Posted in Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Don’t Mind Me, Y’all

Spoilers for Stranger Things Season One; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; and Game of Thrones. And Lord of the Rings if you still haven’t gotten around to seeing that one.

I realized last night I have blindly stumbled into a total asshole phase where I don’t like anything. I didn’t like the new Star Wars; I didn’t like Stranger Things Season One; I didn’t like the ending of the latest season of Game of Thrones (okay, I loved some things about it, but the overall place everybody was in when they left it made me sad and not in a wistful, angsty way but a frustrated, defeatist way). The last thing I really, really liked was Westworld. Here’s how bad it is, y’all – I’m re-reading the original William Goldman novel The Princess Bride, and all I can see is what I don’t like about it. And I adore that book; I have always adored that book. But now I find myself constantly thinking, “does Buttercup REALLY need to be THIS stupid for the adventure fantasy to work for him?” And I know it’s not the art; it’s me. I see the smart and sensitive people with the same tastes in story all around me loving this stuff; I see the looks of shocked incomprehension and, from the ones who actually give a crap what I think, disappointment on their faces when I say I don’t. And on the one hand, so what; it’s just TV and movies. But on the other, I feel myself losing that connection with people I love, and that IS important–and it makes me think that not liking this stuff is a symptom of something else.

One of the themes or plot points that has become really popular of late in science fiction and fantasy is a kind of existential defeatism played out against an enemy so powerful and so evil and so single-minded they can’t ever be vanquished, only managed for brief periods of blind joy and secret dread. I call it Borg Syndrome.

In Star Wars, even though we saw the big ewok barbecue at the end of Return of the Jedi and the fireworks over Coruscant, within the lifetime of the main characters, it all apparently went to shit–to paraphrase Don Henley, the rebels be rebels all over again; the First Order comes out of nowhere and takes control of everything and it’s like the big victory it took us three movies and almost a decade of avid movie-watching investment to achieve never happened at all. In Stranger Things, an evil lab under the auspices of the Department of Energy experiments on children, opens up a portal to another dimension and releases an apparently-mindless oogie-boogie without a face, and more children are tortured and devoured, and in the end, the good guys are just happy to have the one kid back and to hell with any accountability for the baddies who made it all happen because they’re just too powerful to be touched. The main evil scientist guy gets devoured, and that’s awesome, but the big machine rolls on–I know this; I’ve watched the first two episodes of Season Two. And in Game of Thrones, the king of the snow zombies has a zombie dragon that can take down the ultimate defenses of the good–wait, slightly-less-bad–guys in less than a minute, rendering pretty much everything we’ve seen over the course of seven seasons moot in favor of Night of the Living Dead, Medieval Fantasy Edition.

What the genuine fuck, y’all? Have we gotten so cynical and so saturated with antidepressants that we can’t even conceive of a happy ending that isn’t a sick joke, even in our most escapist fantasy? Are we making art designed to reassure us that there’s really no reason to get off the couch because we can’t accomplish anything real or lasting anyway? Am I just a wackadoo old person who’s ready to subsist on reruns of The Waltons on MeTV because I can’t handle the hard stuff any more?

I don’t think so. I keep thinking back to the end of Lord of the Rings. Frodo, with massive amounts of help from everybody else, saved Middle Earth from the darkness, but in the end, he was too broken, too damaged to live in the world he had saved. He had taken too much darkness inside to ever really purge it. So he sailed off into the west, and I bawled my eyes out, but it made sense to me; I loved it. Because his sacrifice mattered to the big picture–the rest of Middle Earth was saved for generations to come. (Yes, evil always comes back, but maybe not next week?) And broken as he was, he had a place to go. He had the self-awareness to know the rotten way he felt was not the necessary norm of hobbit psychology and the faith to know there was something left inside him that could still be healed in the west. Tolkien was a Christian and so am I, and I know that’s a big part of why that story feels right to me, and no, I don’t expect everybody else to buy in.

But I don’t see an atheistic adherence to reason and knowledge in the new fantasy or a celebration of the human spirit; far from it. Knowledge is deeply suspect or discounted or laughed at or ignored–evil scientists are evil; burn the Jedi texts and laugh; Samwell Tarly is a comic figure cleaning bedpans while the real heroes kill things and sleep with their relatives. And people, generally speaking, are either evil shitheels or stupid but nice. And the goals of the nice people are either assumed to be hopeless–like in Star Wars and part of Game of Thrones–or extend no further than their own nuclear family–like in Stranger Things and the other part of Game of Thrones. Our heroes are now either Sisyphus or Forrest Gump.

