Thursday, 11 January 2018

Runaways - Table of Contents

Season One: 

Episodes 1-5
Metamorphosis
Refraction
Tsunami
Doomsday
Hostile

Runaways - I say we have to think about each other.

Runaways: 1x10 Hostile.

The best way to think about the two separate arcs on this show is the contrast between how the parents of the Pride and the kids of the Runaways interact with each other. In a central scene for the parents, Tina Minoru proposes murdering Leslie Dean, and the only way their already fractured group (as the Wilders have chosen a different path, and Victor is still in a coma) comes together again in in plotting against their newly found enemy, Jonah. Their cooperation isn’t based on love and respect for each other, it is a pragmatic solution to all of their children being lost, and there is no love lost especially between Leslie Dean and Tina Minoru, after Leslie reveals that she knew about what happened to Amy all those years ago and kept it a secret to protect Jonah. All of these sad, incompetent people have done nothing but betray each other in trying to manoeuvre for a better position, and Jonah had an easy time manipulating them into being pawns in his game. It is only now that they realise what they have been part of this whole time, and even think to ask questions about the mysterious energy source they’ve supposedly been digging for this whole time. They’ve been so busy struggling and doing Jonah’s bidding that it didn’t even occur to them to make the same logical leap that the Hernandezes made years ago: That what is buried deep beneath the Wilders’ building site is something else entirely, that could put the entire city, if not country and world, in danger. 

Contrast this with the bravery that the Runaways find in this episode when they are faced with an impossible opponent and odds that are stacked against them. It’s completely obvious from how the fight that started last episode continues here that Jonah can overpower them without much effort, and yet, they all get back on their feet once he thrown them, they all face them again, because it doesn’t even occur to them to give up. Even Alex, who brings nothing, even Nico, who has lost her staff and only source of power, even Gert, after Old Lace has been tranquilised by her father. They may disagree over what the best way is to take care of the group – significantly, Alex seems to argue over the group over individual safety when he advises to give up on both Karolina and Old Lace – but regardless of these differences, the main focus point is always the well-being of everyone, and their newly found camaraderie and friendship. They may threaten to fracture around methods and next steps, but their intentions are always good, and they care for each other deeply. Runaways feels different from some of the other current, dark Marvel shows, where having the moral high ground is usually not worth much, especially in light of the depravity and darkness of its villains, but I think it counts for a lot in Runaways, which is going a different path in terms of tone. 


So it happens that the scene with the most emotional resonance happens between Gert and her dinosaur – Arsenic and Old Lace, forced to part for a few hours, until Gert realises that Old Lace has enough of a will of her own to be able to disregard commands when she wants to stay with her. It’s an episode where she and Chase navigate the fall-out of last episode’s events individually, and mostly through Nico (who ships them hardcore), so that Gert’s other primary relationship – with a genetically engineered emotional support dinosaur, a lasting gift from the parents she can no longer trust – become the emotional bulwark against all the horrors of the world. 
Nico: We’re not leaving you. Don’t do this, please, I’m begging you. You can’t do this alone. I’m not leaving you.
Karolina: Nico, go. You have to go.
The greatest threat to the group is being split up. I like that Nico’s realisation of how much Karolina specifically means to her happens in small scenes – the vehemence with which she argues for them staying with her when she faces Jonah, and later her insistence that they do not leave her behind in the Church of Gibborim, when the others are ready to move on without her. Nico isn’t very open about her feelings, or expressive about her emotions, but she doesn’t leave a doubt here about how much Karolina means to her. She also understands the others well enough to know that the way to argue for her rescue is to remind them how much Karolina has fought for them, and how she chose to save them instead of running, which was always an option. Thinking about each other, instead of thinking about the group, means that none of them is expandable, and nobody will be left behind. 

