Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Book Review: SANDS AND STARLIGHT by Charlotte E. English


“SANDS AND STARLIGHT” is, simply put, a wonderful tale. I was completely bewitched by the cover at first. And how could I not be? How could anyone not be? It promised magic and wonders and adventure and compelled me to check out the book as soon as it came out. And it did not disappoint. It is full of sorcery, engaging characters, delicious words, magical narrative, rich settings, enchanting images and, of course, exciting adventures. I was mesmerized by the descriptions that sparkled and bewitched like precious stones and the visuals they instantly created in my mind. From the very beginning I was particularly struck by the description of the camels – Fasee, Talee and Hanee – for every move of these creatures was described with so much attention and what I thought was true affection. I must say that I did not expect the revelation that waited upon me along the way. I enjoyed following the adventures and tribulations of various characters as we were introduced to them, each one interesting and unusual in their own way. It is truly a wonderful set of characters. But my favourite character was, without doubt, Baradir – a powerful sorcerer who became the victim of his own notoriety and arcane arts. In fact, I liked him so much that I would love to read more about him and his enchanted palace. I’m afraid that like so many before me I fell under its spell. Highly recommend!

Monday, 18 March 2019

A WALK HOME (an old short story)

A WALK HOME

It was great to be finally outside on such a fine day. Eugenia grinned as she filled her lungs with early summer air, still fresh with a hint of chill in the aftermath of a heavy afternoon shower.

“I love books but that school library is a dust-infested emporium of unmitigated boredom!” she proclaimed with a sniff, reminiscent of her recent sneezing fit.

“Emporium? Unmitigated boredom?” Her best friend snickered next to her. “It’s so funny when you use such fancy words.”

Eugenia frowned. “I don’t see what’s so funny about it at all, Lucinda.”

Lucinda, who hated her name and preferred to be called Lucy, shrugged her shoulders but didn’t reply.

Eugenia turned away.

They were walking in stiff silence through the local park along a well-shaded path paved with cracked multicoloured stone. Beech, oak, maple and chestnut trees grew thickly on both sides of the path and occasional drops of rain, nestled in the leaves as though in the palm of a hand, fell down upon their heads like grapes whenever a gust of wind tickled the branches above.

The final day of their two-week summer practice, during which they were assigned to sort through ancient volumes plastered with dust and grime no one ever cared about stashed at the very back of the school library was over at last and they were making their unhurried way home.

The last day of school meant that they would no longer see as much of each other as they used to during the school term. If at all. Eugenia, at least, took their imminent separation close to heart. Lucy was her best and only friend and it cut her to the quick to be at odds with her now that they were about to part for two long months.

“It’s lovely here, isn’t it?” she said by way of breaking the silence, putting on a cheerful smile.

“I suppose,” replied Lucy absent-mindedly, staring at the winding path ahead of them with obvious intent; she was craning her neck right and left as though looking for someone; with her brown bushy hair bouncing about her and her snub nose up in the air she reminded a perky spaniel on the prowl.

Eugenia sighed and looked about herself with an enraptured eye of a true romantic who could not walk past a tree without noting how pretty it was. Of course, she should have known better than to engage Lucy in an enthusiastic chatter about nature and how beautiful it was. Lately she’d discovered that Lucy was no longer interested in nature and its miracles – apart from its one particular aspect: boys. Lucy was crazy about boys and could think or talk of little else.

Eugenia knew that it was only natural for a girl of thirteen to have her head filled with boys and all that stuff, but she wondered with something like bitterness – almost savageness – why oh why there couldn’t be left at least a tiny corner for something else too. There were so many things to enjoy, to think about, to talk over with your best friend apart from boys, after all!

She didn’t think about boys all the time, did she? In fact, if she was completely honest with herself, she didn’t think about them at all. Boys, in their turn, paid her in kind and rarely gave her the time of the day. Eugenia was perfectly fine with that. The boys around here weren’t really worth thinking about, anyway, and being singled out by one of them would be just awful. Eugenia was quite sure of that. It was a real pity that Lucy didn’t feel the same way anymore.

There was an opening between the low-hanging branches of an old and awfully gnarled mulberry tree and a hunchbacked willow that looked very much like a crone in tattered robes; a set of crumbling stone steps led to the lower alley of the park, completely hidden from view by an otherwise unbreakable wall of trees. It was favoured by dog owners in the morning and by couples in the evening, but it was fair game in the afternoon. It was also, once upon a time, their favourite spot and the two friends would often linger there on their way from school.

“Do you want to take the lower alley?” offered Eugenia hopefully.

Lucy stopped and considered the stairs, puckering her bright-red lips (Eugenia was startled to notice thick layer of lipstick she had on and wondered when she had found the time to apply it after leaving the library) in an uncanny imitation of a duck. Eugenia could tell that Lucy was reluctant to take the lower alley and she couldn’t think why. Did she want to get rid of her? Was she meeting someone at the end of the main alley?

