When viewers think they’re too clever

When viewers think they’re too clever

Spoilers for How to Get Away with Murder follows.

It is said that in order to master any field, one would need to put in 10 000 hours of practice into it. If this statement is in fact true, I believe that it’s safe to say that many of us are not only masters in the field of television viewing, but grand wise ones.

Now over the past decade, the TV viewing audience has been introduced to some truly spectacular series and one of the grand catalysts that has fuelled this insurgence of gripping television is the death of main characters in long running series. Gone are the days of happy endings with sunshine’s and rainbows. When Game of Thrones premiered, it made the death of main characters mainstream. The consequence of that has, unfortunately, been an influx of shows doing the same but in a very crude manner in which the death is used chiefly as a gimmick or for pure shock value. This has arguably lessened the impact these deaths have had on the TV viewing audience. Game of Thrones itself has, quite ironically, fallen victim to this phenomenon.

Furthermore, viewers have been exposed to a vast number of shows with ever increasing cast members and convoluted storylines that require dense deciphering. We’ve been introduced to shows that make us think and be attentive for a small clue here or a subtle piece of foreshadowing there and to some, it has become second nature. We’ve come to expect it in such a way that we can usually predict it. For example, if a character is getting more screen time than usual or the character’s story has become stale or the actor has signed on for a new pilot, we make the logical assumption that said character will be the next one to go.

It has become standard in this so-called “Golden Age of Television” for shows to push the envelope and continue to create deep, challenging and intelligent content. One just has to look at the array of series that have graced our screens this past decade from Lost all the way to Westworld; each bringing a new layer of intrigue and complexity to their series.

This all leads us to the 17th of November 2016 which saw the mid season finale of the ABC hit, How to Get Away with Murder, shatter and nullify all those years of cultivated TV experienceThe episode follows the dramatic events of episode 8 which ended with Annalsie begging Frank to commit suicide. “Who is Dead?” successfully opens without losing any of that tension, even if it was a little heavy handed on the parallels between the case of the day and the flashback to the night before.

“Who is Dead” then goes on to nimbly guide us through the events that unfold between the end of mid terms and the house fire by untangling woven timelines and revealing missing contextual information leading us to the reveal that the man under the sheet was waitlist student Wes Gibbins. It’s the kind of reveal that can only be achieved through seasons of build up and character development. The emotional impact is immediate. At first it’s a surreal feeling and just as your brain is getting to grips with what you’ve just witnessed, you’re thrown another curve ball when its revealed that Wes was in fact murdered. It’s a heart wrenching scene which ends quite poetically as Wes steps out into the heavenly sunlight marching, unknowingly, to his ultimate demise. It’s paradoxically beautiful and horrifying at the same moment.

The reveal works, in part, so well because by any logical metric, Frank or Nate was the likely victim. They were both characters who seemed to have come to the end of their character arc. In this sense, the outcome is almost akin to the 2016 elections in which, by all measurable logic and metric, Clinton should have won the election. It is precisely because it seemed like such a far off possibility that it’s delivery was so impactful. We all thought we were so coy and masterful applying the logic and reasoning skills we had cultivated over the years to predict the outcome, only to be proven wrong.

With the death of Wes, How to Get Away with murder has killed of the closest thing it had to an audience surrogate. His death has unequivocally changed the dynamic of the show not only for the viewers but for the characters themselves as evidenced by the beautiful montage of each character’s reaction to hearing about Wes’ death. It’s a death that will be felt throughout the entire run of the series.

In the end, How to Get Away with Murder has pulled off something that many shows today fail at quite miserably; that being the death of a main character. It ticks all the boxes: its not being used as a gimmick, its shocking and its perfectly executed. How to Get Away with Murder has genuinely executed an amazing finale that packs a punch of raw emotions

Assorted Musings:

  • That Annalise and Bonnie kiss! Their relationship has always been confusing since season 1 which is to say somewhere between super close friend/mortal enemy/saviour so its nice to see that it may going somewhere instead of the rinse-dry-repeat shtick we’ve gotten each episode of Annalise getting angry at her over and over again.
  • The peeling back of Michaela’s personal life through her mom was quite intriguing. I hope we get to see more of her.
  • I hope they give Frank a better storyline from her on out. His role this season has left much to be desired.
  • Will Laurel keep the child? I presume she does but with this show…
  • I was so convinced it was Nate. He’s been virtually non-existent this season. I hope they do more with his character.
  • The Wes flashbacks from this point on are going to be torturous
  • Who murdered Wes!? Was it Bonnie and Frank conspiring with each other? The suspense is already murderous.

