Today's reading/watching log is brought to you by the number two. There's two of everything. Two books by Isobelle Carmody, two by Pat Walsh and two by Joanne Harris. There are two books about the cultural impact the Disney Princess franchise has on young minds. Two movies starring Amanda Siegfried (which was a total coincidence). Two Disney movies with a black female protagonist. Two shows with a female lead, and two more that start with the letter B. Okay, now I'm pushing it.
The Princess Problem by Rebecca Hains
This caught my eye while I was shelving, so I took it home and had it read within two days. It explores the saturation of the Disney Princesses in the lives of young girls (at least in America) and how parents can combat some of the insidious messages that go with the line's emphasis on beauty and uber-femininity.
Here's what I found most interesting: according to scientists, all children go through a phase at about three or four years old, in which they first become aware of their own identity as a unique human being. One of the very first (if not the first) ways in which they define themselves is whether they're male or female. How they differentiate male from female is not in their anatomy but in their physical appearance and personal interests (including who they interact with and what they play with).
They become staunchly committed to gender roles, as they honestly believe that if they don't adhere to the "rules" of what a girl/boy looks/acts like, they run the risk of physically turning into the opposite gender. And because the Disney Princess marketing enters the lives of children so early (as in: infancy, if you end up buying Disney Princess cribs, blankets, rattles, pyjamas, etc) many girls are equating their own girlhood with being a princess. Girl = Princess (and all its accruements, including sparkles, glitter, tiaras, tutus and the colour pink).
It's marketing genius, and it's why this latest generation of kids are obsessed with princesses in ways that Millennials and Generation X simply weren't: in the past the Disney fairy tale movies that featured princesses were considered family films – after the Disney Princesses became so aggressively marketed toward girls, the films became anathema to boys. This is why the adaptations of Rapunzel and The Snow Queen were renamed to the genderless adjectives Tangled and Frozen, so as not to scare away the male audience.
Since I don't have any kids of my own, I was more interested in the real-life anecdotes and their psychological implications (two parents desperate to pry their daughter away from princesses talked her into growing a vegetable garden, only to run across Disney Princess flower seeds at the local gardening store) than the advisory chapters on how to negotiate the franchise with children, but it made for an interesting read regardless.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
This book was mentioned extensively in The Princess Problem, so I slapped a reservation on it. Orenstein tackles the same subject matter as Hains, but goes broader than just the Disney Princesses, with chapters focusing on dolls (including Barbie and Bratz), the colour pink, beauty pageants, starlets like Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus, female superheroes and on-line culture. It's less of an advisory manual than a series of anecdotes about how she researched the subject matter (without any annotations) but makes plenty of interesting points in an even-handed way.
For instance, Orenstein confesses that after raising her daughter to be scornful of the pervading princess culture, she ended up fearing that she'd be ostracized by her peers for not embracing the girly-girl mindset they had all bought into.
It covers much the same sort of territory as the above (Orenstein also points out that pre-schoolers are the gender police and that Disney is so wily when it comes to consumerism that most little girls equate girlhood with being a princess) but also looks at the wider cultural environment that girls grow up in.
There were some interesting tidbits throughout. Like did you know that Sweden has a law against advertising products to anyone under the age of twelve? Or that when you see the Disney Princesses all lined up, they'll never make eye contact with each other as Roy Disney was/is staunchly against them existing in the same universe? This is presumably why Disney has never capitalized on any original television series that feature the various Princesses interacting with each other, but it's also why I enjoy Amy Mebberson's Pocket Princesses comics so much.
Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
Isobelle Carmody is the Hey It's That Guy of fiction. Her books are ubiquitous (at least in Australia/New Zealand) and are constantly getting reprinted with new covers. She also seems to be working on at least three different series at any given time, so you're probably familiar with her name even if you haven't read any of her work.
