTSD or whatever from the boat party, but they’re in that position where they can’t figure out what else to do besides give her space, tough love, or confuse her and themselves with both at the same time.

So there’s your set-up. The show itself is funny and clever and breezes by–not unlike its lead-in The Flash. If not for Flash and Agent Carter, I’d be calling iZombie my new favorite show of the year. Unlike many shows on right now, it doesn’t try to make everyone a constant ensemble. Major and Liv’s pre-death people move in and out of the story as needed, not so that everyone gets a full-season paycheck. I appreciate that.

Who I also appreciate? David Anders as Blaine, the drug dealer-turned-zombie who will probably be the main antagonist for this season, if not this show. I’ve seen Anders before in other things–Heroes, Once Upon a Time–and I’ve never had this reaction to him before. Which is to say, “HELLO THERE (don’tcreepdon’tcreep).” There is something about Blaine that’s part William the Bloody, part Logan, and part…I don’t even know. The Mayor? Evil earnestness? Whatever it is, I love it and I love him. I’m excited to watch his plan unfurl.

I’m also appreciating that the brains have looked more pink in the last two episodes. I have a serious brain-squick and the pink isn’t as bad.

iZombie has nine episodes left of its thirteen-episode run. It’s an easy catch-up on Hulu or the CW app. I highly recommend it, especially for Veronica Mars fans.

[Photo courtesy of the CW.]

WIB: Jan 25-31

March 29, 2015

I’m skipping on the book club backlog for this entry because there were so many books this week.

The first thing I read was The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, for our speculative fiction book club. I am very, very happy we chose to read this, because I do hate reading out of order, and I didn’t realize this was the first in a series. The next, To Say Nothing of the Dog, is a selection for my online book club later this year, so everything ended up falling into place–or, rather, in order, which is how I like things. (The books are, I hear, only loosely connected. Still. I haven’t stopped being me.)

This is one of those books where I’m glad I didn’t read the back and/or inside covers before diving in. To sell the book, they give away a major plot point. The book has a bit of mystery to it, and that mystery drives the first half of the narrative. I can tell you this, though: it’s the story of a world where time travel is used by historians, and of one young woman’s passion for a certain time period being used in a tug-of-war between her mentors. Maybe that sounds exciting. I can’t say “exciting” is a good word to describe this book. There are times when it’s tense, when it’s tough, but only the end is fast-paced. The book itself relies on the commonplace and mundane, both in the present and in the past. I could see people giving up on this book. But they shouldn’t. Thrillrides aren’t necessary for good literature; this story is engrossing because of the day-to-day, not despite it. All of us in the book club really enjoyed it, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book this summer.

Next up I slogged my way through Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite by June Casagrande. It was recommended by a member of my online book club who didn’t enjoy our selection of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. While I understand why people don’t like Truss, I couldn’t understand why anyone would enjoy Casagrande, who is nowhere near as clear in her describes and is, frankly, mean to the point of nasty. She believes she’s on the other side of this language war, the side that’s cool and casual and snarky, but her blows are low and personal; her slut-shaming is way past okay into Just Plain Wrong. I almost didn’t finish this book because of it.

I decided I needed a palate cleanser, so I reread Judy Blume’s Deenie, a wonderful book that had much more going on than I remembered. Deenie is not just a girl who has scoliosis and has to learn to deal with getting a brace, although Blume’s specific descriptions of what that’s like are so helpful; it’s also the story of a young girl whose mother is, frankly, terrible to her, and Deenie’s sexual and relationship maturity. How do I forget all this masturbation stuff in Blume’s work? And yet I do. I think it went over my head because I was probably 7 or 8 when I read this book for the first time. As an adult, I want to praise Blume for what she’s done for young people. So many books–except the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor–vague up or flat-out ignore young people’s libidos, when it’s such a huge deal, a new, confusing experience. But if someone wrote now the way Blume did? I’m not sure how that would go over. Deenie is a good book, if not a great one, and if it’s dated, the content is so rare yet so universal that I don’t think it matters.

