Killjoys: Da Ratman Forgive You, DIs Time

Episode 1.10: Escape Velocity
Written by: Michelle Lovretta
Directed by: Ken Girotti
Original airdate:  August 21, 2015

killjoys

Aside from John, the one thing I loved about this show was the world-building the writers of Killjoys took pains to do across the episodes of the first season. All those elements came together in the season finale, from the religious order of rebels, to the matriarchal nine families, to the RAC and Level 6 Killjoys, to the DNA bomb, to the destruction of Old Towne and reneging on the promise of upward mobility. It was all laid out in a nice, clear string (kinda like the prayer beads Aldus received in his cell) and was very satisfying to watch. I was left with the sense that the world and the stakes were big, both culturally and for the characters, which is everything you want from a season finale.

Like a lot of season finales, groups are split. Some are on Lucy, others are in the tunnels. And D’Avin, who got his stupid ass captured for going after Khlyen, is off on his own in Arkam Asylum along with Fancy (love that guy). If they make him a Level 6 I think I’ll puke; he’s insufferable enough as it is, and Lovretta has a serious fetish about being pretty boys beaten to a pulp. It’s weird. I’m sure they’ll rescue him, and I’m sure something will be “wrong” with him based on whatever Khlyen is going to do to him. D’Avin bores me. He’s not a very interesting character.

John gets a lovely moment where he plays monk for the Rat People, and does it convincingly. Wonder if that’ll be some foreshadowing. And, nice guy that he is, he can’t just let the ruse go because he’s concerned for the woman he blessed who needs medical treatment. There’s just such a genuine sweetness and decency about John that I really just love. He’s not perfect, and has his moments of douchiness which D’Avin tends to bring out in him. But overall, he’s been a revelation for me, and easily my most favorite character from any new show this year. I confess when I heard Aaron Ashmore had been cast I thought he’d be bland because he has to much of that boy-next-door quality to him that is a little boring. What I didn’t know is that he was actually perfectly cast for the role, and really makes his good guy innocent aura work really well for him. Love him.

It’s tempting to say that Seyah has a thing for Dutch, but that’s probably not true. Lovretta is usually pretty good at flirty same-sex stuff while managing to keep the male-gaze aspects down, and this was more of the same. But Seyah is anything but benign about anything she does. She pretty much treats Dutch like an accessory, and ignores John all throughout the party. We eventually find out she’s behind a coup and in on some of Khlyen’s schemes to boot. There’s a lot more there, I suspect. And none of the political machinations prevented Old Towne from getting bombed, so I’m not sure what it all was for just yet.

Not really a lot of movement for Dutch in this one. We find out a little bit more about her relationship with Aldus, and she nearly gets killed by a goon at Seyah’s party before John takes him out. She basically spends the episode trying to save D’Avin, which was a little eyeroll worthy. If anything, that should’ve been John’s role, not Dutch’s. I just don’t buy their romance. Too rushed, and too forced. It was the only part of the entire season that fell completely flat for me. I’m just over the whole shipping dance these days, mostly because most writers do it really badly, and also because it all-too-often ends up being the main plot for female characters.

Like Dark Matter, I suspect Killjoys will get renewed, and I’m genuinely looking forward to another season of that show. I don’t love the show, and it can be a little too busy at times, but I did enjoy it. I think they did a lot with very little, and gave the characters a gritty world to inhabit and play off of, which helped to flesh it out significantly. It feels like a world with consequences for the things people do and don’t do, and I liked that. I hope this show will be back next summer.

Dark Matter: Murder on the Raza Express

Episode 1.12: Episode 12
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi
Directed by: Andy Mikita
Original airdate: August 28, 2015

Episode 1.13: Episode 13
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Directed by: Andy Mikita
Original airdate: August 28, 2015

dark-matter-header

Season one of Dark Matter is now done and dusted. Judging by Joe Mallozzi’s blog, a second season is likely, though hasn’t been formally announced as of yet. The season does end in such a way that it could be a series finale if it needs to be, yet still leaves plenty of doors open for more. Episode 12 was very good, and I enjoyed it a lot, despite it being the exact same general plot as Episode 11. Episode 13, however, was a letdown, and drained away any of the momentum and excitement the show had going into it. I have become so habituated to the show’s “gotcha” moments at the end of each episode that they haven’t really excited me in awhile and these episodes were no exception.

