Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wrapping It All Up - "Last Christmas," Playlist, Looking Forward

I know, I know, I didn't get a proper review out for the Doctor Who Christmas Special. However, I did a quick-and-dirty reaction post on my Tumblr and I did pontificate about it on this week's Five(ish) Fangirls, so maybe I'll let those stand on their own.

Bottom Line: I loved "Last Christmas." This is the Twelfth Doctor's answer to the Eleventh Doctor's "A Christmas Carol" - right now, I'm not sure which one I prefer (if, indeed, I need to prefer one over the other). I feel like "Last Christmas" tied everything together from Series 8 and provided much-needed closure from that story arc, but it was done in a way that was appropriate for a Doctor Who Christmas Special. I need to rewatch it still, but it was a pleasant end to my Christmas festivities. As has become my own tradition.

I already did my version of looking back at 2014 as well and I'm not going to rehash any of that (you can go read that post if you're curious). However, I am going to indulge in another tradition of mine that I've had going back to... probably 2009. It's something I've tried to improve each year and that is to create a playlist of music that has meant something to me during the calendar year. I used to hammer this out in the waning weeks of the year, but then I realized I was missing some important elements from earlier months, so I started compiling songs as early as 12:20 am on January 1. These aren't necessarily songs that came out this year - they may even be songs that I've had in my music collection for a long time. These are songs that I feel best illustrate the events of the year - whether small or large, good or bad, silly or poignant.

This year was no exception. I have a personal journal entry explaining why these songs were chosen and in the order they were chosen, but this year I think I'm just going to list them off and link to the music. Because everyone has their own interpretation of music and their own experiences and I'd like to keep mine my own. But they're good songs, so here's something to enjoy as 2014 fades into the background and 2015 comes thundering in!

Without further ado, may I present -

2014 Playlist - Sometimes You Reach What's Real by Making Believe

1. "Let It Go" by Idina Menzel (from the Frozen soundtrack)
2. "Stand" by Rascal Flatts
3. "Compass" by Lady Antebellum
4. "Secrets" by OneRepublic
5. "Change" by Taylor Swift
6. "New Sensation" by Train
7. "Try" by Pink
8. "This is Home" by Switchfoot (from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack)
9. "Shatter Me" by Lindsey Stirling, featuring Lzzy Hale
10. "A Sky Full of Stars" by Coldplay
11. "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson
12. "Moon Pride" by Momoiro Clover Z (from the Sailor Moon Crystal soundtrack)
13. "I Am the Doctor (Remix)" by somebody on Tumblr (no idea who originally started this)
14. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack)
15. "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone (from many places, but I got it from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack)
16. "Let It Go (Vivaldi's Winter)" by The Piano Guys
17. "Coming Home" by Skylar Grey
18. "Timeless" by The Airborne Toxic Event
19. "Ever Ever After" by Carrie Underwood (from the Enchanted soundtrack)
20. "The Last Goodbye" by Billy Boyd (from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack)

And - get this - I've already got a couple songs in consideration for 2015's playlist (hopefully the year lives up to expectation. If not... well, at least the music will be good).

A few years ago, a blog that I followed did what were known as "Doom Antidotes." The idea being that there were so many bad things happening in the world and while it was the blog's job to chronicle some of it in the news, the guy who ran the blog made it a point to also actively seek out good things to spotlight. He asked readers to send in their contributions (since they were already sending in the bad stuff too) and tried to keep everyone's spirits up. It's so easy to get stuck worrying about the things you have no control over and freaking out about what you're going to do if and when The Inevitable Worst actually happens. While it's good to be prepared for bad things - you miss out on the good things when the bad is all that consumes you

I feel like I've spent so much time bogged down in the bad things that I've missed so much of the good (unless it came up and metaphorically smacked me in the head - which I did appreciate at the time). I suppose, if I must make New Years Resolutions (which - in all honesty - I started in on a few of mine back in October), then my big one is to find the good in life and focus on that. To complain less and stop adding to the doom and gloom, because that's easy to come by. Maybe I have to cut out certain media that I have heretofore enjoyed (I've already done some of that - it's amazing how much my attitudes and outlook changed when I stopped listening to/reading certain fandom personalities). Maybe I have to start looking for more upbeat and positive things to include in my life (hopefully that aren't too annoying - there was a reason I started down this path of cynicism, after all). It's not going to happen all at once, but it's going to happen over time.

And that's what I've got, isn't it?

Happiest of New Years to you and yours - make 2015 extra special! After all, this is the year we get hoverboards!
I've always been partial to the Pitbull, myself

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Devil Waiting at the Gate - 2014 Year in Review

As is traditional for this time of year - there are a lot of "Year in Review" types of posts - both for major media outlets and not-so-major-media-outlets and, of course, the ever-present Family Christmas Card letter, where moms everywhere inform everyone what little Johnny and Sally accomplished this year and that Bob got a raise and a promotion and our family life is wonderful - Merry Christmas to you and yours! And it's not limited to people with kids and families and dogs. Even we single people find interesting things to talk about and look back on with fondness.

For myself, I already did a retrospective with my Five(ish) Fangirl compadres. Take a listen -

If you prefer the Cliffs Notes version, here it is in list form -

What was good about 2014 for me:
- New baby nephew (that kid - and his big sister - bring me life)
- FanX, Salt Lake Comic Con, ToshoCON
- Marvel kicking all kinds of hind-end, both at the movies and on TV
- The officially licensed return of Sailor Moon to North America and the premiere of Sailor Moon Crystal
- Fandoms new and old - Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow, 24: Live Another DayAgents of SHIELD, and many more
- The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast (coming soon to an iTunes feed near you!)

What was bad about 2014 for me:
- Just about everything else

Never have I ever looked forward to much to the end of a year than I have this one. I mean - what is a new year, really? You buy a new calendar (hopefully one with pretty artwork) and stick it on the wall so your plans match up with what the rest of the world's doing (at least, tangentially). Things like anxiety and depression don't really care much about fitting into a set schedule. But so much bad happened to me in starting in January 2014. I can't help but imagine some little brain imp watching me from around the corner of last year, cackling madly to itself while waiting to pounce and give me all kinds of hell for nearly twelve-months straight.

