Television: Elementary, "Dead Clade Walking"

While Holmes is at Randy's beck and call (you'll recall Randy is the recovering addict Holmes has agreed to sponsor), Watson digs into one of Holmes's old cold cases and finds new leads.

The murder of Doug Newburg has gone unsolved for three years. But Watson notices an odd rock in an old photograph of Newburg's yard and brings in a geologist for a better look. Turns out the rock is from the Cretaceous period, and when Watson brings it for a scan, a rare dinosaur skeleton is discovered within.

Here yet again we are faced with the whole that-guy-you-met-briefly-is-the-one-who-did-it scenario. Watson and Holmes talk to Dr. Thomas at a local museum to get the scoop on the nanotyrannus (like a small tyrannosaurus). Remember him because he'll be important later, by which I mean in the last four minutes of the show.

We take off on predictable lines from there: black market collectors, etc. But then the black market guy is found murdered and the fossil smashed to bits. If not wanted for its value, why kill for it and destroy it?

Turns out the skeleton advances a controversial paleontological theory. I won't go into specifics because they aren't really relevant to the core of the plot, namely that those against the theory would want the skeleton gone to prevent themselves from looking like fools. OR . . . to prevent their textbooks from becoming obsolete. Which maybe amounts to the same thing: wounded pride. Though the second also involves a wounded wallet.

And so we come back around to Dr. Thomas from the museum. Nothing very exciting in this story, and it's a wonder Holmes didn't solve it, though it seems he may have been high during those years. (Oh, if you're wondering about Doug Newburg—his smuggler friend asked him to hold on to the rock for him, but then Doug was killed by those who didn't want the fossil on the market, and so the fossil remained hidden in the rock in Doug's yard . . . It was only when the fossil re-emerged on the market that the people trying to keep it secret were motivated to kill again, this time the black market dude. Perhaps it was the lack of clear motivation on the part of the killer that stymied Holmes at the time.)

Meanwhile, back at the B Plot, we have Holmes meeting repeatedly with Randy, whose [ex?] girlfriend Eve has turned up after a year or more away. She was the one who got him started on drugs, and now that she's back . . . Asking to crash at Randy's place . . . He's afraid he'll start using again. The answer here seems pretty clear: No more Eve. Holmes tries at first to be gentle, but then frustration gets the better of him and he snaps at Randy. So Randy goes and gets high with Eve. Then comes back around to tell Holmes he's dropped Eve.

This story was not terribly well done. The emotions here were stilted, and maybe that was the point, but on the whole it failed to hit whatever mark it was aiming for—it failed to hit much of anything. Seemed more like a way to fill the rest of the hour. Holmes-as-sponsor has potential, but it needs to be played very carefully. Here it was flat. So far he's a better patient than he is doctor. Maybe, since he's taught Watson so much, she can return the favor? Teach him a bit about being a sponsor?

The one interesting insertion in the episode is the item that was mostly a throw away: Holmes has an erotic penpal. They send each other naughty letters. We meet "C." ever so briefly, since it turns out she works for an auction service. How interesting it might have been if she'd been the murderer . . . But she was too nice, too elegant for that. I would actually have been sad if it had been her. Would have made a great plot twist though. And this show could do with a few more twists.


Television: AHS: Coven, "The Seven Wonders"

While the finale did manage to put a neat bow on things, I have to say, on the whole Coven was a right mess and nowhere near as well done as Asylum.

The episode started with what amounted to a Stevie Nix video, her singing about the seven wonders and rainbows as the candidates for Supreme prepared for the big test. Each was to attempt the seven wonders themselves so as to determine who would next rule the coven.

Candidates were Madison, Zoe, Queenie, and Misty.

They started with telekinesis. All good. Mind control, which led to Madison and Zoe fighting it out over Kyle. Still, everyone passed. But then we got to descending into the underworld, easy enough to do; it's the getting back out that's difficult. And that's where we lost Misty to her own personal hell, which apparently is biology class.

Next up was transmutation. AKA: witch tag. And here is where we lost Zoe, who ended up impaled on one of the iron spires of the gates. Which led naturally to bringing the dead back to life (if only Misty were there!). Queenie was unable to bring Zoe back, knocking her out of contention. And Madison—who proved she could do it by bringing back a dead fly—refused to revive Zoe.

With all rivals out of the running, Madison naturally assumed she was the next Supreme. But Myrtle talked Cordelia into throwing her hat into the ring. And so Cordelia played catch up: telekinesis, mind control, transmutation, the underworld . . . And then they came to divination. Which would seem to be the least of a witch's gifts (or powers, if you prefer), but which totally stumped Madison. Cordelia, of course, passed with flying colors.

In a fit of temper, Madison goes to pack her bags and threatens to sic TMZ on the coven. But while Cordelia was down in the greenhouse bringing Zoe back, Kyle was up in Madison's room throttling her to death for not helping Zoe. Then Spaulding turned up to help Kyle get rid of the body.

Now confirmed as the Supreme, Cordelia called in the television stations and made the coven known to the world. Better to control the information, one supposes. But this felt like a retread of the end of Asylum. Don't the writers have any new ideas?

And then Myrtle insisted on being burned at the stake again. Which seemed like poor planning because one would think, now that everyone knows about the coven, they might be under surveillance. Like . . . Would this turn into an X-Men kind of thing where people want to monitor the witches and pass laws meant to restrict and/or control them? But clearly the writers weren't interested in the larger ramifications.

Of course the show could not end without one last visit from Fiona. There was some drivel about how she'd tricked everyone into believing she was dead, but the sum total of her visit was that she died for real and went into a hell of her own, an eternity spent with the Axeman. Whatever. The conversation between Fiona and Cordelia demonstrated that the overall theme of the show was meant to be a mother-daughter rivalry kind of thing. But I'm not convinced the writers are qualified to comment on such a theme. And all of their "commentary" remained highly superficial. Yes, the young ones supplant the old. (Kyle, too, ended up taking Spaulding's place as "the help.") And yes, it is often a messy transition. But so? Give me something deeper.

What made Coven more feeble than Asylum was its lack of focus. Coven chose to cut wide rather than deep and suffered for it. Any number of the plots had potential—the witch hunters, the church-going neighbors, the murderous ghost, the rivalries, Laveau and LaLaurie—but instead of doing one or two well, they opted to try to do all of it, and so all of them came out half baked. For once, having a limited number of episodes worked against the show. If they'd had more time, maybe they could have fleshed things out a bit more.

Better luck next season, which I understand is set primarily in the 1950s. Jessica Lange will be back, and I've heard Sarah Paulson as well. I guess the best thing about a show like this one is that if one season doesn't work out, there's always a clean slate to go back to.

Television: Revolution, "Happy Endings"

I kinda don't care any more.

Scratch that. I used to care about Miles—he was, for a long time, the most interesting character on the show. But he's plateaued a bit. There's been no development on that front, and I find Rachel really annoying, and since the writers are shoving Miles/Rachel down our throats . . . And I don't care at all about Gene, either. So that whole story line = meh.

I am kind of interested in what Monroe, Connor, and Charlie are up to. Just how do they plan to revive the Monroe Republic? And what will Charlie do when she realizes that's what they're up to? (And which is the lesser evil: Patriots or Monroe?)

And Aaron and Priscilla have gone to Lubbock, as directed by the nanotech. Would kind of suck if the nanos were just jerking them around . . . But it would be funny in a way, too. Ha! If the nanos had developed a sense of humor? But no, they've sent A&P (har) to where their fellow programmer Peter has taken up residence. And how clever of the writers to give Peter that biblical name, the "rock" upon which Christ built his church. Cuz that's what Peter does now: preaches and heals.

I find Aaron to be something of a drip, and Priscilla is a big, empty non-character at this point. But the Peter guy could be interesting. Someone who was never popular, now with the means to be popular, and perhaps also with a deep-seated faith driving him (it's thus far unclear how much he really believes and how much of it is him enjoying his moment) . . . I think we're about to go down the old road of showing how people who will not listen to reason—people with unswerving faith and set in their minds—are some of the most dangerous in the world. (I won't get into my personal beliefs here except to point you to a post I wrote on it a couple years back.)

Latest development is that Neville and Jason have been sent by President Davis to Willoughby to find and execute Monroe. And Neville agrees because Davis is holding Julia and will execute her if Neville fails. So off they go, and after a snarling match with Truman, Neville hits up Miles and Rachel and says he wants their help against the Patriots. We all know this is not true; Neville's priority has always been Julia. So it's safe to assume he's playing on Miles to get at where Monroe is. Which, as it turns out, is New Vegas (with Bret Michaels and the mummified remains of Steven Tyler), but Miles hasn't told Neville that. Yet.

The show isn't back until late February as NBC pauses for the Olympics. There is potential in some of what is going on, but the lack of character development is disturbing. The writers seem focused more on plot points than anything really interesting with the characters themselves. Even in emotional situations, the characters don't change at all. Monroe found his son! Yet he's the same old Monroe. Aaron can control nanotech! But he's still an anxious schlub. It's not clear whether Revolution will see a third season, but if it does, the writers need to work on character as well as plot. If you can't make them likable, at least make them interesting.


Television: Intelligence, "Secrets of the Secret Service"

So a couple of American "journalists" get captured in Syria and are accused of being spies. We know right off the bat that they probably aren't journalists. How? Well, for one thing, it won't take a whole hour for Gabriel to break them free, so there has to be more to the story. For another, the way the woman (Emily) behaves suggests there's something else going on. (The poor guy cast as the male journalist doesn't even get any lines; he just hangs there, and later just lies there, and then we find out he dies. Geez, why even have him? But I guess a credit is a credit.)

A former president—the one to sign off on Project Clockwork, in fact—goes to Syria Clinton-style to negotiate for the journalists' release. But the real plan is to have Gabriel, and by extension Riley, break the journalists out. Gabriel and Riley are attached to the FP's (can't remember his name) Secret Service detail. Riley is right at home, since this was what she used to do. And of course Gabriel is amused at seeing Riley interact with old friends/flames . . .

