The Anti-Ilvermoarnyey Rant

Okay, so I can’t help it. Everyone’s all excited about the new Pottermore reveals and honestly, each one has been pissing me off more and more. Chatter would have you believe that Potter-universe is a deep, wonderfully magical place, but there are giant holes and gaps that increase each time that Rowling posts a new bit.

All of my problems with the recent additions have to deal with J.K. Rowling’s blatant ignorance of American cultural history and present (something pointed out since the first posting). Sure, she wrote up a new magic school and you can get sorted into one of Ilvormony’s (is that misspelled? Not sure. Don’t care) houses! It ought to be cool as an American to have a piece of Potter-verse on our doorstep instead of being completely ignored (I mean, did the US, Canada, or Mexico get even one mention? What about the rest of the world?). Unfortunately, the new houses are stolen from indigenous tribes’ religions! As that second link points out, the ‘history’ that Rowling was setting up for North American wizarding world’s relations to indigenous tribes was bad enough in the first place, but this reinforcement is terrible.

Perhaps as bad as the Ilvermoney’s (Did I get it that time?) houses is the ‘histories.’ First, there’s no distinction made between Canada, US, and Mexico. We’re all lumped together as ‘North America.’ Time frames where incredible amounts of change happened are lumped together and glossed over that the lack of details makes the fiction meaningless. Harry Potter’s wizarding world has always been removed from the ‘Muggle’ or ‘No-Maj’ world (which, okay, what the hell? How does ‘No magic’ become ‘No-Maj’ and why is North America using a different name anyway? A multitude of languages has always been spoken on this continent, but if we’re predominately English, French, and Spanish speakers, why aren’t we using Muggle or another language’s word? No one would reinvent the wheel. If Muggle’s the Brit word since forever, then our word should be at least related to it.) Ahem, anyway, magic history and muggle history often seem divided, which honestly makes the wizards seem rather stupid. Why doesn’t Mr. Weasley know how to work the damn Tube station? People manage initial contact with the concept without having a teenager describe it to them. But particularly in the case of US history, divorcing the magic and muggle worlds is a huge slap in the face. Consider, for a second, coming from Virginia in the Civil War and getting a letter telling you to go north to learn how to deal with this weird crap you’ve been doing. Or being a slave-child or coming from a reservation and going to school that tells you ‘Never share your power with your (filthy) Muggle parents!’ Those examples are from over a hundred years ago, sure, but recent considerations aren’t much better. Conflicts were numerous (and ongoing) when America began desegregation, didn’t this affect the magic school as well? Everyone just, got along?

Oh, yeah, and despite the population of an entire continent, we only have one wizarding school? Where does that begin to make sense? My imagination has been running away with me on what America’s wizarding history ought to look like, and I can come up with six schools and one university just for the US. I will admit too much ignorance in Mexican and Canadian histories to write up schools for them as well.

I just find it completely ironic that Rowling’s twitter has been exploding with Brexit texts this week, even ones calling out racism, and she (and whoever’s beta-ing this shit) has completely participated in cultural erasure. As an anthropologist, I’m angry at the disregard for myth structures. As a writer, I’m angry at the lazy world-building. As a reasonable human being, I’m freaking pissed at the mistreatment of non-white culture. Stay as excited as you want to about the new products being unveiled this year, but this has firmly placed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in my “Do Not Watch” list.

Preacher: Take Me to Church

I’m sure in recent weeks the pun on Hozier’s song and AMC’s new show Preacher has been made more than a few times, but I couldn’t resist the urge. There’s something about the slow, steady rhythm and blasphemous nature of ‘Take Me to Church’ that fits right in line with the attitude and delivery of Preacher.

That delivery is amazing so far. I’ve enjoyed the show so much that I’m having hard time finding a place to start talking about it. The episodes are tense, character-driven, cinematic beauties with a dark humor and a flair for violence. What could wind up being ridiculously unbelievable characters are acted (and directed and written) with just enough down-to-Earthness to make the ludicrous things that happen sympathetic. Cassidy is just a fun loving guy (well, vampire) that just happens to wind up in these terribly bloody fights. Tulip is smart, clever, and completely capable of getting whatever she wants in a scene (respect, a map, surviving) except for Jesse. And Jesse wants a quiet no-hassle life but people won’t stop pushing for him to do his new job and he feels compelled to protect innocents.

