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Black Sails Enters the End Game

Bo

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It finally happened, everyone. After last week’s set up, Black Sails has moved all its pieces into position. I’m not ready. Whatever reservations this season has given me, Black Sails has delivered a wonderful final season so far and I’m not ready to watch such a spectacular show sail off into the sunset. At the same time, I’m glad to see Black Sails go out on top. Most shows don’t get the chance.

“XXXVI” delivered yet another tense, enthralling, and fantastic episode. Let’s take a look at what happened and what it all meant.

Spoilers for 4×08 “XXXVI” and Treasure Island below

Recap

Fittingly, Black Sails starts off this week in the black of night. Woodes Rogers rides to a house somewhere on Nassau and finds a secret basement. He takes a journal from a stack and returns to Nassau. After fake shooting Billy, Billy says the journals belonged to Henry Avery. The house belonged to Gates, and Billy laments what happened to Gates while suggesting what happened to him proves Flint and Silver will split.

They retrieved the journal in order to know the location of Skeleton Island. Rogers and Billy plan to lead Flint and Silver there for the Madi exchange.

Flint initiates a plan of his own, using Kofi and a few others to rescue Madi. He explains the plan to Silver, who questioned him and again questions him about what comes of their war. After taking Nassau before he saw only bad, but questions whether the pirates are capable of something better. Flint says that he has to believe in something better, and that Silver and Madi are the crucial aspect of something better.

Up in snowy Philadelphia, Max changes Anne’s dressings. She expresses optimism about her dealings with Grandma Guthrie and sees a bright future for them. Anne interrupts to dismiss this future. Whatever “us” once existed was broken and can’t be put together again. Idelle comes in and Anne asks for something from her.

Back in Nassau, Rogers shows up late to a suspended Council meeting. A lone adviser still waiting warns him that the Council is losing faith in him. He reveals his knowledge of the Madi deal. Rogers blows off his concerns and asserts the threat of the pirates. The adviser says fighting pirates is not his concern, rebuilding Nassau is. If Rogers keeps fighting pirates the others will rebel.

Meanwhile Mrs. Hudson packs away Eleanor’s belongings. She finds and begins reading a part of her journal, which talks about fearing for Rogers and a desire to protect him. Rogers interrupts her. He tells her to ready his things before he sails at dawn. The pirates find him aboard his ship the next day. He has Kofi and the others captured, and along with Madi brings them on deck.

After Rogers shoots Kofi, Flint gives an order to ready the cannons but Silver overrides him and orders the treasure brought on deck. The chest is opened and displayed before Rogers shoots Madi. The governor has her escorted below deck and readies to sail while Flint walks angrily away from Silver.

Mrs. Hudson has a plan of her own. She visits Mrs. Mapleton at the Nassau brothel to express fear of Rogers and tell an idea to get Mapleton back on the Nassau Council. Mrs. Hudson wants to turn states (sorry, give info) to help her do so. In exchange she wants to return to London as Eleanor promised. Mrs. Mapleton returns to her office where Jack and Featherstone wait, now able to tell them where Rogers and Flint sailed to.

Which we then see they are currently sailing to. De Groot explains their course to Ben Gunn. He confirms the Skeleton Island destination and delivers some creepy exposition about it. Down in the captain’s quarters, Silver and Flint argue about the exchange. Silver insists Madi is more important than the treasure, while Flint argues that Julius can now destroy their war. Silver reminds Flint of his unquestioning loyalty and asks for the same in return. Flint claims this loyalty.

He’s not the only pirate having a rough time of things. Anne tries to cut a slice of bread off a loaf but her hands remain too weak. Idelle walks in with a list of ships currently in port and taking on passengers that Anne requested. Anne plans to leave. Idelle talks about Anne’s murder of Charlotte in season 2 and how Max was the only reason Idelle did not hire someone to kill her in return. She tries to convince Anne to stay for Max.

Max is busy herself. She rides with Grandma Guthrie, but their expected plans have changed. They walk together at the docks, where Grandma Guthrie tests her with another anecdote, this one involving pirates nearby and the ways the colony benefits from them. Grandma Guthrie asks about Eleanor and laments never getting a chance to groom her. Grooming Max instead provides some comfort.

