100 Songs from the 1980’s

Pop Icons released a video titled “Best of 80’s music” that was pretty atrocious.  While opinions are subjective, it was really odd to see some songs that were omitted for…well, no reason in particular (like Van Halen’s Jump).  So rather than merely “dislike” the post, it made more sense to make my own list to compare and contrast.  Of course, that video was a little over 8 minutes and only included 66 songs but since video-editing is out of the question, I can list up to 100 in text format and link to the appropriate video.

The only criteria I used were one song per artist (otherwise people like Michael Jackson would own the list), no more than one song per album (sorry Maniac), the song had to be a single (otherwise Heaven and Hell would made the cut), had to have been released in the 1980’s (Pink Floyd’s The Wall came out in 1979) and preference was given to songs that appeared in Grand Theft Auto:  Vice City (which would be an excellent response to anyone who asks for a “best of the 80’s” compilation).

  1. Take On Me” – a-ha
  2. Back in Black” – AC/DC
  3. Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams
  4. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” – Aerosmith
  5. Madhouse” – Anthrax
  6. Heat of the Moment” – Asia
  7. Never Gonna Let You Down” – Rick Astley
  8. Turn Up the Radio” – Autograph
  9. Walk Like an Egyptian” – The Bangles
  10. Mickey” – Toni Basil
  11. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” – Beastie Boys
  12. Hit Me with Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar
  13. Call Me” – Blondie
  14. Livin’ on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi
  15. Let’s Dance” – David Bowie
  16. Flashdance…  What a Feeling” – Irene Cara
  17. Heaven is a Place on Earth” – Belinda Carlisle
  18. Glory of Love” – Peter Cetera
  19. In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins
  20. Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club
  21. (I Just) Died in Your Arms” – Cutting Crew
  22. Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard
  23. Rainbow in the Dark” – Dio
  24. Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits
  25. A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran
  26. The Final Countdown” – Europe
  27. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – Eurythmics
  28. She Drives Me Crazy” – Fine Young Cannibals
  29. I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls
  30. The Message” – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  31. Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns ‘n’ Roses
  32. Out of Touch” – Hall & Oates
  33. Miami Vice Theme” – Jan Hammer
  34. Rockit” – Herbie Hancock
  35. Sunglasses At Night” – Corey Hart
  36. What About Love” – Heart
  37. I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Whitney Houston
  38. The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and The News
  39. Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
  40. White Wedding” – Billy Idol
  41. Need You Tonight” – INXS
  42. The Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden
  43. Centerfold” – J. Geils Band
  44. Thriller” – Michael Jackson
  45. Super Freak” – Rick James
  46. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  47. Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
  48. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
  49. Working for the Weekend” – Loverboy
  50. Like A Virgin” – Madonna
  51. Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp
  52. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” – Judas Priest
  53. Celebration” – Kool & the Gang
  54. Danger Zone” – Kenny Loggins
  55. La Bamba” – Los Lobos
  56. Bassline” – Mantronix
  57. Peace Sells” – Megadeth
  58. Down Under” – Men at Work
  59. One” – Metallica
  60. Too Young to Fall in Love” – Mötley Crüe
  61. Ace of Spades” – Motorhead
  62. Broken Wings” – Mr. Mister
  63. Sister Christian” – Night Ranger
  64. Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A.
  65. Your Love” – The Outfield
  66. Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne
  67. Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.
  68. St. Elmo’s Fire (Main in Motion)” – John Parr
  69. Automatic” – The Pointer Sisters
  70. Every Breath You Take” – The Police
  71. Batdance” – Prince
  72. Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
  73. Cum On Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot
  74. Keep on Loving You” – REO Speedwagon
  75. All Night Long” – Lionel Richie
  76. Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones
  77. Rock Box” – Run-D.M.C.
  78. 18 and Life” – Skid Row
  79. Raining Blood” – Slayer
  80. Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield
  81. Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen
  82. We Built This City” – Starship
  83. Mr. Roboto” – Styx
  84. Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
  85. Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears
  86. Wild Thing” – Tone Loc
  87. Africa” – Toto
  88. What’s Love Got To Do With It” – Tina Turner
  89. I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister
  90. Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
  91. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – U2
  92. Red Red Wine” – UB40
  93. Jump” – Van Halen
  94. Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis
  95. Missing You” – John Waite
  96. Walk the Dinosaur” – Was (Not Was)
  97. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!
  98. Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake
  99. Kids In America” – Kim Wilde
  100. Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes

Luke Cage

Marvel’s Netflix division is still going strong with Luke Cage.  While it’s an excellent TV series, there is one pet peeve:  While its plot references fellow series Jessica Jones, Luke Cage doesn’t keep the main thing that should carry over.  Jessica Jones‘ penultimate episode and finale established that Luke Cage, despite his toughness and strength, is vulnerable to concussive force.  That doesn’t carry over into Luke Cage and there’s at least two instances where the lead should be dead.

It should go without saying there will be spoilers for the first seasons of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Towards the end of Jessica Jones, Jessica and Luke (who’s mind-controlled by Kilgrave) fight and Luke ends up taking a shotgun blast under his chin.  Now the bullets themselves don’t kill him since they can’t puncture the skin.  However, the concussive force of having shotgun pellets impact his face can knock the brain loose from the cranial spinal fluid it’s floating around in.  This can have all sorts of effects, from inducing dizziness and headaches to altering a personality (if they survive).  Further reading on the effects of internal injuries induced by blast trauma can be read at National Geographic.

At the end of Luke Cage‘s third episode, Luke is in a building with his landlady and is subjected to a blast from a rocket launcher when he uses his body to shield her.  The resulting explosion brings down the building on top of him.  Regardless of his super durability, Luke should have died from the resulting internal injuries either from the blast going off next to him or the building coming down on him.

What if he hand-wave all that way and chalk up the discrepancy to Jessica Jones‘ writers not coordinating with Luke Cage‘s?  Maybe someone wrote Luke to be tougher than it really was?  This is a pretty plausible explanation, especially with a corporate umbrella as expansive as Disney’s.  Even if we buy into that explanation, though, someone didn’t do the research on what happens when a rocket explodes next to you.

Obviously, the fire from the explosion wouldn’t have incinerated his skin but it could still affect him internally.  Luke would have died from the fire eating up all the oxygen in his vicinity, resulting in either a collapsed lung or the fire scorching his respiratory system.  A collapsed lung would have resulted from the air pressure rapidly changing due to the force of the blast.  The rapidity of this change flattens the lung and makes it impossible to breathe.  Luke and his landlady would have then suffocated to death.  If the lung doesn’t collapse, then the explosion’s heat and chemicals used to create would have scorched the airways of the victims.  With the airways set ablaze and respiratory system torched, both of them would have asphyxiated.

I’m no Doctor or even WebMD but TV Tropes pointed this out too.  This is also only the first instance Luke should be dead.

The other instance occurs shortly after mid-season when Luke is shot twice by bullets that can pierce his bulletproof skin.  Let’s put aside “there are safe places to shoot someone” trope and marvel at the fact that Luke Cage is able to move around, defend himself, fight (not at his best but still…) and not bleed out on a 12 hour drive to Georgia from Harlem.  Let’s also marvel at how Luke and Claire can travel across multiple states through multiple congested metros (Philadelphia, Washington D.C….) notorious for how congested they are traffic-wise without stopping for 12 hours.  It’s almost as if a writer ran directions through Google maps and rolled with it…

This piece detracts from an otherwise brilliant show.  Luke Cage has kickass music, a unique yet suitable tone and presentation as well as some great moments and themes that it explores.  Thinking the main lead should be dead after 3 episodes really hung over the series though.  It keeps the show from eclipsing Daredevil as the best Netflix show.

 

 

Viewers Will Complain Yet Continue to Watch

This was published two months ago but it’s worth revisiting its central thesis:  That people will complain about a show yet continue to watch.  In this case, the show in question in Game of Thrones.  With the current sixth season of the show only a few episodes away from ending, let’s see if season 5 was enough to turn viewers off from the show.

Before we start comparing seasons, though, we should look at what data we’re dealing with:  the TV ratings for each episode and the seasons as a whole.

Season 1:  2.22 (premiere), 2.20 (lowest rated), 2.44, 2.45, 2.58, 2.44, 2.40, 2.72, 2.66, 3.04 (finale)

Season 2:  3.86 (premiere), 3.76, 3.77, 3.65, 3.90, 3.88, 3.69, 3.86, 3.38 (lowest rated), 4.20 (finale)

Season 3:  4.37, (premiere) 4.27 (lowest rated), 4.72, 4.87, 5.35, 5.50 (highest rated), 4.84, 5.13, 5.22, 5.39 (finale)

Season 4:  6.64 (premiere), 6.31 (lowest rated), 6.59, 6.95, 7.16, 6.40, 7.20 (highest rated), 7.17, 6.95, 7.09 (finale)

Season 5:  8.00 (premiere), 6.81, 6.71, 6.82, 6.56, 6.24, 5.40 (lowest rated), 7.01, 7.14, 8.11 (finale)

Season 6:  7.94 (premiere), 7.29, 7.28, 7.82, 7.89, 6.71 (lowest rated), 7.80 (with 3 episodes yet to air)

We can see a few trend lines right away:  Viewership tends to have increased from the first episode to the finale.  Viewership also grows exponentially by the time of the next season (the jump to season 3 from season 2 only nets a .17 whereas the others are all above .82).  While the premiere and finale episodes have higher ratings, viewers don’t really depart in mass droves throughout the season.  Season 1’s audience is fairly consistent (the first two episodes are the ones with the lowest ratings) and the other good seasons never drop by more than half a million (0.5).

Season 5 has some of the highest ratings yet but viewership does crash throughout.  Despite never having ratings drop by more than half a point at any time throughout the first four seasons, season 5’s 2nd episode falls off by almost 1.20 points!  The 5.40 rating for season 5’s episode 7 is the lowest the show did since season 3!  While the finale continued the trend of having a higher rating than the premiere, it was the lowest increase in the history of the show.  To top this argument off, season 6’s premiere was the first in show history to actually lose viewers from a previous season!

So the logic that “people will complain yet continue to watch” is complete bunk.  If a show’s as terrible as season 5 Game of Thrones, viewers won’t even stick around to complain…they’ll just stop watching entirely.

Now, Maisie’s right in that people have continued to watch the show.  Aside from the premiere, Season 6’s ratings are a pretty considerable jump over season 5’s.  With three episodes left to air, it’s quite possible the show could jump back into the 8’s.  However, based on the above data, the show should already be performing in the 8’s and possibly the 9’s.

Look at the average in ratings for each season:  Season 1 (2.52), Season 2 (3.80), Season 3 (4.97), Season 4 (6.85), Season 5 (6.88), Season 6 (7.49).  Ratings jump substantially until season 5, which grinds everything to a halt.  Hell, season 5’s average is thrown out of proportion by the premiere and finale episodes.  Take those out and season 5 averages 6.59, a lower number than season 4’s (6.84) if the same standard is applied.

So, it doesn’t look like season 5 was awful enough to keep people away from the show.  It was terrible enough to severely cut into the show’s growth and quite a chunk of the audience did quit watching for a substantial period of time.  As for why people are still watching, there’s a myriad of reasons:  The plot’s actually moving, curiosity from book readers to see where plots could be headed, etc.  I only keep up through the Internet to see what all is going to happen but watching it via HBO is a step too far.  In essence, I’m complaining about a show I used to watch but don’t anymore.

The Future of Console Gaming

I used to have this magazine that was a holiday 2000 video game guide.  It detailed what sorts of games were worth getting, for what consoles and even speculated about the future.  This was around the time the PS2 launched in America and the Xbox and GameCube were only a year away.  SegaNet was also a thing, so there was an expansive piece on the future of online gaming and what it would mean.  I wish I still had the magazine itself but I remember it being very much a fluff-piece.  In essence, it argued “the future will be great!”  It’s interesting to think back on that magazine in a similar way that people get a kick out of seeing what the future would look like according to someone in the 1950’s.

