Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Star Wars: Rebels - 'A Fool's Hope' and 'Family Reunion... and Farewell'

"Right. You and that army."
Wow. Here it; the end of the road for the Rebels.

With Kanan gone, Ezra puts into motion his plan to free Lothal. It's his plan, details by Sabine, with Hera and Zeb forced to allow that their kids have grown up. Unfortunately, time is tight to deal with Governor Pryce before Thrawn returns, so the crew pull in as many allies as they can, including Sabine's ex-partner Ketsu, dyed-in-the-wool scoundrels Hondo and Visago, Rex's fellow clone troopers Gregor and Wolfe, and the former-agent Kallus.

Ezra lays out his plan to hit the Imperial compound, but the odds against them are high and Rider Azadi contacts Pryce, offering to sell out the Rebel cause. Come the morning, Pryce brings a gunship strike force to the Rebel base, and a brutal firefight ensues, while Hera and her reinforcements sneak past Thrawn's blockade, painfully slowly. After a fierce resistance, the Rebels are subdued, but Ezra tells Pryce that Azadi's betrayal was a fake to draw her out. She is dismissive, but then the Ghost drops in, and when it looks like the ground fight might still go badly, Rukh and the stormtroopers find themselves outmatched by the Loth-wolf pack.

"You do remember that I saw what you really look like, right?"
'Family Reunion... and Farewell' then picks up with the mission itself. Using codes extracted from Pryce under threat of Loth-wolf, the crew infiltrates the Imperial dome. The plan is to issue a planetary evacuation order, drawing all of the Imperial troops into the dome, then launch it - because it does that - and set a self-destruct to take out all of the occupying troops and armour on the planet, which is pretty metal, and plays to the future Rebel strength of blowing up round things full of Imperials. Pryce is snide about their chances, but Kallus manages to bluff through the evacuation order and they prepare to launch. Unfortunately, things go south, as Thrawn's command ship, the Chimaera, pops up above them. Unable to launch without crashing into the Chimaera and raining flaming metal across the city, and with the dome's shield generators disabled by Rukh, Ezra has little choice but to surrender to Thrawn. Most of the crew try to talk him out of it, but Sabine lets him slip away.

Future cute.
Ezra goes aboard the ship, while Sabine coordinates a strike on the shield generators to get the defences back on line. Ezra is show a reconstructed chunk of the Lothal Jedi temple, and meets the Emperor, albeit in a prettified holographic form. The Emperor wants him to reopen the World Between Worlds, offering in exchange the chance to go back, save his parents and remake his life. Although tempted, Ezra ultimately refuses, while below, Zeb is able to trap Rukh on a power converter, and the rest of the crew get the shields working, even though their position in the command deck is now under fire.

Following a secret mission for Ezra, Mart brings the hyperspace whales to the fight, mashing the bejeebus out of Imperial blockade fleet, with one of them reaching its hyperspace whale tentacles(1) in to grab Thrawn and so fulfil the Bendu's prophecy. The whales jump to hyperspace, dragging the Chimaera - and Ezra - with them, while the Imperial dome detonates with Pryce aboard, having refused to switch sides.

Okay; this is my fantasy PI spin-off for the series.
In an epilogue, Sabine explains that with the increasing pace of the Rebellion, the Empire never came back to Lothal. Hera and Rex fought at the Battle of Endor, alongside Spectre 7, Jacen Syndulla, the son of Hera and Kanan. After, Zeb took Kallas to the new home of the Lasat to find his own peace. Sabine herself thought that Ezra had asked her to look after Lothal, but eventually realised that he wanted her to coms and find him, which - accompanied by Ahsoka Tano - she sets out to do.

So, that was Star Wars Rebels, and it's been one hell of a journey. The story of Lothal and its defenders has touched on many corners of the Star Wars universe, and brought us a family of memorable characters, engaged in thrilling shenanigans and some serious character growth.

(1) Full disclosure, I'd practically forgotten these things, but it was all set up back when.

DC Roundup: The Flash - 'The Trial of The Flash', 'The Elongated Knight Rises' and 'Honey I Shrunk Team Flash'; Legends of Tomorrow - 'Daddy Darhkest', 'Here I Go Again' and 'The Curse of the Earth Totem'; and Supergirl - 'Legion of Super-Heroes'

Barry gets his day in court, and for a major murder trial, it really doesn't feel
like it's more than a day.
Back to the Arrowverse (and Earths west,) as we come back after the mid-season break for The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and, eventually, Supergirl.

'The Trial of The Flash(1)' follows from the midseason cliffhanger, as Barry faces trial for the murder of Clifford De Voe and the series faces the greatest challenge of a super-intelligent villain; the pitfall of simulating super-intelligence by having everyone else be incredibly stupid. Seriously, the trial of Barry Allen is about as fair and convincing as the trial in Paddington 2, but that was supposed to be a crock and featured in a critically lauded children's comedy, whereas The Flash occasionally aspires to aspects of police procedural. The prosecution simultaneously presents Barry as a diabolical mastermind and as a highly-skilled CSI completely incapable of even attempting to cover his tracks(2). Ultimately, that's because this episode is more about Barry refusing to use his superhero alter-ego to derail the trial than it is about the facts of the case, and thus we're just asked to accept that De Voe is capable of setting this whole thing up. It's also about Team Flash accepting his decision and not revealing the secret identity for him, and realising that they can't make right by doing wrong, as when Ralph Dibney of all people has to talk Joe down from planting evidence to clear Barry. It's played as an emotional moment of growth for Dibney, but it's also an important practical withdrawal, because Joe has apparently forgotten that the De Voe house is full of cameras.
Fallout. Not our best villain.
Also, the Flash helps to stop Fallout, a hapless metahuman who unknowingly pumps out radiation, and who is lucky enough to be sent off for treatment (because when Barry protests that he never killed anyone, this is rather disingenuous, his run-ins with Earth-2 metas in early Season 2 reaping a particularly bloody harvest.) This is an almost entirely insubstantial B-plot, except that it allows the show to parallel Captain Singh giving a citation for the Flash, alongside the judge sending Barry down for life without parole. 

Come for the life sentence, stay for the hats.
Thus, 'The Elongated Knight Rises' sees Dibney trying to step up as Central City's key hero, and while he does an okay job it's hard to see why no-one is asking 'where the heckins has the Flash got to?' Dibney's first case involves the second Trickster, who is broken out of jail by his mother, formerly known as Prank. She wants them to go straight, but is easily persuaded to drop her medication(3) and start kidnapping people. Trickster's new thing is acid-loaded squirt guns, which prove able to damage Dibney's polymerised cells, leading him to face the question of whether he wants to be a hero if he can be hurt. Meanwhile, Barry is treated to his inaugural shivving - Iron Heights is a traditional, orthodox prison - but saved by prison heavy 'Big Sir', whose life was saved by an emergency appendectomy performed by the late Henry Allen.

I miss Mark Hamill.
Dibney also runs into a girl at CC Jitters who is writing in a strange language. Apparently, this is the language Barry was writing in when he came out of the Speed Force, but my immediate assumption was that she was one of the Observers from Fringe.

Finally, 'Honey I Shrunk Team Flash' sets Team Flash against a meta with shrinking powers, who just happens to become active after (criminally speaking) after years on the QT, right after it turns out that he was responsible for the murder Big Sir was convicted of. Barry urges Team Flash to track him down and get a confession so that Big Sir can go free and travel to China, but the confession is not forthcoming, even after a whole bunch of high jinks involving Cisco and Dibney being shrunk and an attempted cure priming them to explode. With no way to get Big Sir's sentence overturned, Barry speedsters him to China(4) and then returns to his own cell, where he is drugged by the warden and taken to be sold to Amaunet.

That's a bad sign.
This is not a strong set of episodes for The Flash. There are a lot of great moments peppered throughout, but overall they are disappointing. The trial is too fast and hinges too heavily on the presumption that De Voe has not only created a sufficient wealth of evidence to hang - as it were - Barry, but that he can do so without needing to give any additional direction to the prosecution. Thereafter, Dibney is only a so-so fill in for the Flash, and the teams methods for evoking the Killer Frost persona in Caitlin are superficially funny, but in retrospect almost as creepy as the fact that members of the team have been hitting the clubs with Killer Frost while Caitlin has been sleeping.

I'm curious to see how the show prevents Barry's secret identity from becoming public knowledge once, inevitably, he escapes from Amaunet's 'employment', and am wondering if she won't be suffering another non-culpable, Flash-related fatal accidents.

