Black Spot (Zone Blanche) Season 1 Episode 1: Stranger Comes to Town Recap

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Zone Blanche/Black Spot is a French/Belgian 2 season series, with 8 episodes per season, that’s available on Netflix. The show takes place in the mysterious, isolated village of Villefranche, which is set so deep in the primeval forest that the entire village and its surroundings have no cell phone reception- the black spot, or zone blanche, of the title. People tend to die in the forest, giving Villefranche a high murder rate, but the forest is a living presence which occasionally gives someone back. The villagers are closely connected to each other and to the forest.

Main character Major Laurène Weiss, the chief of police for the village, is one of the survivors who came back from the forest as a young woman. Many years later, she remains haunted by the experience. In present day Villefranche, another young woman, Marion Steiner, the daughter of mayor and business owner Bertrand Steiner, has been missing for months. Laurène spends her spare time in the forest searching for Marion, who was close friends with her own teenage daughter, Cora. Laurène bristles when an outsider, prosecutor Franck Siriani, is sent to investigate the high crime rate in the small village.

Recap

We are introduced to Villefranche using the the 1964 song Mr Lonely by Bobby Vinton. Visuals include the mountainous forest, ravens, fog, and an emergency phone at the village boundary line.

You’ve been warned, Mr Siriani. Enter at your own risk.

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Emergence Season 1 Episode 3: 2 MG CU BID Recap

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In episode 3 of Emergence, Piper develops a mysterious illness which forces Jo to deepen her investigation into the mystery surrounding her foster daughter. She’s led to a tech corporation, Auger Industries, and its head, Richard Kindred, played by Lost’s Terry O’Quinn. Ed also has a follow up appointment with the oncologist, while Alex tries to sort out the airband radio frequency.

Recap

The episode begins in the early morning, with Jo listening to clicks and beeps on her computer that she tells Alex are sounds she recorded from the pirate airband radio frequency. He offers to use some pattern recognition software to help her figure out what the sounds mean.

They move on to discussing how long he’s going to stay at the house. He’s still worried that the family is in danger, but Jo is worried that Mia will get confused and start to think her parents are getting back together. When Mia comes downstairs and remarks on how nice it is that they’re all together, Alex sees Jo’s point and says he’ll leave today.

Jo goes upstairs to wake up Piper, who’s supposed to go to work with her, since Ed has an oncologist appointment. Just before she wakes up, Piper has a nightmare that the bedroom door knob disintegrates and she’s trapped in the room. Jo discovers that Piper has a fever and leaves to get the thermometer.

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The Man in the High Castle Season 1 Episode 3: The Illustrated Woman Recap

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In episode 3, The Illustrated Woman, the characters react to the deaths and near deaths of the last two episodes with desperates attempts to protect themselves and to get revenge. The infamous bounty hunter, The Marshal, comes to Canon City, looking for his friend the SD agent. He proves to be even worse than the stories that were told about him. The Japanese crown prince and princess arrive in San Francisco and show themselves to be very aware of the local and international political situations. Tagomi and Wegener continue their scheming in relation to the royals. John Smith searches for the traitor in his midst who leaked his driving route to the resistance, but faces unexpected setbacks.

Recap

Joe brings Juliana back to his hotel room to help her recover from the shock of the SD agent’s attack. He wraps her in a blanket and gives her a shot of liquor. Then he confesses that he murdered someone once. He describes killing someone who tried to hijack the truck. It’s a modified version of the man he shot while escaping from the Nazis in New York, which wasn’t an escape at all.

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The Man in the High Castle Season 1 Episode 2: Sunrise Recap

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In episode 2 of The Man in the High Castle the relationships and events which will drive the rest of the series become much more clear. John Smith’s family is introduced and his son Thomas is held up as a shining example of Nazi youth. Smith and one of his surrogate sons, Erich Raeder, are attacked, showing that the apparent stability of the Reich is maintained through the frequent use of violent force.

In the Neutral Zone, Juliana and Joe get to know each other better as they await communication from their contacts. Juliana also gets to know a custumer at the diner. In San Francisco, tensions between the Germans and the Japanese continue to escalate. Kido, under pressure to find Juliana and the film, takes drastic steps to get Frank to talk. Frank must decide between protecting his family and fighting for the freedom he longs for.

Many of the series’ central themes are introduced in these first 2 episodes: The near impossibility of making rational choices about big issues when people one loves are in immediate danger and how that is exploited by torturers and oppressors; The choice between fighting and suffering for justice, possibly even dying for the cause, or surviving through moral compromise in the form of expedience, opportunism and collaboration; The incompetence, near apathy and disorganization of the North American resistance movement; The overall role of apathy and amorality on all sides in allowing oppression to continue; And the power of art, literature and music to influence hearts and minds, whether it’s the Christian Bible, Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, a catchy pop tune or an effective visual advertisement.

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Undone Season 1 Episode 3: Handheld Blackjack Recap

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In episode 3 of Undone, Alma tries to resume her normal life, Jacob begins to tell his story, and we begin to wonder just how bad an influence he would have been if he’d been alive through the girls’ teenage years. Alma, along with everyone but Jacob, questions her sanity, but she also finds a couple of new hobbies. Sam takes up a new hobby, too, gaslighting his girlfriend when she’s already in a delicate mental state.

