Episode Review: Supernatural 11×21

This episode tried to dig deep into a huge theological question.

Upon meeting God, Sam, ever the fanboy, rambles on and wonders whether his prayers “got lost in the spam.” Meanwhile, Dean broods in the corner, then confronts God about where the hell he’s been for the thousands of years humans have been suffering horribly. It’s the question all of us would want to ask of God, and the show chose to go with “over-parenting is enabling,” the answer that the Abrahamic religions have been touting for years.

It’s not a good look for God, and it’s certainly not a sympathetic answer for Chuck. Given the way he was presented throughout the rest of the episode, it makes me wonder what the writers are going for with regards to his characterization. He is normalized to the point of mockery, any cosmic greatness stripped from him as he sits in tube socks and boxers munching on unhealthy snacks. At that point, is he still the God of legend? When does God stop being “God”? Isn’t God’s greatness in his inscrutability? Shouldn’t he be untouchable? A being so great (not kind or good or beautiful, but great, awesome in his power) that humans can’t handle his presence?

Is that why the writers chose to go the Chuck route? If they were going to put God in the story (which I still think is a terrible idea, writing-wise, but I digress), did they realize there was no good way to incorporate him and maintain his greatness? Did they realize that humanizing him was the only way this plot wouldn’t completely implode?

And now “God” is just a regular person, with a weary walk and a dry wit and family problems (notice how touchy he was about Lucifer; his emotions are clouding his judgement), just like anyone else. I don’t know how to feel about this creative decision.

Anyway, moving on from the theological implications here, one of the things that distracted me in this episode was that, aside from Amara, there were no women. Literally not a single woman. The introduction of a new prophet was a great chance to include, say, a woman of color, but instead we got an old white dude. This is Supernatural’s problem again and again, and not just with casting, but with plot as well. They keep recycling tropes, plot lines, and characters. We’ve had the flustered old white man who provides silly comedic relief. How about a female black chemistry graduate student who reacts with dry disbelief? How about a queer Arab Muslim woman who is furious at God’s cavalier attitude and rashly gets in his face with no regard for her own well-being?

I know, I know, it’s futile to expect this kind of diversity from Supernatural, of all shows. But as a show that’s been on the air for eleven years, and that was just renewed for two seasons at once (an rare occurrence), it can afford to take those kinds of risks. It can step outside of the box, shake things up. Then again, why should I expect any of that from the white men who are running the show?

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

→ I will forever find it hilarious that Sam and Dean have the cell phone numbers of various supernatural beings. Like, just picture Dean exchanging phone numbers with Metatron for a second. How would that conversation even go? But I suppose it’s a necessary part of being a modern, present-day show about supernatural beings.

→ Speaking Metatron, like Dean, I wouldn’t have expected him to sacrifice himself. I don’t think he really believed that warding spell would actually work, as he didn’t seem too surprised when Amara stayed put.

→ Kevin! It was great to see him, but if we were going to go down that route, where the hell was Charlie?

Advertisements

Episode Review: Once Upon a Time 5×21

Well, this felt very much like a finale. It’s hard to believe that there’s still two whole episodes left; are we going to need that much story time to set up next season’s conflict? I wouldn’t complain if it meant witnessing some domestic bliss in Storybrooke, but I know our heroes are barely going to get a single night’s rest before having to deal with the next big thing.

So, this episode put the lid on the Hades storyline once and for all (I hope, anyway), but Hades took Robin along with him, for reasons I truly can’t fathom. Is this supposed to set up Regina to backslide next season? Because otherwise I really don’t see why Robin had to die so horribly (to be wiped out of existence!). If they had wanted to prove Hades’ treachery to Zelena, they could have just had her listen in and then witness Hades shoot the bolt at Regina, who Robin could have saved by ducking them both out of the way. Especially since it wasn’t exactly like Hades took them unawares.

But anyway, Robin died, and Hades died, and while we got a nice moment of sisterly solidarity out of it, I can’t see this going over smoothly into next season, especially now that Hook’s come back. I can’t imagine Regina taking that very well. They went to the Underworld because of Hook and Emma. Hook came back, but Robin died. That’s gotta hurt. (Also, excuse me, Hook’s back? Just like that? Because Zeus brought him back? Talk about deus ex machina.)

