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All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
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caitri: (Books)
 Crossposted to The Future Fire:

Nisi Shawl (ed.), New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour. Rebellion Publishing, 2019. Pp. 308. ISBN 978-1-78108-638-4. £8.99.



In her Afterword to New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour, editor Nisi Shawl explains the genesis of this anthology as stemming from a thwarted suggestion, years ago, to have a class of the Clarion West Writers Workshop consist of all students of color. Other committee members opposed the idea, including one who argued that they would “use them all up” in a single year and therefore it made sense to spread out nonwhite attendees for other years. The persistent belief, reflected in this account, that SFF is a genre primarily by and for white people has only recently begun to be dismantled, making collections like this one both a celebration of POC writers and a useful remedy for readers. The book is also firmly reflective of the political moment in America, going beyond the crises in popular culture from Racefail to Puppygate, with veiled (and not so veiled) references to Trump’s demagoguery and other sociopolitical tensions. The collection also encompasses both fantasy and science fiction stories, providing stories that hint at hope and at dystopia.

New Suns opens with a brief Foreword by LeVar Burton, who is perhaps best known for his dual roles as the host of Reading Rainbow and proponent of literacy, and as playing the character Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Burton meditates on his love of the short story form and on genre more generally, noting that
The exploration of space and our eventual close encounters with other intelligent species will require us to leave our “colonizer” mentality behind and embrace an attitude of openness and humility we have yet to cultivate, let alone master. When a world leader advocates for the creation of a militaristic Space Force to exercise “dominance” in the heavens, we are moving further than ever from Gene Roddenberry’s United Federation of Planets. (10)
Indeed, the notion of decolonization is a critical subtext (if not text) of the volume, with many of the stories and their authors coming from non-Anglophone or Euro-centric contexts.

There are seventeen short stories in the book, and while they are all very strong, I will only discuss a few here. My personal favorite is a story that will haunt me for a while: “The Freedom of the Shifting Sea” by Jaymee Goh. Taking place in contemporary Malaysia, it is the story of a mother, a daughter, and a “mermaid” named Mayang. Instead of the usual fish tail, Mayang has the articulated body of predatory marine worms; the Eunice aphroditois species is referenced in the story, and a brief Google brought new and appreciated layers of the story to me. This story confronts colonization and the climatological genocide inherent in climate change in fascinating ways in its handful of pages; it is simultaneously perfect and yet I wish it were much, much longer. Minsoo Kang’s “The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations” is a delightful secret history told in the form of a historical anecdote, complete with citations and an extended marginal note. It retells a great war that wasn’t through the unexpected love story of two translators who find that a costly war can be averted through the use of unusual diplomacy and a certain freedom with translation. Presenting the story as a historical account sans dialogue lends it a verisimilitude that is incredibly appealing.

“One Easy Trick” by Hiromi Goto is more like magical realism than speculative fiction per se. In this story an overweight woman, Marnie, goes on a hike and abruptly loses her belly fat. The belly fat is an autonomous being who, feeling unappreciated, decides to go off with an appreciative bear instead. I was reminded of the Doctor Who episode with the “adipose” aliens, but under the amusement of this story’s premise is a darker story about insecurity and abandonment. Losing the fat does not improve Marnie’s life; indeed, she is left alone in the forest and seemingly determined to get the belly fat back in a rather different way….

“Come Home to Atropos” by Steven Barnes is a darkly comic satire told through the shooting script and notes for a commercial advertising euthanasia services for the elderly by way of a Caribbean vacation. Barnes manages to compactly combine the history of the transatlantic slave trade, late-stage capitalism, the pharmaceutical industry, the ongoing tragedies of tropical islands receiving no aid in the wake of ever-increasingly devastating hurricanes, and Greek mythology in a tight marvel of a story. Similarly, E. Lily Yu’s “Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire” retells Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fable of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” for the age of social media and political figures. (It is utterly transparent who the misbegotten “emperor” is modeled on.) The story concludes with the beginning of the inevitable revolution, and the question of whether things will indeed change.

New Suns begins with an epigraph quoting Octavia Butler: “There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” It speaks to the current issues preoccupying genre, and even the mainstream, today. Despite our hellscape reality, SFF is in something of a new golden age: For every space cowboy opera there is now one, if not more, volumes exploring non-European settings, queerness, and racial politics. New Suns does all of the above, showcasing contemporary talents with a purpose, and doing so extraordinarily well. This book is one of the strongest anthologies I have read in years, and I highly recommend it!
caitri: (Default)
 Belated because it has been a busy weird weekend with SPN's ending announcement, Scott's arrival with the Uhaul, and so on. (As soon as the second pod comes, we will have ALL OUR STUFF! Wooooo!!)