Obernewtyn follows a standard "post-apocalyptic misfits with psychic powers have to hide from those willing to exploit them" plot but with a first-person narrative strong enough to carry you through the clichés (Carmody started writing this when she was fourteen years old – unlike other teen authors, you can't tell).
Elspeth Gordie is identified as a Misfit when it becomes apparent she can communicate with animals, and is sent to the isolated mountain compound called Obernewtyn for further testing. Though she's not immediately executed (as was her initial fear) the place is filled with secrets – and perhaps a few too many characters to keep clear track of. But Elspeth gradually hones her powers and investigates her environment, searching for a way to escape.
The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody
This is the sequel to the above, in which Elspeth is sent from the safety of Obernewtyn to find a fellow Misfit that's been identified as extremely powerful by the community's farseekers. She's joined by a team of other Misfits who have their own reasons for joining the mission, putting Elspeth in a leadership position she's not entirely comfortable with.
The story straddles a thin line between dystopia and fantasy; for every secretive cult living in the mountains there's a flock of talking birds that prophesize, but the tone remains consistent. I enjoy Carmody's prose: it feels very clean and clear, even as it keeps the characters at arm's length (even though it's told in first-person narration by Elspeth, I don't feel a deep closeness to her).
Elspeth and her team go through plenty of adventures before reaching their main goal, most of which feels like setup for future books. But I definitely enjoyed it more than Obernewtyn, so luckily I've got the third and fourth books already sitting on my bedside table.
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh
Have you ever picked up a book, looked at the cover, read the synopsis, and known it was going to be a fantastic read? It doesn't happen very often, but it happened with The Crowfield Curse. Having read and loved it several years ago, I was eager but also reluctant to pick up its sequel The Crowfield Demon, knowing that once I read it, I couldn't look forward to it anymore.
But it kept beckoning me from the library shelf and I couldn't resist temptation anymore. But first I decided to refresh my memory of The Crowfield Curse, which was another treat since it had been so long that I remembered very little of the story beyond the fact I'd really enjoyed it.
Eleven year old William Paynel has lived in the isolated Crowfield Abbey since the death of his family, and is currently struggling (along with the monks) through the winter of 1347. As the book opens, he makes an incredible discovery: a hob trapped in an iron trap. Taking the creature back to the abbey in secret, Will's eyes and ears are opened to the fey world all around him, as well as to a mysterious secret that is blasphemous in nature.
According to rumour, an angel was killed by a dark fey lord in Foxwist Wood and buried in the Whistling Hollow by the monks. Now travellers have come to the abbey in search of the angel's grave for reasons Will can't even begin to fathom. Strange forces dark in nature begin to stir as the investigation into the angel's resting place takes place, and Will himself is plagued with doctrinal questions about the world he's been brought up to believe in.
In terms of the relationship between Biblical and Faerie lore, The Crowfield Curse is very similar in tone to The Secret of Kells (which you should watch immediately before or after reading this book). Both worlds co-exist, but not necessarily as enemies or diametric opposites; instead there are good and bad elements within each worldview: angels and demons on the one hand, and the Seelie and Unseelie Courts on the other.
If I was to get deeply specific about the exact type of book I like, I'd go with "dark original fairy tale" and The Crowfield Curse hits that spot like a bullseye. Throw in a mystery and some theological underpinnings, and I'm in bookworm heaven.
The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh
So over five years later, I had the much-anticipated sequel in my hands. I almost didn't want to read it, as once I had finished it I knew there would be no more story to enjoy. But read it I did, and though it wasn't quite as good as its predecessor, it still captured everything I loved about the first book: atmosphere, historical detail, a protagonist whose most notable feature is his compassion for others, and the melding of pagan folklore and Christian doctrine.
However, unlike the last book's emphasis on a mysterious angel, this one dealt with – well, it's in the title. Crowfield Abbey is in serious need of repairs, but William thinks there's something a little too purposeful in the damage: like for instance, the fact that the faces of the saints in the chapel have been scraped off. Drawing on allies from the brotherhood of monks and the realm of feys, William tries to identify the dark force lurking beneath the chapel and find a way to banish it for good.