“Like in good old times,” she cajoled her friend with a smile, instead of voicing her puzzlement. “Do you remember? We used to have so much fun there.”

Lucy sighed.

“Oh, very well. Let’s go. What if…?”

“What?”

“Nevermind. Come on!”

Eugenia sighed. At first being laughed at. Then being rebuffed. That wasn’t how she’d pictured their last half an hour together to be. But it wasn’t worth fighting over. So she shrugged it off like so many times before and carefully followed Lucy down the stairs. The latter had already taken them at a vigorous trot, wearing unnecessarily high heels, in Eugenia’s opinion, and quite mindless of the fact that some of the stones crackled and shifted precariously beneath her feet.

“Don’t be such a wuss, Genie. The staircase, as old as it is, won’t fall through if you add a bit more force to your step,” cried Lucy, looking back at her with a critical eye. “Besides, it was your idea to take the lower alley, remember?”

“I remember,” mumbled Eugenia, looking down and checking the stability of the next stone slab with the tip of her moccasin-clad foot; “but I never expressed a predilection for falling down and breaking my neck, did I?”

Lucy snorted with laughter. “Honestly, where do you get these words? Expressed a predilection for. Ha!”

Eugenia didn’t reply; she pursed her lips and concentrated on the task at hand. By the time she had finally reached the foot of the stairs, Lucy was once again craning her neck and looking up and down a narrow lane that cut its uneven way through the overgrown meadow like a brown snake.

“Hey, Genie, did you see which way Troy went? I definitely saw him entering the park but I didn’t see him on the main alley… I thought maybe he went this way…”

Eugenia sighed. Of course, Lucy would want to talk about boys now. Well, Eugenia thought, I can do that. It was only fair. Lucy did agree to take the lower alley with her even though she didn’t want to. They started walking.

“Is he still going out with Tricia?” asked Eugenia as though the matter was of some interest to her. Well, she always thought that “Troy and Tricia” sounded kind of nice together…

Lucy scoffed.

“Tricia? Please! That was like ages ago! Honestly, Genie, where have your eyes been? He has gone through half the girls in our year since then!”

“Well, he’s not very constant, is he?” said Eugenia with a frown.

Lucy looked at Eugenia as though she was mad.

“No one cares about that as long as they’re his special interest of the day. He’s really super hot and dreamy, you know. You do know that, right?”

Eugenia shrugged.

“I guess he’s just not my type. I could never understand the appeal.”

Lucy gave her such a withering look, Eugenia felt that she deserved to be publicly flogged for her words.

“Do you even have a type?” asked her friend with a scathing curl of her upper lip as she shook her head in disbelief.

“So who’s his special interest now?” asked Eugenia, grabbing onto the previous subject as she went red with humiliation.

“Gabrielle!” said Lucy with a groan. “I don’t know what he sees in her! She’s a total cow.”

“Well, I’m sure it won’t last longer than usual and you’ll get your chance next term.”

“Oh, I intend to! I know that he’s interested. I caught him looking at me more than once with that special look of his, you know. So it’s only a matter of time…”

Eugenia smiled.

“I bet you’ll care then whether he’s constant or not. You wouldn’t want to lose his interest too soon, would you?”

“Genie, you’re so old-fashioned,” said Lucy in exasperation.

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are! I swear it’s like you were born in the 1800s.”

“So what? Maybe I was. Once.”

“You’d want that, wouldn’t you?” said Lucy with a knowing look.

“I think I would like that, yes.”

Lucy snorted.

“I bet you’re thinking about one of those boring Jane Austen books you love so much.”

“They’re not boring! Just because you don’t like them – ”

“Not boring? Yeah, right. Nothing ever happens there. No fun stuff. Nada.”

“Well, if you read them,” said Eugenia stung, “you would know that plenty of stuff is going on there. Maybe not the kind of stuff that you have in mind – ”

“Exactly! Oh, look – ”

They reached a spacious clearing surrounded by haggard firs with a large dark-grey rock that looked like an obelisk in the middle. This was the scene of their childhood games. These firs and this rock bore witness to their countless transformations in the past. Eugenia smiled, thinking back to their playtime.

“Do you remember how we used to play fairies here?” she asked excitedly, her cheeks flushing. “We walked around the rock waving our hands in the air in a ritual dance that we came up with, coaxing the spirits of the wood to come out and bless us with their gifts.”

Lucy looked at her with her eyebrows raised. For once Eugenia didn’t care. She remembered the eerie feeling she used to get whenever it was foggy, with mist hanging low above the place; it was as though the spirit had actually heard them and came out through the biggest crack in the rock… That was also the time when they attended crocheting classes – before Lucy decided that it was uncool to crochet. Eugenia was about to remind her of that when she caught a glint of reminiscence in Lucy’s eyes.

