Jessica Jones Season 1 Thoughts

Jessica Jones PosterConsidering that I binge-watched the entire first season of Jessica Jones yesterday, this is less a review and more (mostly) incoherent thoughts on the show. I went into this show absolutely blind, having read only the most basic information on the character. Which is why I’m guessing I missed out on a lot of Easter Eggs.

Let’s start with the principle difference between the protagonists of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Matt Murdoch wanted to be a hero, he wanted to protect the people of Hell’s Kitchen, the people that everyone else had forgotten about. He set out to kill the Kingpin only to realise that that’s not what he wanted, he didn’t want to become a killer. Jessica, in contrast, had been a superhero and now wanted no part of it. She works as a private investigator and that’s how she likes it. She doesn’t care about other people and isn’t interested in being a saviour. She suffers from guilt and self-loathing about the things she did when she was under Killgrave’s control. She just wants to live her life in peace. She spends most of the season trying to make him accountable for his numerous crimes only to realise that that’s not possible. He’s too powerful and there’s only one way to truly stop him for good.

The pace of the show is also not as consistent as Daredevil, which is not to say that it’s a bad thing, but the show loses some steam right before the third act. This is partially because there are multiple arcs and while Killgrave is the primary antagonist, there are other forces at play and there’s much we don’t know about them or their motives. The show is also exceptionally well-written and does very well in wrapping up enough of the plot lines by the finale to be satisfying, while also setting up some stuff for season 2. As bleak as the tone is, it is the dialogues that provide the levity and keep the tone from getting too heavy. Also Ritter’s deadpan delivery also helps that along.

One of the thing that works in Jones’ favour is the casting, the casting is spot-on and even the changes they made, for instance Jeri Hogarth’s gender-swap, worked really well within the show. Kristen Ritter was fabulous as Jessica Jones and could not have been portrayed better. She is understated and she makes the character very sympathetic without losing her snark or bad attitude. Rachel Taylor was also great as Trish Walker. She was probably the most likable character on the show and yet she brought this quality to Trish that made her relatable. Carrie-Anne Moss as the tough-as-nails Jeri Hogarth was perfect and could not have been better cast. Mike Colter as Luke Cage was compelling and I’m excited about seeing him head his own show. David Tennant as Killgrave was perfect. He was equal parts funny and twisted psychopath. And yet you didn’t hate him and that is thanks to the way Tennant plays him and the way he’s written.

Jones also features some of the best written characters on TV, and it is refreshing to see more and more shows avoid the tired and abused tropes that are still far too common in mainstream TV series. Unlike Daredevil, Jones also has a relatively large number of characters and for the most part, they are all engaging and interesting. But I loved what Melissa Rosenberg did with the female characters on the show. They were all complex characters who were very hard to figure out. All too often on shows like this, the female characters make some very stupid mistakes that jars even the viewers because they are so out of character. What really struck me with Jones was just how smart they were, with regard to Jessica and a special mention for Trish Walker. They were cautious and didn’t rush headlong into danger. Their plans were well-thought and while they did make mistakes, they were logical ones. What I also loved that they didn’t take bullshit from anyone, case in point, after Simpson attacks Trish a second time, she doesn’t trust him and shuts him down calmly and decisively. She is very much in control.

That’s the other great thing about this show (as well as Daredevil) is that it features complex characters. Characters who are real, they are not inherently good or evil. They make bad decisions but are capable of redeeming themselves. Even the villains have a compelling history that makes them all the more menacing.

Throughout the season, Jessica suffers from PTSD and while we know that she spent time with Killgrave, under his control and did things that made her hate herself, the show never goes into explicit detail. We see her after the fact, fighting her guilt everyday having escaped from her abuser. We don’t need to see the abuse to know it happened (something Game of Thrones refuses to understand) We see Jessica as a woman who escaped on her own terms.

While there is some romance, especially between Jessica and Luke, it is understated and always in the background. It never distracts from the main plot.  At its heart Jessica Jones is a love story (as my friend pointed out) but never between Jessica and another man, but between her and Trish. Their relationship is the only positive one in the show. Trish is the only person that Jessica truly loves and Trish loves her, exactly as she is, bad attitude and all. Trish is the bright spot in the darkness that’s Jessica’s life.

Jessica Jones is a great follow up to Daredevil and does very well in distinguishing itself from it. Like Daredevil, Jessica Jones is very intense, dark and bleak but it is a very rewarding watch. Featuring great writing and characters, it is also immensely satisfying and I for one want to watch it again and this time take my time and savour it.

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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #01) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Review

Official Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

(source Goodreads)

Illuminae CoverBrutal, heart-wrenching, intense, shocking, gripping are some of words I would use to describe Illuminae. It was thrilling from start to finish and one of the most enjoyable reads this year. I am not a big fan of science fiction but I like Amie Kaufman’s other series (the one she’s writing in collaboration with Meagan Spooner, the Starbound Series) and I really enjoy that. Similarly, I read Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff and loved that (I have yet to finish that series.)When I heard of their collaboration, I was more than a little curious about what they would come up with

What really sets Illuminae apart from most other science fiction is that it is an epistolary novel. The story is told in the form of journal entries, surveillance footage analysis, official reports, ship logs and so on. This made for an even more interesting read than the usual narrative structure. It also allowed the reader to get to know people other than the main protagonist. And it was refreshingly different. It is not particularly fast-paced and there is a lot of date/information being thrown at the reader so that can take some getting used to but once you get used to it, it just sucks you in.

In terms of plot and that each installment will feature different characters, it is similar to the Starbound series. There were also similarities in terms of the general plot but Illuminae was way more sophisticated. It was also more technical than the other series. Illuminae is also on the longer side, but its quick pace more than makes up for that. It is so wonderfully written and clever that it was a treat to read. Illuminae doesn’t read like the usual YA fiction, which works in its favour. There are instances where something horrible happens but it doesn’t sink in immediately and when it does, it seems even more horrifying because only then do you realise the sheer magnitude of what just happened. There are parts that just seem like one very long and real nightmare. And things keep going from bad to worse. Kaufman and Kristoff don’t pull any punches and the level of intensity keeps rising.

One of the best things about Illuminae are the characters, I absolutely loved them. They are so real and beautifully realised. They made mistakes, they laughed and loved and they were flesh and bones. There are accounts that will make you smile and laugh and join in their happiness. Their fear, once it set in, was palpable. What the reader witnessed was horrifying because the characters were real and we cared for them even if their presence was only fleeting.

Kady was a hacker extraordinaire and all-around bad-ass. She was smart and practical. She was also willing to make tough decisions. She was rash but never self-pitying. She was resilient. And what I loved about her was that she didn’t give up. Even when faced with certain death, she tried to come up with alternatives till the very end. And she was the polar opposite of a damsel-in-distress, she was the knight in shining armor (or hazmat suit.) I loved her spirit and spunk.

Ezra was the love-interest. And while Kady is my favourite character, I really liked Ezra as well. He was loyal and steadfast and tried to make Kady laugh when things got intense. He was also the more emotional one between them and I thought that was another pleasant change. The girl was more practical while the guy was more emotional and romantic. He was supportive and there for her when she needed him. And I loved his snark and sense of humour.

The love story is at the center of the story and far from being distracting actually added to the story. It was perfectly integrated into the larger plot and it was one of my favourite aspects of Illuminae. Their love story was sweet, funny and one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak world.

Then there is AIDAN, the resident AI and he was creepy as hell. He was also giving serious HAL vibes (from 2001, A Space Odyssey) Tasked with protecting the fleet, he suffers heavy damage during the battle at Karenza IV. The ship’s crew realise that AIDAN is damaged when he destroys an entire ship full of crew and refugees. AIDAN’s concept was ingenious. There were times when you couldn’t tell if he was insane or just following his directive to the extreme, protecting the fleet even from themselves. His logs were some of the most interesting parts of the novel because they gave you an insight into his thoughts. He was a machine and yet very human at times. He was one of my characters, he was so ambiguous and hard to read and I loved that.

There are a whole host of secondary characters who might not feature long but are there long enough to leave an impression. Chief among them is Byron Zhang, another hacker and Kady’s mentor. He’s the closest thing she has to a friend and I loved their banter.

The only complaint I had is with regard to the end. I thought Illuminae could have done with a darker ending which would have been more fitting with the tone of the novel. In the end, Kaufman and Kristoff went the YA way and that I found a little disappointing.

Illuminae is one of the best books this year and I am contemplating buying a hardcover for it (I read the ebook) It is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Gripping till the very end and impossible to put aside. I loved every minute of it. If it isn’t on your to-read list, you need to add it asap! Read it, you will not be disappointed.

