selenak: (Bayeux)
[personal profile] selenak
As if rl politics weren't infuriating and depressing enough, Netflix goes and cancels Sense 8. Boo. I might have critiqued various s2 elements recently, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the show overall, and I definitely want more of it.

On to shows still ongoing, with past seasons I marathoned in recent weeks.

I, Zombie, season 2: was good and did not have Veronica Mars's s2 problems. They even found an in-story reason for Blaine to be still around, and Max Rager as the season's main villain made for suspense and a satisfying finale. I'm a little torn on the repeat fake-outs - "has Major become a serial killer for hire? No, he's freezing these people to save them from Max Rager!" "Is Drake just a killer for hire? No, he's really an undercover cop!", but otoh, Major going from dedicated social worker to assassin for hire (albeit under blackmail) really would have destroyed any character plausibility, and as for Drake, I appreciate that the show makes Olivia's alternate love interests, i.e. him and Lowell so far, likeable and not secret jerks, though given both their tragic endings, Liv must increasingly wonder whether celibacy or Major are the only save options for her.

Liv's interactions with her non-romantic friends, though, is where it's at for me, and Ravi and Clive both continue to be delights (with Clive finally finding out the big secret in the last but one episode and sacrificing his romance with snarky FBI agent because of it, woe). Though I must say, Ravi, great as he is otherwise, is starting to lose points with me because early in the season, you have him ending things with his girlfriend because she's too much into him, and then at times it seems he spends the rest of the seaon complaining that he can't get a girlfriend and that nice guys finish last.

While we're complaining: if a show has its main character(s) eat brains on a regular basis, it really defies logic to get squeamish about cut off hands (from a dead body). That was such an obvious plot device so Liv and Major were long enough at the party to be spotted by Clive.

Lastly: given the Gilda/Rita shoutout, I want Rob Thomas to give us a character next season who is moonlighting under the name of Charlie Kane while really being called Orson.

The Last Kingdom, season 2: covering two of Cornwell's novels in one season, I hear, which explains the sometimes breathless pace, but it worked for me. Even Uthred going through slavery in all of one episode. Possibly because said episode was so anti cliché. You're going in expecting until then cocksure hero Uthred to become the Danish-Saxon Spartacus, and/or make his quick escape, but no. Instead, the relentless powerlessness, degradation, near-starvation and having to watch a trusted friend who was only with him because he believed in Uthred cruelly die break him, and his slavery ends not with him saving himself or rousing the other slaves to liberation, but with his friends of old rescueing him. For a show that founds part of its appeal to its audience on its hero being a swordsman and battle winner outfighting nearly everyone else, this is as revolutionary as Picard actually seeing five lights was back in ye early 90s. Also, it was caped by the sublime scene between Hild and Uthred afterwards.

I must admit I was a bit worried we'd get an Uhtred/Hild romance early on, when he made a pass, but no. It was ic for him to try, it was equally ic for her to laugh it off, and instead they were and remained comrades and confidants, which was lovely to watch. The female characters in general were doing well in this season. The ones surviving from s1 - Hild, in her few appearances Brida, and to my great and pleased surprise Alfred's queen Aelswith, who was in s1 depicted almost relentlessly as a hostile and mostly silent presence (with the notable exception of a scene she had with Hild), but in s2 instead was an important and vocal player, with her marriage to Alfred being presented as strong in a show, not tell way. And the new female characters, Uthred's second wife Gisela and the now and hence recast teenage Princess Aethelflaed. (Considering that she's a major character in the one of Cornwall's Saxon novels I had actually read before the show, I had beein hoping for this.) Aethelflaed's story this season is a bit standard Young Princess like (though the relevant tropes are well executed), but since I know who she'll become, I didn't mind, and the actress gets across she has smarts and strength.

Uthred's goal of getting his paternal lands back still doesn't get much progress this season, due to a combination of villainous scheming by one of the early s2 antagonists with his evil uncle and Alfred, after having sponsored the Uhtred rescue by Hild and Ragnar, blackmailing him back into his service. Given that the tense Uthred-Alfred relationship is a core dynamic of the show, I must say I approve. ("It is customary to kneel" - okay, Alfred, that is just feeding everyone's kinks.)

