Sunday, May 31, 2015

Battle Creek - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory (1x13 Sympathy for the Devil)

I should be revising/writing right now. I'm on this crazy deadline and have been typing my little fingers to the bone, but I had to come up from the fog to write this post, which I've been wanting to do ever since I watched the season finale of Battle Creek.
Admittedly, in knowing this show had been cancelled, part of me didn't want to watch the final episode because I just knew it was going to be good and make it all worse. But I was wrong. The final episode wasn't just good, it was awesome and now I can categorically say I have never been so upset by the cancellation of a show as I am about Battle Creek. Not since Firefly. In fact, since I'd already been burned by Firefly, I'm going to say this hurt even worse.
I'm not going to pretend like I have any idea how the whole TV network-ratings-money thing works, but like anyone with a computer, access to the internet, and a blog, I have an opinion.
In this age where so many consumers (especially, I would assume, in the ideal targeted 18 to 49 year old demographic) more and more people aren't watching TV when it airs on TV. With DVR technology, catch-up and on-demand episodes, illegal downloading and streaming, plus legit streaming services like Netflix, I just cannot imagine how there is any feasible way to measure any demographic at all.
Someone tell me otherwise.
So the major networks making decisions based on ratings or lack thereof (though I assume a few other things are taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to cancel a show. At least I hope there is!) is like grasping at straws, making ill-informed decisions based on a only a select section of the market which probably doesn't represent the entire viewing population any longer.
Now, obviously I am biased because I loved Battle Creek and the growing bromance between Milt and Russ. But I really think CBS have made an epic mistake in cancelling Battle Creek. And I'm talking legendary, cult-fans will still be talking about it in ten years mistake, just like the whole Firefly fiasco with Fox. There is no doubt now that if Fox had given Firefly a bit more leeway, it would have became a huge hit, as that show actually gained in fans and popularity long after it had been taken off the air. If you're not a huge geek and have no idea what Firefly is, a simple trip over to google will explain everything.
But back to Battle Creek. Its been a long time since I've become so deeply invested in a show so quickly, and with the amount of fiction I consume in TV and books, I'm a tough critic. However Battle Creek had all my favorite elements, and best of all, it was character driven, which is what I really love to see.
I've already written a post about all the things so right with Battle Creek, so I won't go into it again. But I will give some thoughts on the final episode, as painful as it might be.
First off, I just have to say that I was so relieved we found out why Milt was in Battle Creek. And if you haven't see this episode and don't want to know, I'm about to drop some spoilers.
So the episode opened with Milt waking up to an alarm at what I imagine is some ungodly hour considering its still dark. Next we see him waiting to get on the elevator, and for the first time, he's looking really down. Like I'm talking in the darkest, most depressing place imaginable, which is a total reversal to his usual sunny charming self.
Someone else is already on the elevator when it arrives, and he puts on a smile, starting up some polite elevator chit-chat, but its clearly forced. Next, he's sitting in his car, still looking just short of devastated, except this time, his eyes are damp, and we even get a stray tear before he tells himself "forward, positive, embrace the day." He repeats it, but for some reason today, or maybe a lot of days, the mantra just isn't working. From the struggle that briefly crosses his expression, I assume in that moment it was either break down completely or get angry, so he lets out this furious yell before it cuts to a montage of Milt working out in the park, pushing himself and presumably his demons to the point where he's managed to work some of it out of his system. By the time he arrives back at his car, he's looking more together, more like the Milt we're used to seeing. However, when he goes to start the engine, he gets nothing but some weird clicking. Realization dawns on his features a split second before the car explodes. All this, not even three minutes into the episode.
So for half a second, I was like "OMG did they just kill Milt?!" But of course he turns up looking fine, and it comes out later that his car was fully armored, which is why he survived the explosion and gives us a clue that Milt knew something like this might eventually happen.
Milt keeps everyone at the Battle Creek police station in the dark on the fact it was his car that got blown up, and pretty much sends them on a wild goose chase because he believes the car can't be traced back to him. Meanwhile, he confides in Russ, and asks for his help in tracking the person after him.
This is all well and good until the bad guy gets the drop on them, and both Milt and Russ end up in the trunk of a car together.
