“We do terrible things for the people we love.” – Orphan Black Recap

Orphan Black Season 3, Episode 6
“Certain Agony of the Battlefield”
Posted by Kayti

Orphan Black took a risk in its sixth episode of the season, taking a relative breather to draw a long-deceased clone back into the fold: Beth Childs. No, we’re not getting Zombie!Beth, but rather a version of the deceased clone in Sarah’s fever-induced hallucinations. This Beth appearance could have been an awkward, convoluted plot device, but it was actually pretty awesome. We never really had a chance to get to know Beth. She jumped in front of a train in the opening scene of the series. However, she has been an integral part of the story, a presence shaped by her abrupt absence and in the thoughts of the people she left behind.

For Art, she was the partner he loved and the reason he stays so committed to helping Sarah and the other clones. For Cosima and Alison, she was a sister and friend. For Sarah, she was the first step to Sarah figuring out who she is and starting to face that, rather than run away from it. For the show, she was the mystery who propelled this entire plot into the overdrive state it has remained in since its opening moments. She is the inciting incident and a character I didn’t even realize I wanted to reflect upon until Orphan Black gave us that opportunity.

In so many ways, this episode belonged to Paul, which is why the focus on Beth made so much sense — especially in retrospective after knowing Paul’s fate. For Paul, Beth was the person he carried with him for the ways in which he failed her. Though Paul has never been my favorite character, I was so into this episode’s exploration of him because it gave us this larger rumination on the beginnings of this mess. Paul was one of those characters who did more with his death episode than he ever could have done continuing on this show. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he has been one of the weakest characters in this admittedly ridiculously strong ensemble (that mainly consists of characters played by Tatiana Maslany). That was why I was so shocked when his death hit so hard. I wasn’t devastated to see him go, but Hot Paul was given something in his death that he never had as a living, breathing character: clarity.

 

From the beginning, Sarah has never really known where Paul’s loyalties lie — and neither have we. (Frankly, I’m not even sure Paul entirely knew where Paul’s loyalties lay.) In his final actions, Paul is a hero. He saves Sarah. He tries to stop the illegal experiments Dr. Coady is conducting. He destroys research that could help Dr. Coady (and some shady government fellow) create a weapon. Oh, and he professes his love for Sarah. For a show that sometimes kills off characters with an awkward, accidental gunshot to the head by a bumbling Donnie, this is quite the heroic goodbye. Good for you, Hot Paul. (Also, the actor is going to be on Heroes: Reborn, so he will be OK.)

Paul’s death is also a defining moment for Dr. Coady’s character. She has been another ambiguous character in a sea of ambiguous characters. In the last few episodes, we’ve gotten some major answers about how far she will go for science — and the answer is way too far. Way too far. She will perform experiments on the men she calls her sons. She will conduct secret human trials that result in the sterilization of girls who have no idea what they are signing up for — that is when they are actually “signing up” in that they actually agree to have sex with one of the Castor clones. As we know from Rudy’s exploits, the sex is not always consensual, adding an even grosser level to an already gross experiment. Dr. Coady seems to be trying to create some kind of weapon using the Castor clones’ sexually-transmitted illness as the source. Her theory? We could end wars by sterilizing the female half of the enemy population and killing the brains of the male half of the enemy population. This is a horrific aim, made even more horrific by the manner in which Dr. Coady is going about developing this weapon. One also has to wonder how much she even cares about curing the Castor clones or if that is just a cover to get their cooperation. Is this all about creating a weapon or does she also care about what happens to her boys? Based on the way in which she sawed open Parson’s skull, I have my doubts about her commitment to these men — another way in which her loyalty to this project differed from Paul’s misguided, but somewhat noble motivations.

