How Were We Supposed to Know that Hipsters Were So Flammable – Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Deliver in Blindspotting
Hey geeks! Last night your girl went to an advanced screening of Blindspotting with the Bruin Film Society. Blindspotting is an indie film written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. In Blindspotting, Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.
It will be released July 20 but as a fangirl I lack patience when it comes to seeing my faves. So I braved L.A. traffic from the IE and boy was it worth it. The movie was phenomenal. And after the screening, writer/stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, and brilliant supporting actresses Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones did a lengthy Q & A. After the Q & A they sat on the stage (!) and stayed to talk to fans for over an hour. They were precious. I’ll talk about that experience on the podcast next week but for now, this is my Blindspotting review.
Blindspotting is an ambitious movie. It is about home and loyalty. It portrays people of color raising children, trying to keep their relationships strong, and coping with PTSD, all in environment of gentrification, police violence, and mass incarceration. But at heart it is a buddy comedy centered on fast talking hot head Miles (Rafael Casal) and easy going everyman Collin (Daveed Diggs). It is a nuanced, challenging, yet side splitting buddy comedy. And oh, there is spoken word poetry. Quite a bit of it. All of that sounds pretty hard to pull off. But the crazy thing is that they DO pull it off. The screening audience (myself included) was alternately laughing, gasping, and sitting on the edges of our seats. There were also tears. It is that affecting. The movie's power to affect the viewer, if you are a person of color especially, comes partly from the fact that the characters who inhabit this movie would have been stereotyped or made caricatures by other movies. We don’t often get to see these types of characters in this way – people of color, convicted felons, working class people, women of color, etc. In Blindspotting they deal with trauma but they also dance in the kitchen. They grapple with violence but also clown on each other. Another big part of the impact of this movie comes from the method of layered, gradual storytelling and commitment to authenticity.
First, the authenticity. Every single aspect of the movie feels organic. Every character feels like it was pulled from inside of someone rather than composed on a writing room board. The dialogue is fresh and the jokes feel like jokes your friends would tell, but only if they were as fast on their feet and as funny as Miles and Collin. In the Q & A portion after the screening, Daveed Diggs says he and Rafael drew on their own rhythm and chemistry as lifelong friends. That makes Miles and Collin a joy to watch. The spoken word in the movie is the patter of two childhood friends who have spent years running the streets entertaining each other by just talking shit and making up verses. I was a little worried about potential awkward inexplicable poetry moments. But I literally didn’t even notice the transitions between poetry and non poetry. That is just how Miles and Collin talk. And as the spoken word elements are heightened little by little throughout the movie, you are never taken outside of the story. You just get absorbed early and it is a fantastic ride.
Secondly, part of the organic approach is that the movie never tells you what to think, it just makes you feel for the characters. It shows people living their lives, and then it goes about taking their inner emotional lives seriously. For example, the main friendship of the movie involves two men who love each another (it's platonic, but it's love), but whose friendship is tested by the world and their own trauma. Precious few movies or TV shows portray male friendships in all of their importance and nuance. So that already makes Blindspotting special. According to most pieces of art/entertainment, men aren’t supposed to care about each other that much. They aren’t supposed to need each other that much. In most movies centering male friendships, the audience is encouraged to laugh with them but never allowed to cry with them. That is a classic feature of toxic masculinity. But Blindspotting just blows past all of that and shows brilliantly how these two men need their friendship. That makes the movie great because it rings true.
It would be absurd to pretend that Miles and Collin wouldn’t depend on their friendship for survival. They grew up together. They have helped each other survive absent fathers, life on the streets, and the criminal justice system. So the fact that Collin and Miles have chosen to be family to one another makes complete sense. Some of the best scenes are when Collin is in Miles’s home, playing with his baby Ziggy (Ziggy Baitinger), and bantering affectionately with his partner Ashley (Jamine Cephas-Jones). But Collin and Miles experience life differently because the world treats them differently based on their race. Collin is trying to survive in a world where the color of his skin makes him a target, and his record means one misstep puts him back in jail. Miles wants to champion Collin, but in true family fashion, that often means inhibiting his growth. Also, Miles is a white man who grew up in among people of color, so he feels like he has to continually prove he is extra down. Add that to his deep fear of losing his home (Oakland) to gentrification, and he is always the first one to pop off. But when he starts shit, he is attracting the police, which puts Collin at risk as a Black man with a record. Miles doesn’t think about that at all, which is part of the problem. He’s just being wild trying to defend his home and his best friend. That’s what he thinks, anyway. But he is missing a big part of the picture by refusing to be accountable for the added risk he is bringing into Collin’s life and his own son’s life. This problem unfolds and escalates throughout the movie masterfully. By the time Miles and Collin have it out, covered in blood in a parking lot, you just can’t tear your eyes away. The dialogue, the performances, everything is as compelling as anything you will see on screen.
Also, this approach to telling personal stories is the most impactful way to talk about topics like police murder and mass incarceration. That is because politics are personal. It is the power structure that de-personalizes politics. It is the power structure that tells you politics is something separate you think about only when you turn on CNN or go to the voting booth. This is at best a privileged point of view, and at worse, a calculated strategy to dissuade marginalized people from participating in the political process. In truth, politics is simply what our institutions do to the human spirit. Watching Collin deal with PTSD, Ashley trying to keep her son safe, Val trying to improve her life, and Miles trying desperately to hold all the pieces together with his bare hands – these stories tell us everything we need to know. When we see institutional injustices collide with their lives – Ziggy throwing his hands up and saying ‘don’t’ shoot’ while giggling, Collin walking down the street at night during a particularly heart stopping scene where you are begging the cop car to Please. Just. Keep. Driving. How can you not see that politics are about how the human spirit is at the mercy of our institutions?
Also brilliant is the layered, gradual way in which they introduce you to these characters. You go on a journey that forces you to see their humanity, the good, bad, and ugly, at all times. This plays out to sharp effect with the Collin character as well as with Val and Collin's arc.
Let’s start with Collin. Of course Daveed Diggs is absurdly lovable and he brings that quality to the screen. But it is more than that. The movie is masterful at creating this experience of getting to know Collin at every level so that you never simplify or patronize him. Now. You know from the opening scene that he did time for a felony. At the first part of the movie, you are left to guess as to Collin’s crime. But you are having so much fun with the jokes, the banter, and the streets of Oakland, that you don’t dwell on the question. Also, you feel right away that it can’t be anything too nefarious. When you meet him, the first thing you see is his sense of humor. Then in quick succession, you see his vulnerability around Val and his silliness with Ziggy. You get the idea that he has disappointed Val and made some poor choices, but you know that he is a good person who wants to better himself. While Miles and Collin are moving things in and out of people’s houses, they idly make up rhymes together. These are absolutely brilliant pieces of character development as well. Hearing the rhymes Collin makes with Miles to deal with the boredom tells you that he is a sensitive, clever, thoughtful guy. Then, a little way into the movie, Miles (in true extra af Miles fashion) dismisses Collin’s crime saying ‘how were we supposed to know hipsters were so flammable!?” But as we see through the entire movie, humor is a great way to cope but can also be used to mask truth. So from the jump, you sense that Miles is a hilarious but unreliable narrator. So you know fire is involved but that's about it.
By the time you see the crime Collin has committed, you are already ALL IN on Collin. You love him and want things to turn out for him. The crime isn’t something that changes that. But it does reveal another layer of Collin that surprises you. You also see him momentarily through Val’s eyes and in that instant you understand why she broke up with him. The moment also adds another layer to your understanding of Miles. Like, oooohhhhh he thinks a woman should be completely ok with that. Duly noted, Miles.
By the end of the movie you see Collin for who he is in his entirety and the journey you took in doing so never let you simplify him. It never let you love him for something he wasn’t. A more pedestrian movie would give you the experience of “Some incarcerated men of color are good people.” Blindspotting give you the experience of “all incarcerated men of color are human beings, both good and bad, like Collin and like everyone else”. Y’all. That’s a big difference and it reflects masterful storytelling, and it must be said, storytelling where people of color get to tell their own stories.
And since I have mentioned Val, I have to say that I appreciated how layered the storytelling was for Val and Collin’s relationship. You first meet Val when she and Collin have an icy relationship. He’s almost off parole and he wants to show her that he can improve himself. She has her defenses up. The first introduction you get to any description of Val is Miles complaining about her. He calls her a disloyal bitch in his loud, extra way. He complains about Val not visiting Collin in jail (and presumably dumping him) the way he complains about $10 green drinks, his favorite burger place becoming vegan, and hipsters parking like shit. These are all crimes in Miles’s world.
As a woman, I did not join him in judging her. Calling a woman disloyal is just another way to describe a woman maxing out on your bullshit. But while Miles judges Val, (mostly because he judges the Collin/Val relationship through the lens of family, not romantic partnerships) the movie does not. I was happy about that, because judging a woman for leaving a relationship can become sexist hack bullshit really quickly. But thankfully that doesn't happen. Val is nuanced like everyone else.
As the movie unfolds it becomes clear that Val wants better for Collin because she still loves him. And the chemistry between Val and Collin is off the chain. The scene where she is braiding his hair and he looks up at her? Oh Lord. *fans self * And afterward when he goes in for a hug and she shuts her eyes while he is holding her like “goddamnit motherfucker why do I love this so much”. I mean. Their chemistry is freakin fire and she is so relatable. I’m a school nerd and so I’m also going to relate hard to a girl doing her flashcards trying to better herself. Another way the movie shows that it does not judge Val is that the other women do not judge Val. Collin’s mom loves Val. And Ashley is very clear that any distance between her and Val is because of a very perfuntory consession to Miles's focus on loyalty. An Ashley line I loved was “ I didn’t cross the picket line, shit I’m just following her on social media.” These women have made different choices but they do not judge one another. And you get the feeling that they care about each other a lot.
With time you see that neither Val nor Miles are perfect in what they expect from Collin. And you understand that it was never about Collin making a choice between Val or Miles expectations. It was always about Miles choosing himself. And oh god do you want him to choose himself. CHOOSE YOURSELF, COLLIN.
Look, I’m a passionate person. Latina + fangirl is a potent combo. But its also a damn good movie that touches on so many themes that matter to me.
Last thing I want to say is that this movie depicted PTSD in an incredibly honest way. As someone who suffers from PTSD I appreciate that. And on the podcast we are going to do an entire ep about media that gets the depiction of mental health right and I’ll definitely be talking about Blindspotting. I'll also give my first-hand account of meeting the amazing cast, and I’ll read a list of names Miles calls white hipster gentrifying his neighborhood. It’s good shit.
