Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: Lost 2.16: The Whole Truth

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Jin gets to be a complete arse in the first five minutes.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Two, Episode Sixteen - The Whole Truth
Written 14/8/13

Yep, guilt. Thought I'd hitched on a theme there. Just as all of the episodes since Collision have hinged their character progressions on guilt in one form or another, The Whole Truth gets out a big basket of guilt for Sun as she struggles with having to tell the truth. The Whole Truth, in fact. Hehe. Whereas, in something that I hadn't realised was pretty much unique in Lost up until a few weeks ago, a fair chunk of the character plot is shoved aside to deal with progressing the season's arc, with Henry Gale getting to be manipulative again and deliver another great speech and basically be such a terriffic actor that it's hard to put into words.
     In her flashback, Sun and Jin are trying to do the do and have been failing to get preggers for about a year. Jin gets her to go to a fertility doctor with him, who tells her that she has blocked Fallopian tubes. Meanwhile, she's been learning English from her former not-suitor Jae Lee (whom we met back in ...And Found) and begins an affair with him. The doctor who told her the news catches up with her and reveals that, scared of Jin's connections with the underworld, he lied because it is he, not Sun, who is really infertile. In her main island story, Sun gets morning sickness and has to barter with Sawyer for a pregnancy test. She is scared of telling Jin because she believes that since he is infertile off the island, that Jae Lee must be the father - not talking about the affair, she tells Jin about the baby anyway, hoping it'll all wash over. (Hint: it won't.)
     In the Hatch, Locke gets the upper hand on Jack and convinces Ana-Lucia to interrogate Henry Gale. She actually manages, despite her track record, to use the nicley-nicely approach, affording her with a map to the supposed site where his balloon crashed. Along with Sayid and a recovering Charlie, they go off along the path set out and find all the landmarks - but don't find the balloon. Yet. In the Hatch, Jack allows Henry to eat some serial in the main room of the Swan for "good behaviour," and in a very creepy scene he implies that the search party has been led into an ambush - all the while still denying his involvement, cheerfully.
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Beautiful cheeky manipulative bastard. From Wikia
     Like I think I said last time, I don't realistically see Jin and Sun as a couple - they're two people with very different needs, and while the star-crossed lovers thing is all well and good, I don't see anything in their personalities which would be complementary - to the point where I wonder why they got together in the first place. The genius of writing a relationship through its highs and lows is to see how changing characterisations over time hit and miss with the other persons' - but the personality changes in this relationship come out of nowhere, with this episode supposedly set very soon before Sun's first centric flashback, in which she is a weak and very downtrodden wife almost scared of leaving her husband. Here she's more fierce willed and she's having an affair with her English teacher and it's all howdy doody.
     I'm enjoying the continuing plot with Henry Gale a lot more than I am the rest of the plot, although this episode did add in some more development for Ana-Lucia over in that department. I really do think that while this episode did manage to capitalise on a lot of cool ideas surrounding Jin and Sun's relationship, that the core of their interactions still feels somewhat empty to me overall, and that really for me is part of the reason why Jin and Sun episodes just don't grab me at all with their centric characters. The Whole Truth, however, was saved from its watery boring fate by a strong script which incorporated well the season's ongoing arc.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We find out about whether Henry Gale is telling the truth (guess) and Locke gets a bit trapped in the process. It's Lockdown.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Review: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

As in its beginning, work on the blog has basically come to a complete standstill. I've finished the Lost reviews, but if I do finish Voyager Season 3 then it will be far after it's due, probably in the Summer. As for now, I've got a few films to talk about, so without much ado...

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POSTER SHOT!!! From thefilmchair
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2004, Written by Charlie Kaufman, Dir. by Michel Gondry. Written 24/4/14.

