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Marvel Monday :: our thoughts on Agents of SHIELD season 4

23 May

Bullet-pointed for… something.

  • So, Daisy’s arc sort of got shoved to the side for most of this season, which. Alright. But she did have some great scenes with Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna), including the scene where they fight and she begs him to kill her (the spirit refuses, as it only kills those who have done things worthy of punishment). Daisy and Robbie had great chemistry together, and watching them work together in the season finale was a real treat. She also (along with Jemma [Elizabeth Henstridge]) was spared the uploading into the Framework (more on this in a minute), and together they worked to break everyone out. Some jackass decided Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) should come back in the Framework, and though she made it clear she wanted nothing to do with Ward anymore, the one misstep in her character development was when she said something OOC about how she “didn’t fully understand” the real Ward. Frustrating, but my only huge issue with her this season. They’re heading towards making her director of SHIELD, which I really hope is how the show ends.
  • Ultimately the main antagonist of this season was AIDA/Madame Hydra (Mallory Jansen). Yeah, it threw me for a loop when they announced that she’d be taking that role on in the Framework, but ultimately it made sense (more on this in a minute) and damn if Mallory Jansen is not just the most fun to watch. Over the course of the season she goes from being an amiable, if sometimes unnerving, android created by Radcliffe (John Hannah) for the purpose of protecting and defending agents (allegedly), so in effect a bulletproof lab assistant, to a thoroughly deranged character in the Framework, to a gosh darn real girl with all sorts of anger issues and raging hormones for Fitz. Who’s also got, thanks to the Framework and the Darkhold and other sinister things, most of the superpowers we’ve seen now-gone characters on the show have. She also adopts the name “Ophelia,” which I read too much into like a smarty, and turns on her creator for “demeaning” her by treating her like a robot. There kept being interesting little threads of possibility with her, some of which were followed through on and some of which were too damn meta for a television show to touch, but the true joy of this arc is Mallory Jansen’s performance. Part of me misses the bulletproof lab assistant because robot girls are fun, but also, AIDA was the most delightful antagonist we’ve seen thus far and also contributed to the undoing of… well.
  • Leopold James Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) – James, because there weren’t already twenty of those in the MCU – is on a downward trajectory. That’s putting it mildly. The beginning of the season saw Fitz lying to everyone and helping Radcliffe to build and program AIDA, despite a two-minute flash of conscience in the season premiere where he pointed out that after things like, y’know, Ultron, it probably wouldn’t be a great idea for a criminal scientist already in hot water to build a freaking robot. But all it took was a calm, pleasant explanation from AIDA and suddenly he was all aboard the robot train. As the season develops, he does such super-awesome things as guilt Daisy about her running away from SHIELD, expect his girlfriend Jemma to shoulder the burden of all of his emotional problems, save the decapitated head of the first AIDA model despite everyone including Jemma saying to destroy it but he thinks he can do something to help… and then in the Framework, he’s a sadistic torturing Nazi who happens to be fucking the same robot he’s gotten into so much trouble with already, but it’s okay because there she’s real, and using Darkhold tech he makes her a real body, which I don’t think I have to explain is the worst possible idea.
  • The Framework, as designed by Radcliffe and implemented by AIDA (the degree to which the design was modified by AIDA is somewhat unclear), was based on the premise that everyone whose consciousnesses were originally plugged in deserved to live in a nice happy digital computer world where their greatest regret was taken away. Or what Radcliffe perceived as their greatest regret. Some of these were totally reasonable – May (Ming-Na Wen) still regretting Bahrain, Mack (Henry Simmons) regretting that his daughter didn’t live past infancy, Mace (Jason O’Mara) regretting that he lied about being an Inhuman – and some were… something else. Coulson (Clark Gregg) regretted not living a “normal life” (since when was this a thing of his? Since about the episode before the Framework was revealed) and Fitz regretted… not growing up with his father. These daddy issues entered into play this season as well, and I’d previously been under the impression that he was content to have grown up with his mother, especially since according to exposition from Jemma his father was at the very least verbally abusive, but apparently not. And apparently growing up and remaining very close with his father, a class-A douchebag, led to Fitz… being a sadistic torturing Nazi. One who was nicknamed “the Doctor” no less, because that’s totally not sinister in this context. “I’m just like Ward,” he said after exiting the Framework, reflecting on the situation. Yes, yes you are, my ex-buddy, and here is why: not only did his daddy issues then shape the entire Framework into a totalitarian fascist hellscape where Inhumans were hunted and SHIELD, having been successfully taken over by Hydra, was a scrappy band of underground resistance fighters, but he…
    • Tortured (avatars of) Inhumans, several of which he later realized he’d known IRL.
    • Shot Agnes, who was the RL woman Sandwiches had modeled AIDA’s likeness on and whose consciousness and life, after she passed away IRL from a brain tumor, was uploaded to the Framework – ergo, he killed a woman.
    • Tortured Daisy, which didn’t actually harm Daisy’s RL body but if he had killed her it would in fact kill RL her because if your consciousness was plugged into the Framework if you died there you died IRL, so that was a near miss.
    • Ordered an op that ultimately killed Jeffrey Mace.
    • (As mentioned) plotted to build and then did build tech using the Darkhold, the spoopiest book of all time, to create an actual human body in the real world that would also be endowed with superpowers from all the Inhumans he’d tortured to death, so she could in effect take over the world that had done her wrong. (Even now I’m not entirely clear on how much of what ~Ophelia did in the Framework was actually AIDA and how much was a program, but either way – not great.)
    • After Jemma shot (the avatar of) his father in self-defense after trying to get him to cooperate with their goal of rescuing everyone from the Framework, Fitz tracked Jemma down and despite her screaming that IRL they were together and blah blah love blah blah he shot her (avatar) in the leg and very nearly shot her in the head and killed her. Would have likely done had Radcliffe’s avatar not intervened.
    • Oh, and I forgot to mention: while Daisy had been doing the non-terrigenesis’d totalitarian equivalent of what she does now in the Framework, Jemma was literally dead to begin with. When she awoke in the Framework she clawed her way out of a shallow mass grave. In the Framework, she and Fitz had never known each other. Despite the way that a robot version of Fitz tried to consentingly lure Jemma into the Framework with promises of happiness and marriage.
    • And the real kicker of this is: while the other people plugged into the Framework had grand revelations that either it was not a real place (Coulson) or their actions there were bad (May) or some other knowing moment of oh, shit… Fitz did not. Multiple times Fitz was given a chance to go oh, shit and repent. He did not. Also, several other characters had moments of ~knowing each other~ from RL contexts despite not knowing each other (Coulson remembered Daisy, May remembered Coulson, there was an implied flash of deja vu between Mack and Elena [Natalia Cordova-Buckley]) but Fitz looked Jemma in the eye and said that she meant nothing to him.
  • Ask us about our anti-Fitz feminist agendas.
  • In happier news, there were very good moments for the other members of the team! Coulson was a giant nerd in the Framework, which was sort of endearing; Trip (B.J. Britt) was still alive in the Framework and I miss him already; despite being the first to be replaced with a robot and hooked into the Framework, May still kicked some ass and was good; Mack and Elena are actually completely adorable together even though we all thought Mack was probably gay and we can’t even be mad that he too got roped into heterosexuality because they’re actually wonderful together; Mack was adorable and tragic with his daughter Hope (Jordan Rivera) in the Framework, even though they named her Hope when there’s already two different other Hopes in the MCU; Elena and Agent Piper (Briana Venskus) were precious and capable protecting Jemma and Daisy while they were in the Framework; Jemma my beloved was forced to sit through a lot of compulsive heterosexuality but nonetheless she was strong and badass and very good at what she needed to do.
  • But romantic FitzSimmons is dead. It needs to be dead. It needed to be dead before it even began, but it especially needs to be dead now. If any time is expended on any of the women, but especially Jemma, assuaging Fitz’s guilt complex next season, I will scream. He deserves to be guilty because he Did A Bad and while he seems perfectly capable of admitting IRL that he Did A Bad and that he was responsible for AIDA’s less than stellar changes, he never once said “I’m sorry.” He did say “I think I’m a bad person” and that’s pretty accurate. Sorry, ex-buddy.
  • The finale ended with everybody being arrested in a diner because everyone thinks SHIELD are bad guys again. And then it flashed forward an indeterminate amount of time to show Coulson on what appeared to be a spaceship, looking out at the vastness of space before getting up and “getting to work” in what seemed to be some kind of prison. I’ve seen buzz that this is leading up to SWORD, basically the intergalactic version of SHIELD, but nobody’s confirmed that one way or the other. We also have no idea if what Coulson is seeing is actually real or if he’s been put back into some kind of virtual reality or simulation to serve his punishment in. And we don’t know where anyone else is either. (We have awhile to think about it, since the show won’t be back until January 2018. Because ABC and Marvel are still trying to make Inhumans happen. It’s not going to happen.)