Having talked with [profile] sonetka recently about many historical fiction's tendencies to strip historical characters meant as sympathetic heroes of all non-sympathetic period biases and endow them with current day pleasing attitudes instead, I continue to be convince Alfred lucked out by NOT being Bernard Cornwell's pov character and creator's pet, because that way he's that rare thing, a historical character not written/presented as the villain who in addition to displaying virtues (intelligence, vision, endurance, strong affection for family members) gets to display the full ninth century religiosity mixed in with some ruler paranoia and ruthlessness. It makes him a far richer character, and David Dawson continues to excel in the role. Mind you, Alfred, along with everyone else, is in an awful position in the last third of the show, where the series pulls off a trope that could have gone wrong so easily and instead keeps it complex.

It's this: character the audience and regular characters like/love is kidnapped and threatened with terrible fate. Ransom of character would come at terrible price to many more characters. Now, when, say, BTVS did this the first time, it was a non-issue (Willow versus the box in s3; the narrative clearly meant Wesley to be utterly in the wrong when argueing against it, though with Wesley's change of status via several seasons of character development over at AtS, that arguement retrospectively gains more layers), and when the trope was used more seriously, in the s5 finale, the narrative sympathy was still with Buffy refusing to even consider sacrificing her sister (though it also made the point that faced with two bad alternatives, she characteristically finds a third way). Otoh more grimdark narratives in the last decade have gone through with the "sacrifice" solutiion. What The Last Kingdom does that feels so narratively rewarding is to present the two opposing povs as valid and understandable. Odda arguing that ransoming Aethelflaed would destroy Wessex isn't written as callous or unfeeling, but valid, and additionally backed with with the audience's (and Alfred's) awareness that Odda didn't just talk the talk, he walked the walk by having killed his own son for his country in the previous season finale. It's even more backed up by Odda pointing out, by individual examples, to the people of Wessex who'd already been through one invasion, lost family members in batlte, are now expected to bleed financially dry for the ransom and then will be asked for their lives facing another invading army financed by said ransom. Otoh Aethelflaed's fate, should she not be ransomed, won't be death but public gang rape in every Dane-ruled town, which is ghastly enough that Alfred's "no way, never, and also, no" reaction is also completely understandable. (The way Dawson plays it, you can also see that Alfred sees the reasons Odda lists all too clearly and would in all other cases agree to them, but in this particular case, he just can't, and trying to find a rational justification of why he can't is rarely unconvincing.)

Now I had expected the obvious way out - Uhtred to the rescue; what I HADN'T expected was that the narrative climax to this storyline isn't the escape (suspensefully executed as that was) or the ensuing battle (which in another anti-cliché knocked Uthred out of commission early on), but what happens with Odda afterwards, the way the finale would position him as the tragic hero and saviour of Wessex and validate his big gamble of forcing Alfred into battle. Destiny is all, indeed. I really hope we'll get another season of what has become an excellent ensemble show. That Netflix is the one to decide this now has me worried...

Date: 3 Jun 2017 15:46 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
So bummed about the Sense8 cancellation! That show has been giving me life in the current political context -- it's everything I want from TV right now. Wah.

Date: 3 Jun 2017 20:30 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
<3<3<3

Date: 3 Jun 2017 16:41 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] makamu
I have not seen Sense 8 yet, since the list of shows I need to watch or re-watch this year is kind of insane already, but I am definitely planning on watching it. Though the impression I got from the fannish grapevine is that they cancelled because the budget overdraw per episode was becoming ridiculous and not for content reasons?

Date: 3 Jun 2017 16:54 (UTC)
makamu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] makamu
Is it okay if I spend a second in a corner finding the idea of Landshut as a location double for Munich hilarious?

Well, my only source for this is failfandom anon, so take this with as much salt as you need, but apparently they had around 108 million dollars per season, which strikes me as a lot.

Date: 3 Jun 2017 17:19 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
So great to see someone else talking about The Last Kingdom!

which explains the sometimes breathless pace, but it worked for me
Yes, looking back they covered a huge amount, but at the time it felt natural enough.

