I read The Hobbit as a kid in the Bronx a long time ago. I was really amazed at how that Tolkein guy managed to fit three movies into one book. I was hooked. I was thrilled upon going back to the library and finding three more books by the same author. I read Terry Brooks when he first came out. In 1977. Hey, do you remember the top books from that year? Beyond that, I’m not a fantasy person. Just not my bag. So, I didn’t expect much when I started watching Wheel of Time.
All genres have tropes and patterns. It’s both the appeal and the downfall of genre. Fantasy is usually a quest. Where the chosen one has to go on a journey to overcome a force of evil. In fantasy, evil is usually just evil. I tell writers that evil isn’t a motivation for the antagonist. There has to be a concrete reason for the evil with a concrete goal. For example, how did Hannibal Lecter become evil? But in fantasy it seems that evil is the motivation which really simplifies the conflict box.
There are uneven moments; I wonder who is behind the White Cloaks and why the Aes Sedia don’t just wipe them out. Also, perhaps one of the reasons I’m not so much into fantasy is that magic needs rules and those rules seem vague at times; more as needed according to the author. On the flip side, though, the intrigue in the White Tower (it’s always a tower; how come no one has a condo?), the Tinkers, and the fact people actually get dirty, are appealing.
I’m happy to report that while Wheel of Time follows the basic trope of fantasy, it has enough variance and interesting characters to be engaging. There are twists and turns along the way. I haven’t read the books but have a strong suspicion where the story is going as to who is the Dragon. But perhaps I will be proven wrong in the next season. But it is a series worth watching.
I also hadn’t read Station Eleven. I remember when it came out there was a big hullabaloo. Hey—spell check says that one is correct. Score one for me. Anyway, something about it didn’t engage me. Perhaps because I was working on my own post-apocalyptic novel, burners, and it’s always good while actually working on a certain type of story not to read or see something similar. Anywho, I decided to check out the first three episodes of the series last night.
You might recall my reaction to Apple TV’s Invasion? As bad as that was, I fast-forwaredd through the entire season trying to see if it ever revealed anything and was disappointed. Station Eleven? I won’t even do that. I know what the story is, but I don’t really care about the characters. Correction: I really liked Jeevan. Perhaps because he appears to have Aspergers which I also have. Which is why you should take my take on these shows with a grain, a big one, of salt. I don’t see them the way a lot of people do.
After all, a quick Google search has someone from Vogue saying it’s the best new series of the year, hands down. Slate is enthusiastic about it. I’m just a writer from the Bronx with a messed-up brain. It’s not that I don’t get what the writers are doing. I see the gestures and symbols that loop in the writing. One of the reviews mentions that one of the people behind Station Eleven worked on The Leftovers which was a totally weird show, but I really enjoyed. Perhaps because in The Leftovers, we start with an emotional premise and then have characters we can empathize with? Some of the episodes were totally off the rails, like the secret agent one, but still engaging.
Station Eleven? Yeah, I know. It partly answers the question posed in The Road. Why survive? Is it enough to just survive? As humans, shouldn’t there be more?
A neat question but a pretentious one in a way, which is perhaps why I am turned off by some movies/shows such as Station Eleven. It, like Wheel of Time, is more fantasy with little realism, even while it tries to punch the realism up to another level.
I do see the brilliance in the writing. When Jeevan tells the young Kirsten in the parking lot that it’s her choice whether she stays with him or goes, he then takes that responsibility back from the child by saying her parents have texted. Kirsten, even as young as she is, knows he’s lying, but appreciates him taking that from her. Even before that, when the sister calls Jeevan instead of her other brother, it’s because she knows as messed up as he is, he will act. As we see in the opening when he rushes the stage. It’s a great line when he’s asked: were you the only one in the audience who saw he was having a heart attack? And his response is key: I was the only one who stood up and acted.
In a way, it hit me like The Power of the Dog. It too had brilliant writing. An excellent point to make about evil.
But both are sort of preaching to choir. Perhaps it’s because I’ve gone through survival training numerous times, written books on survival, and been in some hairy situations and seen evil first hand and know one thing: YES, it is enough to survive. At least for a while. Human history proves that. It is often in the struggle of surviving that the best, and the worst, of humanity comes to the forefront. I don’t need to perform Shakespeare to survive. I need other people and to care for them and take care of them.