Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bosch - newish from Amazon Prime

Hello, blog readers. I'm Ben, author of the instant classics guest posts on Daredevil and Peaky Blinders. Maggie Cats recruited me to come on full-time because I already had a clever Blogger handle: "the Pedant." As a name, it's both a promise and a threat.

I'm one of those "cord nevers" the cable company likes to pretend don't exist; I use my DSL to consume from streaming services, as well as taking advantage that someone else's parents pay good money for HBO GO. As a result, my posts will mostly be about the things that I dredge up from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Today, I'm going to tell you about the fun new(ish, came out in February) Amazon Prime-only series Bosch. It's based on a series of books by writer Michael Connelly, which I haven't read, but I'm told are pretty good. In both books and show, LAPD detective Heironymous "Harry" Bosch solves crimes and gets justice, law and "the rules" be damned.

Harry Bosch is played by Titus Welliver, whom you may remember as "SHIELD Agent who Deathlok stomped into a coma in season one":
"Wait, Patton Oswalt gets a regular gig on this show, and I don't?"

Or perhaps as "Starfleet officer murdering intelligent beings for spaceship fuel" in Star Trek: Voyager:
Maxwell Burke.jpg
"The Paramount folks found this expression too intense for Star Trek."

He's generally a character actor for shows (Sons of Anarchy, The Good Wife), which is sad, because Titus Welliver is actually a pretty decent actor, which I did not define by lowering the bar to "not having a brow-heavy glower in every scene."

While Harry Bosch does have his share of brow-heavy glowers (how could he not?), he's a troubled soul with a large arsenal of non-glower facial expressions. The season starts with Bosch shooting a suspected serial killer who turns out maybe to be unarmed, and he gets sued for it.

Bosch being in trouble for doing the right thing in sort of the wrong way is a recurring theme. His respect for police procedure and "the rules" is at his convenience, but he does get caught for it. Usually, though, he gets off with only a minor penalty because he did in fact stop a very bad guy, although it's not because the bad guy was bad, it's because punishing Bosch would be politically inconvenient for the LAPD. 

And then, for the first season's story arc, some other police find Evil Clone of Mark Ruffalo (Jason Gedrick, previously on Dexter) with a murdered male prostitute in the back of his panel van.
"I swear I have no idea how that rent boy got into my panel van to then stun gun and strangle himself to death."

Dark Ruffalo is named Raynard Waits, and after a day of pretending he knows nothing about anything, he then claims to have murdered a bunch of folks, including a a long-dead child whose remains Bosch has just found. But Bosch is pretty sure Dark Ruffalo didn't commit that murder. 

Finding out who did, and whether Dark Ruffalo will get his due, provides the tension for the season. And it is tense. Promising leads go nowhere, Bosch makes ill-considered decisions in his personal and professional life, and the higher-ups in the LAPD (mostly The Wire's Lance Reddick, playing a different high-ranking policeman) and District Attorney's office are scheming to take maximum political advantage of the fallout. 

Did I mention the opening theme? It's Caught a Ghost's "Can't Let Go," which is the best expression of jazzy jadedness towards life since Morphine's "The Night." It predisposes you to a story of grit, of perseverance against near-certain failure, of an ugly world that still needs saving. It's a great theme. 

So, if you have Amazon Prime, spend some time watching Bosch. Unless you hate gritty detective stories, you won't regret it. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peaky Blinders

Guest-poster Ben is back, this time with a review of the Netflix series, Peaky Blinders. If period pieces, Irishmen, and graphic violence are your thing, sounds like a must watch. I know I can't wait. --Maggie Cats

Peaky Blinders on Netflix (it’s called a “Netflix Original,” but the only original thing is that Netflix has the exclusive U.S. rights from the BBC) will take about half a day of your time to watch all 12 episodes. I strongly recommend it, although if you have a job or child care obligations or a desire not to become so sedentary that you merge with your couch, you don’t have to binge-watch it. You will find yourself tempted, though.

