Felicity Smoak, My Heroine

And the title of my blog comes from this scene in the CW’s Arrow.  No copyright infringement intended.


The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Amanda Brugel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Joseph Fiennes
  • Original Network: Hulu
  • Original Production Company: MGM

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. The television series begins with June, her husband, Luke, and her daughter fleeing. They don’t get far. Gilead captures June, takes away her daughter, Hannah, and kills, she thinks, her husband. She is next seen as a Handmaid, known only as Offred (Of Fred), a sexual slave to Commander Waterford, there to provide him and his wife with a child. The opening episode concerns “The Ceremony” in which the household gathers, pious words are said, then Offred lies between the legs of Mrs. Waterford while Mr. Waterford, clinically and without passion or emotion forces himself on her – all to get her pregnant. This is life in Gilead, a Fundamentalist Christian society devoted to “family values” which has replaced the United States. Women are split into four groups, all of whom have their own uniforms: the wives (always dressed in blue dresses), the Handmaids – in red with white caps inside and white bonnets outside, the Marthas – domestic slaves who do the household work for the wives, and the Aunts who train Handmaids at the Red Centre and also administer discipline. There is one other group – which I will discuss in a bit. Anyone else is presumably killed, unless they’ve managed to escape Gilead. There are mentions of “the colonies” throughout the series, which is used as a threat against misbehaving Handmaids and other women.

The cinematography of the series is fantastic. I really enjoyed that part of the show. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale looks fantastic, and the red and white of Handmaid’s uniforms are used to almost artistic effect, as we see lines of Handmaid’s walking, or forming a circle or kneeling in perfect unison. Within the Waterfords’ home – framing, extreme close ups (especially of Offred and especially in the early episodes) and lighting that varies from golden and soft to gray is used to emphasize mood. Offred is often closed in by her surroundings – and even though the entire frame is widescreen, she will be confined to a small portion of it – showing how small and confined her world now is. Outdoor scenes are about color: red, white, and gray. There is no real color in Gilead.

The plot is presented in two tracks: June’s present as a Handmaid; and the flashbacks that establish both how Gilead came to be – and that track June’s journey from a young, professional woman, to Handmaid to the Waterfords. This journey is largely told out of order, but it eventually builds up a chilling story. Gilead was formed by a Christian Fundamentalist (the exact nature of Gilead’s religion is much more obvious it previous adaptions than this one) extremist group called “The Sons of Jacob” – Waterford and his wife were leaders of the group, and Nick, their driver, an early recruit. The sons of Jacob organized a three-pronged attack, taking out Congress, the White House, and “the Court”, and then declare martial law. They claim martial law is temporary. Soon women are forbidden to work or own property and all property and money held by women is transferred to their husbands or “male next of kin”. Women are forbidden to drive or to read. One chilling episode shows in flashback June and her friend Moira from the Red Centre attempting to escape. Moira, dressed as an Aunt, makes it to a train – June, dressed as a Handmaid, is recaptured. But while they are walking to the station, they see Gilead troopers tearing down street signs, destroying all signs in the train station, and standing outside a university where they are burning books and art.

Books are memory – and Gilead cannot afford to have anyone remember a different and no doubt better life. A later episode featuring a meeting at the Waterford house with the Mexican trade delegation, a delegation led by a woman, has the woman mention to Mrs. Waterford that she “read her book” – and, “doesn’t it bother her than no one can now read it”. Mrs. Waterford’s book, A Woman’s Place, was an argument for “domestic feminism”. It’s a book we later see being thrown in the trash along with all of Mrs. Waterford’s clothes after their revolution.

The situation with her book is one aspect of this complex and masterful series that at times makes me feel sorry for Mrs. Waterford. During the Ceremony, she averts her eyes, as does Fred Waterford. When Offred doesn’t get her period on time in an early episode, she’s exceedingly nice, until Offred does get her period – then we can see her disappointment, and how much she desperately wants a child. She’s jealous of Mrs. Putnam, when Ofwarren (Janine) gets pregnant and has a child. And later, after finding out about Offred’s late-night scrabble sessions with her husband (and other things) she forces Offred to take a pregnancy test. When it’s positive, she is happy and lays off a bit. But Offred sees Mrs. Waterford as The Enemy. And Mrs. Waterford can be cruel. When Offred angers her – she is confined to her room, for weeks, not even allowed to do the shopping. When she finds out that Fred is having an affair outside of The Ceremony with Offred, Mrs. Waterford attacks and beats her. And, after that, Mrs. Waterford takes her on a long drive, confines her to the car, and talks, briefly to Hannah, who is dressed in pink at a strange house. June bangs on the car windows, begging to see her daughter, but Mrs. Waterford doesn’t allow her to. Later, Mrs. Waterford threatens her: “You take good care of my child, and no harm will come to your daughter.” No pressure. Offred reports this to Mr. Waterford.

The scrabble sessions lead to Commander Waterford taking June, dressed up in a short cocktail dress and makeup, to Jezebel’s – a bar and brothel. At Jezebel’s, June runs in to Moira, who is forced to work at the club. Moira was captured, and given a choice: Jezebel’s or The Colonies, as she’s a “disruptive influence”. At Jezebel’s, the women have access to booze and drugs. They serve the elite men of Gilead in everything from conversation partners to, well, the purpose of prostitutes since the beginning of time. Needless to say, the wives do not know and aren’t to find out that their husbands are still sex-obsessed, even with their Ceremonial Handmaids at home. It’s finding out about Jezebels that sets Mrs. Waterford off on her rampage against Offred.

But also during the episode with the Mexican delegation, in front of everyone, Offred says and does as expected – but at the end of the episode, she tells the woman trade official that she lied. She didn’t volunteer – she was captured. Handmaids are beaten with cattle prods, mutilated, Gilead took her daughter, and no, she isn’t happy. The woman says she cannot help then leaves, and her male aid, offers to help, telling her Luke is alive. He asks her to write a note, which she does. There are a few the chilling scenes in the episode with the trade delegation. First, one of the other Handmaids tells June, as she asks for information, is that the trade deal isn’t about oranges – it’s about Red Tags – the only thing everyone else wants. This is confirmed when in a chilling scene where after Offred has spoken up, the Mexican woman says she’s from a city the size of Boston – where there hasn’t been a live birth in six years. She remarks, “My country is dying.” Offred’s response, “My country is already dead.”

The next episode follows Luke, from him getting separated from June as they try to escape, to his getting June’s note in Canada. It’s an interesting episode, as Luke joins with a group of refugees trying to get out of Gilead (some die on the road). But throughout it – I found myself wondering what was happening to Offred.

