DVD Marathon: Dollhouse’s Season 2 is a satisfyingly awesome mindtrip

So I’ve been looking for the DVD of Dollhouse’s Season 2 (2oth Century Fox) since the show ended (dang you, Fox! How could you cancel such a great show?!?). I finally found one during my forays into, ehem, pirated DVD shops (it can’t be helped…it’s where the kick-ass DVDs are).

So I loaded it up into my player and, armed with food that can last me three days, ample supply of water and a good recliner, I sat back and enjoyed the show.

Whedon's dolls: (from left) Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Eliza Dushku, Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams and Harry Lennix

The season picks up where they left off last season: Echo (Eliza Duhku) was kidnapped by Alpha (Alan Tudyk) and promptly uploaded with dozens of personalities until it would seem like she was going to implode, Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker) is revealed to be one of the top active dolls, Whiskey, before she and Alpha went awry, FBI investigator Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) bargains with Adelle de Witt (Olivia Williams) to let Mellie (Miracle Laurie) go, in exchange for working for the Dollhouse, Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) is now chief of security, actives Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman) are falling in love with each other and Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) is still the excruciatingly annoying, but brilliant scientist that he is.

Season 2 ups the ante a bit. Echo is now revealed to be more special than the other dolls. Despite the fact that Alpha almost fries her brain to kingdom come, Echo manages to survive the procedure intact and is back doing engagements and treatments for the Dollhouse. She has begun to have memories of previous engagements and personalities she has embodied. A trip to the Washington office of the Dollhouse, during the time she gets embroiled in a controversy about a Senate  Inquiry into the Dollhouse and manages to get kidnapped by the other office, accidentally unlocks even more of her potential. Guest psycho doctor, Dr. Bennet Halverson (Summer Glau, at her brilliant best as the strange doctor) who happens to have been a friend of Echo in the past when she was still Caroline, uploads many personalities into Echo, but uploads a different program that will enable Echo to still exist as the central personality. Echo manages to control the different personalities, and recall and suppress them at will, but not without a cost: her mind and body are deteriorating at each engagement (official business or otherwise) and it is a matter of time before her mind totally gives way to the different demands of each persona in her. She thus has a limited amount of time to control the different personalities and be able to use them to free the other dolls in the Dollhouse before she is caught and put in the dreaded Attic, boxed and stored and never to be used again. Little is explored about Echo’s past, although the episode with Dr. Halverson reveals that she has had a shady past with a more unreliable, criminal, selfish self. What this season concentrates on is how much she evolves, both as a character and as a doll. As each episode progresses, and as she is able to access each personality within her more and more easily and freely, we see her being empowered and being able to finally take control of her destiny and of the other dolls.

An interesting sidebar to this is the budding romance between her and Ballard, who resists any temptation, even during the time when they were cooped up together training Echo for what’s to come. Ballard gets to have some screen time with Mellie, too, and he is shown to be consistently virtuous, but the real complex characters are de Witt, Boyd and Brink.

There is a part in the Dollhouse when de Witt is ousted as the head of the L.A. office. As always, Williams delivers as the steely, conflicted, morally compromised and confused de Witt, obsessed with power, control and a sense of her own rules and protocols. When she loses her power and position, and is exposed to have had her own engagements, especially with the doll Victor, she is revealed to be vulnerable as well, but a moment’s weakness from Brink when he reveals that he has created the deadliest technology yet for Dollhouse, shows that de Witt is still capable of betraying newfound principles of honesty and integrity in order to get back her power and position.

Brink is a surprise in this season. When he finds out, through Echo, that Sierra is being abused over and over again by one client over a series of repeated engagements, and the client requests that Sierra be turned over to him for good, Brink reveals himself to be capable of moral redemption. UP to this point, as de Witt describes him, he has no morals and he views human beings as toys to be played with, so his sudden interest in trying to save Sierra from a fate worse than the Attic seems misguided and hypocritical. But this moral dilemma shows Brink struggling to save Sierra, and the consequences of his actions provide an interesting insight into his character.

Sierra and Victor’s past and present, together and apart are explored a bit more in this season. Sierra is revealed to have been a former budding painter artist. A doctor who was obsessed with her was  responsible for driving her insane and for putting her into the Dollhouse. Victor used to be a soldier in Afghanistan traumatized by the war. He had hoped his signing up with Dollhouse would make him forget whatever happened in the war.Their engagements and their unfolding love story, are a treat to watch in this film and provide an interesting respite from Echo’s altruistic, Messianic imperative.

