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

Robert (whom we're now all calling Gonzales) and Coulson put aside their hard feelings in order to fight Hydra. Everyone wants to kill Ward, even—or especially—after his sweet little speech about the good times they'd once had. Cal promises to behave while at the same time letting the cat out that Skye is his and Jiaying's daughter. Stuff about Lincoln and Deathlok getting rescued. And Raina is having visions.

Meanwhile, no one had better watch next week's episode without seeing the Avengers movie first because it sounds like, as ever, it's all tied together.

It's been brought home to me quite clearly now that Orphan Black is back that, while S.H.I.E.L.D. is moderately entertaining (or, really, inconsistently entertaining), it falls short of Orphan Black, which IS consistently entertaining. Orphan Black does far more with a lot less, keeping tensions high, and there is a real sense of anything being possible. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of like a circus, with stuff going on in several rings. Some of it is cool, some of it is just clowning. But after a while, you just get a headache.

Orphan Black is neatly plotted and feels like razor wire. S.H.I.E.L.D. is clever, but not as clever. It's a behemoth, an elephant to Orphan Black's asp.

I didn't mean for this to become a treatise on Orphan Black. It's just that seeing that show again made it more clear to me what in S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't work for me. They are, of course, two very different shows with two different agendas. I mean, they both want viewers, but Orphan Black stands alone, while S.H.I.E.L.D. is designed to sustain the Marvel-eating crowd between films. So maybe it isn't entirely fair to compare the two. But if I had to pick only one to watch, it would be Orphan Black all the way.


Television: Gotham, "The Anvil or the Hammer"

I have to say, I feel like the Ogre thing could have lasted another couple episodes. Still, probably better that they didn't milk it.

We last left Barbara with Jason, aka the Ogre. A serial killer. He sees something special in Barbara, something that leads him to believe she's "The One." As proven by her telling him to go kill her parents. (Hey, he demanded to know who he should kill.)

I had thought last week that Barbara had smiled a little when Jason showed her his special room, but I guess not. Though I'm not sure then why she didn't run away right then. Evidently she spent the night, and it's only in the morning when she tries to leave that things get ugly.

Gordon is, of course, in the awkward position of being in love with Leslie but feeling responsible for Barbara's situation and safety. For a show as hamfisted as Gotham can be, this was played reasonably well.

Anyway, the short answer is Gordon and Bullock find Barbara and Jason at Barbara's parents' house. The parents are dead, Barbara is dazed, but our heroes win the day.

Meanwhile, Nygma works to hide the evidence of his murder by dealing with the corpse in the coroner's office. He also sends Kris a typewritten note ostensibly from her AWOL boyfriend. "Have a nice life!" more or less.

And Penguin starts a mob war. ::shrug:: This remains the least interesting bit of the show for me. As great as Robin Lord Taylor is, the story there just bores me.

Bruce goes to open the safe of . . . some guy at Wayne Enterprises . . . and it's empty. But the guy finds him and gives him a cookie. Um, what? So wait a minute, I lied; this is the least interesting part of the show.

The first season is skidding to its end. I'm not 100% on board for watching a second. If only half a show is entertaining me, there's something wrong. We'll see how things end, and only then will I know if I can be bothered to carry on.

Fantod Pack by Edward Gorey

A little tongue-in-cheek divination from the late and lovely Mr. Gorey. The Fantod Pack is a collection of 20 cards designed to tell you just what disaster(s) might befall you.

The cards come with a booklet that gives a brief history of Madame Groeda Weyrd, interpreter of said cards, though she refuses to divulge their mystic origin. The booklet also instructs on how to use the cards, then lists each card and its various interpretations. (These lists are really just the possible difficulties, disturbances, and dreadful things that might arise to hound you.)

The Fantod Pack is out of print, I believe, but Amazon still has a number of buying options. As a fan of Gorey and a collector of Tarot and oracle cards, for me they were a must have. They combine all the dark, fantastical art of Gorey with his unique humor and channel it into the perfect outlet. Still, if you're hoping for serious divination, you probably want something else.

Box + sampling of cards

Sample lists from the booklet

Then again, I must say, when following the instructions in the booklet, I've had a rather accurate reading . . . But with so many options per card, it would be a wonder if I couldn't find something to fit the bill.