The jail-break is a bit too easy for my liking in the end – they sort of manage to get Vaughn (Yawn) on their side, and Molly and Chase go undercover, and basically just wander in and out with Karolina, with very little resistance, which feels odd especially after the Wilders get turned away so effectively earlier. There is a hint here with a mysterious, anonymous text message, that Jonah has an inside man and maybe wanted Karolina to run (is he tracking her? Does he think it’s a convenient distraction for the other Pride members until he gets Victor back on track?). Of course, the idea of someone being a mole still hangs over the Runaways’, and Alex acts fairly sketchy in this episode, somehow curtailing a gun and a stash of cash from his father’s enemy in exchange for – something we do not see. Alex is still an enigma, because some of his actions do seem to be motivated by the fact that he doesn’t have any powers, or dinosaurs, of his own, and is struggling to gain more power and leverage somehow with the resources that he does have. My guess is that the mole thing will be a red herring, because the show has already diverged enough from the source material to get away with that massive edit, but we’ll see. 

It’s a perfect contrast: Leslie deciding to switch sides after Vaughn tells her that Jonah is claiming the church back for himself, Frank Dean still allying with him because it gives him a sense of power and control that he’s never had in his whole life, Tina grudgingly being incapable of avenging her daughter because Leslie still holds leverage over her. All the Pride members are deeply, profoundly broken, while their kids find love and support in their group. While Tina suggests that they all kill Leslie in the Yorkes’ basement, their kids are curled up together in the back of the van, ready to do whatever it takes to keep each other safe. 


And then there is also this: Nico, who spends the episode figuring out how Chase feels about Gert and how Gert feels about Chase while also fighting for them to save Karolina, gets the girl, in every sense. She saves her. She protects her. She looks at her with such pure desire that it blows away any doubts about whether this is just an experiment for her, or confusion. She kisses her first, this time, and Virginia Gardner manages to make Karolina glow without the special effects. It’s a completely amazing scene, one that I wouldn’t in a million years have hoped to get in the first season of this show (consider that these same characters are still years away from any of this in the comics, after about fifteen years). 

It all happens in spite of the rushed events in this episode, which culminate in what we’ve probably been waiting for this whole time: the Wilders, out of options, call the police on the kids, thinking it will help protect them. So…
Karolina: What do we do?
Alex: We run.
Random notes: 

For a season finale, this episode does feel a bit disjointed, with odd pacing and a few false starts and loose threads – it’s almost as if it is just a set-up for a second season, or a holding pattern, which is a bit frustrating considering that they were only given ten episodes in the first place. I’ve enjoyed this first season a lot, and I think the casting is absolutely perfect, but one of the questions this show will have to answer in its second season – which will at least have thirteen episodes – is how to juggle its many, many characters and give each of them enough story to create emotional resonance. And I would still argue that the kids deserve much, much more room to grow, and that the parents exist primarily in the background rather than in the foreground of their story, even if so many actors have done a stellar jobs with the roles (especially Brittany Ishibashi, who hits it out of the park here, especially in her scenes where she’s pitted against Leslie Dean). 

The Yorkes figure out that whatever is down in the hole is massive, and alive. 

There was some sarcastic commentary about how ill-suited these kids are for a life on the run because of their privileged upbringing – Gert still feeds Old Lace whole chicken from Wholefoods – that works pretty well here. 

Got some goosebumps when everyone put on their iconic outfits here, and even enjoyed the tongue-in-check failing at actually finding effective disguises. 

Nico snarking Chase about how they may have left him behind is even more effective considering that Chase would never ever leave any of them behind, plus the lengths he’s gone through in the comics to keep them all together. 

Jonah’s already disintegrating again, and I have bad news for Frank Dean regarding his future role in this whole thing. His future is going to be “bright” indeed. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Ground Below

Two incredible essays, to start off 2018:  
In the months before, traveling around the American South for work, between Louisiana and South Carolina, I’d had who knows how many mistranslations and confusions—but all of them were loaded, seemingly on the edge of violence. One day a cop pulled me over for pausing an extra five seconds at a stop sign. And one day a white woman held the door for me, only to slam it right back in my face. One day a group of white guys spat on an Arab friend of mine at the bar, and before we could do much about it they told us that this was their land, back to the old rules. It felt like I’d stepped into a new country. Or, not a new country, but a clearer one. One that made its intentions more obviously known. 
Catapult: The Space Between Us and the Ground Below Us, or: Why I Traveled to Japan, January 3, 2018 
What’s striking here is not Solanas’s revolutionary extremism per se, but the flippancy with which she justifies it. Life under male supremacy isn’t oppressive, exploitative, or unjust: it’s just fucking boring. For Solanas, an aspiring playwright, politics begins with an aesthetic judgment. This is because male and female are essentially styles for her, rival aesthetic schools distinguishable by their respective adjectival palettes. Men are timid, guilty, dependent, mindless, passive, animalistic, insecure, cowardly, envious, vain, frivolous, and weak. Women are strong, dynamic, decisive, assertive, cerebral, independent, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, freewheeling, thrill-seeking, and arrogant. Above all, women are cool and groovy. 
n+1: On Liking Women, Winter 2018

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Runaways - If there’s nothing left for us to do then let’s dance.

