Sense8 and the Power of Representation in Television

Today, June 1 — the first day of Pride Month — Netflix announced its decision to cancel its original series, Sense8, after two seasons. The announcement has been met with outrage, multiple petitions (including one that has reached over 100,000 signatures), and open opposition over social media.

I thought it was a joke at first. The show, which received critical acclaim for its unadulterated display of diversity in race, culture, gender, and sexual orientation, had its ratings increase significantly between the first and second season (79% in Season 1 to 86% in Season 2 on RottenTomatoes, for example — both seasons considered a significant “fresh” tomato). The choice to end it abruptly leaves me reeling and begging the question: When will television outlets — primetime, digital, or otherwise — recognize the importance of diversity in the 21st century?

For those who need a log line…well, it’s hard to summarize Sense8 in just a few sentences. Basically, take a cop from Chicago. A trans hacker from San Fransisco. A successful businesswoman from Seoul, South Korea. A pharmaceutical professional in India, a matatu driver in Nairobi, a DJ from Iceland, an actor from Mexico,  and a con man in Germany…and you get a group of “sensates,” or people equipped with the ability to essentially step into each other’s minds. These dynamic characters from all backgrounds can — if you’ll forgive the cliche — walk in each other’s shoes through “visiting” each other’s consciousnesses. Their relationships with each other as well as with those outside their “cluster” are full, fleshed out, and for the most part, healthy.

Take Nomi, a trans woman (played by a trans actress, Jamie Clayton!!!) from California, and her girlfriend, Amanita (Freema Agyeman of Doctor Who fame) — a woman of color. Consistently throughout both seasons, their relationship is grounded, balanced, and goes through natural stages.

And why is this so important?

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Think about other romantic relationships between women in television. Buffy‘s Willow and Tara were torn apart by Tara’s death. The 100 killed off Lexa. Skins gave Naomi cancer and took her away from Emily, and, hell, Poussey was killed on Orange is the New Black for being gay and black while in a loving relationship despite her circumstances. Going way back, the leads in Xena: Warrior Princess weren’t allowed much more than subtext when it aired.

Basically, LGBT women don’t have the best track record for survival or happiness on television, even on Netflix shows that supposedly “revolutionize” television. And yet Nomi and Amanita prevailed. Nita empathized with Nomi’s impossible strife as a sensate despite not fully understanding the phenomenon. Nomi did everything she could to use her computer skills to protect Nita at all costs. They showed affection for each other unapologetically. They not only fit well together romantically, but mentally and emotionally, too. Even with her seven partners in crime, Nomi could not have gotten anywhere without the smarts, the passion, the counsel of her girlfriend. What’s better than that?

Take, also, Lito and his boyfriend Hernando. Their relationship went through more ups and downs than others in the show — in fact, Hernando doesn’t even know about Lito’s “extra” abilities where Nita does of Nomi’s — but their journey contributes to Lito’s character development and, consequently, the development of all the characters.

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Lito’ love for Hernando inspires his gradual coming out and risking his career as an actor with a conservative fanbase. By the second season, he learns to accept himself despite feeling like an outsider, and this is a realization his fellow sensates come to terms with alongside him. His discovery of and eventual pride in his individuality is something he shares with his entire cluster as they go on their journey to discover what makes them different, why, and how to live with that otherness.

Nomi, specifically, provides him with advice and someone to talk to in Season 1 as someone who went through her own coming out process. This is just one example of the show’s ability to give proper, realistic attention to not only the romantic relationships, but the filial relationships and friendships on the show.

Each Sense8 character is unique with their own sets of strengths, weaknesses, and challenges, and only when they work together do they best realize their individual potential. Riley brings music and rhythm into the group dynamic to connect everyone through sound (see the iconic “What’s Up?” moment). Lito adds his hyperbolic tendencies and acting expertise to get his fellow sensates out of sticky situations. Wolfgang brings his cunning smarts, Sun her self-defense know-how and determination, Kala her medical knowledge, Nomi her technological prowess, Capheus his positivity, Will his compassionate and inquisitive nature. They are each their own person with their own lives to lead, but when they work together, they are virtually unstoppable.

The Wachowski siblings do an inspiring job of creating a sense of togetherness among 8 people whose distance from each other spans continents. Romances, of course, do blossom among the sensates, but more powerful to me is the friendship that transcends cultural and geographic boundaries. Most of all, Sense8 preaches a message of love and solidarity. “I’m not just me. I am also a we,” says Nomi says in the first season — speaking not only of the LGBTQ community, but of the group of people across the world who have changed her life, and she theirs.

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To be fair, production costs for this show are high ($9 mil per episode this season, in fact). Actors, directors, and crew travel quite literally around the world to make the sensate experience as authentic as possible for the viewer. It seems Netflix didn’t see enough payoff.

Not enough payoff, apparently, in men and women of color and of various sexual orientations and genders expressing themselves freely and working together to better themselves and each other.

It just seems sad to me. I love Sense8 because it makes me feel less alone. I feel intimately connected to each character as if I myself am part of their “cluster.” There is so much potential for the characters and story to grow further. Ending the show so prematurely, without a resolution (on a cliffhanger, no less!) does a disservice to the show, its creators, and of course, the hundreds of thousands of fans around the world. Countless social media posts I’ve seen today and throughout the show’s run feature fans expressing how the show changed them for the better and broadened their horizons. Some have even said it’s saved their lives. Is Netflix willing to throw all that way so quickly?

One has to wonder why Netflix originals like 13 Reasons Why, which features little diversity and has been met with many negative reactions, are easily renewed while shows like Sense8 are not. Just a week ago, Netflix canceled The Get Down, another one of its originals, focused on a group of black teens during the rise of R&B in the 1970s. Netflix claimed high production costs as the reason for the choice, but the cancellation of two progressive shows — one highlighting influences of America’s past, the other highlighting the potential of the world’s future human race — struck Netflix binge-watchers hard. For a streaming service that has consistently picked up quirky, “edgy,” and, yes, diverse programming, this feels like a giant leap backwards.

If Netflix wants to alienate such a large demographic — students and professionals who want to come home after a long day of work or school and watch something that truly represents them and their struggles — then they are succeeding.

Whether or not fans’ cries are heard and Sense8 is picked up somewhere else, this says a lot about how Netflix is treating its most inclusive shows these days. Why pick up something so diverse, relatable, and powerful and decide not to continue with its rumored 5-season storyline?

I fear that Netflix will turn into its primetime predecessors, packing its instant streaming service with primarily generic white-led crime dramas and the occasional (also white-led) sci-fi show (Stranger Things, anyone?).

