That Sherlock has it’s issues is no secret: queerbaiting, lack of POC, treatment of women, you name it. So I decided to take a closer look at these and what makes them offensive by drawing comparison to a show I personally think handled things better.
The Infamous Queerbait
There are story conventions so universal, they sometimes feel self-evident. One of the most common is that if there’s a male and female lead, and that they’re going to fall in love, that’s just the way it is. So, when your leads are both of the same gender this often leads to a phenomenon we all know and hate: queerbaiting.
Queerbaiting is the practice of intentionally implying a queer romance via subtext without the intention of delivering on such romance. This is done at the expense of the LGBT+ community who are looking to media for representation.
A show often accused of queerbaiting is BBC’s Sherlock. Does it have a problem in this particular department? Yes, end of discussion.
But the fact is, subtext isn’t necessarily queerbaiting and sometimes not easily distinguished from the latter. So how can one tell whether one is being queerbaited or watching a slow-burn romance eventually intended to become text?
For this we are taking a closer look at both the aforementioned Sherlock and NBC’s Hannibal. Both are modern adaptions of earlier works (and in Hannibal’s case a prequel), that deviate so significantly from their source material that we can very well judge them on their own.
So why Hannibal, does it too have a queerbaiting problem? Not quite.
Hannibal was originally supposed to have a m/f main pairing, Will and Alana, but due to organic story development it never became more than a mutual crush. Alana trusted Hannibal over Will, their friendship grew cold and eventually Alana fell in love with and married multi-million-dollar heiress Margot Verger. So, a wlw power-couple is canon.
On the other hand, we have Will and Hannibal, a relationship that, while being at the center of the series was not at first intended to be romantic, and for good reason as there’s nothing healthy about it. (So far it contains about half a dozen attempts at murder.) Both creators and characters seem conscious of how unhealthy it is, but subtext kept piling up and was eventually moved into text. The way this was handled, reminds of Legend of Korra‘s treatment of Korrasami (though again, it’s not as positive a relationship).
Therefore, it is a suitable contrast for Sherlock and its blatant queerbaiting. We can use Hannibal to help identify how to distinguish queerbaiting from accidental or actual subtext.
First off, the one thing that annoyed me most about how John and Sherlock’s relationship was depicted: people tend to think they are romantically involved. Like, everybody just assumes. This literally happens in every episode up to John’s wedding (1×02, being the exception), often more than once.
There is no narrative reason for this to happen. Maybe once to establish there’s no romantic interest in each other, okay, twice, if you really think it’s necessary, but constantly?
John: We’re getting married. Well, I’m gonna ask anyway.
Mrs. Hudson: So soon after Sherlock?
John: Well, yes
Mrs. Hudson: What’s his name?
John: It’s a woman.
Mrs. Hudson: A woman?
John: Yes of course it’s a woman!
Mrs. Hudson: You really have moved on, haven’t you?
This is Mrs. Hudson, their landlady with whom they lived in the same house with for over a year.
The only explanations for this are you are either consciously keeping the option in the mind of the audience, which, if you don’t intend to deliver, would be queerbaiting. Or you think it’s funny, which would equate to a gay joke. Neither is a desirable option.
In Hannibal‘s case, implications that there may be more of a relationship than is publicly known first become a thing in the second season, which is also when the producers first noticed a romantic subtext. The only thing before that is Alana making a quip that Hannibal has adopted some of Will’s mannerisms late in season one.
What also contrasts Sherlock is that while Sherlock and John are always denying any assumptions made, this doesn’t happen on Hannibal.
Will: You called us ‘Murder Husbands’.
Freddie: You did run off to Europe together.
This example is the closest thing there is to the kind of constant joking seen on Sherlock. But in this case, Will’s anger is understandable since Freddie is a reporter on the hunt and Will is at this point married to Molly and not on the best of terms with Hannibal.
Another thing which can distinguish queerbaiting from subtext is framing, is there romantic music? Are forms of symbolism used? If not the probability of this being queerbaiting is a good deal higher.
Problematic Villain Coding
A queer coded villain is not sufficient representation, as it links “queerness” to evil, especially if the queer-coded villain continuously hits on the hero. Attempt at being funny or not, that is called harassment and having your queer-coded villain harass your ‘innocent’ (straight) hero is definitely problematic.
