You Win Or You Die: Game Of Thrones: Seasons 6 & 7

There’s a moment in Act II of the brilliant musical Follies where the character of Buddy pokes his head out and exclaims, “Alright folks! We’re into the Follies now.” This moment is when Follies leaves behind any resemblance to a traditional book musical and becomes a series of sketches until it’s finale.

I think about this moment a lot when it comes to television, particularly long running TV, where shows evolve and become something different as they go along. Some people call this moment, “Jumping the shark,” but I’ve started thinking of it as “we’re into the follies.” For better or ill, shows push into the follies, and season 6 is when Game Of Thrones did it.

They had to let it happen, they had to change. (Another musical reference…sorry not sorry.) There were no more books to adapt, they had an outline and an ending but no more roadmap to go by. So they made it up, and while it feels a bit rushed and sketchy from time to time, I think they did an admirable job with making it up.

We get Daenerys out of Essos and to Westeros, Jon is The King In The North, the surviving Starks reunite and hold Winterfell, despite tensions between them.

But mainly, there’s “The Battle Of The Bastards,” watching this episode again was like breathing in air. Like “Blackwater,” I love this episode of TV so much, it takes my breath away. The technical aspects are stunning. Jon is at his most stupidly heroic. Sansa begins her journey towards being 1000% done with people who question her. The Deus Ex Machina of The Knights Of The Vale running in is heart churning.

There are moments of greatness in Season 7 too, the unleashing of the dragons in battle is incredible spectacle. But as much as I love the slide into home that we’re getting, it’s not as breathtakingly wonderful as those early seasons. The trick of the Follies is that you aren’t thinking about things, you don’t see the strings, just the flying.

Seasons 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones is magnificent as Folly, even if it’s not the great pop art that the first four seasons were. (My hatred of season 5 keeps it from entering into the conversation as either. It’s just so terrible.) Maybe season 8 will stick the landing in a way that redeems the quickness of the denoument, but that remains to be seen.

You guys, on Monday, we crown the first winner of the final season. I’m nervous and thrilled at the same time. I’m ready to go back to Westeros…winter is here. Let’s do it.

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You Win Or You Die: Game Of Thrones Season 5

Season 5 of Game Of Thrones sucks y’all.

It’s really terrible and not in a fun way just in a, boy this show sure was great and this season sure sucks a lot way.

Littlefinger selling Sansa to the Boltons?

Sucks.

The subsequent rape of Sansa?

Sucks.

Maergary And Loras being stuck in prison most of the season.

Sucks.

No dragons for most of the season?

Sucks.

Dorne?

Sucks.

Melisandre and Stannis burning Shireen?

Rahahaheally Sucks!

The season isn’t without it’s bright spots, but generally and genuinely sucks. Those bright spots? “Hardhome” is pretty amazing. I actually enjoy most of the Mereen stuff, even though Martin has said it’s what’s caused him the most headaches writing wise. (I can also see that.) Sansa and Theon’s escape from Winterfell is both thrilling and cathartic. And I’m in the minority who likes Arya As No One. Season 5 is just a whole lot of place setting and it’s not particularly compelling to watch. Or frankly, to read. A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons are largely considered the weakest books. I personally love Crows, because I ❤ Cersei, but it’s pretty messy.)

Anyway, this week we’ll cover seasons 6 & 7, which are just better than season 5 by virtue of being kind of bonkers, the good guys winning a lot, and making most of the country root for incest.

Nerd Homework: Supernatural Seasons 5 & 6

AKA – In Which We Reach a Logical Conclusion But Then Go On To Make Dean Miserable Forever (also we’re super gay now, but we don’t say it out loud)

After Season 5 of Supernatural, which made me realize a few things, namely, I consume way too many stories about angels, and binging these kind of long running shows cannot be good for my brain, I was ready to take a deep breath and dive into the beyond. I understood from my extensive research before diving into this project (Wikipedia, and one episode of This Is Rad.) that after Season 5, creator Eric Kripke walked away from the show, not in bad blood, just you know, because he’d told his story.

And what a story it was. About brothers, and family, and sacrifice. When Sam makes Dean promise to go live a normal life as he plunges himself and Adam into the pit to imprison Lucifer and Michael forever, my heart burst. What a lovely ending.

