Saturday 21 May 2016

Some Thoughts On: The Raven King

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)
Maggie Stiefvater
April 26th 2016

******Will probably contain spoilers for this book and the whole series just as a heads up******

I'm not going to try and write a normal review for The Raven King, because quite frankly I don't even know if I'm capable of doing proper reviews any more, and this is not the book or the series where I want to figure that out. That, and my love for this series transcends that of something which I can properly review, as I am completely biased and I *will* fight people about these books. On that note, this is also won't even entirely be about The Raven King on its own. Rather, it's a chance for me to go on and on and on and on and on about how much I love these books and Blue and those darn boys.

My biggest fear about The Raven King, as is always the case with final books in a beloved series, was that it wouldn't be a good or fitting ending. I did not need to be worried. Rather than reaching the climax that I think most people, or at least I, was expecting, it took a very different direction and I was glad for it. There were definitely times in the first half of the book where I was wary or just completely lost about what was happening or what it was doing, but it worked. I never really know where these books are going to go, and that's one of the things I love so much about The Raven Cycle. It's not that they're unpredictable, it's that they're like being trapped in a dream where you're a little bit confused about what's going on, but are happy to just float along with it until it reaches its destination. I don't think I've ever read a series of books that felt so much like being inside someone else's dreams, and it's so weird and magnificent and heartbreaking that it all feels as though it exists on some completely different mental plane to my own and I love it. I don't know that I'll ever find a series of books that quite fill the gap that this series has left in my life, for this reason and for many others. I haven't cared this much about a series in so long that I've forgotten just how weird and empty it can feel for those first few days when you realise that it is the end of that journey, and you'll never get to experience it for the first time or in the same way again - both a good and a bad thing, I think.

Let's talk about the thing that makes these books so great though: Blue and her raven boys. Honestly, I love these guys so much and I think that it has everything to do with how much they all love each other. I remember, when reading the first book, that I didn't really like Adam. I had clicked pretty much immediately with Blue, Ronan and Noah, but Adam and Gansey I wasn't sure of. I don't know how I could think that now. If any of them were missing, nothing would be the same. They all matter so much, both to each other and to the narrative. Now, I'm not going to lie here, I still have my favourites (Blue and Ronan, because I am very predictable), but they're basically all equal in my heart. Which, on a sidenote, may actually be the cheesiest thing I've ever written, but I'm feeling sappy so I'll let it slide. Really, anything could have happened in this book and I don't think I'd have minded so long as I got to spend some more time with Blue and her boys. Something about all of them is so irresistible and inexplicable and honest, and they are almost entirely the reason why I care so much about The Raven Cycle.

The other reason is just my own amazement about how a series of books about a bunch of weird kids who, by all means, should actually be unbearable, looking for the body of a Welsh king who they think can grant wishes can be so damn brilliant. I don't think that the plot is the strongest point of these books, in all honesty, though that's not a disservice because really they're all more character driven anyway, but I love how it all works together. There's a lot of intricate plotting that comes full circle in The Raven King and it's definitely a series which would benefit from being read all in one go, as there are a lot of things just about the series as a whole which make a lot more sense having read The Raven King. Also, may I just say how apt it is that the series is called The Raven Cycle. Stupidly, I was not expecting it all to come together in the cyclical way that it did, and if I'm entirely honest I'm still kind of not sure what happened, but I liked it anyway. I love how the book dealt with Gansey's death, which surprised me because I am usually all on the side of angst and characters remaining dead, but I think it was the right way for this series to go. I also loved how it dealt with the disappointment about Glendower, and what that meant for the gang and for the series. On the one hand, I was expecting something big and exciting and Final Book-ish to happen, but having read The Raven King, I think it ended in the right way. It wasn't really a big ending in terms of action, but it was huge in terms of emotion, which is what i am HERE FOR. GIVE ME ANGST FOR DAYSSSSSS.

Basically, I love this series a lot and I don't really know how to articulate a lot of my feelings about it. Seeing as we've gotten to this point in a fairly sensible manner, I'm going to take this time to just yell and hopefully the rest of my feelings about The Raven Cycle will reach you. 


There we go.

Nonsense aside, The Raven Cycle is one of, if not actually, my favourite series and you should read them, though if you haven't and you've got this far sorry about the spoilers even if I did warn you. If you have read them, feel free to scream incomprehensibly in the comments/at me on twitter. I will understand. 

Monday 28 March 2016

Some Thoughts: Daredevil Season Two

The first season of Daredevil was something that I loved a lot. I liked Jessica Jones more, but Daredevil was first and it was really indicative of Marvel doing something different to its usual MCU fare (which I love dearly, may I just add). Also, let's be real, the first season of Daredevil was just really well done. It was flat out just good television, for the most part, and so obviously my own personal expectations for its second season were high. Which is why I probably should not be so surprised to have found myself generally quite disappointed. Obviously I'm not a critic or anything, but I do love think about why these things work or don't work for me, and I have a *lot* of opinions about these sorts of things and I don't really have anywhere else to put them other than forcing them on my unsuspecting friends and family members. It seemed the obvious conclusion to just start blathering on with my opinions on here because I'm not exactly doing anything else with this blog. So, with that in mind, here are some of my feelings about Daredevil.