But again, maybe it’s just me. I’m not being cute when I say that; I’m absolutely serious. Maybe the one who’s having a hard time believing in the light these days is me; maybe the one who sees herself and her fellow humans as either evil or stupid is me. And if that’s the case, I’m sorry; please feel free to ignore me. I promise I’ll be better soon.

PS: Westworld rocks, and one reason is, the people being exploited ARE smart and DO make a change to their world, even though they are literally programmed into a Sisyphean loop. No wonder I loved it so much.

PPS: The Princess Bride is sexist as hell because William Goldman is a hellacious sexist. He’s also completely brilliant and so is his book.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Other People's Awesome, Pop Culture, Sleepy Hollow, TV

4 Ways to Fix Sleepy Hollow Before It’s Too Late

sleepy hollowSleepy Hollow, Season 2, is driving me insane. If the damned show had been horrible from the beginning, I would have watched once and walked away. But Season 1 was flawed but fabulous; even the stuff that was stupid about it was so much fun, I couldn’t skip a single episode. So watching the people who own it systematically dismantle and discard every single good thing about it this year to add in a bunch of crap that just doesn’t work is just about more than I can stand. Since the mid-season premiere, it’s been breaking my heart so much, I find myself spending valuable time and brain energy I ought to be using on my own writing trying to figure out how to fix it. I don’t pretend for one minute that anybody cares what I think or that a post on my little backwater blog will help the actual show in the slightest. But in the grand tradition of magnolias everywhere, I’m hoping having my say will be enough.

1. How do you solve a problem like Katrina?

Love her or hate her, the character of Ichabod’s wife is the single biggest issue unraveling the fabric of the show right now. It’s time for the writers and producers to make two important decisions about Katrina: Is she good or evil? and Will she live or will she die? And they need to share those decisions with the audience sooner rather than later.

Any of these options could work. No, seriously–here, watch:

A good Katrina lives: This seems to be what they want, and they can have it; they just need to do it better. Katrina needs to stop swanning around like an undead supermodel–Morticia Addams is a great character, but she’s been done, and she doesn’t fit in Sleepy Hollow. So we soften her up, get back to more of the sweetly sexy Quaker chick she started out to be in Season One with a generous smattering of the witty girl who was digging reality TV when she first came out of Purgatory. She needs to reconnect with her coven (remember, they’re still around) and start doing more fun witchy stuff and less life or death dark magic that invariably falls short because that shit is just annoying. (For fans of Practical Magic, more Sandra Bullock, less Nicole Kidman.) Most importantly, she needs to get the fuck into the background of the story. The leads are Ichabod and Abbie; the quest (or quests-of-the-week under the new game plan) are ultimately theirs. If Ichabod is happily married, that could be totally awesome. Katrina could provide valuable information and the occasional assist, and their domestic life could add a lot to the whole “man out of time” side of Ichabod’s character–they could be cute as hell discovering the 21st century together if they weren’t constantly wading through sticky bogs of angst. If this is what we’re aiming at, we need to resolve the whole redemption of Abraham and Henry and Hitler and anybody else Katrina wants to save RIGHT THE FUCK NOW, let the Cranes be in love with one another, and move on.

Good Katrina dies: This is a quicker fix that would silence the cries of a lot of haters (and raise the wails of the small but vocal Katrina Fan Club). Let Katrina and Ichabod’s relationship stay ambivalent and angsty, have her working on some big project to prove herself to him or, better yet, save him–maybe she knows something about the spell that resurrected him that she hasn’t told us yet. In the eleventh hour, she enlists Abbie’s help, and Abbie does everything she can to help her. And the project succeeds, but Katrina dies. Maybe she always knew she would; maybe her magic can only resurrect one 18th century hottie at a time. The Abraham Conundrum could be solved as part of this same storyline–he can be redeemed and waiting for her on the other side. This would leave Ichabod and Abbie with a lot of survivor guilt to deal with and doesn’t really seem to fit in with the lighter mood the show’s producers say they want. But it could work.

But let’s say Katrina is a baddie . . . .

Bad Katrina dies: The same scenario as above, except her big project is destructive rather than redemptive. I would introduce this with a flashback from Henry’s point of view to the night Moloch was killed. At some point in the action, while everyone is focused on Irving or Moloch or whatever, Henry sees his mother do something horrible, casting some spell that takes Moloch’s force into herself or something–Henry sees Katrina become the Big Bad. And either he really has had an epiphany where he wants to save his dad and be good as it seems (and has disappeared all this time to whip up a way to beat Mama) or he’s still bad but literally mad as hell to see Mama stealing his thunder. In any case, it all builds to a huge confrontation that shatters Ichabod and kills Katrina. Less survivor guilt, but way more melodrama.