In the last episode, the Handmaids attend a ceremony where they are to kill someone for a violation of the rules of Gilead. It’s a stoning. The woman being stoned, is Janine, and her “crime” is “endangering a child”. In the previous episode, she had stolen her child from the Putnams – as well as refused to go through with the Ceremony at the her new posting. Although June is able to save the child, Janine jumps off a bridge into a icy river. She’s pulled out. During the stoning ceremony, one Handmaid objects that they “aren’t going to kill Janine”. She’s beaten down for her trouble. Offred steps forward, drops her stone, and says, “sorry, Aunt Lydia”. All the other Handmaid’s in the circle – do the same. Later that night the Eyes and soldiers of Gilead come to the Waterfords’ house and take her. The season ends on a hopeful note, as Offred comments that she doesn’t know what will happen to her. (As she says goodbye to the household’s Martha, Rita, she whispers in her ear – “behind the tub”. This is where she hid the package of messages from Handmaids begging for help, or for news of the children taken from them.)

As dark as The Handmaid’s Tale is, it is also compelling television. The cinematography is remarkable. The acting is incredible. And the stories of all the characters are also amazing – as this is not a tale of clear-cut good and evil. Gilead is evil. Yes. But I felt oddly sympathetic for Serena Waterford – she was so desperate for a child, and she’s also remarkably naive, believing in her “New Word Order”, even with what it has done to herself. The Aunts are brutal and quite possibly the most unsympathetic characters in the show – but they are also naive. The men, Waterford, his cronies (whom we barely see, but always in a bad light), Nick have a created a world in their own image, a world where they are on top and control everything – from their wives to their live-in sex slaves. It’s even Waterford who comes up with the idea of “The Ceremony”, deciding they can’t call it “the Act” without upsetting the wives. Luke, on the other hand, is a good man – but when he gets June’s money is first response is to say that it will be good to “take care of her”.

Offred’s journey is that of survival. She becomes a member of the Resistance not by joining up, but by talking with other Handmaids, giving information where she can, and helping if she can. The Resistance is a silent, and careful group. But it provides some solace in a world that is paranoid, cold, isolating, and terrifying. The last episode ends, not on a note of fear as one might think, but on a note of hope – hope that Offred may escape.

The Joy of Watching TV on DVD

I enjoy watching and collecting television on DVD, as the large number of reviews on this blog can attest. There are certain advantages to watching any television show on DVD. I usually watch one series at a time, watching the entire season (or DVD set), in order, and then reviewing it. Back in the day, before DVRs, before DVD, before Blu-Ray, I actually often did see a lot of programs “stripped” in daily syndication. That meant the program was shown, every day, at the same time, Monday through Friday. Weekend syndication meant the show was shown every week at the same time on Saturdays and Sundays or on just Saturdays or just Sundays. It would become a habit to watch the same show every day at a certain time. Not that I couldn’t miss it to do something else occasionally, but it was common. So, I find I can concentrate on a series better, and pick-up more, when I watch all of it at once – or at least a full season. Watching a show on DVD (or Blu-Ray) means I can see the entire thing, in order, in good quality, without missing anything due to pre-emptions for sports or due to bad weather. Writing reviews gives me blog content, but it also, like my book and audio play reviews, it is a way to process what I’ve seen before moving on to the next show. I also get a sense of satisfaction from finishing a DVD season set, and I really get a sense of satisfaction from finishing a TV series. It’s the same sense I get from finishing a long novel or a thick non-fiction book.

When I started purchasing DVDs, I was only buying the programs that I really liked. Either older ones that I remembered watching, or the previous season’s shows that I currently enjoyed. But now it’s different. Now I buy a mix of shows that I have previously seen, such as classics I remember watching in syndication or even when they first aired or current shows; and shows that I haven’t seen at all. Because DVDs and even Blu-rays are relatively inexpensive – I now often try out a series that I haven’t even seen based on recommendations from friends, reviews and chatter online, even people tweeting about it! (such as Game of Thrones, Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Call the Midwife, and I plan on trying Yuri on Ice at some point). If a friend likes something, I reason I might like it too. If there’s a lot of chatter on Twitter or Facebook or on entertainment websites (Hollywood Reporter, The Mary Sue, Bustle) about the show, I may want to see what the fuss is about. And I have seen friends on Facebook actually ask for recommendations for what to add to their Netflix queue. I can’t do Netflix for technical reasons that don’t bear exploring at this juncture, but when half a dozen friends rave about how good something is – I take notice. That’s how I found Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which I do like and I plan on buying the remaining seasons when funds allow.

If I have never seen a show, my one rule is I only buy the first season to start. That way, if I watch the season and it’s not to my taste, well, I’m only out the $20-$30 or less that it cost to buy the season. And I can always sell or give away the copy. And if I like what I see, I often will go ahead and purchase the rest of the series that’s available and start watching it with the next season (iZombie) or add it to my “must buy” list (Outlander – because even if I was willing to add another premium pay station for one show – my satellite system doesn’t carry Starz).

Also, television these days is being written for the DVD/Blu-Ray market. In part because of shorter running times on commercial stations, and because some network executives actually have realized that the audience is smart enough to follow a series from week-to-week and thus they can do a continuing story – a lot of series play better on DVD. Game of Thrones is the ultimate example of this, as it’s a complicated story with dozens of characters and locations and each episode is like a chapter in a novel, rather than something stand-alone. But the superhero shows on the CW also, probably due to running length, work just like the books they are drawn from. They are continuing story lines. And also, like DC Comics, periodic crossovers are a staple. As is bringing in guest characters. Much more so than the DC Extended Universe films – the DC Shows on the CW really do give you the feeling of watching a DC book. Reading the monthlies (or as is the case now – the biweeklies) and watching the weekly shows – really are very much the same in feel. And, like their printed counterparts, each season builds on the previous one. In this aspect, watching a show on DVD in some cases makes more sense. When I watch a show on DVD (or Blu-Ray) I usually watch at least one episode per day, sometimes more if it’s the weekend or I have a day off. This compresses a show a lot. Many of the cable stations, both commercial and premium run short seasons. A sixteen-episode series I can watch in a couple of weeks. A ten-episode series often in a single week. Even a traditional “full season” of 22 episodes I can watch in less than a month usually. So something that runs an academic year (September through May) I can watch – in a month. It is inherently faster. And I get a sense of satisfaction from finishing off a season or a series.

There is one major drawback to DVD though. Watching television is no longer a communal event. We no longer have everyone watching the same thing at the same time. It’s out of sync. If I watch something two or three years after it originally premiered – I’m going to miss out on the Internet activity about that show. The smarter networks are trying to counter this – with live-Tweet events, contests, and contracts that require their actors to be on Twitter promoting the show when it’s on. But if you miss all that – it’s gone.

And the days of fans all being attracted to the same show at the same time are also more or less gone. In a sense, if you watch most of your television via DVD (or Netflix or On Demand I’d guess) it’s almost more like reading books in terms of finding fellow fans. You experience the media product separately. But you still want to come together with fellow fans to talk about it and burble happily.