In Episode 12, we find out more about Two, though not really that much more than what we already knew. Yes, she’s an artificially created person. And, as I feared, she was created by a man named Alexander Rook who has a creepy, condescending “blow-up doll” attitude toward her, and an on-off switch for the ultimate in female objectification. This is kind of like the Android. We’re told she and Two are the most powerful crew members again and again, and we even get to see it occasionally. But they are also regularly and easily rendered non-functional when they become too much of a problem for the writers to deal with. We saw this with the Android over and over this season to the point of ridiculousness–she’s too inconvenient to actually have in the story so they knock her out with bullets or a cattle prod. And now, we have the same for Two. It just reeks of male wish fulfillment.

There are shows that engage in gender conceit as a device. Mad Men, for example, allowed us to view the sexism of the 1960s through a modern lens, and was a very conscious choice on the part of the writers. It requires a deft hand to pull off, a genuine awareness of who your characters are and the world in which they inhabit, which also has to be a space that the audience shares in and is knowledgeable about. Even though someone who did not live during the 1960s might watch Mad Men, the sexism of that bygone era is still ingrained in our culture to some extent, and is, therefore, relatable to the audience. In addition, though there are few conversations about gender roles in Mad Men, there are several plot points and confrontations between characters that speak directly to the sexism being depicted, making it a part of the narrative structure of the plot.

This is not true of Dark Matter. While the audience may be bringing its own sensibilities about gender roles to the show, the writers have provided only the vaguest sense of the universe or context, and on top of that, has stripped all of the characters of identity. We have had hints that the universe of Dark Matter is our universe, but it is also quite removed from ours at the same time, and we understand little about the culture. If anything, since Dark Matter is set in the future and in space, the writers were more obligated to provide context and world building than Mad Men’s were, and opted not to do so for some reason.

Superficially at least, the Dark Matter universe does appear to have gender roles. There is a female nurse and a male doctor in Episode 6, male casino thugs in Episode 4, a dangerous femme fatale and a ruthless male general in Episode 8, and another male doctor in Episode 12. But how far does this go? Is their world very gendered? Is it more gendered than ours? Are we to glean that it’s only The Raza men who need a lesson in gender politics, one that can only be taught to them by two artificial women and a teenage girl? Or are they merely a reflection of a sexist society? How can they be with their memories erased? We’ve now had two episodes in a row in which the men sit around saying “We’ve got to do something” while the (artificial or underaged) women go out and actually do something. But what are we supposed to take from that when there is no internal commentary from the characters themselves about it, no awareness at all that the women are taking all the physical risks while they sit by impotent? Mad Men had many key plot points about gender roles during its run. Here, gender issues seem to be imposed on the show strictly for the audience, rather than as part of the narrative structure of the series or the journey of the characters, who remain oblivious to it.

For example, if issues of feminism and sexism are so important to the writers of the show, why not have it be an explicit journey for the characters. So far, all the men have done is question every one of Two’s decisions (including her decision to take the latest job in Episode 12, you notice) and talked about their own actions during crisis. Like so many things they could do with issues of identity, why not use this conceit to examine gender roles and cultural expectations of such, to show just how much there is to be gained by stripping away those pre-conceived notions of male and female roles and behavior. What an existential journey that would be, and would speak brilliantly to the role of experience and entitlement in gender roles. Instead, we get artificial women getting things done with on/off switches for when they get to be too uppity, and no self-reflection from the men or internal context at all about any of it.

What a waste.

Anyway, I could go on about this for hours. The gender issues of the show are extremely frustrating to me, particularly since they perpetuate and reinforce very wrong ideas about feminism. The writers are suggesting that feminism occurs at the expense of men rather than in partnership with them, that empowered women can only be achieved when the men are deliberately weakened and ineffectual. It’s a terrible message to send, that does more harm than good for feminism. Add to that the underlying sexism that permeates the series that I’ve spoken about in other posts, and you end up with something maddening to watch. I’d quit, but someone needs to call it out for what it is. The emperor has no clothes.

As for the episodes themselves, I really did enjoy Episode 12. Had the season ended with that episode, with or without a cliffhanger, I’d have been hopeful about the show’s future. It had emotion, action, stakes, story, character development. Pretty much everything you want. Wil Wheaton has made a career out of playing smarmy douchebags, and he plays the same thing here. He’s found a niche for himself. Following Ennis Esmer’s performance as the villainous Wexler was unfortunate, though. They were both creeps, but Wexler was a much more interesting and well portrayed creep. I will never stop being sad that we’ll probably be seeing Alexander Rook again and not Wexler. Beyond that, every time the editing cut to the men sitting in the shuttle talking I literally yelled at the television to get back to the actual action. Because who wants to spend five minutes of the episode listening to them have the same conversation over and over again. And, I confess I felt a genuine sense of satisfaction when Two turned the bone saw back on the doctor. Yes, he was an over-the-top hateful man (who conveniently forgot that he helped create Two and so was himself responsible in part for what she’d done, but of course nobody thinks to point that out). The show’s not exactly subtle.

