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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Hill House Haunting for Our Time [Contributor: Melanie Moyer]


“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more ... silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." — Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

Shirley Jackson’s most defining work of terror fiction, The Haunting of Hill House, burgeoned a genre for a generation, informed future horror writers such as Stephen King, and was named in 2018 the scariest horror book of all time by a New York Times panel. It’s been adapted to screen twice. It’s parodied in Scary Movie 2. It’s been made into a stage play twice. Many have tried to evoke the unrelenting tension and uncomfortable intimacy of the novel to both success and failure

Mike Flanagan’s 2018 Netflix adaptation takes a gamble that might just rank it on par — or, dare I say, superior — to the faithful 1963 adaptation.

The original novel tells the story of four paranormal researchers investigating the ominous and titular mansion that has locals whispering and staff staying away after dark. Dr. John Montague leads the investigation, with a pair of women — Theodora and Eleanor — as the only two to respond to his ad for assistants. They’re joined by Luke, the heir to the Hill House estate and a noted skeptic of his home’s dark reputation. What results is several nights of unease and unexplained activity culminating in Eleanor’s apparent psychotic break as she becomes more and more obsessed with Hill House — either because of supernatural forces or her own emotional instability.

In Flanagan’s Netflix show, the dynamic between the characters is shifted significantly. Dr. Montague becomes Steven Crain (Michiel Huisman, Paxton Singleton), an author and amateur paranormal investigator who uses his childhood experiences at Hill House as fodder for a bestselling horror novel. Eleanor (Victoria Pedretti, Violet McGraw) and Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Julian Hilliard) are his twin younger siblings who have been most affected by their childhood trauma and closest to the reaching fingers of the house. Theodora (Kate Siegel, McKenna Grace) is their middle sister — still maintaining the character’s iconic lesbian status with a vengeance — with tactile empathic abilities that make her, ironically, a cynical and standoffish adult. Added to the cast of characters is their eldest sister Shirley (Elizabeth Reiser, Lulu Wilson), who becomes a mortician after an upsetting childhood experience at the house and two parents — their mother, Olivia (Carla Gugino), who falls into the thrall of the house and their father, Hugh (Timothy Hutton), who desperately tries to keep his family safe from the demons in their home.

This makes it possibly the loosest adaptation of the novel to date, but what it lacks in one-for-one transplanting it makes up for in completely on-point tone, scares that are incredibly close to home, and a brilliant blurring of lines between the ghosts of personal trauma and the possibility of something otherworldly. In short: Flanagan gets Hill House in a way that’s so spot-on that it doesn’t matter what time period the characters are in or what their relationship is to each other. We’ve seen that Hill House works as a purist piece. We’ve seen it fail in 1999 when mainstream trends get too involved with a time-honored story.

In Flanagan’s world, Hill House and all its spectres are less a threat than what the spectres represent. The ghost of the house’s past are a waxing group, collecting lost souls as the cabin fever of the place becomes all too real for some. Make no mistake: Hill House is a haunted, evil place. But the blatant supernatural nature of the mansion goes so hand-in-hand with the constant trauma the Crains endure that reality becomes metaphor before our eyes.

The house and its ghosts are the realizations of trauma: Olivia’s protective instincts twisting into a toxic maternity that creates the very future she was trying to avoid. Luke’s ghostly stalker at his back — quite literally — as he comes closer and closer to the temptation of his heroin addiction. Nell is haunted her entire life by the embodiment and future of her own depression. Steven becomes his own version of the house he was trying to suppress as he siphons his family’s tragedy into bestselling stories in an effort to distance himself. The “stomach” of the house offers a seemingly protective womb that quickly becomes a parasitic prison as Hill House refuses to let its inhabitants go — perhaps desperate for comfort or, as the character believe, more fuel for the negative emotions swimming there in a microcosmic purgatory.

It’s a look, at its core, of how a family can fall apart. How communication becomes so important when it’s severed, how trauma can divide a group of loved ones as much as it can bound them, how all we have is each other when the lights go out. It’s the story of a haunted house, in all the ways a house can be haunted.

It might not please the purists, its gamble of a happy ending may not go over well with avid horror fans, but the stories Netflix’s take tells are earned. Flanagan’s adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House is about the terror of a mirror — of looking at yourself, of looking at your past, and your fears for the future. It’s possibly the best piece of haunted house media in the recent decade, maybe even before. It should be counted among the best shows of the year and on par with the 1963 adaptation.

But see for yourself: The Haunting of Hill House is ready for binge-watching on Netflix now.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Grey’s Anatomy 15x05 Review: “Everyday Angel” (Reconnecting) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Everyday Angel”
Original Airdate: October 25, 2018

After a one-week hiatus, Grey’s Anatomy is back with the characters who are ready to get down to business. With Teddy and Jackson mysteriously missing from the past few episodes, the viewers aren’t the only ones looking for answers. In classic form, "Everyday Angel" also features Meredith putting others before herself (so it looks like her dating life might be put on the back burner for the moment). However, plenty of other Grey Sloan relationships step into the forefront.

BONDING


In the previous episode, Maggie finally spilled the beans about Teddy’s pregnancy to Meredith. Of course, Meredith immediately feels the need to step in and sort out her soon-to-be problem of Owen not knowing that he is going to be a father. Meredith confronts Teddy at a park and forces Teddy to go to her house for a pseudo-therapy session. While Meredith attempts to make homemade cookies for a bake sale at Zola’s school, she tries to find out the truth behind Teddy’s lack of decision making.

Since Meredith doesn’t know how to bake, Teddy decides to take out all her stress and aggravation on the poor cookie dough. Thankfully, beating the mixture seems to do the trick and loosens her up. Teddy explains that she is afraid of telling Owen the truth because of his nature. She doesn’t want him to leave Amelia and his new family to raise his baby and be with her without knowing his true motive. Poor Teddy just wants Owen to love her again, but feels like his motive for being with her will always be clouded by the baby.

Teddy does make a valid point because Owen is the good-hearted guy that she describes. Even though he now has a young family to look out for, he undoubtedly would want to put Teddy and their baby first. Meredith finally convinces Teddy to tell Owen, so it looks like the fireworks are set to go off in the next episode on that front! For anyone who has been dying to see what happens when Owen and Amelia find out about Teddy’s pregnancy since it was revealed five months ago, the moment of truth is so close. Granted, the situation won't be resolved in one episode; the unconventional love triangle will probably play out throughout the better part of the season.

RETURN FROM THE WILDERNESS


This episode sees not one, but two missing characters return from their respective hiatuses. Jackson strolls into the hospital at the beginning of the episode like he never left, which catches Maggie off-guard. I was happy to see Maggie skeptical about Jackson’s return because she shouldn’t welcome him back with open arms. Jackson has only returned to the hospital from his leave of absence to treat a young boy with abnormal scapular growths that he met during his hiking adventures.

The problem with Jackson’s return is that he thinks he can show up and pretend that nothing has changed. He assumes that Maggie is fine and that their relationship will continue exactly where they left off before he disappeared. Maggie, on the other hand, isn’t ready to see Jackson, let alone speak to him. She has no idea if he is really here to stay, if he still wants a relationship, and why he even left without notice in the first place. Sadly, she doesn’t get many answers out of Jackson other than that he wants to stick around.

Jackson recruits Alex and Link to assist on his young patient’s surgery, much to the chagrin of Alex. It turns out that Jo’s little bombshell of knowing Link, which came out at the end of the previous episode, is not sitting well with Alex. After a long surgery with surly glances directed at him, Link finally confronts Alex. Alex wants to know if Link knew Jo’s ex-husband Paul, and, if so, why someone so close to her wouldn’t do something about the abuse. Well, Link did know Paul, but he didn’t know about his terrible behavior. Link assures Alex that he would have beaten Paul up if he had known he laid even a finger on Jo. So now Link and Alex can be pals, and Jo has a pseudo-brother back in her life. Maybe things will start looking even brighter for the Karev family.

THE PARENT TRACK


Back on the relationship front, Amelia and Owen are still enjoying their family life. While dropping Betty off at school, the couple decides to play hooky from work to make sure their recovering drug addict teenager isn’t skipping school. Yes, they have turned into helicopter parents quickly. Amelia has completely changed her worldview since having her brain tumor removed. She has two apps on her phone to track both Betty and Betty's texts. She may be taking things too far, but Amelia’s heart is in the right place. Owen and Amelia spend the entire day sitting in the car watching the school for any sign of Betty trying to leave, and they do catch her once. I never thought these two could make the family life work, but they have been pretty convincing. We will see how well they hold up once they learn about the soon-to-be unexpected bundle of joy.

