Tag Archives: sci fi

Star Trek Picard Finds the “Watcher”


Time for my (over due) review of the most recent episode of Star Trek: Picard. This is for episode 4, entitled "Watcher."

It is a really fun episode with some very funny moments. I’m still quite enjoying it and look forward to the next episode.

I have been trying to avoid other people’s reviews until after I write mine, even though I link to a bunch once I do start reading them. Because I’ve been doing that I have sometimes missed something that others noticed that I would like to comment on. I’ll be doing that below.

I do want to note before I get into the spoilery stuff that a lot of people whose reviews/recaps/reactions I have been reading have been commenting on how slow the plot seems to be moving in this season. I don’t completely disagree with them, because I really enjoy a lot of the character development stuff that is happening in the episodes. But I also understand that that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I can’t talk about the episode any further without spoilers so…

If you don’t want to be spoiled for this episode or episode one, turn back now!


Turn back now if you don’t want any spoilers!

If you haven’t seen the episode you should (if you can) go watch it now!

Seriously!

This is your last chance before the spoilers!


Episode three ended with our heroes split up into three locations: Picard and Dr Jurati are in the ship with the Borg Queen, Raffi and Seven are somewhere in L.A. trying to track down both Rios and the Watcher, while Rios managed to get himself arrested by immigration enforcement (and his comms badge is so far as we know still sitting on a desk in the clinic where Rios got his injuries worked on). So we pick up with these three threads.

One of the things we learn answers a question that was being debated since episode three: where, exactly, did La Sirena crash? Because the dialog in episode three indicated that they were headed right at Los Angeles when Picard asked for navigational control and said he was aiming them "home." Many of us assumed he meant he was aiming for Chateau Picard — but that’s in France, on the other side of the globe from L.A. If you already don’t have enough power to come down in a soft landing and you’re falling toward Los Angeles, how could you aim just a little differently and hit France?

So others assumed he had crash landed them somewhere else in the western U.S. and we were all misinterpreting the "home" line.

Turns out that some how Picard did crash them into the vineyards around Chateau Picard, and he chose it because he knew during the early 21st century no one was living there. We find this out because it’s getting cold inside the ship (systems are self-repairing now, but heating apparently isn’t working, yet). Also, Picard thinks Jurati need to rest, whereas she’s convinced if she keeps busy she’ll recall more information she swiped from the Borg Queen’s mind.

Meanwhile, in Rios is in custody at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility where he learns what it feels like to be tasered. He also has another conversation with the doctor from the clinic before the officials have to release her because they’ve confirmed her U.S. citizenship.

One of the things I missed in the last episode was the name of the doctor’s clinic: the Mariposa Clinic. Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. And in the previous episode Jurati had warned everyone about the dangers of altering the timeline by referring to the butterfly effect. Just as the Ray Bradbury story, "A Sound of Thunder" when a time traveller accidentally killed a butterfly in the distant past it changed the future. While I had noticed a few butterflies inside the clinic, I had just assumed that this was a visual choice to reinforce the notion that such metaphorical butterflies were everywhere. But now I’m worried that Rios’s budding relationship with the doctor is going to become a problem — specifically that they might find themselves in a situation where they have to let her die or the timeline is broken further.

Meanwhile, Seven and Raffi track Rios comm link to the clinic where they meet a nurse who explains the clinic was raided and that the doctor and a patient who matches Rios’ description was taken away. What follows is a series of funny scenes (no, seriously, hilarious!) as Raffi tried to get the cops to tell her where Rios is, while Seven is trying to keep her calm. A friendly bystander explains them the local police wouldn’t have any records of someone taken my ICE. As Raffi figures out how undocumented people are treated in the U.S.A of 2024 she becomes even more determined.

So, despite the warnings earlier from Dr Jurati, and continued efforts from Seven to talk her down, Raffi breaks into a cop car to use the police laptop to hack the feds computer, which puts Seven in the position (as cops come running from the nearby station), of jumping into the drivers seat of joining in on the theft of the car.

The following car chase was very fun. Technically, as car chases go there have been many examples in film and television that were more pulse-poundingly thrilling. It’s just a good chase. But what makes the scene work is that the whole time they are trying to evade the police while Seven figures out how to drive the antique is the continued banter/spat between Raffi and Seven throughout.

Back in France La Sirena has repaired enough that they can attempt to transport Jean Luc to the coordinates Jurati swiped from the Borg Queen’s mind, so they do.

This is another example of Picard making an unwise choice, in my opinion. Jurati has been compromised before she ever mind-linked with the Borg Queen, so I think leaving her alone with the Queen is a terrible idea. I hope I’m wrong.

Jurati and the Borg Queen have a conversation where the Queen continues to be scarily charming and sinister at the same time. Jurati seems to be holding her own, but…

Jean Luc finds himself at Guinan’s bar in L.A. The same bar he will visit in three hundred years/did visit in episode one. Despite the fact that I have enjoyed the Luke Skywalker scenes in The Mandalorian, I am really glad that the decided to cast a younger actress to play this younger Guinan rather than to do a CGI de-aged Whoppi Goldberg.

Jean Luc finds Guinan in a very cynical and bitter mindset. She is preparing to leave Earth entirely, having given up on humanity. This seemed like an odd choice, given that in canon Guinan, though an alien, appears to be an African-American woman, and by 2024 had been living on Earth for more than a century, and has witnessed a lot on human inhumanity to fellow humans, particularly aimed at women and people of color. Why is it only by 2024 that her patience has run out?

Anyway despite many fan theories leading up to this episode and Jean Luc’s initial though when the Borg Queen’s coordinates brought him to Guinan, she insists she is not a Watcher, but she knows who the Watcher is. She talks a bit about them, saying that they are supervisors who are always very cryptic and are set on Earth to protect particular people. This is a direct call back to the Star Trek Original Series episode, "Assignment: Earth" where the Enterprise travels to 1968 Earth and encounter a mysterious guy named Gary Seven. Seven claims to be a human raised on another planet and sent to Earth at this point in its history to protect the human species during a "delicate time." Seven referred to himself and his colleagues who had been killed just before the episode began as Supervisors.

Anyway, once Jean Luc convinces Guinan to help, she offers to take him to the Watcher.

Rios is loaded up on a bus supposedly simply to be deported, but there have been hints in earlier scenes that possibly in 2024 ICE is actually making people "disappear." So maybe his actually being taken somewhere to be killed and thrown into a mass grave.

Raffi finds Rios finally while the car chase continues, and Dr Jurati has gotten communications boosted enough to talk to them. She can beam them from where they are to a location near the bus… but they will have to stop because the transporters aren’t up to grabbing a moving target. This means the bus chase ends with the completely empty stolen cop car stopped in the middle of a street surrounded by a bunch of confused police officers.

Guinan takes Jean Luc to a park, where they are approached by a child who is being mind controlled by the Watcher. The Watcher threatens Guinan and sends her packing, but agrees to meet with Jean Luc. We have an odd and creepy couple of minutes as the Watcher takes on different bystanders as temporary mental puppets to lead Jean Luc to… a woman who looks exactly like Jean Luc’s old friend, ex-Romulan spy Laris. Who promptly teleports herself and Jean Luc away.