Something like that.
Just to give you an idea without going into a lot of specifics (we'd be here until next summer if I did that), I've been going over some of my journal entries from this year (because that's what I do when I'm feeling like hell - I write. I've written a lot this year). One entry in particular stood out to me as (A) Being a particularly good piece of writing just on its own (with a little polishing, I could publish it and maybe make some money) and (B) Something that would probably give Edgar Allan Poe nightmares, but my literary fiction professor from college would likely put me in touch with a publisher (yet I can't get my friggin' fantasy novel to amount to anything. My life, ladies and gentlemen). I even remember the mindset I was in when I was writing it and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Think of the most scary thing you've ever encountered - times that by 100. You have a good idea of what I feel when I look back and think about the places I've been mentally and emotionally this year. No. I don't want to reflect on that any more than I absolutely have to.

However - it does make me that much more grateful for the good things I've had that balance out the bad (even in the smallest way). Friends, family, complete strangers, people I have no hope of ever meeting but they still make me smile in some way - it's all helped. There are too many to thank here, but you probably know who you are (even if you aren't - just take the credit anyway). To everyone else, I'd just encourage you all to be a help to other people. Be cheerful and look for the good things. Don't add to the anger and hatred and turmoil and flat-out meanness out there. Maybe that's what I can learn from this experience - and it brings to mind a quote from a man whose wisdom and counsel helped shaped my teenage years and who I still miss dearly to this day: "Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight." Heaven knows the storms seek us out enough that we don't need to do their job for them. (Also - "Life is to be enjoyed, not merely endured.")

So - yeah, even though it makes zero sense to be angry at a measurement of time, 2014 can go stick its finger in an electric socket. On New Year's Eve, I will be happily showing this year the door and looking forward to something better in 2015 (this year was featured in Back to the Future Part II, it can't be a complete waste, right?)

In the meantime, I'm going home for Christmas. I'll enjoy some family time, watching Christmas movies and opening presents and seeing this year's Doctor Who Christmas special and (likely) playing some Doctor Who Legacy.

As we part from 2014, I have only this to say -

Dear 2015 - you have a lot of room to make improvements. I suggest you use it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Love is an Open Door

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.11 "Heroes and Villains - Spoilers!

I'm coming to you live from the floor tonight. Because - THAT EPISODE!

Rise Above the Truth and the Lies

First of all - we've got to talk about Belle. I had some thoughts about her this week leading up to the episode and this needs to be talked about (by which I mean it NEEDS to be talked about).

All through this Frozen arc, Belle has been incommunicado. She had that one episode where she met Anna and that was great. But while I've been screaming my anger and frustration at Rumplestiltskin, one HUGE question remained: Where in the ever-lovin' hell was Belle in all of this??? Yes, I get it - she was probably still in the newlywed haze (realistically, it's been maybe a month since they got married. If that?) But - c'mon! Your hubby is slinking around behind your back, meddling in the worst kinds of magic, killing people, controlling Hook, plotting with the Snow Queen - do you have anything you'd like to say about that???

PLEASE DO! (gif source)
This week, kind of on a whim, I rewatched "The Crocodile." Not simply because it marks the beginning of the Hook-Rumple rivalry (though I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a factor) - but because Belle takes a stand against Rumple's shenanigans and she sticks up for herself. She calls, not only Rumple, but her father out for trying to control her life and taking decisions away from her. Belle is a not a pushover, even if there hasn't been much cause for her to show that side of her lately. All through Season 3, she was an accessory to Rumple. Well... okay - Team Storybrooke was allied against some pretty tough villains and everyone had to band together to beat them. But - I just felt like Belle was underused and the Rumbelle ship was kind of... I just didn't really get it.

Back in July during the Once panel at San Diego Comic Con, Robert Carlyle commented that Rumplestiltskin is basically a power-addict. And if you know anything about addiction it's that addicts have to hit rock-bottom if they're ever going to change. At the end of Season 3, I thought Rumple had sufficiently changed and made all kinds of progress. All the "villains" had - Regina and Hook had been on these tremendous character journeys and I loved how this was all coming together. But the key here is - is the change actually going to stick? At first, I thought Rumple's had. I mean, he promised on his son's grave - the son that Rumple moved heaven and earth to see again after he lost him - that he would be a better man, a good husband to Belle. And at the first opportunity, what does the guy do? Tosses that promise out like so much garbage. All because - like Belle said - he loves power more than anything else. He did it to Milah, he did it to Baelfire, now he's done it to Belle. And Belle finally said to hell with that - take your miserable cowardly self and get out of here. He may make puppy-dog eyes at Belle and claim that he loves her, but he'll turn around and sneer at anyone else trying to get their own happy ending (he did it to Killian, he did it to Regina - you sensing a pattern here?)

Belle had to be the one to stop Rumple. Sure, Emma could have come in with Savior magic blazing and "NOT MY BOYFRIEND YOU RAT BASTARD!" but where would that have left Rumple? Slinking back to his den of darkness, probably muttering about "meddling kids" or some such. He'd have come back with something even more sinister and Belle would still have been blissfully ignorant and I would still be screaming whyyyyy?? But because Belle learned for herself what Rumple was doing and because she was the one to put a stop to it - it means more in Rumple's character arc. And it means so much for Belle's character arc as well. She's been so inextricably linked to Rumple - understandable, you can't have Beauty without the Beast - but I feel like Once Upon a Time could give her more of her own storyline. It's obviously something that has to happen - all the True Love Couples have their own stories apart from their significant others (or, at least, we've been promised we'll get those stories). I'm eager to see what she does outside of Rumple's shadow.

So - yes - as much as it hurts and as painful as it was to watch - this was so very needed in the Rumbelle storyline. If Rumple's going to have a remote chance of ever being a better man and if this relationship is going to amount to anything, he needs to realize that if he wants Belle to love him, he's got to knock this shit off. Then again - if his definition of a "happy ending" changes to one without Belle - well, that just means that Belle's free to do her own thing. And the heroes in Storybrooke don't have to feel bad for telling Rumple to pound sand if/when he comes back.