–your fangirl heroines.

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Marvel Monday :: on season 3 of Agents of SHIELD

23 May

So.  This is a list of our favorite things about Agents of SHIELD season 3, because this is an important list for us to make always.

5. Skimmons.
Honestly, we can sum it all up in “you can call me whatever you want.”  Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) continue to be wonderful, although their interactions are sparse.  But consider:

  • Daisy keeping the portal open for Jemma in 3.02 despite risking her own health and waiting until she saw Jemma was out to sit down
  • Daisy bringing Jemma daisies and telling her “do whatever you need to get better. We need you.”
  • The way Jemma’s pleased about getting Daisy’s name right and then later in that same conversation Daisy says “thank you Jemma”
  • Daisy hugging Jemma immediately upon Jemma’s return from being kidnapped by Nazis (again)
  • Jemma looking so emotional when she caught Daisy and Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) sexy-sparring
  • Jemma literally masterminding a mission to Romania in hopes of saving Daisy
  • Jemma and Daisy’s insanely fraught conversation in the penultimate episode

4. Language stuff.
Namely:

  • Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Melinda (Ming-Na Wen) doing the “I totally don’t speak your language, random person!” -> “completely comprehends and talks smack on the random in a different language” trick in Chinese
  • Joey (Juan Pablo Raba) and Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) speaking Spanish together, and in some cases when non-Spanish speakers were in the room. I saw a lot of Spanish speakers being really excited about this on Twitter, and I know that Juan Pablo Raba mostly tweets in Spanish, so I’m sure that was really great for him to use his native lanugage.
  • Bobbi proceeding to get indignant that nobody else could apparently speak Russian, then reminding Daisy she could totally figure out a Cyrillic keyboard and calling her “sestra” later, to which Daisy replied “da”

3. My weird-ass sense of humor is here!
As I’ve said before, I have a very Tumblrish sense of humor, which not everyone (my dad) recognizes as a sense of humor at all.  It’s predicated on a few basic tenets, including humor about names and accents and language that isn’t bigoted, dry sarcasm, and things reminding me of other things.  Most of these happen sometimes, but I have never once in my life seen a television show make a name-related joke of my kind before but BOY HOWDY.