YOU'RE NOT MEREDITH GREY


The other larger storyline of the episode focused on Bailey and Jo. Bailey is finally ready to start on Jo’s fellowship project when Alex tells them that there is a case he needs them to take. A woman with an undiagnosed illness came into the hospital to see Meredith, and she isn’t happy at all when Bailey and Jo come to examine her instead. She tells her new doctors that she has seen too many physicians, all of whom can’t figure out what is wrong with her. Bailey explains that she taught Meredith everything she knows, while Jo says that she worked with Meredith on the mini livers project. The patient accepts their care, but Bailey and Jo cross off every potential on the differential diagnosis board.

The patient isn’t happy that they too cannot find the cause of her pain, and insists that it isn’t in her head. The kicker is that the patient has actually been causing her distress; she had been fasting before each appointment because of the tests that needed to be done. Well, the patient’s problem only occurs when she eats, so how could any doctor actually find the problem if she had been fasting? For anyone who likes the medical puzzles, this patient had a ligament compressing her celiac artery, which expands when food is being digested in the stomach. Bailey is extremely proud that she was able to solve the case and that Meredith wasn’t there to get all the credit.

However, Bailey confides in Jo at the end of the episode that no matter how much she limits herself, she is still feeling a lot of stress. Jo helps Bailey realize that Ben’s job as a firefighter is causing Bailey’s increased stress because she doesn’t know if he is safe at any given time. Since Ben doesn’t seem to be quitting his latest job anytime soon, Bailey is either going to have to learn to deal with it or get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication to help her make it through each day.

The Flash 5x03 Review: "The Death of Vibe" (Of Course He Isn’t Dead) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"The Death of Vibe"
Original Airdate: October 23, 2018 

I really thought it’d be a while before The Flash season five delivered a meh episode, but here we are on episode three and... meh. It’s not totally clear why “The Death of Vibe” didn’t strike my fancy. Maybe it was the cheapness of the implication they were going to kill off Cisco? Or maybe it’s because it lacked the cohesion of last week’s episode, where every storyline seemed to feed into another storyline and lead to a bigger whole.

Despite putting a lot of emphasis on the villain of the season, this week’s episode felt like filler. That bad on two counts — first of all, it’s way too early to start throwing filler out there; and second, an episode all about the heroes trying to figure out the primary villain should not feel like filler regardless of where it falls in the season.

OH HEY, CICADA


Cicada is a serial killer Nora knows from the future, and he’s also probably a dad! Yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of the A-plot this episode. Not super interesting stuff this time around, but I am a bit impressed that the show didn’t try to fake a classic story structure by giving us a metahuman of the week. It’s all Cicada, all the time for Team Flash.

When Nora tells the team that Cicada is a serial killer The Flash never manages to capture, everyone decides they need a Wells to provide some brain power. They call on the German Wells first, but German Wells sends them to Sherloque Wells, a vaguely French detective with several ex-wives and a tendency toward con-artistry. I mean, he genuinely is a detective (I guess), but he’s solved the Cicada identity issue so many times that he just fakes the investigation part and immediately names Cicada as David Hersch.

The problem? Cicada is not David Hersch this time. I don’t know how this makes any sense, but Nora’s time travel hijinks have somehow made Cicada someone else. Further muddling this whole plot: if Sherloque has caught so many Cicadas from all the other Earths, why does this Earth never catch him? Is it a time loop thing, like Nora always goes back in time and therefore always mucks up the timeline, making catching Cicada impossible?

Cicada is after Cisco. Not sure what the deal is exactly, but it seems like once Cicada targets a meta, he feels compelled to finish the job, and Cisco escaped last time he confronted him. Again, questions: Barry and Ralph also escaped from a Cicada fight, but Cicada is specifically targeting Cisco/Vibe. Why?

Joe West shows up in a lot of photos with Team Flash fighting bad guys, so Cicada hunts down Joe and tries torturing him into calling Vibe. Joe holds up pretty well, but when Cicada implies he’s going to kill baby Jenna, Cecile panics and hits the button for calling Team Flash. Vibe breaches in and Cicada immediately throws him back into a breach that spits him out in the woods.

Using a breaching device and an explosion, Nora helps Cisco fake Vibe’s death to get Cicada off his trail. I guess that means Cisco won’t be able to help during fights anymore?

Later on, Joe surmises that Cicada is a father, which I guess explains his response to Nora saying “dad” in the last episode. Also, he’s right. The next scene shows Cicada visiting his comatose daughter in the hospital. The doctor caring for the little girl is apparently used to this weird guy looming in the shadows, and she asks him to show her a glowing slash-wound on his chest. Again, the doctor is unfazed by this level of weirdness.

Sherloque, in debt to Team Flash for faking the Cicada investigation, has to stay on Earth-1 until he pays them back. Nora is invited to stay with Barry and Iris, and while she’s leaving the STAR Labs lounge she’d been staying in, Sherloque asks her a couple questions about her motivations for traveling back in time. Her shifty avoidance implies it hadn’t been solely her idea.

BURGLARY ADVENTURES!


Whether it’s the writers sidelining the character or her story just not factoring into the grander scheme of things, Caitlin’s mostly been relegated to the Other Things section of my reviews. I do love Caitlin as a character, but her storylines always seem... periphery. Not important enough to get their own review sections, but not locked into the A-plot enough to warrant mention in the main sections. Now, I’m not saying that Caitlin’s story this episode is particularly engaging compared to her plots in the past, but the dullness of this week’s A-plot made it feel a lot more even.

It’s just weird that I’m starting to think so positively about storylines heavily involving Ralph Dibny. Side question: who is responsible for rewriting the Dibny character into someone way more likable than he was all last season? And is this person capable of performing other miracles?

This week, Ralph and Caitlin are still working on a holdover plot from the previous two episodes: it appears that Caitlin’s father faked his death, since the ME who signed off on his death warrant doesn’t exist. Not sure why a person faking their death wouldn’t just forge the signature of an actual ME, rather than inventing an easily debunkable phantom doctor, but there you go. Caitlin’s just getting over the emotional issues she was having last episode about whether or not her father would even want to see her again, and whether it would break her heart if she sought out answers.

Caitlin and Ralph go visit Caitlin’s mother, who is still incredibly unpleasant to her daughter, but Mrs. Caitlin’s Mom only says that Mr. Caitlin’s Dad is definitely dead. And to stop investigating, because she’s totally telling the truth. Yeah, that level of avoidance and insistence that someone ignore obvious discrepancies during an investigation is never suspicious. Understandably, Caitlin and Ralph choose to go another route: breaking and entering! Yaaaay, crime!

After the Caitlin’s mom’s office is closed up for the night, Caitlin and Ralph break in. Ralph uses his stretchy powers to reach under the door, but everything inside is guarded by lasers. Caitlin has to guess her mom’s passcode, which turns out to be Caitlin’s birth date. I’m sure we’re supposed to assume this implies Caitlin’s mom does truly love her daughter, but I’m just thinking about what terrible security that is. Your daughter’s birth date is easily discoverable by anyone, lady! You protected your files with lasers, but used the numerical equivalent of making your password “password”?

Caitlin discovered old papers from her dad’s research and a periodic table game they used to play together when she was a little girl. Neeeerds! After reading through the papers, Caitlin doubts her father was in his right mind — none of his notes make sense. It takes her until the end of the episode to figure out the periodic table game was a key to a message from Caitlin’s father: “CAITLIN, COME FIND ME.”

Other Things:

  • I don’t know if I like having a comedic Wells character as our primary Wells, especially one faking a silly accent. Any drama of this season will be severely undercut or turn from pathos to bathos.
  • I did, however, love German Wells’s love for the West-Allen/Flash family. And Cisco’s anger over it.
  • Nora says that Cicada’s dagger even renders Supergirl powerless? How does that make any sense? Supergirl isn’t a metahuman; she’s an alien from another universe.
  • "I'll sidekick your face." Good one, Cisco.
  • Next week: I might get my wish for insight on the Nora/Future Iris dynamic!

Blindspot 4x03 Review: "The Quantico Affair" (Work Wife) [Contributor: Jen]


"The Quantico Affair"
Original Airdate: October 26, 2018

Martin Gero must have heard my angry typing last week when I demanded a storyline for Patterson. We stay with Patterson and Rich Dotcom through a whole case and it makes for a stellar Blindspot episode.

CASE OF THE WEEK


The single best part of "The Quantico Affair" is that we see how Rich Dotcom briefs the team. It's spectacular. Long story short, the Michelangelo tattoo led to the Michelangelo bomber. Rich skips all the boring "here's how I solved it" details and sends the team out with a location. I want this every week.


The Michelangelo bomber slips from FBI grasp by triggering a self-destruct protocol that blows his house sky high. Paint cans buffered Reade, Kurt, and Remi from the blast, and they come back looking like they just played a few rounds of paintball. Hilarious.

They interrogate the bomber, but he lawyers up quickly. Rich finds a text on the bomber's broken phone which leads to his partner, Larry. Rich sends the team out again while skipping the details again. Rich Dotcom, you are my king and country, sir. Where you go, so goes my nation.

Larry was a combat engineer with a federal explosives license for demolition explosives. He purchased 1,000 pounds of explosives a year ago and Patterson quickly deduces that Larry is going to blow up the hotel where he works. Okay, maybe the details are important.

The bomb squad is waiting at the hotel, which — as Rich explains — never happens. "They are normally stuck in traffic or something. They're the worst." Oh Blindspot, I do so love when you wink and nod at us with your beloved plot contrivances — especially because you are going to use this one in about ten minutes.

Madeline Burke, a.k.a. the "Sorceress of all Evil," makes a surprise appearance at FBI headquarters. Sure, Madeline, come right in and check out the super secret tattoo murder board. She informs the FBI she is ushering in a new era of "transparency," and hands over evidence to the FBI. The evidence leads directly to, you guessed it, the Michelangelo bombers. They were operatives of Crawford's who were in hiding, awaiting instructions. Since Crawford is dead, they remained dormant. Burke activated the bombers and set off the threat, so she could swoop in and play the hero with the press and garner some good publicity.

The hotel is clear, but there is unrestricted tunnel access underneath it. Larry has loaded the explosives onto one of the subway trains. Unfortunately, the bomb squad is stuck in traffic — wink, wink — so it's up to "Jane" to stop the bomb. This is something Blindspot has done dozens of times before, so of course we know Remi will diffuse the bomb. The best part of this particular bomb threat, however, is Patterson telling Weitz off.

She says: "You're not the bad guy. You're the director. This is on you. That's the job. But you don't have to do it alone. I know I'm asking for a lot, and the casualty numbers don't tip in my favor, but you're new here and I've been doing this for years. And I am telling you Jane is gonna defuse this bomb in time."

The point of this delightful episode is to show us that while the field team gets all the glory, the real work is done behind the scenes with Patterson's and Rich's tech squad. It is a refreshing change of pace for Blindspot and showcases two of their strongest characters. MORE OF THIS PLEASE.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


Patterson has one night stand with a very cute guy. She gives a fake name and sends him on his way. No harm no foul, right? WRONG. One Night Stand happens to be a guy named Lincoln — one of the Quantico recruits shadowing Patterson and Rich for the day. HAAAAA. This is how Derek and Meredith began on Grey's Anatomy. Oh, and it gets better: Lincoln also happens to be Director Weitz's nephew.


I cackled, and I'm not even sorry about it; this is too much fun. Rich calls Lincoln "Slab of Man-Ham" and thus it shall be his name forevermore. #shippingit "Why would I say anything?" Rich asks her. "I'm very thrilled for you. It's really unprofessional. I think that's what thrills me the most, actually."

Rich and Patterson are the perfect work wife/husband team. And yes, Rich is the work wife. They spend the rest of the hour bantering while saving New York City (again) and bickering about the "Book of Secrets." I am Team Rich on this one. It's called the Book of Secrets. Of course they have to find it!

Patterson eventually agrees. She and Rich decide they are ride or die on this particular project. They tell no one just so they don't get Jane's hopes up. Patterson and Rich's "ride or die" promise extends so much further though. It's clear they are becoming each other's go-to person, and watching this friendship develop has been one of Blindspot's highlights.

Weitz tells the team that Tasha Zapata is alive and she's wanted for the murder of Kira Evans. I told you her death was going to lead to big trouble! Reade does his best to defend Zapata, but Weitz unloads all of Tasha's secrets. A lot of this was news to Team Blindspot and they were sufficiently shocked. To be fair, Zapata hasn't kept any more secrets than the rest of the team has, but it's not a great pattern. She's just better at keeping secrets than the others.

"Makes you wonder what else we didn't know about her," Remi says.

Ah, yes, Jane a.k.a. Remi a.k.a. double-secret-agent-who-told-so-many-lies-over-the-years-I-can't-keep-them-straight-anymore should cool it with the condemnation, but she's evil so what can I expect?

Zapata didn't know Burke triggered the bombers, so it really makes me wonder who is controlling whom here? So far I am not impressed with Zapata's handle on the situation. She is in way over her head.

KURT AND JANE


We pick up immediately after the end of last week's episode. Remi is hiding the lethal syringe she's planning to kill Kurt with behind her back. Roman — the crazy voice in Remi's head — says: "He knows. This is it. Kill him" I know Blindspot is trying to increase the dramatic tension when Roman says stuff like this, but it does the direct opposite.

Remi comes up with another good lie (she is really good at this) and tells Kurt the syringe is her "final solution" for when things get bad. Kurt gets all emotional and begs "Jane" to reconsider — which she won't because she's evil and needs her husband-killing syringe. Kurt goes into protective husband overdrive and throws the syringe out. Remi is really mad, but can't she just make more syringes? I don't get it.

What's really a bummer is Kurt is turning out stellar Jeller moments week after week, but we can't really enjoy them because it's not really Jane on the receiving end. The man was crying and telling Jane that she is his life. This is torture, writers! Make it stop!

Remi leaves to meet with another contact, but Kurt follows her. He takes pictures of the person she meets with and then calls Patterson. Of course, I am leaping immediately to the conclusion that he knows (which would be fantastic if Kurt does know, because this cat and mouse game will get old. But we're only in episode three, so I don't want to get too excited. It's possible Kurt thinks this is all part of Jane's deterioration and still doesn't realize she's Remi).

It would be fantastic though if Weller has the jump on Remi. She's been overly-confident in her manipulation of Kurt, and even though she's doing a great job impersonating Jane it's still an impersonation. Kurt is going to figure it out eventually. It would be super fun if Kurt could turn flip this cat and mouse game in his favor for a few episodes.

Isn't it interesting though that when Roman is urging Remi to kill Kurt in the kitchen, she is unable to do it? Even the evil side of Jane Doe is in love with Kurt Weller.

Stray Thoughts:
  • Zapata has a very interesting running stride. Sorry I was in cross country. That stuff interests me
  • I'm gonna need someone on Team Blindspot to pick up on Remi's side eye.. Y'all are FBI agents for goodness sake.
  • I don't actually know what Patterson's name is, but I feel confident it is not Lisa.
  • "Thundercats, ho!" OMG was that an ad lib?
  • How does Weitz maintain employment? This may be the greatest of all Blindspot's mysteries.
  • Patterson, girl, Jane is never that cranky with you when she's diffusing bombs. SOMEBODY NOTICE PERSONALITY CHANGES, PLEASE!
  • Rich's Woody the Woodpecker laugh to describe Roman was hilariously on point.
  • Lincoln: "I did a lot of math in my head." Patterson: "Oh, well, that's where math is done." Oh yes, this is the man for our Patterson.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ask an Author: Rabbit & Robot's Andrew Smith [Contributor: Megan Mann]


When it comes to dystopia, readers have a pretty concrete idea of what the genre means. The world has experienced some cataclysmic event that has lead to society become the worst version of itself. There's usually a purge of human life and if there isn't, society works completely differently than the reader is used to. (Like how America turned into Panem, or how zombies have taken over the world, or how girls are given the chance to win the prince's love on a Bachelor-type show, how radiation has poisoned the world and the outlawed children on a space station are sent back to earth, or how the country has been divided based on personality traits.)

But what about if America is just constantly at war — both civil and global — and kids are encouraged to basically be either a never-ending soldier, or a coder in this great technically advanced future? What if space is no longer the final frontier and is easily accessible to anyone with the money? What if A.I. is as commonplace as a gallon of milk, and the futuristic version of Adderrall is passed out like candy?

Enter Andrew Smith's newest YA novel, Rabbit & Robot. With the dystopian sub-genre of YA fiction so saturated these days, this novel was a refresher. It was interesting and different, but never shied away from grounding itself in reality. The character, Cager, is trapped in space, but worried that he'll never use a can opener or kiss a girl. It's easy to see and understand the reality within the unknown.

How does Andrew Smith describe his newest book? I asked him about that and much more. Here are some of the greatest answers I've ever received in an interview.

Congratulations! Rabbit & Robot is finally out! How does it feel? Does the feeling ever change with each publication? 


Andrew: To be honest, it feels a little scary and strange. I took three years off between my last book and Rabbit & Robot, so I felt more than a bit nervous and apprehensive about getting back into the THING. But I always feel nervous and apprehensive whenever a book comes out.

When I read the description, it reminded me slightly of Grasshopper Jungle. Then when I started reading it, I realized the two could not be more different. Could you explain where the idea for this story came from? 


Back in 2015, one day I found myself trapped inside this massive machine hurtling through space, surrounded by thousands of insane robots that were eating each other. Then I realized I wasn't inside a machine with cannibalistic insane robots — it was only Twitter. So I decided to write a book about it.

(Megan's note: Best answer ever?)

When did you start writing this? It almost feels as if the election in 2016 was an influence on the 30 wars. 


I actually started writing the book in early 2015, well before the election and associated campaigns lost their bearings. But geez! who knew I would create robots that pretty much acted exactly like Brett Kavanaugh during his hearings?

Do you see the story as somewhat prophetic? It doesn’t seem that unlikely that technology is heading in the way of artificial intelligence — or, as you call them, "cogs" — and that this sort of technology has the ability to completely backfire?


I'm more concerned about the likelihood of public education being conquered by corporate interests, and then programming kids into predetermined (and very narrow) pathways to the JOBS OF THE FUTURE! Kids, you don't have to be Rabbits or Robots, just in case you were wondering.

Speaking of cogs, was it fun to write the cog dialogue? Their emotions are all over the place. 


I had fun writing the cogs. There was lots of material out there for me to draw from by just looking for the archetype manifestations on social media.

What about Dr. Geneva? How much research went into his soliloquies? It almost feels like you found the most random stuff to Google and thought, "Yeah, this will work!"


Dr. Geneva was a labor of love, and he's also one of my characters whom I would most like to punch in the face. He is a tribute to every never-shutting-up mansplainer I have ever encountered.

And yeah, mansplaining is exhausting, research-wise.

Not only is technology moving in the way of artificial intelligence, but there’s a new version of the space race on our hands. Was the Tennessee a reflection of that? 


The Tennessee is a combination of several things. First, it's a tribute to "Anecdote of the Jar," a poem by Wallace Stevens. Furthermore, it serves as a big heaping plate of my disgust for imperialism, and the wastefulness of obscene wealth. Like many people, I'm pretty much over Elon Musk. And anyone who shoots a sports car into space just because he CAN... well, how does that move us forward as a species at all?

The book almost feels like it takes place in two parts: pre- and post blue people. As a reader, they show up and you realize you have so much of the story left to go! Was that your intention? 


The blue people — Queen Dot, King Carlos, and their teenage sons — are really like the creators of the universe: God, in effect. I didn't want to write an entire book about "God," since I understand it's already been done. But I did want them to pop in just to mess with the few human beings left in the universe, and to let them know how woefully wrong we've been about everything since the dawn of time.

It almost feels like you’re saying, “Look, the theory that we’re all just a simulation and they want to see how long it takes us to totally destroy each other” is true. Would you agree or disagree? 


I think we're progressing much more slowly than any "intelligent" species has a right to, but I don't believe we're observable entertainment for anyone out there. And Queen Dot does lament what human beings have done to her favorite place in the universe, which is a beach in Mexico.

I think one of the most surprising aspects of the story is by the end, Cager says “Love and hope are what make us who we are.” While that’s clear in retrospect, — as he realizes that he has a version of love with Rowan and Billy and a potential greater love with Meg — it’s not what sticks out when you’re reading the story. Why the layering? 


Cager is a kid who was basically raised in a petri dish. He has no clue at all what it really means to be a human until he gets trapped in this hopeless situation on the Tennessee, and then all the opportunities (missed and otherwise) that come with being a human are entirely overwhelming to him. But yeah, love and hope. They all have hope at the end, don't they?

Okay, now to the fun stuff! It was recently Banned Books Week. What are some of your favorite banned books? 


I was on tour for Banned Books Week, and I even went to the city in Oregon where my book Stick was banned in a school district earlier in 2018. So let me start off with these: The Chocolate War (I wrote about this book being banned in Grasshopper Jungle), The Satanic Verses, and Slaughterhouse Five.

(Megan's note: Stick is one of Andrew Smith's best works specifically because of why it's banned. It's an incredible, and difficult, read.)

What’s your writing process like? 


I sit down at my messy desk, turn on my computer, and press little keys with letters on them. I don't think I have a "process." I don't draft or outline. I think about an idea for a long time (maybe six months to a year) until that idea becomes so concrete in my head, and then I just write it. I've been thinking about a thing for a while now, and I am just about to let it come out.

Could you see any of your work ever becoming a movie? What would a Rabbit & Robot movie look like? 


There are a few things that are in various stages of development. But I have also said NO to some of my stories being made into films. I would love to see Rabbit & Robot turned into a film, but it would have to have the right people behind it, and I have no desire whatsoever to write a script. I don't think I could ever turn one of my novels into a script.

And finally, what are you reading right now? 


I just finished reading Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. I loved it so very much!

Rabbit & Robot, an A.I. infested dystopian that will have you constantly thinking, questioning and laughing out loud, is out now through Simon & Schuster. And just read all of Andrew Smith's work, okay?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4x02 Review: "I Am Ashamed" (Little House of Horrors) [Contributor: Jenn]


"I Am Ashamed"
Original Airdate: October 19, 2018

I heard a thing a few years ago that has always stuck with me — "Guilt says, 'I've done something bad.' Shame says, 'I am something bad.'" Often, we conflate the two concepts. We know we should feel guilty for something bad that we've done to harm ourselves or someone else, but it easily spirals into shame; we go from believing we did something wrong to believing we are broken, wrong, horrible, no-good, and deserving of punishment always. Rebecca Bunch has never been a saint, that's for sure. She's struggled in the past with her mental health, relationships, and processing trauma. But in the final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, we're beginning to see Rebecca's self-actualization culminate into action. Granted, "I Am Ashamed" spends most of its time focused on Rebecca creating illusions of ghosts in order to deflect from her own shame, but eventually Rebecca gets it. Sorta.

SHAME, SHAME, I KNOW YOUR NAME


The central plot of "I Am Ashamed" is that Rebecca's been exposed to the world of West Covina. An article was published revealing all of her transgressions (of course, the meta joke is that so many of them could only be known by the viewers of the show), which sends Rebecca into a spiral. Obviously. Instead of putting away her laptop, Rebecca does what so many of us do — falls down an Internet rabbit hole. Rebecca's spiral leads her to the story of what happened in her house years ago. As you might remember — and if you didn't, the "previously on" segment helped — Rebecca and Heather live in a murder house. Rebecca learns in the episode that a young woman was innocently shot and killed, dying in a humiliating (and gross) way.

But instead of brushing off this information as insignificant, it's what fuels Rebecca to do or not do things in the episode. The shame Rebecca feels because people know all of the terrible things she did? It drives her to inaction; she spends the entire episode hiding in her house. It seems natural that a woman who suffers from phobias and control issues would fear the outside world after it abandoned and ridiculed her.

So try as they might throughout the episode, Heather, Valencia, and Paula can't get Rebecca to leave the house. She won't even step outside to have a session with her therapist. I have to give Rebecca some credit for the self-actualization she's experiencing recently. She isn't perfect, but she recognizes that her actions do have consequences and genuinely wants to become better. She struggles to do so, because falling back on her old habits (denial, hiding, blame-shifting, etc.) is much easier than admitting dark truths about herself.

Because "I Am Ashamed" is set around Halloween, Rebecca begins to hear noises and weird things in the house that lead her to believe the spirit of Devon, the girl who died in the house. The thing about Devon is that she's a perfect outlet for Rebecca's anxieties. Instead of acknowledging the shame she feels, Rebecca transfers her desperate, frantic energy onto finding out if a ghost is truly haunting her house. Devon died because she made one mistake. Now she's being judged for that one mistake, and Rebecca is (of course) internalizing the lesson and weight there.

At first, Heather and Paula are skeptical about the whole "haunted house" thing, clearly pointing out the real issues Rebecca is avoiding. Valencia is, unsurprisingly, the one of the group who's super into the spirit world. To humor their friend, the group leads a séance and tries to summon the spirit of Devon. They don't expect it to work, but suddenly weird things begin to happen and Paula and Heather are left to acknowledge the spookiness of it all. Rebecca then feels Devon wants them to visit her grave, so the women oblige because they're a girl group.

While at Devon's grave, Rebecca's internalizing comes to fruition. "Devon," she says, "I know what it's like to feel ashamed. And I know that it's easy sometimes to dwell in that shame rather than move on." It was a nice moment where Rebecca spoke to herself as much as to the ghost of this girl. Shame is hard to deal with, honestly. It creeps up when you least expect it. It makes your stomach tie in knots, and causes you to break out in sweats. Your shame keeps you locked inside metaphorical and literal places. But there is hope — that is the thing that really combats shame. It's the realization that we are all flawed but that our mistakes don't define us. And because shame thrives in secrecy, the first step — like Rebecca took — is confronting it, head-on.

This year, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reminded us that embarrassment and regrets will always be bigger Halloween monsters than ghosts and zombies. But like ghosts and zombies, they too can be defeated.