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Ain’t Life Grand? – Scandal Gif-Cap

this is absurd

Scandal Season 4, Episode 22
“You Can’t Take Command”
Posted by Sage

A thousand apologies for leaving you alone with season 4’s penultimate outing, Gladiators. But we’re back with another rollercoaster of a Scandal finale. Shondaland gave us plenty of twists and turns to mull over all summer, plus the toxic reunion I’ve been dreading. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

“Please! I am not Mr. Bainbridge…to you…” I see what you did there, Rowan.

lord of the underworld

“You have set quite an example for my daughter, I will tell you that.” This is so twisted and cruel. I love it.

filch we are in trouble

“Does it interest you?” Rowan/Mr. Bainbridge hands Mellie a folder of photos of Mellie and Andrew bonin’, plus the particulars of Fitz’s participation in Remington.

ron not interested

“You don’t ask me who I am, Mrs. Grant. You ask me what I need.”

i own you hercules

“You’ll go down. Your husband will go down. It will be a bloodbath.” Rowan needs a list of names. Mellie seems ready to comply.

being realistic

Jake is about to testify about Remington in the B6-13 hearing. Good luck with that, you gorgeous target.

good idea gosling

“You tell the truth. You tell the whole truth. No matter what happens, no matter who gets hurt.” I just…do they really think they’re going to win this?

same mistake breaking bad

“Susan is a national treasure.” TRUE. And of course Liv realized that before anyone else.

you saw me princess diaries

“And congratulations on the Brandon bill. That…is the man I voted for.” Congratulations on doing your job that one time in eight goddamn years.

we're the bestest harry

The entire grand jury (and their bus driver) has been executed. That was the list of names that Mellie gave Rowan.

take a look around

“Normally, I’d be all white hat, woo-hoo. But I got a call from Oregon. The court stenographer, Faye? That’s her name, Faye. She knits hideous scarves that I have to wear so I don’t hurt her feelings. Faye was killed by a hit and run driver while out walking her dog. Except she doesn’t have a dog.” Everyone involved in this trial is at risk or already dead. Message, received.

brooklyn break those

“And while I live for justice, I don’t wanna die for it.” What kind of attitude is that, Rosen??

disney don't  be a wuss

“I need you to keep your mouth shut, can you do that?” Lizzy Bear is the only other person on the planet besides Mellie and Rowan who knows the role Mellie played in the murder of the jurors.

pay you to stop talking sleepy

“Cyrus? I killed those grand jurors.” Until she tells Cyrus, that is. The guilt, my friends. She is weighing on our Mellie.

joey i'm sorry

“No, DON’T hug me. I’m sick of being comforted. I’m sick of fighting and losing.” “Don’t Touch Me” is a complete and separate emotion.

ugly child

“I go where you go.” “It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do. I’m still trapped. I’m still his prisoner.” Liv tells Jake that she wants Rowan dead. She’s had enough of looking over her shoulder.

going mad simon firefly

“You got that ‘I been in the hole’ look all on your face.” Olivia goes to see her mom for help.

always good looking

“Did you father and I not tell you you were special enough when you were little? Did we not give you enough hugs?” Marie says Olivia needs to come back down from her “uppity world.”

don't be a hater dear ahs

“Are you going to tell your teammate you added slaughter to your resume?” Mellie did it for THEM though. HOW IS IT WORSE THAN ANYTHING FITZ AND CYRUS HAVE DONE? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

i'm so confused 21 jump street

“I’ll take care of it.” “You will?” “I will.” I doubt it.

pretending to look busy lou

“Forgive me, Miss Pope. But that must be one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard.” Jake and Liv meet with the director of the FBI to talk B6-13. Jake takes credit for all their work.

it crowd jennifer laughing

“B6-13 is real. And I think from that look in your eye that you already knew that.”

six feet under full of shit

Rowan tells Cyrus that he’s done him favors. Not killing Rosen was one. Thanks for that at least, you monster.

i'm happy oliver

“Well, it stops now. I am having this Rowan arrested brought in and brought down. I won’t have it.” I appreciate this lady’s tenacity, but…

office how it works

“Honey, I’m gonna call you honey because I can’t remember your first name and I don’t care: Honey, you wanna be reasonable about this. Because a shadow intelligence organization operating quite happily in power and in secrets for decades inside the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, if there was such a thing, well that would be like a sleeping lion. And isn’t it safer to tiptoe around the lion? What do you think happens when you poke the lion? Whose face does the lion rip off first? I think it rips off Honey’s face first.” CYRUS.

community excuse me

Director Lowery’s people grabs Jake and Liv. They throw them in jail.

miss piggy opening bars

“Mostly though, I’d like to thank my wife….and maybe if you’re as flawed a person as I am, you start taking them for granted.” Fitz gives a toast to Mellie’s victory. He’s all over her dick right now, because Fitz likes to be associated with winners.

million teddy bears parks

“Losing a child. Most people never recover from that. It destroys families, upends marriages. Not ours. Her love, her friendship means anything. As a team, we’ve never been stronger. So please, join me in raising a glass. To my best friend.” 

