Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

Penny Dreadful drops the ghastliest twist of all: It suddenly ends.

July 01, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 1 Comment →

Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) in session with Dr. Seward (Patti Lupone). In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dr. Seward was a man.

This is my last column for BusinessWorld, and now I am on leave.

For three seasons the fans of Showtime’s Victorian drama Penny Dreadful have reveled in its sumptuous Gothic atmosphere, its bloodsoaked storylines and its never-ending struggle against demons without and within. We’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe; we do not terrify easily. But when the words “The End” appeared at the close of season 3, episode 9, we greeted it with shrieks of terror. It’s over? Without warning?

The series created by John Logan careened to an end, leaving many plotlines dangling, abandoning its new characters before they’d done anything, and assigning a particularly cruel fate, capped by a corny last line, to its most fearless character. Logan, whose screen credits include Gladiator and the last two Bond movies, said that this was how he’d always envisioned the series. With a supposedly triumphant resolution that not only feels like a big buzzkill, but nullifies the rationale of the entire show? I suspect not.

The third season began with two of the major characters leaving gloomy, claustrophobic London for the wide open spaces of the old American West. I don’t care for sunshine myself, but I’m all for the series expanding its scope. And then everyone decides to hurry back to London as if the studio had announced it was turning off the lights, and before they can unpack their luggage it’s the final battle. Remember the outrage over the third Alien movie where, after everything Ripley had endured and overcome in the two previous movies, she dives into the furnace? I mention Alien 3 because Logan is the writer of the forthcoming Alien Covenant. Also, that ending was poetic justice compared to Penny Dreadful’s.

What do we do when we are not satisfied with the outcome of a TV series? We could circulate a petition for its resurrection: a show that has Dr. Frankenstein and various dark powers in its cast has as many means of bringing back the dead as Game of Thrones. We could write fanfiction with an alternate ending. Or we could binge-watch the entire series (Third season optional) and relive the many pleasures of our favorite Victorian Gothic entertainment.

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Read The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London’s Dirty Book Trade

Confirmed: R + L = J. Notes on Game of Thrones’ Season 6 finale

June 28, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 10 Comments →

Obviously, do not read if.

I preferred the Valentino-ish wardrobe.

Ooh, jewelry. Tommen has been number one in our deadpool for weeks. Will he?

The Walter Murch Godfather I editing. Getting dressed for the trial, getting killed by Little Birds. Glad they kept that bit from the books in, even if someone else was offed.

Lancel crawling to the candle. . .brilliant. (Poor boy, named after a handbag.)

Why is Cersei dressed like Rhythm Nation 1114?

Wonderful music for piano, voice and cello by Ramin Djawadi. I’ve always associated the cello with people going mad.

Aaaaand Ricky wins the deadpool.

The symmetry of Tommen defenestrating himself the way his parents defenestrated Bran. Love that verb, defenestrate.

jaime and walder

I like how Jaime looks nauseous while Walder Frey is speaking.

She has Tommen burned! Krung kruuuung.

Gilly has a new wig.

I want that library. I would have the same reaction as Samwell.

Is Jon the only character on the show who is good? Who will always do the right thing, even if kills him (already happened)? Remember how he threw away his battle plan last week to ride to Rickon. (All-knowing nitpickers: Running serpentine would not have saved him.) Melisandre: useful, but.

“Father always promised”—hindi siya ang ama mo!

I don’t get the Jon and Sansa shippers online. There’s enough incest in Westeros.

“What is your name again, Barbara?” “You shut up, dear.” Lady Olenna is a critic! When TV is invented in the Seven Kingdoms, she should have a talk show.

Wait, the people of Dorne are okay with being ruled by the murderer of their king? Ah, politics.

Ang taray ni Varys.

Hehe Daario is the girl. She can’t bring a girlfriend to the reconquest.

Daenerys and Tyrion are shot like siblings. . .because they are! I think. The Mad King had a thing for Joanna Lannister.

Tyrion’s face when he is named the Hand of the Queen! Another Emmy moment.

A girl is a terrible pastry chef but an efficient assassin. The symmetry of Walder Frey going the way Catelyn Stark did at the Red Wedding. (And where is Hot Pie?)