The Soundtrack to Life

The Soundtrack to Life

A world without music is a world not worth living in. It’s a statement that I have repeated countless times as I truly believe that if we, as a species, did not have the capabilities of creating music, then there would be no worth to our lives. We’d just be empty shells roaming space on this cosmic rock lost in the forever forward movement of time. 

Music gives life colour. Music gives life inspiration. Music gives life fantasy. Music gives life emotion. Music gives life meaning. Without it, there would be no magic. Without it, life as we know it would not be. Some of humanities greatest achievements come from a foundation of music. Take for example the most valuable company in the world. Apple Inc. owes its current fortune to music. Without the iPod, Apple would not be the company it is today. 

Music has the power to relieve pain, escape sorrow and enable emotion in a way that nothing else can. The power of music is idyllic. It cannot be measured in any quantifiable way however, it can be felt in every aspect of life’s journey. That is the power of music. 

Music is entrenched in the DNA of life and for that reason, life deserves its very own soundtrack. I recently happened upon a YouTube channel that fills this mammoth task. All I can say is that every piece on this channel is the paragon of perfection. 

The Soundtrack to Life

Tolkien set to have a more productive 2017 than GRRM with release of new book

Tolkien set to have a more productive 2017 than GRRM with release of new book

“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

The tale of Beren and Luthien, as laid out in The Silmarillion and throughout the History of Middle Earth, narrates the tale of mortal Beren and elven Luthien as they find each other and their love tested by the ever darkening forces Morgoth. The tale is often considered as Tolkien’s greatest romantic tragedy. 

The tale is said to be inspired by Tolkien’s wife, Edith, who he met, much like Beren had, dancing in a glade seeming to him the paragon of perfection. The tale not only had a profound impact on the future of Middle Earth by setting precedent for the love between Arwen and Aragon at the end of Return of the King but also on the love of Tolkien and his wife as can be noted by the gravestone etching of Tolkien and Edith which read “Beren” and “Luthien” respectively. 

Now, almost an entire century after the tale was first penned, the Tolkien estate will release the story in it’s own standalone novel with accompanying illustration by talented fantasy artist Alan Lee. The book is set for release in May of 2017.  

Harry Potter and the cursed child – the (not really) eighth story in the Harry Potter saga 

Harry Potter and the cursed child – the (not really) eighth story in the Harry Potter saga 

When you start reading the script, you’re immediately hit with this avalanche of nostalgia. Being transported to platform 9 3/4, the Hogwarts express and our famous little trio. You’re excited. You’re ready to go back to Hogwarts. Ready to see what’s become of your beloved characters. Ready for adventure. 

We start off where the epilogue ended and we’re introduced to our new characters. We have Albus Severus (probably the biggest curse he ever got), Rose, James and most importantly, Scorpius Malfoy (who honestly, was the shining light in this script). 

The script then rushes past their first couple years at Hogwarts with Albus being sorted into Slytherin. We’re shown how the two became friends and where our trio has ended up: Hermione as minister for magic, Harry as head of magical law enforcement and Ron (the most underdeveloped and one dimensional character in this scrip) is running Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. 

And that is where our problems begin. The characterization of so many characters in this script is so incorrect and inconsistent, it’s unforgivable. Ron is portrayed as just a pathetic side character. But he is not a pathetic side character. He has a personality, he has character but no, Thorne (the guy who wrote they play) decided to reduce his character to a one dimensional drunk who makes jokes. And it’s not only Ron, we see it throughout the script, specifically Snape and Dumbledore who are both portrayed as completely different characters from their original counterparts. 

But characterization is only a small part of the problem here. The problem here, and it is not specific to the cursed child in any way, is that when you get an “adaptor” (i.e. not the author) to write a story based in her universe, it comes across as fan fiction. And again, this is not specific to this story but the cursed child, specifically, does have a certain proclivity towards fan fiction. The Snape scene is the quintessential example of this point. The only thing that made that scene really stand out for me was reading it with Alan Rickman’s voice in mind, it gave me chills. 