This is compounded for series from the past, especially series from over a decade ago. I often found great shows of the past (Wild Wild West (weekend syndication); The Man from UNCLE (daily syndication); even classic Star Trek (weekend syndication)) through re-runs. Today, there is very little in the way of re-runs. Most of the cable stations are running original programming – and they program to very specific audiences. This is a double-edged sword. The breadth of the new broadcasting landscape means that more audiences are served, there are more opportunities for writers, directors, producers, and actors (as well as below the line talent), and more audiences can find what they want to watch. But it also means that, with very few exceptions, there are no longer shows that “everyone” watches. Which also means, younger audiences are not even being exposed to the “classics” of television. Some one who is, say 30, might see the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie because they like the cast, or the director, or even because the trailers looked cool – without ever having seen an episode of the original series. And they really have no incentive to watch it. This isn’t young people being “stupid” – it’s just how it is. If you were born in the late 60s, how much incentive did you have to watch the Westerns that your parents liked? Did you enjoy the endless re-runs of The Big Valley and Bonanza? I know I was completely turned off to Westerns as a genre, as a kid, and I had no desire to watch any of the ones that my Dad liked. But I watched every spy show I could find running in syndication: The Man from UNCLE, I Spy, Get Smart, and even James Bond (though those were movies – I vividly remember watching every single one on HBO when we first got cable when I was a kid and I lived in a much more urban area than I do now). I even watched all of the British series The Prisoner and a little bit of The Avengers (the British spy series starring Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg), and when I was a bit older, The Saint (starring Roger Moore) on A&E. But people who are in their 20s and 30s today – they have no opportunity to watch any of those shows. They aren’t being run in syndication. And, as I pointed out, few people would seek them out when there are so many other entertainment choices out there.

This is one reason why I post reviews of everything or nearly everything I watch as I watch it – no matter when it was made, not just the new stuff. It’s an opinion on a show made in a time with some context to that time, that might just interest someone who either hasn’t heard of it or, more commonly, has heard of it but never seen it. Just like I will take a chance on something my friends rave about that I haven’t seen.

Remington Steele Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Remington Steele
  • Season: 5 (Packaged with Season 4)
  • Episodes: 3 (2-hour TV movies)
  • Discs: 1 (Double-Sided)
  • Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
  • Original Network: NBC
  • Original Production Company: MTM

The DVD boxed set includes Season 4 and Season 5 packaged together as a single set. Here is my Remington Steele Season 4 Review. And now on to the review of Season 5, which is three TV movies.

I was a huge fan of Remington Steele when it originally aired, and I remember at the time being excited for a fifth season after the fourth season cancellation. But then, I also remember being very disappointed by the TV movies that aired for the fifth season. And then, there was the issue that Pierce Bronsan was up for James Bond at the time, but NBC wouldn’t let him out of his contract and forced him to do the last season of Remington Steele instead. As a result, both Stephanie Zimbalist, and Pierce Bronsan were pretty miserable to be forced into doing a show they simply didn’t want to do anymore. But to be fair, this does not show on camera.

“The Steele that Wouldn’t Die” picks up where the last episode of season 4 left off – with a trashed Laura Holt marrying Remington Steele on a fishing boat in front of an INS rep to avoid Steele being deported. Laura fantasies about a beautiful wedding but her reality is far different. There’s a brief post-wedding scene at Steele’s apartment, then Laura and Steele head out on their honeymoon in Mexico. When they arrive – it’s one disaster after another as they end-up at an awful hotel in the middle of the jungle. Steele has to go to the next town 30 miles away to exchange money and find a phone to figure out what went wrong about their travel plans. Meanwhile, even though she knows Malvados are shooting at anything that moves – Laura goes out for a walk in the jungle. Steele drives into a pool of dirty water and trashes his outfit, but finds the beautiful hotel in Las Hadas, checks in to the bridal suite and contacts Mildred by phone. Laura, meanwhile, gets attacked by Malvados, rescued by an “archeologist” by the name of Tony Roselli, is pushed by Tony into a river, falls down a huge waterfall, and tramps through the jungle to a set of ruins. It’s all very Romancing the Stone. Tony though is definitely not who he says he is – he’s seen talking to the Malvados, thanking them for the obviously set-up attack that he rescues Laura from. So, Laura, once again also gets trashed, but not as badly as the last episode of Season 4.

Once in Las Hadas, which really is beautiful, both the hotel and the setting, Laura and Remington argue about Tony – when Remington treats Tony nicely, Laura gets angry; when he starts to show his jealousy – she also gets angry, so Steele can’t win. Tony also has a girlfriend, Conchita, who keeps showing up – not that the Steeles (Laura and Remington) realize it. Norman Keyes of Vigilance Insurance also is in Las Hadas and keeps starting arguments and fights with Steele. Steele returns to his room one night and finds Keyes dead. Instead of calling the police, or the hotel manager, or even finding Laura to tell her what’s happened – Steele takes the body and tries to hide it in a cabana on the beach. He is, of course, caught by the police and put in jail.

Mildred arrives, and she and Laura, with “help” from Tony start to investigate. They basically discover  that Keyes’ “death” is an insurance scam. Keyes upped his insurance to two million dollars, naming his “niece” as beneficiary. He also changed the travel plans, keeping Steele out of the way and making it look like Steele had arranged the changes and set himself (Keyes) up. The niece had also arrived much earlier than she claimed to help Keyes frame Steele. Finally, Keyes wasn’t actually dead.

Our heroes figure all of this out – and Mildred breaks Steele out of jail.  Laura, Steele, Mildred, and Tony find Keyes, who is alive, and a chase ensues – by sea, over the land, and by air. Steele catches Keyes, the police show up, while Steele is distracted – Keyes escaped, but then Keyes gets shot.

So Steele is cleared of the murder charge. And in the way of 1980s television – nothing is made of various other charges (breaking out of jail, various breaking-and-entering, stealing of a boat and a car, disturbing a crime scene/moving a body, etc.) The jungle scenes at the beginning where Laura meets Tony are not very convincing – it really looks like a set, and a not very good one at that. Even the waterfall, that should have been filmed, at least in part on location (yes, I’m sure the actors weren’t dropped 50 feet) feels off. The scenes in Las Hadas and Keyes mansion hideout, though, are gorgeous – and it’s clear someone decided to spend money on a location shoot. Much of the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. Keyes works for an insurance company. He has a long-standing grudge against Steele, but it doesn’t make sense. Why would he care if Steele was “illegal”? It’s none of his business really. It’s not as if insurance companies work for the INS. The actual INS officer actually seems very impressed that Laura and Remington’s feelings and marriage are the real deal. The whole “being deported” plot, with its “fake marriage” is uncomfortable. It was a common plot in the 1980s, when “foreigners” were viewed with suspicion and the romantic comedy Green Card (1990) generated controversy for “showing people how to do something illegal”. Yeah. There’s probably a bigger problem that Steele is an alias than that Remington supposedly entered the country illegally. And really, what are they going to do? Deport “Remington Steele”? He doesn’t exist. Laura’s slight attraction to Tony also makes no sense – and it’s really, really obvious that he’s up to no good – and the professional detectives don’t figure this out? The movies quoted in this episode are from the 1980s – several from 1985 are mentioned. Steele’s situation is lifted from Green Card (mind you, upon checking Green Card was released after this episode). Whereas the fun of Remington Steele was the references to old movies – the key is old movies, classics, most people probably don’t even remember Romancing the Stone any more. The modern references not only take the viewer out of the story, like an anachronism – they actually make the plot seem less original.

