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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Couple-ish 1x05 "Panic Mode" & 1x06 "The Partner Tag" (Using the Millennial Playground) [Contributor: Melanie]

"Panic Mode" & "Partner Tag"
Original Airdate: December 26, 2015

Last week’s batch of Couple-ish episodes saw the odd couple finally finding some common footing via a minor heart-to-heart over breakfast and a little bit of fun in their newest vlog update. We learn that Rachel, for an as-of-yet unknown reason, has been disowned by her mother back home, resulting in her need to remain in Canada. We also see more of Dee’s workaholic attitude when it comes to their work as an illustrator. Both instances create a moment of quiet understanding between two people who hate each other, but undeniably need each other. Which is probably the most fun dynamic to play with and see.

The other interesting bit we got we the first blatant reference to Dee’s gender identity. Kaitlyn Alexander confirmed via social media that future episodes will be solely devoted to Dee’s identity, in order to give this story element the time and attention it deserves (especially considering the personal connection many viewers may have to the plotline). But Dee asked for the gendered “Girlfriend” tag game to be renamed to the gender-neutral “Partner” tag. It doesn’t seem like much, perhaps, but it proves even the smallest moments in life aren’t always friendly to everyone. It was a nice moment, if born out of some unfortunate binary truths about the way society works.

The other nice thing this episode explored was the use of the Internet. This is one of the few webseries I’ve encountered that actively tries to break its own fourth wall. Carmilla came close as the actual audience that comprised the viewership on YouTube also became a part of the story as “Laura’s viewers,” and later her “private channel” when her videos were on lockdown. With this, the social media is more in-story but it creates an interesting commentary, referencing “Tumblr famous” blogs, subscribers, and view counts. Essentially, it comes to feel almost like one part metafiction on modern day internet media in addition to its two parts sitcom. This owes itself to Alexander’s extensive work as a YouTube personality on their own channel. And it’s working well in the story, which has a unique place among floods of webseries utilizing transmedia in ways The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made popular.

But in preparation for this week, here’s what went down last week...

The episode opens with Dee passed out on the floor and Rachel on the (semi)quiet prowl for breakfast. They have a bit of a disagreement over their current situation (again), where Rachel reveals her family has disowned her back in England. Amy arrives home to inform them their channel has gone viral after she posted the video on her Tumblr.

The next episode opens as another one of Dee and Rachel’s vlog updates, this time honoring 5,000 subscribers with a Q&A. The title “The Girlfriend Tag” ruffles Dee a bit, who asks they name it the “The Partner Tag.” After a few beers they begin delving into questions, making up answers as a game of revenge. By the end of the game they find themselves having fun before signing off.

Check the Couple-ish YouTube channel every Wednesday and Saturday for new episodes!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

11 of the Best Ship Moments in 2015

Relationships are complicated.

At least, that’s what Jeff Winger told Annie Edison years ago on the NBC sitcom, Community. And he’s right. Relationships aren’t easy and sometimes they’re confusing and messy. Television relationships are no exception. 2015 has proven to be a really great year for some television couples as they exchanged “I love you’s” and first kisses, and a not-so-great year for others, amidst break-ups and kept secrets.

For better or for worse, television writers have learned to harness the power of romantic relationships on dramas and comedies. Relationships between characters are foundations on which the shows themselves are built, after all. So it makes sense, then, that “shippers” are so prominent among fandoms. Often given a bad reputation or dismissed by creators and critics, these people — myself included — find themselves invested in romantic relationships in their favorite shows. And, having been around fandom for as long as I have, I’ve discovered that shippers are some of the most creative and inventive people. They’re invested in character arcs and stories more than a casual viewer or a fan. They then make the show their own — someone’s created work becomes the very thing that spurs them on toward creativity, too. Shippers form communities, create fan art and videos, and write fanfiction. It’s mind-boggling to me, in the best way possible, that showrunners have this often unknown impact on the people who watch what they create.

So, as the end of the year approaches, I am here to break down eleven of the best “ship” moments of 2015. Some of these are aww-inducing, some might surprise you, and some are on the list because of how gut-wrenching they are. So sit back, grab some chocolate (and maybe wine) and relish in my favorite shippy moments of this year!

11. The Rafael/Jane time jump (Jane the Virgin)

Okay, all drama with Michael/Jane and Rafael/Jane aside, one of the smartest and best things that Jane the Virgin did this year was present a time jump in a believable way. Television shows that center — either in part or in full — around growing children often encounter problems because... well, kids grow up between the time that it takes to shoot a television show. So this CW comedy chose to take one episode and jump forward in time. This allowed us to see Mateo grow, but also to see Rafael and Jane’s relationship grow, too.

These two have always had a complex relationship (made more complex by the whole baby daddy thing), but “Chapter Twenty-Eight” was amazing and one of my absolute favorite Rafael/Jane moments of 2015. Because in allowing time to pass, we got to see Jane’s heart heal from her relationship with Michael in a believable way (that would have taken weeks or months had the show stuck to its initial real-time format). We saw Rafael date someone else, too, and I think that was important. He dated someone who wasn’t Petra — conniving and brilliantly evil — which is something that was important. And we got the chance to see both characters naturally progress and move back toward one another. So by the time Rafael asks Jane out on a date at the end of the episode, we all believe she’s ready. (And we swoon. Or is that just me?)

I am first and foremost #TeamJane, but if I was forced to choose between snowflakes and flower petals, it would be #TeamFlowerPetals all the way. I love the way that Rafael and Jane naturally clash. Their relationship is full of bumps, but that’s what makes it so believable and so wonderful. They have amazing chemistry together and they’re a family. I can’t quite explain it any other way than that.

10. The “Love is Strange” duet (Galavant)

I absolutely and positively love Galavant. If you haven’t checked out this musical comedy, you really need to. In my review of the pilot I described it this way: “If Monty Python's Spamalot and Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights had an illegitimate child, it would be named Galavant.”

I still stand by that, honestly.

Apart from being excited that the show was miraculously renewed for a second season, looking back on this show’s freshman year has me excited. One of my absolute favorite moments was the “Love is Strange” duet between Galavant and Isabella. The best thing that this series does — among many things — is flip tropes on their heads. Madalena, the seemingly innocent maiden, turns out to be scheming and conniving and delightfully evil. Similarly, Isabella turns out to be the kind of kick-butt and yet emotionally vulnerable heroine and love interest that we all needed. And though Galavant and Isabella sing a love song to one another, this song involves talking about how weird and gross and strange love is. What a wonderfully inverted ballad trope, right?

The realistic picture of love that they paint stands in contrast to the fairytale-esque structure of the show and I absolutely love it. If you don’t swoon while listening to Joshua Sasse sing, then you might just be a robot. Galavant/Isabella forever, you guys.

9. Sheldon and Amy... well, you know. (The Big Bang Theory)

I watch The Big Bang Theory whenever I can. Most weeks, I’ll watch it On Demand after I’ve worked out on a Saturday. Sometimes I forget that new episodes have aired and have to have a mini-binge. The show gets a lot of flak because of the fact that it’s a multi-camera comedy and often its portrayal of nerd culture can be pretty one-dimensional. But what I’ve seen the show do in recent years is something pretty impressive — it’s taken to focusing on developing its main characters and really earning the emotional moments. Some of the most impressive areas of growth have come from the character of Sheldon Cooper, especially in his relationship with Amy.

