Let’s Talk About Bridgerton

Ok, my fellow friends, we need to have a conversation about Bridgerton, the hottest new Netflix show, if you’ve somehow managed to not hear about that.

Over the course of a 3 day weekend, I watched the whole season. (I was pacing myself. Could I have watched it faster? Yes, but I wanted to savor it.)

I’m going to break this post into two parts: Review and Frustrations.

Shows like Bridgerton: Period. drama pieces to watch if you loved Bridgerton

Review

As far as being entertainment, this met my mark. I thought it was melodramatic, scandalous, and witty enough to keep me interested. There are a whole host of characters to follow–which means plenty to love and hate. And there is one character who had me cursing at the TV all the time, so the hate was real.

The plot is what you expect from your basic Regency romance: Daphne Bridgerton is newly out in society and searching for a husband. Quickly described as the “Diamond” of the season, she’s held in high esteem…until her prospects suddenly dry up after her overprotective brother drives all the suitors away. Now, if Daphne has any hope of landing a husband, she needs a new plan. Enter the Duke of Hastings, her brother’s best friend. He’s practically fending off mothers with a stick to keep his vow never to wed. He agrees to help Daphne become more desirable to the men of society if she will help him keep the mamas away.

So yeah. Guess how that one ends.

But just because I knew where it was headed didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Daphne is one of eight Bridgerton children, so there was always a lot going on. There were also the Featheringtons next door who were constantly getting into trouble. So while I may have known how Daphne’s story was probably going to go, I didn’t know about the other plot lines. And that was fun to discover as I watched and thought I knew how it would go.

The casting is interesting. At first, I was a bit of a historical purist, in that the casting is very multicultural and that didn’t mesh with history. Like they made Queen Charlotte a woman of color. But after watching the first episode, it was fine. In fact, it made the story all the more interesting. It’s basically a slightly alternate version of history in which King George and Queen Charlotte’s marriage actually ushered in the acceptance of different races in this society–including as Dukes and other noblemen. It’s very Shonda Rimes, I’m discovering, from my very limited knowledge of her shows.

Sometimes the plot/show did get a little tedious, but I overall enjoyed it. And it was also kind of awesome (and distracting at times) that the music in this was a lot of current pop music in string instrumental versions. I got super distracted at one pivotal moment in the series because it was playing Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” instrumentally in the background. I spent a good chunk of time trying to place the song rather than watching the show!

Frustrations

The other day at school, I was talking about this show with my coworkers at lunch. It was five women, all of us socially distanced around a large room. Three of us had seen the show, two had not.

Immediately after I brought it up, it was being batted around by two of them that this show was “trash”. One had seen it, one had not. They were calling it “trash” because it was based on a romance novel and had lovemaking scenes in it. One, who has a 17 year old daughter who has been asking if she could watch this, said that she told her no because her daughter really only wanted to watch it for the nudity scenes. (Which…like…is that really a terrible thing? I know that’s her daughter, so yuck, but…) She explained that this kind of TV was trash and wasn’t worth her time.

And…I sat there silently processing what had just happened, feeling something akin to a growing pit in my stomach area.

Because look. I’m a proponent of reading whatever you want. You read comics? Cool. You only read nonfiction books about gardening? Awesome. You’re an adult aficionado of children’s books? Good for you.

So I’m kind of starting to hate it when people dump on romance novels. I have learned so much from the historical romances I’ve read–things about class issues, things about the history of “unpickable” locks, things about women’s rights and how women fought for their own little slice of independence, my God, I’ve even learned a good bit of French from them. But most of all, I’ve learned that relationships take work and compromise and compassion and forgiveness. And that we’re all heroes and heroines in our own stories.

I made this argument at Christmas with my family when my family made fun of me for watching so many “predictable” Hallmark movies. I said, “You say Hallmark is predictable, but what about every Fast and Furious movie? I’ve never seen any, but I’m pretty sure something blows up in every single one of them.” One of my brothers immediately said no, but my dad was kind of laughing and he went, “Yeah, I think it does.” Point. Made.

