We're getting towards the end of season one – they certainly go fast when you're watching/reviewing in groups of three! – and the show on the whole has found a sense of its own rhythm without quite reaching the heights of its potential (though Callisto is just around the corner...)
Contained here are three pretty solid episodes: one which really kicks the subtext into high gear, one which delves into a familial relationship of Xena's past, and one which goes with a tried-and-true formula of genre television – the hero is injured and the sidekick steps up to the plate.
As you're very well aware (even if you don't watch the show), the firstepisode starring ourfirstfemale incarnation of the Doctor has aired, and even though I haven't done an episode review forDoctor Whoin years, I feel galvanised enough by the event to share some brief thoughts.
It's the 1st of October, and you know what that means: I prep for Halloween by choosing a spooky Woman of the Month!
There are actually two Coralines in the world: the one in Neil Gaiman’s original children's book, and the other in Henry Selick’s filmic adaptation. The former is quiet and cautious, whilst the latter is out-going and a little bratty. Perhaps not un-coincidentally, the first is British and the second American. Just sayin’.
However, both are bona-fide heroines, thrown into a frankly terrifying situation with only wits and courage to see her through. You probably know the story by now: Coraline discovers a small door in her new house that leads to an enchanting parallel world filled with games and toys and delicious food, ruled over by her Other Mother. Despite the rather unnerving addition of having buttons instead of eyes, Coraline’s Other Mother is attentive and kindly, urging her “daughter” to stay in the world she’s designed especially for her.
But when things seem too good to be true, it’s because they usually are. When the situation inevitably turns nasty, Coraline has to step up and challenge the Other Mother to a contest in order to win her real parents back, ticking off a lot of my favourite fairy-tale tropes along the way.
In a story like this, a character like Coraline doesn’t really need much character development, but the film adds a subtle little arc which allows her to grow from a rather whiny child during the first half of the film, to an older and wiser pre-teen by its conclusion. The technical artistry that goes into creating her is utterly incredible; not only in her fluid movements and complexity of expression, but all the tiny details that make her a fully-formed girl: like swinging on an open door, or playing with a dowsing rod, or bracing herself when the time comes to be brave.
The problem with movies and shows these days is that if you don't watch immediately, you'll inevitably get spoiled within a few weeks. I've never watched a single episode of Jane the Virgin or The Good Place, and yet I know about the massive twists that have recently taken place, and though I caught up with A Quiet Place, Solo and Deadpool 2 this month, I again went in knowing all about the deaths that took place.
I'm not that fussed about spoilers – in fact, I think it's my responsibility to simply stay off the internet if there's an upcoming film I want to see without any foreknowledge, but it's harder to avoid spoilers from long-running television shows that I simply haven't had the chance to catch up with. Ah well.
I got through a lot of stuff this month, which surprised me considering I feel as busy as ever, but since a lot of the books and DVDs came from the library, I suppose I felt the time limitations more keenly than usual. Below are pre-teen mysteries, renegade aliens, basement ghosts, vandalised cars, rebellious princesses, talking bears, spinster detectives – variety is truly the spice of life.
Continuing on from the first half of my ongoing Merlin retrospective, here are the rest of my favourite episodes from seasons three, four and five. As you can imagine, things get a little dire after season three, but there are still some good characters, scenes and ideas that manage to wriggle their way through the dross.
It was ten years ago today that the first episode of Merlin aired. Yes, you read that right: ten years. Not five, but ten. A solid decade.
All these years later, I have to admit that I haven't really given the show much thought since its conclusion. No matter how good preceding episodes or seasons might be, if a long-running story doesn't stick the landing, an audience has little reason to return to it.
And despite a rich premise and a wonderful cast, the show never made good on its promises. Storylines were spun out in endless circles, entire swaths of character development occurred off-screen, and the central hypothesis of the whole show (that Arthur and Merlin would build a magic-friendly kingdom of peace and glory together) never actually came to fruition.
In my mind, Merlin came to an ending at the end of the third season, with a finale that certainly has a lot of threads left dangling, but which also leaves our main characters in a good place. Sure, stopping here means we don't see Arthur become king, Guinevere become queen, Morgana get defeated or Merlin finally revealing his secret – but then seasons four and five didn't bother capitalizing on these developments either; not to any meaningful extent.
May as well quit when you're ahead.
And don't get me started on the fandom. My previous fandom was also my very first fandom: the BBC's Robin Hood, which spoiled me with its chilled-out attitude and ability to conduct reasonable discussions.
In comparison, the Merlin fandom was one giant screaming cesspit of misogyny and racism, in which slash shippers seemed certain that if they levelled enough harassment and hatred at Angel Coulby's Guinevere (who incidentally walked off with the closest thing to actual character development and a satisfying narrative arc) they would get to see Merlin and Arthur make out at some point.
This plan didn't work, and it's to my continual joy that both Angel and Katie McGrath (another target of relentless ire) have enjoyed consistent work since Merlin wrapped up.
But despite the ups and downs, I can't disregard the five years I spent with Merlin. (You know all those episode summaries on TV Tropes? Yup... that was me). Back in those days I had to wait for episodes to be uploaded onto YouTube, was working with extremely limited Broadband, and didn't have a Tumblr account (I would just lurk on other people's dashboards in order to see all the GIFs). Heck, I didn't even have this blog. Those were the days of LiveJournal, where you can still read my reviews of season four and five episodes.
But I have fond memories of watching Merlin clips and homemade MVs on YouTube, and of the imaginative scope the show afforded me in the way it left so many stones unturned; so many avenues unexplored, that new ideas and story possibilities sprung up in my own head.
So I wanted to do something to commemorate the beginning of Merlin, and so have dug out the extremely long retrospective I wrote at its conclusion. Because it was first published on LiveJournal, which has no mechanism for seeing how many hits a singular page is getting, I have no idea how many people read it when it was first posted. However, I saw it talked about and linked to a few times in the wider fandom, so I suspect it was one of my more popular offerings...
There's been some cool stuff coming out these past few weeks, and most of it has to do with girl power! (Yeah, that phrase is mostly obnoxious, but every now and then it takes me back to my nineties-self bopping around to the Spice Girls without a care in the world).
And for what it's worth, the previews below the cut do focus mainly on women, so consider it the theme of this post.