setsuled: (Venia Chess)


Well, it's time once again to play the Game of Thrones. Sunday's premiere got season seven off to kind of a meek start. As usual for a first episode of the season, a lot of time was spent refreshing the viewer on the previous season but even for that it seemed like it waffled quite a bit.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The splashiest moment came at the beginning when David Bradley turned out to be Arya Stark, following up her turn as Titus Andronicus with a simpler mass poisoning. It was fun watching Arya's glee on David Bradley's face but Maisie Williams soon resumes Arya duties.



Once again I get the sense she would be the world's most inept assassin if she hadn't stolen magic powers. She doesn't even have a story ready when she's asked why she's going to King's Landing and her encounter with Ed Sheeran's band of Lannister soldiers seems to indicate this is the first time she's even thought about the fact that the common footsoldiers are just regular people unattached to the machinations of Lannister nobility. I guess that's the kind of thing she was supposed to be learning when she was posing as fish monger. But, no thanks, Arya wants the good grades without having to actually learn anything.

I always used to say the Starks were the dullest characters on the show except for Arya. But after her dramatic seaborne departure from Westeros a couple seasons ago she's done her best to take over the legacy of Stark dullness.



Meanwhile, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon (Kit Harrington) are squabbling in front of a full council. Sansa wants to massacre the whole families of traitors, Jon wants to leave them in charge, no one suggests imprisoning them. I am still so on Team Cersei (Lena Headey).



I feel especially bad for her now that Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is constantly whining. When she says the Freys were untrustworthy allies, Jaime argues it's better to have untrustworthy allies than none, nevermind Cersei wasn't saying anything to the contrary. Then when Cersei brings in Urine (sorry, Euron) Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek), suddenly Jaime's complaining they're not good enough. You want to wait for a perfect ally now, Jaime? Can Cersei do anything right with you? Why not try being supportive?



My favourite section was Samwell (John Bradley) having to do menial chores in maester training. I've always said I wanted to see more of the mundane stuff in Westeros and here it is. I love how the food he serves is almost indistinguishable from the stuff in the chamber pots he collects. Of course, the plot doesn't make much sense--if Samwell can't look at the forbidden books, what's the harm in someone else looking up how to defeat the White Walkers, like Jim Broadbent's character, who says he believes Sam? It seems like a pretty artificial roadblock to draw things out. It is nice seeing Jim Broadbent. After Jonathan Pryce and Peter Vaughan I wonder if eventually every cast member from Brazil will appear on Game of Thrones. I'm looking forward to seeing Katherine Helmond, if that's the case.

Once again, the show has some amazing costumes and locations.

Twitter Sonnet #1014

The cherry fish in chambers parsed for rice
Upheld the pickle yard, contorted keys
Involved in island growth assort the mice
From small to smaller graces make the trees.
Domestic pop imports a soda can,
In quarters clamped to pin machines affirmed
In shining blue or red or metal tan,
Though some say copper, bronze, or gold's confirmed.
No fleece affronted fifty clicking claws
Impounded by the stalks of dreamy crabs
Collecting coin for church's certain law
Or buying frames to make the metal cabs.
The sounds of mallets make the hollow beat.
In storms, the lounge has grown the softest seat.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


David Lynch's ability to blur the line between comedy and horror was on admirable and fascinating display last night on the new Twin Peaks. Moving to a meditation on abuse and disjointed affection, last night's episode, "Laura is the One", continued the show's exploration of the basic problem arising between innocent love and jaded selfishness.

Spoilers after the screenshot



More and more, I think Jerry Horne's (David Patrick Kelly) statements on his ongoing odyssey in the woods are reflections or distillations of the whole episode's themes. This time we see him frustrated that his phone is getting no signal and it prompts him to scream, "You can't fool me, I've been here before!" If we distil this moment to its basic meaning, we can see that it is repeated in different ways throughout the episode--Jerry, who's lost, doesn't have what he desperately needs, a phone signal, which would allow him to communicate his need for help. His response, prompted by his distress, is to make a display of strength along with a denial of the apparent reality, claiming false or irrelevant knowledge ("I've been here before"). There's the assumption that, because there was a signal there before, there ought to be one now, based on Jerry's feelings more than anything else.



Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) is lost in another kind of woods, guilty of killing a child, his display of strength is physical violence. He goes to his grandmother, Sylvia Horne (Jan D'Arcy), and when he doesn't receive the aid he did in the past, he shows strength and asserts a right to what she has. Then we see this pattern reflected again when Sylvia calls Ben (Richard Beymer) and she expects more money from him while he considers it unreasonable. This is similar to the situation with Frank Truman and his wife who seemed irrationally aggressive but our reactions to her are tempered when we find out what happened to their kid. So now we see Sylvia, who throughout the first two seasons barely had a presence except as a nag to Ben, has her own reasons for being emotionally distressed and aggressive. And who can blame her.



Poor Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell). That bear with the distinctly Lynchian replacement head is like an instrument of torture but is clearly meant to be some kind of therapeutic device.



Carl (Harry Dean Stanton) has his gentle love song interrupted by a mug thrown out of a trailer window by an abusive Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) who's screaming at a cowering Becky (Amanda Seyfried) about his needs. I guess he is as bad as Leo. He concludes by asserting "I know what you did." Again, a violent assertion of a perceived right based on possibly false or irrelevant knowledge.



My favourite thread in the episode was Candie's (Amy Shiels). Wow, was that strange and intriguing. It starts with a bit that seems like a repeat of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) chasing a fly in the sheriff's station from the original series. Candie hunts the fly with a red handkerchief but, in what should be little more than a moment of broad slapstick, she smacks her gangster employer, Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), in the face with a remote control.



It's funny except Candie is bizarrely devastated. Still crying about it later, she wonders, "How can you ever love me after what I did?", much to the confusion of both Rodney and his brother Bradley (Jim Belushi). Her reaction is out of proportion for several reasons, for one because no-one really believes she meant to cause him harm, and another because their relationship doesn't seem to have been on this emotional level. She's one of three girls who seem basically to be living ornaments or errand girls. The Mitchum brothers clearly don't seem ready for her to actually put emotional investment like this in her role, it's as though she's been bewitched by the superficial details. When she muddles a simple task later it's because she seems, like Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan), to have become a sleep walker. The episode's title, and the Log Lady's (Catherine Coulson) message near the end, refer to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). But aside from a vision of a scene from Fire Walk with Me witnessed by Gordon Cole (David Lynch), we don't see any reference to Laura. Since Leland tasked Cooper with finding Laura, I've wondered if this meant Laura has become an inhabiting spirit like Bob or Mike. Could she have taken possession of Candie? Or maybe we're meant to be looking for her in the characters and thereby scrutinising them differently for that reason.



And where does Dougie fit into this? He has a visit with the doctor, in fact Doctor Phlox, of all people, from Star Trek: Enterprise, John Billingsley. The casting is odd for how not odd it is. We learned in the previous episode that people are used to Dougie having lingering effects from a car accident, so that explains why people haven't been more alarmed by his recent behaviour. It doesn't prevent him from bonding with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) on a physical level. So at least one couple is happy in this episode, though, again, it's a relationship based on a misunderstanding. I loved how Watts is lit in the sex scene:



Of course, I should point out I was right about Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Constance (Jane Adams), who seem to be on the right track.

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


It's Jodie Whittaker, aka the Thirteenth Doctor, seen here where I first saw her in the first season of Broadchurch. Her casting was announced to-day after the Wimbledon Men's Final (I thought it was funny they chose to do it after Wimbledon Men's Final) with this kind of cheesy video:



Here the young Doctor can be seen foraging and she has a lot of work to do laying up acorns for the winter. It's kind of like Planet Earth: Time Lord. Time Lady? I guess "Time Lady" is considered sexist but I'm not really clear on why.

I'm really happy to see a female Doctor. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next season and where new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the series. I had varied reactions to his previous episodes of Doctor Who but I really liked the first season of Broadchurch, which he created and wrote every episode of. I don't see him approaching the heights of Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davis at their best but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

I think Jodie Whittaker's a good actress and I look forward to see what she does. And yet . . .

Well, she's kind of normal. Theoretically, being a good actress means she can put in an appropriately weird performance for the Doctor. I don't know. It feels to me like another baby step--throughout the past few seasons, despite the impression you might get from the ravenous Moffat haters, the show has been seeded with little things to build up to a female Doctor, repeatedly confirming a Time Lord can change sex with a regeneration, changing the sex of the show's second most prominent Time Lord character, the Master, and finally the recent finale which is loaded with big hints about a more female future. Hopefully all this helped coax some of the more sexist fans into being a little less sexist and, to make a really optimistic statement, make the world a little less sexist generally. But there's something kind of default about Whittaker. I don't know, maybe it's too much to ask for the first female Doctor to have bug eyes, a big nose, and/or prominent teeth. Or someone like Michelle Gomez who has a wonderful, intense weirdness.