So yeah, do I need to spell it out? Go see Blindspotting when it comes out. Release date: July 20, 2018 (USA)
As a dyed in the wool geek, I want a lot of things. I want Bae Doona to have her own series as a Batman-esque dark avenger with a complicated past but instead of Alfred she has a super sexy wife who builds all of her tech. I want John Barrowman to guest on Supernatural, and flirt so outrageously with Castiel that Dean Winchester finally confesses his true feelings for his angel.
And I really really want Root and Shaw from Person of Interest to get their own show. Or movie!
You’re sensing a pattern. Super gay. But in my defense, we need more quality LGBT content. We also need Root and Shaw, no matter their sexual orientation. Even in the crowded field of quality shows, a Root and Shaw spinoff would be a stand out among stand outs. The characters are nuanced and magnetic. The actors are incredible. The themes of government surveillance, data security, global spy networks, and terrorism are more relevant every day. The themes of found family and underdogs fighting the odds are inspiring and relatable. The format has the potential for action sequences that would make you stand up off the couch. And the chemistry between those two -- holy lord. Grab your fans, your glass of water, whatever you need because you’re going to be parched.
Root and Shaw are two characters from the late great CBS tv drama Person of Interest. If you have seen the Person of Interest all the way until the end, I can hear the question mark above your head. Don’t worry. It’s tv. We can fix it.
And if you haven’t seen the show, here is the premise. Person of Interest is based in NYC after the attacks on the twin towers. After 9/11 (in the show, though this is #tooreal) the American government hires a tech genius to build them an artificial intelligence to predict acts of terror. There is nothing supernatural about it. People who are going to commit acts of terror do certain things. They buy burner cell phones, open bank accounts, visit sketchy websites, etc. Add in video cameras everywhere, and ‘The Machine’ (the AI entity the government builds) can predict any premeditated acts of murder.
Harold Finch, the genius who builds the machine for the CIA, quickly realizes something disturbing. The machine doesn’t distinguish between terror murder, and regular ol murdery murder. But the CIA has neither the interest nor the resources to do anything about the run of the mill impending murders. So, the information on the regular murders are destroyed at the end of every day, leaving people to die when they could have been saved. At some point, Harold can’t live with himself so he recruits a deadpan, laconic, former special forces badass named John Reese. Harold does the tech genius bit, John does the stalking/rescuing. Their unlikely friendship (more than friendship?subtext?) is a source of sheer enjoyment. Detective Carter, their friend on the force (perfection that is Taraji P Henson) helps them from the NYPD side of things. There’s also Lionel, but he’s a bit of a wild card.
In the first season, the show is more like ‘case of the week’. But befitting the rich, complex topics of AI, spying, data security, rogue government agencies, and international intrigue, things become complicated fast.
Enter Root. Root is a hacker at Harold’s level of genius. She is interested in Harold’s Machine. But while Harold has a deep sense of caution regarding the machine he built -- he tries hard to keep it from getting too much information that could be catastrophic in the wrong hands--Root is in love with the machine. She abhors the evil that humans inflict upon one another (she calls terrible people ‘bad code’) and she sees The Machine as the answer to the problem of us (people). She adores Harold for creating the machine but is totally perplexed and even outraged as to why he doesn’t trust his creation. Looking around at humanity, it is hard to argue with her many salient points. But it is easy to argue with her methods and doubt her values. In theory she is disgusted by evil. But she does terrible things in service to the machine. It begs the question: for Root, is the machine a path to good? Or is the machine (instead of humans) the good? Because those are two very different things, and one is incredibly sinister if you happen to value humanity.
Root is an enigmatic, layered character played with intellectual ferocity by Amy Acker. And when Root gets hooked into the machine and starts following her intel, the combination of woman/machine is exhilarating. The machine knows when a murder is going to occur, so Root finds a way to pipe The Machine’s ‘feed’ into her ear. The Machine is practically all-seeing, and gets Root out of seemingly unsolvable situations. I will never ever tire of watching Root step into a crowded hallway on orders of The Machine. As bullets fly around her, Root walks in a perfectly straight line, face serene, pulling triggers on the guns in both of her hands. Her trust that the machine will keep her safe is unshakable. She is taking down murderers and terrorists left and right all while feeding intel back to Harold. She tries not to kill people because Harold is quite fond of humans, and she is now part of his Machine team. But she herself is a damn machine.
Now let’s talk about Shaw. She is another fascinating, exciting character. Shaw works for the Other side of The Machine -- the main feed that predicts terror and sends data directly to the CIA. Shaw is essentially a CIA assassin. She took the job because she is good at it. Shaw has never felt emotions the way other people do. Flashbacks show her standing next to a car crash as a child, being completely unphased by the death of her parents. She creeps out an adult there to help her, who is expecting a human emotional reaction from the child. That’s the story of Shaw’s life. It’s why she doesn’t succeed as a doctor. She literally disturbs her patients with her inappropriate emotional responses and lack of affect. So she ends up doing a job that would torture others, because it simply doesn’t bother her: assassin. But while Sameen Shaw may not feel the same way others do, she does value things. She values loyalty. She values honesty. And when her partner is slaughtered by the CIA she is unwilling to accept it. And because of who she is, she has very little compunction about cutting a swath of violence to punish her bosses. She doesn’t angst over it. She doesn’t worry. She doesn’t fear them. She just does what she needs to do to teach them not to fuck with her.
Being on the outs with her bosses, she reluctantly becomes a part of John and Harold’s crew. It takes a whole lot of convincing. She’s not really into their mission. She isn’t a hero. But what else is she going to do? Where else will she fit in? She’s their “petite Persian sociopath” and boy does she up their game. Shaw has skills. She is brutal, decisive, resourceful, and punctual. (Ms. Shaw may be violent and uncommunicative, but she is never tardy! -- Harold Finch) And she shares an enthusiastic love of melodramatic violence -- think rocket launchers in broad daylight--with the laconic John Reese. Root dubs Reese and Shaw “The Mayhem Twins” and their partnership is truly delightful. Shaw has a sardonic nickname for Reese for every day of the week, with Root jumping in on the fun.
Sarah Shahi’s interpretation of Sameen Shaw is a constant delight. She inhabits her with such complete comfort that you feel Sameen Shaw is real. She plays Shaw’s sociopathy (of course whether she is strictly a sociopath is arguable) with incredibly subtlety and even humor. Shaw is completely unaware of how she comes across to other people. She is so disconnected from social norms. She is the awkwardest little turtle for a woman who could kill you with her bare hands. Maybe even hand. She doesn’t need much to kill you. And Shaw kickboxing the shit out of someone while wearing a ball gown is my entire sexual orientation. Just so you know.
When Shaw and Root first meet, I was not a fan of their romantic pairing. I already wanted to protect Shaw, and Root tortures her for information in their first scene together. Relationships shouldn’t start with torture, don’t @ me. However, Shaw is a little different than your average woman. She also tortures and kills and this is just another day at work for her. But they are not off to a good start. They seem at opposite ends of the spectrum. Root vibrates with ideals. In the beginning, those ideals are dysfunctional and misanthropic, but they fill her and spill out onto everyone around her. Root’s eyes brim wonder when she talks to Harold about The Machine. She can picture a better world and she will stop at nothing to make it happen. These type of emotions don’t necessarily bother Shaw, but the expectation that she should be able to respond in kind, does bother her. Shaw would like to back away from your grand dreams so she can get back to her sandwich. Her sandwich doesn’t expect her to respond with an appropriate emotional affect.
Shaw never expected anything from the world, so how could she have dreams for its destiny? She loves food. She loves the dog (Bear, the former combat dog that only responds to Dutch commands) and she does her job. Other than that, she’d like to be left alone. But her new job with the Machine’s squad starts to change her. She experiences the gratitude of people whose lives she saves. At first she finds it incredibly off putting. But at one point the gratitude of a child pierces her abject inability to empathize. It’s like a lighthouse piercing fog. It’s not complete, but it is something. It gets her attention. She starts to grasp what she is doing for people, and it reveals possibilities for who she could be in the world. Also, the acceptance of her new rag-tag weirdo family starts to work on her psyche. She starts noticing that no one cares that she’s a bit off. No one cares that she is emotionally stunted. They have her back. They show up for her time after time after time. And when she shows up for them they are grateful. Which she has a hard time accepting. Her life is transactional. She’s not sure what do do with feelings. But she notices them, and she understands that she now has a family. It is a loyal, badass family that would do anything for her. She can trust them with her life. And after the betrayals she has endured, that means something to her. In fact, it affects her profoundly. She isn’t capable of verbally acknowledging her appreciation of them. But before she herself notices it, she would lay down her life for them.
And Root starts falling in love with her. Of course she does. And in true Root style, she gushes out her feelings. Root is unfiltered. She is raw. She feels from the top of her head down to her toes, whether that is wrath, rage, disgust, or love of Sameen Shaw.
Shaw resists. Of course she does. Accepting Root’s feelings requires her to respond to them. And she doesn’t know how to do that.
But Root sees something in her. She sees Shaw’s beating heart and she knows Shaw has zero idea what to do with it or how to reach out. So Root all but shouts from the rooftops that she is willing to do all the work. Root will find and meet her where she is. Root will jump off the cliff with no net and all Shaw has to do is open her arms. Shaw starts to find inches of courage. Even a silence or a ‘maybe’ instead of a no. But you can see her defenses start to slide down. Root and Shaw are both socially inept in their own ways. Root too raw, Shaw too withdrawn. So for them, connecting consists of many false starts and awkward pauses. But boy oh boy when they get there. These two women, with their scars and trauma and tenacity, who belong to this little weirdo family and share a mission to keep the world free, these two women have chemistry that just explodes. It is a slow burn that flows to lava.
But all of these amazing developments? They happen in the last season! They are cut so short when there is so much more story to tell. Person of Interest may have come to a close but Root and Shaw were just getting started. Root started out a woman who felt self righteous enough to kidnap and torture in service of her mission, with no thought to the damage she was doing. During her time with Finches Team Machine, learns to protect humanity, in spite of its glaring flaws. Shaw evolves from someone utterly detached, to someone with family that she could trust and die for. But there was so much more to learn. And their back-stories!!! Why was Shaw the way she was? How did Root become Root? We saw snippets but not nearly enough. Person of Interest was about Harold Finch and John Reese for the most part. I loved getting to know them. But what about Root and Shaw, characters even more unique and unpredictable than Finch and Reese?