Emily St. John Mendel’s Station Eleven is the story of a pandemic, as it begins and years after it ends, when the world is very changed indeed. It’s gotten so many positive reviews, and it is very good, but to me it has such a Purposefully Literary feel that I couldn’t give it five stars. If you want capital-L Literature in your Dystopia, this is the book for you.

I also finished UnDivided, the last book in the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. This book is a highly satisfying conclusion to the series, and perhaps the strongest installment since the first.

I finished the week by giving up on Chelsea Cain’s One Kick at about fifty pages in. It didn’t make any damn sense, everyone was so douchey you couldn’t figure out why anyone would do anything with them, the nudity seemed like a sort of “hey, this’ll make a great screenplay” move, and I can’t believe this is the start of a series. Ugh.

Well, that didn’t seem like it took very long at all. So I guess I’ll use this space to post a tally of where I am in my reading goals.

Shelf books: 10/50 (2 given up on)

New books: 8/20 (3 given up on)

Total books: 47/100 (1 other given up on)

Next up: nostalgia, the new Gayle Forman, a by-the-numbers Roswell High rip-off, and me quitting on another book. I think it’s going to be that kind of year.

If you’re telling me two stories at once…

March 9, 2015

…you’re usually not telling me one good story.

I have to say, I’m really sick of the double-storyline television show right now. It was interesting enough in the first season of Once Upon a Time, where we learned about the characters while they were under the curse and not truly themselves. It was a clever way to do it, but the show has been using back story as a crutch for a while now. This half-season’s storyline only proves that, because the past just might be contradicting everything we already knew.

Quit it. Stay in the present.

Oliver Queen in Arrow was “on an island” for five years. Does that mean we have another two seasons before we can finally stop watching these boring flashbacks? Again, in the first season, it’s good viewing. Actually, it’s must-see TV. It could’ve stood on its own. Flipping back and forth only weakened both storylines.  And the way they did it was awkward. Some episodes, you had situations that paralleled what Ollie was going through in the present. But it didn’t always fit, so they switched it up and we got a straight chronological look at Oliver’s first year or so, which made the parallels even clunkier. Now we’re at a period of time where most of what we see is kinda dull. But it doesn’t have to be.

Quit it. Separate the story lines. We’ll stay with you, I promise. (We’re still suffering through this season, aren’t we?) Or miniseries the rest of it.

The only show I watch that seems to tell two stories but is really telling one is How to Get Away with Murder. It’s basically done what first-season OUAT did: tell a mystery story where you get information in the present and the past. Because there’s no memory loss, no huge change of worlds, it doesn’t have the feeling of being two story lines–mostly, you know, because it isn’t. It’s most definitely not telling us two chronological stories, although you could say it feels that way: post-murder/pre-murder. A big difference is that we’ve watched the characters grow. The only one who really did that in the first season of OUAT was Emma, the person who had almost no role in the old storyline.

Quit it. Fine. HTGAWM gets a pass. But I’m hoping we’ll lighten up on the flashbacks from here on out. And no more flying cheerleader!

WIB: Jan 18-24 Plus Book Club Backlog

March 1, 2015

Only two books that week: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, a reread for me, and UnSouled, the third book in the Unwound “dystology,” whatever that means.

Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves was a book that came to me at just the right time, the first time I read it years ago. I was back to community college after years away from education, and there were things here and there that I’d forgotten or never learned properly. Like many adults re-embracing education, I was a snob, and Truss’s snobbery appealed to me. Not so much upon rereading for my online book club. Truss is high-strung and high maintenance; her descriptions of how things works, however, is excellent in its clarity. But I’m no longer the kind of person who feels like the entire civilized world is coming to an end because of a misspelled sign. I have met too many people who have been through a broken American education system to think we’re all starting from the same place and therefore should end in the same place. I do, however, think that if you’ve got internet access and you’re not talking to your friends (but rather, say, a forum or whatever) you should probably go for clarity and lack of typos.