Okay, so, first week is a lot, and luckily it was spring break so it was low key. I'll get to co-teach my first class this week. Multiple people have reiterated the importance of giving myself time to learn the collections and go easy on myself, which I'm not sure is either because of something indicative of my personality or as a function of the broader culture, and very welcome either way. So I spent some quality time here and there just darting through the vaults, looking at things. Which. They have almost everything, so there's a lot to look at: A whole shelf with all the Shakespeare folios. The vast ranges of incunables, of manuscripts, and so on. It's overwhelming. They've also gone through multiple different cataloging experiments over the years, so they are arranged in various areas of Dewey, LC, and Accession Number, so it's all rather wackadoo. It will take time to learn.

Everyone is very nice and I've had lunchmates every day except for Friday, which was mostly a function of almost everyone taking the last day of spring break off. (It was basically me, another curator, and a handful of grad student workers all day.) So that's neat.

My office used to be a kind of storage area, so I'm in a weird spot outside the library, behind the office of another curator and across from the registrar, who they are going to move in the near future so we aren't climbing over each other. Thus far I've been teaching myself to say "hello!" as I come into the area so I don't startle her, but it's also a little awkward because her little cubicle thing makes it so when I come in I can't tell if she is there or not. The door to my office is also solid wood so I haven't closed it yet, as that seems rude, but eventually I will get to the point where I need to concentrate and will have to do it....

I was having some imposter syndrome last week but I am feeling better now. We'll see how long that lasts though...
caitri: (World Is a Mess)
 I was going to post about my awesome first week at work, but then late yesterday came the news about S15 being the end of Supernatural. Which....on the one hand shouldn't have been a surprise, because that's a damn long time, and yet kind of was anyway, because it has been so good and with good ratings lately.

My favorite comment thus far is, "Anyone else notice that spn is ending exactly 10 years later than it was supposed to? Like alright, ‘fess up. Who made a crossroads deal?"

Tumblr is a mess/a little scary about it. A LOT of AKF folks talking about how the show saved their lives and so on. I'm a little worried there might be an actual spate of suicides when it's over. I hope not, but....SPN fandom is an intense, scary place.

I'm sad, and think I would be sadder were it not for the aforementioned awesome week. I do worry about the hole it will leave in my life though....even accounting for periods when I stopped watching and then came back, it's been a part of my life for a long time, and its absence will be felt.

At least there's always fandom...
caitri: (This is Your Captain)
 Last week I was at a conference and got to see my advisor and academic sister and it was lovely. I was perhaps a little boisterous but I was happy and couldn't help it.

Scary flight on the return home: In between batches of bad weather and after four delays, our pilot said "Let's just give this a shot and see what happens!" and quickly boarded everyone (we had initially boarded, then the first delay pulled everyone off again). They gave us snacks and drinks while still at the gate, then we had a bouncy (but not as bouncy as some I've had) flight to Champaign. Then before the descent the flight attendant was like "And please locate your nearest emergency exit!" which is not a sentence a nervous flyer wants to hear anywhere but on the ground. ANYWAY. But we got down safe and I am home with my critters.

This time next week I'll be on my first day at the job. I am excited and anxious and overwhelmed.

So Tired

Feb. 28th, 2019 03:06 pm
caitri: by blue_hobbit (Don't Go Where I Can't Follow)
 Scott was here for the weekend and we unloaded our POD. We can only get them delivered one at a time because the driveway is narrow if long. We....hadn't packed them with that in mind, so we got half our belongings, albeit most of the furniture. But this is how we ended up with a couch but no cushions, the bistro table and the dining chairs (these do not match, at all--high table, low chairs, kinda hilarious), a lot of drinkware but only a few plates, etc. But still it is stuff and the place is homey!

And then Scott had to go back to Colorado to finish working on things there. He's going to try to move here at the end of March. We have no idea how we managed to do the commuter marriage thing for two years. Sheesh.

I'm also working on my diss revisions. I'm almost 3/4 of the way through but I am tired and overwhelmed. I also have a conference next week, then I have a week to myself, then I start my new job.

... It's a lot. I am overwhelmed. OH, and it turns out my work clothes are in the other POD, so I did some clothes shopping on Amazon so I can try to make a decent impression...

Anyway. Tired, overwhelmed, it me.
caitri: (bullshit)
Generic ads, as seen before Youtube videos, on the corners of webpages, and so on, are ....a thing you can't get rid of no matter how hard you try. In Boulder I could generally just tune them out, but here they have started to annoy me....because they include NRA ads. Now the PTB have enough data on me to know I won't go for xenophobic bullshit, so they try to feed me ads that feature Respectable Black People (TM) talking about how important the Second Amendment is to law-abiding folks such as themselves, and  .... I read fucking newspapers, I know how that shit works on so many levels, what the fuck. My GOD I hope those actors get paid well and take long luxurious showers after, because JFC. Anyway I spent way too much time tonight fiddling with Google Ads and such like to try to minimize that nonsense. Try to sell me gay fan art, try to sell me books, flowers, interior decorating items, but FFS don't try to sell me guns and shit.
caitri: (Default)
 I fell out of doing immediate episode reactions because of the move and trying to finish my notes on Supernatural. I'm really enjoying this season of DIS and so delighted that they are going all the places it is logical to go (HUGH!!!!!!!!!) as well as places I wouldn't suspect (Tilly and May in the mycelial network). 