It’s an article I thought back on when reading about the new Xbox console upgrade.  “In March, Xbox boss Phil Spencer dropped some hints about this new approach, telling journalists that he’d like to see consoles take a PC-like evolution.”  Well, hell, consoles have been on that trajectory since 2000 (at the very least)!  At this point, there’s no discernible difference between a console and a PC that’s relevant.  Some will argue hardware technicalities but as someone who values more important aspects like plot and functionality, arguing how graphically powerful a device is will fall on deaf ears here.

The first step towards console-PC integration was the inclusion of an internal hard drive with the original Xbox.  The magazine touted this up as a great feature that would “reduce load times” and be a substantial improvement over memory cards/cartridges.  That prediction was true for a time.  There was more than enough hard drive space for games on the original Xbox and the first half of the Xbox 360’s life span.  Then the attitude changed where players had to directly install games on to the drive to avoid issues (of the stability or loading variety) with games.  The Xbox One and PS4 now mandate it as a prerequisite to playing.

Games have also ballooned in size too.  It was pretty notable when an installed game on the 360 took up a few gigabytes.  Now games on the Xbone take up at least 20 and it’s not surprising to see them surpass 40.  20-40 GB games eventually add up on a game console, even if someone’s not using it as a multimedia device for Netflix or whatever else.  Factor in the paltry hard drive space of 500 GB and it’s a complete mess!  Compare that number to the store-bought computer I have that’s 6 years old, which has 700 GBs on it!  I suppose it’s just a marketing gimmick to sell external hard drives…

The real damning bit is online connectivity.  The magazine thought online gaming would be great:  “Keep playing your favorite games as developers can update them after release via the Internet!”  “Play with random strangers across the globe!”  It didn’t mention overpriced DLC.  There’s no mention of developers releasing unfinished games and then patching them later, if at all (or, if they’re really cruel, pricing them behind a paywall).  There’s no consideration that online gaming would be a factor in the death of split-screen multiplayer.

But enough sounding like a grognard, the damage “a PC-like evolution” has really done to consoles is rob them of what made them unique.  Before this generation, it was possible to buy a console and have a reliable piece of hardware that would last 6 years minimum.  If I ever wanted to scratch an itch for a certain game, all that needed to be done was take care of the console and it would still work.  Compare this to the nightmare of playing older games on a PC, where a change in the operating system can cause more than enough headaches.

That wasn’t enough of a selling point for consoles, though.  Now, companies need to “update” their hardware so they can keep up with the latest technology.  Shit like this is why it was difficult to get into PC gaming:  Every time a new and interesting PC game was out, something like a graphics card had to be updated so the game could be played.  And Sony and Microsoft want to bring that hassle into the console market?  More power to them but I’m going to go find a new hobby to pour time into.

Arrow

Saw this headline, read the ensuing article and found it to be a bit hilarious.  Not because a show’s fandom has turned against it to the point they’re hyping up another show but because of the article’s last sentence:  “If even these die-hard Arrow fans who made it through 4 seasons of camp can’t continue, it probably isn’t looking good for the show’s prospects.”  Now there’s no point in arguing Arrow season 4 is any good because it isn’t (the penultimate episode of the season got the lowest rating in the show’s history) but we can take issue with a pessimistic take on the show’s future.  We can also argue whether Arrow’s camp or not (it isn’t).

“It probably isn’t looking good for the show’s prospects.”  Well, Arrow just got renewed for a 5th season.  Obviously, The CW isn’t going to hold shows to the same standards as FOX or CBS would…but a renewal (especially after 5 seasons) is pretty good for what a network thinks about a show’s prospects.  Having a full season order to turn possibly turn things around is a lot more than the majority of TV shows get.

The above paragraph is only taking issue with half the quote, the other half labeling Arrow as “camp.”  Considering that using the word “camp” to describe a superhero TV show brings to mind the 1960’s Batman series, it’s absolutely hilarious to imply Arrow‘s in the same league.  In fact, the majority of complaints about the show are that it’s “too dark/serious/brooding, especially when compared to more ‘fun’ shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow.”  It’s actually quite nice that Arrow stands out in that regard and gives people who prefer grittier, street-level heroes a watchable option.

So, if Arrow‘s not campy and the show’s prospects look good, what the hell went wrong the past two seasons?  Well, look at the correlation.  Most people enjoyed the pilot but the show didn’t really take off until The Odyssey episode, where Slade and Oliver develop an unlikely friendship in the flashback.  Sara Lance and her mother’s search for her also becomes a plot point around this time and Sara eventually appears.  From that episode on until the end of season 2 is considered the pinnacle of the show.

Season 2 bears some more mentioning because of how fucking awesome it is!  Slade basically gets injected with a drug that gives him superpowers (strength and accelerated healing) as well as making him crazy.  Events on the island cause Slade to lose his grip on reality and his friendship with Oliver disintegrates.  Things go south on the island, to the point where Oliver has to kill Slade…except he didn’t.  Slade survived and now wants revenge on Oliver, planning to achieve this by murdering everyone he lives (the entirety of Star City).  Sara reappears and some plot is devoted to figuring out how she’ll go about rekindling her relationships with various loved one while being pursued by the League of Assassins.  There’s also various other excellent subplots (Oliver training a sidekick, what happens when a rich idiot doesn’t do his day job, to name two).

Season 2 ends with the Slade plot being resolved and the third season opens with Sara being killed by a mystery assailant.  In two episodes, the show had neutralized one of its best villains and killed off one of its strongest characters.  This results in two of the show’s best actors (Manu Bennett and Caity Lotz) no longer being on the show.  There’s an episode of season 3 that encapsulates the decline; the episode where Slade escapes from his prison on the island and Oliver has to team with/protect his sister.  Now, Slade as a villain had a season and a half’s worth of focus so he’d be worthy of a multi-episode arc, right?  Wouldn’t it have been awesome to see how Ra’s al-Guhl figures Slade into his plans to make Oliver his successor (or how Slade would interact with the League)?  Instead, the issue’s resolved at the end of a single episode.