2015 it's time

“Rosen, why would I fire you? You’re the Attorney General. MY Attorney General.” Cyrus’s voice is all soft and scary. Run, David, run.

bridesmaids ran as fast

“With you, David, I already know your pressure point. You only have one: Abby.” *Record scratch*

aziz confused

P.S. WHERE IS LEO.

“Though, if something were to happen to her. Suicide. Aneurysm. Car accident.” “You can’t threaten me like that.” “Actually, I can.” LEAVE RED ALONE 2K15.

don't touch horse head

“You want me to recant?” “On signing this document, you will be free to leave this room.” Rosen visits Jake and Liv in prison. He forces them to sign a document stating that they’ll disavow all knowledge of B6-13.

i thought we were friends rdj

“So much for being the good guys, huh, Rosen?”

human world it's a mess

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“What a lovely day!” – Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted by Shannon Leigh

Good morning! Do you have a minute to talk about our lord and savior Imperator Furiosa?

Light spoilers.

Those of you who know me from The Tweeters may know that I have a live-in gentleman friend. A few of you may also know that he is very much a movie buff, but can be ::ahem:: extremely critical of cinema, enough that he hasn’t set foot in a movie theater for about five years.

Until now.

My boyfriend has been talking about Mad Max: Fury Road for months, and I’ll be honest with you, at first I just wasn’t interested. Really all I knew about it was that it was the continuation of what looked like a coked-up action franchise I’d never seen, and that Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron were in it. And while I enjoy a well-constructed action sequence as well as the next girl, and possibly more considering the years I spent training in stage combat and stunts, MMFR just didn’t look like it was up my alley. I was perfectly happy to let my boyfriend go to the movie theater and break his absence streak on his own.

Then I saw a news piece online that Eve Ensler had been on set, there to consult specifically on the subject of violence against women for the benefit of five female characters. Five of them. In addition to Theron. At this point I had just recently seen Age of Ultron, and during the coming attractions I had counted how many trailers boasted more than one female character. The answer was one. (San Andreas, in case you were wondering, because it’s a disaster movie so the hero has to save his college-aged daughter AND his estranged wife.) And now it turned out MMFR not only had at least six female characters, but a famously feminist playwright had been brought on set to make sure those characters had depth and were treated with respect. At this point my interest was somewhat piqued.

Around this time I also started seeing articles posted by my friends in the stunt community extolling the difficulty and scale of the stunt work in the movie. I started to get a little more interested.

George Miller, the director, offered up some quotes about how he can’t help but be a feminist after being surrounded by “magnificent” women. He insisted that his wife be the one to edit the movie so it wouldn’t look like every other action movie. I was highly interested now.

Then came the MRAs marching one by one, shouting about boycotting the movie because it was feminist propaganda (if you don’t know about this one especially, Google it because it was hilarious).

At this point I told my boyfriend he would have company at the theater when he went to see Mad Max: Fury Road, and a few days later we were in a remarkably silent theater for a Monday matinee, my boyfriend practically vibrating with excitement next to me.

First, I will address the one hang-up I had about the film, which is personal preference and nothing else. I’m not sure exactly how to describe the aesthetic of the movie; the closest I’ve come is “grotesque western metal-punk.” This is not your Hunger Games post-apocalyptic society, where everyone is still beautiful and whole, merely covered with either dirt or crazy make-up depending on district. The majority of people you see on-screen are misshapen and bizarre, sometimes even monstrous. Body modifications abound, and the masses of scar tissue are the least of your worries (I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing the gout-stricken feet and ankles of one of the warlords again). It’s a choice Miller made, and it’s certainly visually striking, but I wasn’t a fan. And that’s okay!

Because everything else about the movie was awesome.

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“Never go to Reno, girls.” – Life Lessons from Troop Beverly Hills

Posted by Sarah and Maggie

When Netflix added Troop Beverly Hills to instant streaming late last year, we immediately organized a group twitter watch and had the time of our lives sharing this movie experience for the first time. And, yes, this movie is FUN but watching it as adults made us realize how many life lessons they snuck into it, somehow without ever crossing that annoying after school special line. Phyllis Nefler is a queen, a fashion icon, and a role model. She and the girls are a team, and teamwork has never looked so enjoyable and so rewarding.

