Friday, May 26, 2017
      ( 4:18 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

What if the world is secretly controlled by aliens and the only one who can see them is a cheesy guy with a mullet? I'm not sure if the characters in John Carpenter's 1988 film They Live are poorly developed or are calculated to subvert heteronormative expectations without its stars or studio getting wise. The Sci-Fi concept is nice, its best distinction from something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the daring to incorporate economic class, though this has had the unfortunate effect of the movie being co-opted by the alt-right, prompting John Carpenter himself to speak out recently against anti-Semitic interpretations of the film. I don't think the movie espouses bigotry, I do think it's a bit muddled. Its cheesy 80s action charm sits a bit oddly with the implicit ideology of its concept.

I don't like to foist a sexual identity on people or movies. I think of the Ani DiFranco song "In or Out"--"their eyes are all asking are you in, or are you out and I think, oh man, what is this about?" On the other hand, the movie makes a lot more sense if you assume Roddy Piper's John Nada and Keith David's Frank Armitage are in love.

The movie has the least interesting John Carpenter soundtrack I've heard--most of the time we hear the same three notes on guitar played repeatedly as we watch Nada walk around town, trying to get work or wandering. He finally catches a break with a construction crew though he's discouraged when it's mentioned that it's a union job, at which point the camera cuts to a group of Hispanic workers chatting.

Which seemed like it was playing on a right wing fear of Mexican-American labour unions. But maybe not since Nada does get the job and starts working shirtless, his improbable physique scoped out by Keith David's character Frank.


Nada needs a place to stay so he follows Frank to the shanty town where Frank lives across the street from a church. Frank later mentions having a wife and kids but we never see them. After Nada discovers the magic glasses that lets him see the aliens pretending to be humans, the film has its most perplexing scene when Nada and Frank get into a prolonged, five minute brawl.

It's a good fight scene, obviously Piper's in familiar territory. But it doesn't make any sense. All Nada wanted was for Frank to wear the glasses and the fight erupts when Frank repeatedly refuses to do so. On Wikipedia, Carpenter is quoted as comparing it to the brawl between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen at the end of The Quiet Man. That fight was not a fight to the death and was designed as a way for two characters to work out their issues in a form of cultural subconscious hyper-masculine communication. These issues built over the whole movie having to do with tradition and pride--Wayne's character trying to buy land that McLaglen's felt was his by right, the issue further complicated by Wayne's relationship with McLaglen's sister and--well, you can go watch The Quiet Man. You should, it's a great movie. But Frank and Nada had nothing like that. They basically just seem friendly, if a little brisk, when suddenly Nada, who's anxious about the whole world apparently being taken over by aliens, puts everything aside to grapple with Frank, who apparently just can't put on a pair of fucking glasses.

When Frank finally puts on the glasses--seeing how things truly are--the two check into a cheap hotel room together, although they had to live in a shanty town before, and Nada says sarcastically, "Ain't love grand?" and starts telling Frank about how he was abused as a child. I am quite certain I'm not the first person to comment on what this seems like--I haven't even mentioned how encouragements to procreate through relationships with the opposite sex are part of the sinister subliminal messages Nada is able to see. The only female character is played by the sinister looking Meg Foster (most notable, to me, for playing the casino cashier in the new Twin Peaks).

Like I said, I don't like to impose a sexual identity on anyone, but how does any of this make sense if Nada and Frank aren't discovering a physical love for each other? Either way, Frank is oddly underdeveloped. If the two really are meant to be taken as being in love, it would have been nice if the film explored it more directly.

Aside from the political allegory, the film seems to be well-known for Roddy Piper's line about how he's "here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum." The bullshitting humour in this reflects the humour found in much of the film, its irony never quite meshing with the ghoulish beings taking over the world and the real threat this presents. Maybe the discord is supposed to be there, though--it's supposed to be discomforting that aliens and Meg Foster are crashing the bubblegum party.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017
      ( 12:51 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

The economically privileged have always been adept at rationalising the suffering of lower classes who make the existence of upper classes possible. The second half of Roberto Rossellini's 1952 film, Europe '51, may seem like overwrought melodrama but the idea that a society woman would be called insane for suddenly befriending and working for the poor sadly does not seem all that far-fetched. The film is beautifully shot and Ingrid Bergman gives a wonderful performance as the protagonist, her beauty and talent irresistibly drawing the viewer into her perspective as woman trying to swim against the current of a society where the idea of greed as a virtue is so deeply embedded.

She's not quite so alone at first--one aspect of the film that ensured it could never have been made in 1950s America is Irene's (Bergman) Communist cousin, Andrea (Ettore Giannini), who takes her on a tour of Rome's slums to show her some of the people his organisation assists. He presents arguments about the impossibility for many people to afford basic, essential healthcare. It's only when he begins to argue the need for a violent government overthrow that he and Irene part ways ideologically.

Irene is the wife of a wealthy industrialist named George (Alexander Knox) and we're introduced to the two as they're busy preparing to host an expensive dinner for some well-connected friends. We learn that their lifestyle might be causing them to neglect their young son, though one of the things I liked about the movie is that it's not clear that the parents are really bad to the kid or if he's being unreasonably needy. When he dies after complications due to an act of self-harm, Irene's guilt leaves her with a desire to embark on selfless endeavours, which prompts Andrea to take her under his wing.

It's not long, though, before Irene is going back to the slums on her own. Even among the poor there's a hierarchy, as the otherwise friendly families in the slums turn their noses up at a prostitute who's dying from tuberculosis. Of course Irene cares for her--Irene even works a shift for another woman at a factory, a place which Irene later describes to Andrea as Hell.

The circumstances that lead to Irene being committed to a mental institution don't really make sense but the senselessness with which people respond to her tireless altruism is all too credible. In one especially insightful scene, Irene finds herself arguing with a priest who awkwardly tries to tell her that empathy should only be confined to one's social circle while couching his words in rhetoric that still sounds godly and generous.

The ideas put forward in this film weren't only difficult for its characters to confront, the film itself was censored in a variety of ways in Italy and the U.S. Criterion has released a very nice restored blu-ray edition that includes both the English and Italian versions. The English version is much better--in the Italian version Bergman's voice was dubbed by another actress--though the people in the slums really don't seem like they should be speaking English. The blu-ray menu handily lets you switch between the two versions at any time.

Twitter Sonnet #996

The kilts at prices cut to knees suspend
All claims to bony fists exchanged for fun,
No thought received for glasses which depend
On moonless fungi slapped to risk the sun.
Some centuries'll pass before the dust
Can break the jackets hugging books at home,
At school, at work, about the angry bust
Of man unknown but bald to show his dome.
The heated case absorbed the counter late
So far beyond the setting sun a veil
Withdrawing showed a lack of face, the pate
A blank, an empty page to log the sale.
A tranquillising pulse usurps the red
There's hotter things to-day that must be said.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017
      ( 4:26 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Better Call Saul continued on a very good, solid streak with Monday's new episode, which finds Jimmy in the aftermath of a victory that turns out to have been a bit Pyrrhic.

Spoilers after the screenshot.

I really love the way the show is slowly cooking Jimmy's (Bob Odenkirk) slow decent. For some reason Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is keen to shed the extra expense of the law offices she shares with Jimmy so now he's faced with the hopeless endeavour of holding up his half of the rent when he was barely making ends meet as it was. His scheme to make money by making commercials for people doesn't seem like it's going to pan out and he has to deal with community service at the same time. By the time he breaks down in the insurance office, it does feel like he's having a death from a thousand cuts.

But how real was that break down? My guess is Jimmy was using his real emotions as a tool to get back at Chuck in some little way. Though the ugliness of what actually happened emphasises that Jimmy's not terribly justified in revenge. Kim, who can afford the introspection with her cushy Mesa Verde job, is accruing feelings in the opposite direction of Jimmy's.

It's harder to enjoy this show now after Twin Peaks since the minor characters are so important in Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks outshines it so totally. I thought the makeup girl trying to give her money back to Jimmy was sweet but no-one has that peculiar roundedness that every minor character seems to have on Twin Peaks. Anyway, I have to stop, I need to tell myself I'll be able to talk about Twin Peaks again in two weeks, one if Showtime puts up episode five on its web site a week early.

Where was I? I love the balancing act they're playing with Jimmy. You can see his heart dying under the weight of cynicism and resentment piling up. It's a much more delicate and complex moral dilemma than Walter White had though it is fundamentally similar. I'm both looking forward to and dreading Jimmy's downfall.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017
      ( 5:05 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

It's a struggle to think about any other TV show after Twin Peaks but I guess the new episode of American Gods on Sunday was pretty good too. It's not its fault Twin Peaks casts such an enormous shadow over it. "Git Gone" (named for the Fiona Apple song?) felt much more like Bryan Fuller than Neil Gaiman, in fact it felt like an especially gory episode of Dead Like Me. Graded on a curve that omits Twin Peaks, I'd give it a 7 out of 10. On a curve that includes Twin Peaks, I'd give it a 1.5 out of 10.

