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The thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor has been announced, and it’s Jodie Whittaker.

I’m having a lot of feelings right now that cannot be expressed by just screaming endlessly on Twitter, so I’m putting them down here.

I grew up watching Doctor Who on PBS. It’s been as huge a part of my life as Star Trek. Until new Who showed up, Seven was my doctor. A big part of that was because of Ace, who was cool and amazing and I wanted to be her for a long time. Her relationship with the Doctor was different, somehow. Looking back on it, I think it’s because she had Donna-esque levels of taking absolutely zero shit off the Doctor, while still being young enough that his relationship with her was more avuncular to downright fatherly. And because she was absolutely brilliant, and the Doctor supported her in that. To the extent that he wanted her to go to the academy on Gallifrey and become a Time Lord. I think that last thing is something that’s been heavily retconned in new Who, but the idea that you don’t have to actually be from Gallifrey to be a Time Lord, and that Ace could be a Time Lord? Sign me up.

And then there was Romana. Between her two incarnations she was in seventeen episodes, but she stands out in my mind because… holy shit, a female Time Lord. Traveling around and having adventures. I loved Romana II because she got to be on equal footing with the Doctor, and had her own sonic screwdriver – I mean, how cool is that?

Looking at new Who, my favorite companions have been the ones (particularly Donna) who were able to put themselves on more equal footing with the Doctor. I think I’ve always been searching for women in the series who have that independence, who are as close to being the Doctor as they can get without actually being allowed to be the main show. The companions I liked the least were the ones who were basically doormats that existed to be the Dr. Watson-esque plot receptacle. (And you’ll notice in modern retellings of the Holmes stories, Watson’s become a much more active character in his own right, whose main purpose is no longer being the person who exists to ask dumb questions so the great detective can explain himself.)

Because let’s be honest, when I was a kid and playing pretend, I didn’t want to be the Doctor’s companion. I wanted to be the Doctor. That was why I loved Romana and Ace so much. And yes, you can pretend as many things as you like, but for all children are intensely imaginative, they’re also weirdly pedantic in certain ways. If you don’t ever see a girl being the Doctor, you come to feel that the Doctor is not something you’re allowed to be. Like when the young son of a friend of mine sadly informed one of his female classmates (this happened before we had Ahsoka and Rey, mind) that she couldn’t play Jedi with him and his friends, because girls aren’t Jedi – his parents corrected him on that one, but he made a perfectly logical conclusion from what he’d observed.

And even when you’re an adult and far more capable of saying “fuck your unspoken rules,” that comes coupled with the ability to better read those subtextual signposts about what stories you’re allowed to be the protagonist for. A better ability to fight to get out of that box also means you know how goddamn high the walls are.

Which all comes down to why I’m tearing up over the casting of Jodie Whittaker, and I wish I could tell this one to kid me. Look, one of your heroes you want to be isn’t just a (cis) man. The Doctor really can be any gender the Doctor pleases. Look, you can have adventures in time and space and be the person with the sonic screwdriver and the blue Police Box, and not just the person there to be less clever than him. And I honestly never thought this would happen, after seeing the ever-escalating manbaby shit storm each time a new Doctor was cast and someone said hey, wouldn’t it be great if the Doctor wasn’t white, or wasn’t a man, or (gasp) both? (Still waiting on the first/third of those items, and that should not be forgotten.)

Maybe I’m more surprised than I should be because I haven’t watched the last several seasons of Doctor Who after being so solidly lost by the Matt Smith episodes. I’m definitely going to go back and try the most recent season, now. I want to see the set up. I’m on board for this. I keep trying to come back to Doctor Who (have not been able to care about the show since about a year after Moffat took over) because it was a staple of my childhood, and maybe this time I’ll stick.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

It’s been two days, and I’m still furious at Into the Badlands. As usual when I’m writing about this show, there’s going to be a ton of spoilers.

The last two episodes have kind of run together in my head, I think because in all honesty, not that much happened in the final episode. A lot of fighting, which kind of makes sense because it was the battle everything else in the season set up. Over the course of these two episodes, the Widow basically loses all of her allies and Sunny has it out with Quinn. That’s the nice recap.

Before I really work myself up into a howling rage, there were some things I liked. After Tilda and Odessa started their relationship, I was incredibly worried the whole time that either one of them would end up dead, Odessa would end up betraying Tilda, or Tilda would throw off Odessa for fucking MK and his inexplicable protagonist aura. All of those would be really typical ways for the show to fuck up a queer relationship. Instead, after Tilda picks her fight with the Widow and gets put in a cell, Odessa rescues her and they basically ride off into the sunset together. THANK FUCK. I have even more affection for Odessa, by the way, since apparently she saw MK go evil and kill a bunch of cogs in the shipment they were both a part of, and she stuck to her guns about Tilda needing to get the fuck away from him instead of getting hypnotized by his I’m The Writer’s Favorite Character aura. DOUBLE THANK FUCK.

 

The Widow

I’ve got some real mixed feelings about the Widow, at this point. She’s still hanging in there as the most complex of the characters, and I still want to be on her team. But I also think she really earned what happened to her, in the sense of every one of her allies telling her to fuck off. Her decision to give Veil back to Quinn episodes ago bit her big time, and she deserved it. It caused Sunny to turn on her, and Tilda to turn on her, and Waldo as well.

