Microeconomics and Modern Femininity

This post contains spoilers for episode 5.09  of Community, “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing.”

This post was going to be about something very different, and then I realized: What I was going to respond to wasn’t actually the important part of this episode. It was simply a distraction from the real point. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week’s episode featured the return of Brie Larson as Abed’s sometime girlfriend Rachel, as well a sort-of cameo by Breaking Bad producer Vince Gilligan. Both were part of a storyline in which Annie and Abed argued over who should move in with them: His girlfriend or Annie’s brother, Anthony.

The concurrent storyline involved Jeff, Shirley, and Professor Hickey discovering a cache of mint-condition chemistry textbooks in a storage room while organizing (another item from the Save Greendale Committee’s task list).

They decide to sell the textbooks themselves, rather than turn the books over to Dean Pelton. Britta is brought in for the use of her shady connections to find a buyer, and then Chang stumbles into the middle of the plot. Jeff, Shirley, and Hickey turn on each other, and Shirley meets with Britta’s buyer (musician and songwriter Paul Williams in a surprise cameo) in a dark hallway. But their hopes of making a quick buck are ultimately disappointed, when the mystery buyer tells Shirley the books are misprints – each volume is missing page 105 – and no one will buy the books.

As wonderfully executed as Gilligan’s cameo was – especially the tongue-in-cheek tag including a second surprise appearance, with Gina Gershon appearing as his wife – people seemed frustrated by the inclusion of Annie’s brother for two reasons: The character was grievously underserved by the writing, and there had never been a single hint Annie was anything other than an only child.

Compounded by the fact that Anthony’s character was a fantastic opportunity to shed further light on Annie’s character and backstory – whether by discovering a new facet of her personality or find a clearer reason for an existing trait – yet we ultimately learned very little that was new about her, I personally wonder why the writers believed introducing a sibling with no prior warning would make for a compelling story element.

However, if nothing else, the missed opportunity to shed light on a main character and the secret textbook sale storyline did highlight something I hadn’t noticed about Community. As much as Jeff has always essentially been the main character – largely because the show was designed as a vehicle for Joel McHale, with the established star-power of Chevy Chase – he is not the true main character.

Let’s take a quick tally of which family members we’ve met and when:

  • Troy’s grandmother (1.18)
  • Annie’s brother (5.09)
  • Abed’s father (1.03) and mother, sort of (2.11)
  • Chang’s wife (1.10) and brother (1.18)
  • Jeff’s father and half-brother (4.05)
  • Pierce’s ex-stepdaughter (1.18), father (3.2) and half-brother (3.20)
  • Shirley’s older sons (1.18), her husband (2.12), her baby (2.22), and a several members of her extended family (4.05)

While we’ve met none (Britta or Dean Pelton) or very few (see above) of the people close to most of our main ensemble, we’ve met all of Shirley’s immediate and some of her extended family. We knew much of her family had chosen her husband over her, and we’ve seen her gain and lose real and chosen family members (her youngest son, and her friend and business partner, respectively).

 We’ve watched her journey from isolated single mother to successful businesswoman and watched her fall from grace, again, with the start of this season. We’ve watched her fall in lust (guy with dreadlocks), fall back in love with her ex-husband, and have a random one night stand (albeit with dubious consent). We knew more truth about her from day one than any of the other characters: Her husband left her for a stripper, she had two young children, and she wanted to sell her brownies and such on the Internet. We knew she was angry over the hand she’d been dealt, and her decision to attend Greendale was driven by a desire to take back control over her life.

We learned over time that she had anger management issues, that she was essentially a recovering alcoholic, and, as she herself mentioned earlier this season, that she has a problem with passive aggressiveness. Where the other characters have willfully withheld or unconsciously omitted important information about themselves, Shirley has always stuck as much to the truth as possible – even if she can and does manipulate others to advance her own cause.

If we assume, despite Community‘s creativity and rejection of traditional sitcom tropes, that one character is the audience’s point of entry and that character is our main character, the true focus of the show is Shirley Bennett, a Black single mother and small business owner with expanding interests.

It’s difficult not to want good things for Shirley, especially when she typically only works to improve herself and others. She’s had so many disappointments, and yet she is unflinchingly optimistic.

When her husband leaves her, she turns it into an opportunity to become self-sufficient. When she is kicked out of her first study group, she takes offense at their nickname for her but doesn’t lash out at them directly. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she is worried that her child’s father might be Chang, but she doesn’t keep him at arm’s length (more so than normal, at least). And when Greendale denies her the opportunity to open her own business, she refuses to accept their answer as final.

In a society and a time when women are expected to always be polite; to never raise their voice; to immediately apologize for any offense, real or imagined; to not expect their opinions to be valued unless they further those of a man; to stand down when they are told their behavior is somehow inappropriate; and to not only express shame, but to genuinely feel shame when society tells them they are not behaving like a woman, Shirley is a role model.

Shirley is not perfect. She is not always quiet. She often yells and shouts. She is occasionally violent.

 

She appreciates the value of revenge. She stands by her opinions, even when they are unpopular. She shows embarrassment, but she is rarely ashamed of her choices.

She appreciates a pretty face on a man, and isn’t shy about saying so. She shows a true mercenary streak, as demonstrated when she ties up her would-be partners so she can pocket the entire windfall from the chemistry textbooks.

She is polite, but she will not be cowed. She loves her children and her friends, and she fights for them. She is willing to forgive the man who betrayed her sacred trust and give him another chance.

She asserts the worth of others, even when they don’t value themselves. She is unfailingly honest, but she has the maturity to acknowledge if she’s hurt someone because they misunderstood her.

Shirley is wiser and tougher and stronger than many female characters on TV today.

She never says ‘quit,’ and she does so, mostly, with good humor and the wisdom of experience. She is the true main character of Community, and as nice as it would be for her to catch a break – Maybe Idris Elba is a deacon at her church? Or Chris Evans is an investor for Shirley’s Sandwiches? Perhaps Godfrey Gao is a different investor, who wants to open a chain of Shirley’s Sandwiches in Canada? – she never seems to ask for more than the love of her family and the loyalty of her friends.

She’s not the obvious star because she doesn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves: Shirley understands that being an adult means not only opening yourself up to criticism but learning to respond to it gracefully.

As a friend of mine said last night, it’d be nice to learn even more about Shirley’s background than we already know. But, in the meantime, I would have settled for her plan to sell the textbooks not backfiring, and Shirley making out like an outlaw bandit.

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High School Is Forever

This post contains spoilers for episode 5.08 of Community, “App Development and Condiments.”

