It’s the wedding of the century! Ruby and Sapphire “Reunited” to make their millennia-old relationship honest. Look, we know about the ridiculous amount of stuff that happened in this episode. It was a bomb of a Steven bomb and we’ll get to the main confrontation, we promise. But right now we need to talk about the gathering responsible for bringing everyone together. This was Garnet’s day. It helps when the Crewniverse makes the wedding so entertaining, sweet, and chockfull of small touches making the whole thing feel perfect. That’s worth spending some time on.
Oh, and there was a kiss involved? We also think it mattered because of two women and the importance of representation or something? So, without further ado, Betchen (Bo and Gretchen) are here for the first part of our gushing review of Steven Universe’s magnum opus. There’s all kinds of stressful things we could be writing of, but for just one day…
Let’s Only Think About Love
Steven’s new song perfectly set the tone for the episode, and was easily the most Steven-y song in Steven Universe history. It encapsulates everything, good and bad, you need to know about the kid. There is a LOT the Crystal Gems have to worry about. The fact that Ruby and Sapphire split at all and want the wedding says that much. Rose=Pink Diamond hangs over their head. Steven has plenty to think about regarding his own identity and perceptions of his mother. The Diamonds pose an ever present threat looming over everyone, including those outside the immediate circle of Crystal Gems, like Peridot, Lapis, and the Townies.
Steven’s entire existence usually involves doing the exact opposite of worrying about terrible things, and when he has something happy to focus on like the wedding? No way. He will go to any lengths to inspire joy in everyone around him. Steven serves as the emotional rock of the Crystal Gems. They all take their lead from him. On this day of all days, he will not let them think about all the anxieties and fears plaguing their minds.
Does this sometimes backfire when Steven buries his sorrow too much? Sure. Sometimes the other Crystal Gems need it, though.
Sometimes, we, the audience, need it, too. There’s no way not to watch an episode like “Reunited” and not think about how closely it echoes the social and political realities of living in the United States right now. Times they are a’changing and not always in ways that inspire hope. Marginalized folks of all identities have reasons to feel weighed down, anxious, frightened, yes, even angry. It’s exhausting for adults; how much more uncertain and confused much children feel when the adults around them don’t even know how to properly practice self care?
In turbulent and trying times, it’s important children learn that taking a break to be joyful has value. When the world is scary and danger looms, having days to only think about love in order to recharge and refill yourself is important. Self care matters. When there’s so much pressure to be angry, anxious, or both all the time, a show that creates space for children (and adults!) to not be consumed by those feelings as well as ways to cope with their stress in healthy ways is more necessary than ever. And to do so in ways that don’t deny how bad things are.
Steven: *sings* And I think we can all agree, that is a little bit upsetting.
(Gotta love the understatement. Never change, Steven Universe, never change)
As timely as ever, Steven Universe took our times head on and reminded us that it’s okay to be happy for a while. Even if the world is scary. Even if major threats to safety, family, and self seem immanent. Yes, even if not everyone knows or can participate. Even if other people don’t understand why it’s important. Take time for yourself to be happy. To celebrate love and loved ones. Because those are the reasons we fight.
In short, the song was exactly the mood setter the wedding, and our lives, needed. It was happy and catchy and packed full of amazing decisions that immediately let you know this wedding will be amazing. That it’s okay to celebrate the little things even when life seems terrifying, which is exactly what we’re going to do now by gushing over that…
Big Gay Wedding
The attention to detail in this wedding would put the very best planner to shame. Steven shaves his single facial hair using the razor Garnet gifted him when he was a baby. Sapphire knows to look away when Ruby enters the house because of her future vision. The wedding cake was a Together Breakfast. The flowers covering the wedding aisle were the colors of Garnet’s first fusion. The blue and red flowers washing up from the ocean made us wonder if they were meant as a gift from Lapis all the way from the moon.
And how about the clothing choices? The return of tuxedo Pearl would probably be enough on its own. You also have ponytail-Amethyst in a sport jacket. Peridot has a pretty yellow sundress and pink clogs, which is pretty awesome because her most iconic look until now has been a that snazzy red bow tie.
Bismuth wears an awesome suit of armor because it’s the nicest thing she owns. When Connie’s adorable hairdo and blue dress fall way down the ranking of best clothing choices, you know the Crewniverse did a great job.
Of course they all fall short of the wedding duo themselves. Sapphire in a tux and Ruby in a dress might seem like a small thing, but it’s one of those perfect touches that Steven Universe always seems to get right. Their standard appearances establish Ruby as the “butch” side of the relationship and Sapphire as the more feminine side. Flipping their presentation for the wedding was not only a defiant middle finger to the idea of censoring their relationship—no way to make Ruby a ‘man’ this time, censors!—it was yet another way for the Crewniverse to fight against gender stereotypes. There’s no reason the tomboy can’t look pretty in a wedding dress, and there’s no reason the lady who normally wears dresses can’t look sharp in a tuxedo.
Really, you can apply this lesson to all the clothing choices for the wedding. Pearl is slim and feminine, but this is now the second time she has rocked a tux. Amethyst fits the tomboy mold and has always been a bit less…fancy? than the others, but that sport coat and ponytail prove she can be just as classy as the rest when she cares to be. Peridot usually doesn’t come off as traditionally feminine, but damn if she can’t look beautiful in her sundress.
(We really wish Lapis had been here for the actual wedding. What would she wear??? Gretchen is in favor of a blazer/dress shorts combo with a sparkly or lacy shirt.)
Rebecca Sugar and the rest of the Crewniverse know exactly what it means when they make decisions like this. It’s the same reason they had Stevonnie grow a beard. Normalizing the breaking of gender norms, the idea that if you’re a boy or a girl you have to look and dress a certain way, or that you even have to conform to whatever your birth gender was, is important to fighting discrimination. They also know how teaching these lessons within children’s animation helps influence future generations to avoid discrimination. Teaching these lessons at a young age is the best way to promote further acceptance for that generation’s children later.
And what better way than to take a day normally reserved for displaying the “fanciest” version of one’s stereotypical gender presentation and flipping it on it’s head? Basically, this was the most non-heteronormative wedding possible in every conceivable way, and we love them for it. It’s exactly what we expect from a Steven Universe wedding. Right down to Steven himself officiating after floating in like the Magical Girl that he is and the surprise Jamie/Dewey ship announcement.
I now Pronounce You: Garnet
The actual ceremony was perfect. It was SO perfect. The vows perfectly represented how Ruby and Sapphire complement each other.
Ruby: I used to feel like I wasn’t much good, just one of me on my own, but when we’re together, it feels like it’s okay to just be me. So I wanna be me, with you, and, and, not even the Diamonds will come between us. And if they try, we’ll beat em up!
Sapphire: Ruby, my future used to look like one single, obvious stream, unbending ’til the end of time. In an instant, you pulled me from that destiny, and opened my eye to an explosion of infinite possible futures, streaking across space and time, altered and obliterated by the smallest force of will. What I mean is, you changed my life. And then, I changed your life. And now, we changed our lives.