Because this is the thing about the Widow. (And it’s a discussion I had with my housemate, who is more strongly on Team Widow than me after all this.) What’s getting her in trouble is that she’s made such a big deal out of how different from the other barons she is—she’s still ruthless, but she talked a really big game about how she wants to destroy the sick system around her, and bring about equality for people, and protect women. I’m not saying her decision to screw over Veil doesn’t make sense—it does, on an emotional level, because it was an act of pure revenge on her for Veil trying to drive a wedge between Tilda and the Widow—but it was a major crack of hypocrisy in her apparent convictions. And that was going to bite her when people found out.

Where I’ve got really mixed feelings here is wondering where the Widow is going to go from here. Will she course correct and realize she fucked up and recommit? Or is she going to show that she really is a giant hypocrite and it was all a ploy to get power, a different tack in a ruthless system? To be honest, if we get to season three and the Widow is the new villain who is just as bad as Quinn, I’m probably just going to give up on the show. She won’t be interesting any more, at least not to me.

Her final conversation with Waldo is what’s making me think we’re headed that way, though. Suddenly it’s not about knocking down the system any more. Because “these people don’t know how to be free.” Are you even fucking serious, Minerva. (Maybe you could call it a meta-critique of “white feminism” but after the way the season ended, I am giving no benefit of the doubt for this show.) And to me, it didn’t play like someone talking themselves into going over to the dark side, it read like someone finally showing their true colors now that they had their prize at hand.

I’m not expecting the Widow to be some kind of lawful good paladin, here. But I think it would be a lot more interesting watching her try to navigate a compromise between her obvious love for power and sincerely held principles, as opposed to them being faux-principles being something she discards offhand now that she has what she always wanted all along.

Because this is the thing. I never would have been on #TeamWidow if I’d thought she was just Quinn in prettier clothes who we blessedly don’t have to watch eat all the time. I wanted her to succeed because I bought in (got suckered?) to her vision of what she wanted to do and liked the push-pull of watching someone ruthless and pragmatic making terrible bargains with her eyes on that prize. But if it turned out to be bullshit all along? I guess bravo on the Widow for skunking me too, but I sure as hell won’t be cheering for her any more than I’m cheering for Baron Chau.

And at this point, I’m not really willing to trust the writers anymore, because…

 

Veil

After a protracted fight between Sunny and Quinn, during which time Sunny lands several good blows, Quinn seems to die. Sunny inexplicably doesn’t CUT OFF HIS GODDAMN HEAD, so that minutes later he can spring up and grab Veil. Who then stabs herself through the chest so she can stab the man behind her in the heart. And they both die.

No, really, fuck the writers. This was the most lazy, cheap, manipulative way they could have gone. Here, let’s go over a few highlights of how this was shitty, shitty writing.

  • Way to kill off the black love interest. A+ racist trope.
  • Veil was basically the token non-fighter character. Hell, even Lydia gets to put a shovel through a guy’s head. Veil has survived entirely on her wits and her determination because she isn’t a fighter. And they chose to kill her off. I guess if the message was that no one who can’t punch should survive, well done. Slow clap.
  • The clumsy, continuous build up of people questioning if Sunny could actually kill Quinn, since Quinn raised him obviously was leading to this fight. And effectively, because of this build up we get the conclusion that Sunny’s relationship to Veil and his child, whom he is specifically trying to protect, is less important than whatever connection he subconsciously still has with Quinn. This takes two seasons of Sunny’s development as someone who is struggling to escape Quinn’s shadow and shits all over it with a cherry on top.
    • Consider the difference if, say, Sunny hadn’t been able to kill Quinn, and Veil had still killed him, but without killing herself in the process. What does that say about their relationship versus Sunny standing there and watching her off herself because of something he couldn’t manage to do?
  • After you fucking FORCE MARRIED VEIL TO QUINN, this is the payoff? All of her struggle, her survival, her determination, and she literally never gets to escape Quinn because she dies with him. She kills herself with his arms around her. She dies with their blood mingling again, this time through her own action. Just fuck you.
  • Apparently his lover and child are not enough motivation for Sunny going forward. Instead, he needed a good ol’ injection of angsty manpain, because that’s the only interesting way a man can experience emotions? Fuck off.

And do not even come at me with something-something gritty realism. This is a show where the world-building is already paper thin and runs on an engine of fridge logic.

Killing Veil off destroyed a lot of avenues for interesting character development for both Veil and Sunny by cutting them off cold. It showed utter laziness because it plays into the idea that people trying to be in relationships and being prevented from being together is more interesting than people actually being in relationships and figuring them out—and this is the Badlands. It’s not like Veil and Sunny getting out of Quinn’s base together would mean they no longer have anything to do but fence repair and PTA meetings at Henry’s school. This could have been some good, crunchy, interesting character stuff in all directions.

It also basically shit on all the promise of emotional payoff that gets built into horrible situations for characters. I gritted my teeth and kept watching through all the horrific, rapey, awful shit she had to deal with regarding Quinn because I wrongly trusted the writers to give it some kind of decent resolution.

Sometimes it’s good to challenge the audience expectation if you can do something creative and even better with it. If you can take it somewhere new. If you can show there’s a reason for it, a promise that this is going to lead us on an even more wild ride. But the reason audience expectation is a thing is your audience is trusting you to tell them a good story. The way you structure a story is creates those expectations, and you better have a damn good reason if you’re going to whip around and shit all over them.

The entire fucking second season for Sunny and Veil was about a build up to their reunion—Veil surviving, escaping and failing, doing everything she could to just keep herself and Henry alive, while all the time Sunny tried to make it back to her. Their romance is one of the major emotional engines of the show—seeing if love can survive in dire circumstances, if people can keep their families together as the world falls apart around them.

