May 20, 2016

Winter/Spring 2016 TV and Movies (OUAt, Galavant, The Family, Mad Max: Fury Road)

Posted in Pop Culture at 8:37 am by chavalah

Once Upon a Time, 5b promotional poster

Once Upon a Time, 5b promotional poster

Welp, the traditional TV season is coming to an end. Just a quick note on some of the media that I’ve been watching, before Game of Thrones consumes me fully. 😛

Once Upon a Time, season 5B
I wrote in December that I was looking forward to seeing certain recurring guest stars again, and that was definitely one of my favorite parts of this half season. Often, folks abruptly disappear from this show, leading part of the fandom to dub the notion of “forgotten character island.” 😛 But in the Underworld, we got to tie up some loose ends, many of which have been teasing us since near the beginning of the series. There were certainly some parts of this arc that had a “finale” feel, yanno, because ABC could pull the plug after this, but Once will indeed be back for a season six! 😀

The showrunners couched the themes of this arc behind watered down Olympian gods and references to the Underworld as a purgatory between “a better place” and “a worse place.” But it lived up to the promise of Once’s integral theme of hope– exemplifying that if you work through your misdeeds, you can find forgiveness and happiness. Nowhere did this work better than with Cora; Barbara Hershey has always been great at bringing nuance to this villain who closed her heart in the face of adult ambition and a painful past. But now we get to see her realize the error of her ways. This is probably one of the strongest scenes of the entire series, where Cora admits that one of her catch phrases, “love is weakness,” was misguided. Granted, the scene does rely on a little bit of retro-history of a forgotten past between her two daughters, Regina and Zelena. But for the most part, Cora is atoning for long-festering sins that she performed against both women.

…I’m also, admittedly, the most invested in Zelena’s character arc that I’ve ever been, now that she’s toeing redemption and starting a real relationship with her sister. 😀 Bring me those family ships!

Not everyone got a happy ending, of course. Robbie Kay also reprised the role of Peter Pan, but since he didn’t really grapple with any of his wrongdoing, of course he couldn’t get a happy ending. Still, his final scene was a bit depressing for external reasons. When Rumple vanquished him at the end of season 3A, he sacrificed himself for a noble cause; he was, in fact, a hero. But this time, when he vanquishes his father, it’s more an act of petty revenge. Highlighting, alas, that Rumple seems to be the penultimate villain of this show. We may feel for him, but he doesn’t seen capable of real change.

This was even more stark when he was pitted against Milah. His ex-wife lived her life as a beleaguered but ultimately selfish woman; in the Underworld she was trying to atone, so that she might see her son again. But Rumple snatches that chance away from her for his own gain. Probably one of the most depressing character endings ever, because the show constructed it in such a way that she’s lost forever. :/ Oy.

Elsewhere, things got more interesting between Rumple and his current wife, and not just because of the baby bump and what it means for their family. For the first time in a long time, he and Belle are honest—while awake—with each other. 😛 Also, Belle got to grapple with her own beliefs about right and wrong in an episode about Gaston (of course.) I hope that continues next season, and I hope that other characters get to do that as well.

We also got our first lesbian relationship on the show! While I applaud the writers for signifying that gay people want–and deserve–the same happy endings as everyone else, this development was ultimately disappointing. Featuring third tier characters whom we will barely ever see again, stolid relationship chemistry, and insta-love. :/. Coulda done better, Once.

Next season seems to promise the theme of characters—Regina in particular—grappling with their “dark sides,” and I’m all for it. But what happened to Emma’s dark side—a big selling point a year ago when she became susceptible to the powers of the Dark One? I wish that other characters were consistently portrayed with Regina’s nuance—everyone has a liiiittle bit of Mr. Hyde in them. 😛

But strap in your seatbelts, kids, for a Victorian steampunk-esque ride, I hope! We’re moving into adult “fairytales!” Also, Henry’s burgeoning author powers, burgeoning romance with Violet, and burgeoning teenage outbursts. 😀 I am here for that.

I’m really disappointed that this show didn’t make the cut for a third season, because I found this year to be better than last year. They juggled lots of plot and characters, lots of satire (and lots of Game of Thrones jokes) that came together into a comprehensive and tightly-knit five-hour show.

Seriously, the soundtrack is just great. I started listening to it on my own and recognized the repeating refrain of “a new season” throughout the show’s run, updated to include whatever was going on in the plot at the time of the new versions. Alan Menken and Glen Slater are pretty ingenious with their rhyming (and hilarious) music and lyrics. My favorite is probably “Today We Rise,” speaking of Game of Thrones feels.

Sometimes I think I’m being too easy on this show. Because it’s a parody, I don’t have to worry so much about things like plot believability. 😛 Beyond that, one thing I definitely rolled my eyes at was the catfighting between Isabella and Madalena; the standard relationship for female leads on television. *sigh* Gotta admit, though, the harmonies in their song were really quite good. And in general, Madalena got a surprising amount of character development, while still remaining hilariously villainous.

Is it too late to perform some D’Dew voodoo on ABC execs to get this show back again?? Alas, should have written this post sooner. :/

The Family
I was much more ambivalent in watching The Family, a new (and unrenewed) (melo)drama that played after Once. A mystery/thriller that often delegated such issues as child abuse and trauma to mere window dressing, the show mostly concerned itself with a series of increasingly unbelievable “who dunnit” shockers. The more genuine moments about how these events might affect a family were few and far in between.

Joan Allen brought her all to this role of a grieving mother and ambitious politician, but I couldn’t help feeling the entire time that I really should just watch her in Room. Liam James gave a good turn at playing the haunted boy returned from a decade of abduction, when not being manipulated by plot machinations. I was also moved by Allison Pill, and most of the writing for her character, Willa. She struck me as very flawed, but also very human in her long term responses to her family’s plight, so of course she was pretty universally hated by the fanbase. 😛

Beyond all that, the cops were largely incompetent and the journalists unethical. And that’s the only area where this show shunted its minority actors, unfortunately. Winning the most offensive award in my book was the character of Bridey Cruz, a lesbian lifestyle blogger turned expose writer. First off, show me the hyper-local newspaper in a small conservative town with the budget for a lesbian lifestyle blogger. Secondly…way to play into negative stereotypes about bisexual women, show. She doesn’t have any real relationships, but is instead a femme fatale, who sleeps with a both a brother and a sister in order to get ahead, professionally. Ugh. It’s the 21st century…time to do better, TV.

Mad Max: Fury Road
I put off watching this movie, in part because when it came out, it was used as a bludgeon against the then recently aired Sansa rape scene on Game of Thrones. I had a feeling that unlike many of my friends, I’d see the movie as more vacuous in that capacity. Don’t hate me, everyone. 😛

The reason why this film is viewed as “feminist” while Sansa’s arc was not, is because we don’t witness the sexual abuse. That’s a low bar for me. I’d rather see a character be abused and then be shown as a person afterwards, vs the waifs from this movie. Did they even have names? I mean, I know they did, but I didn’t see any reason to remember them. Did they have any trauma about their treatment, any past histories or hopes for their lives that went beyond the immediacy of the plot? This feminist message was all about the message that female subjugation is bad, but not at all about the femmes–the women–themselves, as people.

And because I didn’t really connect with the characters, I wasn’t all that interested in the plot. Sorry, guys. Spotlight may have been a perfunctory “take your kid to work” type movie, but the art of journalism had more of an emotional arc than any of the women in Fury Road. I’m sticking with the Academy winner.

And that about covers it! Tune in next time for long think pieces about Game of Thrones season six, cos you know they’re coming. 😛


1 Comment »

  1. […] a month later than last year in making this post, though the Game of Thrones schedule has changed, too, so I guess that’s […]

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