Later that night, she brings Max to a party. She describes an unremarkable nobleman she wishes Max to marry and the benefits of doing so. He would be the figurehead Max controls in Nassau. Any concerns about marriage obligations can be settled easily. If Max wants to run Nassau, she only has to agree to marry him, or someone like him.

Meanwhile, her partners (Jack and Featherstone) discuss an old man who can lead them to Skeleton Island.  Featherstone suggests letting Rogers take care of Flint. Jack refuses because both his concerns, as well as his treasure, are on the island. Back on the Walrus, Hands tries to convince Silver to kill Flint. Silver refuses and believes Flint will stay loyal. He warns Hands that he will answer for any harm that comes to Flint.

We catch up one last time with Max, who sits outside in the snow. Anne joins her and finds out about Grandma Guthrie’s support. Max tells Anne she turned down the marriage offer. Anne responds badly to the marriage offer, but not so much when told it would be superficial. Max explains the denial as a lesson from Eleanor. She spent years trying to learn from Eleanor’s mistakes, and believes the deal to give up Nassau was one last lesson.

Max risked Nassau because she does not want to risk losing Anne, and thinks she’s more important. Anne offers a hand and Max takes it.

Okay, time for the finale.

As the Walrus approaches Skeleton Island, a flashback shows Flint tell a scary story to Dooley about Avery finding it and a ship already there. The truth of the story is irrelevant. The point is about the fame and fear of the story. He convinces Dooley to be his new partner. They attack the treasure’s guard and prepare to move it. Hands stops the guard from shooting Flint but lets them take the chest. He wants Silver to see the truth of Flint.

The next day, Hands and Silver watch Flint come ashore with the treasure. Silver goes to Rogers and tells him what happened. He also tells him that he sent six men, who we see, after Flint to bring back the treasure, and also tells Rogers they were ordered to kill Flint.

Why do I have to wait another week?!

Review

No, seriously, how am I supposed to wait another week for this?

Since the moment James Flint stepped on screen with a plan to rob a Spanish galleon of its gold, anyone who has read Treasure Island knew this was coming. He would end up with a single chest of treasure, take it to Skeleton Island, and bury it there. The 6 men sent to retrieve the treasure will fail, whether they kill Flint or not. Of those 6 men, only Hands is (probably) guaranteed to survive.

All that’s left is the how. I cannot wait to see the how.

For the first time, however, I think Black Sails suffered from having to tie back in to Treasure Island. Not much—the rationalization for how and why things ended up this way worked well. What I do think happened is that the characters made decisions based on what that book says they will do, rather than what made perfect sense for their characters. I can imagine many seeing watching this episode and questioning why Rogers, Flint, and Israel Hands made the decisions they did.

Those questions were handled skillfully, though.

Flint and Silver may have grown close, but season 3 foreshadowed their eventual split and the past few episodes have done a great deal to fracture their partnership. The Madi issue was the final, logical straw separating them for good. John Silver has always been a selfish man. He has never cared for piracy or Flint’s war. The decision between them and Madi was never any decision at all.

Flint is an equally selfish man, uncaring for anything besides his own personal revenge against England in the name of Thomas Hamilton. His position may seem more selfless and noble, but he has always been focused solely on his own goals at the expense of everyone around him. If you stand in his way, he will turn on you. He has done so time and again. And he did so here.

Flint and Silver are two charismatic, willful, and selfish men who managed to somehow keep their goals aligned for nearly 4 seasons. Both had perfectly understandable reasons to split now. I can easily defend both of them. This split was always going to occur, though, and it was always going to be depressing to watch these two men take opposing sides of this final conflict. Both Toby Stephens and Luke Arnold sold the rift remarkably well.

With two episodes left, all that’s left to question is how exactly this conflict matches up with the known end result. How does Flint hide this treasure where no one can find it? Does he die here or manage to escape? A popular theory immediately spreading among the fans is the idea that Silver did not order Flint’s death, or at least told Hands not to kill him. Perhaps Silver will leave Flint stranded instead.

Or maybe Flint somehow escapes all of this in order to leave the clues Silver later follows back to the treasure in Treasure Island.

We may know the ultimate end result here, but even now it’s hard to know how Black Sails will reach that result. And we still don’t know what will happen with everything else happening on this sprawling show. Namely, what will happen with everyone else on Skeleton Island not actively hunting Flint.

For anyone who worried the politically heavy focus of the past two seasons meant Black Sails couldn’t give audiences a good old-fashioned pirate adventure, “XXXVI” proved they still had the touch. This episode reminded me specifically of a season 1 episode. Flint and company chasing a foe at sea, the focus on treasure, the spooky island, it was a wonderful callback to Black Sails’s origins. I know some fans missed episodes like this among all the politics of the revolution against Woodes Rogers.

And Skeleton Island more than delivered. In an episode full of highs, I’m not sure I enjoyed anything more than the build-up and eventual reveal of the island where Flint buries his treasure. In particular, his story to draw Dooley to his side perfectly established the island as a source of madness and violence. Toby Stephens had a fantastic episode here; his hope while defending his plan, his hurt when the chest is revealed, and the despair in his later argument with Silver were fantastic.

Nothing topped the silver tongue he displayed while telling the “history” of Skeleton Island. If anyone needed a reminder of James Flint’s charisma, look no further. It was one last, defiant act of guile from a brilliant main character, and one establishing just why the pirates and Rogers will likely end up exchanging blows one last time on this “cursed” island. Jack needs Flint and Rogers gone. Rogers needs the pirates gone. The pirates will be influenced by the tales of Skeleton Island. It’s a recipe for violence.

(I really want to feel more confident about Jack’s odds here. I want to believe he will arrive when the battle is underway and that Flint will already be dealt with, leaving only Rogers to deal with. At best I feel about the same. Maybe knowing his chances of survival didn’t decrease is enough.)

Everyone is in place and ready for their final fates, both on and off Skeleton Island.

I was very grateful for the focus Black Sails gave Max and Anne this week. With both far removed from the conflict on Skeleton Island, I worried we might not see much of them in these final episodes. I’m still slightly worried, because this episode felt almost like closure for them both. Max has chosen Anne over Nassau. Anne has accepted this choice. I’m all full of warm, fuzzy feelings and my cheeks are redder than Anne’s hair.

The last two episodes still have plenty to cover with these two, though. And it will probably rip my happy feelings to shreds. How will Grandma Guthrie respond to Max’s choice? Her feelings of Max replacing a lost chance to tutor Eleanor will not simply disappear, and she will not be willing to simply let Max walk anymore. Is Jack now trying to kill Flint for nothing? Will Max and Anne now have to run to escape imprisonment for piracy? No, these two are far from done.

In fact, this episode lent credence to the theory of Max “filling in” as the Mary Read of this story. If Grandma Guthrie decides to imprison Anne as a pirate and Max sticks by her, perhaps things play out that way.

I also have my reservations about Max’s willingness to cast aside Nassau for Anne. I don’t doubt her feelings, but I’m not sure her choice here fits her decisions and character to this point. Especially when she claims the choice was a lesson learned from Eleanor. Eleanor Guthrie died after choosing love. Are we supposed to assume the same will happen to Max? And what exactly happened to revenge for Eleanor’s death? I suppose as tempers calm she can think again with a clearer head, but Eleanor’s death is still so fresh.

Speaking of, Black Sails managed yet again to straddle a thin line between justifying Eleanor’s death and making it feel worse. Max replacing Eleanor in her grandmother’s eyes is certainly a fascinating idea I’ve enjoyed watching, but I still think it preferable to see Eleanor doing this with Max’s help. Having Eleanor here would also make Max’s decision to choose Anne over Nassau a little more understandable. I’m not sure how much longer Black Sails can manage this balance. Maybe they keep it up all the way through.

Whatever happens, Anne will most certainly stick with Max to the end, be it bitter or sweet. Their reconciliation was an absolutely gorgeous scene, even if I still fear every second for their eventual fate. In the end, I just want them to be happy. I hope they get to be happy. And I want Jack to be there with them.

Not just emotionally, this scene was visually beautiful.

Hey, I doubt Black Sails will provide much in the way of happy endings for its characters. I’ll take whatever I can get. Miserable or not, though, Black Sails continues to navigate excellently towards its final moments.


Images Courtesy of Starz

Bo

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and continues drifting wearily through the slog of summer TV.

Analysis

The Expanse Season Two Still Fares Well As An Adaptation

Barbara

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The Expanse has had the seventh book in the series released this month, while its third season (meant to adapt the second half of the second book) is scheduled to come out some time next year. In other words, both the authors of the source material and of the adaptation are keeping busy, making it a very current show. So allow me to continue in my attempt to assess how it fared as an adaptation.

