Category Archives: television

[television]one of a kind: a love letter to orphan black

As a lover of science fiction and a feminist, sometimes the sci fi landscape feels a little bleak. The boys club mentality holds on a little bit more stubbornly in this genre than in others. (For proof on even the fandom level just look to the levels of outrage over a female Doctor Who.) It’s a real life mirror of the continued misconception that women have little to no place in STEM fields. Somehow we are still not smart or logical enough by some of the old guard way of thinking. When fiction reinforces these misconceptions, it can be down right infuriating.

Well, boys club, meet Clone Club.

Orphan Black begins with Sarah Manning watching someone who looks exactly like her intentionally and resignedly throw herself in front of a train. Sarah being a bit of a grifter and con artist doesn’t miss the opportunity to grab the mysterious stranger’s purse and check her place out. She’s partially driven by opportunity and trying to figure out who a woman that could be her clone is. So does she find the beginning of the rabbit hole with, well, actual clones.

As the mystery unravels and winds the most important aspect of Orphan Black makes itself apparent. Family is the center of everything, especially the sisterhood of Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena.

Brilliantly portrayed by Tatiana Maslany, the four sestras stand at the center of the mystery and each possesses a strength that will see them through while they figure everything out. Sarah is street smart. Cosima is brilliant in science. Alison is organized. And Helena is a trained killer. All of them unapologetically embrace their feminine strengths, both tradional and non. Their biggest strength is their sisterhood and developing trust in each other.

Sisterhood and family are the very center of Orphan Black.

Surrounding the sisters is a network that becomes a family. Even the foster mother Sarah could never connect with becomes their strongest ally once secrets are out and walls broken down. Brothers, spouses, lovers, friends and partners all become part of the fold. It is the strength of that family that makes them strong enough to fight a powerful multinational corporation with government ties.

Also refreshing is Orphan Black doesn’t shy away from presenting women as also being cold, logical and unswayed by emotion. Rachel Duncan is another clone who is also a villain. She has no sense of loyalty to her fellow clones and only to the corporation that wants to profit off them. She is an experiment in her own way, but chooses to follow the path of greatest benefit to herself, regardless of consequences. Rarely are female characters written with any motivations that are not emotionally based and Rachel’s motivations are almost always logically based in her own self interest.

Orphan Black’s finale aired last weekend and it was an emotional thing. Certainly it’s rare that a show knows when to end and does so in such a graceful, unrushed way. It will be missed, but it was also a gift and a revelation. Here’s hoping it paves the way for even more science fiction stories with such strong, nonstereotypical women. Orphan Black did this while posing questions about morality, self determination and scientific ethics. It is a one of a kind show and it will be loved for a long time to come.

[television]you’ve been gilmored~a year in the life

(Here there be spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Lots and lots of spoilers.)

I first discovered Gilmore Girls probably about halfway through it’s run. I had no initial interest, because as a rule CW/Freeform style teen dramas aren’t my jam. From the outside looking in, it appeared to be your typical mother/daughter overwrought emotion fest. On a whim I had Netflix send me a disc though to see what all the hype was about. I was a single mom with a two year old son. Within two episodes I was completely hooked. I over identify with the shows I love, so I saw myself as Lorelai. I was a Lorelai with Rory’s reading habits, a better relationship with my mother and eventually an ability to cook, but I was Lorelai. I love coffee. I talk too much. I’m terrified of emotional commitment while one hundred percent craving one. I wanted to live in a kooky little town like Star’s Hollow and have my own Luke’s Diner to go to. I wanted to know people like Kirk, Babette and even Taylor Doose.

Suffice it to say that was amongst the people who were very excited when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was announced. We’d get to go back and see what everyone was up to and relive a little bit of that Gilmore magic. And for the most part it was delivered. There were some awfully awkward moments. There were some tear jerking moments. What follows is my feelings on some of them.