Television: Elementary, "Under My Skin"

One of the writers evidently remembered Alfredo and said, "We should probably use him for something," meaning he got a story line this week. Holmes spots an interloper at an AA meeting, one he's seen before at another meeting, and at first believes the man is following him. But when cornered the man admits it's Alfredo he's tracking. (And we, sadly, miss out on what might have been a fabulous scene of Holmes playacting an angry, jilted lover.)

It turns out Alfredo was fired from a car alarm company and, because the company is also badmouthing him and taking his customers, Alfredo is bent on revenge. Which he achieves by . . . Moving the cars? I don't know, but when Holmes confronts him, Alfredo draws the line. He tells Holmes they are not friends, merely sponsor and recovering addict. It's the kind of thing Holmes would have said once upon a time, but we've seen this character grow and develop beyond that. Here he extends that growth by firing Alfredo as his sponsor so that he can be his friend.

Does this mean we'll see more of Alfredo now? ::shrug::

The main story was of a doctor in Brazil using unsuspecting Lap-Band patients as drug mules. The patients would fly to Brazil for the surgery, where it's much cheaper. But as they say: you get what you pay for? The doctor didn't actually do the surgery; he removed "unnecessary" organs (stupid extra kidney!) and filled the patients with medical-grade heroin only to have men on the U.S. side find and kill the patients and cut the drugs out of them. From a plot perspective, it was quite unique and interesting. Too bad it was patently clear who the bad guy was. I mean, any time you get Jonny Lee Miller and Fisher Stevens in a room together . . .

Not a lot of Watson-Holmes interaction this week, which is a shame because that remains the show's strongest point. However, it was very nice to see Bell coming into his own a bit, making some smart deductions and decisions. And for some reason, I cannot ever see Clyde without laughing. So while the two central characters are the best part of Elementary, the show does benefit from branching out to supporting cast now and then. Otherwise, it would be too claustrophobic and too cloying. More turtle!


Television, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Frenemy of My Enemy"

The more ridiculously complicated this stuff gets, the less I'm able to care. Nothing "entertaining" should require this much of my energy. Like, the whole Marvel universe . . . All this stuff . . . It's starting to be too much work.

That said, I want my entertainment to require some work. I want it to be at least partly thought provoking. So I realize I'm being picky and difficult and contrary. Media at large is about finding that sweet spot of something being massively appealing by being not too hard and not too easy. You have to be clever and not cliché. You have to avoid being predictable but can't be too far out there, either. People have to be engaged, but there's a tipping point at which it's too much and the audience no longer finds it worth the time and effort. A point at which the payoff, no matter what it might be, cannot be worth the work. It's tricky.

For me, S.H.I.E.L.D. is nearing that tipping point. There are so many characters (and now we're doing a spinoff with Bobbi and Hunter?), and it's all so complicated, yet somehow manages to be predictable at the same time. There's little to no "wow" factor for me. Now I watch and wonder what'll be important to know for the next movie. "Pop quiz, asshole!" Great, my TV and movies have devolved into tests of knowledge. (Which is what they've been for comic book fans all along, I guess, and those people love it—love showing off how much they know or whatever—but ugh. I love trivia, but this isn't my dream Jeopardy! category, nor do I aspire for it to be.)

Anyway, what can I say about last night's episode? The bit I was actually paying attention to, that is. Fitz is saved by Coulson and Hunter and Deathlok, then they go get Ward and Kara and attempt to use Bakshi for infiltration purposes, but that goes badly. And when Simmons tells May she switched the toolbox, May rats her out. Meanwhile, Skye and her dad take a trip to Milwaukee; she's supposed to ditch him there, but he figures out what she's doing and starts to lose it just in time for both Lincoln and Hydra to show up. Coulson and Skye spot each other, but Gordon sweeps in and transports Skye out. This was probably the most interesting story line, or at least the most comprehensible, which isn't saying much.

The whole thing has become so big and clunky, with conspiracy on top of conspiracy. What once felt sharp is now dulled, and watching it makes me feel dull, too, like my brain is going to mush. As with Gotham, I'm pushing through to the end of the season, but I don't know if I'll be on board for more.


Television: Scorpion, "Postcards from the Edge"

When we last saw Walter, he was driving off a cliff.

No, really.

The following morning, everyone is irritated when they can't find Walter and he won't answer his phone. Boy are they going to feel bad when they find out what happened!

We spend most of the rest of the episode waiting for them to get Walter out of the car, which is precariously balanced on a rock ledge. Like, seriously precarious. Like, the movement of a crow on the hood of the car is make or break.