Ruby’s admission that she feels silly for how long they’ve been together—5,750 years and 8 months (of course Sapphire knows exactly how long)—highlights just how important such a ceremony is. The ability to publicly celebrate one’s love for another in front of your family, friends, living gourds, and Onion, should never be downplayed. LGBT+ couples in the United States have only been able to legally get married in all 50 states for three years. When the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, same-gender couples who had been together for decades finally got a chance to marry, and the flood of happy photos from queer weddings prove just how important that day was for them.
Now imagine being together for almost 6 millenia and then finally getting married publicly. That’s the kind of happiness and joy we got to celebrate with Ruby and Sapphire. They’ve been together a long time, but now, they finally get to be seen as a couple. Instead of seeing Garnet, a solo gem, whenever Townies (and the audience) see Garnet from now on, they’ll see a queer couple in love. They’re here, they’re queer, and they just got big gay married. On television.
It’s just one more reminder why context matters and just how much Steven Universe packs into everything they do.
And then came the kiss. For some reason, and we don’t know why, but we still wondered whether they would actually kiss. Steven Universe has never shied from pushing the boundaries, but we still worried the full kiss wouldn’t be allowed. Then it happened. It happened full-on, mouth on mouth, and it lingered all the way through the reformation of Garnet.
Now we feel bad for ever doubting. I don’t think the Crewniverse would have ever bothered with the wedding if they couldn’t show Ruby and Sapphire kissing their way through their fusion. There was no other way to do it.
Then to top off the amazing costumes, we get Garnet in a tuxedo dress (with both wedding rings), and it was amazing.
This was an absolutely historic moment for children’s television. Rebecca Sugar has always used Steven Universe as her way of providing the representation kids like her lacked. The Rupphire wedding honestly feels like the culmination of this concept. It was every Disney fairy tale those kids were denied. The Crewniverse has been on Twitter all week hyping these episodes up and mentioning how they were years in the making. We can believe it. This was everything Sugar has wanted her show to be. We can easily believe she and everyone else has planned and worked on this since the conception of Steven Universe. Ruby and Sapphire finally get to be ‘out’ in the most public and unmistakable way possible.
We live in a better world now for this wedding existing. Remember, the Crewniverse didn’t have to do this. As Ruby said, they’d been together for years. Even if they didn’t have to make a statement about why weddings themselves are important for a queer community that’s only had the right to get married in the US for three years and in many countries, still can’t. They could have said, “We know we love each other, we don’t need a wedding. That’s ‘just a day,’ our love is what matters,” or something like it. They could have laughed at the idea of a wedding (and not in the charmed way Sapphire laughs at Ruby’s proposal).
But they didn’t, because depicting a wedding was important. Ruby and Sapphire have been significant icons for years now in children’s programming. Now, the Crewniverse has given kids and adults both in and out of the LGBTQ community a wonderful example of the beauty of love. Ruby and Sapphire got the fairy book wedding so many grow up dreaming of. They got the type of wedding that those they represent used to never dream they’d see on a kids show. They bashed down the stupid walls that used to stop characters like Ruby and Sapphire from showing their love in such a beautiful way.
Garnet herself put it best:
What a wonderful idea. Humans found a way to make a moment’s decision last forever. I won’t need future vision to know I’ll always remember this.
We’re not crying, you’re crying. Fine, fine. We’re totally crying. Steven would want us to admit what we were feeling after all, and that feeling is love.
Phew. That was a lot. Wait, there’s more? Oh yes, there is so much more. See you tomorrow for Part 2 of our “Reunited” review, where we’ll tackle the Diamonds, arm-wrestling the Cluster, Lapis’ return, and even more yeets!
Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network
Six Degrees of Rebecca Sugar: The Long Road to Bubbline and Beyond
The emotional, weird, and beautiful Adventure Time finale has come and gone, and with it (finally!) came the long-awaited confirmation that Bubbline is indeed a thing. The relationship, consisting of Princess Bonibel Bubblegum and her on-again, off-again companion Marceline, the Vampire Queen, has been a shipper favorite for years. Many of us assumed they were together already; how could you not after “Broke His Crown?”
Still, we lacked the official confirmation and had no idea if we would ever get it. Boy did we, and then some. We got confirmation in the form of a long, loud, make out session. It was absolutely glorious.
The long road from angsty songs about failed relationships to the Bubbline kiss saw a lot change in the world around Adventure Time, and it was this considerable transformation that took the relationship from a shipper favorite to canon. How did we get here? Well, this is The Fandomentals and you only need read my Steven Universe reviews to know I worship at the feet of Queen Rebecca Sugar. To say she played a considerable role in making Bubbline happen is an understatement.
While so many creators (understandably) played safe and carefully knocked on the doors regarding queer relationships in animation, she took up her sledgehammer to knock the damn doors down. I imagine very few people are happier than Sugar to see Bubbline happen. After all, she was there from the beginning. Without her, the relationship probably wouldn’t exist, and the TV world may never have changed enough to allow it.
Why Did You Eat My Fries?
It all started with Adventure Time and its rock-star vampire queen.
Rebecca Sugar joined Adventure Time as a storyboard revisionist during its first season which aired in early 2010. She received a promotion to storyboard artist for the second season. Her very first episode (alongside seasons 2 and 3 partner Adam Muto) was the seminal Marceline episode, “It Came From the Nightosphere,” airing in October 2010. Besides signaling the vast improvement of Adventure Time as a whole over its zany but awkward first season, and nabbing Sugar one of her two Emmy nominations during her work on the show, this was the episode that laid the groundwork for Marceline as a character.
It still stands tall, in my opinion, as her defining episode. Her love for music, its function as an outlet for her repressed emotions, and her strained relationship with her father are all core aspects of her character. “It Came From the Nightosphere” was the episode that established who Marceline is and who she would be moving forward. Rebecca Sugar also wrote the iconic “Fry Song” featured in the episode, the first of many songs she wrote for the show, many for Marceline.
From here, Sugar would storyboard and write songs for pivotal Marceline episodes such as “Daddy’s Little Monster,” “I Remember You,” and “Simon and Marcy,” the last nabbing her a second Emmy nomination. Damn near every defining episode for Marcy had her hands in it.
To say Rebecca Sugar heavily influenced Marceline is an understatement. She still talks glowingly about her experience working on Adventure Time, and how the storyboarder freedom on the show inspired the way she now runs Steven Universe. This freedom encouraged those working on the show to gravitate towards certain characters and really imprint themselves on them. For Sugar, this was Marceline. She has mentioned never putting so much of herself in to a character before:
“We all connected with different characters and were given a lot of room to flesh them out. I loved to write for Marceline. It was eye opening to see her resonate with audiences. I’d never had the chance to put myself into a character in that way. That’s something I couldn’t help but carry with me into my work on Steven.”
And if you ever doubt how much of the character was personal pizza for her, well, take a listen to the full “Fry Song” demo she pitched. Or consider how she came back for the Stakes miniseries to VOICE MARCELINE’S MOM. And write another song for the show. She basically is Marcy’s mom. This was the start of something much bigger. Rebecca Sugar found her outlet. Damn if she didn’t use it to pick out just the right tool to start knocking doors down.
I’m Just Your Problem
You probably noticed a pretty key episode missing from that list of Sugar-storyboarded episodes above. No, I didn’t forget it. Yes, she worked on and wrote the songs for it. And yes, it was THE episode putting the Bubbline ship out to sea.
