Hugo Nominations

Not sure who to nominate? There are many lists up:

http://hugo-recommend.livejournal.com/

http://www.writertopia.com/awards/campbell

http://ladybusiness.dreamwidth.org/66250.html

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/02/05/the-2014-sff-fans-award-recommendation-thread

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/01/03/sff-authorseditorsartistsfans-2014-award-awareness-post/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AstILUdrNYINdGdGYU5nOWZKd1M1M3Y2OC1ZSm5XakE&usp=sharing#gid=17

 

In the world of self-promotion, I must add that many of my nonfiction works are eligible for the Hugo for best related work. I’ve made two of them free for the next short while for anyone who would like to try them:

Winning the Game of Thrones: The Host of Characters and their Agendas

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/315593

Free with coupon code HM23E or available in paperback with many reviews athttp://www.amazon.com/Winning-Game-Thrones-Characters-Agendas/dp/0615817440

Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/405591

Free with coupon code PU82T  or available in paperback with many reviews at

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-Fannish-TARDIS-Sized-Culture/dp/0615922430

Many thanks for reading!

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Hugo and Nasfic award for 2013 YA and Middle Grade Recommendations

This year Detcon1 (this year’s NASFiC) is offering an award for Young Adult/Middle Grade SF/F books.

There are many worthy series and novels out right now—YA is getting bigger and bigger with lots of Steampunk, fairytales, and dystopias right now. In the last eleven years, two children’s books have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel against all sf and f novels, kids and adult: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (2001) and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009). (Gaiman’s Coraline won as Best Novella in 2003.) So show your support for YA/Middle Grade, and start nominating! These books are also all eligible for the Hugo Award for best novel, and some really deserve it!

Your own comments/recommendations are welcome here of course.

Books I enthusiastically recommend:

These are fun for adults as well as teens and really something special in the spec fic world. As for my taste, I like epic fantasy, retold fairytales, and some steampunk but mostly I don’t like the teen books that feel like literature lite, with shallow, vapid prose and a love triangle as the main plot. Nonwestern fantasy and action heroines are a plus, but basically, I like the story to be as dense and interesting as adult novels. Humor’s good too. Here are some I found really exceptional:

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

With Valente’s typical poetic beauty, a rough-and-tumble Snow White sets off adventuring through the old west. Unlike anything ever, and that takes talent.

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

A delightful steampunk comedy of manners with vampires, werewolves, and a finishing school for accomplished spies. Fun and funny, for a younger crowd than Carriger’s previous romantic adventures.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

As a teen goes off to college, she must reconcile her geeky obsession with a beloved character, Simon Snow, with her desire to fit in and grow up. It’s a book for the fan in all of us and a sensation sweeping through the teen community.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices book 3) by Cassandra Clare

The author of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (this past summer’s hot teen movie) wraps up her steampunk trilogy delightfully—it’s sweet and romantic, epic, and roll-on-the-floor funny. The snarky, loving, tragic and conflicted teens drive the story as they’re caught in an atypical love triangle and battling the confines of their society.

(For normal Hugos, apparently there’s a part of the rules that allows an entire series to be nominated if the final book in said series was published and is eligible in its own year. I’d recommend this for The Infernal Devices, absolutely.)

Books I also recommend

Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

The Scarlet Pimpernel retold in a pacific island dystopia, with a female hero battling the legacy of genetic engineering. Yes, she’s a bit teenagerish, but also a delightful mistress of disguise and subterfuge, like the original.

Pivot Point by Kasie West

A girl who can see into her future must look to see how her life will unfold—living with her mom among those with mental gifts or with her dad in the normal world. This “sliding doors” style double story has intriguing parallels and twists between the two adventures.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This debut fantasy novel hails from south Sudan, for those seeking something a bit different. Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, sets out for Olondria, a land filled with books, unlike his own. Accompanied by a young girl’s ghost, he faces a civil war between rival cults as he struggles to understand the true magic of reading.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

After a nuclear winter, survivors in Brazil sacrifice their summer king eachc year. This dystopian debut explores society’s corruption as a soulful young artist is chosen.

The Girl with the Iron Touch (The Steampunk Chronicles book 3) by Kady Cross

This book wraps up a delightful, fast and funny steampunk romp in the style of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In this final adventure, the clever Irish mechanic who intuitively links with machines attempts to win her lover—the cyborg she created—as her misfit team of heroes battles to save the queen.

House of Hades

A new Percy Jackson, in the Roman series with more multiculturalism and more depth. This book featured a character coming out, and the typical web hullaballoo accompanying such things.

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

The author of the literature-sweeping “lesbian Cinderella” novel Ash brings out book two in her science fiction dystopia. Reese and David, adapted with alien DNA, are on the run for their lives as the heroine faces a love triangle with a girl as well as a boy. The author’s writing is warm, surprising, and delightful honest and personal.

Allegiant

Book three of the Divergent series wraps things up much as Mockingjay did—by turning everything on its head and revealing a far different revolution than the teen heroine was battling in the first two books. Epic and stunning. Book one will be this spring’s big teen movie.

(For normal Hugos, apparently there’s a part of the rules that allows an entire series to be nominated if the final book in said series was published and is eligible in its own year. I’d recommend this for The Divergent Series…I just liked the first two better.)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

A startling and grisly adventure in a world of vampire segregation, in which a teen girl tries to overcome her guilt at the death of her mother.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien became the prince’s champion in book one. Now in book two, her heart is torn between lovers, as plots spin from the court intrigue.

The Night Itself (The Name of the Blade #1)

by Zoë Marriott

A Japanese warrior-girl with her magic friends and magic katana. This fairytale adaptor brings adventure, magic and fun as the heroine quests on an epic adventure.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s new series in the Mistborn world. It’s a superhero story of the Epics and the few ordinary people who battle them, packed with fast-paced adventure and excitement.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan 

Lady Isabella Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist, tells her diary-style account of a thrilling expedition amid romance and heart.

In the world of self-promotion, I must add that many of my nonfiction works are eligible for the Hugo for best related work. I’ve made two of them free for the next short while for anyone who would like to try them:

Winning the Game of Thrones: The Host of Characters and their Agendas

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/315593

Free with coupon code HM23E or available in paperback with many reviews at http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Game-Thrones-Characters-Agendas/dp/0615817440

Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/405591

Free with coupon code PU82T  or available in paperback with many reviews at

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-Fannish-TARDIS-Sized-Culture/dp/0615922430

Many thanks for reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Convention Reports, Hugos, Pop Culture

His Last Vow

The Title

The title plays with “His Last Bow,” Holmes’s final case in the short stories (though fans have been assured series four will happen). This also nods to his “last vow” in the previous episode – that he will protect John, Mary and their baby, no matter the cost.

Symbolism: Inner Life

Jungian psychology involves facing one’s dream imagery – the “little voices” of praise and criticism one finds deep within. Sherlock of course, encounters all these within his mind palace. There he is a small child again, and Mycroft is larger than life, censuring him about all the ways he’s wrong. Molly is Sherlock’s desperate, emotional need to live. Anderson pokes holes and criticizes. Encouraged to find a happy memory, he is young and carefree with his dog. He faces his fear – himself dead in a morgue – and the pain and shock of being shot.

At last Sherlock sinks into the basement of his palace, the place that reflects the subconscious. There, his greatest enemy Moriarty is chained. He represents the shadow – the raging, suppressed dark side of the personality. While many heroes avoid this facet of their deepest selves and refuse to face it, the shadow offers surprising strengths. Moriarty taunts Sherlock with his forthcoming death, and then finally reminds him that if he dies, John will be in terrible danger. At these words, Sherlock is galvanized. He drags himself up through his mind, stair by painful stair, back into the world of life.

This confrontation generally occurs in fiction in context of the hero’s journey – the hero dies or has a near-death experience and crosses over to a world of thought and imagination: Harry Potter at King’s Cross, Gandalf and the Balrog. Each time, the hero refuses to give up his destiny and returns to the world stronger, with new purpose. Thus Sherlock returns, and finally confronts the vile blackmailer.

Sherlock has more Jungian shadows than ever in this episode – people who observe in the same manner he does. Magnussen is the obvious one, with his mental dossiers much as Sherlock has. But Wiggins, Sherlock’s new assistant, is seen doing the same. Mary too has a similar skillset. Even Janine is using Sherlock the way he used her. With all these geniuses, each using Sherlock’s powers to commit immoral acts, Sherlock must become a hero – a knight who slays dragons, the champion of England … for a great threat is coming with the eastern wind.

The Story

In the original story, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes negotiates with a seedy blackmailer to save a titled lady, Lady Eva Brackwell, in danger of having her marriage ruined by some imprudent letters. As Holmes describes him:

He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women.

When Milverton won’t lower his price, Holmes resolves to break into his home and steal the letters, and Watson is determined to go along. They succeed in cracking the safe, but are interrupted when a different highborn lady slips in and murders Milverton for his crimes against her. Holmes and Watson burn all the letters, make a daring escape, and express to Lestrade over breakfast the next morning that Milverton’s murder won’t be solved by them.

In both stories, Watson is truly appalled when he discovers Sherlock has only been pretending to date a young woman and has even proposed, just to gain access to her boss. “Did you just get engaged just to get into an office,” John demands on the show. Sherlock blithely replies that he plans to confess and be dumped, thus everything will work out.

