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Puerto Rico needs help, there are still too many Americans being shot, and Trump is a vile human being. October 5, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Recommendations.
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The numbers have been in for years: “…and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry.” (Levels of fatal violent crime, to be clear, aren’t lower. They were unaffected.)

But for some people, it will never sink in until it gets personal.

The guitarist who was playing at the Las Vegas massacre finally got it: “We actually have members of our crew with CHL [concealed handgun license] licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless. We couldn’t touch them for fear the police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us.”

GEE, YA THINK.

Look, buddy, we could have used you five or ten or twenty massacres ago. But you’re here now, and that’s better than nothing. Maybe you can help us figure out how to talk to the kind of person you used to be.

You know, when I was in grade school, they never taught us that Puerto Rico was part of the US. It literally never came up.

“Now a former foreign disaster assistance chief under President Barack Obama, who said he was trying ‘to be balanced’ regarding Trump’s handling of the situation because he knows ‘how hard this stuff is,’ said that the report has finally made him snap — ‘so mad I could spit.’

The family had almost run out of drinking water. Their isolated community of Caonillas had received no aid from the local or federal government, residents said. And they had no way to make the perilous trek to town; the winding roads had been obliterated and six of the family’s cars had been stored in a garage that collapsed, crushing five of the vehicles and sending the sixth sliding down the mountainside and into a river.”

And Trump is showing up and chucking rolls of paper towels into the crowd, like the bouquet at the wedding, like a prize on a game show, because he thinks this is entertainment. Because he doesn’t care. Because he is a disgusting stain on the soul of humanity.

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#WebcomicWednesday: Webcomic fandoms in Yuletide 2017 September 27, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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The tag set for Yuletide 2017, the annual holiday small-fandom fic exchange, is out!

This post filters it down to the webcomics, along with all the available characters to offer/request. Scan it for old favorites that you’ve always wanted to read or write fic for…and as for the ones you’ve never heard of, now is the perfect time to give them a try.

Always Raining Here
Adrian Hlaváček, Carter Brooks, Jason Keller, Maria Wong

Apothecia
Spore Alien, Jessie

Demon of the Underground
Annie, Jasper Samsid, Merritt, Pogo

Digger (Comic)
Jhalm, Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels, Murai, Shadowchild

Dumbing of Age
Becky MacIntyre, Carla Rutten, Danny Wilcox, Dina Saruyama, Ethan Siegal, Sal Walkerton

An Easy Target
Choi Yule, Ha Kyung Soo

Elsewhere University
Antler Fae, Boy With Frog’s Eyes, Girl With Hollow Back, Stolen Musician

Girl Genius
Axel Higgs, Bangladesh DuPree, Jenka (Girl Genius), Zeetha Daughter of Chump

Gunnerkrigg Court
Antimony Carver, Coyote, Katerina Donlan, Paz Cadena-Blanco, Reynardine, Robot

Hark! A Vagrant
Dr. Sara Josephine Baker, Nemesis, Pirate

How To Be A Werewolf
Elias Ross, Malaya Dysangco Walters, Marisa Salcedo, Vincent Dysangco Walters

Kill Six Billion Demons
Jagganoth, Nyave Anyadis, Allison Ruth, Cio, Incubus, Mottom, White Chain, Zoss

Knights-Errant
Anton, Beppe

Lackadaisy
Atlas May, Dorian “Zib” Zibowski, Elsa Bastion, Ivy Pepper, Mitzi May, Mordecai Heller, Nico Savoy, Serafine Savoy, Viktor Vasko

Lady of the Shard
Acolyte, Old God, Radiant Goddess

Leftover Soup
Carol, Ellen, Lily, Nicole

Leif & Thorn
Agent Delphinium, Matatuhi Kaihanga, Olive Romarin, Patotara Kaihanga, Rowan Muscade, Violet Dupont, Leif of Sønheim, Thorn Estragon

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal
Amal Chakravarthy, TJ Freeman