Apparently the answer is no.

Killing off a woman while a man watches in horror is not new. A woman sacrificing herself while her man watches helplessly is not new. These are old, overdone, lazy tropes that reduce female characters to sacred items the men can get upset about is not new, or interesting, or a novel direction. Veil, who had her own internal life and was amazing, deserves better than to be stuffed in the refrigerator with so many other women.

Her death was a lazy betrayal, a failure of creativity, and no good narrative reason was offered. It feels like someone trying to be edgy by playing a nasty trick on an unsuspecting victim.

Sorry, it doesn’t make you edgy. It just makes you an asshole.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

I meant to write about episodes 1-3 a couple weeks ago when I actually watched them, but then I got sidetracked with some editing. So we’re just going to talk about the first six episodes in one big wad.

Spoilers included. So many spoilers. Like sprinkles on your donut.

Season 2 starts with a time skip. Sunny has been sold down the river into slavery, basically, and he’s out of the Badlands. MK is in some kind of monastery that has a super picturesque waterfall. Ryder’s a baron and Jade’s got Lydia’s old job. Lydia’s living a peaceful life in her dad’s cult. And Veil… well, she’s had her and Sunny’s baby (Henry) and is trapped in an underground lair belonging to Quinn.

 

Yeah, Quinn’s still alive

Initially, I was super pissed about this. Sunny killing Quinn at the end of season 1 was like the big payoff. Where even though he failed at almost everything else he was trying to do, he managed that. So it felt like a cheat for him to miraculously have survived getting stabbed through the chest by The Best Clipper Ever™ just to continue slowly dying of brain cancer.

After six episodes, I’m less angry about Quinn still being alive. Mostly because I can see why he makes for such a good villain for story purposes. He’s utterly unhinged, he seems to be descending into more overt forms of insanity (probably thanks to the brain tumor) and he makes a good outside force that’s utterly unpredictable. He’s the nemesis for the Widow and her foil, which is not a role anyone else could have really filled, I think. Ryder didn’t have the chops as a character, and Baron Chau got introduced fairly late. (And it would have been another sort of story problem to kill off the Widow’s old nemesis and promptly introduce a new one.)

But man, Quinn is awful. He’s a very chewy villain, in the sense that he’s the one guy you can root for to get killed off one hundred percent and have no doubts. There’s also that sort of badguy suck field around him, where he tries to twist everyone else into being what he is, which is fascinating and horrible. He tries it on Ryder and it doesn’t work, which is why Ryder dies (can’t say I’m sorry), and then Lydia, and… ew. That’s a slow motion collision of two garbage trucks that are on fire right there.

 

But Lydia

I’m kind of waiting to see where she’s going, because so far it hasn’t been what I expected. She’s got that classic sort of “can’t escape the old life” story, where she seems to be finding peace in her dad’s cult, and then reacts violently to defend them from bandits and gets kicked out in thanks. But after that, what is she up to? She seemed so eager to kill Quinn, and now… yuck. I don’t know. I’m hoping she’s got something more in store than just endlessly repeating bad old habits.

 

But the women in general

Into the Badlands keeps really being about the female characters, I think, with Sunny and his buddy adventure with Bajie the notable exception. Jade’s now a baron thanks to Quinn whacking Ryder, and I don’t think she’s going to have a merciful bone in her body about it. I’m still on Team Widow forever, and it’s interesting to watch the push and pull between Tilda and Waldo on that front, with Tilda pushing the Widow to be more ideologically pure and fanatical, and Waldo trying to coach her on how the game is played—when the Widow at least keeps insisting that her end goal is destroying the game entirely.

I was honestly surprised to see Baron Chau, since I hadn’t gotten the impression there were other female barons, the way everyone had been treating the Widow. But then we get the perspective on why everyone’s challenging her legitimacy, which is still… not making sense? Baron Chau draws the line between herself and the Widow, because Chau “did it properly.” She worked her way up through the ranks, becoming a clipper before she took power from her father “the right way.” (Was this killing him? Did that get explicitly stated?) And somehow that means the Widow isn’t good enough, because she just married a baron, and then murdered him and took power.

Considering the whole thing for this society seems to be “might makes right,” I’m really not buying this distinction. And I’m also wondering about Jade taking her oath as baron, since Quinn was the one who killed Ryder. Are the other barons going to be challenging her legitimacy as well? Or are they just after the Widow, because she represents someone who is supposed to be powerless besting them at their own game and that really upsets them? If this really is about them trying to delegitimize someone who is challenging their power (which as we know is something those in power love to do in the real world), their incoherent attacks on her make sense, and the thin “just-so” stories they’re telling themselves as to why they deserve power and she doesn’t also make sense.

So I do hope that’s what’s going on. It’s sure an effect that should be examined.

The series is building into more rationalizations that people make as well, with the Widow coming up with a super shitty one to rationalize why she’d give another woman (Veil) back to the very thing the Widow professes to hate (Quinn). The Widow needs the alliance with Quinn for her strategy to have a chance, so she grasps at the only straw she has to tell herself it’s okay to treat Veil like she claims no one should be treated.

I just really fucking hope someone calls her on it.

And my god, Veil continues to be my everything. She is unstoppable, even when she’s terrified. And she is living by her wits, which is extra nice to see in a show where martial arts run the world.

 

My Queer Ship

So basically from the second time Tilda and Odessa were on screen together, I was like yes please, give me this. I was not expecting the writers to have somehow read my mind and given me Odessa and Tilda kissing. I made noises that could probably only be heard by dogs.