Spoilers after the screenshot

So now Laura Moon (Emily Browning) is a more developed character than anyone else on the show. I didn't see that coming. It's a reflection of the difference between writing a novel and writing for television--this episode, which adds a great deal of material not found in the book, has the advantage of being conceived almost entirely for television while everything else is forced to adapt. Part of the inherent problem in this is that so much of a novel with a limited third person protagonist depends on you knowing what that protagonist is thinking, getting their thoughts explicitly, and so far American Gods has mostly avoided voice over narration. This problem is compounded by the fact that Gaiman intentionally created Shadow as a character who's difficult to pin down--it's hard to guess his heritage, his personality is very contained--he's mysterious. This serves the dual function of making the story more about what Shadow discovers than about Shadow himself and helps weave the mystery of his destiny. Shadow is his experiences.

Bryan Fuller has taken a detour to establish Laura as almost the polar opposite of this. And it's emphasised from the way Shadow (Ricky Whittle) expresses the fact that he's happy with her and seems completely unable to understand her discontent. Fuller has created her as a queer figure (as established in Queer theory), spending an entire episode explaining why she died with Dane Cook's cock in her mouth (and certainly, that is baffling). I usually don't have patience with fiction that expects me to sympathise with someone for cheating on their partner but Fuller made me kind of get it in this case. Laura is fundamentally dissatisfied with existence and she's addicted to the adrenaline of rough sex, danger, and transgression to compensate for an unfulfilled desire she can't even define.

I wonder why Emily Browning was unwilling to be naked on this show. Is the show not worthy or were the nude scenes she did in the past done because she felt coerced by the system? One thing's for sure, the fact that we don't actually see her with Cook's cock in her mouth really hurts her death scene. The tight close-up on her eyes was really awkward. I guess there is a limit to what you can show on Starz, or more likely to what Browning was willing to do.

I'm not sure why she encounters Anubis (Chris Obi) if she believes in nothing. Because she worked at an Egyptian casino? Her dodging the test where her heart's weighed against the feather keeps the impression that her self-loathing based on her desires is irrational--really, most characters would become a lot less interesting once you cosmically establish them as definitely good or evil. But I don't quite buy her desire to stop the test or her ability to interfere with it, I think the subject ought to have been avoided entirely.

I'm also not sure why she gets super strength when she's resurrected but it was a cool action sequence. It makes the story feel a bit more like a conventional superhero tale--she's proven her worth in combat.

So that was a decent episode of Dead Like Me American Gods. I look forward to the next episode of Twin Peaks.

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Monday, May 22, 2017
      ( 4:11 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Where do I begin? I'm still in afterglow. It's not often you have your expectations not only met but exceeded but the new Twin Peaks has so far given me what I wanted and surprised me, too. Well, I wanted that surprise but there were things about these first four episodes I was only dimly conscious of having missed. It wasn't just classic David Lynch, it represented sensibilities in filmmaking that haven't been around since the 90s. Lynch shows us what we lose by allowing television to supplant film while at the same time showing us how television can adopt those things to truly be a worthy successor. He demonstrates how important a director is in a medium that is now largely more associated with writers. The atmosphere, the editing, the tone of the performances--I don't think it was simply nostalgia that made me so happy, though it was like dreaming a dream I hadn't had in twenty years. It felt like a door was opened in a room I didn't even know I was in.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Lynch largely forgoes any attempt to bring new viewers up to speed. I think a receptive new viewer might enjoy this purely for the ingenuity of filmmaking but the story doesn't waste any time picking things up right where they were left twenty five years ago with the final episode of season two and the 1992 movie, Fire Walk with Me.