Now, a lot of shows wouldn't have been able to pull off the entire middle of this episode, with the two main characters tied up next to each other with nothing to do but talk. Most shows would have skipped over a lot of this in favor of other action, but Milt and Russ are so awesome that they carry it all perfectly.
Russ reasons that what's happening now has to do with the mystery of Milt being in Battle Creek, and is completely right. Milt starts telling him the story of how it all came to be. We see flashbacks, interspersed with Russ's usual sarcasm and cutting wit.
Meanwhile, the team at Battle Creek soon realize Russ and Milt are missing, and mostly led by Font, they manage to work out that Milt was the target. They go to Milt's ex-boss for answers.
But things are looking bad for Russ and Milt, as, after Milt admits the mistakes he made in the pursuit of justice that got an innocent teenager gunned down, the car pulls to a stop and the father or the slain teen pulls Russ out of the trunk first. Milt tells Russ to run, but Russ refuses, saying that Milt is his partner and he's not going to leave him.
Just as their abductor is getting ready to kill Milt, a police car turns up with Font and a uniformed officer. They subdue the shooter, and it seems like everything is all said and done. But I totally didn't see the end coming. Milt gets the gun that the abductor had and turns it on Font. Russ (along with probably everyone watching) wants to know what the hell he's doing.
At first, Russ demands to know if Milt is going to kill the guy, but Russ knows Milt too well. He reasons that Milt is actually going to let the guy go. But Milt doesn't do either. Once the others are disarmed, he takes the magazine out of the gun, leaving only one bullet, and then returns the gun to the abductor. He says that the man has every right to kill him, and that he would kill himself if he could bring his son back.
Just when it looks like Milt might have talked the guy down and everyone takes a breath of relief, the man suddenly raises the gun and shoots Milt almost point-blank.
He goes down and Russ rushes to his side. As Russ puts pressure on the wound in his chest, he tells Milt he's going to be okay. For a second, Milt just stares up at him, trying to catch his breath, but then he grins, and the relief is catching. Milt agrees that he is going to be fine, and we know he's talking about more than just his injury, before the two of them share a tension-relieving laugh. The shot pans out and we're left with the sense, or maybe more the hope that Milt really is going to be okay, and the two of them will be best-buddies forever and Milt will start seeing Battle Creek as more of a home than somewhere the FBI sent him to be alone so he couldn't show anyone up with his perfect by-the-book play any longer.
If this is where Battle Creek ends, then at least we got to know why Milt came to Battle Creek (though other issues such as what the story with his mother is will go unanswered) and it ended on a high note, with this episode easily being one of the best. 
The show seems to have a devoted, yet unfortunately small fan base. And though the usual petition, letter writing, and network feedback campaigns have sprung up, when compared to another new show that was cancelled this year, Forever, (which I haven't watched and don't have an opinion on, apart from the fact that the promos didn't make me want to watch it) the numbers for Battle Creek just don't do enough. The petition to save Forever has something in the realms of 58,000 signatures, while the Facebook page alone has just shy of 500,000 likes.
In comparison, Battle Creek only has 35,000 likes on its Facebook page and the petition is struggling to reach 5000 signatures. There are some slight differences, however. Forever (as far as I know) had much more advertising than Battle Creek and a different (dare I say better) time-slot, but Battle Creek had superior ratings. On average, Forever came it around 5 million, while Battle Creek came in at 6.7 million, nearly two million better (although at one point earlier in the season, the average was up around 8.1 million). So where are all the fans? My guess is that Battle Creek was hitting the higher age demographic who aren't as active on social media, whereas Forever grabbed the ideal demographic of 18 to 49, who are obviously the most active on social media.
If social media is to be the decider and either of these shows caught a second chance by the network changing their minds, or the show getting picked up by Netflix, it seems Forever would be more likely to succeed.
Either way, in the current market (and though we have seen fans rescue shows like Longmire and Hannibal) as a realist I have to say that Battle Creek is probably done and dusted, no matter how brilliant it was. Of course I have a small, hopeful dream that this show will be saved, either by CBS changing their minds (unlikely) or Netflix taking it on (a little more likely, but still not good chances). In the meantime, I'm going to wait for it to come out on DVD, and when it eventually does, binge myself on every deliciously layered episode all over again.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Work Status Update