It strikes me that Josh Holloway is pretty much doing his Sawyer thing, only less heavily. Gabriel is Sawyer Lite. That's not a criticism. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, I find Gabriel far more tolerable than I ever did Sawyer. And so his needling of Riley is more fun than the way he used to needle Kate.

Anyway, of course Gabriel gets into where the journalists are being held, only to be told by Emily that they are actually CIA and unless Gabriel rescues their target—an American scientist who has something to do with missile guidance systems—they (the journalists) will not go with Gabriel. The logic being that if the CIA agents break out, the scientist will be moved and they'll lose track of her. Emily tells Gabriel where to find this scientist, and that it's a woman, but that's all they know.

Except, of course, Gabriel knows everything. So he's able to figure out who the scientist is, and they find her at a marketplace and are all set to take her home to America when we go the Not Without My Daughter route and have to stop to pick the little girl up from school.

So they have the scientist, they have her daughter, they're headed back to the FP's plane, and the FP and his retinue meet them there. Done?

Nope, Gabriel insists on going back for the CIA peeps. And here is where we get a little bit of a shoot out and discover the male agent has died. But Gabriel and Friends rescue Emily at least and get her on the plane.

And then HQ (Lillian & the Cassidys . . . sounds like a band . . .) discover Emily's mission was not to extract the American scientist but to kill her. So Gabriel and Riley and that other Secret Service guy that Riley used to work with must stop Emily mid-air. Really? Did they just need to fill the hour? Or is this some kind of commentary about how we are sometimes our own enemy, killing our own, etc.

B and C plots for the episode include the aforementioned Gabriel working out the relationship between Riley and that other Secret Service guy (something to do with Panama, but I wasn't paying that close attention) and Lillian continuing to struggle against bureaucracy. The episode ends with Lillian and Clockwork being put under closer scrutiny because the current president is concerned Gabriel might, you know, start thinking for himself and making decisions instead of just doing what he's told.

It's a shame this show is likely to be cancelled; it's actually pretty good by network standards. I think the 10:00 timeslot works against them a bit because (for me at least) I have to make a conscious decision as to whether I'm willing to stay up late and watch or if I'll just save it for later. So far, I've stayed up to watch Intelligence. But really, it's not a show I feel I have to see when it airs. It'll keep.

Shows should have short shelf lives. They should be the kind of thing that won't keep. That's hard to do these days, what with DVRs and all.

As for me, a lot of the shows I watch because they're on and I'm home. Appointment viewing? True Detective . . . And I try not to miss Elementary. Broadchurch when it was on was definitely appointment viewing for me, and Game of Thrones . . . And I look forward to Community every week, though I wouldn't cry if I had to postpone viewing. Those are the majors. What does that tell us? Well, mostly that a compelling through story is the key to getting people to come back, day of, and watch. They can't wait to see what happens next. And they don't want it to be spoiled for them online, so they have to watch NOW to be part of the conversation. Take that as a guide, television writers and producers. Every time you end a story line, be sure to have a new one going. Never completely satisfy them. Always leave 'em wanting more.


Television, Sherlock, "The Sign of Three"

I wrote a few thoughts down when I first watched this episode a few weeks ago. Those can be found here:

Initial Thoughts
Additional Thoughts

Watching it again, it was only slightly more tolerable. And I'm wondering, did they cut the fart joke from the American broadcast? Or maybe I just missed it, since my attention was wandering.

I understand the idea—the necessity, really—of intercutting the flashbacks into the wedding, but it really made the best man speech seem interminably long. And the whole story falls apart once we get the stag-night-turned-ghost-hunt. How can they have Mycroft nay saying coincidence when it is mere coincidence that Sherlock chose the Bainbridge story as part of his speech? And even inebriated, I find it hard to believe Sherlock would miss the use of John's middle name (particularly as he worked so hard to discover it himself)—AND then, when sober again, also miss a random reference to the wedding . . . I know he's not infallible, but it seems they only make him dense when it suits the story. There is a lack of consistency in the characters overall in Series 3. And a push to better define Sherlock's relationship with Mycroft. After all, in Doyle's stories, Sherlock readily tells Watson that Mycroft is the smarter one. There is no seeming animosity in Doyle's version, however; the brothers enjoy a friendly rivalry. Here the writers go for something slightly darker. Perhaps Mycroft's lifelong ability to control his little brother and exercise full influence over him has begun to slip in the face of Sherlock having made other friends. You have two brothers without intellectual peer . . . And then one "lowers" himself in the eyes of the other by hanging around with other, more average people . . . I dunno. Whatever.

Well, no, here: You have Mycroft, secure in his intellectual superiority. But he's spent a fair amount of time telling Sherlock he's not that bright. Smarter than others, sure, but not as smart as Mycroft himself. ("We had nothing else to go on.") Fine. So when Sherlock decides that maybe he can find a place for himself in the crowd of others who are less brilliant than Mycroft—well, it's one thing in common with the world, anyway—Mycroft takes it badly. Because Sherlock is the closest thing Mycroft has to, well, his own company. Which is what Mycroft really prefers. It's lonely at the top. And one gets tired of talking to oneself . . . Or having to speak slowly to everyone else.

Anyway. I'll admit I missed Mrs. Hudson's, "Who leaves a wedding early?" bit the first time, so catching it this time was nice. Because of course, Sherlock leaves a wedding early. Poor form for the best man, though.

On the whole, this one is just weak. The plot, the execution . . . It's really pretty sloppy. It has its moments, and it lays the groundwork for "His Last Vow," but on its own (for reasons laid out in my previous posts linked at the top), "The Sign of Three" stands as somewhat hollow.

Television: True Detective, "The Locked Room"

. . . In which significant progress is made as Rust and Marty track the murderer of a prostitute. Rust is convinced the killer has done this kind of thing before and finds evidence for it after looking through scores of dead body photos. He lights on a supposed flood victim (shout out to Abbeville, where my father grew up) whose body shows similar lacerations and the same spiral design as the prostitute's.

Rust Cohle is, of course, the most interesting figure here. His name alone suggests (a) the slow transmutation of something from one solid, cohesive and useful state to something that has been eaten away and is no longer stable, and (b) darkness, a pollutant, something pulled from the earth, mined under harsh conditions. My fear is that they're aiming to have Cohle be the suspect in the more recent murder, which would be a shame since that would be a very predictable direction to take things.

The contrast between Marty and Rust is stark and adds wonderful tension. Marty has a family, is at least moderately rooted in a belief system as well as the community, and yet is decidedly less likable than Rust, who floats untethered . . . A man without anchor is dangerous to himself and sometimes to society at large. Rust needs a touchstone and finds it in visiting Marty's family while Marty is busy with his mistress. Yet Rust also rejects other resources that might keep him grounded (as in dates and other human connections); perhaps he feels he does his best work from up in the ether.

Still, being "above it all" may give Rust the big picture, but it also gives him a superiority complex. And one wonders if it's sustainable. What will happen when he runs out of oxygen out there?

As for the mystery itself, it is engaging mostly for the way it paints the characters involved in solving it. You hear people in law enforcement talk about the big cases, the ones that made or broke men, and this has the feel of one of those. The kind of thing that draws lines and defines a person. After striking out at a local tent revival, Rust and Marty discover a suspect with links to both the prostitute and the girl in Abbeville, and the last thing we see in this episode is what one supposes is that suspect, all but naked and wearing a gas mask and carrying a machete. There's the promise of some kind of stand off coming, but we'll have to wait another week to know for sure.

True Detective is currently one of the best things on television, one of the few shows I refuse to miss. I understand that each season will have a different cast, a different story, and I hope that works out for them, that they can keep up the tremendous work. At least for this season, it is amazing. Blows any- and everything else out of the water. Your move, Broadchurch/Gracepoint. (That's probably not fair since they have to stick to network regulations. But still.)

I mentioned Stephen Dobyns some posts ago, and his Cemetery Nights has a poem: "To Pull Into Oneself as Into a Locked Room." Dobyns' work and True Detective do go together nicely.


Books: The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

One of my secondary concentrations as an undergrad was psychology. I enjoy this aspect of people—that is, the way they think, their motivations and such—I find it interesting. And Dutton writes in a way that's not so over the head of an average reader. He makes the information accessible.

I'd go into the various points Dutton makes, but that's what the book is for. The subtitle of the book (which I felt was too long to include in the title of this post) is What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success. The saint bit isn't very strong in the book, and it's mostly toward the end. The spies thing . . . Well, think about it: Is James Bond a psychopath? Probably. In that line of work, most people are, have to be to stay cool under pressure. So a big chunk of the book talks about that, and about how soldiers (Special Forces in particular) must be psychopaths, too. Or maybe it's just that psychopaths are drawn to that kind of work and are good at it. Chicken, egg.

Here's what I think divides the saints from the serial killers. And I say this as someone who comes in at 15 on the PPI, which is about halfway to clinical psychopathy. If psychopaths are motivated by reward—and who isn't, really, in life? look at how we tempt our kids with promises of a cookie if they eat their veggies—and if reward is, in fact, their primary focus . . . Psychopaths zero in on what they want, more so even than the average person. They're looking for the high they get from whatever gives them pleasure. And that high doesn't last long, so they go after the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. A steady sort of mainlining, really. They need the stimulation.

So here's what makes the difference. Take someone like me: I get high from helping people. I don't do it because I'm a "good person," I do it because I'm selfish and I like the feeling I get when I help a tourist find where they need to go or rescue a stray animal. That's my "hit." That's where I get satisfaction. If I got the same feeling from shoving people in front of cars, well, I'd probably do that instead. Lucky for me and the world, I guess, that that's not the case. (I did shove someone in front of a car once, but I was five and he'd kissed me and given me chicken pox, so he deserved it. And anyway, the car turned down another street before it got as far as where we were standing. Long story short: I get no satisfaction from shoving people in front of cars. Lesson learned.)

