Thursday, August 4, 2016

The spoils of serial drama

"Well there's no time for doubt right now, and less time to explain
So get back on your horses, kiss my ring, join our next campaign."

Spoiler Alert! On the off chance that you are watching the French crime drama Engrenages [Spiral] or the slightly less off chance that you are watching the British crime drama Vera, I'm going to talk about specific plot details. I may refer to other shows too, so proceed with care - if you care.

Not long ago, within the last month, Neil and I were talking about regular characters in series and cliffhangers. For example, I was working my way through four seasons of Spiral on Netflix and so many episodes end with a cliffhanger, someone shot, someone beaten, someone slitting their wrists in a bathtub. Yet within the first five minutes of the next episode, they wake up in the hospital and pretty soon they are back on their feet, with a bandaid or a bruise or a few stitches for an episode or two.

Peaky Blinders may be the best (worst) example of that. People are mowed down in every episode like your lawn on the day that the yard crew comes. And all of the regular characters are regularly beaten to a pulp, but no one seems much the worse for wear for very long. Hell, Tommy had his skull hand crushed against a wall by a very strong and evil priest, had his gold tooth cut out of his mouth, and not by a dentist, was kicked where it hurts by men wearing hard pointy boots, and not only lived to tell but healed beautifully with no long-term cosmetic damage. (Too bad he's still bent on killing himself with smokes and coke.)

Bottom line, it seems like the only time a regular character is killed off is when the actor who plays that characters wants to leave a show, like Dan Stevens, who played Matthew on Downton Abbey.

I should mention that I like spoilers. I often read episode summaries ahead of time. I hate being blindsided by things like Sybil's death and Matthew's death. I frequently do the same for the books Neil and I read. I read the Wikipedia entries. I like to know where things are going and patience is not my strong point.

So Neil and I were watching the first episode of Season 6 of Vera. Truthfully, that show has few regulars, only two characters have been in 23 or more of the 25 episodes to date. But most of the turnover happens between seasons and the only one that I remember being acknowledged was Joe Ashworth, Vera's second in command, who disappeared between Seasons 4 and 5 (there was a reference to a long-awaited promotion). Everyone else missing from Vera's staff is just gone, and new officers are just on board.

So it was quite shocking when DC Bethany Whelan (Cush Jumbo), who's been around, on and off, since Season 2, is shot in the back and has the audacity to actually die. She wasn't just rushed to the hospital, put on life support, and expected to make a full recovery.

I liked Bethany, the character anyway, and it blew my theory.

And the very next day I watched the last episode of Season 4 of Spiral. A little background. The French police, legal and judicial system are bound together closely and virtually everyone is corrupt. Some are corrupt for better reasons than others. For some, self-interest governs, for others, it's simply an expedient way to achieve justice, for example, in lieu of non-circumstantial evidence, the good cops just knock the suspected guilty party about until he confesses.

The police squad featured is run by Laure. Her two seconds are Gilou and Tin-tin. She is single and likes her sex casual, but in Season 2 she hooks up with Sami, who joins the squad for an undercover assignment. In the season finale, the drug bust is made but Sami is outed, brutally beaten and seemingly disposed of by the soulless perps. Ultimately, after more knockings about and a shooting or two, a flunkie spills the beans. Sami is located in the trunk of an abandoned car in some godforsaken wasteland. He is alive! He and Laure smile at each. The credits roll.

This brings up another anomalous point. The drug-dealing scoundrels have no morals, they execute people regularly, including their own cousins and brothers. But rather than kill Sami, they go to the bother of trussing him up, sticking him in the trunk of a car and driving it to a remote locale, where they leave him for dead. Why not just kill him? Why leave all that extra DNA evidence? Why take the chance that he will live to tell? And who just ditches a car?

No answers here. Sami is conveniently absent from Season 3 and never mentioned. Laure begins a real relationship with Vincent, a fellow copper who seems like a nice enough guy. True, she seduces him in the first place as a smokescreen, in order to get back evidence that would have sent Gilou to prison for accidentally killing a drug dealer. But she likes him and things seem to be going well. At least she's not sleeping in her car because she doesn't want to be home alone anymore.

And then, who shows up in the middle of Season 4 but Sami. Yeah, he had to leave without saying goodbye because he was sent undercover again, but trust him, Laure, he never stopped thinking of you, he came back for you. And he doesn't want to share you. That old chemistry is there and Laure can only resist for so long.

I kept saying, don't do it, don't screw up what you have with Vincent, but does she listen to me? Of course not. And of course Vincent is standing at the window when Sami drops her at the house, and of course she lies and says Gilou dropped her off, and oh, she's just going to hop in the shower now.

So Vincent suspects, but it's all circumstantial isn't it, and when he suggests that Laure might want to stay at her own place, she immediately seduces him. She's really torn, Sami is putting on the pressure, she's buying time.

And in the last episode it all boils down to a cell-phone controlled bomb in the police station. Sami and Tin-tin find it, Sami orders Tin-tin away saying he is trained to defuse bombs. What is that ringing? Why didn't Sami turn off the cell phone before it could ring? The explosives go boom, Tin-tin is hurled down the hallway by the blast. Sami is blown to kingdom come. Laure cries broken-heartedly and we go to the credit crawl.

So, yeah, another semi-regular character annihilated. At least it resolve's Laure's plight of being caught between two lovers. Not as satisfying as having her do the right thing, whatever that would have been, since both were nice guys. Vincent just had a little more stability to offer, and I'm all for that.

I recovered from all that drama by binge-watching Season 4 of Whitechapel. That was about as dark and eerie as they come, rife with images of the supernatural, and plot lines centering around ergot poisoning, humans flayed alive (literally) and cannibalism. I thought there were a few loose ends left, but since the show was not recommissioned, we'll never know.

Things are a bit crazy busy here and will be for most of August. I just got home from four days with my daughter, who had outpatient surgery. The silver lining there was some (but never enough) grandson bonding time.

I'm home for a day, then I have a two-day lampwork class with Sharon Peters at Glass Sorbet. I'm excited about spending time with local glass friends. Then I'm home for another day and off we go to Anaheim. Disneyland! Channel Islands National Park! Beads to carry!

After that, there will be a week or two of life as usual, followed by our annual pilgramage to the Poconos with Neil's family. More beads to carry!

This will be one of the longest breaks for me from making beads and selling beads. I'm curious how it will feel. I think it's needed and probably well overdue.

Between the class this weekend and some time off, maybe I'll emerge re-energized and inspired. It's too much to hope for that I'll have a major talent breakthrough but some new design ideas are not out of the ballpark.

Thanks to technology, I'm hoping to keep writing here through the month. In fact, I'm eager to finish this post because I've already started writing the next one in my head.

And since we all know that doesn't count, I'd best get on with it.

Who's afraid of the sun?
Who would question the goodness of the mighty?
We who banish the threat
When your little ones all go nighty nighty

Well there's no time for doubt right now
And less time to explain
So get back on your horses
Kiss my ring, join our next campaign

And the Empire grows
With the news that we're winning
With more fear to conquer
And more gold thread for spinning
Bright as the sun
Shining on everyone

Some would say that we've forced our words
And we find that ingenuously churlish
Words are just words
Don't be so pessimistic, weak and girlish
We like strong, happy people
Who don't think there's something wrong with pride
Work makes them free
And we spread that freedom far and wide

And the empire grows the seeds of its glory
For every five tanks plant a sentimental story
'Til they worship the sun
Even Christ loving ones

And we'll kill the terrorizers
And a million of their races
But when our people torture you
that's a few random cases
Don't question the sun
It doesn't help anyone

But the journalists cried out
When it was too late to stop us
Everyone had awakened
To the dream they could enter our colossus
And now I'm right, yeah, you said I'm right
There's nothing that can harm me
Cause the sun never sets on my dungeons or my army

And the empire fell on its own splintered axis
And the emperor wanes as the silver moon waxes
And the farmers will find old coins
In their strawberry fields
While somebody somewhere twists his ring
And someone kneels

Oh, where is the sun shining for everyone?

(Dar Williams - Empire)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz