Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's On My Pull List?

So, I'm still pretty much swamped with work, and I should probably be working on my paper right now, but my brain feels a bit like pudding, sooo... Let's talk about comics! Specifically, what comics are on my pull list?

For those of you who aren't all up in the comics industry's business, a pull list is a list of comics that you want your local comic book shop to "pull" for you when they come in. Since most comics publish on a monthly schedule, it's a simple matter to give your local shop a list of books that you will totally buy when they come in, and they should save a copy for you. My shop actually has you rent a small box (like a post office box, but cooler), and they give you a discount on all the comics you order through them, with the caveat that you kind of have to buy them if they order it in special for you. Which makes sense.

Anyway, all that said, a pull list is a nice way to know that you've got some kind of special something to look forward to at the comic book shop each week, and it's a nice way to keep track of ongoing stories and all that jazz.

Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

Ms. Marvel is a new title, just a few issues in, where instead of Carol Danvers in the thigh-high boots, it's newcomer Kamala Khan, a second generation American rebelling against her parents and their strict rules, but not entirely sure where she fits into her high school, and whether or not she really wants to. It has some really interesting stuff about race and religion and what it means to be a real and visible outsider in high school, which is fascinating, since Kamala's power is shape-shifting - she can look like anyone she wants, and a lot of the time, that means looking like a hot blonde superhero. Because she wants to be one of the cool kids, and the cool kids are white and blonde, right?

So yeah, it's fantastic. Well written, funny, compassionate, and real. Kamala is screwed up and weird, but so so relatable. She's also a massive Avengers fangirl (she writes epic fanfic of the team and Steve and she's just such a dork and I love it), so it's fun to read about a teenage girl suddenly seeing her dreams come true. Oh my gosh she's a superhero! But oh crap, she's in trouble with her parents, and it turns out that this ability thing might actually be a problem. Plus, how is she supposed to figure out who she is when she can look like anyone in the world?

It's a good book.

Captain Marvel (Marvel)

Noticing a trend? So yeah, I like the whole Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel storyline. And I happen to adore Carol Danvers, whose recent comics have her going out into space to team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and save the universe and fight injustice and all that spiffiness. 

Carol as a character is really compelling to me, as I went over in great detail here, because she's never really satisfied. She's restless and she wants more, and she's not ashamed of it. She's complex, and she's not perfect, and oh my gosh I love her so much. I don't actually have much more to say about her, really. I mean, I wrote that whole article, so I guess all that's left is to tell you that you should read this comic because it is good. Yes. Also she has a cat that is kind of a jerk, as all the best cats are. And she took the cat to space with her. Yes.

Black Widow (Marvel)

What can I say? Marvel gets me. They really do. And this current run of Black Widow is freaking spectacular. I mean, it's partially on here because the art is amazing and I love it and I want more and more and more, but it's also here because Black Widow as a character really fascinates me. She's a trained assassin, has a really traumatic past, and has decided to work for redemption and save the world and stuff. But here's the thing: it's not that this is a particularly unique or new storyline, but that it's not a storyline we usually see for women.

Plus, Natasha's handler isn't Coulson or Fury or any of the other usual suspects, but actually Agent Maria Hill. So we've got Natasha Romanoff, super spy extraordinaire, swanning around Europe trying to take down a religious extremist and stop assassinations, while she is calmly being a badass and reporting to another badass lady agent, and oh did we mention that she's going to be working with the Winter Soldier in Issue Eight? Because she is. And I am soooo excited. 

I do have to admit that I am shallow, and I picked this up initially because I just really liked the art, which looks nothing like anything else in comics and is such a fantastic merger of story and visual that it makes me gleeful, but it truly is a fantastic story. Trust me. I know these things.

Lumberjanes (Boom! Box)

It's so stinking cute I want to cry. Also good. Lumberjanes is an all-ages comic, and normally I hate those, but I love this one with all of my cold, shriveled critic's heart. It's about a group of preteen (I think) girls at summer camp, who discover a bunch of spooky mysteries in the woods. Like three-eyed foxes and a prophecy warning them to "Beware the kitten holy!" 

So, it's a little weird, but in a good way. And the art is unique, fun, and adds to the experience of reading. It doesn't look like anything else, and that's a good thing. Also one of the writers is Noelle Stevenson, who does Nimona, and that should be a recommendation in and of itself.

Probably the best thing I can say about this comic, though, is that it's only got one issue out, and my comic shop didn't even order it at first, but then got it in last week due to the overwhelming demand. When I went in today? They had sold out every single last copy.

Hell to the yes. Ladies writing comics with lady art about ladies who are friends with ladies, and then those comics being read by ladies (and probably dudes too). Yessssss.

Wonder Woman (DC Comics) and Saga (IDW) - Trade Paperbacks

Basically all this means is that I got kind of cheap and lazy about following these series, preferring to just buy the comics when they come out in a paperback collection rather than follow them month to month. Shame on me!

But yeah. I've gone over my love for Saga on here before, and I would like to point out that this is not an all ages comic, but still good if you're over twenty-one and not particularly shockable. Wonder Woman is also fantastic, and one of the only New 52 storylines I actually like. I mean, the overhaul is pretty generally terrible, but this Diana plot works really well, is super interesting, and makes me want to read more!

So there's that.

I also have a copy of Elektra that I picked up today (first issue of a new run for the win!), but I haven't read it yet. I'll keep you posted. The cover art looks cool.

I should probably stop procrastinating now. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RECAP: Orphan Black 2x01 - They Keep Mugging Allison

Okay, while I am super excited about the return of Orphan Black, this recap is gonna be pretty fast and dirty. You see, because I am occasionally an overachiever with a very bad sense of time management, I may have kind of forgotten about the deadline for a very important (and very long) article I'm writing for this super cool book and, long story short, I'm up to my eyeballs in work. Also this weekend is our semi-annual youth retreat and I think I'm helping run that or something?

Basically, I love you all, and I love posting on this blog, but I am going to be flaky as hell for the next few days.

Still, some really cool and interesting stuff happened on the new season of Orphan Black so far, and I would very much like to share it with you. Good? Good!

If you didn't catch the first season of the show last year, here's what it's about: clones. Human clones. Human clones who grew up and had perfectly normal lives until the day that they realized they were, in fact, clones, and also that this means someone made them, and then a bunch of them started getting killed off, and it's all very scary and confusing.