But then there are the psychopaths who derive pleasure and rewards from hurting people. These are your Ted Bundy types. They have the same primary motivation: to get that high feeling. Unfortunately, they way they get high is, er . . . Yeah. That.

Look at Sherlock Holmes, for instance. He always said he'd make a good criminal if he'd turned in that direction. I suppose it's lucky for Scotland Yard that Holmes's high came from nabbing the bad guys rather than joining them. (That and the cocaine when he was bored. Psychopaths are terrible when they're bored.)

Now, whether the divide is nature or nurture, who knows? A little of both, I imagine. I grew up in a happy enough home. Was a bit of a bully to some of my friends, though. But somewhere down the line I got that out of my system. What changed? Well, it seemed to happen when we moved, so there's an environmental factor, I suppose. I dunno. It's interesting to think about though.

All this isn't telling you much about the book, is it? Well, it's a good one if you like this sort of thing. As I said, easy enough to read. Lots of anecdotes and various studies. A visit to Broadmoor. If you ever wanted to hear from a psychopath but were afraid to get close enough, Dutton does it for you. An interesting read.


Television: AHS: Coven, "Go to Hell"

I thoroughly enjoyed the faux silent movie start to the episode, which explained the Seven Wonders a witch must perform in order to become the Supreme.

Despite her self-mutilation, it seems Cordelia's ability to see things when she touches them has not returned. Meanwhile, Fiona tells Queenie she (that is, Queenie) must attempt the Seven Wonders to see if she is the next Supreme. Queenie goes to lie down and has a vision of being back in the fast food restaurant, where she's visited by Papa Legba. Turns out fast food service is hell. That's one of the Seven Wonders down (descending into Hell and returning).

LaLaurie dismembers Laveau . . . And becomes a tour guide at the LaLaurie house? (Did I see that right?) Queenie goes to visit her at the LaLaurie House and asks her to release the previous tour guide LaLaurie has hit over the head and tied up in the attic. (Geez, she needs some new moves.) When LaLaurie refuses to repent, Queenie kills her. Because apparently now that's possible.

Fiona is having her portrait painted. Her nose starts bleeding. And she tries to make nice with Cordelia by giving Cordelia an old family heirloom necklace. But after putting it on, Cordelia does begin to have visions. This time of the future, which features the house filled with dead witches . . . All except Fiona. Who, based on the vision, seems to have been the one to kill them all.

Cordelia goes to see the Axeman, tells him that Fiona is going to leave him behind. Tells him Fiona has a plane ticket scheduled for two days hence.

And Cordelia also gets a vision of Misty's whereabouts and brings Queenie out to the cemetery in the dead of night in order to pull the coffin from the above-ground monument in which Madison had her sealed.

Zoe and Kyle return from Florida, and Zoe declares herself to be the next Supreme. Misty comes back to the house and fights Madison. And the Axeman enters swinging his axe, but the witches use collective powers to stop him. And discover he's covered in Fiona's blood.

(Flashback to Axeman killing Fiona. Really long and boring. Sum total: He fed Fiona's body to the gators in the swamp.)

The witches gang up on Axeman and stab him repeatedly.

LaLaurie's hell is to be locked up in her own attic and left to the "mercy" of Laveau, who tortures LaLaurie's daughter—and that is Laveau's hell.

And with Fiona gone, the coven now needs to discern who will take her place. So all the girls must participate in the Seven Wonders to see who will be the next Supreme. Really? This whole season comes down to the equivalent of a teen witch reality competition? Meh.

I have to say, overall this season has been disappointing. The attempt to tie up certain story lines this week felt rushed, as if the writers went, "Oh shit! We need to . . ." They tried to do too much this season, and so did none of it very well because the energies were so scattered. I'll actually just be glad to see this end next week so we can put it behind us and hope for something better next go 'round.

Television: Revolution, "Captain Trips"

More Stephen King references. Yay.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to care about anything that's going on in this show. What we've devolved into is a series of raids and missions, all of them very much alike. Someone is being held somewhere; we must go get him/her! There are some supplies locked up somewhere; we must break in and get them! Alternatively, we are stuck somewhere; we must fight our ways out!


This week Gene and Charlie were in the Patriots' camp that is a kind of triage for people suffering an outbreak of typhus. Except we know from having seen the oranges being injected that this "outbreak" has been manufactured. That was a real shame on the part of the writers because Rachel's revelation in this episode had no impact—the viewers already knew.

So anyway, Rachel goes down to the camp to help Gene and Charlie manage the patients, and then they discover the Patriots did it to their own people in order to cull the invalids and mentally ill. So then, of course, Miles and Monroe and Connor are tapped to go find the antidote the Patriots are surely storing somewhere. Except the antidote is not where Gene thinks. (Oh, and Gene gets the typhus too.)

So they inject Truman (Steven Culp) with the typhus in order to force motivate him to take them to the antidote. Which he does, only to have a bunch of Patriots bust in with guns. And that's where we leave that.

Meanwhile, Neville and the missus are trying to figure out where Jason has been dragged off to in the wake of his having broken into the Chief of Staff's office. But he knows the truth . . . And we end up here with another standoff, guns pointed at Neville and Julia.

As for Aaron. He's still in Spring City, Oklahoma. Grace has left. Priscilla tries to leave but the nanotech won't let her (after taking the shape of Cynthia in order to try and convince Aaron to go to Lubbock). And still no sign of a big ball of twine. What an utter letdown.


Television: Intelligence, "Mei Chen Returns"

So in the pilot, the Chinese created another super-intelligent agent à la Gabriel. Her name is Mei Chen. At first it had seemed the attempt had failed, but . . .

Kate Anderson, a London-based CIA analyst with a hard drive filled with sensitive information, meets with an MI6 agent. The MI6 agent is killed; Anderson goes to the Chinese Embassy. Now Lillian is tasked with finding Anderson. Oh, and btw, Gabriel is "missing." (Read: out drinking in Mexico as he mourns the loss of Amelia.)

Of course then some Mexicans come to pick on him. He handily beats them up and finds somewhere else to drink until Riley finds him and drags him home.

"Something's wrong with my chip," Gabriel confides. He thinks someone is "watching" him from inside his head. In fact, he thinks it may be Amelia, "accessing" from another plane. Cassidy doesn't want Gabriel to render the scene of the MI6 agent's murder until they're sure what's going on, but Lillian insists. Time is, as ever, of the essence.

Why did they need Gabriel to put two and two together in figuring out Anderson went to the Chinese Embassy? They had the audio and access to the same video cameras. Are they really that bad at their jobs?

But in the render, Gabriel does discover Mei Chen is out there sporting a chip like his.

And Mei Chen goes and kills one of the Chinese Embassy workers so as to take her place.

Meanwhile, Gabriel and Riley are off to London. On the flight, Gabriel gets hacked by Mei Chen and pulls a gun on Riley, forcing Riley to hit him.

Turns out Anderson's drive has info about Gabriel on it; the CIA has been spying on the Clockwork project.

Complication: the "hard drive" Anderson has might not be a hard drive so much as a microdot—liquid data. Difficult to locate.

Mei Chen infiltrates the Chinese Embassy and grabs Anderson as Gabriel and Riley arrive. The drive is on Anderson's contact lens. Mei Chen downloads the info and is on the verge of killing Anderson when Gabriel and Riley step in. Though they stop her from killing Anderson, they fail to prevent her escape. So now Mei Chen is the only one with the data; she destroyed the contact lens and overloaded the computers.

The plan: to lure Mei Chen into one of Gabriel's renders and launch some kind of attack. Mei Chen tries to convince Gabriel they are a new species, an Adam and Eve. But Gabriel rejects and ejects her from his mind. (And it seems they are able to erase the stolen data from Mei Chen's mind while they're at it.)

Um . . . Okay. It's nice they're setting up an antagonist for Gabriel that is "on his level," but Mei Chen's character was not convincing as such. If she was meant to be sultry, she wasn't. Alluring, interesting? Nope. On the whole a failed attempt. Better luck next week.

Television: Sleepy Hollow, "The Indespinsible Man; Bad Blood"

Crane v Autocorrect . . .

Also v emoticons . . .

Now what's so important about December 18, 1799? Lazarus? Considering Washington died on the 14th . . .

Brooks comes back to visit Abbie and tells her it is prophesied that Crane will give her up to Moloch. Also, he tells Abbie he loves her. Awkward.

Oh, also Brooks says the bible contains a map that Moloch wants. (A map with no names? Oh, no, wait. Too much Indiana Jones as a child.)

Crane discovers a hidden letter in the bible from Washington to himself that demonstrates Washington knew Crane was a witness, and also describes how Washington had himself resurrected after his own death. And then made a map of Purgatory. Which gives Crane the brilliant idea that, if he can find this map, he can free Katrina.

God, what this show doesn't need is more Katrina.

They exhume Reverend Knapp who had been keeping the Horseman's head safe and call Parrish (the Sin Eater) for help. Alas, Parrish is injured by a hex on the Knapp's body.

Meanwhile, Abbie begins to argue that Washington's plan may no longer be valid, that Washington may not have foreseen certain complications. Could releasing Katrina only make things worse? Might Purgatory release a lot of other, less pleasant things? What—or who—is Crane willing to sacrifice to save the world?

Still, they must find the map before Moloch (or Brooks). They figure out that it was likely buried with Washington, and that Washington must be buried near Sleepy Hollow in order for Knapp to have been able to protect the map.

And Brooks is reborn as some kind of demon.

Abbie asks Parrish about the prophesy that one witness might turn against the other. He tells her there is one in an apocryphal gospel (also: the witnesses will do their work for 1260 days).

They find the Pyramid of Fear (nope, sorry, too much Sherlock Holmes as a child) a mausoleum (that does have a pyramid in it) and Washington's body and the map. And then Brooks crashes their party. Parrish touches him and returns Brooks to some semblance of his true self, so that he tells Abbie to destroy the map lest Moloch use it to win the war.

