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Dynamite Premiere for Wynonna Earp S2

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Wynonna Earp Season 2, Episode 1 Review “Steel Bars and Stone Walls”

Last night was the premiere of Syfy’s Wynonna Earp, and I gotta say. Hot damn. I could barely keep up with the live tweet (#WynonnaEarp #EarpWatch)! It was a lightning speed, whirlwind, dynamite of an episode. I’m still reeling, and I’ve already watched it twice.

For those who might not remember, here’s the DL for how last season ended: Dolls was arrested by Black Badge for treason, Waverly touched some goo and has smokey demon eyes, Wynonna had to kill Willa, and the Ghost River Triangle protections are now down so all manner of demons and beasties can get in and the revenants can get out. We ready? Hold onto your butts, folks!

OMG, what?

Waverly and Doc run through the woods from a beastie with one heck of a mouth on it. Luckily Wynonna is there to save them, but not before the monster destroys Doc’s hat. Cue Wynonna hair clip and gun twirl. Meanwhile, Agent Lucado informs Dolls of his transfer to Black Rock prison, and Sheriff Nedley bullshits that Bobo was Wynonna’s jilted lover, so he poisoned everyone. Wynonna’s not happy about the implication, nor is she happy that Black Badge has arrived to take all of Doll’s things (after handing out the antidote, of course). Except his mug. Nedley kept that.

“Earp, you might be the hero that Purgatory deserves, you’re just not the one it needs right now.”—Sheriff Nedley

Wynonna picks locks at a motel until she finds Dolls’s room. She also finds a mysterious woman, with whom she immediately gets into a brawl that ends with both of them pointing guns in each others’ faces. Back at the homestead, Waverly tends to Nicole’s bruises, which lead to makey-outy times. Doc walks in (politely). Nicole leaves to feed her cat and Doc asks Waves how she’s doing after Willa’s death.

“I’ll have you know I’m kind of a big deal around here. I’m the Earp heir.”—Wynonna

In the motel, Wynonna snarks to mystery woman Eliza because she’s jealous worried about Dolls. She informs Eliza that Black Badge got him, to which Eliza replies that it’s gonna be bad if they don’t get him out soon. They decide to team up, reluctantly and with plenty of eye rolling. Dolls doesn’t look so good, probably going through withdrawal from his lizard juice. The rest of Team Earp meet Eliza and plan the rescue. Wynonna’s clearly on edge, so Waverly takes her aside to check on her. Wynonna says they have no time to grieve, they need to rescue Dolls. Eliza breaks into Dolls’s safe to find all his lizard eye juice gone; Doc says he has a vial and they break the news to Wynonna that Dolls isn’t entirely human. No time to ponder that, though, they have to break into the safe house to get Dolls!

“Christ, you smell like shit, rolled in shit.”—Black Badge Officer

Doc and Wynonna sneak into the safe house with the power of stink to find Eliza already inside. She and Wynonna exchange smirks and one liners. Back at the homestead, Waverly goes all demon eyes and just when it looks like she cut Nicole with an axe…she chopped off the monster’s head from the opening scene. (Goddamn it, Andras! You almost gave me a heart attack!) Doc, Eliza, and Wynonna get stuck in the tunnels because her security clearance was revoked. Thankfully, Waverly, ahem, “Liz Wallace Windsor, Scotland Yard” arrives with a demon head for ‘delivery’ to get her in the front door. ‘Agent’ Haught waits in the getaway car. Inside, Lucado taunts Dolls about his friends being trapped.

“Listen, I know the location of Black Badge safe house, I’ve a stonking great demon head stuffed into a wheelie bag, and I’m due back on a plane to London in three hours. It’d be one remarkably elaborate con, right chap?”—Waverly

Waverly finds the lab (filled with all kinds of monsters) and gets a call from Wynonna about a change of plans. Eliza tells Wynonna she came to Purgatory to help Dolls, and herself, find out what Black Badge turned them into. Waverly (tries to) flirt with the techie to get him to open the security doors. When she tries to knock him out, the smell of his blood makes one of the monsters go crazy. Waves then talks lab tech Jeremy into helping her save Dolls by opening all the security doors.

“You must be yankin’ my vajay.”—Wynonna

What? This isn’t dirty! I just want you all to appreciate how adorable and sexy she looks with her glasses.

Doc then traps Eliza and Wynonna back in the hallway because he doesn’t want Wynonna to have to kill someone else she cares about should Dolls not “still be the raging asshole we know him to be”. God, I love Doc. The ladies head to the lab and kick some ass on the way there. Doc finds Dolls and Lucado; she pulls a gun on him, because she likes to break rules. Fortunately, Doc likes to break rules, too, because he’s packing dynamite. Old dynamite. Unstable dynamite. (This scene is pretty goddamn fantastic.) Dolls chokes out Lucado but Doc talks him down from killing her. In the lab, Waverly prevents the soul-devouring demon with the power of her smokey demon eyes just before Wynonna busts in to shoot it.