Bad Katrina lives: This is the one that is almost but not quite impossible. Katrina is a bad witch, but not so bad that she has to be destroyed. She shows her hand, and Ichabod denounces her, but either he can’t bring himself to kill her or Abbie convinces him that he’d never forgive himself if he did. And either Katrina would go away and never come back, taking Abraham with her, or she could be a secondary villain next season, Ichabod’s evil ex living in the woods, selling magical beauty products and occasionally causing trouble. I would call this the least satisfying possibility just because it plays into the Katrina-hatred and makes it worse going into a new season – assuming there’d be a new season at all.

My point if I have one is, they can do whatever they want with Katrina and make it work; they’ve just gotta go ahead and do something.

2. So what about Hawley?

Hawley’s gotta die. There’s no hope for it; this Matthew McConaughey as the lost Winchester brother by way of Uncharted has got to go. The actor playing him is just cute as the dickens–and that’s the problem. If they wanted him to be a viable member of the team (and a viable rival for Ichabod in the affections of Abbie and the audience), they needed an Alexander Skarsgard, not a Ryan Kwanten. Edgy as a grilled cheese sandwich, mysterious as corn flakes, the best function he can serve right now is as a blood sacrifice to the plot. The Mills sisters shouldn’t be fighting over this slab of plain cream cheese.

3. Henry? Irving? Jenny? Sheriff Reyes?

All of these background characters have been nicely established, and there should be plenty for all of them to do in a story that still keeps Ichabod and Abbie at its center. Whatever the deal is with Irving, it needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible or conflated sufficiently to make him (or whatever oppresses him) a viable Big Bad for a brand new storyline. Ditto with Henry. I love Jenny; I think she could easily take on the functions of both Katrina (witchy-poo stuff and arcane magical knowledge) and Hawley (kick-ass magical weapons and a little black book full of convenient dark side contacts) while still having an emotional stake in what happens with her sister that can’t be shaken. And Sheriff Reyes has evolved from being another needless cipher to the obligatory exasperated authority figure this kind of story needs.

4. Okay, smartypants, you’re fooling no one,  you ‘shipper, you. What about Ichabbie?

I admit it; I would love to see Ichabod and Abbie become a couple eventually. They have great chemistry; they have great banter; and they look absolutely beautiful together. But with all the Katrina stuff they’ve had so far, even if they pluck Ichabod’s wife out of the equation for good before the end of this season, I think it would take at least another season to work back to that being a viable, non-skeevy plot option.  And if the show lasts and at some point there is an Ichabod and Abbie love connection, I would really, REALLY hope they would get together, stay together, and MOVE THE FUCK ON. These two could be a great couple – but that should never be what this show is about. Whether they’re lovers or friends or just fellow travelers, they’re on this journey together; they’ve got stuff to do, a world to protect, evil to vanquish. Would I like to see them having a little pillow talk between battles? Of course; I’m a freakin romance novelist. Do I think the show needs that to succeed? Absolutely not. And if that ever became the primary focus of the plot, it would kill it faster than Katrina in a little black dress. And the way to make it a non-issue is NOT to create more angst with an on-again/off-again; will they/won’t they conflict but to let them be happy in their relationship and get back to fighting monsters.

I still don’t think any of this is what’s actually going to happen on the show, but I feel better. No one can say I didn’t try. Anybody else got any ideas they need to get off their chest? My comments section is your comments section.

Posted in Sleepy Hollow, TV, Uncategorized

Sleepy Hollow – a missing scene

fall_tv_preview_sleepyhollow1I started my career as a romance novelist writing fan fiction, and that’s what this is, plain and simple.  It’s not even a full story, just a scene I really wanted and didn’t get from “Heartless,” the most recent episode of Sleepy Hollow.  I’m not saying they should do this or that this is what’s best for the characters or even that this is the most likely scenario for the future based on what we’ve seen so far.  The real writers almost certainly have something better planned that will knock my socks off. This is purely my personal wish fulfillment at this exact moment in the story. And based on what I read on Twitter Monday night, there are some other people who might enjoy it, too.

* * * * * *

As the sun came up, Abbie gave up, got up, showered, and dressed.  She dialed Crane’s number on her way to the car.

“Yes?” He sounded awake, just befuddled. “Yes, I’m here; hello.”

“Good morning.” Even in her present state, she couldn’t help but smile. “I think we need to talk. I’m coming over.”

“All right.” He might have sounded a little surprised, but she couldn’t tell. He hid so much from her these days.

“Great. I’ll bring coffee.”

“Wonderful.”

“I’ll see you shortly.”

“Yes.” Just as she was about to end the call, she heard him crying out in desperation. “Lieutenant!”

“Yes?”

“Doughnut holes. Please.”

She smiled again. “Of course.”

 

 

Once she was sitting across from him at the table in the cabin, she wasn’t sure how to start. “Crane, I didn’t sleep last night.”

“Nor I.” His hands were clasped around his coffee cup like it was a lifeline. “I was glad when you called. I need to speak to you as well.”

“That’s great–I mean, I’m sorry you didn’t sleep, but . . .” She broke off and started again. “I think I’m going to need to go first this time,” she said. “And I think I’m going to need you to shut up.”

He looked taken aback, but he nodded.  “All right.”  He gestured for her to proceed.

“You’ve been taking charge of the situation a lot lately, and that’s fine. But I’m not your assistant, Crane, or your sidekick. We’re partners–”

“Of course–” She raised her eyebrows, and he stopped.  “Apologies. Please go on.”

“Then last night, after Katrina left, you gave me that speech about how we have to stick together, stick to the mission and not get distracted.” He started to speak again, then stopped, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms. “And that craziness where you were, I don’t know, giving me permission to date Hawley? I don’t even–what was that even about?”

“You want me to speak now?”

“No, I don’t.” Just saying it all out loud, she was getting mad all over again. “You don’t tell me who I can date, Crane. That is none of your business.”

“You are right,” he said, nodding, his arms still folded. “It is not.” He wasn’t even looking at her.

“I don’t need you to find me a boyfriend.”

“Of course you do not.”

“And when you do things like that, it makes me think that you think I’m jealous of Katrina.” She hadn’t been sure she could say it, but she had. “Crane, I am not jealous of Katrina.”

He looked stunned. “No, of course not.” He set his coffee cup aside, and she saw his hands were shaking. “You’re quite right, Lieutenant. I apologize.”

“Crane, I don’t need an apology.” She took his hand. “I need to understand.”

“I should have realized . . .” His hand closed over hers, but he still wasn’t looking at her. “You are much too honorable a woman to have even entertained the thought . . .”

“The thought of what?” He looked up, and she saw exactly what in his eyes. “Oh . . .” She let go of his hand. “Crane–”

“No, please.” He looked away with a wry smile. “I believe it’s my turn to speak.” He got up from his chair. “It is not you who is jealous, Lieutenant. I am the one for whom our relationship has become more than a friendship between comrades at arms.”

Only Crane could describe a crush and make it sound like the Magna Carta. “Hey, that’s perfectly natural,” she said. “You came back from the dead, and I was here, the only one who believed you, the only one who could help you.” She sounded so calm and mature and matter-of-fact, she almost believed her own bullshit. “You’re a man; I’m a woman.”

“Yes,” he said, smiling. “You are most assuredly that.” He put a hand on the back of his chair. “And I am a married man.”

“Yes, you are.” She got up, too. “And you love Katrina. You have always loved her.”

“Yes, I have. I know I have, and I do, but . . .” He looked at her, and she saw fear in his eyes as well as anguish. “I can’t remember why.”

The full importance of this hit the detective like a bullet, with fast, deadly force. “What are you saying, Crane?”

“Ever since she escaped Abraham and we brought her here, ever since the hospital, I have been trying to remember the particulars of our courtship,” he said.  “Abbie, I can’t.” When he said her name, she shivered. “She was Abraham’s beloved, and he was my friend. Of course I found her beautiful.”

Abbie smiled. “Of course.”

“But my attraction to her was merely aesthetic,” he insisted. “My affection for her was entirely inspired by my feelings of friendship for Abraham. He loved her; therefore, I was her advocate. I reached out to her not to form an attachment between us for my own sake but entirely for his.”

“Crane, I believe you,” Abbie said. “All jokes aside, you are not the kind of man to mack on your best friend’s girl.” He smiled. “But you know, these things happen.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember it happening,” he said. “I remember feeling friendship for Katrina, then feeling alarm and dismay on behalf of my friend when he began to suspect her of sympathizing with the colonists. Then suddenly we were in love.”

“And you were sympathizing with the colonists, too.” She was a good cop; she didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. But this sounded bad. “But hey, it was a long time ago.”

