Week X – Building Up

Part 2:

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episode 9 (Fall)

For being a show about fairy tales and magic spells, Fall could be turned into a war movie with only a few minor cosmetic changes. This episode deals with the impending spell of Shatter Sight attacking Storybrooke. The characters have until nightfall to either make preparations to contend with the spell, say good-bye to their loved ones, or try to fight the attack entirely. Rather like a besieging army, the impending attack is inevitable. Like in so many sieges, there is no last hurrah that saves the town. The last scene is the town being engulfed in shards of glass.

Once-Upon-a-Time-Episode-4x09-Fall-captain-hook-and-emma-swan-37829719-3000-2000But for the duration of the episode, we get to witness how the different characters react. For Emma and Elsa, who will be immune to the spell, trying to stop the Snow Queen remains a high priority. Elsa has the immediate need to find Anna – their reunion (along with Kristoff) is pulled together rather quickly, but due to the seriousness of the episode, the joy of said reunion was just the levity needed for the last ten minutes before impending doom. Furthermore, we learn that Anna, having been put under the spell before, will also be immune and could potentially be an asset to her sister and Emma. Really, they do need all the help that they can get!

Meanwhile, the majority of the other characters prepare themselves for the worst. When Rumplestiltskin (with the help of Hook as his puppet) incapacitates the fairies and puts an end to the hope of stopping the spell, even Snow White is at a loss and seems to give up hope. Rather, she once again puts her trust in Emma. Emma is reduced to tears as her parents hand her her baby brother and tell her that they trust her to save them.

JENNIFER MORRISONThe futility of the spell is also seen in how various character deal with it. They lock themselves in their houses – sometimes with magical protections, sometimes with just locks. They try to keep apart from their loved ones to give each other their best chances. Perhaps I am just cynical, but it is clear to see that the barricades are easily defeated – there is little point in locking yourself in your house if you can unlock it from the inside. Furthermore, they have no idea how long it will take Emma and Elsa to break the spell – it wouldn’t be long before most of them would run out of food and water.

However, this episode reminded me that for thousands of people, past and present, there was no last-minute rescue or happy ending. The siege lifted when the invaders breached the walls. The armies rolled through the streets. Countless lives ended in blood, tears, and fire. Those that hid long enough to survive emerged to devastation or a new world order.

Thankfully, this is a show about fairy tales. So…onto the happy ending –

Season 4, Episode 10 (Shattered Sight)

– in Act Two, Shattered Sight, when the Snow Queen is defeated by Emma, Elsa, and Anna (with some key but uncredited help from Regina). Most importantly, the Snow Queen is defeated by Gerda, whose last message to her daughters washes up on shore in the nick of time to remind the Snow Queen – or rather Ingrid – of the love that she had with her family and to confess that she was wrong to trap Ingrid in the urn. Gerda felt remorse and wanted her daughters to free their aunt and be a family again. Ingrid sacrifices herself in order to undo the spell.

snow-queen-diesThe story of Ingrid and Emma in the past is also played out: we see how Ingrid took Emma under her wing and even tried to adopt her. Emma was truly happy with Ingrid until Ingrid got too excited that Emma might be exhibiting magical powers. She dragged Emma into oncoming traffic, understandably freaking out the teenager and causing her to run away from the foster care system for good. We also find out how Ingrid came to Storybrooke. While this story gave necessary closure to this plot, it felt a tad forced.

As for the characters under the Shattered Sight, this episode played out like a dark comedy. Regina was at her worst self, but more than found her match in an angry Snow White. David was highly sarcastic. The dwarves were at fisticuffs in the street. Will Scarlet drunkenly attacked Hook, who also suffered abuse from Henry’s homemade traps. Granny threatened everyone with her crossbow. Belle slept through the whole thing thanks to very strong tea. When the spell broke, nearly everyone burst into laughter.

LANA PARRILLAOur loved ones are usually the ones that cause us the most pain and simply the most aggravation. We spend most of our time with them. We live with them. Our co-workers and neighbours can also cause similar irritation. Most of the time, we laugh off these annoyances – because to do anything otherwise would be to overreact and threaten death over unshovelled sidewalks, loud music, irritating phone voices, constant stories about kids, tendencies to chew loudly, or consistently preferring toilet paper to tissues to handle a runny nose.

But they are our loved ones for a reason. We care about them. We love them, and they love us.

Back to the Snow Queen – with her out of the way, the storyline can wrap up until the spring. However, from the way Rumplestiltskin has been acting, his plot cannot wrap up nicely. Meanwhile, Regina can get back to her search for the author of the storybook and her happy ending – if Marian wakes up, that is.

One more chapter to go.

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Week X – Building Up

Part 1:

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 8, Episode 8 (High Voltage)

One of the charming highlights of this series in general is its exploration of early twentieth-century technology, science, and inventions.  While the solution to this episode’s murder ultimately lay in human passion and familial love, the plot wound its way through a convention of intriguing and forward-thinking medical inventions (as well as a lot of quackery) that delight our characters.  While the experience of modern medical conventions is much different, at the forefront is still the same spirit of hope and awe at technological progress.  We hope for a future where our common ills and annoyances will be cured and our lives made better.  We are in awe of the technology that the human mind has mastered and the inventions that we have collectively come up with.  Surely, the next century of viewers will be just as amused by our cutting-edge inventions (seemingly quaint and silly by their standards) as we are at those of 1902.  But they will have come up with new problems to solve, new ailments to cure, and new ways to make us feel more healthful.