And Crane, at Abbie's behest, burns the map and promises not to forsake Abbie. But remember that photographic memory of his? Still, seems really stupid of Crane to redraw the map. Why not just keep it in his head, nice and safe?

Oh, and there was this whole other plot where Captain Irving confessed to having murdered that priest in order to protect his daughter. (Of course it was really the demon that had done it, but try explaining that to the investigators.)

At the episode break, Crane stumbles upon a Revolutionary War re-enactment. But he's called by Parrish who says he must see Crane and Abbie immediately. He's had a premonition about the second Horseman of the Apocalypse. On the 13th anniversary of the day Abbie and Jenny first encountered Moloch in the forest. Also, there's a solar eclipse coming. So, you know, pretty sure bad things are going to happen here.

Crane believes Katrina is the only one who can stop the second Horseman. The map shows a doorway to Purgatory. 1 + 1 = . . .

Jenny is not a fan of this plan. She's pretty sure Crane is going to throw Abbie over for Katrina as per the prophesy.

Parrish also has a list of cautions: don't eat or drink anything in Purgatory, don't believe what you're seeing even though it will all seem very real, don't get separated.

[Here is where I'd go into my lecture on liminal spaces, but I'll spare you. I have always found the mythological use of such spaces very interesting, however.]

First up: Purgatory tries to convince Abbie that Corbin and Brooks are alive and that she's just been hit on the head while away at Quantico and is now back and recovering. Meanwhile, Crane finds himself with Victor Garber! Apparently he's Crane's father. He had disowned Ichabod when Ichabod had turned to fight for the Colonists. But Purgatory is trying to make Crane believe England won the Revolutionary War and his father happily welcomed him home, back to Oxford as a professor.

In a Labyrinth-like moment, both Abbie and Crane shatter their visions by announcing they—the visions, the people—aren't real. (And for the record, I never want to see Victor Garber do that again.)

Abbie and Crane find one another and then Katrina. But Katrina cannot leave Purgatory unless (a) she is forgiven, or (b) someone takes her place. Since the Sin Eater didn't come along for the tour, Abbie takes Katrina's place. (Does seem Moloch keeps Katrina supplied with makeup, though.)

Meanwhile, Jenny has been listening to tape recordings from Corbin's archives, and after a field trip she discovers something that alarms her: the name of a church. But as she rushes to warn Abbie and Crane, the Headless Horseman turns up to blow out her tires. (Why not just kill her?)

In Purgatory, Abbie comes to a dollhouse that has teenage versions of herself and her sister. They say they are memories Moloch took from them on that fateful day 13 years ago. Abbie of course wants to know what she's forgotten . . .

Long story short: Henry Parrish is evil. Are we at all surprised by this?

What Abbie and Jenny saw was Moloch drawing Parrish from the earth as the second Horseman. And Henry Parrish isn't his real name. No, it's the name of a church—the church Katrina abandoned her son Jeremy to some 200 years before. Because Henry is Jeremy. (Remember how they'd buried him? Which begs the question: At what point after being buried 200 years before did adolescent Jeremy cease to age? Because clearly he did age . . . For a while . . . Or are they trying to pass John Noble off as 200+ years old?)

So now Abbie is in Purgatory and Henry/Jeremy first bound his parents to a couple trees so as to lecture them before putting Ichabod into a grave and placing the Second Seal over him.

But what did he do with Mommy?

If you want to find out, Sleepy Hollow returns in the fall . . .

Television: Sherlock, "The Empty Hearse"

I do all my Sherlock coverage over on PepperWords. Here are links to my entries regarding "The Empty Hearse."

Initial Thoughts
A Little More on the Fan Aspect
And Finally (A Handful of Other Thoughts)


Television: True Detective, "The Long Bright Dark"

First disclaimer: One of the actors in this show used to pull my hair and call me "Pigtail." I don't hold it against him, though.

Second disclaimer: My uncle lives in Erath, Louisiana, and he once tried to take us through a short cut in the cane fields. We promptly got lost. And then the car got stuck. It's one of those stories we tell each other whenever we all get together. (Family reunion in June! But that'll be back in New Orleans.)

All right, but how about the show? It's sort of a cross between Broadchurch and Twin Peaks and is really well executed on every front, by which I mean the casting is perfect, the writing and directing superb. It's a show that takes its time—this is not fast paced; it builds. But that suits the story, and in the meantime the characters themselves are interesting enough to carry things along.

True Detective features Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle respectively, two Louisiana State Police detectives who in 1995 find themselves caught up in what appears to be a ritualistic murder. The story is told through the filter of Hart and Cohle being separately interviewed about the case some years after. It's made clear they no longer work together; they split in 2002. Files to the case were lost in Hurricane Rita, hence the need for the interviews—because apparently a similar case has arisen in Lake Charles.

Hart is a family man with a wife and two daughters, coming across as very average (aside from, or perhaps partly due to, what appears to be an affair with a woman in the office). Cohle is more of a cypher in that he came to work in Louisiana after leaving Texas (and he grew up in Alaska, how interesting, since that's where my own mother hails from), so he is seen with some suspicion by the locals. I can tell you from life experience that this makes complete sense; we Sout' Louisanians are friendly but equally wary. Many of us never move more than a few miles from where we were born. And even if we do, we often come back. (I myself was raised in Texas, so I escaped some of the net that is Louisiana, but I'm rooted there firmly enough in spirit.) At the time of this murder in 1995, Hart and Cohle have only been working together three months and hardly know each other due to Cohle's reticence. But something about the case seems to break Cohle open, and he begins to talk . . . Only Hart is uncomfortable with the things Cohle has to say.

It's all so much subtlety, fine brush strokes and details laid over the broad and vivid canvas of Southern Louisiana. True Detective manages to be simultaneously charming and creepy, real and surreal. Viewers wanting something fast and furious will be disappointed, but those who enjoy character and craft can delight in this. I, for one, very much look forward to seeing more.

Movies: Paranoia

So back when I reviewed R.I.P.D., I mentioned that it had received 13% on Rotten Tomatoes while Paranoia had received 4%. And I had to wonder what could be worse than R.I.P.D. So last night I took the leap and watched Paranoia.

The movie features Liam Hemsworth (known in these parts as Not Chris Pine) as some kind of . . . something—and already the movie is falling apart because though NCP's character Adam works for a big mobile phone developer, it isn't clear what he does. It's his friend Kevin who makes stuff work in cool ways, so . . . What use is Adam to anyone? He spends the film as a patsy and a pawn, and though the writers tried really hard to make us care about Adam by piling on the sick dad and no mom and he's trying to help his friends and he falls in love with the girl . . . He's got no personality. And no function except as this pawn in two rich men's games.

The rich men are Gary Oldman as Nicolas Wyatt and Harrison Ford as Jock Goddard. There's a cliché backstory in which Wyatt was once Goddard's protégé and then went off to become his biggest competitor. Some bad blood about how Goddard was using all Wyatt's best ideas. The usual stuff.

Adam works for Wyatt for all of eleven minutes before he's fired for making an ass of himself in a presentation. He gets Kevin and the rest of his team fired too. Again, what is Adam's job exactly? Except "fuckup"? Who let him be team leader?

Then Adam makes the fantastic decision to take everyone on the team out on one last "discretionary fund" night on the town. Which of course gets him hauled into Wyatt's office under threats of prosecution for fraud. But Wyatt will let it all go, and will pay Adam lots of money besides, and give Adam's friends jobs again, if Adam will just get hired by Goddard and do a little spying.

If the character had been a woman, this is where there would have been a fun montage of shopping and makeovers. With guys, the whole makeover thing is far more sinister and a lot less entertaining.

You can imagine from here how the movie goes on; it's pretty standard fare. And I think that's the biggest problem with Paranoia—there is no paranoia, no tension; its great offense is how boring it is. Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford are in only a handful of scenes and probably did their filming inside of a week. (Side note: Oldman's lips are now so thin as to be almost completely gone. But NCP's lips are very thick. Does that balance things out? Is there a "lip quota" for Hollywood movies? Just something I noticed while being bored by the rest of the film.)

So is it worse than R.I.P.D.? No, just a different kind of bad. Both films are clichéd versions of their genres, but where R.I.P.D. was just inexcusably stupid, Paranoia was inexcusably dull. R.I.P.D. failed on character development; Paranoia tried to develop characters but they all came out flat. Both use well-known, older male stars as a big part of their "sell": Jeff Bridges (and perhaps by extension Kevin Bacon) in the one, Ford, Oldman, and Richard Dreyfuss in the other. But the material is lacking; these stars have nothing to do except chew scenery like so much cud and punch up the already boilerplate aspects of their characters. In the end the sum total for each comes to the same: neither movie is any good. Pick your poison. Or better yet, find something else to do.


Television: Revolution, "Mis Dos Padres"

Don't care, don't care, don't care.

We started the season so well, but it is slowly devolving into a bunch of story lines I simply cannot manage to care about or even give all my attention to. I spent most of this episode playing Bookworm on my iPhone.

We've got Monroe, "captured" by his own son Connor, who has been raised by some kind of Mexican overlord. Miles and Rachel plan to break Monroe out, and then Connor ends up helping by giving Rachel the key. There was other stuff—Monroe kept Connor from getting in trouble and Miles got caught, and then Connor gave Rachel the key. But it all adds up to the same end: Connor being kicked out by his foster father and stuck with Rachel, Miles, and dear old Dad . . . And now Connor is willing to entertain the notion of helping Monroe rebuild his republic. Well, maybe that could be entertaining. But so far it hasn't been.

And Aaron is in Oklahoma. Still no big ball of string or whatever (boo!). Instead, Grace and Priscilla. Remember them? Grace who had helped Rachel develop the nanotech and Priscilla who was once Aaron's wife? Turns out Priscilla has seen the "fireflies" too. Has thought she was going crazy. Bottom line here: Because Grace and the team used Aaron's code (which Priscilla helped write, along with some guy named Peter), the nanotech consider them their parents. That's . . . dumb.