You May Be Miserable, But So is Gold

Next in the saga of the True Love Armada - the good ship Outlaw Queen. Well... that resolved itself - and then it didn't (which I think could be the tagline for Robin and Regina, honestly). However - the conversation Rumple and Regina had about seizing your destiny and taking what you want - I think that was a key moment for Regina. Rumple was her teacher and mentor (and a rather abusive one, when you think about it). They haven't drawn those conclusions, but Rumple's opinion does have an affect on Regina - at least, it used to. But her rejection of his advice shows just how much Regina's reformation has taken hold on her. And those choices are going to pay off immeasurably in Season 4B. I mean - why send Robin Hood and Rumple out into the Big Wide World - unless Robin Hood catches wind of Rumple's shady shenanigans and Robin determines he's going to get back to Regina to warn her of what's going on? It's a working theory (like anything Outlaw Queen-related), but it's good enough to get me to March 1.

(And Regina and Emma are going to start in on Operation Mongoose in earnest - so it's not like all hope is lost. You can't say that little brOTP scene at the end wasn't great. Especially since Emma just said goodbye to Elsa and she really needs a best female friend that isn't her mother).

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I adore Killian Jones to the moon and back. He is my sun and stars and my absolute everything. He is the reason I kept watching this show and why I am writing about it now. I ship Captain Swan like you wouldn't believe (well... maybe you would - if you've been following my recaps long enough).

It is with this in mind - and knowing that you have to recognize the bad as well as the good, even in your favorites - when I say, homeboy screwed up. Not on Rumplestiltskin-level of screwing up - but there were a few choices Killian made that would have avoided a lot of pain and heartache had he chosen differently. And in this six-week gap between 4A and 4B, I imagine that there is going to be a bit of a conversation between Killian and Emma (or several conversations). Nothing that would indicate that this relationship is going to end - oh, hell no! But something more like - this relationship is still very, very new and both of them are still figuring each other out (and themselves - especially in Emma's case. I would be very surprised if a month has transpired from the time they came back from time-traveling to what's going on now). They haven't had very much time to themselves to really work on this thing between them - sure, there's been drama and angst brought on by snow queens and magic and stupidly evil wizards. And they really need a chance to define this - hopefully without getting anymore hearts ripped out.

One thing that I have loved about Once is that - while it is about fairy tales and happy endings - the story doesn't end when the main couple kisses and that's true love and they ride off happily into the sunset and yay! that's it. These characters, while they may have fantastical origins, are still human beings who make mistakes and have to own up to them. Yes, the consequences of owning up to those mistakes are more dire than in reality - but so are the benefits. Maybe Captain Swan didn't move as far as I would have like it to this episode, but compared to last mid-season finale with the Missing Year and the not-True-Love-Kiss - I'll take Killian not dying and Emma putting his heart back over that mess any day.

(you have to admit - that scene was pretty funny)

What I anticipate in 4B for Killian - especially as it pertains to the whole "Heroes and Villains" arc is that he is going to struggle with his identity as one of the heroes. He was introduced as the villainous Captain Hook, out for vengeance and not much else. Yes, we've gotten so much more to his character and that's what I love about him - but he's also got to deal with his mistakes and his past. Much like we got in 4A with Emma's life in the foster system (which, again, a backstory that was sorely needed for her), I have a feeling we're going to more about Killian's beginnings. Clear back in Season 2, they dropped a hint that his father abandoned him as a child and that's never been mentioned since - I want to see that. Why bring it up if you're never going to do anything with it?

I don't see Killian sliding back into full-on vengeful pirate mode - but he doesn't have to go that far. We've already seen him think he can pull a fast one over the Dark One and look where that landed him. Also - remember how bright and shiny and red his heart was when Rumple first ripped it out? And now, there are patches of darkness in it again. My theory on that is that in the time he was under the Dark One's control, Killian's sense of self-loathing came back with a vengeance. And he is not going to be unaffected by that. Yes, they had that intensely powerful moment at the end of this episode, but as time goes on and Killian has a chance to really come to terms with what happened to him and what he did, he may start to pull away from Emma. She is going to have to prove to him - much like he proved to her in Season 3 - that he is worth loving in spite of his screw-ups. That's what I think 4B is going to take Captain Swan. Emma's got to keep Killian away from the darkness and self-doubt in himself - and now, she is in the perfect position to do that.

(Also - I'm sure we'll see more of that "Hook as a survivor" thing come into play. Why else end with that line?)

We'll Make The Sun Shine Bright

The Frozen arc was everything I hoped it would be and more. I wanted more exploration of Elsa's character, I got it. I wanted backstory for Anna and Elsa and their family, I got it. I wanted awesome snow magic, I got it (freaking Marshmallow!) I didn't know I wanted The Snow Queen, but I got it and I loved it. The final little scene between Elsa and Anna before the wedding was wonderful (they recreated the "Chocolate!" bit and that just made me so happy). It was so, so, SO perfect for Once Upon a Time in this season - the parallels were outstanding and the characters fit beautifully in the world and the mythos. I often forgot that the Frozen cast weren't part of the regular cast because they were so perfect. If I ever get to meet Georgina Haig or Elizabeth Lail or Scott Michael Foster at a convention or something - man, that's going to be a top priority. I harbor a tiny little hope that they'll make a future cameo appearance or something.

For now, I'm going to sit here and be sad that they're gone.

Other Things I Liked/Noticed:
- Where in the ever-loving hell is Colin O'Donoghue's Emmy?? That scene where he's playing Hook while he's under control of Rumple who is pretending to be Hook - freaking amazing. Critics more knowledgeable about acting than I can get into the nuance and detail and stuff like that. All I'm going to say is that the people who give out awards need a freaking memo that Game of Thrones (or whatever other pretentious, unimaginative crap is in vogue these days) isn't the only show that the cast can win stuff.

- The Queens of Darkness. Love them already. I'm partial to Cruella, only because she brought a dalmatian puppy (and she's already sassed Dark-One!Rumple. That takes cajones)

- Henry and Belle having a moment in the shop. Give me more of this!

- We actually got a promo for next time! It's 2 1/2 months away - but who cares? HA!

(At least it's March 1st and not March 31st).

(And Robin Hood's in the promo. See, I Told You So!)