On Hannibal there are no queer coded villains. Tobias Budge would be stretching. Mason Verger may be flamboyant but he is also clearly female attracted. On to Sherlock, the most obviously queer-coded villain is Jim Moriarty.
Jim Moriarty is introduced as Molly’s boyfriend. He’s immensely queer-coded and hits on Sherlock who immediately points this out. It’s played for laughs, charming.
From here on whenever Moriarty encounters Sherlock he continues to flirt with and is shown to be obsessed with him. And then in season four there is this jewel:
“You like my Boys? This one’s got more Stamina, but he’s less caring in the afterglow…”
How are we supposed to take this, is he sleeping with his guards who work for him? Was this part of the job description? This alone would be considered offensive, but that is not the end of it.
The morally grey Irene Adler is presented as bisexual, which in combination with her mostly scanty clothing and her occupation as dominatrix is not too favorable in terms of bisexuals being hypersexualized.
And again, she is attracted to Sherlock and making advances even though it is (initially) making him uncomfortable. This is not presented as negative since she is a conventionally attractive woman.
Sherlock: I take it he did not consent?
Eurus: He? She? I did not notice. After I was done it did not matter…
Eurus is another can of worms. There was no reason why she needed to speak to Sherlock, her brother, about having sex. The fact that she neither noticed the gender nor cared for the consent of her partner may be intended to show her as “evil”, but it unconsciously links sexual violence to queerness.
So, most villains on Sherlock are more or less queer and none of them care if people consent to their advances. That’s “Game of Thrones” levels of representation.
The ‘Other’ Women
The topic of queerbaiting ties in neatly with the treatment of other romantic relationships and women in general. If your two—in this case male—protagonists’ relationship is depicted as platonic, one or both of them may be in a relationship with somebody else, usually of the opposite gender. From the story’s treatment of this love interest, temporary or otherwise, it becomes clear which relationship is actually of interest to the protagonist.
The incorrect but common assumption is that a romantic relationship has to be the most important relationship in a person’s life. This is one of the many reasons people mistake platonic relationships for romantic ones, but that is not what I’m talking about here. The thing is, both the narration and the characters themselves should allot this romantic relationship a certain level of importance, even if not primary importance.
An example of this is Sherlock’s constant treatment of Molly’s feelings and his dismissal of John’s (mostly implied) long chain of dates and girlfriends. John doesn’t seem to care much either. Hell, there is a scene where his current girlfriend leaves him because she doesn’t want to compete with Sherlock. How much clearer can you show that their relationship is secondary to what John has with Sherlock, that this woman’s feelings too are secondary, just like those of Molly Hooper?
Molly’s treatment in general is atrocious. An unrequited crush is one thing, but it is a thing one eventually moves on from. Instead of showing Molly getting over Sherlock and eventually entering a healthy relationship, we first see her being used by the queern presenting Jim Moriarty. Her obliviousness of this fact is played for laughs. Then, she tries to impress Sherlock for Christmas, which is presented as her embarrassing herself. The writers follow this up with her engagement to a Sherlock look-alike whose personality she doesn’t even seem to like and the whole “I love you” fiasco in season four.
Irene Adler I already discussed above. She is sexualized and does not seem to care about making Sherlock uncomfortable. But she is attractive and who is not attracted to a beautiful woman, so Sherlock becomes obsessed with her. Although they barely know each other, she too is shown to be in love with Sherlock, who seems to be writing to her again at the end of season four (she was shown to be dying in season two, so there’s probably plot there).
Sherlock’s short relationship and engagement in season three are also treated poorly. First off, everybody is astonished about the fact that Sherlock is with a woman, as if the general consensus was that he wasn’t attracted to them. Then, it is revealed that he only used her for a case which, after a quick laugh, is soon brushed aside by the narrative.
Most recurring female characters are mostly there for Sherlock to antagonize or shout at. The way the narration treats Sally Donovan is poor to say the least, even before she disappeared without comment in season four. While it is clear Sherlock cares for Mrs. Hudson, this should not excuse his poor treatment of her either.
The first woman that is clearly allowed her place as a love interest in the narrative is Mary, John’s wife. Her relationship with John is mostly considered of equal importance to Sherlock’s. I honestly liked her being around, she was a smart woman with an established place in the story and was not just there on the side fetching tea or being helpful when men needed her.