Netflix was becoming a platform for true diversity in media.

Where does it stand now?

What ’13 Reasons Why’ Got Wrong

You’ve likely heard the hype surrounding 13 Reasons Why, the new Netflix teen drama based on the novel of the same name that’s trending for its “gritty” and “real” depictions of assault, bullying, and suicide. Set at the fictional Liberty High School, we follow student Clay Jensen as he listens through thirteen cassette tapes that his dead friend Hannah Baker left behind. Thirteen reasons why she chose to end her own life. Thirteen people’s contributions to her death––including Clay’s own hand in the matter from Hannah’s perspective. There are graphic depictions of sexual assault and, in the final episode, of the suicide itself.

The show has been met with equal praise and disgust, and I can honestly say that overall, I’m in the middle. The acting was decent for a bunch of newcomer kids. The writing was solid (for a teen drama). The cinematography was surprisingly good, too. The biggest standout of the show to me, actually, was Kate Walsh as Hannah’s mother. Her subtle performance was the most “real” thing about the show to me––I loved every minute she was onscreen. I also related to Hannah. I related to a lot of the main characters for various reasons, and I felt for them. A good show does that effectively and effortlessly, and it uses those characters and their stories to effectively showcase the show’s main message.

13 Reasons Why almost achieved that. Until the very last episode. For me, everything the show attempted to stand for fell apart after that.

It’s not really a secret at this point that I need some daily help to get by in the form of medicine. Most people do. In fact as of last year, 1 in 6 Americans take antidepressants and other medicines for psychological disorders to get by. Life is stressful and wonderful and sad and fantastic, and if you need help being okay through all of it, that is not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s a literal chemical imbalance in the brain. No strict talking-to or desire to “get over it” will change the science.

Clinical depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is something to try and work through as best you can, and it’s all you can do.

I had not read the book version of 13 Reasons Why before diving into this show, so I had no previous investment in the story. I was simply drawn in by the hype. But while I started the show relatively complacent, I finished it angry.

I’m not writing this to make you feel uncomfortable. I’m not even writing this as an overall review of 13 Reasons Why, which is much more on-brand for this blog.

I’m writing it because it is, as the show calls it, “my truth.”

And I refuse to let it align with the message 13 Reasons Why sends about suicide and its aftermath.

*There are major spoilers and disturbing/triggering topics discussed ahead. You’ve been warned.

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How ‘Buffy’ Ruined TV for Me Forever

In honor of its 20th anniversary, I feel I need to pay tribute to one of the most iconic shows ever to grace television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On March 10, 1997, Buffy premiered on the WB (remember when that was a network?!) and began to change the lives of millions of viewers around the world.

I’ll start with a confession: I was one of those high schoolers in 2009. Y’know, one who carried a copy of Twilight around between classes and owned a “Team Edward” shirt.

Yeah. It was a dark time.

I remember walking around the school grounds as one of my best friends, Graham, pestered me at least once a week: “Watch Buffy. It’s way better. I promise. You’re gonna thank me.” (Not to provide another opportunity for ego-stroking, Graham, but damn you were right. And you know it, too.)

He lent me the DVDs, and, nearly a decade after the show had originally aired, a love affair began between me and Buffy that has never ended. My heart still beats only for BtVS. On any given day, you can find me interjecting a conversation about a TV show currently airing with, “Yeah, but Buffy did that way better.”

If you’ve never seen Buffy, I hope that at the very least this inspires you to watch an episode or two. I’ll try to keep this piece as spoiler-free as possible just for you newbies! And if you have seen the show…you’re lucky. So am I. We are all lucky to have experienced Buffy in our lifetime. I’m going to list a few reasons why.

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6 Forgotten TV Shows That Shaped My Childhood

A lot of people look fondly on their early years by reminiscing about their first memory of riding a bike or making a friend in kindergarten.

I often look back on my first memories of television. (Shocker!)

There are loads of late ’90s – early 2000s TV shows that blared in the background of my youth––BracefaceThe Winx Club, Inspector Gadget, Boy Meets World…but there were very few that held my attention for 30 to 60 minutes once a week. I was busy in my own world of Barbie dolls and Sailor Moon fanfiction written in 2nd-grade English.

But occasionally, I hear a song on the radio that takes me back to sitting on reddish carpeted ground in the basement and enjoying an evening with my family after school and homework and dinner. Some on this list are more well-known than others, but some of my earliest memories in my family’s first house involve watching these with my sister or with the whole family.

1. Wishbone (PBS, 1995 – 1999)

PBS kids, rejoice! I’m not sure how many of us actually forgot about Wishbone at all, for it definitely featured in the after-school routines of many kids my age. Wishbone was a PBS show that spanned two seasons, and its premise centered around an adorable Jack Russell terrier who went on whimsical adventures mirroring the plots of various literary classics. In each episode (narrated by the dog’s sassy stream of consciousness of course), Wishbone would “daydream” himself into a main literary figure–anyone from Robin Hood to Romeo Montague–allowing the show to effortlessly recreate time-honored stories in a form young audiences could understand. And actually pay attention to. I mean, when a little dog shows up wearing this outfit:

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and talking about solving mysteries, you gotta tune in, right? (Fun fact: the show did two Sherlock Holmes episodes. …No, I’m not queuing them up on YouTube right now…that would be ridiculous.)

Wishbone ran in syndication until 2001, which is probably why I remember it so often and so fondly. I watched repeat episodes countless times with my sister, and the show really impacted my love of literature. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but Wishbone provided an entertaining, age-appropriate outlook on some of the classics I would grow up to read both in and out of school. And no matter how old I get, I still think of the witty, big-brained terrier when I crack open a member of the literary canon.

He was a charming Mr. Darcy, by the way.

2. Growing Up Gotti (A&E, 2004 – 2005)

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The fact that I was ever addicted to a reality TV show makes me cringe every time I think about it. However, my family is (a) Italian-American and (b) obsessed with reality television. Today, when you put those two together, you get Mob Wives. In 2004, you got Growing Up Gotti.

As with most reality television, there wasn’t really a premise to this show at all. It featured the daughter of mobster John Gotti, Victoria, and her three sons; Carmine, John, and Frankie. I don’t remember much about this show except:

  1. There was a lot of yelling about hair gel,
  2. John Gotti Agnello (second from the very orange brother on the left) was the love of my 11-year-old life, and
  3. The theme song was “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” which I’m not sure had anything to do with the show.