So the problem does not seem to be that these stories are predictable and I’ve seen enough action and comedy movies to know that plenty of nudity and dirty jokes work their way into those movies too. Yet no one has a problem with those. They have a problem with it as soon as it’s about a loving relationship (which seems odd to me that this is the problem) and marketed to women.

I hate that people hear “romance” and they immediately get these mental images of 50 Shades and every crappy romance novel they’ve ever read. There are absolutely loser novels out there, as there are in every genre. I’ve read some real snoozer nonfiction books. I’ve read YA that has made me uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean they’re all worthless.

It’s time to start accepting romance. I’ve mulled this over in my head for a while, and I think I might start adding romance novels into my reviews, since I’m reading so many of them anyway. Then I’ll be posting a bit more frequently and maybe expand my audience a little. I know you all aren’t romance fans, but I think maybe I can help normalize reading them. And I really want to do that.

American Gods, Season 1

Image result for american gods season 1Hello everyone!  I found this at the library a few weeks ago and, being bored, I thought it might be a show worth watching.  I have not read the book, but I’m a fan of mythology and the idea of modernizing it, mixing these old gods with today’s world sounded fascinating.

Shadow Moon is a man with a dark past.  Now, his ultimate goal is to live a quiet life with his wife.  But when he gets word that his wife has died, his life is thrown into chaos.  As he flies home for the funeral, he meets the mysterious “Mr. Wednesday” who seems to know more about Shadow than he should.  Mr. Wednesday is insistent that something is coming and he needs Shadow to help him.  From this moment on, Shadow’s life will never be the same.

Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to start with this.  This was fantastic.  I’m actually terrified to read the book now because I don’t know how it can possibly be better than the show.  The show is that good.

Being a STARZ show, this is definitely meant for *much* older viewers.  Profanity, nudity, and more abound.  There were moments when things happened that I didn’t even feel like I was old enough to be watching it.  And I don’t know about anyone else, but I would have been highly uncomfortable watching this show with another person.  It’s….graphic.

But let me tell you, the story is wonderfully told.  Even though the story isn’t exclusively told from Shadow’s perspective, we basically only know as much as he does the whole time.  So when weird things happen, we don’t understand it either.  When something shocking happens, we’re as shocked as he is.  There’s this air of mystery the entire show where you know enough to have a general idea but not enough to know everything until the end.  I loved that, the slow unravel of the story as we got to know the characters better.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, and by multiple, I mean probably close to a dozen when all is said and done.  There are 2 episodes of the 8 that completely take you out of the main narrative to explain something that happened in the past to show how we got to this point.  I actually really enjoyed those episodes.  But also, at the beginning of most episodes, we get a little bit of a look at the lives of people as they came to America (Norsemen, slaves, Hispanics, etc.) and the gods they believed in.

Ah, there’s still so much I want to say and I don’t want to forget anything!

Ok, characters/actors.  Look, these actors are phenomenal.  Particularly the guy (Ricky Whittle) playing Shadow.  He comes off as cold and aloof a lot of the time, but I always felt like even though he seemed so stoic, I knew exactly what he was thinking and feeling.  That’s impressive.  I was also a fan of Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday and Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney.  Emily Browning, who plays Laura, is so good as well.  The stuff she has to act through…man, there’s no prep for that.  And she played it so well.

This show really allows all of the characters to have their own quirks.  Mr. Wednesday is definitely quirky and sarcastic while Shadow is, as I said, kind of stoic.  But he’s also slow to make decisions and thoughtful about what he’s seeing around him, no matter how incredible it is.  Laura is selfish and completely self-centered to the point of cruelty.  Mad Sweeney is hilariously unlucky and there’s far more to him than meets the eye.  I loved watching all of these characters evolve throughout the story.

Social commentary.  There was so much about this that felt timely and politically charged.  (I was about to change my wording of “politically” but then I remembered about 4 different scenes that actually do seem political, so I’m leaving it.)  Some of it was horrifying, some of it was eye-opening, so of it was simply human nature.  All of it was relatable.  I thought it was fascinating, though admittedly there were a few that made me squirm or were just hard to watch because of how well it matches what’s on the news.

I really enjoyed this show.  I would have been able to post this a week ago except halfway through watching the show, someone put the DVD on hold and I had to return it for a time.  That was a long week, not being able to watch the final 3 episodes.

