Favorite Shows

May 8, 2020

A list of my favorite shows, including some comments, in IMDB. This is and will be a work in progress. Feel free to leave comments and recommendations here.

 

 

Picard S01E07 – Nepenthe

April 25, 2020

I wasn’t planning on getting to how “ST:Picard” is richly layered just after casually dropping that in the previous post, but “Nepenthe” is so much about that, that it makes it hard to avoid the opportunity.

As with the “Mystery Box” idea, this isn’t just about continuity, but of course a lot of it is. This episode relies heavily on TNG nostalgia – it has an almost-fan-fiction feel to it in the sense of owing to who Picard, Troi and Riker were from a somewhat-idealized point of view.

But what’s of even more interest is how the episode weaves in tales from the years between TNG and ST:P that explain who the characters became, allowing it to add rough edges that create good drama. Again, that’s not to say TNG didn’t know how to do good drama (admittedly it has been a while since I’ve watched it). It just did so with stories that had a tight focus, despite being an ensemble show.

Not so in this episode: Troi has a child and lost a child, so she gets to be compassionate and emphatic, but also brutally honest and worried to the point of fear. Riker’s experience as a parent, coupled with his relationship with Picard, makes it safe for him to criticize Picard, who in turn is faced with his lack of experience in that area. Picard admitting to everyone that his driving force is first and foremost a need to make his life meaningful seems very much like an evolution of his character, both in the context of Picard and in the context of TNG (I’m reminded of TNG’s Tapestry, where he sort of admitted that to himself).

But The Big Three are not the only thing that’s layered here. Kestra, Troi and Riker’s daughter, is a trekkie who knows all about her parents’ adventures, but she also has several imaginary worlds of her own. Her wall, and her dead brother’s wall, are full of drawings of those worlds, and she speaks several imaginary languages. Kestra’s imagination serves Soji’s plot and her struggle to find inner value after finding out she’s not “real”, but it’s also an incredibly rich way to introduce Kestra. We find out that Thad’s imagination developed out of the necessity of living in starships. What’s more between the lines is how living on Nepenthe, now stranded from the stars, had shaped Thad and Kestra further, and how Thad’s death had also shaped Kestra. And while it doesn’t serve Soji’s plot directly, it serves Kestra’s depth. This, in turn, makes her more sympathetic, to the point we barely notice her “not understanding” Soji’s complex situation and saying things that only serve to worry Soji further when she’s already on edge.

Before you say: “Well, children are always sympathetic”, think back to TNG – hell, think back to Buffy, or Angel. The reason the child in those shows is considered unsympathetic by some, is precisely because you have a main character that doesn’t get along well with them – and the show tries to make you sympathetic *to that*. As with Picard’s approach to politics, the show manages to show both sides of things, by having enough details in the background to make you sympathize with characters that would have been easy to hate otherwise.

Asides from that, this episode has several themes, conveyed through an insane amount of detail. To tackle one,  Soji’s journey is not a repeat of Data’s quest  – which was to achieve humanity – but rather brings to mind the “what’s real” theme of TNG’s holodeck episodes. Here, though, that theme is explored in reverse – rather than having the characters doubt just what’s real *around them* or what’s the way back to reality, this episode has Soji questioning whether SHE’S real, or indeed whether ANYTHING is real. And that ties into Kestra’s character, and into tomatoes, and into Soji deciding whether to trust Picard.

But it’s also an episode about language, family, and food. Don’t even get me started on food, the episode starts with a pastoral shot of a bunny that probably becomes dinner later. I think that’s a positive note to stop with.

Don’t get me wrong – just like the questions from the mystery box, not all of the details the episode throws at the viewer are deeply connected to each other and everything that’s not specifically stated on screen isn’t “canon” by any means, but the amount of details and connections, and the suggestion that more exist, is just a different way to tell a story than the way Trek used to tell one. And “more” is not necessarily better, of course. But in my mind bringing this kind of storytelling into ST justifies this iteration just by being, well, different.