Which makes it all the more baffling that the Girl Scouts objected to this movie. In a special feature on the recently released Blu-ray, Shelley Long explains that the organization was sent a copy of the script, only to report that they wanted nothing to do with the movie and wouldn’t allow use of the Girl Scout name (we personally think “Wilderness Girls” sounds more badass anyway). Sure, Phyllis may not be the woman you automatically think of when you think of a troop leader, but the lessons she teaches the girls in her troop–and the lessons she learns herself–are lessons that any Girl Scout, Wilderness Girl, or human being should keep in their back pocket. Turns out shopping wasn’t Troop 332’s greatest skill after all.

-Sarah and Maggie

“Never go to Reno, girls.”

In the movie, Phyllis follows up this tidbit of advice to the girls at the divorce court hearing with “California property laws can’t be beat.” And yes, it’s practical (if a bit cynical?) advice. But I think the larger lesson to draw here is about self-worth and knowing your value. Phyllis becomes stronger over the course of the movie, but even at the very beginning when she and Freddie are arguing, she tells him not to mock her and states that he never acknowledges her contribution to their marriage. She stands up for herself, even though she’s vulnerable and doubting herself a little. And by the time Freddie tells her he’s proud of her during the check presentation gala in the middle of the movie, she’s grateful for his acknowledgment but I think it’s a more significant moment when she replies that she’s proud of herself too.

As a young woman in the professional world, I know a bit about being underestimated and not being taken as seriously as I should be so I relate pretty hard to Phyllis, who’s faced with this constantly throughout the movie. I think very carefully before I speak because I want people to hear the content of what I’m saying and not have an excuse to write me off as hysterical if I’m not perfectly calm. I have to know my worth and stand up for myself first instead of leaving it up to others to do it for me. There are always going to be people like Freddie who underestimate you or Velda who won’t give you a fair chance. You can’t let them shake you; you have to be confident in yourself and your abilities and carry on and prove them wrong.

-Maggie

“Good for her! Not for me.”

 
The first time I watched this movie after reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, it became glaringly obvious that Troop Beverly Hills is 106 minutes of “Good for her! Not for me.” In six words, Amy brings home an essential concept that Velda should have kept in the back of her mind for occasions like this: There is more than one way of successfully doing things.

Phyllis and the girls are pitted against Velda’s version of a Wilderness Girl for the entire movie, which is ridiculous when you look at Velda’s expectations of a troop leader. In the orientation meeting, she explains, “When we’re looking for new leaders, we’re looking for a real no-nonsense woman, a woman who can cope with anything, a woman who doesn’t cause a ruckus, but can still get the job done.” So let’s go through this checklist, shall we? The troop earns 36 patches in three weeks. Sure, some of them aren’t marking traditional achievements (although Gardening with Glamour should really be a mainstay), but everything the troop did still warranted hard work. They end up selling over four thousand boxes of cookies without going door-to-door, and I’d love for someone to explain to me why celebrating an accomplishment of that magnitude constitutes an embarrassment to the organization, VELDA. They make it to the jamboree and win despite the Red Feathers’ constant cheating AND making time to help an injured Velda get to the finish line. Perhaps most important out of everything, she adapts the teachings of the organization into lessons the girls can use in their everyday lives in Beverly Hills. If that doesn’t flat-out scream “Troop Leader of the Year,” I don’t know what does. Phyllis got the job done; it just wasn’t on Velda’s terms. But her terms are irrelevant, as Beverly Hills becomes the new poster troop.

Sorry, Ms. Plendor. Better luck with Velda’s Avengers. But once you secede from the organization, maybe you should teach your new batch of girls that life isn’t one-size-fits-all, that sacrificing yourself in order to squeeze into another person’s expectations only strips the joy out of success. And then you can commemorate the whole thing with a Good for Her, Not for Me patch.

-Sarah

“Uniforms blur an individual’s sense of self.”