As for Caity Lotz’s Sara, she’s eventually revived via the Lazarus Pit so she can have a lead role on Legends of Tomorrow.  Unlike Slade, she at least gets some focus.  She’ll be missed on Arrow full-time, however, because of the talent and intensity she brought to the show (watch her fight scenes and compare them to anyone else’s).

Arrow has a future and it could be a good one.  Bringing back Slade or Sara would be a cheap fix but a better way would be to look at that stretch of episodes from The Odyssey to the season 2 finale; all the while taking notes on what worked.  Strong characters, drama between them, a competent villain, more science and street-level heroics than magic nonsense…these are the elements that made Arrow a great show.  Re-implementing them will give the show an excellent shot at returning to its season 2 form.

Hold the Inconsistencies

An HBO affiliate ended up releasing “The Door” episode of Game of Thrones a day early. The spoilers for that episode and the feedback for it was so wut-tastic that I had to lift the moratorium on watching the show to see the craziness for myself. The episode did not disappoint. It also looks like the source for this insanity is the laziness of the show-runners, as evident from all the narrative inconsistencies.

Without George R.R. Martin’s framework to keep the show in check, Game of Thrones has careened into a nonsensical mess. Just look at how Sansas interacts with Littlefinger, Jon and Brienne. She correctly tells off Littlefinger for “saving her from the people who murdered her family so he could give her to the other people who murdered her family.” Then she takes his word that the Blackfish has retaken Riverrun seriously enough that she sends Brienne away from Castle Black. Oh and she trusts Jon Snow enough to use him as a symbol to rally the Northern houses but not enough to tell him about Littlefinger’s visit?

The nonsense isn’t limited to the North either. The summit on Pyke to determine who will become the new King of the Iron Islands ends with Euron Greyjoy being chosen over Yara. They justify this by saying “Yara’s a woman and thus can’t rule” but it doesn’t Euron, who even admits to murdering the previous King (who is his own brother). Remember when Jamie Lannister’s reputation as the “King-slayer” was a major plot point and was used to develop his character? Or when the death of a character leading a house destabilized it?

These are but mere nitpicks compared to this visual…

fleet

So, Yara, can steal the entire Ironborn fleet to the point Euron’s first act as King is to order people to deforest the Iron Islands to “build 1,000 ships”….but she can’t win enough votes to become Queen? Maybe the writers should have played The Witcher 3, which shows how this type of plot should be done!

Of course, any review of this episode wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Bran. Bran in season 1 ignores an elder (his mother) to do something he’s not supposed to (climb a tower), the consequences of which results in him being paralyzed, the near-extinction of his entire family and the deaths of thousands (if not, millions) of people. So it makes total sense that he would ignore the wishes of an elder (Bloodraven) to do something he’s not supposed to (use his seer powers unsupervised); the consequences of which results in him being branded by the Night King, which allows the King to find where Bran’s located. The ensuing raid results in a near total party kill of Bran’s traveling company as well as the deaths of Bran’s mentor and the Children of the Forest.

Oh and the scene where Bran’s marked and Bloodraven has a sense of urgency of getting Bran to safety? The next scene shows them leisurely watching a past vision that doesn’t really relate to the story. Nothing says “immediate danger” like taking the time to casually view past events!

The real admission that Game of Thrones has gotten lazy and nonsensical is through an indirect admission by the writers themselves. From Slate: “When we first started working on the show, we did not want to do flashbacks because oftentimes it seems like a hallmark of lazy storytelling.” It’s no coincidence that season 5 (universally considered the worst season) began with a flashback and they’ve only become more frequent since.

Some book readers will cling to the hope that George R. R. Martin will handle these scenes better. Well, keep the following in mind when Brandon Sanderson eventually finishes the books: “[The Hodor twist came] from one of our conversations with [author George R.R. Martin]. This is one of his ideas that he told us in Santa Fe. We thought it was f–king fantastic.”

The Daredevil Dilemma

One of the main themes throughout Daredevil season 2 is the question of what vigilante superheroes should do with criminals once they’re apprehended.  There’s the approach taken by the title character:  Work within the law as much as possible and trust the system to reform the individual.  Contrasting this is Frank Castle’s idea that criminals are irredeemable and the legal system doesn’t go far enough to punish them.  While it’s appreciated that the writers don’t take sides and leave the viewer to decide who’s right or wrong, Daredevil’s argument is completely undercut by the narrative and its failure to properly reinforce his ideals.

The theme of trusting the law is apparent throughout all of season 2 but it’s best encapsulated in the third episode.  Daredevil is chained on top of a roof by Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) and the episode revolves around the two of them debating their approaches.  The relevant exchange is posted below with Daredevil’s words in red.