Oh, and also Walter has to self-cauterize a wounded spleen. Or something.

Meanwhile, Paige is ready to take Ralph for a weekend in Maine, only to get to the airport and see Walter and his Ferrari on the news. So off she runs, leaving her luggage at the airport. Dumb.

I know this is all about the feelings between Walter and Paige, but it comes across as so very manufactured. I can't take it seriously. They aren't making me feel it, and good writers would. Instead it's all paint by number character development and maneuvering.

Still, the show has done well and is looking at a second season. And I'll probably continue to watch, or half-watch, which is more or less what I do now. Hey, the network doesn't care whether I'm glued, so long as I have the TV on their channel, right? Good enough is good enough.

Television: Gotham, "Under the Knife"

Sal romances Oswald's mother, much to Oswald's irritation. Nygma takes the plunge toward becoming The Riddler by repeatedly stabbing Kris' abusive boyfriend. Bruce and Cat continue to plot, which extends to going undercover at prom the Wayne Enterprises Ball. And (as I'd previously predicted), Barbara becomes the target of our Ogre serial killer (aka Jason, because that's what you name serial killers) because he thinks she's Gordon's girl.


It was nice to see Daniel Davis again, in this case as Jason's father Jacob. Jacob was the butler of a wealthy woman who took to Jason, practically treating him as her own. So when Jason killed her, Jacob covered it up—meaning there's a really desiccated corpse in the master bedroom. Jason also used to have a massive facial disfiguration, but Gordon and Bullock discover a plastic surgeon had done work on him . . . Leading to the murder of a nurse.

Jason goes after Barbara but underestimates her. At the end of the episode, he shows Barbara his hidden room filled with all his serial killer stuff and . . . She smiles? Was that a smile? Waiting to see how this plays out.

It was an episode filled with people snapping. Oswald kills the messenger (literally), and Nygma kills Kris' insufferable boyfriend.

Meanwhile, we're wondering if Fish Mooney ever landed that helicopter.

Actually, I'm not wondering. I don't much care. Which is sad. I'm pushing through to the end of the season, but I still feel as if this is a show I could walk away from and not miss.


Television: Elementary, "A Stitch in Time"

There was less haunted house in this than I would have liked. Basically, it begins with the murder of a man named Boyd who debunks parapsychological and metaphysical stuff. He had been asked to check out a house—an older woman believed she was haunted by her husband's spirit, and the daughter wanted to disprove it. What Boyd discovered, and died for, was that someone in the neighboring house was digging a tunnel in order to access Ruby, a transatlantic cable.

The old woman had a tape recording of what she said was her dead husband's voice, but Holmes realizes what they're hearing is Arabic. Terrorism? After jumping through a couple hoops, they locate the digger, only to have him burn his apartment and flee. Holmes is able to salvage one piece of equipment, something that the culprit apparently planned to splice into Ruby. Weird thing: this piece of equipment doesn't do anything. Data goes in, and data comes out the other side.

I had it figured out at this point. Do you?

Q: What's the point of giving information one more box to go through?

A: To slow it down.

It took Holmes and Watson a little longer. They opted to do their own tests on the box but got the same results. Until: lightbulb! Holmes realizes the whole point is to delay the information coming through the cable.

And then they figure out the big-time property owner who rents out the house with the tunnel in it was trying to change the game on Wall Street by changing the rate of information to various traders. Whatever. I mean, it's actually kind of clever and everything, but not all that exciting.

Meanwhile, Watson was also helping Gregson's daughter Hannah with a case. Watson tells Hannah she (Watson) doesn't want any credit for it or anything, but she does advise Hannah to kick the case upstairs because there are bigger fish than the ones Hannah is looking for. Instead, Hannah takes the credit and nabs the little fish to many accolades. Holmes had warned Watson that Hannah was not made of the right material to be a true detective, and Watson had taken offense, but it appears Holmes was right (and I had the same feeling about her). In the end, even Gregson tells Watson not to bother helping Hannah again. Wow. Tough love.

A solid episode, though hardly heart-pounding. I guess not every case can involve running and jumping and climbing trees or whatever. I do notice that Elementary has a distinctly anti-capitalist slant, though. So many of the bad guys are powerful, white-collar types. And I'm sure it's true in real life, too, that there are plenty of bad businessmen and politicians or whatever. But, you know, maybe change it up a bit?