They brought Ash/Voq back much more quickly than I would have expected, and good goddamn, they prettied him up. 




Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey.

Ahem. I'm also glad to see the Empress getting some quality time too, to say nothing of her IMMINENT SPIN-OFF!!!!! **shriek**

I also really, REALLY love Captain Pike. I wasn't enthused about concluding the epic changeover at the end of S1 that left us with an entire bridge crew of women and POC by reintroducing a white dude Captain, but...he's such a good guy, it's hard to resent him beyond the optics. He makes clear his respect for every member of the crew and immediately trusts Michael--which is also great given how she had to overcome so much crap in S1.

The faith/belief/science arc is fascinating, especially as watched against Supernatural (I keep imagining what a crossover between the two would like and what Cas would make of "the red angel.") and I can't wait to find out where they are going with it...
caitri: (Default)
 Season 13 is incredibly tight with very little wasted space. The plot charges forward consistently, and lots of stuff happens. It also works as a great sequel to Season 5, re-introducing Gabriel and Michael, and making Lucifer delightfully manic evil again. We also are introduced to Jack, Lucifer's nephilim son who was born in the final minutes of the S12 finale.

Jack is a great character, especially since in the early episodes it's left an open question as to whether he is good or evil. But it turns out that with three daddies--Cas, Sam, and Dean--he is a sweet boy trying to do his best with an infant's knowledge and powers greater than an archangel.

The first episodes of the season are difficult to watch; in the wake of Cas's death, Dean becomes literally suicidally depressed: in "Advanced Thanatology" Dean temporarily dies to solve a case, and tells Death he would be okay staying dead. He is angry and abusive to both Sam and Jack, but when Cas is restored at the end of that episode he is giddy and completely changes. (It's not hard, especially after 14.13 "Lebanon" to see this analogous to John Winchester.) In the following episode, "Tombstone" he is geeky and goofy; in 14.8 "Byzantium" we see one of Jack's favorite memories, a scene that takes place but is not shown during "Tombstone" in which Dean teaches him how to read a map. 

In "The Big Empty" we see what the afterlife is like for angels and demons--a void. Castiel awakes when Jack calls his name; when Cas awakes, The Empty itself awakes, and Cas annoys it so much by BEING AWAKE that The Empty restores him to life. (We see The Empty again briefly in S14, where Cas bargains with it to save Jack's life; The Empty restores Jack only to promise that it will come for Castiel on the day when he is finally Happy. I know I'm a fangirl, but it's REALLY hard not to see that as being a lot like the classic Buffy/Angel storyline. Especially when actual dialogue in 13.4 is "I have tiptoed through all your little tulips. Your memories, your little feelings, yes. I know what you hate. I know who you love… what you fear. There is nothing for you back there." YES TELL US WHO CAS LOVES, EMPTY.)

Meanwhile, Mary and Lucifer are stuck in Apocalypse world, only Lucifer eventually escapes with his power much nerfed. The angels briefly take him back to Heaven only to acknowledge his uselessness and eventually kick him out; it is revealed that so few angels survive that Heaven literally can barely keep the lights on. We meet Naomi again, briefly, as she struggles to keep the apparatus functioning.

Gabriel is brought back for a handful of episodes. "Unfinished Business" shows the aftermath of S5's "Hammer of the Gods" and Gabriel's disappearing act--hiding out in Monte Carlo with porn stars--with an awful lot of aping of American Gods. He's killed rather ignominiously at the end of "The Exodus" which is a bit of a waste, but so it goes.

In the season finale, "Let the Good Times Roll" Jack is about to kill himself to save Sam, when he says "I love you. I love all of you" much like dying Cas said to the group in S11, only the camera stays on him vs. how in the scene with Cas, the camera immediately goes to Dean's distraught face after Cas says "I love you" and then back to Cas, then back to the others. Will have to think on that some more.

There's two notable standalones: "Wayward Sisters" which was meant to be a backdoor pilot for a spin-off featuring Jody, Donna, Claire, and Alex that wasn't picked up. At the time I was rather underwhelmed by the ep--the ep is WAY TOO BUSY reintroducing characters and ham-handed in building up a budding friendship/retroactively canon "first love" (see 14.3 "The Scar") between Claire and Kaia before fridging Kaia. Rewatching I appreciate more of worked even as I am even more irritated by all that did not; this COULD have been an actual spin-off if they hadn't mucked it up so badly. Sigh. The other, "Scoobynatural" is a partially animated crossover with Scoobydoo that is hilarious and adorable and a thing that actually happened. Man, I love this show.