“I’m not a bad guy, Red.”
“You wanna explain that to the orphans and the widows of the men you killed?”
“For Christ’s sake, that’s what you think?  I’m just some crazy asshole going around unloading on whoever I want to?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I think.”
“That it?”
“You think you’re anything else?”
“I think that the people I kill need killing, that’s what I think.”
“You left men hanging from meat hooks!”
“They got off easy, in my opinion.”
“You shot up a hospital.”
“Yeah and nobody got hurt who didn’t deserve it.”
“Oh, yeah.  What about you, Frank?  What happens the day someone decides you deserve it?”
“I tell you what, they better not miss.”
“Come on, you run around this city like it’s your damn shooting gallery.  You think you do–“
“Yeah, what do you do?  What do you do?  You act like it’s a playground.  You beat up the bullies with your fists.  You throw ’em in jail, everybody calls you a hero, right?  And then a month, a week, a day later, they’re back on the streets doing the same goddamn thing–”
“Yeah, so you just put ’em in the morgue.”
“You’re goddamn right, I do.”
“You ever doubt yourself, Frank?”
“Not even for a second.”
“Really?  Really?  You never think for one second, ‘Shit, I just killed a human being’?”
“That’s being pretty generous.”
“A human being who did a lot of stupid shit, maybe even evil, but had one small piece of goodness in him.  Maybe just a scrap, Frank, but something.  And then you come along and that one tiny flicker of light gets snuffed out forever.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
“Which part?”
“All of it.  I think there’s no good in the filth that I put down, that’s what I think.”
“And how do you know?”
“I just know.  Look around, Red.  This city, it stinks.  It’s a sewer.  It stinks and it smells like shit and I can’t get the stink out of my nose.  I think that this world, it needs men that are willing to make the hard call.  I think you and me are the same!”
“That’s bullshit, Frank, and you know it!”
“Only I do the one thing that you can’t.  You hit ’em and they get back up.  I hit ’em and they stay down.  It’s permanent.  I make sure that they don’t make it out on the street again.  I take pride in that.”
“Let me ask you this.”
“What’s that?”
“What about hope?”
“Oh, fuck.”
“Come on, Frank–“
“You wanna talk about Santa Claus?”
“I live in the real world too and I’ve seen it.”
“Yeah.  What have you seen?”
“Redemption, Frank.”
“Ah, Jesus Christ.”
“It’s real.  And it’s possible.  The people you murder deserve another chance.”
“What, to kill again?  Rape again?  Is that what you want?”
“No, Frank.  To try again, Frank.  To try.  And if you don’t get that, there’s something broken in you you can’t fix and you really are a nutjob.”

Clearly, Daredevil believes criminals can rehabilitate themselves or, at the very least, deserve the chance to do so.  Unfortunately, the narrative completely undercuts his entire argument.  He believes in the law despite admitting that it sometimes isn’t always enough to do what’s necessary, thus it’s acceptable to act outside of it.  His criticism of The Punisher’s actions and motives are understandable, they are also completely unsubstantiated.  Also, while Daredevil is convinced people should have a shot to redeem themselves, there’s no one in the story who actually does this.

It’s a bit hypocritical for Daredevil to be chastising The Punisher for operating outside the law when he has no qualms himself.  He even admits to his best friend, Foggy Nelson, that operating within the law has its limits.  His admission comes an episode after going to a warehouse with the intent to kill Wilson Fisk, to which Foggy responds, “It’s not enough playing judge and jury?  You gotta add executioner to the list?  What happened to all that talk about going after him through the system?  Making the law work for us?”  Daredevil’s reply:  “Sometimes the law isn’t enough.”  The Punisher’s absolutely right when he insists there’s no difference between the two of them other than methods.

Speaking of The Punisher’s methods, Daredevil’s critique of them is understandable but  also unsubstantiated.  Punisher’s right that nobody got hurt who didn’t deserve it when he “shot up” the hospital (i.e. nobody died and anyone thinking about the cop who got assaulted should remember most cops outside of Brett are corrupt and easily bought off by someone with power and influence).  Leaving criminals hanging by meat hooks is a valid criticism in Daredevil’s favor but can be countered by the bone-breaking interrogations he often commits.  Basically, if a vigilante is going to operate outside the law, what good does it do to half-ass it (other than to morally justify what they do)?

Daredevil believes in criminals having a chance to redeem themselves but so far, no one on the show has been able to successfully rehabilitate themselves.  Turk, for instance, is still a career criminal who (despite being monitored by the police) has gone from human trafficking to dealing in illegal weaponry.  Wilson Fisk is hellbent on becoming the Kingpin of crime in New York City again and seeking vengeance on the people who put him away.  The only person who can even be remotely argued to be “rehabbed” is Melvin, who was only threatened into making ballistic vests for Fisk.  In other words, if there was someone who had been engaged in serious criminal activity and then changed their ways, Daredevil’s argument that “people should have the chance to redeem themselves” would have some weight to it.  Instead, everyone on the show doubles down on being a criminal and Daredevil’s belief relies on a viewer’s preexisting beliefs to trust him.  A character who was once a criminal and turned away from it to the side of good would have been much more effective.

Ultimately, Foggy Nelson’s belief that it’s better to operate within the law has more merit than Daredevil’s approach.  However, if the drama of the show is going to revolve around how far vigilantism should go, than it’s no surprise The Punisher’s methods win out.  Daredevil’s argument lacks substance because he really is an ineffective half-measure.  Belief in people redeeming themselves is a nice sentiment but it’s not a practical one, seeing as how no one in the series has been able to turn away from their criminal nature.  Is it any surprise then that people empathize with The Punisher and support him over the archetypal superhero?

What If The Goblet of Fire Selected A Slytherin Champion?

There’s been a lot of chatter about “what if the Goblet of Fire had selected the Slytherin guy instead of Cedric Diggory?” and how it would have been super touching for a Slytherin to get killed by Lord Voldemort which would rally the Slytherins to join the others in opposing the Death Eaters…  Slytherin has always been designated the “evil” house and any attempt to add some complexity/depth to it is always welcome.  It would be preferable, however, if such an approach was built on something plausible.  Most seem to be presuming a “Cedric Diggory but Slytherin” stand-in is chosen but that’s not correct.  What would happen is that the Slytherin champion would be a complete asshole and his interactions would completely alter the dynamics of the novel, not necessarily for the better.

From what information is given in the books, the Slytherin guy who put his name in the Goblet of Fire is named Cassius Warrington. He is a recurring character in books 3-5 and is a total dickbag whose only character traits are that he’s big, looks like a sloth and that Dolores Umbridge thought highly enough to place him on the Inquisitorial Squad. Yes, Umbridge didn’t show up until the next year but we can look at who else was placed on that squad to get insight into his character. Other “inquisitors” include Filch, Draco Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy Parkinson (who openly spoke up about handing Harry over to Voldemort before the final battle in Deathly Hallows). If people are often judged by the company they keep, then Cassius Warrington is just another asshole in Slytherin.