Overall, I liked this Season. While, as I said, Echo seems to have developed this altruistic, Messianic calling to free the other Dolls, and Ballard reveals himself to be just effing virtuous, so that both have turned boring, the presence of the other, more interesting supporting characters, make this show still worth watching. The real suprises are Brink, Boyd and de Witt – who all are such well-rounded, complex, conflicted, perpetually morally ambiguous characters. The most fun to watch are Sierra and Victor. Though relatively unknown, actors Enver Gjokaj (Victor) and Dichen Lachman (Sierra) are brilliant as the dolls who are forever getting into different characters. Gjokaj was particularly a joy to watch trying to play Brink’s annoying self, scary as the psychopathic, murderous, rich mama’s boy,  and was hilarious as the persona of the college girl that Echo was playing,  while Lachman infuses each character or persona with the right touch of elegance and vulnerability. I particularly liked her playing the haughty, snobbish, politically incorrect socialite who didn’t like “Orientals” (Lachman is part-Asian) and said as much to Brink’s assistant, Ivy (Liza Lapira), who happened to be “Oriental” herself.  Echo took a break from her boring life as the Super Doll to channel the airhead version of Buffy Summers,when she took on the persona of a vivacious albeit annoying college girl. Her accusing Chaucer (or Chauncey, as she is wont to call him) as a poet who can’t spell, and likening the “F” she got for her report on Chauncey as akin to having an “F” on her chest like that scarlet letter, were hysterical.

As for the storyline – well, it is also interesting, as it discusses corporations and their responsibility and accountability to the public, the mind, the collective consciousness and the collective unconscious, the neverending debate on what makes us us, what makes the mind tick, memory, destiny and life in general.

Final sidebar: points and kudos to Joss Whedon and company for snagging Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) who plays an ambitious, vindictive senator in the show, who doesn’t know he is a doll himself, Summer Glau (Serenity, Firefly) as Dr. Halverson and Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber (Apollo Adama in the show), as the rich arms dealer/smuggler married to one of Echo’s many personas. The scenes with Bamber and Penikett seemed like some kind of BSG reunion and I suddenly found myself missing BSG (BSG! Why did you have to end?!?) If the show had gone on, I would have looked forward to guestings from other Joss Whedon regulars and alums (Sarah Michelle Gellar! Alysson Hannigan! more Summer Glau! Can you tell I’m a geek?).

This is a really entertaining, thought-provoking season overall and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new show to be obsessed with.


Buffy Studies 101: All the things I know about break-ups I learned from Buffy

So, in the previous post I said that I thought there was a romantic prospect on the horizon. Well, that was a bust! It came and went in the space of a week and thus I must needs go to the “Gospel of Buffy” to find some measure of comfort and truth in Buffy. I think maybe Buffy can help me get over this heartbreak.

1. Did your groom just leave you at the altar? No problem. Go back to being a demon!

2. Is your girlfriend the emotionally unavailable Chosen One? No problem. Go pay vampires to suck your blood then rejoin the Initiative.

3. Did your girlfriend dump you because you are using way too much magic? No problem. Use more magic.

4. Did your friends bring you back from the dead not knowing you were in Heaven because you are The Chosen One? Sleep with the vampire you hate the most and have earth shattering sex.

5. Did your girlfriend stab you through the chest and send you through a demon portal because your evil alter ego was about to bring the apocalypse? Come back, leave town and establish your own private investigation agency.

6. Did your girlfriend die from a gunshot wound because The Chosen Ones nemesesis (grin) accidentally shot her whilst trying to kill The Slayer? Go bad, suck the magic out of everything, skin your enemies alive and destroy the world.

7. Did you just propose to your girlfriend thinking it’s the end of the world but suddenly change your mind because you’re not ready? Wish for a musical demon to make everyone burst out into song. Then after, right before you get married, abandon your bride at the altar, disappear and appear again demanding that the ex-bride you just abandoned at the altar take you back again. And watch as she tries to eviscerate you.

Hmmm….I don’t have a lot of choices from the above, do I? What I want to do now though is become a vengeance demon. But since that can’t happen, I think I shall go for just randomly bursting out into song and joining an organization that will make me travel to other places. Wish me luck!

