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Alex Brown

The Walking Dead Season 6 Midseason Finale: “Start to Finish”

The Walking Dead may be a lot of different things to a lot of different people—family drama, zombie horror, warnings of a dystopian future, cash machine—but at the end of the day, it’s a show about the lengths a person will go to survive in a world determined to destroy them. While that’s a thrilling storytelling device, in the long haul it makes for a weak theme. There are only so many ways in which a character can develop within those narrow borders that you end up telling variations on the same story ad nauseum. To spice things up, a writer might turn a bunch of extras into cannon fodder or kill off a beloved character, but once the dust settles the same old, same old is still ambling along. The best and worst thing to be said about TWD this far into the game is that at least it’s consistent.

[“Well, at least you’re being honest.”]

Pull List: Pretty Deadly

At this point, if Kelly Sue DeConnick is involved, I’m guaranteed to be there front and center. She could reboot the phonebook and I’d have it in my pull list the second it was announced. It’s more than just being a fan of her work. Yes, she’s a feminist icon and a comic book powerhouse, but more than that she uses an old medium to tell new stories, well, maybe not new per se but overlooked and ignored. Her take on Carol Danvers reinvigorated a wasted character into a truly amazing run on Captain Marvel. By blending the lost art of Blaxploitation and age-old fears of a patriarchy run wild she created Bitch Planet, a high watermark graphic novels will spend decades trying to match. And with the hook of a genderbent Spaghetti Western, Pretty Deadly came roaring onto shelves.

[“Am I a monster?”]

Farewell, My Robot: Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill

Meet Raymond Electromatic: private investigator by day, hitman by night, and the last robot on earth all the damn time. Ray was built by the now deceased Professor Thornton and his basic personality template modeled on the professor. Thornton also developed Ray’s computer partner, Ada, the chain-smoking brains of the operation…or at least she would be if she existed outside of a computer processor. Ada has tinkered with Ray’s prime directive – so that they be financially independent – as well as his tech specs, turning him into an efficient killing machine. If only his battery and memory tape didn’t run out after 24 hours. And while it would probably make his job easier if he looked human, being a 7-foot tall metal monstrosity has its perks.

In the late summer of 1965, an actress with a bag of gold appears at his door. Eva McLuckie hires Ray to bump off one of her missing co-stars, Charles David. Like the Raymond Chandler tales Made to Kill was inspired by, what starts out as a run-of-the-mill murder-for-hire spirals out of control until the plot spans scores of suspects, guilty parties, and unfortunate bystanders, with everyone from Soviet spies to undercover CIA agents to supposedly dead actors to wage jockeys just trying to pay the bills. As Ray draws nearer to the heart of the mystery he stumbles upon a great secret that could either unlock his potential or kill him. But whatever happens, as long as he still has his hat it’ll all work out. Right?

[“No trouble I hope, Sparks?”]

Pull List: Locke & Key

It’s nearly Halloween, which means it’s time once again for my annual Joe Hill re-read. Since all of my copies of NOS4A2 and Horns are currently being read by friends and relations, I decided to take a re-gander at Locke & Key, Hill’s epic graphic novel about a family besieged by evils, human and demon alike. As all good horror stories are, it’s a densely woven tale spanning centuries with an unlikely band of heroes up against the ultimate Big Bad, a creature with endless patience and a zeal for violence, chaos, and corruption.

[“I guess this has always been about family.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2015

And we’re back with the second installment of the Fall 2015 edition of “Don’t Touch That Dial.” Up this time is a show dragged from the grave in a failed attempt to make its struggling network some quick cash (Heroes Reborn), a show created to make an already rich studio enough money to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and a show created by guys with so much money that no one tells them when something sucks (Scream Queens).

[“When you look back on your life, the one thing you don’t want to feel is regret.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2015 Procedurals


Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In the first of two very special episodes, we’ll look at new procedurals—specifically, ones with a woman with a very particular set of skills, skills she has acquired over a very long career (Blindspot); a white man who learns that privilege is is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, in which case another privileged white man will just give you more privilege (Limitless); and a cop and a psychic using their knowledge of the future to harass potential criminals (Minority Report).

[“Couldn’t I just kick the door down?”]

The Case of the Dead Princesses: Against A Brightening Sky

Delia Ryan née Martin sees dead people. Like, all the time. She sees them in the street, in windows, in the reflective surface of her tea. Her cat Mai sees them too. As does her good friend and medium Dora Bobet. Delia’s beloved husband Gabe doesn’t see ghosts, but they collect around him like moths to a flame due to his profession as a homicide detective for the SFPD. Their longtime friends and fellow marrieds, Jack and Sadie, don’t see ghosts either, but still suffer the side effects of friendships with those who do.

In the final book in the Delia Martin trilogy, Delia, Gabe, Jack, Sadie, and Dora encounter the toughest case of their lives. They’ve dealt with serial killers and sadistic torturers, mournful ghosts and violent spirits, and Jack the Ripper-like executions and ritualistic slaughters, but they might finally be out of their league when ancient Old World magics descend on San Francisco.

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The Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere: “First Time Again”

I wasn’t too thrilled with the Alexandria storyline last season, but after the mess of dangling plotlines and cipher personalities rife in Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead shines quite a bit brighter. “First Time Again” opens not long after the deaths of Pete (the abusive surgeon) and Reg (the beloved First Husband who designed the wall). Rather than take its usual pace of arduous place setting, TWD launches straight into one of the biggest episodes it’s ever done. Surprisingly enough, they more or less pulled it off. And once again the show proves it’s aces at premieres and finales.

[“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E6: “The Good Man”

The first season of Fear the Walking Dead has been quite the ride. Not an especially good one, mind, but at least I don’t regret giving up 6 hours of my life to it. High praise, indeed. Most of the season arcs were wrapped up in a neat little bow by the end of “The Good Man,” with strong hints to where they’re headed next year. I’ll be there waiting, but not with bated breath.

[“You can get out, but there’s nowhere to go.”]

Pull List: Catwoman

Catwoman s been around nearly as long as Batman, but often gotten short shrift. It takes a deft hand to write a character who can use her sexuality to influence others but prefers her wit and cunning. Which means Selina usually gets reduced to the sexpot, victim of the male gaze, and sex object (links NSFW). Put it this way: men like to draw her half-naked and sex-sated, but Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman would never be caught in a post-coital haze saying “I’m better than okay. You couldn’t hear how ‘okay’ I was?” *Gag*

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the current run of Catwoman, but I didn’t think I’d like it, the great Genevieve Valentine notwithstanding. I’d never read any of the previous titles or really much of anything from the Bat family (for reasons that will become clear soon), so I had no notion of tone, style, or dialogue traditions. As luck and my immense relief would have it, Valentine’s Catwoman is crisp, razor sharp, and brutally crafty.

[“On desperate ground, fight.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E5: “Cobalt”

Oh Fear the Walking Dead. Why must you be like this? The penultimate episode of the season should spark and crackle with dramatic tension, not flail around in expository dumps and unsubtle critiques of torture. As per usual, a few isolated segments shine but the  rest of the material ranges from dreary to dull to downright dumb. There’s always one kickass shot in every episiode, and this one was at the very end: Daniel standing at the stadium as the chained doors bulge at the strain of thousands of hungry walkers. The look on his face was perfect, a mix of revulsion, horror, and disbelief.

Too bad we still have to talk about the rest of the episode.

[“I can do whatever I want. I got guns.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E4: “Not Fade Away”

We’re now over halfway through the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, and while it continues to struggle with, well, basically everything, it seems to be congealing into a not entirely awful show. If the first episode was the best and the second and third the worst, then the fourth is right smack dab in the middle.

Nine days have passed since we last saw our not so intrepid heroes, and stuff is shaking up in the LA ‘burbs. Ask Travis and he’d tell you things are looking up. Ask Chris or Alicia and they’d pout and give you some rambling pseudo-poetry about how much everything sucks. Maddie would mutter something about repainting the living room, and Lt. Moyers would laugh then threaten to shoot you.

[“What I saw was godly, and I think it’s overdue.”]

Warm Glowing Warming Glow: Fall 2015 TV

Welcome, my lovelies, to the semi-annual fest of inanity and repetition that is the new television schedule. Most of the shows premiering this season you’ve seen before in some boring iteration or another – loose cannon cop/doctor/lawyer/federal agent butts heads with a rules-driven superior and maybe gets it on with some hot chicks; period piece where gruff bearded men fight other gruff bearded men and maybe get it on with gruff but hot warrior maidens; zombies; movie translated to the small screen and even smaller budget, thus losing what little was actually interesting to begin with; superheroes; etc. – but there are some bits of gold dust scattered in the mud pile.

Who here isn’t filled with rapturous glee at the prospect of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Jessica Jones, Supergirl, The Man in the High Castle, and The Wiz Live!? (OK, so no one actually believes that last one will be quality television, but I loved that movie as a kid so shut up, don’t judge me.)

[“If television’s a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won’t shut up.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E3: “The Dog”

JFC this show. I’m trying so hard to like it. I really want to like it. But Furiosa help me, the writers ain’t making it easy. I tend to give new shows a lot of slack in their first few episodes. Pilots nearly always suck, what with setting up an entire season worth of plot, introducing all the relevant characters, and establishing tone, and the second episode usually rehashes the pilot but on a smaller scale. By the time the third episode rolls around, because it’s the first episode that’s just an episode, independent of any larger structural concerns or network machinations, the audience gets a real look at the heart of the show. And if “The Dog” is where Fear is headed then we’re off for a bumpy, uneven, and largely frustrating ride. Much like TWD, as it were.

[“It’s already too late.”]

Magic, Murder, and Microaggressions in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown

Zacharias Wythe has just received a rather unexpected and unwanted promotion to Sorcerer Royal—the leader of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, magical protector of England, and the face of English magic. His job would be hard enough if his sole task was uncovering the source of the precipitous drain in his nation’s magic, but it’s made worse by the growing contingency of rich, old white guys who don’t think a former slave is “English enough” to boss them around. His dark skin color makes it easy for them to accuse him of murdering Sir Stephen, his guardian, mentor, and the man who bought his freedom, in order to usurp his power.

Prunella Gentleman, meanwhile, has had just about enough of toiling away at a school for magical girls that insists on teaching young women how to eradicate their powers rather than use them. The answers to the mystery of her parentage and the secret treasures of her inheritance await in London, but as respectable woman with unrespectable brown skin, her opportunities are limited. She attaches herself to Zacharias and the two set about trying undo centuries of systemic racism and sexism and preventing an all out war between Malaysian lamiae, racist British thaumaturges, powerful French sorcerers, and mercurial fairies. All in a day’s work.

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