Thursday, 20 December 2012

We need to talk about the Gossip Girl finale: New York, I love you xoxo

I’m having some issues with television at the moment, all about trust and the relationship between the audience and the writer’s/producers, because unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, Gossip Girl’s identity was finally revealed this week and it brought to the fore all my ugly grumps when it comes to this relationship.

I love TV shows – actually scrap that, I love clever TV shows. Now I’m not saying that they have to make me think, or put my intellectual cap on to enjoy them, they can be clever in all sorts of different ways, but they have to engage me and persuade me to connect with them. I have to want to invest my time in them, want to tune in at the right time, or demand to catch up as soon as they become available – otherwise what’s the point?

My biggest case right now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is with Gossip Girl. I loved this show when it started. It was the delicious guilty pleasure watching these scheming, manipulative rich kids do truly terrible things to each other. Yet I watched the entire first season in less than 48 hours. Why I hear you ask – because it was clever, it was smart, it was well written, and it was fantastic.

And I stuck with it determinedly as they went off to college and everything slowly deteriorated into a royal cluster fuck of idiocy, bad plots and characters warped so badly that they were barely recognisable when placed next to their series 1 counterparts. There were still good storylines, the odd fantastic episode that reminded me of the glory days, but the fantastic spark of Gossip Girl was dying. It shrank with the ridiculous Jenny and Chuck hook up. It went out when Chuck punched the wall by Blair’s head and abused and intimidated her.

And then came the finale, and some terrible twisted part of me wanted to see how they’d tie this all up with a neat little bow. And frankly, I wish I’d stopped watching the show  when Chuck finally said ‘I love you’ to Blair at the end of Season 2. Yes there were some good moments – Jack Bass and Georgina? Blair and Chuck having serpent wedding rings? Henry! But what undermined, ridiculed and flat out destroyed the show, right back into the previously brilliant Season 1 was the reveal of Gossip Girl.

Because the writers reveal of Dan as Gossip Girl not only gave the show more holes than a colander, it was an effective middle finger to the audience. It said to us that not only did they not care that the show now made little to no sense with this reveal, that they had effectively put the five core character’s names in a hat and drawn one out at random, but that they thought we were stupid enough not to care.

And that damages my relationship not just with the show, but the writers and producers who have gift wrapped and handed that to me. I now wouldn’t touch anything Stephanie Savage worked on with a barge pole because she has shown (with the help of many others) that she considers the audience of any ‘teen show’ she works on to have the intellect of a five year old, with an attention span half that.

Because by revealing Dan as Gossip Girl they not only undermined any character development his character had (remember back when Dan was the good guy???)  but they showed that he was not the once nice guy/slightly creepy writer we had watched for the last six seasons, he was a deranged, stalker. He met Serena once. Once. And off that he decided to create a website that effectively tracked her every move, vilified, bullied and humiliated not only her but her friends, and then at the end Serena, instead of backing away with the mace spray held in front of her, not only calls this abusive, psychotic and downright disturbing behaviour a ‘love letter’  but then goes on to marry the guy? Excuse me show, what message are you trying to send out to your audience? That creepy and stalkerish is the new cute, that abusive is good, that women deserve no less and are utterly brainless and devoted when it comes to their one true epic love no matter what he has done to them and how he has treated them?

Because that’s not ok in my book.

Abuse is not ok. Verbal, physical, emotional. None of it. It is not romantic, it is not excusable, it is not something that women (or men) should have to put up with from their partner, or someone they are romantically involved with. 

And it terrifies me that so many books and shows and films are showing this type of relationship as the norm. When did this happen??? How??? Why??? It leaves me kinda speechless. (Or not  apparently given the length of this rant.)

What the show did was turn Dan into even more of a horror than Chuck, and Chuck has done some truly unforgiveable things to Blair in the past. And maybe that was the point, by making Dan an even worse villain that suddenly made Chuck and Blair’s relationship ok and normal and acceptable. Because their relationship was pretty messed up. And I say that coming from a huge Chair shipper point, back before they took Chuck down a terrible, unforgiveable path in Season 3.

So this clever show, has turned around, destroyed any semblance of plot that it had, and patted us viewers on the head and told us that this is true love, this is what we should accept, this is what we should hope for out of our lives. Oh goody, I feel so fulfilled now.

