From the Rubble – Part II

copyright 2007/2015

2.

The news reports hesitated to speak of the number of dead and injured. There were lots of reports of rescuers and damaged apartments, with the cameras trying to get as many photographs and images as possible without showing too much that could indicate death. Some shots were immediately cut short and viewers were left to wonder what the cameraman had seen next.

Lots of speculation as to who had caused the bombing was circulating in lieu of information. This, of course, led to much conversation among casual viewers, curious neighbours, and the avid political affectionados, but did nothing for those frantic to know if their loved ones were safe. There was even confusion as to which exact building it was. Some reporters had the wrong address, while others were hesitant to release the address at all.

Some anxious friends and relatives were standing at the police barricades, hoping that a closer proximity to the scene would lend them better information. The telephones to the building were broken and even those who lived in the section that had not collapsed could not reach those outside. One man had been lucky enough to get through to his cousin on a mobile phone, but that man knew nothing about any of his neighbours and it was all he could do to get himself out of the building, to which the onlooker could only tell his comrades at the barricades that he still knew nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and from a block away, no one could even get a good glimpse of the wreckage.

All one middle-aged woman could see over the crowd was that her son’s apartment building had a hole in it. Any fires seemed to have been put out while helicopters and cranes were circling the crumbling apartments looking for news footage and survivors.

At least they were looking for survivors, the woman remarked to another woman next to her. They had ambulances. They never used ambulances for the dead and certainly never with sirens. There was hope then. Perhaps her son would be fine.

Well, of course he would be fine! He was her son. He had just been married and had a good life. He was all she had left after her husband’s death in the last war. He would be fine and so would his new wife, and since they would have to find a new apartment, they would come live with her until they did so. How delightful!

Yet the woman next to her did not share her optimism. She had heard that most of the cranes were rescuing people trapped in the part of the building that had not collapsed and removing rubble to find bodies. All of the lower floors had been crushed, along with all their inhabitants.

What floor did her son live on? For that matter, what section of the building had collapsed? She could not see clearly from her angle, nor in the dark could she remember exactly where her son’s apartment was. She would have liked to get closer. They had let some people get closer, although they were mostly men commandeered into helping with rescue efforts. No one wanted old women helping with rescue efforts – this was not wartime and the city was not under siege, one policeman had said. They did not need grandmothers to help. Another policeman, not so rude, had told her that grandmothers would be better off helping by going home and knitting blankets for the newly homeless. Wouldn’t she be more comfortable watching her television and waiting for news of her son at home?

But she refused to move, despite the cold night air and the discomfort of standing for such a long time. As she did so, dread seemed to well up within her. She was waiting just as she had been waiting for news of her husband, and that news had not been good….

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From the Rubble

copyright 2007/2015

1.

It was dark, cold, and whatever force that was pressing on her body was heavy. Every breath that she took was painful. Breathing was nearly impossible because the force on her chest was much too strong, and so each gasp for air made her right side inflate and shifted her entire body in that direction. The force was indeed slanted to the left. But what was it? Her aunt would not have placed a board on top of her. It was even too heavy to be a board.

Had the ceiling collapsed? Was that why it was so cold? But the ceiling could not just collapse. The neighbours above them would have fallen on top of them and there would be chaos, not this rather profound silence. She could not hear any noise at all.

Katie tried to move, but the force was not letting her do more than breathe and wiggle slightly. Wiggling only sent barbs of pain along her nerves, but she was at least reassured that her toes and fingers, as well as every bit in between, were working somewhat. Slowly, she shifted to the right of her bed, letting the pressure of the force ease slightly off her lungs.

Worms wiggle everywhere they go, Katie mused to herself, and they eventually get to where they are going.

But the pain of it! How bruised was she? Had her organs been crushed, or burst? And why was it that she could barely hear herself as she rubbed against the sheets and ceiling – if it was the ceiling? She longed to be able to flip her body over, because she hated wiggling backwards. It seemed to be taking forever for her to reach the edge of the bed.

And when she finally did so, she realised that going any further would be a problem. What if there was something sharp on the floor?

The force had dissipated and was no longer pressing against her, but she could feel its presence only millimeters away from her head. Her arms and legs were still trapped in their sleeping position and if she continued her wiggling, she would tumble off the bed onto her rear at best.

Suddenly, she could hear noises. Sirens were wailing outside and helicopters were flying past her window. There was a dull roar of screams and shouting, and above it all, her teeth began to chatter. Her head began to ache from all the noise hitting it at once, but especially from the clacking in her mouth. It was loud, uncontrollable, and only aggravated her pain.

