Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian

The thing about becoming a pop culture blogger, and excited fandom tracker and frequent Comic Con goer (I’m really missing cons this year. So much) is that you just accumilate junk knowledge, but it also can suck the magic out of stuff, because a part of this kind of work, which I love doing, is figuring out how to see the strings.

So I decided to let the magic of The Mandalorian linger for a bit and not watch the behind the scenes Disney Gallery specials about the show. But as I realized that I’d maybe watched The Imagineering Story too many times, I decided to check it out.

First of all, I loved the format of the show, which reminded me of Jon Favreau’s delightful Dinner For Five. (I’ve heard The Chef Show does something similar, I might watch that too) Favreau used to host a show where he held a dinner party for five people and rolled cameras. It’s an intensely fun way to have a talk show. On Disney Gallery he takes a similar approach, doing roundtable interviews with different people involved in The Mandalorian, talking about their experience with Star Wars in general, this show in particular, and laughing a lot.

Some really cool stories come out, and there’s interesting behind the scenes talk about the technical and writing processes, tons of info dumping from Dave Filoni, and Bryce Dallas Howard telling an incredible story about a childhood trip to Japan. (This is in the “how did you find Star Wars” section. She starts with, “so when I was six, my dad,” and everyone just groans. She laughs, “I know, OK! But I promise this is cool!”)

The stuff about Baby Yoda is cool, but I was really fascinated with the way Favreau talked through building new tech as he moved from Iron Man to Jungle Book to The Lion King and now in The Mandalorian. And not for nothing, it’s always a joy to watch someone talk about something passionately, and if there is anything I know from following his career for most of my life, Jon Favreau loves movies and loves artists and loves film history, so talking about how special effects have grown to be able to create something as special as The Mandalorian is a real treat.

I’m also completely in love with Gina Carrano. My God, that woman is beautiful and funny and charismatic as hell.

The Lady Of Winterfell

It’s been a year, am I allowed to talk about Game Of Thrones again? I know we were supposed to chuck it into the ocean and never look back, but I can’t do that.

Because I think about Sansa Stark a lot.

I grew up reading fantasy. I loved it. I’ve always loved it, but there were never girls I related to in those fantasies. If there were girls, they hated being girls, or what was interesting about them was that they rejected the world of girls. There was Alanna, there was Eowyn, there was Leia. Or they were romantic heroines, which I loved but wanted more. The flip side of that coin was Belle, Ariel, Cinderella.

There weren’t girls like Sansa. Girls who wore their femininity in all it’s power as armor. Girls who used embroidery and marriage and the selfish love of the men around them as weapons. Girls who loved their families and wanted handsome princes to come save them but when those dreams shattered didn’t cower but fought, not in battles but in the ways they understood.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how she got into my blood and mind. And in the past few years, as I’ve let the floodgates open to more and more fantasy I see that I couldn’t have been the only girl who hungered for that. Because there are these books now, you see, these books written by women around my age, filled with girls. Some who are like Alanna, Eowyn, Leia, who put on armor and pick up swords and fight alongside men. Some like Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, who long for true love and princes. And there are so many Sansas.

So many girls who fit into their world of privelege and beauty and when it’s hollowness was revealed, didn’t reject it, didn’t say, “there’s nothing here,” didn’t see the other women held by it as stupid, shallow or weak, instead took those things and made them the tools of their fight.

Yesterday I finished Queen Of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series. It’s going to be a while before I finish this series, because I’m waiting on Empire Of Storms and I’m the eight person in line for 5 copies at my library. But Sarah J. Maas’s series is full of Sansas. I had trouble getting into it because the lead, isn’t, and my GOD does this girl hate other women at the beginning of her journey. And that begins to unravel, slowly as the series progresses.

“I’m not like other girls,” is a hell of a drug. I’ve never understood it. I’ve always loved other girls and women, but it’s a really hard thing to kick in society that tells us that there’s no room for us to be who we are. But I’m so grateful to see that it is starting to shift.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how overjoyed I was to find her eight years ago. I think about how she got an ending full of justice and triumph without ever compromising who she was.