Our hero on the show is Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany, who plays all the clones), a rough-and-tumble type who falls into the conspiracy headfirst when she sees a woman who looks exactly like her walk in front of a train. Not one to let a mystery lie, Sarah steals the woman's wallet and identity, and discovers that she was Beth Childs (Maslany), a cop, and that Beth was in contact with two other women, Allison and Cosima, who both happen to look just like her.

Cosima, who is a brilliant scientist, explains to Sarah that they're actually all clones, but that they don't know who created them or where the experiment is supposed to lead. She also suggests that if this were her experiment, she would have people monitoring the clones, because how better to figure out if there are any weird consequences to playing with biology in this way? And of course this leads all of the women on a hunt to find their monitors. Cosima's monitor is Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), another scientist at Cosima's university, and one who is suspiciously eager to gain Cosima's affection and attention. 

Allison suspects that her monitor is her next door neighbor, Aynsley (Natalie Lysinska), and when confronting Aynsley about it, Allison kind of sort of kills her/lets her die. Unfortunately for Allison, who is pretty much the comic relief on the show, an uptight suburban mom dealing with the realization that she's in a science fiction movie and drinking a lot of white wine and complaining mostly, Aynsley isn't her monitor. That honor goes to her husband, Donnie (Kristian Bruun), and also means that she kind of sort of murdered an innocent woman. Whoops?

Sarah doesn't think she has one, or else how would she have been able to hide the existence of her daughter, Kira, from whoever it is that made them? Sarah is the only one of the clones to have a kid, so it's a little bit important. Important enough that at the end of season one, Kira is kidnapped, and with her (probably, maybe, it's not clear) is Sarah's foster mother and Kira's caregiver, the indomitable Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Beth, however, did have a monitor, and when Sarah takes over her life, she also inherits Paul (Dylan Bruce), Beth's "boyfriend". Throughout the season, Paul comes to find out that Sarah isn't who she says she is, and that there is a lot more going on than he thought. It's unclear whether or not Paul is a good guy now.

Also, there are two other clones who factor into the storyline: Helena, who happens to be Sarah's actual twin (they're clones but also twins because this show is confusing but so so so good), and Rachel, the "pro-clone" who was raised by the scientific organization who created them. Helena is fascinating for her sheer insanity: she believes that the clones are a crime against God, and that the only way to redeem herself is to kill all of the others. She's bound up in a scary religious sect that has seen fit to torture and abuse her into a complete mental breakdown. Also, Sarah shot her at the end of last season. And Rachel is so polished and refined that it kind of hurts, this image of "perfected" biology, who doesn't appear to have much of a soul. Both fascinating characters.

SPOILERS for the new episode from here out.

Mrs. S and Kira have been taken, and Sarah is on the hunt for them. She's on the run from everyone, it seems, and desperate for a clue of where they've gone. Stopping in to a diner for a cup of tea, Sarah is then followed by two men who say they can take her to Kira. 

But Sarah's not going to be fooled. She knows they're from the DYAD Institute (who made the clones), and that Rachel ordered Kira kidnapped in order to gain leverage over Sarah.

She escapes the men and the shootout in the diner, and tracks down Felix (Jordan Gavaris), her foster brother, to demand his help. Felix might be high and completely out of it, but he's always willing to lend a hand, so he goes to Allison for her assistance in getting Sarah a gun. Allison knows a guy, because of course she does, and tells them to meet her tomorrow after her community theater practice, because of course she does.

In the meantime, Rachel is setting up for a giant fundraiser at the DYAD Institute, and Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer) would love for Cosima to attend. They want her to sign on as a researcher with them, trying to figure out the kinks in her biology, as well as those of her "sisters". Cosima is pretty motivated too, since she seems to have developed a respiratory infection just like several of the other clones, and it's serious. Delphine wants Cosima brought in, but she also wants Cosima to be happy. Feelings!

Since Sarah is positive that Rachel had Kira and Mrs. S kidnapped, she's pretty anxious to get inside that building too. So they come up with a plan. Sarah gets her gun from Allison (with a few kinks along the way, in the shape of Beth's former partner, Art, who wants the truth, now) and goes to the fundraiser, all dressed up as Cosima. She also sics Rachel's security detail on Allison, claiming that she's turning herself in and that she'll be driving a red minivan.

For the record, as traumatic as I'm sure it was for her, seeing Allison getting mugged and viciously pepper spraying her attackers while blowing on a rape whistle was freaking priceless. Allison may not be a stone cold badass like Sarah, but she's definitely not going down easily.

Anyway, Sarah gets into the building by pretending to be Cosima, in yet another of the classic clone-pretending-to-be-other-clone scenes (the pinnacle of which was when Helena pretended to be Sarah pretending to be Beth), and confronts Rachel, who...

Doesn't have Kira. Or actually know who took her. Useless Rachel. Sarah reacts about as gracefully as one would expect, and then reacts equally poorly to the discovery that Paul is now working with Rachel, and that they have no idea where Kira is. Frustrated and with nowhere else to go, Sarah leaves the DYAD Institute and goes to find Art, to finally tell him everything. And Art has something to add to the story: the bodies from the shootout at the beginning of the episode have been identified, and they weren't with the DYAD Institute. They were with a religious group. The same religious group that had Helena.

Aww crap.

Also, as the final scene reveals, Helena is still alive, somehow, barely, and she's probably pissed as hell at her sister.

Dang I love this show. I love this show so much. I'm going to try to keep the raving short, but seriously. It's so good. And if there's one thing that the return of this glorious masterpiece to television has shown me, it's that there really is no substitute for solid storytelling and female characters who don't suck. 

I mean, it seems so basic to say that, but it's so true. Of all of the shows that I love, the prestige shows, that is, this is really the only one that has made a conscious and visible effort to tell the stories of women and people of color and other minorities whose stories don't often get told. It's the show that says, "Having a female protagonist is cool, but you know what's cooler than that? Having four of them." 

And this is the show that decided that the fundamental human relationships it wanted to explore were those between mothers and daughters and sisters.

I just love this so freaking much.

And I'm stoked to see what happens next week.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Judas Question (Jesus Christ Superstar 2000)

So, as I'm sure most of you at least noticed, yesterday was Easter, one of the big two holidays in the Christian faith, next to Easter. Between the two of them they cover both the birth and death/resurrection of Jesus, and they've been the subject of countless movies, pop culture references, and even a few comics that I so don't recommend.

