Because I frankly don’t have the time nor the will to recap all these Arrow episodes, but I want to really give the show its due, I thought I’d reblog a great Recap of the most recent episode. I love reading this guy’s post mortems because of the hilarious way he forgets stuff and seems to have a wealth of new ways to name the mysterious island. Enjoy! And Maybe I’ll find one for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as well. I want to keep both of these shows on air!
Originally posted on Henchman-4-Hire:
A few weeks ago, I went on at great length about mortality: the great equalizer, the part of us that is both terrifying and inescapable. It’s the shadow within our shadow, staring at us with malicious intent, waiting for us to slip or lose focus and make the wrong turn into Death‘s patient embrace.
It is what drives us, the reason we aim with such religious fervour towards those goals we choose for ourselves; the reason we fight our adversaries with such intensity; the reason we write, draw, paint, speak our fiery words – because we know the end is coming, and we must leave something of ourselves that will remain when our bodies are dust and our existence a distant memory.
But what’s next?
This question is the source of our mythology, our religion and our philosophy. No matter the subject or interpretation, our belief systems have all been in the pursuit of understanding the mysteries of life, the most notable of those mysteries being that which is the cause of all the others, the reason we seek knowledge with such zeal in the first place.
What happens to us when we die?
Is there an afterlife, or does existence simply consist of a single iteration for each organism? Is our consciousness an evolutionary accident, something to ponder before we hit that final moment when it all comes to end; or is there something eternal within us, a soul that travels beyond, into other realms outside of this fragile framework we spend all of our time in?
The explanation, even after millennia of constant searching, remains out of our grasp. Sadly, it’s also the biggest reason why we keep offing each other in record numbers.
That, to me, is the ultimate irony: all this time we’ve been spending convincing each other of this or that version of the same old bullshit, and what we seem to have been missing all of this time is something that stares us in the face every single day, and yet we fail to acknowledge its implacable gaze.
The simple, hard truth is this: no matter what you believe, no matter the strength of your convictions or the miracles you perform, you shit your pants at the end just like everyone else.
Our opinions, our scriptures, prayers, burning bushes and flaming chariots, our golden tablets and stone carvings and alien sightings don’t save a single one of us from dropping a load in our drawers. If there was really anything to avoid, I don’t think it would be death – as I asserted last week, it’s the end of the story that makes it worth telling. If I could avoid anything, it would be stinking up the place when I make my exit.
That, my friends, is the only certainty after life departs you. Valhalla, Sheol, Elysium, Heaven – call it whatever you like, it’s all conjecture. Here, on this planet, someone else will be changing your shorts before the funeral. None of us give a shit (no pun intended) about that, though: what matters is that somewhere, somehow, we keep floating around high-fiving our incorporeal selves and watch the rest of the living skitter around like ants.
Now, please don’t mistake my tone for frustration; honestly, I find the whole thing hilarious. See, I don’t consider death to be something tragic. It’s just a thing that happens to all of us at its appointed time. I don’t worry myself with what happens afterwards, because frankly it doesn’t concern me until I get there. It’s like puberty – we all go through it, we all have a hard time making the adjustment, and a few years later we look back and laugh at how confusing it all seemed when we were just getting accustomed to how things really are.
There are certain discrepancies to the current ways of interpreting the afterlife that leave me boggled, however. For instance, what happens before we’re born? Why does that barely enter our thought process, while the end is such a frightening prospect? Does it ever occur to us that there were billions of years preceding our blip of an existence, just as there will be billions more after we’re gone? Why do the ages that follow us matter so much more than the ones that came before?
This was the conundrum that I pondered for many years, but it seemed that there was another beneath my nose that had escaped my notice – until recently, that is – and it was a mysterious, beautifully-rendered graphic novel that brought it to my attention. This series has inspired more philosophical musing from me than I had experienced since reading the Watchmen over a decade ago – and this from someone who spends more time musing than sleeping.
The conundrum that this story revealed to me was this: if we go somewhere when we die – or don’t, as the case may be – then what of people in a coma? Is that not, as far as science is concerned, a type of death?
