Deconstructing Defenders: Daredevil: Season 1: Episodes 9 & 10

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Episode 9: “Speak Of The Devil”

“There is a gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew.”

Matt’s relationship with his priest is one of my favorite elements of this show and one of the only times I’ve seen that brand of relationship presented with any level of realism. And the fact that it’s in a super hero show about a ninja lawyer is, not great. Anyway, the story that he tells when Matt asks him about the devil is one of my favorite speeches in this show, which does in fact, have many great speeches.

The episode is framed though, with the big fight between Matt and Nobu who are pitted against one another by Fisk, in a hope to take them both out. That’s all well and good and the fight is epic, ending with Matt setting Nobu on fire, but the real reason that this whole thing resonates, is that Fisk killed Mrs. Cardenas to get to Matt. It’s so feelsy and awful.

This leads to a confrontation between Fisk and Matt and it’s as brutal a fight as any we’ve seen so far.

This all leads to the emotional core of the episode where, Karen and Foggy get super drunk and Foggy banging on Matt’s door in a drunken haze and finding him all beat up and leading to the episode that I am not emotionally ready to watch..but I will. For the sake of blogging!

Episode 10: “Nelson V. Murdock”

There is no relationship in the entire MCU that I love the way that I love Foggy and Matt’s. Not Steve and Bucky, not Pepper and Tony, not even Trish and Jessica, who are the only ones who come even close to this one. Every moment between Charlie Cox and Elden Hensen is electric. Their friendship feels so real and lived in and perfect and this episode, with Foggy interrogating Matt about being Daredevil, and flashes back to the early days of their friendship, all of it matters in such a deep way to this story. Foggy’s inability to understand why Matt does what he does, and Matt’s inability to explain it are intrinsically linked. And the performances are insanely good.

The final scene between the two is so heartbreaking and so real and so well, perfect, that I can’t really describe it and it eclipses the rest of the episode for me. Seriously, until this rewatch I forgot that this is also the episode where Owlsley poisons Vanessa, and Karen and Ben find Fisk’s mother. (I hate Karen SO MUCH in that scene. Like so much. She’s basically psychologically torturing that poor woman and Ben.) But those small things really don’t mean as much in the grand scheme of things, as that scene where young Matt and Foggy sit on the steps at Columbia, talking about their upcoming graduation and their future.

And it’s absolutely nothing compared to Matt’s revelation that the first bad guy he chased down was a father sexually abusing his daughter, who’s screams he could no longer ignore. It’s such a brutal, horrifying revelation, it’s what finally breaks Foggy. I know these two make up, but their relationship never recovers from this conversation, not fully, and it’s just, such good writing and really amazing.

Other Stuff:

  • Matt’s super smoothie skills get a work out when he goes to Vanessa’s gallery to get a better feel for who Fisk is. I love the flirting. He’s sooo good at it.
  • “Speak Of The Devil” is probably the second most Catholic hour of secularly made television I’ve ever watched. The most Catholic is “Take This Sabbath Day,” the West Wing episode where Bartlett calls his priest to discuss whether he should commute a death sentence. It is also very good, and you should watch it.
  • I really feel the need to reiterate how much I hate hate HATE Karen’s behavior in “Nelson V. Murdock.” It’s really horrifying and boundary crossing and awful. I mean, I get that she wants the truth, but why keep Ben in the dark? Why go about it in such a horribly manipulative manner? It’s just awful. 
  • In one of the flashbacks, Foggy mentions “That Greek Girl” to Matt. I started giggling, because it’s Elektra, and she’s amazing.

You Can’t Stop The Beat

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I love Hairspray.

Like love it, love it.

There were nights in high school where it seemed like the only thing helping me hold on to my sanity was belting “Good Morning Baltimore” in my friend Lauren’s car.

“I Can Hear the Bells,” was a go to audition piece when I needed to show that I could “act.” (I cannot act, I can be cute in “I Can Hear The Bells,” and mildly affecting in “Nothing,” from A Chorus Line.) A theater camp show where a group of us acted out scenes and songs, as though we were girls at a pajama party in the 60’s was a highlight of my career. (The high point was playing Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man.) 

Anyway, this show matters to me in a big way. So, I was excited for NBC’s live version, especially after The Wiz was so fantastic, and Grease Live, upped the ante on what this kind of programming could do.

Hairspray Live, did not live up. It wasn’t actively bad, but it wasn’t anything special, outside of a few really great performances. Overall, I think moving the production to LA and away from Broadway talent was a big mistake. The things that propped up even the weaker points of The Sound Of Music Live and Peter Pan Live were the true blue Broadway vets giving it their all. And the pros pulled it out again for Hairspray.

Harvey Fierstien, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough and Jennifer Hudson were outstanding. Even newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy turned in a decent performance, full of vulnerability and she’s got the voice for sure. But with the exception of Dove Cameron’s consumate mean girl Amber, the young cast seemed out of sync with each other and the piece. Garret Clayton and Ariana Grande in particular seemed miscast, neither of them understanding the comedy of their characters and in Grande’s case, a bad fit for the singing too.

This felt like a huge step back. We’ll see how things go next time around with a Jennifer Lopez lead Bye Bye Birdie. (Now, Clayton I could see doing very well as Conrad Birdie, as the swoony “It’s Takes Two” was the only part of his performance that I liked.)

But I’m still happy that this exists. This has been a big couple of years for musical theater, and it feels like we’re not going to get shoved back in our weird little corner anymore, and I’m psyched about that.

But this performance, when Billy Eichner came out at the end, I expected him to start shouting and smashing things, telling them that they were desecrating something beautiful.

He didn’t, but that would have been funnier than “Without Love,” a hilarious song that was played straight.

Westworld Wednesday: These Violent Delights

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS SHOW IS GOOD.

And on that note, I want to continue my thread from last week about trying to unpack twists being detrimental to story telling. In this episode, Ford chastises The Man In Black (WILLIAM! Who became the man in black because Delores is a robot…and he has issues.) for not looking at the story, only looking at the game, “The maze is not meant for you,” was literal, it wasn’t a clue. The maze isn’t a maze at all, but a metaphor for the discovery of consciousness that Arnold used to test the hosts. If they understood the metaphor and realized that the voices in their head were not his, but their own, they were conscious beings.

Once William decided to play the game instead of follow the story, he lost that thread, and lost the fundamental understanding of both the park, and of Delores and the other hosts.

Ford does understand them, but that doesn’t mean he can control them, and at this point, I’m not sure that he wants to. I do think that he’s alive. There was too much of a hold on that handshake between Ford and Bernard. In the first episode Ford tells Bernard that a dead giveaway of the first hosts were the hands.

If Ford built a host of himself, and if Delores/Wyatt killed that host, what comes next?

I know I said I was going to stop speculating, but it’s pretty much impossible.

Maeve is great, and she looks fab in her little black dress. I think she’s off to find her daughter, but I’m more excited about Snake Tatoo Lady and Hector going all Terminator oh AND THAT GLIMPSE WE SAW OF SAMURAI WORLD.

Let’s also talk about how we got a scene where Delores dies in a weeping Teddy’s arms, because my God, Westworld knows what I like and why I like it.

So it’s apparently going to be two years before we get more of this show…that’s a long time to not speculate. But, there’s two seasons of Game Of Thrones in there, so I can deal with it.

The Great Convergance: Heroes VS Aliens

Last week, over the course of 4 (well, really 3) days, The CW did please us all, with a large scale, full on ridiculous, and amazing cross over event.

It really was great, and I felt even more vindicated in my decision to ditch Arrow, (Wow are the new kids dull, and although, I miss Diggle…) and my decision to catch up on Legends Of Tomorrow. (Guys, it did actually get good! Well, fun…well, watchable and fun, so good adjacent.) And of course, seeing the Arrowverse gang interact with Kara was a great deal of fun.

We started on Supergirl where things were pretty much business as usual, Alex, Winn and James were squabbling about who got to wreck Thanksgiving with their big life changing news, (Alex telling her mother she’s gay, James and Winn telling Kara that James is Guardian), Kara and Mon-El getting caught by Cadmus, finding out that Jeremiah Danvers is there blah blah blah. But during that Thanksgiving dinner, a weird portal opened up over the table. At the end of the episode, it opens again and out pops, BARRY AND CISCO! TAH-DAH!!!!!! They bring Kara back to their Earth, and we go to The Flash!

That’s where things really get going. After an alien ship crashes in Central City, Barry decides to recruit everyone he’s ever met to help fight, he starts with Oliver and Felicity and Diggle, obviously, but then hops right on over to Earth-38 and grabs Kara. Felicity hails the waverider and the Legends show up and we’re cooking with gas now.

Of course, The Flash gang still has their dramas. Cisco’s still angry about Dante’s death and Iris and Joe are not into Wally using his powers, so that’s going on. Meanwhile, the big crossover team heads to save the President from the aliens, they fail, of course, and get brainwashed, which leads to a knock down drag out fight. Sarah, Ray, Mick, Thea, Diggle & Kara verse Ollie and Barry, and it’s BAD ASS. It ends though, with Sarah, Thea, Diggle, Ray and Oliver captured in space.

Which brings us to Arrow, which gives us a (GASP, it’s like a thing this week) a vision of a world where Sarah and Oliver never got on that boat. Laurel and Oliver are about to get married, and Ray and Felicity are engaged, and Diggle is the Arrow. They realize that everything is fake and fight their way out. Also, there’s something with the new kids, and it’s fine but also I don’t care about them.

For their portion, The Legends, plus Felicity and Cisco travel back to the 50’s, the first time that these aliens landed. It turns out that they’re looking to eliminate people with powers as this makes the Earth a threat to them. They get back beat the aliens, somehow, I don’t remember the specifics, and then everyone celebrates. Ray points out that Kara reminds him of his cousin. (!!!!!) and then Cisco gives Kara a device that will allow her to jump worlds whenever she needs to. (MORE CROSSOVERS)

My favorite moment comes when Kara, Barry and Oliver group hug, much to Ollie’s chagrin, mostly because it reminds me of the Supergirl and Green Arrow friendship of JLU. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the cross over. It did require some familiarity with all three shows, but overall, pretty good. Way to go CW, keep giving me this. I love watching these characters interact.

What’s Up Once Upon A Time: “Wish You Were Here”

Ah! So it’s the fall finale. I have NO idea what’s going to be in the Monday spot until March you guys, like, none at all, what so ever! So, this is going to be fun, I guess. Or something.

But let’s talk about this episode. I greatly enjoyed this episode and everything about it. When the premise became clear (The Evil Queen wishes Emma away and she is sent to an alternate universe where she never became the savior.) I was very excited because, “Those were always the best Buffys.” (My favorite is “Dopelgangland,” but there are a couple of them and they’re all pretty good.)

Rumple’s Seeing Double

As a result of The Evil Queen’s wish Regina and Emma wind up encountering an alternate version of Rumple who’s still all scaly and weird. While it was a crazy treat to see Carlock get to play with this version again, it still felt weird. Back in Storybrooke, he learns that his mother the Black Fairy, probably took his and Belle’s son, but it turns out the the grown up version of said son, who I will call Darth Baby due to his telepathic powers and black hood, shows up and he is pissed, and apparently going to kill Emma, so that’s a thing.

Why Can’t Regina Be Happy?

Well, Robin’s back, but doesn’t know her, because it’s in the alternate happy world. Also, she goes after Emma and it’s not our Emma, it’s weird ditzy Princess Emma, so that’s sort of a bummer, by the end of the episode Emma is herself again, though.

The Evil Queen on the other hand is stuck in Storybrooke, and Darth Baby turned her into a snake, but she spends most of the episode sexually harassing Aladdin, so I’m cool with it.

Whats Emma’s Problem?

Stuck in an alternate dimension where she’s a dippy princess. Oh, and Neal’s still dead, even in her happy place, so that seems unfair. But she does wear a very pretty dress and and a ballin ermine trimmed cape all episode, so that’s a win.

Did Snow And Charming Have Something To Do?

YES! Charming went after the Evil Queen with a sword and in Happy World, they got to wear old age makeup. So, you know, that’s cool.

Henry Mills: The Kingslayer

Tell me that Henry wasn’t totally channeling Jaime Lannister in his alt-world armor.

JARED GILMORE

My Boyfriend’s Back

Aladdin is a genie now and he gets bounced around. First, The Evil Queen grabs him and wishes Emma away. Then she suggests that they get down and dirty. (Cue Aladdin, “Ew.” Literally, that happened, it was glorious.) Then Regina figured out she could wish things, then David got the lamp, and then he and Jasmine poofed off to Agrabah. I hope they come back, because that story seems half finished and also I liked them.

Did We Meet Anyone New?

That’s a nope.

Deconstructing Defenders: Daredevil: Season 1 Episodes 7 & 8

Seriously, when I talk about how Daredevil season 1 might be my favorite season of any TV show ever, it’s these two episodes that I point to most.

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Episode 7: “Stick”

In this episode we learn more about Matt’s training as a blind ninja at the hands of Stick, a mysterious blind ninja who wants to enlist him into a war that he gives no description of. Stick came to Matt at the behest of the nun’s who were raising him, and immediately began to train him in the ways of The Blind Ninja when he was little.

Unfortunately after an incident with a craft project, Stick realized that Matt wasn’t going to be a good soldier because of his emotions, or something and abandoned him. Now it’s 20 years later and Matt’s pissed as hell when Stick shows up again. Stick is hunting down a black sky, which in this case is a little kid that Nobu is bringing in. Nobu also gets hinted at in his “immortal ninja-ness.”

Anyway, Matt agrees to help Stick as long as no one gets killed, which of course, Stick agrees to, except for you know the whole killing a child thing, which Matt then severs ties with him for. Black Sky and Stick’s war are going to come back big in season 2, and I assume in Iron Fist and The Defenders, but you know, I’ve been wrong plenty of times before.

The Karen and Foggy half of the episode focuses on them finding the guys who broke up Mrs. Cardenas apartment and Foggy joining up with Ben and Karen’s quest to find out the truth about Union Allied. While Matt’s quest to expose Fisk, and this story eventually do dovetail quite nicely, and I actually love all of Stick stuff, I do see that this starts the problem with season 2. Daredevil wants to be a serious crime drama, and in many ways, succeeds at that, the problem is that a serious crime drama can’t coexist with a show about a mystical war between good ninjas and evil ninjas. Both shows are great! But it causes tonal whiplash, and makes the whole thing feel a good deal sloppier than it needs to.

Episode 8: “Shadows In the Glass”

This episode is so good that it gives me chills to even think about it. Wilson Fisk’s back story is crazy well executed. The first thing we see is Fisk waking up to the view of “Rabbit In A Snowstorm” and he begins his day, with clock like precision he eats, gets dressed and looks in the mirror, to see rather than the large behemoth of a man that we see, he sees a young boy covered in blood. It’s so shocking and so good.

The flashbacks hinge on Fisk’s father, who was monstrously abusive to his son and wife. Wilson snaps one day while his father beats his mother and beats his father’s brains in with a hammer. This moment of ultra violence is shot not as a triumph or a horror, but as a simple fact. Vanessa comforts Wilson about this actions, he was child, and she decides to stand by him, as he goes public with his crusade to “save” Hell’s Kitchen.

Meanwhile, Matt learns about Foggy and Karen and Ben’s plan. He yells at them about how dangerous it is, but they don’t back down. He puts on the mask and talks to Ben about Fisk, and Ben agrees to write about him, but it’s too late, Fisk has managed to beat them to the punch so to speak.

Other Stuff

  • I don’t have much here, but I am glad these two episodes lined up with each other. Both expose the pasts and critical moments for Matt and Fisk, which helps the two sides of a coin narrative and the cycle of violence theme. If Stick had stuck with Matt, he’d have become a soldier of The Chaste rather than a rogue agent of chaos, curb a bit of the violence that he feeds into, but a lot of people would suffer for that loss. Fisk has also chosen to control his violence in a system, but that violence cannot be contained, it explodes.