Walsh takes the threads that were left hanging in The Crowfield Curse and weaves them through this sequel, expanding William's world and exploring some character backstories that were previously only hinted at. But surprisingly it doesn't seem there's a third book forthcoming, even though there's still a lot of mystery left to explore – or maybe I'm just a trilogy-minded person.
In any case, I love this (presumed) duology. In terms of its tone and the way it made me feel, it reminded me deeply of Maggie Hamilton's The Lost Kingdom of Lantia and Meredith Anne Pierce's The Darkangel – though these books have absolutely nothing in common regarding their subject matter, there's just something about the way it's written that evokes old, mysterious fairy tales.
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
I'm making my way slowly but surely through Joanne Harris's back-catalogue, and so far I've enjoyed everything she's offered. Very few stories transport me the way hers do: she manages to capture the sights, sounds and tastes of southern France like nobody else I've read.
The story has two distinct but interconnected plot-lines: one set in the past and one in the present of Framboise Simon's life. As a child she lived in the small French village during the German Occupation, where she and her two siblings ran wild under the "care" of a deeply troubled mother who suffered from strange migraine attacks. Her older brother and sister are groomed by a German soldier to bring him information about the townsfolk, and they unknowingly become collaborators to the Germans in exchange for sweets, lipstick, cigarettes and magazines. Framboise is also enamoured of the young soldier – but I'm sure you can guess it’s all leading to disaster...
Framboise recounts this story from the present-day, in which she's an elderly woman running a restaurant in the village of her childhood – only nobody there knows her true identity, and she's terrified of her true identity being discovered. Her brother's son and his wife are desperate to get their hands on her mother's recipe book, and so start a silent campaign to drive her out of the restaurant, threatening her with exposure if she doesn't comply. Both storylines have stakes and suspense, each one equally compelling as the other.
The best thing about Framboise is that she's hardly a sympathetic figure: as a child she's practically feral, with plenty of cunning and guile to spare, capable of incredible amounts of cruelty at times – especially when it comes to her equally tempestuous mother. She's not likeable, but she is fascinating, and that's more important for any character, especially a female one.
This is possibly Harris's best book, so if you've never read her before, I'd recommend starting with this one.
Coastliners by Joanne Harris
If Five Quarters of the Orange has been my favourite Harris book so far, Coastliners would have to be my least favourite – which is not to say it's bad, just not as good as that which preceded it. The whole thing is set on a tiny island Breton that's roughly divided into the haves and have nots. The prosperity of the La Houssiniere is down to the beach that attracts tourists, whilst the village of Les Salants is mired in tradition and stubbornness.
Mado is a child of Les Salants who returns after her mother's death to reconnect with her gruff and monosyllabic father, only to find the entire community under threat by a greedy local entrepreneur. Having made friends with a drifter by the name of Flynn, Mado comes up with an idea to shakes Les Salants out of its apathy and use the tides to their advantage.
Given this takes place on an island, there are plenty of secrets and scandals to be uncovered over the course of the story, but it gets a little patchy towards the end, especially when the use of a Deus Ex Machina (or possibly Diablos Ex Machina) to wrap things up.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
After a fight with my mother over whether or not she had seen The Princess and the Frog (she insisted she hadn't seen it, but I was with her when she did, so we're at an impasse) we sat down and watched my sister's DVD together. She still believes she'd never seen it before, but I trust my memory more than hers.
As it happens, my mini-review got so long that I've decided to use it in an entirely separate post. I'll boil everything down here to me liking the film when it was attempting to be fresh and original, but getting frustrated at its need to tick every "magical Disney moment" off the checklist (the romance, the songs, the animal sidekicks, the slapstick – the film would have been improved if it dropped most of this).
It leaves The Princess and the Frog sitting at a weird intersection of inventiveness and manufactured formula; genuine attempts at subversion and uncomfortable self-consciousness about its subject matter.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
I really don't know what possessed me to watch this film. Maybe the premise? It's pretty charming to imagine women from all walks of life leaving letters to Juliet in a Verona courtyard, where they're collected by women who write letters in response to their pleas for romantic advice. And apparently, it's all true. Of course you're gonna want to write a romantic comedy around this!
Sophie is a wannabe writer who travels with her fiancé Gael García Bernal (sorry can't remember the character's name) to Italy for a holiday. He wants to check out some of the food and wine in the region and meet with suppliers in preparation for his restaurant opening, but Sophie is sad at being dragged to one beautiful picturesque vineyard after another. Life is so hard. (Seriously, why do these types of movies always try to garner sympathy for their heroines by forcing them into things the rest of us would cut off our right arms to do?)
She ends up discovering the Secretaries of Juliet and discovers a fifty year old letter written by an English woman called Claire who doesn't know whether or not to elope with a hunky farmhand. Sophie writes back, and against the odds Claire (now widowed) arrives in Verona to hunt down the man she abandoned so long ago, her disapproving grandson in tow.
Road trip! Of course, if you've watched the movie's trailer, you already know how it ends, since the trailer sees fit to spoil every single plot-point, including the fact that Claire does in fact track down her long-lost love. The closer it gets to the finish line, the triter and more clichéd it becomes, with the story doggedly refusing to explore any of its more interesting components (the responsibilities of the Secretaries, the friendship between Claire/Sophie, the challenges of picking up a romance fifty years after you dropped it) and instead asking us to believe that any woman would leave Gael García Bernal for a snotty British ponce who is rude and charmless for almost the entire film.
Seriously why would you cast Bernal as the Disposable Love Interest and Blandy McBland (who I've never seen before or since this movie) as the One True Love? Obviously Bernal's character turns out to be incompatible with Sophie, thereby justifying her breakup with him, but that only illustrates why you cast him as the romantic lead in the first place.
Other questions emerge. How did Sophie's letter get all the way to England in what appears to be a couple of days? Why doesn't Claire just ring Lorenzo Bartolini on the telephone instead of traipsing round on a wild goose chase? How does Sophie's hair remain perfect at all times, despite being on a road trip? How is she paying for all this anyway? And why the fuck would anyone ask romantic advice from a fourteen year old girl who killed herself over a boy she'd known for three days?
It's fluffy where it could have been meaty, but only really exists to tell inoffensive love story and show off beautiful Italian countryside. And that Taylor Swift song.
Red Riding Hood (2011)
I read the novelization last month, and was curious enough about its non-ending to seek out the film – well, that and I'm a sucker for fairy tales anyway. Directed by Catherine Hardwick (of Twilight fame) it's a rather odd mishmash of genres that can never quite settle on its tone. The target audience will come for the dark fairy tale retelling or the teen drama shenanigans, and I can't imagine either one giving a crap about the other half of content that the film delivers.
The Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale is essentially about growing up: a child travels through the dangerous forest to her grandmother's house, wearing a cloak the colour of menstrual blood, meets a sexual predator and is then rescued by a prospective husband (though in pre-Grimm versions of the tale she saves herself by pretending to go outside to relieve herself).
This film is about... a love triangle? Religious mania? Guessing the secret identity of the wolf? It's not really about anything since it can't settle on a single plot. This review points out something pertinent: given the original fairy tale's themes of sexuality and fear (and the relationship between them) the film on the whole loses its punch considering the heroine never seems all that apprehensive about her suitors. What's the point of a scary wolf metaphor if Red Riding Hood isn't afraid of him?
The little girl of the fairy tale is never given a proper name, though if she did I don't think it would have been Valerie. Nevertheless, that's the name of Amanda Siegfried's character in her Riding Hood/Bella Swan role, growing up in a medieval village in the middle of a dark forest. She's betrothed to handsome/wealthy guy (I can't remember the character's name, but he's played by Max Irons) but is secretly in love with broody/snarky guy (I can't remember the character's name or actor).
There's no strong introduction to any these characters, just a voiceover from Valerie (almost never a good idea) as she frets over what boy she should chose while a werewolf terrorises the village. Yeah, that's very much a secondary concern, even after said werewolf kills her sister. Gary Oldman as a zealous priest/warrior is called into hunt down the wolf; he only manages to make matters worse by riling up suspicion and fear among the villagers when he informs them the wolf lives among them.
The atmosphere of the movie is a little strange: though it looks like your standard medieval village, everyone (naturally) has perfect teeth and glossy hair. Yet there's a degree of natural beauty in the way the place is captured, even as it looks quite stagey and theatrical. I couldn't tell if I liked it or not.
Still, I have to give the movie credit for one thing: I didn't guess the identity of the wolf. Whether this was down to the film's cleverness or just my lack of perception is up to you to decide, but – credit due.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2016)
I actually watched this last month but forget to include it on March's reading/watching log – which is a shame since it fits in perfectly with that month's recurring theme of "stories without an ending". It's a terrible movie, let's not pretend otherwise, but it wraps itself up so beautifully in horror/fairy tale/steampunk/gothic/fantasy trappings, reminding me of everything from Pan's Labyrinth's Pale Man to Doctor Who's Weeping Angels that I was helpless to resist.
I mean, check out these posters:
Damn. I want to watch that movie. Instead we're introduced to Thomas, your standard beefcake artist haunted by strange dreams of a creepy house and a beautiful slumbering girl. Diagnosed with sleep paralysis, he's isolated and anti-social, with little understanding of what his dreams could mean.
Then he finds out he's the beneficiary of an estate previously owned by his hitherto unknown Uncle Clive – a man he's never heard of, and whose death was ruled a suicide. He arrives at the estate to discover (you guessed it) that the house is the same one he's seen in his dreams. Believing that by awakening the sleeping beauty in his dreams he can get some answers, much drama ensues.
And then, right at its climactic moment – it ends. It ends in such a bizarre way that I thought the library-rented DVD had skipped. But no, it just ends. I... can't really elaborate except to say it's really, really weird.
The Queen of Katwe (2016)
I'm not a big fan of sport movies – any sport movies, mostly because they all follow a tried-and-true formula of underdog beats the odds and wins championship. That and I'm not particularly interested in sport anyway. As it happens, I wasn't completely caught up in the competitive spirit of young Phiona's chess games (and if you know nothing about how chess is played, this film won't enlighten you) but rather the world she inhabits and the people around her.
Katwe is the largest slum in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, but rather than portray it as "misery porn", director Mira Nair opts to make it busy, colourful, dangerous, interesting and lively – just as capable of generating joy as unhappiness for its inhabitants. Phiona Mutesi's talent at chess is noticed by missionary Robert Katende, who becomes increasingly committed to making sure she gets the chance to demonstrate her gift to the chess-playing world.
It's not a movie that's easy to summarize; spanning several years and exploring Phiona's journey in gradual increments of setbacks and successes. She struggles with the low self-esteem that eventually becomes frustration at her surroundings, and there are plenty of insights into the lives of her coach, her siblings and her mother Harriet Nakku. The latter is played by Lupita Nyong’o, who proves perhaps even so more than in 12 Years a Slave just how good she is: to take a part that's not particularly well written and elevate it with her performance into a fierce Mama Bear with doubts and foibles of her own... well, that takes talent.
Doctor Strange (2016)
It's the Marvel movie that no one ever talks about! Seriously, this came and went with such little fanfare that I was caught off-guard by how uninterested everyone seemed to be. I don't think a single GIF set has crossed my Tumblr dash.