 

Picard S01E06 – “The Impossible Box” – Spoilers

March 28, 2020

“Star Trek: Picard” isn’t being produced by J.J. Abrams, it’s being produced by Alex Kurtzman, who worked with Abrams and Damon Lindelof on the recent Trek films. But really, there are the two things that I could think about that link Picard with Abrams’ and Lindelof’s creations. The first, which I might get to in a future post, is how they’re richly layered (I have to say this isn’t to diss classic Trek about *not* being that layered, but I just don’t want to dwell on that – yet).

The second is what Abrams calls “The Mystery Box”. Abrams dances around this in this video (I mean, he barely touches on it, but it’s still fun to watch). But eventually what this is about is raising questions. Not only in the sense of the existence of continuity and not having self-contained episodes, but in the sense of raising so many questions, it would be impossible to give an answer to everything in the scope of the series, or maybe even the show – you just have to answer some of them.

Abrams didn’t invent that, or even bring that into genre TV – The X-Files did that with skill long before Abrams did. However, it was Abrams and Lindelof’s Lost that expanded on that idea, to the point the writers admitted they came up with mysteries before knowing whether and how they were going to answer them. So all of those questions are up in the air and keep the viewers interested, and then the show just chooses the paths it wishes to go down, making sure to raise even more questions in the process, some of which would not be answered. While in theory this sounds like something that would be frustrating to watch, the reality is that it works. We forget things that seemed important a second ago, let alone a week ago (but that’s one reason why I still prefer my TV weekly rather than in Binge – it’s a trade off between forgetting things and thinking deeply about others).

All of that comes into play in a very specific way in s01e06, which is the Soji/Narek/Narissa plot. The last we saw them was in s01e04, at which point there were really two big mysteries within that plot: the first, being Soji’s origin, The other is what exactly happened on the Borg Cube. Those two mysteries complemented each other – with Ramdha being the center of Soji’s investigation which in turn produced information about Soji, and Narek taking an interest in the cube despite Soji being the center of his investigation.

Two weeks later, and we’re left only with Soji’s origin. So the Borg Cube question gets abandoned, but the reason that we don’t care is that two weeks have passed, and also that the episode raises all sorts of new questions (some of which it does answer): What’s in Narek’s box? What’s Narek’s real name? Why does Soji dream? So all of these are either distracting or interesting enough for us to forget about finding out what happened to the Borg Cube. Which is also funny because the rest of the episode is still very much about the Borg Cube, just not specifically about its history.

Picard’s trauma from his time as part of the Borg is handled with far better care in this episode than in the previous one – there’s obviously the wonderful shot of him staring into his own image as a Borg, and we can see his emotional journey in transforming from his decisive statement about the Borg not being able to change, to saying that they’re victims rather than monsters by the end of the episode. The relaxed nature of his tour of the cube with Hugh doesn’t exactly sit with the viewer knowing that Narek and Narissa are already deep into manipulating Soji, and that Picard already has reason not to dwell on things before finding her – but then again, he sort of does. This does sit well with the politics of the earlier episodes, facing off conservative and liberal views with each other – this time, within the same character.

What was a bit jarring to me was Jurati and Rios jumping into bed together – having that happen just after she had just killed her former lover was a bit weird, but also virtually any kind of plot trying to make the viewer feel for Jurati at this point is a bit of an issue. Rios, on the other hand, just hasn’t been established enough as his own character at this point. I also think that having the TNG theme pop up after the crew use Raffi to get into the cube comes off wrong somehow.

But other than those small issues, this is really the episode where the show came together – with a dynamic of answering just enough questions and asking new ones, and having Picard and Soji finally meet while separating them from the rest of the characters in their respective plots.

Picard S01E05 – “Stardust City Rag” – Spoilers

March 6, 2020

Thoughts on whether “this episode was too violent for Star Trek” and some other points.

First and foremost, television should be entertaining first, and educational later. As long as in choosing to represent violence on screen a show does not send a very wrong message, I don’t think that it should be criticized for doing so. TNG often chose to avoid displays of violence: that was not only a powerful message about problem solving but more importantly, a fresh and therefore entertaining way to tell a story. But that does not mean that not making that choice can’t be fresh and entertaining in its own way.

