TV Round-up: The Musketeers, Doctor Who, and Outlander

The Musketeers

Borrowed from withanaccent.com

Genre: Historical/Action

Synopsis: Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, this series follows D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos, as they go about the King’s business.

Series: 1 season of 10 episodes; there will be a season 2

I’ve Watched: The entire first season, go me.

The pilot was nice and smooth. The show has a fun feel to it, although our protagonists do go through women like tissue paper. It’s episodic, but the show’s good about making most episodes fairly personal to at least one of the main protagonists.

That said, the status quo is going to wear on me sooner or later, even with 10 episode seasons. Something needs to change to keep the story interesting.

I love watching the King’s character. He’s essentially just an ordinary man who’s been raised to believe that he is a de facto extraordinary person. His unintentional dry humor is just the icing on the cake. Half of his lines are hilarious, and it’s mostly his delivery that make them so funny. The actor is very personable, taking a character who could be hated for his childishness and stupidity and playing him as someone just shy of adorable.

Some scenes messed with my suspension of disbelief, but such is the nature of TV.

Also, yay, diversity! We have non-white main protagonists. However, there is a noticeable lack of women from racial minorities, which is especially glaring given the diversity present for men–all the women we’ve seen were white. The info I’ve heard about season 2 states that least one non-white female will be incorporated, so maybe they’re getting on top of this.

Favorite quotes:

“If we damage her husband, my sister is going to be very upset.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have weapons?”
“One musket, and some charges. For shooting rabbits…and Protestants.”

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

Borrowed from imageserver.moviepilot.com

Genre: Sci-fi

Synopsis: A time-traveling alien has made it his mission to protect humanity through time and space.

Series: This is the special between seasons 7 and 8 (of the modern part of the series, there’s way more old Doctor Who).

Yes, I am reviewing the Christmas special over half a year after it aired. All in preparation for season 8.

This episode had some good ideas, but the execution was not so interesting. This show still can’t do action, but that should surprise no one–what surprises me, is that they keep trying. That’s not what makes this show stand out! In the end, there were a few great moments, but the story was told in a way that was just okay and some of the plot points were too gimmicky. I did enjoy the Eleventh Doctor’s ending speech, though.

I think that having the end of the 10th and now 11th Doctor happen during the Christmas specials might not have been the best ideas, as it separates the stories so far from the rest of the season and constricts how much room the story has to be told. The endings should be big stories, but they’re trapped in singular, lone episodes. Christmas specials feel like a better way to introduce new Doctors, than to say goodbye to old ones.

Favorite quotes from this episode:

“Every life I save is a victory.”

“I died in this room, screaming your name.”

“You have been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life. Shut up and win.”

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay. That’s good. You’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”

Outlander (Pilot)

Borrowed from cdn.hitfix.com

Genre: Historical/Drama/Romance (based on a novel I haven’t read, but is reputedly very good)

Synopsis: A WWII nurse gets mysteriously transported to 18th century Scotland.

Series: 1 season of 8 episodes; there will be a season 2 (the series has barely started airing!)

I’ve Watched: Just the pilot so far.

The pilot episode stars off slow, but then, it has to. We need to get a sense of the world Claire comes from before she gets thrust into another. The fact that Claire comes from another historical period and not the present helps–it’s as interesting to see the atmosphere of post-war Europe as it 17th century Scotland.

Not much has happened, and so far the plot is straightforward. As a first episode, it’s solid, which is already a feat. I personally prefer more going on, and tend to dislike plots where a heroine is thrust into a completely new world (it usually serves as a perfectly understandable excuse for making her helpless and heavily dependent on the characters around her). However, the pace might yet pick up, and Claire has the potential to hold her own, as she’s in possession of unique skills (field medicine). So in her case, being from the future might be good for something other than philosophy.

I’ll give this a few more episodes, before I make up my mind. I am partial to historicals, but it depends on where the plot goes and how the characters are handled.

 

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Death Sworn, Magical Assassins Living in a Cave

Borrowed from leahcypess.com

Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis: Ileni, like all Renegai, was tested for magic at an early age–all children have magic, but it fades as they reach adulthood. She passed her Test, and was trained as one of the most promising students. Now seventeen, her magic is fading away, and it turns out that a mistake has been made. She should never have passed her test, never have received training for magic all those years, because her magic was not permanent. Her life had been spent training to use a skill she would no longer have access to.