I was always into it.  And I was usually yelling at the TV too, like this:

Image result for mel b what just happened gif

I don’t normally watch dramas, but this was so much better than anything I’ve seen in a long time and I can’t wait to see Season 2.  It’s getting crazy up in here.

The Last Kingdom, Season 1

Image result for the last kingdomHey!  So I mentioned this in Friday’s Weekly Obsessions and I just recently finished season 1.  So, since this is based on a book series, I thought I’d share my thoughts.  Especially since I’m going to be reading the book soon.

In this show, we follow Uhtred son of Uhtred.  Kidnapped by the Danes (we know them as Vikings) following a battle that killed his father, Uhtred was raised by the Danes.  By his 20s, he even starts believing himself to be one of them.  But when his new family is attacked, Uhtred decides it’s time to take back what is his.  The only problem is that to get back his land, he must help King Alfred defeat the Danes and secure England, not just from the Danes but from internal fighting.  Uhtred will need to pull on all of his Danish experiences and cleverness to keep himself alive in this war field and in this court.

First of all, I’ll admit that I’m a massive fan of early English history.  (Usually not this early, but I know quite a bit about the early Norman invaders.  Not that this is not utterly fascinating.)  I’m saying this to say that I genuinely watched this for the history, among other things.  And the history hits all the right marks.  Sure, there are the occasional moments that I’m not totally sure are true to the times, but those are rare and far between.  Generally speaking, the history (particularly the early Christian culture of Saxon England, the pagan culture of the Britons, and the Viking culture clashes) were so fascinating.  I truly enjoyed seeing the characters act and live within this time period.

Image result for the last kingdom

Uhtred, son of Uhtred, with the fabulous hair

Speaking of characters, let’s start in with some of our main characters and why I like them (without, hopefully, losing sight of the point).  Uhtred is our main character.  He’s not exactly a “protagonist” in the strongest sense of the word because there are many times he acts more like a villain.  Part of this has to do with the culture clashes I previously mentioned.  His Danish values, particularly related to warfare and justice, are anathema to those of his Christian friends.  But I really liked seeing these dual sides play out.  Because Uhtred does (usually) want to do the right thing.  He just sees “right” as different from everyone around him.  But we understand his reasons.

Image result for the last kingdom alfred

King Alfred

For supporting male characters, there are many fascinating ones.  Leofric is a fellow warrior and fast friend/supporter of Uhtred with an equally questionable moral compass.  Father Beocca tries to be the moral compass for Uhtred, with mixed results.  But having known Uhtred before his kidnapping, Beocca is sometimes one of the few Uhtred will actually listen to.  (Update: I HAVE JUST LEARNED THE ACTOR PLAYING BEOCCA WAS PROFESSOR QUIRRELL IN HARRY POTTER.  I’VE BEEN WATCHING THIS FOR OVER A WEEK AND NEVER PICKED UP ON THAT.)  There’s also the incredibly clever but not always warrior-like Alfred, the manipulative but stupid Aethelwold (who believes he should have been king), and Ragnar the Younger, Uhtred’s adoptive brother and one who often finds himself across from Uhtred in battle.

There are so many more interesting male characters (typically in the villain role, which they play very well), but I want to move on to the females.

Image result for the last kingdom brida

Brida, whose hair is equally fabulous

In their own ways, the women kind of rule this show.  Even given the limited role of women at the time (and their relatively short screen time, due to battles and seeing the story through Uhtred’s eyes), these women are able to make men crumble.  The most obvious of these are Brida, who was kidnapped by the Danes at the same time as Uhtred and finds herself as more of a Dane than even Uhtred does, and Queen Aelswith, Alfred’s strong and merciless wife.  These two alone are fierce, stubborn, and forces to be reckoned with.  It was fantastic to see these strong females in this time period.

But let’s not forget that even the “meek” girls could hold their own.  Mildrith is the goddaughter of a rich lord and becomes a political pawn–but she finds her own ways of fighting back.  As does Hild, a nun that we meet in probably the worst moment of her life.

It was just great to see all of them.  I mean, we tend to think of women at this time as being timid and docile, but historically speaking, that just wasn’t the case.  Women had to be fierce to survive.  And these are.

