The Strong Women Series

Here, you'll find a collection of posts from my talented female friends, each defending the women in their favorite television series. These posts contain some of the most intelligent discussions ever featured on this website. I highly recommend that you read them all.

15 Fandom Wishes for 2015

It's a brand new year, which means your favorite TV shows are returning and new ones are premiering. So, here is a wish-list of fifteen things I'd like to see happen in fifteen of my fandoms in (there's a theme, here) 2015.

Jenn's Pick: My Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

Do you like meta humor? Movie references? Pineapples? If you do, you were probably also a fan of USA's hit comedy 'Psych.' In this post, I count down my fifteen favorite episodes of the series. Do your favorites make the cut? And, bonus: Can you find the pineapple in my post?

Character Appreciation Post: Felicity Smoak ('Arrow')

Felicity Meghan Smoak is one of the most captivating, optimistic, endearing characters on The CW's smash hit 'Arrow.' And in this post, I list all of the reasons why she is. Read, dear friends, and fall a little bit more in love with our blonde hacker.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Fictional Family & Their Legacy: Saying Farewell to 'Parenthood'


When a television series that has been a part of your life ends, something stirs within you. It's this weird, intimate connection with the characters that you possess that causes you to want the best for them after the credits fade to black. I know. It sounds strange, right? But anyone who has been a fan of any television show for a period of time knows what I mean. You want to leave your favorite characters in a place where they're not just well taken care of, but where they are happy. Where they are loved. Where there is hope.

Parenthood has always been an extremely emotional series for me and for nearly everyone who ever watched it. The reason why it is so emotional is because it's so raw and real. These aren't just characters on a television show. They're US. They're family members of ours in real life. They're friends. And their struggles are our struggles. They experience birth and death and love and loss. They celebrate little things like good grades on tests. They experience traumatic events and hospital visits. And through it all, they continue to rely on and support each other. The Braverman clan has been through their fair share of joys and struggles and they've kept changing and evolving because of them. So when we said goodbye to them in "May God Bless And Keep You Always" (the most fitting title for this series' farewell, might I add), I was so utterly impressed that Jason Katims managed to take everything I loved about the series as a whole and translate it to screen in the final moments. The finale exemplified everything that Parenthood was about -- unconditional love, loss, joy, hope, laughter -- and I couldn't have been more pleased with the result.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Suits 4x11 "Enough Is Enough" (It Always Comes With A Price)


"Enough Is Enough"
Original Airdate: January 28, 2015

There's a six-word phrase that's mentioned throughout the series Once Upon A Time with great frequency. "Magic always comes with a price." Rumpelstiltskin will tell people this repeatedly, whenever they ask him for a magical favor. The idea behind it is really universal -- what you want ALWAYS comes with a price. Literally, you have to pay for things you want. But metaphorically? Well, that's also the case. Are you willing to sacrifice your morals and your friendships and your career in order to get your hands on a seemingly elusive dream? How far will you go in order to achieve your goal and what price are you willing to pay in order to get what you want? For Louis Litt, we realize that perhaps we've underestimated how far he's willing to go in order to get his name on the door. Perhaps we always -- and the characters, too -- assumed that he would be content with sitting by and letting others push him around.

"Enough Is Enough" proved that when you get what you want, you often want more. That's the inherent problem when you have the very thing that you want; it's usually not enough. But in the midseason premiere of Suits, Louis Litt learns that even if he thinks he can control and manipulate the people within Pearson Specter Litt (I've lost count of how many name changes this place has gone through since season one), because eventually, people hit breaking points. Just not always in the way you might anticipate and not always the PEOPLE you might anticipate either.

Parks and Recreation 7x05 ("Gryzzlbox") & 7x06 ("Save J.J.'s") [Contributor: Jaime]


"Gryzzlbox" & "Save J.J's"
Original Airdate: January 27, 2015

This week, Parks and Recreation delivered two incredibly solid episodes that I think might be up there on the list of the show’s best episodes ever.  Both were so strong, relied heavily on the show’s wonderful ensemble, and were consistently funny throughout.  And one featured the return of Treat Yo Self, so, yeah, overall, it was a pretty great night of television.

Sadly, Donna and Tom’s day of self-worship took place in the second episode, so we’ll have to wait to talk about it.  But “Gryzzlbox” was just as fun and exciting, and a huge step forward for the Leslie vs. Gryzzl storyline that so far has anchored every episode this season.  And when I say it was a huge step forward, I basically mean this episode brought it to its climax, that was then pretty much completely resolved in “Save JJ’s”.  So, you know.  Lots of things to talk about today.

"Gryzzlbox"

 


“Gryzzlbox” begins with Leslie and Ben reevaluating their case against Gryzzl.  Leslie Knope, the eternal optimist, has finally given up.  There’s nothing she can come up with to convince the Newports to donate their land instead of taking Gryzzl’s millions of dollars, and nothing she can do to convince Gryzzl to abandon their plans. 

That is, until a Gryzzl drone (sorry, a “skypal”) arrives at her front door, carrying a present for her.  It turns out other people have gotten them too, including Donna, whose box contained sugar plums and honeybears, which are the nicknames she and her fiancĂ© use for each other – except they only use those nicknames on the phone or through text.  There’s no way someone could have known that and chosen those specific items to give Donna.  When Leslie opens her box and sees that it contains Joe Biden’s book (“Biden the Rails: 1001 Poems Inspired by My Travels Through Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor”.  Honestly, I’m just glad to know that even in 2017, Leslie still loves Joe Biden as much as ever) and a poster of the Supreme Court in the style of a famous Friends poster, Ben realizes that Gryzzl is data mining – they’re taking people’s personal information that they share on their Gryzzl devices and using that to create profiles.  But when Gryzzl installed their free wifi in Pawnee, Ben made sure to include protection against data mining in the contracts.  

Ready as ever to take on a new challenge, Leslie holds a public forum to discuss how Gryzzl has broken the terms of their user agreement.  But for once in her political career, Leslie faces zero opposition.  Every single person who attends the forum agrees with her.  I can’t tell if it’s a sign of how far things have come since the first season, or a sign of how bad this Gryzzl issue is.  To show their solidarity, everyone starts chanting, “We’re not against you on this!”  It’s nice, you guys.  It’s really nice.