“What Was Missing” isn’t a Marceline episode per se. She’s in it, but as part of a group of characters who have their personal belongings stolen by a Door Lord. The Door Lord forces our heroes to play an appropriately personal and good song in order to open the door it hides behind. They eventually do and in the end it turns out Marceline had nothing stolen. I could spend a 2,000 words commenting on Bubblegum being the thing Marceline considers “missing,” but let’s stay on track. For now.
As the most musically-inclined member of the group, Marceline takes the first crack at the song to open the door. She starts off talking about sucking Princess Bubblegum’s face until Peebles objects to the tastelessness of the song. How does Marcy respond? Well…
(P.S., you should listen to the demo for this one, too.)
To say fans ran with the romantic implications of this song is an understatement. It seems clear as day; Marcy and Bubblegum used to be in a relationship. It ended badly. The breakup still haunts Marceline and she wants PB back. This song gave birth to Bubbline and the fandom never looked back.
Of course, the episode did not pass by without controversy over whether the song actually confirmed a past romance or not. Marceline’s voice actor, Olivia Olsen, confirmed as such before kinda-sorta taking it back later. Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s public position was basically to stay out of it. Ward’s position basically became the “company line” regarding the episode. They let fans read into it how they wished without making a final judgment.
As the song’s writer, Sugar surprisingly attributed the influence of the song to friendship. In the DVD commentary for the episode, she mentions how she wrote the song based on her experience with a former roommate she fell out with. So maybe the song itself wasn’t written with romantic connotations in mind.
Still…come on. It’s not just the song. Bubblegum’s stolen possession was a shirt entirely outside her style that she kept just because Marcy gave it to her. A shirt Bubblgegum later wakes and take a big whiff of. You know, like you do with clothes belonging to a partner. Their arguments throughout the episode include an exchange about whether Marcy needed to be perfect or not. Is friendship outside interpretation here? No, but just barely.
Whatever the case, this was big episode setting Bubbline on the path towards canon kisses. Much like “It Came From the Nightosphere” established Marceline’s solo traits, “What Was Missing” established the dynamic between her and Bubblegum that informed every interaction the two had moving forward.
And whatever Sugar’s intent with her song and the rest of the episode, I would be surprised if the emergent Bubbline fandom didn’t drive her to want the two in a canon relationship. Adam Muto, her storyboard jam bud and future Adventure Time showrunner, has given Sugar considerable credit for the eventual canonization in the show’s finale. He gives her credit for laying the foundation for them by “building and nurturing that connection” between the two.
Honestly, can anyone be surprised? All you need look at is the show she left Adventure Time to make.
Made of Love
Let me just start off by saying I don’t want to dismiss the pitch Rebecca Sugar gave for Steven Universe or the greater themes outside of its triumphs regarding representation. It has purposes far beyond letting its gay space rocks exist on screen so that kids and adults have characters they relate to on screen. Rebecca Sugar will always be the first to talk about using the show to capture a feeling of her childhood and the sibling dynamic with her brother, Steven. There’s also no question how Steven Universe tackles a variety of important themes having nothing to do with the gender or sexual interests of its characters.
On the other hand, Steven Universe is clearly a vehicle meant to break down barriers preventing representation in children’s animation. It’s Rebecca Sugar’s tanker truck, and she’s Imperator Furiosa driving it and everyone aboard to freedom.
Sugar’s increased interview presence in the past year has seen her admit as much. She conceived the gems as non-binary from the beginning. Garnet was always going to be the fusion of two female-coded gems who felt romantic love for each other. Pearl and Rose always had a romantic history. From the start, Rebecca Sugar and everyone helping her intended for Steven Universe to push every boundary it could regarding LGBTQ representation. If that representation cost her the show, she was willing to pay the price:
“Ultimately, I said, ‘If this is going to cost me my show that’s fine because this is a huge injustice and I need to be able to represent myself and my team through this show and anything less would be unfair to my audience.’ This was around 2016 and that’s when I began to speak openly about what we were doing.”
Slowly but surely, and with an unrelenting insistence, Steven Universe has smashed through barriers you would never dream could be broken back when Adventure Time first aired “What Was Missing” and gave birth to the Bubbline ship. Ruby and Sapphire went from kissing noses in their first appearance to necking in their next to an eventual wedding featuring a legit kiss. Pearl’s relationship with Rose went from innuendo and subtext to outright stating its romantic love. Stevonnie’s design went from strongly resembling a feminine form to complete non-binary Stubbonie.
Steven Universe broke so many barriers that no one even blinks an eye anymore. When Flourite debuted, a permafusion of six different gems in a polyamorous relationship, she barely registered with people. Of course she was polyamorous. That’s what Steven Universe does.
However, they had to earn this every step of the way. As effortless as it may seem on TV, and as supportive as Cartoon Network must be for it to air at all, there have been barriers. Sometimes the barriers come in the form of international censors. Sometimes they come from Cartoon Network, who must always consider potential PR backlash. Some of these barriers have come in the form of personal hesitation.
Rebecca Sugar has increasingly talked about the way her amazing show has served as a sort of personal examination of her life. In recent years she has come out publicly as bisexual and then non-binary. She has talked about growing up loving Disney movies while realizing none of the princesses truly represented her. Steven Universe is a personal project allowing her and her storyboarders to examine themselves and the stories they feel need to be told. There’s the same kind of personal pizza involved that she infused into Marceline’s character on Adventure Time:
“For me, Ruby in a dress is how I feel when I’m in a dress. I think the show has been a chance for me to become a little more comfortable with exploring my own relationship to gender, and, of all the characters, Ruby is my most direct vessel of a character. There are drawings from 2014 of Ruby in that dress. That was a long, long dream, and I really couldn’t imagine it any other way. Ruby and Sapphire have always been meant to represent me and my partner and so that always felt natural to me.”
The result is a show that could not exist without smashing barriers. Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch calls Rebecca Sugar “the Moses parting the waves” regarding representation. Adam Muto gave lots of credit to SU for making it easier for Bubbline to exist. There’s no question what show currently leads the way in making queer content more accepted in children’s television. The world has increasingly accepted openly queer characters, and they’ve filled these new available spaces with gusto.
Yet there’s no doubt Steven Universe leads the way. Without it, Bubbline may have remained relegated to subtext and fandom arguments rather than making out in the Adventure Time finale. In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t happen if Marceline’s mom hadn’t left to make her amazing show. Maybe Rebecca Sugar wasn’t the one who storyboarded that kiss. She wasn’t in the writer’s room conversation about the relationship which eventually made it a reality. However, when the head honcho of Adventure Time says that Sugar made Bubbline happen, I’m inclined to listen to him.
Rebecca Sugar made increased representation her mission, and it’s a mission she’s succeeding at.
The Elephant Koi in the Room
Now I know what some of you are thinking. Surely I’m forgetting something big? Some important moment on a separate network that broke through the barrier before anyone else? Something involving a show we talk about a lot around here and still haven’t gotten over?
No, I have not forgotten about Korrasami. I never will.
I’m also not here to denigrate Korrasami in any way. LGBTQ content on TV has increased so exponentially in recent years that it’s easy to look back on the comparably chaste handholding that ended The Legend of Korra as somehow lesser. Natural rivalries pop up among the community that inevitably compare relationships and result in talking one or the other down.