I wore a school uniform from first through eighth grade and it still weirdly influences my sense of style, a full 20 years later. I tend to wear similar outfits every day, I feel anxious when I am over or underdressed, I can’t wear shirts with collars. I was a bridesmaid in September and wearing the same dress and shoes as five other ladies felt so soothing, I can’t even tell you. And sure, we personalized our school uniforms by choosing accessories but no one ever came close to the way Phyllis made her troop leader uniforms her own. I love how she describes everything wrong with the standard uniform to the girls when she tries it on for the first time, only to declare “But all of that can be fixed.” You don’t have to accept what’s given to you as is and you don’t have to let someone else mold you. You can have a great experience as part of a group or team while still being yourself and an individual. Yes, uniforms can blur an individual’s sense of self and the lesson here is not to let them.

-Maggie

“The most important thing is having friends.”

Leave it to Phyllis to hit on something so simple yet so vital. While she’s consoling Emily after learning of her family’s financial problems, Phyllis drops a truth bomb. In the end, material possessions don’t matter nearly as much as the people you choose to have around you. Friends are chosen family. They see you at your worst, help you wipe away your tears, and still love you unconditionally. They put a Tina Turner wig on and sing with you about chocolate chip cookies. They try out new dance moves with you in brightly colored spandex. They throw impromptu birthday parties for you when your parents are in Monte Carlo. They are your rock, your safety net, your level head, and your spontaneity. They make life seem less overwhelming and make sure you are never alone in your hour of need. And, of course, if you need a loan to pay for your patches, they can float you one with little to no interest.

-Sarah

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20 Times the Women of Mad Men Were Better Than Everyone

Posted by Kim

Tonight we say goodbye to Mad Men.  For me, despite the title, the show has ALWAYS been about the women.  It’s been about their struggles to find love, respect, acceptance, and their places in a male dominated society.  They all represent archetypes.  Betty the icy housewife, Trudy the perfect one.  Peggy the career girl.  Joan the bombshell.  But what has been so BRILLIANT about Mad Men is that it peeled back the layers of all these stereotypes and created REAL women with layers and complexity.  None of them are as they seem.  They all yearn for something more than what they have.  And they all had awesome moments throughout the series.  Let’s celebrate some of them, shall we?

1) Joan shows off for the two-way mirror. 

My favorite thing is the “fuck you” expression on her face to all the men she KNOWS are ogling her. As En Vogue would say “Never gonna get it…my lovin’, no you’re never gonna get it”.

2) Peggy Olson, Boss Bitch

I feel like, despite its title and protagonist, Mad Men has ALWAYS been Peggy’s journey.  She’s definitely had the most SATISFYING character arc.  We’ve watched her blossom from a naive girl with zero confidence to a powerful woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. Peggy makes a lot of mistakes but she never lets them break her.  She never takes her eye off the prize.  She IS the person you need to impress right now.

3) Megan sings Zou Bisou Bisou

 
What do you do when your new husband (who you KNOW shocked all his friends by suddenly marrying you) turns 40?  Serenade him in French wearing a SEXY black minidress and fishnets in front of all of his friends, of course!  Megan gives no fucks.

 
May we ALL have Megan Draper’s confidence.

4) Betty and the Gun

Sage and I were talking about this scene last night and she astutely pointed out that it was all about Betty taking back her power.  She KNEW Don was cheating and Don sent her to a shrink to try to convince her she was making it all up.  She did this to remind herself she was anything BUT.

5) Trudy Campbell kicks Pete to the curb. 

 
 
 
 How to Put the Fear of God in a Man 101, taught by Professor Trudy Campbell.

6) Sally demands truth. 

Sally may just be the most together person on the whole show and she has been since she was a little girl.

7) Bobbi Barrett, feminist queen. 

 
For all his flaws, Don Draper had exquisite taste in powerful women that he could never really handle, especially in the early seasons.  I need to get this quote embroidered on a pillow.  Bonus points that Bobbi is played by Melinda McGraw aka Melissa Scully.

 
8) Joan nails the ULTIMATE insult. 

All of the women of Mad Men faced various forms of sexism.  Joan often took the brunt of it because of her body, her confidence, and the fact that she OWNED her sexuality and power as a woman.  She didn’t just own it, she demanded that she be respected BECAUSE of it.

 
So when she was only viewed as a pair of tits by some of the SCDP underlings, she delivered the most blistering and truthful insult you could ever give to someone in the late 60’s.  And she said it with a perfect straight face and even-keeled voice.  Because Joan Holloway Harris raises her voice at no one.

 
 Except idiotic secretaries.  We’ll get to that.

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“Is everyone else’s life this chaotic?” – Orphan Black Recap

Orphan Black Season 3, Episode 4
“Newer Elements of Our Defense” 

Posted by Kayti

Orphan Black embraces the ickiness in Season 3, Episode 4 (“Newer Elements of Our Defense”). Seriously, I spent this entire episode flinching and/or hiding behind my hands. In itself, this is neither a compliment nor an insult — at least from me. I don’t seek out unsettling gore in TV, but I am also not turned off by it. For me, it’s all about how this viscerality is treated, i.e. how it’s being used to tell a larger story and, in that context, Orphan Black gets full marks.

“I know you don’t trust me, but I’m all you got.”

Yay, Mark is alive! And he and Sarah teamed up! And by “teamed up,” I mean Sarah and Mark bonded over DIY surgery — aka Sarah sticking her fingers into Mark’s bullet wound to try to feel the bullet. Though Sarah seems to have some kind of familial sympathy for Mark, she doesn’t do this for nothing either. She barters her steady hands for answers about Helena’s whereabouts. ( This is why Sarah is the most effective clone.)

 
This is the second week in a row where we’ve gotten Sarah leveraging some definition of family to get information out of someone. Last week, it was Gracie and the fact that she was carrying a Leda clone. This week, it’s Mark and the fact that their genetic donors were brother and sister. I mused that this reveal didn’t mean much to me; it largely only affected the narrative in how much it affected these individual Leda and Castor clones. After watching this episode, it seems to mean something to both Mark and Sarah. It kept Sarah from letting Mark die in that cornfield and it kept Mark from letting Rudy kill Sarah in the final moments of the episode. Sure, it looks like now Sarah will be the Castors’ prisoner, but that’s arguably better than being dead — especially at Rudy’s hands.

“Oh my god. Is everyone else’s life this chaotic?”

Last week, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure how long I would enjoy Alison’s story because it was so disconnected from the larger clone plot. I take it back, Orphan Black. Can you ever forgive me for doubting you? Give me more of Alison and Donnie as drug dealers because it is great. This week, the two hit a potential snag when the local drug kingpin contacts them, confiscates their stash, and asks for a meeting. In the kind of genius hyperbolic suburbia twist that Orphan Black is so good at, it turns out that the kingpin is actually Alison’s high school boyfriend.

Jason Kellerman is very impressed with Alison’s marketing skills (soap? genius!). Also, if the long gazes they share are any indication, these two still have some serious chemistry. Also, Alison’s mother gets another mention. We’re ready to meet her now, show.

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“This is sickness.” – Live Writer Commentary on “Dalek” and Enduring Dirt [Contained]’s Easy Laughter

dalek

Posted by Sage

Last week, I had a double dose of English playwright and screenwriter Robert Shearman. First, I sipped on a Twelfth Doctor cocktail while Shearman gave live commentary at The Way Station on his one and only Who episode, series one’s “Dalek.” Then I sat inches from the heavily-trafficked bar cart in the first New York production of his 1992 play, Easy Laughter. With those two pieces of work running around in my brain, I have made one assumption about the man. For being such a congenial gent IRL, Robert Shearman’s sure got a dark side.

"Doctor Who is for kids!"

“Doctor Who is for kids!”

Of course, every monologue and piece of dialogue drops a shade darker when delivered by Chris Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. In fact, Shearman told us that Chris, who was “extraordinary to work with,” did things with the Doctor’s private encounter with the Dalek that the writer never expected. Eccles performed the scene in a “very non-Doctorish way,” which initially horrified Shearman – and then he saw the final product. (Fun fact for all you censorship heads: “Dalek” carries a higher advisory rating than the other episodes in the season because the Doctor purposely tortures the captive Dalek.) Shearman described Eccles as an actor without vanity, remembering that he insisted a take where his forceful delivery generated a pretty gross spit bubble that stayed on his lip not be reshot.