Peaky Blinders is the story of the Shelby family, Irishmen living in post-WWI Birmingham, England. The Shelbys form the core of a racketeering organization called the “Peaky Blinders.” It’s led by Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy with perhaps the world’s ugliest haircut:

All the male Shelbys have this haircut. It doesn’t look better on any of them.

But the appalling haircuts are not why the Shelbys’ gang is called the “Peaky Blinders.” They’re called that because they sew razor blades into the lining of their cabbie-style “peaked caps,” and when the need arises the Shelbys slash for the eyes.

We do not use the word “classy” to describe the Shelbys. Or “merciful.”

So, yes, if you’re watching Peaky Blinders, you should have a pretty good tolerance for violent nastiness on a level similar to Breaking Bad. Otherwise, what will happen is that you will be immediately taken in by the awesomeness of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ song “Red Right Hand” playing in the opening, end up wanting more guitar-heavy rock-backed period drama, and then end up half-covering your eyes as a guy gets beaten to death in a basement as you suddenly wish you were still watching Downton Abbey.

It’s actually kind of interesting to watch Downton Abbey’s third season at the same time as the first season of Peaky Blinders, as they take place in the same year.

In Downton, we watch chauffeur-turned-mild-political-agitator Tom Branson get into a spot of trouble mildly agitating for Irish independence. Lord Grantham manages to get him out of it with a phone call, though. Nothing to worry about here.

In Peaky Blinders, the Irish Republican Army threatens mass-murder against the Shelbys if the Peaky Blinders don’t assist the cause of Irish independence. Much of the solution to the Shelbys’ IRA problem involves preemptive or alternative murder.

"No matter how many I kill, my haircut remains distractingly bad."

In Downton, Bates’s worst problem while being wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his wife was that the nasty corrupt prison guard stopped his mail. In the second season of Peaky Blinders, we find that prison is as fatal in 1920 Birmingham as being in women’s lockup in Eastern Kentucky with Dr. Caitlin Snow from Flash. That is, people get shivved with regularity.

Really sucked that Eva Crowder wasn’t a speedster, huh, Dr. Snow? (Justified, season 5)

While Downton has Hugh Bonneville as the financially incompetent self-righteous patriarch of the Granthams, Peaky Blinders has Sam Neill as Inspector Campbell, the sneering, self-righteous Belfast police chief come to solve Birmingham’s national security issues with as much brutality as needed.

“I’ll bet you’re sorry I’m not Hugh Bonneville, ain’t ye?”

There are also Communists, and, in season two, London’s Jewish and Irish organized crime.

In short, if after Downton you wonder what happened to all the people who swore and actually, you know, did things, you can watch Peaky Blinders and find out.

So, why should you watch what I’ve just described as “Frank Miller’s Downton Abbey”? Because it is a compact package of emotional suspense. Despite Cillian Murphy being called on to do his trademark “I am at best indifferent, and more likely amused, at your suffering” face (the one from Red Eye and Batman Begins) a bunch of the time, he’s also having real emotions, too. At the start of season one, Thomas Shelby is a PTSD-wracked bookmaker with ambitions, and he’s about to fall in love with the wrong woman. Will he be able to pull off his complicated plan for the Peaky Blinders to rise above mere local bookies, or will love and his adversaries destroy everything Tommy has ever worked for?

But it’s not just Tommy; each member of the Shelby clan, from shell-shocked older brother Arthur to world-wise Aunt Polly, has a story to tell, and you end up rooting a little for all of them, despite their murderous criminality (or willingness to tolerate same). Compared to the uncompromising, all-consuming violent righteousness of the Irish Republicans and Inspector Campbell, the pragmatism of the Peaky Blinders seems to gain a moral sense of its own. And, as The A-Team’s Hannibal always said, we love it when a plan comes together, and when Tommy Shelby’s plots reach their apotheosis, when we see how all sorts of little things that happened in episodes before lead to one massive, guns-blazing finish, we almost can’t but hope that something with this much effort and care actually works out for the architect.