There were actually a lot of things that I liked about this season. I don't think that it was weak across the board, it's just that the main plot and character let it down. The main weakness of this season for me was the fact that it felt so unfocused and so unfinished. Compared to the intensity and well paced, well crafted structure of the first season, it all just felt like a bit of a mess. After over a week of mulling over my thoughts and talking them out with one of my friends who watches the show, I still can't figure out who the main villain of this season is. Yes, The Hand and Nobu, but they were never even mentioned until episode 5 or 6. In a 13 episode long season, it just seems poor to only introduce what is allegedly the Big Bad until halfway through. If you are going to try and do The Hand, why would you try and shove it all into about 8 episodes when it really needs a whole season that doesn't come with the added distraction of the Punisher. On top of that, the Hand plot wasn't even particularly well done. It was lazy and generic - it's still unclear what they actually want to do or why they want to do it. The Punisher plot was actually the most interesting and engaging thing about this season for me - Jon Bernthal did a really incredible job. I was not expecting to care about the Punisher *at all*, but I was genuinely in tears at the amazing monologue at the end of episode 4. That was possibly my favourite scene in the season. But I still wonder at the decision to try and do the Punisher and the Hand in one short season, especially in such an unbalanced way. It's not even as though their plots come together in any sort of satisfying manner. They really had nothing to do with each other at all, aside from bringing up a moral conflict about killing for Matt and to give Karen and Foggy something to do while creating tension with their respective relationships with Matt. It just all felt so unfocused and unclear which, while an apt representation of Matt's life at this point in time, does not make for good bingewatching. The plot issues only become more clear with bingewatching.

The plot issues may have been more bareable, or at least less obvious, if the season had had a better ending, but if anything it just cemented how little sense a lot of it had made. The final episode did not feel like a final episode at all, it felt like a mid-season finale at best. And had it been a mid-season finale and the season had had another 10-13 episodes to actually come to some satisfying conclusions and, I don't know, had any clarity, it would have been great! But it didn't. Instead we got a cool looking but ultimately kind of underwhelming final fight that was supposed to have some kind of emotional impact but just didn't at all for me. Maybe that moment was what the season was all leading to, but none of it felt like enough. It didn't have enough of a cool visual impact, it didn't have enough of an emotional impact, it didn't answer any questions about The Hand at all. If anything I just felt kind of annoyed and disappointed that this was meant to be the closure for the season. Nothing about the plot with The Hand was resolved! Like, at all!I don't know if you can tell how mad I am about this, but I am SUPER MAD. LITERALLY WHAT WAS EVEN THE POINT OF DOING THE HAND THIS SEASON AT ALL.

I will say though that I think I was pretty pleased with almost everything else about the show. So long as Karen, Foggy, Claire or Frank (the Punisher) was on screen, chances are I was happy. I'm pretty biased when it comes to Claire and Foggy because they are my favourite characters, but it did frustrate me that they got sidelined, especially considering how much I was enjoying their scenes compared with how much of a drag a lot of the Matt stuff was. However what screen time they *did* have was excellent, and as much as Matt annoyed me this season I would really appreciate it if Matt and Foggy would PLEASE just be friends again now. I cannot deal with all this fighting. Karen's plot also felt really strong and I loved the dynamic between her and Frank. A lot of their scenes completely stole the show and it addressed the whole 'Karen killing a guy last season' thing in a subtle but effective way. It's definitely not where I saw them going with Karen, but I was really pleased by it all. I am very about Intrepid Reporter Karen Page. But then again, apparently I just really like characters that are competent and good at what they do, like pretty much everyone in this show is apart from Matt. Sorry Matt, but honestly, you are a mess and a solid 80% of the reason why I like you at all is because Charlie Cox looks like a sad puppy and that is a face that is difficult to hate. 

One of the things that I am a bit concerned about with the success of Daredevil is that Marvel, and other studios, will see it as people wanting even more dark shows about sad/angry/guilty feeling white men who feel like punching things and being emotionally constipated in an r rated manner. Which is fine, but it's tired and for me personally it's not the reason that I like Daredevil at all. No, what they should do on the back of Daredevil, and Jessica Jones by extension, is embrace their new lawyer-superhero niche and make a She-Hulk tv show. Bear with me here - just imagine how cool it would be to see Jennifer Walters, Foggy Nelson and Jeri Hogarth lawyering the fuck out of something. Rather than a Punisher tv show (which, as great as Punisher was, I don't think would be able to sustain itself over a 13 episode long season.), I would much rather a She-Hulk series. It could be like the inverse of Daredevil - a lawyer show with some superheroing, a lawyer who can't have a secret identity because she is a giant green woman but who is a boss ass lawyer. I would LIVE FOR IT.

On another positive note that isn't related to my own wishful thinking, I think that whatever they're building up to will be really good. Well, it'll either be really good or a complete mess. But if they are going to go down the road that I think they'll go down, then I think that it could be incredible. I'm just not sure how I feel about the more mystical stuff that they're also building up to, because up until this point the shows strengths have, for me, really been in that grittiness (and I hate myself a little bit for even typing that sentence, because I usually *HATE* Dark and Gritty stuff as a lot of it feels Dark and Gritty for no reason other than because some people think Dark and Gritty stuff is just inherently better than other stuff? The darkness and the grittiness of Daredevil and Jessica Jones just works.) and the more grounded villains, as well as the supporting cast and the grounding that they give to counter Matt's kind of ridiculous sense of responsibility. The only reason that this season survived for me is because they had the Punisher and they had Karen, Foggy and Claire to provide a balance for all the bullshit that was happening in the main plot. And I'm excited to see what is going to happen with Elektra next season, even if I'm still not sure how I felt about her here. I think I liked her??

ANYWAY! Given the opportunity, I will go on about this shit forever so I will stop now. At least we have Luke Cage to look forward to! I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT LUKE CAGE and I really want to leave this on a positive, so farewell! Hopefully I will be back here soon to talk about more superhero shit that you may or may not care about but that I am far too invested in. Let me know how you felt about Daredevil!

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