SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; The Americans; Agents of SHIELD; Community; Arrow; Continuum

Hannabal s02e11

Ko No Mono is the beginning of the end for Hannibal, now providing a clear path to the scene in the season premier with Jack and Hannibal fighting. Alana Bloom has been terribly under utilized this season but played a key role in this episode. She represented the audience, expressing the same questions I had from the perspective of a character on the show.

Last week’s episode left two possibilities. Either Will had killed Freddie Lounds and Hannibal has succeeded in turning him into a monster, or there is an elaborate scheme to expose and capture Hannibal. My view of the show would be forever changed if it turned out that Will has become like Hannibal and no longer a sympathetic protagonist.  Alana’s question was limited to wondering if Will had killed Freddie, and the answer to that would provide the viewer with the answer to what we were wondering.

It is a common axiom in reviewing genre shows that if there is no body the victim very well might still be alive. Bryan Fuller really played with the audience on that one.  We got funeral, and saw a burning body which could not be confirmed as Freddie’s visually by the audience, but which provided possible confirmation to those aware of her fate in the novels. Of course Fuller has displayed a tendency to take aspects from the novels but alter them or have them occur at different times to keep things interesting. Once Jack “verified” that the body was Freddie’s from dental records it became even more clear that Freddie was dead or there was a very elaborate scheme, which would have to include Jack along with Will, to fake Freddie’s death.

This question was answered with another question, with Freddie asking Alana, “How was my funeral?” Alena seemed so distraught over the situation that it was hard for Jack not to let her in on the secret, but this might be a big mistake. Even assuming that Alana doesn’t intentionally give away the secret, there is too great a risk that Hannibal will sense that something is wrong. Perhaps that is why the season ends in a fight as opposed to a more organized arrest.

The other theme of the episode was parenthood and surrogate parenthood. This included a look back at Abigail, Hannibal’s perception of fathering a new Will who has adopted his views on killing, and sadly Margot’s terminated pregnancy. Mason Verger is turning into the even bigger villain of the season.

Hannibal freddie-lounds1

Bryan Fuller discussed the revelation that Freddie was alive and Margot’s desire for children:

AVC: So the end of this episode reveals that Freddie’s alive. Jack is in on the plan somehow. How cognizant are you of not letting those story points stretch out too long?

BF: We had originally talked about, gosh, how long can we keep Freddie dead? Because we wanted to make sure that the audience felt that she was dead, and that’s why we used the flaming wheelchair. Those who are close to the material know that is how Freddie Lounds goes out, so we wanted to make sure that the audience felt that she was dead, and that the funeral was a real funeral. Also, telling the story through Alana’s eyes as she’s like, “What the hell is going on with everybody?! Everybody’s lost their minds!” and to really feel that kind of mounting panic and dread that she’s experiencing. We felt like to clear the path for episode 12 to really be the final episode with the arc between the triangle of Will, Mason, and Hannibal, we really needed to wrap that up by the end of 11 and put all of our cards on the table at that point. What I think is really fun about using the wheelchair death is it tells the audience that, oh gosh, Freddie very well may be dead, because they used the actual way that she dies. But in a fun way, I loved forecasting the moment between Hannibal Lecter and Francis Dolarhyde in the Red Dragon story where Hannibal Lecter is part of Freddie’s demise and says, “If you’re going to kill Freddie Lounds, this is exactly how she has to go out, because she faked it once and I’m not particularly happy with her for that.”

AVC: Why does Margot want to have a child with Will?

BF: That was a big element of the novel, was Margot’s desire to have a child and I thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be interesting if Will Graham became the device to achieve that goal?” That way, we had elements of the future story that we had recombined with other stories so they felt distinct from the novel but reflective of the novel at the same time. I think it goes back to that Thomas Harris mash-up DJ aesthetic that we have with this show, where we’re pulling elements that suit us for any given story and then mixing them in as needed. It also felt like a clever way for Margot to get back at her brother. We knew from the book that Margot had been cut out of her father’s will for being a lesbian and not being able to breed, and the stipulation had been put into the will that only an heir proven to be of the blood of the Verger clan would be deemed legitimate. So it set into motion a very crafty plan of Margot’s, “Well, I’ll get pregnant and once the baby is born I’ll kill my brother, and I will not have to deal with him anymore or his evil ways.” It felt like she was being very crafty, and she’s waving her uterus around like a loaded weapon. So that felt like it was part of the new Margot and part of her new agenda for dealing with her brother and also giving her a little bit more strength. Also, it puts her clearly on the chessboard as one of Hannibal Lecter’s pawns, and he is now influencing and moving her piece around to suit his greater agenda.

Fortunately Hannibal was renewed for another season. NBC sadly canceled Community, giving us the darkest timeline, with fans hoping someone else will pick up the show. SpoilerTV doesn’t think it is likely to happen. At least the show went out with an excellent season with Dan Harmon back. I think NBC did make the right move in deciding to permanently turn out the lights on Revolution. There is a lot of other news regarding cancellations, renewals, and new shows picked up, but being a holiday weekend I’ll hold off on most of the other news until a later post. I’ll also be brief in looking at the other shows this week.

ORPHAN-BLACK Helena

In other genre shows of the week, Orphan Black provided more information on Mrs. S. and Project Leda. Alison is in rehab, we learned whether Helena could have children, and there was a reunion of sisters. Orphan Black c0-creator Graeme Manson discussed the reunion scene:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with what has to be the creepiest sisterly reunion ever — one in a bloody white wedding dress and the other bleeding and in handcuffs in the bathroom. You’re a sicko, Graeme.
GRAEME MANSON: Homage to Carrie, all the way. The director did a great job with that scene and it’s right up the alley of what John Fawcett and I really like. It really slips into horror mode there and we like that the show has that elastic tone that we can do that. We expect a lot of Helenas in bloody wedding dresses at Comic-Con this year. It’s a truly freaky and wonderful scene, and just the fact that it has that horror and its broken by the sisterhood and by forgiveness is one of the great clone-on-clone scenes we’ve done, I think.

EW: You can feel and read the terror on Tatiana’s face as Sarah in that scene. Just an unbelievable job she does in that moment.
MANSON: It was. And it was a really hard scene for the crew to watch, because Tatiana really went there. It was scary. She was scaring the whole crew. And then you yell “Cut!” and everyone just has this ball in the pit of their stomach and Tatiana recovers immediately and is immediately smiling and laughing.

Americans Stealth

Larrick  has turned into the big bad for the season on The Americans, and is getting closer to Elizabeth and Phillip. With no progress finding out who murdered Emmet and Leanne, I wonder if Larrick’s earlier denial should be believed. Of course there are still two episodes in which to advance that storyline.

I was  sad to see Kate go, but she was clearly over her head. Now I wonder what the deal was with Jared, between Kate meeting him with no disguise and her encoded note to “Get Jared out.” I suspect he knows about his parents, and possibly realizes who Elizabeth is. Is he already working as a spy with Kate his handler?

Nina made the obvious move of turning to Stan for help in avoiding a forced return to Russia to stand trial. Will she take the next step in convincing him to get the information on Echo for her so that the two can remain together, as opposed to Nina going into hiding?

CLARK GREGG, MING-NA WEN

Agents of SHIELD presented Grant’s back story, and it was rather disappointing. Being left out in the woods was not the type of training I expected. Just because he spared the dog should not mean that he gets to be redeemed as a good guy in the end, but I suspect that that might be where the show is going. Sparing Fitz and Simmons is also not enough (and might be considered two points against him). Besides, evil Grant is a much more interesting character than the Grant we saw most of the season.

Skye has also improved as a character in recent episodes, actually showing that she has some skills. The story with Cybertek was also weak, but I suspect this was set up for the season finale, in which Nick Fury returns. After a run of excellent episodes I can forgive this one, although if they didn’t have a better back story for Grant it might have been better just to leave it out.

It looks like Arrow is getting ready for a comic book style big battle with Malcolm Merlin and the League of Assassins joining up with Team Arrow to take down Slade.

It also looks like Person of Interest and The Blacklist will have big season finales this week.

For those watching Continuum on Syfy, it might seem like things aren’t moving very fast this season, but big things happen on the next two episodes which have aired in Canada. No spoilers.

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Putin Cracking Down On Bloggers And Swearing

Putin

The New York Times reports on new restrictions on bloggers in Russia:

Russia has taken another major step toward restricting its once freewheeling Internet, as President Vladimir V. Putin quietly signed a new law requiring popular online voices to register with the government, a measure that lawyers, Internet pioneers and political activists said Tuesday would give the government a much wider ability to track who said what online.