And did I mention the rockin’ score? Guitars everywhere (White Stripes in the first season).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall, a British miniseries about the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the Court of King Henry VIII (based on the books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel), is currently airing Sunday nights on PBS as part of Masterpiece. Being connoisseurs of all things British, Arsenic Pie and I took to the internet for a bit of a chat about the show the other night. The bottom line is that we are both enjoying it, but we are also both fans of Tudor history. If the Brits aren't your may find the series a bit slow. Think of it as West Wing: Tudor Edition.

Maggie Cats: Have you read the books?

Arsenic Pie: I have not, have you?

Maggie Cats: I read Bring Up the Bodies for book club--I remember enjoying it, but I have a strong background in Tudor history from college, so it wasn't all that revelatory. What the show is doing character wise is striking me as more interesting.

Arsenic Pie: I took a British history class my freshman year. So I'm pleased to see Henry VIII as appropriately gouty and dickish.

Maggie Cats: You're an expert!

Arsenic Pie: I am totes the expert.

Maggie Cats: Let's talk about Henry; even though he doesn't appear hardly at all until the second episode, he's the reason people tune in.

Arsenic Pie: I love me some Damian Lewis. He plays a good asshat. See: The Forsyte Saga.

Maggie Cats: This is one of the more "realistic" portrayals of Henry I've seen. Henry was somewhat of a study in contradictions. Smart, but a slave to his id. He loved music and poetry (and wrote it) but also loved the outdoors and sport. I feel like this is the first time I have seen the character of Henry VIII portrayed as a smart thinking man in addition to the physical stuff. And can I just say, thank god they cast an ACTUAL GINGER THANK YOU.

Arsenic Pie: They're a dying breed. They're rare. They need to be utilized before they go extinct.

Maggie Cats: Have you heard about the Ginger Preservation Project?? *she said ringing the doorbell and holding out a flyer*

Arsenic Pie: Where can I sign up? Do you have an info booth? Is it the one located next to SPEW? 

Maggie Cats: We have our own facilities at Strawberry Preserves. We need to get the word out. But I digress. What do you think of Lewis' Henry?

Arsenic Pie:I think he is perfect for the part. Usually Henry is all bloated and walking around burping while he gesticulates with a turkey leg, but Lewis has got this on lock. *Let it be noted here that AP is gesticulating wildly with a turkey leg*

Maggie Cats: It's true that he is either portrayed as fat and slow or hot forever like in The Tudors. He's usually shown as a caricature. What about Mark Rylance as Cromwell? I love how he is quiet, but you still absolutely get his genius and ability to read people.

Arsenic Pie: I cannot take my eyes off him. Not that he's the epitome of male hotness, but he's really mesmerizing. I pay the most attention to him in all the scenes, even when he's sharing screen time with Jonathan Pryce.

Maggie Cats: You can really see the mind working behind the actor's eyes. Cromwell is quiet, but is always looking around and taking everything in. FOR FUTURE BLACKMAIL.

Arsenic Pie: I have always loved Jonathan Pryce. I like how he was Juan Peron. He is so not dictatory but he was great in that too.

Maggie Cats: He was pretty great as Wolsey, who honestly I found kind of pathetic. He just...didn't get it. Wolsey didn't understand the game or how to play it.  I don't know what dictatory means, but I am going to smile and nod.

Arsenic Pie: Yes, smile and nod. It is the best way to do things.

Maggie Cats: I got that part down.

Arsenic Pie: I'm super excited about Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn. She was just all kinds of crazy on Upstairs Downstairs.

Maggie Cats: She is doing really well; her Anne is also really different from Annes we've seen. Manipulative, but not super great at it. More like a spoiled child. I love it.

Arsenic Pie: It's because she's coo-coo.