Overall, I’d give “The Steele that Wouldn’t Die” 3 out of 5 stars. I will say it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered (the Las Hadas locations are gorgeous for example), and there are some very, very, very funny bits that don’t depend on poking fun at the characters as well. But they could have done so much better!

In “Steele Hanging in There”, Laura and Remington return from their honeymoon in Mexico, but Steele receives a letter from a new INS agent that they are still interested in him due to the death of Norman Keyes. They head to the office and find a waiting room full of clients. Steele talks to a very sexist potential client, who asks Laura to get him coffee, pats her butt, and refers to her as “Steele’s little woman”. Other than pointing out that Laura doesn’t like being called, “the little woman”, Steele joins in on the jokes, rather than pointing out Laura is a full-fledged investigator and his partner in the firm (well, technically – she’s his boss). Laura takes another client in her office. The man is an accountant who fears a painting was stolen. He was working on a client’s estate, and the painting was held in a gallery, but now the owner of the gallery isn’t returning his calls. Laura enters the closed gallery and finds the painting missing. But the client continuously asks for Steele to take over. And when Steele does arrive, and is clueless about the case (because Laura hasn’t had a chance to fill him in yet), the client defers to him anyway. Steele is reduced to blathering that they will “follow standard procedures” although he does remark that he functions best in an advisory capacity.

The situations with the cases would be frustrating enough, but Laura and Remington also have to deal with the INS. They make plans for a nice dinner with the new agent at Remington’s house. But that night, “Shannon”, an old friend of Remington’s shows up and aims to marry him. His protests that he’s already married fall on deaf ears. Seeing Remington with Shannon – when Tony Roselli shows up at the apartment door – Laura throws herself in to his arms, and kisses him passionately. She then immediately introduces him as her brother to the now very suspicious INS agent. Later Laura backs off any romantic interest in Tony, stating she’s serious about her marriage and her husband.

Tony, meanwhile, is just as suspicious as ever. He shows up at the INS and pushes the female agent assigned to the Steele marriage case around. He claims he wants his position back. Later it turns out Laura’s client, the one with the painting reports to him. And once the episode moves to England, he meets a mysterious white-haired man who seems to be pulling all the strings. Tony, it seems, is some sort of spy.

Still working on the case with the painting, and having no idea the entire thing is fake, Laura, Mildred, and Remington fly off to London in pursuit of a clue. At the hotel, Laura discovers a solicitor with news – Remington Steele has inherited a million pounds from the Earl of Claridge. However, the solicitor also tells her another woman already talked to him, claiming to be Steele’s wife. It’s Shannon. Shannon tells Laura she’s being blackmailed and needs to recover some incriminating photos. Laura helps her sneak in (via the tour) to a castle, but all they find is a dead body. Remington, trying to catch up to Laura, finds the body and is, of course, caught with it. He’s brought in by Tony to INS, but Tony tells him he will make Shannon’s statement disappear if Steele does him a favor – the dangerous kind. Remington has to deliver some documents, in the dead of night. If he succeeds, Tony will see to it that his INS problems are history.

There is a wonderful scene at the “Flamingo Club” a traditional ballroom dance club, where Steele, Laura, Tony, and Shannon – dance, including several changes of partners to liven up a lot of exposition. In essence, the audience knows what’s going on, but various characters don’t – so they catch each other up while dancing. It’s beautifully acted and directed (Even Shannon’s “the Greek” whom both Laura and Remington assumed didn’t exist shows up to take pot shots at everyone.) The only problem is the big band music is bland – it should have been Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners and Dance”, since that is what they were doing. Later as Tony and Remington talk, the music is “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which has nothing to do with the plot either. It was a missed opportunity – and the 1938 song is no doubt out of copyright.

Steele succeeds in delivering Tony’s papers, and both the misunderstanding with the dead body at the castle and presumably Steele’s INS troubles are over. Shannon will no longer be a problem. Laura and Steele meet with a solicitor, Steele signs some papers, and then he learns his inheritance is a castle – in Ireland. Laura and Steele decide to take the train and then the boat to Ireland. The story ends with a “To Be Continued” card.

Over all the second TV movie for the abbreviated fifth season of Remington Steele isn’t bad. Tony is annoying, but Steele discovers he really is up to no good, and Laura says straight out she’s not interested in him. Shannon, played wonderfully by Sarah Douglas, is there mostly as a romantic frustration anyway – and she’s written out. This story picks up from the previous one and leaves a few loose ends for the final film. Again, once Steele and Laura are out of LA their relationship improves, as does the story. Overall, more enjoyable that the previous TV movie, if only because Laura and Remington are no longer getting trashed for “humorous” plot reasons. We still don’t know who Tony really is, or who he works for. Some hints that he informed British intelligence of double agents and wasn’t believed, and some scandal in the INS got him sent to South America for several years – none of which makes sense. What does Vigilance Insurance and INS have to do with British Intelligence? None of those agencies work together. It’s like with Keyes – why does he even care about Remington Steele’s citizenship status? It’s none of his business. And if he thinks Steele is involved in insurance fraud (and citizenship cases, even fraudulent ones, usually don’t involve insurance) that still has nothing to do with the INS. It’s all very weird and convoluted. I liked the re-introduction of the Earl of Claridge though.

Finally, in “Steeled with a Kiss”, Laura, Steele, Mildred, and Tony Roselli arrive in Ireland. After a few minutes of ‘humorous’ discussion of directions with the locals, they are met by the staff of Ashford Castle and taken to the estate. At the castle, each member of the staff presents Mr. Steele (or “his lordship” as they call him) with a bill for their department. And the bills are for thousands of pounds. Apparently, the castle has been in arrears for a very long time. Mildred finds and reads a history of the castle, and throughout the story presents Laura and Remington with trivia about it as well as pointing out that any plan to deal with the castle’s debts has already been tried and failed. I did think that this two-part story missed a major opportunity with Mildred. She was introduced on the series as a crack IRS investigator, and as her character was developed, she was also shown to be brilliant with computers and 80s-style hacking. I wanted Steele to ask her to go over the castle’s books and come up with something. No doubt, Mildred would. But she’s merely delivering rather pointless information, and trivia such as the castle’s ghost story.