With the town and Donna on her side, Leslie goes to the person whose unwavering support she can count on: Ron Swanson.  After all, this is the guy who threw his computer in the garbage when he learned about cookies and Google Earth.  When they meet and Leslie eagerly shows him pictures of the triplets, Ron shows her a picture of his son, then immediately tears it up to protect John’s privacy.  But, once they show him what Gryzzl’s doing, he’s not as eager to join their cause as they had hoped; laissez-faire as ever, Ron sees no reason to judge the practices of a privately-run business, and in fact, thinks it’s the user’s fault if they’re carrying a device that they trust with so much personal information.  He even guesses, based on his time around Gryzzl’s lawyers, that it’s not actually illegal.

To get more information, Donna sets Ben and Leslie up with a tour of Gryzzl’s headquarters, led by the company’s VP, Roscoe Santangelo.  Dressed in a hat, cardigan, beret, and glasses, Ben and Leslie (or Darlene Johannsson and her assistant-turned-lover Gregory Strong) go undercover to try and weasel out information from Roscoe, but it turns out he’s pretty willing to admit that they’re data mining and that their products are always on and cataloging the user’s actions.  Oh, and he knows that it’s really Leslie.  After all, Gryzzl has maps on her Gryzzl devices, and face-scanned her when she came in…I mean, really, Leslie didn’t really think this one through.

Since Roscoe is so open about what Gryzzl is doing, Leslie proposes they debate the issue on television.  And apparently the best way to do that in 2017?  Is to appear on The Perdple’s Court, hosted by – you guessed it – Perd Hapley.  Important note: Perd Hapley is not a judge.  But you must call him Judge Hapley.  It’s like a whole thing, don’t worry about it.

While Leslie’s preparing for the show, Ron comes in with the final version of Gryzzl’s user agreement that clearly states there is to be no data mining.  However, through footnotes and supplementary appendices, the contract actually states that Gryzzl is free to use its customers’ information for anything they want.  Ben can’t understand how he missed something like that, but Leslie notices the date of that revision was the day Star Wars was released in 2015.  They knew he would be distracted and used that to their advantage – and to Ben, the fact that this was his mistake means it’s Icetown all over again.



So even though Gryzzl’s actions aren’t actually illegal, it’s obvious to everyone that it’s still a huge violation and super uncool.  In fact, Ben says as much, accusing Roscoe on the show of not being chill.  Roscoe is really offended.  It’s kind of a shocking moment, honestly.  Roscoe points out that people don’t have to use Gryzzl if they don’t like their policies, but Ben counters that they do; the internet isn’t optional anymore, and the company must have known that their users wouldn’t approve of the data mining if they buried that policy so deeply within the contract.

Anyway, Perd has misplaced his judge hammer, so he declares a mistrial.  Tap tap tap.

After Leslie assures Ben that, unlike the people in his hometown, the people in Pawnee know how much he’s done for them.  This, or any other issue, is not going to be anything like Icetown.  As they realize they’re going to have to work harder to get the land from Gryzzl, their doorbell rings – it’s Ron, holding one of the Gryzzl Skypals and a shotgun.  The Skypal came to his house with a Gryzzlbox for his son, based on information about him from Diane’s computer.  Ron wants Gryzzl dead.

Elsewhere, Tom is still dealing with his feelings for Lucy, but is too afraid to act on them.  She’s gone to visit her boyfriend in Chicago, so while she’s gone, he’s been throwing himself into his restaurant, trying to distract himself.  He decides to involve himself with Andy’s contract negotiations with his station manager; they want to retain the rights to Johnny Karate, which Andy doesn’t want to give up.  He loves his show, which he stars in, writes, produces, serves as propmaster, cleans up afterwards, drives everyone home…all for $100.  Naturally, Tom is horrified, and appoints himself Andy’s agent.  They go meet with Hank Muntak (played by Dax Shepard, whaaaaaaat?!) together, and though he drives a hard bargain, Muntak eventually accepts all of their terms, including a pay raise for Andy.  The only sacrifice he won’t make?  Giving up the rights to Johnny Karate.

But through some tough, hardboiled negotiations (aka he cries about how much he likes Lucy and how he just wants to help his friend out), Tom manages to get Muntak to let Andy keep the rights to the character.  This storyline is really nice for Tom, and a really great way to let him shine.  Tom’s never been one for hard work, but during the time jump, his restaurant became a success.  In fact, we’ve only seen him as a success this season.  He’s no longer that guy who’s constantly scrambling to get a leg up, or to somehow improve; he has real, attainable goals now, which makes it so much harder when he sees a situation he knows he’ll fail in.  And that situation is with Lucy.  Personally, I’ve always loved Tom, but I can see how he may have grated on the audience from time to time throughout the show’s run.  I mean, it’s possible to say that about all the characters – these are people we love, but I don’t think you can write a compelling, sympathetic character if the audience is always agreeing with them.  So I think the decision to end the show with Tom in this situation was a great one.  He’s always wanted to be a business mogul; now he is.  What comes next for him?  Something real, something that you can’t help but want for him to have.  When Lucy came back at the end of the episode and told him she went to Chicago to break up with her boyfriend, it felt like a huge victory for Tom – even though he doesn’t act on this information, and even though he doesn’t really show his excitement.  Instead, he responds like an adult: he offers to talk about it if she wants, and when she doesn’t, he starts up a normal conversation with her about Nicki Minaj throwing shade at Jesse Eisenberg at the BAFTAs.  Tom thinks he deserved it, Lucy disagrees.  Personally, I’m just waiting for the 2017 BAFTAs because holy crap does that sound amazing.

Meanwhile, April’s search for the perfect job gets complicated when Craig asks her, as a former intern for the parks department, to welcome the new group of interns.  Of the three new additions, one, Jen, has a lot in common with April.  Her greatest passions are parks and recreation, and by that, she means her parents are making her do this for college credit.  April, who sees her own internship as the beginning of this long path that led to her being old and boring and stuck in a pointless job, convinces Jen to leave.  When Craig finds out, he’s furious, but manages to stay calm thanks to what he’s learned from his therapist, Dr. Richard Nygard (who else screeched a little bit when they heard that Craig is seeing Chris’ old therapist?!), and instead points out to April that, despite what she says, he knows that she enjoyed her time in the parks department, and all the work she did there.  Because, after all, she had the greatest teacher in the world – Leslie Knope.

