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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Episode Rankings: The Dirty Dozen (Bottom 12)

Every time I mention an episode as “weak”, someone jumps in to say how much s/he likes it. With some trepidation for the comments I might get, this post will contain my list of weakest episodes. Please do remember that even the weakest episodes can have a good scene or two in them.

I have some criteria for what makes an episode weak. The catch-all term would be poor execution, e.g., hitting us over the head with the point, or leaving the point obscure, or making the plot line implausible. That sounds as if the list is objective, but it’s no more so than my “best” list.

I’ll confess that I’ve allowed my personal distaste for Dead Man’s Party to affect its ranking. A more neutral observer might find it not as bad as I do (not much of a bar, I freely admit).

133. Gone
134. Teacher’s Pet
135. Reptile Boy
136. Beer Bad
137. Two to Go
138. Doublemeat Palace
139. Wrecked
140. I Robot, You Jane
141. Where the Wild Things Are
142. Go Fish
143. Dead Man’s Party
144. As You Were

I’ll list my top 25 dramatic scenes next Thursday.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. update

For those following the show, I thought the events of last night made this a good time to review the predictions I made after watching the first episode. Overall, the show is still not great -- it could really use Joss to improve the dialogue -- but it has gotten better after a very slow start.


1. My first prediction was that Chloe = Echo. I feel very good about this. I still think it's dead on, down to something in their blood being special. Of course it's their blood:

XANDER: Why blood? Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be like a, a lymph ritual?
SPIKE: 'Cause it's always got to be blood.
XANDER: We're not actually discussing dinner right now.
SPIKE: Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. (quietly) Course it's her blood.

2. I thought other characters might map on to Dollhouse characters, suggesting Fitzsimmons/Topher as an example. I think I got that wrong.

3. S.H.I.E.L.D. would be morally ambiguous. I think I called that. Here it's a case of infiltration rather than something necessarily inherent in the system, but the net result is the same: the institution is corrupt.

4. There would be Foucaltian themes of societal coercion. I'd give myself half a point on this. There has definitely been mind control, deception to force others to act, and the prospect of more subtle forms of coercion from higher up in S.H.I.E.L.D. remains.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Episode Rankings -- Top 25 Favorites

My “favorites” list will have some overlap with my “best” list. Since there’s such overlap, I’ll list more “favorites”.

The top episodes are those which are both of high quality and easy to re-watch. They’re in rough order of the number of times I’ve re-watched them. Like anyone would keep an exact count of such a thing.

I’d call this list totally subjective; I can’t even pretend that it represents anything more than my own personal taste at this point in time.

  1. Once More With Feeling
  2. Becoming 1 & 2
  3. Storyteller
  4. Chosen 
  5. The Gift
  6. Fool For Love
  7. Hush
  8. Primeval
  9. Doppelgangland
  10. Pangs
  11. Touched
  12. Wild at Heart
  13. School Hard
  14. Band Candy
  15. Triangle
  16. Checkpoint
  17. Tabula Rasa
  18. Choices
  19. Phases
  20. Prophecy Girl
  21. Selfless
  22. Lover’s Walk
  23. Life Serial
  24. Lessons
  25. Beneath You
"Weakest" episodes next Thursday.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Episode Rankings -- Top 15

In a comment recently, Allison suggested that I add some posts ranking such things as my best/favorite episodes, etc. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to do this, but her comment kind of pushed me into doing it.

The big reason for my previous reluctance was that my attitudes about these things change over time. Any ranking I give today would probably differ substantially from one I gave 10 years ago. However, I’ve decided that enough time has passed that my evaluation of the episodes is reasonably stable. I might still switch an episode from 8th to 15th, but it’s very unlikely that I’d switch one from 103rd to 15th or even to 41st. Still, don’t take the exact order too seriously. There’s a real risk of being more precise than accurate when making up these lists, and in any case I might change my mind again next week.