Michael Chabon went into a long explanation of why this episode fits within Roddenberry’s vision. While I appreciate Chabon taking the time to discuss his work and I agree with some of his points, I think that’s not the right question to ask. Star Trek, as a franchise, isn’t just Roddenberry’s vision. It is something that grew and explored strange new ideas and new ways to tell stories, and it should continue to do so. So there’s a place in it for violence and sexuality and a whole lot of other things that Roddenberry probably wouldn’t have been happy with, and that’s OK. Not only because finding the way to a better mankind is a process that keeps changing and evolving, but mainly because that is also true for making a good TV show.

However, what doesn’t make a good TV show is a twist that doesn’t have enough basis in the plot. The best shockers are those that evolve out of an ongoing plot – the ones where the viewer is led to think things will end up one way, but once they don’t it’s pretty obvious why they ended the other way (Ned Stark is a prime example). Seven’s transformation into a murderer isn’t such a twist, because Seven was re-introduced just now, with a hefty amount of flashbacks required to do so. In his explanation, Chabon goes into why things seem a bit sudden in a 10-episode season, but that just means Seven’s plot should’ve been spread across the season, or not incorporated at all.

But that’s not the only thing in this episode that shifts away from what the viewer is familiar with in Trek. While, again, departures can generate interesting plot, I found those in the episode to be a bit sudden – if it’s the costumes (which I guess you could consider to be a reference to the Holodeck episodes, but it didn’t really end up working in the same way), or what is either lack of thought or a deliberate attempt to shatter the illusion by incorporating an actress that looks a lot like Marina Sirtis. Those things attract the wrong kind of attention – while watching the episode they became the topic of the conversation rather than subtle references.

All of that wouldn’t have mattered if the episode had the right amount of tension leading up to the climax, but I think it sort of failed at that as well. The scene with Seven threatening Bejazel just didn’t work – rather than maintaining the impression that Bejazel is menacing, the episode just reversed Seven and Bejazel’s roles by having everyone too afraid of Seven to try something even when she lets down her guard. A friend of mine used to point out how Trek solutions were sometimes too convenient, and while this scene did not feature a typical Trek solution it was unfortunately too convenient as well.

 

Picard S01E04 – “Absolute Candor” – Spoilers

February 14, 2020

OK, So Picard’s politics are interesting enough to fill another post. We’ll see whether that continues.

Translated from my comments in Hebrew here.

  • Romulan warrior nuns, whoever thought that would be a thing? Apparently, the writers of ST:P. It’s pretty awesome that we get to see cultural variety in a race that was once portrayed as one-dimensional, and also awesome that despite the fact they have a philosophy of candor, it’s not the only thing that shapes their personalities: the episode makes the point of first introducing us to them and only then explaining their philosophy, which humanizes them in a way that’s pretty refreshing to see in Trek.
  • Soji’s plot is still moving at a very slow pace, but the romantic scene with Narek was well done (even better than Chabon’s previous attempt to marry Star Trek and dancing, the short trek Calypso), and the moment in which Soji tilts her head in surprise on hearing one of Narek’s comments it not only a great tribute to TNG, but also a way to get the audience on board with Picard’s notion that Soji is a descendant of Data.
  • Jurati is obviously a character that is meant to help new viewers into the show, by having a character that’s clueless about just about everything except her specific profession – when thinking about it, an excellent anti-trope for know-it-all-scientist trope – but is also a character which makes the viewer constantly wonder whether she’s a spy for commodore Oh, asking whether a meeting is secret and being annoyed at a philosophy which is built around candor. It worked better in the current episode than in the previous one, but to be honest the team dynamics of the show still aren’t very interesting. At some point before the show I wondered whether the plan was for Picard to launch the show and fade into the background at some point. The first four episodes make it clear that this isn’t happening any time soon.
  • This episode did not feature a direct confrontation with the human opposition to the Romulan rescue (which I talked about in the Watchmen post), but sort of did ask whether the rescue was a good idea to begin with. The show doesn’t bother with giving us an estimation of the losses that may have been avoided by a continued rescue (and that bothers me), but it does emphasize the importance of doing the right thing despite an expected failure, which is what Picard didn’t end up doing and what he tries to do in this episode.
  • Picard’s outfit in the flashback definitely says “Colonialism”, and that in itself is a pretty weird thing to associate the protagonist with. Add to that Picard teaching The Three Muskateers to a Romulan child (Picard! A character that became a symbol for cultural exchange, rather than one-sided storytelling). This isn’t a perfect metaphor as the federation doesn’t actually settle Vashti, but the third-world feeling is also evident in the Federation’s abandonment of Vashti, which is reminiscent of the west arming resistance to the soviets and the abandoning that resistance, or bad attempts at humanitarian aid. The confrontation Picard gets into in the end of the episode is interesting in that context because Picard invites it by entering a place where he’s not welcome, but what he’s armed with is an apology. The idea of dialogue instead of violence is obviously deeply rooted in Trek and specifically the character of Picard, but here it is used in the context of past sins against a population: the episode warns that apologizing for them is hard and even dangerous, but also makes the point that it is the right thing to do.