You remember that thing teachers make you do on the first day? When you sit in a circle, or a square all facing in, and go around the room, introducing yourself and say something about yourself? Invariably, what you say in those 30 or 40 seconds determines how whoever hears you thinks about you for the rest of the term. It’s a lot of pressure to put on anyone: ‘Hey! Say something short but funny, brief but pithy, and remember: These one or two sentences will define who you are to the people you’re about to spend a lot of time with for the next couple of months.’ When you consider that, normally, the people introducing themselves are teenagers or young adults, who may not have a fully developed sense of self – let alone know what they’ll be having for dinner – it seems extra unfair.

The unfailingly sad – and frustrating – part of life is this doesn’t stop happening when we leave school. It happens at jobs – menial, part-time and big, fancy shmancy ones – and it happens in other, unexpected circumstances. And, nearly every time, it sucks.

This week’s episode starts with another meeting of the Save Greendale Committee, wherein they’ve agreed to seek estimates on how much putting grass on the soccer field will cost.* As the meeting draws to a close, Shirley discovers Jeff has organized a dinner outing with everyone else but to which she was not invited. Jeff explains he didn’t invite her because he knew she’d be unavailable**, and before they devolve into an argument of foosball levels (and before the rest of the group fumblingly tries to reschedule), Dean Pelton arrives with an announcement: Greendale has been chosen to beta test a new mobile app.

Hello Booze

So, this happened.

The app, created by David and Bixel (guest stars Steve Agee and Robert Patrick), is more ridiculous than its name: Meowmeowbeenz is a ‘rating’ app, where users can rate each other, and their ratings become weighted over time, with the ratings of users with higher ratings themselves given more importance.

David Tennantant

Before Annie went all sycophant.

As you might suspect, the app, with its wide-open parameters, leads to a total breakdown of society within Greendale. Shirley and Annie, along with Buzz Hickey and Chang, advance to the top strata, while Abed hovers around the middle, and Jeff and Britta struggle to break out of the lower ranks. The rules become increasingly absurd as the levels become more and more clearly delineated.

At the episode’s climax, Jeff performs a bizarre, and offensive***, stand up act to gain the approval of and join the uppermost tier, letting Britta down after agreeing to help her overthrow the system. He and Shirley argue again, are kicked down to the lowest level of the new society, and then resolve both their current and earlier arguments. Meanwhile, Britta embraces her own absurdity and manages to overthrow the skewed social order on her own, only to impose a new, vindictive system in its place. However, when Jeff and Shirley are brought before her for judgment, Jeff manages to destroy Britta’s new world order. The episode ends with Jeff inviting Shirley to dinner. She explains she’s probably unable to attend, but Jeff has thought ahead: They can order take-out for the entire committee, which means Shirley won’t have to arrange for a different schedule to see her kids.

The first element of the episode, largely because it’s totally inescapable, is that it was designed as an homage to the 1976 scifi film Logan’s Run, with just a dash of the alternately campy and bewildering Zardoz.****

Sitcom Family

Just when I thought Starburns couldn’t get any worse

Logan’s Run is, in many ways, a predecessor to the current crop of dystopian future novels and films we’ve been swimming in for the last decade; it has nearly all the required elements. Wacky futuristic jumpsuits and/or diaphanous outfits in colors associated with your place in society? Check.

The South of Heaven

Oh, hai, Tim. Love the eye makeup. Also, a round of applause for Jeff’s cleavage, everyone!

A rigid social order that is as arbitrary as it is (mostly) understandable? Check. A dire secret that can bring the entire society crashing down? Check. A cross-social class alliance that will end in rebellion and romance? Double check.

But what’s particularly interesting is how, in the context of social satire, Community has embraced the traditional role of scifi, which is to hold up a mirror to our own lives in order to highlight the parts that are awful and ridiculous. In Logan’s Run, the social commentary focused on overpopulation and the glorification of youth culture.

Ask Ian Duncan

Yup. You know you’ve thought it.

In “App Development and Condiments,” the commentary reflects our obsession with technology; our inability to communicate effectively with real people; and our tendency to overinvest on social media. (Full Disclosure: I fully include myself in those ‘ours.’ I’m as guilty as anyone of these same dependencies.) However, while other modern satires – The Colbert Report, Weekend Update – take a more direct approach to pointing out societal absurdities, Community used scifi conventions to show the logical (but sped up) conclusion to a new social media trend. (Klout, anyone? Twitter? Facebook? Ahem.)

The other interesting aspect of this episode was the focus on relationships. First and foremost was the tug-of-war between Jeff and Shirley. Season three’s “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” illustrated how compelling they can be when they work together, given that Jeff now is modeled on Shirley then, while season one’s “Social Psychology” showed how their similarities (both gossipy and thoughtless) make both of them genuinely unpleasant to spend time with, at times.

Sitcom Family

Oh, Annie. Et tu, Edison?

But equally interesting was how Annie followed Shirley, riding the other woman’s coattails to the popularity she presumably always wanted in high school, if last season’s “Heroic Origins” can be trusted. Yet, despite Annie toadying to Shirley’s whims, there were points where Annie seemed aware her popularity was still unstable, which speaks to Annie’s continued lack of confidence: Much like Britta, her sense of self-worth is connected to her friends, but she also lacks the confidence to build her popularity on her own merits.

Interestingly, in a subtle callback to season three’s “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps,” Abed is again shown to be the lone voice of reason in his group of friends. While the beginning of the second act sees him super pleased with everyone using Meowmeowbeenz, and the close of the same shows him tickled that he can make small talk with others in his class, he realizes in the third act that being part of the popular elite is as isolating and lonely as being considered emotionally stunted and socially inept.

Introduction to Basics

I’m sorry. That is not the face of a happy Abed.

It becomes clear Abed had hoped his Meowmeowbeenz rating would help fill the void left by Troy, but what becomes clear is he’s not the same self-assured man he was in season one’s “Physical Education.” Whether his lack of confidence is a product of having had Troy as a crutch for the last four years, or if it’s a result of having lost sight of who he was because Troy was always there, Abed is both lonely and seems to have lost the spark he had back at the start.

Following on last week’s confession from Britta that she feels she has no friends, her discovery in this week’s episode that people would take her seriously only if she had mustard on her face was a sad addendum to her character having lost sight of her self worth. Now, it might be that I simply have strong Britta feelings (We do have similar names.), or it might be a matter of hating how she’s been misused and ignored for the better part of three seasons.

Shirley’s storylines have consistently been about her struggle to balance her personal and professional obligations with her desire for freedom, even if they’ve been couched in a poorly handled pregnancy arc, a poorly handled recovering alcoholic arc, and a marriage more confusing than Ross and Rachel’s on again/off again nonsense. Annie may have less backstory than any of the other characters, and the storylines she’s been a part of have disproportionately focused on her attraction to Jeff (and Vaughn and Rich and, that one time, Dean Pelton), but she’s always been represented as smart and driven. The same can’t be said for Britta.

Lereyo

You tell him, Britta!

Whatever the cause, I was genuinely upset by Britta’s willingness to make a mockery of herself. As much as her activism has often been played for laughs, her passion to make the world better is a huge part of what makes her believable as a person who might exist in the real world. And she’s always genuinely believed in the value of her activism, even if she’s equally aware that she’s not making a huge dent in the world’s problems.

Don't Kill the Vibe

This was simply too pretty not include.

Furthermore, her rise as a egalitarian-minded dictator isn’t as absurd when we remember this is a girl who felt her father was controlling, who was ignored by her peers as a teenager, and who made the incredibly ballsy (if ill-timed) move to tell Jeff she loved him in front of the entire student body, only to have him walk away and make out with someone she thought was a friend. (Second Full Disclosure: I am an unabashed Jeff/Annie shipper, but that was a pretty jerk move on Jeff’s part, regardless.) My point is Britta went a little mad with power, but her reign wasn’t as divisive as Shirley’s or as mindlessly violent as Chang’s; and her intentions, however clouded, were pure.

But like a lot of us, Britta is stuck. She wants to be taken seriously, but she’s unsure how to present herself in a way that won’t make others dismiss her out of hand. She’s trapped in high school and knows it, but can’t escape because everyone else is stuck there, too.

After last week, I am more convinced that Britta is on an arc where her loneliness, which is even more ingrained than Abed’s, will make her the weak link when the inevitable season-ending showdown happens. And if that showdown includes City College and Dean Spreck, well, the Save Greendale Committee will have its work cut out for them when they have to fight a foe from within as well as an outside threat.

* It’s fantastic to finally have the world of Greendale fleshed out. We’ve known for years now that their basketball team is really gay, their football team practically always loses, and the football field serves as overflow parking for the nearby mega church. But there are still little bizarre things about the campus we’ve never quite found out, as Kerry has mentioned.

** I think it speaks to the nature of Jeff and Shirley’s friendship that he knows her schedule, but also to a new commitment on Jeff’s part, after season four’s confrontation with his father, to spend more time actively engaged with his friends rather than keeping his nose glued to his phone all the time.

*** As a fellow former Seattlite, I can say that not everyone in the Pacific Northwest thinks people from New York sound the way Jeff was speaking. However, our impressions of Californians are usually more on point than when we try to mimic people from the other side of the country.

**** Unlike Logan’s Run, the social commentary of Zardoz is not really worth discussing, although if you haven’t seen it already, I recommend it if you have a couple hours to kill and you’re not huge on things like plot, story logic, or continuity.

Newton’s Third Law, In Practice

This post contains spoilers for episode 5.07 of  Community, “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality.”

Newton’s Third Law of motion, in simplified terms, is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In a practical sense, Newton was codifying the idea that for every choice we make, or do not make, there is a consequence. There is always a consequence.

“Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” opens with Jeff and Professor Duncan chatting in the faculty lounge, where apparently Greendale’s budget woes hasn’t meant a cut in the quality of refreshments, if Jeff’s tumbler of scotch is anything by which to judge.

Addicted to them hoodrats

Oh, Duncan. Don’t be silly: No one’s met them.

Duncan, in the least subtle way possible, opens by reminding Jeff (and the audience) that they’ve known each other for a long time, then segues into a request for help in seducing Britta. Jeff demures, but ultimately outlines a plan for Duncan: Find something Britta cares about, pretend to care about it as well, and he’ll be in like Flynn.

After prompting Jeff to give him an opening at the end of the (weekly? daily?) meeting of the Save Greendale Committee, Duncan mentions he’ll be attending a benefit for starving children with cleft palates at a local theater. Cue the ‘awwws!’ from Britta and Annie, but Duncan’s plan starts to fall apart when Britta wants to go – along with Annie, Shirley and Chang. Jeff tries to worm his way out, but bows to peer pressure from the others to attend.

Watch Community

Bye, ladies! See you at the end of the episode!

Later, at the theater after the show, Annie and Shirley go for a bite to eat, leaving Jeff, Duncan and Britta to have a drink at the bar. (Slightly OT: Is it normal to have a full-fledged bar in the lobby of a theater? I was reminded of the bar/gay theater in that one episode of The I.T. Crowd, but I’ve never been to a theater with a bar as fully equipped as that one or the one on Community.) Britta leaves Duncan and Jeff at the bar when she sees several old friends from her anarchist days and goes to greet them. Duncan and Jeff discuss Duncan’s plan to seduce Britta, but Jeff isn’t interested in sticking around to watch what he assumes will be a train wreck.

Pop Classics

In all honesty, I would watch Joel McHale and John Oliver in an “Odd Couple” sitcom, even if it was only the two of them drinking scotch and arguing.

One of Britta’s old friends, Michael (pronounced ‘Mik-hael’ because why not?) thanks the people attending the benefit performance, then introduces Britta to the crowd as a ‘passionate activist.’ Abashedly, she responds that she’s only a “high school dropout bartender,” but she manages to charm the crowd with her usual mix of self-deprecation and optimism. Jeff then decides to stay, as he confesses to Duncan that he now finds Britta attractive because of her sudden popularity.

Of Nerdiness, Obsession and Social Awkwardness

In which “drink” is code for “unresolved stuff.”

However, Duncan convinces Jeff to “stand down” for an hour to give him time to make a move. Duncan’s opportunity comes soon after, when Britta’s old friends give her a hard time about not having a real, grown-up life with actual responsibilities, and she realizes it wouldn’t matter to them if she’d really ‘sold out’ or not: They’ll never take her seriously.

Bennyishere

How can you not want to go along with whatever ridiculous plan comes out of that face?

Duncan swoops in with a handkerchief, a friendly shoulder, and an offer of to go someplace – just as Jeff’s hour runs down.

To dare is to do

And that’s the face of a man who didn’t expect it work.

In the car, Britta explains she’s always based her own self perception on how her friends respond to and think of her, but if her old friends think she’s a joke – and as she thinks she has no other friends – she doesn’t know who she is. In a fit of conscience, Duncan tells her she’s not a joke, but decides to take her directly home, for which she thanks him.

An anthem for a lost cause

PLOT TWIST: Jeff *is* gay. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Duncan then returns to the theater/bar, and has an awkward friend date with Jeff.

PRTSCN

I loved the poignancy of this moment, but I wish this season wasn’t so LITERALLY dark. I’m old, OK? It hurts my eyes.

While all this has been happening, Abed spends the evening, alone, building a costume Kickpuncher costume to wear while he crashes the premiere for the Kickpuncher reboot. He’s wandering Greendale’s halls when he hears Professor Hickey grousing in an office. Abed finds Hickey at his desk, fussing with drawings that Abed then shoots with foam. In a fury, Hickey handcuffs Abed to a filing cabinet to force him to learn the consequences of acting without thinking. They spend the evening bonding and arguing and bonding some more.

Meyerblog

Jonathan Banks was excellent, again, as Buzz Hickey, but Danny Pudi was on fire. His performance this week, along with his Nic Cage impression, make me wonder how he doesn’t have an Emmy yet.

The hashtag for this week’s episode was #AbedsLesson, which arguably gave precedence to the Abed and Hickey storyline. Hickey gave answer to a question the audience has often voiced: How does the rest of Greendale Community College view the Study Group? Previous episodes have illustrated the Dean gives them special preference; and last season’s faceoff with the German foreign exchange students, in “Alternative History of the German Invasion,” showed the other students bear resentment toward the Study Group. But in both cases, the Dean and the students who joined the German’s anti-Study Group protest were all characters who’ve had direct interaction with Jeff & Co. The only other time we’ve had a perspective similar to Hickey’s was in Season 1’s “Introduction to Statistics,” when the group interfered with Jeff’s attempts to woo Michelle Slater and she, in turn, asked Jeff if he was legally responsible for them. As Hickey rants at Abed, explaining he cannot let Abed go until the younger man learns that all actions have consequences, and that not everyone will be content to pussyfoot around, giving Abed’s feeling special consideration.

  

It’s particularly interesting, given Hickey’s willingness two episodes ago to play along with Abed’s campus-wide hot lava game, although his motives were admittedly mercenary. (That is, paying for his son’s wedding flowers.) At the end of the game, when Britta “killed” Hickey, he was angry, but presumably because he lost out on the $50,000 prize. However, the specifics of Hickey’s rant, coupled with not knowing precisely how much of Britta and Troy’s effort to “save” Abed, means there’s at least one person at Greendale who’s been watching the Study Group for some time and is un-enchanted with their adventures.

The Britta-Duncan-Jeff set up indicated Jeff’s cynicism in “Repilot” hasn’t stuck, as he was passed on his shot at striking while Britta was vulnerable. And Duncan’s decision not to take advantage of her, when added to his attempts in previous seasons to help the other members of the Study Group, mean he has nobler motives than his usual self-serving comments indicate.

An anthem for a lost cause

When did Britta stop being the dark cloud the Study Group gathers under, and start being the heart of the show? No, not a rhetorical question. Was it “Contemporary Impressionists” in season 3?

At the same time, Britta’s identity crisis reveals an intrinsic weakness in the study group: Despite three years (plus the gas leak year) of comic exploits and zany, madcap adventures, she doesn’t consider the Study Group her friends. This is far more troubling than her realization that she can’t always rely on being a reflection of what others think of her, as if she doesn’t consider herself integral to the group, it makes their bonds weaker. The weaker their bonds, the easier it is for wedges to be driven between them, and for the Study Group to be divided. And, when we consider that their purpose this season is to work together to save Greendale, Britta’s Freudian slip that she has no friends doesn’t bode well for the future of our favorite community college. After all, while adding people to a situation affects group dynamics, sometimes removing someone from the same can have even more dire consequences.

What were your thoughts on the episode? Let me know in the comments, and join us next week on Twitter at @WWFTP, where I’ll be live tweeting the East coast broadcast.

A Few of My Favorite Ships

They say you never forget your first ship.

I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but I’d like to give them a piece of my mind. I didn’t realize there were things I shipped until I was about 12, and discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (And its fandom.) About a year after that, I watched Reality Bites for the first time on TV, and Lelaina/Troy became the first ship I shipped so hard it hurt. But, I’m in luck because my favorite ships now, even the ones that never really existed, aren’t quite as depressing (or bad for inadvertently emulating in real life). I’d love to hear in the comments about the ships you shipped (or still do), even when they sank faster than a rowboat made of Swiss cheese.

Rumplestiltskin/Belle

Once Upon a Time

It’s not about Rumple’s self-loathing. (OK, it might be a little about that. I also root for The Hulk.) It’s not even because I have this inexplicable…thing about Robert Carlyle. (Don’t ask me to explain it: I can’t.) It’s not because I’ve always loved the story of La Belle et la bête, even though I knew it was sexist from every Women’s Studies class I ever took. And, frankly, even despite Emilie de Ravin’s turn as everyone’s favorite abused pawn on LOST, I still couldn’t quite separate her from her role as Tess on the WB drama Roswell. But there’s something about how Belle’s resiliency in the face of everyone who tells her ‘no’ – her father, Regina, that dude on the road who threw her book in the dirt – that makes her inherently appealing. She brings out the best in Rumple and believes he is capable of making amends, which is so much more important than believing he’s simply misunderstood. And, in turn, Rumple pushes her to be braver and stronger than she thinks she can be. He knows she’s capable of greatness because he sees her ability to love him as evidence of a depth of potential.

Hamish/Isobel

Hamish Macbeth

I might have mentioned I have a thing for Robert Carlyle? Right. Part of it came from this (relatively) short-lived BBC series, set in the far northern reaches of Scotland. Carlyle is police officer Hamish Macbeth, while Shirley Henderson is village reporter (and his long-suffering love interest) Isobel Sutherland. Their romance stretches all three seasons, but it’s the way the two banter and side-eye each other that makes their inability to get out of their own way worth the wait.

Mary/Marshall

In Plain Sight

Full Disclosure: I haven’t seen all of season three, any of seasons four or five, but my goal this spring is to catch up and finish. However, I think I was sold on this ship in the penultimate episode of season one, “Stan By Me,” in which Mary is abducted, and Marshall only barely hangs on to his composure. It’s a credit to the acting of both Mary McCormack and Fred Weller in this episode, as in one scene their partnership is given a depth that even previous close shaves didn’t draw forth. It’s the strength of their professional partnership, paired with their fondness for each other – even when they’re driving the other batty – that makes them so worth the investment I made as a fan years ago.

Josh/Donna

The West Wing

Does it take the better part of five seasons for anything real to happen? Yes. Does it take another two seasons for them to finally get together? Yes. Is it worth slogging through the political intrigue? YES. Trust me on this one.

Wendy Watson/The Middleman

The Middleman

I swear, it’s not a height thing or an age thing or a mentor/mentee thing. And I understand that The Middleman and Lacey’s forbidden love is true and epic, while Wendy and Tyler were the perfect proto-hipster romance. But where Lacey and MM were the ‘bells are ringing, birds are singing’ type of love, he could never tell her the truth, for a variety of reasons. Likewise, if The Middleman had made it to a second season, Tyler’s involvement with Fat Boy was always going to present a hurdle for Wendy as she would never quite be able to trust him. Consequently, it’s entirely practical for Wendy and MM to eventually turn to each other for companionship – but practical isn’t always enough for a relationship. More important than sharing a Mission (and a non-disclosure agreement), Wendy and MM had similar values, priorities, even sense of humor – and they had trust. They were friends first, and their romance? It would have been genuine and epic. (OK. Maybe it’s a little bit of a height thing.)