When all is said and done, this was merely a mid-season finale. There is so much more story to tell and so much more to go through before this is over. You can't blow everything when you have another 11 episodes to go. They've given us just enough to keep us guessing and speculating until March when it looks like it's a full-blown shootout between good and evil (including the good and evil waging battles within). If it lives up to anything near as good as what the Wicked Witch and Frozen arcs have been - we are in for some pretty intense stuff. All I can say is - give it to me, precious!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast #22 - The Flash and Green Arrow Walk Into a Bar...

(I remembered this time!!)

This week, we Five(ish) Fangirls give our thoughts on #Flarrow - that is, the crossover of The Flash and Arrow. How did the CW's favorite superheroes from Central City and Starling City mesh in their continued fight against injustice? Is Diggle still in shock at meeting Barry Allen and his super-speed? Is Cisco really done hitting on Thea Queen? (yeah, probably) All this and more in this week's episode!

Show notes and mp3 download of the podcast can be found here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Fears That Once Controlled Me

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.10 Shattered Sight - Spoilers!

First off all - I need this version of "Let It Go" here. Yes, I know it's not as good as the Idina Menzel version, but somehow I feel like this one fits with this episode of Once Upon a Time. Especially some of the lyrics that are in the pop version that aren't in the movie -

Last summer, I wrote a blog post (before I knew what the Frozen story arc was going to be about) comparing and contrasting a lot of the Once Upon a Time "villains" and why I thought Elsa would be a perfect fit in this overall story of those past feeling coming back for their redemption. Well, now that Once's retelling of The Snow Queen is complete, I almost want to rewrite that post, but instead of focusing on Elsa, make it about Ingrid.

Before I get to that, I've got to talk about sisters (and I hope to heaven my own sisters don't read this because I'm probably going to be rather embarrassing towards all of them). Lately, Once has been hitting a lot of sensitive nerves for me. To be honest, it's probably in the same way that Frozen hit those same (yet wholly different) nerves as well. I've had some interesting experiences with this season - mostly around my youngest sister. I'm not particularly close with any of my sisters. It's just a matter of fact - we all have our different lives and interests and very few of them overlap. Except my youngest sister and I started watching Once Upon a Time totally on our own and for different reasons. It was kind of an odd - but good - moment when we both realized that we were both watching this show and we liked a lot of the same characters (we're both huge Hook fangirls). So, here was something that we both could enjoy together (even though we live in different cities - but we both know what the other is doing on Sunday nights). When Season 4 started, we made it a bit of tradition to text each other and talk about what we liked about the episode and what we thought was going to happen next time - sometimes these conversations last throughout the week (the week after "Smash the Mirror" - that discussion lasted well into Wednesday). My point is - I've been glad to have something to share with at least one of my sisters. And it's opened up our relationship to the point where we can talk about other things we like and we're kind of rediscovering that whole "sisterly bond" thing that I kind of missed out on for... reasons.

So, I guess when you've got a villain who's only a villain because she's trying to recreate a relationship with new sisters because she lost hers early on - I'm going to respond to that in a bit of an emotional way.

I have completely loved The Snow Queen arc this season (which, marketing and hype aside, that's really what this storyline has been about). I love how Ingrid's journey has been paralleled with Emma's and I love how Emma's journey has been paralleled with the movie Frozen. I love how it all came together in this episode - in a way that I probably should have seen coming, but I didn't realize that it would happen like that until Anna read her mother's final letter to her and Elsa (and, in some way, the letter was also written to Ingrid).

I'll start at the end and work my way back. I positively bawled when Ingrid heard Gerda's letter and realized that she'd made a huge mistake in using the Spell of Shattered Sight. It speaks to Ingrid's moral strength that, instead of continuing to blame her sister and milk that victim card for all it's worth, Ingrid immediately takes responsibility for her actions and works to correct what she's done. In a season where Regina is still holding onto that decades-old hurt and betrayal and Rumple is out for power and world domination, it's interesting that we have a villain who is only a villain because she is seeking for the kind of love she once had and lost. And, upon realizing she never really lost that love at all, she does a complete 180. She even points out the goodness and love that she felt for the people she met along the way - Emma, Elsa, and even Anna. If we had longer with the Frozen characters, I would guess that Ingrid would have a very similar character arc to Hook - who is another character who is motivated by love and whose actions are guided by losing and finding love over and over again.

One of my favorite lines in Frozen (Source)
I'm continually blown away by how complex these stories and characters are. This may seem like a simple show about fairy tales and magic and happy endings - and those elements are certainly important in bringing in an audience. I love how the writers use one plot to tell multiple stories - we've had the running theme of Frozen (and The Snow Queen) and from that one story, they've built upon the mythos of all the other characters in Once Upon a Time. Just to show one example (and it's the most obvious one) - Emma Swan got her traditional "Happily Ever After" at the end of Season 3. But the writers went even further to show how, even though she's found her family and true love, that's not the end of her story. Because she's found happiness before, but it's been taken away through circumstances beyond her control (and some that were somewhat within her control - as shown in the flashback to her days in the foster system). But this season - she's done running. She's done being scared. Even when she had the most reason to be afraid, she looked for a solution that would make her safe for people to be around her (she didn't know that solution was actually going to kill her, but it's been well-established that Rumple's an ass). Emma Swan is done running away. She is in Storybrooke for good - and she is going to do everything she can to protect her new home and the people she loves.

I feel like I could go on and on in circles about this episode (and, considering the number of paragraphs I've deleted and rewritten, I think I have). If I had one complaint about this episode, it's that I feel like there was a lot more story to tell. But at the same time, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I think that I enjoyed Ingrid as a character so much that I would love to have as much backstory on her as we've gotten on someone like Regina or Rumple. I'll be honest - I'm kind of feeling a little burned out on those two characters. I'm ready to follow somebody new. At least, as far as flashbacks are concerned. This season hasn't been as bad as Season 3A was with Rumple - and the Frozen characters have helped to mix it up a little bit. But how many second chances do these two get before they are past redemption. Especially Rumple (but he may be getting his comeuppance next week? I hope? Please???)

Other Things I Liked/Noticed

- There wasn't a whole lot of Captain Swan interaction in this episode (which, given where they left off last time, it makes sense). But there were a couple little lines thrown in there just to remind us - yes, Emma and Killian are very much together. Regardless of how cursed!Henry feels about it.

- I adored Killian's little goofy smile when Henry referred to him and Emma as being "together." I mean, obviously they're together - but it's probably nice for Killian to hear it from someone else.

- Along those lines - Will Scarlet is never going to get the better of Killian Jones. That's just a fact that everyone is going to have to come to terms with (but he's welcome to continue trying. It amuses me).

- Considering how scared and angst-filled everyone was last week when Shattered Sight was closing in on Storybrooke, the actual result of the curse hitting the town was pretty hilarious. No more so evident than in the sheriff's station where Snow, Charming, and Kristoff are all bickering with each other and poor Anna is trying to maintain the peace and keep Baby Baelfire safe (even though she admits that Kristoff's words are pretty hurtful, even though she knows he doesn't mean it).

- When Emma and Elsa figure out that the only way to remove the Snow Queen's ribbons is with an equal amount of hatred, Emma goes directly to Regina. It's funny in a really sad way - but it's still funny.

- Ingrid hid the memory stones in the carrot sherbet. Honestly, the humor in Once continues to be a delight to my soul.

"There is no version of this where you come out on top."

Feels like we waited so long for this season, and now this half of it is coming to an end (stupid hiatuses!) And I've got to talk about Rumplestiltskin and his plans to separate himself from the dagger and become the Head Cheese in Charge of the World. But first, I'm going to let another Disney property speechify on how this whole this is going to go down -

At this point, Rumple is in all kinds of hot water. His plans hinged upon everyone in Storybrooke being too preoccupied with Shattered Sight and the Snow Queen keeping Emma and Elsa prisoner in town. Now that Ingrid is gone and the curse is broken - how in the hell does he expect to get out of there unnoticed? I can think of three possible scenarios -

Worst Case: Rumple is successful in skipping town. He kills Killian and leaves him for dead near the town line, likely to be found at some point because Emma's going to notice that he's not where he should be. Somehow, the manner of his death is discovered and they figure out that Rumple and Belle are also missing. Emma isn't limited by the town line, so she could very well take off after the rat bastard - with all manner of righteous indignation and the fury of true love lost bearing down on Rumple's head. Savior magic trumps anything that Rumple can come up with and Emma is hell-bent on destroying the piece of shit that killed her pirate (this scenario is all kinds of unlikely because there is no way that the creators are going to kill off one of the more popular characters on the show).

Best Case: Rumple is in a mad rush to get out of town before anyone notices that he's Up To Something. Mistakes are made in haste and Killian sees an opportunity to warn Emma and the Charmings of Rumple's plans. Showdown at the Town Line at High Noon (Will Scarlet's selling tickets).

Even Better Case: Belle overhears something and FINALLY cottons on that her hubby dearest is a piece of garbage and calls him out on his crap. Rumple folds like a deck of cards because his asshattery has been discovered by the one and only person he gives a crap about and he's left with absolutely nothing.

Bonus Round: When Rumple goes to use the hat to separate himself from the dagger, it turns out he's made a severe miscalculation in what the hat is actually meant to do and everything goes "EXPLODEY!" Everyone that the hat has collected is released, very much alive and very much well (the Apprentice, the fairies, probably the Sorcerer, anyone else Eddy and Adam want to throw into the mix - Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella - just to set up Season 4B), and they all proceed to wail on Rumple's ass. That douchey little attache case gets found at the scene and Emma returns Killian's heart to him and we have a happy little cliffhanger until March (the Dark Queen triumvirate is left to plot and scheme and whatever, but that's coming up).

That's what I've got. Rumple is done. He's had it. He can talk a big game and strut around like he owns the place (which, I suppose he does), but this time he's bitten off more than he can chew. And it's probably not even going to be Emma or Regina or anyone else that brings him down. It's going to be his own ego and hubris that (to borrow an overused phrase from Season 3 that just about had me screaming for the hills last year) will be his undoing. All I can say is it's about bloody time.

And here's the promo for next week. And then we're done. And then we wait.

(even more Rumple backstory... *le sigh* All right - let's do this thing)

Friday, December 5, 2014

What's Confusing You Is the Nature of My Game - An Intro to Sleepy Hollow

Spoiler Warning for all aired season of Sleepy Hollow

I'm often wary of any show that gets an uncommon amount of positive press. I'm not really a bandwagon jumper - especially when the reasons that people give for liking something are tenuous at best and have little to do with the story itself. I'd rather wait and see if the show still has staying power - and that's if it's something I'd even enjoy at all. This was the case with Sleepy Hollow. The most often reason given (at least, that I heard) was that it had a diverse cast. And... that's all anyone ever wanted to talk about. Nothing about the premise or the story or who the characters actually were or anything else of interest. So, I chalked it up to fandom census-box-checkers getting overexcited about their one-note crusade (yet again) and found other things to watch.

Then at some point, I actually started hearing more about the show itself - that it was a loose re-imagining of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane is actually a Revolutionary Era soldier resurrected in the modern era and he and Officer Abbie Mills are trying to avoid the apocalypse. The Headless Horseman comes in to wreak havoc and mayhem. Oh, and there are witches involved as well. Not to mention the Founding Fathers were in on this eternal War Against Evil thing too.

Well, if you'd said that from the start, you might have had my attention sooner!

I started on with the pilot episode the week of Halloween - I think I was bored and wanted something to get me in the spirit of the holiday (YouTube didn't have a full copy of the Disney Halloween Hall-O-Fame special with Jonathan Winters, which kind of annoyed me. Why that isn't out on DVD... anyway...) So, I found the first episode on Hulu and gave it a watch.

There is nothing about the premise of this show that I do not love. It's got all the spooky/gothic aspects of Irving's original tales, plenty of great tie-ins with characters those stories and those from the modern world, some well-researched history alongside the legends (even if it's still played pretty fast and loose), and there is lots of great humor. There's even a fascinating love story running through the entire narrative. Sure, there are some flaws that I'll discuss in the more spoilery section of my review, but overall it's fairly well-constructed.