I mean, really, what’s the difference between death and unending sleep? Would we dream? Are our dreams in this life really an exploration of that place we go when we pass?
Do coma patients’ souls escape the body, or are they trapped within, fighting to regain control?
Can it possibly be in both situations at the same time?
And most of all, how bad would that suck?!
Welcome to the world of Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, and Sonia Oback‘s Mind The Gap, a psycho-philosophical thriller that attempts to challenge the widely-accepted ideas of death, sleep, the soul and … how terrible I apparently am at keeping track of a well-organized plot.
Honestly, this book grabbed me by the balls – and it’s still squeezing.
First, the people behind this masterpiece.
Jim McCann is … well, his experience is quite eclectic. It stretches from writing daytime soap opera serials to doing PR for Marvel in the ’00s to contributing work for the iconic House Of M and Dark Reign series as well as having a hand in the New Avengers. Beyond that, his graphic novel, Return of the Dapper Men, was nominated for 5 Eisners – and even won for Best Graphic Album!
And interestingly enough, all of his previous experience can be seen in Mind The Gap: the emotional drama of daytime serials is there right alongside the supernatural elements that normally dominate the comic shelves, each enhancing the other in a way that keeps the story fresh and free of the tired old cyclical story arcs we’ve become accustomed to.
You probably remember Rodin Esquejo if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while – he’s the artist behind the Lost-meets-Degrassi-High drama Morning Glories. He brings the same level of masterful work to the table this time. The thing about Esquejo that draws me in is his ability to portray emotion in his characters. There are times when an artist will signify sadness with a single tear, or a shadowy silhouette accompanied by some flowery eulogy-worthy words from the writer, but Esquejo needs none of these devices. The emotion he can deliver with his art is as complex as that of a real human being. He doesn’t just show a single tear: he shows the anger on the character’s face at their inability to keep the sadness within themselves. Their posture indicates that edge-of-panic feeling that we all get when we feel overwhelmed and we’re just waiting for someone unfortunate enough to get in our way so we can unleash all of our pain on the poor sucker. But Esquejo doesn’t need to show the confrontation – you can see it just in the angry eyes, the set of the shoulders and that single tear, and not a word need be spoken.
Sonia Oback’s colouring experience is as rich as her palette – Witchblade, The Darkness, and X23: Target X are all work that I’ve always loved for their unique colour schemes, and Mind The Gap is no different. Whether it’s the single-colour schemes of hospital rooms, the dank, seedy brick-and-steel of a subway station, or the vivid rainbow of colour in the Garden (I’ll explain the Garden in a moment), she evokes the feel of each place beautifully. But it’s not even necessarily the environments that need the attention in this story as much as the characters: the cast of this story is so ethnically diverse that it requires someone with the kind of sensibilities that Oback offers to render them all properly without it seeming … well, painted on.
That was a bad joke. Sorry, folks. I’m a fan of the pun.
Anyway, on to the story.
The plot of Mind The Gap, at first glance, appears quite simplistic. Like any great story, however, the devil is in the details. For your sake, I’ll leave those for you to pick out.
The story begins with an attack. Elle Peterssen has been found in a subway station in a coma. The assailant, motive, and circumstances of the attack are unknown. All we can tell for sure is that, as McCann puts it, everyone is a suspect.
Thus begins a whodunit that takes us not only all over New York City, but into the mind of an immensely brilliant woman who happens to be comatose in a hospital room.
And this is where the rubber hits the road – after the attack, Elle finds herself in a place known as the Garden, a dreamlike reality that is reserved for those who are between the states of life and death. Coma patients, the terminally ill and those who have just exited their bodies for the last time all find themselves in the Garden for some span of time. The kicker is that Elle can’t remember a single thing about how she got there or who attacked her … something that she can see her friends and family struggling to find out for themselves.
But Elle isn’t like the other residents of the Garden. As she discovers quite accidentally, she’s able to hop into the bodies of those who’ve just left the mortal realm – only for a moment, but long enough to put the staff at her resident hospital in a confused uproar.