I dunno; I just don’t care anymore.

Moving on, Neal Shusterman’s Unsouled is a great third-book-in-a-four-book series. Like many of those, it’s a bit forgettable in the timeline because it’s a FOUR BOOK SERIES. (Five if you count the novella I skipped.) Just when you think things will end, you realize there’s a whole other book ahead of you, and it’s a mixed blessing because you want to carry on with these characters but four might just be the limit of a dystopian series–I mean, a dystology. (Eh.) I really enjoyed the series and while this one doesn’t have the punch of the first one (or the last, which I’ll talk about when we get there), it does what any good middle of a story does and keeps progressing and entertaining.

*

Another book club I joined last year was through Meetup.com, and is another speculative fiction book club.  I am sad that I can’t always keep up with these guys, because they are great people and the selections are good and the discussion’s good.  But they’re really far away and they meet at restaurants, and that’s gas and food we couldn’t always afford last year.  Still, I made a few of their meeting for books I’d read before, and books that were new to me too.  Here are the new ones:

Max Barry’s Lexicon is a great idea that doesn’t quite turn into a great book. Having already read Jennifer Government a while back, I knew Barry wants to be funny a lot, but Lexicon is slightly stronger and slightly less silly.  It’s less of a satire and more, at times, like an earnest novelization of a script Barry hasn’t sold yet for an action movie about the (magical) power of words. It’s a fun, fast book with slightly more depth than the usual fun, fast book, but Barry still hasn’t made it to my must-read list.

John Scalzi’s Redshirts is a odd little book. Hilarious parody of old science fiction shows soon turns to something surreal, almost experimental, and heartwarming. The newest crew members of the Intrepid are pleased as Punch to be assigned to such a prestigious starship, but soon find that the Intrepid is not like other ships. For one thing, high-ranking crew members never seem to die, but the lower ranks are killed off by the score during bizarre incidents and away missions. The new guys need to figure out what’s happening and how to make it right before they’re the next to go. I had such a great time with this book.

We also read some H.P. Lovecraft and Robert W. Chambers short stories around Halloween. I hadn’t read Lovecraft in maybe about a decade, and then only the one small collection. I couldn’t remember a thing, except a story where a monster finds out it’s the “human” one and everything else around it is monsters? Something like that. This time around, I read “Call of Cthulu” (I think?) and I know I listened to “The Haunter of the Dark” on hppodcraft.com. Such a good reading it made me sad I’d already read “Call of Cthulu” rather than listening to their version. I could live without the racism, which people often excuse because of the age but no, there were lots of people who weren’t racist like Lovecraft back then. Chambers was an influence of Lovecraft’s who I’ve heard has gained popularity lately by being featured in the show True Detective or whatever it’s called, but I don’t know it so I can’t be sure.  But I guess if I ever watch the show, I’ll maybe pick up on something, because I read a few of the first stories in The King in Yellow, which I liked as much as Lovecraft, really.  The only reason I didn’t keep on with it is because I ran out of time.  I’m sure I’ll go back one day, maybe next Halloween.

So that’s the books I read for that book club.  Next time: time travel, more grammar, and yet another book club.

Gotham: So wrong, so right

February 17, 2015
IMG_1947

[Spoilers up through The Blind Fortune Teller.]

Let’s imagine two worlds called Good and Bad, divided by a thin border. The inhabitants of this world are personified television shows. Some television shows live in the world of Good, some only in Bad. Some are in Good but sometimes accidentally wander into Bad when they aren’t paying enough attention. Some are in Bad yet somehow manage to trip into Good’s territory occasionally. Some shows are built on the border and we give them about a season. Gotham plays hopscotch on the border while everyone yells at it to come back to Good, where it’s nice and safe. Gotham ignores them.