  • Hunter (Nick Blood) getting on Fitz’s (Iain de Caestecker) case for spelling it “Katelin,” which is definitely not one of the normal ways to spell that name (I verified this today by mentioning that spelling to someone with that name spelled otherwise and she made a face, so yes, it’s weird)
  • Hunter and his acquaintance having that conversation in extremely slangy British that was so thick it had to be subtitled
  • Hunter wearing camera glasses and hacking a computer because Daisy was telling him what to do, all the while Bobbi was just throwing mad shade
  • Coulson (Clark Gregg) letting Rosalind (Constance Zimmer) boss him around because he obviously missed Melinda bossing him around
  • This was only funny if you’ve seen Arrested Development, but when Lincoln started whining about how he was a MONSTERRRRRRRR all I could see was this clip of Buster Bluth with his hook-hand.

2. Ladies.
Well.

    • I’m still processing how I feel about Daisy’s arc this season (I don’t think it’s a particularly positive feeling), but some things I liked:
      • She has total control over her powers now and it is awesome. My favorite scenes were the one where she threw Hive all over the room, or when she saved her stepmom Rosalind (not really, but I thought of the joke and it made me laugh).
      • I like that she got her own team to work with, and I think that was really good for her. What we saw of them together involved her being a leader, which was pretty cool.
      • I like that she’s literally the fucking Avatar now and basically everyone exists to either keep her safe or do what she says. I hope all the people who hate her are very upset and stopped watching.
      • Also if Chloe doesn’t get any awards for the finale, so help me god.
    • Guess who has two thumbs and doesn’t believe in romantic FitzSimmons it’s THIS GIRL, so a large chunk of my feelings about Jemma’s scenes this season were uncomfortable embarrassment, but I still love her and she’s still brilliant and she’s still criminally underappreciated both in canon and on the internet.
    • Melinda continues to be a character whose most memorable moments are still largely with others, acting and reacting, so here:
      • The episode with her dad giving interesting, non-tragic backstory elements
      • Teaming up with Hunter and being much better at her job than him (and then kicking all those guys’ asses)
      • Teaming up with Bobbi and having meaningful conversations with her and kicking asses in tandem
      • Teaming up with Jemma to do things at the base and sharing some of their intense guilt and having conversations that were painful but cathartic
      • That emotional conversation she had with Daisy in the finale

 

  • Bobbi Morse come back to us.  I literally cried during her exit scene, literal tears that made my dad look at me funny, but I just love her so much and miss her and I could (and will eventually) write an essay about her batons and the way she sciences but is too restless for the lab and the fact that Mack called her brain weird and she knows a billion languages and she has no time for bullshit and she had a small but visible recovery arc and I just need her back yesterday.
  • I’m not even sure if we were actually supposed to like Rosalind or if I just have hilariously dramatic reactions to scary mean women with short hair, but I kind of loved her. Coulson became instantly bearable in every scene with her! And she was so morally ambiguous and interesting! Also everyone else’s reactions to her as the evil stepmom were weirdly hilarious to me. (I also started watching unREAL after she died, which I highly recommend, because it’s basically the same character.)
  • I want Elena to stay forever and ever and be second-best friends with Daisy (because Jemma has to be first-best it’s important) and make fun of everyone in Spanish with Joey and I guess she and Mack can date that’s okay. I love her.
  • We had really intensely strong feelings about Agent Piper (Briana Venksus) despite her only being in one episode.  She was clearly important and her first name is obviously Tegan.

 

1. Grant Ward dies twice.
I have been waiting for 966 days (I haven’t been counting, just did the math online) for Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) to die and/or leave the show. The midseason finale cruelly dangled this in front of my face by killing him, and then had his body get possessed by an Inhuman. So close. But I knew he would die for real, and I waited. And then I made a cake.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Sundry Sunday :: 10 gifts that 2015 gave me

3 Jan

10. Inside Out
I wound up seeing this twice, actually, and it was just a delight.  Psychology: the animated movie!  I’m all about that.  I’m also all about cartoons that aren’t cloying, and this definitely wasn’t.

9. Jupiter Ascending
This is glorious trash and that is all there is to it.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
If this had come out earlier in the year it would be higher up on the list, but I haven’t had time to crest the wave of buzz yet.  I’ve seen it twice and loved the hell out of it both times.  I love the babies, I can definitely feel my five-year-old self’s adoration for Leia swelling again.  It’s not exactly an unpredictable film but it’s so pleasant.

7. Badlands
I didn’t actually review this album here, but I absolutely love it.  Evey single song is solid gold (although I admit that “Colors” makes me giggle now because of a tumblr post pertaining to SHIELD 3.05 and “Castle,” while being one of my favorite tracks, makes me giggle now because of the Huntsman trailer).  Also, Halsey seems like a super cool person.

6. Daredevil + Jessica Jones
So I haven’t actually finished Daredevil yet but we marathoned Jessica Jones for the new year and I am in love.  I mean, I’m in love with both of these shows.  They’re ~dark and gritty~ but I’m fine with that because they’re also compelling and mostly populated by characters that I actually give a damn about.  There are really important platonic (“platonic”) relationships and hetero romances that don’t annoy me and wonderful casts that do an A+ job and it’s just so important.  Also, blowback of trauma and pulling no punches regarding it.

5. After It All
I haven’t been pre-hyped for an album like I was for this in a very long time, and it holds up so well.

 

4. lady relationships in SHIELD
Not all of the discussion here is pertinent to 2015, and there’s more to it than was written in that pre-season 3 post, so let me add also: Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) are still so important and still love each other look they hugged again finally, Jemma and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) are so important too watch Bobbi still be one of the only people Jemma can actually talk to about things watch Bobbi have such emotion in her eyes when she sees Jemma returned from her brief kidnapping, Bobbi and Melinda (Ming-Na Wen) are so important watch Melinda test Bobbi watch Bobbi support Melinda watch them be undercover together and kicking ass together and amazing together.  Etcetera.