“I remember how we used to play princesses,” she said with relish the next moment. “Do you remember? We pretended that this rock was the tower and that we couldn’t leave it because we were cursed by a warlock and the boys had to come and rescue us. I think Troy was supposed to save me. Or was it Blake? I don’t remember. But it must have been one of them. No, wait, I remember! Troy was supposed to save me, but Blake was just so madly in love with me at the time, you know, so they both came to my rescue and then dueled on sticks to decide who was worthy of my hand...”

Lucy giggled, waving her hand in the air before an imaginary crowd of her admirers.

“Oh! Do you remember that time we played witches?” asked Eugenia. Pretending to be a witch had always been her favourite game. “I remember how we collected leaves, twigs, berries and flowers all over the place, gave them different magical properties and pretended to make potions that could cure anything. We even had our own collection of potion recipes, remember? We put them in jars that we brought from home and used thick branches for shelves… it was over there, wasn’t it, under that tree… our lair…”

They would hang the jars on strings wrapping them around the branches and then watch them from the distance: in this way they looked as though they hung in the air by magic.

Lucy nodded with a huge smile.

“I remember when Mark drank one of our potions,” she said and made quotation marks in the air, “on a dare. Gregg told him that he would give him his Gameboy if he did – and then he had that horrible stomachache. I think he had to be taken to the hospital it got so bad in the end. So the next day he and the other boys raided our Potions Shop,” she made the quotation marks in the air again, “in revenge…”

Eugenia frowned; she was surprised that Lucy could recall that part with such a happy sigh. Did she forget that their dream game turned into a real nightmare because of that? It was awful to come to the place they named Potions Shop only to be bombarded by glass jars from all sides. And even more so to be chased after with yells of “Get the witch!” and “Make her pay!”

It might have started out as a game of revenge, but it wasn’t funny when she was tackled to the ground by two boys at least, amid broken glass that dug painfully into her arms and legs, and was force fed the remnants of their once carefully concocted potions now mixed with dirt and dust.

After that episode Eugenia refused to play witches anymore. But she kept their potion recipe collection as a bittersweet memento. They were making book covers in their art class at the time and she bound it and made drawings and labeled the plants and spent hours poring over its pages like an idiot. But she never told Lucy.

Eugenia felt suddenly tired. The walk down the memory lane didn’t go as planned and she felt a sudden urge to be as far away from Lucy as possible.

At that very moment Lucy’s pose changed to that of a hundred per cent alertness. Eugenia could almost see her ears perk up underneath her hair as she put a finger to her mouth in a shushing gesture. Eugenia raised her eyebrows but didn’t speak. Someone was walking along the main alley, kicking the pebbles out of the way.

“Oooh, I think it’s Troy,” mouthed Lucy, her cheeks heating up and her eyes glowing. “He must have dropped Gabrielle off and is going home. Alone!” Lucy was almost rabid with excitement.

Eugenia knew that Troy lived in Lucy’s yard and it was probably an opportunity she would not miss even at the expense of cutting their last walk home short. Eugenia sighed, waiting for the ball to drop. She wanted to hope that their friendship meant more to Lucy than that. But –

“Listen, Genie, you won’t mind if I…” began Lucy with a sheepish smile; “I just want to say good-bye… you know…” She puckered her lips, batted her eyelashes and tilted her hips in grotesque imitation of seduction. “It’s just that I’m leaving for grandma’s tomorrow and then I’ll be busy helping my sister with the wedding and then I’ll be at the summer camp for three weeks and… well… you know.”

Eugenia shrugged her shoulders. “Fine. Go.”

Lucy squealed and squeezed Eugenia in a bone-crushing hug.

“I’ll miss you, Genie.”

“I’ll miss you too,” mumbled Eugenia. I bet more than you’ll ever miss me, she thought bitterly to herself. “Luce, will you at least answer my texts? And not a month or two later…”

“I’ll try!”

Lucy laughed, let go off Eugenia and ran off, high heels and all.

Eugenia watched her go with tears in her eyes. Then, when her best friend was out of sight, she took a deep breath and made her lonely way home.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Supernatural S14E9 - a review (with spoilers)


“The Spear”