Because ‘teen shows’ are so much more than that now, and the writers should have kept up with what was happening outside the bubble of Gossip Girl, because we’ve had some truly excellent shows that have come along and completely redefined the idea of what a teen show should be. There are intelligent, brilliant. Sharp, well written, incredibly fast paced shows that don’t feel the need to create female characters that are so mind-blowingly vapid that they will cling to any abusive guy they think is their soul mate. And I’m thrilled that there are shows out there like that, I’m just devastated that Gossip Girl let me down at the final hurdle and gave a condescending half arsed ploy to tie everything up in neat little bows.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Vampire Diaries Review: My Brother's Keeper

So this week’s episode has taken me a little while to recover from – did anyone else have trouble catching their breath after the end scene?
I have a feeling that trying to cram all my thoughts and feelings about this episode into five favourite things would be next to impossible, so it’s going to be more of a recap like I used to do… So I’d get comfortable, I have lots to talk about.

I like that after the calm mature Stefan of last week we’re seeing him start to lose it over the break up, because I love moments where we see how hard he works to try and maintain he’s the ‘good brother’.  There’s been an awful lot of discussion about Stefan and Damon and the ever changing good brother/bad brother balance. Thomas Galvin talks about it in his recap for this week a lot more eloquently than I’m about to, and I’ll link to that at the bottom.

What I love about Stefan is that whilst we were introduced to him as the good brother of the two, and he’s always tried to maintain that aura of golden goodness, it’s always just been a fa├žade. We’ve seen it crack at various moments throughout the first two series’ – Miss Mystic Falls (Round 1) anyone? And what about his death threats to Uncle John in 2x01? It wasn’t until the start of Season 3 though that we saw just how deep the rabbit hole really goes with him. His moral compass, particularly in this episode is really skewed and I love seeing that darker side of Stefan – I don’t like him particularly, his actions with Jeremy and his reasons behind it are truly awful, but at the same time I can understand where he’s coming from with how hurt and desperate he is after losing Elena. That should never be a good excuse to decide to play god, even if the person killed was an unrepentant murderer… 

On a side note, if he was going to do things like that I really wish that he’d step up and own his actions instead of hiding behind ‘I don’t want to do this but I have to’ – if you contrast it against Damon, the supposed bad brother in Stefan’s head, then Damon would have owned it, he would have decided he needed to do this, done it and not regretted or whinged about it. For me that makes Stefan come across as a coward, and hiding behind excuses and desperation to make it ok, to make it the ‘right thing to do’. I really hope that this season we get to see Stefan unravelling further because he’s always been an all or nothing kind of guy and he’s never learnt or understood moderation or even come to terms with his true nature. Whenever his massive killing spree along the east coast is mentioned (which is almost never because apparently most of the characters have forgotten how many people he murdered…) he always refers to ‘The Ripper’ as a separate person, he’s never owned up to and accepted his choices, his actions and the consequences of those. So for me personally, I really hope that this episode and the sheer awfulness of Stefan (props to Paul Wesley for his fantastic acting) leads on to us seeing a greater character arc with Stefan falling completely of the rails and rebuilding himself, not just pretending it never happened.

Caroline on the other hand, I’d quite like to slap, repeatedly. We appear to have regressed back to Season 1 Caroline, and really, if we’re going to lose every last bit of character development she’s had over the last two seasons, I may cry. However there are two things to consider before throwing heavy things at her. One, her reaction to Damon is kinda justified. He really did terrible things to her in Season 1, he used her, he manipulated her, he was going to kill her and she remembers all of that. Yes they’ve had an uneasy truce over the last couple of seasons but I don’t think she’s ever truly forgiven him for his actions towards her. My problem though is that this should really be addressed at some point, we need her to acknowledge that part of why she’s reacting so strongly towards Damon and Elena is due to his treatment of her.

Two, she could be projecting her own insecurities about her feelings for Klaus onto Elena. Because Klaus is really starting to get to her, he’s ‘weaselling his way into her little vampire heart.’ And I don’t think she quite knows how to handle that. Because he really was getting to her this week, those scenes had me melting. The moment where he takes out her Miss Mystic Falls application and starts quoting it had me giggling like a schoolgirl, it was gorgeous, and funny and a breath of fresh air, and I love the chemistry between the two of them. And really, whilst Damon has done his fair share of bad things in his time, Klaus has done a hell of a lot worse. This is a guy who frequently puts his siblings in the time out coffin of doom just because he’s in a petulant mood at not getting his way, and I think any feelings she’s starting to notice for him are scaring the hell out of her. However, again, I want acknowledgement of this instead of her hating on Elena in very public loud shaming sessions, which let’s face it, were not nice Caroline, particularly as she couldn’t even see ‘how did I become the bad guy?’ I would also like to gift Caroline with Seasons 1-3 of The Vampire Diaries seeing as how she seems to be under the misguided impression that Damon is never right. Please see every situation in the history of this show where Damon is always right…

I have to admit though, it does look like Caroline is just going a judgemental spree given the web clip for next week’s episode where she seems pretty judgy about Bonnie’s choice of crush. I either want character development or a royal smack down courtesy of Elena in the next few episodes, because much as I love Caroline, this neurotic whiny judgemental girl who’s come out to play doesn’t seem a whole lot like the Caroline I love.

