Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Lovin’ -- Week 23

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We're back again with another fun Summer Lovin' installment. I don't know about you, but Netflix has taken up a lot of my time on the weekends now. It's been really fun getting to catch up on movies and shows while my favorite series are on summer hiatus. There was a lot to love this week for our staff members, so let's dive in! Joining me this week are:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wynonna Earp 2x03 Recap: "Gonna Getcha Good" (Make a Wish) [Contributor: Isabella]



"Gonna Getcha Good"
Original Airdate: June 23, 2017

This episode is also known as the long-awaited Waverly the cheerleader episode, and Nicole is right when she tells Waverly, who performs a routine just for her, "Baby, that's everybody's thing."

Ahem, so the murder mystery this week involves Bryce Cooper, the star of the high school's hockey team from 2007. A monster-demon forced him to pull out his own liver, and he died gazing at the trophy case. This pulls Wynonna into a nostalgia trip, especially when she gets hit up by Perry, another one of the teammembers of the old hockey team. When she first agrees to go on a date with him — simply so she can find out any info on the murder, of course — she has no idea that he's directly involved with it. And in a very creepy way, as we get to see him grab a bloody skinned rabbit out of a bucket while in his room.

At the start of their date, they get interrupted by Skip — another teammate — who's blabbering about how Bryce was taken. Perry seems to understand what he's talking about and attempts to cover it up from Wynonna by dragging Skip back to his house. She follows them there, only to find that Perry's drawn an algiz both on his front door and on Skip's forehead in blood (presumably that rabbit blood from before). Skip's lying down on the front porch when the demon comes up and begins to force him to pull his liver out. Skip doesn't get too deep into his own body before Wynonna shoots at the demon, who's already run off.

Later on, Perry comes by Wynonna's house for help and they find out that he isn't summoning the demon to kill his old teammates, but rather, he's trying to protect them from it. Back when they were seniors, Perry and his teammates were given a spell by their coach who wanted them to finally win a game. They performed it and were promised ten years of anything they could wish for, but now the Marzanoik demon is back to finish their deal. When Doc hears this, he believes that if they capture the demon, they could use it to save Dolls. He tells Wynonna this plan, along with the fact that he's been concocting the drugs Dolls needs in the basement of Shorty's bar. And so, queen Wynonna snatches the 2007 trophy from the current team's hands.


Meanwhile, Waverly's still dealing with her identity issues after struggling to come to terms with the fact that she's not biologically an Earp. Because of this, she has tried and continues to try to keep the town's community intact and maintain the status quo. That is why she tells Nicole to not arrest Tucker after she catches him taking pictures up cheerleaders' skirts without their knowledge. But later in the episode, Waverly gets harassed by Tucker and her inner demon Gooverly comes out and chokes him a little. After which, he goes off crying home to his sisters — one of whom is Mercedes. Mercedes tells him to back off and not get close to the Earp sisters. She gets a brief moment of victory before she is attacked (and possibly killed?) by the Figures in Black.

Later on, Nicole learns that Tucker's family are important figures in town. They have a lot of money, which is why they let Tucker off scot-free — or so she thinks. The sheriff's been compiling a big folder of all the horrible thing Tucker's done, for the "long game." Nicole can't think about this for too long because while she's babysitting Skip in his jail cell — for driving under the influence right into a beautiful oak tree — the demon comes by to finish him off. Nicole tries to stand her ground, but he throws her to the ground. Doc, Wynonna, and Perry come to her rescue and ultimately trap the demon back in the trophy.

Earlier in the episode during a bit of downtime, Nicole brings up the fact that Waverly's been acting a little odd and more brusque to Wynonna. Wynonna gets defensive about this, since she can't believe anything could be wrong with Waverly. She dismisses Nicole's claims very suddenly by comparing those same characteristics to herself. Nicole is once again left alone to think and worry about this, but not for long.

Dolls, who's somehow locked up in the Earp barn, witnesses Gooverly playing around with her collection of silver-looking objects. He tries to get her attention since she seems really out of it, but right before she walks out of the barn, she turns around and flashes him her demon eyes. It hopefully — and probably — won't be long before somebody finds him. ... Or at least hears his screams.

Other Points of Interest:
  • "Boys from here to there!" "Girl, put on some underwear." Incredible accidental rhyming on the part of Waverly and Wynonna.
  • "You've polished the shaft hard enough." "Wow, you so rarely hear that."
  • Who else misses Dolls like a lot? Like a lot a lot? ME, but also Wynonna. I love how she nervously twiddles with the necklace Dolls gave her in the first episode.
  • "Calm down, flaming ladybug."
  • "Run!" "I'm not big on cardio these days." Same, Wynonna.
  • It makes me anxious to think that even after Nicole brought up the weirdness about Waverly to Wynonna, she's still the only one who sees it. I get why Wynonna would be so defensive about her little sister, since I would be to, but this will get even more dangerous in the long-run.
  • Bless Mercedes. That is all.
  • How did Dolls get there? Since when has he been there? What's happening? What's going on?!

Twin Peaks: The Return 3x06 Recap: "Part 6: Don’t Die" (Diane!) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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"Part 6: Don’t Die"
Original Airdate: June 11, 2017

For an episode titled “Don’t Die” there was quite a bit of death, including an extremely tragic one that will not be leaving my mind any time soon. That particular scene and some lengthy ones of Cooper struggling in the real world (or this dimension or wherever this is) gave Part 6 a somber mood. There are some quirky, madcap moments, and a long-awaited character reveal is made.

The episode picks up where Part 5 left off, Cooper is still standing by the statue with an armful of case files. A friendly security officer brings him home. Janey-E fixes them sandwiches (which are weirdly loud and crunchy), and finally decides to take Dougie to the doctor. What must Dougie have been like that it takes her this long to make that assessment.

She sends him up to say goodnight to Sonny Jim who is reading a Hardy Boys book in bed — The Secret of the Old Mill, to be precise! They share a sweet moment with chips and a clap on/clap off cowboy lamp before Janey-E yells for Dougie to come downstairs.

When Cooper was brought home, the officer noticed an envelope on their doorstep. Janey-E had opened it while Cooper was upstairs, and was not happy with its contents. Cooper did not make arrangements to pay off Dougie’s debt because, well, he can’t even figure out how to find a bathroom on his own. Along with the threat, is a photo of Jade and Dougie. “Jade give two rides.” “Yeah, I bet she did.”

The phone rings and Janey-E jokes that maybe it’s Jade calling. Cooper smiles at the thought, and so do I. It’s the thugs who want their money. Janey-E takes command and tells them that she will meet them the next day. She tells Cooper that he better get to work on the work he brought home, and kisses him on top of his head despite being so angry with him.

There’s a cut to a Twin Peaks stoplight and MIKE in the Red Room before going back to Cooper and the files. MIKE appears before Cooper like he did in Part 4. He tells him to “wake up” and “don’t die.” Cooper starts doodling on the files, drawing ladders and stairs, and nondescript scribbles. At one point, pinpoints of light appear on the page. I don’t know what any of it means, but I was captivated watching him do this.

Albert pulls up to Max Von’s Bar. As he makes his way through the crowded place I’m chanting, “please be Diane, please be Diane.” After he says, “Diane,” I start chanting, “please be Laura Dern, please be Laura Dern.” It is! Laura Dern plays the mysterious, fan favorite Diane, Cooper’s trusted confidant. I could not be more pleased with this casting. I don’t think anyone else could’ve filled this important role better than Dern. She is a veteran of Lynch’s films, and a very gifted actor. All we got was a turn of the head and a “Hello, Albert,” and I was over the moon. Also, her whole look is fabulous. I don’t think I ever pictured anything in my head about how Diane would look, she was that much of an enigma. The white platinum bob and Egyptian-esque eyeliner is very cool and unexpected.

Turns out the guy who was making eyes at Shelly at The Roadhouse on Part 2 is a drug dealer, and a tricky one too. Richard Horne is testing the drugs that Red will supply him to sell in Twin Peaks. Red messes with him by calling him “kid,” and doing a coin trick that scares the crap out of him. It would scare me, too. It is some freaky magic trick. Red also mentions wanting to stick around town. I wonder if that has anything to do with Shelly? Balthazar Getty plays Red as an eccentric and menacing bad guy reminiscent of Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth. It was satisfying to see Richard on the receiving end of his peculiar intimidation. Richard leaves crying, angry, and emasculated.

The next few scenes end up converging at one intersection where that tragic death occurs. First, we see Carl getting a ride into town from his trailer park. Mickey, one of Carl’s neighbors, tags along so he can pick up Linda’s mail. Remember “Richard and Linda?” He talks with Carl about Linda, and it seems she is in a wheelchair, maybe because of a war injury?

Next, we meet Miriam at the Double R. She is raving to Heidi, the giggling waitress from the original series, about Norma’s pies.

