April 17, 2014

The Only Light in the Darkness ~ Art of Level 7

April 17, 2014  

Thought I was done for the day, but there's one more thing. Don't forget to get the third poster in the Art of Level 7 series. It's on sale tonight in the Marvel Store. You have to stay up until 1:00 AM PST Friday morning (4.18.14) for it, or just set your alarm to wake up for a few minutes and then fall back into a fitful sleep, dreaming of what will happen next. I love this because it's sort of similar to what I've had in mind since Coulson died in The Avengers: a lone cellist playing in the dark with a spot of light on her. My version had her facing forward and I imagined a sort of ghostly Coulson just behind her, not knowing how he would return, only knowing that he should. One day I may have a chance to actually draw it. Anyway, I have to buy strategically since I can't afford all of these and I already ordered "Providence." I have to wait and see what the next ones will be. Judging by the last two episodes and knowing how Coulson feels about Audrey, this will be another emotional roller coaster. Still I have to wait to see what's in store for the final three episodes, because I'm sure those will have no less of an impact.

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The Weight of Providence


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"There’s gotta be something here. This means something. This has to mean something. The world needs us. Hydra is out there. We cannot let them win. We cannot let them define us. Do you understand that? We are not agents of nothing. We are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that still carries weight. It – it has to carry weight. After everything we’ve been through, that carries weight!"

Every episode has a moment that defines it. This is that moment in "Providence." In fact, it defines Coulson and the entire show and brings tears to those caught off gaurd. It's said with conviction and passion at a time of sheer desperation. It's poignantly written and acted and assures me that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will remain a favorite for years to come. To those who got off this Bus early, you're missing an intricate story weaved of past threads that has exceptional moments of growth between the characters and unexpected betrayal that actually stings. You're missing terrific performances from a talented cast, no one member of which is weak in any way. You're missing an experience connected with a wider universe, which is self-contained enough for the emotional impact to resonate independently of that universe. You're missing the humor that disarms and the darkness that humanizes. You're just missing a beautifully-crafted series.

*If GIFs are not syncing, please clear your cache. So, yeah, I meant to split up "everything" to be more centered, but I forgot and then work came in. Now I'm busy. :(

April 10, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Limited Art for Providence

April 10, 2014  

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I skipped out on the poster for "Turn, Turn, Turn." I didn't know how incredible and game-changing that episode would be. Since there are to be six posters and I can't possibly buy them all, I was going to wait, thinking that the later episodes would be more important. But Ward's actions last week were such a shock. No wonder they started with that one. "Providence" will be an emotionally trying one for the remaining agents now without a member they had come to rely on, who was part of their family, and with S.H.I.E.L.D. gutted and useless.

The more I look at this poster the more I love it. I first noticed how beautifully the characters came out. As the episode tease shows, our beloved agents are literally out in the cold. This poster, capturing just an expression of each one of them, lends the weight of being compromised and broken. Then I noticed that the now Hydra shield is actually a brilliant mix of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. I was going to attempt something like that, but this one is better than anything I could have come up with. That sealed the deal. I think I need to set my alarm for this. For more details about the meaning behind the artist's choices, please read the interview with executive producer Jeffrey Bell at 'Agents of SHIELD': New initiative art teases team divide -- EXCLUSIVE.

Available in a limited edition of 100 at the Marvel Store on April 11 at 1:00 AM PST. Soooo...I'm getting up at 4. Yay for being on the East coast.

April 9, 2014

Tune, Tune, Tune in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

April 9, 2014  

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*** Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen "Turn, Turn, Turn." ***

They hide in plain sight. They earn our trust, our sympathy. They make us like them. And when you hesitate, they strike.

"Must write about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." That was the note I wrote myself just minutes after watching "Turn, Turn, Turn." I was going to do it some time later this week, but immediately the words came flooding out. I haven't written a lot about AoS lately because another new favorite show, The Blacklist, wouldn't let me stop thinking about it, writing about it, or making GIFs during my free time. I would always plan on doing something for AoS, but then something always got in the way. By the next time I had a moment, usually taking the entire week, I would be writing about The Blacklist again, because I was so taken aback by how incredible it was, and I was and still am completely caught up in the what-the-hell are they to each other relationship of Red and Liz. But I regret that I lost all this time that I could have also been praising Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I need to better balance my time between these shows in their second seasons.