People wanted to see Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and that wonderful, charmingly innocent yet wise personality from the first episode, so I wondered if Lynch and Frost were going to dispense with the doppelgänger plot right away and try to have a sort of reboot. Maybe a new murder and then focus on the different townspeople and their reactions. Twin Peaks was originally conceived as a soap opera meets a detective procedural. Over the course of the second season, the soap opera aspect became noticeably stale and the detective aspect morphed the show into a supernatural detective series, and this is right where the new series picks up. Even Fire Walk with Me, which focused on the final days of Laura Palmer's life, was more about how the supernatural was an influence on that life and the ways in which supernatural planes interacted with the corporeal world and the FBI. The first shows to exhibit the influence of Twin Peaks, like The X-Files, tended to draw from the supernatural detective aspect while later shows like Veronica Mars or Broadchurch tended to focus on the more corporeal, earlier aspects of the show. In a world increasingly disinterested in stories of the surpernatural, or at any rate such stories that take themselves seriously, the new Twin Peaks may have trouble finding footing with new viewers, if Lynch's filmmaking brilliance can't win the day alone.

Remember what a boring idea it was when Steven Spielberg ditched the mysticism of the first three Indiana Jones films for aliens? Maybe audiences are ready to go back to that place with art more sophisticated than Dan Brown. Michael Cera's character, Wally Brando, introduced in the fourth episode of the new Twin Peaks, made me wonder if Lynch was mocking Shia Labeouf's character in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, who was, like Wally, introduced on a motorcycle wearing the identical costume based on Marlon Brando in The Wild One. We're not meant to take Wally as seriously, though, as Robert Forster shaking his head as he walked away seemed to indicate. Everyone figured out Cera would be playing the child of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) but I don't think anyone saw the beat Brando impression coming. But it's perfect--like Lucy and Andy, he's ridiculous while making the audience feel like there's more to him. There's a kind of poetry in his ridiculousness that seems as though it might present insight.

And with respect to Hawk (Michael Horse), I do think it's the bunnies. Lucy says she ate one bunny but we can see two and a half are missing.

I really like Robert Forster as the new Sheriff Truman. I'm sad that Michael Ontkean was unable to come out of retirement--it sounds like he has medical issues--but Forster is fantastic. Along with Lynch himself as Gordon Cole, I feel like we're seeing the face of old wisdom that, like so many other things, we don't see very often anymore. Look at how hard it was getting people to accept Peter Capaldi as the Doctor on Doctor Who.

Gods, that poster.

This leads me to another thing the new Twin Peaks gives us I haven't seen in a long time--a great supporting cast.

A great director can use a bad actor though a good actor doesn't usually hurt. I can't always tell which is which on Twin Peaks which is exactly as it should be. The great number of new people introduced are somehow both peculiar and extraordinarily credible. They're weird and yet very real. The soft cops who seem more interested in the process of getting into Ruth Davenport's apartment than in any bigger picture, the wife who's concerned about guests coming later while her husband's being arrested. The characters are types yet there's things about them that push towards being types of people you might meet than being types of people you might see on a television series. Part of this is that Lynch seems blessedly free of the increasingly neurotic political influence exerting itself in media.

The fat lady in the hotel is a good example. She's believably ditzy, there's no compulsion to give her a moment where we see she's exceptionally intelligent in some way, we don't have the need to get a flash of a whole backstory where she's in some way a badass. But I've known plenty of people like her. Lynch paints with a full palette of characters as he peoples his world. The young man watching the glass box and the girl trying to seduce him suggest full personalities with their mannerisms even as they have pretty simple functions in the story.

I guess they chose a pretty bad time to have sex. Or maybe it was the sex that attracted that weird, shivering entity. The show has always linked sex with the supernatural, often in violent, tragic ways. It's the cosmic judgement or sin that Laura Palmer died for, the inability for humans just to let love and sex happen and be beautiful without imposing ploys for dominance or hang-ups.

Damn, there's so much more to get to. As with Michael Ontkean, I was sad Michael J. Anderson couldn't return to the show, though from what I've heard it's because Anderson was being kind of a dick. Also as in the case of Truman, I really like how Lynch made do in the absence of the old actor, in this case by creating the "evolution of the arm".

As we learned in Fire Walk with Me, the little man in the red suit played by Anderson was in fact Phillip Gerard's (Al Strobel) missing arm. On the new series, where apparently people, living and dead, physically age in the supernatural realm called the Black Lodge, the little man has evolved into a sycamore tree with a bare brain or possibly wad of gum at the top. I wondered if Lynch could really do anything to make the all too familiar Red Room seem strange again and I think he pulled it off by taking things in a decidedly more Alice in Wonderland direction.

Poor Cooper, trapped in the lodge all this time. I haven't even started talking about Kyle MacLachlan! He's so far played three roles on this show. As the sinister doppelgänger Cooper, he shows that Lynch is still the same guy who created Frank Booth and Bob. I can't say I'm a fan of the hair style, but there's something effectively menacing about him, not merely from his aura of effective violence, but for things like the dialogue where he explains how he doesn't "need" anything--he only "wants".