There's a certain set of a assumptions that come with cult films - a very specific number of tropes that tend to get played out over and over again. This is especially true in romance - there is, after all, only a certain number of ways that two hetereosexual cisgender white people can interact with each other romantically. It's a genre which has very much been done to death - but then again, that's something that doesn't seem to really bother Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), who excels and taking genres and tearing them apart at the seams. While the film starts out as a conventional if odd romance, it soon develops deeper science-fiction roots which serve not only to offer some questions about human nature, but to bring the entire romance genre crashing into the real world.
     The film follows the quiet, unassuming Joel Barish (a straight-faced Jim Carrey) as he bunks off work and ends up meeting the excitable Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), with whom he finds an immediate connection. Flashback to a day prior, and we learn that both Joel and Clementine have chosen to erase their memories of a prior relationship which went sour due to their innate incompatibility. The film then follows Joel inside his mind, reliving the memories of his relationship with Clementine while a host of minor characters (doing the erasing) undergo their own, distracting plotlines. The film's structure works to force the secondary characters into as much dramatic limelight as the two leads, and as a result it's that much richer.
     By going backwards through Joel's memories of his relationship with Clementine, the film both mirrors and parodies the conventional US rom-com format - the cute meeting, the argumentative stages, and then slowly growing closer to the point of intimacy. Except that it points out at every step of the way the problems which come with their relationship, from their personality clashes to their irrational complaints about one another - culminating in the ending of the film (spoilers hur hur) in which both Joel and Clementine in the present receive the tapes they made before their memory wipe, and decide to proceed with their relationship even knowing that they may end up explosively breaking up. And then there was some weird recursion thing, but I ignored that.
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Clementine and Joel. That mug looks painful.
From thefilmchair
     The film's secondary character sinclude a host of faces which for 2004 is quite impressive - faces like Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson. They engage in a storyline running through the other one, in which they are all involved in erasing Joel and Clementine's memories of each other. (By choice.) Each of them is equally fucked up: Wood's character uses Joel's memories of Clementine to attempt to seduce Clementine and steal her underwear; Dunst is pursuing a relationship with Ruffalo's character in order to get in with her boss Wilkinson; Wilkinson has already had an affair with Dunst but keeps wiping her memory of it; and Ruffalo knows about Wilkinson's plot but bangs Dunst anyway. It's the potatoes to Carrey and Winslet's meat, and manages to probe all of the unhealthy relationship archetypes which romance films tend to gloss over as good.
     The film's writing is what makes it a good film, and Kaufman is three for three, but the film's acting is what takes it to the next level, especially between Carrey and Winslet. This was in the short string of movies where Carrey was attempting to be serious, and unlike the similarly brilliant The Truman Show, Carrey's characterisation is about as far from the norm that he can get. There's no gurning, no catchphrases - the film hangs on the fact that this is a shy guy with deeply fucked up internal problems. The same for Winslet, even if quality for her is a little more expected. Those two make a surprisingly fun double-act, even when they're screaming random shit at each other. ("You're trying to figure out, did she fuck someone tonight?" "Clementine, I assume you fucked someone tonight. Isn't that how you get people to like you?") And it's that, as much as this film's novel approach to storytelling, that makes The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so fantastic.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Charlie Kaufman write about Charlie Kaufman writing Adaptation in Adaptation.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.18: Death Wish

Q uses name-dropping to make his point against Quinn.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Eighteen - Death Wish
Written 11/8/13

The Q are the one thing about the 24th Century Treks that would have originally put me off - omnipotent beings characterised by their self-imposed guardianship of the universe and one particular Q's insistence upon meddling with the human race. While overseeing many an important plot development in The Next Generation, his appearances in DS9 and Voyager were always highly variable, this happening to be one of the good ones due to the addition of another member of his race, Quinn. He brought a host of cool ideas to the table as well as expanding upon the Q society in a mind-opening way.
      Voyager tries to take a sample from a strange asteroid and instead frees Quinn, a member of the Q Continuum who is tired of his humdrum life and wishes only to die - hence his imprisonment by the Continuum, who have never had to deal with someone wanting to take their own life. When the Q more well-known to Starfleet shows up as his prosecutor, Quinn demands asylum, and Janeway holds a hearing wherein she forces Q to grant Quinn his immortality should he win the case. While Q initially throws the trial his way by showing the lives that Quinn had benefitted, the defence brings Janeway to a highly metaphorical imagining of the Q Continuum in order to demonstrate that there is simply nothing left in existence for him to do. Accepting reluctantly the tediousness of his life, Janeway grants him mortality, and with the help of a newly rebellious Q, he commits suicide.
     John de Lacie's Q (more recently seen as Agent Shapiro in the misguided Miracle Day) is up to his usual standard of witty repartée with the standing captain, although there's always a caveat in the Janeway/Q relationship that somewhat pisses me off. His attitude to her is both sexist and creepy, exploiting his ominipotency to pop in on her at moments of vulnerability and making multiple sexual advances, even if he doesn't exploit his powers to force himself on her. This gets more pressing in his next appearance, so I'll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that there's something deeply problematic in the way his character is written when interacting with her.
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Quinn filibusters on the tedium of the Continuum.
     I liked the episode's exploration of the Q Continuum's politics in-universe and of assisted suicide out-of-universe. It's a bit of a big thing to want to cover in a standard episode of Star Trek, and the issue of Quinn's main desire was treated, at least initially, with a jollity which doesn't match the seriousness of the issue being discussed. I think that was rather the point though - that despite Quinn's light-hearted and playful demeanour, there really are circumstances where even the most naturally happy of people can be driven by situation or by time towards not wanting to live any more.
     Death Wish mixed together humour and serious issues in a way which on paper looks distinctly wrong, but which in execution worked well to soothe over what would otherwise be one hell of a depressing episode. I wish overall that the interactions between Q and Janeway weren't so damn creepy and bordering on sexual assault, but they don't majorly detract from the episode's themes and it's a hell of a lot better than the next Q episode, which we'll see next season. This discussion of Euthanasia was far beyond what Star Trek had really done before in terms of its sheer boldness - and that, as we'll see, is one thing that Voyager always manages to do well.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Why do fools, fall in love? We look at The Doctor's Lifesigns.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Review: Lost 2.15: Maternity Leave