Please do not fuck this up, Into the Badlands. I know terrible things happen to everyone in this story, but let Odessa and Tilda have a decent moment. Do not give us yet more tragic dead queers. Do not make it all about evil manipulative bisexuals. And let this be the way for Tilda to escape the MK suck field, because she deserves better than that utter nonsense.

 

Because fuck MK

I found MK incredibly annoying in season 1. The greatest benefit of season 2 is that there has been less of him. Unfortunately, he continues to have Chosen One-itis in the worst possible way. I don’t care about his tragic past or his angst, but whatever.

I didn’t actually get angry about it until Ava died for him, though. Oh look, MK’s first on-screen fridged girl, not to be confused with his mom. I’m so fucking done with it. So many characters seem to be caught in this vortex around MK where they want to take care of him, and there is literally no reason for it. Why did Sunny suddenly decide that he couldn’t possibly go back to the Badlands without MK? How did he even know MK was around? There’s no sense to it.

I remember back when I first got into anime and watched Fushigi Yuugi. I was constantly annoyed and frustrated by Miaka, who had this entire harem of hot, powerful dudes who just wanted to protect her. But looking back on it, I can at least understand what redeeming qualities Miaka had as a character. She was cheerful, she always tried to make everyone feel better, she tried to think about others before herself even if she was a total failboat at it, and she genuinely cared about other people. So yeah, I still don’t want to listen to her endlessly screaming Tamahome’s name, but I now get the justification for why the other characters actually gave a shit.

MK doesn’t have any of that. He’s intensely selfish, he’s petulant, he’s got a shit attitude, he’s constantly getting himself into trouble, and others into trouble, and he never fucking apologizes for it. He’s the confidence of a mediocre white dude writ large, where he never has to say sorry for anything because he’s not the one who’s wrong, it’s the world that’s wrong and should change. (Yes, the system around Sunny was wrong and sick and he needed to get out of it—and he already knew this without MK making his life a thousand times more difficult.)

Where this comes out most is with Ava, who was doing just fine in the monastery, and then MK shows up, decides he hates everything about it, and somehow (for no reason I can define) causes Ava to follow him—and not just because she’s going to bash him over the head and drag him back to the waterfall before anyone notices. So of course Ava dies for him.

Fuck MK.

 

And yay for Bajie

I’m basically legally required to like Bajie because of Nick Frost, come on. But he is an utterly delightful foil for Sunny, and he’s a great comic relief character that’s got his own complex and interesting skill set. Can’t we just keep him as the sidekick and get rid of MK permanently?

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Okay, first off, WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THAT THE FIRST SEASON IS ONLY SIX EPISODES.I would have, I don’t know, slowed my binge down slightly. Just watched two episodes a night instead of three. BUT FINE. At least it looks like I’ll be able to catch up into season 2 with the AMC Xbox app.

Battle of the Sexes

What I was seeing in the first three episodes with the misogyny of Quinn’s barony and the Widow’s pushback has left subtext and gone straight into text. At least according to the Widow, who tells Tilda that they’re in this to create a world where men can’t hurt little girls (like the Widow’s former husband hurt young Tilda) any more. And there’s even more of a battle of the sexes setup as we find out Zypher has teamed up with the Widow and plans to off her master Baron Jacobee and take his barony for himself.

Though there is of course the hefty implication that putting the Widow and Zephy in power isn’t going to herald some golden age of matriarchal Utopia. If nothing else, they’re fighting to be top dogs in a sick system that just propagates abuse of power, rather than trying to overthrow the system itself. They promise things will change once they’re in charge, and I’m sure there would be some changes, but that still makes for a bad society.

Take the Widow stealing all of Quinn’s cogs. While she’s obviously got a plan to treat them better than he did—it would be hard to treat them worse—they’re still basically enslaved people. And then we find out that along with striking a blow against Quinn’s ability to run his barony, she took all the cogs so she could see if any of them was the special boy she’s been hunting for?

Yeah, new boss, same as the old boss. Though I’d still much rather be on Team Widow than Team Quinn.

I do think what saves this from being a straight on battle of the sexes thing (which I would be less on board with, to be honest) is that we get the hint that it’s not just women planning the coup—Waldo is the inside man in Quinn’s territory, even though we were initially faked into believing it was Ryder being used as a tool. And Waldo’s very clear that he’s looking to see the system itself get taken down and changed, which makes me wonder if he’s got plans of his own that the Widow and Zypher don’t know about.

Looking forward to seeing more of Waldo, that’s all I can say. That old guy gets cooler every time I see him.

Of Monks and MK

MK is still my least favorite character of the series, followed by Ryder. Because frankly, one of the major whirring engines of the plot is male entitlement, personified by both of these whiney little jerks. I’m just hoping they eventually get what’s coming to them.

But anyway, the major highlight of this second set of three episodes for me (other than the Widow dual wielding morning stars HELLO) was the monks. Mysterious badass brothers (one of whom sure doesn’t look like a brother, btw) showing up to collect MK and stick him in another chest just like the one he popped out of in the first episode. That was one hell of a fight scene, with some massive implications that MK getting carried away might actually be the best thing for all involved.

Of course, the mystery has also widened out about where the fuck MK came from, because it’s apparently the same place Sunny came from? Only Sunny doesn’t go all evil when someone cuts him, and there’s no sign that he had that problem in his childhood and outgrew it. And apparently the Widow is also from that special place, if you can believe a word she says? That also implies that there’s more than one kind of special kid that comes out of that city, but why? How are they special in their different ways? Argh!

Stop Asking Sunny Questions He Can’t Answer

I feel like the poor guy ends half his scenes facing an unanswerable question and looking really upset about it. No wait, don’t stop doing that to him, it’s making for some pretty good character development on his part. Sunny keeps getting more complex as a character, because there’s always the question of how much he’s doing out of trained habit, residual loyalty, or an attempt to maintain the appearance of residual loyalty because he knows damn well that he and Veil are still entirely in Quinn’s power. Like when he’s going to do as ordered and torture Tilda—he’s not going to somehow become sympathetic to the Widow’s side just because Quinn’s a dick and Sunny’s done with everything. Sunny’s on Team Sunny and Veil, and he’s of the opinion that maintaining the status quo gives the two of them (and MK) their best chance at getting out alive.

I think there might have still been a little of his duty to Quinn left in him until the end, when Quinn put a stake through its heart with his own two hands. At which point everything was ruined anyway, so I was beyond glad that Sunny got to kill Quinn himself. It was a satisfying moment that needed to happen, but of course plays into Quinn’s taunt that Sunny will always be a killer—but it’s not like Sunny could have just walked away at that point.

Poor Sunny. Next season looks like it’s going to be even tougher on him.

Lydia and Jade

Honestly, I felt like who really shone in these last few episodes were Lydia and Jade, because they finally got the room to really lay out their quiet but deadly internal political struggle. Both of them always trying to pretend that this time, they’d be the peacemaker, and they really do have to face this situation with Quinn together, while hating each other’s guts in a visceral way that not even Sunny matched when he ran Quinn through.

Honestly, I was surprised when Jade made the move, and I found that gratifying. Jade’s struck me the whole time as being kind of drunk on her power, maybe riding the ragged edge of disaster by playing father and son (and then wife/mother) all against each other. Especially when Quinn seemed to know very well what was going on. But she got her shit together enough to figure out how to out-game Lydia, and it was devastating.

We ended the season seeing Lydia reborn, in her own way, driven back to the religious cult that birthed her after taking no end of insult from her own son about it. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Lydia, and I can’t help thinking—Dad made her promise to renounce her physical possessions, sure. But nowhere did he make her promise to renounce vengeance, and vengeance ain’t a physical possession. We haven’t seen the last of Lydia, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Collision Course

Honestly, at this point I feel like Into the Badlands has set a bunch of extremely powerful women on a collision course, and I couldn’t be more excited. For all that Sunny is definitely the viewpoint character of the show and we’re getting his emotional and moral journey, all of the most truly dangerous, strongest people are turning out to be the women: the Widow, Zypher, Lydia, Jade, and even Veil. Because did we see Veil’s maneuvering that got her out of the clutches of both Quinn and the Widow? That woman is a mountain that will not be worn down. She’ll outlast you all.

I hope the series lives up to this promise. Let’s go, season tw

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

In the massive backlash about the unnecessary whiteness of Netflix’s Iron Fist and then the reviews coming in to highlight that it’s apparently boring as shit and is full of lazy martial arts suck, I’ve been hearing a lot about Into the Badlands. The first season was available on Netflix, so I decided what the hell, let’s give it a whirl. I sat down to watch the first episode with my housemates, which became the first three episodes, which would have become the first four if we all hadn’t really needed to go to bed for work at that point.

Now I know I’m in trouble, because I don’t have cable and can’t subscribe to AMC the way I have to HBO. But that won’t hurt me until I’ve run out of episodes. Um.

Anyway, I’m going to blog as I go. Spoilers shall abound, obviously, because I’m going to just react to what I’ve watched.

Goddamn It’s Pretty

The first three episodes are fucking gorgeous. It’s got a saturated color pallet that shifts depending on the scene, which is amazing for setting tone and even speaking to the characters involved. It’s so colorful! From the start, seeing Sunny’s red coat-of-total-badass-+3, I knew it was going to be something different. It’s got a hyper-real, almost video game feel at times, like you just tripped and fell into a backdrop from a jrpg or something.

And the camera work, especially in the fight scenes. My god. In the first episode, there’s a fight that takes place in the rain, in a street partially covered in water. Moments of slow motion often get overused or poorly used these days in fight scenes, but this was gorgeous in its use. Particularly the use of water reminded me of one of the most beautiful fights in Hero.

And Speaking of Fights, Holy Shit

I feel like this series is going to be governed by the laws of kung fu movies a lot—you can feel when the fights are coming, and there will always be fights. And there’s the classic, beloved, badguys-form-a-ring-around-the-good-guy thing. It’s all very conscious in its formula, and if you love kung fu movies like I do, it’s going to speak directly to you.

Beyond that, these scenes are good. The foot work is solid. There’s that quality of a well-rehearsed fight where it’s got the feeling of back and forth exchange, where the fight itself is telling a story. And stylistically, every character has their own style that suits their personality. Sunny’s first fight is utterly, almost comically brutal in how he deals with the bandits, showing how tough he is as an enforcer for Quinn. But in his later fights, there’s style in there that feels much more like classic wuxia to me, hinting that he really is a hero and good beneath it all.

And the Widow. My god, the Widow. I love that here’s actually a point to her high heels. And the first time we see her fight, it’s all in close and hidden daggers and her sprouting weapons you never would have guessed she had. And that’s her down to the core, someone to never be underestimated. When she fights Quinn, they’re diametrically opposed, where he’s brutal and straight in and ultimately wins by overpowering people, whereas she comes at everything from an angle and never holds still.

In the first three episodes, they did something different with every fight, told a different story. I’m excited to see more. In a TV series it’s got to be harder to keep up interest and keep finding innovative ways for people to punch and stab each other, but the first three episodes have given me a lot of faith.

Misogyny

Well, I mean, when we see Quinn’s Barony, it’s basically a Handmaid’s Tale kind of wet dream. We see no female Clippers. All of the Clippers-in-training are called Colts, which really just highlights that it’s all boys, full stop. Quinn apparently gets to have multiple wives. While I was enjoying the setting already, that made me kind of leery because I didn’t really want to watch a show where it’s basically female oppression free-for-all with pretty punching.

Enter the Widow. I thought all right, this might be getting interesting since it’s obviously a set conflict between her—whom Quinn constantly tries to discredit as a Baron in her own right, subtext being because she’s female—and the super misogynist Baron. Then we actually get to the Widow’s territory and see that her most elite enforcers are all female, and she seems to refer to all of them(?) as her daughters. So now it’s a conflict between a toxic patriarchy and an apparent matriarchy. (Which is much less toxic in that we do see men actually doing things in the Widow’s world.)

The Widow does have a name, by the way, but it seems she’s take on “the Widow” as almost a title of pride—like if she won’t have “Baron” out of the mouths of people, she will have something. She’s obviously not in any kind of state of true mourning. She also does the classic “use a guy’s misogynistic attitude against him” several times in her own right, or by siccing Tilda on the bandits, for example. So there is a satisfaction to seeing misogyny get weaponized against men, but… it’s also a prevalent thing in TV. Better than the alternative of just wall to wall misogyny though, I suppose.

Then in the third episode I watched, by the way, we find out that another Baron has a female Clipper as his regent. Okay, this is awesome to know. Obviously, the Barons each set the tone for their own territory, and Quinn is a special kind of turd. But now I want to know more about the world!

I mean, no matter where you are, it pretty obviously sucks to be someone who’s not a baron.

Young Men

By the way, I find both of the young male characters in the series insufferable, for different reasons. Ryder is a very classic disappointment of a son who is trying very hard to impress daddy and struggle for power in an underhanded way because he can’t come at daddy overtly. I basically want to punch him every time he’s on screen, which I suppose makes him a good villain? His face isn’t quite as punchable as Eddie Redmayne playing the rather similar in character Balem Abrasax, but my goodness.

I mean, it does make sense in a conversation with modern society that the bad guy we’re building up should be an entitled, (white) manchild. Because I’m predicting that Quinn’s days are numbered and Ryder isn’t going to have some kind of redemption arc.

And then MK. I am incredibly glad that Sunny is the main character of this series and not MK, because I’d probably nope the hell out instead of wanting to watch more. MK’s problem seems to be that he’s a teenager, and he wants what he wants now. I’m not going to say this isn’t normal for his age and situation, I just find it frustrating because he’s very one-note so far.  And I’m utterly mystified why most everyone but Waldo (and Sunny) seem to find this charming, or at least not murderously annoying. I’m guessing Sunny sees a lot of himself in MK, but goodness. And why does Tilda keep sticking her neck out for him? It’s a mystery.

I do find it hilarious that MK is basically the damsel in distress that Sunny has to keep rescuing, though.

Waldo and Veil

Waldo and Veil as characters are awesome for totally different reasons. But awesome nonetheless.

Veil is basically the strongest person in the show. She has managed to deal with Quinn on multiple occasions, even knowing that he murdered her parents with his own two hands, and hasn’t broken. She is quiet, but she is a rock.

And Waldo beat the snot out of MK while looking totally bored, and I love him. I want him to be my grandpa.

Hope I get to watch more episodes soon.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

So I finally watched episode number 5 (Blood Brothers) because I was doing a…thing…last night and missed it then. You know, Almost Human, I want to like you. But after that turd of an episode I am so close to breaking up with you it’s not even funny. I’d rather spend the time running on the elliptical.

Karl Urban plays Murdery McMurderson John Kennex the worst cop ever, with Michael Ealy as Dorian the sassy black robot who is 1000% done with Kennex’s shit. This sounds like an excellent setup, really, except for the part where every episode reminds us that these cops are apparently going to SAVE US ALL from this terrifying future where everyone wears blue. No other colors JUST BLUE. THERE WILL BE ONLY BLUE.

Considering the rate at which Kennex casually kills people (and robots) without consequence, I don’t want him to be in charge of saving anyone. Look, I don’t have a problem with cops being the hero of a show. I’m a faithful devotee of several incarnations of Law & Order, after all. But you notice what happens in Law & Order when one of the cops shoots someone? SOMETHING HAPPENS. IT’S A BIG DEAL. 

I am trying so very hard to suspend my disbelief because Karl Urban. And Michael Ealy. And Dorian makes everything worth it. But then this episode. This. Fucking. Episode. Thoughts as they occurred to me during this episode:

  • Of course there is a joke about the black guy having an enormous wang. Admittedly, the whole scene is amusing and Dorian puts the burn on John as fabulously as always, but REALLY? REALLY?
  • “On good days I’m a petite psychic.” HAHAHA because yes it’s totally funny to make women joke about their size! (Also, you DO realize that petite means short,right?) And just the entire psychic thing to begin with his megabarf through and through. YOU HAVE FUCKING ROBOTS IN THE FUTURE WHY ARE WE PLAYING WITH PSYCHIC BULLSHIT.
  • Seriously did the creepy serial killer just insult Captain Maldonado’s LOOKS? And she just kind of took it? “You’re a son of a bitch” is the best she could do? For fuck’s flying sake. I AM SO DONE WITH THIS EPISODE.
  • Oh, glad to know the only reason the police are going to rescue Valerie is because she is important to Kennex and not because, I don’t know, she’s a fucking police officer.
  • So then at the end, Moldanado gets her own back from the serial killer and walks away with her chin held high, and that’s kind of awesome… and then we FUCK IT ALL AWAY with the guy telling her she’s pretty BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

I feel like those pretty much sum up everything that has bugged the shit out of me about this show since the get-go, but I was giving it a chance and enjoying the sass. I was already kind of done in the sexbot episode where 99% of the sexbots were women. (Yes, there were some male sexbots kind of around, which I did appreciate, for the three seconds they were on screen.) And now in this one, the two female cops finally get to do things, and basically…are entirely ineffectual. Moldanado gets schooled by the evil serial killer because she isn’t pretty or something. Valerie is out of the station just long enough to end up as the damsel in distress, and it’s made clear that the only reason she’s important is because Kennex has a thing about her! She’s important to him! Glad we got that covered.

COME ON. Seriously, it’s like the women in this show could be replaced with post-it notes that have smiley faces drawn on them. (Or frowny faces for when someone tells them they aren’t pretty and no one wants them.) And maybe I wouldn’t be so critical except you know what comes on right after this show? Sleepy Hollow. Which gave us Abbie Mills, Jenny Mills’s right eyebrow, and Jenny Mills’s left eyebrow. AND DO I EVEN HAVE TO MENTION TROLLANDO JONES

I want to love you, Almost Human. But you are making it so very, very hard.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

So, I’m not sure how I feel about this episode, to be honest.

First all, of course, all the yay for the snark. And Melinda-senpai. And Coulson is always wandering around in unlikely spaces with his suit. And to be honest, I rather like the cheesiness of the gravity effects.

But… hmph. (Summary, spoilers of course)

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

This has been fun so far, so I’m doing it again!

Later: Hrmph. This episode was really not as much fun as the first two. But I guess they can’t all be winners.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)


 

DARK ENERGY, PEOPLE.

However, I elect someone who isn’t me to liveblog it. Someone who has cable. Someone who is a physicist.

Because it’s funny when physicists cry.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

All right, I’m coming back for more. Same rules as usual, I’ll be updating the liveblog every five minutes or so. Unfortunately if you want to play at home, I can’t help you at the moment. I’m watching part two on the DVR.

I know you’re terribly sad to be missing this.

WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR INTREPID ACTORS, a volcano had just erupted because compressed magma (argh what even) and oil look EXACTLY THE SAME to their bullshit made-up technology. And now the entire world might explode because as we know, all volcanoes are actually connected, which is why every time a volcano erupts, every other one in the world does as well. (Wait, that’s not how it works?)

Oh, and the Yellowstone caldera is apparently now part of the Ring of Fire, which is news to everyone except for Dr. Cooper, the hot geologist with an aneurysm that is bad enough to be a dramatic plot device but apparently not bad enough to warrant emergency surgery.

Liveblog commencing in 10… 9… 8….

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

All right, I’m going to do it. Apparently it’s THE COUNTDOWN TO MELTDOWN. Or something.

Same rules as usual – I will update the liveblog every five minutes or so. If you’re reading this on LJ or Dreamwidth you’ll need to come to the blog at katsudon.net to see the updates most likely, though I think edits are now supposed to push through so we’ll see.

If you’d like to play at home, this likely stinker of a miniseries is on Reelz. Yes, with a Z.

Liveblog commencing in 10… 9… 8…

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

I mean. Look at it. Just look at it.

Gratuitous Mt. St. Helens reference? Check.

Ridiculous implication that somehow all volcanoes are connected and therefore THEY WILL ALL BLOW UP AT ONCE EHRMERGAHD? Check.

Gratuitous Yellowstone reference sure to guarantee a fresh crop of concerned people who will ask me when Yellowstone is going to blow up and kill us all? Check (Answer, by the way: “Soon” in geology speak. Which means chances are we’ll probably have killed our own species off before Yellowstone gets around to erupting.)

But best of all – THE ERUPTION OF A BRAZILLION VOLCANOES BLAMED ON OIL WELLS? CHECK BABY. CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Just. Wow.

Bonus for what appears to be a bomb being dropped into a magma chamber. Because everyone knows that the way you keep a composite volcano from exploding is… uh… blowing it up first.

Because science.

Well, there’s my incentive to buckle down and get lots of work done in the morning. Part 1 of this hot (har har) mess is repeating at 4 pm my time tomorrow, followed by part 2. I don’t know if I have the strength.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Because Downton Abbey sucker punched me right in the heart, I decided a serial killer soap opera chaser was an awesome idea.

So Kevin Bacon is a drunken maverick and some shit with his sister and he sort of but not really bonds with Mike the adorably scruffy FBI kid but… I actually don’t even care that much. Aside from a flashback that involves adorably drunken Kevin Bacon, the FBI people have lost my interest entirely, and I’m really just watching them for the big reveal that everyone but Kevin Bacon was a secret serial killer all along or some shit like that.

This show is truly a soap opera, and the serial killer threesome of Jacob, Paul, and Emma are where it’s at. As disturbing as it is to admit that.

“You kill Megan and I’ll make pancakes.” And this is why I find them compelling in a way that creeps me out if I think about it too much. They’re so disturbingly… domestic. And familial. And they have so much more in the way of interpersonal dynamics than Kevin Bacon being drunk and grumpy and tragic and refusing to actually have meaningful interactions with anyone he hasn’t slept with.