I must confess that I felt rather resentful and cheated that someone other than Jensen Ackles was going to play Michael. I tuned in to watch the episode most reluctantly, but ended up enjoying it a lot. Felisha Terrell did an excellent job portraying Michael – his calmness, ruthlessness, deadliness, calculation. However, as I watched her putting his monstrous plan into action, I couldn’t get rid of the ever persistent feeling that this was supposed to be Michael!Dean’s storyline – promised but unfulfilled. I couldn’t stop thinking that this was supposed to be Jensen Ackles’ part and that it was incredibly unfair that he didn’t get the chance to truly spread his archangel wings. I knew that he would knock it out of the park and when, at long last, at the very end of the episode Michael took over Dean’s body once again, Jensen Ackles was phenomenal. I swear I could watch the last few minutes of the episode over and over and over again.
His instant transformation from Dean to Michael was mind-blowing and the very last second as he raised his hand and clicked his fingers had me starting and gasping for breath. The chilling manner in which Jensen Ackles delivers Michael’s lines, the way he pronounces and articulates the words, even the way his freaking lips move – there is no trace of Dean anywhere. It is a completely different character, and though I know that he is evil and that he is torturing and taunting Dean as we speak, and that he wishes to turn the whole world into his designer monsterland, I can’t help admiring and enjoying the superb acting and wishing that he could stay for a little while longer. Michael finally explained why he left his true vessel (Dean was too attached to Sam, Castiel and Jack and wouldn't stop fighting him), how he managed to come back and why he waited so long to do it. I was satisfied. I sincerely hope that the writers and the showrunner will give Jensen Ackles an opportunity to play both Dean and Michael in the upcoming episodes. I’m sure it would be heartbreaking, but there’s so much potential and possibilities there!
I have been struggling a great deal with enjoying and accepting this season as more and more of its focus was taken away from the main characters and concentrated on third parties and their stories. I knew that this episode would decide whether I would continue to watch the show with any semblance of interest. I actually dreaded watching it. Especially, considering that I’m not a fan of Robert Berens. In the past I didn’t like his writing; I didn’t appreciate his bias; I resented his treatment of Dean’s character. I prepared myself for the worst and was pleasantly surprised when I actually enjoyed an episode written by him. However, he gave me what I have been looking forward to all along – Dean, Sam, Castiel and Jack working together as a team and balancing the story between the four of them, each one having his own part to play, without one character hijacking most of the story. There were a lot of great scenes with them – funny, sweet, domestic, heartwarming (Jack and Castiel in the kitchen of the bunker), heartbreaking (Dean believes that they got Jack back with no strings attached) – and I loved them all. I would also like to point out that despite the fact that the writers continue to push forward the idea of Sam as the leader (he makes all the calls and sends people on missions), when it’s time to act, Dean is the one who takes charge and Sam is the one who falls in line – and it is the most natural thing in the world.
I was impressed by how the scene between Dean, Castiel and Kaia played out; it was pretty nerve-wrecking and for a while there everything was hanging in the balance; also some lies by omission were exchanged, which could become a problem in future. However, I was surprised that Berens showed Dean as mature and rational human being for one. I loved Ketch’s short but entertaining appearance and his interaction with the boys - it was obvious that he was aiming for their approval and was rather discomfited that despite his valiant efforts and best intentions he still failed them. I never thought I would say this, but I miss having him around. It is a pity that both weapons that the boys were after in order to destroy Michael got – well – destroyed by Michael. Of course, that was precisely what Michael had been planning all along in order to completely crush Dean's spirit and finally subjugate him. I was puzzled by the fact that Michael decided to persuade Jack to join him, knowing full well how much he hates him and that he wants him dead. But I wonder if that was what Michael was truly after or whether he simply used Jack’s capture as the means to ensure that the boys were indeed there. I suppose he wanted Dean to hand deliver him the spear - and himself - two birds with one stone and all that. I mean, if he truly wanted Jack to join him and it wasn’t just a ruse, then it would have made so much sense for that infamous shaman to work for him and provide Castiel with Michael’s grace – with certain modifications already in place – in order to change Jack from within. I’m sure that with so many monsters at his command Michael knew that the boys were desperately looking for a way to save Jack. It would have been so easy to swoop in and trick them and then enjoy the show. Oh well… I am actually looking forward to the next episode.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Supernatural S14E8 - a review (with spoilers)

“Byzantium”

On tonight’s episode of “Jack the Nephilim” – a cross between a teenage drama and a soap-opera – Jack dies. Dean, Sam and Castiel grieve and drink and then decide to find a way to bring him back, because that’s what they do. They enlist the help of Lily Sunder, who once upon a time gave up her soul for a whole load of angel magic in order to avenge her daughter’s death and who, I assume, knows pretty much all there is to know about angels. They hope that she can find something that might help bring Jack back in the angel tablet translated by Kevin many seasons ago. However, when that plan falls through, Lily, who has changed quite a bit since the last time we saw her, growing old and white, provides them with another solution. She offers to give her angel magic – that draws power from a human soul, by the way – to Jack in order to cure him and bring him back to life. Apparently, as long as he uses it only to sustain himself, it won’t cost him much and he won’t even miss the piece of his soul that will be used.
It definitely sounds like something that could potentially backfire in the future (not that the writers of the show think that far ahead) – and yet Dean seems to be the only one who questions the wisdom of this plan and its possible ramifications for Jack and his soul. However, his protests are swiftly and vociferously overridden by Castiel (“Don’t you think Jack should decide for himself?”) and then Sam (“Because, for me, not doing this – that – that would be like letting him die all over again!). Of course, there’s also a price. Lily is ready to give them her magic to save Jack in exchange for a ticket to Heaven that Dean and Sam must provide her with so that she can reunite with her daughter there. This proves tricky, because her choices alone determine whether she goes up or down and no one can change that. So when she understands that she will go to Hell, considering that she killed a bunch of angels, she takes the deal off the table – until Dean appeals to her humanity and pleads with her not to make them go through what she herself went through when losing a child. It turns out that one selfless act can sway the scales of justice in one’s favour and Lily ends up in Heaven.
I enjoyed the whole sequence with Dean, Sam, Lily and Anubis. It is always a pleasure to watch Jensen and Jared and I liked the other actors and their interaction with them too. But! I would have appreciated it even more if the whole thing didn’t revolve around Jack. It could have been a case (does anyone still remember those?) or Michael-related. By the way, speaking about Michael – it seems that Dean’s blurry vision lasted only one episode just like his Michael flashbacks. I wonder if the writers who work on the show even read each other scripts, because they often seem so disconnected and missing important pieces and nuances that it seems more than likely that they don’t. If I worked with a team of writers, I would make sure that I knew exactly what they wrote and what precisely they wanted to convey and how to tie it in with the bigger picture. My theory about shaman and his connection to Michael fell through. I knew that I was giving the writers of the show more credit for mystery-building than they deserve – they obviously can’t see beyond their own individual episodes and miss all the varied possibilities, little connections and clues that could be sprinkled and threaded throughout the whole season, which once again proves my theory that there is no real interaction or understanding between them and that the story they are telling is not, in fact, a finely-woven tapestry one wishes it to be. I mean, if it were a book, such specific wording would definitely mean something, but on this show it was just a fluke. I must confess that I'm used to a more refined, subtle, and layered narrative. However, I don't think that it is unreasonable to expect a well-crafted story even on a show. 
Much to my chagrin, the other plotline was likewise Jack-centered and way too soapy and sappy for my liking. It took place in Heaven, where Castiel repaired to in order to pull Jack’s soul back into his body for Lily’s spell to work. There Jack was pursued by The Empty that wanted to claim him and take him where he actually belongs as half-angel. In order to save Jack, Castiel makes a deal with The Empty and offers himself in his stead. He says that he will go willingly as long as Jack goes home and expects to be taken right away as he reassures Jack that he made peace with his decision and that he is fine. However, The Empty has no intentions to take him now: “I want you to suffer. I want you to go back to your normal life and then forget about this and forget about me. And then, when you finally give yourself permission to be happy and let the sun shine on your face, that’s when I’ll come. That’s when I’ll come to drag you to nothing.” Castiel accepts the deal but tells Jack not to tell Dean and Sam so that they didn’t worry. Having technically saved Heaven from The Empty, Castiel gets rewarded by learning the possible location of Michael.
I must mention a moment that just about broke my heart. It was just after Jack died and Dean called Mary to tell her about what happened but had to leave a message on her voicemail with a resigned look on his face that pretty much confirmed that she continues to be unavailable. “Anyway, to tell you the truth, it would really be nice to hear your voice. If you could, uh, just call us back.” I just bet she doesn’t call them back often and they rarely get to hear her voice. And that’s just not right.
I feel more and more discouraged with each new episode, most of which I find mind-numbingly boring. I no longer believe that Sam and Dean will reclaim their position as the main leads of the show or that they will have any interesting episodes and storylines this season that won't involve Jack and his never-ending troubles, trials and tribulations. I also have a strong feeling that this could be the last one, because the showrunner is deliberately sabotaging the show with his inexpert management of the story, lazy attitude that results in countless plotholes and inconsistencies, and his complete lack of interest in the main characters. I also seriously consider giving up on the show... but I know that I can't. 

Friday, 30 November 2018

Supernatural S14E7 - a review (with spoilers)


“Unhuman Nature”

First of all, I want to congratulate the showrunner and co for pissing off 99% of the viewership, who absolutely don’t want to see Lucifer back in any way, shape or form. I remember how they told us before the start of the season that Lucifer was 100% dead. However, it later turned out that his vessel wasn’t. Here’s a loophole none of us foresaw! And do you know why? Because it doesn’t make any sense! I still can’t figure out how Nick managed to be alive after being shot in the head – and that’s among other awful things that his body and mind had undergone throughout his possession. I’m assuming that when Crowley found Lucifer’s vessel it was damaged beyond repair. However, enterprising as he was, he somehow managed to patch it up with the help of his expert demons at Demon Science Department (that obviously must exist in Hell) in order to put Lucifer back inside and under his control. But I’m pretty sure that the actual vessel – the dead body that was apparently reanimated and brought back to life – was no longer meant to be able to survive without the archangel inhabiting and sustaining it through his grace/power. I seriously doubt that Crowley or his demons cared for the well-being or – well – being – of the human this body once belonged to.
By all accounts, Nick should have died when Dean and Michael killed Lucifer, putting an end to this long-winding storyline once and for all – instead of basically nullifying Dean’s sacrifice and spitting in all our faces by keeping him alive and open to the possibility of another – bigger – greater – possession. I must confess that unlike a lot of people in this fandom I was never a fan of Lucifer. I always found him supremely boring and I think he has long overstayed his welcome on the show. I’m angry, outraged, disappointed and discouraged that he is once again in the picture and that he is getting a major villain story arc again – a story arc that by all rights should be Michael’s – a story arc that we were promised before this trainwreck of the season began. Andrew Dabb’s unaccountable fascination with Lucifer/Nick character and storyline, that he continually forces upon us, is criminal, unforgiving and simply disrespectful to Jensen Ackles, for one, whose Michael!Dean should be the major Big Bad of the season as was originally implied.
I knew as soon as I saw the clips before the start of the episode that it would be another episode of “Jack and Nick” rather than “Supernatural”. I almost turned it off – that’s how much I didn’t care about it. Nick was on a killing spree. Jack was growing worse by the second. It all looked remarkably like a soap-opera to me (again!). Especially the scene at the hospital. Such drama! Dean, Sam and Castiel appeared to be nothing more than extras on their own show – just a bit of a background noise and a pretty picture to go with it. As I watched Nick track down people connected with his wife and child’s murder and slowly but surely descending into madness and blood fever, I was literally bored out of my mind and thought that the episode couldn’t come to an end soon enough. I will say this: the scenes where he showed his complete mental breakdown manifested by his craving to commit murder and wash himself in blood without impunity were chilling and gut-wrenching and scary and I would have been touched and impressed if I cared for Nick or Lucifer at this point. But this particular storyline is way past its shelf life and I wish that people who write the show were brave enough to face the truth and finally acknowledge that the time has come to let it go and move on and, hopefully, come up with something new – or else look for a new job – not connected with writing. Unsurprisingly, when at the end of the episode that black gooey substance shaped itself into a black skeletal body with unmistakable Lucifer-red eyes (in answer to Nick’s teary prayers to come and deliver him from pain and remorse and grant him sweet oblivion as he murders instead), I was royally pissed and I know that I wasn’t the only one. I do not want Lucifer back.
I enjoyed Dean and Jack’s short but fun time together. I thought that maybe Dean wasn’t the only one who was atoning (not that I think that he should) for being rough on Jack in the beginning. I mean, according to Sam that was why Jack’s swiftly deteriorating condition hit him particularly hard. I was somewhat skeptical of Sam’s reasoning at first but, remembering Dean’s extreme tendency to blame himself for pretty much everything, decided that it was not so unlikely after all. But maybe Jack, in his turn, was also atoning for saying that Dean didn’t matter by spending this time with him and telling him all those nice things? I wonder if I can go so far as to chalk up Jack’s infamous outburst to youthful exuberance and extreme guilt at having failed to kill Michael when he had the chance. I’m still on the fence about that. I see logic behind Jack’s deteriorating condition and if the writers of the show thought things through and followed their own logic they would see that this is exactly what would be happening to Nick right now without Lucifer possessing him and keeping his body together with his supernatural support. My main complaint in this instance is that we spend way too much time on Jack and his drama, while reducing the main characters to second fiddles or – as the gushiest part of the fandom likes to call them – his three dads.
Michael is presumably still out there – but there have been no mention of him or his activity lately – no more victims of his traps among hunters that are supposed to have been set all over the place – nothing apocalyptic or even pre-apocalyptic. So how are we supposed to take him seriously as a threat to this world – as an archangel who reduced his own world to dust – if there are no further instances of his power or malicious intent? Of course, there’s the fact that Dean (finally!) experienced some funny stuff a few times during the episode. I wish it had been another flashback, though. But! I guess that must be somehow connected with Michael, right? So! Is he still possessing Dean but lying low and biding his time before something mega huge happens? I mean, sure, Andrew Dabb said in one of the interviews that Michael was definitely out of Dean. But then again, that’s the same person who said that Lucifer was 100% dead and not coming back. Or – wait – could it be that we all just assumed that Lucifer wasn’t coming back, because a) we wanted him to be gone for good and b) because we were told that he was dead – when, in fact, Dabb didn’t actually mean to imply that Lucifer wasn’t coming back just because he was dead? Let’s face it, what are the chances of what is dead (especially if it has wings) to stay dead on this show?
Lastly, I probably don’t have to tell anyone that you just don’t trust a Russian shaman. Period. However, his wording at the end of the episode, when Castiel called him after Jack got worse, caught my attention. He mentioned “trial and error” and “victory through experimentation” that sounded extremely familiar. In fact, wasn’t it Michael’s philosophy while he was experimenting with monsters before he finally had a breakthrough? I actually half expected to find Sergei sitting there with him. Or could he be possessed by him at that moment? His smug reply that Castiel could try [but fail] to find him also gave me pause. Was he more than just a human, albeit a shaman, and as such impossible to find? So what if the spell and the grace that he gave Castiel for Jack will work and will work well, but not in the way they expect? What if Michael is somehow behind it? After all, we know that he experimented with his grace while enhancing the monsters’ abilities. So what if he wants to turn Jack into another one of his monsters?