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

Skye finds out Jiaying is her mom and is immediately told that they must keep it secret from the rest of the people at Freak High. (Seriously, that's what I'm calling it. It's just another version of Professor X's school, right? A satellite branch or something?) And she finds out her birthday is July 2, which will make reading horoscopes a lot easier.

Meanwhile, as Skye's world gets better, Raina continues to mope and complain and bewail. But Gordon is there to make her feel better.

Fitz gets Fury's toolbox open while locked in the men's room of a diner. Then he FaceTimes Coulson and Hunter for help.

But of course the feature story is getting to hear about May's becoming "The Cavalry." Which is kind of a transformation in and of itself, but without all the unruly powers.

Seven years ago, May (then happily married and planning to start a family) and Coulson took a team to Bahrain to collect another "gifted." But it all went wrong, and a bunch of agents and the target ended up in a hostage situation, along with a little girl. With no time to wait for backup, May went in.

We're to the point now that, if you've watched any of this show or the Marvel movies, you can guess what's coming. The little girl—who May was particularly intent on saving—was actually a gifted person who enjoyed feeding on others' pain. She was controlling the men in the building, turning them zombie-like. And when she refused May's help, May was forced to shoot her. But she also got all the agents out safely. And because they didn't remember anything, she became known as "the Cavalry."

The aftermath: May taking a desk job and deciding against becoming a mother after all. And, by extension, the dissolution of her marriage.

To be honest, it's all a bit of a letdown. One almost would rather the Cavalry story remain unspecific legend, since almost nothing would have lived up to hype.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, May and Simmons begin to uncover a nest of lies Coulson has been telling . . . I guess we're supposed to be shocked, but we all know Coulson too well to believe he doesn't have a damn good reason for whatever he's doing. So: false locations, 100 bunkbeds, and ongoing communication with May's ex-husband? ::shrug:: Probably has something to do with one of these movies . . .


Television: Scorpion, "Cliffhanger"

The writers for the show are working overtime to create a conflict that none of the viewers actually feels. Maybe because Walter is so wooden, it's difficult to imagine him caring this much about something that happened some 15–20 years ago. Then again, Walter is full enough of himself to carry a sense of betrayal indefinitely. "You used my work for bad ends!" Sigh.

Anyway, someone else who is really unhappy about all that decides so many years later to take it out on a lab. And so there are people locked inside, and there's sarin gas, and the old wounds open up between Walter and Cabe. Yawn.

Meanwhile, it must've been Riley Smith's spring break because he was actually in a lot of the episode. Dressing like Walter and wanting to be part of the team . . . So much so that he puts himself in mortal danger, just as Walter is known to do. This causes Paige to conclude that Ralph should not be exposed to Scorpion any longer. She tells Walter she's going to recommend Drew take the coaching job in Maine, and then she and Ralph will move with Drew.

On top of this, Walter has demanded that Cabe be removed as Scorpion's handler. The rest of the crew isn't loving this idea—remember that, smart as they all are, none of them like change. Excitement is one thing, but they all require a stable foundation, of which Cabe and Paige are two load-bearing beams. Now things are beginning to crumble.

Of course, upset at the idea of Paige leaving, and still really angry about the whole Cabe thing (now that he's thinking about it again), Walter takes off in a Ferrari. This is actually a real issue for people with high IQs. There's something about control—wanting to lose it while simultaneously wanting to prove you have it—that makes reckless driving appealing. Also that sense of superiority that convinces you you're better than anyone else on the road (though in this case there was no one else). But then Walter swerves to avoid a coyote and goes over a guardrail, so . . . There's your cliffhanger.

Television: Gotham, "Beasts of Prey"

So Gotham was back last night, and I almost didn't care, which is always a bad sign.

Like, Penguin really wanted to invest in a dive bar, but the woman wouldn't let him unless he got her . . . niece? granddaughter? I dunno . . . back from the guitar player she'd shacked up with. So after cutting off a few guitar-playing fingers, that was all done. ::shrug::

And Fish Mooney orchestrated a jailbreak for a handful of the people stuck in that whatever-it-is. She did it by sacrificing the worst of them, of course. I noticed, too, the digital colorist wasn't doing a great job on that blue eye she's supposed to have now. Knowing that Jada Pinkett Smith won't be back next season makes me wonder whether that doctor is going to turn her into something so unrecognizable it will take a different actress to play her? Or maybe she'll just die. Either way, they've paved Jada's exit.

