Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Game of Thrones 6.04: "Book of the Stranger"

“We never should have left Winterfell.”
-Jon Snow

This episode of “Game of Thrones” featured the first in what I would imagine will be many reunions between characters who haven’t seen each other in quite some time. The Starks are coming back together, and they’re taking back what’s theirs (or at least, that’s what they want to do). I’m glad to see this turn in the story. The characters kept spreading out and the various story threads kept getting more numerous, and now everyone is starting to come back together. I really want to see the Starks prevail after everything they’ve been through, and now that the reunions are happening, I hope we’re starting to move towards that point. There are also some other interesting plots going on in this episode (we can’t possibly have an episode of “Game of Thrones” with out many disparate plots), but the action in the North made me the most happy in this one.

We start in the North and with that reunion I mentioned. Jon and Edd are having a bit of an argument about Jon’s plans to leave Castle Black and the Night’s Watch. Jon feels like he can’t stay, considering a bunch of the Brothers killed him and all. He’s pretty low on self-esteem at the moment in general. Edd, for his part, is mad that Jon’s abandoning them now, especially since me made a lifetime commitment. Jon reminds Edd that his life, and his Watch, have ended. He doesn’t really know what he’s going to do next other than go South. While this argument is happening, Sansa, Brienne, and somebody else (Gendry, maybe?) arrive at Castle Black. Jon sees Sansa, and they rush towards each other and hug. It’s a really sweet reunion, although since this is “Game of Thrones,” the sweetness doesn’t last for long.

Jon and Sansa reminisce over the old Winterfell days over a meal. They were generally happy as kids, and they trace the beginnings of all their misfortunes back to leaving Winterfell. Since they left, both have seen and experienced unspeakable horrors. The reminiscing soon turns into an argument, however, over whether or not they should try and take back Winterfell. Sansa is firmly on the side of taking back what is theirs, while Jon is hesitating because he’s just plain tired of fighting. Outside, Melissandre and Davos have a conversation where Melissandre tells him that she serves Jon now. When Davos wants to know what happened to Stannis, Brienne arrives on the scene to fill in the important details, including how she executed him.

Let’s head East next to Slaver’s Bay, where Tyrion is trying to negotiate with the Masters for peace and an end to the Sons of the Harpy. Pretty much everyone who talks to Tyrion is skeptical that this will actually work, but Tyrion feels like he has to try. If anyone can accomplish this, it’s Tyrion, but I’m a little skeptical that even his masterful skill with words will solve this problem. The deal he offers the Masters is that slavery will not return to Meereen, everywhere else has seven years to abolish the practice, and the Masters will be compensated for the loss of their slaves. In return, the Masters will stop supporting the Sons of the Harpy. Tyrion’s overall strategy is to make the Masters think abolition is in their best interest. A bunch of former slaves are pissed at Tyrion for negotiating with the Masters, and they ask Missandei and Grey Worm for their opinion. They are both truly skeptical, but they publicly support Tyrion’s attempt at negotiation. Privately, they tell him to watch his back. Tyrion thinks they have a chance because the Masters underestimate them, but Missandei and Grey Worm aren’t so sure. It’s an interesting discussion in our current political climate.

Next, we head to Vaes Dothrak. Daario and Jorah are outside the city, trying to strategize about how to rescue Dany from the Dosh Khaleen. Daario is not fond of Jorah, and he generally keeps giving Jorah shit and bragging about how he’s banged the Khaleesi and Jorah hasn’t. It’s kind of gross. Jorah, for his part, mostly keeps it together and explains that they’re going to have to sneak Dany out in the middle of the night. They’re also going to have to leave their weapons behind so that they won’t get in quite as much trouble if they’re discovered. This makes Daario very unhappy. When they enter the city, they are indeed stopped, and Jorah’s story about them being merchants isn’t believed. Daario kept one of his weapons after all, and he kills the person who was questioning them. Jorah points out that there’s going to be a lot of trouble if it’s discovered that somebody was stabbed (weapons really aren’t allowed in the sacred city), so Daario smashes the dead guy with a rock, too, to hide the stab wound.

In King’s Landing, Margaery is still in the custody of the High Sparrow, and after lecturing her a little bit, he lets her go see Loras. Margaery was hoping to inspire Loras to keep fighting the good fight against the Faith Militant, but they have completely broken him. At the Red Keep, Cersei interrupts Tommen talking to Grand Maester Pycelle. Tommen, once they are alone, tells Cersei a secret, which she of course immediately reveals to Lady Oleanna and Kevan. Apparently the High Sparrow is close to having Margaery do her walk of shame like Cersei had to do. She wants the Tyrell family army to put down the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant before this happens. Lady Oleanna hesitates at first, but eventually agrees, because she doesn’t want someone from her family to experience that shame.