But I'll keep an open mind. I hope she at least gets a weird costume.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Look at those colours and angles. Diane (Laura Dern) is a dragon on that couch.

Last night brought the most linear, logical episode of the new Twin Peaks season so far, but it was still wonderfully weird and refreshing.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Is it just me or did Constance (Jane Adams) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) just fall for each other over Major Briggs' headless corpse? They seem like they'd be a good couple.

Don S. Davis, who played Major Briggs in the original series--and was forever typecast as a military man afterwards--died some years ago but he's still a big presence on the new series. The sequence of scenes where Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), Frank Truman (Robert Forster), and Hawk (Michael Horse) uncover the capsule that's been kept hidden by Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart) all this time was wonderful. Mostly a call back to the surprisingly tender moment from the première of season two between Bobby and the Major at the RR, the scenes in the new episode were both effectively sweet and engrossing as puzzle pieces falling into place.



Sound is playing a very prominent role so far on the new season. This episode features two examples of a strange hum, both in Briggs' capsule and the recurring mystery hum in the Great Northern.



I love these little scenes between Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and Beverly (Ashley Judd). Beymer's mannerisms as Ben have always been strange and funny and the two actors play out these moments well as little pockets of tension. They're fascinating as a potential affair largely because the sound, Beymer's performance, and the knowledge of Beverly's home life make you wonder what else is going on beneath the surface. Ben Horne was always one of my favourite characters--he was funny, sweet, and scary, and sort of like a dangerous, unpredictable predator. At least until he thought he was Robert E. Lee in season two. I'm glad no-one's dwelling on that.



I wondered if we were going to see Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell) in this season. Apparently that's Ben's wife, Sylvia (Jan D'Arcy) with him though we don't get a good look. It suggests Ben's family life is still as dysfunctional and cold as ever, something where maybe he and Beverly might have a lot in common.



Poor Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) continues his bad trip in the woods. He finds himself in an estranged relationship with his foot, which could be seen as a version of what Ben is going through, though it might also be, like his feeling that his car had been stolen a few episodes earlier, a reflection of Cooper's (Kyle MacLachlan) story, a man whose life is certainly not his own.



Mr. C arrives at the farm and things feel a bit Tarantino-ish for the presence of Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I hope we'll see more of them both. I love the unexplained pair of people motionless on the ground in the background--such a Lynchian detail.



One of Lynch's talents it's easy to forget about if you watch his movies over and over (like I do) is how good he is at crafting surprises that are strange but also just close enough to credible keep you in the reality. I really, really love the three big cops investigating Dougie's case. I love the one credited as "Smiley" Fusco (Eric Edelstein) whose laugh Lynch deploys with surgical precision. The cops are like classic, cynical noir detectives just tipped into the surreal. Even the sergeant who comes in to take the fingerprints--he's in such a good mood and he's got those weird, big gestures, but it's weird like real people are weird.



I wasn't familiar with Sky Ferrera before this but I loved her scene in the roadhouse where she talks about working fast food places and scratches the huge rash in her armpit. I was reminded of the idea Lynch and Isabella Rossellini had for Rossellini's character in Wild at Heart, that she should somehow be both ugly and beautiful at the same time and that the two qualities should be related to each other in a strange way. Ferrera's conversation with her friend (Karolina Wydra) was also like a deranged version of the conversation between Donna and Maddy in the season two première.

Last night's episode ended with a welcome second performance from Au Revoir Simone. This season of Twin Peaks may end up having one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of television.

setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Let's just embrace synthesiser with lots of fuzz, let's not call it an 80s nostalgia thing, let's just have it because it's good. That's one of my main thoughts after finishing the first season of Stranger Things yesterday, a show I found to be uneven but with some very good qualities.

Spoilers after the screenshot



It really put me in the mood to watch Gremlins and E.T., among other things. I wish it had hewed a little closer to 80s style, actually. The monster design felt a bit modern, particularly its sounds which seemed to basically be the same velociraptor noises that've been used again and again since the first Jurassic Park movie. The colour tinting and the lighting started to feel more and more 21st century as the show went on, maybe just because I was getting used to the things that were distinctly 80s.

The imdb pages point out lots of anachronisms in their "goofs" pages, some of which I spotted myself, like how none of the Star Wars toys are from the early 80s. But for a lot of these things it's important to keep in mind the limited time and money the creators of the show had. Doing a period NetFlix series is ambitious, in some ways moreso because it's a period a lot of viewers actually experienced so it's harder to get away with things. However, one of the final scenes of the series has the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons again and seems to directly make the point that people should learn to appreciate a story instead of being caught up in the details, which is something I agree with, as much as I enjoy details.

There were some problems with the show I really can't excuse, like its tendency to end dramatic scenes with a jump cut that doesn't explain what happened in the interim. This is done both for action sequences and scenes with important character development. I'm not sure how fast the monster is but there are several shots of the thing just about to grab Will (Noah Schnapp) or Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and we never find out how they evaded the thing when we see them later. Then there are scenes like the first time Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) uses her powers in front of the kids, causing a door to slam shut, and it cuts away without showing us what the boys said to her.

Other times, I felt like the Duffer Brothers and the other writers were intentionally invoking some of the problems typical in 80s kids adventure screenplays in order to show how, as children, we watched these movies and made these problems meaningful in our automatic childhood interpretations. One of the key aspects of the show is in how it divides up the characters--everyone's basically investigating the same thing but no-one's communicating. There are many times in 80s films where it really would be reasonable for the kids to talk to the cops or an adult of some kind but that of course would spoil the basic fun of the thing. Stranger Things takes this and uses it to say something about human nature, how people isolate themselves and divide into factions when it's unnecessary or even counterproductive.

The story of Eleven is an interesting blend of 80s story devices. She's both Lisa from Weird Science and she's E.T. She's the fish out of water female character that makes the young boys feel safe interacting with a girl for once, allowing particularly shy boys to advance towards sexual maturity, and she's the alien who is really just as important to the adult world as the child world, unlike Dungeons and Dragons which the kids are often told just feels important.

Among all the 80s American film references, I thought Eleven floating in a tank while Matthew Modine looked on seemed like it came from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gendo watching Rei in the LCL tank. Maybe it was really a reference to Luke Skywalker in a bacta tank but Elle's relationship with Modine's character was much more like Rei's relationship with Gendo, though the motives of Modine's character were never as fully developed. Anyway, I thought it was kind of funny, intentional or not, that Eleven looked kind of like Vincent D'Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket when she did her power glower. If only she'd called Modine "Joker".

I like that she's given more of her own story than the 80s fantasy girl tended to get. Her difficulty communicating makes the moments where she doesn't meet social expectations more effectively painful. One thing the makers of the show maybe didn't intend but I thought was interesting was the fact that Eleven and Will are never in the same dimension at the same time. Throughout the show I nursed a fantasy that Will and Eleven were alternate reality versions of each other. I felt pretty sure the show wasn't going that way but I liked thinking about the implications if it would. How would Mike (Finn Wolfhard) handle that? Holy shit, I just looked that name up, his last name is "Wolfhard"? And I thought "Wolf Blitzer" was over the top. Why didn't his parents just go all the way and call him "Dirk" or "Steel" or "Rage"?

Twitter Sonnet #1011

Immerse, eject, repeat the swimming song.
Engage, egregious box of rocket juke.
Elope, elliptic lily pad sarong.
Return, resplendent, thin, and diamond duke.
Eclipses climb to troubled times to wait.
Convening vapours rise and now collude.
A haunted council sets a guileless bait.
In moving woods the horses have accrued.
Awake, alight, in trees from eggs to roots.
Arise, afloat, suspicion's hollow ship.
Align, enlist, elicit arm to boots.
Asleep, assuage, uncertain word to lip.
An eyelid sky defends the tender beech.
A wounded rider's carried to a leech.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Contemplating the lack of a new Twin Peaks to-night, I finally started watching Stranger Things a few days ago. Two episodes in I'm enjoying it, though I feel like Scottie in Vertigo when he keeps thinking he's spotted Madeleine only for it to just be a woman who looks like her because the massive Twin Peaks influence I see at work in Stranger Things made me jonse for the original even more. But, I realised, that's not fair, Stranger Things draws from a lot of other influences, too, to create its own virtues.



I'm sure all the stylistic echoes from 80s films have been picked over plenty by now--the John Carpenter-ish synthesiser soundtrack, the general ode to 80s kids domestic adventure movies like E.T. and Gremlins, the fact that Natalia Dyer looks like Mia Sara.