It's that man again.
Legends of Tomorrow has been bringing me rather more joy lately (although The Flash does have a shout-out to one-time god of war, Beebo.) Not that there are many laughs in 'Daddy Darhkest', as John Constantine leads the team to an asylum in Star City, 2017, and a girl named Emily who is possessed by a demon who knows Sara's name. The demon is Mallus, and laughs at Constantine's most substantial wards, and the girl it turns out is Nora Darhk. Mallus throws Constantine, Sara and Leo back in time, where Constantine and Sara get jiggy(5) and Leo gets drugged. With the Waverrider in trouble because - among other things - Ray and Zari are off trying to convince Nora not to go evil in later life, Sara has to willingly channel Mallus in order to mark and reactivate the time travel rune that was used to send them back in time, in order to get home. This means that she potentially opens herself to Mallus in future, and Constantine urges Ray to keep working on a nano-pistol designed to kill the possessed.

Also, Ray goes home to Earth-X.

Okay, not much joy there, but then we have 'Here I Go Again', which is, in the parlance of the show itself, the Groundhog Day episode, as a temporal fluid leak and an explosion on the Waverrider leaves Zari stuck in some sort of time loop. The first few times around, Sara - already narked at Zari for dragging her heels on repairs - has her sedated, but it turns out that Nate is willing to believe, and gives her Groundhog Day as a shorthand to convince him each cycle. She struggles to solve the problem, and as she looks for a mole in the crew she learns a lot about them, such as Ray's work on the nanite gun, Sara's burgeoning relationship with Agent Sharp, and the fact that Mick is writing a halfway decent sci-fi romance.

I have a deep and shameful love of sassy female-voiced computer. And sassy
male-voiced computers, actually, although there are fewer of them.
My favourite thing about this episode is the twist. It does all the standard time loop stuff - the intense struggle, the dossing around cycles - but then, just as the source turns up and the loop gets broken with the countdown still ticking, it turns out that this isn't a time loop. The fluid leak just knocked her into a coma, and Gideon - who is just the scariest voyeuristic caregiver ever - put her into a simulation in order to convince her that she could stay and be a part of the team, which is a nice spin on a classic trope.

Finally, we go all pirate in 'Curse of the Earth Totem', as one of the missing totems is tracked to the Caribbean and the near-legendary Captain Blackbeard. Cue hilarity as Ray and Nate try to be piratical, but ultimately own Amaya the better pirate, and boast her up as their pirate queen in order to blag a ride with actually-a-complete-coward Blackbeard to the island where he buried the 'cursed' totem with his lover, Anne Queen(6), after it turned her into a plant-manipulating hell-ghoul, because the totems are powered by one's own spirit and pirates aren't good people. There are crosses and double-crosses, the Darhks turn up and blag the spirit totem, but Ray shoots Nora with the anti-mage gun, which works a treat.

For it is, it is a glorious thing to be a pirate queen.
The team retreat to the Waverrider, but Nate isn't able to leave a woman he knew as a girl to die of horrible internal burny-freezy nanites. He goes back and offers a cure in exchange for the spirit totem, but hangs around too long and gets mage-choked by Nora, surviving only because Damien Darhk suggests a use for him.

Also, Sara and Agent Sharp - I want to say Evelyn? - go on a date, only for Sara to dine and dash when she gets an alert from the team, and Rip Hunter escapes from Time Bureau custody to recruit Wally West, first for a mission of his own and then as a potential new recruit to the Waverrider crew.

"I don't have the best history with people called Brainiac, but we won't
mention that. At all."
Finally, Supergirl reopens two weeks later than the other shows, with 'Legion of Super Heroes'. Reign is pretty much... Reining, with no-one to stop her as Kara is in a coma, her only contact with the outside world being the projected presence of Mon-el and Whatsherface's(7) teammate, Brainiac-5, who is trying to coax her out of an internal projection of her apartment. As the DEO struggles to contain Reign, Mon-el resists the urge to join the fight, since the Legion a) aren't supposed to get involved in past stuff, and b) his team hold the key to curing a terrible future plague in their own DNA, because apparently the twenty-eighth century(8) doesn't do thumb drives, data crystals, notepads, or any other form of information storage more efficient and stable than living DNA.