Of all of those movies and references and terrible comics, though, there is one version of the Easter story that I find the need to rewatch every year. It's not Passion of the Christ, which made me uncomfortable and felt a bit like torture porn. It's not The Last Temptation, which is just weird, and it's not the Jesus movie because reasons. It's not even Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter, which is a real movie that I have seen. In fact, I don't like any movie that tries to make Jesus into the protagonist of a typical Hollywood blockbuster. 

Why? I mean, I'm a Christian, so this should be totally my thing, right? As a Christian who is super obsessed with pop culture I should be one of those people who is absolutely rapturous every time a new religious movie comes out, overjoyed that for once my two passions get to merge.

The problem with that is twofold: in most cases, a religious movie is either theologically sound but badly made and kind of painful to watch, or wildly inaccurate but entertaining as hell. I know of very few films that manage to be both on point and watchable. It's hard.

It's doubly hard when you're trying to tell the Easter story too. Because this is the crux of our faith, that Jesus died and rose again to reconcile each one of us to God, and it is freaking ridiculously impossible to show that in a two hour movie. It's a theological concept so complex that most Christians I know have been wrestling with it their whole lives and will continue to do so - and we're the ones who actually believe it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Part of it is to explain why I don't review religious movies most of the time, but the other part is to tell you about a movie that I do love, and that I do think is important. Not because it's particularly spectacular to watch or has high production values or even has really on point acting all the time, and it's not the most theologically accurate movie out there by a long shot. But it is the one thing that I find to be really important in a movie about Easter and Jesus and my faith: It's honest.

The movie in question is Jesus Christ Superstar (the 2000 version), a filmed version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It's not nearly as well known as the 1979 version, which featured a notably diverse cast and some of the weirdest film moments I've ever seen (including Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter), and the 2000 version is more of an avant-garde operetta than a traditional film. The sets are minimal, it's clearly all filmed on a stage, and the props are almost non-existent. There's no world-building, no budget, and very little to go on other than the actors and the songs themselves.

It's brilliant.

It's brilliant for a lot of reasons, but I would put the real reason why I love this movie as this: Jesus Christ Superstar is not a movie about Jesus. It's a movie about and from the perspective of Judas, the disciple that betrayed Jesus to his death and then killed himself. And that is the story that we actually need to hear.

It's not that the story of Jesus isn't important. I'm a Christian. Of course I think it's important. The point I'm making is that no one likes to talk about Judas, especially not in relation to Easter. We talk about Peter, and how he betrayed Jesus but was redeemed, about Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, and we talk about Jesus risen, bringing back the glory. But we never talk about Judas, and I think that is a huge mistake.

Judas isn't the hero of this story for us, he's the villain. And like I always say, the best villains are the ones whose motivation we understand. Judas? He's a good villain. Arguably the best villain. Because I understand his motivation so well it kind of hurts. More than that, though, is the thing we absolutely have to remember. Judas is the villain to us, but he's the hero in his own head. And that makes a hell of a lot of difference.

And this movie finally addresses the real question that I think plagues a lot of us, Christian and non: Why did Judas do it? Was he just a dick, or was there something bigger going on?

The answer is, of course, obvious. There is always something bigger going on. And it matters.

(For the record, there are no spoilers in this article. You can't spoil something that happened two-thousand years ago and spawned a world religion.)

The movie opens on Judas (Jerome Pradon), singing to himself and the camera about how he's not sure what's going to happen with Jesus (Glenn Carter) and the disciples. He's worried that the movement has gotten too big, that Jesus is too full of himself, and that it's all going to come crashing down at any moment. He's scared - actually, he's terrified. And it's clear from here on that this is Judas' story more than anything. We see everything through his eyes. Everything that happens is yet another portent of doom. And Jesus? He doesn't look so good in this version.

This version's Jesus is a mewling, whiny diva, who swoons off after yelling about how they'll all be sorry and no one will remember him when he's gone. This is kind of offensive, actually, until you remember that all of this is from Judas perspective, and he is not a reliable narrator. So everything that happens is skewed through Judas' lens.

And Judas' real problem isn't that Jesus' followers are getting out of control, which they are, or that Mary Magdalene (Renee Castle) is kind of sort of in love with Jesus and he just can't have that because she's a grody girl, though that is a subplot, or even that Jesus won't listen to his complaints. Judas' problem throughout the film is that he doesn't trust Jesus. Not even a little bit. 

That's it. This whole movie and all its sprawling musical numbers, right down to the devastating death and intense retribution that Judas enacts on himself can be blamed on one simple fact: Judas doesn't trust Jesus. Not with the ministry, and especially not with himself.

So Judas betrays him. Oh, first he tries reasoning with Jesus, telling him to pack it in and run, and then he tries showing Jesus how much his followers have gone off the map (which to be fair, they have, and the scene where Simon leads them all in joyful dance while they wield automatic weapons is one of the scariest scenes of the film). Finally, when none of that seems to work, he turns to the nuclear option: handing Jesus over to the authorities for his own good. Because if Jesus won't stand down, someone needs to put him down before he starts a war.

You know, I think there is a strong possibility that Judas never really got what this was all about.

And in a very real way, I think that's why we need this movie. It's not just another retelling of passion week, because we don't actually need that. I personally don't think there is a better version than what you can find in the gospels, because whatever you believe, those were written by the people who actually cared and were there and probably had very strong feelings about the events. 

What we need is a story that reminds us why the gospel is so important. Because we are freaking terrible at figuring out what is really happening, and because, if I were in that story, I can't guarantee I wouldn't be right there next to Judas, selling Jesus out for his own good. I know myself, and I know that I would probably think it was the right thing to do.

Or, at best, I would be on Jesus side, but for the very wrong reasons. I would be craving that revolution he offered, and assuming he meant a real one that would result in a very real war. I wouldn't be thinking supernaturally, because I'm not that good. I'm too sure of myself in this world to be able to see another one, at least not without help.

We need to remember Judas' story because his story is our story. It's so easy to demonize him and call him a dick, but you have to remember that everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. Judas thought he was doing the right thing. That in and of itself is the scariest and most important part to remember about this movie. And that's why I love it.