Ewww Uncle Pervert Baelish. I still don’t get his convoluted game plan.

How is Meera going to drag Bran around? More importantly, if Bran crosses the Wall with the mark of the Night’s King on his arm, won’t the White Walkers be able to pass, too?

Aaaaaand R + L = J. Wish Lyanna wasn’t played by the annoying girl from The Fall. I wonder if they’ll ever show Rhaegar Targaryen on the show. He’d have to be spectacular.

king in the north

Jon Snow is the Song of Ice and Fire. Sansa should be the Hand of the King.

Lyanna Mormont shames everyone by being a badass. She should be Queen.

So the female takeover of Westeros is complete. All the ostensible misogyny on the series was for a reason.

Jaime’s look of déjà vu because he may have to slay another Mad Monarch.

The Dothraki have never been on ships, I hope they have Bonamine.

The dragons will get bored from flying slowly.

And with that, we have to wait another year.


Will we ever see Gendry again? Will Arya reunite with Nymeria? Will Arya and The Hound join forces in the Brotherhood Without Banners? Can Cleganebowl still happen? Brienne and Tormund or Brienne and Jaime? What happens when Daenerys meets Jon? You think they’ll join forces, or fight each other? Will they be allies, or a couple (Again the incest thing)?

Other questions?

Fake or Fortune? The Winslow Homer in the trash, the fakes at the Courtauld, and other art detective tales.

June 27, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Television No Comments →


Fake or Fortune? unfolds like a detective series, with a painting in the office instead of a corpse in the solarium. Each episode begins with presenters Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce taking on an art mystery: Is this a genuine Turner (or Vuillard, Gainsborough, etc)? The show derives much of its charm from the pairing of Philip, an art dealer and art historian, and Fiona, a broadcast journalist. Philip is the expert, knowledgeable in the ways of the art business. Fiona is the stand-in for the audience, asking the questions we want to ask and articulating our bewilderment. Philip is generally calm and unflappable, while Fiona is emotional and expressive — she wants the paintings to be genuine, and looks crushed when they aren’t. As viewers, we feel we have a stake in the outcome of the investigation.

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Penny Dreadful comes to an end. Where do we get our Victorian Gothic weirdo fix now?

June 22, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 8 Comments →

Only watch this video after you’ve seen the final episode.

Is there any heroine in Victorian horror fiction or outside it who has worse taste in men than Vanessa Ives? Yet that is one of the reasons why we love her. Apart from the fact that she is portrayed by Eva Green, who is so awesome she needs no CGI. She needs no co-stars, actually, and the show acknowledged that by giving her a one-woman acting showcase every season. Though her co-stars are fabulous: the ageless Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear who gave the Creature a touching humanity, Harry Treadaway as the disturbed genius Frankenstein, the beautiful Josh Hartnett in a role that really suited him. Billie Piper, so grating in the first season, was great in her final scene in the third. Patti Lupone came on so strong in the second season that she was brought back as a different character in the third. As the New Yorkiest alienist (what they used to call shrinks) in London, she delivered the best dismissal of Dracula: “Fuck you.”

Tempting to campaign for a fourth season—the material has even more ways to resurrect the departed than Game of Thrones does—but this is how the creators always envisioned the end and we have to respect that. On the other hand, any of the characters could star in a spinoff…

Bloodline: A family drama gets swamped in the telling

June 10, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 1 Comment →


Flash-forward is the new flashback. On every episode of Bloodline, we are reminded that the good son John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) will dispose of the body of the bad son Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) on a boat in the Florida Keys. Did John kill Danny? The very first words we hear on the show are: “Sometimes, you know something’s coming. You feel it in the air. In your gut… Something’s going to go terribly wrong.” The opening credit sequence says as much: clear blue skies over a sun-bleached beach giving way to dark clouds, thunder, lashing rain. Accompanied by a cover of a Metallica song. “Please don’t judge us,” says John. “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.”

Oh, really? We would never have guessed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Read my review of Bloodline in The Binge.

Tobias Menzies reads from The Iliad

June 07, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 4 Comments →