Uthred going through slavery in all of one episode.
Oh goodness, that was so emotionally brutal I couldn't have taken more than one episode!

You're going in expecting until then cocksure hero Uthred to become the Danish-Saxon Spartacus, and/or make his quick escape, but no. Instead, the relentless powerlessness, degradation, near-starvation and having to watch a trusted friend who was only with him because he believed in Uthred cruelly die break him, and his slavery ends not with him saving himself or rousing the other slaves to liberation, but with his friends of old rescueing him.
Very interesing analysis. Because I have read the books, I wasn't expecting anything different so it is interesting to see that perspective. If anything, they did give him more agency than the books because the escape attempt wasn't in the books at all.

For a show that founds part of its appeal to its audience on its hero being a swordsman and battle winner outfighting nearly everyone else, this is as revolutionary
I think Cornwell partly does it to help the reader understand what Uhtred is fighting for. Every time the Saxons lose a battle or let their guard down, their women and children are enslaved. Uhtred can't really understand the full meaning of that because his own experience of slavery as a boy was so atypical and enjoyable. This experience gives him that understanding. It marks the end of his young-manhood and transition into being a full adult. It also puts him irretrievably on the Saxon side, so he will never abandon his religion but he will never again want to be a Dane.

it was caped by the sublime scene between Hild and Uthred afterwards
I am glad that worked for you. They changed some things that were very important to me and although I like what they did do I still feel a sense of loss for the unfulfilled book version.

Given that the tense Uthred-Alfred relationship is a core dynamic of the show
It really is, isn't it. The best part of the adaptation is how strongly they have brought that out and how rich the character of Alfred is as a result.

"It is customary to kneel" - okay, Alfred, that is just feeding everyone's kinks.
Ha ha!

historical fiction's tendencies to strip historical characters meant as sympathetic heroes of all non-sympathetic period biases and endow them with current day pleasing attitudes instead, I continue to be convince Alfred lucked out by NOT being Bernard Cornwell's pov character and creator's pet, because that way he's that rare thing, a historical character not written/presented as the villain who in addition to displaying virtues (intelligence, vision, endurance, strong affection for family members) gets to display the full ninth century religiosity mixed in with some ruler paranoia and ruthlessness. It makes him a far richer character, and David Dawson continues to excel in the role.
I so agree with all of this. I'm guessing Cornwell didn't choose Alfred because Alfred just isn't gung-ho enough for him. Also he dies too early for the full story Cornwell wants to tell. I am actually guessing that the show will keep Alfred alive longer because the relationship has become so key to how the show works. If they throw him away like they threw Leofric in S1 I shall be very upset.

character the audience and regular characters like/love is kidnapped and threatened with terrible fate. Ransom of character would come at terrible price to many more characters
I hadn't thought of the Buffy parallels! That is brilliant!

What The Last Kingdom does that feels so narratively rewarding is to present the two opposing povs as valid and understandable.
Yes! I think it especially works because by this stage the majority of the UK audience will have caught the sense that this is our story, the making of our own people. So it's not just some random fictional characters being threatened with death and slavery so one privileged girl can be freed, but our own ancestors. And since Uhtred's experiences have helped show what slavery meant the pace of the season helps that process.

additionally backed with with the audience's (and Alfred's) awareness that Odda didn't just talk the talk, he walked the walk by having killed his own son for his country in the previous season finale.
Another good point. I hadn't quite twigged how important that was.

the ensuing battle (which in another anti-cliché knocked Uthred out of commission early on)
I can't quite work out why they did that. They change a lot around this point and while some of it was obviously just for practical logistical reasons (ships and battles are expensive!) other stuff made little sense.

what happens with Odda afterwards, the way the finale would position him as the tragic hero and saviour of Wessex
Yes. Poor Odda. I now want to go make a little statue of him to set beside the huge one of Alfred in Winchester *G*

Destiny is all, indeed.

Ha ha. Meanwhile I get cross because that is such a naff translation of the actual phrase :D But that is just my geekiness getting in the way. 'Destiny is all' is much snappier for a TV show.