Mr. Putin’s action on Monday, just weeks after he disparaged the Internet as “a special C.I.A. project,” borrowed a page from the restrictive Internet playbooks of many governments around the world that have been steadily smothering online freedoms they once tolerated…

Widely known as the “Bloggers Law,” the new Russian measure specifies that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be considered a media outlet akin to a newspaper and be responsible for the accuracy of the information published.

Besides registering, bloggers can no longer remain anonymous online, and organizations that provide platforms for their work such as search engines, social networks and other forums must maintain computer records on Russian soil of everything posted over the previous six months.

“This law will cut the number of critical voices and opposition voices on the Internet,” said Galina Arapova, director of the Mass Media Defense Center and an expert on Russian media law. “The whole package seems quite restrictive and might affect harshly those who disseminate critical information about the state, about authorities, about public figures.”

The article also notes actions to suppress the Internet in China, Turkey, Venezuela, and Pakistan.

Update: CNN reports on a law prohibiting obscene language in art:

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law Monday that bans swearing at arts, cultural and entertainment events in the country.

Any new film containing obscene language won’t be granted a distribution certificate, so there’s no chance of seeing it at the movie theater.

And copies of books, CDs or films containing swearing can only be distributed in a sealed package labeled “Contains obscene language,” a Kremlin statement said.

According to state news agency ITAR-Tass, individuals caught using foul language face a fine of up to $70, while officials can be fined up to $40 and businesses nearly $1,400. They face a higher fine and a three-month suspension of business for repeated offenses.

Determination of what counts as profane language will be done through “an independent examination,” the news agency said…

A report by rights group Amnesty International in January highlighted a denial of “basic freedoms” in Russia, which last year introduced a law barring anyone from talking positively about homosexuality in earshot of minors.

Imagine what they might do to bloggers who swear.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; The Americans; Fargo; The Big Bang Theory

Hannibal - Season 2

Nako-Choko began as an extension of last week’s episode of Hannibal in which Will Graham was placed in a position where he was forced to kill. There were other events including first seeing Mason Verger and viewing parallel sex scenes. One involved Will and Margot Verger and the other was between Hannibal and Alana Bloom, morphed into a threesome.

Freddie Lounds was convinced that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper and Chilton was framed, but Freddie saw too much. For a moment I thought she was better off to have been discovered by Will instead of Hannibal in a scene which reminded me of Grace’s final scene before she was killed. Instead it appears that Will has morphed into Hannibal, including bringing a part of her to be prepared by Hannibal for dinner.

There was a strong suggestion that this occurred but we did not actually see Will kill Freddie, raising some suspicion that she is actually alive and Will is engaged in a plan to trap Hannibal. Interviews with Bryan Fuller suggest that Will did kill Freddie, but it is possible the is engaging in misdirection to avoid spoiling future events on the show. First from TV Guide:

But he seems to be enjoying the killing. Is he still playing the long con?
Fuller:
 In order to really seduce Hannibal and also blur the lines between who Will is and what he needs to become in order to catch Hannibal, he’s sacrificing his humanity in some ways to get the truth. Up until the end of Episode 10, Hannibal has said nothing that is actionable and has not been demonstrative in any way with his own murders. He’s not going to put himself out there until Will makes it a safe bet. We needed Will to take a life. And of all the characters Will might want to kill, Freddie was the first one to get what was coming to her in Will’s mind.

Are Will and Hannibal definitely eating Freddie? I was hoping otherwise until Will referred to the meet as longpig, which is a phrase I wasn’t familiar with.
Fuller:
 [Laughs] I guess you’re not hanging around the right cannibals.

So, in your mind that makes it clear what Will has done to Freddie?
Fuller:
 It’s pretty clear. Will has gone to the dark side and we should be fearing for him. It is very much a slippery slope for Will Graham because he is taking lives and that changes the way you think and interact with the world. We set up the theme of rebirth in Episode 8, and in 10 and 11 we’re very much exploring the child that has been born out of this unholy union between Hannibal and Will. How are they going to foster and feed it?

They discussed the sex scene:

Let’s talk about that “foursome.” That has to be the weirdest sex scene I’ve seen on TV in some time.
Fuller:  
I wanted to have a Dead Ringers moment where you have two Jeremy Irons flanking Geneviève Bujold. And I wanted to have this triangle between two heterosexual men who are getting so intimate with each other, but because they’re heterosexual, they have to make love via proxy. I wanted Alana to be kissing Hannibal and the camera would follow her as she turned her head and she’d be kissing Will all in a single shot. The lines between the two sex scenes would blur. Our director, Vincenzo Natali, came to me a day before and said, ‘Can I put the Stag-Man in there or is that too weird?’ I said, ‘[Deadpans] Not too weird. Do it.’ [Laughs]

What did you want it to mean for the characters?
Fuller:
 I felt like it was an interesting opportunity for us to reestablish that Will was still pining for Alana [Caroline Dhavernas]. Even though he was having sex with Margot [Katherine Isabelle], he was still fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana. Intercutting that with Alana having sex with Hannibal, and the lines between those two sex scenes blurring so Hannibal and Will would be sharing a bed together, felt like it was representative of where we were psychologically with these three characters. Even though it’s primarily in Will’s head, it felt like it was where the characters needed to be to express the disturbing quality of their relationships.

What is behind Margo’s attraction to Will?
Fuller:
 She sees herself in Will and Will seems himself in her. We have two characters who are in similar situations finding themselves in need of a friend that is not Hannibal because neither of them trust that guy. With Margo and Will, there’s a trust. These are two characters who are keeping each other’s confidence from Hannibal.

Hannibal - Season 2

The other key aspect of the episode was the introduction of Mason Verger:

We finally met Michael Pitt’s Mason Verger in this episode. How did you approach creating that character?
Fuller:
 We wanted him to be the Joker to Hannibal Lecter’s Batman. With Michael Pitt, I found his take on Mason to be charming and despicable, and yet I liked him as a person. And I needed to like Mason in order to write him because I didn’t want to necessarily write the character in the book who raped his sister repeatedly her entire life. I can’t get excited about sitting down and writing that character if that’s the core of him. So, we changed his pedophilia and serial raping into a general sadism and curiosity of mankind that could more closely parallel Hannibal’s curiosity with mankind. Mason is constantly introducing choices for the people that he manipulates that hold a little more curiosity. He loves to push buttons and see how people will react to various stimuli in their lives.

The antagonism between Mason and Hannibal was almost instantaneous. Will you tell the story of their relationship fully this season, or do you expect to see Mason back in Season 3?
Fuller:
 The story line with Margot and Mason and Will and Hannibal crescendos in Episode 11, and it leaves way for Mason and Will and Hannibal to deal with each other more directly. These characters are outside of the psychobabble world that we’re usually contained in and give us this — I was going to say breath of fresh air, but it’s not exactly fresh;  it’s rotten — different energy for the second half of the season. We will deliver how Gary Oldman ended up looking the way he did in the Ridley Scott movie playing Mason Verger, but I would love, love, love to have more of Michael Pitt and Mason Verger in Season 3.

There were questions on Twitter regarding Will and Margot sleeping together considering that Margot is a lesbian. Bryan Fuller had no problem with this from Will’s perspective: “I asked straight men on the crew if they would sleep with a hot lesbian if she came knocking on their door and they said yes.”

Hannibal the-threesome-found-it

More on the sex scene in an interview with AV Club:

AVC: Where did the idea to throw Margot and Will together come from?

BF: Well, actually, the idea of throwing Margot and Will together came very early on. When we started talking about Margot’s character in the writers’ room, there was a faction of the writers’ room that was like, “She should be heterosexual, and we should write this stormy love affair with Will and Margot,” and I was like, “That is so diametrically opposed to who she is in the book.” You know, there’s a bit of an affair with Barney and a dalliance, so I got it in some way. But the pitch that kept on getting thrown around the writers’ room is that she was heterosexual, and this was an opportunity to get a lot of sex in the show between Will and Margot and I just thought, “I hear you on the sex part.” [Laughs.] “But let’s make it more in line with who the character is and what the character’s agenda is.”

