I realize I'm making it sound like something no one on earth should ever read, but... I don't know, I can't be the only one who likes this kind of clusterfuck, right?
( Wonder If Your Therapist Knows )
( Wonder If Your Therapist Knows )
( The Nest )
( Fresh From the War (Don't Think About It No More) )
( Free to a Good Home )
I feel like my subject line is misleading: these aren't stories I'm DUMPING, I'm just dumping them on You, the Reader. These are things I'm actually working on, I just felt like, for my own sanity, I wanted to put proof that they exist out into the world. It's the end of the year, and this is what I've done with the back half of it (or at least samples of what I've done with the back half of it.) Hopefully at least one of the five appeals!
This one is called "For the Widows in Paradise," and I think it has the distinction of having the longest, most detailed outline to work off of, so that means it's going to go really fast, right? RIGHT?!? Hrm.
Do you want a really long OT3 Lisa/Dean/Castiel alternate season 6-9, from Lisa's POV? Of course you don't, literally no one was asking for this! But I'm writing it anyway, goddammit. It's basically a fixit, I guess, because the way they wrote Lisa out was just so goddamn dumb that I felt like it called for some kind of response, and everything kinda snowballed from there. I envision it being more on the Grandly Romantic side of my dramatic range, so it might suit the tastes of people who think everything I write is low-key grimdark? Or people who think I should write more het?
You told me what we needed to get the Revolution started was to “shake things up.” To break up the effectiveness and power and steadying, even deadening lock that the mechanisms of party politics exerted over government. You told me that this was the age of the people, who would finally take over from the elites and the centuries-long arc toward globalization, centralization, and systemization that had throttled true solidarity, true hope, true progress.
I told you that you had no idea what you were dealing with. That the reactionary, authoritarian instinct in America was older, wider, fiercer, more ruthless than you imagined it to be. I told you that the norms and institutions of liberal democracy might create a weighty drag of inertia, but that we needed them, because we were very, very far from solidarity, and putting the breaks on visionary sentiment was an acceptable price to pay for putting the brakes on fascism.
I told you, explicitly and implicitly, that I didn’t trust you to come through. That the history of leftist youth movements has not been confidence-inspiring. That your unwillingness to master the mechanisms of politics didn’t strike me as pure-hearted, but lazy. I told you that you wanted to shop online for a revolution, that you wanted it packaged and delivered and customized for your preferences without putting in the time to prove to members of your potential coalition that they could trust your promises.
The truth is that I don’t know anything. The truth is I don’t know if any of us do. I thought I was putting my faith in a deep grasp of history and the implacable power of statistics and fact. The truth is that as terribly cynical as I am, I was either not cynical enough – or too cynical by far – or something else entirely. The truth is that I don’t know the way forward, in an age of rogue federal police forces and electronic espionage, in an age of propaganda machines ascending while journalists are criminalized, in an age of legalized torture and abandoned treaties and a landscape of storms and fire.
I’m left hoping that I was wrong about you, too.
This is the shake-up. This is the dark doorway to a future none of us can see. The day is here, the hour is here. Are you ready for this? Do you have a plan?
I love you; you’ve always been my family. I thought you needed my experience to guide you, but my experience is no guide. I’m lost.
The day is here, the hour is here. I love you, but I’ve never trusted you. Now I have no choice.
This is not a challenge. This is not a dare. This is me, lost, on my knees in prayer.Prove me wrong.
Today is my day off, and I spent a lot of it, like I usually do, reading about politics, including this piece by David Wong, which at first I liked, and then the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. I was still in the process of sorting that out when I got hungry and decided to get a grilled pimento cheese and onion rings at the dive BBQ shack up the road from me.
To understand the point of this story, first understand that I live in North Carolina – yes, the very one you've heard so much about lately. We're a “swing state,” which really means, as Wong understands intimately, that we're profoundly culturally divided between our urban I-95 corridor and the rural rest of the state. I live in Durham, a city I love profoundly, passionately, a majority-minority city heavily influenced by, on the one hand, the sometimes outrageous wealth and privilege of the Duke community, and on the other hand, the fact that it's (for now) the affordable part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle and therefore the part that's become home to a large population of non-wealthy but culturally urban artists, activists, and assorted odd ducks for whom Durham is a liveable option, cheaper and friendlier than moving to a huge city, progressive enough and diverse enough to build a life in. For ten years, I've lived in Durham. A city I love profoundly.
Two years ago, though, my partner and I had to give up our apartment in south Durham, with its cool location across the street from the gelato place and around the corner from our local coffeeshop and easy driving distance to downtown Durham and Chapel Hill and even Raleigh, if we wanted to go to Raleigh (we rarely want to go to Raleigh). The stars were in alignment, the time was right, and we bought a house. Our house is technically in Durham County but just ouside the city, not too far from anything, but not too close to anything, either, and what it is close to is two public schools and two small strip-malls – really, they're too small to be called malls, but strips of stores – that are pretty desperately downmarket. It's just outside the Durham city limits, but it's a very Real America neighborhood – quiet, slightly shabby, working class, keeps itself to itself. I expect it to be very different in ten or twenty years, as the city spreads outward, but right now, it is what Durham would be without Duke money and without millennials, which is to say, it feels like an old neighborhood in more ways than one.
