Archive for the ‘Pop Culture Posts’ Category

There’s been a lot of web buzz about this most recent season of Game of Thrones, particularly on the topic of sexual assault in the series and the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. There is much, much more rape in the books than the tv show–arguably more than be accounted for by the show’s condensed format. And just today, George R.R. Martin himself weighed in on the issue, saying: “I want to portray struggle.”

I gave up on Game of Thrones pretty much after season 2–in part because I stopped getting HBO, but honestly I haven’t missed it. I’ve read the books up to the most recently released fifth installment. I’m on the fence about whether I want to keep reading. To be very blunt, I haven’t particularly enjoyed the books since A Storm of Swords (no. 3). I’d say intellectually I get the appeal, but it’s honestly something I wonder about. Why do so many people love Game of Thrones? And by extension, why do we love high fantasy?

To just about everyone who knows me, I’ve been “the girl who loves zombies” for many years now (more than a decade) because my love of horror is one of my defining features. But not many people know that before my devotion to the grim, grotesque, and macabre, I read a lot of fantasy. Big, fat epic, high fantasy novels. From ages 11-14, that was pretty much all I read. (That and Animorphs. I adore Animorphs.) Then I discovered Stephen King and Mary Shelley and George A. Romero’s Dead movies and there wasn’t much looking back. (I regret nothing.)

So there’s probably a part of me that feels a little nostalgic about fantasy or even maybe unfairly associates the genre with early adolescence. But given its prevalence in popular culture today, I think fantasy has rounded a corner from the late nineties when you were still a huge nerd for having a dragon on your t-shirt. Martin is obviously a major, major part of this, as were The Lord of the Rings movies in the early 2000s. We could debate the dynamics of how that happened. However, I’m more interested in the cultural function of those texts.

Specifically, I’m curious about Martin’s desire to recreate a particular time period accurately (with a touch of magic added)–and our subsequent attraction to the brutality of that era. Put another way: why did we want to read/watch a story with such extraordinary violence in the first place? As many have pointed out, rape is hardly a new plot point to Game of Thrones–why did we want to see it?

I’ve had a couple of conversations lately trying to distill the speculative genres down to their most essential elements. Science fiction at its most basic looks to the future.Horror is, you could easily claim, the genre of the present moment–a genre driven most by emotion, particularly dread. Arguably, most fantasy (especially high fantasy) looks to the past.

The question becomes, then, what do we get out of these glances backwards? Martin insists that it would be dishonest to create a utopia where there was none, but what is the benefit to returning to an “accurate” reimagining of a specific subsection of history? Is it simple relief that we’ve progressed beyond such brutality? A recognition of the ways in which we haven’t? Is it merely escapism–a chance to disappear into a complex world, to experience the battle and intrigue and extraordinary loss between the pages?

To put it another way: if the frequency of sexual assault is somehow necessary to the efficacy of A Song of Ice and Fire as a creative work, what is the end result of that work?  What is its aim? What do we get in exchange? Why is it worth it?

I don’t think it’s accidental that many, many high fantasy novels are war novels. The Lord of the Rings is one of the great fantastic war stories. A Song of Ice and Fire is certainly a series about war, as Martin has made clear. As a society, we find war mesmerizing–so much so that we read about fictional wars in worlds that never existed. But one of the great–I believe–successes of The Lord of Rings that it doesn’t deal in violence gratuitously. It tracks the marks war leaves on people in subtler, quieter ways. That may make it less “gritty” and “realistic” than Game of Thrones but…well, what of it?

Because at the end of the day, when we talk about fantasy–whatever history or pseudo-history on which the world is based–we’re talking about pure invention. We’re talking about completely fabricated universes. Fantasy worlds can be absolutely anything. They are no more bound by “historical accuracy” than they are the laws of physics. And every aspect of a fantastic world is therefore a choice made by the author. To say anything else is to deal in some serious bullshit. As much as it is to say that people of color are absent or oppressed in fantastic works because of similar historical restrictions. No, the author chose to leave them out, whether consciously or unconsciously. They may have done it out of a love for medieval Anglo-Saxon society, but if they’re not actively writing a historical novel, there’s nothing stopping them but their own limitations.