But before the audience could get too used to her presence she gets killed off as soon as her plot function is fulfilled. The aftermath of her death is as much about Sherlock and John’s relationship as it is about her. The show even goes so far as to have her leave a message to her husband claiming that the “Baker’s Street Boys” are the ones that matter. Yeah, so much for that.
Hannibal does quite the opposite. A clear contrast to Sherlock are Hannibal’s relationships with Alana and Bedelia and Will’s relationship with Molly.
Season one gives Will and Alana’s mutual crush a sufficient buildup. Their trust, friendship and care for one another is acknowledged by others and exists independently from both of their dealings with Hannibal. Both are given space and time to be hurt after the kiss and the following decision to not enter a relationship.
Over the late first and the entire second season this trust and friendship dwindles as both of them get more and more entangled in Hannibal’s games. Unfortunately, Alana is usually the voice of reason in all things not Hannibal. This means her opinion is often dismissed in a “We have two conflicting opinions so I’ll pick the one I like better” way, which is eventually regretted by most of the characters in question.
After this, she becomes a more morally grey character. Not wanting to be hurt again and wanting to prevent Hannibal from hurting others, she starts hunting him down and eventually becomes his jailor and probable nemesis. While working for villain Mason Verger, she encounters Margot, his sister and victim. Alana falls in love with Margot, helps her kill Mason, marries her, and they have a son together.
Will’s fling with Margot in season two should also be mentioned, as it is more important to Margot’s arc. How it affects Will is not treated as more relevant than how it affects Margot. Her arc is then continued in season three, apart from Will, and eventually allows her to escape her abusive brother.
Bedilia knows Hannibal’s secrets from her time as his psychiatrist and yet chooses to run away with him. That he uses her is obvious, and she is aware of it. She is content to play Hannibal’s wife and does not initially plan to survive it. However, when it becomes clear that Hannibal would rather be with Will than with her, she cuts herself loose from him to live another day.
When Will marries Molly, he wants to leave it all behind. He rejected Hannibal, who then surrendered to the police and, locked up as he is, has no way of coming into Will’s life again. So Will starts over, he marries a mother, so he has a family, but doesn’t tell her about Hannibal. He only tells her enough so she know who to blame when things inevitably go wrong and her family is targeted by a killer. There is never a clear break-up, just a half-hearted “we will be okay” and the knowledge that their safe place is gone.
All these storylines are given room to breathe, these women have lives and they don’t just give up on their relationships. Whether they dodged a bullet or whether they close their eyes until it’s too late, they are just as much part of the story as Will and Hannibal are, and they are treated as such.
A grievance I do have here are Hannibal’s victims Abbigail Hobbs and Miriam Lass. Abigail in season one has a lovely arc dealing with the things her father did and how she helped him. After Hannibal faked her death in the end of season one, her story is no longer about her, but about what Will and Hannibal. Miriam Lass too is mostly seen in relation to Jack and his guilt. We never see her free herself of Hannibal’s control either. I would have loved seeing them be more of their own persons. Although it makes tonal sense in a way, as Hannibal does not consume their bodies like those other victims. He consumes their stories instead.
With the inclusion of POC, overall Hannibal does okay in this department. Jack Crawford, one of the most important characters in three seasons, is played by Laurence Fishburne, a black man. All three seasons too have a black and an Asian woman in starring or recurring roles.
Beverly Katz is killed by Hannibal in season two. Her death is a shocking twist (not sure if I should add a TM here, though) yet is immensely relevant to further plot and character development. We learn of Bella Crawford’s death early in season three. She had terminal lung cancer since early in season one, so it was not surprising, but still it was a pity to see her die. In season three Will encounters an old acquaintance of Hannibal’s, Chiyoh who lived with Hannibal’s aunt Murasaki as a child. When the plot reaches book material, Francis Dollarhide’s girlfriend Reba is played by Rutina Wesley, so I think there’s a slightly tokenistic feeling seeing one person of color die only for another to appear.
This is, however, still better than Sherlock whose only characters of color, Sally Donovan and John’s unnamed therapist, mysteriously disappear in season four leaving us with an all-white cast. And it’s not because it’s set in London, London is multicultural and diverse.
Overall I am a bit astounded just how much problematic stuff can be found if one goes looking for it. More than that, I’m floored that a show whose main characters are killers and cannibals somehow manages to do better than Sherlock.