Runaways: 1x09 Doomsday.


In the historical excavation of how everyone has come to this point, what the Runaways (who have finally at least discussed this cool nickname for themselves, without fulfilling the inherent prophecy within it) and the viewers realise is that it is much harder to come to terms with what the parents have done over the last fifteen years if they have become fully fleshed humans. It is much easier to reckon with this fight against them, the clear-cut antagonism of unlikely and more or less unwilling heroes against villains, if they remain 2D versions of themselves, solely motivated by selfishness, even if that selfishness regards the future of their children. The television show here goes a different route and shows how, for those fifteen years, the parents have consistently been pressured, blackmailed, undermined, they have betrayed their own values, done horrible things, and all of that because Jonah – a charismatic and endlessly dangerous man – has threatened their children. It’s so fitting that this episode goes from the worst possible moment – the Hernandezes lab going up in flames ten years ago, after someone (the implication is Leslie) has thrown a bomb in it – to Tina Minoru, walking in on Jonah having a tea ceremony with her little daughter Amy five years before that. The kids are the stars of the show, and the characters we care most about, but what the show manages to do here is show how people can become utter shells of themselves if they are under pressure long enough, if they live a life of fear and despair for a prolonged period of time, so that none of their actions remain their own. And maybe Victor Stein has always been a terrible man, even all those years ago when he, an arrogant physics student, met his future wife, but maybe the very specific way in which Jonah kills people’s souls has just affected him the most. 

Victor Stein is out of the picture for the whole episode, so the next best person – second worst parent, maybe, if we leave out Karolina’s mother, who is far gone beyond any possibility of redemption – is Tina Minoru. In an episode of great emotional moments and revelations, it is kind of astonishing what Brittany Ishibashi accomplishes here. It’s so easy to regard Tina with the same mistrust and dislike that the others members of Pride have reserved for her, but all the more complicated to comprehend what a complex and pained person she is when we watch her go above and beyond to protect Amy, only to lose her. She seems to be the one among them, with the exception of Leslie, who has had to deal with Jonah the most, because he trusts her, and he knows how vulnerable she is because she loves her daughters so much. Isn’t it all the more effective, emotionally, that she is the one among them who has also lost that daughter, only to have the other daughter turn against her so violently? 

It goes back to the previous episode, to that question of what the Pride’s parental love is worth if all it makes them into murderous and killers of children. What is Tina’s fierce love for Amy worth if I led, more or less directly, to Amy’s death and the Hernandezes blowing up in their own lab after they realise that Jonah’s intention, and his promises of a renewable energy source, are so empty? This episode does it both: It humanises the individual members of the Pride by showing why they did what they did, while also so clearly showcasing how their willingness to betray each other, and feed each other to the wolves, means they are beyond saving. After all, they were all fully grown-adults, they had all the relative power in the world when Jonah approached them, and here are their children, with none of that power, making the deliberate decision to hold together as a group – in spite of their inner conflicts, of their fierce disagreements over what to do – standing up to all of Jonah’s awesome power. They do so knowing fully well what it cost the Hernandezes when they made the same choice, because they just watched the VCR tape with Molly (and what a performance that is from the Allegra Costa – capturing not just the grief for the loss of her parents, but also the painful truth that she never truly got to know them, while her friends all have the luxury of still being able to make choices about the fate of their parents). It is therefore all the more fitting that the nickname “Runaways” isn’t touted around as a description of who they are, or what they will eventually become, but a tribute to all those kids that were lost in their parents’ misguided attempt to save their own children over other people’s children. They couldn’t save, and they probably won’t be able to avenge, but at the very least they know that nothing is worth the moral depravity of sacrificing children to some space god who threatens your family. 

And all of this is hard, and this show wouldn’t be as emotionally moving if it weren’t, if it were easy for people like Chase and Karolina to except that their parents are terrible people not just in spite of, but because they were so willing to choose their own children over everything else in the whole wide world (literally, as they are working towards an apocalypse). Of course it isn’t easy for Chase to make that call, because he is still working through years and years of abuse and trauma, and can’t just let go of the idea that deep-down, the father who is now entirely unreachable to him is a good person, maybe just twisted into the monster that he was by a disease. Of course it isn’t easy for Karolina to fully embrace the idea that both of her parents are terrible people, not just her distant mother. So Chase blames his mum for the lies that amount to his life, and Karolina trusts Frank, because she is so desperate to hold on to the idea that there is one good parent left among them. 

Which brings us to Frank Dean – and the fact that he exists, that Kip Pardue has so perfectly impersonated a man who seems so hapless and nice on the outside, that Runaways went there to show how utterly dangerous it is when a painfully mediocre man spends so many years envying his wife’s power and then sees an opening to obtain his own. In this episode at least, between Leslie probably throwing that bomb that killed the Hernandezes and Tina becoming the person that she is now, Frank is the worst of them, because he showcases so perfectly that Jonah doesn’t even require any kind of alien technology, or actual power, to twist people into monsters. All it takes with Frank is a promise that he will be the leader of the church, that he will be more than a hanger-on, a little decoration. There is nothing more dangerous than the egos of mediocre men, and so Frank lets go of his one redeeming quality – not being mixed up in this mess, and being Karolina’s last hope – and betrays them all. 
Alex: What, it used to be a cool club!
Gert: It’s literally the club they use to show in every teen movie to show how uncool someone is.
Chase: Guys, come on, don’t take away his one thing.
Alex: You’re all assholes.
The one thing that stands between  - maybe the end of the world, if we believe the conclusion that Molly’s parents arrived at before their death – is the Runaways finding each other again after Chase’s betrayal. It’s each and every one of them realising that the greater good is more important than their individual opinions on how to approach this situation. The Hernandezes tape works like a rallying cry that manages to bridge their differences, because Alex in particular realises that what’s at stake is so much greater than the question of their parents’ culpability. They are digging down, and don’t even know, or care to ask, what the outcome will be. Remember the resources their parents have, in particular Chase’s and Gert’s – they are both brilliant scientists – and the fact that they chose to ignore what the implications are of Jonah’s empty promise that they are digging for renewable energy. They should know Jonah well enough to guess that this is a lie, that they have been the tools for a much more sinister end all those years. But none of them have the bravery to face that fact. 

Bravery means facing unlikely odds. There’s Molly, who has just been through the worst nightmare of her life, her adoptive parents sending her off to a woman she has no recollection of, with no way of making her own choices. She also has superstrength. There’s Chase, who’s father is in a coma and in the hands of a man who has no good intentions, who has just changed the course of his whole life because of a group of people that he discarded years earlier. He has built his own weapon, with his mind and his hands. There’s Karolina, who summons all the bravery in the world in this episode and doesn’t just face the fact that there are no good parents left, but also that the world is ending, and that she has to kiss the girl she loves before she runs out of chances to do so. So she holds Nico’s face tenderly, and bends down, and kisses her – and Nico kisses her back, and neither of them let go of each other even when Chase and Gert enter the scene. There’s Nico, who doesn’t just face the fact that her sister didn’t commit suicide, but was murdered, but also chooses her friends over her family, after years of being violently alone. There’s Gert – who always thought she was invisible – who dances with the boy she likes, who is honest about her feelings for once (even if it just lasts for a bit), who also has a freaking dinosaur. And there’s Alex, who has the keycard for his father’s building site. 

It was always going to come down to this moment, of the Runaways facing their own parents, and it’s the accomplishment of the show that this moment means so much more now – that it is a culmination of wrong and right choices, of two groups who are so disparate in terms of what they could have done to arrive here, and yet the least powerful ones, the teenagers, have chosen the good path over their parents. The core idea of the books was always that these kids don’t want to be heroes, that their lives force them to be, that they only want to stay alive – but these six kids here are already way beyond that, somehow. I’m so glad we will get at least another season of this. 