The reality is we choose to delve into the brutality of Westeros and Essos. On some level, we find it entertaining–we should be honest about that. And rape as a plot point is nothing more than an easy (one might say lazy) expression of that brutality. It is no more demanded by the setting than any other aspect of the story. The reality is that we demand it–we expect it. It has become part of our cultural language for women. It’s a shorthand for “female character development.”

But we’re not required to use it. As with all storytelling, it’s a choice.

I finally saw Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend. Read: spoilers ahead.

I saw it after some apprehension. I waited to see the movie because the week it came out, I wasn’t especially in the mood to see cities reduced to smoke and rubble (Hello, Baltimore. Hello, Nepal.) Because I waited, I got to see the vast social media discussions (see: arguments) about various aspects of the movie–in particular the love story between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov.

Great, I thought. Am I going to leave this movie angry?

I didn’t leave the movie angry. I didn’t even leave the movie feeling particularly disappointed. I liked Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some bits more than others. But I liked it.

But I also didn’t leave the movie feeling excited. I didn’t leave bemoaning the long wait before Avengers 3. I didn’t even really leave wanting more.

I don’t think I came into Ultron with particularly high expectations. I knew it was a superhero movie. I knew there’d be plenty of “Hulk smash!” and explosions and daring escapes. But even though I didn’t consciously have many other expectations, I left the theater wanting something different. There were parts of the movie where I could only think: “Oh, this again? Oh.”

There were times, too, when I thought Ultron might indeed go somewhere else. I particularly loved the party scene toward the beginning of the movie that showed the ways in which the Avengers had grown comfortable with each other in some respects–and not comfortable with each other in others. I loved Hawkeye’s hidden family and the stunned reactions of his teammates (Auntie Nat, of course, excluded). I loved Bruce’s inability to say no to Tony’s desperate enthusiasm and bid for normalcy. I loved Cap’s ongoing rediscovery of himself, despite his grandma tendencies and in the face of his immense loneliness. I loved the eerie, dystopic feel of the Iron Legion’s appearance at the beginning of the movie. I loved the fears Scarlet Witch triggered in all of them and the way they remained shaken by those nightmares throughout the film. I loved the twins’ storyline in general, although I thought their obsession with Tony in particular felt like a misstep, like too much of a shift back to Iron Man. Why not all of the Avengers? Or S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or both? You don’t need a Stark Industries bomb to send someone into the arms of Ultron.

But those kinds of missteps sadly characterized the movie for me. There would be a flash of something really truly interesting and then it would fizzle. We would have another action sequence instead or a ham-handed joke about Bruce and Natasha boning.

It didn’t bother me, by the way, that they had a love story. In part because it actually seemed very fleeting and tenuous. And because Natasha seemed so clearly to be the pursuer and it didn’t  affect her ability to fight or make difficult choices or be Black Widow. What did bother me, however, was the way that it halted all of her other fascinating relationships with the remaining Avengers, with the exception of Hawkeye. Suddenly dialog about Natasha became about Natasha and Bruce solely (the reverse is not true, by the way, which is another issue). It felt like the movie was constantly trying to remind me that this was a thing. Remember? It’s a thing. Natasha and Bruce are a thing. Natasha and Bruce. Bruce and Natasha. A thing. GET IT?!

In other words, something that could have felt very organic and natural and subtle just…wasn’t.

I was intrigued by the revelation about Natasha’s training and the “graduation ceremony,” which expanded on what we already knew from Agent Carter. I don’t think the scene of her explanation was handled with an overabundance of grace, writing-wise–but then, little was in regards to her character. But the content in itself remains interesting, as do her feelings about herself. This echoes the beginning of the movie when she refuses to try to lift Thor’s hammer, the immediate suggestion being she knows she’s not worthy. (Although, we’ll note that Thor had to go through extreme tests of his own to lift Mjolnir.) It’s telling, too, I think that while her fellow Avengers’ dreams reflected their horror of the future, only she and Steve were most frightened of aspects of their pasts. In fact, Natasha’s fears were extremely specific to an event and relayed as memories, not the more surreal, stylized presentation of Steve’s fears.

Basically, despite the bad writing mentioned above, Natasha Romanov emerges from Ultron just as fascinating and dynamic a character as ever, largely due to Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal.