All I Ever Really Learned About Love & Relationships, I learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and other shows besides)

So there’s a potentially interesting dating prospect on the horizon and since being the hardcore geek that I am, I am always lost and stumped as to how to go about this, I have turned to television shows to help me deal with people who may potentially be the next partner.

I have realized that in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s six season run, it has quite capably tackled the very thorny, tricky issue of navigating the murky waters of relationships, something that now proves handy in light of the circumstances. Sure, nobody past 3 years old watches television to improve his/her mind, much less turn to TV to help you with relationships, but I find that all you’ll probably ever learn about relationships you’ll learn from TV. Or more specifically, Buffy.

1. If the object of your affection looks pale, only comes out at night, and has mysteriously long, sharp canines, think twice about dating him/her.

2. If the object of your affection doesn’t look pale, isn’t a night owl, and doesn’t have fangs, but cannot explain the impeccable posture, the alertness in his eye, or the many shades of fatigues in his closet,  then he’s probably working for a secret government organization out to shut you down.

3. If the object of your affection isn’t any of the above, but likes to float pencils, make spells that make friends into demon magnets, go blind, or marry the next git that comes along, then think twice. She may be gearing up to be addicted to the dark arts…and get you killed in the process.

4. Is the object of your affection your mortal enemy? Is she your complete opposite? Does she stake your kind? Do you bite her kind? Brace yourself. You’ll probably fall in love with her. And get yourself dusted in the process.

5. If the object of your affection used to be a demon, you’ll probably fall in love with her. Everybody loves obnoxious thousand year old demons!

6. If the object of your affection is a geek and a dork, is a drifter, bounces from one job to the next, is prone to making stupid, pointless jokes in the face of danger, is given to commitment issues, living in his parents’ basement and spanking, then you better not date him. When he proposes marriage, turn him down, like, right now.

7. If the object of your affection’s girlfriend just died, is a recovering addict, is prone to making friends disappear accidentally, and making herself look like the guy who killed her dead girlfriend…duck. Then come on to her shamelessly, til she gives in and sucks the power out of you to open a portal to another dimension.

8. If the object of your affection is a self-sufficient, self-reliant person prone to keeping things to herself, has a lot of responsibilities (say, like saving the world from an apocalypse), is prone to not having time for you because she has duties like taking care of a younger sister who’s also a mystical key that can open the portal to an apocalypse, a dying mother, a friend who just left his bride at the altar, another friend who’s a magic junkie, in short, not really there there for you then maybe it’s time to re-think your relationship prospects. Confront the object your affection, but if nothing happens, then it’s time to go to rejoin the secret government organization instrumental in your meeting and go down to Guatemala.

9. If the object of your affection is a spoiled, rich, trust-fund, boarding school hottie who is into you right from the get-go but doesn’t get your addiction to magic, and pursues you like hell on steroids, don’t panic. This will probably be the best thing that ever happened to you. Try it. The most unexpected is usually the most surprising, and the most fulfilling…unless until Season 8 comes into the picture.

10. It is possible to be friends with all your ex-es, no matter how terrible the relationship may have been. Some of them turn out to be your best friends, too, and save the world because of you.

11. All you need is love. Love is the one thing that triumphs over you staking your evil boyfriend in the gut right after he summons an apocalypse, condemning him into a demonic dimension, and it is the one thing that triumphs when he comes back and should be hating you but instead loves you even more, loves you so much in fact that he leaves so you don’t have to make the choice of choosing him over the world again. Love is the one thing that makes you die for your loved ones. Love is the one the thing that makes you quit your addictions and obsessions. Love is the one thing that helps you triumph over fear, grief, pain, death. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, just when you think you have nothing more to give, just when you think you can’t take anymore of what life can give you, you find the strength in love. In the end, what matters most is that love is still, ever more, stronger than death. 🙂

Have a great week!

11 Things I learned from watching “Battlestar Galactica”

Just finished watching Season 5 of “Battlestar Galactica“, arguably one of the best sci-fi television shows ever produced ever. My eyes are bloodshot, I am tired, but it’s all worth it, considering it’s a great show.

Since I have finished watching it, I have come to realize some important things about the human race and everything else, and I would like to write it down for posterity.

1. When robots evolve, all they’ll ever want to do is reproduce…with each other and with humans.

2. When robots evolve, the first thing/s they want to look like are a) Xena, b) a hot-looking Victoria’s Secret model, c) hot Asian chick. Oh, and the guys look okay, too.