Recently, one of the most important episodes of the show has aired — the episode in which Sheldon and Amy sleep together for the first time. And though the framing of that was hilarious (the cutaways to Raj, Leonard, Howard, and Wil Wheaton in the theater was so great), the moment that really struck me and earned these two a spot on my list was the subtle way that Jim Parsons softened Sheldon. When Amy emerges in her nightgown, the look on Sheldon’s face is so impossibly sweet. You can see him soften and relax into a loving glance — something we are unaccustomed to seeing. Amy’s nervousness isn’t played for laughs, and neither is Sheldon’s response to her. The two genuinely love one another and their moments in that scene were earnest, tender, and completely lovely.

8. Ben and Leslie’s unwavering support for one another (Parks and Recreation)

I’ll never stop talking about how sad I am that Parks and Recreation has ended. But what I will say is that I was never disappointed in the way they handled Ben and Leslie’s romance. The show always strove to portray the unwavering love and support the two had for each other and their relationship, and when the show jumped forward in its final season — no matter how many years — it maintained that. Ben was always willing to stand aside to let Leslie shine, and she was willing to do the exact same. Both made sacrifices in their relationship and truly, their marriage and love was one of equality.

I always discuss the fact that Ben and Leslie’s romance is “relationship goals”... because that romance IS. It was a complete and true partnership, in every sense of the word. Whether he was letting her talk during “Pie-Mary,” or she was supporting him years down the line — through it all, these two communicated about their feelings and struggled, always put one another first, and made sure to carve out time no matter what to express how much they loved one another. I cannot think of a better example of a television ship than these two.

7. Toby and Happy let each other in and kiss (Scorpion)

Scorpion is one of the best shows on television that you’re not watching. You probably dismissed it as a procedural. Maybe you even presumed it was just CSI-lite. You would be wrong. Though Scorpion’s first season was good, it had a few bumps and bruises. But this second season is the strongest yet of the series and the writing has never been better. Not only are there physical stakes for the things our characters are doing, but emotional ones as well.

Toby and Happy have always had this kind of weird relationship — she throws up every wall and defense she can, and he tries to constantly pursue her. In fact, Toby is pretty relentless in the way that he cares about Happy. But he does care. He doesn’t pursue her because he’s hopeful that he can gain something in return, necessarily — he pursues her because he knows she deserves better than she allows herself to believe or have. She understands him and he knows why she wants to keep him at bay. But during this season of Scorpion, these two crazy kids have – for a few, select moments – put their guards down. One such moment happened in the midseason finale, in which Happy was close to drowning. After the ordeal (and the fact that, not too many episodes prior, Toby technically died for a minute or two) and reminders of Megan, Happy’s outlook on her relationship with Toby shifted slightly. And she told him to kiss her.

Apart from the fact that that was one heck of a kiss, the kiss lands on my favorite ship moments of the year because it signaled an active step for Happy. Usually Toby pursues, but it was Happy who called the shots this time around. And it was beautiful. (Runner-up moment? When Toby and Happy slow-danced during “The Old College Try” because HOW CUTE WAS THAT?)

6. Bellamy will not let Clarke be alone (The 100)

Amidst a show with seemingly thirteen billion different shipping options (Clarke/Lexa, Bellamy/Clarke, Lincoln/Octavia, Kane/Abby, etc. etc.), I found myself drawn to Bellamy/Clarke — or, as the kids call them “Bellarke” — during 2015. There is something so subtle and yet powerful about the fact that these two characters began as adversaries and, by the end of the second season, became partners in every sense of the word. One of the most powerful ship moments for me of this past year was Bellamy’s refusal to let Clarke be alone.

I love Clarke because she’s a complex, damaged character who has been forced to make really difficult decisions in order to save her people. And really, I love that Clarke is a character who HAS a “people.” She was always a natural-born leader, because of her desire to care for others and keep them safe. Her instinct to protect her own often leads her down some dark and difficult roads, especially this past year. And when she has no choice than to kill those living in Mount Weather in an act of mass genocide (this is a show on The CW, you guys, and is darker than some of the stuff on HBO), she prepares to do it alone. She prepares to bear the consequences of the act on her shoulders. Clarke braces to feel the weight of hundreds, thousands of souls crushing down on her.

But then, Bellamy places his hand over hers. And they make this decision together. It’s so important to me that Bellamy does this, because it symbolizes the fact that he never wants Clarke to feel like she is alone. He cares about her. Bellamy did so reluctantly, at first — he didn’t want to like the girl whom he sardonically called “princess.” He wanted to hate her. But he couldn’t.

Bellamy loves Clarke. It’s hard to argue that, given their final exchange at the end of the season. Clarke wants to leave Camp Jaha, because the weight of what she had to do is too much to handle. It’s crushing her. But gently, Bellamy tells her that he placed his hand over hers in Mount Weather for a reason. He did it so she would know he is always there for her – she is not, nor will she ever be, alone. And Bellamy extends forgiveness to her, in a beautiful (and sad) parallel to what Clarke did for him during “Day Trip.” He searches her face and she hugs him tightly, but she leaves all the same.

I know it’s going to be a rough road for my Bellarke-loving heart in season three, but I’m glad that 2015 helped establish their dynamic and I’m hopeful that next year will build upon it.

5. Jeff and Annie kiss goodbye (Community)

Jeff and Annie are probably my biggest love affair over the past few years. Their dynamic is so complex and their relationship so difficult to comprehend in some ways, and yet so impossibly simple in others. The fact of the matter is that Jeff Winger fell in love with a bright, young, idealistic woman and that changed him from the inside out. His heart softened. His priorities shifted. He began to care about things and people he never assumed he would. He didn’t always express it correctly, but he always has had a soft spot for Annie. She’s been his partner and his rock and his best friend in a lot of ways for years.

And when faced with the cold fact that Annie would be leaving him to take an internship across the country, Jeff began to crumble. The man who scoffed at the very notion of settling down and balked at the idea of marriage years ago daydreams in the series finale about a life with Annie – a home with her, really. He daydreams about building a family and having a life. He daydreams about happiness. Throughout their relationship, Jeff was always the more emotionally distanced. Annie gave up, after a few failed attempts, at trying to read Jeff’s mind and his signals. She eventually stopped dwelling too much on how jealous he got of other guys, and focused on her career and her schooling. But she was always enamored by him, and I believe she loved him, too.

So when she enters the study room to check and ensure Jeff is okay, he confesses that he’s not. He wishes he could turn back time and be exactly where Annie is at that moment — ready to head off into the world, with years stretched ahead of him. And Annie wishes for more time — for more wisdom and years that Jeff has and she doesn’t. When it’s time to come face-to-face with those struggles, Jeff becomes more honest than he was in six years of knowing Annie. He tells her that he has tried to let her go, but that his heart still wants her. So Annie... tells him to kiss her goodbye.

It’s probably not a goodbye kiss, because these two crazy kids would be... well, crazy, to not see one another again. It’s a kiss with a promise, though — tender and sweet and so unlike the ones they had years ago. Because now Jeff knows he loves Annie, and it changes how he behaves. Instead of being the selfish jerk who manipulated others in the pilot, in the series finale Jeff Winger became the man who was so selfless that he let the woman he loved most in the world go, knowing that it would hurt him, but create opportunities and happiness for her. In the words of the Internet: “feels.”

4. Oliver's goodbye to Felicity (Arrow)

I would talk about the soufflé faux-engagement or the real engagement, or the suburban rom-com that Oliver and Felicity found themselves in at the beginning of this season. I could even discuss their adorable domestic bliss after they returned to Star(ling) City. I might even be tempted to talk about their first time together in Nanda Parbat.

But I’m actually not going to. Instead, I’m going to talk about something reminiscent of what I will discuss with Captain Swan — I’m going to talk about pain. In spite of the rocky, uneven, and occasional downright horrible writing of the third season of Arrow, there were some bright spots for the show in 2015. A lot of them took place in the current season, but the most important one to me took place during “The Fallen,” in which Oliver bade Felicity goodbye. Apart from being absolutely gut-wrenching acting from Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards, this scene was so important to me and — to be quite honest — much preferred over the sex scene itself.

Because this is the moment in which Oliver and Felicity are at their most honest and vulnerable. She begins to cry at the thought of leaving him, and he confesses to her that the only way he can make it through being in Nanda Parbat is if he knows she is out there, happy. You can almost feel the unspoken words lingering in Felicity’s head – that she cannot be happy without HIM beside her — but she doesn’t utter them. Instead, the music swells and the two kiss, vowing to not say goodbye this time, since it has become their “thing” to do. This moment is so tender and so intimate that it almost makes you want to look away. You feel like you’re invading this quiet, love-wrought moment.

It’s not just the fact that they have to say goodbye that made this scene so sad and ultimately so moving for me. It’s the fact that we have to watch Oliver watch Felicity walking away. Unlike the many times she has walked away from him before, this time was not because she wanted to, or was angry — it was because she had to. This moment is so beautiful, so sad, and the contrast of the hopelessness in the darkness and the hopefulness of the light that frames it is what makes it the best Oliver/Felicity moment of the year for me.

3. Emma has to kill Hook (Once Upon A Time)

Though it might seem odd for me to choose this heartbreaking moment as the best ship moment for Hook and Emma of 2015, I choose it because it was the most powerful acting I’ve seen from Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison. Captain Swan, as they have been dubbed by fans, has gone through a lot the past year. Emma turned into the Dark One, we relished in flashbacks, and then Hook was revealed to have been brought back from the brink of death by Emma, cursing him to also become the Dark One. When it became clear that the only way to save Storybrooke and the people he loved was to die at Emma’s hand, Hook stared death boldly in the face. But, most importantly, he stared into the eyes of his beloved, too.

The complete and utter anguish of that scene is slightly undercut by the complete and utter love that is felt as Emma holds Hook and sobs over his broken body. Hook and Emma have gone through a lot together — they were each so used to constructing walls and forcing people out that when they finally let one another in, it was really important that they did so. We’ve seen the truth, too, that these two will never give up on one another and never stop fighting for one another either.

Hope may seem lost now that Hook has died, but make no mistake about it: Emma doesn’t see that as a roadblock. She will rescue the man she loves. Because, after all: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”


2. Schmidt proposes to Cece (New Girl)

Guys, I did not think that I would become as invested in Schmidt and Cece’s relationship as I was this year. The problem that New Girl had in the third season was that the decision to have Schmidt cheat on Elizabeth and Cece ultimately made him a villain. I’ve always — literally, since the pilot episode — been a shipper of Nick and Jess, and though they had some great moments this season (the one in “Oregon,” and “Clean Break”), it is Schmidt/Cece that stole my heart. The writing of Schmidt this year was so impeccable. He was redeemed from a womanizing character into one who genuinely and truly cared about Cece as a friend, first and foremost. I believed their friendship this year, wholeheartedly, and “The Crawl” and “Oregon” were both great examples of the lengths Schmidt was willing to go to for Cece without anything being in it for him.

And for most of this season, Schmidt was either preoccupied with Fawn or Cece with her studies. But these two never stopped loving one another. That love was always there, bubbling just beneath the surface. But they knew they had to get their lives back in order as individuals before there could ever be hope for them again, romantically. I think that both always knew that if they were to give their relationship a second (third?) chance, it would be permanent. The way that Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone play these characters with such earnestness and endearment toward one another is so lovely to watch unfold. They really went above and beyond this season to unearth subtleties in these characters, which makes me even more excited to watch their engagement and wedding next season.

Schmidt’s proposal to Cece made me cry. It was his truthfulness and devotion, coupled with Cece’s quiet confession of love that was so captivating. The choice for the show to integrate the not-really-flashback-flashback was the absolute perfect decision and I’m so glad that the writers did that. And just like that, the words: “Girl, will you marry me?” made me burst out into tears and cheers. Thank you, New Girl, for making me fall in love with Schmidt/Cece this year. Good job.


1. Harvey tells Donna that he loves her (Suits)

Harvey and Donna’s relationship is so important to me.

They absolutely and truly love one another, that it’s impossible to deny that fact. Every character on this series — no, seriously, every character from major to guest-starring attorneys — has pointed out the fact that Harvey and Donna love one another. And even though I have always been a fan of their flirting, bantering dynamic and their unwavering loyalty to one another, it was this year that really pushed me over the edge into full-fledged Harvey/Donna shipper territory. It might have a little something to do with the “I love you” that Harvey uttered to Donna.

When it seemed like all hope was lost and that Donna might go to jail for something she did, Harvey stepped in and did everything within (and outside of) his power to keep Donna safe. He made sure to tell everyone, too, that this case? It was different. Because it was about her. We saw a side of Harvey Specter that we are unaccustomed to seeing. We saw him unhinged. When he thought that Donna might actually go to jail and believed he had no way to stop that, Donna confronted him about his lack of empathy toward her. His demeanor had been icy and distanced, while Louis was offering support and embraces. It was then that Harvey admitted that the thought of Donna going to prison made him want to drop to his knees. If she was gone? That would cripple him. Later on, Harvey admitted that if other people lose faith in him, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what SHE thinks about him and feels for him. This was completely uncharted territory for Harvey and Donna — both, none more than Harvey, are typically emotionally guarded given their professional relationship and personal history. Harvey let his guard down for the first time in forever with Donna — completely down — and the softness and quietness with which he uttered words of affirmation and care toward Donna was so powerful that it made me catch my breath.

And then, just as Harvey is leaving, Donna asks him “why?” It’s a question that she genuinely asks, without any sort of knowledge of what he might say. So when Harvey says: “You know I love you Donna,” in return, the only thing that registers on her face is shock. She, for the first time in forever, did not expect something like that to happen. But when Donna confronts Harvey about what he said, he — in typical fashion — throws back up his walls and tries to back out of his feelings. Instead of talking through them, he lies and denies. And that’s when Donna hits her breaking point. Because for all of their guarded feelings and hidden emotions, Harvey was always honest with her. Honesty is something Donna Paulsen values above all other things.

When Harvey refused to even talk through his feelings, Donna realized that it was time to start protecting her own for once. She had spent so much time protecting Harvey, so much time excusing his emotional distance, that I think she lost herself and the validity of her own feelings in that denial. And in what has to be one of the most heartbreaking things in 2015, Donna tells Harvey that she loves him... and that she is working for Louis. He pleads with her to stay, and she turns and walks away instead. For as much as she loves him, Donna realized she needed to put her own well-being first for once. And Harvey, as a result, crumbled under anxiety and panic attacks. (Okay, those were due to other things apart from just Donna, but still.)