3. Every Open Eye
What beauty this album is.  What perfection.

2. Agent Carter
Peggy has always been my girl because vintage, but she’s also this feminine but lethal powerhouse of danger and beauty and cunning and I have a lot of emotions.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
What a beautiful and important piece of cinema and I hope it is recognized for the masterpiece it is always.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Television Tuesday :: 10 shows and their ladies in 2015

30 Dec

So this is what I think about positivity-wise in television anymore.  Some entries by my drift partner.

10. From Dusk Till Dawn
Despite flaws (which, you know, everything has, and I’m wary of what’s going on with poor Kate [Madison Davenport] but y’know) season two of this show was essentially a 10-episode revenge arc for blessed Santanico (Eiza Gonzalez).

9. Penny Dreadful
I’m not entirely done with watching through season two of this but I continue to at least be glad about how absolutely pivotal Vanessa (Eva Green) is.  Also the episode with her and the Cut-Wife (Patti LuPone) that was basically just smashing the Bechdel test in the face and giving an origin story and the fact that our s2 big bad is Helen McCrory.

8. Game of Thrones
This show mistreats… virtually all of its women ranging from neglect to misuse to horrible crimes against their humanity to actual murder, but that doesn’t mean that the women itself aren’t incredibly fabulous.  I’ve sneaked feelings into all of my fashion posts with them, but suffice to say I have them and I love everyone, except I still have problems with Selyse [Tara Fitzgerald] and Myranda [Charlotte Hope] was horrible and the opposite of the completely separate Myranda from the books and there are other characters that I love as characters but not as people, but mostly I love everyone and hope it gets better from here and they all get a chance to do murder to asshole men.

7. The Librarians
This show continues to be hilariously silly but Cassandra (Lindy Booth) flirts with girls on accident and Eve (Rebecca Romijn) basically fills the role that would normally be a dude and there’s support and it’s sweet.  Also Cassandra is just adorable and I love her.

6. Supergirl
As well as being the first superhero television show centered around a female protagonist in more than a decade (Birds of Prey on The WB aired for a season in 2002), this show also features a great deal of relationships between women. Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) has a foster sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), who she has been close to since her arrival on Earth as a teenager, and a foster mother (Helen Slater). Her boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), is dismissive of her but possessive of Supergirl, and there are frequent appearances from both her mother’s hologram and from her Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti), the latter being the villain of the piece. Episodes smash the Bechdel Test and the emotional core of the show is centered around Kara and Alex.

7. Flash
This show is…confused about what to do with its female characters on a good day, but they themselves are pretty delightful. Iris West (Candice Patton) had a plotline about her allegedly dead mother (Vanessa A. Williams) reappearing and announcing first her degenerative disease, and then the existence of Iris’ little brother, Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), as well as dealing with the sacrificial death of her fiance, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) also lost her fiance Ronnie (Robbie Amell), and now works for Mercury Labs while growing closer to the Earth-2 version of Flash, Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears). Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) came on as Joe’s new partner, and was involved in a revenge plot involving her dead father (as well as being Barry’s new love interest, because these writers are still pretending Barry and Iris aren’t in love). Kendra Shaw (Ciara Renée) appears as Cisco’s new love interest, but it turns out she is actually the reincarnation of Chay-Ra, or Hawkgirl, and she will be part of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

 

5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) finally got together with Jake (Andy Samberg), completely owned the entire precinct on Halloween, and found out six-drink Amy is the least fun person ever. Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) tried out the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, broke up with her boyfriend, and came face-to-face with her old dance teacher again. Gina (Chelsea Linetti) followed Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) out of the Nine-Nine and into the PR department, egged six-drink Amy on, and passed her astronomy final.

4. Jessica Jones
This show debuted about a month after Supergirl, to a great deal of fanfare, but also skepticism. After all, Jessica Jones was a D-list character at best, nowhere near a household name, and while Daredevil had gone over very well, that character at least had the 2003 movie to give him some notoriety. Marvel’s Alias was 10 years old, semi-obscure, and the character hadn’t had a significant appearance in years. Fortunately, the showrunner chose to tell a story about abuse, survival, personal strength, and male entitlement that was disguised as a gritty superhero show. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is a beautiful unapologetic asshole, and her friend Trish Walker (Rachael Wilson) has been the one constant in her life for years. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) is an attorney friend – or “friend” – of Jessica’s, who sometimes works with her on cases. Hope Shlottman (Erin Moriarty) is another victim of the villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), although her ending is less happy than Jessica’s. There is also a sideplot about Jeri’s ex-wife Wendy (Robin Weigert) and her new lover Pam (Susie Ambromeit).

3. Daredevil
Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) got hired at Nelson & Murdock, as well as helping to uncover the Kingpin’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) secret hold over Hell’s Kitchen. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) dealt with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) stumbling into her life continuously and bleeding all over her furniture (as well as making a guest appearance on Jessica Jones, where she dealt with different bleeding superheroes stumbling into her life). Vanessa Mariana (Ayelet Zurer) stepped into her place as the female partner to Fisk’s criminal enterprise. Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado) enlisted the help of Nelson & Murdock to try to save her apartment complex.

2. Agent Carter
Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca) was a beautiful ray of sunshine and a constant, enthusiastic support for Peggy (Hayley Atwell) no matter whether she knew all of the details of the situation or not, because she trusted Peggy and it was beautiful.  Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) was part of crafting an important female legacy in the overarching canon and created a compelling antagonist and equal.  And Peggy Carter is one of the most important women on television.