And Neville and his wife continue to plot. But it's their son who makes the move of breaking into Doyle's office in search of info to help close down the "re-education" camps. Yawn.

Finally, we have Gene and Charlie watching some kind of Patriot camp, complete with fences. Gene sees one of his friends taken in and is determined to go save him. He and Charlie argue, etc., so don't care.

There was a mention of Willoughby, Texas, becoming one of the new re-ed camps, though. ::shrug::

And there you have it. A whole lot of nothing much. I'm not sure Revolution will see a third season, and if it's going out like this—crawling like a dying anima—I won't miss it.


Television: AHS: Coven, "Protect the Coven"

In 1830s New Orleans, Madame LaLaurie cuts the head off a chicken and finds she enjoys the feel of warm blood rushing over her fingers. So when (same day!) a slave is injured, she is given even greater opportunity to explore this new "sensation."

And in modern day, they are laying Nan to rest—in a coffin; see last week's writeup if you're wondering why I mention it—and wondering where Misty is, cuz then she could, you know, resurrect Nan. Then (a live!) Queenie and (a whole!) LaLaurie turn up. Though Queenie is keeping LaLaurie on a leash. Seriously.

As LaLaurie goes back to maid service, she narrates about her childhood of cutting apart small animals. She also serves shit soup (that happened in The Help with pie, didn't it?) and takes care of the kidnapped baby.

And then James, the gardener, comes in with a cut hand . . . And LaLaurie relapses. Ties him up in the attic. Old habits and all that.

Can't these witches sense this stuff going on?

Maybe they're too busy being caught up in their own issues. Madison finds Zoe and Kyle in the bathroom—Zoe is scrying in the tub, trying to figure out what really happened to Nan, and she sees Fiona and Laveau—and picks a fight. Kyle declares he doesn't want Madison, he loves Zoe. Madison throws a witchy tantrum that results in a broken mirror (bad luck?) and some pictures falling off the wall. I could do better.

And Fiona is still meeting the Axeman. He tells her they need to find and kill the upcoming Supreme. Talk about preaching to the choir.

Spalding (not live!) appears to LaLaurie in the attic and helps her clean up the remains of James. He tells her Marie Laveau must die, and that if Laveau dies, LaLaurie will be free too. They just need a little magic to make it happen. And LaLaurie needs to "venture out into the world and retrieve an item" for Spalding first.

Meanwhile, Cordelia is trying to get her visionary sight back. By stabbing herself in the eyes. Fiona comes screaming home . . . Why? Last week she hated Cordelia. Why start caring now?

Myrtle accuses Fiona of being an enemy to the coven and says Cordelia is a hero. And Fiona loses her nerve to see Cordelia, afraid her secrets will be lay bare by Cordelia's resumed power.

LaLaurie brings Spalding an antique baby doll for his collection, the item he demanded. And he tells her two capsules of Benadryl dissolved in a glass of water will render Laveau powerless. Um . . . Sleepy maybe. But powerless? Really?

Myrtle tells Zoe to take Kyle and leave the coven. Better to escape with one's love than face the witch hunters.

Fiona and Laveau meet with the witch hunters. A negotiation for a 100-year truce. But with a martini on the table, surely it will be thrown? Alas, no. Axeman throws axes instead, and with Fiona taking the final swing, the witch hunters are all dead.

I'm a little confused. Can everyone see Axeman, even though he's a ghost? He can clearly interact with physical things (glasses, axes), but . . . Seems like this hasn't been explained or explored entirely. Or maybe I just missed it.

LaLaurie pours drinks laced with Benadryl and stabs Laveau in the chest. When Laveau scoffs and chases LaLaurie, Spalding knocks Laveau over the head with one of his dolls and suggests LaLaurie bury Laveau . . . Pretty much just as Laveau had done to LaLaurie, right?

Oh, and Spalding takes the baby. Yes, the live one.

Books: What I'm Reading Now

I don't get a lot of time to read, at least not lately, because I have so many writing projects of my own. Most of my reading happens when I'm sitting around waiting (I try always to carry a book), or if I'm on a plane (which I will be at the end of the month), or if I'm in the bath.

Right now, in any case, I have a couple books I'm switching between. I received Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters as a Christmas gift; it had been on my Amazon wish list for ages. I'd added it because I'd read something about it somewhere . . . Anyway, it's an epistolary novel (duh) that has some guy named Larry in New York writing back and forth with Stephen in London. Larry has his great-great-grandfather's correspondence (letters) with famous Victorian authors and wants to auction them, and Stephen works for the Manuscripts and Letters department of Christie's. I was into it for a while, but Larry becomes increasingly irritating—and does most of the "talking"—and now I find I can only read this book in small portions. And anyway, it doesn't seem like we're ever going to get more than a hint of the grandfather's letters from Dickens and others of that sort.

So I'm cutting Correspondence with some nonfiction, namely The Wisdom of Psychopaths. Picked this one up at an airport bookstore on my way to L.A. last fall (seemed like it might be handy in L.A.). I've only read the preface, so I can't say much about the book so far except that the writing style is very personable. Better than having to read a bunch of letters from Larry anyway. Don't get me wrong, Larry's fine in small doses, but on the whole I prefer to spend my time with the psychopaths.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The Seed"

In which we get to visit the Science & Technology campus of S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy and also learn more about Skye's origins.

A Story: A weird happening at the Science Academy, in which an indoor pool suddenly froze over, sends Fitz & Simmons back to school to give a lecture on how science is both exciting and dangerous, kiddies! Grant and Skye go along for the ride and try to determine which of the students might be a "bad seed"—that is, which one might have left the device in the pool's filter.

B Story: May and Coulson go to Mexico City to track down Richard Lumley, the agent who had been working with the late Agent Avery, who was herself the one to drop Skye at the orphanage before being murdered.

A Story: The weird loner is, of course, the one who did it. Look, I could go through all the little plot points, but let's get down to brass tacks. This Donnie kid was at the pool when it happened, and then during Fitz & Simmons's lecture he is frozen by a second device under his seat. Um . . . Lowest common denominator = Donnie as the link. So of course he attacks himself to make it look like he's being targeted. Duh.

He's not entirely a loner, however; a more popular but less brainy student (and one supposes at S.H.I.E.L.D. Sci-Tech "less brainy" is relative, but whatever) has been egging Donnie on because he wants to sell this freeze gun or ray or whatever to that awful Ian Quinn guy. Remember him? But they needed to lure Fitz & Simmons back to campus because they needed help with the power source. So they planned the attacks for that reason.

Whole thing ends with a massive hail storm and Donnie's friend dying. Donnie ends up jaded . . . And also with the power to freeze things? (Apparently he goes on to become "Blizzard"? Just makes me want Dairy Queen . . .)

B Story: After catching up to Richard Lumley in Lola (that's the flying car), May and Coulson get the scoop on Skye. Namely, that she's an 0-8-4 with some kind of power(s). And that a lot of people died to protect her, moving her from place to place (hence all the foster families) . . . What does that make her? Supergirl? (Yes, I know that's D.C., but you see what I mean: some kind of "alien" with powers.) So now instead of looking for Skye's parents, we're looking to discover who or what she really is and is capable of. I guess. Kudos at least for not dragging out the lost parents search indefinitely.

Coulson and May release Lumley back into hiding, and May tells Coulson he can't tell Skye the truth. But having just been bit by a big fat S.H.I.E.L.D. lie himself, he's unwilling to lie to Skye in turn. So he tells her.

So wait. This episode, when boiled down, was the origin stories of Blizzard and Skye. Someone has weather on the brain . . . (Is she called Skye because she came from the sky? Maybe? Just a guess.)

Oh, and Ian Quinn is in contact with our elusive Clairvoyant. Is that meant to thicken the plot? And if this Clairvoyant is really clairvoyant, doesn't s/he know about Skye? Wouldn't s/he want to get hold of her? Seems like the kind of thing the Clairvoyant would find use for. Someone with untapped powers, that is.

I dunno. Just thinking (typing?) aloud here. And still really wanting Dairy Queen.

ETA: It occurs to me that, back in the day, if one wanted help from a luminary, one might just write to them. Instead of, you know, luring them somewhere and tricking them and whatever. I mean, would an e-mail to Fitz have been so difficult? Just saying.


Television: Intelligence, "Red X"

Okay, so Gabriel = walking Internet. And Riley = his cheeky sidekick/bodyguard. They work for the government but are also looking for Gabriel's MIA wife Amelia who is considered both dead and a traitor. Except Chinese intelligence suggests she recently boarded a plane to [I don't remember where].

That's the setup, more or less.

Riley has moved into an apartment across from and above Gabriel's. "Overlook." So she can keep an eye on him.

Today's problem to solve: How did a terrorist get past all the sophisticated equipment and still manage to get explosives into a military base? Additionally, what to do about a terrorist that has just arrived in Washington D.C.?

Ah, the undetectable explosive is "experimental." But clearly the wrong people have managed to get ahold of it.

I'll say I am enjoying John Billingsley as Dr. Cassidy. Yeah, it's a total cliché to have some old guy mentor/wizard, but . . . Some do it better than others. I liked Cassidy in the pilot and am happy to see he's a regular. I think it's the fact that he looks like someone who belongs in a library. His appearance soothes my natural literariness, yet his character appeals to my logical and analytical side. Good balance. For me, anyway.

Okay, so the explosive requires two people. One to carry it in, another to act as the detonator. Fun!

Obligatory Gabriel-walks-out-in-a-huff moment followed by equally obligatory Riley-reminds-him-of-his-duty moment. (She guilts him into coming back by telling him stories of people who have lost loved ones to Red X.)

They track the bomb guy to a highrise. Gabriel tracks the bomb while Riley lands the button. She's not fast enough to stop him, but his detonator ends up being a dud anyway. He gets away—and Amelia is the one driving the getaway car.

One can tell much of this series will hinge on tracking Amelia and trying to determine which side she's really on. Is she just deep undercover? Or is she really a traitor? And my big question: How long before this gets old?

Gabriel is really angry Riley shot at his wife, and he takes Lillian (that's the boss lady) to task for it. Cassidy and Cassidy Jr. (Nelson, actually, so technically not Jr.) must remove the Red X from the dead bomb guy. Then they deduce the detonator guy who got away has even more Red X somewhere and will surely be planning another attack.

Geez, not even a "thank you" to the kid who gave you the big clue on where the bad guys were going to hit next? You just get what you want and quit being nice the minute you have it? Gabriel and Riley are assholes to kids.

It's a hospital, btw.

And Amelia is the bomb.

Well, at least they didn't drag that out like I worried they would.

Gabriel tries to reason with Amelia while Riley threatens to shoot her. Then decides to knock Gabriel through a window so they can both go flying into a handily place canal. Right before the hospital explodes. Good thing they'd been able to evacuate the hospital first.

So now Amelia is dead for sure? I'm not clear how shooting her would have done any good; no one said Red X only worked in living tissue, did they? If so, I missed it.

Oh, good. At least Lillian went to thank the kid. And pump him for more info. Turns out the clue that led to the hospital (and Amelia) was given to the kid by Amelia to give to Gabriel. So . . . Traitor/Not a Traitor?

So far I'm finding Intelligence mildly entertaining. It's paced out like any other of this kind of show, and the characters are pretty standard, but at least the plots have held my attention. That's more than many shows can say. If next week holds up, this one may make my regular viewing list.

Television: Sleepy Hollow, "The Vessel"

Finally. Modern clothes. Though I don't know I would have gone for skinny jeans.

Alas, no, he's gone back to the Revolutionary threads. They can't possibly last much longer, can they?

Anyway, Abbie thinks Moloch is trying to distract them from more important work. And Captain Irving is in trouble—something evil wants George Washington's bible and expects Irving to fetch it for him. Else this demon will take Irving's daughter Macey.

Dude, though, Irving is seriously going to have to stop attacking people.

The bible in question was buried with Crane. Irving takes his family to a safehouse and tasks Crane and Abbie with finding a way to thwart this demon. Ostensibly this bible has the answers to that, which would be why the demon wants it. But luckily Sheriff Corbin has a handy video of a possessed Jenny (aged 19) as a tutorial?

Turns out Jenny has a history of getting herself locked up in jail every time "the voices" (the demon) would start . . . Because she was always afraid she might hurt Abbie otherwise.

So rosaries don't have much of an effect. Salt on the threshold seems to work pretty well, though. Too bad the safehouse is not protected by that. It would be, except Irving didn't bother to try and screen any of the officers? Bad planning? Cuz now Morales is possessed.

Oh, but there's salt in Corbin's tutorial! So now we know the salt can restrain the demon. And we also know, from rewinding (and also having grown up listening to records in reverse), the demon speaks backward. At least sometimes.

Okay, Ben Franklin and I have a personal history that prevents me from being objective when he's around. So let's just skip to the whole "there's a really old lantern that will help expel the demon" thing.

Unfortunately, Morales passes the demon to Macey before the lantern thing can pay off.

The lantern is being kept by a weird group of "Patriots" who know it will be an important weapon in the End Days. Crane tries speechifying, but it takes Jenny's connections to this rag-a-band group to get them the lantern.

And then the ultimate, predictable conclusion of saving Macey. That's been Sleepy Hollow's biggest issue in my opinion—the finish is always quick and relatively simple in proportion to all the buildup.

Now time to look for glowing invisible ink in George Washington's bible. What these kids do for fun, I tell ya.

Television: Almost Human, "You Are Here"

Taking a page from Elementary, we see Kennex in Anger Management class, where he uses classic deflection techniques to try and convince the counselor and his fellow attendees that he's fine. "Not like Marty over there," who has a terrible life, and if Kennex were him (he says) he would kill himself.

Then there is a really long plot about a guy getting killed, but I wasn't paying much attention. He was maybe mixed up with some bad people, up to no good. And Kennex and Dorian work to protect the girlfriend and her daughter because the girlfriend might have information they need and the bad people want to get at her.

I have to wonder how often they can, and plan to, make Dorian behave erratically (as in speaking Korean). Feels like that's a schtick that could get old fast.

I guess the bad people are tracing the girlfriend. The dead guy has something in a safety deposit box? And the bad people want it? (Seriously, this episode did not hold my attention at all.)

Whatever happened to that group of people from the pilot? And Kennex's ex who was somehow involved with them? I mean, is this one big bad group, or lots of different bad groups?

Actually, I totally don't care.

Oh, the dead guy traded his software to save the girl's and her daughter's lives. (They weren't married, right? Like I said, I wasn't paying attention.) And left the girlfriend a bunch of numbers in a safety deposit box. How charming. I guess.

Was that John Larroquette? Now that got my attention.

Television: Sherlock, "His Last Vow"

I do all of my Sherlock coverage over on PepperWords, but in short there's little to say about this episode except it was better than the two previous ones. So that's something. Read the little I do have to say here.


Screenwriting: 20 August Makes Finals

Just a quick note to announce my screenplay 20 August has been named a Finalist in the Richmond International Film Festival. Thanks, RIFF! With any luck I'll be seeing you at the end of February!


Movies: The Wolverine

I'm going to blog as I watch. I'm also drinking a piña colada, so you know . . .

  • We start with the WWII bombing of Nagasaki. Our hero (that's Wolverine if you're wondering) saves a Japanese soldier. And impressively regenerates.
  • But then he wakes up next to Jean Grey. Except that's a dream too? Ugh, I hate this kind of thing.
  • Wait, now he's Grizzly Adams. 'Bout to trounce some asshole hunters for hurting his bear friend.
  • So now we've shown that Logan/Wolverine is noble and a badass. This is what we call "establishing character."
  • Why must they always give Asian girls weird hair colors?
  • She has come to take Wolverine to dying Yashida, the man he saved in Nagasaki. But first we need the obligatory bath-and-shaving scene. (Hey, I'll take on the task of bathing Hugh Jackman any time. Yes, even if he's flailing like a beast. Especially if he's flailing like a beast.)
  • Turns out Yashida doesn't really plan to die. He just wants to offer Logan the opportunity to "live as a normal human." Oh, and also ask him to protect his granddaughter.
  • So is that considered a really good kiss or a really bad one? I'm going to go with bad.
  • Oh, and Yashida is dead. So much that plan of his to live and all. Yukio is sad because she has precognitive sight but failed to see Yashida's passing.
  • People on rooftops. Can't have a superhero movie without people on rooftops.
  • When I die, I hope they play "Getting Late" by Rob Thomas. (As opposed to this chanting and gong thing.)
  • Also, I hope no one starts shooting at my funeral. Because I would be totally sorry to miss out on that. Especially if there were arrows. I love arrows. Would hate to miss arrows.
  • Really long action sequence. I am clearly not the target audience for this movie. Really long action sequences bore me.
  • I do love those Japanese arcades, though.
  • Did they give the one girl bright red hair so we'd be able to tell them apart? And is that racist? Kind of?
  • Kaiju! I call my kids that all the time.
  • More fighting. This time on a train. How long before someone ends up on top of the train? (Answer: Not long.)
  • Obligatory awkward forcing together of two people (here, they must share a room in a love hotel) in order to create false sexual tension.
  • Wait, what? A goat? I hate goats. Ah, I see; a veteranerian is helping take the bullets out of Logan and stitch him up. So the question is: Why isn't Logan regenerating? And the answer is: Bad kissing.
  • Now we're back outside Nagasaki. Chopping wood is harder than it used to be.
  • Flashback: Yashida tries to give Logan a sword, but Logan tells him to keep it safe and he'll come back to claim it later.
  • More awkward tension as Mariko ties Logan's kimono for him. (Is it a yukata?)
  • Kissing. Less bad than with the other lady but still painful to watch.
  • Maybe he should just always sleep in a separate bed. I feel like that would solve a lot of these problems. (No spooning for you!)
  • The flashes of Jean are really obnoxious and dumb.
  • Oh, wait, Yukio is having a precognitive dream of Logan's death. And Mariko is being kidnapped.
  • So Yashida was bankrupting his company in attempt to turn himself into the next Wolverine (that is, he was stockpiling adamantium and working to prolong his life so he could be ageless and self-healing like Logan).
  • This Viper chick isn't a very interesting or formidable villain. -Ess. Villainess.
  • Time for Logan to make Yukio's nightmare come true by pulling his own heart out.
  • More fighting. And now Logan is back to being Logan.
  • The score for this movie is pretty over the top.
  • Time for the big finish. Wolverine has had some of his claws cut off by some robotic samurai thing with a hot sword. (And no, that's not a euphemism.)
  • And Viper has shed her skin, though I don't know why. Just to show off maybe.
  • Oh, wait, am I supposed to believe Yashida is in that armor? I'm confused. I should have paid better attention. Except I wasn't interested enough to pay that much attention. And really, I don't feel like I missed anything.
  • Yup, there's Yashida. Turns out he's a villain too. And he's . . . Draining Wolverine's life force? Or something?
  • Oh look, he got younger. And then Mariko stabbed him. In the throat.
  • Wolverine finishes the job.
  • The "sayonara" was tacky, though.
  • I think Logan needs another bath . . .
  • And apparently we've got a bad rom-com in the making: Yukio as Wolverine's bodyguard.
  • Yay! Magneto! Professor X! Best moment of the whole movie, and you have to wait partly through the credits to see it. Pfffttt.
  • There was not enough piña colada for this.

Children's Television: The Magic School Bus

I realize this is an older show, but my kids love it. It's fun, it's educational—they come away from each episode with a bevy of facts they're dying to share with me. "Mom! Did you know . . .?"

