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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Supergirl S2E10: We Can Be Heroes.


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 10
We Can Be Heroes.



So, rumours are abound that David Harewood is in the running to play the next Doctor (or even that he was asked to play him before, and turned the role down, and is now in the running again), a role which he would doubtless excel at but which would also very much ensure that he can no longer be on Supergirl. I admit to having mixed feelings about that, because while he'd make a great Doctor, he's also great on Supergirl -- but I'll save any more pronounced mixed feelings until after we find out if there's any actual truth to the rumours.

(Other rumoured actors in the running for the role, incidentally, are Ben Whishaw, Richard Ayoade, Rory Kinnear, Hayley Atwell, and Colin Morgan. Nothing has been confirmed yet, and since this is a Supergirl review and not a Doctor Who one, this is the last we'll say about it.)

In this week's episode, Livewire escapes prison, driving Kara into  frenzy as she searches for her -- a frenzy which is only made worse by Mon-El, now a newly minted superhero helping Kara out, refuses to listen to orders, and when she learns that Jimmy is Guardian. As it transpires that Livewire actually didn't escape but was kidnapped, Kara is forced to re-evaluate her outlook on the supervillain. Meanwhile, when M'Gann falls ill, J'onn must decide whether to telepathically bond with her in order to save her life.

Kara and Mon.

A lot of this episode is predicated on Livewire being Kara's nemesis, which sort of left me sitting, squinting at my computer screen, going 'Is ... she?' This would seem like a relatively new development, because I don't recall there being any indication that the two of them had a hero-nemesis thing going on before. Livewire has shown up as a villain all of twice, and one of those times was in a crossover episode and thus barely counts, and Kara doesn't have that much emotional connection to her, does she? Livewire was somebody she hated, and then she became an electricity-themed villain and continued to be someone Kara hated.

I could buy that maybe Livewire would see Kara as her nemesis, but just not the other way around, and my suspension of disbelief shattered every time it was brought up.

If it hadn't, this would have been a compelling episode, as Kara is forced to face up to her black and white thinking, and as her and Livewire come to some kind of understanding, making that leap from 'pure enemies' to 'sort of frenemies with an emphasis on the enemy part' that so many hero-nemesis pairs do. The idea of Livewire being drained of electricity to create electrified clones of herself is an interesting concept for an episode, too.

A Livewire copy.

The B-Plot, meanwhile, is about J'onn struggling with his emotions as he figures out whether he wants to save M'gann or let her die. It feels like it's been a while since we had a major J'onn subplot, but of course, it hasn't -- the last one was in episode eight, it just feels longer because of the hiatus. This subplot is good, but it isn't utilised to its fullest extent: Mostly, we just get a few scenes of J'onn agonising over it, and then a short scene of him going into M'gann's mind to help her out. It's never even made clear why M'gann got sick, beyond 'telepathy related guilt things,' and it seems to mostly serve as set-up for the characters to learn that the White Martians are on their way to cause trouble.

Jimmy, being displeased.

The C-plot, intertwined with the A-plot, is Jimmy and Mon-El's development as superheroes, a plotline I might like more if I cared much for Jimmy's Guardian subplot, or for Mon-El as a character. Shippers will be glad to see that there's some hint of Jimmy/Kara here, as Jimmy is openly jealous over Mon-El, but that's about the only thing this plotline brings to the table. Honestly, Mon-El is starting to get on my nerves now, and Jimmy isn't doing much better. It also seems very odd that Kara would be so convinced that a normal human being a superhero would definitely lead to Jimmy being killed, since she's met Ollie, Sara, Thea, and Diggle, and since we've had reference made to Batman in previous episodes.

All in all, not a brilliant episode, but an entertaining one, at least. Next episode will seemingly have a White Martian assassin coming after M'gann, and the team deciding to defend her, which should be pretty interesting to watch, I think. It even looks like Winn will get a badass moment with a flamethrower and the liberal use of slow motion. Oh, and M'gann fighting a White Martian -- although weirdly she seems to be using her Green Martian disguise to do so.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E16.


