I played a game: Pyre

Pyre is a good game.

“What does freedom mean to you?”

Pyre is an absolutely outstanding game, and yet another gem from Supergiant Games.

The game is set in the Downside, where criminals are cast out from the Commonwealth. You are such a criminal. See, you’re a Reader, and reading is forbidden in the Commonwealth. So, out you went.

In the Downside, you run into a group of characters. Rukey, the sketchy businessman Cur (pretty much a humanoid dog); Jodariel, the physically imposing Demon (which is what becomes of humans left in the Downside for too long; and also Hedwin, the benevolent human nomad. Every character in the main group is very well-developed, and end up developing bonds with both you the reader, and each other, resulting in some absolytely wonderful monents of comedy, sorrow, happiness, beauty and so on. There are a lot of interesting characters in the other teams you come up against in the Rites to come, and there are even some interesting relationships in-between members of different teams.

As a Reader, you are one of a few capable people able to conduct Rites, where two teams compete in a sort of Capture the Flag, where you race to collect the orb that spawns in the middle of the map and strive to drop it into the opponents’ Pyre. This douses the Pyre, and whichever teams’ Pyre is extinguished first – loses.

This is complicated by the fact that you can only move one character a time, so you switch between characters and find opportunities to dart forward when an opportunity presents itself. Every character has ways to mess with the opponents – some can throw their aura (pretty much their spiritual power manifesting around them), jump around (some can even fly) and charge into players. Every character has something that’s special for them. It might sound a bit daunting, but it’s quite easy to pick up, and you’ll find preferred teams and ways to play out the game.

The artwork is awesome, as you can tell by any of the preview images. Every frame is absolutely gorgeous, so I probably ended up with well over one thousand screenshots. The character designs look great, as does the backgrounds, etc. It’s very easy to figure out what’s happening in battles, as the visuals are very distinct, even when it does get really chaotic.

Supergiant have been celebrated in the past for their amazing soundtracks, and they’ve done it again. I never tire of hearing the multitude of tracks they manage to come up with. Each setting, whether it’s exploring the map, being in a discussion, or hammering fools in combat, the songs fit brilliantly with the mood.

There is also a story in Pyre, which is quite brilliant in both simplicity and its subtlety. You and the group you travel with seek a way back into the Commonwealth, and you get there by competing in Rites. Supposedly, there’s a way to fight one’s way back home, but how much will it take, and will everybody be able to go back home? In the end – What does freedom mean to you, and what would you do to attain it? It’s much more emotional than I had expected when I initially picked it up, and I was more than a little misty-eyed when the end was approaching.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much we, the players, are allowed to have a voice as the Reader. You get to have your views heard in arguments, get involved with other characters and build relationships with them, and as the groups star-navigator, you are its guide and choose where to go next. It’s a really ingenious way of involving the player very directly in the story, without having us be THE HERO.

One of the most defining things that happen when I finish something truly spectacular, like a good book/film/game/etc is that I feel a little empty inside afterwards. Like I invested a little part of myself into whatever awesome media I just devoured. Such was the case with Pyre, and if it isn’t abundantly clear at this point, I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful game. It’s a terrific journey, that leads to a very impactful ending. Pyre is Supergiant Games’s strongest game yet, even beating out the wonderful Bastion, and definitely certifies them as a developer whose games are absolutely must-play.

20170912054542_1

Advertisements

Film Night: The Host

Oh hey, let’s see if I can actually finish one of these posts.

After lurking a bit on reddit, I found a thread about Korean films. The Host was mentioned, and I remembered seeing it as a teenager, so I wanted to check if I still liked it. Well?

The Host is a good film.

Actually, it’s a fucking amazing one. I like it way more now than I did way back when I saw it for the first time.

This Korean monster film is one I watched as a young lad, and just found again. It’s a spectacular blend of drama, thriller, horror, comedy and all other manners of genre.

After an opening scene where an American scientist brow-beats his Korean assistant into dumping dangerous chemicals which will end up in the Han River, we start by following our primary protagonist, Gang-du, and his family (his father and his daughter), during what seems like a normal day. That’s until a huge fish-monster barrels into view and starts wreaking havoc. The scenes are harrowing and feel very real in the way that people react during a catastrophe. Some are paralysed with fear, some run, some act, etc. Seeing as it’s a monster film, naturally people die in quite awful ways.

