TV Series Review: Jessica Jones

NB: This discusses the whole series in detail. There are massive spoilers. You have been warned.

I’m not an obsessive Marvel fan. I thought Winter Soldier was really, really good. I thought Iron Man 1 and 2 were kind of subversive and really good fun. I thought The Avengers was near perfect popcorn entertainment in the same vein as Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m quite happy to leave the rest of their catalogue alone though, thanks very much. There’s only so much SFX and caped crusading and fight scenes I can take before it all starts feeling same old, same old, and altogether too safe. However, so many people chimed in on how good Marvel TV is, and how good Jessica Jones is in particular, I had to give in and give the show a go.


Jessica Jones is about a female PI with unnatural strength gained in childhood. Years ago she was involved with another person with powers, a person who has the power of mind control. Whatever Kilgrave commanded, people obeyed. Unquestioningly. The series also is the story of Jessica’s residual trauma as a result of living with Kilgrave (Jessica was forced to live with him and allow him to rape her to feed his delusion that she loved him) and of her subsequent hard exterior, drinking habit and emotional coldness which she cast around herself as a protection from everything that happened to her under Kilgrave’s care. This is, of course, legions darker than most superhero subject matter. Some of the themes reminded me of Sandman. The commitment to moral ambiguity and pushing misuse of a so called ‘super power’ to its natural horrifying conclusion proved to be both wholly original and an effective stake raiser for most of the series.

Because this is such a character piece, much rested on the shoulders of those acting main parts. I thought Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones was excellent: the right mix of bottled up and barely suppressed anger at an unfair world and emotional fragility. Hope, Hogarth, Patsy and Malcolm are all excellent. David Tennant as the antagonist, Kilgrave, was also brilliant and I agree with those who say he may well be one of Marvel’s scariest and most complex villains yet. Certainly, he gets points for being one of the smartest about using his powers to get what he wants.

David Tennant is an actor for me who often misses. I find that he is typecast in similar ‘angst hero’ roles which usually make me want to punch the TV (an unpopular opinion but there we go). Ironically, I thought this stereotype only bolstered his appeal in Jessica Jones. Because he was the antagonist, it grated far less when Kilgrave white man angst’d (My brother just described Tennant’s acting career as Sir Angsty McAngst-alot and it’s kind of true) his way to audience pity. Of course, it helps that the show never truly let him off the hook for the many terrible things Kilgrave did, from kidnapping Hope, raping her to the point she is pregnant with his child, making her kill her parents, making a man give up his kidneys, compelling Jessica to live with him again, making Jessica’s neighbour slit his own throat, causing a neighbour to blow herself up… the list goes on.

Jessica Jones is more film noir than it is Marvel, at least for three quarters of the series. And it’s more psychological thriller/horror than it is action set pieces. It is also a character piece about the title character and her relationships with the people who have shaped her life (for good and bad). It’s more anti-hero than super-hero throughout, yes, even when the show does start treading stereotypical Marvel waters. All of this was to the good. I don’t normally binge watch tv, but this was one show I did marathon.

As to the show’s themes: there were a few. The series does one of my favourite things which is mirror characters against the title hero. It is no coincidence that Kilgrave’s latest victim’s name is Hope. She represents Jessica’s literal chance at redemption and forgiveness. Save Hope and save Jessica. Hogarth represents who Jessica could become if she doesn’t let herself feel. As does Kilgrave. The series also asks questions about power: not about superpowers, though that is a vehicle for exploring this theme, but rather the power people have over each other; emotional, physical, mental ties and how people manipulate each other using that power.


This is all a dark place for a superhero series to go. Unfortunately for me, just when I thought Jessica Jones wasn’t going to let audiences off the hook with easy wins and easier moral answers, the writers suddenly remembered they were a Marvel franchise and kill off Hope and then let the story meander for four episodes until Jessica finally defeats Kilgrave. The problem with this is that once Hope is killed there is no discernible reason for Jessica not to kill Kilgrave immediately. It also renders Jessica’s hero’s quest impossible to fulfil. Jessica has failed in achieving redemption. She couldn’t save Hope from Kilgrave. I understand that this is in tone with a nihilistic series, but it didn’t feel like the natural conclusion for me given the show’s earlier focus on Hope as the mechanism to remind Jessica to ‘give a shit.’