1. Agents of SHIELD
But Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) may arguably be one of the most important women in the entirety of media.  Daisy, previously known as Skye, is an absolute force of nature (slight pun intended) and no matter whether she’s hacking, doing social justice, supporting her people, or using her kickass Inhuman powers, she’s absolutely remarkable.  Also, Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) had both a compelling backstory and a beautifully compelling if often overtaxing current storyline, the likes of which is rarely granted to female characters.  Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) actually had screen time devoted to both her physical and emotional healing after a traumatic experience and that’s pretty damn cool.  Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) survived outer space and while there have been some minor clusterfucks in her current line she continues to be unbreakable (although it would be A+ if they stopped trying to break her so much).  Rosalind (Constance Zimmer) was the most delightfully terrifying dominatrix girlfriend known.  And let’s not forget about all of our friends from 2b, who have been previously mentioned in varying depth (fascinating Jiaying [Dichen Lachman], beautiful poignant tragic brilliant Raina [Ruth Negga], heartbreaking Kara [Maya Stojan], and Anne [Christine Adams] who I’m convinced is still involved with SHIELD but had to nope out of the Playground upon realizing that its director was going to be a doucheface about the Simmons In Space Situation and knowing that there was nothing she could do).  I feel more about this show than about other shows pretty unequivocally and I will acknowledge its flaws but I will fight you about its positive points.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Marvel Monday :: three, nearly four weeks in.

19 Oct

We’re not doing this one in our usual pros/cons giant ramble format.  I personally have several reasons why: one, there are a lot of things that haven’t been conclusively established enough to analyze yet; two, I don’t want to analyze things prematurely and have to redact my statements later; three, there are a few things I desperately want for different reasons and saying them out loud on the internet might jinx it.  So here is a list of some thinking in no particular order.

10. Daisy (Chloe Bennet) has been correcting the hell out of anyone but told Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) that “[she] can call [her] whatever [she] wants.”
This is unbelievably important.  I’ve been practicing the art of Incredibly Low Standards and my Incredibly Low Standard for last week was that Daisy and Jemma would talk to each other.  Oh, did they talk.  Oh, was it important.  This following Daisy legitimately actually saving Jemma’s life in a way that nobody else could have done.  They continue to be everything.

9.  Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) is the biggest idiot.
This is self-explanatory.

8.  Lincoln aka Pikachu (Luke Mitchell) is also somewhat of an idiot.
Why is he screaming about I’M A MONSTER only now? Shouldn’t he a) have had a better grasp of his powers and b) already gone through the I’M A MONSTER stage of Inhuman development? Unless he was talking out his ass in Afterlife, which is entirely possible.

7.  Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is the actual worst ever.
Also self-explanatory, but I will still add that I’ve seen posts on tumblr referencing him as being very dark comedy in many ways and I agree.  He’s so outrageously full of shit that sometimes I can’t help but laugh very nervously.  His entire being and organization and premise and existence is so outlandishly awful it’s almost hilarious.  In a strange way.

6.  I have a lot of feelings about the narrative weight of trauma recovery.
Jemma’s, which is only just being explored; Bobbi’s (Adrianne Palicki) which is fascinating to me from the flip side of the brain injury stuff with Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) last year because hey, I’ve been there, rehab really is the worst, it’s interesting she’s so interesting; the work that Daisy was trying to do with Joey (Juan Pablo Raba) as a representation of what she’s trying to do with Inhumans in general; the way that Coulson (Clark Gregg) has so incredibly been an ass about projecting his own trauma (which I do not dispute would be traumatic) on everyone else’s as if he’s trying to prove he won the trauma lottery; etcetera.

5.  Daisy and Mack (Henry Simmons) being buddies is the actual most important thing.
Both from just a friendship standpoint and a teammate standpoint and a “look at these awesome folks” standpoint and just every standpoint.

4.  Let’s just take a moment to make approving noises in the general direction of Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen).
We’ve all done this, yes?  Okay.  Good.  This needs doing.

3.  Coulson and Rosalind (Constance Zimmer) is… a thing.
It sure is.  This is not to say that I actually have emotional reactions to it, but my goodness.  It’s the most obvious foe-yay.

2.  Jemma.
How many ways did the first episodes go out of the way to point out that the hell planet she was stuck on was death to all and had yielded no survivors.  But there is my girl there she is being traumatized but surviving and making it out and don’t give Fitz all the credit because maybe he put the puzzle together but Jemma kept herself alive for months and that’s incredible and I’m so proud of her.

1. Daisy.
It’s really interesting to see how far she’s come since the pilot, when she was on her own and not really interested in trusting anybody for longer than she needed to. And now she has her family and she’s working on trying to help others find theirs and it’s just…really nice.

–your fangirl heroines.

Marvel Monday :: relationships between female characters on Agents of SHIELD.

15 Sep

So tonight we are here to talk to you about relationships between the female characters on Agents of SHIELD.  As the chart illustrates, there are many.  And we’re going to discuss them all.  Because it’s important.

(And she’s Skye until she says she’s Daisy singularly.)

Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Melinda (Ming-Na Wen).
The most obvious relationship analogue here is that of mother and daughter. Melinda acts as a somewhat beleaguered mother figure to the youngest team members, but especially Skye. At first, she’s a bit dismissive of her, questioning whether Skye should be on the team at all; Skye looks up to her after Melinda saves her life in the pilot, and in 1×11, she goes undercover posing as Agent May (much to May’s chagrin). But May’s feelings toward Skye don’t really start to warm until Skye’s shot in the stomach in 1×13. In the scene where they try to revive her with (at that point unknown) Kree blood, May asks tensely, “Is it working?” and shows visible relief when Skye stabilizes. Then, after the team discovers Ward’s betrayal, May goes to visit Skye, bringing her a drink, and they have a talk about how Skye’s dealing with it. From that point on they’re much closer, and by the time the second season has started, May is Skye’s new SO and we see them running missions and training together. May’s still her blunt self – “Don’t get cocky, this is step one” – but she and Skye clearly respect and are fond of each other. This, of course, makes it all the more heartbreaking when Skye eventually is forced to (she thinks) make a choice between her people and her team, and the two have a confrontation. “I hope your mother is everything you wanted her to be,” says Melinda, stone-faced. Later, Skye feels threatened and uses her new powers against May, though May is mostly unscathed. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out and Skye rejoins the team, but the future of her relationship with May is a bit uncertain.

Skye and Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge).

Skye and Jemma, as we would be the first ones to tell you, are everything.  As Jemma says to Trip (BJ Britt) while Skye lies in her medical pod, “We have nothing in common…couldn’t be more different.”  “But you can’t imagine your life without her,” he says, to which she agrees.  Skye is the team’s first mission and then the team’s new recruit, and immediately Jemma is bubbling over with excitement about Skye being on board.  They’re friendly, they and Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) work together, Skye is distraught when it looks like Jemma is going to die and then ecstatic when Jemma is safe and alive, and then “I can’t be a part of your bad girl shenanigans! I like following the rules and doing what’s expected of me.  It makes me feel nice” and nothing is ever the same.  There are hilarious moments (manscaping) and heartbreaking moments (when it looks like Skye is going to die and Jemma is distraught) and moments where I honestly don’t know what the writers or actresses were thinking if not what I got out of it (their, erm, doctor-patient scene in 1×15) and it’s pretty clear that these girls are close as all hell.  Season two puts something of a pin in this, but Skye still saves Jemma’s life and still says how glad she is Jemma is alive and Jemma still threatens to kill Ward in part because of what he did to Skye while physically guarding Skye from him and Jemma doesn’t understand Skye’s powers at first but she still tries to help save her life no matter what and “I just want you to be safe, Skye. You know that, right?” and everything hurts.  The best thing about them, in my opinion, is that they are such different people, but they still care about each other so much. Skye’s recklessness combined with Jemma’s caution gave us the infamous “I can’t be a part of your…bad girl shenanigans!” scene, which was hilarious. They compliment each other so well: Jemma is a planner and when she tries to be spontaneous, it fails, and Skye’s spent her entire life having to think on her feet so she excels at it. Skye is blunt and snarky and funny and Jemma is generally a bit more diplomatic, unless she feels very strongly about something. And Jemma pays attention to the details that Skye doesn’t really think twice about – she brings her the Hula girl from the Bus, after all, and made her the gauntlets to control her powers. And most of all, as evidenced by the multiple examples above, they directly look out for each other.  They celebrate the other’s well-being and save the other’s life and try so hard for each other and all I’m saying is that if one of them was a boy they would already be canon by now.

Skye and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki).
Less to go off of here.  Skye and Bobbi have interacted the least out of the main four at this point, but there are still instances of significant life-saving and Bobbi calling Skye a rockstar and there’s a foundation for something really solid and good here.

Melinda and Jemma.
Jemma is another of Melinda’s ducklings, and Melinda explicitly stated that she told Bobbi about the cube in order to protect Jemma, on top of the many other things that have been done for this same purpose if indirectly.  Jemma was initially very reverent of Melinda, and still respects her a great deal.

Melinda and Bobbi.
These two are more comrades-in-arms than anything, and there’s a bit of impressive subtle parallel construction.  They’re both soldiers who have made sacrifices for their cause, some more traumatizing than others (the “let the girl go” theme, which honestly can be applied to Bobbi regarding the finale too, I expect), and they have both suffered for it but stood strong.  And they both have the ex-husband theme, though it plays differently.

Jemma and Bobbi.
It could be strongly argued that from the moment Bobbi saved Jemma’s life, Jemma had a very definite hero-worship crush on her, and while they continue to do things that may seem flirtatious they also develop a very legitimate actual friendship.  Multiple times throughout the season Bobbi and Jemma have serious conversations about one thing or another (work, other significant players in their lives) and it could be argued that Bobbi is really the only one who spent much onscreen time listening to what Jemma had to say.  I assume that Bobbi had no hard feelings about Jemma knocking her out because she understood, because even after the “real SHIELD” takeover Bobbi and Jemma continued to talk.  With some reticence on Jemma’s part for other reasons, but Jemma still jumped into the surgical act of saving Bobbi’s life with aplomb.  Again, they directly have saved each other’s lives and it’s incredible.  That episode where we’re introduced to Bobbi was basically a spy romcom.

Skye and Jiaying (Dichen Lachman).
My personal issues with Jiaying’s eleventh-hour villainy aside, I actually thought her relationship with Skye was very well done. We’ve known that Skye’s search for her bio-parents is what drives her to join both SHIELD and Rising Tide, and even when she became involved in official SHIELD business it was always at least a secondary element of her plotlines. One of the most interesting things the show did with them was keep Jiaying’s identity a secret from Skye for a few episodes after they’ve met, while the audience knows about it. Jiaying spends a while mentoring Skye first, teaching her how to use her newly manifested powers, before revealing the truth. “I was too afraid to hope,” says Skye, crying, even though Jiaying immediately tells her not to share the secret with anyone. It becomes obvious why later on, when Jiaying suddenly turns into a general bound and determined to start a war with SHIELD and will kill anyone who gets in her way, even Skye. It’s heartbreaking to watch Skye get everything she wanted and then have it yanked away from her in the space of a few episodes, but it’s well-done and powerful and I don’t know that I’m happy with it, exactly, but it was handled well.

Skye and Raina (Ruth Negga).
More parallel construction.  (This is one of my favorite terms when discussing MCU, honestly.)  Both, we eventually learn, had tough lives, and they seem to have reacted in directly opposite ways: Skye becoming generally compassionate and reaching out to help others, Raina becoming incredibly skilled at looking out for herself at others’ expense.  Yet they both point toward the same moment: the evolution of terragenesis, which yields unexpected results for both. At first, Skye is pissed: Raina’s actions caused destruction and Trip’s death. Eventually they seem to reach a peace of sorts and Raina accepts that her grand destiny is to die that Skye may live and learn, and it’s sort of beautiful.