To make up for getting rid of Jen, April does what Leslie Knope would do: she puts up flyers and recruits even more interns.  And, to her surprise, she actually enjoyed it.  She still doesn’t know what her dream job is, but Craig suggests she add “telling people what to do” onto her list of qualities she’s searching for.  

I really love the direction they’re going in with this storyline.  It could be really easy to just have her stumble onto the perfect job, but the thing is, it’s April.  Given what we know about her, she’s going to find something to hate about everything, so I really appreciate that she hasn’t just found some job.  Look at what happened when she started running animal control – at the time, they presented it like it was the perfect job for her, but even that proved to have problems, and she moved on from it.  It’s so much more important for her to understand why she loves the things that she loves, because focusing on the positives – even for April, the most negative person in the world – is the only way she’s ever going to love her job.  It shows just how much she’s grown up while still giving her tons of room to grow.

Some other moments from this episode, which was filled to the brim with amazing one-liners:
  • Craig’s advice from Dr. Richard Nygard is to list three great things about being alive whenever he feels like yelling.  Throughout the episode, he lists: watermelon martinis, exposed brick, Keri Russell’s hair, Martha Stewart’s apron line, his tomato plants, sweet potato pie, unlikely animal friend pairings, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Victor Garber, James Garner, and Jennifer Garner (he went alphabetical by the end).
  • “The robots have come for us!  I made fun of you when you said it would happen, but your novel has come true!”  Guys, I wish Ben had gotten to explore his passion for writing.  First erotic Star Trek fanfiction, now a novel about robots?
  • Tom doing crunches is me doing crunches.  “Ow, Andy, my tum-tum!”
  • “This internship is the videotape from The Ring.”
  • The toy pigs dressed as movie stars might have tickled me more than anything else because my god do I love puns.  We were treated to Hamuel L. Jackson from the movie Pork Fiction and Tom Selloink.
  • Andy as Johnny Karate as Burt Macklin.  So many layers.
  • April after realizing how much she has in common with Jen: “Okay, side note, I’m gonna file paperwork to adopt you as my child.”
  • “Is Star Wars the one with the little wizard boy?”
  • “James Woods follows my niece on Twitter.”
  • "The only contract I’ve ever signed is my Mulligan’s Steakhouse club card.  And even then, I used a fake name.  Les.  Les Vegetables.”
That’s it for “Gryzzlbox”!  And now, it’s time.  I hope you’re all ready…to treat yo self.

"Save J.J's"


Okay, some other stuff also happened in “Save JJ’s” that maybe I should get to first, like the fact that, with Gryzzl facing some terrible PR in Pawnee, Leslie and her team finally have an opportunity to make a real play for the Newport land.  Their new plan: split the land evenly with Gryzzl. It’s not ideal for either party, but Leslie figures the crisis Gryzzl is trying to manage will force them to give up their hopes of obtaining the entire parcel.  But Ron, who’s spent a lot of time with Gryzzl’s executives, isn’t optimistic; he knows they want the whole thing, and won’t settle for less.

But it’s okay, because Ron and Leslie are united in their quest to get the land.  It’s just so nice, you guys.  Most of the predictions I’ve made for this season – chiefly, that a lot of it would be devoted to Ron and Leslie making up and that this fight for the Newport land would be the main arc of the entire thirteen episodes – have been wrong.  I’m okay with that, I’m wrong about most things.  But I was right when I predicted that the key to Leslie winning was going to be teaming up with Ron.  And I mean, okay, that’s not like a super abstract guess, most people probably saw that coming, but if I was going to be right about anything, it’s nice to have been right about Ron and Leslie’s friendship.

While they’re discussing their new strategy, they get word that Newport Trust is holding a press conference – where they announce that Gryzzl has upped their offer to $125 million, and that the Newports have immediately accepted.  So, you know.  Team National Park isn’t doing so great.

Naturally, they decide to drown their sorrows in waffles, so they head to JJ’s Diner – which, as it turns out, is soon closing, after someone bought the property without giving JJ the chance to renew his lease.  Fueled by her anger over losing the land, Leslie decides to fight to save her favorite diner.  The first step is finding out the identity of the new landlord: Dennis Feinstein, local Pawnee cologne mogul.  Then Leslie gives everyone assignments – April is to spread the word via whatever communication system young people are using these days, while Andy is enlisted to bring out Jonathan Karate – the older brother, more mature version, of Johnny Karate who comes out sometimes during very special episodes of his show.

In a weird way, this episode was really stressful for me, in a way that, like, Leslie and Ben’s break-up in season 4 or her fight with Ron weren’t.  I mean, yeah, those things were about her friends, but this was her waffles.  You do not touch Leslie Knope’s waffles, under any circumstances.  But because they’re waffles, and because of what waffles represent to her, this was the perfect storyline for this point in the show – it’s the perfect way to show how strong she and Ron are again, because after all, what’s going to band them together more than breakfast food?  What greater cause is there for them to tackle with their full combined force?  And, really, what other conflict could the writers have come up with that could stand anywhere close to last week’s “Leslie and Ron”?  That episode set such a high standard for the show, especially in its ability to come up with deep-rooted conflicts and really explore them.  But like I said last week, in a half-hour comedy, no episode has the time to fully explore any given conflict, unless they very deliberately change up their formula, as they did with “Leslie and Ron”.  To really feel the effects of their rekindled friendship, and their anger over losing the land, this episode had to focus on something big.  It had to be waffles.

Leslie leads a protest outside Dennis Feinstein’s office while Jonathan Karate and his team of ninjas go inside to find the man himself.  Jonathan Karate shows Dennis the amount of people who are downstairs protesting, and Dennis says he didn’t realize how many people loved JJ’s, and doesn’t want the negative publicity that would come from closing the diner.  So he comes downstairs to address the protesters – where he reveals that he actually doesn’t care at all about their passion for JJ’s, and only cares about the money he can make from the property.  He then calls for his employees to “release the hounds,” a cologne rejected by the FDA that smells like wet dog.  Apparently using water to try and wash it off makes it worse.  Do not try using water.

It occurs to April that the key to saving JJ’s is just to keep the diner in business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to stay in the same location.  So they go to check out the neighborhood she and Andy recently moved to, that’s more or less run over by raccoons and completely covered in graffiti.  They find a place that could work for the diner, but JJ points out that nobody lives in that part of town, so even if he moved his diner there, it wouldn’t matter unless the neighborhood changes.  And suddenly, Ron and Leslie have an idea, one that they instinctively (and almost wordlessly) work out.

