The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David." The Museum and the Music Box March 18, 2015 The Museum and the Music Box Noah Keller History is rotting away, just like the museum.
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Mar 6 2015 4:00pm

A Brotherhood Sundered: Sword of the North by Luke Scull

Sword of the North Luke Scull

In “the five hundred and first year of the Age of Ruin,” the line between good and evil is so diminished that most are convinced it no longer exists. It’s every man for himself, and every woman as well, whether he hails from filthy Dorminia or she from lavish Thelassa. To wit, heroes and villains are artifacts of the past; fossils of a sort, all frail and friable... which is damn near a definition of the way Brodar Kayne has been feeling recently.

The so-called Sword of the North has “killed more demonkin than he could count, dire wolves and trolls by the dozen. Even a giant that had wandered down from the Spin the autumn just past.” He knows, though, that his monster-slaying days are numbered. The years have taken their toll, of course; he’s grown “old and weak: that was the truth.” Yet as inescapable as his increasing weakness is, Kayne thinks he has one last mission in him.

[Read More]

Oct 31 2014 11:30am

Worlds Apart: Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney

Paul Kearney Riding the Unicorn

The third of three resplendent reissues of Northern Irish author Paul Kearney’s very earliest efforts completes the sinuous circle described in his dreamlike debut, A Different Kingdom. Riding the Unicorn is a darker fiction by far—it’s about the abduction of a man who’s likely losing his mind by the conniving by-blow of a hateful High King—but it’s as brilliant a book as it is brutal, not least because our hero, Warden John Willoby, is a horrible human being; fortunate, in fact, to find himself on the right side of the cages he keeps his prisoners in.

He has, in the first, a truly terrible temper. To wit, he’s wholly unwelcome in his own home, where his wife and daughter strive each day to stay out of his way. Willoby isn’t an idiot—he’s well aware of their disdain—he just doesn’t give a two bob bit.

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Jun 12 2013 1:00pm

The Circle of Life: Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash

Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash

In the animal kingdom, order is everything.

Absent order, chaos would surely consume the many and various creatures who live in and around Murder’s Field, for instance. Imagine the madness of the grain harvest without someone to make sure the quails wait their turn! Consider those small souls who would go hungry because of the gluttony of others!

Luckily, that’s where the crow king comes in. For generations—ever since the war of the wolves—he and his black-feathered forefathers have upheld a system of sharing and, to a certain extent, caring. Under his watchful eye, an order of sorts is imposed. Rabbits, badgers, rats and mice alike are all subject to his commands from on high, in an ornate nest in a great tree at the centre of this field.

But now, the crow king is dead.

And at the outset of Lupus Rex, there is a very real reckoning ahead...

[Read more.]

Jul 28 2009 2:45pm

…But a Whimper: Kings, “The New King, Pt. 2”

Well, folks, it’s over. The sun has set on Kings’ brief run, and the few loyal viewers are left to mourn what might have been, and, frankly, to mourn what was, because man, that finale had some stinkers. If it had all been horrible, it would have been easier to bear, but seeing such good stuff up against such disasters is like watching an Olympic hopeful bellyflop during the last heat.

Let’s postmortem this episode, so that others may learn from the example: How to Ruin Your Show in Five Easy Pieces.

[Second verse, same as the first…]

Jul 22 2009 1:26pm

Here We Go: Kings, “The New King, Pt. 1”

Well, after the last few weeks, Kings must have realized it only had one episode left, because it made up for the lethargy by hurling everything it had at the screen. (I had to work to find a non-spoilery image. It was that kind of week.)

As Silas prepares to hand over Port Prosperity to Gath, Uncle Whiny prepares to put Jack on the throne, Michelle prepares a life without David, and David prepares to die. And that’s the first five minutes. Double bonus: characters end this episode in a different emotional situation than the one in which they began it! (Mostly.)

[If you’ve been missing your favorite bit player, he’s in here. It’s like a class reunion.]

Jul 16 2009 10:58am

A Few Good Men?: Kings, “Javelin”

This week, Kings did its best Perry Mason impression, showing us the dangerously expedient Gilboan justice system and proving the old adage that any man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

With David under (false) arrest for treason, the royal family starts to fall apart for the tenth time this week. Eamonn Walker finally gets more than one line, Thomasina falls into a sappy subplot, and the last three minutes are enough to make you excited for next week. Almost.