I’m not here to do that. Any such argument involves ignoring the social climate when Korrasami aired. They also ignore what it meant for so many people. 2014 was a remarkably different time for queer characters on TV. Korrasami also maintains a special place for the importance of its wlw relationship. It’s still a special show that created a special connection between two bisexual women of color, including the main character.
Korrasami broke barriers for more than existing. It broke barriers by creating the relationship as a perfect thematic cap on the entire show. It was more than “these two are together now.” Korrasami was the perfect ending to the evolution of Korra’s character. There is no denying how important it was to representation across the TV landscape. There’s no denying how much Korra and Asami still mean to fans and how they continue to be idols through Turf Wars.
What I hope I’ve established at this point, though, is how Rebecca Sugar was pushing the boundaries making Bubbline possible well before Korrasami came about. The Legend of Korra cracked the door open for others to slip in behind it. Rebecca Sugar and Steven Universe broke the door so everyone could rush inside. She always had every intention of doing so.
The timing alone goes a long way in negating Korrasami’s impact on Rebecca Sugar’s intentions. Korrasami did air first, in December 2014, but the reveal of Garnet as a romantic fusion between Ruby and Sapphire aired a mere 3 months later in March 2015. Considering production schedules, “Jail Break” was almost certainly ready to air well before Korra’s finale could be of any influence. Steven Universe’s first season had also well-established its boundary-pushing intentions through Stevonnie, Pearl and Rose, and other various relationships.
Steven Universe was always going to push these boundaries regardless of whether Korrasami existed. Considering the extremes to which it continues to push boundaries, I think it’s safe to say that Sugar and her show would have made their own goals, and eventually Bubbline, a reality, no matter what happened in the TV world around them.
Does this mean Korrasami had no impact on Steven Universe? Of course not. The overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Legend of Korra’s finale proved a larger point about the readiness of children’s television to accept same-sex relationships. Korrasami most certainly made it easier for Cartoon Network to see what Sugar wanted from her show and allow her more freedom to make it happen than they otherwise might have.
We can’t say for sure that the Ruby/Sapphire wedding happens in 2018 if not for Korrasami in 2014. Maybe it would have taken another year pushing boundaries to get Steven Universe there. Ultimately, though, it would have gotten there. Rebecca Sugar would have had it no other way.
In the end, it was her long, determined journey from those early days imprinting herself onto Marceline to the extravagant Rupphire wedding that made Bubbline happen. She was directly involved at just about every level. She wrote and storyboarded the episodes that established Marceline and her dynamic with Princess Bubblegum. Sugar pushed every boundary she was allowed both on Adventure Time and with Steven Universe. She pushed within the shows and with the executives holding the power to squash them.
Bubbline came about as a result of one person’s stunningly successful mission to make relationships like theirs a reality. I doubt anyone was happier than Rebecca Sugar to see Marcy and Peebs kiss.
In many ways, Bubbline is a lot like Korrasami. It started out as a crack ship based off limited interaction between the two most prominent women on their respective shows. A conscious effort began to slow build it through friendship. Fans constantly debated the legitimacy of romantic subtext. Some shippers never lost faith in the dream of romantic canonization. The more skeptical among us rationalized the inevitability of forever viewing it through subtext so obvious you could barely call it subtext.
Then the finales rolled around. The big moments happened, the ships officially set sail, and the world was better for it.
Korrasami and Bubbline also serve as significant bookends for the era of breakthrough LGBTQ representation in children’s animation. Korrasami was the first breakthrough moment beginning the era, with Steven Universe hot on its heels. Gravity Falls revealed a gay relationship between two cops. The Loud House has a character whose parents are an interracial gay couple. Danger and Eggs was created by a trans woman and features numerous queer characters.
Then Bubbline, after 7 years of speculation, got their canon kiss. It proved of the sweeping change that has come to television since “What Was Missing” first aired. Something fans once thought nothing more than a pipe dream came to life with a nice explicit makeout session.
A lot of people helped create an environment for Bubbline to happen. None, in my own humble opinion, mattered more than Rebecca Sugar. Between her direct involvement in the characters themselves and the considerable influence Steven Universe has had towards LGBTQ representation, she has wreaked havoc on the limitations which once labeled anything queer as “adult content” not suitable for children. In many ways, Bubbline was a personal victory for her, just as it was for the LGBTQ community as a whole.
I can’t wait to see how she continues pushing these boundaries. I also can’t wait to see what the next group of amazing creators to can do by following her lead and pushing even further.
Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network
The Fandomentals 2018 Emmys Primer
It is that time again my friends. The awards season is ramping back up and it’s really caught a lot of us by surprise! It sometimes feels the Emmy awards happen earlier and earlier each year. But worry not! We here at the Fandomentals have got you covered for TV’s biggest awards!
It’s been a bit of an odd year for TV, with chaotic cancellations and revivals, the loss of old friends , and announcements that have many people looking forward more than they want to look back. We’ve also seen the development in Hollywood of a new culture. It’s been one year since the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements kicked into swing and big TV stars like Jeffrey Tambor, Chris Hardwick, and Louis C.K lost their positions in the industry, however temporarily that loss may have been. We’re also officially two years into the age of Trump, and this years Emmy’s will no doubt continue to tweak the president’s nose as it did last year. Hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost are as experienced with Trump humor as last year’s host Stephen Colbert was, and nominated shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Black-ish, and The Marvelous Ms. Maisel are easy pickings for the TV academy to flex its woke bonafides.
While not everyone deserving is necessarily up for an award (#JusticeForAndre), this year’s field is as competitive as ever. Below are the nominees for the big categories in drama and comedy TV, along with our thoughts on who should win and who probably will win in each category. Our predicted winners are bolded.
Outstanding Drama Series
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
The Americans (FX)
The Crown (Netflix)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Who Should Win: The Crown is the unsung hero of modern TV drama, an extremely well acted and beautiful soap opera that is able to do a very difficult thing: make you care about the extremely rich. Thanks to a balance of historical accuracy and necessary dramatization, the story of the Windsors and Queen Elizabeth’s early reign has unfolded with more interest than many expect from the normally rather stuffy genre of period pieces. Claire Foy and Matt Smith somehow topped their spiffing season one performances, delving deeper into Phillip’s psyche as he continues to chafe against his wife and his role as Prince. It switches actors after this season, so this is the last chance for Foy and Smith (among others) to be properly rewarded for their efforts.
Who Will Win: I hope you’re ready for a pattern this year, because there is a VERY strong chance that Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale will come dangerously close to a clean sweep. Last year’s winner has not necessarily taken the world by storm in season 2, but it’s become a centerpiece of Hulu’s marketing and identity as a “network” and as such will have a lot of push behind its campaign. The new season has doubled down on the darkness, politics, and heavy handed allegory (see above) that made it so successful in its first season and which Emmy voters still seem to eat up even as viewers may be moving on. And now they’ve been able to write around the Trump presidency, connecting the series even more directly to real life and making it that much more attractive to the academy.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Who Should Win: Donald Glover’s Atlanta burst out of the gates as a show about the black experience that juggled comedy and drama while being willing to get a bit “out there” with its form and subject matter. Season One did very well last year, winning top honors in direction and acting at the Emmys, and the follow up has by all accounts built on the first. Not only has it built on it, its improved on it, touching on even darker topics and going to places nobody was expecting. Glover has lost none of his touch as a director, writer, or actor, and he continues to craft a truly standout comedy just in the list of nominees.