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Claire remembers Ethan doing some crazy shit.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Two, Episode Fifteen - Maternity Leave
Written 14/8/13

 I said last season that I wasn't really a massive Claire fan, and while that hasn't changed a bit I really must clarify that there isn't any animosity in me for the character - rather a distant apathy that has let me sit and watch as everyone and his dog has tried to kidnap Claire, her baby or both within the space of no time at all. However, the last season did leave us with a gap in our knowledge, which gives us the perfect excuse to experiment with Lost's format as well as reveal, through both flashbacks and through Henry Gale, some of what The Others were up to.
     Claire starts getting flashbacks, and when Aaron gets a fairly normal baby illness, she is acosted once more by Rousseau, who gets the idea in her head that the baby has the mysterious "sickness", which her flashback of Ethan giving her a vaccine backs up. She and Kate look for Rousseau, who helps Claire as they search for The Staff, a Dharma station that Claire sees in her new flashbacks. Even as she finds the place empty, she remembers that she was drugged by Ethan into trusting him completely, but that a teenage girl called Alex (who we know as Rousseau's estranged daughter) helped her to escape. Elsewhere, in The Hatch, Eko gets to talk to Henry Gale and confesses to killing two of The Others on his first day on the Island, and Henry makes some select comments about Locke and Jack's working relationship that make Locke and angry and frustrated.
      The show seems to love to play Claire up as a Cassandra character - one who makes extraordinary claims and is believed by no-one until those things actually happen. That tied in a little to what were some... interesting performances from actress Emilie de Ravin as she went from lofty drug-induced delusions in her flashbacks to her slightly more annoying paranoia and misbelief in the present island storyline, up until the point where she finally remembers everything and it turns out that her baby is okay after all. I think the parallels with Danielle Rousseau end up being very interesting, especially in the long run where by Season 6 Claire has basically become her.
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Rousseau hears word from Claire that her daughter might
be alive. From Wikia
     Elsewhere, and Henry Gale's manipulations begin here, in a wonderful scene which would be later homaged in Eggtown. The genius of what his character does is to say, in a sentence or so, just the right thing to instill doubt and dissent. Henry makes it clear that he can hear everything that goes on in the main room of The Swan - enough to know of the rough relationship between Locke, who's happy pushing the button and being cool, and Jack, who Locke sees as a threat to his work. The way Henry manipulates Locke so subtley, without Locke even seeming to notice, is what drives Locke into a state of despair as the season reaches its end. It's really quite brilliant to see manipulation acheived in a way which looks so effortless.
     Maternity Leave was a great episode, with a great guest cast (any episode with both Ben and Danielle is gonna be really good) and a sense that, after the little two week break in purpose, that the show now knows where it's headed again. And, whatever that direction, it's one being marched to with confidence, as the manipulative Henry Gale and the even weirder observations of The Others in Claire's flashback show so concisesly. The season's second half is gathering some speed, and that's really enjoyable for me.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Back in What Kate Did, Jin and Sun did the do. Now Sun is pregnant, in The Whole Truth.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Overview: Heroes: Volume Five - Redemption

I'll take you to task and ask you to remember to read this in an Irish accent, as I tell you a tale of a show desperately looking to better itself for the third time in a row. Something clicked with the writing staff and the show began to embrace mature values - too little too late, I'm sad to say. For every well-handled and exceedingly inclusive LGBTQ relationship, there's a painful ending cliffhanger. This would be the end of Heroes whether it was ready or not, although that may have been something of a blessing... Written between 17th and 21st August 2013. 