I don't think I'm prepared to rewatch all of S14; I think I'll wait til the season is over for that. Man I'm glad we're renewed for S15 though.
caitri: (Default)
 We (Scott) painted the master bedroom, my office, and the living room last week. Still to do: guest room, tv room, and eventually redoing the kitchen and bathroom (both of which are serviceable but dated/cramped; when I have a bath I at least want water that covers my navel, you know?).

The previous tenants had left behind various bits of furniture, some of which we are using--an old mattress that is better than no mattress, a dining table and chairs, a chest of drawers, etc.--so we hauled the remainder to the garage for the moment. Unfortunately this seemed to trigger Bilbo, who seems worried we're going to move again, and he has been anxious--whining and having accidents. I've tried mitigating the latter with copious treats every time he goes outside to do business, which is working so far. But he whines pathetically every time I go outside--to shovel the sidewalk or take the trash to the curb. It's very heartrending and sad. Friends advise to just try to be as normal as possible and establish a routine, so I'm doing my best with that.

This morning I went to campus to start my new hire paperwork. I still won't start for a month, but now I'm in the system, so my boss can file stuff to get me an ID card with the appropriate security controls and stuff. Thursday I'm going back to campus to do a seminar thing on employee benefits, which I fully expect to be boring but useful. (I'm not sure why three hours is needed to cover health care programs (okay, I know why), but considering I spent two hours today learning that Sexual Harassment is Bad and Workplace Ethics are Good....). 

Scott flew back to CO yesterday to work on prepping the house for sale. He's flying back here in two weeks when our first POD arrives so we can unpack some of our furniture. With any luck the house can go on sale in early/mid-March and be sold quickly, then he can move here full time. Being on my own is rather stressful when in a new place--the toilet was running a bit last night and I fixed it, but I had stupid blind panic for about five minutes of "please don't break while I'm alone!!"

I'm tired! And so much yet to do...
caitri: (Default)
 Season 12 is when SPN got consistently good again. There are a couple of weak spots (eg. Sam and Dean, who have both been tortured in Hell amongst other traumas, being broken by six weeks in solitary confinement by the US gov. That was just....dumb. And then apparently the British Men of Letters can easily nerf a secret detention center?? Bah. DUMB.) but in general the plot and character arcs are solid af.

Mary Winchester was resurrected in the S11 finale. Finally, the boys have their mom back! And it turns out that...their dream of the perfect mother/nuclear family unit was all bullshit. Which is a plot decision I love for undercutting gender expectations and so on, but as a fangirl frustrates me because it hurts to see my boys hurt. Mary Winchester is not thrilled about being back from the dead. She's not sleepwalking through life ala Buffy S6, but she also does not know how to deal with two adult sons--or three, if you count Castiel, which she does, calling him one of "her boys". Interestingly, the show seemed to start a Mary/Cas friendship in early episodes where Cas urges her to talk to Dean and so on. This was a really interesting decision and the writers seem to have forgotten about it, for better or for worse. But there are some great character moments, particularly with Jody Mills in "Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox." When Jody meets Mary, her response is an excited "It is so wonderful to meet you!!!!!!" and she gives Mary a big hug. Mary is...uncomfortable. By the end of the episode Jody has a greater sense of the emotional schism of the family and she too tries to help fix it, telling Mary that the boys are such good men. Mary says that she knows, and looks apologetic. There's so much shorthand there that is wonderfully done, even if it hurts. By the end of the season, in "Who We Are" Mary has been partially brainwashed by the British Men of Letters into a human weapon to kill other Hunters going after Jody. JODY is the one who provides medical care and back-up when they go on the offensive against the BMoL, but before that is just a wonderful moment of Jody holding Dean's hand as he stares wordlessly at Mary. He is DONE with her bullshit, even if it doesn't altogether come from her. 

The other big plot line is Lucifer and his impregnating a nephilim son. I enjoyed Lucifer more in S11 when it was him being the brat son of God. On Earth and on his own he is chaotic evil with a lot of Trumpisms, because S12 started in 2016 and decided Fuck Yeah We're Getting Political. 

The British Men of Letters plot is interesting in how it functions as a weird colonialization plot that isn't too self-aware. Like, the British MoL include people they have colonized (an Irish character, another who is Indian) and so more diverse than the Americans who are primarily white dudes. That just seems ill thought out to me.

There are several good standalones: "The One You've Been Waiting For" where Dean kills Hitler (which he is delighted about for EPISODES after), "Regarding Dean" where a spell makes him mentally regress and contains some of Jensen Ackles' best acting (the scenes where he stares at himself in the mirror, reciting his name, that Sam is brother, that Cas is his best friend, OW MY SOUL OW), "Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets" about a woman on a vengeance quest against angels.

