Friday, December 28, 2018

Shadowhunters Talk: 2x19 "Hail and Farewell"

I'll start off talking about this episode on a high note: the Forsaken.

Interestingly enough, even though they play a significant role in the books, the Forsaken aren't a part of the story that have stood out to me over time. While I haven't forgotten about them, they're not something I've thought a lot about since the last time I read the books (which is going on a few years now), so I feel kind of vague when it comes to them. It feels like something that was never fully explored in the books, but I'm not sure if that's true or just my hazy memory.

Either way, the Forsaken in the TV show have left a more lasting impression, and I can say that with confidence since I'm writing this so long after this part of the show aired, yet I have a much clearer memory of the show's version of the Forsaken than the books'.

In the TV show, the Forsaken remind me a lot of zombies, which isn't how I thought of them in the books even though, looking back on it now, I can see some parallels. I'm really not a zombie fan. I've tried before to get into zombie stories, and I always find them incredibly boring in the end. Because of that, I'm glad the Forsaken never played a larger part in the show, but I did like the way they were used.

Seeing Raphael apologize to Izzy was nice. There was a moment where I thought it might be signal that the show was going to reignite their relationship, but I'm glad they didn't After what the two of them went through together, I don't think things could work out between them. They need to move on, but I also hope to see them learn how to be friends. After all, they can relate to what the other went through in a way that others can't. I want the friends to come after they've gotten their distance though, so I'm glad the show didn't do it right away. I'm only hoping we can see hints of a developing friendship in the limited time we have left with the show.

This episode includes Clary killing Sebastian. It's been so long now that I can't remember what my initial reaction was, but since I don't remember being surprised about the later developments, I'm pretty sure I always expected him to come back somehow. Sebastian being gone would have meant losing the big villain without anyone geared up to take his place. While there are other characters who could become the primary antagonist (not least of which is the Clave), there didn't seem to be one queued up.

(Of course we did get a new antagonist after this, but I'll talk more about that when she appears, and it's connected to Sebastian anyway.)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Life Post: Feeling Thankful (and Some Star Trek: Discovery Fangirling)

Long time now see yet again. It's been May since I last wrote one of these posts, but I won't bother much with apologies. I've been doing that every time I write one of these lately.

If anyone's bothering to read this, you may also have noticed that I've posted a couple other posts recently. Those posts were all written back in 2017 before I'd even moved to Japan. They'd been sitting in drafts waiting to be edited, and now they finally have been. I'll be trying to write more in the future. I have a lot of books and TV shows that I've been watching the last year and a half that I want to talk about.

For instance, I just finished the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. While various Star Trek series were often on TV at our house when I was a kid, I never sat down to pay attention to them, which means I know a lot of random details about them but don't fully understand the universe. I kept getting interested about details of the universe while watching Discovery that would send me down a rabbit hole researching more. I got really into the show, so I definitely want to talk about it in more depth at some point.

I'm now in my second year of teaching in Japan, and from the lack of activity on this blog, you can probably guess that it keeps me busy. Our New Year's holiday is coming up next week, and I've made the decision not to travel for it this year. I need some time to get things in order at home. My apartment needs a serious cleaning from top to bottom (not just quick, casual stuff), and there's so much other stuff I want to do, not least of which is get some stuff written for this blog again. We'll see what I manage to do. I shouldn't have many distractions, since everyone will be with their families or traveling.

All that being said, things are really good here. I really like my job, even when it's stressful. To be quite honest, when I was preparing to come to Japan, I had to keep warning myself that things might be terrible. I didn't want to expect things to be amazing only to be disappointed, and in the process, I kind of thing I made myself come in with zero expectations.

That might have been a good thing, but it didn't turn out to be necessary. While I'm definitely still living in reality (I'd never say things are perfect), I'm really lucky that I chose a great school in a great city with great co-workers and great students. After some stuff that's happened recently, I've gotten particularly cheesy about how much I appreciate all of that. I know some people come to Japan to work at a school they've never visited before and have much worse experiences with the job or their co-workers.

Part (though not the entire) reason I've been thinking that lately is because I've been thinking about how close things could have been to being different for me. I was very close to requesting working in a certain city when I got my job, but I fully understand now how different working in a large city would be compared to where I work now, and I think it would have greatly impacted my enjoyment of the job for the worse. I'm so happy I've ended up where I did.

Woah. I totally didn't intend to go there with this post, but that's kind of a trend with these posts too, I suppose. Along with the long gaps between posting them. Like I said, I've been thinking about that a lot recently, so it's not too big of a surprise. I guess the end of the year is as good a time as any to reflect on what I appreciate in life. Since I'm not in America, I didn't have Thanksgiving for that.