But what I wonder is whether teachers ever got upset about The Magic School Bus. Because I can see how and why they might. I could imagine an educator arguing:
We've got to get kids off this Magic School Bus trip. It sets unreasonable expectations for teachers to be fun and inventive. I'm getting students who expect to go on field trips, for God's sake. I've been teaching for fifteen years, and I don't have that kind of energy. I want my kids to sit down and shut up, not be exploring topics and demanding hands-on experiences.
Or something to that effect.

I was lucky to have a Frizzle-like teacher from kindergarten through fourth grade (though some might have thought her taking us to pick cotton like field hands was going a bit far—but hey, we sure learned to appreciate the hardships of slave labor). Now my oldest has a science-minded teacher who encourages his natural curiosity as well. And for all those out there without such benefits, well, there's The Magic School Bus. It's education by proxy, but it's good stuff. Kids are natural learners, but they learn better through experience (think of the way infants learn—it's the ultimate in immersion, going from the womb to the world) than from having someone lecture them. Take them on a ride, even if only on an animated bus.

Candles: Turquoise Sky

I found this throwback Yankee candle at a card shop. I'd never seen or heard of it before, but it smells beautiful and is the most gorgeous color . . . When I tried to purchase it, the register couldn't ring it up; the associate had to manually enter it. I do love when I find little surprises like this one. Yankee's site does show it; see it for yourself here.

Still, nothing will ever replace my [Blue] Hydrangea. (Insert wistful sigh here.)


Television: AHS: Coven, "The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks"

So Laveau had come to the witch house to broker a pact in the aftermath of all her people being slaughtered by Cordelia's witch hunter husband.

While there, Laveau is visited ostensibly by Papa Legba. And here is where the show lost me. Because I'm pretty familiar with Papa Legba, and he isn't anything like whatever this show was trying to pull. So I spent the remainder of the episode being bothered by that.

On the flip side, there was Stevie Nicks. It seems like Fiona invited her over because Misty is such a fan (and we've been led to think Misty will be the next Supreme, though honestly it seems like the title is up for grabs). Nicks sang some "Rhiannon" and . . . something else . . . But whatever. Seemed like an awkward time to have a celebrity house guest when you've got people [almost] killing babies, and making the neighbor drink bleach, and drowning each other in the bathtub.

Also: twirling with scarves? Is this part of a witch curriculum?

So. Yes, Nan kills Luke's mom after discovering Luke is dead and has been cremated. And Madison can't stand the idea of Misty as the new Supreme so she coaxes her into a New Orleans cemetery, tosses her into a coffin, and has the coffin installed in one of the monuments. I wonder whether the writers know about how we use coffins in New Orleans? They can't stay in the monuments, so we don't seal the monuments until after the body has been removed from the coffin. Then we shove the body back into the monument and brick it up, install the faceplate, and toss the coffin. That's right, we pay thousands of dollars for coffins we can't use. A year and a day after the interment, the monument can be opened and the remains shoved to the back to make room for the next family member. (Usually you wouldn't bother to open it until the next time you need it; you just hope deaths are more than a year apart. But then again, you generally have several slots to choose from, too.) The back of the monument is open at the bottom—there's a hole. The bones and remains get pushed back and then fall down to an under space. So, you know, eventually your bones just get jumbled up with everyone else's in your family. We're a close group, in death as in life.

And what I mean by all this is: if the writers know what they're doing, they'll plan that Misty won't stay in that coffin. But it looked to me like she was going to get bricked in anyway. I guess they can chalk it up to Madison having, what, influenced the workers to do it? Paid them off? Whatever.

Oh, so anyway, Papa Legba evidently wanted Laveau to bring him the soul of an innocent. Namely, a baby. But then Fiona and Laveau scheme to give him Nan instead. (Here's the drowning in the bathtub bit.) With LaLaurie MIA, the partnership of Fiona and Laveau has become the best thing about the show.

But I do wonder at Fiona's rage against Cordelia over having unwittingly married a witch hunter. I mean, I get being angry, but her anger seemed way out of proportion to the "crime."

Fiona tried to make her own pact with Papa Legba, looking for immortality, but he told her she has no soul to trade. Really? Then where is it? I know I hate when I misplace mine. Maybe she should check it isn't tangled in a shawl.

Television: Revolution, "The Three Amigos"

Um, lessee, where were we?

Aaron was talking to kids who weren't actually there (a manifestation of the nanotech), Cynthia had been killed, Gene was being held by the Patriots, Miles' hand was infected, Monroe was intent on finding his lost son, and Neville was getting crazier by the minute.

And here's what happened this week:

  • Monroe and Charlie freed Gene so Gene could help save Miles.
  • Aaron wandered off on his own . . . To Spring City, Oklahoma and its big ball of twine. Cuz that's where the nanotech seemed to want him to go.
  • Monroe, Miles, and Rachel went to Mexico and found Monroe's son, who is a lot like his dad in attitude and in the way he amasses henchmen and then oppresses people. So Monroe tells his boy they should partner up and rebuild the Monroe Republic.
  • The Patriots were injecting oranges with something and handing them out to the people of Willoughby.
  • Oh, and Neville's still crazy. He and his wife continue to plot to take over the world government.

I'll admit, this week's episode didn't hold my full attention. We seem to have hit a slump.

Based on my half-listening skills, it seems Monroe was dragged off by some of his son's men. Now Miles and Rachel must go rescue him. I'm not sure why, not even sure why they went with him in the first place. Miles said it was because if they sent Monroe off alone, he'd never come back, but . . . Is that a bad thing?

I'm really just waiting for Neville to become president or something. And then it'll be all "Madness of King Tom" or whatever. And he'll have to be overthrown.

Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, I'm waiting for the promise of a big ball of twine to be made good on. Show me the twine, and I shall be satisfied.

Books: Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer

Got this as a Christmas gift and mostly enjoyed it. I've long had an interest in Isabella and Edward, so I generally pick up books about them when I find them, fiction or non. Falconer does a nice job of showing Isabella's mounting frustrations with her husband; when her long-suffering patience breaks, one wonders what took so long.

Falconer doesn't do much by way of description; his prose is spare and the chapters are short. People who enjoy more embroidery in their historical fiction would do better to stick with Philipa Gregory and/or Alison Weir. Really, Isabella is almost scriptlike: setting and mostly dialogue with a minimum of character direction (i.e., their physical actions). It is even written in present tense, like a screenplay.

The book would have benefitted from better proofreading. For one thing, Chapters 23 and 24 are exactly the same. Yes, I mean that somehow the chapter repeats (but has a different chapter number). And though Pembroke dies on page 137, he's somehow back again on 142. Isabella's deceased father too, albeit briefly, on 143. These issues along with a number of punctuation errors were distracting. But that may just be my years of working as a book editor talking.

A quick read that gives a historical accounting of what happened and when, and strives to give the reader Isabella's point of view. It mostly succeeds.


Television: Elementary, "All in the Family"

We're finally seeing Bell at work in Demographics. He's sent to investigate a sighting of a barrel being wheeled into a recycling plant after hours. Finds a decapitated body. Calls in Gregson, Holmes, and Watson.

They identify the body as Handsome Bobby Pardillo. Or, Watson does, based on encyclopaedic knowledge of the mob. Prime suspect(s): anyone from the rival Ferrara family.

Holmes irritates Bell by offering his services to the Demographics unit. (Holmes, Festivus is over; we won't air grievances until next December.)

Things escalate as the chief Ferrara suspect is incinerated via car bomb. The trail then leads to a Web development company, something to do with e-mails between Bobby and his father. The Ferrara victim had copies of them . . . But how?

Bell asks Watson to tell Holmes to back off. Watson accuses Holmes of trying to force a partnership with Bell because Holmes doesn't like to work with anyone else (except maybe Gregson).

Turns out it was the head of Demographics (Da Silva) that requested the e-mails. He wanted Bobby found. Why? Is he in with the Ferraras?

(Not pizza. Order cannolis!)

Holmes recruits Bell to help figure out whether Bell's boss is dirty. And Bell uses his skill to grab a massive file that proves it. [Lots of chatter about motives and history and retirement, but I tuned out a bit. Bottom line: catch out Da Silva. Which they do.]

Honestly—and I've mentioned this before—mob stories don't much interest me. Not my thing. What made the episode was Watson's enthusiasm, and Holmes's reactions to her extensive knowledge. "Can a Godfather marathon be far behind?"

Also nice to see Bell roped back into the group.

Television Odds & Ends: Intelligence & Community

So I watched the pilot for Intelligence and I feel it has potential. I wasn't blown away, but found it more intriguing than The Black List. My rule is to give shows three viewings before I give up on them, so we'll see.

If you're wondering, Intelligence stars Lost's Josh Holloway as, well, pretty much another version of Sawyer (at least in terms of attitude). Here Holloway is Gabriel, a Marine who has since had a special chip implanted in him to make him the equivalent of a human smartphone. Think: if Sherlock Holmes's intelligence was fabricated rather than natural. You'd have this guy.

They've given Gabriel a bit of a personal quest: find his wife Amelia whom everyone says (a) was a traitor and (b) is dead. This will clearly be the thru plot for the show. Remember Mulder and Samantha? Same idea. While possibly cliché, I do find this more interesting than the stuff The Black List tried to do with the husband, etc. In that show, the writers hadn't made me care enough about the characters to then care about the truth behind them. Here, Gabriel is likable enough, and the idea is interesting enough. Plus, they've given him a cool body guard sidekick who is willing to break a few rules with him. It's a good dynamic and they made the good choice of deciding not to pile on any immediate sexual tension.

There is also the threat of the Chinese possibly having a similar souped-up human agent. This is nice because it doesn't make our hero the smartest guy in the room. There's nothing less interesting than someone who can't be beat. Holmes needs Moriarty, and Gabriel needs this Chinese lady. (Or will.)