The last thing that I’ll really comment on is the plot.  From the first episode, this show had me.  (There was one false start, though, when I made the mistake of thinking this was a show I could knit to.  It’s not.  It demands your full attention.)

The plot moves in alternating paces.  The first episode, everything happens very quickly.  It was a struggle to figure out who anyone was besides Uhtred, which was only clear because we saw everything through his eyes.  Some of the other episodes move a little slower, but that usually just means there is betrayal happening, or we need to be watching for foreshadowing.  Everything in this show happens for a reason.  It’s brilliant writing.

Because of the time period, there are a lot of battle scenes, murders, and gruesome deaths.  We don’t necessarily see all of these in detail, but there are times that I have to look away from the TV for a moment because it’s so disgusting.  But to be fair, I have seen much worse.  So it’s something to keep in mind, but not necessarily a reason to not watch the show.

Also, don’t let the names slow you down.  Every episode, it seemed, I was learning names of characters who had been in basically all of the previous episodes but I’d never caught there names.  I didn’t learn Beocca’s name until like episode 4.  I didn’t learn Leofric’s until 8.  And even then, I was looking at IMDb this whole post to make sure I spelled names correctly.  (And learning that I’d pronounced them wrong the whole time as well.  I thought Leofric was something like Lara-fritch.)  I know it’s super intimidating, but even if you don’t know their names, the characters are fantastic.  Stick with it.

I’m very excited to start the next season and see what happens!  If you’re also a fan of this show, please let me know!  No one I know watches it!

(If you’re interested, it is a BBC show, but at least in the United States, it is currently on Netflix as well.  At least seasons 1 & 2 are.  I guess there’s supposed to be a 3rd season at some point?  Maybe?  I hope?)

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 (Netflix)

a-new-series-of-unfortunate-events-to-hit-netflix-462487Secrets will be revealed, one unfortunate event at a time.

It dawned on me the other day that I finished this series recently and I hadn’t blogged about it!  And with Netflix’s sudden interest in adapting YA novels into TV series (looking at you, 13 Reasons Why), I’m going to be busy!

If you don’t know the premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is an unfortunate event in itself), here’s some background: three children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) find themselves suddenly becoming orphans after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents.  Shipped off to live with their closest relative, Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris), the trio find life is no longer comfortable and safe.  They have too many questions about their parents, their parents’ deaths, and their new guardian.  Because no matter how they try to escape Count Olaf, they can never get far enough away.

Quick overview of the episodes: this series covers the first four books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill).  Each book is broken into two episodes that range in length but generally run about 50 minutes.

I thought this series was really interesting.  I watched it over the course of about a month with my boyfriend, who kinda sorta knows the stories.  Anyway, the story is narrated by Lemony Snicket (played by Patrick Warburton).  He cuts in and out to explain what words mean or tell us that something bad is about to happen, the same way Snicket did in the books.  (It’s probably been over 12 years since I last read the books and I still remember Snicket’s way of defining words All. The. Time.)

The acting, I thought, was great.  Obviously I enjoyed Warburton’s dry humor and his somber delivery as our narrator, but NPH…give this guy some props.  He plays Olaf (and Olaf’s many personas) masterfully.  Olaf is obnoxious and boisterous and terrible, but that just goes to show how good NPH is because that’s so not the NPH we’ve come to know.  And the fact that he pulls off these weird disguises he wears to get close to the children also goes to show just how amazing an actor he is.  (As if that isn’t enough, he also sings the theme songs to each episode!  The songs are all a little different, depending on which book you’re in.)

The children were also delightful.  Violet (played by Malina Weissman) is clever and careful.  I totally bought into her older sister act as she tried to keep tabs on Klaus and Sunny to protect them.  And Klaus (played by Louis Hynes) was just a sweetheart.  He’s booksmart and savvy, always two steps ahead of Olaf.  They were so much fun to follow, and the chemistry between the two of them was great.  They really seemed like family.

And of course, the minor characters were fantastic.  From Olaf’s crew of henchmen to the Baudelaire orphans’ new guardians, they were all well-cast and brilliant.  I did kind of have a freak out when I saw that Aasif Mandvi was playing Uncle Monty.  I think Mandvi is hilarious.

