I Regret to Say I Really Disliked Season 1 of The Rings of Power

I Didn't Like Season One of The Rings of Power

Though I had no initial plans to watch The Rings of Power, I ended up viewing season one with a friend. I went in with an open mind, knowing that most of the material would be created solely for the show and not based directly on Tolkien’s stories. Even so, I found myself uninterested in most of the characters, bored by the slow pacing, and confused by the gaps in logic and plot. That such a big show would have such poor writing truly baffled me. The main concern of the showrunners seemed to be to tease viewers with potential characters who might be Sauron in disguise–to the detriment of developed character and and story building. Below are my thoughts about various aspects of the show, in more detail.

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Poor Character Building

I had difficulty connecting with RoP from the start because I simply did not care for any of the characters. Because the show chooses to follow several different narratives (that will presumably converge, eventually), most of the characters, when first introduced do not receive enough screen time for viewers to understand who they are, what makes them tick, or why we should root for them. Bronwyn and Arondir, for instance, are reduced to a couple who awkwardly lock eyes from time to time. But I have no idea what Bronwyn’s station in the village is (some sort of healer who makes enough money to wear blue dye when no one else in the Southlands does?), how she met Arondir, or why she cares for him. I still remain uncertain how she ended up the leader of the village when she did not seem to have any standing among her people before the orcs arrived. I really didn’t care if she and Arondir lived or died, and my opinion did not change as the season progressed because viewers only ever receive a few snippets of background information on the two. Yawn. The Southlands portions of the show were some of the most boring.

The Harfoots, meanwhile, have their own character inconsistencies. The show sets them up to be rugged and loyal, chanting, “Nobody goes off trail! Nobody walks alone.” And then they read the book of the dead–all the Harfoots they left behind because they could not be bothered to lend a hand to their friends and neighbors. Why they all tear up at this is unclear. Are they weeping for their own cruelty? Apparently not because when Nori’s father Largo has trouble walking, the Harfoots leave not only him but also his entire family to perish in the wastelands, with never a second thought. But wait! That’s not good enough! The Brandyfoots are viewed as a danger to the group, so some decide that even allowing the group to attempt to migrate is folly. There are calls to take their cart wheels away so they are forced to be left behind and presumably starve or be eaten by wolves. All this makes it really weird for Largo to end the season with a rousing speech about how loyalty and support is what makes Harfoots Harfoots. They have no loyalty, Largo! They wanted to kill you!

And let us not forget the sudden change of heart the Harfoots need to have to welcome and appreciate the Stranger, before lovingly waving good-bye to him and Nori as they set off together. The whole season showed that the Harfoots only care about the Stranger when he helps them, and are willing to turn on him as soon as he makes a mistake. And then his being tangentially involved in Sadoc’s death and the near deaths of three other Harfoots is what makes all the Harfoots appreciate him in the end? I would think they would be chasing him away with sticks and cursing his name (if he had one). I am left wondering if the showrunners are trying to make me admire the Harfoots for their ruggedness, or feel horror and disgust at their callousness.

But while the Harfoots are a perplexing group, I truly did not know what to think about Galadriel. Her introduction shows the famed Commander of the North leading a ragtag band into the freezing cold past their strength and past their orders. She’s fully prepared for them all to die so she can get revenge. Why is she a leader, again? She has zero leadership qualities! Which is exemplified again when she visits Numenor and, instead of politely introducing herself to the court, she insults the whole country before demanding they form an army to follow her into Middle-earth. Please keep in mind that, at this point, they have no evidence that orcs are stirring in the Southlands and not the faintest idea of where Sauron is, so there’s no real tangible enemy she can even ask them to fight. But why all the rudeness? Galadriel may be hot-headed, but she is from a noble family, she is part of Gil-galad’s court, and she is supposed to be a leader of an army–and she has no concept of diplomacy. This makes her later speech about the need for humility all the more bizarre. She doesn’t have any. I kind of hated her, which is not, I think, what the showrunners were hoping for, since she was marketed as the main protagonist.

And why is the show so invested in suggesting that Galadriel is morally gray and could turn evil at any moment, with the right nudge? Is it for drama? Is it because modern audiences are assumed to find actually good characters unrealistic? What am I supposed to think of Galadriel when she spends seven episodes seeking Sauron and then, when she finds him, she lets him go to save her own reputation? I suspect I am supposed to find it all thrilling because one just never knows what Galadriel will do next! Maybe she will even have a little romance with Halbrand! (Ewwwww.) But having a character flail all around the place is not how one makes a character realistically three-dimensional.

Who were some of the only bearable characters? Elrond, Durin, and Disa–not only because their camaraderie is endearing, but because, tonally, they make the most sense. Their characters do not bounce all around, with the showrunners trying to make me like them at some points, and then having them “touch the darkness” randomly just to keep things interesting. If they were going for the vibe that, “Everyone in this show is morally gray and complex!” they failed. A mess is not complexity.