[You can’t handle the truth!]

Jul 6 2009 2:27pm

The Book of David: Kings, “Chapter One”

Dear Kings,

This hurts me more than it hurts you (dead shows have no feelings!), but after watching “Chapter One,” I have to say, it’s so awful that I think it’s best taken as an example of what not to do in an episode of television. Or, you know, ever.

Below, five excellent examples of things to avoid in episodic television writing, all five of which you managed to fit into under forty minutes. Um, well done?

[Hint: When a guest star calls your hero an idiot and is right? Red flag.]

Jul 2 2009 11:51am

Ruin Me: Kings, “Pilgrimage”

On this week’s episode of Selective Amnesia Theatre, King Silas fakes a pilgrimage so he can go hang out with his mistress in the countryside (you remember, the one he gave up forever about three weeks ago). Silas also brings David with him, because he’s already forgotten that last week he hated David for being the world’s most lifeless king-in-waiting.

This pilgrimage means two things. One, Ian McShane had to do enough acting for two people in all his scenes this week. Two, the moment King Silas turns his back, the palace turns into a pit of vipers, and we get a glimpse of what will happen to this kingdom when Silas dies. One of these things works out much better than the other.

After last week’s sex-heavy blackout, we now get to enjoy two sex scandals (his and hers!), Macaulay Culkin dusting off his creepster glasses, and Katrina Ghent, who I continue to vote in as King every time I make an imaginary ballot asking who the King should be instead of Silas. (Queen Rose, Katrina Ghent, Thomasina, and Death regularly make this ballot. David never, ever does.)

[When the cat’s away...]

Jun 23 2009 2:31pm

To War, and Not Lightly: Kings, “The Sabbath Queen”

King Silas gets a birthday party this week, and everything goes well until the Queen’s brother shuts off the power during a monster hissy. As the Queen tries to keep things together, both her kids slip away to knock boots with their boyfriends, and her husband starts having acid flashbacks to the time he promised Death to give up his crown if only Death would spare his daughter. (Man, looking at his daughter, I bet he regrets that now.)

This episode was Dark. It was so Dark they turned the city’s lights off (it’s a metaphor!). It was so Dark that everyone got their heart broken in quick succession. It was so Dark that the King and Death, the Sabbath Queen, had a heart-to-heart. Darkly.

[“He made Death even outside His reach.”]

Jun 15 2009 5:13pm

Words Don’t Settle Debt: Kings, “Brotherhood”

This week, Kings made a return to the air, giving us the rest of its already-cancelled first season. Saturday’s episode seemed to reflect the noble resignation of a condemned prisoner, as it carried two plots about lost causes (a fatal plague within the city and an assassination mission gone awry), began to kill off the supporting characters to clear up the call sheet, and set the stage for what could be a bang-up back six.

[Go home tonight, so that there is a tomorrow.]

May 20 2009 10:24am

Incoming!: Your Favorite Series Rise from the Ashes or Go Down Swingin’

Most of network TV’s fall schedules have been finalized, and wow, it was an ugly year. Budgets were slashed! Shows were tossed from network to network like little actor-filled hacky sacks! Fan favorites went down for the count! (Weirdly, according to Ausiello’s cheat sheet, a shocking number of bad shows keep merrily trucking. Ghost Whisperer? Are you serious?)

A quick rundown of some sci-fi favorites we’ll see next year, and some we’ll never see again. Good night, sweet princes.

Chuck: RENEWED, through the power of Subway sandwiches (hey, ours is not to question why, ours is just to buy an Italian meatball sub for five bucks). It’s a conditional return (lower budget, thirteen episodes, and undisclosed terms possibly tied in to frozen-food purchases), but the renewal buys time for the show to build an audience next season, and it’s good to see a network give fans the chance to prove how much they want a show back—and listen. In a word: awesome.

Dollhouse: RENEWED. Renewed instead of Sarah Connor Chronicles, basically because Fox thinks Joss Whedon fans are so annoying they’d rather renew it just to shut them up. Sorry, fans of mythic storytelling and strong women characters: Eliza Dushku in skimpy costumes wins every time.