But that returns us to my issue with the movie, which is that it forced me to wonder how much longer I want to keep seeing Marvel movies or superhero movies in general if they don’t seem to be making much progress, as much as Ultron seemed to occasionally lean in that direction. And if at times I find them boring. All this particularly when still none of them are  made with women in mind–much as we might enjoy them, we must enjoy them in spite of the fact that the studios who make them don’t see us as significant members of their audience.

It begs the question: as a fan, what percentage of a work ought you to find satisfying before you stop carefully picking out the things you like and give up? How much effort should you need to invest to imagine a version of a film or show to make it work for you? How long do you wait?

I know: with a title like that you are so excited to read this post. But this issue has come up a couple times for me in genre television lately and part of the reason I write this blog is to think critically about such questions, so I’m at least going to try to think my way through it.

Warning: Spoilers for recent episodes of Agents of SHIELDThe Walking Dead,  Captain America: Winter Soldier,  Alien, etc., and frank discussions of race. 

The last…30 minutes or so of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I was on the edge of my seat, completely anxious. Not because the hoverships were going to assassinate everyone in DC and New York or because Cap took a bullet to the gut.

I was worried–frantic–about Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon.

Now, I knew and understood intellectually that Falcon is not a one-time character in the Captain America canon. I knew he should be back. I just didn’t know if he would. In fact, part of me felt pretty sure that Sam Wilson was a dead man.

Not just because he’s a black character, mind you. We’ve gotten beyond the more simplistic days of slasher horror which dictated that the black man dies first. George Romero has allowed a bunch of black men to reach the finish line. Hell, even Parker makes it through the bulk of Alien.

No, what made me worry about Sam Wilson is that I liked him and Steve Rogers liked him. You see, it’s not a sacrifice to off a character we barely know. But a character with motivations and empathy and a moral sense who’s connected with your protagonist–that’s a character you can kill with serious dramatic effect.

(This is after they fake-killed Nick Fury earlier in the movie but that didn’t fool me for a minute. SLJ is friggin’ indestructible.)

Okay, obviously, Sam Wilson makes it through Winter Soldier. Praise Zombie Jesus.

Fast forward seven or so months to the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD. Shit is going down. Skye and Raina are with the obelisk while the walls close around them. Coulson can’t get in. The others are distracted dealing with an alien-possessed Mac (after a gotcha moment in the previous episode when they may or may not have killed him). It seems like there’s no backup coming–and then Agent Tripp squeezes through the gap and into danger.

Of course, they do a double fake-out, pretending like Tripp is fine while Raina and Skye turn to stone. Of course, they’re fine and it’s really Tripp whom the alien technology destroys.

Tripp was a nice guy. A little underdeveloped as characters go in Agents of SHIELD, but we had been getting to know him better. His grandfather was a Howling Commando. He seemed like the genuine version of Grant Ward–and he had good chemistry with the group.

Given what almost happened to Mac in the previous episode, Tripp’s death felt like a cruel, deliberate yank on our heartstrings, as if to say: you like these characters? Well, too bad!

There has been similar activity on season five of The Walking Dead, a show which seems determined to have no more than three black men in the supporting cast at any given time. The showrunners seem especially fond of killing off whoever happens to be the group’s moral center at any given time, most recently Tyreese and Bob, both–you guessed it–black men. Both solid characters with individual issues and quirks when they appeared in previous seasons; Tyreese in particular saw a lot of development as a fan-favorite from the comics.

But both got a lot more screen time and nuance leading up to their deaths, which is no coincidence. It’s meant to be upsetting. And this is true when any character dies, of course. And naturally I wouldn’t suggest that such action heavy shows should never kill anyone off or even refrain from offing characters of color. I’ll be the first to admit that “What Happened and What’s Going On” from The Walking Dead was a beautifully acted and lovingly made episode. Chad Coleman was as wonderful as ever as Tyreese (which made hurt more, of course). In isolation, I wouldn’t have minded at all. As a larger pattern on the show, it bothers me.

What bothers me  is 1)  the notion that any of these characters (Mac and Tripp or Tyreese, T-Dog, and Bob) are interchangeable 2) that we’re only allowed a relatively brief time to empathize with sympathetic black male characters before they’re killed off–thus making their deaths a kind of cheat or gimmick to get an emotional reaction from the audience and 3) that these characters’ sacrifices end up being mere motivational fodder for the series’ or film’s protagonists, who are so often white.

