Yes goddammit of course I have a Disney+ subscription. I may actually have already mentioned ponying up around here; I signed up a few weeks ago and have been waiting impatiently ever since for the damn thing to actually launch. The entertaining bit is that after those several weeks of impatience I actually forgot until an hour or so ago that the thing was launching today, and didn’t get everything signed in and hooked up until just before dinner.
What am I watching first? Captain Marvel, of course, but we will absolutely be watching the first episode of The Mandalorian before bed, especially now that I have confirmed that a certain thing I was worried about does not actually happen in the show. (No spoilers, of course.)
We spent a couple of minutes scrolling through the available offerings and my wife went entertainingly nuts over some of the possibilities, so I think our $6.99 for at least the first month or two are going to be pretty well-spent. For me, the Star Wars and Marvel content is gonna be more than enough to keep me busy for a while, and having all the classic Disney films, many of which my son hasn’t seen, is icing on the cake.
So it turns out that if you buy an iPhone nowadays you get a free year’s subscription to Apple TV+, a service I’m not fully certain that I knew existed until discovering that I had a free year’s subscription to it. And it also turns out that if your brother and sister-in-law are spending the night at your house and the boy has been put to bed and you stare at each other long enough, you’ll end up watching that new Jason Momoa show that all of you have vaguely heard of but nobody really knows anything about. Because Jason Momoa is really, really pretty, and it doesn’t matter much what he’s actually in so long as you get to look at him while he’s in it.
(Jason Momoa is one of a very small number of exceptions to my otherwise lifelong heterosexuality. He’s my goddamn imaginary boyfriend and I dare any of you to make a thing out of it.)
Here are some good things about See, which has had four episodes released, and which I have watched two episodes of:
It is well-acted. Not only is Jason Momoa in it, but another main character is played by Alfre Woodard, who I would watch reading a phone book. All of the characters are compelling and interesting.
It is absolutely god damned gorgeous to watch. Lay aside my Momoasexuality; I don’t know where this show is filmed, but I want to live there, and the people who designed the sets and found the locations deserve whatever the highest awards in their fields are, preferably more than once. This is one of the most beautifully-shot TV series I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know what the budget is for it but I suspect it’s an awful lot.
It is well-directed across the board and when it wants to be it is wonderfully spooky. A character called the Shadow is introduced in the second episode and the way the Shadow moves and is filmed is a fucking masterclass in creating suspense out of basically nothing at all; she literally just walks around or stands in a corner and she’s the creepiest damn thing I’ve ever seen.
Here is the less good thing about See:
It may have the single most ludicrous premise of any entertainment product I’ve ever encountered, and I am the person whose review of Snowpiercer is literally the number one result on the Internet when you search for the words “Snowpiercer stupid” on Google. It is bone-shakingly, astonishingly, unbelievably, paralyzingly dumb on a huge number of levels, and the fact that it manages to be compelling enough that I’m probably going to watch at least another episode or two is a fucking miracle and a testament to the three items above.
Here’s the premise of the program, which is a distant future post-apocalyptic fantasy show: a virus wiped out all but two million people and blinded literally everyone who was left. All future descendants of those people were also born blind. Now, “centuries” (it doesn’t say how many) later, one man has been born with sight and impregnated a woman with twins, and the twins have also been born able to see.
The show is far enough in the future that there are no remnants of human society left– everything is broad expanses of wilderness, with no ruined buildings or rusted cars or anything like that, although we have seen one (1) pile of tires and there appear to be enough plastic water bottles left that a guy is able to make a point of using three a day to send messages down a river in a scheme that is so stupid that I refuse to describe it here. There is a dam left that appears to provide a small amount of hydroelectric power to the people who live near it, and there is at least one working record player and one copy of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day available on vinyl so that a lady can masturbate to it while she prays.
Yeah, that’s what I said. This woman is supposedly a queen and she “has to pray” twice in two episodes and both of them involve orgasms and one of them is juuuuust a little rapey. Where the show is not stupid it is absolutely batshit nuts. This is one of those places.
It is far enough in the future that the very concept of vision has been reduced to a heretical idea that nobody really believes in any longer, but clothes are still dyed and one weird religious thing features everybody in matching black robes and jesus my worldbuilding questions about clothing alone could take up another thousand words. Needless to say, while I’ve only watched two hours of programming and there is plenty of time to get deeper into worldbuilding later, these folks have no manufacturing, no agriculture, they cannot hunt because no one on Earth can convince me that a society of blind people can capture enough meat to stay alive, and their technology level appears to be firmly set right around Hollywood Viking, except with guide ropes stretched everywhere.
(Writing has evolved into a sort of Aztec quipu thing, with lots of knotted ropes that people “read” with their fingers, and the big religious ritual scene has huge knotted ropes hanging from the wall, which is a cool way to approach scripture, but there are no children anywhere other than the two infants, which makes me wonder about how education works.)