Just a quick update on where things are at. I've been super busy these last few weeks. I started a new contemporary sci-fi (as in, a story set now, but with sci-fi elements) that I'm calling my Darc Ops series. Its about an elite military unit, with the soldiers involved having advanced nanotechnology that gives them super-human abilities. It also gives each soldier one unique ability, but as the human body wasn't designed to be pushed to such limits, using that ability comes with a price, usually in form of a physical toll.
My wonderful editor at Entangled Publishing, Robin, needs to get half the credit for this new book series, as she was there to bounce ideas back and forth and really shape it into a tight story. With her help, I did about a month or two worth of planning, plotting, writing, etc in the space of about a week.
So far, I've written the first 6 chapters/fifty-five pages/fifteen thousand words. I'm hoping that by the time I finish the book in a few months, I'll have a shiny new contract and 2016 release date for it.
However, I've had to put that aside this week, as I've now got the first round of revisions on Damage Control to do. We're making some slight alterations -- nothing that's really going to change the story, but kind of adding an extra element that will make the story tighter, and make the relationship between the hero and heroine more well-rounded. 
Damage Control will be released on the 27th of October, and while its still five months away, I am looking forward to getting the cover and everything else that goes along with releasing a new book.
But for now, I've got to get back into those revisions!

Friday, May 15, 2015

New TV Show Love - Battle Creek

Addendum 20th May 2015 --
So I just found out a few days ago that this show has been CANCELLED!!! What the freaking hell? I have no words to describe my utter disappointment and frustration. I'm so sick of these awesome shows getting cancelled just because they're not an instant hit. Sometimes, some things take a little while to get going, and I really think Battle Creek was just hitting its stride. A second season would have really done it justice. The acting was brilliant, the chemistry of the cast perfectly cohesive, the scripts witty and story lines engaging. So what if it didn't get a million-trillion viewers? Maybe it needed to be on a different night. Maybe it needed to follow on from a different show. Maybe some other slight tweaking might have made all the difference and this show would have been a long running hit. Argh! I'll stop now, otherwise this rant will get unpleasant.
And the WORST part? Now we will never EVER know why Milt was in Battle Creek and that right there is enough to make me lose my crap.
I'm still going to buy this when it comes out on DVD, and like Firefly, when I get it out to watch it, I'll cry over its wasted potential.

I'll admit, I started watching Battle Creek for one reason, and one reason alone: Josh Duhamel. Stunning looks aside, I always thought he was a really great actor, and used to love the series Las Vegas, and had missed seeing him in a TV role since that show finished a number of years ago.
What I didn't expect when I put on Battle Creek was to also really love Dean Winters, and be immediately hooked by the way both these actor's characters, FBI agent Milt Chamberlain and Battle Creek police detective Russell Agnew, play off one another.
Its turned out to be one of those rare casting gems, where these actors have such great chemistry (I'm not talking sexual chemistry, I just mean the entirely platonic energy between them is really great) that from the first episode, you want to tune in every week just to see what kind of situation these two are going to get themselves in and how they'll handle it.
The other thing that kept me coming back was the mystery of Milt. He's this suave, charming, American-hero-type FBI agent who gets sent out to Battle Creek to set up an FBI satellite office and help out the local law enforcement. On the surface, it doesn't make sense that a talented agent like Milt would be given what probably amounts to a demotion. Every single episode, Russ asks Milt "why are you in Battle Creek?" and Milt has done everything from evade the question to make up wildly untrue stories.
Milt comes across as this charming, easy going, nice guy who sees the good in every one and every situation, but in the first episode, Russ called him on it, saying he couldn't really be that naive, to which Milt responded "I know"... a little on the sinister side I might add.
Russ has tried going around Milt for the truth, even tracking down his old boss, and for a while they speculated that possibly Milt had entered into an affair with his boss's wife, or that he'd simply pissed off the wrong person higher up the food chain. Whatever the reason, Milt is certainly keeping a lid on it, and this is one mystery that's driving me crazy, making me wonder if Milt is in fact one of those gray characters I love so much. Is he a good guy like he seems, who simply made a mistake and is now paying for it? Or is he really a sociopath under all that charm, calculating and manipulating so well that no one even realizes its happening?
And was his posting at Battle Creek a demotion or punishment like everyone assumes, or is there something bigger within the FBI going on, in which Milt has a really important job to do?
These questions keep me coming back, and the burgeoning relationship between Milt and Russ has me totally invested.
And I just have to mention, last week's episode was the best yet. Russ got abducted by a prison escapee, and Milt was clearly distressed by the fact, I think he partly blamed himself because he was there when it happened and wasn't able to stop it. Anyway, while Russ was trying to get himself free, Milt was doing everything with his considerable FBI power to find him.
Finally, Russ managed to almost get himself free, just in time for Milt to turn up. Milt found him in the basement, and when Russ realized it was Milt and not his abductor, the relief was almost heart-wrenching. And then the most unexpected thing happened. Russ, who has made no secret of the fact he doesn't like or trust Milt, Russ, who insists on doing everything alone and making out like he doesn't need anyone, Russ stepped forward and literally leaned into Milt. His hands were still bound, so he couldn't hug him, but he put his head on Milt's shoulder, and Milt hugged him back for a very long moment.
And for that half a second, I was totally shipping Russ and Milt.
Well played, producers, well played. 
After, Russ had to pretend like he wasn't crying, and they quickly went back to their usual frenemy-like relationship. But I wasn't buying it anymore. Quite obviously, Russ actually does like Milt, maybe more than he's comfortable with (and I STILL don't mean in a sexual sense, even though I did ship them for 0.2 seconds)
But all of that aside, I'm now getting the feeling that Milt and Russ are going to have one heck of a bromance going forward. I'm now praying that this show takes off and we get five or six seasons of enjoying Milt and Russ and finding out exactly why Milt is in Battle Creek, and what his true character really is.
If you haven't seen it already, what are you waiting for?! This show is going on my auto to-buy list as soon as it comes out on DVD. I can't wait to be able to watch all the episodes again and soak in the awesomeness that is Russ and Milt.
And in case you want to see that intense Milt/Russ moment yourself, the Battle Creek youtube channel were nice enough to put it up.