Simple representation in media (and particularly genre media) is still a huge problem–the numbers are an issue, let alone the quality of the roles. But I think we also need to think about the kinds of stories these characters get to live–and whether they live. Because it does send a message.

The 15 in ’15 series concludes with this year’s exciting new genre literature!

[Note: It was most convenient to link to Amazon in this case, but please consider purchasing from your local bookstore.]

  1.  The Just City by Jo Walton (1/13) Time traveling Athena? Greek philosophy as spec fic? Yes, please.
  2. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2/3) Link is at the top of the Pantheon in American dark fantasy/magical realism.
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (2/3) Gaiman only releases new collections every several years, so there are many reasons to be excited about his newest compilation.
  4. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2/3) Old West steampunk from a Hugo-award winning storyteller.
  5. Shutter by Courtney Alameda (2/3) Debut horror with a promising premise–always worth a look.
  6. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson  (2/10) I tried to avoid sequels as much as possible for this list but the Shades of London series is so good you should just go read it anyway. Besides, it’s Maureen Johnson.
  7. The Death House by Sarah Pinborough (2/26) Sounds thoroughly creepy.
  8. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (3/3) From the genius who brought us Never Let Me Go, his first novel in a decade.
  9. Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory (3/24) Lovecraft meets family drama in this macabre tale of a boy searching for his mother.
  10. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (4/7) His debut novel! (If you haven’t read his stories, get to it.)
  11. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor ( 5/5) Prequel to the amazing Who Fears Death, a story of another powerful woman making her way through an unforgiving world.
  12. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (5/19) From the brilliant author of the Temeraire series, a different take on dragons and sacrifices.
  13. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (5/26) Bacigalupi returns to a climate change ravaged future to explore a new dimension of our diminishing resources–the men who protect water supplies in desert cities.
  14. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (7/7) A compelling new take on time travel and environmental issues.
  15. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (8/26) From the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, a reimagining of film and Hollywood in an alternate universe.

 

What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

The 15 in ’15 series continues with this year’s exciting new genre television!

1. Galavant (showing now) [ABC] It’s hilarious, deliberately corny at times, and doesn’t take the musical genre too seriously. Plus, they’ve gotten some fantastic people to guest star, including Hugh Bonneville and Weird Al. And they’re so very diverse!

2. Agent Carter (showing now) [ABC] I cannot believe this isn’t getting better ratings. This show is everything I wanted and more. Here’s hoping it kicks open the door to a wider range of stories being told in comic book adaptations.

3. Face Off (showing now) [SyFy] I appreciate that SyFy tries to do something a bit different every season. For 8, they’ve brought back three champions to mentor the current group of aspiring make-up artists. The friendliest reality TV show on the air.

4. Last Man on Earth (3/1) Following in the footsteps of films like ZombielandLast Man on Earth aims for a comedic post-apocalypse. It’s good for us to laugh at this subgenre, I think.

5. Community (3/17) Saved from the clutches of cancellation by Yahoo, your favorite community college tv show returns for season 6. And if you don’t think this counts as a genre show, you’ve clearly never seen any of their fantastic pastiche episodes.

6. iZombie (3/17) [CW] Yup, they had me at zombie.

7. Daredevil (4/10) [Netflix] I will watch this for two reasons: 1) it’s humanly impossible for it to be worse than the Ben Affleck movie and 2) Netflix has been kicking ass at its original series.

8. Orphan Black Season 3 (4/18) [BBC America] I have been madly, madly in love with this show since the first episode and last season ended with a killer plot twist. Plus the teaser will give you chills.

9. Penny Dreadful Season 2 (4/26) [Showtime] This show is a wonderfully fun–but not campy–celebration of gothic literature. It’s great to see the genre dealt with so lovingly.

10. Wayward Pines (5/14) [Fox] I am genuinely curious to see how M. Night will handle this new medium. It might be that his deep affection for plot twists will serve him better on the small screen. Unless this goes the route of Lost, of course.

11. Supergirl (Unknown) [CBS] See my comments for Agent Carter.

12. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Unknown) [BBC America] The book is amazing; I have no doubt the BBC will do a beautiful job with it. And I am thrilled at the prospect of a fantastic series that isn’t utterly ridiculous (looking at you, Once Upon a Time).

13. Humans (Unknown) [Xbox] It’ll be interesting to see how this approach works for XBox. It’s heartening that they’re collaborating on the production of this show, which has an intriguing premise and supposedly very good source material in its Swedish counterpart.

14. The Magicians (Unknown) [SyFy] You never know how a Syfy show will turn out or whether it will last. I am, however, a Sera Gamble fan, so it’s encouraging to know she’s onboard for this adaptation of Lev Grossman’s very popular book.

15. Scream Queens (Unknown)[Fox] Three words: Jamie Lee Curtis.

What TV shows are you looking forward to in 2015?

Happy New Year, readers! In honor of the changing of the calendar, I’m doing a series of blogs in January to highlight exciting new genre projects in film, television, and literature that you might enjoy in 2015.

[Note: As always, I ripped many of the release dates from IMDB and, as we all know, they often change. Links are to trailers or official sites when available. Please note that not all content will be appropriate for all ages.]

1. Seventh Son (2/6) The appeal of this movie is about 63% Julianne Moore. She looks like she’s having a damn good time in the trailers and what else could you possibly ask of your villain? No, it’s probably not going to do a lot of justice to the books, but it does look very pretty and fun, which is sometimes all you can expect of mainstream fantasy films.

2. What We Do In the Shadows (2/13) You might very well be sick of vampire films (who could blame you?) but I still wouldn’t pass this one up. Produced by the guys behind Flight of the Concords, this mockumentary follows a group of vampires around Wellington, New Zealand and looks eighteen kinds of hilarious.

3. Chappie (3/6) From the director of District 9 (whose sophomore offering, Elysium, sadly flopped), we have another thoughtfully made social science fiction film which deals with the development of the titularly named robot, Chappie. Rescued by a group of misfits, Chappie comes into awareness in a world not quite ready to accept him. Looks fantastic and totally tearjerking.

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1) I mean, who hasn’t been excited for The Avengers sequel since the first movie came out? Plus, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier have successfully proved that Marvel has become quite capable of producing kickass sequels.

5. Tomorrowland (5/22) The teaser trailer doesn’t give much away about this newest offering from Brad Bird and Disney except a mysterious world and a sense of wonder. But it’s Brad Bird, so I’m willing to go along with it.

6. B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (6/5) Seth Rogen and the absurdly talented Melissa McCarthy provide voices for otherworldly operatives Jackson Moss and Watts in this animated feature from DreamWorks, who has been more or less hitting their stride lately.

7. Jurassic World (6/12) The website alone makes my whole brain go “eeeee!”

8. Inside Out (6/19) The first of Pixar’s offerings this year personifies the feelings inside a little girl’s head. Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, and Lewis Black all provide voices for emotions, so you know it’s going to be good. And if you still don’t, the trailer is utterly charming.

9. Poltergeist (7/24) There aren’t many directors I’d trust Poltergeist with, but Sam Raimi is definitely one of them. Three things to feel good about for this project: 1) They’re calling it a “reboot” and not a “remake,” 2) Sam Rockwell, and 3) the summer (instead of February) release.

10. The Fantastic Four (8/7) The success of the Marc Webb Spiderman remakes is probably to blame for this one, but I’m okay with it. It looks like we’re veering in quite a different direction from the 2000-era cheesy adaptations. Plus, I am so excited for Michael B. Jordan (The WireFriday Night LightsFruitvale Station) as Johnny Storm.

11. Kitchen Sink (9/4) Comedic horror is always a tough row to hoe, but I have good feelings about this film about a town where vampires, humans, and zombies usually coexist peacefully which will see supporting performances from the likes of Patton Oswald, Joan Cusack, and Keegan-Michael Key, who are all pretty hilarious.

12. Victor Frankenstein (10/2) Daniel Radcliffe gives us Igor’s side of the story in this reimagining while James McAvoy stars as Victor. Hey, it’s a Frankenstein movie so it’s either going to be wonderful or so terrible you’re sort of entertained anyway. Besides, Radcliffe was pretty fantastic in Horns last year.

13. Crimson Peak (10/16) New horror from Guillermo del Toro? And it’s a haunted house story? Starring Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, and Mia Wasikowska? Yespleasetakemymoney.

14. The Good Dinosaur (11/27) Pixar’s second offering of the year might very well put Jurassic World to shame. But can there really be too many dinosaur movies? Plus, the preliminary art for this looks absolutely adorable and endearing.We’re ready to cry, Pixar. So ready.

15. Krampus (12/4) Christmas and horror have always been natural bedfellows so I’m hoping this movie about Santa’s evil incarnation embraces that history and really freaks us out.

What movies are you looking forward to in 2015?

Fall is upon us, friends! Which means the dreary television wasteland of July and August has passed. Here’s a small roundup of six of this fall’s speculative offerings on the small screen. (Goes without saying: some spoilers below.)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Definitely still on the upswing from last season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has recovered admirably from its initial inertia to give us the engaging, action-packed story of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempt to resurrect itself in the wake of last season’s events. It shouldn’t surprise us either that our characters have become more complicated and tragic in the intervening months. But the classic Whedon-esque humor persists. I’m especially digging B.J. Britt’s continued presence as Agent Triplett and the addition of Henry Simmons as Mac. Dramatically, Clark Gregg continues to impress as Agent Coulson and Iain De Caestecker has been delivering some major chills as the mostly-recovered-but-still-pretty-damaged Fitz. By the way, FitzSimmons4life.

The Flash: Set in the Arrow universe (guess who makes a cameo at the end of episode one), The Flash seeks to give the CW Muppet Babies treatment to another one of our beloved Justice League heroes. They’ve certainly got the formula down: unrequited love affair, baddie created at the same time, gaggle of geek types to work support. As a result, what should be exciting and fun (I mean, it’s the Flash), ends up being pretty stale within the first 45 minutes.

The Walking Dead: Sweet Zombie Jesus, what a season premiere! Carol could spend the rest of the season at a spa and still win the show’s biggest badass award. I’m also a big fan of near-sociopathic Rick and dual-lightsaber Michonne. But seriously, it’s really exciting to see this show have some momentum. The last two seasons have shown vast improvements, but I think this year is going to leave them all behind. After all, they’ve finally answered the question of “is there any sanctuary?” will a resounding NO and an explosion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to group as they venture north. Alas, there are so many of them now that you know somebody’s going to have die soon…

American Horror Story: I’m never sure what to think or feel about AHS and Freak Show is certainly no exception. This is a show that continually trips over itself in concerted efforts to one-up the previous seasons. As a result, previous seasons have hosted completely bonkers plots (see: aliens in Asylum) or see their narratives falter and fall apart completely (Coven). Freak Show at least seems to be looking for some cohesive storytelling and obviously the setting of a freak show is incredibly rich. But I’d like to see a season that didn’t begin with some sort of sexual assault. What they do have going for them? Jyote Amge as Ma Petite.

Gotham: Many of my feelings regarding The Flash also apply to Gotham. Maybe it’s because Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight deals so comprehensively with sinister, gritty Gotham. Maybe it’s because there are so many other superhero shows out there. Maybe I’m just tired of origin stories. (How about a superhero show dealing with the characters 10-20 years after their prime?) Thus far, Gotham just feels like a less interesting rehash of everything we’ve seen before in the Batman universe–without Batman and somehow still about Batman. I mean, even Carol Kane couldn’t make me like this.

Sleepy Hollow: I have to say, I was skeptical of Sleepy Hollow at the start. I thought it would completely tank like Grimm or descend into utter ridiculousness like Once Upon a Time. Which isn’t to say that Sleepy Hollow isn’t often silly. They love them some naked Ben Franklin. They play the “man out of time” jokes hard with Ichabod. But these are the marks of a show having fun with its casts and concepts and the mythos of American history. Season 2 is definitely off to a promising beginning. The first episode played a somewhat expected alternate reality plot twist. The weird connections between the horsemen of the apocalypse and Ichabod’s family persist. But whatever plot kinks there are tend not to bother me because this show rises and sets on Nicole Beharie. Abbie is the source of the show’s greatest pathos. She’s also a helluva heroine and tough customer, with believable personal, non-dude-related issues. Which is all to good, because Abbie is contemporary America. Ichabod may be our idealistic, storied past, but Abbie is our present and future. And we’re rooting for her to win.