One of her agendas in the novel Hannibal was to have a child. She couldn’t have a child, because her uterus was destroyed by steroids, and she was barren as a result, and that was all kind of a byproduct of her brother’s abuse of her, that she destroyed her femininity as a result of that. There was this miasma of elements between Margot wanting to have a child and the inability to have a child at that stage of the story that we were kind of combining in various ways. It also seemed like it was a good place to remind the audience of this rebirth and how Will Graham has been descending into this very dark place that has to do so much with death.

AVC: The sex scene takes up the bulk of an act of the show and seems to showcase how the boundaries are blurring between all of these people. What was the impetus behind that being a centerpiece of the episode?

BF: The first sex scene that we had in episode eight, the simple one between just two people, Hannibal and Alana, was something that I’d been wanting to do since episode six. We actually had a couple of directors who were terrified of it, because what I was describing was taking a sex scene that was as innovative as, say, the sex scene in Fight Club and finding a way to produce it on a television budget. Because the Fight Club sex scene, between Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt, was wackadoodle and a combination of CG naked bodies and all sorts of fantastic, elaborate controlled camera movements that I think took two or three weeks to shoot because of how detailed it was.

So every time I talked about the sex scene and how I wanted it to have that out-of-body, ethereal feel to it, one director flat-out [said], “I don’t know how to shoot that,” and another director was like, “That’s going to take forever to shoot the way you want it,” and then Vincenzo came along and was like, “I know how to shoot that.” And he did a beautiful job. Then, of course, coming around to episode 10, Vincenzo Natali was back up to bat and was so excited about doing an expansion of his Hannibal sex-scene vocabulary by just throwing more people into it.

I knew that I wanted the barriers between all of these characters to come down in a way that they are very intimately involved in the conspiracies that are afoot and that the sex scene is very much a psychological one. That was important to me: to have a deeply psychological sex scene that blurred the barriers between whose bedroom we were currently in. Also, it felt like Will Graham, in order to really engage Margot in sex, had to have some sort of ulterior motive, and him fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana felt like it was honest. I think it’s not uncommon to be in a sexual circumstance and be fantasizing about somebody who’s not in the room with you at that point, so it felt like it was an interesting use of Will’s imagination in a completely different way. And we get to have a five-way.

Orphan Black Sarah and Cal

Mingling Its Own Nature With It introduced both another clone and a new character to the Clone Club on Orphan Black. Cosima saw a video of a clone dying of the same illness she has and later assisted in the autopsy. Sarah hid out in a cabin owned by someone who is apparently Kira’s father. The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Michael Huisman, who played Cal, getting to some of the questions raised about this new character:

What did the producers tell you early on about who they wanted this guy to be?

He opens up a little about his past to Felix. Cal is a smart guy, who has a tech background and is a successful entrepreneur. He founded a company that started as a great cause creating mini drones and pollinators, but his partners sold out from underneath him to the military. That made him bitter. That made him more anti-corporation, maybe even more anti-government involvement than he already was. I always imagined that he was there [at the cabin] to get inspired for a new plan and a new adventure. I do think he made a lot of money but he wants to press the reset button. If it were up to him, he would start something else, but this crazy girl he met eight years ago, who he was in love with and left without any announcement, shows up again and completely messes up his life.

There were scenes where Sarah, Kira and Cal acted like a normal, happy family. Do you think they could ever achieve that?

Yes, I think so — if it was on another show with the three of them. (Laughs.) I think they could be a really happy family. But to be serious, although Cal is completely shocked when he finds Sarah there and when he finds out he [fathered] a daughter she never bothered telling him about, it’s this love-hate thing. He really cared so much for Sarah that even though she did this terrible [thing] to him, he finds it hard to kick her out right away especially since he’s finding out he has a daughter with her. Maybe for a split second after the initial shock has come down, maybe he thinks, “Wow, maybe this is something that would be an option for us to be some sort of family.” But of course, it turns out there’s a lot more going on. They’re not going to be a happy family any time soon.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Cal. Intentional?

It’s one of the main themes within Orphan Black. Who are these monitors, these people who have seemingly normal relationships with the clones but turn out to be working for Project LEDA or whatever? Without giving away too much, I can imagine the audience not accepting right away of Cal not being involved.

What is the road going to be like for Cal as he attempts to be a father to Kira?

First of all, he never really seems to doubt the fact that she is his daughter because the timing makes sense. But it doesn’t [confirm] 100 percent that she is his daughter. There’s something in her that he really connects with. Her instinct is stronger than his but he also has that [trait]. I wouldn’t call it a sixth sense or anything like that but that quality of reading people and being able to go by your gut, Kira has that so he easily feels connected to her. He’s convinced this is his child. At the same time though, he has no idea how to do this. I remember when my wife [Tara Elders] and I had our child [in 2007] I had no idea how to do anything, how to be a father, but at least I had time to grow into it and slowly ease into the role. I could totally imagine what a complete shock it is to all of a sudden be responsible for an eight-year-old girl who’s supposedly your daughter.

In other developments, Allison learned that pills and alcohol don’t mix, especially when in front of an audience. The police are going undercover, both Art and his partner. Allison saw through Angie, but thought she was a new monitor rather than police. Art is snooping around the Promethians, who held a very strange wedding and an even more disturbing wedding night for Helena.

agents-of-shield-season-1-episode-20-coulson-hill

There might be a lot of plot holes in Agents of SHIELD, but the show has become much more fun to watch, including the inclusion of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill this week. Everyone now knows that Ward is HYDRA, with next week going more into his back story. They managed to come up with a surprise revelation on TAHITI to keep this season long story line interesting.

Arrow is heading into what looks like a second season finale which places Starling City in peril. Felicity was great as the interrogator and Bitch with WiFi.

Amy Acker’s role has evolved considerably on Person of Interest, with her character Root almost becoming the new leader with Harold captured.

Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman continue to put on excellent performances as the leads on Fargo, with the supporting cast also doing a great job. Lester Nygaard is increasingly getting caught up in his lies. He would have been better off telling the truth while withholding some of the significant details as opposed to telling outright lies such as that his car was in the shop and denying that conversation in the hospital waiting room. How long can he hide that bullet?

Also on FX, The Americans continues to do an excellent job of mixing weekly stories with the season-long storyline on the murder of the agents (with Stan and the FBI now involved) along with multiple other story lines.  Bringing back Annelise from a season one episode added additional continuity. Besides the risk of the FBI closing in with their investigation, there is now Larrick to contend with, with Elizabeth and Philip also having to devote more time to dealing with Paige and her church.

Once again, Fox is not a safe place for science fiction. Almost Human has been canceled.

Big Bang Theory Professor Proton Star Wars Day

The Big Bang Theory combined the funeral of Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) with the celebration of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

FHM has named Jennifer Lawrence as the sexist woman in the world for 2014. Perhaps going around nude (but painted) in the X-Men movies as Mystique helps while falling at the Oscars doesn’t hurt.

Tricia Helfer will star in Ascension, a six hour series for Syfy.

Matt Smith will join Amelia Clarke in the upcoming Terminator movie.

Joel McHale of Community spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. More, including video and the top jokes from both McHale and President Obama, posted here.

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The 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner–Full Video And Best Lines

Above is the video of Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Full transcript is here and excerpts follow:

I admit it — last year was rough.  Sheesh.  At one point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.

Of course, we rolled out healthcare.gov.  That could have gone better.  In 2008 my slogan was, “Yes We Can.”  In 2013 my slogan was, “Control-Alt-Delete.”  On the plus side, they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movies.  (Slide of “Frozen”)

But rather than dwell on the past, I would like to pivot to this dinner.  Let’s welcome our headliner this evening, Joel McHale.  On “Community,” Joel plays a preening, self-obsessed narcissist.  So this dinner must be a real change of pace for you.

I want to thank the White House Correspondents Association for hosting us here tonight.  I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia.  The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days.  I think they’re still searching for their table.

MSNBC is here.  They’re a little overwhelmed.  They’ve never seen an audience this big before.

Just last month, a wonderful story — an American won the Boston Marathon for first time in 30 years. Which was inspiring and only fair, since a Kenyan has been president for the last six.

We have some other athletes here tonight, including Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson is here.  We’re proud of her.  Incredibly talented young lady.  Michelle and I watched the Olympics — we cannot believe what these folks do — death-defying feats — haven’t seen somebody pull a “180” that fast since Rand Paul disinvited that Nevada rancher from this dinner. As a general rule, things don’t like end well if the sentence starts, “Let me tell you something I know about the negro.”  You don’t really need to hear the rest of it. Just a tip for you — don’t start your sentence that way.

