It is time, once again, for me to spend far too many words discussing all the television I’ve been watching. In today’s post, we will be awarding TV shows (or maligning them) with silly superlatives like Favorite Weapon, Favorite Product Placement, Least Favorite Ship, and The Blood Thirst Letdown (AKA, The Stannis Award).
Here is the list of everything I’ve been watching these past few months:
Star Trek: TOS (Season 2, Episodes: 11-22)
Last Week Tonight
Star Trek: Discovery (Season 3)
Nancy Drew (Season 2, Episodes 7-18)
Heaven’s Official Blessing
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
The Mandalorian (Season 2)
Word of Honor
A Black Lady Sketch Show (Season 2)
Sell Your Haunted House (Episodes 1-13)
Shadow & Bone
A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether it’s currently airing or not. As always, I will do my best to clearly mark all awards with appropriate spoiler warnings.
Lots to get through today, so let’s go ahead and begin.
FAVORITE OPENING CREDITS
A Black Lady Sketch Show
As always, I love opening credits that change a little (or a lot) every week. It’s neat to watch and see what’s different this time around. In A Black Lady Sketch Show, for instance, you can see which cast member will accidentally (or not so accidentally) knock someone out in the opening. Plus, it’s a great song. Plus, lots of dancing. These credits are just fun and joyous and perfectly consistent with the tone of the show.
Honorable Mentions: Detective L; Heaven’s Official Blessing
Zhao Wohuan’s GIANT ASS sword – Ancient Detective
This was difficult. Of course, I love Wen Kexing’s fan. Of course, I love Xie Lian’s magic ribbon. But also . . . I’m a simple girl, and there’s just something about this ridiculously large blade that made me smile every time I saw it. It was so heavy it had sound effects. I know I wouldn’t even be able to lift it, but also? I kind of want one of my very own.
Honorable Mentions: Wen Kexing’s fan (Word of Honor); Xie Lian’s ribbon (Heaven’s Official Blessing); Shiqi’s umbrella (Ancient Detective); Inej’s knives (Shadow & Bone); Ji Ah’s spirit awl (Sell Your Haunted House)
FAVORITE ROMANTIC GIFT
A creepy wooden puppet hand – Ancient Detective
Zhao Wohuan literally calls it a “token of love.” People. I died. I DIED.
Honorable Mention: Wen Kexing’s hair stick (Word of Honor)
BEST USE OF SLOW MO
Hot Dude Vision – Nancy Drew
In “The Spell of the Burning Bride,” Nancy is cursed by a haunted wedding dress that’s basically a repository for female carnal desire–just go with it–and spends half the episode being heavily distracted by any dude who walks by. We get slow mo. We get sexy music. We get wind machines. It is gloriously, purposefully ridiculous, and I adore it. Kennedy McCann, always on point, is so hilarious here, and I really like how this episode manages to be so funny while also taking issues like slut-shaming and double standards seriously. As a general rule, Nancy Drew is pretty good at being absurd, feminist, and earnest, all at the same time.
Honorable Mention: Basically every romantic fight scene (Word of Honor)
FAVORITE PRODUCT PLACEMENT
Wolong Nuts – Word of Honor
I’ve never been great at spotting product placement unless it’s glaringly obvious, like, Subway in a K-drama obvious. But this shit was hysterical, partly because I wasn’t expecting product placement in a ye-olde drama (like, can you imagine if that Starbucks cup everybody lost their minds over in GoT had actually been part of the script), but mostly because the show is so blatantly cheeky about it, like, they don’t even try to be subtle, and I cracked up. Every. Single. Time. I don’t even like nuts, and I kinda wanna own a bag. Clearly, this is how all product placement should be done going forward.
MOST FABULOUS FASHION
Basically everyone, all the time – Detective L
Wen Kexing’s red hanfu and matching eye makeup – Word of Honor
Alina’s fancy party dress and stunning hairpiece – Shadow and Bone
Yes, I’m aware it’s cheating to pick an entire show for this award, but I don’t care; at least half the reason I watched Detective L in the first place was for the gorgeous 30’s aesthetic. This show is dapper as fuck. The little caps, the pinstripe suits, the form-fitting waistcoats, the glamorous dresses . . . I just want to own EVERYTHING.
Meanwhile, I also love Wen Kexing’s entire wardrobe–like, his light purple hanfu is gorgeous, and of course I love his very last look, which I cannot discuss further at this time–but of his many various costumes, my absolute favorite is easily the red hanfu with matching red eye makeup. So pretty. So badass. So hot. So perfect.
Finally, Alina’s outfit for the fete in Shadow and Bone is stunning. The whole blue and gold, uh, jacket/robe thing? (Clearly, I don’t possess a great fashion vocabulary). It’s fantastic, and that big, ornate hairpiece on the back of her head? I want it. I’m sure it’s not too hideously expensive, right? Right?