“Not today, Satan.”—Wynonna

Doc gives Dolls some lizard serum; Dolls gives Doc a message for Wynonna before running off. Lucado catches Wynonna, Waverly, Eliza, and Jeremy, and Doc, and threatens to shoot them all only to be interrupted by Moody, one of her superiors. He assigns Wynnona the task of patrolling the Ghost River Triangle for revenants on behalf of the Black Badge, then kills Eliza and threatens the rest if they don’t fall in line. They’re all expendable but Wynonna. They all sign a contract in blood, except Nicole, whom Waverly protects by lying about their being anyone else who knows about the plan. Moody claims he can help Wynonna break the Earp curse. When she overhears in the car, Nicole drives off. Doc lies about there being a message for Wynonna from Dolls.

“You can respectfully kiss my little white ass.”—Doc, to Moody

Wynonna drops a not-so-subtle “come up and fuck me” to Doc, who turns her down politely. Nicole brushes Waverly off because she’s upset that she didn’t a chance to ‘make it official’ and become a part of the team by signing the contract. Wynonna wanders aimlessly into Willa’s old room, crawls into her bed, wraps her arms around one of her stuffed animals, and cries. (Please excuse me while I go sob in the corner for a while). She sees a flash of light that leads her outside to find her necklace (which she’d dropped), and Dolls, who smiles and leaves. Wynonna and Waverly discuss sticking together and hunting demons. In a room somewhere else, we see a questing hand reach for, and find the dynamite Doc left behind. The episode ends with a literal bang.

Favorite One Liner: “Waverly, that is the worst British accent I’ve ever heard.”—Nicole

I Gotta Say…

Holy shit. That’s one way to start off a season. It hit the ground running (quote literally) and those literal—and metaphorical—hits kept coming. I’m still not entirely certain about what happened when Waverly shot the gun at the end of last season’s finale, but I don’t even care. This is how you do a premiere. The action beats followed swiftly on each other’s heels, yet it never felt hectic or over-stuffed. The dialogue had the perfect amount of humor and snark, the emotional moments the precise amount of weight and length that you engaged with them without the pace dragging.

Goddamn. This was one of the most perfect hours of television I’ve ever seen. And from what I’ve heard from Emily Andras’ Twitter, the season’s going to keep up this pace the whole way through. I’m quite literally on the edge of my seat waiting for next week.

I loved the new additions to the team, no matter how brief their stay. Rachel Skarsten killed it as Eliza.

I ship it.

Only Andras and her team can manage to have a whole fight scene between two women, one in her bra and panties, without it being male-gazey, catty, or exploitative at all. RIP Eliza. You will be missed. Varun Saranga is such an excellent addition to the cast. Can’t wait to see what he brings to the team this season. Also, he and Waverly are #TeamNerds forever. Moody likewise is a fascinating character. I’m not sure if he’s full or shit or not, but it’ll be fun to see what intrigues lie in Black Badge this season.

Okay, so, Nicole knowing something was up with Waves because she tastes different. How extra is that shit? I also love that we’re getting more from her psychologically. She so desperately wants to belong to the gang. To not just be on the sidelines; she calls herself an agent, which is clearly a fib, though I love Doc for playing along. Her anger at Waves keeping her out of the contract worked well and made sense given she has a very personal stake in the conflict. Not just because Waves is involved. Let’s not forget Willa shot Nicole. She’s ‘in’ it whether Waverly understands it or no.

At the same time, I appreciate that we can sympathize with Waverly’s perspective as well. She just lost her sister and almost lost Nicole. Of course she wants to protect her girlfriend! As a side note, I love how Waves pointedly calls Nicole her girlfriend when Wynonna hesitates. She’s having none of the hiding nonsense. Good. There are plenty of shows where discomfort or hedging around an LGBT relationship is a part of the storyline, which is fine. That’s a real life struggle for our community.

At the same time, it’s nice to see a show where it’s a simple fact without any fuss. Everybody’s cool with it. That’s a valid story, too, and one I like seeing. Besides, there’s not a lot of room to make a big deal out of it when there are demons running around. Plus, Waverly is part demon herself at the moment, so she has other things to deal with.

I appreciate the honesty with which this episode dealt with how each of the sisters responds to Willa’s death. Wynonna, who had always connected with and looked up to her older sister, is clearly the most affected on the surface. Not least because she was the one who dealt the final blow. The scene near the end where she cried broke me inside. Melanie Scrofano is an amazing actress. When she’s crying, I can’t help but tear up myself. When you add in all the other details, from the stuffed rabbit, to the fading, molding wallpaper and the dusty light, the tone is suffused with grief, decay, and death. It’s heart-wrenching.

Yet Waverly isn’t untouched herself. She’s honest about her feelings for Willa—“She sucked.”—and appears both cool and strong. However, underneath the bitterness (and the demon eyes), flashes of sorrow break through. One gets the impression that Waves draws on the demonic force within her to suppress the sadness, perhaps even the guilt, she feels over Willa’s death and how she feels about it.

On the other end of the spectrum, the camaraderie between Doc and Dolls this episode, hot damn. Doc being the one to save Dolls in the end was packed with so much meaning. They’ve been through a lot last season. They hated each other for a while and bickered over Wynonna. Yet here, we see they’ve found balance, friendship even. Doc was willing to blow himself up to save Dolls. And Dolls almost killed Lucado when she threatened Doc. Boy does this make my heart grow three sizes bigger.

I am an unabashed Dolliday shipper, and Wyndolliday, and Wyndolls, and Wyndoc…aw hell, I can ship just about anybody on this show. Andras is just that good. She’s given me a whole fleet of ships in this show alone.

Nevertheless, the relationship that drives the story forward is still that between Wynonna and Waverly. Their love for each other, mutual protective instinct, and deep-seated need to be with and stand by each other grounds everything. Because at it’s heart, this is a show about a family of two sisters against the world. They have their friends, their lovers, and their colleagues, but they’re the legs the story stands on. And let me tell you, these pillars stand tall. No matter what they face, they’ll face it together and bury their family’s demons and their personal ones. Because, like Wynonna said,

“It’s always demons.”—Wynonna

I see you, Andras

A tribute to all the little details I don’t have time to discuss in full.

  • It took less than 5 minutes for us to get WayHaught kisses. #Bless
  • All the jokes about Doc’s hat. It never got old.
  • Wynonna is the queen of eyebrows and one-liners; Melanie Scrofano can do so many amazing things with her face and communicate so much without words. It’s a wonder to behold.
  • “My Waverly”. UGH. WayHaught kills me in the best way.
  • Dominique in that skirt, heels, glasses combo with the accent? I couldn’t breathe.
  • Doc opening up his jacket to flash his boobs dynamite. A+
  • I saw that Phoenician alphabet in the background of the storage room. Yay, Easter egg for me!
  • Love the literal “ride or die” line.
  • A+ stunt work. For real.
  • WAVERLY. FUCKING. EARP. Dominique Provost-Chalkley is so, so amazing. All the little nuances, the slight facial differences that tell us she’s not ‘our Waverly’…and then she is. God. She’s amazing. Not that I’m biased because I met her and she called me “the real Waverly Earp” or anything.

See you next week for “Shed Your Skin”. Oh no, this is about Waverly isn’t it? Shit! Feel free to join me in the live tweet at 9pm CST/10pm EST! In the meantime, check out our store for Wynonna Earp merch and our forum for community discussions.

I am here for the “sexy, sexy drama” that will be WayHaught this season, according to Andras.


Images Courtesy of SyFy

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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Gretchen EllisAkaNinSuou no NioiErin Kane Recent comment authors
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ErinKane
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ErinKane

The dialog comes fast but basically, the show starts immediately where last season ended and Waverly wasn’t shooting at Wynonna and Doc, she was shooting at the monster. Which only pissed it off and they had to run which is where we join her and Doc.
Waverly is so interesting this season! The goo seems to have heightened her passions while not necessarily changing her as a person and I think that’s really neat and way more interesting than her just being turned evil. LOL

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

That makes so much sense! Even after twice through, I missed it. So thanks for clearing that up. I keep feeling like I was missing something, and turns out I was.
I agree about Waverly. The show clearly plays with the idea of it making her evil, but you’re right, it mostly seems to have heightened her senses and passions. That and giving her command of lesser monsters/demons. Whatever Legion is, it’s high up on the demonic food chain, or scary enough that other demons back down. SO much more interesting!

ErinKane
Member
ErinKane

Also, I forgot to add, I think Shamier is focused on getting into bigger shows and more into Hollywood and less on this show and I think that’s part of what’s going on with Dolls this season. I think Emily is trying her best to reduce his screentime without pulling a Rothenberg. He’s been quite absent from most of the promotion for the show and with Mo Ryan of Variety saying Katherine Barrell has a greatly expanded role this season I kind of expect a new credit sequence next week with Kat in the main cast and Shamier out. I… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

I’ve suspected as much, based on interviews with Andras and the trailers/promos. That and he wasn’t involved in the live tweet gathering and only tweeted a couple times compared to everyone else. I didn’t think to include it until the post had already gone up, but Andras has mentioned that Dolls will be “away from Purgatory hiding from Black Badge”, which to me sounds like code for less screen time, which I assumed was due to his desire to find other projects. I wish the best for him and trust Andras to write his character in a way that does… Read more »

Suou no Nioi
Guest
Suou no Nioi

Oh man, I think I need to go rewatch the end because I feel like I missed a scene the first time through. Not sure if I actually did or if was just a matter of how much was going on in the episode. Because this episode was packed. Though I do love how it still gave us quiet moments for characters to grieve and process everything from the finale. The episode struck a nice balance between closure and new beginnings that really propelled us into the season without feeling like we’re moving too quickly into the next stage. It… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Everything you just said summed it up perfectly. I appreciate the down moments as much as the up moments; really nice balance.

