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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Orphan Black: Transgressive Border Crossing

Sorry for the delay, but I've another Polytech assignment looming!
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the episode itself, I just want to say that I've always had faith in the overarching story of Orphan Black, even when it became apparent that a few retcons and false leads had been thrown into the mix. But ultimately, I trust (perhaps foolishly given my experience with other television shows) that a master plan is at work and a satisfying resolution on its way.
Graeme Manson and John Fawcett have been given five seasons to tell their story, and though later seasons have never quite matched the impeccable quality of the first, so far they've maintained suspense, momentum and continuity with only a couple of minor fits and starts. The off-screen death of Marion Bowles, the reveal of who was pulling Helena's strings (a bunch of irrelevant rednecks?) and the introduction of Ethan Duncan were so anticlimactic that for a long time I didn't even realize their significance, but I think we're heading into endgame territory now and that once it's all over a rewatch will make everything clear.
Which is to say: I'm keeping the faith.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Tunnel: S02E02

This episode was brutal. I needed a bit of time to recover after watching it.
Plotwise, the episode spread itself out over several strands: the ongoing investigation, Elise/Karl's lives at home, the plotting of the terrorists and a return of the narrative device perfected in the last series: introducing a new character who initially seems completely irrelevant to the overarching story before getting drawn into the bigger picture.
Their presence serves to humanize the tragedy and give us someone to follow through whatever crisis befalls them, but in this case it also continues the recent television glut of dead women and minorities. It even managed a two-for-one!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Orphan Black: The Collapse of Nature

I'm clinging to the return of Orphan Black like a tired swimmer to a life raft. There has been some truly dour crap on my television lately, and even though there's still the lingering image of what happened to Delphine in last season's finale to grapple with, I a) am still holding out hope she's still alive, b) do not hate Shay, and c) am here first and foremost for Tatiana Maslany as the assortment of Leda clones. Seriously, she's like a balm to my soul.
I spoiled myself by watching the first four minutes of this episode back when it was released as a "sneak preview", and the subsequent wait has been excruciating. But we're here now, at the start of season four of Orphan Black, and I'm so happy.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Tunnel: S02E01

It's back!
I love a good political thriller, and in 2013 The Tunnel neatly swiped the premise of the Swedish/Danish production Bron/Broen and its American/Mexican remake The Bridge to craft a French/English version. 
Police investigators from both countries were called to the Eurotunnel after a body was found right on the dividing line, and were subsequently forced to work together once it became apparent the body was in fact two bodies: the head and torso of a French politician, and the hips and legs of an English prostitute.
Though the collaboration of Elise Wasserman and Karl Roebuck led to the apprehension of the man known as the Truth Terrorist, a trail of dead bodies was left in his wake, including that of Karl's eldest son Adam.
By all accounts the drama closely followed the trajectory of the original Scandinavian show, but season two is staking out its own territory with a brand new storyline.
So how do they up the ante from the last series and keep the show's title relevant? First by staging a kidnapping in the Eurotunnel, in which a husband and wife are dragged from their car (leaving behind their traumatized daughter) and then by having an airplane crash in the English Channel, killing everyone aboard.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: Wolverine and X-Men

It's been SO LONG since I last reviewed an X-Men cartoon, but I finally got myself together and finished up Wolverine and the X-Men. Whether or not my Polytech paper will suffer as a result remains to be seen.
I have a vague recollection of watching some of this show back when it first aired in 2009, but for whatever reason I tuned out again pretty quickly. Maybe I was burned out on the X-Men franchise (this coming so soon on the heels of X-Men Evolution and the nightmare that was X-Men: The Final Stand); maybe it was because the title was a clear indicator of Wolverine Publicity taken to its logical extreme.
Yes, after keeping the character pleasantly second-tier throughout X-Men Evolution, Wolverine is pushed firmly back into the spotlight – so much so that the show is essentially called: "Him and the Other Guys." As though the entire team has been relegated to supporting cast. Yeesh.
But this means it was only a few weeks ago that I watched the show in its entirety, marathoning all twenty-six episodes from start to finish. And turns out it was fantastic. So much so that I was dreading its conclusion since I knew there was no forthcoming season two.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Links and Updates

Is it just me or have female characters been dying at an alarming rate these past few weeks? I'm currently watching four different shows across three different networks, and all of them have featured the violent death of a woman – one show even managed to include two murders in a single episode!
I have a little rant below the cut (so expect spoilers) but I also take a look at some of the latest trailers of upcoming films/television shows... 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Faerie Tale Theatre: The Tale of the Frog Prince