Random notes: 

This episode reveals that Molly got her powers from some of the samples that the Hernandezes dug up from the crater (which, I am assuming, would be the landing site of whatever craft Jonah came to earth with, but we don’t really know that yet). 

The fact that Alex could only contribute the keycard is also a solid reminder that the show needs to do some figuring out when it comes to his character in case it doesn’t go for the book’s twist. Genius hacker, I guess?

This is also a gentle reminder that in the 100,000 years that have passed since the first edition of the books came out, Nico and Karolina have been the most painful slow-burn in the world… whereas it’s literally been nine episodes for Nico not to pull back in show from that kiss, but in fact go in for more. Like, I don’t think this will go entirely according to Karolina’s plans still, and I think it should be taken into consideration that a few of Nico’s actions may be motivated by how she feels about Alex right now – but this is still pretty glorious. 

Also, Go Gert! Please stop self-sabotaging so much. 

WE’RE A FAMILY. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Runaways – I’m still here, and I deserve the truth.

Runaways: 1x08 Tsunami.


I keep coming back to this quote from the first season of Luther, where Alice is still weighing Luther up, weighing up her knowledge about him. She says “Love is supposed to dignify us, exalt us. How can it be love, John, if all it does is make you lonely and corrupt?” It’s a comment on the main character, whom we are meant to root for, making unsupportable decisions and justifying them with his motives. It’s a judgement on the very idea that acting out of love in and of itself justifies any deed. 

This whole episode swirls around that very idea. The big question at the centre of the show as well as the dangerous, ticking time-bomb that is threatening the Runaways’ unity is the question of why the Pride exists. Not just the Pride – which may as well simply be a tool for Jonah, who does not seem to care particularly about the individuals that make up the group – but the parents, as parents, in regards to their children. If they act out of love and protectiveness rather than selfishness and hunger for power, does that excuse the murdered teenagers, the many lives that have been taken in the pursuit of Jonah’s goals? Of course it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter why the Pride exists, its actions are heinous and inexcusable, but it’s a whole different story when you’re one of their actual children, and grappling with the actions of them as parents. It’s easy to say that regardless of their motives, the Pride deserves whatever fate would await it if the Runaways published the videos that Alex is decoding – but a whole different story if you’re Chase and your only hope to see your father as a loveable human man depends on the Pride not going to jail. 

There is almost a discord in this episode – between the comical uselessness of the Pride and their handling of Victor’s impending death, and the genuine sorrow and rage that drives Chase to choose a path that is so hurtful for his friends. It’s very simple to be highly amused by the way that these parents are not actually friends, in fact hate each other so much that they’d be all too willing to sacrifice each other as long as they get off clean – but at the same time, this episode also shows Chase holding on with all his might to the idea that his father is a good man, that all of his bad deeds, all of his violence against Chase and his mother, were the result of a brain tumour. It’s horrifying to watch how Chase can disregard that violence so easily just because he is so hungry for a second chance with Victor Stein, while his mother is literally mopping up the blood that is, more or less, the direct result of Victor’s abuse of his family. Runaways here is a portrayal of all the insidious aspects of family abuse, the complicated emotional connections, the conflicting priorities, the self-manipulating decisions. 

And in the end, perhaps it won’t even matter that much whether what Alex found will be released or not, because this whole time, two other threads are spinning towards the end of the Pride. Molly, sent away by the Yorkes (and I will say for them that neither of them ever leaves a single doubt that they consider Molly their child, that they are acting out of wanting to protect her the same way they would Gert), discovers a secret message left to her by the Hernandezes, who perhaps didn’t trust the Yorkes as much as first thought. The trail leads to a videotape (which, comically, Molly, being 14 in 2017, fails to identify), and perhaps a whole new collection of proof against the Pride. And at the same time, Nico, after Alex reveals to her that Amy managed to hack into Wizard but also got caught up in the surveillance that followed, finally finds her sister’s lost mobile phone, which will finally reveal that Amy probably didn’t commit suicide after all, but found herself trapped in the Pride’s power moves somehow. 
Nico: Alex, there is no explanation that would justify you having this information and just sitting on it, knowing that I can barely stand to be alive, thinking that I did something, or that I missed something..
Alex: I missed something. I’m the one who should have seen it coming. I’m the one who should have done more. Who should have stopped her.
This whole story-line is heart-breaking, because we never really get much of a sense of Nico before the loss of her sister, but at the same time the show makes it so clear how traumatic her loss was, and how much she has transformed since, not just physically but mentally. Alex kept secrets from her, secrets about her sister Amy, and this is very likely an unforgivable transgression. Alex knew that Tina Minoru had Amy’s computer hacked, that she put one of Wizard’s security guys on her (although it remains unclear in the episode if the guy revealed to Tina that Amy was the perpetrator, or if Amy simply drew her own conclusions). So much of the tension in the show, at least for viewers who’ve read the books, still comes from the question of Alex’ choices, and where he will go in the future, but I think the way this played out – his genuine grief for the loss of his friend Amy, his feeling responsible for her death – hints that the show will depart profoundly from its source material here, and if anything, will only leave traces of the great reveal of that first volume in how it approaches Chase (and maybe Karolina, who betrays everyone’s trust here more or less unwittingly). 

