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Sunday, December 31, 2017

7 POC TV Characters Who Wowed Me in 2017 [Guest Poster: Ashvini]

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This year brought forth some amazing television shows — both returning and new — that carried with them a nuance for telling the stories of POC in the mainstream like I’ve never seen before. I mostly consume comedies, but the heavy dramas and teen-targeted soaps contained beautiful writing for various wonderfully crafted characters who were so much more than just tropes and scapegoats. Instead, they were characters in their own right who had agency and were vital to the bedrocks of their respective shows.

So, my dear readers, here are seven of these characters that wowed me:

William Jackson Harper as Chidi Anagonye (The Good Place)

I love, love, love The Good Place. I honestly cannot stress this enough. And to me, Chidi Anagonye is one of the bright, shining stars that makes this show as witty and profound as it is. Played by the ever-talented William Jackson Harper, Chidi was a professor of ethics and philosophy and is now bound to the shackles of the bad place due to his extreme indecisiveness that caused the people closest to him a lot of strife. It’s a peculiar position to be in, and Harper plays on that peculiarity very well, working in a self-awareness and quirkiness that’s delightful to watch. I was initially worried that Chidi would become second to Kristen Bell’s Eleanor as the wonderful lead, but they are a duo more than anything else. And on his own, Chidi charms me to no end.

Jameela Jamil as Tahani Al-Jamil (The Good Place)

Tahani is the personification of the stereotypical pompous, pretentious, over-privileged British person. Ultimately she finds herself in the bad place for jealousy of her ultra successful, famous sister. And although Tahani was a successful philanthropist, she did her good deeds in vain. Not quite angelic material, to say the least. However, I think that Tahani is so very interesting and relatable to me — I also have a brilliant older sibling and growing up, at times I felt overshadowed. Thankfully, I’ve grown out of this phase and my older sibling is one of my closest confidants but it’s still a sore subject. Tahani’s desperation to simultaneously be better than people and be good is an entertaining paradox to watch play out, and Jamil’s inherent charisma makes Tahani feel authentic, instead of flat. I hope to see more of her story in season three.

Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza (The Good Place)

Jason Mendoza is a stupid, unsuspecting guy sentenced to the bad place along with Chidi, Tahani, and Eleanor. He got his one-way ticket because he tried to rob a pizza place in a portable locker and ended up dying from lack of oxygen. It’s so ridiculous that it’s somehow believable. Now, I love Jason. Despite his idiocy he’s sweet and simple; even though he’s supposed to be an incredibly dim-witted character, Jacinto channels a sincerity that’s infectious and difficult to forget. This makes Jason lovable — despite all of the reasons he shouldn’t be — and it’s fun to watch. Here’s to getting more of Jason and his amateur DJ career fleshed out on screen in 2018.

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Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane (Shadowhunters)

Listen, in all honesty, I only watch Shadowhunters because of Magnus Bane. Or actually, for Magnus Bane. Do I fast-forward through all of the parts of the episodes that don’t have Magnus in them? Maybe. Am I missing essential parts of the plot by doing that? Not necessarily. See to me, Shum Jr.’s Magnus Bane is the most compelling part of that show. His origin story as a warlock and as the High Warlock of Brooklyn is uncommonly engaging; his notable glamour and easy allure are weaved into his mannerisms so carefully and so delicately that it’s almost too easy to fall in love with him and the crux of who he is. Which is, a fundamentally good person who bad things have happened to; this makes him not only extremely relatable, but it gets the audience invested in not just in him but who he will become in potential later seasons. Really, he has “protagonist” written all over him. My wish is that the producers and writers let him be one in 2018. He deserves it.

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Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson (This Is Us)

In 2017, This Is Us became an important show to me. It’s about family and history, two things that I treasure the most in this world. Furthermore, when you tie these two things together what you get are memories; and those have the power to move worlds. This beautiful, highly emotional show recognizes that power and gives each of its characters an integral part to play in the catalog of Pearson family memories — both the ones that have already been created and the ones that are in development. It’s lovely and unique to watch, and only made better by the current season’s centralization of the “Big Three” or the Pearson triplets. Kevin, Kate, and Randall all struggle together and apart and the more we see them do so, the more we understand their natures which is vital to the dynamism of the show.

In particular, I want to single out Randall, played by Sterling K. Brown. What I like about Randall is that he is persistent in everything he does: a quality that’s valued by his friends and family (though it is hard for him to take risks). Despite all of the taxing circumstances that have shaped his life, he is afraid of change that isn’t calculated and to me that’s fascinating. Randall is a character that represents sensitivity at its most gentle, so it’s no wonder that it is so difficult for him to face hardships. But time and time again, he confronts his obstacle and he persists. He gets out of his head and acts, and it’s inspiring to watch.

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Hannah Simone as Cece Parekh (New Girl)

I wish that they had fleshed Cece out more in previous seasons but as it is, she remains to be the best friend of the titular “new girl” and the apple of Schmidt’s eye. Yet where another actress may have fallen into trope-dom, Hannah Simone’s unyielding presence proves to bring Cece to the forefront more often than not. And in the last season, the audience got to see that part of the character shine through her plots with Schmidt and their marriage, and her lovely friendships with Winston and Jess. I think Hannah Simone is a force of nature, and I think that that force is hard to contain since it bleeds through so easily on screen and makes Cece a powerhouse when she’s the focus of a story. I’m only praying that Cece is the focus of more than one story in the new and last season, in 2018. *prays really hard*

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Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop (New Girl)

No doubt, Winston is the most consistently hilarious character on New Girl. Much like a modern day mix of Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani, Winston Bishop in the past has operated as a scapegoat and distraction but Morris’s cleverness and highly pleasant nature makes Winston a foundation to the show rather than a puppet. In the last season, he’s more than just a punchline — he’s the one handing them out, and seeing that shift was vital to see in a genre that all too often uses Black men as comic relief. I humbly think that after the show ends, Winston will be one of the most remembered characters, with Ferguson, his pranks, and puzzling to be imprinted on the minds of millennials everywhere. That’s a game-changing reality.

Please remember that these are characters from television shows that I consume, so it’s not at all representative of the wide array of POC characters that graced our screens this year. But they are seven examples of the ever-changing landscape of minority representation in western media, and positive ones at that.

So, I’m raising a glass of pink bubbly with the optimism that 2018 will give us more diverse, reflective television characters and stories that will continue to empower people worldwide and improve our perspectives and understandings of humanity.

Onward and upward.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: A Look Back on the Good in Pop Culture [Contributor: Jenn]

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Actually, it was 2017.

As we all reflect on this dumpster fire of a year, it’s easy to think about all of the things that went wrong — all of the scandals and attacks and assaults and, well, basically everything and anything related to our government. And while it’s easy to get bogged down in the unbearable sadness, the rage and disappointment of it all, it’s also important that we look back on 2017 and remember the few good things that happened. We need to hold onto the hopeful and happy memories as we move into the next year.

So that’s what I’m going to do! Instead of my typical year-end review, I’m going to be discussing the things in 2017 that I really loved — things that made me hopeful, happy, and reminded me that even during a crappy year, there is still some good in the world. So join me as I reflect on some of the better things in television, music, and film!

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New Girl continued to be consistent perfection.

You all know how much I love New Girl, right? This year, my delightful little FOX comedy continued to shine. It makes me sad to realize that next year at this time, the show will have ended. But I’m thankful that in 2017, it was a source of laughter and hope for me. Our favorite loft crew has grown up — everyone is getting married, moving out, or having babies. The characters are almost unrecognizable, but in the best way possible. New Girl has always done a fantastic job of developing their characters slowly. Nick Miller went from a lazy bartender to a published author who’s willing to fight for what he wants. Jessica Day entered the loft fresh off a break-up she thought would destroy her, and as we enter the final season of the series, she’s gone through ups and downs and realized that the best things in life are the unplanned ones. Schmidt’s character development consistently blows me away — he went from a self-centered jerk to a devoted husband and soon-to-be father. Cece has found her purpose in life and Winston went from being the loft’s goofiest member to someone who has found his true career calling and a lasting love.

