Posted by Kim and Sage
GREASE IS THE WAY WE ARE FEEEEEEEEEEELING.
Posted by Kim and Sage
GREASE IS THE WAY WE ARE FEEEEEEEEEEELING.
Welcome to the 2016 SAG Awards everyone! Join us for all the fashion, celebs, and awards. Will Kate and Leo walk away winners? Will Spotlight take home the Best Ensemble Award? Will SAG ever learn that there is a difference between a leading performance and a supporting one on Television? Join us to find out.
The X-Files Season 10, Episode 2
Posted by Sage
The critical buzz on The X-Files revival was mostly of the opinion that the quality jumped up several notches after the premiere. Not wanting to spoil the chance to watch brand new episodes live with friends and fandom, I ignored screener access to wait for broadcast, and put my faith in reviewers I trust. Kim’s reflections on “My Struggle” are almost identical to my own opinion, so I won’t bother reiterating them much beyond this: what a hot damn mess. But Fox scheduling did the revival a massive favor by putting the first two episodes on back-to-back nights. Best that the majority of the viewing public didn’t have a week to marinate on the shortfalls of the pilot, but were thrown right into a honest-to-god X-File. “Founder’s Mutation” turned me into a hyped-up NBA commentator, basically. “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT,” I believe I yelled at one point.
“Founder’s Mutation” skipped past the paperwork and basement office renovations and caught up with a fully re-installed FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully. But first, the cold open – a device that The X-Files was among the first network dramas to use efficiently and creatively. A Dr. Sanjay walks through the security check-point in the lobby of his workplace, Nugenics Technology. Things are not okay. There’s a piercing, dog-whistle sound in his ears and his eyes are bloodshot. He sits at the head of a boardroom table while a bland but reproachful middle-manager reams out Sanjay and the rest of his colleagues. “He sent a message this morning: do-over,” the man says. The message comes from a man usually referred to as “the founder” – a little theatrical for someone who claims to want his anonymity, but that’s just me. Sanjay looks over his shoulder out into the lawn outside the office park and sees that it’s nearly covered by gathering crows. (A murder of crows, if you will.) He stumbles abruptly out of the meeting and into a room lined with servers. Sanjay initiates a data transfer behind a locked door, but he never finishes it. While his colleagues bang on the glass separating him and them and the piercing noise still envelopes him, he falls to the ground, picks up a letter opener, and shoves it into his own brain. HIT IT, MARK SNOW.
Dr. Sanjay’s death is one of those cases that Mulder and Scully are assigned to by pure happy accident. No immediate X-File in the instance of the reclusive man with the high-stress job who had a breakdown and then killed himself. The FBI are investigating instead of the police because they have the security clearance, and Nugenics is in bed with the Department Of Defense. That clearance doesn’t get them permission to bag Sanjay’s hard drive and take it as evidence, nor are they afforded the chance to speak to Dr. Augustus Goldman aka the Founder aka Dr. Moreau. (That last one is mine.) But the good cop/kindergarten cop routine is still in Mulder and Scully’s repertoire, and watching Mulder slyly pocket Sanjay’s smartphone makes it feel like old times. Well, old times plus Siri.
A quick scan of Sanjay’s call history introduces a contact saved as Gupta; leading up to his breakdown, Sanjay was calling him nightly. Mulder arranges a meeting with the mystery man in a wood-paneled DC bar. It’s Vik Sahay from Chuck. (Rock on, Jeffster.) What follows is a Mulder snafu I’d be more apt to expect from Darin Morgan, a writer who (hopefully still) loves to poke fun at Fox’s outsider status. Informant-speak is vague and suggestive; it’s actually shocking that Mulder’s intent hasn’t been misconstrued before. The X-Files hasn’t always been the most sensitive or progressive show, but the joke is absolutely on Mulder here. Even when Gupta realizes that Mulder isn’t actually cruising him, he’s not embarrassed. (“When it comes down to it, you’re all repressed.” Ain’t it the truth, Gupta?)
Gupta and Sanjay had had an ongoing sexual relationship that mellowed into a friendship. Basically, because Sanjay was living a closeted life in more ways than one, Gupta was the only witness to Sanjay’s downward spiral. He fielded phone calls from Sanjay where he fretted about “his kids,” an intriguing choice of words since the deceased was single and childless. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Gupta as a friend, though. He doesn’t make a star witness because he didn’t press Sanjay for information, just tried to listen. This brief look into the relationship between two people brings some much-needed humanity into this episode. So put that in your pocket, because it gets even rougher from here on out.