Long Exposure
Javier Osorio, Jonas Wagner, Mitch Mueller, Scratch Dyer

Monster Pulse
Abel Elizondo, Bina Blum, Nancy, Wanda Lulenski

Namesake
Alice Purcell, Emma Crewe, Selva Chopper, Warrick Chopper

No End
Jenna Reid, Jeremy Edison, Ramona Taylor, Tristan Khouri | Cotton

Oglaf
Orc Captain, Greir, Navaan, Snow Queen, Vanka

The Order of the Stick
Belkar, Bitterleaf Elan, Haley Starshine, Vaarsuvius

Questionable Content
Brun, Clinton Augustus, Elliot, Hannelore “Hanners” Ellicott-Chatham, Pintsize, Shame Orb, Yelling Bird, Bubbles, Faye Whitaker

A Redtail’s Dream
Åsa Skärsholm, Ellu Viitanen, Hannu Viitanen, Jonna Kuikka, Joona Kuikka, Jouko Kuikka, Kielo Miettinen, Kokko, Paju Kinnunen, Riikka Skärsholm, Samuli Tiira, Swan of Tuonela | Tuonelan Joutsen, Ville

Riot Nrrd
Maria Ortiz, Nhi Nguyen, Samantha Jay, Wren Watanabe

Saint For Rent
Jingtian Demort, Kanon, Meilü

Slavonica
Czesia, Luba, Mojmira, Sambor

Sleepless Domain
Kokoro, Tessa Quinn, Undine, Zoe

Small Trolls
Jáhko Hammarström, Veeti Harmonsuo

Stand Still Stay Silent
Agneta, Emil Västerström, Ensi Hotakainen, Lalli Hotakainen, Mikkel Madsen, Onni Hotakainen, Reynir Árnason, Sigrun Eide, Siv Västerström, Tuuri Hotakainen, Kitty

Starfighter
Abel, Cain, Deimos, Praxis

Subnormality
Pink Haired Girl, Sphynx, Zoe Muggs, Ethel

Sunstone
Alan Benson, Allison Carter, Anne, Lisa Williams

Unfather
Kyunghee, Sihyun

Unknown Code
Hammer the Pixel, Kim Bo Gang, Song Ji You, Yoon Phil

Wilde Life
Darcy Flores, Eliza Proctor, Oscar Wilde (Wilde Life), Clifford Norman

Year in Hereafter
Jaakko Ilmarinen, Mikael Lapintaival, Sakari Harmonsuo, Siiri Harmonsuo, Veeti Harmonsuo

Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic
Charlotte, Elzear’bith, Gren Razortooth, Lucas Greyfort, Cadugan, Clover Firelight

Review – Every Heart A Doorway September 6, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Meta.
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There was a ton of buzz going around about this book not long ago, and understandably, given the amazing premise. A boarding school to accommodate all those kids who have wandered off into magical fairylands for a while, and help re-acclimatize them to reality? So much possibility.

Guys, it…it really squandered the premise.

After a promising setup, Every Heart A Doorway turns into “a fairly gruesome murder mystery at a school for kids with weird/magic abilities.”

They don’t actually have any scenes of the kids in classes, much less any “here’s how to deal with reality” sequences. It’s insular, almost claustrophobic — the characters never leave the school. There’s no mention of phones, Internet, pop culture, anything connected to the Real World they’re supposed to be reintegrating with. Early on one of the characters mentions looking something up on Google Images before she arrived, but if it wasn’t for that reference, this could’ve taken place any time in the past hundred years.

When the gruesome murders start, there’s no police investigation, no real-world forensics, no “here’s how crimes are solved in a world without magic.” Even the adult authorities at the school, who are In On The Secret, don’t manage the situation at all. It’s just…left to the teenagers to solve on their own, with the residual supernatural talents they have from their fantasylands.

(How great would it have been to have the cops show up with all their mundane nonmagical expectations, and the teachers run interference, and it takes their combined efforts to make progress? Better yet, what if the investigative team included a former student, who could handle both aspects of the case at once?)

Without spoiling any specifics, by the end of the book, it doesn’t support the idea that “learning to be part of the world you’re in” is a worthwhile goal in the first place.

This in spite of the fact that some of the kids’ fairyland-developed coping mechanisms…do not seem healthy. I don’t mean “sensible by fairyland rules but maladapted to our-world rules,” I mean generally unhealthy.

You know what series handles this really well? Star Versus The Forces Of Evil. The heroine in this case is native to magicland, studying abroad on Earth, and the show does a lovely job of exploring the nuances from “Star learns that this behavior isn’t culturally appropriate for Earth” to “Star learns that this behavior is uncool anywhere.”

And I’ve loved fanfic that explores post-magic-journey culture shock. The Pevensies struggling to balance “solving problems by breaking out our mad skills as former-adult Kings and Queens of Narnia” with “not freaking out everyone around us.” Lyra and Pan having to remember to stay close together. Dorothy getting so much cross-cultural experience so young that, after a certain point, she can drop into pretty much any world and have no trouble going with the flow.

The students in Every Heart A Doorway don’t get any “here’s how to codeswitch to Earth-appropriate behaviors” or “wow, you’re interacting with regular Earth culture really well already” or “this isn’t good at all, let’s learn and grow and develop as characters.” They stay in their insulated setting with all the patterns they learned in other worlds going pretty much unexamined.

So much potential material here! So painfully unexplored!

~*~

People were also talking a lot, when the initial buzz was going around, about book’s the asexual protagonist.

Again: cool in theory! In practice, all it seems to mean is that her narration keeps doing unnecessary and shoehorned-in detours about how totally uninterested in sex she is.

The first time it came up was fine. Awkward, but forgivable. The rest, not so much. There’s a scene where she’s having a friendly conversation, and suddenly goes into an internal monologue about how she’s flirting, and this is fun, but she’s totally uninterested in having sex with the people she flirts with. It’s like she’s jumping in to correct an assumption that the reader isn’t making — I hadn’t even realized she was supposed to be flirting in the first place.

The scene that struck me the most is: she’s admiring the beauty of a male classmate, and thinks all the other girls around her must feel the same, “although she was sure she was the only one whose attraction was aesthetic, not romantic.”

First point: the character is not aromantic. (She says so. In those words.) It’s possible to feel romantic attraction in general, and not specifically feel it toward this guy. For her. But…not for literally anyone else?

Second point: why does she think there are no lesbians at this school? Why doesn’t it occur to her that some people are aromantic? Why does she show zero awareness that even straight girls (and bi/pan girls, although I’m not sure she realizes those exist either) don’t have to feel attracted to every boy in existence?

Is she just supposed to be really blinkered and self-centered, as a character flaw? Maybe, but I never felt like the narrative saw her that way.

Is it a “the lady doth protest too much” situation, where she is falling in love with the guy, and is aggressively denying/projecting to avoid facing the idea? Also possible, but has Unfortunate Implications for the way her asexuality is established by repeating “and she totally wasn’t sexually attracted to people, nope, not at all.”

~*~

The book is really weird about gender. Most of the students are girls (a couple hundred of them, to a grand total of 5 boys), and this is explained as a result of socialization and sexism and boys not wandering off as easily without getting noticed.

Which…doesn’t track with the genre it’s supposed to be commenting on. At all.

For every Lucy and Susan, there’s a Peter and Edmund. For every Alice through the looking-glass, there’s a Milo in a phantom tollbooth. Wendy Darling disappeared with both of her brothers in tow, and that’s not even counting Peter and the Lost Boys. Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot are balanced out by Button-Bright and Zeb. Lyra had her Will. I could go on.

On top of that, this main group of characters ends up including 2 of the boys (along with maybe 4 girls).

Why establish a mostly-female setting if you’re then going to overrepresent the male characters that dramatically? Why not just have a roughly-gender-balanced school in the first place?

And it manages to wring a heck of a lot of heterosexuality out of this casting. Every major female character mentions having a male love interest in whatever fantasy world she wandered into. One of the boys basically wandered into Halloweentown and had a romance with a skeleton…very specifically a girl skeleton. I already mentioned the ace girl’s weird obliviousness to the possibility of gay people. And the only flirting we see between students is m/f.

The aforementioned super-beautiful boy is trans. Which is nice! And the subject is handled more naturally than the asexuality. Doubly nice.

But in some ways that only makes the broader context weirder. If there’s a setting where nobody is explicitly LGBT, it’s easy to read that as “underneath the veneer of everyone politely ignoring the topic, people are still LGBT at the average rate.”

Here, the author wants to have explicit representation! But it’s like…she made one of her boys trans, and one of her girls ace, and then just…stopped. Without considering the idea of LGBT people existing generally. In background characters. In sidelong references. In the concept of female characters other than the heroine who aren’t into a hot guy.

~*~

At least it was short? I blew through the whole audiobook in a single work day, so the disappointing aspects weren’t dragged out for long.