Speaking of solidarity, this episode built up a very abrupt bromance between Hook and Arthur. It’s not that I disliked it, but it just seemed very out of place. I’m not sure why Hades killed Arthur in the first place. Because he was just in the way? Because the writers needed any random ol’ person to help Hook? Arthur is basically the reason they managed to kill Hades, so Hades engineered his own death sentence due to his own callousness. Classic. Anyway, I continued to be suspicious towards Arthur even when he was about to risk his soul to help Killian – when did Arthur become so altruistic, anyway? Plus the actor always plays him in such a shady way, you can’t help but think the dude’s up to something.

One thing I did like about Arthur descending to the Underworld is that it seems he’s destined to save it now. I always liked how this show played around with mythology to make everything fit with their own mythos, and this is just another example of that. True, it’s a little too clean, a little too convenient, but as always, I’ll let it slide.

Miscellaneous Observations:

→ Does nobody care that Belle is still under a sleeping curse? When they were all holed up in the library looking through those books, I thought someone would at least mention that if only they had Belle the research would go a lot easier. But nope, nothing! I get that they had bigger things to worry about and Belle is technically safe, but c’mon!

→ Also, Belle’s father is a terrible human being. He’s always been terrible, but this just takes the cake. I seriously want to punch him in his smug face. I didn’t expect him to go along with Rumple easily, but I didn’t expect he’d stonewall completely. Why Belle still trusts her father to fulfill any of her wishes is beyond me. I mean, essentially, his view is, “Better my daughter be as good as dead for eternity rather than conscious and making choices that I disapprove of!” Are we not supposed to find this guy gross? Because I don’t know how the writers could pull this and not expect us to think he’s really, really, really gross.

→ Zelena’s reaction to Regina telling her the truth about Hades was utterly predictable. But, I was surprised to see Zelena not only switch sides at the end, but take out Hades herself! That was intense, considering Hades and Zelena were sold as true love. I can’t imagine anyone else on this show killing their One True Love. I mean, hell, Emma literally went to the Underworld to save Hook. I don’t know if that shows Zelena’s fortitude or ruthlessness. Probably the latter, which is an interesting character trait.

→ I like snarky!Killian a hell of a lot more than loveydovey!Killian. I mean: “Can we get to the acceptance already?” Gold.

→ Emma soliciting murder advice from Rumple felt like someone low-key asking for drugs. It was actually kind of hilarious. But um, did I miss something? Did that conversation ever go anywhere? Did Rumple give her any advice?

→ Emma and David are so adorable. I love all their scenes together. Their relationship is fascinating, because it could be so easily read as a friendship, or a brother-sister relationship, when it is in fact neither of those things. But because of the age difference, the ambiguity lets your imagination run wild. The non-traditional boundaries of this relationship makes it so much more appealing. And unlike Emma and Mary Margaret, David and Emma were never close before the curse broke. And how much do I love Emma? This whole episode she was basically suck in the “anger” stage of grief, and her belligerent “How do other people deal with death?” was just a perfect embodiment of that. Jennifer Morrison kills it as usual.

Woman Crush Wednesday: Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time)

I fell in love with Emma Swan from the moment we met her, when she reveals herself as an undercover bail bonds person to her blind date, who is actually her mark. What a way to come out swinging.

At first, Emma Swan is the epitome of lonely, friendless orphan. She’s jumped from foster home to foster home, which has led her to have no friends or family. When the son she put up for adoption ten years ago shows up on her doorstep in Boston (on her birthday no less!), she winds up in Storybrooke, Maine, with her son insisting that the town is actually inhabited by fairy tale characters who don’t remember who they are. A staunch skeptic, Emma continues to disbelieve until she is forced to stare the truth in the face, leading her to reunite with her birth parents.

We talk a lot about “strong female characters,” and I hate that phrase for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it leads to one-dimensional characters whose only characteristic is that they can punch people. Emma’s certainly capable of holding her own in a fight, but there’s much more to her than that. There’s intense vulnerability and severe abandonment issues over her upbringing. There’s anger and frustration at her birth parents, who made a choice to send her away to save her life along with the lives of their people. Emma is pragmatic, sarcastic, and droll (her dry wit is one of my favorite things about her). She is courageous, tenacious, and resourceful. She is rash, wary, and solitary. Emma Swan takes no shit from anyone. Her defining characteristic – her “superpower” as she tells her son – is that she can always tell when someone is lying, a skill no doubt picked up as a result of her rough past.