In the brief moments we can see of actress Orla Brady as the Watcher, she doesn’t appear to be Romulan. I’m assuming that the character she is playing is not related to Laris at all. We will presumably get an explanation for why she looks like Laris (other than the meta explanation that Brady is a great actress and this gives her something to do while Laris is in a different timeline).

Toward the end of the episode we finally see Q, and he is apparently targeting a woman who is connected with a NASA mission to Europa that we had seen mentions of in the background of earlier episodes. Exactly why he is targeting her we don’t know, but we do see him try to use his powers–and they don’t work, surprising him.

We end the episode with Seven and Raffi standing on the side of a highway, with no vehicle and virtually no equipment. The bus containing Rios and other undocumented people being deported can be seen coming toward them. How are they going to rescue Rios?

I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Star Trek Picard Tries to Avoid “Assimilation”


So far each episode of the second season of Star Trek: Picard have been very different in tone. I think it’s a good thing. These three episodes, at least, feel my episodic and less muddy that the story arc sometimes got last year.

I enjoyed this episode a lot. We have some action. We have drama. We have the juxtaposition of our futuristic character with what is essentially our modern day world. I think the series is still working. It is still keeping me on the edge of my seat wondering what is going to happen next.

I can’t talk about the episode any further without spoilers so…

If you don’t want to be spoiled for this episode or episode one, turn back now!


Turn back now if you don’t want any spoilers!

If you haven’t seen the episode you should (if you can) go watch it now!

Seriously!

This is your last chance before the spoilers!


The third episode picks up almost nearly at where the second ended. We actual re-watch about the last two minutes of the previous episode, except there are a few changes.

The magistrate who is Seven’s husband in this timeline shoots Elnor and then won’t let Raffi give him medical aid. There is a very short bit of monologuing about how he’s going to enjoy killing these traitors… which gives Seven, Chris and Raffi a chance to leap on the three bad guys, wrestle their phasers from them, and disintegrate them.

Dr Jurati finishes connected the Borg queen to Chris’ ship, then they race toward the sun to do the slingshot maneuver to travel in time. Except the pesky fascist fleet sends three starships to try to blast them from the sky. Once the Borg Queen takes over weapons control she destroys the three pursuing ships rather easily.

Q makes a brief appearance to taunt Jean Luc just before they plung into the time warp. When they regain consciousness most of ship’s power has been diverted to keeping the Borg Queen alive, as the stress of the time warp and controlling the ship’s passage through it nearly killed her.

One of the problems this causes is that the one piece of sickbay equipment that was keeping Elnor alive is no longer working. they also don’t have enough power to do a nice soft landing, so they get a big crash landing.

Elnor dies. Raffi is both grieving and pissed, as she blames Picard for the death. (Both because he would like Rios disintegrate the Borg Queen to free up ship’s power to Sick Bay, and also because Picard and keeps getting involved in Q’s games.)

They are able to determine that they have landed in the correct year (2024). Raffi throws herself into the task of finding the Watcher that the Borg Queen said was living in 2024 and could help them. She hoping that if they can fix the timeline that Elnor might be brought back in the process.

So Raffi, Seven, and Chris head into Los Angeles hoping that by scanning for futuristic tech they will find the Watcher. Picard and Jurati stay at the ship to try to awaken the Borg Queen and repair the ship.

Seven and Raffi have some encounters with contemporaries, manage to get to the top of the tallest building in LA and scan. Rios winds up concussed and otherwise wounded and is taken to the clinic the mostly serves undocumented people.

Jurati comes up with a scheme to mentally link with the Borg Queen, let the Queen begin the assimilation process, and use that to repair the queen. It’s a very tense scene as Picard is trying to monitor how Jurati is doing and it appears for a moment that he might not have disconnected Jurati in time.

Picard wants to keep the Queen alive because she can pinpoint the event that changes history. And she’s the only mind they have that is capable of steering the ship through another time warp to get them back to when they belong.

The Queen tries to blackmail Picard into giving her the ship outright in exhange for the location of the Watcher. But then Jurati reveals that not only did she repair the queen while they were linked, but she also stole some information, such as the coordinates of the Watcher, from the Queen’s mind.

I really like this actress who is playing the Borg Queen. She’s playing her as charmingly sinister which is just pitch perfect.

Meanwhile, as Raffi and Seven have a bit of an adventure trying to scan for the Watcher, Rios winds up bounding with both the doctor who runs the clinic (there is more than a bit of romantic spark between them), and the son of said doctor. Unfortunately, he also gets arrest in the Immigration raid on the clinic, and his communication badge is left behind in the clinic. This probably adds up to at least three things that might further muck of the timeline. We’ll have to wait and see.

Raffi and Seven was using their scanner to try to track Rios by his communicator, so I’m assuming a major part of next week’s episode will be them trying to get Rios out of jail. But they still need to find the Watcher and they need to figure out what Q did to break the timeline and determine what it is the Q claims Jean Luc need to do penance for.

Sounds like we have a rollicking ride ahead of us!


Edited to Add You may find these reviews useful:

Den of Geek – Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 3 Review – Assimilation

Gizmodo – Star Trek: Picard Heads Into the Past, Literally and Metaphorically

Tor.Com – “Now is the only moment” — Star Trek: Picard’s “Assimilation”

Cora Buhlert – Star Trek Picard Undergoes “Assimilation”

Jean Luc Does Penance as Star Trek Picard Explores a Road Not Traveled


Oh my goodness, is season two of Star Trek: Picard continuing to be an absolute blast! We had funny character moments, drama, a had phaser gun fight, last minute rescues, and more than one Hobson’s Choice. We also got to see just how very stunning Jeri Ryan can be in a nicely tailored uniform. Did I mention hand-to-hand combat? We had that, too!

I continue to enjoy the series and am vibrating on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next.

I can’t talk about the episode any further without spoilers so…

If you don’t want to be spoiled for this episode or episode one, turn back now!


Turn back now if you don’t want any spoilers!

If you haven’t seen the episode you should (if you can) go watch it now!

Seriously!

This is your last chance before the spoilers!


The second episode picks up almost exactly where the first ended. Jean Luc is at his vineyard, but in an alternate timeline. His uniform is different. Romulan slaves work to keep the place running. His library is full of grisly trophies of milatary victories (a number of alien skulls mounted with little plaques explaining who they were). Worst of all–in this timeline, Jean Luc doesn’t drink Earl Grey tea, hot; he drinks fresh ground Columbian coffee black!

And Q is there, speaking in riddles as always, claiming that he hasn’t done anything. He claims this is a future that humans have wrought, he’s just showing Picard the end result.

Picard doesn’t believe him, of course–this is one of Q’s tests, surely. Q says no, it is a penance. And then Q conveniently vanishes.

After being informed that a shuttle is coming from the capitol to pick him up, Jean Luc tries to give himself a history lesson with his home computer system. The viewer is treated to an excerpt of a speech by this world’s Jean Luc–General Picard–speaking in very fascist terms about making the galaxy safe for humans.