The second season works with the second half of Leviathan Wakes, the first book in the series, and the first half of Caliban’s War, the second installment. It continued its similarity to Game of Thrones as an adaptation by diverging from the source material significantly more than in the first year it was on air. The good news, however, is that the changes are not so dramatically for the worse as is usual, and in some cases are even for the better.

Warning: the following contains spoilers for both the show and the books.

Some problems remain from season one. Chiefly, two of them. One is the scope of the world as it is depicted on the show.  The other are the universally dark and gritty visuals. Ganymede is supposed to have corridors carved in ice. Wouldn’t it have been awesome to see that? But now, just more indistinguishable black and grey.

The most significant difference between the books and the show in season two is, without a doubt, all the added drama. It’s everywhere. Every little thing that is routine in the books becomes exceedingly tense on the show. Starting with the Somnambulist, which is not taken by force – or near enough to force – in book!verse, but is simply a ship at OPA’s disposal that Holden is given by Fred. Continuing through Bobbie’s escape from her rooms in the UN compound; she simply walks away in the book and that’s it. And ending with the escape from Gynemedes, which, int he books, is not so much of an escape as simply, you know, leaving. I could keep listing other instances, but this serves as a good example of the sort of tension added for television.

Related to this is also the complete secrecy that surrounds everything on the show. The books work much better with the reality of modern technology where things are streamed immediately. Billions of people watch Eros crash into Venus live, for example, and the data available from what happens there is available to everyone. Or there is the whole thing with the zombie terminator attacking on Ganymede. On the show, it’s a huge secret Chrisjen has to exert extreme energy to ferret out. In the books, everyone knows and there is footage of the attack available. One of my favourite little moments is when Holden tries to hide his identity behind a scruffy beard as he comes to Ganymede, and you end his chapter feeling that he succeeded. Only to open Chrisjen’s chapter and find out that he really, really did not.

Secrecy adds drama, so it is understandable why the show decided to go this way. The need to keep viewers hooked is evident, too. And ending the season in a middle of a book, they needed a suitably dramatic bang to end with. So while all of these things make me roll my eyes, I do not truly blame the show for them. I feel the missed character beats much more keenly.

Captain James Holden

Holden is one character whose arc from the first half of Caliban’s War was adapted truly well. There was the inevitable added drama, as everywhere, but his essential story arc remained.

With regards to the end of Leviathan Wakes, however, the issues from season one continue, and Holden is treated as more of a boy scout by the show than he is by the book. One fantastic moment (though one that could hardly be adapted) was seeing inside Holden’s head when the Head Human Experimenter tried to convince him to join forces before Miller shot him. The reader can see, with intimate certainty, that Holden is this close to giving in when Miller pulls the trigger. We know for certain that it was done at just the right time. Yet Holden condemns Miller for it without the slightest trace of self-awareness, confident he would have resisted. It’s no doubt intentional, and it’s perfection. It should have been replaced by a similar scene suitable for the visual medium that would have conveyed the same. It wasn’t, and Holden’s character suffered for it.

On the other hand, I very much appreciate the change made to Holden’s dynamics with Naomi. In the books, when they start their romantic relationship, it turns out that not only has Naomi been in love with him for ages, so had pretty much every female on the Canterburry, because he is obviously God’s gift to womankind. It’s something to be thankful for that we don’t have to deal with that on our screens, even though I admit that the way book!Naomi handles Holden after that is exquisite.

I’m also very much in favour of the open communication that happens between them before they have sex in the books, as opposed to the “thick erotic tension” kind of deal the show went with. It would be easier to teach people about affirmative consent if there were actual examples of it in the media. There was a scene like that in the book, and guess what? It didn’t get adapted. Let’s all pretend at astonishment.

Dr. Praxidike Meng

I must admit that I was surprised when I saw he was one of the point of view characters. I neither knew nor expected it, and that in itself sums up the biggest problem with his show adaptation. He was very much pushed into the background. I understand why, I suppose – it might have been felt that there were too many new characters – but he lost a lot of his appeal when his role was cut. He is there to represent a valuable civilian point of view among all the trained soldiers and expert politicians. And his expertise adds a crucial dimension to the catastrophe of Gynamede.

Though if someone had to be cut short, I’m glad it was Dr. Meng. I understand they could hardly reduce Hodlen’s role, as much as I’d appreciate it, and both of the ladies are more interesting than Dr. Meng.

Still, I remember lamenting the sharp division between the first and second half of season 2 and pointing out that had Dr. Meng been included in some of the earlier episodes, it would have helped to make the transition more seamless. Now that I know he is one of the point of view characters, I feel this even more strongly.

Assistant Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala

I cannot quite decide whether Chrisjen is an adaptational success or failure. Because she is perfection on the show…but she is also quite different from the books. If I should compare book!Chrisjen to someone, it would probably be Miranda from Devil Wears Prada, or characters of that sort. She is not likable in any straightforward way, but at the same time, she has a charm to her that is oddly irresistible as much as you want to punch her in the fact at the same time.

Show!Chrisjen, on the other hand, is much softer on the surface, not showing her hard lines so obviously. Even when she swears, she does it with a kind of disarming smile that takes the edge off it. Book!Chrisjen is nothing but edges.

I don’t want to complain, because show!Chrisjen is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and there is nothing intrinsically better or worse about either of their characterisations. But I cannot help but wonder how far gender stereotyping played a part in making Chrisjen less obviously hard. And it becomes especially problematic when paired with her stupidity in season 2, which takes the form of that oh-so-very-feminine failing of trusting too much in her friends, or ex-friends.

I wrote out my thoughts about that elsewhere in detail.To summarise, it was a subplot that prioritized a male character over a female one, and made Chrisjen look naive. But it was also an excellently done one. So while it troubles me, I cannot with a clear conscience say I wish it didn’t happen. I just hope it won’t again.

Additionally, one change I definitely appreciated was Chrisjen not being Errinwright’s subordinate on the show. It changed the dynamic significantly, and very much for the better. It also made this whole added subplot in season two possible.

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper

Bobbie has a similar problem as Chrisjen: she, too, is made to look markedly more stupid on the show. Only as Chrisjen is effectively a genius, she ends up being just a little incompetent. Bobbie sometimes ends up looking downright stupid.

To be fair, her character is exceedingly hard to adapt. She has that in common with Dr. Meng. While Jim and Chrisjen constantly talk to people around them and even the things that are part of their inner monologue are easy to change to a personal conversation with someone close, Bobbie doesn’t have that option. She doesn’t have anyone close to her left. For a long time, the only person she talks to at all is the chaplain, whom she just dismisses in many different ways when he tries to ‘help’. There is no way to naturally have her talk about what she thinks and feels, because being alone is an important part of her character arc. But not everything can be shown with images.

But that is not the biggest problem with her character. No, that is reserved for the mysterious decision to make Bobbie into a fanatical war-monger at the beginning. I have been complaining about lack of proper representation for Mars in the first season, and so was very happy to see Bobby in nr. 2. And it’s not like seeing her slowly change her approach when confronted with new facts was worthless. But it also made her into a very flat and irritating character for the first two thirds of the season.

It’s not like book!Bobbie goes through no character development after she sees Earth with her own eyes. It’s not like she’s not patriotic or proud to be a marine. But she can be all this and still retain some nuance, and some brain cells. The showrunners seem to have forgotten that. Bobbie on the show frequently comes off as a brat, something her book self never does.

There are other characters worth a mention, naturally. Fred Johnson is probably the most significant. His role was changed significantly as well, and much more tension withing the OPA was included. It adds to the problematic depiction of OPA as uncultured and wild space terrorists, but on the other hand it’s masterfully done. One can understand the sources of tension and where the different branches and wings are coming from. Much like with Errinwright, here again one is willing to forgive the problematic nature of the added material for a large part, because it forms such excellent additions.

In the end, the only thing I truly blame the second season for is the assassination of Bobbie’s character. While changes to Chrisjen upset me, they were compensated for by the excellent quality of Errinwright’s subplot. Yes, it is telling that the two female protagonists were undercut by the adaptation, making them look less smart than they are in the source material. But Chrisjen still comes out of it pretty impressive. The changes to Bobbie, on the other hand, are much more destructive, and they held no compensation, no hidden bonus. She is simply depicted as unlikable, to such an extent that even when we finally get legitimate reasons for sympathy, it’s long in coming.

Season 3 should fix that, and fast. Hopefully, Bobbie is here to stay. She shouldn’t have to carry the weird season 2 baggage with her throughout the show.