“Yes, it was,” he said. “And I have never regretted my decision to join the colonial cause.  I cannot but believe I would have done so even if I had never met Katrina. But I quite clearly remember the moment I first agreed to act as a spy for General Washington. I remember the first moment Abraham looked at me in hatred. I remember the first time I saw Franklin naked, for God’s sake.”

“That would kind of stick with a person.”

“So why can I not recall the moment when I first fell in love with a woman so dear to me, I would breach the literal gates of hell to save her?”

She wanted to go to him so badly, the palms of her hands tingled in anticipation. But that would only make everything worse, this confusion, this nightmare feeling that everything in her world was spinning out of control. They had to stay focused; there was too much at stake. “I don’t know,” she said, clasping her hands together. “But until a few months ago, you were buried in a hole in the woods, and the time since then hasn’t exactly been low stress.”

“No,” he said with a wry smile. “Though I do not regret a single moment.”

“It makes sense that things in your head could be a little mixed up.” She couldn’t look into his eyes. “For all we know, Moloch or Henry have put some kind of spell on you to make you forget the best parts of your marriage.”

“I suppose that could be possible.” He didn’t sound any more convinced than she felt. “Nor can I discount the influence of other factors.” She didn’t even have to look at him to know he was blushing. “I have changed a great deal since we met, Lieutenant, in my opinions, in my feelings.”

“No kidding,” she said, trying to make light of what he was saying so she didn’t have to really hear him. “You didn’t used to even like doughnut holes.”

“This goes beyond doughnut holes, I’m afraid. Abigail, let me speak plainly.” He moved in front of her, making her look at him. “If I were not married–”

“But you are,” she cut him off. “You are married.” She made herself look into his eyes and saw perfect understanding. No man had ever understood her so easily or so well. “And until we know how this is all going to work out, until we have hard evidence, until Katrina is away from Abraham and the two of you have a chance to work things out, there’s no point talking about anything else.” She did touch him then. She took his hand. “You said it yourself. We’re the witnesses. We’re the only ones who can stop Moloch. Nothing can get in the way of that.”

He nodded, looking down at their clasped hands. “You’re right, Lieutenant. Please forgive me.”

“Crane?” She waited until he looked back up “Just for the record? Me too.”

end of scene

Posted in Sleepy Hollow, The Big Bang Theory, TV, Uncategorized

TV Is Pissing Me Off

sleepy hollow 2

These days, my husband is all about the Hulu.  We pay a ludicrous amount of money every month for cable, and, as he rightly points out, we watch maybe three broadcast shows a week. Why not lose cable and just do Hulu?  (We already have NetFlix; laws, do we have NetFlix, we couldn’t live without the NetFlix.) I’m the holdout; I’m the one who insists I need to watch those few shows as they air to make my life complete. (And most of them I live tweet, if anybody wants to watch with me: @lucybluecastle on Twitter.)  “No, no, no!” I shriek as he waves the cable bill under my nose, putting my fingers in my ears and chanting the theme music to Entertainment Tonight.  But two weeks into the new season for two of my favorites, I’m beginning to think he might be right.

Sleepy Hollow ended last season with so many heart-stopping cliffhangers, it got kinda silly.  Captain Irving’s going to prison! Abbie’s in Purgatory’s Playhouse! Ichabod is buried alive! Katrina is – oh hell, who cares?  Okay, okay, Katrina’s in the clutches of the Headless Horseman! (Not to be confused with the Horseman of War, aka John Noble, an actor way too good for TV in the first place who was given a fantastic character to start with which was then ripped into stupid pieces that still make no freakin sense – but more on that in a minute.) Jenny is dead on the highway! Clancy Brown still isn’t in it any more! Brooks’ neck skin is still giving me the creeps!

So last week, they had the season premiere, and the best thing I can think of to say about it is, Brooks’ neck skin seems to have healed up nicely, probably because he’s moving on to another show, and saggy neck skin just doesn’t work on a sitcom (just ask Courtney Cox).  It’s not that the episode was bad; it just didn’t have fuck all to do with anything that came before it.  All the cliffhangers were resolved in the most unimaginative way possible (or not resolved at all – I strongly protest the fact that nobody even MENTIONED Captain Irving until Episode 2).  And everything I care about in the on-going narrative (the relationship between Abbie and Ichabod, Irving’s struggle to protect his child, the FACT THAT THE END OF THE WORLD IS APPARENTLY UNDERWAY) kinda got swept aside so we could watch them continue to ruin Henry’s character and try to write their way out of the plot black hole that is Katrina. Why in East Hell would you cast John Noble as a Sin Eater, then make him the old guy incarnation of a child character who was barely a Damian-rip-off blip on last season’s storyline?  By Episode 2, he was reduced to fighting his battles by proxy through evil magic armor–one of the great baddies of our age reduced to wielding the Kinect from Hell.

