11 Reasons to Love Stranger Things

So, it’s summertime.

Not only is it hot, but the offerings on television are a bit scant, so to speak.

The Green Arrow, The Flash and my man Jim Gordon are all on summer vacation, I suppose.

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Although, really, I was craving a dose of the 80’s.

But The Goldbergs are also on vacation.  And I needed something new and fresh, and none of the 80’s movies or TV shows in my collection were cutting it!

But luckily, Netflix decided to oblige me…

I heard that there was new show out.  It could satisfy that 80’s craving…check.

I’m a huge fan of horror and it was scary…check.

It paid homage to some writer guy I am obsessed with…check.

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Oh, and it was actually well-acted and directed…check.

In other words, I am referring to the Netflix show known as Stranger Things.

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Yes, I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon!

No I didn’t get a t-shirt, but it was one hell (or is it upside down?) of a ride!

Now, I didn’t binge.  Despite my love for this show, it still is a fine wine that needed to be savored.

So I forced myself to slow down.

In other words, I finished watching the show in about a week.  And I still felt that I rushed it a bit, since there was so much good stuff to savor!

Like the 80’s aspect of it…nostalgia rules!

The Stephen King references…The Master himself even earned a direct reference…but I know he won’t let the fame get to his head!

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And this show was scary…I had to hide my eyes and grip my poor dog really hard watching some parts…good thing dogs are tolerant of their human slaves, even when the human slaves are watching scary stuff on TV!

In other words, there are so many reasons to love Stranger Things.  The show really does have a little something for everyone, and is so well done.

So, I deemed this show worthy of a post on this little old blog.  And I narrowed down the number of reasons to love this show…

Wait for it…

Eleven!

(See what I did there?  You are welcome!)

So, here is my list of 11 reasons as to why Stranger Things is an awesome show.  It may be a bit redundant in parts, but I feel each reason earned its place on the list and is worthy of discussion.

Time to break down and discuss this show, so buckle in for the ride!

And, as always:

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It is scary

Some of you may be scratching your heads, and wondering if Captain Obvious has taken over this blog.  And I don’t begrudge you for that thought.  After all, this show is billed as being in the horror category, so of course it’s scary, right?

Well, not necessarily.  Both the big and small screen are filled with all kinds of abominations these days that call themselves horror.  And when I refer to them as abominations, that does not necessarily mean they are the good kind of abomination…

So, let’s break it down and discuss it.

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When I watched Stranger Things, I felt warm and fuzzy at times.  After all, nostalgia, right?  And I laughed.  I mean who wouldn’t laugh?  After all, Dustin’s antics, floating Eggo waffles and Steve’s hair…all of those are pretty chuckle-worthy, in my opinion.

And, as quickly as I felt the warm and fuzzy, or went into a mad fit of giggling over a Dustin one-liner, I found myself holding on to my dog for dear life (like I said, she’s tolerant) and trying not to be scared into a change of pants.  The show was that effective.

First of all, there was the concept of the Upside Down.  An alternate dimension that sucks in a little kid. forcing him to communicate using Christmas lights?  One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of the unknown.  And an alternate dimension fits that category perfectly, as that would be one of the few frontiers left.

Nancy is briefly sucked into that alternate dimension, and seeing it through her eyes was just frightening.  No wonder she needed a little company that night.  I don’t think I would ever sleep again!

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There is also The Monster.  Although the politically correct name for him (it?) is Mr. Tulip-Head.  So I shall refer to him by his proper name in this post, so no tentacles are ruffled!

And Mr. Tulip-Head is not one to be trifled with, yo!

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Not only is he an extra-dimensional monster that is a predator (you could say that the town of Hawkins was his haunt, as in haunt meaning a place where animals feed), he seems to force slug-like creatures down people’s throats, in an attempt to either kill them, or perhaps an attempt to reproduce…

I tell you, if Will has a mini Mr. Tulip-Head come busting out of him, per the infamous scene in the movie Alien…well, I won’t be surprised at all!  And you can say you heard it here first!

Did anyone else think sushi when Will puked up that tentacle, by the way?

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Ok, so that was just me then…

Well, nevermind, I guess…


It is Nerd Heaven

From the opening scene of Stranger Things, the tone is set.  The audience realizes that it will be treated to a…

Nerd fest!

I know, something nerdy making it on to this blog?  Can you imagine!?

At the beginning of the first episode, the boys are playing Dungeons and Dragons.  And using all the technical terms, like Demi-Gorgon.  And trust me folks, it only gets nerdier.

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Obviously, we have Mike, Will and the rest of the gang.  Right from the beginning, the writers of the show let us know that they are the nerds among their peer group.  This title includes the good grades, unusual hobbies (D&D and membership in the audio-visual club), and the other, not positive attributes of nerdiness, such as the empty social calendar and merciless bullying.

Not only is D&D present throughout the series (as a useful metaphor, no doubt), there are so many little details that made my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.

We have the teacher that has a hot date with a pretty girl explaining the special effects in a horror movie.  Who needs brawn and muscles when you have a guy that can give a technical break down of the special effects in a scary movie to put your mind at ease?

There is the sensory deprivation chamber.  I loved how the boys, Hop and Joyce speculated on how to create one, and then hit upon the idea of using salt water.  It added some credibility to the series, although I think I will skip making one in an attempt to visit another dimension, as this one without Mr. Tulip-head is just fine, thank you!

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I also loved it when the guys talked to the science teacher (the same expert on special effects in movies), about the existence of other dimension, and how to access those dimensions.  As a teenager, I read tons of books on physics, along with science fiction and fantasy novels covering that same topic (A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine) and it is a subject of endless fascination for me, even in adulthood.  So to see it addressed on this show (the analogy with the acrobat and flea on the tightrope is an excellent) gave me goosebumps.  And goosebumps of the good variety.

If I actually had a friend group as a child, I hope that group would have contained a Dustin, a Mike, a Will and a Lucas.  After all, nerd power!


It has strong feminist leanings

If you haven’t, take the time to watch movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.  If you watch carefully, these movies follow a formula.

The formula looks something like this:  a scary monster (or serial killer) is on the loose, somehow.  There are all kinds of hints, but both the teenagers and adults ignore the warning signs.  The teenagers are left to their own devices.  In other words, teenagers of the opposite sex gather together, and “own devices” turns out to mean “having sex.”  So most of the teens pair off, and conveniently find fully furnished bedrooms.  And then they have sex.  Well, except for a couple of virtuous kids, who are either uncomfortable with the idea of dating before marriage, or the nerdy guy (or girl, but usually a guy) who is rejected by the beautiful member of the opposite sex for either the jock or cheerleader.

Apparently, nothing angers a movie villain more than sexually active teenagers.  And the kinkiness of the sex involved is directly proportional to how quickly (and even how gruesomely) the teenagers get dispatched.  It is then up to the virtuous guy or girl to face the killer, and defeat the killer, who just won’t stay dead, even after being riddled with a large number of bullets that would take down any non horror movie villain.

Or something like that, at any rate.  Formulaic, in other words.

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Now, Stranger Things may be a tribute to the 80’s and all things horror, but one thing it is not is formulaic.  This includes its treatment of the teenage girl.  In fact, Stranger Things stands the formula on its head, and can be argued to make a strong feminist statement by doing so.

So a Netflix series dealing with extra-dimensional monster, with shades of The Goonies and Stand By Me has (gasp) feminist leanings?  Have this blogger lost her mind?

Well, no.  Although my friends and family may argue otherwise, but you can’t miss what you never had, right?

And yes, Stranger Things does make a strong feminist statement, and here’s why.

Nancy becomes involved with Steve, and sneaks out to a party, lying to her parents and convincing poor Barb to cover for her.  Pretty typical teen behavior, in other words.

Not surprisingly, Nancy and Steve have sex.  The other couple at the party has sex.  And poor Barb is left to her own devices.

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Standard horror fare, in other words.

But then, we veer away from the standard horror.  Nancy survives her first time, although Steve behaves in a pretty boorish manner (in other words, a teenage boy.)  Barb, however, does not survive that night, as she is attacked by Mr. Tulip-Head.  Apparently, Mr. Tulip-Head did not get the memo from Jason or Michael Myers, and does not attack the teenagers engaged in premarital sex.  Rather, he behaves like a typical predator, and attacks the isolated member of the herd, aka Barb.

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It takes a bit, but Nancy realizes that Barb is missing.  She confesses her lie to her mother and speaks to the police, naturally leaving out that she and Steve had sex that night.  I mean, it’s not like her sex life is anybody’s business but hers, right?