The narrative jumps around to some of the other characters. Seven wakes up in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize and freaks out when she finds she has no borg implants. She puts herself through some cognitive tests (it’s a bit heart-wrenching) until someone enters the room. Turns out that in this world Seven (who is going by her human name) is the President of the Fascist Confederacy, and his married to someone called Magistrate One.

Elnor is a Romulan rebel in Okinawa, and almost gets killed before he is rescued by Raffi, who is some kind of high-ranking security officer in the Confederacy. Rios is a Colonel in the Confederacy fleet currently in command of some kind of military assault on Vulcan.

Each of the main cast we catch up to at have all their memories from what we think of as the main Trek Timeline and don’t remember their lives here, so they’re all trying to fit in while trying to find anyone else who remembers the other timeline.

Dr. Jurati works in the capital in an unspecified science job. On this particular day she is supposed to be preparing a captured Borg Queen–supposedly the last Borg still alive in this timeline–to be killed by General Picard’s hand in front of a huge crowd.

Seven uses her presidential secure channel to contact Rios and get him to come get her while she tries to find any of the others.

Picard, Seven, Raffi, Elinor all meet up in the capital and windup in Jurati’s lab, where they have a conversation with the Borg queen. Because all Borg queens have a sort of trans-temporal sense and she still has her computer implants, the queen is able to determine that Q broke the timeline by doing something in the city of Los Angeles in 2024.

So now our heroes just have to get to 2024. The Confederacy doesn’t have time travel technology, so the only option is to do the slingshot around the sun and turning on the warp engines and just the right point, as Enterprise did more than once. Since they don’t have Spock, they have to make an alliance with the Borg queen, who has the computing capacity to calculate their jump to get them to the correct year.

But there’s the pesky ceremony, Seven’s ever-more-suspicious husband, and the paranoid Confederacy security measures to get through before they can go.

There’s a bit of derring do and some technological trickery and even a gun fight on the stage of the big rally, but our heroes and their evil ally manage to beam up to Rios’s ship (which conveniently seems to be a duplicate of La Sirena).

Unfortunately, before they can get away, something else goes awry.

There are a few things one can nitpick about this episode. It is awfully convenient that most of the main cast find themselves in positions of authority in this alternate timeline, for one. But those nitpicks are things that keep the plot moving, rather than trip it up. And since we don’t know yet exactly what Q’s actual game is, it’s possible that he arranged things so they could learn what they need to know and go do something about it.

On the other hand, particularly after we’d already seen a clip of one of Alternate Picard’s fascist speeches, I’m not sure we needed to see as much of the eradication ceremony as we did. Cora Buhlert points out in her review that it reminded her, in unpleasant ways, of studying the history of the Nazi era when she was at university. And I don’t disagree.

I should mention somewhere in here that Picard believes that Q is unwell. Not in the sense that he isn’t rational (he never has been), but that something has happened to him. But we don’t know yet is Picard is right.

When I was working on the first draft of this review, I was telling my husband about the show apparently heading back to 2024 and it seems a little odd that it is just two years into our future. But we also both agreed that some of the best Star Trek episodes have been when they traveled back to our time (My faves are Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Tomorrow Is Yesterday… there are others that are also good).

I figured the main reason to do these sorts of adventures is that they are cheaper to film. And cast, writers, and crew have a lot of fun with the juxtaposition of our mundane world with the heroes from the future. My husband opined that the reasons episodes like those work so well is because they don’t have to fake anything about the world our heroes visit. The writers and set designers aren’t tying to make up a future, they know what 1960s America or 1980s America looked like. They could literally put the actors in costumes on a regular street and film with real pedestrians cluelessly walking through the scenes.

Over at Gizmodo James Whitbrook opines that 2024 has been chosen because a two-part Deep Space Nine episode, Past Tense involved the cast of that series landing in San Francisco in the year 2024 and disrupting the timeline and then having to fix it. And it is certainly possible.

Whether that is the case, I’m dying to know what happens next. The series is keeping me entertained!


Some reviews by others you might find useful:

Cora Buhlert: Star Trek Picard does “Penance”

Den of Geek – Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2 Review – Penance

Space.com – ‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 2 episode 2 continues to enthrall with dark timeline

Gizmodo – Picard Is Just Diving Right Into Some Classic Star Trek Good and Evil

Camestros Felapton: Picard Season 2: Episodes 1 & 2

Murderbot Wins Two Hugos! And other reactions to this year’s results


Sebastian Martorana, a Baltimore artist, created the bases for this year’s Hugo Awards, given out last weekend at the 2021 WorldCon–this year hosted in Washington, D.C. The bases are made of salvaged marble from the Beaver Dam Quarry–the marble originally used in many, many buildings, including the Washington Monument. Marble from that quarry can only be acquired through salvage because the quarry has been under water since it flooded in the 1930s.

Saturday night the Hugo Awards ceremony occurred. I did not watch the livestream because I was hosting our monthly Virtual Writers’ Night which would ordinarily also be our annual holiday party. It’s not quite a party when we’re not gathered in person.

I was trying to be a good host and pay attention to folks online and ignore all the tweets and other alerts popping up on all my devices as the Hugo winners were being announced. Since I am both a Hugo nominator and Hugo voter, I of course have some reactions.

But first, the winners: Announcing the 2021 Hugo Award Winners

Congratulation to all the winners!

For the fifth year in a row, the Novel that won was in second place on my ballot, again; an outcome I’m perfectly all right with. It’s just starting to get funny.

Last year seven of my number one choices won the rocket. This year it was only three (Editor Short Form, Best Series, Astounding Award for Best New Writer).

On the other hand, in addition to Best Novel, my second choices in Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Related Work, Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Best Pro Artist, Best Fancast, and Lodestar Award for Young Adult Book all took home the award trophy.

As I think I mentioned earlier this year, the ballot this time was really, really good, in my opinion. In most categories there weren’t any nominees that I didn’t think were good enough to win.

Most.

There were a few nominees that I put below No Award. But in each of the categories where I did put a No Award in, it was in sixth place. Which means that in my opinion the other five nominees were definitely award worthy.

However… one of the places I put No Award was in Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and I’m miffed, though not at all surprised that the thing I put below No Award won. I’m not surprised because for reasons that continue to escape me, the absolute worst skiffy-ish television series to be conceived in the last two decades has won a bunch of Hugos.

My only consolation is that this was an episode from the final season of that tripe, so it won’t be plaguing me again next year.

My number one choice in this category came in fourth. My second choice came in third. My third choice came in sixth–and I’m going to stop looking at the voting statistics in this category because clearly when it comes to sci fi television I am out of step with the rest of the Hugo voters.

In more pleasant news: the person I put in first place on my ballot for Best Fan Writer came in second… again. Of course, this was one of the categories where none of the choices were unworthy, in my opinion.

Some other folks have written at the winners and the voting. You should check these out:

Camestros Felapton: Hugo 2021 first reactions

Camestros Felapton: More Hugo 2021 Stats – quick look

Nicholas Whyte: 2021 Hugos in detail

Following Loki through his “Journey Into Mystery”

Our Loki, Kid Loki, and Classic Loki. Copyright © Disney+

I’ve been failing to finish blog posts for a couple of weeks now, not just my Loki reviews. There are reasons that might turn into another blog post as I try to do a bit of catch-up.