Pictures courtesy of BBC and NBC
The Horrifying and Fascinating Tales of Mindhunter
There are not nearly as many articles about Mindhunter on here as there should be, so I’m going to start. Mindhunter is a Netflix original series that came out in October. The show relates the early days of criminal study focused on serial killers, before the name was even coined. The invention of profiling, if you will. As such, a good number of characters appearing on screen are serial killer and the likes, that’s where the horror comes from. And also, where the fascination starts.
I clearly don’t have the skills to analyzes this show like it deserves. This article is more of a love letter to the show. And maybe a way to encourage people to watch it.
Mindhunter takes inspiration from the work of John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler, the two pioneers of criminal profiling, and by the subsequent book written by Douglas. It relates their work during the 60s on profiling individuals we now call serial killers. However, the characters appearing on the screen are originals. A fact slightly disappointing at first, but not done without reason.
No spoilers to fear here, but if you’re already interested in the premise, you can probably go check it out now.
I wanted to dedicate a full section to this one. I feel it’s important.
Full disclaimer: Mindhunter is not a “happy feels” kind of TV shows. By its nature, the story touches on very sensitive subjects. Rape, murder, incest, more rape, disfiguring corpses, etc.
Not that the series actually shows any of that, there are very little, if any, graphic scenes. Most of the time, we’re only seeing characters sitting in a room, discussing. It can be a cell, an interrogation room, an office, a car, anything. The horror comes from what they are discussing and how. The how being: way too calmly for how horrific it is.
This is where my fascination with the show begins and also where I can see people getting really disgusted by it. Mindhunter is the second show this year to manage stirring a feeling of uneasiness from me. The first was The Handmaid’s Tale. Without going into details, if you feel like you don’t need that right now, please skip this show. Really, it’s not a good idea. The show is unapologetic about its gruesome origins: serial murderers do horrific stuff and the story addresses all of it, if not more.
And while I’m at it. Because most of the show is dialogue, you probably already know that this is going to be a slow burn. The show doesn’t have a lot of action, or twists, or grand events. It’s mainly discussion, slow discussions, not all of them progressing the plot significantly. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it’s perfectly understandable too. Be warned.
Now that it’s said. Let’s get back to why you should watch it. I swear.
The classic subject
Serial killers have been part of pop culture for decades now. From the countless incarnations of Hannibal to entire shows dedicated to the profiling and capture of this specific kind of criminals. More recently, we’ve had series where the hero is quite literally a serial killer.
It’s easy to see why they are fascinating. Most of the time, they are shown or treated like people who are simply compelled to do violence. They can’t help it and that’s a brutal way to talk about the nature of all humanity. You’ve probably heard countless time a killer like this saying to a cop “We’re not so different, you and I. You’ve the same fire burning inside of you.” Or something similar.
Because of that, you’ll probably start Mindhunter with already a good idea of the characters you expect to see.
Mindhunter manages to grab your attention by going all out with its portrayal of the serial killer. And by that I don’t mean that they try to outdo all the other story with the gore and the rape and the murder. The serial killer portrayed are real, they existed, so it’s hard to invent. However, the show can take the time to present, sometimes in great details, what they did and how. Always through dialogues alone, of course.
As a result, and without showing anything but some people talking, the show feels more authentic. The serial killers are not romanticized, weirdly enough. What they did is told to us in horrifying simplicity. There is no long-winded description of how smart they are. How they planned everything and how meticulous they were. How hard it was to catch them. They did this horror, and now the point of the show is to understand why.
On that note, the actual profiling and trying to understand is a good part of the show so I won’t spoil it too much. But, just like the killers, this part is treated with a realistic tone that adds a lot to how terrible the whole deal is. You can expect to hear a lot about the killers’ mother and their absent father.
What really drew me in, and what I’m expecting to work with most people, is the absence of glamour. That’s a very difficult line to follow and I might be entirely wrong on that. Mindhunter doesn’t put the killers above us mere mortals. Yes, it pinpoints the weird fascination those people draw from us, but it also takes times to deconstruct them.
Those killers are embodiments of our horrors because they have very little care for our social construct. But they are mainly sick people, shaped partly by their family, by society, and by themselves. The show accepts that they are here to fascinate us, but it also doesn’t romanticize them.
Even the best of them all.
This character had to have his own subsection. He embodies everything good, and horrifying, about this show.
When talking about serial killers like this, if you’re going to show them, you want good actors. If not very, very good actors. The acting in the entire series is pretty much on point. But you really must admire Cameron Britton for his portrayal of Edmund Kemper. The second he enters the room for the first time and start talking, you’re in. Mindhunter only starts to truly shine there.
