Fan Review: The Last Jedi

My deal with this blog is that it doesn’t nag me to post more often than my not-so-slightly insane life allows, and I will post whenever the urge strikes and time allows.

I’m never quite sure when the urge will strike, but it turns out that I have thoughts about The Last Jedi that want out of my head.

First up: I liked it a lot. It’s never going to top The Return of the Jedi or The Empire Strikes Back for me, but it’s quite close to the top of the list. (I think Rogue One edges it out, and I’m a little hazy on where A New Hope sits in the line up.)

It’s not a perfect film, and feels a little long to me. (And I have a lot of tolerance for long films due to The Lord of the Rings.) But it kept surprising me in good ways, gave me some new things to think about, indulged me with moments of joy in respect to beloved characters, and left me with questions to be answered by the next film, which all add up to a win for me.

Most of the hard-core fans I know love it, but I’ve heard from a few who don’t, and that makes sense to me. I think whether a something works for you or not largely depends on why you love the story in the first place: if you feel like they got that right, you’re good; if not, the whole thing can be wrecked.

(Come to think of it, that might be part of my response here: while I liked The Force Awakens, I did so despite the fact that it reversed what I’d loved about the earlier films; The Last Jedi opens up the possibility of repairing that. But that might be a whole other post.)

Another factor in our response to stories is what we’re expecting. Me? I went into this assuming I was going to see both Leia and Luke die in what would be emotionally devastating ways. I didn’t want either of those things, but figured Carrie’s death meant Leia would die, and that the film’s title meant that we wouldn’t have both Luke and Rey at its end.

So the fact that Leia survived was a relief, even while logic insists it’s temporary, and Luke…well, there are different ways to die, and his death, “peaceful and with purpose,” to quote Rey, did not take the toll on me that watching Kylo Ren kill Han in The Force Awakens did.  Plus, we had Yoda’s appearance to remind us that Jedi have a way of appearing when needed, death be damned.

And I loved that, by the way. I loved that Yoda wasn’t an afterthought, or fan service, or writer indulgence or whatever. His conversation with Luke is important not only to the story here, but to Luke’s larger character arc, so huge win there for me.

(Plus…wise. Yoda’s ‘Do or do not, there is no try’ is one of my favorite life quotes; I’m now adding, “the greatest teacher, failure is” to that.)

As to that failure…there’s a long history of Jedi screwing up in different ways, including lying (“Darth Vader betrayed and murdered your father”) and then taking refuge in creative justification when confronted about that lie. (“What I told you was true…from a certain point of view.”)

And so, we get different versions of what happened between Luke and Ben during the latter’s training: Ben went berserk without warning vs Luke trying to kill him. I do think it’s important to note that Luke raising his light saber to kill him, only to have Ben fight back doesn’t mean that Luke would have killed him if he hadn’t awakened.

When push came right up against shove, Kylo Ren couldn’t destroy the ship he knew Leia was on – his finger could only hover over the button – and I think we might have seen something similar from Luke if Ben hadn’t awakened and fought. Only in Luke’s case, there would have been guilt, regardless: make no attempt to stop Ben’s growing darkness vs. killing his nephew vs. pushing him further toward the dark side.

There are no good choices there for Luke, and that means I don’t see anything so much as a man who understands more than anyone the terrible cost of someone with great power choosing the dark.

This is where interpretation of what we’ve been told in the past affects things the most.  My understanding of the Force has always been subject to tweaking, but my current theory is that the choice between light and dark isn’t something you make only once. It’s a balance that has to be kept, and while certain choices can push you further in one direction or the other, you’re never wholly, permanently committed to either light or dark. Light can always fall, dark can always be redeemed.

So Luke is both right to fear the bent-toward-the-dark he senses in his nephew, and wrong to have given up.  He did fail, on multiple levels, as Obi-wan did before him, but he learns from it, and, in the end, will, I believe, be instrumental in saving the galaxy by giving it a new hope. (Ha. See what I did there?)

It’s not just Luke who’s fascinating to me in this installment, though. So is Kylo Ren, because I can sense the conflict in him, enough that I can honestly say that I don’t know what story they’re telling here. I don’t know whether we’re watching the dark claim another Skywalker and the next film will be wholly Kylo Ren pitted against Rey until she defeats him, or if we’ll see him redeemed – possibly before the end of the film. I love that I can see it going either way.

One of my favorite moments in this film is when, Smoak defeated, Kylo Ren and Rey fight together. I will continue to love that even if we see him wholly dark in the next film, because it did allow us to so clearly see that conflict.

And that conflict? It’s the one we should have seen in the prequels. I tolerate The Phantom Menace, mostly because I like Qui Gon Jinn (and his relationship with Obi-Wan), but on a recent list of all the films, I put The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith somewhere after ‘food poisoning.’ I hate them. Not because they’re tragedies (and it’s not as if Anakin becoming Vader was a surprise ending.)  But rather, I spend the entirety of both films simply wanting to smack Anakin and then send him to his room. He never strikes me as anything other than a sulky, spoiled teenage boy having particularly deadly temper tantrums.

But Kylo Ren? While he’s clearly still a young male, I feel the conflict in him. I believe in it. I think he loved Han and loves Leia; I think his pride in having killed his father is mixed equally with grief and guilt, and that he fully expected that act to give him the peace of mind being wholly given over to the dark side should have granted him, and it didn’t.

That fascinates me.