I loved seeing the Android get a bigger role, and back in action, because they seriously screwed that up this season. I didn’t like the Android at first, but Zoie Palmer won me over, so I dearly hope the writers figure out something to do with her in season two other than turning her off every other episode. She makes watching the show bearable. I’m sorry Red Android and her bitchface are gone, though maybe the Android can reboot her. Despite liking the character, her emotional journey seems kind of pointless, particularly when I watch her trailing around after the crew, who don’t even notice her. Even at the dinner table, the Android managed to look totally alone as she drank the wine. Her programming is indeed flawed if she really thinks any of these people are her friends. I think that was all just clumsy setup for Episode 13 and her being turned off yet again (seriously, that was some stupid shit to keep repeating, writers, and it makes your character look dumb, too. If you’re going to keep the Android around, please stop doing that.).

As for Episode 13, I thought it was terrible. People running around the ship waving guns, talking. Blah blah blah. Didn’t this happen in, like, at least three other episodes this season, too? This was their take on Murder on the Oriental Express. I literally could not stop laughing at One and Four’s scene as they checked their section of the ship. Four was wearing his sword, and the hilt at his hip kept waving around as he walked, and I thought it was hilarious. But oh, poor Alex Mallari, please give him something to do except hang out in the gym and look stoic. I like that he was the leader before the memory wipe, please do something with that at least. His character has been the worst, this season, even worse than the Android in terms of development. I think he’s a good example of everything that’s missing from the show. We find out he’s royalty, that he’s accused of patricide. We see him with his old mentor, whom he does not remember in an episode (more walking and talking, I might add), and he kills him at the end to send a message and for self-preservation.

I’d really hoped issues of identity and memory and self-determination would play out more profoundly in this series, but that does not seem to be the case. Four decides he will reclaim his throne. But I have to ask why? He has no memory of his childhood, no memory of his family, connections to the court, or any of that. It’s literally lost to him, so why would he bother? Is he just falling back on who he is at his core? Is he doing it because he thinks that’s what’s expected of him? Other reasons? The show has to give us something about their internal thought processes from time to time. Instead, Four is like a wall.

It does look like they’re trying to set up a triangle of sorts. I had less trouble with One’s conversation with Two at the start of Episode 12 than most of their interactions. His concern was nice to see, as was her anger over finding out the truth. You could have done that, and Two’s conversation with Three in Episode 13 without any of the romance; the events of Episode 11 would’ve been sufficient for those connections to form. Speaking of Two and Three, that was just painful. No chemistry whatsoever. Neither actor looked comfortable with it, and it just came off stilted and fake. The show seems determined to rehabilitate Three as a softy, which is a shame. He’s a better character, and more useful, as an asshole. I hope they pull back on that for season two because he’s not really very much fun anymore.

Five wiped their memories and Six is the betrayer. Presumably Five wiped their memories to protect whoever Two and Four were talking about killing in the audio she recorded. I think we’re supposed to believe it was Six they were talking about, but I think it was One. It could be anyone, honestly, so it’s hard to care. While I’m at it, did Five forget about the kid dying in the storage room? She’s there long enough for Six to figure out she’s good at tech stuff, and to begin snooping. Meanwhile, he’s bleeding out, and she doesn’t seem even remember him. As for Six’s betrayal, with no ideas of motives it’s just a thing he did. He clearly made some kind of deal with the GA or someone, probably in Episode 8, and we’ll get some ad hoc explanation for it next season. So it’s hard to care or be shocked by it.

As I mentioned, I think the show will get a second season. I can’t say I loved this season (maybe that’s an understatement) as I had a lot of problems with it. I was initially interested in Mallozzi’s claim that it passed the Bechdel Test, which it does. I will give credit where credit is due in this is a start. However, the Bechdel Test, while an interesting litmus test, does not guarantee that a movie or television show will not be sexist, and Dark Matter is an example of this. Sure, the artificial women and the teenage girl all talked to each other about things other than men, but the writers kind of stacked the deck in their favor on that one, I think, with the gender imbalance they created. Beyond that, the show is rife with overt and covert sexism that detracts from whatever points they earn for passing the Bechdel Test. There is much room for improvement.

