Reading Comics: X-Men X-Tinction Agenda TPB (Part Two)

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In this entry: Uncanny X-Men 237 & 238, the second two issues in the X-Tinction Agenda crossover event. Prepare to board the Mutant Train! Written by Chris Claremont, pencilled by Rick Leonardi (237) and Marc Silvestri (238), inked by Terry Austin (237) and Dan Green (238), lettered by Tom Orzechowski, edited by Bob Harris.

When we left off (in issue 236), Rogue (who is being “steered” by Carol Danvers, who has apparently been lying dormant in Rogue’s mind ever since Rogue touched her one time) and Wolverine, who have had their mutant powers stripped from them, are trying to escape from Genosha. To this end, they have stolen a military jet magistrate aircar and are flying away. We open issue 237 over international waters.

Also, I don’t think I said this last time, the Genegineer’s name is Phillip Moreau. His last name is Moreau. Because that’s not symbolic at all. Just kidding it totally is.

Anyway, it transpires (after the Genoshan military boards the stolen aircar) that Wolverine and Rogue/Carol Danvers aren’t on the jet after all. The whole thing was (presumably) a distraction to give Wolvie and Rogue/CD a chance to rescue Madelyne Pryor and Jenny Ransom, who are still prisoners of the magistrates and in danger of having their brains mutilated by our resident wielder of banal evil, Dr. Moreau. We switch scenes to Wolverine, who is lurking on the street watching a documentary propaganda broadcast about the history and goals of Genosha. “Sounds wonderful, sweetheart,” says Wolverine to the television, after listening to a perky red-headed lady wax poetic about Genosha’s iron ore deposits, its low levels of poverty, its status as a contender for the “breadbasket of the world” title, “pity it’s a crock.” He and Rogue/CD observe some magistrate patrolmen pulling petty power trips on a mutate garbageman, and Rogue/CD convinces him to not murder the magistrates with his claws as it would blow their “keep quiet and wait for reinforcements” plan.

While they’re in a bar causing a diversion and stealing magistrates’ badges and credentials, Wolvie and Rogue/CD happen upon a drunken Phillip Moreau, washing down his sorrows in a cop bar on the wrong side of town, and getting knocked cold by the off-duty magistrates, who don’t take kindly to him causing a ruckus in their bar. In retaliation, they dump his drunkenly unconscious body on the “mute train,” the commuter train on which mutates ride to their barracks at the end of the day. The magistrates dump Phillip on the train, and Wolverine and Rogue board as well, curious to see what the “mute train” might be.

Meanwhile, out of some kind of…I don’t even know what, the Genegineer has called Mutant 9817—that is, Jenny, his son’s fiancee—to his office. He explains to her that her father falsified the results of her genetic exam, and that she’s a mutant, and as such she much has “a responsibility to the community that bore and nurtured” her to give herself over for “processing” and a lifetime of servitude. “It’s slavery!” cries Jenny, utterly distraught. In fact, Jenny’s lines throughout the whole two-page scene consist of statements like “Why am I here?” “But I tested normal on my genetic exam!” “oh no oh no oh no,” “Why me? It isn’t fair!” “It’s slavery!” “Does Phillip know?” She is in shock, nothing but tears and questions. The bulk of the word balloons (and it’s Chris Claremont, so there are a lot of word balloons) are of the Genegineer, lecture/pleading with Jenny to clear his own conscience, explaining to her why her life is over. At one point, he says, “Believe me, this is as hard for me, as for you.” Somehow I doubt that, Genejerkface. She’s giving up her whole existence because you deem it necessary, and after you buzz on your intercom to have her taken away, you’ll never think about her again. It is objectively, demonstrably, not harder for you. But, in a glorious demonstration of blindness to the consequences of one’s actions, he says it anyway, and he really believes it. He believes that this really is as hard for him as it is for her. He calls it “our sacrifice,” even though he is sacrificing precisely nothing. He believes that slavery is necessary. He believes that the benefits of taking children away from their families and brainwashing them and putting them to labor outweighs whatever momentary discomfort he might feel from his dull, crippled conscience. He does not think that Genosha would survive as the paradise that it is without the brutality and coercion that laces underneath every single inch of the island.

The whole scene is gross. Versions of it happen all the time in the real world, and it’s gross then, too.

The issue ends with Wolverine vowing to “bring this flamin’ country down,” and at this point I can’t say I’m opposed.

 

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something something male gaze something something

 

Issue 238 opens with a “transcript” of a telepathic interview done on Mutant 9818—aka Madelyne Pryor—immediately before she somehow destroyed the examining team (“torn to bits,” is how it’s described). Exactly what Madelyne did or how is vaguely unclear, but evidently in her own mind she garbs herself in what can only be described as Skimpy Hellfire Goth, and this is totally about female empowerment and not about the 1980s being a boobs guy at all. (There’s probably a whole essay of my mixed feelings in here somewhere, about how I love that Madelyne is smart and brave and fighting back even though she has no conscious access to mutant powers, but also I could never cosplay as her because come on, and also I don’t want to police or judge what another woman decides to put on her body, butakshually Marc Silvestri decided what she would be wearing, and also come on) (being a female with SJW tendencies who also loves comics can be complicated sometimes, and Hellfire Madelyne Pryor and Emma Frost are two of the ones who make it seem complicated).

Furious and/or frightened, the Genegineer storms down to the cells to yell at Madelyne for murdering his interrogation team. In the process, he has the same conversation with Madelyne that he had with Jenny in the last issue, but Madelyne is mature enough and experienced enough to fight back. “What I think and feel and want don’t really matter, do they? I was condemned the moment I arrived here,” she tells Moreau. He tries to feed her the line about how the Genoshan way of life must be protected, and how the mutants on Genosha “want and care for nothing.” “Except freedom,” she says, from where she sits, in her cell, behind bars. “What are you so scared of?” she asks. “If you system’s such a marvel, why not share it with everyone?” He feeds her something about secrecy being Genosha’s strength, a bullshit line that he probably actually believes, but Madelyne’s not having it.

“What is necessary, is done,” says the guard who has escorted Moreau down to the cells.

“Seig heil to you too, sweetie,” Madelyne cuts back.

We switch to Wolverine and Rogue/Carol Danvers, who have ended up in the mutant barracks (the end of the line of the mutant train that they boarded the previous night), which—though none of them have seen it before—is a rude awakening to Phillip Moreau, and nothing new to Wolvie and R/CD. Phillip is having the realization that my dad had when he was a kid in the 1950s in Louisiana: that the people that he saw cleaning houses and doing menial labor went somewhere at the end of the day, and that sometimes the places they went weren’t very fancy, or very nice.

“Tell me something, boy,” Wolverine asks him, “Where’d you think the mutants went at night, after they quit work?”

“Home, I guess. Same as anyone.” (But for Phillip, who has a very narrow field of experience, “home” has a very narrow definition.)

“Live and learn, kiddo,” Rogue/Carol tells him. “Welcome to the Mutant Settlement Zone. A prison, by any other name.”

“Like keeps to like, that’s what I was always taught,” says Phillip, really thinking about what he’d been taught for maybe the first time in his life. “The mutes–sorry, mutants, no offense–they naturally preferred the company of their own kind. Their own way of life, their own place. Is that so wrong?”