On the politics of HBO’s Watchmen and Star Trek: Picard

February 8, 2020

I’ve tried writing this on Twitter, and then finally realized this was way too complex to put into several tweets. So here goes. Spoilers for HBO’s Watchmen, and for Star Trek: Picard’s first three episodes.

I’ll start by saying I’m a fan of DC’s Watchmen, and also a fan of Damon Lindelof’s work (Watchmen’s producer) – I liked Lost and his two Trek films, and I had just finished watching The Leftovers as HBO’s Watchmen began, and thought it was awesome (especially in its first two seasons).

So I felt more excited about HBO’s Watchmen than I felt obligated to hate it due to the way DC treated Alan Moore. I was ready for some serious deconstruction, which Lindelof’s early interviews seemed to suggest was what this was going to be:

“There are no easy answers. There are no grandiose solutions,” said Lindelof. “In a traditional superhero movie, the bad guys are fighting aliens, and when they beat the aliens, the aliens go back to their planet and everybody wins. There’s no defeating white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, so it felt like it was a pretty formidable foe.”

The thing is, I read those interviews wrong. What I thought Lindelof meant by “There are no easy answers” is that that Watchmen would challenge concepts of right and wrong. And in a sense that’s what it tries to do: by depicting masked heroes as victims of trauma and tools to be used by the morally corrupt, it does sort of challenge superheroes, or at least what they used to be, now that we’re in the MCU-relatively-maskless-age.

But politically, I didn’t feel there was much of an ambiguity in Watchmen. On the contrary, if anything, Watchmen’s politics are very clear: The US used to be very racist, and it still is very racist. We should know that past intolerances come with a price, and therefore fight against racism and intolerance, even when we feel we were the victims of past intolerance. In the official Watchmen podcasts, Lindelof mentions how his jewish roots and legacy passed down from holocaust survivors helped shape the characters in Watchmen. That makes Watchmen’s message also very relevant in my home country of Israel, unfortunately, where rather than contributing to the fight against intolerance, legacy is sometimes used to fuel intolerance.

But all of this also makes Watchmen into a very liberal show. To be clear: I am not saying that there’s anything “good” about the KKK (!), but that maybe that using the KKK as a villain wasn’t a very good idea to begin with. Neither am I saying that the history lesson Watchmen gives about the massacre in Tulsa isn’t important. I’m saying that Watchmen doesn’t bother with complex politics, and more importantly, this causes it not to bother with complex villainy and morality.
Sure, the Seventh Kavalry (which are basically the KKK in the series) are presented in a layered fashion, but not an inherently complex one. Compare with Daredevil’s Bullseye, or Jessica Jones’ villain in S3 – These are characters that became villains through a process and their villainy stems from trauma. Watchmen’s Lady Trieu gets treated better, and is the main villain, but only appears halfway throughout the show. Watchmen’s protagonists do morally questionable things throughout the show, and but I felt this ended up as a very clear line that’s being crossed, rather than a truly grey area with interesting dilemmas.
When criticizing News media, a point that is often made is that objectivity isn’t the same as balance. The media’s need to show conflicting perspectives often creates a skewed image of reality, when one perspective is scientifically wrong, for instance. While news media should be criticized for that, Watchmen is an example of why this does not necessarily apply to entertainment, where imbalance results in bad storytelling.