MM808_mainAnother thing that Murdoch Mysteries does well is introduce us to historical characters in a new light.  Their portrayal of Thomas Edison breaks down his heroic image propagated by American media and history: he is a miserable, greedy, arrogant plagiarist (all of which are true traits of the man) who fails at fatherhood.  The fact that his son decides that he wants to change his name is not only due to having such high expectations placed on him because of it, but also because his father does little for him.  While Thomas Edison was a remarkable inventor, he was no hero or saint. This show portrays such a man without resorting to outright slander.  Edison is merely human.

tumblr_n0jgddouMc1rtrs3mo1_500hCASTLE

Season 7, Episode 9 (The Last Action Hero)

Speaking of heroes, this week’s episode pays tribute to 1980s action films.  In a similar vein to Murdoch, Castle’s heroic images of action movie stars are broken down to a more realistic level – but then are built back up again even higher as he witnesses one of them fight off several muggers alone and another group (with him along for the ride) manage to retrieve stolen evidence from a gangster’s club by stealthily breaking in.  We get to watch Castle play dress-up and fight bad guys while Beckett lovingly rolled her eyes and solved the mystery.

1106199504001_3912044127001_NBC-AH-CastleClip-112614-vsIt was a fun episode, but was it memorable?  After six and a half seasons, we viewers have come to expect silliness and plot twists involving long-lost family members.  What boggles my mind is why, in our current cultural climate, people continue to look upon long-lost children and premarital affairs as matters to kill over.  Biology is all that counts? Women are supposed to be chaste while their men can sleep around? Men will toss aside their beloved wife of a couple decades because it turns out she was wrong about the identity of father of her child? Is it worth trying to get away with murder? Honestly, I’m sure it is much easier to forgive your wife for her past infidelity and for not telling you initially (that could be seen as protecting her child) than it is for killing your good friend because he found out the truth about your son’s parentage.

castleBut of course, this storyline does make for good drama! Unfortunately, we did not get to see any of that side of it. I would have liked to see the murderess get more airtime and for more interaction between her and her husband. However, the theatrics with Castle was much more entertaining and of course the focus of the show.  I think the plot twist was supposed to be just as wacky as the plot.  However, I don’t think it suited the whimsical nature of the story.  It was much too sad – and much too unnecessary.

Just to top it off, Beckett had to say good-bye to her apartment.  It marked the end of her independence and she is now much more obviously Mrs. Castle.  Could her husband have been more sympathetic? Absolutely.  More drama that needed to be played out.  All in all, this was an improperly-blended mix of drama and comedy.

But I still laughed.

16862_bannerREPUBLIC OF DOYLE

Season 6, Episode 8 (Body of Evidence)

After watching police procedurals, it is refreshing to watch from the perspective of the suspect being questioned. Finally, this week is the beginning of the reckoning for the entire Doyle clan, calling into question their actions of not only this episode or season, but of the entire series

The inspector brought in for the investigation is a brutal, cold-hearted, and demanding cop…but he is no more a tough cop than Detective Beckett or Inspector Brackenreid. Rather, he is the antagonist who is the foreign newcomer amid our band of plucky heroes. (That said, he has “dirty cop” written all over him…)

Body of Evidence is almost entirely self-contained within the police station, focusing exclusively on the characters and their motives and reactions to a case wherein the police have ample evidence to hold them all accountable for their apparently murdered client. Jake is a desperate man already facing a murder charge. Leslie is a lovesick cop who seems to let her guard down. Rose and Malachy are facing bankruptcy. Des is facing loss of livelihood just when he wants to take his relationship with Tinny to the next level. Tinny is facing the loss of her family, her career is also in question, and she does not seem to be on the same page as Des in their relationship. All of the above is true to a point, but how the police twist the situation to fit their nice, neat narrative is frightening – because in other shows, we would be rooting for the cops.

Doyle-S06e08_620x350_2624145126Jake and Leslie manage to break out of the questioning and start going back over the evidence, and with the help of the rest of the Doyles at different times, they manage to solve the case – much to the chagrin of the inspector. Clearly, the conspiracy that Jake has got himself caught up in has far-reaching ties – and they are about to come home to roost in the finale.

This episode gives all of our lead actors a chance to shine. The interrogations are perfect blends of comedy and drama as the characters alternate smart answers with cries of desperation. The realisations that come to light render each character visibly changed as their motivations for the entire series are called into question.

At the same time, this is a nice self-contained story plot! Viewers were invited to try to solve the mystery – and I was quite pleased to have my hypothesis confirmed. This is one of my favourite episodes of the series. Well done!