In the short story, the young woman is never seen, but on the show, Janine returns for a delightful revenge. Using the young lady, Sherlock breaks into Magnussen’s stronghold. As in the short story, he discovers he’s planned his burglary the same night the blackmailer’s victim has planned his murder. However, Mary doesn’t shoot Magnussen, but Sherlock. From there, Sherlock must work out a way to free his friends from the blackmailer’s slimy grip. He offers to betray his country to save them, selling state secrets as he does in “The Last Bow.” Both stories, of course, allow him to use this excuse to get close to the villain and end the threat to England in spectacular fashion.

Canon References

  • Sherlock says, “I’ve dealt with murderers, psychopaths. None of them can turn my stomach like Charles Augustus Magnussen.” In the original, Holmes calls Milverton “The worst man in London,” and adds that “he is as cunning as the Evil One.”
  • Milverton lives at Appledore Towers in the original, like the security vault’s name. His files and papers, neat little bundles of letters tied with ribbons, have been updated to a more elaborate system of storage.
  • The Jeremy Brett adaptation shows Milverton living in a “fortress” with an iron gate, much like Magnussen’s stronghold. The round glasses appear here, as well as in the original tale, but in Brett’s and the short story, he’s a pleasanter person.
  •  In the Brett version, Watson suggests getting involved in a scandal to drawn the blackmailer out. In the opium den, Sherlock seems to have a similar plan.
  • In the books, he signs his notes C.A.M., like the wedding telegram he sends in “The Sign of Three.”
  • Sherlock calls him the “Napoleon of blackmail,” just as Moriarty is the “Napoleon of crime.” This may also foreshadow the episode’s end.
  • Sherlock adds in the short story that “He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning.” Certainly, C.A.M. is seen toying with Mary as he sends her a wedding telegram.
  • Magnussen sizes up people, not for their habits, but for their pressure points. Sherlock suggests at one point that the text the audience sees is actual text from the man’s spectacles, not the man’s thoughts as they are Sherlock’s. Both men have mind palaces, and seem to have similar skillsets, just ones they use quite differently.
  • The highborn lady in the original authorizes Holmes to act as her agent and buy back the imprudent letters she wrote to a man. This time, she wants the letters her husband wrote to a woman. These letters are described varyingly as “lively” and “sprightly” in the two versions.
  • John’s flashback war dreams parallel the very first moments of “A Study in Pink.” He also has a flashback to Sherlock’s lines from the first episode asking if he wants to see more action.
  • In the books, Mr. and Mrs. Watson sit happily at home, when there’s a ring at the door.

“Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark-coloured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.
“You will excuse my calling so late,” she began, and then, suddenly losing her self-control, she ran forward, threw her arms about my wife’s neck, and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such trouble!” she cried; “I do so want a little help.”
“Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is Kate Whitney. How you startled me, Kate! I had not an idea who you were when you came in.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I came straight to you.” That was always the way. Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.

  • Her husband, Isa Whitney, is at an opium den. Watson goes to retrieve the man, and finds Sherlock prowling there, on a case (“The Man with the Twisted Lip”). This episode contains the same scene, followed by an extensive drug test for Sherlock. This time it’s “early” not late, and John guesses it’s her husband, but it’s her son “Isaac.”
  • Mycroft complains that their parents want to watch Oklahoma (or possibly visit there) and not join Sherlock for an intervention.
  • “It won’t be the first time your habit has interfered with their line dancing.” The parents and the drugs have both been introduced in previous episodes.
  • The Christmas celebration nods back to the one of “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Both times, Mycroft shows a loathing for the holiday.
  • “You were gone. I saw an opportunity,” Sherlock says of moving John’s chair. Both Sherlock and various criminals say this line or a similar one in the stories.
  • Later, Sherlock moves the chair back, possibly hinting that John is welcome to leave his wife and move back in. In the time between Sherlock’s collapse and the Christmas party (it’s unclear how much time has elapsed), Watson may do just that.
  • Sherlock met Janine at the wedding of the previous episode. She mentions she knows him better than anyone, and indeed, he was being very much his true self at the reception.
  • Sherlock notes that John’s gained seven pounds.

“It’s actually four pounds”
“No, I think seven.”

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”
“Seven!” I answered.
“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. (“A Scandal in Bohemia”)

  • One of Watson’s pressure points is listed as the alcoholic sister (mentioned in several episodes), the other as his wife.
  • Sherlock’s porn preference is stated as “normal” (that seems uncharacteristic). His finances are “unknown” – this is constant with the stories. Though he appears to be an impoverished near-student in need of a roommate for a small three-room apartment in “A Study in Scarlet,” he uses bribery constantly as a tool and takes cabs throughout London. In fact, he shows very little instances of poverty outside of his introduction to Watson. After his fame increases, he mentions he’s become enormously well off and need never work again.
  • Sherlock’s pressure points appear a near-endless list – Irene Adler, Jim Moriarty, Redbeard, Hounds of the Baskerville, Opium, John Watson. Oddly, Mycroft is not listed – perhaps this villain only harms the most vulnerable.
  • Irene Adler does appear to be a pressure point for Sherlock, either because Magnussen knows she’s alive or because he knows Sherlock unwittingly helped her. Moriarty is less clear, unless he is in fact alive as well. Redbeard appears to be a dog and appears to be deceased, based on Mycroft’s previous remarks … could Redbeard be involved in some dark incident, like criminal charges or the mysterious story of the third Holmes sibling? Hounds of the Baskerville is also a puzzle – is this about Sherlock breaking in with government ID? Or keeping the project secret after the case? Or the far deeper secret that Sherlock fears losing his emotional distance more than anything? Sherlock has not been described as taking opium on the show, and in the books he assures Watson he’s not adding the drug to his other vices. This may be the drug he once used to take, and this episode also has a nod to the opium den case, “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” Watson as pressure point will become important by episode end.
  • Sherlock is visibly shaken at the reference to Redbeard. This story will probably emerge in series four.
  • Mycroft enlists Sherlock’s fan club to search for drugs, then threatens them with the British Secret Service … his political power is emphasized here. He appears to be in M.I.6. He does not have this role in the books, but has one like it in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Magnussen may reference the movie briefly when he refuses to offer Sherlock and John an expensive beverage. In the movie, Mycroft pours the two men a very expensive drink, as they so rarely visit. There’s also a very rare wine served in “His Last Bow” – Holmes and Watson share it after tying up their host.
  • Bill Wiggins goes from manager of a drug den to a homeless man who’s actually working for Holmes and calls himself Sherlock’s “protégé.” In the books, Wiggins is the head of the Baker Street Irregulars – a gang of street children, and Billy is Holmes’s pageboy. He may provide a new amusing character in the episodes to come.
  • In the story, Holmes says, “Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.” Sherlock uses many of these words when comparing the updated villain to a shark in a tank.
  • Mrs. Hudson gets the door for their client, something she does constantly in the books and rarely so far on the show.
  • In the short story, Sherlock shops for burglary tools; on the show, he shops for a diamond ring.

JOHN:  We should call the police!
SHERLOCK:  During our own burglary? You’re really not a natural at this, are you?

  • In the short story, instead, Holmes says, “I can see that you have a strong natural turn for this sort of thing.”
  • Sherlock recognizes clare de lune perfume (and misses crucial foreshadowing when John mentions that Mary wears it). His perfume knowledge appears earlier and is referenced in the books: “There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition,” he says in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
  • The white supremacist guard may be a nod to “The Five Orange Pips.”
  • The evil white lights seen in “The Hounds of Baskerville” appear in Sherlock’s mind palace as he goes into shock. He also thinks briefly of Irene Adler and is taunted by Moriarty. There’s a childhood scene with his dog, who appears to be a pleasant memory. Mycroft as his judge returns from the previous episode.
  • Janine gets rid of the beehives in her new cottage, nodding to Sherlock’s retirement hobby.
  •  Mary keeps her background on a drive labeled A.G.R.A. – in the book she meets John because she’s seeking the great Agra treasure. The treasure is lost forever, and thus John feels able to court Mary, who’s no longer an heiress. By burning the A.G.R.A. disk, without reading it, this John feels he can have her back.
  • Sherlock tells John not to bring a gun on a dangerous adventure, then to bring a gun to his parents’ Christmas party. Bringing the gun is Watson’s job in the books.
  • John notes, “Try finding Sherlock in London.” In the books, he has boltholes and hiding places, with an amazing talent for disguises and friends in high and low places.
  • Their mother mentions if she finds the man who “put a bullet” in her boy, she’ll turn “absolutely monstrous.” She’s written the book The Dynamics of Combustion, which suggests explosives. Mr. Holmes mentions her genius directly after this, but Sherlock and Mycroft clearly get more than brains from the woman, who has a well-developed dark side. In the book series, Sherlock will eventually become an author as well.
  • Sherlock relies on Mary being clever. He’s done this with Irene and Moriarty on the show, and with several characters in the books.
  • There are flashbacks to Mary’s cleverness in the previous two episodes, as well as Magnussen’s bonfire trick.
  • “Sorry, I never could resist a touch of drama,” Sherlock tells Mary after posting her face on the side of a building. “My old friend here will tell you that I have an impish habit of practical joking. Also that I can never resist a dramatic situation,” he says in “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone.”
  • Sherlock stresses the abandoned buildings (seen in “The Empty House,” and appears to use the same strategy he uses in the short story, distracting his assailant with a bust of himself. In fact, the audience have been fooled, and John is the one hidden there.
  • In the books, Holmes burgles Milverton’s house and destroys his files. As he tells Watson, “Since it is morally justifiable I have only to consider the question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman should not lay much stress upon this when a lady is in most desperate need of his help?” This episode emphasizes Sherlock’s chivalry, as a “slayer of dragons” who loathes the bully who preys on the weak. In the original, he was prepared to brave jail for a titled lady who’s a near-stranger – How else then could he act this time with John, Mycroft, and a pregnant Mary is even worse danger?
  • Sherlock’s status as a high-functioning sociopath and the violence he’ll do when someone threatens his friends appear (remember the thugs who roughed up Mrs. Hudson).
  • In the previous episode, Sherlock made, as he calls it, “My first, and last, vow. Mary and John – whatever it takes, whatever happens, from now on, I swear I will always be there. Always.” In the episode, Sherlock is surprisingly kind to Mary, offering his help repeatedly. He makes sure John learns the truth, but counsels him to hear her out fairly, and points out John is less innocent than he had thought. Sherlock also appears to invite John over without telling him Mary’s coming to make them work out their problems. Sherlock appears to understand Mary – a brilliant, amoral person who nonetheless loves John and wants to protect him. As a final step in his vow, Sherlock actually chooses not to be there ever again…in return for saving Mary and John from the blackmailer.
  • “Give my love to Mary,” Sherlock says. “Tell her she’s safe now.” In his goodbye letter of “The Final Problem,” Sherlock writes, “My best to Mrs. Watson.”
  • In both stories, C.A.M. is convinced he’s foolproof and that no one will shoot him. He’s proven wrong.
  • JOHN: The Game is over. SHERLOCK: The game is never over, John. But there may be some new players now. This of course references their constant references to “the game is on.” Mary has the potential to be a fascinating player, as does this newer, harder John Watson.
  • Sherlock’s joke that he’s always wanted to tell John something echoes John’s words by Sherlock’s grave.
  • The spying in Eastern Europe Sherlock is to go on is straight from His Last Bow. Holmes notes in the story, “The Foreign Minister alone I could have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned to visit my humble roof – !” In the episode, the heads of the government send him off as well.
  • Mycroft actually references another brother, noting, “Look how the other one turned out.” The book Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by Baring-Gould creates a third brother, who became the family’s country squire. He’s named Sherrinford after one of Doyle’s rejected names for his hero. The film Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother (1975) is a farce about Siegerson, who blunders about and only thinks he’s a great detective. If there is a third brother, one presumes he will have a more serious story on Sherlock. It would be unsurprising to find he’s a criminal mastermind or died tragically.
  • Mycroft mentions a colleague who uses people as “blunt instruments” – this is M in Casino Royale.
  • Sherlock mentions he’s “William Sherlock Scott Holmes” if John needs a baby name. John says something similar in “A Scandal in Belgravia.” This may nod to Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch.
  • “William Sherlock Scott Holmes” is Sherlock’s name in the Wold Newton family, an experiment that connects fictional characters’ family trees. One of his descendants, for instance, is said to be Spock, on his human mother’s side. It’s also notable that the Holmes parents called their children “Mike” and “William” – only the boys create more complex identities.
  • Sherlock says he has a girl’s name. In fact, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes was a television show in Canada.
  • The line of the scary east wind, repeated several times, is from “His Last Bow,” a story that takes place on the eve of World War I: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.” This metaphor of trouble from the east means the war, but the promise of a better time to follow is reassuring for fans of Sherlock’s world.
  • Sherlock’s becoming a murderer was actually foreshadowed in the first episode.
  • Targeting lasers brush over Sherlock, as they did at the end of the first series. This time, however, they belong to his brother.
  • The question over last season’s break was “How did Sherlock survive St. Bart’s.” This time it’s “How did Moriarty survive St. Bart’s.”
  • Of course, there’s no evidence Moriarty is alive – this hoax could be put on by any number of villains (like the yet unseen Moran) or allies – Sherlock, Mycroft, Irene, Mary, or Sherlock’s fan club could have perpetuated a hoax to keep Sherlock in the country. The timing seems significant.

Actor Allusions

Young Sherlock in “His Last Vow” is Moffat’s younger son Louis.

British Culture

The Danish criminal seems to be attacking England itself – not just its ministers, but also its manners and rules of decent behavior. “You’re so domesticated. All standing around and apologizing. Keeping your little heads down,” he mocks. Holmes has an answer to this in “His Last Bow” when he tells a German agent, “The Englishman is a patient creature, but at present his temper is a little inflamed, and it would be as well not to try him too far.” In this episode he has an answer as well, as he confronts the bully at last.

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Canon References and Symbolism in The Sign of Three

Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 by Valerie Estelle Frankel

has just gone on sale in paperback and ebook. To celebrate the U.S. premiere, I thought I’d post a sample of all the clever references in tonight’s episode….SPOILERS FOR TONIGHT AHEAD!

The Title

This riffs on the original story of a pact between four men who signed their documents with “The Sign of Four.” At episode’s end, Sherlock plays on this with his big reveal of the “sign of three.”

Symbolism: Sherlock’s Palace

GATISS: “[The Mind Palace] came about because I remember having in the midst – probably in Cornwall – in the midst of an absolute crisis of intractability, I said, ‘But he’s got to find out what it is, but he can’t just bloody look it up. What is it?’ and you said, ‘Why don’t we do a Mind Palace?’ ‘cause we’d both read Derren Brown’s book.”

RUSSELL TOVEY: “What, the Mind Palace isn’t a Conan Doyle thing?”
MOFFAT: “No, no. It’s a really interesting idea. It’s how you store information in your brain.”
GATISS: “Hannibal Lecter does it, and it’s a real idea.” (“The Hounds of Baskerville” DVD Commentary)

However, the creators couldn’t show more than superimposed text in “The Hounds of Baskerville” – doing otherwise would be too expensive.

The Mind Palace appears in “The Sign of Three” as a courtroom with Mycroft as the judge to Sherlock’s lawyer. The women Sherlock invites in play in a giant game of Guess Who? And stand like statues when he’s not using them – a perfect audience, barely alive to him. Mycroft is unimaginably tall and large, barking demands which only serve to confuse Sherlock and disorient him, as shown by his behavior during his wedding speech – the most disconcerted he’s ever appeared. Sherlock also mentions he’s plotted Mycroft’s death – their relationship is quite problematic. He finally dismisses Mycroft as the voice of his mind, insisting on Watson instead, with the words, “You keep me right.”

This seems to be a single room in his mind palace, yet it’s quite telling – He’s playing childish games and using people while Mycroft looms as the parent to Sherlock’s child. “Let’s play murder,” he says in the real world of the wedding. Sherlock rebelliously tells adult Mycroft, “I’m not a child anymore”: in fact a truly childish thing to say. Many references to Sherlock’s childishness appear in this episode:

 SHERLOCK (sitting down in his chair): You bring me tea in the morning?

MRS HUDSON (pouring the tea): Well, where d’you think it came from?!
SHERLOCK: I don’t know. I just thought it sort of happened.
MRS HUDSON: Your mother has a lot to answer for.
(She takes the cup and saucer over to him.)
SHERLOCK: Mm, I know. I have a list. Mycroft has a file.

MRS HUDSON (walking towards the door): I really am going to have a word with your mother.
SHERLOCK: You can if you like. She understands very little.

This may simply mean that Sherlock operates on a mental level far above her or it may relate to his relationship with her as a misunderstood child.

In this episode, John and Mary act somewhat like Sherlock’s parents – embarrassed by his impolite behavior yet also fighting for his needs when there’s a real crisis. In other episodes, John has also been overprotective of Sherlock, shooting the assailant in the first episode and hurling himself at Moriarty so Sherlock can escape in “The Great Game.” He tucks Sherlock into bed and is very protective of his feelings on discovering that Irene faked her death. Sherlock in turn acts completely panicked when John is threatened, showing that he might lose his only stability.

Before the wedding, Mary comforts Sherlock, pointing out that he shouldn’t be jealous of John’s having a friend before Major Sholto. All three work as a team to save the Major, entering a new level of partnership – a real “Sign of Three.”

Sherlock’s adult confusion at Irene Adler (possibly a frequent guest in his mind palace) and Janine the maid of honor appear here – in the final minutes he appears ready to ask the Janine for a dance before seeing she has someone already.

Another example of Sherlock’s childlike confusion appears during his first real conversation seen with a child:

SHERLOCK: Basically it’s a cute smile to the bride’s side, cute smile to the groom’s side and then the rings.
ARCHIE: No.
SHERLOCK: And you have to wear the outfit.
ARCHIE: No.
SHERLOCK: You really do have to wear the outfit.
ARCHIE: What for?
SHERLOCK: Grown-ups like that sort of thing.
ARCHIE: Why?
(Sherlock pauses for a moment.)
SHERLOCK:…I don’t know. I’ll ask one.
ARCHIE (thoughtfully): You’re a detective.
SHERLOCK: Yep.
ARCHIE: Have you solved any murders?
SHERLOCK: Sure. Loads.
ARCHIE: Can I see?
SHERLOCK (after only a momentary hesitation): Yeah, all right.

Sherlock implies that he understands being a boy but must consult a “real” adult on adult matters. He and Archie bond over gruesome case photos as Sherlock doesn’t sugar-coat or sensor the images as other adults would.