Furthermore, Nancy lets her mother know this, in no uncertain terms.  Yes, she had sex and Barb is now missing.  But the two are NOT related, nor should they be seen as related.  Because, you know, becoming sexually active and an extra-dimensional monster that had been unleashed due to the irresponsible actions of a shady operation in town are NOT related, so let’s focus on the important thing here:  now two children are missing, and maybe our town is in danger, so let’s do something before more people turn up missing?

BOOM!

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Who knew?!

In other words, quit punishing women for being sexual!  Being sexual should not lead to death!  And a women’s sex life is no one’s business but her own!  Yeah, go Stranger Things!

Plus, Nancy kicks ass anyway.  She threw down some serious shade against Mr. Tulip-Head, and they boys just kind of followed her lead.

In other words, I can’t give Nancy enough love.


It is 80’s heaven

And let me count the ways…

Where do I even start?  This show just has so much 80’s…

We have the decor in the houses.  Someone took some great care to make sure that the houses looked like something you would see back in 1983, from the wall paper down to the carpeting.  So there’s that.

We get 80’s music.  The Clash?  How much more 80’s can you get?

And movie references.  Don’t forget those.  Joyce surprising Will with tickets to go see Poltergeist.  And then Will disappearing, in much the same manner as Carol Anne Freeling.  It’s true that Joyce developed an obsession with all things electronic and not the TV, but the concept is still the same.

I saw elements of The Goonies and Stand by Me.  In fact, the story arc of Mike and his friends is kind of similar to these two movies:  plucky misfit kids have a crazy adventure together and test their friendship in the process.  Well, just add in extra-dimensional monsters and shady government operatives.  But still not too far off.

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The television that happened to be playing an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…squee!

Throw in a little John Hughes as well.  The girl must choose between two guys:  one is kind of a lovable meathead, and the other is artistic and introspective, and the sworn enemy of the aforementioned meathead…

Then there is the character of Hop, who had a kind of Indiana Jones vibe…swoon…

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So much nostalgia.

I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s (I am 38, for all you nosy folk), and when I watched Stranger Things, I was (at least momentarily), transported back to my childhood, and was reminded of a time in my life when things were a little less complicated.

And no, I am not looking back with rose-colored glasses.  That’s 3 D glasses I am using, thank you very much!

Now excuse me, I have to go find some leggings that coordinate with my banana clip…battling extra-dimensional monsters will just have to wait!


The nods to different types of horror

Well, we just talked about how the show is scary.  So of course, since it is a show in the horror category, right?

Captain obvious strikes again!

Actually, this reason is more in regards to the fact of how the show paid homage to so many different types of horror.

First of all, we have the 1980’s horror aspect.  When I watched, I was reminded of all the 80’s classics:  A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies.  Those movies had teenagers or young adults as their protagonists, just like Stranger Things.

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One of the main points of the show was the fear of the unknown.  Again, I was reminded of John Carpenter (The Thing.)  The premise of The Thing is a life form that is not understood, just like Mr. Tulip-Head in Stranger Things.  That creature is definitely not understood, nor would understanding be a good thing (although it may result in one being forced to ingest slugs.)

I was also reminded of the movie Alien, which (again) deals with the fear of the unknown.  And has a strong female protagonist.  Nancy and Ellen Riply…now that would be a dangerous combo!

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And I was also reminded of H.P. Lovecraft

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Yes, a show that is a mix of Stephen King’s It and The Goonies also has some nods to Lovecraft…who knew?

The fear of the unknown and creatures not of this world is a pretty common theme in most all  Lovecraft stories.  The Dunwich Horror and The Colour Out of Space are good examples of this.

The idea that Will had been touched by the unknown (after he pukes up a slug and seems to be back in the Upside-Down momentarily) and forever changed is also something that is distinctively Lovecraftian.  One of the running themes in Lovecraft’s stories is that knowledge is not necessarily always a good thing, and Will experiencing life in another dimension was not necessarily a good thing.  In fact, I think that experience will have some pretty severe repercussions, but only time (and a second season) will tell.

In fact, I found the end of this season to be pretty unsettling, as the camera shots and the shots of the stars in the sky seemed to imply that someone (or something) had its eye on Will, his friends, Nancy, Jonathan and the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana.  And that someone or something was not friendly.  Not friendly at all.


It is a HUGE homage to Stephen King

While we are on the subject of horror and scary things…

This reason may be a bit redundant.

After all, Stephen King is a horror writer.  And he is scary.  He is even tied into the 1980’s (It, Pet Sematary, Cujo and Firestarter are all 80’s books.) He even ties into the feminist part, since he is also capable of writing strong female characters.

But, he is The Master.  And The Master deserves his own entry.  Not to mention the fact that there are aspects to this show that are distinctly Stephen King.

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We do have one character specifically asking another character if she has read a Stephen King book.  Hey, if you are going to drop a bunch of King Easter eggs, you may as well admit it, right?

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The fact that Eleven’s mother was drugged in order to enhance latent PSI abilities is a direct reference to the book (and movie) Firestarter.  In Firestarter, a man and woman are drugged as part of an experiment.  The man and woman fall in love, marry and have a child.  The child is gifted (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to start fires with her mind.  This is similar to Eleven’s situation, in that her mother was drugged, and then gave birth to a child with PSI abilities (aka Eleven.)

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Plus, I am pretty sure that Hawkins Laboratory is actually an operative of The Shop

People, especially children, with extraordinary abilities, are a major theme in King’s work.  The Shining, Carrie, Everything’s Eventual, Dr. Sleep and Firestarter are just some examples.  In fact, in the Dark Tower series, people with these abilities even have a name:  Breakers.  And Eleven definitely classifies as a Breaker.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell the Low Men!

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Traveling between realities is also a huge theme in King’s work.  In fact, this also has a specific name: going Todash.  And the space in between realities is called the Todash space, and monsters lurk in the Todash space.  When Eleven was in the blackness and first encountered that monster…I would say that was a pretty good representation of Todash space!

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In King’s books, there are doors that lead to realities.  They are known as “thinnies,” and allow travel to different worlds and even different time periods.  Eleven was able to use her PSI abilities to make one of these doors.  And, as far as we know, that door still exists at Hawkins Laboratory, with the potential for more creatures (The Mist comes to mind) to cross over to the Stranger Things level of The Tower

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Yeah, I said it.  I gave Stranger Things its own level on The Dark Tower.  So if Roland and his ka-tet, or perhaps Danny Torrance, end up employing the services of a certain girl with a fondness for Eggo waffles…well, you heard it from me first, folks!


It gives an honest portrayal of small town life

I am someone who grew up in a small town, so I feel qualified to write about this topic.  And it is something that has come up in many a blog post, mainly in the Stephen King related posts, as small towns are as vital to a Stephen King novel as kids with PSI abilities, homicidal clowns and rabid St. Bernards.

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I have discovered that the only people who really understand the small town are those who have spent time in the small town (like Stephen King, obviously.)

You have one extreme that sees the environment as charming, quaint, maybe even bucolic.  Can kids really go missing in a small town?  You can leave your doors unlocked, right?  The locals are charming!

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Then, there is the other extreme:  people who see the small town populated by the likes of the Peacock family, with no access to modern technology (what plumbing?) and just a general ignorance of the outside world, period.

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The truth is that small towns are complex.  Stephen King hits on this in books like Needful Things, It, ‘Salem’s Lot and many, many others.  Stranger Things also hits on this, and in only eight episodes.  I am sure that this theme will be discussed more in (hopefully) upcoming seasons as well.

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On the the one hand, there is a sense of community in a town like Hawkins, Indiana.  People rally together to comfort Joyce and help search for Will when it is believed that he is still alive.  People are at ease with each other, because if they don’t know you, they probably went to school with one of your parents.  Or worked with your best friend at the local factory.

But small towns have a sense of ugliness about them too.  I can personally testify to this.  And Mike and his friends can as well.  The bullies hurl a racial slur at Lucas early on.  Steve is able to spread rumors and ruin Nancy’s “reputation” fairly quickly.  The lack of concern for Barb after she disappears is downright disturbing.  People quickly assume that Barb is a runaway, and no effort is made on her behalf.  And that is part of small town life:  the people in the town do not want to believe that something may be amiss, and will try to cover it up.

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So how long have the inhabitants of Hawkins Laboratory suspected, at least somewhere deep down, that something was amiss in their town?  Obviously, Dr. Brenner (who will be referred to in this blog as Dr. Pedophile, due to his disgusting nature) has been performing unethical experiments for a long time.  At the very least, these experiments produced poor Eleven, and a woman in a vegetative state (likely the mother of Eleven.)