But if we look at Watchmen as a show that sacrifices entertainment to be a political thing, I suspect it also fails, in the sense that it might alienate viewers whose perspective on history might actually change by learning about Tulsa, for instance. While I enjoy television that’s explicitly liberal (I’m probably one of the few people who liked Murphy Brown’s 11th season), I’m also very aware that it’s a niche. And a show can carry liberal ideas without falling into that niche.

I didn’t think about Watchmen’s politics a lot until watching Star Trek:Picard. I didn’t really connect with Watchmen’s characters, and overall thought it was one of Lindelof’s weaker works. I felt that the consensus on Lost and the Trek films fails to appreciate the good things about them, and since a lot of the praises for Watchmen came attached with those critiques, I may have become biased against Watchmen in a sense. It didn’t help that the official podcast had some horrifying statements by Lindelof in the style of “It doesn’t matter that the audience doesn’t understand the show during the show, if they understand it after they’ve finished watching it.” (I still recommend the podcast though if you haven’t heard it yet)

Moreover, there was a reason to suspect Picard was going towards the aforementioned approach to politics: Patrick Stewart specifically explained his decision to return was politically-influenced, talking about Brexit and Trump.

But what ST:P ended up doing in its first three episodes, politically, is basically sweeping the floor with Watchmen’s liberal angst.

Sure, ST:P has a very liberal protagonist. and while it seems to be saying: “Hey, Starfleet became more separatist and people died because of that”, it also places a very large question mark beside that statement. The first episode establishes that Picard’s opinion on the matter is not the popular opinion , which in turn is shaped by a trauma that isn’t marginalised by the show. By the second episode we learn that the decision to halt the Romulan Rescue, while possibly influenced by sabotage, wasn’t entirely irrational – it considered Starfleet’s resources and its role in the universe. By the third episode we learn that Picard’s liberal answer to that crisis was to quit.

Sure, ST:P doesn’t hide its criticism against separatist politics. But it also, truly, puts the liberal approach to the test. It says that it can’t exist in a niche or a vacuum, and presents it as an approach, rather than putting it on a pedestal as a universal truth. It bothers with showing the motives for separatist characters and the flaws with an arrogant approach to politics. It invites the viewers for a cup of tea to discuss their opinions, rather than inviting them for a cup of Nazi telling them they’re Nazis. I honestly don’t have any idea whether either approach is a more effective way to deliver a message, but I do feel that one of them makes for better television.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (w/spoilers)

July 12, 2019

Let me begin by saying what I expect from films in the superhero genre:

They should be fun.

By that I mean that I don’t expect them to be especially smart or even logical, I don’t expect them to contain a meaningful part of the characters’ journeys (although it would be really nice if they did), and I don’t expect them to be overtly political. I do expect them to have heart, humor, some sense of right and wrong and the occasional well-directed action scene and to be able to tie all that together somehow.

Spider-man: FFH does have some drama and humor and definitely deals with right and wrong, and its’ action scenes are superb. It also goes beyond that and has some of the more interesting politics of the marvel films, but I’ll get to that later. But – and it’s a big but – it’s a film where everything’s constantly out of place and everyone’s out of character, sometimes deliberately so – that is, it doesn’t manage, and possibly even doesn’t try, to tie everything together. So you could see why I would be conflicted about it.

Up to its post-credits scenes, the film’s constantly-shifting scenery, lack of adult authority figures, and themes of illusion and lies are all impressive. Unfortunately, the film lacks any kind of grounding to contrast them. Consider Fury: the ending explains his bizarre decisions and behavior by pointing out he was a Skrull all along, but what the viewer is left with is an entire film where the character was behaving unexpectedly. Mysterio, on the other hand, is behaving in a very expected manner for everyone who has read the comics and for some viewers who haven’t. Peter’s trust of him and their connection is not relate-able despite Holland and Gyllenhall’s best efforts.

Spider-man can be a tricky character to get right. Having him as a teenager is a good fit because the best version of Spidey is not entirely “baked”. He’s a character that makes mistakes and learns from them. But there’s a clear line between mistakes that are relateable – such as having a drone almost kill Brad (and even that’s a stretch) – to the catastrophic mistake of giving Edith to Mysetrio (I actually wrote about another such “mistake” in the comics nine years ago). The MJ-Peter romance has some nice moments, but on the whole it’s about Peter pining for her and both of them keeping secrets from each other. Ned and Betty’s connection seems as though it’s played for laughs at first but in a sense it’s actually the most developed romantic subplot of the film.