With the life she’s had, you would think she would be misanthropic and closed off, but not quite. While it’s true that Emma shields herself in emotional armor, she doesn’t seclude herself from the world completely. She forms a beautiful friendship with Mary Margaret Blanchard before she knows who Mary Margaret really is. The two quickly move in together, and Emma offers Mary Margaret emotional support and no judgement when Mary Margaret makes…questionable life choices. She sticks by her when no one else will and saves her life on more than one occasion. She shows a fierce support for other women and their choices – the fourth episode of the first season revolves around Emma helping a pregnant teenager make her own decisions in keeping her child safe.

In short, Emma Swan is an incredibly layered, dynamic character that is constantly developing. Once Upon a Time is ultimately her story, her own huge character arc. No matter how ridiculous the show gets, I will always love it for giving me Emma Swan, who has, in short order, become one of my most beloved characters of all time.

Episode Review: Supernatural 11×20

You know how the cardinal rule of writing is “Don’t put God in the story”? You know, literal deus ex machina and all that jazz? Because once you put God in the story, everything kind of becomes redundant. If God could just fix everything, why doesn’t he? What is the point of anything if there is a God?

I’m going to need some more material before I come to a conclusion about how I feel about Supernatural literally putting a face to God. My preliminary feeling is that they’ve done it as well as they could have, if they absolutely had to do it. I mean, if you’re going to put God in your story, you may as well make him a deist.

Because that’s what this is, right? An affirmation of deism? Not to get too theological here, but it looks like Chuck (I’m gonna call him Chuck) created the world, then took a step back and let things progress on their own, from nature to nacho cheese. It’s a stark contradiction of what religions like Christianity and Islam preach, which is that God created everything and is behind everything.

So. To get to the heart of the matter. Chuck is God. Well. Haven’t fans been predicting that since, what, season five? I never believed it; I always thought it was too easy. Then again, I never actually thought the writers would have God show up. I assumed he would continue to be MIA, a reflection of reality in a show that otherwise channels the supernatural on every level. But I suppose with the inclusion of Amara, God’s sister (!), there was no way to keep that up.

In any case, the reveal was kind of (a lot) anti-climactic. Dramatic irony was not the writers’ friend here. That said, the conversation between Chuck and Metatron then played out beautifully, in a give-and-take that makes God seem like a pretty ordinary guy – a reflection of his creations.

The best scene of the episode was, of course, the final one. Metatron extols the virtues of humanity, including that they never give up, just as we cut to Dean doing just that – not giving up on his brother. As the scene plays out to Chuck’s lovely rendition of “Fare Thee Well,” the fog fades, the dead are back to life, all is well, and Chuck appears to Sam and Dean – God appears to be finally showing his hand.

Miscellaneous Observations:

→ Even if spoilers hadn’t already let the cat out of the bag about Chuck being God, the gigantic “World’s Greatest Dad” mug sitting beside Chuck would have probably let me in on the secret before they revealed it. Nice one.

→ So, judging by Chuck’s song and everything he said about being sick of witnessing Amara destroy his creation, I would tentatively wager that he plans to sacrifice himself to get rid of Amara, leaving the universe truly God-less. It would make the most sense – if he’s the light to her dark and they’re two halves of a whole and all that, I doubt one can exist without the other. The other option is to seal Amara back up again, this time with the help of Sam, Dean, and Cas, but I just can’t see Supernatural continuing normally with God just existing in the background. Frankly, I’m not sure how it’s going to continue anyway, now that Sam and Dean have met freaking God. Man, I miss the days when this show was just monsters on the road.

→ It’s interesting that, though this series is generally very big on Judeo-Christian mythology, the creation story they’re going for here contradicts that. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I was raised Muslim, so I could be wrong), but there is no “darkness” in Christianity or Judaism nor does God have a sister.

→ It’s a testament to how much I dislike and distrust Metatron that my first thought upon seeing him with a dog was, “Don’t kill the dog! Please don’t kill the dog!”