This is going to be a combination review, then, of the third, fourth, and fifth episodes of Loki: "Lamentis", "The Nexus Event", and "Journey into Mystery".

Sort of.

We have seen five of the six episodes of the series so far, and I think the most important observation I can make is that all five have been fun. They’ve been entertaining. We’ve had fights and hijinks. All of the actors seem to be perfectly cast for the roles. The interaction between the characters is engaging and witty.

And hilarious.

Thus far it differs greatly from the previous two Disney+ Marvel TV shows. WandaVision was a complex and layered mysterious that was full of charm and a lot of meta. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was more straightforward and many portions were deeply flawed.

Loki has a mystery at its heart, and there is even more charm than WandaVision but the mystery is almost secondary to the emotional journey of the central characters. Yes, I do want to know what is behind the Time Variant Authority, but I’m really more concerned with what is going to happen, individually, to the characters.

I realized when I reached the end of "Journey Into Mystery" (which is a great title for several reason, not the least of which is that Marvel’s versions of Thor and Loki were first told in a comic book called "Journey Into Mystery" long before Thor got his one book), that the one story this series reminds me of are the two Douglas Adams books about Dirk Gently. The series has a similar dream-like feel. At least to me.

There are a few specific things I want to comment on, but to do that involves spoilers.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now.


Seriously! Spoilers ahead!


Okay, here we go.

Episode three involved Loki and the female variant Loki (called henceforth Sylvie) arriving at the TVA, where Sylvie tries to get to the Time Keepers themselves, but it’s not as simple as she hoped, and Loki uses the stolen TempPad to jump them to another apocalypse. The new apocalypse is a colonized planet called "Lamentis" which is able to be impacted by a moon.

They sneak onto a train taking wealthy people to an escape ark, but things go awry (because Loki can’t resist partying and having a good time on the train), and they get thrown off the train (literally).

The emotional center of the episode was Loki and Sylvie getting to know each other. It unfortunately ends with them apparently trapped on the doomed planet with no way to escape.

The next episode, "The Nexus Event" picks up right where episode three ended. The two of them realize they are trapped, and Sylvie finally tells our Loki that she had been a child playing with some toys in Asgard when the TVA agents had taken her away. The hunter who captured her was Renslayer, who is now one of the TVA judges. They form an emotional bound, and it appears that the two Lokis are falling in love.

Back at the TVA Mobius is trying to figure out where the Lokis went, and all seems lost until suddenly a new nexus event happens, bigger than any TVA agents have seen. Mobius guesses that the event is caused by the Lokis, and the TVA agents show up to arrest them. Thus rescuing them from death.

This episode had some poignant moments. Loki (thanks to being stuck in a time loop reliving one of his painful memories over and over) seems to have an epiphany about himself. One of the TVA agents has a memory of her life before being mindwiped.

Even with Mobius and the other TVA agent deciding that Sylvie and Loki are correct, and even though Sylvie gets to behead one of the Time Keepers, nothing really goes well for any of the characters the audience is rooting for by the end of this episode. Two of them appear to get killed rather permanently, in fact.

Episode four was the first time that we got an after credits scene, and it’s a doozy.

Episode five, "Journey into Mystery" opens with our Loki, believing he was just killed, finding himself on a nightmarish planet being met by four other Loki variants. The four are Classic Loki, Kid Loki, Boastful Loki, and Alligator Loki.

Classic Loki is based on Jack Kirby’s original drawing of the character Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery comics, and is played by Richard E. Grant. In the series, Classic Loki managed to survive the confrontation with Thanos instead of dying like he is supposed to, and eventually was arrested by the TVA, tried, and prunes. Kid Loki is based on a more recent Marvel comic series. In the comics Kid Loki is a clone of Loki that eventually gets possessed by the soul of the original Loki. In this series Kid Loki managed to kill his brother, Thor, while they were both young, and was promptly arrested by the TVA, tried, and pruned.

We never get a full explanation of either Alligator Loki or Boastful Loki.

They are all trapped on the Void, which is supposedly the end of time. Everything that the TVA prunes from the time line winds up here and is eventually devoured by this smoke monster called Alioth.

We meet one other alternate Loki from the comics: President Loki, who in the comics ran for President of the U.S. and caused various troubles.

While our Loki is learning about the Void (which is populated by a lot of Loki because in addition to frequently causing new timelines Lokis are extremely good at surviving), Sylvie is also learning about the Void.

Sylvie becomes convinced that the real creators of the TVA are hiding in a spot beyond the end of time, and prunes herself to get there. She almost immediately teams up the Mobius, who she convinces to help her try to confront Alioth to try to get to the place beyond the Void.

Out Loki, meanwhile, has convinced Classic Loki, Kid Loki, and Alligator Loki that Alioth can be destroyed and they also go off to confront it.

Which means all our principals get together again, and a plan is hatched.

I really want to know what happens in the finale!

I mentioned above that I’m not as invested in exactly what the answer that Loki and Sylvie find. And that’s mostly true. I’m less invested in what the specific answer is than whether the answer we get feels like a fitting ending to the journey.

I’m going to go out on a limb here… there are two main possibilities I’ve been able to imagine.

First theory: it turns out that the being who set up the TVA and is trying to control reality to preserve the Sacred Timeline is Kang the Conqueror (or one of his incarnations). From the point of view of the comics, this makes sense, because Kang is a villain in the comics who runs up and down the timeline trying to keep history on track for his future where he’s emperor of the universe. Kang has already been announced as a character appearing in the third Ant Man movie, and in the comics he has had multiple connections to the TVA. The character of Rennslayer in this series is named after one of Kang’s lovers.

The problem with this ending is that it only makes sense to dyed in wool comic nerds such as myself. There has been no mention of Kang in any previous MCU property that I can recall, and certainly none in this series. I’m not sure how the writers could make him the answer to the mystery and at the same time give us a satisfying ending.

Second theory: it turns out the being who set up the TVA and is trying to control reality to preserve the Sacred Timeline is another Loki variant. Exactly why a Loki variant would be so intent on preserving a timeline in which he dies without ever achieving his glorious purpose, but that ending does have an emotional resonance with the rest of the series. In the first episode Mobius told Loki that the TVA has had to arrest a lot of Lokis, so you could say it was foreshadowed.

What I’m hoping is that the writers have something completely different than either of my theories up their sleeves.

We’ll know in just six days!


Edited to add:

You might find these reviews informative:

Cora Buhlert: Loki Visits “Lamentis” and Talks to Herself

Camestros Felapton: Loki Episode 3: Lamentis

Cora Buhlert: Loki Experiences “The Nexus Event”, As the Plot Heats Up

Camestros Felapton: Review: Loki Episode 4 – The Nexus Event

Camestros Felapton: Review: Loki Episode 5 – Journey into Mystery

Cora Buhlert: Loki goes on a “Journey Into Mystery” Cora’s review made me realize I was remiss in my own review. I really should have mentioned what a stupendous job Richard E. Grant did in the role of Classic Loki. I’ll quote her review:

"Richard E. Grant’s Loki is awesome. Not only does Grant wander around in one of the most ridiculous costumes Jack Kirby ever designed and manages to look dignified, he also brilliantly portrays an aged Loki who’s disgusted both with himself and the universe. Honestly, give Richard E. Grant an Emmy/Bafta/Golden Globe/whatever."