Was that her aunt’s voice calling her? Her aunt’s bed was along the outside wall, and perhaps the ceiling had not fallen down there? But if the ceiling had fallen, why was there no one from the building to do anything about it? Her friend Mary lived in the apartment above and one over from hers. Surely, even if the floor in her apartment had not collapsed, she would have awakened, or her mother would have, and investigated the slanted floor?

And what about their neighbours just above them? Surely a collapsing floor would have roused them from their sleep. She had seen them on the stairs coming back from the cinema, and then they had said that they were heading to bed. It was not as though they were still out. Most of the apartment building’s residents should have been home at this hour. But Katie heard little coming from inside.

No longer content to remain wedged in her bed, she delicately manoeuvered her feet out into the void behind her. They scratched along the ceiling’s surface until she lowered them toward the floor.

Everything was slanted, she soon realised, as her feet reached the floor sooner than she had expected. Her rug had slipped, leaving her feet to land upon a cold, hard surface littered with pebbles. At least, they felt like pebbles, whatever they truly were. Katie managed to get a solid footing and then push herself off the bed.

Almost instantly, her body was overcome with cold. The window was shattered, she noted as she turned around to face the only light source in the room, and wind was blowing into the apartment. She needed a blanket, but there were no blankets to be found. Her sheets were stuck on the bed. Finding her slippers was also proving to be too difficult for her aching head. Miserably, she curled herself up into a shivering, aching, bloody lump on the floor.

Blood was indeed pouring out of her head, she decided. She could taste the salt, and when she instinctively wiped her face, more blood only surged to cover it again. Her eyes were dripping red tears onto her white pyjamas.

Not that her pyjamas were white anymore, she realised. There were dark patches where blood was pooling and her entire body felt wet and sticky – wet, sticky and a dark shade of red. The pain of it only grew in intensity; now she could feel the gashes and bruises. They seemed to be everywhere. What had happened? This had to be a nightmare. But if it was a nightmare, what was causing her to hurt so much? She never felt pain in her dreams that was not somehow real. What would cause her to feel as though the ceiling had collapsed if the ceiling had not indeed collapsed?

“Holy God have mercy,” she sputtered, but even her mouth was bleeding. She coughed and tasted more blood, thick and noticeably brighter when she instinctively spat it out.

She heard a whirring noise and then gradually a flurry of lights appeared in her window. White light momentarily blinded her and she tried to move away from it, but then the light stopped and hovered outside her window, still keeping its focus on her.

Please, she prayed, unable to form words except in her head. Please let this be a helicopter.

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Week XXVI – Answers, But Mostly Questions

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 4, Episode 18 (Sympathy for the De Vil)

Finally, a villain that is irredeemable!

In their take on Cruella De Vil, the writers of Once Upon a Time have portrayed a character who embraces and truly enjoys evil deeds and the darkness within. She enjoys killing for pleasure’s sake. Initially portrayed as a damsel in distress, Cruella’s true colours are revealed to be a monster entirely of her own making. Her mother attempts to contain her out of love, but tragically, Cruella is incapable of reform.

once-upon-a-times-sympathy-for-the-de-vil-might-bring-a-happy-ending-to-another-disney-villainSadly, her situation is still a common conundrum outside of the realms of fairy tales and storytelling. Is a person who is unable to understand the rationale for moral behaviour and who uses manipulative tactics to destroy other human beings still worthy of tolerance and love? Or even of life? Is such a person redeemable? Would it be easier to let them die? We might sleep better at night by dehumanizing such a person as a monster, but they are still a person. Like Cruella, they have family. They have hopes and dreams. Even if they ultimately destroy them.

Compared to Cruella, the other villains on this show have proven that they have souls, codes, moral compasses, and tragic excuses. They have ones that they love. They can feel vengeance and remorse. They have been disgusted by their own behaviours and have justified their actions based on perceived (and actual) wrongs and injustices. Even at her craziest, Regina slaughtered a village only because she was frustrated that Snow White had thwarted her again. The victims were legitimate casualties of war – collateral damage, really.

Thus, it is difficult to consider Emma turning villainous because she killed Cruella in order to protect Henry. Yes, she crossed a line in taking someone’s life. That type of action – no matter the reason – leaves a mark psychologically on a person. No doubt, Emma feels terrible. But she was acting heroically in making a stand, taking a risk, and accepting responsibility for the consequences. She had no knowledge of the fact that Cruella could not kill Henry. Cruella was certainly no innocent victim. Emma was acting not only as a desperate mother, but also as a responsible law-enforcement officer should. She had to do what was right for Henry and Storybrooke, and killing Cruella was the safest course of action. As for the titular villainess, she is now freed from her psychopathy and no longer burdened by her inability to love. In this vein, Emma’s actions could even be perversely construed as merciful.