Then there's poor Dougie, who seems not to have even been a real person, but rather a decoy. It's brilliantly sad to think about, this guy who has a wife and kids, yet you do get the impression that there is a lack of something about him.

Anyway. I could write a book. I loved Naomi Watts and the reintroduction of the Horne brothers, Jennifer Jason Leigh, the musical guests, Dr. Jacoby's art experiment in the woods, Albert--gods, Miguel Ferrer is so vital here--Chrysta Bell, Denise Bryson, Sarah Palmer's enormous television with the lions tearing apart their prey. And a million other things I'm leaving out. And there's more to come! We haven't even seen Big Ed yet!

Twitter Sonnet #995

The lonesome foghorn's plastic seeds the lake.
On banks unsafe for rings or horns she'll light.
A blue and hidden key's cocaine she'd take.
The antler shadows grew into the night.
The feathered crown is hitting houses shrunk.
On shaded lawn a frame encased a dream.
Norwegian subs for one eye have sunk.
The feathered watchers are not what they seem.
A fractured floor reveals the certain stars.
Contained in dimming light the shaking cry.
With ease the shot replaced the eyes in cars.
The horns have been and arms can try.
A bunny missing twice must take it black.
The coffee not like oil rights the track.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017
      ( 4:09 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

It won't be long now before we get to see a new episode of Twin Peaks. It's still not soon enough for me--"I want it now" has been repeating in my brain for over a year now; that and, "Why is it taking so long?" I've been getting ready over the past few days by watching INLAND EMPIRE, David Lynch's last feature film, released over ten years ago, and the final episode of Twin Peaks season two, the final episode of the series' original run. The two works are worlds apart, in their way, stylistically, but they're both inimitably David Lynch.

My love for David Lynch began in high school, in 1995 or 1996 or so. Lynch for me was very much a gateway drug, in terms of cinema and music. Before the Lost Highway soundtrack, all I listened to was orchestral film scores and "Weird Al" Yankovic. I went from being a nice Apollonian Trekkie to being a Dionysian lost cause pretty much thanks to David Lynch. Well, I may be overstating it slightly. But suddenly after Lost Highway my John Williams and James Horner CDs started gathering dust as I became a fan of David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, and The Smashing Pumpkins, and instead of watching Star Trek II for a few hundred more times, I started watching not only David Lynch but also Cronenberg, South Korean horror movies, the Godfather films, and so much other weird shit. Something about Lynch showed me that there was more to art than a clever story about a nice shiny future or a sensible adventure.

I'd also have to credit my high school film-as-literature teacher, Martin Johnson, who's retiring this month. I suspect also the simple fact that I was a teenager made me more open to weird, transgressive stuff, too. But looking back, it seems to me a crucial step into adulthood, moving from my personal Age of Enlightenment into something like a personal Romanticism into Gothic and Realism (I'm referring to trends in art and literature of the late 18th century through the 19th). I can only hope with this new Twin Peaks Lynch will spur a similar maturation in audiences addicted to the simple linear logic of superhero films. I doubt it, but it would be nice.

INLAND EMPIRE, despite being, until later to-night, Lynch's latest film, may not offer any clues as to what to expect from the new Twin Peaks. Watching it a few nights ago, I was struck by the extraordinary number of close-ups, far more than in any of his other films. Often shots that start as close-ups get even closer with the effect of dehumanising the human face until it's an inscrutable mask of flesh.

Part of the reason for this, I believe, was Lynch's newfound love for low-quality digital video. Like found footage films, one of the effects of low quality footage is it makes it harder to see what might be lurking in the shadows and sudden movement and gradually revealed shapes are made eerier. But if you want to see facial expressions, you can't use long shots. But I don't think this is the only reason for the close-ups--INLAND EMPIRE is such an interior film, a beautiful and scary hallucination experienced by Laura Dern's character where suddenly no human face is familiar enough not to become frighteningly alien.

The finale of Twin Peaks season 2, by contrast, features an extraordinary number of long shots--long in duration and long as in distance between camera and subject. This, the first episode Lynch had directed in quite some time--he'd been away shooting Wild at Heart--in so many ways was clearly intended as a jab at the show Twin Peaks had turned into in Lynch's absence; an average, unremarkable soap opera. Filled with sudden, absurd, and violent terminations to plot threads, it also features some almost sadistic cinematic technique, particularly for a television screen.