But seriously, there were a lot of disappointments. And now I’m worried there are people writing better versions of the premise but getting shot down as ripoffs, or getting publishing deals but no hype because all the “what a cool, unusual premise!” posts have been done.

…Does anyone have recs? I’ll also take recs for your favorite culture-shock fics of existing portal-fantasy series. Anything that takes this books’ premise and actually, wholeheartedly, runs with it.

Vintage subways, eclipses on other planets, and music on X-rays August 19, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom, News Roundup.
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Photos of the Boston construction of America’s first subway system.

“On Jupiter, which has 69 moons, it’s possible for there to be multiple eclipses occurring at the same time. On Pluto, whose moon appears much larger in its sky than the Sun, total eclipses can happen every day for years on end.” [Video]

The only music that was allowed were classic composers, or simple folk tunes, whose words were all about how great socialism was.” So Soviet Russia got an underground cottage industry in illegal music…recorded on discarded X-ray film.

Doctor Who co-creator Sydney Newman advocated a female Doctor in 1986. (As well as some very ’70s companions.)

People tend to lose track of actual facts about the Bible, including how Lovecraftian it is: There are twelve pearly gates, they’re carved from a single pearl each, and they are never, ever closed.

Akemi Homura wields the Shield of Rassilon July 28, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Meta.
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Madoka Magica features a ton of references and/or obvious influences from other magical-girl series. This bit, I would lay good odds, is a Doctor Who reference.

Here’s some production art of the Seal of Rassilon:

Seal of Rassilon

Here’s Homura with her shield:

Homura and shield

And here they are side-by-side. Either someone on the Madoka design team was a Who fan, or that’s a heck of a coincidence. (The Coincidence of Rassilon, perhaps.)

Seal and shield

This Week It’s All Archer/T’Pol Recommendations, 7/19 July 19, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Recommendations.
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Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | M | The Vulcan Agreement
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8074309

Vulcans agree to help each other in Pon Farr. Can T’Pol count on the same help? [Yes.]
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | G | Whatever You Want
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8090233

T’Pol spreads a little festive cheer.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | M | Flight Of Logic
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8077993

T’Pol rationalizes.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol, ensemble | T | Plan B
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8074168/chapters/18501655

What would’ve happened if Travis’ suggestion was taken in United. [Pretend marriage!]
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | T | The First Years
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8090917/chapters/18540079

A 3.08 “Twilight” story. Canon AU.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | G | Soyuz
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8087296

A birthday, and the hope of things to come.
Star Trek: Enterprise, Quantum Leap | Archer, T’Pol | G | Bonnie And Clyde In Detroit
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8064589

Archer and T’Pol go on a little crime spree on their way to locating the Xindi bioweapon.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | G | First Choice
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8075152

Missing scene, 2.25 “Bounty.”
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | M | Desperation
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8075350

In the “Twilight” universe, T’Pol’s Pon Farr comes upon her.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol | M | In Its Time And Place
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8075590

Archer helps T’Pol in a time of need. But unexpected outcomes arise and the two learn the limitations cultures and time place upon people.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol, kids | G | Priceless
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8076571

He hadn’t missed the fact that she had called him daddy. It also didn’t escape him that she has tiny pointed ears sticking out through her sandy brown hair.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’Pol, ensemble | T | Traditions
http://archiveofourown.org/works/8093968/chapters/18547258

A whole series of adventures. T’Pol tries to create an authentic Earth Christmas atmosphere. Then our heroes have to interact with a strictly matriarchal planet, involving T’Pol breaking someone’s fingers to keep them off “her boytoy” Archer. They develop a bond! They accidentally adopt a kid! Then it cuts short.
Star Trek: Enterprise | Archer/T’pol | T | Whither Thou
http://archiveofourown.org/works/224348

This is the story of everything that happened before breakfast.

Number One Lady Detectives July 16, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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Down to my last 48 images on Photobucket. Have a rescued picspam.

It’s Mma Precious Ramotswe and Mma Grace Makutsi, the heroines of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Hugging. Seriously, it’s just screencaps of this one great time they hugged.

Precious and Grace

That’s Mma Ramotswe on the left. She’s the detective. Very smart, very good with emotions, lots of tragic backstory. IIRC she’s feeling the tragic backstory pretty hard in this moment.

And Mma Makutsi on the right. Very serious secretary/manager, first in her class, doesn’t much approve of Feelings. The fact that she’s having some is a big deal.

(more…)

Erin Watches: the end of Scandal s6 July 9, 2017

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When last we left our heroes, democracy had been subverted on almost every level, including the level where the writers don’t understand how American democracy works. But a shockingly-decent human being was pulled out of left field and appointed Vice President. It sets up the prospect of a happier ending than I would have thought possible.

Will the new VPEOTUS turn out to have been an evil mastermind all along? Let’s find out!

Episode 13 opens with a fleet of mystery drones over the US. Our election-rigging not-Russian Someones have borrowed the tactic that the “good guys” used earlier. Awkward.

Villain uses the phrase “your loved ones…as you call them.” That’s how you know he’s a villain, he doesn’t believe in foolish things like ‘love’.

They have his co-villain in custody in a bunker under the White House, and obviously the prospect of torture comes up, because these people still haven’t figured out that it doesn’t get accurate intel. Still President Fitz says that if they torture her, “we spit on the Constitution,” and they’ll be no better than the villains…if they do it on WH grounds. In foreign secret prisons? That, he would’ve been totally fine with.

Anyway, they decide to bluff her instead, and she cracks in like a minute. Which should’ve been a hint that she was counter-bluffing, but nope, they go along with it. Even agree to send David Rosen — the guy she was dating, the guy who found out who she was but had to keep sleeping with her so she wouldn’t catch on, the easiest possible person for her to psych out — to deliver the immunity agreement.

Villain: “Can we start over? You know my real name now….”

Rosen, disbelievingly: “You murdered Elizabeth North!”

Villain, wheedling: “I know…!”

(He ends up punching her in the face. I’m okay with that.)

They get her with a more complicated bluff in the end. Olivia’s dad pretends to talk his way into the bunker and bust her out — with a gun, which, you know, maybe was supposed to be a clue that this was a scheme. But given how terrible these people have been about security before, I was totally willing to believe that nobody frisked him.

(He gets her back to the museum, then stabs her with a dinosaur tooth. I, uh, would’ve liked her alive to testify, but if you ignore that bit it’s a cool scene.)

The bad guys were sending Olivia’s dad random packages, which turned out to be full of bricks, but calculated to make up the approximate weight of a human head. Which is apparently terrifying and intimidating, that they can afford to waste that much on postage.

So this episode opens with David Rosen bringing Abby an actual head. (The woman Dad Pope just killed. Abby calls her “ponytail bitch,” which is as good a name as any.)

Third-to-last episode and we kinda have a case-of-the-week! Olivia Pope and Associates are trying to convince Fitz to do a last-minute pardon (for a black guy convicted of killing a white guy acquitted of killing a black guy). Huck and Quinn face down a bar full of heavily-armed racists and walk out untouched (and carrying a few extra guns), which is the kind of content I like to see.

David and Abby bond over their mutual angst about being manipulated. It’s kinda cute. I would like them to have a happy ending, if only because they were broken up in such an awful way.

I was reeeeally worried the Shocking Twist would be that our victim-of-the-week is guilty after all, but never fear! We’re 26 minutes into the episode and Olivia hates the idea: “You want me to take your racially-sensitive tinderbox of a closed case to an outgoing President with a legacy to protect because you have a feeling?”

Five minutes from the end, and some of our heroes have a shocking revelation that the Mystery Villains were working for someone! This is a twist? Y’all thought you were chatting directly with the top brass of the superconspiracy this whole time?

On the plus side, it turns out Olivia was testing Quinn — “Running this firm will mean going up against the White House sometimes, I needed to know that you could handle it.” Would’ve had more impact if the viewers didn’t know from experience she would be wrong, but you take what you can get.

The evil mastermind is Olivia’s mom! On Luna Vargas’ behalf, I am delighted.

Mellie: “It’s official, everyone in your family has wanted me dead at some point or another.” She’s not wrong.

Mom Pope gets a long monologue about how she’s been secretly working in the name of good all along, and this just one more example of black women’s work not being appreciated. On Luna Vargas’ behalf, I’m worried again.

Olivia tries to bluff out her mom (“I’m totally on your side, but you need to give them something”), and overplays it horribly. So it doesn’t work, and she tries strangling instead. Who on this writing team has a thing for choking?