This season also gives us some amazing Destiel moments. I was talking with a friend recently about how in earlier seasons there are a lot of moments where Destiel is played for laughs or as insults, eg. Balthazar's line in S6 where he says "I'm sorry, you've got the wrong angel, I'm not the one in the dirty trenchcoat that's in love with you." In this season, the subtext flirts a lot more with text. In "Stuck In the Middle (With You)" Cas is stabbed and thinks he is about to die, so he says "I love you" and the camera IMMEDIATELY GOES TO DEAN, then he adds "I love all of you" and it goes to Sam and Mary. Okay. Then in "The Future" we find that at some point Dean made Castiel a mixtape of his favorite Led Zeppelin songs (and this seems to reflect back on a bit in the season opener where Dean explains that his parents fell in love to Led Zeppelin, so heaaaaaaaavy family mythology text here in a season already filled with it) and when Cas tries to give it back after an argument Dean hands it back and says "This was a gift. You keep those."

Like. I know I'm a broken fangirl, but how the hell else are you supposed to read that scene??

The season concludes with the discovery of Apocalypse World, the shitty au where the boys were never born and never saved the world; the death of Crowley by self-sacrifice--which was beautifully done but such a goddamn loss for the show; and the last-minute murder of Castiel and birth of the nephilim Jack. This show is always brutal about cliffies, but that one was really bad.

Okay then. Deep breaths. Time for S13.
caitri: (Default)
 We did a sixteen hour marathon drive on Saturday. The animals all did very well, especially Bilbo, who rode on my lap the whole way and placidly watched me eat a Wendy's hamburger for lunch without begging for any. They have also created an extended New House Truce because they don't quite understand it all yet. Though the dogs got a crash course in going up and down stairs (the bedrooms are all on the second floor) too.

We're lucky in that the sellers left odd bits of furniture behind--an old mattress (so uncomfortable, yet so much better than a sleeping bag on the floor), a dining table with chairs, odd bits of kitchen stuff including an entire cabinet of like thirtysomething beer glasses...

Yesterday we slept in a bit and then went on errands: Groceries, pet supplies, new paint.... Our pods don't come for a couple weeks so we might as well paint before we have real furniture to move around. We went to Home Depot yesterday and put in our order--blues, yellow, purple, orange, red, green--and the clerks were so befuddled and asked what our project was (they were guessing maybe a school or nursery. lol!). Well the other people buying paint while we were there were asking for three variations of beige, so hey....

We're still recovering, but this morning we got internet installed, so it's all good! 

Oh we had an ice moat on the sidewalk around the house, left from the polar vortex. Scott started breaking it up yesterday and now it's starting to drain/evaporate!
caitri: (Screw Subtext)
 The car is packed. Tomorrow we'll get up at ass'o'clock in the morning and drive to Illinois. 2 humans, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 car, 16 hours.

Here we go.....
caitri: (Default)
 Season 11 is a solid season, but it really only hits its stride in the final episodes. The Darkness/Amara is introduced in the season opener, billed as incontrovertibly part of Dean, someone he will need and long for. It's kind of the last time Dean is overtly heterosexual, and nonetheless, it comes off as...flat. Maybe it's the lack of chemistry between the actors, or maybe it's just hard to buy Dean having an intense relationship outside of Castiel and Sam (though no wincest, nope nope nope).

Lucifer is back for a long swath of the season, primarily inhabiting Castiel's vessel. Misha Collins does an excellent job in both mannerisms and vocalizations to channel Mark Pellegrino's incarnation of the character, and it is wonderful and eerie. And still one hell of a relief when Cas returns to himself at the end of the season.

Chuck returns, this time as God. Metatron returns, to be helpful and make a surprising sacrifice. Kevin returns for a heartbeat to be sent to heaven. Bobby and Rufus return via flashback episode. Crowley and Rowena are recurring characters throughout the season, with Crowley as an undisputed weird ally because of Dean. A lot is wrapped up here, and it's a relief that this isn't where the story ends.

Billie the Reaper is introduced. She plays an important role in later seasons.

The British Men of Letters are introduced in the finale. They have such a weird story, I look forward to revisiting it.

A great one off: "The Chitters" in which the boys run into a couple of Hunters who are also a couple...who also get to finish their last job, retire, and go into the sunset. Dean is so wistful about it it hurts.

In the finale "Alpha and Omega" Dean and Castiel have a fascinating conversation when they think the end is nigh. Dean calls him the best friend they have ever had, family, another brother. Cas looks distinctly ....sad about this. I'd love to know what direction the actors were given here. My read is, of course, that Cas loves Dean and Dean loves Cas but can't say it because toxic masculinity.

Dean has a wonderful farewell tour at the end, saying his goodbyes, stating his funeral plans, hugging both Sam and Cas. It's beautiful. But this is also his third farewell tour, and meanwhile in S14 he just did another one this week. Poor guy.

Finally, this season opens and closes with conversations about doing things differently. It makes all the difference in how the story is told, and how the stories that follow it are told. Also the "return of the light/he actually did it!" sequence is just beautiful.