Meanwhile, as Elle tries to understand her unique out-of-body abilities, the drama surrounding her earthly form unfolds. Betrayals, secret organizations, corporate entities and even ex-Nazi scientists enter the race for Elle Peterssen’s body.
And time is running out for her. Will the mystery be revealed before she dies?
Or is death just the beginning?
We can only hope, as we always do. After all, it’s what we seem to do best.
Until next time.
(Part II) Moffat’s Shitty Epic Pretension: Narrative Experimentation Gone Awry.
Extremites, it happened again.
My Mac conked out and this time it was a fresh hard drive that failed. So Part II of Shitty Moffatisms has been delayed for more than a week.
All this extra time has had its bright side. It has given me a really long time to wrestle with the first Moffatism and how Doctor Who has changed for the worse under the Moffatocracy.
What I have come upon is a Moffatism that, I think, is an extraordinarily important misread, on the part of Steve, on how to create a powerful Who episode. Indeed, how to create a powerful drama. I am referring to Moffat’s incessant use of ‘Epic Structure.’
When I say ‘use,’ what I really mean is ‘attempt to use.’ Steven Moffat wrongfully applies a legendarily tough narrative structure to a show that is already a complex premise.
Doctor Who relies upon the clarity of simplicity to really succeed.
Let me ask you a question, darling Whovian: after you first watched any Moffat helmed episode did you truly understand what was going on?
I have never understood a Moffat helmed episode without further researching and reviewing what I saw. My first thought, half way through most of his episodes, is usually something along the lines of: “did I miss something?” I often feel like the show’s action begins after important motivations that are never established. Upon further viewings, I discovered that this ‘confusion’ is the result of one of the favourite Moffatite aspects of the show.
After speaking to many of you Moffatites, I have discovered that one of your favourite virtues of the Moffat tenure episodes is the way that they ‘hit the ground running,’ so to speak. They begin at a place of heightened conflict therefore creating a dramatic tension that thrusts its way to the conclusion.
Though I understand where your admiration comes from; who doesn’t love action, action without causation is mindless.
I’ll backtrack for a moment and explain what I mean by Epic Structure.
Let me take you back to English class and remind you of writers like Homer and Virgil.
You know, those guys who wrote the massive stories that seemed to go on forever?
Well, my dear Whovian, these works, The Illiad or The Odyssey in Homer’s case and The Aeneid in Virgil’s case, are called Epic Poems. The word ‘epic’ is not just an adjective describing the shear length of the poems, it is also a description of how the poem operates and, furthermore, the form the story telling takes.
Uniformly defined, an Epic Poem is a work that describes the acts of a hero in a heightened form. ‘Epic’ comes from the Greek ‘epos,’ which means ‘a series of events that are worthy of a long form narrative.’ By that definition, most over arching plot lines focused on one character (Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Hobbit) could be called an epic. Epic Form, or structure, however, is a more succinct description of how a story is put together.
Most modern dramatic works rely on Three Act Form. The Three Act Form has dominated story structure for the last 200 or so years.
You know it well… it can be reduced to:
- The Setup: a period of exposition, usually Act I or the first 16 – 18 minutes of a film.
- The Confrontation or the Rising-Action: when the protagonist attempts to resolve a problem incited by the first turning point and learn new skills to defeat the antagonist: the meat of the story sandwich. It usually encompasses Act II. Ending in the lowest point for the hero at a period of great strife.
- The Resolution: which ties up and finishes all plots and sub-plots.
Epic Structure, unlike Three-Act, departs from a more straight forward narrative and begins the action somewhere in the middle, (usually at a moment of great despair or peril); in Three Act Form this would be the end of Act II. Most of the narrative is spent on recounting how a protagonist got to this moment of despair. For instance, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the seminal English language Epic, the story begins with Satan falling to the lake of fire after being cast out of Heaven. It then moves backward to find out how he got there; moving toward to this bleak moment on the lake, then proceeding past it to the climax. Most epic poems operate this way or at least the ones that draw heavily on Greco inspiration.
Enough of the scholastic diatribe… Doctor Who!
Let’s apply this structure to one of Moffat’s most popular episodes: A Good Man Goes To War.