Let’s wrap up the rest of the news from Westeros before we go back for a final check-in in the East. We pay a brief visit to the Vale, where we learn that Robin Aaryn is terrible at archery and Petyr Baelish is still up to his old tricks. Littlefinger returns to the Vale and brings Robin a falcon as a present. He tries to frame Royce for leaking his plans to transport Sansa, which resulted in Sansa being married to Ramsey Bolton. Robin wants to throw Royce through the Moon Door, but Littlefinger “convinces” him he should be spared to help command the troops in the war to come. He also “convinces” Robin to join in the fight to help Sansa, since they’re cousins and all. Something tells me this won’t end well. Theon goes home to the Iron Islands, where his sister is wary of him at first. Once she’s convinced that he doesn’t want to take the throne away from her, she welcomes him home. At Winterfell, a sadistic-as-ever Ramsay kills Osha before sending a threatening letter to Castle Black. The letter threatens Rickon, and when Jon and Sansa receive it, it’s the final straw to finally make Jon agree to retake Winterfell.

In Vaes Dothrak, Dany is tiring of the company of the Dosh Khaleen, especially since they like to keep chiding her for daring to have a life of her own after Khal Drogo’s death. She does develop a bit of a friendship with one especially young Dosh Khaleen, though, but when they go for a walk, they get caught. This leads to Dany being reunited with Jorah and Daario, though. Dany is taken to the meeting where the top Khals are going to decide her fate. Dany offers her own opinion of her situation – she doesn’t think this group of Khals are any good, and she is going to rule the Dothraki. She then quickly backs up her statement by starting a fire in the building. She’s impervious to fire being a Targaryen and all. As she emerges from the flames, all the assembled Dothraki (plus Jorah and Daario) bow down to her.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.18: "Paula Needs to Get Over Josh!"

“No, this balloon is not stupid. It’s genius. The Messiah is riding a unicorn over a rainbow. It’s like the Turducken of sympathy balloons.”
-Greg

It’s been a while since I last watched this episode, and boy do I have thoughts. I remember not long after I first watched it, one of my friends who also watches “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” asked me what I thought about it. I told him that I pretty much wanted to slap all the main characters for their poor decision-making, but if they didn’t make poor decisions all the time, I guess there wouldn’t be much of a show. I deeply wanted to root for Greg and Rebecca to make it, but Greg (and Rebecca, too, although she’s really trying to connect in this episode) is such a mess. Josh and Paula are also rather ridiculous in this episode. Really, this episode is everyone at their worst. I generally like spending fictional time with these characters, but damn do they do some messed-up shit in this one. It almost makes it a little too real, and I had to take some time to get my head back on straight after watching it.

One thing this episode does is provide a rather scathing (but in a low-key kind of way), of the Disney Princess socialization of girls. Right from the beginning of the episode, we see a young Rebecca trying to play Prince and Princess with a boy, who just wants to play with some dump trucks. Rebecca insists that they have to have a moment where music starts to kick in. Specifically, she’s thinking of her favorite movie, “Slumber,” the hit song from which is “One Indescribable Moment.” We hear this song several times throughout the episode (including a fantastic rendition by Disney Legend Lea Salonga herself), and it really is, from a technical stand point, a pretty fantastic Disney song pastiche. Rebecca has taken this princess mindset into adulthood, too. When her relationship with Greg starts to get a little rocky, she convinces herself that if she can orchestrate a “moment” between them, all will be well. In addition, she keeps being affect by “moments” she has with Josh. She really wants to try to make things work with Greg, but he’s a complicated guy, and manufacturing a Disney moment isn’t going to suddenly make Greg more self-assured.

As for Greg, he convinces himself that Rebecca is only interested in him now because he got over her and acted like he didn’t care for a little while. So while Rebecca is ready to talk life plans and all, Greg is doing his best once again to play it cool and keep it casual. There is a rather adorable moment near the beginning of the episode where Greg brings Rebecca a “She’s with Jesus Now” balloon while she’s still in the hospital recovering from her UTI, but it all goes downhill from there. He runs into Josh while at the hospital, and all the memories of Rebecca choosing Josh over him just start taking over. Rebecca wants to spend quality time with Greg, but Greg suggests just watching television. While he’s in another room, Rebecca sees an invitation to Josh’s sister’s wedding, and she has the perfect idea for how to create their moment – they are going to go to the wedding together.

Paula spends most of this episode really pissed off at Rebecca, both for sleeping with Greg, and even more, for lying about it. She has a show-stopper of the song near the beginning of the episode called “After Everything I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For”). She goes full-on Mama Rose from “Gypsy,” and we learn the true depths of crazy to which Paula has gone to bring Rebecca and Josh together. She put a tracking car on Josh’s mom car, and she blackmailed Valencia’s boss in order to have the power to set Valencia’s class schedule. She’s pretty cray cray, and this is when Rebecca realizes it. Instead of cutting Paula out of her life, however, Rebecca tries to mend fences (although not by picking things back up with Josh). She uses the tracking device to find Lourdes and talk to her about getting invited to the wedding, and he happily reports back to Paula about it, thinking it could show Paula that using her powers for Greg could be fun too. Paula’s not buying, it, though.