There are only four episodes left of the season, With two of the three Queens of Darkness out of the way, it appears that the final act will focus on Emma going after Lily and Maleficient, as well as Regina going after Zelena. I would be quite thrilled if the rest of the characters faded into the background! The Charmings are proving to be ever more insufferable and Rumplestiltskin is increasingly pathetic. While they still have potential, exploring their characters much further at the present would be highly distracting.

Cruella’s portrayal seems to go against the theme that evil is made, not born. However, it is also clear that her character could have followed a better moral path. She made the choice to embrace her darkness and kill indiscriminately. An amoral person can still, with proper instruction and motivation, choose to live a moral life. Cruella most certainly did not. Interestingly enough, the Author could not write a way for her to make the right choice. Clearly, there are strong limits on his powers.

tumblr_n0jgddouMc1rtrs3mo1_500hCASTLE
Season 7, Episode 20 (Sleeper)

We finally get some answers as to what happened to Castle while he was missing for two months!

And as far as they go, the answers are quite interesting. Against his will, Castle was commandeered for an important CIA mission to prevent a terrorist attack on the United States. He ended up in Vietnam in the jungle, of which his repressed memories resurface as a bizarre recurring nightmare that sets off the plot of the episode.

For the first time, there are no dead bodies in the opening scenes. In fact, the first corpse does not appear until midway through the first half of the episode. It is an unusual investigation, one in which Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito spend the initial scenes investigating on the side for seemingly no reason other than to satisfy a flight of whimsy.

Luckily, the case does not prove to be whimsical. However, although it answers the obvious question of “where was Castle?”, the episode itself could actually have been a standalone episode. It was not very memorable, nor was the mystery very alluring. This mystery would have been better as a two-part epic partway through a season, rather than the long-awaited payoff from last year’s surprising cliffhanger. It felt like it was tying off a loose thread in a neat little knot, but the thread still does not fit in well with the whole tapestry.

In contrast, the myth arc about Beckett’s mother’s murder, the recurring drama about the 3XK killer, and other repeated storylines felt organic to the series. Beckett’s mother’s murder was enough to pique our interest for several seasons and took several years to finish. In real life, there are many murders and missing person cases that take years to solve. Five years (plus ten prior to the beginning of the series) was quite logical for Johanna Beckett’s murder to be solved. Furthermore, recurring characters provide familiar faces and motivations – after all, repeat offenders are quite common in the criminal world. Castle being missing provided little in the way of a myth arc – he was found in the season premiere and was dissuaded from investigating his disappearance in the second episode – and this latest episode only served to tie up loose ends, rather than add to the mystery. It was as though the writers decided that this was a poorly executed storyline and wanted to wrap it up so that they could move on or forget about it.

At least, Sleeper was entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Mystery solved!

Castle-Sleeper-NEW

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Weeks XXIV & XXV – Sacrifice