But Eleven is the 11th.  The 11th of what?  Are there others like her?  If so, what happened to them?  And what do the people living in the town know?  What other skeletons will emerge?

The show has been renewed for a second season, so I am sure we will be finding out a lot more about Hawkins, Indiana, and its secrets.


Dustin

Now, all of the characters are fabulous.  Let me just get that out there, less I ruffle the tentacles of Mr. Tulip-Head, and any other monsters that resemble flora gone terribly wrong!

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Along with Old Tulip-Head, I have much love for the characters in this show.  Even the bad guys, like Dr. Pedophile.  They are well drawn-out and believable, even when they are behaving in ways that may make one scratch his or her head (talking to you, Sheriff Hop.)

But there is one character that deserves his own entry.

So, without any further ado…let me introduce Dustin!

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And if you don’t love Dustin, then you are definitely in the same category as people who kick puppies and listen to Nickelback!

Ok, I may be joking.  About the kicking puppies bit, anyway.

On the surface, Dustin is lovable.  Actually, everything about him is lovable, from his love of chocolate pudding, to his smile and even that speech impediment!

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But, there is much more to Dustin than his ability to track down chocolate pudding and that charming smile of his.

Dustin is the glue that holds his group of friends together.  It is true that Mike is the brains, and Lucas is a fighter.

However, if it weren’t for Dustin, the group may have fallen apart.  Mike and Lucas were constantly at odds with each other, especially when Eleven was added to the fold.  In fact, things got physical, and Lucas was thrown in the air by Eleven for his troubles.

But due to Dustin’s insightful nature (he did understand that he could not have the same place in Mike’s life, because he didn’t come into it until fourth grade), Lucas and Mike were able to come to an agreement and reconcile.  Dustin played the mediator, getting each side to compromise with each other, so that they did not compromise their mission:  saving Will from what was literally Hell.

Dustin has been compared to Vern Tessio, a character in the movie Stand By Me.  Superficially, there is something to that, as both Vern and Dustin provide comic relief and are the easy going friends who try to keep the peace.

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But as a wise man pointed out:  Dustin would never forget where he left his pennies.

BOOM!

This is Dustin.  He’s our friend and essential to keeping us from killing each other so that we don’t leave our other friend some place that is not on any map!

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The friendships

Much of Stranger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other.

Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin.  The OF, or Original Friendship, if you will.  When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again.

Then, there is Eleven.  Mike and Eleven seem to bond immediately, and Eleven slowly becomes something more than a human flashlight to Mike, even though he is still desperate to find his missing friend.

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In fact, it could be argued that Eleven’s presence makes all the boys better people, although this is especially true for Mike, whose relationship with Eleven opens his eyes, and causes him to grow up a little.

We also have Nancy and Barb.  Barb starts off as Nancy’s friend who is willing to do anything for her, including lying to her parents so that she can sneak out and spend time with Steven.  However, Barb disappears into the Upside-Down, a seeming victim of the Mr. Tulip-Head.  Like Will, Nancy is forced to grow up, as she searches for Barb, and encounters the callous reaction of law enforcement and even her parents, who refuse to believe that Barb is anything other than a teenage runaway.

There is the relationship between Nancy and Jonathan.  Jonathan is frantically searching for his brother, and Nancy is frantically searching for her friend.  The two bond in their mutual tragedy and work together to defeat the evil that is trying to destroy their town.  Nancy develops a respect for Jonathan, viewing him as a person, rather than the “weird kid” that her peers see him as.  Jonathan also develops a respect for Nancy, and seems to feel something more than friendship for her, even though Nancy reconciles with Steve.

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Steve also bonds with Jonathan, and seems to genuinely feel remorse for the bullying.  However, that friendship seems to be tentative at best, given that both men have feelings for Nancy.

In other words, people had “frenemies,” even back in the ancient times!


It tackles taboo topics

It is no secret that horror and “taboo” topics are linked.  Almost every horror movie features sex of some kind (Friday the 13th and its approximately 725 sequels are a great example of this.)  Candyman is another movie that deals with taboo topics, because it addresses racism.

And don’t even get me started on Stephen King, The King of Taboo Topics (pun intended.)  King books run the gamut, from domestic violence, to bullying, to substance abuse and even to the death of a child.  When “real-world” issues are included alongside the supernatural ones, the the story becomes that much more believable.

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Stranger Things is no different, in that it also deals with taboo topics.  The show begins with every parent’s worst nightmare:  the disappearance of a child.  And it only gets more taboo from there.

Early on in the series, we witness the bullying that Mike and his friends endure.  Lucas is treated to a racial epithet.  Dustin is harassed due to his speech impediment.  And it gets worse, as the bullies make some disparaging remarks about Will’s supposed death, when they are supposed to be mourning the loss of their classmate.

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Mike is not the only character who experiences bullying.  Jonathan is also harassed for being different, and this harassment is experienced at the hands of Steve.  Steve is also insensitive to the disappearance of Will, and to the disappearance of Barb, the best friend of the girl he claims to love.

We have the character of Sheriff Hopper.  Hop’s character is a walking bundle of taboos, actually.

First of all, Hop is a substance abuser.  He is an alcoholic, much like Jack Torrance in The Shining.  Not surprisingly, he is also a womanizer, using sex and alcohol to escape his demons.

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Hop has also experienced the ultimate tragedy:  he has lost a child.  Not surprisingly, this experience has shaped him into the man that he is.  The loss cost him his marriage, and his ex wife has moved on and started a new family.  Hop attempts to do this, but struggles mightily.  However, when he meets Eleven and spends time in the Upside Down so that he can rescue Will, Hop is able to begin healing.  It could even be said that Will and Eleven are surrogate children of Hop.

Often, subjects are “taboo” and therefore frightening because we choose to keep them in the dark.  But when the light is turned on, the monsters are no longer as formidable as they once were.


Now, I know that I said I had made this list with no particular order in mind.  But, like Maury Povich might say, this post has determined that to be a lie!

There is one aspect of Stranger Things that deserves her own entry, and should be in the spotlight, at least for a minute.

I mean, after all, it would be an Upside Down kind of logic if I didn’t pay her homage, right?

So, without any further ado…

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Here is my favorite thing about Stranger Things!


Eleven

Yes, in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about our favorite telekinetic, Eggo waffle loving, mouth breather hater with a cute buzz cut adolescent, aka Eleven!

Eleven is bad ass.  I can’t think of any other way to put it.

She is here to kick ass and eat Eggo waffles, and she’s almost out of waffles!

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In all seriousness, I just love Eleven.  How can you not?  People who hate Eleven are like people that listen to Nickelback!

Eleven is one tough chick.

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She started out as an experiment.  She doesn’t know her real parents.  The only parental figure that she’s ever known is a creepy scientist, known as Dr. Pedophile for the purposes of this blog.

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And to Dr. Pedophile, she is nothing but his lab experiment, to be used as how he sees fit.  And he uses her to open gateways that should never be opened, and to explore what should remain unknown.  When she escapes, his concern is not for her as a person, but as his test subject that someone else may access.

Eleven is forced to face things that would frighten people three times her age to death.  Yet, she somehow does it, in the name of helping a boy that she has never met.

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She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, although she has only known Mike, Lucas and Dustin for a short time.  She makes the bully pee his pants…that is true friendship right there!

Even though Eleven has been raised in a lab, she still manages to exhibit the most humanity of anyone on the show.  Nearly everyone on the show has an agenda:  Mike and his friends want to find Will, Hop wants to expose Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy is looking for revenge for Barb.  But not Eleven.  The only thing Eleven is looking for (besides waffles) is love and acceptance.  And she does manage to find that, if only for a short time.

However, Eleven’s happiness is tragically cut short, when she makes the ultimate sacrifice:  she battles an extra-dimensional monster, and seemingly sacrifices herself so that her friends may live.

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Often, bad ass can come in small packages.  And Eleven is a lot of bad ass in one small package.  But sometimes, small packages have the most give, just like Eleven.


So, there you have it.  Eleven reasons why I love Stranger Things.  Sure, maybe I missed a few, but I think I got most of them.  Hopefully, I don’t incur the ire of Mr. Tulip-Head and his merry band of slugs1

This is Stranger Things.  Its my show and it’s crazy…crazy awesome, that it is!

So, if you haven’t watched this show, I have given you eleven reasons to make sure that Netflix subscription is up to date…

So flop down on your couch, and prepare for one epic binge session!

Happy watching!

Penny Dreadful: Season 3 Finale Recap and Review

For once, I am at a loss for words.

And no, I don’t exaggerate.

I am literally speechless.

Last night, I watched what I thought was simply the season finale to Penny Dreadful, which is one of my favorite television shows.  And that is saying something, since I don’t care about most television shows.  I read books.  I hold things to a very high standard.

In other words, it takes a lot to impress me.  A lot.

And Penny Dreadful impressed me.  It impressed me, and did so much more.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with the characters.  I could see a bit of myself in every one one of them.  Even the ones who were not “human.”

penny dreadful 3 17

I fell in love with the dialog.  This is one of the most quotable shows I have ever watched.

I fell in love with the setting.  This show has gorgeous visuals, there is no other way to put it.

I fell in love with the story lines.  Some of the story lines were better than others, but I loved them all.

And I may have taken this show for granted.

Not that I expected a long run, but I thought we would get more seasons.  If a show is this good, we get more seasons, right?

Well, no.  Last night, I watched the finale to season 3.  Turns out this is also the series finale.

In other words, I said goodbye last night.  And it was gut-wrenching.

I had an ugly cry.

My nose got stuffed up.

My eyes turned red and bloodshot.

My makeup ran all over my face.

In other words, it was beautiful.

Gut-wrenching still, but beautiful and cathartic.

ugly cry

Endings usually are.

So, without any further ado, I bring you my recap and review of the series finale of Penny Dreadful.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Dr. Seward finds her receptionist, Renfield, in her office listening to her sessions with Vanessa.  Renfield exhibits odd behavior and attacks Dr. Seward.  Dr. Seward realizes that she is dealing with a supernatural creature, and is able to fight him and capture him.

Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive in London and immediately notice that things have gone awry in London.  They are told that the air has become poisonous, killing thousands of people.  They hurry back to Malcolm’s mansion, concerned about Vanessa.

Once Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive at Malcolm’s mansion, they are almost immediately accosted by vampires.  Malcolm is bitten, but saved by the arrival of Catriona, who cauterizes his wound.  Dr. Seward also arrives, and tells the group that she has captured Renfield, who can help them find Vanessa.

Caliban dines with his family, and they discuss moving away from London,  Caliban’s son Jack expresses a desire to return to the beach when he is well.  However, Jack becomes overtaken by his consumption, and Caliban helps him to bed.

Ethan leaves the mansion to find Victor, as he feels that Malcolm needs a doctor.  A mysterious boy is awaiting him at Victor’s apartment, and promises to lead to him  to Victor.

Dorian returns to his mansion, and demands that the women who have gathered there on behalf of Lily leave.  Most leave, but Justine stays, and challenges Dorian’s authority, stating she will not return to her old life and that she would rather be killed by Dorian.  Dorian obliges her, snapping Justine’s neck.

Victor holds Lily captive in Henry’s lab in Bedlam.  He tells Lily that the serum will make her better, but Lily disagrees.  She then proceeds to tell Victor the story of Sarah, her daughter who died in infancy.  Lily was forced to prostitute herself so that she and her daughter could survive.  One night, Lily was badly beaten by one her of customers.  By the time she arrives home, Sarah has died from the cold, and Lily is heartbroken.  Victor has a change of heart, and lets Lily go.

The mysterious boy leads Ethan right to Dracula, and Dracula unleashes his creatures upon Ethan.  Ethan fights back, but turns into a werewolf because it is the full moon.  He is joined by another werewolf, who turns out to be Kaetenay.  Both wolves fight off the creatures, and transform to their human selves.  Ethan realizes that it is Kaetenay who cursed him and is angered.  Kaetenay tells Ethan that he cursed him in order to help save the world, and that Ethan has the ability to help Vanessa, despite his curse.

Victor tells Henry that he has allowed Lily to go free.  Henry chides Victor for this, telling Victor that his work in science will amount to nothing.  Henry then tells Victor that his father has died, leaving his estate to Henry.  Henry demands that Victor address him by his proper name:  Lord Hyde.

Dr. Seward leads Malcolm and Catriona to Bedlam, where she has locked Renfield in a cell.  They also meet up with Victor, Ethan and Kaetenay.  Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield, and deduces where Dracula is holding Vanessa captive.

That night, Caliban awakens in the middle night and checks on his son.  He discovers that his son has passed away from consumption in his sleep.  Marjorie and Caliban make plans for his burial, and Marjorie demands that Caliban ask Victor to resurrect their son.  Caliban refuses to do so, stating that he will not curse his son to eternal life.  Marjorie then tells Caliban that if he does not resurrect their son that he can leave their home.

Malcolm, Kaetenay, Ethan, Catriona and Victor hunt down Dracula.  They are again accosted by vampires, but fight back using various weapons, such as guns and stakes.  Ethan escapes the creatures and finds Vanessa in a room lighted by candles.

Ethan tries to persuade Vanessa to escape with him, telling her that he will protect her from the dark forces that seek to possess her soul.  Vanessa tells him that this is impossible and the she wants her suffering to end.  Together, they recite the Lord’s Prayer, and Ethan shoots Vanessa with his gun, ending her life.  Before she dies, Vanessa tells Ethan she sees God, and He is waiting for her.

After Vanessa dies, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, and Dracula flees.

Lily returns to Dorian’s mansion, where she finds the body of Justine.  She tells Dorian that she cannot be with him any more, and leaves.  Dorian is skeptical, and predicts that she will return to him.

Caliban buries his son at sea, against the wishes the wishes of Marjorie.  He returns to living his life in the shadows.

A funeral is held for Vanessa.  Malcolm says that he will not return to Africa, as he will stay in London to properly grieve Vanessa and the rest of his family.  Ethan states he will also remain in London, as he considers Malcolm his only family now.

The episode ends with Caliban visiting Vanessa’s grave, reciting a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend.


My Thoughts

So many thoughts…such as long blog post.

And I don’t really care about the length.  After all, this is my last post in regards to this show, so I may as well make it count, right?

This post will probably wind up being a bit emo, so let’s talk about some of the lighter moments in the finale, as there were a few.  After all, you can’t have a series finale be all about the feelsies, right?

I loved the action scenes in this episode.  In fact, I think they were my favorite part of the episode.  I can be a sucker for moments that don’t require mountains of tissue.

One of the best action scenes was the Werewolf Bowl.

That’s right.  Game of Thrones got its Bastard Bowl.  Therefore, Penny Dreadful gets its Werewolf Bowl!

bastard bowl 1

Ethan was kicking ass on his own, but then he is joined by the “gray wolf.”  Who is none other than Kaetenay!  How about that?

And it turns out that Kaetenay was actually responsible for Ethan’s curse, and that he had a good reason for putting that curse on Ethan…who knew?

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I also loved the gun fight that took place between the Scoobies and Dracula’s groupies.  Malcolm and Victor were bad ass, but in my mind, they did not hold a candle to Miss O’-Nine-Tails, aka Catriona.

On a side note:  did anyone else think of Danny Glick when they saw that kid vampire, or was that just me?

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That’s right, I misjudged Miss O’-Nine-Tails.  Turns out that she was not on the side of evil, but on the Scoobies’ side the entire time.  And a valiant fighter.

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She swung from rafters, for Pete’s sake.  And cauterized Malcolm’s wound without a second thought.

In other words, she was a total fucking bad ass.  The only bad thing I can say about her now is that she was only in a handful of episodes…sniff…

In fact, Buffy herself would have been proud…a turn of the century Slayer?  Hey, I can dream, right?

Oh, and let’s not forget Renfield.

Renfield munching on a frog and tendering his resignation to Dr. Seward…priceless!

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As always, the visuals for this show did not fail to impress me.

In particular, I was struck by the scenes of Ethan walking down the street, with the Japanese lanterns in the background.  The contrast between the colors was beautiful, and made things look that much more eerie.

One thing is for sure:  the visuals on this show have spoiled, and pretty much everything I watch will be held up to the standard that Penny Dreadful has set.

I would also like to talk about character arcs for a moment.

For instance, the ones I find fascinating are Dorian’s, and Caliban’s (we will talk more about Vanessa later.)

Dorian Gray 1

On the surface, these two may not have very much in common.  But that’s on the surface.

Both are immortal.  Both have lived in the shadows, so to speak.

In fact, when the show started, Dorian and Caliban lived in the shadows.  And neither cared very much about the lives of others, although often, they would use other humans as a means to an end.

However, one character took a different path from the other, and became a better person for it.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

That’s right, Caliban is the one who experienced growth.  In fact, out of all the characters, Caliban may have been the character who experienced the most growth.