The twenty-eighth century is kind of dumb(9).

Power rings and cool outfits.
Mon-el and Imra eventually do join the fight, activating the Legion's 'ah, fuck it' protocol, and Kara snaps out of her coma to join the fight after realising that she is keeping herself in the room, partly on account of how much of a beating she took, but also because she's still trying to deny her humanity and be an alien arse-kicking machine, where her civilian persona is still vitally important, and not just in the sense that J'onn has to pretend to be her again after James tells Lena that Kara is home sick.

Anyway, Kara comes to the aid of the outmatched Legion, taking a bit of green vein to stick Reign with an emergency Kryptonite shot held back in case of bad Superman. Reign retreats to what I'm going to call the Temple of Doom, where the hologram of her creator tells her that the world has been seeded with support goons for her, and Johnny Used-to-Worship-Supergirl(10) tells her he can help her, since he sees a Kryptonian object of worship who offers some potential for validation.

(1) For some reason, I was sure it was called 'The Trial of Barry Allen', possibly because Barry Allen was on trial, while everyone still loved the Flash.
(2) Experience shows this to be a fair cop, but mostly because he lacks the intellectual coldness to plan such meticulous deceptions, or even wear a mask when breaking into a mastermind's house.
(3) The Trickster family are a bit of an oddity, continually straddling the border between diabolical supervillainy and genuine mental illness, although rarely as successfully as in the JLU episode 'Flash and Substance'.
(4) With no money, passport, ID, or - so far as anyone can tell - Chinese language.
(5) Points for having Constantine also hit on Leo. They still haven't shown him as actively and definitively bi, but since Leo is in a committed relationship there was only so far they could have gone without creating other problems.
(6) Related to Oliver?
(7) Imra, damnit.
(8) Or whenever they come from.
(9) Fair play, they were trying to hide the information, although sticking it in your genome and escaping through time still feels a little belt and temporal paradox.
(10) Just in case anyone thought it was just female characters whose names I couldn't remember.

The Gifted - 'eXit Strategy' and 'boXed In'

"Hey; we're the good guys here."
Slowly working through Marvel's not-quite-the-X-Men-series-that-isn't-Legion, I've got two more episodes in the bag.

In 'eXit Strategy', the Underground set out to rescue Lawyer-Face and Polaris(1), with the junior Struckers comboing their powers to create a more targeted destructive effect to stop a prisoner transport truck. Meanwhile, Marco goes to his former contacts in a Mexican gang to get info on the convoy route, only to find that the gang is now run by his ex. Soo awkward. Things then go bad, as everyone's powers stop working, thanks to Pulse, a mutant friend of Johnny's who was thought killed in a raid on a Sentinel Services base, only to turn up apparently working on them. Then Johnny knocks out Pulse and everyone gets away, after Lawyer-Face volunteers the metal pin from his leg to allow Polaris(2) to break out of their transport.

'boXed in' sees Blink coming to terms with the fact that her relationship with Johnny is a big old fake, while Lorna ropes Marco into kidnapping Sentinel Services Agent Tragic McBackstory, whose daughter was killed when a mutant rights march exploded, leading to the current state of world affairs. They rope in Roofie-Breath to mess with his mind, and after Blink extracts them from a self-inflicted Sentinel Services hairball, McBackstory is left to go home with no memory that his daughter is dead.

So... y'know. It's actually hard to call who the real villains are here.

Also, Lawyer-Face makes amends for his almost betraying the entire Underground by going out and dummying Sentinel Services away from the hideout.

The Gifted is not a terrible series, but the plot matches its washed-out colour palette. It's much, much better than, say, Inhumans, but also much less memorable. There's a lot to like, some strong characters and interesting relationships, and mostly what I remember is that I really don't like Roofie-Breath and that Lorna and Marco are working hard to justify McBackstory's hate. Honestly, if the Underground represent the good mutants, I'm starting to think that Sentinel Services may have a point. Not a good point, but a point nonetheless.

(1) I'm watching this very slowly, so regular people names are especially hard to remember. Strucker is Lawyer-Face's surname, but there are a lot of Struckers in the series.

