Sunday, November 30, 2014

Countdown: Top Season Returns of 2014/2015 - #2 Agents of SHIELD

Welcome back to my countdown of shows I think made the best comeback for the 2014/2015 viewing season. At number four we had Once Upon a Time. I the number three spot was Chicago Fire. And today, second place goes to Agents of SHIELD...





After the epic last few episodes of Shield season one, I had been dying to find out where it would all pick up -- Ward's betrayal both of the team and Skye personally, Fitz telling Simmons he loved her and then almost dying, the mystery of the drug Coulson and Skye had both taken, Skye's origins -- to name a few of the prominent threads. And there were plenty of other things going on as well.
This season started off with an entirely different feel. Really, what else were they going to do after literally destroying everything at the end of last season?
From the start, we were quickly introduced to a handful of new characters. At first, I did miss the old "team" on the bus solving mysteries, and the show was definitely lacking the smushy-feel-good-team thing they had going on last year. However, I quickly came to love these new characters and the new dynamics that had opened up. I'm especially interested in Lance Hunter... no, the accent has nothing to do with it! Okay, maybe a little. I think a Monday Muse post featuring him will definitely be on the cards once I get a bit more information about his character.
Anyhoo, while there are many interesting things going on, like Coulson possibly going crazy and doing that weird alien sketching on the walls until they got the answers about the fact it was a map, what I really want is to start seeing Ward redeeming himself. And while he has made a start by keeping his promise that he would never be untruthful with Skye, he's still kind of in creepy-evil-Ward mode, so we need him to work that out of his system. In the previous weeks, Ward finally decided to escape when he found out SHIELD were handing him over to his brother, who just happens to be a senator. Senator Ward told Coulson all about how evil Agent Ward was, while Agent Ward told Skye all about how evil Senator Ward was. Who you gonna believe? I'm going to go with Agent Ward on this one, even though his motivations are still very murky.
After escaping, Ward left Coulson a present in the form of some top ranking Hydra agents, and then rang Skye up to tell her he'd be sending some more gifts their way. Still creepy, but it seems he's trying to do the right thing in his own twisted way. And that was all well and good until this week when it appeared he staged a murder-suicide of his parents and brother, only to then return to Hydra.

I'm still hanging onto the hope that he can and will redeem himself, but if he did in fact kill his parents and brother, he's obviously got a long way to go. I'm also rather worried about his motivations and what he's going to do within the ranks of Hydra, it might all end up going sideways.
I cannot wait and am literally counting down the days to the next episode to find out about Coulson's alien-city-map thing and what move Ward will make next. Of course, there are plenty of other questions to be answered, like the whole thing with Skye's father, the issues Fitz is having and the whole thing with Lance and his ex-wife working together.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Countdown: Top Season Returns for 2014/2015 - #3 Chicago Fire



Welcome to the second installment of my countdown of which series I think made the best returns for the 2014/2015 viewing season. In the number four spot, we had Once Upon a Time. Taking up the number three position is Chicago Fire.

The final episode of Chicago Fire season two was a classic cliff hanger. The chief got married, Casey proposed to Dawson, but before anyone could really enjoy these moments, the team were called to a fire in an abandoned building. At first it seemed pretty typical, but then while every single member of the crew, except for the chief, were inside the building, communications went down and the chief couldn't contact them on the radio. Just when the audience was sufficiently creeped out by this fact-- kaboom! The building blew up, complete with fireballs exploding out of the windows. So to start back this season, we needed to know what happened to the crew. Maybe it was dumb, but I actually wasn't expecting that any of the characters would be killed. Seriously injured, yes, but not killed. So when it turned out that Shay had died, I was actually shocked. Killing off characters in the first episode of the season seems to be a theme this year.
The action hasn't stopped in the weeks following. We're seeing the type of episodes a show would usually pull out in the middle to end of the season to keep the audience engaged; from two fire trucks crashing into each other and causing a huge accident, to when Severide got involved in a gang shooting on the subway. It will be interesting to see how the writers keep this up for the rest of the season, and if we're seeing this level of action now, what on earth could they have planned for the end of the season? I also have to mention that I love the continuous cross-cameo appearances Chicago Fire and Chicago PD always do. I don't think there's ever been another two shows that have the luxury or plausibility to be able to work off each so closely.
There are a few interesting character arcs happening in the show at the moment, but I think the best one is easily Peter's. He's been looking into his family background, and also suffered an inner-ear injury from the explosion, meaning he couldn't be cleared for active duty as a firefighter any longer. He made the call to transfer from firefighter to paramedic, taking Dawson's role, as she has become the new candidate. This role swapping has been interesting, and I think will only become more interesting as the season continues on.
The other interesting arc is Severide and him dealing with the loss of Shay. For a while he really spiraled with drinking and staying out all night and the thing with Lindsay (a cop from Chicago PD) came to an end.
For like a second it seemed like he was going to stabilize, and there was even this tiny brief moment when he and the new girl paramedic Sylive seemed to connect. Except then Severide went off to Vegas and did the cliche get-married-to-a-chick-he-just-met thing. At first impressions, this new woman seems to be on the level, but it appears she might have similar skeletons in her past to Severide. While I'm hoping that she'll be the one to pull him out of the rock-bottom grief over losing Shay, I'm thinking its more likely she'll be the cause of many new problems.
Whatever the case, Chicago Fire has well and truly sucked me in for the year.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Escape Velocity Release Announcement

Just a very quick post to share the exciting news that Escape Velocity will be released with Entangled Publishing on the 26th of January 2015. While the cover isn't quite ready yet, keep an eye out, because I'll be posting that as soon as I'm able to!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Countdown: Top Season Returns for 2014/2015 -- #4 Once Upon A Time

Now that we're well and truly back into the viewing season, I'm giving out the first ever awards for best returning series. Ending a season in some ways is the easy part, that's when the climax happens, and other all sorts of exciting things. But much like writing a book where you need to hook your readers withing the first chapter, starting off a season can be challenging, and if its not done right, viewers can be quickly lost and ratings destroyed for the remainder of the year, which can of course result in a show being cancelled.
In separate blog posts, I'll be listing the top four shows that I think have started their new season off with a strong lead, followed by some honorable mentions. 
To start us off, sitting at the number four slot is Once Upon a Time...


The end of season three was quite well done by the writers/creators. Many things were resolved (Captain Swan ship, anyone?) but there were also many new questions raised, and we were given a hint about the new characters for season four. The new season has picked up almost where the last left off. The townsfolk realize there is a new player in town when a snow monster goes stomping around, followed by a giant ice wall surrounding the town. Regina lost her new love in Robin Hood when Emma accidentally brought his dead wife forward through time with her. Regina's good/evil struggle has been very interesting and I think handled very well by the writers.
For the Outlaw Queen shippers (I think that's what they're calling it) we've been given sparks of hope for the couple. Robin Hood's wife was cursed by a freezing spell and someone suggested that true love's kiss would break it. He tried, but nothing happened. Regina offered the explanation that the ice was acting as a barrier. Later, Robin admitted that he thought it hadn't worked because he was in love with someone else. Regina was obviously elated at this revelation, but respectful of Robin's choice to be with Marian for the sake of their son and the fact that she is his wife.
However, for the time being, Marian is frozen solid -- not dead, but not alive. There isn't any foreseeable solution to this, though Regina did promise Robin she would find a way. In the meantime, there has been a lot of Outlaw Queen angst as Regina tries in vain to find a solution for unfreezing Marian, only to come up short, while Robin struggles with his love for Regina, his lack of feelings for Marian, and even his own sense of identity. In this week's episode, viewer were treated to a moment that no doubt all Outlaw Queen shippers were waiting for. It was obvious that Robin's struggle was becoming harder, and no matter how many times Regina asked him to leave her alone and forget about her, he just couldn't do it. After talking to Will Scarlett (whose character had been brought across from the failed Wonderland spin-off), Will offered some advice along the lines of if your love isn't worth destroying your entire life over, then what's the point? He was talking in terms of Marian, but instead of helping Robin remember his feelings for his frozen wife, it instead sent him to Regina. I'll admit, the scene that followed is the type us romance authors dream about writing.I could try to recount it, but I know I wouldn't do it justice. Watching it unfold is so much better!