I mean, there are other reasons too. It really is a spectacular musical, and the singers in this version are way, way, way better than the original (I hate the original). Plus, Jerome Pradon really makes you emotionally invested in Judas and his relationship with Jesus, while Glenn Carter slowly turns this caricature of a man we see in the first few moments into a full-fledged, breathing, living man, who is scared and tired and determined to follow his father's will. 

Plus, Renee Castle and Rik Mayall are fabulous, and I challenge anyone not to get chills at the very end when Jesus dies and Judas screams. Chills.

This article was actually a little hard for me to write. It's one I've been mulling over for years, because it's never not true. I've been a fan of this movie for, gosh, nine years now? Yikes. And even though it is really theologically inaccurate and sometimes offensive, and oftentimes weird, it matters deeply to me. But on the other side, it's hard talking about faith and spiritual stuff on the internet. Especially when you're a feminist pop culture blogger. Just gonna say, not the most comfortable position to be in.

But it's true. I do love this movie, and I do think it's important, for Christians and non-Christians. For Christians, I think we need to remember, at Easter and at other times of the year, that evil isn't a snarling, mustache-twirling villain, it's a person who believes that they know best - better even than God. For non-Christians, I think it's a good movie, and I think it's apt to make you see the whole passion story in a whole new light.

Mostly, though, I love this movie for me. I love it because I cry when Jesus and Judas finally face each other down, and when they fight, because Judas is so wretched and broken and will not be swayed. I get choked up when Judas comes to betray Jesus, and Jesus already knows and already forgives him. And I freaking bawl when we see the light come on in Judas' eyes, that little spark that says, "What if you were wrong? What if he really was God?"

I don't want you to get the wrong impression from this article, the idea that I think Jesus is boring and we should all be paying attention to Judas instead. That's not true, nor is it what I'm saying. Instead, I think we should look at the whole story, all sides of it. And, yeah, I think there are very real, practical problems with making Jesus the protagonist of your movie (perfect protagonists are boring, so either you make Jesus dull, or you say he's not God), and yes, I do think that an artistic interpretation is often better than a literal one, but still. Hear what I am saying.

We don't like to face Judas because we're scared we're just like him. Good.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Strong Female Character Friday: Sam Wilson (Captain America: TWS)

Yup, you read that right. Today on Strong Female Character Friday we're going to talk about a man who's Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka Falcon, from the absolutely excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Why are we talking about a noticeably male character? Simple. In terms of narrative structure, Sam Wilson is a female character. Or rather, he's a character who in any other story would have been female. And that's rad.

He occupies the role in the story that almost always goes to the cute girl love interest, while Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) has the role that is usually reserved for the best male friend and wingman. They've switched places, and it is glorious.

It's also not the first time we've seen something like this. You may recall back in November that we talked about how Raleigh Becket from Pacific Rim is a movie girlfriend (and a darn good one). Well, Sam Wilson fits into a lot of the same character arc-types as Raleigh, and it's even better because he's a man of color, and he's in a relationship that at the very least could never be confused for a hetero love story.

So, to catch up those five people who still haven't seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and/or don't read the comics, here's who Sam Wilson is: The best. And also, Captain America's best friend in the present day. In the movie, he's a veteran of the Afghan war who meets Steve while they're both out exercising, and with whom Steve has such an intense emotional connection as to show up on his doorstep when he's being hunted by the government and assume that Sam will help. Which he does.

What's so fascinating about this movie isn't really that Sam Wilson is a great guy and that he's ready so quickly to help Captain America even at great cost to himself, it's that Sam is so clearly a girlfriend type character. Here's what I mean:

Sam and Steve first see each other in what can only be considered the "meet-cute" of the film. They're running around the reflecting pool in DC, and they banter and make jokes, and then incredibly quickly start sharing deep and meaningful facts and stories about their lives. Like, they've known each other for five minutes by now. Literally five minutes. Thirty minutes since they first set eyes on each other. And they're already talking about common interests and recommending Marvin Gaye albums to each other? And Sam is already telling Steve to look him up at work?

Imagine that Sam is a girl. It's a unisex name, so it shouldn't be hard. Now, that's the start of a romantic comedy, isn't it? Or at the very least, a romantic subplot in a film. Little cartoon hearts should be flying everywhere.

Then, later, when Steve is feeling disconnected from the world and SHIELD and isn't sure what to trust or where to go, he goes to Sam. A dude he has known about half an hour in actual person-to-person time. He visits Sam at work and they talk, really talk, about their issues and what they want and who they are and Sam is this stabilizing influence, emotional support, and generally does everything you would expect a love interest to do at this stage. You don't even question it really, it

So then Steve and Natasha get into a whole host of trouble, track down what's really going on at SHIELD, a whole conspiracy thing, you know the drill, and they get hurt, are hunted, and wind up injured and alone, with nowhere else to go. Obviously now they will turn up at the house of the guy that Steve talked to twice.

From an objective standpoint, it really makes no sense why Steve decides to go to Sam, nor does it make any sense why Sam not only lets in Steve and Natasha, but also agrees to help them, going above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect of him and helping to save the world. It's kind of weird, even, because, again, these two guys have spoken literally twice. Ever. At all. In their lives. And here they are.

But don't you think that's what would happen with a love interest too? I mean, it's so easy to imagine that Steve and Natasha wind up on the doorstep of a woman that Steve has been talking to. A woman that Steve could probably love. Only in this movie, that's not what happens. He doesn't wind up on a woman's doorstep. He's there to talk to a friend.

And this matters. It matters because, first of all, we don't see nearly enough representations of healthy male friendships in the media. Not ones full of emotional honestly, functionality, and truth. That's a pretty rare thing. But also because feminism isn't just about giving women the right to be physically and emotionally strong, it's about giving men the opportunity to feel things, deeply and truly, and express that.

I would argue that by making Natasha into the wingman/best friend/platonic life mate, and Sam into the girlfriend type character, the movie doing something more radical than we first imagined. It's not just giving Black Widow a much needed status boost and letting her take center stage, though that does happen and it is awesome, it's also important to show that a guy can be in that supportive, emotionally stable, relational role. That's kind of a big thing. And to make him a man of color? Even bigger.