There is a quick cut to Richard speeding down the road and then to Carl sitting on a bench in the park looking up at the tree tops. He smiles at a mother and son who pass by. Richard approaches cars stopped at a stop sign and he speeds up to pass them. I’m hoping that what I suspect happens next doesn’t happen, but it does. Richard runs over the boy right in front of his mother. It is truly horrific. If they are trying to show that Richard is borne of evil, this certainly sells that. First assaulting a woman and now killing a child exemplifies pure evil, in my opinion. As he drives away from the accident, Miriam with her Double R coffees watches as he passes. I don’t know if she is in enough proximity to know what happened, but the look on her face is complete horror. Carl comes out to see what the sound was, and watches as the boys spirit leaves his body, in the form of a yellow flame-like cloud. He goes to the grief stricken mother who is cradling her son, and they look at each other. Dang it, I’m sobbing again. It is just so awful and sad. The scene ends on a shot of a telephone pole and electricity crackling in the lines.

We have seen either this pole or one similar before. In fact, I believe this is the same intersection where Mike meets Leland and Laura in Fire Walk With Me. These callbacks along with the presence of Carl are all very significant, but I don’t know exactly why yet. Carl’s background from FWWM and in Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks is as mysterious as the show. Is he somehow connected to Black Lodge or White Lodge spirits?

Mr. Todd, who we haven’t seen since Part 1, is working on his computer. A red square appears on his screen. It’s a signal of some kind. He goes to a safe and takes out a large white envelope with a black dot on it.

Back in Rancho Rosa, Dougie’s charred car is being towed away, and the drugged-out mom is still yelling, “1-1-9!”

At a motel, a man is playing dice by himself. The envelope with the dot is slipped under his door. As he opens it, hip hop music starts to play. He studies the two photos inside. One is of the worried Lorraine, the woman at the beginning of Part 5, and the other is Dougie. The man stabs the photos with an awl and the music stops.

Cooper shows up at Dougie’s office for another day of work. He can’t figure out how to exit the elevator, but he’s got coffee, so he has a big smile on his face. His boss goes over the work he did on the files, and he is bewildered at the doodles. He begins to chastise him about it, but takes a closer look. He sees something, because he thanks Cooper for his work. “I want you to keep this information to yourself. This is disturbing, to say the least. I’ll take it from here. But I may need your help again. You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about.” Mind sharing with the rest of us, kind sir?

Janey-E pays off Dougie’s debt when she meets the thugs at a park, but not before giving them a piece of her mind. “What kind of world are we living in where people can behave like this, treat other people this way without any compassion or feeling for their suffering?” She tells them to take a good hard look at themselves, and leaves them stunned. “Tough dame.” I’ll say!

That hip hop music plays as we see the hallway outside Lorraine’s office. Yeah, I don’t think she is going to be alive for much longer. The hit man rounds the corner, awl in hand. He brutally stabs her. The violence is very graphic.

Hawk drops a coin in the bathroom at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station, which seems innocuous enough, but leads to what could be a huge clue. The coin he drops has an Indian chief head on it. He glances over at the bathroom stall door that has the logo of Nez Perce Manufacturing which is also an Indian chief head. He notices the metal on the door is bent back at the corner. He pries it open and finds notebook pages with writing on them. Could these be the pages from Laura’s diary when she wrote what Annie told her in her vision?

Doris shows up mad about her father’s car and lays into Frank about it. Chad mocks them, and the dispatcher sticks up for Doris and Frank. “She didn’t used to be like this. Don’t you know their son committed suicide?” Chad continues to be an insensitive jerk saying that he knows their son couldn’t handle being a soldier. Is this related to Linda and that war that Carl alluded to?

Once again, the end credits roll over a performance at The Roadhouse.

Stray Observations: 
  • I’ve never been so excited over a shot of a stoplight before.
  • We met Diane, you guys!
  • Tony, Dougie’s co-worker played by Tom Sizemore, looked really nervous when Cooper went in to talk to the boss. 
  • Characters I would like to see more of: Jade, Miriam, and the dispatcher.
  • This part’s musical guest is Sharon Van Etten with a mournful song befitting of this episode, especially with a lyric like “Send in the owl, tell me I’m not a child.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Bachelorette 13x04 Roundtable: Guys and Dolls [Contributors: Chelsea, Alisa, Patti, and Rebecca]


What's been happening in the world of The Bachelorette recently? Well, our favorite staffers are here to give you the run-down on all the dates and drama! Take a look at what Rebecca, Alisa, Patti, and Chelsea had to say about this week's episode.

Who do you think needs to leave next? Were you sad to see any man leave?


Rebecca: I already forget who left besides Diggy, so I must not have been too sad to say goodbye to any of this week’s eliminations. Lee really needs to go. He’s downright terrible. Not only is he a racist misogynist, but he’s an instigator and drama queen who needs to grow up. I hope Kenny pops him next episode. I’m also over Iggy using all of his time with Rachel to complain about Josiah. He seems to be stirring the pot, and it’s annoying. Maybe keep the other guys’ names out of your mouth and focus on getting to know Rachel? And Adam needs to get himself and that creepy doll out of there ASAP.

Patti: I did like Diggy, if only because his shoe collection is really impressive and I wanted to know more about it. Obviously Lee, Iggy, Eric, and Josiah NEED to go. I think Jack Stone is on his way out with that one-on-one date. I haven’t decided about Kenny yet. I used to love him, but he’s in the thick of all of the drama, and to be honest, I don’t know that Rachel needs to be a wrestling wife.

Alisa: Yeah, totally agree with Rebecca and Patti. I had a special place in my heart for Diggy, who just seemed really mature and genuine with a great fashion sense. What more could a girl want? I reeeeeally wanted to like Iggy but he needs to stop with the tattling. Every season we have somebody who thinks that’s gonna win them points and all it does is get them out the door faster. Come on, man. I do feel bad for Kenny because I think he inadvertently got caught up in the tornado of drama Lee insists on creating. And seriously, Lee never should have been allowed on The Bachelorette to begin with. What an awful creep.

Chelsea: I’m having so much trouble remembering all their names this year. Casting really found a bunch of petty basics to stir up the drama. Lee is the absolute worst and I do not believe for a minute that the producers were unaware of his social media history. Like Alisa said, he shouldn’t have been allowed on the show. I’ve had a sketch feeling about Josiah since the first week and this week proved me right. His ego is way too much.

They didn’t give Diggy and his delightful shoe collection a chance. You can’t tell me that Iggy, Lee, and Josiah are better than the male model and firefighter that went home. The odds of Raven tracking down that firefighter are really high.

Who had the best date of the week? The worst? Who should get a one-on-one next?


Rebecca: I loved Dean and Rachel’s blimp date! I’ve always wanted to go in a blimp, and the scene of them sitting in the back surrounded by all the windows was too cute. I also am a fan of Russell Dickerson — I saw him open for Thomas Rhett in March and was really impressed. He’s very talented and I hope being on the show gives him some much-deserved exposure.

Patti: Dean and Rachel’s date was fantastic! They were so open and candid and hilarious. It’s funny, because a lot of these conversations happen on every season of The Bachelor/ette, and I find myself tuning out completely because I just don’t care. But Rachel is asking the really good, smart questions, so the evening portion of the one-on-ones make me feel things! Although I wish they would do away with the “this random dude sings while we dance and kiss on a weird pedestal while an audience watches and cheers.” I would love for her to have a one-on-one with Will next.

Alisa: Dean and Rachel’s date was amazing. I was NOT a fan of Dean going into this episode. He’s very handsome but I didn’t think he had much depth and he seemed far too young. Boy, did he change my mind. He seems genuine and down-to-earth and like an all around lovely human being. Plus, they seemed really good together. I too hate the whole random country singer no one’s heard of portion of one-on-one’s, but was pleasantly surprised by this guy. I don’t even like country music but he had a great voice and I loved the song. The whole making out in front of the crowd thing is kind of awkward though. I also greatly enjoyed the spelling bee portion of the group date. That was hilarious and the good kind of awkward. Not only did you get to see who’s a great speller, you also find out who can just have fun and laugh at themselves, which is an even more important trait. I’d like to see Will get a one-on-one date next and also I think she needs some more alone time with Peter so maybe he could get a second one-on-one.

Chelsea: Dean is slowly becoming my favorite contestant to watch. You can tell Rachel is having a lot of fun with him and he’s a nice break from the petty basics. The blimp ride was so cute and they should have just had the obligatory country music performance in the air (I tend to zone out when the country starts playing). I am so charmed by Will and want him to have more screentime. Also, isn’t it about time Bryan gets a one-on-one?

Fantasy League Final Four picks have been locked in. What are some of your predictions and who should get the final rose? 


Rebecca: I have Peter, Alex, Bryan, and Kenny in my final four. I think all four of them are solid guys and seem to have good chemistry with Rachel. That being said, I think Bryan stands out from the other three. That first impression rose shows that he and Rachel really kicked it off from the beginning, and he seems to be staying pretty consistent as one of her favorites. I kind of wish I would have swapped out Alex for Dean, but I really didn’t like Dean for the longest time. He’s grown on me and I have a soft spot for him, and I think he has a decent chance of making it pretty far.

Patti: Peter, Dean, Bryan, and maybe Will? Although I’m just hoping to see more of him.

Alisa: I have Bryan, Dean, Josiah and Peter in my final four. I cannot stand Josiah but Rachel seems to like him. Even though it would hurt my bracket, I’d really like to see her kick him to the curb before hometowns. I also detest Bryan (seriously buddy, stop trying to eat her face off with each kiss!) but they definitely have a connection. I hope she ends up with either Dean or Peter because they both seem like pretty solid men.

Chelsea: It’s amazing how few contestants I care about this season. Peter, Bryan, and Dean seem like the only guys she’s super interested in based on screentime. Fantasy picks locked before I could swap Eric with Will or Kenny. I don’t see either of them winning but I like them both A LOT. There are so many guys this year that are either terrible or forgettable. Rachel deserves so much better.

Between Lee’s tweets and Paradise, the franchise has endured a lot of scandal this year. What are your thoughts as it moves forward? 


Rebecca: Obviously, I LOVE the drama, but I have mixed feelings concerning Lee and the DeMario/Corinne situation. Lee should never have been allowed on the show in the first place, and I feel bad for Rachel. I can’t imagine how she must feel now looking back at the roses she gave him, knowing the things he’s said about women and people of color.

As far as the Paradise scandal goes, obviously I’m glad that the video footage didn’t show the sexual assault people claimed happened. I would never wish something like that upon anyone. Sex between two intoxicated people is messy and confusing, and we’ll never know the whole story, but I sincerely hope Corinne is okay and that nothing happened. As a fan of the franchise, I’m glad ABC is moving forward with Paradise, but I hope that going forward, the production crew grows a conscious and steps in if anything questionable like that ever happens again.

Patti: Oof. I think I have to abstain from this question until more confirmed information is released, if it ever is. All I can say is, I think Rachel as the Bachelorette has elevated this show to a level they never dreamed it could go. And if they go backwards from here, I’m going to be very disappointed.

Alisa: I think drama is one thing, but words and actions that hurt other people is a whole different ball game and doesn’t belong on any "reality" show ever. Lee should never have been allowed anywhere near this franchise, and I definitely don’t buy the producers feigned ignorance about his racist, misogynistic social media posts. Y’all have interns for a reason. Use them to check that stuff. As for the Corinne/DeMario situation, it’s horrible and unfortunate either way. If she was sexually assaulted, the producers actions or lack thereof to stop it are unacceptable and heartbreaking. If she wasn’t assaulted, then the allegations and the statement she put out only serve to undermine the many real sexual assault victims out there in the world. I’m glad they did an investigation but I’m not entirely sure how much good an “internal” investigation does when clearly it’s in ABC/WB’s best interest to find that nothing happened.

Chelsea: Rachel is doing the Lord’s work this season and has brought so much class and intelligence to the franchise. I just hate what the show is putting her through. Lee should have NEVER been allowed in the mansion and the producers should be ashamed of themselves for letting him compete. It makes me weary of the edits they’re giving Kenny and Eric when they have a racist dude in the house antagonizing them.

As for the Paradise scandal, there is so much misinformation and conflicting reports of everything that’s happened. No matter what, I believe the show needs to really be more careful about consent and transparency with contestants and producers about what is happening.


Fantasy League Results:

  • Rebecca: 160 points
  • Chelsea: 130 points
  • Alisa: 90 points
  • Rae: 70 points

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wonder Woman Roundtable, Part 2: Battle of the Chrises [Contributors: Jenn, Julia, Anne, Jon, Deb, Marilyn, Megan, Erin, and Chelsea]


Earlier last weekend, the staff discussed what we loved about the Wonder Woman film. There was so much to love between the female-focused director and storyline, as well as the incredible performances. In part two of our roundtable, we'll discuss the supporting cast, as well as what we would like to see in a sequel.

Let's dive in!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Veep 6x09 Recap: "A Woman First" (The Lost Diary of Selina Meyer) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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“A Woman First”
Original Airdate: June 18, 2017

Did Selina free Tibet or did Tibet free Selina? Her only saving grace in her epic scandal is what Leon accurately described as “a fluke, a success despite an almost pathological level of incompetence.” She negotiated to free Tibet for purely selfish reasons, and now it is finally serving her as intended.

When Leon’s expose came out, I thought there was no way Selina would recover. Jaffar’s suggestion of leaving the country sounded pretty good. Selina was talking to her lawyers, and her staff was discussing the advantages of pleading guilty. Ben says, “I wouldn’t mind a little time in prison, get away from my wife; spend time with guys who get it.” No such luck for Ben, the news of Tibet overshadows all the horrible and sometimes illegal things Selina did while in office. This turnabout will also help the dismal reception of her book, A Woman First, which was ghost-written by Mike, so it needs all the help it can get.

This rollercoaster of an episode was so well done that the doom and gloom of such a catastrophe was silly and funny. Mike goes from being banished from Catherine’s brownstone, to damage control, to gleefully happy that he was an idiot and lost the diary in the first place. Amy narrowly escapes being sacrificed to Leon, and commiserates with a recently demoted Dan. I like Amy and Dan together in this capacity. The quick foray into a romantic possibility was comical, but I think they play best as friends who can relate to each other as well as tease one another relentlessly.

Speaking of Dan, he is content with his CBS digital platform spots until he sees himself on-screen in a taxi. He calls up Ben to tell him that he’ll join him and Kent (who was also recently fired by Jonah) as the Three Meyersketeers. Finally! I’ve waited all season for this. Jonah’s recent successes take a turn as his fiancee dumps him, he loses his financial support, and his uncle takes him off the congressional ballot. News which is not well received as he sits in the hospital recovering from his circumcision.

All of the changes and plot twists kept the episode moving which goes so well with its lightning-quick wit and barrage of one-liners. My favorite going to Selina berating Mike, “Why do you work for me, you stupid mustache?!” And second place to Peter MacNicol’s Uncle Jeff to Jonah, “You made the Hindenburg look like a normal, on-time blimp landing.” I guess I like when the biggest morons on the show get insulted. It was a very tight episode. So tight that it didn’t include President Montez’s reaction to Selina stealing back her Tibet praise. I really wanted to see the president and her team take that blow. She has been one-upping Selina since last season, and it would’ve been satisfying to see her knocked down a peg. Maybe next week in the season finale.

Meanwhile amidst the hubbub, Catherine is put on bed rest for her incompetent cervix. “Why should her cervix be any different from the rest of her?” She is drinking special uteran tea (which Selina accidentally drinks and vomits up) and being neglected by her mother. She is used as a fake emergency for Selina to back out of her Tonight Show commitment, and then has a real emergency about which Selina could not care less. And as a very pleasant surprise, Adam Scott plays the host of The Tonight Show. He bombards Selina with children reading bad reviews of her book as the credits roll.

Stray Observations:
  • Selina’s staff book inclusion stats: Amy is not mentioned until page 134. Gary is on page 93, “As Gary poured my tea, I realized the hostages, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.” Mike’s name doesn’t come up until page 213. “And I wrote the book.” Kent appears 12 times. Jonah isn’t mentioned once. “I ruined her administration, like, four times. You think that’d count for something.” Richard made it in the book, but “just the dedication.”
  • Jonah’s low office ceiling is all of us.  
  • Does Selina think that Johnny Carson still hosts The Tonight Show?
  • I could watch Selina and Marjorie interact forever and ever.
  • Jaffar is adorable. 
  • “The history books are being rewritten and this time it’s not Texas saying Satan made fossils.” 
  • Peter MacNicol as Uncle Jeff psychotically laughing at Jonah’s plight was a wonder to behold. Truly glorious.
  • ADAM SCOTT, YOU GUYS!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

American Gods 1x08 Review: "Come to Jesus" (A Storm Breaks) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Come to Jesus"
Original Airdate: June 18, 2017

[Warning: The following review contains spoilers.]

It’s finale time for American Gods! I usually judge finales by how well they tie up all the loose ends, but I went into this show knowing that the first season was only going to cover roughly the first hundred pages of the book so I suspected the finale would just be littered with cliffhangers. To my pleasant surprise, American Gods manages to structure its first season finale in a way that provides closure on some key ideas and character arcs, even as it clears the storytelling path for future seasons.

A STOLEN QUEEN


We didn’t see how they arrived since last week’s episode was all about Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon, but “Come to Jesus” opens with Wednesday and Shadow sitting in a house while Mr. Nancy sews them some fancy suits. Old Anansi is more than just a tailor, though — his primary role is as a weaver of tales, not of cloth. Mr. Nancy entertains the impatient Wednesday and angry, confused Shadow with the story of a queen in ancient times, who was worshipped by many and was slowly forgotten.

It’s the story of Bilquis, the goddess of love who has spent this season longingly gazing at museum artifacts even though she seems to be getting all the prayers she should need from the people she takes to her bed. Bilquis’s arc — her journey from real belief when she was a queen, to the empty connections she makes through meeting up with people via dating apps — shows us a goddess’s fall from power and rise to a different, less satisfying power. Bilquis is worshipped, but not in the same way she was worshipped before. She has power, but it’s a parasitic power; it relies on the aid of the New Gods, which means the belief of her followers is siphoned off by another deity and she faces starvation despite constant consumption.

