Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Many Pates of Walter White

Way back when I enthused about the awesomeness of Breaking Bad a second time, I noted that protagonist Walter White soon found himself surrounded by fellow baldies. It’s very true—by season 4, of the 7 male characters I’d consider major, 5 had shorn or nearly shorn heads. And way back when, I briefly considered what this meant. But, I feel there’s enough going on to consider the matter at greater length. Just what does the gallery of scalps around Walt tell him?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

White Knight, Net Trash, Male Rage

My least favorite episode of Angel is “Billy.” Odd choice, I know, to mark such a solidly middle-of-the-road episode, technically a Monster of the Week early season diversion that I wager most Angel fans only think of when prompted, as my least favorite. Conner hadn’t even been born yet! The thing that wrecks “Billy” for me isn’t a shoddy plot, weak script, or annoying characters, but rather what the episode says about gender. “Billy” was, I felt, rather insulting and more importantly, out of touch. The years since, though, may have proven me wrong. I hate being wrong, but I’ll own up to it. But worse, I also look foolish, and that, well, that I can’t abide.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting for Reapers: Playing the Role in an RPG

Way back when, I put forth a challenging, daring notion: that when you are playing a role playing game, you ought play the role of your character. Yeah, I know, way out in left field there. But to play a role, you need to know your character—their thoughts, attitudes, opinions, and motivations. How else can you be expected to play? It’s a dance between the writers and I, where they provide the What, and I fill in the far more interesting Why. For too many players, though, role playing is some zero-sum system reduced to rote numerology, where they are to be rewarded tangibly with both in-game doodads and a vague notion of “change”. It’s a rant I’ve been on before, so rather than repeat it, how about if I tell how it worked for me in the stunning climax of Mass Effect 2, a pulse-pounding mission wherein any and all characters can be killed through your actions, and show how it made the experience richer.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Waiting for Reapers: I’m Totally Right

            Nothing provides sustenance sweeter than the delicious taste of correctness. Many moons ago, I wrote about the silly controversy over the hair color of Commander Shepard, Mass Effect’s mutable protagonist. My thesis: in light of her undisputed badassery, the worries over Lady Shepard’s hair color are stupid and superficial, possibly speaking to a very vexing and insidious type of sexism. I may never be vindicated on the latter bit, but the former? Oh man.

Waiting for Reapers: Another Chance for Battlestar

On March 6th, I’ll have Mass Effect 3. This was an event written in the bedrock of the universe. I am beyond prepared. By my count, I’ve played Mass Effect 2 (one of my GOTY 2010 Picks!) to completion twelve times—two of them this year—and I could easily do another. ME has almost the perfect alchemy, with a fascinating universe, characters I adore, and themes that resonate. But, I don’t want to burn myself out before I even have it, as unlikely as that seems. Then along came a column entitled “Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Sci-Fi Universe of Our Generation”. Needless to say, I agreed, but it got me thinking about what else could even be considered in contention. The column listed a few contenders, but only one seemed credible—the 2004 re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica. There are a few connections between the two, actually, with a few similar themes, styles, an homage, and a pair of actors. I have my opinions on BSG, but they’re a bit old. Has time changed them? Now here’s something that will give me my spaceship fix until the 6th.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Downton State Correctional Abbey: Week 2

Let us return, for one final week, to worlds of rules unspoken and classes inviolate, or not. If only I’d had a little foresight, I’ve had started this sooner, but alas, as I’m sure both residents of Downton and Em City would quickly remind me, you can’t plan for everything, if you can plan for anything at all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Downton State Correctional Abbey: Week 1

When trapped under a single roof, the human beast is laid bare. Hate, violence, rage, desperation, scheming, vying for a scrap of power, and love are all pushed to the extreme when there is no hope or escape from that single edifice, but nothing trumps the maintenance of the social machine.
Yes, I’ve been watching Oz, HBO’s seminal prison-set drama, and Downton Abbey, the BBC’s immaculate period piece, at the same time. See, because HBO doesn’t let Netflix stream their stuff, I’ve been getting Oz DVD’s through the mail, one at a time, like a savage.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What We Lose When We Lose Chuck

Chuck is coming to a final end. In the largest sense, big deal—I’ve dealt with far more painful losses lately. In the TV sense, big deal—Chuck had one exceptional season, and thereafter was simply fun and pretty good. Furthermore, it was never a show that had very certain footing. It would get picked up for about half a season, with no promise of any more. So it was written with that in mind, with everything resolving in episode 13 or so, only to get picked up for the rest of the season, at which point the crew had to string together what they could into an ending, a second one, no less. At times, it was sloppy in narrative, and cheap in appearance and execution (I was particularly sensitive to some dreadful ADR), but it was always pretty fun. Still, this isn’t a magnificent culmination on the order of The Wire ending, nor the close of a cultural era on the order of Lost, nor a tragedy on the order of Farscape. Chuck is ending. Oh well.
            But it’s not like it goes away unmourned. There are plenty of things about Chuck that feel special or unique beyond a bunch of characters I like to see running around, and TV will be a poorer place when it goes, and as it does, it seems like a good time to highlight and remember them.