And speaking of failures…I liked seeing the plot Poe, Finn, and Rose hatch go sideways. It did add to what was already a long film, but I think seeing our heroes completely fail before they succeed is important, and one we’re too often deprived of in action films.  (Plus? I think the little kids we saw on that planet are important to the story – as is Finn and Rose’s relationship. Sometimes, it’s okay to take time away from the main plot to develop characters and plant seeds for later plot stuff.)

Another thing I enjoyed was learning so much more about how the Force works. I’m intrigued by the ability to be elsewhere, whether it’s Rey and Kylo Ren’s connection allowing them to experience where the other is, or Luke actually transporting himself across the galaxy.

Am I bothered that we’ve never seen that skill on display before? No, in part because it feels of a piece to me with things like sensing the destruction of a planet, Leia knowing (seeing?) where Luke was at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and even the ability of the Jedi to appear after their death.

As to Leia saving herself from space…okay, visually that was the weirdest moment of the film for me, and it might be pushing things generally, and…I don’t care. Because Leia’s not dead, and I’m willing to give them a lot of leeway in exchange for my not having to watch her die in this film.

I did like seeing her strength in the Force manifested. We’ve always known she’s as much a Skywalker as Luke, but whoa. And now I have more questions about what the Jedi are capable of, and I’m enjoying that.

For starters, her ability to not die in circumstances that would normally guarantee death is making me re-think other Jedi deaths: Obi-Wan told Darth Vader, ‘if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you possibly imagine’ – and then appeared to vanish rather than actually being killed.  I’d always assumed the vanishing was simply how the Jedi die, but now I’m wondering if it’s more a choice they make when they know it’s time for that next stage of things.

Similarly, maybe Yoda didn’t live to be 900 plus years old because his species is naturally long-lived but because he knew he needed to be around for Luke. I don’t know, and there may well be things I’m forgetting, but I’m enjoying thinking about it.

None of that is all that film was for me: I loved Luke and Leia’s moment, enjoyed Rey’s story, was breathless when Admiral Holdo turned her ship around, liked getting to know Rose, and am fascinated by Leia and Poe’s relationship.  I’m planning to see it again in a week or two, and may have more thoughts then, but for now will say that I’m more invested and interested in the Star Wars universe than I’ve been in a long time, and that’s what The Last Jedi has given me.

Bonus Quotes:

“Permission to hop in an X-wing and blow something up?”
“Permission granted.” (Poe, Leia)

***

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.” (Rose, to Finn)

***

“Strike me down in anger, and I’ll always be with you. Just like your father.” (Luke, to Kylo Ren)

 

 

 

 

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Fan Review: Borderlines (SEAL Team)

Truth: I wasn’t going to blog about this episode.  It’s not that I didn’t want to – in a world of unlimited time, I’d write about all the episodes of this show – but I don’t live in that world, and the world I do live in finds more than twenty-four hours worth of things for me to do, every single day.

And yet.

And yet, it’s Sunday, and I’m still thinking about a number of moments from Borderlines, and well, here we are.

First, since I don’t know how often I’ll be able to blog about the show, let me make a couple of general comments now that we’re seven episodes in:

TONE: Although I do quite frequently watch parts of it through my fingers, the balance of drama, suspense, and humor continues to fit me to a ‘T.’ Specifically, I love Sonny’s phobias – and the team’s response to them.  (And no, I don’t know why watching through my fingers makes the suspense easier to cope with. It just does.)

PLOT: I like the variety in the stories they’re telling. Although there’s some kind of mission every week, last week’s ep (“The Spinning Wheel“) was wholly about planning for a mission they didn’t go on, while this one emphasized the fluid nature of what they do, with their options changing as the story moved from Brazil to Paraguay. While it’s an action show, it’s not all shoot-em-up, and that appeals to me. It also makes it easier for me to suspend my disbelief and buy into the premise. No way they go on a mission every week (never mind Alana’s sly question about why things are so busy) so finding creative ways to show them in action without what could become a run-of-the-mill ‘rescue of the week’ strikes me as a big win.

Now, about Borderlines, and those moments I can’t quit thinking about:

Jason & Alana:

The more I see them together, the more I want these two to make it.  If he’s been talking to her since they were nine, they were friends even before they became a couple at the age of fifteen, and I love that. Love it. I need all that history to win. Fortunately, here, we see him not only coming clean about his earlier lie about Nate, but also opening up to her about what’s haunting him from the mission.  I cheered.

But the moment I can’t stop thinking about? It’s her expression when she sees him knocking on her office door. She loves him. And the fact that he did tell her about the mission…he loves her, too.

Ray & Naima:

Naima tells Ray, “You shouldn’t have to worry about this;” in the next scene, Alana tells Jason, “You know the problem being married to the guy whose job is saving the world? Any time you want to come first, you’re being selfish.” Neither comment, nor the logic behind them, feels far off from what Jason told Alana at the beginning of the episode: “I don’t see the purpose of telling you something like that.

Sparing your partner is understandable, but all of them are wrong. To whatever degree their lives allow, Naima and Alana need to let the guys help them carry the burdens of the home front and the guys need to open up however much they can about what they face …or what’s the point?

There’s not one, as Mandy acknowledged to Jason about her failed relationship: “He said I didn’t talk.”

It seems like something they’re all struggling with, from very different perspectives.

(Still, the show needs to come back to Ray and Naima on this point in a hurry because I keep thinking about when she tells him, “It’s not good. Really not good,” and then I get worried, which, yes, would be the point. But it’s Ray and Naima and I need them to be okay. Okay?)