I really did want to like this show, and it pains me that I found it so bad to mediocre, with a few bright spots here and there. I’ll watch second season, but I’m not sure I’ll have the patience to blog about every episode like I did this season. It’ll depend on how things go in the first couple of episodes–first seasons can be a shakedown period for most shows, while they smooth out the edges, figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I guess we’ll all tune in next summer to see.

The Last Ship: Watership Down

Episode 2.11: Valkyrie
Written by: Stephen Kane
Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Original airdate: August 23, 2015

TheLastShip

The Last Ship pulled back a bit from the moral dilemma of the previous episodes, for a more action-packed episode. The crew discovers that Ramsey is using an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico as a broadcasting platform, and seek to do the same or destroy it. While Danny and Tex struggle to help survivors of the destruction of New Orleans, Chandler and a team storms the oil rig. Tragedy abounds as the crew of the Nathan James lose several of their own, and suffer other casualties.

Foster got more face time here since the opener. She’s still pregnant, and there’s a nice moment with her and Scott, when Foster goes seeking a checkup. We don’t get to see much female-bonding in this series since it’s obviously meant for male audiences, so I doubly appreciated that we got the scene. Foster thanking Scott in light of last week was also very pointed. Scott was relentless and saved the world. This would not have happened without her, and Foster as much as said so. It makes me wonder where her criminal plot is going, because she and Chandler also seem to have an uneasy understanding by the end of the episode as well. I predict they’ll set up the finale for a major one-on-one confrontation between Chandler and Ramsey, and Chandler will have to decide whether or not to just kill him or take him in and make him stand trial. It’ll be interesting to see what the show does.

Michener makes a trite speech that Slattery dubs the speech of a lifetime. I’m still trying to figure Michener out. He seemed less dodgy in this episode than previous ones. But, I can’t help but remember he was the one who sent them to New Orleans in the first place, because he said that’s where Sean was taking him. But we also find out in this episode that the people there aren’t infected. So did Sean set up Michener with this info with the possibility that he’d get caught and tell the Nathan James where to find him? What were Ramsey’s plans for New Orleans? Was that why he wanted the infected teddy bears, so he could kill off the non-immunes there and use it as a base of operations? Ramsey has people all over, so I wasn’t bothered by someone rigging up the explosions but wouldn’t something like that take awhile to do? I guess Ramsey is the type to make plans, and several layers of contingency plans.

Interesting side note: So it’s only been six months since the series started. I thought it was longer.

Aw damn, they killed off Bivas. I really liked her. Her flirting with Burk was cringeworthy, but she was an otherwise fun character, and it was nice having a competent female out in the field. But I guess they’re replacing her with Valerie. I bet she’s Rhona Mitra’s replacement, actually. I still say Scott’s story is coming to an end–she’ll get a Presidential Pardon and stay at some port they land at at the end of the season. Valerie is another civilian woman who is super smart. Even though Granderson seems to be the comm officer she’ll be like Doctor Baldy, just kind of there in the background to show how much better Valerie is at the job. There was something really off in the way Chandler interacted with her, though. Mocking her about conspiracy theories seemed strange under the circumstances–I know if it were me I ‘d very much suspect the military accidentally released a weaponized virus and caused all this. Information was probably hard to come by, so that didn’t really sit well with me when he was trying to get her on his side. I guess she had to be made to look a little stupid, I suppose, so she could “wake up” but he end of the episode after seeing the “real navy.” This is where the show gets really eyeroll worthy sometimes. And then when he was complimenting her, the way Dane delivered the lines, it was like Chandler either didn’t really buy it, or was just being really bad at blowing smoke up her ass. It was very strange.

I also got a strange vibe from Ramsey’s brother. I hope he’s beginning to realize just how batshit crazy and dangerous his brother is. But I think it’s more he just hates his brother and is looking for an opportunity to take him out so he can take over. Ramsey’s manifesto will actually probably be interesting, and reviewed carefully by Chandler and his crew when they get their hands on it. The fact that he even wrote one is to remind us he might be a good strategist, but even people who are crazy as a loon can be smart. Neither one cancels the other out.

For now it looks like Michener is legit, and I didn’t expect them to make him a double agent anyway, though it’s still possible. The propaganda war is actually the most interesting part of this, and Ramsey did make a mistake in naming Michener and vowing to rescue him. If and when Michener’s message gets out from the Nathan James (because it will), Ramsey is going to be in the position now of having to denounce the President he just vowed to rescue. It’s easy enough to do, and then claim the leadership mantle for himself by claiming he found to Michener was in on it, too, with the military. But propaganda wars don’t make for big action sequences, so I expect that to play out as a backdrop mostly. Still, I like it.

