24 July 2014 @ 08:10 pm

Yes, this seriously took me seven months to write. Well, in fairness... I wrote like a paragraph or so of my thoughts back in January and then actually started writing the rest of this a few days ago. But I at least thought quite hard about it for half a year.

Series three is so...complicated. I watched it and at first liked it, then hated it, then grew to enjoy it again despite myself. It's clearly a transitional series in a way that series two possibly should have been, but ultimately wasn't. It's hard to say if it's even good or not. But I will, as always, attempt to probe its depths and find out.

'Okay, but what you don't know is that I've brutally murdered thirty-three people for the CIA.' )
06 May 2014 @ 11:23 pm
Yikes, it's been a minute since series three aired. Well, in the spirit of what I did last time we had new episodes...a screencap review, a la [ profile] film_stills. All of them are my own this time around.

'Oh, please, killing me. That's so two years ago.' )

Reckon I'll eventually get around to reviewing the episodes... It's a bit more challenging since I'm still not sure how I feel about the newest series as a whole, even nearly four months on. So odd, that, but series three is the transitional series that series two probably should have been, and naturally people are bound to be divided about that sort of thing.

(This is largely concerning the last episode, so beware of spoilers.)

Okay, I'll get this out of the way and say that you're not allowed to disagree with the fact that the best part of the episode was Tarrlok's murder-suicide. A little heavy for a children's show, hm? I hated how the reveal of Amon was rushed and predictable, but one of my favorite tropes ever is You Can't Go Home Again in its metaphorical sense, so I can forgive this a little. Tarrlok knew that there would be no turning back or true redemption for either of them. Amon/Noatak, on the other hand...well, let's be honest, if he was delusional enough to believe that he and his brother would ever be able to forge a functional relationship again after the events of their childhood and their respective downfalls in Republic City...I'm not sure that Tarrlok made the wrong call.

It's just annoying, because the relationship between these two (and Amon's growth in the interim) could have been so much more deeply developed than it was. Instead it was rushed in at the last minute with nearly no prior hints that would have made it a believable development at all. It was okay, but it could have been way, way, way better. And to be quite honest, the entire situation was a cop-out. When Amon was able to walk off Tarrlok's blood-bending a few episodes ago I immediately called that he was a blood-bender, himself, and was thus impervious. Which is...disappointing, plot-wise. Why did Amon have to be a bender? Sure, it's fascinating that Amon found so much injustice in the act of bending that he was willing to use his own gifts to rob others of theirs, but it would have been ultimately faaaaar more compelling if he were just a normal non-bending man with his own baggage. There's nothing all that scary about a masterful water/blood-bender being able to take down other benders. The reason that he was so frightening all along is precisely because we were under the impression that he didn't have any special abilities outside of chi-blocking. Which is not to say that his backstory as Noatak wasn't decent, but it would have been more interesting if a) he were a non-bender with his given backstory instead, and b) we actually had any amount of time devoted to explaining why, after running away from his tribe, he became invested enough in his anti-bending pursuits to form a social movement around them. Or, you know, devoted to explaining anything deeper about Amon and his feelings or goals.

And I will be sorely disappointed if Amon's reveal and death are the symbolic ends of the social conflicts in Republic City between benders and non-benders. That would be just the biggest load of bullshit. He was a charismatic leader, sure, but he didn't just drum up the sympathy of non-benders out of nowhere. It's clear that there was a growing discontent among citizens and I would hate to see that just unrealistically fade away. I want to see the reactions of non-bending Equalists now that Amon has been revealed as a bender and now that they have no single, unifying authority figure for their movement. Will they get a new one? How will they promote their cause without his image? Will Amon's reveal actually ignite even more civil unrest? Realistically, it should. (Don't even get me started on how the Equalists in general were portrayed; there were a few choice moments of moral ambiguity on both sides of that battle, but ultimately, the movement was not shown as being as morally nuanced as it could and should have been.)

