Orphan Black Season 3 – Reflections on Violence



For those of you who may not have seen season three of this show be warned; there may be SPOILERS!

Let me say right up front that I think this show is terrific and that Maslany simply brilliant.  Kudos to the Emmys’  for finally figuring out how to get her a well deserved nomination.  But…..

I think this season was weaker then seasons 1 or 2 and I think that was due to a couple of things.  One was the focusing more on Allison then the other clones.  While Maslany’s performance as Allison is great that particular character can become extremely grating and that was what happened for me.  I found myself actually fast forwarding though some of the tedious school board election scenes.  The other problem may be unique to me, but it did start me on a long process of considering the place of violence in entertainment.

Here is the moment that left me feeling ambivalent about the show for the first time.  It was when Helena kills all the drug dealers with an axe because they have taken her “babies”.  I’m not arguing that the drug dealers were dangerous and violent and evil, but what bothered me in the scene was that it was played for a laugh.  There is the initial confrontation with the hapless Donny and Helena facing down the gang, then Donny leaves and after several beats Helena emerges covered in blood with gore dripping off the axe.  She has her babies and a pot load of money which she gives to Donny.  It was clear this was meant to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing.

Maybe it’s because the past month has held the senseless deaths of nine people at a bible study class who were murdered for being black, and the murder of five young men whose only crime was to wear the uniform of the United States.  Whatever the reason the scene bothered me a great deal.  Not only in the moment, but in the aftermath.  There was no repercussions for Helena’s action.  I wasn’t looking for a reaction by the authorities and the court system, but I needed some acknowledgement inside that family that Helena is dangerous.  If I were Donny I wouldn’t be terribly comfortable about having her around my children or my wife.  Instead there’s just the flippant “We came into some money,” to Allison as he stacks bills in the freezer.

I was discussing this with a friend who pointed out the burying the body in the garage sequence, and she asked if that bothered me as much?  It didn’t, but I wonder if that began this sense of queasiness that culminated in the Helena scene.  I could justify hiding the death of the doctor since the company had already declared him dead, and if Donny had gone to the authorities it would have revealed the sisters and endangered them.  He would also have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and the writer’s probably thought a trip through the court system wasn’t where they wanted to go.  But —

Just as I don’t care for redemptive violence as a solution to a conflict in a book or a movie I’m becoming very tired of violence as a source of humor.  I think violence should have power and meaning.  If it’s used constantly as a joke or as a chest thumping Oo-rah!  Go us! then I think it makes us as readers and viewers more coarse and desensitizes us.  There is a reason that cops are sent to therapy after a shooting incident.  Why soldiers suffer from PTSD.  Taking a human life is consequential.

I love action movies and shows.  The books I write tend to have a lot of action, but I make the point in my Edge novels that my hero, Richard, keeps a count of every person he’s ever killed because he doesn’t want to become inured to it.  He wants it to never be easy.

I dislike the fact that creators and writers are making it easy.

Ant Man and Marvel Movies Overall



I’m just back from seeing ANT MAN with my friends Len Wein and Christine Valada.  I really liked it.  It’s a slight film, but it has heart and humor and thank god we weren’t threatening New York, or the Earth or the Galaxy or the whole damn Universe (Thor: The Dark World).  We were also watching it at the sybaritic Cinepolis theater with the full bar and meals and four kinds of popcorn (caramel corn — yum) and reclining leather seats with foot rests, etc. etc.  Paul Rudd is charming and not at all the muscle bound hero.  Michael Peña damn near steals the film.  Evangeline Lilly is a smart competent woman who isn’t traditionally Hollywood beautiful.  The villain felt like he’d been pulled from central casting — all he lacked was a mustache, but the fight sequences were fun because the direction and writers never took them too seriously.  Scenes that were titanic in power when the guys are ant sized are presented as silly when the would pull back to the real world to show a toy train falling over with a tiny “tink”.

I noticed that GRRM wrote a post about Ant Man and talked about the Marvel movies and his rankings (which are wrong 😏  (Teasing.  You get that I’m teasing, right?  I assume some of you heard our debate at the Worldcon in Reno so you know George and I have a long history of disagreeing in fun and with great abandon.)  Anyway, I thought I’d try and set him straight.  Anyway, here’s my list in order of terrific and why.  The two Spiderman films aren’t technically part of the Marvel juggernaut, but he’s a Marvel character so I’m going to include him.

SPIDERMAN 2 with Toby McGuire and Doc Ock (not those terrible remakes).  The scene where he stops the train and the commuters realize he’s “just a kid” can make me cry every time.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.  Certainly the first half of that film is damn near perfect.  After that it becomes your typical superhero movie, but the early scenes with Dr. Erskine are just perfection.  I use that movie when I teach because it shows the power of the medium to say in a visual what would take pages in a book.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – a perfect little jewel of a movie with flawed characters who touch your heart and who actually grow and change in interesting ways.

IRON MAN 1 — Terrific film about a man finding his soul.  They should have stopped there and just let him be a brilliant asshole in the Avengers movies.

THOR  and not just because… Loki (sigh).  I use that film when I teach to help illustrate the difference between plot and theme.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – beautiful evocation of a different time and the relationship between Charles and Erik is gorgeous.  It didn’t hurt that the movie had two top ranked actors in those roles.

AVENGERS – I liked the film a great deal.  Too many action sequences but at least they seemed like they were designed to move the story forward.  Unlike the second Avengers film which seemed designed to just have another big CGI fight.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – a grown up film about issues of freedom and security and a man and a woman who are merely friends.

ANT MAN – (see above)

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (the less said about X-Men 3 the better and this film fixed that).

SPIDERMAN – the first film with Toby McGuire


So, I think I’ll stop there.  This was fun thinking back on all the hours of genuine entertainment these films have provided.