And y’all wonder why I’m always so suspicious of men- even the nice guys.

Recap

Alma pops out onto the street at dawn in her pajamas with no idea how she got there. Well, some idea. She’s either sleepwalking or sleep time traveling. A neighbor yells at her to go back inside and put some clothes on. At least that’s what I think she said. It’s hard to be sure, since Alma doesn’t have her hearing device on.

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The Testaments by Maragret Atwood: Spoilery Discussion

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My non spoilery review of The Testaments is HERE. This post will comment on the book in detail and assumes readers have already finished reading it.

This is going to be a series of observations and analysis, in no particular order, rather than a straight review. I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks and if you agree or disagree with me. There are minor spoilers for the TV series The Handmaid’s Tale.

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Undone Season 1 Episode 2: The Hospital Recap

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In Undone episode 2, Alma wakes up in the hospital after her accident and discovers she’s been in a coma for a few days or weeks due to the severe head injury she sustained at the beginning and end of episode 1. Episode 2 is where the nonlinear storytelling aspect of Undone is at its peak, showing off the flexibility that the animation techniques used in the visuals give the narrative.

Cool as the visuals are, pay close attention to the use of sound in the episode as well. Alma’s hearing impairment isn’t just a plot device and the various environmental sounds in each episode aren’t just cool effects. Information is being warped and kept from Alma, by herself and by the other characters, and it’s through sound that we’re sometimes made aware of the missing facts.

Recap

Episode 2 begins with an overhead view of Alma’s accident from up in the sky, which gradually descends to ground level, then into the car, then focuses on her unconscious face. She’s slumped over the steering wheel, her forehead dripping blood, one arm thrown up over her head to try to break the impact. We can hear static from Alma’s cochlear implant, ominous musical tones and one long, high pitched whine, like the sound a heart monitor makes when a patient flatlines.

It could be feedback from the implant malfunctioning or tinnitus from Alma’s injuries. Or it could be that Alma flatlined. We’re never clearly told what her injuries were or how long her coma was. Though the narration appears to come from outside of Alma, there are strong signals in this episode that we always, and only, see what she sees and know what she knows, through her altered point of view.

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Prime Video’s Undone Season 1 Review/Episode 1: The Crash Recap

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Prime Video’s new animated series for adults, Undone, is a unique show that explores mind-bending themes, mental health and family drama in 8 short, 22-24 minute long episodes, making the most of its stellar cast and experienced animation team in each episode. Creators Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy (BoJack Horseman) used the animation technique of rotoscoping to give the series a surreal quality that takes it a step beyond magical realism.

Rotoscoping involves filming the actors in live action, then tracing over the filmed images to create a polished animated product. Undone is the first serialized TV series to be fully animated using rotoscoping. Probably its most famous previous use was in the film A Scanner Darkly. The same team, Minnow Mountain, did the rotoscoping on both that film and Undone.

Undone is the story of Alma Winograd-Diaz (Rosa Salazar), a young woman who is struggling with her goals and identity, in addition to the lingering trauma from her father Jacob’s (Bob Odenkirk) death when she was a child. Outwardly, her life seems Happy and Fine. She lives with her nice boyfriend, Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay), and has a decent job at a daycare center, working with her good friend and boss, Tunde (Daveed Diggs). (Who wouldn’t want to work with the voice of Daveed Diggs?)

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Book Review- An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose Book 1) by Charlaine Harris

 

book cover of An Easy Death

The first thing Gunnie Rose does when she gets her own book series is get a makeover haircut, to show how her life is about to go through some drastic changes. Gunnie Rose, who is also known as Lizbeth, actually has multiple reasons for her new look. She’s a 19 year old woman who lives in what would be the southwestern US, if she lived in our world, and her work as an almost magical sharpshooter keeps her outdoors most of the time, so her long hair gets hot and sticky. Plus her hair grows in long ringlets, which her boyfriend paid more attention to than he did to the rest of her, so she figured it was time to remind him to pay more attention to the person underneath the hair. But probably most importantly of all, since she’s called Gunnie for a good reason, the ringlets are dragging down her job performance and her reputation. She’s NOT adorable, okay?

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Book Review- The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments Cover

“Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.”

These are the opening words of The Testaments, written by one of the book’s three narrators, each of whom is already known to readers of the original book, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the acclaimed Hulu series based on the book. The words were written by the author of books, of course, Margaret Atwood, who once made a cameo appearance in the series as an Aunt.

In Gilead, Aunts are the caste of middle aged women who are in charge of other women, especially the handmaids. They are the only women who are allowed to be educated, including learning to read and write and having access to books.

In the novel, the author of these words reveals herself to be Aunt Lydia, spirited enforcer of the rules with a tendency to play favorites. The self awareness, dry wit and double entendre involved in the comment are indicative of the journey Aunt Lydia and Margaret Atwood are about to take us on. Lydia is honest with herself, if no one else, and has no illusions about what her place in history will be. But, unlike most of the women in Gilead, she chose her own destiny with her eyes wide open.

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