Beyond their characters, their relationship with each other is rich and complicated. Their respective approaches to humanity and the world (good, bad, violence, freedom, privacy) contrast in a way that there is immense potential for exploration. Their respective skills in espionage, hand to hand combat, enhanced interrogation, and mission strategy represent untapped excitement and plotlines. Their deep love for one another coupled with their emotional limitations is also rich terrain.
And come on, you can’t tell me that you don’t want to see these two women on your screen again.
In the mean time, Amy Acker is on The Gifted on Fox and Sarah Shahi is on Reverie on NBC.
Greetings my new friends! I am excited to join the team here as a contributor and I hope to entertain each and every one of you with my shouting. There are so many books, movies, and television shows that I plan to talk about individually, but it was too difficult to choose only one to kick off my contributions here. So I didn’t! Instead I made a list of 35 television episodes that I think are worth talking about. This list is in no way comprehensive but it should definitely give you an idea of the things I will be writing about, and in what way I will be writing about them (for instance I am more than a wee bit sweary so apologies in advance if that is not your jam). I am saving discussion of the problematic elements of some of these shows for individual posts or this list would be a novel. In the future I will be ranting a-plenty, but I’ve decided to kick things off on a positive note. These are not necessarily my favorite episodes, but rather the first ones that popped into my brain when I thought about the show in question. I've listed them in no particular order really, but the last two are my favorite shows of all time so there's that.
Let's do this.
30 Rock: Sandwich Day
30 Rock is a great show, but it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the episode I relate to more than any other is the one that revolves around sandwiches. There are so many shows I watch where the protagonists never seem to eat, or if they do they are coolly disinterested in the entire process. They often have to be reminded to eat by concerned family and friends to illustrate how tortured they are. That might be someone's experience but it sure as hell isn't mine. Liz Lemon loves food. Food is her therapy, her friend, and her father confessor. Liz kept repeatedly taking her ex-boyfriend Dennis back because despite all of his douchebaggery, every time she came home exhausted from work he had food waiting for her. Liz eats cheese at night and sings about it. She doesn't understand why men offer to buy her drinks in bars and not mozzarella sticks. And when faced with the choice between chasing the man she loves through an airport and enjoying the delicious, perfect sandwich she only gets once a year from a mystery location, she refuses to choose. Because food is important. Because goddamn it, we can have it all.
Honorable Mention: Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land because there's only one Wesley Snipes in the world.
Sex and the City: The Post-It Always Sticks Twice
Sex and the City was not a particularly consistent show, and it wasn't even a show that I loved. I liked it a lot. There were bits of it I disliked and bits of it I thought were absolutely brilliant. But this episode is classic. Things had been shaky between Carrie and her sullen writer boyfriend (played so wonderfully by Ron Livingston it was hard for me not to dislike his face forever afterwards), and he-of-the-fragile-masculinity finally decides to end it for good one morning. She wakes up after a night together to find him gone, and a post-it note on the table that says simply, "I'm sorry. I can't. Don't hate me". Carrie is furious and decides that all four of the close friends are hitting the town and having an epic night because "This can’t be the day that I was broken up with by a post-it. This has to be the day that something else happened". Hijinks ensue, obviously. The episode is clever and heartfelt and was for me, the funniest the show has ever been.
Honorable Mention: Coulda Woulda Shoulda because the end makes me cry every time.
Parks & Recreation: The Fight
Parks & Rec is everything a television comedy should be. Funny, poignant, smart, silly, and frequently inspiring. But I didn't even have to think about this one because for me there will never be anything funnier than these characters when they are drunk and/or hungover. Here Tom talks all of them into coming out to his nightclub where he and the always hysterical Jean-Ralphio are promoting their new alcoholic beverage- Snake Juice- which is, as Donna points out, "basically rat poison". Everyone who drinks it becomes wasted almost instantly. Leslie and Ann have their very first fight and it's every bit as ridiculous as you could imagine. From nonsensical insults to angry dancing, it is a fight that only two of the nicest people on Earth could have. Meanwhile this episode also blesses us with April & Andy's alter-egos (Janet Snakehole and FBI agent Burt Macklin) and Ron Swanson dancing around manically in a tiny hat. What more could I ask for.
Honorable Mention: Ron and Tammys because Paula Pell is a treasure and again- drunk Leslie.
Scrubs: My Way Home
I've worked in hospitals since 1997 so I can tell you that Scrubs is the most accurate medical show that has ever been on television. If you want to know what the life of a resident physician is like, look no further. J.D. has a single, precious day off, and the episode begins with him in a bubble bath listening to Toto (I'm sorry, how do YOU spend your days off??). Then he gets paged in to the hospital for something inane that could have been handled over the phone (real). Then while trying to leave he gets waylaid over and over by nurses, patients, and friends all needing his help (REAL). He just wants to leave but at the same time, he has no real personal life to get back to anymore. The hospital has become his home and his family, and he can't desert anyone in it or say no. That's why Scrubs can do something fantastical, like pattern an entire episode after The Wizard of Oz, and still be so realistic. Because that show understood the way your life gets absorbed into residency until there is literally nothing else left. There is a reason most doctors marry nurses, drug reps, or other doctors- because no one on the outside really understands what the life entails. It's not a job, it's an existence. And everything else will always, always come second. Even your own sanity.
Honorable Mention: My Fallen Idol because there is no physician alive with more of a conscience than Perry Cox, and this episode showed the tragic downside of that.
The Wire: Cleaning Up
The Wire is brilliant and everyone knows this. For me this episode choice is not about "favorite", or even best, episodes or seasons. This is about my heart breaking in half hearing D'Angelo say "Where's Wallace? Where's Wallace, String?" That scene will follow me always. It hurts. The whole thing hurts. Instead of clear-cut villains, I hurt for Bodie right along with Wallace. That was the moment I sat up and went holy shit, this show is going to ruin me. And I was right.
Honorable Mention: -30- because everything comes full circle.
The 100: Spacewalker
The 100 is relentless. It is a chaotic mix of warfare, politics, and above all survival. I originally had no real feelings about Clarke in either direction. At first glance she seemed to be a standard-issue, spunky blonde white girl. I didn't dislike her but I didn't see anything special to get excited about. But as the second season came around she more than earned her leadership role, and this episode proved she was capable of making the most horrible, difficult decisions a leader has to make. Finn lost his shit and massacred almost twenty Grounders in a village as revenge for something he could not be sure they had done. Clarke had a choice- try to save him even though it would mean the end of the shaky treaty she had forged with the Grounders on behalf of the Sky People and possibly start a war, or let him be slowly tortured to death as punishment for his crimes by the tribe he had wronged. Instead of doing either she went to the Grounder Chieftess and requested to say goodbye to her friend- then she herself slid a knife into the pretty white boy the show had set up to be both a main character and her romantic interest. I was fully shocked, because this never happens. He deserved to face the consequences of his actions, but pretty white boys on the good side don't ever face consequences- they get away with things! They are saved at the last moment! They are redeemed. Decades of television had taught me this. I had not yet realized that, with very few exceptions, this incredible show was going to center entirely around the female characters. Clarke gave him the gift of a swift death. She knew that some of her own people would be mutinous, but would eventually understand she had saved him from a worse fate. She also knew that although the Grounders would resent their prisoner being spared torture, they would ultimately respect the fact that she killed one of her own for his crimes against them. From that moment on, Clarke was my everything.
Honorable Mention: The Culling, because Jesus Fucking Christ.
Bob's Burgers: Mother Daughter Laser Razor
Bob's Burgers is the funniest, sweetest show. We need shows like this to balance out the awfulness in our world. This episode holds a special place in my heart because the kind of dad that Bob is makes me wish that I had a dad like that. I wish that everyone had a dad who would get his legs waxed just to support his awkward daughter. I loved Linda and Louise's forced mother-daughter-date-turned-lazer-tag-battle, but in the end watching Bob quietly make sure that Tina knows that she is loved for who she is no matter what she decides to do with her body is what made this episode so goddamn special.
Honorable Mention: Boyz 4 Now because that first time you become hormonally obsessed with a boy... the struggle is real.
Roseanne: Halloween IV
There hasn't been anything like Roseanne since it went off the air (we shall not speak of the re-boot as of yet). Seeing a working class, fat woman on TV with a loving husband and a family mirrored everything I saw in real life and absolutely nothing I saw on TV. The Halloween episodes were always special because as a kid I LOVED how much she loved Halloween. I was raised by people who thought Halloween was the Devil's birthday, so I envied the Connors of their cool mom. I recognized myself in Darlene, and I recognized my life in the cheap linoleum, the yard sale furniture, and the non-trendy clothes. Watching Roseanne lose her Halloween spirit bummed me out- watching her get it back was epic. Yes the show took a complete nosedive in the end, but the first few seasons were important in so many ways that they still do not get credit for.
Honorable Mention: Crime and Punishment because Roseanne started talking about the reality of domestic violence way before we started listening.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Spanish Inquisition
What can I possibly say about Monty Python that hasn’t already been said by someone smarter and more British than I. They really were The Beatles of comedy. The show was ridiculous, absurd, surreal, and frequently brilliant. The Spanish Inquisition sketch was a simple concept but that didn't stop it being hilarious.
Honorable Mention: Face the Press because the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch will never not kill me dead.
Archer: Lo Scandalo
No matter how many times I watch this episode, I laugh out loud all the way through it. Lo Scandalo is a masterpiece and it has everything I love about Archer. Malory's sociopathy, the gang all working together, Kriegar being a sick weirdo, hilariously clever rapid-fire dialogue... the manipulation by Malory that takes place here is utterly bananas and as usual she is ten steps ahead of everyone. But for me, Sterling provides the funniest, most relatable content upon learning of his mother's kinky (or in his words: "dildo-ey") S&M sex with the Italian Prime Minister ("Doesn't Italy use a king?"). Malory, "Look!" Sterling, "You, look! I bet I'll never be able to have sex again without thinking about this! I bet I won't even be able to eat spaghetti and meatballs. -Oh God!" Malory, "What!" Sterling, "...I could eat! I mean not necessarily spaghetti and meatballs... but, you know, not necessarily NOT spaghetti and meatballs... I mean I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Man, if I don't get some spaghetti and meatballs I may literally die."
Food is important.
Honorable Mention: The Limited, because fighting mounties on top of a train... and more importantly, BABOU.
Breaking Bad: Phoenix
I feel like this is along the same lines as my pick for The Wire. It's not that it's the best episode, or even my favorite episode. But again it's the episode when I first realized that this was a show that was not fucking around. For me Walter White's character development can be separated into two parts: before Phoenix and after Phoenix. When Walter watched Jane choke to death on her own vomit when he easily could have saved her, you knew a line had been crossed that couldn't be un-crossed. He made an inhuman decision rooted in pure selfishness, and its only end was to better manipulate Jesse. That was the moment Heisenberg was born.