There could be a number of reasons for this – the overexposure of Benedict Cumberbatch, the white-washing of the Ancient One, or the extremely familiar plot that has only a few surprises strewn throughout. Doctor Strange is a pretty standard origin story – heck, it's a pretty standard Marvel movie, with all the pieces you've come to expect: a white male hero, inventive action sequences, a scattering of jokes, a bland villain, a competent and likeable but ultimately forgettable female love interest... this is pretty much the formula for all the Marvel films to date.
It does introduce mysticism to the Marvel universe, which creates a welcome change from the military context that permeates nearly all the other films up until this point, but a lot of it is couched in spiritual mumbo-jumbo that has no real weight to it. I'm sure there were important rules established about the Dark Dimension and the Mirror Universe and the latest Infinity Stone, but it all flew completely over my head.
The set pieces in New York, Hong Kong and London are a lot of fun, and the film has a surprising small cast (only six major characters) that keeps the focus on what's important. What's more, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Strange doesn't have his hands healed by the end of the film – though of course he's compensated with magical powers and a sentient cloak and the title of supreme sorcerer.
In many ways the role of Stephen Strange suits Benedict Cumberbatch so well (he's just playing an American version of Sherlock) that you wish they'd gone for someone different just to be a bit more daring. Can you imagine what Oded Fehr could have done with the role? Or Oscar Isaac, who was apparently in the running? And although Tilda Swinton brings a surprising degree of levity and even mischief to the Ancient One, it's not a performance that justifies the white-washing.
The inevitable winks and nods to the rest of the Marvel universe are present and accounted for, including the requisite Stinger which has Strange coming to an agreement with Thor himself. Next up: Ragnarok!
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Season 1 (2012)
GIF sets of this show had been appearing my dash for months – given that it stars a lady detective in 1920s Australia, I have no idea what took me so long to check it out. Phryne Fisher is wealthy, confident, sexually liberated and self-possessed woman who (almost on a whim) decides to advertise her services as a private investigator. With a team comprised of a lesbian doctor, a timid Catholic maid, a wayward runaway, a butler called Butler and a couple of taxi-drivers, Phryne throws herself into any murder mystery that comes her way.
She can speak foreign languages, fly a plane, shimmy up drainpipes in high heels – it's a miracle she's not dismissed as a Mary Sue, though her sheer level of charisma and the fact she's no longer in her twenties probably helps. As with iZombie below, the detective and her cohorts are more interesting than the mysteries – in fact the episodes can be quite slight in a lot of ways, including a couple of Clueless Mysteries.
But it's difficult not to be charmed by Phryne, especially when the somewhat bewildered-but-never-emasculated Detective Inspector Jack Robinson gets roped in. There's certainly a Will They Or Won't They component to their relationship, but the show is happy to keep it on a slow burn for now.
iZombie: Season 1 (2015)
Your enjoyment of this show depends on whether or not you can wrap your head around its truly batshit premise: Liv Moore is scratched by a zombie at a boat party, comes back to life, and sates her appetite for human brains by taking a job at the morgue. But this comes with a side-effect: the brains of the recently decease leave her with their recent memories and personality traits – which means she gets some insights into how murder victims died. Her co-worker is soon brought into the secret, and after presenting herself as a psychic to a local cop, Liv find a new lease on life as an investigator.
Yeah... it's pretty weird.
But it's fun, even though the weekly procedurals aren't as interesting as the character interactions or overarching plot (involving another zombie trying to capitalize on his condition by infecting others and setting up a brain-delivery service). I've watched Rose McIver growing up on New Zealand television, and it's great to see her in her own show, though it's hard to buy her as a sexually active medical expert considering she still looks about twelve years old.
The supporting cast is mixed: Blaine (evil zombie mastermind) and Ravi (Liv's boss) are excellent, but Peyton (the best friend) and Major (Liv's fiancé, who she broke up with to spare him) are a little on the dull side. Major in particular just isn't that interesting. He and Liv certainly don't feel like two people who were on the brink of spending the rest of their lives together – more like a couple that've been dating for a couple of months. I'm not sure why the writers even bothered making them engaged, as it's hardly necessary to the story.