Meanwhile, Scully is back at home with her stiffs, doing an autopsy on Sanjay. She notices that there are words written on the corpse’s palm. She tells Mulder later that she had to break his fingers to be able to read them. And we get a nice visual of it, because these are the details that make The X-Files the nauseating horror-show that we love. The reminder or message is “Founder’s Mutation,” and that’s not the only strange piece of evidence Scully gathers from the body. An x-ray of Sanjay’s skull shows that the letter opener almost changed trajectory inside of his brain, plunging upwards and into his auditory cortex. About that ringing, then.
The Special Agents drive their shiny new Ford (RIP Taurus) over to Sanjay’s secret residence, a spot that only Gupta knew about. Unlike his “antiseptic” public apartment, this one is a scrapbook of Sanjay’s project and secret obsession. One wall is wallpapered with photos of children with extreme physical abnormalities: his “kids.” Before Mulder and Scully can dig much deeper, the police arrive. Scully endeavors to prove the legitimacy of their presence to the responding officer, but Mulder is incapacitated. The same ringing that Sanjay heard sends him crumpling to the floor. He watches Scully and the officer talk, but the words he hears aren’t theirs. “Find her,” someone says. “Help me,” someone else answers.
When Mitch Pileggi announced his involvement in the revival on Twitter, he expressed his excitement at Skinner being back in the lives of “his two wayward kids.” If that isn’t the dynamic, though. So little has changed. The Assistant Director can still aim a withering glare across his desk to his two most troublesome reports. Mulder and Scully, both in their 50s, can look just as sheepish and defiant as they ever have. And there’s even a new shadowy figure serving as an unwelcome audience. The unnamed man – a minion of the DOD – snidely delivers the news that the Eugenics files that the agents took from Sanjay’s apartment are classified and cannot be used as evidence. Skinner backs him up; the case is officially closed….until the snooty DOD man leaves the room. (Hasn’t word gotten around Washington yet that Skinner is always, always on his favorite agents’ side? I guess that page got lost on the Hill.) “I assume you made copies,” Skinner offers. Of course they did. Scully isn’t convinced yet that Sanjay’s death was anything but a suicide, but these sinister genetic experiments must be scrutinized. Skin Man’s got their back. “The bureaucracy of the FBI has become increasingly complex and inefficient,” he explains, needlessly. “It might take days for your incident report in order to close the investigation to make it through the proper channels. Welcome back, you two.” #OT3Goals, as always.
The only lead left to follow lies with the elusive Augustus Goldman. Scully tells Mulder that she might have a way to get to the Founder, an understatement since he funds research at the same hospital where she worked for the past six years. A. Why is this just coming up now? B. Catholics are shady. The agents walk the halls of Our Lady Of Sorrows with a sketchy nun (Scully is deferential, Mulder is unimpressed), who talks about Goldman as if he’s the second coming of Christ himself. “A true champion of the unborn,” Sister Whatever The Fuck calls him, a descriptor usually aimed at 900-year-old Southern senators who think of birth control as Satan’s candy. The public facing side of Goldman’s research has him providing prenatal care to women whose fetuses have or will develop a deformity. Curiously, all of these women are alone; no baby daddies or family around to provide support. No population is more at risk in the world of The X-Files than mothers-to-be, and this ward stinks to high heaven of exploitation. Sketchy Nun buys Scully’s story about wanting to give Goldman a warning about being the target of an upcoming federal investigation (Mulder: “Obamacare.”), and goes to retrieve his contact information. Agnes, a wild-eyed waif of a pregnant girl (Abigail from Hannibal, always in danger), takes the opportunity to get the agents attention and begs for them to get her out. They ask if there’s something wrong with her baby, and she looks confused. “My baby?” She regrets her decision, she says, and Dr. Goldman is not “right.” A harsh look from returned Sketchy Nun silences her, but Mulder slips Agnes her card. “Men and their lies…no offense,” Sketchy Nun glances at Mulder. “Desire is the devil’s pitchfork.” Now is that a sensational name for a fic archive, or what?
In the parking lot of the hospital, Mulder and Scully reflect on what they’ve just seen. In typical bulldozing Mulder fashion, he begins to go off on the violation these women are experiencing, too keyed up to consider the feelings of the person in front of him.
Mulder:“The women are the incubators.”
Scully: “Is this what you believe happened to me 15 years ago? When I got pregnant? When I had my baby? Was I just an incubator?”