Maggie Cats: Also French.

Arsenic Pie: Next thing you know she'll surrender. Because you know France. Off screen she eats cheese and complains about how much she hates Americans. But basically, it's a strong cast overall, and Mark Rylance is ruling it.

Maggie Cats: Definitely, I am just trying to enjoy the parts where he is large and in charge before it all goes south. It didn't really pay to be friends with Henry VIII. Well, maybe for a little while but then CHOP CHOP.

Arsenic Pie: Hey, he didn't kill ALL of his wives. Some of them died natural deaths.

Maggie Cats: Four of them, actually.

Arsenic Pie: Name them. Name his wives in order and the manner of their death.

Maggie Cats: Catherine of Aragon died of a broken heart. Anne B. went chop chop. Jane Seymour was ripped apart by her baby. Katherine Parr also chop chop. Anne of Cleves was too ugly so she got divorced and actually got to grow old. And the last Katherine lived to be awesome. I...might have mixed the names and orders of some of the Katherines.

Arsenic Pie: Catherine Howard was annulled and executed.

Maggie Cats: Whatever. CLOSE ENOUGH.

Arsenic Pie: Nobody ever talks about the women he DIDN'T marry. I mean historians are so biased.

Maggie Cats: There are simply too many. But at least everyone in Court had the same strain of hepatitis, right?

Arsenic Pie: Unless it mutated and turned into hepabola, yes.

Maggie Cats: So what else about the show has struck you? I'll put a shout out to the costuming which is impeccable.

Arsenic Pie: The fact that it's almost Shakespearean.

Maggie Cats: It's Shakespeare before there was a Shakespeare.

Arsenic Pie: Like you could put this side-by-side with one of the royal plays and it would hold up.

Maggie Cats: Really, what else was there to do in those days except plot and backstab and manipulate? NOTHING.

Arsenic Pie: NOTHING THEY DID NOT HAVE NETFLIX OR SMARTPHONES. Frankly I feel technology has saved us from beheadings. I would be insane without cable for sure. Imagine if someone took a selfie at Anne Boleyn's execution.

Maggie Cats: The world is fortunate there is cable. Else I would have conquered it by now out of boredom. We'd be like Pinkie and the Brain. I'm the Brain.

Arsenic Pie: I'm Pinkie.

Maggie Cats: This is why we work. So, any final thoughts?

Arsenic Pie: Wolf Hall is definitely worth checking out even if you are not into the regular PBS viewing crowd And I cast no aspersions on anyone because 80 percent of my PBS viewing is making fun of the people on Antiques Roadshow.

Maggie Cats: And definitely worth checking out for the multi-layered character portrayals and fantastic acting.

Arsenic Pie: I am really proud of PBS. They've like unintentionally become a bulwark of critically acclaimed drama.

Maggie Cats: BBC America is like their younger, slower sibling.

Arsenic Pie: But PBS still has the corner on British programming. They get stuff from ITV because they don't have to be brand loyal. So I can watch Mr. Selfridge and yell at the people in corsets.

(the conversation then devolved into a discussion of Jeremy Piven, WETA UK, and other facets of British television. It's best we wrap it up here, gentle reader.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Time for another guest post! Isn't it nice that we here at TV Sluts have such nice friends who are willing to write posts for us when we are feeling lazy...I mean "when life gets hectic and we don't have as much time to watch television as we would like." Yeah. That's it. Anyway, this review of Netflix's Daredevil comes courtesy of new guest writer, Ben. Ben really knows his stuff so sit back, relax, and enjoy his thoughts on the new Daredevil!

I must admit, Daredevil is not my favorite superhero.

In my mind, his one-sentence description is, “he’s blind...but he’s not.” Thankfully, Netflix's version of the character is about more than that.

The show switches between a CW's Arrow-style origin story for Daredevil, finding him just as he starts his vigilante career, and a Sopranos-style treatment of the tribulations of Wilson Fisk (known in the comics as “the Kingpin”), criminal mastermind and tortured soul.