Josh is also being rather asshole-ish in this episode. He’s rude to Greg about Rebecca, even though he is supposedly committed to Valencia (Greg calls him on that before he has a complete meltdown of self-loathing, at least). He also tells Valencia, even while he’s still clearly hung up on Rebecca, that he’s planning to buy a ring, but he needs to do the proposal his own way in his own time. The final straw for Josh comes at his sister’s wedding. His Aunt Myrna (Lea Salonga) gives Josh a family heirloom ring, and Josh immediately knows this is Valencia’s idea. Valencia says she just wanted the ring before one of Josh’s cousins could claim it. This is the final straw for Josh, and he finally breaks up with Valencia. He should have broken up with her long ago, really. They weren’t good for each other at all. Valencia was controlling, and Josh felt belittled. That’s not a healthy relationship dynamic. At one point, Josh warns Rebecca basically that Greg is dark and twisty, and Rebecca is bright, so he’s going to hurt her. It shows how Josh doesn’t really know Rebecca at all. She says pretty things to him, but she really has deep issues of her own.

The wedding itself is a complete shitshow for our main characters (although it seems to be quite nice for the actual couple that’s getting married). Rebecca is overly dressed in a sparkly teal gown that is supposed to evoke Princess Jasmine. Greg, however, decides to wear a flannel and some Chucks. He’s trying to play it cool, but he’s completely dismissing the importance of the occasion to Rebecca. As soon as the reception starts, he gets completely plastered. Rebecca, God bless her, still tries to have a serious relationship talk with him. Exposing just how little self-confidence he has, when Rebecca tries to start telling him she has real feelings for him, he immediately assumes she’s breaking up with him. Eventually, Greg completely passes out, and White Josh, who says this is a classic Serrano move, puts him in an Uber to go home. Darryl also goes and gets Paula to come to the wedding to cheer up a devastated Rebecca, and their reunion would be sweet if I still wasn’t so creeped out by Paula’s actions. May I take a moment to say here that Darryl and White Josh were a complete delight in this episode and are pretty much the only functional couple? They got fancy for the wedding and owned it!

The ending of this episode (and the season) always leaves me a bit of an emotional mess. While Greg is home puking his guts out (where he finally confesses his love for Rebecca…and then promptly spews into a bucket), Josh texts Rebecca to meet him outside. They steal the convertible that is supposed to be the getaway car for the newly married couple, park in a scenic spot, and do what couples in this sort of scenario do. Post-coital, they cuddle in the back of the car, and Rebecca admits that she moved to West Covina for Josh, and he’s going to solve all her problems. It’s bad enough that she moved to West Covina for Josh, but when she starts going on about how everything is going to be perfect now, he looks downright horrified.

Final Season Post Mortem: “Orphan Black”

Well Clone Club, it’s been a little over a week since “Orphan Black” aired its final episode and boy was it a hell of a ride. From the start, this show has always blown me away with the storytelling and the technical effort it took to put many of the scenes together. If you don’t know, “Orphan Black” followed a group of women who discovered they were clones and as time progressed, we saw them learn about their history and fight tooth and nail for their autonomy. For BBC America, the ratings weren’t huge but given it was a co-production with Canada and the UK, I’m glad it made it the 5 seasons we got. And in this day and age, getting that many seasons is a blessing, even for a cable show.

The breakout star of this little, quirky show is of course leading lady Tatiana Maslaney who has only garnered one Emmy for her incredible work portraying so many of the Leda sisters. The caliber of her acting was so high that I often had to remind myself when watching the show that she was all of the clones and they weren’t played by different actresses. She was just that good. I’m going to miss seeing the lives of all of these women going forward but I am beyond excited to see where Tatiana’s career goes from here.

Much like with “Grimm” (which I covered a few months ago), the writers came into this season knowing it was the end and therefore tried to answer a lot of the lingering questions the clones and the viewers had. I think on some fronts they were successful and on others they fell a little flat. We got the final takedown of Neolution, the creepy science movement behind their creation in the first place and it was pretty spectacular. Seeing Helena stab Virginia Coady in the throat while in labor was pretty epic and fitting for the murderess turned lovable meathead. And Sarah went very Mrs. S and took out P.T. Westmorland with an oxygen canister to the face. I also loved seeing Sarah help Helena through delivering her babies. To see where these two women started in season 1 as adversaries to where they ended up was beautiful. The one thing they never really fully explained (at least to my satisfaction) is why Kira is the way she is. They sort of explained her rapid healing abilities, attributing it to some gene mutation. But they never 3explained how she could be so in tune with all of the Ledas. Why could she eel their emotions and sense when they were dead? That’s the one loose end I wish they’d definitively cleared up.

I will say throughout the final season, there were characters I wanted to see again that we didn’t, like Kal (Kira’s dad). I realize it was all down to scheduling conflicts, what with him being on Game of Thrones and everything, but even a mention of him would have been nice. Given that this show is not shy about killing people, I wasn’t surprised when we lost a lot of characters. But the one that hit the hardest was of course, Mrs. S. There was always the possibility of losing her and maybe it was needed for Sarah to complete this journey on her own but it was so heartbreaking to see her go. The only consolation was that she took Ferdinand with her.