This is, I think, one of the worst episodes in Moffat’s tenure. The reason for this is you need to have prior understanding of the last episode, and about four others, to have an idea what is going on. As a singular episode it is convoluted and just plain confusing. A large reason for this is its structure.
Good Man… begins “hitting the ground running,” to use a favourite cliche of the Moff himself, with Rory, in an unknown part of the galaxy fighting Cybermen, and the Doctor running around like a tweed clad headless chicken doing …uh… something on a ship that looks like the set from Star Wars. What ever it is he’s doing, it appears we are mid battle. But how did we get there?
The preceding episode — this was a two part arc, or at least meant to be — suggested no battle and ended with the characters in entirely different locales and situations. The beginning is jarring and when the Doctor finally cuts the needless unexplained action with a confusing vaguely expository speech directed at the ‘Eye-Patch Lady;’ (her actual credited name, though we’d later know her as Madame Kovarian) I was still as confused as I was in the opening moments.
This confusion results from Moffat’s attempted use of Epic Structure. He tries to begin in the midst of the action but forgets a crucial part of the shape: the retroactive look. It is never explained how they got to this point in the action. The story just moves forward, meaning the watcher has no understanding of the ‘stakes of the situation.’ It’s obvious characters are doing things — things that are very important — but no body can understand why this is by the information given.
You can find this problem in most of the Moffat helmed episodes of the Matt Smith era.
Why is any of it important? Well, because we are told it is. Take a look at the cold open: (Forgive the fan titles)
On the other hand, one of the major tropes of the ‘two-parter’ episode in the Davies days, and indeed older Doctor Whos, was ‘the cliffhanger.’ What made these cliffhangers better was the way the following episode would begin immediately from the preceding ending point and continue on. The connection of the supposed two part arc, that A Good Man… is intended to be, is never demonstrated. Essentially the Davies period two parters were long three acts. The first episode was Act I and II, cliffhanger at the moment of strife, and the following episode was Act III.
Perhaps, I may be giving Moffat too much credit.
Maybe, he isn’t trying to utilize Epic Structure in his episode creation at all. If that is true, then it just means that Steven Moffat has no understanding of television writing.
However I would never claim that because it would be wrong of a blogging bitch, such as myself, to conclude something without personal experience. I have never written an episode of Doctor Who. You may not have known this, but it is true.
I chalk this failure of narrative clarity to an overindulgence of experimentation for the sake of … well… experimentation.
Nor is it really correct of me to say that Epic Structure cannot be used in the creation of a television episode. Vince Gilligan, the astounding head writer of AMC’s Breaking Bad, famously uses it to create his episodes. The all important pilot of that show was structured like this: beginning with an action packed Winnebago’s jaunt down a dusty road and then retroactively showing how Walter White got to that race and where he’ll go from there. The reason why it works for Gilligan and not Moff is due to its simplicity. Though heavy action takes place in the opening of the BB pilot, it is not complicated action.
A Winnebago is flying down the road… why?… because it is running from sirens… why?… obviously because of something illegal. Easy, peasey, Japanesey.
Gilligan: B+A +C = Coherent Through Line.
Moffat Who: B+Nothing+C = An Unexplained Series of Events.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
As always, this is part of a conversation about Doctor Who. For Sherlock criticism: go here.
Wait – that’s not love. Sorry, after so many Valentine’s Days, I have a lot of trouble separating the sweet scent of affection from the stench of commodified trash.
Is it just me, or do the salespeople responsible for V Day seem to be a perfect mimic of that girl/boyfriend that sits at number one on your list of shittiest people you’ve ever known? You know the one, sharing the uncoveted top spot with the crazy person who confessed their love to you after five minutes of conversation and smoking three of your cigarettes – possibly because, five years after you dumped them, they were that crazy person?
Some people just can’t handle rejection, but Valentine’s Day businesses seem to function as if they could never be rejected. They’re way too pretty and cool to be rejected, obviously: haven’t you seen the ads?