Less exciting is the potential for this show to become rote. Though I liked some of what I saw, I found a lot of it average, and my mind wandered now and then. I wasn't riveted. I also didn't buy the whole Gabriel-recreating-crime-scenes thing. Side effect? What? Where's the data being pulled from for this? "Analyze it like a dream," Gabriel says. Um . . . Then I can't really take it at face value OR believe in its accuracy, can I? Someone didn't think that one through.

Okay, but on to Community. I'll admit I wasn't wowed by the double-header premiere last week, though I did watch both episodes a second time and found them better and funnier than I originally thought.

But tonight's episode—a parody of David Fincher films—was brilliant. For me, an immediate classic in the Community pantheon, up there with "Pillows and Blankets" (my all-time favorite). Glad to have the show back; between it and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, my comedy needs are being met splendidly.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The Magical Place"

In which we finally learn (kind of) what really happened to Agent Coulson while he was dead—for days, as it turns out—after Loki stabbed him with the Chitauri scepter.

You'll recall (because they'd never, ever let us forget) that Coulson had been made to believe he'd gone to Tahiti. Every time someone mentioned Tahiti, Coulson would say in Pavlovian fashion, "It's a magical place." The truth turns out to be magical but far less pleasant.

But wait. Let's rewind to when we last saw Coulson. He'd been abducted by Centipede and whisked away via helicopter with Raina. Turns out they took him to the desert, to one of those fake towns set up for bomb testing, complete with creepy mannequins. There they stuck his head in a machine designed to help him remember the truth about how he came to be alive again.

Meanwhile, back on the airplane bus (leave it to the government not to know the difference), Agent Hand has taken over operations to find and shut down Centipede. Oh, and maybe find Coulson while they're at it. But she kicks Skye off the plane bus, God, whatever, leaving Skye free to conduct her own "operation" of following the money to figure out what Centipede is up to. I won't go into all the details; it's sufficient to say that Skye and our team reach the same conclusion about where Coulson is being held at approximately the same time and so meet up there to rescue him.

On the flip side of things, the Clairvoyant who runs Centipede fires Po (severance package is a killer) and puts Raina in charge of extracting information from Coulson's brain. She is surprisingly empathetic, and that's what makes her a good character and a good villain—she truly believes she's doing the right thing. She wants to help creates super soldiers to fight whatever else might come down from the cosmos, and she has real faith in the Clairvoyant. I'll be interested to see who this Clairvoyant is, assuming we ever meet him (or her . . . don't recall whether anyone has used a gendered pronoun for this character).

Anyway, Coulson does begin to remember. He recalls being on an operating table and having a machine (that looked like it came out of The Matrix) working on his brain. He kept asking the doctors to let him die. And he is voicing this wish as Skye and May bust in and save him from Raina.

Raina is taken into custody, so we'll see how that falls out. No more flowered dresses? (Raina was flattered Coulson had noticed.)

Oh, but poor Mike. Remember him? Blown up while trying to save Coulson? Well, he's not dead. He now has the same implant as Amador and other of Centipede's super soldiers: messages that appear in front of his eyes and, one presumes, a kill switch. Alas, he does not have one of his legs . . .

A solid episode. Fun to watch Simmons try to lie convincingly. On the whole I've found S.H.I.E.L.D. mildly entertaining. But it doesn't really require a lot of attention and much of it is pretty paint-by-numbers in terms of plotting. Even the mythology is not spectacular or particularly unique. I'd like to see some kind of twist, something that really surprises. As things stand, I'll probably keep watching. But if other, better things were to come on and I had to give up something . . . I'm not sure I'd miss S.H.I.E.L.D. And that's key to being a good show—you gotta make it something people don't want to miss.


Television: Almost Human, "Simon Says"

Okay, so I mostly find Almost Human very uneven. The last new episode to air I turned off after ten minutes or so because I just didn't care about what was going on. For me, Almost Human is on the bubble; I can take it or leave it. It's not appointment television, and I'm not sorry if I miss an episode. But I still turn it on to see whether whatever episode is playing catches my interest.

This one was pretty good. Sort of a futuristic snuff YouTube in which people go on the "dark net" to watch the kind of stuff that's pretty much illegal. When you think about it, this isn't so far from true. Look at reality television, look at the horror movies that make big box office, look at how desperate everyone is for their mini movies to get thousands of hits online . . . Put it all together, and this is pretty much the result.

Anyway, in this instance one Simon Lynch (let's just give him one of those on-the-nose names, shall we?) has opted to revenge himself upon those who have rejected him by fastening bombs around their necks and broadcasting over the [dark] Internet as he forces them to follow a series of instructions . . . And then die anyway. He does this to a bank manager who refused to give him a loan, and then to a woman who turned him down for a date. Alas, Kennex and Dorian are able to save the woman, causing Simon to lose viewers. He is decidedly pissed off about that.

Turns out, too, that Simon had been a police recruit training with the bomb squad before being booted after failing a psych evaluation. (Ya think? Maybe they should screen them before teaching them stuff about bombs?)

Simon takes his frustration out on Kennex by—you guessed it!—fastening a bomb around Kennex's neck. Guy's a one trick pony, really. Wouldn't be much of a show if Kennex didn't get out of it, so I really lost interest at that point.

The B plot was actually quite entertaining, however. Due to rolling brownouts, the androids couldn't all be charged and Dorian was given even lower priority for charging than the MXs. This caused Dorian to act out a bit, in part out of frustration that the MXs received higher priority and in part because not being fully charged wonked out his emotional circuits. He asked Kennex whether he could come stay at Kennex's place rather than have to share a charging area with the MXs, but Kennex was keen to keep his trophy room. The episode ended with Dorian going to room with Rudy . . . But is that better or worse than living in MX housing?

Lots of shows go with the buddy living situation, at least for a few episodes. Wilson and House on House M.D. Remember that? That was a show I wanted to see, more even than the actual show I was watching (and I gave up on House a couple seasons prior to it withering and dying anyway; the Cuddy thing was just too no). Writers use the buddy living thing as a way to thicken the soup, give them something else to write or play with when the main story is light. Done well, it can be fun. Done poorly, it's a disaster. I mean, The Odd Couple is one thing. That's a sitcom, meant to be funny. In a drama, one uses the funny to lighten what one hopes is dramatic tension. Not wanted: an hour-long sitcom. Unless it's House and Wilson. Cuz I would've totally watched that.

I liked seeing more of Paulie this week. He and Dorian had some good moments. I'll keep test driving Almost Human in the hopes of more such moments in the future.


Television: Elementary, "The Diabolical Kind"

We see the return of Moriarty, who has been moved from Newgate to an isolated warehouse where she is able to paint [enormous portraits of Watson] and read the newspaper.

Holmes has been corresponding with Moriarty while she's been incarcerated; he keeps her letters hidden in one of his rooftop beehives. But he must face her in person when the NYPD need her help in a kidnapping case. Best exchange of the night:

Moriarty: You look a little tired.
Holmes: You look a little evil.

Also a lovely scene between Watson and Moriarty. As usual Watson sees into the human and emotional aspects of both Holmes and Moriarty, which is probably why they both find Watson so interesting . . . and useful.

The case itself involves some of Moriarty's former henchmen kidnapping a 7-year-old girl. Of course Holmes immediately declares Moriarty must be in on it, despite the seeming impossibilities given her confinement. She's clever, after all, there is surely a way. And here is where the talent of the writers comes through: In the case of Moriarty's character, one really doesn't know what she may or may not do because she seems capable of anything. One feels the need to second guess everything she says and does.

Deduction shows that Moriarty encoded messages—really just numbers, GPS coordinates—in her sketches of the henchmen (meant to aid police in finding them). Further digging shows that chief henchman Devon Gaspar had used the classifieds to get messages to Moriarty (a twist on the old agony columns Doyle's Holmes used to peruse). But! Moriarty isn't working with Gaspar & Co. She's actually a victim of blackmail!

The little girl is Moriarty's daughter, sent to live with a well-to-do family because Moriarty's "proclivities" (as she called them) weren't conducive to raising a child.

Not Holmes's daughter, mind; the girl pre-dates Moriarty's involvement with Holmes. (SO glad they didn't opt to go down that road.)

By the end, Moriarty has broken free and managed to save her daughter and resettle her before Holmes, Gregson, and the rest of the team are on the scene. Moriarty opts not to kill her jailer, instead just incapacitating him, and tells Holmes this is his influence; knowing that her killing the man would have been repugnant to him made her decide against it. But again, one is left wondering whether she did it to fein rehabilitation? Moriarty's sincerity will ever be in question, wily thing, and no one—not Holmes, not the viewer—will ever be able to fully trust her. It's a delightful dynamic and put to good use in this episode.

Television: Sherlock, "The Sign of Three"

My thoughts posted on PepperWords here. And some additional thoughts here.

And one other thought: Since we all know that in the canon Mary dies at some point, and since one of the ongoing theories of some Sherlockian scholars is that she and/or John's child died . . .

(Really, Moffat just needs to hire me. But since he and the BBC are so dead set against women . . .)


Coming Soon . . .

Here's the final cover. Now just to finish writing the rest of the book.


Television: Sherlock, "The Empty Hearse"

I do all of my Sherlock coverage over on Pepperwords. You can read my initial thoughts on the episode here. And I will just add that I do understand how difficult it is to go from having almost no expectations for a program—and they didn't for Sherlock when the first series ran—to it being a surprise hit, meaning it suddenly has a lot of pressure on it. Everyone watching. And wanting and expecting it to be as good or better than before. But when something is really good, there are going to be natural dips. Perfection is not sustainable. I mean, think of your favorite television program. I can promise you (assuming you're not one of those blind, mindless zombies of a fan who have the idea that their show can do no wrong) there is at least one episode of that program that you don't like. Maybe more than one if the show was on for any length of time. So while my critiques of things like Sherlock may sometimes seem harsh, I assure you that I do admire the work that goes in. It can't all be fantastic. But some things in the world are all the more beautiful for being flawed.