Monday, May 11, 2015

Ships That Aren't Shipping 2015 - Part Four: Skye and Ward from Agents of Shield

Part four of Ships That Aren't Shipping, But Totally Should Be 2015 style brings us to another of my favorite and more frustrating couples, or non-couples, on TV at the moment. If you need to catch up, before this came part three: Regina and Robin on Once Upon a Time, part two: Bellamy and Clarke on The 100 and part one: Felicity and Oliver on Arrow.




The Skyward ship is a particularly hard one to endure, especially this season with Ward being absent a lot of the time. But for some reason -- maybe because I enjoy a good "redemption" story and Ward is one of my favorite characters on the show -- I really want this ship to eventually work.
SO. Where to begin? Last years Shipping post on these two got put up before the Hydra crap hit the fan, splattering everything we thought we knew about the team and Ward into an unrecognizable mess. Yes, Skye and Ward finally revealed their feelings for one another and it was a shipping dream come true.
They were just so gorgeous together. It was all badass secret agent rainbows and butterflies... for about five seconds until it was revealed that Ward was actually a Hydra agent leaving probably 90% of the fandom yelling
"WTF?!?!" Joss Whedon sure does know how to screw with his fans. If someone had asked me to pick who I thought on the team could be a Hydra agent, Ward would have been the last person I suspected. He always seemed so good and honorable, almost uptight in his belief of being a Shield agent and doing the right thing. But that's the point, isn't it? That's where the brilliance comes into it. Having Ward revealed as the Hydra agent was heartbreaking and shocking.
Once the truth came out, Ward became an almost entirely different person, proving that he'd successfully fooled the team and us poor saps of fans. Words like psychotic have since been tossed around when discussing him, and I can certainly see their point. There is something awesomely badass about Ward's true nature, and its impossible to tell if he really is a sociopath, or just playing yet another role as a means to an end we can't see.
So when Skye found out the truth about Ward,
she was understandably shocked, heart broken and then royally pissed off. After Hydra pretty much destroyed Shield, the team managed to capture Ward and lock him up in the basement of their cool new base. At some point, Ward made a promise to Skye that he would never lie to her again, that his feelings for her had been the only thing he hadn't lied about, and also revealed that he knew her father and wanted to help reunite them. Despite Skye's apparent hatred of Ward (which I think was actually a lot of anger because despite everything, she still had feelings for him, even though he'd hurt her and betrayed them all. She probably didn't want to have feelings for him and hated it, hence her extreme hostility toward him) she agreed with Coulson's plan of having her talk to Ward to get information about Hydra out of him.
Despite explaining how Ward didn't actually see himself as a Hydra agent, as he was loyal to Garrett, his mentor, and not Hydra, and the fact that his older brother was definitely a sociopath who'd tortured him as a kid, with his parents also playing their part in a traumatic childhood, no one was willing to cut him any slack, especially since he almost killed Fitz. In the end, Coulson made the decision to hand Ward over to his sociopathic brother, and I'm still not sure whether Coulson or any of the rest of the team really believed Ward's story about his childhood. But in the end, we got this really great episode where Ward confronted his brother, which ended with the brother and parent in a murder-suicide type thing. What was never made clear was whether Ward had killed them all and orchestrated it, or simply pushed his brother into doing it. Either way, it was yet another question mark over Ward's sanity and morality.
I would have liked a bit more Ward action this season, even after he escaped Shield and was off doing his own thing for god-knows what reason. I'm sure Joss Whedon and the team are building something with Ward off to the side where we can't see and its going to whammy us when we least expect it.
