Tea & Review: The Leftovers – Certified

The Leftovers has always, at least in part, been about the ways in which people deal with unpredictable seismic shifts in their lives. Of course, at its core the show is speculative, exploring what would happen if an undeniably supernatural event robbed the world of two percent of its population. But whether intentional or not, this potentially banal logline allowed the writers to build a sort of thesis statement about human responses to the often tragic forces that rock worlds and destroy psyches.

Across three seasons we have watched individuals try to cope with the Sudden Departure in ways both straightforward and indirect, with the potential results of their methods only having been hinted at, and pretty ambiguously at that.

Now, through the character of Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman), we’ve finally witnessed something close to a narrative culmination; not an answer per se, but a suggestion at what the totality of a person’s life could look like after a massive, otherworldly tragedy.

“Certified” follows Laurie in the days following her arrival in Australia, as she does what she does best and provides counseling to Nora (Carrie Coon), John (Kevin Carroll), and Kevins Sr. and Jr. (Scott Glenn and Justin Theroux). The episode’s structure is nonlinear, following parallel timelines in which Laurie spends time with Matt (Christopher Eccleston) and Nora in Melbourne, then the others at the country ranch that has become their base of operations. Cutting back and forth between these events almost gives the impression that she’s in two places at once.

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Paper Dolls: Book Two: Chapter One – Part Two

Previous: Chapter One – Part One

I woke up the next morning, or what felt like the next morning in a bright, white room.

My memories were slowly forming in the back of my head when I realized I was no longer in the cave on the beach.

Had they found us?  Was my immediate thought. The room I was now in reminded me far too much of the Darose, Zendo facility – only less upscale. There was an odd flicker from the light overhead that buzzed for far too long.

I glanced down. I still had my clothing on so that seemed like a good sign – maybe.

I blinked and scanned the space around me.

There was a large window to my left. The curtains were closed but a small stream of white light encased with slowly moving dust had managed to free itself from the drapery.

Two thin white blankets were nestled over my lap that I slowly peeled back. I pushed my legs off the side to the floor. As I attempted to move a wave of dizziness came upon me. The world tilted to the left and I followed it.

I heard my mouth release a sharp yelp as I threw my body weight into the side of the bed frame.

The walls were probably built thin incase something like this happened. It was only a second after that the doors to the room burst open and two men descended upon me, taking me by both sides.

“No, wait,” I heard myself say and I gently placed back into the bed.

“Easy, Ms. Liu,” said the dark-haired man on the left, “We got you.”

“No, you don’t understand…”

Their shadows had closed in around me. I tried to pull away but found the attempt useless.

“Sara,” A low voice rose into the air.

For a moment I thought my brain was playing tricks on me.

Sara,” The voice spoke again, this time it appeared irritated.

I turned in the direction of the door, where the voice was coming from.

Continue reading Paper Dolls: Book Two: Chapter One – Part Two

R.I.P. Chris Cornell

While we rarely do discuss music on Tea & Fiction, I felt it was important to highlight the contributions of Chris Cornell to the artistic community as a whole.

As a child born in 80’s but grew up in the 90’s Black Hole Sun was one of my introductory tracks into alternative rock music.

In high school, Audioslave‘s self-titled album was one of my favorite albums in 2002.

Rest in Peace Chris Cornell.

Tea & Review: Fargo – The House of Special Purpose

If last week’s Fargo was a symphony and the week before’s an interlude, this week’s can only be classified as a funeral march—although no one actually died. The solemnity was more in form than function, expressed through muted colors, elegiac music selections, and slightly more methodical editing. That is, until the final scene.

As was established in past installments, Season Three’s halfway mark is essentially the point of no return, the moment wherein the true stakes are established and the more farcical capers give way for darker plots. Think of the brutal killing of the hapless personal trainer in Season One, or the ambush of the Kansas City mobsters in Season Two. Both reversals were prime examples of the show’s ability to transitional naturally between tones per the story’s demands.

But this time around, the shift feels a whole lot starker.

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Tea & Review: The Leftovers – It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World

Included in every season of The Leftovers, nestled within the grand, cosmically surreal narrative of the series proper, are more intimate stories dealing with the minutiae of the central characters’ lives. The most consistent and consistently entertaining of these have been focused on everyone’s favorite religious zealot, Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccleston), with each installment adding more depth to the preacher while testing bringing his faith to the brink of oblivion.

Season One’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter” was structured almost as a dark joke, placing Matt in the midst of a series of misfortunes as he battled the Guilty Remnant and tried to raise funds for his Church, ultimately losing almost everything. But still, his faith remained strong.