Honorable Mention: Felina because this show died as amazingly as it lived.
Psych: American Duos
Psych is so much fun. It's one of those shows you can always watch. Overall it’s fairly hit and miss but watching the friendship between Shawn and Gus is like a soothing salve for your brain. Tim Curry pretty much steals this particular episode away from James and Dulé and the American Idol parody ep becomes a vehicle for his brilliance. But the boys shine in their hilarious dance sequence and it's one of the funniest episodes they have ever done. Come on, Son.
Honorable Mention: Last Night Gus because it is nonstop fun and probably my overall favorite.
X-Files: The Ghosts That Stole Christmas
How much more fun could this show possibly have?? A haunted house. A classic ghost story. Scully and Mulder in the role of a loving but murderous couple. This episode can't be written off as purely fan service because it is too fucking clever. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are both massively comedically talented and neither one of them hardly ever gets to show it off- especially Gillian who seems to go from darkly brilliant, somber murder show to darkly brilliant, somber murder show. Anytime the X-Files let them cut loose and be funny I was all in. Hysterical and genuinely creepy in equal amounts, this episode is a classic and I watch it at every year at Christmas.
Honorable Mention: Quagmire because RIP Queequeg.
Yes, you heard that right. Cougar Town. The show with a name so stupid it was doomed to be underestimated forever. Courtney Cox dates a young guy in the first few episodes then the title never holds any relevance, ever again. Eventually the show leans into it and just starts relentlessly mocking the stupidity of its own name in the title credits. Jules' life consists of wine, her (age-appropriate) neighbor boyfriend, her hilarious circle of friends, her ex-husband, her son, and a LOT more wine. Did I mention wine? This show revolves around wine. This episode popped into my mind because it's ridiculous and silly and I loved watching the crew run around the neighborhood playing sardines. It reminds me of when we were kids and we would just... go outside and play? When did we stop doing that? Adults should still do that. Saying that Cougar Town doesn't ever challenge you sounds like an insult, and maybe it sort of is but also it isn't. Some days instead of watching people lie, kill, and scheme, you just want to watch a show where you know the writers will never break up your favorite couples. They will never try too hard to be cool. They will instead make up awesome games like Penny Can and have the gang make ridiculous bets with each other, all while drinking buckets of wine. They create small issues here and there that are easily resolvable, usually in one episode. This show pats your bottom and tells you everything is going to be okay. It looks good and it feels good. It makes you want your very own cul-de-sac crew.
Honorable Mention: Little Girl Blues because I am all in favor of having actual funerals for your favorite wine glasses when they break. #RIPBigJoe
Star Trek TNG: Déjà Q
I love almost all of The Star Treks, but I grew up with TNG. The very first episode had featured Q and he was immediately my favorite. I recorded all of his episodes on VHS tapes. His god-like powers, his sass, and his flair for the dramatic made him the most fun the show ever had with a villain. No being in the universe got under Jean-Luc's skin like Q. I loved the way he effortlessly exasperated Picard. I loved it when Guinan stabbed him with a fork. I loved the way he said "Mon Cap-it-an". I. love. Q. This was my favorite Q episode because it was the first one that showed the cracks in his armor. This was Q's "human" episode.
Honorable Mention: Elementary, Dear Data. I love every Data-centric episode and I'm obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, so this was inevitable.
Bojack Horseman: That's Too Much, Man
The Bojack Horseman episode "Stupid Piece of Shit" has been heralded as a brilliant look into the depressed mind. It's is a fairly normal Bojack ep, but with the addition of his inner monologue berating him mercilessly the entire time. It's truly great, but so much has been written about it that I thought I'd choose another one that stuck with me. This episode finds Bojack painfully lonely at rock-bottom. He calls up Sarah Lynn, his one-time TV daughter turned drug-addicted pop star and frequent partner in crime ("That's too much, man." was Sarah Lynn's catchphrase on the show 'Horsin' Around' when she was a kid). She is in a sober phase at the moment but the second the chance for a bender presents itself she is all in. Sarah Lynn always represented Bojack's failure to be a good person. At one time he could have chosen to make her childhood a little less terrible by being there for her, but he never did. He wasn't cruel, just self-absorbed, and Sarah Lynn (now in her 30’s) has always paid the price for the adults around her being self-absorbed. Bojack tries to go on a therapeutic journey of making amends, but he keeps blacking out and forgetting the conversations he has when he visits the people he has wronged, so then he has to go back and do it again. It's hilarious and awful. Both of them stoned and wasted, Sarah Lynn drives Bojack from place to place as he keeps fucking up even more with every stop... until the end when he finally notices she's been asking to go to the planetarium all day and takes her there, realizing he is not the only person alive on the planet who matters. Sarah Lynn is obsessed with the planetarium simply because it is a dome. Sarah Lynn, who never got to choose what she wanted to be, quietly says "I want to be an architect." Then she dies of a drug overdose with her head on Bojack's shoulder. It's one of the most brutal things I've ever seen a show do. But it was brilliant.
Honorable Mention: Time's Arrow because it is definitely the most well-crafted episode of the whole show.
Veronica Mars: Pilot
Veronica Mars was ahead of its time and the first season was truly perfect. I chose the pilot because unlike most shows that take a while to hit their stride, Veronica Mars comes out swinging and shows you exactly what the show is going to be. It's great from literally the very first frame. Even with The Good Place (which is phenomenal) this remains my favorite Kristen Bell role of all time. Veronica is constantly underestimated- this tiny blonde with a chip on her shoulder and more brains than is good for her. Armed only with her sharp mind, a Blackberry, a pit bull named Backup, and the best Dad in the entire history of television, she fights for people who can't fight for themselves. One thing is absolutely certain- when shit goes down, you want Veronica in your corner.
Honorable Mention: Leave it to Beaver because it's rare that a show sets up the amount of mystery and intrigue that S1 of VM did and then manages to pay everything off.
The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye
Over the past 8 seasons The Walking Dead has changed a lot, and not for the better. But for my money, there are also hardly any zombie shows or movies that can compete with the first season of that show. I am obsessed with zombies and I'll watch any movie or tv show with zombies in it, no matter how awful. But from the first moment of Days Gone Bye to the last, you feel like you are watching a movie. A really good movie. The acting, the production value, even the music of the opening sequence. You are right there with Rick, experiencing his bewilderment and fear alongside him. It's a shame it has dragged on for so long because TWD was really something special once.
Honorable Mention: Tell It to the Frogs because when Rick found his family everything changed, and Shane started down the dark path that would ultimately lead to violence, shirtless head-shaving (thank you for that), and utter tragedy.
Penny Dreadful: Possession
Penny Dreadful is a beautiful, violent, twisted fairy tale. The first two seasons are worlds better than the third, in my opinion. Vanessa Ives has a dark power, but she also has an honesty and a vulnerability about her that seems to draw everyone to her, and through the course of the first season you see Ethan Chandler, Victor Frankenstein, and even the mysterious Dorian Gray come to trust her and care for her deeply. But Sir Malcolm continues to blame Vanessa for the loss of his daughter and is pitiless in his regard for her. This episode is disturbing, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Eva Green is incredible here. When she becomes possessed and everyone rushes to her side without hesitation, you can finally see Sir Malcolm realizing that he might have lost a daughter, but he found one too.
Honorable Mention: Demimonde because Ethan and Dorian Gray. BLESS THIS SHOW FOREVER FOR THAT SCENE.
Jessica Jones: WWJD
I enjoy all of the Netflix Marvel shows, but the first season of Jessica Jones outshines them all. Instead of starting out in the usual way- person gets powers, person decides to use them for good, etc., JJ starts out in the middle of her story. She has already done the superhero thing. It didn't work out. A mind-controlling sociopath used her powers for his own destructive purposes, and even though she broke free of his control she remains haunted by what she has done, and what was done to her. She is trying to do some small amount of good by being a private detective, while at the same time drinking away her PTSD and alienating herself from anyone who cares about her. Then the man who ruined her life shows back up- obsessed with Jessica now that he can no longer control her. David Tennant is brilliant here and if you had told me he had this performance in him before I saw it, I never would have believed you. Not because he isn't good because he very much is, but because he is just too goddamn lovable. But he blew me away by legitimately creeping the entire fuck out of the place. This is the episode with his grand gesture- he BUYS HER CHILDHOOD HOME and restores it to exactly the way it was before she lost her parents and younger brother in a car accident and had to go away. Watching the psychological cat-and-mouse between these two characters under the same roof is thrilling and to be honest I didn't want it to end.
Honorable Mention: Top Shelf Perverts because bringing a severed head into a police station is always a great plan.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: 100 Dollar Baby
Always Sunny is my favorite television comedy of all time and no matter how many times I watch my favorite episodes it never seems to be enough. It's original, abrasive, addictive, and much smarter than it should be. It's self-aware (unlike the characters) and the perfect amount of Wrong. These people are so awful but so goddamn fun to watch. It was difficult to pick one episode but 100 Dollar Baby might be the funniest Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson have ever been. I love any time these two team up, whether they are ruling a virtual video game world (THIS GAYME HAS GOWNE ON LOUNG ENOUF) or beating the shit out of a random dude while hopped up on steroids. The "training" sequences with the three guys make me laugh out loud and the ending is fucked up in every way that makes Always Sunny awesome. This episode is also responsible for the greatest gif to ever come out of the show.
Honorable Mention: Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack because THERE IS NO PEPE SILVIA.
Les Revenants (The Returned): Camille
The American version never happened. As long as you remember that, you will love The Returned. The acting, the writing and the tone in the French version is such that you wish they would give every other horror show lessons. The American attempt to copy it was hot garbage. Camille is the name of both the first episode and the name of a girl who calmly shows up at her family home 4 years after being killed in a bus crash, thinking it's just a regular day. She is the first but eventually people all over the village start coming back from the dead. But they are not groaning, decomposing monsters. They are in fact completely themselves, having no memory of dying or the time that has passed since- in most cases, years. They return to their families on pure instinct, and the shock and joy felt by their friends and relatives slowly crumbles into horror as it becomes clear this isn't as simple as it seems. It is an incredible show about love, family, grief, and retribution. Zombie show? Kind of. But so much more than that.
Honorable Mention:Simon, because I am a complete sucker for a good quality, doomed love story.