Two more episodes left in the season and I have to say this has been a pretty good season. The show has a lot of flaws, but it’s ended up being really solid. Even though it’s a recruitment poster for the U.S. Navy, I think they’ve managed to introduce some complex moral storylines, even if not all of them get played out in full. Chandler is still a boy scout, but circumstances are slowly changing him, and I like to think he’s in his annoying pre-teen rigid years in his development. The world has changed; he has to change with it, at least to some extent. He can’t will it to be the way it was or the way he wants to be. I don’t know if that’s the character arc they’re going with for him (I suspect not), but it would be fascinating to watch if they did.

Under the Dome: Eating for Two

Episode 3.10: Legacy
Written by:  Alexandra McNally and Andres Fischer-Centeno
Directed by: Dennie Gordon
Original airdate:  August 20, 2015

UnderTheDome

Here’s what happens in this episode. Julia and Barbie talk and exchange I love you’s. Eva eats a barnful of handmaidens to hurry the queen’s gestation along. Eric La Salle shows up with a cure for the townsfolk’s Kinship disease and to threaten Big Jim. Barbie kind of sort of pretends not to be in his right mind. Joe decides to build Christine’s machine to save the folks of Chester’s Mill, and Norrie shoots someone in the head. What’s weird is that with all this stuff happening, the only thing that seemed to have any consequences was Eva’s voracious appetite for virginal handmaidens in white. It was pretty much a placeholder because we’ve got to get the season to 13 episodes.

Not much really to say about it, other than that. The baby’s fast development was a given. As was Julia having questions about Barbie after he goes back to save the baby. He does still seem off, but it’s hard to know with this show anymore since it’s gone so completely off the rails. It isn’t worth predicting where the show is going. If this is the last season, the dome’ll come down; otherwise I predict something Joe does actually fixes the calcification. The real question will be whether this awful alien possession plot will be dragged on for another season, or whether Christine will be conveniently killed off for the new queen at the end of her contract this season.

Dark Matter: Real Women Need Not Apply

Episode 1.11: Episode 11
Written by: Paul Mullie
Directed by: Martin Wood
Original airdate: August 21, 2015

dark-matter-header

The crew of The Raza tries to thwart Wexler and his crew, and deal with the presumed loss of Two. I have mixed feelings about this episode. Last night, after I watched it, I absolutely hated it for reasons I’ll get into in a minute, but that are related to my ongoing commentary on the show’s sexism. At the same time, the energy levels and emotional stakes were much better than anything that’s come before this episode. And the ending was pretty good.

First up, major kudos to Ennis Esmer for a tour de force performance as Wexler. He committed wholeheartedly to it and was a feature film quality bad guy. Tremendously fun to watch in both this episode and the previous one. Part thug, part strategist, part cold-blooded killer, part opportunist, and major parts creepy asshole were all there in the performance, and he lent a palpable sense of unpredictable threat. I believed he was capable of literally anything. The series was in need of stakes like this and Wexler finally provided some. I am sorry they spaced him–I think he could’ve been a great ongoing nemesis for the crew. I cannot praise Esmer highly enough, and will definitely be checking out his other work now (I know he’s coming up soon in episode 5.12 of Lost Girl).

The delivery of the box and the destruction of the planet at the end were pretty good, too. The scientists on the planet were obviously not expecting things to go so horribly wrong with the device, which was probably an energy source or something. Obviously, the corporations all vying for it realized its potential as a weapon and found the perfect guinea pigs to take the fall for testing that out. That’ll be an ongoing plot, I’m sure.

Emotionally, there were some good and bad moments. The good was the scene between One and Five. I’m no longer much of a fan of One, but his scene with Five during the rape threat was effective. I didn’t mind the rape threat, either, because realistically that’s exactly the kind of thing a scumbag like Wexler would do. And it raised the stakes significantly for the audience and for One. I’m still bothered by the men siding with Wexler last week after Two attacked him for his advance on her. And Six’s over-protectiveness and constant questioning of Five and her abilities is beginning to wear thin, because that kind of paternalistic sexism is annoying and condescending. But One’s reassurance and protectiveness of Five here were warranted and appropriate given the circumstances. It’s the one place where I think the scenario could work and not be insulting.