3. Time travel is always an acceptable solution for any kind of impending extinction of humankind (please see the new “Star Trek” movie to illustrate this point as well).

4. When robots evolve, and are able to look human, they will only choose 10 faces and multiply that by millions, and have each one called by a generic name like “Six” or “Eight”  to confuse viewers.

5. It is possible to have cancer and live through 50,000 crises and only die at the very end of the show.

6. Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) is awesome. Scary, but awesome.

7. You can be a woman and still be a) the complex president, b) a complex admiral, c) a complex lead fighter pilot, d) a complex villain  with intelligent lines.

8. Even if you are the most vile, dorky, deranged (but smart!)  villain in the fleet, for as long as you are  Gaius Baltar (James Callis), you will almost always get laid by a Number 6 (Tricia Helfer), anywhere in the universe (or multi-verses or alternate dimensions or time).

9. Even old people (William Adama and President Laura Roslin, Col. Sol Tigh and Ellen)  in the future have sex lives.

10. You can die and come back again for as long as you are Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff).

11. All this has happened before and will happen again.

12. Robots are humans too.

13. Battlestar Galactica rocks. 🙂

Now, for a trip down memory lane, the BSG cast on the David Letterman show.

DVD Junkie: Found “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” Season 2 (yay!)

So last year, in search of interesting things to watch and entertain myself with while I was in London, I came across a little-known anime show entitled “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, which is about a girl who one day, in a fit existential depression, realizes how insignificant she is  and how she must change the world to make herself matter and thus inadvertently, by conscious evolution, changes the world. Is she a god? An alien? A powerful being? It’s anyone’s guess. But this is one of the best shows I have ever watched so far. Plus, it’s really funny.

If you haven’t watched it, get thee to a DVD shop and buy yourself one of these!

DVD Junkie: “Popular” is actually just an earlier version of “Glee” (and all other teen TV shows besides)

So here’s why I think Ryan Murphy’s “Popular” got cancelled after only two seasons: falling ratings is one, yes, but the other reason could also be because while it had a great first season, it could not be sustained in the second season.

Here’s the thing that I don’t quite get: the second season starts off really nice and funny, with all the pizazz and in-your-face coolness that so defined season 1. So, where did it go wrong?

Well, half-way through the season, whilst trying to control myself from the incessant yawning-inducing episodes I was watching, I realized why: the season just didn’t seem as good as the first one. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s still funny, and the nasty, snarky banter is up to par with the first season, but there was still something missing. Maybe it’s because American high school TV shows always seem to have the need to come off as PSAs whenever they run out of good stories, rehashing the same old storylines from other teen TV shows that have come before it: Alcoholism? check. Domestic violence? check. Drug abuse? check. Cancer (or any variation thereof)? check. Drunk driving? check. Teen pregnancy? check. Pre-marital teen sex? Check. A discussion on doing it vs. abstinence? check. Some form of eating disorder? check.  Death? check. Homophobia? check. Some form of coming out and a discussion of coming out? Check. Hate crimes? check.

If you think I’m kidding, please see previous American TV shows, re: Beverly Hills 90201 (the original one, not the remake), Party of Five (didn’t one of the characters used to be an alcoholic?), Felicity, and before that, when I was growing up, High School Confidential and Degrassi Junior High. We can probably go waaaay back and dig up some more of the same actually.

To illustrate my point, consider the following in the second season of this show:

1. Picture perfect all-American cheerleader, Brooke McQueen (Leslie Bibb) has an eating disorder.

2. Lily Esposito (Tamara Mello) has an addiction to cough syrup. It was just one gulp actually. In the Philippines, that would be considered experimenting, not an addiction.

3. Harrison Ford (Christopher Gorham)  develops leukemia.

4. Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels) finds out she’s adopted and spends the rest of the season looking for her biological mom.

5. Carmen Ferrera (Sara Rue) has an alcoholic mom and is a domestic violence survivor.

6. Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) has a tax evading mom and becomes poor.

7. Sam McPherson (Carly Pope) struggles with her interracial relationship with what seems to be the only black guy on campus.