Extra fun:
  • There were some minor stories this episode — Nathaniel has a new not-so-silent partner at the firm, thanks to Rebecca's group therapy buddy. And then Darryl struggled with caring for his new daughter because so much has changed with parenting since the last time he did it. The story is played for laughs (Darryl leaves Heabecca with White Josh because he was told at his parenting group that breast milk is better than formula and goes through a black market vendor to get it), but ultimately even Darryl's ex-wife admits that he's a good parent and that his daughter will be okay even if he doesn't follow all of the advice everyone gives him).
  • The new credits debuted this week! I love that we got to hear Rachel explain it at Comic-Con and perform it for us. Seeing it completed was so much fun, though I still prefer season one's credits above... everything else, honestly.
  • "Thanks for sauntering back in here after weeks of absence."
  • MISSED YOU, PATTON OSWALT.
  • "Thank you for being the kind of person I would hate to hang out with on Halloween."
  • I still don't know why Josh Chan is here, but he is.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Million Little Things 1x05 Review: "the game of your life" (The Good Fight) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: ABC)

"the game of your life"
Original Airdate: October 24, 2018

We're all fighting for something — purpose, a promotion, love, belonging. We fight for our voices to be heard and for our marriages to be saved. We fight for silly things and profound things. For most people, when there's something significant at stake, they approach the situation with boxing gloves already on. They're ready for a fight. Even though "the game of your life" tells very different stories, the core of each of them is that people are willing to fight for the things they believe in. So let's take a look at what's worth the sacrifice, shall we?

THE MOST IMPORTANT BASKETBALL GAME


We'll start with Gary and Maggie's story, mostly because it was the most emotionally grounded one in the episode and had some pretty high stakes. As we remember from last week's episode, Gary found out from her ex-boyfriend that Maggie's cancer has returned. So in classic Gary fashion, he creates a special day to get Maggie to open up, instead of just revealing what he already knows. The couple spends most of the afternoon enjoying deep dish pizza... until Gary's cover is blown when Maggie notices he brought grape soda. His silence is telling enough, and Gary earnestly then tells Maggie that he'll be by her side as she fights cancer and goes through treatment.

But that's when Maggie drops her bombshell — she's done with treatments and chemo. If she's going to live or die, it will be on her own terms. James Roday does incredible work in the next scene as Gary earnestly pleads with Maggie to reconsider and finally storms off in anger because Maggie will not relent. He spends the rest of the afternoon angry, until he decides to make a bet with her: if he wins a basketball game they'll play, then she has to go to treatment. Maggie counters that she accepts his terms but if she wins their game, he can't bring up treatment anymore.

And while initially it seems like Gary might win the game, Maggie ends up with the victory! Of course, Gary is upset and the drive home is awkward. But then Gary and Maggie have an incredibly heartbreaking scene. Gary isn't the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. His go-to method of response to most situations is sarcasm. In the car, however, Gary begs and pleads with Maggie to not make him watch her die. I think for the first time, Maggie is incredibly hurt by this abandonment. She knew Gary wouldn't understand her decision, but expected him to stay by her. Gary and Maggie's moment is absolutely heartbreaking. Through tears, she thanks him for the day.

I cried. Obviously. Gary and Maggie's story is so sweet though! It's filled with genuine emotion in which Gary is becoming a better version of himself. With his decision to stay with Maggie at the end of the episode, my only hope is that Maggie continues to grow and let Gary be there for her.

BE THE TREE


Katherine and Eddie's story continues to develop — maybe not in the way Eddie expected though. After Katherine realizes that she'll be late to Theo's play, Eddie decides that he'll figure out a way to stall the play from starting until Katherine arrives. True to his word, Eddie comes through and gets the working moms to pester the principal until Katherine shows up. But when it's time for Theo to go on stage, he confesses that another kid teased him about being a tree. Trees aren't important, he was told. Katherine very sweetly tells Theo that sometimes she feels like a tree, too — a person who plays a very small role in a giant play. But trees matter, she assures him. People need them and the play needs Theo. It's a sweet moment of connection for Katherine and Theo, who you can tell comes to expect that his mom will FaceTime or "try her hardest" to make it to an important event. Eddie is seen as the primary parent, but how does that make Katherine feel? Pretty terrible, obviously. She wants more from her relationship with Theo than being seen as secondary.

At the end of the episode, Katherine and Eddie share a moment. If it was a rom-com, they would have kissed as Eddie wiped soap off her cheek. But Katherine is angry — all she could think of throughout the day was the fact that even though they seemed to click, she knew how broken they were as a couple. And she couldn't move past Eddie's infidelity. Worse though, Katherine wonders aloud why she doesn't feel like she deserves more from her relationship with Eddie. It's a heartbreaking moment for anyone watching who's ever felt that way about a relationship — that we've deserved more than we settle for.

Eddie moves in with Gary at the end of the episode, leaving Katherine to embrace the primary parent role. I'm interested to see how her relationship with Eddie and the rest of the group continues to develop.

A LITERAL FIGHT


Sophie gets suspended for punching a girl in this episode. Obviously Delilah is upset... until Sophie tells her the reason. A girl in Sophie's grade posted a prayer for Jon because she believes anyone who commits suicide is in hell. When Delilah tries to provide platitudes to her daughter, Sophie reminds Delilah that Jon was the only person who took them to church; Delilah doesn't even believe in God. The conflict between Sophie and Delilah in the episode was one that I was afraid the show would take to a trite, theological place. Thankfully, I was wrong. While their conversation about religion lasted exactly one scene, the two spend the rest of the episode being suspended and trying everything they can to make themselves feel better.

They eat junk food. They bring out an old punching dummy and Sophie hits it. They watch movies. But nothing seems to quite cure the feeling that both Sophie and Delilah have inside. That's because the catalyst isn't religion necessarily — it's unanswered questions. Delilah is 43 and doesn't know what she believes about God. Sophie isn't sure either, but both women can't turn to the person who had all the answers for them.

So what do they do now?

Delilah mentions something that initially seems like a throwaway line — a quote from "Rainbow Connection" (which apparently is what Jon would sing to Sophie before she was even born) — and tells her daughter that maybe they'll just have to be okay with not having answers. For now. They'll find them, someday. But it's okay that they don't know things. Their story ends with Sophie digging out her guitar, playing and singing "Rainbow Connection" to comfort her and her mom.

That song is about to become more poignant than we know.

More stuff:
  • We find out who's pregnant in the episode and... dun, dun, dun! It's Delilah. 
  • This episode also features Rome determining whether or not his family has a history of depression. Initially, his father denies experiencing the kind of darkness Rome describes. But Rome's mother catches him before he leaves to tell him otherwise. Turns out, depression is a part of Rome's family history.
  • "I don't want to go to court. I want to watch my son be a tree."
  • "I once backed his car into his OTHER car."
  • "Sure you don't want kids? I'm having a sale."
  • " ... Was that before or after you slept with other members of our friend group?"
  • Well played delaying the school production, Eddie. Well played.
  • WHY DOES GARY HATE DEEP-DISH PIZZA?
  • "I don't know a Tom. I'm Gary with the grape soda."
  • "With all due respect, that is the stupidest thing your face has ever said."
  • "Why don't I feel like I deserve more?"
  • It's cool, James Roday and Allison Miller made me ugly cry.
  • "You're so nonchalantly touching the part of the stick Regina urinated on."
How about that twist, though? Stay tuned for the resolution in next week's episode!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Blindspot 4x02 Review: "My Art Project" (Cracks) [Contributor: Jen]


"My Art Project"
Original Airdate: October 19, 2018

Blindspot often packs so much action and answers into their premiere, midseason finale, and finale that the episodes in between don't have enough to do. This problem has plagued previous seasons, and it seems season four will be much of the same. We slug our way through "My Art Project," but it is so boring.

CASE OF THE WEEK


The case of the week is fairly convoluted, even by Blindspot standards, but I'll do my best. Rich realizes one of Jane's tattoos from the Tokyo cache is located inside FBI headquarters on a large piece of artwork depicting the globe. The outline of the tattoos matches the outline of the Tasman Sea. I have no idea what Rich is talking about. I don't see how the outlines match, but whatever. Moving on!

The tattoo leads to a web address (don't ask me how... something about magnetism and numbers). The web address leads to a real address, so Remi and Patterson check it out. They are knocked out by gas and when they awake, they've moved locations.

A man named Jason Stack greets them and claims to be part of the same super secret branch of the NSA that Nas works for — Zero Division. He's running an operation which collects inter-office agency intelligence. The artwork is used as a recruitment technique. If you are smart enough to figure out the puzzle, then you may be the type of agent Slack needs. Yes, this is a ridiculous recruitment method, but just roll with it.


Long story short, Jason Stack does not really work for the NSA. He's a Russian code breaker and spy named Boris Sokolov. He has been leaking American intelligence for years. His family defected to the United States, but Boris believes they are dead.

