Things I Liked – May 2019

So, I didn’t Like anything in April because I spent the whole month watching, and writing a novella’s worth of blog posts about, Game of Thrones. But now we’re out the other side and so I can start enjoying things again. Having said that, let’ start with:

Game of Thrones Being Over

I don’t mean this to come across as negative and, ironically, I mostly mean it as a defence of the criticisms that were made of the last season  but I probably wouldn’t have bothered with Game of Thrones Season 8 if it hadn’t been the finale. I realise this is a somewhat controversial opinion but I very much don’t think that the journey is more important than the destination. I mean, if it was people would take holidays in airports. And obviously some series (both in visual and print media) are essentially just a sequence of self-contained episodes that don’t really need to go anywhere (it’s fine to jump into a series of Friends for example). But GoT was always telling one, over-arching story and sometime around 2016 I was very much feeling that the story not being finished and not looking likely to finish any time soon was making the story worse. Was it a perfect ending? No. Was it better than the series dragging out for another five or six years? Definitely.

Also, now I can do other things.

Shirley Curry

This is kind of late to the party thing—in the sense of me being late to mention, rather than me being late to discover. I’ve been watching this 79 year-old-lady play Skyrim for, honestly, probably about as long as I’ve been playing Skyrim but I mention her now because I found a thirty-minute documentary about her while I was idling on Youtube. And even if you’re not the sort of person who’s into Let’s Plays (which I’m actually not, unless I really like the player) I really recommend watching the documentary. It’s really encapsulates how charming and … like it’s really hard to observe that a person who might not be expected to know their stuff knows their stuff without coming across as patronising … but how like that she is. I think there’s always something really important about being able to see someone who doesn’t fit the expected demographic for a hobby engaging with that hobby in basically the same way as everybody else. Plus, it’s nice to be reminded that the internet can be a good place as well as a horrible pit of shit and vitriol.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 5

This one of the those things that I thought was amazing the first time I watched, then thought wasn’t as good as I remember it being when I went back to it, and now I think is amazing again. It’s particularly interesting when you look back on it in the wider context of TV before and since because it stands right on the transition between the episodic television that dominated the late 20th century and the long-form or arc-based television that dominates the 21st. And on one level I’ll always feel a bit disappointed that Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 contains very few memorable episodes (unless you count the one where Joyce dies) since virtually all over it is about the Dawn/Glory/Key/Death-Is-Your-Gift thing and there are perhaps two monsters of the week if you’re being generous, and one of those is some people from the South.  And that’s partly my bias because I really like monster-of-the-week type shows but it’s partly that I’m always a bit uncomfortable citing Season 5 as the best of Buffy when it’s actually so very different from what Buffy was both before and afterwards. What is, though, is an absolutely brilliant end to Buffy’s five season arc.

Slight aside—and I will stop talking about GoT in a second, I promise. One of the criticisms that often gets made about the later seasons of GoT and, often, the later seasons of a great many TV shows is that it “feels like fanfic” and that always bothers me because I think it’s very easy to shit on fan-fiction when, firstly, it’s actually a really interesting social phenomenon and, secondly, especially when things like TV and comics are concerned it’s not like any of these properties are designed by a single creator to begin with. And what I like about Buffy Season 5 is that it kind of feels like fanfic when fanfic is doing one of the more interesting things that fanfic does. Which is, taking the source material and thinking about it more deeply and more seriously than it ever has been in canon (in the same later seasons of DS9 read like fanfic of Star Trek and much better than the earlier seasons of DS9 which read like, well, Star Trek).

More than at any other point in the show, Buffy Season 5 gets really interested in what it means to “be the slayer.” And not in a wanky S6 “well logically if you’d spent your whole life fighting vampires you wouldn’t have learned any skills that are useful in the real world” way. Viewing the five series as a whole there’s this really satisfying arc where Buffy grows from being a slightly shallow, relatively ordinary teenager in season 1 to a competent fighter-of-evil in seasons 2-3 to a leader in season 4 to an actual mythic hero in season 5. Then it’s musicals, the Doublemeat Palace, and speeches. But I’m trying not to think about that.