And the bad thing is, when it all gets dramatic, the comedy falls flat, and just seems all the more appalling. In one episode, April Tuna (Adria Dawn, who looks like Tilda Swinton’s love child), the Star Trek loving, overachieving, socially inept geek from hell is mistaken for the one who dies in a car crash accident and people joke about it. That’s just in bad taste. The show really shines when it’s being satirical, ironic, hysterical, over-the-top,outrageous and campy. And who can resist camp?!?

I also did not realize how many stereotypes this show was perpetuating as well. You have the blonde, all-American golden-hearted jock football jock Josh (Bryce Johnson), the blonde, all-American cheerleader who wants to be taken seriously, Brooke (Leslie Bibb), the dark-haired geeky, rebel without a cause, Sam (Carly Pope), Sam’s geeky bestfriend who’s in love with her, Harrison (Christopher Gorham), the sexually ambiguous/ambivalent butchy chemistry teacher, Bobbi (Diane Delano)…the list could go on.

In fact, I just realized how much this TV show seems more like “Glee”, which is also a Ryan Murphy production. The football jock with the heart of gold is still there, so is the pretty, blonde, All-American cheerleader, the dark-haired geeky rebel (who now just happens to be Jewish), the sexually ambiguous teacher, except now she’s teaching PE. The token African American person in “Glee” is now a girl, there is a token Asian American girl as well and an Indian principal. The only thing that makes “Glee” interesting is the music and Kurt. We’ll see what else “Glee” can deliver this year.

“Popular” came out in 1999. “Glee” came out a good 10 years after.

It’s nice to know that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Guerilla Geek books and DVDs: Salmon, Faust, Star Gate and Cheerleading

Spent Saturday scrounging around for books at SM Booksale and National Bookstore, then going to my suking DVD shop for my weekly dose of DVDs. Spent Sunday morning napping, had a lecture at 1pm on how to make effective résumés to HRM students at Teacher’s Camp here in Baguio City. Sweet, short and nifty, that. Had lunch of mussels and some wine after at SM.

What I have managed to dig up at the booksale:

Salmon spawning

1. How to Travel with a Salmon by Umberto Eco –  I have Umberto Eco’s “The Island of the Day Before” which I never seem to get finished. I always get stuck at Chapter 1. I guess I should have bought “The Name of the Rose” instead – but “The Island” was on sale at National, The Name of the Rose was unavailable, and since I’d been hearing a lot of positive reviews about Umberto Eco decided to read one and see what all the fuss about. Verdict? Should have bought “Name of the Rose” instead. However, “How to Travel with a Salmon” is actually not too bad. In fact, I am so far, liking it. I bought it primarily because I love salmon, both as metaphor, inspiration and food (not necessarily in that order) and because since this is a collection of essays, I figured maybe Umberto Eco is more interesting as an essayist. As it turns out, he is interesting. In fact, he is that, and more. I still haven’t finished the whole book, but I am so far loving it. His sardonic, snarky sense of humor and his detailed amusing accounts of traveling with salmon, trying to get a driver’s license, surviving customs and immigration and traveling by train calls to mind my own experiences of trying to get my own driver’s license, going through customs and immigration, traveling by train and by plane. I wanted to tell him, come to the Philippines, where getting a driver’s license is as easy as buying a stick of Marlboro cigarette at the neighborhood sari-sari store.

2. Goethe’s Faust translated by Walter Kaufmann – Okay, so I don’t know why I bought this one. I already had a hundred year old, dusty,musty, hardcover edition of this book (bought at 10 pesos or something) bought in the Ramos administration way back in college. But I saw this paperback edition, with the left hand side in the original German, and the right hand side in English – and I realized I had to buy for those days when I have run out of stuff to read and must thus read that stuff that I have to read but haven’t found the time to. Plus I saw the translation and thought it was a better translation than the one I already have. Plus, it was translated by Walter Kaufman, who translated the anthology of Friedrich Nietzche works that I have and I liked that translation. Nuff said. It looks pretty nifty.

I must say, actually, I should put a moratorium on my book-buying habit. I’ve got so much books to read, I’ve got books coming out of my ears! IN fact, I think my books are spawning all on their own, so much so that when I try to clean up my room or get rid of books that don’t need to be kept, some nook or cranny reveals some long-forgotten book I didn’t know I had bought long time ago.