Season Two’s “No Room at the Inn” was more harrowing than wry, turning Matt into a sort of martyr figure taking on the burdens of the outcasts living outside Jarden, Texas. And though all signs pointed to him having become dangerously delusional, he was vindicated by the end of the season, his faith never wavering.

And now, with “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” his personal arc has finally reached its climax.

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Why You Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching You: The X-Files Revisited – Season 1: Squeeze

Scully and Mulder ponder their caseThe sewer in Maryland has eyes! Yellow eyes peer out from the opening right under the curb. The businessman who passed by enters his empty office building and arrives in his empty office. It’s nighttime, of course. This man winds up dead, of course. We don’t see the murder, but we do see a screw on an air vent turning itself shut.

Scully lunches with academy buddy Agent Tommy Colton where they chat about his fast-track success and her close encounters with Spooky Mulder. Immediately after jibing her, Colton reveals he’s got a case he can’t crack about a murder in a locked room with no point of entry apparent, and it’s not a suicide. This is one in a pattern of cases of victims who have had their livers ripped out with bare hands. When she says it sounds like an X-File, he’s all like, no it’s not! Immediately, he asks for her help so that he can solve it, meaning it actually is an X-File and he wants Mulder’s help. Spooky Mulder. As long as Mulder knows it’s Colton’s case, dammit!

X-file: People are getting killed and losing their livers to someone who can get in and out of rooms without needing a door or window.

Mulder feigns surprise at having a reputation and then asks if everyone thinks he’s spooky. Neither of the previous episodes described him as spooky, and now they’ve said it eight times in two minutes. He then asks Scully if she thinks he’s spooky. No time to respond as Colton arrives on the scene of the office where the businessman was killed the night before.

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Virago: Part the Twelfth — Sibling Rivalry

First chapter: Fire & Rain

Previous chapter: Answers

The chipmunks Hannah had tried to tame had always bitten her. It aggravated her that even the smallest animal couldn’t understand that all Hannah wanted to do was help. With her focus turned to Kelsey and trying to make sure she had a decently normal life took entirely too much energy out of her. Why did Kelsey always get to have everything her way?

Hannah was heading home from the restaurant where she had just enjoyed dinner with some of her friends. She bet Kelsey would just be sitting at home messing around with her wall apps. Hannah’s therapist had told her to be supportive of Kelsey. But how could someone support something so innately destructive? It blew her mind how Kelsey didn’t even see the destruction she caused. She erased the incidents surrounding their parents’ death like they weren’t even there. But Hannah knew what happened.

Kelsey was the one who hurt small birds only to heal them up again. She tormented the little animals Hannah tried to nurture alone. Kelsey thrived on being alone because nobody would want to be around her on purpose. Hannah would inwardly seethe with rage at how ignorant her younger sister would remain towards the pain she had caused so many others. She heard about the student who spontaneously burst into flame on the same campus Kelsey had attended. That was no mere accident. What would it take for the suffering to stop?  Hannah took a deep breath. She gripped the steering wheel tighter as she inhaled and loosed her hold as she exhaled. Much better. Everything would be fine. After all, maybe she was much too passive. Kelsey was just the opposite. Only nobody ever knew. Kelsey could create pain and mayhem without anyone knowing it was her. That wasn’t passive. That was just dirty. But Hannah could confront her. Tell her that the elephant in the room must be addressed. Her real or imagined “super” powers had to go. And if they wouldn’t go, Hannah would make them stop.

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Tea & Review: Fargo – The Narrow Escape Problem

Whereas last week’s trip to Los Angeles was something of an experimental detour, “The Narrow Escape Problem” may be the most Fargo episode of Fargo thus far. All the ingredients are there: overly complex problem solving, tactless Midwesterners, oddly friendly police officers interrogating flustered first-time criminals. We even get a quirky framing device.

Speaking of which—the use of a fictional recording of Peter and the Wolf narrated by Billy Bob Thornton as a sort of thematic exoskeleton is definitely the most intriguing element of the episode, by far. It plays with the idea that the characters in Fargo are recurring archetypes, while suggesting a new perspective through which to view the somewhat familiar story being presented.

But as usual with this show, I have to ask: what does it all mean?

That is to say, the narration pairs up several of the major characters with Peter and the Wolf counterparts (as well as the respective instruments that represent them in the composition), but what exactly does that say about each of them?

Gloria (Carrie Coon), for example, is Peter, the central intrepid adventurer who ignores his grandfather’s warnings and defeats the villainous wolf. The analogue here is, of course, rather obvious. Thus far in the season, Gloria has repeatedly ignored the will of her superiors in order to bring down the people responsible for her stepfather’s murder. The thing is, though, she doesn’t actually know who she’s up against. Is she, like Peter, underestimating her opponent?

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Tea & Fiction – No Cups Just Plots