Let’s talk about Jeremy next, who I am loving this season. He’s got a fantastic plot, which is slowly being peeled back and more layers revealed each week and it is utterly brilliant. I’m fascinated by this plot. And I am loving the sibling conflict it’s creating. McQueen is really pulling it out the bag, most obviously this week, that moment where he looked up opened his eyes and stabbed Elena in the neck? Chilling, I have never been more afraid of him/for him, and I am so excited about that. I can’t wait to see how Elena and Jeremy interact, and how this continues to unfold. I’m just worried that it’s all going to end in tragedy for the littlest Gilbert. One thing’s for sure though, if it does? McQueen is going to give us the best damn show before he goes, that much is obvious. I’d also like to give him a round of applause for staking Stefan for being a royal pain in the ass and trying to intimidate and compel him into doing what he wants. This little brother just got bad ass…

Now intricately bound up in the Hunter/Shane/Silas/Cure tango are Hayley and the Hybrids? I didn’t see that one coming, but I’m loving the additions. I feel like I’m playing a chess match, and whilst I was paying attention to one bit, the writers have maneuverered me to be completely surrounded. Something big is falling into place, and this slow reveal is pitched brilliantly – well done writers, you’ve got me. Hayley is absolutely brilliant. I loved (strangely) the scene with her helping to unsire another hybrid (hey look guys, we’ve just been re-reminded of the sire bond, anyone need a refresher?...) and persuading Tyler to take her to the Pageant. It was strangely electric, there’s no denying her and Ty have chemistry, and I’m fascinated to see where they go next. Also her mocking put down of the whole affair left me chuckling, and ‘I have claws’ – hell, I’m surprised Tyler didn’t jump her then and there.

Speaking of awesome people, I’d like to set up a Matt appreciation club. He’s always been lovely, sometimes a little bit misguided, but I never really feel like he’s been included in storylines properly. He has his odd moments, and then he’s back to the odd moment bussing tables at the Grill, and I miss him. This however has the makings of genius on several levels. First, let’s take a moment to appreciate his moment where he stepped up for April 'I got this' - cue swooning! Also his sleuthing ninja skills that we saw in Episode 6 where he connected the explosion to Shane – atta boy Matt, people are always shady in this town, I’m glad someone’s paying attention. It also offered us a nice moment between him and Damon which I have a feeling is going to be quite important later on in the series. Let’s think back to last season where Elena had several heart to hearts about her, well, heart… But not with Caroline or Bonnie, but with Matt. 

She talked to him about how confused she was, how she felt safe with Stefan but was consumed by Damon – she talked to him about the fact that did have feelings for Damon, that he’d gotten under skin, and acknowledged that she loved vampires (plural.) This was all whilst she was human, whilst she couldn’t be acting strangely or differently if we’re going by Stefan logic, which is always a bit flawed anyway… I think that now Matt is going to one person who is firmly on Team Delena. He knew and understood that Elena had feelings for Damon, that she loved him, even if she wouldn’t say the words out loud. He was driving her to Damon so she could tell him goodbye when he was dying. Matt has never judged her feelings for Damon and has supported her more than either of the girls, and I think now, with Caroline and Stefan having been replaced by banshees and trying to make Damon think that these feelings aren’t real, Matt could play a key role. Just look at that little half smile when Jeremy asks him where Elena’s going to go… Matt, closet Delena supporter.I also adore the fact that he’s actually turning into Ric. He’s the one looking through the research and trying to help Jeremy, he’s taking care of Jeremy in a way that no one else appears capable of doing, and now he’s moved in with him and the epic bromance can finally start… Oh be still my heart!

And now we come to Damon and Elena, who can’t really be talked about separately because of how interwoven they are right now. I loved this episode for them. I loved the call backs to the last Miss Mystic Falls, I loved Damon saying that he was ‘still here’, I loved the lingering looks and eye flirting going on whilst the dance of the non touch was happening. And I loved the progress that was made after three seasons of dancing around the point.
Elena finally admits to Damon that she has feelings for him.