Shearman has the unique honor of being the writer who introduced the Daleks to a modern audience. Obviously, he felt the pressure of the job. “This is the only Doctor Who episode I don’t consider to be canon,” he told us. “Because I know I made it up.” Even watching the full episode that day was an unusual experience for him. He finds it difficult to go back to his own work, and guessed he hadn’t seen “Dalek” in its entirety in almost ten years. (I asked him about Series 8’s “Into the Dalek” and he said he was surprised and flattered that his episode was well-regarded enough to merit a bit of a sequel.) But from the moment the episode kicked off, it was clear that the writer remembered every moment of the process just fine. Even which actors shared their sandwiches (those were his favorites) and which extra broke his confidentiality agreement by selling photos of the updated creatures to a salivating British tabloid press.

dalek van statten

Fans have Shearman’s wife to thank for his characterization of the Daleks, especially that “oh shit” moment when one levitates up a flight of stairs. He did his best in his episode to address all the reasons she found the monsters a bit lame; to thank her, the no-nonsense Goddard took her name. Even more adorably, Bywater’s namesake is a schoolmate of Shearman’s, who introduced the writer to the show when they were just 11 years old. Aw.

In the Q&A session, Shearman went on to discuss the mascot-like nature of the modern-day Dalek. Its image has been used to sell practically everything: stuffed toys, salt & pepper shakers, the “I Dalek London” shirt I wore to the bar that day. And that’s disturbing, considering the villains were developed in 1963 to represent the fascist force that held the world in its grasp not two decades before. The Daleks are Nazis. They wield plungers and talk in funny voices, but that doesn’t change their hateful insides.

Easy Laughter Press

Courtesy of Dirt [Contained]

In Easy Laughter, produced by Dirt [Contained] Theatre Company, Shearman imagines a grotesque future where these ideas have fully taken hold. We meet a wholesome nuclear family unit, who’ve stepped right out of ’50s sitcom: wife Patsy (Maria Swisher), husband Dennis (Michael Broadhurst), son Toby (Jay William Thomas) and daughter Judy (Tana Sirois). Their interactions are both irritatingly effusive and worryingly robotic as they prepare for a holiday that resembles Christmas, but only just. The audience surrounds the action on three sides, the open fourth of the stage housing what we learn is the Christtide tree. As I mentioned earlier, my friends and I were sitting directly behind the bar cart, which was a popular spot as everyone from dad down on to the kids imbibes whiskey heavily throughout the play. I could’ve used a drink myself.

Easy Laughter is an unflinching, pitch-black satire. The horrifying history that made this family what they are unfolds throughout the play, but it takes no exposition to know from the very beginning that something is deeply, deeply wrong here. Patsy is almost vibrating with fear as she waits on her husband, children, and eventually, her visiting father-in-law (Nick Dematteo). Dennis takes confusing pride in being a glorified pencil-pusher; he’s the head of the family unit anyway, as his constant jabs and chastisements remind his wife. But he’s slowly being supplanted by his own son, a Rolf-looking motherfucker whose rosy cheeks and ridiculous short-pants can’t disguise his pulsating ambition and razor-sharp meanness. Little Judy still takes joy in the magic of Christtide and the celebrated miracle whose eventual reveal sent half of my audience into tears of revulsion and shock. Underneath their hearty apologies and compliments (“Thank you very much, indeed.”), the family looks like they’ll begin tearing each other apart at any moment. When the shared values are so in-human, even your loved ones are your enemies.

Shearman wrote the play as a student, and that makes so much sense to me. Easy Laughter goes hard; the idea is executed to extremes. It feels immediate. Subtlety is for the grown-ups, but we idealists don’t have time to fuck around. It’s an audience assault. The Dirt [Contained] production (the play’s first New York staging) fully commits, as do the actors. I was exhausted for them by the end of the piece; that kind of sustained mania has to be depleting, not to mention their very inhabiting of such a monstrous universe. Tana Sirois especially stood out. Casting adults as children doesn’t always work out (though Clifford holds a special place in my heart), but I nearly forgot that Sirois wasn’t actually 8-years-old. Stephen Massaro’s direction uses the space nicely, making the audience looking in on the Simpson family holiday about as uncomfortable as we could be. (Thanks, man.)  After the well-earned but subdued bows, we filed out of the theater, barely looking at each other the whole way.

Easy Laughter ended its run, but you can still support by voting for the production in the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.