WORST WTF MOMENT
Diagnosis: A Total Resentment of Women – Star Trek
Some lady caused an explosion (it remains unclear how or why), which knocked Scotty into a bulkhead. Somehow, this caused Scotty to develop a “total resentment towards women,” which could only be cured by a rehabilitative trip down to the nearest belly dancer tavern. I’m being completely serious here. This was an actual medical diagnosis and prescription on TOS. Bones said that bullshit on television with a straight face.
What? What? WHAT?
Honorable Mention: The many offscreen or disappointing character exits (Word of Honor)
BEST DANCE SCENE
Zemo – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
I mean. Clearly.
Honorable Mentions: Kwang Soo and Jong Kook IMMEDIATELY begin dancing in order to become the queen (Running Man); Se Chan and Jae Suk’s dance break (Running Man)
FAVORITE FIGHT SCENE
Tournament Fight: Zhan Shiqi vs. Zhang Dadan – Ancient Detective
Look, there were obviously many, many contenders for this award. I loved many of the slow, romantic fights in Word of Honor. The Mandalorian had some enjoyable moments, as did The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Watching the Dora Miljae kick John Walker’s ass was good for everyone on a spiritual level, I think.
Still, when it comes to outstanding fight sequences, Ancient Detective wins big for me. The fights were all clever and fun and beautiful, and I especially enjoyed watching retired assassin Shiqi easily takedown her much bigger, axe-wielding opponent with nothing more than an umbrella. I’m afraid I don’t know a lot about fight choreography, but this is a beautifully shot scene that I had a great deal of fun watching.
Honorable Mentions: Hu Baeyue vs. Shen Lin in the tournament (Ancient Detective); Zhan Shiqi vs. Kite Assassin (Ancient Detective); Zhan Wohuan, protecting Jian Buzhi, vs. Assassin (Ancient Detective); Zhao Wohuan vs. Zhan Si (Ancient Detective); Cara Dune vs. Bandits (The Mandalorian); Mando + Fennec vs. Stormtroopers (The Mandalorian); Blue-Armored Mandalorians vs. Tentacle Pirates (The Mandalorian); Ahsoka vs. Morgan Elsbeth (The Mandalorian); Zhou Zishu vs. Wen Kexing – Cherry Blossom Fight (Word of Honor); Zhou Zishu vs. Wen Kexing at lake (Word of Honor) Wen Kexing vs. Ye Baiyi at bridge (Word of Honor); Gu Xiang, Chengling, and Cao Weining vs. Bad Guys at restaurant (Word of Honor); Wen Kexing vs. Mo Huaiyang (Word of Honor) Falcon + Winter Soldier vs. John Walker in warehouse (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); The Dora Milaje kick John Walker’s ass (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Falcon + Winter Soldier vs. Flag Smashers on top of truck (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Mirror Michael vs. Mirror Philippa (Star Trek: Discovery)
FAVORITE INDIVIDUAL SONG
Opening Piano Music – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
I wish I knew what this song was called or who composed it. If you do know, please comment! This piano music got stuck in my head for days after watching, which is, admittedly, kinda my fault, as I rewatched this scene more than once looking for CLUES. But also, I just love this bit of music, and it’s used to perfection here in this opening scene. People. This is how you begin a murder mystery.
Honorable Mentions: “Amatz” – Shanti Dope (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); “Came for the Low” – ZHU, partywithray (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); “Troopers” – Ludwig Göransson (The Mandalorian); “Superhuman” – Campfire, feat. Shane Eli (Nancy Drew); “Fine Azz” – Kamillion (A Black Lady Sketch Show)
Zhao Wohuan – Ancient Detective
Gu Xiang – Word of Honor
Ancient Detective is one of those shows where the sidekick wildly outshines the hero. The MC is, you know, fine, whereas Zhao Wohuan is an earnest, hilarious, badass himbo with a giant damn sword and a laugh that cracks me up every time. He has several good moments in this series, but one of my favorites is when he dramatically poses after a fight, and then just . . . keeps holding the pose, simply because he’s having such a fun time being a badass. Basically, Zhao Wohuan is adorable. Also, he totally looks like he could be Wei Wuxian’s dumb jock older brother, so I need a drama to capitalize on that, please. Cast Xiao Zhan and Wang Yan Yang as brothers immediately!
Meanwhile, Gu Xiang is a delight from pretty much the first second we see her. She’s a bright, pouty, feral little thing, and I adore her. She has basically nothing even resembling polite manners or people skills, but she’s very good at martial arts and speaking her mind and just generally being cute; in fact, she and Zhao Wohuan also tie for MOST ADORABLE, for admittedly, slightly different reasons. And of course, I particularly love Gu Xiang’s relationship with Wen Kexing; in fact, it wins for FAVORITE SIBLING RELATIONSHIP. (Which, as always, applies to non-bio siblings.)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Sidekick: Fu Yao and Nan Feng (Heaven’s Official Blessing); Dominkov (Murder Princess); Pete (Murder Princess); Ana and Yuna (Murder Princess)
Honorable Mentions for Most Adorable: Tribbles (TOS); Grudge (Star Trek: Discovery); Grogu (The Mandalorian); Chengling (Word of Honor)
Honorable Mention for Favorite Sibling Relationship: George and her sisters (Nancy Drew)
BEST NEW PLAYER
Book – Star Trek: Discovery
Adira Tal – Star Trek: Discovery
Look, NGL: I love Book for mostly shallow reasons. He looks like this. He sounds like this. He’s the funny rogue type with a heart of gold, and he likes cats. I’m weak, and I accept that. But I also find his empathetic abilities interesting and hope they make more use of them in Season 4. Plus, he’s a much better love interest than Ash Tyler ever was. I’m relieved to see Michael in a relationship that’s actually interesting this time.