There is a big battle scene between Jason Momoa’s village and the “Witchfinders,” who introduce all sorts of questions on their own, and it’s fascinatingly shot but if you’re already wondering how you tell who is on your side when you’re at war and everyone is blind, you shouldn’t expect great things in the answer. There are also occasional little hints about some characters having what boil down to supernatural senses of hearing and smell, and possibly a touch of magic scattered here and there, but they haven’t gotten into that much.
Oh, and Jason Momoa kills a bear. Just before he kills the bear he is carrying two babies around with him on a tray. That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. He drops the tray when the bear attacks him, but the babies are still on the tray when he finds them again after the bear gets killed.
So, like, if you happen to have Apple TV+, which I suspect not many of you do, I think you should watch this, because I want to have some people I can talk to about it, but get a beer and some popcorn first and be prepared to mock the hell out of it when you’re not in awe at the scenery or the direction. I’m committed to watching the four episodes that are out now, and we’ll see how long I stick to it once episodes are weekly.
… seeing as how school starts tomorrow, for shit’s sake:
The room is basically done, at least on the decor front; there will probably be some more math-related stuff scattered about as the year goes on but what I’ve got is more than enough to get started with. I got the round table I wanted and brought in a single carrel desk, so I feel like the kids have plenty of options for where to sit. We’ll see how it goes; first teacher day is tomorrow and first day with the kids is Thursday. I plan on spending the first two days at least on procedures and getting-to-know-you stuff so no need to worry too much about lesson planning yet.
In other news, this is happening, and are you as excited as I am? Or as excited as I would be, if all of my available emotional energy wasn’t being sidetracked into other things right now? Because I totally feel like if I had any spoons left I’d be burning them on being super excited about this:
Trigger warning. For, like, everything. If you’re the type of person who has been helped by a trigger warning in the past, don’t bother reading this post and avoid this show like the plague.
Let’s get some stuff out of the way right away about the first season of The Boys, the Amazon Prime adaptation of the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson “What if superheroes were all fucked-up assholes?” comic series of the same name:
Not one but two male characters’ prime motivation is to avenge the death of, respectively, a girlfriend and a wife. The girlfriend is fridged within fifteen minutes or so of the start of the first episode.
While the lone female member of the “good guys,” such as they are, is never actually referred to as The Female as she is in the comics, she never talks.
This is an insanely graphically violent show; at one point an infant is used as a weapon. Multiple people are murdered with– not by— a baby. That is not a joke. That’s a thing that happens.
While it doesn’t happen on screen, and in fact it’s toned down from what happens in the comics (“toned down from the comics” is a recurring theme) the main female character is raped in her first episode.
There is, in other words, a lot of lazy, sexist writing in this program, particularly in the initial episode. And I would not for a second get on the case of anyone who looked at those four bullet points and went “Nope, not for me.” Honestly, had I not been familiar with the comic series from when it came out, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the first episode either. But I was curious about how they were going to adapt the series (12 graphic novels, so not at all a small amount of source material) to television.
And here’s the thing: all of the stuff in those bullet points is in the comics, and in general this is a pretty loose adaptation of the source material. All of the decisions that the television producers made– every change that they introduced– kind of blunt the bullshitty edges of what happened in the comics. They certainly don’t turn away from how over the top The Boys was, but this isn’t Game of Thrones, where they took a series with a bunch of sexism and rape and decided the best thing to do with it was to add more sexism and rape. And the show is independent enough from the comics that by the end of the first season I have no idea where they’re planning on going with it next season. That, for me, is always a win for an adaptation.
Here’s some more good news: the acting, across the board, is absolutely phenomenal, and one of the cool things about having a show where damn near every character is a deranged mess of a human being is that it gives every actor something to really dig into with their character. Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher and Antony Starr as the Homelander are particular standouts– I don’t know what sorts of acting awards someone on this program might be eligible for, but Starr in particular needs to be up for something for this role. Chace Crawford’s portrayal of The Deep is also worth mentioning– although, as the rapist mentioned above, the fact that he sort of gets a redemption arc, or is at least eventually portrayed as a sympathetic character complete with his own sexual assault, is also … skeevy.
And the thing is, everybody is fucked up in this show. All of them. There are no characters without some damage to them in The Boys, and there are no underwritten roles, either– even The Character Previously Known As The Female has some interesting moments, and watching the cast inhabit this world is tremendously compelling– and that, to me, is more than enough to make overlooking the more troublesome and lazy aspects of the show and its premise possible. Plus, again for me personally, I first read these books when they came out in 2006 and so nothing about the problematic aspects of the story is new. Which, I think, might make me a bit more likely to look past them than some other people.
Your mileage, obviously, may vary. And with Amazon Prime at $99 a year I’m not about to tell you to subscribe in order to watch this. But if you already were, and you were on the fence about the show? Definitely give it a couple of episodes and see if it grabs you.
How fucked-up and wrong does something have to be before you find yourself unable to recommend it? Or, alternatively, how good does something have to be before you find yourself recommending it despite its multitude of problems?