Bitter at this turn of events, Ileni accepts a dangerous mission assigned to her only because she is now considered expendable. The Renegai have an agreement with a prominent group of assassins–they teach rising assassins the use of magic in return for being left alone. But the two past teachers sent by the Renegai are dead, and this bodes badly for the next one. Ileni is asked to go to the assassins’ caves as the next teacher. She isn’t expected to survive so much as buy time.

Series: There’s going to be a sequel, which is good because this is clearly only part of the story.

POV: Third person, one POV (for 99 of the book).

Romance: Yep.

Complicated vs. Straightforward: Straightforward–I’m adding a new segment here, because I want to distinguish between whether a plot is fairly simple or has tons of twists and turns. Epic fantasy generally has many things going on at once, leading to an intricate plot and many characters. A lot of YA instead focuses heavily on one character and one character goal.

Of course, the breakdowns aren’t always determined by genre. And neither is necessarily better than the other, as both can be the best fit for a particular story. But it does make for a different feel when reading, and a lot of people prefer one over the other, so it’s a fair category.

For Death Sworn in particular, Ileni’s the only person really trying to make something happen at this particular moment, so she’s the only one with an urgent character goal. Everyone else can afford to wait. It makes the story feel straightforward.

Preview: Here.

For most of the book, Ileni is playing a bluffing game. She has to convince the assassins around her that she’s still a powerful sorceress despite having an increasingly diminishing supply of magic. It’s interesting to watch her keep up the pretense, buoyed only by the expectations of the men around her. Meanwhile, she has to decide what moral lines to draw when the stakes are high and she’s confronted with a completely different kind of lifestyle.

Life in the caves is very self-contained, but pieces of the outside world keep drifting in. And of course, the plans that have put Ileni in such a compromising position, and that drive the entire assassination plot, revolve around shaping events in the outside world. Most of the book has Ileni coming to terms with the world inside the caves and with her own new-found limitations. But the closing of the book is based on the big picture, and Ileni’s place in the big picture.

Everything she’s learned about herself and the world around her coalesces in her decision as to what her next step will be. And it’s an intriguing decision. It’s not often a character recognizes how much they don’t know like this. I’m interested to see how this plays out in future books. It’s certainly the kind of decision that proves an author is unafraid to move on, to keep the plot turning instead of sticking to a status quo.

The relationship between Ileni and her love interest is interesting in that, despite how they care about each other, they remain very different people with very different goals. Very different goals that matter to them more than anything else. And that’s certainly refreshing in our modern love-before-all society. They don’t suddenly lose all the beliefs and loyalties they’ve had up until this moment. Ileni doesn’t do something she disagrees with just because her boyfriend tells her to. How this will work out in future books, I don’t know, but it’s a promising start. I’m quite surprised, actually.

Anyway, fun YA fantasy.

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Penny Dreadful, Victorian Gothic-Horror

Borrowed from followingthenerd.com

Genre: Victorian fantasy/horror

Synopsis: Malcolm Murray’s daughter, Mina Murray, has been abducted by vampires. He and Mina’s childhood friend, Vanessa Ives, will do anything to help her. Vanessa has the power to sense things, from the beyond. She uses this power to try to find Mina, even as it threatens to consume her.

The cast consists of literary favorites such as Victor Frankenstein and Dorian Grey, all set in Victorian England.

Series: 1 season consisting of 8 episodes

I don’t remember ever being so confused about a show. Sometimes Penny Dreadful is quite good, but sometimes it’s just plain weird. I am glad that I’m watching it, and I’ll continue–it’s got some great stuff in there. But it’s also got a lot of WTF in there, that makes it hard to pin down exactly how I feel about this show.

The pilot intrigued me right off the bat. The show is very atmospheric. It feels gothic, with a touch of horror that brings an awareness to the space the characters are in.

Positives:

1. Eva Green – Technically, this has the feel of an ensemble show, and the time is divided between different characters. That said, Eva Green (as Vanessa Ives) is kind of the star. While all of the cast is really good, and I love several of the characters, Eva Green is fantastic. She just has presence. That presence makes it easy to believe that Vanessa could stare down a vampire–she practically exudes force of will.

There was one (weird and creepy) scene in which Eva Green pretty much had the spotlight for a full six minutes–and her performance captivated, instilling a sense of creepiness and dread for what might come next–even though those six minutes were pretty much a monologue with some special effects. (As a side note, it was also kind of satisfying to see the look on Dorian Gray’s face–the immortal guy who’s seen it all was like, ‘okay, I wasn’t expecting that‘.)