But I also really enjoy the addition of Adira, partly because they’re the first canonically non-binary major player in Trek–which, Jesus, it’s about time–and also because I’ve always found the Trill really interesting, so seeing a human with a (successfully implanted) Trill symbiont is a lot of fun for me. Adira and Gray are cute together, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle their, ah, incredibly complicated relationship moving forward.
Honorable Mentions: Admiral Vance (Star Trek: Discovery); Sarah (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Tom Swift (Nancy Drew)
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Nick – Nancy Drew
(Okay, technically, these clips do count as spoilers, if you’re very concerned about the B-plot of a single Season 2 episode, but honestly? No. You’re fine.)
You’d think this would go to Boba Fett, considering the only thing of consequence he actually does in the original trilogy is ingloriously die. The fact that I like him at all in The Mandalorian is, TBH, kinda huge. Meanwhile, Nick from Nancy Drew is totally fine in the first season. Sure, he was my least favorite of the Drew Crew, but I didn’t hate him or anything. You know, dude was there.
But man, Nick levels up in Season 2. I’m not sure if it’s because the writers gave Tunji Kasim better material to work with, or if the actor found a new way to connect to his character (possibly both?), but goddamn, he’s been a standout all season long. From his glorious takedown of Terrible Cafe Guy above, to his many hysterically funny reactions regarding Horseshoe Bay’s various ghostly shenanigans, to his quiet, heartbreaking line–we are always terrified–while confronting a police officer about Black trauma, Kasim has done stellar work this year and has made Nick one of my absolute favorite characters. Shit, dude’s made me cry twice this season, and FFS, this is supposed to be my silly, spooky comfort show!
Honorable Mention: Boba Fett (The Mandalorian); Mayfield (Mandalorian)
FAVORITE SCENE STEALER – MAIN CAST
Owo – Star Trek: Discovery
Three seasons in now, and Discovery is STILL struggling to figure out what to do with half its Bridge crew. Detmer, at least, gets a character arc this season, although I think it’s a bit mishandled; meanwhile, I’ve finally learned which guy is Bryce and which guy is Rhys, and . . . yeah, that’s about all I know about them.
Owosekun, too, has virtually nothing resembling a character arc, and the only bit of her backstory I remember happened way back in Season One. Still, somehow, Oyin Oladejo has enough stage presence to command my attention. I’m invested in her, even though the script itself has given me very little reason to be. Owo does have a couple of very nice action scenes this year, and thankfully, she doesn’t die in a scene that I was fully prepared to be righteously furious about. Still, both the actress and the character deserve more, and I’d really like Discovery to finally deliver in Season 4.
Honorable Mention: Heather (The Head)
SUPPORTING CHARACTER WHO MOST DESERVES A SHOUTOUT
Ye Baiyi – Word of Honor
I love him. I love him so much. Ye Baiyi is a cranky, kinda tragic immortal, and I am drawn to him in every single scene. I love how he says exactly what he’s thinking, and I’m absolutely obsessed with his occasionally sweet but very antagonistic relationship with Wen Kexing. I need more fanfic about these two immediately because they’re absolutely winning FAVORITE DYNAMIC DUO for me.
Honorable Mentions for Supporting Characters: Ace (Nancy Drew); “Georgette” (Nancy Drew); Xiao Ling (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Ming Yue (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Ye Mei Li (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Jesper (Shadow and Bone); Xiao Yao Nu (Ancient Detective); Wang Lao Da (Ancient Detective); Ye Xiao Xiao (Ancient Detective); Bai Hu (Ancient Detective); Ban Yue (Heaven’s Official Blessing); Culber (Star Trek: Discovery); Mirror Philippa (Star Trek: Discovery)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Dynamic Duo: Michael & Philippa (Star Trek: Discovery); Stamets & Reno (Star Trek: Discovery); Fu Yao & Nan Feng (Heaven’s Official Blessing)
Zhou Zishu/Wen Kexing – Word of Honor
I mean, obviously.
I was invested in this ship pretty much from the get go. It certainly wasn’t my only reason for watching Word of Honor, but it definitely was a pretty big reason. Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun have fantastic chemistry. I’m apparently a sucker for flirting via violence and allusions to Chinese poetry. Also, this whole scene, which thankfully was uploaded online, because the edited broadcast version on Viki just isn’t as pure. I’m fully obsessed with these two soulmates, and–as with The Untamed–it’s awesome just how much this show got away with, considering the censorship against BL stories. I’ve seen hundred of ships in American TV that weren’t half as romantic as this shit.