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Samuel Sullivan and his Creepy Carnival.
From moviesinsights
Season Four (Volume Five, but I write "season" by default so...) popped up in the Autumn of 2009 and, unlike the previous Volumes, carried on into the new year with a fair 19 episodes' worth to go on. The show entered something of an era of emotional maturity, with a lot of the drama throwing away the superhero ethics and focusing on characterisation in a way that would have been alien to the earlier seasons. There's an overall injection of life and colour into the show which sounds great, but on a week-by-week basis the pace of the plot means that the season only really works as a DVD marathon.
     The season's big schtick is the Carnival, a group of specials who travel around together picking up Specials in need and using their powers to con foolish carnival-goers of their cash, led by the mysterious Samuel, who as it turns out only has his "family" around him because his earth-based powers grow stronger in proportion to the number of specials in his immediate vicinity. Throughout other subplots where Claire is at uni and Noah tries and fails to carry on spying and Hiro gets a tumour and Peter hitches up with a deaf lady, the main cast are guided by Samuel's manipulations towards the Carnival, where they must use their respective powers and character developments to foil Samuel's plot to become uberpowerful and split the world in half.
     I think the biggest focus is on Claire's storyline, at least in my memory. Every single volume has seen Claire in a new social situation, to the point where following her into College is something of a weird parody, especially as we're expected to follow the hijinks of her sorority, a super-powered assassin who wants to hire Claire for the Carnival and the unexpected delight of Gretchen, whose initially creepy character goes on to form a romantic relationship with Claire in what is a remarkably well-done LGBTQ representation, especially for a series where non-heteronormative characters like Zach had their histories conveniently written out in previous volumes. She decides to join the carnival... just cos, I suppose, and then ends the season on a cliffhanger. More on that later.
     More awkward in the extreme is the treatment of the last season's cliffhanger, with Sylar now stuck in the form of Nathan Petrelli and his mind cluttering up Matt Parkman's. This gives the rather odd double role in which Sylar's physical body is walking around (sometimes looking like Nathan, sometimes like Sylar) with no memories of who the hell he is, while Matt is continually haunted by ghostly images of a Sylar who is having the time of his life being a snarky bastard and taking over Matt's body to do a variety of sick and hilarious things. It's a mighty kerfuffle which ends up with Sylar getting a crush on Claire for a few episodes and then deciding to become good in a way which makes every line read from then on pretty ridiculous and I think pretty much ended any possible character development he could have had.
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Farewell, sweet cast. From Movieweb
      Which doesn't really matter, of course, as this was the last season. As happened in the previous volumes, it ended in A Brave New World with a teaser of the next volume, in which Claire reveals herself to the world by jumping off of a ferris wheel while the world's press is for some reason ready and waiting. On the one hand, there's a lot to be said for storylines covering the public reception to real-life superheroes and all of the social commentary that goes with it. On the other hand, what a stupid fucking idea. Literally every time that the public has been given a glimpse into the special's world on a mass scale, in Bad Futures or otherwise, it's always led to camps and holocausts and all hell breaking loose upon the world.
     And that's that. Yes, this is a shorter article than the big ones, but like the series itself I'm imbued with an apathy that I didn't possess at the beginning of this mini-project. It's a fair bit of symbolism for the show itself. It hadn't ran out of ideas, but it had certainly run out of the fresh-faced enthusiasm that it used to deliver them with, and a lot of the character beats in this final volume were either confusing, contradictory or simple repeats of things from previous volumes that really weren't needed. I think that a show like Heroes really does have a definite lifespan, and the only thing that I can really fault this final volume on is the fact that it uses that frustrating cliffhanger technique when really I think they should have bitten the bullet and let the show come to a natural and somewhat satisfying end. It didn't. And that's really what Heroes has left us with.

Thanks.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.17: Dreadnought

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Dreadnought... is da bomb. (My worst pun yet.)
From OV Guide
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Story Seventeen - Dreadnought
Written 10/8/13

Apparently the writers decided in Season Two that B'elanna really was so fucked up that her closest relationships were with robots. I mean, Prototype was only a few episodes ago and now we get this much more thorough and personal thing where it's a mix of mentor/student and parent/child feels running around the place with a sentient missile system in the place of the inferior. Not so creepily toned this time, though, and the way that the episode had us preparing for absolute Armageddon in a convincing way had me smiling through the panic. I always love it when episodes do that, always.
       A Cardassian missile is on its way to destroy a random planet, having been sucked up by The Caretaker a while ago and sent to the Delta Quadrant. The missile is one B'elanna and Chakotay recognise - it is Dreadnought, a missile whose systems B'elanna programmed herself and gave her voice to in order to work for the Maquis and attack a Cardassian stronghold. Now that it's fucked up, she believes she can stop it before it carries on its way, but the missile is so well designed that it instead suspects her of being coerced into lying to it. She is forced to fight with and dismantle the ship's systems as it plummets towards the defenceless planet, managing to detonate above the planet's surface with only seconds to spare. Elsewhere, asshole turncoat Jonas talks summore to the Kazon, and for some reason Paris is being irritable and slapdash in a way which makes B'elanna concerned.
     Praise to Roxann Dawson again, who always puts so much effort into her character episodes - this time playing both a guilt-wracked B'elanna as well as the confused missile that's causing her all of the trouble. For me it had a bit of an Alzheimer's vibe - the frustration in her voice as she tried to convince the missile that she wasn't lying, the way she looked shocked and angry when it had appeared to have betrayed her, only acting in what it believed to be her interest. It was a fascinating relationship - better than in Prototype because this was a lot more focused on B'elanna's own designs and about her looking back on all of the mistakes that she's made since she sent the missile off on its merry way two years prior.
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B'elanna gets touched up behind the scenes.
From Wikia
      Character-wise, we also had a wonderful moment near the start of the episode with Paris' unexplained attitude coming to the fore and the subsequent conversation between he and B'elanna, which sows the seeds of what is Voyager's most enduring relationship. Over the next season, the two would slowly grow closer and they've married and had a daughter before the show's end. It's a really minor thing in the episode itself, but the fact that it exists shows how early ahead the writers were planning this, and if my unrealistic aim of reviewing all of Voyager gets going, then this will appear again and again. Just letting the shippers know that I ship it. :)
      Okay, so maybe Dreadnought didn't do much for me to talk about. But it did improve a theme that Prototype tried a few weeks ago and sorta failed at, giving the idea its credence. It also developed B'elanna's character forward in a much more human and believable way, taking account of her past and present regrets and relationships in order to construct a personality that was distinctly more three dimensional. Which is kinda the aim in these things, yes? It hit that aim, and that's the only praise it needs.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We find out all about the omnipotent being who has a particularly potent Death Wish. Also, Voyager reviews move to Fridays. :D

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review: Lost 2.14: One of Them

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He's Henry Gale, and he's from Minnesota. It's his catchphrase.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Two, Episode Fourteen - One of Them
Written 13/8/13
Spoilers everywhere, people.