There was nothing appealing about any of these people, but their dropped r‘s and botched Italian curse words, frankly, felt like home. This family was just fun to laugh at; their mannerisms were familiar, and the boys were cuuuuuute. Every guidette’s dream. For a while there, I started calling my mom “Ma!” in a husky Italian man’s voice. TV’s influence on my life knows no bounds.

I don’t think I even knew what a mafia was when this aired. My viewing must have been quite different from most.

Neither of my parents has quit their reality TV obsession. I’m happy to say mine stopped here.

3. Providence (NBC, 1999 – 2002)

This was a popular show in my house because, as the title suggests, it was set in the city where I grew up. It was a mainstream TV drama that my parents watched regularly, and I’d tune in and out as well. It was my first exposure to the John Lennon classic “In My Life” (an obscure cover was the show’s theme song), and also, as a kid I was 100% convinced the show was entirely filmed not in a studio lot but in the city I knew well. This show meant Providence was famous. Obviously.

Only after looking it up did I realize how weird it was. The show was about a plastic surgeon named Sydney Hansen (Melina Kanakaredes) who returns home to Rhode Island to to get her family’s life back in order. Except she talks to the dead. Except only to her dead mom.

I definitely did not remember that part. I remember the mother appearing in various scenes, but that’s exactly what I thought she did: just show up at convenient times. Nope. She was dead.

Wow. What a downer.

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I’m equally baffled by this cast photo. That’s the ghost mom in the top left, but who’s the baby? I apparently tuned out more than I tuned in.

4. Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (FOX, 1997-2002)

This was my first exposure to scary stuff (thanks, Dad). Beyond Belief, a show that featured various reenactments of strange supernatural happenings, delighted me as a kid because I felt cool enough to watch something scary. Looking back, this show was like The X-Files meets 60 Minutes. Each episode featured 5 different spooky short stories introduced by a very serious suited narrator, and it was the audience’s job to determine whether the stories were based in fact or fiction. In the end, the host would reveal the correct answers. It was like a game show that came with nightmares! The most chilling stories, of course, were those that turned out to be based in truth. The show’s Wikipedia page features an episode list that bolds all the stories that were true. Imagine the dedication of whoever edited that section!

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Now that I’ve seen almost every Star Trek series, I find it hilarious that Jonathan Frakes hosted 3 out of 4 of the seasons. I knew I’d seen him somewhere! (Before you ask, I have no idea what that bird is doing in the shot.)

5. Joan of Arcadia (CBS, 2003 – 2005)

I’ve decided there is no conceivable way for anyone my age to have grown up Catholic without watching Joan of Arcadia. And it actually was, objectively, a pretty good show. Its first season was even nominated for an Emmy.

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As I entered my preteen years, this was the it show for me. Just look at all that teen angst!

Basically, the show was a modernized version of the Biblical Joan of Arc story with a lot less burning at the stake and the same amount of talking to God. To give her tasks to complete for the greater good, God would appear to Joan Girardi as various figures in her day-to-day. That was the draw for me as a Catholic school kid. Where’s God now?! Is He the florist? The bus driver? I found Joan’s general skepticism and exasperation with God’s strange requests in each episode relatable, and I remember really wanting to hang out with her. A too-cool teen who was also in touch with the Almighty? Friend goals. Also, Amber Tamblyn plays exasperated really, really well. I followed her career after that through The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and House.

Seriously, though. What if God was one of us?

6. State of Grace (FOX Family, 2001 – 2002)

Finally, we have the show that inspired this post. It took me hours of research in the middle of the night a few years back to find out what this show was called, because all I could remember was the theme song on loop in my head:

Do you believe in magic
in a young girl’s heart?
How the music can free her
whenever it starts?

I believe State of Grace was my first true foray into television outside cartoons and kids’ shows (I caught most of the others on this list in their later seasons). Remember when Freeform was ABC Family? How about when when ABC Family was FOX Family? Yeah, this show goes way back, and it was a true family favorite. I just remember it being so pure and fun, focused primarily on the friendship of two girls from very different worlds–Hannah, of a traditional Jewish family, and Grace, of an aristocratic Catholic Chicago family. They become instant friends in North Carolina in 1965 and the show, narrated by an older Hannah, tells the story of their friendship. Though it was primarily a comedy, State of Grace dealt with some serious issues, too–about identity, alcoholism, and religion–and I remember them resonating with me long after the episodes aired. I remember being on the edge of my seat waiting for this show to air. It wasn’t hugely dramatic or overstated, and I think that was exactly why I liked it. It was just about two girls around my age at the time who loved each other despite their many differences, and it really resonated with me.

Plus, this show kickstarted my obsession with Alia Shawkat (Hannah) that has not died down in the least (have you seen her as Hamilton in Drunk History?). And look how cute she looks here (on the right)!

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Little did I know that I’d rediscover both Alia Shawkat and Mae Whitman (Grace) in binge-watching Arrested Development during college, prompting my rediscovery of this fun little gem.

The show was considered a more female-focused companion to The Wonder Years, and from what I read, a lot of people loved it. But once FOX Family was bought out by Disney, State of Grace was axed after 2 seasons for not fitting ABC Family’s “vision.” It’s a shame, because I and many others remember the show very fondly–and it probably would’ve been just as successful as The Wonder Years had it been given the chance.

In case you were curious, here is the theme song that, while charming, has been the star of many of my insomnia-induced nights awake. Curse you, State of Grace, for getting canceled so prematurely that it took me a decade to remember you!


It might not seem like these shows have anything in common. But to me, they do. They speak to the fact that I always find something of value to take home in the media I consume, which is why I want to write in the first place. What’s the point of writing if the reader doesn’t get anything out of it? These shows were what I watched after school or what my parents turned on at the same time every week for all of us to watch. In small ways, they each represented my passion, my heritage, my home city, my family’s values. They reflected my parents’ personalities and interests, aspects of which were passed along to me through shows like these.

Oh, and one of them got me into spooky shit. I’ve been intentionally scaring myself ever since.

You know what they say. You are what you watch. Or maybe only I say that.

It’s Not Okay: Normalized Emotional and Physical Abuse in BBC’s ‘Sherlock’

Your favorite Sherlock critic is back!

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Source: allthesherlockgifs.tumblr.com

You can read my thoughts on last year’s Sherlock Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride,” here. I had lot of strong feelings about Moffat’s usual misogyny, and since the disaster that was Series 3, I’d kind of just shut my mind off to Sherlock by the time Series 4 rolled around this month. For a little while, anyway.