I’ve only seen the first three episodes so far, but there’s some great dynamics happening with the main three characters and the other lead supporting cast. The relationship between Tulip and Jesse is the hardest to figure out so far, but that’s half the point of the presentation. The audience meets Tulip in the middle of a fight, who then goes on to prepare for the next wave of attack, protect a couple of kids by getting them out of harm’s way before the fight even starts, and then she’s off. While she gives a small speech about love during all of this, she never brings up Jesse’s name or any details about this ex of her. That part becomes clear later on. Without this early scene, she’d likely come off as the psych-exgirlfriend. She still does in some of her scenes with Jesse, but bits and pieces of their past are coming to light through the show and it’s obvious that something deeply traumatic and wrong happened–something that pushed Jesse away from their old lives and made Tulip cling to it and her mental image of Jesse even harder. There’s unfinished business and Tulip seems to need Jesse to complete, not because she needs her man, but because he was there when the business started. All parties need to be there to see it through–including Jesse if she has to drag him back kicking and screaming (which she just might at this point…) So, really, the greatest part of Tulip and Jesse’s relationship is the fact that it pulls double duty as a plot.

One of the other fantastic aspects of the show is the sets and cinematography. Like other AMC shows (Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels come to mind), Preacher‘s not afraid to use longer, wider shots. Instead of bouncing from face to face, as most shows do during conversations, Jesse and Cassidy lounge on pews, furniture, whatever’s handy. The show loves to feature the long, dusty road up to church. You get to see Jesse’s truck sitting in the background when he goes into a place. Basically, there’s a strong sense of world in this show that helps envelop you in its reality.

I’m really liking this show so far and hopefully we’ll get many more seasons of Preacher (and hopefully it doesn’t eventually disappoint like some things). Definitely go check out the first few episodes on amc.com or double check your On Demand for access.

Didn’t see this coming

Urban Fantasy is a genre filled with wizards and witches, vampires and werewolves, monsters and heroes. There’s so many books in this genre that it can be hard to find one, or even a series, that can keep entertaining for more than a few pages. Everyone seems to need a gimmick and that can make the world setting either unbearable or inconsistent. About eight months ago I stumbled upon the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. Almost literally too–I was in the library and just happened to pick it off the shelf to see what it was like.

In many ways, Verus is just like a lot of others in the genre. He’s a loner wizard with a couple of friends, a little bit of magic, and even more powerful enemies. However, he stands out in a lot of ways. Instead of becoming a massive superpower inside of a few books, Verus has actually been losing power in some ways. The books have been more about stripping Verus down until he’s relying solely on himself. His wits in the climatic moment have been the solution far more times than any grand plan (like Dresden) or sheer magical ability (like the Iron Druid or Anita Blake). Verus is a reactionary character, which is sort of ironic considering his magical power is divination.

That’s the beauty of the world setting here, too. Divination can be a tricky, tricky magic to have and that’s Verus’s one trick. In his world, if you’re good at one magic, you tend to only have the one magic. It seems to break down into mental abilities versus elemental abilities and about the only thing that can be used by most mages are gate spells, but that’s not something Verus can actually do on his own. Divination, or at least Verus’s understanding of it, doesn’t seem to lend itself to the gate magic very well. He also has a hard time looking far into the future because of a very basic world setting rule: Everyone’s got free will. This rule means that until someone makes a decision, it’s impossible to know what they’re going to do exactly. Verus’s magic runs more along the lines of predictions and probable outcomes–his magic basically makes it easier to compute what people are going to do given certain variables. In a conversation that can be tough, since people’s word choices change how the dialogue would go. Combat situations or long searches are easier for him to predict because the cause and effects are more formulaic.