The choice to bring evil scientists and experiments and fist fights into the mix right at the end of the series was very Marvel, but it didn’t actually feel very Jessica Jones. The need for ongoing series and opportunities for Marvel cross-over proved greater than the urge to write consistent drama. Jessica Jones could have been dark and brutal and hard hitting and morally bleak in the same vein as British drama Line of Duty especially if there had been eight episodes instead of thirteen in the series. Instead, it felt like a hybrid: stuck halfway between chilling character drama and Marvel blockbuster in a TV format. From 1000 Cuts onwards, it is to the shows detriment. I’ll still be tuning into Daredevil though…

Jessica Jones episodes 1-9: 10/10 inky stars

Jessica Jones episodes 10-13: 7/10 inky stars

Posted in Genre: Crime, Genre: Film, Genre: Horror, Genre: Science Fiction, Genre: Speculative Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Open Submissions: Last Call!

H L Petrovic

January is a good month if you’ve got an unsolicited SF/F manuscript you’d like to get in front of a publisher, with two major publishing houses opening their doors to unsolicited manuscripts this month:

Submissions are open for a brief period at the following publishers:

download 2.jpegAngry Robot Books

Seeking: Complete manuscripts between 70-150,000k in the genres of science fiction or fantasy (incl. steampunk, dark fantasy, alternate history, military SF, modern fantasy, horror, space opera, dieselpunk, cyberpunk)

Electronic submissions only

Submissions close 31st January 2016

You can read all about how to apply here.

download2 2.pngGollancz 

Seeking: Complete manuscripts over 80,000 words in the genres of SF, Fantasy, Horror and YA Crossover.

Hard copies only

Submissions close 22nd January 2016 (so throw you m/s in a courier bag today!)

You can read all about how to apply here. 

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” Book Review

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”

Lemony Snicket

Publisher: Put Me In The Story

First Published: 2015

RRP: $16 US

Regular readers of this blog and my Goodreads account know that I am an enormous Snicket fan. I love the word play and the ambiguities and the sadness and the grey moral pit which is humanity and the quiet humanism which underpins both A Series of Unfortunate Events and Snicket’s newer series, All The Wrong Questions. Regular readers also know that in some ways I love this newer series more: the writing is sharper and packs more punches, the characterizations are all spot on and the film noir spoof suits VFD’s early days perfectly. So it was a delightful surprise when I received an email from American publisher, Put Me In The Story, requesting a review of the customized reprint of the series. Children have always loved placement in stories, especially detective style ones where adults are wrong and children fix things (and adults who are young at heart love these too) and I could see immediately that the Snicket world of VFD, book readers beating out followers of violence and a story filled with codes and secret handshakes would suit a customized medium perfectly. Snicket had practically gone there with An Unauthorized Autobiography anyway. I leaped at the chance.


In this final story, Lemony Snicket must board a train returning to the city to finally uncover Hangfire’s diabolical plot and help his friends try to save Stain’d By The Sea one last time. At first I was afraid the story was a spoof of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. It wasn’t at all. Strange and bitter and sad, instead the story reveals the source of the VFD schism, the corruption already alive in VFD long before Olaf came along, and the beginnings of Snicket’s lonely journey to being both a part of, and seperate, to his secret society. The ending definitely leaves room for a follow-up series exploring Snicket’s romance with Beatrice and subsequent parting as the schism saw them labelled to different sides.