If this series is going to end with Mulder and Scully back together as a couple – and I believe it will – it will happen by way of them dealing with their baggage, together. William would be 15 years old now, Scully reminds Mulder, and you know that she tracks every single birthday he’s celebrating without her. (“A mother never forgets.”) She asks Mulder if he ever thinks about their son, and I had to sit with his answer for a while to make sense of it. “Yes, of course I do,” he says, “but I feel like I’ve had to put that behind me.” Well what a fucking LUXURY, Fox Mulder. Must be nice to compartmentalize your life like that. Fortunately for him, this BTS interview with writer James Wong came along right in time to save Mulder (at least a little) from my wrath.
Wong says that David actually added the “of course I do” to the line, to soften that dismissal. And the rest of his response? It’s self-preservation. Mulder knows where Scully is headed in her mind, and it’s straight to questioning herself and her love for her child. (Imagine how many times they had this same conversation in their little house.) The last few seasons of the original series had so much value that’s been overlooked over the years. The way that Mulder reacts to Scully’s decision to give William up is as moving as anything that’s ever happened on the show. Mulder loves his son as desperately as Scully does (let those fantasy sequences be proof for the doubters), but there was never any danger of him resenting her for what she did. He doesn’t even need to know the details that led to that choice. He trusts Scully always; he especially trusts his heart with her, and that’s what William is. Selfless as ever, Scully put their child before herself. She’s the one left with the most pain, and Mulder doesn’t want to see her adding incertitude to the constant agony of just missing him. It’s not fair.
The X-Files Season 10 (!!!!!!!!!!!), Episode 1
Posted by Kim
Confession time. The first time I saw “My Struggle”, I was in a room with several thousand X-Philes at New York Comic Con. The energy in the room was ELECTRIC. It was Day Three of the Con and everyone was slightly delirious thanks to the combination of very little sleep, pop culture over-stimulation, and the fact that OMG WE WERE SEEING AN ACTUAL NEW EPISODE OF THE X-FILES AND GETTING TO TALK TO CHRIS CARTER, DAVID DUCHOVNY, AND MITCH PILEGGI AFTERWARDS. It was insane and I will NEVER forget that emotional high. Between that high and the fact that my expectations for “My Struggle” had been drastically lowered thanks to the response from the TCAs, I walked away from the screening having thoroughly enjoyed the episode. Now that I have some distance, I can see “My Struggle” for what it is: a poorly written mess that banks on you being too excited to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on your screen to really care.
Don’t get me wrong. When the voiceover began with “My name is Fox Mulder…”, I got chills. When the theme song and the original credits (with the deserved addition of Mitch Pileggi) rolled, I had tears of joy in my eyes. As a fandom, we have waited SO LONG for this. But we can’t let our joy cloud our judgement and this episode was sloppy as hell. Look, I am forever grateful to Chris Carter for the world he created. But like George Lucas, his genius is often best left to ideas rather than execution. The writing of “My Struggle” was awkward and overly expositioned at its best and downright awful at its worst. The porch scene between Mulder and Scully was like bad fan fiction. Did you really have to insert all those catchphrases? I worship at the altar of Gillian Anderson’s acting but even she couldn’t make that scene work. David and Gillian were so disconnected in that scene and it just felt like they were spouting lines at maximum intensity rather than believing in their words. And the whole new conspiracy? To borrow from Sage’s tweets, it felt like Carter just went to Wikipedia and searched for conspiracies for the basis of the plot. Basically, the government is shady as fuck, using alien technology to fuel a planned and calculated Armageddon. People (women mainly) have been repeatedly abducted to be part of experiments and MAYBE their DNA has been fused with aliens for whatever reason. Any proof vanishes when it’s needed most. It’s really a means to an end and that end is getting The X-Files re-opened, because there is no way this arc can be resolved in less than 6 episodes. Alrighty? So let’s just talk about what “My Struggle” did with our beloved characters, shall we? Because really…that’s why we are all here.
Another similarity between George Lucas and Chris Carter is that they both like to rewrite history. Lucas does it by adding Jabba the Hut into A New Hope and Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi, both of which are insulting to the original films. Chris Carter does it by ignoring character growth and regressing relationships to a point that is insulting to long time fans. Carter is/was notoriously against the Mulder/Scully romance, despite accidentally writing the greatest and deepest love story of all time, so I’m not SURPRISED that they are broken up. I’m just disappointed. Not that I expected/wanted everything to be puppies and rainbows with Mulder and Scully. They’ve been through and seen too much for that. But what I did expect was for them to be a united front. They are each other’s constants, they are each other’s touchstones. That is CANON. Hell, even at the end of I Want To Believe we had them choosing each other, once again. The movie ended with them LITERALLY sailing off into the sunset. So this “estrangement” nonsense is just that. It’s nonsense. It’s insulting to the characters he created. Are you really telling me that after EVERYTHING they have been through that Scully’s self-diagnosis of Mulder’s depression is the straw that broke their relationship? Sure, Jan.