Honorable Mentions: Hua Cheng/Xie Lian (Heaven’s Official Blessing); Nick/George (Nancy Drew); Nancy/Ace (Nancy Drew); Stamets/Culber (Star Trek: Discovery); Michael/Book (Star Trek: Discovery); Adira/Gray (Star Trek: Discovery)
LEAST FAVORITE SHIP
Mal/Alina – Shadow and Bone
Oh, God, they’re so boring. Of course, I’m just generally more interested in the B-plot, anyway, considering Six of Crows is the whole reason I’m watching this show, but still. Mal’s entire personality seems to revolve around Alina, and frankly, Alina isn’t that much better, like, I’m convinced Jessie Mei Li could do more if she was actually given interesting material? But as far as Chosen Ones go, Alina is pretty generic, although at least she gets plot relevant stuff to do. (Plus another love interest, who’s . . . also pretty boring, actually, despite Ben Barnes’s whole face.)
But wow, I don’t think Mal can even take a shit without thinking about how it best benefits Alina. His best scene might be the only one where she’s neither present nor mentioned; meanwhile, Alina’s worst moments are the ones where she’s convinced Mal isn’t writing because he’s forgotten all about her, despite, you know, a whole war being on. Their letters to one another definitely win WORST VOICEOVER. They also take the PEETA AWARD, considering half their dialogue just seems to be repeating the other person’s name, when there’s definitely more important shit going on.
Honorable Mentions for Least Favorite Ship: Alina/Darkling (Shadow and Bone); Nancy/Gil (Nancy Drew)
Bucky & Sam – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have fantastic chemistry with one another; in fact, Bucky/Sam also win for FAVORITE NON-CANON SHIP because, really, I can go either way with these two. Their scenes together are delightful: the androids/aliens/wizards debate, the couples therapy, working together on the boat, all the little moments when they quietly check in on each other, etc. If the whole show had just been about their loving, bickering bromance, I’d have been ecstatic. Unfortunately . . .
Honorable Mentions for Best Bromance: Jian Buzhi & Zhao Wohuan (Ancient Detective); Luo Fei & Ben Jie Ming (Detective L); Oh In Beom & Heo Ji Cheol (Sell Your Haunted House)
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Non-Canon Ship: Alita/Falis – Murder Princess
MOST DISAPPOINTING SHOW
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
I’d like to talk about The Head, but I really can’t get into details without spoilers, so that’ll have to wait a bit. For now, I’ll just say that some mysteries can survive a predictable plot twist; this, sadly, wasn’t one of them.
So, let’s move onto The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which I wanted to like. I did like, at least parts of it. Anthony Mackie is fantastic. I loved meeting Sam’s family, seeing him interact with both Karli Morgenthau and Isaiah Bradley, watching him call out Zemo’s head tilt, and–as previously mentioned–each and every scene with Sebastian Stan, who I also quite enjoy here. Unfortunately, there’s also plot, and the plot is . . . not great.
The Flag Smashers are meant to be sympathetic villains, but sympathy requires comprehension, and no one bothers to make the villains’ goals clear until, like, Episode 5 of a 6-episode show. The Flag Smashers are also meant to be this huge threat, but that never seems true to me until very late in the game, which I think is a problem. For one, Bucky does something very dumb and very illegal to catch the Flag Smashers, but since these guys don’t seem important enough to necessitate such a catastrophically poor decision, I simply don’t buy it. John Walker’s whole character arc, such as it is, heavily depends on the pressure he feels to stop this new great threat . . . but you can’t sell “the ends justify the means” if “the ends” don’t seem all that urgent. And none of that’s even getting into all the other problems, like bullshit redemptions, predictable plot twists, and characters who deserve better. Which is why Sam and Bucky are also winning for CHARACTERS WHO MOST DESERVE A BETTER SHOW.
Honorable Mentions for Characters Who Most Deserve A Better Show: Heather and Aki (The Head); Sharon Carter (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); The Crows (Shadow and Bone)
MOST IMPROVED SHOW
Honestly, this might just be me. I definitely found Season 1 kind of lackluster, enough that I had very little interest in watching Season 2. (Clearly, since I’m only just now getting to it.) I’m not actually sure if the show improved or if I’ve simply adjusted to its extremely episodic nature, but I definitely had more fun this time around. I like Pedro Pascal, and Baby Yoda (fine, Grogu) is still super cute. Ming-Na Wen is back. Timothy Olyphant guest-starred. There were creepy ice spiders and fun fight scenes, and they even managed to make Boba Fett mildly interesting, so sure, I’ll check out Season 3.
FAVORITE NEW SHOW
Word of Honor
So, the last 1/4 of this show is, well. Pretty rough in terms of editing and rushed storylines. Word of Honor, it seems, had an incredibly low budget for a costume drama, and when the money ran out, oh, oh, you can tell. (If you haven’t already checked out AvenueX on Youtube, she talks about some of these budget problems in more detail here–not to mention has multiple other videos about this show and other C-dramas.)
