Orange is the New Black — End of Season Three

An awful lot came in the finale after a season of relationships and drama. It ended with a staff walkout, a celebrity self surrender, a possible assassination. Piper establishes that no one should mess with her, the prison’s new godfather, or she will ruin their lives (of course, this means her girlfriend will be around next season for the repercussions, plus emphasizes Piper as the one who will betray her friends to keep them close.) Caputo has tried selling out—possibly to change the system from within. Of course, his experienced staff won’t have it, and the prison is only help by helpless young people and one donut-selling rapist. When the celebrity chef (obviously a Martha Stewart parallel though Martha didn’t actually end up in the real Litchfield) arrives, there’s no guard there to meet her.

All seemed settled with Daya’s baby, but now she’s likely headed for foster care, with neither parent in sight. Pornstache or Bennett certainly might return next season to complicate Daya’s life.  No sign of Larry this season — one wonders if we’ll see Piper finally get out and be stuck interacting with him and Polly.

Flashbacks this episode were a momentary glimpse of many backgrounds. They were charming and a nice parallel with the multi-flashbacks of the first episode, though they lacked a strong thematic connection,

There were severs signs of hope from Lorna’s sweet wedding to Healy’s wife bringing him the Olive Garden food he likes. Finally, season ends with Norma leading all the inmates in a mass exodus.. it’s an uplifting moment, a true miracle far beyond a chicken for the hopeless of the prison. Brave heedless Suzanne is the first to leap into the promised land, Freedom Lake as Poussey calls it. The others follow, celebrating with her in a moment of pure abandon and joy. In the water, Soso finds friendship,Cindy finds religion, Suzanne finds a turtle (and a girlfriend). This moment prepares them for the pitfalls of the upcoming season….for it’s certain there will be one.

Remember All Their Faces: A Deeper Look at Character, Gender and the Prison World of  Orange is the New Black  is on sale now on Amazon:   There’s also a free giveaway going:  

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Thoughts on Orange is the New Black Season 3: 3.1-3.6

The season began with a quick visit to everyone, all the characters that have already been long established. New characters included Counselor Berdie Rogers (played by actress Marsha Stephanie Blake), plus the surprise return of Alex when she rolls over in the new inmates’ bunk. It opens on Mother’s Day, reminding viewers of the misery of prison as they try to make a cheerful carnival, but all must hit the ground before it’s over. Flashbacks spend moments with several characters, offering wonderful insights.

All the repercussions from season two come flooding in by the next couple episodes: Suzanne’s emotional damage from Vee, Maria’s kid, Sophia’s kid. Gloria’s kid is introduced with a similar set of problems – there’s little the prison mothers can do from behind bars. Red closes off her tunnel, though Nicky’s heroin becomes a bigger problem than ever as she can’t manage to say goodbye. There’s also Piper’s lie to Red that her business was thriving and Piper’s betrayal of Alex. This last nicely parallels season one, as Alex shepherded the emotional Piper through prison, then finally revealed she had turned in the other woman. This time, Alex is the wreck and Piper stable and a prison veteran…before Alex finds out she’s back because of her girlfriend. Certainly, this all seems contrived to build up tension, but it’s effective nonetheless. Healey may be trying to seem mature, but with Red and his wife, he’s back to the same hang ups (though now we’ve seen his literally crazy mother…whether this was before or after electroshock isn’t clear). With Red’s announcement to his bride that Healy is a good man, Healy is quite struck – perhaps with his only positive female relationship ever.

Bennett and Daya hit a snag, as in his own flashback he’s revealed as weak – he’s not the guy to jump on the grenade but cower in his bunk (remember his battle wound was really an infection from a hot tub). He proposes to Daya and plans to raise her baby on his own, but when he sees the squalor and violence of her childhood, he panics (as her mother’s cheating boyfriend threatens her brother with a gun and reveals that Daya’s best story involves her drunken mother smashing her Quinceanera cake). Instead of doing as Daya’s mother advises and giving the baby to “Lady Pornstache” for a stable life, he runs from the entire situation. As the only sweet genuine love story shatters, the theme of prison crushing lives and families becomes clearer. Daya in turn appears to give up on life and hands over her baby, no longer wanting the burden with no Bennett.

Flashbacks are always a big draw, and I know many people were waiting for Chang’s (though I found the lack of subtitles oppressive. Yes I got the jist, but only that). Boo’s was fun, though there weren’t major surprises, or a revelation of her crime. Nicky’s was rather predictable, but Flaca’s was unexpected and insightful. By the time we’re halfway through, we’re gotten new inmates, kosher meals, and sweatshops, with many ethical debates as well, Litchfield is under new corrupt management (slightly different from the old corrupt management) and Piper appears to be flirting with a newcomer. Watch out, Alex!