“You tell us,” Wolverine replies.

Rogue/Carol says (and I’m truncating this a bit), “You never wondered about the uniforms mutants wear?…[It] makes the slaves easily identifiable, then guarantees a social environment wherein they’re almost totally isolated. If no one befriends them, no one can feel sorry for them. Effectively, they become extensions of their jobs–perceived not as people any longer but organic machines. And who cares what happens to machines?”

When I first read this, it made me think (as it was probably supposed to make me think) of slavery, and segregation, and Jim Crow. But as I was reading it again and writing this essay, it made me think of retail workers and cashiers. And sure, that comparison is a little shallow, a little low stakes. But who thinks about where a cashier goes at the end of the day, and what kind of life she can buy with her $10/hr? Who thinks about the folks in the agriculture supply chain who pick our food and work in our slaughterhouses? How isolated is a community of transient farmworkers from your daily life? (If it’s anything like my daily life, they might as well live across an ocean.) What’s the separation that’s happening today—and not organic separation, either, not like “Oh I live far away from Irish people in Irelend” separation, remember that the Genoshan power structure keeps the lives of the mutates a secret on purpose—that keeps you from seeing the people around you as people?

I do know this, though—in my experience, increasing my knowledge of an issue or a country or a culture or a person, when I hear from those people themselves, has already brought me closer to human empathy. Never further away. If the knowledge you gain hardens your heart, then you might be doing something wrong. There’s a Ta-Nahesi Coates quote that I can’t find right now, about how slavery was only ever “acceptable” if you didn’t ask black people what they thought. Phillip, basically, has finally opened his ears to the idea that the mutants might have different ideas about this whole system than the magistrates do. His father, even though multiple mutants and his own son try to tell him what it’s like out there, refuses to hear.

Back to the story…

Wolverine, Rogue/Carol, and Phillip are found at the mutant barracks and arrested and brought back to Hammer Bay, the capital city, and to Phillip’s father (and the guard captain, whose name I don’t think has been mentioned). Phillip immediately confronts his father about what he’s seen and how horrifying he found it. “I’ve seen the camp, Dad, it’s a prison! Why hasn’t the country been told?! Why won’t you level with the people about the regime you force the mutants to live under?! Those mutants are Genoshans, too, just like us—They deserve the same benefits, the same chance for happiness and success the rest of us accept as a right!” Phillip is basically a baby ally, truth and justice bright in his mind, sure that if only everyone else could see what he’s seen, they would all be just as horrified as him. I appreciate that Phillip has basically had one hell of a 24 hours (at this time yesterday, remember, he was out for a run and happened upon his girlfriend’s family being arrested), so I really shouldn’t judge what kind of ally he might turn out to be, but he’s also doing the annoying this of jumping on a social issue only after it’s affected him personally. I guess any reason is a good enough reason as long as it gets the kid in the fight, but if other humans could do this a little less, I think we would aggravate each other a lot less.

The Genegineer repeats his argument about how it’s for the good of all Genosha that mutants are enslaved, and about preserving the Genoshans’ peculiar way of life, and then asks—as his son asked at the barracks, though he doesn’t know that—“Is that so wrong?”

Wolverine, tellingly, answers the question differently this time: “If you haveta ask, bub…there’s no point in answerin’.”

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Phillip Moreau chooses a side

Side point: “I’ve been a slave,” Wolverine tells the captain of the guard, who is basically telling Phillip to shut the hell up until he knows better than her what’s what, “Didn’t much care for it.”

“That will change,” the captain tells Wolverine. “When Wipeout’s erased all memory of your old life–oh yes, he does that too–and the Genegineer’s established a new one, I guarantee you’ll love it.”

“Not hardly,” says Wolverine, “I’ll die first.” When I first read this, I thought Wolvie was just making a Wolvie threat (and the captain and the magistrates present certainly hear it that way), but it also occurs to me that Wolverine is seriously injured, and if Wipeout fails to restore his healing factor, Wolverine really will die. I felt really cool about reading the dialogue this way until I got to the next page and Wolverine made explicit text out of the subtext.

Just as Wolverine is basically making a suicide bid for freedom, the rest of the X-Men arrive, literally blowing the doors off the place, and in short order rescue Madelyne Pryor, a mutant baby who was also in the prison (oh hey, look who else throws babies into prisons!), and Jenny Ransome, who is looking much more muscular but who hasn’t had her mind wiped yet. Rogue/Carol takes Wipeout hostage, and Psylocke uses him to restore Wolverine’s healing factor. Wolverine and Phillip briefly disagree over whether they should burn Genosha to the ground or give the Genoshans a chance to mend their ways. Storm goes with Phillip’s way, though with the added threat to the Genegineer and the magistrates that if they don’t listen to Phillip, she’s not opposed to taking the Wolverine Option at a future date. They explode the Hammer Bay Citadel to emphasize the point.

“My son, I beg you—consider what you’re doing!” says the Genegineer. “You’ll destroy everything we’ve worked lifetimes here in Genosha to build!”

“But, Dad, if the mutants aren’t free, then maybe what you’ve built isn’t worth saving,” says Phillip, looking a little sad. He goes through the portal off Genosha with the X-Men, seeking asylum for himself and Jenny in America.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The trade paperback continues, though it skips ahead to issue 270 for Further Genoshan Adventures. I’m not sure if I’ll continue forward; the latter adventures are decidedly more boom-pow-bam and less Claremontian Discourse On Justice, and my own analysis consists more of being annoyed by Wolfsbane and how Rob Liefeld can’t draw feet. So it might be funny but probably wouldn’t be that interesting. I dunno. Maybe I’ll write something else and post it in less than two months!

Reading Comics: X-Men X-tinction Agenda (TPB)

coverIn this entry: Uncanny X-Men #235 & 236, first two issues in the X-tinction Agenda crossover event (the most ambitious crossover event in history! or something). Written by Chris Claremont; penciled by Rick Leonardi (235) and Marc Silvestri (236); inked by P. Craig Russell (235) and Dan Green (236); colored by Glynis Oliver (235) and Petra Scotese (236); lettered by Tom Orzechowski (235 & 236); and edited by Bob Harras.

Caution! Spoilers ahoy.

Welcome to Genosha.

My comics knowledge, as I’ve said elsewhere, is kinda spotty, at least compared to my true comic nerd friends. I get most of my comics from the public library, so I’m subject to the whims of availability and purchasing departments and waiting lists. But I know that I like Chris Claremont, so when I happened upon a TPB at the library called X-Tinction Agenda collecting several stories–from Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor, published between 1983 and 1988–centering around the island nation of Genosha, I checked it out.

Guys, it’s so good. And even though it was published thirty years ago, parts of it are so relevant to our current political situation. So I figured I’d talk about it.

Uncanny X-Men #235: Welcome to Genosha.