Skye/Daisy and Team S.H.I.E.L.D Season 2 (second half) and Other Random Thoughts

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.19.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.20.58 PMI’ve been recently re-watching season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and it struck me that sending Skye away was probably the worst mistake Coulson made with regard to Skye. He cut her off from the people she cared about and it also cut them off from her. They had no time to get used to this new Skye, the one with this awesome power. Sure they were scared but I think, given time and exposure to her, they would have come around.

When Simmons, Hunter and Bobbie said that Fitz should have told them, they had a right to know, they were right, regardless of the fact that I agree with Ftiz’s decision to keep Skye’s transformation between them. When Mac said that they needed protection from her, that was harsh but he still didin’t want to hurt and that was evident by the way they all reacted when they realised that Skye had heard everything they had said about her. I also got the feeling that Mac already blamed Skye for Tripps’ death so he had an additional chip on his shoulder.

Which brings me back to my original point, that Coulson should have kept Skye with him and the rest of the team. And she would have stayed with them if May hadn’t agreed with Andrew. And when Coulson confides in her that he knows sending Skye away was a bad decision, you can see the unease on her face but by then it is already too late.

Additionally, the decision to send Gonzales to meet with Jaiying instead of Coulson was another unwise decision. Skye didn’t trust Gonzales, she had no reason to and he didn’t trust her or others like her. It was easy for Jaiying to trick Skye into believing that Shield under Gonzales was more than capable to betraying them. She would have never have believed that of Coulson or even May had she stayed with Gonzales.

P.S. – I can’t help but wonder how Ward would have handled her transformation (the pre-Hydra Ward I mean) We know that he cared deeply for Skye, maybe even loved her. I am very curious to see how that would have played out. But I am fairly certain that he would have stuck with her and even accompanied her to Fury’s Safe-house. He would not have let her go alone. I know that Ward is the bad guy, but before that reveal, there were instances where we saw that he genuinely came to care for these people that he was sent to spy on and Skye especially. I am also pretty certain that he would have punched Mac in the face for what he said. And he would not let her feel isolated and a monster, he would have seen to that. I lament for all the SkyeWard moments we lost when we learned that he was with Hydra all along…

It’s strange but I actually like Ward more now than I did in season 1. He was a little too straight and I liked that as the season progressed, we saw more shades and layers in Ward. That complexity is what still makes Ward such a compelling character. And I for one, don’t want him to die. I don’t think he’s going to redeem himself. The only person he would have done that for is Skye and it is evident that he still hopes that there is a chance that maybe, just maybe, he can redeem himself in her eyes. I say this because when Coulson enlists his help in season 2 to go look for Skye, he goes with Coulson hoping that he’ll see her as well when Coulson finds her and perhaps she’ll see that he is capable of being good. Of course, in season 3, he is gunning for Coulson’s head and he of all people should know that Skye/Daisy still sees him as a father figure and losing Coulson would break her in a way nothing else could. Anyway, with so many episodes to go this season, the overall arc could go in any number of directions so I’m going to wait and watch. I have faith in the AOS writers that they won’t cut corners and have the audience feel cheated… So here’s waiting and watching…

All In (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Review

51nt-DoMDGLLet me start by saying that I loved loved loved this book!!

I just finished All In and I’m still reeling from the way it ended. I’ve enjoyed the two previous books but this one was way better than them. Like Barnes’ previous books, once I started All In, I couldn’t stop reading it and finished it in a day.

As before, there is a killer of the week that the Naturals team needs to catch. The team is called to Las Vegas where the killer has already killed four people and kills one more shortly after they arrive. This killer is meticulous and patient and he is highly intelligent, he also doesn’t make mistakes. The list of suspects yields them nothing, because they all fit the profile and none of them do. While they are in Las Vegas, they also meet Sloan’s father and her stepbrother, Aaron. All of which throws Sloan’s world in out of whack.

Meanwhile, new evidence surfaces in relation to Cassie’s mother’s murder. A body is found and the police suspect that it may be Cassie’s mother. Unable to deal with what that might mean, Cassie throws herself into the current case resolving not to break down.