The scenario also changes the whole relationship dynamic of two Hogwarts champions. Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter respected each other because they both valued fairness and not just in Goblet of Fire. When the Dementors cause Harry to lose the Hufflepuff/Gryffindor match in Prisoner of Azkaban, Cedric proposes replaying the match. Harry warns Cedric of the first task in Goblet and Cedric returns the favor later with the second task. If Cedric’s replaced with a Slytherin champ, all that goes out the window: Harry’s not going to warn some jerkass from the most hated house of the first task and a Dolores Umbridge-approved individual isn’t going to help Harry with the second task.

If that’s not enough of an argument, consider this:  In Order of the Phoenix, Graham Montague, another Slytherin on the Inquisitorial Squad, is pushed into the Vanishing Cabinet by Fred and George Weasley.  This is after Montague tries a dick-move power play. Montague only gets out because he Apparated but he almost dies in the process. He spends several weeks in the hospital, long enough for his parents to come visit. When Hermione proposes telling Madam Pomfrey what happened to Montague, Ron and Harry shoot her suggestion down.

In other words, the hatred between Gryffindor and Slytherin is so strong that our heroic protagonists were willing to let a Slytherin suffer from near-fatal injuries than do anything to expedite his treatment!  The Slytherin/Gryffindor hate even continues when Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters are outside Hogwarts near the end of the seventh book.  Voldemort asks only for Harry to be turned over to him.  Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin, is the only person who suggests taking the deal.  Slytherin walks in step with Voldemort to the extent their entire house leaves with Filch and the under-aged, rather than side with Harry and fight Voldemort.

Now, the only reason Cedric ended up in the graveyard at the end of Goblet is because he and Harry made a conscious decision to touch the Triwizard Cup at the same time. It’s already been established that a Gryffindor and a Slytherin aren’t going to have that kind of camaraderie, so the only way Cassius ends up in the graveyard is if Barty Crouch Jr. (who’s manipulating the events of the maze) allows it. The only reason he would allow that is if Cassius is complicit with the Voldemort resurrection plot or because of writer fiat.

Even if we allow for Cassius to end up in the graveyard for whatever bullshit reason, what’s to say Voldemort kills him like Cedric? By all accounts, Cedric was a pretty cool guy and not the type to take suggestions from an evil overlord. Voldemort had no use for him because he couldn’t see a use for him. A Slytherin, on the other hand, would be more susceptible to suggestions. Perhaps, as described above, Cassius is keen on Voldemort’s resurrection. In that case, he’s just another Death Eater at the graveyard. Maybe his survival instinct kicks in and he runs for the portkey, leaving Harry in the graveyard with no way out.

Finally, if we play along with the idea that Cassius gets murdered by Voldemort, there’s a few problems that crop up. (1) There’s no guarentee that Harry brings Cassius’ body back, if Cassius even asks such a thing. (2) The memorial feast for Cedric would be more like a memorial roast for Cassius, since the student body would remember him as a big Slytherin dickhead. Even the Slytherins would most likely discuss whether Cassius was “evil enough” or that he was “mudblood sympathizer” and that justified Lord Voldemort murdering him. (3) The Ministry of Magic did a really good job covering up Cedric’s death and ostracizing Harry and Dumbledore as conspiracy theorists. Substitute Cassius in for Cedric, add in Death Eater parents covering up the truth and there’s not (m)any Slytherin students who are going to be joining Dumbledore’s Army. (4) Any Slytherin student that did join up would be doing so out of self-preservation, not because they realize Lord Voldemort is a threat to the entire wizarding world (the conclusion the other houses correctly reach).

People have been wanting more complexity out of Slytherin since they’ve been shoe-horned (slug-horned?) into the “obviously evil” Hogwarts house. This fan theory is an attempt to address that but has no basis within the rules of Harry Potter. Much like everyone else who was sorted into the house, the Slytherin contestant is a total jerkwad. Because characters like Cedric Diggory either don’t exist or speak up in Slytherin, we can’t just sub in a “Cedric Diggory but Slytherin” replacement without changing the plot.  What would happen is that Cedric Diggory would be replaced by a complete asshole who’s another obstacle Harry has to overcome during the Triwizard Tournament.  Much of the narrative would have to be tortured to get a Slytherin champion to the graveyard and there’s no guarantee Voldemort would kill him.  Even if he did die, there’s no reason to think his death would galvanize Slytherin to take up arms against Voldemort considering Cedric’s couldn’t do that for the wizarding world after the Ministry of Magic suppressed the truth.

Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons

Some thoughts on the latest episode of Game of Thrones…

MERYN TRANT AND ARYA STARK

Meryn Trant being a pedophile just unnecessarily reeks of “the audience needs to know this guy’s really evil and deserves to die so let’s attach a character trait that hasn’t even been hinted at before to reinforce how much of an asshole he is because viewers are goldfish who can’t remember all the other terrible shit he’s done the past five seasons.” It’s also nice that the Stark girls have something in common:  They immediately forget all their previous character development over the past few seasons the very moment they see something from their past and/or something that’s unpleasant.

STANNIS BARATHEON

Stannis burning his daughter isn’t a moral issue. His character introduction had him burning people who refused to give up their worship of the Faith of the Seven instead of Rh’llor…but nobody cares about that because the audience didn’t get to know them. We know Shireen, though, so him burning her makes him a huge asshole despite the fact that he already was and everyone missed that point when it was established in season 2.

However, Stannis burning his daughter has lots of writing issues. His whole army is stuck between Castle Black and Winterfell because of the winter, which somehow isn’t a problem for Ramsay Bolton’s 20 man gang. The whole scenario seems less like “Ramsay Bolton being a tactical military genius” and more “Ramsay Bolton succeeding because the plot needs him to.” Especially so because just a couple episodes ago, Melissandre brought up burning Shireen and Stannis shot the idea down. A well-written arc would have had Stannis resort to burning Shireen as a last resort after exhausting every possible option or as a response to a greater evil (i.e. the White Walkers)…instead he burns her the moment things go south.