Space Ghost: Coast to Coast: Snatch
Space Ghost Coast to Coast seems like a show you have to be high to enjoy, and since I've never watched it high I have no excuse for how much I love it. It makes me laugh harder than any other animated show, ever. I’ve spent what is frankly an embarrassing number of hours watching it in my lifetime. I find it strangely soothing. It's packed with in-jokes, bizarre storylines, minor celebrities, and weird rivalries. It contains long stretches of silence that are funny, then go on so long they stop being funny, then keep going until finally they are funny again. It's fucking weird. Snatch is a body-snatching pod-aliens episode, which is enough of a reason for it to be my favorite. I can put on the DVDs of SGCTC and watch it continuously for like a day straight.
Honorable Mention: Banjo because why do we hurt the ones we love? WHY BANJO, WHY! BANJOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Sense8: All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet
Sense8 is a brilliant antidote to the million-and-one boring-ass, heteronormative shows floating around out there. As far as representation goes it is the fresh air you never thought you would live long enough to breathe. It is beautiful, compelling, and sexy as all hell (Three words: Psychic. Bisexual. Orgies.). And if you can get through even half of the first season without longing to have a cluster of your own, then I can't relate to you at all. The psychic connection between these characters is such a joy. Every single character is fully fleshed-out, fascinating, and given their own personal journey, relationships, and backstory- no one is neglected by the writers. But I chose this episode because every time they drop everything and come together to help one of their own it makes my heart soar. This show- every second of it- is better than we deserve.
Honorable Mention: What Is Human? because of two scenes- the one where Lito steps in to help Wolfgang by doing what he can't ("Lying is easy. It's what I do."), and then Wolfgang returning the favor by showing up to beat the entire living shit out of the domestic abuser Lito is trying to save his friend from ("Fighting is easy. It's what I do."). Those two scenes together might be my favorite interaction between any of the Sense8s in all of season one.
Dexter: Surprise, Motherfucker
Most people who loved Dexter agree that the first 4 seasons are the only good ones and the rest was downhill. Aside from the god-awful series finale, I beg to differ. My choice of the season 7 finale would not be a popular one among Dexter fans but I am a sucker for pain and I will die on this hill. When Deborah discovers that her adopted brother is the Bay Harbor Butcher, she starts to crack. You can see her mental state deteriorating slowly through the course of the season as she continues doing her job as a detective while trying to grapple with the fact that she is unable to turn Dexter in. He has always been her foundation, her only family, and she loves him desperately in a way that confuses her. Her entire universe has been shattered. Dexter tries to help her cope, tries to help her come to terms with it. Not having much in the way of emotions himself, it gets to the point where he genuinely doesn't understand why it's so hard for her. Then it all falls apart in the season finale when a suspicious Maria LaGuerta finally discovers Dexter's secret. Deborah is faced with a choice- and even as Dexter encourages her to choose LaGuerta's side for her own sake- rather than lose the person she loves most in the world Deb shoots and kills her own Captain. You know in that moment that everything Deborah Morgan was before has been lost. The final part of the episode, with Dexter protectively leading his dazed sister through a celebrating crowd, is a perfect scene.
Honorable Mention: The Getaway, for the ending that shocked us all.
Sherlock: His Last Vow
It would be difficult for any villain to follow Moriarty. The consulting criminal with his hands in everything was Sherlock Holmes' perfect counterpart and an utter delight to watch. Trying to compete with Andrew Scott's strange charm would have been pointless, so instead they went in the complete opposite direction and gave us the most repellent villain of the entire show. Nothing about Charles Magnussen (played brilliantly by Lars Mikkelsen) is intriguing, charming, or fun. He is a smug, dead-eyed bastard who "collects" people by discovering their secrets. Unfortunately Mary Watson has a dark and extremely illegal past that she's managed to keep even from Sherlock. Sherlock makes a promise to protect Mary and he keeps it- by blowing Magnussen's head off in a shocking ending once it became clear that he couldn't beat him any other way. This episode revolves around the thing I've always loved most about Sherlock as a show: loyalty. The show began with John Watson shooting someone in the head to protect Sherlock, who he had only just met, and with His Last Vow it all comes full circle.
Honorable Mention: The Reichenbach Fall because Honey, you should see me in a crown.
The Fall: What Is in Me Dark Illumine
The police finally have Paul Spector in custody, but he refuses to cooperate with anyone but Stella Gibson. The interrogation room scene between the two of them is one of the best scenes of television I've seen in my entire life. I've watched a million of these types of scenes- a criminal fixated on one particular cop, two people trying to get as personal as possible to get under the other's skin, trying to get information out of a pure psychopath to save someone who is in danger. But somehow, using dialogue and acting that deserves every single award that exists, this show elevated an old trope to something else entirely. One of the most amazing things about The Fall is that every time you think you see what's coming next, you don't. If you want to see real, honest-to-goodness skill, these two actors volleying the ball back and forth is on another level.
Honorable Mention: Beauty Hath Strange Power, for being a masterclass in rape culture.
House is a good show, if pretty formulaic, but the character of Gregory House is certainly nothing new. In fact, the character and the show are both pretty obviously inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Here we have yet another funny, cynical genius/bastard who treats people around him like crap, yet everyone still seems to care about him and everything revolves around him, etc. etc. But even though there were plenty of great characters and interesting arcs throughout its eight seasons, the reason the show mattered to me from the beginning was the relationship between House and Wilson. Maybe less than a romance but definitely more than a bromance, this relationship was consistently the most devoted and interesting one of the show. Arguably the only person House truly loves (although an argument could certainly be made for Lisa Cuddy as well), James Wilson is generous, terrible at romantic relationships, and thrives on fixing people. But House is unfixable so it was inevitable Wilson would become just as addicted to him as House was to Vicodin. Birthmarks was a perfect encapsulation of their relationship and it was also sad, funny, and poignant. Wilson decides that House needs to attend his father's funeral and House wants nothing to do with it. Wilson tries everything to try to talk House into going, until finally he gets Cuddy to help him literally DRUG AND KIDNAP HIM. House and Wilson have trouble with boundaries. Naturally it ends with House verbally ripping his father to shreds in front of the mourners and Wilson throwing a vase through the stained glass window of a funeral home. Their relationship is ridiculously unhealthy and co-dependent and yet it is the most fun relationship ever. The pranks, the adventures, the monster truck shows... House and Wilson, forever.
Honorable Mention: Last Temptation mostly because House and Wilson having a pointless bet to see who can keep a live chicken in the hospital the longest without security catching on is possibly the funniest fucking thing they have ever done.
Angel: Hole in the World
This is a perfect episode of television, from beginning to end. Joss Whedon can get predictable at times, so I feel like every once in a while he sets you up to think you know what kind of story you are about to get then purposely turns it on its head. At the start of the episode he subtly guides you into thinking you are going to be cheering the team on as they save the day, then he rips the rug out from under you in the most gut-wrenching and epic way imaginable. This episode is everything- hilarious and sweet at first, exciting, and then utterly heartbreaking. It sets up a huge shift in the direction of the season and if you thought Wesley Wyndam-Pryce couldn't possibly catch any more bad breaks, you would be very wrong. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker knocked those final scenes so far out of the park. This episode took Fred from us, but it also brought Illyria into the show and our lives were all the better for it.
Honorable Mention: Not Fade Away might be my favorite Whedon finale of them all. If Buffy's finale was about finding your strength, Angel's was about those who keep fighting even after they have none left.
The Thick Of It: Season 3, Episode 3 (episodes are not titled)
British politics, bleakness, humor, and a whole, WHOLE lot of swearing. The Thick Of It often leaves American viewers confused because they are generally used to tidiness. If not a hero, an anti-hero. If not a happy ending, a meaningful or tragic one. If not a point, then artistry in pointlessness. The problem is that none of that exists in British politics. It's a messy, frantic, never-ending clusterfuck. Power grabs, secrets, alliances... the tide can turn against you so fast that in under a day you can go from a Minister of the Crown to sludge on a tabloid reporter's shoe. It's brutal. If you count the two brilliant hour-long specials ("Rise of the Nutters" and "Spinners and Losers") it gets too hard to pick because you can do much more with an hour than 30 minutes, so I chose my favorite of the regular episodes. This is easily the funniest one of the series and it also shows you exactly who Malcolm Tucker is. Up until that point he is portrayed as a bit of a bogeyman, but the truth is he that he simply does what needs to be done- granted in an extremely sweary and bullying way. In fact, people beg for his help in a panic every bit as often as they curse his name, because when shit hits the fan they know he is the one who will know exactly what to do. Malcolm is the one pulling the strings- right up until the second he isn't. He has always understood the game they are all in and he spends his days waiting for everyone else to catch up. He frequently prods them there with strings of creative expletives that would make an 80 year-old sailor cry for his mother. But eventually even he is brought down by the poisonous system that has taken over his life and ruled his existence for decades. He sees it coming, tries to get in front of it, then goes down quietly, knowing better than anyone that this is it for him. The Thick Of It is one of those shows that is, at its heart, so bleak that you will never understand why you want to watch it over and over again. But you will. Because it is goddamn clever, and hilarious as all fuck.
Honorable Mention: Season 4, Episode 7 because it has Malcolm's final speech- the one he gives to the young unscrupulous fuck who decided he wanted to be his protégé from almost day one. I can't summarize it, so here it is.
"You know fuck all about me! I am totally beyond the realms of your fuckin tousle-haired fuckin dim-witted compre-fucking-hension. I don't just take this fucking job home, you know. I take this job home, it fucking ties me to the bed, and it fuckin fucks me from arsehole to breakfast. Then it wakes me up in the morning with a cup full of piss slammed in my face, slaps me about the chops to make sure I'm awake enough so it can kick me in the fucking bollocks! This job has taken me in every hole in my fucking body. Malcolm is gone- you can't know Malcolm because Malcolm is not here! Malcolm fucking left the building fucking years ago! This is a fucking husk, I am a fucking host for this fucking job. Do you want this job? Yes? You do fucking want this job? Then you're gonna have to swallow this whole fucking life and let it grow inside you like a parasite, getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it fucking eats your insides alive and it stares out of your eyes and tells you what to do. I'm gonna leave the stage with my head held fucking high. What you're gonna see is a master class in fucking dignity, son. The audience will be on their feet. "There he goes!", they'll say. No friends - no *real* friends. No children, no glory, no memoirs. Well, fuck them."
Doctor Who: Midnight
Midnight is not a "representative" episode of Doctor Who but in my defense there aren't many of those in existence. It is the very nature of this show that it can be a tragedy, a comedy, a drama, a sci-fi, a fantasy, an action-adventure, or a horror show depending on its mood. This episode shoots for creepy and it doesn't miss. It's reminiscent of The Twilight Zone as the horror is mainly psychological. Being trapped in space with strangers, all of whom slowly turn on each other as they realize they are not alone... that something alien has gotten in. Ten is at his most clever and most desperate here- clever as he tries to solve the mystery of what's possessing them and desperate as he races to do so before any of the passengers hurt each other. There are many episodes of DW that restore the Doctor's faith in human beings and many that make him think they might not be worth it after all. Midnight ends up being a combination of both.
As an aside, this is the only show that consistently breaks down my cynicism and leaves me optimistic and hopeful for the human race. No pressure, Doctor Who.
Honorable Mention: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances because it introduced us to our dashing pansexual hero Captain Jack Harkness, because it was the first genuinely creepy episode of Doctor Who, and because I love Nine so, so hard.
Supernatural: Swan Song
"So what does it all add up to? It's hard to say. But me, I'd say this was a test... for Sam and Dean. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well, isn't that kinda the whole point?"
Let's be honest, Supernatural should have ended with Swan Song. No, I don’t begrudge my boys their now THIRTEEN seasons (just renewed for fourteen!) and yes, we would have missed out on incredible episodes like Death's Door, The Man Who Would Be King (which is actually my 3rd favorite ep), and The French Mistake. We would never have met Kevin, Charlie, Soulless Sam or Demon Dean. It would be sad to not have all of the great things about the subsequent seasons (although we also would never have had to meet Amelia or suffer through the despicable way they killed off Charlie, sooooo...) but if they had gone out with Eric Kripke's planned series finale, it would have been perfect storytelling. The story of the Winchester boys and the destiny that had been forced upon them came full-circle. Sam and Dean threw middle fingers up to every mystical force in the universe and refused to be used- not even by all of the hosts of Heaven. And honestly, where does a show even go after it manages to beat both God and the Devil? In its subsequent 8 seasons it has never come remotely close to matching this episode. Swan Song has everything that makes Supernatural special. It was a perfect episode and a perfect finale.
Honorable Mention: Lazarus Rising for having the most badass character entrance in the history of television.
Black Mirror: San Junipero
Almost every episode of Black Mirror has something to do with a disturbing dystopian future based on our over-reliance on technology. Not this one. It takes place in the future and technology certainly comes into it, but for once it isn't bad or the cause of the downfall of society. It's just part of the story. San Junipero is a love story and also a story about love. The sacrifices we make for those we love versus the choices we make for ourselves. It's a beautifully crafted episode- the music, the wardrobe, the casting, everything is spot-on amazing and nothing is overdone. This is one of the only episodes of Black Mirror that bears repeated watchings, and the end never gets any less affecting. Also, if you're going to watch this be prepared to cry every time Heaven Is A Place On Earth comes on the radio for the rest of your life.
Honorable Mention: The U.S.S. Callister because it's creative, funny, and disturbing as fuck. For any respectable Star Trek fan there could be no other choice.
Hannibal: Wrath of the Lamb
There has never been a show quite like Hannibal. How this orgy of blood and gore was ever allowed to air on network television I will never know. Thomas Harris's novels have always been favorites of mine, but Bryan Fuller has a knack of knowing exactly what to throw out and what to keep when it comes to material that is dated. When creating his version of Hannibal he kept the essence of the characters intact but added much-needed diversity to a cast that would have otherwise been painfully dull. Far from taking away from the story the changes he made added layers upon layers to the material. Hannibal is, in my opinion, the most visually beautiful television show ever made. I defy you to get through the entire thing without accidentally finding at least one of the cooking scenes appetizing, and considering Hannibal’s favorite ingredient that is no small feat. This show is over-the-top and the characters talk like nobody on Earth speaks in real life, but every word is carefully chosen and the scripts are practically poetry. It's dramatic and bloody and wildly unrealistic- and definitely not for everybody. The series finale was everything I needed and considering the time constraints (the show was prematurely cancelled), nearly impossible to pull off this flawlessly. Instead of shrinking from the story it had created or pulling it back at the end, the show followed through on what it had been setting up since the very first episode: Will Graham becoming everything Hannibal wanted him to be.
Honorable Mention: Mizumono because a true friend doesn't stab you in the back, he stabs you in the front.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Body
This is the most brilliant episode of my favorite show. Joss lost his own mother suddenly, which comes as no surprise because nobody could make an episode of television like this unless they themselves had experienced sudden loss. Death is everywhere on television in countless forms, yet this episode is singular. If you've ever experienced grief you will absolutely recognize your feelings or reactions in at least one of the characters. The Body captures the empty space around death- the silence, the boredom... in Joss's own words, "the monotony of grief". It's such an accurate depiction of the hours that pass immediately following a sudden death that, having suffered horrifically through those hours myself, I can barely talk about it. I have watched every season of Buffy over and over throughout the years, but I only re-watch The Body when I feel the need to sob until I almost barf, which is usually once every year or so. It's simultaneously the best and most painful episode of television I have ever seen.
Honorable Mention: Once More With Feeling because it reigns supreme over every other musical episode of television ever made. And because also, it's important to remember that it could be bunnies.
Do you have any particular episodes or scenes of television that have stayed with you? Feel free to share your own in the comments!
The post-convention blues are real, my friends. They can range from the blah’s, to the blues, to full-on depression. There are some very good reasons for that. In our everyday lives, we may feel marginalized or isolated. There are few people we can connect with about the things that light our fires. We may even live in places hostile to our skin color, gender expression, or sexual orientation. When we go to conventions we find Our People.
I will illustrate why it matters to find Your People in a series of Stock Photo Comics. (I can’t draw so this is my solution). Your People do not side eye you for:
Sexual orientation/gender identity...Particular combo of ethnicity and interests...Or we just found people we could bond with over the stuff that matters to us...Not saying conventions are perfect places where every human being is a rainbow farting unicorn. NOPE NO WAY NOT EVEN A LITTLE. But we do find Our People there. We go from isolated minority to a sea of people who GET us. It makes sense that coming back to our own realities at home can be a jarring experience. So the important questions is: how can you minimize the impact of that loss? Because I want you to be happy, my fangirl/boy/non binary darling!
Integrate your passions into your everyday life. First things first. Are you filling your everyday life with reminders of your passion and joy? If you are, DO IT EVEN MORE.
Think of how you played in your childhood.
The things that matter to us in our fandoms today, flow from the imagination, play, and whimsy of our childhoods. Whether our childhoods were lovely, traumatic, or all points in between, we just got on with doing what we loved. We connected without shame to the things that filled our spirits with joy. That could have been faeries, dragons, spaceships, robots, quests, magic, monsters, it could have been anything. But to a one, our worlds of imagination offered us comfort, solace, hope, inspiration, and freedom. Then we grew up, and became disconnected. FUCK THAT. It’s time to reconnect. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you play? What did you imagine? What did you read? What do you love now that fills you with those same feelings?
Then make a list of those things. That’s your to do list of life, my friends. Take the items on that list and let them inspire you to:
- Start a creative project. That could be designing a cosplay, writing a fanfic, making a piece of art, shooting a video, or recreating props. Some Supernatural fans have literally spent months fixing up Impalas to look like Dean Winchester’s Baby, and then they get to drive around in them every day! Bottom line, be the originator of your own badass life content. It creates a consistent thread in your life of imagination and creation.
- Don’t assume that no one near you can relate. Maybe not in your town or school or home. But check meetup.com, check social media, ask on your own profiles to be connected to folks who live in your vicinity. Visit your local comic book shop and look at the flyers they have up. You never know.
- Organize a local meetup for your community with a theme. Even if they live a few hours away, you might be surprised. They could be feeling the way you are and would welcome a day trip out to you. It can be as simple as a TV-watch party for Buffy with vampire themed drinks. It could be meeting at a local diner in Winchester and bringing your con photo op binders to swap stories. It can be a Wynonna Earp cosplay photoshoot near a dive bar that kinda looks like Shorty’s. I know it can be intimidating to plan events. What if no one shows up? But here’s the thing. What they do and it is fucking amazing? Plus, having it on the calendar will make you feel like you haven’t been dropped off into the deep end.
- Stay connected with your con family through binge watching together on Skype or rabb.it. Lots of folks have remote watch parties. I have not used rabb.it. but I have used Skype and google hangouts. You just say one, two, three, HIT PLAY and then watch together.
- Put fan art or merch everywhere at work or home. Looking at it will reconnect you with the things that matter to you. Whether it’s the love and acceptance of Sense8 or the optimism and sense of possibility in Star Trek, you will always have reminders. You can get mugs, candles, art prints, cutting boards, calendars, the fandom options are endless.
- Be creative with your style. Represent your fandom wherever you go. You can find low key fandom items to wear at work. You can also play with your hairstyle. Hell, tattoos are always an option. Rock it.
- Start planning your next convention. Buying those tickets, planning your photo op poses, or deciding what you want your fave to autograph will give you something to look forward to.
- Bring headphones to work or school if possible. Listen to fandom podcasts, audiobooks, or music associated with the things you love. Even if you are only listening on your commute, that is something.
- Start projects online with your fandom. In fact you can choose a fandom based on its level of activity and creative energy. For example, if you are a Misha Collins fan, you ALWAYS have a project to work on, whether it is doing a bizarre scavenger hunt, raising money for a refugee family, or creating a piece of art with a group.
- Make time for yourself to enjoy your favorite shows/books/movies. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling in time to do that stuff, even if you are a parent. (I’m talking to myself now.)
- Write fan letters or art and send them to the people who are making a difference to you. The time and love you put into that will be time you spend thinking positive thoughts of gratitude.
Make your life better in general.
Sometimes it is MORE jarring to return home because we hate our jobs, our partners are not supportive, or our families look down on us. Tackle those issues according to your level of emotional energy and your financial situation.
- If someone is being actively homophobic or racist at work, report it if possible.
- Start building the groundwork to leave your job, or to move somewhere better.
- If your partner or family belittles your interests, it’s time to have some come to Jesus talks and good healthy boundary setting sessions.
I know this is a whole lot easier said than done because I’ve had to do a whole shitton of it. I have had good therapists help me through it. And the impact on my level of happiness was incredibly positive.
Look ahead to next time.
Prevention is worth a whole lot more than cure. Being exhausted and actually sick with con crud when you get back just compounds the misery.
- Make sure you bring hand sanitizer to the con and wash your hands often while you are there.
- Make sure you eat and take care of yourself at the con.
- If you have anything you swear by like vitamin C or emergen-c, bring it to the con.
- If you DO have the option, make sure you ask for a recovery day off work ahead of time. You will need to rest, and you will thank yourself for the brilliant planning.
Lean into it.