And then Mary Winchester returns. Season 12, here we go.
caitri: (Default)
 Season 10 is shockingly forgettable. It has its moments, but it suffers from an excess of plots:

* There's Dean dealing with the Mark of Cain.

* There's Cole, the son of a man Dean killed. Plot twist, his dad was monster, Cole is eventually convinced the Winchesters are the good guys.

* There's Rowena's introduction and her feud with Crowley.

* There's "the house of Styne" family.

* There's the reintroduction and rescue of Claire Novak, bb!Hunter to be.

* And the aftermath of the war in Heaven.

That's a lot. That's a dumb amount of a lot.  

There are a few highlights to the season: the "Fan Fiction" musical episode (with the brief appearance of Chuck!) and the epic team-up of Jody and Donna in "Hibbing 911". There's also the just BAD, as when they killed Charlie--and a looooooooooot of people tapped out after that.

The misfires: I still can't get over that we had Demon!Dean and he was just mostly an asshole who drank a lot, fucked around, started fights, and did bad karaoke. Like, you'd think if you're going to utterly degrade "the Righteous Man" you could have done something....interesting? Instead the scene with the most punch is in the season finale, "Brother's Keeper", when the boys argue about good versus evil and have a fist-fight. Given the years of layering parallels--Michael vs. Lucifer, Cain vs. Abel--this should have been....bigger.

Anyway, on to Season 11. Season 11 I remember being slow at first and then picking up with a vengeance, and the show not slowing down since.
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caitri: (Default)
Season 9 is fine but astonishingly forgettable. It's a series of neat ideas and middling to bad execution.

The season opens minutes after S8 ends, with Sam on the verge of death after the Trials and Castiel newly human. Dean makes a deal with an angel who will inhabit Sam and help heal him; hijinks ensue. Castiel's flirtation with humanity lasts for ten episodes, during which he is relegated to homeless drifter and Gas-N-Sip attendant. At this point fandom had had FIVE YEARS to imagine our bamf little angel as a human, being introduced to food, showers, sex, and so on. And Cas does all of these things, in the saddest way possible. (The sex is at the hands of a Reaper who soon afterwards tortures him for information. The only time he has sex, and its being seduced by a baddie who then kills him. That's just...sad. And also interesting because five years later he has neither had nor evinced any interest in sex, either.) While rewatching however, I noticed that S9 Cas is the most like our current Cas in characterization: snarky and devoted to Dean.

There's another war in Heaven. It is bloody and boring. Bartholomew is like the second coming of Dick Roman: he's supposed to be scary but he's a generic white dude and you really just wait for him to hurry up and get killed already. The actual Big Bad is the return of the Knight of Hell Abaddon. The writers talked about how they wanted a femme fatale character to contrast with the male big bads. Much like our previous femme fatale baddies Lilith and Eve, she's just....there. On the flip side we have Crowley and Metatron. This is the season where Crowley goes back to true chaotic neutral, which makes him hella entertaining. Metatron is enamored of stories; "Metafiction" remains a great episode about the manipulations of narrative.

We lose two minor characters: Kevin the Prophet, who was introduced at the end of S6 and spent most of his time being pushed to crazy and paranoia. Which is a waste because Osric Chau was goddamn adorable and they should have given him more than two notes to work with. We also lose the Reaper Tessa, who has shown up irregularly since S2.

We check in with Garth for a few episodes, trying to pick up where Bobby left off--and then forgetting about this role. We also get a couple eps with Charlie, who continues to be the actual best. Sheriff Jody Mills has a few appearances, and Sheriff Donna is introduced briefly. Wayward Sisters: So glad to see you!

My favorite episode is "Bad Boys" which is half monster-of-the-week and half flashbacks to a teenage Dean's time in a boys' home when he has several months of normal life. The actor who plays him nails Jensen Ackles' mannerisms and charm. This episode is also about narrative in a way, because in many ways it was about the happiest time in Dean's life--while Sam had assumed it had to have been the worst.

The season also has the literal worst episode: "Bloodlines" which was a backdoor pilot of a knock-off of The Originals. It wasn't picked up and for that we are all grateful.

Relevant to my notes towards the show and sex: We do see Dean have another onscreen sexual encounter in "Rock in a Hard Place"--with a former porn star who is trying to turn her life around. Dean belatedly recognizes her and clearly adores her, which she responds to very cutely.

The Mark of Cain plot is introduced and will become a significant part of S10. Having previously stated around S4-5 that Dean is the Righteous  Man whose incorruptibility is what will help save the world--which they seem to be bringing back now in S14--they kind of throw that out and have him corrupted by the Mark and the First Blade. Which is an idea that could have been so cool--Dean ends the season as a DEMON. This should have been so interesting, especially as parallel to Sam's original plot as The Boy King of Hell. And then we see that Dean's demon self mostly drinks, fucks, sings bad karaoke, and kills demons. WTF, writers, WTF.

Okay. Season 10. Here we go.
caitri: (Default)
A friend of mine said that S8 was when she almost tapped out, which I find interesting as it is so. much. better. than S7. It's still a fairly weak season, but at least Cas is back, there are several ongoing plots, and things actually build on one another without relying on major character death to move them along. 

The season starts with a time jump of one year from the previous season finale, and the first half of the season contains regular flashbacks from both Dean's and Sam's pov to fill in the gaps. Dean led a rough, violent exist in Purgatory, searching for Castiel and making an ally in a vampire named Benny, who he immediately resurrects--very uncharacteristically--on his return. Sam was devastated by Dean's seeming death, stopped hunting and abandoned Kevin (?!!?!), adopted an injured dog, and had a romance. The lighting for both characters' stories is different, with Dean in washed out greys and Sam's in soft-focused, sentimental lighting.

Then they reunite and the boys are back in business, but mutually furious with one another--Dean because Sam never looked for him and abandoned the mission, Sam because he sacrificed his attempt at an apple-pie life. It's not a good look on either character, especially Dean, who as usual without Cas is frankly abusive. 

Dean's friendship with Benny is a solid and actual healthy relationship, which makes it all the sadder that Benny opts to sacrifice himself to save Sam for Dean. Benny was a great character, but I do think he works best as appearing in only a single season.

This season also has several touchstones for Destiel 'shippers, from Dean's joyful smile at finding Castiel in Purgatory to Cas overriding TONS of Heaven's programming to save Dean in "Goodbye Stranger." There's interesting backstory in that, as filmed, the dialogue from Dean that "wakes" Cas up is "We're family. We need you. I need you" while the lines as written concluded with "I love you" but Jensen Ackles felt that Dean wouldn't say that. (I'm a 'shipper but I agree with that decision; at this point Dean is so damaged that the l-word is just beyond him. It just is.)  And again with how whenever Dean loses Cas, he is just emotionally devastated and takes his rage out on those around him. (John Winchester, I blame you.) 

I had also overlooked that the episode also contains the most overt argument for Megstiel, where Meg is hurt and on the run from Crowley, and she and Cas have a heart-to-heart. They had a flirtation in S6 with a mock-passionate kiss, and a solid friendship in S7. Here, they are on the edge of actually getting together, except Crowley kills her. It's kind of a bummer, and yet I think it's interesting that they made a point in doing away with the one significant heterosexual relationship Cas ever almost had. 

The season also includes two delightfully geeky episodes with Felicia Day's Charlie, "LARP and the Real Girl" and "Pac-Man Fever." *happy sigh*

The second half of the season introduces the Men of Letters and their Bunker, which becomes the boys' first ever permanent home. (Dean excitedly nests, for the first time in his life having his own room; he buys a memory foam mattress, hangs up his weapons on the wall, and puts the small photo of his mom in pride of place on a desk.) The plot consists of a plan to close the gates of Hell and Heaven, which Sam takes on himself as a sacrifice, because that was the pattern for the first ten years. Crowley becomes the Big Bad. It's exhausting. Metatron is introduced in the final episodes, tricking Cas, and sending most of the angels to earth in a terrific "meteor storm." Cas becomes human. So much potential....

Season 9, here we go.
caitri: (Default)
 I finished S7, mostly by keeping it in the background. I had forgotten that the second half especially was so very 2011/Occupy-ish. The Leviathans become corporate raiders and directly use the language of the 1%, and their goal is to basically dumb down/fatten up all the humans to go Soylent Green on them. This could have been an interesting storyline if it wasn't so ham-handed, I think.

At the same time, Bobby lingers as a ghost, becoming increasingly problematic as ghosts do. He does remain enough of himself that he and the boys can have a final goodbye before they burn his beloved flask. "Promise me, when you die--you go straight into that light." Ow my soul ow. 

(Sideways, this week in S14 Billie/Death handed Dean the book that shows the ONE way he dies that doesn't involve Michael destroying the world. Dean looks shocked, bewildered, and unhappy. It was very odd to have these moments very close to back-to-back, let's say.)

Cas returns in the final episodes, first as an amnesiac faith healer "Emmanuel" in "The Born-Again Identity" and then he gets his memories back and then uses his power to--**wavey hands**--heal Sam and take Lucifer's crazy into himself. On another note, I dig the characterization of Sam in this ep that even in a psychiatric hospital and having constant hallucinations of Lucifer he can help someone. Because Sam. But Cas is left ...in a very problematic way. Which is to say: He's a manic pixie dream angel? When Sam is hallucinating, its a constant battle of him trying to tell the difference between what is real and what is not and we get his pov. We don't get this with Cas after the final minutes of this episode, where he sees Lucifer and is terrified. He doesn't seem to have hallucinations after this, he's just easily distracted and kind of child-like and it is both strange and annoying. When he and Dean reconcile--"I'd rather have you, cursed or not"--it's the first of many such moments where they admit they need each other, and it hit me in the feels. And of course, when they end up in Purgatory together, it sets up a LOT about their relationship in more recent seasons.

Other notes: I'd forgotten all about "The Slice Girls" and think it may be the last time we actually see Dean have sex with a woman when not under the influence of demonic possession--which may or may not be meaningful. He is seduced by an Amazon who quickly gestates a daughter from their encounter named Emma. The teen Emma goes to him with the mission to kill him but it seems like he might almost get her to not do so...and then Sam shoots her. (A clear parallel to Dean's killing of Amy way back in "The Girl Next Door." Also, Amy's kid promised to come kill Dean one day. It's been seven years....boy should be showing up soon, if they opt to do that...) 

Man, SPN can be a misogynist mess sometimes. I'm glad they're working on their optics these days. Oy.

Three recurring characters are also introduced--Garth the Hunter, Kevin the Prophet, and Charlie the Hacker. So in minor ways S7 continued to have significant influence on the show.

But man, I'm glad it's time for S8!

caitri: (Default)
 Season 7 is not only as bad as I remember, but possibly worse. It's reminiscent of Season 1 in that it is largely monster-of-the-week plots loosely connected by the Leviathan arc, so there's very little momentum from episode to episode. It's also unrelentingly grim, with very little of the flashes of humor that characterized other seasons.

The season opener, "Meet the New Boss" features "Godstiel", Castiel empowered by the Leviathans and determined to correct all the world's mistakes. I wish they had extended this plot line, killing Cas in say ep 15 instead of ep 3, but no. Instead we get montages of Cas's acts, including walking into a conservative church where he makes a homophobic pastor choke on his own tongue. "You're wrong, I am utterly indifferent to sexual orientation. On the other hand, I cannot abide hypocrites like you, Reverend" is a great moment. Later, Dean listens to news on the radio of other targets, including white supremacists, and that the KKK has been forced to disband. "Can't argue with that one," Dean says with a shake of his head. 

And then it's all downhill from there. Cas is possessed by the Leviathans and seemingly dies, leaving Dean to hold on to his trenchcoat and grieve for the next few episodes. (It's interesting to see how Dean's grief, flirting with alcoholism and depression, looks forward to his reaction when Cas is killed again at the end of S12. His grief in S13 "Lost and Found" is consuming; for several episodes he is both suicidally depressed and angry to the point of abuse with Jack and Sam. That episode also has a scene where he literally rends cloth to prepare Cas's body for a funeral pyre, and the whole thing just hurts to watch.) When watching at the time, I had naively assumed that Castiel would always come back, which was apparently not the plan until the ratings were in the toilet and they brought him back. I think the absence of Cas as a character--not just Misha the actor, who has never had a full season contract anyway but is a recurring regular--really shows up how central the Dean/Cas story is to the show itself, even if I know a fuckton of fangirls would disagree with me.

I remembered only a handful of episodes from the first half of the season--and all because of special guest stars: "The Girl Next Door" because of Jewel Staite, "Defending Your Life" with the last appearance of Jo, "Slash Fiction" because it had the guy who played Tigh on BSG. I had utterly forgotten that "Shut Up, Doctor Phil" had James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter in it, though when I rewatched I remembered hoping that we'd see them again (we don't).

"Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!" is also notable for being the first time (as far as I know) a significant number of fans tapped out; "fangirl" Becky Rosen uses a love potion to drug and marry Sam, though it is referenced in the text that they never consummate. This is also Becky's last episode, though the show continues to engage with fandom. It too has a great guest star--Leslie Odom Jr. as a crossroads demon, who is hilarious and charming and dispensed with at the end.

Probably the best written episode of the season is "Death's Door" which takes place largely in Bobby's mind while he is in a coma after being shot in the head in the previous episode. Rufus returns as a memory to guide him towards waking up--briefly, to pass on some final information--and I again felt robbed that we never got a Bobby & Rufus show. But there's a LOT of good character stuff here, including scenes where Bobby, contrary to John's orders, takes child!Dean out to throw a ball around rather than teaching him to shoot--and the phone call he has with John after, where they argue about it. (Again: John Winchester, a fucking piece of work.) The memories center around the revelation that Bobby shot and killed his own abusive father, his fear that he'd become like his old man, and how he broke his wife's heart when he told her he didn't want to have kids. When the memory of his father yells at him for breaking everything he touches, Bobby yells back, "Uh-huh. Well, as fate would have it, I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes. So you can go to hell!" and ow my fucking soul ow. 

And then Bobby's dead, leaving the boys alone. I remember chatting with friends after, all of us shocked that they would actually kill Bobby. (I think it's telling that he has nonetheless "returned" at least once a season as either a memory, spirit, or alternate universe counterpart. The 'verse needs Bobby Singer, at least what it can have of him.)

Anyhow, it's tempting to try to skip through to the final episodes so that Cas will return and Charlie will be introduced, but I'm going to try to stick with it!

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