One of the other big details I’ve noticed about Alex Verus is that it’s not very hard to interpret the character as asexual. Sure, a couple of times Verus has found a woman attractive, but he’s never really flirted with them. His bed’s unoccupied except for himself and that doesn’t seem to bother him in the least bit. (In fact, he’s so used to sleeping alone and being alone in his flat that in like book 2 or 3 it throws him off when someone’s sleeping out in the living room). Verus doesn’t go on for great lengths on how attractive the people in his world are. He doesn’t have a long list of ex-partners that crop up and make his life hell. Hell, in the seven books that are out so far, Alex hasn’t mentioned ex-partners, or trying to date. At this point in most series, the protag has had notable on page sex, but not Alex. He seems to like Anne and possibly wouldn’t mind coming to some sort of romantic situation with her, but he’s not obsessed with any one part of her anatomy. When she’s reintroduced each time, there’s no overture of how sexy she is and how much he can’t stop thinking of her. She’s simply Anne. The only key to how much Alex likes her is relayed through others, who point out that everyone else believes Anne is downright creepy. Alex never sees that in her, just treats her like a person like everyone else. There’s only one character in the series that has gotten the ‘attractive’ character tag multiple times in a row and Alex turns that around saying that the woman is the kind of attractive that makes her super-intimidating. The only other woman to which Alex showed a bit of obvious attraction turned out to be a charm mage–meaning that she was manipulating Alex’s hormones and brain waves into liking her (which when he figures that out makes her suddenly unattractive to him). In a genre where characters are often bumping uglies when they’re not dealing with monsters, Alex stands apart. I’m not sure the author intended for this to be true about Alex, but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope Alex stays this way.

The series does have some downsides (somehow, for being full of Brits, my brain isn’t translating them that way. It could be American bias, but I’m thinking there’s something about the syntax that’s just slightly off), so it’s far from a perfect read, but if you’re looking for something a little different in a genre filled with fairies, fireballs, and overwhelming odds, Alex Verus might just be the breath of fresh air you’re looking for.

“Fear” the Walking Dead

I’m not huge into zombie media. The classic monster type is at the top of ‘things that freak me out.’ Give me vampires or demons or any of horror’s other plethora of creatures, but please please please, not the zombies! Which is why The Walking Dead was such a surprise for me. I started watching it because so many people were talking about it and since I can never seem to get into sports, I need a conversation starter of some kind. So I downed the first episode and the second and then seasons. It’s not a perfect show, but there’s something I love about The Walking Dead that brings me back most weeks. So when AMC announced that they were doing a spin-off called Fear the Walking Dead, I–like so many other fans–was completely psyched. More stories in this world? And it’d fill those empty months between TWD episodes? Awesome!

Unfortunately, like so many other spin-offs and recent creations, Fear the Walking Dead isn’t living up to the hopes and dreams. I gave it the benefit of the doubt for a whole season. Zombies aren’t the reason I’m into these shows, so I didn’t care that we barely saw them during the first season (though one of my friend’s consistent complaints was that we weren’t seeing enough of the undead). The show built up and built up these characters, some I cared about, some I didn’t, but hey, they’d have to spend some time doing that, right? Unlike TWD, there’s no precedent for the Fear cast. No comics to fall back on and bring out loads of information, just brand new people for the writers to explore. The show fell a little flat, but that’s not uncommon, especially in such a short season of a brand new show.

But then, at the beginning of the second episode of season 2, Fear gave us the perfect analogy of what’s really wrong with their show. If you haven’t seen it (and don’t mind being spoiled), that episode starts with two children playing in the sand. They’re happy and content playing in the perfect day sunshine. Zombies lumber up the beach towards them. Oh no! The children are in danger! Except, hold on, the zombies are blocked off by a well constructed fence. The element of danger we as the audience feels completely dissipates. As the episode drags on, the main cast encounters this little family and we get more exposition about how the world is now. We get treated to the same argument we’ll be seeing the rest of the season it seems–Strand does not want anyone else on his boat and while the others grumble about it, they don’t seem quite willing to do anything (I say this not having seen the episode on 5/1).

So the problem is that we have a complete lack of tension. The characters manage to have all of these perfect save moments–when Strand and Nick were escaping from the facility and everyone happened to come together at the same door, one of them even having the needed key card! Ofelia has an infection and oh look, Nick managed to find the right drugs! The sources of conflict should be many with the world setting alone, but the families were protected first by the military and then by the boat they have now (and oh man, when it broke down, Travis managed to fix it in a day!) Instead of giving these characters experiences which they’ll draw on in the future, that will harden them into the necessary group of survivors that it takes to make it in this world, the group is little better than the Hilltop or Alexandria from TWD. They’ve got a slight ability in this world, but really, this seems much more like a group that would get torn down to about half before running into Rick’s group and eking out a life, maybe only one or two of them surviving until season 6. Of course they shouldn’t be perfect badasses from the get-go, but it seems like they’re being treated with kid gloves by the writers. We never worry about this core group because on the rare chance they encounter something, they dodge it almost perfectly.