Then we have the narrative itself. Using time travel as your driving plot point was always going to be a bad idea but what made this particular choice unforgivable was the inconsistency. If you look at how time travel is used in third book, it’s explained that one cannot change the past (and consequently the future) because you had already time travelled back in the first place. So those events were meant to occur any how (for example Harry conjuring the patronus. It was always going to be him conjuring the patronus). In the cursed child however, the same device (Time Turner) is used again but time travel is now, for some inexplicable reason, treated in a completely different manner. Now the past can be changed at will and the future will, consequently, be affected by said change (aka the butterfly effect). Again, this goes back to the fact that it is not the original author of the work who is writing the story and so facts are changed to fit the story the adaptor has in mind. 

And then we have the fact that the main villain is Voldermort’s daughter by Bellatrix conceived during wartime. I can’t even expand on this because it is just so unfathomable. I just can’t accept that as believable in any way or form. In my eyes, it was just lazy storytelling. 

I believe that there are two types of readers: the hardcore, fandom fanatics who will accept anything an author pushes out and can ignore inconsistencies and plot holes and enjoy the story anyways because it forms part of said universe. And then you have the second type of reader who will look at a story, love the fandom, love the franchise but will not be able to ignore the inconsistencies and plot holes set out like the first reader. This does not mean the second reader hates the franchise, it just means the second reader cannot, or does not, want to ignore these imperfections. I tend to be like the second reader, I love the franchise but I can’t just ignore the many imperfections contained within the cursed child. 

This is all not to say that the script is totally horrible and I hated it. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it was great to be able to travel back to Hogwarts and it was an even greater nostalgia bomb. The scenes between the original characters, especially Draco and Harry, were brilliant in their simplicity and call backs to old times, even if Ginny’s character was all over the place in her motives and intentions (first she’s blaming Harry then she’s apologizing, I don’t understand what they were thinking when they wrote her character). And then, as a I stated at the beginning, Scorpius Malfoy’s character was beautifully written and his relationship with Draco was really well done. 

In the end, I believe the script would have benefited from a better plot. The time travel element should have never been included. Instead, they should’ve created a story around Albus and Scorpius through the years in Slytherin. More of how they interacted with everyone at Hogwarts (being the son of Draco and Harry) and how Albus interacted with James and Lily (who were barely in the script – which I feel was a sad omission. So much could’ve been done with their characters). It would’ve also been a great “redemption” story for Slytherin. Having Harry Potter’s own son in your house is bound to make the label of “Evil House” less believable. 

This all begs the question: will I accept the cursed child as the eight story in the Harry Potter saga? Sadly, no. It was enjoyable and it had some truly great moments but overall, I don’t believe it earned the right to be a part of the original 7.

Season 6 Musing and the Finalè – A Time for Wolves 

Season 6 Musing and the Finalè – A Time for Wolves 

Let’s start off by saying that Game of Thrones’ teleportation game is the strongest it’s ever been. Varys stole Littlefinger’s abilities and spruced them up a bit. These characters have the most amazing skills when it comes to moving around the known world. It’s utterly ridiculous 😒. But more seriously, the finalè, again, proves just how cinematic this show can be. It was another beautifully shot and produced episode. And again, I praise the production team and director for doing such a phenomenal job (not only in the finalè but in season 6 as a whole). And I state again, rather frustratingly, that the writers have just thrown logic to the wind. 
Look, I have been quite vocal about my…disappointment with season 6 overall. It’s been wildly inconsistent. Character motivations seem to be driven in the service of the plot instead of actual character development and there has been little to no narrative logic to many episodes and it seems like a great many plot lines were just added to the narrative for “the fun of it.” Because, honestly, if you were to look at most of the NARRATIVE highlights (not visual) from season 6, most of them come from, GRRM himself. “The Door,” which in my opinion was the most on point episode of the season, came straight from the main man himself. “Promise me Ned” is straight out of ASOIAF lore. The hound returning has long been hinted, and predicted at, in the books. Jamie’s river lands storyline was stripped straight out of the pages of A Feast for Crows and the first half (which, unarguably, is the much better half) of Arya’s Braavos storyline also came out of A Feast for Crows and the Winds of Winter sample chapters. The point being that when the show veers away from the heart of what made GoT great, it doesn’t succeed. 