When I look back on this show, I think about all of the silly moments — all of the slapstick comedy bits, one-liners, and running gags — but also the ways the show has touched my heart and made me cry. I’m so grateful New Girl existed in 2017 to make me smile and give me hope for 2018’s final season.

Steve Harrington’s character development in Stranger Things made us all swoon.

GUYS. Steve Harrington’s character development is one of the most delightful things to have happened in 2017. In the first season of Stranger Things, I found Steve to be an irritating archetype. He was the “popular guy,” and the jerk boyfriend of Nancy. He slightly redeemed himself toward the end of the season and I found his scenes with Nancy and Jonathan to be the most bearable. But at the beginning of this season of Stranger Things, something happened. The writers decided to pair Steve up with Dustin and the rest of the younger boys, and used him as a mentor/babysitter figure.

It absolutely worked.

Steve became such an endearing, delightful, sweet and yet sarcastic character and mentor to the kids. Dustin admired him, and the rest of the kids saw him as a hero because of the fact that... well, he acted heroically. He put himself in between harm’s way and the kids he was looking after. He seemed to find his purpose and Joe Keery proved that he’s a breakout star of season two.

Psych returned for one night only (... maybe).

If you loved the zany, meta, pop culture-riddled show Psych, then you likely danced around a little when you heard that the show would be back for a two-hour movie this year. In spite of the disappointing news that Timothy Omundon’s health took a turn and he was unable to participate in more than one scene (we love Omundon around here and are grateful he’s seemingly on an upswing), the rest of the cast was back in full force and they brought all of the silly, heartwarming fun to the movie that the television show propelled.

The way that Psych: The Movie ended, of course, begged the question of whether or not that would be the last time we saw our favorite fake psychic detectives (and the real ones). It looks like the entire cast would be on board for another movie or two, so I’m hopeful that 2018 brings us back to San Francisco! Maybe for Gus’ wedding?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took a darker, brilliant turn.

I fell in love with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because it was a fun, slightly-raunchy musical escapist television show. It dealt with a lot of complex topics, but it handled them with biting humor. In this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, that same tone was there — and then it shifted. Slowly, the show began to get darker and delve into Rebecca’s mental illness in a harrowingly realistic way. What could have been misconstrued as tonal whiplash actually felt extremely fitting for the series and added an entirely new layer to Rebecca Bunch and her journey. It was raw and realistic and dark and yet also hopeful. Rebecca got a mental health diagnosis, finally, and the show followed how that diagnosis affected her life and relationships with other characters. Rachel Bloom shone and while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took a risk this year, it was a risk that paid off immensely in one of the most satisfying, poignant storylines of the year.

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... While in cinema, Table 19 took an unexpected, and delightful, turn.

I walked into Table 19 fully convinced I knew the story — it was going to be a fun, Anna Kendrick fronted rom-com where the focus was on her finding love at a wedding while also participating in hijinks with her fellow Table 19 comrades. And while hijinks did ensue, I was actually surprised by the plot’s trajectory (totally different than I expected) and the heart behind it — especially when it came to the other characters in the film. It’s not easy to surprise me, but I’m grateful for this little gem of a film for being one of the bright spots of 2017.

Female vigilantes always were and continue to be > male vigilantes.

Whether it’s Jessica Jones taking down bad guys in The Defenders, or Sweet Vicious’ Jules and Ophelia perfecting their martial arts skills on rapists and sexual assaulters, 2017 was the year for female vigilantes to enact their revenge on the people who victimized both them and others. It’s scary how fitting Sweet Vicious was for 2017, and it’s disappointing that such a topically relevant series was cancelled. Jules and Ophelia were the heroes we needed this year, in light of all that happened, and while I’m sad the series is done, I’m glad it existed and empowered its female characters.

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GLOW introduced us to fabulous and complex women.

In spite of how sucky 2017 was to real women, fictional women soared this year and GLOW was a prime example of that. With a cast of immensely complex female characters, GLOW is a show that explored topics like female friendships and purpose and strength and legacies. It physically and emotionally empowered its characters and made sure none were archetypes. Alison Brie shone as the seeming villain of the series, but if GLOW proved anything, it proved that characters — especially female ones — aren’t only defined by one thing: one choice or action or characteristic. And for that, I’m grateful.

The new Taylor made her debut in reputation.

Yes, she’s problematic. We’ll get that out of the way first, and my inevitable review of her 2017 album will discuss that. But reputation marked a return to Taylor Swift’s world, and it was actually pretty great. There are a lot of songs on her album that are meant for Top 40 radio (she’s a smart cookie and knows how to work the pop radio system), but quite a few songs on reputation are reminiscent of the “old Taylor” — songs like “New Year’s Day,” for example. Swift’s lyricism continued to be beautiful, even if her musical style was more experimental this time around.

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Wonder Woman burst onto screen and made us all believe in superheroes again.

Not only did Wonder Woman make us all believe in superheroes again, but the film was directed by Patty Jenkins and became the highest-grossing film directed by a woman. Wonder Woman was all about Diana’s hero’s journey as she learned about humanity and what it means to be a hero. It is Diana’s heart and strength, combined, that makes her such a fascinating character and hero. She is equal parts compassionate and committed to justice. She is vulnerable in her decision to see the world as good and hopeful. She is willing to fight for the people she believes in. She is willing to die for them. She is willing to love. Wonder Woman was an incredible film, and it made me excited for the sequel. I hope to wake up every day in 2018 harnessing my inner Wonder Woman. (And also the No Man’s Land scene is probably my favorite in cinema this year. Just saying.)

HAIM had something to tell us — and it was delightful.

I really got into HAIM this year thanks to a mini-vacation to St. Augustine with my college suitemate. Something to Tell You was their 2017 release and if you look at my Spotify play history over the past few months, you’ll notice that I basically had this album on repeat. It’s so fun, so upbeat, and yet so poignant. “Found it in Silence” spoke to me in ways I didn’t know songs could still speak to me. And just watching the music video for “Want You Back” proves that the Haim sisters are absolute gems. Their music got me through a rough summer, but now I associate Something to Tell You with beach trips and driving with windows down. And I have to thank them for that.

Orphan Black left us with a surprisingly heartwarming goodbye.

There are times I’ll watch Orphan Black from behind almost-closed eyes. It’s gory and it’s gruesome and sometimes I can’t actually watch a scene. But the series finale was surprisingly quiet, relatively gore-free, and actually made me cry. Putting aside for a moment the fact that I’ll never be over how Tatiana Maslany can play EVERY CHARACTER ON THIS SHOW WITH EASE, Orphan Black’s ending was heartwarming. It reminded us that the thing that anchored the series was the bond between the clones: Sarah, Cosima, Helena, and Alison in particular.

So when the “seestras” sat together one final time in order to listen to Helena read her story, I got a bit weepy. There’s something incredibly impressive with how Tatiana Maslany made me believe in each and every character — how she gave them all distinct tics and voices and emotions. I’m in awe and will remain in awe of her acting prowess, especially as Helena in the finale. (Will anyone ever NOT weep during that birth scene? Asking for a friend.) Orphan Black’s goodbye was a fitting and sentimental end to an often-dark series anchored by hope and love between family.

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One Day At A Time tackled tough subjects with grace and delicacy.

When I was told to watch One Day At A Time, I was warned that I would cry. Fun fact: I cry at pretty much any and everything so I wasn’t surprised by this at all. But man, cry I did. One Day At A Time is an incredibly wonderful story about a Latinx family whose matriarch is a veteran. The show tackles topics like PTSD, immigration, faith and religion, and sexuality. Elena’s coming-out story on the show was one of the most well-handled, beautiful, heart-wrenching stories in recent memory and it was handled with such poise and grace by the show. They did right by Elena.

That’s the thing about One Day At A Time: it never feels like anything they do is a “very special episode,” even though they tackle a range of topics. It’s an honest, funny show about a family who is trying to learn how to love one another well. I should have figured from seeing Mike Royce’s name on the EP list that I would cry a lot during the show. Royce was an EP on Enlisted, which was one of the greatest and most heartwarming comedies to ever air (and it was only 13 episodes, because it got cancelled after that). The cast of the show is spectacular and contains the iconic Rita Moreno, and the show’s coming back for a second season at the end of January.