A few streets over, on the other side of the high school, there's this BBQ place. It's a busted-up old place, a renovated house with a gravel parking lot, a window air conditioner that barely works, and a rickety ceiling fan. The menu is just printed sheets of paper stuck in the kind of plastic sleeves you put in three-ring binders, one set taped up over the kitchen window, one set on the counter. In a city that prides itself on being The Foodiest Small Town in America (as selected by people who live in the kind of places that consider a city of a quarter million people to be a small town), it will never be written up approvingly by food critics. It's various kinds of meat, smoked or fried, on white buns or on a platter with the usual sides. It's closed on weekends, and after 7 pm. It's mostly kept alive by the breakfast and lunch business of Real Americans still caked with the grime of the Real American manual labor they're taking a break from. The girl who's always working the counter is white. The guys in the kitchen are all black. The people eating there off the checkered vinyl tablecloths are usually about half and half. It's greasy as fuck, and a weird place for a vegetarian to frequent, but I love their pimento cheese and their onion rings are the fucking best I've ever had. I eat there about once a week. It's by no means the best BBQ in Durham, but it's The Place Near Me, the one up the road, around the corner from the high school, the one where people always ask me what I'm reading, not because they want anything, but because they're Southerners and they haven't yet fully internalized the new laws about not talking to your neighbors.
So today I was thinking about this Wong piece, and I took my tablet with the e-book I'm reading about food justice, and I went to eat at this BBQ shack next to a junkyard on a back road out of Durham. About halfway through my meal, a white family came in – parents probably in their early 60s, a son in his mid 30s. They asked someone else directions to a nearby nursing home, so I'm guessing they were in from out of town to visit Grandma. Dad and son went into the back to order; Mom sat down at the table next to me. This was as straight-up a Real American family as you could get, all of them wearing plain colored t-shirts, the men with trucker hats, Southern accents so heavy you could beat down a door with them.
“Where do they post the sanitation score here?” Mom asked me while she was waiting alone at the table. I couldn't tell if she was joking or not – I think she was joking-not-joking. I laughed and said I wasn't sure, but I ate here a lot and I was okay. “We just saw this place on the internet,” she said. “The reviews were good.” I told her it was a good place. I went back to my book, and tuned the world out a bit until I was ready to go.
They had their food by then, and they were all eating in somewhat strained silence. I might not have noticed or thought about them again if I hadn't heard the son say, “That first debate scared me, though.”
“Let's not talk about politics,” his father said grimly, and they went back to silence. I was clearing off my table by this point, and I figured with that line of conversation shut down, I'd never learn why this was not a family that talked politics for fun.
“I just think he could really make the country into a mess,” the son finally said.
“The country isn't already a mess?” said his father.
After a few beats of silence, the son said, “Lot of that goes back to George Bush. The oil, the gas-- “
“Let's not talk about politics,” his father said. And as far as I could tell they didn't anymore, or at least not til I was out the door.
Mom never said anything. I suspect by now she'd learned it was a waste of energy to interfere.
I come from a Real American family. My parents were born in the first two years of the Boom, right after the war. My mother's parents were college educated – her father on the GI Bill after fighting in the South Pacific, her mother decades later when her kids were grown and she decided she wanted to be a teacher in the second half of her life. My father's parents were not; his father left an abusive home in the Ozarks at 13 to try his luck in the world and ended up entering the new mid-century middle class as a traveling insurance salesman, his mother was a housewife from an immigrant family who worked on the railroad, back when that was a career you could have. When I was growing up, the extended family on both sides was a mixed bag of people who'd made it into the American Dream – not wealthy, but safely employed and homeowners – and people who still lived on the family farm. My parents went to college in the early 60s; my father became a preacher and my mother an elementary school teacher, careers they had their entire lives until retirement with pensions. I grew up in a university town, only 60,000 people, but with the kind of culture a big reasearch institution develops, with lots of theater and art and international food. I'm sometimes accused, here in the South, of being Not From Around Here and bringing in my funny liberal ideas from Elsewhere, which I always find hilarious, because, sure, it's true, I'm from the socialist paradise of central Missouri – but there's the slightest grain of truth to it, in that all Red State college towns are oddball little bastions of Blue State culture. So I had that advantage, but for the most part, I belong culturally and historically to a highly pure strain of solid, German Protestant stock, midwestern churchgoers, stay-at-home sorts, a family who raised me no more than a hundred or so miles from the location of every family story we knew. And a family of Democrats.
My people were working folk, and on both sides they were New Deal Democrats, fiercely pro-working class and pro-union. My grandparents, born between 1907 and sometime in the early 20s, doubtless did have their prejudices and resentments, some of them more than others (my paternal grandmother was particularly open to change and free-spirited; my maternal grandmother was particularly...not as much), but they were not among those who abandoned the Democrats over Civil Rights. Their politics were largely Kennedy-esque, and fully anti-segregation. They were certainly of their times, but none of them were Archie Bunker types; in their limited, small-town, midwestern way, they were patriots and boundless optimists who believed America was getting more fair-minded over the years, and envisioned a future history that would go on that way into infinity – Roddenberry Democrats, if you like. They were puzzled and not wholly approving of the youth culture of the 60s, which they saw as decadent, but they felt the same way about the “conservative” Reagan yuppies; they were Depression-era people who didn't understand why people didn't value modesty, hard work, and simple pleasures anymore, but I never really saw any of them express anger about it, and certainly no sense of personal aggrievement or persecution. The world changed, and if maybe someone grumped sometimes about how there was too much sex in the movies these days, they were mostly not just resigned but pleased that the world was changing. On a fundamental level, they believed it was supposed to.