On to the grand finale.608_feature

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Weeks V & VI & VII & VIII…& IX – November in a Nutshell

Part 4:

16862_bannerREPUBLIC OF DOYLE

Season 6, Episodes 3 (Smash Derby), 4 (The Driver), & 5 (True Lies)

Unlike in previous seasons, the final season of Republic of Doyle plays out more like a miniseries in that it consists of ten interconnected episodes all focused on the same underlying story. Each episode has its own self-contained plot that is resolved in the standard sixty minutes, but there comes a point when each episode bleeds into the next.Republic.of.Doyle.S06E04The above-named episodes fall together into one extended plot wherein Jake and his family are working for a gangster in order to pay back Sloan’s debt. Smash Derby is highly comedic in that it involves car crashes and men behaving like whiny schoolboys, although it also involves two murders. There is also a subplot wherein the Doyle menfolk are hiding what they are up to from Rose, who is none too happy when she finds out. Seriously, of all the women to try to hide something from, they try to pull the wool over on Rose? In six seasons, Rose Doyle has proven to have a strong instinct for detecting bull and for protecting her family, even if it is from themselves.

Republic_of_Doyle_S06E03_Smash_Derby_mkv3085The Driver has the gangster’s moll (who proves to be just as wily and adept as her boss) treating Jake like a hired chauffeur and forcing him to do crimes to cover his own rear end. Again, we have more car chases, Jake acting like a simpering idiot around a pretty woman, and a ticked off Rose who has no love lost for Sloan. Sloan is trying to prove that she wants to turn over a new leaf, but only ends up deeper into trouble. This was an infuriating episode in that it did not seem to have any traction whatsoever.

Doyle0604In True Lies, it finally feels like we are in the final season. Guest appearances by actors formerly on the show number in the half-dozen. We are treated to a poker game of Jake’s buddies making many jokes at his expense – all of which are true, besides. It is a cute scene. Meanwhile, Jake’s new bail monitor is none other than his former high school nemesis whose life has taken a turn for the better again – and he cannot wait to lord it over Jake. On the one hand, as a viewer, I am sympathetic to Jake because I am following the plot from his perspective and his actions make complete sense in that regard. He is a desperate man and he has no time for delays. On the other hand, it is very easy to get tired of his rude and callous behaviour. There was no need to torment his former nemesis like teenager would.

Republic_Of_Doyle_S06E05-2014-11-12_620x350_2597795195Leslie Bennett spent these three episodes in therapy sessions with a doctor who really ought to be reported for sexual harassment. It is clear that there is a conspiracy of some kind in the constabulary and getting rid of Leslie (as well as running her reputation through the mud) is part of the plan. Her doctor not only tries to placate her, but he tries to flirt with her. Her boss runs her over the coals and reads the riot act to her, metaphorically speaking. Her partner tries to gently get her to lie low and avoid Jake for awhile. By True Lies, it was refreshing to see her out and solving crimes with Jake again – but the personal cost to her is still getting higher.tumblr_static_0101_doyle1

Season 6, Episodes 6 (The Pint) & 7 (When the Whistle Blows)

These two episodes are the relief episodes wherein we temporarily return to self-contained storylines while the main plot, that of Jake being on trial for murder, is shoved into the background. Again, more recurring characters make reappearances in what one assumes is their final appearance on the show.

In The Pint, a classic caper ensues when the Duke pub is double booked for a wedding and a funeral. The wedding is that of Jake’s elder brother, Christian, who has returned briefly to St. John’s to get married to a lovely young lady named Ruby. Ruby seems too good to be true, so naturally Rose is suspicious. The Doyles investigate her and dredge up more dirt than they bargain for when Ruby’s father shows up. A convicted con artist, Ruby’s father wants to make amends with his daughter, but Christian becomes convinced that he is merely a pawn in a father-daughter crime. Family drama aside, the ending sweetly leaves us feeling that Christian and Ruby will be happy together as they disappear again for good. This episode reminds us that the Doyles are still a loving family who are there for each other, and hints all the more strongly that Leslie belongs among them. Everyone knows it…and yet…well, I’m not sure what.

The funeral is that of an old friend of dimwitted, crooked bartender Ned Bishop. Ned convinces Jake that there is a missing will and that the children of the deceased are conspiring to steal money for themselves. Furthermore, the cops are looking for a criminal who has been hiding from them for years – unsurprisingly, the two incidents are related. As with the wedding, all is happily resolved and it is clear that the season has hit its high point. Everything further only builds to the climax.Republic_of_Doyle_S06E06_2014-11-19_620x350_2607642635

Except that initially, When the Whistle Blows doesn’t seem to continue with the main seasonal plot. Wolf and Jimmy, two federal agents who have appears about once a season since Season 3, are once again in the middle of an incident that Jake ends up getting mixed up in as he takes piecemeal cases to earn a living. Our gangster from the earlier episodes makes another appearance, but the episode primarily features Jimmy being hotheaded and stupid, Wolf trying to keep him from killing himself or jeopardizing the mission, and Jake trying to solve the crime without going back to jail or getting anyone killed. They all succeed brilliantly and live to fight another day.Republic.of.Doyle.S06E07

If one were to stop watching at the final commercial break, it would seem as though the story ended, case closed, drinks all around. However, the overall storyline takes a dramatic turn for the worse as Sloan reveals that she conned the Doyles all along – she was never really Jake’s daughter and initially only wanted their money, but she ended up loving their family and wanting to stay. While I breathed a sigh of relief, I also couldn’t help feeling that both Jake and Sloan were too hard on themselves. Jake was enamoured with the idea of having a daughter and Sloan was a great actor – he was hardly an idiot in thinking believing her. Sloan became enamoured with the idea of having a loving family that cared for her – hardly a crime! Her crime, rather, was stealing from them and taking advantage of all that they offered her. If she had genuinely wanted to be a part of the Doyle clan, she could have done so. By confessing the truth, she hoped that the family would be able to get their insurance money. She truly did a selfish act, only to have it undone by Jake, who refused to let her make her own life worse. I do hope that she takes his pardoning of her to heart. Both were acts of unselfish love.