And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a table here tonight.  But as usual, they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front.  Hello, Fox News.

Let’s face it, Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.

Of course, now that it’s 2014, Washington is obsessed on the midterms.  Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don’t really want me campaigning with them.  And I don’t think that’s true — although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day, and she invited Bill Clinton.a, Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Captain America, Chris Christie, Community, Donald Trump, Facebook, Fox, George Bush, Health Care Reform, Hillary Clinton, House of Cards, Jeb Bush,

And I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the Speaker of the House, as well.  These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.

Look, I know, Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever.  Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town you have to wonder:  What did we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad?

One issue, for example, we haven’t been able to agree on is unemployment insurance.  Republicans continue to refuse to extend it.  And you know what, I am beginning to think they’ve got a point.  If you want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else.

Of course, there is one thing that keeps Republicans busy.  They have tried more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare.  Despite that, 8 million people signed up for health care in the first open enrollment. Which does lead one to ask, how well does Obamacare have to work before you don’t want to repeal it?  What if everybody’s cholesterol drops to 120?  What if your yearly checkup came with tickets to a Clippers game? Not the old, Donald Sterling Clippers — the new Oprah Clippers.  Would that be good enough?  What if they gave Mitch McConnell a pulse?  What is it going to take?

Joel McHale, star of Community and The Soup, did an excellent job. #sixtimesashostandamovie. He has followed a long line of top comedians who have roasted politicians and the media and previous events. The all time best speakers was Stephen Colbert who roasted George Bush in 2006. The full transcript of his speech can be found here.

Following are some of Joel McHale’s best jokes, with video above and full transcript here.

Good evening, Mr. President — or as Paul Ryan refers to you, yet another inner-city minority relying on the federal government to feed and house your family.

I’m a big fan of President Obama. I think he’s one of the all- time great presidents — definitely in the top 50. Please explain that to Jessica Simpson. You’re right. That was low.

All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone?  It is — it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. And my favorite bit of yours was when you said you’d close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.

All right, look, I know it’s been a long night, but I promise that tonight will be both amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.

It’s a genuine thrill to be here in Washington, D.C., the city that started the whole crack-smoking-mayor craze.

The vice president isn’t here tonight, not for security reasons. He just thought this event was being held at the Dulles Airport Applebee’s. Yes, right now Joe is elbow-deep in jalapeno poppers and talking to a construction cone he thinks is John Boehner. Also true.

Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her as a candidate. She has experience. She’s a natural leader. And, as our first female president, we could pay her 30 percent less. That’s the savings this country could use.

Hillary’s daughter Chelsea is pregnant, which means in nine months we will officially have a sequel to “Bad Grandpa.” It also raises the question, when the baby is born, do you give Bill Clinton a cigar?

Jeb Bush says he’s thinking about running. Wow, another Bush might be in the White House. Is it already time for our every-10- years surprise party for Iraq? Yes.

As it stands right now, the Republican presidential nominee will either be Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, or a bag of flour with Ronald Reagan’s face drawn on it.  A bag of flour. All right.

People are asking, will Donald Trump run again? And the answer is, does that thing on his head crap in the woods?  I actually don’t know. I don’t know.I don’t know if that thing on his head has a digestive system.

Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? Because I’ve got a bunch of both. I could go half and half. I know you like a combo platter.  Now, I get that. I’m sorry for that joke, Governor Christie. I didn’t know I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired. But the buck stops here. So I will be a man and own up to it, just as soon as I get to the bottom of how it happened, because I was unaware it happened until just now.

I’m appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with. I just looked into it. It turns out I’m not responsible for it. Justice has been served. He’s going to kill me.

Mr. President, you’re no stranger to criticism. Ted Nugent called you a subhuman mongrel. And it’s comments like that which really make me question whether we can take the guy who wrote “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” seriously anymore.

Your approval rating has slipped. And even worse, you only got two stars on Yelp.

Mitch McConnell said his number one priority was to get the president out of office. So, Mitch, congrats on being just two years away from realizing your goal. You did it — kind of.

But thanks to “Obamacare,” or, as the president refers to it, “Mecare,” millions of newly insured young Americans can visit a doctor’s office and see what a print magazine actually looks like. That’s awesome.

Now over 8 million people have signed up for “Obamacare,” which sounds impressive until you realize Ashley Tisdale has 12 million Twitter followers. So that’s pretty good.

Sir, I do think you’re making a big mistake with Putin. You have to show a guy like that that you’re just as crazy as he is. He invades Crimea. You invade Cancun.  Russia takes back the Ukraine. America takes back Texas. Something to think about.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is here. Finally I can put a face to the mysterious voice clearing its throat on the other end of the phone.  It was weird.

And CNN is desperately searching for something they’ve been missing for months — their dignity.  Totally. That was just that table. At this point, CNN is like the Radio Shack in a sad strip mall. You don’t know how it’s stayed in business this long. You don’t know anyone that shops there. And they just fired Piers Morgan.

Fox News is the highest-rated network in cable news.  Yeah. I can’t believe your table  — that far.  And it’s all thanks to their key demographic, the corpses of old people who tuned in to Fox News and haven’t yet been discovered.

Former “Inside Edition” host Bill O’Reilly is not here. He did host that. Bill’s got another book coming out soon, so he’s making his ghost writers work around the clock. Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity are the Mount Rushmore of keeping old people angry.

This event brings together both Washington and Hollywood. The relationship between Washington and Hollywood has been a long and fruitful one. You give us tax credits for film and television production, and in return, we bring much-needed jobs to hard-working American cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Vancouver again.

Hollywood helps America by projecting a heroic image to the rest of the world. We just released another movie about Captain America, or, as he’s known in China, Captain Who Owes Us $1.1 Trillion.

There’s a lot of celebrities here tonight. They’re the ones that don’t look like ghouls. Look around. The cast of “Veep” is here. That’s a series about what would happen if a Seinfeld star actually landed on another good show. I like “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” I swear.

I’m not going to spoil the shocking twist on “House of Cards,” but just know that it was so surprising that Nancy Pelosi’s face almost changed expression. Did you like that one, Nancy? I can’t tell.

Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, is here. So if any of you congressmen want to cut out the middleman, just show him your penis. Not now! Are you nuts?

And here’s why America is the best country in the world. A guy like me can stand before the president, the press and Patrick Duffy — and tell jokes without severe repercussions. And instead of being shipped off to a gulag, I’m going to the Vanity Fair after-party. That’s right. This is America, where everyone can be a Pussy Riot.

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Quote of the Day: Jon Stewart on Sean Hannity

“I am obsessed with your program in the same way that I’m obsessed with antibiotic-resistant superbugs or the Pacific garbage patch or the KFC Double Down. Because I just can’t believe that in this day and age, with all that we know, this shit is out there — that humanity, that our society, is still weighed down by these burdens of a seemingly more medieval time. Like your show. To see it night after night, serving up the same shit, my god, you’re the Arby’s of news.” –Jon Stewart on Sean Hanity

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Conservative Victims And Science Fiction Fandom

robert heinlein

In principle I agree with the general argument made by Glenn Reynolds that politics doesn’t belong in science fiction, but knowing how conservative love to claim to be victims, I am skeptical as to the circumstances he described. He wrote:

That’s certainly been the experience of Larry Correia, who was nominated for a Hugo this year. Correia, the author of numerous highly successful science fiction books like Monster Hunter Internationaland Hard Magic, is getting a lot of flak because he’s a right-leaning libertarian. Makes you wonder if Robert Heinlein could get a Hugo Award today. (Answer: Probably not.)

I don’t know enough about the politics in science fiction fandom to know if this is the case, and wonder if “getting a lot of flak” is simply a daily occurrence in fandom for many regardless of their political views. His books are selling. He was nominated for a Hugo, which hardly makes it appear like he is truly ostracized for his beliefs. Reynold’s view in this op-ed also looks suspicious to me because of his claim that Robert Heinlein could not get a Hugo Award today. I am a huge fan of Robert Heinlein, and know many liberals who share this view.