Melinda and Maria (Cobie Smulders).
We don’t see a lot of the friendship between May and Maria, but May asks Maria to bring reinforcements at the end of season 1, when SHIELD is under attack. She chooses to do this as Maria is walking alone at night, talking to Pepper Potts on the phone, and Maria says something about how Melinda’s lucky she knew Melinda was there or she could’ve hurt her. They’re clearly friendly with each other, and there’s probably a lot more going on there than the show can get into. May’s mother, in her one scene, mentions that she likes Maria. (This led to a pervasive fandom theory that Maria was the person Melinda had been married to “once,” which turned out to be false but was enjoyable nevertheless.)

Melinda and Victoria (Saffron Burrows).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues.  Respect was a mutual thing, although Melinda did sort of pull the wool over Victoria’s eyes that time.

Melinda and Isabelle (Lucy Lawless).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues.

Melinda and Anne (Christine Adams).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues, but the way that Anne reacted to Melinda trying to get one over on the real SHIELD before they took over suggested there might be more going on in that background, and of course there’s mutual respect, albeit sometimes grudging.

Melinda and Kara (Maya Stojan).
Well, Kara had Melinda’s face. They fought while Kara was under various influences.

Jemma and Victoria.
Mainly, Jemma seemed to have a giant hero-worship heart-eyed colored penciled crush on Victoria. That’s pretty much the gist of that.

Jemma and Anne.
As the director of the Sci-Tech SHIELD Academy, Anne was Jemma’s supervisor and professor.  Jemma respected Anne very seriously and Anne respected Jemma in turn, calling on Jemma’s medical expertise even after real SHIELD took over and in doing so respecting Jemma more to her face than certain male agents on her own team.

Jemma and Kara.
Well, Jemma did medical-examine Kara.  I’d like to think that in another world, a world where Kara was granted emotional agency, this could have become a friendship.

Bobbi and Victoria.
I mean, I assume they were colleagues and friends by virtue of both being agents with Isabelle in common.

Bobbi and Isabelle.
“I love your whole thing, you know that?”  Friends, mutual real SHIELD colleagues, mutual experts in putting up with Lance Hunter’s (Nick Blood) bullshit.

Bobbi and Kara.
Bobbi is the first person we see talking to Kara like she’s, well, a person.  This is powerful and later complicated by the knowledge that Bobbi’s intel is what got Kara captured. Not knowingly, not maliciously, but because it was the rock or the hard place and Kara happened to get caught in the crossfire.  This sucks, but it’s probably no reason to kidnap and torture and nearly murder someone.  But hey, that’s what A+ Guy Grant Ward is here to enable.

Victoria and Isabelle.
Girlfriends they were girlfriends we never saw it and the only clue we have aside from writer interviews is Isabelle mentioning she got a text from Victoria on the day SHIELD fell but they were girlfriends nobody can stop me.

Skye and Hannah  (Laura Seay).
These two only have one conversation, but it’s an important one for Skye. Hannah is panicking because she’s terrified that she’s called forth a demon and God has forsaken her, and Coulson brings in Skye because he seems to think Skye can get through to her. Skye’s not so sure, but she starts talking to Hannah, and even though she doesn’t really believe in God, she did grow up at St. Agnes so she knows Hannah’s basic beliefs. She’s compassionate as she explains that she’s not even sure if there is a God, but that if there was one, the idea that God is love is the one that resonated with her. Hannah is comforted and Skye learns that she’s better with people than she thought she was.

Skye and Sif (Jaimie Alexander).
Skye respects Sif, as she is naturally inclined to fangirl over someone who a) associates with an Avenger and b) is a badass woman in her own right.  And Sif sees Skye’s willingness to put herself in harm’s way for her team’s good and respects that back.

Skye and Akela (Pascale Armand).
Skye helped save Akela’s life and stuff.

Skye and Isabelle.
They worked together as agents, mostly offscreen.

Skye and Red.
You know, the self-cloning ginger Inhuman girl.  They knew each other and then fought each other.

Melinda and Hannah.
“Let the girl go,” which is to say Melinda saving Hannah’s life was one of our first real clues about her.

Melinda and Sif.
These two are something like friends, despite only having met twice and for very brief periods. The first time, they have a conversation about weapons which sounds…well, not entirely without innuendo (something about how Melinda’s handled a weapon before “but I prefer to use my hands”), and the second they go searching for clues about the series of events that lead an amnesiac Sif to land on Midgard. Those scenes are especially endearing, since Sif, knowing nothing of her own identity, immediately decides Melinda is a person she should be emulating, for example crossing her arms when she sees Melinda doing so.

Melinda and Akela.
Melinda helped save Akela’s life and stuff.

Jemma and Akela.
Jemma helped save Akela’s life and stuff.  Complete with complicated ocular surgery.

Jemma and Audrey (Amy Acker).
Jemma helped save Audrey’s life and stuff.  Complete with sympathetic conversation.

Raina and Jiaying.
At first Jiaying spoke for the possibility of Raina’s gifts.  Then she saw a less-positive outcome of them being used and did some murdering, but eh.

Sif and Lorelei (Elena Satine).
A rivalry of epic proportions, waged across realms.  This is cool because it’s not every day you see such a thing between two women.

Jiaying and Red.
Jiaying was kind of Red’s boss, so.

Raina and Debbie.
Raina murdered Debbie a lot when she stopped being useful, and they were also totally making bedroom eyes at each other.  (For everyone who’s forgotten, Debbie is the ginger Centipede doctor from the first five episodes.)

–your fangirl heroines.

Marvel Monday :: on the parallel construction of Melinda May and Jack Thompson

3 Aug

So I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the parallel construction is one of my favorite things about the MCU.  There are instances of it all over, some of them obviously intentional and some of them possibly accidental, but what I’ve noticed is they all provide a really great place to jump into analytical meta.