The prime example of this point is what has happened in Dorne. If they were going to do the Dorne-Targaeryn alliance, Doran should’ve been the one to carry out his master plan because, you know, beside the fact that he was actually a Martell who had a much more valid and logical reason (not to mention historical reasoning) to buddy up with Danaerys (and then obviously, Quentyn should have been added to the story, but that’s another argument entirely), it could’ve saved the Dorne plot line from the tragedy that it is 😑. 

This is all not to say that Game of Thrones is a bad show and that I hate it and will stop watching it. It doesn’t and I won’t. Even at its worst, it’s still light years better than most other shows on TV today. It’s just sad to see the show runners devolve the story from one of complexity and nuance to one filled with cliches and inaccuracies. 

Now, specifically, the finalè, which I would rank in my top three episodes of season 6 (with 9 and 5 being the other two), was a great 69 minutes of TV. If we were being completely honest, it was 69 minutes of fan service. Everything we, as fans wanted, we got. I loved the way Cersei’s descent into madness has been done and we finally got to see her watch in glee as a building was burnt down with wildfire. It was a great scene in the books. It’s been a long time coming 😃. I just hope that Jaime finally turns to his book persona and let’s go of her. Frey pies was finally confirmed 😁💯. It’s equal parts horrifying and satisfying. Jon being King in the North has been everyone’s dream since the first season started (though personally, I still want Bran to come and be King in the North) but we will see what happens 👀. Sam finally reaching Old Town means he can start his Maester training. It doesn’t look like they’re going to do the book version of it (with the Sphinx and the rest of them) which is a little sad but if they do decide to do it, it’ll be really cool 😃✊🏻. Danny getting out of Mereen and sailing for Westeros was the perfect way to end the season. Kings Landing has no idea what’s coming for them 👀🐉🔥. Fire and Blood forever 💯. And finally…the tower of joy. Six years. Six years I’ve waited for the Tower of Joy scene and even though I felt it was a little rushed I still loved it’s reveal. Lyanna’s “Promise me, Ned” line gave me chills, if only because it was the first hint we ever got in the books that Jon Snow’s parentage was not as it was presented. It was everything we could have ever hope for. I loved it. 

I’m curious to see what’s going to happen in season 7. I believe, and really hope, that it will be better than season 6 was. Dan and David have shown that they are capable of composing some brilliant scenes if they actually put their minds to it and make the right decisions and not just write scenes for the sake of writing them. Now my watch for season 7 begins. 

And just as a side not, I really hope and pray, and I really am praying to every god that exists, that we get the Winds of Winter by then 🙏🏻. 

A second side note, RIP Lady Stoneheart. I really had hope of your return this season but alas, you have, officially been cut. I cannot understand why but you have 😔. 

A quick thought on Season 6

A quick thought on Season 6

Look, #GoT at its worst will still always be better than most other shows around but that doesn’t excuse the shocking (not in the good way) writing and atrocious inconsistencies of this past season. And look, let’s not deny it, episode 9 (Battle of the Bastards) is probably GoT’s best episode to date but the reason it is the shows best episode is not due to the writing (a lot of it still makes no sense and is, quite simply, cringeworthy). What made “Battle of the Bastards” such an amazing episode was its direction, cinematography, acting, VFX and the way they weaved the soundtrack so subtly into the battle scenes. On the other hand, every plot point of episode 9 was predictable. Every beat was, for lack of a better word, obvious. But it was still one of the best episode the show has produced because, while the writing has been losing its quality since, around, halfway through season 5, the direction, VFX and production overall have increased drastically. One has to simply compare S02E09 to S06E09 to see the difference. And, to me, it’s just disappointing that the show has decided, now, at the tail end of its series run, to slack off in the quality of its writing. Logic seems to have been thrown to the winds (*cough* Arya’s plot *cough*). There is a lack of any nuance in its storylines. The plot lines have become shameful Hollywood cliches. None of the characters are truly “grey” anymore and the blame here rests solely on the show runners (Dan and David). Not the directors. Not the producers. Not the actors. No one. They have decided, for some arbitrary reason, to take the brilliant foundation set up by the first four seasons and completely destroy it and devolve the show into a parody of its former self. At the end of the day, I still love this show and it is still, as I said at the beginning, a better show than most out there. It’s just sad because we know it could’ve been a whole lot better than it currently is.