Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

The easiest way to get into Tolstoy’s War and Peace

July 13, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →


There have been many film and TV adaptations of War and Peace, but the 2016 BBC series written by Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Harper is especially accessible to the contemporary audience. In this case accessible is a good thing because it will drive viewers to the source. The Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, okay, we have learned our lesson.

The novel is huge and sprawling and this version is abridged to fit into six one-hour episodes. It makes short work of those pages and pages of scheming relatives trying to keep Pierre from his inheritance. You get just enough of a taste of the good stuff: Pierre getting roped into marriage with Helene who sleeps around, the dashing Prince Andrei who is sick of life, the lovely Natasha pining for her fiancé and seduced by that terrible Kuragin, the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, Helene’s comeuppance, the heartbreaking dog. The cast is wonderful: Paul Dano as Pierre, James Norton (now the frontrunner in the betting for the next James Bond) as Andrei, Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily and Gillian Anderson as Princess Scherer.

Of course everything depends on our falling in love with Natasha, and Lily James has to compete with the ghost of Audrey Hepburn, but she acquits herself gracefully. That ballroom scene: we really, really want Andrei to ask her to dance.

And like Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which also takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, the Rostov matriarch is the one who worries about money.

Who are the worst parents on Game of Thrones? Answer this and win a limited edition Moleskine.

July 05, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Contest, Television 23 Comments →

Update: The winner of the Worst Parents in Westeros contest is abcabc.

# 18 abcabc Says:
July 7th, 2016 at 18:20 e
Craster is the worst parent for me. Imagine being his daughter or granddaughter. The daughters were raped and forced to bear his offspring. It might be confusing for the daughter because yes, she must have loathed the baby, but then there’s love too. And then if it turns out it’s a boy, it will get killed. If it’s a woman, well, she’s in for a lifetime of slavery. Craster is the worst because unlike the children of other GOT characters, his did not have the luxury of a friend’s company. They cannot leave. They were forced to be in that situation without recourse. Imagine all the things that hurt you never going away and knowing you will never escape.

Congratulations! You can claim your limited edition Game of Thrones Moleskine at the Customer Service counter of National Bookstore at Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati, any day starting Wednesday. Just give the name you used to register on this site (Your initials and surname). Enjoy your Moleskine.

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Jon Snow may be a bastard and an orphan, but given the state of parenting in Westeros, he may be one of the lucky ones. He was raised by the honorable Eddard Stark and Catelyn Stark, who was mean to him but admitted she was mean to him. Good parents are rarer than Valyrian steel in the Seven Kingdoms. There’s Tywin Lannister, who hated his youngest child Tyrion and withheld his affection from the twins. Cersei’s one redeeming quality apart from her cheekbones was her love for her children, but now she’s dead inside.


There’s bonkers Lysa Arryn, who breastfed Robin till he was ten and was moved to instigate the game by her enduring lust for Petyr Baelish. Stannis Baratheon loved his daughter Shireen and would not give up the search for a cure for greyscale (hope for Jorah Mormont), but had her burned at the stake. Walder Frey and Balon Greyjoy are just horrible. Randyll Tarly maltreated Samwell and wished him dead. We almost forgot the loathsome Craster, Gilly’s father.

Who are the worst parents on Game of Thrones? (Let’s limit the field to the TV show because if we bring in the books and the histories this discussion would go on for months.) Post your answer in Comments, along with a brief explanation of your choice. The winner will receive this limited edition Game of Thrones Moleskine pocket notebook.


Valar Morghulis.

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Our Worst Parents in Westeros raises an interesting set of questions.

What is a bad parent?
Is it possible to be a terrible human being but a good parent?
Is it possible to be a decent human being but a horrible parent?
How much responsibility do parents have over how their offspring turn out? There are nice people who have awful spawn, and there are monsters who somehow produce decent people.
What about redeeming qualities?
Nature or Nurture?
Are some people just bad?

Your nominees are:

Roose Bolton, for fathering Ramsay. Granted, Roose is a murderous traitor, and it’s hard to find redeeming qualities for a House that flays its enemies alive. But is Roose completely responsible for his monster son?

Craster, for raping and enslaving his daughters and granddaughters, and then giving all the male children to the White Walkers.

Randyll Tarly, for hating his fat, nerdy son Samwell (Samwell Tarly = Samwise Gamgee). Who nevertheless turns out to be a mensch.

Daenerys Targaryen, for sacrificing her unborn child to save her husband Khal Drogo. In her defence, the witch was not clear about the terms of the deal. Also I don’t think we can fault her for raising dragons rather than children. She can’t have children, plus you can’t conquer Westeros without an air force. (What about Aerys II Targaryen who wanted to burn everyone?)

Walder Frey, lecherous traitor who hosted the Red Wedding. Father to many, many unhappy children. But should responsibility for the Red Wedding not be shared by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister?

Mace Tyrell, for total cluelessness. On the other hand, his children had fabulous wardrobes and made their own choices. (Did Lady Olenna emasculate her son?)

Cersei and Jaime Lannister, incestuous twins, parents of the horror that was Joffrey. Myrcella and Tommen turned out okay, but were just pawns for Cersei. Shouldn’t Jaime be held accountable as well? Shouldn’t Robert Baratheon, who was officially Joffrey’s father? Then again, Cersei had Robert killed.

Melisandre, mother of the smoke baby that killed Renly Baratheon. Though she didn’t really raise it, just kind of farted it out. She is a murderous religious fundamentalist. Does she get points for bringing back Jon Snow? (One could argue that Jon would’ve come back anyway.)

Clegane, father of Gregor “The Mountain” and Sandor “The Hound”. Even as a child Gregor was a monster abetted by his father. But Sandor is an interesting character–there’s good in him, though it may be too late for redemption.

Eddard Stark, for leaving Winterfell and valuing his honor more than the lives of his children. In his defense, he confessed to treason in exchange for the safety of Sansa and Arya. The deal was for him to take the black, but Joffrey had his head cut off. (What about Catelyn, who left little Bran–whom their enemies had tried to kill twice//and Rickon to rule Winterfell?)

Lysa Arryn overindulged her son and turned him into a spoiled wimp who will be a pawn forever. Baelish used her to set the Game of Thrones in motion, endangering parents and children throughout the Seven Kingdoms.

Stannis Baratheon, killed his brother and his daughter in his futile quest to be king. And had no sense of humor.

Mommy Direwolf can’t really be blamed for dying. (May as well fault Lyanna Stark for dying in childbirth.) If the Starks hadn’t adopted the pups they’d be dead, too.

Keep sending your answers.

Number of people who have told me they are worried for Lyanna Mormont: 10.

Westerosi Parents of the Year shortlist:

Oberyn and Ellaria Martell seemed like cool parents, but their daughters turned out to be surly killers.
Davos Seaworth
Selwyn Tarth, whom we have never seen, allowed his daughter Brienne to be a warrior.

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…