The other should-be source of tension would be the interpersonal relationships of the main group. Strand has his secrets and keeps reminding everyone that the boat is his so his say is final, but the other characters only seem to have minor frustrations with this. Sure, Travis, Maddie, and Daniel have a couple of conversations, but I’m almost surprised that episode from 5/1 had previews saying that conflict was going to come to a head. Daniel spends a lot of time telling Ofelia that Maddie and her family are only going to look out for themselves, but he seems to be saber rattling. In fact, Maddie and the other members of her family only ever seem to try and bring more people into their survivors unit, so I don’t understand Daniel’s continued paranoia about them. They’re eight people and the yacht isn’t that large, why haven’t they gotten on each other’s nerves more? Alicia and Nick are getting along fine, Nick has wormed his way into ‘acceptable’ with everyone on board (except maybe Daniel who trusts only his daughter), Chris roams however he wants with no one caring. Strand isn’t quite Shane from TWD and Maddie isn’t quite Dale. It feels like the creators spent a lot of time making an ideal zombie survival group without giving them the personalities that would butt heads.

Basically, what we’ve got so far is just a great and long lesson in what a project looks like without that tension to keep a viewer on the edge of their seat. This is what happens when it’s too much exposition and not enough action. (They even managed to drive to Strand’s house without incident at the end of last season, come on!) At this point, my interest in the show has waned. Maybe I’ll pick it back up when the whole season’s available for a quick watch, you know, if I need some low-key background noise.

Dialogue, more than the words characters spit out

In an effort to improve my overall writing, I’ve been doing what every good writing book will tell you–I’ve been reading. And reading. And when I thought I would take a break, I’d crack open another book. Some of it’s been fiction, others have been writing advice. Recently, I read through some of James Scott Bell’s works on the craft. His tips in How to Write Dazzling Dialogue are great, and they’ve helped me catch on to analyzing dialogue in what I’m reading, watching, and writing.

Which is why I’m blown away by Netflix’s Jessica Jones series again. The show is brilliant in so many ways, but the tight dialogue does so much heavy lifting. It carries you forward, makes you care, and provides the actors with fantastic opportunities to play their scenes.

I want to break down a scene here. This is in the third episode (AKA It’s Called Whiskey), and while still moving the action forward, it also provides exposition for us. At this point, we’ve got a pretty good impression of the current way Jessica is–the angry, traumatized woman who is struggling through her day to day, through a case dealing with her former abuser. What we don’t know is much about her past–It’s something Jessica hates talking about, but she and Trish have history, which the writers used to give us details about both their lives.

[After Trish takes off her shirt to reveal bruises covering her arms and shoulders. They head into Trish’s bedroom.]

Jessica: Who’s doing that to you? Is your mom back?

Trish: Just calm down, will you?

Jessica: Okay, is this why you have the video surveillance and the steel-reinforced door?

Trish: And bulletproof windows, a safe room. I made some upgrades.

Jessica: You–What you made is a fortress. Trish, what you afraid of?

[They head into Trish’s training room]

Trish: Not much, anymore. Except clowns. But that’s just common sense.

Jessica: You turned my room into a gym.

Trish: I needed a place to train.

Jessica: By “training,” you mean getting beaten purple.

Trish: [seizes Jessica and easily tosses her to the ground] No one touches me anymore unless I want them to. I let you fight my battles for too long. When you left–

Jessica: [rubbing her sore shoulder] You became a ninja?

Trish: Krav Maga. More brutal.

Jessica: Can you back off? You’re scaring me a little.

Trish: [grinning] I’ll make sandwiches.

This dialogue takes about a minute and a half of the show time. But look at the sheer amount of information here, even without the full visual to go along with it. From Jessica’s initial concerns, we see that she cares deeply about Trish’s well-being, something Jessica hasn’t shown a whole lot of and especially not in such an overt fashion. So far, Jessica has been as mysterious as possible with the other people she talks to, but with Trish, she’s asking the questions and deliberately engaging her when she typically shies away from too much talking.

We learn that Trish was a victim too, and that her mother may or may not be completely out of her life. They talk about their setting, which provides us more details about Trish. She’s confident in her security upgrades and these extra measures are what help her feel safe. In previous scenes, it’s established that she’s a radio talk show host. While we could guess that she’s worried about stalker fans that mean her harm, Jessica’s reveal about Trish’s mother shows us that Trish fears more than the average celebrity problems.