The bad was the men in the vault, literally sucking the air out of the room with their impotent bloviating. This whole overly-long sequence pissed me off, and ruined what was an otherwise good episode. It’s a perfect example of the heavy-handed agenda this show’s writers use when it comes to gender. It was obviously meant to be a joke, since the scenes cut between them ranting and raving and gasping for air and Two and Five getting things done. I get that. But for me it was a joke that went too far and they should’ve pulled back on it some. I don’t need to see men weakened or rendered pathetically impotent to highlight how great a woman is. In fact, that’s the last thing I want to see because it’s a conceit that artificially bolsters Two at the men’s expense rather than something that stems from organic character development. I really, really hated it. It was cheap and amateurish writing at its worst, and as a viewer, I felt insulted by it. Also, One being upset over Two I could buy, particularly since he engineered over-riding her in the first place and got them into this mess; I just rolled my eyes at Three again, though. I’m not buying this clumsy transition from heartless asshole to bad boy with a secret soft heart. I liked him better when he was a heartless asshole, anyway.

And of course, the men still don’t trust or respect two at the end as they talk over what to do with the box. One may be on board with her, having learned his lesson, but I didn’t get the sense that the rest of them had. And, since she’s a woman (sort of), she has to prove herself over and over and over again to the men, rather than having them just accept her. Male leaders are never treated this way. I don’t know, maybe this’ll be a turning point for the crew. I’d like to at least hope so, but I tend to doubt it.

The revelation about Two, who we discover is an artificial person, makes Android a superfluous character, I think. Five can fix things, Two can fly and defend the ship, and interesting storylines and themes centering on personhood are likely to go to Two now rather than Android. I think they should just drop the character altogether since they don’t really know what to do with her (and probably Four, too, as much as Alex Mallari seems very sweet). Her security routines are gone, and she hasn’t been a physical force at all since the first episode. In fact, she seems to get taken offline for plot purposes repeatedly rather than integrated into the action at all (a combination of lazy writing, low budget, and bloated cast, I think). The embodiment of a link to the ship isn’t necessary, either. They could just give orders directly to the AI like they do on Killjoys. If they keep the character, I foresee lots of frustrating one minute second unit filler scenes with Android moping about being obsolete/not good enough and whatever the hell her emotional journey is supposed to be about. That just doesn’t sound entertaining to me at all. While I don’t begrudge her a paycheck, I think I’d rather watch Zoie Palmer in something that gives her a better chance to shine than she’s been getting on Dark Matter.

I guess Two has no backstory because she’s not really a person. We know she’s Portia Lin, but was she really that, or was that the background info they programmed into her? Also, why did she keep her healing abilities a secret from the rest of the crew for so long? That made no sense to me since without their memories, all these little details are important. And, as I said, not revealing it while talking about trust was really undermining herself. It was an important detail and her very existence puts the crew in jeopardy. She owed it to them to tell them about it, I think. It’s not like they can trust her any less at this point.

As for what Two is, this is another thing that pissed me off. So we now have four adult males to two artificial entities in female form and a teenage girl. This episode made the divide between the sexes even more blatant, and not just because of the stupid vault stuff with the men. In my opinion, this makes the male/female ratio ridiculously unbalanced, and I can’t imagine what they were thinking with this. It sends a terrible message (two women who are technically things? Really? I bet you anything Two was created by a man, too). By rights, one of the men should’ve been an artificial person instead of Two, or one of the four men should’ve been a female character. I find this very problematic to the point where it really puts me off the show (moreso than all my other problems with it).

Five shooting someone I saw coming the minute she found that gun in Episode 3. The way they’ve had Six overdoing the protectiveness was another big clue that was coming, as well. It worked well for what it was, but it was so telegraphed it wasn’t really the shocking moment it might’ve been otherwise. I don’t think it’s going to change much with respect to how Six treats her, either.

Next week, two episodes are airing to wrap up the season. Hopefully they’ll be able to maintain the energy and more positive emotional beats from this episode. And hopefully we’ll finally discover who wiped their memories, though that is sure to pose more questions than it answers. If the show gets a second season, I hope they ditch the awful faux-feminism they’re pushing, get some diversity behind the scenes, pace the season better (too much unnecessary filler), and, most importantly, figure out how to integrate all their characters into the story better or just drop some of them.

The Last Ship: Tom’s No Good, Awful, Very Bad Day

Episode 2.10: Friendly Fire
Written by: Stephen Kane
Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi and Mario Van Peebles
Original airdate: August 16, 2015

TheLastShip

The Last Ship has become a very interesting conundrum for me. I initially tuned in because I like good apocalypse stories, and this seemed to fit the bill. The first half of season one was pretty terrible, and though it’s not Shakespeare, it’s been surprisingly good and entertaining since then. And, it’s still really easy to poke fun at the show because I don’t really invest much in it, other than to get some enjoyment out of it. The storyline they’re doing with Scott, however, is a whole different thing, and I find myself surprisingly unsettled by it. I explained last week what problems I had with how she got the information out of Niels about the DNA sequence, but didn’t talk much about the fact that she, in essence, murders him. I was about to write “in cold blood” there, but didn’t, because she was quite emotional about what she did, not cold at all. This was hot revenge.