But one thing that's interesting is that Major, despite being Locked Out of the Loop, is given fairly significant subplot that could have easily been the main plot had Liv not been the show's protagonist. As his role as the oblivious love interest, it's fascinating to compare his active, suspenseful storyline with the dreck that's usually given to your standard female love interest who has to be kept in the dark about the superhero's true identity for her own good.
And for the Merlin crew, Bradley James pops in for five episodes in a pretty decent role – definitely the best he's had since he stopped being King Arthur.
Black Sails: Season 4 (2017)
Black Sails came to its conclusion this year, and I was pretty satisfied with what it delivered. If that sounds like lukewarm praise, it's not because I was in any way disappointed with the finale – it was just that there was so much to absorb that I still feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
I did not have a huge emotional investment in Black Sails, despite having followed it from its inception. As much as I appreciated the careful plotting and continuity (as well as the careful weaving in of elements from Treasure Island – though on this score they tripped a little at the finish line) none of the characters were truly dear to my heart and I can't see myself watching it again in the near future.
Yet despite this, it was undoubtedly a fantastic show. All the characters are impeccably drawn, the themes sustained across all four seasons, and the stakes not only real, but constantly being challenged and changed. At its heart is the question: duty or love? Yet even that's too simple. Would you choose love, knowing your beloved might not forgive you for not choosing duty? Would you give up on duty after learning there's a chance for you to reclaim the love that spurred your sense of duty in the first place? And what exactly is the line between duty and "the cause"? When does said cause not become worth the sacrifice it requires to achieve it? When it's personal ambition? When it's war against slavery? Or when it's mindless, ongoing vengeance against civilization with no end in sight?
Some chose duty, some chose love, some chose love and get everything they wanted anyway, some chose duty and find themselves with love as a conciliation prize. And that's not even getting into the ethics of personal motivation!
If there was one thing that bothered me, it was that events in the finale don't quite align with what we know about Treasure Island. One character in particular ends up stranded on the titular island – but it's not Ben Gunn, which only renders Gunn's presence in the show rather pointless.
Now, the show covers for this by making major themes out of storytelling and the mutability of truth – but I also think that if you're going to go to all the trouble of making a prequel to a famous novel, the very least you should do is make sure your canon is consistent with said novel. Otherwise what's the point of drawing upon it at all? It's not enough to make the show a write-off (not at all!) but it did annoy me a little, especially since the show was otherwise so faithful to the minutia of Stevenson's book.
But every character, right down to the supporting cast, is given a satisfactory send-off, and after expecting a complete blood-bath, I was astonished to find the writers had a surprisingly optimistic and even joyful conclusion in store. Thanks Black Sails; that was quite a ride.
Broadchurch: Season 3 (2017)
The third and final season of Broadchurch decides not to inflict a terrible murder upon the small beachside community for the second time in three years, and instead has Hardy and Miller investigate the rape of a woman at her friend's fiftieth birthday party.
I have a very simple rule when it comes to depictions of rape in film/television: if you want to include it, then you better make damn sure you make it the centre of your story. It can't be a negligible background event (see Vikings, Da Vinci's Demons) and it can't be a tragedy that simply happens before everyone just moves on (see Reign, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones). The victim has to be the focus, with ample time spent on exploring her/his trauma and grief. In other words, if you're going to include rape, your story has to be about rape.
As it happens, Broadchurch got my memo. Season three is not only about the thoughts and feelings of Trish Winterman in the wake of her attack, but also the way rape culture permeates all of society. It can get pretty heavy at times and certainly doesn't make for particularly cheerful viewing, but fans of the show can rest assured that this is a decent send-off for Miller and Hardy after a pretty awful season two.
The chemistry of Olivia Coleman and David Tennant can't be denied, and I was satisfied at eight more episodes of them snarking and sniping at each other before the final credits rolled.