But still, I fell hard for Word of Honor, and we powered through 30+ episodes embarrassingly fast. Clearly, I love several characters and relationships who I’ve already discussed, but to recap: WEN KEXING. GU XIANG. YE BAIYI. Also, Zhou Zishu and Chengling and their whole found family unit. The clothes are pretty. The fight scenes are pretty. There’s flirting. There’s angst. I had a really great time watching this, and now I can happily explore AO3, reading post-canon, fix-its, and fluffy AUs.
Honorable Mentions: Ancient Detective; A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower; Murder Princess
FAVORITE INDIVIDUAL EPISODE PER SHOW
Star Trek TOS: The Trouble with Tribbles
Ancient Detective: Episode 1
Last Week Tonight: Episode 221
Star Trek: Discovery: There Is a Tide . . .
Detective L: The Missing Boyfriend (B)
Nancy Drew: The Siege of the Unseen Specter
The Head: Episode 1
Running Man: Running Dynasty Records: The Appearance of The Evil Spirit
Heaven’s Official Blessing: Episode 12
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The Star-Spangled Man
Nailed It!: The Burbank State Fair
A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower: Episode 8
The Mandalorian: The Tragedy
Murder Princess: Episode 1
Word of Honor: Episode 6
A Black Lady Sketch Show: “So You Just Out Here Chloroforming Anybody?”
Sell Your Haunted House: Episode 12
Shadow and Bone: Episode 5
Honorable Mentions: Episodes 2, 3, 6, 7, 24 (Ancient Detective); Episodes 214, 217, 219, 220 (Last Week Tonight); That Hope Is You, Part I, Forget Me Not, Unification III (Star Trek: Discovery); Higanbana – A (Detective L); The Scourge of the Forgotten Rune, The Spell of the Burning Bride, The Purloined Keys, The Legend of the Murder House, The Quest for the Spider Sapphire, The Bargain of the Blood Shroud (Nancy Drew); Yoo Daesang VS Kim Daesang: The Dignity of Daesang (Running Man); Episodes 3, 7, 10 (Heaven’s Official Blessing); Truth (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); An Ungodly Mess, We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Cake, Travel Dos and Donuts (Nailed It!); Episodes 5, 6, 7 (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); The Marshall, The Passenger, The Believer, The Rescue (The Mandalorian); Episodes 2, 3 (Murder Princess); Episode 2, 11, 22 (Word of Honor); Sister, May I Call You Oshun, Way to Ruin the Party, Soya! (A Black Lady Sketch Show); Episodes 1, 4, 5 (Sell Your Haunted House)
All right, we’ve hit the end of the non-spoiler superlatives! From here, please proceed with caution.
All right, let’s continue with . . .
Nick/Tom – Nancy Drew
So, Tom decides to come out by posting a picture of himself kissing another dude. (He specifically wants photographic evidence for his dad, who likely already knows his son is gay, but also doesn’t wanna admit it.) The dude available is Nick, who’s straight but easily agrees, with no ha-ha-isn’t-this-hilarious-but-seriously-I’m-straight awkwardness. And George, Nick’s GF, is completely fine with it, too. There’s no ridiculous jealousy or other weirdness. Just a couple of guys kissing. I’m here for this.
BEST BONUS SCENES
Why Can’t You Be Like the Other Heroes – Detective L
Hey, Maybe a Less Devastating Ending – Word of Honor
Detective L grouped its mysteries in three or four episode arcs, and at the end of the last episode, there was usually a silly bonus scene which sometimes broke the fourth wall. My favorite was definitely the hypnotism scene, where an insulted Xiao Man demands that Luo Fei act like the other, warmer drama heroes, insisting that he’s going to ruin the quality of the whole show. Meanwhile, Luo Fei reminds everyone that this is a “very serious detective series.” It made me giggle. I love shit like this.
But Word of Honor’s bonus scene is absolutely vital because I think half the fanbase would’ve exploded if the show really ended on Episode 36, where Wen Kexing sacrifices his life to save Zhou Zishu, now an immortal living all alone on a depressing ice mountain. Like, holy shit, I would’ve screamed. Thankfully, we get this last “episode” (it’s basically a 10-minute montage with 30 seconds of new material) where we find out that Wen Kexing survived after all. How? Unclear, but hell, that’s what fanfic is for. I still cannot believe that Netflix didn’t include Episode 37. WTAF.
Yan Yong Yuan is in the suitcase – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
Plot twists can be successful even when you guess them ahead of time, but it’s very exciting when a show manages to misdirect you. Here we know that Bao Luo is lying about helping Mei Bao up a bazillion flights of stairs with her giant suitcase because the dates don’t match up. We’re asking questions like, “Why did he lie about the date?” and “What did he really do when he followed her inside the apartment?” Certainly, Bao Luo seems like a skeevy motherfucker. However, the question we should actually be asking is “What’s in the suitcase?” Cause it turns out that Bao Luo did help Mei Bao with her luggage; it’s just that evil fucker Yan Yong Yuan is currently inside it. Bao Luo isn’t lying because he’s a creeper; he’s lying because he’s actually an accomplice to our murder victim. The twist is set up quite well, and I get very nerdy and excited about well-executed plot twists.