Slowly, throughout the series, Caliban found his humanity, through the memories of his family, and his relationship with Vanessa.  The same cannot be said of Dorian, however.

Caliban has learned from his experiences.  For example, he chooses not to resurrect his son, even though it costs him his relationship with his wife.  Dorian does not learn from his experiences, however.  When  he grows tired of Lily, he discards, along with Justine and all the other women who had a been a part of Lily’s army.

And while both Dorian and Caliban may continue to live in the shadows, only one has seen the light.  And that would be Caliban.

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Ok, time to talk about the feelsies…

And there were so many of them, in what turned out to be the series finale for a spectacular show.

Finally, we got a little more information on Lily, when she told the story of what happened to her daughter.  Did anyone else feel the oxygen getting sucked out of the room, or is my imagination just that vivid?

The story of Lily’s daughter was tragic.  It also brought up an interesting point:  our memories, both good and bad, make us who we are.  And to rob someone of his/her memories, as Victor intended to do, would be a cruel act.  Myself, I have plenty of bad memories, as I am a domestic abuse survivor.  But if I were robbed of those memories, I would not be me.  Like Lily, being a shell of myself, and not having those memories, some of which are painful, but essential to my being, would be the cruelest punishment of them all.

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Then there was Caliban.  Which made me cry more, the death of Vanessa, or the sight of Caliban burying his son at sea?

I don’t know, but the two are pretty close.

I thought a bit of Pet Sematary, which I read earlier this year, when watching this episode.

pet sematary 11

Caliban was kind of the anti-Louis Creed.  He resisted temptation, and gave his son a proper send off, so that his son would not be damned for all eternity.  And boy, was this painful to watch.  I heard a splintering noise and figured that was the sound of my heart breaking wide open.

Before I conclude this post, let’s talk a bit about Vanessa and her arc.

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Now, I wasn’t happy that Vanessa died.  In fact, I was anything but.  I hated it!

I hate this ending, but I also feel that this was the only ending.  While this ending sucked, it was definitely the right ending.

Some may vehemently disagree with me on the ending, along with the fact that John Logan did not let us know that this was the last season of the show.

However, I agree with Malcolm:  Vanessa never would have found happiness, had she lived.  She was doomed for all eternity, and would have been fleeing from the darkness all of her life.  Not even Ethan would have been able to protect from those forced that sought her soul.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_301_5002

So Ethan performed the ultimate act of love:  he shot her and ended her suffering.  However, he used his powers as Lupus Dei to bring her back to her God, so that she found peace before her death, and (hopefully) salvation in the afterlife.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_1688

And I agree with John Logan that this was really Vanessa’s show.  Vanessa touched the lives of many, including Ethan, Malcolm, Caliban and even Dorian.  So without Vanessa, there is no show.

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Announcing the end of the series would have been a spoiler of sorts, as any intelligent person (probably) would have deduced the death of Vanessa.  And where would the fun have been in that?  Personally, I enjoyed this season.  Knowing that it was the last season would have put a damper on my fun, although I still would have watched it.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

And what better way to end the series, than to have Caliban recite a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend?

Vanessa touched the lives of everyone she met, but I believe that she had the greatest effect on Caliban.  When she was a patient in the Banning Clinic, he was the orderly tasked with caring for her.  However, it could be argued that she helped him much more than he helped her, as she brought out his humanity even then, making him the best man he could be.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3197

And even after he became an un-dead Creature, Caliban’s relationship with Vanessa still made him a better man.  It inspired him to reunite with his family, even though that ultimately proved painful, with the death of his son and the loss of his relationship with his wife.  However, these losses served to bring Caliban back from the dead, so to speak, and proved that he was not in fact the monster everyone saw on the outside, but someone more human than almost everyone else on the show.

Nothing is more beautiful than a man who recognizes what true humanity is, and strives to make sure that everyone is afforded it, no matter the cost to himself.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


Well, that’s it. That’s it for Penny Dreadful.

We have been so lucky to have been blessed with such a wonderful show.  The acting, the visuals, the dialog, the writing…all of it was superb, and I would not change a thing, as this show has been simply perfect.

So, I am tearing up a little, but I bid the series goodbye, and am thankful to have had the privilege to watch it, and spend so many hours writing about it and discussing it.

The series may have been cancelled, but it will live on in my heart forever.

mash 1

 

 

Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 7 Recap and Review

According to my internet dictionary, an ebb tide is a period of rest between the high tide and the low tide.

In other words, an ebb tide is the calm before the storm, or the eye of the hurricane.  It may seem safe for the time being, but you better know what you are doing, so you can get out of the way quickly.

ebb tide 1

Or else.

And after watching this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful, it seems that we are in for a big dose of “or else.”  Actually, we have no choice but to walk straight into the tide, as all the other avenues are closed off to us now.

Uh, whee, I guess?

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful, titled (coincidentally) Ebb Tide.

Oh, and as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

At the beginning of the episode, Lily is visiting the grave of her daughter, who died in infancy.  Lily vows to never allow any more suffering, especially at the hands of men.

Vanessa is asleep in the natural history museum.  While she is sleeping, Renfield attempts to sneak up on her, and begins to lick her neck.  This angers Dr. Sweet, who lifts Renfield up by his neck, reminding him of who is in charge.  Vanessa awakens, and thanks Dr. Sweet for a lovely night before she leaves.

As she is walking on the streets of London, Vanessa runs into Caliban, who tells her he needs a friend.  Caliban tells Vanessa that he has suffered a horrible accident and become disfigured as a result of that accident.  Caliban is afraid to reunite with his family, but Vanessa encourages him to seek out his family, as they should still recognize the man he is inside.  Vanessa also points out that she knew Caliban from her time at the Banning Clinic and that he was kind to her then.  Caliban does not remember, but Vanessa encourages her friend to do the right thing.

After speaking with Vanessa, Caliban tracks down Marjorie, his wife.  She tearfully embraces him, and he tells her the story of his resurrection, expressing his outrage of Victor’s treatment of him, and confessing that he has committed violent acts that he is not proud of.  Marjorie tells him that this does not matter and that she still loves him.  Caliban and Marjorie return to their home, and Caliban also tearfully reunites with his son, Jack.

Lily makes a speech at Dorian’s mansion, while she has a party for women who have been oppressed.  She encourages the women to cut off the right hands of bad men, as a show of their power.  Dorian is not impressed, and appears to be feeling left out of the plans.

Back in America, Malcolm secures passage for himself, Kaetenay and Ethan to return to London.  Kaeteney warns Ethan and Malcolm of the upcoming apocalypse, of which he has seen in his visions.  Kaeteney also speaks to Vanessa in his visions, and tells Malcolm and Ethan that it may be too late, as Vanessa has already succumbed to the darkness.

Dorian and Lily take a walk around the city, and Dorian expresses his concerns to Lily regarding her plans, telling her that she is bored.  Lily is then kidnapped by Victor and Henry, who take her, along with Dorian, back to Henry’s lab.  Lily refuses Henry’s serum and is angry at Dorian for kidnapping her, but the men plan to administer the serum to her anyway, as they believe it will make her a better woman.

Vanessa is researching Dracula when Catriona shows up.  Catriona tells Vanessa that all she knows about Dracula is wrong.  Dracula cannot be killed in his real form, but can be killed when he is human.  Catriona also tells Vanessa that Dracula would be hiding among the creatures of the night.  Vanessa has a revelation, and realizes that Dr. Sweet is actually Dracula.

Vanessa then confronts Dr. Sweet with the knowledge that he is Dracula.  She threatens to shoot him, but is unable to carry through with her threat.  Dracula tells Vanessa that he has fallen in love with her, and that he wants to rule the Earth with Vanessa by his side.  Dracula also tells Vanessa that he loves her and accepts her for who she is.  Vanessa then succumbs to Dracula, allowing him to drink her blood.  Outside, Kaetenay’s visions start to become true.


My Thoughts

Takeaways from Penny Dreadful.  Sit tight, I have quite a few.

Vampire sex is kinda hot.  Actually, vampire sex is pretty hawt!  And I’m not ashamed to admit that, either!

And Vanessa doing the walk of shame, turn of the century style (instead of a cab, she gets a horse and carriage from her gentleman er gentle vamp) was pretty entertaining too!

Catriona.  I dig her, but what’s up with her?  That chemistry she has with Vanessa (even though they’ve had only a few scenes together) is undeniable.  Cat calling herself Cat-o’-nine-tails was just…well…just there.