Clay:

This is weird, but while I’m solidly 110%  – don’t math at me – invested in Clay’s story, I’m still not sure I like him. For a while now, we’ve been seeing him react to stuff, and it’s like watching a ping pong ball be flung around. He was understandably blown sideways by Brian’s death, then by the discovery that his friend’s life hadn’t been what he thought it was; now we’re seeing him face torture with a grim determination (hey, I can admire him without being sure I like him) but we don’t yet know how any of that may have changed him. At the beginning, he really didn’t get the team thing (and who can blame him, given his father?) but does he get it now? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Meanwhile, though, the show brought Brian back, and that rocks, because it not only allowed Clay to say goodbye, it did me as well. And since I was knocked sideways by that parachute failing just as much as Clay was, I appreciate it.

Plus? I like when shows are wise, and this was:

“Don’t fight what can’t be fought.”

Then there’s this moment, which is probably my favorite of the series so far. Granted, it reminds me of a scene from a particularly beloved film (that has nothing at all to do with SEAL Team) but seeing those hands reaching for him, pulling him out of the SERE nightmare he’s been in, and knowing they’re his family, that they will always have his back, gives me shivers, and results in me thinking about the episode days later. (Good job, show!)

And finally, there’s this:

I’m so curious about these two, and what their relationship will give us, what we’ll learn about both of them as a result. Jason’s been hard on Clay, has made him earn the right to join them, something that gives this moment more weight.  But it also sets up a lot of anticipation about what happens next, and who Clay becomes once he’s truly part of them.

I can’t wait to see that.

Bonus Quotes:

“Any idea why things are so busy lately? I mean, you would tell me if it was the zombie apocalypse starting, right?”
“No, you would know, because you’d see Sonny doing The Sound of Music dance in our backyard. Singing out loud.” (Alana, Jason)

*ST*

“Under no circumstances are you to be operational in Paraguay.”
“I’m sorry, did anyone say anything about operational? I’m Ms. Ellis’s plus one. Plus I am overdue my one week’s leave.” (Blackburn, Jason)

*ST*

“We’re a family. We’re in this together. So tell me what’s going on.” (Ray, to Naima)

*ST*

“I remember they took us outside buck-naked, they hosed us down with ice water and then had female role-players come in to laugh at our junk.”
“Oh, God, that is cold.”
“So to speak.” (Ray, Lisa)

 

Fan Review: Collapse (SEAL Team)

I’m falling a little more in love with this show every week.

Actually, what’s happening is that I’m falling a little more in love with the characters every week, but for me, it amounts to the same thing.

And here’s the wonderful surprise in that for me: it’s not just Jason I’m enjoying getting to know.

Let’s face it: I was hardwired to respond to David Boreanaz playing a military hero, and I’m enjoying Jason and his story very much. The thrill is discovering that I’m enjoying the show just as much when the other characters are center stage. (Also: I think the show is doing a fabulous job in that respect.)

Ray continues to steal more and more of my heart each week. I was enjoying the conversation with the journalist even before we got this line, but afterward? Puddle of goo:

“And those big white boys you’re talking about? They’re my brothers, too.”

Goo.

But then came the moments with Lisa, which I loved even more. I have a soft spot for platonic friendship, and their love for each other is all over those scenes.

Despite having good friends in the military, I’m hopeless at sorting out rank, but it’s clear he outranks her.  Still, he softens the order with her first name:

“This isn’t Virginia Beach and I’m not asking. Lisa, get to the convoy.”

And she goes. You can see the reluctance, but she goes.

I like that whole exchange for what it reveals about both of them. Later, when she comes back, we realize that their different roles mean she doesn’t have the combat experience he does (“Well, you need to know that when I’m shooting at the range, the targets don’t shoot back.”) …and yet she would have stayed anyway, and then comes back for him.

She’s badass, and both of them are matter of fact about it, which I love. He’s not surprised she doesn’t want to go, and doesn’t seem all that surprised to see her return.  And once she does? He hands her his weapon, trusting her.

I don’t think the show could exist within the world they’ve set up if the women get those kinds of opportunities often, but I’m glad Lisa got this one relatively early in the season.

Ditto, Mandy, kicking butt and taking names with the Not-Really-an-Ambassador Crowley.  (Maybe he should have considered the consequences of making an enemy of the CIA before he endangered the guys she feels responsible for by sending them on a wild goose chase?)

She’s not the only one Crowley manages to tick off, and if not for cooler heads prevailing, Sonny would probably have wiped the floor with him at the end. I have mixed feelings on that, by the way. I liked seeing that very human response, and wouldn’t have minded watching it play out. (Which in my head, included lots of squealing from Crowley.) But the consequences to Sonny would have been less fun to watch, and would have deprived us of the much better response to Crowley, from Jason.

Although the scene in the cage runs a close second, this is my favorite Jason moment here.  Sometimes, a non-violent response to a coward is simply more satisfying, and seeing Jason hand him his ass along with the flag rang all my bells. Crowley confused posturing with leadership, cowardice with true courage, and watching his take down made me cheer.

“Got something for you. You must have left it behind by accident.”

So everyone heads for home, safe to fight another day. (Well, everyone but Crowley, who will hopefully be job hunting in the Craigslist classifieds.)

Only…not entirely everyone else, either, because there’s another story paralleling what’s happening in South Sudan, and I’ve got to tell you…I did not see that last scene coming, nor any version of it.