For existing in a world of superheroes, AoS lives firmly in a beliveable reality precisely because it infuses spot-on emotion, great action, and fun dialogue in the face of the more out there aspects, which is what so many shows with fantastical elements don't seem to grasp. My favorite series tend to start with episodic elements and introduce an undercurrent of a larger story, and I adore how this series has slowly but consistently teased out a number of mysteries and is now bringing those threads together in a frantic end run to the season finale. It made us quickly fall in love with all these multifaceted characters, showed us who they are through their actions and relationships, and ties into a larger world, the way the excellent Marvel movies have been. Unlike those gotta-have-every-answer-now people who prematurely abandoned the show because it didn't regularly feature recognizable comic characters and completely self-contained, mind-numbingly simple to follow storylines, I've known from the beginning that #ItsAllConnected. It needed to establish itself and stand on its own. I always trusted Joss Whedon and the terrific people in his 'verse, especially now Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, to deliver on a promise of excellence and imagination, and I trusted the actors to provide the humor and heart that they have done in spades.

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to go to Captain America: The Winter Soldier before this episode aired. I was busy and I was going to see it this weekend. I knew something would be spoiled if I watched "Turn, Turn, Turn," maybe the best episode of the season so far, and certainly the most devastating. I wasn't wrong, but that won't ruin the movie for me and only enhanced the episode by being far-reaching. I never imagined how far they would really go and so soon. So much has already happened to these characters in the first 17 episodes. Just as a reminder, they had to learn to work as a team; Coulson came back from the dead and was physically and mentally tortured; Simmons and Skye both nearly died; Ward revealed an unspeakable part of his childhood; Ward and Fitz were sent on a suicide mission without an extraction plan; Skye was revealed as an 0-8-4 (object of unknown origin), who people had died to protect; Mike Peterson, the first person they saved, was turned into Deathlok, fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D because he has no choice; T.A.H.I.T.I. turned out to be a not so magical place; GH325, a powerful regenerative drug synthesized from an alien (Kree?), saved Coulson and Skye; and May became someone Coulson no longer trusts or considers a friend.

After everything, the biggest reveal was still yet to come in the final scenes of "Turn, Turn, Turn." I can't imagine how it can get more devastating before the season's end. Ward's is the kind of story decision I both hate and love. It's a beautifully done show, and a choice like must be a hard one. It takes a character we trust and completely changes everything we thought we knew. At least that's what it looks like. In the end, after he did what he did, staring at the blood, hardly hearing "The Clairvoyant's" words, he seemed sad, lost in the sudden betrayal and brutality of what he had done. Could it be because he had to, not because he wanted to? I will keep hoping that's the case until I see the next episode.

The series has always conveyed the feeling that these are good people in a very dangerous world. It's hard to accept for the moment that there was a deadly traitor in the ranks. It's a very disconcerting development since Dalton was always playing it as the good guy, as a cold-blooded, sociopathic Hydra agent would have to do while biding his time. Now I will rewatch these first episodes and see every action and word as having an ulterior motive. Everything is spinning out of control. This is a great decision to keep the story fresh and interesting. If things didn't happen to test the team's loyalty to each other and our loyalty to the show, then what would be the point? This is the kind of writing that keeps me coming back for more. It makes it more difficult to watch but unveils pieces of a deeper story that those of us who stuck with the show were certain was there all along. "Turn, Turn, Turn" is the kind of episode that makes or breaks a series and it's not even a finale. It absolutely made it. It was executed perfectly and with all the emotion of everything that's happened and the possibilities of more mystery, adventure, and poignant loss and revelations to come.

Don't forget, you can get the AoS poster for Providence at 1:00 AM PST on Friday, April 11, in the Marvel Store. I'm now sad I missed the Turn, Turn, Turn poster. Even though I didn't have the money to get them all and I thought the following ones might be more my taste, this was an episode well worth commemorating.

April 4, 2014

Almost Human Deserves a Second Chance

April 4, 2014  


It's April already and the fate of Almost Human still hasn't been decided. I had no idea what I was going to say about that. I've been keeping quiet because I've been so busy with various deadlines, and I sincerely thought I was out of words. I've been getting tired of not knowing, tired of most shows I love getting the axe before proving themselves. But I read the latest Almost Human Task Force post about having a tweet out this Saturday at 8:00 PM EST, during what was supposed to be a repeat of "Straw Man," urging Fox to tell us so that we can either finally breathe a sigh of relief or say goodbye to this intriguing series that didn't get a full season to prove itself. Suddenly I had thoughts pouring out. I barely had to edit it, they came out so perfectly. This only happens when I'm trying to get to sleep, she says grumpily. At least now I know how I want the beginning to end, with a polite plea...

Dear Fox Executives,

Fringe may not have been the huge hit Fox had hoped for in the beginning, but there is no denying that, when it was given the chance, it was a brilliantly done piece of sci-fi drama that was emotionally deeper than almost any series. Being from the same passionate people, specifically Joel Wyman, I'm positive Almost Human can reach similar heights. Just like most genre shows, which admittedly appeal to a much smaller group than the mediocre, easy to follow formula that pervades television, Almost Human needs time to grow, to develop its back story, which already introduced a few intriguing mysteries. Certainly not every series can be a hit out of the gate. There are a lot of factors at play, and true quality should count for a lot more and be praised.