I love her outfits, too, and their recollection of a time when women chose clothing that stood in low contrast to their skin.



This compliments the wonderful, shadowy visual style that recollects a time when filmmakers really liked to show darkness in movies, though the lighting on Stranger Things still has the modern care to keep everyone's facial expressions visible most of the time. It's the look that more than anything else made me feel like I wanted to be a kid again. Though the kids on this show are slightly older than me--I was born in 1979, the show takes place in 1983. But I remember how pervasive this type of film was, so much that I remember really looking forward to being twelve years old because so many movies were making it seem like a great time to be alive.



From Twin Peaks, the show takes the concept of a small town reacting to the loss of a child with an emphasis on how marvellous it is, even as it's sad, that an entire town takes notice of and can grieve for the loss of one person. The announcement for an assembly being held at the high school for the missing child, Will, recalls the principal's announcement in the Twin Peaks pilot. The creators of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers, had previously worked on Wayward Pines, a show that was unabashedly modelled on Twin Peaks, so I wonder if all the Twin Peaks echoes on Stranger Things were intentional or if the Duffer's heads had just been so in the Twin Peaks thought space for so long. Winona Ryder as Will's mother, Joyce, calling around to find out where Will was also couldn't fail to remind me of Sarah Palmer.



I think this might be the best Winona Ryder performance I've seen. Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula is one of my favourite movies but I understood the ruefulness with which he comments, on the DVD commentary, on how Ryder had told him she'd already basically done most of her scenes in Edward Scissorhands. Her portrayal of Joyce in Stranger Things is the most engaged I've seen her be with a role, I get the sense that she's fighting tooth and nail to prove she can do it.



I like the kids, the lead characters on the show. I like how they were cast to recall 80s casting trends. All of them seem to have big lips and excess saliva. They're not exactly like 80s movie kids; they're not as cruel, for one thing. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) being forced to stretch his arms by a couple bullies doesn't have the nervous and discomforting quality of Chunk in Goonies pressured to shake his large belly by his friends. But who would have the creative clout besides David Lynch to do something that extreme now? And should it be done? I'm not sure myself, partly because I remember not liking Goonies, the main reason I haven't watched it since the 80s. I probably ought to revisit it.

I will say that in contemplating the value of the show's nostalgia I got to thinking about the value of nostalgia filmmaking/tv making. I think Stranger Things might rise to being more than a collection of stylistic callbacks eventually but I would like to see some of its choices simply taken as good for themselves, regardless of the reason for they're being there, like the darker visual style.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


If the next Doctor is not a woman, Steven Moffat has done a good job making the people who avoid casting a woman look like massive dicks. That's a little flip but it's true and one of the takeaways from the bittersweet season finale of Doctor Who that aired to-day. If one thinks a bit about the plot, there are a lot of things that don't make sense but the thematic stuff is so good I kind of don't care. "The Doctor Falls" brings a new dimension to the season long focus on mentalities that regard other people as less then human to justify subjugation or murder, the most interesting thread in the episode relating to gender and even gender dysphoria.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I really didn't find John Simm half as annoying as he was under Russell T. Davies, maybe because now he's channelling Delgado and Ainsley so much, but also here he's working as a nice representation of resistance to the idea of a female Doctor along with empathy and femininity in general.

The Master: "Do as she says? Is the future going to be all girl?"

The Doctor: "We can only hope."

This seems a pretty loud and clear way of Moffat saying, yes, the next Doctor ought to be a woman. Moffat also uses Simm's Master to bully Bill (Pearl Mackie) on her gender, the above exchange arising from a subtle reconfiguring of the Cybermen, as a concept, to a socially enforced gender construct. The way Missy (Michelle Gomez) awkwardly apologises to the Master for calling Bill "her" is part of Missy perfectly being placed as the transition point, the people caught in an old fashioned view of gender realising that recognising someone's gender identity is truly more natural than trying to force one on them. Missy really has learned empathy, or gotten back in touch with it.



The episode is both about the experience of not being taken as what one sees oneself as and also about the pain involved in change. It's painful for Missy to face that she's not the Master anymore, it's painful for the Master to contemplate his future, and it's painful for the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to contemplate change again as he begins the process of regeneration.



Capaldi, it needs hardly be said, is magnificent in this episode, in big and small moments. His discomfort when trying to explain to Bill what's happened to her is so nicely layered with sadness and empathy. This episode actually invokes that word and the Doctor even mentions Donald Trump, making it clear that this season long theme has very much been motivated by the world's current political climate. It leads to a really fitting modification of the Third Doctor's phrase, "Where there's life there's hope" to "Where there's tears there's hope."



I loved the fact that Twelve gets to offer someone a jelly baby (he offered one in a cigarette case in his first season, like the Fourth in Face of Evil, but this time he was actually able to say it). I like it because, really, more Doctors should do it, there's no reason it should be so married to the Fourth--the Second was actually the first to do it--and I also liked it because it was like the Doctor taking the line back from Simm's Master who used it in one of his Russell T. Davies episodes.



Nardole (Matt Lucas) had a couple nice moments and his goodbye was good though it mostly made me wish more time had been taken to develop him over the season to earn his protestations about being likely to sell children on the black market.



One could say Bill's resolution is very much like Clara's only taken a step further--like Clara, Bill has died and been reborn and has gone off with another woman to have adventures, only Bill's relationship is explicitly romantic. And really sweet. I wish there'd been more build up of a relationship with Heather (Stephanie Hyam) but her appearance and the role in the resolution was so cool I'm willing to accept it. Now they're both water and, as Heather tells Bill directly, change has become for them something easy and fun.

I wonder if the appearance of David Bradley at the end was prompted by leaked set photos from the Christmas special. It made me curious to see how this unfolds, in any case. Bradley isn't that much like Hartnell but at least he's a good actor.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


Where to begin with last night's Twin Peaks? I watch a lot of movies and it's only a few times I can remember walking away from something so brilliant I felt like I didn't want to see or hear anything else for a good while afterwards. I achieved that beautiful afterglow last night. I wondered if I'd ever get anything done ever again. But to-day I'm ready to talk about it, another sign of a great work of art, and to be sure lots of people have been talking about it, opinions generally divided between assertions that it's totally baffling and assertions that its meanings are very, very clear. Judging from most of the broad strokes of interpretations, I'd have to go with the latter assertion, which is a good thing. Art is about communication not obfuscation, it should be clear. Often times when people say a great work is confusing, generally the impression I get is those people are too uncomfortable with the message they've received to admit they understand it, which is definitely the impression I have here. This is one of those times where the few negative opinions are an additional sign that a work of art has succeeded well beyond measure. And, oh, wow, has it.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I'm going to see if I can add some interpretation without repeating too much what other people have said. Plenty have pointed out that the episode ties the birth of Bob, and the malevolent supernatural forces of Twin Peaks, with the first atomic bomb detonation, thereby making the loss of innocence portrayed on Twin Peaks a reflection of the greater loss of innocence of the U.S. as a whole. Now, of course, one can point out that the U.S. and humanity in general have done plenty of bad things before the atom bomb. Lynch isn't arguing humanity was perfect before the atom bomb, he's using it as a symbol to tell a uniquely American story about love versus corruption.



A lot of people have pointed out that the Woodsman at the end who violently commandeers a radio station was played by an Abraham Lincoln impersonator named Robert Broski and then tied this to the image of Lincoln on the penny picked up by the little girl (Tikaeni Faircrest).



I didn't think of Abraham Lincoln when I saw the Woodsman but this makes sense with a lot of other things I saw going on in the episode. It's better to take Lincoln as a symbol than for any of the other nuances we'd consider when pondering him as a human being. Think about what Lincoln means to these profoundly innocent American kids--he's a symbol of what's great about the American spirit. He's seen as being the figure most directly responsible for fighting against another of the country's greatest sins, slavery, so to a kid in the fifties he's a symbol that the true spirit of the country is one that celebrates freedom and happiness for everyone and the strength to fight against anything that would curtail those rights. So the Woodsman taking the form of Abraham Lincoln would be an especially potent form of corruption.



The movie--I mean episode of Twin Peaks--is very much about symbol or rather media, both for good and bad. The spell cast by the Woodsman over the air waves, "This is the water and this is the well, drink full and ascend," seems to be commentary on the hazards of addiction to junk, meaningless media. Real art doesn't need to tell you it's the water and the well but this promise lulls listeners to sleep and renders them susceptible to Bob's control. One could say a corruption of a Republican president as a symbol that reflects a deep spiritual problem is a particularly potent story right now though I doubt Lynch was consciously making an argument about Trump. Though, who knows, maybe he was. Certainly misuse of the media has been a critical issue in this mess. "This is the water and this is the well," probably counts as fake news.