The greater thread here is people doing awful things while having good intentions. The Yorkes make Molly’s greatest nightmare come true when they send her away, but they truly do it out of love. Chase hurts his mother profoundly when he chooses Victor’s side, because he is so trapped in the dynamics of his abusive family. 
Janet: I could have done something else, I could have invented something and changed the world. But instead my life became about managing the brilliant Victor Stein. So you guys, you all took Jonah’s gifts and you got success and fame, and I got an abusive megalomaniac.
Janet’s story is so tragic. She finally slayed her beast to protect her beloved son, and yet, Victor is so important to the Pride (maybe the only truly important member) that all of them basically raise hell to save him. It goes to the point where Jonah asks her to sacrifice herself, and it’s only the complicated network of relationship and intimacy that saves her (Robert is about to sacrifice himself, but Tina intervenes and destroys one of Jonah’s magical boxes). 
What worth does all of that parental love have if all it leads to is to kids, being led to their death in these rituals? What value does it have, if the sole result is death and destruction? All of that love, in this episode, leads to Molly’s despair, to Chase’s fury, to Amy’s pure fear, when she sent off that last message, that someone had found out and was coming to the house. 

Random notes: 

A beautiful dynamic here, as well, when Chase’s first instinct after the catastrophe is calling Gert (the call goes to voicemail), then Karolina, who in turn responds by calling Nico first. 
“If Chase needed you, why would you even call me? Why didn’t you just go straight to his place? Because you don’t wanna be alone with him. Because he kissed you… and you don’t like him, you like Nico, who likes Alex. We should go right away. I’ll drive.”
I think they’ve finally turned a corner with Gert and Karolina in this episode, it’s such a relief, because they make the best of friends. 

When Karolina finds Frank in the Stein’s mansion, she tells him… something, that happens off-screen, but very likely it’s something she shouldn’t have shared with a parent who is so dangerously unrooted and mostly acts out of jealousy of his wife’s secret life. 

“Also Lacrosse sticks are not the cure-all for everything.”
Stacy: I’m willing to say I’m Spartacus if everyone else is.
This sums up the Yorkes so well. 

And there are so many golden moments when the Pride tries to decide who should go into the box. 

What about Dale, what’s so great about Dale, what has Dale ever done for Pride?
Robert: Why don’t we just get Frank put him in the box, he’s not even in Pride.
Leslie: Not the worst idea. 
Dale: When my girls are involved, that’s where I draw the line.  Now somebody is getting in the goddamn box and personally I don’t mind if it’s Tina, that’s my vote.
Jonah says that the only person who knows how to make the boxes is “legally dead”, which makes me wonder – because the wording is so peculiar that it doesn’t seem to refer to Victor, who for the most part seems to have simply attempted to figure out how they work. There are quite a few people who are legally dead, obviously, including Jonah himself, Amy, and the Hernandezes. 

I mean the subtext in this episode is clearly that the Runaways are a team of people who love each other while the Pride is an assortment of families who absolutely loathe each other, hence why they will never win this game, but how we get there is pretty entertaining for an episode that was focusing on the Pride's perspective of things, which so far have been my less favourite ones in the season. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reading List: December.