Team Blindspot is determined to stop him, but Remi has another plan. She believes Sokolov has the locations of FBI black sites, which could lead to Shepherd. When they meet Sokolov again, Remi takes an antidote so she remains conscious while Patterson is knocked out by the gas. She offers him the location of his family in exchange for the USB drive containing the black site locations.

Remi convinces Sokolov to take her hostage by promising that Jane's husband will never shoot if she's in danger. She promises to protect Sokolov once he's taken into FBI custody. Of course, this is all a lie. Remi gives Kurt a nod and he immediately shoots Boris. Now there's no one to tie Remi to the information she stole. More importantly, she has the black site locations which bring her one step closer to Mama Shepherd.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


Rich suggests the team could use help analyzing the artwork, so they bring back Boston. Boston is the only one to immediately notice Jane's new look and edgier attitude! Yes, it's all about the hair! She's evil!


At first, Rich is thrilled to be working with his ex-boyfriend again. However, when the team seems to enjoy working with Boston a little too much, Rich's jealousy begins to show. The competitive banter between Boston and Rich is hilarious, but it does expose some warranted uncertainty on Rich's part. There were many times last season when Rich had to prove his loyalty to Team Blindspot. He chose the team time and again.

However, he hasn't received the same kind of confirmation from the team. Bringing in Boston is the only way to do that. I'm not saying the team can't like Boston or enjoy working with him. However, I believe there will come a time when either Kurt, Reade, or Patterson reassures Rich that he is their favorite reformed criminal and no none could take his place. I think the character has earned the reassurance.

Zapata continues to be on her own show and it is a hot mess. Burke informs Tasha that poison is her preferred method of murdering people. She killed her husband Silas the same way. Her smile after sharing this story to Zapata is truly creepy.  Well done, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. You officially gave me the wiggins. It's clear this is not a person Zapata should double cross, which makes her plan to double cross Burke even trickier.

Tasha visits Kira Evans, an associate of Crawford's (played by the woefully-underused Gloria Reuben). She wants all of Crawford's secret files, which Evans eventually hands over. Everything is going all right until Burke shoots Evans point-blank. She casually tells Zapata to clean it up, and now she's an accessory to murder.


Zapata does clean up the murder, but is unable to shoot Evans' little girl who is hiding in the closet. It's good to know Tasha hasn't completely lost her mind. Of course, leaving this loose end untied will only cause more problems with Burke in the future, but it is nice to see Zapata doing the right thing for a change.

Reade, in his infinite wisdom, refuses to believe Tasha went down in Blake's plane — even after Rich confirms she's on the manifest. The CIA is looking for Zapata as well. She hasn't checked in and they are tired of her off-book approach. I'm tired of it too. I have no doubt Reade will piece this all together, but how many felonies Zapata will commit in the meantime remains to be seen.

KURT AND JANE


There was not a lot a movement on the Kurt and Jane front in this episode. Remi continues to pretend to be Jane, and Kurt continues to not figure it out. The worried and doting husband routine is working for now; it's actually really sweet. However, if Blindspot insists on this cat and mouse game between husband and wife for several episodes, it can rapidly make Kurt look like a moron.

There is a crack in the Remi facade though, and Kurt is beginning to notice. He sees her taking pictures of evidence. When Kurt questions Remi about it, she simply explains that she is having difficulty remembering things in the field. Kurt constantly being upset when "Jane" doesn't come to him immediately makes me question if he remembers seasons one through three of Blindspot. You two never tell each other stuff right away. That's how 99% of the drama is created on this show!

Kurt noticing Remi taking pictures isn't the only crack she shows. Remi complains about what a nuisance Kurt will be now that he's back on active duty. She creates a lethal solution she can stab Kurt with, should he figure out Jane isn't Jane. However, Roman — a.k.a. the crazy voice inside Remi's head — wonders if she'll have the strength to kill Kurt Weller. Remi is adamant she hates everything Kurt stands for.

Methinks she doth protest too much! I said in my review last week that I am uncertain how Blindspot is going to play out this Jane/Remi memory cure. Will Kurt be able to get through to Remi, or will he need to wait for the cure? It seems Blindspot is going with the former, which makes for better television. I don't believe Remi hates Kurt as much as she says. Her memories as Jane are still in there and I doubt she'll be able to follow through on killing Kurt. More importantly, if there is an crack inside of Remi where Jane resides, then Kurt will find it.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Rich Dotcom is on fire! Favorite lines: "Before you know it we'll be burning the American flag and eating borscht." "Welcome back Curtis I-Don't-Know-Your-Middle-Name Weller!" "I'm the work wife!"
  • Does Patterson have a storyline this year? So far it seems like no.

Doctor Who 11x03 Recap: “Rosa” (A Powerfully Honest Look at Racism) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


“Rosa”
Original Airdate: October 21, 2018

A lot of the time, Doctor Who is about space, aliens, time travel, and how kindness and cleverness can defeat evil. But sometimes, the show reaches out and touches audiences in an especially poignant and timely way. In “Rosa,” Doctor Who did something extraordinary: it told the historical truth of Rosa Parks without dumbing anything down, without downplaying the fear people of color lived with or the courage it took to stand up to terrifying levels of hatred, and without missing the point that racism still exists today. It was powerful, emotional, and sometimes uncomfortable to watch but so incredibly important.

This is the exactly the episode Doctor Who needed to make.


NOT IN THE UK ANYMORE


Rosa Parks just wants to ride the bus home after another long day of work. She pays the fare, but the driver tells her she must disembark and enter through the back to “her” area. She refuses and there’s a brief tussle before she plops herself down in a “whites only” seat. The driver screams at her to get off the bus and, when she does, he drives off without her.

Twelve years later, in 1955, the TARDIS appears in an alleyway. To the surprise of no one except Yaz, Ryan, and Graham, the Doctor is having some trouble taking them straight back home. Or rather, the TARDIS is being her usual stubborn self. While scanning the area, the Doctor picks up traces of Arton energy. The group go out exploring and immediately gets into hot water. Ryan kindly picks up a woman’s fallen handkerchief and receives a hard slap of thanks from her husband. This is 1955 Alabama and they don’t like black men handing white women anything.

Ryan is held back by Graham and Yaz, but it’s Rosa Parks who saves the day by stepping in to defuse the situation. The group is thrilled to meet her, but she has no idea why. She’s not yet the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. The TARDIS team goes to a diner for lunch and discover it is the day before Rosa will famously refuse to give up her seat on the bus. Further discussion is halted when the waitress says they refuse to serve black or Mexican people, the latter incorrectly referring to Yaz.


GREASED LIGHTNING


A man dressed like a T-bird from Grease tries using alien tech to break into the TARDIS but can’t get past the forcefield. Meanwhile, even though they never got lunch, the Doctor and her friends follow Atron energy signals to a bus company and they locate a briefcase hidden by a perception filter. Inside is additional Atron tech. That’s when knockoff Danny Zuko attacks and the group flees. The Doctor confronts the mysterious alien, who is wearing a vortex manipulator, and zaps his Atron-powered gun with her sonic.

Our team regroups in a motel room but are once again interrupted by horrible racism. A cop who has been following them knocks on the door, forcing Ryan and Yaz to hide in the bathroom. The Doctor and Graham stall by saying Graham is Steve Jobs and they’re in town to pitch a smartphone. This gives Ryan and Yaz time to escape out the bathroom window and down the alley a bit. They talk about the pervasive racism in Montgomery and how it still exists in the present in the UK. However, Yaz reminds Ryan it’s better and it will keep getting better as long as we work at it.

Coming together for a third time to try to sort things out, the team is able to determine Rosa’s bus schedule and find her on her usual route home. Ryan follows her off the bus and asks to “join the fight.” She invites him to serve the coffee at a meeting that night that includes Dr. King. Ryan freaks out in the best way.

Elsewhere, the Doctor confronts Danny Zuko for the second time, tricks him into sending his weapons into the future, and overheats his gun. With nothing to threaten her with, he has to listen as the Doctor deduces he was recently released from Stormcage prison and he has a neural inhibitor in his brain to prevent him from harming anyone. She tests this theory by baiting him, but he barely grabs her and is forced to let go. His true name is Krasko and he is planning to upset history by preventing Rosa Parks’ famous moment on the bus in the hopes of keeping people of color from achieving rights and equality. Basically, he’s an alien racist who wants to prevent Rosa and the Civil Rights Movement from instigating change throughout history and throughout the universe.

THE MOST IMPORTANT BUS RIDE IN HISTORY


Using his “in” as a fellow bus driver, Graham chats up the driver from Rosa’s famous future, James Blake. But Blake has had his schedule changed so we won’t be there for Rosa to stand up to tomorrow. Graham reports this to the team and the Doctor tells them their plan is to protect history, to make sure things happen exactly as they’re supposed to.

