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106. Fifty Shades of Grey (#-91)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with Marianne Cassidy and Grace Duffy, The Bottom 100 is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, a trip through some of the worst movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Sam Taylor Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Child’s Play (Review)

Interesting, isn’t it?

What?

With all their technology, their opportunity to explore the galaxy, the thing they want most is to get home.

A Trek away from the Stars.

Child’s Play is a fascinating episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in that it might be seen as a firm rejection of some of the show’s core conservatism.

Voyager has always been the most conservative of the Star Trek franchise, the series most likely to panic about gang violence for two whole seasons starting in Caretaker or to rail against immigration in Displaced or to voice its anxieties about refugees in Day of Honour. More than that, what are episodes like Remember or Distant Origin or Living Witness or Memorial but expressions of literal anxieties about the erosion of the certainty of history to postmodernism and moral relativism? At its core, Voyager is a series about nostalgia, about the yearning to recapture what once was, how the only journey is the journey home.

“Everything the light touches is your kingdom…”

Child’s Play is interesting as a firm rejection of the idea of the traditional family unit in favour of a more modern (and less rigidly defined) idea of a “found family.” It is a story about how a child’s best interests do not always lie with their biological parents, and about how some of the strongest and most loving bonds in a young person’s life can be forged by chance rather than biology. Child’s Play is essentially an ode to the kind of complicated family dynamics that were entering the mainstream at the turn of the millennium, a staunch defense of a liberal and inclusive definition of family.

More than that, the episode also seems to be making several very pointed jabs at Voyager‘s traditionally conservative outlook.

“I want to be out there…”

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Jessica Jones – AKA Smile (Review)

So Jessica Jones comes to an end.

AKA Smile accomplishes quite a lot, ably assisted by the narrative streamlining that took place from AKA 1,000 Cuts, AKA I’ve Got the Blues and AKA Take a Bloody Number. Indeed, many of the character’s find resolutions unfold in those episodes, leaving AKA Smile free to concentrate on wrapping up the arc. Jeri Hogarth’s arc is complete. Will Simpson has been handled. Robyn has found some measure of peace. Although Jessica and Luke spend a considerable portion of AKA Smile together, they do not actually have a conversation.

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As a result, AKA Smile has room to breath. There is time to focus on the conflict between Jessica and Kilgrave, to ruminate on the bond between Jessica and Trish. There is even time for a minor crossover from Daredevil, with Rosario Dawson dropping by in the character of Claire Temple. Oddly enough, there is even a slight sense of padding to all this. Kilgrave’s confrontation with Jessica in the hospital feels somewhat unnecessary, given their confrontation by proxy at the climax of AKA Take a Bloody Number and in person at the climax of AKA Smile.

At the same time, there is an endearing confidence to AKA Smile that ensure the finalé is never tied down or overwhelmed by the narrative weight that Jessica Jones has amassed over its thirteen episode season.

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Jessica Jones – AKA 1,000 Cuts (Review)

AKA 1,000 Cuts continues to toy with the conventions of the superhero genre.

The revelations about Kilgrave’s past in AKA Sin Bin represented a rejection of the psychology traditionally applied to comic book villains, creating a villain who could not blame his sociopathic tendencies on a convenient childhood trauma. AKA 1,000 Cuts plays upon another standard genre convention, the idea of the superhero who doesn’t kill. In terms of superhero storytelling, the old “thou shalt not kill” rule is always a reliable source of existential angst for a suitably ambiguous hero.

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As with many of the conventions toyed with on Jessica Jones, the trope is played relatively straight on Daredevil. Again, there is a sense of Jessica Jones as something of a playful twisted response to Daredevil, often subverting or undermining many of the genre conventions that Daredevil so skilfully embodied. At this point in the first season of Daredevil, Matt Murdock was wrestling with the question of whether or not to murder Wilson Fisk. Much hand-wringing and angst resulted, playing into the show’s masculine Catholic aesthetic.

While Daredevil seemed anchored in moral absolutes, Jessica Jones opts for a much more pragmatic and relativist solution. The question posed by Jessica Jones is not whether killing Kilgrave can be justified; the show embraces that reality quite skilfully in AKA 1,000 Cuts. The question is what it takes to justify it. AKA 1,000 Cuts offers a fairly harrowing answer.

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Jessica Jones – AKA Top Shelf Perverts (Review)

Generally, Jessica Jones is quite optimistic in its portrayal of responses to trauma.