Random thing, before we even start on the plot: The picture that dominates the first page is a sign that says: “Welcome to Genosha. A Green and Pleasant Land of Hope and Opportunity where the Watchword is Freedom.” “Green and pleasant land” is a line from a William Blake poem that is also a very famous and common British hymn and a sort of alternative national anthem for England. It evokes Britain as a sort of paradise, a place where lions can lie down with lambs and lovely rabbits frolic through the idyllic grasses. Under this sign, with its buzzwords of peace and prosperity, crouches a fugitive, a mutant who is trying to smuggle his child away from a life of slavery. The overarching theme of this entire story arc, underneath its blams and pows, is about the rot and corruption and cruelty that exist underneath the patina of wealth and prosperity, and you can see all of that on this one page if you look hard enough.

We start out by getting into the middle of a story that doesn’t involve the X-Men—a blonde man with a Sylvester Stallone-ian build, carrying a baby, has vaulted into a restricted area of an airport runway. “See those lights?” he tells the baby. “For people like us…that’s where true freedom lies.” He’s trying to smuggle the baby off the island, and he succeeds, but loses his own life in the process. There’s so much that could be talked about, pointed at, even in just these first few pages. Like a present-day Mexican, or Syrian, or Somalian, or Rohingya, or Palestinian—people will always cross barbed wire and guns if they think it’ll lead to a better chance for their kids. “I’ll miss you, baby boy,” he tells the young one. “You be brave.” Then the magistrates (Genoshan secret military police force charged with corralling and punishing mutants) are on top of him. He takes out one of their armored vehicles before they shoot him down, and as he dies, he watches the plane with the small stowaway take off and fly away. The magistrates, thinking that he was trying to escape himself, don’t even realize at first that a mutant has escaped their clutches.

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I want to be clear that these are the first two panels on the first page.

SCENE CHANGE. The reds and blacks of the airport security lights and murder switch to oranges and yellows of the bright Australian sun. The Genoshans have sent the magistrates after the escaped baby, who is a mutant, and therefore (according to Genoshan law) not allowed to be a free person. They have lured Jenny Ransome (an escaped adult Genoshan mutant) to their location, hoping to quietly kidnap her back to Genosha, but unfortunately (for them) Jenny is accompanied by Madelyne Pryor, X-Man, clone, and close enough to a mutant that the differences are academic.

The Press Gang magistrates are an odd bunch, and I will freely admit that maybe this is one of those things that is explained in an issue of the X-Men that I’ve never read. They have special abilities, and seem to be either mutants or augmented humans, but they also hate and fear mutants as all Genoshans do. It’s unclear if the Press Gang are brainwashed into service (though in a different way than the general “mutate” population), or if they chose joining the Magistrates over going through the mutate process. They may be a sort of mutant Judenrat. I’m honestly not sure.

Over and over again, Genosha exhibits this slaver’s mindset doublespeak–they hate and fear mutants, even the mutants hate and fear mutants, but they’re happy to use them for their own ends to make Genosha a prosperous nation. Mutants are a danger. Mutants are also the reason why Genosha is prosperous. The future of Genosha depends on Genoshans never realizing or acknowledging this fact.

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This is Punchout. It took me like 7 pages to clarify that she is a woman. She is probably also on steroids? Also I think that 1980s comic book artists don’t know what women look like.

Pipeline, one of the Press Gang Magistrates, has the ability to reduce humans to “binary electronic impulses” and send them across his “phone link” for near-instant transport to Genosha. The phone link can transport humans but not their clothing for reasons that comic nerds tell me are perfectly obvious and logical and has nothing to do with wanting to see naked mutants. Pipeline zaps both Jenny Ransome and Madelyne Pryor back to Genosha, which of course brings the X-Men into it when Madelyne doesn’t come home. The adventure is on. Like, full splash page of a battle on.

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Zoom! Pow! (Also, poor Colossus. Doesn’t realize he’s in part one of like eighteen.)

 

Uncanny X-Men #236: “Busting Loose!”

At the end of #235, Jenny Ransome and Madelyne Pryor were zapped via “telephone link” from Australia to Genosha, as were Rogue and Wolverine when they were caught trying to track Madelyne and Jenny. Which is how we end up with Naked Wolverine and Naked Rogue taking on a whole squadron of magistrates.

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It is 100% necessary to the narrative that Wolvie and Rogue show up naked in Genosha. Also, strategically placed shrapnel is strategic.

About halfway through the issue, though, the story starts to depart from the usual comic POWs and ZAMs and SNIKTs and veer into Chris Claremont-ian holy-shit-metaphors territory. We cut away from Wolverine and Rogue (who have just lost the battle by virtue of having their mutant abilities wiped out by a vaguely clerical-looking Genoshan mutant named Wipeout) to suburban Genosha where a high-level civil servant, the Genegineer, has been pulled away from his Saturday gardening and plans with his teenage son Phillip to go deal with the general crisis that is the X-Men show up naked on your doorstep. (The Genegineer is in charge of administering the medical/biological alterations to mutants to turn them into powerful but mindless slaves.) You can see, in a small but telling interaction, just where general Genoshan population—through the lens of Phillip—is in terms of human-mutant relations: a flying car, taking off from Phillip’s yard, has damaged the lawn and some of the garden. Phillip offhandedly says to an approaching mutate, “Fix it, will ya, boy?” He doesn’t stick around to see if the mutate does so, or to thank him, or tell him he did a good job. He just walks away, both garden and mutate gone from his mind. (Which leads me to wonder, why is Phillip’s dad gardening at all, when they have a mutate who can do it faster and better?)

And now, back to Wolverine and Rogue, who have been captured and imprisoned.

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So, here’s a thing that maybe says more about my obtuseness and lack of reading comprehension than anything else, but it wasn’t until I read these panels that I realized what a stunning metaphor Rogue’s mutant powers are for trauma. I mean, in these two panels, the two jailers who are speaking think that Rogue is reacting solely to being manhandled (and in a way she is, because thanks to Wipeout she didn’t absorb any magistrate psyches), but what they—and we (sorry, spoilers)—don’t know yet is that Wipeout’s attack combined with the Magistrates’ capture of her has basically unleashed all the psyches that Rogue has buried in her brain. But that’s…that’s what trauma is. A ghost of an experience, taking up space in your brain, and rising up at the most inconvenient times to make a time traveler out of your adrenal system and convince you that you’re back in that spot. Rogue has dozens and dozens of psyches inside her brain, and generally she can keep them at bay, but every now and again they rise up and incapacitate her. And they can do this without the original person knowing, or being aware, or even remembering what they did to get into her brain in the first place (see also, Kevin Spacey “not remembering” what he did to Anthony Rupp, and how what was so formulative for Rupp was not even a blip in Spacey’s mental story of his life). Ghosts, man. Ghosts and trauma.

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Besides the beauty of Claremont’s narration, I just want to point out that I love Rogue’s body language and how she’s standing here (especially because I will be mocking the body language of female characters later on).

 

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*whispers* This page is so goddamn pretty.