On the Captain Swan ship, things aren't all roses and love hearts for the golden couple either. Emma feels bad that she ruined Regina's relationship and feels she doesn't deserve any of her own relationship happiness until that is resolved. However she also confessed to Hook a few weeks back that every single guy she's ever dated is dead, and she doesn't want to lose him as well. Hook replied with a typically macho "you don't need to worry about me" response. Still, I'm sure these issues are far from resolved and it will be interesting to see how they continue evolving over the coming season.
This past week, Emma was confronted with the fact that her family can be a bit nervous about her and her newish powers, when Mary-Margaret hesitated to hand over Emma's baby brother only moments after displaying a burst of uncontrolled magic. Later in the episode, Emma blew out an entire wall in the sheriff's station, followed by dropping a lamp post that almost took out David. Although technically Hook wasn't one of the ones seeming wary of her, he did try to get closer when she told them not to, before taking off in her car.
This is playing right into the hands of the Evil Snow Queen, who turned out to be a different snow queen than Elsa, which bring us to the other interesting element to this season in the introduction of Elsa and the mystery of what happened to Ana.
The writers/creators were pretty clever in jumping on the Frozen juggernaut, and already the legend used in OUAT has been slightly altered and built on by the writers. Its going to be fascinating to see how they build it through the rest of the season, however, if there's even and hint of Elsa singing "Let it Go" I won't be held responsible for my actions!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Vampire Diaries 6x06 -- Proving They Can Still Surprise Me

Going into the sixth season of the Vampire Diaries, while I still really enjoy the show, I wasn't sure which direction the show was going to take; either a sad plunge into suckiness, or continuing at a steady drama-fueled pace until the CW decided that the show had run its course and didn't renew it for another season. In the Delana Ships That Aren't Shipping, But Totally Should Be post I did last year, I even said that I had to wonder what else could possibly happen to these people that hadn't already. Well, I probably should have gotten a clue from the way season five ended; with Ric returning, among other dead people, while Bonnie and Damon got obliterated by a huge white light.
I expected when season six started that eventually Damon and Bonnie would find their way back, and in the meantime this would be some serious angst fodder. But I couldn't have imagined the sequence of events that followed, events that worked so well and were so logical story-wise, that I had to write this post to say well done to the writers, because they actually surprised me, which is pretty hard to do these days. Usually I can see a twist coming in a TV show a mile off, but I sure didn't see the one coming in last night's episode.
So, after losing Damon and believing he was gone forever, Elena went off the rails, and then when she had a moment of clarity in which she saw how bad she'd gotten, she asked Ric to compel her (because Ric became a vampire through the Original vampire spell, and could therefore compel other vampires) and erase her memories of loving Damon. Now, I thought this was totally extreme, and wasn't very happy about it. Surely Ric could have compelled her to maybe just feel better about losing Damon, or something that would still mean she loved him, but didn't hurt as much any longer. But no, those memories had to go until she only remembered that Damon was the psycho killing brother of her ex-boyfriend. Of course, this illusion didn't last long, because Stefan soon told her what she'd done, when she was giving him a particularly ironic lecture about not dealing with things.
So, that was all fine and dandy. Except whoops! Damon came back. Without Bonnie, I might add. She sacrificed herself so that Damon could get through the magical portal thing that they needed to get back from the weird space-time, alternate universe place that Bonnie's grandmother had somehow sent them to. I'm sue Bonnie's going to turn up at some stage, but that will probably be a twist in itself. Like, she won't remember who she is or something.
Anyhoo, so Damon came back and was understandably stunned to find that Elena had erased her memories of loving him. All he wanted was to see her, but of course she avoided him, and since she couldn't remember all the good Damon parts, thought her fake-compulsed happiness must surely be better than whatever she'd felt when she remembered him. Bravo, Elena, because that makes so much sense. Most of the time Elena doesn't bother me too much, but occasionally she has these moments where you just want someone to slap some sense into her.
So Damon spent the rest of the episode alternately lurking and pursuing Elana, until he got nabbed by the latest crazy vampire hunter to hit town (side note; why are the vampire hunters on this show always ten kinds of crazy. Aside from Ric, I suppose, but he wasn't exactly stable himself). And Elena did everything in her power to avoid him, including jumping out of a window. Until she realized Damon had been taken, and of course that was what woke her up to her own stupidity. As she waited with Caroline to intercept the van the hunter was driving Damon and Enzo in, she told Caroline that she was going to have Ric restore her memories. So the audience was cheering, and no doubt envisaging a passionate Delana reunion before the end of the episode. Except right here is where the writers decided to screw with us in a spectacularly brilliant twist.
The van came up on where Stefan and Ric were waiting. And you would think, being the smart vampires that they are (not, apparently) they wouldn't park their decoy broken down car so freaking close to the magical vampire killing town line. But they did, so when the hunter pulled up and realized he'd driven into a trap, he was just one accelerator-stomping car-ram away from getting those pesky vampire over the line so they could die.
Stefan was the last man standing, and wasted precious seconds on the phone to Elena telling her what had happened. And then he had a decision to make; save Ric, or save Damon? Actually, it wasn't much of a choice. Sorry Ric, but family first, and all that. So Stefan walks over the line, and immediately starts bleeding all over the place, re-suffering the wound that had killed him when he became a vampire. He manages to get Damon and Enzo free, and then they all stumble across the town line again to heal.
Meanwhile, a new player in town, a doctor (I think her name is Jo) who they conviniently found out in this same episode was a witch, randomly turns up to stem Ric's bleeding. He tried to tell her she needs to get him over the town line, but she just spouts off some medical stuff and then gives him CPR when he passes out. For a minute there, we all think Ric is dead again. But then he wakes up, and in that second, it hit me exactly what the writers had done.
Doctor Jo saved Ric with actual medicine, and the magic town line had stripped away all the magic, meaning Ric was human again... which meant he had no vampire powers, like, oh say the power of compelling other vampires.
WHAAAAT????
That's right. In a stroke of evil brilliance, the writers have taken away Elena's ability to get her happy memories of Damon back. Seriously, this Delana ship is so twisted. Now, Elena doesn't feel anything for Damon except for maybe mild disgust and loathing, and she's fixated on the fact that once many years ago, Damon killed Jeremy. Look, the kid is fine, maybe she should be more worried about how screwed up he is over losing Bonnie. If that's not enough, Elena has become interested in another guy, fellow med student whose name I can't even remember, but next to Damon, is totally white bread. In the preview for next week's episode, it seems Elena is going to pursue this relationship, despite knowing what it'll probably do to Damon, which is kind of a bitch move if you ask me.
But anyway, we all know it won't last. The Delana ship is like fate, and nothing can stand in between it for long. There's already been some talk that the feelings they had for one another could be stronger than the compulsion, so at some stage, I'm sure some uber-dramatic thing will happen that will cause Elena's memories to come flooding back, and all will be right in the Delana universe for another five minutes, until the next catastrophe strikes.
So, bravo to the Vampire Diaries writers, because just when I thought there wasn't anywhere else to take things, they went way outside the square to totally rearrange the lay of the land. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book vs TV Series -- The 100