If you didn’t get the chance to binge-watch it yet, head over to Netflix and do that. ASAP.

My education in Star Wars continued through Rogue One and The Last Jedi.

Some of my Star Wars memories are good ones, and some aren’t associated with great memories this year. But you know what? I’m allowing the franchise to be my own. And having said that, 2017 was a year where I saw not one, but TWO Star Wars films in theaters. I appreciated both for very different reasons. Rogue One was a dark story, of course, but it was incredibly funny thanks to the addition of comedic relief in the form of Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO droid. Rogue One was a standalone story, and I appreciated for that and for the way it “set up” the rest of the franchise.

Meanwhile, The Last Jedi was a great story and provided some wonderful, much-needed character depth and development for the characters introduced to us in The Force Awakens. Rey is a wonderful female character and her determination, stubborn belief in hope, and also ultimate desire to do good by those she loves is admirable. The Last Jedi provided us with some depth to her though, and proved that anyone’s best qualities can ultimately be used against them. There is darkness to Rey too, and darkness to all of us. People aren’t strictly black and white, which is what I appreciate most about the characters in Star Wars. The heroes make sacrifices and sometimes do stupid things. The villains occasionally have moments of redemption but also do terrible things. (For the record though, Kylo Ren still makes me roll my eyes.)

Star Wars continues to fascinate me and I’m really excited to see where the final episode in the trilogy will take us.

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The Good Place delivered one of the best, most unexpected twists in recent memory.

You guys, THAT TWIST THOUGH. If you haven’t watched The Good Place yet, please gloss over what I’m about to tell you about the end of season one. Ready?

Here goes: it’s hard to believe that I went the entire first season not seeing the little clues that our favorite characters were actually in The Bad Place all along! Kudos to 2017 for bringing us maniacal Ted Danson, an absolutely brilliant Kristen Bell, and a cast of fantastic characters played by William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and D’Arcy Carden. Bonus: don’t you love that The Good Place (literally and show-wise) is diverse? Season two of the show has been just as funny, with new wrenches and twists every few episodes. Watch this feel-good comedy in 2018 if you aren’t already!

Sterling K. Brown proved why he’s deserving of all of the awards. Ever.

I love This Is Us and think everyone on the show is immensely talented. They’re all deserving of awards, and the writers of the show should just be handed bills for the amount I spend on Kleenex each season. But of all the stars of the show, I have to shout-out Sterling K. Brown in 2017 for his incredible, consistent, emotional work. Whether Randall is sharing a scene with William, saying goodbye to his foster daughter, or interacting with his siblings, Sterling K. Brown brings his A-game at every moment. Randall isn’t without his faults, but Brown makes him so darn endearing that if the world was filled with Randall Pearsons and Beth Pearsons (extra shout-out to Susan Kelechi Watson because her portrayal of the stubborn, loving, strong, beautiful, intelligent Beth is just perfect), I would not be mad at all. In fact, I think the world would be better if we had more Randalls and Beths in it.

Sterling K. Brown has brought so much to This Is Us, and 2017 proved that he’s not only a force to be reckoned with but also just a person you want to root for on and off screen.

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My childhood came back to life on screen in Beauty and the Beast.

Can I just tell you how wonderful it was to have Emma Watson portray my favorite Disney princess and my favorite Harry Potter character? Beauty and the Beast — the live-action version — debuted this year in theaters and you can bet that I spent a solid month listening to the soundtrack. It was a wonderful throwback to my childhood and while I know some had criticism (and I’m not immune to its flaws, certainly), I think having one of my favorite Disney stories come to life on screen this year helped me deal with the crap that happened later in 2017. There’s something so comforting about watching a fairytale come to life where you know the ending, know when characters will burst into musical numbers, and know almost exactly what to expect. There’s also something soothing in singing along to all of those musical numbers.

And I really needed that this year, didn’t you?

What were your favorite moments of 2017? Sound off in the comments below!

6 Ways the “Me Too” Movement Brightened a Year of Darkness [Contributor: Rebecca Clark]

For a lot of people, 2017 was a difficult year. As a nation, we saw a lot of political and social steps backward; as individuals, some of us experienced personal losses, some of us felt our identities were invalidated, and some of us experienced financial difficulties. Seemingly more than ever, people are looking forward to a new year, a fresh start, and an opportunity to begin anew.

But for all of its hardships, 2017 brought with it some really beautiful moments of revolution and empowerment, especially for women. At the forefront of this movement was the “Me Too” hashtag. Created by Tarana Burke in 2006, #MeToo went viral earlier this year when actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan took to Twitter to denounce Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood hotshot who had made inappropriate comments to and actions towards a large pool of actresses. Shortly after, Alyssa Milano tweeted the phrase, where it picked up steam, and everyday women began using the hashtag to detail their instances of sexual assault and harassment. Many men, such as Kevin Spacey, were fired from their networks and pulled from current and future projects as a result of people coming forward to share their #MeToo stories.

Here are six ways the “Me Too” movement served as a light in an otherwise dark year:

1. Empowered women to come together and share their stories. 

Similar to the #YesAllWomen hashtag that went viral a few years ago, #MeToo displayed just how prevalent sexual assault and harassment are, inside and outside of the workplace. #MeToo created a space for women, men, and folks of other genders who have survived sexual assault to come forward and talk about their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

2. Gave male rape/sexual assault survivors a platform. 

Terry Crews amplified male survivors’ voices when he shared his #MeToo moment in a series of tweets. Anthony Rapp followed shortly after, detailing an experience he had with Kevin Spacey when he was a minor. Too often, our society’s obsession with masculinity and toughness shames male survivors of sexual assault into silence, and #MeToo gave these survivors a chance to have their stories heard, listened to, and taken seriously.

3. Made sexual assault and harassment impossible to ignore. 

You couldn’t ignore #MeToo stories. They flooded social media, hit the covers of every magazine, showed up on every major news site, and were named Time’s Person of the Year. Everywhere you looked, someone else was coming forward and bravely sharing their story.

4. Brought attention to daily sexist microaggressions. 

When we think of violence against women, we often think of rape or sexual assault/abuse. But violence also takes it shape in words. #MeToo stories included instances of catcalling, bosses making inappropriate comments to their female employees, and feeling objectified and uncomfortable due to sad attempts at “compliments” regarding appearances.

5. Finally held men accountable for their actions. 

Brock Turner is the epitome of white male privilege: regardless of photographic evidence and tons of witnesses testifying against him, Brock was given a mere few months in jail (he didn’t even serve the whole sentence) when it came to being convicting of raping his classmate behind a dumpster. Time and time again, we see men being let off easy for sex crimes; however, with the #MeToo movement, men were held accountable. Kevin Spacey and Louis CK were let go from their contracts with Netflix. Matt Lauer was released from The Today Show. Harvey Weinstein was fired. Men who are guilty of sexual misconduct are (rightfully) scared, wondering when they’ll be next.

6. Forced society to take women (and women in pop culture) seriously.

So often, survivors who come forward are accused of lying, seeking attention, or looking for money. #MeToo has taught society to believe women who come forward. Actresses, artists, and musicians in pop culture are so often dismissed as people and not taken seriously, but #MeToo has forced the American public to take a hard look at gendered violence and what we can do as a society to do better for our women.

It’s unfortunate that it took such a dangerous and SOMETHING political climate to spearhead this conversation, and it’s even more unfortunate that so many women (and men and folks of other genders) have been affected by sexual assault and harassment, but there is power in numbers.

2017 has proven that women are a force with which to be reckoned, that we’re serious about affecting change and promoting the feminist agenda, and that we’ll stop at nothing to provide folks with safe and inclusive environments.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Once Upon A Time 7x10 Review: “The Eighth Witch” (What is Happening?) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]

“The Eighth Witch”
Original Airdate: December 15, 2017

After a few weeks off, it seemed that Once Upon A Time had finally found its footing in this rocky seventh season. Unfortunately, the show has reverted back to its confusing roots that are plaguing the season. Seemingly out of nowhere, this episode makes little sense, has minimal explanation, and goes on a totally different path that the last episode didn’t begin. I don’t particularly like that this season is so jumpy and can’t commit to a continuous storyline. Yes, the scenes that take place in Seattle typically continue the same story, but they are all over the place and accompanied by scenes from the past that make little to no sense.