 

Okay, so, back to our young lad Phillip, who is out for a run when he sees that a squad of magistrates have descended on his neighbor’s house and arrested the family of a government minister (including their daughter who is, we will learn, young Phillip’s fiancée). One of the magistrates threatens to club Phillip with his baton when Phillip tries to intervene, then does an abrupt 180 when he finds out how powerful Phillip’s father is. He’s apologetic and fawning, begging Phillip not to tell his father that a lowly magistrate stepped so far out of line. On an immediate level, he’s asking Phillip not to tell his father, because then the Magistrate will get fired. But really, what he’s asking of Phillip—what the whole interaction is about—is reminding Phillip of who he is, where he’s from, what his class is. In Genoshan society, if Phillip isn’t siding with the humans, then he’s siding with the mutants, and the magistrates are there to enforce that divide and make sure it remains. Sympathy for mutants is a dangerous emotion. What’s at stake here is not just the whims of some cops, but all of Genoshan society. If the subtext isn’t obvious enough, Claremont throws in that most notorious of excuses for the benign perpetuation of evil into the narrative waters— “I was only following orders,” the magistrate tells Phillip. Nothing personal. I was only following orders when I arrested your girlfriend and sent her off to get her genetically altered into a mind-altered slave. I didn’t create this system, I’m just living in it. I just need to feed my family and I’m only following orders.

And I mean, that’s how you know you’re in power, even if you feel like a small and powerless element of much larger social mechanisms. When what is, for you, just one of your basic daily duties that you hardly think about is also the most deeply, elementally personal thing to someone else–their body, their identity, their very existence. People who are in power, who are removed from the consequences of their actions, can have profound impacts on those below them without ever meeting or thinking about what they’re doing and why. The Magistrate is just following orders. The mutant is just existing. Even the Genegineer, with all his power, frames his actions as “necessary”—not as choices. Jenny Ransome has a “duty” to serve Genosha as a mindless, altered mutate. The Genegineer has the duty to turn her into the slave that Genosha needs. And Phillip is learning, is about to learn, that his action–or his inaction–will have profound consequences.

Next time: Who’s human? All aboard the mutant train.

Arrow Episode 4: In Which Not-Chris-O’Donnell is Really Bad at Being a Masked Vigilante

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Episode Four: Not-Chris-O’Donnell’s cover is blown! Oh noes! His life mission to anonymously bring Justice(!) to Starling City lasted like a month. Peter Parker is making Judgment Face at you, not-Chris-O’Donnell. Be ashamed.

Okay, so actually, not-Chris-O’Donnell’s bodyguard got shot, and so not-Chris-O’Donnell brought him to his Secret Justice Lair to fix him (because Starling City doesn’t have hospitals?), and the bodyguard’s immediate reaction (even though he’s been shot and poisoned and is still metabolizing an antidote) is to try and hit Ollie. Because everyone in this universe is pissed off at Ollie.

I must also point out this excellent dialogue without comment:
Not-Chris-O’Donnell: I found a couple things along the way.
Mr. Diggle: Like what, archery classes?
Not-Chris-O’Donnell: Clarity. Starling City is dying.

Mr. Diggle (I’m just going to call him by his actual name because it’s amazing) calls not-Chris-O’Donnell a criminal and a murderer and leaves him. All alone. So. Very. Alone. So not-Chris-O’Donnell goes back to his big empty house and puts on a suit, and after some unknown period of time Laurel comes to “check on him,” because she has excellent boundaries and is totally on top of all of her shit.

Apparently Laurel has decided to be not-Chris-O’Donnell’s mommy since his actual mom is kind of an emotionally absent sociopath. She guilts him into not telling his family that he was okay after getting shot at, which is totally legit, but she also calls him selfish (and other synonyms) to make him feel guilty. Because guilt is the best way to encourage people to change their behavior. At this point, Laurel is just lashing out, and should probably move on, but she won’t, because…something.

Oh, and the sister saw it all! Lucky not-Chris-O’Donnell isn’t wearing his Arrow hoodie or he would’ve been outed twice tonight. She seems understanding and calm…she’s probably stoned. She dispenses with advice like a reasonable person.

Okay, next morning, Mr. Diggle has phoned in his resignation, apparently effective immediately. I hope he sells his story to the tabloids, because it’s a good one. Also I hope he got medical attention because he got shot. So not-Chris-O’Donnell’s mom called Bodyguards R Us and had them send over another one. Not-Chris-O’Donnell immediately ditches him.

Not-Chris-O’Donnell is investigating his own Making A Murderer-esque miscarriage of justice into a convicted murderer. The convicted murderer is not on Oliver’s list of people who are murdering Starling City, but the name of his employer is, so not-Chris-O’Donnell concludes is that the convicted murderer was framed. Obviously. So not-Chris-O’Donnell goes and talks to Laurel (who is a lawyer, remember) about proving his innocence. Can I just point out again here that a hoodie is actually a terrible disguise? And he walks right up to Laurel like she can’t see his face and recognize him. (Also, you can tell that his Batman voice was done in the studio post-production and it’s very annoying.)

Laurel is now investigating the murder, because apparently there is still a hope to get a new trial declared? Stay of execution? Commuted sentence? I’m totally unclear on the legal process here. Is she even his lawyer?

Okay. I got distracted. Not-Chris-O’Donnell went to talk to Mr. Diggle to try and enlist him, again, into joining Team Vigilante For Justice. Roommate wants me to point out how creepy not-Chris-O’Donnell is when talking to the waitress who is also Mr. Diggle’s family member (which not-Chris-O’Donnell knows, I’m assuming, because he went snooping through Mr. Diggle’s personal life. You know, like friends do). Mr Diggle is not amused, and does not want to join Team Vigilante for Justice, and so Oliver uses emotional blackmail by telling him that the assassin that he “stopped” the other night had murdered Mr. Diggle’s brother. This is a compelling argument because…reasons? I feel like people who are against vigilante justice feel that way because they believe in the legal process, and justice, and staying within the law. Not because they have a stake (personal or otherwise) in deciding whether the vigilante’s victims deserve to be targeted or not. But that’s just me. Maybe there’s people out there who think that vigilantes only kill innocent people and are fine when they find out that vigilantes only kill people who deserve it?

Not-Chris-O’Donnell seems to rely on force of will and non-sequiters to persuade people to his arguments. Mr. Diggle says he doesn’t respect him, and not-Chris-O’Donnell responds by pulling his dad’s journal out of his pocket and shows it to him because…I don’t even know. Not-Chris-O’Donnell makes a lot of anti-capitalist arguments, and portrays the plight of the underprivileged in shockingly bad Batman voice, and argues that the plight of the underprivileged can only be avenged by murder. (Also if, as Roommate argues, Starling City’s manifestation of a capitalist system is not unusual–that is, that exploitative capitalism is a feature and not a bug–not-Chris-O’Donnell is really just getting started at just getting started. I look forward to the Starling City/Gotham crossover, and after that…the world!) “People like my father, they see nothing wrong with raising themselves up while stepping on other people’s throats.” Was this kid reading Trotsky on his desert island?

OKAY NEW THEORY: The show so far hasn’t actually done a fantastic job of showing us the human cost of living under the heel of the evil Starling City capitalists/evil doers. Like, watching any number of Batman movies or reading Batman comics, I totally understand, really quickly, why Gotham is not a great city to live in. I totally understand the human cost that the corrupt police department and rampant crime has cost that city. I don’t have that sense with Arrow, so far, which leads me to the entirely reasonable conclusion that Ollie actually went mad on the island and is enacting some kind of insane murderous delusion that he thinks is saving the city. We only have his word and his dad’s that the city is being poisoned from the inside out, after all. (Also, poison? Has it gotten into the water supply?).

Okay. We need to pause and talk about torture…
….
…..


……So. Who wants to start?

Skipping over a couple of scenes of the B plot that don’t matter, Arrow has gotten information from Laurel about the murder victim’s boss, who testified at the husband’s trial that the victim had never reported fraud to him (or whatever she reported) (the husband was convicted of his wife’s murder; Arrow is attempting to prove that the murderer was actually the wife’s employer. Arrow says that they have to get him to testify (again, AT WHAT? The trial is done, the execution is scheduled, there are no more hearings to testify at.) Not-Chris-O’Donnell basically says that he’ll do whatever it takes to get the boss to confess to perjury, and then channels his inner Spider-Man and sort of…grapple-arrows his way across the downtown Starling City skyline.

Not-Chris-O’Donnell then kidnaps the boss and chains him to a train track and threatens to put Boss on the 10:15 to “Bloodhaven” (is that an actual city that exists in comics or was not-Chris-O’Donnell making a funny?). Boss confesses to keeping evidence of corporate wrongdoing and murder in his desk. At work. His corporate bosses, who had his subordinate murdered, are working in the same building where he keeps evidence of her murder and their corporate wrongdoing. Also this evidence is three years old, and just hanging out in his desk.

Oh, and torture. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the last 15 years of the existence of Guantanamo Bay, it’s that torture works. As not-Chris-O’Donnell is demonstrating here with his murder train.

We detour to a bad wig flashback. A random man is rescuing not-Chris-O’Donnell, sort of, except his method of rescue is to give not-Chris-O’Donnell a caged live bird for him to kill and eat himself. Not-Chris-O’Donnell does not want to kill the bird, and it’s the saddest thing in the world. Poor sad, uncorrupted, innocent not-Chris-O’Donnell. Also the kid who is shipwrecked on a desert island has his shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck and it’s making me really uncomfortable.

Roommate wants to talk about the awesomely-written dialogue for a moment. Specifically the line, when Arrow hands her evidence that he stole after committing a violent felony that nearly ended in train murder, that, “as a lawyer, [she] never would have gotten a file like this.” Minds are changing as we watch, guys. You can see her opinions changing right in front of her eyes and it’s clearly a confusing experience for her. Like, of course you never would have gotten a file like this as a lawyer. Know why? Because it’s ILLEGAL AS FUCK AND NOT ADMISSABLE IN COURT. Laurel. Come on. You’re supposed to be the smart, down-to-earth one here.

I’m derailing talk of the amazing dialogue to talk about the legal system: We have illegally obtained files that are about corporate wrongdoing (not murder!) that Laurel can apparently use in the execution hearing that doesn’t exist to get a convicted murderer freed. Also she’s not even his lawyer. Also the files were stolen! From a guy who almost got murdered by a train! What is this justice system that exists!

You guys there’s still 17 minutes left in the episode and I’m getting really exhausted by this whole thing. Things are happening and half an hour ago I would’ve told you about them but I just can’t. Not-Chris-O’Donnell has frolicked off to torture a confession out of a corporate magnate and I just don’t care. Torture. Meh.

Final fight scene is the worst ever. I can’t even. There’s still ten minutes left in the episode but I’m done. Guy in prison gets magically released. Laurel is falling in love with the masked vigilante. The end.

Roommate says: “If I could fart right now, I would.”

Book Review: Armada

armadaThis review was first published on my Goodreads account over here.

Sigh. I really wanted to like Armada. I really, really did. I thoroughly enjoyed Ready Player One, and was looking forward to Armada, like, a lot. I had multiple coworkers (I work in a public library) on the lookout for Express copies for me (new books that have a different code in the catalog so they can’t be put on hold; they are grabbable on a first-come-first-served basis), and eventually got an ARC from the purchasing department.

But Armada fell completely flat for me. It disappointed me on so many levels. And I want to make this clear: It’s not disappointing just because I had high hopes and it didn’t measure up. It’s disappointing on an objective level. The narrator character (Zack Lightman) is kind of a terrible person (it’s one of those things that could be mitigated by a secondary character pointing out his shortcomings, which would at least reassure me that Cline knows what a selfish shit his main guy is; but since he doesn’t, the jerkiness is just left hanging out there with no repercussions which makes it annoying. More on this later), and the plot is predictable. Horribly predictable. Like my friend who read it predicted the ending when she was maybe 70 pages in, and when I got to the end and told her she was right (I read faster than she does), her response in Google chat was, “UGH! what? no. what? UGH. but also sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooo predictable.” She did not finish the novel.

Okay, so. I will try to avoid spoilers insofar as I can, but I’m also feeling like avoiding spoilers is kind of silly since, if you have any knowledge of science fiction tropes/classics at all, you will totally see the end of this book coming.

Zack Lightman is a high school senior. There is a spaceship shooter game that he spends all his free time playing (Armada). Then one day a flying saucer lands on the lawn of his school, and Zack discovers that Armada is a real battle against real aliens, and an international coalition of space ship fighters needs him to enlist in the real fight and save the Earth. This is probably as good a place as any to get into my “Zack is a selfish dickhead” argument: Zack establishes at the outset (and at every possible point thereafter) that his dad died when he was a baby and that Zack has spent a significant amount of his youth digging through boxes of nerd memorabilia that his dad left behind, in the apparent notion that knowing what movies your dad liked is the same as knowing your dad. He’s been raised by his mom, who has never remarried, and is still obviously in love with Zack’s dad. So when a flying saucer lands on his school lawn and Ray (Zack’s manager from his part-time after school job) steps out and says he needs Zack to join an intergalactic fight against aliens who want to destroy Earth, what does Zack do? Does he think, “No, I can’t do that, I’ll leave my already grieving mother all alone”? Does he say, “Hang on, let me talk about this with my mom, since we’re a family and our decisions effect each other”? Does he voice one single thought for his mother at all?

No. No he does not. Just fucks right off onto the spaceship. Look, I know teenagers are selfish jerks (I was a selfish jerk when I was a teenager), and Zack in particular spends way more time talking about and thinking about his dead dad than his live mother, but it seems like maybe Ray, or somebody, would have been like, “Oh yeah, and dude, before we join this deadly battle, let’s at least make sure your mom knows where you are so she doesn’t panic when the school calls her and tells her that her only son left school after almost getting into a serious fight with a classmate and that nobody’s seen him since.” But no. Everyone just fucks off to the battle and doesn’t tell his mom anything. When he does finally think of his mom, it’s to use her loneliness and grief to manipulate and hurt another character, not out of any spontaneous and standalone feelings of love or loyalty.