Also of note is the fact that Trish and Jessica aren’t just good friends, they’re former roommates. And this dialogue tells us that Jessica leaving the apartment was a transformation event for Trish. And Trish feels the need to prove her new abilities to Jessica–which we see when she tells Jessica the full details of the upgrades and shows her not just the training room, but some of that training. There’s a need to prove she’s okay if something happens to Jessica.

The fact that Jessica doesn’t know all these details about Trish’s life is another sign. When she needed help, Trish was someone she reached out to, but we can gather from the lack of knowledge that it’s been a while since they’ve talked frequently. Yet, their closeness is obvious. Even though Jessica’s worried, Trish is joking and open. By the end of the scene, Jessica’s initial fears for Trish’s safety are put to rest and they move on to have lunch together. They may have been out of each other’s lives for a while, but they’re obviously falling right back into their tight bond.

And there’s another layer here too. The show’s theme–victims, primarily women, overcoming trauma–comes into play. Jessica has built herself a mental fortress. She lives in a shitty apartment and says shitty things to people instead of showing that she does, in fact, give a damn about what happens to them. Trish has done the opposite, building a physical fortress while maintaining her faith in the general good intentions of other people. They’re both leading isolated lives in response to their fears. Their friendship, shown even in this short scene, is part of what gets them through this.

If you haven’t seen Jessica Jones, I highly recommend it for the dialogue and the amazing storytelling. Take just one episode and comb through it a few times. Every scene is tight with a dedicated purpose to telling a griping story. I know I plan on rewatching a few more time to catch all the great details of craft.

So I’m done reading Stephen King’s The Stand

Funny enough, this last week while I finished reading The Stand, I caught a common spring cold. Thanks to the powers that be I didn’t wind up getting swollen throat glands–I may have become a slight bit paranoid in regards to physical health. Of course, the amount of time spent on ensuring good health in The Stand is bound to make anyone a bit nutty (something I commented on last time, too).

Okay, so, I’m done reading. My verdict? Unless you’re a hardcore King fan, or a hardcore conspiracy or apocalypse fan, skip this title. You can see my review on the first two thirds of the book in my last post, so in this one I’ll focus on why the ending drew more of a negative response from me.

My first problem with the ending is that, despite having 1200 pages, the book has no central active conflict. Run through the ‘basic’ conflict structures (person vs person, person vs environment, etc) and each will have some representation. The main characters have some minor conflicts among each other, they have reservations about the supernatural dreams they’ve been having, they’re trying to survive various places, they’re trying to get the power back on, and in the case of Larry–trying to see himself as a better human being. However, none of these have a driving active element once they meet Mother Abigail. The only unifying theme is this ‘epic’ struggle of the Free Zone versus the Las Vegas group–a good versus evil set up. That plot becomes passive because the characters take no action to alter any events. Mother Abigail tells them to go, and not to take anything with them, and the four men (of course it had to be all men, despite Fran being part of the ‘important’ people of the Free Zone) accept this as God’s word. They undertake the journey because they were told to take it. That late in the novel, the characters should have had desires that pointed them in that direction. Instead, they’re cruising along, trying to get the Free Zone in order, a bomb explodes and then Mother Abigail gives an order. I didn’t feel that any of the characters had weight in their own choices, especially Stu and Ralph who were characters that pretty much did as the others suggested anyway.

Another problem is that the characters don’t take the opportunity to grow. A few of them get tiny new buds to their personality, but there’s no major alteration to any of them. Stu only becomes a slightly more talkative person, but he’s basically the same East Texan. Glen never shuts up about sociological ideas and still hesitates around ‘white magic.’ Larry struggles with how he sees himself the whole way through. The only two characters that have a seeable change is Leo, who returns to being a little boy and less of a feral potential killer, and Fran, who becomes more irrational as time goes on. (Oh, and Fran’s reasons are often seen by others and then herself as irrational rantings of a pregnant woman. Too much is blamed on her pregnancy.)

In fact, the book goes out of its way to make the point that even society doesn’t change–that the Free Zone is developing exactly along the lines that Glen Bateman predicted and may easily create the exact same problems of the old world within a few generations. Not exactly encouraging stuff.

I will remember the last scenes for years to come simply because I’m disappointed. Larry, Ralph, and Glen just all go ‘okay, ready to die for God ’cause I have faith in the old woman’ and Trashcan Man kills everyone with an atom bomb? All so that Randall Flagg winds up waking up somewhere else, becoming someone else, and starting all over again? If anything, the point of this novel becomes “the song remains the same.” While a totally valid point to make, it’s not one I find myself enjoying.