I will say it is a testament to the writers that the final episode had me on the edge of my seat the whole episode, even though taking down Neolution was over pretty quickly in the episode. The rest of the episode showed us the sisters settling back into their normal lives or at least trying to figure out what that meant for them now that they were truly free of their creators. I’ll be honest, given how all of the other seasons have ended, I wouldn’t have put it past the writers to make this a dream sequence or have something nefarious pop up at the very end. But it didn’t and our sisters were so settled in their lives together. Cosima and Delphine went off to cure the rest of the Leda clones (all 274 of them) while Donnie and Allison continued their suburban life with Helena and her baby boys (whom she named Donnie and Arthur—which was really beautiful and touching as well) in the garage/guest house. And Sarah was learning to be a mother on her own without Mrs. S. It was truly wonderful to see all of them thriving after the level of trauma they’ve all endured for the last five seasons.

Overall, I thought this was a really strong way to end this wonderful series about strong women and how being together made them better. I loved how the men who were on their side weren’t afraid of their strength and it didn’t make them seem like they weren’t “real” men either. I really am going to miss watching these characters grow and thrive, but I’m glad the creative team was able to go out on their own terms. It’s always better when they are given a chance to know it’s the end and they can prepare for it that way. Just getting cancelled on a giant cliffhanger is so damn frustrating as a viewer and I suspect for the writers and cast, it can be equally as frustrating. And aside from some amazing storylines that really made you think about all kinds of important issues, I have found several new actors to follow, which isn’t a bad thing. I will follow Tatiana’s career with rapt attention as well as try to keep tabs on Jordan Gavaris. So now I must say farewell to this brilliant little Canadian show. The only good thing I can say is, thank goodness for the DVD boxsets so a trip down Clone Club memory lane isn’t that far off if I ever need to revisit these characters.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.22: "This is Us"

“In this family, we don’t hide mistakes. We look at them, feel shame, and never talk about them again.”
-Jessica

The penultimate episode of this season of “Fresh off the Boat” took another interesting spin on an aspect of the lives of the real-life Huangs. The real-life Eddie Huang’s parents live in a tricked-out mansion in a gated Orlando community, and now it looks like their television counterparts may be making the same move. Since this is a rather traditional comedy, though, I’m not sure if the move will stick as it did for the real-life Huangs. The Huangs have very strict life plans, and up until now, the plans have served them well. In this episode, however, several situations present themselves simultaneously to tempt them to change those plans. By the end of the episode, plans have changed, and I’m sure we’ll see soon enough whether or not making those changes was a good idea.

In the beginning of the episode, Louis and Jessica are pretty satisfied with their lives. Eddie has just graduated from middle school, Cattleman’s Ranch is doing well, and Jessica has just been asked to try and sell a mansion in a fancy gated community. They truly believe they are living the American dream. The cracks start to form in that illusion early on, though. We learn that the Huangs rent their house, and their landlord is annoying. Louis doesn’t want to pay the extra $100 a month for Grandma to live in their house, so they hide her in the closet when he stops by. Later, Louis talks to Marvin as Marvin is doing some yard work. Louis tells Marvin that he wishes he could do his own yardwork, but his landlord is crazy and gets upset if even one dandelion has been picked.

Meanwhile, Evan joins Jessica as she goes to meet the person who owns the crazy mansion she’s going to sell. Evan talks to his daughter, who is wearing a blazer that Evan thinks is pretty nifty. She explains it’s not a debate team blazer, it’s a private school blazer. St. Orlando’s Prep, specifically. Evan thinks this school, where you get to wear a blazer all the time, sounds amazing. He doesn’t feel challenged by his public school, even with all the extra work Jessica has found for him to do. When he asks Jessica to go to St. Orlando’s, Jessica takes Evan into the garage and shows him the family’s life plans. Basically, she’s got a vision board for everyone. Emery is destined to marry Michelle Kwan or someone equivalent. If Eddie just stays out of jail, that will do for him. Evan, however, has the destiny of becoming Doctor-President. Paying an arm and a leg for private school, when public school is adequate and Jessica’s discipline is more than adequate, just doesn’t make sense.

Jessica and Evan take a meeting with the headmaster of St. Orlando’s. At first, Jessica is skeptical, but the headmaster is confident that he can easily convince Jessica of the benefits of private school. He focuses on what St. Orlando’s graduates have achieved, like how many of them have gone to Ivy League schools or become astronauts. I really wish Jessica had been able to stand her ground longer on this. I am a big supporter of public schools. Our public schools need very involved parents like Jessica supporting them, not abandoning them. Anyway, Jessica is indeed convinced, but she’s not so happy to find out it isn’t as simple as just saying she’ll pay tuition. And it’s not a la carte, either (Jessica didn’t want to pay for gym class). There’s an application process that requires recommendations, and an interview of Evan, too.