Of course, I don't have knowledge of what happens behind the scenes. I'm sure you get flak all the time, because even the worst show has fans, so I wouldn't want to add stress or presume that your only consideration is money. But it didn't seem like Almost Human had very much support. Like Fringe, I never felt it had a fair shot or the advertising behind it. Like Firefly, the episodes seemed disjointed because they were aired out of order, which I'm sure put off those who didn't know what was happening, only that it didn't make sense in terms of continuity. And starting so late in the season, after everyone's TV schedules are filled to capacity, could not have helped. This instills no confidence in viewers, who then decide to wait and see if a show will be picked up for a second season before spending their time and tears on it.

Almost Human is one of those shows that people should get a chance to discover. There is no shortage of memorable moments, and Michael Ealy and Keith Urban were really made to play opposite each other, their characters so funny and charming in their own ways and each possessing a good deal of the ever important heart that a good show uses to become great. There is so much untapped potential here, so many stories to tell, so many funny lines to deepen our bond. This show inspired action by its fans before it even existed and we have been let down too many times in the past. We know what you did for us with Fringe, taking on a monetary burden to finish a story that a small but enthusiastic audience was yearning for. Please prove that wasn't a one-time fluke. If Almost Human is given the chance it deserves then we will know Fox is committed to cultivating loyalty and excellent television, and the current fans will redouble our efforts to bring in new blood.

Erin Bates

The Art of Level Seven


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Remember when Fringe did a special series of posters celebrating the show just before the end? It was a very cool collection, and I bought three of them - at $43 a piece. Then I also had to buy frames for them. I spent a pretty penny that I shouldn't have but really, really wanted to. Now Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has their own series of 6 posters, released one at a time over the coming weeks, that are designed to tie-in with the last episodes of this season. They are limited editions of 100 for $50 each, so choose wisely if you don't have more than $300 to spend.

The first is Turn, Turn, Turn, depicting our beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. team trapped with a rat in a maze. The site says it's backordered, but for some reason I can still add it to my cart. So does that mean it's not actually sold out? I have no idea, but I'm going to wait and see what the next ones are anyway. I would have mentioned this when I heard about it on Wednesday, but I ran out of time. They go on sale on the Thursday before the new episode for customers in the United States only. Unfortunately, the sales start at 1:00 AM PST, which means if I want one really bad then I will have to either stay up until 4:00 AM or never go to sleep. I find that ridiculous. I will be sick the next day if I do. I really have no chance, but I'll keep checking back. There may be one I can't live without.

March 31, 2014

Ivan and Red and Liz

March 31, 2014  

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I think at least once every episode of The Blacklist I have thought, "That couldn't have been a more perfect scene." But in "Ivan" I got the one moment that I was absolutely sure, even with all the unpredictability this mystery provides, was inevitable from Red and Liz's first meeting. And it couldn't have happened any sooner or any better. It reinforced Red's love for Liz and showed a significant step forward in trust. That's all I wanted, because they are important to each other...and we still don't know why! Which I am so happy with. I love all the teases and everything that can be interpreted a number of ways. It's a joy to think of all the possibilities.

Subjective evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, some of which I agree with when looking at it from a certain perspetive, to me this moment felt father-daughter, even if he's not, which is just as likely as anything else: the way he held her, kissed her, and rested his head against hers, an expression of contentment on Red's face, Liz closing her eyes and letting herself be embraced, where before she often tried keeping a distance and took every opportunity to remind Red what she thought of him. The theory that they're related in some way hasn't been unequivocally disproven, and only concrete answers will convince me of what their relationship really is. Until then I am open to and ready for anything.

I noticed that Liz recalling that her father would lie in bed with her and hum that song the music box was playing, the box Red spent the whole case building, showed only that he has more intimate knowledge of her than she ever knew. Red barely said a word and acknowledged nothing, as is his way, always either dancing around issues with an amusing change of subject or stiff and tight-lipped, seeming to want to say something but unable to allow himself; he just listened to her and held her. That scene can also play as a shipper's dream or, more simply, a friend comforting a friend. I'm still entertaining all of the other ideas I have had since the beginning - uncle, godfather, family friend, guardian angel, and even the dreaded pawn in a dangerous game theory. I have always been drawn to the idea that Red is Liz's father, but I didn't make it up because of any desire for that to be the case. It was the feeling I got from how much he longed to be with her even before she knew him. He has a strong bond to her that has been hurting him by keeping it secret. If it turns out not to be, then I will celebrate the shippers, because I'm all about the story. It's not mine to tell, only to enjoy. From what I know already about where the series has been and how much it has given, there is no way it can disappoint.

The more mysteries they sprinkle in this show, the more my mind spins off in different directions. I adore the speculation. Speaking of which, boy, has the timeline thrown me for a loop. I have always wondered if there was more than one child that Red lost. From the beginning I thought maybe it was Liz, since they were strongly hinting towards that, but also that it wouldn't be so straightforward, and soon after came the girl in the photo. She was likely dead since she was a cleaner's trophy, so they had to be different people. Maybe neither is Red's daughter, but that photo was the first hint that he was really profoundly broken.

Then there was the daughter at the end of "Frederick Barnes," who would have been young enough to forget her father if she was alive today. (All Red said in "Madeline Pratt" was that "all there was was blood," but he didn't mention bodies.) I previously thought that the memory of her was a time close to the tragedy, the last good memory he was clinging to of his happy little girl playing and laughing in the yard. I didn't think she could be the same girl as the one in the photo until they introduced the ballerina, who struck me as looking similar. So they could just be using two girls to represent Red's memories of his daughter at different ages. The ballerina was maybe eight years old, the Swan Lake performance took place three years before the night that changed his life, and the girl in the photo didn't look much older. So I came back around to thinking maybe his daughter (or one of his daughters) really did end up in Stanley Cornish's tub. I sincerely hope not, because...just wow. It would explain his barely contained rage while telling the story of the farmer in that intensely mesmerizing scene from "The Stewmaker." What he did to Stanley would be completely justified from his point of view.

And to complicate things more, there was also Jolene/Lucy. I went way out there and thought maybe a kidnapped daughter, because Red recognized her in ViCAP. Since she was then later introduced in "The Alchemist," an episode about criminals stealing the lives and taking over the identities of the innocent, as someone who was supposedly dead, I thought maybe she was impersonating a loved one of Red's. When he had no emotion over her death at the hands of Tom, any thoughts that she was family disappeared. But did he know her? Did she turn on him? So many questions, my head might explode.

Even without yet revealing the whole truth, The Blacklist has consistently been one of the most emotionally devastating and fulfilling shows in my life. I don't often connect this strongly with a story or character. It has been a nice slow burn, the bits and pieces revealing themselves only when it's time, making it far more emotional than if it had been given up quickly, which would have created a terrible feeling that all of it was unearned and, therefore, shallow and pointless. The brilliance of The Blacklist is in every drop of heartache that spills from James Spader.

On a sidenote, after I wrote this I realized I was probably going to regret it, still not picking a side, restating the possibilities I love most. I was busy writing and GIFing, but I took a timeout to check a few Blacklist posts and discovered that there are still people putting others down for their opinion. I didn't read further, because I didn't want to be angered and waste my time. Some people need to realize that while they can share their theories and the "evidence" to support it, they have no right to deride others' equally valid theories. As of "Ivan" there is still only speculation, what we project from our own experiences, imaginations, and desires onto the story. Until we are given concrete answers, there is no right or wrong. Ships, please keep sailing. Those who never boarded, keep hoping they're related. And those still stuck in the harbor, I know how you feel. ;)

March 26, 2014


March 26, 2014  

I didn't realize how much time had passed by and now I've just about run out of it. Isn't that always the case? I knew it would have to end someday, but damn if those 8 years didn't fly by. If I had been sure this was the last season, if USA had made it official before the season started instead of just before the last five episodes, I could have had a fitting tribute ready. Instead, my final goodbye to Psych will have to be brief.

I never said much about Psych here. Maybe because it's not one of those shows that is beautiful but always in ratings trouble, making me feel I had to contribute to the effort to save it (Fringe), and not a heart-rending mystery that begs for speculation and interpretation at every turn (The Blacklist). I hardly ever talk about comedies in general, though they are a big part of my life, because there's not much to analyze. That doesn't mean they are any less important. There are multitudes of moments to laugh about together, characters to adore and remember forever, pop culture references to randomly blurt out in conversation, nicknames that will always remind us of the good times. After a depressing drama, a gut-buster like Psych is a necessity. Hopefully, the finale is as successful at finishing the show as Monk, my other favorite USA Network detective comedy. Most series don't get the opportunity, and when they do they often don't do it justice. I've read that I have nothing to worry about.

Thank you, Psych. You made everything better when nothing felt right.

Though the show is ending, you can find the cast on Twitter: James Roday, Dule Hill, Tim Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Corbin Bernsen, Kirsten Nelson, Kurt Fuller. Use tonight's hashtag to say goodbye.


Now I leave you with a clip from tonight's finale, "The Break-Up."