As much as I’d like to, we aren’t going to cover the blatant mistreatment of Mary Watson’s character, the lazy case-writing, or the deus ex machina deductive characteristics Sherlock Holmes has miraculously developed, though it’s important to note that they all contribute to my main subject. (Those are posts for another time.)

We are going to talk about the principal reason I fell in love with the show––why and so many people have invested so much of their time and energy into it over the course of 6 years: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s relationship. Where it started, and the awful place the writers have taken it now.

Let’s Recap.

In Series 1, John Watson, a war vet suffering from PTSD, becomes the flatmate of drug-addled consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. In the span of the first episode, John loses his psychosomatic limp chasing adventures with Sherlock and finds a reason to get up in the morning; and Sherlock finds in his new companion both distraction and mental stimulation to keep him away from drugs. Somewhere between their two personalities, they find a balance. And it works. They argue; they constantly challenge each other, but they trust each other. They are their best with each other.

Series 2 moves forward in this pattern as their dynamic becomes stronger. The audience begins to see as the episodes unfold that Sherlock, while appearing unfeeling and inconsiderate, actually does have the capacity to care at least a little bit. He’ll leave John in utter panic with a gun to his chest to get more information, sure. He’ll put John in all sorts of terrifying positions when necessary (including drugging his coffee). But he cares in subtle ways he arguably wouldn’t have showcased at the start of the show. He admits, as a form of an apology, in “The Hounds of Baskerville” how critical John is to his deductive feats:

Sherlock: You’ve never been the most luminous of people, but as a conductor of light, you are unbeatable.
John: Cheers…What?
Sherlock: Some people who aren’t geniuses have an amazing ability to stimulate it in others.
John: Hang on, you were saying sorry a minute ago. Don’t spoil it.

John has, in essence, opened up Sherlock’s humanity and brought it out in him. This is character development. It doesn’t excuse how insufferable and manipulative Sherlock can be, but it shows that he recognizes room for improvement, and if anyone can kickstart Sherlock actually understanding human feelings and gaining some empathy, it’s his one true friend, John Watson.

The emotional ending of Series 2 paints a clear picture of John’s agony in losing Sherlock. But, of course, Sherlock jumping off that rooftop did not signify the end for him. And I, like many fans, waited in bated breath for the next series to start, for John to find out that his best friend is alive, that his “death” was a ruse to keep Moriarty’s enduring influence away from those he cared about. The last shot is of Sherlock watching John from afar in a graveyard as the latter mourns his best friend. Sherlock’s expression has something behind it–sadness? Regret? Something beyond logic. Something very human.

Flash Forward…

Enter Series 3, two years later. Long story short, Sherlock makes his grand return, and John promptly punches him in the face. It’s all well and good until Sherlock and John are stuck in a subway car that’s about to explode, and we’re all at the edge of our seats, waiting. Even just a quick, I’m sorry, John, a small acknowledgement of the pain and emotional turmoil Sherlock has caused John to suffer would be enough. And sure enough:

Sherlock (bringing his hands up into a praying position): Please, John, forgive me … for all the hurt that I caused you.
John (waving a finger at him): No, no, no, no, no, no. This is a trick. […] You’re just trying to make me say something nice […] It’s just to make you look good even though you behaved like […] I wanted you not to be dead.
Sherlock: Yeah, well, be careful what you wish for. If I hadn’t come back, you wouldn’t be standing there and you’d still have a future … with Mary.
John (turning and pointing at him): Yeah. I know.
(He grimaces and turns away again. Sherlock clenches his fist against his mouth, then wipes his nose, his face full of despair. Finally John turns back.)
John (his voice low and tight): Look, I find it difficult…I find it difficult, this sort of stuff.
Sherlock (looking up at him): I know.
John (his voice not much more than a whisper): You were the best and the wisest man … (he sniffs) … that I have ever known.
(Sherlock looks at him, his eyes wide and tear-filled. John sighs, lowering his head again before raising it once more.)
John: Yes, of course I forgive you.
(Sherlock gazes at him. John meets his eyes for a moment, then he takes in a deep breath through his nose, closes his eyes, raises his head and braces himself for death.)*

Powerful, isn’t it? Until, as they brace for impact…the bomb doesn’t go off. And Sherlock goes from apparent tears of pain to tears of laughter.

Sherlock (laughing): Your face! Oh, your face! I totally had you! […] Terrorists can get into all sorts of problems unless there’s an off switch.
John (tightly): So why did you let me go through all that?
Sherlock: I didn’t lie altogether. I’ve absolutely no idea how to turn any of these silly little lights off.*

That’s it. After laying all his emotions out on the table, John has been duped by Sherlock Holmes, again.

No emotional payoff. None. And the show carries on, witty and clever as always, but something is different. Something’s changed. The development we’ve seen in Sherlock since Series 1 after he meets John––that which culminated in a deed motivated at least slightly by his concern for John and Mrs. Hudson and Molly and others––has completely reversed itself. Sherlock frankly doesn’t care––John’s life and his pain are all one big joke. And it provokes the question as to whether Sherlock actually meant any of the regret he expressed to John in that moment, or if he simply used John’s emotional vulnerability to get the forgiveness he––and the audience––required to move on. John is exactly right: the whole scene is a ruse to make Sherlock look good. This is emotional abuse at its finest.

And it’s trivialized. Sherlock Holmes is never held accountable for his actions. He never was before, but the glimmer of hope that he might be is gone with the end of “The Empty Hearse.” John calls Sherlock an asshole, and life goes on; that scene in the train, because it is entirely fabricated, completely devalues Sherlock’s apology. And that becomes a theme as we move into Series 4: fabrication and distrust between the two principal leads.

From One-Sided Abuse to Sheer Toxicity

Independent of the fact that it opens with Sherlock being let entirely off the hook for shooting and killing Charles Magnussen, Series 4 does nothing to call back to the character that Sherlock was slowly becoming because of John’s positive influence. In fact, he seems to be entirely bereft of any semblance of humanity he once displayed at this juncture. In “The Six Thatchers,” the running joke is John’s apparent uselessness––at one point, he’s replaced by a red balloon in his usual chair at Baker Street and Sherlock doesn’t notice.

“Har har,” laughs the audience, “John is irrelevant.” But sadly, at this point, he is. Sherlock has moved away from being a show about two people whose minds and hearts are greater together than they could ever be alone. They operate separately. And that’s not great, but it’s not horrible––it’s realistic, even. Relationships ebb and flow that way, and theirs is no exception especially in light of John’s loss of his wife.

