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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Musketeers: Emilie

Another solid episode, which again is pretty deft in setting a Musketeer-centric standalone A-plot next to a more serialized ensemble B-plot; in this case separating Aramis from the boys to deal with this episode's guest star, and having Athos, Porthos and D'artagnan cope with threats against the Spanish Ambassador.
It all melds together quite nicely; the B-plot is informed by the A-plot (Emilie's preaching puts the Spanish at risk) and the women are utilized very well: Constance, Queen Anne and Milady are all active participants in how the plot unfolds.
Of course, there's still not a lot of emphasis on the central bromance, for it would seem that only one Musketeer is allowed to stand in the spotlight at a time – but then, I'm not solely in it for the bromance (wow, why does that sound so familiar?)

Woman of the Month: Constance Bonacieux

Constance Bonacieux from The Musketeers
So I realized who Constance reminds me of: a young Molly Weasley! She's a mother hen, a nurturer, a worrywart – but with a soft heart and a steel backbone. Just try and convince me she isn't exactly like Molly was when she was younger.
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a tendency for writers to try way too hard to portray female characters as “feisty” and “spirited” without really making them either of those things. Instead what ends up on the screen are joyless shrews whose “spunk” is demonstrated by constantly demeaning and browbeating the male heroes (see Lana Lang from Smallville, Kate from Robin Hood, and pretty much every single character that's ever been played by Katherine Heigl).
I think it’s all part of the general confusion that seems to exist when it comes to writing female characters, and how self-conscious some writers can get about making them “strong” without really knowing how. It’s frustrating to watch, and even more agonizing when the inevitable fandom backlash starts – not so much at the writers, but more often than not at the characters (and the actresses that play them).
Yet somewhere between the better-than-it-should-be writing and Tamla Kari’s down-to-earth performance, Constance Bonacieux manages to be grumpy and opinionated, quarrelsome and exasperated, ready to argue, disparage and even slap our male leads – and remain utterly charming while she's doing it.
I really have no idea how she pulls it off. Is it because the Musketeers admire and appreciate her regardless of how fed up she gets with them? Because she’s pulled into circumstances beyond her control (and usually without her permission)? Because she's usually the voice of reason amidst all the Musketeer-related chaos?
Who knows, but there’s something about this character that just clicks. Being a married and rather domesticated homebody, she's not what you would expect from a female lead, particularly once she requests shooting and sword-fighting lessons from D’artagnan – not to prove her mettle, but because she feels the very real need to be able to defend herself.
Now in season two she's been made a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, providing her with female companionship and a chance for the two women to sail over the requirements of the Bechdel Test together (not to mention a fancy new wardrobe). A simple draper's wife who is armed only with her common sense and loyal heart makes for an interesting addition to court life – and so far she's doing pretty well for herself.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Penny Dreadful

The trailer for the second season is out,which is why it's time for me to weigh in on the first season of Penny Dreadful. Or as I like to call it – That Escalated Quickly: The Show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Links and Updates

I've been nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award for Fan Writing! This is a New Zealand based fantasy award, and my nomination is largely down to my Big Worlds on Small Screens column that's posted regularly on Helen Lowe's blog. I'm currently in the middle of a sub-column called "Fantasy and Sci-Fi Films You've Probably Never Heard Of", so please check it out.

In other news, Atlantis has been cancelled. I have to admit, I cackled. Now that it's over, I may well end up watching it in full, as I've been grimly fascinated by the assorted Js attempts to recapture the success of Merlin, all seemingly without the faintest idea as to why Merlin was actually a success.

"They had a five year plan!"

The trailer for the second season of Penny Dreadful was released a couple of weeks ago, and it looks just as brooding and spooky as it should.

It looks as though a road-trip to the countryside is in order (just to give us the necessary infusion of mist shrouded moors).

Brona awakes!

Of all things, it's the sight of Caliban and Vanessa dancing that really made me sit up with interest. They didn’t interact once in the first season (in fact, the storylines were so separate that a careful shot depicted Caliban leaving the Grand Guignol just before the camera swooped up into the rafters to reveal the vampire-master sleeping there) and yet I can see the two of them finding a certain kinship with each other, based on their "outsider" quality if nothing else.

And of course, the big reveal is the sight of Helen McCrory relaxing in a bath of blood. It's my understanding that a deleted scene from season one was shown to an audience at Comic Con that demonstrated Mr Lyle (the flamboyant Egyptologist) and Madam Kali (or Evelyn Poole) are in cahoots together, and well aware of Vanessa's true significance.

Perhaps the scene will appear this season, though it seems a little odd to give away Madam Kali's true motivations in a trailer – unless they're assuming we all know about the deleted scene. Ah well, time will tell.

Mostly though, this trailer was about re-establishing the atmosphere of the show, with shots of our main cast set to the strains of an eerie love song. Nothing about the plot or character arcs – but a lot of this show's initial success rested on the unsettling unknowability of existence, so it's no surprise that they're keeping such things under wraps.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Standing Tall #6

There's a bit of a story behind this one. Back in 2013, structural engineer Helen Trappitt worked alongside architect Amiria Kiddle to paint the Intersection Point mural on the side of the Christchurch Central Police Station, as you see here:

The mural was part of a general "brighten up the city" campaign in the wake of the devastation created by the earthquakes, though the building is now scheduled for demolition. So this Point Blank giraffe has been painted as a reflection and (soon-to-be) legacy of the police station mural, currently positioned just across the road from its inspiration.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Meta: The Mystery of Irene Adler

This is a piece of meta I wrote some time ago when Sherlock's A Scandal in Belgravia first aired on television. I happened upon it when browsing through my old LiveJournal pages, and – having brushed it up a little – saw no reason not to post it here as well. It's basically a contrast/compare between Arthur Conan Doyle's original characterization of Irene Adler, and subsequent takes on the character – particularly as she appears in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat's Sherlock, played by Lara Pulver.