Words really can't express how much I love CATWS. I love pretty much everything about it. It's not perfect, no, but it's awfully close. And a lot of that has to do with its revolutionary gender politics. And more. It's a movie that's actually diverse enough to have two whole African-American characters. It has more than two female characters. It has enough people to be slightly complex. That's a very good thing, in case you weren't sure.

And in case anyone is keeping track, heck yes do I think we should have a Falcon movie. I would love that. But I don't want a Falcon movie that would change Sam's established character. I don't need or want an angst-riddled Sam Wilson, nor do I think that it would be beneficial to the storyline to take away the supportiveness and general rad emotional intelligence his character already has. 

I want a Falcon movie where Sam Wilson, basically Captain America's movie girlfriend, gets to have his own adventure. I fully believe that he can be both a movie girlfriend and a fully fledged character, because I believe that all movie girlfriends should be fully fledged characters.

Maybe it just takes realizing that Cap's girlfriend is a thirty year old black man to make us see it.

I want one.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Loving Your Enemy Is Harder Than It Sounds (Saga Vol. 3)

I'd apologize for this article being a little later than I'd like, but then it was late because I was busy rewatching Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, and then chatting with my friends, so... Oh, and I locked my keys in my car and then I had to get them out and it's raining and one of my comics got ruined in the rain (sob), and so on. Long day.

Anyway. Saga Volume 3 came out a couple of weeks ago, and reading it has reminded me, yet again, of how much I freaking love this comic. It's not the most original thing in the world, nor is it the most family friendly (or at all family friendly, let's be real, this is a comic that starts out with a graphically realistic birth scene), but it is good. Genuinely truly and unabashedly good. Partly because its storyline is well-crafted, its characters compelling, and its dialogue hilarious, but also because the meaning of the story itself is both important and well told

The meaning, of course, being Saga's underlying message about the futility of war as a mechanism of change, and the importance of remembering the humanity of our enemies.

This theme can be found throughout the whole book, woven into every storyline, and personally, I think that's what makes Saga great. Not that it's so monolithic in its message, but that it's so consistent without ever falling over the line into being preachy. It is, it turns out, possible to keep a story like this on a single topic for issue after issue without it becoming staid or boring or mechanical. It helps when the topic itself is important and worth discussing, but it also helps when the writer and artist are freaking spectacular.

But what is Saga, Volume 3, actually about?

Volume 2 ended on a flash-forward to where Alana, Marko, baby Hazel, and Klara (and also Izabel, but no one is super worried about her, seeing as she's dead) were hiding in Dr. Oswald Heist's basement (or attic, I wasn't sure) while Heist was being interrogated by Prince Robot IV. And for those of you who are completely baffled by that last sentence, I shall now go back even further and explain a little more.

Saga is a love story told from the perspective of the couple's child, at some point in the future. Hazel, our protagonist who just so happens to be a baby, is the daughter of Alana and Marko, a much in love couple currently on the run from pretty much everyone in the universe. They're on the run because Alana, a soldier of Landfall, and Marko, a citizen of Wreath, are enemy combatants, having first met when Alana was assigned to guard duty over Marko's battalion of detainees. They fell in love slowly, and bonded over a cheesy romance novel, written by Dr. Heist, that's about two seeming enemies falling in love. 

Sick of the endless war between Landfall and Wreath, a war that's consumed most of the galaxy by now, bringing in mercenaries on both sides, conscripting whole planets, and destroying civilizations, Alana and Marko run away. They then proceed to get married, have a baby, and become the most wanted people on any planet anywhere. Why? Because their very existence threatens the war, and this war is one profitable and valuable commodity.

Along the way they've picked up some stragglers, like Izabel, a ghost whose planet was destroyed by the war, taken on to be Hazel's nanny, and Klara, Marko's mom. They also had Marko's father aboard, but he sadly died. That happens a lot. And we've gotten to know the group very well. They're not perfect (far from it), as Alana and Marko have a lot of issues, which makes sense for a couple on the run, and tend to argue. There's a bit where Klara isn't overly fond of her daughter-in-law, and while all of them agree that Hazel must be kept safe, they disagree about how that is best done.

We also follow the stories of their hunters, the people trying to bring Alana and Marko to "justice". There is the aforementioned Prince Robot IV, who is just as weird as he sounds, hunting them down so that he can go back to his increasingly pregnant wife. Prince Robot is a cool character - at once nihilistic and cold (he is a robot), but also deeply contemplative of his own life and choices, and whether Alana and Marko ought to be brought in at all. 

They're also being pursued by a mercenary, The Will, who has his own host of companions. There's the slave girl he rescued from a brothel and named Sophie, his Lying Cat, which announces whenever someone is lying, and his reluctant ally Gwendoline, who was Marko's fiance before the whole Alana thing happened.

It's a motley bunch. Especially since The Will is being haunted by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend, and because he gets stabbed and ends up in the hospital...long story.

Anyway, this collection of issues, which includes number 13-18 of the comics, deals with our heroes as they finally get to meet their hero, Dr. Oswald Heist, and really examine what they hope to achieve in their lives. Do they want to raise a child on the run, or are they willing to risk settling down somewhere and trying to hide? What is safer? What is actually better for Hazel?

And amongst all of this, Alana and Marko are trying to deal with the day to day details of their relationship. What with all the running and hiding, they haven't really had a chance to settle in and get comfortable. There's a lot they haven't talked about, which makes sense. They're lost and screwed up, but they do love each other.

Unfortunately for them, literally everyone in the universe is trying to kill them, so their respite doesn't last long. Prince Robot IV finds them, then Gwendoline and The Will do, and it all comes to a head in a really scary showdown. Our heroes escape, but barely.

There's also a side story about two tabloid reporters working on a story about the Landfall soldier (Alana) who was "kidnapped" by a terrorist from Wreath (Marko). As they dig into the question of whether or not Alana really was kidnapped and what's going on, they meet with increasing resistance, and also dig up a lot of interesting crap on Alana's past. But mostly, we finally see why the authorities are so scared of this story: because it has no side. Because it doesn't suggest that either Wreath or Landfall are right in their justifications for war, and instead it suggests that no one is right. That there is no right here.

More than that, though, if Alana and Marko could fall in love, get married, have a child, it suggests that Landfall and Wreath really aren't that different after all. And no one can allow that message to get out.

I think that's what I find most fascinating about this series. The idea that loving one's enemy is such a revolutionary act that it must be banned. That a single marriage and one child could possibly bring down a war that has lasted decades and consumed entire solar systems. The simple concept that love is bigger, much bigger than we have given it credit for, and that it is dangerous.

Because, well, it is. Love is dangerous. Love is a hell of a lot more scary than we give it credit for, and it is so much more powerful than we let ourselves believe.

I also, for the record, love love love the way that female characters are represented in this series. Alana is just as much the main character as Marko is, but the story is narrated by their currently infant daughter, which gives it all an implicit feminine edge. And the thing is overflowing with complex, compelling female character (and male ones, too, to be honest). Klara and Izabel present totally different but both intriguing perspectives on how to raise and protect a child, while Gwendoline is a fireball of vengeance and confused maternal feelings for Sophie. Sophie herself is a touching image of a child who has seen things no kid should know about, and who is learning how to heal. Even the one off characters we meet are super cool. Man I love this comic.

So for all that Saga maybe isn't the most original thing in the world, for all that sometimes it can get a little repetitive, I love it because I believe it's true. I believe in this story, that love will conquer hate because love is stronger, and also because hate is scared of it. Call me an optimist. I don't mind.

Teenage angst Alana is my favorite.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RECAP: Game of Thrones 4x02 - Tears and Screams of Retribution

This morning I went back and reviewed last week's start of the season for Game of Thrones, and now we're doing this week's. Two articles because that was too much GoT in one sitting even for me. Plus, the recapping takes forever. I'm determined not to forget any plot points. It's mostly a pride thing.

Where were we? Ah yes, headed into SPOILERtown.

The Purple Wedding was about to start, with all the pomp and circumstance that could possibly come from a wedding between the two wealthiest and sexually deviant families in Westeros. Well, this week the episode starts there, with all the other stories subservient to the big one: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery's (Natalie Dormer) wedding.

Tragically, this episode included nothing on a lot of my favorite characters. No Daenerys, or Arya, or Ygritte, or Jon Snow. Sad day. It did, however, catch us back up on some of the others: we saw Theon for the first time in a while, and man was that disturbing; we got to catch up with the fun people on Stannis' side of the war, and it's always a riot seeing them commit ritual sacrifice and generally bum around in their drafty old castle; oh, and we got a thrilling insight into what's been happening with Bran and the Reed siblings. I mean, I get that all of these storylines are important, but they're also a bit dull. At least when compared with the spectacular amazingness that is Daenerys' whole plotline. I love her. When do we get Dany back?

What I find really thematically interesting about this episode, though, is that it seems to be saying something about the consequences of power. It's a thread running through the whole episode, the idea that the actions we take will have consequences, even if we are very very powerful, and even if those consequences are very very far down the road.

So, with that in mind, what happened this week?

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was again stuck between a rock and a hard place. A servant overheard him arguing with Shae (Sibel Kekilli), his actual love, and reported them to Cersei (Lena Headey). Since Cersei is just generally kind of pissed off at life right now, she reported them to their father, Tywin (Charles Dance). He might have given Tyrion some kind of ultimatum about getting rid of Shae, so he was probably a bit pissed to hear she's still around. Tyrion then made the kind of executive relationship decision that we see regularly on sitcoms and White Fang-ed Shae before she could insist that she wasn't afraid. Shae ran off in tears (presumably) and the last we knew of her, she was totally definitely absolutely loaded on a ship headed far away. Which of course means that she is obviously nothing of the sort. Keep up, guys.

Also, Tyrion, who was all over this episode, decided to help his brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), learn how to fight with his left hand, since his right one has been tragically cut off and then replaced with a sentimental metal one and all that jazz. Jaime isn't very happy about having to relearn how to fight, especially at having to learn it from Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Tyrion's sellsword buddy, but whatever. It's totally going to save his life, just wait.

The wedding itself was all frippery, as Tywin and Olenna Martell (Diana Rigg) bickered about the expense, and Joffrey behaved exactly the way that you would expect Joffrey to behave at his own wedding. He used his fancy new sword to chop up a wedding present from Tyrion, made constant demeaning jokes about everyone and everything, and even hired a band of little people to reenact the War of the Five Kings. Then he decided not to pay them.

Through it all, Margaery was clearly just this side of strangling him, since she is the one with some diplomatic sense. Shame she keeps getting paired off with guys who clearly don't get her - Margaery is so ready to be the power behind the throne. She's honestly a bit scary. If she grows up anything like her grandmother, she's going to be freaking terrifying.

There were other moments of classic character interactions at the wedding itself: Jaime and Loras (Finn Jones) had a marvelous conversation about how Loras was absolutely never ever going to get to marry Cersei, because she would literally murder him before having his kids, and also Loras is gay and not interested. It was a hilarious scene because they're being all coy, but Jaime is pulling a hardcore, "You'll never ever get to marry her!" older brother line, and Loras just shoots him right down with a simple retort. "Neither will you."

Boom. Roasted. Also, should we point out now that while season one treated this secret, the Cersei/Jaime affair, as this huge big scandalous thing that Ned Stark was literally killed for finding out about, and that starting a war raging through Westeros, but now the topic is so passe that Loras freaking Tyrell is making passing comments about it at a wedding? My how the times have changed.

Cersei had her own moment too, talking to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and mocking her for her tendency to swear allegiance to people who wind up dead. She also made fun of Brienne for being in love with Jaime, because Cersei is a jerk. But we already knew that.

The real highlight of the wedding, though, was what happened just as the cake was being cut. Having already humiliated his uncle, Joffrey decided that he had to pour wine down Tyrion's back, make him his cupbearer, and refuse to let him and Sansa (Sophie Turner) gracefully leave the reception. And then, in a moment of sheer divine retribution (let's be real, it was satisfying, if also kind of sad), Joffrey proceeded to choke on something poisonous, fall to the ground, and die.

Granted, he died in an incredibly gruesome way, and as he was dying we were reminded of the fact that, sociopath or no (definitely sociopath), Joffrey was still a kid, and now he's a dead kid. Also, Cersei immediately blamed Tyrion for poisoning her son, because she's kind of crazy like that, and completely ignored the fact that pretty much every single person at the wedding had a solid motive for killing him, except her.

Like, seriously, I cannot think of a single person there without a really solid reason to want Joffrey dead. Even Jaime wasn't overly fond of him, and the kid was his nephew/son. This show is weird. Did they forget that Oberyn "The Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts" Martell was there too? Or that Olenna was probably rubbing her hands right now in glee? 

One bright side, though, was that Sansa was able to escape the retribution, thanks to the King's fool, Dontos Hollard (Tony Way), whose life Sansa saved a couple of seasons back. She suggested that Joffrey spare the man's life, and after Joffrey made him a court fool. But he did live, and now he's going to return the favor.

In other parts of the world, specifically Northern ones, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) returned home to his absolutely terrifying castle with it's horrifying banner of a man being flayed alive, to check up on his bastard son, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) and their prisoner, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). 

Theon wasn't doing so well, and Roose was irritated to find that Ramsay had overstepped his bounds a little, by torturing Theon to the point of a dissociative personality disorder, and also cutting off his penis. Ramsay needs a little bit of psychological help, is all I'm saying. 

Roose was able to find the good in it, though, when he discovered that Theon was so bent to their will that he could give them valuable information about the whereabouts of the Stark boys, who were very much not dead when Theon left them, and are probably now headed to Castle Black to meet up with their bastard brother, Jon Snow. Ramsay was then sent off on a fun little adventure to find and kill the rest of the Starks. Yay!

To be honest, while I did feel a bit bad for Theon, since he has been completely and utterly torn apart and is now barely a person and more of a bundle of neuroses and Stockholm Syndrome, I kind of don't. When I think about feeling bad for him, I mostly tend to remember that he murdered two innocent children for power and was kind of a rapist. Plus he turned on his adoptive family like that. Sooooo...I'm just saying that I've felt worse about a character's fate.

Still in the North, just in a different part of it, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was still going through the woods towards the Wall, and learning how to be a Warg. This was probably the shortest storyline this episode, consisting of just a couple of scenes, but basically, Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster) was still teaching him how to magic, and Bran had a big vision about why they have to go north of the Wall. Also, Meera's (Ellie Kendrick) hair is amazing and I want it.

Finally, the last big storyline found us once more at Dragonstone, with the ever cheery Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and family presenting a mass ritual sacrifice to their weird and creepy god. I think we should all point out for a minute that they worship the "god of light", but it's always nighttime when they do their ceremonies, and I don't think that a god of light and joy would really be so keen on human sacrifice. But what do I know.

Stannis, still licking his wounds from being defeated in season two, was caught with some family issues for once. His wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), thought he should be doing more to appease their god of light, and also that he should probably get rid of their daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram), because her facial mutation meant the god was angry and that Shireen should be beaten. Selyse is a very pleasant woman. I'd totally go out for lunch with her.

Instead of beating his daughter - and I hate to say it, but I felt a little bad for Stannis in these scenes - he sent Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in to talk to her. Melisandre isn't exactly what I would call a comforting maternal figure, but she did tell it to the kid straight, and I think it might have been the first time Shireen ever had an honest conversation with an adult. 

The big event of this episode, though, was undoubtedly the wedding and Joffrey's not quite untimely death. There were a lot of thematic elements here, too. All of the storylines (except Bran's) had to do with retribution, with getting what's coming to you. Joffrey got his, but it was a bittersweet victory. There's no glory in death, or in killing a man at his own wedding, and when that man is a boy who dies horrifically and slowly, it takes all the fun out of it. Even if he did, undoubtedly, deserve a comeuppance.

In Theon's story, clearly the karmic payback had to do with all of the horrible things Theon has done now being done to him by someone who is much much worse than he could ever be, and whose daddy issues somehow manage to eclipse whatever weirdness Theon himself has going on. Ramsay and Theon are mirror images of each other, both committing atrocities to earn their fathers' love, and both of them probably headed for destruction. The only real difference is that Ramsay is a hell of a lot better at it.

And for Stannis, the comeuppance actually seems to be quite simple: that this war he sold his soul to win is still not over, and that in betting everything for a kingdom, he seems to have lost anything worth fighting for. His wife is nuts, his daughter is a shut-in because his wife is nuts, and his priestess is looking at him with more and more scorn, while his best friend sits in bafflement that everyone is going insane. Stannis seems to be slowly coming to the conclusion that a throne might not exactly make all of this better. 

It works. And while this episode dragged for me a little, since almost none of my favorites were on screen, the thematic cohesion really kept it singing. Sure, these are hands down the most depressing, bland, or brutal stories, but we did need something to offset the high drama of the royal wedding. It works. I like it. And, as always, the writing was excellent.

Still having trouble feeling bad for Theon, though.

More dragons and Dany next episode, please.

RECAP: Game of Thrones 4x01 - President of the Brienne Fanclub

I refer not to myself in the title, but to Olenna Tyrell, because how awesome was that scene where we discover that the generally straight-talking Olenna absolutely adores Brienne, for, as she put it, "knocking my grandson into the dirt like the silly little boy he is." I think I'm in love.

In other news, I've decided that while recapping isn't really the regular thing I do on here (that would be raging against the tyranny of mass media and our patriarchal/oligarchical societal structure), there are some shows that deserve an episode by episode analysis. Like Sherlock, with its new episodes every two years, or, say, Game of Thrones, that fits more plot development into a single hour than can be found in the entire nine year span of Friends.

So, with that in mind, I am a little behind. Let's talk about last week's episode, "Two Swords", that kicked off Season 4 for us and really got the blood pumping. The blood of our enemies that is. Pumping out a hole in their necks.

Arya is a scary child. 

SPOILERS from here on out, but it's a recap, so you might have guessed that.

When last we left the medieval land that no one in their right mind would ever want to inhabit, Westeros was reeling in the aftermath of the "Red Wedding", where the Lannisters paid Roose Bolton and Walder Frey to murder all the Starks at a wedding between someone not important and someone else not important. We said goodbye to Robb Stark and his pregnant wife, and also (probably) Catelyn, while Arya (Maisie Williams) came super close to reuniting with her family only to see them all die. Oh, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) was married off to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in the weirdest match since Cersei (Lena Headey) and Loras (Finn Jones).