I think about Sansa Stark and I cry, because she exists, in print and on TV for girls like me to find, and know they aren’t wrong or weak or stupid. There is space for them in these stories. And oh that matters so much.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 11 “Shattered”

“Execute Order 66,” I actually cannot hear those words without taking a big ass inhale of breath. It begins a long slide into weepiness that last for the next half hour of movie in Revenge Of The Sith, rivaled only by Return of The King and Avengers: Endgame for absurd blockbuster blubbering for me.

So I held my breath as Ahsoka sensed what happened between Mace Windu, Anakin and Palpatine, leading to the execution of Order 66. It’s devastation and also important to note that Ahsoka might be the most powerful force user in the series, before Rey? She’s not fully in her powers yet, that doesn’t come until she passes through time with Ezra but she’s still strong here. Strong enough to connect while looking for Anakin, something we’ve only ever seen Yoda do with such specificity.

Anyway, after this moment of darkness, she turns to Rex, who is shaking, talking to himself, refusing to follow his programming and kill Ahsoka. Unfortunately the rest of the Troopers don’t have will and try to fight her. Of course she wins and gets away, taking Rex’s warning, “Find Fives” to heart and searching for a file on Fives, learning that his malfunctioning inhibitor chip caused his death. Rex sent himself a message in this file, which is why he was able to resist.

Ahsoka practices some “cogninative recalibration” on Rex, and also, to get the two of them away, releases Darth Maul, to spectacular effect. She reminds him that she doesn’t trust him and also that she kind of hopes the clones kill him which is great. I know I talked about it last week but it bears reiterating, Ashley Eckstein and Sam Witwer are doing unbelievable work here.

OK, we’ll finish up tomorrow. I’m not sure I’m ready. How far will we go into Episode III, where will we end?

I don’t know, but I bet I’ll be crying, and crying a whole lot.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7: Episode 10: “Phantom Apprentice”

It’s kind of crazy how sometimes two things I’m working on can dovetail nicely, or maybe it’s just my liberal arts brain trying to make less reading for myself that connects things that way, but the fact that this episode aired the same week that I was reading Erik Larson’s truly brilliant history book In The Garden Of Beasts, about the American Ambassador to Berlin during the years leading up to World War II, William Dodd.

The book is mostly about how Dodd kept saying, “HEY HITLER IS DANGEROUS AND WE CAN’T TRUST THE NAZIS,” and everyone in the American state department and establishment kept saying, “ehh, Dodd’s overreacting, I’m sure it will be fine.” (Narrator: It was not fine)

How does this connect to “Phantom Apprentice,” you might ask?

This is all about how Darth Maul has been shouting that, “HEY I KNOW WHO DARTH SIDIOUS IS AND YOU’RE ALL JUST PAWNS!” and everyone reacts by saying, “Boy, that Darth Maul sure is crazy, huh? Anyway,” and moves on. It’s even more present in this episode, where he and Ahsoka have several beautifully animated confrontations and he tries to convince her to join him and stop Sidious, because he knows this is all about to fall down on their heads.

What’s really fascinating in this run of episodes is that they are running parallel to Revenge Of The Sith, and that’s all the more chilling. Everytime Ahsoka checks in with Obi-Wan and Anakin we know exactly what’s going on with them and how horrible the next steps are. I keep holding my breath waiting for the moment that the clones turn on her. We know Rex helped get her out, but Order 66 has broken my heart every single time I’ve watched the movie, all the way back to high school when I first watched it. I don’t think whenever this hits in the next two weeks will be different.

The real showcase of this episode were those fights between Maul and Ahsoka, and frankly, they were some of the most stunning visual moments the show has ever had. Ray Park, who played Maul originally did the motion capture for them, so the physicality is perfect, and while the fight is exceptional there are also a pair of excellent performances from Sam Witwer and Ashley Eckstein here. Ashley has done incredible work all season showing Ahsoka’s growth and Witwer is always a joy, but this particular “We’re not so different, you and I,” “I’m nothing like you!” back and forth was a true joy to hear. (Granted, I’m a sucker for the trope)

This was my favorite episode of the season so far and I can’t believe we’re only two out from the finale. I’m going to miss this show so much. (Although, let’s face it, I’ll probably just watch ROTS and then Rebels again as soon as it ends.)