These two had one of the most important relationships on TV in 2015, and not enough people talk about them. (P.S. Come on, Suits. You cannot use a cover of “The Scientist” over a Harvey/Donna scene. THAT IS WHAT FANVIDEOS ARE FOR AND WHY THEY DESTROY OUR EMOTIONS!)

Did you favorite ships make my cut? What were some of your favorite moments from these and other shows? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts! Until then, happy almost-2016!

7 Questions and Theories We Have After Watching "The Force Awakens" [Contributor: Melanie]

The Force Awakens has completely decimated the box office and blown minds; but now, it is time to look ahead. Production has already begun on Episode VIII, with sequences being filmed in Ireland, principal photography beginning in March, and Daisy Ridley already being asked her thoughts on the script by interviewers. The wait for this one will be far shorter than the typical three-year interval that happened with past films, as the movie is slated for release in March 2017. And like, thank the maker, amirite?

So, after viewing the film a grand total of three times (that’s a lie, it’ll be four after I make one more friend go), and poking around on the Internet, I’ve accumulated my thoughts on where we are going from here. Below you will find several questions that are at the forefront of my mind, and some possible answers we might see next spring.

1. Who are Rey’s parents?

This is easily the first question everyone has walking out of the theatre. The presentation of Rey’s anonymous parentage amounts to what’s known as a Chekov’s Gun — a plot point that is introduced to the audience early and then quietly pushed aside to be “fired” by the end of the story. Maz Kanata had a good point that Rey’s hunt for belonging (note the choice word of belonging over family) must look forward, not backward. This suggests that her found family is more important than the ones who left her behind years ago.

And this question about parentage is going to go one of two ways: either she will be revealed to be the child of the other twin (somehow we all forgot she could be Luke’s daughter as well with all the talk of Leia’s offspring) or her parents could be just as unimportant as they seemed to be by the end. Perhaps they come back into her life, create strife with the family she has formed, and present her with a choice. But, just as Maz used the word “belonging,” she also made a point that the lightsaber calling to her “belonged to Luke and his father before him” so the inheritance of it seems intentional. Also, she looks a lot like Natalie Portman.

Novelization note: I theorized this after seeing the movie, but the novel proves Ren has met Rey before and that she feels he “knew things about her she did not.” This lends credence to the theory that she was possibly one of the children training with Luke, Luke’s own daughter, and/or hidden on Jakku from Ren.

2. What’s next for Finn?

I mean, besides the whole coma thing, I’m curious if he’ll wake up the same. We know the Stormtroopers were conditioned from an early age, so it might be possible that something got reset in his head that he’ll have to fight. Or perhaps even a fancy little triggerable safety switch that resets his “programing.” I’m kind of hung up on this possibility because everyone seemed to take Finn being a Stormtrooper in stride. There’s no need for redemption and his shame has already been absolved thanks to his relationship with Rey. So let’s make this complicated and create some tragic tension as Finn falls back into trooper mode and Rey has to figure out exactly what to do about that.

3. What does Snoke have planned for Kylo Ren?

At the conclusion of Rey and Ren’s duel, Snoke commanded General Hux to retrieve Ren and bring him to Snoke so he could complete his training. It seems as though Snoke was holding Ren back until he managed to kill his father, which Snoke referred to as a “test.” And we know Ren was waffling about what to do, feeling the “pull to the light” just as Anakin felt it towards the dark. I’m curious to see what this new training will be, but one thing is for sure: in their next duel, Rey will lose.

4. Will Rey be tempted by the dark side? 

It is a Skywalker family tradition to have the allure of power dangled in front of you — from Anakin’s slip into Palpatine’s thrall, Luke’s near falter to Vader’s goading, and Vader’s threat to turn Leia if given the chance. They all go through it. It’s like their version of puberty. Ren failed the test, taking up the dark side legacy of Vader with pride. So, it follows that Rey, though still an unconfirmed member of the family tree, will face the same temptations.

Or will she? Apart from the phonetic connotation of her name (ray of light much?), she’s already been tempted once. As their duel nears its conclusion, Ren backs Rey up to a chasm and gives her a choice: “You need a teacher. I could show you the ways of the Force.” And faintly heard is the Sith music cue that denotes moments when temptation is presented. And then Rey rejects his offer, calling on the Force herself and besting him. And it’s important to note this moment was one of Rey’s most emotional — fearful for her life, angry at Ren for the death of Solo and his critical wounding of Finn. Had it been another Skywalker, it might have been a recipe for disaster, but she rejected it. So perhaps her journey has less to do within inner dark and light, and more to do with acceptance, given that last shot seemed to be Rey pleading with Luke to take the burden from her, or help her bear it.

Novelization note: In the official novelization, Rey is in fact tempted to kill Ren by “a voice” in her head. She resists, however.

5. What’s with the map? 

Everyone’s super confused as to what the deal was with that map. Who made it? Why did they make it? Why did everyone only have pieces of it? How did R2 have the rest? My theory on this is Luke made the map himself and purposely scattered it. To what end, who knows. Maybe it was a Holy Grail type situation where only the worthy could complete the quest (in that case, you certainly think highly of yourself, Luke), or perhaps it was an accident and he wanted to help ensure he was never found.

Considering Luke was parked at the first Jedi temple, then it’s entirely possibly the map is actually directions to that (which would make the separate pieces of it a lot more understandable). I doubt we’re going to get an explanation on this, but who knows — it might end up being important.

6. What is the extent of Rey’s powers?

Just like Kylo Ren, we were all quite interested to see what Rey could do with her abilities. Like Anakin’s they were untrained and unnoticed, but powerful, making up for the lack of buffing with some good old fashioned do-it-until-it-works. Ren seems threatened by Rey's powers and abilities, even as the most untrained of novices, so that makes it interesting since last time we had someone shockingly strong with the Force they turned into Darth Vader. One nifty theory on the Internet suggested Rey might have some Jedi Tai-Chi going on, able to “reverse engineer” her opponents' attacks. That would make for some very cool showdowns with Ren, who is nothing but aggression and anger and would be essentially giving Rey ammo the entire time. This is just a theory to help explain her quickly-growing powers. But then again, she’s probably just that powerful.

7. Who is Snoke? 

I personally think it’s entirely possibly Snoke is very much a man-behind-the-curtain type of character. I’d go as far to suggest he’s not even a Force sensitive. We’ve seen, in the past, non-Force sensitives can use lightsabers and have an understanding of the Force, even if they can’t utilize it the way Jedi do.

Han mentions Snoke is using Ren for his power, so it’s possibly Snoke has none of his own. He also seems to be in the business of “collecting” Force sensitives between the hunt for Luke and his demand that Ren bring Rey before him when he learned of her power. Also, is he really that big? Come on.

What are some of the things you've been thinking about that happened in The Force Awakens? Do you have any theories as to what the upcoming installment might hold? Hit up the comments below and let us know!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jenn's Year in Review: 2015 (More and More Superlatives)

I had to double and triple-check that it truly was the end of the year and thus, time for my annual year in review post. I can't believe how quickly 2015 passed by and yet I could not be more thankful for all of it. We've added so many people to our staff this year alone. Additionally, I got the chance to go to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time ever as press and had the chance to meet amazing people and come face-to-face with the creators and casts of my favorite television shows. It's been an amazing year here at Just About Write in terms of numbers and new series — we've passed a million page views, over 2,000 followers on Twitter, and also launched our first ever Golden Trio Awards!