Remember All Their Faces: A Deeper Look at Character, Gender and the Prison World of  Orange is the New Black  is on sale now on Amazon:   There’s also a free giveaway going:  

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Call for Papers on Outlander by June 22

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon has sold 25 million copies worldwide. More interestingly, it’s said that mentioning Outlander in a group of women, no matter the age, will reveal that a quarter have read it. Now the television show, often called “Game of Thrones for Women” is transforming the popular cable shows, brimming with nudity and violence, as it brings in a specifically women’s fandom…or is it?

This collection welcomes discussion of the television show, novels, John Grey books, short stories, and associated works such as cast interviews, Gabaldon’s blog, or Outlander fan culture.

McFarland has expressed interest in an academic collection of essays on this pop culture phenomenon, which will likely come out alongside season two. Of course, this collection will only go forward if it gets sufficient submissions.

UPDATE: I’m considering splitting the book into two, one on genre and fandom, the other on race/gender/disability/homosexuality/otherness. Topics fitting into these categories are especially welcome.

Final essays 4000-5000 words, MLA format. 100-300 word proposals for your essay topic with optional bio or cover letter should be sent to valerie @, subject OUTLANDER ANTHOLOGY by June 22. Finished papers due Aug 15. Happy writing!

There are many areas to explore:
Gender Studies: Male courtliness as performance; feminine charm or seduction as performance; Geillis the femme fatale; Claire the WWII nurse; sexism; female gaze, homosexuality in Black Jack, the Duke of Sandringham, and Lord John. Characters such as prostitutes, housekeepers, clan chiefs, and warriors have many interesting gender nuances.
Genre: romance, time travel story, war story, military history, or cross-genre
Adaptation: comparison to other cable shows like Game of Thrones, The White Queen, Camelot, True Blood, etc. Differences between book and show and the motivations behind these. Costumes or music (the blogs by the ones in charge of these are useful resources)
Myth and Folklore: standing stones, circle dancers, gemstone magic, prayers from the Carmina Gadelica, Loch Ness, parallels between Claire’s journey and selkie or fairy kidnapping tales. There’s also the Caribbean stories of book three or Lord John and the Plague of Zombies, Native American myth in the later books, and so on.
History: World War II, the sixties, the Eighteenth Century, witchcraft, the Revolutionary War, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Louis XV, the Count de Saint-Germain
Symbolism: psychology such as Jung or Joseph Campbell, significant objects such as the blue vase, pearl necklace, or wedding rings.
Literature: analyzing the stories as literature or comparison with other important works
Fandom studies
Television studies

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60 Easter Eggs in Avengers: Age of Ultron