Their idea?  Turn this neighborhood into Gryzzl’s campus.  All the buildings, while gross, are structurally sound, and the buildings even come pre-graffitied (which greatly impresses Roscoe).  But, as Roscoe points out, they’ve already purchased the Newport land – so Leslie suggests that they donate it to the National Parks Service, which will grant Gryzzl tax breaks and good PR within Pawnee for proving their investment in the town.

It takes some time, but a week later, Gryzzl gets back to Ron and Leslie: they’ve approved their plan.  Because that’s what happens when the dream team gets back together, you guys.  They get their land, they get their way, and most importantly, they get their waffles (which, Leslie and Ron said their plan will also help save JJ’s, so while they don’t explicitly state it, I’m assuming they’re going to put the diner near Gryzzl’s campus, so when Gryzzl’s presence revitalizes the neighborhood, JJ’s will reap the benefits).

Now, all that stuff was important, but we all know what really mattered in this episode.  Say it with me, kids.  TREAT YO SELF 2017.


(Obvious disclaimer that the following section is to be read in a sing-songy voice because that’s how Tom delivers most of his lines in this episode and I can assure you that the voice in my head as I wrote followed suit.)

It all starts when Tom, who’s the butler of honor (his words) at Donna and Joe’s wedding, hosts them for a cake testing.  Then he brings out a very special cake, along with DJ Bluntz, and Treat Yo Self Day is off and running.  But this isn’t a normal Treat Yo Self Day.  This is in honor of Donna’s wedding, so Tom brings out the big guns: he gets them tickets to Beverly Hills, something they’ve always talked about.  Before they leave, they stop by Tom’s Bistro, where Donna invites Lucy to her wedding.  Tom jumps at the opportunity and tells Lucy she should go as his date – then immediately panics and suggests they go as work friends, then as a boss-employee thing, then suggests she do paperwork at the wedding.  It’s…not great.  Donna asks him for an explanation, but he shrugs it off.  After all, this is Treat Yo Self 2017.  They’ve got bigger things to worry about, like seeing Bruce Willis and Christina Aguilera’s house (you guys, I am in love with 2017) and Usher’s house.  And Usher’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Their most important stop?  A sushi restaurant where everything on the menu was previously owned by celebrities.  I don’t even eat fish and I want to go to this restaurant more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life.  Josh Groban is a patron, and he orders his own fish.  It’s baller.

While they’re eating, Donna calls Tom out for how often he’s checking his phone, clearly waiting to see if Lucy’s gotten back to him about his offer to go to the wedding.  The thing is, Tom’s worried about his invitation because she’s his employee.  He doesn’t want things to be weird, since she moved from Chicago for this job.  Donna offers him some advice: when it comes to the heart, you’ve got to treat yo self.  So when they return to Pawnee, Tom draws up paperwork that puts the day-to-day operations of the restaurant in Craig’s hands, to make it clear to Lucy that, if she doesn’t want to date him, her job won’t be affected.  It’s such a mature move, one that I never would have expected from Tom Haverford.  This is the guy who whined nonstop whenever Ann broke up with him; now he’s giving up the bulk of the responsibilities in the job he worked so hard to find, that he loves so much, just in case Lucy’s uncomfortable.  Guys, he’s come so far.  I might cry.  And again, going back to what I said about him in “Gryzzlbox,” grounding his conflicts was such a smart decision.  I always cared about whatever new ventures Tom was seeking out, but there’s a new edge to it when Tom is actually aware of the consequences of his actions, and is putting other people first.  It’s such a different side to him, but that compassion and genuine concern for Lucy has always been there.  Now he’s an adult, albeit one who hasn’t lost his charm.

But it turns out that Lucy has been thinking about his offer, and only wants to go to the wedding as his date.  Tom immediately rips up the paperwork, telling Craig his power is gone.  Craig’s okay with it, though.  He’s proud of the work he did, and of the people he fired.

Some other moments from yet another consistently hilarious episode:
  • “I still don’t know what’s happening.  What’s happening?”  “Treat Yo Self.”  “Not an answer to my question.”  “READ THE CAKE.”  “Still unclear.  Terry, what’s happening?”  “TREAT YO SELF.”
  • All of Andy’s plans involving blimps, and Leslie’s frustration over them.  I was hoping a blimp would somehow be involved in saving JJ’s Diner, but there’s always time, I guess.
  • “Today is about things.  THINGS, Donna.  Our favorite.”  Sometimes I relate to Tom more than any other character on this show.
  • “And there’s too much kale now.  One place asked me if I wanted kale in my milkshake.  My milkshake, you guys.”
  • Possibly the best line ever spoken on this show: “Was it Putin?  Voldemort Putin?  Of Russia?  We’re gonna take that bastard down.”
  • “I can’t think of anything more noble to go to war over than bacon and eggs.”
  • -Hitch 2: Son of a Hitch, starring Jaden Smith.  Guys.  I love 2017.
  • “JOSH GROBAN.  HE’S EATING HIS OWN SUSHI.  THAT’S THE MOST BALLER THING I’VE EVER SEEN.”
  • Andy trying to keep track of all the kids was so, so, so cute, and such a simple scene that explains exactly what is so great about this character.  Chris Pratt’s delivery of “Oh, Dennis, what a mess” as a small, quiet summary of this situation made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.
That’s it for “Save JJ’s”!  And with that, suddenly, we’re halfway through the season already.  I’m not even a little bit ready for Parks to end, especially when the final season has been so consistently great.  I’ll be back next week with a review of “Donna and Joe” and “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”.  Until then, let me know in the comments how you’re enjoying the final season!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arrow 3x11 "Midnight City" (A Mask Does Not A Hero Make)


"Midnight City"
Original Airdate: January 28, 2015

Why do little kids play dress-up?