Anya Jenkins/Rupert Giles

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I can’t explain the appeal of this one. Of course, it was formally introduced in season six’s “Tabula Rasa,” but I think it was their team up in season four’s “Fear Itself” that first made me tilt my head and go ‘huh.’ Or maybe even a season earlier, when Giles was the first man in a long time to stand up to Anya in “The Wish.” Granted, had they ever wound up together, one or the either would have been devastated by events of later seasons, but the good times might have made up for it.

Jeff/Annie

Community

While Rumple/Belle brought Becca and I together, it was Jeff/Annie that first introduced me to Kerry. I agree with her thoughts on this ship, but I also find I like how these two do more than bring out the best in each other: They force the other to be more inventive, to find new ways of getting things done. Or put another way, she’s just as selfish as he is, and she’s getting better at it.

 

Buffy/Spike

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This was the first ship where I knew enough to call it a ship, so it holds a special place in my heart. There’s been an awful lot of ink spilt, real and virtual, about this ship by people much smarter than me. (It’s totally normal to read academic criticism about favorite TV shows, right?) But when you have a heroine who always has and always will put the good of the universe above her own wishes (Why, yes, I am ignoring the climatic arc of the season 7 comics. Thanks for noticing!), there’s something appealing about the thankless partnership between someone driven by duty and someone driven by devotion to that person.

Anne Shirley/Gilbert Blythe

Anne of Green Gables/ AoGG: The Continuing Story

If the above pairing was the first ship I called by name, then Anne and Gilbert was the first ship I ever shipped, before I even knew what shipping was. So much of this pairing comes from the chemistry Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie shared, even as young teens, which managed to whet the appetites of a 80s audiences who wouldn’t be content with poetry recitations and tame waltzes. Still, even though I’ve read the books and seen these series countless, I still find myself hoping they’ll get together sooner than they do because they so deserve to be happy together.

Hope y’all had a non-depressing Valentine’s Day. Now, if y’all will excuse me, I’ll be hiding from Kerry for using one of her fanvids.

For want of a theme

This post contains spoilers for episode 5.06, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking,” of Community.

Sometimes, I watch an episode of a TV show and wonder, “What version of this scene ended up on the proverbial cutting-room floor?” Or I watch an episode and think, “That was a strange cut. It totally changes the tone or pacing of the scene.” Most of the time, I know I’m overthinking these sorts of editing choices. (Full Disclosure: I have an awful habit of overthinking things, as Kerry and Becca can attest. They’ve received several early morning emails from me on the subject of my former college crush, stemming from Facebook stalking compounded by me overthinking inconsequential things. My point? Give me a topic, I’ll think way too much about it.)

Last night’s episode of Community was no exception, as I wondered how what was ostensibly the A-plot somehow became the C-plot, the B-plot slipped into the lead, and the C-plot moseyed into second place. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week’s episode, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking,” was (relatively) heavily promoted, given its stable of guest stars:

Whedonverse-regular and star of ABC’s Castle, Nathan Fillion; Paget Brewster, alumna of CBS’s Criminal Minds;

ABC Family’s Katie Leclerc, best known for Switched at Birth; and action movie favorite, Robert Patrick. Plus, Jonathan Banks was back as Professor Buzz Hickey, and Brie Larson returned as Rachel the Coat Check Girl. Some of the guest spots were brief – Larson’s was tucked into the final minutes of the third act – while others, like Leclerc’s, were woven throughout the entire episode. Each appearance was a pleasant surprise, and added a new layer to the world of Greendale. (Because herpes transmitted by the water fountains? Sure. But absolutely no porn allowed through the school’s firewall? Say it ain’t so!)

The three concurrent plots were each well-realized and funny, even if their place in the plot hierarchy was a little muddled. In what essentially served as a prologue, Annie is leading a meeting of the Study Group Save Greendale Committee, of which Chang is now a member, and trying to assign tasks to the other characters.

 

Britta and Abed squabble about spoilers for Bloodlines of Conquest (the Greendale equivalent of Game of Thrones), then are tasked with updating the Greendale Community College student census. Shirley, Jeff, Ian Duncan and Chang avoid volunteering to decorate for the Mid-term Dance *until Annie says she’ll head up the group* – then they all agree to help.

Annie then puts them in charge of the dance, instead putting herself and Hickey on bulletin board posting duty.

On paper, Annie’s task is the A-plot: In the course of negotiating Greendale’s bureaucracy to have a new bulletin board put up in the cafeteria, she and Hickey encounter Fillion’s head custodian, Bob Waite; Brewster’s head of campus IT, Debra Chambers; and Patrick’s campus parking director, promising each one some weirdly specific kick-back in exchange for shuffling the bulletin board work order to the top of the queue. (Moving it ahead of “lower flag to half-staff for Reagan’s funeral,” so, really, Greendale could be further behind.) The dance committee had what appeared to be the B-plot, with Chang’s suggestion first confusing Jeff, Shirley, and Duncan, then bringing them together as a team, before finally bringing them together in shared embarrassment. And Abed and Britta’s cross-campus spoiler war, which used Leclerc’s fluency in sign language, should’ve been the C-plot: The shallowest and easiest to resolve.

This is where it gets tricky: Each of the three plots was funny and clever in its own right, letting us spend time with the characters as themselves, rather than as the extreme versions of themselves we often see in the heavily themed or homage episodes. Jeff and Duncan were their usual responsibility shirking selves. Abed exhibited a dedication to avoiding spoilers typical of his usual compulsions. Annie’s ambition was matched only by her deviousness, and both are traits that should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers season one’s “Social Psychology.”

Yet, Annie and Hickey’s plot, despite both Alison Brie and Banks bringing their A-game, lacks the charm of the other two.

 

It seemed unnecessarily convoluted and repetitive: For want of a looser firewall, a work order was delayed. For want of a closer parking space, a looser firewall was denied. For want of a bulletin board posting supervisor, a closer parking space was refused. For want of a toast, a bulletin board posting supervisor went unapproved. For want of a toast, a wall remained blank. And all for the want of a work order. Perhaps if the cameos had been spread out more equitably, this particular plot wouldn’t have felt as incidental, as created to provide a structure into which the guest stars could easily be inserted.

Abed and Britta’s task provides them a reason for roaming Greendale’s halls, but their plot instead focuses on Britta’s insistence on spoiling Abed for Bloodlines of Conquest. She goes to absurd lengths, matching Abed’s steps to avoid hearing or seeing anything she tries to tell him.

In the course of them avoiding each other, Abed meets Leclerc’s lip-reading and signing student, who peaks his interest. Their interactions are funny and sweet, as Abed quickly learns enough sign language to have a conversation with Leclerc.

As much as Abed’s made-up signs have all the indicators of being offensive, he almost immediately apologizes to Leclerc for not actually knowing sign language.

Meanwhile, Gillian Jacobs gives Britta’s mission to spoil Abed for BoC a gleefulness and dedication that speaks to the state of Abed and Britta’s evolving friendship: They aren’t – and may never be – besties, but her desire to annoy him isn’t done out of spite or ignorance. (Cougarton Abbey, anyone?)

Instead, Britta is poking at Abed the way she’d poke at any of the others in the study group, and, finally, without the assumption of Abed being some thing she needs to fix. I think it’s a layer that’s a result of Britta doing her best to ‘help’ Abed at the end of last week’s Lava World game, in that she finally seems to be accepting Abed needs someone to ground him, as Troy did, rather than someone who’s primary goal is ‘curing’ him. If that’s the tact the show takes, with Britta filling the same role for Abed, albeit in a different way, I think I could finally get behind her pursuing a career in psychology.

Finally, somehow the Mid-term Dance Committee plot took center stage, and in an unexpected way. The dance itself is less important than the decorating, as it’s not unexpected for Greendale to have a dance for any and every event. Chang, who has always been treated as unwelcome hanger-on by the study group and an object of derision and/or pity by his colleagues at Greendale, offers a suggestion for a theme for the dance: ‘Bear Down for Mid-terms.’ Jeff, Duncan, and Shirley are all, understandably, confused and mock Chang, as he repeats his suggestion without elaborating on what he means but grows visibly more frustrated. In an inspired choice, Ken Jeong explodes in a tantrum that is typical of Chang’s earlier behavior, but with an edge of mingled desperation and frustration as he says he knows he’s a joke and they think he’s crazy, but he genuinely wants to contribute.

It’s inspired because Jeong voices, in one brief monologue, what Community – both the show and fandom – have been saying since 2009: This show is unusual and may be best known for spurts of bizarre behavior, but it is as capable of contributing something real to the world as any other comedy, drama, network show or cable masterpiece.

Of course, there sight gags in abundance: Annie’s structurally unsound wall of success; the custodians’ enormous garage versus the IT’s department crammed into a large closet; Abed taping cans over his ears; and Neil bringing in a couple of 24-packs of soda (budget cuts?) as refreshments for the dance.

 There’s added humor in clever dialogue: Dean Pelton’s insouciant “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy”; Garret screaming “IT’S A BEAR DANCE!”; Duncan’s exasperated, “You can’t just repeat it but louder”; Jeff awkwardly trying to sell the new dance theme, ‘Fat Dog for Mid-terms’; and Annie’s “EV-ERY-THING!” (It’s been a while since we heard Annie’s Loud Voice, hasn’t it?)

These all added up to a funny, strange little episode, but I’m still wondering how the plot packed with guest stars wound up the least compelling. Did it happen in editing? Was it a matter of trimming the episode down for time? Or was it intentional, some sort of meta commentary on the propensity for stunt casting? But what do I know? I overthink everything.

The Unusual Suspect

This post contains spoilers for the Lifetime TV movie, Lizzie Borden Took An Axe. It also contains some non-explicit discussion of the Borden murders. Proceed accordingly.

Sometimes I tell people what my parents let me watch when I was a wee one, and people look at me strangely. I don’t know if it’s because this new information makes some unconscious aspect of my personality make sense, or if they can’t understand how I’m not stranger because of what I grew up watching. But my parents never really saw a problem with letting me watch the nightly news, Unsolved Mysteries or Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes movies. (They did not give my older sibs permission to let me watch Heathers or Flatliners, but those also left an indelible impression.) Somewhere, in between watching 1-2-3 CONTACT and the NBC movie of the week, I also developed an affinity for melodrama. And, as I have mentioned before, I will watch nearly anything with Christina Ricci.*

Oh, Lifetime: Didn’t we almost have it all?

When I learned, late last year, Ricci had starred in a Lifetime movie about Massachusett’s infamous lady, Lizzie Borden, I was sold. I wasn’t expecting Lawrence of Arabia, but I figured Lizzie Borden Took an Axe would be good for a couple hours entertainment. I really ought to have to have remembered what network was broadcasting it.

I’m not going to get into the historical inaccuracies or the issues with characterization because there are people who will know more about this than I do, and I’d rather not flaunt my ignorance all over the place. While I’m not sure if the costumes were entirely historically accurate, I will say they were pretty without being ostentatious the way TV period pieces in the U.S. often are.

Blowhan

The clothes were lovely, even if they’re not quite the Victorian styles I’m used to seeing.

And while I can understand not everyone liking the choice to use contemporary music for the non-diegetic sound, I didn’t find it completely jarring. (On the other hand, I also loved Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, so maybe my taste can’t be trusted.)

What I do want to discuss is the missed opportunities in Lizzie Borden. The first article I read about this movie, back in October, included a quote from one of the producers about how the Lizzie Borden trial was the Dr. Sheppard or O.J. Simpson trial of its day. At its heart, this is a story that would still capture national attention today: A young woman is accused of brutally murdering her father and step-mother, vehemently denies it, and then all her family’s dirty laundry is aired at trial.

The start of the movie’s first act shows several potential suspects: People to whom Lizzie’s father, Andrew, owed money, and were unhappy with not being paid. The Borden family’s maid. A passing vagrant.** In keeping with the historical record, however, Lizzie is the only person arrested and tried for her father and step-mother’s murders.

In the course of the pre-trial inquest, it’s shown that Lizzie’s doctor gave her morphine to help her handle the stress of the daily questioning. Subsequently, Lizzie is shown changing her story, in the context of being stressed and confused because of her medicated state. And during both the inquest and trial, Lizzie occasionally appears either incredibly shallow or simple, commenting that the photo used by the local paper isn’t flattering.

However, aside from the producer’s decision to make Lizzie the murderer and have her confess as much to her older sister after the trial, at no point does the movie try to comment on the nature of celebrity trials or the importance of living in a post-Miranda Rights justice system.*** Furthermore, there’s no reflection on how the U.S. justice system treats women accused of violent crimes versus men; how or whether that treatment has changed over time; or even whether the Borden’s socioeconomic standing may have affected the jury’s perception of Lizzie’s guilt.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the movie seemed white-washed, especially given that the entire series of events took place in the 1890s. The lack of diversity in the supporting cast of townspeople was enough to take me out of the story for a moment, even when the musical choices didn’t. And while we’re on the subject of representation, I found the indecision on whether Lizzie was a lesbian or not irksome: I realize most of the choices on the part of the production team and the actors were likely based on anecdotal evidence, but it either should’ve been an actual (minor) plot point or it should’ve been avoided completely.

Blowhan

Clea DuVall gave an understated performance, far more nuanced than I’ll guess the script portrayed her.

Finally, as far as the actors are concerned, I should mention Clea DuVall was excellent as elder Borden daughter, Emma. Her entire performance was understated, but the scene in which she locks her door against her sister after their parent’s deaths spoke volumes. Billy Campbell was overshadowed by his distracting facial hair in his role as the Borden family lawyer, but his performance was serviceable, if not as compelling as it might have been.

But I was disappointed in Ricci’s portrayal of Lizzie, as it felt like she had no internal life. Even at the close of the third act, when Lizzie is describing the murders in detail to Emma, the shots interspersed with Ricci splattered with gore and blank facedly swinging a hatchet, there is no indication of what Lizzie is thinking or feeling.

Emaguk

I really, *really* want to blame this uneven performance on the director. Christina Ricci is much more capable than this.

While portraying Lizzie as having wild mood swings might have given the character some spark, her scenes showed no identifiable shift. Instead, in one scene she’d be dour and unyielding, and in the next, unpredictable and childlike, without any rhyme to the change.

If you are trapped under your couch, unable to reach your remote to change the channel when Lizzie Borden comes on (and, inevitably, it will be replayed multiple times), watching it until rescue comes will not bore you to death. But if you are looking for a TV movie with a moral, in the grand tradition of the movies of the week that taught us college is a death trap or that we, too, might be single white female-d, you’re out of luck. Lizzie Borden Took an Axe might have been a great many things, but, in the end, it’s as unsatisfying as last weekend’s Flowers In the Attic ultimately was.

* If you would like to watch a more entertaining movie with Christina Ricci, I would strongly suggest tracking down All’s Faire in Love. It’s ridiculous and awful, but it’s still more entertaining.

** The movie indicates there may or may not have been a strange man on the property; it’s unclear whether he is a part of Lizzie’s hallucinations. I don’t know if her testimony included a mention of a stranger, but it was an element of this movie.

***The passing mention by Lizzie’s lawyer that any of her testimony during the inquest is inadmissible as she wasn’t informed of her rights is silly and a clear attempt to dumb down the material for modern audiences, who would be more familiar with contemporary police procedurals where suspects are read their rights upon arrest. However, the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the necessity of this until 1966, in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, more than 70 years after the Borden murder trial.

Nice Guys (and Dolls)

This post contains spoilers for episodes 1.12 and 1.13, “The Indispensable Man” and “Bad Blood” of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow.

I guess I was exceptionally lucky in college: I only came across two actual Nice Guys in the five years I was working to put myself through school and complete my degree. The first was by far the worst: After all, how exactly am I supposed to respond when a young man I’m not even dating asks if I’m a virgin when we’ve only spent a grand total of five or six hours together?

I certainly never was faced with a Nice Guy who claims he’s the only one who can save me from the coming apocalypse, then willingly turned himself into a demon when I turned him down; nor did I ever run across a guy who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, even after two centuries and his beheading. And I never met a man so incapable of empathy that he orchestrated a ridiculously elaborate revenge plot to prove his own worth and superiority. Then again, I’ve never spent much time in upstate New York. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first season finale picks up a couple days after the events of last week’s episode, where Capt. Irving’s daughter was possessed by a demon after George Washington’s bible, killed a priest, and was then defeated by a magic lantern. (Frankly, if the pacing wasn’t as tight or the performances as engaging, I wouldn’t believe this was a real show sometimes.) But a dead cop, let alone a dead priest, isn’t something that can be overlooked, and Irving and his daughter are both facing some pointed questions.

Meanwhile, Abbie and Ichabod are still figuring out how George Washington could have written a message in his bible in invisible ink four days after his historical death. (Although, considering how much the show has cribbed from the school of ‘wave hands, shout Freemasons’ thus far, I wondered at their focus on the ‘how’ versus the ‘why.’) However, not even our intrepid Witnesses – and, yes, there is finally a line about it being with a capital ‘w’ – can research 24/7, and so Abbie heads home to putter about in her kitchen, which is really a convenient excuse for Deputy Andy (Sadly, not the robotic one.) to creep on her in her home.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Second verse, same as the first.

They have a little tete-a-tete, wherein Andy explains his ‘in’ with Moloch, the Big Demon on Purgatory, means he gets a plus-one to the Apocalypse, and he’s inviting Abby. She’ll have none of it, or him, and Andy hares off back to his sewer hidey hole-slash-bachelor pad.

In the first of the evening’s homages to the National Treasure franchise, Ichabod and Abbie discover a letter from Zombie!George Washington to Future!Ichabod about where to find a map to Purgatory.

Lydia Got Stiles

Zombie Washington: The hottest costume of Halloween 2014.

Our Friendly Neighborhood Sin Eater, Henry Parrish, arrives to help the Witnesses discover the map’s final resting place. Their search takes them to the grave of the priest killed in the pilot, who happens to have been an equally well-preserved relic of the colonial era, but while there, Parrish, Ichabod and Abbie are attacked by a particularly violent reject from a Cirque du Soleil production. They return to the archives, where they then realize the map is buried with George Washington, and head off to retrieve the map.

In the second homage to National Treasure, the Witnesses and Parrish discover Washington’s Mason-fied underground tomb, where they are joined by a newly demon-enhanced Deputy Andy. They manage to retrieve the Map to Purgatory, but they also destroy Washington’s tomb in an attempt to trap Andy while they escape.

Nobody Leaves Without Singing the Blues

How to make John Cho Even Less Attractive: 1) Remove wrinkly neck skin; 2) Add veins. Lots and lots of veins.

(Side Note: I think that destruction counts as a fake felony? Because it’s destruction of federal property? Second Side Note: I have no formal legal education.) However, as the prophecy/rumor that Ichabod will betray Abbie continues to circle, Ichabod destroys the map to both prevent Moloch from getting ahold of it, and himself from using it to rescue his wife and condemning his partner.

The tomb raiders separate for the night, with Abbie heading home, Parrish retreating to his motel, and Ichabod sitting down in the cabin to recreate the map, thanks to his eidetic memory. Meanwhile, to save his daughter from punishment, Capt. Irving confesses to the murders of the cop and the priest, then is frog-marched out through the throngs of shocked Sleepy Hollow PD staff.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Anyone else remember when Orlando Jones was best known for “MAD TV”? Cause, man, he was underused when he’s capable of this.