    1. Ultron first appeared in Avengers #57 (as did the Vision). He wasn’t created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, but by Hank “Ant-Man” Pym, whose film is coming next, though not in time for him to play inventor here.
    2. The storyline Ultron Unlimited has the villain invading a fictional East European country with an army of robot drone. The title Age of Ultron has no connection with the comic book event of the same name, but was chosen because it sounded cool.
    3. In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “The Dirty Half Dozen”, it is Agent Coulson who breaks in to a Hydra base and locates Loki’s scepter. He then contacts Maria Hill so she can let the Avengers know to go to Sokovia and retrieve it, as they do in the beginning of the film. Dr. List, Strucker’s flunkie, appears on Agents of SHIELD, then joins his boss on the film.
    4. During the opening assault on Baron Strucker’s fortress, Captain America uses a wrist-mounted device to make his shield return. This is designed by Tony in the early Avengers comics.
    5. Baron Strucker has collected Chitauri tech from the Battle of New York.
    6. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch first appeared in X-Men #4 in 1964 as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (and children of Magneto!), then switched sides and joined the Avengers in 1965’s Avengers #16. The MCU is giving “Gifted” characters several origin stories, from artificial to Inhuman to genuine inexplicable gifts….they don’t say mutant or use Magneto as these rights are tied up with X-Men. Baron Strucker substitutes as evil father though the side-switching remains. The clip of their origin story includes a red burst of apparent Terrigen Mist (now appearing with the Inhumans on Agents of SHIELD).
    7. Pietro and Wanda Maximoff dress like in X-Men: Evolution (2000), where Pietro had on blue jeans and sports shirts, and Wanda had on a black dress and red coat.
    8. Strucker, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, was a returning nemesis in Fury and His Howling Commandos, beginning with #5 in 1964.
    9. Tony’s bumper sticker “Jarvis is my co-pilot” likely nods to the popular sticker “Wash is my co-pilot” from Firefly.
    10. Ultron starts out as as a peacekeeping force. This is a homage to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010), where he had a similar origin.
    11. During Ultron’s birth, movie clips from the MCU and comic book scenes appear.
    12. Ultron’s odd get-up during his first meeting with the twins nods to his first comic-book appearance, as The Crimson Cowl.
    13. War Machine has ditched his Iron Patriot paint after hassling in Iron Man 3.
    14. Pepper Potts & Jane Foster don’t appear, but are mentioned during the party at Avengers tower.
    15. Erik Selvig from the Thor films cameos from England. Maria Hill reappears, but Loki’s scenes were cut in editing.
    16. Not even Captain America can afford a place in Brooklyn these days, though he lives there in the ’70s comics.
    17. All of Steve Rogers’ friends are senior citizen war vets, also seen in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates.
    18. Stan Lee in his cameo insists he can drink anything, as he’s a World War II veteran who stormed the beaches. Drunk, he shouts “Excelsior!” This last is a famous Stan Lee slogan, the same phrase with which he ended his weekly “Stan’s Soapbox” with, which appeared in every Marvel comic book.
      The World War II mention nods to Cap. Like most men of his generation, Mr. Lee did serve in the military. However, he never saw combat. Jack Kirby did storm the beaches though.
    19. The “whosoever holds this hammer” line is from the inscription on Mjolnir in the comics.
    20. Steve Rogers almost lifts Thor’s hammer – he swings it a few times in the comics, showing off his inner nobility.  Odd that Natasha doesn’t try the hammer — in the comic “What If?” Age of Ultron #3, she succeeds.
    21. The Avengers visit the city that produces all the world’s Vibranium to stop Ultron. Wakanda of course is home to the Black Panther.
    22. Andy Serkis’ character, Ulysses Klaw, is the Wakandan arms dealer who loses his hand. This prepares him to become Klaw, the nemesis of Black Panther with a vibranium-powered soundwave cannon arm. Apparently all the Phase 2 movies have someone lose a hand in a Star Wars reference, though this is a bit faint.
    23. Klaw is seen wearing a necklace with a claw. The comics state he got that from murdering T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda and the current Black Panther (2018) T’Challa’s father.
    24. In the comics, Ulysses Klaw was manipulated into battling the Avengers by the Crimson Cowl, actually Ultron operating under an alias.
    25. Tony refers to his Hulkbuster armor as “Veronica,” likely nodding to the character of Archie Comics. Her counterpart is named like Hulk’s girl, Betty.
    26. The Hulkbuster armor is from the comics and it punches Hulk offscreen as movie one Hulk punched Thor.
    27. Lou Ferrigno, almost every onscreen Hulk voice, contributed to the voice of the Hulk in this film.
    28. The truck marked Crawford in this scene nods to Hulk’s comic book mentor, Dr. Gregory Crawford.
    29. Tony calls Hulk Banner, then admonishes himself over the whole “puny Banner” comment. The Hulk shows hatred for his “puny Banner” side in the comics sometimes.
    30. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wears a Bruce Lee T-shirt. Downey Jr. has a black belt in Wing-Chun.
    31. The Scarlet Witch blasts all the Avengers with visions, like Uatu the Watcher does to them in “Original Sin”.