By the episode’s end he emphasizes his relationship with John and Mary, along with a hint of wistful jealousy:

SHERLOCK: Don’t panic. None of you panic. Absolutely no reason to panic.
JOHN: Oh, and you’d know, of course?
SHERLOCK: Yes I would. You’re already the best parents in the world, look at all the practice you’ve had.
JOHN: What practice?
SHERLOCK: Well, you’re hardly going to need me around now that you’ve got a real baby on the way. (“The Sign of Three”)

Canon References

  • Donovan warns Lestrade: “Jones’ll get all the credit if you leave now! You know he will!” Lestrade and Gregson spend the first episode battling to outdo each other on a case, and Jones is similar in “The Sign of Four.”
  • Holmes is shown getting on quite well with a little boy. On the show, he and the Baker Street Irregulars (a gang of street urchins) understand one another perfectly. This also works well as a nod to the film, Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, which details more about the relationship.
  • John references Harry and her drinking problem, mentioned in the first episode. He also mentions he’s seeing the psychiatrist less.
  • Wedding telegrams echo the original Holmes’s fondness for telegrams.
  • One telegram Sherlock reads says, “…Oodles of love and heaps of good wishes from C.A.M. Wish your family could have seen this.” Mary flinches. It appears she’s had dealings with Charles Augustus Magnussen (Milverton in the short story). This also hints at her family situation–Mary notes in flashback that she’s an orphan.
  • Sherlock reads a telegram from Mike Stamford, Watson’s former colleague at Barts, who introduced them.
  • When Sherlock is asked to be a best man, he’s confused and notes that a philanthropist (and occasional murderer) is the “best man” he knows:

JOHN: The best man.
SHERLOCK: The best man?
JOHN: What do you think?
SHERLOCK: Billy Kincaid.
JOHN: Sorry, what?
SHERLOCK: Billy Kincaid, the Camden Garroter. Best man I ever knew. Vast contributions to charity, never disclosed. Personally managed to save three hospitals from closure, and ran the best and safest children’s homes in North England. Yes, every now and again there’d be some garrotings, but, stacking up the lives saved against the garrotings, on balance I’d say…

This is a flip on the original line – “I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.” (“The Sign of Four”)

  • Everyone warns Holmes that the relationship will change. This is the case in the books, as Watson loses track of many of Holmes’s cases and only drops in on his occasionally during his marriage. At the end of “The Sign of the Four,” Watson says, “I fear that it may be the last investigation in which I shall have the chance of studying your methods. Miss Morstan has done me the honor to accept me as a husband in prospective.”
  • Holmes replies with the line he repeats several times in the episode: “I really cannot congratulate you.” Of course, in the book he says it in private, and on the show, he amends his answer, and finally adds that he actually does congratulate them.
  • Holmes’s other line from original story is repeated: “Love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things” (“The Sign of the Four”). The wedding guests are not amused.
  • In the book Holmes is not seen attending the wedding – it’s uncertain that he even does so. It’s certainly believable that he would compose a violin piece, practice dancing until it’s exact, be immune to the bridesmaid’s charms (yet size up the men around them), catch a criminal during the reception, and then finally walk off alone into the darkness.
  • Speaking to young Archie, Sherlock says, ‘Get this right and there’s a headless nun in it for you.’ This nods to the series’ unaired pilot.
  • The cases mentioned in this one do not appear to be in the book: “The Hollow Client,” “The Matchbox Decathlete,” “The Mayfly Man,” “The Poison Giant,” “The Bloody Guardsman,” and “The Elephant in the Room.” The last of these appears to be just a play on words with the expression “elephant in the room,” except that “The Mystery of the Vanishing White Elephant” was a case in Basil Rathbone’s New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio show of the 1940s. “The Mayfly Man” and “The Bloody Guardsman” are solved in the course of this episode.
  • “The Mayfly Man” has elements of “A Case of Identity,” where a woman dates a mystery man who dumps her suddenly…it’s her own stepfather, scaring off suitors (This plot also appears in “The Empty Hearse”). Likewise in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes starts “walking out” with a housemaid and even proposes marriage just to get information on the man she works for (foreshadowing the following episode). This is the actual solution.
  • Sherlock tells of “The Matchbox Decathlete” – a French decathlete found surrounded by 1,812 matchboxes, all empty except one. “The Inexplicable Matchbox” appears on John’s blog, There, he mentions Sherlock dressing as a clown and Mrs. Hudson being pushed from a helicopter. He’s unable to add details due to “Every Official Secrets Act.” This is adapted from the case “of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duelist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science” (“The Problem of Thor Bridge”).
  • Lestrade hypothesizes a very small person with a blow-pipe snuck through the vents and murdered the soldier for “The Bloody Guardsman,” as Sherlock calls it. “The Poison Giant” has a similar plot. In “The Sign of Four,” Jonathan Small’s Pacific Islander accomplice fits this description, and this is actually how the murder was committed.
  • The locked room mystery death of “The Bloody Guardsman” also resembles “The Crooked Man” with a soldier out for revenge on another.
  • The Hollow Client is one of the cases on John’s blog, explained fully there.
  • There’s also the young woman who keeps hesitating on the pavement. Sherlock comments, “Oscillation on the pavement always means there’s a love affair.” “A Case of Identity” has the same line: “I have seen those symptoms before,” said Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the fire. “Oscillation upon the pavement always means an affaire de coeur. She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is not too delicate for communication.”
  • The fan joke about Watson’s middle name appears again.

GATISS: “‘Hamish’ is from the Rathbone films, isn’t it?”
MOFFAT: “No. Doyle when he wrote these stories was appalling on continuity. Continuity was so bad, he once forgot Doctor Watson’s name and had his wife call him James. He’s called James for a whole story!”
CUMBERBATCH: “Maybe she just forgot the name!”
MOFFAT: “Someone came up with this brilliant theory that the middle name was Hamish – ‘cause it’s John H. Watson in the stories – and Hamish is the Scottish version of James, so she called him by his middle name.”

GATISS: “What’s great is, the lack of Doyle’s continuity is a great field for in-jokes.” (Commentary, “A Scandal in Belgravia”)

  • For the second episode running, Sherlock gets Lestrade’s first name wrong: Gavin this time, Graham in “The Empty Hearse.” Doyle only ever referred to ‘G. Lestrade,’ though he’s named Greg for Inspector Gregson.
  • “Vatican cameos” (Watson and Holmes’ code phrase for danger) appears again along with a quick glimpse of Irene Adler from the same episode.
  • Sherlock calls himself a high-functioning sociopath again, nodding to episode one.
  • Holmes asks Molly about her boyfriend while studying how to get only mildly drunk.
  • Molly calls Sherlock a graduate chemist. Watson remarks on his friend’s knowledge of chemistry and wonders if he’s a student in the first story.
  • Sherlock mentions his “international reputation.”
  • In his speech, Sherlock describes a case he failed to solve. These happen occasionally, but rarely. “I have been beaten four times – three times by men, and once by a woman,” Sherlock admits (“The Five Orange Pips”). In “The Yellow Face” he simply gets the case completely wrong.
  • Watson’s military career is mentioned, though it fails to get him any concessions.
  • Both Captain Sholtos (original and from this episode) are guilty of great betrayals.
  • Sherlock lets the phrase “previous commander” slip out, suggesting he’s Watson’s current commander. He does on occasion act like it, even in the books:

“Good morning, Holmes,” said the baronet. “You look like a general who is planning a battle with his chief of the staff.”

“That is the exact situation. Watson was asking for orders.”

“And so do I.” (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”)

  • In “The Illustrious Client,” Watson notes, “He gave no explanations and I asked for none. By long experience I had learned the wisdom of obedience.”
  • A client writes “my husband is three people,” and Holmes intuits triplets. Identical twin criminals appear in the film The Case of the Silk Stocking (2004).
  • Sherlock claims he learned napkin folding at an operahouse. An operahouse case appears in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991).
  • When Sherlock is drunk, the text surrounding his observations is ridiculously useless, emphasizing his current state.
  • Sherlock mentions he’s drugged Watson successfully before – this is seen in “The Hounds of Baskerville.”
  • Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes also has Watson and Holmes ending an era as Watson moves out and plans to marry. Mary in the movie says, “I know you care for him as much as I do … Solve this. Whatever it takes.” In this episode Mary shares both these last two sentiments.

 Doctor Who

  • Sherlock’s frenetic babble when he corrects himself after his Sign of Three slip-up or when the case intrudes on his speech resembles the Doctor’s. “Love a wedding!” he bursts out unconvincingly, mimicking many of the Doctor’s phrases (“Love an ood!”).
  • In this episode and in Moffat’s “The Doctor Dances” Sherlock and the Doctor both enjoy dancing and seem to resent being thought of asexual when interacting with Rose or Janine. Dancing and sex are a metaphor for each other in the Doctor Who episode.
  • When Sherlock gets drunk and scans the area, the usual deductions are replaced by words like “Chair? Sitty thing?” “Speaker high tech thing.” The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors sometimes talk like this, as the Tenth says, “This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there’s stuff” (“Blink”).

British Culture

  • Wedding Telegrams are sent by those who can’t make the ceremony and are often read aloud by the best man. Sherlock notes, “They’re not actually telegrams. We just call them telegrams. I don’t know why. Wedding tradition … because we don’t have enough of that already, apparently.”
  • Archie is the page boy. These are traditional at British weddings, roughly equivalent to the American job of ringbearer.
  • The classic line to finish the wedding toast is something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding and charge your glasses. I give you: The bride and groom.” Sherlock of course attempts this but then has an epiphany.
  • Other traditions like the white gown (popularized by Queen Victoria herself) are shared between Britain and the U.S. Others are a bit different: British women often wear hats to weddings (seen in Mrs. Hudson and some of the episode’s other guests). The British say, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Waltzing and formality (such as Sherlock’s properly escorting the maid of honor) are more common in the U.K. The stag night is about the same as a bachelor party.
  • The Changing of the Guard features heavily in the episode. This ceremony is still held roughly every other day outside Buckingham Palace by The Queen’s Guard. They are a tourist attraction in themselves, considered British icons. Many tourists try to tease them or make them laugh, as they’re famously stoic, something Sherlock and John discuss.
  • “Am I the current king of England?” Holmes asks when playing the Post-it Note game. Obviously, there’s no such person, and hasn’t been in Holmes’s lifetime.