It's even more effective because a moment before, when the radio was playing "My Prayer" performed by The Platters, the medium was providing its listeners with a real well of spiritual sustenance. Like the image of Lincoln, the Woodsman has hijacked a genuine piece of art. The message about the horse I'm less certain of, though I my mind immediately associates it with the white horse Sarah Palmer had visions of and which appeared in the Black Lodge earlier this season.



When the Giant (Carl Struycken) reviews the events of the atom bomb detonation and what it caused, he's not simply viewing security footage, he's viewing the same footage we saw, in other words Lynch's film. This is emphasised by the fact that the Giant is viewing the footage in a movie theatre, Lynch is showing us how art can show us a truth which we can then act upon. The Giant then hovers and then reclines as though sleeping and from his head, like a dream or like the strange stuff that emerged from the dead child a few episodes ago, comes a gold substance producing a golden orb with the image of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) inside.



But it's not just any image of Laura Palmer or a new image of Sheryl Lee. It's that same prom queen photo we've seen again and again. Like the image of Lincoln on the coin, this is less about Laura than about what she symbolised for the community of Twin Peaks. I've been listening lately to the recently released audiobook of Laura Palmer's diary performed by Sheryl Lee--and she deserves big praise for it. She does not compromise on mining emotional trauma for her performance. Much of the book has to do with Laura's anxiety about her persona, and the responsibility it confers on her, and the contrast with Bob who isn't just abusing her physically but is conducting a lifelong campaign to make her feel ashamed of her sexuality.



This is something very much at play on the show as well. Just as at the beginning of season three the young couple are engaging in innocent, casual sex and are murdered for it, we see two kids in last night's episode who are even more innocent, their shared first kiss as adorable as anything I've ever seen (I wouldn't be surprised if the little boy ended up being a young Gordon Cole). We're seeing corruption and fall from the Garden of Eden and instead of Eve eating a fruit she swallows a newborn Bob who looks like a frog with cockroach wings.



I doubt Lynch was thinking about Paradise Lost, though maybe he had been--Milton had a huge influence on American 19th century literature and was, in praising him, called by Margaret Fuller a great example of a Puritan-- the moral conflict shown on Twin Peaks seems clearly a descendent of American Puritanism. When seeing Bob's early form when he invades the little girl in her sleep, it's hard not to think of Milton's description of Satan when he's manipulating the dream of a slumbering Eve:

him there they found
Squat like a Toad, close at the eare of EVE;
Assaying by his Devilish art to reach
The Organs of her Fancie, and with them forge
Illusions as he list, Phantasms and Dreams,
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
Th' animal Spirits that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from Rivers pure, thence raise
At least distemperd, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aimes, inordinate desires
Blown up with high conceits ingendring pride.




I loved the pacing and imagery of last night's episode. All this interpretation does nothing to convey the wonder in the pure experience of watching the episode.

The perspective on the atom bomb explosion starts out making it look strange even before the camera pulls into a 2001 homage. Like Kubrick, Lynch was here using a barrage of strange and violent sensory stimuli to impress upon us how perfectly strange the experience is for the human mind, rendering clearly how a barrier between two worlds is being violently torn down. Many people are speculating that the strange being shown vomiting is the same being who murdered the couple back at the beginning of the season, which would make a lot of sense. Looking at the screenshot now, I just realised that her hand is backwards--the thumb is on the wrong side:



Much like everyone speaks backwards in the other world. I'd love it if we found out eventually it was Alice's looking-glass world all along.

Also, I enjoyed the performance by Nine Inch Nails. As with "My Prayer", the lyrics to the song nicely complimented and expanded on what we were seeing.

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


I really enjoyed "World Enough and Time", to-day's new episode of Doctor Who, though it certainly wasn't the most cheerful episode and one could argue there's not much that's new about it. But sometimes that's a good thing.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I'm so happy to see a return to the original design for the Cybermen. I've always said it's so much creepier. I wrote in 2011:

The two part Cybermen episode of Doctor Who--"Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel"--is the first one to really disappoint me from David Tennant's tenure. Although I don't really hate the full armour, alternate universe design for the Cybermen, I do hope it remains alternate universe. Somehow I doubt I'll get my wish. For me, the original Cyberman look from The Tenth Planet is the creepiest.

And in 2016 I wrote:

The Cybermen on Doctor Who really haven't been menacing to me since the Second Doctor era. The black and white helped enhance the creep factor of their scary doll faces, though they were even better in The Tenth Planet when it was just a cloth mask. Just imagine how much creepier they'd be than in their current Power Rangers getup if their masks were a thin material barely concealing rotting flesh? Somehow vulnerability is scary, I suppose because it reflects mortality. Think of the Mummy or Dracula in his coffin. Or the lady in the bathtub in Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.



Really, "World Enough and Time" is the first proper Cybermen story on the television series since the Second Doctor's The Invasion. They weren't seen at all during the Third Doctor era and when they reappeared in the Fourth Doctor's first season they'd become just another conquering alien race, their main difference from the Daleks being that they were less distinct (and vulnerable to gold). Not that the stories they were in were always bad--I particularly appreciate Earthshock for killing Adric--they just weren't really about the Cybermen.



It's fitting Peter Capaldi's ending his last season with a Cybermen story since that's how his first season ended. "Dark Water"/"Death in Heaven" did feature a return to themes of death and desperate attempts to prolong life that are integral to the original Cybermen concept but it's with "World Enough and Time" that the story actually goes to the idea of surgery, the idea that the Cybermen have their emotions wiped because otherwise they'd be in constant pain and terror, something established in a memorably horrific moment in The Invasion. It's not unlike Spare Parts, the best Cybermen story since the Second Doctor era. Spare Parts is a 2002 Fifth Doctor audio play which, like "World Enough and Time", shows a Mondasian society forced to rely more and more on surgery to stay alive, a far more horrifying story than the more vanity oriented obsession in "Rise of the Cybermen"/"Age of Steel". Spare Parts creates a world where the suffering population seem slowly creeping to a painful doom. That's the real difference between the Daleks and the Cybermen--the Daleks became what they are through a drive to become better conquerors, the Cybermen started out just wanting to live.



"World Enough and Time" is a title that comes from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress". One could read "Mistress" as "Missy" here and see the poem's argument, about how life is too short not to love each other now, being somewhat ironic when the Doctor and Missy (Michelle Gomez) have known each other for thousands of years (well, depending on how their timelines match up). Missy's flippant remarks at the beginning take on graver connotations when this is considered--only Time Lords can be friends of Time Lords because species like humans are too short lived. There's some support for this idea in the fact that the Doctor's justification for wanting to redeem Missy is that Missy is more like the Doctor than anyone else he's ever met.



Poor Bill (Pearl Mackie), her life looked like it was going to be even shorter than expected. She's been so good this season, her getting shot emphasises how unfair it seems that her tenure on the show is to be so brief. I do hope there's still some chance of her coming back for Chibnall's first season but I suspect the BBC wants next season to start as cleanly as possible. I still strongly suspect it's someone with more authority at the BBC that's against the idea of a female Doctor, not Steven Moffat. If Moffat haters could calm down for just a moment, I would point out that Moffat has thoroughly laid the canonical groundwork for a female Doctor. Too often nowadays, people respond to people who disagree with them with a "Fuck you," directly or ironically expressed, but if we remember the substantial number of Doctor Who fans who still don't want to see a female Doctor, think of all the things Moffat has done to slowly change their minds, not only showing a Time Lord change sex last season but even making the Master a woman--I'd argue, in fact, the best incarnation of the Master. And "World and Time Enough" establishes that the Doctor might even have been a woman at one point. This suggests the First Doctor may not, in fact, be the First. Moffat has pointed out, in an interview about the War Doctor, that the Doctor doesn't label his incarnations with numbers the way we viewers do, though I do feel like I've heard him do that before. Maybe just in audio plays, the canonicity of which has been flexible.



"World and Time Enough" is so much like Spare Parts, in fact, I hope it doesn't establish Spare Parts as being outside canon. I suppose one could say there were two independent geneses for the Cybermen--on the colony ship by the black hole and actually on Mondas.



John Simm's incarnation of the Master may in fact be my least favourite. I don't love to hate him--he was just plain annoying in his episodes with Tennant. But I guess he's not so bad in "World and Time Enough", though even if I hadn't known about him being in this season I would have wondered why that guy had all the makeup and the phony accent. It seems really clear that whoever was in charged of promotion for Doctor Who this season fucked up in spoiling Simm's role--it would have been more satisfying to be surprised. Even so, I think it would have been better to go subtler with the makeup and maybe avoid the accent, it looks too much like a disguise.