Non-Fiction: 

Malcolm Harris: Kids These Days. Human Capital and the Making of Millennials. 
Svetlana Alexievich: The Unwomanly Face of War. An Oral History of Women in World War II.

Fiction: 

Nnedi Okorafor: Who Fears Death. 
Jeff VanderMeer: Borne.
Sally Rooney: Conversations with Friends. 
Qiu Miaojin: Notes of a Crocodile. 
Anne Garréta: Sphinx.
James S.A. Corey: Persepolis Rising.

Films: 

Princess Cyd (2017, Stephen Cone).
Thelma (2017, Joachim Trier).
Baka Bukas (2016, Samantha Lee).
Mudbound (2017, Dee Rees).
Columbus (2017, Kogonada).
Thor: Ragnarok (2017, Taika Waititi).
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, Jon Watts).

Shows: 

Riverdale, Season One. 
Search Party, Season Two 
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season One.

Other: 

Feist (live @ Forum Melbourne).
Mitski (live @ Howler).

Shows of the year

Best new show: 

The Bold Type

This top spot could have gone to Sweet/Vicious, a short-lived television show about the impact of rape culture on women who try to live a normal life on campus, a show that was marketed as a revenge fantasies against rapists but was really much more about the importance of mutual support and strength. And then, a few months later, The Bold Type appeared, and somehow insisted on being the opposite of every single expectation that you might have in a show that is about three friends working for a New York fashion magazine. Where Melora Hardin's (finally in a fantastic role after what Transparent did to her) boss should have been vindictive and hard to deal with, she was supportive and a feminist role model, always more concerned with the well-being and the progress of her employees than the bottom line of her paper. Where the three women - Jane, Kat and Sutton - should have been played against each other in the hamster wheel that it 21st century millennial career progression, the show always prioritised their friendship and unconditional support over their romantic lives. It showcased their ambition without turning it into something ugly, it sneered at stereotypes about successful and driven women, it succeeded in everything it attempted. 


A show deliberately growing beyond the limitations of the novel it is based on, thriving on the incredible contributions not just by Elisabeth Moss, but also Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovsky and Alexis Bledel - a horrifying portrayal of a world built on hypocrisy and lies, a weaponised misogynist dystopia, in which carving out a space for resistance is incredibly hard and costly. Also, very well-timed.


Consistently since the beginning of this show, my two favourite things have been Sonequa Martin-Green's performance as Michael Burnham and the fact that this is so very much unlike any previous Star Trek show, in every single way, including how it privileges the perspective of one single crew-member over the usual format of focusing on a whole crew. This is Star Trek in the 21st century, and its portrayal of the Discovery as an almost rogue ship, far removed from any Federation directives, is unique and terrifying. We will see how the show will handle issues of continuity going forward - and still, my biggest question remains unanswered: is Benjamin Sisko still with the Prophets? 

Mindhunter

I consider this a comedy show about serial killers, as much as that is possible, or rather, a startling portrait of failed human being Holden Ford, establishing an entirely new discipline at the Federal Bureau of Investigation while also becoming an increasingly more failed human being. Let's hope season two gives us more of Anna Torv's smirking goodness and the hilariousness of her being stuck in a basement with these two human disasters. The show also thrives on actors perfectly impersonating serial killers and finding comedic elation from Ed Kemper's odd way of relating to other humans when he isn't killing them (also this show would probably fail utterly if anyone but Jonathan Groff were playing Holden Ford, which would be a worth a whole separate investigation into how to humanise straight white men).

Alias Grace

Runaways

Riverdale

Pretty Little Liars is dead, long live Riverdale, which is like if the most absurd and surreal episode of PLL had been turned into a whole show. Minus points for falling into the same traps of the merry-go-around, taking its bland central character too seriously (as if the Pussycats WOULD EVER background sing for Archie Andrews), major plus points for going all the way down the rabbit hole with Cheryl Blossom, who is en-train of out-Monaing Mona Vanderwaal.

American Gods

I'm still in two minds about the success or failure of this show, as my favourite parts of the novel will presumably happen in season two: for now, the one thing that will stick with me is how perfectly cast Ricky Whittle's Shadow Moon is, but more than that, how much Emily Browning's Laura haunts me. I think this is in good hands with Bryan Fuller, and has a lot of potential going forward, but maybe lacks a bit of focus and coherence (also, as of November 2017, now lacks Bryan Fuller).