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Illogical Politics

I have no idea what is supposed to happening with the politics in this show, but I have a feeling I’m not supposed to care. I’m supposed to just go along with the spectacle. For example, how did Bronwyn become a leader for her village? Why did Adar just let Arondir go instead of coming up with a plan actually worthy of a villainous mastermind? Why did Numenor decide to go to war in Middle-earth when Galadriel cannot promise them they will even find an enemy there? Seriously, she finds a symbol that references (in the vaguest possible way) a place on a map and a whole island nation that allegedly hates Elves decides it is a good use of public funds to follow a random Elf, sail there, and see what is up? And who is Pharazon? I know who he is in the books, and I know the show finally indicated he is the Queen Regent’s cousin, but why is he running all over the island making speeches? What is his actual job? I don’t know, but he’s probably not good at it since he decided a bunch of strangers should be allowed to sit alone in the dying king’s bedroom and draw him. And is he the one who left all the military ships unguarded, to be blown up by a teenage discontent with no actual skill in espionage? Numenor needs to get it together.

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Cringe-Worthy Dialogue

This show has some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard. The awkward, meant-to-be-inspirational bits are bad enough, like the constant calls that, “The sea is always right!” (Worst catchphrase ever.) Or Finrod’s memorably sage advice that, “Rocks look downward.” (No, they don’t.) But then we have gems like, “Give me the meat, and give it to me raw!” (I don’t know. This sounds nasty?)

The writing also often fails to work tonally or in context. For instance, when Theo asks his mother to say what he used to tell her when he had bad dreams, she answers, “In the end, the shadow is but a small and passing thing. There is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. Find the light and the shadow will not find you.” Apparently, the need to reference Sam’s words in LotR overcame the need for a mother to give a realistic answer like, “Shh. It’s okay. I’m here.” Which is what one might suppose a mother would say to a child with a nightmare!

And then there is the big reveal when Halbrand asks what drives Galadriel to seek Sauron when all others have given up. This was the moment when it was all supposed to come together, when viewers really started to understand Galadriel and her quest. The answer? “I cannot stop.” It almost felt like the writers didn’t know what to say, so they went with vagueness.

I can say definitely that the cringey dialogue is one of the worst aspects of the show. The writers so clearly thought they were channeling their inner Tolkien to write catchy snippets that would inspire and sound deep and, like many who reach for the heights, they fell unusually low.

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Awkward Pacing

Some have indicated to me that the show is a “slow burn” and it’s worth it to wait and have it all start to come together in the end. I find that strategy odd because I was so bored and uninterested by the first two episodes, I wanted to stop watching altogether. I only managed to get through the season because of pressure from a friend. I had zero interest in the characters, since there were too many of them to be developed adequately at the start and, when I tried to sum up the episodes, I was left with random assortments like, “Galadriel floats a boat. The Harfoots walk around. Elrond smashes a rock with an axe.” Good stuff.

The focus on the show seems to be not on plot or character development, but with teasing viewers about character identities and withholding information just for the sake of creating mystery. For instance, the driving force of season one seems to be the questions, “Who is the Stranger?” and, “Which character is Sauron?” and the creators play that up, with characters periodically accusing one another of being Sauron only to be told they are wrong. These puzzles take up more energy than actually developing the characters or the logic of the plotline.

Other random information is also withheld, seemingly just for the purpose of making viewers wonder about it so the showrunners can triumphantly pull out the answers later. This is presumably why we still have no clue about what happened to Theo’s father or why Galadriel randomly announces several episodes in that she has been married this entire time, but her husband is missing and presumed dead. Viewers know Celeborn isn’t dead. They’re just supposed to wonder when he’ll pop up.

Though it has its moments of suspense, Tolkien’s writing is very straightforward, and he never spends time trying to trick readers into thinking characters are not who they thought, or leaving out information just so people can speculate about it. Deliberately misleading viewers just to shock them is admittedly a valid strategy, especially in the age of the internet, when fans can immediately go online to try to puzzle out the mysteries together. It is, however, arguably not Tolkien-esque. Perhaps more importantly, however, the question, “Which character is really Sauron?” does not seem pressing enough to spend an entire season on, to the detriment of actual character and plot development.

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Uninspired Allusions to Peter Jackson’s Trilogy

I am not entirely sure what viewers are supposed to get from the numerous, indeed, overwhelming, numbers of allusions to Peter Jackson’s LotR. They do not often seem to be thematically important. For instance, why should I particularly think of Arwen riding to the Ford of Bruinen when Galadriel is riding a horse? Should the Numenorean charge recall Rohan’s charge? It would make more sense to tie them to Gondor, no? I found the allusions tiresome, as I do not want to play “spot the reference” when trying to immerse myself in a secondary world.