I feel like I should have, because I’m generally pretty good at connecting the dots on things like a character I’d initially assumed was a secondary, recurring role, becoming increasingly important to Clay’s story…while still not ever being referenced by the show’s PR as a permanent part of the cast. Normally, I’d have gone ‘hmm’ on that, my Spidey sense tingling with, ‘they’re setting up something here to explain this character’s exit, and since it’s a military show…’

Nope. Spidey sense was asleep this time, and I didn’t see it coming. Not when Brian left to jump (having given Clay some advice I really hope he manages to take), not even when they first counted five canopies when there should have been six. It wasn’t until the camera focused on that partially deployed parachute, helplessly twisting in the wind, that I accepted what was happening.

I have to tell you that while I don’t know why this gutted me the way it did, I do not ever remember being so horrified by a television death. Ever. And I’ve seen a lot of deaths play out, including those involving characters I had far more invested in than this one. But there was something about watching that figure falling, knowing there wasn’t a thing they could do to help, that even on later re-watches has had my stomach clenching.

Damn, show. That was brutal.  And so very, very effective.

 

Apart from leaving me a horrified mess, this episode also left me with a whole bunch of questions that I’m going to share. (Because I’m like that…)

  1. That photo Jason found among Nate’s possessions? He’s not in it. Ray and Sonny are, but he’s not, and I wonder if that means he was deployed elsewhere, or attending a special school, or what. But more than that, I wonder if the other guys – both of whom have now told him to let Nate’s secrets die with him – actually knew him better than Jason. Hmm.
  2. How will Brian’s death affect Clay? My knee-jerk assumption is that he’ll distance himself from Stella, and while I get that, I sort of hope it doesn’t go that way, or not for long…mostly because it’s my knee-jerk assumption. (Come on, show. Keep surprising me!) On the other hand, I also wonder if watching Brian die that way will build a bridge between Clay and Jason.
  3. Are Sonny and Lisa a thing? A could-be-a-thing? A could-be-but-we’re-in-the-same-unit-thing? The friendship is absolutely there, seen in the teasing of a few weeks back, their hanging out together after work, and now, here, where it’s not Ray to whom Sonny says, ‘good to see you’ after their rescue.

For the record, I’m good either way. I enjoy both romantic and platonic ‘ships, but…hmm.

Bonus Quotes:

“Listen, boss…I got a bag full of zip ties and two shoulders. You want them to come with us, they’re coming.” (Sonny, to Jason, about the aid workers who are refusing to evacuate.)

***ST***

“Make sure he knows I sent you outside. Your crazy ass decided to come back in.” (Ray, to Lisa, about what she should tell Jason)

 

Fan Review: SEAL Team

So. SEAL Team.

While I don’t expect to blog about every episode of this show (due to a job change, I no longer have as much time as I once did), I needed to unload some of what’s been in my brain since watching “Other Lives” on Wednesday night.

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s read anything here, but for me, stories are about characters and relationships, and plot is whatever allows me to see those defining character and relationship moments. I have to care about the characters enough to root for them, and while I understand that shows about less heroic characters can be well done, I’m not interested in going along for that ride.

It’s not all that complicated, really: the real world is full of anti-heroes, and while I know heroes are out there, we tend to learn less about them and encounter them less often. In the same way, I’m also not interested in perfect people. But flawed people fighting battles seen and unseen? Check.

Character is often revealed in relationships, though, so I need that, too. Romantic, platonic, familial…if there’s a bond there, I’m interested, and the more complicated, the better.

Multiple characters who are likable, but not perfect, flawed but still heroic. I can be a hard sell, honestly, and while I was always open to SEAL Team (as I’ll be open to anything the rest of the Bones cast does, as well – they gave me years of pleasure, after all) there was no guarantee I’d hang with it.

But at the end of the first episode, I was intrigued and by midway through Other Lives, I was utterly hooked – enough to order the season on Amazon.

While I’m looking forward to getting to know the rest of the characters better, for now, Jason is the focus for me – not because he’s played by David Boreanaz, an actor I already respect, but because of what we’ve learned about him so far: Hayes is a man of honor, a damaged leader willing to sacrifice himself for others, burdened by the responsibility he carries for his team.

First things first: if there’s a point in the entire episode where I said, ‘SOLD!’ to the story as a whole, it was during Jason’s conversation with Sonny about saving the civilians. Sonny argues that sometimes you can’t do more than take care of your own people, and Jason quietly responds, “Not a whole lot of honor in that.”

Honor is largely a lost concept for our culture, and we’re the poorer for it. Watching Jason consciously struggle with what it means to be a man of honor…yeah, I’m in.

But that’s not all we see. We also see a man who screws protocol and shoves his friend behind him as they navigate a hallway leading to the world’s most toxic substance; later, we see him giving his protection against that poison to a young boy.

And that’s all in the context of this moment, when having gambled the lives of his team against the belief that they can hold off the enemy long enough for the Green Berets to rescue both them and the civilians, he learns what they’re actually up against:

“How many ‘massed enemy’ are we talking about?”
“Too many.”

No wonder he’s broken.  Much of the promotion for the show has focused on the ghosts he’s carrying as a result of Nate’s death, and, indeed, that’s why we see him in therapy in the pilot. But in his flashback to the party at Nate and Molly’s, we learn that he and Alana had separated prior to Nate’s death. It no doubt made everything worse, but he was in bad shape before that.

Jason can communicate with the guys, possibly because he doesn’t need to verbalize – in a number of places, we see him and Ray have what amounts to a conversation with very few, if any, words, which I love:

But communication with Alana is a different matter. Early in the episode, she tells him their problem is that he’s not there, even when he’s there, and we see what she means in the final scene.