What a bastard he is for making Bill love him in a relationship they apparently developed over years. Again, poor Bill. I hope something happens in part 2 that makes her end on the show not quite so miserable. Now the Doctor's seen the Brigadier and a companion turned into Cybermen. I guess it's not unlike Oswin getting turned into a Dalek. The Doctor's having to face more and more there's worse things that can happen to his companions than death. But we can't very well have the Doctor travelling without a companion, can we? He really shouldn't be alone but that's always going to be a point for drama, hopefully one that doesn't get exhausted--there needs to be some more companions who simply decide to leave, it's not going to look good if every companion gets killed or locked in a cursed dimension/time zone. If it keeps happening, the Doctor's going to look like an asshole for letting anyone travel with him.



If this regeneration at the beginning is only a tease, it would be the second one this season, which leads me to think it's not. I'm more impressed with Capaldi's hair, though, which almost looks full Pertwee. It's appropriate we see him using Venusian Aikido in this episode. I also liked the Doctor calling out Bill for moralising while eating a ham sandwich, perhaps confirming that one of the few things I liked about the Sixth Doctor era, the Doctor becoming a vegetarian, is still true.

Twitter Sonnet #1006

Redeeming soups absorb reversal bread.
Upon a cracker plate they'll matter not.
In nebulae the spinning lobster's red.
In ocean noise it's green as mint and pot.
Imposter panoplies import a drip.
In time to tinkling talcum snow it sang.
A message bow impressed an arrow tip
Articulate illumination sprang.
Descending suns of pulp detect a shell.
Tornado paper wrapped about the eye.
A caution sign adorned the gilded well.
In alloy wet we baked an armoured pie.
Accounts align condemning numbers through.
Gestating digits grab the pipe of glue.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


The season finale of Better Call Saul on Monday brought some big changes to the show, promising next season will be very different from the first three. Where Breaking Bad eventually became a Spaghetti Western, Better Call Saul is shaping up to be more of a film noir with its focus on the delicate line between luck and free will.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Chuck (Michael McKean) accuses Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) of having a fundamentally harmful nature but it's Chuck whose tragic personality hurts himself and everyone around him. In a well conceived scene, Chuck ended his life like he lived it; breaking things because he's completely out of touch with his own feelings. He seemed completely cool and confident when he told Jimmy he didn't matter much to him and Chuck probably believed it. But I don't think it's any coincidence Chuck fell into a violent, final relapse shortly afterwards.



It's fitting the last conversation between Chuck and Jimmy is about blame. Whose fault is all this? Chuck says it's Jimmy who can't help himself but it looks like Chuck is the one with less self-control. Still, laying all the blame on Jimmy, despite the pettiness and schemes Jimmy engages in, hardly seems fair because Chuck and fate seem to be dealing Jimmy an unfair hand, intentionally or not.



The episode was written by Gennifer Hutchison, my favourite writer on the series now, and mostly I think she did a great job but I couldn't buy Jimmy's solution to his troubles with Irene and her friends. I understand the point of this was to show Jimmy really does have a good heart, being willing to sacrifice that big Sandpiper payout so that Irene's friends would forgive her. But I don't see how he could be certain the plan would work--it's not like it changes any of Irene's actions her friends were upset about. Not to mention the fact that since they'd seen through his other attempts to mend their friendships there's a good chance they'd see through this one, too. But I guess it would be hard to think of another way to get Jimmy out of the elder law business and into criminal defence.



There wasn't much comedy in this episode but I loved Kim's (Rhea Seehorn) trip to Blockbuster Video, just a subtle reminder that this is a period piece. Her and Jimmy watching To Kill a Mockingbird is a nice way to underscore the standard of ethics they might be trying to live up to--it's a quiet way of showing them contemplate the reason they've chosen this career.
setsuled: (Louise Smirk)


What an incredibly pretty season finale of American Gods. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, who I first heard of in the 90s when she made Marilyn Manson music videos, this Eastery Easter episode was about as far from Antichrist Superstar as you could get.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Because there's a lot of Christ in this episode. Or I should say Christs, a pretty effective visual gag. Conversations between Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Easter (Kristin Chenoweth) tended to drift into too much exposition--again giving me the feeling that many of these episodes would have been better stretched over multiple episodes--but Easter entertaining a gaggle of Jesuses, crestfallen at the suggestion they've appropriated her holiday, was pretty funny.



Wednesday and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) also finally meet Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) in this episode though, oddly, he gets no introduction. Unlike the time given to the other gods, Nancy spends his whole segment talking about a goddess while we watch a montage of Bilquis' (Yetide Badaki) history, going from the centre of an orgy sacrifice religion in Tehran to a beggar in the US.



So she's not the American version of Bilquis/Sheba? Or maybe American versions of gods retain memories from the old country and she's remembering those? But we see her cross in an airplane. Well, I guess it's not like anyone worshipped Bilquis in the U.S. so maybe she'd have to be the one from the middle east. I really like the fact that her story makes us feel for her even though she's basically a murderer. I guess she's essentially a vampire character.



Nancy turns out to have a great sense of personal style and he's a great tailor. I really liked Shadow's outfit, the paisley tie that almost blends in with his lavender shirt and the grey with white polka dots jacket.



Chenoweth's costumes are lovely, too, though I wish her shoes had gotten one lingering close-up--I didn't notice them until I was taking screenshots but they're fantastic monsters:



In addition to all the prettiness, Laura (Emily Browning) is looking more impressively dead. I love the aviator glasses with the red jacket and those murky contact lenses look really convincingly corpse-like.



Laura and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) are really standing out on this series while Shadow is increasingly feeling like a minor character. Laura finds out that a god has been working against her all along, that she's been a pawn in Wednesday's game, while Shadow's big revelation is that he actually believes in the lightning bolts he just witnessed. Laura's story is a lot more interesting at this point but maybe that's a good way to stretch the story out over several seasons, letting Shadow slowly accrue issues.



My favourite outfit was Media's (Gillian Anderson). I'm not sure if she's based on any media figure--Joan Crawford, maybe? But she seemed to be glowing in those colours.

EDIT: A lot of people (felisdemens on Live Journal was first) are pointing out to me that Media's look is based Judy Garland's at the end of Easter Parade. I'm not sure I'd have guessed even if I had seen the movie more recently. On my DVD the colours are a bit different and they vary even more widely in a Google image search. Probably a sign this movie needs some restoration work. Garland's dress looks almost blue in the outdoor scenes on my DVD while Anderson's is unmistakeably pink.




Twitter Sonnet #1005

In turquoise scarves the marching men dissolve.
The branching fingers tune the blizzard late.
And so in pledging trees the eyes resolve.
The drying lashes turn to feathered gate.
In armoured pages knights misplace a spine.
In gliding boughs, the feathered bark arose.
In perforations dark the ants align.
And still the oldest roots are making clothes.
Embankment clerks assume the stony pen.
Abandoned carts abridge the market lane.
As stores are shrinking gulls adjust to win.
The river's air cajoled the weather vane.
A kiwi grew to break a smoothie town.
A hobbit stretched to talk the Entwives round.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


Last night's new Twin Peaks may have spent more time actually in Twin Peaks than any previous episode of the new season and it was an exceptionally fast paced episode. With many satisfying developments and answers it also presented some new questions, and it did both these things in the understated manner that makes the inherent mystery of Twin Peaks so nice.

Spoilers after the screenshot



So it's Andy (Harry Goaz) who comes across the truck driven by Richard Horne in the previous episode, a truck that apparently belongs to a new character too nervous for some reason to answer Andy's questions then and there. Gentle, simple Andy might be the wrong man for this job, agreeing to meet the guy in two hours at which point of course the guy doesn't show. There's an added ominous note in the place Andy chooses to meet--the corner of Sparkwood and 21, the same place James last saw Laura Palmer. Maybe it was in Andy's mind from going through Cooper's file. For whatever reason, the familiar synthesiser intro to Laura Palmer's theme playing over a waiting Andy did much to collect more dread.



Another nicely atmospheric, Twin Peaks location moment later in the episode featured Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and his assistant Beverly (Ashley Judd) trying to track down the source of a faint ringing noise in the Great Northern. The lighting in the hotel was particularly evocative of the old series, the other locations tending to look less familiar because they look better, being locations instead of sets. I like the upgrade but it was sweet seeing something a little more like the old times. And I really liked the multiple ways the scene operates--on the level of spooky atmosphere, on Ben being just a little suggestive while reminiscing about Laura Palmer, and on the hint of flirtation between him and Beverly. And Beverly, true to Twin Peaks form despite being a new character, is soon revealed to have another side to her personality when she goes home to her wheelchair bound husband, Tom (Hugh Dillon).