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Thematic Inconsistencies

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the show, for fans of Tolkien at least, will undoubtedly be the decision to make the Elves’ immortal souls fade away unless they can bathe in the light of mithril (said, in the show, to contain the light of one of the Silmarils). This plot point has a lot of logical problems, of course. How did the light of a Silmaril imbue a bunch of random ore? How does that work, precisely? And how much mithril is needed to save everyone? (Answer: three rings’ worth will do because handwavy magic??) If the Elves need the light of a Silmaril, why can’t they just stand outside when Earendil passes by in the night sky? He has one in his ship, after all! And why is this even happening in the first place? How on earth did the trees of Lindon decide to die and indicate the “rise of evil” when, at that point, Sauron is apparently still stuck in the middle of the ocean and maybe/maybe not considering a simple life as a peasant blacksmith? Maybe the leaves should have decided to die at a more pressing time like, I don’t know, when Morgoth was taking over Middle-earth?

The real problem with this plot point is, of course, that no power that is not Eru (the One) should be able to kill an immortal soul. And the power of the Valar should not be able to save a soul. (The Silmarils contain the light of the Trees of Valinor, which were made by the Valar.) It simply is not consistent with Tolkien’s worldview to suggest that a soul can be made or unmade by anyone who is not the God of that world. Honestly, I found the suggestion to be shocking, considering how the showrunners were assuring everyone that they are huge Tolkien fans, and considering how many Tolkien scholars were gathered before the show’s release to Tweet out their approval of this new vision of Tolkien’s world.

I understand the show is almost entirely fan fiction since the rights to the material concerning the Second Ages are limited. I was not expecting the show to be the work of a Tolkien purist. But this whole idea seems rather wild, even for an adaptation. Even if we go with a vaguer explanation about the need to reclaim the light of Valinor to stop the Elves diminishing, I cannot see how implying that an external source can change one’s internal state would ever be thematically consistent with Tolkien’s vision of good and evil. Is it supposed to be like a reverse of the One Ring? As the One Ring tempts one with power until one is corrupted and chooses evil, the Silmaril light inspires one until they start following the Valar again? Maybe? But I think the show needs to develop this further since the entire Silmarillion is about how the light of the Silmarils tempted Sauron to invade Valinor and then lead the Elves to centuries of warfare as they attempted to reclaim the jewels, and turned on their own kin in order to possess them. Clearly just being in the presence of a Silmaril does not inspire one solely to goodness.

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General Inconsistencies

If we really want to get into the nitty gritty of the show, there was plenty to baffle and annoy me. One thing that really struck me was the inconsistency of how Elves experience time. Tolkien wrote that an Elf year is 144 sun years. The show references the idea that time passes differently for Elves when Durin chastises Elrond for not visiting in 20 years, even if that seems like nothing to an Elf. At other times, however, the show forgets this and has Arondir speaking of 70-some years in the Southlands as a long time, when really that would probably seem like six months or so to him. He also speaks of his youth 200 years ago like that’s a long time.

Then there are the strange moments that make no sense. Galadriel, Commander of the Army of the North, chases an enemy to retrieve a powerful object–only to give it away to a random Elf without looking at it or asking questions. The orcs release Arondir for no reason, after killing a bunch of Elves over a tree, as if the showrunners were not sure how to have him escape. Pharazon lets strangers sit in the king’s bedroom without supervision, even though previously no one was allowed to see the king at all for any reason. Miriel reverses her entire worldview in about ten seconds because some leaves fall off a tree–and the anti-Elf sentiment in Numenor that literally caused the removal of the previous ruler immediately vanishes as they all agree to go fight in a foreign land for people they have never seen and know nothing about. A sword is a key that turns a rock that breaks a dam that causes a volcano? (Sorry, I got lost there.) Internal logic in a story is important to me, but I saw very little of it here.

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A Few Things I Liked

As many have said, the CGI looks great. I also enjoyed Elrond, Durin, and Disa. Nori is a fun character, even if the Harfoots seem cruel. And I thought it was a fair choice to make the Elves seem more supernatural/superhuman with some of the fighting skills shown by Galadriel and Ardonir. I also liked the attempt to make the orcs seem more nuanced, with Adar’s insistence that they have souls and deserve a home. (I’m not sure where the show is going with this, though, since it’s hard for viewers to sympathize with orcs creating a home by killing everyone in the Southlands and literally forming Mordor. Expansion on this point is needed.) I also thought pretty much all the actors did an excellent job, even when the material given to them was poor.