“Uneven” might be the nicest word you can apply to Gotham. Despite its pre-built mythology and a truly stellar, talented-as-heck cast, Gotham makes more mistakes than it has any right to, yet when it’s good, it’s so very, very good that the fans are thus far unwilling to give up the fight.

This week’s episode, “The Blind Fortune Teller,” is a perfect example of Gotham throwing together its usual hodgepodge of mess and mastery. In it, we find new couple James Gordon and Leslie Thompkins out on a date at that place people in Gotham always go for dates: the circus. Specifially, Haly’s Circus, home of the Flying Graysons.

I held my breath through the Graysons’ performance, because we know that eventually, it doesn’t end well. But this performance goes off without a hitch, until the end, when there’s an acrobat/clown melee.

ACROBAT/CLOWN MELEE. This is why people watch Gotham.

We find out that a snake dancer named Lyla has been seeing men from the circus’s version of the Hatfield and the McCoy legend. (I once saw a commenter on a website who said they were from one of the families, and that they hated the perpetuation of the myth, which is why I use the word “legend.”) The Graysons and the Lloyds have been fighting since “before the Great War” over the theft of a horse, and it seems that the snake dancer, Lyla, is another excuse to fight. But then Jim uses Lyla’s snake to find her–

HE USES LYLA’S SNAKE TO FIND HER–

and she’s been murdered. Each side is blaming the other, and the only real love match between them, John Grayson and Mary Lloyd, has let the feud come between them.

So far so good, sort of. John and Mary are a bit over the top, but this is a show that just had an acrobat/clown melee, so they get a pass.

Then a creepy old fortune-teller–male!–tells Jim and Lee a cryptic message that he says Lyla told him from the beyond. Lee decides she knows what it means later, and insists they stop having a lovely meal together, that was supposed to be followed by sex, and go hang out in a park filled with homeless people in the hopes that they will stumble across something. They do, because Gotham writers are ridiculous, and although it’s supposed to be a red herring, meant to make Jim believe it was some sort of Satanic cult that hasn’t been around for a decade, Jim magically figures it all out in a moment so we can go on with the rest of the show. See, the blind man, Cicero, must have helped someone cover up the murder, but who? And why? Well, obviously, Lyla’s illegitimate child must be his, of course. It can’t be because of any other reason.

The kid, Jerome, then goes full-on Joker and admits to killing his mother, laughing manically, etc etc. Cameron Monaghan is perfectly cast in this role. He creeped me the heck out. BUT! it was too much. And this is where Gotham fails over and over again. It’s like someone stood over Monaghan and said, “Give me MORE! Give me MORE!” as if this would be the only scene he’d ever be in. And maybe that’s true; I don’t really read a lot of casting spoilers. But if Gotham were serious about building a world, rather than handing us one on a really obvious plate, it would’ve held Monaghan back. He would’ve been more effective with half the performance.

Meanwhile, Fish Mooney’s being held by parts pirates (is that a reference people get?) and no one was yelling at her to give more this week, so she was perfect. Jada Pinkett-Smith: the only woman who can give a rousing speech on freedom while standing on a man’s back. Mooney’s always on the camp side of things, but it’s almost always worked for her. Evoking Eartha Kitt has worked for her so far. She’s even wearing a catsuit, basically, although she’s got a shirt over it right now. I mean, look at her. She’s Catwoman. Can we find out her real name is Patience Phillips, and undo the damage done?

Meanwhile meanwhile, Barbara finally comes home in this episode, as well, to find Selina and Ivy camped out with Fruit Brute. She basically shrugs it off–

SHE DOESN’T EVEN GAF THAT THERE ARE TWO KIDS LIVING IN HER APARTMENT–

and decides to figure out what to wear to recapture Jim’s heart. The kids give her advice, which she takes because why not? (and they’re not wrong; that outfit was trying way too hard), and then sees Jim and Lee making out and is a Sad Panda.