And then there’s Katrina. Full disclosure: I have never liked this character, and not just because I “‘ship” Abbie and Ichabod. First of all, the flawless expositionary hot chick from beyond the pale has always bored the pants off me as a plot device, and Katrina ain’t breaking much new ground. In fact, the writers don’t seem able to settle on exactly who she is beyond “Ichabod’s beloved wife, the witch.” She started out as a kind of Hester Prynne/Witch of Blackbird Pond/Kelly McGillis in Witness kind of dream date, a meek Quaker beauty in a snow white cap hiding great power behind her luminous blank stare. Then we decided the Headless Horseman was really Abraham the Tory, rival of Ichabod for her affections, and she became a discontented 18th-century glamour puss, Rose in Titanic crossed with Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons. Now, apparently, she’s going to be a mole among the undead ghoulies, Mata Hari in Purgatory.

What-the-fuck-ever.  In barest fact, she is exactly what she always was from the very beginning–a reason to keep the romantic tension between Ichabod and Abbie from moving past a certain point until ratings dictate it’s time.  Last night’s convoluted explanation as to why she has to stay in Purgatory and vamp the Horseman was the stupidest thing I’ve seen on TV in a while, and I watched the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover.

The_Big_Bang_Theory_Cast

And The Big Bang Theory was even worse.  Once again, Chuck Lorre and his brain trust have created a warm, smart, funny community of characters I love for their ability to love one another as much as their quirkiness, then have decided to turn them all into mean-spirited, self-involved assholes. I’m not a big fan of fan service (ask anybody who watched the latest season of Sherlock within earshot of me) but I hate it even more when writers/producers/creators decide to spit back at the fandom they feel is oppressing them by making fun of everything they want.  “I want to have coitus with Amy” was the most hateful slap this crew has delivered to their audience since Rose shoved Charlie in front of the Metro.  Don’t mistake me; I don’t think Sheldon and Amy need to have sex.  I didn’t think Sheldon and Amy ever needed as clearly defined a romantic relationship as they have right now. But this whoopee cushion of a joke at the expense of the audience’s expectations took the already-queasy way they make fun of Amy’s sexuality down to a whole new low.  The characters deserve better, and so do we.

The big question after last night (because as with Sleepy Hollow, nothing from the big emotional cliffhanger finale amounted to a hill of beans) seems to be will Leonard and Penny break up again.  Jeebus give me strength.  Leonard and Penny’s relationship is the linchpin of this entire show (and yeah, I like Bernadette and Howard better, too; that’s not the point).  Leonard’s desire to nail Penny from the moment he saw her is the “big bang” of the title.  (And the crassness of that joke ought to be a clue to people like me who want something deeper and more delicate that we’re whistling in the wind.)  The reason I love the show enough to pay too much for cable is the way they’ve brought these two people who were predestined by their creators to never sync up into a relationship together.  Their arc isn’t just funny.  It feels real; they’ve earned their love, to use a romance writer’s phrase. And if show makers split them up again to keep the engine chugging down the track for three more seasons, it will break my heart.

Every one of these actors has done a brilliant job of creating a unique character that has grown and evolved over time and made connections with one another. Please, Lorre & Co., don’t fuck’em over now. Don’t piss it all away.

Posted in American Horror Story, TV

AHS: Ready for the end game . . . .

FX_AHS_ImageGallery_0000_03Last night I was laid low with a migraine and didn’t live tweet American Horror Story: Coven, though I was watching and shrieking right along with everybody else.  So I’m thinking maybe now, as we go into the long dry spell that is the holiday break, might be a good time to stop and take stock of where we are in more than 140 characters.

Regular readers of the blogness might recall that I started off the season after the premiere saying that I loved this new story of the New Orleans witches and the voodoo queens who loathe them even though it punched nearly every button on my hate list for horror.  Poisonous poontang, crazy church ladies, rape rape and more rape, and anal atrocity when all else fails to shock – those tropes are all still there in almost every episode, and I don’t like’em any better now than I did in October.  But the good still outweighs the bad, and even if it didn’t, I couldn’t give up this story without finding out how it comes out to save my sanity.