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Rings of Power fails for me, not as a Tolkien adaptation, but as a show. I understood going in that the creators only had the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and would be making up almost the entirety of the show. I was not expecting a purist adaptation of Tolkien. However, the lack of character backstories, the flip-flopping of characters from good to evil, the slow pacing, and the logical inconsistencies and baffling politics, would make me rate any show poorly–even if it had nothing to do with Tolkien. I did not enjoy watching Rings of Power, and the show sadly is unlikely to be part of a new beloved fandom for me.

TV Series Review: All Creatures Great and Small (Seasons 1 & 2)

All Creatures Great and Small TV Series Review


Fresh out of college, James Herriot arrives in Yorkshire, England to act as assistant to the local veterinarian.  He quickly finds practicing medicine vastly different from what he had expected.  The job requires him to labor at all hours of the night and day, often in bad weather, and healing animals proves difficult, dirty, and sometimes dangerous.  Even so, Herriot grows to love the countryside, its inhabitants, and his work.

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The newest TV adaptation of James Herriot’s classic account of his work as vet set in the 1930s Yorkshire Dales brings all the book’s heart and humor to the screen. Nicholas Ralph stars a young Herriot who arrives at his first job straight out of vet school, only to discover that his new employer Siegfried is rather eccentric and that Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan is home and ready to cause mischief. The job, meanwhile, is more physically demanding than Herriot expected, and the farmers are somewhat suspicious of outsiders and slow to accept both change and the word of a young vet over their own experience. Fortunately, however, the Dales might just offer Herriot a chance at love! It is hard but rewarding to eke out a living in the countryside, and Herriot and viewers will soon find that the Yorkshire Dales has a homey charm all its own.

All Creatures Great and Small is simply the coziest of TV shows, one I look forward to watching after a hard day or when I need a bit of cheer. The episodes are quiet, each focusing on a new veterinary dilemma, as well as the stories of the ensemble cast–Tristan’s efforts to pass his veterinary exams, Mrs. Hall’s relationship with her son, Herriot’s blooming romance, and more. Though some stories end in sadness, the overall tone is that life goes on, always with the support of our loved ones. The show makes it seem as if the Yorkshire Dales is the best place to be–a place of kindness and caring at all times. Truly, I wish sometimes that I lived in Skeldale House!

The title emphasizes the animals, but the characters are what make the show. Their distinct personalities play off each other to create often humorous scenarios, but ones where viewers understand that all the characters have a mutual respect and fondness for each other. Samuel West shines as the eccentric Siegfried Farnon, whose pride in his business and unwillingness to admit that he can be wrong contrasts with the happy-go-lucky nature of his younger brother Tristan, who may be goofy but also yearns to prove himself. Anna Madeley as housekeeper Mrs. Hall works as the glue that binds Skeldale House together, as she skillfully navigates all the strong personalities under her care, and quietly guides everyone to where they need to be. Other recurring characters prove just as integral to the show, from the hilariously excessive Mrs. Pumphrey, who coddles her dog Tricki Woo like her firstborn child, to Helen’s taciturn father. The community is what makes the show–and the Dales–special.

I have loved every episode of All Creatures Great and Small, loved watching the characters grow, loved seeing how they each are branching out and finding their way. I worry about the looming war as season three approaches, but cannot wait to see how the community continues to pull together in times of adversity. This is truly a show not to be missed if you want a heartwarming, feel-good story that will make your day seem a little brighter.

5 stars

TV Series Review: Marvel’s What If…?

Review of Marvel's What If

I started watching Marvel’s What If…? not really knowing what to expect, but hoping that new, innovative storylines might emerge and that some of the characters introduced might even be introduced later into the live-action MCU. After all, seeing Peggy Carter as Captain Carter is my dream! Ultimately, however, the episodes of the first season prove uneven in quality, and the point of the series only becomes clear in the final two episodes. While I would still be excited to see some of these characters on the big screen, I cannot say that the show What If…? particularly impresses.

The episodes bounce around through different concepts, moving from pure, fan “What if?” daydreaming, to humor, to tragedy, to just plain silliness. Initially, I found myself baffled. I wanted a connecting thread, some reason that I started a show that first answers the question, “What if Peggy Carter took the super soldier serum instead?” but then moves on to seemingly random questions such as, “What if the Avengers fought zombies?” or, “What if Thor had a giant party on Earth?” The question, “What if?” gives room for the creators to do literally anything with the material and all they could come up with is Thor having a party?? I was hoping for more intriguing storylines! The ones that gave us characters like Spider-Gwen. The ones that truly change the story and open up more possibilities for what the characters can be and become and do.