Borrowed from telegraph.co.uk

2. Vanessa Ives – The character Eva Green plays is an assertive Victorian gentlewoman holding back a psychic power that takes a heavy toll on her, and may yet destroy her. She manages to be formidable without resorting to violence. She stands up for herself against Malcolm’s verbal attacks, refusing to take that from someone who’s done worse himself. The backstory that lead her to where she is now is…weird. It is revealed in the dreaded episode 5, which I am pretending doesn’t exist, as a matter of personal preference.

3. Victor Frankenstein – He has to be one of my favorite characters, if not my favorite. When a man of action and a man of intelligence are put in a room together, usually the man of action dominates. But Victor Frankenstein was no less formidable than Malcolm. His ideas and beliefs were no less solid, he didn’t feel intimidated by Malcolm, and certainly wasn’t afraid to tell Malcolm exactly what he thought of his notions of adventure. I liked his speech about the only knowledge that matters, in the pilot. Even when I disagree with him and realize that his beliefs are too narrow (and maybe kind of elitist), I can’t help but admire the intention behind his perspective. And it does a great job of setting his character.

In fact, here’s the scene:

Of course, it’s kind of ironic that someone who argues against the value of botany even knows what the word “variegation” means. Spent some time reading up on this so-called pointless science, Victor?

Nonetheless, he’s portrayed as a man with his own ideas about the world, ideas that he’s willing to stand by. He has a narrow focus, though he’s more willing to look beyond that than he appears to be. And he’s a caring person, despite his unapproachable exterior–I’ve never seen the revival of the Frankenstein monster scene, in any incarnation, portrayed as quite so personal.

4. Proteus – Said Frankenstein monster is heartbreaking. This new chance of life seems to have left him with some knowledge, but no memories. Some understanding, but the innocence of a child. He makes life seem sacred…well, you have to watch Alex Price sell it. I can’t possibly describe his performance in a way that would do it justice. His scenes with Victor are beautiful.

Borrowed from sourcererblog.files.wordpress.com

5. Caliban – His introduction is horrifying, and his backstory is equally so. This is kind of brilliant, as it creates a contrast between what someone’s done and what’s been done to him to drive him to it. The actions of the person who wronged him are understandable, if no less cruel. The cruelty was unintentional, but no less traumatizing all the same. The show put together this beautiful moral quandary that’s complicated, and reflective of how life is complicated. Mistakes–even huge ones, with awful consequences–can be made by good people as easily as bad ones.

It’s tough for Caliban to rack up too many sympathy points, considering how he was introduced. And even tougher when we find out why he’s come back. But at the same time, we have to acknowledge that he’s still kind of a child, emotionally. He has never had any emotional guidance, and for all of his intelligence, the intricacies of right and wrong are as yet beyond him. At times, it’s tough to know whether to despise him or pity him. Whether to wish for him to gain that maturity he’s missing and learn how wrong his actions are, or to dismiss him as an unlovable monster for the callousness with which he acts.

Neutral:

Redemption – This is a pretty grey take on redemption. Some of the protagonists have done some pretty bad things, and the narrative doesn’t absolve them of it. It doesn’t forgive them for their wrongs–some of which really don’t deserve to be forgiven (I’m looking at everything Malcolm has ever done, here)–but it does show that broken people can aspire to make their future better than their past.

This is something that I intellectually believe in, even when I want to emotionally condemn some things as unforgivable. Because if people are always defined by the wrongs they’ve done, what incentive do they have for not committing any more? In the interest of prevention, of keeping those capable of hurting people from doing it again, it makes logical sense to acknowledge that all of us can become more than the sum of what we’ve done wrong.

Nonetheless, I don’t necessarily want to see someone like Malcolm continue to proser in his role as a protagonist regardless of what he’s done. Especially when it’s just a background trait. It was just casually mentioned–as something he’d done wrong, yes, but it was barely even addressed. That also feels like a dangerous mentality, so I don’t know how I feel about this.

Negatives:

Borrowed from dreadcentral.com

1. Episode 5, “Closer Than Sisters” – I’m not a huge fan of this flashback episode, although some people love it. It came out of left-field for me, and didn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the story. Too much of its first half was not interesting enough, and the second half was confusing and disturbing. I seriously had no idea why all those pieces were put together into one story. I can’t see the logic behind it, unless it was to deliberately disturb the viewers. Shock Value: The Episode. There were good moments, but overall, I just didn’t get it. Nothing in it spoke to me.