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 16
Natural for a Human.



At this point, I think we all know the Iron-Blooded Orphans formula. We get a build-up episode (or two) in which a problem which can only be solved via giant robots hitting each other is presented, and then we get a battle (in which a new Ace Custom is usually debuted), and then we get a cooldown episode in which the characters all deal with the aftermath of that battle and reflect on how they are definitely on a one-way bullet train to tragedy and hell. Sometimes there's a degree of overlap between the phases, as in the Arbrau War arc where 'battle' and 'cooldown' kind of swapped in for each other, back and forth, but for the most part, it's a fairly rigid formula.

Having had our build-up episode two weeks ago, and our battle episode a week ago, this week's episode is the cooldown portion of the arc, except it's also kind of really totally not that at all, because while it serves as a cooldown for the Turbines vs Iok arc, it's simultaneously a build-up episode for a Tekkadan vs JPT arc. You could make the argument that they're all one arc, but either way, Iron-Blooded Orphans is breaking from its established pattern, and that's always nice to see.

In this week's episode, Iok returns to Rustal, who reprimands him, informing him that McGillis is now investigating Iok's use of a banned weapons. Meanwhile, Jasley attempts to provoke Tekkadan into a fight, meaning to call Iok in to help. The Turbines are repurposed into a shipping company directly under McMurdo, while Lafter is torn between staying with the Turbines and joining Tekkadan. No sooner has she made her decision, though, does Jasley have his men violently murder her. With the Turbines in danger and with revenge on their minds, Tekkadan decides to take the fight to Jasley and the JPT, with McGillis pledging his support.

Eugene and Shino.

So, I admit, Lafter being shot caught me by surprise. Everything we'd seen so far had suggested that she was going to join Tekkadan, and having her killed off an episode after Naze and Amida get killed off is a fairly shocking move. I'm also not sure how I feel about it: This show already has a shortage of female characters, and it's killed off two of them in two episodes, with two more looking likely to just exit stage right for the rest of the series. It's not necessarily a problem, since there's still Kudelia, Julieta, Merribit, and Atra (although I'm increasingly starting to hate Atra), most of whom are major players, but it does make me grimace a little.

(Incidentally, do the writers just hate Akihiro?)

Most of the rest of the episode, however, proceeded mostly how I think everyone expected it to. I think we all knew that Rustal was not going to be happy with Iok, and I think we all knew that Jasley would be spoiling for a fight with Tekkadan, so neither of those things are surprises. With Iok likely joining the battle between Tekkadan and the JPT, I don't see him surviving past the next two episodes -- Mika will probably kill him, or, if McGillis and Isurugi join the battle, one of those two will.

Speaking of McGillis and Isurugi, they appear to have gathered a group of pilots who they'll be sending out. I've seen it suggested that those pilots will all be piloting the remaining Valkyrie units -- Brunnhilde, Gertlinde, Ortlinde, Waltraute, Schwertliete, Siegrune, and Rossweisse. I don't know how likely that is, but I certainly hope that's the case.

Although there's only five of them for seven free Valkyries.

(I would also definitely watch a series about nine pilots using fast, agile Valkyrie mobile suits, while we're here.)

In other news, I would like the Atra and Mika plot to die immediately. It's making me start to hate Atra, and honestly, it'll make me hate Mika too if it goes on for much longer. Most of all, though, it's just kind of weird. Mika is so disconnected with society that it never seems like he fully understands what it is that Atra's getting at, but even leaving that aside (since that's clearly intentional), Atra also comes across as very, very childlike in these scenes. Which, I mean, she is meant to be quite young, but then don't have a storyline that revolves around sex and babies, you know?

Anyway, here's Lafter.

Also, apropos of nothing, when on earth is Vidar actually going to get a proper battle with a named character? The series only has about eight or nine episodes left, he's running out of time, especially since it seems like he probably won't be involved in next episode's battle.

I did like this episode, though, and I'm very much looking forward to the next episode, where we will be getting at least the start of the battle between the JPT and Tekkadan -- and probably the end, too, given that there's a shot of Akihiro using his giant pliers -- aka the most inefficient weapon in the show -- on someone. Hopefully Jasley.