I will warn you, this Daredevil takes place in the “all Marvel TV/movies must be in the same continuity” universe. For the most part, this is less intrusive than Agents of SHIELD’s tie-ins to both Thor and Captain America.  But, in episode seven, there’s a character introduced that you last saw in the Jennifer Garner Electra movie, one who was related to all the super-magic martial arts ridiculousness. You  will spend the entire episode saying to yourself, “no, Marvel and Netflix, don’t screw this up! You’re doing Arrow better than Arrow is, don’t introduce the hokiest of the comic book continuity!” It turns out the new character is only meant to establish how Daredevil, a.k.a. Matt Murdock, can parkour kung-fu despite being blind, because “his father was a boxer” is not really an explanation. I am happy to report that the next episode goes back to Daredevil being awesome.

On the Daredevil side, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock does a great job at being the right mix of clever, insanely driven, and internally tortured; a series of conversations between Murdock and a local parish priest about morality end up more revealing and less contrived than they might in a lesser show.
 Murdock’s not yet the superhero he will become, dressing for most of the show in a black getup that evokes Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride and having more of a general goal of fighting crime than any sort of plan.

Watching Daredevil (and his non-super friends) struggle as tiny individuals against the systemic rot and insensitivity of the show’s New York City is one of my favorite aspects of the show’s writing. The writers seem to be influenced by recent news about police and the media, where the police can justify all but the dirtiest killings and the media will still believe whoever the police say is the bad guy, even (or especially) when the police are corrupt.

Even if Daredevil successfully ends the current crime lord’s reign of terror, this Hell’s Kitchen is a place where the next could spring up to fill the vacuum unless something changes, and the deterrent effect of a blind practitioner of parkour kung-fu might not be enough. That said, there are still tiny victories in each person saved, and the show does make one feel them.

On Kingpin’s side, we are given the most vulnerable portrait of a real super villain perhaps ever to appear in superhero media. Wilson Fisk remains a gorilla-strong master of the underworld, but we learn that he still sees himself as the friendless fat kid on the block and he has nearly no game with the ladies. Sometimes, the viewer wonders, “how did you manage to get this crime lord thing together, Wilson, between the social awkwardness and the red-out rages?”

I think this is a factor, though, of seeing the show as a superhero show first; we don’t like to think that Victor Von Doom engages in Tony Soprano introspection, because then it kind of sucks that Reed Richards and his family totally ruin the plan. I ended up wanting Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk - even though the character basically looks and sounds like D’Onofrio’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent character crossed with Gorilla Grodd - to outsmart and outwit his way to success, even when he ordered the death of a little old lady just to taunt Daredevil out of hiding.

Fun fact: D'Onfrio has already played Thor.

And to briefly address critical gender theory -- for the record, this show passes the “Bechdel Test” only because, in one episode, there’s one scene where two women talk about landlord and tenant law. For the most part, this is a show where there is at most one woman with a speaking role in a scene at a time. Which is to say: don’t expect significant thoughts about feminism from Daredevil.

Final notes:

1.  Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Karen Page, looks way too much like she did on True Blood. I expected her to up and bite a guy while having sex with him; only mildly disappointed that she doesn’t. Her character is more interesting than at first glance, though; don’t write her off.

2.  There is a crime boss named Madam Gao. She is basically a cute Chinese grandmother package of coiled menace. All new crime TV shows should hire Wai Ching Ho to be adorably elderly and threatening.

3.  It’s not quite Game of Thrones, but Daredevil is willing to kill some characters you think are recurring at moments you find completely unexpected.