Whether you identify yourself as a male or a female, whether you grew up in wealth or with less fortune, whether your family is Catholic or Italian or German or you live in rural, midwestern America, I feel like every child had the experience of playing dress-up at some point in time throughout their younger years. Maybe you did what I did when I was little -- sneak up the stairs and pry open your mother's wooden jewelry box to admire her sparkly rings and earrings. Maybe you placed one on your left finger and pretended you were married, like you saw all the grown-ups do. Perhaps you wrapped a scarf around your neck and sauntered around the house or placed your father's oversized baseball cap on your head. Maybe you pretended your french fries were cigarettes because it made you feel like more of an adult. It's endearing when children dress up and play house. It's cute when they put on hats and pretend to cook dinner or drive around in their toy cars and pretend they're on a highway. I love watching the vast imagination of these children. I love how they create worlds of their own. I love that they watch and emulate adults -- that even from a young age, their tiny hearts want to be just like us.

Adults don't play dress-up unless they're actors. At least, not overtly. Inwardly, I would argue that a lot of us play dress-up all the time. We put on smiles and when people ask us how we're doing, we respond with the simple and curt: "Good!" even though we just had a fight with our spouse, our kids are in trouble at school, and we spilled coffee on ourselves on the way to work. We feel the need to play dress-up in our lives because we want other people to think that we have our crap together -- we don't want them to see the chinks in our armor or the gaping holes in our self-esteem. So we don the fake smiles and we bury our problems in alcohol or food or deep within ourselves. And we all do this from time to time; no one is innocent because it's often easier to wear a mask than it is to let others see the real you.

"Midnight City" is the debut of Laurel Lance as Black Canary. As the fandom comes to grips with her becoming a vigilante or a hero, I'm intrigued more than anything else in this development of Laurel's. As I've said numerous times before, I've never hated Laurel as a person or a character. I think her writing in season two did her a disservice because I look back on episodes like "Home Invasion" which are extremely powerful for her and I think: "... How did we get HERE?" I keep pointing people back to it, but in my review of this season's "Sara," I quoted John Green and noted that grief doesn't change you; grief reveals you. For a great deal of time in season three, Laurel was angry. Anger isn't wrong, but what you do with it can be and what Laurel did with her anger over Sara's death WAS wrong -- she became reckless and careless and almost got herself and other people killed. Her rage blinded her but something happened in "Left Behind" -- Laurel realized that the people she lost (Oliver and Sara) were able to make a difference because they used that anger to save people, not to harm themselves.

And as Laurel embarks on her vigilante/hero mission in "Midnight City," I'm thrilled that we get the opportunity to see her stumble, because that's realistic. People who are grieving have setbacks. People don't pick up the whole martial arts and trained fighter thing easily. She's a baby bird right now with clipped wings who's trying desperately to learn how to fly but the way that she's going about that is actually quite noble; she's trying to do right by her city -- to be the kind of person that Sara and Oliver would be proud of.

I think every character in Arrow is trying to be the kind of hero Oliver would be proud of in his absence, really, and it's never more evident than it is in "Midnight City" when the new Team Arrow bands together to protect their home.

Supernatural 10x11 "There's No Place Like Home" [Contributor: Deena Edwards]


"There's No Place Like Home"
Original Airdate: January 27, 2015

Darkness.

It's something a lot of people struggle with every now and again, and as this episodes makes clear, it's not always easy to fight something that's a part of who you are. In fact, it can be almost impossible. Much like Dean is still struggling with keeping his own dark urges under control, our very own lovable redhead, Charlie Bradbury found her own inner darkness unleashed, quite literally.

At the bunker, we find the eldest Winchester, eating egg white omelets that he cooked himself.  “Dean can cook?” you ask. Well, as it turns out, not so well, at least in his opinion. In order to keep himself in check to help avoid any more incidents with the Mark, he’s apparently started eating healthy, quit drinking, and is actually sleeping like a regular human as opposed to his typical greasy burger eating, alcoholic, maybe-four-hours-of-sleep-every-other-night-at-the-most ways we’re all used to seeing.

He and Sam are doing the usual research thing, poring over old books and internet articles when Sam stumbles upon footage of a certain former IT girl beating up a district attorney. Okay, “beating up” is putting it lightly. She mentions torture -- not exactly a word that comes to mind when you think of Charlie Bradbury. Their first instinct is that Charlie is back from Oz, hunting on her own, and the DA was just a demon she was after. Still, it doesn’t sit well with them, and they decide to hit the road and talk to the recent vic -- who, as it turns out, has ties to Charlie’s past. More specifically, the car accident involving her parents’ deaths. They also find out her real name: Celeste Middleton.

The man denies to know anything about the case at first, but Dean sees through it, knowing immediately he’s lying. As much as he’s doing to ward off the Mark’s bad energy, he’s still on edge, which is obvious when he teeters on the edge of control and threatens the truth out of the DA, who finally gives in and reveals the name he gave to Charlie -- a woman named Barbara Cordry, a councilwoman who supposedly played a part in covering up the drunk driving incident. Upon hearing a scream from the woman’s house, they break in to find her with a knife to her throat, held by none other than the Queen of Moondoor herself, though it’s clear right away, from the way she talks to her overall demeanor, that there’s something off about her. This isn’t the Charlie we all know and love, the Hermione-loving fangirl who wouldn’t hurt a Hobbit.

After a little tussle with Dean, she escapes, leaving Baby’s tires slashed. Before he even has a moment to let that tragedy sink in, another car pulls up and behind the wheel is… CHARLIE? Sweet Lord of the Rings, what is happening?!

Charlie, the real Charlie, sits them down and explains to them that there’s two of her now -- one good, one bad. Back in Oz, she made a deal with the Wizard, who, with the Inner Key of Oz, forced her to unleash her true darkness, quite literally, in order to win the war. Charlie and her dark self are connected physically still; if she’s hurt, the other one will experience the same injuries, and vice versa. She also reveals that the dark version of her broke the key to Oz, so there’s no way to get back to the Wizard. Much like a Winchester, she’s wracked with guilt, blaming herself for the actions of her dark self, but Dean and Sam assure her this isn’t her doing.

Agreeing that they need to find Dark Charlie before she finds the drunk driver responsible for the car crash all those years ago, Charlie helps Sam hack into the council woman’s bank account, which leads them to a man named Russell Wellington, the same man who killed Charlie’s parents. Dean argues that she doesn’t need to be anywhere near him, and instead volunteers to go himself, but when he arrives to interrogate the man, he soon finds out they’re not alone.

Meanwhile, Sam and Charlie are back at the bunker, looking through old Men of Letters files for information about the key. After a bit of digging, they discover the Key of Oz was discovered by Clive Dylan, a former Men of Letters member who traveled to Oz, leaving the key behind on Earth. After being rescued by Dorothy’s father, he returned to Earth, changing his name. Despite being over a hundred years old, he no longer ages, due to how differently time passes in Oz. Little do they know, however, while stranded there, much like Charlie he was split into his good and dark sides by a coven of witches, the dark half becoming who we know as the Wizard.

Back at Wellington’s office, Dark Charlie convinces Dean to allow her near Russell -- a mistake that costs the man his life and allows her to escape once again, later on with the Impala, no less. She follows Dean to Clive’s house, where Clive explains that the only way to summon the Wizard is to mortally wound himself. Sure enough, a few moments after the bullet is buried in his abdomen, his Dark half appears, using his magic to choke Sam, while outside, Dean and Dark Charlie are fighting, inflicting the same injuries on the Good Charlie inside. Charlie realizes that the only way to stop the Wizard is to kill Clive, so with one last fatal bullet, Sam is released by the Wizard’s magic, and both Clive and the Wizard are dead.

Sam carries Charlie’s bloodied, beaten body outside, snapping Dean out of his violent daze. Dean steps back, staring in shock of what he’s done to her, that he allowed the Mark to take over once again. Sam lowers Charlie down next to her dark half along with the Wizard’s key, returning her dark half back into her own body.

The final scene is a heartwarming one, a sweet moment (I swear I got a cavity just watching it) shared between Charlie and Sam as they decide her next move, which is to hunt down a lore book that might help them with the Mark. She promises Dean they are going to fix what’s happening to him, and then proceeds to forgive him for what he unknowingly did to her back at Clive’s. Of course, he doesn’t forgive himself, as that is the Dean Winchester way of self-loathing, but he apologizes, pulling her into a brotherly hug that made me come very close to shedding actual tears.

After the events in this episode, it’s obvious Dean is going to have to do a lot more than quit alcohol and bad food cold turkey to keep himself under control. We can only hope that Charlie returns soon (because after this episode I love her even more, which I didn’t think was possible) and that the book she’s after proves helpful in some way later on. As much as I love Dark Dean, it’s safe to say these poor guys need a bit of a break.

Memorable Moments/ Quotes:
  • “Our Charlie? Yay high? Wouldn’t hurt a Hobbit? Practically sparkles?”
  • “What the hell is kale?” This line was even more hilarious to me given one of the episodes of Parks and Recreation I was watching before this also mentioned kale. 
  • “Should have known Rocket and Groot would track me down.” 
  • “Normally in a place like this, I’d be pounding Harvey Wallbangers and checking out the bartender’s ass. Now all I wanna do is sip club soda and send her to college.” 
  • “Blah blah blah, repressed feelings. Blah blah blah, passive aggression.” Dark Charlie just summed up the entire show in ten words, basically.
  • “Dick!Charlie just hotwired Baby!” Okay, but can people stop stealing and/or damaging that glorious car? You mess with the Impala, you mess with Dean.
  • I can’t get over the “little sister” dynamic Charlie has with Sam and Dean. Even though she’s only been in a handful of episodes over the past few seasons, she’s already become family to them.
  • “Arrivederci, bitches!” I love how, after getting her butt totally kicked, sleeping for two days straight, and going through something pretty traumatizing, she’s still basically the same old Charlie.
  • It was the small things that made this a really good episode for me. Dean’s occasional trembling hands, showing his struggle to keep the Mark’s urges at bay. The cute little interactions between Sam and Charlie and the way he gets to play big brother when she’s around. Dean constantly referring to Charlie as “kiddo.” The hugs near the end. THE HUGS YOU GUYS. I have so many feelings.

Strong Women Series #6: The Women of 'Jane the Virgin' [Contributor: Ann]


STRONG WOMEN SERIES #6: The Women of Jane the Virgin
Ann Susteri is a weekly contributor for Just About Write, reviewing The Mindy Project. In addition to her intelligent discussions of the television comedy series, Ann also contributes to the site by discussing television series like Jane the Virgin, You're the Worst, and Selfie. When Ann is not writing for this site, she's also analyzing television at her Tumblr and occasionally does things like go to school and stuff. Jenn is extremely thankful to have a writer like Ann on staff, if you can't tell.
I am a strong woman.

This has nothing to do with my physical strength, as I am still unable to do a legitimate, real push-up. Nor does it have anything to do with my strength of character (I took two naps today). It more or less is a symptom of being a person, and as a person who lives in the world, I have a developed idea of my ambitions, my fears, my flaws, my strengths, my background, my relationships with others. I have agency. I am the protagonist of my story, and there’s no way in hell that story’s going to be flat because I have the power to make it not that way. Being a person is great, by the way.

However, when you are developing a story—not, you know, “your” story, but your fictional creation—you assume the responsibility of bestowing on your characters those traits which you have been blessed with, being a person. Unlike people, characters are not more than they appear, because the only thing that can be judged is their presentation on screen or in books. That’s all that exists to the viewer or reader. (That is why JK Rowling’s retroactive judgment of her characters is infuriating, but that’s another topic, I think.)

Jenn asked me to write this Strong Woman Series post on Jane the Virgin and I am more than happy to do so because the show has done a very good and deliberate job of shaping its characters. I am also so happy to do so because Jane the Virgin asserts more than most shows on TV that “strong woman” is soon becoming a thing of the past in favor of “strong character.” “Strong woman” is a title that makes me feel like it is an extraordinary circumstance for a woman to be strong, and it shouldn’t be.

I list pretty much all of the main female characters in the series in this post—the ones that stood out to me as being especially well-written. In a show whose central relationship is the one between three women of different generations, their success of strength as characters comes through their interaction with each other and with the world around them, in addition to their own innate characteristics.

Sound good?

JANE GLORIANA VILLANUEVA



I read a lot of articles about television. I read a lot about Jane the Virgin, about its triumphs and accomplishments and distinctions, in so many ways. Being a bit of a masochist, I also love reading the comments section of these adulatory articles.

The single most annoying criticism of Jane the Virgin is when people evaluate the entire show based on its title. Jane—the VIRGIN—must, through being a (gasp) virgin, be preachy or staunchly conservative or super-chaste, without question or evaluation whatsoever.

Never mind that the title’s main purpose is primarily to highlight Jane’s virginity given her abnormal-as-hell pregnancy. The problem in this assessment of the show (and of Jane herself) is accepting her virginity at face-value. The show and Jane both refuse to do this; so many episodes delve into both a) Jane’s reasons for maintaining her virginity and b) her struggle in doing so. Jane’s virginity isn’t a dirty little secret; like her pregnancy it’s given the appropriate scrutiny and is addressed by Jane and by those who deal with it. Sometimes it’s fulfilling to keep the promise; sometimes it’s annoying; sometimes it leads to coins of your pregnant self being distributed virally.

But the show shines a spotlight on Jane’s beliefs, which in turn gives her character complexity. How you develop characters 101: their innate characteristics, how they respond in situations, how they interact with others, how others think of them and visa versa. Jane’s virginity and her pregnancy are the reason all of these characters are interacting, so both are kind of a big deal. Fortunately, this show uses both not as a platform for a political agenda but as an opportunity to examine who Jane is.

So… who is Jane?

“Jane was a virgin, but not a saint” is one of my favorite lines of the entire show because it condenses all of what I’ve said into a catchy little phrase. ‘Jane is a virgin’ obviously is a comment about her sexual activity but is also tied to how perfect she seems: she loves her family members unconditionally, is employee of the month, has like a bazillion jobs, a rich telenovela dad, gorgeous dresses on her and gorgeous men… well… on her, if you don’t mind me saying.

(For the record, Jane’s character is pretty deserving of all the good things in her life at this moment. She is moral in a world filled with immorality. She’s good. She works extremely hard, tries again and again, and she knows how to choose her battles. I personally love her devotion to her religion and her vow because both of those things are tied to her love of her family, too. Oh, and she loves grilled cheese and I ate one today.)

But Jane is not a saint. She’s not a saint when you look at her character as a member of the audience. She is very judgmental, entitled, kind of callous to Michael, and was not very cautious in her decision to be with Rafael. She often doesn’t realize how much her mother does for her and can be kind of a brat as a result. Oh, and by the way: accept money from Rafael, Jane! You didn’t have a problem accepting Rogelio’s nepotism!

She’s also not a saint when viewed by other characters. Plenty of characters love Jane. But a lot of characters treat her with skepticism, or use her for their own benefit (the nuns, Rogelio’s other daughters, Dina, her friends’ coldness towards her given her new situation). By giving this quality to Jane, the writers give her actions repercussions, because Jane is not above censure. Even those who love her challenge and confront her in very real ways, and Jane is not always right and sometimes has to acknowledge that. This is such an important character trait to have. No character is interesting when everyone loves them!

My favorite thing about Jane, though, is that she is emotional. You know how sick I am of characters that don’t cry, that don’t doubt themselves, that don’t yell at people (sometimes irrationally, sometimes not)? Oh my God – you know how sick I am of characters who are not funny? I watch so many comedies but you know how few of them actually involve characters making jokes to each other?

This is the mandatory wheelbarrows of praise for Gina Rodriguez, who takes the writing of Jane Villanueva and absolutely crushes it in her portrayal of the character. Jane is hilarious and Jane gets hammered and Jane is sexual and Jane sometimes needs her mom when things get tough. Jane gets angry, Jane gets mischievous, Jane gets bored and indignant. Jane gets in over her head. Jane gets insecure and Jane gets disappointed. Jane is unafraid to confront anyone who she loves when she feels she’s right and she is able to apologize to them when she is wrong. Sometimes Jane wants to fight people (Petra) and sometimes Jane feels awkward (Rogelio) and honestly at this point I need to start talking about Dick based on how much this sounds like a book for schoolchildren.

What makes a character the strongest, to me, is when their emotional reactions make sense. And while the most popular of all tropes in this Mad Men world is the stony straight man who drinks his problems away, I am just as much a sucker of someone more resembling me; you know, someone who expresses what they are feeling.

I need to praise Gina Rodriguez more for this, I think. She conveys all of these emotions with the most subtle and realistic facial expressions. I love so much of Jane the Virgin but she is the heart of it and her portrayal as Jane really drives home how invaluable of a character this is. She feels human. How much stronger of a character could you get?

XIOMARA VILLANUEVA



I really wrote quite a mouthful on Jane. I think that this is fair because she is the main character of the series and in discussing her I think I made a clear outline of what I am looking for when I look at strength. I’ll look to be more succinct in discussing the supporting characters, though, but let me first introduce an idea that seems paradoxical but really isn’t when it comes to supporting characters: The perfect supporting character is a character who supports our main character’s story in some way, whether that’s as a foil or as a parallel or an opponent. The perfect supporting character enhances our main character’s story.

However, the supporting character in question should not act as if this is the case. Let me put it this way: I am the protagonist in my own story, but the people that I come across all in some way strengthen my “plot” or “character development.” They make me better (some of them make me worse) but everyone helps me grow. They are my supporting characters.

But to everyone else? I am their supporting character. I affect their lives in some way. To them, my story is far less important than theirs, which is fair because we are stuck with ourselves far longer than we are stuck with anyone else.

So, in short—what makes all of these supporting characters so A+ to me is that they enhance Jane’s story in some way, but also have stories that are treated with respect by the writers. They are distinct and they are their own and any one of them could front a TV show. But they are in Jane’s, so their lot in their fictitious lives is to enhance her story, a feat they all do.

Xiomara is easily Jane’s main comparison point. She doesn’t want to end up like Xiomara and a lot of her decisions are based off of how Jane evaluates Xiomara’s life.

The funny thing is that Xiomara is so great that Jane should hope she ends up like her. She is as flawed as Jane—she fights with her mother and is #TeamMichael, I mean, c’mon. But to me Xiomara is one of the most underappreciated characters on the show in that so much of what she does is based off of passion and love, even in making difficult decisions. Xiomara’s treatment of her own pregnancy (the lie), her reluctance to let Rogelio meet Jane, the “milkshake” dance, her submitting Jane’s rude story, her reluctance to date Rogelio (twice now—first because of Jane, now because of Alba). She doesn’t love Rafael because she is looking out for her daughter, and in other places where her actions are questionable, she always returns to love.

What is more motherly than to love, especially in the bumpy, maddening, and unconditional way family members love each other? Xiomara’s prime characteristic is love like this, and it makes her the most exemplary of mothers and the most relatable of daughters.

ALBA VILLANUEVA



I love Alba because Alba is a great demonstration on what tradition is and should mean to us in our lives (or in this case in Jane’s).