David Wong defends his Real American friends and family with passion and eloquence, and I don't take issue with anything his article says, really. What I did find troubling about it was the sense of fatedness: that people in Red America will naturally grow into Trumpists, that he would certainly have been one himself, if he hadn't moved to Blue America and been re-educated by Blue Americans. He left home and he learned better, and now we must understand that not everyone can leave home, and not everyone will learn better. He finesses that a little more than I just did, but at rock bottom, that's what he's saying.
But ultimately, as much as I appreciate that people are born into systems that shape them and build the narratives they live under, I balk at the determinism of it all. Yes, my family was able to be happy and successful and open to change as they were because they lived at the height of American wealth and security. Yes, people's lives now are in many ways more marginal and the future more frightening, in those parts of the country where I come from, and where I live now. But the answer to that can't be, “you have to expect fascism, from people who don't have the Advantages of city living.” The answer can't be that, because I refuse to believe my “way of life,” the culture and the world I come from, is impossible to maintain.
Yes, cities are always the vanguard of change and progress, because they're where things and people meet and combine and create new things and new kinds of people. That's always been the case. But there's a Red State way of life that isn't toxic and violent. There's a kind of traditionalism that used to understand that rich, gaudy playboys who cheated their workers were villains, not heroes, and that loyalty and decency and fair-mindedness mattered, and most importantly, that you don't fucking throw bricks through America's windows. Part of the reason I like Hillary Clinton so much is that when she talks or writes about her working-class Illinois family, I see my working-class Missouri one. She was raised Republican, of course, but I think her parents and my grandparents come from a time when there was far less polarization, and midwestern working-class values were more alike than different between party lines. She certainly grew up to have politics almost identical to my parents' politics, and while people seem to assume Wellesley somehow did that to her, the truth is that my parents came to the same place attending college in Warrensburg, Missouri. I think it's not simply a matter of escaping the backwardness of middle America and turning into East Coast Elites. I think the causality runs just as much the other way; I meet a lot of people just like myself here in Durham, people who became liberals in Red America and moved to cities because of that, not moved to cities that then taught us how to be proper liberals.
I hate the devastation our economy has created in rural and small-town America; I think it has many causes, some of which were probably inevitable and some of which weren't. I hate that towns like the ones my parents and grandparents grew up in can no longer sustain the kind of lives my parents and grandparents valued, good and honorable lives, lives that value children and education, lives that produce people who are secure enough in their ability to stay afloat that they can afford to be curious about the world and care about people other than themselves. I know it's easy to say, Democrats and Republicans abandoned these people, Democrats and Republicans are to blame. It's easy to say, and it's not devoid of truth. It's so easy to hate politics for failing us, even though I suspect a lot of what we punish politicians for is their inability to do the impossible. The urbanization of the economy is global, and it's a necessary feature of the world we say we want, the world we vote for with our money every single day.
But while the 20th century isn't the Era of American Greatness that we need to rewind back into, I think it's also wrong to say that only the cutting-edge values of the cities can save us from the regressive nightmare of the rural past. I know some of the fun of Captain America fandom right now is the opportunity for people to discover or rediscover a lineage of American progressivism, to tell us that we come from somewhere, that there were people before us who believed in what we believe in. But I'm not a Steve Rogers progressive; I'm a Clark Kent progressive. I have a lineage and a tradition and a way of life, too, and while it was forged in a different time, I don't think we have to betray and abandon it just because the world got harder. If you abandon your beliefs because they got hard, who are you? How can you seriously argue that you've earned the right to run the place?
When we watched the Democratic National Convention, I know there were a lot of people who saw it in strategic terms – that the Democrats were trying to pave the way for more Republicans to come over, that they were stealing Republican thunder by stealing their talking points. I heard lots of comments from both parties along the lines of “That was the convention that Republicans would normally run.” But to me it didn't feel like bipartisanship; it felt like seeing my home, my people, my tradition for the first time in a long time – hell, maybe for the first time since Roseanne went off the air. A homey, practical, honest kind of liberalism, a corny, true-believing one that cares about families and fairness and all that Smallville stuff, that believes life doesn't have to be as hard as it is, that we can make it better for each other, that we don't have to be cruel or frightened or suspicious, because hard times come and we get through it.
I think a lot of us come from that; one way or another, that's the tradition I think the guy I listened to at the BBQ place was speaking out of. Hey, we don't have to throw bricks; there are other ways; just because America has problems, it actually isn't okay to say, hey, fuck it, burn it down. Trump and his people are saying exactly that. He's running on, Everything sucks, fuck it all, I'll rebuild it my way. Even out here in the Red State parts of our red states and our blue ones, not everyone is like this. Not everyone reacts to hard times with this kind of rage, and I think the prevalence of it isn't circumstance, but design. There has been a concerted effort for thirty years now to pour resentment and fury down the throats of Real Americans, and of course the history of that has been told and is being told. It's going to be hard to undo all that, but I think we can at least start by getting rid of this framing device that says that backwardness and hate are the normal and natural state of people who weren't lucky enough to get good jobs and move to the city. It's not normal or natural. It's not inevitable. It's not universal.