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But it seemed like getting Vanessa to figure out that Dr. Sweet was Dracula was so easy.  Cat just mentions a few things, and one of them conveniently happens to be where the night creatures hide, aka the natural history museum, and Vanessa just has a light bulb moment, and realizes that her “sweetie” (see what I did there) is actually the King of all Big Bads, and the brother of another Big Bad.

And it only took her how long?

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5057

So, why so easy?  Is Miss Cat-o-nine-tails who she says she is?  In other words, Lyle’s friend who just happens to be the expert that Vanessa so desperately needed?  Pretty convenient, if I do say so myself…

Or perhaps Cat is not who she says she is.  After all, Dracula can influence and corrupt (more on that, aka Renfield, in a minute.)  Is she working for Dracula after all?  She seems to know a little too much about him, and was little eager to give Vanessa all that info, and Vanessa didn’t have to work very hard to make her deduction, and appear to walk right into the arms of the enemy.  But there are two episodes left, so plenty of time to find out if Miss Nine Tails is on the Scoobies’ side or not!

Renfield.  I have not talked about him too much this season, which is something that needed to be remedied.  Stat.

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That opening scene, where Renfield is licking Vanessa (seriously, how do you not wake up, Vanessa?  I would wake up and be running through a brick wall to get away from that creep, but that’s just me, I suppose) was pure gold.  Dracula/Dr. Sweet picking Renfield up by his neck (Vanessa still didn’t wake up, will we find out next week if she can really sleep through Armageddon?) was just the cherry on the sundae.

Should I have been laughing that hard? Probably not.  But I don’t regret one chuckle.  Not a one.

Caliban.  In other words, the one who has become just a little less Creature-y, and a lot more human.  In fact, I think he may have the most humanity out of any of the characters on the show.  I know that he wins it for the feelsie moments, hands down.

penny dreadful 3 17

And he may be responsible for the biggest feelsie moment that this show has seen, period, when he reunited with his family.  How could you not cry?  How could your heart not melt when his wife threw her arms around him?

Then there was the reunion with his son…

Normally, I avoid stepping in feelings like I would avoid stepping in dog poo, but the poo er feeling pile was just big when I watched this episode.  So I got knee deep in it.  The feeling pile, that is.  I mean, how could I not, especially after he embraced his son, who didn’t scream his head off this time?

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

And, speaking of too easy…

Caliban’s story wrapped up nicely this week.  Or so it seemed.  Is he really going to get a happily ever after?  My heart wants to believe this, but my gut is telling me not to get too complacent.  I have had a feeling that someone is in for a horrible tragedy this season.  And my gut is telling me that it may be Caliban.

We know his son is extremely ill, and has been for some time.  I am rooting for Caliban (perhaps rooting for him more than anyone else) but I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for him.  Something terrible is going to happen to Caliban, unfortunately.  Ebb tide:  can’t be lulled into a false sense of security, as the waters will begin crashing again.

Caliban 1

Vanessa and Caliban shared another scene in this episode.  They’ve only shared a few scenes, but I treasure each and every one of them.  Somebody, can these two have more scenes together?  Do I need to start an online petition for this?

Oh, and Vanessa does remember Caliban from her time at the Banning Clinic!  I almost started clapping my hands when that was revealed.  And my eyes got a little leaky when Vanessa encouraged him to reunite with his family, telling him that his family would still love him for the man he really is, even though he is now horribly disfigured.  Gotta see someone about my eyes, can’t figure out why they keep leaking like that, when I watch this show…

Penny Dreadful 3 41

Lily and Dorian.  Until last night, that part of the story was floundering a bit, even though I still enjoyed it.

But then Lily crawled on a table and made a rousing speech.  Seriously, I thought of Kevin’s speech on American Pie, and I was kind of half-expecting Lily to shout “We will get laid!”  I wasn’t too disappointed though, as there was a table full of right hands.  Anyone else curious about the owners of those hands?  How do you explain that to your family, if you have one?  It’s one thing to come home smelling of someone else’s perfume.  It’s another thing to come home without your right hand.  How do you explain that one to your family?  I would love to hear the excuse for that one, since I don’t think the old “I accidentally ended up in bed with this tramp” line would go over very well, but what do I know?

Penny Dreadful 38

And the look on Dorian’s face when Lily made her speech…priceless!  I was a master of bored, disdained looks as a teenager (and still am, especially when I am forced to leave my bat cave er house) but I bow down to Dorian…I wanted to frame that shit and hang it on my wall!

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_2135

Has Vanessa really surrendered herself to the dark side (she needs a t shirt that says that she surrendered to the dark side and all she got was this lousy shirt and no they didn’t even have cookies)?

The signs point to yes, I suppose.  So now it is up to Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm to try to save Vanessa, who may not want to be saved now.  Oh, and avert the apocalypse and save the poor Earth while they are at it…all in a day’s work!

In other words, time to get the band back together!

Penny Dreadful 3


So that’s it for Ebb Tide.  Join me next week for the recap and review of the two part season finale, titled Perpetual Night and Blessed Dark.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

 

 

Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

arrow

And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

balloon2

But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

april oneil

There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

Humbug 7

As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

breaking bad

Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

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At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

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Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

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Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

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But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

drum-roll-please

Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

RoaldDahl

Out of Egypt: My Review of Rose Madder

Nine years ago (almost to this very date, in fact), I began a journey.

For seven years, I was trapped in a prison.  Sometimes this was only a metaphorical prison.  However, sometimes it was also a literal prison.

I had gotten married at the relatively young age of 22.  I had thought that I was lucky to find love at a  young age, and figured I was set for life.

But I was wrong on that.  Very wrong.

Somehow, I found myself in an abusive relationship.  No, I did not grow up with parents who abused me in any way.  In fact, I had a pretty good family life.  Nor do I consider myself to be stupid.  In fact, I have been told I am quite intelligent.  I also consider myself to be resourceful, even scrappy.  And I consider myself to be strong and independent.

For nearly seven years, I endured abuse.  The abuse was both emotional and physical.  I was choked.  I received black eyes.  I was called “fat”, “worthless,” “stupid,” “bitch,” and probably lots of other names that I now choose to forget.

Ostensibly, I left because my ex had cheated on me.  However, this was finally a way out for me, as I was unable to leave prior to this.  I blamed myself for the abuse, assuming that I had brought this on myself, due to my poor decision making skills.  I also blamed myself for not leaving the situation much sooner than I did.

In short, I did everything but face what had actually happened to me.

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When I finally left this awful situation, I felt alone much of the time.  Sure, I had family…700 miles away.  I had a couple of friends help me move into my own apartment, but I felt no one would understand my situation, or even worse, pass more judgment on me.

So I did what I have done my entire life:  I turned to books (like a good nerd).

More specifically, I turned to Stephen King books (don’t forget what blog you are reading).

Stephen King

As I have stated countless times, Stephen King is not just a good horror writer, he is a good writer.  Period.  While he may be known for homicidal clowns, rabid dogs and possessed vehicles, he also writes about “real life” horrors, and those real life horrors are often more frightening than his fantastical monsters.  They are frightening because they are plausible, and we can relate to them.

One theme that is prevalent in King’s work is the theme of abuse.  Many characters in the King universe endure some sort of abuse.  Beverly Marsh, a character in the book It, is abused by her father, and later on by her husband.  Danny Torrance endures abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, Jack, in the book The Shining.  Abuse is even mentioned in the book Insomnia, a fantasy novel that is closely connected to the world of The Dark Tower series.

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The novel Rose Madder is also a book that deals with domestic abuse.  However, this book does not just mention abuse.  Rather, domestic abuse is the main, underlying theme in the book.  The book can also be considered a fantasy novel, with elements of Greek mythology and perhaps even Christianity, but spousal abuse is still the main theme in the book.  The book is also slightly different from most of King’s other work in that fact that is told from the perspective of the abused woman, Rose McClendon.  However, make no mistake about it:  we are reminded many times that we are reading a novel set squarely in the Stephen King universe.

This is a book that has a lot of personal meaning to me, as it was a guide when I began my journey to get away from my marriage and find myself again.  Unlike Rosie, I did not travel across the country.  But I felt that the journey may as well have been a bus ride across the country, as it was long and even scenic at times.  In fact, this book reminded me that I was not alone, but facing what countless survivors of an abusive relationship face:  a journey to free myself from the demons, and find my true self again.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Rose Madder.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a young woman named Rose, who is married to Norman Daniels, who is a cop.  Norman is also abusive to Rose, both physically and emotionally.  One evening, Norman comes home and finds Rose reading a book.  For some reason, this enrages Rose, and Norman beats her quite badly.  Rose is pregnant with the couple’s first child, and the beating causes her to have a miscarriage.  Rose is heartbroken, but endures another nine years of abuse from Norman.