That last sentence really needs to be reinforced, so let’s examine Stannis’ character. If people had to describe Stannis Baratheon in one word, it would probably be stubborn. He held Storm’s End for over a year during Robert’s Rebellion through sheer force of will and the help of smugglers like Davos Seaworth. He declared for the Iron Throne after his brother’s death despite all his contenders at that time (Joffrey, Renly) having larger armies. We learned earlier this season that he made sure Shireen stay alive and in his care despite doctors recommending him to send her away…but Ramsay Bolton provides one sudden setback and damn it, he’s got to burn his daughter!

While we’re examining Stannis’ character, let’s bring up how he approached his daughter about this very idea.  I figured Stannis would be honest enough to tell his own daughter the truth about what she’d getting herself into when she volunteers herself unknowingly.  A simple “You may have to die so that I can win” speech followed by Shireen tearfully volunteering herself would have been interesting.  Instead, she’s kept in the dark about the whole burning thing.  Instead of the scene playing out like a remorseful yet determined father sacrificing his own blood so that he can win, Stannis looks like a giant asshole who just surprised his daughter with the worst birthday present ever.

Let’s talk about Shireen’s mother. Selyse has had nothing but contempt for Shireen since she was born. That view point had not changed at all this season until suddenly, she decides to give a shit and start freaking out over her daughter being burned alive. People could point to the whole “even the most abusive mother would freak out in this scenario” but that falls flat because Selyse was totally cool with the idea beforehand. What the fuck did she think was going to happen?  The audience needed scenes foreshadowing that, deep down, Selyse really does care for her daughter.  Selyse suddenly starting to care after her daughter’s set aflame comes across as comical farce instead of tearful drama.

Finally, for the people jumping off the Stannis bandwagon, remember that he is still the best person to sit on the Iron Throne. He is Robert Baratheon’s legitimate successor since all the others are illegitimate. Tommen is a bastard born of incest. Daenerys’ father was legitimately deposed, she can’t handle her own dragons or even an insurgency in a slaver city she conquered and she might not even have a valid claim on the Iron Throne herself depending on whether succession is purely agnatic. Renly had every intention to kill his brother and his “might makes right” mindset would have been ultimately destructive. Aegon/Young Grif is “Sir Not Appearing in This Series” and the whole “enlightened despot being the best form of government” idea has been thoroughly debunked by history.

DAENERYS TARGARYEN

I have never been a fan of Daenerys Targaryen. Her character arc was pretty great until she decided to faff about in Essos rather than get her ass on the Iron Throne. Most of her support is based on the fact that she has DRAGONS!!! despite the fact that DRAGONS!!! exist for one purpose in fantasy literature: To establish the person who kills them as a super badass. Daenerys’ dragon can’t even get that part right! A few spears thrown by an insurgency (that she created!) are enough for Daenerys to decide to get on her dragon’s back and book it…

…leaving her friends and allies alone in an empty gladiatorial arena surrounded by said insurgents. Yes, there were scenes showing the Sons of the Harpy getting killed off by either Daenerys’ bodyguards, Jorah or the dragon. Too bad the whole arena was filled with masked bad guys and it was never given the impression that all the fighting made much of an impact. It provides a nice hook for next week (“Where is she going? What happens to Tyrion/Jorah/etc.?”) but it’s still something that should be filed under “What the hell, Dany?”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Meaningful conflict is the soul of drama.” Game of Thrones (and the book series it’s based off of) have always been about deconstructing the idyllic fantasy viewpoint. If Lord of the Rings was idealized (in terms of characters) mythology, Game of Thrones is incredibly cynical with much of its elements influenced by historical events. It’s perfectly fine for writers to add shades of morality to characters so they aren’t just clear-cut good guys or bad guys. However, the more “gray” a character becomes at the expense of “black” or “white”, the writer risks losing the audience. The audience needs protagonists to root for and Game of Thrones is running out of them. Let’s look at the current conflicts going on in the show and see who sane people should root for…

BEYOND THE WALL:  Bran Stark hasn’t shown up at all this season. Some people aren’t a fan of Bran’s storyline but that’s mainly because it took him two seasons to reach his destination…then when he finally gets there, he’s ignored. It’d be pretty cool if he could warg into animals/people and use those abilities but being absent isn’t going to make the audience grow fond of him.  Bran’s been written into a corner unfortunately.  If he shows up next season having completely mastered his abilities, it’ll be fucking stupid.  However, if we get a more in-depth view of him training next season, we’ll wonder what the hell he was doing last year and why it couldn’t have been shown instead of, say, Dorne.

CASTLE BLACK:  Jon Snow knows the White Walkers are a greater threat than the Wildlings and is just trying to get his fellow brothers to see that. Unless people are jaded enough to want the White Walkers to kill everyone, we want Jon Snow to live and lead the fight against them. Unfortunately, his tolerance of the Wildlings is sowing dissent within the Watch.  Imagine if the next episode ends or next season starts with Jon getting killed via vicious mutiny…who does the audience root for with the Night’s Watch?  Sam?  Dolores Edd?

WINTERFELL:  Stannis just burned his daughter alive and the Boltons flay people alive.  Roose also let Jaime Lannister walk free instead of turning him back over to his liege lord, Robb Stark.  He then helped Tywin Lannister and Walder Frey orchestrate Robb Stark’s murder at the Red Wedding.  His legitimized bastard son, Ramsay, is enough of a psychopath to scare even Joffrey Baratheon.  Ramsay tortures people for fun, including his physical mutilation and psychological alteration of Theon Greyjoy.  Stannis as the lesser of the two evils but the audience most likely sees both as evil regardless and would like both to be killed by The Others.

We’d also like to see Sansa win against Ramsay but she can’t seem to remember any of the lessons Petyr Balish taught her.  She also continues to trust Theon despite the fact he’s psychologically broken.  Remember how one of the taglines for the show was “The North Remembers”?  “The North Remembers But Proceeds To Do Fuck All About Ned and Robb Stark’s Death” must have been too long and accurate.