Still, some of the episodes are stronger than others. “What if Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” creates a real sense of pathos, as viewers watch him try to change the past and bring his lover back to life. And “What If Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” raises some interesting ethical questions, as the show goes to dark places, even if it was not my favorite episode (but, then, I have never been very attached to the Iron Man films). The strong moments of the show were enough to keep me watching–as was the hope that the final episode might ultimately tie into the larger MCU. Really, it was that fear, that I might need to know what happens, that kept me watching more than anything else.

Because, really, the premise of What If…? is a little strange– but not because we are asking the question, “What if?” Rather, it is strange because each episode essentially tries to boil down one of the Marvel films into about 25 minutes. So the first episode, takes a 2-hour film, Captain America: The First Avenger, and boils the storyline down to about an eighth of its original run time. That’s not a lot of time. Not to develop characters or relationships. It is just enough time to say, “Hey, look, Peggy Carter is Captain Carter now instead of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America! Isn’t that neat?” and then end the episode. And so on for each succeeding episode. I wanted to feel a real connection to the characters, but any feeling viewers have for them will have to come from prior knowledge of them from the previous films.

Because of the time constraints, some of the sillier episodes actually work better than the ones that rely more on their film counterparts. For instance, Thor throwing a party works as a conceit because that is all that is happening. The episode is not trying to have Thor save the world and not even trying to make Thor a better person who will be worthy to rule. Besides having Thor meet Jane and fall in love, not many parallels exist with the first Thor movie. On the other hand, “What If Ultron Won?” proves a little uneven because it basically has to start with the end of its film counterpart. A voiceover gives all the relevant background information about Ultron and his rise so the episode can jump into Natasha and Clint trying to do something about it. But there is something uncomfortable about having an entire film of tragedy and suffering dismissed into a few sentences of summary so we can get on with the “what if” changes already.

I also found throughout the series that I was a little bothered by how the “What if?” moments were presented. The series is narrated by the Watcher, who observes the multiverse, sworn never to interfere. He likes to drop “deep” statements about how one decision can change everything and one small moment create a whole new world. Sure, maybe in some cases. But a lot of the decisions made are actually ongoing ones. In “What if Killmonger Had Rescued Tony Stark?” for instance, Killmonger rescuing Stark is not the single cause of everything that happens. Tony responds to that moment in a certain way, and then wakes up every day after and makes the same bad choices. And the people around him wake up every day and enable him (hello, Pepper, another silent observer of bad ethics). In the same way, Doctor Strange in “What If Doctor Strange Had Lost His Heart Instead of Hands?” wakes up every day and also makes bad choices, despite the repeated efforts of other people to warn and/or stop him. Reducing characters to one moment in time obscures the fact that they all have agency–and continue to do so. The Watcher would make it seem as if the characters are bound by one bad choice, when, in fact, they are not–as some of them later actually prove.

What If…? proves an interesting thought experiment, but the series is not particularly gripping or memorable. If the series is not going to tie into the greater MCU, thereby compelling me to watch it just for the sake of clarity, I do not think I will continue to keep up with future seasons.

My Journey with Doctor Who Begins–Again: A Reflection

I first fell in love with Doctor Who when I saw reruns of series one with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. I was drawn to the adventure and to wonder, as well as to the emotional depth I found in the Doctor. Eccleston played him as bitter and angry, but slowly changing as a nineteen-year-old human taught him to see the good in people once again. David Tennant continued that emotional journey, adding even more complexity as audiences watched him struggle with the reality of making friends, only to lose them repeatedly. Was their loss all his fault? Was he a truly a hero or had he been the monster all along?

David Tennant is my favorite Doctor precisely because of the emotion intensity he brings to the role. Even though Doctor Who is a space and time travel adventure, at its heart, it has always been about the relationships. The Doctor finds travelling companions because he is lonely, but also because he is constantly surprised and impressed by how resilient, brave, and kind humanity can be at its best. His belief in humans is arguably what often brings out their best. They want to live up to the vision he has of them.

I am drawn to the hope inherent in the show by virtue of the Doctor’s belief in the best of the humanity. But I also am moved by how that hope is so often tempered by the Doctor’s self-doubt. He exults in the danger and the adventure of saving worlds, but he has to recognize, at the end of the day, that that same danger hurts people he cares about. People who would have never been in danger if he had not brought them there. The riddle of the Doctor is that he loves life-threatening situations and that he somehow makes other people love it, too. He delights in things that scare the average person.

Characters in Doctor Who often express anger and disgust that he seems to be enjoying their peril. But the Doctor never loves that people are in danger. He loves being in situations where he can discover new things–meet new life forms, witness an event never before seen. And he manages to share that joy and wonder not only with his companions, but also with audiences. Many sci-fi shows present aliens as the enemy. And there are plenty of dangerous, violent aliens in Doctor Who. But Doctor Who also suggests that there can be a world where humans and aliens live side-by-side learning from each other and sharing the stars.