MEANWHILE MEANWHILE MEANWHILE, Oswald sucks at having a club, so Zsasz offers a reprogrammed Butch to help out. But reprogrammed how? At what cost? We’ll find out later. But for now, it’s heartbreaking that Butch seems so…not like Butch.

MEANWHILE MEANWHILE MEANWHILE MEANWHILE, the Baby Batman goes to a meeting of his board to call them out for possibly illegal shenanigans. These are the same people (I guess?) that will one day think of him as too much the playboy to be Batman? I know there have been competent CEO Batmen before, but it never seemed to gel with the idea of the guy who was too frivolous to be taken seriously.

That’s a lot of stuff going on in one episode, and who knows if I missed anything. I don’t THINK so though.

The worst part about this episode, I think, was Lee. Like Barbara, they seem to have taken a character fairly set in her first appearance and made her do whatever the plot needs, which is basically the opposite of how you should write anytthing. I was reading this interview with Lee’s actress, Morena Baccarin, and this quote jumped out at me:

IGN: Do you know why Leslie is so gung-ho about doing what’s right? Do you know her backstory yet?

Baccarin: Actually, I don’t know. We haven’t discovered that yet. They haven’t told me too much so far. I kind of get things revealed to me slowly. But she’s somebody who really stands up for what she believes in and has a strong set of morals. She’s not a goody two-shoes or anything like that. I mean, she understands how things work in the city and how things sometimes have to get done. But I think she’s also trying to live in a world that she wants to live in and can be proud of. She’s not somebody who’s too precious about things. She can get down and dirty, and she does. And she wants to be a part of whatever force can make the city a better place.

First off, the first part of the question is stupid, IGN. But we’re going to let that be. Look at what Baccarin says about her character. Lee is so far from that in this episode. “Precious” is exactly the word to describe her. She’s a Manic Pixie Dream Doctor but without the quirky clothes. Given that Gotham‘s got a “multiple time period” thing going on (see: the cell phones, the clothes, the cars, the cereal), I wouldn’t even mind if they’d introduced Lee as quirky, but they didn’t. She went from assertive to a thrill-seeker in a few episodes, doing unprofessional things (!) with Jim giving in at every turn (!). Why? Because she’s so cute? Sigh.

This is truly the Barbara problem all over again. I believe I said in my review of the Gotham pilot that Barbara seemed to be one of the few characters where they had a handle on who she was, but that turned out to absolutely not be the case. Read Baccarin’s words again. “We haven’t discovered that yet.” “They haven’t told me too much so far.”

Look, I can get them not giving away plot points, but Baccarin should have a strong grasp on her character’s personality from the get-go because the show should. But they don’t. And it’s annoying to me that the women of the show seem to get this treatment more often than the men.

Barbara is a train wreck, but she was never a consistent train wreck. One week she was fine being a cop’s fiancee; the next she wasn’t. One week she’s dedicated to making things work; the next she’s left him and gone to her ex. We didn’t know her well enough to see WHY she was making these choices; by making them senseless to the viewer, they can’t be anything but that, and it’s sloppy and lazy of them.

Montoya is the same way. I was fine with her thinking Gordon was on the take, because lots of cops in Gotham are on the take. But then she was like “Oh, we can’t! Oh I guess we can. Now get out of my house” and all that. Poor Montoya. That character deserves so, so much better.

Gotham needs to get it together, but the fans keep saying that and it doesn’t happen. It’s hard to deal with this week by week. I wish the show had gone into a long winter hiatus, took its time, and planned better, but it didn’t. The best we can hope for is that the showrunners start reading the reviews, and listening to the fans, and get their shit in order. Until this week, they’ve been losing viewers every week because the show won’t stabilize. I feel sorry for the new viewers from this week, because they weren’t getting Gotham‘s best. But then again, I’m starting to wonder if they ever will.