→ That scene with Sam getting that baby girl out of the car was super adorable! I know Dean is the one who got to play father and who is usually shown good with kids, but I think we should fix that. More scenes with Sam being fatherly, please.

Episode Review: Once Upon a Time 5×20

This is the first episode I’ve truly enjoyed since this godforsaken Underworld arc began.

Here’s the thing: I really, really don’t ship Captain Swan. I don’t even know why. I certainly wish I did; it would be way more fun that way. Before the Frozen arc (one of my favorites!), I actively despised the pairing. For some reason, having Elsa in the mix warmed me up to Captain Swan a whole lot. Now, I no longer despise the pairing, but I don’t love it either. Best that could be said is that I’m ambivalent. So having a whole arc essentially devoted to Emma and Hook’s love wasn’t appealing to me in the least. Not to mention the grimy, red sepia filter of an Underworld wasn’t doing anyone any favors (though it provided the appropriate ambiance, I suppose).

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, no, I didn’t love this episode because Emma left Hook behind. I loved it from the minute it began. So let’s get started:

What I Loved:

→ Emma’s backstory! The moment I saw Emma in glasses, I leaped up in joy! Emma is my favorite character on the series, and I eat up any scene she’s in. Then she runs into bail bonds person Cleo Fox, who delivers to Emma a speech parallel to the one Emma gave in the pilot episode. That’s when I started laughing maniacally (my brother thought I had gone mad), as I realized we had just found out how and why Emma became a bail bonds person. And when Emma took off towards her yellow bug, with Cleo sauntering calmly after her in a mirror image to Emma in the pilot, I knew exactly what was about to happen. This entire plotline was utterly delightful. Watching Emma easily pick her way out of the handcuffs (classic Emma), followed by Cleo freaking out only to find Emma casually lingering at her computer, was priceless.

The rest of this plot then became way too convenient, but I loved it anyway. Cleo is inadvertently killed while she and Emma are running away from the police, and Emma takes up her mantle as a bail bonds person. Not only that, she tracks down Cleo’s daughter Tasha, who Cleo gave up for adoption. Then, in a symbolic moment, Emma picks out her red leather jacket from Tasha’s store, giving this storyline some very neat closure. Overall, I honestly think it’s one of the best flashback plots this series has ever done.

Despite how utterly ridiculous Once Upon A Time can be sometimes, one of the things I love most about it is that it’s all about women’s stories. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. It prioritizes women’s stories over anyone else’s. This is not to say that its treatment of women’s storylines is always flawless (far from it), but its lead female characters are hardly ever given the short end of the stick. Especially Emma. This episode was a great example of that.

Sidenote: That owner of that lobster house in Maine may not think the food is worth sticking around for, but that view certainly is! Wow! I mean, would you look at this:

ouat

Other Sidenote: As someone who wears glasses, I always love seeing Emma (or anyone, really, but especially Emma) in glasses. But I can never stop wondering what happened to them. Did Emma get LASIK? Does she wear contacts (sometimes, when I peer into Emma’s eyes, I think I can see the outline of contacts)? If so, does she, like, carry her contacts/contact case/contact solution with her to the Underworld? What did she do in season 2 when she was, without warning, sucked into the Enchanted Forest? What about in Neverland?

→ Regina being a protective sister to Zelena. Sure, she’s only been “a devoted sister for all of three hours,” to quote Hades, but I’m already loving the dynamic! Regina’s morals may be questionable, but what’s not in question is how fiercely she protects those she loves, once she decides they are worthy of her protection. Zelena’s always been given a bad hand, anyway. If Regina, Mass Murderer Extraordinaire, can be given a pass, then Zelena can too. That quiet moment between them, when they exchanged smiles and Regina handed Zelena her daughter back? Precious.

→ Zelena hesitating before stepping into the portal with Hades, insisting that she couldn’t leave her sister behind. I mean! What a transformation! I totally buy it, though. Memories come with intense feelings, and since Regina and Zelena now remember loving each other, it’s believable to me that they so easily love each other once more. I mean, I have a feeling this sisterly bond won’t last too long, since next episode will involve Regina and the others trying to convince Zelena of Hades’ treachery, but who knows? Maybe this show will finally give Zelena a break.

→ Emma’s snark. Always and forever. I mean, her creeped-out “Okay…” when Cleo called her pretty had me doubled over. Also: “Let’s have that be the last time we do this today, okay?”