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Canon References and Symbolism in The Empty Hearse

Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 by Valerie Estelle Frankel

has just gone on sale in paperback and ebook. To celebrate the U.S. premiere, I thought I’d post a sample of all the clever references in tongiht’s episode….SPOILERS FOR TONIGHT AHEAD!

The Title

Originally, this is “The Empty House,” site of a locked room murder XE
“murder” . There’s an additional empty house where Holmes lays a trap for Moriarty’s final lieutenant, Colonel Moran. “The Empty Hearse” references Anderson’s fan group, called this because they believe Sherlock never died and thus never traveled in a Hearse. They are correct of course.

Canon References

  • Having explained his Sherlock survival theory to Lestrade, Anderson talks about paving slabs outside Barts. This is an allusion to the solution to a Jonathan Creek mystery, “The Problem at Gallows Gate.”
  • In Serbia, Mycroft mentions Baron Maupertius from “The Reigate Puzzle.” Mycroft adds that Sherlock’s been “a busy little bee,” referencing his future hobby.
  • The Guy Fawkes plot is seen in several of Sherlock Holmes’s radio dramas: In “The Guy Fawkes Society,” Holmes goes undercover in a dangerous club to stop a plot again Parliament. In “The Gunpowder Plot” Guy Falconby plans to murder his cousin James Stuart by blowing him up on Guy Fawkes Day.
  • In The Case of the Silk Stocking (2004), Watson and Holmes work alongside Watson’s fiancé, an American psychoanalyst who’s aggressive and lectures Holmes on her chosen subject. She’s knowledgeable about her topic, but quite abrasive. Mary, by contrast, doesn’t get involved in their cases, just offers helpful hints. She appears to want to preserve the two men’s friendship. In the Robert Downey Jr. film, Mary looks like she’ll come between the two men, but by the end of the case, she tells Holmes that they love Watson equally and need to save him. She’s seen actively participating is the case of the sequel.
  • Watson’s mustache is iconic from the series and most adaptations, but here, everyone hates it.
  • A newspaper article foreshadows the third episode, reading, “Magnussen summoned before parliamentary…”
  • Sherlock admits: “Bit mean, springing it on you like that, I know. Could have given you a heart attack, probably still will. But in my defense, it was very funny.” In the book, Watson faints and Holmes apologizes for being so dramatic.
  • “You know my methods, Watson, I am well known to be indestructible” is a quote from the 1965 movie A Study in Terror.
  • One of Holmes’s planned escapes involves “a system of Japanese wrestling.” In the books, that’s the one he uses– the fictional martial art of baritsu.
  • In “The Empty House,” only Mycroft knew of Holmes’ plot, because Holmes needed his money. Here it is Mycroft, their parents, Molly and 25 members of his homeless network. No wonder John decks him.
  • Sherlock tells Watson: “I’ve nearly been in contact so many times, but I worried that, you know, you might say something indiscreet.” In the short story, he says, “Several times during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write to you, but always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion which would betray my secret.”
  • Mrs. Hudson seems quite emotional at getting both men back in her life…in the Jeremy Brett adaptation of “The Empty House,” she bursts into tears, and Holmes unbends enough to give her a hug.
  • Mary reads aloud from an old blog entry: “His movements were so silent. So furtive, he reminded me of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent…I couldn’t help thinking what an amazing criminal he’d make if he turned his talents against the law. This is a scene from  “The Sign of Four.” Holmes mentions in several cases that he would have been a highly effective criminal.
  • Sherlock says in voiceover: “London. It’s like a great cesspool into which all kinds of criminals, agents and drifters are irresistibly drained.” Watson describes London thus in “A Study in Scarlet.”
  • Sherlock notes: “I’ll find the answer. It’ll be in an odd phrase in an online blog, or an unexpected trip to the countryside, or a misplaced Lonely Hearts ad.” In the books, Holmes uses the Agony Column (basically the personals) to track London’s criminal pulse.
  • Sherlock tells Mycroft, “I’m just passing the time. Let’s do deductions” and picks up an abandoned bobble hat. Holmes does this with a client’s abandoned stick in “Hound of the Baskervilles” and an abandoned hat in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” just as an intellectual exercise. He plays against Mycroft in “The Greek Interpreter”:

 

“To anyone who wishes to study mankind this is the spot,” said Mycroft. “Look at the magnificent types! Look at these two men who are coming towards us, for example.”
“The billiard-marker and the other?”
“Precisely. What do you make of the other?”
The two men had stopped opposite the window. Some chalk marks over the waistcoat pocket were the only signs of billiards which I could see in one of them. The other was a very small, dark fellow, with his hat pushed back and several packages under his arm.
“An old soldier, I perceive,” said Sherlock.
“And very recently discharged,” remarked the brother.
“Served in India, I see.”
“And a non-commissioned officer.”
“Royal Artillery, I fancy,” said Sherlock.
“And a widower.”
“But with a child.”
“Children, my dear boy, children.” (“The Greek Interpreter”)

  • Sherlock reveals (possibly) how he faked his death. Sherlock was actually playing with a bouncy ball in a scene in “The Reichenbach Fall.”
  • The monographs written on strange subjects are a running joke through the books. Also, Mrs. Hudson offers the same line in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

 

SHERLOCK: I’ve written a blog on the varying tensile strengths of different natural fibres.
MRS HUDSON: I’m sure there’s a crying need for that.

  • The quote “Elementary, my dear Watson” was made popular by the film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939). It was never featured in a canonical Arthur Conan Doyle story. Perhaps this is why the phrase hasn’t been featured in Sherlock.

SHERLOCK (sarcastically): Brilliant!
MYCROFT: Elementary.

  •  This exchange is adapted from “The Crooked Man”:

 

“Excellent!” I cried [Watson].
“Elementary,” said he [Holmes].

  •  MYCROFT: I’m not lonely, Sherlock. SHERLOCK: How would you know? This nods back to a conversation they have in “A Scandal in Belgravia.”
  • The monkey glands case is a nod to “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.”
  • Spouses keeping secrets from each other appear in “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” “The Yellow Face” and “The Valley of Fear.” Each time, an affair is suspected, but the answer is something else. This episode reverses the trope:

SHERLOCK: Why didn’t you assume it was your wife?
MR. HARCOURT: Because I’ve always had total faith in her.
SHERLOCK: No – it’s because you emptied it. (He points at the three areas on the man at which he had just looked and speaks quick-fire.) Weight loss, hair dye, Botox, affair. (Whipping out a business card, he holds it out to Mrs Harcourt.) Lawyer. Next!

  • This case, in all its details but the online part, is a retelling of “A Case of Identity.”

SHERLOCK (softly): And you really thought he was the one, didn’t you? The love of your life?
(As the woman takes off her glasses and cries harder, Sherlock turns and looks at Molly for a moment, then stands and walks across to her. Keeping his back to the clients, he speaks quietly.)
SHERLOCK: Stepfather posing as online boyfriend.
MOLLY (shocked): What?!
SHERLOCK: Breaks it off, breaks her heart. She swears off relationships, stays at home – he still has her wage coming in.
(He turns to the man and addresses him sternly.)
SHERLOCK: Mr. Windibank, you have been a complete and utter…

  •  “Doctor Verner is your usual GP, yes?” John asks. Following “The Empty House,” a young doctor named Verner buys Watson’s practice and Watson moves back in with Holmes: “A young doctor, named Verner, had … given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask – an incident which only explained itself some years later when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes’s, and that it was my friend who had really found the money” (“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”).
  • Mr. Szikora with a German accent, long white hair and a white beard, is wearing a black knitted hat and very dark glasses. He comes for a medical appointment and tries to sell John DVDs. John thinks it’s Sherlock in disguise. In “The Empty House,” this is the costume worn by Holmes when he surprises Watson with his reappearance. Holmes is also disguised as a German bookseller in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943). After this, Watson tries to pull off a man’s beard in The Spider Woman (1944), assuming it’s Holmes again.
  • Mr. Szikora offers John porn titled “British Birds” and “The Holy War.” Holmes as the bookseller tells Watson, “Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War – a bargain every one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?” thus getting him to turn his head.
  • Sherlock is called in by Lestrade to deal with a fake Jack the Ripper skeleton. Holmes doesn’t battle the Ripper in canon, but he’s involved with the Ripper in many stories and films by later authors including The Woman in Green (1945), A Study in Terror (1965), Murder by Decree (1979) and Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Lyndsay Faye.

SHERLOCK: I know a fantastic fish shop just off the Marylebone Road. The owner always gives me extra portions.
MOLLY (following him): Did you get him off a murder charge?
SHERLOCK: No – I helped him put up some shelves.