(Also, I SEE YOU trolling with that “for better, for worse” line, Chris Carter. I don’t appreciate it.)
Look. When you look at it objectively, Scully has every reason to walk away from Mulder. He’s no picnic even without the weight of a massive global conspiracy bringing him down. Scully has lost so much thanks to the fact that on a dreary night in Oregon, she chose to trust Fox Mulder. She’s lost her sister. She’s lost TWO children. She’s lost her fertility. (Yeah, I know those contradict each other BUT THIS IS THE SHOW.) She’s become estranged from siblings, she’s had her career in shambles, and she’s had her personal faith tested. It’s too much for any person to bear. But this is what I love about Dana Katherine Scully. In the face of all of that, time and time again she charged into the darkness after Mulder. She’s ALWAYS chosen him and she’s always chosen the fight that they were in together. Having her estranged from him now is an insult to the character’s legacy. To quote Scully herself, SHE WOULDN’T CHANGE A DAY OF HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MULDER. Except for Flukeman. Again, that’s CANON. So why all of a sudden has Scully decided it’s all too much for her?
Don’t get me started on the Scully/Tad O’Malley dynamic. First of all, Joel McHale, ILYSM but I would love for you to talk to your agent about playing a non-smarmy character for once. It’s a good performance but it basically felt like Jeff Winger in one of his Goldblummy meltdowns. Secondly, are you really telling me that Dana Scully, who can make men wilt with a single arch of her eyebrow, would fall prey to Tad’s “charms” and insincere flattery? Okay. Everything about Scully and Tad is off from the very beginning. He goes straight to calling her Dana as opposed to maintaining a professional distance (Mulder’s FACE though. And I love how he mocks her for that later in the episode). He shows up AT HER WORK just to chat because he wants to see her again and he somehow gets Scully to join him in his car for Champagne. THEN he goes off about her wonderful (I mean it is wonderful, but still) work at the hospital for no apparent reason. It’s all SO WEIRD. The Scully *I* know would have just given him a bitch face from the very first “Dana” and wouldn’t have let him get near her. So I really don’t get what Carter was going for here. Do they have a past? Does Scully DATE? Why are you doing this?
Sleepy Hollow Season 3, Episode 8
“Novus Ordo Seclorum”
Posted by Sage
How the hiatus flies when you’re ignoring your recapping duties, eh? Sleepy Hollow is back and in its new time slot on Friday, February 5. So, I figured, why not dust off a three month old draft and finally organize my thoughts about the mid-season finale, “Novus Ordo Seclorum”? My lateness has now given you a handy catch-up guide to get you in the mood for even more sexy witnessing and demon-catching in upstate NY in 3B. Let’s pretend that was the plan the whole time. To the rankings!
Naturally, her demon-hunting family springs into action to save Miss Jenny. After she throws some shadeface at her boss (more on that to come), Abbie catches up with Joe and Crane, who are tracking their comrade down. “I’ll take point,” Abbie announces, cocking her gun. Joe and Crane adjust their crotches off-camera probably, and they’re off. Sadly, they miss The Hidden One’s magic act (Scully: “Should we arrest David Copperfield?” Mulder: “Yes we should, but not for this.”) – Jenny levitates in front of him as he sucks out her youthful life force like a Sanderson sister at a bat mitzvah. He takes a break to spare Jenny’s life; suck too fast and she won’t be any good to them any more. (Let that be a lesson to so many of us.) As they search the forest, Abbie throws herself a pity party, blaming herself for Jenny’s predicament. Though, as I mentioned in my last recap, Joey is really at fault for not noticing Nevins’s very conspicuous use of gloves when handling the shard. Crane doesn’t care whose fault it is, he just wants his in-law back. (“The sisters Mills are the closest to family I have left.”) Pandora’s squad disappears as soon as Abbie, Crane, and Joe find them, leaving a ancient cloth decorated in Sumerian writing. Translation: The Hidden One is a god, and lowly mortals are shit outta luck. I’m paraphrasing.
Frat boys dodged and book in hand, Crane tells Abbie and Joe what the Eye Of Providence has to do with General George Washington (riiiiise up). Washington came somehow into possession of the Eye and asked Paul Revere (Joe: “I’m still not used to the way you name drop.”) to examine the staff for him. Revere’s apprentice Jonathan touched the Eye with his bare skin, becoming consumed by it, like Jenny is. With no cure in sight, Jonathan sacrifices himself; he stays in the country, far enough away from the nearest village so that when he blows, his is the only human life lost. If the Eye stays within a human too long, that human essentially becomes a bomb. So, not only is Jennifer Mills in grave danger, but Sleepy Hollow itself is mission critical. A clock is running, but Team Witness doesn’t know when it will stop.