(Probably Jasley.)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 2: Women As Performances.


Steven Moffat Hates Women
Part 2: Women As Performances.


Oft talked about is how the women Moffat writes lack any kind of agency, with their motivations and eventual fate always revolving around the main male protagonist of the shows he writes. 

It's a fair criticism, too: Doctor Who has River Song, whose motivation early in her life is to kill the Doctor, and who then switches to becoming an archaeologist in order to find the Doctor, with no intervening period where she actually does anything for her own benefit, before eventually being trapped in a computer to live a 'perfect' life, on the whim of the Doctor. Sherlock has Irene Adler, whose actions are reduced to being a game between Sherlock and Moriarty, before Sherlock eventually outwits her (despite never doing so in the novels -- you have to get up pretty early in the morning to be less progressive than Arthur Conan Doyle) and eventually saves her life. Coupling, meanwhile, has no less than two female characters working towards the affection and devotion of the male lead, while the third is preoccupied with finding a man and settling down.

The basic rule of Moffatian writing is thus: If you're a woman, your motivation has to revolve around a man (almost always the male lead, but sometimes a male deuteragonist), and for preference, your storyline has to culminate in that man saving you and deciding your future for you. It's easy to see why, too: As we covered in the last part, Moffat's tendencies when it comes to writing women are often governed more by his sexual fantasies than by anything else, and it's no secret that 'a woman who is completely and utterly devoted to a man' is a staple of straight male sexual fantasies, and the fiction that arises out of them.

In fact, whenever faced with the prospect of writing a woman who's doing anything that isn't for the benefit of a man, Moffat seems to become confused, losing the train of his plot developments quickly, which is how Amy ends up transitioning from kissogram to model to writer with no word on how she breaks into either of the latter two industries, and no indication she was even interested in doing so.)

Particular to Moffat is the recurring idea that women should become intrinsically linked to their male hero from childhood (preferably when the male hero is an adult -- time travel is a godsend for this man's plots, it would seem), with both Amy, Clara, Ashildr, and River beginning their fascination with the Doctor from a young age and continuing it through their entire lives. 

Slightly less talked about, meanwhile, is how this tendency leads to the idea of women as performances. Since women in Moffat's shows have no motivations, agendas, or goals that don't revolve around a man, it quickly ends up the case that everything his female characters do is meant as a performance for a man.

Take Jane from Coupling. A major facet of her character is that she's bisexual -- except, as we learn later, she's not. She's never slept with a woman and, much more importantly, she says outright that she has zero interest in doing so, with at least one character implying that Jane's 'bisexuality' is actually just for the benefit of men, to make her seem exotic and sexy. This could be waved away with a platitude about how it's just that kind of story, but the idea that bisexuality is a performance for men appears again and again in Moffat's work.

So, indeed, does the idea that lesbianism is a performance for men, as Sherlock introduces Irene Adler, a character who openly identifies as gay and who then totally and completely falls in romantic and sexual love with Sherlock, with the snide implication bubbling under the surface that she was only a lesbian until the right man came along. 

But this extends even outside of Moffat's bisexual and lesbian characters, and can be applied to nearly any female Moffat character you can think of. Euros, recently introduced in Sherlock, is a villain solely for the benefit of her brothers, creating elaborate death games entirely as a form of performance for them. While male villains like Moriarty are allowed to have plans that either don't involve the heroes -- like Moriarty's vast criminal empire -- or involve them as victims rather than people to perform for the approval of, Moffat's female villains (because this is also true of Missy) only ever act to provide a performance of evil for the male heroes.

The rule for Moffat's female characters boils down to a simple one: Rather than being fully fledged people with their own lives, their own needs, and their own desires, they must exist purely to elevate the male lead (or sometimes male deuteragonist, yes, I see you there John and Rory) -- and moreover, they cannot exist outside of men's perception of them. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair


Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.