  • Mrs. Hudson and Angelo, by contrast, do owe Sherlock for his detective work.
  • Mary comes to Sherlock and tells him: “Someone sent me this. At first I thought it was just a Bible thing, you know, spam, but it’s not. It’s a skip-code.” A third-word skip code features in “The ‘Gloria Scott’.”
  • The code contains the phrase “John or James Watson.” This nods to the fact that in the canon, Mary Morstan once called her husband John Watson “James.”
  • A bomb and an international plot appear in various films. In Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) in 1910, Mycroft asks Holmes and Watson to travel to Vienna and track down the stolen plans & prototype for an electro-magnetic bomb detonator.
  • The train station stop is given as “Sumatra Road.” Sherlock calls Moran “A Rat,” both leading to the untold story (and fan favorite) of the “Giant Rat of Sumatra”.

SHERLOCK: Lord Moran, peer of the realm, Minister for Overseas Development. Pillar of the establishment.
JOHN: Yes!
SHERLOCK: He’s been working for North Korea since 1996.
JOHN: What?
SHERLOCK: He’s the Big Rat. Rat Number One. And he’s just done something very suspicious indeed.

  • In the book, the villain Colonel Sebastian Moran is Moriarty’s number one lieutenant.
  • The plot alludes to “The Lost Special,” a Doyle story that appears to feature an unnamed Holmes as detective investigating a lost train car.

SHERLOCK: They’ll get in the way. They always do. This is cleaner, more efficient.
(Stopping at a locked maintenance entrance, he reaches into his coat, takes out a crowbar and starts to force the gate open.)
JOHN: And illegal.
SHERLOCK: A bit.

  • In the books, Holmes is always picking locks and breaking into places. Occasionally, the police point out that they can’t use these methods.
  • The Houses of Parliament are to be blown up – in Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, the men inside those Houses are to be poisoned.
  • John forgives Sherlock and tells him, “You were the best and the wisest man that I have ever known,” in a direct quote from Watson’s last homage to him in “The Final Problem.”
  • Sherlock notes, “The criminal network Moriarty headed was vast. Its roots were everywhere like a cancer, so we came up with a plan.” He says in the books: “The central power which uses the agent is never caught – never so much as suspected. This was the organization which I deduced, Watson, and which I devoted my whole energy to exposing and breaking up” (The Final Problem). In both scenes he mentions a spider in the web.

SYMBOLISM: TRAINS

Trains often represent a journey in fiction. Towards the episode’s beginning John rides the tube to Baker Street juxtaposed with Sherlock heading to Mycroft’s office in the Diogenes Club. John is going to tell Mrs Hudson he’s getting married while Sherlock has just returned to London and plans to take up his old life again.

While Molly and Sherlock are investigating together, dust falls from the ceiling and Molly asks “trains?” At the same time as Sherlock is trying a new partner, he keeps hearing Watson’s voice in his head, emphasizing how much trouble he’s having with changing.

Finally, Sherlock and Watson face a bomb in a train at the episode’s climax. Trapped together, Sherlock acknowledged how he hurt Watson and honestly begs his forgiveness. Several times, John suspects a trick, but Sherlock convinces him they are going to die. John forgives him, and Sherlock reveals he actually was up to his “old tricks” – with the balance between them restored, everything has actually gone back to normal. They reunite with their friends at Baker Street, emphasizing that all their journeys have taken them straight back to the beginning. At the same time, the Moriarty era has ended at last, and Sherlock has become kinder (as shown by his not commenting on Molly’s boyfriend). With Watson’s fiancée present as well, the story is ready to move to new adventures and a new dynamic.

Actor Allusions

  • Amanda Abbington (Mary Morstan) is Martin Freeman’s real-life partner.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents (both actors themselves) appear as Sherlock’s parents.
  • “Sauron1976” comments on John’s blog around this time (Watson’s Blog, “A Few Pictures”). Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Necromancer (the future Sauron) in The Hobbit and was born in 1976.
  • Sherlock fakes his death with the plan “Lazarus,” with the aid of Mycroft, played by Mark Gatiss. Gatiss also starred in an episode of Doctor Who called “The Lazarus Experiment,” in which he played Professor Richard Lazarus.

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Thoughts on The Day of the Doctor

Thoughts on Day of the Doctor

Day of the Doctor delighted fans across the world.

The Classic Who opening on “The Day of The Doctor” was perfect as the original credits and scene of the junkyard panned over to see Clara teaching in Susan Foreman’s old school. With Ian Chesterton listed as Chairman and the clock showing the exact time the first episode “The Unearthly Child” was broadcast, there are plenty of in-nods in just the first few minutes.

In some ways this episode is meant to be a blessing from old Doctors to new. John Hurt represents the old style of Doctor—a grouchy curmudgeon like the first who’s repelled by the fresh-faced young Doctors kissing girls and showing off. “Am I having a mid-life crisis?” Hurt wonders. The banter is fun as eleven calls his “coconspirators” sand shoes and granddad and Ten calls Eleven “chinny.”

Ten: “Allons-y!”

Eleven: “Geronimo!”

War Doctor: “Oh for God’s sake! Gallifrey stands”

The duplicate mannerisms emphasizes how Ten and Eleven aren’t just both Doctors, they’re the popular young New Who Doctors who have much in common.

However, by the end, the War Doctor gives them his approval, using their age gap to escape from prison (or so he plans). They stride into battle side by side, blowing up daleks and finding the way to peace. At episode end, the Fourth likewise blesses the Eleventh as he embarks on a new stage of his quest.

As such, the 50th was sweet and charming. However, other aspects are more problematic.

The Zygons make an awkward villain. They’re new for New Who fans but they’re not terribly classic, appearing in a total of ONE classic episodes (fittingly, “Terror of the Zygons,” a Fourth Doctor episode). Their body takeovers are more laughable than threatening. Admittedly, the Doctor’s solution of confusing the humans and Zygons and forcing them to thus negotiate is clever (though similar to “The Almost People”). But this doesn’t feel like a true apocalypse from the sucker people. Likewise, Elizabeth manages to slay one all on her own with a small dagger.  The battle with one’s double and the game of who is real has appeared in many Who episodes already.

So the Elizabeth plot is pure fluff. The Zygon plot isn’t much threat. The Doctors exchange snark but basically trust each other. The Time War is barely seen.  

In fact, the Time War, a war through time and space, is shown more dramatically with the aftereffects in the Eighth Doctor prequel than in anything from this episode, with Gallifrey scenes that indicate a very conventional war, in fact. People are shooting and screaming, the Gallifreyan high command is giving orders, they have a cellar of doomsday devices. It’s a scene of “insert standard war” rather than the more unusual mythos and interesting Gallifreyans of “The End of Time,” for instance. The Doctor invades Gallifrey only to leave a desperate message, then walks off with the Moment with no trouble at all. Gallifrey felt like it should have been an entire episode in itself, not this shorthand.

Then comes the War Doctor’s conflict. For the John Hurt Doctor, this episode is a question of when he’ll press the button and what it will do to him. The Big Ideas, mostly about the Doctor’s guilt and responsibility for destroying his own race, are dealt with but briefly and somewhat shallowly.

The weapon as mass destruction that would stand in judgment of its user is a clever touch, forcing morality into even an attempt at genocide. Bad wolf tests the War Doctor to his core, forcing him to face what he’s planning and how it will affect him as well as the galaxy. As the Gallifreyans note, only the Doctor, who tries to be a good person and is quite self aware, could withstand such a challenge. The main arc of the plot thus is meant as a psychological study, as the War Doctor faces his future and the 11th Doctor faces the incident he has denied and forgotten. When Ten insists, “This is a decision you won’t be able to live with,” he makes it clear what destroying Gallifrey has done to him.

Most Who episodes don’t actually use time travel tricks after arriving at the destination in space and time. In this episode, Matt Smith and friends appear Time Lords, those who have mastered time and can use it to advantage, as in “The Pandorica Opens.” Granted, this might get convoluted and painful if used too often, but it’s nice to see the time travel tricks being used well.

This is meant to be an Eleventh Doctor episode, happening after the evens at Trenzalore when he was forced to confront the War Doctor in his memory. As such, he’s the one with a companion and his theme music plays. While the other two have their memories wiped, he is expected to grow and change from the encounter.

Clara doesn’t seem right as the episode’s only genuine companion (aside from Bad Wolf of course). Her immaturity on Who and in general are stressed as she has little to offer in this great conflict. With all the humor and ego bruising, someone like Donna Noble would have been the perfect snarky companion watching these scenes play out, yet filled with the maturity of “The Fires of Pompeii” to help the Doctors make the ethical choice. And for once, there was even a plot that would allow her to come back.

Speaking of “The Fires of Pompeii,” the end of this episode felt like a colossal cheat. The Doctor can destroy millions to save billions, in a decision much like his at Pompeii, or others he’s faced, in “Genesis of the Daleks” and “The Parting of the Ways,” for instance. He’s been suffering from his choice for seven years (that we’ve seen) or over 400 (that we haven’t). The Pompeii story, with the horrors of letting people die, or the other two, where the Doctor chooses to find another solution because he can’t bear to save through killing, all have the emotional ring of truth. But how seriously could anyone take a movie about the people who can go back in time, save Hiroshima, and find a no-consequences method of ending WWII? It just feels wrong.

Of course, this does spin off Eleven and Twelve’s next story arc (one presumes): the search for Gallifrey. It’s likely no coincidence that by Christmas the Doctor will be on his last life (For Nitpickers, that assumes the John Hurt Doctor’s odd regeneration with help from the Sisterhood of Karn DOES count, whether he calls himself “the Doctor” or not, and his metacrisis mess in which the Tenth Doctor did APPARENTLY die and regenerate DOESN’T count). As shown in the series, the High Council can award people with an entire new set of regenerations, among other rewards. It promises to be a fun storyline…despite the dramatic feel of “undestroying” the tragically lost Gallifrey.  