At the castle, Laura and Remington also run in to Daniel Chalmers (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) He seems to be ill, and, although at first Laura assumes he’s faking – when she finds a drawer full of pills in his room in the castle, she realizes he’s really ill. The end of the part 1 cliffhanger also has Chalmers admitting to Laura he’s Steele’s real father. After finding this out – Laura tries (and eventually succeeds) in convincing him to tell Steele the truth. When, towards the end of the episode, Daniel tells “Harry” (Remington) the truth, he does get angry, but then, after a brilliant conversation with Mildred, he goes back to Daniel to apologize in a very male way (the two trade stories about the various cons they’ve played), including discussing the events of “Sting of Steele” (not by episode name) one of the series most brilliant episodes. Anyway, we know the two have reconciled, Steele goes to pour Daniel the drink he’s requested, and when he turns back, Daniel is slumped in a chair. He’s passed away. It’s very sad – but it leads to the denouement of the story.

Daniel is also in Ireland helping an American woman (played by Barbara Babcock) who is trying to find out what happened to her father, who is being held as a political prisoner by the (Soviet) Russians. Much of the episode consists of this plot actually. The woman (who uses a lot of aliases so I’m not quite sure what her name was) and Daniel originally plan on kidnapping Tony, whom they think is a double agent, turn him over to the Russians, and in return obtain information from the Russian diplomat about the woman’s father. However, the story almost turns into a farce. They knock out Tony, deliver him, and while waiting to speak to the Russian – Laura, or Steele, or even Mildred, rescues Tony. This happens two or three times. Daniel and Steele also kidnap the Russian and chain him to an actual wall in an actual dungeon in the castle. The Russian gets kidnapped twice.

But that’s not all. Steele eventually finds out that Tony is not a double agent, his contact at British intelligence, Finch (the white-haired, older, un-named gentleman from the previous two-parter) is the actual double agent. He also set-up Tony, and even tried to have him killed in the previous story.

The main story line is Daniel trying to help the mysterious American woman secure her father from the Russians; and for Tony to clear his name (and get out of the Steeles’ hair). Both are accomplished. Daniel even does what fans of Remington Steele wanted all along – revealing to Steele he is his father. Even Daniel’s death leads into how Steele and Laura help the American woman – a game of three-card monte (or as Steele says, three shells and a pea) played with coffins. It works and Daniel is even posthumously knighted and buried in the UK and simultaneously buried as a “hero of the state” in Russia.

I really enjoyed this final story. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was one of the best parts of the series, and the episodes he is in always shine brighter. Not that the series wasn’t good without him – it’s still one of the best series of the 1980s and it did launch Pierce Brosnan’s career. The scene of Remington attacking Daniel verbally after finding out he’s his father was brilliantly played and not over done at all. Occasionally in this series, Brosnan did over-play emotional (or comedic) scenes but not here – it’s heart-felt and Brosnan gives it his all. It brings tears to the eyes. The story does also end with Laura and Remington together in his Irish castle (which he gives to the servants). Finally, the two are together. It makes one smile in the way of the best romantic comedies.

The tale of Tony is also wrapped-up. We discover he isn’t a double-agent, but was set-up by one. This story never mentions Vigilance Insurance or the INS – which, really, is all for the better – as those story lines never made sense anyway. Maybe Steele and Laura end-up settling in Ireland? Or if they do return to the US, let’s hope any legal issues are behind them. Tony does continuously hit on, badger, and try to win over Laura. Fortunately, it doesn’t work. There’s even a scene, which is well-played and brilliantly shot, on a Irish street, where Tony asks Laura if she doesn’t feel a spark between them. Laura’s response is that “Maybe if they met a few years ago…” She doesn’t out and out tell him, as she did in the story before, she’s committed to Steele – but for once, her actions speak louder than her words, as it’s obvious that she is. Literally, “for better or worse”, she is committed to Steele. The only thing that could have made it better would have been Laura and Remington actually getting married, in Ireland, at Steele’s castle! Tony then insists he will continue to pursue Laura despite her lack of interest. In a show that constantly shows the sexism that women face, especially women in so-called “male” careers – this is a prime example of just how sexist men are, without being strident about it. Tony assumes she must want him, therefore, he assumes he has the “right” to chase her. Laura has told him “no” several times; and her actions speak volumes about her lack of interest. That is the definition of sexual harassment right there. But Remington Steele also doesn’t dwell on it – and many viewers probably barely noticed, except maybe to think that Tony was a jerk.

Overall, I found myself actually really enjoying the last TV movie for Remington Steele. Yes, the show had lost some of its spark, but at least this particular story has humor, sadness, and above all it is satisfying. Watching the final episode made me happy. You really can’t ask more of a TV show from the 1980s. Or a romantic comedy. Watching Remington Steele just makes me happy. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Shadow of the Past

  • Title: Shadow of the Past
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Sgt. Marshall, Third Doctor, Capt. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Cast: Caroline John, Lex Shrapnel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/13/2018

The Shadow of the Past is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, which features Caroline John as Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw and for this story, Lex Shrapnel as Marshall. An older, retired Liz goes to Unit Vault 75-73/Whitehall to look in to something from her time with the Doctor, she meets a young UNIT officer and tells him her tale.

A younger Liz is at UNIT when a spaceship crash is reported. She, the Doctor (the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee on the television series, Doctor Who) and UNIT troops head out to Kent to investigate. The Doctor is keen to try to rescue the pilot. Liz is a bit more cautious – insisting on contamination suits at least, and the Brigadier and company – well, this is a tale set early in the third Doctor’s time, so the Brigadier and the Doctor are still feeling each other out. Liz and the Doctor enter the spaceship – and Liz is overcome by the smell – the pilot is smeared all over the interior of the space ship.

Liz leaves and the Doctor rushes out and to his TARDIS at UNIT HQ. At UNIT, he reports another problem, a Mim invasion fleet is heading for Earth. The ship must have been a scout. Liz and the Doctor return to the control center set up by UNIT near the spaceship – only for the Doctor to remark by radio that Earth’s defenses are disabled and the Mim invasion can invade.

In the present, the older Liz explains to Marshall the properties of sponges. As long as you keep them in seawater – they can reassemble themselves. Cut them in half – and they will reunite. Whirl them into soup and they will reassemble. Even whirl two different sponges together into soup – and they will reassemble into the two original sponges – given enough time.