In the opening chaos, Gang-du’s daughter is grabbed by the beast and pulled underwater, presumed dead. However, she manages to call him, and so Gang-du and his dysfunctional family get together to try to save his daughter.

The family is made up by a pretty odd mix of characters. Gang-du is quite the slow individual. He’s very lethargic and is seen as a failure by his siblings. Nam-il is the member of the family that managed to get through school. However, he’s ended up unemployed and is eager to be seen as a competent individual, especially by his family. Nam-Joo is the successful sibling, competing on a high level in archery. The father, Hie-bong is a soft old man who loves his children, especially Gang-du in an attempt to make up for his poor parenting in his younger days (such as being the cause for his son’s disabilities). Hyun-seo is Gang-du’s daughter, a headstrong little lady whose disappearance brings the family together again.

All members of the family are very good, but special mentions have got to go to Kang-ho Song (who is absolutely brilliant as the dim Gang-du, giving him so much life on the screen and playing the different aspects of his personality so well) and Hee-Bong Byun (playing the patriarch of the family, who has a heart-wrenching monologue and shows the warmth and solidity of a father who’s the balancing force of the family). The film itself is a lot more focused on the bonds between the family members than it is about the monster, so they had to be likeable and well-acted both, and the cast pulls this off. They all have their pros and cons, which culminates in a spectacular final sequence.

Credit has to go to writer-director Bong Joon Ho, who expertly flows several different genres together, often in the same scene, as he does in the film as a whole. You can go from crying to smiling at the awkward comedy to cowering in terror withing short time-spans, as the film shifts gears very quickly.

Worth mentioning is that the film has a very strong anti-authoritarian vibe. People in charge in the film are often dipshits and treat our lovable fools like garbage. There’s a very devious scene where Gang-du is played like a fiddle by a foreign person, that quickly turns very dark. Speaking of foreign, while there’s an American that is a swell bloke in the film, most of it’s English speakers are portrayed as nigh-on moustache-twirling pieces of shit. Not that I mind, but it’s clearly a theme.

Finally, some words on the monster, seeing as it’s a monster film of sorts. The humongous fish-monster is terrifying as hell when up close. The CGI is a bit wonky at times and feels like frames are left out. It’s especially ugly in the distance, but it generally animates well up close. The monster doesn’t have much in the way of motivation, and that’s just fine.

All in all, I highly recommend this terrific film for just about anyone. It ticks most boxes for anyone stepping into a cinema and so I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t give it a shot.

Anime-time: Zankyou no Terror

Oh, hey, I watched a relatively new anime, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand

Zankyou no Terror is a good anime.

First of all, let’s begin with this, so you’re not tricked into thinking this is a show about terrorism and the morals around it. Because it isn’t. It really isn’t anything I expected when going into it.

Whether or not I recommend it, is a bit of a complicated question, but I’ll ultimately say no. There are definitely some good – even very good – parts to this story, but I just can’t recommend it. Or can I? I mean, fuck, it’s difficult, alright?

Going to deep into what the story is actually about is kind of risking spoilers, but I’ll try a spoiler-free version: Zankyou no Terror is about connectivity. Not just between two people, or about someone who’s on the outside of societal norms, but a society. Also, it’s about the Japanese climate and generational gaps, in a post-war society (even if the show has a modern setting). It’s just a shame there’s so much in the way to actually get to that. Well, technically it’s always there, but it’s just not “stated” that that’s what it’s about. Sure, us viewers have to read into things as they happen, but sometimes it can’t help to kinda lead us to what were supposed to get out of it. Eh.

zankyounoterror-9n12

Twelve and Nine, read from the left.