Scott has always been a peculiar character on the show. They needed someone like her to work on the cure, and to provide drama because she’s secretive and driven, and an outsider among the military crew members. Much of first season was her in conflict with the captain about what to do about the virus and the cure, and attempting to earn the trust of the crew though she’d really done nothing wrong. It seemed as though they’d resolved that, but that was just in time to sideline her for most of the season for the cult storyline.

And now this storyline with Niels comes along. Scott rushes to use the information she’s gained from Niels’ tissues (she literally cuts out his heart in an opening sequence, which made me laugh. Subtle.) because she knows Chandler is suspicious. The investigation must’ve tipped her off or something. Chandler calls her to the captain’s mess just as he’s giving his permission to inform the crew that it is noon. It’s no accident that he called her there just in time to witness this particular Navy ritual. He wants her to understand that rules are rules, that their adherence to traditions are what help to keep the crew together, and they will not break down and forfeit the rule of law in their new reality.

There was something so smug and condescending about Chandler in this scene that I couldn’t stand to look at him. The way he cut his food, the condescension toward the sailor asking permission, his puffed up pouting over the dilemma Scott has created for him. I know it wasn’t supposed to play that way, but I thought it was just horrible, and made me actively and intensely dislike him for the first time. I say it wasn’t supposed to play that way because lets face it, this show is a propaganda piece for the US Navy. They are never intentionally going to show Chandler in a negative light.

It’s a shame, really. Because there’s a layered story here to tell. Yes, these customs and rituals become doubly important when the world is falling apart around you. The hold you together, especially for a group of people who are part of the military machine. I get that, and I can even appreciate it. But what is the line between comfort and rigidity? It seems to me that Chandler crossed that line with this episode, and now looks reactionary and rigid when too much around him has changed. From a storytelling standpoint the crew of the Nathan James stand in stark contrast to the bickering, undisciplined cult on the sub. But right now it’s unclear which approach is better, and I’d even say the cult is winning. They control more resources, have more people on their side, while Chandler is essentially quarantined on his own ship/ Now it won’t stay that way, but it’s an interesting story that they’re probably never going to tell, which is a shame.

The other problem with this is really the whole propaganda aspect of the show. I know the Navy has to be vetting these scripts, and while I suspect the writers are slipping things in as they can, they will never allow a storyline on this show that paints the Navy and US military as anything but patriotic do-gooders. The audience knows some of the things the US government and the military has done, and aren’t fooled by the whitewashing this episode did. Rendition, covert ops on foreign soil, massacres and friendly fire incidents that were covered up, protecting foreign enemies because we want their technology, and who knows what else. The military was complicit in all those things, so it’s a little hard to swallow watching Chandler suddenly become all self-righteous about what Scott did. So there’s this meta disconnect while watching the show that’s uncomfortable, because I’m just not buying what they’re selling.

As for Scott’s murder of Niels… You know, I can see it both ways. My instinct, which is something they set up in the episode already, is that they try her, find her guilty, and then she’s granted a pardon by Michener, who seemed perfectly willing to extend one to the Beard-in-training cultist they captured. She admits she did not have to kill him in order to get what she needed. That was a conscious decision on her part, partly because of what he’d personally cost her, and partly because of what he’d done to the world. She appointed herself judge, jury, and executioner and that never sits well from me under any circumstances. So, yes, I think she needs to stand trial.

At the same time, look at who she murdered. In a fit of insecurity, Niels irresponsibly grafted his own DNA onto the virus and weaponized it. This act, whether he intended it or not, killed billions of people, and essentially destroyed civilization. He has never, once, shown a moment’s remorse for what he did, and instead, seems rather proud of his accomplishment. I didn’t mention it last week, but I will say Rhona Mitra did some fine acting last week. Her “seduction” of Niels was an incredible mix of fake attraction and revulsion. And he’s so caught up in himself, that Niels fails to see the other half of it. Niels disgusts her, and rightly so. And since he’s still contagious and showed every indication of continuing to travel the world affecting people, can you really blame her for taking the chance to kill this monster when she had it? You can make the case that she was doing humanity a favor.

Chandler tells her he’d planned to use Niels to convince the world that the cultists were bad, and that they were the good guys. I don’t see how. Nobody knows who Niels is exactly, and the cultists would just believe he was part of the plan that makes them special. So that didn’t wash with me, either, when Chandler said that.

It would be interesting to see what a jury will do with Scott’s case once the facts are known. I know I’d be obligated to follow the rule of law were I on that jury, and the law says you can’t murder people like she did. He was a threat, but not a direct one, so this wasn’t self-defense. It was revenge. But I suspect most people would hail her as a hero for what she did. I don’t think Scott herself regards herself as a hero, but I don’t think she regrets what she did either. And I hope she never does, because it adds something interesting to the character. She says she regrets the position this puts the captain in, but that’s not the same thing as regretting doing it in the first place. I hope they keep that. And whose to say what the laws will be now anyway–they are living in a totally different world, no matter how much they cling to their rituals and their command structure.

Alas, I don’t think this will ever come to jury. I just don’t see the show going there, so they’ll either find some way to get Scott out of this, or this is a setup for Mitra’s departure. The latter wouldn’t surprise me–in a lot of ways, her story is played out at this point, since they seem to now have control of the virus. There isn’t much more for her to do except play doctor and, probably on a show like this, love interest, and I’d rather skip that. But I’ll be curious as to how they resolve her storyline this season.

The rest of the episode was spent on some weird cell phone bluetooth plot that resulted in New Orleans getting blown up. Poor New Orleans. First Katrina, then Captain Tripps, and now this. That city just can’t seem to catch a break. And speaking of propaganda, Ramsey manages a little of his own by filming the Nathan James firing on torpedoes and making it look like they bombed New Orleans. So now everyone hates Chandler, the people who survived the plague, the cultists, and the audience for the way he came down on Scott. Guy had a bad night. I say Michener is still a cultist and giving them intel somehow, but I’m thankful we didn’t get Sean and his crew of bad accents again this week.

Killjoys: Daddy Dearest

Episode 1.09: Enemy Khlyen
Written by: Emily Andras
Directed by: Paolo Barzman
Original airdate:  August 14, 2015

killjoys

Dutch and Johnny track Khylen using the neural link and a table of dildos, and discover he’s at RAC headquarters. Seeking a “divorce,” the killjoys travel there seeking answers. D’avin gets captured and tortured. Again. Dutch has another physical confrontation with Khlyen, and we find out a little more about their relationship and Dutch’s importance. And Johnny does his tech thing.

So yeah, table of dildos that Dutch has to strip down and lie on. Subtle. At least we were spared shirtless D’Avin this week, so I’ll take what I can get. Speaking of Dutch and D’Avin, they continue circling around each other warily, while D’Avin smiles too much, and looks creepy doing it. Of course he manages to find his way back on the ship, because he’s just too sad living on his own because he doesn’t have a ship. I was glad they just stuck him a chair for most of this episode, though.

I continue to love the relationship building scenes between John and Dutch that they’re doing in these last couple of episodes. I love it when writers actually take the time to build up a relationship by giving it a sense of history, and an an emotional grounding in the actual narrative. Lovretta seems very committed to showing different kinds of relationships, and while her depiction of Dutch and D’Avin’s relationship does nothing for me, I love John and Dutch’s friendship.

We get a few more clues about Dutch’s past. She’s someone important, obviously, and I also think Khlyen is more than just a teacher and mentor, but I don’t believe he’s her father, even if he fulfills that role. The trope of a secretive man manipulating characters for the greater good is annoying as hell, though. I hate characters like Khlyen because they rob characters of their own agency and claim it’s for their own good, and that’s just simply not true. Nobody deserves to be kept in the dark about things that are important about themselves, and I do wish television would get beyond that as a storytelling conceit. I’m rewatching Lost right now, and am just as annoyed with Ben and Locke in that show for the same reasons.

However, Level 6 Killjoy’s apparently exit. Khlyen says “I’m Level 6.” Is he a level 6, or the level 6? And he has some crazy technology, as Johnny discovers, and samples. I hope it’s not aliens, though–I don’t think this universe needs them.

I confess I didn’t pay too much attention to the monk story at the end, other than to note that revolution is coming to Old Towne, and the Quad. I guess that’ll figure into the finale somehow. Civil unrest is always a good way to end the season, and another thing Lovretta seems to like is an unstable political backdrop for storytelling. That doesn’t annoy me as much, because it’s a good way to world build. Lovretta’s done a pretty decent job at that. The Quad has been fleshed out just enough for the audience to understand a bit about the political system, the culture, the conflicts, and so on.

Beyond that, this was an all right episode, and a good way to take us into the season finale.