In AKA It’s Called Whiskey, Will Simpson tried to murder Trish Walker with his own hands; by half-way through AKA The Sandwich Saved Me, the two are involved in an energetic and fulfilling sexual relationship. In AKA Top Shelf Perverts, Malcolm helps to dispose of the body of Ruben before engaging in a half-season long deception of Robyn about the fate of her brother; but AKA Take a Bloody Number, it seems like there might be romance in the air. In AKA You’re a Winner!, Jessica reveals that she killed Luke Cage’s wife; by AKA Smile, they have reconciled.

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As a rule, Jessica Jones suggests that trauma is not defining or delimiting. Trauma damages a person, but it does not necessarily break them. Jessica Jones never avoids exploring the consequences of abuse – particularly long and sustained abuse – but it also refuses to let its characters be trapped by those experiences. Trish’s abuse at the hands of her mother might have led her to build a fortress, but she still puts herself out in the world. Jessica has been abused by Kilgrave, but she still wants to save Hope. AKA Top Shelf Perverts is the exception that proves the rule.

After the events of AKA You’re a Winner!, Jessica spirals into truly self-destructive behaviour. In many ways, AKA Top Shelf Perverts serves as an effective contrast to the rest of the season, demonstrating how functional Jessica was up to this point. As with AKA The Sandwich Saved Me, the episode suggests that Jessica is not solely defined by her traumas; that she is not broken by her experiences with Kilgrave. AKA Top Shelf Perverts does this by teasing the audience with glimpses of what a truly broken Jessica might look like.

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Millennium – A Room With No View (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

“This is how it will all end,” Jose Chung idly speculated half-way through Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense.” He advised Frank that the end of the world will not begin “with floods, earthquakes, falling comets or gigantic crabs roaming the earth. No, doomsday will start simply out of indifference.” He may have been correct. It is one thing to kill a person; it is quite another to destroy their spirit, hollowing out the shell before slotting them comfortably back into a functioning society.

A Room With No View plays Chung’s observation and plays it straight. Well, mostly – there is something darkly comical about Landon’s reaction to discovering that he is being abducted into Oregon. Appropriately enough, Lucy Butler’s hideout in Hood County is relatively close to the town of Boring, Oregon. A Room With No View is a bleak and cynical piece of work, an existential apocalyptic horror story perfectly suited to Millennium. It is an episode that would seem strange or unusual in any circumstances, but fits quite comfortably here.

Here's Lucy!

Here’s Lucy!

On paper, A Room With No View could easily seem cynical or exploitative. It is the story about a sadistic kidnapper who abducts teenagers to torture and sexually abuse them in a dungeon. The basic plot elements of A Room With No View come from the pop culture serial killer playbook, to the point where it is not too hard to image the episode as a trashy instalment of CSI or Criminal Minds or – truth be told – the first season of this show. In basic structure, A Room With No View could seem as crude as Wide Open or Weeds or Loin Like a Hunting Flame.

However, it is the execution of A Room With No View that marks as a genuine classic. For all that the episode trades in the stock tropes of serial killer fiction, it is doing something unique and provocative with them. Writer Ken Horton and director Thomas J. Wright construct a potent allegory for abuse and under-achievement, a haunting horror story that is all the more unsettling for its refusal to conform to audience expectations for a story like this.

Blue is not always the warmest colour...

Blue is not always the warmest colour…

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Millennium – The Well-Worn Lock (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

The Well-Worn Lock is trying to say something important.

As easy as it is to mock Chris Carter for being a little heavy-handed in his writing, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. There is an honesty and an earnestness to his writing that is quite endearing – a sense that he has some things that he wants to say, and that he will say them. The Well-Worn Lock is a tough and grueling episode, with some pretty harrowing things to say. It confronts the types of issues that are often overlooked or ignored, because they are so uncomfortable to examine head-on. There is a lot to admire here.

Happy families...

Happy families…

However, The Well-Worn Lock is also clumsy and ham-fisted. It is so committed to saying what it wants to say that it occasionally gets caught up in itself. It has been argued that Carter constructed Millennium as a vehicle to examine the nature of evil in the modern world, and there are points where the series feels more like a pulpet that a television show. The Well-Worn Lock is an episode about an insidious and oft-ignored evil, but there are points where it has the depth and complexity of a life-action cartoon.

The problem is not that the episode’s antagonist is a monster – after all, it is hard to describe anybody who commits this sort of abuse as anything but a “monster” – but that he seems a grotesquely exaggerated and one-dimensional caricature. Tackling a subject that requires considerable tact and grace, The Well-Worn Lock often has the emotional nuance of a sledgehammer.

The world according to Catherine Black...

The world according to Catherine Black…

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