The story picks back up with preparations underway for Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Joffrey's (Jack Gleeson) wedding, and everyone is in fine form. Sansa is devastated over her family's death, Tyrion is absolutely convinced that someone is going to either try to kill Sansa, or murder his actual love, Shae (Sibel Kikilli), and Cersei is generally bitter and drunk and angry that she was born a woman and can't just rule the country without all these jerks telling her what to do.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) have finally made it back to King's Landing, but all is not smooth sailing. Well, not for Jaime, at least. His father, Tywin (Charles Dance), wants him to give up the King's Guard and go be lord of Casterly Rock, but Jaime insists that will shatter all the honor he has left, which isn't much. Upon his refusal, Tywin basically disowns Jaime, but does give him a nice special sword as a compensation. 

He's also saddened to find that his sister, Cersei, doesn't really want to get with him anymore (oh this show, this terrifying show), because he lost a hand and she's kind of busy with the whole her son getting married and also being paired off with someone she will absolutely never be compatible with thing. She did buy him a nice replacement hand, though. It's very pretty.

Brienne, meanwhile, is trying to figure out where she fits now. She was sworn to Renly Baratheon, but then he died. Then she was sworn to Catelyn Stark. And then Catelyn Stark died. Right now, it seems, Brienne is free to swear to anyone she chooses, but I think she might be a little hesitant to hitch her wagon again so soon. At least Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) loves her, and Margaery accepts her condolences for Renly's death. Personally, I hope she winds up sworn to Margaery or Sansa, or someone with sense.

In between trying to manage his wife and his mistress, meanwhile, Tyrion is forced to greet the diplomatic visitors for the royal wedding. Among them? Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), and his consort, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma - yay!). There's some historic bad blood between the Martells and the Lannisters, which certainly isn't helped when the Lannisters send their second son out to greet the diplomatic party, and find that the Martells sent their second son to the wedding. Apparently this is bad on both sides.

Oberyn is happy to pay his respects to the king, but he reminds Tyrion that the Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts - his sister was married to Prince Rhaegar in the last war, and her fate was worse than death, at the hands of men sworn to Tywin Lannister. So, you know, they're super happy the Lannisters are in charge now. Totally.

Also, Oberyn Martell is pretty much Captain Jack Harkness but with political ambitions, and it's rather terrifying.

In the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) has to face a tribunal of the Night's Watch to determine his fate. He did, after all, abandon the Watch and kill a member of it, as well as join with the Wildlings to invade the land below the Wall. But since he did all of that on a spying mission, and he comes bearing valuable news about an attack from beyond the Wall, it's forgiven. Mostly. A little. Not really.

Some ways away, his ex-girlfriend, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her band of Wildlings are meeting up with some other Wildlings to form and army to attack Castle Black (the place where the Night's Watch is). The other Wildlings are scary and threaten Ygritte with sexualized violence, because of course they do. Have you seen this show?

Let's see... The adventures of Arya and the Hound (Rory McCann) continue. This time they stop at an inn for food, when Arya spots the man who killed her friend and stole her sword. They try to play it cool, but inevitably a fight breaks out when the men accuse the Hound of being unfaithful to King Joffrey (which, to be fair, he is), and Arya can't help herself from helping. Also from straight up murdering a guy in cold blood and watching him die because Arya Stark is pretty much the scariest character on the show.

Across the sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her gigantic army of freed slaves are gearing up to attack another city of jerks. Also her dragons have gotten a tiny bit bigger (read: freaking massive) and they aren't exactly tame, not even for her. Still, she has other problems to worry about, like how Jorah (Iain Glen) is still following her around like a lovesick puppy, and her other two generals are stuck in a pissing competition over who gets to be her favorite. Thankfully, she handles this in the best possible manner, by emasculating them and denying them the opportunity to compete. Doesn't stop one of them from hitting on her though. I'm sure Jorah is plotting his death.

Fortunately, Daenerys still has Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). Together they're pretty much unstoppable, and let's be real, Missandei is the only really useful person in that army, because she's the only one not trying to get into Daenerys' stylish and adorable pants.

Like with most things, I think I would enjoy this show much more (and that's saying something because I enjoy it a lot already) if we got some scenes where the female characters team up to rule the world. Give me Sansa and Margaery, Olenna and Brienne taking over King's Landing by force, kicking out all the stupid stupid men, and then just ruling peacefully. Arya and Brienne can run the Queen's Guard, Daenerys will come over and rule. Missandei is Hand of the Queen, while Olenna, Margaery, and Sansa form the Queen's Privy Council, and all the other badass ladies of Westeros trickle in. Deal? Deal.

Dang. That was a lot of show to recap. But it was such good show, wasn't it?

So here's the thing. In going back over this, which was probably really good for my memory capacity, I've been reminded yet again that Game of Thrones, for all that the television writers try to cover it over with layers of sexualized violence and scandal, is a story about the way that a patriarchal government system is detrimental to woman and men. You see so many men who are damaged because they are not suited to this kind of brutal, codified "masculinity", and we see many more women who are shoved down and denied their place because of it.

Westeros would be a much better place if these women had power. Even forget the women I've just named - we've still got Ellaria Sand, Shae, Cersei, Ygritte, Melisandre, and many, many more. Women who would probably be pretty great at ruling, if only given the chance.

It seems to me that this really is the message of the story - that those deemed least fit to rule are usually those who would be best at it. How else can you explain the narrative's emphasis on Tyrion, who is discounted because of his physical disability, and Jon Snow, ruled out because of the circumstances of his birth, and Daenerys Targaryen, considered unfit because she happens to be a woman. All of them would be great at ruling Westeros, and all of them aren't even considered an option.

Plus there's that little conspiracy theory where they all just might be relatives of each other.*

It's a great start to the season, and personally I'm excited to see where we go from here. My one real problem with the show was and remains its emphasis on the "shocking" violence, especially needlessly sexual violence, but that wasn't really present so much in this episode. Mostly it was backstabbing, politics, snarky one-liners, and the detrimental effects of a patriarchal society. All things I like!

I'm curious to see if this changes in the weeks ahead, or if the solid writing in this episode is indicative of a really spectacular season. Let's hope so!

*We don't know Jon Snow's parentage, not really, but there is strong suspicion that he is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, because he was born during the siege where they both died, and let's be real, Ned Stark would never cheat on his wife. Daenerys obviously is a Targaryen, but there's also stuff in the books about how Tyrion's birth defects are actually something rather common to the Targaryen line, and he resembles them, and also the Mad King was rather enamored of Tywin Lannister's wife. It would explain a lot.