Anyway, feeling a little guilt at having bought a couple books, I go to the DVD shop to assuage my guilt, only to realize that I find myself feeling more guilty as I leave the shop with a couple of DVDs: Ryan Murphy’s (he of “Glee” fame) now-defunct, two-season TV show, “Popular” and Ming Na’s new TV show, “Stargate Universe”. The lady at the DVD bookshop had offered me the DVD of “True Blood” and some other TV shows, which I vehemently refused, and I told her, “I have so much to read and watch. You’ve recommended so many DVDs to me I don’t even have time for a social life anymore! IN fact, all I ever do is watch DVDs! I have no friends! Ya hear me? I have no friends!” The lady laughs and says, “You have a friend. I am your friend.”

Funnily enough, that doesn’t make me feel better.

But no matter! I am happy to report that I may have to chuck the Battlestar Galactica DVD. It ain’t working, and the first few scenes I’ve seen of the premier is pretty much ho-hum. The only thing that makes this interesting is Ming Na but she isn’t the star, so when she isn’t in any frame, it’s boring. Even the presence of Robert Carlyle isn’t doing it for me.

Now, “Popular” though is another thing altogether. I’ve had apprehensions about buying it. But I remember it when it was first being shown on TV, at Studio 23, and from what I had seen (I hadn’t followed it as religiously as “Buffy”) it was entertaining and funny. It had shown at the time when I was busy with school and work, so. Plus DVDs weren’t invented yet, or the fine art of DVD marathons, so. But! I have since started watching it and I must say, this is one cleverly written, witty, hilarious, snarky, sardonic, ironic little TV show. It’s a bit like Buffy, except without the vampires or demons or staking and slaying and action. All the action happens in the dialogue, which is tight and nasty and funny, even when it talks about serious stuff like bulimia, anorexia or the scary stage in a person’s life that is puberty.

My favorite has always been Glamazon cheerleader Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) and Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels, Melissa Etheridge’s girl), who light up dull scenes with their easy, nasty banter. Whether trying to turn pre-pubescent wanna-bes into p0pular types by requiring them to read Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War” and Nicolo Macchiavelli’s “The Prince” (call them shallow, but never call them stupid. They read, these cheerleaders!), or calling each other hos and sluts, or going off to vomit before a big pep rally, or making life miserable for all those who are not popular, these two are always fun to watch. I think of them as Buffy’s Cordelia, Anya, Glory, Harmony all put together, plus every other bitchy character ever created on TV. But more fun.

And who can forget that androgynous chemistry teacher, Bobbie (Diane Delano) who rocks as the unforgiving, unapologetic, single, overweight, tough teacher from hell? Also, blink and you’ll miss Michelle Krusiec (“Saving Face”) playing Exquisite. I blinked and I missed her the first time. Then again, she was the token Asian, so she’ll just register as such in your consciousness. But I think the most interesting here has to be Carly Pope’s “Sam MacPherson”. What can I say, brainy types are hot. 🙂

There are a lot of memorable quotes here, so I suggest just clicking here for the full list. 🙂

In the meantime, I have got to go. Must finish el reading and el watching.

Buffy Studies 101: Buffy & the Scoobies vs. the “I-just-want-to-be-a-snake”Mayor – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 3)

Had a blast watching Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer again on DVD (ah, season 3…good times, good times…reminds me of my college days).

What I liked about this season:

1. Witness the first appearances of beloved characters – Anya! Faith! Mostly Anya!

2. Witness recurring characters – Ethan Rayne! Jonathan! Joyce! Joyce having sex with Giles!

3. Witness the return of good Angel – Ah, Angel (David Boreanaz). You are still the bestest vamp love interest for Buffy. Okay, Spike comes a close second.

4. Witness pre-Wicca, pre-lesbian Willow being straight – Latent homosexual that she is (=insert grin=), with the seemingly absent angst, identity crisis or the pointed checking out of hot girls we are always so prone to doing (=insert another wide grin here= ), Willow seems to be happily ensconced in straightsville. Then again, it takes the right woman to make any (seemingly, ostensibly) straight woman gay (=insert diabolical laughter here=).

5. The First makes it first appearance here – Oooh, now I so get Season 7 references. Yay!

6. Witness Vamp, bisexual Willow from alternate universe vamping it up with fuzzy, straight Willow from the main universe – Probably my favorite episode from this season.