Bruce and Cat went looking for Alfred's old friend to try and find out who put him up to stealing those documents. And then Cat pushed the guy out a window when Bruce didn't have the courage (or maybe he did have the restraint). But did Bruce really need to ask? Surely it's clear the board has a vested interest in hushing things up?

The most interesting part of the show was that Jim was set on the trail of a serial killer known as "the Ogre." The guy kidnaps women and forces them into domestic submission, but when they eventually fail to be the perfect wives he wants them to be, he kills them and goes in search of another. Apparently this has been going on for a while and has been hushed up because the Ogre, when he gets wind of someone being on his case, goes after the investigator's loved ones. So we're supposed to be worried now about Leslie, or maybe by extension Barbara. But I can't foster much concern. I do at least find this Ogre plot somewhat interesting, but on the whole the show is starting to lose me. We'll have to see.


Books: What I'm Reading Now

It's taking me forever to get through Prince Lestat. I feel kind of bad about that. I started out at a good pace, but something about it just bogged me down and I put it aside for other things. I will finish it, though. I'm determined.

I've also been asked to review The Second Coming: A Love Story. But then my Kindle was dead for a while, so . . . Now that it's working again, I've started that one. Seems like a quick read, so I'll probably have a review up soon.


Television: Elementary, "One Watson, One Holmes"

The story this week is that Everyone—that hacker group that likes to coerce Holmes into ridiculous situations in return for information—is enmeshed in a civil war, and one of them comes to Holmes to ask for help in uncovering the true identity of another member. Which is ridiculous enough to begin with considering Holmes's arsenal of information includes Everyone, so . . . The chances of Holmes doing what one of these hackers cannot, at least in this particular instance, are slim at best. But fine, okay, this kid is grasping at straws. Holmes sends him packing, which also seems stupid given the kid now knows where you live and you've given him all the more reason to make your life difficult.

But none of this ends up mattering because the hacker the kid wanted to find ends up dead, and it appears the kid did it. Of course, that's too easy, and down we go into FBI cases and whatnot, none of it all that interesting. I mean, how did this one guy get framed? Since the person would have needed access to the kid's hair and car? Maybe they explained that and I wasn't listening. Or able to hear. (There were some issues with our cable, and the sound kept cutting in and out, so . . .)

As for the episode's title, it's predicated on the idea that they work as a team only when each of them is fulfilling his and her role. But Watson's post-Andrew determination to become more like Holmes—to insulate herself and focus more on work and less on social life—has upset the balance. Holmes tries to engage Watson in conversation, but she stonewalls him. He encourages her to go to bridal planning parties with her friends, but she finds excuses not to. Finally, Holmes tells her he cannot function without her playing the part of Watson, but makes the mistake of making it all about his needs. Later, he is able to recast the situation as not being healthy for her, saying that what he's learned from working with her is that friendship is important, and that blocking oneself off is unhealthy. So that by the end of the episode, Watson is going out with her friends again.

A very weak denouement involving more or less blackmailing the FBI agent who stymied the murder investigation . . . Just not all that great an episode overall, though I wonder what, if any, lingering effects it will have in regards to Holmes's relationship with Everyone. He did warn them and more or less save them, so . . .

Next week looks to be more fun: a haunted house! Yay!


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

I was barely paying attention. I mean, this thing with Robert and S.H.I.E.L.D. vs S.H.I.E.L.D. just keeps going on and on, and I can't care any more. Meanwhile, in a completely different show, Skye is at Freak High School learning the ropes. And it turns out her mom is the principal.

That about sums it up, right?

Coulson and Hunter are doing their thing, and Robert is trying to sway May to his side, and Simmons gives Fitz a sandwich as a symbol of their strained but undying friendship.

Next week we will finally learn the story behind May's "Cavalry" nickname. I'm hoping that's more interesting. I'm not sure it could possibly be any less.


Television: Mad Men, "Severance"

Don has become mostly uninteresting at this point: twice divorced and chasing tail by ordering pretty girls from the casting department. Sigh. He's gone from sexy to sad, and he's only just starting to realize it thanks to weird feelings of "knowing" a familiar-looking diner waitress from somewhere (and screwing her in an alley), and having a dream/vision of former flame Rachel only to learn she's just passed away.