There’s an interesting thread of the fall of female power in Bilquis’s story, representative of the ancient worship of the feminine that was transformed into worship of the masculine over time. Bilquis wasn’t forgotten because people stopped knowing her, but because people were stopped from knowing her, stopped from worshipping queens like Bilquis and turned toward worshipping kings. She was a goddess of love, reduced and laid low by gods of war and conquest. And with femininity being such a crucial part of Bilquis’s existence, it’s really no wonder that the male Technical Boy providing her “lifeline” results in unfulfilling, empty worship that leaves her still wandering museums and thinking back on what used to be.

Mr. Nancy wraps up his story in a little bow for Shadow, who still doesn’t get it, by telling the two men to go get themselves a queen. The New Gods recruited a forgotten queen to their side, so it’s time for the Old Gods to do the same.

A STOLEN QUEEN: PART II


In his Bilquis story Mr. Nancy says, from the perspective of Bilquis, “So long as I’m still alive, I can adapt. I still know what I am.” The declaration is a core idea within all the Old Gods, who struggle to find the balance between adapting (which means survival) and changing (which means self-destruction). Vulcan adapted then changed, and was beheaded for it. Bilquis adapted then changed, and was forgotten for it. And then there is Easter, the goddess Ostara of springtime, rebirth, renewal, and the dawn, who seems to have brightly adapted to the fact that she now shares her day with Jesus in the modern era. It’s kinda easy for her, though, since Jesus — all the Jesuses, of which there are at least a dozen walking around Easter’s mansion in Kentucky — is a super nice guy. He even feels a little bad about stealing some of Easter’s thunder.

The suits Mr. Nancy made for Shadow and Wednesday are because the two of them needed to be adequately dressed for Easter’s stellar Easter celebration. Just when I don’t think I can love Shadow any more than I already do, he meets Easter and is instantly smitten with the effervescent Ostara (played by the effervescent Kristin Chenoweth) to the point where he’s all smiles and blushes whenever he talks to her. Easter and I both agree that it’s darling and Shadow is the actual best.


Wednesday’s goal is to recruit Easter to the side of the Old Gods, because even though she’s not exactly on the side of the New Gods (since her existence relies more on Christianity adopting her day than anything the New Gods have done for her, regardless of what Media says about it) she still denies needing anything more than what she already has. To get Easter on their side, Wednesday claims that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods after pledging his allegiance and forging a sword for him. She’s troubled, but she still isn’t ready to sign up for a war. Furthermore, she has a party to host and people keep showing up uninvited — people like Media and Technical Boy, and Laura and Mad Sweeney.

I originally thought that one of the Jesuses walking around the mansion was going to be the one Mad Sweeney wanted to resurrect Laura, but it turns out that Easter was the target all along. Unfortunately for Laura, Easter says that she can’t do anything to bring her back to life because she was killed by a god. After some severe intimidation from Laura, Mad Sweeney confirms that it was Wednesday who had Laura killed because Wednesday needed Shadow. Why did Wednesday need Shadow? No one seems to know except Wednesday, and I have a feeling he isn’t going to be upfront about that motivation any time soon.

An interesting aspect of American Gods is the lack of a clear-cut line between the “good” and “bad” gods. We’re introduced to the story on the side of the Old Gods and, even though most of us viewers are more likely to worship our smartphones than we are to worship Odin, we see the New Gods as the villains. Of course, it doesn’t help that Technical Boy is hideously unlikable and Mr. World is just odd — but Wednesday isn’t exactly the most upstanding or endearing individual either, since he recruits Easter under false pretenses and manipulates her from the second he sees her.

Wednesday is using Easter, just as he’s using Shadow, just as he used Mad Sweeney and he used Laura Moon. The New Gods stole their queen and Wednesday is stealing his, but the show uses Wednesday to add a veneer of custom, tradition, and glory to the Old Gods that makes them seem more genuine than the flashy New Gods. Wednesday is manipulating us, the viewers, the same as he’s manipulating the characters around him: by presenting us with a narrative that makes us rather believe in him over them. If anything, Wednesday’s recruitment of Shadow is just a way for him to further this long con because Shadow is, more than anyone else in this brewing battle, good. By aligning Shadow with himself, Wednesday reinforces the illusion of being on the honorable side of the fight, and we believe it.

On this show, ancient gods are as mercurial and shifting as they need to be to survive and keep their power, and this episode underlines their need to adapt without destroying themselves. If the Old Gods don’t want to adapt to the world, like Bilquis and Vulcan and Easter have tried to do, they must follow Wednesday’s path and force the world to adapt to them. Things happen, as Wednesday says, because gods make them happen — and gods happen because people want to know why things happen. The Old Gods just need to give humanity questions to ask and inspire wonder, then they can return humanity to the simpler worship they followed before, when Old Gods thrived.

The episode ends with Wednesday telling Shadow who he actually is: “I am called Glad-of-War, Grim, Raider, and Third. I am One-Eyed, I am also called Highest and True-Guesser. I am Grimnir and the Hooded One. I am All-Father, Gondlir, Wand-bearer. I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die. My ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, my wolves are Freki and Geri. My horse is the gallows. I am Odin.”

Wednesday — Odin — kills some faceless New God henchmen in the name of Ostara and, bolstered by the dramatic speech and the deaths in her name, Easter shows her own power by going old-school and taking Spring from the world around her. The people can have it back, says Wednesday, when they pray for it. After such a fantastic show of ability, Wednesday asks Shadow if he finally believes. Shadow says that he does. He believes everything.

The war between the gods has officially begun.

Afterthoughts:
  • “More Mr. Nancy” is at the top of my list of things I want next season. “More Ricky Whittle being the best Shadow Moon that could ever be” is in second place, only because it’s pretty much a given.
  • Wednesday’s utter inability to understand the human perspective is still one of my favorite things about the character. Shadow is angry that he watched the guy cut off Vulcan’s head then dragged him off to get a suit and Wednesday’s response is “You’re getting one too!”
  • The Believe Buffalo returns to Shadow in this episode! Fitting, since this is the episode in which Shadow finally learns to believe.
  • For a second I thought a song and dance number was about to start when the faceless henchmen began marching around Easter. I wouldn’t put it past this show.

Summer Lovin’ -- Week 22

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Welcome back to another week of our Summer Lovin' Series! I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying the longer days and beach weather that comes during the summer. I'm also loving the opportunity to discover new shows, movies, and more! Joining me this week to talk about what they're lovin' are:

Let's begin!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wonder Woman Roundtable, Part 1: The Hero 2017 Needed [Contributors: Jenn, Julia, Anne, Jon, Deb, Marilyn, Megan, Erin, and Chelsea]


Wonder Woman smashed through the box office recently (it was the highest ever U.S. opening weekend for a film directed by a woman), and continues to charm critics. Because here at Just About Write we have a lot of feelings (and embrace the mantra of #LadiesSupportingLadies), we decided to do a giant roundtable for you about the film. In fact, the roundtable was so long and well-articulated that we'll be splitting it up into parts. Check back for part two soon, but for now, enjoy our thoughts!

What was your reaction when you heard the DCEU was going to make a Wonder Woman film?


Jenn: I'm going to be honest — I haven't really been invested in DC-related content, apart from the television shows that air on The CW. But when I heard that there would be a Wonder Woman film, I was excited. I think I might be the only person on the face of the planet who didn't see her cameo in Batman v. Superman since I never watched the film. So getting the opportunity to be introduced to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in her feature film was pretty great.

Julia: When a Wonder Woman film truly was a go in 2015 with Patty Jenkins signed on to direct, I was very intrigued that a major studio would finally make a female-led superhero film. Naturally, the idea was very compelling, as the DCEU had yet to release a movie. Once I saw the trainwrecks of Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad last year, I had my qualms that a solo Wonder Woman film would work, even though Gal Gadot was the best part of BvS. However, all of my doubts were erased when the first trailer for Wonder Woman dropped. As each new trailer and clip were released, my anticipation grew and grew with the hopes that the DCEU had finally figured out what they were doing wrong and corrected their previous mistakes. Let’s just say that Wonder Woman definitely doesn’t disappoint and is the DCEU film that everyone has been waiting for.

Anne: I don’t have much of a resume when it comes to superhero movies because I think they have the potential to be so boring and trite. And such a huge reason I hold that opinion is the way women are handled in these movies. I saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron and even though Scarlett Johansson was cool(er than Hawkeye), that movie left so much to be desired for female characters. I was stunned at how willing they were to make her a love interest in a movie where she is an action character, and later irritated when toys were being made of the Avengers that didn’t include her. Where is her movie, by the way? So when I heard that there was going to be a Wonder Woman movie, I was happy — finally, you know what I mean? — but anticipated the worst.

Jon: I’d heard rumblings of a Wonder Woman film since 2007, when Joss Whedon was signed to write and direct, but nothing came to fruition. However, when it was announced back in 2015 that there would be another shot at bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen, I was hopeful but trepid. I was curious to see what Patty Jenkins would do with the source material and became more intrigued upon learning it was set in WWI — a rare background for any big budget tentpole blockbuster.

However, that intrigue was dampened considerably when Batman v. Superman AND Suicide Squad were released. If the quality of these two entries in the DCEU were THIS bad, then what is that going to spell for Wonder Woman? It can’t be that bad... could it?  Yet, when the film’s date began to get closer and closer, and early word started to leak out, my hope slowly began to return. When I walked out of the film, I was beaming. Not only was I ecstatic to witness DC’s return to form, but also getting to witness one of the best superhero films ever made.