Who Will Win: Atlanta, for all the reasons above. Oh, and “Teddy Perkins.”
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS)
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)
Who Should Win: After a few years of foundering as its host tried to fill the shoes, or gap, left by Letterman, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has really come into its own as possibly the best of a dying breed. This entire category is becoming more and more of a relic as shows like Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal become more like extended monologues than full on variety shows. Colbert is still carrying the torch, but has adapted to the realities of modern America better than its competitors. While Trevor Noah continues to fail upwards at The Daily Show and “The Jameses”, Corden, Kimmel, and Fallon, sing in cars, pull pranks, and perform stupid human tricks, Colbert engages as deftly with politics as he can considering he’s in a form that seems to be showing its age (his only real competitor being the disappointingly snubbed Seth Myers). He’s gone past humorous platitudes and engaged with candidates and activists working to move the country forward. From DSA House candidate and Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Beto O’Rourke challenging
the Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz in Texas, The Late Show has worked to get beyond the Russia and spray-tan jokes (though they still abound) and tried to make the show mean something in a way that we haven’t seen since Jon Stewart left us for his cabin.
Who Will Win: From Koala clap to a dirty Russel Crowe jock strap, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight just can’t keep out of the news. While there’s usually a trending Fallon and Colbert clip every few days, and “Carpool Karaoke” has been a hit for The Late Late Show, the segments from Last Week Tonight are almost guaranteed to be at the top of social media for days after they release. This year they’ve used their blend of comedy and lecture to cover gross and sometimes ignored aspects of politics like crisis pregnancy centers, NRA TV, and Mike Pence. While some have noticed that Oliver has settled into a well traveled formula, his affect on the world and impact on pop culture will no doubt get he and his writers a three peat.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson on This Is Us (Episode: “Number Three”) (NBC)
Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde on Ozark (Episode: “The Toll”) (Netflix)
Ed Harris as The Man in Black / William on Westworld (Episode: “Vanishing Point”) (HBO)
Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings on The Americans (Episode: “START”) (FX)
Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson on This Is Us (Episode: “The Car”) (NBC)
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe on Westworld (Episode: “The Passenger”) (HBO)
Who Should Win: Jason Bateman and his work in Ozark are going to be another victim of a lingering bias against Netflix that the academy seems to have. Considered by many to equal or even surpass former Emmy darling Breaking Bad, Ozark has been very successful at actually doing something fresh with the “white people get into drug dealing” genre. A lot of that can be chalked up to Bateman’s Marty Byrde, a Walter White without the megalomania, who acts as main protagonist for the show. But, like Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, Bateman will hopefully get a look soon when he finally shakes off the “comedy actor” rep.
Who Will Win: This Is Us is basically the only network show that the academy actually likes (it’s the only one nominated here, for instance). It isn’t unworthy of love though, far from it, and Sterling K. Brown is worth the watch alone. As the only black child in a white family, the storylines surrounding Brown’s Randall are often the most compelling and the most heartbreaking. Brown always puts in a good performance and its no wonder that his profile has been raised so high thanks to the show. He will no doubt repeat this year along with our pick for the next category…
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Donald Glover as Earnest “Earn” Marks / Teddy Perkins on Atlanta (Episode: “Teddy Perkins”) (FX)
Anthony Anderson as Andre “Dre” Johnson, Sr. on Black-ish (Episode: “Advance to Go (Collect $200)”) (ABC)
Ted Danson as Michael on The Good Place (Episode: “Dance Dance Resolution”) (NBC)
Larry David as Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm (Episode: “Fatwa!”) (HBO)
Bill Hader as Barry Berkman / Barry Block on Barry (Episode: “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going”) (HBO)
William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher on Shameless (Episode: “Sleepwalking”) (Showtime)
Who Should Win: Ted Danson has had a mini-revival thanks to his role as Michael in The Good Place, where he balances his acting gravitas with perfect timing to help anchor the show much like the snubbed Andre Braugher (#JusticeForAndre) does for sister show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But rather than stern police captain, Danson is instead a thousand-year-old demon putting our heroes through hell (literally) before embarking on a redemption arc. The episode he’s nominated for is a standout of the second season, as Michael tries to get his “False Good Place” idea figured out while matching wits with the (admittedly fairly witless) Team Cockroach while his supervisor breathes down his neck. It’s a lot of madcap fun as the show jumps from scenario to scenario and Danson’s running dry monologue as Michael recording his reports helps keep the whole spool from unraveling into a high-concept mess. And if that doesn’t encapsulate his role on the show, I don’t know what will.
Who Will Win: This would be a lot like the Atlanta prediction thanks to Glover’s outstanding work in Atlanta, but FX’s focus on “Teddy Perkins” means they’d like a focus on his character work and acting creepiness rather than his ability to do that and be…funny. At best a pitch black satire of fame, “Teddy Perkins” was genuinely one of the most terrifying episodes of TV this year, if not all time. I won’t give too much away, but for the record, that really is Donald Glover up there underneath all that makeup. There’s not much funny about the character as Glover instead goes for creepiness and pathos. But Hollywood’s love of method acting (Glover stayed in character at all times while filming), physical transformations (that’s a LOT of prosthetic), and comedy that isn’t really that funny will probably propel Glover to a well deserved, albeit strange, repeat win.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne / Offred on The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “The Last Ceremony”) (Hulu)
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown (Episode: “Dear Mrs. Kennedy”) (Netflix)
Tatiana Maslany as Various Characters on Orphan Black (Episode: “To Right the Wrongs of Many”) (BBC America)
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri on Killing Eve (Episode: “I Have a Thing About Bathrooms”) (BBC America)
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans (Episode: “The Summit”) (FX)
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy on Westworld (Episode: “Reunion”) (HBO)
Who Should Win: This is a strong field this year and it is very hard to pick a single actress here who doesn’t deserve recognition, and a few for whom this is their last chance to win for these shows. Foy had her swan song as Queenie and did a masterful job, putting in a performance that actually surpasses the one that I wanted her to get an Emmy for last year. Keri Russell has been the core of The Americans up until the end and just seems to have had bad luck in the past. Tatiana Maslany is the ultimate winner here, I think, as her performance as multiple characters in Orphan Black has to be seen to be believed. Not only does she have to carry the show as its lead actress, she also has to carry the show as most of her supporting cast as well. The final season of Orphan Black wasn’t quite as strong as those preceding it, but her going the whole run without a win is nothing short of criminal.
