Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Really Good Towers

Why on earth did I watch Paradise Towers again? I suppose I am scraping the bottom of the barrel on Doctor Who rewatches. If anyone wants to request a serial for me to review, please do so.

Actually, Paradise Towers isn't all bad. It's kind of adorable, really, especially the Kangs and Pex (Howard Cooke). I also really like the villain, the Chief Caretaker, played by Richard Briers.

I was surprised to read that most people hate his performance, considering it over the top. According to the TARDIS wiki and Wikipedia, both John Nathan-Turner and Andrew Cartmel thought he was playing it too broad. As far as I can tell, he and Sylvester McCoy were the only ones who matched the tone of their performances to the material. Seriously, over the top? When Briers runs a crew of SS dressed as bellhops, Briers himself has a Hitler moustache, and their enemies are groups of pacifist girl gangs with names like Fire Escape (Julie Brennon) and Drinking Fountain (Catherine Cusack)? Is this really the time for sober dramatic subtlety?

The resort tower the Doctor brings Mel (Bonnie Langford) to turns out to be populated by gangs and nice little old lady cannibals who enjoy devouring tea, crumpets, and people. The two are separated so Mel begins a desperate search for the Doctor and the legendary swimming pool on the top floor. Along the way she meets Pex, a send up of '80s action heroes who was conceived by writer Stephen Wyatt as a massive body builder but, in a production miscommunication, was cast with a fairly slim actor, leading to a few unintentionally absurd lines.

Boy, Mel sure is happy to finally find that surprisingly ordinary looking swimming pool. Bonnie Langford acts as hard as she can to convey her pleasure at being able to swim for some reason.

Meanwhile, the Doctor teaches the Kangs how to use vending machines. I wonder if there was ever at any point an explanation for the Kangs being all girls. This may not be the most well thought out serial.

Twitter Sonnet #1438

Potato cats were carved to starch a shirt.
In walking east, the scrumptious steps were cooked.
The prairie clowns are bursting out the yurt.
Behind the desk, the tiny guests are booked.
A waiting sleep prolonged the drooping lids.
For dryer deserts washing needs a sock.
The auction bird would "caw" for all the bids.
The crown above the stone was just a rock.
The turning heat resolved the frozen side.
For showing soon, the letter prompts a skip.
In using trains, the boy effects to ride.
In building planes, the man prefers a ship.
The door was closed before the sun could rise.
The troubles came in densely packaged pies.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Pay No Attention to the People Behind the Tube

One of the least interesting characters in the MCU seeks the daughter of one of the dumbest characters in last night's lame new episode of WandaVision. The first truly bad episode of the series, it featured the kind of starchy editing and smarmy exposition I associate with Agents of SHIELD, one of the big reasons I stopped watching that show.

Devoid of good performances, the episode begins with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) waking up in a hospital after the "blip", when half the population "died" for five years. She wonders where her mother is--it's eventually revealed her mother was in hospital for cancer treatment and she died in Monica's absence. From this point on, characters refer to Monica as "Rambeau"--pronounced like "Rambo"--which invariably caused me to picture Sylvester Stallone. Is that my age speaking? Is that brand no longer widely recognised?

I bet Disney thinks this is a nice clever way of creating Monica's brand, giving her this setup on WandaVision. I feel bad for any innocent person who loses their mother but Teyonah Parris, while pretty, lacks any kind of charm or creativity in her performance and her lines are exclusively exposition. She meets up with the current director of SWORD, a beefy blond guy (Josh Stamberg) who smirks sympathetically while explaining the situation to her.

He laments taking over he organisation from the more worthy senior Rambo, I mean Rambeau, commenting that there just wasn't anyone else available. Poor schmuck, no-one cares.

"No-one cares," is a line we get from Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), Jane Foster's snarky friend from the first Thor movie who's called in here to investigate the phenomenon trapping people of a small American town within a pixelised perimeter. She asks the other scientists in the car with her for their fields of expertise despite the fact that--as one points out--they're not allowed to talk to each other. They tell her their jobs anyway and when the last guy gives his credential she looks out the window, settling into her snark like a cosy blanket, and says, "No-one cares." Boom! You totally got him, girl, for answering the question you asked! Zing!

She manages to pick up the transmissions of Wanda's (Elisabeth Olsen) and Vision's (Paul Bettany) TV shows. The teams of experts monitor and analyse but for some reason no-one comments on the Hydra commercials.