Deb: I had such low expectations, honestly. The track record for DC’s cinematic universe producing movies that I felt captured the spirit of superheroes was so low that I just wrote them off entirely after Man of Steel. I didn’t feel an ounce of excitement at the idea of them tackling Wonder Woman because I just felt like they’d do what they did with all their other movies: bog it down with brooding angst and cynicism. That’s so very against what Wonder Woman is — but it’s also very against what Superman is, and they managed to make him a brooding angst-machine, so why would Wonder Woman be any different? I am incredibly glad that I was wrong.

Marilyn: “It’s about time!” I was really starting to think superhero stories were the domain of male characters, at least in the cinematic universes. Annoying. Mostly, I was glad for it. I was glad the story was being told because it was well past time and in the DC universe, Wonder Woman is a major character. She should have her own feature film.

Megan: I was thrilled, but I was ultimately extremely scared. I’m always worried about DC universe films because I think that Zack Snyder tries too hard to differentiate himself from the Marvel universe and DC television universe that it ends up being garbage. But then when I heard that he wouldn’t really have much to do with it and it would be a woman who took the story of Diana Prince seriously, I was over the moon. Once I heard them talk about it last year at SDCC, I was hooked.

Erin: I know next to nothing about the Marvel and DC universes. I wouldn't have been able to tell you which one Wonder Woman was in. I didn't even know she was from a comic book. I thought the Lynda Carter show was where it began. So, when I heard it was going to be a movie I thought it was cool, but chalked it up to being part of these superhero franchises that don't really interest me. It wasn't until I heard that Patty Jenkins was directing that I got excited. Any time a female director is behind something big, I get excited even if I'm not familiar with the story or source material.

Chelsea: I’m one of those people that has superhero film fatigue. I’ve only really loved the first two Captain America films and Thor as a character, but the rest just barely amuse or bore me. The DCEU is terrible and before Gal Gadot, Margot Robbie was the only thing keeping me there. Man of Steel was just a garbage fire and I have only bothered with the Wonder Woman scenes in Man of Steel. Her scenes gave me hope that she would do the character right. I had complete faith Patty Jenkins would be fine. Monster is a terrific film, and Jenkins has done some great television directing. Once I saw the San Diego Comic-Con footage last summer, I knew I was 100% on board. I was so tired of the basic white boy superhero film and all of them having the same story. I was so ready for a female story.

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Wonder Woman was the highlight of Batman v. Superman for many last year. After seeing the film, what impression did her solo story leave you with?


Jenn: Like I said above, I never watched Batman v. Superman so I couldn't even tell you what her cameo was about in that film. But the solo story was incredible — it was exactly everything I could possibly want from an origin story film. It was fresh and fun, beautifully directed, and allowed us to follow Diana's journey with ease. The natural rise and fall of the action and plot was great. I didn't even mind that it was almost two and a half hours long because it didn't FEEL tedious (like, admittedly, so many films around Oscar season do). Even knowing next to nothing about Wonder Woman's origins (before the film I would have had no idea how to pronounce Themyscira), I was able to follow what was going on. Diana is incredible and I love her so much as a hero and a nuanced, layered female character. The only qualm is that there were far too many slo-mo action shots for my liking (I was burnt out on them this year because Arrow overused them too).

Julia: I honestly didn’t know much about Wonder Woman’s origin going into her solo film, so I was surprised with how her story is deeply intertwined with Greek mythology. However, I was upset with how the DCEU twisted the classic Greek mythology to fit their own needs without any regard for what Greek mythology actually means. Wonder Woman felt a lot like Captain America: The First Avenger because their origins are similar to a degree in the way they are told. I really enjoyed all of the action scenes, sans parts of the final battle between Wonder Woman and Ares, and thought that they were done very well (with the best sequence being the trenches of No Man’s Land scene).

The best part of Wonder Woman is that it is Gadot’s film and no one tries to take the lead away from her. She is a kick-butt warrior, and I wish more people would talk about how great she was instead of talking about the other characters. Wonder Woman is a great female-led superhero film and sets the bar high for the other DCEU films and all of the Marvel female characters — including the solo Captain Marvel film set for 2019 and Ant-Man and the Wasp set for 2018.

Anne: Well said. I guess for me, having little experience with superhero mythology, I thought that the story was entertaining but tonally clunky. I thought that Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were obnoxiously charming together, and I wish that the movie had held with the more lighthearted vibe it gave off for the movie’s first hour or so, especially because almost everything else in the movie was pretty paint-by-numbers. I honestly had no idea what World War that was supposed to be! In addition, the villain doesn’t ring especially true and doesn’t connect with Diana’s personal story as much as I would have liked. I did like how the story tied back to good and evil in a novel way — challenging Diana’s naivete — but the structure of the story is something I’ve seen a million times, which is why more consistent humor or a more personal story would have gone a long way.

Jon: I had only briefly dabbled in Wonder Woman’s backstory prior to viewing this (my only history being a couple of comics and Susan Eisenberg’s iconic take from the 2004 Justice League animated series), but as Julia said, I was surprised at how elements of Greek myths were woven throughout the tale. What pleasantly surprised me was that while the Greek myths were an aspect, they weren't THE aspect. Rather the focus was put more on the darkness of humanity itself: how we, as human beings, have an inner darkness within us, and how someone’s initial view of us can change over time. It’s a topic that I found rather welcoming in a superhero film, allowing you to think rather than having everything become “CGI EXPLODE FEST.”

After viewing Wonder Woman, I decided to go back and look at Diana’s scenes from BvS. I was rather surprised to discover they make WAY much more sense after seeing Wonder Woman. They actually give you a sense of how Diana reacts to humanity in the modern world, and what motivates her to join the fight again (even if the reasons are somewhat messy, but then again, so is the whole movie). Finally, this movie is Diana’s movie, and not once did it feel like the film ever strayed focus from that. Gal Gadot was born to play this role, and she embodies it to perfection.

Deb: Wonder Woman’s film captured the superhero soul of the character well in its tone and message, which is all I ever want from a superhero film — especially one involving the very archetypal characters of DC’s universe. I didn’t need another cynical take on the follies of man, or an agonized examination of how tragic it is to be a hero, or two hours of death and explosions. I wanted Wonder Woman as the Spirit of Truth, fears of corniness be darned. I wanted her to fight for the good she believed existed in mankind and to do so with the compassion and idealism I think has always existed at the core of the character. That’s what the movie gave me, and my only complaint about the message of the film is the use of romantic love as the primary motivation at the end. But even that is a very minor personal complaint. Overall, I got the impression that the people involved in Wonder Woman actually understood the character, and I think that’s the most critical thing for a superhero movie.

Marilyn: I really tried to like Batman v. Superman, I really did. But it was just so dull. Like you said, Wonder Woman was a rare (and all too brief) breath of fresh air in that clatter-trap of a film. I guess that’s why I had no preconceptions of her solo story going into Wonder Woman. I expected to see her learn how to be a hero and, basically, that’s what I got. But her origin was so much more than most male-driven superhero stories. The focus felt a lot more organic, a lot more compelling and a lot more relatable in a real-world environment. Diana felt like a real person and as such it was so much easier for me to relate to her motivations and care about the outcomes.

Megan: Oh, God. She was the only saving grace of that film other than the quick shot we got of Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Her origin story was so absolutely enthralling. Diana came from the Amazons, a group of amazing women that were warriors and didn’t feel like they were missing out on anything by living without men. Like, they live without men and it’s a great life. That’s such a fantastic thing, if you ask me. And Diana has no problem taking on anything. Her origin story is majorly important for girls of any age to see!

Erin: Err, I didn't see Batman v. Superman, but I kind of want to because I love Diana Prince now, and more of her in anything sounds good to me.(Although, what I'm hearing from all of you, maybe not.) Wonder Woman is my first experience with her story, and I thought it was pretty great. I didn't have any preconceived notions or expectations about her origins. As a newbie going in fresh, it was super entertaining and engaging.

Chelsea: Like I mentioned above, I only watched Diana’s scenes of BvS and not the whole film. I couldn’t handle that three-hour nightmare. I was filled with joy the entire duration of this film, however. It was the same feeling I got after seeing Rey in The Force Awakens. Every moment of it worked for me and it didn’t feel like 2 hours and 21 minutes. I left and immediately wanted to go back inside. Sure, it was a lot like Captain America: The First Avenger meets the fish-out-of-water of Thor, but again, I love that film and that character, so it all worked for me. Just watching those island scenes with the other Amazons and seeing how powerful they were was thrilling. Everyone else was great in the film but Diana is such a shining star. Gal Gadot was right in saying that the film is about love — how one person can love humanity so much and want to do everything in her power to make it better, no matter the sacrifice. We do not deserve Diana Prince.
Stay tuned for the second part of our roundtable review later this week!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 3x05 Recap: "Part 5: Case Files" (A Mellow Affair) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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"Part 5: Case Files"
Original Airdate: June 4, 2017

Parts 1-4 were jam-packed with mysteries that posed many questions and set up this modern Twin Peaks world. Part 5 is a more mellow affair, but it still isn’t giving us too many answers. In fact, there’s even more to ponder.