The camera emphasizes his size and posture, making him intimidate the characters, and you, by his sheer presence. But it’s when Ed starts talking that the show becomes fascinating. He can go from the calm, almost candid demeanor of an unsuspicious innocent, to the cold, cruel and morbid humor of a monster. He shows just how damaged he is. Then how easy it would have been for the police force to ignore him.
Maybe his performance will be too much for some. It’s sometimes a little too slow, too weird, to feel completely human. For me, it sold the show. There is this delicate balance in his acting. There is the monster completely accepting of who he is, and then there is the mask he can take whenever he wants. To make us forget what he truly is.
As the series goes along though, the fascination the viewers feel for the killers starts to get mirrored. Kemper himself slowly gains interest in one of our main character. Holden Ford.
The true point
Mindhunter would have you believe it’s a show about serial killers. It’s not. It’s a character-driven story, from start to finish. The serial killers are here to emphasize the different reactions of our main cast to this kind of horror.
Holden Ford (played by Johnathan Groff), Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) are all original characters. They are only inspired by their historic counterparts. A choice that I found weird at first. If you’re going to talk about something real, why not pay proper homage to the people responsible? But this way, Mindhunter is free to do as it pleases with these characters.
These three have different perceptions and interests in serial killers, of course. All reflections of the audience potential reactions.
Bill Tench is a cop, working for the FBI for years. He only sees in them the criminals and cares to understand only so he can do his job better. That also mean he can go as deep with them as his young colleague is willing. There is disgust and anger for the killers. Weirdly, he’s the character less likened to the audience, since he doesn’t seem fascinated by his study. He looks into the eyes of the killers and only find fear.
Dr. Mitford, however, is fascinated by them. But more in a professional way. It was always her job to study the human mind. Those who aren’t functioning “normally” can only make her curious. It’s helped by the fact that, for obvious reasons, she can’t go near them. There is a distance kept between her and the criminals, making it difficult to see how disturbing it can become to talk with someone like Kemper. We can expect this divide between the three to grow as the study goes.
And finally, there is the “true” main character. The one introducing us to the show and who props most of the plot forward. Holden Ford is probably the closest to the viewers. His fascination for the killers and their mind goes beyond his work. Not that it is morbid either, it’s simply a curiosity that’s difficult not to understand. One that stems from his experience with disturbed people and from a real need to do better. To help.
I wouldn’t call Ford a very likeable protagonist, he can actually be a douche from time to time. Yet I hope you’ll find yourself fascinated by him and his evolution. Just as Holden finds himself captivated by the killers he meets. He’s the character most affected by those meetings, even as he tries to be the one in charge.
Quite simply, he stares into the abyss the most out of anyone. And, as always, the abyss stares back. His fascination for the macabre mirrors our own, maybe a little too much.
Holden is also interesting because we don’t know a lot about him at first. The more we learn, the more curious we become. He doesn’t seem to fit perfectly into the “normal” mold we have for a hero either. I’ve already seen a few articles attempting to diagnoses him. There are different theories. I’ve seen him called a sociopath mirroring those he tries to profile. Some explain his social behavior by a form of autism.
I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about, so I don’t have an opinion on that. It doesn’t really matter. In the end, Holden is a complete character, not necessarily a nice one, that becomes slowly as fascinating as the killers he’s trying to interview. Watch closely for his evolution during season 1.
For him, and all the other characters, I’m looking forward to season 2 and their dive into the abyss.
Some more nitpicks and conclusion
Mindhunter got reviews all around so I doubt this article will convince you if nothing else did. But still, I needed to say all of that. I’ve avoided talking about David Fincher and his directing because that’s far from my specialty, but some shots will make you feel like you’re in a cinema. There is a vision in this show that you won’t find everywhere.
That’s also a source of issue with it. Sometimes Mindhunter seems so focused on its purpose that it can become obscure to someone without established knowledge on some subject. Mainly, most episodes open on short scenes depicting a famous American serial killer. Someone that apparently people immediately identified from the time frame and the place. As a European, it was hard for me to understand. Someone had to explain it to me.
In the same idea, the characters tend to drop some names as if they were common knowledge. I’m guessing people who haven’t read or seen a lot about serial killers can get a bit lost at points.