KING’S LANDING: The Tyrells are a good house for the audience to root for, what with their charitable actions and their orchestration of Joffrey’s murder.  Unfortunately, Margerery is still in jail and they’re not able to do much about it.  We could root for the High Sparrow since he seems able and competent to dispense justice on just about anyone.  However, we’ve seen the dangers of religious fanaticism not only with the Sparrows earlier this season but with Melissandre and Stannis.  Cersei’s imprisoned and should be executed but that would be too satisfying to happen.

Littlefinger’s still around but people who root for him are similar to the ones who root for the White Walkers.  Sure, he threw crazy Lysa Arryn down the Moon Door and orchestrated Joffrey’s assassination but he’s still an amoral sociopath relentlessly obsessed with being a Westeros Bond villain and exacting revenge on houses that wronged him in his youth.  Is this someone a general audience is really going to root for?

DORNE: Jaime and Bronn essentially invaded Dorne, an act that should result in some pretty serious consequences for them both.  Instead, both are going back to King’s Landing with Myrcella, achieving their objective with considerably few strings attached.  The Sand Snakes seem to have been pacified and Ellaria’s at least cordial talking with a Lannister now.  Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to throw us off for what happens next week but everything’s a little too nicely tied up.  When we consider how many other stories need a resolution this season (King’s Landing, Winterfell, Daenerys, Arya, possibly the Night’s Watch), Dorne’s pretty far down the list (which, given how terrible the sequences have been this season, seems appropriate).

BRAAVOS: A girl must choose between killing a Bravossi or some guy from her past.  As long as she doesn’t disguise herself as a child prostitute and get raped by Meryn Trant (which, no joke, is an entirely plausible scenario), this resolution should be pretty interesting although Arya’s damned either way.  She kills the Bravossi and not Meryn Trant, she’s turning her back on the very reason she turned to the Faceless Men in the first place.  She kills Trant instead of the Bravossi and she’s putting vengeance ahead of the mission.

MEEREEN: What do Jorah, Tyrion and the rest of Daenery’s team do now that the Queen has taken flight?  Where is Daenerys going?  What effect will Jorah’s grayscale have on the city?  And because I don’t know where he is but he’s affiliated with Team Targaryen, where is Varys?  These are all interesting questions but it’s worth remembering all these characters have supported Daenerys.  The Queen who can barely control one of her own easily damaged dragons, whose incompetent rule has left Meereen divided by class (and if Jorah/Tyrion/etc. abandon it, in the hands of a corrupt slaver elite) and just left her friends in a coliseum/city full of people trying to kill them.

Having looked at all the areas of conflict, there are very few worthy of the audience’s interest (Braavos, Mereen, Castle Black). A show covering as vast an area as Game of Thrones is going to run into the problem of not being able to please everyone…but what’s happening is that they’re starting to displease a majority. The scenes with Dorne were some of the worst of the season (and ultimately unnecessary), Bran’s missing and the conflicts surrounding Winterfell and King’s Landing have no interest to the audience. Meaningful conflict creates the best drama and the best way to do that is to have people the audience cares about. Game of Thrones should invest in that philosophy rather than making everyone unlikeable.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

True story:  I got into Halo because it was the first game I played that allowed local multiplayer with more than 4 people.  Sure, there were PC games that allowed LANs and the possibility of playing with up to 64 people…but I don’t particularly like playing with anonymous strangers and prefer to play with friends who are within punching distance.  So, when I got the original Xbox back in 2004 and had 7 people to enjoy a game of classic Halo, it was one of the best times ever.

Another true story:  When Ben, Steve and I were planning the Halo MCC LAN, we talked about possibly forgoing Xbones for regular 360’s.  After all, we already had the games and controllers for 360’s whereas an Xbone approach would require an investment in controllers.  Ultimately, we decided to go with the Xbones for the sake of convenience.  It was nice to have all the games and maps on a single console and not having to worry about switching discs or which 360 needed to be updated to the current version of the game or any of the other shit that makes gaming today a giant hassle.

At least, that was the theory.  What ended up happening was the party ended up starting nearly an hour late because Halo MCC does not support LAN-based multiplayer.  One of the draws of the original Halo was how easy it was to hook up two Xbox’s via System Link cable (or use a router to hook up more).  However, in this more modern civilized age where every fucking device has to connect to the Internet, we can’t have easy shit like that happen!  No, we needed to have Xbox Live gold accounts (we ended up using free trial codes).  It’s a very odd design choice to have a series of games that support LAN multiplayer in a collection that no longer supports it.

Once we got all that out of the way, we had a lot of fun.  The maps loaded quickly and the games went pretty well.  The game only crashed once on Steve’s console and we suspect it was because of a controller issue (something to do with console registering the left trigger input like an autofire button…in the menus, it would just make it impossible to scroll right but in game it must have registered as a million attempted grenade throws).  The only real issues with lag we noticed was when we tried playing the Halo 2 Anniversary maps.

Yeah, the party was fun once it got going but it does raise the question of whether it was worth it.  For instance, if we had just used 360’s and swapped discs between games, the downtime would have been actually been shorter than the 45 minutes we spent wrestling with trying to LAN when it was impossible.  We wouldn’t have been able to play on the Halo 1 PC maps or anything Halo 2 Anniversary-related but considering that we spent more time on classic material, those omissions might not have mattered.

Oh and because we had those Xbox Live codes to try gold accounts for free, we attempted to play online.  We went into a big team battle match on Bloodline (the Halo 2 Anniversary Coagulation remake).  I was foolishly under the impression a lot of the match-making issues had been fixed…so, naturally, we were put into a 7v5 CTF game on the team of 5 (which immediately became a team of 4 because some dude was smart enough to know what was up).  If first impressions count, this was a really good way to show paying for Xbox Live is not a worthy investment (at least for Halo MCC).

It’s been half a year since Halo MCC launched and the only people worth recommending it to are people who have never played Halo before.  There’s enough single player content to justify a $60 price tag or as part of an Xbone bundle.  For the people looking at multiplayer to justify a purchase, look elsewhere.  The matchmaking is still terrible and the lack of LAN support is just inexplicable.

I’d love to have another party like this but with all the issues surrounding the game, it would be so much easier to have a Halo: Reach night instead…