But in order to get John back in his life again, what does Sherlock do in “The Lying Detective”? He plunges into a quasi-fake, life-threatening addiction to get his attention. The characters within the show support, even instigate this unhealthy narrative: “To save John Watson,” narrates Mary in her tropey in-case-I’m-dead video message to Sherlock, “you have to make him save you.” And when John bursts into Sherlock’s hospital room to find Sherlock has tricked him again to get a confession from Culverton? It’s still all fine in the end. They both chalk it up to Sherlock being “a cock” and life goes on. Sherlock quite literally threw himself into suicidal behavior to get his friend back, and it worked. Here the show blurs the line between healthy trust between two people and toxic codependence, and the characters barely bat an eye at the fact.

No, Sherlock isn’t held accountable for his actions…and we’re beginning to see that John isn’t, either. And while he’s never been written as perfect (he shouldn’t be!), he’s always had ingrained in him the morals that combat Sherlock’s apparent lack thereof. I’m not sure if this was the writers’ intention, but it appears to me that John Watson has had enough. The emotional abuse he’s faced, what he’s lost because of Sherlock with nothing so much as a real apology, has taken its toll. He’s become a bitter, judgmental version of himself––practically the person we met at the beginning of the show before he met Sherlock. In “The Six Thatchers,” we discover he’s cheated on his wife Mary (which is evidently justified in the next episode by the fact that it was “just texting”), an out-of-character choice in and of itself. When she dies, he subsequently cuts Sherlock out of his life, blaming him for her death. Finally, in “The Lying Detective,” his anger and betrayal come to a head when he beats Sherlock to a pulp when trying to stop him from killing Culverton. What’s disturbing about this scene is that it’s not an expression of frustration like in “The Empty Hearse,” but a melodramatic expression of relentless, pent-up anger…suggesting, I’d argue, that he almost enjoys it. Does this look like a healthy relationship?

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It’s not. The audience knows it’s not, and Moffat and Gatiss know it’s not. They just like the drama. So what do they do?

They get the characters to hug it out at the end of the episode.

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Source: odetolove6.tumblr.com

It is a beautiful, tender moment. It gave me chills upon first viewing. However, like much of Sherlock after Series 2, it functions as a distraction from what’s really going on. Sherlock and John have lied to each other, cut each other out of one another’s lives on-and-off, physically and mentally abused each other, and for what? To lead up to this moment? The tenderness is incongruent with where their relationship stands, and from what I’ve seen in terms of fan reactions, it’s served exactly the purpose Moffat and Gatiss wanted it to. They do what they’ve always done––give the fans just enough before pulling away. And the fans, so wrapped up in this beautiful scene, are too excited to notice that the embrace between Sherlock and John in this moment is based in anger and resentment.

It shows that despite Sherlock faking a deadly drug addiction to get John’s attention, despite manipulating John over the last two seasons and diminishing his worth and shutting him out, John will always go back to Sherlock. Always. And neither of them will acknowledge what they’ve done to each other. And it will be fine.

The difference is, these are no longer two people who respect each other despite their different backgrounds, upbringings, perspectives, and opinions. These are no longer two characters that complete each other in subtle ways––John providing the doctoral and the human perspective for Sherlock’s cold, calculating analyses. John simply exists now to orbit Sherlock, and while Sherlock has always had this magnetic control of others, John was different because he helped Sherlock achieve what he couldn’t have alone. He never just lurked in the background. He served not only as Sherlock’s board off which to bounce ideas, but his conscience, his opportunity for a new perspective, and simply an ally through Sherlock’s toughest cases both personal and public. Reciprocally, Sherlock, while not the most emotionally aware or altruistic of humans, did recognize John’s contributions in small ways, and he broadened John’s perspective.

Not anymore. Sherlock and John are no longer dynamic characters that benefit from each other’s friendship. They’re pawns in the writers’ game, and nothing else.

A Vicious Cycle

There is no guarantee what will happen in the Series 4 finale. In fact, we don’t know if any more Sherlock will ever be made due to actors’ scheduling conflicts. And perhaps within the 2-hour finale next week, Sherlock and John will have time to hash out the wrongs they’ve done each other. Maybe, like a good portion of fans are fantasizing, they’ll quite literally kiss and make up.

But none of that will happen. And even if it does, it won’t resonate the way it would have a few years ago. The show lacks the substance to sustain that dynamic, for Sherlock has become Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ outlet for constant mindf*cks, arbitrary trickery, and luring their audience into supporting a toxic friendship. Oh, and explosions.

The most realistic hope I can have is that, in a typical twist of events, Moffat and Gatiss have been playing us all along and either Sherlock or John has been imagining much of this whole season so far. It would be a cheap way out of an awful, out-of-character storyline, but it’s exactly something they would do.

But at this point, for me, it still wouldn’t repair the damage sewn two years ago in that subway car scene.

Sherlock Holmes is historically a logical, analytical “machine.” In its first two seasons, BBC Sherlock attempted to present a faithful, yet expanded interpretation of the character brought to life not only by the cases he brilliantly solved, but by the ways in which the man by his side helped shaped his ability to grow as a person and vice versa. But in the end, none of that seems to matter. Two seasons later, the twisted, codependent dynamic between them has drained the last bit of humanity from the show. All these characters bring out in each other now, it seems, is pain with no consequences. It’s hard to watch.

So, “Moftiss”: Pull the plug. It’s time. Your weird soap-opera-esque fantasies do not constitute an honorable tribute to a classic 19th-century literary duo.
“It’s okay,” Sherlock whispers to John at the end of “The Lying Detective,” putting his arms around him.

“It’s not okay,” says John through his sobs.

“No,” replies Sherlock, “but it is what it is.”

An apt summary of the last two seasons. Little about the de-evolution of their relationship is okay, but at this point, the writers have dug themselves into a hole, and, well. It is what it is.

My point is it didn’t have to be.

*Transcript copied from here

Brain Yoga: An Ode to ASMR

Think of the sensation you feel when someone scratches your back or plays with your hair.

Now think of it occurring when you hear something as mundane as turning a book page, or experience something as simple as a friend applying your makeup or brushing something off your face. Weird, right?

That’s what I thought up until about an hour ago when I finally Googled the right words at the right time. And it’s actually not so weird at all. (Mostly.)