I don’t think it takes you away from the show, but it’s something to be aware of before starting.
Apart from that, Mindhunter has a very strong narrative, entirely character-driven. It captures the pop culture fascination for serial killers while forcing us to really take in the horrifying nature of their crimes. If you’re looking for something like this, please give it a try.
Also, as a Frenchman I’m mandatory obligated to say it. Holden Ford looks like our President. It’s very jarring. That is all. I’m sorry.
Images courtesy of Netflix
Fun Home: Broad City Takes Us ‘House-sitting’
I would like to raise a toast. A champagne-with-raspberries toast to Ilana Wexler, who this week made a breakthrough in her personal development, worked through some of her own shit, and helped her friends work through theirs. This week, Ilana was the matriarch, because Ilana was house sitting for Heidi Strand, and brought her brood for a magical weekend in the Fun Home.
Heidi Strand, if you’ll recall, is the obscenely wealthy mother of Oliver Strand, the young boy Ilana occasionally babysits for and who adopted her “Yas Queen” catchphrase in one of the most iconic episodes of Broad City ever (S2E8 for those who need a refresher).
Oliver is stressed AF because of his standardized testing for babies, so Heidi is taking him in an Uber helicopter to detox in the Hamptons. As you do. It’s pretty incredible that Heidi trusts Ilana with her enormous home but here we are: she hands over the keys, and the fun begins.
First it’s just the OG pair, Abbi and Ilana. Ilana gives Abbi the tour, starting with the laundry room, which features four huge washer-dryers. They dump in all their laundry, gleefully set the knobs, and proceed to dress up in Heidi’s clothes and ascend the multi-story spiral staircase to the piéce de résistance: the Master Bath. It comes complete with every ethnicity of marble (Asian, Italian, Peurto Rican, etc.) and A BEDET.
While Ilana sits herself on the bedet and toggles through every setting via the screen on the wall beside her, orgasming a few times in the process, she manages to hold a conversation with Abbi, who is Tinder-ing. She sees her high school English teacher. Ilana convinces her that teachers are the ultimate fantasy and to definitely swipe yas, do not swipe nas. Abbi does it, and they match, so she invites him to the Fun Home and changes from one of Heidi’s gowns into some of her resort wear.
Meanwhile, Jaime shows up with his laundry, and relays that he has gone through with the circumcision he’d been contemplating to deal with his chronic yeast infections. He therefore cannot under any circumstances get hard, lest his stitches pull out. So he heads to the laundry room and tries really hard not to be turned on by anything, which proves difficult.
The next person to show up is Lincoln, with his own laundry in tow, and right behind him is Mike Birbiglia! I legit got excited about this until I realized that it was for sure going to get creepy between him and Abbi, but we’ll get there. Ilana introduces Lincoln to Birbigs, and manages, with only a little bit of revulsion, to introduce him as her boyfriend. Good job trying out labels, Ilana! Then she takes Lincoln to the laundry room, the first stop in every Fun Home experience.
Abbi tries to flirt with Birbigs, but can’t help but be a little weirded out. Especially when she tells him that she always thought of him “like that” and he responds that he always thought of her “like that” too. So she runs to find Ilana, who’s having the time of her life in a farting party with Lincoln, to enlist her advice. Ilana tells her that all teachers jerk off to their students, and that as a society we should be thankful for those ones, because the other ones end up in the news.
Abbi still isn’t convinced, so Ilana puts it to her this way: when was the last time she jerked off to JTT? The teenage version of JTT? Abbi realizes it was just the night before last (which, okay), and is comforted by Ilana’s assertion that all older people jerk off to teenagers and all teenagers jerk off to older people. The circle of life.
Ilana goes back to Lincoln and they lie on the master bed. They have a conversation about brunch and shared Google calendars and Lincoln starts to read the newspaper. Just then, Ilana catches a glimpse of a book on the nightstand called “Is your relationship stale?” She immediately freaks out about commitment and frantically tells Lincoln that they haven’t had sex in forever. He points out that they had sex an hour ago and he has a refractory period. They then sit across from each other at a fancy table in a Fun Home nook somewhere and decide that they’ll give it a year and then check in. No forevers. It’s cute and there are jokes about spaghetti and Doritos (see: previous fart party). I enjoyed this scene very much.