Oh, and just let me say a bit about Korra's practically non-existent character growth as the Avatar. She still wasn't really able to tap into her spiritual side after all this time, and yet she was able to pull airbending entirely out of nowhere just as Mako was conveniently threatened...? (And as others have said, she didn't even apply any of the airbending or spiritually centering techniques Tenzin mentored her in when she was finally able to airbend. She just went straight for physically over-powering attacks yet again...just with air, and not earth/water/fire.) She was still making as many stupid mistakes and being as physically domineering in this episode as she was in episode one. Hell, her relationship with the more fluid, spiritual side of airbending pretty much began and just as quickly ended when she starting applying Tenzin's teachings in her pro-bending match...that one time. Oh, and she sort of meditated once. Almost. Kinda. Honestly, with her suddenly learning how to airbend (while ignoring all principles of the discipline) and going Avatar state and just restoring all the bending with her magic touch... why did this season even happen at all, speaking in terms of narrative? We're now almost exactly where we started at the beginning, save for some really forced, underdeveloped, and annoying relationship drama between the main four characters.

Outside of a few predictable acts of kindness towards Korra, we're never even under the impression that Mako has incredibly deep feelings for her, nor her for him. What the hell is that? I must have missed the part where this rather large and emotional relationship growth took place, because it sure wasn't demonstrated very strongly to us as viewers over the course of this entire season. Look, writers, it's always better to show rather than tell. Even outside of that frankly unbelievable romantic development, they're about as exciting as off-white paint together. At least Bolin had a personality, even if he's been reduced to a sad one-note comic relief character.

Which really makes me feel sorry for Asami. What is she, Candide? She went kind of over and beyond for this group of people and she was ultimately repaid with absolutely nothing. So now she has neither a supportive boyfriend nor a father (or any familial relationship, for that matter). I hope she honestly gets what she rightfully deserves during the next season. I'm definitely impressed that she's had a strong enough moral compass this entire time to continue hanging out with these total nitwits given their willingness to trample all over her feelings despite the kindness and help she's extended to them all the while. I was entirely expecting her to be an Equalist plant or have a "going to the dark side" moment, and at this point, I couldn't blame her. (Even though I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't happen.) I hope Iroh comes back and sweeps her off her feet and lavishes her with badass love and affectionAsami sweeps Iroh off his feet when he comes back, because at least one pretty-boy fire-bender in this series has got to have some decency and taste, and it's clearly not going to be Mako any time this century.

So, pros and cons for the series in general? Well, it was entertaining and pretty and there were some damn good episodes with amazing pacing and fight scenes and pitch-perfect plot developments. Things just went nowhere kind of fast soon after Tarrlok's episodes. Which is terribly unfortunate, because they laid the foundation for what could have been some truly stellar material. Bolin, Mako, and Korra are still pretty much one-dimensional characters at this point. The writers have given Korra in particular an easy way out of any meaningful development with her magical ability to airbend, reach the Avatar state, recover her own other bending forms, and restore bending to, just because she felt down about everything and liked Mako. (Shit, if things had been that easy for Aang, the entire show could have been wrapped up in a few episodes.)

At the very least, her getting her other bending powers back could have waited until next season, opening a small window for some actual character development and a spiritual journey for her. Also, there was too much annoying relationship drama. And the big reveal involving Amon and Tarrlok could have been about fifty times better if it wasn't shoehorned right there in the end for shock twist value. There are plot-holes about a mile wide concerning Amon's motivations and powers which will probably never be explained. (Why could he blood-bend and rearrange the energy flow to the bending centers of the brain but Katara, master water-bender, couldn't do the reverse using the same technique? How and why did he rise to power and lead the Equalist movement? Etc etc. What were his actual reasons for doing so in the first place, instead of the ridiculously simple, bullshit non-explanation his brother gave?)