 

Anyway, ZnT centres on a duo of young men, Nine and Twelve, who fashion themselves terrorists with a cause. Nine is the classic silently intelligent bad-ass you often see in anime. Twelve is another stereotype – the hyper individual, with a magnetism that pulls people to him. Initially Twelve seems to have the interesting twist of being a psychotic emotional manipulator, but that quickly goes away to reveal a pretty normal guy, minus the terrorism angle. I won’t go too much into the attacks and repercussions themselves, but I will say that the show definitely veers hard away from very serious terrorism stuff – is, I guess, how I’ll put it. They call themselves Sphinx 1 and 2, and the series starts with them stealing a nuclear device. After that, they go to record and upload videos with them forecasting bombings, and basically daring the cops to do anything about it. They challenge the police to solve puzzles related to Greek mythology. So, those of us who aren’t read up on Sophocles’ Oedipus just get to kick back and watch the story unfold.

zankyounoterror-sphinx1n2.jpg

Nine and Twelve in their Sphinx getup.

 

Among the police trying to solve Sphinx’ riddles is former detective Shibazaki, who got taken off the force in the past for investigating police corruption. He’s the series’ most interesting character, in that he actually has a fully developed character. He feels like a more mature L Lawliet, without the eccentricity. He knows what man-made disasters can do to a country, and will go far to stop Sphinx’ plans.

zankyounoterror-shibazaki

Shibazaki, intellectually confronting Sphinx, in a revealing moment for both sides.

Into this mess, Lisa Mashima is pulled. She’s a schoolgirl that’s bullied by the other girls and seems to generally hate life. Her mother seems incredibly  Twelve injects himself into her life, which has huge consequences on both of their lives. There is potential to the Lisa character, for sure. She could have offered another, but still parallel, viewpoint to the Sphinxes’, and help to further explore all three characters. That doesn’t really happen, though, or at least not soon enough. She plays the damsel in distress and is portrayed as being quite ridiculously useless. Her bad cooking is played for laughs, because anime stereotype. Her arc ends up in a pretty good place before the series crashes and burns at the end.

zankyounoterror-lisa

Lisa, unwittingly pulled into a plot that could shake the foundations of the country.

The story is excellently animated. Absolutely gorgeous. The music is also a stand-out, behind which is industry veteran Yoko Kanno. One song has guest vocals from the vocalist of one of my favourite bands, Agent Fresco (whom you should definitely check out, yo). The soundtrack does its job superbly well, and adds to some very good scenes.

You know what? Fuck it, I’ll recommend it. If you can bear the really bad (“the bad”, obviously being relative to what you enjoy from your anime) of this show, there’s a story there that kinda deserves to be seen. To quote myself from earlier, because I can, “It’s just a shame there’s so much in the way to actually get to that.” Cut a couple of episodes, especially the parts with the nonsensical and oh-so-uninteresting villain that you can see a mile away after watching the first episode if you’ve seen a couple of anime series’ before (seriously, the villain and its cadre, and its actions and reactions from the local police are fucking terrible ends up being a ridiculously awful addition), and focus on the more personal and cultural story. Hell, it could have worked very well as a longer feature film at like 2 hours or so.

All in all, it’s a troubled, yet good anime that has something to say , even if its message gets a bit lost in between its sometimes crazy antics. It’s not getting a whole-hearted recommendation, but I think it’s worth checking out. At the very least, it at least tries to stand out from most other anime released today, and that’s worth something.

Why so series? – Marcella

Marcella is a good series.

Yay.

It’s one of the shows I was speaking about when I reviewed Paranoid. An interesting story that lets its characters carry the load, while sparkling the space in between with an interesting case to solve.

Anna Friel stars as titular Marcella, an ex-police mother of two, who just got dumped by her husband of 15 years. Soon after, she’s visited by a member of the police force, asking her for details on an old serial killer case. She decides to re-join the police to help solve the possible resurgence of the killer – who she failed to catch back then.

She enters into a complicated web of lies and deceit, human decency and indecency.

Oh, and she gets black-outs. When she gets stressed out, Marcella blacks out, and cannot remember what she does. To complicate things, her husband, Jason, works for a development contractor, whose troubled business has some worrying ties to the killings.

The case is an interesting one. The killer uses many of the same techniques as the killer from the past did, which convinces Marcella that her main suspect from a decade ago, Peter Cullen, is her man. The rest of the team isn’t nearly as interested in looking at Cullen, who’s serving a (minimum security? or whatever it’s called in England) prison sentence, where he’s constantly under watch.