That ‘You’ actually broke my heart a little bit, just for the look on Damon’s face. That half smile whilst he thought she was going to take it back or say ‘but’ or anything to take this away from him, and then the look of pure disbelief, of vulnerability and humanity as he realizes that the girl he’s in love with, the girl he knew he’d never have, has just chosen him. And let’s face it, this is the first time Damon has ever been chosen. His father preferred Stefan, Katherine preferred Stefan, Elena preferred Stefan – ‘It’s always going to be Stefan’. He has never been chosen not by someone whom he loves, and that look on his face as he realised all this damn near broke my heart. If that was all the Damon and Elena goodness we’d gotten this episode, I would have still been happy.

But then we finally see Elena stand up to Stefan, to see her realise what a terrible person he can be – he is trying to ‘save her’ by destroying the one person she cares about and loves most in the world, her little brother, and the look of horror on her face was such a sight for sore eyes. It was so good to see her finally stand up after six episodes of being pushed around about how she shouldn’t be a vampire and this isn’t who she is, and bad Elena, feel guilty and crippled for the fact that you aren’t golden and pure enough for Stefan anymore – really, I’ve struggled with Stefan’s perception of her and attitude towards her ever since she’s turned. 
For her to finally stand up to Stefan and say ‘This is who I am now. You don’t have to love me like this. The old Elena died when she went off that bridge, you need to let her go.’ Note we don’t know which time she went off that bridge she’s referring to, and I think it’s as much about when Damon jumped with her in the last episode, as when she drowned in the truck. I damn near cheered when she said that to him.

And then we’re treated to my favourite scene in the entire episode. I’m going to talk about the intercutting banshee wail of Caroline afterwards, because I’d like to just enjoy Damon and Elena for a minute…
First off, I’m loving the evolution of Elena’s dress sense, she has definitely gotten more stylish since she turned, and it makes her seem more confident, more poised and assured of herself and who she is, and I love that. P.s. I love those boots!

The conversation is so easy and natural between them, aside from Matt Damon is the only person who is accepting her as she is, who loves her regardless of whether she’s a human or a vampire, who has ‘never seen her more alive.’ I loved that Elena acknowledged that she’d been thinking about the last Pageant, about their dance together, and that she’d wanted to dance with him today. I also love that of the two of them it is Elena doing all the talking, this is all her, regardless of any information we might be about to find out. There is absolutely nothing on Damon’s part of encourage this outpouring from her. He just sits there and looks silently flawed by what he’s hearing, and really if you put that with the ‘you’ from earlier, I’m not really surprised. He’s more vulnerable and more human now than we’ve ever seen him before, and much as I love cocky and arrogant and funny Damon, I love seeing him like this even more.

And really how perfect is that dance? It’s quiet, it’s content, they are both so comfortable with each other and it looks as though they are coming home as he settles his head against hers. It’s beautiful and the music choice of ‘Kiss Me’ by Ed Sheeran just makes it into an even more beautiful moment.
I love that first kiss between them, lingering and quiet, after the explosion of a kiss that they last had outside the motel in 3x19, and I love how it builds. I would have loved for Damon to pull back and look at her, not to say anything, but just to try and find some reassurance that this is what she wants, because it does go from kiss to explosion pretty quickly, and I would have liked some sort of moment where he gets some reassurance.
That said I love that she takes the initiative to start with, the furniture/lamp throwing and pinning him to the wall (another fantastic moment of him looking completely undone by her as if he truly can’t believe what’s happening.) But I also love that the power is equal, he pins her, he responds; it’s on an equal footing that they come together. And that’s shown even further when they make it up to his bedroom. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Damon more human and vulnerable, he is completely undone by her and it seems like she knows it if that smile is anything to go by. It’s passionate, it’s sexy and steamy and I loved it, and that last kiss before the title card? Gorgeous.

And then we have the controversial element, aka the shrill yapping of Caroline as she continues to incorrectly use the term epic to describe Stefan and Elena’s relationship. I would love to know why Caroline appears to have completely forgotten about Stefan’s ripper spate, and again, please can we see this addressed at a later point? In the mean time, on to the sire bond, which actually doesn’t worry me too much. I think whoever decided to cut the scenes of Damon and Elena and Caroline and Stefan together for ‘dramatic effect’ was not in their right mind. It meant that a lot of fans felt like the scene was ruined, that Damon and Elena were not given their proper moment, which is incredibly annoying given how long we’ve been waiting for this to happen. It also put a huge asterix next to this triangle development where it could potentially go the way that this could all be explained away and the progress between Damon and Elena didn’t mean anything which, yeah, if they go that way would be awful, but I don’t think it will.

If you look back at the last three seasons the relationship between Damon and Elena has been so carefully constructed. The show is a love letter to the relationship developing between them. No that’s not all that this show is, there’s so much more than that and their relationship. And let me be clear, I loved her and Stefan’s relationship for the first two seasons. But if you look back through everything Elena and Damon have gone through, the careful development between them, the symbolism behind some of the moments, it’s all been quietly developing and paving the way to give them their proper due, and I think that if you’re convinced that the sire bond is going to undermine that and after a couple of episodes she’ll be ‘fixed’ and back with Stefan, you may have been watching a different show.

As I said earlier, we know Elena had feelings for Damon before she was turned, and Matt will be a testament to that. Stefan and Elena’s relationship has been broken ever since he went off with Klaus at the start of Season 3, and even though they did try and patch things back together with sticky tape, they were never really in the same relationship that they had been for the first two seasons, and neither was looking at the other with clear eyes. Elena was overlooking the fact that Stefan had gone out and killed a bunch of people – hell, had even threatened to kill her in the most psychologically and emotionally traumatic way possible. And Stefan was overlooking that he’d done those things too, and that whilst he’d been away Elena had changed. She’d grown, she’d learned to defend herself, she was standing on her two feet rather than leaning against him, and as a result her relationship with Damon and grown and evolved and changed. They were both hiding those changes and trying desperately to be the people they used to be. It would have fallen apart regardless of whether Elena had turned. And now Elena has seen how Stefan sees her, as something that needs to be fixed, as someone he needs to make better, as someone who is not good enough.

That realisation has set her free in a way, and she now feels like she can explore her feelings for Damon, real feelings that have been there for a long time, no matter how hard she’s fought against them. Do I think this relationship would have developed between them without the sire bond? Absolutely! But I think the sire bond will make it more interesting. This means that Damon, who has finally gotten all that he wanted, will now be terrified that she is only with him because of the bond, and because of how much he loves Elena he isn’t going to want this relationship unless it’s real. That’s all he’s ever wanted with her, for it to be real, otherwise he doesn’t want it. He’s going to be heartbroken, but he’s going to try and distance himself from her because he loves her.

She on the other hand knows that she loved him before she turned, she knows her feelings and I think it’s going to be her turn to convince him. She’s going to have to chase him, to prove to him that she loves him, and not just because it was his blood that turned her, and I’m really looking forward to watching that.
And an interview Julie Plec did over at Zap2it only makes that even clearer. She refers to the sire bond as ‘the tiniest of obstacles’ and says that ‘He (Damon) wants it to be real. She knows it’s real.’ I think that means that there’s more hope than ever that this relationship between them is real, that it won’t just be tossed away and explained out of existence in a couple of episodes. I don’t think that the writer’s would have spent this long carefully crafting their relationship only to toss it away on a cheap thing like this. So I trust the writer’s. I have faith that this is going to be the start of a fascinating storyline that is going to be heartbreaking to watch, but ultimately really rewarding. If I’m wrong, and my trust is broken in some horrible trick then I probably won’t be able to watch the show in the same way ever again, which would be tragic. But I don’t think it’s going to go that way, I think we’re going to finally get a pay off for this, and the sire bond is just another bump in the road that will ultimately make Damon and Elena’s relationship even stronger.  After all, they've been planing Elena being sired to Damon since the start of Season 3, you don't put that much planning into a throw away story.
It's all down to trust, and I trust the writer's.

Wow, turns out I had an awful lot to talk about this week, so if you’re still reading, thank you for sticking with me! I’d love to hear what you make of all the shenanigans of this episode and the new development of the sire bond, so please chare in the comments below. And next week we have slumber parties with plenty of judging, flashbacks to Damon in uniform, and Elena wearing Damon’s shirt the morning after. I know I can’t wait…

If you’ve enjoyed this recap, other recaps, or any of my other reviews I would love if you’d take a minute to watch this video. I’ve made it to the top 10 UK book bloggers in a competition run by Mira Ink to win a position as their new in house editor, and in order to win I need to get as many views, likes and comments on this video as possible. It’s only 60 seconds, and would mean the world to me if you could check it out. Thank you!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Blog Ink - Round 2!

A little while ago I entered the Mira Ink BlogInk competition to find their new in house blogger, an incredible prize of a 12 month paid contract with them!

I was over the moon when I was picked to go through to round 2 as one of the top 10 finalists.
Round 2 meant recording a 60 second video about why I think I should be picked for this life changing opportunity. The resulting bout of insanity is now live on youtube, and it's over to you!

If you think I would make a great fresh voice, then I need your help! If you've ever loved reading one of my reviews, or picked up a book because of something I've said, or been entertained by my ramblings! Please could you watch the video, like it! Comment on it! Retweet it! Blog about it and generally get as many people as possible to see it!

Thank you so much for all your support!