However, as someone who does consume a lot of fiction involving angels, there were some well worn tropes being used here that the show seemed to think they were pioneering. “God created the angels, and they were subservient. Then God created humans, and they were rebellious, and God liked them better. Lucifer decided to rebel, and then he got expelled. There’s hell now. Angels still jealous that God loves humans more than them. Also, God is missing or dead.”

Seriously, I have read a bunch of books. (His Dark Materials, The Mortal Instruments, Memnoch The Devil) seen quite a few movies (Dogma) and one masterpiece of American Theater (Angels In America) that told this story in some fashion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all those things, just, it didn’t strike me as particularly interesting or exciting.

Kripke gave it his personal touches though, and the relationships at play, particularly between Dean and Sam make it worth it.

Then Season 6. Oh, Season 6. Whether it’s Castiel fighting to literally rule heaven, but still answering Dean’s prayers at every possible chance, Dean attempting to be a hunter while having a relationship with Lisa and be a good step dad to Ben, or Sam coming back from hell without a soul, and becoming an interesting character for a change, there’s just so much goodness here, I can’t help but be overjoyed by it.

Oh, and did I mention, the gay? It’s all subtext. (Again, I get it, we never get the text.) But oh boy, there’s literally a scene where Castiel ties Sam to a chair and shoves a belt in his mouth, and I’m sorry, that’s just really really gay. Also, you know, Dean and Cas speak to each other like a dysfunctional couple all the time. And when it turns out Cas is working with Crowley and they break up, it’s more heartbreaking than the could have been with Jo (who deserved better) or Lisa’s rational dismissal of the love of her life. (ERASE HER MEMORIES THOUGH??? WHY????)

Maybe someday I’ll be a really important writer who’s life gets completely taken apart, and some student somewhere will write a paper on this time in my life, taking apart the tweets and text messages I sent to Aless freaking out, and they’ll conclude, “at this juncture, Nayden was deeply concerned that everyone understand how delightful it is when the character of Dean Winchester demands the character of Castiel ‘get out of his ass,’ a reference, one can assume to sodomy, common sexual practice among gay men.” (I don’t know why this student feels the need to explain butt sex, maybe they have a word count to meet.)

I also appreciated that Samuel, the guy’s grandfather was hanging around being vaguely antagonistic and helpful. Which is only amusing because he’s played by Mitch Pelleggi, and that’s basically Skinner’s whole deal throughout The X-Files. 

Anyway, I’ll probably get through seasons 7 & 8 soonish – taking a break this week to rewatch Game Of Thrones, but we’ll get back on the horse.

What’s The Sitch?: Kim Possible 2019 D-COM

It’s been just over three years since I rewatched Kim Possible, the seminal (to me at least!) Disney Channel cartoon about a teenage superhero, her friends, and their beloved Naked Mole Rat pal. Kim meant a lot to me as a teenager, and I came to really love what the show did as I rewatched it, and I was super eager to see how Disney Channel brought her into a new generation with this movie.

KP Movie

The movie was delightful. It executed Kim perfectly. She’s here in all her butt kicking, overly confident, but insecure when it counts, good friend, heart stopping glory. We also get fun takes on Shego and Drakken, and a slightly minimized roles for Ron and Wade at the expense of a new character.

Kim’s been working as a superhero for a few years as she prepares to start her first year of high school. The opening mission is Kim and Ron rescuing a kidnapped scientist from Proffesor Dementor. (Patton Oswalt! He voiced Dementor as well. This sparked joy!) It’s followed up by Kim running for the bus, after her mom, played by Alyson Hannigan! talks to her about high school. Kim’s got it on lock, though because OF COURSE SHE DOES.

She doesn’t. Barkin rearranged the school, Bonnie informs her that cheer squad isn’t the cool thing anymore, and no one knows her from her adventures.

Not Baddical, y’all, not baddical at all.

Shego breaks Drakken out of prison and he decides he’s going to enact a plan to destroy Kim.

Meanwhile, Kim and Ron meet and befriend a hapless new girl named Athena, and takie her to Bueno Nacho, and then on a mission. (I should note that this was around when I realized we were pretty deep into things and hadn’t met Rufus and I started to get pissed. (He showed up like two scenes later. And it was perfect.)

The mission, which involves Shego taking an energy source from a a museum, goes well, because Athena is a great fighter. Kim gets insecure, Athena becomes a big deal, turns out Athena is a robot programmed to make Kim insecure and steal her essence?

(This plan was an episode, btw. But it’s a good rough outline, so I’ll allow it.)

In the end, Kim learns to be a better friend, Athena joins the team, and Drakken is shrunk down to a middle schooler and enrolls at Middleton, setting us up for a sequel.

Boo-Ya’s And Nacos

  • I really really enjoyed the cast, Sadie Stanley and Sean Giambrone bring Kim and Ron to life with such joy and precision. Giambrone doesn’t get quite enough to do, and while de-aged Drakken is a decent set up for a part 2, I think a stronger choice would be Monkey Fist, which would give Ron a solid B story. Taylor Ortega was also great as Shego, and the rest of the cast followed suit.
  • Christy Carlson-Romano played a pop star who owed Kim a favor and gave her a lift to the mission, Nancy Cartwright stayed on as Rufus. Will Friedle was not to be found. (Yet another reason for Monkey Fist…just sayin.)
  • Nana Possible, Bonnie, Barkin, The Dr’s P, and the Tweebs all made appearances. And Drakken name drops Duff Killigen and Senor Senior Senior. The lack of Monique, Brick and Josh Mankey is a bummer, but understandable given the time constraints.
  • One of the big things I took away from the movie is how tight a concept Kim Possible is and how charming the best DCOMs are. The good ones always had oodles of charm, usually centered around their humor and strong casting.
  • In conclusion, the movie was good, but there was something very important missing:

Monkey Fist.gif

Nerd Homework: Supernatural: Seasons 1 & 2

Sometimes, I think that all of the nerd homework I’ve done in the past few years was leading to this very moment. (Even before I called it that.)

Rewatching Buffy and Angel, pushing through Sailor Moon and The X-Files and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Trying Supernatural in the past, never making it past episode 12, I knew this weekend as I passed that point, that this would be my breaking point on the project. If I got through Season 1, I would commit, and I would watch the thirteen seasons that followed.

I’m just that kind of nerd.

So I snuggled under my electric blanket, I put my Gilmore Girls mandated distaste for Jared Padelecki aside, and I pushed straight through season 1. I was rewarded by an excellent twist on a formula I already liked quite a bit. (The X-Files, aside from being the original is still the best execution of it, at least in it’s early days.) A monster of the week show with an overarching story that drips out slowly is going to rise and fall on it’s cast. And luckily, this is a very good cast. (Again, not as good as The X-Files.)

So, I’ll be checking in each week on Supernatural, as I move through it. Frankly, it shouldn’t take too long. I can get through something like seven episodes a day. Seven divided by 300 is 42. By next month, I will have watched this show, barring disaster.

(Well, it will be shorter, because, ya know, Season 14 isn’t on Netflix yet, I’ll watch that this summer.)

So, here we go. I like the show, some episodes are better than others. I appreciate that there’s no puberty metaphor. (The WB versions of these shows were addicted to puberty metaphors.) I really really like Jensen Ackles, who I also really really liked on Smallville. (Even if it was totally weird that he was both Clark’s football coach and dating Lana…) I hope that everyone enjoys this ride with me. (Check out my twitter, where I’ll likely be freaking out as I move through things.)

Season 1 has a good arc. And as much as I like the boys, (Well Jensen, and I no longer scowl reflexively when Jared comes on screen. I mean, Sam kinda sucks in the same way that Dean from GG sucked. But with less adultery and Rory ruining.) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, (Here’s a weird thought, while Morgan was playing John Winchester, the dad on a show about adult men, his future wife, Hilarie Burton was playing Peyton Sawyer, a fifteen year old girl on the same network, often on the same night. That’s kinda weird.) (It should be noted though that most of the cast of One Tree Hill, barring James Lafferty, were pushing 30 in season 1) I’m wondering when the sarcastic angel in a trench coat that girls always cosplay is going to show up. (I know his name is Castiel, I have been attending Comic Con for eight years.) (Castiel is not the Tenth Doctor is not Constantine, and a cosplayer will get on your shit for misidentify which one they’re dressed as.)

Then Season 2 hit. Season 2 turns the volume up to 11, it sets the boys on the run from The FBI, trying to avenge their fathers death and puts Sam’s dark destiny as a champion of The Yellow Eyed Demon in place. And it’s just a really really strong season of TV with several episodes that genuinely terrified me, others that made me laugh, the show lands into it’s own space, and stops being, “The X-Files but with cute boys and little bit of Buffy thrown in.” I also watched Season 2 in two days, because it’s that good.

This is the show that I’ve heard about all these years, with the classic rock soundtrack, and the snappy wise cracks and everyone selling their souls to demons right and left. I’ve got no problem with a show taking it’s time to find it’s feet, and this one found it beautifully. AND IT HAS A WHOLE EPISODE ABOUT CROSSROADS DEMONS THAT IS FRAMED AROUND ROBERT JOHNSON. I have trouble keeping my cool when anything involving Johnson comes up, because “Crossroads,” is one of my favorite songs ever, and “Before You Accuse Me,” is not far behind.

Anyway, next week we’ll likely talk about Seasons 3 & 4, and then probably slow down, although who knows, ya know?

 

Ready For The Team: Young Justice: Outsiders Part 1

So, we’re, here you guys. We’re through the first half of Season 3 of Young Justice, and we’re not getting more until summer.

While I have been having giddy excited brain exploding fangirly squee fests over the episodes as they’ve dropped (usually on Twitter!) this weekend, Aless came over and we watched the whole season and found ourselves, giggling, and gasping and clapping and forming more inside jokes about this. (Aless and I already have a lot of Young Justice based inside jokes. It’s that kind of show. And we’re those kind of friends.)

Here’s the thing, I love Young Justice. I think it’s completely wonderful. The first two seasons have everything I like about superhero stories. Team work, legacy characters, awkward real world metaphors, shipping, Nightwing…season 3, freed of the need to please network people, since it was on DC Universe, took those things and destroyed any barriers that may have previously been holding them back.

Team work? There are like six different teams happening on this show. There’s the Justice League, which Kaldur (now assumed the role of Aquaman,) and Wonder Woman are leading. The Team, which gives the show it’s name, being led by M’gann and Conner. Batman, Inc. lead by Batman, and Batman Inc. Jr (as I’m calling it) being lead by Tim Drake, and Super Secret Spy Team, lead by Dick Grayson.

Legacy Characters? Sure, Kaldur’s Aquaman now, so there’s that. We’re still dealing with Tim Drake as Robin, but we catch glimpses of resurrected Jason. (It’s wonderful) Bart Allen is both Kid Flash and helping his grandmother Iris West-Allen raise his dad and aunt. Conner is very concerned that Clark’s been spending a lot of time off world, so he now has to step up as the Super-being in chief.

OH, right, also we see Talia holding a baby in one episode, and Lois Lane with her son Jon. So you know, the Supersons are coming.

Real world metaphors? Well, this world is dealing with a refugee crisis as Quarac has merged with Bialya and people are trying to escape Queen Bee. Also kids are being kidnapped and tested for meta-genes and being deployed as weapons. (Dick is trying to end this. To be fair.)

Shipping. My god, this show gives good ship. Dick and Barbara are a couple. (Oh, also she’s Oracle now.) M’gann and Conner are engaged, but kind of having some problems. Clone!Roy (who goes by Will) is living with Artemis and there are vibes there, but he’s not really over Cheshire and Artemis’s morning routing still involves waking up to a picture of Wally. (The show has NO CHILL about a lot of things, and one of them is Wally’s death. They’re going to make you sad about whenever possible.) Jaime and Bart are still chilling (They are my out there not really a ship, but yes they are.) Tim and Cassie are still together but strained, and he’s leading a squad that includes Steph. (My heart belongs to Tim and Steph.) New characters Violet (Halo) and Brion (Geoforce) and falling for each other, but she’s also strongly drawn to Cyborg. And Beast Boy is dating Queen Perdita of Lativa (they met at Wally’s funeral.)

Nightwing. There’s so much Nightwing. He’s leading a secret black ops crew to break up a metahuman trafficking ring. He’s bailing on his friends because he’s having trouble connecting since Wally’s death. He’s bringing Black Lighting along on missions where lots of teenagers die, because, I don’t know, he hates Black Lighting? (YOU KILLED A KID! Is one of said new inside jokes.) He’s making out with Barbara, and making bad puns so she rolls her eyes. He’s fighting Jason but he doesn’t know it’s Jason. He’s training the new kids and being kind of a jerk about it. There’s just so much Nightwing. It’s really great.

Straight Arrow

Also, this happens. It brings me great joy.

This is just scratching the surface of all the things that make Young Justice: Outsiders really great, and a good continuation of two seasons of very good TV that came before.

I’m pretty much incapable of putting together coherent thoughts on what makes it great, and I’m not sure why.

Dick and Babs

Oh, wait, that’s why…

Don’t Be Robin, Be Someone Else

I’m the first to admit that my hype for Titans went from, “THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT,” to “Oh no,” to “people are saying it’s pretty good and I’m getting DC Universe for Young Justice: Outsiders anyway, so I’ll get around to it.”

Look, that “Fuck Batman,” trailer was rough, no way around it. And I’m still not sold on the designs for Starfire and Beast Boy. And that Donna Troy never suits up is kind of a bummer. (Spoilers, sorry…)

But, Internet Nerds, we have greatly misjudged this show. It’s pretty wonderful. As an adaptation of Teen Titans, it’s only OK, but as a genre show in it’s own right, a version and riff on the concept, it’s good. It’s full of game performances, excellent character work, and a steady build up of suspenseful writing leading to a hell of a cliff hanger.

I’m not going to say it’s the best first season of a live action superhero show. Daredevil season 1 exists after all, but it’s damn sure of it’s self and super entertaining all the way through, which is more than I can say for any other DC TV project from the past 10 years. (I loved the first seasons of The Flash and Supergirl but they still had their bumpy finding their feet moments.)

And it has it’s problems. The costume designs really are awful. Minka Kelly’s wig as Dove is one for the DCTV bad wig hall of fame. Geoff Johns seems a little too happy to drop the F-bomb. It’s refreshing that the young heroes actually talk like young people, but it’s also, you know, kind of heavy handed at times. The FX are laughably bad at points. The violence is a lot, but not unexamined. I was mostly concerned about this from the perspective of Dick.

Kori and Rachel (Raven) being more violent is consistent. Starfire, being an alien and all, has different values about life than humans do. Raven’s powers are all about darkness and containing bursts of violence. Titans examines both of these perspectives, Rachel desperately trying to contain her power, and Kori accepting it as a part of herself.

Dick though, it’s handled masterfully. The show begins by showing it’s been a year since he walked away from being Batman’s partner, because he felt himself losing control. But he’s basically addicted to the violence, and he’s not happy about it. The entire season and his entire arc (and the show really does belong the Brenton Thwaites) is him grappling with this side of himself. He knows he can’t really be Robin anymore, but he doesn’t know how to deal with this any other way.

This all really hits home in two episodes, which are easily my favorites, episode 6, “Jason Todd,” and Episode 8, “Donna Troy.” Jason, a year into his tenure as Robin is eager and excited to spend time with his predecessor. Dick is mostly annoyed by Jason’s, well, Jason-ness (Seriously, he’s perfect.), Bruce’s seeming trust of his new partner, (“You’re allowed to drive the Batmobile?”) and most especially, the kid’s sanity and safety. I burst into tears when Dick warned Jason, “the cost is too great.” THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW  THE COST YET! Even in Dick’s “darkest timeline,” created in his mind by Trigon in the finale, Jason is paralyzed, not brutally murdered, then resurrected and insane. (This show is uniquely well set up to do Red Hood as a storyline though.)

“Donna Troy,” meanwhile, just made me gloriously happy as a Dick Grayson fan. Donna’s retired from being Wonder Girl, but she’s still doing her part, and working as a photographer. Dick goes to see her, they talk a lot, there’s a really good flashback to when they were kids where she gives him a pep talk and there’s also a scene where they go to a party and Dick babbles like an idiot to some unsuspecting friends of hers. He says things like, “my dad used to work with her mom sometimes.” (STAHP! MY FANGIRL INSIDES CANNOT HANDLE IT) She says things like, “Wonder Woman was created to protect the innocent, Batman to punish the guilty.” They giggle and do backflips, they track down some big game poachers. They drink beers and confide. This is a very good depiction of friendship between superheroes.

Also, Donna continues to be awesome throughout her run on the show.

So, to recap, things that Titans isn’t great on

  • Design – It’s an ugly show. That can be improved as we move forward though. I also did like Jason’s Robin suit.
  • Effects – They’re groan worthy in places, but again, now that it’s a hit (apparently? Streaming’s weird that way) maybe they’ll get a budget increase to help with that.
  • Tone – Scale back on the angst a bit, it worked but tipped too far a few times

Things that are good

  • Characters & Writing – Everything’s consistent and well thought out.
  • Violence – It’s a violent show, but it actually grapples with that violence. Which is a nice change of pace.
  • Dick Grayson – Seriously, this is a very good version of this character. Who I love. Kind of a lot.