To that end, the Doctor and Yaz send Blake’s replacement driver on a holiday to Las Vegas. Graham and Ryan show up at Blake’s day trip at the creek, thereby driving him to leave and return to work. Krasko breaks the bus and cancels the route but the Doctor and Graham hotwire another one and deliver it to Blake, who has got to be wondering why these people care so much about a bus route. To keep an eye on Rosa, the Doctor rips her coat and takes it to her for repair, leaving Yaz there to make sure she gets to the bus on time. Ryan has the hardest task: trying to get people, especially white people, to line up for the bus even though he’s black and Krasko has posted notices that the route is canceled.

When he encounters the alien himself, Ryan finally gets to fight back after needing to stay silent and non-responsive throughout every racist encounter in the episode. He uses Krasko’s own temporal displacement device to send him through time and away from Montgomery. Then Ryan boards the bus with the others. Doing a head count, the Doctor realizes they need to remain on the bus to take up enough seats so that Rosa will be asked to move to make room for white passengers.

It’s gut-wrenching and powerful to watch as Rosa quietly but firmly refuses to give up her seat. Blake screams at her, threatens her with arrest, but she doesn’t move. The Doctor, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham must remain still and not interfere even though it’s clearly requiring every bit of willpower to do so. The police are called and Rosa is escorted off the bus, nodding gently to Ryan through the window. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor shows them how even though Rosa’s life was still a struggle after that moment, her courage inspired an equal rights movement that stretched throughout the world and into the universe. 

Final Thoughts: 

  • Doctor Who is at its scariest when it plays on our primal fears and the true hatred, injustice, and racism portrayed in this episode hit home. I would wager every single viewer found this episode deeply uncomfortable because it wasn’t racism happening on another world in another galaxy. It was real life. It happened to people who are still alive today. And it’s still happening.  
  • I’m not the biggest River Song fan but it did strike me as odd that she wasn’t mentioned or hinted about AT ALL in this episode. Krasko was released from Stormcage, where River was imprisoned too, and has a vortex manipulator just like she did. But not a single passing word about her. 
  • In the tradition of the Tenth Doctor, Thirteen’s shirt changed color when visiting the past. Instead of blue, her striped shirt was red. 
  • Ryan, about a mysterious alien suitcase: “Can we open it?” The Doctor: “Is the right question!”
  • Yaz: “Everything here is a fight for you. Do you ever get tired? What keeps you going?” Rosa Parks: “Promise of tomorrow. When today isn’t working, tomorrow is all you have.”
  • After they’re kicked out of the diner, Graham worries they aren’t going to stop for lunch again. That’s a man who has his priorities in the right place. 

Supergirl 4x02 Review: "Fallout" (Tensions High) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Fallout”
Original Airdate: October 21, 2018 

In an interesting choice, this week’s Supergirl has no villain of the week. Instead, the show makes the wise decision to focus entirely on the events of last episode, including the escape of Mercy Graves, the reveal of the president as an alien, and how animosity toward aliens on Earth is growing. I’d actually be cool with the show foregoing minor villains entirely this season, because honestly? Their villain of the season is hatred. Bank-robbing aliens and metahumans who can control lightning just look a little silly in comparison.

YA GOT TROUBLE


Protests outside the White House! Okay, this episode’s pacing and utilization of primary characters is good — its political language? Not so much. The dialogue during the opening protest scenes are about as clunky as your average Facebook-shared political cartoon, except worse because extras (who are just trying their best, I’m sure) are actually saying the lines. Fighting amongst protestors breaks out. A car careens into a flagpole, dislodging it and sending it crashing into the crowd.

Before it can squash anyone, Supergirl swoops through and lifts the flagpole into the air. Old Glory still a-flapping in the breeze, Supergirl crams the flagpole into the concrete sidewalk outside the White House gates and poses next to it. “Now is the time to talk to each other, not fight,” she calls out to the dazed protestors, as the background music thrums. Hey! Hey, Supergirl — I see you, trying to win me over with classic cheesiness. I’m onto you, and I’m not that easy.

Since she’s definitely not an American-born citizen (seriously, how did that little fact slip past all the background checks?), President Wonder Woman must step down as Commander-in-Chief and leave the role for her Vice President, a man named Baker who toes the line between suspicious and charming when Supergirl talks to him later in the episode. As the DEO watches the president’s resignation address, one DEO soldier pipes up with a loud declaration that, as an alien who disguised herself as human, President Marsdin belongs in one of their holding cells. Um... The DEO was previously led by a Martian. How did an anti-alien person get through screening?

Speaking of the former director of the DEO, J’onn is heading the weakest storyline of the episode: his search for Fiona, who was killed last week. Maybe if we, the audience, had been given more time with Fiona — and if she disappeared without us seeing her actual death — J’onn’s story here would be more compelling. As it is, though, J’onn is on a mission to solve a mystery we already know the answer to, and it comes off like he’s been given “busy work.” Yeah, he stumbles into an anti-alien rally led by this season’s big bad, but we already knew about this season’s big bad and the episode’s already full of anti-alien rhetoric, so what’s the point?

Meanwhile, at CatCo, James Olsen is trying to keep neutral during the highly polarizing anti-alien wave sweeping the nation. He has good reasoning for it (he can’t draw attention to himself after the Guardian fiasco; CatCo’s job is to give people news, not opinions) but butts heads against the charmingly imploring Nia Nal, who wants him to write a Letter from the Editor about the current state of things.

Nia’s storyline in this episode crosses with Brainy’s storyline, as Nia goes in search of some coffee and Brainy in search of some disgusting, disgusting apple and olive pizza to boost morale at the DEO. They end up at the same pizzeria. While Brainy is waiting to pay for his pizzas, Mercy Graves hacks into Lena’s Image Inducer system and takes the tech that aliens use to look human offline. Once Brainy looks like his alien self, the pizzeria owner turns and orders employees to beat Brainy with baseball bats. Nia steps in to tell them to back off, which they do. Brainy is left with first-hand experience of primitive Earth prejudice, and Nia is left with strengthened resolve to get James to write that editorial piece. As a transgender woman, Nia has her own first-hand experience with primitive Earth prejudice, but she believes that standing up to injustice holds a mirror to the faces of bullies, and James should use his position of power to that effect.

When Lena locks Mercy out of the Image Inducer system during the Brainy situation, Mercy’s only option is to storm L-Corp and access it through the mainframe. She does that.

Kara just so happened to have been interviewing Lena about Mercy’s past with the Luthor family, so she ends up trapped in the L-Corp building along with Lena and Eve Teschmacher. The scenes with Lena and Kara, who is trying desperately to separate herself from Lena so she can change into Supergirl, are my personal highlight of the episode. Lena shows such hilariously logical concern for Kara while Kara fakes phone calls to hide her DEO earpiece and catches bullets. I do love the dynamic between Kara and Lena a lot, and these scenes shine with it.

After making their way through the L-Corp building, Lena and Kara end up in the place where Lena keeps all her sciency prototypes. Mercy’s already been around, having stolen a gun arm of the Lexosuit and situated herself in the room for the perfect villainous saunter. She spews some “you should be fighting the aliens because POWER!” nonsense at Lena, and this whole confrontation sorta underlines what’s wrong with Supergirl’s approach to a real-world problem of prejudice and needless hatred: it’s too simple.

Mercy wants to fight against aliens because she wants power and she likes being bad. Later on, Agent Jensen listens to the story of Brainy’s experience with bigotry and doesn’t feel compassion for someone he knows going through something awful, and he doesn’t feel any hope or empathy when he listens to Supergirl’s inspiring speech against bigotry on the news — he feels anger, and ugliness, because it’s very simple for the show to draw the line between good and bad with things like anger and ugliness.

Jensen is bad. He has ugly emotions and he helps Mercy and Otis escape, and they are also bad because they have ugly emotions. And yes, a lot of bigoted, awful people are simply bigoted, awful people who are just going to die angry, but a lot of other bigoted, awful people are... neighbors. Coworkers. Soccer moms at shopping malls who don’t go to rallies or hold protest signs or order bombs on the internet to kill the schoolmates they don’t like their kids hanging around. Supergirl doesn’t have the finesse to handle the truly insidious reality of prejudice, and the one time they might have gotten close — a CatCo employee making an anti-alien gibe at a coworker — the person’s empathy cuts in and she’s ashamed as soon as she realizes she hurt someone.

On Supergirl, there are people who make mistakes within the realm of prejudice — like the CatCo employee — but aren’t that bad, and there are people who hurl slurs in the streets and want to murder everyone who doesn’t look like them, and the latter are the true enemy. The approach is cartoonish, and considering that it’s loosely based on current events, that cartoonishness can be ethically dangerous. Painting bigotry with such a wide brush of “ugly-filled people who order bombs online” allows prejudiced people to look at it and go, “Well, at least I’m not like that,” ignoring that fact that “not like that” is still “that,” just quieter.

Anyway, Mercy and Otis have escaped. They use a device to spray kryptonite into the atmosphere, poisoning Kara as she’s flying and sending her plummeting to the ground.

Other Things:

  • Wait, Brainy’s using Lena’s Image Inducer and not like... future technology? I’m pretty sure he should be on a different network or something.
  • Okay, Kara’s ending speech kinda got me in that part of my heart that still believes in hope. Good work, show.
  • I like the little hints that Lena might be getting over her grudge against Supergirl. Also: I probably could’ve written another thousand words on Lena’s characterization in this episode and how she’s actually a morally (light) gray character written right, but people have to read these things! I’m not that cruel!

The Good Doctor 2x04 Review: "Tough Titmouse" (Personal Responsibility) [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


"Tough Titmouse"
Original Airdate: October 15, 2018

The theme of this week’s The Good Doctor centered around parents finding the right way to be there for their kids. For the parents of kids in the hospital, decisions are made in the face of fear. However, what about the decisions you already made for a child? What if you regret a choice you made that changed the course of your child’s life? Or worse, what if you don’t, and living with the pain of doing the right thing is harder than anything else? Several parents found themselves in these positions, including one doctor who has kept a very tight lid on his personal life.

Shaun is the one person who could not understand the parental perspective, nor was his storyline directly related to this topic. Shaun’s biggest challenge was getting Lea to talk to him. However, Lea isn’t the only person Shaun has made angry. Dr. Glassman is perturbed, at the very least, when Shaun interrupts his very vivid hallucinations of his late daughter Maddie (The Americans’ Holly Taylor).

It’s difficult to say what would have been easier on Glassman: Shaun disrupting his mentor’s conversation with his dead daughter, or letting this guilt-riddled therapy session reach its conclusion. The latter is what happened, and it was painful to watch. Because as we finally learn the reason Glassman harbors so much guilt over his daughter’s death is because he feels he handled her addiction all wrong. Father and daughter go through the ringer dredging up every argument they ever had, just the way they would have had she survived.

The two main cases of the week dealt with opposite ends of the parent-child dynamics. Dr. Reznick and Brown technically deal with a young adult whose parents take drastic steps to keep their daughter from extreme sports. In that case, no one won because an arguable overreaction was in direct reaction to an underreaction.

Shaun deals with a teen with Fragile X Syndrome whose mother decides she no longer has the energy to take care of him on her own. But while this case seems more closely relatable to Shaun, especially given his flashbacks to his time in a foster home, the case is actually closer to Dr. Melendez. As we learn in this hour, Melendez also has a disabled sister who is also in a group home. True, she seems to receive the finest care he can provide her. But there’s no easy way to understand the pain both child and caretaker feel when your own best isn’t enough. Through his sister, we got to see a new depth to Melendez and why personal responsibility is such an important part of his character.

What this hour was really about is that personal responsibility doesn’t end when a child reaches adulthood, and it shows fewer discrepancies than we think between “healthy” children and those with a sickness or disability. That kind of weight stays with you. But taking full responsibility sometimes means admitting you can’t do it alone. Glassman made that mistake, and it took his daughter’s ghost forgiving him to finally regain a little peace.

By the hour’s end, Shaun had to admit his fears to Lea. Shaun was a little too honest with Lea about his pain. All he had to do was pepper his honesty with kindness. That Lea could understand. Still, my jaw was on the floor when Shaun told Lea he rented a two-bedroom for them to share! Go big or go home, right?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Million Little Things 1x04 Review: "friday night dinner" (It All Started in an Airport) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: ABC)

“friday night dinner”
Original Airdate: October 17, 2018

When you look at an event — a fixed point in time — you can find yourself asking: “How did I get here?” All of the little decisions and moments seem just that in the moment: little. Insignificant. It’s just one drink. Just one time. Just one little white lie. But then those moments string together to form bigger moments and bigger decisions and soon, we end up sitting on the floor wondering how exactly our life turned out the way it did.

A Million Little Things is fixated on the little moments that lead to the bigger ones. And I, for one, am glad they are. It’s easy to focus on the big event of the series (Jon’s death), but it’s more important to understand how the characters became who they were when he died. This week’s episode focuses on little things about each character that led them to who they are in the present-day and who they might become in the future.

THE SOFTER SIDE


When A Million Little Things began, I was worried that Katherine would just become this demonized workaholic wife. I was also worried that we wouldn’t get much out of Eddie’s character other than “former musician who had an affair with Delilah.” This week, we got the chance to explore more of their characters — and I loved it. Eddie was having some existential moments, returning to a bar he used to frequent when he was an alcoholic and thinking about the feeling of being on stage performing. But we learn more about how bad Eddie’s drinking became; on the day his son was born, Eddie was drunk in the middle of the day at a bar. He hit bottom and he hit it hard.

In spite of his transgressions, Eddie admits that to Katherine. She had to be someone he never wanted her to be. It was his fault that he put her into that position, and he can’t blame her for it. While Katherine appreciates the sentiment, it’s clear that their road is still rocky. But she, too, admits that they were broken as a couple long before Eddie and Delilah began their affair. Katherine’s softness had to take a back seat in their lives — she was the one trying to hold their family together when Eddie was spiraling. When Sophie fights with Delilah, she comes to Eddie and Katherine’s for a guitar jam session. Katherine has the chance to speak wisdom and gentleness to Sophie, which is really beautiful.

Part of Katherine’s struggle is feeling like an outsider, and I think that “friday night dinner” demonstrated the fact that Jon never wanted people to feel unwelcome. No matter what, there would always be pizza on a Friday night if he could help it. And while Delilah’s memories and our flashbacks show us glimpses into other aspects of Jon’s personality (the darker side of hospitality is that you pour yourself out and there’s nothing left to give to those you love; your whole identity is helping people), it was nice to see that Katherine still felt welcome by the end of the episode.

Things aren’t perfect, of course, because how could they be? But it’s a start.

GARE BEAR


I love James Roday. The work he’s already doing with Gary’s nuances and complexities? It’s beautiful. This week, Gary and Maggie’s relationship is rocky. Maggie meets a former hookup of Gary’s at a meeting and accuses him of being a player (not entirely wrong), and Gary meets Maggie’s former boyfriend outside of her apartment where he learns that Maggie’s cancer is back. Speaking of, Maggie is such an interesting character. She has all of this head knowledge of why people react the way they do — she gives solid advice to Rome in the episode over lunch about people existing but not really living. That’s what Rome is doing, and that’s what Maggie has to decide between. From her perspective, another round of treatments would just be an existence: a cycle of chemo and radiation. But Maggie’s future doesn’t look promising without treatment. In fact, doctors seem surprised she’d even consider the option to refuse treatment.

Maggie wants to live, but she wants to do it on her own terms. And so she and Gary fight about his past and his gross desire to hook up with cancer survivors. She accuses him of not being serious, but he fires back that SHE claimed things weren’t serious either. Maggie won’t open up to Gary — not fully — and so Gary decides to be the one to take the first step. From her ex-boyfriend, he knows Maggie’s cancer is back but she won’t be the one to tell him. So when he shows up at her apartment to clear the air about his past, she surmises that he’ll tell her she’s different from all the other women. Instead, Gary claims that he’s different.

He takes off his shirt, and finally shows Maggie his scar. She’s stunned into silence, and it’s such an incredibly wonderful, wordless scene. Gary’s such a soft character who masks his vulnerabilities with sarcasm and one-night stands. It’s easier to detach that way, and I’m interested to know if this kind of defense mechanism really set in after his cancer diagnosis. I hope we’ll see that soon. But Gary clearly cares about Maggie and instead of waiting for her to let down a wall, he put his down. Maggie’s still in hiding, but Gary’s example of vulnerability and sacrifice is incredible; he had no expectations for how she’d respond, but he did it anyway.

That’s what being brave truly looks like.

More things:
  • Rome is working through his struggles and making changes! He quits his job at the end of the episode because he wants to focus on making his movie. His whole family and crew are supportive of his decision.
  • “There’ll be high fives and fist bumps all around. Unless they’re like you and then it’ll be a weird combination of both.”
  • “I gave a Russian chick a backstage pass.” “That’s not a euphemism.”
  • The Alzheimer’s/dementia story with Delilah’s father is so sad, especially at the end when her father doesn’t know Jon is dead. 
  • “We don’t always get to choose who and how we love. Sometimes it chooses us.”
  • Ooof, the fact that Eddie was drunk on the day his son was born though.
  • Regina and Rome’s relationship is lovely; I just hope he tells Regina soon about his depression.
  • “That’s what we’re doing now? Being big people?” “Yeah. Maybe you should try it.”
  • I’m glad Eddie and Gary’s relationship isn’t entirely fixed yet.