Overall, it was a fun ride, I guess. Some episodes were immensely well-made and intriguing, but they kind of dropped the ball right at the end, honestly. The huge build-up to what was sure to be an epic and mind-blowing finale was probably what made everything even more stale. It's clear that Bryke could have done so much better and just...didn't. Are they taking writing classes with Steven Moffat, or what? Because all of them seem to be very, very good at writing passable, engaging material up until the last fucking second of a show. Is this contagious? Will it spread to the writers of other shows I follow, too?

And it's pretty sad when the most interesting characters are the adults, all of whom had very limited screen-time compared to Team Korra. Tarrlok, Amon, Tenzin, Lin...all of them, despite the iffiness between Tarrlok and Amon during the final, had more nuanced and fascinating portrayals than the main cast. Even Asami was impressively developed compared to Mako, Bolin, and Korra, and that's genuinely sad when you think of how much more they could have done with her as a character. I think Bumi was more interesting than half of them, and his sole appearance just involved him screaming incoherently. Hopefully season two will improve on this one a lot, especially since more writers will be at the helm. There are a ton of issues they can thoughtfully tackle and I hope they're up to the task and have enough sense to pace things as they should be paced within their own time constraints.
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Current Mood: blah
24 March 2012 @ 01:37 am
Oh yeah, nearly forgot about this. My far too elaborate thoughts on series two of Sherlock!

If I'd told an average fan of Sherlock what to expect from the second series, I very much doubt my words would be taken with a grain of salt smaller than the state of Alaska. Sherlock slipping John a roofie and being beaten with a riding crop? Chemical minefields, genetically altered rabbits, erotic ring tones, tea parties with Jim, drug-induced floating beds, awkward Christmas parties? It all sounds just a bit too far-fetched to be true, like the sort of Sherlock episodes you'd dream up after accidentally taking too much of a new allergy medication. But they are what they are. Before I start talking about any episode in particular, I have to mention the filmography. The filmography is phenomenal in series two. Series one was beautiful, but series two is on a whole other playing field. It's a visual feast, at the risk of sounding too cliché. That's about the most unquestionably, entirely positive thing I can say about it.

cut to spare you from what's turned into a PhD dissertation )

ETA: I had previously written the first review without having seen The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes...truthfully kind of silly on my part, because I've totally had it sitting around in my collection for about a billion years now. Either way, I'd highly suggest that anyone watching Belgravia read both ASIB and watch Billy Wilder's film before jumping into the episode. Now having seen the film it makes me wish I had its overall context fresh in my mind when watching Sherlock, because it's clear that Moffat and Gatiss heavily intended Belgravia to be an homage to the movie, and honestly not much short of a modern-day remake with embellishments on. It certainly changed the way I felt about how Moffat handled Irene, just a tad.

To be honest, I'm not sure if Wilder or Moffat did the best service to their respective female lead, but at least Moffat didn't fridge Irene. I'm not saying it's better that Sherlock ended up saving her, of course. They're really two inferior outcomes out of multiple available, but having knowledge of Private Life honestly makes watching Belgravia fifty times more interesting and much less grating when you realize that it's a tweaked version of an extant Holmes film and not just something Moffat flew off the handle and created to satisfy some weird de-powered damsel fantasy of his. And honestly...if you want to know the truth? Adaptation wise, he did a pretty good job. He managed to weave both the stories from Wilder's film and the original serial short pretty well together, all things considered. There are dual storylines borrowing from both sources and having this background knowledge really brings the episode together in a way that's just not readily apparent to casual viewers or people with even just a background knowledge of ACD canon.

That's not to say that the episode was without flaw, but I'm willing to be a little, tiny bit more generous with my praise now that it's clear to me what sort of thematic influences he was working with. I usually can't stand Moffat, but objectively speaking, he wrote an episode I have to give him at least some props for. So, here it is, maybe the last time I'll ever do this: props to you, Moff. Don't blow it next series. Please.