→ Henry being relevant. I think the show managed to find a pretty clever way to keep Henry important, and also to tie him to the Story Book.

What I Didn’t Like:

→ Cleo dying. I mean, was that really necessary? I get that her death makes Emma’s transformation into Good Citizen more meaningful, but I still think it could have happened with Cleo alive.  I also don’t understand why they had to run.  Aren’t bail bonds people law enforcement adjacent or something? They carry a license, right? Couldn’t Cleo have just told them she was chasing Emma? She seemed awfully scared they’d get shot, but I have a really difficult time believing that the cops in Nowhere, Maine are gonna shoot two petite white women on sight.  Speaking of white women, way to miss an opportunity to cast a woman of color.

→ Belle being sucked into a box. Look, I get it, Rumple has to get her out of the Underworld somehow, and it’s not like he’s about to carry her. Still, the sight of a Sleeping Belle (ha!) being sucked into a box and tucked into someone’s pocket left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This was exacerbated by the show previously giving us a decent taste of how awesome Belle can be when she’s fully in the know and functions as Rumple’s reluctant partner rather than his ignorant wife (I mean, remember her snarky “This isn’t murder, we’re opening a locker”?). I know she chose to put herself under a sleeping curse, but narratively speaking, is there any better way to place her into the position of non-acting agent? Also, what kind of logic was that on her part? She was, what, three months pregnant? Hades wouldn’t have been able to take her kid for at least another four months. She couldn’t have waited a bit? (This is why I blame the narrative, because Belle ain’t stupid.)

Overall, great episode, one I can see myself watching again. I look forward to our return to Storybrooke!

Watch SyFy’s Dark Matter!

Do you love Firefly? Do you love the Family of Choice trope? Do you love spaceships, thrillers, heists, diverse casts, badass gals, and moral complexity? If so, Dark Matter is the show for you! It airs on SyFy, so it’s not getting much traction in fandom, but it really, really should.

The basic premise is: six people wake up on a spaceship in the middle of the galaxy, and none of them can remember who they are or where they are. Instead of naming themselves, they number themselves in the order they woke up. The series follows them as they complete dangerous missions, discover who they are, and figure out who erased their memories. It’s meaty, fast-paced, and heart-warming, with a fantastic cast of characters.

There’s One, who looks like the most generic white guy ever, despite the actor being half-Moroccan. That said, he also fulfills the role of the generic good-guy lead. But even he has a surprising past and some pretty complex motivations.

There’s Two, a young woman with some brilliant skills and amazing physical prowess . She’s quickly climbing my list of favorite female characters for being absolutely awesome. From the get-go, Two takes on the mantle of leadership without being asked, and her pragmatic decision-making gets the gang out of a lot of tight spots. Two is aloof yet compassionate, clever and determined, loyal and level-headed. And she’s got one hell of a backstory.

There’s Three, who I didn’t admit I didn’t like at first, mostly because I kept thinking how much better he would have been if played by a woman. He’s kind of like the male Kara Thrace, only not as self-destructive. He is, however, brash, arrogant, rude, overbearing, and kind of a scoundrel. But, surprisingly, he grew on me! As we get to know Three better, we see that there’s more than meets the eye, and he develops into the kind of character that I actually love: jerk with a heart of gold.

There’s Four, who I think is the most difficult character to really get to know, despite being privy to his backstory before anyone else’s. This is likely to do with his personality, because Four makes aloof Two look like a gregarious socialite. He’s cold, detached, and ruthless, but he has his own code of honor that he follows religiously. His backstory is probably the most confusing in the context of futuristic sic-fi, but it works.

tumblr_npr6c0L5Ss1qltwmpo5_250 output_iZAfYY
©

There’s Five, the character who seems the most out of place, since she’s an innocent young teenager among a group of worldly adults. Six is absolutely adorable (and her blue hair is to dye for! see what I did there?), and she’s exactly what you’d expect a sweet young girl to be. Except, she’s also a brilliant mechanic with a rough past. She’s the heart of the crew; she loves them all and wants them to be a family forever.