(2) Her real name is Lorna, but she's a long-time comic character as well.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Star Wars: Rebels - 'Jedi Night', 'DUME', 'Wolves and a Door' and 'A World Between Worlds'

This is going to hurt, isn't it.
Having finished The Librarians, we're now winding up to the series finale of Star Wars: Rebels, although in this case it's not due to a cancellation, but the natural conclusion of the series in time for Rogue One to pick up the story.

'Jedi Night' follows from 'Rebel Assault', with Hera in Imperial custody and facing off against Grand Admiral Thrawn before being handed off to Governor Pryce for torture. Kanan, Ezra and Sabine infiltrate the Imperial compound using gliders, the younger Rebels securing transport while Kanan - sporting a severe new do - rescues Hera and steals back her kalikori. For the first time, if not ever then certainly in a while, they declare their feelings for one another, and the audience start to get sinking feelings. It's all looking pretty slick, but they reckon without Pryce, who opts to order her AT-AT to fire into an Imperial fuel depot rather than allow them to get away. As the tanks rupture and the fuel ignites, Kanan draws on the Force to hold back the flames, and to push the others into the transport and away from the blast. Kanan, however, is consumed by the blast, leaving the rest of the team bereft.

"You're very tall."
In 'DUME', the Rebels are basically in shock. Hera retreats into herself and Ezra is eaten up by guilt and despair, while Sabine and Zeb decide to head into the city when they realise that the Imperials are throwing a parade. Ezra is contacted by the Loth-wolves, in particular a gigantic wolf that speaks, calling itself Dume, which tells him to return to the Jedi temple. Hera, meanwhile, beats back her own grief by adding to the kalikori, symbolically bringing Kanan into her family. At the city, Zeb and Sabine encounter Rukh, and after a bad start are able to knock him out and send him into the city tied to his own speeder. They also realise that the destruction of the fuel depot has shut down the TIE Defender plant; they have lost many comrades and a dear friend, but their mission succeeded (and indeed, Thrawn angrily contacts Pryce to make it clear that the death of Kanan does not make up for delaying his programme, which may lead to his funding being reallocated to 'Project Stardust'.)

Apparently early Jedi art had some sort of Eastern Orthodox influences.
In 'Wolves and a Door', the team return to the temple, with the aid of the Loth-wolves, and find the site being excavated by Imperial engineers. The doors of the temple are long gone, but a great mural of the Mortis Gods(1) - the Father, the Son and the Daughter - stands on the wall, and Ezra recognises an owl that was often present when Ahsoka was around. Sabine works out that the hand gestures and star patterns in the mural form a kind of lock, which Ezra is able to manipulate using the Force. Sabine is captured but the Imperial Minister in charge of the dig, while Ezra is able to escape through a portal made of art, because that's the sort of thing you expect in Star Wars if your awareness of fantasy culture is such that you think it's fundamentally indistinguishable from Harry Potter.

Which leads us to 'A World Between Worlds', in which Ezra finds himself in a strange, extra-dimensional space full of paths and portals, in which he can hear the voices of Master Yoda, Obi-Wan, and also Rey and Kylo. Shit has officially got weird, and I mean weirder than when giant wolves started talking to people and running through hyperspace. While Hera and Zeb rescue Sabine from a heated academic debate with the Minister, Ezra follows an owl and finds a portal which opens onto the climactic fight between Vader and Ahsoka, allowing him to pull Ahsoka away from the fight. Ezra at once sets out to try to save Kanan, but Ahsoka helps him to see that if he does so, all of the Rebels will have died in the fuel dump.

Or Force flames.
The Emperor starts throwing Force lightning into the void after Ahsoka and Ezra, but with an effort they are able to escape; Ahsoka to the aftermath of her duel(2), promising to come and find Ezra, and Ezra to the temple, where Sabine is able to guide him in sealing the void once more. The temple itself collapses into nothing, and the Rebels, their sense of purpose reaffirmed, determine to continue their fight on Lothal.

With three more episodes to go, Rebels has hit us hard in the feels and just got so... goddamn weird. I mean, Star Wars can be a little floaty-mistic sometime, and the Force clearly transcends space-time with its instantaneous communication and prophecies, but damn this was some next level shit. I don't know how well it meshes with stuff from The Clone Wars, but it's pretty left field for a primarily movie fan. I think I like it, but I confess I'm not entirely sure. In the more mundane arena, however, Rebels continues to excel. The team emerge from a tragic loss bloodied but unbowed, while the Imperials are undone once more by their reliance on an absolute command structure and the personal failings of their leadership, in this case Pryce's viciousness and tunnel vision.