The episode begins in Vegas. The two goons who were sent to kill Dougie are telling their boss that they weren’t successful. She starts to panic, and sends a message on a beeper, “Argent 2.” Elsewhere, a device lights up and beeps. So we’re going to start off cryptically. All right then.

Constance, the Buckhead CSI and part-time comic, has found some evidence in her autopsy of the John Doe body — a ring engraved with the inscription, “To Dougie With Love, Janey-E.” What? How? More questions!

BOB/Cooper gets his meal in prison. He doesn’t bother with it because it’s not garmonbozia, so he looks in the mirror, and BOB morphs onto half of his face. This CGI effect is incredible and super scary. It’s so subtle, but so unsettling, and an interesting callback to when Leland would look into a mirror and BOB would appear. BOB/Cooper is satisfied with this. “You’re still with me. That’s good.”

Mike Nelson seems to have gotten his act together. He’s some sort of businessman who’s looking to hire an employee. That employee is not going to be Steven Burnett, though, because he had a horrible resume and a bad attitude. Mike tells his as much and then shoos him out of his office. It’s fun to see Mike having to deal with a cocky kid who is similar to how he was in high school.

At the Twin Peaks sheriff's station, Frank is talking to Harry on the phone. Oh, how my heart aches. I want Harry back so badly. Doris, Frank’s wife, comes in to give him an earful about a leaky pipe and a bucket. Candy Clark gives a great performance as Doris. It’s a bit reminiscent of Nadine in the beginning of the series, the way she would get frustrated with Ed. I like this character, but also, just chill out, Doris. Geez.

Checking back in with Cooper we see the coffee didn’t exactly revive him, but he seems to be feeling more emotion. As Janey-E fixes his tie, he looks at Sonny Jim who is staring off into space. He is overcome with emotion, and a single tear rolls down his cheek. Dang, Kyle MacLachlan. I haven’t talked too much about his performance on the show yet, but I think he is doing a phenomenal job. He is playing several characters, and they are all so different. Sometimes you forget that the same actor is playing them all. This look to Sonny Jim is brimming with feeling. You can read it many ways. He’s grieving the life he missed out on or he’s overwhelmed by the child’s innocence. Any way you take it, you are experiencing an intense emotion with him.

Janey-E asks Cooper, “Where’s your car anyway?” We cut to said car which is of interest to more than just the goons who rigged it with an explosive. They drive by to check on it, and then another car drives by.

Poor Cooper has to go to work. After everything he’s been through? Janey-E pushes him out of the car. He looks at a statue of a man pointing a gun, and raises his hand to mimic the statue. A peppy guy with an armload of coffees approaches him, “Off in dreamland again, huh, Dougie?” Cooper follows the coffee like a little puppy, and I cannot love him more.

Wait, yes, I can. In the elevator, his persistent insistence on getting one of those coffees leads the guy to give him Frank’s coffee. He gulps it down. The guy says, “Damn good joe, huh?” and Cooper repeats, “Damn good joe.” And there’s jazzy music during this scene, too. This is Twin Peaks, folks.

The peppy guy leads him into the insurance office where Dougie works, Lucky 7 Insurance. He’s still downing his coffee as he walks into a meeting. Frank is upset that his coffee was given away, but he begrudgingly takes the extra green tea latte instead. As it goes on Twin Peaks, his reaction is quirky and unexpected. Frank’s got a new favorite drink, I think.

Everyone finds Cooper/Dougie’s behavior odd, but they don’t question it until he interrupts the meeting by claiming that Tony (Tom Sizemore) is lying. Before he blurts out this revelation, a weird light flashes on Tony’s face. Is it Cooper’s innate investigative powers kicking in or an otherworldly Black Lodge side effect at play? The boss isn’t too pleased with Cooper/Dougie, and asks to speak with him afterwards.

Dougie’s boss gets Cooper’s agent senses tingling again with keywords like “agent” and “case files.” Recognition flashes in his eyes for a moment. It’s like the coffee jumpstarted him. C’mon, Coop! You can do it!

Cooper may have gotten off scot-free after winning a small fortune at the Silver Mustang, but the casino supervisor is not so lucky. The mobsters that run the joint — which includes Jim Belushi in a chilling role as a mob boss — rough him up before firing him. They tell the pit boss, who gets promoted to the job, to tell them if he ever sees Cooper again. Also, there are three showgirls in pink who are brought in for this whole thing, and it serves absolutely nothing besides being an uncomfortable use of pretty girls during a violent scene. They are given names though: Mandie, Candie, and Sandie.

Back in Rancho Rosa, the kid who lives across the street from the house where Dougie’s car is parked, goes to check it out. As he inspects the device under the car, the second car that was surveilling it earlier pulls up, and the punks scare the kid away. They break into the car and it explodes. Two of the punks that are still alive drive away. The kid runs back to his house and watches the car burn. His druggie mom wakes up, and there is this strange, loud music cue that filled me with dread. It made me think something big was going to happen, but then we cut away.

Jade is getting her car washed. The attendant gives her a motel key that he found on the floor of her jeep. She smiles at it and says, “Oh, Dougie.” The key instructs the finder of it to put it in the mail, so she drops it in the mailbox nearby. Jade is going to help save Cooper! Can you believe?! I’m really happy to see her again, and this is a great way to send a clue to Twin Peaks as well as have her back. I still hope we see more of her, though.

We finally get to visit the Double R! Norma is doing her bookkeeping and watches Shelly’s daughter come in and ask Shelly for money. Shelly gives it to her as Norma looks on, disapprovingly. Shelly’s daughter is Becky, played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica MarsTwin Peaks homage is on the real thing now!). Another piece of casting I didn’t see coming. She is credited as Becky Burnett, and the guy who plays her boyfriend is Steven Burnett (the guy that Mike kicked out of his office). What is going on here? I hope we get some explanation. And I hope that Becky is the daughter of Shelly and Bobby although I don’t understand where this Burnett surname is coming from.

Norma commiserates with Shelly as they watch the two kids in the car in the parking lot. I love that Norma and Shelly are still as close as they were during the original run. Peggy Lipton and Madchen Amick fall back into these roles effortlessly. It’s like they never left them.

In the car, we learn that Steven is a dumb jerk cokehead. It feels like this is supposed to be a modern-day Bobby, but I’m not okay with that. I don’t like this guy, and I liked Bobby almost instantly even though you weren’t really supposed to like him. I can get behind Seyfried’s Becky being similar to Laura Palmer, though. She, too, seems like she’s filled with secrets. There is an overhead shot of her as they drive away, and the high from the drugs kicks in, that is really beautiful. “I Love How You Love Me” by 60s pop girl group, The Paris Sisters, plays over it, giving it a dreamy quality. It reminds me of Mulholland Drive, as well.

Best scene of the night goes to this next one with Dr. Jacoby. “Iiiiiit’s 7 o’clock. Do you know where your freedom is?” Dr. Jacoby has a vlog (complete with props and sound effects) where he becomes Dr. Amp and rants about corporate conspiracies. He’s not just raging; he has a solution for it. And you can, too, for just $29.99 plus shipping . That’s right, those gold shovels were not for some mystical ritual to dig his way to the Black Lodge or whatever. They are to “shovel your way out of the shit and into the truth.” This insanity lasted a glorious five minutes, and I loved every second of it. His show is a hit with at least two Twin Peaks residents. Jerry is watching while he smokes his weed in the woods, and Nadine looks on with visible fondness. I bet she can appreciate Dr. Jacoby’s enterprising ideas, having had her own ingenious but useless invention. She also looks like she’s drinking a protein shake. Is she still ridiculously strong?

Cut from that to the Pentagon because why the heck not? Ernie Hudson (!) as Colonel Davis is told that there’s been another hit on Major Garland Briggs. That make 16 hits over the past 25 years. He assigns Lieutenant Cindy Knox to check it out even though it is probably “another wild goose chase.”

There’s a band playing on stage at The Roadhouse and I check the clock because I don’t want it to be over yet. It’s a psych out because we still have 12 minutes. Just when you think you’re noticing a pattern, Lynch is like nah, fool.

A guy sits at one of the booths smoking under a large No Smoking sign. He is asked to put his cigarette out, and responds, “Make me.” Deputy Chad in civilian clothes says he will handle it. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t, but instead asks for a cigarette. The guy gives him the pack and tells him to keep it. Chad looks inside and there is a wad of cash. He conspicuously winks at him before leaving. Ugh, Chad.

There is a cut to the band and a strobe light effect flashes for a moment. Flashing lights usually mean something. A girl in the booth next to the smoking guy asks for a light. He grabs her and basically tells her he’s going to rape her. It’s really very awful, and I felt uncomfortable watching it, not to mention disappointed that Lynch included this unnecessary scene of violence. Not until I heard a fan theory did my disappointment abate.

The smoking guy is credited as Richard Horne. First name is Richard which was mentioned by the Giant (or ???????) in Part 1, when he said, “Richard and Linda.” Last name is Horne which is the same as Audrey’s. The theory is that Audrey, who was so enamoured with Agent Cooper, was deceived by his evil doppelganger when he escaped the Black Lodge, leading them to have a child together. BOB represents pure evil and assaulting women is a purely evil act. It is also how BOB manifested in the original series and in Fire Walk With Me. If Richard is the spawn of BOB then this scene shows that and is, therefore, part of the story. If not, then it is a useless glorification of violence against women. I’m hoping it’s the former. This theory further speculates that Linda is the product of a union between Annie and Cooper, thus the antithesis of Richard.

This theory is pretty solid, and I think I am going with it. However, that means that poor Audrey was fooled into thinking she was with her beloved Cooper, and then had a demon child. That is not what I want for Audrey. Maybe she can be a vital part of fighting the evil. If this all checks out, I’m going to need some justice for Audrey.

Back in the prison, BOB/Cooper is given his private phone call. He teases the warden who he knows is watching and recording his call. “Should I call Mr. Strawberry? No, I don’t think he’s taking calls.” I would not be surprised if Mr. Strawberry turns out to be an actual character. He pushes a bunch of buttons on the phone — too many buttons for it be a real phone number — and everything goes haywire. Alarms ring, lights flash, BOB/Cooper calmly says into the phone, “The cow jumped over the moon.” He hangs up and all the commotion stops.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, we see that black box from the beginning. The lights flash, it beeps, and then crumples into a pebble-sized hunk of metal.

Cooper is waiting outside by the statue outside his office building. He’s been standing there for some time. The credits roll.

This episode sort of fooled you into thinking you could take a little breather from all the mystery, but as you look closer you see there is plenty to unpack. While it’s labor intensive, it is also really fun; and like with the original series, these images, and frames, and plot points will stick with you for years and years.

Stray Observations:
  • I love this character, Constance, played by Jane Adams. It’s great that she keeps showing up, and even better knowing now that she’s an amateur comedian. 
  • There are red balloons in the courtyard outside of where Dougie works. There was a red balloon in the house of the druggie mom and her kid and at Dougie’s house for Sonny Jim’s birthday.
  • “This is Dr. Amp doing the vamp for liberty. Climbing the ramp to justice. Lighting the lamp of freedom.” Dr. Amp is such a gift. Also, he would make a really rad Halloween costume. 
  • The band that is playing at The Roadhouse is Trouble. David Lynch’s son, Riley Lynch, plays guitar and Lynch’s sound supervisor, Dean Hurley, plays the drums.
  • Morley’s cigarette sighting!
  • Agent Tammy is looking at a photograph of Agent Cooper that looks like a movie still of him in The Black Lodge. How would the FBI have a photo of him in there?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Yo, TV Execs: These Chains On Me Won’t Let Me Be [Guest Poster: Ashvini]

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During late March last year, I had some downtime so I took to catching up on a show that I had previously abandoned: Sleepy Hollow.

It’s a show that I really enjoyed, but couldn’t quite keep up with. The premise, admittedly, is ludicrous, but the show did survive for four seasons. And no matter how silly the show seemed to me, one thing that moved me enough to keep watching was the acting of Nicole Beharie, whom I respect a lot as a person and an actress. There was this pragmatism to her interpretation of Abbie Mills that was enrapturing.

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Within a few weeks of catching up on the show I found out from a Vulture article that Beharie’s character was killed off of the show. I was so angry. Beharie is a darn treasure and I couldn’t understand how the writers and/or producers thought killing her character off of the show was a good idea at all.

This news kind of propelled a gradual string of bad TV-related news for me. The next disappointment hit later on the next year in February. I’m also a fan of Shadowhunters, but only for one reason: Magnus Bane (played by actor Harry Shum Jr., who best known for his long-standing role on Glee). The character, a bisexual warlock, has this immense sincerity that resonates with me on an almost transcendent level. Also it doesn’t hurt that he is just as glitter, make-up, and cat-obsessed as I am.

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I was thrilled, up until February, with the way the showrunners were choosing to depict the character, because it’s not often that an male, Asian (or anyone of Asian heritage for that matter) character gets any real agency on a cable TV show.

As the second season premiered in January, I was still happy with the genuine nature of the character’s growth and development. But one can’t be content about a TV show for too long, I suppose. In the seventh episode of the second season, Magnus’s agency was sidelined to prop up his love interest, a white male Shadowhunter (a half-angel, half-human soldier) named Alec Lightwood.

Basically the premise was this: Alec is a virgin and in a relationship with someone he cares for deeply (Magnus). He wants to lose “it” with him. Yet, instead of talking to his boyfriend about what he wants, Alec seeks help from his sister who essentially tells him to “get it, girl” (I paraphrase). Despite Magnus voicing his hesitation with exploring the more physical side of their relationship, Alec ignores him, essentially shushing him with a passionate kiss which implies more.

The showrunners tried to explain the reasoning behind this story decision. But lacking any sort of well-reasoned gravitas, the explanations fell flat.

Many fans were completely outraged. I was heartbroken. Magnus Bane is a character I have a deep attachment to, and seeing him sidelined in such a blatant manner really upset me. I’m not kidding when I say I got physically nauseous. My trust in the people behind the show, since then, has diminished.

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Then came this month’s decision from Netflix that not one, but two, of its shows would be getting the ax. Which shows, you ask? Oh, just two of my favorite productions ever: The Get Down and Sense8.

When I first watched The Get Down, it was akin to discovering gravity. The whole time I was watching the first episode, I was like, “How has this not revolutionized the entire world yet?” The show is excellent. Taking the history of hip-hop from its origins with Grandmaster Flash in the 70s and setting it in the colorful, electric world of Baz Luhrman’s South Bronx is genius. The music is dope. The outfits are poppin’. The writing is fantastic and perfectly maintains the colloquisms of the era. And the characters? Unforgettable. I can still hear the main character, Ezekiel Figuero’s, narration in my head: Mylene, Mylene, my butterscotch queen, this summer could you be my girl and I could be your king?

Watching Sense8 also changed my entire world. The idea that eight people worldwide could be telepathically connected is a bit ludicrous, but the Wachowskis knew exactly what they were doing. In fact, they had planned out the entire series. There was this dynamic realism to the show that I hadn’t witnessed in any other show and what’s more is, every single one of the characters represented not only a certain ethnicity but an inner struggle. Sympathizing with the characters and their plights came easy. Watching them fight for their lives, with each other, was a fascinating sensory-overload and I’m glad I got to witness two seasons of it.

So reading that these two shows were getting canceled was yet another weird stomach twist of anger and heartbreak. Of the reasons behind their cancellations, ratings being the main one, I couldn’t help but think there was some overarching reason.

Both shows featured diverse casts. The Get Down was unique in the sense that it had an all POC main cast. Sense8 featured actors from all over the world, talented and capable in their own right.

Were the shows less popular and thus canceled because they were diverse? It’s disappointing to think that was a factor. Netflix CEO Reed Hasting said that despite the shows being critical darlings, both were canceled because they didn’t quite have the reach that other successes like Stranger Things or 13 Reasons Why did.

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Baz Luhrmann, despite happily watching his vision come to life, didn’t want to solely steer The Get Down ship. That project was a lot to juggle, and because he couldn’t find someone to take over, he figured it was best to just end it altogether. For Sense8, it was the same configuration: a mix of high production costs, low ratings, and contract problems led to the cancellation decision.

Whatever was Netflix’s exact reason, for me, seeing POC represented on both shows was vital. They were voices I could fathom, voices I’ve heard and seen. They were projections of people, despite age and era, I could relate to. It was empowering to see Mylene Cruz sing “Set Me Free” with such a gratifying fervor; I thought, this young brown girl in the 70s is setting free of the chains society has set on her. Why can’t this young brown girl, i.e. me, do the same? Nothing’s stopping me. Seeing Kala Dandekar, an Indian girl trapped in a web of her own indecision on Sense8 helped me make sense of my own indecision trap. I’m not the only one, I thought. My story is universal.

If these shows had such an impact on me, it’s only logical to think about what kind of impact they had on other POC. After all, seeing ourselves depicted on the big screen isn’t just for kicks and giggles. Television influences us and our behaviors and perceptions of the world. Having the ability to point at a character and say, “Oh my God, he/she/they are just like me!” is life-changing. See, that’s what I was able to do with Abbie Mills, what I’m able to do with Magnus Bane, with Mylene Cruz, and Kala Dandekar. I’m able to see parts of myself — parts that alienate me from the majority — validated.

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And that validation sets me free.

So, the trend of sidelining our stories has to end.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Veep 6x08 Recap: "Judge" (Veep-Fried Comedy) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

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“Judge”
Original Airdate: June 11, 2017

One of the things I liked about Seinfeld was its “no hugs” policy. Veep unofficially adopted this rule, I think. In “Judge,” though, they stray from that and it works. Gary as a character and Tony Hale as an actor were able to bring a sentimentality into a show that is basically an emotional wasteland.

Gary brings his work family to meet his real family. He’s throwing himself a 40th birthday bash at his childhood home. I cannot believe Selina kept her promise of coming to his party. Just the thought of it is ludicrous, but by the end of the episode it makes more sense. Selina’s heart may be black, but there’s a tiny gray area in there for Gary. Seconds after I verbally expressed my shock, Selina addresses it: “Is anybody else as shocked as I am that I’m doing this?”

Gary’s parents are wonderfully played by Jean Smart and Stephen Root. They don’t have a terrible amount of screen time, but they are both able to fill their roles with complexity. There is a lot behind the Southern charm, and so much more than the stereotype. I mean, they are responsible for the person Gary is today. The pair heaped considerable neuroses into him, and the fact that he is able to function (and be adorable) is commendable.

Selina makes the trip and party all about her in record time, thanks to the appearance of Ambassador Jaffar. Seeing him show up in Gary’s boyhood home is as jarring and ridiculous as Selina’s presence, but rather than be skeptical about it, I found it pretty funny. Jaffar is a worldly fellow who exudes coolness. Putting him into this country-fried nightmare somehow made him more charming. Being out of place in this setting becomes an enviable quality, and he manages it without coming off as condescending.

While I’m being charmed by Jaffar, he is falling under the spell of Selina, even when she spirals into a horrible caricature of a down-home country bumpkin. As the night goes on, her impression becomes more and more grotesque, peaking when she steals Gary’s story. That may be the only happy childhood memory Gary has of his father, and Selina doesn’t think twice about selling it for library money.

The hurt Gary feels is to be expected. What is unexpected is for that hurt to register on his face so earnestly. Usually Gary’s face is a wealth of comedic reactions. For him to show pure emotional anguish is significant, and juxtaposed with Selina’s best Jeff Foxworthy imitation makes witnessing this unfamiliar emotion gut wrenchingly sad, but with that impervious Veep apathy to soften the blow.

Similarly, when Gary blows up at his father, raw feelings are deep-fried in comedy. It’s edited in such a way where Selina’s remarks are the punchlines to Gary’s outbursts. Tony Hale does a remarkable job of balancing emotion and humor, never once letting it slip into the maudlin or become slap-sticky. Julia Louis-Dreyfus backs him up, punctuating his performance with perfectly executed quips. Stephen Root is the epitome of “acting is reacting.” Judge’s subtle responses to Gary range from mock shock to sheer rage which keeps the emotional element that the show has introduced afloat.

This plot has shaken up the status quo of the Selina/Gary relationship, and it would be a mistake to have it develop further than this episode. The resolution is dealt with in the same manner as the issue that started it: sentiment tempered with humor. We all know Selina will never apologize or admit fault, and Gary knows it, too. Selina gives him the opportunity to forgive her without her having to be sorry. He accepts this arrangement, and all is right with the world.

Meanwhile, Amy and Mike pair up to fix one of his stupid blunders. Amy’s truck stop rant is a thing of beauty. Anna Chlumsky sells it. She presents this clunky mouthful of words as a rhapsodic diatribe, all while making it look like the most natural thing in the world. Mike is oblivious to her ramblings, lumbering along in a marsh of ineptitude of his own making. It’s a good combination.

Dan’s redundant news show storyline and Jonah’s congressional success collide in a sub-plot that ends badly for both of them. Unfortunately, Dan needs Jonah to keep his career intact. Jonah knows how to exploit that need. He forces Dan to hang out with him like they used when they were “best friends,” and then screws him over by doing the interview with Jane McCabe instead. But, Jonah has truckloads of karma coming his way, and his coveted interview gets overshadowed by his very own group, The Jeffersons, who are reclaiming the name, The Libertonians.

Also, Jonah fired Ben, so Ben is the one that comes out on top in all of this.

Stray Observations:
  • Gary’s mom called Marjorie, “Mr. Marjorie.”
  • “McLintock Morsels” sounds so gross. Mike, no. 
  • Do not give Jonah long-handled tools to swing anymore. 
  • “The diary is all you’re good for. The diary should’ve lost you.”
  • “We’re in Gary’s house, and this whole place is like a vortex of sexual confusion.”
  • “You’re a freshman congressman who still uses his mom’s Netflix password.”
  • “You had Green Acres in Qatar?” “Oh yes, but they censored all the scenes with Arnold Ziffel.”
  • “I skinned it, and made a fur vest and matching boots for my G.I. Joe doll. Bam! Sucka!”
  • Toby Huss, the actor that plays Quartie, also played The Wiz on Seinfeld. (Nobody beats him.)
  • Marjorie’s disappointment in the vegetarian options is hilarious. 
  • “There’s so much I want to say to you, Mama.” “Well, we just won’t say it.” Jean Smart’s Imogene isn’t just the comedic relief to the cruelty of Stephen Root’s Judge. The loving, but complicated relationship between Gary and his mom is apparent in the short amount of time we’ve seen them together.

7 Reasons Why Orin is the Best Parks and Rec Character [Guest Poster: Rebecca]

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I know I’m way late on the Parks and Recreation train, but I’ve finally gotten around to watching and finishing what I consider one of the greatest, funniest, most feminist and diverse network television shows. One of the few shows that made me actually laugh out loud, Parks and Rec was a roller coaster of emotion as we watched the Pawnee Parks Department evolve and change throughout the years.

In a tear-jerker of a final episode, we were shown the fates of all of our favorite characters: Leslie and Ben take on Washington, April and Andy settle down and have a family, Jerry/Garry/Larry/Terry/Barry gets his dream job, Craig finds his happy ending, Donna and Tom go on to great success, etc.; however, I noticed a very important person was missing.

Orin.

April’s friend Orin, a brooding and mysterious enigma of a person, randomly appears when he’s least expected, which is what makes his character is so incredible. I always found Orin’s scenes to be the highlights of the episodes in which he popped up, so I feel that the producers cheated Orin by not fleshing out his future.

Objectively speaking, Orin is the best. He’s relatable, he’s honest, and he’s hilarious without trying to be. But Orin is also so much more than that: he’s inspirational and a revolutionary, someone who strives to expose injustices and subvert oppressive social norms.

Here are 7 reasons why Orin is the minor character none of us deserved:

1. He rejects authority. 


Orin proves that oppressive restrictions are meant to be challenged and broken. Whether it be violently removing Native Americans from their homes or rigging the socioeconomic system to force people of color into “ghetto” neighborhoods, the American government has always told certain groups of people what spaces they can and can’t inhabit. In this scene, Orin defiantly takes a stand against these rules and challenges authority by attempting to claim his own territory.

2. He forces us to confront our own mortality.


Death is scary. It’s permanent, painful, and worst of all, inevitable; we all will die someday. That can be difficult for many people to come to terms with, but Orin inspires us to incorporate death into everyday conversations to familiarize ourselves with the concept. By stripping away death’s mystique and the power of uncertainty it holds over us, we eliminate the fear, allowing us to live freely and uninhibited.

3. He disrupts and subverts our idea of “art.”


Unless art is mainstream and digestible by the masses, it often goes unappreciated. How often have you heard someone say “I could have done that!” when describing a minimalist art piece? We are so accustomed to thinking of art as Van Gogh or Picasso that we forget that art is limitless. There are infinite types of art that hold infinite meanings to both the artist and the viewer. Orin’s art exhibit reminds us that there is more than one type of art, and that different types of art appeal to different groups of people.

4. He revealed the hypocrisy that infiltrates the American job search process.


Entry level positions require 3-5 years of experience. Companies post openings to online job boards when they already have a candidate in mind. Some places won’t accept any applicants without a STEM degree, regardless of the position. The job searching process is infuriatingly frustrating and full of hypocrisies and favoritism. Orin helped expose this when he was instantly dismissed as an applicant for the animal control director position. Furthermore, he challenged the job search process by refusing to comply with the strict guidelines dictated by the traditional resume.

5. He reminded us introverts that it’s still possible to have a functioning social life.


It’s clear that Orin is an introvert — he often looks uncomfortable in social situations and is not one to make friends with everyone he meets; however, he proves that it’s still possible to make friends and have a social life. He gets invited to all kinds of parties and social events and has a solid friend base. He even overcomes this social anxiety to attend job interviews and create his own public art projects.

6. He rejects traditional gender roles.


From painting his nails to taking on the role of April’s mother, Orin shows viewers that gender norms are outdated and ridiculous. He proves that men can be feminine and that women can be masculine. Additionally, as illustrated in this scene, his relationship with Champion subverts traditional marriage roles; Orin takes on the more paternal and authoritative role, while Champion remains in the kitchen, preparing dinner.

7. He revealed truths that awoke our third eyes.


Power corrupts, and “money is the root of all evil,” but we forget those things in our materialistic, capitalistic society. We become swept up in what our media and government tells us that we unconsciously forget to critique them, the very people who write our narrative. We should always be suspicious of authority, unjust laws, and those who rise in the system in order to maintain oppressive social norms. Orin reminds us to challenge those who hold power and to keep our eyes — and ears — open as we navigate through society.

Orin is a complex and fascinating part of the Parks and Rec universe, one who brings to light many revelations about society and the human condition, but often goes ignored or unappreciated by fans and producers alike.

I, for one, am thankful for the raw honesty and insight that Orin brought to Parks and Rec, and I hope that one day we learn what happened to him in 2017 and beyond.