The key to defusing the Jenny-bomb lies in the past. Revere has scribbled Dumas code in the margins of the Masonic text. It says that after the blast (and Jonathan’s death), he was able to “draw out” the eye from the young man’s corpse with the staff. (Abbie: “I really hope you’re about to say, ‘I think I’ve seen that staff before.”) Crane has seen it; on the day that he brought a message and his condolences to Revere at his silver smithy. Revere is broken, which is probably why he allows Crane to see him melting down a strange metallic artifact. Washington had instructed Revere to “hide” the Eye, which he did by changing the staff’s shape: hence, the shard. Here’s where the “what if” comes in: Abbie theorizes that the shard can contain the power of the Eye but it can also mask it. Pandora required Nevins’s services to find it for her. For someone who finds humans so useless, Pandora certainly needed them to do a lot of her evil legwork. Anyway, Abbie heads back to the SHPD to find the shard in evidence lock-up.
Meanwhile, Sophie (remember Sophie?) is interrogating Nevins one last time. Rather, she’s appealing to him. She liked him, she says. Even though she was undercover and he was kind of a dick, she doesn’t think he deserves the shitstorm coming to him if he doesn’t talk to the police. Nevins scoffs, because he’s already dead inside. The police have no jurisdiction in the war that Pandora and The Hidden One are about to start. There’s no real protection they can offer him.
Shard in hand, Abbie runs into Sophie outside the precinct. Abbie asks to be put in a room with Nevins; maybe he can tell her more about how the shard works. But it’s too late; Nevins is already being transferred. Pandora (looking super cute in her FBI kit, I must say) pays him a visit in the perp van. The treasure hunter was right: he’s served his purpose and he knows too much. Pandora chokes him out; when the women get near the van, they find that every officer who was outside when Pandora arrived is dead too. Sophie goes for back-up, Abbie advances, gun drawn.
You’ve got to respect Pandora’s persistence. Abbie just stepped over the bodies of her fallen comrades, but Pandora is still trying to pull her to the side of the immortals. “There is a place for you two witnesses in the new world,” she says. “You have a right, by lineage.” The prospect of eternal life holds no appeal to Abbie, not when her sister is at stake. “That’s beautiful,” Pandora answers. (I LOVE THIS PERFORMANCE.) “That’s family. But I’m sensing something festering. An old wound…you’ve failed her before, haven’t you?” OH, PANDORA. Nice try. Sure, her accusation triggers a flashback to baby Abbie’s denial of Jenny, but the sisters have long since patched up that wound. Jenny forgives Abbie, and that’s all that matters. If anything, the memory of that moment fires Abbie up even more. But before she can say as much to Pandora, Sophie appears. Pandora is gone.
After another exchange with Danny that belongs entirely in the #SassyHollow section, Abbie stocks up on the firepower Team Witness will need to challenge an actual god. (Joe: “I haven’t seen hardware like this since my last tour.”) She grabbed something else when she was looking through Nevins’s things: a book that looks “magical, old…you know, Crane-ish.” It’s a book of summoning spells in Norse and Latin – the words needed to beckon the monsters out of Pandora’s box. Could come in mighty handy, then.
Meanwhile, The Hidden One and Pandora are still doing their thing, making out on top of Jenny and slowly using her up. Frankly, the big bads don’t do much in this episode. Every “check-in” scene is basically the same; and I wish they’d been used a little more thoughtfully. Like, make me fear you, please.
The immortals are at home when Team Witness comes in hot. Armed with actual arms and Pandora’s own magic, they ambush the enemy. Or was the enemy waiting for them? Their resident soldier boy handles the “shock and awe;” Crane goes for the box; and Abbie is on Jenny duty. Pandora calmly greets her “unannounced guests,” coming face-to-face with Abbie in a repeat of their earlier stand-off. “I thought about your offer,” Abbie announces, “and I’m here to tell you that you can go to hell.” Pandora answers that the fate of the Mills sisters is sealed; no use in fighting it. “We’re stubborn that way,” Abbie counters. And then Crane takes Pandora out with a stun gun, because this episode was wild. Then everything happens at once. A grenade knocks the Hidden One away from Jenny. Abbie rushes to her with the shard. Jenny tells her to leave, of course – it’s too dangerous. Abbie will have none of that, thank you (“I’m never leaving you again.”), and uses the shard to pull the Eye’s power out of Jenny’s body. Crane finds the box on a pedestal and begins chanting incantations at it. This confused the hell out of me. What’s Crane trying to call forth? How does he know he’ll be able to control it when he does? Pandora comes to and throws out some counter spells. The box is suspended between them, like that thing in a cartoon where two people are calling a dog at the same time to find out who it likes better. It’s pretty clear that this detour is just a way to get Crane and Pandora away from Jenny and Abbie for a while so happens eventually can happen. It makes no sense and goes nowhere (the box drops back to the pedestal, nothing comes out of it) – a bit of sloppy script-writing in an otherwise cohesive half-season.