Anyway, most fans have probably abandoned the Skyward ship, and I can understand why. Skye hasn't made any secret of the fact that she hates Ward, in an episode earlier in the season, she even shot him after he'd done as he promised and helped reunite her with her father. Given, her father turned out to have a few anger and control issues himself, but shooting Ward was kind of like the final nail in the coffin.
But I still refuse to give up hope!
Ward has a bit of a thing going on with Agent 33, a Shield agent who was captured by Hydra and brainwashed. He's helped her overcome the brainwashing and remember who she is, which on the outside seems all hero-like and altruistic, but I'm sure Ward's got his reasons for doing it, even while there's something sweet yet disturbing about their relationship.
HOWEVER. In the last few weeks, Coulson decided he needed Ward to help infiltrate Hydra once again to rescue some "powered people" and find Skye. Ward lit up like a Christmas tree every time someone mentioned Skye's name, and when he found out Skye was the reason behind the mission, he was pretty much falling over himself to help them. He may have told Agent 33 that he was over Skye, since she'd made her feelings clear by shooting him four times, but anyone with half a brain can see its just not true and Ward is still totally obsessed in love with her.That alone, will keep the embers of this ship glowing for me.
Ward also made it clear he regretted breaking up the band, and working with their close-knit team was one thing he really missed. However, no one was ready to even think about forgiving him, and once again he had to make an escape, leaving him on the outs. But just when we thought he'd be in the wind again, it turned out he'd really been helping Agent 33 get into Shield so she could get her revenge on Bobby, who'd done something to her in the past. Ward and this show are so unpredictable, I can't even begin to guess where this is going to lead next. But I really am hoping that at some point, Ward will rejoin the team and they'll all start getting back to a place of at least being able to work with him. Obviously they might never trust him again, but I really want Ward to be a permanent fixture once again. And maybe, just maybe, Skye will eventually understand where he was coming from so the Skyward ship can be revived.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Finished Reading... Outback Dreams by Rachel Johns

Outback Dreams is the first in a trilogy set in the (fictional?) town of Bunyip Bay in Western Australia. I actually read the series out of order, beginning with the second book, Outback Blaze, last year. It was the first rural romance I'd ever read, because I'm not a huge fan of contemporary romances. However, with the rising popularity of Australian outback romances, I decided I wanted to give one a go. At the time I was dong a book club kind of thing with some friends and when it was my turn to pick a book, I went with Outback Blaze, followed by Outback Ghost as soon as it came out. Though I hadn't read the first book, this is type of series where you can pick up any book and not feel like you're missing out on anything by not having read the previous ones. But I still planned to go back and read the first, so I finally got around to that last week.
Like the other two books in the series, Outback Dreams was a really great story, the characters were easy to love and you were drawn in, wanting them to get their happy ending.
Outback Dreams featured two characters who'd known each other since they were kids. The friends-to-lovers trope was handled just beautifully, and the evolution of their relationship came across as natural and believable. As with the other two books, I just loved reading this book, and devoured it much to quick. And now, because I've had such a wonderful experience reading Rachel Johns' rural romance, I'm interested in branching out and trying some others. I think Rachel Johns is one of those authors who weaves such a fabulous story that you get sucked in and don't want to put the book down until all is said and done. She could probably write anything and I'd enjoy reading it!
If you've never read an Australian Outback romance and have been thinking about trying, I would highly recommend Rachel Johns Outback trilogy as a good way to start. Also, how could you not love these covers?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ships That Aren't Shipping 2015 - Part Three: Regina and Robin on Once Upon a Time.