Grant is incredibly funny when called on in this episode, and yet he also has the most poignant scene in the episode near the end. Just an all-around fantastic choice for the character.

Loki is Set on the Trail of ‘The Variant’

Copyright © Disney+

The second episode of Loki dropped last week and I quite enjoyed it again. The first episode spent so much time setting up the premise of the Time Variant Authority and establishing where in the sequence of the existing Marvel movies and series this story sits on the timeline.

The dialogue was fun. Owen Wilson is a good foil for Hiddleston’s Loki. The other Time Agents remain entertaining in their lack of being impressed or awed by Loki. And Loki is his tricksy self.

If they can keep this chemistry going, I think the series will be just fine even if it turns out to be a typical kind of timey-wimey battle of wits adventure. I can’t say much more without spoilers, so…

There Be Spoilers Hereafter!

Turn back now if you don’t want to be spoiled.


I noticed that several reviews of the first episode of Loki called it a “clip show”which is slang for one of the cheap episodes that television series sometimes do where they film only a small amount of framing material and spend most of the episode showing scenes from previous episodes.

I think that’s an oversimplification.

To be fair, the reviews that I saw make this claim have also said that it makes sense to do that since the Disney+ shows have (thus far) attracted an audience that includes lots of people who have seen either none of the MCU movies, or very few.

But…

There was a substantial amount of episode one that was new material. Some of it quite well-done, such as the Miss Minutes narrated orientation cartoon. One bit of it looked like it was a clip from something else (the DB Cooper Escape bit), but wasn’t. And also, the number of clips they picked were not focused on recapping Loki’s entire life, but rather to set the stage (and allow the audience to see how devastated Loki is to learn that not only does his mother die, but he is somewhat to blame).

That said, by episode two they are done with the set-up. Loki knows his only hope for any kind of continued existence is to keep being useful to the TVA. And right now the TVA is trying to capture another Variant of Loki that not only broke the timeline, but is out to do something else—we just don’t know what. There is a lot of fun back and forth as Agent Mobius tries to manipulate Loki, and Loki literally replies to one such attempt, “It’s so adorable you think you can manipulate me.” And Mobius demonstrates that he is good at sniffing out Loki’s lies.

Loki figures out that the other Variant Loki has been impossible to track down because they’re hiding inside Apocalypses. Not full-on end an entire world Apocalypses, but moments in history when no one in a particular region survives. The reasoning being that the presence of the time-hopping variant can’t leave any ripples in the time line, because none of the people the Variant interacts with has any impact on the future.

I want to note that as Loki explained this I had a flashback to Connie Willis’ 1992 science fiction novel, Dooms Day Book, as that bit about a time traveler’s presence at a point just before everyone dies can’t change history is an important plot point. I’m sure Willis wasn’t the first person to do this, but I was thinking about the time traveler who was trying to figure out why she landed an English Medieval village just weeks before the entire village will be wiped out by the Plague when the time machine was supposed to take her to a different period.

Anyway, there is a hilarious scene where Loki proves his theory by getting Mobius to take him to Pompeii moments before the volcano erupts, and he jumps up on a cart and shouts out in Latin that he’s from the future and they’re all going to die. And his actions don’t cause Mobius timey-wimey tricorder like thing to register anything.

They next pick a spot based on the pack of bubblegum that The Variant had given a little girl in the scene from episode one, and they find themselves a few decades in our future in a kind Walmart with a hurricane bearing down about to kill everyone.

Loki finds The Variant, has a bit of a fight and some banter. The big reveal here is that this Loki is female. Our Loki doesn’t bat an eye, but anyone really familiar with Norse Mythology knows that Loki as swapped genders a few times as part of a scheme in some of the old legends (in one of them he even gets pregnant, and gives birth to a magical horse). So this isn’t some newfangled woke thing that SJWs are forcing onto Marvel. (I’m sure somewhere out there people are writing angry tweet about it).

The Variant escapes and Loki leaps through the time portal after here, apparently leaving Mobius and the other Time Agents behind. Oh! And The Variant has built a bombs or bombs out of all those Reset Charges earlier, and may have just broken the Sacred Timeline altogether.

And I’ve been on the edge of my seat for days waiting for episode three!

In “One World, One People” Sam and Bucky Bring This Adventure to an End


The finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a lot of fun. This is a superhero story, so there was a lot of superheroics. They did a much better job wrapping up most of the problematic plotlines than I had feared in the middle.

I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s reviews of the earlier episodes, and someone made an observation that echoed something I had been thinking about, but I can’t find the review where I read it so I can credit them. Marvel had a plan for this phase of their cinematic universe, which was to be kicked off by the Black Widow movie last summer, and then we were supposed to get The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series and then after that we were supposed to see WandaVision.

Instead, that part of the schedule was reversed. WandaVision was a very out-of-the-box story and didn’t follow typical superhero combat outlines. Because we saw it first, it raised the bar. So when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more of a typical superhero story, we keep expecting something more because WandaVision was so different.

It has also been revealed that at least one character who was introduced in this series is also in the Black Widow movie, and that was supposed to be our introduction to them. Not sure how, if we had been able to see Black Widow first that might have changed some of our perceptions of this series.

I think the series overall was fair, but not entirely good and certainly not great. I know opinions vary on this.

But to talk about the finale and what I thought worked, I’m going requires some spoilers. Before we jump into that, because this is a Disney owned property and for some time Disney has been refusing to pay some writers royalties owned, it is nice to note that Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties

Okay, so, let’s get into it:


Warning: Spoilers Below!


We finally see Sam in a Captain America themed costume. That favor Bucky called in really paid of, because Sam’s new flight suit is a major upgrade. This episode had lots of fights, and those were all thrilling.

The identity of the Power Broker is revealed as being Sharon Carter. I was a bit disappointed in this development since in the comics Sharon was never a villain. I’m also disappointed because all the previous clues pointed to Sharon so obviously that I was certain they were red herrings. I think this is another one I have to chalk up to WandaVision having raised my expectations too high.

The political parts of the plot don’t hang together well. Camestros Felapton opined in a previous review that this is because the writers are attempting to riff on the original Captain American’s unwavering moral compass, but the writers don’t seem to have the same moral compass. Cora Buhlert pointed out more than once that the supposed villains, the Flag-Smashers, are mostly right in objecting to the policies of the Global Repatriation Council, while the GRC’s policies amount to genocide under real world international law.

I have a really hard time believing, even when half the population of the planet disappeared five years previously, that the remainder of most of the world’s governments would cede all decisions about international travel and so forth to a single committee. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to at least see the GRC’s vote as having something other than symbolic value, you can kind of muddle through that part of the plot.

The fights play out, with Sam and Bucky each getting to be probably heroic. Captain Nationalism shows up in the middle of things and for a bit it looked like it was just going to be a repeat of him murdering one or more members of the Flag-Smashers. Instead, when Karli endangers a truck load of hostages, he breaks off from the fight and tries to save the hostages.