AkaNin
Guest
AkaNin

Great start of the season. Really enjoyed the review too, I agree with pretty much everything you have to say about this episode/show. I’m not a big fan of WynDoc though, definitely don’t hate it, it’s just that something about that ship has always felt.. off to me. Fortunately, as you said, the most important relationship in this show is the one between Wynonna and Waverly. Two things I’m wondering about: 1. The hand at the end of the episode, could that have been Constance Clootie? 2. Is it possible that Eliza will be back? Dolls died once too, right,… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

I see the appeal of WynDoc, but I like WynDolls, Dolliday, and Wyndolliday more. For me, the fact that Doc is around 100 years old, though still in the body of a 30ish year old man is kind of weird. Unfortunately, Shamier (Dolls) may be looking for other projects so we may not get as much from Dolls this season. It’s unfortunate, because I like him as a character more, and I find his dynamic with Wynonna more equal and interesting. 1. Constance Clootie is a good idea! I hadn’t thought of her, but it could work. 2. Oooooo! I… Read more »

Analysis

Avatar, Spirits, and Spirituality

Michał

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Here on The Fandomentals we like to talk about Avatar: the Last Airbender (ATLA) and its sequel, Avatar: the Legend of Korra (LoK). But while many of us have talked about the strides the franchise has made in LGBT representation, its portrayal of a mental healing and recovery, complicated family dynamics or deconstruction of the superman narrative, I would instead talk about something that has concerned me ever since I saw the second season of Legend of Korra: spirits. After all these years, it’s time to finally put my concerns into words. And I will unfortunately continue to be the resident malcontent when it comes to the show.

To start with, let me lay down some groundwork and my central thesis. See, there’s two ways that the word “spirituality” is used in the franchise. One is the meaning we associate with it in the real world – concerned with immaterial things rather than material ones, inward-looking, meditative, contemplative. The other is the setting-specific meaning of being connected with the spirits and their world. But here’s the rub – the spirits aren’t actually very spiritual. Why do I say that? Let’s begin…

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Spirits certainly exist in the world the original show portrays, but they only sometimes play any major role – the biggest is perhaps the Book One finale. They’ve got their own worlds, but they also have a rather vague relationship with nature. In “Winter Solstice” we see a spirit named Hei Bai go mad after humans devastated a forest.

Vague it may be, it’s also significant, as we find out during “Siege of the North”. Zhao killing the Moon Spirit causes the moon itself to grow red and waterbending to stop working. If Yue hadn’t become a new Moon Spirit, presumably it would have become even worse from there.

In the same finale we also meet Koh the Face-Stealer, a spirit whose brief appearance nonetheless made him memorable. Just as his name implies, he steals faces, and the only defense is to maintain an entirely neutral, emotionless expression. This is the kind of thing that spirit stories tend to run on, after all – taboos and specific behavior that protect you from malevolent spirits. He was genuinely creepy and threatening in what little we saw of him.

The other spirit who plays a major role is Wan Shi Tong, the cranky owl who runs the spirit library. He accuses humans of always trying to use his knowledge for their own brutal ends. In his defense, Zhao used the library to find out about the Moon Spirit’s physical form, and we know how that ended up.

The Painted Lady only appears very briefly, after the rest of the episode might make us suspect she doesn’t actually exist. Like Hei Bai and the Moon and Ocean spirits, she has a connection to the natural environment, in this case her lake.

The show’s finale involves Aang receiving energy-bending from a Lion-Turtle, but… are they spirits? It’s kind of ambiguous what they are, what they aren’t and what they want. Still, they clearly do have some spiritual connections and they allow Aang to resolve the conflict without compromising his beliefs… even though the way they do it leaves something to be desired.

Spirits are, in general, the more outwardly “magical” element of the world in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Bending is by design rather predictable and we generally know what works and what doesn’t by the time we’ve seen half of the first season. Spirits introduce stranger and more fantastical things with them when they appear, but they’re not particularly central.

Legend of Korra Book One

The first book of the sequel contains no spirits. Amon says that they sent him to bring balance to the world, but he’s lying. So none of them appear or do anything. However, the word “spiritual” crops up frequently, mostly in terms of Korra’s lack of this trait. But why is she lacking in it and why is it a problem?

Well… that’s a good question, actually. “Not spiritual enough” seems to be a catch-all term for Korra’s struggles with airbending, connecting to her past lives, entering the Avatar State and her general combative attitude that focused on fighting and bending rather than the Avatar’s duties as a leader. Basically, every character flaw and struggle the show outlines for her.

Unfortunately, as we know, none of it really goes anywhere. Korra receives her vision from Aang long after it ceases to be useful, her airbending comes to her when Mako is in danger and she connects to her “spiritual side” because she’s depressed. This moment is just the first of many where the word “spiritual” is thrown around without any meaning. She became more “spiritual” in the sense that she got access to all her Avatar powers, but she gained no spirituality in the other sense of the word.

Sadly enough, you can see some ultimately unused plot hooks in this story. Korra receives her first incomplete vision of Yakone’s trial after Amon knocks her out during their “premature” confrontation. She receives her second vision after Tarrlok bloodbends her into unconsciousness and the final, complete one when he holds her hostage. It seems clear that Amon also used bloodbending on her, but subtly and maybe in combination with chi-blocking. Thus opening a way for Korra to figure it out on her own. But that was not to be and instead all the relevant information came from Tarrlok’s exposition dump.

But let’s not dwell on it too much. Instead, let’s move on to the second season, where spirits come to the fore.

Legend of Korra Book Two

And they do so in style, by attacking right in the first episode. The dark spirits prove difficult for even strong benders like Korra, Tonraq, and Tenzin to handle. Non-benders are entirely helpless, even though we saw Sokka best Wan Shi Tong with a heavy book and gravity. This is in keeping with LoK’s treatment of non-benders, really. We also find out there’s some tensions between spirits and humans and that corrupt spirits attack more and more often.

Either way, Korra’s uncle, Chief “I’m not a villain, I swear” Unalaq pacifies the spirit with a waterbending technique. Korra is impressed and wants to learn from him, since she feels she’s not spiritual enough to be the Avatar and a bridge between worlds. Sensible, one might think, and a logical progression. And yet… something doesn’t add up.

It once again comes down to the issue of spirituality and actual spirits. Unalaq complains about how the Southern Water Tribe turned their spirit festival into a festival of commerce. Which sounds plausible on the surface. He’s a crusty old traditionalist, of course he’ll complain about it. But what do the sprits even care? It’s not as if they have any concept of economy. As long as humans don’t go around destroying the environment or infringing on “spiritual” places (not that we know what makes a place qualify as such), they seem to be indifferent. Korra’s father, Tonraq, got on their bad side by doing the latter.

I feel like the show sort of expects us to take it as face value – they call it spiritual, so obviously spirits should care, right? But real-world religions give a reason why the spirits or deities they believe in care about the ceremonies and rituals. Here, we see no such reason.

As I mentioned at the beginning, ATLA got around spirits by being pretty vague about them. They do spirit-y things, they get angry if humans mess around with things they shouldn’t, they have a connection to nature… in the end, they’re not what’s important. But the second season of Legend of Korra puts them front and centre and makes them tangible… well not literally tangible, but much more real and relevant.

It doesn’t exactly get better when it turns out that Unalaq– who is absolutely not a villain, trust him on that– arranged for Tonraq to destroy a spirit-grove in the first place. Later on, it further turns out that he’s working with the spirit of darkness. It’s the two of them together that are responsible for the dark spirits attacking people. Which means… there’s no actual tension between humans and spirits, no crisis of spirituality or anything of the sort. Just two bad guys doing bad guy things.

Or… not exactly. After Unalaq spent many episodes doing various terrible deeds, and competing with Hiroshi for the title of the franchise’s second-worst father, he asks Korra if Avatar Wan had done the right thing when he separated the worlds. So it suddenly becomes a question we’re meant to care about. The relations between spirits and humans become an actual topic rather than just Vaatu being a big evil kite. But this happens right before the finale, so there’s not much time to talk about it.

As we know, Korra agrees. Why? Good question. The decision to keep the portals open gave her agency that the Book One finale had never given her. Her becoming the first Avatar of a new age is also appropriate. But as far as motivations and sense go… well, it has none. Which brings me to the second massive problem with the spirits in the show, and requires me to start at the “Beginnings”.

In the two-parter we see humans and spirits living in the same world. Or rather, humans surviving seemingly thanks to the protection of the Lion-Turtles. Everything beyond the four settlements huddling on their shells is a hostile jungle full of spirits who won’t give them an inch. We see proto-firebenders go out to hunt using their power. Again, the only reason they can do even that is because the Lion-Turtles help them. Why? Like I’ve said a few times already, good question. But one we have no answer for.

When Wan is exiled from his town and ventures into the wilds, he earns the spirits’ trust by not eating a gazelle he encounters. Which… well, I suppose gets us into the whole argument about whether or not it’s moral to eat meat. But still, he had to risk starvation for them to give him a chance? This starts the general trend in which it’s humans who have to put all the effort into harmony between the two species.

We do later see that there was a tribe of proto-airbenders who live in harmony with the spirits. But how? Once again… good question, no answer. There’s really nothing here except a vague feel-good “spirits are great” message.

After Wan accidentally frees Vaatu, he later fuses with Raava permanently to fight him, becoming the first Avatar. He seals Vaatu into a tree and decides to forever separate the world. Which… isn’t a perfect solution, perhaps, but certainly looked better than what was, at best, a perpetual war. At worst, it was spirits oppressing and bullying humans. So why are we supposed to believe that this wasn’t the right choice and that the one Korra made was right?

Aside from the spirits’ behavior, there’s still the major disconnects between them and being “spiritual”. We still don’t really know what it means. Yes, Korra is woefully unequipped to deal with spirits. But that’s just part of her general immaturity and rashness at this stage of her character arc.

Tenzin, her mentor, is however also unable to mediate into the Spirit World. For… some reason. It seems connected to his general psychological turmoil and massive pressure he’s under to live up to his father’s expectations. The Spirit World is governed by human emotion, so I suppose it would make sense.

While the inability to enter the Spirit World this way is yet another failure dropped on the large pile of Tenzin’s issues, his daughter Jinora can do it. Once again, we don’t really know why Tenzin can’t do it, but she can. All we get is that, you guessed it, she’s more spiritual. Except we still don’t know what that means and why being spiritual is even of any concern.

I’m also not entirely sure why only benders seem able to enter the Spirit World through meditation. If we accept that it requires peace of mind, concentration and inner balance, non-benders are as capable of them all as benders are.

When Korra actually enters the Spirit World, it turns out to be a realm where reality is something of a subjective matter. Human emotions affect it, particularly those of the Avatar. It more or less adds up, is visually interesting and makes some intuitive sense. Still, I’m not sure how much it adds up with the spirits’ connection to the environment that we saw in ATLA.

We also see Iroh in the Spirit World, which raises the question of whether human souls end up there after death. We know the Avatar reincarnates into new bodies every time, but what about everyone else? Maybe Iroh was special – “spiritual” enough to transcend into the Spirit World after death.

This kind of exemplifies the problem I’m talking about here. Yes, Iroh was spiritual in ATLA, in the more conventional sense of the word. There were some hints that he’d travelled to the Spirit World, but for the most part his spirituality was very down-to-earth. He told Zuko to look at what’s in front of him and think about what he wants, instead of chasing some lofty destiny someone else had imagined for him.

The wisdom of spirit-Iroh in Legend of Korra feels a lot like platitudes. Light, dark, staying true to yourself and all that. There’s just not much to it. His earthly wisdom and vague mentions of having had dealings with spirits are turned into some sort of deep connection to the spirits. Which allowed him to effectively become one.

What it adds up to is that the season tries to build up to Korra keeping the portal open, but the attempts just don’t work together. We don’t have a clear idea of what the relationship between humans and spirits should be. Korra’s decision feels like a big plunge for no good reason.

Legend of Korra Books Three and Four

The first episodes of Book Three deal with the consequences of the worlds reuniting. Korra spends a lot of time trying to contain the spirit-vines growing in Republic City, with the help of her friends. And the spirits… well, they don’t do a thing about it except yell at Korra, as if Raiko and the press weren’t enough. It seems that, once again, it falls to humans to work for harmony and peace, while the spirits are just going to complain about everything they do.

The spirits themselves take a backseat as Korra has to contend with the Red Lotus, so she never gets the chance to properly solve the problem. Which instead happens off-screen – we find out that in the period between Books Three and Four, while Korra was recovering from the horrific beating she took from the Red Lotus, Republic City integrated the Spirit Wilds. We see no real evidence of the spirits doing anything to help here, but at least they didn’t get in the way, I suppose?

Still, when Korra goes to ask for their help with Kuvira, she gets the cold shoulder. Kuriva is abusing the spirit vines to power her weapon and she’s invading the city where spirits and humans live together. But what do the spirits say? They’re not going to help, since they don’t interfere with human matters. But aren’t spirits and humans supposed to live together now, so there’s no “human matters” and “spirit matters” anymore? The worlds are back together and they’re all in it together, aren’t they?

I feel like it’s pretty common that whenever humans and more supernatural beings are in conflict in stories, the pressure is on humans to do something about and find common ground. The others, in this case spirits, are seemingly allowed to be aloof or outright hostile instead.

And of course it bears mentioning that humans have a lot more to fear from spirits than the other way around. They can hurt humans in many ways, while humans struggle to retaliate or attack. The biggest danger spirits seem to suffer from humans is their tendency to twist and corrupt when around humans who feel strong negative emotions.

To bring it all to the central point, I think the treatment of spirits in the Avatar franchise is one of the cases where a previously vague and ambiguous element gets more attention. Which doesn’t serve it well. Legend of Korra seems to expect us to take a lot at face value. It’s a lot of talk about spirits, spirituality, change and harmony without a whole lot to back it up. I got the distinct impression the show just skips over it all so we don’t have time to think about it too hard.


Images courtesy of Viacom

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Fandomental Fives: 2018 Emmy Nomination Snubs

Dan

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The nominees for the 2018 Emmy awards have been revealed, and the Fandomentals has a lot of feelings about it. There’s some pleasant surprises (Sandra Oh’s nomination for Killing Eve,) obvious picks (The Handmaid’s Tale continues to dominate), and some real disappointments. Below are the top 5 snubs as voted on by the writers here at The Fandomentals.

#1. Andre Braugher—Brooklyn 99

Nomination He Deserves: Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

As one of our writers said, the Monty Hall saga (BOOOOOOOOOOONE?) alone should have been enough to earn Braugher an Emmy. Playing at once a straight man, an authority figure, and a member of the gang, Captain Holt regularly wears multiple hats in each Brooklyn 99 episode. Braugher, like Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, has taken a character that began as a rather straightforward joke and made him one of the most developed characters on the show. His absolute dedication to Holt’s deadpan delivery and perfect comedic timing have made him standout even in an ensemble comedy like B99. It’s been two years since he was even nominated for an Emmy even as Braugher, and Brooklyn 99, has only gotten better and better. He’s got one more chance next year, so please Emmy’s. Do it for Velvet Thunder.

#2. Brooklyn 99, One Day At A Time, The Good Place (Tie)

Nomination They Deserve: Pretty Much Any Awards

For an academy trying to burnish its progressive credentials, there was a distinctive shutting out of three shows with some of the best LGBT representation on TV. While they reward shows that revel in the torture of women or the struggles of the very rich and white, they could at least balance it with shows that more closely reflect the real world. As the internet raves about the success of these shows, the Academy puts its fingers in its ears and nominates shows nobody is watching like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Silicon Valley. In the acting categories, the Academy reveals a clear bias towards “dramedies” that trade on cheap emotional pulls over full on comedy. While ODAAT still has a lot of juice to pick up awards in the future, both The Good Place and B99 have to deal with the cutthroat world of network comedies. With B99 on what may be its final season, we have to hope the Academy can come to its senses next year and give some props to the “a-Noine-Noine!”

#3. Kyle MacLachlan—Twin Peaks

What he should be up for: Lead Actor in Drama Series

What can be said about Kyle MacLachlan’s performance in Twin Peaks: The Return that hasn’t already been said. Not only did he portray the iconic character of Special Agent Dale Cooper, he also had to wear two more hats as the evil BOB-possessed Dopplecoop and the innocent, borderline robotic Dougie Jones. Rather than play them as separate character, MacLachlan imbues a little bit of Cooper into both characters. Without that through line, the show would have gone from chaotic to borderline unwatchable. The nomination of David Lynch is well deserved, but The Return hinged as much on MacLachlan’s acting as it did Lynch’s weird and wonderful creative vision.

#4. Rita Moreno—One Day At A Time

What she should be up for: Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Rita Moreno is one of the most accomplished women in Hollywood. She’s had an over 70 year long career and is one of only 12 people ever to be an EGOT winner (which she’s been since 1975), as well as the only Latina EGOT. She could be spending her time staying at home or phoning in guest appearances. Instead, she is putting in work as an integral character in one of Netflix’s truly breakout shows. As family matriarch Lydia, Moreno dances between comedy as drama as easily as she dances “America.” She’s putting on a masterclass in sitcom acting She’s choosing to work with a brand new generation of Latinx actors. It’s a shame that both her work and artistic selflessness is being so criminally overlooked.

#5. Alison Brie—GLOW

What she should be up for: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

GLOW got a surprising amount of love this year. It garnered nominations for Bettie Gilpin (Supporting Actress), Jesse Peretz (Direction), and for the show as a whole as an Outstanding Comedy Series.  But the Academy failed to recognize the actress that was the core of the season: Alison Brie. Brie and her work as Ruth had one of the stronger arcs in the season as she both discovers her niche and  learns to become a less selfish person. Ruth acts as the show’s compass, emotional heart, and resident butt monkey. Brie does a masterful job turning the timid and shy struggling actress into a confident wrestler and director. She even seems to be the most committed to her character’s wrestling persona, sinking completely into Zoya as if she were a real wrestler straight out of the WWE. GLOW’s success means there will be more chances for the historically underrated Brie, and we hope the Academy recognizes her work in the future.

Those are our big snubs, but it was a contentious choice. What choices were big mistakes? Who got left out that deserves a nod? Sound off in the comics with YOUR biggest Emmy snub.

For the full list of the Emmy Nominations, you can go to Emmys.com/awards. And keep an eye on the Fandomentals as we bring you complete coverage of the Emmys from predictions to night-of reactions.


Images Courtesy of NBC, Netflix, Showtime, the Television Academy, and NBC

 

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Cloak and Dagger Visit a Shared Dream

Bo

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cloak and dagger featured

It also finally kicked into gear with some action and juicy plot details! Cloak and Dagger has been somewhat slow to kick into gear, with 6 episodes passed and the two main characters only just getting deep into their investigation during last week’s episode. Tyrone’s investigation hit a fatal wall, but Tandy had a bit more luck with the daughter of a friend of her father’s. Let’s get into “Lotus Eaters” and discuss its events.

Glorious, Glorious Plot

This was easily the best episode of Cloak and Dagger’s season, in my humble opinion. And for good reason; things moved. Things happened. I know the idea of what was probably a few minutes inside someone’s head doesn’t sound like much, but “Lotus Eaters” made good use of the episode-long dream its characters inhabited. Tandy and Tyrone exhibited their greatest control yet of their powers. There were many more details regarding the rig explosion, including hints towards the origin of the superpowers. The characters themselves underwent substantial growth and bonding.

It was just a pleasant shift in pace and balance between character and plot.

By far the most interesting plot development was the intimate look at the explosion. Namely, the effects of it. We knew the explosion gave Tandy and Tyrone powers, but we had no idea how or why. The question remains but at least we have an idea now. There may even be an outright explanation for Tyrone, while Tandy’s powers remain a bit more of a mystery.

Whatever effect the magic not-oil juice the Roxxon rig drilled for had on its workers sounded awfully similar to Tyrone’s powers, or at least the effect his powers have on others. They basically turned into violent, mindless zombies because they were infected by fear during the initial mini-explosions on the rig. Why? Unimportant right now. What’s more interesting is how this ties right into Tyrone’s powers, which tie directly to fear.

So why does Tyrone seem to control fear, or at least have the ability to use it to his advantage? It’s a good question. The others on the rig were overtaken by the effects of the explosion. Is it because he survived the explosion that killed everyone on the rig but Ivan Heiss? Was it his proximity, or rather his lack thereof? Is it tied to him nearly dying and the explosion saving him somehow? And considering the only other two people who survived the explosion received powers from it, what will this mean for Ivan?

One thing expected of superhero shows that Cloak and Dagger lacks is some villain to focus on. Roxxon has served as the background antagonist, but there’s no central figure. Even Roxxon isn’t really a villain yet so much as the background potential for a villain. The past two episodes have begun focusing in on them, but you still expect some single person to eventually represent them. Could that person be Ivan?

I admit it probably isn’t likely, but you have to wonder if he’ll develop powers as well since the only other two survivors caught in the explosion developed powers. Maybe he will. And after 8 years in a repeating nightmare, who knows what his mental state will be like. Or maybe they’ll stick just to avoiding a repeat of this disaster. Last week’s episode had Evita’s aunt talk about a coming disaster only Tandy and Tyrone can stop. Now it’s easy to guess said disaster would repeat the rig explosion and its harmful consequences for those caught in it. Get ready for New Orleans, zombie-style.

There’s also the question of why Tandy developed “hope and light” powers when the rig explosion seemed so tuned towards fear. It’s a lot of questions to raise, but these are all new questions sprouting from new information in the episode, and I’m glad Cloak and Dagger finally gave the details necessary to ask them.

It was also great to finally see Tandy and Tyrone display such control of their powers, as well as work in tandem. Tyrone mentions how he feels more in control of his powers in the repeating dream.  Maybe they’ll again be inconsistent back in the real world, but I hope his powers will at least come closer to his dream level of power. Tyrone’s power level jumped considerably from what we’ve seen before. Tandy’s were closer to what we expected, but still a jump. She was tossing around her light daggers pretty skillfully by the end.

Even better, they skillfully used their powers in tandem.

I hope “Lotus Eaters” served as a way for Cloak and Dagger to make permanent, considerable jumps forward in power level using a plausible explanation. The dream was a good way to provide them a taste of their greater capabilities allowing them to understand them more. Considering how closely tied Tandy and Tyrone are, their strengthened bond also makes me optimistic. Cloak and Dagger not only moved the plot forward, it moved their relationship markedly forward as well.

Cloaking and Daggering

The setting and stress of the oil rig dream provided a great opportunity for Cloak and Dagger to develop its main characters, and the show took advantage. A big reason this episode ended up as easily the best so far was because it fully integrated character development into action and plot movement. Not that I have any problem with character development, but you’d rather it happen through actions than talking. At the very least you want a balance.

Most of the character work here centered around Tandy, which makes sense. Ivan Heiss was her lead through his daughter Mina. He worked with Tandy’s father and was on the phone with him when the explosion happened. Watching her work through her loneliness throughout the episode was interesting and far more preferable than having her and Tyrone scream awkward dialogue at each other (which did happen here).

It’s been obvious since the first episode how the loss of her father changed Tandy and her mother. They have each lingered on what happened in their own way. Her mother lingers tangibly in her efforts to sue Roxxon and get legal justice. Tandy has run away from her feelings but always lingered mentally. She held on to her resentment over losing her father and never let go, no matter how many people she runs from in real life.

Her dream phone calls with her “father” made clear that she hasn’t come close to leaving her memories and anguish behind. Just like that, Tandy was willing to basically give up her life to spend eternity talking to someone else’s interpretation of her father. This actually fed into her previous admission of suicidal thoughts. For all intents and purposes, she would end her conscious life and forget everything in order to talk to the voice over the phone.

It’s significant that Tyrone was able to break her away from this choice, and also that Tandy was willing to listen. They’ve come a long way. Tyrone has finally provided her with something she lacked in all the years since her father’s death: a genuine friend facing similar circumstances and that she genuinely believes she can relate to. Maybe Tandy cared for the boyfriend who is now in jail, but she obviously didn’t feel any strong loyalty for her.

Tandy has lived a life basically alone, morphing herself to fit whatever crowd she tries to fit in with. She was right when she said she played Tyrone. She has played him since the moment they first saw each other. The same confession was made last week with Mina, because Tandy has done this so long it’s her default. Throughout the course of Cloak and Dagger, though, we’ve seen her and Tyrone grow closer because they share the same strange experience with their powers, which also link them together in some intangible way.

The ending phone call was a great way to cap the episode’s emotional development for both. Not just because it proved Tyrone to actually be Tandy’s friend in a way she lacked since her father’s death; it also had the tape recorder moment capping Tyrone’s development throughout the episode. He went from not even remembering his brother’s voice to openly sharing it with his new friend.

(And let’s not ignore the romantic undertone of the scene.)

“Lotus Eater” was a truly significant episode of Cloak and Dagger. I hope they keep this quality up. All the slow-burning and frustration of the first 6 episodes would be worth it if things shift in this direction moving forward.

Other Thoughts:

  • If Ivan isn’t a bad guy in any way, you have to assume Roxxon will want to silence him. I hope he sticks around, I like his character. Don’t Greg him please.
  • Did Roxxon not give the rig the shielding Ivan wanted specifically so the explosion would happen? It’s common villain stuff to let a disaster happen in order to study the results.
  • I hope Tandy has a moment of reflection regarding the number of bodies her daggers have accumulated. She’s incredibly ruthless in murdering with those things. I know they were dream people in this episode, but still.
  • With the romantic interest starting to present itself, I wonder how Evita will come into play in that drama. I’m worried because I have zero tolerance for love triangles stalling stories.
  • I saw a fan who did the math about how many cycles Ivan lived through in his catatonic state. Let’s just say it’s enough to warp someone’s mind quite a few times.

Images Courtesy of Freeform

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