And it won't be cured by treating Blue State people like they're all sheltered trust-fund assholes who need to have Real America explained to them – as though there aren't plenty of liberals exactly like Wong, who already know this because they lived it. He writes as if he's translating between two unconnected civilizations, and only he speaks both languages. And he lives in Los Angeles, what do I know about Los Angeles, maybe that's the case in his circles. But the country contains millions of liberals who grew up outside of cities, who have family and friends outside of cities, who aren't by any means speaking about an alien planet when they speak about Republicans. The problem is not, by and large, like we've never met the right-leaning segments of the population. Solving the problem is not going to be about introducing us like we're strangers.
I don't know how to fix things, but I know what won't work. Hoping the 20th century reverses itself and brings steel mills back to Ohio won't work. As Wong says, calling people ignorant savages won't work. The battle for the soul of Red America has to be fought from the inside; it has to be guys like the one I sat beside today, who keep quietly talking sense to people in his life, who keep saying, This is the wrong way, let's not go down this road, it's not too late to go back. And I think it has to be fought from a position that respects the terms of the argument: that there is such a thing as a way of life, that there is value in having roots, that the American Way matters – and that defending the American Way means something very much like what Democrats are offering, and nothing at all like what Republicans are offering. Our narratives and our mythology are, for humans, more powerful than almost anything, and with the best of intentions, what Wong does in this article is reinforce what I think is exactly the wrong mythology.
Smallville matters. And Jonathan Kent wasn't a worse person than his son just because he stayed there his whole life. Bedford Falls matters. Lanford, Illinois matters. These places aren't better or worse than Brooklyn by nature; I mean, they are now, but they don't have to be. If we can't create a world where we have better advice for people who are struggling than “Move out of your shitty town to my awesome city,” then we can't claim to have anything figured out beyond “The more people are like me, the better off they'll be,” which is exactly the mindset we say we oppose on the left.
I think I'm rambling now, but thanks for reading all the way through, if you did.
Allow me one final opportunity to say how much I love Dr. Deaton. I like that he's a gentle, unassuming man of science who is also a fearless samurai druid, and that he's so perfectly composed and self-possessed that he's a tiny bit terrifying – even knowing enough by now to trust him completely, it's hard to shake the slight creep-factor that had us wondering if he was safe in season 1. I totally want to watch the TV Movie Event about his doomed love affair with Talia. I need to know so much more about that!
Although I think it's sweet that Derek's reaction to getting the money back is, “Don't be so hard on yourself, kiddo,” that does make the entire season's harping on money issues and the ongoing drama of the stolen bearer bonds end a little anti-climactically. Like, why was that there at all? I mean, in life things just happen sometimes, but someone obviously wanted that plot arc in this season, enough to bring it up in like five straight episodes before it just wraps up in...nothing, really. It feels a little like my time has been wasted with this now.
I hope when Derek goes away, they get to keep the loft as a permanent pack den/orgy site. Hey, he owns the place! He could leave them the keys! These kids' parents have been extremely cool; they deserve to be spared the discomfort of knowing their prematurely traumatized offspring are having the Healing Sex in their childhood bedrooms.
Aw. Poor Malia looked so disappointed that she can't even have special-occasion deer. If Stiles doesn't find somewhere in northern California that serves venison by their anniversary, I will have lost all respect for his boyfriend-fu.
So now Scott is Actaeon, which can I just say, I said in the very beginning that the operative metaphor for Scott's whole journey is that he's fundamentally a deer who is transformed into a wolf. I think you can excavate layers and layers out of Kate's choice of myth there, and the idea that Scott will end as the prey animal he was from the beginning, taken down by the hunting dogs that he controlled for a time. I really do find it fascinating how many ways s4 has found to retrace and revisit s1 – not just in obvious ways, like Kate and Peter reprising their roles as villains, but in setting up the resonances between Liam's fear and Scott's when he was a new wolf, in playing with the roles of hunter/hunted, following the blossoming of a new relationship for Scott, returning to school not just as a shooting location but as its own site of conflict and obstacles, academically and on the lacrosse field, and many other ways I'm now forgetting, I'm sure.
None of which is to say this is a very good episode, because it's really not. It has no real purpose other than as a bridge between the end of the Benefactor plotline and the end of the Kate plotline, because one thing this season has not replicated like I wish it had was that ability to bring disparate plotlines together in one big grand guignol of conflict and cross-purposes. Other than both of them being sort of connected to Peter (in ways that still aren't totally comprehensible to me), the two major strands of danger our gang faces never really have much intersection at all, let alone impact on each other.
The last scene is pretty fucking unsettling, though. We'll talk more about the purpose of Scott becoming a berserker tomorrow, when I try to make some thematic sense out of a seasons that exists in a non-Euclidian universe where cause and effect mean nothing!