After starting and setting aside a number of books, it was a real pleasure to read this. I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ writing; it is compelling and very engrossing. And while some technical terms are used, they don’t sound like psychobabble. She also outdid herself with just the level of detail involved in these murders. The pace of the narrative also kept escalating and the stakes kept rising as the team literally raced against time to save another person from dying. The last few chapters were especially tense as all the little clues started adding up and still there was a real chance that the team might not figure it out in time. What makes this series very interesting is that even as the reader, it was difficult for me to pinpoint who the killer could be and I’m usually good at that sort of thing. She sets up red herrings along the way, all of the suspects are real suspects and anyone of them could be the culprit. But what is more important is the reveal of the actual killer. That’s very hard to do well. It could very well look sloppy or lazy or ham-handed and not feel convincing to the reader. But Barnes does that exceedingly well. The payoff is immensely satisfying.

The other thing that she does well is really involving the reader in the investigation. Through Cassie and Dean’s profiling, Lia spotting lies, Michael analysing facial expressions and Sloan going through extensive data and making sense of it all, the reader is with them every step of the way. The reader is just as invested in the investigation as the characters, feeling their frustration and helplessness and similarly, their exhilaration and satisfaction when they catch a break.

I think I also really like all the characters in this series, which is very rare. While I thought that Cassie feels like the typical YA heroine and she is that, she also grows as the story progresses. She’s not the same girl the FBI recruited not so long ago. She has seen things, felt things that have changed her deep inside. The Naturals team has become her family and she is willing to push aside her own pain if someone else on the team is even more vulnerable. I also liked that while there was romance, it was in the background. I also appreciated her relationship with Dean for once. They were supportive of each other and anchored one another firmly in the present. But I wonder if they will work out in the long-term simply because of how similar they are to each other.
All In also gave us a look at Cassie’s relationship with her mom and these moments were heartbreaking and bittersweet. The reader really got a sense of her loss and why she held herself back. Barnes painted a vivid picture of Laurel, she was so full of life and she really loved Cassie. I loved their relationship..

I liked Dean in All In. He is the resident older brother on the team and thinks it is his responsibility to keep everyone on the team safe from others as well as from themselves. He is also afraid of what his father might have turned him into and that fear lies heavy on his shoulders. But here, he was less stoic and stuck up and I liked that he was more relaxed. I really like his interactions with Lia and would love to see more of them. They really are like sibling and fiercely protective of each other.

We also learned a lot about Sloan and her background. For a character who deals with numbers and facts, she is remarkably vulnerable, making the reader feel as protective of her as the rest of the team. She meets Aaron, her stepbrother and realises that he might not be like their father and that he might genuinely care about her and like her. You really want that for her as well. It made me angry that her father made her feel like there was something wrong with her and that she was somehow lesser for it. She was able to see patterns that no one else could and was the person responsible for recognising the Fibonacci sequence and also where and when the killer would strike next. She did all of that while still reeling from the shock of seeing her father and his family. I loved Sloan.

I like Michael’s irreverent attitude and while I desperately wanted Cassie to pick him, I have made peace with her decision. He’s the resident bad boy who doesn’t bother toeing the line because he expects rejection from those around him. Even with the team, while he did open up to Cassie initially, when she chose Dean, he cut her off. But despite all of his walls, he is there for them when they need him and he doesn’t hesitate. He has no regard for himself but cares deeply about the rest of them.

Lia is still my favourite character. She doesn’t take crap from anyone and keeps Dean and Cassie firmly rooted to the ground and off their brooding wagon. She is sharp and intelligent. She’s not nice but she’s also not cruel. She learnt to lie out of necessity and like Michael, she doesn’t trust outsiders. We were given a fleeting glimpse into what Lia’s background could be and I can’t wait to find out more.

Agents Briggs and Sterling were around as well but they were more in the background this time. We saw more of Judd than we did of them and it is clear that he really does care for these kids. He wants to protect them from the monsters they hunt as well as the government who only see them as tools to be used and set aside.

The only thing that bothers me about this series is that all of the big murders seem to be connected to Cassie; her mother’s murder, Judd’s daughter’s murder, their current case. And that feels a wee bit contrived. Not because of the way it is written but the story itself, it feels convenient. Barnes stated in her blog that book 4 is so far the final book in the series and with quite a few loose ends, I am curious to see how she wraps them all up.

All In was an excellent read and a very quick one. It is one of those books that you will simply not be able to put down. It is excellently written and has enough twists to keep the reader hooked and guessing (often incorrectly) I loved every minute of it. This series has gotten better with every book and I can’t wait to find out how it all ends.