I was also disappointed to find out what the betrayal between Mina and Vanessa was. It could have been anything, but instead it was what it always is. Vanessa and Mina especially had plenty of other things that could have come between them–the conflict didn’t have to be over a man.

2. Bad guys wanting female characters as brides or whatever – Female characters can fit into the plot in other ways besides as objects of desire. Finding out how interlinked sex, Vanessa’s abilities, and her importance to the story are–that was pretty disappointing.

3. Diversity – The only non-white main character has so far been relegated to the background. At least a black character in a historically plausible role was included, but I’m disappointed that he isn’t really being used. He could be an interesting character, but at the rate we’re not learning anything about him, we might never find out.

Borrowed from persephonemagazine.com

4. Ethan and Brona – Ethan is a mysterious American sharpshooter recruited by Vanessa and Malcolm. He’s obviously something other than what he’s pretending to be, though what he’s pretending to be is so bland that it’s hard to care. Brona is an Irish (or at least I think that accent is supposed to be Irish) immigrant dying from consumption, and Ethan’s love interest. She isn’t uninteresting, but she has no purpose in the plot other than to motivate Ethan. She could be the most interesting personality in the world, and it wouldn’t matter, because she has nothing to do.

I think both of them have potential, but it isn’t realized in the first season, possibly because of how short it was. But the two of them together? They fall in love almost instantaneously. They do it because the plot needs them to be in love, and it shows.

Overall:

I don’t even know what I think. My reaction to the first four episodes was mostly positive. Episode 5 really turned up the weirdness, and everything was more uneven for me after that. It’s certainly interesting and unique enough to continue. The good moments are really, really good. It’s just that the weird moments are also really weird. That said, every disturbing scene is worth it for just one moment between Victor and Protheus. And I have to admit that the final line of season 1 was absolutely perfect.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“A man does not live only in the empirical world. We must seek the ephemeral, or why live?”

“As you grow up, you learn we all do things which cause us shame.”

“The monster is not in my face, but in my soul. I once thought that if I was like other men I would be happy, and loved. The malignancy has grown, you see. From the outside in. And this shattered visage merely reflects the abomination that is my heart.”

“Do you really want to be normal?”

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Neurobiologist Comments on ‘Lucy’, and Volume Three of Thalia’s Musings is Impending

Ask and you shall receive?

Remember when I was happy that an actual doctor commented on Game of Thrones? Now a neurobiologist has commented on the science in the movie Lucy.

Here’s the article, up at World Science Festival.

I haven’t actually seen Lucy, so no comment there. It stars Scarlet Johansson as an unfortunate who accidentally develops nigh-omnipotent superpowers. I was thinking about watching it to support the female protagonist trend, and maybe even support the argument for making a Black Widow movie. But I was hesitant about the omnipotent protagonist plot line, and now I’m hesitant about the realism.

On another positive note, Volume Three of Thalia’s Musings will begin posting tomorrow! Thalia’s Musings is a Greek mythology retelling, told from the perspective of one of the Muses. It’s also one of my favorite web serials.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

From The Broke and the Bookish, a new Top Ten Tuesday topic. Looks like series authors have a serious advantage, for this list. Also long-standing authors. I’m only counting full-length novels.

Borrowed from kelleyarmstrong.com

1. Kelley Armstrong
Books Owned: 19
Genre: Urban fantasy, YA urban fantasy, thriller
Most Famous Work: Women of the Otherworld series, starting with Bitten. Follows a werewolf estranged from her pack, who became a wolf by getting bitten by her ex (the act that made him her ex). Her old pack runs into trouble that they need her help for. The series follows several leads throughout its thirteen book run. Kelley Armstrong likes to change things up, and I absolutely love that. Bitten has also been recently adapted to a Syfy series.

Borrowed from patriciabriggs.com

2. Patricia Briggs
Books Owned: 17
Genre: Urban fantasy, fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Mercy Thompson series, beginning with Moon Called. An urban fantasy series following a walker, or were-coyote, who’d been raised by a werewolf pack. The werewolf pack, for North America. Between a fae boss, vampire friends, and a kindling flirtation with the local Alpha, Mercy gets dragged into her fair share of trouble. Fortunately, she’s quite a resourceful person and has a way of figuring out how to help her friends. Patricia Briggs has a way with characters, and she’s written more than her fair share of compelling ones.

Borrowed from seananmcguire.com

3. Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant 
Books Owned: 14
Genre: Urban fantasy, sci-fi, horror
Most Famous Work: Probably the Newsflesh trilogy as Mira Grant, following a journalist in a post-zombie apocalyptic world. Said journalist is invited to follow the campaign of a presidential candidate, only to find that zombies aren’t the only monsters in the world. Or the Toby Daye series, following a half-fae detective who’d been turned into a fish for fourteen years as the result of a personal job gone wrong. She lost her family as a result, and it takes a murder to get her to feel like she can reconnect with her fae friends. All of Seanan McGuire’s series are unique and engaging, and she’s one of my favorite authors.

Borrowed from annebishop.com

4. Anne Bishop
Books Owned: 12
Genre: Dark fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Black Jewels Trilogy. The Blood are a race of people who are with power determined by the jewel they receive in a ceremony, and an inborn caste. But their society is broken, and so a child is born from dreams (metaphorically) with an abundance of dark power and the task of putting the world back to rights. But before she grows into her power, she is just a child, as vulnerable as any other to the dangers of this world. It’s been a long time since I read this series–actually, it was one of my first fantasies, one of my introductions to the genre. But be warned, Anne Bishop’s stuff is dark.

Borrowed from tamorapierce.com

5. Tamora Pierce
Books Owned: 11
Genre: YA fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Song of the Lioness quartet. In a medieval-esque world where only boys can train to be pages, squires, and knights, Alanna concocts a scheme with her twin brother to get herself sent off to learn to be a knight and him off to study magic. The quartet follows Alanna from her childhood into adulthood–from the trials of being a growing girl pretending to be a boy, to the trials of a knight out in the world, making a name for herself. I often repeat that I wish I’d been reading these books in my childhood, but they’re plenty engrossing even now.

Borrowed from kate.ilona-andrews.com

6. Ilona Andrews
Books Owned: 11
Genre: Urban fantasy, and a lot of genre-bending stuff (they like to blur the lines between UR, PNR, dark fantasy, sci-fi, and romance)
Most Famous Work: The Kate Daniels series. Kate is mercenary lying low and hiding her heritage lest it get her killed. The murder of her guardian forces her to action, however, and that just might put in motion events that will lead to her to face her greatest foe. This series is pure urban fantasy, though a lot of their work is hard to classify. Ilona and Gordon Andrews do fantastic worldbuilding, create self-sufficient yet not isolated heroines, and lean dark.

Borrowed from jacquelinecarey.com

7. Jacqueline Carey
Books Owned: 10
Genre: Epic fantasy, post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy
Most Famous Work: An epic fantasy trilogy beginning with Kushiel’s Dart, following a courtesan-spy on her world-changing intrigues. The series borders on being an alternate history, with its rich and deep world. I don’t think I’ve ever read another series as deeply epic as this one, touching various corners of the world and meeting all kinds of people. The protagonist, Phedre, is unique in that she can feel sympathy for near anyone. She’s very empathic, and it’s refreshing to get to follow a character, and an author, determined to look at every character like a person.

Borrowed from melanierawn.com

8. Melanie Rawn
Books Owned: 9
Genre: Epic/political fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Dragon Prince series. Prince Rohan, his betrothed, Sioned, and their allies are in a dicey political situation. They need to maneuver around the amoral High Prince and his plans for Rohan, Sioned, and his realm. So Rohan pretends to be dumber than he is and Sioned pretends to be uninterested, as they elude the High Prince’s schemes and fight to build a better future. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the series, but I remember it being rich and complex. It completely swept me away, way back when.

Borrowed from karenchance.com

9. Karen Chance
Books Owned: 9
Genre: Urban fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Cassandra Palmer series. Cassie is a clairvoyant raised by the vampires. But she’s coming into a different sort of power. The vampires and the mages think of her as a pawn, but Cassie isn’t exactly easy to control, and she’s going to turn herself into a player. Since Cassie can travel time, there are a bunch of instances when things happen in different orders for different characters, even across different books–personally, I thought this was a lot of fun. Karen Chance is also very good with action. She writes a lot of it, and she writes it with a lot of variety. And she loves throwing chaos into the mix.