Images courtesy of SyFy

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Analysis

Why You Need To Be More Excited About Bisexual Rosa Diaz

Dan

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Television has been a mixed bag for bisexuals. Even as gay and lesbian representation become more and more common (though not as fast as it should), characters within other parts of the acronym are few and far between. For bisexuals, who often suffer from confusion not just without but within the LGBT community, proper, outright representation means quite a lot. Not hints, not little flirts after a female character breaks up with her boyfriend. And especially not characters that just hook up with the same gender as fanservice. We want characters who can say “I’m bisexual.” We’ve been lucky to have characters like Sarah Lance or Daryl Whitefeather in recent years, but as a whole, television seems reluctant to acknowledge bisexuality.

But we finally have another name for that criminally short list: Detective Rosa Diaz of Fox’s Brooklyn 99. And not only is she bisexual, but she’s also a bisexual Latina woman played by a bisexual Latina woman. Let me say that one more time to help it sink in. We have, on a major network, a Latina woman coming out as bisexual who is played by a Latina bisexual woman.

Brooklyn 99 has been a success since day one thanks to its character, heart, and style of comedy that refuses to punch down. It has also become well known for its handling of social issues, best represented by the character of Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher); a black, gay man whose sexuality is merely a part of his character, not his entire identity. The handling of Holt, who stands out in a sea of shallow stereotypes and tokenism, has led the show’s fans to hope another character to come out as a member of the LGBT community. When it turned out that it was Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) would be coming out as bi in the show’s ninety-ninth episode, appropriately titled “99,” the people rejoiced.

The episode itself did a good job of keeping her coming out low key. She only comes out to her friend, Detective Boyle, and only after he’d spent the episode bugging her about her new paramour. Interestingly, the show played with ideas of heteronormativity as Boyle pesters her about who “he” is, about her “boyfriend.” Rosa’s frustration seems not to be with Boyle’s prodding into her well guarded personal life (though that is part of it), but instead with his assumption that she was only dating a man. This episode restrains the result of this coming out to Boyle and Rosa bonding, letting the coming out stand alone. It is in this week’s follow up episode, “Game Night,” where the show’s dedication to Rosa and her coming out becomes more obvious.

The conflict in this episode, for Rosa, is in coming out to her parents and co-workers. Rather than let it just be played off as something she can sweat like so many other things, it instead very realistically captures the fears an LGBT+ child, particularly an adult one, might face when coming out.

Rosa’s first act is to come out to her co-workers during a meeting. She uses the term “bisexual,” and allows “one minute and zero questions” of seconds. We learn that she, like many other lovers of the same sex, discovered her sexuality while taking in media, in Rosa’s case Saved By The Bell. The show makes a conscious decision here not to make it some “phase” or something she’s just now discovering. Rosa Diaz has been bi since she was in 7th grade. She has been bi for all five seasons of the show.

Coming out to her parents has an entirely different set of emotions. Rosa fears that her coming out will change something with them, that somehow they won’t love her or they won’t want to be around her (Of course, in Rosa’s usual fashion, their bonding time consists of silent dinners). With Jake’s help (who gives an impassioned and curiously personal coming out speech to Rosa to help prepare her for her parents), she makes an attempt over dinner. Here, Rosa’s fear rapidly turns to anger when she learns that her parents were worried she was going to come out at dinner and were relieved that she was, thanks to a misunderstanding with Jake, just a mistress. The show pulls no punches here, capturing not just how angry she is at her parents’ ignorance but also heartbreak at being burned due to her vulnerability. In true sitcom fashion, this conflict wraps up cleanly by the end of the half hour. But the power and authenticity of it remain.

Stephanie Beatriz, herself a bisexual woman, has not been quiet in her desire for Rosa to reflect her own sexuality and has been effusive in her support of the storyline. She’s worked hard to make sure that the story reflects the bisexual experience, and has personally validated many fans in their own journeys. She does all this while still portraying Rosa as the stone-cold bad ass she’s always been. The emotions we see in Rosa as she comes out are real, they are powerful, and they are beautiful. But they are all 100% still Rosa’s.

As a final and personal note, this is a huge moment for me as a bisexual man being able to see the representation of some of my experiences on the screen. But I can only capture a small part of why this matters. I can’t even fathom how much this matters to bisexual women, let alone our POC brothers and sisters who are even less represented. Rosa Diaz’s coming out is their story as much as it is anyone’s, and I hope that I was able to capture a small measure of the joy this news has caused. 