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 9 “Old Friends Not Forgotten”

This is going to be a very difficult month when it comes to Clone Wars (and you know, other things too…)

But man, the reunion of Ahsoka, Rex, Anakin and Obi-Wan was wrenching. Not to mention Boe Kattan bringing Satine up every five seconds and pointing fingers at Obi-Wan about her death.

What is nice is that even after having seen how she’s grown and changed how quickly old rhythms established themselves. Anakin finding a middle path between his master and apprentice, the great politician, Obi-Wan trying to hew to ideals that are clearly dying, Ahsoka embracing a new ideal. The Clones establishing their own loyalty rallying beside their old commander.

And then there’s the moment where Anakin returns Ahsoka’s sabers to her. It killed me. Anyway, after Anakin and Obi-Wan find a loophole compromise (divide the 501st) that allows Ahsoka a command, Ahsoka and Bo head to Mandalore with Rex to catch Darth Maul. Obi-Wan warns them that capturing him is a better plan than trying to kill him because he’s hard to kill. (I’LL SAY!)

While laying siege to, Bo goes after the Prime Minister and Ahsoka and Rex hunt Maul. They find him, and he’s waiting, but not for Ahsoka, she’s the wrong Jedi. He wanted Obi-Wan (I mean, obviously.)

It was all building the this, the previous two arcs were meant to remind us who Rex and Ahsoka were, what they’re made of, why they fight, and show us how far they’ve come in the past few years.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

 

Fangirl Love Star Wars Trek?: Picard

Like every version of Star Trek I’ve pushed myself into, it took me a little while, though shorter than usual to like Star Trek: Picard, part of that is because the pilot, where Jean-Luc Picard decides it’s time to get back in the game and puts his new team together lasts three episodes. For a show that was only getting 10 episodes to begin with that is a lot of real estate for the set up.

Additionally, the first half of the show is really grim, full of portentious Romulan prophecies, a lot of death and violence and the confirmation that Admiral Picard has alzheimers. I like my Trek a little lighter, kind of silly and plenty of humanist optimism, which luckily kicks in not long after we meet the team. (Courtesy of a meet up with Seven of Nine, I’m now determined to push through DS9 which is not really my speed, at all so that I can get to voyager and get to know her better.)

And what a team it is. Allison Pill as Dr. Agnes Giardi, a brilliant scientist with an interest in synthetic life (which, despite Bruce Maddox and Picard lobbying is illegal due to a synth revolt on a martian colony), Evan Evagora as Elnor some kind of Romulan ninja who knew Picard when he was little, Michelle Herd as Raffi Musiker, a former Star Fleet officer drummed out for over indulging in conspiracy theories about Romulan infiltration (SHE WAS RIGHT!) and Santiago Cabrera as Chris Rios another former Star Fleet, who has a ship where the AI has taken on his appearance. Cabrera was my favorite part of the show that wasn’t directly from TNG. 

They’re looking for Soji, a synth girl developed from Data’s programming, who’s twin sister was killed by said infiltrating Romulans. She’s working as a scientist on a Borg Cube, helping to reclaim those who had been assimilated, lead by Hugh, who learned of humanity from Jordi. A super secret Romulan order is hunting her too, because they believe the rise of synthetic consciousness will bring about Armageddon.

WHOO.

Anyway, once all of that gets out of the way, the fun begins, jumping around to planets, Picard in an eye patch pretending to be a gambler, Troi and Riker living in the wood making pizza with their adorable daughter, a planet of synths ruled over by the son of Noonian Soong, who just so happens to be played Brent Spiner.

There’s a lot going on, but I really enjoyed the back half. The set up was just a little bit longer than I would have preferred. But once we got to the space adventures, lectures about the sanctity of life and what we owe the world with our lives.