There are aspects of Heinlein’s work which attracted liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, and most liberal science fiction fans I know do not have an ideological litmus test for enjoying the work of an author. Heinlein died in 1988 which also makes it impossible to categorize him by today’s political battles. His support for individual (and sexual) liberty and opposition to religious dogma and racism would align him with liberals over conservatives on many current issues. Whether he would be categorized as a libertarian today would depend on which of the many strands of libertarianism you are speaking of. I suspect he would only have contempt for people such as the Koch brothers who use government to make money while only being consistently libertarian in opposing regulation of their businesses. Heinlein was even further away from Ron Paul ideologically. While he displayed considerable support for the military in Starship Troopers, published in 1959, I wonder if his support for the Viet Nam war would have changed if he lived longer, and if he would have approved of the misuse of military power to invade Iraq.

Reynolds also cited the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich, but again conservatives who desire to portray themselves as the victim generally gave a simplistic and incorrect description of this event. Mozilla is not a traditional company, and those in the Mozilla community who saw Mozilla as more of a cause than a business were responsible for forcing Eich out. Some liberals weighed in with concern over whether it was fair for Eich to be forced out over his political beliefs.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Orphan Black; Hannibal; Agents of SHIELD; The Blacklist; The Americans; Fargo; Mad Men; How I Met Your Mother/Dad; Game of Thrones; The Newsroom

Arrow Moira

This week’s Arrow, Seeing Red, deserves the lead for including a change to the show almost as significant as the recent change on Agents of SHIELD and for  psychological horror inflicted upon the main character as disturbing as what we would expect from Hannibal. Initially viewers probably thought that the red in the episode title referred to Roy’s red hood as the Mirakuru had him go on a rampage. Instead the significance of the episode was how it ended with blood.

In retrospect it is clear the episode was both providing a farewell to Moira Queen and making her sacrifice plausible by concentrating on her love for her children. Susanna Thompson will certainly be missed. She dealt with Oliver getting a girl pregnant in a flashback, and in the main story almost dropped out of the race for mayor to try to repair her relationship with Thea. The only reason she remained in the race was the thought that it might help Thea more by being in the role of someone helping the city.

Late in the episode I thought the cliff hanger was going to be the secret Moira was about o tell about Malcolm Merlin when their car was hit, but the real drama of this week’s episode was still to come. Slade recreated the scene in the island with Sara and Shado, this time demanding that Oliver decide between Moira and Thea. Moira spared Oliver from making the decision in sacrificing herself. Slade ran his sword through her heart, telling her that he respected her courage, and saying that one more person still had to die. Is Felicity now in danger?

While Moira’s death was the major change in the show, there were others, such as the change to Roy. Now that it is established that Oliver has a son in Central City, there is no doubt that this will come up again, perhaps creating another connection to The Flash. I found it surprising that Sara would leave Oliver at a time of such danger and perhaps this will cause her to return, hopefully with reinforcements among her assassin friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sara dies in the final battle against Slade, or as his final planned last victim, leaving the way open for Laurel to become the Black Canary as in the comics (or perhaps they will differ from the comics on this matter indefinitely).

arrow seeing-red-moira-dead

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with executive producer Andrew Kreisberg about Moira’s death:

“It wasn’t something we were talking about last year. I don’t want to give the impression that [it was like] ‘Welp! Somebody has to die; let’s spin the wheel. And, bad luck, Moira,’ ” he further explained. “Susanna has been with the show since the beginning, and she was one of our big gets early on that really signaled to the audience and to reviewers that this wasn’t your average CW show, it wasn’t your average superhero show. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in the season-one finale], these last episodes are her pinnacle.”

At the end of the day, the decision came down to the finite number of directions Moira’s story could go. From the producers’ perspectives, it seemed they had exhausted nearly all their options. After all, Moira was a part of the Undertaking, went to jail as punishment, ran for Starling City mayor, kept the identity of Thea’s biological father a secret and knew of Oliver’s Arrow life. And that’s just the half of it. “When we were talking about the future, knowing that it was only going to be powerful if Slade was going to change the game by doing something truly monstrous — if Moira wins the mayorship, if she makes up with her kids, what is Moira without a giant secret?” Kreisberg said. “If they all forgive her, and then there’s some other giant secret, for us it felt like we were becoming a soap opera.”

By allowing Moira the opportunity to sacrifice herself for her kids, “she could die a hero’s death,” he said. Even though she’s attempted to turn over a new leaf, just seconds before the car accident, Moira was about to reveal yet another secret. “You can’t change her. She literally goes to the grave despite the fact that she sacrifices herself for her children,” Kreisberg said, hinting that Moira’s final secret plays out “sooner than you think.”

Next week’s episode, “City of Blood,” opens with Moira’s funeral — and Oliver is missing. “There’s a line in the next episode where Walter says to Thea, ‘Your mother showed you how much she loved you in ways few parents can,’ and yet she was still lying,” Kreisberg previewed. “Ending it at this time left you with that great feeling of what a great character she was rather then let her become a caricature.”

As Oliver and Thea head into the thick of the storm, their personal loss drives them for the rest of the series. “That was the math — it was horrible math, it was tearful math but her death has a profound impact on everyone on the series,” Kreisberg promised. “It’s certainly what’s going to drive Oliver in these last three episodes. It’s going to drive Thea, not only in these last three episodes, but also into [season] three. Sometimes the worst thing you can do personally is the best thing you can do professionally.”

But it was Moira’s surprising admission that she knew of Oliver’s secret life as the vigilante that was eyebrow-raising. “We had always talked about the idea that Moira knew Oliver was the Arrow,” Kreisberg said, revealing that there were “a couple of other places” where the producers thought Moira should inform Oliver. But he pointed to a pivotal scene in “Sacrifice,” where Oliver essentially talks to his mother as the Arrow amid the Undertaking, as her moment of revelation. “She’d be borderline low IQ if she wasn’t like, ‘Wait a minute!’ We liked that she had never told him, and everything just felt like it came together in this one episode.”

Arrow wasn’t done with the bombshells. It was revealed in flashbacks that Oliver had fathered a child before his time on the island and that Moira paid the woman $1 million to disappear and lie about losing the baby. “The seeds for season two were planted in season one and again, the best part of the success that the show has had is knowing that we were going to make more and knowing that we could drop these things in and pay them off later,” Kreisberg said. “This is something that will be paid off in season three.”

Orphan_Black_Episode_2_Donnie_Allison

Watching Orphan Black is essentially a matter of finding answers to questions and then having still more questions. Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion had Sarah searching for Kira, Alison looking into the identity of her monitor, and Cosima looking into their genome for explanations about her illness and why Sarah is the only one of the clones who can have children. We also learned more about Helena and the Prolethians.

I was happy to see that Sarah’s search for Kira was resolved without dragging it out for several weeks. They made good use of the relationship between Sarah and Kira by having Kira make the final decision to run after Kira told her things did not feel right. The episode included the return of Mrs. S, who we were given reason to be suspicious of late in the first season. Mrs. S’s motivations appeared questionable at one point, but ultimately it was her “friends” from the old network who previously helped them disappear who were deceiving them and at it does look like Mrs. S really has been on Sarah’s side as she claimed.

Allison looked like she might fall apart after realizing she was mistaken in thinking Aynsley was her monitor and not acting to save her from choking. She wound up working far better with Felix than we would have guessed from Allison’s initial introduction first season. They managed to trap Donnie, who isn’t the brightest of Leekie’s people, by having him overhear a conversation about meeting Sarah, who turned out to be a different Sarah from her community play. I’m not sure about a play with lines such as “We must heed the call, picking the brains off the wall,” but remain glad that it is not Cats.

While Cosima’s major role is to look into the science, her most notable scene was meeting Rachel, who was assaulted by Sarah pretending to be Cosima last week. “I’m Cosima. The real Cosima. Not the one who kicked your ass or whatever.” Rachel acknowledged seeing Cosima kiss Delphine by saying  “So, you’re gay?” with Cosima responding, “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.”

Orphan Black henrik

We also learned that Helena survived a shot to the heart thanks to dextrocardia, or in her case being a mirror image of her twin Sarah. We have a new sect of Prolethians who have a different view of the clones, and no qualms about killing those who do not follow their views. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Peter Outerbridge, who plays new Prolethian leader Henrik Johansson:

Henrik has a line in this episode where he says Helena’s existence is “God opening a whole new door,” which seems to sum up his motivations, his beliefs and his desires pretty well.

Exactly. He doesn’t see the clones as an abomination at all. He thinks they’re fascinating. In fact, perhaps the next phase in evolution. If that’s the case, it’s all part of God’s plan and he’s going to a part of it.

Is Henrik’s assessment of the clones correct? Is this a question that toggles between right and wrong for much of the season, or is there a gray area?

