Tor.com content by

Monique Jones

Samurai Jack Battles Depression, Suicide, and PTSD In An Extraordinary Final Season

Samurai Jack—Cartoon Network’s hit show in which a samurai prince from feudal-era Japan is transplanted to a dystopic future by his nemesis, the evil spirit Aku—created legions of fans during its original run in the early 2000s. Twelve years after it originally ended, the show has been thrilling its now-adult audience each week during its fifth and final season, which started in March and ended this past weekend. Because its core audience are no longer children, Samurai Jack’s creator Genndy Tartakovsky decided to give the show a much more mature tone in terms of its themes and overall approach. Sometimes, the shift can be jarring, such as when the show opts to make explicit penis or erection jokes; other times, the series’ more mature take on magical realism is remarkably haunting—as is the decision to devote half of its season to exploring Jack’s full-blown depression and PTSD.

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Time to Walk the Walk: Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the Problem of Queerbaiting

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to cause a lot of trouble come December. Why? Because the franchise is trying to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to the fan pairing of Finn and Poe (AKA “Stormpilot,” or the more straightforward “Finnpoe”).

Let’s set the scene, shall we? During the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando in April, the big news was, of course, the new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The trailer itself is exciting, positioning Rey’s journey with a jaded Luke Skywalker as the center of the film; the arcs of the other characters—including Finn—orbit around Rey’s interactions with the former Jedi master. In the trailer, we see Finn recovering (hopefully) in a sickbed/stasis pod of some sort. The very next shot we see is Poe frantically running to his starfighter only to have the ship blow up before he can get to it. For many fans online, those two brief scenes, buttressed against one another, were enough to re-cement the popularity and potential canonization of Stormpilot.

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Draco Malfoy and the Fight Against Racism

In the wake of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as we wait with bated breath for the moment Harry Potter and the Cursed Child comes to Broadway, I’ve been revisiting the story of Draco Malfoy and pondering how some of the lessons his life provides tend to be overshadowed by the exploits of Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

A quick reading of Draco is that he’s a racist, a white supremacist, and a product of his awful environment. For some people, the analysis of Harry Potter’s nemesis ends there. But I’ve always thought that there was more to the character than just a broad villain. I’ve always seen Draco as both a tragic figure and a character that fans of the Harry Potter books can, and should, learn from. Draco’s character arc is something that is especially important in the times we’re embarking on now.

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Romance and Anger Fuel the Final Episodes of Luke Cage

This recap is full of spoilers. Proceed at your own peril!

Episodes 9 through 13 of Marvel’s Luke Cage have three themes:

  • Claire and Luke’s burgeoning relationship
  • Diamondback’s arc
  • The solidifying of Shades and Mariah’s relationship, aka #ShadyMariah

One of these themes is not like the other. The introduction of Diamondback didn’t intrigue me nearly as much as the intros for Cottonmouth, Mariah, and Shades. Even Domingo’s introduction was a lot more interesting than Diamondback’s, and Domingo stayed a tertiary character throughout the season!

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Power, Loyalty, and Leadership in Luke Cage

Fair warning: This recap is filled with spoilers, so read at your own peril.

Episodes 4 through 8 of Luke Cage is where things start getting twisty and turny. The characters are still reeling from the aftermath of Pop’s death in the third episode, and in true comic book form, it’s the death of an inspirational figure like Pop that catalyzes our hero into action. Pop’s death is also what turns the criminal world upside down, hoping that out of the jumbled confusion, normalcy will come back into play. However, normalcy is far from what fate has in store for these characters; with Shades laying in the cut (to use a popular AAVE turn of phrase in this show), the ground is constantly being laid for a new order.

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Black America through the Lens of Luke Cage

Note: This article covers episodes 1-3 of Luke Cage, and is free of major plot spoilers.

Let’s get this thing going out of the gate. I really love Luke Cage. This is what I’ve wanted Marvel to do for ages.

For too long, Marvel Studios has thought that what constituted a hero was that he be the Everyman Fanboy: White, choppy-haired, and almost insufferably snarky. If someone had told me in 2015 that Marvel was going to give me a newer, harder-hitting version of Shaft within the next year, I’d have said, “I just saw Ant-Man and it was the worst Marvel film I’ve ever seen, made even more unenjoyable by the cartoonish black, Russian, and Latino stereotypes. Marvel doesn’t know the black experience; how in the world is it going to create something that won’t be a Quentin Tarantino knock-off?”

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Magic: The Gathering and the Importance of Inclusive Fantasy

Like science fiction, fantasy is supposed to be a fictional space that explores the possibilities for humanity, which includes everyone. But unfortunately, and for too long, fantasy has been best described in the same terms as a 1950s shop sign from the American south: “Whites only.” As to why that is, I couldn’t tell you definitively, but from where I’m sitting, it seems to have everything to do with a type of literary “white flight,” a method of self-segregation even in imaginary worlds. That’s got to stop, and fortunately, there’s been movement to stop it: with the works of Octavia Butler, for example, and a crop of newer writers like N.K. Jemisin and Daniel José Older, the spirit of inclusiveness has gotten stronger. However, there’s still much of fantasy that is relegated to outmoded ways of representing non-white people and cultures.

[Why has fantasy become so limited?]