This is going to be a pretty short analysis because I couldn’t figure out what was happening in this episode. The story in Seattle continued from where it left off, but it felt like it was something totally different. There are three things worth mentioning from this part of the story, since most of it focuses on Lucy being in a coma. First, Anastasia has a lot of raw power and is the only person in town with magic. It doesn’t make sense that she can use her powers in Seattle when none of the other characters with magic can, and of course, no one even tries to give an explanation.

Gothel, Drizella, and Rumple have their own plans for the newly resurrected teen, but Gothel wins this round. She steals Drizella’s magic and gives it to Anastasia, but her plan isn’t clear. The second plot point worth mentioning is the return of Zelena. The purpose of Regina and Henry’s trip to California was to find the missing witch. Regina wakes her sister up and drags her back to Seattle to try and help Lucy and maybe defeat Gothel. I really don’t know what Regina thinks they can do without magic, but it was nice to see a familiar face. It was also good to see that Zelena is still a good person like the last time we saw her. It does appear that Zelena may stick around for a few episodes as well.

Lastly, Henry tries to believe Lucy’s stories about how they are all fairy tale characters in order to wake her up with true love’s kiss. When reading about how Emma woke him up from a similar coma, Henry thinks it could work for Lucy. However, there are two major problems here: Henry doesn’t fully believe that the stories are real, and Lucy gave up her belief. It wasn’t very surprising that Henry’s kiss didn’t work.


Things in the fairy tale land were awfully confusing this time around. For starters, a major time jump shows Lucy as a baby, and then on her eighth birthday. I could be wrong, but I don’t know if Henry and Cinderella had even kissed in prior episodes. If they did, it was only once, which makes this time jump even worse. We all know they wind up together, but to jump eight years when they were in the middle of a story was a bad decision.

To make matters worse, Lucy is the only character that has aged. Regina and Zelena make a joke about time-lines, but it wasn’t that funny because they really do need to explain everything. The jumpy time-lines lead us to the eventual casting of the curse that brought all of the characters to Seattle, which was confusing and lame at the same time. Drizella created the curse, but needed Regina to cast it since the final ingredient was the blood of someone who had crushed the heart of the thing they loved most. To get Regina to comply, Drizella teams up with Gothel and a coven of unknown witches to poison Henry. The only way Henry survives is if Regina casts the curse.

Things go south quick because the better choice here was to simply let Henry die and for all the characters to kill the witches and end their misery. Since that didn’t happen, everyone is upset that Regina casts the curse. The funny part is that if the curse is broken in Seattle, then Henry will die. At this rate, when the curse does get broken, I’m sure they will find a way to save Henry because it is too late to kill him.

The mystery witches have no role, yet are made to seem extremely important. They have also made the trip to Seattle, which appears to be the next storyline when the show returns in 2018. The entire episode jumped from past to present too quickly to really give the audience a good grasp on what is happening, what the purpose is, and what direction the show is heading in. It really is a shame that the second to last episode of the year put the show back on track and then this episode destroys all the progress. Without some more detail and explanation of what is happening in each episode, Once Upon A Time is going to be unwatchable.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 5x10 and 5x11 Recaps: “Game Night” & “The Favor” (The Nine-Nine Family) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]

“Game Night” 
Original Airdate: December 12, 2017

The two-part winter finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was full of touching moments and the usual hilarious hijinks. In the last episode, Rosa revealed to Boyle that she’s bisexual. Boyle has managed to keep her secret but Rosa knows it’s only a matter of time before he accidentally reveals what he knows, so she decides to come out to the whole squad. They are super supportive and, of course, also curious about the woman she’s been seeing. Rosa’s not giving up that information yet, though.

After telling the team, Rosa approaches Jake privately to ask if it got too touchy-feely with her big reveal. Jake assures her the whole team is still terrified of her so no worries there. As they keep talking, she tells Jake she’s worried about coming out to her parents. They’re very traditional and she doesn’t think they’ll be supportive. Jake encourages her to just be honest with them.

Rosa takes Jake out to dinner later that night to thank him for his encouragement. A few minutes in, she admits the real reason she invited him is because she’s going to tell her parents and she needs him there while she does. Jake freaks out because Rosa’s dad really does not like him, but it’s too late. Her parents have arrived! As Rosa starts to tell them, her mom instead guesses that Jake and Rosa are dating. Rosa panics and says yes, that was the big news she had for them.

Meanwhile, Holt and Terry head to the Cyber Crimes unit one floor down. Ever since Cyber Crimes moved in, it’s slowed the Nine-Nine’s bandwidth down to a crawl and they want that fixed. Unfortunately, the Cyber Crimes team just laughs and refuses to help. The Nine-Nine regroups and realizes there’s only one person for this job: Gina Linetti. Gina’s been on maternity leave the past few months but they show up at her door to ask for her help.

They’re all surprised when Gina refuses, and now they have to resort to plan B. The team buys a large platter of meat to bribe the Cyber Crimes team with, and Amy says she’ll deliver it to them, using her powers flirtation to sweeten the deal. Unfortunately, Amy is terrible at flirting and it absolutely does not work. When she tries to wink, she manages to wink her contact out and Terry has to step in and deliver the meat platter.

Cyber Crimes again refuses to help and proceeds to make fun of the Nine-Nine and their lack of knowledge concerning all things internet and bandwidth. All of a sudden, the lights go out and when they come back on Gina is there and drags the Cyber Crimes leader hard. She’s dug up all his secrets and reveals some embarrassing tidbits in front of his team. She says she’ll reveal more if the Nine-Nine doesn’t get their bandwidth back. They finally agree.

Back at the restaurant, Rosa and Jake are pretending to be a couple when Amy calls Jake. His phone lights up with their photo with Amy wearing her engagement ring. Rosa’s dad sees the photo and questions Jake about it. Finally, they come clean that Jake and Amy are engaged. Surprisingly, Rosa’s parents say they understand and it’s fine that Rosa is dating an engaged man. Rosa wants to know why they would be cool with that. Her dad says when she asked them to dinner they were just afraid she was going to tell them she’s gay, so her dating an almost-married guy is a relief compared to that. Rosa’s understandably upset by this and admits that she’s bi and storms out.

The next morning, Jake catches up with Rosa to see how she’s doing. She says everything’s fine, because her parents texted her after and invited her to their weekly game night like usual. Even though she thinks the invite to game night means they really are cool with her being bi after all, she asks Jake to come with her. He’s not super excited about hanging out with her intimidating father again but agrees so he can be there for her in case anything goes wrong.

The rest of the team is celebrating their internet returning to normal, usable speeds. Terry tells Gina that they’ll throw her a pizza party when she officially comes back from maternity leave in two weeks. But then Gina tells them she’s not coming back. She’s decided to start her own company — a sports league for other people’s pets. She does a dramatic exit from the precinct, leaving the team stunned and sad.

Later that night, Rosa and Jake attend game night at her parents’ house but it does not go well. Rosa’s parents say they discussed what Rosa told them and they’re fine with it because if she’s bi, then she can still just date men and get married and have kids. Rosa tells them she can still get married and have kids with a woman, but her father says it WILL be with a man because this is just a phase.

Rosa’s crushed. She tells them it’s not a phase, she’s known she was bi for a really long time, and the reason she didn’t tell them sooner is because she was afraid they’d react the exact way they just did. He dad asks what it is she wants them to say and Rosa replies that she wants them to say they’ll accept her for who she is. Both her mom and dad remain silent and so she and Jake leave.

That same night, Boyle and Amy head to Gina’s house to return the things from her desk and they take the opportunity to try to convince her that she’s indispensable to the Nine-Nine, but she’s firm on her decision.