It's been a whirlwind of a year for me, too, personally. I traveled to San Diego (alone, for the very first time), got to meet a lot of our writers, changed jobs and moved into a house. I cannot thank everyone here — both on and off staff — enough for how supportive they've been of both me and the site in 2015. I'm so looking forward to 2016 and all that it will bring. We're welcoming a few new writers, shifting some staff around to accommodate, and planning more content than you could ever hope for. 

But before we enter a new year, it's important to take some time to reflect on what happened in 2015. As is customary every year for me (check out my 2012, 2013, and 2014 posts), I'm here to make the hard decisions and narrow down the best and worst of television, film, and music throughout the year. 

Are you ready to take a journey with me? Let's do this!

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Comedy): "Clean Break," New Girl

For the FOURTH year in a row, New Girl owns the title of my favorite single episode of a television comedy. (Unfortunately, "Background Check" is not eligible because it aired in 2014, but let the record state that particular episode was one of the funniest in recent television history for me.) The resurgence in quality of writing for the FOX comedy during its fourth season was nothing short of impressive. Where the third season stumbled and staggered, the fourth season soared and honestly, it was one of the best and most consistent — that is important — shows on television in the 2014-2015 season. But it was the season four finale, "Clean Break," that earned my title of "favorite" this year. The finale had absolutely everything in it that makes this show so special. The character interactions and dynamics were wonderful — Schmidt trying to let go of Cece and realizing he still loves her; Coach attempting to detach from his emotions, especially his friendship with Winston, as he prepared to move to New York; Nick and Jess contemplating their relationship and whether or not they will get back together.

Everything about this episode was hilarious (just watch Max Greenfield try to get his stuff back from a donation box and you'll cackle), and there were so many amazing callbacks to little things throughout the season. But most importantly of all, the show reminded us that it is not the shenanigans that keep us coming back — it is the emotional heart. The scene where Coach leaves is beautiful (as "Rivers and Roads" plays and I cried), but Schmidt's proposal to Cece was honestly one fo the best and most rewarding things I've seen on this show. If you didn't watch New Girl's fourth season, you missed out. Go catch up before it returns in January!

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Drama): "Pilot," Quantico

When I got the ABC screener for Quantico, I immediately jumped at the chance to watch it. And boy, was I stunned. The pilot had absolutely everything in it that worked — high stakes, great character interactions, strong women, and an intriguing, overarching mystery. Though the show has stumbled a bit recently in its own convoluted web of secrets, there is no doubt that the pilot was one of hte absolute best of the season. Priyanka Chopra's Alex was — and continues to be — an exceptional lead character. She's the anchor for the show and I absolutely love that ABC is all about female-led (and especially diverse female led) characters. The ensemble was what I really loved about the pilot, though, and it felt like all of these characters were instantly more complex than I would have presumed. There were secrets revealed (that Nimah/Raina twist was the one thing I had to keep mum about and it WAS SO HARD TO NOT TELL EVERYONE), and shocks delivered. And there were genuine, quiet moments of heartfelt character interaction (the pool scene with Simon, Caleb, and Shelby is still my favorite scene in the pilot I think).

Overall, Quantico impressed me the most this year with its stunning start.

Best Television Show You're Not Watching But Need to Be: Life in Pieces

I am always more than willing to admit when I am wrong about something, and I was wrong about judging Life in Pieces before actually watching the show. To be quite honest, I didn't know much about the sitcom other than the fact that it aired after The Big Bang Theory. What I quickly discovered was that this vignette-form of storytelling is actually incredibly genius and in spite of the format, the separated stories actually lend themselves to bigger character arcs. It's a really fun show, too, and hilarious — Zoe Lister-Jones is my MVP, because she has the most impeccable wit and delivery of the cast (not to mention I loved her this season on New Girl, as well) and she shines as Jen; Colin Hanks is adorable and delightful and I've missed seeing Angelique Cabral on my screen after the unfortunate cancellation of Enlisted. This is one of those shows that you immediately think cannot work given its premise, but totally and completely does. It's a hilariously quirky and endearing little family sitcom.

Best Male Character: Brian Finch, Limitless

I didn't fall in love the Limitless pilot when I saw it at Comic-Con, not because it was bad, by any means, but I liked it rather than loved it. I have since grown to fall completely in love with this unexpected CBS drama. It's a procedural, but not one. And the reason that I love the show as much as I do is because of its leading character, Brian Finch. Brian is incredible. He's snarky and hilarious, yet extremely compassionate and emotionally vulnerable. He uses his humor as his defense mechanism a lot, but he truly does care deeply for the people around him. Brian doesn't have to learn how to be a hero in the course of this show, even though he feels that way. A slacker by definition and a disappointment to his family (his words), Brian seems like the kind of person who would have to learn to overcome his obstactles in order to finally be a hero.

But he doesn't do that. Because from the moment that there is any indication his family is in trouble, Brian doesn't hesitate to save them. He loves people and he loves feeling like he can help them. He's constantly struggling with his identity (being on and off NZT), and that's only served to make him more complex and endearing as the series has progressed. Brian is just such an amazing character and I am thankful he is on my television this year.

Best Female Character: Rebecca Bunch, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

When critics began hailing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as the season's best new comedy, I was skeptical. It didn't SOUND promising and the trailer was okay, at best. And then I gave the show a shot, and found myself immediately interested in the character of Rebecca Bunch. Presumed crazy by society for hearing musicals in her head and following her former boyfriend across the country, Rebecca is so much more than that and the writers keep peeling back layers of her characterization. It's easy to dismiss her and to point out her flaws. But what fascinates me so much about Rebecca is that she is a lot more than a label could ever presume her to be.

We label people as "crazy" because that's easier than taking the time to understand their messiness and it keeps us in a position of superiority. And I'll admit, as I watched the pilot episode, I judged Rebecca a bit for the way she was acting. But as the series progressed, I've come to see a lot of myself in Rebecca — a lot of her struggles and feelings are not dissimilar to my own. And the best part about Rebecca as a character is that she proves that it's okay to not be okay all of the time. It is okay to progress and then regress. Life isn't linear and characters on TV can't be either.

Rebecca is endearing. She is flawed and she is funny and she is loving and she is caring. She sometimes gets wrapped up in her own world, but she always realizes when she is wrong and is a big enough person to not only admit that, but to actively try and fix herself and her mistakes. I absolutely love her and I'm so grateful that she is a character who exists.

Show That Had So Much Potential This Year But Lost it All: Community

... sigh.

I've already waxed poetic about how unfortunately abysmal the final season of Community was, but it bears repeating. (Also worth repeating is the fact that this is the third year in a row the show has "won" this category. Ouch.) I loved Community when it was at its best because it was a show about flawed people who were ultimately redeemable and whose journeys made logical sense. Dan Harmon threw in the towel on the final season of the show and it showed. There was no overarching plot, no real semblance of character development (in fact, there was just the OPPOSITE in the form of wild character regression), and the entire series ended on a sour note, in spite of the exceptional series finale.

Really, now that I've begun to re-watch the series, the first season through third season are all you need to watch. Pretend the show ended there. Please.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Female): Clara Oswald, Doctor Who

Between allowing Danny Pink to verbally harass and insult The Doctor, then becoming grating and demanding, and ultimately wildly self-righteous, Clara Oswald became one of the worst and most annoying characters on television this year. Doctor Who, in general, has fallen into a horrible writing slump with characterization becoming wildly uneven (in what universe has The Doctor EVER REWRITTEN HISTORY IN ORDER TO SAVE A COMPANION? NOTHING ABOUT THAT MAKES ANY SENSE), and Clara Oswald somehow devolved into a petulant companion, insistent on playing God (and Doctor) when she had no right to do so.

(Heads up, Clara: just because you yell at people doesn't mean that you're somehow "owed" or "deserved" anything and I swear, the fact that she told Twelve that he owed her anything will go down as one of the worst things a character on this show has said to The Doctor).

At this point, she literally used The Doctor's love for her as a bargaining chip. I mean... really? Clara, once a selfless and pretty independent woman while traveling with Eleven, somehow become vain and self-righteous, telling others what to do... including The Doctor. And in some cases, that's okay because sometimes The Doctor needs a kick in the pants from his companions. But Clara took it a step further by not caring about their bond or trust (throwing away the keys to the TARDIS, even if they weren't real was the worst and most unforgivable character offense from Clara Oswald), and then turning around and claiming to love and care about him.

Every time Clara opened her mouth this season, I audibly groaned, knowing that the episode would probably fixate on her trying to be The Doctor and relegating Twelve to companion status. Just because she had one adventure at U.N.I.T., suddenly Clara became an expert on the universe and the desire to do everything herself and consider herself invincible is ultimately what got her "killed" (until the season finale but UGH don't get me started on that). She claimed to care about The Doctor, but only did when she it suited her. She berated him constantly and honestly? Twelve and Clara's relationship was toxic, masqueraded with pithy lines of dialogue intent on sending shippers into squeals. It's like Twilight all over again!

Clara deserved to learn that her actions had consequences, but she never did. All she learned was that if she yelled loud enough, she could pretend to be the authority for everyone around her. She was unafraid to risk human lives in the process, too, and only loved The Doctor when it suited her needs. She was self-righteous, and stubborn in the most reckless way possible. She was definitely the most annoying character on television this year.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Male): Ray Palmer, Arrow

I also waxed poetic this year about how horrible Ray Palmer was (and how Arrow and Mac Guggenheim refused to acknowledge the fact that he had very problematic tendencies as a character — ones that those who have suffered in abusive relationships would, and did, balk at). Ray is back to being alive in the fourth season of Arrow (and is tolerable now, in small doses), but it was his treatment of Felicity and Oliver in the third season that earns him this spot as my most annoying male character of the year. (And honestly, this has nothing to do with Brandon Routh because I think Routh is a delightful human being). In fact, the more that I think about it, the more that I realize it was less of a problem with Ray as a character that I had as it was with the writers, who insisted on making audiences fall in love with/excuse Ray's behavior, only to fail.

Here's a lesson to all of the television writers out there — the harder you try and force a character onto us, the more we will resist you. The more you insist that your character is not the problem and that we, the audience, are interpreting them as such, the more we will fight you. Basically, if you're going to write a character who is problematic, own up to that fact. Don't be mad when people find faults with them. Don't belittle the problem down to "shipping," just because that is an easy target.

Own the fact that we may not like a character simply because they suck.

Television Show That Left Us Too Soon: Chasing Life

*plugs ears, hums, and cannot hear you when you tell me Leo died*

I marathoned Chasing Life on Netflix simply because I was in between shows and had nothing better to do. And I loved it. Italia Ricci, in that show, gave one of the most stunning performances of a woman battling cancer that I have seen since Monica Potter on Parenthood. I loved the series, from the strong women that it presented to the complex family dynamic it explored, to the very real decisions about health and love and life that people have to make on a daily basis. I think that April Carver's evolution is one of the most important you'll see on television and the show was not only gut-wrenchingly sad in parts, but ultimately hopeful and inspiring.

If Blood & Oil hadn't gotten picked up, I know that Scott Michael Foster would still be on Chasing Life and I wouldn't be typing these words. But alas, he left the show and it was not the same. I'm not sure if the death of Leo directly impacted the cancellation or if it was just the final straw, but I'm deeply sad that this show didn't have the chance to stay on television longer.

Show That Should Be Put Out of Its Misery: None.

IT IS SO WEIRD THAT I DON'T HATE ANYTHING ON TELEVISION THIS YEAR. (Or, rather, that there isn't a general consensus on a show that needs to end this year.)

Best Performance in a Television Series (Male): Elyes Gabel as Walter O'Brien, Scorpion

First of all, I would just like to take this brief opportunity to mention that if you have not started watching Scorpion, you really need to. The first season was good — it was a fun introduction to a quirky new procedural. The ensemble is really what makes this show click a vast majority of the time. All of the characters are developed enough that they are not caricatures or stereotypes. And I really love that. But what the first season established, the second season has far exceeded. Scorpion's sophomore year is proving to be one of the strongest I've seen from a drama in a long time. That is partially due to the writing, which has been outstanding, but a great deal more to do with the acting and the nuances that each of the actors bring to their characters.

No one this year was more impressive to me than Elyes Gabel, who plays the stoic Walter O'Brien. It's easy to see a show like Scorpion and judge it, presuming that since it has all of the elements of a procedural that the characters would be generic. And if you just briefly glanced at Walter, as a character, you might come to the same conclusion — he's a genius, but emotionally stunted. He deals with logic and theories and formulas. He bases his life on science and reason, not emotion and instability. But what Elyes Gabel did this year was allow Walter to begin to change, slowly, and let the people around him change the way he sees the world. The brilliance in Gabel's performance is his subtleties — his small facial nuances, the way that he allows Walter's eyes to well up, or the calculated way that he moves. When Walter loses his sister, Gabel's performance was elevated even further. He displayed such vulnerability (and believably so, for a character who struggles with his emotions and processing them), that it was absolutely gut-wrenching.

Seriously, Elyes Gabel is the one actor on television this year whose performance truly stunned me and did so consistently. Go catch up on the show, please.

Best Performance in a Television Series (Female): Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin

When Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe this year for her role as Jane Villanueva, I cried. I couldn't help it, really, because she deserves every possible award for this character. I think the thing that really impresses me about Rodriguez is her range. In Jane the Virgin, she has the opportunity to play just about every possible emotion — ranging anywhere from giddiness and silliness to complete and utter devastation. And she makes it look flawless. This year, Rodriguez had the chance to add yet another layer to her performance with the birth of Jane's son, Mateo. Now, not only is Jane fighting for the best life possible for herself, but she is also doing so for her child. And that adds a completely different layer of complexity to the character.

Now, Jane is a mother and a daughter and a student and a regular woman trying her best to figure out who she is and what she deserves. I love that Gina Rodriguez's Jane isn't cookie-cutter — she doesn't always make the right choices and her flaws are not hidden. She's a character who lives by lists and order and Rodriguez plays the frustration and confusion when Jane's life is shaken up with such believability that I feel like I know Jane personally. I feel like she is my friend. That is truly all you can hope for while watching a television series — to have that level of connectivity with the main character because of an actor's performance.