In the B story of the episode (or C story, maybe?). Emery took some video of the middle school graduation (the valedictorian used a Boyz 2 Men quote in his speech, which is definitely authentic mid-90s graduation material), and Eddie and his friends see him editing it on the computer he’s borrowed from the AV Club for the summer. He’s putting in fun Pop-Up Video style captions, and the boys think that’s pretty cool. They start putting in their own, kind of mean but mostly funny pop-up captions, like the fact that Trent is a Sparrow Scout. Later, most of the boys are chilling in lawn chairs outside talking about how they’re going to work out and be so ripped by the beginning of high school. Dave runs up to the rest of the group, panicked because his stepbrother now has the video that they captioned. They’re going to be the laughingstocks of their high school even before the first day.

Like Jessica, Louis faces his own “stick to the life plan” crisis in this episode. He takes a meeting at Cattleman’s with Marvin and Marvin’s good friend, who happens to be none other than Michael Bolton. Michael Bolton is jealous of all the money Kenny Rogers has made in the restaurant business, and he wants a piece of the action. He offers to buy a share of Cattleman’s (Marvin thinks this could provide the liquidity Louis needs to buy his house), but Louis declines, because it goes against the life plan, and the life plan has served the Huangs well thus far. When he gets home, Louis finds Jessica and Evan looking at the life plan boards (because they had been debating whether or not to update Evan’s for private school). The conversation gets awkward, because Jessica is trying to hide the fact that she’s contemplating a major deviation from the life plan in sending Evan to private school. She’s not ready to tell Louis about it yet, which doesn’t quite make sense to me.

Jessica throws her usual enthusiasm behind getting Evan accepted into St. Orlando’s. She fights Evan’s current school over his grades. Then she tries to get a recommendation from the guy whose house she’s selling, but he’ll only do it if she lowers her commission. Next, she tries Deirdre, whose only price is a fresh manicure. It turns out that’s a price Jessica is willing to pay, so she’s got a recommendation now. In the interview, Evan is his usual intelligent, charming self. When a large envelope arrives from St. Orlando, they think Evan has it in the bag. To their dismay, however, Evan was not accepted. The rejection letter comes with some nifty “My Child Almost Got into St. Orlando’s” stickers, though. Jessica marches over to Deirdre’s house and accuses Deirdre of not using a strong enough signature on the recommendation letter. Deirdre explains that private schools judge an applicant’s whole family, and word among Orlando’s elite is that the Huangs are “renters who work in the service industry.” Jessica is determined to make this right.

Louis has an especially frustrating encounter with his landlord, who wants to charge for driveway damage and is upset that Louis picked ten dandelions to make wishes. Louis goes to Marvin’s office, where Michael Bolton happens to be picking out a new toothbrush, and says he agrees to take Michael Bolton on as a partner. He then goes home and tells Jessica about the opportunity and that he thinks they should take it. Jessica is all-in, but with a twist. She wants to use the money to buy the mansion she’s been trying to sell. She tells the current owner that if his wife can get Evan into St. Orlando’s, they’ll buy the house. Making such a big move gives Louis and Jessica a little pause, but they want what they think is best for Evan.

Meanwhile, Eddie and his friends try and figure out how to get the graduation tape back from Dave’s stepbrother. Dave wants to poison his stepbrother, but thankfully the rest of the group puts this in the bad idea file. Eddie decides he’s going to talk to the stepbrother, Tyler, young man to young man, and remind him what it was like to be a freshman in high school. Eddie goes into the house and is just starting to have this conversation when one of the other boys throws a rock through Tyler’s window. Eddie grabs the tape, and they all run. On the way back to Eddie’s house, they all crow about how great high school is going to be now. Everything changes when they see the rest of the Huangs packing things up for the big move. Eddie’s not going to be going to high school with his friends after all.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Doctor Who 10.12: "The Doctor Falls"

“Like smart phones, sewage, and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.”
-The Doctor

As one would expect, given this was written by Steven Moffat, there was a lot going on in the tenth season finale of “Doctor Who.” This was an apparent finale for companion Bill, and the penultimate episode for both Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi and head writer Moffat. Both will return (and pass over the reigns to Jodie Whittacker and Chris Chibnall respectively) in this year’s Christmas special. I will say, though, that for the most part, the episode’s 90 minutes was used well. There were lots of emotional moments for the Doctor, Bill, Missy, Nardole, and the John Simm version of the Master. Yep, that’s right, we’ve got two regenerations of the Master in one episode, and it’s a fascinating contrast. If this is the last we see of the character (which is a distinct possibility), it was a fitting sendoff. It was also a fitting sendoff for Bill, although that sendoff was a bit too similar to Clara’s sendoff, which happened only one season ago, for my taste.

This episode was very much a continuation of the previous episode. The Doctor, Missy, Nardole, and Bill are all on a ship that is being taken over by the Cybermen, and we’ve just learned that the John SImm version of the Master is behind it all. Most of the action takes place on level 507 of the ship, where a bunch of kids are being kept safe from Cybermen in a rather idyllic pastoral setting. It’s idyllic during the day, at least. At night, the adults have to keep the prototype Cybermen who are hung up like scarecrows from attacking the kids. Nardole pilots a ship carrying the rest of the gang from the Hellish, industrial hospital level up to the level with the kids. The Doctor has altered the Cybermen’s programming, so they think that Time Lords are humans too, now. Everybody has skin in the game, and I think the Master especially doesn’t like it.