I’m going to rank the top episodes in two different posts, one today and one next Thursday. The distinction I’m making between these two lists is between “best” and “favorite”. To illustrate the distinction, consider The Body. As you can see below, I rank it no. 1 on my “best” list (no surprise there). However, I can’t consider it a “favorite” because it’s simply too painful to re-watch. The “favorites” list will be those I enjoy watching the most.

I created today’s list by putting on my critic’s hat and trying to evaluate the “best” episodes. Don’t be fooled into thinking this list will be “objective”; I’m certainly under no such illusion. All it means is that I’m trying to put some constraints on my own subjective views, not that I’ve succeeded in eliminating subjectivity (which is, in my view, impossible).

As you’ll see very quickly, the “best” list contains mostly dramatic episodes rather than comic ones. This is consistent with my comments about the relative longevity of drama and comedy in the Introduction. However, my “favorites” list will be much more heavily weighted towards funnier episodes – or at least those less dark and disturbing – for reasons which are probably obvious.

In two cases below I treated a two-part episode as one for purposes of the rankings. That may seem unfair, but I find it hard to separate the relevant episodes and I don’t know how I’d rank them if I had to split them.

SPOILER WARNING: There’s at least one major spoiler below and any comments will likely include more.

T1. The Body
       Once More With Feeling
3.    Passion
4.    Becoming 1 & 2
5.    Lies My Parents Told Me
6.    Storyteller
7.    Normal Again
8.    Dead Things
9.    Hush
10.  Fool For Love
11.  Surprise/Innocence
12.  The Gift
13.  Smashed
14.  Restless
15.  Chosen

I couldn’t do just 10. It was too hard for me to separate out 11-15 from the top 10. For that matter, it was pretty hard to separate 11-15 from the ones I’d put at 16-20, but I felt a little better about breaking it at 15. Purely arbitrary.

Many of these episodes appear on lots of “best” lists, and their appearance won’t be a surprise, though some will disagree with the ordering. I’ll just comment on three of them, in reverse order of their ranking. Chosen is on the list because I was on line obsessively before it aired and I’m confident that nobody, except those who were spoiled, saw the twist coming. Changing the whole nature of the show like that was daring, in my view, and I loved it.

I know plenty of viewers who hate Smashed. From what I read, a lot of that is associated with the story line: they just don’t like the decision to have Buffy have sex with Spike. That’s ok. I’m not critical of that decision, but even if I were, I’m trying to base my judgment more on the execution than on the plot. Overall, I have to judge the episode as well-executed, and the final 15 minutes or so (the whole fight plus the ending) as brilliant.

Storyteller is the third one which gets, well, less love in fandom. A lot of that comes from dislike of Andrew. Andrew doesn’t bother me, and I think my post on that episode explains why I rank it so high.

Feel free to tear my list apart in comments and/or to post your own.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Veronica Mars movie

I saw it yesterday and it's very fun. It captures the spirit of the first 2 seasons really well (that's a polite way of saying that I'm not wild about S3). Even if you didn't watch the show -- and you should have, because it drew on Buffy a lot -- you'll be able to follow the movie. If you did watch it, you'll appreciate the in jokes and the recurring characters. Sadly, no Buffy alums appear in the movie, though maybe Krysten Ritter should get an honorable mention for her father's role in Ted.

Going off on a yet bigger tangent, Aeryl pointed out to me that Game of Thrones has cast Dead Eddie from The Freshman for a key role in S4.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book update

I just updated the eBook again. It'll take about 12 hours for it to process, so it's not available yet.

This time I made what I'd call significant revisions. I didn't change any theories or arguments, but I tried to tighten up the reasoning and the writing. That means that I deleted some stuff which I thought was repetitive or confusing (mostly in Amends); added some transitions; clarified some points which, on re-read I thought were unclear; and moved some passages around in order to improve the flow.

If anyone wants to discuss the book in comments under this post, they can do that without spoiler warnings. New viewers beware!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Update

I just updated the ebook at Amazon. I made changes which will, I hope, improve readability. There are just minor changes otherwise. It takes about 12 hours for the new version to be available; I understand that those who already own it should be able to get the updated version.

The book is available here.

ETA: There are spoilers in the comments below because the book covers all 7 seasons.