The show, amazingly, is targeted at both children and adults.  So the humor remains clean and the children’s conflicts are familiar to other kids.  But as an adult, I loved the subtle jokes this show got off.  It broke the fourth wall, they made all kinds of literary references to classic novels and writers, and the acting sometimes gave subtle jokes as well.  It’s mostly based on puns and slapstick for humor, but that’s my favorite.  And like I said, there are great literary references if you listen closely.  Everything from George Orwell to Virginia Wolf to Moby Dick.  Basically every episode dropped something that my English major side picked up on.

I really enjoyed this.  I won’t say everything was perfect; some of the episodes felt long.  There were times I started getting a little bored.  But it was still fun to see this series come to life and I’m really interested to see where the next season goes.

Outlander: Season 2

outlander-season-2-poster-600x400So for those of you that follow this show, the season finale was last night and I have GOT to talk about it.  Welcome to my review, where I’m going to attempt to not spoil too much but also convince you that you need to watch this show.

*If you’ve never read Outlander before/know nothing about the story…there could be slight spoilers to come.  We are in book 2 after all.*

So in this season, based on the book Dragonfly in Amber, Jamie and Claire are exiled from Scotland and living in France.  Desperate to try to stop the battle at Culloden Moor, they attempt to ingratiate themselves in Parisian high society and subtly undermine the Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Outlander Season 2 2016Let’s start by talking about the phenomenal acting.  Obviously, Caitriona Balfe knocks it out of the park.  She’s expressive and totally gets who Claire is.  I love watching her because she always nails it.  (Best episode is easily 2.07 “Faith”.)  She can do everything from showing Claire’s cunning and manipulative side (which she needs to survive in Paris) to her caring and heartbroken side.  I have a mad girl crush on Balfe.  So much love.  Granted, TV show Claire is a little different from book Claire, but she’s still totally amazing.

Now for Sam Heughan.  Obviously, he’s hot (except when his hair is always pulled back in Paris).  Jamie begins this season broken and Claire has to slowly piece him back together.  (Also, I’m pretty sure that by the end of the season, they’ve more or less forgotten about his hand issues…)  Now, Heughan is a fantastic actor.  He handles the battle scenes with the right amount of strength, regret, and determination that make up Jamie.  But I’m also kind of sad that Jamie is no longer the expressive young man he was in the first book.  I can’t tell if that’s because his character is written that way given what happened at the end of season 1 or if that’s an acting choice of Heughan’s, but it has made it a bit harder for me to really feel for Jamie.

And it’s time to do a massive gush for my minor characters.  Duncan Lacroix really made Murtagh bloom this season.  While Murtagh is still that serious, stubborn man he’s always been, he’s now added humor and fantastic one liners to his repertoire.  Graham McTavish gave Dougal a desperate, unbridled edge that made him a great addition to the later part of the season.  Stephen Walters knocked it out as Angus, as he always does.  You truly never know what Angus will say or do next.  Romann Berrux is the most adorable Fergus I could wish for.  Stanley Weber is delightful as the cunning Comte St. Germain.  Rosie Day is beautiful as the innocent Mary Hawkins.  But two of my favorites were Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond and Frances de la Tour as Mother Hildegarde.  Those two tended to steal scenes they were in.

Outlander Season 2 2016I am also madly in love with the casting of Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton as Roger Wakefield and Brianna Randall.  By the middle of the finale last night, I knew that I truly liked Rankin’s Roger.  He’s adorable.  The only thing I was unhappy with was the little screen time the two of them got.

For those of you familiar with the book, you are probably aware that the book is not written in chronological order.  (I remember freaking out terribly when I started that book, wondering what had happened.)  The show attempts to do that as well, but not to the degree that the book does.  It’s modified.  And in fact, they basically push all that stuff in the beginning of the book to the finale.  I was dying.  For as much as I was struggling with it when I read it, it’s become some of my favorite stuff.

As typically happens when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show, some things get cut or changed.  I’d say probably 85% of the show stays true to the book.  What I mean by that is that many of our favorite scenes (Faith, the duel, Fergus, etc.) are what we remember from the book.  But every few episodes, something I considered biggish would change.  Plot lines simplified.  Little surprises planted to keep even the most devoted readers guessing.  Those kinds of things.

Still, some of my favorite things got cut as well.  I felt that some of Claire’s strongest moments were missing in the second half of the season, making her seem more frail in some respects.  Her medical side is nearly dropped altogether because of the amount of action happening in the rest of the story.  I was a bit disappointed by that, but Claire was still feisty whenever she had to go toe-to-toe with Jamie or anyone else trying to push her.  And everything from that later time period felt lacking because so little time was allotted to it.  That was perhaps my biggest disappointment of the season.

But seriously thought, this show goes above and beyond so much else on TV right now.  Whether you’ve read the books or not, you can get into this.  One of my family’s friends was watching the show once and her husband, who knew nothing about the storyline at all, got sucked in and loves watching it.

It’s definitely violent and gory and sometimes disturbing, but it’s not usually every episode.  If you can put up with the occasional gore (we are in the middle of a war, after all), this is so worth it.  And typically, you can feel the violence coming.  It doesn’t usually spring out of nowhere like in a horror film.

The writers did a fantastic job with this show, one episode even being written by Diana Gabaldon herself.  (You can just feel how that episode is different from the rest.  It’s so her.)  The set design crew and costume department did magnificent things when they were in Paris.  It’s beautiful.

And in the finale?  Tons of little Easter eggs about things that happen in the future if you’ve read the books.  My mom has not gotten past book 3, Voyager, so I had to bite my tongue to keep from spilling secrets.

I love this show so much and if you’re full of feels right now too, LEAVE A COMMENT AND WE’LL GUSH TOGETHER.

Bitten: Season 3

33891350214502637726I don’t know how many of you are actively following me talk about this show, but hey, I figured if I’ve done the other two seasons, might as well also do the last season.  (As I just discovered, there are only 3 seasons.  It’s done.  I feel like I should’ve known that before, but c’est la vie.)

*Potential Series Spoilers*

They’ve battled mutts and they’d dealt with witches, but this new challenge could destroy the pack entirely.  Elena has seen a premonition in which she brings about the downfall of Stonehaven.  But how?  And why?  The presence of the Russian pack in Bear Valley seems to be a problem, but are they the source of the destruction?  Or is it the strangers who come to town searching for Elena?  The pack is going to need all their wits and strength to fend off the newest challenge…

Ahem.  Well…I think I liked the previous two seasons a lot better.

Don’t get me wrong.  Still tons of girl-love for Elena.  Strong, feisty, clever.  She’s a great role model and the perfect character to handle dealing with all these problems.  Not to mention I’m still jealous of her wardrobe.  Even though I’d never wear half of it without feeling like I’d be in a biker gang.

But some of the other characters kind of started to bother me.  Clay just needed a serious hair cut.  From the first time I saw him this season, I was like, “Nope.  Go.  Great Clips is calling your name.  This is not going to work.”  Yet for ten episodes he ignored me.  How rude.

In all seriousness, though, Jeremy isn’t the same alpha I’ve come to know and respect.  The stress has changed him and it was a little bit scary because he had suddenly gone from reliable to unpredictable.  It was unsettling and instead of looking forward to scenes with Jeremy in it, I was suddenly cringing through them.  I know this is intentional and all because it kind of has to be this way, given the story line, but I didn’t like it.  By the end of the season, though, he’d started to return a little more to normal.

I will say that this season did have the scariest villain I’ve seen in a while in television.  That cold, clinical approach to torture and death.  It’s chilling.  But that also brought out Elena’s strength, so who am I to really complain?

I was glad to see some of the minor characters that we’ve loved (and loved to hate) return for this season.  I won’t say who, but you’ll know them when you see them.

And there were a number of interesting new characters introduced that were (mostly) delightful too.

But as for the episodes themselves, they got a little predictable, a little boring.  I know the stakes are so much higher now and all, but it became a bit numbing after a while.  I didn’t care sometimes that death was on the line for them because well, it’s always on the line in these episodes.

So yeah.  Even though I enjoyed the characters a lot (except Jeremy’s changes), I just couldn’t get into this season as much as I could the previous two.