Benjamin. Motherfucking. Linus. He's the creme of the crop, the best of the best, the most well-written and love-to-hate-and-then-love characters in the entire show, he's what pushes the show from good to great, all the way, baby. Michael Emerson's contribution to the show is astronomical, and this is his first appearance, although for the rest of this season I will have to call him Henry Gale to keep in with the terminology. Overshadowing his introduction just a tad is an excellent storyline surrounding Sayid and, as is the latest trend in this series, a flashback which shows something he's real guilty about.
     Danielle Rousseau appears in the jungle and guides a wary Sayid to one of her traps, where she has captured the frail and tired looking Henry Gale. Despite his repeated pleas, Danielle tells Sayid not to believe him at all costs and shoots him with an arrow. Sayid takes him back to The Swan, where he beats him and refuses to believe any of his claims about having crashed on the island with his wife. Jack, angry at Locke for having conspired with Sayid to let the torture happen, forces Locke to open the door by threatening to stop him from pressing the button. Elsewhere, Sawyer finds Hurley's massive stash of food and kills an annoying tree frog. In his flashback, Sayid is taken prisoner by the US Forces in the Gulf War and is forced by US soldier Kelvin Inman (whom we'll meet again) to torture his superior, thus beginning his life as a torturer once the US Army left the country.
      Having seen Lost from Season Four onwards I suppose the overall effect of the Henry Gale act is a bit lost on me, and so my primary perspective is imagining the machinations going on in the head of the machivallian schemer currently calling himself Henry Gale. Emerson plays the part with a sly edge - utterly convicted, when necessary, that the Gale story is true, and then for little moments, with increasing frequency as the season goes on, he reveals this beautiful other side which is dark and chilling and manipulative even through bloodied lips. The doubt on the mind of the initial viewer as to whether he's telling the truth or not is what makes the rest of this season so captivating, as Emerson robs every scene he's in even when he's just being beaten up.
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Inman convinces Sayid to torture his commander.
From Wikia
      Sayid's story embodied a note of tragedy, on a number of notes. In the straightforward we have the way that the US Army enabled him to become a torturer and commit so many horrendous acts across his life, thus far culminating in beating up Henry Gale as a method of releasing the anger he still harbours over Shannon's death. On the other hand, as Sayid summarises, he said there was always a part of himself that would be able to do that, and that he felt no guilt for beating Ben and thus he must be lying to him. It was a very interesting character study and one that forced Naveen Andrews to pull out his big acting chops.
      After a forthnight of meh stories, One of Them gets the season bang on track with a story which develops one character brilliantly, introduces another smoothly and mixes it all up in one lovely characterisation package that played the moral ambiguity of the situation for everything it was worth. I shouldn't need to tell you that this isn't the best of Michael Emerson's performances - they're yet to come, as the exquisitely wound mystery of Henry Gale and who the fuck he is gets slowly unwravelled in a way which, for me at least, is as satisfying as Lost ever managed to be.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Claire remembers all the shit that happened to her! We find another Dharma station! Ethan is a creepy weirdo (was, my apologies.) We take some Maternity Leave.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.16: Meld

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Tuvok fails to understand Suder's violent nature.
From dedroidify
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Sixteen - Meld
Written 9/8/13