Picking up the story with young Liz, she and the Brigadier realise the person that invited the invasion fleet in – isn’t the Doctor. The entity reveals itself to be a huge purple beast – and attacks the UNIT soldiers and officers. The Brigadier orders Sgt. Robin to take Liz to UNIT HQ, find the Doctor, the real Doctor, and return. Liz protests but Robin insists she go with him.

At UNIT HQ, Liz realises she has a key to the TARDIS and enters. The Doctor is unconscious on the floor of the TARDIS. Liz realises the pilot of the ship wasn’t dead after all, but it attacked the Doctor, taking his shape – and as the recovering Doctor explains, it poisoned him as well. But he takes energy from the TARDIS to speed his recovery then uses the TARDIS to call the Time Lords. A man in a bowler hard and pinstripe suit appears, and Liz and Robin convince the Time Lord representative to help. The Time Lords return the Mim invasion fleet to the Mimsphere, but the representative says the Doctor and UNIT will have to deal with the Mim agent themselves.

The Doctor also explains that the Mim, as the name implies, are Mimics, shapeshifters, but they are also incredibly dangerous and violent. Liz realises that she had tried to shut down the nuclear weapons UNIT had but was dragged away by Robin – the Mim then finished her work, shutting down the weapons. But they can’t trigger a nuclear explosion in the middle of Kent.

The Doctor, Liz, and Robin return to the control center and talk to the Brigadier. They come up with a plan to get the Mim to return to it’s spaceship and to get a device inside.

As Liz explains to Marshall – that’s the spaceship here in the vault. She also mourns the death of young Robin and the other UNIT soldiers killed in the conflict. As she continues to talk to Marshall, pointing out how he reminds her of Robin – even looks like him, Marshall puts it together.

The rest is a spoiler, but you can probably guess where this one is going.

Still, I liked this Companion Chronicles story. It was a pleasure to listen to a story featuring Dr. Liz Shaw but its a bit bittersweet too, since she has subsequently passed away. That is one sad bit about the Companion Chronicles line, it can be hard listening to stories told by Doctor Who actors who have recently passed away. Shadow of the Past is a straight-forward Third Doctor story. A spaceship crashes, there’s an invasion, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that UNIT and the Doctor defeat it. But it’s still a good story. The surprise at the end is a surprise, but it makes total sense once you know. Caroline John does a very good job telling the story and she plays well off Lex Shrapnel. Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click this link to order Shadow of the Past on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror

  • Title: The Apocalypse Mirror
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Zoë, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/07/2017

The Apocalypse Mirror is a Doctor Who Companion Chronicles audio play from Big Finish featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jaime and Zoë. It is not part of the previous Zoë trilogy. The TARDIS lands in a big city in the far future, but it seems to be deserted. A hologram appears reminding them to stay in their homes. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë meet up with some rebels, who are convinced that “the state” is using the Hawkers to kidnap people. People are also suffering from “nostalgia sickness” seeing visions of the city that was, or a different city.

The Doctor, Jaime and Zoë try to find out more, but Zoë finds a room of military computer equipment. None of the rebels knows how it works. Zoë gets it working, but has very bad news – a meteor is about five hours away from hitting nearby. The impact will destroy the city – and even if it’s far enough away to not actually hit the city directly, the cloud of dust and ash from the impact will block out the sun. The Hawkers attack.

The Doctor and Jaime end up at the council chamber where they meet the few in government – who are as clueless if not more so than the rebels. Yes, the government has a transmat system that they have used to try to bring people to the council chamber – but thousands of people have just disappeared, and the council knows nothing about them. Zoë is one of the disappeared. She finds out that there is another version of the city. That’s what the so-called, “nostalgia sickness” is – people who are forward-thinking, who want a better way of life for everyone, who aren’t stuck dwelling on the past, can see this other city – a city that moves forward into the future. The other city, the decrepited, old, half-abandoned city is stuck in the past. Zoë also says that the new city has the technology to destroy the meteor. The scientists built a phase mirror for something different, but it caused the city to be split in half – one-half old and stuck in the past – falling apart and doomed. The other half – new, full of people, exciting, and looking forward to (not fearing) the future. The people can cross-over to the new city and survive but they must want to – they must believe in the future and the new city. Jaime gives a speech via the hologram system to all the old city residents. He and the Doctor cross over to the New City and meet Zoë. Many of the rebels are there, but not all, and one of the women is reunited with her husband. The TARDIS, which had disappeared, is right where they left it in the New City. Zoë announces that over 4 million people made the transition to the New City, but just over 3 million are still in the old, doomed city. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë make their way to the TARDIS and leave.

The Apocalypse Mirror is about belief – belief literally making the world to be the way you believe it to be. If you belief the world is falling part, that it’s doomed, that it’s the end, and everyone and everything is going to die – that will happen. But if you believe in the future, in progress, that things will always get better, that there is a future, that the future is a bright and successful and “happy” place – that will happen. The story is about how the power of belief shapes reality – that in a sense there is no empirical reality at all but believing makes it so and shapes reality itself. It’s a powerful message of hope in a time filled with apocalyptic films, books, and TV shows – filled with death and horror. This is a story that speaks to the power of a hopeful future and it’s importance, over doom and gloom messages and “end times” preaching. I found that to be a powerful and important message.

The audio brings together both Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jaime and Zoë to perform the story, and like others in the Companion Chronicles series – it is not a full audio play. However, unlike some in this series by Big Finish, this is closer to an audio play because Frazer and Wendy can play off each other – and Frazer plays the Second Doctor as well, so it feels much like he’s telling a story but doing all the voices. I enjoyed this story very much! The only negative, probably because of the short running time, but the ending seems a bit pat or contrived. Still, I highly recommend it.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Game of Thrones Season 7 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Game of Thrones
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes: 7
  • Discs: 3
  • Network:  HBO
  • Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Caster-Waldau, Aidan Gillen, Gwendoline Christie, Jerome Flynn, Diana Rigg, Jim Broadbent
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

I did watch season 7 twice on Blu-Ray, this show is too complex to catch everything on the first run through. Season 7 is reduced to seven episodes, though some have longer running times. Still, I felt the lack of three episodes keenly – and some of the rough spots wouldn’t have been quite so rough if the running time of the entire season was longer.

The season opens with Daenerys returning to her ancient, family seat of Dragonstone. She is now allies with Yara of the Iron Islands, Ellaria Sand of Dorne, and Olenna Tyrell of HighGarden, all of whom are united in wanting to overthrow Cersei. After a very interesting meeting and discussion of their plans between the women, with some advice from Tyrion and Varys, Daenerys decides to sent part of Yara’s fleet, under Yara’s command to transport Ellaria and her daughters to Dorne to pick up her army and bring it back to Westros to attack Cersei. It does not go well. The fleet is attacked by Euron Greyjoy, and the ships destroyed. Those sailing on them are killed or captured, with Euron capturing Yara, Ellaria, and Ellaria’s eldest daughter and taking them to King’s Landing. The two younger Sand girls are killed. In retrospect, they should have sent a raven.