A blast echoes through the chamber. Pandora’s box is destroyed. She and The Hidden One are gone. Crane comes to, to silence. He confirms that his family – Joe and Miss Jenny – are alive, before looking for any sign of Abbie. There is none. The tree has closed. He whispers her name.
My theory: Abbie has already been to purgatory. Now, she’s in Hell. And they better be scared of her. 4/10 Sandmen for creepiness. 8.5/10 Golems for total screaming insanity. #NoMoreAbbieMillsSacrifices2K16
Sherlock, New Year’s Day 2016 Special
“The Abominable Bride”
Posted by Sage
If you follow Head Over Feels on social media (and you’d better), you perhaps noticed that we didn’t give off our usual hum of anticipation leading in to a brand new episode of Sherlock. Truth be told, I found it genuinely difficult to get excited about a special that looked for all the world like it was going to be some kind of dream or alternate reality adventure, totally outside of the actual show canon. “The Abominable Bride” was a standalone story that put us right back where series 3 left off…and it wasn’t. I admire Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for their determination to have their cake and eat it too, even if that doesn’t work out for them all the time. But when years pass between our appointments with this Sherlock and Watson, why not be bold?
Look, this Victorian Inception thing either worked for you or it didn’t. But the conceit gave the show’s brilliant production and design staff another way to shine; their care and attention to detail showed in every frame. At last year’s Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, I was privileged to spend an hour in a hotel boardroom with Sherlock production designer Arwel Wyn Jones and a dozen other fans, 12 Angry Men style. That’s nearly a full 11 months ago, but he was already neck-deep in preparations for “The Abominable Bride.” The task that was keeping him up at night around that time? Finding era-appropriate versions of Sherlock and John’s signature arm chairs.
Production designers spend their lives considering minute details that only the most attentive of viewers will even consciously note. And that’s why we love them. But the scarcity of the new Sherlock episode to the people who make it shows in the final product. In “The Abominable Bride,” I see a piece of work that’s been made in its own sweet time with the cool, shrugging confidence that can only come with runaway success and a heavily tumbled slash ship. I also see that the artists behind the show had months (and years in the case of the writers) to think about how to do it and how to do it right. Contradiction, my dear Watson. It makes for a divided audience. About a third of my Twitter timeline really hated this episode.
Me? I’m fine. “The Abominable Bride” didn’t have the giddiness of “The Sign Of Three” or the cold dread of “The Reichenbach Fall,” and believe me, I’ll get to the problematic bits. Still, I enjoy Gatiss and Moffat’s textual high-fiving over their own cleverness – you kind of have to, to be a fan – and the one-off did push the story forward incrementally. Or at least, a couple of characters.
Though the first five minutes did nothing to allay my fears in that respect. The episode opens and proceeds for a while as a straight-up Victorian re-telling of “A Study In Pink.” John Watson is injured in the war; runs into his old friend Stamford, and meets his new flatmate Sherlock Holmes whilst he’s wailing on a dead body in a morgue. It’s all very twee, aside from Martin fucking Freeman. Sherlock is always Sherlock – a “man out of his time” or any time. He’s timeless. But “Bride” showcased the traditional Watson who runs parallel to the modern one in Freeman’s performance. He plays this Watson so differently, though there’s never a doubt that the partnership is still the same. As always, I marvel at his talent and get more excited when I should when he gets to yell.
Then the episode fast-forwards a bit to an established sleuthing duo returning home from another adventure that’s sure to be written up for publication in The Strand magazine. The time-warped Baker Street is proper thrilling, as is the appearance of Mrs. Hudson. She’s the first in a series of women to be overlooked and undervalued in the episode. And while she may be used to reading her name in a perfunctory context in John’s stories, she’s not over it. “Well, I never say anything, do I?” she challenges her tenant. “I’m your land lady, not a plot device.” (THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT A PLOT DEVICE WOULD SAY.) Inside their rooms is another woman is taking drastic steps to be seen. Mary Watson resorted to gaining access to 221B as a client, since it’s the only way by which she can see her husband. Not that her husband is really worth the trouble. 0/10 recommend dating or marrying 1895 John Watson, ladies. His painfully bored wife misses him, and offers up her assistance on the next case. “What would you do?” John asks her, befuddled by the suggestion that she might be of help. “Well, what do you do?” Mary shoots back. He doesn’t have much of an answer.
Sherlock ignores the domestic happening behind him and murmurs some foreshadowing about going “deep” within himself for a case. (“Ummmm…” – Tumblr.) Then a pair of mutton chops walks in, followed quickly by Detective Inspector Lestrade. He’s shaken, and certainly there on business. But first, a drink. (“Watson, restore the courage of Scotland Yard.”)
Lestrade (still FINE AS HELL, even with the face-warmers) begins weaving the tale of Emilia Ricoletti. On her wedding anniversary, Ricoletti put on her wedding dress, smeared red lipstick onto her mouth, and then stepped out onto her balcony in full view of the busy street below. Bystanders ran for cover as she shrieked (“YOU?”) and fired shots at the ground, the whole ordeal ending when she pointed the gun at herself and pulled the trigger. Or so that’s what rationality would predict. Later that night, none other than Emilia Ricoletti’s husband Thomas meets “the bride” on his way out Lime House. The dead woman, whose body he was certainly on his way to identify, shoots him in front of several witnesses and disappears into the foggy night.
I want to talk about storytelling for a minute. It’s happening on every level of Sherlock. Every case starts with a story, whether that comes from the law or from the client. It’s never nothing. There’s never no information. There’s a version of events from a specific point of view. There are prejudices and assumptions about what humans are or are not capable of. It’s Sherlock’s job to suss the truth the out, his lack of emotion (keep telling yourself that, Shezza) making him the ideal editor to cut through the bullshit. (“Poetry or truth?” “Many would say they’re the same thing.” “Yes, idiots.”) Once that happens, the story is re-written yet again, this time by John Watson. Whether he’s writing for a blog or for the Strand, he’s writing for an audience now. Sherlock’s work doesn’t make him a legend. John’s stories do. And they’re nothing without a little flair. My head canon is that every Sherlock episode is a “filmed” version of a Watson blog entry, and maybe the cases themselves weren’t quite so melodramatic. It’s all about framing, you see.
Lestrade’s narration is enhanced by a cool visual trick. The Sherlock crew set up the sitting room of 221B in the middle of the street where Thomas Ricolletti is shot; the camera zooms in and out of the meeting of minds and back to the murder, so it’s as if Lestrade, Sherlock, and Watson are actually witnessing the crime. That technique also backs up my unreliable(ish) narrator theory. The sleuths are seeing events as Lestrade describes them. He’s the storyteller.
Not that Sherlock trusts him. The first stop is the morgue, to ascertain whether or not what’s on the slaaaab is truly Mrs. Ricoletti. A “moron” has strapped the corpse to the table (hi, Anderson!) and is rewarded for his stupidity with verbal abuse by “Hooper,” the mustachioed, no-nonsense coroner. I do believe I love this. Modern Molly is a very feminine character who doesn’t see why her desire to date, wear lipstick (right shade or not), or be a low-key cat lady should at all undermine her authority in the lab. (Or in Sherlock’s mind palace. HM.) Molly could have been written into this special as a barmaid or something and the cross-dressing out of necessity could have been given to a female character who’s less stereotypically girly. But our Molly Hooper is a little ruthless. And she’s certainly brave. I could see her gaming the system to live the life she feels she deserves and do the work no one could do better. My shipper heart also leapt at the brief yet weighty interactions between Holmes and Hooper. There’s something about Holmes not noticing something very off about the coroner that calls back to the bad timing, misunderstandings, and tentative healing of their 21st century relationship. I ship it in every era.
Anyway, the dead body is (or was) unquestionably Emilia Ricoletti. The only change from the body’s previous day spent in the morgue is the smear of blood on one finger – the finger “she” used to write “YOU” in her own blood on the wall. (Anderson’s precautions aren’t so stupid after all, maybe.) Watson offers a meat-dagger-quality theory that Sherlock shoots down immediately: twins. SECRET twins. (“This whole thing could have been planned.” “Since the moment of conception?”) The good doctor does make a helpful note on the way out, however. The body shows signs of consumption. Sherlock doesn’t hear this part, since he’s already decided he’s learned all he can from these people. (“Thank you all for a fascinating case. I’ll send you a telegram when I’ve solved it.”)
Brother Mine meets with Lady Carmichael, who also has a story to tell. Her husband has been acting strangely since the morning he received five orange pips in the mail (classic Holmes reference), apparently an omen of death. “She’s come for me, Louise,” he chokes out. From that morning, he’s a haunted man. This is terrific news in Sherlock’s book, since it gives him a solid opportunity to see “the bride” in the flesh. Or not, whatever.
Sherlock: “Eustace is to die tonight!”
Sherlock: “…And we should probably avoid that.”
The boys take a field trip out to the Carmichaels’ country mansion. On the train, Watson’s uneasiness starts to show. He’s accepting the stories as they’ve been told to him. Based on the witnesses and the positive morgue ID, there can be only one conclusion: Emilia Ricoletti is terrorizing men from beyond the grave. He forgets how facts can be twisted, until Sherlock accuses him of letting his pathetic fancy run wild. “Since when have you had any kind of imagination?” Sherlock asks. “Perhaps since I convinced the reading public that an unprincipled drunk addict was some kind of gentleman hero,” Watson answers back. And….fair.
Sidebar: I love it when Sherlock gets all macabre and says things like, “There are no ghosts in this world, save those we make for ourselves.” I bet you all a million dollars each that James Franco has whispered this exact sentence into the ear of at least one NYU co-ed while drinking small-batch whiskey from a chipped coffee mug in a Brooklyn speakeasy.
Eustace is not psyched about being the carrot dangled in front of a misandrist spirit. He even attempts to convince the detective that his wife is overreacting, even though he was the one sobbing on the floor in his pajamas the night before. Sherlock will have none of it. He met Lady Carmichael and in an instant knew that she wasn’t the type to be held hostage by a scary story and a creaky step on the stairs. “She’s not a hysteric,” Sherlock reminds her husband. “She’s a highly intelligent woman of rare perception.” He does smell one rat in the house though. And I wonder if Sherlock’s enthusiasm for this rather dangerous plan has anything to do with his assumption that Eustace probably deserves what’s coming to him.
At last, we’ve arrived. The gay greenhouse scene. *cracks knuckles*
Everyone welcome back our fashion blogger, Maggie. (Also it’s her blogaversary with us, so throw some glitter at her. YAY SPARKLES.) Maggie will once again be your guide through the madness that is Red Carpet Season. What were her favorite looks from the Golden Globes? Read on to find out. –Kim
The Top Ten
Taraji P. Henson
Was there really any other choice for the top of our Best Dressed list? Taraji wasn’t the only star stunning in white last night, but she was the one having the most fun working her look. (God help the man who stepped on her train as she walked up to accept her award.) Hair and makeup game strong, and I think her earrings were the best of the night. You could see a little bit of the workings of the bodice, if that makes sense? But it’s impossible to focus on such a nitpick when the fiercest woman in the room is handing out cookies and declaring that she’s waited twenty years so no, she will not be played off, thank you very much.
Kiki is back, y’all, and I am here for it. This black number reminded me a little bit of Rosamund Pike’s monstrosity from last year in structure, but this look is much more successful — and flattering. I think she manages to look sophisticated while baring a fair amount of fair skin, and somehow what appears to be black velvet looks light and fresh.
I love this color on her and I can’t get over the tiers. The fabric is a touch stiff? But it works to maintain the killer shape. She looks lovely here and the Fashion Police better only have compliments this time around.
I know. I KNOW. This is the best I’ve seen Maggie Gyllenhaal look in a long time. I think the print works beautifully, I love the shade of yellow (in a year of some truly dour yellows) and I’m a sucker for this shoulder detail.
I freely admit to being biased here, but just look at her. You know the expression “slay”? Well, I wrote in my notes “straight up murder,” that’s how great I think she looks. She is glam for days, and I think she managed to stand out even in the sea of white with trains. I did see a few wrinkles, but again. I’m biased.
To me, this is the perfect red carpet look. Beautifully fitted, understated red gown. Flowing locks. NECKLACE. Red lip. Done.
Another print! This one is the tiniest bit more couch-like to me, but I love the colors and I think she’s pulling it off. Bonus points for lipstick.
I love the beading, the neckline, and the shape of the skirt, which I much prefer to some of the more structured prom-y dresses I saw last night. Also pockets! And btw I know we all talk about the Dewan-Tatums as relationship goals, but why/how did she let Channing out of the house with his hair like that last night??
I’m super particular about beading (foreshadowing) and I love what’s happening here. The pink is so beautiful and the pattern created with the silver just. I love it. I think she looks overall amazing here and I hope to see more of her on the red carpet.
Bonus shot from the back, mainly because this PICTURE is stunning.
Okay, so I know this might be controversial, but I loved this. I thought it was just out of the box enough without going full apron or anything. It’s really flattering and it has a belt! What more do you want from me? I wasn’t sure what to expect from Alicia, but I was pretty sure she would do something less traditional and I, for one, am glad she did.
Also, lounging goals.