One day, nine years later, Rose is cleaning the house while Norman is at work, and notices a drop of blood on the sheets.  Something awakens in Rose, and she flees her marriage.  Before she flees, Rose takes Norman’s bank card, and uses it to obtain money so that she can escape.  Rose catches a bus that takes her to a city 800 miles away, and throws the bank card in the trash before she leaves the city for good.  All the while, Rose is terrified that Norman will still find her and hurt her, but decides that if she stays, she will risk at least her sanity and maybe even her life.

Over the next month, Rose works on re-building her life.  When she arrives in her new city, she meets a man named Peter Slowik at the Traveler’s Aid Booth.  Peter directs her to a shelter of sorts for battered women, called Daughters and Sisters.  There, Rose meets a woman named Anna, who tells her that she can stay for at least eight weeks, and also finds Rose a job as a chambermaid at a nearby hotel.  Rose gradually begins to adjust to her new life and form friendships, but still wonders about her future, as she knows that she will need something other than her life than not having Norman in it.

In the meantime, Norman is angered that Rose has left him.  After Rose threw away his bank card, a young man stole it and attempted to use it.  Norman brutally beats the information out of the man, and learns that Rose caught a bus out of town, and what time that bus may have left.  This information is enough for Norman to begin to track Rosie down, and he does just that.

One day, after finishing her shift at the hotel, Rose decides that she wants to sell her engagement ring.  Norman has told her that this ring is valuable, and Rose has believed this statement over the years.  Rose finds a nearby pawnshop, and meets a man named Bill Steiner.  Bill appraises Rose’s ring, and Rose learns that the diamond is not a real diamond.  She is actually not surprised, due to the fact that Norman has deceived her many other times.  Rose nearly leaves the pawnshop, to spare her dignity.  However, she catches a glimpse of a painting and becomes entranced.  The painting depicts a temple, with a woman whose back is turned, but holding her hands out to the sky.  Rose decides that she must have this painting, and trades her engagement ring for it (as the ring itself is real gold).  Right after she obtains the painting, an elderly man named Robbie Lefferts stops her, and requests that she read a paragraph from a book.  Rose is apprehensive, but humors the man.  The man tells Rose that her reading voice is fantastic, and offers Rose a job at his company as a reader of audio books.

In the meantime, Norman is still obsessed with Rose and her whereabouts.  He has obtained a promotion at his job after a large drug bust, but is unable to let Rose go.  He has used some information from the bus station to attempt to find Rose, but his lead did not pan out.  However, Norman’s luck changes when he receives a call from the man who sold Rose the bus ticket.  With this break, Norman is able to deduce what city Rose had fled to and resumes his hunt for her.

Rosie starts her new job the next day.  She is apprehensive, but manages to make it through the day by thinking of her painting and the woman in it.  That night, Bill unexpectedly shows up at her apartment, and takes Rosie out to dinner.  Rosie feels an attraction towards Bill, and also accepts a date with him for the following weekend.

In the meantime, Norman arrives in the city where Rosie now resides.  He is able to track down Peter Slowik, the man who assisted her in finding shelter upon her arrival.  Norman then murders the man, and vows to track Rosie down and do the same to her, along with whoever else who may stand in his way.

Rose impresses the people at her new job, and realizes that her boss will likely offer her a contract.  She begins to feel hopeful for her future and grateful for her new friends.  Rose always dyes her hair blonde, to match the hair of the woman in her painting.  That night, both Rose and Norman go to sleep and remember a woman named Wendy Yarrow, a prostitute who Norman murdered several years ago.  Norman and his partner beat the woman in order to try to extract some information from her, and the woman threatened to sue the police department before she was murdered by Norman in order to keep her quiet.

Rose also comes to realize that the painting she purchased has taken on a life of its own, as she finds crickets in her second floor apartment, along with other items that should not be there.  However, Rose’s investigation of her painting is interrupted when she receives a call from Anna Stevenson, the founder of Daughters and Sisters.  Anna tells Rose of the murder of Peter Slowik, and that Norman is the prime suspect.  Rose becomes upset and even calls Bill, telling him to stay away from her, for his own protection.

The next day, Rosie flounders at her new job.  However, she receives a visit from Bill during her lunch hour, and tells him of the abuse she endured under Norman, and also of the prostitute Wendy Yarrow, who was likely killed by Norman.  Bill tells Rose that he will not run, and that she cannot be held responsible for Norman’s actions, as it is not her fault.

That night, Rose notices more odd behavior from her.  In fact, the painting opens up, and allows her to step into another world.  There, Rose meets the woman in the painting, along with a woman named Dorcas who resembles Wendy Yarrow, the prostitute murdered by Norman.  Rose dubs the woman in the painting Rose Madder.  Rose Madder appears to be Rose’s mirror image, except that she is suffering from a disease that has driven her insane, and also altered her appearance, as she has several red blotches on her skin.

Rose Madder requests that Rose help her by rescuing her baby, which is being held captive by Enryies the bull in The Temple of The Bull.  Rose Madder also tells Rose that she will repay the favor when needed.  Dorcas helps Rose get ready for the quest, telling her not to eat the fruit or drink the water, no matter how tempted she may be.  Dorcas also soaks a piece of of Rose’s nightgown with her blood, as Enryies is blind and relies on his sense of smell, meaning it is possible to trick him.

Rose sets off on her quest, and uses the sound of the babies cries to guide.  She encounters several ruses on her way, but is able to reach the baby (whom she names Caroline).  Rose tricks Enryies with the nightgown, and rescues baby Caroline, bringing her back to Dorcas and Rose Madder.  Reluctantly, Rose surrenders the baby to the two women, and is again reminded by Rose Madder that she “repays.”  Rose exits the world of the painting and returns to her apartment, falling asleep almost immediately.

The next day, Rose awakens.  She is in pain from her previous night’s excursion and notices that the painting has changed again, but still dismisses the experience as a dream.  Rose goes to work, and loses herself in her day’s routine.  She is also offered a contract by her boss, Robbie Lefferts.  When Rose returns home that evening, she finds the missing gold armlet worn by Rose Madder in the painting, along with a piece of her nightgown, and realizes that her experience was not a dream.

Rose and Bill then go on their date the following day.  Bill takes Rose on a motorcycle ride and they have a picnic in a woodsy area.  Bill and Rose also see a mother fox with her babies.  Rose worries about the fox, but Bill tells her they should be fine as long as they are not infected with rabies.  Rose also begins to realize how attracted she is to Bill, and Bill tells her that he loves her.  They then head back to town, to attend the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.

While Rose is on her date with Bill, Norman has disguised himself as a veteran in a wheelchair, and managed to slip into the all day fair that will proceed the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.  Norman waits for Rose for most of the day, and is uneasy when he can’t find her.

Norman then attacks one of Rose’s friends, Cynthia, in the restroom.  However, he is interrupted by Gert Kinshaw, another member of Daughters and Sisters, who fights off Norman.  Cynthia and Gert are both severely injured in the fight and end up at the hospital.  Norman is able to escape and continues his hunt for Rose.

Rose and Bill meet Gert and Cynthia at the hospital and get a recap of what happened that afternoon.  Rose is upset, and talks to the police, who try to reassure that they want to catch Norman and bring him to justice.  After the interview with the police, Rosie and Bill head back to Rosie’s apartment.

While Rosie speaks to the police, Norman continues on his rampage.  He has found a mask in the shape of a bull that seems to speak to him, although even he understands that he has gone completely insane.  Norman kills Rose’s friend Pam at the hotel where she works, to try to obtain information from her.  He then heads to the shelter owned by Daughters and Sisters, encountering Anna Stevenson and murdering her after he obtains the address to Rose’s apartment.

When Bill and Rosie come back to Rosie’s apartment, the encounter Norman, who has killed the two police officers who were supposed to be the police protection for Rose.  Norman attacks both Rose and Bill, but they escape to her apartment and hide in the close where Rose has stored the painting.  Once again, Rose escapes into the world of the painting, bringing Bill with her.

Rose changes into the same clothes worn by Rose Madder, and tricks Norman into chasing her to the Temple of the Bull.  Rose Madder then attacks Norman and kills him.  Rose and Bill then escape back into their world.  Dorcas gives Rose a small vial of water from the river, and tells her to give it to Bill as necessary.  Rose Madder also gives Rose a cryptic message, telling her to “remember the tree.”