(And encapsulating this relatively major plot point in one sentence is not even as abrupt as the show handled it, frankly.)

The following morning, Parrish informs Abbie and Ichabod that he had a vision of the second horseman, War, being awakened sometime that day. Ichabod reveals he redrew the map, down to the special incantation needed to open the Hellmouth door to Purgatory. While annoyed, Abbie agrees that if the timeline has been moved up, they must use the map to go to Purgatory, find Katrina and bring her back, as she is the only one capable of stopping War from arriving. Jenny Mills appears and begs Abbie not to go messing around with these grand cosmic powers, worried Moloch will be particularly unkind to the elder Mills sister. (The entire exchange prompted me to start referring to him as Old Man Moloch, who keeps yelling at those darn witnesses to git off his lawn.)

Doe Eyed Cat

As a sister, Jenny and Abbie’s relationship feels mostly realistic to me. Y’know, demons aside.

Abbie promises to return to Jenny, and Jenny agrees to stay close to the archives, where it is safe, which Jenny takes as orders from her big sister to comb through Sheriff Corbin’s collection of x-files, looking for further information to help their fight.

Ichabod and Abbie recite the incantation and cross into Purgatory, with a final warning from Parrish not to eat or drink anything they’re offered. (Now we can add the Persephone story to the various myths the show has used.) He also reminds them not to forget each other, as they will offered what they want the most.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Don’t try this one at home, kids.

Abbie’s deepest desire is up first, as she awakens in the cabin, calling for Ichabod but finding Corbin, Andy and fresh pie. She’s confused, but is all too willing to accept a reality in which her pseudo-father figure and good friend are both alive and whole. But when they all sit down for a slice of pie, she realizes it’s an illusion and refuses to eat her pie. The illusion shatters, and the scene shifts to Ichabod’s temptation: The love and admiration of his father, who actually renounced him when he switched sides after meeting Katrina. As they’re about to toast Ichabod receiving a full professorship, Ichabod realizes he’s trapped in an illusion, and his father does an excellent Walking Dead impression as ye olde teacher’s lounge explodes.

Meanwhile, Jenny has discovered in one of Corbin’s x-files information about an unnamed church, which, when she tracks it down and discovers the church’s name, sets her on a collision course with the Headless Horseman – literally.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Dead? Or merely unconscious?

The last shot of her is hanging unconscious and suspended from a seatbelt in an overturned truck as the Headless Horseman rides in the opposite direction.

As a dazed and disheveled Ichabod wanders among extras from Pan’s Labyrinth, he nearly stumbles over Abbie. Both are reluctant to believe the other is real, until what was a throw-away moment six episodes ago becomes integral to proving to each other they are who they say they are.

Fucky Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Fist bumps: They’re the new shibboleth.

From there, it’s a race to the last five minutes: Abbie and Ichabod find Katrina, who says she cannot leave without destroying the veil between the real world and Purgatory unless someone stays in her stead. Katrina and Ichabod return to the real world while Abbie is left behind, and promptly faces off against Moloch.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

I’m not one to shout “FACES” about characters, but: HER FACE.

She’s unsuccessful and soon finds herself trapped inside a facsimile of the dollhouse she and Jenny had as children, unable to escape and with only teenage versions of herself and her sister for company. In the real world, Ichabod introduces Katrina to Parrish, and the three hike through the woods to Chekov’s Four White Trees, which have cropped up nearly every other episode. Unsure of how to proceed, Katrina and Ichabod dither until they are abruptly thrown against two of the trees and secured with vines as Parrish is, in fact, their own magically inclined son, all growed up and in cahoots with the forces of Evil. Jeremy ‘Henry Parrish’ Crane explains he did not die when his mother’s former coven trapped him in a grave for more than 200 years, but instead lay aware but unable to free himself until he was freed by Moloch. The Headless Horseman arrives and Jeremy/Parrish gives Katrina to the Horseman, in fulfillment of their long-broken engagement, then throws Ichabod into his own former grave and buries Ichabod alive.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Not gonna lie: This scene did remind me of Angel and Connor more than a smidge. And The Woods are as desolate as the Pacific.

Early in the season, Katrina tells Ichabod that Evil wins when good men do nothing, and his decision to disown his commission in the King’s army and join the colonists is driven, in large part, by his belief in two things: His own inherent goodness, and his desire to do something when confronted by the possibility of something worse than corruption and injustice. These two beliefs are what connect most of the main characters, to varying degrees: Abbie went into law enforcement to be a force for good, even though she came from a troubled background; Jenny risked life and limb to track and retrieve artifacts that could be useful in case of Armageddon; and Katrina aligned herself with questionable forces in an attempt to secure safety for her husband and child. While Ichabod and Irving began as skeptics, their shared belief in truth and justice were enough to carry them through events that strained the suspension of their disbelief. In the two-hour finale, the faith and trust these characters have in their cause, themselves and each other was severely tested. And as it wavered in the face of deeply held desires, they were weakened.

But here’s why I was so excited at the prospect of Abbie and Ichabod trapped, helpless and alone; by Jenny hovering on the edge of death; by Irving sacrificing his freedom; and by Katrina carried off by her former fiancé, now the embodiment of Death: They believe in their own goodness, but they aren’t arrogant about it. Where Moloch, the Headless Horseman, Parrish and Deputy Andy are certain they cannot be stopped, the show illustrates how the White Hats are plagued with self-doubt. Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny, Katrina and Irving never assume their plans will work, or that those plans will work exactly as they hope, especially as there isn’t exactly a “World Saving for Dummies” they can reference.

Fuck Yeah Sleepy Hollow

Yes, because telling Abbie Mills what to do is generally quite effective.

Furthermore, the agents of Evil assume the women involved in this story are less of a threat, that they are helpless without a man or backup. While the show has never shied away from killing anyone, Abbie, Jenny, and Katrina are not traditional Final Girls: They may be punished, but not for behaving in an unladylike way. They are not forced to run from the demons that chase them; most of the time, they don’t run at all, choosing instead to stand and fight. They are post-Final Girl heroines, embracing their flaws and femininity, and using their wits to defeat their enemies, rather than a well-placed pitchfork to the sternum.

In the same way Nice Guys underestimate the women they alternately fetishize and belittle, Sleepy Hollow‘s forces of Evil are focused on stripping Ichabod and Irving of their power and authority, believing it is enough to frighten, threaten and shame Abbie, Jenny and Katrina into submission.

 

Evil has grown arrogant, and that is its greatest weakness, as it assumes Abbie, Jenny and Katrina are no more than pawns, dolls which can be moved about arbitrarily without consequence. The finale elegantly sets up what will surely be a firecracker of a season two premiere, and I, for one, cannot wait to see the forces of Evil crumple under the weight of its own smug self-satisfaction.