Once again, we find ourselves reviewing a game I recently finished Let's Playing, and if you want to watch that Let's Play, it's over here in its entirety. It was a Let's Play that I enjoyed doing a lot, and it seemed to be my most popular Let's Play yet, so needless to say I'll be leaping on Danganronpa Another and Danganronpa V3 when they come out. Similarly, you can find my review of the first game over here.

My feelings about the first game in the series were basically that while it had a good, fun story -- if one where the actual mystery was lacking some -- with a cast of characters who grew on me pretty quickly, but that the gameplay was pointless and bizarre, an attempt to inject Exciting Gun Action Gameplay Action into the Ace Attorney formula.

Well, here's a brief summary of Danganronpa 2: The story is better, the mysteries are much improved, the characters grew on me even more quickly, and the gameplay is basically the same but worse in several key areas.

Danganronpa 2 follows Hajima Hinata, a Hope's Peak Academy student who cannot remember his own unique talent, who wakes up alongside fifteen other students on Jabberwock Island, where a magic-wielding rabbit informs them that they will be having a school trip. The school trip is quickly derailed however when Monokuma, now seemingly wielding godlike powers, takes over the trip and starts another murder game, forcing the students to kill each other and then participate in trials to determine who the killer is. However, this time around the trials are confounded by the machinations of Nagito Komaeda, an unhinged student who believes in helping whosoever's hope shines brightest for him. Meanwhile, a timer at the center of Jabberwock Island slowly ticks down.

The gang.

The biggest improvement this game has to offer is that the mysteries are much more well thought out and as a result much more difficult to figure out. While I usually knew who the killer was mere minutes into the Investigation sections of the first game (and was never wrong), in the second one I almost always found myself genuinely bewildered as to who the killer could be until late in the Trial sections. Since a key part of mystery storylines is, you know, the mystery, this was a definite bonus as far as I was concerned.

The murder cases take a lot of their cues from Agatha Christie this time, as well, whereas the previous game took its cues from Arthur Conan Doyle, and as a result we have a lot more misdirection, as well as some old Christie standbys like 'the lights go out and someone is killed before they're switched back on.' The fifth case is even directly modeled after a Poirot novel, taking the case from the novel and reworking it into something similar but unique.

The characters were also a lot more appealing this time, by and large, but it's difficult to put my finger on why. Possibly it's because they seemed slightly less cartoonish, possibly it's just because the first game had prepped me for the over-the-top, caricature-ish personalities, so I adjusted to them a lot quicker this time, or maybe it's just because the characters of the second game are much more layered than the characters of the first.

(It also definitely helps that Hajime is not a wide-eyed innocent like Makoto is, but actually quite cynical and acerbic at times.)

It's just common sense.

As with the first game, there's a greater mystery woven throughout the narrative that's pretty intriguing, and which gives the game as a whole a pleasing sense of momentum.

As far as the gameplay goes, it's largely the same, with a few minor differences -- Logic Dive, a snowboarding themed gameplay mode, has been added; and the Hangman's Gambit, bane of my life in the first game, has been redesigned to be much, much worse. It's no less frustrating this time around.

The game also occasionally entertains odd genre shift moments, usually to other Spike Chunsoft games, such as when you are suddenly punted into a Twilight Syndrome gameplay section, or when you play as Nagito and are swiftly punted into a Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors gameplay section. Neither of these sections are terrible, but nor are they especially enjoyable to play, and they seem to mostly be there out of a combination of vanity on Spike Chunsoft's part, and a desire to break up the gameplay and inject some variety.

You're going to get a bug flying into your mouth like that.

There's an alternate gameplay mode, too, where you can play as Monomi in a slightly awkward top-down fighting game thing where she battles Monobeasts. It's not great, but it's also entirely optional.

While I was on the fence on whether to call the first game a good game as opposed to just an enjoyable one, I do think Danganronpa 2 is genuinely a good game, and a significant improvement over the first game. If they can keep that momentum up, Danganronpa V3 (due to be released in Europe and the US some time this year) should be pretty brilliant, so I'm very much looking forward to that.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Flash S3E10: Borrowing Problems From The Future


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 10
Borrowing Problems From The Future.



I have to admit, that is a pretty good episode title. In general, The Flash does a decent line on episode titles -- last series gave us 'The Runaway Dinosaur' and the first series gave us 'Things You Can't Outrun,' both of which are pretty nice episode titles, albeit for different reasons. So there's that.

So far, The Flash's third series has not been brilliant, if I'm being honest. But that's fine! The first part of a series is almost always the worst part of it, and most shows pick up considerably after their Christmas hiatuses, where they have the freedom to move ahead towards the plot's conclusion rather than building to a smaller, pre-Christmas pay-off.

This episode sets up a pretty promising dynamic for the rest of the series, too, as it culminates in the cast having a list of future events that they need to change.

In this week's episode, when Plunder, a villain Barry recognises from his vision of the future, begins robbing banks with a technologically advanced gun, Barry is reluctant to catch him, hoping that if Plunder isn't caught (as he had been in the future), the future will be changed. Wally, meanwhile, is eager to catch Plunder and prove himself as a superhero, bringing him into conflict with Barry. Meanwhile, HR prepares for the soft open of the STAR Labs Museum, while Caitlin visits Julian about her powers.

Barry and Wally.

Okay, first things first, what really is the difference between Zoom and Savitar? Both are strange, inhuman seeming speedsters (please stop using speedsters as the main villains of your series, The Flash), who present a tangible physical threat to Barry but are usually unable to enter his world due to being from Earth-2 and/or being trapped in the Speed Force. Both even have silly names. The similarities are endless.

I ask this because it feels very much like we're retreading old ground here. Yes, the dynamic of 'let's change these specific events in the future' is an interesting one, with a lot of potential, but what does Savitar even bring to the storyline? Alchemy had the advantage that he could create metahumans, something we'd never seen a Flash villain do before, and it feels like it would have made for a better story if Savitar (or another speedster, just -- just not the Rival, please) was the underling, and Alchemy the big bad, utilising a combination of magic and metahuman powers.

At the moment, the only thing I can think that marks Savitar out from Zoom (who was substantively different from Thawne in that the threat from Zoom was always more physical, whereas Thawne was an intellectual threat) is that he's CGI, and I'm not even a hundred percent sure of that.

The gang's all here. And in formal wear, apparently.

As far as this episode goes, it's a bridging episode, but it's a pretty jam-packed bridging episode for all that. Plunder is not an especially compelling villain -- he's a criminal with a gun, most people in the US can find one of those by visiting their local police station -- but he fulfills the role of 'a physical obstacle that Barry and Wally must overcome and who kickstarts the emotional drama.' Instead, the main thrust of the plot comes from Barry's anxieties about the future, and HR's preoccupation with the soft open of the museum.

Barry's anxieties are actually handled pretty well here, as rather than mucking about with him keeping it a secret for half the arc, he tells everyone, and then they take solid action to avert it. See? That's not difficult. I'll even forgive the fact that nobody told Joe, because every show on the CW has to have a 'keeping a secret from loved ones' plot, apparently. It's also much more interesting than him keeping it a secret from everyone, as it ensures that the plot has a constant momentum forwards.

Plunder, who looks like a pirate. That's it, that's his gimmick.

HR's museum subplot, meanwhile, is chiefly used to underline the awkwardness and distance between the main cast. We do get a moment, however, where HR talks to Barry about changing the future, and we get to see a glimpse of our last two, much more likable Wells characters. The episode even ends on someone (is that Linda?) apparently hunting HR down, so maybe he'll turn out interesting after all. Or maybe not. The show has burned me before.

It's not the best episode the show has ever had, but it's a really solid start to its second act, and I'm interested to see where they take it from here. The next episode looks like it'll reveal that HR is a fugitive, although I'm not getting my hopes up for it to be anything other than a minor crime, or, like, a major one but one that has no impact on the heroes. Look, I remember the giant monster episode, I'm not getting my hopes up again.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Teen Wolf S6E9: Memory Found


Teen Wolf
Series 6, Episode 9
Memory Found.