The film does occasionally state that everything’s wrong – the students comment on the bizzare consequences of the blip and on the ridiculousness of the constantly-changing field trip – but having the viewer too aware of manipulation sort of prevents the viewer from experiencing that manipulation.

As for the film’s politics, while the lack of authority figures and feeling of manipulation don’t work as part of the narrative, the way the film promotes those is perhaps the most political the MCU got except for Black Panther. If Endgame’s Thanos was still a very real threat the heroes could beat (by going to extreme measures), there was still a very clear threat to beat, and there were clearly the heroes to do so. Far From Home shows an MCU in which the threat isn’t clear, the truth is malleable, and there are no heroes to protect people from emerging villains or technology left behind by the heroes. As Peter says in the post credits scene in response to being ousted by Jameson and framed for murder, “WTF”.

All of this leads me to make a prediction as to the direction of the next Spider Man film and Phase four. While I’m not familiar enough with the cosmic universe to predict where that part of the MCU would go, on Earth, Marvel is clearly headed towards a path similar to the comics’ Dark Reign, where Norman Osborn became head of a SHIELD-like agency and started hunting down superheros. This also sits well with the Spidey films motif of having the villains use Stark technology – the next film may involve a takeover of Stark Industries and may see its return to being a weapons manufacturer that works with some shady characters. As to who will be the face of that change, it’s been made clear from interviews that Marvel wants to avoid Osborn, although bringing back JK simmons as JJJ might be a precedent in that sense. A more reasonable option would be to bring back Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer or even Michael Keaton as who-remembers-he-was-the-vulture. Having each of those characters as head of Stark Industries would have both effects of making a weird sort of sense while being a WTF twist.

To give you a measure of how (in)accurate my prediction might be, I did predict that Marvel would be going towards a Secret Invasion storyline, and that did not happen (which I’m actually very happy about, but that’s for another time), but my prediction that there are Skrulls in the MCU actually turned out to be correct, so who knows.

Avengers: Endgame (Spoliers ahead)

June 9, 2019

Well, That’s that, isn’t it?
With the MCU ending its major character arcs and its biggest story arc, there’s little question that it pulled off telling stories over a span of more than a decade, with months and sometimes year-long breaks in-between. As for whether it concluded them in a way that’s satisfying, well, that’s another matter.
In interviews, the Russo brothers talk about how this film is really about the core team established in the first movie. While that may be true, there’s also a bit of a cheat involved: the five year gap finds the characters in a different place then they were before it, both emotionally and physically. Captain America has given up on loftier goals to mentor a support group. Tony Stark became a family men, Bruce became Smart Hulk, Hawkeye became Ronin, and Natasha took over the Avengers. While all of these events have their roots in the earlier films, The gap creates a sort of a detachment. Would Tony choose to remain at home or join the time heist? The movie does give him time to ponder this, but it still feels like this question has parameters the viewer isn’t aware of.

Once Cap learns of the option to change reality, he reverts to his old optimist self. Again, the movie acknowledges that his optimism isn’t necessarily justified (and in a sense, I think that’s when I felt the most sympathy for him in all of the films), but it’s still too fast of a switch. Natasha’s speech about the burden of her debt connects with similar points from the previous films and enough to explain her sacrifice later, but not to make it as tragic as it could have been. As for Thor, well, in a sense they were already done with Thor’s arc by now, so they’ve made him an entirely different character. Which isn’t a bad idea in itself, it just doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the film. Hawkeye’s still redundant, but Whedon was able to at least partially compensate for that, which I don’t think this film does. Edit: I neglected to refer to Hulk, and he was probably the worst treated character of the core team: his quest for inner peace basically ended off-screen.

As for the story arc – Endgame’s Thanos is not Infinity’s Thanos. As his history gets deleted, what we get is essentially a new villain with different goals and a different attitude. That’s not a continuation of the story, as much as it is a re-imagination of it.