And now, the Doyle clan is worse off than before…with only three more hours to go.

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Weeks V & VI & VII & VIII…& IX – November in a Nutshell

Part 3:

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 8, Episodes 4 (Holy Matrimony, Murdoch) & 5 (Murdoch Takes Manhattan)

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__1280Another wedding! And, like in Castle, it was a long-awaited nuptials: in this case, the groom was Detective Murdoch and the bride was Dr. Ogden.

For the one-hundredth episode of the show, aptly-named Holy Matrimony, Murdoch, the long-awaited wedding takes place, proving that a) Victorian/Edwardian relationships were just as complicated as modern ones; and b) the show can continue in the same fashion that it always has with the sexual tension for the central character resolved.  Despite Mrs. Brackenreid’s attempts, the wedding did not derail the murder investigation of the week and both Murdoch and Ogden were more focused on solving the crime than whether or not their wedding went as planned.  On the plus side, Inspector Brackenreid realised how much of a jerk he had been to his wife at their own wedding and how much having a nice wedding meant to her, making for a sweet and tender moment toward the end as he invited her to dance (the bride and groom having been delayed to apprehend the murderer).

This wedding episode beautifully summarizes the relationship between Murdoch and Ogden.  It is at its heart a working relationship – their romance and friendship grew out of their mutual professional respect for each other.  While Ogden is no longer working in the coroner’s office, her work in the nascent field of psychology allows her to provide a more intellectual foil to Murdoch’s investigation.  The coroner (now Dr. Grace) provides hard evidence.  As a consultant, Ogden can provide the nuanced, controversial evidence that only guides Murdoch in the right direction.  They work together to solve cases, but generally more at an arm’s length so that they can enjoy their personal time together as well.  Their marriage should last in that they will always have something to talk about together.

Next question – will the writers miraculously undo Ogden’s infertility? Should they? I will reserve my judgement and see what happens.

MakingMurdoch804HolyMatrimonyMurdochMainIf anyone was concerned that Murdoch and Ogden’s relationship would get boring once they were married, their honeymoon in Murdoch Takes Manhattan proves that they find murders to investigate no matter where they go. Even in New York City, they manage to get involved in a conspiracy involving no less than President Teddy Roosevelt himself and end up spending more time in the bedroom tinkering with makeshift investigative equipment than doing what one would expect of honeymooning newlyweds. It stretches the imagination, but is keeping in line with their relationship. They notice things being a bit off and instead of ignoring them, they dig deeper.  The thrill of the chase proves more erotic to them than champagne.

Murdoch_Mysteries_S08E05_Take_Manhattan-2014-11-10Meanwhile, back in Toronto, Brackenreid, Higgins, and Crabtree manage to hold their own in the case of the week.  The constables pool their money together to buy an automobile on the cheap, only to discover that it may be involved in this week’s murder.  Nonetheless, the automobile provides entertainment and the excuse to see the constables relaxing and enjoying themselves.  Crabtree even uses it to get a date – much to Dr. Grace’s chagrin.  Personally, his new love interest seems much more suited to him.  While the writers will likely keep trying to reunite Crabtree and Grace (especially now that Murdoch and Ogden are married), I would rather see both of them happily paired with others.  Then again, perhaps the writers will surprise me.  They know their characters the best, of course.

This episode also allows us more character development for Higgins and Jackson.  I would love to see them around more often.  Do they have families and backstories? Can we have “Constables Day Out” more than once every 101 episodes?

Season 8, Episode 6 (The Murdoch Appreciation Society)

Murdoch_Mysteries_S08E06_2014-11-17

Now that Murdoch is back from his honeymoon, The Murdoch Appreciation Society is a more typical episode of the series…or so it seems. Halfway through the investigation, Murdoch realises that everyone he encounters not only knows of him and his exploits, but each potential witness are enamoured with him and his ability to solve cases. He realises that they have all come together to concoct a plot, complete with a fake murder, in order for him to solve it. Rather than be flattered that they have formed the titular appreciation society, Murdoch is angry at them for wasting police time and resources. All might have been over but for the fact that Dr. Grace discovers evidence that the corpse used in the plot had actually been murdered. Now, with little help from the well-meaning members of the Murdoch Appreciation Society, Murdoch has to solve the actual case at hand, which involves a cutting-edge neuroscientist and the possibility that the unfortunate victim was helped off the mortal coil for the purpose of research.

Meanwhile, newlywed Dr. Ogden (who is apparently keeping her maiden name) has discovered that the suffragette movement is losing momentum and suggests doing something drastic to drum up interest and courage on the part of Canadian women. She suggests that a woman run in the upcoming provincial election, as despite the fact that women cannot vote, no law actually prohibits them from running. Her friends suggest that she run herself.

Together, Murdoch and Ogden discuss the idea of her running for office. Unsurprisingly, Murdoch is supportive – and his wife reminds him that he will have to vote for her! Both of them are incredibly supportive of each other: Ogden is proud of Murdoch’s investigative accomplishments and encourages him to be flattered that people enjoy his cases so much that they meet once a week to discuss them; Murdoch is accepting of the fact that his wife wants more equal rights under the law. They both seem to know when to bow out of the spotlight for each other, which is incredibly important in a marriage. Whether or not that will change with Ogden running for office remains to be seen.

Season 8, Episode 7 (What Lies Beneath)

807 - What Lies Buried

Going a step further than a mere cold case, What Lies Beneath dredges up not just an old skeleton, but the skeleton of a police officer from underneath the floor of Brackenreid and Murdoch’s own stationhouse. It raises questions of police accountability, possible corruption, evidence tampering, and the idea that one of their fellow officers of the law may be a murderer. Suddenly, Murdoch is faced with the possibility that his own superiors cannot be trusted, leading to rely heavily on Crabtree and Higgins to piece together the evidence found with the victim. A twenty-year-old case of blackmail soon appears.

Ultimately, the murderer is someone quiet and unassuming who a) only committed manslaughter and b) was trying to help out a friend. The friend in question turns out to be the current Chief Constable, who resigns upon confessing that he was an accessory to murder and a homosexual. As it is 1902, the latter confession is seen as rather more shocking than the first. No matter how good of a police officer that the Chief Constable was, his career was ruined by admitting to being homosexual, so confessing to helping cover up a murder was just icing on the cake. One cannot help but feel that he did the right thing by helping his friend and keeping his own secret, if only because he was a good cop and otherwise loyal to following the law. He had a good career that toppled spectacularly, but he did a lot of good in the meantime.

The Chief Constable also forces Murdoch to confess his own sins against the law, namely his freeing of a confessed murderer (who had inadvertently framed Murdoch for her crime) and letting her run away unpunished. Murdoch reasons that he did what was right, not what was legal, because the woman had killed the man responsible for her rape and mutilation, as well as the rape and mutilation of many other women. She had taken the law into her own hands and so did he. Both Murdoch and the Chief Constable are ardent believers in the rule of law, but both also stand by their confessions. At the episode’s end, Murdoch’s confession has been cathartic for him, but he has not faced the dire consequences that the (now former) Chief Constable has. After all, Murdoch is a married man attracted to women…

Raising one last question – who will be appointed the new Chief Constable?

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Weeks V & VI & VII & VIII…& IX – November in a Nutshell

Part 2:

tumblr_n0jgddouMc1rtrs3mo1_500hCASTLE

Season 7, Episode 5 (Meme Is Murder)

The Internet is a place where fame is both fleeting and long-lasting. On one hand, one is only as popular as one’s ranking on Google searches, but on the other hand, once something is online, it is extremely hard to destroy. Depending on the type of site, one can see photographs from years ago as easily as ones from yesterday. Popular videos, memes, blogposts, and articles can be viewed long after they are first published. In some cases, what begins as a quirky post becomes a worldwide phenomenon, and while some people crave that attention, others are killed by it.

Not usually literally, of course. In this episode, Castle writers merely take the above truth to the extreme and have minor Internet celebrities get killed and have it posted online as a fear and intimidation tactic. Unfortunately, while the murderer craves fame and notoriety as well as instilling fear into New Yorkers, online fame is also fleeting. While things may be posted for years, they are also buried beneath millions of new additions daily. New memes, music videos, phenomena, and articles get published or reported on.

That said, posting hurtful or devastating things online is still permanent. Young people in particular are vulnerable to having their lives indeed ruined by someone posting a humiliating or incriminating photo or video of them. The police should take such things as seriously as Castle and Beckett do. Does it seem drastic that some teenagers kill themselves after having a video of them getting drunkenly violated at a party surfaces online?

The motive of the murderer in this episode is (of course) revenge. Instead of committing suicide, they choose to take a much more devastating route: scare, shame, kill, and try to destroy reputations on the way down.

castle-abc-s7e5

On the other hand, Castle does a video promotion for his latest book

Season 7, Episode 6 (Times of Our Lives)

At long last, we finally have our Castle-Beckett wedding!

Unlike the fancy to-do last season, the “big moment” is tacked tastefully on to the last act of this episode that features a mysterious Incan artefact and possible alternate worlds. Oh, yes, and a murder.

In all actuality, the episode’s premise is that Castle is suffering so much from insomnia over feeling inadequate for Beckett that he falls passes out during the murder investigation and dreams that he is in an alternate present wherein he and Beckett never met up in that fateful first episode where he was called in to consult for a case similar to one of his books.

The alternate present confirmed that he, Richard Castle, would be worse off without being in his relationship with Beckett. Besides having a plummeting writing career, he had no relationship with Alexis (who had moved to live with her mother), Ryan and Esposito’s love lives were zilch, and Beckett had been made Captain but also had never solved her mother’s murder case. The only one who seemed to be having a good run of things was Martha, who was starring in a play. (Thus, upon waking, Castle encouraged her to keep on auditioning because she still had what it took to be a star performer.)

All in all, this episode was funny – a “what if?” scenario that was made all the better by having Castle entirely confused and genuinely attempting to return home to his own reality. Was it slightly over the top? Only in the sense that they attempted to make it more ambiguous by not emphasising the fact that Castle merely passed out. Most of the episode was thus an extended dream sequence.

I preferred this wedding to the planned wedding in the season finale. It was a beautiful scene befitting of the couple and the episode felt more like a traditional quirky Castle episode rather than the absolutely bizarre finale last year. Honestly, if I could forget about Beckett’s Vegas marriage from college, I would. This episode thoughtfully re-examined Castle and Beckett’s relationship, as well as those between Castle and the other main characters, and reminded the audience why we ourselves fell in love with the show in the first place.

STANA KATIC, NATHAN FILLION, MOLLY QUINN, SUSAN SULLIVAN

Season 7, Episode 7 (Once Upon a Time in the West)

With the wedding episode over with, it was time to move on to the “honeymoon episode”. However, since Beckett used up all of her holiday time searching for Castle over the summer, their honeymoon ended up being an undercover investigation at a ranch camp in Arizona. The plot itself involves a treasure hunt in the mountains for gold…

As far as tributes to western cinema go, this episode was fantastic! The writers played up all of the expected stereotypes and the guest actors did a fine job of falling into the necessary roles: the sheriff, the barkeeper, the outlaws, the cowboys, etc. Castle – and Beckett, to a lesser extent – really enjoyed themselves and yet played the episode as seriously as possible.

I really enjoy the themed episodes of Castle. They are generally hilarious, well-written, and sweet – even if each of them starts out with someone being murdered. They set this show apart from other crime procedural dramas. This western-themed episode was one of the better ones, if only because it seemed as though it was a perfect fit for the overarching plot of the season. After six seasons and six episodes of sexual tension, Castle and Beckett finally got married…and now, we can all sit back, relax, and enjoy!

137232_0671_preSeason 7, Episode 8 (Kill Switch)

After two episodes of fun, we get a suspenseful case…and a character study of Detective Esposito. Esposito and Lanie are the only unmarried main characters (aside from Martha and Alexis) and the only unmarried couple. Naturally, having his buddies get married is making Esposito reconsider his relationship with Lanie and where it is headed. Despite his jokes, he wonders if she is the one, if they should follow suit and get married…or if he really is ready to give up bachelorhood.

As luck would have it, he ends up following a suspect into a subway…and the suspect pulls the emergency brake and takes all of the passengers hostage. While he gets the opportunity to play the hero, he also meets a fellow cop who is a female Iraq War veteran. He explores the road less travelled by, only to have Lanie be the one on his mind when he genuinely felt his life was in danger. His fellow cop, while flattered at his attention, manages to point him in the right direction. Whether or not Esposito and Lanie end up getting married remains to be seen, but at the moment, their relationship is at least serious enough to warrant it.

The suspect in this case turned out to be a mere patsy in a scheme to cause an epidemic in New York City, which would undoubtedly create a global pandemic within hours as New York is such an important city worldwide. The scheme would lead to an increase in the stock price of the company that manufactured the vaccine – and the murderer of the week was arrogant and greedy enough to suppose that they themself would survive such an epidemic to cash in.

Lately, the threat of global pandemic has been bandied about in the media. American culture in particular is very afraid of invasion. No wall can protect from a virus or bacteria – not now, and not ever. However, it is ignorance that is the best weapon of germ warfare. In this episode, it is only three-quarters of the way through the story that Castle and Beckett figure out that the suspect is carrying a deadly virus – and only by careful attention to detail after the fact. On the subway, Esposito and his fellow hostages never notice that their captor is getting steadily sicker by the minute. Only quick thinking by everyone involved saves everyone, including the patsy captor. One can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

It was refreshing to focus on a different character after two episodes heavily focused on Castle and Beckett. We get it, they got married, let’s move on. Their ability to solve the case in the nick of time this week proves that their chemistry has not faded now that they are married. It is indeed possible to keep the show going.

Take that, naysayers.

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Weeks V & VI & VII & VIII… – November in a Nutshell

New format – I’m going to catch up on each show individually.

Part 1:

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episodes 5 (Breaking Glass), 6 (Family Business), & 7 (The Snow Queen)

In Breaking Glass, the writers explored the relationship between Emma and Regina. The two of them both went after the Snow Queen with their own agenda and reluctantly ended up working together. Including in their love of Henry, the two women are actually very much alike. Emma spends the episode trying to convince Regina to forgive her and let them be friends again, while Regina tries her hardest to convince herself that she does not want to be friends with her. Regina is not used to having friends – she is accustomed to being used and abused and dishing out the same in return. While Emma puts up walls to her loved ones, Regina lashes out – no need to put up walls if you’re constantly on the attack! Both women have magic power, even if Emma’s are innate and Regina’s are learned (as far as we know). Much like how a grown child prodigy is on an even keel with musicians who trained their whole lives, Emma has much to learn from her step-grandmother.