Nothing happens in this episode. I'm actually left in a slightly awkward position, because this episode is basically 20% recap of previous series, and 80% people not really doing much. It exemplifies all of Teen Wolf's problems with slow pacing and large swathes of action that really have no point to them and do nothing to advance the plot, and that makes it very difficult for me to review -- which is why I chose to review it today and save The Flash for tomorrow, when I'll have less time.

In this week's episode, as Scott, Malia, and Lydia gather at Parrish's Hellhound healing device thing, intending to use it to lower their body temperatures and enter a trance-like state, hoping that by doing so, they can remember Stiles and make a rift to pull him back through, because that's a thing. Meanwhile, Liam and Theo attempt to hide from the Wild Hunt while also drawing them off Scott, Malia, and Lydia's trail.

Okay, we'll start with Liam and Theo's storyline, which basically serves exactly no purpose and takes up a lot of the episode. The only thing that happens in this storyline is that the two of them spend a lot of time running around, telling each other how much they hate each other, and then Theo gets ghosted while Liam escapes. It's meant to serve as a culmination of Theo's redemption arc, but it falls short because Theo hasn't done much to warrant redemption at this point, and also because Liam was never really the target of the worst of Theo's attacks.

Theo was largely focused on Scott and Stiles during his stint as a villain, especially Stiles, and as the only one who remembers him, wouldn't it make more sense for Theo to take a step towards redemption by offering to help Scott, Malia, and Lydia? Maybe even taking the role as 'one who walks them through their memories,' since none of the others remember Stiles and thus shouldn't be able to do so?

The power trio. Apparently.

Liam and Theo's storyline also has the show completely forgetting its own rules for the Wild Hunt, as all of Sheriff Stilinski's deputies have been taken, and yet he still remembers them perfectly, so that there can be a dramatic reveal to that effect. Similarly, there's no indication that Liam doesn't remember Hayden or Mason, and we don't get a moment where his memory of Theo vanishes after Theo is taken.

That storyline takes up a large chunk of the episode, with the so-called A plot -- Scott, Malia and Lydia trying to remember Stiles -- arguably having even less going on with it. Scott and Malia each enter the freezy-healy thing in turn, with Scott having no success at all and Malia managing to briefly open a rift, even though that makes no sense, since Scott and Stiles are lifelong friends akin to brothers, and Malia, while close to Stiles, has known him far less long and has a less deep connection to him.

Ultimately, Lydia has to be hypnotised, and she manages to open the rift for them.

Now here's how that storyline could have been condensed to half its length and been more interesting. Scott, Lydia, Malia, and Theo gather at the school. There's no Parrish freezy-heal-box, only the same hypnosis techniques that are used by Lydia in the episode itself. Theo hypnotises them -- thus requiring that they trust him, tick off a box on the redemption checklist, as you can have him try to convince them that he's on their side -- and they all start going through their memories of Stiles at once.

That hoodie looks very soft.

Meanwhile, the Wild Hunt is getting closer and closer. After going through several memories, they all manage to find memories of a close connection with Stiles -- Scott gets memories of Stiles being like his brother, and Malia gets memories of Stiles being a safe person for her, and Lydia gets memories of her romance of sorts with him. The Wild Hunt is briefly repelled, and a rift opens, which Stiles emerges from.

See? Shorter, covers most of the same points, less tiresome, probably more impactful. Also, you could cut out the entirety of the Liam and Theo plot. Easy. Condensing this show is so easy because there are so few plot points per episode that you can basically wrap up everything relevant in a forty minute episode in, like, fifteen or twenty minutes.

Next week, Douglas is coming back and doing things, Stiles is back, presumably the Wild Hunt are getting dealt with, and then this terrible, terrible arc will be over and done with. If we're very lucky, the next arc will be a lot better -- at the very least, it should have Stiles back as a regular, which is always a plus. Maybe they'll bring back Derek and Kira, too. Maybe even Jackson. The sky is the limit, I guess. I'm not holding out much hope, though.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Supergirl S2E9: Supergirl Lives.


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 9
Supergirl Lives.