I have always loved Snicket’s ambiguity about people and their actions. The third story in this series saw Snicket make a rousing speech about literacy and decency and passive fights and him and his friends seem to be all on the same side. By this novel’s end, we feel sorry for the hapless and confused Theodora S Markson, the fatherless Ellington Feint and the wild and disillusioned Hangfire. The mysterious villain is revealed to be deranged, but not without cause, and it is a mark of how brave this series has been that Snicket is forced to do wrong to save the town and his friends and concede to some of Hangfire’s perspective. It is clever, if deeply tragic, that Snicket loses his friends to save the town.

Ellington Feint and her terrible coffee have always been an interesting component of the series and the story picks up the second she spars with Snicket: ambiguous, lost, alluring and childish. Snicket’s love for her is a precursor to how he loves Beatrice; with all of his heart and soul and damn the consequences. Her imprisonment with Kit leaves open many possibilities. All of them interesting.

I recently attended a Writers Party where someone said Lemony Snicket was a children’s author. Maybe that’s how he is marketed. That’s definitely not how his series can be read. Yes, the early Series of Unfortunate Events books are juvenile. But later books, and this most recent series, teach adults as well as children and make us question our values about good and bad, right and wrong. For there is still a kernel of hope if you see beyond the terrible waste and sadness of the ending to this series, just as there always was in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Tor books had a great review exploring this element here

“We are an aristocracy,” Snicket tells Moxie in “Shouldn’t You Be In School?” “Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank or wealth, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Our members are found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between us when we meet.” He goes on to say, “Our schisms and arguments might cause us to disappear. It won’t matter. People like us always slip through the net. Our true home is the imagination, and our kingdom is the wide-open world.” It is a beautifully telling quote amongst a series of beautifully telling quotes. Yes, people are good and bad like a chef’s salad, including Snicket himself, but if we can try to be good and kind and decent and well-read, perhaps we can leave the world a little better than when we began in it. It’s the perfect story to share through customization because it’s the moral all of us want for our children.

All four books were presented  as an associate’s training guide, and include:

·         Personalized covers with the reader’s name and initials cleverly integrated in the front and back cover art

·         Reader’s initial designed into the opening artwork page

·         Photo of the reader included on a character portrait page

·         Unique customized letters and interactive messages to the reader from Lemony Snicket

·         Two of the reader’s friends’ names incorporated in the letters and messages

·         Dedication page for the gift giver to write a personalized message to the reader

 Only the most recent book was printed in hardcover. The rest are paperback.

My brother loved this Christmas gift. He loved the messages addressed to him and the photo on the opening page of each book and the references to places and people he knew, as though he himself had joined VFD. And he’s twenty-three. So what are you waiting for? Interested in children’s books with meat? Go forth and purchase!

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”: 4/5 inky stars

All four books in this series were supplied by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Genre: Absurdism, Genre: Crime, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doctor Who Review: The Husbands of River Song

When I first met River in Silence in the Library, (a two-parter which gets better and better with age) little did I know how much I’d come to love the character. I wasn’t sure about a second swan song for River after The Name of The Doctor (which I loved as a character endpoint as well as an episode), but I was cautiously optimistic that the Christmas special would at least give us the joy of the Kingston/Capaldi pairing as well as some bad ass River set pieces. Not only did this episode deliver both in spades, Moffat really did go the whole hog for Christmas and give us an episode which is conceivable to imagine as part of a River Song spin-off with a Doctor guest appearance. The Husbands of River Song managed to be laugh out loud hilarious, beautiful, bittersweet and fluffy all at once and I loved every second, even as I acknowledged it’s a flawed beast.


The Plague of the Christmas Special

Most people I know acknowledge that the Doctor Who Christmas special is never particularly great. They are weak points of even strong series of New Who. I came to positively loathe them in RTD era Who, and Moffat has been hit and miss with episodes like The Christmas Carol and Last Christmas great, and The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe abysmal. I always go in with minimal expectations so I can be pleasantly surprised when a special goes against type.