Meanwhile, Jaime is wandering the Fun Home and seeing sex and penises literally everywhere, even in the antique map of Europe Italy looks like a penis. So he hides under the mountain of stuffed animals in Oliver’s dark room, crying and begging his penis to stay weak while he stays strong.
Unfortunately, this is the exact room Abbi and Birbigs decide to stumble into while making out, and start to role-play the teacher-student thing while lying on Oliver’s bed, unaware of a horrified Jaime just feet from them. Abbi goes along with the role-play until Birbigs pushes her face back with his hands in order to make her look 17 again. This is the last straw for both Abbi and Jaime, who tell him how gross he is and that he should leave. Jaime is actually glad, since seeing that exchange killed his impending erection.
Just as Birbigs is getting dressed and about to leave, a fire alarm goes off, and all of the Fun Home inhabitants gather on the street. One of the firefighters that comes explains that they used a dryer that was only supposed to dry silk and that’s what caused the dryer-fire. Nothing is really damaged and the motley crew are relieved, bidding farewell to Birbigs, who heads off down the street to that song from The Breakfast Club—you know the one.
Overall, this episode was pure fun, except for the creep-factor of Mike Birbiglia, English Teacher, which…that’s not my humor. But to the credit of the Broad City team, and Abbi Jacobsen who directed this episode (her second of the season, and they’re both winners), even when this kind of storyline happens, this show keeps the ball firmly in the woman’s court. It broaches sexual tabboos while maintaining the power and autonomy of the central (female-identified, in this case) characters.
I give this episode 9.5/10 privately owned Baroque sculptures.
Until next week, kweens!
Images Courtesy of Comedy Central
Legends Double Whammy: The Rise of Mallus and The Wonderful Helen
Major events happened in Legends of Tomorrow in the past two episodes, but they still handled their lighter tone quite well. This time, a double review of episodes five and six, so let’s dig in!
“Return of the Mack”
The Legends track down an anachronism in Victorian London where an actual vampire seems to be on the loose. The start out by visiting a morgue and speaking with the local coroner. As the team finds out the doctor is wearing a 2017 watch, they make the man spill the beans: he had found it in a body that had “fallen from the sky,” which he examined and then buried.
Thinking this body would be connected to the vampire situation, they go to the cemetery and end up finding Rip Hunter there, on his own journey after the vamp. It turns out he thinks this particular anachronism is related to Mallus, a powerful being whose name has been whispered throughout all of time and space. To go on this mission, Rip had to go rogue against his own foundation, the Time Bureau.
Using Nate as bait and after he gets captured easily, the mystery is solved: some cult members, which include Stein’s eccentric ancestor, are seeking to revive a secretive corpse using the blood of the great people of London and the occult powers of the Blood Moon.
The Legends put up a rescue mission, but as usual, things do go south: Nate is retrieved, but after Zari’s creepy participation in a séance hosted by one Madame Eleanor, a fight does start in the main hall. To make matters worse, the team finds out that the body that is going to be resurrected belongs to one Damien Darhk, after his death at the hands of the Green Arrow.
This leads to new conflict between Sara and Rip. Sara believes they should make a move to ‘kill Darhk for good/keep him from being resurrected,’ but Rip wants to let things go their way, at least for a little bit, in order to reach Mallus during the ceremony. Rip ends up agreeing with Sara, but goes rogue once again, locking the Legends inside the Waverider as he goes on with his plan.
As the séance involved Madame Eleanor speaking for Zari’s sister, the new team member had exited the ship beforehand so that she could ask the medium to speak with her brother again and apologize for leaving him to die after ARGUS’s attack. However, she ends up tricked by Eleanor and hands her totem, which soon she learns was a bad idea.
The main event begins as Eleanor uses her own powers and the totem’s to speak for Mallus. Rip crashes the party, but his efforts to stop this nonsense are in vain: Damien Darhk lives. Despite getting Time Bureau’s employees there to help the fight, the Darhk and Eleanor combo prove to be too powerful, and Rip comes very close to dying. The Legends arrive just in time after escaping the Waverider to save Hunter from death.
After Rip’s betrayal, Sara makes the hard-ish decision of calling in the Time Bureau to take Rip away, as the dude simply has no loyalty, going over the captain’s wishes for his own agenda. Honestly? Go, Sara. This call yields good results and, apparently, the Legends get permission to do their thing. PLUS, and I say this with a lot of excitement, we can look forward to seeing Sara and Agent Sharpe stop being catty to each other.