How many wheelchairs have we seen on Twin Peaks now? The scene most clearly echoes Leo Johnson when Tom seems suspicious and abusive, until the tables turn and Beverly starts getting a bit angrier than the situation calls for. I guess she really does like Ben. Also in a wheelchair was Mrs. Hayward, who's not listed as appearing in this new season, though her husband, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost), did appear last night in an oddly adorable, unexpected Skype scene between him and Robert Forster's Frank Truman.



Watching Robert Forster interact with modern technology makes the entire modern world seem somehow silly. Sorry to have brought you to these times, Mr. Forster, but we're glad you're here. I guess it's not like he's been away--I see now on Wikipedia he did three episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What the fuck. Well, okay, that newer Ninja Turtles show isn't actually that bad, I've seen part of the first season.



Last night's Twin Peaks began with Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) lost in the woods. It's nice seeing the Horne brothers with a little more material than in the odd, brief scene in the season's first episode. The more episodes I see, the more cohesive it all feels and I can see now why Lynch considers the season more like an eighteen hour movie than a series of episodes. All the same, I'm glad he didn't release them all at once because, as much as I'm normally not given to binge watching, I know I'd shut myself in to watch all of these in one go if I could.



Jerry seems to be having a bad trip and he's worried about his stolen car, dialogue that in retrospect seems like he might be psychically channelling the scene in Dougie Jones' office where the still sleep walking Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) answered questions about his car. This was just before one of the more enjoyable moments in the series so far when Cooper suddenly became a man of action to thwart the hitman, Ike (Christophe Zajac-Denek).



And then Lynch puts the cherry on top with an appearance by The Arm, egging Cooper on to squeeze off the assassin's hand. It's one of those moments where you realise a man travelling between an earthly and spiritual plane looks quite a bit like a dangerous lunatic. That blurred edge makes everything more intriguing, much like the multiple layers in the other scenes.



The scene's also likely Lynch's revenge on Michael J. Anderson, the actor who originally played The Arm, also known as The Man from Another Place, in the original series before making slanderous statements about Lynch following his failed effort to get more money out of the director. Ironically, it was in an interview with Anderson that I learned how the famous tailgating scene in Lost Highway was made after Anderson witnessed Lynch being tailgated by an asshole motorist. Now we see the character Anderson used to play urging Cooper to mutilate a villainous little person. Among other things, it seemed like Lynch saying loud and clear, "This character ain't yours anymore, motherfucker."



Another highlight of the episode was Laura Dern as Diane, brought to interrogate the bad Cooper despite her marked reluctance. It seems clear the bad Cooper raped her shortly after the events of the second season though this is never explicitly stated. It doesn't have to be, it's entirely in Dern's performance, which speaks volumes, and the way she toasts the FBI. We can see clearly someone whose whole life was upended years ago when someone she thought she could trust betrayed her in a fundamental way. Having a great actress, and a director who knows what she's capable of, makes a very, very big difference.



Or maybe I should say "yrev". I didn't notice that bad Cooper had said one of his verys backwards the first time though I did see people online pointing it out. Last night's episode charmingly just assumed everyone had noticed. I loved Gordon (David Lynch) counting the words on Tammy's (Chrysta Bell) fingers.



I also really loved how this episode ended with just a little slice of life in the RR. I want a whole night's worth of footage.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


A little historical perspective isn't too painful, is it? To-day's new episode of Doctor Who, "Eaters of Light", did something I wished the show did more often--it incorporated aspects of history into its plot and argument in a way that also potentially educates the viewer. This was part of the original series concept, after all, back in 1963, and I never thought it was such a bad idea. Although the writer for to-day's episode, Rona Munro, just barely qualifies as a classic series writer--she wrote Survival, the 1989 final serial of the classic series--"Eaters of Light" definitely felt like old Who in ways I really liked.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The season long theme of colonising and people oppressed based on race or nationality takes a form surprisingly resonant with to-day's politics in this new episode. Here we have racially diverse, sexually liberated Romans invading the lands of the all white, rural Picts, and the two of groups need to set aside their differences to confront a threat to the entire universe. Whether it was intended or not, one could see this as reflecting the politics of relatively affluent liberals versus poor conservatives--Londoners versus people outside the city who voted for Brexit, in other words, or in the U.S., educated liberals versus ignorant and out of work Trump voters. And the realisation that all these people need to work together if we want any hope of addressing the threat of climate change. As a being that eats light--something that foils enlightenment--the episode's monster could be seen as a manifestation of a compulsion to avoid empathy. This really does feel like a natural evolution of the political themes in the Seventh Doctor era.



There's even something very Seventh Doctor-ish in the off-hand way Twelve (Peter Capaldi) explains the crows who can talk. Though maybe Peter Capaldi is more appropriate for this story because he's a Scotsman with Italian ancestry. Well, either one would have worked. I love Capaldi's performance this season, his understated grace is a long way from the stupid peevishness in "Robot of Sherwood".



I love how Munro used the TARDIS translation circuits to say something about what the Doctor does. In all the analysis of the Doctor as a character that's endemic to the new series, it's not until now we have this very simple thing--the ability for the TARDIS to automatically translate language facilitates communication. Suddenly the Romans and the Picts can talk to each other on the same footing. It seems a small thing, but it's essential to the Doctor's characteristic strategy of assuming anyone can be met as a fellow sentient being.



I could quibble that Bill (Pearl Mackie) ought to've known the basics of Roman culture if she was so well read on the Ninth Legion. But her discovering the different perspective on sexuality among the Romans is a nice way for younger viewers to be introduced to the idea that such perspectives have a very long history. And I'm not sure why the Doctor's argument about his greater lifespan is invalidated because the humans got brave. But it's still a pretty sweet idea, Romans and Picts united forever and a ghostly music forever being heard from the hill.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Ahead of to-morrow's new Doctor Who, I decided to revisit Survival, the 1989 serial written by Rona Munro, who also wrote to-morrow's new episode, making her the only writer from the classic series to be hired to write for the relaunched series. Survival also happens to be the final story of the classic series, not a terribly good way to go, I always thought, though watching it again this past week I do find it's better than I remembered. This was only the second time I'd watched it through--although the Seventh Doctor's third season is rightly gaining a reputation as being one of the finest seasons of the series, I'd say it's mainly for the two middle serials, Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric. As much as I like King Arthur and Jean Marsh, I struggled to get through Battlefield the couple times I've tried rewatching it. And Survival, well. Survival has this:



I know what you're thinking. "He hates Furries!" Now, I fully believe that people who call themselves Furries should be recognised as having the same rights and privileges as any average citizen. But I'm never going to be able to take seriously the cereal box, generic brand Loony Tunes aesthetic. Sometimes people just have bad taste.

Anyway, though Rona Munro did not invoke the term "Furry", possibly being unaware of the subculture at the time, Wikipedia quotes her from a 2007 interview as also being unhappy with the creature design of the cheetah people:

[They] should have just had cheetah eyes and a very faint pigmentation round of cheetah spots, and big canine teeth. And in fact, I think the actors that were cast, from what I was told, were doing all this wonderful expressive facial work, and then these 'Puss In Boots' things were dropped on them – and so then you can't see what they're doing under there. Particularly Karra and Ace, there were whole amazing scenes between them and for me, that was supposed to be my lesbian subtext – and you can't see it!



I certainly didn't pick up on any lesbian subtext, though considering that's Lisa Bowerman, later to play Bernice Summerfield in the audio plays, I'd certainly like to've seen it. I wonder if there was much thought into actually making Ace a lesbian behind the scenes--and I was already thinking that Bill was in part modelled on Ace.



Oof, I don't think there was ever a period in Earth's history when that lapel wouldn't have been laughed it. I guess they were going for Puritan but, no, it's not working.

I also didn't like to rewatch Survival because it was a story featuring the Master, a character I always thought was the show's weakest point. Until Missy came along, that is--I love Missy. Call me a sexist, if you will. Call me a Furry hating misandrist. Whatever, I can take it. Well, I also thought Derek Jacobi brought something interesting to the role.

I liked aspects of Master episodes, particularly the ones with Robert Delgado. I think the little doll in Terror of the Autons is effectively creepy in spite of, or maybe even because of, the old effects. And I like the sword fight in The Sea Devils. But mostly I always thought the Master was two dimensional and boring and when the writing got really bad in the Fifth Doctor era the Master got the brunt of it. I always thought it would have been interesting if they used the opportunity of the Master inhabiting the body of Nyssa's father to create some dramatic situations for her but it seems it wasn't until the audio plays that anyone thought of this, after Anthony Ainley could no longer reprise the role.