Friday, 23 November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - my emotional review (with some spoilers)


The first thing that you should keep in mind when watching “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is that it is just the beginning of the story – a bloom that has not yet blossomed into a flower – just like its many characters that have only started to reveal themselves but have not yet unleashed their full potential. This way you will save yourself from the disappointment and dissatisfaction of having no answers or explanations for some of the shenanigans that take place in the second film. I have already seen it three times and with each time I fell more and more in love with it. I would recommend everyone – especially those of you who didn’t like it – to watch it at least one more time. It is definitely worth it, if only for the sheer epic-ness, beauty, scale and magic that it is. And the pace! It is a wild ride indeed. I imagine that what it would feel like to ride one of those creatures from Newt’s suitcase. I honestly feel like I’m back in the good old Harry Potter days of scavenging for clues, tugging at hidden threads and weaving them into theories. There are so many possibilities to consider and they are all so very exciting! One could write thick volumes based on those alone - and that's saying something. The game is on again! If you know J.K. Rowling, you know that nothing is ever what it seems when it comes to her creations – whether by book or film – and that there are definitely answers and explanations waiting for you at the end. Your patience will be rewarded – never fear! Jo always has a plan as well as a mind-blowing revelation or ten up her sleeve. I cannot way for those! In the meantime, I’m going to re-watch all the trailers and catch up on all the interviews that I’ve missed while trying to avoid spoilers. I distanced myself so much from everything surrounding the new film that when I watched it for the first time I understood that I was completely unprepared for it. I was shocked and confused and couldn’t quite tell whether I liked it or not. However, I know better now. I am a fan and I can’t wait to know the whole story. I can’t wait to see more of all these new characters: Newt, Tina, Jacob, Queenie, Theseus, Leta (?), Nagini, Credence, Yusuf. I want to get to know them better and I hope that the next parts will provide me with many an opportunity to do so. However, my biggest wish is to see more of Dumbledore and to learn more about Grindelwald and… Aurelius?

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Supernatural S14E6 - a review (with spoilers)

“Optimism”

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this episode per se, but it left me feeling quite empty and disconnected. I liked the directing and the acting choices, but story-wise I just wasn’t touched by anything taking place there. The strongest emotional reaction that I experienced throughout the whole episode – that of utmost indignation and offence – was when Jack called Dean 'an old man' – and that’s saying something. The episode didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat and it didn’t make me particularly emotionally involved. I think the main problem was that I couldn’t get rid of the impression that I was watching a teenage drama about a young nephilim who is navigating the many pitfalls of first contact with a girl – and that’s not the show I signed up for.

It was quite comedic to a point, but being an episode of "Supernatural" it was bound to give us several poignant moments and an ending that… well…didn’t shock exactly – I mean this situation with Jack was bound to come to a head at some point – but definitely left us wondering. In my case, I was wondering why the show decided to completely ignore Castiel’s powers of detection that something is wrong with a mere touch. How come that during all their hunting time together he didn’t once offer to heal Jack only to discover that it was more serious than a mere cough? In fact, why did he not offer to do so in the first place instead of going to make him some chicken soup? In order for the writers to blow the whole thing up into a huge drama that would then take central stage? It struck me as incongruous in the beginning of the season and it continues to be mind-boggling. I’m sure that chicken soup would not be the first thing an angel would think of when confronted with a person who is showing signs of sickness. So why did the writers choose to create this entirely artificial and unnecessary drama with Jack when they could be putting a little bit more thought and spend a little bit more time exploring Dean’s post-possession ordeal and actual Michael storyline instead? 

As a result of such gross story mismanagement, the main leads are being pushed further and further into the background, becoming nothing but supporting characters at best, especially Dean and Castiel, while Jack’s story is taking more and more screen time, acquring priority above all else. It's incredible that we still didn’t get a single fully-fledged scene with Dean and Castiel this season! I miss their interaction. I miss Team Free Will. So what is going on? Why did Jack become so important all of a sudden? I have to confess that even when he was a fully-charged nephilim he didn’t make much of an impression on me or, in fact, an impact on the show. I wonder if the writers deluded themselves into thinking that without his powers (that have never been truly explored or shown to their full capacity to begin with) he has more potential as an interesting character. I'm afraid they fail spectacularly at making characters interesting this season. But what show is this anyway? Jack the Nephilim? He is cute, sure, if you're a teenage girl, but let's be real, how many teenage girls still watch "Supernatural"? There are a few, I grant you that, but I think I'm not mistaken when I say that general audience that is drawn to the show nowadays is a little bit older than that. I really think the show needs to grow-up and mature. However, that doesn't mean that I want to see any more of Mary and Bobby's romantic escapades. That's not what I meant by grown-up and mature. In fact, if there should be any romance at all on the show - and that's a big 'if' - maybe - just maybe - it should revolve around the main characters to make us care about it at all?