4.  Everyone seems to pick the same spot in Brooklyn with the beautiful Manhattan skyline to have outdoor conferences. It’s a great spot; I went to a wedding in that part of Brooklyn once and you do not get sick of the view. But I do notice when it gets reused for a show about Hell’s Kitchen, which is on the other side of the East River.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thanks for Chris Pratt

It's been gone for a while, but it's always a good time to think back fondly on the gang from Parks and Rec, right? Guest-poster, Priya, has graciously allowed me to share a tv-themed post from her blog, This is What Comes Next. Enjoy and treat yo self!

"When we worked here together we fought, scratched, and clawed to make people’s lives a tiny bit better. That’s what public service is all about. Small incremental change every day. Teddy Roosevelt once said ‘far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ And I would add what makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people you love.” — Leslie Knope


Yesterday we said goodbye to the loveable crew from Pawnee, Indiana and I literally got more emotional than I thought I would. And so, in the spirit of farewell, I pulled together my favorite things, moments, and thoughts from Pawnee, Indiana (with some helpful suggestions from my friends on Twitter and Facebook).

1. Leslie Knope. Though she started out a caricature, a female version of Michael Scott, she quickly grew into the dedicated, loyal, and intelligent person that you can’t help but identify with. Leslie wants everyone to be happy, and her enthusiasm was mostly infectious. While she taught us a lot of lessons one of her biggest legacies will be Galentine’s day. The day before Valentine’s Day where ladies celebrate ladies.


2. History at the local level. I will be the first to admit that Parks and Rec lovingly mocked the protectors of history, but as with most stories there was always a teensy bit of truth.

“We need better less-offensive history.” In Season 2, Episode 9 The Camel, we get a closer look at 1930s murals in the Pawnee Town Hall. This mural called the “Spirit of Pawnee” depicted stereotypes of various ethnicities in an incredibly offensive manner. At first glance the episode seemed to advocate for change, to remove the offensive images as an acknowledgment of their racism — but in the end the mural remained with only a name change “The Diversity Express” underscoring the ridiculousness and awfulness of the images depicted.

I thought the intervening mural competition did highlight how people connect to place. Asking the questions with hilarious results: how would you depict the place where you live? What story would you tell? The show was always great at highlighting this connection.

Another example: In the most recent season Leslie worked to create a National Park in Pawnee. Granted she tried to create it in a completely non-reality based way, but the sentiment remained. What I appreciated about that storyline was how she convinced the corporation, Gryzzl, to adopt a run-down part of town and to revitalize a neighborhood that was falling apart. It was a key part of the plan to convince them to rehab existing building stock instead of starting a new. My preservation heart forgave them for the earlier flaw and accepted it in the spirit in which the story was told.

Other history moments?

The time Leslie tried to save a Gazebo at a historic house and chained herself to a fence. [Season 2, 94 Meetings] “History is important. You can’t just go around changing everything all the time. Otherwise the next thing you’ll know they’ll be painting the white house, not white.”

Then she tried to change outdated laws in Season 5 and was met by a history buff who wanted to keep a tradition alive.

Or when they visited a historic house museum with fake objects. These moments may have made me shake my head, but they also made me smile.

3. Moments. Hysterical moments. Burt Macklin, Waffles, Jerry or is it Gary? April’s weirdness. Ron’s hidden gold, Tammy, Rent a Swag, TREAT YOURSELF.

4. Literally. My co-worker who shall not be named does a great Chris Traeger impression. As much as I loved Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn. Rob Lowe as Traeger on Parks and Rec? Perfect. As for my co-worker? I will always have that day at the office where she performed a full, playing all the characters, interpretation, of this scene. It’s a classic.

5. Little Sebastian. That tiny horse pulled at heart strings. He brought people together. So much of this town’s identity was wrapped up in strange festivals, rivalries with Eagleton, and bizarre relationship with its past. Sebastian exemplified how, in the end, the strange trip was all about making the community better, even with all the challenges.

Up in horsey heaven, here’s the thing
You trade your legs for angels wings
 And once we’ve all said good-bye
You take a running leap and you learn to fly

Bye Bye Li’l Sebastian
Miss you in the saddest fashion
 Bye Bye Li’l Sebastian
You’re 5000 candles in the wind

So Bye bye Parks and Rec. There won’t be anything quite like you, ever again.