I can't say enough wonderful things about Gina Rodriguez (not only as an actress, but a human being). She's taken an already well-written female character and elevated her throughout her performance. To Rodriguez, Jane isn't some facade that she puts on every time she steps onto set. No, to her, you can tell that Jane is a real, living, breathing character who dwells just below her surface. And because Jane is real to Gina, she is also real to us.

Best Series — Comedy: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation bid farewell to Pawnee and to us in 2015, and I could not be sadder or optimistic about its final season. This show has always been one of those outstanding comedies that not enough people talk about. Leslie Knope is iconic and the Ben/Leslie romance is proof that ships don't sink comedy and that, in fact, they can make a show even better. (It's also proof to television writers that you don't have to break couples up in order to give them depth — Ben and Leslie had one minor break in their relationship and after that, they were together the entire series. BOOM.) The final season of the show was perfection, wrapping up storylines in little bows, and reminding us all why we fell in love with these characters in the first place.

This NBC sitcom was always a "feel good" one — you felt warm and fuzzy and just ultimately happy knowing that there were struggles in Pawnee but that the characters all loved and supported one another, so they would get through anything. Saying goodbye to this show was really difficult, as saying goodbye to any series is.  But the mark of a truly great show is when you can watch the final episode and know that each and every character will be okay. And honestly, when I saw that Parks department... I knew they all would be.

Best Series — Drama: Jessica Jones

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a DC girl these days. I'm invested in Arrow and The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Marvel isn't what I choose to watch on television or in the movies (unless it is The Avengers or something). But I took the advice of friends, some of our writers, and critics and binge-watched Jessica Jones. While this show is dark — like, REALLY dark — it was also the best, most compelling drama I watched all year. Centered around an unconventional hero with the same name who has a tendency to solve her problems with drinking and bar-fighting, Jessica Jones is filled with allegories and allusions (chief among those to PTSD and abusive relationships) and plenty of character development.

The story of Jessica finding Hope (literally and figuratively) is one of the most powerful I've seen from a superhero franchise. And that's really what sets Jessica Jones apart from other Marvel series (minus perhaps Daredevil, even though I have yet to watch that) — it is not a superhero show. It is a show about a woman who happens to have superpowers and occasionally uses them. She doesn't wear a suit, she doesn't go out looking for crimes. She is simply trying to survive, throughout most of the pilot. Until Jessica realizes that simply surviving isn't enough. She needs to fight — fight against her abuser, fight for the people she loves, fight for Hope, and fight for love, too.

Jessica Jones is a dark and gritty show, but it's one of the most well-acted and well-written shows I watched on television this year. It's extremely important in terms of female heroes, and discussions around sensitive subjects. I'm glad that it exists.

Actor I've Grown to Love a Lot More in 2015: Colin O'Donoghue as Killian Jones/Captain Hook, Once Upon A Time

I used to feel pretty apathetic toward Once Upon A Time. In recent years, it's kind of fallen off my must-watch radar (that Neverland arc was what really did it for me, if I'm being honest). And though last year's Frozen tie-in connected me back to Storybrooke in a way that the series hasn't before, it was this year's emotional display from Killian Jones/Captain Hook that really sucked me back into the series. Colin O'Donoghue did some of his strongest work ever during 2015 and it's hard to put into words exactly what changed. The fact of the matter is actually this — very little changed in his performance, and everything changed with how the show wrote him and trusted him to carry a story.

Hook's arc is far from over, but it is O'Donoghue who continues to propel it forward with his earnest glances, passionately-delivered lines, and careful nuances. The fact that O'Donoghue got the chance to shine for a few episodes as The Dark One was a smart move on the part of Once Upon A Time. And it cannot be overstated how intense and magnetic his chemistry is with Jennifer Morrison, either. The show not only heavily relied on O'Donoghue to carry stories this year, but also relied on him to carry something even more important — the emotional weight of Emma and Hook's love story. While Morrison excelled at depicting this during the first half of the season, the pre-winter finale was focused on Hook, primarily, and that choice was a smart one.

Honestly, I've always loved Hook. I love his sassiness, his eyeliner, and his smirks. But O'Donoghue gained more respect from me this year because of how deeply he dug into the character and the payoff that resulted because of it.

Actress I've Grown to Love a Lot More in 2015: Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, Supergirl

When I heard that Melissa Benoist had been cast as the lead in the new CBS series Supergirl, I immediately thought: "Is everyone on Glee going to become a superhero?" Having only ever seen Benoist in the musical FOX comedy, I was interested to see how her personality would translate to a superhero show. I was not disappointed. I find Benoist to be extremely endearing as a character and person, akin to Grant Gustin's exuberance on The Flash. This type of energy and charisma is exactly the kind that suits Benoist well as Kara. I think that what I found to be most compelling and why I've grown to love Benoist as the iconic superhero is the fact that there are a lot of layers to Kara. She's presented, from the start, as an imperfect hero. And while I enjoy watching trained fight sequences where characters can take down the bad guys in 0.5 seconds, I actually enjoy the fact that Kara is young and struggling. She doesn't always win the fight. Sometimes she loses spectacularly. And I think THAT gives Benoist a lot more material to work with, as an actress.

Melissa Benoist completely blindsided me, too, with some of the really emotional work she did toward the midseason finale. She, much like Supergirl, is a force to be reckoned with and someone who should not be underestimated. I cannot wait to see what she does when the show returns.

Television Show Everyone Hopes Gets Can-Can-Cancelled: The Big Bang Theory

You can hope all you would like, kiddos, but this show is not going anywhere. And honestly? People can poke fun of the fact that it occasionally delves into silly or stupid (or stale) joke territory, but it has had some of the best emotional scenes of its run this season. The most recent example, of course, is the fact that Sheldon and Amy finally consummated their relationship. The show has done a really great job this year of respecting its characters and their journeys, and I'm hopeful that will continue.

Television Show I Keep Meaning to Catch Up On: Sleepy Hollow

I quit watching Sleepy Hollow last year, and it seems like I didn't miss a whole lot in doing so. After the show decided (or, well, was forced to) to reinvent itself, it seems like the little FOX historical/apocalyptic drama is receiving positive buzz again. It might be time for me to catch back up!

Television Show I Wanted to Like But Didn't Get There: The Muppets

I watched the first two episodes of this when the screeners were released and wasn't a super huge fan of the show. Though I really do enjoy The Muppets, I knew it was one of those shows that I would never commit to watching on a weekly basis. Thankfully, it seems like it's not the kind of show that you NEED to watch on a weekly basis in order to understand plot. Still, with the re-tooling of the series now, perhaps the show will be receiving a bit more buzz and positive reception from fans and critics.

Television Show That Was Sacrificed Thanks to Television Scheduling: The Mindy Project

Actually, this one was more or less sacrificed because of the fact that it required me to pay money for Hulu and I just didn't want to do that. Plus, I was beginning to feel a little underwhelmed with the show. Danny Castellano's character proved to be extremely problematic last season, and the lack of acknowledgement from fans and the show alike drove me to be unable to really ship Danny/Mindy anymore.

Television Show I'm Most Anxious to Marathon in 2016: Breaking Bad; Chuck

Because I definitely need to balance out the intense drug-centric drama with some comedy (with a bit of drama added to that, too). Thanks, Netflix, for allowing me to watch both of these!