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES – Season Finale Season 8, Episode 18 (Artful Detective) Well, that was certainly unexpected! Usually, season finale cliffhangers leave a character in mortal peril (although being accused of a capital crime could be considered such), or else someone has departed town for an unknown period of time. Having the comic relief character arrested for murder – that it seems he actually in all likelihood did commit – is quite different. There is little question of him being falsely accused. It gives the audience something to ponder over the summer! The primary mystery of the night turns out to be a Hunger Games-style betting ring, wherein an opportunistic bookmaker takes advantage of several people desperate for money and gives them the offer of $10,000.00 to be the individual who survives everyone else. As a result, Det. Murdoch and his colleagues are faced with several murders within a very short span of time, all of the victims seemingly unrelated at first, all of whom had their thumbs cut off or had dismembered thumbs on their persons, and all killed by different weapons and styles. Partway through the episode, just as Murdoch and the audience have caught on to the scheme, Murdoch finds himself also on the “game’s” kill list. However, he uses this to his advantage to apprehend the killer, or rather, the organizer, who somehow did not realise that conspiracy to commit murder is nearly the same as murder. All the while, Constable Crabtree goes about the investigation quietly and increasingly oddly. Early in the episode, he discovers that Edna’s returned husband has beaten her and her stepson for her “infidelity”. Later, Crabtree acts strangely and seems to a) know more than he lets on about the investigations and b) be saying his farewells to Murdoch and the others. He is not his usual, jolly self. It is also very clear that he is more than simply heartbroken over the loss of Edna. Rather than plead his innocence, all evidence points to his guilt of killing her husband. Did he? It remains to be seen. Somehow, I doubt that he is entirely guilty and heading to the gallows. I have the feeling that the status quo will be restored within a few episodes of next season. How that happens is what will be fun to watch. Crabtree’s arrest ends the season on a bittersweet and bewildering note. Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are relieved that Murdoch did not get killed in the game, but they cannot believe that their erstwhile jovial friend and colleague appears to have murdered a man in cold blood. They have no celebration, but are shown getting into bed in a daze, likely hoping that this has all been a dream. We will find out in the fall. Murdoch once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME Season 4, Episode 16 (Best Laid Plans) & Episode 17 (Heart of Gold) LANA PARRILLA, JARED S. GILMORE, JENNIFER MORRISONFurthering the plot from before, the entire Charming clan is involved in the attempt to keep the Author out of the hands of the villains. However, at the episode’s end, everything seems very bleak indeed for all of the characters, heroes and villains alike. The Author is not at all benevolent; Rumpelstiltskin has Regina trapped; Emma no longer trusts her parents; Snow and Charming are beside themselves; and Maleficient has some closure to what happened to her daughter but, like the Charmings, has no way to recover the lost thirty years. -once-upon-a-time---While both brilliant episodes, it is my opinion that Best Laid Plans and Heart of Gold were paced and broken up incorrectly. The former episode revealed how the Charmings stole and corrupted Maleficient’s child (and what subsequently happened to her); revealed said secret to Emma; gave us a chase between Henry and the villains; and finally, released the Author to potentially wreak further havoc on the characters – as if they didn’t already have enough to deal with! The latter episode then backtracks from all of these plotlines to catch up with Robin Hood, give insight into Rumpelstiltskin’s motivations for returning to Storybrooke, and reveal that the Wicked Witch Zelena has been alive all along – disguised as Marian. With the exception of the framing device of having Rumpelstiltskin taunt and blackmail Regina after having knocked her out and hidden her in her vault, the events of Heart of Gold could have been shown prior to Best Laid Plans. At best, these episodes were out of order. maxresdefaultOn the other hand, the revelations of Zelena being alive (and Marian dead) was a certain surprise that caused viewers to react to all the previous plotlines in a new light. While interesting, the search for the Author itself seemed somewhat boring without necessary backstory. All in all, I would rather follow the story of Robin Hood, Regina, and Marian/Zelena than search for the Author and listen to Emma and Snow whine and snipe at each other. Thus I found this episode refreshing, but clearly my opinion was not shared by many. As shown in Heart of Gold, the Author is out of his element in Storybrooke. While I am curious as to why he chose to change and embellish tales to make a better story, his motives are quite self-explanatory. Like Rumpelstiltskin, the Author is a jerk who let power go to his head. The revelation that Zelena is still alive and that Marian is dead is not without controversy. Many viewers seem to consider it a cop-out or lazy writing, or too easily contrived to get Robin and Regina back together without leaving Marian out. I think that these viewers and reviewers are not paying enough attention! Zelena’s life essence was contained in her necklace. It escaped and sought out the portal to the past and went through it at the end of last season with Emma and Hook. As Zelena had no body at that point, she needed someone else to travel through to bring her anywhere. Essentially, she was a ghost. Once in the past, she followed Emma and Hook around, remaining incorporeal until the opportunity presented itself to take over Marian’s body, thanks to the latter woman having a magical necklace also. Zelena simply killed Marian and then reconstituted Marian’s body as her own. Upon her return to Storybrooke, Marian proceeded to be openly hostile to Regina – even moreso than expected. She was caught off-guard by the Snow Queen and her poisoned ice cream. Still using Marian’s body, no one was the wiser when she froze. Regina saved her by taking out her heart. It was not inconsistent with magic that Regina nor the Snow Queen recognised Zelena at this point. Physically, she was Marian at this point. After the spell broke, she caused the freezing spell to appear to reoccur (inexplicably!) so that Robing would do the honourable thing and take her away from the town. It all fits quite perfectly! Even if the writers had not intended this at the end of last season, it was clear that this was their intention by the fall. Zelena was too delicious of a character to dispose of so easily! heart of goldAs an aside about the Charmings (or, as Regina aptly calls them, the “Uncharmings”): like all good parents, Snow and David wanted what was best for their daughter. However, they saved her at the direct expense of another child – simply because said child was not their daughter. In an act much worse than switching babies at birth, they basically condemned Lily to evildom and loss, comparable to a hypothetical situation wherein one could transfer one’s own child’s genetic flaws into another child! Really, if they had decided to give Emma’s nearsightedness or Down syndrome to Lily without her or her mother’s consent, would we not find such an act to be despicable? (I cannot even think of a situation that would be ethical to transfer the genetic flaws of one child to another.) Yes, Snow and David learned from their mistake, but they do not need to prance about like victimized heroes and go about condemning others for their villainy. Nor did they have to keep their actions a shameful secret, as this only makes them worse. What made Emma more deserving than Lily? Snow assumed that Lily would be a dragon, not a human. This is no different than assuming that a child from a different ethnic background or less fortunate economic circumstances is inferior. As a viewer, I cannot help but want Lily to prove Snow wrong. Or at least give Snow a good slap in the face.