Who Will Win: It’s hard for us to make a solid prediction here, but we have no doubt that the academy will not. For better or for worse, Elizabeth Moss has been at the center of Emmy discussions since the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale ended. Switching as easily from the free June Osborne and the oppressed Offred as easily as letting her hair down (whether that’s all she does to change characters is up to you), there’s no doubt that Moss is game for anything as she put up with A LOT of terrible stuff this season. And Hollywood loves to watch its actors suffer.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Allison Janney as Bonnie Plunkett on Mom (Episode: “Phone Confetti and a Wee Dingle”) (CBS)
Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox on Better Things (Episode: “Eulogy”) (FX)
Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam “Midge” Maisel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: “Thank You and Good Night”) (Amazon)
Issa Rae as Issa Dee on Insecure (Episode: “Hella Great”) (HBO)
Tracee Ellis Ross as Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson on Black-ish (Episode: “Elder. Scam.”) (ABC)
Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein on Grace and Frankie (Episode: “The Home”) (Netflix)
Who Should Win: Call it a weakness for period pieces, but Rachel Brosnahan as the lead in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is doing fantastic work for one of Amazon’s few comedies. It takes a lot of skill to get out Amy Sherman-Palladino’s whip-smart dialogue, and Broshanan handles it with aplomb. She just never seems to get lost in the words like Graham and Bledel sometimes did in Gilmore Girls. The show is as rooted by Broshnahan as is is by Midge’s story, and she’s just genuinely funny to boot.
Who Will Win: Oh, yeah, the other network show that the academy loves is Mom, the Allison Janney vehicle perfectly constructed to guilt awards out of the academy for not giving her enough love for The West Wing. A Chuck Lorre sitcom masquerading as a Norman Lear sitcom, Mom pretty easily falls apart once Janney is removed. So her inevitable win here (threatened only by the possible apology award to Travee Ellis Ross after the Black-ish controversy) isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just a shame to see her overshadow some really great work in comedy.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones (Episode: “The Spoils of War”) (HBO)
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones (Episode: “The Dragon and the Wolf”) (HBO)
Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred Waterford on The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “First Blood”) (Hulu)
David Harbour as Jim Hopper on Stranger Things (Episode: “Chapter Four: Will the Wise”) (Netflix)
Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson on Homeland (Episode: “Species Jump”) (Showtime)
Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on The Crown (Episode: “Mystery Man”) (Netflix)
Who Should Win: It could be argued that Matt Smith’s character of Prince Phillip was the real focus of the second season of The Crown. As the spotlight moved away from Elizabeth and onto her family, particularly Margaret and Phillip, Smith really stepped up his game from the mixed reactions he got in season one. No longer as much of a petulant man-child as before, season two Phillip is an older man more weary than actively chafing. The most interesting storyline of the season belonged to him, the story of a man who has to come to grips with his, in his mind, emasculated existence. The sins of the the father bleed down through Phillip, and Smith deserves an Emmy for his last hurrah as the Prince.
Who Will Win: What’s that? Is that? BAH GAWD THAT’S THE GAME OF THRONES MUSIC! While it’s longer gaps and waning role in the zeitgeist will most likely deny Game of Thrones the dominance it once had over the Emmys, it is always a strong contender in its categories, particularly for acting. Out of all the nominees for Best Supporting, Coster-Waldau’s performance in season seven probably had one of the bigger impacts. While co-star and co-nominee Peter Dinklage spun his wheels drinking near Emilia Clarke, Coster-Waldau did a lot of the grunt work in carrying a series that seems to have devolved into talking in throne rooms between expensive battles. His work was exemplary this season as Jaime dealt with conflicting loyalties, dying love, and his own demons. The cache that Game of Thrones has, plus the fact that Coster-Waldau hasn’t won for his better work in the past on the show, means there’s a good chance he’ll get gold this time around.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford on The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “Women’s Work”) (Hulu)
Alexis Bledel as Emily / Ofsteven on The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “Unwomen”) (Hulu)
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven on Stranger Things (Episode: “Chapter Three: The Pollywog”) (Netflix)
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “June”) (Hulu)
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones (Episode: “The Dragon and the Wolf”) (HBO)
Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret on The Crown (Episode: “Beryl”) (Netflix)
Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay on Westworld (Episode: “Akane no Mai”) (HBO)
Who Should Win: The fact that Thandie Newton is still a “supporting” level actor on Westworld is evidence enough that someone writing that show is blind. Maeve’s arcs have been perhaps the best in both seasons, and Newton’s ability to balance existential fear with cunning ambition in equal parts means any appearances she makes memorable. Even in a cast that features Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, and Ed Harris, it’s Newton who is perhaps most deserving of recognition.
Who Will Win: Three, count em’, three nominations for The Handmaid’s Tale this year. Considering the love the academy has for the show, the odds are good one of them will win over any of the non-Hulu actors up for the award. The best odds are on Yvonne Strahovski’s Serena Joy, who continues her descent from cold symbol of privileged women oppressing other women into a woobified mother who only wants the best for her child and didn’t mean to help create a theocratic fascist dictatorship, honestly. Hollywood loves “sympathetic” villains, and Serena Joy fits that to a tee.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live (Episode: “Host: Donald Glover”) (NBC)
Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets on Baskets (Episode: “Thanksgiving”) (FX)
Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Episode: “Kimmy and the Beest!”) (Netflix)
Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles on Atlanta (Episode: “Woods”) (FX)
Tony Shalhoub as Abraham “Abe” Weissman on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: “Thank You and Good Night”) (Amazon)
Kenan Thompson as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live (Episode: “Host: John Mulaney”) (NBC)
Henry Winkler as Gene Cousineau on Barry (Episode: “Chapter Four: Commit … to YOU”) (HBO)
Who Should Win: GIVE KENAN THOMPSON AN ACTING EMMY YOU COWARDS! He finally got some token recognition for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics and “Come Back Barack,” but he’s long overdue for recognition as the backbone of SNL’S cast. Call it bias from having grown up with him on All That and Kenan & Kel, but Thompson is nearly a household name for the millennial generation. He’s been involved in some of SNL’s best skits in recent years like Celebrity Family Feud, Black Jeopardy, and numerous musical skits like the aforementioned “Come Back Barack.” Out of all the other “not ready for primetime players,” only Kate Mckinnon comes close to Thompson’s level of consistency, and not even she can quite anchor a sketch or keep a straight face as long as he can.
Who Will Win: Yuge victory incoming folks. Look, I don’t know if it’s the fact that they’re both arrogant old white sexists with bad hair who love to yell abuse at their wives and children, or if Alex Baldwin’s time in New York helped him get the character down, but there’s something that’s made his impersonation of the big boy in the white house really stick in people’s minds. While not the best on television, or even the best on SNL (Daryl Hammond is still on staff after all), he’s definitely gotten under Trump’s skin and that alone will coast him to a repeat in this category.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kate McKinnon as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live (Episode: “Host: Bill Hader”) (NBC)
Zazie Beetz as Vanessa “Van” Keefer on Atlanta (Episode: “Helen”) (FX)
Alex Borstein as Susie Myerson on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: “Doink”) (Amazon)
Aidy Bryant as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live (Episode: “Host: Chadwick Boseman”) (NBC)
Betty Gilpin as Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan on GLOW (Episode: “Debbie Does Something”) (Netflix)
Leslie Jones as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live (Episode: “Host: Donald Glover”) (NBC)
Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris on Roseanne (Episode: “No Country for Old Women”) (ABC)
Megan Mullally as Karen Walker on Will & Grace (Episode: “Rosario’s Quinceanera”) (NBC)
Who Should Win: Alex Borstein in Ms. Maisel for elevating a character that could easily be some butch stereotype into something interesting.