ouat-regina-emma-breaking-glass-leviathynThe only downfall of this episode is the parallel story with Emma’s past life. On its own, the subplot with Emma and Lily is fine. However, Lily seems much too important of a character to only be a one-episode wonder. For one thing, she looks enough like Regina to be her long-lost daughter! After watching this episode, I was wondering if there was a way that the writers could make such a thing possible. It would be convoluted, but it could work. After all, as Hook says, sooner or later everyone in Storybrooke is related. Why take the time to introduce such an intriguing and mysterious character as Lily if she was only to illustrate an event from Emma’s past? And why make her so much like Regina in looks and mannerisms? (I suppose there is the simple possibility that it was a coincidence that the best actress who auditioned had such looks.) Any young actress would have sufficed. We got the point of the parallel story: once Emma had a chance to forgive a friend who did her wrong and begged for forgiveness, but like Regina now, she had shut her out and never forgiven her.

image157Family Business explored Belle’s backstory and her own relationship with Anna and the Snow Queen. We find out how bad the Ogre War was going in Belle’s homeland and what led her to summon Rumplestiltskin to save them. As it turned out, she found out about him from Anna, who helped her search for her lost memories before being captured by the Snow Queen. As it turns out, her lost memories are of her mother’s heroic death at the hands of ogres.

137019_8132_preTo be honest, Belle’s backstory is not all that interesting and serves mostly to fill in gaps in the established timelines while giving us some insight into Belle’s life. What is interesting, however, is how her past actions serve to have Belle attempt to go after the Snow Queen herself and end up revealing to us the latest evil plot to befall Storybrooke. Belle falls victim to a mirror that turns her against herself and her husband, forcing her to question her deepest fears and dislikes about Rumplestiltskin as well as her own character. Intriguingly, the mirror (or the Spell of Shattered Sight) does not lie. The fears and dislikes are Belle’s own. It reveals that deep in her heart, Belle knows what kind of horrible man her new husband is. She knows what others think of her, how she thinks she needs to save him, etc. These are all true. The mirror distorts reality, showing only the negative aspect of a person or situation. One could easily remind Belle that her husband is complex (albeit quite horrible) and that her dedication to saving him is admirable. Like her mother’s heroic sacrifice, her love for Rumplestiltskin might cost her everything – but she is prepared for that.

Once-Upon-a-Time-4x05-Breaking-Glass-Snow-Queen-looks-in-broken-mirrorThe Snow Queen’s, or rather Ingrid’s, origin story is revealed in full in The Snow Queen. This episode does have the downside of focusing almost entirely on the new Frozen characters. Aside from Ingrid’s attempt to isolate Emma from her family and call into doubt their love for her and her powers, our main plot is how Ingrid became the way she is.

Her own family rejected her out of fear: her sister, Gerda, imprisoned her in the urn after Ingrid accidentally killed their third sister when her powers became uncontrollable. I could hardly blame either of them, really. Ingrid had just nearly been sexually assaulted, while Gerda had just discovered that her sister was dead. Helga, the unfortunate third sister, had been the glue that held them together. Gerda seemed to resent Ingrid for being different – as Gerda was the youngest sister, any attention given Ingrid naturally detracted from her. It was quite clear that throughout their childhood, Gerda held this against her eldest sister. How dare Ingrid have powers that needed to be controlled! (A non-magical equivalent would be a chronic illness or condition.) Without Ingrid, Gerda could get married and rest assured that her future children would be safe from suffering from Helga’s fate. Despite her sadness at her loss, it was much easier for Gerda to accept that both of her sisters were dead than to deal with Ingrid’s powers any longer. She euthanized her chronically-sick sister. It was hardly any wonder that she sought to rid Elsa of her powers. She wanted to cure her of her illness – any mother would.

As an aside, if Elsa and Anna’s mother is named Gerda, is their father named Kai?

ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episode 8 (Smash the Mirror)

What I am impressed with the most about this season of Once Upon a Time is that they have taken new characters – namely Elsa and Anna and company from Frozen – and integrated them into the mythology not just of the show, but of the wider folklore of European fairy tales. While Frozen was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and Scandinavian folklore, it was quite removed from the original story such that it is barely recognizable as being related to Andersen’s tale. With this arc on Once Upon a Time, the writers have integrated elements from Andersen’s tale such as the Snow Queen herself, Gerda the protagonist, the Snow Queen seeking family, and a smashed mirror whose shards enter into the victim’s eyes to turn them against their loved ones. In Smash the Mirror, this last element comes vividly into play.

First of all, however, this is a double-episode primarily about Emma. She seeks to get rid of her powers and Rumplestiltskin is keen to add her to his collection, even if it means killing her. Hook tries to stop her, but is thwarted by his old crocodile and has his heart stolen for his troubles. Rumplestiltskin needs him to do his bidding before he kills him, and despite his belief that he is a survivor, Hook is most definitely in mortal peril. Do the writers really want to kill off another of Emma’s love interests? Or will it be Rumplestiltskin who loses? Or will they come up with Plan C?

Emma herself is saved by Elsa, who finally embraces her own powers and convinces Emma that she can control hers. For the most part, Emma has always been able to control her power, but Ingrid planted doubt in her mind, and Elsa drove her doubt away again. Elsa and Emma truly have come to see each other as friends, if not sisters. Furthermore, the Charmings came to their senses and decided that letting Emma get rid of her powers was not giving her her best chance after all. Surprisingly, it took a sharp tongue-lashing from Regina to point out to them that obvious fact. But from a parenting perspective, they did have good points. Emma was suffering because of her powers. If she didn’t have powers, she couldn’t hurt them, their new baby, or Henry. But although she is their daughter, she has been their friend first. Friends do not let friends make rash life-altering decisions.

265px-408ElsaTrappedWe finally find out how Elsa came to be trapped in the urn – namely through Anna being a victim of the Shattered Sight. Elsa never wavered and let her sister capture her rather than give in to Ingrid’s plan to have her destroy Anna. I do believe that repays back Anna’s sacrifice from the film tenfold. Now Ingrid has unleashed the Shatter Sight onto Storybrooke – it will be exciting to see how they break this one!

Finally, Robin Hood and Will Scarlet are in on the plan to find the author of the book. Robin Hood, despite his code of honour, gives in to his desire and enters into an affair with Regina. Well, wasn’t he always a thief, anyhow? He is no saint and neither is Regina, but they are well-suited to each other. He also discovers that the book is not set in stone (er, ink) and that they could still have a happy ending depending on their choices. Regina, for her part, confides in Snow White and allows the possibility of hope enter her life again. Sadly, I don’t think that the Spell of Shattered Sight is going to leave her unscarred, and she is still the mistress and not the wife of Robin Hood.347836-2

Then again, perhaps their romantic interlude will lead to a half-sibling for Henry and Roland!

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The Giver (2014)

The_Giver_posterI really thought that I had read this book in school. Turns out that I hadn’t, or else I would have been expecting the disturbing scenes in the film and remembered the storyline.

Like many books on school reading lists, The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of those stories that one learns the vague premise through popular culture. It is set in a seemingly utopian community (with vague paranormal overtones) wherein all memories of anything that made people different from each other have been collectively erased, save for one person and his apprentice who act as keepers of these memories. Even colour has been eradicated, which is beautifully portrayed in the film.

Naturally, the plot of the story is a typical young adult coming-of-age tale: young person is introduced to injustice and strives to make right society. Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memories and struggles with the inherent contradictions in his society. Eventually, he conspires to destroy the system and give people back their memories.

Despite this predictable premise, the film is beautiful and powerful. I had no expectations from the book, so I was pleased with what I later discovered were changes: Jonas’s age was raised, a romantic plot was added, and the role of the Chief Elder was expanded. The raised age made much more sense, as having the members of a society reach adulthood at 18 is more believable than 12. I was able to relate to Jonas and his struggles, as well as those of his friends, whereas at twelve, his behaviour would be obnoxious and precocious. The romance was understandable as it befitted the increased age of the protagonist: eighteen-year-olds told to stop taking their hormone-suppressants would undoubtedly take a strong interest in sexual matters. Finally, the expanded role of the Chief Elder (a nuanced performance by Meryl Streep) added multiple dimensions to the community and gave us some insight as to the motivations behind why the society is the way that it is. She is the relatable character for us adults.

The main theme of this book is memory and choice. Both are intrinsic to the human condition. One is essential for the other – it is hard to make choices with no memory or basis for them. The society of The Giver is one that makes choices for all individuals to make perfect families and a harmonious community. It is primarily a Council of Elders who make said decisions, although from the film, it appears that a lot of the choice of the Elders are based on computers and machines as well. In other words, the people of Jonas’s community live in peace and harmony, but they have no real basis for living. The Chief Elder wants to maintain order at all costs because she believes (or has been led to believe) that if individual persons were left to make their own choices, they would always “choose wrong”. Her understanding of the past is that constant bad choices led to disaster. What she cannot comprehend is that good choices are what get people through disasters, and that “good” choices can lead to as much disaster as bad ones. Choice is a rather neutral concept: good intentions lead to choices that can lead to good outcomes or bad outcomes (as clearly the community was set up with the good intention of preventing further destruction), while bad intentions lead to choices than can lead to bad outcomes or good outcomes.

Yet the freedom to experience both the good and the bad is what makes us human. We are not machines, nor are we simply animals going about our instinct. Emotions, arts, conflict, dissent, criticism, inquiry, and nuance are all important to humanity – without them, there is no point to existence. Yes, they can lead to disaster, but they also can let us overcome it.

Jonas decides that he cannot live in a society that does not love, nor remember it. However memories have been wiped away (perhaps through some type of machine-induced hypnotism), he sets out to return them.

What, however, is the first memory that leads him down this path? That of Christmas music. Religion is seen as something dangerous – and rightly so. Religion even today is seen as something that violates our standard belief that humans are the same. It is seen portrayed as something artificial that divides us, but at the same time, the feeling of peace that comes from remembering a childhood Christmas carol is universal. Yes, many of us do not have childhood memories of Christmas (and those that do have thousands of songs that may be attached to our memories), but we all have memories of peace. They may not be long, permanent, or relating at all to a holiday. Thousands of children have lives plagued by war, but even they have memories of something peaceful, even if it is hard to define.

Back to the story. My point is this: religion is one of the many things that causes discord in humanity, but it also is something that is essential to our understanding of ourselves. Moreover, without conflict or discord, there can be no harmony, because there is nothing to define it. There is no point of human existence.

Essentially, we must remember conflict and it must happen, and we must honour and remember those that have striven to overcome it. Without memory of war, there is no peace.

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