Add the unsatisfying ending to the problems I pointed out in the last post, and the book definitely joins my ‘don’t actively recommend’ list. Besides the paranoia of health, I did pick up a few ideas about how to write characters who have so much built in hate. As a writer, I think that’s the one really good lesson to learn from The Stand. Some characters simply hate that much.

The next books I’m reading are The Mists of Avalon and The Twentieth Wife. One of the two will be next week’s entry. Happy reading and writing!

“Go dark.” –did Agents of SHIELD production crew get that command, too?

Last season Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (to be hereafter referred to Agents) left us with a shattered intelligence agency, injured team members, and more traitors than allies. Most of the first season wound up feeling more killing time than action packed story-telling–probably because the production crew knew that Captain America: Winter Soldier would bring S.H.I.E.L.D. to the ground–something with which Agents would have to cope. The last few episodes of the season, Coulson’s team had to contend with the collapse, with traitors in their midst, and then stop Agent Garrett. The team saved the day, but not without losses.

Season 2 picks up a few months after last season’s close. Throughout the episode we’re given little updates on our main team. For starters, Skye is doing field work with Trip and Mae. Agent Barkley (Lucy Lawless’s character) is a new face on the show, but she’s an undercover operative with a team of mercenaries.  Coulson isn’t around. He’s been looking for agents, out recruiting and having to meet with people face to face in order to ‘get a read on them.’ Fitz and Simmons are working in the lab on cloaking technology and identifying metal for their most recent mission.

All on the surface looks slightly problematic. Scratch the surface and the raw pain comes through.

The first symptoms of the pain? Fitz. The beginning of his scene shows him withdrawn, but that’s a bit of a false start. He communicates, but sometimes he pauses to search for the right word. When the metal they brought back begins to bleed, Fitz asks Mae, “Can you see that?” The relief that comes over him when she does is palpable, suggesting that in the interim months, Fitz has seen many things that others haven’t.

More pain follows. We finally see Ward. He’s locked up in the new base’s basement and demanding that if he’s going to talk, it’s going to be to Skye. When she’s finally forced to face him for the first time in months, she notices the self-inflicted injuries. Ward went through a ‘dark patch’ (I think those were his words), and the way he flinches when Skye references his murders suggests that he might not be through yet.

Skye is hurting, too. She doesn’t want to talk to Ward, but she does. She follows orders without question in this episode. We see the way the rest of her team, but Skye’s pain comes through with Chloe Bennet’s performance more than any actions and lines. Overall, though, she’s calmer and interjects less thoughts.

Then there’s the plot–We find out that Talbot has only sent Hydra off into the dark. Agent Berkley commands one of her subordinates to cut off her arm in order to save her life. Meanwhile Mae, Trip, and Skye continue on towards their other prize of the mission, even though they’re pinned down. We’re led to believe that not everyone makes it out of this encounter alive–with Agent Berkley’s SUV flipping and most likely killing her and one of her subordinates.

At the climactic moment, Coulson reveals even more. That while we knew SHIELD would have to downplay their existence, that SHIELD needs to ‘disappear’ and ‘operate from the shadows.’ In that speech, we learn that Simmons has been gone and that Fitz is deteriorating. He’s gotten worse.

Darkness isn’t only in play with the plot and character development. The warehouse for the undercover job, the new base, Ward’s cell, the base they break into, all feature dark rooms with only just enough lighting to see. Added on top of that, everyone’s favoring dark clothing, making the bright blue uniform Trip and General Talbot wear a fantastic pop of color.

Word choice hints at the darkness, too. Hydra has ‘slithered,’ SHIELD has to ‘fight from the shadows,’ a focus on stealth technology, the cell wall becomes ‘opaque,’ the command for an abort mission is to ‘Go dark.’ While out of context the choices are obvious, they repeat the motif in the episode.

We are given one shining moment of hope, though. Skye, Trip, and Mae are successful at stealing their objective. Coulson gives a rally idea in his speech–that SHIELD will fight on to honor those they’ve lost. While it isn’t much, it’s what SHIELD has to hold onto.

Honor and duty–if those remain SHIELD’s first two stones in its reconstruction, there may be hope for them yet.