So, it's bad, but at least it's short, I guess I can tune in next time for Olsen and Bettany. This episode did have one good moment where Olsen briefly glimpsed a creepy dead Vision. Those two do have chemistry.

WandaVision is available on Disney+.

Vampires of Affection

Many shows have holiday episodes but I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the only one to have two Valentine's Day episodes in a row. February 1998 brought "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" followed by "Passion". The first is a funny episode about Xander accidentally casting a love spell on every girl in town and the second is a strong dramatic episode about Angel.

What does it mean when a character goes evil on a show? We could talk about metaphors for how people change but I prefer to see it as what it is on the surface--a guy's soul suddenly being confiscated. Boy, is he ever sadistic in this episode, too, making good on his promise not to just kill people but to make them psychologically suffer.

Of course, this episode is famous for featuring the death of a major character, Jenny (Robia LaMorte). It is nice that the show was able to keep the stakes high though, to be honest, I tend to forget about Jenny if I haven't watched the show in a while. Which is ironic since a famous piece of the episode's background score is called "Remembering Jenny".

It's a nice piece of music and apparently Ed Sheeran thinks so, too, because he sampled it for his song "Afire Love" in 2014.

I like how the episode begins and ends with Angel (David Boreanaz) discussing the nature of passion. It's a little cheesy at first but by the end it's kind of fascinating that he actually seems a bit insightful even as he is clearly a complete psychopath.

The episode was directed by series cinematographer Michael Gershman who does a decent job except I don't think he knew how to direct actors. When Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) finds an envelope on her pillow when she wakes up, I really think she should start to look disturbed before she opens it and sees Angel sketched her while she slept. Instead she looks like she's wondering if she coughed the thing up during the night.

The death of Jenny does work very well dramatically. The effect on Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is very strong but I feel like Willow's (Alyson Hannigan) is even stronger. A connexion between the two is underlined when Jenny asks Willow to substitute for her and Willow gets really excited by the opportunity. It's brief but it does clearly convey how Willow looked up to Jenny and was gratified to be given such an opportunity. When Willow breaks down on hearing about Jenny's death, it does feel earned.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available in a lousy cropped format on Amazon Prime.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Brief Expanse

The winning subplot this season on The Expanse is Amos and Clarissa on Earth with Naomi coming in second. I liked Bobbie and Alex early on but they've been stuck in that little ship flying back and forth for a few episodes now. Shohreh Anghdashloo is wonderful as always but her plot is a little too much like a coded message about the U.S. wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Holden, as always, is a drip, though the stuff about Fred Johnson and the reporter in his subplot was nice. But nothing holds a candle to Amos and Clarissa, especially not after last night.

It began as a story about a former gangster returning home. Then it became a sci fi prison escape film. Then it was a wilderness survival film. And finally, last night, it became a household siege film. Through it all, Amos (Wes Chatham) and Clarissa (Nadine Nicole) are an unlikely duo of murderers, each one complementing the other's strengths and flaws. Amos is the durable tank without empathy, Clarissa is the vulnerable, occasionally super powerful, and overly passionate slasher. It's a classic comic combo.

All in all, though, this hasn't been an especially strong season. I really miss David Strathairn and Thomas Jane. I feel like the first three seasons were the strongest.

The Expanse is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1437

The absent lemon boosts the wooden car.
For coffee spilled the milky air absorbs.
The very space was split to make a star.
The eyes were white and dark within the orbs.
The chipper mouse was lost amid the gloom.
A leading thread arrived before the shirt.
Construction stopped beside the rusty loom.
A gear contracts a case of coffee dirt.
The talking blobs were pudding words in mouths.
The quiver aced the arrow quizzing gel.
The varied norths reflect the waving souths.
The brainy sea assumes propellers well.
A heap of masts divert avenging ships.
The fire sauce absorbs the salty chips.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Mouse in the Deerstalker

What if Sherlock Holmes was a mouse? It's a question not often asked, but it was answered anyway by Disney's 1986 animated film The Great Mouse Detective. It's a homage not only to the original Sherlock Holmes stories but also to a specific, popular incarnation--Basil Rathbone. The children's books on which the film's based are even more explicit about it, being called Basil of Baker Street. A far less ambitious effort than The Black Cauldron, this Disney film achieves much greater success at being fun and exciting. It even succeeds at having a better villain, a Moriarty pastiche called Ratigan, voiced by none other than Vincent Price. Along with a peg-legged bat henchmen, the villains in this film significantly outshine its heroes.

Vincent Price carries off an extraordinarily manic, bombastic performance brilliantly, especially as it's matched by equally expressive animation. A big fellow crammed into a suit and cloak, he seems a combination of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight and Paul Muni in Scarface. Although he's clearly a rat, we discover at the end of his great musical number that he seeks to present himself as a mouse. He actually feeds a henchman, a mouse, to a cat when he dares call Ratigan a rat. I believe it's the only time I've ever seen a cartoon cat actually catch and devour a cartoon mouse.

Perhaps this is the lasting influence of The Black Cauldron and The Fox and the Hound. For a brief time, Disney was a little more comfortable showing death.

Ratigan's hangup about being seen as a rat takes us back to classism, though, especially since at one point Basil calls him a "sewer rat" in contrast to Ratigan's attempt to pass himself off as royalty. Again, I'm reminded of Paul Muni in the original Scarface, gesturing at the "World is Yours" sign.

As if Ratigan weren't enough, he's accompanied by a peculiar chief henchmen, a bat with a peg leg voiced by the legendary voice artist Candy Candido. The animation matches his inimitable voice well--jittery and aggressive, he also seems a bit like a 1930s gangster or Universal monster.

But what of Basil (Barrie Ingham) and Dawson (Val Bettin), the story's version of Holmes and Watson? They're . . . fine. Really kind of run of the mill, actually. Dawson isn't very interesting at all, not even being a lovable doofus like Nigel Bruce in the Rathbone films. He does have one amusing moment where he's carried away by a kick line, something that may have been consciously borrowed from 1970's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Basil is fun when he's energetically solving a problem though, surprisingly, he doesn't come off much like Basil Rathbone. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, his portrayal is based more on Leslie Howard.

The Great Mouse Detective invites obvious comparisons to The Rescuers though I can't say for sure which is the better film. Both have strong villains. The Rescuers has better protagonists but The Great Mouse Detective has better music. After the embarrassingly bad songs in The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound, Disney wasn't taking any chances--they got Elmer Bernstein for The Black Cauldron and Henry Mancini for The Great Mouse Detective. In the latter case, they were able to make it pay off for one really good musical number, "The World's Greatest Mind".

Also like The Rescuers, the case on which our protagonists are engaged involves a child in peril, though, in this instance, at least initially, it's the parent that's abducted, not the child herself. Her father is a Scottish mouse voiced by Alan Young, who also voiced Scrooge McDuck and he never quite succeeds at making the mouse sound any different, which is a bit distracting. He's a toy maker, captured by Ratigan so he can make a mechanical replacement for the Queen in a plot reminiscent of the Doctor Who serial The Androids of Tara.

The book has the mice consciously imitating Holmes while the film simply has Basil living in the same building with no explanation for his aping the human's style. There's a brief cameo by a recording of Basil Rathbone put into the mouth of Holmes, which is charming for those of us who love Basil Rathbone. And I do, though my favourite Holmes is still Jeremy Brett.

The Great Mouse Detective is available on Disney+.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Droids versus Zombies

It's called "Massacre" but I'd forgotten how nuts this fourth season episode of Clone Wars was. Featuring absolutely no "good" characters, it's the story of a single battle and rout, of the droid army laying seige to a whole civilisation. And not just your average goofy Star Wars alien civilisation, this is the Nightsisters of Dathomir who employ witches and zombies in their defence. Like so many episodes of Clone Wars, it keeps you captivated with the sensation that anything can happen.

It's very cinematic, too, I can imagine it looking great on a movie screen. Directed by Steward Kee and written by Katie Lucas, it returns us to the ongoing troubles of Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), former apprentice of Count Dooku (Corey Burton). After failing in her attempts to get revenge on him, Ventress returns to her home world Dathomir to join the fold of the Nightsisters.

She's baptised in a special ceremony before feasting begins. Meanwhile, General Grievous (Matthew Wood) is marshalling his forces for an onslaught. It seems like a one-sided battle until an ancient member of the Nightsisters (Kathleen Gati), hidden safely in a secret chamber, raises an army of zombies.

The Nightsisters are so impressive in this episode it strengthens the impact when they start to lose. You come away from the episode with a new sense of the strength of Grevious and his droids as well as a surprising sadness for the Nightsisters, even if they are a whole population of murderers. Even before the Disney acquisition, making both sides villains was likely the only way the show could get away with something like this. It's a liberating concept, as Quentin Tarantino showed with several of his films.

Clone Wars is available on Disney+.

Twitter Sonnet #1436

The av'rage trek was deemed a lofty myth.
Behind a veil of glowing bugs we dance.
The whispers claimed the nervous ghost's a Sith.
But something mild took the polished chance.
The endless show would never roll the cast.
The thought of broken legs preserved the sea.
A clutch of words was nailed against the mast.
In neutral waters, stronger fish can see.
An easy trap for air was just a can.
The building's height was built around a fall.
The watcher turned to be, of course, a man.
And something moved the mind to build a wall.
Escaping sides create the boundless square.
A billion eyes reflect the Devil's stare.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Convenience of the Disliked

How does a community of ordinary people become a vicious mob, ready to humiliate and sacrifice a scapegoat? Panique presents a chillingly credible answer. A French film shot in Nice and released in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, it does seem intended as a critique of wartime collaborators, despite the fact that it's based on a novel from 1933. Yet the film thankfully avoids speaking only in the generalities necessary to make it just a coded message, telling instead a specific story about singular individuals. Director Julien Duvivier creates powerful compositions of editing and framing. The stars of the film, Viviane Romance and Michel Simon, seal the deal with incredible performances, particularly Simon.

He plays Monsieur Hire, a big, peculiar gentleman living alone in a little apartment. The first shot is him in silhouette getting off a train, his big black hat and curly beard giving him the look of a Hasidic Jew. He's identified as Jewish in the novel but I don't think the film ever mentions his religion.

He likes to take voyeuristic pictures of unhappy human subjects and his brusque manner makes him unpopular at the shops and cafes. In one scene, he tries to ride a bumper car and everyone else in the rink seems to zero in on him without even thinking about it.

Meanwhile, a beautiful young woman called Alice (Romance) comes to town. She's recently been released from prison where she took the rap for her boyfriend Albert's (Paul Bernard) robbery. To play it safe, she and Albert arrange to pretend to meet for the first time at a cafe and begin their happy lives anew. Unfortunately, that weird voyeur Hire has been peeping at Alice from his apartment across the street and he has some very dangerous information about Alfred.

One might say it's hardly Hire's fault if Alice decides to stand by her window wearing only a slip when he happens look outside--maybe he's more culpable for allowing his gaze to linger. He is a lonely man, after all, and one, we later learn, with an unlucky romantic history.

It's very wise of the film not to make him a saint--this is a movie about human beings and is more powerful for it. Alice is also an interesting character. When Hire hints to her the extent of possible crimes Alfred has committed, she tests Alfred and then triumphantly embraces Alfred in view of Hire when her test seems to prove him innocent. And yet, when suddenly it's clear her test yielded an inaccurate result, her loyalty to Alfred increases. Perhaps because she'd slept with him. In for a penny, in for a pound.

And there's a murder. Hire probably doesn't help his case when he describes the crowd around the body as flies attracted by carrion. But he's a very clever man, as we can see by how deftly he avoids playing his hand. He's also physically strong but uses his strength prudently. Contrasted with this is an intriguingly refined sensibility--despite falling head over heels for Alice, he positively refuses to allow her to see his apartment when it's messy. Both of these things add to the enormous horror when the mob decides to hurt him.

Panique is available on The Criterion Channel.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Who's Dax?

I love it when Sci-Fi addresses problems that don't exist. Last night I watched "Dax", a 1993 first season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which Jadzia Dax faces the legal ramifications of a crime possibly committed by Curzon Dax, the previous host of a the Dax symbiote. The central question of the episode is whether or not the combination of a sentient parasite and humanoid host's brain can be held legally accountable for actions of a combination of that same parasite with a different humanoid host. No-one in real life can identify with this problem and I love it.

There are a lot of ways you could translate it to real life issues. You could say it's an allegory for a "sins of the father" story, a different way of looking at how someone might have legal responsibility for the actions of a forebear. It could be seen as a transgender issue inviting us to contemplate in what ways a person is really the same person before or after they transitioned. It could be looked at as an issue of whether or not psychologically altering medical conditions, physical or psychological, alter the culpability of an individual in criminal matters. It really doesn't fit any bill perfectly so it can be interpreted in so many ways and, in doing so, invites us to contemplate any number of issues in ways we may never have otherwise.