Bill goes on an especially interesting journey in this episode, and while the ending feels a little perfunctory, it was ultimately satisfying. It’s pretty clear, at least, that Bill’s not coming back any time soon, and she gets to have awesome adventures with a hot (watery) chick. Bill is most definitely a Cyberman (Cyber-person?) at the beginning of this episode, but she’s not aware of it. She’s been relegated to a barn on floor 507 so that she doesn’t scare the children, and she can’t figure out why. Eventually, she looks in a mirror and realizes the truth. She has, by some sort of miracle (that will be explained at the end of the episode, retained her sense of self and identity, but physically, she’s a Cyberman. As the episode progresses, she eventually admits that she can feel the Cyberman taking over. It’s getting harder to hold on to herself.

The most interesting person in the episode, surprisingly, was Missy. It was really hard to tell where her loyalties would ultimately lie. On the one hand, the Master is literally another version of herself. On the other hand, she has a long history with the Doctor, and he has really been working with her to teach her some sense of morality. She has also demonstrated regret for what she’s done in the past. In this episode, while she does try to ingratiate herself to the Master, she also helps the Doctor when it counts, playing an instrumental role in getting the group up to level 507 in the first place. Ultimately, she decides she wants to stand with the Doctor, although she doesn’t end up getting a chance to act on that (more on that in a bit). Missy and the Master have a kind of really weird sexual tension. I think the intent behind it was to show how self-absorbed the Master (in all his/her incarnations) is. Instead, it kind of reads as an older, more experienced female incarnation of the Master needing and seeking the approval of her less experienced, downright cruel male predecessor. I’m hoping the immanent changing of the guard, especially since we’ll have a female Doctor, will help address the myriad gender issues of the Moffat era of the show. As for her previous incarnation, the Master doesn’t hear the sound of drums anymore. Without the touch of crazy, he’s just plain cruel.

Nardole finds himself mostly interacting with the locals. He especially gets along with a woman named Hazron and a girl named Alit. The Cybermen are rapidly evolving, and they really want to start assimilating floor 507, and there are very limited options for how to proceed. The TARDIS itself is near the very top of the ship, where time moves slower than at the bottom thanks to the nearby black hole. By the time the group could reach the TARDIS, the Cybermen would have thousands of years to evolve and plan how to assimilate everyone. Instead, the Doctor wants Nardole to take everyone five years above to the next agriculture level and try to make a life there. Nardole eventually agrees, and they all escape while the Doctor creates lots of explosions as he kills as many Cybermen as he can (with help from Bill, of course). It was an interesting choice of exit for Nardole, for sure.

Both Missy and the Master also make an exit. It seems rather permanent, but with “Doctor Who,” anything is possible, so I imagine that if Chris Chibnall wants to bring an incarnation of the Master back at some point, he’ll figure out a way. Missy and the Master’s plan is to get to the Master’s TARDIS. The Master was stranded on this ship when his TARDIS broke down, but Missy has just the spare part he needs. Before they take the elevator to the Master’s TARDIS, though, Missy goes to give him a hug. There’s more than meets the eye to this, though. She literally stabs him in the back. It’s not over between them, though. Missy gives a great speech about how she’s going to go stand with the doctor, but with his last breaths before he regenerates into her, the Master makes sure that will never happen. He shoots her with what looks like his sonic screwdriver, and he tells her the setting is high enough that she won’t regenerate. Rest in Peace, Missy.

Bill also gets a nice send-off, although it’s a bit deux ex machina. Just as Bill is about to give up, Heather, her watery pilot love interest from the beginning of the season, appears. Because Heather gave Bill some of her tears, she always knows where Bill is. She turns Bill into a fellow watery creature, saying it’s just another kind of living. At least Bill isn’t a Cyber(person) anymore. They decide to go on intergalactic adventures together, but before they leave to go gallivanting around, Bill (temporarily) saves the Doctor with more of her tears. The Doctor regains consciousness in the TARDIS, which is in a very wintery, frozen area. He can tell he’s starting to regenerate, and he’s not happy about it. Like the Tenth Doctor, he’s not ready to go. People really ragged on Ten for that, so I’m not sure why the creative team is going to that well again. Anyway, the wintery landscape happens to be where the First Doctor regenerated, too. And One appears himself, played by David Bradley, who also played him in the movie about the beginnings of the show created for the 50th Anniversary. Clearly he’s going to have some things to teach Twelve about accepting regeneration when they return for the Christmas Special.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer DVR Dump: The Librarians 3.10: “And the Wrath of Chaos’

“In one single act, you have destroyed everything we have worked for.”
- Jenkins

We’ve reached the end of another season with our wacky crew of Librarians. Coming into this episode I was a little worried for Flynn’s life and Eve’s allegiance. Let’s see if my fears were borne out! Unfortunately, at least on the Eve front it looks like I’m going to be sorely disappointed. We find her meeting with the head of DOSA. Eve agrees to give the government the Library and all the artifacts but only if they let the Librarians go. When she gets back to the Library she says that DOSA was trying to turn her but she got some intelligence off of them and sends the rest of the team off to investigate. Knowing something is off, Flynn stays back. It doesn’t take Jake, Cassie and Ezekiel long to realize that things are off and they try to head back.

It's going to be hard for them to get back to the Library when Eve has disabled the back door and she is marching DOSA in through the front door while Flynn and Jenkins watch. Flynn naturally freaks out but Jenkins reminds him that their duty is to protect the Library and the artifacts. So, our lead Librarian goes off to try and protect the items he’s collected over the years while Jenkins tries to buy him some time. He confronts Eve and the head of DOSA as they bust in to take stuff away. He gets turned to stone by Medusa’s head and later undone so Eve can try to explain what she’s done. He isn’t buying it (although the way he was going on, in the infection of his voice, I thought he might be in on it and this is just some giant ploy to get the government back for taking other artifacts). Anyway, Flynn tells the rest of the gang to follow Jenkins to wherever the artifacts are being stored while he continues to sneak about the Library and snatch back as many artifacts as he can. It’s quite comical with him in a full suit of armor that turns him invisible, slipping soup cans into cases. Meanwhile, Eve brings up the Egyptian God of Chaos. The head of DOSA says they have the sarcophagus in storage and it’s under strict security. Eve is skeptical so DOSA lady takes her to see it.

Jake, Cassie and Ezekiel slip into a truck bound for storage land and find that the government has created its own version of the Library, creepy! The team finds Jenkins easily enough (all while marveling at the security measures in place). They try to unlock the box Jenkins is locked in but it takes them realizing that DOSA knows how smart they are to realize they need to use the wrong answer to unlock it. Back at the docks, Eve gets head DOSA lady to open the container with the sarcophagus. Eve acts like she’s convinced it’s all safe and walks off, leaving her former mentor to open the damn thing and get infected by the god.

Things get a little hairy when Eve realizes the god has taken control of her mentor and is going to use a bomb to blow up the library. When the rest of the team gets back, she explains that she and Flynn were working together to find a way to get the god to the Library so they could take him out. As we see, Flynn uses a trail of artifacts to lead the god into the heart of the Library where the DOSA goons set off the bomb. But it does what Flynn wants. It traps him in there and allows him time to start doing what he needs to do to sacrifice himself to stop the evil deity. I have to say, I did like the little nod to the first film when Flynn was looking at a painting of a much younger him with the Spear of Destiny.

Not surprising that the rest of the team isn’t very keen on this idea. They manage to break through the rubble but Flynn has already started using the artifact to trap all the escaping evil. But it appears our gang isn’t without options. Thanks to the magic bestowed by the Monkey King, Jake can give the god a human soul. Cassie gives him a mind and Ezekiel tosses in a love potion to give him a heart. Somehow this combines and turns him human so they use him for the rest of the sacrifice. To be honest I’m not sure how I felt about that being the solution. I’ve kind of felt for most of the season (and last) that the team gels better without Flynn and this would have been a way to write him off in a good way. Going out the way he would have wanted.

The rest of the team then decides to only use magic as a last resort going forward because as Eve said, the Library chose them for their ability to know when to use magic and when not to. I think that’s a good thing to do going forward. Flynn starts to prattle on about an old mission when the clipping book brings up a new problem to solve and the trio just starts going into investigatory mode. They really have found their balance working together and it shows. Flynn and Eve seem to be in a good place, too in their relationship. Eve recognizes that Flynn is trying to adapt to working with others and that it will take time.

Overall, I’m kind of lukewarm on the finale. It was fun in spots but not the outcome I’d been hoping for. I was ready to see Jenkins and the trio and Eve tackle the world’s magical problems without Flynn. He had his time to shine. Let the others have their spotlight now.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.17: "Why is Josh in a Bad Mood?"

“Because he’s always buzzing around you. He’s like this sexy Italian fly, and you’re like this old meatball in an alley.”
-Paula

I’ll admit, I’m quite conflicted about this particular episode of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” I’ve been a pretty consistent fan of Greg and Rebecca, to the point where knowing what is going to happen early in season 2 has made me nervous to keep watching my favorite show (no worries, once I’m done with these catch-up recaps, my reviews of all season 2 episodes will be coming at you in late summer). I also especially love two of the songs in this episode because they are adorable but edgy at the same time and kind of fit my overall “cutesy sadistic” or “candy coated macabre” sensibility. The episode also, however, highlights how dysfunctional Greg and Rebecca truly are. I would have loved to have seen them grow and work on their issues together (and when I first watched the show last summer I insisted they absolutely needed to), but rewatching it now, I see that they behave so immaturely in this episode (and in the next, come to think of it), that I totally get why it didn’t ultimately work out. Personal growth, yay!