It came together really well and without spoilers, there’s a lovely and emotional resolution the even provides Patrick Stewart the opportunity to recite some Shakespeare. (Have you been watching him read the sonnets during quarantine? I do recommend.)

I’m excited to see what season 2 of this show brings, I know Whoopi Goldberg is planning on coming back, and I’m interested in what Guinan has been doing during all of this. And you know, the ending proved interesting.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 7 Episode 2 “A Distant Echo”

The forking show man.

After returning to base, with no proof of Echo’s actually being alive, Rex is more determined than ever to figure out what’s going on here. He pleads with Anakin to continue the mission, and Anakin is like, “OK bud, sure, but first, I gotta call me wife…I mean Senator Amidala, for REASONS, that have nothing to do with us being in love or married. This is definitely a secret and no one knows about it at all.”

Of course everyone knows, including Obi-Wan who is basically catches Anakin in the Holo-call act, and calls him out on it.

This strengthens my very strong belief that LITERALLY EVERYONE KNEW about Anakin and Padme it’s just with all the war and fascist regime rising and Anakin being the chosen one, decided it wasn’t worth the confrontation.

Moving on from the not a secret love of Anakin and Padme, we get to Rex and The Bad Batch hunting for Echo. They track the signal they found, beat the crap out of some droids. (I am not doing the action of these episodes justice because I am bad about writing and talking about action sequences, but they are very very good.)

Eventually, Rex does indeed find Echo, who is alive, but barely. His brain has been hacked and it’s really bad and he dies in Rex’s arms. It is rough, but Ooh, boy, it’s good stuff.

I think the Bad Batch might be the most interesting invention of these shows for a while. They’re incredibly designed a fun concept and great for complicated the Clone narrative. Remember, when we first meet them, Yoda is the one tells the clones themselves that they are individuals, not a collective, that this is a good a true thing. This takes that even further, and it rules, it’s so good.

I’m so happy this show is back.

Still no Ahsoka, but Ashley’s been instagramming some interesting shit.

I’m hoping this week.

We’ll see.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 1 “The Bad Batch”

Hello There!

We’re back brothers, it’s time for us to dive back into weekly bulletins from a Galaxy Far Far Away, in what, during my months long deep dive, became my favorite part. (All apologies to Poe Dameron and Baby Yoda.) We’re back into The Clone Wars. When last we left our marionette computer animated heroes, Yoda had talked to a bunch of ghosts, learned that the Jedi were most likely doomed and learned the secret of immortality. Anakin and Padme’s marriage was pretty strained but they decided to stick it out. The Clones started suffering from rage black outs and Tup and Fives had “brain tumors” that lead to their deaths. Also there was a thing with a bird lady and Jar-Jar Binks.

Oh right, and Ahsoka left the Jedi Order, and no one has heard from her for a bit.

We pick up mid battle, Anakin and Mace Windu are losing, bad to the Separatist forces. Rex and Cody come to them with a plan, they’re going to infiltrate and figure out how the Separatists are one step ahead of them. They don’t share Rex’s theory, that clone trooper Echo is still alive and helping the enemy.

They get permission to go on the mission and call in “The Bad Batch,” a group of genetically “off” Clones who use their differences to be an elite, A-Team style squad.

Y’all.

Y’ALL.

The Bad Batch RULES. They are the coolest. Rex doesn’t like them much, but then they save Cody a few times and everyone comes around. They get some battle plans that seem to reveal things and then they hear a Droid Commander over the com, calling out a CT number. It’s Echo’s number.

Echo is alive, and he’s working with the Separatists.

I AM FLOORED y’all. I am so excited to be back here, to be hanging with the Clones again, and I knew coming right out the gate we weren’t getting Ahsoka back right away, but at this point it’s just a countdown for me. I think starting Clone centric was smart. Clone Wars was about a lot of things, but mainly it was about these characters, faceless mass in the movies, made individual victims and heroes here. So it’s cool to start with them. Also, I love Rex. A lot. (I’m also watching Rebels again right now, and I just got to his return, and he totally rules.) It’s a strong start to a new seasons.