The next morning, Rosa and Jake are at the precinct talking about what happened with her parents when Rosa’s dad shows up. He’s come to say he does accept her for who she is, and he’s sorry he reacted so poorly. He’s going to try to understand and do better and says he loves her no matter what. After they hug, Rosa asks where her mom is. Her dad says she needs a little more time. Rosa says that’s going to make their weekly game nights a little weird, and her dad says maybe it’s better if they stop doing game nights for a while. Rosa says okay but it’s clear she’s upset about it, and the fact her mom won’t accept her for who she is.

Meanwhile, Boyle and Terry are training a new assistant to replace Gina when she suddenly appears. She says she’s back and dismisses the poor guy who had just started. Everyone’s glad to see her back, especially Amy and Boyle who take full credit for her return. Just then, Jake walks up and asks what they’re all doing later.

That night the whole team shows up at Rosa’s apartment with board games and pizza. Jake tells her that every week they’ll be there for game night. Holt pulls her aside to thank her for coming out. He knows firsthand how hard that can be and wants her to know it does get better. And then it’s time for game night with the Nine-Nine family.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:
  • “So, are you seeing anyone now?” “Yeah, her name’s Tiffany.” “Are you lying about her name so we won’t look her up?” “Yes, I am.”
  • “I must say, this is going considerably better than when I came out to my colleagues. They were not, as the kids say, awake.” “Do you mean ‘woke’?” “I do mean woke, but it’s grammatically incoherent.” 
  • “I’m not above using a little flirtation to get what I want.” “Was that a wink?” “You tell me.” “I honestly don’t know, but you’re all we got.”
  • “How many kbbs’s are you looking for?” “Many?” “Yeah, that’s not an answer. I need an exact number.” “100?” *laughs* “Too few? Too many? Four!” 
  • “Hey, so I ran after you last night but I lost you in the subway.” “I took a cab home.” “Really? Well, then I definitely terrified some random lady.” 
  • “I’m not a blackmailer. If you tell anyone I am, I will release your secrets.” 
  • “Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place. So, thank you.” 

“The Favor” 
Original Airdate: December 12, 2017

In the second episode of the two-part winter finale, Seamus Murphy is back and ready to call in the favor that Holt owes him for his help in getting Jake and Rosa out of jail. Seamus knows Holt is up for the commissioner’s job and is ready to start blackmailing him to get what he wants. It turns out that all Murphy wants is to throw a block party. If Holt helps him do that, Murphy will consider the debt repaid. When Holt tells the rest of the team, Jake is relieved. A block party isn’t even illegal as long as you’ve filed for a permit.

Holt doesn’t want to help Murphy, even if it isn’t illegal, because he knows the block party is probably just a cover for something that IS illegal. Jake insists this is great, though, because it’s the loophole they need to capture Murphy. They can help him get his block party permit while also preparing to take him down for whatever else he has planned. All they need to do is become buddies with someone in Murphy’s family who will reveal what’s really going down. And Jake and Boyle have discovered the perfect person: Kyle Murphy. He’s Seamus’s screw-up nephew who is most likely to accidentally reveal the family’s secrets. Holt agrees to let Jake and Boyle go undercover.

Meanwhile, Amy convinces Rosa to accompany her to “SAPO” — the Street Activity Permit Office — which is the oldest continuously operating permit office in the state. This if, of course, the best assignment ever for nerdy Amy who lives and breathes paperwork. Rosa’s far less excited, but agrees since it’s all to help Holt. While they wait in line at SAPO, Amy tells Rosa how much she loves bureaucracy — it’s elegant and all of the paperwork serves a purpose and fits together seamlessly.

Unfortunately, she’s about to find out that’s not the case. Even though she’s filled out all the forms correctly, she discovers that system is broken. She has to submit an approved form by submitting a different approved form which can’t be approved without the first approved form. It’s an endless loop that’s impossible to break. To solve this dilemma, Amy and Rosa head to the apartment of the woman who designed the paperwork in the first place. She’s retired now, but Amy knows this woman would have never made a mistake and will be able to help them out of this endless loop. Unfortunately, Amy’s in for a rude surprise. Not only is this woman a crazy cat lady, but she hated her job, and purposely inserted errors into the paperwork because of self-admitted “spite and incompetence.”

Jake and Boyle’s day is going much better. They easily track down Kyle who is an even bigger train wreck than his rap sheet led them to believe. He instantly befriends them and accidentally reveals that he’s part of a crime family. Unfortunately, he’s also been kicked out of the family business for screwing up too many times. The last time he helped on a job he was the getaway driver but left his Uncle Seamus’ car (with the keys in it) so he could go to a movie. When he came back the car, a vintage Rolls Royce, had been stolen, and that was the last straw for Uncle Seamus. Since Kyle isn’t privy to any of the insider info, he’s useless to Jake and Boyle. Unless they can help him redeem himself, which they decide to secretly do.

They head back to the precinct and find out the Rolls Royce is in the impound lot. They get it out and park it on the street then proceed to drive Kyle around, hoping he’ll spot it. Kyle is too busy telling them random useless stories to even notice. They drive back and forth multiple times but Kyle still doesn’t notice. Finally, Jake has to shout that it looks like his uncle’s car is parked on the street. Kyle realizes that IS his uncle’s car and gets out and starts to do a victory dance in the middle of the street. He is then promptly hit by a taxi and Jake and Boyle have to rush him to the hospital.

Back at the precinct, Gina tells Terry she needs a place to pump. Terry gives her the spare office, much to Hitchcock and Scully’s distress, since they use that as their nap room. They quickly realize, however, that Gina only said she needed a secluded room so she could sneak out of the precinct. Hitchcock and Scully tattle on her to Terry, who wants to know what is going on. He waits for Gina for over an hour before she finally returns. Realizing she’s busted, she comes clean and admits she missed her daughter and went home to see her. Terry admits that it’s hard to be a working parent and he understands. Even though he tells her it doesn’t get any easier, she’s encouraged to know she’s not alone.

Meanwhile, Amy and Rosa have their own mystery to unravel. Amy’s feeling super discouraged about the elegance of paperwork actually being a hot mess riddled with errors, when Rosa tells her that because they now know the paperwork is so broken, that means there are even more errors and so they just need to find those and exploit them to their advantage to get the permit. This excites Amy all over again. Rosa has secured every form SAPO has put out over the last 100 years and they proceed to go through them to find a loophole.

They find just the loophole to do the trick. There’s an ancient form that was never de-certified. Instead of requesting a block party permit, Amy and Rosa are now submitting a “street closure request for the public humiliation of loose women.” They even pay the fee of one hay penny to expedite processing. And, because the permit has to be submitted by a man (naturally), they’ve brought Hitchcock along. They’ve covered all their bases, exploited the system, and they have their permit!

While Amy and Rosa work the paperwork, Jake and Boyle are still working on Kyle. After dropping him at the hospital, they “steal” the Rolls Royce and deliver it to Kyle so he can get back in with the family. They’ve put a bug on the keys so they can overhear Kyle and Seamus’s conversation. Seamus invites Kyle back to the family and they overhear the plan. During the block party, Seamus plans to steal $20 million from an armored truck that has to be rerouted down an abandoned alley due to the party.

The team is able to change the truck’s schedule and when Murphy’s team breaks in, it’s empty. Murphy, who’s unaware of what’s going down since he’s attending his block party, hands over the tape of his and Holt’s conversation to Holt, thus releasing him from the blackmail deal.

Unfortunately, when Seamus finds out about the armored truck screw up, he blames Kyle. Jake overhears him on the bug saying he’s going to teach Kyle a lesson. Jake and Holt get Kyle arrested on unpaid parking tickets so they can put him in protective custody. Later, Seamus approaches Holt and says he knows what they did. Because they messed with his family, he’s going to mess with Holt’s. He threatens Holt’s husband, Kevin, and then walks away. And that’s the winter finale, folks!

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:
  • “They kicked me out of the family business for good. Apparently, I’m a ‘liability’ and ‘worthless’ and ‘Kyle.’ The last one is just my name, but you should hear their tone.”  
  • “The forms don’t make any sense. I mean, is anything even real?” “No. Odds are we exist in a computer simulation, but I don’t have time to go down that rabbit hole.”
  • “Hi there. I’d like to humiliate some hussies and I’m in a hurry.”
  • “So, we did it! I can’t believe it’s all wrapped up.” “Do you even know what we did?” “No, just feeling out how close we are to calling it a day.” “Soon, Scully.” 
  • “If you ever want to do business again, my door’s always open.” “Well, you should close it. Lest you get... moths.”