( s4 ep11: A Promise to the Dead )
Aw, that's a really cute fake-out there with the werewolf diving down on the fallen girl to pick her up. I have no memory of this sequence, and in fact I lost the thread on a lot of the end of s4. I remember that Meredith is – not? – the Benefactor, or she is, but also Peter has more to do with it than you'd think? Or something? Let's find out!
I really love that the show has given us an Everyman character who really is an Everyman in Liam – someone who bucks protagonist logic by just really, really not wanting to fight monsters, and not in a hilarious comedy-relief Shaggy-and-Scooby way, but who is just scared to die and it's not played for laughs at all. And I love that Scott, who has had reason to grow accustomed to people joining in with his borderline idiotic stunts, is completely understanding about someone who just doesn't think he's up to it. Scott wouldn't be volunteering for this stuff now if he hadn't learned that he could do it after being forced the first few times; I bet he rightly suspects Liam would also grow into the role, but Scott's not going to be the one to force him.
Wait, have Scott and Satomi really not met til right now? She knows everyone else he knows. I guess I'm going to take their word on this, though, because I certainly can't keep track.
Okay, Chris just did a thing where he hit something in the face with his gun without looking at it, and I have a lot of feelings about that. Pants-feelings.
Yeah, so no wonder I couldn't figure out the Peter connection. It's pretty bizarre, even now that I'm totally awake. I mean, I think it's actually a pretty neat idea, that Meredith is acting out the rambling revenge fantasies that Peter doesn't even remember having, but it's still a little opaque, watching Lydia watch Meredith watch Peter's fugue state.
Right, so that whole “bullet between the eyes” bit that Stilinski is trying to pull off – this would be a great time to introduce him to our friend Braeden, who can explain why pointing a gun two inches from someone's face is a great way to lose your gun. I'm sure he feels really badass, but let's be real, the only reason Peter didn't take the gun and then eat his face off is that he doesn't really want to fight his way out of the station and then be a fugitive.
This is getting more incomprehensible by the moment. The dead pool is being disseminated by a bank of antique computers walled up inside Lydia's lakehouse? Has that been running since the room was built, or did it just get switched on this season? And the key is inside a bottle of wine that is...not wine, that is like the one that Lydia opened at the party – or is the same one, but then it would be already open, so... didn't she drink some of the wine, and I... What. The. Fuck. Is happening in this episode? What the actual fuck?
And unfortunately between the impenetrable reveals on the mystery plotline and the overkill on the gunfire in the fight scenes, the climax of the plotline about Scott's fears of turning into a monster gets a little lost in the shuffle. (Nice of those hired killers to check their messages in the middle of a shootout, though, so they could receive the Benefactor's status update.)
There is nothing about the resolution to this that makes the slightest bit of sense. I don't even know what else to add about that. I really thought this time I'd track all the pieces and figure out how they were connected, but nooooope.
( s4 ep10: Monstrous )
Okay, this opening scene is disturbing as fuck, even now that I know it's not the End of Parrish. I think I've mentioned before that I have a visceral reaction to people being forced to beg for their lives. And Parrish is just such a sweetie! It seems crueler than usual. Like setting kittens on fire.
Also, though, seriously, Haig? You're going to use your work computer to confess to murder? You're the worst on every possible level. Harris was a more competent villain than you, and I don't say that lightly.
He was shot at work! In the line of duty! He's got a government job! This surgery has to be covered, it's insane to think that it wouldn't be, even in America. But that's not the point of this scene, I realize. It's actually a really good scene, and I think it's been a long time coming, with Stiles being all over both sides of the line in terms of appropriate and wildly inappropriate responses to his self-imposed responsibility to be his father's new life partner. It's a sweet impulse, but also super dysfunctional, stemming from his deep-seated fear of abandonment and the way that meddling in other people's lives has become Stiles' response to what must have been a terrifying and traumatic sense of powerlessness as a child watching his mother's mind slip away. I'm not sure yelling at him is the way to fix that, but I totally relate to the Sheriff's feeling that this is fucked up and that he doesn't know what to do about it now.
I suppose the burden of the alpha is that every party is an opportunity to patrol the perimeter. I also love that Scott is the rare kid who is both trusted by teachers to maintain some degree of order and liked by his peers. You know you're a true alpha if you can make that balance work of your, I guess.
They've been waiting all season to set up that “How'd you break your nose?” joke for Braeden, haven't they?
This is your daily reminder that being Lydia is the worst. Seriously, just the absolute worst.
Oh, yeah, listen to Haig's advice. He's great at this.
Also, speaking of Haig (tangentially), I think it's pretty great that Brunski chose a very bad day to try psyching Parrish out. I mean, maybe that would've worked, under ordinary circumstances! But I feel like being set on fire by a co-worker and healing within hours would go a long way toward putting you into “oh, fuck this” mode.
Satisfying twist, I feel. Four stars, would startle again.
(Also, Parrish-able? Really? This show and its punny episode titles, oy.)
( s4 ep9: Perishable )
Excellent callback to/reminder that Stiles is a big liar about the spooning. This scene works well as a little metaphorical encapsulation of their relationship, jostling awkwardly to get comfortable, Malia a bit impatient, Stiles a bit overly fussy, but eventually settling into something that feels cozy.