I might come back to this later because I can say about lot about Buffy but for the sake of brevity in what’s supposed to be a summary post here are some bullet points:

  • Unpopular opinion: I actually think Dawn is really important and works really well. Now Willow and Xander are more competent on their own Buffy has no-one else she cares about who needs her protection. Dawn does that job—and I like the fact she’s annoying a lot of the time because, hey, kid sisters are.
  • Semi-popular opinion: I don’t mind that Buffy winds up closer to Xander than Willow. They’ve always actually had a lot more in common—they’re both kind of goofy, and not especially academic, and have the same sort of troubles reconciling who they are with their place in the world. Willow, on the other hand, is this intense-as-fuck genius who, had she not been born on a hellmouth, would have left Buffy and Xander behind, and gone on to be, like, Speaker of the House or something.
  • Moderately-popular opinion: Spike/Buffy in S5 actually works really well if you forget the fact that the writer’s forgot the fact the whole point is that it would never, ever work and she isn’t interested. I think it reflects well on Buffy that she inspires something like nobility in a someone fundamentally irredeemable and it reflects even better on her that she never loses sight of the fact that he’s still a bad person and there isn’t any expectation that she’ll reward his devotion with, um, sex or, for that matter, approval. Again, trying hard not to think about S6 here.
  • Highly-popular opinion: Giles is awesome.
  • Just sort of generally an opinion: Glory is a great villain, and the actor is clearly having the time of her fucking life, which just sort of infuses the character with this kind of unholy joy.

Videogames From Ages Ago

I picked up the most recent piece of Crusader Kings II DLC in a Steam Sale and have been happily watching my mighty Viking rulers die ignominiously of diseases that would be wholly curable in the 20th century. This is what makes Crusader Kings II fun. Take my word for it.

I’ve also got back into Stardew Valley. I … don’t know why. I just love this game so much. It’s basically a Skinner Box but it’s a really, really good Skinner Box.

And I’ve been playing Skyrim again. Which, weirdly, I have enjoyed a lot more this time round than the first. I think the problem with videogames, over any other creative medium, is that they have a very difficult relationship with expectations because you sink so much time and effort them (and, actually, I really will stop talking about GoT soon, one of the things big problems with S8 of GoT is that, for a lot of people, it’s the culmination of something they’ve been invested in for twenty fucking years). After all, if you read a book (apart from, say, epic fantasy septologies that aren’t finished yet) and it’s not what you hoped it would be you’ve only wasted a few hours. If you watch a film you don’t like, you’ve wasted even less. But if you spent 160 hours playing a videogame that never quite takes you where you want to go then … you can really fucking resent that. And I think my issue with Skyrim was that, as a diehard Morrowind fan, it felt and I apologise for this because I hate the phrase “very dumbed down” at the time.

But going back to it with a clearer of what it is and isn’t actually trying to do, I’ve been able to appreciate the streamlined design, and the gorgeous world. So basically I’ve had a blast.

And finally…

Having failed dismally to stop talking about Game of Thrones, here is a picture of Bran Stark and the Night King sharing an umbrella.

  1. I have a book coming out soon.
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4 Responses to Things I Liked – May 2019

  1. Lea says:

    Please write more about Buffy! My favorite author writing about my all-time favorite TV show??? YES, MOAR, PLZ!!!! /dies

    I apologize for not adding to your discourse,
    but I love seeing how your brain works through your analysis of other stories. It’s fascinating, and you make me think.

  2. Ellie says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed other things besides GoT, though I admit I enjoyed your posts about the series very much. For me the thing I liked the most in May was GoT, with all its problematic aspects, it still had moments of brilliance and very much like you, I appreciate that the story is finally complete despite erhe bittersweet ending.
    Another thing I liked this past month is rather a personal own but my daughter finished kindergarten and will be starting school in September. The “graduation ceremony” was very emotional for me.
    I also went to the theatre, something that I haven’t done in ages and saw a popular and critically acclaimed local production (historical revolutionary play) which I absolutely loved!
    Not a bad month overall 🙂

  3. Kelly From Houston says:

    Love reading your thoughts, whether GoT related or not

    I am currently liking ZA Maxfield’s “Deeper” trilogy, since I’m waiting (with breath held) for your next book. Love how you just dangle that quick statement at the end there. Is it the next Billionaire book?? I had to stop reading #2, as it was giving me actual chest pains. I need to know I can go straight into #3 without stopping! However, I will be relieved to have more of your stories no matter what they end up being.

    Thanks for all your thoughts and stories, they are always entertaining and educational, my favorite combo.

  4. lawless says:

    In some ways,S5 would have been a better end for Buffy that S7 was.

    I disagree that Spike was irredeemable, though. Unlike Angel, who had a soul forced on him, Spike chose to get one. That doesn’t mean Buffy is obligated to love him or sleep with him, but it does mean he’s making an actual choice.

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