There’s Six, probably the nicest character after Five. He’s kind, caring, honorable, and doesn’t know how to silence his conscience. He struggles with his past life and takes on the role of elder brother to Five. Their relationship is an absolute pleasure to witness.

tumblr_npr6c0L5Ss1qltwmpo1_250 tumblr_nqkjamo1n11uxmfgjo7_250
©

Last but not least, we have the Android, a machine hooked up to the spaceship the crew flies on, but who resembles a human woman. As the series progresses, the Android picks up more and more human traits, as she seemingly begins to develop genuine feelings for her human crew. In a brilliant performance by Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer, the Android begins to convey subtle human emotions that slowly but surely make you fall in love with her.

The crew not only struggles to recall who they are and who erased their memories (and why), but they also struggle to trust each other. They struggle to navigate their lives without revealing their predicament to the people they know. They struggle to reconcile who they were with who they are now, and who they can be, without the weight of their memories. The crew’s dynamic as a whole is a pleasure to watch, but the characters’ individual relationships with one another are just as fascinating. Six and Five have a great sibling dynamic, but Two and Five have a special bond of their own, as the only girls on board. One and Three clash but ultimately stick together. Two and Three understand each other on a level the others don’t. And more and more and more!

It’s been renewed for a second season, airing in two months, so go watch it!

Episode Review: Supernatural 11×19

This episode was a Creature of the Week, which is my favorite kind, and when Supernatural is at its best, in my opinion (I’ll get into how much I hate The Darkness plot in another review, I’m sure).

The episode begins with two young boys, who we quickly discover are a pair of brothers. Jessy, the younger brother is gay, and is warned by his older brother Matty not to make this known to the townspeople. The brothers share a heartwarming moment, reminiscent of Sam and Dean’s youth (which was likely the intent), and Matty promises Jessy that as soon as he turns eighteen, he’ll whisk them out of their conservative Colorado town.

I guess I should have known it wasn’t going to end well.

It’s Matty who is whisked off, and not by anyone with his best interests in mind, but by a monstrous, humanoid creature with glowing green eyes.

Flashforward to Sam and Dean in the Bunker, doing their usual “We’re Nowhere With This Season’s Main Villain So Let’s Go Hunt” routine. The boys go to small-town Colorado to investigate the strange disappearances that, as explained to them by Sheriff Tyson (Battlestar Galactica’s Kandyse McClure! I got very excited! But I wish she’d had a bigger role!), happen every twenty-seven years.

When Sam and Dean go exploring and run into “The Chitters” (so-called for the rattling noise they make), they are rescued by another pair of Hunters. It’s little Jessy, now a nearly forty-year old man, and his partner/husband, Cesar.

Maybe it’s because Supernatural has lowered my expectations to nothing but straight white men all the time, but I was very surprised (and happy!) to see an interracial gay couple on Supernatural! That’s a first for this show, isn’t it? Of course, then I spent the entire episode being terrified that either Jessy or Cesar would die, given what happened to Jenna at the start of this season, but they both survived, hallelujah! Not only that, they decided to ride off into the sunset to New Mexico to live peaceful, monster-free lives. Is this because Supernatural is learning from its mistakes and The 100’s mess, or because Jessy and Cesar are men? (Does the Kill Your Gays trope apply only to women?)

If I’m being honest, in the past two seasons Supernatural has been expanding its horizons in terms of diversity. Sure, this expansion has been slight and incremental, but hey, it’s something. Although, for Supernatural, becoming more diverse just means meeting the absolute bare minimum. I’ll take it for now, but you you gotta keep upping your game, Supernatural.

Altogether this was a decent episode, a lot less high stakes than usual, which was fine! The boys and Jessy and Cesar find the Chitters’ nest and Matty’s corpse. The nest is destroyed and Matty is given a Hunter’s funeral and all is well. Not much prolonged fighting either, which is always great.

The Creatures of the Week, the “Chitters”, were appropriately creepy and even bordered on disturbing. The sight of that nest, with the gestating women, to be discarded after being used as incubators, was utterly nightmarish. The idea of being taken over by a parasite to be a host for its young is terrifying. The guest actors were great, except for adult!Jessy, whose actor played the role strangely stiff and awkward.

And the final scene, with Sam and Dean driving away, a vista of green mountains in their wake? Road trips and weird creatures and small-town Americana, isn’t that what Supernatural is all about? (One of these days I’ll write a very convincing manifesto about this.)