Advertisements with sexy girls in see-through nighties and skimpy Hallowe’en costumes that they couldn’t sell six months ago (how they ever thought a pumpkin could be sexy, no matter what time of year, is beyond me) occupy the same space with posters offering free trials of dating websites and psychological profiles intended to help you figure out what’s wrong with you so that girl that you have so much trouble talking to will finally smile when you stammer a joke (here’s a hint: write the joke down, deliver it to the mirror till you feel confident, and get a damn haircut. And stop drooling. It’s not helping).
And yet somewhere in this cacophony of “don’t you feel lonely?” and “we can revive your sex life” and “buy her a ring before she gets tired of your smelly feet and shitty puns”, we’re supposed to find that connection we’re all looking for.
You know what I’m talking about, right? That emotion that keeps us all paralyzed; the feeling that supercedes all others, making the worst pain bearable, giving even the blackest stormclouds some illusory silver lining; the ever-sought and rarely-discovered continent of Love, wherein lies our heart’s purest desire.
It’s a neverending quest for that elusive feeling, the one we felt long ago in a hallway in grade nine when that girl or boy stumbled and threw their papers everywhere. You knew right then and there that that clumsy, awkward girl with the freckles or boy with the braces was perfect for you.
There’s a term for that feeling. Heroin addicts call it “chasing the dragon”. They say that your first high is the best, and the addiction stems from trying to rediscover the feeling that you first found.
Perhaps you think I’m too cynical about love, what with the nonchalant comparison to severely addictive narcotics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am, at this very moment, madly in love with a beautiful, brilliant woman whose smile seems to brighten the world every time I see it. Sometimes, I find myself in the kitchen at work, chopping onions or some such monotonous task with the stupidest grin plastered across my face, just thinking about something she said or the way she smells or how I like the way her butt sways when she walks–
She’s reading this, so I should probably stop there. I’ve got her pretty convinced I’m one smooth operator and I don’t wanna fuck it up for myself.
My point, folks, is that the feeling I get for my wonderful partner and the feeling that this embarrassment of a holiday is trying to convey are not the same thing. One is the result of an emotional connection built over time, while the other is…
Well, it’s just a chemical reaction in your brain.
The fact is that women, as a species – and I mean that sincerely, because that slight chromosomal deviation separates our genders as completely as dogs and cats – are holding all the cards. They’ve got us straight dudes all figured out, and all that advertising, all those rings and sexy outfits and chocolates and dinner reservations – they’re just keeping us in thrall.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming women one iota for this. Their power over us is as innate as the queen bee’s dominance over her colony. Their shape is designed for our pleasure, their movements hypnotic, their lips oh-so-kissable, their embrace more comforting than the warmest blanket.
And the sex…
Honestly, I wish I was gay sometimes, so that I could maintain some modicum of intelligence when I see a naked woman. Gay dudes seem to be so put together, whereas I just turn into a puddle of bliss every time I see side-boob.
But then, I can’t imagine what it’s like on the other side of things. Always being hit on, dirty smelly dudes constantly eyeing your special parts, leering drunk losers slurring some pathetic pick-up line any time you grab a drink at the bar – or on the way to the bar – or on the way back from the bar – or on your way into the cab because you can’t stand these mindless drunken apes anymore.
Hell, it’s no wonder most girls are as sick of V Day as I am. If they’re straight, they’re definitely holding the shit end of the stick – and you can take that metaphor wherever you damn well please, you perverts.
In reality, Valentine’s Day isn’t about love, or lust, or even connection. It’s another day where the corporate candy-men can offer us something we can never have.
And isn’t that what we all want? Is it love we’re celebrating on February 14th, or is it simply our eternal quest for the unattainable?
Enter Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips. They’ve chosen to bring this very subject to life – but not quite in a way I’ve seen before. Through their enticing storytelling and unmatched artistry, they’ve created a comic every bit as irresistible as its protagonist.
There is much, even twenty issues in (the newest just dropped this week!), that we still don’t know about Josephine – or Jo, as she prefers to be called. That said, there are a few things that are certain about her.
Number one: she is, as far as can be seen thus far, immortal. She has lived for at least five hundred years and she doesn’t seem to be aging at all.
Number two: she has a supernatural power over straight men, turning even the happiest married man into her personal slave within mere moments of meeting her.
