I know that Halloween is next week, and that its always a two-parter, but it certainly underscores the march of time. Halloween is usually the time that American Horror Story does its most overt tilt at the tip of the cultural horror iceberg. There’s a lot that can go wrong here, but I sense that actually Freak Show has the best potential outlet of all the series so far.
Potential is what this series thusfar is thriving on. It’s not delivering on all of it immediately, but to me that has seemed like a sense of timing and rising tension, that an actual misstep. So let’s see what it can do with the first part of its Halloween two-parter, “Edward Mordrake”.
In the run up to the elections in May, I warned that UKIP did not make for good representatives. In the European Parliament, their attendance has been nothing short of dreadful. They consistently rank amongst the worst absentees, whilst taking home all the same pay and claiming all the same expenses as those MEPs who do the job.
It does not surprise me therefore, and should not surprise anyone who pays attention to Southend local politics, that at last night’s full council meeting in Southend two fifths of the UKIP group were absent.
What pushes this even further into the realms of absurdity, is that the absence of those kippers meant that a policy that they supported — changing the council from a cabinet system to a committee system — failed.
One surprise from Gotham in the first four episodes, has been the number of appearances from Bruce Wayne. The young actor playing the role is good, don’t get me wrong, but I hadn’t been anticipating such a focus on someone who is some ten to twenty years from being Batman. So nobody — surely — can be expecting an appearance by the Caped Crusader.
Unless they go down the flash-forward route… (As in the opposite of flashbacks, not the Robert J Sawyer novel. And let us hope they do not take the former option -Ed).
The point is that, if they have made such an effort to keep referring back to the boy that we certainly haven’t forgotten about, then something is looming which is going to involve him doing more than moping.
Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.
This week’s heresy:
“As well as having a promotions policy epitomising the worst of the nepotistic and arbitrary, Starfleet as depicted on screen has a disciplinary system which actively discourages whistleblowing and the promotion of best practice.”
It’s a universal truth that all political parties are coalitions. The Labour Party, for example, is a coalition of old Labour traditional socialists to modernist “Blairite” factions and everything in between. The Conservatives have (a declining faction of) one-nation-type Tories, ideological Thatcherites, and further right almost-nationalist types.
The Liberal Democrats are still broadly divisible into the Liberals and the SDP, with a mix of those who joined when they were a left-of-Labour party, and have since pretty much melted away. And the Greens are an alliance between the middle-class, tree-hugging liberals of old, and old socialist elements floating around since Kinnock declared war on Militant Tendency.
But UKIP — UKIP have perfect the mongrel art of the political party. Farage is a sometime-Thatcherite, with a taste for the little Englander world-view, whilst UKIP’s first, and at time of print sole, MP is more of a classic liberal. And in elections in the north of England, they have been manoeuvring to be an Old Labour replacement.
So with such a varied composition, it can be no surprise that there are ideological fault-lines all over UKIP’s topography. And they seem to be coming to a particular head in South Essex.
Okay, so I don’t want to be premature, but I have to say that the last few episodes have seen a bit of a good streak from the classic BBC science-fiction series.
Peter Capaldi has brought a much-needed change of tone to the series, which admittedly has taken a little while to find secure footing, but now that it has we seem to have ended up with a more serious, darker Doctor. I have seen some complaint that it isn’t really aimed at children any more. With which I disagree.
It is darker, true. But children can handle that. This is the sort of thing that I would have lapped up as a kid, and indeed did, through watching some of the incredibly dark classic episodes. We need to approach children’s entertainment like this, trusting them to find their own way.
So with my colours nailed to the mast, let’s hope this week’s episode doesn’t disappoint.
Thurrock is just down the road from Southend. About fifteen miles or so from my door, as the crow flies. And to go there, to listen to UKIP it’s already theirs. They did indeed do well in the local elections in May, but then they did well in Southend without much of an idea of what they were standing for.
Tim Aker, the UKIP MEP for the East of England and candidate for Thurrock, is even going on Newsnight and describing Thurrock as “his seat”. Which is presumptious, given that it’s a three way marginal which he hasn’t won yet.
But it illustrates a point: they think they’ve got this sewn up. So in a by-election in a Labour council seat, a week after coming within six hundred and twenty votes of winning a safe Labour parliamentary seat, they’d look to storm it and win in a landslide.
Funny that they lost, and by a considerable margin.
My verdict — sans spoilers — the first episode of Freak Show was in short: good, creepy, not perfect, but extremely promising. Which probably sums up my thoughts of each season’s première. Sucking me in is what American Horror Story has managed to do unlike pretty much any other show I’ve seen.
The result is that I’m prepared to forgive mid-season lulls, which was Coven‘s main issue. I know that each season has had its lovers and loathers, and it has something of a Marmite effect (Which, ironically, I can take or leave… -Ed). I can understand the criticisms, but somehow the series always wins me over.
In one way, this is a plus. But it does give Freak Show a bit of a mountain to climb. “Monsters Among Us” was a strong first step, but there is still a long way to go until Kendal Mint cake at the summit.
I’ll lay my cards out straight off here; I’m not much of a fan of party leaders debates in the run up to general elections. We have a parliamentary, not a presidential, system in which we do not elect our heads of government. We elect our representatives to parliament.
What would, in my opinion, be more helpful would be 650 individual debates, one in each constituency in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That way people can see the candidates that they can actually vote for going head to head, and make the best choice for their local area.
Time was, these were called hustings.
That, however, isn’t going to happen. Unless David Cameron feels he can somehow chicken out of the debates completely, some variation upon the head-to-head party leaders’ debates of 2010 will be happening.
Is it possible for Gotham — a Batman-prequel following Jim Gordon and a childhood Bruce Wayne — to simultaneously appeal to fans and non-fans of Batman?
I may be the wrong person to answer that, but I think that it certainly can. So far it has walked the line between the knowing nods which would excite fanboys and annoy the uninitiated, and solid character building. I have pointed out in previous reviews that I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to Batman-lore, but many of the Easter eggs I have gotten, and those which I haven’t have been signposted clearly enough that a quick Google brings me up to speed.
The reason for this little discourse is the title of this week’s episode of Gotham. “Arkham” will mean a lot to Batman fans. To those who are tuning in for a crime show, because CSI or Midsomer Murders or whatever (Are those the only crime shows you know? -Ed), will probably recognise the significance a little less.
Or maybe I’m being patronising. On with the show, then.