Meanwhile, Jax gets Ray to help him out in breaking up Firestorm. The first step was breaking the psychic connection, at least temporarily, as a trial. This process goes well, but despite Jax’s good intentions, Stein gets upset with it. However, as the episode goes by, vague things happen which propel Stein change of heart as he realizes he really wants to spend the extra time with his grandson. Therefore, he agrees to the break up without any further resistance.
A long take starts us in 1937 Hollywoodland where a blonde woman walks into a movie set causing all sorts of trouble because all the men are focused on her. As coincidences go, this is a big one: she enters the set of a movie portraying Troy and gets instantly cast as herself given her identity is no one less than the Helen of Troy.
At the Waverider, Ray is trying to separate Firestorm through some sort of weird science that ends up blowing up in their faces, quite literally. The result is a Freaky Friday situation in which Jax and Martin swap bodies, leading to all sorts of age jokes and funny shenanigans. As Sara puts it in a meta way, “It must be Tuesday.”
The Legends take notice of the anachronism in Hollywood as history got changed and, to get their mojo back, they decide to go forth for what would be an easy mission while they can’t solve their Damien Darhk problem quite yet. Upon arrival, they notice how this new method actor is making the rounds, prompting men to fight for her and Nate recognizes her as Helen of Troy.
Meanwhile, Martin is having the time of his life meeting his boyhood crush Hedy Lamarr, a brilliant scientist-actor of whom he is especially fond. Sara, Zari, and Amaya try to get Helen to go with them quietly, but she is reluctant due to the way she is treated in Troy, having been locked up and an excuse for war-waging among men for years. To make matters worse, as she runs away, they soon find out she is being managed by Damien Darhk. The man himself tries to achieve a parlay with Sara, telling them to go away and let him tend to his evil businesses or else he will kill all the Legends, one by one.
Sara takes her time to discuss the indecent proposal with her crew, but ultimately, they decide to fight Darhk. Sara enlists only the women to retrieve Helen this time as even the guys on the team fell victim to her “curse” of making men fight for her. They go to her current location and successfully convince her to go willingly given the Hollywood studio heads’ fights were escalating to gunpowder levels.
As they return to the ship, the electronic problems they’ve been having all day — from the comms being down to Gideon shutting down — are all a ripple effect from Helen’s one pompous day at Hollywood. It turns out that Helen’s appeal discouraged Hedy Lamarr from pursuing her dreams which not only included movies but patented technology that would eventually pave the way for the advanced technology on the ship.
Thus, the mission can’t end yet as the team still need to get Hedy back on track. As the onboard Lamarr Stan, Martin volunteers as tribute. However, Damien and Eleanor find them together and, having his proposition ignored, the fight begins.
As the legends go after Martin, Helen is left to the care of Zari and Amaya who even hands Helen a knife so she would not be defenseless. Kuasa, the “water witch” from team Darhk/team Mallus enters the Waverider and knocks Zari out (sidenote: the team is referring to Zari as Z now, and I just wanna say that it’s very, very cute). Kuasa proceeds to have a word with Amaya, and she reveals herself as Mari McCabe’s older sister and, therefore, Amaya’s granddaughter which sort of explains why she is a totem-bearer. However, before Kuasa can reveal some important plot information, Helen stabs her with her knife, and she perishes.
Back outside, Damien and Sara decide to have an oldfashioned League fight, without magic. As Sara suddenly becomes an expert assassin again (her skills come and go as the plot demands, as you are all aware) and gets ready to kill Darhk, Eleanor interferes with magic and reveals herself as Darhk’s daughter. As Eleanor readies to kill Sara, Hedy tells Martin and Jax to fuse which is something they were afraid of doing after their swap.
Fortunately, it all works out with Firestorm who is now stable and gets the best out of the Darhks, who retreat away. The crew gets back on the ship as they are now ready to leave Hollywood as the Hedy Lamarr situation has been resolved. Still, they still have Helen aboard, who is feeling miserable about having to go back to her shitty life. Her arguments get the best of Zari who, through a loophole, takes her to the same period as she went missing, but a much better place than Troy — a nice, Greek, aesthetically pleasing, and well-saturated place where only women are allowed. The episode closes with what we already knew: that place’s name is Themiscyra, which was WONDERFUL, like, hell fucking yeah, Legends of Tomorrow, you just blew my wig to the stratosphere.
Images Courtesy of The CW
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