It seems like Supergirl's been off our screens, even though it's actually only been gone for less than two months. Our last episode, Medusa, saw the conclusion of the Cadmus plot, and set up the band of mysterious women who are searching for Mon-El, thus laying the groundwork for what I'm sure will be an exceedingly tiresome plot about him and his backstory.

Incidentally, the title of this episode -- which is a reference to the cancelled Tim Burton Superman film with Nicholas Cage in the lead role -- might lead you to believe that this is an episode about people thinking Kara is dead and her making a triumphant return, as in the plot synopsis of the film. It's not, and actually the title doesn't seem to connect even tangentially to the plot, which is weird.

In this week's episode, which kicks off the series' second act, Kara and Mon-El track a disappeared young woman, and end up discovering a gate to a world that's at the center of the intergalactic slave trade. Trapped on an alien world, with no powers due to a red sun, the two must hold out until Alex and Winn can come rescue them. Meanwhile, Winn, after nearly being shot while acting as Jimmy's tech support, finds himself beset with fear for his life.

Mon-El, just -- just leave.

Honestly, the highlight of this episode was Winn's storyline, and that's entirely down to Jeremy Jordan's acting. He manages to nail Winn's terror pretty perfectly, producing an effective, emotive performance. The flip side of that, of course, is that Jimmy comes across as being utterly heartless when he tries to convince Winn to come back to being his support guy. In a series that has thus far not been kind to Jimmy's character, that only serves to drop him a few more pegs in my estimations, which is a shame, given that I really liked him in the first series.

The storyline also feels like it's resolved too quickly. Alex gives him a pep talk on facing his fears, and then he hits an alien with a rock, and suddenly comes to the conclusion that he's 'not a redshirt,' which is -- I mean, fear and anxiety are a bit more complicated than that? I know it's a television show with a pretty rigid structure, and there's a necessity for a degree of emotional pay-off, but there is such a thing as having your pay-off come so quickly that it feels cheap.

The main storyline, meanwhile, is about Kara and Mon-El's romance. It's dressed up as a story about the nature of heroics and also alien slavery, but considering that 'what it means to be a hero' is ground that this show has covered several times before, much more adeptly, I stand by it actually being about developing Kara and Mon-El's romance.

In the actual episode, this moment is shot with a glaring golden filter over everything.

It doesn't work. That romance is still boring. If anything, all this episode does is highlight how much it feels like it can't work, largely because Mon-El is such a weak character. Compare him with, say, Alex, or Lena, or Jimmy, or Cat -- these are characters who possess not only a certain amount of presence, but also have clear, sharply defined motives and ethos(es?) that define them as characters. They have forceful personalities and can hold their own in scenes. Mon-El, meanwhile, is motivated by -- I don't know, staying safe? Getting on Kara's good side? And his personality is wisecracky? I suppose?

When Mon-El has his change of heart at the end and decides to become a superhero, it feels both completely believable and totally devoid of impact because he doesn't have enough of a personality to make it at all relevant to the story. Yes, we know that he's big on self-preservation, but so is everyone -- so is Winn, whose plotline, while flawed, feels a lot more like an arc an actual character might theoretically go through, instead of a bunch of boxes on a Love Interest Checklist getting ticked off one by one.

Domino, is that the only dress you own?

Oh, and Domino is back in this episode too, but only barely -- she appears in all of three short scenes, and while Dichen Lachman is always excellent, it feels like Domino is only in this episode because the writers felt like it behooved them to bring back an earlier villain for the start of the second act. She's also suspiciously absent when Mon-El's would-be hunters arrive asking after him, so I'm sure we'll see her again.

Next week, we apparently have Livewire returning, with a vendetta against Supergirl. Also, her feet in a bucket of water, because that's apparently how you neutralise people with lightning powers in television.


God, I just remembered I have to review Teen Wolf tomorrow. That's depressing.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E15


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 15
Lit by a Blazing Sun.