It’s a very complicated web, that does make sense when looking at it from the finish line, but it’s a bit hard to keep up with at times. There were a couple of times when I had trouble remembering what character did what things. A few characters could have been cut without impacting the story and making it easier on the viewer.  Marcella’s black-outs add unnecessarily to the complicated nature of the show, even if it very interesting to begin with.

A bit on the characters, then:

112359a3222bc9d54b9c960a027e7217

Marcella and Tim

Marcella is a confident woman with her own sense of honour. Still, she’s not disconnected – as modern “strong female protagonists” often are – and make some silly decisions due to her vulnerability after being left by her husband. She’s driven, intelligent and magnetic, getting people to follow her lead, even when they don’t want to.

marcella-jason.png

Jason

Jason, is the chief legal officer of a local development firm. He’s very ambitious, but seems caring enough. That is, until you get further into the show, and he seems more and more like a pile of shit.

Henry Gibson, the son of the development company’s owner. He’s the black sheep of the family and will go far to get the affection he sorely desires. Excellently played by Harry Lloyd, who played the more interesting Targaryen on Game of Thrones.

Tim Williamson, a police detective investigating another crime, which has worrying ties to Marcella’s case. An old co-worker of Marcella’s and sparks fly when they’re aound each-other. Played by Jamie Bamber, who’s good in this, but needed a bit more time on the screen to develop the character more.

Some other characters are a bit one-dimensional, but that’s fine. Everyone can’t be the most interesting bugger you’ve ever seen.

What I will give the series props for, is that it doesn’t shy away from the really bad stuff. I won’t spoil anything, but I’m a bit surprise at how raw it was ready to get. Also, the antagonistic characters are wonderfully acted and very creepy.

Recommended for someone looking for an interesting, character-driven detective story.

Why so series? – Paranoid

Paranoid is a bad series.

Sorry, but that’s how it is.

I generally like English cop shows, as they’re much more focused on the characters and how they solve the crimes perpetrated in the series. And how they often make the show bigger than it seems on paper. Like Broadchurch, which takes a found dead child and turns it into a heart-wrenching tale of a community in suffering, and the struggles of the detectives out to solve the case, while dealing with personal demons. It’s a nice change from most American shows, that often get watered down and drag on for season upon season. Like NCIS, Castle, and some others. I liked both examples just fine for a while, but it just gets boring, watching these characters stand still for so long (with the obligatory romances thrown in here and there), and you just tire of it all. Or at least I do.

In walks Paranoid. Promising a “murder that rattles an English town”. Sure sounds like it’s wanting to pull me in. Alright, I’ll check it out. Wow, this is really rather boring.

But why? Maybe I should say.

The story moves at a snail’s pace. With “the story” I mean the actual police investigation. Hardly anything happens. The detectives walk around confused with little drive. An anonymous fella keeps sending them information for some reason. Then the detectives seems to shrug and go off on to their own business. Meaning they’re off to talk to some new-age lady; Whinge at some therapist with hints at a past relationship with said therapist; Get dumped by long-time boyfriend for some reason and then bang a colleague with whom a relationship is formed in no time flat. Like, the case isn’t very interesting at all, as it appears very random, even as it stretches over borders. The detectives aren’t very interesting either, and so down we sink into mediocrity.

Besides the promise of an interesting show (a Netflix original no less, with their success rate so far), the other thing pulling me in was Indira Varma. I’ve seen her in other stuff (Rome, Luther) and she seems to play a similar part here. Someone that’s initially quite grating, but later revealing more about herself. Unfortunately she’s quite awful in this. Which also has a lot to do with the writing and pacing, both of which are terrible. While the case is being resolved at the same speed as trying to get a bucket of water to freeze over in the middle of summer, Varma’s Nina and the younger police bloke (whose name I only remember by reading how other people thought their romance was very repulsive as well) have a romantic arc which goes from zero (where Nina’s a completely brutal bitch to Alec initially, and seemingly dismissive of his capabilities as a police detective) to one-hundred (loving looks, longing after each-other, oh – and fucking) in like one fucking episode. All while the only progress the police make is due to some anonymous arse sending them clues.Which he always seems positioned to find all the time, in between following the police and sending them veiled threats. Like what?

The characters are just very stereotypical and boring, so there’s no use watching for them. The story itself isn’t very interesting either. There’s just not much actual substance to be found in Paranoid. After two and a half episodes out a total eight, I called it quits. Don’t watch this show.

PS: Oh, and let’s not forget fucking everyone ignoring basic police procedure like it’s in style this season. Grabbing evidence bare-handed and basically breaking in to a person of interest’s house because you didn’t get a response.

The School

Right, so I just wrote this thing for a player of mine’s background for a campaign I’ll be running of Monte Cook’s fabulous game, Numenera.

He wanted the school to be one of scientific study and understanding, but still be sort of “dark side”. I said “Hogwards, but evil,” and he agreed. So here’s the stuff:

Many of the older students felt a chill up the back of their necks as the headmistress sauntered in through the big double-doors, guards in glassteel armour holding the doors open for her. The younglings cowered behind the legs of their elders, who stood at attention. Anything other than the correct discipline shown would lead to “corrections.”
Juro stood with a back so straight it started to spasm slightly. He willed it to stop. He’d been at the “school” – for what else could you call this perverted place of learning? – for maybe four years now. He knew most of the other students by name, and knew the headmistress by the sound of her soft, melodic voice and the tapping her shoes made as she made her way around the school. He watched in half-terror, half-longing as the strict woman slowly made her way down the stairs towards the speaking platform. As he’d learned recently, an artefact in the podium made it so that her voice was forced into everyone’s heads. None was to ignore the headmistress. He looked over at the man at the end of the room. The one with a cloak to cover his skin. Juro knew why. The scales on the man’s skin were enough to put many off, but the fact that he never seemed to breath either made him distinctly alien. However, he’d come to know this Voltair figure as a man of science during the last year. Always curious about whatever he’d find, constantly poking and prodding the various numenera objects they were allowed in the dorms. He never could get a straight answer out of Voltair what he thought of the headmistress. Maybe he too was scared? Or maybe he just didn’t care that much? Juro didn’t know and didn’t much care.

The headmistress had her daily discussion about the advancement of science and at the end had a question time with the students. Then the new arrivals, the kids, were escorted to the back of the complex. It was an odd building any way you cut it. A large triangle, piercing throught the ground into the world above. He’d been told that the actual name for this was a pyramid. Strangely, while from the outside one only saw the dark blue material the pyramid was made of, from the inside you could view the outside perfectly clear. If the headmistress or her guards allowed it, that is. Since he’d been here, Juro had only been allowed to walk the soil he was born on three times. All in missions to find more technology for the school. Because he’d worked his way up to Auron, through two years of hard work and arse-kissing. Auron was the second-highest title for students. The first was Invero, the new recruits. Mostly children, but some of the older ones that didn’t subscribe to the headmistress’ teachings. Secondly was Fostare, the initiates. This was his rank of Auron, the seeking. Highest of the student ranks was Ondore. Voltaire was one of those. The scaly man had been here much longer than Juro. Besides the scales and the lack of breathing, there was also something peculiar with the crystal on his forehead. He said nothing more than that it had been implanted on him. Apparently it gave him some sort of mental power that allowed him to communicate with other people. He did it with Juro once, but Juro absolutely hated the experience. What he knew of Voltaire was that he also had been abducted as a kid, to be brought here. Voltaire didn’t remember the ones that took him, though. The automatons with empty faces, held up by what seemed a cornucopia of stin strings. So many strings. And their leader. The one with coloured robes, and an etched face. A face filled with hate. Endless, ferocious, judging eyes. Judging you as unworthy. She’d glided up to him. Places her long, sharp fingers on his face.

Yesssssss, you’re like THEM. Young, potential. The planets align for us, once again. Bring this one to the school. Tell them we expect results.”

His skin crawled as he remembered her voice. Like a hundred wailing women whispering at once. That sad, yielding whispering that his mother would try to stop his father with, when he had one of his tempers. First thing he’d do when he escapes this place, was kill that old man. Fuck him, and his heritage. He smashed his fist against a wall, and could see the guard down the hallway raise an eyebrow at him. He hurriedly opened the door and went inside his room. Tomorrow they would bestow a power unto him, is what the headmistress had told him.