I really hope we'll get another season of what has become an excellent ensemble show. That Netflix is the one to decide this now has me worried...
Well if they don't come through there might still be an opportunity of finding a new partner, like happened with Ripper Street. Things seem to be much more flexible nowadays.

Thank you for sharing your excellent analysis. [personal profile] shapinglight and I have been hoping other people were watching and would comment too.

Date: 3 Jun 2017 20:38 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
it's possible to wonder whether it makes really that much of a difference to the people at large who rules. But not with this graphic illustration of what slavery means.

Well for them religion would have also been hugely significant, losing the right to worship freely was more important to them than anything else because it effected not just this life but their whole prospect of an afterlife. But also, being ruled by people who speak your own language, respect and understand your customs, and don't behave in what seems an arbitrary fashion, all makes a huge difference. So even a Saxon slave would be better off being owned by a Saxon than a Dane.

At a guess, so that Sigefrid can come really close to Aethelflaed before she kills him, while an Uthred at full strength would have gone for him before Sigefrid could get that far and would have defeated and killed him?

Yes, that makes sense. Thank you.

Because Sigefrid had to be killed by Aethelflaed, not Uthred, I agree with the narrative choice there.

One thing Cornwell is very good at is understanding that the wronged must be given the chance to regain their agency through revenge. The show has grasped that point and carried it further, which is very nice.

And while they're clearly building up Aethelflaed for her future role, I can't see this particular (show) version of the story working without the Alfred and Uthred dynamic & parallel/contrast stories.

I think it will be possible to keep Alfred alive by slightly tweaking things and hoping everyone who knows the real history will forgive them. The dynamic that in the books is between Aethelflaed and her brother would nearly always work as well between Aethelflaed and her father. They are going to have to change from strict history anyway because the time span in the books is too large and I assume they won't want to age their lead into his eighties by the end of the series.

I have to say, though, in that context I appreciate Pygril in his introduction scene mentioning he's a Briton and is used to killing Saxons.

Oh I didn't just mean those of us with Saxon descent! By 'our' story I meant the whole lot of the English, from Britons through Angles, Saxons and Jutes to Danes, Fresians, Norsemen and anyone else I've forgotten. Because I see a lot of the theme of the whole story being how we as a people came together. How every tribe of us has fought the others and both enslaved and been enslaved. Okay, so at this stage the West Saxons won, and that is very important, but at other stages it has been different tribes on top. The entire name of the show is after all about how the Danes came within a whisker of winning. Just as the Britons came within a whisker under Arthur. And the Norsemen came back as the Normans and could be said to still be in charge. But then ultimately it ceased to be about winning because we so interbred and exchanged so much culture that the idea of different tribes faded away to nothing and we just became the English. And for me at least, once you take that idea it then very naturally extends to include the other tribes who have joined with us throughout history, right up to the present day, and will doubtless continue to do so in the wonderful mongrel mess that is the UK. That is what I mean by our story. :)

An author I otherwise am not keen on once wrote a time travel tale in which an IRA member travels back to the time of Arthur, and the English copper in pursuit at first assumes the IRA guy wants to kill Arthur to prevent the origins of Britain, until he realises he has it backwards: the IRA guy wants Arthur to survive so that the Saxons fail to conquer what will then never be called England. At which point the copper's nome to plume in Arthurian times turns out to be Mordred.
That sounds an interesting premise. I'd like to check it out. Can you remember the author and title?

What would your translation of Uthred's catch phrase be? :)

The original is 'Wyrd bið ful aræd' which is a line from The Wanderer. Like all old English I always feel the meaning is on the cusp of my understanding, so I can feel it more than give a literal word for word translation. To me it is about fate (not just destiny, which is the future, but the whole of fate which is what has happened, what is happening and what will happen, the three Norns). 'aræd' is usually translated as 'inexorable' but I also have a sense of 'all surrounding' so again encompassing past, present and future. If I had to give a four word modern English catchphrase I would say 'fate is full on', although that is far too modern for the TV show's needs. It might have been nice if they had left it in Old English and let people work it out for themselves.

Date: 3 Jun 2017 20:07 (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
URGH, no, what? :/ It's such a place of joy, Sense8.

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