This was the last script D.C. Fontana worked on. A writer from the 1960s' original Star Trek series, she co-wrote the teleplay with Peter Allan Fields who came up with the story. The concept, though, according to the Star Trek wiki, was concocted by producer Ira Steven Behr along with Allen Fields. The legal drama itself isn't very interesting--Jadzia (Terry Farrell) stoically refuses to defend herself when a group of aliens attempt to extradite her to their planet in order to stand trial for the murder of an important general many years ago. Odo (Rene Auberjonois) goes to the planet to investigate and interviews the wife of the deceased general, played by none other than Fionnula Flanagan, who also guest starred on The Next Generation that same year.

It's pretty easy to figure out why Dax is keeping her mouth shut but it's nice watching Rene Auberjonois work, especially after I so recently watched him in 1972's Images in which he played such a very different character. I noticed anew how much work he put into constructing Odo's mannerisms and voice.

The best stuff is in the courtroom, though I wish they hadn't used Quark's bar for it. According to the wiki, this wasn't a production issue, the idea being that the station was too wrecked for any conference room to be available, but frankly I don't buy it. A cargo bay or even empty living quarters would've been more appropriate and feasible. It reminds me of when the roadhouse was used as a courtroom on Twin Peaks. In addition to not making sense, it erodes some of the character of the space itself. But it's still great watching Sisko (Avery Brooks) and guest star Gregory Itzin arguing about what makes Dax . . . Dax. It doesn't resolve one way or the other but that's fine. It keeps a nice point of ambiguity that keeps the character intriguing for the rest of the series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available on Netflix.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Are Sitcoms Not Real?

The third episode of WandaVision premiered last night and, at a mere 33 minutes, there wasn't much of it. Actually, more like 26 minutes because six minutes were credits. To be fair, two minutes were credits for the voice dub casts for various countries (why am I seeing these?) but why do so many fingers need to be in the pie of something that mostly looks like a sitcom?

That's a lot of resumes being padded, eh? There was a really unconvincing cgi stork in the episode so I'm sure at least five people ought to have legitimately been credited for special effects.

It's a '70s show now and in colour. Slightly less time is spent on the goofy plot about Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) trying to hide her rapid pregnancy. We get a few hints about alien agency.

People on the internet noticed this symbol represents "SWORD", a government organisation like SHIELD, one that deals with extraterrestrial threats. It's worn by actress Teyonah Parris who, as everyone online seems to already know, is secretly playing Monica Rambeau, daughter of one of the worst characters in Captain Marvel. Wanda seems upset when she realises her sitcom costar isn't what she appears--Vision (Paul Bettany) just seems intrigued when their other neighbours seem fishy. Which makes it seem like Wanda's running this show.

But what's with all the Hydra product commercials then? Maybe Hydra created the simulation and Wanda's hijacked it while SWORD are sending in agents to try to rescue her? Since Vision was apparently killed in Infinity War, maybe the one we're seeing is a reconstruction based in the simulation and that's why Wanda doesn't want to escape. But then what would be the purpose of the simulation in the first place? It looks like it's taking up space on Earth so maybe it's part of some kind of world takeover plan? But why is everyone making their logos so visible, particularly the SWORD agent? Maybe they're reflections of Wanda's subconscious identifying people and things.

Olsen and Bettany continue to have nice chemistry, nice enough I'd like to see more of their characters having some honest interaction instead of the increasingly dopey sitcom routine.

WandaVision is available on Disney+.

Space Politics and Hot Wires

Wednesday's new episode of The Expanse almost felt like it'd become a survival series. With the story about Amos and Clarissa trying to survive on an Earth devastated by massive rocks and Naomi just trying to jury rig a radio on a booby trapped ship it almost felt like The Walking Dead.

Avasarala's plot, though, feels a bit more like an Iraq War allegory as she seems to be the only one of the acting leader's advisory team not advocating attacking Belter stations with civilians. Considering the scale of destruction caused by Marco, it's no wonder some Earth brass start thinking "It's us are them." It got me wondering just how big the Belter population is.

I feel like they should be spending more time figuring out if Marco is capable of another attack like the one he pulled off. The Belters seem so scattered and small that going nuclear on them seems odd.

But the episode's centrepiece was really Naomi struggling to warn people against following her phony distress signal.

We watch her struggle to connect and cut wires properly in oxygen free corridors while still suffering from exposure to a vaccuum is captivating. The show's renowned predilection for exploring science possibilities in a true old fashioned Sci-Fi way is served well by another good performance from Dominique Tipper.