Admittedly, one thing that’s not clear to me is how much he’s even allowed to tell her. Can he talk in general terms about his experiences – enough for her to connect in some way to his life? If no, is it possible for these guys to have any kind of true intimacy with people stateside? Ray seems to with Naima, but we’ve not seen enough yet to know exactly how they make it work.

I’m already invested in Jason’s character arc, whether he ends up with Alana or not. If he does, I hope we get to see them gradually come back together as he gains victory over his demons; if not, I want to see them find a way forward that respects what they had and works for both them and their kids.

(I feel like I should say something here about how Boreanaz is knocking this out of the park, but really, I expected no less. He’s a solid, underrated actor, and that’s been true for a while now. I will say that there’s never been a point yet where I’ve seen or heard Booth, and that strikes me as particularly remarkable given that there are similarities between the two characters.)

But Jason’s not the only character here and I liked what I saw from the others, too.  I expect different episodes to highlight different aspects of the other characters, but I found Sonny, in particular, interesting in the second outing.  Although he spells out for Jason the problems with rescuing the civilians, his response later to the choice Jason gives them is immediate, loyal and lovely: “You don’t think we became frogmen because we didn’t secretly all want to be Batman?”

The team is not only the guys on the ground, and that’s working pretty well for me, too. I like what we’ve seen so far of the relationship between Jason and Lt Commander Blackburn, and while I imagine there will be times when there’s conflict between the team and their support (Blackburn, Mandy, Davis), I’m glad to see it this way first, with everyone on the same page. They’re all part of the whole, and that bigger team concept appeals to me. (No one who knows me is remotely surprised by this.)

On the other hand, I don’t like Clay, but I don’t think I’m supposed to – yet. Not only is he not part of the team, he doesn’t even seem to understand what the term means. But given his role on the show, it’s a safe assumption that we’re going to watch him figure it out, and see how he becomes part of that larger unit.

Finally…I’d read an interview a few weeks ago that talked about the humor in the show. I didn’t see much of that last week, and wondered what they meant, but this week, I saw it, not only in some of the non-verbal exchanges between the guys, but also in the snarky dialog that pops out at times. As someone fluent in snark, I enjoy that a great deal.

Roll on, Wednesday.

Bonus Quotes:

“Right. Who says you never take us anywhere nice?” (Jason, to Mandy, after being told they’ll be handling the most toxic substance ever created)

***

“Another contribution from the good-idea fairies at CENTCOM.” (Sonny, about taking Dr Death with them)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fan Review: The Driver (No spoilers)

(Blog housekeeping: In a perfect world, where I had unlimited time and no need to sleep, I’d blog about every book I finish, every show I enjoy, every film I go see, and then, when bored, would make random observations about fandoms. Since we’re stuck with this world, but I do want to keep the blog going, I’ll be posting occasionally about…whatever catches my fancy. Read at your own risk.)

For many years now, the books I’ve looked forward to the most were the next installment in JD Robb’s In Death series, but that’s not quite been true in 2017. Since its upcoming publication was announced last fall, The Driver, by Bones showrunner Hart Hanson, has been the book I was most eagerly anticipating.

This is not solely due to Bones, but rather because I loved Backstrom and The Finder, and, for that matter, the Stargate SG:1 season one episode “The Nox,” which was also written by Hart way back in 1997-98.

Stories, regardless of medium, are about three things for me: tone, characters I can connect with, and relationships:

  • Tone: A mix of drama and humor works best. The humor doesn’t have to be over the top (lighter moments of comic relief are fine) and the drama can be anywhere on the spectrum, but for me to truly enjoy something, I need both.
  • Characters: Likable but flawed. There’s a continuum here, too, in that I don’t mind characters who are new to their journey of being their best selves as long as we see that potential early on. (I saw it with Backstrom, others apparently didn’t.)
  • Relationships: Those characters have to care about other people and/or have other people who care about them, or be working toward that.  Complicated is fine, new is fine, biological, non-biological, romantic, platonic…it’s all good, as long as it’s there.

In other words, Hart’s shows have always given me everything I enjoy the most in stories, so I was definitely looking forward to his first novel. This is particularly true given that as a rule, I prefer novels to film, anyway.

(One thing I find fascinating is that while I like his stories, quite often the shows and books Hart enjoys (based on comments on Twitter), don’t work for me.  I find this a bit baffling.)

Anyway, getting back to The Driver...having anticipated the book for months, I was not disappointed.

Michael Skellig is a wise-cracking vet/limo driver who hires other vets (and his former Afghan interpreter) for his limo company. Broken in different ways and to various degrees, they’re His People, and that alone is enough to have me falling a little bit in love with him.

And if that weren’t enough, Skellig speaks Snark – my native language – fluently. Seriously, how can I not love that?

Another thing that worked particularly well for me is that the book is written in first person, but not in a style I’m used to.  Last weekend, I finished the latest in a long-running cozy mystery series, and was thinking that first person should be the most intimate voice to read, because – in theory – it’s as if the main character is sitting next to you, telling you a story. Authors seldom seem to capitalize on that, though (or maybe I’m just reading the wrong first person stories) but Hart does, and I was delighted by Skellig’s asides. I have a friend who avoids first person altogether, so I can imagine readers who wouldn’t enjoy it, but for me, those comments upped my investment in what was going on even more.