Unraveling the science in science fiction tends to never end well, but I must ask: Nine said Gallifrey is time-locked, so he can’t interfere. Is that so different than “locked in an alternate dimension”? While they may be quite different, the concepts feel the same. Either way, it’s mostly impossible to get to and a fitting quest for the Doctor. Is it worth mentioning that all the Daleks being under Time Lock and destroyed from all of time, space, and history really isn’t working out?

Certainly everyone loved the hoard of Doctors rushing in to help, and the Fourth giving his bit of advice to a purposeless Eleven. The fangirl in the Fourth’s scarf was also a lovely touch, as we, the asthmatic, gushing viewers, got to be in the episode too.

If anyone’s aiming for a final count this episode offered…Three TARDISes. Two companions (counting Bad Wolf but not Queen Elizabeth). One companion’s descendent (the Brigadier’s daughter). One crazed fangirl, times two. Two 4th Doctor scarves. One fez (that bounces between many timestreams). The second wedding a Doctor has had onscreen.  More of the Time War than ever seen. Zygons, Daleks, a Cyberman head. Two giant rooms of doomsday devices. Several time loop paradoxes. 13 Doctors (with some as old footage) 5 Doctors with new footage for the show (and an additional one in Night of the Doctor). And the count can go much higher if one includes the lovely scenes from The Five(ish) Doctors (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01m3kfy ) (with John Barrowman getting a bonus for the driving). If 5, 6, and 7 are indeed hiding in the episode, the count can go up to a whopping NINE Doctors, from 4 through the one who doesn’t yet exist, with John Hurt as a bonus in the count. And Doctor #9 is present in spirit as John Hurt regenerates into him.

So happy 50th to all and to all a good night. It was fun, it was delightful, but it was more of a giggle than the great confrontation with the Time War.  All in all, it felt a bit like the Stargate 200th, more fan nods than great epic plot for the ages.

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Day of the Doctor Easter Eggs and In-Joke References

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  • The original credits, then 76 Totter’s Lane and the Coal Hill School begin the episode as they began the series.
  • The school sign reads “Headmaster: W. Coburn” and “Chairman of the Governors: I. Chesterton” … Anthony Coburn wrote that episode, “The Unearthly Child.” Ian Chesterton was a teacher at the school and the Doctor’s companion…he might even still work there.
  • The clock Clara motorcycles past shows the exact time the Unearthly Child was broadcast. And she writes No More on the whiteboard. Hmm….
  • They don’t dwell on the bit where Clara has met Hurt and Ten before during her splintering into souffle girl adventure, but that could just be confusing and awkward.
  • Smith hanging from the TARDIS mirrors his own first episode The Eleventh Hour. Both times dramatic and fun.
  • 11 wears Amy’s reading glasses. 10 wears his own “cool” glasses.
  • “Reverse the polarity” is the Third Doctor’s line.
  • The fangirl is wearing 4’s scarf of course. She also uses it as a weapon, as he frequently does.
  • Zygons hail from the 4th Doctor and Sarah adventure “Terror of the Zygons” (in which people dramatically back up when menaced by them, as in this one). This is their first New Who appearance.
  • Clara uses Jack Harkness’s vortex manipulator. River Song presumably has a different one.
  • Elizabeth the First and 10’s courtship and wedding (teased in several episodes) are finally shown.
  • Even the War Doctor uses a gun to shoot the wall, not the enemy.
  • The sealed message from the past, paintings as messages, etc, are seen in “The Pandorica Opens,” among others.
  • The escape from a dungeon scene nods to many moments, especially 3 and Jo scenes.
  • The oft-mentioned Time War described by 9 and 10 is shown.
  • Gallifrey and the Time Lords’ terrible collars. Also their vault of doomsday devices.
  • The fez of “The Pandorica Opens,” itself a nod to the fez 7 wears, returns (many times over!). Even 10 wears it.
  • In “Night of the Doctor,” 8 meets the sisterhood of Karn from “The Brain of Morbius,” toasts his audio adventures companions, and transforms.
  • Earth is doomed to fall to alien invasions, a nod to many many episodes.
  • The Moment comes to life with a personality very similar to the TARDIS of “The Doctor’s Wife.” They’re both even wooden boxes.
  • Bad Wolf played by Billie Piper
  • 11′s signature high-energy theme music
  • In UNIT, Clara sees a cyberman head and a wall of old companion photos, starting with Susan’s. River’s red sparkly high heels are also there and Amy’s “Angels Take Manhattan” pinwheel.
  • Hurt: “Timey wimey?” 10 “I don’t know where he gets it from.” 10 first said this in “Blink.”
  • The concept of the Doctor protecting children is emphasized in “The Beast Below” and “The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe” among others
  • John Hurt regenerates, noting he’s “Wearing a bit thin,” the words 1 used on changing to 2.
  • This show uses several of Moffat’s signature loops and paradoxes.
  • The concept that the Daleks will be terrified of three Doctors. Also, the plan to move Gallifrey so the Daleks all shoot each other is similar to the solution in “Blink.”
  • Rewriting and preserving timelines
  • Obviously, “The Three Doctors,” “The Five Doctors” and “The Two Doctors” all dealt with the same sort of paradox and snarky comments towards the other Doctors’ dress, mannerisms, etc. It’s no wonder 10 isn’t shocked to see 11 after all that.
  • This one particularly mirrors The Three Doctors, with the old crochety one complaining about the ridiculous clown and the “cool” charmer. In fact, that was a Brigadier episode, as this is a Brigadier’s daughter one.
  • 11 mentions Trenzalore and their fate there
  • The need for a Big Red Button
  • Daleks daleks daleks
  • 10: “I don’t want to go.” 11: “He always says that.” 10’s last words on the show are…still his last words.
  • 11 warns 10 about SPOILERS! for the future…by this point in Ten’s life, he’s met River and heard her catchphrase in the Library.
  • On the Doctor getting kissed: Hurt: “Is there a lot of this in the future?” 11: “It does start to happen, yes.” A reference to the asexual attitude of the first seven Doctors in contrast with New Who.
  • “They’re getting younger all the time,” Hurt notes (though he thinks 10 and 11 are companions).
  • Eleven has the same phone number as Ten had in “The Stolen Earth.” Seems he still has Martha’s phone.
  • The Tardis is switched to its original white circles décor. The museum had a similar wall pattern.
  • “Is it important?” “In twelve hundred years I’ve never stepped in anything that wasn’t.” This actually seems a parody of Eleven’s Christmas Carol line that he never met a person who wasn’t important. While the latter was sweet, the former just seems silly.

  • Kate wants a file from the seventies or eighties. It’s murky when UNIT events of the Third Doctor era happened as they were meant to be in the near future (80s), not the present (70s). Hence the date. 
  • The end credits, with the Doctors’ faces, is reminiscent of the old style.

  • The motorcycle ridden into TARDIS echoes similar stunt riding in “The Bells of Saint John.”
  • Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brigadier from 3’s era (also seen in “The Power of Three”) and UNIT. Their Tower of London base was also in “The Power of Three” There’s a picture of her father and the Doctor sends a “space-time telegraph” for him.
  • The code 11 scratches into the wall is the time and date Unearthly Child aired. 17-16-23-11-63, and the first Doctor Who episode aired at 5:16 p.m. on November 23, 1963.
  • Kate is horrified by “Americans with the ability to rewrite history”…this could be a dig at the American Doctor Who movie or Torchwood season four among other things.
  • 11 mentions he lies about his age. This nods to a few inconsistent counts through the series.
  • Finally all the Doctors unite to save Gallifrey (which is described by 9 and 10 as “time-locked” so this may actually have already worked. They’re seen on screens along with a glimpse of Capaldi, Doctor #12, the first time a Doctor is seen on screen before his regeneration.
  • “Hopefully the ears aren’t as prominent this time.” This nods to the fat that he will soon be Eccleston.
  • The Moment is mentioned in “The End of Time” and several comic books, modified from the De-Mat gun of 4′s “The Invasion of Time.”
  • And of course, number 4…

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I wrote an entire book of these sort of references….available free today through Monday at    http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ Doctor Who: The What Where and How.

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Review of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time

This was a touching homage to the creators of the amazing cult show and a delightful treat for fans, bookending the series with its beginning before the 50th anniversary special tomorrow.

It’s delightful watching Producer Verity Lambert get her start, learning beside the terribly young director Waris Hussein as they both fight the white male dominated BBC. Watching Verity defend the Daleks’ existence was a special treat.  As she uses expressions like “Brave heart,” or Hatnell asks “Doctor Who?” the program nods to its many episodes and in-jokes. The music turns menacing for the Daleks but also shows the creation of the theme song (unchanged in 50 years!) and the sound effects.

Of course, there’s the traditional period music and costumes placing the show firmly in the 60s. We see the first woman in space and the Kennedy assassination that is being revisited so much this weekend, along with Who. We also get to visit a world of taping where four takes was considered far too much effort, with no budget and none of today’s tech.

Watching William Hartnell bond with his granddaughter through his relationship with his fictional granddaughter and his science fiction adventures is a delight. Of course this is framed partly as his struggle, his adventure to grow into a science fiction legend. At the same time, the series itself gain fannish status as kids on the bus start chanting “Exterminate!” and the first fan magazines and merchandising appear as the show begins to show what a success it can be. When a new producer joins, it’s lovely to see Hartnell being fannish, insisting that the proper buttons must do the proper jobs. With something on Verity’s cheek and the toasting photo of actors there’s a lovely cycle back to the beginning as the show tells a good story with artistry and heart as well as all its nods to fans.