Honorable Mentions: Wen Kexing’s hair stick is the key (Word of Honor); All the seemingly scummy husbands/love interests are actually decent people (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Zhan Shiqi is masquerading as Demon Faced Physician (Ancient Detective); Celia is a ghost (Nancy Drew); Haha’s kid is the architect of the game (Running Man)
Maggie is Sarah’s daughter and, of course, The Killer – The Head
Mostly because it’s just. So. Obvious. Of course, Maggie is Sarah’s daughter. Of course, this is her elaborate revenge plot. She’s the main female lead, all nice and virtuous and boring, not to mention one of only two survivors, and suffering from a convenient case of trauma-induced amnesia. She’s lying? Gee. What a shocking turn of events.
The Head is an easy six-episode watch, but it’s also yet another example of one of my very favorite mystery tropes being letdown by an entirely predictable plot twist. There are a couple of scenes in the finale I liked (mostly the reveals of what happened to Annika and Aki). But overall, the disappointing ending makes the show flop hard.
Honorable Mentions: Jian Buzhi is Wang Hua (Ancient Detective); Lin Da Sen never knew Mei Bao as a kid (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Sharon is the Power Broker (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier)
Disabled Villain – Word of Honor
A Black Man Dies for a White Man’s Pain – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
First, Word of Honor. Long Xiao can’t walk, something which he believes his father could’ve fixed. (He’s almost certainly wrong.) So, he chopped off his dad’s legs, imprisoned him in this cave, tried to murder our heroes, and did a bunch of other terrible shit, all because he’s bitter. Everything here sucks. Let’s not do this anymore.
Meanwhile, Lemar (AKA, Battlestar) is nice and funny, but his entire existence revolves around his white BFF. This is particularly obvious when Karli accidentally kills him, as it’s this moment which sends an already spiraling John Walker off the edge, so yeah. That sucks, too. Battlestar is literally only around to die, so Walker can have his emotional crisis, i.e., viciously murder a dude. Let’s not do this anymore, either.
Honorable Mentions: Being queer and/or crossdressing is so funny (Ancient Detective); Guy is traumatized that Mom was a prostitute (Detective L)
BEST WTF MOMENT
Jack the Ripper is an alien – Star Trek
Tom Swift brings the science fiction – Nancy Drew
Remember that nonsense about Scotty’s total resentment towards women? Yes, well, that was all created to make him look like a viable murder suspect when, in truth, it’s been Jack the Ripper all along–or rather, Redjac, who is an intergalactic serial killer. It’s absurd. It’s ridiculous. I laughed for probably five minutes straight.
Meanwhile, the Drew Crew regularly dabble in the weird and creepy and sometimes downright absurd–but they specifically handle supernatural absurdities: curses, ghosts, seances via electronic children’s toys, etc. They also deal with evil rich people and the occasional secret society, but things like meteorites and artificial intelligences? Yeah, those things want nothing to do with this little ghost detective show . . . or they didn’t, until Tom Swift and his backdoor pilot introduced them. Oh, man. It’s hilarious. I loved just how puzzled Nancy and Tom are by each other and their respective genres. I really hope the Tom Swift show does get made and that these two continue doing crossovers.
John Walker – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Man, John Walker’s characterization is all over the place. I like Wyatt Russell well enough, but his arc is weird, like, the show deliberately introduces him as a smarmy asshole you wanna punch in the face, then briefly backtracks to show, hey, he’s just a guy trying to do his duty. Which, sure, we’ll do the slow build to show how he gradually becomes a monster–but nope, Walker immediately pivots right back to Insecure Dick again. This quickly evolves into Rage Monster, and yep, now he’s brutally murdering a dude with everyone’s favorite weapon: fatal symbolism. John Walker is absolutely set up to be the next Big Bad here, which is why I was stunned to see him helping save the day as he casually banters back and forth with Bucky. No, nope, absolutely not.
And while he is dishonorably discharged, Walker doesn’t serve any kind of prison sentence; in fact, he gets a job, which admittedly, I assume will be a villainous job? Even so, I found the joking around in the Big Showdown really off-putting, cause again, this guy blatantly murdered somebody and never shows even the slightest bit of remorse. Even in awful redemption arcs, people usually show some regret for what they’ve done, but Walker is somehow redeemed without ever admitting wrongdoing. It’s . . not great.
WORST CHARACTER ASSASSINATION
Sharon Carter – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
People, I don’t even like Sharon Carter that much, and I still think she deserves better than this. It seems that post Civil War, Sharon is the only good guy who’s still a fugitive, and I guess none of our heroes thought to look for or help her in any way for . . . honestly, I’m not even sure how long. At least two years, but possibly as many as eight, depending on what year TFatWS takes place (2023 or 2024) and if she was one of the people who died during the Snap. Sharon is pretty jaded and bitter about all this, which makes sense, but it also feels strange to bring back a character we’ve ignored since 2016 and just give her an entire personality a 180? Like, I’m not saying it can’t work, but ideally, we’d spend some time on character development, through conversations, flashbacks, etc., showing how we went from Vanilla Sharon to DARK SHARON.