Who Will Win: Kate Mckinnon, as she remains a steady hand in SNL as well as a deft impressionist when it comes to the political sketches that are the show’s bread and butter.
Why Rita Moreno Should Have Been Nominated: There’s a lot of people who should have been nominated for awards this season (#JusticeFor Andre), but it has become more and more apparent that the biggest robbery was from Rita Moreno, living national treasure, as Lydia Riera in One Day At A Time. As I detailed in the snubs article, Moreno is one of the most, if not the most, decorated and accomplished actresses working on television. She didn’t need to come back onto television, nor did she actually have to try when she did. But her performance as the vivacious and proudly Cubana matriarch of the family is filled with as much heart and soul as any other, and it’s clear she is enthusiastic in working with a new generation of Latinx talent. Her snubbing is a sin, and I hope to god the academy will learn its lesson and at least nominate Moreno next year.
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Atlanta (Episode: “Teddy Perkins”), directed by Hiro Murai (FX)
Atlanta (Episode: “FUBU”), directed by Donald Glover (FX)
Barry (Episode: “Chapter One: Make Your Mark”), directed by Bill Hader (HBO)
The Big Bang Theory (Episode: “The Bow Tie Asymmetry”), directed by Mark Cendrowski (CBS)
GLOW (Episode: “Pilot”), directed by Jesse Peretz (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: “Pilot”), directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Amazon)
Silicon Valley (Episode: “Initial Coin Offering”), directed by Mike Judge (HBO)
Who Should Win: GLOW is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to television. The show combines the already misunderstood medium of pro-wrestling with an 80’s aesthetic that actively tries to avoid the nostalgia that shows like Stranger Things thrive on. But it’s a balancing act to get the show to look the right way without the characters getting lost in the hairspray and neon. Sometimes better directed than actual WWE pay-per-views, the wrestling gets as much attention as the backstage drama and helps make something truly unique.
Who Will Win: It could easily go to either Murai or Glover for Atlanta, but I think the out-of-nowhere horror and strangeness of “Teddy Perkins” will get the attention of voters more than “FUBU.” Horror is a work of direction more than anything else, and the tense scenes and dark settings of “Teddy Perkins” are key to the massive effect it had on the audience. I’ll still quibble with FX for submitting that episode under comedy (or the academy for its strict categories), and if they want something lighter, “FUBU” might come out ahead. But Murai’s frequent direction has also played as much a part of Atlanta’s unique look and style as Glover’s, and a win for his overall work on the series would be well deserved
Outstanding Director for a Drama Series
The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “After”), directed by Kari Skogland (Hulu)
The Crown (Episode: “Paterfamilias”), directed by Stephen Daldry (Netflix)
Game of Thrones (Episode: “Beyond the Wall”), directed by Alan Taylor (HBO)
Game of Thrones (Episode: “The Dragon and the Wolf”), directed by Jeremy Podeswa (HBO)
Ozark (Episode: “The Toll”), directed by Jason Bateman (Netflix)
Ozark (Episode: “Tonight We Improvise”), directed by Daniel Sackheim (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Episode: “Chapter Nine: The Gate”), directed by the Duffer Brothers (Netflix)
Who Should Win: If Matt Smith’s Prince Phillip was at the center of The Crown’s strong second season, it was in “Paterfamilias” that it all came to a head. The episode still features the sumptuous and often moody aesthetics that fill its halls of English power, but also incorporates the starkly beautiful highlands of Scotland into a story about strength and survival. As we question if windswept crags are more or less unforgiving than the expectations of Gordonstoun School and of English masculinity, we begin to understand the ways that the show connects the rulers of Britain with the land and its people. It’s a beautiful episode in a season of fantastically directed episodes and should win if it were not up against stiff competition.
Who Will Win: With Game of Thrones back in the picture, The Handmaid’s Tale is certainly not as safe a bet as it was last year. The Emmys loves the big expensive battle sequences, and HBO no doubt lobbied hard for it in order to justify the expense. But I still think The Handmaid’s Tale will eke out a victory here thanks to the nominated episode’s delicately constructed and visually striking set pieces. All biases aside, scenes like the funeral of the Handmaidens are incredibly memorable to even the most casual watcher. Visual contrasts between the Colonies, Canada, and Gilead are key to the show’s goals and are well represented here. Plus, this episode was actually directed by a woman for once.
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Game of Thrones (Episode: “The Dragon and the Wolf”), written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss (HBO)
The Americans (Episode: “START”), written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (FX)
The Crown (Episode: “Mystery Man”), written by Peter Morgan (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Episode: “June”), written by Bruce Miller (Hulu)
Killing Eve (Episode: “Nice Face”), written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (BBC America)
Stranger Things (Episode: “Chapter Nine: The Gate”), written by the Duffer Brothers (Netflix)
Who Should Win: Killing Eve is an extreme dark horse in any of the (disappointingly few) categories that it’s nominated in, and writing is no exception. And while it probably won’t beat more obvious Emmy favorites, I still think it is the most deserving here. The first episode has to do a lot for a new show, and that goes double for complex thrillers. But one never gets confused or lost in the espionage and jargon even while the show sets all the pieces up at once. It even finds the time to get you invested in its characters (a novel concept), especially Eve and her target and opposite Villanelle. Not bad for an episode one.
Who Will Win: Just like with best direction, this will most likely come down to a fight between Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, but the winner this time being the side with the dragons. The Handmaid’s Tale nominating the first episode of the second season was a bit odd, as it has to spend its time picking up pieces and doing recap. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones made the smart choice of nominating their twelve-car-pileup of a finale “The Dragon and the Wolf,” where the Emmy-grabbing and audience-confusing twists and turns that have served the show so well over the past seven years seemed to almost reach their apotheosis. To writ: Jaime defects, the Wall goes down, R+L=J, the Starks reunite, Littlefinger gets got, and, finally, boat sex happened. The Emmy’s love their big moments and this episode was full of them, giving Game of Thrones the edge this year.
Those are our predictions for the Emmy’s this year! See any you agree with, any you absolutely hate? Any thoughts about the categories we may have missed? Sound off in the comments! And be sure to tune in on Monday for the Fandomentals live blog of the awards for in the moment reactions to the awards and the program!
70th Primetime Emmy Awards hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Monday, September 17th at 8:00 pm EST/ 5:00 pm PST on NBC. Red carpet coverage will begin on E! at 6:00 pm EST/3:00 pm PST, and on NBC at 7:30 pm EST/ 4:30 PM PST
All images via the Television Academy and their respective networks.
Killjoys Gets Poetic
This week on Killjoys: Will someone give Hannah John-Kamen an award already?
The penultimate episode of the season opens on Arkyn (Site 9 instead of the more familiar Site 17, or Red 17). Kendry is in one of Khlyen’s old labs, going through his research. Except, someone’s found her, so we get to see Mayko Nguyen handling a massive gun and muttering vengeful promises at a door (Excellent). She doesn’t need to use it, though, because it’s just D’av and Johnny.