For me, books fall into four categories: “Can’t put it down,” “I’m taking my time finishing it,” “Maybe I’ll get back to it some day,” and “I’m not going to make it to chapter four.” I finished The Driver in two days, while navigating a fairly complicated week on both the work front and the home front. (Who needs sleep? Seriously? Who needs it?) I was going to say that I’d read the sequel right now if it was available, but I’m afraid of jinxing things, so…I’m totally not saying that. Nope, not me. (Offers up a lament for stories that should have continued and didn’t.)

(Oh, and Bones fans? There’s a quote in there that’s nearly word for word something one of the main characters said on the show in season nine. Did you catch it?)

 

 

 

Further Bones Thoughts: A Final Season For All

So I’ve finished my re-watch of S12, and I Have Thoughts about the season as a whole. I’ll say upfront that I don’t know how interesting this post will be to others. I like analyzing stories in a variety of ways, so seeing how they wove so many arcs together in the final season interests me, but it may bore others brainless.

Also, I’ll confess that part of what started me down this particular path of analysis was frustration over comments about all the ‘filler eps’ this season.

There were none. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It’s not that the show’s not done standalone episodes in the past, but there weren’t any this season. What there was, was a rather herculean attempt on the show’s part to satisfy the diverse range of people who enjoy Bones.

For years now, I’ve been listening to those who were hoping for different things from the show: fans who desperately wanted to see Zack’s story revisited; those who didn’t. Those who wanted to see Sully (or Hannah!) again; those who didn’t. Those who loved the extended family; those who really just enjoyed Booth and Brennan. Those who enjoyed S10 because of its darkness; those who hated it for the same reason.

I’m not Fox, don’t have access to survey and studies, but I’m convinced that that diversity is part of why the show went to twelve seasons.

Given that, what I see when I look at S12 is an attempt to honor that big, unwieldy group of eyeballs, and I wanted to examine the season from that perspective. I’ve done so by looking at what each episode contributed towards wrapping up the various stories and arcs in as satisfying manner as possible for the most people.

There are no doubt different ways of categorizing the stories they told, but I see the following:

  • Tonal variety: six darker, six lighter (I’m thinking…not a coincidence)
  • Resolving long-standing arcs: Zack, Booth’s sniper past, Aubrey’s father, Brennan and Max, Jessica and Aubrey
  • Future-forward: showing us what the characters will be doing after we say goodbye
  • Future-forward, Booth and Brennan edition – runs throughout the season (I feel a separate post coming about this…)
  • Favorite guest stars: Sully, Gordon Gordon, Dr. Mayer, Avalon
  • Other stories fans had asked to see: an undercover episode; Brennan’s birthday

No, not everyone wanted to see every one of those things. I didn’t, particularly, though I couldn’t be happier at what we got. But…diverse audience.

The Hope in the Horror:

  • Zack: The audience knew something about Zack that the other characters did not, which meant revisiting it as part of the end made sense. Plus, it not only resolved that secret, it gave us insights into the other characters, such as Booth’s Gut having always questioned Zack’s guilt.
  • Booth: It’s a minor one in the scheme of things, but I think the last season or two has focused more on Booth’s relationships with the other guys: Zack, Hodgins, Aubrey. He’s still ‘guy-hugs-are-only-for-Brennan’ Booth, but he’s a bit more open with his male friends.
  • Karen: Although she’s cast as a red herring here, particularly when she’s stalking Brennan around the bone room, we also see that Booth’s much more tolerant of her than Aubrey is (possibly due to his experiences with Sweets?) and yet she takes her idea of letting Zack look at the cases to Aubrey first. Beginnings of friendship? Maybe.

The Brain in the Bot

  • Hot Blooded: I don’t know if a song has ever had a character arc on a TV show before, but this one did
  • Zack: Brennan is reviewing her notes; for her birthday, Booth gets a trial date
  • Daisy: Although she comes back for the wedding/finale, this is the end of Daisy’s arc. We’ve seen her go from flaky and uber-annoying intern to a mature young woman strong enough to raise her son alone (with the help of the family.)
  • Max: As appropriate, Max gets a multi-part farewell. Here, the audience learns that he’s sick, which foreshadows his death while setting up the twist that he doesn’t die the way we think he will.
  • Brennan: We’ve been watching her grow and change for years, but this isn’t just where we see her keeping secrets and demonstrating a lack of competitiveness, but also that she’s self-aware enough to know the others would not expect either of those things from her.

The New Tricks in the Old Dogs

  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo make plans to adopt
  • Future forward: Angela and Hodgins are again thinking about another child
  • Future forward: Booth and Brennan also discuss the possibility of another child, and wind up not ruling it out
  • Brennan: We see her reflecting on the fact that none of the things she values the most were planned

    “The unexpected happened. He fell in love.”

The Price for the Past

  • Booth: An early turning point for him and Brennan was when he shared with her the guilt he carried for his sniper kills. Revisiting that story now in such an excruciating way allowed us to see all the ways that his relationship with her has healed him.
  • Booth and Aldo’s friendship arc
  • Max: Although he’s not in the episode, Brennan’s comments to Jessica foreshadow her eulogy and remind us of the journey she and her father took over a ten-year period
  • Aubrey: His arc with his father, which began in S10, ramps up with the reveal that he’s in the U.S.
  • Aubrey and Jessica: While she obviously cares deeply for him (re: her conversation with Brennan) there are hints that he’s more invested in the relationship than she is

The Tutor in the Tussle

  • Aubrey: The resolution of his arc about his father
  • Aubrey: his relationship with Karen seems closer to friendship here, but he’s clearly committed to Jessica.
  • Future forward, Fisher: He’s capable of enjoying life, and we see how much Brennan loves him.