However, this show isn’t called The Falcon, the Winter Soldier, and Agent Carter 2.0, so instead we just discover that Sharon is secretly the nefarious Power Broker, in a twist that somehow manages to feel both unsupported and wholly predictable. And I know there are Imposter Sharon Carter theories, but let me tell you, if the real one has been abducted or dead for 2-8 years, I’m not convinced that’s gonna solve the problem.
FAVORITE SCENE STEALER – GUEST CAST
Ayo – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
President T’Rina – Star Trek: Discovery
I mean, Ayo’s just awesome. She shows up, and everybody cheers. Watching Ayo kick John Walker’s ass is, as previously mentioned, immensely fulfilling, but I also really enjoyed the flashback scenes with her and Bucky, too. Please keep giving Florence Kasumba more work, Marvel. She was absolutely the best surprise in TFatWS.
Meanwhile, President T’Rina is a new character in Discovery, the current president of Ni’Var (formerly Vulcan), and . . . I don’t know, I just really like her. She is, of course, logical. Compassionate. Wary. Tara Rosling brings a quiet gravitas to the role I really enjoyed, and she immediately stood out as a character I’d like to see much more of.
Honorable Mentions: Shen Lu (Ancient Detective); Isaiah Bradley (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Dr. Raynor (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Carl (Star Trek: Discovery); Gray (Star Trek: Discovery); Fennec Shand (The Mandalorian); The Marshal (The Mandalorian); Mayfield (The Mandalorian); Gabrielle Union (A Black Lady Sketch Show); Amber Riley (A Black Lady Sketch Show); Howard Charles (Shadow and Bone); Tom Swift (Nancy Drew); Blue Salt Owner (Sell Your Haunted House)
THE BLOOD THIRST LETDOWN (AKA, WORST COMEUPPANCE, AKA, THE STANNIS AWARD)
Yan Yong Yuan – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
This sonofabitch. This absolute piece of shit. Yan Yong Yuan is pretty much every bad thing you can think of: a rapist, a pedophile, an abusive piece of shit to his wife and kids. He’s been actively tormenting this family, off and on, for literal decades, and not only are we denied the pleasure of watching his slow and brutal murder, this bastard doesn’t even die! He does get arrested, thank God, but we don’t actually see it happen. We’re just told about it, and people, that’s not enough. Like, I really enjoyed this show but goddamn, it is brutal, and we deserve to see the moment when this asshole realizes he’s lost, when the hope dies from his eyes. We deserve blood, damn it.
However, I must reluctantly give credit where credit is due and also award this motherfucker with GRAND PRIZE FOR SURVIVAL. This guy survives aggravated assault, kidnapping, being a prisoner for several months, and multiple attempted murders: one by his own son (stabbing on live TV–it’s awesome) and two by his stepdaughter (one by stabbing, another by carbon monoxide poisoning). He’s a goddamn cockroach, and WE HATES HIM.
Honorable Mentions for The Blood Thirst Letdown: The redemption of John Walker (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier); Zhao Jing’s weak ass death (Word of Honor)
Honorable Mentions for Grand Prize For Survival: Zhou Zishu (Word of Honor); Wen Kexing (Word of Honor); Jian Buzhi (Ancient Detective)
MOST HORRIFICALLY TRAGIC CHARACTER
Mei Bao – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
Oh, man. This poor woman. She goes through so many terrible things, I’m actually not sure I remember them all. She’s abused as a child. She runs away from her family to protect them. She’s sent to a terrible reform school. Her stepfather murders her mother. Her second mother is unfairly thrown in prison. She lives in fear of Yan Yong Yuan for decades, and ultimately, he murders her when she decides last minute to spare his life, teaching us all that compassion only gets you killed. Jesus, this show.
Honorable Mentions: Ye Shu Jun (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Ye Mei Li (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower); Zhong Jie (A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower)
Yan Yong Yuan – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
Arthur – The Head
Mo Huaiyang – Word of Honor
I’ve just spent the last several paragraphs explaining why Yan Yong Yuan is the Worst, so we’re gonna skip that guy for now, and move onto Arthur. Arthur is also The Worst, mostly because he tries to rape his coworker, accidentally kills her, and then takes part in a conspiracy to cover up her murder–but also because dear God, this man is so frustrating! We have to listen to him bitch about someone (usually Erik, occasionally Maggie) every single episode, and you just wanna slap him in the face, repeatedly. The only good thing here is that Arthur is played by John Lynch, which cracked me up because I primarily know him from The Secret Garden, where he’s . . . also kind of an asshat, TBH, but more of the gentle, mopey kind. (And he does get better!)
Meanwhile, Mo Huaiyang? Yeah, fuck that guy. He’s so upset about his disciple’s wedding that he decides mass murder is the only way to salvage the situation. He “cleans out” his sect, which presumably means he murders anyone who approves of the wedding, including Fan Huaikong and maybe Mo Weixu? It’s devastating when he cradles Cao Weining’s face, pretending to finally accept his choice, before snapping his neck, like, JESUS, I didn’t even care that much about Weining, but this was just mean. And then, AND THEN, he kills Gu Xiang.