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tumblr_n0jgddouMc1rtrs3mo1_500hCASTLE Season 7, Episode 19 (Habeas Corpse)

best--castle--quotesThis was a stereotypical Castle episode wherein we were presented with an interesting mystery to solve, but the intention was to entertain us more with the sideplot involving our main characters. Yes, we did wonder who killed the personal injury lawyer, whose demise proved to be unfortunate, but we really were more interested in the police talent competition. This episode gave Ryan & Esposito a chance to show off their dancing and singing skills (or at least their lip-synching skills – I was not sure which) and for Castle and Beckett to regale us with a sexy shadow shower number. Even the personal injury lawyers involved in the case seemed to be as much about entertainment and having a memorable gimmick as they were about arguing for and protecting the unfortunate! Much like in life, we were easily distracted by that which was sexy, funny, irrelevant, and entertaining. The dark side of news – murder, injury, competitive ruthlessness, and various other vagaries were swept aside. The competition between the police officers over singing and dancing seemed fun and innocent, but it could not be helped but be compared and contrasted to the deadly competition that the victim of the week was involved in. It is, after all, very easy to carry a gimmick too far. Castle is not often a serious crime drama. I would not expect it to break our hearts or make our blood race in suspense every week. This episode was good for a laugh, same with videos of cute kittens. Joy gets us through life. No one wants to be constantly reminded that we could easily find ourselves gravely injured or gunned down in an alley – least of all police officers themselves! It was nice to see the cops on the show relax and have fun. With all they see, they deserve it, fictional or otherwise. maxresdefault

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Big Hero 6 (2014)

big hero 6 poster

What Frozen did for sisters, Big Hero 6 does for brothers. While not being a fairy tale and instead being based on an obscure comic book series, this film tells a fantastic story and gives us quirky but still relatable characters. One feels enriched by the viewing experience as the credits roll.

While I enjoyed this film, however, I do have to ask – why is a movie about sisters a twist on a classic magical tale, complete with music, songs, princesses, dancing, and gorgeous dresses, while Disney’s follow-up film about brothers is based on a comic series, complete with scientific gadgets, robots, high-speed chases, and a distinct lack of songs? I can’t help but think of the unfortunate implications – namely, “girls = magic and sparkles” while “boys = science and technology”. Of course, both Frozen and Big Hero 6 are very good films in their own right. However, the stark difference (akin to walking down the pink “girls’ aisle” and the multicoloured “boys’ aisle” in the toy store) did impact my enjoyment of them. It isn’t enough to say that “Frozen was about sisterly love and female empowerment” and “Big Hero 6 featured strong female characters”. The very fact that they have been separated out is the problem.

Back off my soapbox and on with the actual review!

The main characters in Big Hero 6 are not normal by any stretch of the imagination. While not royalty or magical, Hiro is a teen genius, while his older brother Tadashi is an engineer of advanced intelligence himself. Tadashi’s (and later Hiro’s) friends are also likewise scientific geniuses and/or wealthy. Baymax, our beloved sidekick, is a robot – loveable like Winnie-the-Pooh, but able to learn and adeptly diagnose and treat medical issues. The most “normal” character is Hiro’s aunt, who seems to be relatively average in her smarts and exists in the film mostly to offer food. And yet, we can relate to all of these assorted characters because they seem realistic up to a point. Even Baymax does not seem out of the realm of possibility, technologically-speaking. Science, unlike magic, seems real and obtainable to us.

Big Hero 6’s plot is a blend of whimsical adventure, wherein magic has been turned into technology without losing its sense of wonder, and classic revenge tale. Hiro deals with the loss of his brother surprisingly realistically. He embarks on a quest to stop whomever has stolen and started abusing his invention of mind-linked nanobots. Later, this quest grows to encompass defeating the one responsible for Tadashi’s death. Throughout the adventure, Baymax provides aid, support, and lots of humour as he adapts his programming to help Hiro, even including becoming a karate master. Baymax is truly willing to go to the ends of the Earth and beyond to treat and save his young patient.

The world of San Fransokyo is a blend of North American and Asian cultures. Because of this, the city seems familiar and yet otherworldly, utopian and yet believable. Also, for the first time, Disney has the technological capability to minutely animate each face in a crowd and each leaf on a tree. The realism of the animation is incredible. Every background character has a distinct face, and with it, the possibility of a distinct personality and story. The setting is all the richer for that possibility.

Most importantly, the main theme of this film is to not give up on others and not to give in to despair. No matter how many prototypes or tests it takes, no matter how many hard and devastating blows life throws at you, no matter how obstinate another person is, do not give up. Tadashi does not give up on Baymax or Hiro. Baymax does not give up on being able to treat Hiro (or any human in need, for that matter). Hiro’s friends do not give up on him. His aunt does not give in to despair despite the loss of her sibling, their spouse, and her nephew. Hiro does not give up on Baymax. Fred, the friend with the least amount of scientific abilities, never gives up on being a part of the gang and providing them with all of the skills and knowledge that he does possess. The one character who does give in to despair and revenge gets their comeuppance in defeat, but even their dedication to their revenge ends up leading directly to the salvation of at least one lost soul.

Sometimes, it seems like one is indeed giving up. Letting go of revenge leads us to personal growth, love, acceptance, peace, and salvation. Giving up on one thing can let us embrace another. But giving up on a person can only lead to loss. Giving up on one’s humanity (or a robot’s nearness to humanity) leads to death and destruction. Giving in to despair leads only to defeat and loneliness.

Like all Disney films, this story reminds us that family and friends are important. However, it does so by showing us how one teenager reacts to losing nearly his entire family and creating a new one. The robotics, technology, and action only serve to bring a new, realistic spin on the classic formula. It brings the magic closer to Earth, but it also is wonderful, awe-inspiring, and just one step farther than reality. It is still magical, but it is about us.

That’s isn’t to say that it couldn’t have used a good song. It just didn’t need one.

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Week XXIII – In the Midst of the Depths

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 4, Episode 15 (Poor Unfortunate Soul)

ouat-4x16-Poor-Unfortunate-Soul-785x505_cThree villains are a lot to take on – and that’s not counting Rumplestiltskin or reformed villains such as Regina and Hook. It was inevitable that at least one of the three Queens of Darkness would be dispatched with sooner rather than later. Luckily, in this case, “dispatched with” only meant “given her happy ending.” The heroes gained an ally in Ursula, inasmuch as she told Hook what she knew of Rumplestiltskin’s plan and what she understood to be the part that he wanted Emma to play in it. We also learned about her backstory (she was a young girl who rebelled against her father, got punished by him, and then ran away from him). Is Ursula “gone” for good now? Or will she be back for the finale? Her story was a great chance to explore the world of mermaids, sailors, and ships again, but otherwise felt as though it was a break from the main plot of the season. We got a refreshing episode wherein Snow and Charming stayed in the background. Hook was given the chance to shine as the “hero” of both the past and present storylines as he attempted to help Ursula and figure out what Rumplestiltskin’s plan was. We got to see that even at his bloodthirsty pirate best, Hook did not want to corrupt a young girl. He was always a lost soul at heart.

As for the season’s arc, this episode was crucial to learn that August/Pinocchio had figured out that the Author was actually trapped inside the book, so the villains were looking in the wrong place to find him. Now both our villains and heroes are catching up to each other in terms of their mutual plans. Really, the present-day storyline moved the plot along slowly but significantly. I much preferred the search for the Jolly Roger.

Ariel made a quick appearance (barely more than a cameo), but she did deliver one of the most important lines of the episode that reinforces the theme of the show: taking your own happy ending is possible, but what seems to create a stumbling block for villains is that they go about it the wrong way. (I am paraphrasing, of course.) It comes down to choices: how far is one willing to go? What gets sacrificed along the way? Who gets hurt? At whose expense does one try to get one’s happy ending?

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2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 8, Episode 17 (Election Day)

MMEp817Promo_DatedIn this episode, we are treated to the seriousness of the early women’s suffrage movement combined with the whimsical case involving Detective Murdoch’s favourite Canadian spy (Terrence Myers). As the plot progresses and they further investigate the case, it becomes stranger and stranger until they realise that there just may be no conspiracy at all!

Meanwhile, Drs. Ogden and Grace are on the front lines of trying to prove the point that women belong in politics as much as men. The fact that they are deliberately excluded and then dismissed as jokes is troubling. From over a hundred years in the future, it seems incredible that women could be excluded from voting at all, and we have been raised on images of women valiantly fighting for the cause (thank you, Mary Poppins) such that we forget that they were indeed treated like jokes and laughingstocks. Women who wanted to make the point that their voices ought to be heard faced the same looks of frustrated pity and amusement that children receive when they get upset over unfair treatment by their parents or peers. Indeed, the women were seen as children – children who were being uppity and spoiled brats, as the suffrage movement was primarily the domain of elite and upper middleclass women who had the finances, education, and time to be fighting. The view of the men of the time was that they had let such women play at being doctors and lawyers, but actually having them involved in the goings-on of the state was going too far. Education was primarily seen as a way to occupy women and prove how wealthy a man was that he could spend money to educate his daughters.

The general view toward women’s suffrage of the women of the Edwardian era themselves is exemplified in Mrs. Brackenreid’s character. She is indeed very involved and interested in politics: she reads newspapers, studies up on candidates, and educates herself on the issues of the election. Her husband could not care less, but still exercises his civic duty because he trusts that his wife will inform him of who to vote for. Women found many ways to express themselves while still maintaining the status quo. Influencing the political choices of their husbands was indeed popular. Such was one of the arguments against women’s suffrage – namely that they would just vote the same as their husband (either by influencing him or by having him tell her how to vote, depending on how one viewed women’s intellectual capacity). Mrs. Brackenreid is lucky in that her husband listens to her and lets her educate herself politically. Despite his bravado about being bossed around by her in public, he trusts her opinion and values her. If all marriages worked so well, couples casting one vote would be potentially feasible.

The other subplot in this episode involved Constable Crabtree proposing to Edna, seeing as he was in line for a promotion and a raise. She accepted and all seemed well…until her dead husband showed up in the dining room, very much alive indeed. Suddenly, what had been a lighthearted, joyful, and socially positive episode took a dark turn, setting up for a grim season finale.

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Season 7, Episode 18 (At Close Range)

SEAMUS DEVERDetective Ryan gets his moment in the spotlight in this episode, having been working security at a high-profile charity event when the murder of the week occurs right before him. His despair and helplessness at being unable to prevent the incident is only amplified by the fact that his brother-in-law seems to be involved in the crime. The rest of our main cast helps him to uncover the truth. Ryan’s close affiliation with Castle becomes apparent when he phones him in the middle of the night to test a theory. They both exclude Beckett because “when you have a crazy theory, you don’t call the voice of reason.” Nonetheless, the team works well together to deliver an emotional episode that retains just enough comedy to keep the tone of the series consistently upbeat.

What is special about this episode is that the murder occurs onscreen. The audience watches along with Det. Ryan. We are not sure who will be killed and we are looking for threats in the crowd just as he is. We are shown many potential candidates. Also, thanks to the occasional first-person camera angles, we get increasingly confused and frantic about the situation and we are privy to Ryan’s trauma. I cannot imagine being a security guard at a high-profile event. You certainly don’t get to enjoy yourself, but you also have no time to relax. Everything and everyone is a potential threat. People are constantly moving. Weapons are easily concealed, or created out of non-threatening devices such as a cream pie. Situations that seem safe, such as backstage in a relatively enclosed space, end up being highly deadly due to lots of corners and curtains.

Nonetheless, the story was engaging and unusual. We were kept guessing as to who the killer was, and even afterward, we were more concerned about Ryan’s family situation than that of the victim. Sadly, I predict that family gatherings are going to be a bit awkward for the next few years. The only grievance I had with this episode was that we did not get to see much of Ryan’s sister’s relationship with her husband, nor did we get to see Ryan’s wife and daughter. One would think that there would be reason enough to have Det. Ryan discuss his sister with his wife, even just to contrast their own marriage with hers.

Overall, this was an excellent dramatic storyline and character study, all the while keeping a hint of typical Castle fun.

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Week XXII – Descending Into the Bowels of Hell

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 4, Episode 14 (Enter the Dragon)

once-upon-time-enterthedragonThis was one of those episodes that launches a thousand plotlines and resolves none of them, other than a tightly woven tale as to how Regina and Maleficent met in the past.