More dating tips from The Flash

February 15, 2015

Previously on The Flash, we learned how to let your friend know you have more than friendship feelings for them. In last week’s episode, “The Nuclear Man,” we continue the streak (heh) of healthy dating choices as Barry goes on a date with a decidedly not-comic-book-canon Linda Park.

Spoilers and whatnot follow.

I. Love. Linda. Park. I loved her and Wally together in the comics I could get my hands on from the library. I loved her goofy crush on Flash in Justice League Unlimited.  And I really, reallllly love this version of Linda, who is decisive and assertive but not unwilling to change her mind when offered new information.

Seriously, I’m trying to think of another woman on television who is as assertive when it comes to dating as Linda Park who also doesn’t come off as predatory or laughable, and I can’t. Now part of me is wondering if the “cougar” in the Joe & Cisco subplot was purposely to direct our attention to what a predatory woman really looks like on TV, thus deflecting any sexist bullshit that Linda would’ve gotten.  As it was, after Linda did all these great things, like making the first move and giving Flash her contact information in “Crazy for You,” and in last week’s episode being clear about what she wants sexually and from a relationship, there was STILL a guy in the comments (at io9, maybe?) who thought she must be secretly some sort of villain, because she PUSHED SO HARD FOR A SECOND DATE.

Oh, okay. I guess a “good girl” wouldn’t do that?

I’m going to have to disagree with that whole concept.  Good girls are clear about what they want when they feel they can safely say so, which makes Linda Park great. She wants Barry, so she suggests they skip dinner for a make-out session, and he readily agrees. Sexy, sexy consent! When he ditches her for “work,” which he decides not to call work (good call even if he was only fumbling; she is a reporter), she lets him know flat-out that her time is precious to her and the thought of having half an evening isn’t what she’s looking for. God, did I love this. She’s not a walking TV stereotype, with the underlying whine of “Girlfriends are nags, amirite, bros?” She’s a person with strong, reasonable opinions. Not everyone wants to date someone with a cop’s hours.

Also, Linda’s reporter sense is tingling in this episode, and I love that too. What’s going on? She turns to Iris, Barry’s bff and her co-worker, and Iris, REASONABLY, thinks maybe Barry’s tripping up on those old feelings. You can get mad at Iris for it, and say that maybe she’s acting in her own self-interest, but it really is the most reasonable conclusion to come to, especially since (as I mentioned in that last post) Barry is a pretty emotional guy. So Iris maybe does the wrong thing by telling Linda that Barry has just dealt with some unrequited feelings, especially since Linda is smart as a whip and realized immediately that the recipient of those feelings is Iris. Our Girl Linda certainly wants none of that either. So she calls it off with Barry, and reveals her sources like a reporter (ETHICS IN SUPERHERO TELEVISION), and there you go. Except Barry really does like her, and it’s The Flash stuff he’s hiding, not his feelings for Iris.  He confronts Iris for dishing what he considers to be inaccurate dirt–new possibilities really do help erase old feelings that never got off the ground anyway, but he could be fooling himself, and under the bandage called Linda Park might be a wound, but I HOPE NOT BECAUSE THAT STUFF IS BORING–and then does something demonstrative at Linda’s work, convincing her that Barry is the kind of lovable/sexy goofball she probably does want to spend more time with. Cool. It wasn’t a huge declaration of anything. It was ghost pepper-eating, which called back to their conversation about spicy food on their first date. It’s a clear way of saying, “I was paying attention” and “I am serious about wanting to have fun with you.”

Okay, it was at her work, which is less cool, but frankly, you kind of have to with her because, as she says, she works a lot.

So Barry again hits the non-Flash, relationship stuff out of the park (heh). He’s a bit slow on the uptake but without that, we’d have no drama, and what’s a CW show without drama? I’m just happy to see an assertive female character on my new favorite superhero show, and things being played out as reasonably as television lets them be.

Barry/Linda <3

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