The device of dialing the TARDIS to achieve flashbacks and flashforwards is charming for fans as well. Of course so many script moments from entering the TARDIS to the Daleks to the Doctor’s farewell to Susan are refilmed, along with the making of parts of the episode. As the show ends with a few actual actors and contributors, this delightful docu-dram takes its place in history…and the history of time itself.

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So many new books!

Yes, I have two Doctor Who books out this week for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (yay!)

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Free from now through Monday on Kindle is 

Doctor Who: The What Where and How

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

Doctor Who is a show about books, TV, and science fiction for the fans within us all: The Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter, the Eleventh Doctor wears costumes, Martha Jones wants to record Shakespeare’s lost play and sell it on the internet. As the characters gush over Agatha Christie or tangle with Men in Black, they enter a self-referential world of fiction about fiction, delighting in pure fandom. Producers Davies and Moffat nod to their other creations, from Sherlock to Casanova, and share their love for both the classic series and the larger world of Doctor Who novels, audio books, and comics. As the franchise riffs off Star Trek, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, it both celebrates the world’s most popular works and takes its place among them.

The other book, so new it’s just beginning to arrive, is

Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey

The Doctor is certainly the legend with untold faces, the mythic hero who dies to save mankind only to return, regenerated into an undying god with new wisdom of the ages. But his companions are journeying too. Rose Tyler and Donna Noble cross the TARDIS threshold and grow from ordinary women into goddesses of transcendent light, restoring the world with their golden auras. Martha learns faith and Amy, the power of imagination, until both can save the Doctor purely with the strength of their belief. By willing the world to reshape itself, they harness the power of the oldest goddesses who ruled with creation magic rather than conquest. River Song is the divine child of the TARDIS, magic itself, while Clara learns the heroine’s mythic power of spreading herself through eternity and thus reshaping reality as the Doctor’s world. United, they battle for the earth’s redemption by confronting the shadows within.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/book/doctor-who-and-the-heros-journey/

It’s available on

ALSO, my Hunger Games guide,

The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of The Hunger Games is only 99 cents right now on Amazon. http://t.co/6vxNIKUgvb Of course, my terribly popular

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games is always 99 cents on Kindle and other ebook formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130687 or http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne-ebook/dp/B0078EKMOU/

There are also paperbacks.  On with the promotions!

ManyFacesKatnissKatniss the Cattail

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Catching Fire Review–This is What Movie Making Should Be!

Catching Fire, the movie, was very good–everyone agrees. The first half is the best as Panem descends into a police state (or moreso) with endless Peacekeepers, public whippings, and the ominous lines of trucks driving in. Gale and Katniss’s transgressions are made more sudden and dramatic, but worked well in the film. All around them are bits of graffiti alerting the public to the Mockingjay.

Scenes from President Snow’s point of view seemed briefer than in the previous movie (though this might be an illusion) and could have been more nuanced as he and Plutarch summarize their plans in what feels like mildly colorless exposition. His granddaughter, only mentioned in the books, is shown here, with a braid like Katniss’s as she mimics the world’s heroine. She’s one of several excellent bits of foreshadowing not present in the second book as Katniss and Johanna allude to Annie Cresta as “the one that…” or there’s an early threat of bombing District 12 into ashes like 13. In fact, as a little girl tells Katniss she wants to volunteer for the Games and Prim tells Katniss she can handle herself now, a theme of this next generation and their place in Panem is cautiously cropping up.

Some fans were wondering if the plot of poor Seneca Crane, martyred gamemaker, would continue through the sequel, perhaps with soppy memorials to the poor “filmmaker” who was sacrificed for his art. (See John Granger’s “Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again” at http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com for more on this).

To my relief, it didn’t. Nonetheless, as Snow watches Peeta and Katniss’s love story and discusses it with his little granddaughter, they’ve turned into the audience…passive helpless audience by the end. Katniss and Peeta are performers on multiple levels, though they seem sincere within the games–their pretense for the camera dies when they’re flung inside. (And in fact, the spile is all the sponsors give them…perhaps Haymitch and company have bigger things on their minds). Katniss’s Seneca Crane dummy, compete with her perfect curtsy from the previous film was a perfect giant middle finger to the gamemakers, only surpasses by Johanna’s dirty mouth. Ever Caesar had trouble putting a lid on her.

She shines as one of the beloved book characters brought to life. Mags and Wiress, the show’s sad victims were well done, but I adored Johanna’s snark and Finnick’s terribly sincere range. Whether preening in his outfit or offering Katniss her sugar cube, he’s the right mix of defensive, pragmatic and charming. “What about you, girl on fire? Any secrets?” he smirks. In the Games, he’s panicked, desperate, but also self-willed enough to charm Katniss with only the force of his personality…and us along with him. He, like Haymitch in the first movie, is the Katniss character, defensive and traumatized. Both characters struggle to protect a loved one under their flippancy, both are tortured by the jabberjays. Seeing them side by side emphasizes that Prim is Katniss’s truest love as Annie is Finnick’s, that both characters are emotionally wounded. When Finnick loses Mags, it foreshadows Katniss’s loss to come.

The film compensated well for losing the first person point of view–Katniss and her friends have three kinds of mortified expression when Johanna strips in front of them (with perfect comic timing, just after Haymitch claims the Victors aren’t so strange). In her first scene of the movie, Katniss’s PTSD comes out clearly as she freezes before a crowd of turkeys. Even frivolous Effie comes out devastated when she must choose Katniss in the reaping and bid her goodbye in her wedding gown. Scenes like the Tributes’ fighting to end the games during their interviews, or Katniss finally, sweetly making friends, are brought to life beautifully, with stunning emotion.

In many ways, this one’s closer to its original than movie one was (movies 3 and 4 have me wondering if we’ll suffer from Harry Potter 7 syndrome with all the good stuff ending up in one of the two films). We see the terrible prison camp of District Eleven and the brighter, prettier Career Districts. Katniss’s Appalachian home is stark and cold with winter, like her feelings at the start. And for those disappointed about minutiae the last time (as I was, admittedly), Buttercup the cat was recast with an animal the right color (obviously, this still works in the story, as Prim could have gotten a new pet). Director Francis Lawrence notes:

That was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book…That was, quite honestly, the only simple thing, the Buttercup situation. http://io9.com/the-hunger-games-author-insisted-the-cat-be-recast-in-c-1462912646

This show offers a believable love relationship with Peeta and also Gale…as Katniss remarks in both book three and this movie, she’s trying to survive, not obsess over boys. Nonetheless, she, Peeta, and Haymitch have become a family as seen in the previous movie…though complete with their sass and teasing (“Take a bath, Haymitch” after Katniss has pelted him with water “I just did”). By contrast, Katniss meets with Snow while the holo of her act with the berries is playing right on the table, both reminding/warning the audience what she did and compelling her to watch along with them as her guilt is played out in front of her.

Capitol fashions are more disturbing than ever, with Effie’s devotedly cheerful butterfly dress that might even be constructed from real ones. The Capitol citizens celebrate in front of the President’s horrid pink and blue mansion with multicolored fireworks, and as he toasts, in a sinister moment, his drink turns red. Of course, much of the costuming was an acknowledgement that it was a reestablishment of moments seen in the previous film–she’s the girl on fire again in the parade, Effie dresses horribly as do the Capitol citizens again as well. Finnick and Johanna’s parade outfits were impressive, but once again, not strikingly unique. There was little surprise there until the beauty of the Mockingjay gown.

This long-awaited moment was impressive–the original gown is designer but with a metal winglike structure suggesting her own strength and the Capitol’s artificial cage. As she twirls, the metal vanishes, and for a moment, she breaks free. “The metal pieces rising up from the bodice are meant to signify fire and flames, while laser-cut feathers at the waist and shoulder hint at Katniss eventual transition into a Mockingjay.” EW reports.

Katniss’s gown for the Capitol party is reminiscent of a mockingjay, dramatic in red and black as she prepares for battle. I thought the reaction to the food wasting should have been bigger–Katniss obsesses over it so in the book, and it’s part of the central message. The Avoxes once again are basically cut, as is the suffering of people in District 12.

I was surprised Plutarch had lost his watch but the movie did a delightful job of keeping new viewers guessing. He’s excellent as a self-serving gamester using other as Snow dies…until it’s time for the Game to end. Katniss’s final shot, now seen in the Gamemakers’ lair, is wonderful, though on the practical side I must be concerned over the rescuers nearly smashing her with fallen debris. She rises into the air with a messianic glow, the Mockingjay, flying at last.

Fans will miss a few other moments–Cinna’s famous line that he’ll risk his own neck through his art but not anyone else’s, the teens’ discovery of how Haymitch won his Game. The sponsor gifts to encourage the new team. However, Haymitch’s snarky notes are back, or at least one.

Many fans likely admire the movie’s incredible similarity to the book, but I would have preferred a different ending – with the new medium, graphics, and point of view, the camera could have stretched over the revolutions and war-torn Panem instead of focusing on Katniss’s immediate world. All in all, Haymitch’s line brings the point of all war stories home – “No one ever wins the games, period. There’s survivors…there’s no winners.” As Collins’ saga of the torments of war and its afterefffects, this seems the standout moral of the story.

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