Friday, December 22, 2017

Blindspot 3x08 Review: "City Folks Under Wraps" (It Didn't Happen, Kurt. Nope. I Reject This Twist) [Contributor: Jen]

"City Folks Under Wraps"
Original Airdate: December 22, 2017

It's time to take down Hirst once and for all in Blindspot's midseason finale "City Folks Under Wraps." The team has varying levels of success throughout the episode, and by varying levels I mean they all end up in prison at one point or another. Of course, the good guys prevail, but in true Blindspot fashion, there's an even bigger bad waiting in the wings (and it's seriously awesome casting). However, it's Kurt Weller who steals the show with his bomb of a confession to Jane. It's a bomb that requires copious amounts of GIFs.


The case of the week is Team Blindspot trying to figure out how to stay out of jail. Hirst decides to frame Patterson for Stuart's murder. Of course she goes after Patterson, because Patterson is everyone's favorite. So Patterson is on the run, which means that Team Blindspot has lost their most valuable member. Come on, you know it's true.

Luckily, Hirst is dumb enough to buy Reade's, "I am the only one you can trust" act and Zapata has been kicked off the team. So Tasha is able to help Patterson evade capture (at least for a little while). I knew Zapata being off the team would work in our favor this week! Reade is able to keep the cat and mouse game going with Hirst while Kurt, Jane, Patterson, and Zapata find the evidence to take down the baddie.

Patterson and Zapata secure the mysterious Kinga recording of Stuart's murder and just before Hirst is about to arrest Jane, Tasha has it played over the intercom exposing the director as the real murderer. As reveals go, this one was pretty fun. A little hokey, but fun.

Hirst isn't going down without a fight because that's what we expect from Mary Stuart Masterson. Apparently, she has some rogue agents on her side (which explains some things) and they kidnap Tasha. Nobody messes with Reade's woman and I feel pretty confident he'd release nuclear launch codes if it meant keeping Tasha safe, so he helps Hirst escape from the FBI.

Team Blindspot shows up to save the day though. Jane takes out the gunmen holding Zapata captive and Kurt stops Hirst. She conveniently knocks out Reade so Kurt can struggle with killing her or not. Roman pitched a hissy fit with Kurt over the team failing to dethrone Hirst on schedule. So he wants Weller to kill her instead or he'll tell Jane about Berlin. The Berlin threats are getting old, Roman. Find a new theme.

Kurt contemplates shooting Hirst for about a half a minute, especially when she's begging him to do it. Hirst is much more afraid of the man she works for than she is of a bullet. Of course he doesn't because Kurt isn't a cold-blooded murderer. It's also good to see there is a threshold to his willingness to keep this lie from Jane too.

So, who is the man Eleanor Hirst works for and is so afraid of? None other than the man "you can't say no to" — Hank Crawford, Blake's father. Truly, I did not see this coming and it makes Roman's plot line with Blake make a lot more sense. I figured he was angling to meet her father, but I wasn't expecting him to be the Big Bad. Naive of me, I know. Roman's scheme is unfolding nicely. Not only is Blake falling in love with him, Hank hired him as her bodyguard. This puts Roman in close proximity to Hank, which has been the plan all along.

Hank Crawford is played by David Morse and I squealed with delight when I saw him on screen. He's a fantastic actor and I can't wait to see what he brings to the role.


Rich Dotcom was, as always, a highlight in "City Folks Under Wraps." Blindspot has played around with Rich's loyalties a lot in the past and it's clear he's always been looking for himself. We've slowly seen a shift in Rich's perspective this season and his growing emotional attachment to the team, but this is the first time he was really presented with a choice: him or the team.

Hirst offers Rich everything under the sun to get him to turn on Patterson. He'll be free and she'll tell him the location of her boyfriend. I knew Rich wouldn't turn on Patterson and the team, but I'll admit Blindspot had me going for a second when he signed the deal. In true Rich Dotcom fashion his signature reads, "SUCK IT."

And that is why he is the best.

Rich declares, once and for all, where his loyalties lie. He chooses the team because he is part of the team. When Jane tells Rich that she believes he was loyal to the team because he cares about them, Rich doesn't miss a beat and delivers the line of the night:
Rich: Besides, selling you out destroys any chance of a six-way. 
Kurt: See? That is why you don't know about this place. 
Rich: We'll start.

Reade pretending to interrogate Weller gives him the opportunity to unload on Kurt about Jane. He tells Weller he's become a crappy agent since Jane showed up and all he cares about is her. I guess it is played for Hirst but this angle in Reade and Kurt's relationship feels very played out. A scene like this made absolute sense in season one, but we are in season three now. Reade was best man at Kurt's wedding to Jane. I'd say he's dealt with his issues over their coupling. Reade apologizes, but Weller's remark that it must have felt good to get that off his chest just felt off.

Patterson figures out that Zapata has feelings for Reade because she's Patterson and always figures things out first. Hey, she got Jeller married. Why not Reade and Zapata? Patterson should look into developing a dating app. Her reaction is pitch-perfect Patterson: "You like Reade. Like, like like him. Tasha, he has a girlfriend. And it's Reade."

Sums it up. Put me down for same. I'm not saying I'm not in favor of this pairing. I am. They just have terrible timing. Zapata shot Reade down last year because he was in a vulnerable place and she wasn't ready. Now Tasha is ready and Reade is whole and healed (mostly), but he has a girlfriend. Again, a girlfriend he's buying food processors for and we never see on screen, so I'm not overly worried about her as an obstacle, but we still have a long road before we reach coupledom.


Jane: "There's nothing he can do to get between us."

Don't be so sure, cookie. While I love Jane's "our love can conquer all and Roman can suck it" attitude, we all know it's not going to last long. Weller finally fesses up. It's not enough Kurt knew who Jane's daughter was, met her, and lied about it for months. Nope, the writers had to go full Blindspot about this.

Kurt KILLED Jane's daughter.

Yeah, okay Kurt. This is something fairly difficult to admit to. I'll give you that big fella. The lying is more understandable.

After my initial shock wore off, I would say I transitioned immediately into skepticism.

No, you didn't kill Jane's daughter Kurt. Come on now, child. I reject this twist.

It doesn't help we cut immediately to the end of the episode and the "tune in when Blindspot returns" promo, so there wasn't much explanation as to why Kurt believes he killed Jane's daughter. But let's just run through potential options. First, how does Kurt know he really met Jane's daughter? Did he do a DNA test in the middle of the hotel? Second, how does Kurt know he really killed Jane's daughter? This could be a Roman plant! Insert someone in Kurt's path, make him believe she's Jane's daughter, orchestrate some scenario in which Kurt has to kill her, and thereby breaking up Jeller! As diabolical plans go that would be very diabolical. Roman is dead-set on bringing Jane pain and misery. I'd say this would get the job done.

This has just enough soap opera in it that Blindspot can turn on a dime in a matter of months with a "Gotcha!" Jane's daughter isn't dead after all or the woman who is dead wasn't Jane's daughter to begin with! Erica Kane would totally agree with me. Maybe Kurt has an evil twin? I'm grasping here I know, but work with me.

I won't sugarcoat this one. This is bad. Very bad. I don't see Kurt and Jane weathering this storm at first — which is the point of the whole storyline — while they are rapidly escalating Reade and Zapata. They are the shipper life raft, Blindspotters. It's grab on to them or go down by the head. The choice is yours. EVERY MAN AND WOMAN FOR THEMSELVES!

Is this the end of Jeller? NO. It's JELLER y'all. Come on now. I raised you better.

But like I said last week, the honeymoon is over. We got the pretty dress, cake, flowers, dance, and all the wonderful vows. We even had happy married Jeller for a hot second. That was fun right? Remember when their biggest problem was Jane was a vegan? Good times. But this is Blindspot and it's a drama, which means PAIN. Fun is over. The writers are back to what they do.