    32. Tony’s Scarlet Witch dream has him in space with Chitauri Leviathans flying overhead, surrounded by dead Avengers. In the comics, Tony often flies into space, and this moment may certainly foretell his future in Infinity War. Stark finds the Avengers killed by Thanos in the Infinty Gauntlet comic series.
    33. Scarlet Witch helps Captain America have a vision of Peggy Carter, from her own show, possibly preparing for a second season. As she tries to convince him his fight is done, this moment echoes her talking down Howard Stark’s plane on her own show. Plus, they finally have their dance date from their first film.
    34. The Roy Thomas Players, the band in Cap’s dream, are named for the comic book writer who created the Vision and Ultron.
    35. Thor’s Scarlet Witch dream sequence takes him to Asgard, where Heimdall, the keeper of Bifrost, tries to choke him. This may foreshadow events of Thor: Ragnarok.
    36. Black Widow’s vision is of her Red Room training, seen (with another Widow) on Agent Carter. She and Dottie from that show cannot have children, emphasized by Dottie’s playacting with a baby carriage. They both have ballet training, something Natasha does in her comics origin story, and a possible nod to River from Firefly as well.
    37. When Scarlet Witch tries to mind control Hawkeye, he neutralizes her. He then quips: “I tried the mind control thing. Not a fan!” This is a reference to  being mind controlled by Loki during most of “The Avengers”.
    38. Banner plays with a cradle in movie one, noting he doesn’t always get what he wants. This time, he also talks about having a child.
    39. “Marvel Ultimates” has a controversial incestuous storyline between Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. According to Elizabeth Olsen, she and Aaron Taylor-Johnson touched each other a lot in a subtle homage.
    40. Vision saves Scarlet Witch and flies off with her in his arms nodding to their future romance.
    41. Black Widow’s outfit is from Fear Itself. Hawkeye’s is more like his classic comics look, with elements of his original Marvel Comic outfit, his Ultimate Marvel outfit, and his Ronin identity.
    42. Actor Aaron Himelstein played the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who wouldn’t launch the ships in Captain America: Winter Soldier and returns as one of the new agents on Fury’s helicarrier.
    43. Grand Central Station, blown up in Avengers, has been rebuilt with an Avengers statue.
    44. Sam Wilson, the Falcon, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. His “working missing person’s cases” quip is a reference to Bucky. Presumably both characters will star in Captain America: Civil War.
    45. Friday is one of Tony’s AIs in the comics. The other two AI chips were named Jocasta (Ultron’s bride in the comics) and Tadashi (Big Hero 6)
    46. Tony and Steve’s ideologies clash, preparing for Captain America: Civil War.
    47. Someone chokes Tony in every movie he’s in, including this one. Some people are just that irritating…
    48. Cap’s line “This is what SHIELD is supposed to be…” feels like a wave to the Agents of SHIELD TV series, which hasn’t gotten the hype of the films.
    49. Ultron proclaims that everyone creates the thing they dread, including “invaders” creating “avengers.” The Invaders were a comic precursor to the Avengers.
    50. “There are no strings on me” is Disney of course. Also, Ultron’s line “People have looked to the sky and seen hope. I’ll take that from them first” may nod to Joss Whedon’s Firefly credits song: “Burn the land, and boil the sea – you can’t take the sky from me…”
    51. Speaking of, the Hellicarrier, Iron Man, and Thor reuse musical scores from their earlier movie appearances (in Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World).
    52. In the comics, Dr. Helen Cho is the mother of Amadeus Cho, a superhero who may appear in later stories.
    53. Clint Barton’s wife Laura is from the Ultimate comics. She names their child Nathaniel Pietro for Quicksilver and Black Widow., though in the comics it’s Nicole for Nick Fury.
    54. When Black Widow snatches Captain America’s shield  and puts it on the front of her motorcycle., this mimics the motorcycle round windshield of the Reb Brown Captain America films.
    55. Loki’s staff contains the “mind stone,” one of the Infinity Gems being collected for Avengers: Infinity War. Stones available in the MacGuffin hunt include the aethyr from Dark World, Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy, the Tesseract, and now (unfortunately for him) the one in the Vision’s head. These are the Tesseract/Space Gem (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers), The Aether/Reality Gem (Thor: The Dark World), Loki’s Scepter/Mind Gem (The Avengers) and The Orb/Power Gem (Guardians of the Galaxy).
    56. At film’s end, Thor goes off to deal with the impending Ragnarok, and Tony Stark drafts legislation to help governments better regulate superhuman activity, kicking off Captain America: Civil War. Hulk heads off alone, as with several Avengers comics.
    57. Tony says he’s ready to tag out — after this film and Avengers 3, Robert Downey Jr. was going to retire from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he later signed on for Captain America: Civil War (2016).
    58. Cap ends by almost saying “Avengers Assemble.”
    59. At last, Captain America enters the “New Avengers Facility.” Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, the Falcon, War Machine and the Vision, located within, might indeed be called the “New Avengers,” a comic spinoff series.
    60. The end credits scene features Thanos claiming the Infinity Gauntlet (seen in the Asgard treasure room) and adding, “Fine, I’ll do it myself” – likely collect the last gems.