What's the basic premise? (Major Spoilers from here on out)

During the American Revolution, the armies of the devil were trying to break out of Hell in order to take over the world. The forces of good - which include white witches and Freemasons and the Founding Fathers (and those groups are not mutually exclusive, by the way) - were trying to stop it. General George Washington actually had a secret evil-fighting task force, which included Ichabod Crane, a former Oxford professor-turned British soldier-turned colonial American freedom fighter (that's how they got the teacher angle in). During one battle, Ichabod faces off with the British secret weapon - which turns out to be the Horseman of Death. Ichabod kills the Horseman by cutting off his head, but Ichabod is also mortally wounded and their blood mixes on the battlefield. His wife, Katrina, saves his life by performing a spell (she's a witch, by the way - but Ichabod doesn't know that yet) that bonds Ichabod's life to the Horseman's so when the Horseman returns to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod will be resurrected as well and charged to be a Witness to the Apocalypse - and hopefully defeat the forces of Evil.

In the modern world, Abbie Mills is an up-and-coming police lieutenant. She's heading out with her mentor, Sheriff Corbin, to check on a disturbance on a local farm. That "disturbance" turns out to the the Headless Horseman, who kills the good sheriff, leaving the semi-little town of Sleepy Hollow not-so-little-and-sleepy anymore. On top of that, with the reappearance of the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane gets resurrected and his emergence into our modern world is, at first creepy, then it becomes hilarious (appropriately so for the tone this show is going for). Abbie finds Ichabod and brings him in for questioning - obviously the police don't believe him and think he's just crazy. But Abbie's had experience with weird, occulty stuff in her past - which leads to a fascinating path of discovery for her character throughout the first season (including being reconciled to her sister, Jenny, who's life has been affected by the same weird, occulty stuff, but in a vastly different way from Abbie). The bottom line of all this is that Ichabod and Abbie are to be the two Witnesses (yes, with a capital letter) to the End of Days as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. They're charged with defeating Moloch, the head boss in charge of Hell, and are to spend the next seven years doing just that.

That's the bare-bones premise of the show - and you really ought to just watch it. It's like any buddy-cop show you've seen, mixed with National Treasure and Blast from the Past and 1776 (no singing John Adams, sadly) and whatever-your-choice-of-show-dealing-with-the-occult-and-the-End-Times-you're-familiar-with-which-I-don't-know-any-so-I-can't-comment-on-that-sorry (okay - Supernatural. Never really watched it much, but I'll take people's word for it).

The characters are truly amazing and creative. I mean, I'm all for giving a twist on famous literary characters and I'll take any and all decent reimagings you can give me - but I never, ever, ever thought you could take a character like Ichabod Crane and actually make him cool. To be fair, he's still got that endearing awkwardness about him, which is compounded by the fact that he's 200+ years removed from his familiar time period (I enjoy a good Fish Out of Temporal Water trope as much as anyone). But he's also a soldier and a spy and married to a witch (I'll get there) and he knows just about anything about anyone from the Revolutionary Era, thanks to an eidetic memory and being given a mission by George Washington to kill the Horseman of Death.

Abbie Mills is a complete delight and she and Ichabod are perfect foils to each other. She keeps just enough skepticism at the beginning to create that obstacle of the hero resisting the call to action, but she's also smart enough to let go of that skepticism when it's painfully obvious what's really going on. She's got a fascinating backstory that weaves itself throughout the narrative in Seasons 1 and 2 - which also includes some absolutely heartbreaking family history, but it also works itself out in the end. I love Abbie's relationship with her sister, Jenny. Something happened to them both as kids that caused them to follow different life paths - Abbie eventually led her to becoming a cop, Jenny ended up in a psychiatric hospital. All of these past experiences obviously shaped Abbie's personality to where she is at the start of the show - but she's also formed personal connections to people like Sheriff Corbin, who was a mentor to her, and his death affects her profoundly. So much so that it becomes the catalyst to her accepting her role as a Witness.

I love the friendship between Ichabod and Abbie. So much so that this is the first place where I diverge from fandom. Even before I started watching the show, I'd heard of the "Ichabbie" ship - but I'll be 100% honest, I'd rather see them as platonic friends. I love the "buddy-cop" dynamic that the two of them have and there are so few male-female friendships on TV that stay friendships. I mean, as long as the show stays interesting and good, I'll go along with whatever The Powers That Be decide to do. But, in my heart of hearts, I'm secretly cheering for these two to stay BFFs. Simply because they are one of the best friendships on TV right now - and that'd probably be one of the most innovative storytelling twists that the Sleepy Hollow writing team could come up with right now (and in a show that's already chock full of narrative innovation - why wouldn't you want to keep the tradition you've established going?)

And, yes, I have another reason for wanting Ichabod and Abbie to stay friends - but hear me out before you start snarling at me. Because outside of the two main characters, the one other character that is the most fascinating to me is Katrina Crane. Admittedly, she spent the first season being trapped in Purgatory and away from the main action of the show, but that's precisely what intrigued me about her. And the fact that she's part of a coven of witches dedicated to the defeat of the darkness - even though her coven trapped her in Purgatory in the first place because of the spell she used to save Ichabod's life. There's a lot of potential in her character and a lot that I'd like to see from her - though I'm a little disappointed that she's either been kept prisoner or... not kept as a prisoner, but she's supposed to be a mole for Team Witness, but the Headless Horseman and Henry Parrish are savvy to what she's been doing? Look, all I know is that my absolute favorite episode(s) come when Katrina is actually working with Ichabod and Abbie. I love the interactions between the three of them - and I love the interactions between Katrina and Ichabod (which I'll get to) and also the interactions between Katrina and Abbie, though there aren't as many of those moments in the show, sadly. But the ones we do have - there is a friendship and respect between the two ladies, which is something you don't often see on TV. They both care about their respective missions in the fight against evil, and they also care about Ichabod in their own unique ways. There's no competition between them, no stereotypical cattiness, nothing that would suggest that they're working a love triangle into the show (thank all the angels in heaven and all the little fishes in the sea for that one!) Besides - who doesn't want a witch on their side?

On that note - if you haven't figured out by now, yes, I ship Ichabod and Katrina. Even after those rocky moments during the mid-season finale - I'm still on board with them both. Again, like most things on this show, I like that we're getting something different with these two. A lot of ships in fandom have to do with a couple just getting together - hanging on every conversation between the characters involved, every look, every moment, waiting for all those fluffy little romantic events that mean they're getting closer and closer. Except - with Ichabod and Katrina, they've already had all that. They're married and have been so for over two-hundred years. They have a son - who's hell-bent on killing them both (ha ha - "hell-bent." I'm funny...) And, yes, there have been a lot of rough patches along the way for their marriage. But that's what makes it realistic! (she says about the not-dead Revolutionary soldier for God and his wife who's also the witch who cast the not-dead spell on him) I'm interested in how a TV show handles a mature marriage relationship and all the things that life throws at them. I want to see them both come out of all the secrets and lies their missions have forced them to tell and be stronger for it. It's obvious they both adore each other - even if this fight puts strain on their relationship.

(also - I need to see more of Katrina discovering the 21st century. I personally hate reality TV, but the reaction it got out of Katrina had me laughing for five minutes straight. I had to rewind and watch that part again. Oh - and Ichabod seeing her in a form-fitting blouse and jeans and admitting that he liked Katrina in that outfit? Yes. More of that, please).

(that's Jenny Mills, Abbie's sister. What? This was the best pic
for Irving I could find!)
I could go on about other things I love about this show, but I think you get the picture. The show is not without flaws, of course (what isn't?) The only thing that I'd even want to mention here (and - again - Major Spoiler territory here) is how the Season 2 fall finale turned out. Particularly how Captain Frank Irving's character ended up. Actually - I'm not sure that the writers quite knew what they wanted to do with the character (which... what's there to know?) Irving is the chief of police in season 1 and he's a wonderful character. He's the kind of guy that Gets Crap Done for Team Witness, as far as the authorities are concerned. He lets Ichabod and Abbie use the police archives for their headquarters, he gets clearance for various things and people that they need to talk to, he's the cavalry when they need extra firepower. And, honestly, he's an all-around cool guy. He's got a sweet daughter (played by the same girl who played Rue in The Hunger Games) and an amicable-if-a-little-loopy ex-wife. Of course, Moloch and his mooks target Irving's family and that is how Irving winds up confessing to a murder that his daughter committed while under possession from one of Moloch's demons. Thing is - Irving didn't need to confess to murder. Because I never would have thought that police could have connected Irving's daughter to the killings. But it happened and Irving ended up locked away. Sad thing is, the writers didn't seem to know what to do with Irving incarcerated and I think Season 2 (so far) has suffered a bit for that. Irving ended up being killed off, purely because the writers didn't have anything for him to do (as far as I can tell). But that was completely unnecessary because if Irving had stayed in place as chief of police, there was all kinds of great stuff he could have been involved it (the characters meant to replace his role have been ineffectual at best, annoying at worst).

Now - I could be wrong. The back half of Season 2 could have something very interesting for Irving really think Irving is dead for dead? I mean, I've only been following this show properly for a little over three weeks and even I dismissed that notion. And that's without looking up any behind-the-scenes teasers or interviews). But they've gotta do something with him quick because otherwise, it's a perfect waste of a good character (my theory is that he's going to be the next Horseman of the Apocalypse - seeing as the other two Horsemen have been important people in Ichabod's life. It might be that Moloch chooses his Horsemen based on the connections they have to the Witnesses. Again - just a theory).

I'm willing to wait until January and see the rest of the story. And I cut the show a lot of slack, seeing as this is the second season and sometimes shows have a hard time finding their footing after working so hard to make Season 1 awesome so they get picked up for Season 2 - and then they do get picked up and they're not quite sure where to go now that they've achieved their goal. But I'm still optimistic that there's something really exciting in the works - and all the angst and strife of the mid-season finale is just ramping up the drama so people come back after the winter break.

Flaws and nitpicks aside - I still love the heck out of this show. I've even started a casual re-watch of Seasons 1 and 2 because I'm finding I miss all these great characters and stories (two days after completely catching up. Well... that's what binge-watching does to you). If you're on the fence about watching (and sorry if you're reading this and have been all kinds of spoiled - I did put warnings out, to be fair) - you really ought to give it a shot (if for no other reason to see Ichabod Crane be introduced to skinny jeans).

Oh - and they play "Sympathy for the Devil" to open and close out Season 1. If that's not hardcore ballsy, I don't know what is.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Like You've Gone Away

Review/Recap of Once Upon A Time, 4.09 "Fall" - Spoilers!

Oh, "Fall" - where do I even begin with you?

Already, I've seen... not so much accusations, but responses (I guess) that this episode was more or less filler until the Spell of Shattered Sight hits Storybrooke. And I would be inclined to agree with this assessment. But where the term "filler" is typically used as a pejorative against something unnecessary or useless - I don't think that applies here. I may have thought so once before, but that was before I realized how Once Upon a Time tells a story.

Once is a show that thrives on slow burn storytelling. Hints and clues that seemed to be throwaway lines many episodes ago come back to be key plot points and story elements in future story arcs. Nothing is wasted, everything is noted (which gives me hope because there are many things that were dropped in the Neverland arc that I dearly, dearly want to see come to fruition). And while some in the media are decrying the use of "yet another curse" (which - I think that's just Entertainment Weekly looking for click-bait headlines) - the story here is what kind of curse the Spell of Shattered Sight is. And that is why "Fall" is so very, very necessary.

Shattered Sight is about turning love into a weapon. It takes everything good in a person and flips it around to make it into everything bad. For this curse to have the most impact on the story, we needed to see how terrifying a curse like this is for the characters involved. Losing your memories and identity - been there, done that, got the stupid t-shirt (twice). Keeping your memories of the people you love, but those memories are skewed and twisted? So much so that you would likely start killing your loved ones because of it? That is scary as hell.

It makes sense to show these characters first scramble for a solution, then accept the inevitable, and finally prepare for the absolute worst. They've done it before (baby in the magic wardrobe, anyone?) What makes it interesting (even if I wanted to throw things during the course of watching it unfold) is that these solutions are constantly working at cross-purposes against each other. The obvious one is Rumple sending Killian to collect the fairies in that stupid hat. Actually - anything Rumple does works against what everyone else is trying to accomplish and that's why I'm continually pissed at him (to think at one point I thought he was working toward redemption - HA!) But then you also have the central team of the Charmings, Regina, Emma, and Elsa - except Elsa has her own agenda in finding Anna still. I'll come back to this.