This isn’t the only set-back for Daenerys, though. Tyrion convinces her to attack Castlery Rock, using an underground tunnel to get in to the castle. The attack actually goes OK, but the castle is strangely empty. While Daenerys’ Unsullied army attacked Castlery Rock, Jaime takes the majority of the Lannister Army to Highgarden to take the castle. Jaime offers Olenna poisoned wine and she takes it – then she tells him that she killed Joffery. Later when Jaime tells Cersei this, she doesn’t seem to believe him.

Meanwhile, Daenerys invites Jon Snow to Dragonstone to bend the knee. Jon also receives a raven from Samwell Tarly at the Citadel, telling him that there is a mountain of dragonglass beneath Dragonstone, which is needed to forge weapons to fight the army of the dead and the White Walkers. Jon goes to Dragonstone. Jon introduces himself as the King in the North, which angers Daenerys who keeps getting focused on having him bend the knee. It seems to be an impass, but Tyrion convinces Daenerys to let Jon mine dragonglass. Jon finds and shows Daenerys some cave drawings of the Children of the Forest and the First Men fighting the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead together. He then starts mining, destroying the evidence and information.

In the citadel, Samwell Tarly runs into Ser Jorah Mormont who is dying from Greyscale. He performs an experimental procedure and saves Jorah’s life. Samwell also discovers the information about the dragonglass, but it is actually Gilly who discovers the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage.

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Sansa is defacto ruler. Bran makes his way to Winterfell, tells her he’s the Three-Eyed Raven, and dismisses Meera, who goes back to her family. Lord Baelish is quickly up to his old tricks, whispering in the ear of Sansa and Arya – trying to turn the two sisters on each other. It does not work, in the last episode of the season, Sansa formally accuses Baelish of murder (of Lysa, their aunt) and treason. Sansa, no doubt with help from Arya and Bran, had put together everything Baelish did – turning Lysa and Catelyn against each other, supplying Lysa with poison to kill her husband, Jon Arryn, then blaming it on the Lannisters, and betraying Ned Stark in King’s Landing. Not to mention it was Lord Baelish who orchestrated the death of King Joffrey – which Sansa and Tyrion were blamed for. Sansa orders Lord Petyr Baelish be executed and Arya carries out the sentence. Sansa, Lady of Winterfell, also prepares her people for The Long Night – gathering food and grain into Winterfell’s stores, preparing weapons, having all the people, both male and female, learn how to fight.

Euron brings Cersei the gift of Ellaria and her daughter. Cersei has the two chained up in her dungeon, kisses the daughter, then wipes her lips and takes the antidote. Ellaria will have to watch her daughter die the same way that Mycella Baratheon did. We never see Ellaria again. Yara, meanwhile is taken, as prisoner, to the Iron Islands.

After two defeats, Daenerys decides to try a new strategy. She leads her armies from dragonback to attack the transport of Highgarden’s gold and grain stores to King’s Landing. She and her armies are extremely successful in this attack, but her dragons prove to be the WMDs of Westros – turning men to ash in seconds. Also, the majority of the grain wagons are destroyed not captured. Daenerys demands the few survivors bend the knee – and the majority do, joining her forces. Randall Tarly and his son, Dickon, refuse to bend the knee. Tyrion proposes they be forced to “take the black” and be sent to the Wall. Daenerys declines, and when the Tarly men still refuse to bend the knee, she executes them by dragonfire.

After this win, Daenerys is in a stronger position. But Jon reminds her of the threat of to the North, that is, the Army of the Dead. Lord Tyrion also thinks the coming war is more important. An expedition of the now returned Jorah Mormont, Jon Snow, a few wildings (including Tormund Giantsbane), several of the Band without Banners, and the Hound set off to capture a member of the army of the dead to show Cersei they are serious about the threat and the need for a ceasefire. This expedition pretty much takes up all of episode six. They are successful in capturing a dead soldier, but not without cost, both in members of the expedition (a red priest dies), and in Daenerys losing one of her dragons – which is resurrected by the Night King and turned into an Ice Dragon. Jon however does discover that if you kill a White Walker, the army of the dead soldiers it turned also die.

The dead soldier is taken to a discussion at King’s Landing. Everyone is there – both Daenerys allies and Cersei’s allies. Cersei shows an incredible amount of arrogance, claiming that Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys are all making up the stories of the Army of the Dead. The Hound opens the box containing the soldier, and although she is frightened – Cersei still refuses to honor the ceasefire, claiming the Army of the Dead will hit the North first, so let them.

Tyrion speaks with Cersei later, and gets her to agree to the ceasefire. However, after that Cersei interrupts Jaime’s organizing of Lannister troops to send North and reveals she will not keep the deal. Jaime becomes angry at the double-cross, and Cersei threatens to have the Mountain kill him. She’s pregnant, so she thinks she no longer needs Jaime. Jaime leaves King’s Landing in civilian (not Lannister) armor on horseback. It begins to snow in King’s Landing. The Army of the Dead attacks Eastwatch, and the Ice Dragon destroys the wall.

There are some issues with this season. First, it starts with four strong women strategizing the way to defeat another women, Cersei Lannister. To give the show credit, Varys is shown providing information after swearing his loyalty to Daenerys and Lord Tyrion only gives his advice – he doesn’t take over the conversation, talk down to Daenerys, or mansplain to her. Tyrion treats her with respect, and supplies suggestions. But then all of the women other than Daenerys are taken out of the picture. Ellaria is captured, forced to watch her daughter die, and we never see her again after that. We never see anyone in Dorne. Presumably, her entire country must know Cersei Lannister has killed the Sand sisters and captured Ellaria – you’d think they would want to rescue their queen. Yara also disappears – we see Euron parade her through the streets of King’s Landing, know he keeps her captured, and she’s mentioned in the great debate in episode 7. Theon also gathers some of Yara’s men and vows to rescue her – but not until episode 7. Shouldn’t he have done that a bit earlier? And Olenna simply drinks a glass of poisoned wine handed to her by Jaime Lannister when her forces are defeated and her castle captured. Seriously? So we go from four strong women, including Daenerys, to just Daenerys. Daenerys is cool – but I liked the idea of a group of women taking over Westros (including Sansa in the North).

Another issue is the Citadel. The Citadel is the library of all the information in Westros – yet the Maesters jealously guard their information. Civilians aren’t allowed in. Women aren’t allowed at all. The Maesters are shown to be arrogant, and mock what they do not know. When Bran sends them a warning about the Long Night, they pooh-pooh the information, even when Sam says they should pay attention to the warning. The Archmaester is willing to let Ser Jorah die rather than treat him because it’s dangerous. Samwell treats him anyway – and cures him. Once Jorah is cured, he puts on his shirt covered in stains from the weeping Greyscale – why didn’t they just burn the shirt? Surely, the Citadel can spare some clothes?