Book Review: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike 3) by Robert Galbraith

ISBN: 0316349933
Published: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Read from June 13 to July 1, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives. 


Note: Despite how long it has taken to post, this review was originally written the day after I'd finished the book.

So far I've been impressed by the way each Cormoran Strike book feels unique. I don't read many mystery series, but one of the reasons I decided I wasn't interested in reading more Sherlock Holmes after the two I did read was because what I had read felt too similar to each other for me to care for the next one. I haven't felt the same about the Strike books, and I'm hoping that I won't in the future either.

This mystery is personal to Strike in a way the mysteries of the previous two books were, with the suspect targeting Strike and Robin directly. I think that worked to the story's benefit and helped with developing Robin and Strike as characters. We get to see both of them emotionally affected in ways we don't in the first two books, and we also learn more details about their pasts, especially Robin's. There had been hints about something making Robin drop out of university, and while the reveal wasn't shocking (as I had more or less figured it out before the reveal), I appreciated hearing her story and seeing how it was handled.

For two books, there has been something of a love triangle between Strike, Robin, and Matt, and that becomes a larger part of the story in this one. I think that's a good idea largely because I don't think the love triangle can be drawn out over too many books without getting old. Don't expect the triangle to completely resolve itself in this book, but it is a larger focus. After this one, I feel like it must have a conclusion of some kind in book four. And that's what I hope for since I don't think I want it to last longer than that. I'm not a big love triangle fan, and it's getting frustrating to read.

There isn't a scene featuring Matt where I'm not thinking, "Why do you want to marry him, Robin? That's a terrible idea." Honestly, all I want is for her to dump Matt. I don't care if she gets with Strike or not.

As for the mystery the book revolves around, it seemed really obvious to me that one of the three main suspects was guilty by the halfway point in the book. It was so obvious to me, in fact, that I knew I had to be wrong, and lo and behold, I was. The piece of evidence that made it feel obvious to me was never given an explanation, and I'll probably be frustrated by that forever. How could there be such a clear connection if it didn't mean anything? That was a small detail all things considered, but it was enough of one that it bothers me that it wasn't addressed.

Overall, I'd say that the mystery itself didn't feel as intricate as the mysteries of the last two books, and I wasn't as impressed with the reveal. This book seemed more focused on developing Robin and Strike as characters, though, and I can appreciate the book's value for that within the series. I appreciated them being developed into deeper characters.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Shadowhunters Review: 2x13 "Those of Demon Blood"

Note: Written in June of 2017, much closer to this episode airing. Hence why it sounds like I just watched the episode for the first time and why I don't know things that happen later in the show.

This episode was incredible. I'm in love with so many aspects of it.

Jace is truly a masochist if he decided to spend time at the same bar where Clary and Simon are having a date. Or maybe he's trying to prove to himself that he doesn't actually care, which doesn't seem to be working out well for him.

The mutilated Shadowhunter was a shock. Since this is something new from the books, I truly had no idea who could have been behind it. I liked having to try to figure something out instead of having a pretty good idea of where it would go from the start.

Also, though, I love how that was used to explore the prejudices that Shadowhunters hold towards Downworlders. That was where this episode was at its absolute best. I loved, loved, loved Simon explaining to Clary that he couldn't submit a DNA example because of what happened to his family in the Holocaust. That made it so real and also made a very important point that I'm extremely glad the show is delving into. And, of course, Simon turns out to be right when the Clave then decides to insert GPS trackers in all Downworlds.

On a bit of a tangent, how hard would it be for the Shadowhunters to get those things into every Downworlder? I don't doubt they'd try, but that sure seems like a task that would take awhile and, meanwhile, not help so much with finding the filler. This is the Clave we're talking about though. Of course they'd go for it.

Speaking of the Clave, this is the most menacing they've been, but except for Inquisitor Herondale, we still haven't actually seen the Clave. This was try of the books compared to where we are in the show, but I have to say that I'm excited to see the whole Clave and Idris at some point. (Because they have to show us Idris eventually, right?)

Jace's conflict over wanting to please his grandmother now that he knows he's a Herondale but also knowing that what she's asking him to do is wrong is absolutely excellent. Imogen's characterization has been excellent so far. It's just how I picture her. She believes fully in the Clave and holds prejudices against Downworlders, but she one hundred percent believes that she's on the side of good. I'm hoping, since she's still alive and getting to know Jace, that maybe we'll see Jace actually getting through to her and making her change. Or maybe she'll just stay prejudiced forever. Who knows? (I'm kind of thinking that she's going to die by the end of the season to be honest, but since she's already lived past when she would have in the books, there's no telling what they'll do. I'd like to see her stick around a bit longer.)