The Flaw in the Saw

  • Future forward: We see Booth and Brennan flirting and solving their parenting debates in a way unique to the two of them (log-rolling competition!) Although the show’s been giving us those kinds of moments for years, their taking the time to do so in the final season is part of the story they’re telling about what life will be life for these characters after we’re no longer dropping in on them
  • Zack: Hodgins has been working Zack’s case, but what he finds seems so unlikely that Cam accuses him of falsifying evidence.

The Scare in the Score

  • Max: The episode picks up with the health scare, which, while turning the foreshadowing from The Brain in the Bot on its head, also sets up how the safe house is detected.
  • Brennan: We see her dependence on Max, particularly where the kids are concerned. It occurred to me on my re-watch that the very thing that hurt her for so long (the criminal past that led to his abandoning her) was what positioned him to be the kind of person who could save his grandkids the way he did.
  • Booth: When he tells Kovac, ‘he was still your dad.’ we realize it’s more complicated, even, than the worst moment in his sniper past coming back to bite him: he identifies with Kovac as the son of a decidedly less-than-perfect father.

The Grief and the Girl

  • Brennan: Her feelings are a tangle of her own grief and concern for Booth’s guilt (revealed via the conversation with Angela), which struck me as very authentic
  • Sully: some fans have been asking to see Sully again for years, not as a love interest, but because they enjoyed the character and wanted to see his response to Booth and Brennan being a couple. We got all of that, in a way that wraps up Sully’s arc as part of Booth and Brennan’s story – which it always was.
  • Future forward, Clark: He’ll be leading an archaeological dig in Canada, and given what we learned in S11’s The Stiff in the Cliff, it’s an appropriate direction for the character. (Yay, Clark!)
  • Booth and Brennan: “I love you, Bones. Always.” No, there’s nothing new in that for those of us who know and love them, but hearing it again, in so many ways across the season, was the show’s final message for the shippers: their love will survive anything life throws at them
  • Max: The true end of his arc is here, in Brennan’s eulogy

The Steal in the Wheels

  • Brennan: while things are better between her and Booth, she’s short-tempered and impatient – both normal signs of grief.
  • Gordon Gordon Wyatt: While some fans wanted Zack’s story revisited, and others wanted to see Sully again, I wanted the return of Gordon Gordon. Also? Even here, there’s a character arc, as we’ve seen him move from shrink, to chef, and back, if not permanently to shrink, to someone who clearly misses that part of his life.
  • Zack: Cam isn’t the only one who thinks Hodgins is capable of falsifying evidence to help a friend – Brennan does, as well. But with Gordon Gordon’s help, he finds the dead apprentice.
  • Future forward: While we’re not told where Fuentes winds up, we learn that he’s graduated – and get to see the Ceremony of the Blue Jacket.
  • Booth and Brennan go undercover one last time as Buck and Wanda. Whether you love or hate the undercover eps, they’re important enough that Booth references them in the finale.
  • We’ve got this. I love you.” Not only will their love win over all odds, so will they – which was the theme of the season.

The Radioactive Panthers in the Party

  • Future forward, Wendell: During my re-watch, it struck me that in some ways, it would be odd if none of her interns ever realized their true calling was elsewhere, and Wendell seems the most logical choice to me for that.
  • Aubrey: This is the only subplot from the season that doesn’t work for me. I’m glad they wanted to give him an exit story, and can even see this particular one (possibility of a move cross-country, deciding to stay) making sense, but the way it played it out, it was mostly Booth giving Aubrey an opportunity to prove he could do what they’d already established he did after Booth and Brennan left at the end of S10. I would just as soon have had them spend more time on ending his relationship with Jessica.
  • Angela: Pregnancy hints.

The Day in the Life 

  • Zack: Murder conviction reversed, but has to finish his sentence for assisting a killer – an appropriate way of resolving that story.
  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo’s wedding
  • Jessica breaks up with Aubrey
  • Angela: Her pregnancy is revealed
  • Angela and Brennan, friendship arc is touched on with the recall of Angela getting her to go dancing in S1’s The Man in the Wall.
  • Avalon returns
  • Hodgins: we see Hodgins in charge of Jessica at the crime scene; this struck me as more significant after seeing the finale
  • Future forward: Michelle has applied to Quantico
  • Booth and Brennan: the show has always been about how in sync they are despite their differences. That’s highlighted with both of them understanding that ‘we’re missing something.’

The End in the End

  • Booth and Hodgins: their story, of friendship developing in spite of their differences, resolves tension over Booth’s army past first established in S1
  • Brennan: S1 showed how much of her identity was tied to her intelligence and profession; here, we see that because of Booth, that’s no longer the case.

    “You’re my partner. Don’t forget that.”

  • Booth and Brennan: That kiss, which @boothalecs on Twitter described as, “I’ll meet you on the battlefield”? Yeah. That’s them. Love and fighting crime together.
  • Future forward: Angela and Hodgins are having a boy
  • Future forward: Cam and Arastoo’s three boys
  • Future forward: Aubrey’s not okay, but he will be; possibly with Karen

Long(er) winded Hodgins thoughts:

King of the Lab! I didn’t think of this when I watched the finale the first (or, er, second) time due to being gobsmacked, but his being made interim director doesn’t just give us a new take on his character as the show wraps up, it also addresses Cam and Brennan’s belief that he had – or at least, would – falsify evidence to save a friend. This was something I very much wanted to see after The Flaw the Saw aired, and, as per usual, the show gave me more than I wanted: while the issue isn’t revisited in an explicit sense, they both affirm their trust and respect in him by placing him in charge, and…I love that a million times over.

Long(er) winded Booth thoughts:

His guilt over his sniper kills was two-fold: general guilt over the loss of human life, and a particular guilt for having killed a man in front of his six-year-old son. Both were resolved this season.  When Brennan tells him she goes where he goes, and stands beside him (my brain unnecessarily adds ‘always’), it’s specifically in the context of his being a sniper. So great is her confidence in the man he’s chosen to be, that she holds a line for him: these lives are not on your conscience.

Meanwhile, Kovac is revealed as someone who had opportunities to lead a meaningful life (a normal childhood, a supportive extended community) but, unlike Booth (or Aubrey, for that matter), he instead chose to follow his father.  There’s no guilt on Booth for Kovac’s choices, either.

 

Happy indeed are those of us who enjoyed pretty much everything about the show (lighter, darker, Booth and Brennan, family, squinterns…)

 

Story Hangover, TV Version (On Grieving a Show)

A few weeks ago, I commented on Twitter that I was going to have the ‘biggest book hangover ever’ when Bones ended.  My book friends, even those who don’t watch the show, understood immediately what I meant.

Having now watched some Bones fans flail in their sadness over the past days, I thought I’d unpack that a little, in case it helps.

We all experience fiction differently. I don’t just mean that one person can love what someone else hates, but even ‘loving’ something can mean different things for two different people.  There are shows I’ve loved, for example, that when they ended, I said, ‘what a great show!’ …and then I went and did something else.

But other stories take hold of me in a way that it’s harder to let them go. For me, this is generally – but not always – book series. I remember it happening as a kid the first time I read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles – I cried at the end of The High King as much because the experience of reading those stories was over as I did in response to the ending. Same with the Anne books (L.M. Montgomery), The Little House series (Laura Ingalls Wilder), The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and the Pern novels (Anne McCaffrey.)

It’s not a one time thing, either. Every single time I re-read any of those series, I feel lost when I come to the end. Every. Single. Time. Ditto books I’ve discovered as an adult, like the In Death books, or the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs.

There’s something about characters I love, existing in their own time and place, that I occasionally find difficult to leave behind once the story is over. It’s not every series I’ve read and enjoyed, but enough that I have a handle on the grief I feel when I close the last book. (Aka, ‘book hangover.’)

(This is probably why I’ve always understood exactly how Booth felt when he came out of the coma dream…)

Psychologists know that we feel grief for all kinds of things, not just the loss of someone we love. We grieve changes in our lives, even good ones (finishing high school or college, retiring from a job, children growing up and leaving home.) So why shouldn’t we acknowledge that the feeling of letting characters go may also be grief, while understanding that no two fans may experience it in the same way, or to the same degree?

So what does that mean?

For starters, don’t let anyone give you a hard time for what you’re feeling. No, ‘it’s just a TV show’ allowed. No. If you loved it, no, it’s not.

(And if you’re one of the people thinking, ‘what the hell? It’s a TV SHOW,’ …why is it so hard to respect our differences, even about something as seemingly minor as how we enjoy the entertainment we love? Related: why is it okay for people to grieve when their team loses the championship but not to respect how others feel when a TV show or book series ends?)

Second? Go with what works for you.  Maybe it’s continuing to talk about the show with other fans. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s reading or writing fanfiction; maybe it’s not.  For me? I always do the same thing when I finish reading (or re-reading) a favorite series of books: I go back and re-read (yes, again) one or two from the beginning of the series.  Every time.

I’ve got the newest Patricia Briggs book waiting for me (it came out March 7, and I’ve saved it for something to do after Bones ended); I already know that after I finish it, I’ll stay in that world a little longer by re-reading one of the earlier books.  Ditto when the next JD Robb comes out in September. (Though to be fair, I’m never wholly out of that world for long.)

But first…I’m re-watching Bones.  (Yesterday was The Man in the SUV.)  Based on how my book hangovers usually go, I’ll watch a few dozen eps, or a season or two, and gradually find myself letting go enough to move on to other things (like the Patricia Briggs book, or watching a couple of shows I’ve promised friends I’d try, or re-watching shows it’s been a while since I’ve visited.) I’ll continue watching Bones, but with less urgency, and then one day, I’ll realize that I’m no longer focusing on ‘it’s over’ but rather the degree to which the whole story, and everything it meant to me, is simply a source of joy and satisfaction.

Bones, and my involvement with the fandom, has been a hobby for me. Will I replace those hours with other things? Yes. (Hopefully, more writing.) But first, I’m giving myself the time to let it go in a way that works for me.

And if you’ve made friends in the fandom, and are worried about whether those relationships will last? The answer is …the important ones will. The ones where the show was a jumping off point to talking about other things, to connecting as human beings the way we do.

A long time ago (twenty years!) I fell in love with a different show, and over the next year or two, became friends with an amazing group of women. Gradually, we moved on, the show ended, and…we’re still friends. Enough so that they sent me flowers on Wednesday, despite most of them not watching Bones. The card reads:

“Because we understand what it is to come to the end of a beloved fandom. Thinking of you today.”

That’s why I’m not remotely worried about losing the relationships I’ve made through Bones.

Loving a show is good. Fandom can be wonderful. It’s okay to recognize that.

Be kind to yourselves.