I can't tell if it's an intentional parallel or not, but I find it interesting that McCall uses the same language the Argents do – of being without emotion, like Allison remembered Victoria saying during her “Frayed” freak-out, and of “compartmentalizing” in order to deal with death, which I'm fairly sure was the exact wording Chris used with Isaac. I really like how consistently they've run this through-line in the series about Scott's – I don't want to say “frailty,” because that sounds far more pejorative than I mean, but this gentleness to his character that keeps him at arm's length from most of the Older Male Role Models in his life – his father and Chris and Derek, all of whom are more traditional proponents of the whole “his anger makes him strong/dangerous” and “I'll do what I have to do” schools of action-heroing. Four seasons on and a pack of his own, Scott still isn't that guy, and it's interesting to watch him struggle with the fact that they don't have any advice he can really use to deal with his problems, so he's on his own.
Aw! I don't think I clicked when I first saw it that the doctor who “fails to resuscitate” Scott is Liam's stepdad, and I definitely didn't catch that he's almost in tears while he's rallying himself to tell Melissa. Does that guy have a name? I like him. (Also, is it just me, or does that flashing “Asystole” on the monitor look like a flashing red “Asshole” to other people?)
I was all geared up to be so pissed at all of them for not telling Melissa, but happily that turned out to be a waste of effort. I bet the whole thing was cathartic for Melissa, actually. She's been spending a whole year trying really hard not to just start screaming her head off, probably.
I am cribbing this observation from a friend who has older siblings, but she's so right: Derek's “You cheated! That's cheating!” is an extremely little-brother-in-a-big-family thing to say. How many thousand times do you think he's said that, in that exact tone of voice, to Peter alone?
Scott's nightmares are just Scott's nightmares, really, but I think he is probably onto something about the “becoming more of a werewolf.” I know the rules don't seem to be standardized in this universe, but the creature that Peter shifted into in s1 wasn't startling to the Argents, and the fact that they could easily visually distinguish between him and the betas implies that his form was a, if not the, recognizable alpha-form. Presumably Scott will continue to take an increasingly Wolfman-like shifted form, graduating from funny sideburns to whatever the hell that thing was as he levels up. Which I could see being even more than usually disturbing, since it would both disrupt his sense of his own humanity and on top of that, feel like a connection to Peter. And no one wants that.
I'm not an expert on guns, but I know enough to be pleased that they got this tactical advice right. Attention, people like my mother-in-law who insist on keeping a handgun in your purse for “protection”! Unless you plan on identifying a deadly threat while he's still across the street and taking a shot at him, you cannot use that gun to defend against an attacker, because it is not a close-range weapon! You will get beat down and get your gun took, as we say here in the South.
You know, Derek, it's really a sad commentary on your life that “amoral hired killer” is such a huge step up for you, but nevertheless, it is a huge step up for you. So congratulations on finally banging someone who's more likely to kill your enemies than your friends, marginally!
And once again, Stiles is the biggest fucking badass on this entire show, because he steps toward Kate. Toward. Just roll that around in your head for a bit.
Pretty good episode, all in all. I appreciate that one of the other ways this season has rolled back around to resembling s1 is that there's more Scott in it than 2 and 3. I mean, obviously he's around a lot in those seasons, but I feel like they didn't hinge very much on his conflicts and his choices; he serves as more of a rallying point for this dysfunctional extended family to crystallize around. But at this point he's back in the protagonist's role, coming at the same basic question of s1 from the position of an alpha instead of a child: what kind of werewolf is Scott going to be?
( s4 ep8: Time of Death )
So I've been watching this episode for like three minutes, and two things that I already knew are abundantly clear: Dylan O'Brien is an excellent actor. And Tyler Hoechlin is a dreadful actor. I mean...bless his heart, in certain scenes he manages himself all right, especially when he's acting opposite Bohen, with whom he seems to have a nice, kicky sort of rhythm that suits him. And when he's called upon to act as though he's sad, he can do puppy eyes all right, and his habitual lack of expression comes in handy when he's supposed to be suffering torture stoically. But “She's been shot! I think she's dying,” is a pair of lines that any mostly competent dinner-theater actor should be able to infuse with something like genuine fear and pathos. It doesn't call for any complexity or nuance or any special artistry; it's just “pretend you're super worried and you need someone's help.” And he just botches it so badly that it's almost hilarious, and then I feel bad for laughing at him, because I'm sure he's a lovely person and his mother is so proud that her son is a real actor getting paid to be on tv. I have seriously been at D&D tables where the quality of the acting was better, though. He's really just hopeless.
I try not to stress the timeline on this show too much, because I don't think the effort will pay dividends, but – isn't the core cast in the second semester of their junior year, though? Season 1 began with the new lacrosse season, which seems to happen spring semester, and Scott was a sophomore. Season 2 began immediately afterwards, more or less finishing out that semester. 301 begins when they head back to school, after Scott's summer of Be a Better Scott McCall, happens at a quick clip, and 302 begins just before Halloween – junior year. Season 4 begins with the lacrosse season again, and in fact they take the trouble to mention that Liam is new “this semester,” having transferred in, not entering with the rest of the freshmen class. So they are definitely hovering somewhere around spring break of the gang's junior year of high school, and unless things have changed a very great deal in the two centuries since I was in high school, that is when you take the actual SATs, not the PSATs. When do they plan to take the SATs, if not during their junior year? You apply to college with those scores, and most deadlines are coming up fast for them. Freshmen and sophomores take the PSATs; everyone else needs to start getting serious.