So, the bad:

  • When Queenie begged the Minotaur to “love” her in the garden shed and ended up with even lower self esteem and obvious internal injuries.  They almost lost me with that one.  Queenie deserved better as a character, and though she did a fantastic job of playing the scene without flinching, Gabourey Sidibe deserves better as an actress.   In a recent episode when Queenie slaughtered a would-be rapist, I saw what they did there, contrasting the old Queenie with the new.  But it still felt clumsy, cruel and unnecessary.
  • All those damned crazy mamas.  What. The. Fuck, Y’all?  Did Mare Winningham lose a bet?   And unless she’s going to rise up with something brilliant in the final act, the Patti Lupone character is a waste of space put in for no better reason than to make mean fun of Christian fundamentalism in all its repressed, Lysol-wielding glory.  All I can say is bleah.
  • The way nobody on the voodoo side of New Orleans has any personality except Marie Laveau.  Over at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, even the portraits hanging on the walls have an intricate backstory.  At Marie Laveau’s, people just come in to get their hair done and get shot.
  • The pacing on the witch hunter plot.  While the writers may have known about Hank’s family history and the big bad Delphi Trust from the beginning, it felt like this was a great big daemon ex machina brought in last night to push everything to a crisis for the final act, a brilliant notion that occurred to somebody over their Thanksgiving turkey.  I like it; it works; it just seems like too big a plot point to have been a secret until this point in the story.  But I’m willing to be talked out of this one; this may just have been a slow reveal on Hank.

But enough nitpicking; on to the Very, Very Good:

  • Kathy Bates, Kathy Bates, and ever more Kathy Bates.  No other actress could have played the character arc of The Education and Dismemberment of Delphine LaLaurie and made it not only make sense but be genuinely moving.  We know she’s a monster, the worst on display here, and yet we’re rooting for her; we want her to get better; we want Queenie to save her soul.  Last night watching her disembodied head weep to hear Odetta sing about freedom should have been Grand Guignol comedy, but it wasn’t.  Intercut with the horrific images of Hank’s massacre in the hair salon, it made me cry.  And that’s the thing about this whole story, the thing that makes it better than the first season.  It’s not just cool and edgy and scary and shocking – it’s human and heartfelt, too.
  • Every little thing about Fiona.  Speaking of touching scenes, nothing has gotten to me more all season than Fiona helping the grieving mother in the hospital resurrect her stillborn daughter.  I love her twisted love for Cordelia; I love her desperate love for herself; I love the way she loves the Axe Man and the way he loves her back.  This part was obviously written purely as a love letter to Jessica Lange, and she’s proving she’s worth every word.
  • The weird-ass love triangle between Zoe, Kyle (better known at our house as Frankenwiener), and Madison.  It tickles me to see these two teen-age girls, one outwardly shy and inwardly certain, the other just the opposite, create their own version of Prince Charming and share him like a toy.  Extra points for the way Fiona has taken him up as a pet.
  • Every moment between Queenie and Delphine.
  • Every shot of Angela Bassett’s exquisitely beautiful face which somehow manages to be stony and expressive at the same time.
  • Myrtle, the most specific and cuckoo version of the classic crone figure I’ve ever heard tell of.
  • All the incredible visual details and layers of gorgeous horror, from Madison’s outfits to the sight of Myrtle burning at the stake – this is what gothic should always look like.  For once, a piece of art lives up to its title sequence.

So now we wait until January 8.  Truth be told, I don’t really care who the new Supreme is; I just want to know what happens next.

Posted in American Horror Story, TV

From one scary magnolia to another . . . American Horror Story: Coven

AHSCovenOkay, my kittens, it’s not going to sound like it, but I promise you from the bottom of my twisted heart, I really, really loved the premiere episode of American Horror Story:  Coven.  I hate stories about torture, people being burned alive, gang rape, and that most misogynistic of symbolic horror tropes, the deadly vagina dentata (or as my extremely clever baby sister, Alexandra Christian, described it in this incarnation, Black Magic Pussy).  I  hate stories where every woman is either a mealymouthed victim or a murdering bitch.  I hate stories about the South where pretty much everybody native comes off as a f*cking crazy person.  Coven;  Episode One was oozing with all this nastiness like pus oozing out of a boil; by all rights, I should have hated it.

But I didn’t.  Because the one doing the torturing was Kathy Bates, playing Delphine LaLaurie, a real life psychopathic southern belle who would make Annie Wilkes cry for her mama.  And the girl who was burned alive by crazy Loo-Zee-Anna fundamentalists is gonna come back and kick ass.  And the girl who was raped blows up a whole bus to get even. And that Black Magic Pussy is attached to a character with potential to be either a sensitive witness or an avenging angel,Ophelia or Medea or both, and I can’t even begin to predict which it will be.