That’s always the case when you’re talking about big issues like this. The idea of cloning human beings has been on the decade for at least a decade now and the ethics behind it are questionable. Bottom line, if you were to clone a human being in a laboratory, does that constitute a soul? Does that constitute a human being? Or because it’s created by humans it’s a manufactured thing that we can [use] to do whatever we want? Is the clone property because the laboratory made it or once its born, does it have free will and is it its own thing? That’s what the show is exploring. Henrik has cut through the ethics by saying, “Look, the clones are here on the planet, so I’m going to embrace that and I’m going to say that it’s part of the whole plan and I’m going to be its chief advocate.”

We learn at the end of the episode that Henrik’s prime reason for wanting Helena is simple: He believes she can conceive, like Sarah.

One of the definitions of life is something that is able to recreate itself. Something like a rock can’t recreate itself so we say we say a rock doesn’t have a life force to it. But as soon as an organism is able to replicate and duplicate, and recreate itself, we define that as having some sort of life to it in terms of organic life. That gets even stranger when you get into species because in order for it to be a species, it has to be able to procreate. If a clone can’t procreate, it’s not a legitimate species, ergo it’s not really a part of the planet. Henrik is fascinated with the idea that if he can find another clone that is capable of conceiving like Sarah — the whole question is, is Sarah the clone or is Sarah the original and the fact she has a daughter suggests she’s the original — then it’s a legitimate species and a legitimate creation. That’s what he becomes fascinated with and that’s what he finds with Helena.

What is Henrik’s ultimate end goal if Helena can do that?

There is an endgame, but it’s simpler, it’s not so sinister as world domination. It’s more megalomaniac than that. He wants to be a part of the new wave of humanity. Once he finds a clone that’s capable of conceiving — he thinks that’s the spiritual movement — he is going to be the father of all of these children.

Hannibal - Season 2

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Shiizakana, dealt with how Hannibal dehumanizes and manipulates other people, including making them kill. Thanks to this episode I also learned that dire wolves are extinct animals which actually existed, and not just creations of Game of Thrones. Besides manipulating Randall Tier, the protagonist in the case of the week, we saw Hannibal manipulating Margo, who then compared notes with fellow Hannibal victim Will Graham.

Hannibal told Randall Tier what to say to avoid arrest by the FBI and then sent him to his death by having him attack Will. Will saw this as Hannibal repeating his attempt to hill him while Will was in prison. “I sent someone to kill you. You sent someone to kill me. Even Stevens.”I thought that Hannibal’s goal was not to actually have Will killed but to force Will to kill, perhaps to further bring out the monster in Will. Bryan Fuller had this to say about the scene in which Hannibal nods after Will gave the above line, appearing to acknowledge his actions to Will”

AVC: When Hannibal makes that tiny nod at the end of the episode, do you see that as a tacit admission of guilt or is it just him saying, “That’s certainly one theory”?

BF: [Episode] nine really starts an arc that will reach a crescendo in 12, which is one of our best episodes of the season. I just think it’s fantastic and bonkers and hilarious and deeply disturbing. So the end of nine is sort of the beginning of 10, and it’s answered very quickly at the top of the next episode, but it absolutely is an acknowledgment, “Yeah, I sent him to do this. Yeah, you did exactly what I thought you were going to do. And now we can have a conversation,” which we will have at the beginning of the next episode.

The Backlot interviewed Bryan Fuller about descriptions of the show as homoerotic, rooting for the villain on television, and prospects of returning for a third season.

SHIELD Skye Ward

Agents of SHIELD wasted Amy Acker’s talents in a (super) villain of the week storyline, with this mainly serving the purpose of getting a few members of the team away so that Ward and Skye would be alone after Ward killed Koenig (Patton Oswalt). Fortunately Person of Interest makes much better use of Amy Acker.

Ward faked his way through a lie detector exam by doing far more than Nina did in squeezing her anus to pass a more primitive polygraph exam on a recent episode of The Americans. We also learned what each cast member would want if stranded on an island. Simmons had the best idea with the TARDIS. Chloe Bennet did the strongest acting in the episode, quickly progressing from being terrified when she learned about Ward to deceiving him, and setting up the cliff hanger of the two flying off together.

While only half of this episode really worked, the series might be off to a strong finish for the season. Cobie Smulders returns next week as Maria Hill, and is expected to be seen more regularly assuming the show returns next season now that she is no longer busy on How I Met Your Mother. TV Guide summarized the season finale which airs May 13:

Now that Hydra has revealed themselves and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded, Coulson and his team are on their own to take down the now-missing Clairvoyant. But how will they react when they learn Ward is actually a member of Hydra planted in their group? The finale will address Ward’s true allegiances as well as answer questions about Skye’s lineage, who’s controlling Deathlok and what the Clairvoyant wants with Coulson. “We think the audience is waiting for a showdown between Coulson’s team and Garrett’s team and they’re going to get a satisfying payoff to that epic conclusion,” executive producer Jeffrey Bell says, hinting there could be other sleepers. “If they win, it comes at a price.” Plus: Nick Fury returns!

Blacklist Lizzie Knows

I was happy to see the story advance more rapidly on The Blacklist. Once it was definitely revealed to the audience that Lizzie’s husband is not what he seems, it didn’t take long for Lizzie to figure it out. This week he realized that Lizzie knows, and the episode ended with a major cliff hanger. Speakeasy has some theories as to what Lizzie found in the safe deposit box.

The Americans went to the Contra training base and received so much assistance from Oliver North on the episode that he received a writing credit. Philip also took on the church which Paige has been attending, but I questioned if it was wise for an undercover agent to risk drawing attention to himself in such a manner. There was more of Martha at work. Stan’s biggest scene was in asking American scientists about their secrets to prevent them from being compromised, unaware of how he has become compromised.

I wouldn’t expect the second episode of Fargo to be as good as the first, considering all that happened, but it still left me optimistic that this will be an excellent series.

I did like the second episode of the season of Mad Men better than the first. While Don Draper has his faults, I do hope he recovers, and was happy to see him improve his relationship with Sally by being honest with her.

Last Forever Part One

Alyson Hannigan described a cut scene from the finale of How I Met Your Mother (which I reviewed here):

Speaking with TVLine at Friday night’s Taste for a Cure event in Los Angeles, HIMYM vet Alyson Hannigan said that the finale that aired last month was some 18 minute shorters than the script they worked off of at a “perfect” table read. “But [the full script] was also much more heart-wrenching,” she shared, “which maybe people wouldn’t have liked.”

Among the deleted scenes was what Hannigan described as a “one-second” montage of title character Tracy’s funeral. Instead, viewers only learned from Narrator Ted that the kids’ mother had become ill, then passed away — some time before he decided to rekindle things with their “Aunt” Robin.

“Honestly, if you saw [that] cut, it would be even more heart-wrenching than what the finale was,” Hannigan noted. “They were like, ‘No. It’s just too gut-wrenching.’ And I was like, ‘That’s what I want. I want my heart ripped out and slammed on the floor and, like, stomped on!’”

Hannigan also believes that missing moment “would have been better for the audience, so that then they can process, ‘Oh, [Ted] mourned. He got closure’ — and then they’d be happy that [he and Robin] got together. Rather than be like, ‘Oh, wait. She died? What? They’re together, huh?’ And credits. That’s what I think was too fast.”

Meg Ryan has been cast to be the future voice of the lead character in the spin off, How I Met Your Dad. I’m not sure of the point of a different person playing the narrator. Ted Mosby still had the same voice in the final scene of How I Met Your Mother which took place after telling the story to his kids.

The rape scene by Joffrey’s body in last week’s Game of Thrones was controversial, between the circumstances and the manner in which the scene was changed from consensual sex in the book to rape. I discussed this further in a separate post.

Aaron Sorkin has apologized to those who misinterpreted a decision he made on The Newsroom:

“I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with The Newsroom and I apologize and I’d like to start over,” Sorkin told the audience at a Tribeca Film Festival event Monday, referencing the criticism over his choice to set the show in the recent past. “I think that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. … I wasn’t trying to and I’m not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson. That wasn’t my intent and it’s never my intent to teach you a lesson or try to persuade you or anything.”