In the present, Regina finds herself in the dangerous situation of being undercover as a villain. Much as former drug addicts do not make the best narcotics cops, this operation does not go over well. She is successful in her deception only in that she does not get killed. Only in the final scene does she realise that Rumplestiltskin is back…and she has to deal with a much bigger problem than she realised. Furthermore, her actions lead directly to Pinocchio being turned back into August. The ramifications of that will only be revealed in later episodes.

The other major plotline is that Hook tries to convince Belle to trust him to hide the Dark One’s dagger. Foolishly, Belle goes along with the plan. They are really making her character out to be silly and gullible – beyond book-smart and street-dumb to being just plain stupid. Is she so relieved to have Rumplestiltskin out of her life that she refuses to believe that he could ever come back? She was married to the man! She banished him, but I don’t remember the part where they got divorced. I do not understand why she would ever trust anyone with the dagger. Especially pirates acting suspiciously and using vocabulary much more reminiscent of Rumplestiltskin than Hook.

Finally, Emma is going crazy with the feeling that everyone is lying to her – which is entirely justified. This will likely come back to haunt our heroes, for when you feel that everyone is lying to you, you trust no one, and you begin to question everything and everyone – and most importantly, yourself.

I do not think that this was a weak episode, rather that it was necessary as part of the whole season. On its own, however, it is dismal and unfinished. Descending into Hell is never a happy ending.414Transformation

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 8, Episode 16 (Crabtree Mania)

images8Rather upbeat and overall positive, this episode saw Constable Crabtree take the reins of an investigation into the murder of a professional wrestler. At the same time, we got to see his relationship with Edna continue (I really like their pairing) and see him take on a paternal role for Simon. In this, the writers are significantly maturing the character of Crabtree in a way that is realistic and reflective of the character that they have created. At the end of the episode, he is offered a promotion and from his expression, it is unclear whether or not he will take it. Yes, the convention of television dramas would suggest that he would not want to leave Stationhouse No. 4, but we are only two episodes away from the season finale. Anything is possible! Besides which, in keeping with realism, anyone offered a promotion would undoubtedly be thrilled, excited, and sad to leave colleagues behind.

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The world of early twentieth-century professional wrestling is not much different than the present. It was all about the show. Brackenreid and Crabtree bemoan the fact that so much of it is fake; however, like all sports, professionalism wrecks the integrity of the sportsmanship. Once someone is getting a paycheque, it becomes about the money and the show, particularly for individual sports. Sport (or art, for that matter) becomes entertainment. Audiences love the athletes who are charismatic and play to the crowd, whether or not they are the best. It becomes only another facet of the entertainment business – and a dangerous one at that! Athletes can easily fall into drug use (as shown in this episode with the wrestlers chugging back morphine like water) and their entire careers hedge on not getting injured. When they do get injured, the rest of their lives are permanently affected.

And yet, we are willing to pay to be entertained. Despite everything, it is all in good fun…or it should be.

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Season 7, Episode 17 (Hong Kong Hustle)

For once, Castle is on the sidelines as Beckett suffers an emotional crisis. In her mid-thirties, she is at a crossroads in life where she is evaluating her career against others of her age and feeling as though she is coming up short. It is truly a credit to the character, the actress who portrays her, and the writers that we viewers can sympathize with her, despite her being beautiful, financially secure, married to a famous novelist, and a successful police officer.

Her feelings are only aggravated by the consultant on their current case, a Chinese policewoman who seems to have everything together…until it is revealed that she has sacrificed her time with her family for her work and that she has been rushing her work for more accolades. She failed her friend. She is highly unstable. Yes, she is a great cop and very successful on paper, but that is all. On paper.

This was still a highly entertaining episode, albeit somewhat predictable. Of course, the highly successful woman could not have both the career and the family. Of course, Beckett would come to realise that her own life is wonderful. What was fun was to watch the two women unconsciously compete with each other as they tried to solve the case. The show treated this competition respectfully. Castle respected his wife’s fears and insecurities; he did not dismiss them or joke about them. There was little room for jokes about ‘cat fights’ or such. Yet the show maintained its sense of comedy. Go figure!

It is easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others. Nowadays, it is merely a matter of going onto a Facebook profile – rampant with photos of success (and the occasional heartbreak, usually so dramatic that it does not reflect on one’s life nearly as much as the success). We can easily compare careers, families, relationships, homes, holidays, cars, etc. We know how we fall on the line that we expected or have had expected of us. Not measuring up is a personal Hell, no matter how well our lives may seem on paper.

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