Welcome to part three of Ships That Aren't Shipping But Totally Should be, 2015 style. If you missed it, the two ships before this were Bellamy and Clarke on The 100, and Oliver and Felicity on Arrow.
Last year, third place was taken by a couple on Once Upon a Time, but I was lamenting the fact that it was Emma and Hook who couldn't get their act together. Well, apparently in the end they could, because they are totally together and almost boringly domesticated. However, I have a feeling that the path Emma is walking down, flirting with the darkness and all that, may lead to some trouble in paradise.
But we're not here to talk about them, we're here to talk about my current favorite ship on the show, Outlaw Queen. (Seriously, who comes up with these shipper names? Between Outlaw Queen and Captain Swan, this show definitely has the coolest shipper names!)
I have really love Regina's character from very early on in this show. Even though she started out evil, it was the kind of evil with style you couldn't help but admire. However, when she started turning into a gray character-- raising the question of whether she was truly good or evil at heart--that was when I really became a fan. So for a long time now, I've wanted Regina to get her happy ending, especially once she aligned herself with the "heroes" and everything in her life became about doing what was best for her adopted son, Henry.
When Robin Hood was posed to be Regina's soul mate, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. But of course, these things are never straight forward. At first, Regina was resistant, and Robin was obviously wary of the Evil Queen. Although, now that I say that, I think he may have not known who she was when he met her. Anyway, these two just had that magical something we all want out of ships on these shows, and it was great to watch them fall for each other, even as they tried to overcome all the obstacles standing in their way.
And boy, have there been some serious obstacles, not the least of which was Robin's assumed-to-be-dead-wife, Marian, turning up at the end of last season. Every time it looked like Robin and Regina were finally going to get their chance, something else got in the way. Now, when Marian turned up, Regina could have easily gone totally dark side again, and don't get me wrong, she seemed to fight that side of herself a few times. But in the end, she was always making decisions that would make things better or easier for Robin, which often left her alone and hurting.
Meanwhile, Robin tried to fall back in with Marian, but he'd already gone and fallen in love with Regina, proven when Marian was cursed with a freezing spell and Robin's "true love kiss" failed to break it. Regina managed to save Marian from dying, but Robin's wife ended up in a kind of stasis. Regina promised to find a way to break the curse, and then it was painful weeks of Regina and Robin trying to resist their feelings for one another, while Robin struggled to remain true to a wife he no longer loved.
Unsurprisingly, he did finally give in to his feelings, and of course it wasn't long after this that Marian woke up. Things were okay for about five minutes, with Marian accepting Robin had moved on and wanting him to be happy. Except fate hadn't quite finished tormenting, with Marian's life in danger again, the only way to survive was in leaving the town and all its magic behind.
Robin didn't have a choice but to go with her and his son, leaving both him and Regina heartbroken again. And if that STILL wasn't enough, in the past few weeks it came out that Marian wasn't Marian at all, but actually Regina's wicked sister, Zalina, posing as Marian to destroy Regina's happiness. If that didn't leave people's mind spinning, the revelation that she was pregnant with Robin's child was like the final twist of the knife.
But Regina isn't anything if not single minded, and she was resolved to have her happy ending, including Robin, no matter what. She brought her pregnant sister and Robin back to Storybrooke and despite Zalina's insistence that she was going to continue interfering and all but using the baby as emotional blackmail on them all, Regina wasn't cowed, realizing that she herself was the only one standing in the way of her own happy ending.
Phew!
However, since we're yet to be treated to the season finale, I have a feeling not all is said and done for Outlaw Queen. History has proven than any-and-everything can and will get in between these two, so I'm on the edge of my seat to see how this ship plays out for the rest of the season four and into season five.