The Expanse is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1435

The boiled yam was never drawn as fresh.
To chop the cabbage brings the green to dine.
With steamy metal, food o'rwhelmed the mesh.
Connexions caught the taste of Jerez wine.
The floating trunk creates the elephant.
The drinking nose returned an eyeless stare.
The eating man rejects the applicant.
But dancing leaves'd yet relinquish care.
Selective hands were spider shades at work.
The timing clicked before the watches wound.
We count the song as Lisa's seventh perk.
The falling leaves support the floating ground.
There's drifting planet people swimming late.
The island name implied a lonesome wait.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Joe is In

Looks like we have a new president, arguably the first one we've had in four years. Unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden has a long career of leadership roles in government office behind him. He's more qualified and more mature--and I mean that in a positive way. His detractors tend to go after his age which does seem like it's affecting him. He certainly seems wearier than the Joe Biden I remember running against Obama for the Democratic nomination twelve years ago. But that may be an advantage as much as a disadvantage. Certainly, we could use a less impulsive leader.

His inaugural speech, like most such speeches, had little in the way of substance, offering instead abstract soliloquising about unity. Some of it pretty good--I particularly liked the quote from Saint Augustine. But rhetoric about unity is really a slap in the face to the opposing side if it's not accompanied by any show of understanding. Implying Trump's followers are all racists who watch fake news isn't a unifying gesture. I continue to marvel at how people seem increasingly unaware of the inflammatory things they say.

I'm pessimistic, obviously. For all he said about the working class, I don't think Biden will find ways to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. or make strides to employ those left unemployed by the popular shift to online shopping. I don't know what power he has to reverse the homeless crisis and the bizarre real estate environment causing it. But maybe time will prove me wrong. At least he won't be distracted by petty squabbles on Twitter, or try to distract us with them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Time Travelling Lamp

I felt concerned for a Tiffany lamp I saw in an action scene on Buffy the Vampire Slayer last week. The second season episode, "The Dark Age", has Buffy and Jenny (possessed by a demon) tossing each other around in Giles' apartment. I spotted what looked like a Tiffany lamp in the fray.

I should have remembered what a low budget the show had--there's no way they would've had the money to break anything that even looked half convincingly like a Tiffany lamp. Buffy and demon Jenny conveniently tossed each other about in the other direction.

Then, last night, I was watching an episode of The Magicians in which Penny space and time travels into a room and knocks over a Tiffany lamp. Not a real one, I'm sure, but it seemed like an omen to me.

I really don't have the binge watching instinct, I guess. I started watching The Magicians years ago and I'm only just now approaching the end of the final season which premiered in the first half of last year. It's rare for me to even watch two episodes on consecutive nights. And I do like the show. Though I think some series may more naturally compel me to serial viewings. I'm quite happy to watch Buffy on a nightly basis, for example. I think it's something about the untethered quality of the writing on The Magicians.

The first two seasons of this Harry Potter for grad students focuses on the characters' messy personal lives and nurtured resentments. But very soon the show became something much more like watching a group of MMORPG gamers. Which is fun. The magic, curses, earth shattering events, trips to the underworld and alternate dimensions, feel less and less tangible as it all comes along so quickly and casually. It's also a bit like a 1930s adventure serial. The excitement is in the feeling that absolutely anything could happen next. There's no sense of any master plan, anyone trying to tie together themes. When something is referenced from an earlier season, it feels like the writers said, "Oh, hey, remember--?" and built on that rather than like they had this stuff in their minds all along. Like when Elliot remembers the "Inner Light" style lifetime romance he had with a recently deceased character. Suddenly the writers realised he had a much bigger claim on the character than Alice, who'd been more in the spotlight.

A lot of things just seem to settle in for convenience. The characters visited the apartment of one of their adversaries and as discussions there continued over several episodes suddenly they were living in it. An off-hand line is given to the original owner of the apartment to sort of, but not really, explain it. This didn't explain the fact that, despite the group having lived there for some time, the decor still looks like an department store display.

Maybe everyone's too busy trying to destroy the moon or grief counsel Hades or time travel to think about stuff like that. The Magicians made a choice to be completely ungrounded at some point. Maybe it takes some impact out of the events portrayed but there is such a nice stream of inventiveness to it I continue to enjoy it. It's like listening to kids at a slumber party make up stories all night.