Juro walked into the headmistress’ chamber with trepidation. He wanted to run so badly, but feared the consequences. A slight sweeping sound behind him caused him to turn, and so he faced the creature that would change his life. The huge, cloaked figure with only a large blue crystal for a face stared at him. No eyes, but Juro could feel its piercing gaze.
“’tis a Philethis, boy. Ever seen one before?”
Juro shook his head. His breath was ragged, his muscles straining themselves hard to keep him in place while the creature walked up.”
“You’ve seen the strings,” the creature stated as a fact. It turned to the headmistress. “Mistake.” Juro could hear the headmistress squirming in her leather seat.
“It’s not my fault. The one we usually get to perform the rite on the young tried to leave. The Mother…” the headmistress’ voice trailed off for a second and returned, “strung him up. It took weeks to clean the gore from the chamber.”
Juro could tell the creature was looking at the headmistress. It seemed almost sad, somehow. Then it inclined its posture slightly towards Juro, and something came at him. Into him. Juro screamed as the constantly colour-shifting and shape-changing stone was forced past his snapping ribs and into his chest. He passed out, but not due to the pain, but because of all the voices echoing in his head.

Juro woke up to only one voice. And for the first time, he didn’t disapprove of the way he heard it.
“Are you okay?” asked Voltaire’s echoing voice, as Juro felt a cold, wet rag on his forehead. It felt like he was burning up. No… The surrounding air felt like fire. He was cold. Voltaire sat a little bit away with a lit candle by his side, casting some light of his features not hidden by the hood he wore. The headmistress said not to disturb you, so I’ll just leave this here.”

Juro sat in near-complete darkness, with only the light giving any vision. Now that Voltaire had left, though, the voices returned. Well, not quite voices, but definitely whispers. Calling out. Crying. Juro listened in, and tried to hear what they were saying. Where was it coming from? Then he realised, and looked down at the floor.
“Who’s there?” he called out hesitantly.
“Kaïra,” replied the floor, and Juro felt a hole in his stomach. It expanded with every syllable spoken from the floor. The feeling remained as he found a pickaxe in one of the storage rooms. A Fostare boy asked him what he needed it for, but he swept the younger lad aside. He returned to the room and swung the tool over and over. Over and over. When the floor tiles broke, so did he.

Built on the hard-work of those before. The headmistress had used those words to describe the school before. Literally on those who came before, Juro spat as he held Kaïra’s skull in his hands. He remembered when they told him of her disappearance during a mission. She and him had been partners when on cypher hunts. And when doing research in the school. And after hours. In bed. Juro sighed. He knew she was dead before. Not confirmed, but he knew. She was Ondore. They don’t just disappear. Now that he thought of it, he was Ondore as well. It seems those who aren’t seen as fit to advance to Sistiyel, the first adult rank, are disposed off.
“The Mother refused me,” Kaïra spoke again. Juro was still trying to figure out how he could hear his death friend’s voice. The feeling in his chest was probably part of it. Whatever the creature did to him, it seems to have tuned him into the other side. Voices from beyond the grave. “The headmistress gave us to her. For inspection.”
Juro grimaced. “Us? There’s more here?”
“Yes. It was in a dark room, with ugly tiles.”
“Wait, she- no, it, was in this room?”
“Yes. Some, they took. For what, I don’t know. The others were shoved into the floor.”
“Alive?”
“Yes. Their screams still echo in the graves next to me.”
“So the headmistress is giving away students to those things? Why?”
“I don’t know. She seemed sad. Then she left. She left us in the dark with The Mother. There was something…”
“What?”
“She said they were looking for believers. To spread the message. She hates so much. She burns me.”
“Not any longer, honey. You’re safe now.” Juro felt drained. He could hardly think. He knew what needed to be done. The school had to burn. But not now. He wasn’t strong enough. The day would come. So he shoved the skull of his former lover in a carrier bag and sprinted up the stairs. Then through the hallways. Then into the research labs. He shoved a researcher down and stole his keys. She fought back, so he silenced her with the swing of a chair. He took a couple of cyphers and jammed them into his bag. Then he grabbed one he’d collected himself. He knew what it did. He heard the guards breach the door, as the cupboard that was blocking it was toppled over and glass shattered. It didn’t matter, as he was already on his way out through the window. Shards of glass whirled around him as he fell. As he was approaching the ground in horrifying velocity he twisted the cypher around and his momentum ceased comfortably and he sunk to the ground at will. The cypher fell apart as he landed. He ran as fast as he could into the Forest to the North, where he hid for a few days. He finally reached Storui, and the seedy city was easy enough to navigate. He sold a couple of the cyphers for food and armour, as well as an aneen.