Oh, and Quinn’s pregnant. I guess at this point someone had to be.

IT WAS LUNA.

Dammit, show. I didn’t want to be right about this. For this narrative, the really shocking twist would be someone turning out to be a genuinely decent human being.

…or at least, it was sort-of Luna. She “paid someone”, presumably Mom Pope, to kill Frankie. Mom Pope passed the orders to Team Rocket, who passed them on via blackmail to half the main cast.

That still doesn’t answer the question of where Team Rocket came from in the first place. Luna didn’t create them, and I don’t think Mom Pope did either. Their identities were almost perfectly scrubbed, they had millions to throw around and the financial infrastructure to cover their tracks, they were playing next-level blackmail chess. They had tracking chips in their necks, and were able to pull out a dozen covert drones at a moment’s notice.

This only makes sense if they’re agents of a serious organization — and if they have motives other than money. I’m not even sure where Luna was supposed to have whipped up secret presidential-assassination levels of payment in the first place, but the effort these people went to, they would’ve needed power or ideology or both. Russian agents: makes sense! Random assassins: terrible narrative Plan B.

(It’s also implied Cyrus gave her the idea, which, again…nobody’s motives line up with the idea of killing Vargas before the EC vote.)

Abby to Quinn: “You wanted to have a baby? Let’s have a baby.” Uh…you two aren’t the canon ship here…are you?

After a successful inauguration where nobody got shot, Olivia and Jake talk Luna into killing herself. Because hey, let’s wrap up that loose end before any viewers start asking awkward questions. At least it got us this little gem:

Olivia: “Raise your hand if you’ve killed a Vice President before.” [raises hand, looks meaningfully at Jake]

Jake: “Mine was Argentine.”

Olivia: “That counts.”

After all that, it’s looking like the next season is going to have all the same people in power in Washington, just shuffled around a bit. Like, we might even have Cyrus installed as Mellie’s VP after all.

I was going to say “still better than Trump,” but, you know what? The last scene we get of President Mellie is her signing an executive order that Olivia puts in front of her, without reading it. (She accepts Olivia’s summary, that it’s setting aside a bit of cash for the military. It is, in fact, setting aside a bit of cash for Olivia.)

Sorry, America. The votes from the state of Shondaland are in, and it turns out you lost.

Erin Watches: The Doctor Falls July 3, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Watched the last episode of this season live when it aired, had so many thoughts that I had to go back and rewatch/liveblog, just to make sure I got them all in order.

Spoilers ahoy!

(more…)

Erin Watches: Scandal s6, liveblogging episodes 10-12 June 30, 2017

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Welcome back to Scandal, where the morals aren’t real and the votes don’t matter.

Our story so far: Two mysterious Someones, who were reportedly supposed to be Russian agents until the reality of 2016 forced the writers to think of something more original, arranged a murder-and-framing-spree around the President-elect. Mostly through surrogates that they’ve threatened and/or slept with, including about half of our main cast.

The heroes are dealing with this through a strategy of random guessing, dramatic confrontations, torturing people for inaccurate intel, forgetting to frisk people at key moments, and angsty self-reflection about that time when they rigged a presidential election.

Seven episodes left. Who will win? Not America, that’s for sure.

Episode 10 (of the season, episode 100 of the show) is a whole Imagine Spot about what if Olivia hadn’t voted to rig Fitz’s election way back when.

For some reason AU Pope and Associates can’t afford the swanky office. I thought she got there on her own amazing skills and reputation — is this implying that her business was somehow propped up by Fitz’s presidency? Or is it that she turned a moral corner with the election-rigging? Maybe the show wants us to see this as “she got more ruthless in doing whatever it takes to support wonderful deserving people,” so down this fork-in-the-road she’s not as good because she’s held back by silly things like ethics.

Also, she’s wearing her hair natural. Found a post that unpacks that a bit.

Fitz gets divorced, marries Olivia. Cyrus won’t sit with his not-yet-husband at the ceremony, and, uh, ends up making out with Mellie for some reason? (No word, not even a mention, of who gets custody of their kids.)

We do get a couple of sweet details. Huck walks Olivia down the aisle, looking super awkward in a nice suit, while Abby is the maid of honor. Shots of various smiling friends and allies in the refreshingly multiracial audience.