Speaking of the fight that Zack had been about to get into when the flying saucer landed. That fight? He’d been about to brain a rival classmate of his with a tire iron. Now, granted, in his viciousness and stupidity, the classmate in question is reminiscent of Biff from Back to the Future, but still, a tire iron? This after almost begging to get into a fistfight the day before, and several mentions of “The Incident,” a previous feud between Zack and neo-Biff, which was memorable enough that all of Zack’s classmates are demonstrably still afraid of him (and which, seriously, Zack should have been arrested and/or put into cognitive therapy over). Guys. This is not how you introduce an audience to a hero, even a nerd-hero who is meting out vengeance to a jock-villain. There’s a concept (and a book) in scriptwriting that is embodied in the phrase “save the cat.” I’m going to go ahead and cut and paste the definition from wikipedia: “a term coined by [scriptwriter Blake] Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice, e.g., saving a cat, which makes the audience like the hero and sympathise with him. [Snyder’s] inspiration for this was the movie Alien, where Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley saves a cat named Jones.” Ernest Cline has apparently never heard of this concept, since he introduces us first to Zack’s rage and second his daddy issues. If nothing else, this book takes place post-Columbine and every other damned school shooting, and my ability to tolerate cartoonish levels of violence and stupidity in stories set anywhere in the vicinity of a high school no longer exists (I’m from Littleton, hi, nice to meet you).

Just about every review of Armada I’ve read talks in depth about Cline’s constant referencing of nerd books/movies/video games, so I won’t go into it much here, except I agree that a) it’s everywhere and b) it adds nothing to the narrative. In Ready Player One, the nerd nostalgia added to the narrative. It moved the plot forward. Here, it does nothing but save Cline the effort of having to actually describe things, and frustrate the hell out of me because telling me that a spaceship hanger looks “straight out of Battlestar Galactica” tells me precisely absolutely nothing because I haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica (I know, I know. I should see Battlestar Galactica. It’s on my list). Describing things in terms of other things relies on being reasonably certain that your audience has seen those things, and in my case at least, Cline is severely overestimating his audience’s nerd-culture literacy.

I think I will spend the rest of the review telling you this list of plot point predictions that I made that turned out to not be true.
-This book could have been a surprise Ready Player One prequel. The aliens invade and, instead of humanity winning, the aliens lay waste to the Earth and several years after that Wade Watts is born. Since none of the world governments have revealed to the population that the aliens exist, we can go with the “global warming screwed up everything” reality that Wade Watts accepts at the beginning of RPO.
-Maybe Dad is really dead but the EDA (Earth Defense Alliance) killed him because he stumbled onto their plan. Zack finds out halfway through, after enlisting in the EDA himself.
-Somebody declines to join the EDA after being told of the alien invasion, or demands third-party verification of their claims of alien invasion. We find out if people are actually allowed to voluntarily enlist/de-enlist in the EDA.
-Decent female characters anywhere? Anywhere? Anyone that isn’t a love interest? Anybody?
-What if Zack and the other gamers decide that they’re not actually okay with the fact that Big Brother has been watching them and filling files on them for their entire childhoods, and rebel and overthrow the American arm of the EDA (because they’re the best gamers in the world this should be well within their capabilities), and China and Russia are like, “Well, I guess we’ll save the world from the aliens then since America’s defense arm has completely disintegrated.”
-Zack could be a female gamer who joins the EDA to save the earth, but then becomes so disgusted and discouraged by the misogyny and abuse and terrible jokes that she’s subjected to by the many minions of asshole male gamers who surround her in the EDA, so she leaves and goes home to her boyfriend (or girlfriend), who’s been wanting to spend more time with her anyway, and they have mindblowing sex until the alien apocalypse happens. SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SHUT WOMEN OUT OF GAMES, GAMERGATERS? THE PLANET BLOWS UP. Also, surprise Ready Player One prequel.

Random aside: Zack’s dad’s middle name is Ulysses and Zack’s dad’s dog is still alive (though ancient) and I hope you see and are as annoyed by this obvious nod to classic literature as me. Seriously, this is why there’s no worries about spoilers. The dad’s name is Ulysses. The dog is still alive. Worst broadcast of a twist in the history of ever.
Other random aside: In a world that has a wrist-watch gadget that can apparently instantaneously translate English to Chinese for the one Chinese character in the book, I’m incredibly annoyed by all the American characters who don’t even try to get their wrist-watch gadgets to translate Chinese into English so they can have easy conversations with the Chinese kid. All the burden of translation, if he wants to participate in the conversations at all, falls to the Chinese kid. That kind of sucks. Way to be ambassadors of American hospitality and openness, guys.

Just. Fuck this book. Seriously. I really really like Ready Player One, (there’s a review of it by me floating around on this site somewhere) and I really want Ernest Cline to keep writing, because I like the place that he writes from. I like Wade Watts (the narrator from Ready Player One), who is a flawed but decent person, who wants the world to be a fair and balanced place, who believes that even the schlubbiest nerd can be a hero. That’s the best side of nerd-dom, right there. That’s what I want to read.

Book Review: March (Book One)

marchThis review was first posted on my Goodreads account over here.

It can be hard to tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement. I think that, because we’ve all seen pictures and heard Dr. King’s Dream Speech, been told the broad strokes like, “The Freedom Riders did ______” and “The Montgomery Bus Boycott was _____,” it’s easy to think that it’s a story that you know. It’s kind of like the Holocaust–it’s a story that’s so huge, and been told so many times, that we forget that it took place on a small human scale, not not just a big social upheaval scale.

Congressman John Lewis’ memoir, written in the form of a graphic novel (also written by staffer Andrew Aydin, and drawn by artist Nate Powell), has been a pretty good antidote to that skittering, shallow version of history for me.

Book One starts with Congressman Lewis’ childhood in Pike County, Alabama; his early experiences on his family’s farm, his early call to ministry and social justice, his college years in Nashville, TN and the first sit ins and protests he participated in. The framing device of the story is Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, so we sort of switch back and forth between 1960-62 and 2009. Book One ends in the middle of the Nashville lunch counter sit in protests. (Book Two covers the remainder of the sit ins, Congressman Lewis’ experiences as a Freedom Rider, his elevation to SNCC chairman, and his speech at the 1962 March on Washington.)

Gone are the days when a couple hundred African-Americans can bring downtown Nashville to a standstill simply by taking up space at lunch counters, when just 80 people could fill a county jail and max out the criminal justice system for that day. We’ve expanded the criminal justice system exponentially, and become accustomed to criminalizing an enormous percentage of our populace in the process. How many people are arrested and processed every single day in mid-sized American cities?

What shocked me (it shouldn’t have shocked me, but kind of did) was not the behavior of the white people in the story, but the way that the police and white civilians worked together to attack, undermine, and refuse to work with the black people. The perpetuation of segregation in the South was truly the job of every white citizen, policeman, lawmaker, or shopowner. White businessmen closed their stores and left black customers sitting at lunch counters in the dark, undermining their own ability to earn money rather than give in to the demands for desegregated lunch counters. White police departments delayed responding to black protestors’ calls reporting violence and asking for protection, and let white vigilantes attack black people with impunity. White police officers, of course, arrested black protestors, and Bull Connor turned dogs and firehouses onto them. White people destroyed property rather than share space. I wonder how far they would have gone to protect their racist interests and power, if the federal government hadn’t stepped in. The mayor of Nashville crumbled when challenged; but Bull Connor and the mayor of Birmingham, it seems, would have happily burned down the entire South rather than give in.

The other thing that this book made me think of is that systems–whether racist or not–exist because the populace tacitly allow them to exist. We give systems power by complying with them. When you take away that compliance–when you refuse to ride the bus, when you sit at the lunch counter, when you register to vote, when you try to buy a ticket to the movies–you are upending the system’s ability to continue operating as it has. And that is the real power of nonviolence.