When David Tennant left the show along with executive produce Russell T. Davies, I was sad. They had created a TV series that repeatedly urged viewers to think of life as a grand adventure, with something wonderful always to be discovered. I had hopes for Steven Moffat’s takeover, though. I had enjoyed his writing on episodes like “Blink” and “Silence in the Library” and thought he would make an excellent showrunner.

As time went on, however, Moffat’s writing made me lose interest in Doctor Who. The way he seemed to try to make the bulk of his female characters “sexy” bothered me, as did the fact that his Doctors seemed to chose his companions, not because they were ordinary individuals who could prove themselves extraordinary–think Donna the temp using her secretarial skills to solve mysteries and type at speed to save the world–but because they were “special.” The girl with a crack in her bedroom and the universe in her head. The Impossible Girl. You couldn’t be anyone travelling with the Doctor anymore. You had to be a girl with a mysterious past who was going to prove to be a major plot point.

Additionally, the female characters under Moffat’s reign so often seemed more like cardboard cut-outs written to suit the plot, more than they seemed like actual people with lives, families, and backgrounds. It was difficult for me to understand who they were as characters because that would change from episode to episode. And their sexuality was repeatedly emphasized in ways that were uncomfortable, like that was one of their main selling points as a character, rather than their bravery or their cleverness or their kindness.

I stopped watching Doctor Who sometime during series seven. I tried again when Peter Capaldi took over as the Doctor, but was disappointed by his apparent hatred of humanity, which seemed antithetical to everything the Doctor stands for. I haven’t really watched Doctor Who since, except for two episodes with Jodie Whittaker. Now I’m beginning the show again. But, as I finish watching David Tennant’s final episodes, I cannot help but wonder if I will still be disappointed with the same aspects of Moffat’s writing.

Why the World Needs “Supergirl”

SupergirlAs I write, CBS has not yet renewed Supergirl for a second season.  News releases indicate that the ratings were a bit low, though that does not necessarily mean the show will not return.  Cancelling Supergirl, however, would be a huge disappointment because the show does work the entertainment industry desperately needs.

Feminism on the Small Screen

Supergirl is great because it obviously features a female superhero (and we’re still waiting for a female to get her own lead movie, despite the domination of superhero films at the box office).  However, the show does more than throw a female at audiences, give her powers, and call her “strong.”  It features a wide array of women (indeed, they often outnumber the  men!) meaning that it can showcase women as people rather than relying on one or two to represent their entire gender.

Furthermore, the show consistently addresses feminist issues such as women struggling to receive credit in the workplace, the struggle to balance home and work and “have it all,” the need for women to support and mentor each other, and even the question of what it means to call a woman  a “girl.”  These are ongoing conversations society is having and needs to have–and the show is making them more mainstream.


Supergirl’s real strength is her ability to ask for help and her reliance on her team.  While Superman works alone, Supergirl realizes that she is stronger when working with others.  The women in this show do not need to compete against each other for recognition or, worse, men.  They support each other.  They mentor each other.  They respect each other–even when they dislike each other.


Frozen was supposedly the Disney movie about sisters, but Anna and Elsa barely interact with each other in the film.  I think a great sister movie would have shown the two of them going on an adventure, instead of Anna teaming up with a man and his reindeer.  Supergirl does what I wanted Frozen to do–puts sisters together on a team so they can save the world.

Flawed Heroines

So often the media gives us a “strong female protagonist” meaning a woman in a skin-tight suit who can punch people.  Supergirl does punch people, but she’s also allowed to be vulnerable, unsure, afraid, and even dead wrong.  But that doesn’t undermine her value or make her weak.  That just makes her a person!


Stay on the Internet long enough and you’ll find the complaints about DC’s dark world view.  Supergirl breaks this pattern by giving us a heroine who’s young, perky, and full of life.  Her real superpower is hope–which is less corny in practice than it sounds.  The show embraces its campiness, its laughter, and its bright and bubbly protagonist to give a show that makes  you feel good after you watch it.

Going Forward…

Supergirl has so much to offer going forward.  I expect it will continue to address feminist issues and I also hope that it brings on more characters of color because right now its feminism looks a little white.  As the show continues to find its voice, however, I have hope that it will continue to do good work bringing important issues to the attention of viewers, and making it more common to discuss ways to promote positive change in society.  After all, stories are more than entertainment; they are inspiration.  Supergirl inspires me, and I hope it can inspire more of us in a second season.

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TV Review: Call the Midwife, Season 5, Eps. 4 and 5

Call the Midwife Season Five

Episode 4


A young man receives a scholarship to attend university, but his dreams are jeopardized when his girlfriend reveals she is pregnant.  Meanwhile, Sr. Julienne is called to the local hospital, where she struggles with the detached care expecting mothers received, and Barbara struggles with dating Tom, knowing that she is hurting Trixie.