As it happens there is a huge amount of misinformation surrounding the character of Irene Adler. By this point, some are probably aware that she was never a love interest, but perhaps littler known is that she only appeared in one short story, never really interacted with Holmes, and was happily married to another man by the end of the tale.

So let's unpack what we know about The Woman:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Arrow: League of Assassins

So here's an interesting fact: becoming a superhero makes your voice drop. It's apparent in any half-way decent portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman, Christian Bale's Batman took it to absurd levels, and Oliver even uses a voice modulator to help him out. It seems that Caity Lotz also got the memo, as the clearest difference between pre and post-freighter Sara is to be found in how deep her voice sounds.

This episode tackles the job of filling in some of the blanks of Sara's survival story, and how she went from one of Oliver's ditzy Girls of the Week to a stone-cold assassin who doesn't hesitate to kill a man.

Trigger warning: This review has a brief discussion of rape implications.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Musketeers: The Good Traitor

This was a rather patchy episode, with a lot of good scenes strewn across three different storylines that had absolutely nothing to do with each other. As such, all three felt slightly short-changed to some extent, though the show's track record in keeping plots hole-free continues (even if there were a few stretches here and there).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Marchlands

Has anyone else seen or heard of this? It aired back in 2011, and it was on a whim that I picked up the DVD at the local library. I watched all five episodes in one go (which took me half the night, but never mind) and though I wasn't completely blown away, it did raise several interesting questions about what constitutes a ghost story.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Standing Tall #5

This was quite a bittersweet giraffe considering it's covered in images of many of the heritage buildings and other structural landmarks that were destroyed in the earthquake – most notably the Cathedral. Called Building on Our Memories by Ira Mitchell-Kirk, I appreciated that the poignant subject matter was offset by the bright colours. 

Arrow: Crucible

It's time to admit to myself that I'm a contrarian, which sounds all rebellious and everything, but is probably just another way of letting myself be influenced by outside opinions.

You see, before watching a single episode of Arrow I was informed by the fandom that I had to hate Laurel and adore Felicity, something which only made me feel protective of the former and stubbornly meh about the latter.

So with the reappearance of Sara Lance, I feel that now I'm free to enjoy a female character without any fandom baggage and preconceptions weighing me down. And I really, really enjoy her.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Fall: Season Two

Yes, I'm finally ready to talk about The Fall. I've been ready for a long time actually (I watched it just before The Legend of Korra's finale) and was all set to comment immediately after the finale aired, only to get side-tracked by Korrasami, a lack of broadband, and a computer virus. Delightful.

So anyway...

It's funny how an ending can make or break the worth of a story in its entirety. After watching the finale of The Legend of Korra, I immediately marathoned the entire series, and enjoyed nearly every second of it. But no matter how much I may have enjoyed the beginning and middle of Merlin and LOST, the way in which they concluded means it'll be a few years before I can summon up the willpower to watch them again.

Now it looks as though The Fall will be joining them, for those last few minutes made me so frustrated that I abandoned my plans to rewatch the season in full before doing this write-up. For the most part the show is as strong as it's ever been, and in fact the fifth episode is probably the best thing it's ever done – but those final three minutes of the last episode?

Seriously, how can a mere three minutes of two shows leave me so elated in the one case (Korra) and so aggravated in the other (The Fall)? But there's a lot to unpack here, so let's get down to it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Musketeers: An Ordinary Man

So I've realized what this show is so good at doing: taking very familiar storylines – in this case King Incognito and Made A Slave (how many times have we seen these plots before?) and shaping them into solid episodes that follow the usual trajectories, but which contain a few surprises thrown in along the way. They know the strengths of whatever tropes they use, when to play them straight and when to subvert them, how to mingle in enough characterization to make them entertaining, and the need for action sequences that are all unique in some way (D'artagnan "jousting" with a man on horseback with only a scarf wrapped around his hand may have been a tad ridiculous, but it's better than watching the same old sword-fights every week).

Why not?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Legend of Korra: Top 12 Funniest Gags

Just for fun, I thought I'd gather together all the moments strewn throughout The Legend of Korra that made me laugh. As in, really laugh. No one ever believes it when people type "LOL" all over the place, but I can promise you that beneath the cut are the twelve times Korra truly did make me laugh out loud.

(They're listed in chronological order, as it's rather impossible to rank hilarity).

Christmas Specials 2014: Downton Abbey and Doctor Who

Finally! It's been a few weeks now since these Specials aired and as it turns out there's only a limited amount of time after an episode has been released that I feel in the right headspace to write about it. So I'm going to keep this relatively short (by my standards, anyway).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Musketeers: Keep Your Friends Close

Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy

I can't have been the only one with that song in my head while watching this. 

The season premiere of The Musketeers had a lot to get through – establishing that the Cardinal had regenerated passed away, ushering in a new villain, and reminding us of (or introducing us to) each individual Musketeer's character arc: that Aramis is the biological father of the infant dauphin, that D'artagnan and Constance's love affair has been foiled by her husband, that Porthos is apparently the son of someone known to Captain Treville, and that Athos is So Done With Everything (Milady did not make an appearance, but it looks like she'll be back next week).   

So. Completely. Done.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Standing Tall #4

This one is called The Giraffe of Gratitude by Strategy, and though it looks as though it's painted with normal giraffe spots, close inspection reveals that they're made up of tiny photographs of Christchurch residents. It gives it a lovely personalized touch – though I personally couldn't spot anyone I knew. (See what I did there?)