That’s a lot of rambling for a short book, I suppose. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Aydin, who wrote the text, have done something powerful, in spite of the relatively few words they used to do it; helped in no small part by Mr. Powell’s drawings that accompany. It’s a quick read–I got through it in about a day–but is not shallow. Quite the opposite. This is a massively important book that should be read. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I think, and I hope, that it will be read by people who might not normally pick up a memoir or a biography. If I was a middle or a high school teacher, I would be handing out copies to all of my students.

So good. So so so good. So glad this book exists.

And Yet We Are Still Not Moving To Starling City (Episode Three)

ollivergollumThis episode is called, “Emo and Dramatic.” I’m pretty sure that’s the official title.

So now, in episode three, I’m starting to become suspicious of not-Chris-O’Donnell’s methods. Maybe because we open with a super dark monologue/intro about how Starling City is controlled by corrupt bureaucrats who kill people with bureaucracy and who infect Starling City like a cancer. There’s lots of talk about cancer. Maybe this monologue would work if it wasn’t VO’d over shots of not-Chris-O’Donnell readying his arrows, because all I can think about is how you don’t shoot cancer with arrows, and that if the cancer is as entrenched and pervasive as not-Chris-O’Donnell says that it is, then killing individual people who perpetuate it will do nothing to eradicate the actual system that exists. To do that I think you need to avail yourself of the police, district attorney, and media outlets in your town (all of whom, so far at least, appear to be relatively non-corrupt). Corruption, at its core, is a social and systemic issue. I googled, and none of the typical methods of fighting corruption in business and government use arrows. (A casual perusal of a couple years of data also seems to suggest that global governmental corruption is increasing, though, so who am I to cast aspersions on new strategies?)

Oh Jesus. Know what I just realized? I just realized what Oliver’s doing. He’s murdering the competition. I know he says he doesn’t want to be part of the Queen Corporation, but that’s only because he hasn’t gotten to that part of his plan yet. He’s killing all of his rival manor lords, and protecting the little people of the city, and when all of the rival nobles are destroyed he will take his place on the throne of the Queen Corp and rule like a king in a castle. And all the serfs in the Glades will give him a measure of their bread every year and everything will be happy. He’s assembling a serfdom, you guys. Feudalism lives!

While I’m thinking about that, not-Chris-O’Donnell goes to shake down a rival nobleman, but before he can finish with his shakedown speech a sniper shoots the evil gangster capitalist. Oliver also takes a bullet to the arm before he escapes to his lair, the bullet turns out to be poisoned, Oliver takes an antidote just in time to not die but still spends most of the night unconscious.

Not-Chris-O’Donnell wakes up and rushes home to find his mother talking to cops, and immediately somehow intuits that the cops aren’t there to find him (son who’s been shipwrecked for five years and already kidnapped once and who has been missing all night and shown a tendency to slip his security detail, who is in fact here in the room with mom, and who also hasn’t seen not-Chris-O’Donnell all night).

“You look like crap,” says Lil Sis to not-Chris-O’Donnell. No he doesn’t! He looks chiseled and hot and impassive LIKE IN EVERY SCENE EVER. “He actually seems to have more color than usual,” says my roommate. Lil Sis leaves the room and Oliver steps up to give his mom parenting advice, which is another thing he picked up on the island (a list that so far includes: ninja fighting, archery, computer hacking, and a master’s in business administration).

And here we find out that Oliver speaks Russian. Something else he learned on the island, I suppose. He passes himself off as a member of the Russian mafia, or something, to get the other mafia guy to find the guy who shot the Lord of the Rival Manor. Mafia guy threatens to kill not-Chris-O’Donnell and his entire family. I think not-Chris-O’Donnell might be getting to the point where that’d be okay with him. His sister is now openly abusing drugs and alcohol and mocking anyone who says offensive things like, “Hey, stop getting drunk and go to school, you’re seventeen.”

We are also discovering through flashbacks that not-Chris-O’Donnell wasn’t alone on his desert island. Instead he was captured by a sadistic madman and tortured into what I can only assume, at this point, is some kind of epic-level Stockholm syndrome madness. Maybe he’s a sleeper agent. Maybe he’s a brainwashed automaton who’s been programmed to destroy Starling City. ANYTHING COULD BE GOING ON AT THIS POINT, GUYS.

Also in this episode we are introduced to a murderous psychopath sniper who tattoos the names of his victims on his own body, but who otherwise leaves no trace of evidence against himself. Not-Chris-O’Donnell brings an arrow to a gunfight and, unsurprisingly, fails to murder. He does steal the assassin’s computer, though. So maybe that’ll give him the information he needs until he can get a look at the dude’s body and take notes from his tattoos. He takes the computer to an IT worker at the Queen Corporation who looks like ADA Alex Cabot from Law & Order: SVU and who I will be referring to as not-Alex-Cabot if she becomes a regular cast member.

Lil Sis has really good grammar when she’s mouthing off to her mother. “Important to whom?!”

Not-Chris-O’Donnell figures out that the reason why the Manor Lord was murdered was actually just a ploy to be able to murder all the other Starling City Manor Lords, who are all showing up at an auction to buy Manor Lord’s assets. Not-Chris-O’Donnell also realizes that there’s no way he can protect 50+ capitalist gangsters who are all trying to buy stuff, so instead of calling Starling Police Department’s anonymous tip line or some such, he slams Detective Dad into a parked car and tells him he needs to provide security for the auction. Detective Dad does what he’s told, since this is concerned citizenry’s usual method for reporting planned crimes.

Also Murderous Tattoo Assassin Dude has a gun mounted on his wrist like a Transformer or something. This does not actually seem like the best idea (Assassin Dude is undoubtedly more coordinated than me. I would shoot off my own hand). It does him no good, though, because not-Chris-O’Donnell shoots him in the face with an arrow because nobody gets to kill corrupt manor lords except himself. Not-Chris-O’Donnell’s security guard is unexpectedly let in on not-Chris-O’Donnell secret identity, because he gets shot with a poisoned bullet and not-Chris-O’Donnell can’t let him die. (I really should learn security guy’s name, he’s definitely one of the least obnoxious characters so far.)

End scene.

More Reasons to Not Move to Starling City (Episode Two)

arrow2In case you missed the first post, me and Roommate are watching the WB series Arrow and I’m blogging about it until it gets good. Well, and potentially after it gets good, if I’m going to spend internet space making fun of it, I should, in fairness, also devote internet space when it gets awesome. If it gets awesome. In the last episode, a character who looks suspiciously like Chris O’Donnell got rescued from a tropical island, was reunited with his family, everyone got mad at him, he DIY’ed a secret lair from which to dispense JUSTICE(!), attempted to blackmail a nefarious businessman but ended up shooting him with arrows instead, and dispersed said stolen millions to the masses. Let us continue with our (anti) hero’s adventures in this, episode two.

We start this episode with not-Chris-O’Donnell violently avenging/blackmailing a rich corrupt person who I’m sure has been economically abusing the helpless. (How did we get the rich corrupt person on top of a rooftop? Not important.) “My family’s wealth is built on the suffering of others” Oliver tells us via voiceover. I know you’re referring to general abuse and corruption, not-Chris-O’Donnell, but this just makes me think that you don’t know how capitalism works.