It's hard for me to watch the old Twin Peaks because I've watched it just about to death, mainly just the David Lynch episodes, over and over, but one of the nice things about the Blu-Ray was the fresh perspective it gave. This final episode of season two is one of the ones that benefits most because of those long shots. Suddenly that charmingly excruciating scene in the bank, with the little old man shuffling from Audrey to Andrew and Pete, is a completely new scene because I can make out everyone's facial expressions.

But I always loved that scene, so fucking much. It's just such a beautiful and oddly sweet "fuck you" to the show that had become plot point, plot point, plot point, to plot point. Lynch mercilessly cranked it all down to have us watch this little old guy dealing with a slightly strange day at the bank that ends ludicrously and enigmatically.

I'm so glad Lynch is directing every episode of the new series, I'm so glad that he played hardball to get the budget he needed. To everyone who's talked about this new golden age of television, it's true, we are seeing some incredible TV. But whatever we see to-night, I guarantee it'll be like nothing you're used to.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017
      ( 4:42 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

This week's exceptionally existential new Doctor Who, "Extremis", tackled the meaning of individual endeavour in a potentially meaningless world. Last week, the show tackled capitalism and this week has gone on to religion, using the Catholic Church as a context but addressing the more universal function of belief. It turned out to be a really lovely episode and featured possibly the most profound statement ever conceived about Super Mario Brothers.

Spoilers after the screenshot

I was saying to a friend of mine a few months ago, Professor Peter Herman at SDSU, that some piece of dystopian fiction seemed prophetic now that Trump is in office and Professor Herman replied, "Everything bad seems prophetic now." I thought of this watching "Extremis", in the scene where Bill (Peal Mackie) finds the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) sitting alone in the White House Oval Office with the corpse of a president who's just killed himself.

Of course, this whole season of Doctor Who was recorded before last year's U.S. election and even if the makers of the show knew who was going to be president they likely desired to avoid any of the attendant trouble in suggesting someone very like the actual president committed suicide. That's probably why the president on the show resembles neither Trump or Clinton, a nondescript white man with black hair. Though the level of intellectual contemplation suggested as a motive for suicide would also rule out Trump. But the story of a world where the truth can't be known because of the sophistication of the lies that shape apparent reality, paired with a portrayal of the U.S. government, couldn't fail to seem like an apt reflection of current affairs.

Which makes the Doctor's solution all the more resonant, the beautifully delivered concept of virtue without hope--reminding me of the line from Aragorn in Return of the King, about "valour without renown." It would be easy to compare "Extremis" to The Matrix but its idea is much more humanistic than a story about a regular guy who ends up being the Chosen One--in this episode, the Doctor discovers he isn't even really the Doctor, in fact not even a real person, and he presents the argument that it doesn't matter because he's defined by his actions. This is also not an idea new to this story--not new to television or even new to Doctor Who but it was beautifully delivered here. I particularly liked the pairing of it with the Catholic Church, emphasising the nature of the question as being an ancient preoccupation of the human mind worth exploring again and again. The bad times which prompt such questions and make them seem particularly crucial, after all, keep popping up.

I loved how the Doctor's epiphany at the climax came in the form of words spoken to him by Missy (Michelle Gomez) when she was in fact repeating words he'd spoken to her. It's even better because we know she probably doesn't mean them, forcing us to analyse the value in the words themselves--there's no hope she believes in deeds done with promise of "no hope."

The Doctor's blindness was another perfect device for this story, the idea of this blind man trying to read a deadly book called "the truth" being a clever metaphorical portrayal of what the process of seeking truth might be--and Capaldi does such a beautiful job allowing the despair to come through which he's fighting against.

Pearl Mackie continues to be good but this episode particularly drew my attention to Matt Lucas. I knew he could be funny but here he was also excellent delivering some straight forward sincere stuff. His dread approaching the edge of the projectors was great.

And I'm going to make a prediction right now--I think these hooded guys are the Cybermen. It makes sense that they'd be the ones to create a vast simulation of Earth--which isn't too far from the idea of Mondas being an alternate Earth. It looks like they're going to be in next week's episode, too, presumably outside the simulation but I still feel pretty strongly we're seeing Mondasians. To those who don't understand why the original Mondasian Cybermen are scarier, imagine those Cybermen look like this but with a thin cloth mask.

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