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Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers And Other Late Night Comics On Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy

“The Christian Science Monitor is claiming ‘Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she’s about to be a grandmother.’ And if you put a grain of sand in your pocket there’s a tad less sand on the beach.” –Seth Meyers

Bonus Quotes: More on Chelsea’s Pregnancy

“Hillary Clinton is going to be a grandmother. She’s very excited about it. She’s home right now knitting a tiny pantsuit.” –David Letterman

“Congrats to Chelsea Clinton. Last week, she announced that she is expecting her first child. If it’s a girl, it’ll get some of Chelsea’s old hand-me-downs; and if it’s a boy, it’ll get some of Hillary’s.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Chelsea Clinton has announced that she is pregnant with her first child. The baby is expected to crawl after nine months and run in 2055.” –Seth Meyers

“Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. There is another one coming. A little baby Clinton. People are already wondering, is the baby a girl? Is it a boy? Is it going to run for president in 2016?” –Craig Ferguson

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Rape in Game of Thrones

gameofthrones

For two weeks in a row there has been considerable talk about a scene from Game of Thrones. Due to the questions raised by this scene and all the discussion it has stimulated, I have decided to post on this today rather than waiting until the weekend for the usual weekly review of genre television. Major spoilers ahead for those who are behind in watching.

The scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister by Joffrey’s dead body was disturbing and raised questions on multiple levels. While some disagree, I clearly saw it as rape, but with all the violence on this show didn’t necessarily find this aspect any more disturbing than many other events on the show. We’ve already seen everything from mass murder at a wedding to chopping off a prisoner’s penis to send to his family. While I don’t mean to minimize it, I also don’t find Jaime raping Cersei to be any worse than Jaime pushing Bran Stark out a window. The denial that the scene was rape is perhaps more disturbing than the portrayal of a rape on a show where violence is commonplace.

I did question why they portrayed Jaime as a rapist here, considering that they seem to have been presenting Jaime in a better light lately, unless they thought that Jaime was coming off too good lately and they wanted to alter this (an idea denied by the director of the show in an interview cited bel0w). Naturally the time and place was questionable. I also wondered why the first sex scene we have seen between Jaime and his sister was presented as rape considering that they have been shown to have consensual sex in the past. The question as to why it was portrayed as rape became even bigger once it became known that the scene was different n the book.

Show runner David Benioff  essentially described the scene as rape with Jaime forcing himself upon Cersei, who was resisting:

It becomes a really kind of horrifying scene, because you see, obviously, Joffrey’s body right there, and you see that Cersei is resisting this. She’s saying no, and he’s forcing himself on her. So it was a really uncomfortable scene, and a tricky scene to shoot.

George R.R. Martin has provided some background, explaining the difference between the situation here and in the book, where the sex was consensual:

I think the “butterfly effect” that I have spoken of so often was at work here. In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey’s death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her. Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.

The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each other’s company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.

Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime’s POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don’t know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.

If the show had retained some of Cersei’s dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression — but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead. I am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.

That’s really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.

I considered the scene a rape scene while viewing considering how Cersei resisted with Jaime ignoring her but  Alex Graves, who directed the show, said it became consensual by the end an interview with HotFix:

Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle. Nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. And it was very much about the earlier part with Charles (Dance) and the gentle verbal kidnapping of Cersei’s last living son. Nikolaj came in and we just went through one physical progression and digression of what they went through, but also how to do it with only one hand, because it was Nikolaj. By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.

The description as “consensual by the end” raises obvious objections when considering the position of rape victims. Vulture asked Graves about this, along with the motivations behind such a scene with Jaime:

One of my colleagues suggested that the tweak, making Jaime the kind of person who might force himself on Cersei, might have happened to remind viewers that he’s not a morally upright guy, pouring out his heart to Brienne notwithstanding. Was that part of the decision to your knowledge?
No. It’s a very, very complicated scene. The thing about it is that Jaime has come home and is trying to convince himself that things are the same: that he and Cersei are a unit, they’re in love, they have sex, everything comes out of that bond. And he’s desperate to reinvigorate that and it has not been working. That’s part of what’s behind him, that lie he’s telling himself, that seasons two and three didn’t happen. So it’s a last act of stupid clinging to what’s been home for him, because it will never be the same. It’s also setting up something that happens in the finale. For Cersei, she is so blindsided and in the middle of the audacious murder of Joffrey at his own wedding, she’s standing there pondering all this with her other son, her sweet son. And her father comes in and basically says, “There is no way you’re going to have control over this kid” and takes him away. So she’s just empty. She’s decimated. What I said is what we just talked about. It’s just fleshing it out.

You say it “becomes consensual by the end.” I rewatched the scene this morning, and it ends with Cersei saying, “It’s not right, it’s not right,” and Jaime on top of her saying, “I don’t care. I don’t care.” It leaves some room for debate. Were you involved with cutting the scene? Was there a longer version of the scene that might have read more like they were both consenting?
It’s my cut of the scene. The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.

Despite how disturbing the scene might have been, there was also a behind the scenes humorous aspect to filming the scene:

Right, and part of what she’s resisting is that this is all happening next to Joffrey’s body.
It’s bizarre, and I highlighted that in how I shot it. A funny behind-the-scenes joke was every time we shot a take, and Lena and Nikolaj drop beneath the table, Jack Gleason would sit up and look down to try and see what was going on.

He really did that?
Yeah, he did! It was hilarious. He would take the rocks off of his eyes and lean over to take a look. He was so funny.

While it remains debatable as to whether changing the scene from the book was a good idea, at least George R.R. Martin did provide an explanation for why this might have been handled different on the television version. Perhaps this decision will make more sense when we see where the relationship between Cersei and Jaime goes from here, and if it also differs from the novels.

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Hannibal; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Fargo; Continnum; Game of Thrones; The Newsroom; Hugo Nominees

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Orphan Black returned for a second season following several days of receiving a considerable amount of publicity for being such a high quality show, even if few knew about it when it aired last season. Nature Under Constraint and Vexed picked up right where the show left off last season, but BBC America did run a show last week which might help new viewers catch up, and has been rerunning the entire first season. It is definitely worth watching the full season before starting the second season.

The initial moments, while not as dramatic as the first moments of the first season, when Sarah saw someone who looks just like herself jump in front of a train, did have a similar feel. Sarah was on the run, and initially could not contact anyone else. Subsequently Sarah did reunite with Felix and then with some of her clones. Tatiana Massany has been widely praised for her work as multiple female lead characters in roles far more challenging than those faced by Patty Duke.This includes the following characters mentioned here: Sarah, Beth, Allison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel.

Last season Sarah did frequently pretend to be Beth, taking her place after her suicide, and briefly impersonated Allison last season. Beyond this they did not take advantage of the fact that Sarah and her clones are even more alike than identical cousins. I liked that Sarah did use this to her advantage twice this week, both with using Alison as a decoy and impersonating the lesbian scientist Cosima, even fooling Delphine when she kissed her. They were also less concerned about hiding their existence, but it hardly matters that Ramone saw someone identical to Allison.

Orphan Black Sarah as Cosima

The episode made excellent use out of the supporting characters. Felix’s performance, and clothing, were most notable, but other characters were also important. I’m glad that Art is now in on what is going on and expect to see him help Sarah more in the future. Paul is at least partially under the control of Dyad, but does seem to want to help Sarah. Delphine seemed to have sided with Cosima, then betrayed her by doing the one thing Cosima told her not to do-give a sample of her blood to Dr. Aldous Leekie. Even Leekie’s motivations are not entirely clear, and in the end I can see him acting to protect the clones.

Besides the clones on one side and Leekie and the Dyad Institute on the other, it looks like other people, another branch of  the anti-clone religious extremists of Proleatheans, will have a major role in the second season. It appears that they have Kira and possibly Mrs. S, and the biggest surprise of the episode was that the presumed-dead Helena is still alive. A lesser surprise, but still unexpected, was how little interest Rachel seemed to have in Kira, except as bait to capture Sarah.

The location of the show remains purposely ambiguous. The show films in Toronto but unlike Continuum doesn’t actually state its Canadian location. They have not tried especially hard to hide this, with Canadian money and license plates visible in some scenes. The federal agency brought in to investigate was intentionally not named, while mention of a Supreme Court decision on genetic material suggests an American background. The show is written to seem like any city, including one surrounded by suburbia with big box stores (where an employee had guns and other items to sell out of his trunk) and a community theater, which fortunately is not putting on a new production of Cats.

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On the surface Su-zakana was like a first season episode of Hannibal, with Jack, Will, and Hannibal working together to solve the  murder of the week. The three even started out the episode having dinner together, except with the Chesapeake Ripper supposedly out of commission, Hannibal served fish instead of red meat. I could even imagine yet another fish in the episode–Richard Fish of Ally McBeal saying “bygones.” When speaking around others, Hannibal explained overlooking Will’s attempts at killing him as being because of Will believing that Hannibal was a killer. This included telling Alana that Will was acting to protect her.

Under the surface, both Will and Hannibal knew that Hannibal really is the killer, and they were more honest when alone. Hannibal might have revealed his own code in saying, “Doing bad things to bad people makes you feel good.” If this is his motivation for killing, he is far less consistent in sticking to his code than Dexter Morgan was to sticking with his.

The murder of the week story was also a bizzaro recreation of the Will/Hannibal dynamic. Peter Bernardorne was a crazier version of Will who was  manipulated by Chris Diamantopoulos, playing a weaker version of Hannibal. We also saw that Will remains damaged, even if not as much as Peter, by Hannibal’s manipulations. Will even considered killing Chris as a substitute for Hannibal, until Hannibal warned him that it wouldn’t feel the same.

The episode also introduced Margot and Mason Verger, who should become more significant in future episodes.

The Man Under the Hood

On Arrow, Laurel has learned more about The Man Under The Hood but took the news far better than expected, deciding against letting Oliver know she knows his secret. That should be the subject for a future episode. The writers have often had difficulty in deciding what to do with her character, and in this episode she appeared far stronger than before. The producers had also been undecided as to whether to ultimately make Isabelle an ally or villain, deciding in last week’s episode that she would be a villain working with Slade. She appeared to be dead, but we learned that Mirakuru is as effective as alien blood on Agents of SHIELD at bringing people back from the dead. While we are not certain as to all the effects of the alien blood, we do know on Arrow that Mirakuru both gives superpowers and makes people go crazy. I wonder if Slade will regret creating an army of crazy super-villains who might be more difficult to control than herding cats.

We did learn that there is a cure to Mirakuru, which might turn out to be the way that the new army is ultimately defeated, and perhaps be used to keep Roy from going insane. The back story makes more sense in giving Slade additional motivation beyond the death of Shado to want to destroy Oliver. Back on the island, Oliver had chosen to kill rather than cure Slade. The episode also introduced characters from the upcoming Flash spin-off.

Collider spoke with producer/writer Andrew Kreisberg about Oliver’s relationship with Laurel and the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems now that Isabelle has taken control of Queen Industries:

Where are Oliver and Laurel at now, romantically?

KREISBERG:  It’s Oliver and Laurel.  It’s Lois and Clark.  They can break up, get together, sleep together, break up, get married, get divorced, and she can forget him.  The best part about the success of the show is that it’s always our desire to speed through story.  The fans appreciate that.  We just blow through things.  We’re not like, “Well, we’ll do that in Season 4.”  No, we’ll just do that now.  On the other hand, success has enabled us to slow play some things.  We’ve really adopted this mantra of, “We’ll give people what they need, even if that’s not what they want.”  Having Oliver and Laurel get together in Season 1 is what people needed then.  But then, they needed them to go on a break, so Oliver could have his storyline with Sara for this season.  That’s what felt right to us.  Oliver has women in his life.  He has Laurel.  He has Felicity.  Helena is doing a 10 to 20 stretch.  But Laurel will always be one of the closest people to him, whether that’s romantic or not.  That’s why it’s so powerful to us that, in his darkest hour, Laurel is the one who pulls him out of it.  There has been a subset of fans who have questioned our sanity and our talent, for making some of the decisions we’ve made, over the course of last year and this year, but somebody is always going to be upset.  A lot of the things we have done have been leading up to what we’re doing in the finale, and then moving that forward to Season 3.

How long-running are the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems?

KREISBERG:  We’re gonna make it a thing.  That plays out in the last five episodes.  We’re gonna start Season 3 with Oliver in very different circumstances than he’s been before.  Obviously, him being in different circumstances changes the circumstances of his paid bodyguard and paid assistant, since he can no longer pay them.  For Season 3, you’ll see that some of our familiar standing sets from Season 1 and 2, that you’ve come to know and love as being Arrow, are gonna be retired for reasons that will become apparent, as you see these last episodes.  We have already seen designs for some of the new sets for Season 3, which are amazing.  We want the show to feel like it’s constantly evolving, changing and growing.  If this year is the sequel, then next year is Arrow 3.  As different as 2 is from 1, in 3, they got Ewoks.

BRETT DALTON, BILL PAXTON

Providence continues the story of Agents of SHIELD after the infiltration by Hydra destroyed the organization, at least as we knew it. The have a secret base, Coulson learned that Director Fury is alive, and they are determined to remain Agents of SHIELD rather than Agents of Nothing. Last week there was a lot of speculation as to whether Ward had been brainwashed like the Winter Soldier or was faking allegiance to Garrett.  Anything is possible in this series, but the exchanges between Ward and Garrett suggest that Ward was recruited as a teenager and really has been working with Garrett from the start, with many of his actions designed to obtain trust from Coulson and his team. It appears that the only way that this could not be real would be if false memories were implanted into Ward, or if Ward spying on Garrett was intentionally withheld from Coulson. Such explanations would seem extremely contrived, and I hope that they just keep Ward the villain. Besides he is more interesting that way, although his feelings for Skye might complicate matters, especially as Ward’s allegiance so far seems more personal with Garrett as opposed to Hydra as an organization.

Besides the direct continuity in the recent episodes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is further continuity with the Marvel universe with the Hulk’s old enemy, Colonel Talbot. Next episode Amy Acker visits as Coulson’s cellist girlfriend.

The Americans - Episode 2.08 - New Car - Promotional Photos (3)_FULL

The Americans maintained its usual quality with New Car. Once again Elizabeth and Philip had to deal with questions as to who to kill, or allow to be killed, and hand child rearing problems. Unfortunately for Lucia, it turns out that Larrick was far more important to the Russian plans than she was.  Plus Elizabeth really hates Ronald Reagan. The big surprise of the episode was to see Vasili alive along with Anton in the Soviet Union.

Fargo was off to an excellent start. It does remind me a little of Breaking Bad with over the top events portrayed as plausible in an area where I would not want to live. You would have to combine both Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard and Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo to have a Walter White. While the premiere episode had a few murders, it looks like the series will be more about the consequences of the actions than a traditional detective series to uncover the identity of the murders.

I continue to avoid writing too much about Continnum as I’m a few weeks ahead of the American schedule by downloading from Showcase and I want to avoid any spoilers. The third episode, Minute To Win It, aired in the United States this week. The sequence taking place in the future revealed Kiera as being less blood thirsty than her superiors, but perfectly willing to ignore what they do. This week it was the future police shooting someone unnecessarily. Next week look forward to seeing Kiera’s take on a shooting which really has occurred in our history.

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Major Spoiler if you have not seen last week’s Game of Thrones: I make a point of not posting predictions about Game of Thrones as many people know far more than I do about the series if they have read the books. I would have never predicted that Joffrey would be killed off until late in the series. This should create a lot of interesting situations, ranging from speculation as to the murderer, effects on various characters, and a new fight for power. Natalie Dormer discussed the impact on Margaery in this interview. George R.R. Martin discussed the death here.

There is a little more news on the script being worked on for a Farscape movie which will follow the son of John and Aeryn.

Laura Pepon is only returning for four episodes of the second season of Orange Is The New Black but will return full time assuming there is a third season.

Aaron Sorkin only plans to write six episodes for the probable third and probable final season of The Newsroom. As he writes every episode of the series, I imagine it is better that he limit this to what he can handle if this leads to better scripts. HBO has not let the cast out of their contracts in case Sorkin decides to do more according to an interview with Olivia Munn.

The Hugo Award Nominees for 2014 are out. Doctor Who dominates the nominations for Dramatic Presentation (short form) with two episodes of the show, Adventures in Space and Time, a documentary about the origin of the television show, and The Five(ish) Doctors about the former Doctors who did not make it into the 50th Anniversary episode. An episode of Game of Thrones and Orphan Black complete the nominations in that category.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)

  • Frozen Screenplay by Jennifer Lee; Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón; Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt; Directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3 Screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black; Directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim Screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro; Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)

  • An Adventure in Space and Time Written by Mark Gatiss; Directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Written & Directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss; Directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” Written by Will Pascoe; Directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
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