Last week, Jaq decided he wanted to go live with Kendry while the Killjoys destroyed the Lady. Reluctantly, Kendry agrees, and Jaq leaves the ship. D’av cries and fusses over Jaq’s clothes. Dutch and Jaq make jokes because they’re both uncomfortable with displays of emotion. (How much do I love that stoic, butch D’av is the one who cries around babies and when his kid leaves home? So much.)
Johnny asks Kendry why she isn’t on Qresh, and Kendry confirms that she deviated from her agreement with them in order to find Aneela. Kendry’s managed to amass quite a bit of Khlyen’s research into the Green on her own, and she hands it over. Johnny immediately begins analyzing it.
Once back on the Armada, they turn their attention to the kidnapped kids on the RAC. Their first rescue attempt backfires spectacularly, due to a biological force field of sorts around the RAC. Using the research he received from Kendry, Johnny confirms that it’s Hullen technology, and probably implemented after the Killjoys’ last break-in.
In order to circumvent the force field, they need to obtain a device based on Hullen tech from a commune on Leith. The device accesses and alters mitochondrial DNA, allowing the Killjoys to pass as Hullen and bypass the bio-shield. D’av and Dutch take point on obtaining it, while Zeph and Pip try to figure out what the meaning of the brand that appeared on Dutch’s back is. It’s written in what looks like Scarback script, so—GUESS WHO’S BACK?? That’s right, my favorite ex-Scarback prodomme, Fairuza.
Fairuza confirms the brand is Scarback script, but it’s a branch we’ve never heard of before—the language of the dead, essentially. The brand is made up of three glyphs, representing “ascend,” “elixir,” and “dissolve.” Zeph, who loves puzzles, but not so much poetry, is frustrated by this liberal arts-themed turn of events.
At the hippie commune, Dutch wears the “mask” that lets her connect with her genetic memory and sees Aneela, showing Dutch a cut on her palm in the shape of the brand on Dutch’s back. The message in the brand isn’t the Lady’s, as they previously thought. Rather, it’s a message from Aneela.
Once the mitochondrial-DNA device is on the Armada, they finalize plans and teams. They’ll use the transdimensional cube and a tracker to grab the Lady’s Green pool, rescue the kids the old-fashioned way (with a spaceship), and then escape the RAC. Johnny will stay back and man the mitochondrial-DNA machine. Pip decides to go with the team headed to the RAC, feeling the need to prove himself to the people he accidentally hurt by trying to kidnap Jaq. Zeph is proud of him.
The plan proceeds smoothly, until Zeph transports the Green pool to the Armada. That’s when things go awry. The Green is powering the bio-shield. With the Green on the Armada, power to the shield fails, and the RAC’s system performs a hard reboot.
The reboot means that the Hullen will be able to use the RAC’s heavy cannons, which are definitely powerful enough to destroy the Armada, since the Armada (with the Green solidified) is dead in the water, defenseless. And the best way to make sure the Hullen can’t do that? Enter Turin’s self-destruct codes. Which, of course, must be entered manually. Dutch, D’av, and Fancy argue over who gets to go down with the ship.
In the end, though, Pip volunteers. After all, he has a spider in his brain that’s slowly killing him as it dies. And saving him is one heck of an ask to make of Zeph. And if it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, Zeph won’t forgive herself.
Which means that Pip completes his arc from a self-described “spoiled Qreshi rich boy” to “hero” and then dies. Pip and Zeph’s final conversation is incredible; Atticus Mitchell and Kelly McCormack acted the heck out of it. Also, Kelly McCormack (Zeph) deserves an award of some kind for Zeph’s breakdown when the RAC explodes. Basically: Yes, it hurts that good.
After the battle, D’av, Dutch, and Johnny all physically remove the memory of Jaq’s location from their brains (what Aneela did to keep the story of Dutch’s origin from the Green). Zeph shows up and hands over her research on the Scarback symbols to Dutch. She has to check out for a minute to grieve, and she can’t do that if she’s trying not to be angry with the survivors of the mission, including Dutch.
Dutch has a revelation (or a flashback) regarding what Aneela’s message means, and shows up to the Royale with some of the Lady’s Green in her flask. When she drinks it (no prior warning to the boys), she collapses. And when her body wakes up, Aneela and Dutch have switched bodies, and Dutch is now in the Green.
Pip, Redemption Arcs, and Sacrifice
It hit me while I was watching this episode that, in fact, Pip’s arc is one that I’m really familiar with, but recently, I’m rather leery of. That is, like Pip himself says, Pip is a spoiled rich kid, a paid informant, and a coward. And at the end of this episode, he makes the heroic sacrifice. As far as redemption arcs go, this one wasn’t without its issues, but it was satisfying in a way that made it stand out.
There is a lot of emphasis on sacrifice and redemption for past actions this season. Kendry’s arc is one example, where she undertakes an as-yet-unspecified penance for killing Pawter at the end of Season 2. Aneela’s choice to take Dutch’s place and suffer at the Lady’s hands is another. And it’s that choice that moves Aneela, in Dutch’s mind, from “complicated ally” to “family.”
Pip’s story has a lot of beats you might find familiar. In Season 3, he’s a rather comedic figure. He stays that way throughout the season, although gradually he gravitates towards Dutch’s cause. In a way, he’s shamed into taking action by watching Zeph risk her life without hesitation. His subsequent decision to risk himself is what gets him spidered, and the knowledge that he’s already dying is a major factor in his decision to stay behind and destroy the RAC. He wants to make things right, and this time, he does get it right. It just so happens that it also kills him.
Here’s the thing about redemption, you can’t “cheat.” In a story, redemption only works insofar as your audience buys into it, and insofar as you give it weight. And unless the audience has already forgiven the character, or doesn’t think they’ve done anything that requires redeeming, the sacrifice has to be on par with what they’ve done and what you want the audience to believe they’ve become. The reverse can also be true: There’s fewer things more frustrating than watching a show gloss over a character’s actions, or offer token “sacrifices” that they clearly think weren’t necessary in the first place.
So maybe it’s more accurate to say: Pip doesn’t become a hero and then die. Pip becomes a hero because he dies. You can’t separate the two. You can’t remove the “dying” part without in some way watering down the significance of Pip’s actions. Actions only matter (in a story) insofar as they have stakes and consequences. Those don’t have to be life-and-death ones! But if a character doesn’t sacrifice something they weren’t already willing to give up, it falls flat. Pip is very explicit about his self-preservation, his cowardice. Sacrificing his life isn’t just an empty narrative gesture, it’s also directly counter to every inclination he’s ever shown.
Another thing, Pip never stops being kind of a coward or being the comedic relief. His characterization is incredibly consistent. He’s in an extreme situation, knowing he’s already dying, and then makes a decision in the moment. So for two minutes, he steps outside of that old self and becomes something else. And if he’d lived, for whatever unknown reason? He wouldn’t have miraculously become someone else.
But it also helps that the person that he was wasn’t a complete jerk to start with, either. And with regard to his relationship with Zeph, relationships are extremely complicated for Zeph, for several reasons. But at the very least, the interest is mutual, and Pip’s role is more often than not reassuring Zeph that he doesn’t expect from her the things that she was taught she had to give up for relationships.
Next week on Killjoys: Have I mentioned I love body swaps? Because I love body swaps.
Image Courtesy of SyFy