It’s going to be weird to watch this show week by week. I’m used to binging it. Every time (4?) I’ve watched it, I’ve binged it. So we’re watching. We’ll check back in next Tuesday! Are y’all excited? I’m so excited.

Becoming Something Else

It’s kind of hard to believe that eight years ago I wrote this:

“I liked Arrow” 

It’s even harder to believe that eight years ago a show that was barely based on a comic book character, took great pains to be deeply grounded and playing by the rules of more conventional genre TV tropes, ended with a co lead getting a Green Lantern ring, after the funeral of it’s main character which was attended by several time travelers, including his own daughter, and two other superheroes.

Arrow birthed a universe, and it wasn’t always worthy of the shows that came after it, but it was always, always itself and partly that’s because it had a beating heart in Oliver Queen, and particularly Stephen Ammell as Oliver Queen.

The final episode of Arrow does a lot of things that I love, Felicity has a brief chat with her grown up daughter, and with Barry Allen and Kara Danvers. In his final act of rebuilding the world, Oliver brought back Moira, Tommy and Quentin. Tommy connects with Not-Laurel. The Al-Ghul sisters also showed up to the funeral and Sara and Nyssa got their reunion moment of closure. (I now fear for Ava.) Dinah is headed to the future to fight evil with Not-Laurel and Mia, Thea and Roy (YAY ROY!) got back together, Rene is elected mayor, and oh, right….

DIGG FINDS A GREEN LANTERN RING.

It’s not until the final moment that I got what I’ve spent maybe six seasons saying I wanted. (It’s not just me, it’s a lot of the fandom) Digg got a Green Lantern ring. Looks like our John is headed to HBO Max. And if he isn’t WE WILL HAVE WORDS Mr. Guggenheim. He also did the Salmon Ladder. The finale was very good for John Diggle.

I watched the pilot right after, which was fun, mostly because, BABIES! But also because I wanted to remember that I was kind of all in on this show from minute one, and watching it now, with everything that it’s built, the pilot is even more exciting and interesting.

Anyway, tonight we get the final episode of The Good Place, which means I’ll cry a whole lot and write about it.

“What’s Next?”

The West Wing is my favorite television show ever.

I like a lot of TV. I love a lot of TV. The West Wing is more than that to me. It has some of my favorite writing of any medium and most certainly of any television.

Why are we talking about the show today? Because today is the last time that The West Wing Weekly a podcast where Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina (who was on the show y’all!) rewatched (or in the case of the last three seasons for Hrishi watched for the first time!) this wonderful seven seasons of television.

I have been constantly rewatching The West Wing pretty much since the show began, it used to run in four hour blocks on Bravo, and my roommate Jen had the DVDs, and then streaming entered my life, so you know there’s that. But watching it in community, and at the same pace even as some of the people in my real life was really, really fun. I also, like Hrishi, rarely revisited the post Sorkin years, which are better than I remembered.

But now I’m going to miss The West Wing Weekly, I’m going to miss hearing the inside stories, the good natured rivalry between Malina and Bradley Whitford, the beautiful memories of the dearly departed John Spencer, and all the weird little phrases that have entered my lexicon because of it over the past four years. Flentls and “Attonerys General” and “That’s President *Insert Noun Here*”

The West Wing of course is not going anywhere in my life. I knew it would be leaving Netflix, with NBC and Warner Brothers both getting their own streaming services going, and wheather I was getting Peackock or HBO Max was going to depend entirely on which one was getting The West Wing. It’s HBO Max, which means I will be watching Green Lantern Corp and probably won’t be watching The Adventure Zone (until it’s all up and I can binge during a free trial that is.)

Arrow also ended last night but my antenna wouldn’t pick up The CW so we’ll talk about that tomorrow. OK? For now I’m saying good bye to a podcast about a TV show, because pop culture is really just a snake eating it’s tail at this point in my life. Also I realize that The Good Place finale is on Thursday. There’s a lot going on.

“What’s Next?”