So, I've been thinking for a while about how this series of Iron-Blooded Orphans is shaping into a very well put-together tragedy: You've got your characters with tragic flaws (Orga and his desire to achieve his goals as quickly as possible, Mika and his lack of regard for his own self), which are actually treated as flaws, and the audience is made aware very early on that this will end badly for at least some of Tekkadan. We're shown multiple places where Orga and Mika could turn away from this inevitably tragic path, and each time we see that while they could have stopped, their tragic flaws won't let them.

This episode -- and the last, too, since it's an arc -- could be described as its own mini-tragedy, though, and while it's a different sort to Orga and Mika's (Naze and Amida aren't falling victim to their own tragic flaws, they're falling victim to Orga's), it's no less effective. As with the overarching tragedy, however, it's made very obvious, very early on how this will turn out, and while we're presented with ways that the outcome could be changed (such as Tekkadan interfering), we always know in the back of our minds that that's not going to happen.

The story still manages to pack a few surprises, though, most notably with Iok's character. We'll get to those.

In this week's episode, Naze has McMurdo disown him, and asks him to make sure the women of the Turbines can find work, before he and Amida head out to face Iok's fleet. When they surrender, however, Iok reveals his true colours, attacking them with the same illegal Dainsleif weapons that they've been accused of smuggling, and firing on the fleeing Turbines as well. As Akihiro, Shino, and Ride arrive to help evacuate the Turbines, Naze and Amida decide to go out in one last blaze of glory, buying time for their fellow Turbines.

Julieta, just punch him, nobody would blame you.

This episode wouldn't have worked half as well if we hadn't had the exploration of Naze and Amida's relationship last episode, with the clarification of just what the dynamic of the Turbines is, and the insight into how the two of them fell in love. Last episode also gave us the line that becomes this episode's title, with Amida being the sun and Naze being the one lit by her.

While I don't think anyone was surprised by what happened to Naze and Amida, it was heartbreaking nevertheless -- possibly even two of the most heartbreaking deaths of the series, both because of how pointless and cruel it feels from an in-universe perspective, and because it deprives both Tekkadan and the Turbines of the most solid and dependable adults in their lives. Arguably, the fact that Naze and Amida were so good and dependable marked them for death very early on.

Of course, the other big status quo change this episode gave to us was the reveal about Iok's personality. The show did a pretty excellent job of misleading us there, deliberately and meticulously drawing parallels between him and Carta, who was if nothing else unflinchingly and unfailingly honourable. The show sets us up to see Iok the same way, somebody who is unsuited to the story but who is, at least, well-meaning and honorable -- and it does so without ever showing him do a single honourable thing, because it relies on allusions to a character we already knew was honourable to act as a substitute.

Ah, the bloodied forehead of death.

Thus, it came as a genuine surprise to me when Iok revealed that he was more than happy to fire on surrendering and fleeing civilians (with illegal weapons, no less). As the episode wore on and Iok revealed more and more of how much of a terrible person he was, racking up sins from 'war crimes' to 'cowardice' to 'insulting Julieta,' it was like watching him revealed to be everything wrong with Gjallarhorn, like a living example of why McGillis would want to tear it all down.

Something tells me Rustal isn't going to be happy with Iok implicating Gjallarhorn in the use of banned weapons to fire upon fleeing enemies, and there are a lot of witnesses, who will probably end up with Teiwaz and McGillis throwing their social weight behind making sure they get heard. Given that Rustal's position within the Seven Stars is clearly very important to him, he surely won't be especially amused by this turn.

Kudelia, who is politically powerful and well-connected, will definitely be out
for blood.

We did also get to see Julieta's new mech, the Julia, and it's -- fine, I guess? A bit underwhelming for what we were built up to, but fine nevertheless. It's effectively a custom Reginlaze, and honestly I was hoping for something with a bit more pizazz.

Next week, we have Naze's funeral, and hopefully Jasley will get what's coming to him. If Iok's still alive -- it was a bit ambiguous -- hopefully he'll also get what's coming to him. Unforeseen consequences for all, is what I say.

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
20/01/17


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.


Spiritpact.

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
Blitzkrieg.



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.

Sigh.

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
Counsel.



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.


Sherlock
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.