Every marriage has to ride the roller coaster. There are highs and lows. Kurt and Jane's are just higher and lower because television. Granted, we're dredging the bottom of the ocean right now, but that'll just make the climb back all the more satisfying. Remember the Taylor Shaw is a lie/Kurt's dad is a pedophile/Jane covered up Mayfair's death/Kurt arrests Jane storyline?

That all turned okay.

They'll figure this out. I have absolutely no idea how, but let us not underestimate the power of forgiveness or evil twins.

Stray Thoughts:

  • "This is not how I pictured you waking up next to me." Never ever remove Rich Dotcom from this show.
  • Are Patterson and Zapata just hanging out in Kurt and Jane's apartment? The FBI can't think to search there? As secret hiding places go while on the run from the law, this does not seem like a great one.
  • I loved the moment when Tasha yelled "Now!" while the bad guy was reloading his gun, alerting Jane this was her moment to take him out. TEAMWORK, Y'ALL.
  • Hirst is a crappy shot. She had the high ground and Jane was just a short distance away and she still couldn't take her out. Probably because she's Jane Doe.
  • Sorry for the delay on all these reviews. My goal for 2018 is to watch on time, but life happens sometimes. I appreciate you sticking with me!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We Are What They Grow Beyond: The Coming of Age for a New Star Wars [Contributor: Melanie]

Image result for star wars the last jedi

Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi lie ahead.

The thing about this series is that it spans 40 years. That’s a long time to keep something going, to hand it down from one generation to the next. But Star Wars endures and with Rian Johnson’s addition to the series it does more than that. It thrives. It’s a tale that has always ever been a story told in the traditions of epics and legends of our world. It was a story of spaceships and laser swords rooted in the human tradition of a call to adventure, a meeting with a mentor, and face down with that which holds the most power in life of our hero. The Last Jedi does not break this tradition, no story ever could. It’s encoded in the DNA of our storytelling that we walk through the steps of a Hero’s Journey but Johnson’s film does everything it can to make you second guess the clean and quick nature of this story telling method and ask yourself… well, where do you want the story to go?

“Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?” 

The fact of the matter is, I’m not entirely convinced that they didn’t change Rey’s backstory during the mysterious rewrite period in early 2016 when filming was delayed so Rian Johnson could rework the script. I saw this because a lot of supplementary material pointed to Rey having an actual plot connection to Kylo Ren and what happened at the temple. But, if she ever was a Skywalker or Kenobi, it’s evidently been tossed in favor of the story of Rey from Nowhere. She is a King Arthur, complete with her own proverbial sword she pulled from a proverbial stone, but no Uther Pendragon to gift her a birthright, no connection or obvious place to the story she’s inhabiting. (That is, assuming, we take Kylo Ren at his word. After all, we didn’t find out about the twins until Episode VII and that was after an uncomfortable twincest scene in Empire so fake outs happen...).

Is it such a bad thing? We all, myself loudly included, wanted a heritage story with a fight for the Skywalker legacy (or even the Kenobi one). And we still might get it. Perhaps the story of Rey’s shrouded heritage isn’t over. But let’s assume it is, what does it mean for Rey? We know she has major abandonment issues. That apparently lead to some identity issues as well. Maybe she herself was hoping to find herself a member of the Skywalker family. What she learns is that her parents were anonymous drunks who traded away their child for money and died in some anonymous graves in the desert (again, according to Kylo Ren).

There’s more weight to her choices now. Being a Skywalker is about reacting, making a choice under a predetermined context of good and evil. They all faced the same forked path: darkness or light. Rey is a blank slate. She comes from nothing, her heritage does not matter, so all that matters is what she chooses to do. And it’s clear her choices are not about Sith or Jedi, darkness or light, but simply about what is the right thing to do. She’s setting up her own Skywalker legacy and the black and white of the original films and prequel trilogy faded away with Luke Skywalker under the twin suns. Rey’s not picking sides or worrying about making one wrong move and letting it “forever dominate (her) destiny.” She’s just trying to protect her friends.

So why is Rey from Nowhere here? Well she’s got a job to do, people who are counting on her, and friends to protect. And I’m kind of super on board with that. The Jedi did not own the Force, though they behaved as though they did. If the failures of the Jedi and the failures of Anakin Skywalker are to be purged from the new narrative, it will have to center on someone untainted by a connection to either of those things. Or at least someone who believes she is unconnected to it all.

This film did not paint our hero in a gray light so much as it painted her in a human one. The Jedi asked for perfection and instilled it since birth in their disciples. The result was a group of warrior monks for hire who thought their moral high ground and perceived control of the Force put them above others. The Order is gone. But a single Jedi - the last Jed i- someone who utilizes their connection to the Force for protection and light, got away on Crait.

“It surrounds us, and binds us…”

We know from scientific over explanation in the prequels that the ability of certain individuals to feel and manipulate the Force happens at the cellular level, something present in the DNA. Which makes it sound infinitely less cool but let’s run with this for a second. Traits are handed down, eye color, allergies, cheekbones. But on the macro level we hand down generational attributes. All humans became bipedal, became hairless, became intelligent. And we all know we come from the same family tree. The Force, I imagine, will act in the same way. It’s a genetic trait, a rare mutation. But it’s also something connecting the entirety of life in the galaxy. The Force is in everyone, with a select few who can actually wield the abilities it offers. We see at the very end of the film there will be others, a future generation of Jedi under Rey’s tutelage.

But… if everyone’s super, then no one is.

Perhaps it’s the converse to the Rey Nobody argument. The Skywalkers were a unique bunch. The Jedi were already rare but the Skywalkers, a family line literally born out the Force itself were even more unique. And we all want our characters to be special, to be the chosen one. Rey is the person who happened upon Anakin’s lightsaber. It may have well happened to any one of those children we saw in the last seconds of the movie who show apparent Force sensitivity.

There’s a cultural need for our heroes to be divinely ordained. Odysseus was favored by the gods. King Arthur was chosen by the Lady of the Lake. Even Harry became the subject of prophecy because he was literally chosen to be the one it referred to by Voldemort. We want to believe there is a cosmic purpose to our heroes, the possibility of superhuman uniqueness. So was it the will of the Force that BB-8 came across Rey and the adventure began? Or was it just luck?

For all of Rey’s importance in The Force Awakens, this movie strikes down everything about herself she thought might be special. Ben is the only Skywalker. Snoke simply wants to use her to get to Luke. Luke himself does not consider even her unique and powerful abilities worth teaching. She wrestles with that lack of importance in the scene in the cave. When Luke entered his own cave to face down the demons in his head, it was Vader and the possibility of himself becoming him that he fought against. When Rey did it, it was the repetition of seemingly millions of exact copies of herself, painting her as one of thousands who could wear her face, do what she does. It was her fear of no identity that she looked down in the mirror.

But the film paints this as a good thing. Yes, anyone could be standing where she is. Anyone could have found the lightsaber. But she is the one standing there. She was the one the lightsaber obeyed when it was called by both her and the grandson of its original owner. And with our young friends at the end of the movie, showing us there are still allies in the galaxy for the Resistance and a future for the Jedi, show that, as Maz says, hope is not lost today - not in Rey’s underwhelming personal truth nor in Luke’s departure - it is found - in Rey’s natural inclination to care for her friends and the sense of fellowship that bonds the Resistance.

“Heir apparent to Darth Vader.”


Anyway… Kylo Ren does have a lot in common with his grandfather including emotionally manipulative relationships with the women in their lives and a thirst for control of the galaxy. In Anakin’s story, at least he thought he was doing something good. It was misguided and stupid, but he believed politics and the Jedi both to be corrupt and wanted to establish peace and order. Kylo Ren basically just wants to prove that his dumb af choices weren’t made for nothing. He got himself up his own creek with SEVERAL paddles thrown at him but decided to ignore them all and see this thing through. Where Anakin asked Padme to join him because his entire effed up decision making process was based on protecting her, Kylo asks Rey to join him simply because he wants attention from someone who he thinks will understand him.

And Rey is having none of that.

A story that could have so easily slipped into a damaging tale of siphoning emotions for the sake “saving” our bad boy with a good heart, Rey literally slams the door on his face. This is especially good considering it was a HIGHKEY problematic move to have Kylo Ren tell Rey that he, essentially, was the only person who would ever find her important. Her terms were clear: she came to recruit him to the Resistance, not redeem him, not save his soul, or any other bs like that. When he refused to be an ally, she noped out of that situation and went back to help her friends. She pities him, she does want to help him, but only if he will help himself. If he’s not going to meet her halfway, she’s got more important things to do.

Ultimately, Kylo Ren’s story is about a bratty kid who took his temper tantrum a bit too far and now doesn’t know how to pump the breaks. He grew up in a busy household, we know that Han and Leia both had careers to attend to and sent him to Luke in the hopes that Luke could give him the attention and training he needed. But Leia checked in regularly at the Jedi temple, we know from Bloodlines. She received holos from her brother and son until, one day, they stopped coming. For his part, Luke made a very poor snap decision and Ben’s actions to defend himself turned into an act of violence that murdered dozens of innocent students. He then went on to murder an entire village on Jakku, play party to the creation of a devastating weapon of mass destruction that destroyed an entire system, and murdered his own father.

He’s a piece of crap. But he’s a complicated piece of crap.

Is he worth saving? Probably not. He seemed to have made his choice here when Rey offered to help him several times. He was pretty quick to flip the switch then, angrily ordering her ship to be blasted out of the sky when he spots her again. Are we done with this line of thinking though? Doubtful.

The Force Awakens was about a return to our familiar world. The Last Jedi was about crossing the threshold and leaving that world behind. This is a character-driven Star Wars trilogy that, as look warned us, doesn’t always go the way we think.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Scorpion 4x11 Review: "Who Let the Dog Out ('Cause Now It's Stuck in a Cistern)” (You’re Coming Home) [Guest Contributor: Yasmine]

"Who Let the Dog Out ('Cause Now It's Stuck in a Cistern)"
Original Airdate: December 11, 2017

It’s finally here: the day absolutely no one was looking forward to. It’s the day of Cabe’s trial and no one is dealing with it well. As the day progresses, the general attitude among the team only goes from bad to worse as things pile up and nothing goes as planned. This Scorpion episode had all the makings of a very tense and emotional episode, but somehow, in a way that only Scorpion can, enough lightness and humor were added — through subtle character-driven plotlines and a side case — that the episode never once felt melodramatic but still managed to deliver all the emotional notes required to make it a home run episode.

The day starts with the team, minus Cabe and Sly, trying to do everything they can to make sure the verdict sways Cab’s direction. Paige is first up. She accidentally “bumps” into the judge with her soothingly-scented lavender perfume. Walter is up next and he switches his morning tea with decaf, then Happy tampers with the ventilation in the court room to make sure it is set at the ideal temperature, and finally, as the judge walks up the steps, Toby is there posing as a street performer providing some comforting tunes from the tropics. Unfortunately, Cabe, who had spent the morning leaving gifts on their desks, does not take kindly to their trying to manipulate his case.

Either way, none of it matters since the judge appointed to the case gets called away with a family emergency and is replaced by one whose nickname is “Maximum Max” Talbertson because, according to Toby, he hands out convictions and hard sentences like breath mints. On top of that, the case is going to happen behind closed doors, so the team cannot attend.

Like I said, things just keep going from bad to worse. At the courthouse, the judge from the makes it clear from the get-go that he agrees with the prosecutor and will not be listening to evidence from Cabe’s past years of service and will only listen to facts pertaining to the case — that in which Cabe unlocked Collins’ ankle cuff and allowed his escape, which the prosecution claims Cabe was a part of. Sly and Cabe’s entire defense was based on Cabe’s past and his character and Sylvester suddenly finds himself lost and flustered,blowing his opening statement.

Back at the garage, the team has managed to hack the cameras in the courtroom but they have no audio. But again, this is not their worst problem. Homeland informs them that they will be getting a visit from an Agent Micklethorn, the man who would replace Cabe if he ends up in jail — and even then, only if Micklethorn deems Scorpion still beneficial to the government.

And the worst of it all, is not what is happening around them, but what is happening to them. Unable to control the Cabe situation and not fans of not being in control, the team start coping in ways that are anything but healthy. The always confident Happy is beating herself up about everything. She refers to herself as an idiot and a dummy and loses her faith in anything she needs to do. Her husband, on the other hand, starts engaging in any activity that endangers him, becoming the daredevil he never is. And Walter, apparently, is a person who eats his feelings: for the whole episode, Walter O’Brien is eating one thing or another.

Lucky for them, they have Paige, and when the time comes, she knows how to whip them into shape. Trying their best to get their minds off the case, the team hear of a dog stuck in a cistern and the police are unable to pull him out, so they decide to offer their help. It sounds like an easy enough job for these geniuses, but once again, bad turns into worse.

The dog apparently has diabetes and is in a weakened state because of that, plus a broken leg. The dog’s owner is there and is not taking it well, as the dog has been the only thing helping her through the loss of her husband. To add to that, Micklethorn arrives on site and is already judging the team. All these factors, and the fact that none of them are acting like themselves, means Operation: Rescue Puppy is probably one of the toughest jobs this team has had to do, and they have had their share of tough jobs.

Back in the courthouse, Sylvester isn’t having the best of days. The judge seems to agree with everything the prosecution is presenting and their defense is week. Poor Sylvester even resorts to using the electrocuting cuffs the judge to demonstrate the pain that Collins was in, which Cabe was protecting him from when he uncuffed him, but even that ill-advised stunt doesn’t do the trick.

The team finally get an idea to flush the dog out of the cistern, and in a final attempt to rescue him, they call on an old friend, their chemist neighbor Florence, for help. They need one of her concoctions to make a fast solidifying cement mix to close the drain and fill the pipe with water and get the puppy out. Flo’s mixture works, and after a scary moment where it looks like the puppy might drown, the team manage to rescue him. But that is not where Flo’s assistance to the team ends. Sly calls from the courthouse. He has a Hail Mary play and needs someone from the team to head over to the library and send him a picture from a rare law book of an 18th century case that might help Cabe.

Toby and Flo head off, running way too many lights on their way and forced to flee from the cops, but Toby finally manages to get those pictures to Sylvester. The case Sly submits to the judge is an old maritime case in which it was determined that, the captain of a vessel has the right to release his prisoners if he fears for their safety.

Somehow, the works and yes, Cabe Gallo deserves the not guilty verdict he gets, even if it happens through the most unconventional of ways. Sylvester may not have had a great first case, but he does get a win — and his second case is not that far away as the cops bring in a cuffed Toby and Florence, for whom Sly manages to get community service.

Once again, as the geniuses were falling apart, it was up for Paige to take charge and keep it all together. But by the end of the episode, it becomes her turn to express all her pent-up frustration and the poor phone operator at Kovelsky’s is the recipient of her anger when he gets an earful about them not having fermented fish.

But none of that matters because the team is finally together, Cabe is safe and back in his old job (he tears up at the intern badge that Toby had made him) and Flo is given a warm welcome and thanks for her help in everything. Back in the garage, the team opens the presents that Cabe had left them: for Sly, an action figure of Sir Ainsley from Chair of Blades; for Happy, a vintage 1959 tool of sorts; for Toby, Cabe gives him his father’s old hat; and for Paige, an old copy of Tech Talk Made Easy, which Cabe tells her he had gotten way back when he met young Walter, hoping it would help him get closer to him and understand him. It’s his way of telling her that he finds comfort in the fact that the team has her.

And finally for Walter, Cabe leaves him a copy of the letter Cabe had written for Walter’s visa application. In the letter, Cabe describes the then twelve-year-old Walter as someone who will grow up to be the most remarkable person he would ever get to meet.

I think they could not have written a better episode for Cabe’s trial; touching, emotional, tense throughout — whether with the puppy case or with Cabe’s court case — and still funny and entertaining and lighthearted. We’ve all been worried about this since Collins escaped and I think they absolutely nailed it.

One thing that did bother me? The episode title. They have been absolutely brilliant this season but this one just didn’t work for me. But otherwise? Absolutely flawless episode!