Some thoughts on recent episodes, with spoilers. Read more »
Archive for the TV Category
iZombie, from Warner Bros TV and Rob Thomas Prods, is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Asides from the zombie-who-has-to-solve-crimes aspect, it doesn’t seem like it has that much in common with the comic. If I were going to write that kind of summary for the comic, it would go more like this …
iZombie, the comic, is a supernatural apocalyptic adventure story that centres on an art student-turned-zombie who takes a job as a gravedigger to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her ghost friend and werewolf friend, she deals with the deads’ unfinished business – and on the way discovers that the end of the world is nigh, and she may be the only one who can stop it.
The fact that the impending apocalypse isn’t mentioned in the TV summary makes me think that they’ve scrapped that element. Sure, in the earliest issues of iZombie, it’s not obvious that’s where things are going, and it does seem as if the series might just be episodic – but it’s not. It gets apocalyptic fast, and it’s always been going there.
Based simply on the summary, it sounds to me like they’re not adapting the comic at all, only using it as inspiration. Like they just needed a quirky new premise for the procedural they were going to make anyway. Which is a huge disappointment to me, because I love the comic series, and the route it takes.
Things that I am happy about in recent episodes of Queen Seon-Deok: Read more »
The heartbreaking thing about Will Graham is how completely people fail him. Hannibal hardly even counts; he’s on a while other level. Hannibal doesn’t count – we’ve known all along that he doesn’t have Will’s interests at heart. But when in the final episode Jack tells Hannibal, ‘He’s not your victim, doctor,’ and Hannibal replies, ‘Nor is he yours,’ – well, neither of those statements are true. Will is just as much a victim of Jack’s utilitarianism as he is Hannibal’s curiousity. Jack fails Will utterly, both as a manager and as a human being.
And there’s Dr Sutcliffe, who in episode ten falsifies Will’s results and thus enables Hannibal to continue his manipulation. That episode is probably the most horrifying one in the series for me. Because it is two people who Will is supposed to be able to trust – two people who have a duty and an obligation to care for him – completely disregarding his health and wellbeing. They’re looking only to satisfy their own curiousity and ambition.
Hannibal is the show’s villain. But Hannibal wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the complicity of others. If Jack hadn’t failing Will, if Dr Sutcliffe hadn’t failed Will, Hannibal couldn’t have done what he did.
As complicities to evil go, eating human flesh at Hannibal’s dinners is relatively minor.
So, I know this season of Revenge hasn’t been anywhere near as good as the first, but I’ve still been watching it. Falling behind, but still watching it.
Last night I watched the double-episode season finale, and wow. Way to deliver multiple punches to the gut. Read more »
The article Better Bite-sized appeared on Stuff today, inspired by the author David Haglund’s recent viewing of the TV mini-series The Top of the Lake. Noting that the series was imported, he asks ‘Why aren’t there more great American mini-series?’ (This confused me momentarily, until I remembered reading a New Zealand news site is no assurance of reading local content.)
I can understand his frustration with series that go on to long, or end up padded so that they can reach the requisite 22 episodes. I am all for series being allowed to reach their natural conclusions. I don’t agree that ‘the mini-series is probably the ideal form for creating great television art.’
It’s the ‘ideal form’ part that I take issue with. Just because longer series often outstay their welcome doesn’t mean that they have less potential for greatness. Haglund compares TV series to novels:
[Cable shows like The Sopranos] are often called novelistic, but even the serial novels of the Victorian era generally traced one central story from beginning to end in a way that The Sopranos and Mad Men don’t quite do.
He forgets that not all novels stand alone – he’d get a better equivalency with series than with serialised novels. Consider JD Robb’s In Death series, which is basically a procedural in novel form. Each book is its own arc and, with only a few exceptions, you could happily read them all as stand-alones. If you’re going to read them all though, it’s more satisfying to do it in order, just like it’s more satisfying to watch a TV show like Castle in order. The relationships and characters develop over the course of the series (Robb lets her characters get together more quickly though), but the basic structure is episodic.
This is not an uncommon structure for a novel series, especially in genres like crime and urban fantasy. But then, maybe Haglund would argue that genre series are never ‘great art’ …
Novels wouldn’t be my go-to comparison for TV narrative structures though. I’d go for another medium which is primarily delivered serially, and which is happy to embrace that. I’d go for comics.
You can have a fantastic, single-volume-narrative comic book. You can bundle that up as a ‘graphic novel’ and then the literati may even accept that a comic can be ‘great art’, because the structure is more like something they recognise, a novel or a mini-series.
You can just as easily have a fantastic comic book that runs past twenty volumes. Those twenty volumes may tell a complete, self-contained story. Or they may not!
Haglund seems to think this is a problem.
Characters interesting enough to serve as engaging companions week after week for years are wonderful creations, but their stories lack the meaningful shape found in the best novels and movies and plays. We may get glorious moments, and terrific episodes, and occasionally excellent multi-episode arcs. But the need to leave the door open, to keep the story going a little bit longer, and then a little bit longer, is an artistic impediment.
Sure, it’s frustrating when something that has a natural ending gets stretched out and padded and maybe never gets to end at all. But that’s when people are forcing their story into a different shape. It’s not because the shape of a long-form serial is less ‘meaningful’. It’s different, sure; it’s not less valuable.
Incidentally, this relates to why I don’t like ‘graphic novel’ as a synonym for ‘comic’ (asides from the cultural cringe). I don’t like the implication that a comic should be structured like a novel. It can be, but it’s not the only option, just like the novel isn’t the only option for telling a story in prose.
Call Blankets a graphic novel, fine. But something like Sandman doesn’t resemble a graphic novel just because it has an overall arc and an ending. It’s not trying to; it uses all the opportunities for side-stories, for multiple self-contained arcs that initially seem unconnected, that being a serial gives you (and that something like Blankets doesn’t.
(Which isn’t to say novels can’t use those things too. They just generally don’t. Or if you want to read the side-stories, you have to hunt down a bunch of random anthologies – you don’t get them as part of the core experience.)
And am I forbidden from calling Hellblazer a great comic, just because it doesn’t have an overriding arc? (I say, assuming Milligan didn’t pull one out his hat at the last minute.) Even though I’ve been attached to it for the last ten years? Even though it has great ‘mini-series’ arcs, and great single issue-length arcs, and great runs where several self-contained arcs build upon each other to a conclusion that is thrilling and inevitable? And then keeps on going?
Am I allowed to even though parts of it aren’t great, because hey, it’s a series, Azzarello’s arc doesn’t negate the brilliance of Delano’s? Am I allowed to even though it doesn’t stick with a single genre, and some parts are horror while others are only dark fantasy?
Is the serial aspect an ‘artistic impediment’? Or is it an opportunity for hundreds of issues of storytelling, by a variety of storytellers, that never would have happened if John Constantine had never been let out the pages of Swamp Thing?
Up till very recently, the Hellblazer door had been left open. That’s not an impediment, that’s opportunity.
John Ney Rieber ended his run on The Books of Magic after 50 issues. Because he’d reached the end of the stories he could tell there. And that’s valid. And maybe more TV series would be better if their show-runners could say, right, that’s it, we’ve reached the end of this story and that’s it.
But they don’t have to. Maybe one story isn’t all the stories they want to tell. Or maybe they can pass the batton on to someone else, like Rieber did – someone who does still have stories to tell.
A sequel isn’t always a cash-grab. Nor is an open-ended serial. And great art doesn’t have to be short and self-contained.
So, the latest episode of Revenge was good! I mean, I am still enjoying this season even if it’s not as good as the first, but we got:
Read more »
So L and I were discussing Reboot and he drew a comparison between Simba in The Lion King and Enzo. Both are caught in the conflict between two father figures, one good, one bad. The bad one seeks to displace the good one, and encourages the son to act out their youthful rebelliousness … in the hope that things will end badly.
And things do go badly, for a while. The bad father displaces the good father. The son is cast out into the wilderness. When eventually the son returns, the bad father is deposed (with more or less effort).
Except after Enzo comes back and Megabyte is defeated, he’s still messed up. There’s no ‘circle of life’ to reassure him; there is no re-emplacement of the status quo. He is literally scarred by his experiences.
(On the other hand, it could have been worse: he could have been Hamlet.)
I’m trying to think of fairy tales that follow this same pattern, but I’m not coming up with any – at least, not with men. The stories aren’t dissimilar to those where the good mother is replaced by the wicked stepmother (or the mother herself turns bad). We don’t see the early part of the story: the stepmother tends to want the daughter out quick-smart. But we do see the exile, once our heroine grows old enough to threaten the stepmother.
But, when the heroine takes her rightful place, it is not as her mother’s successor. Her stepmother’s wickedness may be revealed, but it is not her place the heroine takes. Our heroine becomes a queen in another realm. (Some versions of this kind of story forget about the stepmother in the second half, and the heroine’s mother-in-law becomes the villainess: in this case, the heroine is displacing her.)
Which I guess says something about gender roles in patrilineal societies where daughters marry out.
That’s something interesting about Snow White and the Huntsman, actually: Snow White is the heir who must reclaim her kingdom to set things right, rather than the cast-out princess who will reclaim her status in another realm. Snow White and the Huntsman may not have been the most coherent of movies, but it was certainly refreshing.
I don’t have any real conclusion to this, so I will just leave you with the observation that in Reboot Megabyte doesn’t marry Dot after getting rid of Bob. He waits until Bob is back in Mainframe. Then he uses Dot’s uncertainties about the way Bob has changed in his exile, and disguises himself as original!Bob … with the result that Dot almost marries him instead.
… that will never not be funny to me.
Revenge! My show, omg. Read more »