Episode 4 was one of the best of the season, delivering a series of emotional of emotional punches as a young man wavered between his dreams of a better life and his duty to his girlfriend, Trixie struggled with releasing Tom a year after they ended their engagement, and Sr. Julienne witnessed the almost callous care given to young mothers at the local hospital.  The fallout of the thalidomide prescriptions also continued, meaning that while Dr. Turner and Shelagh struggled to find the cause of the series of malformed babies being born, Sr. Julienne had to deal with the very real consequences–watching a limbless child die alone and exposed because the hospital decided it could not be saved.  Call the Midwife  has a track record of dealing with difficult topics sensitively and honestly.  This episode continues in that tradition.  While it was emotionally gutting to watch, it also felt worthwhile.

Episode 5


Left alone to monitor the phones, Delia finds herself coaching a Roseanne, a young first-time mother, through the delivery of her baby as Phyllis races to attend her after her car breaks down.  Violet injures herself and must rely on Fred to run her shop.  Timothy attempts to convince his father and Shelagh that cigarettes are linked to cancer.


Episode 5 felt a little more erratic than most installments.  Typically the various plot threads interweave with each other to create what feels like a coherent whole, but here it seemed more like I was watching several different episodes.  Dr. Turner was trying to get a new clinic, dealing with a patient who was refusing care, and being pressured by Tim to give up smoking.  Fred was trying to run his wife’s shop while she was laid up in bed. Delia was coaching a mother over the phone.  Then the mother went missing.  For some reason, it felt like far too much was going on, and I didn’t feel very invested in much of it, though watching a mother give birth alone on the floor literally took my breath away, and it was about time we saw more of Fred–he’s hilarious. But the bright spots didn’t work together to create a whole.  Hopefully next episode will be better.

Krysta 64

TV Review: Grantchester Season 2, Ep. 3



A boy confesses to murder, but the victim is still alive.  Sidney and Geordie are on the case, but will it ruin Sidney’s new romance with Margaret?

Review (with some spoilers)

In episode three, I began to get a glimpse of what this show could be.  In investigating a murder case, Rev. Sidney Chambers relies on his intuition, charm, and sympathy to draw out truths his friend Inspector Keating cannot.  His interactions with the widow of a murder victim, while somewhat unconvincing for me, at least gesture toward a show with heart, one that looks unflinchingly at the pain, the jealousy, the anger of everyday people.  If the writing had been tighter and more coherent, I think this could have been a great plotline.

Unfortunately, however, the writing is not what I have come to expect of a British drama.  The widow’s character seems a little shaky–she becomes what the plot needs her to be.  The secondary characters were nondescript; I didn’t even feel sorry for the boy who confessed to murder or the girl suffering from her father’s abuse.  How could I?  They were more like props than people.

Meanwhile, Sidney’s romantic arc took a sudden turn.  We have seen him on one date with Margaret–a date she cut short because he was not invested.  This time we see her obviously smitten with him, but their interactions consist of her initiating all the action or her being stood up while he solves a case.  Yet suddenly at the end they’re both madly, madly in love!  I have never seen such a pop-up romance.

In a side plot, Sidney’s old flame Amanda is bizarrely getting herself arrested on her way to talk to Sidney because she doesn’t like the man she married and refuses to let Sidney forget her and find love for himself.  I don’t know Amanda very well because I have not watched season one, but her character her confuses me and I find it hard to feel sympathy for a married woman who’s always running off to flirt with her ex.  Sorry, Amanda.  Maybe if you’re lucky, the scriptwriters will make you a widow and free you up for Sidney.  Until then, please leave the poor man alone.

Truly, this episode is ill-paced and ill-written.  I finally started to feel like Sidney was being given a bit of proper characterization, but I have no clue what every other character was doing.  Is this normal for this show?

TV Review: Call the Midwife Season 5, Ep. 2

Call the Midwife Season Five


As the birth of their baby draws near, a young couple finds their marriage falling apart due to financial stress.  Another mother struggles with breast feeding, but is convinced by Sr. Evageline that good mothers do not use formula. Meanwhile, Barbara continues to flirt with Tom while Trixie looks disconsolately on, and Phyllis might have found a beau of her own.


Call the Midwife has finally decided to give Nurse Barbara Gilbert a character–and it’s about time.  She has been so nondescript that I often find myself looking up her full name because I cannot even remember it.  Unfortunately, I find her interactions with her patients still a little bland.  She seems invested in them, but I never feel her interest or her pain like I do with the other nurses.  Instead her characterization right now is leaning on her budding relationship with the pastor, Tom.