This is my main gripe with the film. I could do without some of the Back to the Future references, but other than that I’m happy with the rest of it. I think the time travel scenes worked wonderfully, especially for Tony and Cap, and were part touching and part hilarious. The scene with Peter dancing was awesome, and somehow I was the only one laughing in the theater. And despite feeling cheated out of a story that could’ve better established them, Tony sacrificing himself and Steve ending up with Peggy are very fitting ends to their arcs.

Two final notes:
It’s interesting to note that Wanda says to Clint “They Both know”, referring to Natasha and someone else. It was very clear for me that she meant Pietro while watching, but after hearing some other people I think Vision and Tony are also possible answers. One video mentioned Gamora as a possibility, which I think would work if Wanda was already beginning to lose her grip of reality, but she’s just not there yet.

Oh, and my alternative theory as to why Steve chose to be the one to return the stones:
– Welcome, Steve, son of Sarah.
– I was told you’d be here. I come to return the stone.
– As I’m sure you know, it was not taken without a cost. Nor can it be returned without one. You must lose that which you love. But you came alone, and there is no sacrifice to be made.
– Well, actually, Johann, I think it’s time we talk about us.

Star Wars: Episode VII theory and other observations (spoilers!)

January 17, 2016

I’m starting to think I’m writing those in order to show them to people in a few years in case I’m right, although both in this case and the Ant-Man theory the chances are actually pretty slim. At the end of this post, some more casual observations. Both are taken from my comments in Hebrew in several sites.

So, one of the things that bothered me the most in the film was the return of Poe. Other than the clumsily-explained plot hole, it’s also a disservice to the character. Before-the-crash Poe is interesting, After-the-crash Poe – less so. But what if it’s not the same character?

We know that clones still exist in the Star Wars universe. Making Poe a clone while Finn – as we know – is not one, sounds like a very Abrams-esque twist. There are a couple of problems with this kind of idea, one of them being the fact that poe recognizes Finn – by name, when he returns.

So, to close this plot hole, Poe #2 would need to know everything that Poe #1 knew about Finn, such as the name he gave him before “dying”. That presents a problem, unless, of course, Poe was directed to give finn that name. By Kylo Ren.

I suspect Ren manipulated Finn to betray the First Order, and rescue Poe #1 -who is also operated by Ren. There are a couple of things about Ren that strangely fit this theory. First of all, as far as I recall, Ren knows Finn’s number without it being told to him directly (at least on-screen). Second of all, Ren teases General Hux regarding the quality of his soldiers and mentions that a clone army would be better. This may be a a misdirection meant to distance himself from suspicion regarding Finn, but also might be an indication of him operating clones. Finally, Poe #1’s first words to Ren – “Who talks first?” is funny when taken literally, but even funnier if Poe #1 is actually operated by Ren.

So what’s Ren’s interest in all of this? I’m not entirely sure. Theories regarding Ren trying to subvert the Dark Side and Snoke are already commonplace, based on Ren’s promise to finish what Vader started. This may also strengthened by a comment by Abrams regarding how Ren is NOT a sith apprentice. Another thing that makes me like the Ren-Poe-Finn theory is that it works as a homage to the original film, where Luke was the rebels’ best pilot, blowing up the Death Star while under the parental supervision of Vader – similarly to Poe #2. Finn, on the other hand, becomes Ren’s blindspot, when Ren’s influence and unnatural fear is cancelled by Rey’s influence – which also echos events from previous films.

That said, all of this requires assuming Ren is sort of a master manipulator, and that his rage episodes are an act, which I’m not sure isn’t a disservice to HIS character. Another flaw in this theory is that BB-8 also recognizes Poe #2, and I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with the implications of that. (addendum – there could also be a Poe #1.5, just before Poe and Finn escape, but that may be pushing it).

Some notes from the second viewing of the film follow:

1.My favorite touch that I didn’t notice the first time around was Rey’s reaction when approaching Finn when he’s on the ground in Jakku following the airstrike, and he asks her if she’s OK. Her puzzled response could be taken as part of her general bad-assery and independence. But in the same time, I think she’s also surprised by THE VERY QUESTION, which may not have been presented to her before. And this may be a key moment in bringing those two characters together.

2. I’ve seen the theory regarding Rey being a Kenobi. While interesting, I must admit I don’t care that much about whether it’s true. What becomes clear upon second viewing is that Rey’s adoptive father was Unkar Platt, as seen in her visions. This is also evident in her knowledge regarding the ownership of the Falcon, and serves as an excuse to all that technobabble when she bypasses Platt’s tinkering in order to impress Han, making it a symbolic transference of a father figure – which is how Ren described the way she perceives Han. This all feels like pieces of a rich backstory, which for me is much more interesting than her biological ancestry.

3. There’s some discussion regarding Finn’s douchiness as he shoots his former friends minutes after his moral crisis. What’s less discussed is Finn breaking his promise to BB-8 to take him back home. I also think that the part where he enlists BB-8’s help to charm Rey is sort of a high-schoolish scene that doesn’t sit well with the rest of the film, even though it’s funny.

4. Finn shouldn’t be surprised by Solo admitting that the Force exists – Finn has seen it in action. In fact Solo himself is a far less tangible legend to him than the force.

5. The hologram table is clearly seen, but notice the orb that Finn finds when he bandages Chewie – it’s the same one Luke trained with.

6. Moz is a bit of an ET, especially when she reaches out her hand.

7. Abrams really likes the mystery of things inside boxes, so no wonder that Luke’s lightsaber is inside one.

8. It has been revealed that Finn’s number’ 2187, is a reference to the original film, but near the end of the film the number sequence 28-336 is heard twice in different contexts, So this may also be a reference to something.

9. I don’t get what they were trying to do with Han’s jackets. Was that an Indiana Jones reference? as Han tells Leia, his current Jacket isn’t the original cowboy-one, but rather a leather jacket that looks more like Jones’s. When arriving at the First Order base, another jacket is seen falling, and Chewie later returns it to Han when leaving.

10. Regarding the end, I must admit that on first view when Rey leaves to find Luke something in me was screaming “Cut here, Abrams!”, and the continuation seemed a bit too much in my taste. I still think Luke is a bad McGuffin and this film could’ve done without him, but on second view I felt that at least as far as Rey’s character goes, the film earned this scene. It could be regarded as a pre-credits-post-credits scene.

11. I like people’s response when I tell them that BB-8 looks like the number 8.

And since you made it this far, some memes inspired by the film.

Ant-Man theory (spoilers for films and comics to date)

July 17, 2015

(originally posted as a Facebook comment in Hebrew here)

I’ve written here and elsewhere on how Agents of Shield might be preparing a Secret Invasion storyline.

While on the surface, Ant-Man seems like a light comedy, it may contain what is Marvel’s biggest move yet towards that storyline, and that is the character of Hank Pym.

In the comics, Hank Pym was revealed as one of the Skrulls that have infiltrated the superhero community (two Skrulls, in fact, but that’s another story). In the movie, there’s plenty to suspect about Pym’s behavior: We know that Pym was cut off, for a long time, from his company, his daughter, and possibly others. It therefore may be the case that while the 1989 Hank Pym was an idealist who wanted the Ant-man suit far away from government hands, he was replaced with a Skrull sometime between that time and present-day time in the film. His goal, or one of his goals, could be to have a man in the Ant-Man suit as part of the Avengers team, or maybe even the Wasp suit – a plot twist that is eerily similar to the one that led to Janet’s death in Secret Invasion). Pym may have even aided Cross behind the scenes in creating Yellowjacket to set those events in motion – without his knowledge, a manipulation not too different than the one used to recruit Scott Lang. This may also mean that both of Luis’ “anecdotes” in the film are a result of Pym’s manipulation.

A more modest theory could be that the replacement happens just before the scene in the credits, that is, the Ant-man suit may not be compromised, but the Wasp suit is.

Of course, considering the current story arc of the Marvel film we are still years away from a Secret Invasion storyline, but hey, this is something that was also built in the comics years ahead. Marvel apparently owns the rights for Skrulls only partially, but that doesn’t really prevent Marvel from integrating this kind of story into the mix.

Feel free to post your thoughts.

In other news, I have been covering Agents Of Shield in Hebrew for the Coffee Plus TV blog, and will also present a lecture on AoS and the Avengers in an upcoming convention. Some of the material may find its way here, eventually.