The entire expedition north of the wall seemed pretty pointless to me. This show seems to have to do at least one episode at or north of the wall per season – and it’s even more so this time. Cersei is so arrogant she doesn’t quite get that the dead are a threat to her as well as her enemies. Also, Daenerys just supplied the Night King with his own WMD in the form of an Ice Dragon. The only thing the expedition did was that Jon found out that not only can the dead be killed by burning, dragonglass, and Valerian steel swords – but also if you kill a White Walker, all the dead it created explode. So basically, the dead are vampires. We’ve also been just handed the end of the story – they don’t have to kill the Army of the Dead – they just have to kill the White Walkers, and, ultimately, the Night King. In other words, kill the commanders and the army will fall apart – a very old Medieval battle strategy.

Finally, we discover that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Not only that, but the previous marriage was annulled and the two were married, making Jon not a Snow at all but the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. And, since the previous marriage was annulled, the two were legally married, and Rhaegar did not kidnap or rape Lyanna but legally married her and they were star-crossed lovers – there was no reason for Robert’s rebellion in the first place (similar to Lysa blaming her husband’s death on the Lannisters when she was responsible herself). But considering that Jon, like Jorah and Tyrion, has, by the end of the season, fallen in love with Daenerys, and the two sleep together – it’s a real problem making Jon the legitimate heir to the throne, rather than Daenerys.

Jon, after all, isn’t a great leader. People follow him – and he usually leads them into disaster. Jon’s expedition to kidnap a member of the army of the dead to convince Cersei to help in the Great War – backfires. Hard Home – backfired. Jon inspires loyalty, but he’s a bit cursed when it comes to making plans. I did find it interesting that when he tells Cersei and everyone listening how to kill the Army of the Dead – he only mentions two of the four ways we know about so far. But I do not want to see Jon steal the iron throne from Daenerys – who is a good leader. I find it a bit frustrating that considering how well she did conquering Slaver’s Bay twice, that she’s suddenly having so much trouble.

Samwell Tarly makes it back to Winterfell, and he and Bran realise the truth about Jon’s parentage.

And we have a long wait until season 8 the final season. Season 7 was a season of diplomacy and battles. There are a lot of strong women still left in Game of Thrones – and I want to see those women triumph. Daenerys is a great leader, especially when she talks of “breaking the wheel” – which is what she did in Essos by overthrowing slavery. Jon, not so much, despite his now revealed parentage, and he’s better as a consort or Warden of the North. Sansa is a still better choice for leading the North, and I can’t wait to see what he thinks of her work so far as Lady of Winterfell. Next season, the battle of the Great War will no doubt be important to the story. I also think that Jaime is going to join Tyrion and Daenerys, either at Dragonstone or Winterfell – where ever she is. That killing a White Walker, kills the troops it turned, is no doubt going to be important – but I think we can plan on seeing dragon-on-dragon violence too.

I hope the actual reason for The Long Night is actually explained.

Still the season, like all of Game of Thrones is recommended. The filming, the characters, the costumes – it’s all fantastic.

Read my Game of Thrones Season 6 Review.

Read my Game of Thrones Season 5 Review.

Read my Game of Thrones Season 4 Review.

Book Review – Dark Tort

  • Title: Dark Tort
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/25/2018

I enjoyed this book more than the previous one in the series, though there are still the occasional issue. This time, caterer Goldy Schulz, has gotten a regular gig catering the early morning power breakfasts for a prestigious law firm, and the client brunches on Fridays. She’s heading in to the law firm on Thursday night to prep for the next morning’s client breakfast, when she literally trips over the body of the woman she’s meeting, Dusty Routt, a trainee paralegal that Goldy is also teaching how to cook. Why Goldy does her cooking at the law firm instead of her own kitchen is not explained. (It is explained that she can’t use the Roundhouse, her catering location, due to renovations.) Goldy freaks out (not to mention adding to the mess in the office) and actually tries to revive the obviously dead Dusty before running off to call the police and an ambulance. In an attempt to find a phone, Goldy runs into a bit of bad luck – her phone is locked in her van and her keys are missing. She runs across the street, finds an all-night copy center, and uses their phone. The guy working at the copy center is Dusty’s ex-boyfriend.

Goldy was friends with Dusty and her mother, and when she goes to visit the mother and to offer her sympathies, the mother asks Goldy to find out what happened to her daughter. Dusty was a go getter who had managed to (until she was killed) land on her feet, despite some early setbacks in life. This doesn’t prevent nearly everyone from criticizing Dusty for making something of her life despite the setbacks.

Goldy, also, is catering various events – including a birthday party for one of the lawyers, where the theme is based on a piece of artwork that is food themed. The artist, Charlie Baker, was a Colorado native, who, first as a hobby, and later, professionally, created paintings of food, hand-lettering the recipe at the bottom of the painting. The lawyer’s wife asked Goldy to make Journey Cake based on the painting and recipe she was giving to her husband for his birthday. Goldy tries out the cake several times, and it fails each time. She makes an “Old Reliable” cake instead. But the failing recipe isn’t a red herring or atmosphere – it’s a vital clue. And while, it’s easy to figure out that it’s a vital clue (The Purloined Letter, anyone?), the ultimate denouement of the novel is still a surprise. That is, as a reader, it’s easy to tell that the painting and the recipe are important, but it’s still a surprise to find out how and why.

As is usual in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries, Goldy splits her time between investigating the crime(s), digging up clues and gossip, and cooking and preparing her catering events. On the personal front, Goldy is doing much better, and some of the sweetest scenes in the book are between her son and his newly discovered half brother. I hope to see more of Arch and Gus in future books! Goldy seems less hands-on in investigating Dusty’s death, more of passing gossip and info to the police, and urging people to come forth with what they know. As usual, there’s a life-and-death struggle at the end with the murderer, which I’m not going to spoil.

The social scheme for this book is Dusty’s class and background and her mother’s. Davidson condemns Dusty and her mom as “welfare people” – even though Dusty has a full-time job, a college education, and is enrolled in paralegal school, with plans of becoming a lawyer. Her character of Goldy doesn’t seem to really condemn the 18th century attitudes of the people in Aspen Meadow. Goldy herself doesn’t seem as keen to take on a murder investigation either because of her class issues. There’s less ridiculous attacks on the police, local, and Federal government in this book than the previous one, though. In fact, because the victim was raised in a poor family (or at least not stinking rich), Goldy seems willing to leave it to the police. At least Goldy isn’t accused of murder again.

Dark Tort is a fun and very quick read. I enjoyed that part of the book. Recommended.