By the way, Dean and Jack shared an important conversation about Michael at the start and in the end of the episode and it didn’t occur to anyone to give us another Michael flashback? Seriously?!!

I constantly question the logic behind the writers’ decisions this season. I really don’t understand what was the point of bringing back such well-beloved and much-missed characters as Bobbie and Charlie, stripping them off all those traits that endeared them to us in the first place and then keep drumming it into our heads that these are different people that have no connection and no shared past with the boys. I get that. I do. Thank you very much. I just don’t understand why we need them back like that. What exactly is the show trying to achieve here? Just imagine getting back some of the people that you loved, considered family, and couldn’t save – and now they’re back – only it’s not really them – and they don’t give a damn about you. Why do that? I mean, other than make life even more painful and miserable for Sam and Dean, of course, by reminding them over and over again of everything that they’ve lost and telling them that just because it’s there, right in front of them, it doesn’t mean that they got it back. I just don’t understand where the show is going with all of that if they only succeed in making these characters quite unendearing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I’d say that the current showrunner is trying to kill the show. He is certainly trying to bury Dean alive within the bunker walls.

Honestly, I don’t know where the show is going with him either these days and whether there is any logical explanation behind the writers’ decisions when it comes to him anymore. I personally have a feeling that the showrunner just doesn’t like him very much. He makes it pretty obvious who his favourites are. It is very frustrating. I guess he just can’t handle Dean at full power and that's why he decided to strip him off everything that made him who and what he was, turning him into a barely visible shadow of his former self. He even took him out for two episodes at the start of the season ,apparently so that he could establish Sam as the leader, and once that was done, he took away what promised to be an exciting storyline from him and pushed him into the sidelines. At least that's how it looked to me and you will be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

However, I was reflecting on Dean’s current position – I mean, utter withdrawal from everything and everyone and complete submission to Sam’s authority – and I think I found a logical explanation – whether it’s the same one that the writers are using remains to be seen. Of course, it all goes back to Dean saying 'yes' to Michael. This one little word led to Michael taking over his body and creating an army of monsters with enhanced abilities that is virtually impossible to defeat in order to set traps for hunters all over the place and eventually take over his world. He feels the horrible weight of responsibility for his split-moment decision and keeps blaming himself for everything that happened afterwards. He feels that he can’t trust himself to make decisions anymore, because the results are catastrophic. So now he keeps to himself, he doesn’t take an active part in life (possibly afraid to do even more harm), he doesn’t talk to anyone but the people he knows, he doesn’t go on hunts (unless badgered into it by powerless nephilims who need to prove themselves) and relegates all the decision-making to his brother. How long will it last? Well, it depends on the writers, of course. However, I’m thinking - hoping – expecting – that something will happen (hopefully sooner than later) to make Dean assume a more active role on the show and maybe even take back the helm.

I noticed that they included the little bit about Dean being on an overnight run at Bobby and Mary’s place. I wonder if they are trying to make up for showing Mary so uncaring towards him before by telling us that they are actually interacting behind the screen. Well, if you say so… Also, while I liked to get a glimpse into the apocalyptic world and how it unravelled once Michael and Lucifer started their war, I didn't really feel anything for this other Charlie and I found Sam clinging onto her and pleading with her so desperately not to leave quite pathetic, especially because she kept distancing herself from him by repeating over and over again that she wasn't their Charlie. But really, why should she stay and hunt (something that she doesn't like doing according to her own admission) if she can go out there and try to live a normal life? I just don't know... I have so many conflicting thoughts and emotions this season, including but not limited to all these au!people and their purpose. Cannon fodder, perhaps? Is this why the writers don't even try to create some kind of meaningful bond or emotional attachment between them and the boys? Or is it just bad writing? I also feel that I'm becoming more and more unhappy with the show. I'm actually dreading each new episode.

So, as you can see, I’m not feeling very optimistic about "Supernatural" right now. It's just falling apart at the seams, because its very foundation - that which is integral and irreplaceable - is being destroyed by clumsy attempts at a change. If you have a formula that works and that has been working successfully for fourteen years, maybe it's unwise to change it. If I remember correctly, attempts have been made to do that before, and they all ended in disaster. Unfortunately, this time it might very well be the last one.