And maybe that’s the point.  So much of what we saw is so familiar, archetypal, plugged straight into my own Southern gothic woman’s sensibilities that I felt immediately at home, but nothing is how I would have written it.  It’s like watching the story my evil twin would write on a steady diet of tabloids and absinthe.  That bitch is crazy, but I gotta know what she’s gonna show me next.

Other goodies that make it all worthwhile:

Jessica Lange dancing to Iron Butterfly and firing off killer one-liners like Bette Davis run magically amok.

The gorgeous way everything is lit and framed and filmed, no matter how ugly the action.

Frances Conroy’s red hair and cigarette.

The feeling, for the moment at least, that everything means something, that everything has a point, that the story is going to hang together and make some kind of awful sense.  Season 1 of AHS fell to tatters by the end, and I hear Season 2 was plagued with a swampy middle.  But watching this first episode, I can still have faith.

Lex and I are live tweeting every episode (@LucyBlueCastle and @LexxxChristian), so by all means, come watch with us next week.  In the meantime, what did y’all think?

 

Posted in Pop Culture, Sleepy Hollow, TV

Sleepy Hollow: All I expected and just enough more

sleepy hollowNot that anybody cares, but Washington Irving’s original “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was not a scary story.  Not remotely gothic beyond some lovely travelogue-like description of the Hudson River Valley, it’s an early American satire, a comedy about how the salt of the earth manly men of an American wilderness town turn an artistic, intellectual, woman-stealing nancy boy’s own poetical imagination against him to run him out of their territory and away from their potential mates.  There was no headless horseman, and Ichabod Crane was nobody’s idea of a hero.  Disney did a pretty straightforward cartoon adaptation as far as story, but the imagery of the Headless Horseman was so deliciously scary, nobody remembers he was a fake.  Johnny Depp, with his portrayal of “Ichabod Crane, Girl Detective” (his words, not mine, and utterly perfect), hit close to Washington Irving’s original skittish schoolmaster in his mannerisms, but he was a forensic detective who pushed past his fear to kick ass when courage was required, saving the day in the end.  And oh yeah, the Horseman really was an evil Redcoat from beyond the grave.  And there were witches.

FOX’s new series, Sleepy Hollow, seems to pick up where Tim Burton left off, adding a time link element to this new Horseman mythology.  Ichabod is a Revolutionary soldier/spy who looks like he stepped off the cover of a nicely-designed 1980s romance novel.  He finds himself in the Sleepy Hollow of today, a fish out of water with Oxford diction, allied with Abbie, a gorgeous lady cop in mannish clothes that show off her cleavage, a pretty pro straight out of the Dana Scully playbook.  Watching the promos, I anticipated one more network supes show where the Magic Man spends half his time trying to convince Miz Pragmatic he’s not crazy and Miz Pragmatic spends half her time with her head in her purse.  But they’ve got sexual tension and a pile of corpses to explain, so gosh darn it, they better team up.  <yawn>  I mean, just look at that promo picture – could those four characters look any more focus group ready?

But  . . . . I watched the first two episodes.  And while yeah, it starts out very much as expected, it veers straight off that rail and into fun stuff almost immediately.  Ichabod (Tom Mison) is stalwart and intense and handsome, yes.  But he’s also snarky and warm and ready to fight back not only against the Headless Horseman but against the modern day skeptics who think he’s delusional and possibly dangerous.  Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is smart and capable and rocks the hell out of a scoop neck teeshirt.  But she’s also kind and vulnerable in a genuinely womanly way (not the “she goes in the bathroom and cries for ten minutes every day about her ticking biological clock just to prove she has a uterus” way writers of this kind of show usually fall back on) with her own connection to the supernatural events that’s just as real and strong as Ichabod’s.  Plus we have Orlando Jones as the usual doubting cop in charge – except this time, he may have a secret of his own, a reason for roadblocking our protagonists that goes beyond the “I’m too cynical for this shit” cliché.  And John Cho is wandering around as a zombie cop with connections to the Horseman.  And best of all, Clancy Brown haunts the warmest corners of the story as the ghost of Abbie’s mentor, the late sheriff and the Horseman’s highest profile victim.  Any show that uses Clancy Brown as a good guy pretty much has me at hello.

There are problems – I’m not convinced yet by the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” angle (must the stakes ALWAYS be the end of the world?), and Ichabod’s witch wife, caught between worlds, seems more like a plot complication created to keep the leads from smooching until sweeps month than a necessary element of the story.  But of all the new shows I had hope for this fall (I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), this one has been the happiest surprise.

Watch tonight at 9 o’clock on FOX – and come over and live Tweet with me (@LucyBlueCastle)!