I do like the demonic puppet cats in Survival. Even though they're not supposed to look like puppets, I guess--they do look fucked up as hell. I also enjoy watching Sylvester McCoy trying to trap one.



My favourite part of Survival, though, is Perivale, particularly in the first episode of the serial. It all feels oddly authentic. I love Ace running into her friend with the cup on the street, I love the Doctor in the shop buying cat food and the two guys working there.



It's like the Doctor meeting Dante and Randal from Clerks. I love how real that shop feels. The third episode also has some good locations--I really love how you can see the poverty in the public housing Ace and the Doctor visit.



It's kind of a quietly radical moment. It emphasises the story's central themes, too, the idea of the "survival of the fittest." The Doctor demonstrates how it's not always smart strategically to show off strength when the Cheetah people seem not to want to attack someone who isn't moving. But we also see how cruel the philosophy is when applied to economics. One could draw a line between this and Ace falling for the Soviet soldier in Curse of Fenric and see a real bold lean to the left on the show, subtler and better developed than the previous season's Happiness Patrol.

Anyway, I find myself looking forward to seeing what Rona Munro's come up with for to-morrow.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


Despite having been written by Gordon Smith, who wrote the great courtroom episode in the middle of the season, Monday's new episode of Better Call Saul was a little sloppy, saved from being bad purely by the momentum of events.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Jimmy's (Bob Odinkirk) supposed to be almost out of money, to the point where he was reluctant to pay his camera crew a few episodes earlier. How did he afford all these shoes? Maybe he had enough leftover from the money he eventually did make from the commercial but if he's working this hard for the Sandpiper settlement he can't be out of the woods. These shoes are expensive--that's the whole point, he wants to make it look like Louise has money to burn to make her friends jealous and pressure her into taking the Sandpiper settlement. I'd say each pair is at least a hundred dollars, at nine pairs that's nine hundred dollars.



I hear Kiefer Sutherland in Fire Walk with Me in my head now, "Agent Desmond, I figure this whole office, furniture included, is worth 27,000 dollars." So okay, maybe I'm nitpicking. The biggest problem with the episode seems more attributable to the director than the writer--the car crash at the end. Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is hurrying to her appointment, her eyes look to be on the road, I noticed a Krispy Kreme in the background, and then suddenly her car's crashed into a rock, off the road, apparently in the middle of nowhere.



Wikipedia says, ". . . due to her fatigue from overwork, Kim loses her concentration and drives her car off the side of the road, crashing into a rock." Which, I guess is what happened, but seemed a lot to infer. We don't even see her eyelids drooping. I suppose the idea is that it's from her perspective so it's as sudden to us as it is to her but I've experienced sleep deprivation. I notice my eyelids drooping and my head nodding, Kim did not seem anywhere near that point.



Anyway, this means she's probably screwed as far as this side job goes, which is really bad since that's Hank Jennings she's working for--rather, it's actor Chris Mulkey who played Hank Jennings on Twin Peaks. I guess it's nice to have him on Better Call Saul since he's not on the new season of Twin Peaks.



The Mike plot continues to be dull as dirt, even with the introduction of Laura Fraser in the same role she played on Breaking Bad. The whole plot thread still feels like a pointless reiteration of things we learned on Breaking Bad.
setsuled: (Louise Smirk)


Sunday brought a nice new episode of The Laura Moon and Mad Sweeney Hour, also known as American Gods. This is a good time to brush up on your Daniel Defoe--Saturday's Doctor Who made reference to Robinson Crusoe and the American Gods episode was almost a straight adaptation of Moll Flanders.

Spoilers after the screenshot



At this point, Laura (Emily Browning) and Shadow have a lot of catching up to do if they want to rival the chemistry between Laura and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber). Apparently the two have something that goes back generations, though Emily Browning playing both Laura and eighteenth century Irish immigrant Essie MacGowan is never explained. Neither is the fact that Sweeney, one of the wee folk, isn't at all wee. Instead, with this episode he goes from ornery bar fighter to Laura's strapping, tormented supernatural protector--and former king.



Like the title character of Moll Flanders, Essie works as a servant girl, a seductress, and a thief, and, like Moll Flanders' mother, she "pleads her belly" when sentenced to death in Newgate. Also like Moll, Essie ends up in the North American colonies and eventually becomes mistress of a plantation. Adam Kane directs his second episode for the series and gets some wonderful visuals with apple trees and dresses, though Browning's wig might have been more convincing.



Meanwhile, in the present, Laura and Mad Sweeney have an amusing adventure involving the theft of an ice cream truck. One which proves that Sweeney cares about more than his magic coin in a really sweet moment. Once this is all sorted, I wouldn't mind these two settling down to a life of actually selling ice cream.



I also really liked Fionnula Flanagan as both Essie's grandmother and the older Essie herself. The scene where Sweeney shows up at her death is really sweet.

Apparently I'm far from alone in spotting Essie's resemblance to Moll Flanders.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


The stakes seem to be getting higher on Twin Peaks as several characters seem to be trapped, unable to move forward. I identified last week a theme of victimised children and that's certainly become even more prominent this week. Along with this, issues of identity and the line between innocence and guilt are being further developed. And of course, it's all beautifully shot and the soundtrack album is going to be phenomenal.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I'm a little sad people seem to be getting impatient with the Dougie storyline, but I guess that's to be expected. It might be the most autobiographical story David Lynch has ever filmed and part of the reason people are having trouble understanding it is that there's a growing misunderstanding of what it means to be an artist. People increasingly believe that great art is produced by formulae, that every effect an artist achieves is due to a master plan. There is plenty of calculation that goes into the work of most artists but most artists will also tell you they have no idea which things they do will have a meaningful impact on people and which they'll barely notice. That's what we see when Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) makes those seemingly meaningless doodles on the case files--and later they surprisingly have real significance to Dougie's boss, though Cooper himself seems to have no conscious understanding of what he'd produced.



Cooper had always been childlike and possessed of a great power of intuition. His experience in the Black Lodge seems to have rendered him a sleep walker and all of his powers of intuition have been enhanced. Or rather, his powers of intuition seem to be the only cognitive ability he has. But it all works as a metaphor for the artistic experience--Cooper starts out finding slot machine wins, a simple display of innate talent. Now he's moved on to something more sophisticated. At the same time, Mike (Al Strobel) implores him, "Don't die", which suggests he can't safely stay in this somnambulist state forever, and this is beautifully expressed in the idea of this great character, Agent Cooper, drowning in the dull life of Dougie Jones. This is the world of algorithms and formula that drowns an artist.



Janey E (Naomi Watts) seems to have all the other side. Her euphoria at the cash windfall has evolved--now she doesn't only want to pay off the 50 grand debt, she's decided to make the surplus from 125,000 even greater by negotiating the debt down to the original 25,000 loan. Now if only she and Cooper can combine their talents to a shared goal.



Cooper's also connected to children--Dougie's boss specifically describes his drawings as a "childish scribble"--and Cooper seems to have an instinctive connection with Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon). There are three innocent little boys now--Sonny Jim, the Drugged Out Mother's (Hailey Gates) son, and the poor little boy who gets hit by a car and killed, witnessed by Carl (Harry Dean Stanton).



Poor Carl. He'd already gone places and was happy where he was, as he said in Fire Walk with Me. All he wanted was a nice day in the park but it's Harry Dean Stanton's reactions that sold the emotional impact of the scene more than anything else.

These little boys--it's easy to look back and see them recurring throughout Lynch's films--Isabella Rossellini's son in Blue Velvet, Sailor and Lula's son in Wild at Heart, the child in The Grandmother. That last one, like Cooper now, seems pretty autobiographical and Lynch seems to identify with these kids, helpless in an angry and violent world.



Kids affected by war are mentioned twice--Frank (Robert Forster) and Doris (Candy Clark) had a son who committed suicide, apparently related to PTSD following service in one of the recent wars, and then Carl talks to a young man whose wife was apparently injured in the war. Neither of these characters are literally children but we learn about them through point of view characters who are their parents or old enough to be their parents.



Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), the sinister, predatory guy from the Bang Bang Bar last week, makes it clear he does not want to be thought of as "a kid" and in the process of trying to avoid this identity he kills a child, something he angrily rationalises almost immediately to avoid feeling guilty.



A generally melancholy episode, a mood assisted much by more score from Angelo Badalamenti and a closing song by Sharon Van Etten, also had some lovely lighter moments. Albert (Miguel Ferrer) angrily curses out Gene Kelly though he does so in a beautiful shot. We learn that the legendary Diane has been Laura Dern all this time, which of course makes sense, and back at the RR we see that Heidi (Andrea Hays) finally got her car started.



