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Gushing Over Reunited, Part 1: The Wedding

Bo

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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

Actual knight in shining armor Bismuth with her rainbow hair isn’t even the gayest thing about this wedding.

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.

Both Peridot and Lapis have come a long way from this moment.

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.

The first of many yeets involving Peridot and/or Lapis this episode.

(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.

Yasssssssss.

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.

LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE IS.

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

Bo

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

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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

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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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