This year’s episode got the obligatory Christmas trappings out of the way early with carol singers playing against the backdrop of an alien planet and The Doctor appearing before Matt Lucas in antlers. One bonus of Capaldi’s grouchier Doctor is that he can at least lampoon the contrived Christmas moments. The plot too starts off ridiculous, much lighter than most of Series 9, with River contracting The Doctor (though she doesn’t recognize him as The Doctor) to extract a diamond from King Hydroflax, a war loving maniac. The diamond in the brain plot was very The World is Not Enough and is completely ridiculous. However, at least in this episode it served a purpose by showing the audience what River does in her time away from The Doctor. Though much of this episode is Christmas special silly, it felt earnt in this particular story because of what we see of River and her relationship with The Doctor.

River Gets Bad-Ass

River has always been a pretty damn bad ass character, but this special she gets to be extra bad-ass, marrying the diamond, not the alien to return a prize of archaeological value to the people, showing the audience she has access to a ship home to only people who have committed genocide and having plans layered within plans to a Doctor level degree (no wonder they married). It’s almost a shame in a way that the character name was in the episode title because it ruined her suspense in having River cloaked up towards the start of the episode. The following line, however, let me know I was going to be in for a good time:

River: If either of you use my name again, I’ll remove your organs in alphabetical order.

I have to admit, the first time I watched the episode, I thought Moffat and Kingston had finally fucked up the character when she positively cooed to Hydroflax with sickeningly sweet platitudes, including ‘I fly to you’ and ‘Prepare, master of my life.’ I should have known River would never become that kind of character, but Kudos to the team for making me think it had happened for a good five minutes or so.

Though it was stupid of River to tell her plan to The Doctor within earshot of Hydroflax, it was worth it for her chance to use her own sonic trowel (in an oddly ironic reversal of Eleven getting told “It’s a screwdriver… go build a cabinet or something” by River way back in Series 6) and her assessment of herself as, “archaeologist, murderer, thief.” From this point on I kept snorting with laughter at River’s antics. Who didn’t laugh at the below?

River: I’m your wife.

Hydroflax: You tried to kill me.

River: Don’t change the subject!

River’s spray which created whole new outfits was also awesome and I can’t have been the only person cheering when River told a turncoat waiter, ‘I’m an archaeologist from the future… I dig you up.’

The Doctor’s Relationship with River

This episode also showed us more of the two’s unconventional relationship. Though much of the episode felt like fic filmed, I didn’t care because I was having such a good time watching anyway. I liked that River didn’t recognize The Doctor, as this gave us the chance to see what she does get up to without him. I love the room that the show (and Big Finish) leave for themselves with the reveal that River often steals The Doctor’s TARDIS (He’s never noticed before) and the reveal of a brandy stash that The Doctor didn’t even know existed.

River’s failure to recognize Twelve also allows for great sparring between Kingston and Capaldi and helps the episode to sparkle. I loved Capaldi’s delivery as he fakes surprise at the TARDIS being bigger on the inside (‘My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed’) and River’s quip ‘were you born boring or did you have to work hard at it?’ I was howling with laughter at the Hydroflax auction with Twelve’s frantic improvisation and River’s fake telephone signalling. I also snorted at The Doctor and River’s attempts to one-up each other on the other marriages front as their ship is about to catastrophically crash, with both eventually conceding a draw at Cleopatra. I also liked the below quip which says it all really:

The Doctor: I’ve been doing it longer.

River: I’ve been doing it better.

The conceit also allows us to see events from River’s perspective, and allows the episode to blend the silly with elements of adult darkness and sadness. The scene where River has a tear in her eye over The Doctor’s diary, over her understanding that he was the sort of person who would know when a diary would run out and The Doctor’s observation that ‘he sounds like an awful person’ is quite interesting. When River tries to stall for time with her speech that The Doctor ‘doesn’t go around falling in love with people,’ it reveals a lot about her character to that point. The below speech was impassioned and epic, but note that River always had an escape route, even if no Doctor would have entered the story.

River Song: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!

The Doctor’s soft ‘hello sweetie,’ in reply was beautiful in its simplicity and allows us to see how Silence in the Library River came to be.

Closing the River Loop

The Husbands of River Song finally reveals to us how River ends up at the singing towers and the library. The final act of the episode is both bittersweet and a strangely adult ending to the fairy story that began in 2008. Though the restaurant outside the singing towers of Dollirium is essentially Doctor Who’s answer to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the comparison brought to mind further with River’s comment that ‘I had this book. History’s Finest Exploding Restaurants. The best food for free. Skip the coffee.’), it allows for a lovely final date for the couple and the line ‘our only available slot is Christmas Day…’ four years in the future. Lucky for The Doctor he has a time machine. It also gives The Doctor an excuse to give River the sonic she sports in her debut two parter.

River: Funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together, you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you, the real you — the future you, I mean — you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the singing towers. Oh, what a night that was! The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library.

I also liked that Moffat connects the story back to River’s debut in dialogue as well as plot. Moffat loves to mirror and this year’s Christmas special was no exception. Take the below for example:

The Doctor: Are you crying?

River: No. It’s just the wind.

The Doctor: It’s never just the wind.


The Doctor: When the wind stands fair and the night is perfect. When you least expect it, but always when you need it the most – there is a song.


River: You’ll wait until I’ve given up hope. All will be lost, and you’ll do that smug little smile and then you’ll save the day. You always do.

Finally River’s diary sentence from Forest of the Dead makes perfect sense:

River: Everybody knows that everybody dies, but not every day. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives.

The final part of the episode is pure fairy tale, but it’s both beautiful and suitably Christmas spirit, perhaps the most any any Christmas special has been since The Christmas Carol.

The Doctor: Times end, River, because they have to. Because there’s no such thing as happy ever after. It’s just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard.

River Song: No, Doctor, you’re wrong. Happy ever after doesn’t mean forever. It just means time. A little time. But that’s not the sort of thing you could ever understand, is it?

It’s a beautifully sad moment, but luckily, both the audience and River are proven wrong when The Doctor reveals that a night on Dollirium lasts 24 years. Such is the power of the River/Doctor relationship that by the time the episode fades out with:

‘And they lived happily ever after,’ trailing away to simply, ‘happily,’ it feels like Moffat and the episode itself have earnt the indulgence.

The Husbands of River Song: 8/10 inky stars

Posted in Doctor Who, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2016 NAFF race – voting open now!

This year I am a NAFF candidate so please consider voting for me🙂

A conversational life

NAFF 2015

Welcome to the NAFF race for 2016. The National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) was created to assist fans to travel across Australia to attend the National Science Fiction Convention (Natcon). NAFF assists fans to travel to the Natcon and covers the costs of airfares and accommodation. The Natcon donates a convention membership. This year’s NAFF race is to the 55th Australian Natcon, Contact, which will be held in Brisbane during Easter, 25– 28 March 2016. It is expected that the winner will produce a report of their trip, engage in fundraising to support future NAFF races, and to help administer the NAFF race for the following two years. All Australian fans are eligible to vote.

The voting process contributes to the fundraising so each vote costs $5. You are more than welcome to donate more than this amount! Votes are being collected by: Tehani Wessely and the candidates. For more…

View original post 349 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Suspended in Dusk 2: Open Submission


SiD 2 Title2

I am pleased to announce, Books of the Dead Press is opening 2 spots for stories in the Suspended in Dusk 2 anthology in an open submission.

Writing Prompts/Examples: 
If you’re curious about what might be suitable I recommend checking out Suspended in Dusk, which is currently only 99 cents on Amazon.  Here.
Show me something that plays on the theme of light/dark (Wendy Hammer did this in the original Suspended in Dusk with her story Negatives) , or don’t… show me a person, people, society on the edge of the proverbial abyss (Chris Limb did this with Ministry of Outrage). Show me a story of someone on the grey fringes of normal society (Karen Runge, Hope is Here!). Show me a person, or people undergoing some kind of change,.. willing or otherwise. Knowing or otherwise (Shane Mckenzie, Fit Camp). Show me something that is brought into the light, but everyone…

View original post 143 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment