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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 1: Moffat's Five Archetypes.

Steven Moffat Hates Women
Part 1: Moffat's Five Archetypes.

It's really no secret at this point that Steven Moffat, favourite showrunner of the BBC and head writer for both Doctor Who and Sherlock, has some women problems. A lot of women problems. Too many women problems, and nobody has been more committed to the task of documenting those problems than Moffat himself, who has gone on record to say that female fans of Sherlock all just want to be the one to melt that glacier  and that women are needy and out there hunting for husbands.

By now it's been the subject of a lot of discussion, especially in how it's presented in Sherlock and Doctor Who, but it's worth really trying to get at the nitty gritty of Moffat's issues, and also look at Chalk, and arguably his first major success, Coupling.

For those not familiar with these three shows: Chalk was a semi-autobiographical (and the words 'semi-autobiographical' in connection to Moffat should fill anyone with fear) sitcom set at the school, like a cut-price Teachers (which was never exactly brilliant), while Coupling was basically just friends as interpreted through Moffatian film-making, being a sitcom about three men and three women living a city life. It even basically has the same characters.

We'll get into some more detailed stuff in later parts, but for this first part, let's break down the five archetypes that all women in Moffat's works fit into. If you've seen that 'mother, virgin, slut, bitch' gifset floating around the internet, it's a lot like that, except all of them are the latter two.

The Susan.

So named for Susan in Coupling, the Susan is Moffat's baseline idea of what women are like -- or what they should be like, at least. The Susan is every beleaguered sitcom wife rolled into one: Neat, organised, sensible, and also deeply passive-aggressive and a nag.

This last is key, because it's often the only trace of personality this archetype has: They nag, and they're needy, and they turn men into "politically correct weasels," (Moffat's words, not mine) through a combination of fear and rewards.

Bear in mind, this archetype falls somewhere in between what Moffat thinks is standard and what he thinks is ideal. In the worlds that Moffat creates, it is a horrifying inevitability that all men will become trapped in relationships with passive-aggressive, angry women who destroy the core of their characters.

Now remember that Moffat based Susan on his girlfriend at the time. They're not together anymore. Who can say why.

The Irene.

So named for Irene Adler in Sherlock, the Irene is the opposite of the Susan, but arguably even worse as a character archetype.

Where the Susan is grounded, the Irene is adventurous, daring, maybe even a little bit crazy, and deeply sexual (and always interested in the protagonist). There is an inhuman quality to the Irenes, as they don't really have lives or stakes in the narrative or anything to them beyond being beautiful and deadly, with perfect make-up and a sexy one-liner available to hand.

The femme fatale that the Irene is modeled on is an archetype with a long and storied history in fiction, for better or worse, but the Irene takes a slightly different approach to the archetype: Irenes are motivated by love of a man, usually the main character -- quite often, they'll be motivated by that since before they appear in the story, but if they aren't, it'll be their primary motivation by the end.

Moreover, Irenes possess the seeming of agency without actually having any true agency. When the chips are down, they'll always need the male protagonist to save them, and whatever skills they have will always be second to the male protagonist's.

Irenes will often end up in relationships with the male protagonist, but they are never the same kind of relationships as Susans: Instead, each relationship will be a series of strung together rendezvous, thrilling in their senses of danger and with no strings attached, and while the Irene will always be monogamous to the male protagonist, there is the expectation that it need not work the other way around.

Irene Adler from Sherlock is obviously an example of this, but so is River Song, whose life explicitly revolves entirely around the Doctor.

The Missy.

Named after Missy from Doctor Who, although Missy is arguably not as bad an example as others in this category, if only because a lot of her character traits were also ones shared by the John Simm Master.

The Missy is the standard issue Moffat female villain. He has only one type of female villain, you see: They are always visibly unhinged, prone to jumping from one topic to another, and their motivations always boil down to 'wanting the hero to love them.' Sometimes, this love is romantic, sometimes it's familial, but it's always the same basic motivation nevertheless.

(A theme is beginning to appear.)

The Missy shares some traits with the Irene, in that they have a pronounced inhuman quality to them, but while the Irene represents something Moffat sees as fundamentally good -- a woman who exists only to provide excitement, adventure, and sexual satisfaction to the heroes with no expectations on him, who can never be his equal and doesn't want to be -- the Missy represents something Moffat sees as fundamentally evil -- a woman who presents the risk of being better than the hero at his chosen field, and who needs to be neutralised by the reveal that she only wants the hero's love.

Missy, obviously, is an example of this, as is Euros from Sherlock.

The Amanda.

Named after Amanda from Chalk, the Amanda is flighty and free-spirited, but always to the point of being completely unable to function in normal society. In Chalk, this character was a milder example -- a much more unpleasant and overwrought example is Jane, from Coupling.

Jane does things like put a sock puppet on her hand and scream at people. Jane dances between being obsessed with her ex-boyfriend (Steve, who is, you guessed it, Steven Moffat) and not caring about him at all. Jane says she's bisexual, but the show makes it clear that this is a performance for men, which is a preoccupation in Moffat's work that appears again and again.

Just like the Irene is the dangerous, no-strings-attached-but-still-devoted perfect woman, and the Susan is the standard woman who will eventually trap men within the confines of a relationship, the Amanda is 'any woman who has rejected Steven Moffat,' and also 'any woman rejected by Steven Moffat,' torn between ardent desire and cold disinterest for him, barely able to function, histrionic, manipulative, and flighty. The Amanda is a cartoon of so-called jilted ex-girlfriends, a kind of writ-large version of the 'all my ex-girlfriends were crazy' idea.

While Amanda and Jane are obviously prime examples of this, Coupling does also have Sally, who sits on the border between the Amanda and the Susan, combining the settling-down preoccupation and the histrionic and overwrought nature of the Amanda. 

The Clara.

The Clara represents Moffat's stumbling attempts to sort of do better. Maybe. A little. Honestly, that's up for debate, I'm not confident enough in that assertion to really stand by it, so do say in the comments if you disagree.

In many ways, Clara Oswald and her fellow Claras are a step forward for Moffat: She is introduced as at least having a nominal life outside of the Doctor, and she has her own agendas that sometimes clash with the Doctor's. She's intelligent but not dangerous like the Irene is, grounded in the real world but not a passive-aggressive ball-and-chain stereotype like the Susan, free-spirited but not unhinged like the Amanda.

Or she's meant to be, at least. How much Moffat succeeds is a matter of some argument.

A fun game to play when talking about Clara is to look at an episode from each chunk of four episodes or so that she's in and ask 'What is this character's motivation, and what is their role in the narrative.' In Clara's earliest episodes, her motivation is kind of a vague thing about wanting excitement -- a pretty standard issue companion motivation. 

Cut forward to the 2013 Specials, and her motivation entirely revolves around the Doctor. Cut forward to the next series, and her entire character arc is about her choosing between two men: The exciting, daredevil Doctor, and the down-to-earth but more boring Danny Pink. Jump forward yet again, and Clara now has no character except 'loves the Doctor.'

Even when Moffat is trying to write a strong female character, he always circles back to the same preoccupation: That women are satellites orbiting men.

Friday, 20 January 2017

What We're Watching 20/01/17

What We're Watching

This bit went on a short hiatus, and while it's probably not back on a weekly basis (yet), it behooves us to sit down with the new season of television and anime and take a look at a few of the things that I'll be watching for the next three months.


I got about seven minutes into the first episode before I decided this show wasn't for me.

A Japanese dub of a Chinese cartoon, Spiritpact is about -- I don't know, exorcists? Spirits? Dead people? Spirit pacts. In the first seven minutes, it manages to cycle through about three different opening cliches, and manages to completely strip itself bare of any impact through a combination of shoddy, bland animation and bad comedy.

It was just very boring, basically. Very, very boring.

A Series of Unfortunate Events.

I've only watched the first episode of this series,  but for the moment I'm -- cautiously impressed, I guess? The first episode falls into a few pitfalls associated with trying to adapt a novel too closely -- a reaction, one imagines, that is at least in part down to how poorly the feature film, which was a far less close adaptation, did -- with very often poor pacing, an over-reliance on narration, and dialogue that can feel quite unwieldy when spoken out loud.

That said, it does a pretty good job of capturing the tone of the books, and of recreating the odd, timeless setting of the series. It feels very much like the books transposed onto television, and that wins it some nostalgia points, at least.

As one might expect, Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is something of a highlight, while in the first episode at least, the three children are a little flat and dry. That's partly because of how their characters are written in the books, where they're often not very human in how they react to the world around them, but it doesn't work so well for television.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen.

I'm acutely aware that, having neither seen nor read any of this series prior to this point, I'm coming into this story part of the way through, and so should expect some adjustment time. Luckily, the writers apparently foresaw this exact situation happening, and so the first episode does take a little time to subtly introduce all of the characters.

(Well. 'Subtly.' Some of it involves shoehorned in flashbacks.)

The plotline being set up -- involving the main cast going to Kyoto to deal with someone who's stolen the eyes of a demon called the Impure King -- isn't the most original, but it has a lot of potential to spin out in interesting ways, especially when you add in the character drama of Rin's team all hating and fearing him, having all previously lost important family members to his father's blue flames.

Agents of Shield S4 (Second Half).

With its new storyline about mad scientists and Life Model Decoys in true 'invasion of the body snatchers' style ticking along, Agents of Shield is pretty much as it has always been -- an enjoyable watch, but not really anything to write home about.

It does get some points, however, for setting us up for an evil robot storyline, revealing that the evil robots are just pawns of a mad scientist, and then an episode later starting to set us up for an evil robot storyline again, since Ada is definitely going to kill Radcliffe and take his place as the main villain.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Teen Wolf S6E8: Blitzkrieg.

Teen Wolf
Series 6, Episode 8

Dear Teen Wolf cinematographers: I can't get invested in watching your show if I can't see seventy percent of what's happening. If all your scenes are so dark that basically nothing but shapes are visible, that's not atmospheric, that's just annoying. There was literally a scene in this episode where you panned up dramatically to somebody's face, but I couldn't see who they were because your shots are all so goshdarn dark. Get some lighting. Start shooting more scenes in the day. Just do something.

That aside, let's roll on with reviewing the episode. Well, what I could see of the episode, anyway, which wasn't a lot, for aforementioned darkness reasons.

In this week's episode, with most of Beacon Hills having been taken, Scott, Lydia, Malia, and Peter try to figure out a way to pass through the rift to the Wild Hunt's phantasmagoric train station. Meanwhile, Douglas, revealed to everyone as the Nazi Alpha, is on the loose with a Rider's whip, and forces Melissa and Chris to take him to Parrish, planning to use him to open the rift himself and turn the Wild Hunt into his own supernatural army, as flashbacks reveal his failed attempt to do so back in World War II. As this all happens, the Sheriff comes to terms both with the existence of his son, and the fact that his wife has been dead for years.

Why is it the only pictures from this episode I can find are of Douglas.

I don't know quite what to say about this episode? It's kind of a treading water episode, in that it's always moving about frantically but, for a lot of it, nothing much is really happening. Scott and company's plan to open the rift doesn't really lead them anywhere, and we don't get anything new with the Sheriff's plotline, save for the loose thread of the Claudia phantasm being tied off in a way that was probably meant to be touching but came across more as perfunctory. Douglas' storyline has some movement in it, but not enough to warrant an entire episode -- in a better show, Douglas would have been opening the rift within the first fifteen minutes of the episode.

That last kind of hits on one of the reasons why this show's pacing is so poor. It's unwilling to let anything just happen: We can't just be shown Douglas tracking Parrish to his hideout, and then have him open the gate, we have to waste time on a subplot with him, Melissa, and Chris first, and with a handful of pretty boring flashbacks. Everything has to have a song and dance attached to it, and the song and dance usually aren't that compelling.

Nor is Douglas -- or Hauptmann, whatever -- an especially compelling villain. His characterisation is basically 'sometimes sinisterly says German words,' to the point where he is less a character as he is a cartoon, with a vague and generic motivations and a hazy veil of Nazism thrown over him to show us that he's evil. The thing is, an immortal Nazi werewolf could be pretty interesting, in the sense that a violent, superpowered white supremacist could actually be pretty nauseating and terrifying if played seriously -- but as is always the case, American entertainment shy away from a brutal and frank portrayal of how horrible the Nazis were, since doing so would swiftly reveal just how similar American culture of today and the culture of Nazi Germany are.


Nor are the Wild Hunt -- much in evidence in this episode but doing basically the same thing they always do -- especially compelling. Since the Hunt doesn't have much motivation except 'hunt things,' and since the show has failed to sell them as being threatening in the slightest, they just kind of come across more as slightly antagonistic background elements than anything.

I miss the Dread Doctors. That's not a sentence I ever thought I'd say, but the Doctors did actually have a sense of weight to them. They didn't have much substance, but they were impressive, and their motives were interestingly mysterious. They made an impression, is what I'm getting at, even if they couldn't back that impression up. Our villains this series are just very dull in comparison.

We end this episode very nearly where we started it, except now the Sheriff knows that rifts can be created through memory (ugh), and Douglas is off at the phantom train station. Oh, and our cast has been drastically scaled down, I guess, too. Again, we find ourselves in a position where so much of this could and should have been condensed -- to say nothing of episode six, which should have had its entire Canaan plot cut wholesale.

Next episode, people will apparently be doing stuff. Ghost Riders will be turning up. Stiles reappearing, probably. Who even knows. Who even cares. I'm so tired of this arc that I just want it to end so that we can get onto this show's final arc, which hopefully will be a drastic improvement on this one.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E14

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 14

So, we need to start this review talking about the most important thing in this episode: The new opening! It's got some pretty nice music in the form of Fighter by Kana-Boon, but the imagery doesn't reveal much new to us, bar that there's a focus on Mika's frailty, and that in the villain shot of McGillis with Almiria, he's now looming over her and leaning down towards her, instead of kneeling as he was in this series' first opening. Whether that means anything is dubious, but it's always nice to get a reminder that McGillis is really creepy around Almiria, I suppose.

In this week's episode, we see a shift in the focus of the action, from Tekkadan to the Turbines. With Iok driven into a furious rage by the awakening and defeat of Hashmal, Jasley Donomikols manipulates him into shutting off Turbine supply lines and attacking them on semi trumped up charges of trafficking banned weapons. As the Turbines reject Tekkadan's help, and as McMurdo wavers over whether to offer them any help or not, they find themselves left alone to face Gjallarhorn. In flashbacks, Naze and Amida reveal how they fell in love and created the Turbines.

Honestly, I'm surprised by this viewpoint shift: I suspect it won't last very long, maybe one more episode after this, or two if Tekkadan get involved in some fashion, but in a series with a limited number of episodes to tell its story, and still a lot of story to get done, it's a slightly odd choice. This goes doubly since it's obvious how this is going to end: The Turbines are almost certainly going to end up either destroyed or forced to withdraw their support from Tekkadan. It's been being set up since their introduction that one day Tekkadan would have to get by without their support, so the biggest surprise is that it took this long for it to happen.

McGillis, why do you need a window that huge.

Most of this episode, then, is set-up for a battle between Iok's forces (and possibly Jasley's, as well) and Naze's. We're told that Iok is blocking Turbine trading and supply lines, thus backing them into a corner, and that there's nothing that McGillis can do (although whether he even would is questionable -- Tekkadan needing to rely on him more is good for him), since this is standard operating procedure for the Arianrhod fleet.

We do also get Rustal explaining to Vidar exactly why he keeps Iok around: Iok is beloved by his men, and inspires people to action under him, which in fairness is something we've seen before. We also get a curious remark that if Vidar took off his mask, Iok would be unnecessary, indicating that Vidar maybe doesn't need the mask to survive like we all assumed. Whether Rustal means 'because then everyone could see your pretty face, Gali-Gali' or 'because then everyone could see your horrible scars' is debatable.

The backstory we get with Naze and Amida, meanwhile, is all pretty interesting. We find out that most of the Turbines were working in unsafe conditions as shipping workers before Naze and Amida recruited them, and that most of them are Naze's wives only in name, as a measure to assist in legally protecting them and keeping them in his group. That isn't the most compelling explanation I've seen, but given that we know Jasley and probably McMurdo are kind of misogynist, I can buy it, I suppose.

We also get to see that Naze and Amida's romance was adorable, with Naze hiring Amida as a bodyguard and then falling head over heels for her on account of how  strong, competent, and good at piloting she was. 

Amida, when she was younger and had better fashion sense.

Meanwhile, on Mars, most of the story revolves around Atra's weird plan to make Mika stop piloting Barbatos by having him impregnate either her or Kudelia. I mean, one problem with that is that it obviously won't work, but the other problem is that this doesn't really add anything to the story? It just makes Atra seem either weirdly over-childish, hugely manipulative, or both. I've seen no shortage of fanboys praising this plot turn for reasons which I'll charitably describe as 'deeply creepy,' but it just seems like pointless time-wasting to me.

Hash's face here.

Next episode, we'll be seeing Gjallarhorn vs Turbines, which might be the largest scale battle we've seen in a while, at least in terms of sheer numbers. This will also likely involve us seeing whatever it is that Julieta is test-piloting: The Gundam Bael, maybe? A new, Gundam-esque frame? Something which isn't a Gundam at all? Who knows. If we don't find out next week, we'll probably know the week after, at least. We should also get to see the Turbines' new suits in action, so that'll be nice as well.

It also looks like there's something afoot with Tekkadan going on next episode, possibly involving Merribit. She was originally a Teiwaz member, so that's maybe not entirely surprising -- hell, she might even have worked for the Turbines at one point.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Sherlock S4E3: The Final Problem.

Series 4, Episode 3

So, we reach the end of this series of Sherlock, with the next one likely not for at least a year, possibly two. It's entirely possible -- even probable -- that once Moffat has left Doctor Who (I am thankful every day that he's finally leaving) we'll see more frequent series of Sherlock, but at the same time, the show is rapidly reaching the point where it has nowhere else to go, since it's not really a series that's built for sustainability.

In this week's episode, Sherlock learns from Mycroft that he had a sister, Euros, who was imprisoned on the island of Sherringford after Mycroft and his uncle, Rudy, came to believe that she was a danger to others. As Sherlock, Watson, and Mycroft go to visit Euros, who has the ability to brainwash anyone she talks to, they learn that the island and its staff have long been under her control, and quickly find themselves imprisoned by her and forced to play a series of games about 'emotional context.' As they make their way through the games, with the life of a young girl on a plane at stake, they learn that this plan was hatched five years prior, when Moriarty visited Euros.

Okay. Right. So.

This episode has a really interesting premise. The idea of someone who is to Sherlock what he and Mycroft are to the regular cast is a really fascinating one, as is the idea of someone who is possessed of a superhuman charisma to the point where they can brainwash people through conversation -- and both those ideas do mesh pretty well with the weird semi-fantastical setting of Sherlock. This could have been a really interesting conceit for an entire series of Sherlock, let alone an episode.

Mycroft, why are you watching random old films.

Unfortunately, it immediately hits a roadblock that just about anybody who isn't in denial about Moffat's flaws as a writer saw coming: Euros is a woman, and Moffat can't and won't write women well, or even like they're actually people.

Foregoing any interesting motivation or tactics, he instead sets her up as just being obsessed with Sherlock and wanting to hurt him through a series of death games, thus constituting the most boring combination of a bland motivation and dull methodology it's possible to have. Moffat manages to write Euros such that she never actually comes across remotely like a real person, so much as a cartoon monster, and while that could have been interesting in the hands of a better writer, here it's just very obvious that there's a limited number of ways that Moffat knows how to write women. It's obvious not least because we've seen nearly this exact character before: She was called Missy, although Missy wasn't quite as bad in this regard. Unlike Euros, Missy had previous character development as the Master that made her being obsessed with the Doctor make a degree of sense -- Euros, meanwhile, is the same concept recycled without any of the years of build-up to it.

The early part of the episode, with Sherlock talking to Euros in her cell in the manner of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter -- and I can't even be annoyed at how much of a cliche that is now, because it's a cliche I personally adore -- is actually pretty interesting and engaging to watch. It doesn't last: As soon as the death games start, the plot begins to just meander, wandering pointlessly from set piece to set piece with no real sense of plot progression, and no real sense of stakes, until it finally reaches its pay-off.

Watson, being boring.

The pay-off, in this instance, is twofold: Firstly, it's Euros revealing that the dog Sherlock thought she had killed was actually a human boy, Sherlock's best friend, that he had forced himself to remember as a dog -- this isn't how memory works, but I'll let it go, since it's potentially a pretty good reveal. Secondly, it's Euros revealing that her entire motivation is just wanting to be loved, which is the point where I just lost all patience with this episode.

This is a recurring problem with Moffat. His male villains get to have either practical motivations -- blackmailing others for power, etc -- or interestingly layered shades of unhingedness -- Moriarty's combination of frustration, obsession, and suicidal ideation -- but his female villains, indeed his female characters, good or evil, always have a single motivation: They want love. If they don't want love at the start of a story, you can be sure they do at the end.

This is part of what I mean when I say that Moffat doesn't write women as people. In real life, nobody is driven solely by a desire for love, people are more complex than that -- in Moffatland, though, women aren't fully fleshed out people, but receptacles for men to put affection (and sometimes bodily fluids) in. Moreover, in Moffatland, men can be superhumanly smart and still have a range of motivations and mental states, but if a woman is smarter than average, she will always be psychotic. Always.

Sherlock, also being boring.

The other big problem with the plot is that it sets us up for a plot reveal that Moriarty is still alive, and teases the audience with it, only to reveal that he was really dead all along. This is not how plot reveals work: The pay-off has to be worthy of the build-up, so building up to a reveal only to then have that reveal be 'what the characters all thought was the case all along was true' fails on a fundamental level. A plot reveal has to do more than surprise the audience, and in this case, that's all it does. Surprise and disappoint.

The episode ends on basically just the status quo being restored: Euros is back in Sherringford Prison, Sherlock and Watson are back as a team, now sans Mary who has fulfilled her Moffat-obliged role of creating a child and can now be consigned to Woman Hell for all eternity, and nothing really having changed. It is the most boring end possible for an episode.

It's all just an absolute waste of some really good ideas, and a series finale that is both absurd and deeply, truly boring. Even Wagner's cinematography -- which is noticeably less inspired in this episode -- can't do much to save it.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier E2: Ties That Bind, Part 2.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Episode 2: Ties That Bind, Part 2.

So, we finally get around to reviewing the second of the two episodes of this series that were initially released. The first one somewhat impressed me, at least by the standards of a Telltale Games' game, so I had pretty high hopes for this one. Well, moderately high. A little high. High-ish. Medium, really.

Continuing from the end of the first episode, the second episode sees Javi and Clem return to Prescott, where Kate is bleeding internally. When the New Frontier attacks Prescott to get at Javi, as revenge for him killing several of their own, the town is destroyed, and Javi, Clem, Kate, Eleanor, and Gabe, along with Prescott citizens Tripp and Conrad, and mysterious wanderer Jesus, all head to the town of Richmond, which has been taken over by the New Frontier, to get medical care for Kate. The already tense group threatens to fall in on itself, however, when Clem is revealed to be a former member of the New Frontier.

So, this episode wins no points for doing the most predictable thing and having the nice, functional town immediately get destroyed. At this point, it's such a Walking Dead cliche that it's basically just a joke: If there's a nice town, or a nice settlement, or anywhere that is remotely okay to live, it's going to get destroyed within the space of an hour. It happened with the motel in the first series, and with the ski lodge in the second series, and it's happened again this time. It's not interesting anymore, because 'interesting' would require a break from the norm: 

At this point, the most interesting thing Telltale Games could do is set an entire five episode series inside a functioning, safe town, dealing with the necessary measures for running the town and keeping it safe.


But no, before long the characters are back on the road, because of course they can, and obviously as is this series' tradition, there is one member of the group who is irrational and crazy and turns on them all. Twelfth verse, same as the first, and all that. There's nothing compelling about Conrad getting crazy and violent, because crazy and violent is basically just normal for this story.

Instead, the most interesting thing the story has going for it is the ongoing question mark over whether it's a good idea to side with Clem, as siding with her increasingly leads Javi -- and by extension, the player -- down extreme paths, such as shooting Conrad. If Telltale follows through on that, it'll be a pretty expert use of the affection players have already built up for Clem to deliver an emotional impact. Unfortunately, I don't have all that much faith that Telltale will follow through on it, especially as it will most definitely earn them the ire of the fans.

We also get more flashbacks -- one showing the start of Javi's sort-of-romance with Kate, his brother's wife (along with the reveal that David was in the army, thus setting us up to discover that he is a high-ranking member of the militaristic New Frontier, and establishing some future conflict for him and Javi), and one showing Clem being recruited into the New Frontier. These sections are even more pointless than the present-day sections, from a choice-making perspective: Even if you have Javi brush Kate off, they'll still end up in a romance, and even if you have Clem refuse the offer to join the New Frontier, she'll still end up joining. The game doesn't even try to pretend your actions are having any impact here.

Also, what did happen to AJ? We've not seen that yet.

All of which should mean that I didn't enjoy this episode at all, but I actually kind of did. Once we get past the 'Prescott being destroyed' section, which is exactly the same as every other 'a safe haven gets overrun by zombies' section from every other The Walking Dead series, the game does actually become pretty enjoyable. It's difficult for me to put my finger on why, save that the story does actually set up some interesting ideas amidst all of the cliches: The New Frontier are actually a pretty interesting villain group, and I'm interested to see what David and Javi's interactions will be like, and moreover, I'm actually pretty fascinated by the question of whether we can trust Clem or not.


That said, it's very obvious that this is just another chip off the old Telltale block. I'm not surprised, I'm not even really disappointed, but it's nevertheless a little frustrating how Telltale seems content to just churn out the same stuff again and again.

Still, I enjoyed this episode well enough. There's no release date for the third episode yet, but I'd be surprised if we didn't see it by the end of March at the latest, especially as this seems to be Telltale's only project right now.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Fission Mailure Awards 2016: Other.

Fission Mailure Awards 2016:

Our final category of the bunch, as we throw out a load of miscellaneous awards onto various different shows, actors, characters, games, songs, soundtracks, films, books, what have you. This is an awards free for all, and we're not going to be going too in depth with any of them, so let's go.

Award for Best Actor in an Otherwise Terrible Film: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.

You have to sympathise with Robbie. She was given a bad script, put into a costume that owes more to the New 52 than to Harley's classic original outfit, and then had it all topped off with a bad director and far, far too many scenes with Jared 'the Edgelord' Leto.

But she does make the best of it, and ended up as one of the highlights of incoherent action flick Suicide Squad -- the others being Will Smith and Viola Davis -- and I'm actually really looking forward to seeing her again in Gotham City Sirens

Award for Worst Actor in an Otherwise Terrible Film, and also just generally: Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar in Warcraft, and also in all of his other roles.

You also have to sympathise with Travis Fimmel, whose vOIce will RAndomLY go Up and DoWN in VOLume with risINg intonation? In odd places, and who always seems to always be portraying an unhinged serial killer regardless of the role, the scene, or the director.

You could probably make a decent case that I'm ragging too much on Fimmel, but I'm really, truly not. He is painful to watch, and not in a good way.

Award for Most Bizarre And Jarring Time Skip In A Video Game: Final Fantasy XV.

I am, by and large, against long time skips in fiction anyway, and especially against time skips that come any later than halfway through the story. So you can imagine that a ten year time skip just before the final hour of massive fantasy roadtrip game Final Fantasy XV didn't sit well with me.

It's made worse by the fact that there's no good narrative reason for it except to shoehorn in a reference to Final Fantasy VI. Look, I loved Final Fantasy VI as much as the next guy, Tabata, but if you want to remake it, then just go and remake it.

Most galling of all, I've read the brief for Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and there was no timeskip in that, so I can't even blame Nomura for this one.

Award for Best Anime OP of 2016: "DiVE by Amatsuki, Digimon Universe Appli Monsters."

With some interesting imagery involving trees, snakes, and the protagonist's self esteem problems, and a really fun, vibrant song to go with it all, Appmon's opening easily made the biggest impression on me this year.

That having been said, this would have been Yuri on Ice's opening if they hadn't reused the same footage, like, three times. No, no, I understand, they had a shoestring budget, and it's amazing what they did with that, but there is a limit to how many times I can see Yuri's shirt magically transform mid-spin before I get bored.

There is apparently no limit to how many times I can watch that dramatic zoom-in shot on Rei's eye in the Appmon opening, though. Make of that what you will.

Award for Best Video Game Soundtrack of 2016: Final Fantasy XV Soundtrack, by Yoko Shinomura, Florence Welch, OneRepublic, and Imagine Dragons.

Thank you, Yoko Shinomura, for once again proving yourself to be one of Square-Enix's most invaluable assets, a deeply talented composer whose work never fails to impress.

Thank you also to Florence Welch for various vocal tracks, all of which are superb, and to OneRepublic and Imagine Dragons, for also being there on the soundtrack.

Award for Least Interesting Romance in a Television Show of 2016: Mon-El and Kara, Supergirl.

I'm looking forward to an exciting few months of sleeping through all of these guys' scenes, let me tell you that.

Bonus points for scrapping an actually pretty interesting romance between Kara and Jimmy for this. Extra bonus points for foregoing another pretty interesting romance possibility between Kara and Lena for this.

I mean, come on, Berlanti and company, I know you can do better.

Award for Favourite Web Series of 2016: Digimon Adventure Abridged.

The people at Project Mouthwash are skilled, funny, and understand their source material perfectly, and while there have only been a few episodes of this series so far -- four, to be precise -- it has quickly become my favourite abridged series and my favourite web series full stop nonetheless.

You can go and check it out here, and I recommend you do so if you need a laugh.