Fitz gets a cheesy TV pundit spot. Also, for some reason it’s a year post-wedding and they’re not living together. Abby and David are namechecked as happily married.  Cyrus and Mellie…are…married and pregnant? Quinn didn’t even get roped into the firm, so she’s being cute and giggly on a Bachelor-type reality show.

…oh my god, the Bachelor says to not-Quinn “You really love torturing me, don’t you? Is that your thing?”  (And Huck is clapping! He’s rooting for her!) This is beautiful and they’re so innocent and it hurts that they don’t live in this universe.

Final score: Cyrus stays closeted and career-driven and miserable. Mellie is also pretty glum, but she’s a better human being who cares about others. Fitz and Olivia have a lot of stress and fighting, including the revelation that she could’ve stolen the White House for him…but they pleasantly surprise me by both ultimately realizing that politics is soul-sucking and they’re better off without it.

Totally should’ve gone with this reality.

Aaaand we’re back to the merry-go-round of people yelling about who the Electoral College should vote for, based on whose kink for power they’re most interested in indulging.

Mellie yelling at Olivia: “Get off your high horse! Like you never killed anybody? Like you never stole an Oval or two?” Look at all that sense and logic.

Olivia’s response: “I know you. You are better than most. You are inherently good.” Have you never seen your own show.

…She switches to Team Cyrus later in the episode, for reasons, and there’s a lot of back-and-forth between Team Cyrus (he knows he’s not worthy, but he wants to do it for Frankie!) to Team Mellie (Cyrus was a terrible husband and also she deserves it!). Until the point where Mellie meets the Someones…and one of them murders not!Veronica in front of her. Dammit, I liked Veronica!

Also, remember how the FBI director and the President are doing it? Yeah, that comes up again.

Fitz accuses her of being jealous of Olivia. She responds: “Boy, I am the director of the FBI, not some chick who got dissed at prom.” Federal Director of Sass. And currently holding the mantle of Only Likeable Character Left Alive.

The EC votes! Mellie is in! Possibly in a landslide! Wonder how many of the electors were flipped via murder.

Episode 12 finds Dad Pope in protective presidential custody, although he’s cranky because he sees more murder on the horizon.

…and we finally get one of the Someones confronting Olivia in person. Threatens her to replace Mellie’s VP candidate. She goes to him and says “you should try being head of the NSA instead,” as if our mysterious enemies would be totally chill with that.

FINALLY, a ploy with some strategy! Our heroes send one of their own drones into WH airspace, giving security an excuse to drag all attendant Someones into a secure bunker with phone signals blocked. Time for a secure war council.

(Or at least, I hope it’s secure. Mellie’s office was bugged for months and they never noticed. Have they learned a lesson from that? Time will tell! And there’s a mention of Mellie’s kids being in Secret Service custody — are we taking it for granted that the Service hasn’t been compromised?)

…so, okay, there was not a lot of actual council-ing in the secure council. Lots of angry yelling about various bombshell secrets that Subset X was hiding from Subset Y. (I remembered Dad Pope killing one of Fitz and Mellie’s kids, but I forgot that Fitz knew. Mellie…finds out here.)

Then they split off into subgroups for a bunch of one-on-one conversations. Pairs up people who haven’t interacted much all season, and I appreciate the character moments that come from exploring underused dynamics…but is this really the time?

By the end it seems like the only decision they’ve made is picking Mellie’s replacement VP. No progress in figuring out who, exactly, is blackmailmurdering their way into the US government? Do we have a long-term safety strategy? Because that was not mentioned.

True fact: I am genuinely impressed by the VP reveal. I didn’t see it coming at all, and yet in retrospect it’s perfectly suited to the themes this season has brought up over and over — how decent people usually aren’t the ones who run for office, how they can honor the voters who chose Vargas by giving his position to someone he trusted, how political wives (and husbands in Cyrus’ case) deserve more credit for all the sacrifices and compromises they’ve made to support their husbands.

It’s Frankie Vargas’ widow. She’s consistently been a Good Person in all her appearances, and yet I haven’t even been mentioning her in my tally of likeable characters because she’s so mild and unassuming and respectable. Which I suppose was probably the point.

Scandal being Scandal, I give it 50-50 odds that it’ll turn out she was the evil mastermind behind the Someones this whole time.

But if she isn’t…possibly the American people will end up kinda-sorta winning? Or at least not totally losing?

Nicely done, show.