Then there was some stuff about pantyhose that was clearly explicitly designed to showcase how badly women were treated back in the day, the lewdness they were (and sometimes still are) required to put up with. Peggy tries to just roll with it, but Joan gets her dander up and engages in retail therapy (after Peggy reminds Joan she's rich, after all, and doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to).

Peggy also went out with someone's brother-in-law, got drunk, and invited him to Paris but couldn't find her passport, so they had to postpone. In the light of day, she came to her senses, of course, but it'll be interesting to see how she wriggles out of the Paris weekend—or doesn't.

And Ken gets offered severance because McCann Erikson is still bitter about him and doesn't want him on the team. Ken's wife is telling him to give up the rat race and write that novel, but Ken goes one better: He gets a job with his father-in-law's company, the one whose advertising account he used to handle. Now he'll be the client, and he's in a wonderful position to give everyone hell. Good for him.

It was something of a soft start to the final episodes of the series. Only five more after this one, though, and we're all wondering where everyone will land in the end.


Movies: The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne certainly earned his Academy Award with this one, but aside from his magnificent performance, I have to say this movie was on the whole only average.

The Theory of Everything centers on Stephen Hawking's relationship with Jane Wilde, who becomes Jane Hawking before very long. There's no way it wasn't going to be a difficult relationship given Stephen's illness, but Jane sticks it out long enough for them to have three children. In life they were married some 30 years and even now, by accounts, continue to be friends.

Is Jane selfish for wishing she had a more normal life and for sometimes resenting her brilliant but afflicted husband? That's a matter of opinion, I suppose. One could argue she knew what she was getting into, and also say she never knew it would go on for so long—he wasn't expected to live more than a couple years after his diagnosis. I can empathize with Jane on the fact that everything was on her shoulders: housework and child rearing, and on top of that care of Stephen as well. Years of watching my aunt and cousins deal with my disabled cousin Ross . . . And I also used to sit for a girl who had the same disease as Dr. Hawking, so I know the effort involved, and I only did it for a few hours at a stretch.

The short answer, in any case, is that Jane needed support from wherever she could get it. Her mother suggested she join the church choir, ostensibly so that Jane would have something that was just hers, time devoted to something for herself. And in joining the choir, Jane found the love and support of Jonathan Jones. Jonathan became a close family friend and helpmeet, and it seems inevitable—the stuff of novels—that he and Jane would fall for one another. A shared faith makes a solid foundation, especially given that one of Jane's peeves with Stephen was his ambiguous take on God.

The movie does not go as far as Stephen's relationship with his nurse Elaine. It hints but is not explicit, and maybe that's because this film is Stephen and Jane's story, never minding what came after. Really, it's mostly Jane's story; it devotes more time to her conflicts than anything else.

It's a fine movie, but it fails to be compelling, and is most noteworthy for Redmayne's very physical performance. Maybe it's difficult to make biopics great, given we're so used to epic, blockbuster stories nowadays; anything else—anything like real life—is too quiet by comparison.


Television: Elementary, "The View from Olympus"

A driver for an Über-like company called Zeus is killed by what appears to be an angry cabbie. Motive? Well, these driving companies are taking money away from taxis, right?

But it turns out the cab part is all show. So why does someone want to kill this particular guy? (Whose name is Galen, btw.)

The "cabbie" who killed him is not a cab driver at all, just a sex offender being blackmailed into committing murder. And Galen's girlfriend—a married woman—was similarly being blackmailed. So Galen is the definite target. But why?

Well, Galen also worked as a wannabe investigative journalist. And it appears his getting a job with Zeus was no coincidence; it was, in fact, a journalism tactic as Galen searched for inside info.

Once we visit "Olympus" and meet the Zeus team, it's pretty easy to pick out the culprit. And, yes, the guy I pegged was the one. No surprises there. Turns out he uses Zeus' extensive data on its users to stalk pretty ladies. Kind of a weak climax in an otherwise interesting case.

B plot was interesting as well. Holmes has a sex friend named Agatha coming to visit, so Watson decamps for a hotel. But then Agatha puts forth the idea that Holmes might consider donating his sperm so she can have a baby. Feels cliché to an extent, but the logic is there: Holmes is a very good specimen, at least in terms of intellect. His addictive and obsessive personality traits, well . . . One would hope the child didn't inherit them. But he is, on the whole, a fair candidate.

Holmes is naturally upset that Agatha would violate their "contract" by complicating things this way. And then he discovers she's been put up to the whole thing by his father who wants to ensure the Holmes family line. Ultimate betrayal.

I do like that they're keeping the mysterious Holmes pater in the mix.

I don't like Sherlock's hair. The shaving is weird and oddly distracting.

But in all, a solid episode.


Books: Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

With historical fiction, you know how it ends. At least, usually. I mean, I suppose there's a chance you would pick up a historical fiction book and, if it looked interesting enough, read it without knowing anything about the people involved. But my guess is most people read historical fiction about people and time periods they at least have a passing acquaintance with. And if one were to pick up a novel about a historical figure, and it was someone you knew very little about, or even nothing about, how tempted would one be to look the people up on Wikipedia and find out what happened before even finishing the book?

Okay, so anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that I went into Queen's Gambit knowing very little about Katherine Parr. I knew, of course, that she was Henry VIII's last wife, the one that survived him. And that she was younger than him but also older than others he chosen before her. And that's pretty much the extent of it.

Fremantle is a new voice in the very thick chorus of historical fiction novelists. I've enjoyed some Gregory, and I do really like Alison Weir, and Fremantle is a worthy member of the ranks. Queen's Gambit is well written and engaging, though there were times it focused more on Katherine's maid Dot than I liked. While I could empathize with Dot, there were just passages that seemed to go on a tad too long. Meanwhile, Katherine's portions were snappier, probably due to the character herself.

Katherine Parr had, it would seem, a very interesting life, which makes for good novelization. Married to a man with a notorious temper, who also had ultimate power to do whatever he liked . . . Katherine was just clever enough to keep from going the way of some other wives. Watching her carefully negotiate a treacherous court is absorbing, and she is depicted as someone admirable, but also human.

In any case, it's a good book for those who enjoy those of this stripe. I will probably pick up Fremantle's other book at some point, too.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "One Door Closes"

I'm behind on my television thanks to a bout of pneumonia coupled with being very busy with actual writing work. (I'm pretty sure one instigated the other, but it's a chicken/egg kind of thing.)

So—and pardon my cough medicine-induced haze that may have skewed my ability to follow along—this episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. featured a fair amount of flashback showing how Bobbi and Mac allied themselves with Lt. Castillo Robert after the Hydra attack brought S.H.I.E.L.D. down. I guess the writers feel it's important for us to understand the loyalties involved so that Bobbi and Mac don't become unsympathetic characters. You know, in case the writers want to use them later as people we still like. I do like Mac, but I've never liked Bobbi, so . . . ::shrug::

Anyway, in present day, Coulson has Mac pegged, but is too slow on the uptake to stop Bobbi taking Fury's toolbox from his office (insert extended May-Bobbi fight here). Really, May should have been smart enough to shoot first rather than give Bobbi any chance to get away. Didn't end up mattering in any case, though, since Robert and his team busted in on things, and demanded (a) Simmons help patch Mac's wounds, and (b) Coulson open the box. Did he? The only result we saw (that I can remember, but again: codeine) was Coulson at a beach bar where he met up with Hunter. (Tahiti?)

Meanwhile, Skye is visited by three ghosts Gordon/Reader, and she tries the gloves, and she makes water spiral, and she's attacked by a team led by Bobbi but gets Gordon to teleport her out after causing another big earthquake. That pretty much sums up her night.

So . . . yeah. It is what it is, and Skye connecting with Gordon has the potential to become interesting. The rest of it, yawn, politics.


Television: Scorpion, "Crossroads"

I haven't done a thorough check, but I've concluded Scorpion's unevenness most likely comes from the writers. That is, some scripts are simply better than others. "Crossroads" is an example of a good one.

It's a simple enough plot involving transporting a key federal witness who requires protection. There are elements of Speed in the story (a runaway RV). And though it's a standard story with derivative parts, the writing kept it engaging, more so than the past couple episodes.

Oh, and we dealt with Toby and Happy some more. Namely, Happy showed up for their date and Toby . . . didn't. Slept through it. Which felt like a bit of a stretch considering how hard he'd pushed for this date, even though he explained that he'd been nervous and taken a calming drug that knocked him out. I guess, though, the show can't let these two move into any kind of happy relationship. Still, I'm not looking forward to them dragging this out.

And Toby again confronted Walter with his feelings for Paige. By the end of the episode, Walter was just about ready to make his move, but Drew came back.

In all, a solid episode. I'd like more like these.