(Okay, I just bothered to Wikipedia this information, and it says that every year 1.59 million sophomores and 1.55 million juniors take the PSATs, rendering everything I just said entirely false and pointless. I'm leaving it in the recap for the sake of transparency, and so you experience a tiny slice of my everyday life, getting overly agitated about things that turn out not to be true at all. It's fun, right!? In fairness to me, I, like Lydia, definitely took it my freshman year, because I'm a genius.)
I really like that Malia takes school extremely seriously. I mean, it's probably not good for her, because she always looks like a huge ball of anxiety when tests and homework come up, but I do think it's sweet that she wants so badly to be able to keep up with her friends, and that she drives herself to do it. I don't know if she worries that they'll go to college and she won't be able to and she'll be left out, or if she feels like being successful at school will help resolve some of the tensions between her and her father (which we don't know much about, but “Echo House” happened, so yeah, there must be), or what. Maybe she's just embarrassed and worries people will think she's stupid because they don't understand why her grades are what they are. But I think it would be easy with that character to go with “Malia is tough and cool and doesn't really give a shit about all this boring mathy stuff,” and I like that they let her have so much vulnerability around it.
So Ms. Martin is awesome, and that's why she's close enough pals with Finstock to know he's fifteen years sober, I totally get that. I do think it's interesting that he's apparently in recovery, given that he's frequently said things like, “This is why I drink every night” and the like. I wonder if he and Douglas Richardson attend the same AA meetings, where they sit around and don't drink but insist that they do.
Holland Roden is also a good actor, and I know I've said this before, but damn, being Lydia is the worst. I really hope something nice happens to this character at some point in the future. Like, at all, ever.
I realize Kira thinks Malia is onto the truth about her and Peter, but she really, really looks like she thinks Malia is trying to tell her Scott and Stiles are having an affair. And of the two things, Malia is far more likely to guess the latter than the former, just based on evidence.
The Hale house had an escape route? Stellar design job on that. I hope Laura was living all those years on the money she won from their contractor in the lawsuit. (I would've said Derek, but it's clear from having met Derek that he was living all those years under an overpass without human contact.)
Sell the house! Jesus, Melissa, sell the stupid house, it's too big for you!
Look, I'm just going to go ahead and admit this now: this episode really worked on me. I mean, I knew that nobody was going to die in that vault. Obviously. But they all looked so miserable and weak and uncomfortable, and there was an instrumental theme playing when Stiles and Malia's fingers pulled apart, and the whole thing just felt drenched in despair, and – I wouldn't say I was worried, but.... Fretting. Let's say I was fretting a little.
I mean, I did realize they were going to be saved, but I underestimated the sheer dumbness of the unbelievable, accidental way they got saved. Someone mentioned a mushroom for no real reason, which is a “remedy for sickness,” which explains her immunity, which is great because there's a bunch of mushroom in the dusty vault that no one ever goes into! Problem solved! Look, I know all shows need to grease the wheels with a little uncanny coincidence now and then, but this is just beyond.
Okay, though, I ain't mad. It's ridiculous, but I still treasure this episode, because it is my pick of the litter for Sciles-shippy deliciousness. Of course Stiles is going to take a bullet in the face rather than give up Scott! Oh, sure, you say, also his girlfriend and his other friend, so okay, you can have that one if you must. But come on! The other scene! With the door! With both of them plastered up against opposite sides of the door, and Stiles just completely freaks out shouting Scott's name and batters himself against the stone wall until he falls down in despair, and if this is not the exact shit that you live for, then you and I clearly just do fandom very, very differently. And then there's lilting piano music while they shuffle around on the ground, both still all sickly and full of feelings. Whatever, they could've solved this plot by having Kang and Kodos beam the antidote into the vault in the form of a mountain of cotton candy and I wouldn't give a shit, THIS. EPISODE. OMG.
It's also convenient that the mushrooms are effective in airborne form, because I can only imagine it would've been unpleasant for our heroes to have to swallow all that glass while blindly eating decade-old bits of dried mushroom off the dirty floor.
It seems to me like they've rushed this Malia revelation a little, or her reaction to it, or something. Seeing her name written as a Hale should be – mostly confusing, right? I guess she definitely knows that they knew something was up and hid it from her deliberately, but that still seems more like grounds for, “Guys, seriously, what the fuck?” rather than “You are all dead to me.” It's not like she knows it is specifically Peter, which admittedly, is terrible and traumatic news. But the Hales were a big family, seventeen years ago, she could be related any number of ways. Or it could've been some kind of mistake! I just feel like she'd be interested in answers, and it's played like she suddenly understands everything, because she saw a thing typed. It's another good song, though, and I enjoy a slow-motion angry-walk as much as the next person.
( s4 ep7: Weaponized )
- Long-suffering Lydia fans, especially those lamenting the scene-stealer’s lack of meaty material in seasons past, will love what the premiere has in store for everyone’s favorite banshee.