Godless

Billed as a feminist Western that could have potentially been fantastic had it actually focused more on that idea - instead, an unflinching portrayal of the unforgiving frontier, dominated by profoundly physically and mentally damaged men who inflict harm and pain upon everything they touch. Great performances by Jeff Daniels, Jack O'Connell, Michelle Dockery and Scoot McNairy (although his character here feels like another variation of Gordon Clark), but Merritt Wever runs circles around all of them with her tender butch portrayal of a leader who cares too much about people who don't care enough.

The Good Fight

This made me realise how much I missed the very specific smart-ness of The Good Wife, the way it played off on contemporary issues and commentated on the news, always from the perspective of women. The central trio of Cush Jumbo, Christine Baranski, ad Rose Leslie hits it out of the park.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Fast-talking comedy about a Jewish housewife who separates from her husband to begin a career in stand-up comedy. Surprising, heart-felt, funny as hell, and carried by the double-effort of Rachel Brosnahan in the magnetic titular lead and Alex Borstein as her cynical and laconic manager who immediately recognises her original talent for making people laugh.

Best show: 

Wynonna Earp

THIS SHOW THO. Eloquently handling real life events, the heroine of season two is a pregnant Wynonna, battling for bodily autonomy against demons and greater institutions bent on owning her. In 2017, with everything that happened and is still being revealed, it is becoming harder and harder to reference Buffy and not feel eternally sad about what could've been - but in many ways, this is it, and it feels like Wynonna Earp enjoys the anarchic artistic freedom to be whatever the fuck it wants to be, including a show about gays who can survive anything, including death. This is also a show about found families, coping with being the chosen one, and destroying the patriarchy demon by demon. 


Best show about space, the terrifying things that lie beyond, and the eloquent ways in which capitalism would determine the development of space exploration. Plus, the best crew. 

One Mississippi

I was a bit disappointed with the most recent seasons of Transparent, especially in terms of still finding kindness for the obscure characters and their terrible choices. Comparably, One Mississippi is always kind, and yet manages to deal with the world as it is: it confronts racism, sexism, sexual assault, grief, the difficulty of living authentically with family secrets. In the end, it's all about love, and how much taking those kind of risks is worth. Tig Notaro is fantastic, and the (real-world) love story between her and Stephanie Allynne's Kate is the beating heart of this show (when it isn't, secretly, Tig's stepfather Bill).

Mr. Robot

At its best, this is a delirious show building up slowly to a crescendo of things falling into place in ways that would be hard to predict. This season, as captivating as Rami Malek has always been as Elliot, Carly Chaikin has proven to be a scene-stealer coping with the fall-out of their initial hack as well as the death of her lover and friends. Same goes to Portia Doubleday, whose Angela literally completely lost the plot. This show is at its worst when it tries to serve the Fight Club crowd, or plays into internet message board conspiracy theories and discourse, and at its best when it portrays broken characters trying to fix their terrible choices. Also, Agent Dom (Grace Gummer), sadly barely in this season but heartbreaking whenever she is.

Better Call Saul

I always forget about this show in-between seasons which means it never really makes it into this list, as it premieres so early in the year. Barely any other show manages to build tension so effectively and slowly, but the stand-out this year was Rhea Seehorn, and the forever question of what is going to happen to Kim Wexler between here and Breaking Bad, and how she will escape Slippin' Jimmy's inevitable downward spiral into Saul Goodman. Also, where will this go now that Better Call Saul will be without its greatest villain Chuck?

Also: Top of the Lake, Stranger Things, Master of None, Game of Thrones, Broad City, Line of Duty.

Honorary mention: 

Search Party
American Vandal

Saddest goodbye: 



Underground

It is an absolute travesty that Underground didn't get a third season. The second season is completely astonishing, and focuses on Rosalie's journey - doing impossible things to protect her unborn child, and the mission she now shares with Harriet Tubman. This show is about freedom in the face of impossible odds, and the dear toll that the fight against slavery takes. Underground would have deserved many, many more seasons. 


See under The Bold Type. This show is necessary, and it is a terrible loss to not have more seasons of it. 

Sense8

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