It took him several weeks to get to The Great Reach, the portal through which there is apparently a whole other continent. The thanked his teachers for telling him to read so often, or he wouldn’t have known what it truly was. A bagful of shins made the guards look the other way, and he continued for the portal. Then he felt it. A tug on his shoulder. As if a fishing-line had caught his jerkin. He turned, as he heard a scream. Then his blood froze, if his cold blood could indeed solidify.
The Mother of Strings, in all her hateful glory, moved into the far end of the camp. Following her, her mad minions with bland faces were cutting down the people around her. He could hear the maddening chorus of a sort of battle hymn as the cut a swathe through the meaty guards and their mounts. He knew what he’d done. He’d led her here. He could see the string connecting him to her and yanked it hard. It was sharp enough to cut his skin open, but came off. He witnessed her levitate forward with impossible speed, carrying two full-grown men that she’d impaled on her sick figure that hurt to look at. Her presence, that tore at the fabric of this world, and yet forced it to hold together, contorted for the first time with delight as it looked past him and saw the same lands he did. Juro shrieked and burst through the mouth of the portal. The people on the other side looked at him confused, then their faces froze as they looked and saw the thing that shouldn’t be fly after him. He ran through a valley and left as fast as he could, while the sounds of the slaughter echoed behind him. As he dragged his tired legs out of the valley, he set his sight on a village in the distance. Finally he had a future. And he wouldn’t stop until he took everything from the school that tried to take it from him.

School structure (ranks)
Headmistress (highest rank, word is law)
— —
Garellon (adult rank 3, researcher – part of the circle of scholars that carry out the headmistress’ orders)
Hasterad (adult rank 2, high seeker)
Sistiyel (adult rank 1, recruiter)
— —
Ondore (youth rank 4, researcher’s assistant)
Auron (youth rank 3, seeker)
Fostare (youth rank 2, initiate)
Invero (youth rank 1, recruit)

Why so series?: The Newsroom

The Newsroom is one of the best examples I’ve ever come across that completely subverts what you think it will be, and surprises you with its quality. See, a couple of days before watching it, I thought the show had one of the worst concepts ever. “Who the fuck would want to watch a show about producing the news?”

After seeing it, I think it’s worth watching.

The Newsroom is a good series.

It’s in fact a fabulous one.

I was randomly watching youtube-clips during the evening and came across a couple of videos with great speeches. That great Chaplin speech and then finally finding this speech. It’s the first scene of the damn series, and completely sold me on the main character, as well as the tone of the series.

Before that, I thought it was a random comedy show, about a jerk reporting the news. Like House, but the news. Boy was I wrong. The Newsroom is a brilliant and thoroughly riveting show about the news and how it should be produced and why being responsible with what you produce is so important (proven in the uneven, but very good second season). But really, I could go on for a long while, when the thing you really need to do to gauge if this show is likely for you – is browse for some more Will McAvoy segments where he’s railing on people/subjects. They don’t give you a window into all the series entails, but help you understand the tone and what the series is about.

Newsroom_macdon

Don and Mac after an exhausting newscast

As the series starts, Will is doing a good job in keeping his popularity only. He’s scared of letting people know that he’s a bit of an arse in private, and mainly produces fluff TV on his newscast. A sharp contrast from when he first took over on the channels 9/11 newscast, when he was only the show’s legal counsel and had to step in when not ready at all. However, after the speech that I liked to earlier, there’s a change.

Will returns to find most of his crew leaving to the newscast the follows Will’s with its new anchor (basically Will’s protégé) and his former EP (Executive Producer – the one who feeds info to the anchor and directs the show) and thus leaving him with a skeleton crew to produce a show. His boss, Charlie, tells him that he’s hired a new EP – MacKenzie McHale. Of course there’s a catch, and the catch is that “Mac” used to be Will’s long-time girlfriend. The pair of them both anchor (bwahaha) a reborn Newsnight with a mostly new crew and new direction.

Newsroom_charlie

Charlie

That’s the show, basically. Watching the successes and failures, the trials and tribulations of making a newscast: Collecting the information, checking the sources, making sure you have everything at least double-checked, writing the script, planning out the show, finding and vetting eventual guests, and so on. It’s a wonderful thrill at times, which was a pleasant surprise to myself.

The cast then, which is mostly brilliant and many were unknown – at least to me:

Jeff Daniels pulls out some of his finest work to play Will McAvoy, in all his glorious ass-hattery and the odd caring moments. He’s a supremely clever former attorney-turned-news anchor with a razor wit. The show sees Will try to go from being a miserable bastard towards a self-improving man with ambition. It’s lovely to see him improve with the show’s (that is, the show within the series) gradually increasing quality as he learns the importance of the people around him and how it’s more important to be genuine than to pretend being someone else to be well-liked.

MacKenzie “Mac” McHale acts as the fuel initially for Will to return to form. She has a very idealised, yet realistic, view on how the news should be reported. She and Will have many arguments about how the show should be presented and reported and are both equally stubborn in supporting their own position. She was a war correspondent before the start of the series. She brings a lot of the series’ comedic relief. Played by the wonderful Emily Mortimer. (Weirdly, Mac’s supposed to be in her early thirties in the show, while Mortimer is clearly in her forties)

There’s a bunch of great supporting players as well:

  • John Gallagher as Jim Harper, Mac’s producer friend from her days in the war. Clever and sometimes abrasive, he’s a hard worker who’s instrumental in turning News Night’s fortunes around.
  • Dev Patel as Neal Sampat, who starts the show as just the editor of Will’s blog (which Will didn’t even know existed back then) and grows more confident and gains more trust from the rest of the crew.
  • Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith, the economics reporter, who gets gradually better at dealing with people from the rather cold person she starts out as. Has some incredibly hilarious scenes.
  • Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner, who probably should be a bigger mention, but there’s so much overlap between his and Mac’s character that there’s not too much to say about just him. He’s the one that got the ball rolling for the gang’s sometimes literally quixotic quest for a better newscast. Has some absolutely banging lines.
  • Allison Pill as Maggie Jordan, the character with possibly the most growth of the show. She starts out as very meek and ends up being a very confident woman in charge of herself and some others. Similarly a great and awful character, in that she’s either randomly the solution to problems or nonsensically put in situations to fuck things up completely.
  • Thomas Sadoski as Don Keefer, Will’s former EP and a brilliant jack-ass. A very hard worker when he wants to be, and surprises his co-workers by being just as passionate about the news being reported correctly as the other crew.

    Newsroom_meet

    A meeting to decide what to feature on the show

I’ve almost only been on about positives so far, but there are some negatives. Some episodes can be a bit of a slog as not every news-story is absolutely riveting.

There’s also the other negatives for me: The romantic sub-plots. I get it, okay – romance is a good source for drama and conflict, and I don’t have anything against it being on a screen. But when it takes up substantial amounts of time and thus weakening other segments, it can, and did, become a problem. One of these sub-plots that keep getting in the way is the sometimes love-triangle around Maggie.

One of my favourite things about the show is the usage of real-world news to comment on. There’s the BP oil-spill, Osama bin Laden killing, Presidential elections and so on. It makes for a much better show than if they tried fake news or concurrent news to use for the shows.

Newsroom_willsloan

Will and Sloan

 

 

I could go on, but I probably wouldn’t add anything more to interest you in the show, so I’ll stop here. I’ll just say that I’ve been very positively surprised by this gem of a show, and I hope you will find it as good as I did. I’m re-watching episodes when writing this, and I’m getting really excited about watching it back in a few years. Really unique and excellent television, and obviously highly recommended.

Good evening.