Celebrate Avengers: Age of Ultron and Free Comic Book Day! Free kindle book now-Monday May 4: The Avengers Face Their Dark Sides: Mastering the Myth-Making behind the Marvel Superheroes. Explore the deeper fantasy symbolism of Jung and Joseph Campbell behind the beloved movie heroes plus ALL the Easter Eggs from Daredevil Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD to ALL the films.

There is also a list of the Agents of SHIELD tie in episode’s easter eggs.

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So Many Goodies Seen on Agents of SHIELD: The Dirty Half Dozen

In the episode before Agents of SHIELD, there are many foreshadowings, nods, and tie-ins:

Baron Von Strucker and his flunky List are experimenting on Gifted people –the SHIELD agents go into one of his secret bases and rescue Deathlok and the Inhuman Lincoln,  but “the twins” are still in custody. List finally escapes to meet up with Baron Strucker  in Sokovia,

Coulson tells Jemma to “suit up” — everyone said this in the Avengers film.

Skye’s mother fears their base will be discovered. With Skye’s return to her friends and Lincoln in their custody, this seems likely. Raina meanwhile, seems to want to lead the Inhumans.  Cal returns to the base, still unstable, still wanting his daughter returned.

Coulson vows to make up his secret-keeping to May but doesn’t actually do it.  She doesn’t completely trust him at this point.

Skye uses her powers, no controlled, in a firefight. She wears her superhero gloves.

Jemma tries to kill Ward, revealing how far she’s gone over to the dark side. Ward meanwhile seems to belive you don’t betray your team and relishes being with them –he seems, like Spike or Angel (or Wesley, Jayne, Willow, and countless others) to want a role among them after betraying them.

Coulson exerts his power — he gives Gonzales the Toolbox but warns him he won’t have it long. He also finds the Staff of Loki for Agent Hill (who cameos), he mentions Fury’s alive (and thus Gonzales wasn’t in the know) and prepares Theta Protocol … and the Avengers.

Bobbi has misgivings about locking up Skye. Mac and Hunter reconcile. The two SHIELD teams are now all stuck in one base, ostensibly working together. Coulson thinks Fury will come soon and settle the chain of command. He also thinks the council is silly.

Raina ends the episode foreseeing men of metal destroying cities and the Staff of Loki playing a part.

All the  &  appear in my book he Face Their Dark Sides  This will be a this Thurs-MOn Happy 

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Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season Five

Okay, I touch lightly on book spoilers…

All the show plots are condensed — trim down minor characters and foolish subplots to have more major characters running into each other. THis seems smart…even bringing Lancel back after a few years needs major reminders for some fans. THe tightened plots are facinating and fun as they heighten tension, and also identify which annoying minor characters really AREN’T needed.

In book four, Cersei sends Ser Aerys Oakheart of the Kingsguard to watch over Myrcella, then a troop to bring her home. This time, rather than introduce new characters, Jamie and Bronn are going themselves. We lose the plot of Jamie traipsing uselessly through the Riverlands meeting minor characters and tidying up Cateyln’s brother and uncle who are still holding onto their castle. But admittedly, without the Starks, they’re not that significant to us. Jamie is certainly riding into a climate where everyone hates the Lannisters, and the plot against Myrcella in book four will likely swallow him up — Sand Snakes hate all Lannisters. Seeing him actually interact with his daughter would be interesting as that moment really hasn’t appeared yet.

Cersei appoints a new High Septon herself, clearly to go after Margaery (though Margaery hasn’t left ny evidence of infidelity). Obviously, the drunk and paranoid queen will fabricate the evidence and get caught in her own trap. Nice touch foreshadowing the Walk of Shame with the previous High Septon, though he really could have had more time in other episodes establishing his existence. Also, Cersei’s childhood flashback shows her panic at a younger more beautiful queen (does she REALLY need more motive to hate Margaery?) but NOT death at the hands of her brother. Is that not guaranteed on the show? That was the most significant moment of the prophecy for me.

As early as episode three, Qyburn is building Frankenstein. He seems a wholly vile creature, despite his kindness to Jamie.

As with the books, Daenerys isn’t doing much. Though episode two did an excellent job of establishing the difficulty of imperialism.

Arya’s training with her old season two friend, which makes more sense than with strangers. Of course, in both stories, all the face-switching ensures that she can’t really be sure who’s training her. It’s a nice return though.

All of Varys puppet princes have been skipped in favor of Varys himself. This is a nice streamline which also gives Varys more to do (in the books, he’s vanished by now). There’s also no sign of Penny (whom some of us thought was sappy) or Tyrion’s obsession with his childhood wife. His meeting with Ser Jorah emphasizes that more characters are coming together.

Some of us really want to see Yara, her father, and all their mess start up.

Brienne in the books hopelessly trails after Arya and Sansa and finds neither. She teams up with lame minor characters and ends at a stalemate with Lady Stoneheart. In a more fulfilling moment on the show, she finds both girls, long enough for them to send her off.  While anything with Jamie/Lady Stoneheart might wait, or be skipped, Brienne may actually accomplish something this time. If Sansa gets Lady Jeyne’s plot, she’ll need a rescue.

In the books, Sansa and Littlefinger stay with little hapless Robin. Littlefinger intends Sansa to marry Robin’s heir, thus uniting Vale and North. He’s technically lord of the screwed-up Riverlands by this point, giving him  enormous amounts of territory if he pulls this off. He’s complicit in dressing Sansa’s childhood friend Jeyne as Lady Arya and sending her to marry Bolton Jr, so he knows that he can finally prove that his Lady Stark is the real one.

The question is, who will win in a fight, Sansa or the Bastard of Bolton? Anyone reading the books would say Bolton, no question. But Lady Macbeth, brought north to be an assassin by Littlefinger, is by this point believable as a savage killer in the night, with poison at least.  Why does Littlefinger want this? Is he trying to mold a perfect lady of cruelty to match him – a mate as viciously elegant as he is? Or is this one more attempt to innocently keep his hands clean? We’ll certainly believe he’s ditching the Lannisters — without Tywin, everyone seems to be abandoning ship.