Will having a cry make you feel better? It’s ok to do that! Share your pain with other fans. Let yourself feel it. As long as you are taking care of yourself and you try not to wallow toooooo long, honoring your feelings is a good thing.
Make sure that if you actually have full blown depression that you get treatment from a health care professional.
Know the symptoms of depression. Here is a handy reference list from the Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
If things seem like they are slipping deeper from blue to depressed, get professional medical treatment. When in doubt, get professional medical treatment. (sensing a pattern?) Again, I know this is easier said than done. I say this as someone who has survived 25 years of major depressive disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders that have resulted in no fewer than five hospitalizations. Many of those years were spent with no health insurance, which, as an American, sucks donkey balls. I say this only so you know that I get it. I have called upon many different resources in my life – teaching hospitals, local universities, public health departments, free support groups at local nonprofits, I have tried and used it all. When I couldn’t afford it I’d call and tell them. They often came up with ways to help me. The important thing is that you don’t wait for it to get better on its own. I’ve done that and I’ve suffered for it. So I know for a fact that depression compounds upon itself. Depression is terrifying and traumatic, and having a full blown episode itself causes damage. The longer you wait, the worse the long term impact will be on your health.
So. Ask for help. If someone says no they can’t or won’t help, ask someone else. If a treatment doesn’t work, try another one. Keep doing that until you get the treatment that works. It is horrible and unjust that that you have to fight so hard for your own life, but your life is worth fighting for. I have been happy and symptom free for several years and I rate being non depressed a 15/10. I highly recommend.
And keep doing what you love.
In the end, attending conventions is worth the pain of coming back home, especially if you are taking good care of yourself in between cons, making space for joy, and if your life is nice to come home to! If you have any other advice for weathering the post-convention blues, please put it below in the comments!
And as a bonus for reading the entire article, enjoy a picture of babby 19 year old Rebekah after her first fan convention. It was the 1995 Star Trek Grand Slam convention in Pasadena and I was just a tad excited for the first female star ship captain. Can you tell? Once a nerdy feminist, always a nerdy feminist. At the convention, besides asking Kate Mulgrew to sign everything but my face, I got a 'Q' poster (you can see part of it in my hand) signed by the man himself, John de Lancie for my uberfan younger sister Michele. I also remember swooning over Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes in person. (Troi and Riker, my first 'ship). Great memories! I can't wait to go out and make some more. See you at the con!
No matter what industry you are a part of, it can be an absolute bitch to get in. It makes absolutely no sense. People have to work to maintain the economy, and there are people out here that want to work. Yet and still, even entry level jobs want you to have a master's degree, 10 years of experience, and know technology that someone who is beyond entry level would know. People are refusing to take chances on people. It is frustrating and sad.
Marvel Studio’s latest addition, Ant-Man, came out this weekend. If any of you were like me, especially if you were also a Marvel Comics fan, you were pretty much on the fence with this one about whether or not to see it. This film hasn’t had the smoothest production.
The first issue I had when they announced that they were doing an Ant-Man movie was when they announced that Michael Douglas was going to be playing Dr. Hank Pym. There was probably a collective “huh” that escaped from the Marvel Comic fandom. Not that Micheal Douglas isn’t a great actor, but his presence states a certain age for the character that just didn’t make sense. While we were chewing on that for a bit, Marvel Studios announced that Paul Rudd would be playing Scott Lang and be taking the mantle as Ant-Man, not a surprising move since they clearly aged Dr. Pym, but it didn’t really make sense, still. Another shocker wasn’t so much that there wouldn’t be a Wasp character, but no Janet Van Dyne.
Dr. Hank Pym is one of the original Avengers in the comics. While he did fight alongside his fellow Avengers, Pym was a man of science, and not a soldier. There was many a time that Pym refused to go to battle. He was also a man that preferred to talk things out before using his fist. Unfortunately, the majority of Hank Pym’s stories throughout the comics also include if do not involve his wife Janet Van Dyne, also known as the Wasp. If you are going to create a movie and kind of do the basics of Pym’s life, you would think she would have a pretty large presence in the film somewhere. It became pretty clear that newly hired Evangeline Lily would not be Janet, but they didn’t really reveal her as Pym’s daughter until much later.
So yes, this film didn’t have Janet Van Dyne for us, but it was also the storyline of Avengers: Age of Ultron that caused a lot of concern for Ant-Man. Long before the Age of Ultron movie came out in theaters earlier this summer, we were very aware that Dr. Hank Pym would have no involvement. That to a comic book fan like myself was pretty unfathomable. Ultron has always gone hand in hand with Hank Pym and Tony Stark, but mostly Hank Pym. Ultron was originally a creation for peace, but Ultron turned out to be the very epitome of the sin pride. Every good intention of Tony and Hank went into Ultron. Tony built the technology that would make Ultron powerful enough to stop any if not all obstacles and challenges to protect the Earth. Hank made Ultron intelligent and made him think by creating a way to map his own brain and program it into Ultron as its artificial intelligence. They created him to protect the Earth, but forgot to have him protect humanity. Ultron calculated that Earth’s greatest threat was humanity. The point is that the faults Ultron had made it capable for the Avengers to stop him, was that he had Hank Pym’s faults. Pym and Ultron have always been very connected in every variation in the comics, but we were going to have a movie with Ultron and no Hank Pym.
The Ultron storyline for the second Avengers movie is truly the reason why I was concerned with how the Ant-Man movie was going to work, but you know what? It was Avengers: Age of Ultron that really gave me the reason to give it a chance. I got the mind stone aspect of the Ultron story. It made sense, and most importantly didn’t give Tony Stark power than he never had in the comic books. Tony’s a genius, but there are places in the scientific world that he may understand, but can’t compete. Avengers: Age of Ultron not only made me okay enough to chance the Ant-Man movie, but understand that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is very much its own beast.
What you will expect in Ant-Man is hilarity. It isn’t action focused. The origin story is very reminiscent of Iron Man. The first Iron Man movie had a lot more action scenes due to the nature of Tony’s origin, but it’s the same formula. Paul Rudd and Adam McKay took Edgar Wright’s original script and finished it. These are men known for their comedy, and it is in there. Paul Rudd was pretty much is usual sarcastic self, but Michael Peña was killing me in this movie. This is an actor that I consider a chameleon. Peña has terrified me, made me cry, and made me laugh on a variety of occasions. When he does funny, though, this man is funny. He had me crying.
So yes, this was a very different Marvel movie. One that showed its funny bone as opposed its muscles. It was still a story, it introduced both Scott Lang and Dr. Hank Pym and why they needed each other. It was very refreshing, actually. Marvel Comics have always balanced the emotional spectrum very well, and just as some characters may lean in serious or comedic direction, story arcs or issues can do this as well. I like seeing that the films are leaning on that formula as well. This could be considered the worst Marvel movie so far, but if I ever want to fail at something, this is the way I’d do it.
What Ant-Man also did for me was solidify that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its own, and it will flip, play, and do as it sees fit. There will always be nods to the comics, and in some instances it will follow the heart of the comics if not pull directly from them. This world will do what it wants. It is terrifying, especially when Marvel Studios is gearing up to drop the Civil War story, which clearly has to be very different, since we don’t have many heroes nor any X-Men. It was kind of an all hands on deck storyline. I will just have to wait and see. The other one that terrifies me is the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, because I am a Carol Corps girl. Her character is fantastic to play with. She has been through everything, and is a very serious but fun character. She has so much to offer for a film, but we will just have to wait and see.
Continuing from Afterburn: Prologue
Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.
“Sanctuary, Rhode Island has been around since the first immigrants and pilgrims came to America,” My mother said as she hung the clothes she just unpacked into my closet. “There’re still a lot of books and artifacts that your grandmother left with the house. Your father always says that the museums have been hounding her for the collection for years. He’d sell them himself if he wasn’t so afraid that your grandmother would come back to haunt him for doing it. They’ll all be yours someday, since she has dictated in her will that they stay with the family.”
I just smiled and nodded, but continued folding clothes and placing them in my dresser. This was my mother’s daily attempt to try not to alienate me. My new therapist, she apparently went to the same school as my former psychiatrist, told them that in anger and confusion over my actions, there comes alienation, a compulsion to separate oneself from the problem. The psychiatrist then promptly assured me that I was not the problem, just my actions, which is why my mother has barely stopped to breathe in the last two hours as she has helped me unpack my room. I already knew that this house, though it should really be called a mansion due to its massive size, used to belong to my grandmother and has been in the family for several generations. My mother was excitedly telling me about my family history, excited, because, for once, she had something to talk to me about and something to occupy her, my room, during today’s anti-alienation attempt. My ancestors, the Brannellys, fled their homeland of Ireland to escape persecution, yadda, yadda, yadda. The family line has always been known for the boys they produce. Rarely is there ever a girl. In fact, my grandmother was the first female in five generations, making myself an anomaly as well. The men in the family, including my father, tend to be enigmatic, but the females seem to take a more recluse route, as with my grandmother, and so shall it most likely be for me. This mansion may one day be my only refuge, just as it was for dear old granny.
I never actually met my grandmother. I always got the impression from my parents that she wasn’t quite sane, something they never seem to forget during my therapy sessions. Dad was obviously left the house after she died six years ago, but was too ambitious in Maryland to ever want to leave. That was, at least, until I set a barn on fire. I think my father is hoping that the names Meyers and Brannelly have enough presence to overshadow my faults, and he and my mother can go about normal lives even with a crazy daughter. If the house is supposed to stay in the family, then that means I’ll always have a home, even if I end up a total recluse. After the barn fire, I don’t see a whole lot of other options for my future. It is a dreaded fate, but being a freak and forced to be a new girl at a new school is far more dreadful.
I had tried to talk my parents into hiring a private tutor, playing the crazy card, but my therapist told them that my obsession with fire has only been a threat to myself. No one has ever been directly a target. Emersion into a scholastic environment will only encourage socialization of some kind and will be a great benefit to my self-esteem. Apparently, my therapist was homeschooled, because high school is never a benefit to anyone’s self-esteem. I am especially not looking forward to school, because my therapist is forcing me to make a friend. I am stuck with choosing the better option of making a friend having them find out that I am either a freak who will possibly endanger them or continue to remind my parents of the failures they are for producing such a child with destructive tendencies.
The key to this decision is that the therapist said she would consider reducing and eventually quitting all medications that I am currently prescribed. The fact that I don’t actually take any of the medications isn’t important. It’s just that my parents also think I take them as well as the school I will be attending. It’s always easier to stay under the radar unmedicated as opposed to medicated, and it will give some peace of mind to my parents.
I cut my mom’s ramblings off when I finished putting away everything in my dresser to ask if I could take a bike ride around town. Most of the time my mother knew that she or my father had to force me out of the house. Since the anti-alienation started, I’ve begun feeling quite smothered, and my only option was to leave the house in search of a secluded, quiet spot. She was all too eager to allow me to leave and even gave me twenty bucks to spend as I liked. I was zipping up my hoodie and about to leave my room when she stopped me.
“Sarah, sweetheart, this is a fresh start for you. Try to make the most of it and find a friend,” she said.
“Sure, Mom. I’ll try,” I replied, forcing a smile.
She walked up to me reaching out to touch my cheek, a ghost of worry hinting within her eyes. “You’ve grown up so much. I hardly remember how little you once were. Mmmm…it’s funny, but you look so much like your grandmother. You should look at her portrait when you get downstairs,” she smiled brightly, hiding her fear. She probably put my grandmother and me together, thinking, just as I had been, of my fate and the possibility of following in my grandmother’s footsteps.
“Too bad I couldn’t look like you, huh? That wouldn’t have been so bad,” I smirked but smiled as my mother gave me a shy smile that reached her golden brown eyes, and withdrew her hand from my face to gently brush her chocolate hair behind her ear. It was a rare and modest moment for my mother that only my father and I ever got to see. She usually spends most of her time as the perfect and glamorous housewife. I think it was tender moments such as these that made my father fall in love with her, probably because it brought the same side out of him.
“Um, thanks again, Mom, for helping me unpack,” I said tugging at the strings of my hood. “And, I really think that I can make a change here.”
“I’m glad to hear that, sweetheart,” she replied. “Have a good time.”
I nodded and made my way downstairs. I stopped in the foyer taking the time to look at my grandmother’s portrait. The plaque beneath it read, “Gabrielle Linette Brannelly Meyers.” A mouthful, I know, but my mother was right about me. I did look like my grandmother. She must have been somewhere in her early forties when this was painted. Her hair was the same deep auburn as mine. The painter even captured the same natural gold highlights I had. I did not, however, have the flipped out haircut that I can only describe as the precursor to the “Farrah” hair phenomenon, a fact that I am most pleased about. Though the hair did match the dark green one shoulder ensemble she wore in the painting, pretty saucy actually. Go Grams, get down with your bad self! There was one major difference between us, my eye color. My grandmother’s eyes were the same shade of green as her outfit, just like my father’s. Mine came from my mother. They were the same chocolate shade as hers, except mine had tiny golden flecks that highlighted them, much the same as the highlights in my hair. Other than that small flaw, I was staring at what I’d look like in my forties, and well, if I was stuck in 1974. That began to creep me out a bit, so I bid adieu to Gram Gabby and headed outside to grab my bike.
Fall was just about to settle on Sanctuary, but the summer warmth still had a lingering grip on the air. I was glad I chose to wear a tank top under my hoodie. The mansion had enough land surrounding it to give it a private and secluded feel. It was going to take me some time to get used to the neighborhood that immediately burst forth as I exited the gate. Our property sat at the end of a lane, easily the largest, but the other houses could never be considered small. I headed up the lane towards Main Street where most of the businesses in Sanctuary resided. Just as I was riding along a brick adorned wall that framed the front of a mansion a few places down, a black, sports convertible, carrying four teens about my age, barreled out of the driveway causing me to break hard and lose my balance, falling to the ground.
“You better watch where you’re going, girl. I could have easily got fifty points for tapping that fine ass of yours!” the blond driver cackled behind his sunglasses. I’ve been ridiculed long enough to know when to pick my battles. As offensive as he was acting, I opted to just ignore him, too concerned with my current state on the ground.
“Nice one, man!” his friend guffawed, the sun gleaming off of the coffee toned skin of his bald head. The guy even stood up, seatbelts apparently eluding him, to get a better look at me as I scrambled to right myself.
There was a well groomed blonde girl sitting in the back behind the gawker that tittered. Yes, she was actually tittering, well poised hand at mouth included. The other passenger in the back was the only one not smiling. Concern seemed to spread across his strong dark features.
“Are you alright?” he asked, brushing a hand back through his long, shaggy hair, while I was attempting to pull debris from my hair. His voice was deep and masculine, stealing my apt attention immediately. Partnered with his celebrity dark looks, it would be hard not to call the guy attractive. They were the same features that got me into my last mess and ended with a barn burning down. The guy did manage to convey a lot more concern in three words, than Paul Stanton ever managed in any of his conversations. That was probably because Paul was lying to me the entire time.
I decided to reply back to the guy since he was trying to be nice. Apparently, the tool in the driver’s seat thought that enough time had been spent and floored the accelerator leaving me hacking at the dust kicked up by the car. Well, the locals were sure friendly.
I found the drugstore easily enough. It was part of the largest building on Main Street next to the grocery store. I locked my bike to railing located in the front of the store and headed in. The inside was a mix of modern and old fashion. The owner seemed to prefer the original feel and touches of the drugstore with the maintained, oak woodwork throughout the space and only conceded to make new changes out of necessity like a small refrigeration and freezer section. I set off for the magazines and books to restock my supply. I may prefer to be antisocial, but I like to stay on top of gossip and pop culture, Movies and books have been my way of staying connected and even allow me to escape from the world that I created for myself. I tend to favor “weird” books or movies, as my father has dubbed them. They sometimes allow me to think that I’m not alone with my burden. The newest novel by my favorite author sat on the shelf beckoning me. It was a “weird” novel of course, but it was excitement for me. I had just picked it up and was reading the back flap when a male voice spoke from right behind my shoulder.
“Ah, the new Beckman, just what I was headed over here for,” the familiar voice said, causing me to jump. I turned around to find the attractive guy from the car. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he smiled apologetically, while he reached for his own copy. “Um, are you alright from earlier? Blair didn’t give you a whole lot of time to answer. He likes to show off, especially with that car.”
The guy could have said more things to me, but I was a little too engrossed in staring into his eyes. They were a startling ice blue color and intense. I had never seen anything like it before. Distracting just didn’t seem like a strong enough word. I had to swallow hard before I answered, “For the most part. Just a little startled.”
“Well that’s good,” he smiled. Yep, this guy was going to be dangerous. “You’re Sarah, right, living in the old Brannelly place? I’m Alton,” he raised his hand out to me.
I took it hesitantly, because I’m not impolite, when what he said before his name sunk in. I snatched my hand back and demanded, “How did you know my name or where I lived?
He smirked clearly amused. “Easy, I’m not some stalker. It’s just the disadvantage of living in a small town. News like the Meyers heir moving back is the juiciest gossip the people of this town have had to chew over for a while,” he said sheepishly, raising his hand to run it through his hair absentmindedly. “Plus, it was outside my house where you almost got ran over. My mom stopped by yesterday to welcome your family to the neighborhood, because we’re neighbors,” he emphasized.
“Well, that’s a relief,” I said, hopefully convincing. I would have been happier if he came off as a creep, easier to ignore. I turned myself back towards the book rack fingering for the last book I wanted. “Damn, no new Calloway novel. I’ll just have to get it online,” I sighed.
“You like Calloway, too?” Alton asked. Yep, he was still there. “I am forever being criticized for reading that kind of stuff, nice to know I’m not alone,” he smiled.
“Not favorites of my parents either. That’s why I usually leave Jane Austen books lying about,” I said as I clutched my merchandise to my chest.
He laughed, “I do the same thing with Hemingway. If you want to get anything remotely decent here, you have to go to the library or as you mentioned buy them online. The library stays pretty well stocked. The librarian is good people and a fan of Calloway.”
“That sounds like a plan, thanks,” I replied. “Nothing sounds better than getting lost in some stacks with a book. Thanks again, Alton. It was nice to meet you.” I began to head towards the front when the warm gentle touch of fingers gently pulled my hand back.
“Look, I can show you where the library is,” Alton offered.
“I’m sure that’s not necessary. It can’t be that hard to find,” I smiled and turned for the register. Alton was fast at my heels.
“It’s cool, really, I have a few things I’ve been meaning to pick up there,” he smiled again as I handed the guy behind the counter a twenty. I should say no. Every instinct in my body told me that I should remember what happened last time. There was just something in his eyes when he smiled at me. Something that compelled me to trust him over everything which is why I nodded him a yes and found myself walking with him out of the store, directly in front of a black sports convertible with three people in it.
“You sure do walk better than you ride a bike,” the arrogant voice of the guy, I now assumed was Blair, rang out from behind the steering. His friends in the car found it just as amusing. This type of guy should be locked away in a zoo, because they have nothing to offer normal civilization. This was the same type of guy that made up most of Paul Stanton’s friends. I just figured out too late that a lot can be said about a guy by who his friends are. Not wanting to show any vulnerability this time, I replied, “I guess? It is what we learn first, so I’m just going to assume you walk better than you drive.”
“You’d be surprised to find out that they’re actually pretty even,” Alton smirked.
Blair didn’t seem to enjoy being made fun of by me, so Alton’s comment really got under his skin. “Always a comedian, huh, Alton? Get in the car. We’re meeting the rest of the gang at Cliff Pointe,” he growled, but kept his gaze on me.
“Nah, man. You go on ahead. I’m heading to the library. I’ll catch up with you later,” Alton said cooly.
“Oh, I see,” Blair replied slowly eyeing me with a smirk.
“Blair, you don’t always have to be an ass. I’ll catch up with you later,” Alton sighed, clearly frustrated.
Blair took this opportunity to start the motor and floored the gas pedal like a predatory growl. Before he began to maneuver the car back on to the road, he said, “Your loss, little cousin. Guess I’ll have to keep Handley warm for you. Unless,” turning to address the girl in the back seat, “You want to go to the library, too?”
This caused the girl, Handley, to grin like the Cheshire Cat. The sun practically beamed off her teeth threatening to blind anyone in the vicinity. “No,” she said, “there wouldn’t be any fun in that. Sorry, Alton.”
I swore I heard Alton mumble “I bet you are” under his breathe.
“Let’s motor, Gilk. I’m hungry!” the behemoth in the passenger seat cried out.
Blair floored the car in reverse before snapping at the guy, “You’re always hungry Terry!” The car took no time disappearing around a corner. I was just glad that this last exit didn’t leave me with more dirt to get out of my hair. I headed for my bike unchaining it and pulling it to my side. I turned to Alton to ask which direction the library was, when he gracefully took my bike from me. He rolled slowly down the sidewalk towards what I hoped would be the library. Once I got my bearings back, I ran to catch up, attempting to smoothly sidle up beside him like I’d been there all along.