Number three: Jo has been – and continues to be – chased by a demonic cult that has transcended the ages just as she has. They have been Nazis, religious fanatics, hippie cultists – pretty much any group that can fly under the radar and remain clandestine. Their leader is as enigmatic as Jo herself.
Lastly: Josephine has no idea who she is, why she can do what she does, or how to stop it. All she knows is that men will do anything for her … and to survive, she must let them.
The story is told in a noir-style, largely narrated by the men who have fallen under her spell, and each story arc carries with it the zeitgeist of the time it takes place in. Whether it is the hyper-seriousness of post-war America, the hazy drug-induced mania of the ’70′s, or the angst-ridden jeans and piercings of the turn of the century, each tale is told with true justice done to the period.
Normally, this might make a story choppy and hard to follow, but the constant is the art: Sean Philips’ shadowy depiction of Josephine’s world becomes the fulcrum from which the story tilts. Philips’ art is abundant with silhouetted scenes and whispers from the darker corners of the city, speaking of the secrets that lurk just beyond view, secrets that the reader all-too-often realizes would be better left in the dark where they belong.
For me, however, it isn’t the setting or the art that connects with me the most, even though they’re both breathtaking in their delivery; for me, the piece de resistance is the characters. Each man who finds themselves inextricably tangled into Jo’s mystery becomes a new narrator, and we see all of them not only drawn into her spell, but also fully aware that something is profoundly wrong. As they become more permanent fixtures in Jo’s life, the reader witnesses these men slowly losing their ability to reason as her supernatural desire brings them further and further away from themselves, and closer to becoming her slaves.
It’s like watching myself in high school all over again.
But as the mystery unfolds, as each of these men rejects their old life simply for the chance to be close to her, to feel her touch and see her smile – it steadily becomes apparent that Josephine wants no part of it. While most of us would relish at the chance to wrap our lovers around our finger as completely as Jo can, she is filled with sorrow with every man who crosses her path or meets her gaze. Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t crave the passion and desire that she exudes so innately. What Jo wants, more than anything, is to be alone.
It’s the one thing she’ll never have.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Until next time.
I know, I know. You were expecting a Shitty Moffatism today.
Well… Writer’s block happened. I wanted to make the article as best I could so sadly, I must admit that, it will be a couple days late.
In the mean time, check out this buzzfeed! It asks the timely question, and perhaps stupid question, What If Doctor Who Was An American Creation? It then imagines what the show may have been like by expostulating fairly accurate american approximations of the iconic actors who played the role.
Read it and hopefully this will keep you warm while I finish the next article.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
It’s really a Marvellous creation (pun intended) using clips from the Day The Earth Stood Still and the 60s Brit Fantasy Spy series: The Avengers, among others, to create the perfect trailer. Have a watch. It will blow your mind in the best way.
Until Next Time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
Originally posted on "The Brotherhood of Evil Geeks":
Hey There True Believers!
It’s been a pretty busy week in general between the Super Bowl, Olympics, and the Lego Movie but I finally got a chance to sit down and watch the last episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before they take a brief hiatus and all I have to say is damnnnnnnnnnn… Seriously, I’ve said before that this show is somewhat of a slow burn and I’ll stick to that, but this weeks episode gave us quite a bit to move forward with, so on with the review!
It was a week ago today that Phillip Seymour Hoffman tragically died. I’d like to lend my voice to the cacophony who will miss him.
Anyway, sadness aside, I want to keep all you fine Extremites abreast of what will be on the docket for this week’s posts. I will tell you for what we lack in new posts this week we will make up in quality.
This week, on Thursday, we have Part II of our hotly followed and uber popular series The Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who. Look out for that.
Next Sunday, Ben will be back with his sardonic and hilarious thoughts on the state of Modern Comics in a new article part of Ben’s Grim Corner.
When it comes to TV, all my favourite episodic shows like the CW‘s Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are sadly off the air because of that blasted closed minded exercise in ‘Bread and Circuses’ that is the Sochi Olympics. Who knows what will keep me interested for the next few days.
Anyway, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.