Now, Brienne hates Stannis (as episode 3 reminds us). She and Podrick (almost the only character with no agenda) are heading to Winterfell, as are Stannis and Co. Sansa, Littlefinger Theon and the Boltons are already there. Currently, Sansa believes Lord Bolton killed Robb and her mother (true) and Theon killed her brothers (technically untrue). Theon of course could take the opportunity to be a hero. Jon is being goaded to attack the Boltons as well.  Will he try to stop Sansa’s wedding? THe Karstark girl hasn’t been seen, though all her family were established on the show. No wildling princess Val. And Melissande is kicking around and keeping little Shireen for some special destiny. No sign of Mance Raider’s baby and wife from the books (ah, streamlining), but Gilly and Sam have more plot to come.

While episodes one and two were quite slow, three had a LOT of foreshadowing. Did anyone catch that Aemon is ill? And a cameo by Cersei’s boy toy Lancel? And that the Lannisters look weak? Quick cameo by Lady Frey-Bolton. And that the Volantine slaves plus a red priestess want Daenerys to save them next? We know what’s coming…

By the way, has anyone noticed that it normally takes weeks to make all these instantaneous journeys? Well, they only have 30 episodes to cover the big books and epic war. How quickly will Tyrion make it across the sea?

I’m the author of five different books on Game of Thrones and many on pop culture if people would like more insights.

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Call for Papers: The Future of Whedon

We all know and love Buffy, Firefly, Avengers, and the other big Whedon projects. But what’s on the horizon—giant Marvelverse movies and tie-in shows? What about the smaller, long-rumored projects like Doctor Horrible 2, Ripper, Wastelanders, The Serving Girl? Whedon just created Bellwether Studios to produce Much Ado About Nothing and In Your Eyes. Will he do more Shakespeares like Hamlet? Film his decades-old scripts like Afterlife? What of the beloved Wonder Woman?

This collection welcomes speculation on proposed projects like those above and analysis of the unmade movie scripts (Afterlife and Suspension are up on and Wonder Woman has popped up in a few places like Scribd). There are many recent unexplored Whedon projects: his Equality Now skits on YouTube “Evil Robot,” “Zombie,” and “When I Speak.” There’s also the documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope and the Buffy Season Eight and Astonishing X-Men Motion Comics. The comic books themselves could use more analysis as Buffy, Angel, and Serenity continue.

While the collection will include analysis of recent projects, plenty for the big ones (Agents of SHIELD, Avengers, Much Ado, Cabin) have already been received. Likewise, no more analysis of old projects (Buffy, Firefly) is needed.

These areas could use more submissions: Any perspective (gender, race, literary, cultural, television or comics studies, etc.) is fine, including comparison to Whedon’s older shows:

1. New Spinoffs (comic continuations, other Whedon comics, computer games, and fan videos): Looking for Buffy seasons 8-10, Serenity comics, Agents of SHIELD TV-tie in comics, Spike Into the Light, Spike comics, Angel and Faith, Angel: After the Fall, Sugarshock, Myspace Dark Horse Presents Buffy shorts, etc. Likewise, older movies and comics in a post 2010-context (X-Men 3 vs Whedon’s X-Men Gifted), etc.) are welcome.
2. New Mediums (conferences, Browncoats, Serenity showings, web releases, Whedon’s blog and posting boards, social media): No one (possibly ever) has written on his new movie In Your Eyes or his Equality Now skits and “Whedon on Romney” (all on YouTube) or his Comic-Con Documentary. These are all released with unusual mediums, a topic worthy of exploration. He also wrote and directed The R. Tam Sessions (now on Youtube) as a promo before Serenity. I might take one or two on Doctor Horrible or Commentary The Musical as new mediums and/or Whedon’s relationship to other web shows like The Guild. Homages to Buffy or Firefly in recent television could fit here. Whedon also directed Glee and The Office, if anyone wants to analyze those.
3. The Future – what Whedon could/will/might/wants to do next. This includes unmade movie scripts Afterlife, Wonder Woman, Suspension, or others. Shows in preparation or rumored: Doctor Horrible 2, Avengers 3 or other Marvel, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, New Buffy movie or Spike movie, Firefly continuations, The Serving Girl, Goners, Wastelanders. (There are many interviews and leaked rumors about these available, and speculation is welcome.) Other speculative projects such as “What if Whedon had Written Agent Carter” are acceptable.