We then cut to not-Chris-O’Donnell getting declared un-dead (zombie-not-Chris-O’Donnell?), which I thought was only a thing you could do in India, and involves a lot of flashbacks of Oliver’s dad shooting himself and seeing the island for the first time and a terrible castaway wig that I’m sure we’ll get to see again. And probably again. Laurel is at the courthouse, because she’s a lawyer, and she’s mad at Oliver again, which I totally support. You enforce those boundaries, girlfriend.

We see enough of a courtroom scene to see that Laurel is also fighting for justice (JUSTICE!), and then we cut to a sexy exercising montage with voiceover from Oliver about justice and carrying out his father’s dying wish. Apparently his father gave him a list of all the people in Starling City who deserve to die. How convenient. Also, excellent parenting, Dad. Most excellent.

Of course, in order to get to sexy exercising montage, not-Chris-O’Donnell had to slip away from his bodyguard again, which is starting to annoy his mother. She tells him she’s afraid he’s going to get kidnapped (which is either totally justified, because he already got kidnapped once, or totally baseless, because he’s already been kidnapped so it would seem that particular danger is past), which I think we all agree would be completely terrible because she might have to hug her son a second time or something. That would just be awkward. We must be really careful to stay away from creating situations that might make people feel things. Or have to pretend to feel things.

Lil Sis is still mad at Oliver (sorry, I mean not-Chris-O’Donnell. The actor’s actual name is Stephen Amell. The character’s name is Oliver), because he’s been home a week and all he’s done is avoid the family. He’s been home a week and all you’ve done is go to parties and be mad at him, so um, I’m not really feeling you on the “my older brother doesn’t want to hang out with me while I drink and do drugs” poutyness.

Detective Dad (that is, Laurel’s dad, who is a member of the Starling City Police) is meeting with Guy Who Owns the Port, who is the guy that was getting shot at in the opening scene. They argue about whether the police have the right to enforce laws, or if Detective Dad is just acting out of some kind of personal agenda. “I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions in check.” No, you’re not, Detective Dad. You’re really, really not.

Mom wants not-Chris-O’Donnell to take a leadership role in the company that the family owns. Not-Chris-O’Donnell, shockingly, doesn’t want to. Mom is disappointed. Very disappointed. I think she’s re-thinking being happy about having her son home. Maybe you should’ve just stayed on that island until you were ready to take over a multi-billion dollar company, not-Chris-O’Donnell. You mastered archery, computer hacking, and ninja fighting skills on the island. I’m sure the MBA was just about to come to you (Oliver actually makes a joke about getting an MBA while being stuck on the island. I might start to like this show).

The members of the press in this town apparently have nothing to do besides mob not-Chris-O’Donnell every time he steps outside. Is this what life was like for Andrew Carnegie? Bill Gates? Because it’s pretty intense. So far no members of the media seem to be investigating why Starling City’s most prominent and wealthy citizens are getting attacked with arrows, but maybe the police are keeping a lid on it.

Nineteen minutes into the episode and we discover what it’s about: Guy Who Owns The Port has been allowing a drug smuggler to use his port. Oliver is shooting arrows at GWOTP to get him to stop. Drug Smuggler’s Henchmen killed Blonde Girl’s Dad, who worked at the port and found out about the drug smuggling. Lawyer Laurel is prosecuting the Drug Smuggling Henchmen for murder but you know how hard it is with murderous conspiracy gangs. Drug Smuggler Supreme (a blonde Asian lady who is called China White because this is comics) obviously doesn’t want her henchmen convicted, and proposes killing the blonde girl who just lost her dad, because in this city it is apparently the victim’s family who controls the district attorney’s office. GWOTP says that that will bring down the formidable wrath of Laurel, so China White logically proposes that they just kill Laurel. The solution to problems with murder….is more murder! Yay.

See? Everything is totally simple and straightforward, guys.

Back in the house of awkward, Thea (that is, Lil Sis) has decided that the best way to express her pain to her brother about what she went through while he was gone is to bring him to the tombstones that his mom had erected out on the grounds that have his and his dad’s names on them. Holy shit, guys. That’s a selfish and kind of mindfucky thing to do to someone. He told you he was traumatized and not ready to talk about what happened on the island, and your response is to take him to his own memorial site and say, “I know it was hell there, but it was hell here too.” I know you’re a selfish 17-year-old, Thea, but your brother isn’t actually obligated to…I don’t even know what you want him to do. I guess he’s not shouldering his near-death experience in a way that is acceptable to you? Apologize for the absolute lack of control he was able to exert over his situation and subsequent stressing you out? How do you expect him to be all open and confiding when you act pissed off at him all the time?

Ollie feels super stressed out and guilty, so he takes his sadness to…Laurel. Who doesn’t want to let him into her apartment. I wholeheartedly support this decision. And she…oh, not-Chris-O’Donnell is acting sad, so we’re letting him in. No, this is a bad plan, Laurel, no, Laurel, don’t you remember your boundaries?

Cut to Laurel and Oliver sitting in her apartment and eating ice cream. No boundaries, then. Okay. Laurel tells Ollie to act like an adult to his mommy. This actually kind of reasonable discussion is interrupted by intruders with guns, and China White, who apparently carries out her own hits. That’s my kind of gangster kingpin. Not-Chris-O’Donnell and his bodyguard work together and foil the attack. They call the police (as you do), and Detective Dad is angry because the attack happened in Laurel’s apartment. Detective Dad wants to lock Laurel up rather than have her be in danger because of either not-Chris-O’Donnell or the drug mafia she’s prosecuting, even though….he’s a cop who’s in danger pretty much all the time. So it’s okay for her to fear for her dad’s life every day he’s at work, but he can’t handle it in reverse. Also, literally locking your daughter up is a healthy and productive way to deal with parental fear for one’s offspring. Okay.

In the meantime, Robin Hood(/Oliver/Arrow) is busy breaking up criminal gangs all by himself. My roommate points out that he’s been home a week and has already broken up like three crime rings, which makes me wonder exactly how the police force has been spending their time while he’s been away. China White and not-Chris-O’Donnell get in a fight, which is interrupted by the cops, so they break off and run away, and not-Chris-O’Donnell is stopped by Detective Dad, and he gives Dad an arrow that is also a digital recorder that recorded GWOTP’s confession to ordering the murder of Whistleblowing Stevedore Man/Blonde Girl’s Dad.

We end with not-Chris-O’Donnell interrupting a ground-breaking ceremony to tell people to stop expecting him to be his dad, which confuses me because I don’t think anyone was forcing him to say anything at this ceremony, or expecting him to be his dad at all. But he had to re-establish his reputation as a drunk, shallow playboy, I suppose. We also end with dark emo not-Chris-O’Donnell eyes and a flashback of bad-castaway-wig-Oliver burying his dad on the deserted island, and the revelation that Mom is part of the criminal conspiracy that apparently murdered her husband and son (not-Chris-O’Donnell doesn’t know this, only us). Oh, and then we end again with Oliver removing his and his dad’s tombstones from the ground. And then we end again (really this time) with another flashback to the island and Oliver getting shot with an arrow. ARROWS! I bet that ends up being significant somehow.