I wanted to watch something light. Something fun. Something vaguely stupid. Shelley Duval's Faerie Tale Theatre answered my call.
Best described as a live-action anthology of televised fairy tales, the show devotes each episode to a self-contained story that's introduced by Shelley Duval and which stars an astonishing array of famous (at least at the time) actors. Directors such as Tim Burton and Francis Ford Coppola got involved, and according to the Wikipedia page, a great deal of attention was given to ensuring each episode had a unique aesthetic – one often based on specific artists and children's book illustrators.
Hello, I'm Shelley Duval, and welcome to
my awkward and largely needless introduction.
It all sounds mightily impressive, but (as with most fantasy of the Eighties) it's dated drastically. There's no mistaking Eighties television: the giant hair, the ugly clothes, the drab colours – and I say all this as a survivor of the decade. A lot of Faerie Tale Theatre is just plain unpleasant to look at, even when weighed against my fondness for practical effects in the wake of today's overstuffed CGI fests.
But Faerie Tale Theatre walks a fascinating line between Disneyfication and Grimmification – that is to say, nothing is too saccharine or too dark. It's by infusing the stories with a heavy dose of comedy (including a few adult jokes) that the show finds a somewhat unsteady balance between faithful adaptations of the familiar stories, and a fresh take on well-trod material. There is a quite a "stagey" atmosphere to the proceedings, with a preference for long takes, wide shots and the occasional close-up on what are obviously decked-out soundstages, which bring to mind the pantomimes we saw as children – but considering the show openly identifies itself as a "theatre", it's an impression that works in its favour.
And as it happens, this is my first time seeing Faerie Tale Theatre, which is a remarkable feat considering my dual love for fairy tales and the Eighties. I grew up watching Jim Henson's The Storyteller and playing Roberta Williams's King's Quest series, and yet somehow Faerie Tale Theatre slipped through the cracks of my childhood.
But hey, we're here now. And I have twenty-six episodes of fairy tales set in the Eighties to enjoy!
First up is The Tale of the Frog Prince.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Woman of the Month: Max

Max from Black Sails
TW: mention of rape
There is a striking monologue made by Max at the start of season three, one which I'll type out here in its entirety.
"I own a tavern, a brothel, a tanner, a butcher. Interests in a dozen other concerns on the street. I am the one they come to here when they need things. Want things, fear things. In another time, in another place, they would call me a queen. I built this from nothing. And none of it is real. It is built upon things I cannot control; cannot predict. It is built on sand. And when the day comes when that foundation shifts, when civilization returns, do you know what they will call me then? The whore that lost everything."
She says this while bathing, listening to the sounds of the brothel around her, reminding herself not only of the precariousness of her current position, but her own past and the comparative reliability of the world's oldest profession. The dialogue encompasses all that Max is: ambitious but cautious; powerful but vulnerable; seductive but sincere, and intelligent enough to know all of this.
Black Sails is a show whose characters are constantly in flux, but none more so than Max. In three seasons she's gone from a prostitute to a madam to a tavern keeper to the chief fence and supplier of the pirates on Nassau, and finally a respected advisor to Governor Woodes Rogers. Sharp-witted and cool-headed, she's initially driven by a desire to escape a life of prostitution that puts her in cahoots with John Silver – but which also leads to a prolonged gang-rape that casts her into the role of Distressed Damsel.
What prevents this turn of events from being too gratuitous is that her rescuers are two women – women who despise each other, but who care enough about Max to work together in pursuit of her safety. Even before Max becomes a player, she is a catalyst for extraordinary change among the pirate leaders, and from the ashes of her ordeal she finds herself slowly climbing the ladder of influence.
By the third season we glean a little insight into her backstory: that she was born into slavery (presumably in Haiti given her French creole accent) as the illegitimate child of the slave-owner, given to watching her white half-sister through the window of her father's home. In light of this it's obvious why she strives for a life of financial security, but her newfound power forces her to make terrible compromises and betray those she was once close to.
If there's a single word I would use to describe Max, it would be "dignified". Despite everything she's been through, she remains gracious, composed and poised – almost regal in her bearing and mannerisms. In three seasons she's grown into one of the show's most fascinating characters, and her ability to retain her kindness and compassion (even as she excels in manipulation and seduction) is one of the many reasons why I hope she'll make it out of Nassau alive.