The Karli does get killed before everything is said and done, but it is Sharon Carter who does it, under circumstances where it appears to Sam that Sharon was just acting to save him. The viewers know that Sharon had tried to recruit Karli and the remaining super soldiers to come work for her, and then Karli refused, Sharon needed to kill her or be exposed as the villainous Power Broker.

Sam gets to have a debate with the members of the GRC, the entire thing filmed not just by news camera but by dozens or more bystanders. So the whole world heard him talk about being a Black man wearing the Stars and Stripes. The speech was moving, but we still didn’t take a very deep dive into the problems of systemic racism.

Isaiah Bradley’s stories gets a good closure. We get a scene where Isaiah sees that the story of him and the other black soldiers involuntarily experimented upon is now part of the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian. I’ve been trying to avoid reviews until I finished writing this but I did notice something on Twitter and Tumblr. Fans (as far as I can tell) are white, thought this scene wasn’t very important to the plot or was too superficial a take on the troubling relationship between the American Medical Establishment and the African American community. Whereas fans I know are people of color found the scene very moving; some declaring it the most important moment in the whole series.

I thought it was a good scene, though I would have liked a bit more of an examination of the meaning of Isaiah’s earlier declaration that no Black man should want to become Captain America. But I’m going to defer to the opinions of the PoC on how well this scene really worked.

We get to see Zemo one more time, but he isn’t talking to anyone, and that’s a shame. The rest of the super soldiers in the Flag-Smashers are killed by a bomb. The Contessa has a short scene with Captain Nationalism and his wife, where he gets a new uniform and the name USAgent. Bucky goes to the elderly man from episode one and finally confesses that he was the one who murdered the man’s son, and apparently explains about the whole Winter Solider thing. And Sharon got her pardon–which she is going to use to steal secrets from the government.’

And it seems that the powers that be are all okay with Sam declaring himself Captain America. We get a final wrap up with Bucky and Sam back in Louisiana with Sam’s sister, nephews, and all the community members we met earlier. I have to say I like that Bucky is able to smile again.

And the final title card changes the name of the show to Captain America and the Winter Soldier.

One of the jobs this series set out to accomplish was to show us that Sam could step into Steve Roger’s boots and be a great Captain America. It pulled that off, but it’s fair to say it did that in spite of the main plot of the show, rather than because of it.

The show is uneven. It worked for me, I think, because the character arcs for Bucky, Sam, and USAgent held together, again, sometimes in spite of the plot, not because of it.

At least for me, I’m left wanting to see what happens next for Sam, and Bucky, and Zemo. I want to know what kind of trouble the Contessa is going to get USAgent into. And I want to know how Sharon’s plots will be thwarted.

And I’m hoping that Loki is better.


These reviews might also interest you:

Camestros Felapton: So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then

Cora Buhlert: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier come to the conclusion that it’s “One World, One People”

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ finale completes its ambitious hero’s journey

Sam and Bucky Face the “Truth”


Episode five of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was very enjoyable. The storyline made some progress on a portion of the plot that has been muddled in previous episode. They also finally made a few specific mentions of racism, rather than relying on Hydra as a stand in for white supremacy/white nationalism. They dipped a toe in, at least. It’s still unclear whether the whole story is going to hold together, and there is only one episode after this.

I can’t be more specific without some major spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to be spoiler, don’t scroll past the warning below.

Before I get into that, this show is on Disney+, and the parent company, I should remind you that the parent company, Disney, continues to refuse to pay royalties owed to Alan Dean Foster and others for novelizations and similar work.

Okay, so, let’s get into it:


Warning: Spoilers Below!


The episode picks up apparently only minutes after the end of the previous episode. USAgent, aka the new Captain America, aka Captain Nationalism has fled the scene of his street execution of an unarmed member of the Flag-Smashers. Bucky and Sam are hot on his tail.

They try to talk him into surrendering, which of course he won’t do, so we get a fight. It’s a superhero series, there has to be a fight, but I have to say I was a bit impatient for it to be over.

See, in Captain America: the Winter Soldier Bucky, as the Winter Soldier, was able to give the real Captain America quite a run for his money in combat when Cap had Black Widow and Falcon assisting. And later when Cap had to go up against the Winter Soldier alone, he lost the fight (though he won the war). So, I’m sorry, Captain Nationalism, even with the super soldier serum, is no Steve Rogers. Bucky should have been able to take him down, by himself, in half the time that the showrunners stretched out the fight against Bucky and Sam.

Okay, that’s my fanboy nerdy moment over.

It was very poignant after the fight seeing Sam try to wipe the blood of the murdered man off Cap’s shield.

I found my suspension of disbelief stretching later in the episode when we find out that, Captain Nationalism murdered an unarmed man while literally hundreds of bystanders recorded it and uploaded to the internet, that instead of being turned over to the authorities in Latvia to face charges, he apparently got back to the U.S. only to face a disciplinary hearing. If the government whisked him away, surely they would have already known that he no longer had the shield right?

Whisking him away would be a violation of international law… but in the real world the U.S. military is notorious for violating those laws and treaties when service members commit crimes in allied countries where we have military bases. We are particularly guilty of doing it when white American G.I. commits sexual assault against a person of color. So it isn’t unbelievable that we would do it. I would just feel a whole lot better had the writers made some acknowledgement that that’s what happened.

Before I get back to Sam and Bucky, I just want to say what a wonderful surprise was the cameo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. That’s a character who is a bit of a deep-dive. She was original introduced in the late 60s in the super-spy version of the Nick Fury comic books. She was much later revealed to be a sleeper agent all along and became a villain. There are several possibilities for how Marvel plans to use her later, but I think it is particularly telling that she shows up right after Captain Nationalism’s trial to offer him a job.

It was a very short scene, but she was awesome in it. And I look forward to seeing her interact with other characters–dare we hope she gets significant screen time with Daniel Brühl’s Zemo in a future show?

Speaking of Brühl, we get a very satisfying scene with Bucky confronting him at the Sokovia Monument before he is arrested by the Dora Milaje and taken away to that floating super prison which I believe we last saw in Captain America_ Civil War.

Sam, meanwhile, returns to the U.S. and meet with Isaiah Bradly, the black super soldier buried from history that Bucky introduced Sam to earlier. They have a couple of moving scenes. Not surprising that it is moving because Carl Lumbly is a talented actor. This is the scene where the writer’s finally stop used code, allowing Bradley to talk about the racism inherent in how he and his former comrades were chosen to test the early attempts to duplicate the last super soldier serum. Anyone familiar with the Tuskegee Experiment will not be surprised at some of the horrible things Bradley reveals.

He makes an impassioned argument that, first, certain people will not stand by and let a black man take up the name Captain America. And second that, because of the way America treats its minorities, no black man should want to wear those stars and stripes.

The action then moves back to Louisiana. Sam calls in favors from the community and starts working to fix the family’s fishing boat so his sister can sell it to save the family home. Bucky shows up obstensibly to deliver a “favor” he cashed in with the Wakandas (perhaps a new flight suit, since Sam’s was destroyed during the fight with Captain Nationalism).

Anyway, this leads to the best parts of the episode. I have mentioned so many times how episode two was so awesome because if you just let Bucky and Sam interact, wonderful things happen. There is less snark between them in their scenes here. And the scenes do a good job of dealing with the the family legacy subplot while showing realistically Sam and Bucky bonding, and trying to move past being two guys who happened to both love the same man. Er, that is, I mean, both were extremely close friends with and worked as sidekicks to.

Heh.

While it may be a bit formulaic, even the superhero trains himself montage they gave Sam felt earned and meaningful. If one of the purposes of this series is to convince fans of the Captain America and Avengers movies that Sam is ready to become the new Captain America, it seems to be accomplishing that.

The political plot still seems to be a mess. The mulit-government council the Karli and the Flag-Smashers are fighting is proposing things that are blatantly bad. So the viewer ought to be cheering for the Flag-Smashers. I can’t tell if that writers simply don’t realize this is what they are doing, or if they trying so hard to to cast what are clearly alt-right/white nationalist ideas as objectively immoral because they don’t want to offend American conservatives.

We get more clues implying the Sharon Carter is the mysterious villain known as the Power Broker. The fact that she hires the international terrorist, Batroc, who has fought both Captain America and Falcon earlier certainly doesn’t bode well for her not being a villain.

It’s still too soon to tell. In the comics the two roles that Sharon Carter played in most storylines was to be Captain America’s modern era girlfriend, or to be a spy usually working for S.H.I.E.L.D. In the latter role she often was working in what could at best be termed morally grey areas (which often caused tension between her and Cap). So it is still possible that it’s going to turn out that these clues hinting at her being the Power Broker are red herrings.

The show ends with the Flag-Smasher’s taking the members of the Global Repatriation Commission captive. Sam seems read to be a hero again. We presume he will take up Bucky’s offer to call when he needs back-up. So expect a big fight next episode.

And then, of course, there is the post-credits scene. Nothing is going to be simple.

I can’t tell, yet, if this is a series that aimed at a very difficult goal and isn’t quite pulling it off, or if it is going to completely crash and burn.

I guess we’ll find out on Friday!


You may find these reviews useful:

Review: The Falcon & The Winter Soldier episode 5 (sort of)

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Face the “Truth”

Also, this is being reported now:

Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties

We Have the 2021 Hugo Ballot… and a really looooooooooong time to fill our our ballots!

This year's trophy, base designed by John Flower.
The 2020 trophy, base designed by John Flower. More pictures and an explanation of the design of the base are here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-trophies/2020-hugo-award-trophy/ (or click on the picture)

Hugo 2021 List

The Hugo finalists were announced on Tuesday on the DisCon III YouTube channel, and it is a really good ballot, again. I’ll first just give the list, then follow up with my comments.

Best Novel

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Novella

  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette

  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 7-8/20)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (Big Girl)
  • Helicopter Story, Isabel Fall (Wyrm)
  • “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 5-6/20)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/20)
  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com 6/17/20)

Best Short Story

  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny 1-2/20)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny 9-10/20)
  • “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com 4/8/20)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20)

Best Series

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Lady Astronaut, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris; Audible; F&SF)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor; Tor UK)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Related Work

  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City)
  • Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals)
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis, Brent Lambert, Iori Kusano & Vida Cruz
  • “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible 8/20)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan & Alasdair Stuart

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Die, Volume 2: Split the Party, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans (Image)
  • Once & Future, Volume 1: The King Is Undead, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora (BOOM!)
  • Monstress, Volume 5: Warchild, Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Ghost-Spider, Volume 1: Dog Days Are Over, Seanan McGuire, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe, and Ig Guara (Marvel)
  • Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything, G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Christian Ward (Berger)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  • The Old Guard
  • Palm Springs
  • Soul
  • Tenet

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon”
  • The Expanse: “Gaugamela”
  • The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Jedi”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Rescue”
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: “Heart” (parts 1 and 2)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Nivia Evans
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Sarah Guan
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • Maurizio Manzieri
  • John Picacio
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Escape Pod
  • Fiyah
  • PodCastle
  • Uncanny
  • Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine

  • The Full Lid
  • Journey Planet
  • Lady Business
  • nerds of a feather, flock together
  • Quick Sip Reviews
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Kalanadi
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists

Best Fan Writer

  • Cora Buhlert
  • Charles Payseur
  • Jason Sanford
  • Elsa Sjunneson
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist

  • Iain J. Clark
  • Cyan Daly
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Laya Rose

Best Video Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Blaseball
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Hades
  • The Last of Us: Part II
  • Spiritfarer

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo)

  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (McElderry; Simon & Schuster UK)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

  • Lindsay Ellis
  • Simon Jimenez
  • Micaiah Johnson
  • A.K. Larkwood
  • Jenn Lyons
  • Emily Tesh

In every category other than the Artist, Video Game, and Editor – Long Form, at least one item from my nominating ballot made it to the final ballot. And in eleven categories two or more items I nominated made the final list.

On the one hand, I suppose this means I have similar enough tastes to much of the regular Hugo nominating community. On the other hand, this means that in a whole bunch of categories I have a lot of reading/watching to do. On the gripping hand, well, that means I have to read a bunch of stuff for the next few months! Which, as a bibliophile, that’s a good thing.

Let’s get a little specific: in the novel category, two books I nominated made it. All four of the other titles that made it to the ballot were already on my radar to read. In fact, two of those four I’ve already bought, I just hadn’t started reading them, yet.

I should mention that four of the six people who made it to the ballot in Fan Writer are people I nominated. And honestly, the other two are people whose works I’ve read and if I could have nominated more than five people they very well might have made it to my nomination list. Which means that much like last year, this is going to be a very painful category to rank. Some of these I read some much that they basically feel like extended members of my family, so I want to put them all at position number 1 on my ballot. Dang it!

I feel like one particular entry in the Best Short Story list requires an entire post or more on its own — and it already got a post on this blog 13 months or so ago! So I’m not going there.

The only book that I nominated for the Lodestar Award, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a book I loved so much last year that I bought many copies of it to give to various friends and family members for Christmas and birthday presents. I also wasn’t absolutely certain it belong in the Young Adult category, so I nominated it for both Best Novel and Beat Young Adult Novel. In addition to how awesome I think the book is, full disclosure, I should mention that while I don’t expect the author to remember me, the two of us have had dealer’s den tables across from each other at certain conventions, so I may have an extra level of bias in regard to her work.

Finally, thanks to the uncertainties of the pandemic, the committee running this year’s WorldCan has decided to reschedule to convention for a date when they are certain they can host an in-person convention. So instead of being in the latter half of August or the first bit of September as has been tradition for a number of years, this year’s WorldCon will begin on December 18 in Washington, D.C. Way too close to Christmas and in the middle of Advent season for a lot of people.

Bucky and Sam are reminded that “The Whole World is Watching”

(L-R): Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Julie Vrabelová. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve started, scrapped, and re-started my review of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode four, “The Whole World is Watching” several times. The episode is a big improvement over episode three, but the basic story still appears to have more than a few major flaws. I think the way to stop myself from digressing down a lot of rabbit holes is to focus on what I think the source of the flaws is, before talking about the plot.

Before I get into that, I have neglected to mention that this show is on Disney+, and the parent company, Disney, continues to refuse to pay royalties owed to Alan Dean Foster and others for novelizations and similar work.

I can’t really talk about the episode without spoilers, so:


Warning: Spoilers Below!


Television shows and movies and the like have always had problems when trying to incorporate the real world and real history into their narratives. Sometimes it is mostly an annoyance, such as all the times that shows are supposedly set in the City of Seattle, where I live, but are very obviously being filmed in Vancouver, Canada (which means most of the world doesn’t even notice). This particular shows shares a sin with lots of American shows in that the Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is being used as a stand-in for several different European locations, much of which bear little resemblance to Prague.

That kind of muddle doesn’t usually create plotholes, so those of use that do recognize the difference can still enjoy the story.

Unfortunately, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is also suffering from another kind of dissonance with the real world. For example, the villain, Zemo — who is still belng played deliciously well by Daniel Brühl — makes several references to his family’s legacy and his own childhood that just make absolutely no sense for a person who is supposed to have grown up in a fictional country which is, according to previous films in the MCU, sandwiched inbetween the real nations of the Czech Republic and Slovokia. Nor does another of his references to a childhood visit to the real world city of Riga, capital of Latvia.

At least they don’t make sense if you assume that these stories are taking place in the year 2021, which they appear to be. I should pause here to point out that Cora Buhlert goes into much more detail about these discrepancies in her reviews.

Rather than retell this information, I want to present my theory for why the writers or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and other MCU properties are making this mess. I think it comes down to two things. First, Americans (by which I means inhabitants of the U.S., not to disparage our Canadian or Mexican neighbors) or embarrassingly ignorant of both history and geography. Second, the comic book origins of the Marvel Universe have a particular time warp baked into the origins and themes of most of the classi villains and heroes.

To the first point, I want to hasten to point out the most of my fellow citizens are woefully ignorant of the geographic of Europe, Asia, Africa, and so one. But they’re also extremely ill-informed about our own country. I spent my late teens and early twenties traveling around the country in a touring choir, and do not exaggerate when I say I met thousands of people who did not know that Washington State, where we were from, is not the same as the city of Washington, D.C., and that the two Washingtons are literally on opposite sides of the continent. More recently there was that viral meme about how many millions of people were shocked and sometimes angry to learn that Alaska isn’t an island. And let’s not forget the Trumpers from the U.S. state of Georgia who were running around the capitol waving not the flag of their home state, but the flag of the Eastern European Nation of Georgia (because they search for Georgia flag on Amazon–I kid you not!)!

So, Americans, including most of the writers and show runners of any series you can name, literally do not know the difference between Albania, Austria, Latvia, Serbia, or Romania; let alone have any idea of their relative histories. Similarly, if they’ve even heard of events like the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, the Kosovo War, the First or Second Chechen Wars, the Romanian Revolution, the Hungarian Revolution, or any of the Albania Civil Wars, they have no idea what the conflicts were about nor which ones came before and which after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union.

So fictional European characters written by Americans are going to have backstories that make no sense and contradict history at every turn.

Then there is the Marvel timeline problem. Most of the classic Marvel heroes and villains have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s. Things about American culture and which parts of recent history were important to Americans during that time are baked deeply into the DNA of the fictional lives, themes, and backstories of those characters.

One of the concepts that ghosts along just under the surface of the very essence of a huge number of Marvel characters is that World War II was only 20 or 30 years ago. Trying to translate those origins into modern times means that writers wind up half-heartedly tying major turning points in the lives of both heroes and villains to a more recent conflict, which likely has little culture or economic similarities to WWII as perceived by Americas during the Viet Nam War era. This results in some very confusing elements to the personalities, motivations, and backstories of those characters in a modern setting.

Enough explanation of why most of the socio-politico motivations of any of the villains in this series makes absolutely no sense. Let’s get the the actual episode. “The Whole World Is Watching” is a significantly better entry than episode three. The action sequences (particularly the one involve the Wakandan Dora Milaje) are much more exciting, engaging, and have a lot of emotional heft.

In a completely different arena, we see Sam using his skills as a PTSD counsellor to try to get through to Karli, the leader of the flag smashers. I should note that Cora Buhlert has pointed out the Sam’s true superpower is empathy, and I have to agree that this comes through really strong in this episode.

Karli cross the line from activist to terrorist last episode, and in this episode we see that even some of her most loyal followers are uneasy with this shift. Even so, Sam does seem to reach a moment of understanding. And it is during the conversation with Sam that Karli herself acknowledges that her philosophy, goals, and tactics have some contradictions.

During Karli’s conversations with her followers and with Sam, we get a lot more details of what happened to at least some of the people who didn’t vanish in the blip, and a slightly better explanation of why Karli and her followers are doing what they’re doing. It would have really made episodes two and three make a lot more sense if the writers had found a way to include some of the information in episode one. For example, some of it could have logically been brought up during the scene where Sam and his sister try to take out a small business loan. Just sayin’.

Sam isn’t able to talk Karli down, however, because USAgent, aka Captain Nationalism aka the new Captain America, is too impatient to give Sam the ten minutes he asked for. Zemo uses the ensuing fight to shoot Karli and destroy most of her vials of super soldier serum. Unfortunately, New Cap finds what might be the last surviving vial, and later in the episode we learn he’s injected himself with it.

It is during the second fight with the Flag Smashers that we see that New Cap has super strength. When his loyal friend seems to be killed in said fight (I’m not convinced he’s dead, because the camera cut back to his motionless body at a really odd moment after all of the rest of the characters left the building, chasing the Flag-smashers), New Cap gets even more reckless, leading up to the extremely bloody and shocking final scene.

I’m going to put a stake in the ground here and say that if the rest of the series doesn’t use that final scene, where an unarmed man who is trying to surrender it brutally murdered with the entire event caught on the cameras of hundreds of smart phones as a metaphor for real live incidents of police brutality, than the whole series has missed the boat.

Despite a lot of improvements, we don’t get anything as enjoyable as the banter between Bucky and Sam in episode two. Which is a shame.

While this episode did a lot to salvage the mess of episode three, there are still a heaping pile of details to wrap-up with only two episodes to go. I suspect it’s going to be a wild ride, whether they succeed in tying everything up or not.


These reviews might be of interest:

“The Whole World Is Watching” The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Falcon, the Winter Soldier & the MCU’s Original Sin

Bad Guys and Good Guys in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “The Whole World is Watching”

TEMPERS FLARE IN THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER EPISODE 4


Note: When I mentioned above how poorly Americans know geography and history, I am including myself. I literally used to read Encylopedias cover to cover for fun, and I love reading reference books of all kinds, but I also know I have some big and occasionally embarrassing holes in my knowledge. I can draw, from memory, a fairly accurate map or the borders of European countries circa 1914, for instance, but give me a blank modern map of Europe and tell me to fill in names and I know I’ll get several of them wrong.