Borrowed from robinhobb.com

10. Robin Hobb
Books Owned: 6
Genre: Fantasy
Most Famous Work: The Farseer Trilogy, beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice. This is embarrassing, but I haven’t actually read this trilogy yet. It’s on my TBR list, I promise! But yes, I have not yet read the most famous work of an author from whom I own six books. I hang my head in shame. The book is about an assassin and his exploits in a fantasy world, and that’s all I know so far.

Anyone else? Which author do you own the most books by? And how many books do you own by a single author?

 

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Agents of SHIELD: Oh, the Irony!

I’m sorry, did anyone thing I would stop talking about the current Whedon TV project just because it’s between seasons? Before season 2 hits (which will have Lucy Lawless--it’s like my childhood dream come true), I do want to spend a post talking about some of the things in the first season that are changed by the knowledge of what has actually been going on the whole time.

So now that the late-in-the-season reveals on the show have put a new spin on most of the entire first season, what kind of things do I see in a different light?

Borrowed from blastr.com

1. Ward’s anti-interrogating skills: The first episode, when Skye is brought in for questioning. Coulson and Ward handle the interrogation. Coulson takes Ward aside at one point, and asks him if Skye’s getting to him or if he’s so unhappy at being assigned to a team that he’s deliberately trying to blow the interrogation. He is deliberately trying to blow the interrogation, because Skye is revealing information about Centipede that SHIELD doesn’t know, essentially putting SHIELD on Garrett’s trail.

Hail HYDRA!

2. Spies need to be convinced to join the team: When Ward explains to Raina how he gained Team Coulson’s trust, he tells her that he acted like he didn’t want to be part of the team: “You’d be surprised how often you’re invited to the party when you don’t want to go,” he said.

It was a nice touch that May ended up on the team exactly the same way. Coulson not only had to convince her to join the team, but to participate in the field work, and he spent several episodes putting his new team in danger to do it. And of course, May was the one who put the team together in the first place, and had every intention of being on it. Having both of the trained spies on the team use the same tactic to secure their position makes both May’s and Ward’s plans seem stronger in-story, and it makes them look pre-arranged.

(Oddly, even Skye the untrained snoop used this method to get on the team–Coulson may want to reconsider his recruitment strategy.)

Borrowed from houseofplay.tv

3. Ward lies remorselessly: Watching that early first season scene where Skye decides to take her training with Ward seriously.

Skye: Hoping for something and losing it is worse than not having it at all.
Ward: We won’t turn our backs.
Skye: It doesn’t matter. I want this. Bad.

In retrospect, that’s just painful.

4. Ward’s stoic faces: Specifically designed to inscrutable. Gah! It’s so frustrating, when I want to see a reaction from him, but he’s just so well trained he refuses to oblige. Even in the diner in “Nothing Personal”, where Skye’s not-subtly calling him out–even when she outright states that she sent the cops after him because she knows he’s HYDRA–he gives away very little with his facial expressions.He does react, but subtly. It’s still near-impossible to get a sense of what he’s really thinking. Only when Skye’s going for the getaway car does his professional exterior falter.

Of course, we get plenty more reaction from the “real” Ward when he’s out of the field and on that plane with Mike and Skye. Now, there he let himself go. Much more satisfying. Still, I want to see more of Brett Dalton’s acting as “bad Ward”, not just “stoic covering-everything-up Ward.” There’s a distinct different personality there, and it’s hard to pin it down when he shows it so rarely. But of course, it does make sense that he defaults to being unreadable while on assignment, especially when taken by surprise.

Borrowed from wikia.net

5. Ward keeps trying to kill May: When I first saw “Yes Men” (an uncommonly bad episode for that stage of the series), I remember something odd about the May/Ward fight scene with respect to the Lorelei scenes–if we were getting the events in the right order, Lorelei’s powers should have been nullified by the time Ward had the gun at May’s head. It was shot in a way that made it look like Ward had come to his senses while aiming the gun at May, and I was expecting them to use this to say ‘whew, that was close, he almost shot her’.

And then he pulls the trigger, and I was like–wait, what? He’s still under Lorelei’s control?! I chalked it up to a weird editing decision at the time, but it wasn’t, was it? Ward did come back to himself holding a gun at May’s head, and he decided to use the opportunity. Then when it didn’t work, he conveniently was himself again, just as May went in for the attack.

6. Self-deprecating Ward: Ward and Skye’s first “romantic” interaction, just before we the audience found out the truth in “Turn, Turn, Turn.” When Ward tells Skye how he feels, he says “I know I’m boring”–and I thought it was odd, since most people don’t think of themselves as their negative traits. Or they wouldn’t be that way to start with. But of course, the real Ward thought that his cover personality was boring because that’s how he was playing fake Ward. As someone he himself would consider boring and predictable.

Anyone caught anything else?

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Mistborn: The Final Empire, On Taking on Tyrannical Emperor-Gods

Borrowed from brandonsanderson.com

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Synopsis: The Lord Ruler is the God of his empire–he’s immortal, he’s powerful, and he’s physically present. The nobility are descended from his friends, from people who helped him establish his rule. The mistreated skaa are descended from those who opposed him.

The skaa serve as slave labor on plantations, or live in the slums of cities. They may be killed by nobles with impunity. And half-breeds must be prevented, by order of law. Because power runs in the noble bloodlines, power said to be granted to them by the Lord Ruler himself. And any skaa with noble blood might inherit that power, which could potentially threaten the stability of the whole empire.

No rules are perfect, which is why Kelsier is a very powerful half-noble, half-ska called a Mistborn. And he isn’t planning on letting the empire stand as is any longer. He assembles a team of ska with powers and connections–including a young thief who is also a Mistborn–to take on the tyrannical rule of the immortal Lord Ruler.

Series: First book in a trilogy, self-contained.

POV: Third person, 2 main POVs (covering 99% of the book).

Romance: A very peripheral one.

Preview: The prologue, with chapters 1-3 linked to in the “Navigation” drop-down, and at the bottom.

This book is really something. As the first in a trilogy, I thought it would serve as the opening gambit for the events that are going to unfold–however, it can hold its own even without a continuation. It brings the problems set up in the beginning of the book to a conclusion, with the later chapters hinting at later story problems which can follow in the second book.

At first, we have the introduction to the story, where we meet the characters, get a sense of who they are, and an idea of their goals. This works nicely because the characters are quite likable. I love Kelsier and Vin, our point of view characters.

Kelsier has a long history behind him. He’s grown and changed and loved and lost before the story even opens. He’s got baggage, he’s got the loyalty of his people, and he’s got a goal. Of course, none of this stops him from developing as a character even through the course of this book. He’s still got room to grow, and lessons to learn.

Vin, in contrast, is a young street urchin. She’s lived a very different life from Kelsier, growing up with no one but her older brother who eventually abandoned her. She learned not to trust anyone, not to attract attention to herself, and to keep herself useful so she isn’t cut loose. Recruitment into Kelsier’s crew is an eye-opener for her, and it takes time for her to believe in a group that actually trusts each other. She grows into a different person as she gains the opportunity to strive for something other than simple survival.

The supporting cast is also interesting–my favorite has to be Hammond, the man with a brute-like power and a fondness for philosophical discourse. I also really like Marsh, former leader of the resistance, who came to believe that the enemy was made up of people, too. And Sazed, the steward who amassed knowledge of all the religions of the world against a time when people would be free to pursue them again.

After establishing the cast and their goals, the group starts to put their plans in motion. How they manipulate events to their advantage and deal with set-backs is interesting here, but this is also where a lot of the character development happens. Vin has only ever known one kind of life, and she has a lot to learn. How she reconciles these different ways of living changes her. And Kelsier finds that his actions might have unintended consequences, and finds his way to a greater sense of responsibility.

Meanwhile, we’re treated to passages at the beginning of every chapter–at first, the context is left out so we don’t know what we’re reading, but it doesn’t take long to figure out what these passages really are. And knowing what they are makes following them very interesting. Because this story isn’t even remotely a typical quest fantasy with a hero’s journey, but it does play with some of those archetypes in some cool ways.

Things really take off in the end game. And that’s when it becomes clear that one story is ending and another is beginning. There are several journeys that feeding into the main story and the backstory. There’s a ex-hero who’d fulfilled his prophecy, and now exists in the unexpected aftermath of that quest. There’s a person with no prophecy at all to fall back on, acting out of belief, need, and desperation. There’s a kind of passing of the torch to the next generation.

I really wasn’t expecting this book to get as much plot taken care of as it did. It’s fairly self-contained, with this leg of the journey neatly wrapped up. There are indications of what kind of problems will crop up in the second book, but nonetheless, I have no idea what shape the story will take in the rest of the trilogy.

But I’m planning to find out soon.

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