Eleventh Hour: CANCELLED. I am absolutely shocked about the death of this actor-driven show about science that didn’t have either actors or science. May your heads be cryogenically frozen in a tube of mouthwash, guys. (Sorry, Rufus. You deserve better. I hope you find it.)

[The rest of the winners and losers: stand and deliver!]

Apr 22 2009 10:15am

A Step between Me and Death: Kings, “Judgment Day”

Kings delivered its best episode so far on Saturday, and it’s no coincidence that they kept David on the down-low. He spent the hour begging the King for clemency and wondering why his brother, who tried to lead an insurrection against the King, might be facing the death sentence. (God’s chosen king: dumber than a sack of hair.)

The royal family managed to accomplish more than just infighting, and the minor characters appeared in a new light—this week, at last, every action had an equal and opposite reaction. With new alliances already falling apart and some agendas taking turns for the unexpected, it was an hour of solid TV, with the exception of Macaulay Culkin’s cameo as the King’s recently-pardoned nephew who materialized at a dinner party, vagued around, and vanished immediately into the mists of time. Thanks for the tout in the promos, NBC!

[That’s always the trouble with Macaulay Culkin—he’s never around when you need him.]

Apr 9 2009 4:32pm

For Kings, the Bell Tolls: A Schedule Change, and What NBC is Doing Wrong

Kings is unofficially deposed. Ratings aren’t what NBC feels they should be, so starting April 18, they’ll be burning off the remaining Season One episodes on Saturday nights.

There’s no point in asking if the move could possibly save the show—if a plot point unfolds in the forest of Saturday-night TV, no one can hear it—so NBC has basically put the pricey alternate universe series out to pasture.

Why this is Kings’ fault: They have structured too much of the show around a bland lead—a common TV trope.

Why this is NBC’s fault: Everything else.

[Can you even send monarch butterflies in the mail?]

Apr 6 2009 6:45pm

Kings: “Insurrection”

After several episodes of wheel-spinning, the show decided to push eight plots forward in forty minutes, along the thematic divide of compassion vs. ruthlessness.

As usual, David’s plot was the least interesting. He spends most of it frowning manfully in Port Prosperity, where his brother is among those barricaded inside to protest the King’s decision to hand their sliver of the country to Gath. As the King fishes, Jack scrabbles for a little media power, Michelle decides to get herself taken hostage (she’s not too bright), and the Queen’s brother makes alliances like they’re going out of style.

Finally, because we don’t have enough characters to worry about, Caprica Six shows up and pushes for a council seat. Back home, Baltar’s all, “Do you just need some space? We can slow down, it’s cool!”

[And Saul cast the javelin.]

Apr 2 2009 7:01pm

“What can he have more but the kingdom?”

Kings is catching on. After a quiet premiere, ratings are improving as this alternate-history drama snags the imaginations of viewers looking for a little speculative in their Sunday. (We all know SyFy doesn’t want us; we have to go somewhere!)

The plot is loosely based on the life of the Biblical King David, set in the modern-day kingdom of Gilboa, where a war against enemy country Gath is raging. Young front-line soldier David Shepherd pulls a daring stunt that knocks out a Goliath tank, saves the life of the King’s own son, and makes David a national hero.

King Silas invites David to capital city Shiloh for a plum post as press liaison, because even in alternate universes no camera can resist a blonde beefcake, and it all seems like a good idea until Silas gets a sign that God has shifted his favor from His Royal Highness to the golden upstart. Awkward.

[Even unto half my kingdom—wait, not that half! Not that half, either.]

Mar 16 2009 4:00pm

Time to Begin: Kings

Last night, NBC premiered its alternate-history drama Kings with a two-hour pilot. Based loosely on the life of the Biblical King David, the series posited a modern-day New York as the capital of a kingdom at war, with David as the golden-haired war hero who would shake the rule of the reigning king in an archetypal story playing out the inevitable.

And inevitable it was. This show is a slickly-packaged Storytelling 101, feeding its audience one predictable twist after another. The moment you meet David’s rambunctious older brother, you know he’s doomed, and two scenes after someone mentions the woman the King gave up for the throne, we meet her; it’s that kind of show.

[That orange butterfly logo is really multipurpose.]