After she and Bill return to their world, Rose speaks to the cops and tells them that Norman has disappeared.  She also gives Bill a bit of the water from the river, in order to retain his sanity. Rose dyes her hair back to its natural color and destroys the painting. Eventually, the questioning in regards to Norman stops, and Rosie is able to obtain a divorce from him.

Bill proposes to Rose and they get married in a simple ceremony.  Rose gives him the last of the water from the river, so that he forgets the experience in the world of the painting entirely.  Shortly after their honeymoon, Rose finds out she is pregnant, and gives birth to a baby girl named Pamela Gertrude Steiner.

Over the years, all appears to be going well for Rose.  However, Rose begins to experience bouts of irrational anger, where she imagines seriously injuring her friends and even her husband.  Eventually, Rose remembers what Rose Madder told her about the tree, and finds the seed that is left.  Rose then plants the tree, praying that her rages will stop and she can live out her life like a normal person.  Her wish is granted, as the rages soon depart.

Every year, Rose returns to the spot where she planted the tree, and gives thanks for her blessings, knowing that she is strong and a survivor.


 

My Thoughts

Here, we have Rose Madder.  And I consider this one to be one of my favorite King books of all time, for a few different reasons.

However, Rose Madder also seems to be bit polarizing.  Well, a lot polarizing, actually.  People are divided (well, at least in Internet-land):  some love the book, some detest the book.

Obviously, I am on #teamlove, but I can understand how this book may be off-putting to some.  Not only is the main character a woman (big departure from most King books), along with the fact that the book is not “traditional horror,” there is also a lot of symbolism that may be difficult to understand.  I have read this book many, many times and I am not sure if I understand all the symbolism, but I will definitely give it my best shot.

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For example, there is the title character.  Rose Madder.  Just who is she, and how does she relate to Rosie Real?  And what does the “madder” part mean?  Anger?  Insanity?  Or maybe both?  And how does all this tie into that weird color that keeps getting mentioned?

Truthfully, I don’t really have the answers to those questions.  What I do believe is that Rose Madder is indeed a reflection of Rosie Real, or perhaps even a Twinner.  Rose Madder is shown to be suffering from sort of disease.  Is this Rosie’s repressed anger towards Norman?  I actually think that I may be on to something with this thought, that Rose Madder is actually Rosie (maybe on another level of the Tower, or something even deeper) but the manifestation of anger, which can eventually lead to insanity, unless something is done.  And the color rose madder somehow ties into all this, I believe.  That color is pretty close to the color of blood (the book alludes to this several times).  And blood is associated with anger, along with madness.  The color could also be associated with simply being female, as blood is associated with menstruation and childbirth (oh, the fun imagery on that one…you are welcome).  So, there may be many ways to interpret Rose Madder.  Are all of them right?  Possibly.  Are all of them wrong?  Could be as well, such is the mind of The Master…

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And the world of the painting…how surreal is that?  Well, a lot.  Enter the fantasy element.  Was the fantasy element necessary to the story?  Probably not, the story of Rosie’s escape from Norman was a good stand alone story.  Did it ruin the book?  Absolutely not, especially since a nod to our friendly neighborhood gunslinger was given by mentioning the city of Lud, along with a possible reference to Randall Flagg and company.  The Temple of the Bull and the river that had water you couldn’t drink unless you wanted your memory wiped clean were also nice touches, and made me think of the days I spent reading Greek mythology, which is also loaded with symbolism.  The hero has to accomplish some task so he (or she in this case) can move forward in his life.  And that is exactly what Rose had to do:  she had to rescue a baby (which possibly symbolizes something too, like Rose’s true self, which is fragile like a baby) so that she could move past the “Norman stage” (or is that bullshit?) of her life and finally grow into her true self.  And that is not a bad metaphor at all.

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Another thing that I loved about this book was the characters.  You had the two main ones:  Rosie and Norman, along with all the minor characters that may not have been a huge part of the book (Peter Slowik aka Thumper-stein is one of many examples).  King can create memorable characters, and it shows.  I was rooting for Rosie right from the beginning. I cried with her, when she lost her baby, thanks to Norman’s actions.  I was nervous for her, when she started over in a new city, with a new job and a new boyfriend.  I was afraid for her, when Norman finally tracked her down.  And I cheered with her, when she was finally rid of Norman for good.  Not only can King write the Every Man character really well (Jack Torrance, Johnny Smith), he can also write the Every Woman character.  And that is just what Rose is:  an Every Woman.  There is nothing special about Rosie, but that is exactly why she is so special:  we can all relate to her, because we could so easily become her at any time.  And most of what Rosie accomplishes is accomplished through hard work, pluckiness and even a little of luck.  Definitely the Every Woman we can all identify with.

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And we have Norman.  Norman is on the list of King bad guys that I love to hate.  Actually, I just hate.  With every fiber of my being, as a matter of fact.  With some of King’s bad guys, I can think of something good to say about them.  Eldred Jonas does have good hair, after all.  But I cannot think of a single good thing to say about Norman Daniels.  He is racist.  He is sexist.  He has no regard for other human beings in the slightest, and will use them and then dispose of them (in grisly ways) when they have served out their purpose.  Oh, and he beats the shit out of his wife.  And kids aren’t safe from him, since he literally beats the baby out of Rosie, causing her to miscarry their only child.  His view of the world is so skewed that it isn’t even funny (well, it is in kind of disturbed way).  Norman makes assumptions about EVERYONE that turn out to have very little, if any, basis in actual fact (makes me wonder if he would be supporting Donald Trump, I am sure Norman would have ideas about making America great again and would fit right in at a Trump rally).  But most frightening of all, guys like Norman Daniels actually exist.  Norman is not a clown from the sewers or an evil wizard.  He is a human being (at least in appearance).  To boot, he is a human being in authority who abuses his power to hurt others.  This is something that occurs quite often in the “real world.”  Once again, King has proven himself to be the master of real life horror, along with made-up horror.  And a character like Norman Daniels is proof that the real world will suffice just fine for horrifying us and giving us a sleepless night or two.

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I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.

Bruce Springsteen, The Streets of Philadelphia

I constantly thought of the above lines when reading Rose Madder.  This book may be a fantasy novel with a tie-in to the world of Roland Deschain himself, but at its heart, it is a book about abuse, and what it takes to overcome the abuse and become a healed, whole person.

Towards the end of the book, Rosie refers to the items she still had left from her life (her purse, a grocery, etc) as the items she brought “out of Egypt.”  And the phrase “out of Egypt” is not a bad description of fleeing from an abusive marriage.  In fact, it is a pretty good description.

Like Rosie, it was a journey fleeing from my own abusive marriage.  Like the lines in the song, I was unrecognizable to myself, and did not recognize the person in the mirror who looked back at me.  And like Rosie, I brought a ton of baggage out of Egypt that I did not know what to do with.  Baggage such as memories of the time he tried to strangle at a hotel in Tennessee.  Baggage such as the black eyes that I had to explain away.  Baggage such as the thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday.  Baggage such as the humiliation, and feeling about two inches tall, as I was told what a worthless human I was on a regular basis.  Even the strongest of us can only carry so much, and like Rosie, I feared that my anger and pain would poison the new life I had managed to build, unless I could find an outlet for it, where it could be tended and harm no one else.

Eventually, I did find that outlet.  I still have the memories, but to paraphrase a quote in the book, I have become ruthless with the past.  Again, to paraphrase the book, it is better to have bad dreams than bad wakings.  Unlike the wakings, the dreams will fade upon awakening, and I am left with only the blessings that have become my life.


 

So that’s it for Rose Madder.  Join me next month for another sleepless night in Derry, as I review and dissect Insomnia.  Although I am seriously considering taking a detour to a certain “sour ground” in the King universe in the meantime…

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

All of King’s work is inter-connected in some way, and Rose Madder is no different.  Here are some of the connections I have found:

-Rose reads a book written by Paul Sheldon.  Paul Sheldon is the main character in the novel Misery.

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-Cynthia Smith is a minor character in Rose Madder, but plays a more prominent role in the books Desperation and The Regulators.

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-Rose Madder makes reference to “ka.”  The word “ka” is one used many times in the Dark Tower series.

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-Dorcas speaks of the city of Lud and some other events that have occurred in her world.  The city of Lud is featured in The Wastelands, the third book in the Dark Tower series.

Jake and Gasher

-There is a picture of Susan Day in Anna Stevenson’s office.  Susan Day is a character in the novel Insomnia.

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