I am at a loss for words. Every so often a piece of television comes along that just knocks your socks off, and this is one of them. An episode that I missed on my run through the series on syndication, Meld is a masterpiece of acting chops from Tuvok's Tim Russ, who shows with great gusto just how subtle and brilliant of an actor he is when you look behind the grey face of his Vulcan control. It also introduced the captivating character of Lon Suder, a violent offender who has a fascinating repartée with Tuvok both in this episode and in the season finale.
     There's been a murder aboard Voyager, and the only suspect is Lon Suder, a calm and quiet man with freaky big eyes. He initially denies it, but when his guilt is proved he calmly confesses and recites the details of his crime. Tuvok is puzzled at his lack of a motive, and in his Vulcan stubbornness he refuses to accept it. He chooses to mind-meld with Suder, sharing his mind with his. As a result, he understands that Suder is a naturally violent individual. While Suder's experience allowed him to utilize some of Tuvok's self-control while in the Brig, Tuvok goes on a downward spiral as his natural violent instincts work their way up, culminating in a scene in which, during treatment to help him get back to normal, he goes on an emotive rant against Janeway, Kes and The Doctor. He goes to face Suder and execute him for his crimes, but Suder warns him that the violence will never stop if he lets it in, and he is partially able to control himself enough not to commit the act.
     Tuvok's journey into what his race would consider madness is handled wonderfully by Tim Russ, starting with the subtlest of changes in the intonation of his voice and his body language. Even the pronounciation of certain words slowly factored into Tuvok's more and more emotive state, especially in the speech scene in which his ability to supress emotion is removed entirely and he doesn't just kick back and portray a human, but instead acts like someone just granted the ability to feel emotion and express all of their hidden desires and opinions. The way he picks on each of the people in the room individually and attempts to null them psychologically was stunning to witness and it's one of my favourite scenes in all of Voyager. And, talking of my favourite scenes, there's also a fantastic sequence where Tuvok lets out some of his rage by strangling Neelix on the holodeck, which is one of the most satisfying things I can imagine doing. (He's that bad, I'm sorry.)
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If this ain't a creepy motherfucker I don't know what is.
From Wikia
     This is helped by Suder, whose character is introduced here in order to play a role in the season finale. Psychopaths and the like are always interesting characters because they subvert normal behaviour. Here Suder provides something of a foil to Tuvok. As a Betazoid, Suder should have the ability to feel other people's emotions, but instead he is as emotionless as a Vulcan with the sole exception of a cold violent streak. His character is brilliantly constructed both inside and out, with drawn back hair and subtley larger irises to give his eyes and unsettling, staring quality. When he confesses to his murder and explains how he did it, the delivery is so smooth and confidence that it did actually give me goosebumps.
     After two weeks of bullshit, Voyager totally confounded me by delivering 45 minutes of character development and exploration that left me wondering what the hell had happened. How can you have a piece of television so good so soon after an episode where two characters turn into lizards and have kids together? It's always cool to see characteristically straightlaced Vulcan characters have emotional rampages, but the way that this episode so subtley took us through it from his perspective makes it one of the best episodes in the damn show.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: B'elanna makes up for a massive cock-up as she disarms a bomb in Dreadnought.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Review: Lost 2.13: The Long Con

http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061119203652/lostpedia/images/0/0c/2x13_sawyer_medicine.JPG
Sawyer plays the entire camp. And in an enjoyable style,
I might add. From Wikia
Lost - Season Two, Episode Thirteen - The Long Con
Written 13/8/13

Waiting for next week's big plot development that will push this season into perfection, The Long Con follows up last week's disappointment with something slightly similar, except that Sawyer is cool and also has a deliberate psychological reason for why he's being such an asshat. I felt at times like I was watching an episode of Hustle transposed onto a desert island, and while it was cool to see Sawyer's plan to manipulate the other survivors to work against one another come to fruition in so slick a style, it also felt a bit frustrating to see the show mirroring the character beats from the previous season and not doing half as well.
     Jack and Ana-Lucia are all up in trying to train some of the background characters into an army to go off and fight the Others, which has Locke on the defensive as he still believes that the guns are safer locked away and taken only when absolutely necessary. As Jack raids Sawyer's stash to get meds, he begins to cook up a plan. Charlie attempts to kidnap Sun, leaving her dazed and unconscious. This leads the camp to think that The Others have gone back on their promise and attacked. Sawyer leads Kate to believe that it was Ana-Lucia's plan to scare the camp, which thereafter drives her to tell Locke that Ana-Lucia is planning to steal all the guns. Under Locke's nose, Sawyer steals all the guns, declaring himself "the new Sheriff in town." While his bravado makes everyone else hate him, Kate confronts him over the fact that he just wants to be hated. Elsewhere, Hurley cheers up Sayid by giving him Bernard's working radio, and they listen to Glen Millar on a radio channel actually coming from the 1950s. (Thanks Season 5!)
     In his flashback, we see Sawyer attempt his usual routine on a girl named Cassidy. She works it out fairly simply, and asks to become his accomplice and protogé. They go around the country conning people, until Sawyer's real partner Gordy tells him to cough up - it's a long-con, and Sawyer is after Cassidy's money. Despite the fact that he has feelings for Cassidy and feels like shit for doing it to her, he cons her anyway and ditches her, never to see her again.
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Sawyer and Cassidy. From Wikia
     All of this links to a statement that Sawyer makes at the end of the episode - that despite his development on the Island and the fact that he had acheived the mean feat of getting everyone in the camp to like him, he still can't forgive himself for the shit he's done - "I ain't never done a good thing in my life." I can understand where he's coming from and it's very true of the character itself to do it, but it feels very melodramatic for me, and to organise Sun's kidnapping in the way he did rather pushed him over a moral boundary that even I am not prepared to look past for the time being. The issues in this episode are revisisted in its "sequel" next season, so at least they don't just get discarded, but their place in this season feels rather oddly placed, even if I did enjoy the episode.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: His name is Henry Gale, and he's from Minnesota. Or so he says. We meet Michael Emerson's character in One Of Them.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Overview: Star Trek Deep Space Nine

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The most epic space-station on TV. From Wikia
Written 8/12/13.

A lot of Star Trek's development comes back to "Gene Roddenberry's vision" - the utopian, futuristic society that he lay down with the original series. The Next Generation, created by Roddenberry shortly before his death, was an attempt to both bring the franchise back and capture that vision more successfully. In 1993, as The Next Generation entered its sixth and penultimate season, a second spin-off appeared - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which took the previous two series' focus on space exploration and instead focussed on the politics surrounding a single, eponymous space-station. The result is a show which not only divides the fandom, but contains some of Trek's best and worst moments. Mainly best, but that's a matter of opinion.
     Initially focussing on the resettlement of a Cardassian space station by the Bajorans they opressed and the Federation who helped free it, we discover in the pilot that the planet Bajor is adjacent to a stable Wormhole which leads to the Gamma Quadrant, the other side of the galaxy. (But a different other side than Voyager's other side of the galaxy.) Over the course of the series they develop themes on religion, with Bajor worshipping the near-omnipotent aliens that live inside the wormhole, as well as in later seasons focussing on political battles with a powerful Gamma-Quadrant empire known simply as The Dominion. There are also a dozen or so mini-arcs running throughout the series, from a war with the Klingons to the near-collapse of the Ferengi economy.
     The first two seasons of DS9 aren't the best in the world - the show was still picking up on how to effectively write a show that stayed in one place, and similarly to Red Dwarf, they later introduced a spaceship, The Defiant, in order to keep things varied. While a lot of the episodes in the early seasons end up being a little formulaic, the character development that they provide mixes together well and acts as a fairly stable backdrop to what happens as soon as we hit Season Four onwards, in which nearly every other episode is an important, arc-changing reflection on the present political situation. The plot of DS9 is one of the most engrossing of any of the Trek series, and that's simply because the continuity is so well done and the characters so worth investing in.
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From diplomats to terrorists to gods to businessmen,
DS9 has it all. From jornadanasestrelas
     And what a varied cast of characters. While the show's pitch was built upon the idea of African-American single-dad Benjamin Sisko raising his son on the "Frontier", the rest of the show's cast (bar a few) all have very interesting quirks which ensures that they're all fairly interesting by themselves. This of course makes character-centric episodes very different and the show very variable - one episode you could be exploring the breeding caverns of Trill and discussing the merits of sentient symbionts, the next you could be on the ridiculously capitalist Ferenginar discussing the links that Capitalism has to systemic oppresssion. One thing DS9 almost never does with its moral quandries is make things easy - one of the best ever episodes, In The Pale Moonlight, is all about trying to get a powerful political power into a war, by any means necessary.
     Outside of its main arcs, it's also well-known for its badass Captain, Benjamin Sisko, and for exploring the Mirror Universe again for the first time since The Original Series. And, more importantly, Deep Space Nine took Next Gen's balanced view of Roddenberry's vision and looked it over with jade-tinted glasses. This was the Star Trek Universe behaving like the real world, with politics and warfare and death on a huge scale. And from its Old West roots through to its thick and delicious sci-fi explorations, Deep Space Nine is one of the most complex and brilliant shows in the Star Trek arsenal. And that needs to be remembered more.

Thanks.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.15: Threshold

http://voy.trekcore.com/gallery/albums/2x15/threshold_003.jpg
This is not going to end well...
From Trekcore
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Fifteen - Threshold
Written 9/8/13

Where do we come from? Where are we going? How many times do we have to talk about having mutant lizard babies together before it becomes creepy? All these questions and more were asked by this charming episode which, in the words of its author Brannon Braga, is a "royal, steaming stinker". While I don't find Threshold outwardly offensive in the way that other famously bad episodes of things are, I do strike it from my personal canon because it's a lot easier to watch if you assume that none of it has any long lasting effect, and conveniently the series never talks about anything that happened in this episode ever again.
     Tom Paris is trying to exceed something called the Transwarp Barrier, which supposes that reaching a speed of "Warp 10" will give you infinite velocity and thus let you experience the entire universe at once. His simulations are successful thanks to a suggestion from Neelix - as is his first trial run, which brands him a hero. However, after the trial run he begins mutating wildly - first with veins everywhere and organs appearing and disappearing, but soon he mutates into a reptilian creature with God-like ambitions. The mutant kidnaps Janeway and flies off at Warp 10, causing her to mutate as well. The Doctor reveals that the form he has mutated into is on the "natural course" for humanity's evolution, and that he has simply mutated early. Tuvok and Chakotay track the two down - they are now lizards and, as it turns out, have had three lizard offspring. The two are returned to their normal selves and have awkward banter about having sex with one another.
      So... I'm assuming I don't have to tell you how silly the whole "travelling really fast makes you mutate" thing is, right? Right. That said, it is not the most ridiculous offense against Science in the episode, which is the famous Brannon Braga misunderstanding of what evolution is. He would later get this wrong again in Enterprise and cause that show's captain to commit a genocide because there was a species that was "evolutionarily better" than another. See, evolution is a slow, gradual process that occurs across generations, because it's a quite abstract thing that relies upon the likelihood that an organism with certain traits will be more likely to reproduce or not due to those traits. It's not randomly mutating into a lizard. And unless something goes seriously weird, humanity's immediate evolutionary future will not be reptilian. Plus, how the fuck did Janeway!Lizard have kids in three days? And, more fucking importantly, why can't the ship just use Warp 10 anyway to get home and then have The Doctor fix everyone? That's one massive plot hole right there.
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...not for anyone. From Treknologic
     It's clear from many scenes that this episode was an attempt to develop Paris' character, with the feeling that after his big showy entrance in Season One that the show had drifted on onto other characters. The problem is that a lot of what he says here doesn't match up with what we've seen in previous episodes - describing how everyone thought he was great in High School and how his father always believed in him. That's pretty much the exact opposite of how he's been presented in the rest of the series, with a bitter relationship with Daddy not helped by repeated run-ins with the law. It may have been believable had it not been paired with such a silly and unpleasant plot but it's not that good anyway.
     One important thing to note though was that Threshold didn't make me angry. I didn't feel offended by it, and despite its well-earnt reputation as the worst episode of Star Trek ever made, there are worse to come in Enterprise and, if you'll excuse my snobbery, in the Abramsverse. It was more a tale of misguidedness - misguided character beats put to a misguided concept, executed to within an inch of its life. It just so happens that these were so misguided that everything that actually happened in this episode has been struck from the Star Trek canon like in no other episode. I for one, remembering those Janeway/Paris lizard baby, am very glad for that fact, even if I wish that the episode had just had a bit more thought behind it.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: We meet sad slimey psychopath Suder in Meld.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Lost 2.12: Fire + Water

http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061113225007/lostpedia/images/8/88/2X12_-_CharlieAndAaron.jpg
Charlie be kidnapping babies. From Wikia
Lost - Season Two, Episode Twelve - Fire + Water
Written 13/8/13

I didn't say that Season Two was perfect. That would be silly. Some of the characters from the main lot don't get utilised as well as the new guys, and some of them go off in weird and disturbing deviations from their arcs. The best example is Charlie, who goes from being a recovering Junkie managing to find a fairly stable foothold in which to recover by becoming a father figure for Claire's baby, to being a delusional nutjob who kidnaps babies, lies to everyone about everything and who basically needs some serious psychiatric help. It's not the best way for a character to go, really, and instead of feeling interesting like it should do it just makes me want to smack his face every time he sprouts his bullshit.
     Charlie has several visions and delusions where Aaron (pronounced for no apparent reason by Charlie as "eh-ron", which is currently getting my most-annoying-thing-in-Lost reward) is in danger and he is the man expected to run to his rescue, and they're filed with a dozen and three religious references along with it. In his second vision of the episode, he awakens with Aaron in his arms, and it turns out he's been sleepwalking and has stolen Aaron from his crib. After being reprimanded, he starts to become jealous when Locke is acting like a better friend to Claire and a better daddy to Aaron than he ever did. Locke asks if he's using again, and is betrayed when he finds out that Charlie lied about keeping some of the heroin-filled statues. Eventually Charlie becomes convinced, after a conversation with Eko, that Aaron needs to be baptised, so he sets some forest on fire near the camp and uses the distraction to once more kidnap Aaron, leading to Locke punching him out. Meanwhile Hurley flirts with Libby summore.
     It's clear what's going on in Charlie's subconscious, even if it isn't immediately apparent. In the flashback we see his brother flush Charlie's dreams away again in order to get out of his drug addiction, selling Charlie's piano to pay for rehab in order to reconcile with his wife and newborn daughter. In my mind I think that Charlie now associates children with redemption and thinks that if a daughter helped his brother to become better, then adopting Aaron as his own will help him do the same. The problem, as Claire and Locke point out to him, is that he's not in a committed relationship - a month ago he was a stranger to Claire and the way he's latched onto her and her son with that level of possessiveness is really, really creepy. I think any reasonable person would realise that if you're subconsciously snatching babies in your sleep, there is something seriously wrong that you need to sort out.
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Don't ask. From Wikia
      I'm sure that Fire + Water was trying to do something interesting with its character, like the show did back in The Moth, which was actually pretty good and managed to show Charlie in a three-dimensional manner. The problem with that in this case is that in Fire + Water, even though he isn't even using the drugs, he seems to throw everything that he learnt back in people's faces. He lied and cheated and fell pray to his delusions - okay, Claire can't really talk, considering that she was on the plane because a psychic told her to be - in a way which really just made me question his overall sanity. It makes no sense to me that the funky rocker who began the show seeking redemption for his past transgressions has managed to develop into someone so easily hateable.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Sawyer does exactly the same thing. Except on purpose. And Charlie helps. We find out that Sawyer has been playing The Long Con