Alba is on a whole other plane from these people; she is the only one that speaks straight-up Spanish! She is so on another plane that while Magda and Petra are scheming and holding someone hostage, Alba just wants to give them a piece of her cute drunk mind.

Great storytelling has diverse characters. Diverse in that they have diverse backgrounds, belief systems, experiences—they have different things to teach me and tell me and entertain me with! This is how life is and this is how storytelling should be. Truthfully, storytelling has even more of an obligation to represent diversity, because the author can choose to incorporate it in their stories or not. Life isn’t always deliberate, but storytelling should take the initiative and show me something new.

Alba is either the most or the second most controversial character in this series because of her staunch Catholicism and sexual conservatism. And I adore this about her.

I am a devout Catholic. So, so often, all over the place, I am inundated with unfair stereotypes (think Amanda Bynes’s character in Easy A) about what being Catholic means. What makes these stereotypes especially unfair is that there’s no balance or real opposition; as the audience, we’re meant to laugh at the hyperbole without questioning why the character is the way they are. But no real discussion between the two dissenting groups can actually happen if one is hyperbolizing the other to the point of ridiculous caricature.

There needs to be a spectrum of beliefs because from that comes conflict and conversation. I’m not above watching TV that preaches to the choir, but I hate when shows (and people, actually) pretend they are open-minded when they are disguising their refusal to actually confront dissent.

Jane the Virgin does this in more than one way, whether it’s class differences, cultural differences, gender differences, or religious differences. I don’t 100% identify with Alba—she is the staunchest of the staunch—nor do I 100% identify with any of these characters. I just want to hear their stories, their perspectives. I know why I am the way I am, but I don’t always know why people are the way they are. I would like to understand it better.

I call out Alba especially because her views are the most drastic, and she is one end of the spectrum that is so often not represented or misrepresented. She’s good (morally) but she deserves, just as everyone deserves, to be a part of a discussion instead of part of the punchline.

BRIEF BREAK TO TALK ABOUT WHAT’S UP ON JANE THE VIRGIN

Is it, like, bad that I’m starting to warm up to Michael getting back with Jane? He’s super cute and also kind of a cop. The Latin Lover Narrator certainly made it sound like he’s gonna die soon, though.

Also, Sin Rostro. Could be Rose (Sin Rose-tro). Could be Luisa (?!?!). Could be Nadine (who knows what’s up with her and her hand placement was kind of suspicious). Could be Lachlan. Maybe Milos? That story has a lot in it that we just don’t know. Might be Rafael’s dad, but would more likely be his mom, in my opinion. Rafael’s dad kinda seems like the red herring.

I wish I had the name Roman Zazo. I’m a lady though so I guess it’d have to be Romana Zazo.

BACK TO THIS

PETRA/NATALIA SOLANO/SOMETHING RUSSIAN, PROBABLY



Petra is the last big character I’m going to dig into. She is the “evil” one, I guess, but I would think more that she is just misunderstood. Kind of like Alba, if you can believe—but where Alba is often misunderstood by us, the audience, Petra is often misunderstood by the characters she interacts with. This makes her a villain so endearing that TIME magazine wrote an article about it.

Think about it: does anyone know who Natalia is, really? I was stunned that Jane’s reaction to Petra’s slip-up was to blackmail her into silence, instead of showing compassion or at the very least curiosity. (I guess Petra had at that point faked assault and faked date rape, but still!) Rafael got cheated on, but the tag that Petra was a “man-eater” in the first episode is less true than Rafael being a playboy. Cheating is always gross but her reason is a fair one (I love, by the way, that Rafael and Petra fell apart the way they did instead of some icky contrived way, and the fact that both got burned from the trauma of Rafael’s cancer).

Lachlan doesn’t really know Petra, either. He doesn’t seem to care (he’s setting something really bad up soon, can you feel it? Do you think he might frame Petra?). Magda’s relationship with Petra is complicated—I’m not sure if it’s loving—but even still she doesn’t have the access to Petra’s wants and dreams and desires the same way that Xo knows Jane (or Rafael knows Jane). Petra might not even totally know because her life is so splintered, equal parts who she is and who she was forced to be.

The person with the best access to understanding Petra is us. Villains are normally the best characters to watch because we don’t have a horse in the race. Petra’s actions are diabolical and if anyone did to me what Petra does to Jane I wouldn’t love her, either. But we’re not characters here, we’re the audience, and we are able to oversee everything and draw conclusions that the characters can’t.
Petra is dynamic because of that difference between what the characters feel and what we know. What image does Petra present to these people in her life? There’s no clear answer. Their ideas of Petra are so scattered—from the man-eater of the pilot to the tulip-terrified person we saw in the most recent episode—that they can’t help but not make sense of the entire picture. We can, should, and must.

ROSE and MAGDA and NADINE and LUISA



Give it time. ¾ are diabolical liars, and one is in a madhouse. If I am gonna evaluate their strength of character, let me just say this: I have no idea what’s going to happen and all four of them make me nervous. Sin Rostro-wise.
Endless thanks to Ann for this absolutely astute and beautiful post about the female characters of Jane the Virgin and their agency! If you enjoyed it or want to continue the conversation, be sure to hit up the comments below and/or tweet her your thoughts! :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Galavant 1x07 "My Cousin Izzy" & 1x08 "It's All in the Executions" (This Is My Moment)


"My Cousin Izzy" & "It's All in the Executions"
Original Airdate: January 25, 2015

Everyone wants to have a moment of great triumph and strength in their lives. If we're all being honest with ourselves, we'd like to have one of those majestic movie moments, right? You know the ones I'm talking about: where the music swells and you're running down the street and everything just feels epic. We all want to be the heroes of our own story and that's what Galavant's finale really focuses on. It centers around two characters, primarily -- Galavant and King Richard -- who both really just want to have epic, heroic moments. They want to save themselves and the people they care about. They want to prove their worth.

But there are always obstacles for heroes or for those who are attempting to become heroes. And, ironically enough, Galavant and King Richard have always been their own obstacles. Galavant has always believed that life has to be epic and that his heroic moment would be the same. What he realizes, I think, is that heroism is simply doing the right thing no matter what. It's being brave even when there isn't an epic score. And King Richard has always been his own stumbling block, but we'll talk about that momentarily.

For now, let's review how Galavant's final chapters unfolded, shall we?