I'm going to be so sad to see this series go. I wonder what, if anything, will follow it? I may also try to catch up on The Clone Wars after all this time.

(1) Deistic religion in Star Wars; who knew?

(2) Which explains her seeming appearance after the duel back in Season 2.

The Librarians... - '...and the Hidden Sanctuary', '...and a Town Called Feud', '...and Some Dude Named Jeff', '...and the Trial of One' and '...and the Echoes of Memory'

It is with a heavy heart that I turn to this review, of the final five episodes of The Librarians. The word is out and the series has been cancelled, but at least it got a suitable send off.

'...and the Hidden Sanctuary' sees Cassandra taking a sabbatical in the safest town in America, to ty out what a normal life feels like and decide if it might be for her if she had to quit the Library to prevent a civil war. Unfortunately, while the town is almost impossibly safe, her arrival seems to coincide with a breakdown of its perfect order. With the help of a young boy who has realised since moving to the town that something is very wrong, but all the adults too scare to speak about it, she discovers that the town is protected by a bound faerie. Unfortunately, her arrival by magic door has fractured the binding, releasing the now heartily pissed of faerie. Only Cassandra has any chance of stopping the rampage, but first she'll have to convince the town that stoning her won't solve their problems.

"Does it say 'colonel' anywhere on my uniform?"
Then it's time for Jake and Ezekiel to explore the threat of civil war, as they travel to a town called Feud in '...and a Town Called Feud'. Feud is a town that thrives on Civil War tourism, especially around the bloody rift between two brothers, one a Rebel and the other a Union man. The owner of the local museum is determined to reunite the two halves of a locket symbolising their broken fraternal bond, but the ghosts of the dead seem set on perpetuating the struggle. Yet as the Librarians are caught up in the hauntings, all may not be as it seems. Meanwhile, back in the annex, Cassandra treats Jenkins to high tea and they look for more information on the Library civil war, which convinced Cassandra that there truly can be only one.

"Clean up, aisle seven."
Before we hit the big finish, it's Jenkins' - and John Laroquette's - time to shine, in '...and Some Dude Named Jeff'. Jenkins wakes up in a basement room, while his place in the annex has been taken by a slacker named Jeff. Jenkins discovers that Jeff has been studying the Librarians and idolising Jenkins for months, before finding a spell book on the internet which allowed him to Freak Friday his hero. Unfortunately, the book is also one of the most dangerous in existence, and Jenkins must call on the courage and resourcefulness of Jeff's D&D group to aid him in penetrating the Library's back door, in order to find Jeff and reverse the spell, before a monstrous force can destroy... well, pretty much everything.

This could be going better.
With the critical equinox closing in and no decision as to who will anchor the Library to humanity alongside Baird, the Librarians enact a spell to cause the Library to choose in '...and the Trial of One'. Unfortunately, this trial is to the death, and the three Librarians are forced to face their worst nightmares. Escaping these requires them to surrender the memory of their friends, thus allowing them to fight to the death. Baird is able to break out of her own nightmare to aid them, but the Library - perhaps already drifting away from humanity, because it's being a real dick about the whole business - has decreed that the trials will be completed, two Librarians will be killed, or else Jenkins will die. Despite their best efforts, the Librarians can not overcome the Library, and the enacting of this penalty ultimately drives all three to resign.

The Librarians?
Finally, '...and the Echoes of Memory' (and to an extent the final scene of '...and the Trial of One') reveals that Nicole Noone has been playing a long game all along. She kidnapped Flynn and faked his resignation, as well as engineering the loss of Jenkins' immortality to provoke the others to leave, so that she can rule a world in which the Library never was. Such a world is a dystopian mehhole of conformity and bureaucracy. In this monochrome nightmare, Baird struggles to hold onto enough memory of the Library to recruit the three Librarians, find Flynn and somehow undo what Noone has done before it becomes irreversible.