Please and thank you.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Outlander: The Reckoning

Lots of premieres happening on cable right now, and I plan to get to Mad Men and Wolf Hall in the next couple days, but let's start with the show with the most sex, kilts, and brogues.

Outlander, of course! This post has some spoilers for the most recent episode, but I won't discuss any book-related future plot spoilers. Pinkie swear.

I'm not sure how I feel about the latest trend of networks splitting up a show's season into 6 or 7 episode long stints and then making the audience wait more than half a year for the rest. It's annoying as a fan and audience-member, but it also seems kind of disingenuous. But I can't get too worked up about it now that we actually have our new Outlander episodes. It's been a long wait though, so Starz better make it worth it.

I'm happy to report the mid-season premiere episode, not only delivered the goods, but then some. There were some big changes, most notably, that the point of view of our story switched from Claire to Jamie. I'm pleased that Claire still remains the clear focus and hero of our story, but the change in perspective, while a bit jarring, was also necessary from a storytelling perspective. There were plot events, including how Jamie ended up on the window ledge of Jack Randall right in time to save his wife from rape and torture, that simply cannot be told without changing the voice of the show.

I can't say that I found Jamie's voice-overs or character insights as interesting as Claire's, but the plot development during this episode was certainly solid. Jamie and the other highlanders whisk Clare away from Captain Randall and Fort William just in the nick of time, they have an epic fight ending in a spanking (hello spousal abuse!), Jamie returns to Castle Leoch and deftly negotiates a truce between the brothers MacKenzie, and Claire and Jamie figure out pretty quickly they need to keep an eye on Jamie's ex who has a first class ticket on the express train to Crazy Town.

Oh, and there was a pretty epic sex scene at the end that included Claire riding Jamie while holding a dirk to his throat and threatening to cut out his heart and eat it if he ever raises a hand against her again.

Daenery's is all, "you go, girl." 

So let's talk about that scene. You know the one I mean--the spanking heard round the internet. When Jamie left Claire in a grove outside Craigh nu Dun, he explicitly told her to stay put. She, of course, made a break for it in an attempt to reach the stone circle and get back to the 20th century and her husband, Frank. 

Her "disobeying" her husband resulted in her capture, assault by Captain Randall, and Jamie and the other Scotsman storming Fort William and springing her. At great risk to themselves and the MacKenzie clan as a whole, of course. As such, they felt she needed to be punished. Hence, the spanking. With a belt. On the bum. 

To the show's credit, they made Jamie seem as progressive as they could. You know, so far as someone can "progressively" beat their wife. He made it clear he was doing it because he had to, at least according to the expectations of the other Scotsmen. And it was for Clarire's "own good," so she would truly understand the potential ramifications of her actions. Is it still gross? Uh, hell yes. 

But here's the thing--this happened. Well, not in the sense that a time-traveler from the 1940s who was stuck in 1700s Scotland would make an attempt to touch magic stones and act against the wishes of her husband, but if a wife acted contrary to something her husband told her in 1743 Scotland he would likely hit her. Women were property. And their husbands would beat them. Does that make it excusable? Absolutely not. Does it make sense within the story we are being told? Absolutely yes. Especially since it opens the door for a lot of drama between the characters. I'll wager the effect of this on Claire will be far-reaching. 

And it made for some really crazy angry sex. Though I confess I found it disturbing that Jamie still ended up on top. This is, however, a good example of non-gratuitous sex that is used to actually further a story and show something about the characters. Also, it was really hot. 

All in all, The Reckoning was an excellent episode that set a lot of new plots in motion, had some great character moments, and left the audience slathering for more. And of course yelling at one another on the internet, which let's face it, is one of the criteria by which we measure the popularity television programs these days. I am declaring it a win!