And equally interesting is what I’ve tentatively termed reverse-parallel construction, where there are details that stand in direct opposite to each other to highlight the differences between surface-similar stories. One of these I’ve been thinking about since SHIELD’s 2.17, “Melinda,” is the sharp contrast between Melinda’s (Ming-Na Wen) backstory and Jack Thompson’s (Chad Michael Murray) in Agent Carter.

So here is our chart and here is our analysis.

When we first meet Melinda May in the pilot, she’s sitting at her desk doing paperwork. She’s wearing a white button up and she looks mildly content being left alone. Coulson comes over to ask her to drive the Bus, she agrees, and later we find out this was a pre-planned exchange as far as she was concerned but that’s not the point.  She’s coming out of retirement, as it were.

When we first meet Jack Thompson in the pilot, he’s in a meeting being essentially just another jackass in a room full of jackasses, only distinguished by the fact that we know that he’ll become a main character because he used to be on One Tree Hill and most of the jackasses are nobody.  He’s already at home in his world.

But as both of their stories progress, we learn that both characters have dramatic heroic pasts in the line of duty.  Here’s the first difference: we see Melinda both ran from hers and doesn’t want to talk about it (despite the legends built up around it), whereas Thompson has let the legends around him build.

Melinda’s known as “The Cavalry” because of a mysterious incident from her past, referred to as “Bahrain,” that caused her to quit fieldwork. It’s been sold as a legendary event, because few remember the actual mission and no one but Melinda knows what actually happened, and the rumors have become increasingly ridiculous (some involving an army, others involving a horse). When we finally learn the real story, it is neither ridiculous nor amusing: her team tried to retrieve a superpowered woman named Eva Belyakov, who took both a young girl, Katya, and the team of agents who attempted to rescue said girl hostage. Melinda went in alone and learned that the agents, who were now protecting Eva, were being mind-controlled, and that it was not Eva but Katya, her daughter, who was controlling them. Melinda tried to subdue her but eventually had no choice but to shoot the girl in self-defense, and the agents remembered nothing about their time until Katya’s control. Only Melinda knew what she had done, and it devastated her; she immediately requested a transfer to a desk job and her refusal to tell her then-husband what was hurting her led to their divorce. The episode gives it the gravity it deserves and really communicates Melinda’s agony to the audience.

Thompson’s angst-causing event, on the other hand, is revealed in a quiet moment as the characters sit around a fire. As he explains it, during a military operation in Okinawa, Japan, he was on guard duty and spotted a group of Japanese soldiers coming towards his camp and reacted without thinking, shooting them all. Only after they were all dead did he see that they were carrying a white flag, intending to surrender. He buried the white flag so that none of his fellow soldiers would see it and they treated the incident as if he had saved them. Later, he received a Navy Cross for his actions, and never told anyone the truth until his confession to Peggy and the other Commandos.

Melinda’s trauma comes from having to make a difficult choice in order to protect others and herself; Thompson’s from a mistake he made thinking he was in the right. Melinda feels shame for her actions and refuses to allow anyone to talk about it, while Thompson goes along with the assumption of his heroism because he wants to feel better about himself. Essentially, Melinda thought first, shot last, while Thompson shot first, thought last.

And then there’s the fact of how they let their respective traumas affect how they treat others.  Melinda is stoic, seemingly struggling to let others in, but she repeatedly risks her life to protect her teammates, even when they barely know each other at the series’ beginning.  She offers sympathy to Skye (Chloe Bennet) after the bomb about Ward is dropped and eventually takes her under her wing; she’s kind and careful with Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) at the beginning of season two when nobody else is getting through to him after his brain injury; she even goes so far as to tell Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) that she told Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and her “real SHIELD” about the fake data cube to protect her.  She lets her knowledge of the world serve as a motivator for her to protect others.

Thompson, meanwhile, continues to be the jackass we saw in his first scene.  He condescends to Peggy (Hayley Atwell) simply because she’s a woman; he makes fun of Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) for his disability and for his attempts at compassion toward others.  The only time he shows any other side of himself is when he tells the story about his trauma, and then he’s back to the same old guy.

It’s also interesting to look at how each of them responds to the idea of being in authority over others. In addition to having to be coaxed back into the field, Melinda is extremely reluctant to assume a position of authority. She doesn’t want to lead missions; she doesn’t want to give orders. She’s content just driving the Bus and occasionally shooting or punching people when asked. She wants to follow the mission parameters she’s given. In the episode with the Berserker staff, she ends up wielding it partially under protest; it’s clear she’s uncomfortable with being in the spotlight to that degree. And when “real SHIELD” makes themselves known and Gonzales offers her a position on the board, she declines. Melinda May does not want to be in charge of anything or anyone, because she doesn’t want to risk things going horrifically wrong again.

Thompson, on the other hand, assumes authority even when he hasn’t been asked to. He operates under the assumption that the person with the greatest will to power should be in charge, which is generally him. And regardless of how the other people in the party feel about it, he will attempt to hold onto his tenuous authority at all costs.

The reverse-parallel of Melinda May and Jack Thompson is also keenly illustrated by the closing shots of them at the end of the most recent seasons.  Melinda is seen heading off on a presumably tropical vacation by herself, smiling because she’s finally feeling some semblance of comfort with herself and with what she’s done. Thompson is seen being again congratulated by bureaucrats for something that he didn’t entirely do – certainly he helped in the final mission, but he’s being given credit for Peggy’s work and not dissuading those giving said credit.  He too is smiling, but because of external motivations that aren’t based in truth.

Essentially, Melinda is finally starting to see herself as a potential hero, while the very act of Thompson’s being lauded as one makes him the opposite.

–your fangirl heroines.