And so, it ends. It ends, in fact, with a reversal of time which undoes most of this season's action, although I like to think that most of it plays out anyway, and especially that Jenkins is still DMing for Jeff and his mates, because that shit was adorable. I also like to think that they were able to convince Derrington Dare that he was full of it, tweak the nose of the Saint of Thieves, and just straight up punch Rasputin in his face. I kind of want to write the revised events as fanfic now, because... I won't deny it, I'm going to miss The Librarians, in all its whimsical and closely plotted glory. It's been a highlight of the television calendar for the last four years, and now it's gone. On the other hand, at least it didn't outstay its welcome and fade away into something I wasn't sorry to see end.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Star Trek Discovery - 'The War Without, the War Within' and 'Will You Take my Hand?'

"Well, that doesn't sound very likely."
Okay; let's bring this back home.

Returning to their own universe, the crew of the Discovery are boarded and subjected to involuntary mind meld to find out where they've been and what happened to Captain Lorca. To my great sorrow, this wasn't because they'd managed to transpose the Mirror Discovery and Captain Killy had been up to shenanigans, but rather just because the ship's disappearance was the start of everything going to shit. The Klingons have been running roughshod over Star Fleet, taking out starships and star bases all over the place, but there is one possible saving grace: Fragmented after the death of Kor, the Klingons are not securing territory; for all the loss of life, the invasion could still be defeated; and Discovery has a passenger who can tell them how. Two, in fact.

Ensign Tilly. Upholding the Federation way, one dinner table at a time.
Emperor Georgiou crushed the Mirror universe Klingons, and where the prime version of Qo'noS differs from that in the Mirror, they have a new source of information in Lt Tyler. It turns out that what L'rell did was excise the personality of V'oq from beneath the Tyler graft, and now what remains is Ash Tyler with an added layer of Klingon memories (who gets cold shouldered in the mess until Tilly steps up to be awesome,) and for some reason minus the Klingon hyperaggression and muscle endurance; apparently physiology and biochemistry are all in the mind. Anyway, a plan is planned: Discovery will seed a dead world with magic mushrooms, harvest the spores and then jump into the volcanic caves beneath Qo'noS to create a map of the planet's military installations so that Star Fleet can launch their own pre-emptive strike before the Klingons can reach Earth.

I'll be honest, I'm not clear how this actually works. If the Klingons are heading flat out for Earth, then how can Star Fleet get from a defensive line around Earth to an all-out attack on Qo'noS before they arrive and...? I know it turns out that this isn't the real plan, but how does it convince anyone who has to be involved? It takes a special kind of dodgy spatial logistics for 'oh, hey, look! Captain Georgiou is still alive!' to not be the hardest sell to the crew.

Cue the music.
In the finale of the season, Georgiou leads Burnham, Tilly and Tyler onto the surface of Qo'noS to send a mapping drone into an extinct volcano system. This involves infiltrating an Orion trading settlement, so it's green-skinned strip club ahoy! Tyler embraces his inner V'oq in pursuit of a key volcanic shrine, which weirds Burnham out, and while Geogiou gets the intel from a pair of bizarrely knowledgeable hookers - like, no one knows where this shrine is, except for one zealot in the street and a couple of pole dancers - Tilly figures out that they aren't delivering a probe to an extinct volvanic system, but a bomb to an active system, with the aim of utterly devastating the planet in a catastrophic cascade reaction.

Welp; this is gratuitous.
With the planet ready to blow, Burnham confronts Star Fleet Command on this grievous breach of protocol/being a bunch of genocidal dicks. She then ropes in L'rell, shows her that Star Fleet has the power to annihilate the Klingons, and hands over the detonator, allowing L'rell to take control and actually unite the Empire. Having demonstrated that the war with the Federation was not the way to bring the houses together, she urges L'rell to try another way of realising T'kuvma's dream. Tyler goes with her to try to work out his many, many issues, and the rest of the crew are hella heroes. Replete with medals, they head out to Vulcan to drop off Sarek, but are interrupted by a distress signal from Captain Christopher Pike aboard the USS Fanservice... I mean Enterprise.