7. Witness Buffy getting psychic abilities – Best part of this episode: Oz revealing how awesome he is. His most interesting postulation: if Buffy can read our minds, does that mean we exist in Buffy’s mind only? We think, therefore Buffy exists. Descartes would have been proud. 🙂

8. Witness the spectacular season finale – I wish my graduation was as awesome as this one. Sans the mayor turning into a snake, the eclipse, the fighting, the fellow graduates armed to the teeth, the explosion. Er, on second thought, maybe I’ll settle for my ho-hum graduation.

Buffy studies 101: Bidet of evil vs. Buffy (The best of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7, is the last season of, possibly, the best fantasy show ever on television. 🙂

In this season, the first, the original, the most ancient and most dangerous of evils, “The First”, declares war on Buffy, Faith and all the potential slayers that ever existed and will exist in the world. This comes about because Buffy has upset the balance by having come back from the dead. The First is thus killing off all potential slayers, and is out for Buffy and Faith’s blood. The first has taken up residence in Sunnydale’s Hellmouth, and has recruited the best and brightest of evils, among them, all the villains Buffy has ever encountered and battled, the Turok-Han (the ancient vampires), an army of devoted eye-less, tongueless minions and demons. AS Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) races against time to

The BVTS Cast defeat “The First”, she must also deal with recovering witch and best friend, Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Faith (Eliza Dushku) coming back into town, Anya (Emma Caulfield) and her deadly, murderous vengeance demon ways, absentee-watcher/father figure Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Spike (James Marsters) and his ambivalent, ambiguous ways brought about by a newly-recovered soul, her younger sister who’s slowly growing up and taking an interest in her slaying ways, and a whole army of potential slayers, led by the annoyingly bratty Kennedy (Iyari Limon), who are looking to Buffy for leadership and inspiration as “The First” threatens to annihilate the world.

1. Season 7: the season of closures – the best thing about this show and this season is the fact that Joss Whedon et. al. has never let down its fans. Every loose end ever untied in this show is tied, every character in need of a closure confronted and dealt with. Hence Buffy deals with Angel, Spike, her watcher, the first slayer, her friends (and the fact that she has a propensity for trying to kill each and everyone of ’em), her death/s, her power and her ultimate destiny and what it means for the world. Willow deals with Tara’s death, and her attraction to potential slayer Kennedy. Xander and Anya deal with their failed relationship. Faith deals with Buffy and their (almost homoerotic – I just had to say it!) relationship. Giles deals with Buffy, Buffy with Dawn, Buffy with her past life and her future.

2. Kennedy – Yeah, the pierced tongue is sexy, but I am a staunch Tara fan, so. ‘Nuff said.

3. The First – Because obviously the harder the evil to fight, the cooler the story.

4. Anya – Because she was a vengeance demon with a conscience. Because she thought making spells with Willow was sexy (the look on Willow’s face? Priceless). Because if she’s not having sex, nobody else should. Because she is not afraid to use other people as shields to protect herself (at least Andrew anyway).

5. We finally get some girl-on-girl action – Better late than never, is what I say. Even though it was in the third to the last episode. 🙂

6. The fascinating dynamic of the Scooby gang – I am still amazed at the evolving complexity of the gang, the consistent inconsistencies, how everyone can be so loyal to Buffy at one point, and betray her by ousting her as the defunct leader of the army of potential slayers. I liked the complex, tender relationship that Buffy finds with and develops with Spike, even though they both know Buffy does not love Spike. I like how Anya and Xander develop the same kind of relationship as well.

7. Faith is back! Yay! – Because Faith is awesome.

8. Best use of word ever – “Bidet”. As in “bidet of evil”. The only other thing that comes close is “tumescence”. Nuff said.

9. Blink and you’ll miss Ashanti and a whole slew of familiar Hollywood faces
Yep, Joss Whedon et.al. were not stingy with the guests. This was a spectacular season for guest stars. I’m surprised Tara didn’t make a cameo. IN fact, she was the only one who did not show up – as all the people who have ever appeared in this show – from Angel, to Joyce, to Glory, to Adam, to the Mayor and the Principal, have all appeared. Then again, I didn’t see Cordelia or Oz, so, that evens it out.

9. The spectacular finale! The Action! The metaphors! The symbolisms!– Buffy proves to the worthy general of this army of slayers. She brilliantly orchestrates the activation of all potential slayers through a spell Willow makes, making every potential a full-blown slayer. And of course action-wise, this season does not disappoint. Blink and you’ll miss the subtle metaphor of having one slayer every generation as planned by ancient male shamans, to that of the control of female sexuality by males (contraception, female genital mutilation, the reproductive health debates ). Awesome, no? Makes Buffy’s decision to give every potential slayer power all the more sweet and powerful. 🙂 The message is none too powerful: you have the power and take control of your destiny. This is feminism at its best, made all the more awesome by the fact that it was helmed by a male creator (Whedon) and that it succeeded in its message without having any stupid, preposterous, pointless PSA (like those things in The L-Word).