- At least one new ‘ship will likely be born when fans watch the premiere — while another existing ‘ship will get some much needed wind in its sails.
- Derek may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. He of the Legendary Eyebrows is mentioned several times throughout the premiere, along with another fallen favorite.
- Cody Christian fits effortlessly into the world of Teen Wolf, though it’s unlikely your final opinion of his new character will be formed by the end of the hour.
CHALL-- Wait, what? That's...ominous. Was I supposed to be praying for him all this time? I've fallen down on that responsibility, I'm afraid. I'm a polytheist, so I'm not even entirely sure who I'm supposed to be petitioning, here. Athena,maybe? She liked Odysseus quite well, and Stiles is rather Odyssean. Acca Larentia? Chernobog? How about Tyr? There's a man who isn't afraid to hang with wolves.
- Lastly, as always, pray for Stiles.
I enjoy having Kate back again. I don't like Kate in the same way I liked Jennifer – the way where I kind of actually liked her and harbored the hope that she'd be to some degree rehabilitated a la Peter Hale, rather than killed off – but I like her as a big, showboaty villain. She's a sadist and a sociopath, but some seasons, you're kind of looking for that. Not that I don't appreciate that weird Teen Wolf dynamic where the same guy who is shoving a gun into Scott's forehead later on becomes a beloved father figure, but it's nice to just take some time out from that kind of thing occasionally and just embrace Kate “Please, I'm bleeding to death” Argent.
So this may sound a little harsh, but I don't mean it to be at all judgmental, really. I just find it difficult to get super worked-up about Melissa's financial problems, because there's a pretty simple solution to this: sell the fucking house. That house is huge. It's vastly more square footage than a single woman with a nearly-grown son about to leave home could ever possibly need. Sell the house. Get an apartment. Pay off the debts, take the money that's now left over from not having to pay a giant-ass mortgage and outrageous utility costs, and use it to help your kid get out of college without a small nation's worth of debt. I realize that it's usually flippant and just a really bad idea to look at someone else's financial situation and be like, “That would never be a problem for me, because...” But. Is she really planning on keeping that house once she's alone in it? It's a huge house. She and Scott are both gone a lot; I feel like a nice two- or even three-bedroom apartment would be more than enough space for their needs. Presumably she feels an emotional attachment to it; it's the house Scott grew up in, it's probably the house she and her husband bought together during happier days, etcetera. I'm not discounting that there would be sadness involved with giving it up, but I honestly can't fathom that working constantly and still having months of bills piled up that you can't pay would ever feel better than just closing the book on that part of your life when you were a young family and moving on to something that meets your needs now.
This is an extremely quip-heavy episode. Malia guilelessly offering to try catching her friends' scent to help with roll call, Parrish briefly concerned that someone would try to assassinate him for five bucks, Lydia stressing that she only almost broke another banshee, Stiles' radiant delight at learning some shit about Brunski. The dead pool plotline isn't all that enthralling, but it provides a serviceable framework to hang jokes on, and I'm easy to please.
How do the berserkers not leave tracks, by the way? It seems like they'd be really heavy, with all that exoskeleton.
I find Satomi's pack really interesting in its implications. It's hard to see, but it looks like about eight dead bodies in the woods, plus Demarco and Carrie and Brett – so we're talking about twice the size of any of the three packs we've seen until now. We know they've been trained for control by the mantra method, only superficially different from the one Talia Hale used, and we know that they shared Satomi's ability to mask their scent. They're not new in town by any means; Scott knew Demarco, and Liam knew Brett, so they've been around long enough to have established histories in Beacon Hills. We know Satomi was in the area as a prisoner at Oak Creek, and there's every possibility that she never left, which means her pack was so flawlessly concealed that even the Hales were never aware of them. I don't know, it's just really interesting to me! All this sturm und drang has been going on for two years now, and here are these ten or twelve quiet Buddhist werewolves, minding their own business, never making themselves a target for Deucalion or for the Argents, peacefully congregating in the woods like an entire alternate universe from the non-stop gore and vendettas that have made Scott's life a tsunami of PTSD.
I realize that “I'm going to save everyone” is the kind of moment you can only have when you're a teenager or you are the lead on a tv show, but that's exactly why being young is kind of great and fiction is kind of great. There are types of realism that I value in fiction. I really hate it, for example, when you say, Well, why didn't the character just do X obvious thing, and someone responds, Because if they did that, there wouldn't be a story. Well, then it's a shitty story! Tell a different one, less full of stupid people! But there are types of realism that I think the world really just doesn't need any more of, like pretty much any type of fantasy fiction that's floating around now patting itself on the back for how grown-up and realistic it is. We know. We know power replicates power, people are endlessly inventive when it comes to ways and reasons to ruin each other, no one ever really saves anyone else, and our anger and our sadness are the poisons we drink hoping to make our enemies sick. We're all grown-ups; we know. And there's really nothing more futile than talented people frittering away their talent preaching to the choir, telling their audience everything they already know and congratulating everyone involved on being so clever. That is a recipe for a shitty story, too.
If you happen to have talent yourself, I humbly ask this of you as a favor: tell a less shitty story, one we don't already hear every day. Tell us one where no one else dies.
( s4 ep6: Orphaned )