Images courtesy of FOX

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Television

Shameless Still Struggles but Moves in the Right Direction…Kind of

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Well there was at least one thing I could say I loved about this episode. Even though the season hasn’t completely returned to its prime form in storytelling, it has begun to feel like it’s old self again. That’s probably a really vague statement but with the kind of humor portrayed, the situations at hand (even though they only last one episode so far), and the pure unapologetic aura of the series, this episode made me remember why I fell in love with this series in the first place. Yet, at this point is it enough to keep me watching. The answer is pretty simple for me, and it’s because I believe they are trying to reclaim former glories. However, I don’t represent the complete consensus of every fan of the show. I still have really high hopes that this rocky season will start changing for the better.

Recap

The episode opens with Fiona complaining about her previous fight with Ian about the church to Nessa as she goes on about what she likes about screwdrivers. She notices that there’s a leak coming from the apartment of the old lady who barks at her. Upon entering, she discovers that there’s a dog…and that the tenant, Mrs. Cardinal, is dead and being semi eaten by her cute small dog. Frank further takes steps back to his old self, minus the junkie part as he tells Liam not to judge junkies. He gets his first credit card…well a non fraudulent one anyway. Lip gathers Professor Youens and the workers at the bike shop to see where they can find Brad since his disappearance in the previous episode. Youens is pretty cold about it considering his own alcoholism.

Nope…just enjoying Nessa’s little screen time.

Kev, V, and Svetlana are a couple, er, throuple, again. Kev starts to doubt not only his sexual talent but his and V’s relationship as he feels he can’t satisfy her like Svetlana can, especially after that, ahem, scene. Hilariously this conversation leads to Kev wants to be with a man to get the same ‘gender liquid’ experience. (I laughed when he said this so hard.) The police end up telling Fiona that until they find a next of kin for Mrs. Cardinal, her belongings will remain and the poor little dog will have to be euthanized for eating human flesh. Kev also goes to Ian to try to figure out if he may be gay or not while inadvertently hitting on Ian and a straight guy who was just being nice…oh Kevin. Lip continues his search by going to Brad’s home, where his wife is pretty set on him not coming back unless he’s sober. That baby is annoyingly adorable as well.

Debbie awakens from an ecstasy filled stupor and discovers she’s had unprotected sex with one of her friends and is pretty convinced she’s pregnant again. So begins the 39 hour hunt for the morning after pill as Frank buys a car. She tries another pharmacy but discovers that she needs to be 17 to buy the pill. Fiona goes through her dead tenant’s stuff looking for any sort of clue on a next of kin only to discover the woman had quite a life, as she infers from a collection of photos. Lip’s hunt for Brad gets interesting as he and Carl find his truck containing massive amounts of donuts, hair extensions, and Michael Jordan’s arm from his statue in Chicago.

Debbie gets desperate. She gives a stranger money to buy her the pill and ends up getting arrested when the woman tries to run with the money and Debbie goes in for a royal beat down. The two fight like crazy between cells as the pro choice/life debate is reduced to shouting. V tries to convince herself she isn’t a lesbian by not being able to hit on Fiona. Not that we doubted that she doesn’t love Kev, it’s more that she enjoys being dominated, something that isn’t in short supply with Svetlana.

Fiona finds out that her tenant’s name was actually Helen and that her husband died in Vietnam. Her granddaughter is finally found and the woman really has no interest in keeping anything because she barely knew her. Kev finally gets the gay experience he’s looking only to realize he’s actually not gay. This scene was hilariously uncomfortable with how forward his partner-to-be is.

It’s okay, we still love you Kev.

Lip’s search gets warmer as he finds the woman who was with Brad this whole time at the bakery they robbed. He obviously cheated on his wife and Youens tries to give him a lecture on how Brad is not his problem. Lip has a serious point about wanting to help his friend after being helped the same way. Yet, Youens also has a point about trying to save someone who clearly does not want to be saved. Finally the conflict we’ve been waiting for comes around as Fiona goes to Ian about their last fight. He gives her the cold shoulder before finally confronting her about her behavior this season and the last. Both have their points, but by the end of the conversation Ian simply tells her that he has no idea who she is anymore.

Fiona ends up saving the photos that Helen’s granddaughter is throwing away. Lip finally finds Brad, still drunk and very violent, and forces him into his car after the two fight with one another. Lip’s patience is extraordinary but then again, Brad dealt with his stuff too. Animal control finally comes for Rusty and we all want to cry because you’re a monster for killing a dog. Kev tells V about the failure in his gay mission but also tells her he was just trying to make her jealous. V tells him that the domination turns her on with Svetlana, and she’s into more than just women.

Lip tells Brad everything he’s done in the past few days. Brad tries to convince Lip to let him go and that he can’t go back to Camy after what he’s done, especially the Michael Jordan incident. Lip basically tells him to get over it. Debbie finally gets released by her friends, and they end up getting her birth control. In the most offensive way possible. There ends up being too long a line at the pharmacy and her middle eastern friend ends up shouting in his language , terrifying everyone in the store away. Frank gets some bad news as he’s let go from his job, not by any fault of his own but rather because the store is going out of business. The episode ends with Fiona putting up a photo of Helen in the main hall of her building and Lip taking Brad to see Camy, who kicks him out.

Review

I’ll just get to it really quick now. I was totally okay with writers not completely expanding on the fight between Ian and Fiona in this episode. For one it’s clearly evident that it isn’t going to be something that is rushed like the whole meth dealer plot. In the previews for the next episode we clearly see that Ian is going to go full on war with his sister, and the building tension from this episode serves only to make us want it more. Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

While we’re on the subject of that fight, Ian brought up a very clear point, which is that Fiona’s moral compass is all messed up. For the record before I get into this, I am completely on Ian’s side in this, but it would be wrong to dismiss Fiona as simply being morally confused.

The sibling tension is real.

For one it isn’t a crime to try and better one’s self. Unfortunately, it is a cruel world and sometimes trying to reach for greatness ends making you step on the less fortunate. In this case Fiona is doing just that, not purposefully trying to hurt them. The amount of homeless people in this country is frighteningly high, and we can’t fault her for wanting make her neighborhood look less like the ghetto. Still, the way she is going about it is contributing to the gentrification of the south side. This is something that will only sit well with the higher earning populace who will come to live there, as Nessa’s partner said to her.

With Ian, his heart is in the right place and we’ve seen some serious personal growth in a short period of time. He seems to really care about the plight of these kids. He’s sincerely trying to help them with something as simple as a place to lay their heads at night, something that can go a long way into trying to better themselves. Just as Fiona is trying to do, but with different results.

My biggest issue with this episode was Kev and V in almost it’s complete entirety. It feels like episode filler, especially what’s going between V and Svetlana. It serves absolutely no purpose at this point, or none that we can see yet. While the Kev segment is funny to watch, it’s pretty much null once he tells V it was just to make her jealous. I mean, during certain parts of the episode I sort of felt that he was serious in questioning his sexuality, but of course by the end we discover only that it was pretty much a sham.

Overall this episode wasn’t the worst of the season. The Debbie sidetrack was pretty funny, although a little offensive. Lip’s end of things has become dark as he tries to help Brad, especially after what Lip himself went through. Much as I hate to admit it, I think it’s getting dragged out too much, but that’s just me. It’s still enjoyable to watch especially with what will happen to Brad next and the preview of Youens getting drunk again in the next episode. The start of the season was very rocky and the show is still struggling to find its footing but the writer are making a very valiant attempt.

One thing I mentioned in several of my reviews of this season is the fact that the show seemed to ignore the fact that there was no real overall problem or issue that the family was facing together. Not that there isn’t any character development of course, cause there is a lot. It’s one of the only reasons I’m still watching. What this episode did to renew my hope is not so much focus on the Fiona and Ian drama and begin showing us that it was something that was going to appear for the whole season. Rather, this episode gives their tension a moment to breathe. It takes its time about portraying where it will go and who it will bring into it. I’m more than okay with them doing this because it shows the writers aren’t trying to give us something that ended as quickly as the meth plot at the start of the season.

That being said there are still certain subplots that I’m not into and are coming across as literally just filler and unimaginative. The question of whether the show has runs its course or should be renewed for another season comes up again as we approach the middle of the season. Though I’m sure there are many who don’t want to see it end, but the time may soon be upon us if they can’t have more than one episode in which the filler isn’t so painfully obvious. We’ll have to see what the latter half of this season brings us.


Images Courtesy of Showtime

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