One thing that I kept wondering over and over is how the timelines were going to line up - what with Elsa having come from the Dark One's vault thirty years in the past - and I'm glad this episode answered that question. Actually, the Arendelle "flashbacks" weren't actually flashbacks in the traditional sense - they were running directly parallel to what was currently happening in Storybrooke (that's a new one). I mean, when Blackbeard showed up, I thought "Okay, this is definitely in the past because he's supposed to be dead." Except... nope. Turns out Ariel actually did save the guy during the events of "The Jolly Roger." Oh - and take a wild guess at what ship Blackbeard is captaining? I just about fell out of my chair when Hans said it was The Jolly Roger! (but then he called it "an enchanted ship." What the hell does that even mean? I guess we'll find out at some point). The point is, Arendelle was just as frozen in time as Storybrooke was. Okay, I'm down with that.

(Also - the Wishing Star could only be used by someone pure of heart. Which means Ma and Pa Arendelle... well, that was obvious, wasn't it?)

(Also - again - they must have found the Wishing Star on another journey because Elsa said she found it in with her mother's things and she created Anna's necklace around it for Anna's wedding. I mean, if the Arendelles found it on the trip that they died on, it would have gone down with their ship. Don't think about that too much - you get a headache).

(Now I'm just stalling. Fine!)

So - hooray! Elsa finds Anna! Time to get her back to the Fairies Enchanted Lab where Belle and the ladies are working on a cure for the curse. Except... Killian's already been there. On Rumple's orders. With that stupid sparkly hat of death. And an extra side of self-loathing. Because goodness knows Killian Jones hasn't had enough of that in his life.

(you know, I would love there to be this completely unexpected twist that the people that were sucked into the hat aren't really dead and when Rumple goes to use the thing to separate himself from the dagger, everyone that's trapped in the hat is released and they go all super-intense-light-magic-conquers-all-darkness on his ass).

Well - the curse is coming. And we're into the "Prepare for the Worst" scenario. Which means every moment of ULTIMATE HEARTBREAK that Once Upon a Time has ever given us get multiplied by a million-plus-two. Regina locks Henry in the Mayor's office and seals it shut for Henry's safety - even though Henry is part of Rumple's deal with Ingrid to keep certain people that Rumple likes safe from Shattered Sight (I'll come back to this in a minute). Belle's safely sequestered in the pawn shop (is she in for a surprise - I'm still doubtful about her complete obliviousness to all of Rumple's shady goings-on. Maybe the whole newlywed-honeymoon-phase thing still hasn't worn off. Lucky her). Robin Hood - the only person that's never seen Regina as the Evil Queen - comes to say goodbye to Regina. The Charmings are all ready to lock down in the sheriff's station.

And Emma - aw hell... she's about to lose her family all over again. Even being entrusted with her baby brother (the first time we've seen Snow hand over Baby Baelfire to anybody) - in many ways, this is much worse than last season's mid-season separation and laser-guided amnesia. But it comes with a final vote of confidence from Snow and Charming in Emma's magic and her ability to stop the Snow Queen - something that Elsa never had from her mom and dad.

And in true Once fashion - they save the best for last (or worst, depending on how your emotional state is at this point. Mine's not doing so hot). Killian comes in - having been given a few hours reprieve from Rumple - to say goodbye to Emma one last time. He still can't tell Emma what's really going on - that no matter what happens with the Snow Queen, he's not going to survive this. Even though clear back in episode 3, he promised he'd survive anything. Even though - after he leaves - there's a look on Emma's face that says she suspects something is not quite right. Which - we'll get to (we'd better!)

Go on to "Other Things," dammit! I can't take this!

Other Things I Liked/Noticed -

- Anna: "Pirates are better than wizards." In this instance, truer words never were spoken.

- Kristoff: "It's a miracle! A really cold miracle and since we're all wet..." CAN'T WE KEEP THESE FROZEN CHARACTERS FOREVER??

- Snow: "Well, Elsa's blind faith is exactly what's screwing us!" Are we sure Shattered Sight didn't hit some people a little early?

- And... that's about it. What, you think an emotionally-wrung-out episode is going to be full of fun and giggles?

- That final shot of Snow and Charming falling under Shattered Sight and pulling away from each other? Had THAT been the last image we had before a two-week break, I think there would have been mass mutiny in the streets. As it is, we've got a week to wait and that is plenty for me.

Pointless Speculation Time!

Well, that sucked. What's next?

I have several theories. None of which you should hold me to, but I'm going to throw them out there anyway and see if anything sticks.

Part of me wonders if Killian, without his heart, has some immunity to Shattered Sight. Maybe not as complete as Emma or Elsa or Rumple - but I think he might be able to fight it off. Or that Rumple's control over him means that he's not affected. Otherwise, why would Rumple keep Killian alive to finish out one last task? Hold onto this - I'll be back for it.

Henry is the ultimate trump card this season. He's squirreled his way into a part-time job with Grampa Rumple in order to play spy for "Operation Mongoose." Rumple evidently cares enough about Henry to include him in his rather short list of people he actually gives a crap about. And, going from the quick shots of the "Next Week" promo - it looks like Killian's last errand for Rumple is to go get Henry and bring him to Rumple.

(hold on - here it is)

I think that Henry's going to realize that he's not affected by the Shattered Sight spell. And he's sitting in the Mayor's office either very scared or very bored and sets up traps just as an added precaution along with Regina's sealing spell. Or something. Either way - Killian's going to tell Henry that he's there to take Henry to Rumple, but Henry's going to twig that somehow Killian isn't under the spell either. So - Henry, being Henry, is going to want to head out to help Emma and Elsa (and Anna - 'cause she's not under the spell either). And Killian can't go back to Rumple without Henry. Thus, a loophole has been found! Team Kick Snow Queen's Ass just got two extra teammates! (yes, Rumple's going to blow a gasket when he finds out that Henry and Killian have run off - but by then, Rumple hopefully will have bigger problems to deal with).

Whether or not my theory comes true (and I'm sure I'll be proven right or wrong by the time the synopsis for the next episode comes out), one thing's for certain: Ingrid is going to be pissed when she finds out that Anna's in Storybrooke. This is far from over, my friends!