I admit Barbara and Tom make a lot more sense than Trixie and Tom did, especially since we know that Barbara’s father is a vicar and she understands what is expected of a family in ministry, but it is painful watching Trixie observe her friend falling in love with her ex.  And, truthfully, Trixie and her heartache are still far more interesting than Barbara fawning over  Tom is.  I feel no chemistry between Barbara and Tom.  I rather wish the show would give Trixie a new romance instead.

Because the show is handing out romances.  Phyllis Crane of all people seems to have found a charming man in this episode!  I could not believe my eyes, but I loved every moment of it.  The best part, however, was seeing how the girls came together to support Phyllis.  They gave her privacy, they helped her put on make up without making fun of her, and they offered her sound advice and a friendly ear throughout it all.  Female friendships are so under-served in media, but they are the heart of this show.

In fact, nevermind Barbara and Tom.  Let’s just watch the girls hang out together, support each other, and do their jobs like the totally incredible midwives they are.  Let’s see more of Cynthia and the sisters.  Their camaraderie and chemistry beats anything else the show has to offer.

Krysta 64

TV Review: Grantchester Season 2, Ep. 2



Rev. Chambers and Inspector Keating investigate the death of a professor who fell off a building, but are warned off the case as they begin to unravel a government plot.


Though I found the first episode of the season  a little lackluster, I determined to carry on with this series in hopes that I would begin to like the characters more and thus feel more invested in their stories.  However, though I found the mystery in this episode more intriguing than the last, I also continued to feel as though I really ought to watch season one if I am ever to care about these characters.

The mystery revolves around the mysterious death of a professor.  Did he fall off a building or was he pushed?  And how are the Soviets involved?  I like intrigue in my stories so enjoyed this, even though the Red Scare bit seemed a little forced, as if it was added just for historical flavor.  However, I still felt distant from the characters, including the dead professor’s wife and best friend.  Normally I’d be sobbing along with the grieving friends and family, but this show somehow manages to keep me detached.

Meanwhile, Sidney’s personal plotline continues to revolve around his search for romance.  Except that even though there’s this secretary who’s into him, he’s still obviously smitten with an old flame, who is now married.  But repeatedly showing up at his vicarage or meeting him for coffee while her husband is away.  That’s…awkward.  Especially since Sidney, of all people, should not be dancing with adultery.  And everyone knows what’s happening.  They keep warning him to stay away, but he remains oblivious.

The professional seductress/glamorous cigarette-smoking and martini-drinking type of girl never really resonates with me, though, (maybe I just don’t relate?) so I don’t feel invested in these romances, either.  Sidney’s a vicar and this type of girl seems wrong for him.  He mentions that he doesn’t want to date a “nun,” meaning, I guess, a conservative or quiet girl, but can he really support the type of rich and glamorous girl he’s into?  Would the parish approve of a vicar’s wife who drinks and smokes?  Does he realize that his situation in life might require him to rethink his priorities?  I know he doesn’t really act like a typical vicar, going around solving crimes and apparently blabbing about all the confessions people make to him, but his personal growth might mean he has to accept that a vicar’s wife might need certain qualities.

Finally, I do not think the show achieves the blending of mystery and…depth? it seems to be aiming for.  Sidney’s sleuthing is generally juxtaposed with him giving a sermon that I suppose is meant to relate to his crime.  But his sermons are so vague and personal, like someone writing a Facebook post about something that happened to them but without saying what really happened, while trying to sound deep and maybe hoping you’ll ask for more information.  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t give Sidney more depth or show his growth.  It’s just awkward.

Still, I’m in need of a historical drama while I wait for new episodes of Call the Midwife to come out, so I think I’ll keep watching Grantchester to see where it goes.  Hopefully I’ll begin to care about the characters eventually.

TV Review: Grantchester Season 2, Ep. 1



Rev. Sidney Chambers is accused of having inappropriate  contact with a teenage girl.  But, when the girl is found dead, the case takes an unexpected turn.


I had hoped to find a the first season of Grantchester at the library and perhaps watch it this summer, but found I could not wait to watch the show I have been seeing so much about.  So I jumped right into season two, knowing nothing more than that the show features a young vicar who solves crimes with his police detective friend.  It sounded just like the type of show I would enjoy, but, for now, I am reserving judgment.

Perhaps I need to have seen the first season of Grantchester since I did not feel particularly attached to any of the characters.  The vicar was arrested in the first moments of the episode and I was only vaguely curious about what would follow.  Viewers were introduced to the episode’s victim in flashbacks, yet I did not find myself particularly interested in either her or her case. Scandalous details came to light about the victim’s past.  I really didn’t care.

I tend to prefer stories that are character-driven, so this episode fell a little flat for me despite all its twists and turns, its revelations of new sordid evidence.  However, for now, I intend to keep watching.  Perhaps if I come to know the characters better, I will be more interested in their triumphs and struggles.
Krysta 64