Ever since I started watching The 100 last year and found out it had been adapted to TV from a book, I had thought about getting the book to read so I could find out what happens, or if the book is anything like the TV series.
When it comes to TV shows or movies made from books, I can go either way. Sometimes I've read the book before the screen version comes out (like Hunger Games or Divergent), sometimes I've already watched the movie/series and decided I liked it enough to see what the book version is like (which I did with True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse series), and sometimes, even though I might love the TV series, it doesn't make me want to run out and read the books and I'm happy enough with only the screen version (The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars).
In the case of The 100, it was the Bellamy/Clarke ship (I refuse to call it Bellarke!) that finally did it for me. Quite by accident, I came across a review of the book online, and even though the review was less than glowing, considering it was one star and sarcastically pointed out many of the book's faults in comical fashion, it made me want to read the book. (So one star reviews aren't always bad! I think if I got a one star review by this particular reader/reviewer, it wouldn't be so bad because I'd probably be laughing at it too much) Anyway, so I got The 100 and the second book, Day 21, yesterday, but unfortunately I won't be getting straight into them as I have some other "work related" reading to do first.
From what I can gather from online reviews, there are a couple of very obvious differences between the book and the TV series. First of all, I haven't seen any reviews that mention Finn or Raven, so have to assume they were characters brought in for the show, while a couple of other characters, Glass and Luke, are in the book but absent from the TV series. Second of all, Wells isn't killed off in the book like he was early on in the TV series, and is actually one side of a love triangle between him, Clarke and Bellamy. And that brings us to the best difference -- Bellamy and Clarke. I can understand why the show's writers decided to kill off Wells and create Finn as the love interest for Clarke. But I'm not sure why the TV show creators have steered away from the Bellamy/Clarke romance and don't look to be taking things there any time soon, no matter how loud the Bellarke shippers get.
So as season two of The 100 continues on, I'll be reading the books in the coming weeks. In most cases, I don't usually compare books to screen adaptations too much, because the two are different medium and need to be handled in different ways, and when different people are working with the same concept, obviously different visions will eventuate.
And while the Bellamy/Clarke ship isn't playing out on the screen, I'll be getting my romance fix from the books.

*22/01/15 Update: Read my final verdict here