This is a friendly sounding (not academic) collection that will be published as an ebook for Whedon fans with short pieces to be written in the style of PopMatters, the publisher of this collection. (Samples are up at Final essays 2000-3000 words, MLA format. Proposals with optional bio or cover letter should be sent to valerie @, subject THE FUTURE OF WHEDON by Feb 9. Finished papers due Mar 12. (and I’ll try to answer questions/comments below) Happy writing!

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True Blood Finale Wrap Up

Many fans were surprised as Bill returned from his “Billith” power trip to fall for Sookie once more. In fact, this was building all season as he protected the town as one of the last good vamps, then succumbed to illness. Sookie begs Niall for help then commits to protect Bill for the rest of his life, and they find romance once more.

In the books, Sookie makes a great gesture, not for Bill but for Sam. In the books, he’s young and attractive, and Sookie suddenly realizes after spending so long dating Bill and Eric, Sam, the boy next door, is her true love. Alcide has this plot on the show, offering her normality in a world of chaos (In the books, Alcide finds a mate and gets her pregnant in Sam’s place.) Book-Sookie’s final choice came down to Sam and Eric. She finally decided she couldn’t trust the vampire, and Eric accepted power and position…along with a vow to stay away from her. His show ending has a similar feel to his book ending, with his choosing wealth and success, Pam forever by his side.

Book-Bill and Sookie hadn’t had a romantic moment in many volumes. He was generally mentioned in connection with his vampire database, making him sound geekier and geekier. By the late books, he was never a possibility, though he lived on forever. Each book had a mystery, often a murder. The show emphasized big mythology over mystery. True Blood is far more salacious with Violet’s torture-porn, Lilith and her demon women, the vampire prison camp with constant enforced sex. There’s also the heavy gay rights themes. This season got an especially big push as Jessica’s wedding was not sanctioned by the state but beloved in the eyes of God for being filled with love. Hep V and Bill’s slow decline from it parallels AIDS or other incurable STDs.

The Twilight heroine chooses the angst-filled vampire, not the boy next door. Buffy is torn between the similar (in fact nearly identical) Angel and Spike. In the final episode, she chooses neither—she proclaims that she’s not ready for “forever.” Bill says he’s doing it because basically she can’t think for herself and choose to find a normal guy while he’s around, and, disturbingly, she agrees. Sookie reads Bill’s mind (a weak plot point) realizes they’re true loves, knows there’s a cure…and kills him. Admittedly, that was a surprise. One shouldn’t regress to their first love from many years before but should move on, many stories say (though Jessica takes her own first love back and recreates their love in a quick fix, even without his memories). Both stories end with many happy families and a next generation, though there are certainly differences. In the Sookie Stackhouse books, Tara remained human and married a human friend and had kids with him. Jason became a werepanther back when they captured him, and he intermarried with them. There’s no Jessica, Lafayette dies in season one. Many other characters live and die irrespective of their fate in the other series. Sookie ends up with a loving, (reasonably) normal guy. But in this case, it’s unclear why it had to be a stranger, not Alcide.


Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of Bloodsuckers on the Bayou: The Myths, Symbols, and Tales Behind HBO’s True Blood

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Doctor Who Deep Breath: Why are we watching this again?

Season Eight of Doctor Who has just premiered, starring Peter Capaldi and his companion Clara. The plot combined Blink (Don’t breathe!) and The Girl in the Fireplace, two of the most popular Moffat episodes, along with Madame Vastra and Co., plus a special effects dinosaur. What it didn’t offer was extraordinary heroics from the Doctor. Upon regenerating, David Tennant dueled for the planet in his bathrobe, and Matt Smith dangled from the TARDIS, spit Amy’s cooking all over her, and saved the world without TARDIS or screwdriver, just to win our hearts. Peter Capaldi did a brusque, confused, but acceptable job battling the robots. But he (or rather his scriptwriters) didn’t especially win over viewers. He broke his promise to a dinosaur, callously ditched Clara, and mumbled confusedly in a nightgown. In fact, his great moment of proving himself involved Matt Smith sticking up for him to Clara. Smith handed off the role in a way no Doctor has ever done—to a point that it was more cheesy and pushy than sweet. We must like him because Matt Smith told Clara (and us) to, not because of his own endearing qualities.

There were the obligatory fun canon references for fans—the Doctor wants a TARDIS with circles on the walls, and decides the giant scarf looked stupid (aww). He mentions his fierce eyebrows, memorable from the fiftieth anniversary, and the Roman he’s modeled after. He mentions Amy, and when he offers to get chips with no money, he’s replaying the scene with Rose from “The End of the World.” His passing out and Jenny asking Clara who the Doctor is also echoes Rose and her mother in “The Christmas Invasion” after another regeneration. Strax describes Clara’s thorax, as Sontarans did to Sarah Jane and Martha in “The Time Warrior” and “The Sontaran Strategem,” Meanwhile, Strax, Jenny, and Vastra use many skills and conversation points from their previous appearances (the women’s marriage, Strax calling Clara “boy,” acid, Sherlock Holmes, etc.). Sherlock Holmes references abound as well: Vastra mentions the Paternoster Street Irregulars and says she’s having the Camberwell Poisoner “for dinner” She adds “the game’s afoot!” and searches the Agony Column for clues, all Holmes staples.

Their house with Vastra’s garden reappears and she interrogates Clara in it a second time. The Doctor can speak Horse and Dinosaur, like the Eleventh. He mentions his new enormous age after the Christmas special (2000!). Clara’s “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” “Geronimo!” and “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it” are Who taglines. The Doctor mistakes Clara for Handles from the previous episode and says he’s not her boyfriend, though he pretended to be before. Clara is called “The Impossible Girl” and her mistaking him for a helpline on their first meeting is mentioned as an unsolved puzzle.

Missy is another puzzle. Tasha from “The Time of the Doctor” shares something of her personality and may be the same character. Is she River Song? (She shares something of the personality.) Romana? The Rani? The TARDIS/Idris? Slash fans would love her to be the “Mistress”—the Master after a gender-cross. It’s possible she’s the Doctor’s dark side—not just seen in the Valeyard but also the Dream Lord in the episode “Amy’s Choice,” working on behalf of the Doctor and knowing all he knows. One hopes it’s not just an annoying character like Cassandra or a delusional fangirl.

The new title sequence seems pandering to the steampunkers with all the clockwork. Yet it’s also charmingly fresh and “timey-wimey” as well as “spacey-wacey.” It was designed by Billy Hanshaw after Steven Moffat actually saw the fan video credits on Youtube and recruited him in a fannish dream come true.

There are few more interesting nods: The Doctor’s comments about a broom replaced echoes his own life. Vastra describes the Doctor’s looks, explaining that he’s young and handsome to attract people (true on many levels). Clara mentions she had a Marcus Aurelius pinup, suggesting that the Doctor’s change from an attractive young man to a Roman may be another form of flirting. Or as he says, he may be “trying to tell himself something.” Time will tell, on this and on the Doctor himself.


Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How and Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey, The Doctor and Companions as Chosen Ones.

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Comic-Con News and Announcements

Ah, Comic-Con. The weekend when EVERY FRANCHISE shares upcoming news, trailers, first glimpse, and spoilers, in such a way that my own projects go crazy. I don’t just geek out — as those who know me know, I use the new info to write books on Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and the fans themselves (there’s a big fat list of my books at So as I collect all these juicy announcements on my favorite fandoms, complete with writeups and articles, I thought I’d post them all in one place…then see how many new books I’ll be writing.

The Game of Thrones Comic-Con panel sounded like overpacked fun…jokes, bloopers, and Sand Snakes casting (writeup at With FIVE books on GoT, I think I’m covered.

BBC One has confirmed that Sherlock series 4 and a new special will be filming in 2015. I have a book on the canon and pop culture references in seasons 1-3, but I’m sure another Sherlock book is due. Perhaps on relationships and characters.

News and promos for the third Hobbit. Peter Jackson said they hope to have a museum one day of The Hobbit and LOTR (unsurprising — the Harry Potter one does well). My Hobbit parody (on the first movie) is much-liked, but the sales figures aren’t really high enough to push me to write a second, not to mention a third. We’ll see.

Just when we thought Battlestar Galactica was completely over, the movie is on its way…I hope. … And yes, if they make it, I’ll do a BSG analysis book.

Marvel’s AvengersAssemble Season 2 is coming: Age of Ultron approaches as well, after Guardians of the Galaxy. I am writing an essay on Black Widow for an anthology, so I’m keeping an eye out for all her different versions. Also, I have planned (okay for years) to write a book on the heroine’s journey among superheroines. With so many Black Widow adaptations and now a Wonderwoman movie in the works, the time may be right. ish. And I have an Avengers book planned in time for Ultron.

Trailers for Insurgent (I have one book–that should cover it), Mockingjay (two books–again, covered), The Giver (childhood staple) and The Maze Runner (just read book one) all showed. I COULD do a Maze Runner/Giver book on boys’ dystopias having done three on girls’ dystopias.

Buffy season ten (comics), Angel and Faith comics, possible Wastelanders and still no news on our precious Doctor Horrible 2. But I just did a book on pop culture in the Whedonverse and I have more Whedon books coming any minute.

And plenty of beloved authors, costumes and classics, as the con is more packed than ever. Looks like I have some writing to do…

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Filed under Books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Comics, Convention Reports, Films, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture, Sherlock, Superheroes, The Hunger Games, Tolkien: Hobbit and LotR, Young Adult Fantasy