So, that was Star Trek: Discovery, boldly going where no Star Trek series has gone before. It definitely had a pacing problem, in particular firing off all of its big plot guns over the course of a couple of episodes. I was also disappointed that it took the morally complex character of Gabriel Lorca and threw him hard under the bus, basically portraying him as everything short of a puppy-murderer in order to justify Emperor Georgiou's role as 'the slightly sympathetic one,' when really opposing the Terran Empire should have been a prima facie – albeit not absolute – argument for making a common cause. Then there's the death of Dr Hugh Culber, which still stings, and feels like the miscalculation which will most dog the series moving into the confirmed second season.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Star Trek: Discovery - 'What's Past is Prologue'

"Come at me, bro."
This week on Discovery, shit gets real as Lorca makes his move and Saru leads a last ditch bid to save the universe(1).

Lorca frees his captive supporters from the agony booths, including Mirror-Landry, who has of course not been savaged to death by a tardigrade. Rallying secret supporters aboard the Charon, he captures Mirror-Stamets and turns his work - a nasty set of bioweapons - against the Emperor's supporters. Michael escapes from the Emperor and is able to warn Discovery that Lorca is a Terran, while the Emperor's attempts to subdue the rebellion prove less than successful, allowing Lorca to take the throne room. Having done all he can usefully do to aid Lorca, Mirror-Stamets is summarily executed as part of an episode-long campaign to remind us that Lorca is the bad guy.

"There may come a day when the principals of Star Fleet fail, but it is not thisday!"
Stamets-Prime explains to Saru and Tilly that the Charon's big ball of glowy power is in fact a mycelial reactor, drawing power from the network and, in doing so, killing it. If the damage is not checked, the network will die and take all other life in the multiverse with it, so that would be bad. The reactor is impervious to their weapons, thanks to a containment field, and even their most photonic torpedoes would barely scratch it. Saru declares against the existence of a no-win scenario and plans are drawn: Michael joins forces with the Emperor to retake the throne room and shut down the containment field, while the torpedoes are primed with spores to massively increase their yield. This means using up all of their harvested spores, however, leaving their only hope of getting home a mad attempt to ride the detonation of the reactor.

Aided by Lorca's obsession with destiny, and with making Burnham his Empress, Burnham and Georgiou make it to the throne room, where they are able to take down the guards. Burnham refuses to kill Lorca, because Starfleet, but Georgiou has no such qualms, running him through and dropping him into the mycelial reactor for good measure. The Emperor then offers to hold off Lorca's remaining supporters until Discovery can retrieve Burnham, but at the last moment Burnham opts to grab her, so that they are both beamed to relative safety as the reactor detonates, taking out the Charon and flinging Discovery into the network. An overwhelmed Stamets is once more guided to safety by Dr Culber's voice, leading him to 'the clearing in the forest' and bringing Discovery back to its own universe.

"This is fine."
Unfortunately, they are nine months into their own futures and it looks as if the Klingons have pretty much won the war. It's also entirely possible that the Terran ISS Discovery has been jobbing around for the last nine months, trying to find a tongue for Captain Killy to lick her boots with.

Discovery continues to dangle increasingly vain hopes - this time the potential timey wimey of the mycelial network, vs. the loss of the spore stock - as well as messing with our sense of continuity - no-one in the Mirror, Mirror episode knew anything much about mirror universes or creation-critical mycelial networks, and there was no sense of a Federation recovering from near-total collapse less than nine years later. I guess one of these suggests a solution to the latter, although I am increasingly, if not contentedly, resigned to the loss of Dr Culber. Prove me wrong, Discovery; please.

This episode didn't have Shazad Latif in it at all, which is quite a come down from two of him just a couple of episodes ago, but we have Michelle Yeo back and I am sure that nothing could possibly go wrong with trying to integrate the genocidal ruler of a fascist empire into Star Fleet. This is what I mean about trying to make sure we know Lorca is the bad guy, by the way. While he is obviously an evil, manipulative motherfucker out to seize personal power and cop off with as many women(3) as he could, his cause was against an oppressive regime and who is to say that he was any worse than Georgiou? We were shown a lot of the latter's honour, against Lorca's ruthlessness, specifically to create a false moral divergence between the established and incoming fascist overlords. Notably, Emperor Georgiou didn't eat any Kelpians this episode, but I can't help feeling that Burnham would have done better by everyone to let her go down in a blaze of glory.

(1) Yeah; the damage to the mycelial network constitutes a threat to all life in the multiverse. Way to bury the lede(2).
(2) It is entirely conceivable that I just got distracted last week.

(3) Revealed as our villain, he yet remains unabashedly cis-het and white.