Best Movie Adaptation of a Book: Room

I read Room years ago, mostly because the cover of the book looked intriguing and I was in the market for a good summer read. When I finished the book, I immediately wanted to re-read it. And over the years, it's been difficult to find any book that matches Room in terms of narrative and innovation. So when I heard that there would be a movie adapted from the novel and that Emma Donoghue would be at the helm, I knew I had to see it. Since Room was not in wide release, I took a friend of mine with me to a tiny theatre in Winter Park to see the film. She loved it. I loved it. I cried, she cried.

The reason that Room worked so well was because it translated everything important from the book onto screen. Not to mention the fact that Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are absolutely stunning in the film. Without a doubt, Room was the best book-to-film adaptation in 2015.

Best Movie I Saw in 2015: Inside Out

I didn't understand the fascination with Inside Out until I actually saw the film in theatres. It was there that I laughed hysterically and cried harder than any Disney film in recent memory. I could wax poetic about what made this film my favorite of the year, but I'll spare you the novel and instead just note how important the movie was in understanding the complexity of my emotions as an adult. Sometimes we want life to be easy, happy, and carefree. We want Joy all the time. And when Sadness creeps in, sometimes we try to shoo it away or banish it at all costs. We relegate it to a small circle. But what Inside Out did impeccably was remind us all that we need Joy and Sadness and Anger and Fear and Disgust in order to function. All of these emotions make us human. And that was a beautiful thing to hear this year, from a children's film no less.

Actor I Wasn't Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Chris Pratt, Jurassic World


I'm really actually thrilled that Chris Pratt is gaining more recognition and respect in Hollywood these days. He's a genuinely lovely human being (or at least he appears to be that way as, alas, I have yet to meet him), and hilarious. His charisma shines through in every project that he does and it is unsurprising that this year's Jurassic World catapulted him even further into endearment in the public eye.

Actress I Wasn't Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect 2

Honestly, I don't know that there is a person on earth who could watch Pitch Perfect 2 and not immediately fall in love with Anna Kendrick even more than they were already. I actually enjoyed the sequel more than the original (which may be sacrilegious, but that is just where I am at), and Anna Kendrick did a stellar job playing to all of the nuances of her character and her struggles.

Best Movie of 2015 That I Won't See Until 2016: Star Wars — The Force Awakens

Chelsea is making me do this, you guys.

Most Talked About Movie of 2015 That I Have Not And Will Not Likely See: The Revenant

(Basically any Oscar-bait or awards show-bait movie this year I have no interest in seeing.)

Movie I Really Did Mean to See in 2015: Sisters; Paper Towns

Sisters was a movie that I was actually supposed to see in 2015 at an advanced screening. Additionally, I really did mean to see Paper Towns but my plans to see the film fell through. I definitely need to buy or rent the film though, since that John Green book is one of my absolute favorites. (And it doesn't hurt that the entire film and novel are set in central Florida.)

Movie I Will Get Yelled At For Not Wanting to See: The Martian

... yawn. #sorrynotsorry


Artist/Band I Was Surprised to Find Myself Loving As Much As I Did: Selena Gomez

I used to really love Wizards of Waverly Place on Disney Channel (don't judge me), and thought Selena Gomez to be a lot more talented — both comedically and dramatically — than the show allowed her to be. When Gomez transitioned into film work (Monte Carlo is a little cheesy, but it stars Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Catherine Tate, and Selena Gomez and is immensely FUN), her career didn't quite take off as she (I surmise) had hoped. And then she re-positioned herself in the music world and found her niche with albums and tours. And, surprisingly, I found myself invested in Gomez's music.

She's not the most incredible singer to ever enter the music scene, but she certainly is talented and has catchy lyrics and tracks. I was definitely surprised at how much I loved "Same Old Love" this year.

Best Album: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

I don't care who you are or whether or not you love or hate Broadway musicals — everyone needs to listen to Hamilton. EVERYONE. When some of our staff talked about the show non-stop this year, I became intrigued and decided to give the album (available on Spotify) a listen. I fell head-over-heels for this musical and could not be happier that people like Connie, Rae, Jaime, and Deb kept pestering me to listen to it because now I do the same for others. It's difficult to explain in words exactly what makes Hamilton so special. But if I were to boil it down, I would say that it is its earnestness, its heart, and it's incredible musicality that has made this show the phenomenon that it is.

I absolutely cannot get enough of this musical. There are incredible vocal runs, flawless rapping, really powerful emotional moments (I dare you not to cry during "Burn" or "Stay Alive (Reprise)," all of which make this show so special. Lin Manuel-Miranda is insanely talented as Alexander Hamilton. You might think that a historical musical would be boring, but if every history class was like Hamilton, I would be signing up for them all tomorrow.

This musical is so important for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that it places people of color and women in positions of power throughout the narrative that are simply not present in actual American history. The "reimagination" of American history according to Manuel-Miranda is the kind of history I would love to live in. If you have yet to listen to this amazing and life-changing (I'm not exaggerating here) album, find it on Spotify. The benefit of Hamilton is that all of the musical is sung so you get the chance to experience the entirety of the play while you listen, too.

... I'll wait. Come back here in two hours and let me know your thoughts!

That One Song That You Belted To Everyone and Didn’t Know Why: "Hello," Adele

Actually, we all know why we belted this one to each other. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT BELT IT DRAMATICALLY.

That One Song That Was Annoyingly Catchy: "Sorry," Justin Bieber

I wish I could hate Justin Bieber's new single, but I actually really enjoyed it. Darn the catchiness of the tune!

That Song That Was Good... Until It Was Overplayed: "Stitches," Shawn Mendes

What began as an endearing single quickly became the most overplayed song on Top 40 radio. Now, whenever I hear it, I automatically cringe and change the station. It's not that Shawn Mendes' song is bad, by any means, but it has lapped (and lapped and lapped) the radio so much this year that I honestly am tired of it.

(Honorable mention? "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon. That single was on my running playlist as soon as it came out, and now it just makes me sigh because of how often Top 40 radio played it throughout 2015.)

That Song That Was Good... Even When It Was Overplayed: "Wildest Dreams," Taylor Swift

Anything by Taylor Swift could be played on the radio thousands of times and I would still be completely enamored with it. That's just who I am. This year, her "Wildest Dreams" single was played quite frequently on Top 40 radio, and yet I still turned the volume up as loud as possible and belted along to the chorus.

The Song You’ll Never Admit to Liking (But Secretly Know All The Words To): "Drag Me Down," One Direction

I mean, I'm not even ashamed to admit that I love this song a lot. But in case any of you out there are remotely ashamed of loving boy bands, know that there is no shame in loving what you love. Additionally, One Direction's album Made in the A.M. was really exceptional and I would recommend you all listen to it. JUST SAYING.

That Song You Couldn't Get Out of Your Head: "Watch Me," Silento

I'll be honest here and say that until I started teaching middle school students, I had no idea what the whip and nae nae actually was. And now that I do, I'm afraid it's one of those things you simply cannot unlearn. Needless to say, this song was stuck in my head a lot during 2015.

There you have it, friends! This is my personal best and worst of 2015 list. What shows, movies, and musical selections made your cut? Hit up the comments below and let me know. And have a safe, happy, and wonderful New Year's celebration. :)