With our serial killer trio the huge revelation for this episode is – gasp! – Jacob’s never really killed anyone! (Paul ratted him out; I’m guessing Jacob must have confessed to him during a drunken (no homo!) makeout session.) The shock with which this is greeted by Emma is adorable, like someone being told their lover is somehow actually still a virgin. But he seemed so normal! Later we get a flashback of the story he made up about killing someone, like he was just trying to impress his frat brothers.

The poor woman Megan goes from being Paul’s problem to Jacob’s, as Emma and Paul decide this is the perfect time for Jacob to bust his serial killer cherry. And instead, Jacob ends up letting her go, which really does lend credence to Emma’s earlier question of what in god’s name he’s doing with this crew of nuts. Paul and Emma chase the girl down, roll around in the mud a lot, then go take a shower together.

And this is the bit that made the episode for me, if made is really the word I want. Jacob discovers Megan, muddy and tied up in the basement. Then goes to find Paul and Emma in the shower. They both look at him, tell him we aren’t going to give up on you and then, I shit you not, there is a group hug. Can someone please explain to me how the hell three supposed psychopaths have become the most human characters in the series?

I am now officially incapable of watching this show un-ironically. Well, I think I lost that ability somewhere during the second episode, but I’m admitting it now. Emma/Jacob/Paul has become my OT3 and I’m not sure if I can even live with myself any more.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

There is something intensely awkward about, “previously on The Following…”  Maybe they should rethink that one.

So this week another little serial killer got his murder on, going after people for revenge because they made Professor Poe-Obsessed Serial Killer’s life rough. It made revenge seem very shallow and petty which, to be fair, it mostly is. Only the whole revenge aim lacked the motivating rage that makes the story of vengeance at all interesting, and so pretty much just turned into, Gosh if I kill enough people maybe daddy will love me best. The twist at the end might have been more surprising if there hadn’t been a “oh and this person is a serial killer too!” twist at the end of every episode thus far. I’m waiting for Kevin Bacon’s mom to call him up and tell him, “Honey, I just ate a sorority girl’s face.”

Anyway, is it bad that serial killer chick Emma is getting to be my favorite character in the series? I’m highly amused by the way she apparently approaches serial killing as art – “We’re supposed to find out own voice.” Murder, now a thousand times more pretentious. I’m also thinking that by now, everyone around her should know not to even look at her funny when she has a knife. She gets slashy.

Well, and in every sense of the word. In one of the more meaningful flashbacks (and there were a lot of flashbacks, many of which really didn’t seem to have much of a point) we see Emma cheering her two fellow serial killers to kiss because they have to pretend to be a gay couple. It gave me flashbacks to my first Yaoi Con. I mean, for the trying to get boys to kiss. Not the murder.

Other than Emma being disturbingly likable for a sociopathic mom-stabbing killer, the episode was basically a study in Kevin Bacon’s stubble, which sort of ranged anywhere from manly and rugged to Wall Street trader after a three day bender, and seemed to shift between these states at near randomness. Maybe the man just needs a new razor.  There’s a lot of slightly open-mouthed, dark-eyed and moody staring, accompanied by the aforementioned stubble. And another agent calls him “vodka breath” which was kind of the high point of the episode for me.

To be honest, I’m not sure why I keep watching this show. But I will be back next week for your regular Kevin Bacon stubble report.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Kevin Bacon was still quite Kevin Bacon in this second episode, though he was also around a lot less, thus lowering the KBQ (Kevin Bacon Quotient) to dangerous levels.

Honestly, the best part the entire episode was when someone in a hilariously awful Edgar Allan Poe mask attacks Kevin Bacon in a creepy serial killer house (you can tell it’s a serial killer house because there’s writing all over the walls) and it was just sort of laughable and pathetic instead of worrying.

Yeah, like this but less festive.

Yeah, like this but less festive.

There was relatively little murder of pretty blonde girls this time around (just a bit at the beginning that I barely noticed) and then most of it was flashbacks of Kevin Bacon hooking up with the master serial killer’s wife, or two of the main bad guys hooking up over a romantic dinner where the lady serial killer knifes her mom in the back with great precision, having had her haircut criticized one too many times.

The most forehead-slapping bit was when Kevin Bacon and the utterly worthless police crew walked through the serial killer house and paid careful attention to all the quotable Edgar Allan Poe scrawled on the walls.  Apparently our serial killer mastermind in prison has made a religion or something out of Poe because: ”…there’s a pathology to our modern internet-bred minds. It creates a vacancy in our humanity…”

All I can think of is… oh if only the antisocial sector on the internet was actually as literate as this show makes it out to be. Then: and really, we’re going to go with the “internet makes us disconnected and therefore sociopaths” thesis here? Do the writers not read anything but the frothiest of subreddits?

Kids these days, with their internets and serial killings and so forth.

The second most forehead-slapping bit was when they realized (gasp) the main serial killer wants to kill his former wife Claire! So instead of, I don’t know, getting her out of the fucking house in light of the fact that in last week’s episode someone got snatched directly from her own home and horribly killed, they just left her there so daddy’s special little serial killer could take a shot at her and gosh, you almost ended up feeling bad for him.

You’re losing me, The Following, for anything but comedy value. All you’ve got is Kevin Bacon. He’d better keep on Kevin Baconning his tush off or I’m going to give up entirely and watch Law & Order reruns on Netflix because they’re measurably less silly.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

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