I first noticed it when I was really young. The “brain-tingling,” that is. That’s the only way I can describe it, and upon doing some research today, I’ve found that’s how most people describe it. It was triggered by anything from a classmate turning a textbook page at her desk next to me, to a family friend’s specific Rhode Island dropped rs, to the silence at Sunday Mass punctuated by microphoned syllables. I can only describe the visceral response this way: a kind of tingling beginning from what feels like the center of my brain, down, down, down the back of my head and neck, sometimes down my spine. Kind of like a shudder, but not the cold or scared kind. Just…a nice, calming feeling. Like being at the beach hearing the waves.

It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough that I thought it something specific to me, some odd perpetual sensory overload that I should just keep quiet about. Nobody else ever described experiencing this type of thing, so it must be me. Right?

Wrong. Today, in trying to describe the sensation to my sister for the umpteenth time, I found myself typing “tingling sensation in response to certain sounds” into my phone’s browser. And, lo and behold, there it was. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR.

Before you ask, there isn’t much science behind the subject, largely due to the fact that the term itself wasn’t coined until 2010. The Reddit ASMR board defines the experience as “a physical sensation characterised by a pleasurable tingling that typically begins in the head and scalp. It is commonly triggered by soft or accented voices, personal attention, ambient sounds or watching people work silently, among others.”

The weirdness sets in with how ASMR has been appropriated. If you look up ASMR on YouTube, you’ll find a bunch of videos – sometimes even ASMR-specific channels – that feature 20-odd minutes of the camera subject blowing into the lens, making vague whispering sounds, etc. YouTube culture has added a kind of sexual component to it which, arguably for some people, is a factor. An entire culture, featuring YouTubers “roleplaying” characters that give the viewer specific “personal attention,” has emerged and given the ASMR community an association with sensuality that I don’t think is necessarily a requirement. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not the exclusive ASMR experience. In fact, I find a lot of the videos to be quite uncomfortable to watch.

For me, it’s pretty much brain yoga. It chills me out like a cup of tea. Sometimes it happens in a group of my closest friends at a coffee shop as someone at the next table types on a computer; sometimes it happens when I’m entirely alone listening to Sigur Rós.

Unsure if you experience this phenomenon? Watch (or, rather, listen to) this video. On the outset it’s completely random (just a bit of styrofoam being crushed by a machine). But if it gives you the brain-tingles, then you’ll know.

If anything, understanding and honing your ASMR can help you relax in general. Once you find the kinds of sounds that relax you, you can even create ASMR playlists that help you go to sleep. But, be careful – as with most things, too much of it isn’t good. You might even become desensitized to it altogether.

Long story short: Yes, you could probably call ASMR a “braingasm” if the sensations for you are strong enough. Mostly, though, it’s just a way to chill out that some people don’t even know they can tap into.

I, on the other hand, have my childhood church’s crappy microphones to thank for my knowledge.

And thank you, ASMR, for existing, and validating that at least in this respect, I’m not crazy.

How ‘Hamilton’ is Getting Me Through This Week

France is following us to revolution; there is no more status quo.

But the sun comes up and the world still spins.

These lines open the second act of Hamilton, and I’ve tried especially to remember the second one in the last 48 hours.

It feels like life itself has stopped, but Earth is still in rotation. Today, November 10th, almost two days after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, the sun came up. Since then, I’ve squished myself like a sardine on the T and had coffee and sneezed and worked and eaten ice cream.

It’s a day like any other. Except Donald Trump is soon to be my President. When I think about it, my heart sinks, and I turn to my friends and family and coworkers to get by. And to music.

I’ve listened to the soundtrack multiple times since learning the results of the election. And it’s ironic that I chose the founding fathers’ story in particular to motivate me to keep going. I say that because many of the founding fathers were undoubtedly racist and sexist. They were products of their time (though that is by no means an excuse); they had no concept of the world outside of their narrow perspectives. Washington held slaves. Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal,” leaving out women, and, of course, all people who were not white. I can’t say how Alexander Hamilton would have reacted to a Trump presidency in his time (I like to think very negatively, and probably with a 50-page letter telling Trump why he’s wrong. Hamilton was an immigrant, after all).

In truth, I can’t fathom how any of the founding fathers would have responded. It was a different time. Disturbingly enough, I can’t help but fear some of Trump’s close-minded beliefs concerning women and people of color might have been relatively okay with them. And that makes me think that we’ve moved so far back in our ideals and values that we’re back where we started. Initially, I considered this a really bad thing, and in many ways, it is. Americans are tearing each other apart over this, and it’s terrifying.

But instead of being the start of a civil war, I like to think this election is the start of a revolution.

I’m not talking guns and horses here. Rather, I’m talking about this singular event spurring those who would otherwise stay silent to take a stand against hatred and bigotry.

The American Revolution was born from oppression, from the desperate need for change. And in a lot of ways, the election of Donald Trump is such a revolution. People wanted to turn the political system on its head.

The bitter voice in my head says that they got their wish. That change will happen, and it will be the kind that will hurt many of us.

But as Americans, we have the power to alter the direction of this revolution. We have the power to shape it however we want, as it’s happening. How do I know this?

Because of Hamilton.

Hamilton took a story about the Revolution and made it something revolutionary. Lin-Manuel Miranda, his creative team, and the astounding group of actors who grace the stage eight times a week changed the rules. The show cast almost exclusively non-white actors in portrayals of the very white people who shaped our country. It fused hip-hop with showtunes with pop, intertwining styles and musical histories that are rarely associated with each other. They made sure today’s America owned, understood, and related to yesterday‘s America. They bridged the gap between those founding folks we barely recognized in ourselves and who we are today: a diverse group of individuals from all walks of life just trying to make their best lives in this country.

The factual history doesn’t change. How America was founded doesn’t change. But through art, Hamilton reclaimed that history to make it feel ours again, make it feel unequivocally 21st-century American. It made history out of history.

So. Think about it. There are people who voted for Trump for change, even if they’re unsure of what kind. And then there are people who voted for Trump in the belief that he will take our country back centuries socially. Regardless of what Trump voters wanted out of all of this, the result is that this change is coming. And as a bisexual woman, it makes me fear for my future and the futures of many of my friends and family.

But I also think we have the power to make something good out of this. To bring this political revolution to life with the reminder that we are all American, that this one incompetent person and his sexist, homophobic VP do not define us.

Like Hamilton, we can revolutionize this revolution. And the difference is, it won’t take 240 years for us to change the white, privileged scenery of this story.

Because this history is happening now.

Perhaps this American tragedy, however upsetting and disturbing and often hateful it has appeared to be, is the catalyst for an American victory in equality and empathy.

How do you want the story of Election of 2016 and its aftermath to be remembered in history books?

Right now, there are people painting swastikas on windows and telling black students to go to the back of the bus. There will always be those people. But we can take their grayscale, uniform view of America and of the world and sprinkle it with color. We can counter the violence Trump has inspired in many Americans with our strong will to maintain diversity and strive for equality. We’re already speaking up. We’re not giving up.

Imagine what we can do with this energy to reclaim the history being paved for us as I write this. Imagine the inspiration we can gain from one another. Imagine the ways in which we can forge new political and social paths and establish connections that make us stronger than ever in the face of hatred and bigotry displayed by a small few.

This is more of a stream-of-consciousness musing than a call to action, but I hope it inspires you to perhaps listen to a Hamilton tune or two with a different mindset. Yes, the world is still spinning, and that means there is time for positive action.

America: Rise up. History has its eyes on you.

Make history, and make it colorful.

‘Star Trek Beyond’ boldly goes where the first two should’ve started

It isn’t Star Trek if Captain Kirk doesn’t “accidentally” rip his uniform shirt.

It isn’t a Star Trek film if the Enterprise doesn’t blow up at least once.

Luckily for Trek fans everywhere, the third reboot series installment, Star Trek Beyond, features both these attributes. Ultimately, as a new-ish Trekker, I was more impressed with this film than I was with the first two combined. What sets apart Star Trek Beyond from its predecessors, fundamentally, is its focus on the Enterprise crew–which is where the series’ focus should have been all along.

Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) both received mixed reviews (largely negative in the latter’s case) by critics and die-hard fans alike. I can’t say much about that, because it was Into Darkness that got me into Trek in the first place. Now that I’ve seen the original series, all the original films, and almost all the spinoff shows, I, too, have many bones to pick with the reboot movies (no pun intended). Beyond was far from perfect, but it was a step in the right direction in terms of bringing Gene Roddenberry’s vision to the 21st century. (Finally.)

For one, I found there to be a marked difference in characterization this time around. The Jim Kirk who opens the film is very much like he of the original series. Yes, Jim is cocky and rash–the first two films do a solid job establishing that–but he’s also quick on his feet, a true leader, and a very good speech-maker. The opening scene, wherein Kirk attempts to talk his way through negotiating peace between two squabbling species, establishes all of these things. It feels very Trek right from the start, which is a relief and a joy to see.

And as Kirk himself says in the film, “It wasn’t just me. It never is.” Beyond finally establishes that the Enterprise is a collective group of people, that Star Trek is not the Captain Kirk Show, or even the Spock Show. Rebooting this series was an opportunity to let other characters shine, and finally, director Justin Lin and writers Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty) and Doug Jung take advantage of that. Sulu has a husband and daughter. Uhura exists outside her relationship with Spock (gasp!) and stands her ground against Krall in believing, unwaveringly, in her crew. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) had probably more lines in this film than he did in the first two combined–and it’s about damn time, because Bones is a crucial part of what makes Trek special. He is the heart behind Spock’s logic and Kirk’s courage. The newest addition to our band of space heroes and heroines, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), is a force to be reckoned with. Though her backstory is a bit predictable, she comes in guns blazing to help the crew and develops an immediate rapport with Scotty that actually doesn’t result in a romantic relationship–a rarity for dynamics between men and women in mainstream film.

Beyond is also sprinkled with subtle little treats for hardcore fans. However, the references to the original series are tasteful choices–they are vague enough to amuse a wide audience but specific enough that Trek fans will pick them out in seconds. “Did you know,” asks Pavel Chekov toward the end of the film, “that scotch was actually invented by a little old lady in Russia?” – a line almost directly taken from the original Chekov’s speech in the original series classic, “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Laughing at the reference, and hearing the rest of the audience laugh with me whether they understood its origins or not, was a great feeling.

The film’s weaknesses lie in (a) a generic storyline, and (b) lazy characterization of Idris Elba’s role as Krall, this film’s adversary. Both these qualms are related–Krall’s anger toward the Federation drives the plot forward, but this anger is unfounded until almost the very end of the movie. Without revealing spoilers, I’ll say his motives are a bit contrived and cliche; furthermore, the actions he takes because of those motives are entirely over-the-top. Idris Elba is a very talented actor, and I wish more had been done with his character to expand and develop him and showcase Elba’s talents. I’m also more partial to character-driven films, so the gratuitous fight scenes and explosions, while necessary to appeal to a mainstream audience, lulled me into distracted boredom every so often. (Pretty sure that’s just a “me” thing, though. As soon as the weapons come out, I start planning what’s for dinner.)

Despite all that, I’m a bit more forgiving with Beyond in terms of plot since, as I mentioned, it was so much more character-driven than the first two films. It might not seem like it to action movie-goers or casual Trek fans, but to those of us who hold the characters dear to our hearts, a new set of writers and directors who actually care about Star Trek made all the difference. Essentially, what Beyond has that the others don’t is heartStar Trek ’09 was too bogged down with establishing an alternate universe to do justice to the lore upon which it was based. Into Darkness forced us to care about a Kirk/Spock dynamic that wasn’t  grounded in the trust and inspiration and love that characterized it for decades.  Instead of floundering for fanservice or trying too hard to march to its own drum, this installment finds balance in staying faithful to the original and holding its own.

It’s always been clear that this cast has fun with each other, but never more so than when their characters are actually talking to each other instead of yelling over phaser fire. The film does a great job grounding and establishing relationships, especially those between our favorite triumvirate: Jim and Bones have a great scene together early in the film where Bones sees right through Jim’s apparent ambivalence toward his approaching birthday; Spock and Bones spend a significant amount of time stranded together and do more than just banter; and of course, Kirk and Spock spend the movie realizing for the umpteenth time that they have no idea what they’d do without each other. It’s kind of beautiful, and it’s what made me fall in love with Trek to begin with. However many explosions or dramatic fight scenes there are, I’m in it for the characters. Beyond delivered in that regard, and I wish the first two films had taken the time to do so early on.

But Beyond proves it’s never too late to save a franchise. With an 85% on RottenTomatoes so far, I have a feeling this one will soar at warp speed toward being named a classic in Trek film history.

In short: Dear Justin Lin & Co,

Thanks for caring. It makes a difference.

Love,

The Trek Fandom

Biased Trekkie review: 4/5
Overall review: 3.5/5

‘Civil War’ is a More-Than-Solid Action Film–and Has More Heart than I Expected

[SPOILERS AHEAD.]

If my pre-Civil War rant was any indication, I decided a while ago to go warily into Captain America: Civil War. This approach was based on my knowledge that (a) the film could never match  Iron Man and Captain America’s intense dynamic as it stood before and during the comics’ Civil War arc, and (b) no Marvel film could live up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier in my opinion (this still stands). Plus, the last time we saw our favorite Marvel squad, they were inconsistent and messy characters in an inconsistent and messy Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But I’ll say one thing about the Russo brothers: They bring the magic. Consistently. I left this film totally energized, emotional, and, frankly, satisfied–because I reminded myself that the Marvel Cinematic Universe tells a different story. And the Russo brothers, in tandem with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, did a damn good job telling it.

Here’s My Consensus…

Action and Effects
Civil War does not want for action. Each sequence was meticulously laid out and executed like a choreographed dance. Black Widow’s fight sequences were my favorite in particular; their detail emphasized the kind of fighter she is–quick, slick, operating as if multi-legged–like a spider. The climactic confrontation between Team Cap and Team Iron Man was phenomenal, showcasing each character’s personality, motivations, and style with every move. Overall, the film was paced very well (despite its whopping 146-minute runtime), and, of course, shot brilliantly. I can’t wait until everyone on Tumblr screencaps the daylights out of this film after its DVD release. Every frame has something to say.

As usual, the SFX are off the charts, with the exception of Spider-Man’s costume animation–what is that? I’m no CGI expert, but if there’s little to no observable detail of his suit despite its redness, there might be an issue there. Otherwise, the film is visually stunning. There is a particular iconic shot of Cap and Iron Man in their final fight; comics fans will know to what I’m referring, but even if you haven’t read them, it’s an amazing shot of a well-crafted scene.

Characterization
The film isn’t just an action movie. Bringing together more superheroes than ever is not an easy feat, but Markus and McFeely pull off effective characterization really well (an aspect which faltered significantly in the last Avengers film). Indeed, this movie is a Cap film in name but really is an ensemble effort. And the great thing is, the writers manage to do justice to each character’s motivations and choices throughout the film. They expand upon previous relationships and dynamics (i.e., Natasha’s conflicted loyalty to Steve and empathy for Tony, the Vision’s gradually humanizing nature when it comes to Wanda) while forging new ones–I think my favorite part of the entire film was Bucky and Sam sitting in Steve’s poor excuse for a getaway car, emphasizing their newfound friend-hate-ship:

BUCKY, in the back seat: Can you move your seat up?
SAM: [deadpan] No.

Plusthey flesh out new characters who will get their own movies soon. I’m looking at you, Black Panther. Each character serves a purpose–isn’t just thrown in to say (s)he’s there–with the exception of Spider-Man and Ant-Man who exist essentially for comic relief. They did get their big moments, though, and contributed significantly to the fight. It was interesting–and slightly jarring–to see a Peter Parker who looked and talked his age. (Tobey Maguire, where art thou? Miss you, boo.) Even in the case of these two, though, the writers are unafraid to be self-referential–the amount of times other Avengers and Scott Lang himself question his relevance to the story are enough to breach subtlety: “Thinks for thanking of me!”

Overall Adaptation
Ultimately, yes–the details surrounding the cause for “civil war” in this film differ from those in the original comics. After all, the comics took a whole book and a ton of world-building and at least twice the characters to tell the story. But the film writers both take from and create a cinematic universe where these changes make sense.

Perhaps most important to me are the alterations to Cap and Iron Man’s motivations for the sake of continuity with the rest of the films. As I said in my last entry about this storyline, the “Civil War” comic arc is so effective mainly because Steve and Tony’s strong bond comes crashing down around them. In this film, that bond is different–it’s newer with a touch of a resentment, and frankly, that resentment only grows. They don’t want to fight, necessarily, but they do. Their opposing views on the Superhero Registration Act are based on Steve’s passion for his ideals (and for Bucky, the only remaining connection to his past) and Tony’s wracking guilt, respectively. The film does a great job building up this conflict.

Because there are consistencies. For example, in both instances, I am glad to say, Tony Stark is not portrayed as the villain some fans paint him to be. His position, given all that he’s lost and all the guilt he’s built up over the last near decade, makes sense for his character. There is no real “right” or “wrong” side to this war–yes, Cap physically “beats” Tony in the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that they ultimately strive for the same goal–to keep the world safe. And Cap recognizes that. Both men truly believe they are right and are blinded by these beliefs. And the gaps and ambiguities in both their arguments lead not only other Avengers but Steve and Tony themselves to question their beliefs. If college ethics class taught me anything, it’s that right and wrong are pretty damn subjective. The film does not shy away from this idea. Civil War isn’t just a fight for the sake of fighting–there is emotion and passion and heart behind every decision each man makes, whether or not those come from a good or bad place.

But if you’re like me, waving my Steve/Tony flag in the air for all eternity, the resolution to their conflict in the film–or lack thereof–isn’t exactly neat and pretty. It’s more like a “you go your way, I’ll go mine” kind of break-up. I think that’s exactly what I expected. And it’s okay. Plus, we all know they’ll hook back up for the next Avengers film. I hope by that point they can put aside their differences or at least find a compromise. But that compromise, that forgiveness, will inevitably be attained differently than it is in the comics:

I’m not half as good at–at anything as I am when I’m doing it next to you. And that’s the truth. (Avengers Prime #5. God, just get married already.)

I just hope that reconciliation, whatever it is, at the very least does justice to the characters the MCU has created. Movie-Steve-and-Tony deserve at least that consistency.

Etc
I’ll say that plot wise, there was a lot happening. The film jumped to and from many locations. The ending in which Zemo’s motives are revealed seemed a bit rushed, but I enjoyed that this film very much focused on the civilian perspective (which superhero films rarely do). That said, the film did try to accomplish quite a bit–and while it didn’t fall into chaos as did Age of Ultron, I would’ve appreciated more of a focus on the title protagonist. When Robert Downey Jr is signed onto a film, though, there’s bound to be a battle for screen time. (I love him, so I’m not actively complaining.) I also would’ve appreciated a more consolidated film, one that was less overwhelming to keep up with–but again, the comics were no picnic read. All things considered, the film adapted a complex story and made it unique.

Consensus
Captain America: Civil War definitely entertains, providing a well-stirred combination of action and humor. It also effectively maintained and forged character dynamics that shaped the tone of the film. It could have stuck more closely to a consistent storyline and setting to avoid confusing or overwhelming its audience, but overall, it does a great job executing a new take on a rising classic Marvel story.

Rating: 3.5/5