IN other words: Buffy is the best show evah!

Now must go back to reading John Burdett’s “Bangkok 8”. Awesome book!

GGJ: DVD Junkie discovers Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse”

So when I heard that Joss Whedon was 1) doing another show with 2) Eliza Dushku, I was beside my geeky self. 🙂

Afterall, part of the fun of watching Buffy on TV was seeing the interesting dynamic between Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Faith (Eliza Dusku). Besides, Eliza Dushku rocks.

So I found me a DVD copy of “Dollhouse” season 1 and it lay on my bed untouched while I re-watched Season 7 of Buffy (Geeky, much?).

When I was finished with that I popped the DVD into my laptop and have been addicted since.

What can I say? It’s an awesome show.

It looks like a more mature Joss Whedon at the helm – but mark my words, he hasn’t lost his touch for irony, wit, humor and loads of that nuanced, sensitive storytelling combined with a riveting plot, a giant government conspiracy, a massive evil corporation, mysterious characters with checkered pasts, morally ambivalent (probably delusional) villains, and at the center of it all, an ever-growing stronger (uber)hero, Echo (Eliza Dushku) who is slowly resisting the imprints and evolving and regaining her will.

The story is about a giant, advanced tech, secret corporation, the Dollhouse, which has discovered, through its (annoying) tech guy, Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) that they can, much like computers, program humans: wipe away their whole identity, personality, past, and upload different personalities – personalities which are pimped to the highest, richest bidders in politics and business. Headed by Adele DeWitt (Olivia Williams), the Dollhouse is run like a top-secret, underground, regimented, peaceful Eden, with its “dolls” living like clueless, serene zombies until an “engagement” takes them outside into the real world. What happens though is that while Topher believes his systems and methods are full-proof, and that the “dolls” will never cause problems, such as old, original personalities re-asserting themselves, dolls going berserk, residual personalities coagulating into one doll and creating composite, suicidal dolls.  The rise of “Alpha” (interesting name that – can it be more obvious?) who goes on a rampage and almost succeeds in killing everyone, makes the Dollhouse’s existence a bit more fragile but guarded. However, Echo has shown signs of evolution: while she is still responsive to the “treatments” (the mindwipes Dollhouse does to its dolls to erase previous personalities), Echo as Echo can and does think for herself, and as a different personality, consistently shows creativity, innovation against all odds, a mind of her own, an instinct for survival and of saving other people, and exhibits memories of her previous original life, and of past personalities downloaded on her.

The story isn’t anything unfamiliar: Atom Egoyan’s “Dark City” was premised on the idea of a dying alien race which kidnaps human beings to understand what makes humans “human”. They do this by getting all the memories of the humans and mixing them up, injecting them in each human, hoping doing so would help them survive more. One of the subjects evolves and begins resisting the experiments and defeats the aliens (still one of my all-time favorite movies). “The 13th Floor” was premised on mind-trips as well, as is “Existenz”, “The Matrix” trilogy, “Gattaca”,  “Surrogates”, “Neuromancer”, and many others besides. At the same time, it reminds me of “Being John Malkovich” as well – in that at times, the show goes to the metaphysical level and asks interesting questions about humanity. And it also calls to mind “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”  – the idea that you can erase someone’s memories, but you can’t erase that person’s essence…or the person’s destiny and proclivities. The show actually even reminds me of a better, cooler, more well-written version of James Cameron’s now-defunct “Dark Angel” (and other TV shows with similar storylines, like “Mutant X”): superhuman hero, evil organization, scary, villain, good story.

And yet, while the premise is familiar, Joss Whedon still succeeds in making it his, making it original and creative. Ultimately what makes this series interesting, and worth watching,and worth investing money on is the fact that it is a thought-provoking meditation on self, identity, personality, identity, consciousness, the subconscious, essence, existence, soul, spirit, self-determination, free will, choice, reality, freedom.

And in the end, this is what makes this series worth it:

Because at the core of it is an exploration, finally, of what makes us human.