I also loved the sequence of Hawk (Michael Horse) finding those pages in a bathroom stall. Would those be pages from Laura Palmer's diary containing the message Annie told Laura to write in Fire Walk with Me? It seems likely though I don't see how knowing the good Dale was in the Lodge and can't leave is going to help anything. Maybe that's not all Laura wrote.

Also, is this the Black Spot from Treasure Island?



Twitter Sonnet #1002

All green collapsing matter was glued.
In ev'ry fallen hole arrived the dough.
Interred in cokey urns the drugs renewed.
A finer Hur than Ben will never row.
To set the cruel and metal chin was moot.
For tables growth discussions can result.
You must look out for any miser's suit.
Emboldened bins assay a dust assault.
Reactions mute beside the dropping face.
Above the wires speak with voice in arms.
A bunker stack of coffees start the race.
The oil sees but some of what it harms.
Inside a cauliflower stem's a mind
A hundred botanists could never find.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


I'm continuing to enjoy the subtle shifts in Kim's character on Better Call Saul. Monday's new episode also had some nice stuff in Jimmy's continued descent and Mike continues to be really boring.

Spoilers after the screenshot.



One week, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is explaining that all she and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) did was tear down a sick man, the next she's telling Howard (Patrick Fabian) that all she and Jimmy did was show things for how they are. The fallout from that wonderful courtroom episode, which seems to be the centrepiece of the season, continues to bring benefits in character reaction. Kim's on such an edge she doesn't seem to know how she feels unless she has someone else's reaction to react to.



Her situation with the office she has with Jimmy is similarly ambiguous. It seems she's regretting insisting that Jimmy pay his half or they get rid of the place, but now his pride is involved so she can't cover his half. But this pushes her to take a second case, perhaps unwisely, as insurance.



Meanwhile, the descent into Saul-hood has literally resurrected Slippin' Jimmy. I wonder how much time the show's going to spend before it jump cuts to the end of Jimmy's twelve month suspension. My guess is the première of season four will be, at the very least, "Twelve month's later." It's always a pleasure watching Jimmy hustle, anyway, something I wish American Gods would emulate a bit with Mr. Wednesday. Though, it occurs to me, Saul is played by Bob Odinkirk . . .



I still don't find Nacho (Michael Mando) a very interesting character but the scene with him swapping out Hector Salamanca's (Mark Margolis) medicine was very well played, Hitchcockian with the way it ramped up tension.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Sunday's new American Gods was like two episodes mixed together; one good and one disappointing. It all looked good, though.

Spoilers after the screenshot



In the disappointing plot, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Wednesday (Ian McShane) visit a town populated by gun-toting redneck stereotypes who worship Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen). In the good part, Laura (Emily Browning), Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Salim (Omid Abtahi) go on a road trip, looking for a friend of Sweeney's who can resurrect Laura--properly this time.



I would assume the Laura plot was written by Bryan Fuller because it, again, felt more like Dead Like Me than American Gods. I liked the discussion of Laura's dwelling on aspects of her life, this mirrored by Wednesday pulling Shadow away from her so that he can move on. But one of the three writers on the episode is a fellow named Seamus Kevin Fahey, about whom there's little information on the internet, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he's Irish. He may have been brought on to write dialogue for Mad Sweeney--whoever wrote those segments, they work really well. I love Laura and Sweeney's caustic rapport and the addition of Salim as the meek fellow in the middle is a perfect way to round out the trio.



Meanwhile, in Vulcanville, the story's a bit thinner. The idea that there's a segment of the U.S. population who worship guns is certainly a fair premise but since we don't meet a single one of these worshippers there's no chance to actually explore it. Vulcan himself, despite Corbin Bernsen ably matching Ian McShane in impressively weathered visage, is a thoroughly uninteresting character. His betraying Wednesday's location to the New Gods has absolutely no weight when the New Gods had found Wednesday in just the previous episode and let him go. Even if it did have weight, Vulcan looks like a moron when he forges a god-killing weapon and hands it to Wednesday before telling him he betrayed him. I guess the upside is that this plot won't be around next week.

Twitter Sonnet #1000

A comet black for sudden coal could close
No throat upon a highway neat as night
As fraught as dawn affirmed for soothing shows
And sleepy dram for watchful claims of sight
Of substance staunched of bloodless flow, belief
Encased and opened like a flower head
A deadly draught, a treadmill to relief
But gnawing paints present the only bed
A valley blanket sewn in stories late
To hold the ink, increase the yield in gold
In softened thorns to fetch and sometimes sate
Before the quicker eye can catch a cold.
In speeding shovels air transforms to stone.
In through a needle point it shines alone.


setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


Twin Peaks took a turn for the melancholy in last night's new episode. So far it's been mainly intriguing weirdness but with last night's episode the show subtly shifted focus to the emotional state of victims.

We've now had essentially a five hour David Lynch movie and I can't believe there's more to come. I marvel at the consistency in filmmaking quality and it's so refreshing to have a show that never for a moment assumes I'm stupid.

Spoilers after the screenshot.



For instance, I liked how Lynch never cut to a close-up of the cup Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is holding to explain how Frank (Bob Stephenson) knows that was his coffee. If Lynch didn't have final cut on these, I guarantee some busybody at some point would have said, "No, we have to make it super fucking clear for the morons at home."



I love watching Frank discover he really likes the green tea latte. Such a small, kind of adorable moment. I'm continually amazed how much attention to detail there is on the show, how Lynch just keeps putting together interesting shots. Look at this shot of the Drugged-Out Mother (Hailey Gates)--yes, that's the character's name in the credits.



At some point Lynch or his cinematographer, Peter Deming, said, we need a big red ball in the background to go with her top. Almost everything in her house is grey, red, white, or brown. Her poor kid's shirt is somehow sad and perfect.



We also have another sad moment for a kid when Cooper inexplicably sheds a tear for Sonny Jim sitting in the back of the car. Why? Because he knows the kid's father is gone, probably forever? That his father was only some kind of manufactured decoy?



Going to older children, I loved the scene in the Bang Bang Bar where the sinister guy toys with the teenage girls making eyes at him. It's so horrible--credibly horrible. Nowadays every kid on TV has to be a wiseass but you can see these girls really are kids, just getting a little excited by the guy who's breaking the rules by smoking a cigarette, and one of them, Charlotte (Grace Victoria Cox), takes a risk and immediately gets in over her head. It's both an unusually human moment and a classic Twin Peaks moment.



We finally get a scene in the RR and we finally meet Amanda Seyfried's character, Becky, apparently someone close to Shelly (Madchen Amick). Wikipedia says she's Shelly's daughter but I'm not sure we know that. It's hard to hear Becky and Shelly's conversation, maybe she called her "Mom" and I didn't hear it. My impression was that Shelly and Becky had developed a relationship somewhat like Shelly and Norma's (Peggy Lipton). Becky's last name in the credits is "Burnett", as is the guy she's with, the really skeevy looking Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) so I guess she's actually married to him. I guess he's not as bad as Leo but that's not saying much.



The RR scene is the closest to the kind of scene I might've predicted seeing in a new Twin Peaks series. It's obviously meant to resemble the scene in the pilot where Norma watches Shelly and Bobby outside in Bobby's car. How nice it is that this time Lynch was able to shoot entirely with the location RR instead of using an L.A. soundstage for the interior, allowing for that interplay between interior and exterior.

I like Amanda Seyfried, I look forward to seeing where Lynch takes her. Since Leland asked Cooper to look for his daughter, I've wondered if maybe Seyfried was going to be playing a reincarnation of Laura Palmer. With the cocaine and the bad boyfriend, or husband, she does seem Laura Palmer-ish, though she doesn't seem as self-possessed as Laura.



Age seems to have given Peggy Lipton a more elastic face and I loved how Lynch shot Becky's introduction from Norma's point of view, allowing us to discover the character alongside Norma trying to figure out the situation from a distance.



Poor Frank Truman (Robert Forster)--I guess his marriage isn't quite as bad as Becky's but I did feel bad for the guy. His wife, Doris (Candy Clark), is in the mould of Laura Dern's mother in Wild at Heart though maybe not quite as sinister. The things she's complaining about aren't really that unreasonable--she doesn't want to stand around watching a bucket all day--but her anger is dialled up way further than the occasion calls for. I love how Lynch shoots her from a low angle, raising her arms to the heavens when she says, "black mould!" with Frank Truman seeming to shrink in his chair from the opposite angle.



Poor Cooper, still hardly himself in that ugly lime green sport coat and stranded next to that statue he seems to take a liking to, providing an improbably perfect Lynchian composition even for something directed by David Lynch.



I guess I can't write about this show all day. Sunday seems too far away . . .

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