Imogen knows just what to say to appeal to Jace, with her speeches about the Herondales always following their instinct and doing what's right (with "what's right" undoubtedly having been twisted over the past century and a half or so). She's right about that being what Jace needs to do, of course, but unfortunately for her, Jace's instinct is not telling him to do what she wants. I love that. I'm hoping, too, that her recognition that he is really a Herondale and that he believes that the Clave has done wrong will do something to convince her to come around.

I find it quite interesting that, considering how strict the Clave is, it's also perfectly all right for Imogen to appoint her own grandson as head of the Institute and it's not criticized as favoritism at all. Very interesting how that works. (This is sarcastic, of course, because it makes complete sense that the Clave would work through favoritism while being convinced that it's impartial.)

One tiny complaint I have is that the Malec aspect of this episode wasn't explored further. I know that the "show more Malec" screams can get exhausting, but I don't mean that in a blind "I just want more Malec" sense. I just think this episode hinted at a conflict in their relationship that I would love to see be dealt with more in depth.

Magnus is a Downworlder, and Alec is a member of a group that, by and large, despise Downworlders. That complicates their relationship, and it's made more complicated by the fact that Alec is, even when he doesn't realize it, influenced by the prejudices that have been pushed on him since he was born. I'm glad that was acknowledged, but I almost wish that the resolution hadn't been so brief.

Alec clearly recognizes that he was wrong, but I wonder if we could have gotten more from him over why exactly he was wrong. Or maybe this is just coming from a desire for more Malec, and I don't completely realize my own biases. I don't know. I just feel like seeing Alec acknowledge exactly what he did wrong more at length would have been nice. That being said, this could very well be dealt with more in the future (and I feel like it has to be to a certain extent).

I am so ready to see Isabelle train Max. Will we be seeing more Max now, though, or is the bulk of his training going to happen off screen? I'm hoping we'll at least see more of him than we did in the past, even if he's not in every single episode. There's a lot of room for character growth with Max, and that would be nice to see. Plus, I just really want to see tutor Izzy more. It's awesome, and I feel like being an authority figure for Max could really help Izzy after what she's been dealing with lately.

It was also no surprise that Max would go after Izzy even once told to stay in the Institute, and it was a given that he would be kidnapped once he had. Still, I like seeing Max involved in such an important plot point, and I was genuinely worried that he might end up dead, when I wasn't at all that worried about Clary earlier in the episode. (Clary is, after all, the main character. She's going to stick around for a while.)

As for Kaelie being the one behind it all, that felt a little out of left field. I didn't suspect a Seelie until Raphael said he was suspicious of them. I'd honestly figured it was another Shadowhunter before that trying to blame Downworlders. (I still don't quite get why Kaelie wanted the blame to fall on other Downworlders.) It seems quite the turnaround from before with her, but I liked that they at least explained that her brother had been killed.

Meliorn not only not being responsible but also helping them find Kaelie also made me happy. For anyone who hasn't read the books (and I don't consider this a spoiler), Meliorn is not all that great in the books. The TV show is making him much more complicated. He's not an ally of the Shadowhunters at all times, but it's been made clear that he cares about doing what is right. I wouldn't have been surprised if the Meliorn from the books was killing Shadowhunters, but seeing him work with Izzy and even Raphael (Seelies, Shadowhunters, and vampires all together) made me happy. I really appreciated that.

Finally, Jace turns the Institute over to Alec. One of the first things I thought when Imogen made Jace head of the Institute was that Alec really should have gotten the position. Everyone knew it. I love that Jace acknowledged that, and I love Alec's line about the Clave never appointing him because he's dating a guy who's a Downworlder, a reminder of both the Clave's prejudices towards Downworlders and their homophobia.

When Jace made Alec head of the Institute instead, I wasn't surprised exactly, but I hadn't quite been expecting it either. It was so nice to see and definitely what needed to happen. I also love that everyone knew it needed to happen. I can't even tell you how excited I am to see Alec be in charge of the Institute in the upcoming episodes. I'm so ready for it.

I almost forgot to even mention the Jace and Maia scene. Truthfully, I don't feel I have much to say about it. It was...interesting, but I don't feel as if it's going much of anywhere in the future. I don't know though. Maybe they'll surprise me and do more with that. We'll see.