Those Four Words, And Everything Else: Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life

It’ll take a minute to get there, but I swear this post is about Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life

I utterly failed at NaNoWriMo this year. A few days of post election ennui got me behind, and my job change decisions coupled with the choice not to scale back here (no regrets! Westworld was worth it!) just equaled a bad year for me to try to make something new. I’m bummed about it because I had a plot and main character I adored. (I haven’t given up on Magic School or Anessa, but I wasn’t ready for them…) But luckily, as she’s often been when I screwed up, Rory Gilmore was there to validate me.

Now, I’m the first to jump on the “Rory is the WORST” train, but I also always felt strangely connected to her. I was also awkward and had trouble making real friends. I too often liked the wrong boys. I too took an ill advised but kind of necessary semester off of school for vague but also made perfect sense to me at the time reasons. (OK, I didn’t steal a yacht, but still, I felt very Rory in the moment.)

What I’m saying is Rory’s feeling lost as the dreams she’d initially built burned up around her, really sat with me. I’m not living the life I expected to live even a little bit and it’s past time that someone, anyone dealt with that level of experience in media. (Girls doesn’t count. They all still live in the city and get to be fabulous, not a one of them has other mom’s of other unemployed people trying to network with their mom, a thing that has happened to me regularly since moving home.) So I appreciated that. Rory’s life remains more fabulous than mine in general, (I’ve yet to even get to encounter Alex Kingston at a Comic Con, let alone try to write a book with her) but the emotions of it hit, which was great.

Lorelai’s story always felt better, as it always has. Her communication issues with Luke were consistent, and beautiful and very well written. Lauren Graham is forever a treasure, and my favorite moment of the whole she-bang was probably when she handed Mae Whitman’s anonymous line waiter who had to get to work a donut. (This by the way, forever illustrates the “Amber is better than Rory” divide, Amber was on her way to work, while Rory was floundering. Lorelai, however, would kick Sarah’s ass, so series-wise, it’s a wash.)

Emily’s growth to realizing that without Richard, the life she built with him is hollow was probably the slowest crawl of the series, and the payoff, where she tells the other DAR ladies that everything their doing is “bullshit” (I’m not paraphrasing, it’s a delight, the whole scene) is incredible, and while I feel that Kelly Bishop is criminally underused, the whole thing works for me as a story.

I texted Crystan last night saying the anything that involved Sutton Foster and was underwhelming sours me, I meant it. There’s a twenty minute interlude of a Stars Hollow musical that features Sutton and her equally talented and criminally underrated ex-husband Christian Borle, it felt like a waste of time, and that’s a problem, because I love those two. (Christian even still had his Something Rotten Shakespeare beard!)  There was a brief and very satisfying cameo from The Gilmore Guys, drinking coffee in the Dragonfly, and several other spots that felt right. (Hell, that same episode gave Carole King a minute on the piano to sing a few bars of “I Feel The Earth Move!”). A return to Chilton without a check in with Max Medina felt wrong though, and a blonde old stand in for Tristan rather than Chad Michael Murray himself, also rubbed wrong.

I greatly enjoyed Paris, although she was horribly underused (what else is new.)

OK, now let’s talk about the boys! Team Jess prevailed, as he slipped into Stars Hollow, gave Rory some sage and great advice, (Write a book about your mom!) got Luke to talk about his feelings and was just the best. (Not you know, do 10 push ups with his adopted son on his back to prove how fierce his love is the best, but This Is Us is a totally different story.) Logan smashed any and all good will that I once had for him, cheating on his fiancee with Rory and getting her pregnant! (WHATTT?) Dean is married again and moved to Scranton, PA, which just, I mean, I’m sorry town where I became an adult, but I can think of nothing more perfect.

So, yeah, that’s what’s happening. It was definitely an ending, but there’s also room to move forward. (I’d love another Netflix season exploring everyone’s next step but it doesn’t feel naratively pressing.)