Greg and Rebecca are finally sleeping together (a lot), and it has numerous implications for them and their circle of friends and acquaintances. As Greg said they would, they have spent three days doing pretty much nothing but have sex with occasional breaks for Chinese food. Eventually, it’s time to break out of the “Sex Cocoon” as Rebecca calls it and try to get back to real life. They both have to go to work, and that’s when the problems start. For Rebecca, the main problem is Paula. Paula, of course, is overly invested in Rebecca’s love life. We learn that without Josh or a similar love interest to obsess over, Paula is terrified that they won’t have anything in common and Rebecca won’t want to be her friend anymore. Rebecca is determined to disabuse Paula of this notion, so when she learns that Paula is going to be participating in a pie baking contest, she goes all-out trying to help her, including trying to incorporate a caper like they used to get into when Rebecca was pursuing Josh.

Paula also guesses that Rebecca is sleeping with someone, and throughout the episode, she keeps grilling Rebecca about who it might be. She compiles a list of possibilities and everything. She assures Rebecca that she’s fine with her sleeping with anyone but Greg. Since Greg is the person Rebecca is sleeping with, this is obviously a problem. While I have serious problems with Paula’s Josh-love and the beyond stalker-ish lengths she’s gone to try and bring him and Rebecca together, she does have a sensible list of reasons why dating Greg isn’t a good idea. She points out that he’s a boozehound and that he’s self-loathing, among other things. When I first watched “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” I was so enchanted by Santino Fontana (pun not really intended, even if he did play the role of the Prince in Roger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” on Broadway, that I was completely willing to overlook Greg’s less than stellar qualities. He’s adorable, but he’s still rather immature, and that’s not going to help Rebecca grow.

Greg is generally happy to be having so much sex with Rebecca, but he’s clearly still rather unsure in the relationship. He wants to keep things casual for a while, and Hector encourages him in this. Hector encourages Greg that Women have the power in a relationship before sex, and men have the power after sex. He wants Greg to take advantage of that power. Specifically, he really wants Greg to go on a double date with him, because the girl he’s seeing has a cousin coming in from out of town. When Rebecca tries to schedule a legit date with Greg, he mentions he already has plans. This throws Rebecca for a loop, and she makes up a lie that she has multiple dates in the next week, too. They’re both desperately trying to play it cool, even though they don’t want to. Although I never take my own advice on this. Like Rebecca and Greg, I play it seriously cool to my own detriment.

Josh learns about Rebecca and Greg’s new relationship (or whatever) when he sees them flirting at Home Base. It’s Heather who has to connect the dots for him. Josh finds himself uncharacteristically upset by this turn of events. He needs to go to the dojo to blow off some steam, and he starts ignoring Valencia even more than usual. Valencia, for her part, is really angling for a proposal. Helping Josh’s sister with her wedding really has her wanting one of her own. We see her putting together gift bags and roping Josh into helping, too. This sub-plot makes me thing there are two things going on regarding Josh’s interest in Rebecca. First, as has always been the case, Josh has been enjoying the attention Rebecca provided. Rebecca would compliment him and build him up, while Valencia usually just has criticism. Second, Valencia clearly wants to up the commitment factor, and Josh is scared. If Valencia wasn’t so obviously angling for marriage, I wonder if Josh might have been content with her for a while longer.

There are three songs in this episode, and each are great in their own way. First, there’s “I Gave You a UTI.” Before this song, I wouldn’t have thought that a song about a UTI could be charming, but Santino Fontana manages it. Rebecca gets a UTI, and Greg decides this means he’s great at sex (even though Rebecca patiently tries to explain that quantity more than quality of sex is what causes a UTI), so he joyfully sings about it. Rebecca’s reaction is part of what makes it work, too. She thinks it’s weird, but with her smile, you can see she finds it at least a bit charming. Then, there’s Josh’s “Angry Mad” song while he works out at the dojo. This is mostly notable for Vincent Rodriguez’s impressive marital arts work (it’s all him – no stuntperson). Finally, we get my favorite song of the second half of the season “Oh my God I think I Like You.” It perfectly captures that moment when you realize you might actually have real feelings for someone (and it’s sung by Rebecca, in reference to Greg).

Anyway, everything comes to a head at the pie contest. Rebecca helped Paula sneak into her rival’s kitchen, but they discover that her “secret ingredient” is just unsalted butter. Paula makes her best pecan pie, and Rebecca helps her present it to the judges. Darryl, who is a judge at the contest, loves the pie, but before the competition ends, Rebecca passes out. She hadn’t gone to the doctor for her UTI (she was determined to handle it with just cranberry pills and painkillers), and the infection spread to her kidneys. Rebecca ends up in the hospital, and both Greg and Josh rush to her bedside. Notably, Greg is there because Rebecca texted him, and Josh is there because Paula called him. Of course, it comes out that Rebecca and Greg have been sleeping together. In the hospital is not the best time for a truth bomb, but Rebecca has no choice, unfortunately.