The only good thing about Episode 35 is, at the very least, Mo Huaiyang dies, too.
Honorable Mentions: John Walker (The Falcon and Winter Soldier)
Battlestar – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Gu Xiang – Word of Honor
Luo Fu Meng, Huang He, Fan Huaikong, among others – Word of Honor
I already discussed Battlestar’s death earlier, so let’s move on to Word of Honor. And look, I might be too emotional to be objective here because Gu Xiang definitely wins JIMMY, NOOOO, hands down. Also, it’s possibly I’m missing important context because while I try to be careful about criticizing storytelling in Chinese shows, I know it’s important to acknowledge that if a thing doesn’t click for me, it may simply be a me problem, a cultural bias or blindspot, and not a genuine issue with the narrative.
However, currently, I don’t love how Gu Xiang’s death is handled. I do like that she takes out a bunch of dudes before she goes. That’s awesome. But I’m not convinced that Mo Huaiyang’s turn from Kinda Shady Leader to Big Time Villain (one who kills two major players and is indirectly responsible for multiple supporting deaths) is given enough time or space. Moreover, I’m just not convinced Gu Xiang’s death is particularly necessary, like, the attack on the wedding, sure, but at the end of the day, I feel like one of my favorite characters got fridged just so Wen Kexing could get badly hurt for an episode, and . . . IDK. I guess I’d hoped for more than that? Like, I want this tragedy to feel integral to the plot, and to me, it just doesn’t. And while Wen Kexing’s grief is gratifyingly violent, Gu Xiang doesn’t die until Episode 35 of a 37 episode show, and Word of Honor just doesn’t have the time to really deal with her loss after WKX’s vision/dream. From that point on, it’s a race to the finish, and I’m bummed that Gu Xiang feels left behind.
Still, Gu Xiang’s death gets a hell of a lot more time than most supporting characters in this show. Like, I actually laughed when they announced Huang He died off screen, all, “Okay, sure he is,” but . . . he is, he’s really dead. Fan Huaikong is murdered off screen, too: no flashback reveal, nothing. Luo Fu Meng is apparently killed at the wedding, even though she wasn’t even injured the last time we saw her. I honestly don’t even know what happened to Du Pusa and Qiao Luohan, like, did I blink? I didn’t see them at the ice mountain. Even the (probable) deaths of major players that we do see are often lackluster, say, Xie’er and Zhao Jing, and . . . wait, is Ye Baiyi dead now, or is he just going to die? I am, perhaps incorrectly, assuming that many of these offscreen or otherwise rushed character exits are due to the show’s many budget problems, but damn. It feels like half the support cast just straight up vanishes from this show.
Honorable Mentions for Jimmy, Noooo: Zhan Shi Liu (Ancient Detective); Dominikov (Murder Princess); Pete (Murder Princess); Ana and Yuna (Murder Princess); Xiao Ying (Heaven’s Official Blessing)
Celia – Nancy Drew
Mek and I guessed the Ghost Celia twist well before they revealed it, but the scene where Nancy finds Celia’s body is still pretty effective. At the beginning of this season, I never thought I’d give a damn whether Celia lived or died, but I have to say, her death really stuck with me for the rest of the night. She was kinda terrible, but I still ended up feeling bad for her, and bad for Nancy, too.
Honorable Mentions: Mo Huaiyang (Word of Honor); Lustful Ghost (Word of Honor); Annika (The Head); Zhan Si (Ancient Detective); Killer Boatman (Ancient Detective); Hoverpack Thief (The Mandalorian)
Mei Bao & Ming Yue – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
Mei Bao & Mo Li & Xiao Ling – A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
It’s interesting because Ming Yue, Mo Li, and Xiao Ling are friends, too–or, at the very least, they’re co-conspirators–but this is entirely because of their separate friendships with Mei Bao. Mo Li and Xiao Ling meet Mei Bao way back in their hellish reform school, and watching how they became lifelong friends–and not enemies, as we’re initially led to believe–is sincerely moving. Like, you just so desperately want everything to end well for these three, even though we already know it won’t. Meanwhile, Ming Yue and Mei Bao don’t become friends until they become neighbors, helping one another with their respective anxieties and traumas. One scene in particular is just so intense, like, the subject matter is very difficult, and I don’t want to get into the details right now? But the way it turns from Mei Bao helping Ming Yue to Ming Yue helping Mei Bao is just really lovely and incredibly powerful.
It’s so nice to see female friendships that are nuanced and loving and supportive like this. These ladies do some very illegal things, but they do them for each other, and really, that’s all you want out of a BFF, right?
Honorable Mentions for Favorite Ladymance: Alita and Falis (Murder Princess); Michael and Tilly (Star Trek: Discovery); Nancy and George (Nancy Drew)
. . . holy shit, I think that’s it. Thanks to anyone who actually read this far! Feel free to comment about your recent TV shows and favorite TV moments, and I’ll be back with more in a few months.