First off, the biggest presence was felt by the man who tragically was not there. Edward Hermann played Richard Gilmore with a quiet balance of humor and panache that made him one of the few standout male characters on what is a very female centric show. Since his passing, the world waited to see how it would be handled. It was probably the best done thing about the revival. Richard has died of a heart attack shortly before the start of “Winter”. Emily is coming to terms with being on her own. Lorelai is coming to terms with herself and her relationship with her father and the man he was. Every single scene centered around anything to do with the man I teared up. It was an incredible tribute to the man and the actor.

Emily, oh Emily. Here’s the thing with Emily: If I knew her in real life I’d think she was terrible. She’s manipulative and derisive and actually pretty terrible. As a show character though she is fantastic and acerbic and witty (in addition to the rest). Emily spends a good chunk of the revival trying to find her footing after losing her husband of 50 years (minus that brief separation). You see her in jeans. She is fragile. She is angry. She finds how to live for herself instead of the opinions of everyone around her and ends up in the most unlikely of places talking about whaling for a job.

She also has the second best scene in the entire movie when she tells the DAR in no uncertain terms how much bullshit she is tired of, from them and everyone else.)

Lorelai was always the star of the show for me (in case you didn’t pick up on that on your own from my intro there). She shines here. She spent the whole series trying to find her happy and outside of a few individual moments, it never really felt like she found it. Now it’s been 9 years and she’s been with Luke the whole time, not married and with no more kids. Her whole arc can come down to she finds her happy. I was always Team Christopher, but I love the way she and Luke came together in the end. He is her forever person and it was handled perfectly.

Best Lorelai moment: The whole going to do Wild (the book, not the movie) to figure things out. It goes as predicted for her in that the hike never happens, but she finds her clarity. And another one of those sob worthy Richard moments.

And then there’s the final Gilmore Girl. Last we saw Rory she was jumping on a bus to go campaign for Senator Barack Obama (maybe you’ve heard of him). Now, sadly, this gif sums up who Rory Gilmore has become. She’s whiny. She’s indecisive. She has no passion. She’s………..kind of fucking awful. From still sleeping with Logan even though she had a boyfriend and he has a fiancĂ© to selfishly pursuing writing a book about someone who doesn’t want her to write about them, she not only has stunted maturity wise, but seems to have fallen backward. There’s pretty much not a thing that I enjoyed about her storyline. So there’s that.

Then there’s Paris. Paris is still lovable, overbearing Paris. Time has softened a few of her edges, but not many. Thoroughly enjoyed every moment she was on screen. I do still find it not entirely believable that she would have had kids though. Especially more than one. Unfortunately Rory’s other best friend (and more consistently supportive one at that), Lane, pretty much got shafted. She had a lot of screen time relatively, but it doesn’t add up to much more than her being exactly where we left her at the end of the series. It says something when the thing that stands out the most is the fact that we finally got to see her father after all this time.

All I’m going to even say about the boys in Rory’s life is that if you weren’t somehow already Team Jess, there is no conceivable way you aren’t now. I mean, just look at him. And he grew up and got his shit together unlike Logan and didn’t have eight million kids like Dean.

Final Thoughts

So here’s the thing with revivals. They rarely live up to the hype. You have moments like Lorelai and Sookie meeting up in the kitchen and having no chemistry. It happens. These are people who once worked together constantly and now probably haven’t even really talked to each other in years. I can forgive that and overlook it. As a whole, a Year in a Life was as successful as we can expect a revival to be. There are moments that just feel like filler and don’t feel organic in any way. (Examples are my two least favorite moments of the endless musical and the Life and Death Brigade scene. It’s extra unfortunate on the second, because all and all the only thing I liked about Logan for the most part was his crew.)

Now, I guess we can’t finish up without discussing the last four words. A lot of people felt like it was left on a cliffhanger, but in so many ways it wasn’t. We don’t need to see Rory’s story, because in so many ways we already have. Logan is her Christopher. Jess is her Luke. Outside of small details, it’s easy to see how this plays out. My only real issue with it is that it would have made a lot more sense nine years ago when Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended it to be said.

In closing, the only thing I’d really want anyone to take away is this:

Kirk is the MVP of a Year in the Life.

C’mon, he has a pig. He makes that second movie. He even gets something right finally. This is an indisputable fact.