Author Archives: Ximena

The Serial Box is a television review site focusing on the narrative medium of serialized television, past and present. It is written and managed by Ximena Aliaguilla.

‘Kinda Rapey’ Part 2: Jessica Jones saves power, sex, and violence in 2015

 

kilgrave and jessica

Last week I wrote about the problem of rape in serial television this year — in particular the hoopla surrounding Sansa’s rape on Game of Thrones* and Jamie’s rape on Outlander. A friend on Facebook also commented on the “glamorized” rape in American Horror Story which I must say I’ve had several water cooler conversations about with fans who find it borderline unbearable. Emphasis on the borderline! If a flooding of sexualized rape and violent sexuality is desensitizing viewers to discerning the difference between the two, is there any place on television where this is not happening?

[* GoT showrunners announced last week that they will be toning down the sexual violence on the show following the reactions to said scene]

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“Kinda Rapey” Part 1: The Problem of Rape on Serial TV in 2015

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You don’t have to be an entertainment or art critic to pick up on a trend when it’s going around on television. Superhero adventures, modern family dramas, and epic fantasy macro-trends multiply from one channel (ahem, streaming service) to the next, faster than you can say “season two”. On the other hand, micro-trends like repeating character archetypes, story arcs, and racial or sexual themes sometimes take a finer toothed comb to sift through. Yet, these are just as prominent and often a much better measure as to our collective subconscious than the common genre oversaturation.

This year, there was one emotionally uncomfortable trend  which stuck out so vividly I didn’t even need that fine toothed comb for it: rape. The truth is that outside of procedurals the likes of Law & Order: SVU, television (and modern serials in particular) has not dealt with the issue of sexual assault quite as frequently or wisely as one may think considering its resonating dramatic impact.

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‘The Leftovers’ 2.10 or Family is Everything or There’s No Place Like Home

Leftovers 2x10

Sunday’s second season finale of The Leftovers was brought to you by the letter F. F stands for Family. Family over everything. In the past two weeks I’ve discussed the problematic issue of human attachment as it plagues the characters of this post-Departure universe. More specifically these questions: are attachment and love mutually exclusive, and can the latter exist without the former? Further, does either emotion serve humanity in any way? Sunday’s episode did not answer the question with a definitive YES but it certainly hinted towards its best argument: family.

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“The Leftovers” 2.09 or White Lines or Let The Mystery Be

Leftover 2x09 Meg

Sunday night’s episode of The Leftovers, “Ten Thirteen”, was brought to you by the letter M. M is for Matters. As in, does it?

Good God that finale. Good God, Meg! We will get to all that, but first I must point out how exceptionally telling the music was in this episode. The soundtrack was so deliberate it seemed to be guiding us somewhere. As Olivia Newton-John sang towards the end of the episode “Come take my hand / You should know me / I’ve always been in your mind / You know that I’ll be kind / I’ll be guiding you.” Really though, that was a reference to Meg’s leadership throughout the episode. Revealing (reminding) what was always on your (Evie/Jarden’s) mind, but far from kind.

Last week’s idea of an evil in the water (rather than the supposedly blessed Jarden water) is echoed early on, as well, when a bus full of tourists sing the Negro spiritual warning: “Wade in the water / God’s going to trouble the water.”

Then we have Grandmaster Flash’s 80’s classic “White Lines” played at the opening, middle, and closing of the episode. This song is also a warning, this time against the destructive consequences of cocaine (“Vision dreams of passion blowin’ through my mind / And all the while I think of you / (High price) A very strange reaction / (For us to unwind) The more I see, the more I do of.”) but the meaning goes beyond Meg’s addiction. One cannot ignore the militant white lines of white-robed Remnant followers forming behind Meg towards a literally destructive and violent resolution.

Finally, there is a country cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” as Meg and Tommy dance at the Honky Tonk (“But if you wait around a while I’ll make you fall for me / I promise, I promise you, I will / When your day is through / And so is your temper / You know what to do / I’m gonna always be there”). Poor, poor, Tommy.

Just a little something to think about in this episode as well as past/future episodes of “The Leftovers” where music has frequently served as a foreshadowing if not a warning.

And now for the good stuff.

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“The Leftovers” – 2.08 or It Makes No Difference If You’re Black or White

Van Redin/HBO

Sunday night’s episode of “The Leftovers” was brought to you by the letter A. A is for “attachment”.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and it should be no surprise that Damon Lindelof, the man responsible for my first post in 2007 (hi old Facebook “Lost” followers!), would bring me back. Ironically, Sunday night’s episode was co-written by Nick Cuse, son of Carlton Cuse, the ying to Lindelof’s yang on “Lost”.

In this week’s episode, “International Assassin”, we find Kevin Garvey eating Alice’s proverbial mushrooms and going down the rabbit hole (or getting hit in the head and travelling to Dorothy’s Oz), if you will. In other words: a stranger quite lost in a world they are actively (though subconsciously) creating. Call it a spiritual journey, a “dream sequence”, hell can call it an unapologetic Lindelofian smorgasbord of cryptic easter eggs –but above all else it was a glimpse into the dark night of the soul where all of Kevin’s demons live.

Demons hide. We all have them, and they scurry away from us until, of course, the moment comes where we choose to stop and look them dead in the eye — and this is where Kevin differs from Alice or Dorothy: CHOICE. Kevin made the choice to drink the poison at the end of “A Most Powerful Adversary” and therein battle his “demon” in the form of Patti Levin, even if it could kill him. The question as to whether Patti has been “real” or a figment of Kevin’s mental illness is important, but inconsequential in understanding the world in which the two adversaries came up against each other in Sunday’s episode, because that world was surely of Kevin’s own making. Now let’s explore it.

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‘The Americans’ 3.02 or Lady Spies in Cramped Spaces and the Men Who Love Them

The Americans 3.02Last night’s episode of The Americans was brought to you by the letter C. C stands for Claustrophobia. You know, ladies, that feeling you get when you’re:

  • Peeing in a pot in your 12×12 Soviet prison cell and your roommate won’t shut up
  • Getting your limbs cracked into origami and stuffed into a suitcase
  • Listening to the same Walkman cassette recording of your dying mother in your basement again
  • Breathing out of an oxygen tank because you’re being smuggled out of Russia in a tiny wooden crate

Bummer. Now can someone get me a Babe Ruth? “Soooo good!

Was this one of the most thrilling episodes of The Americans ever? No, but it was still pretty exciting. I mean, Oleg almost lost his shit and killed Stan for simply claiming to love Nina, and Anneliese became a posthumous member of Cirque de Soleil in what was one of the most gruesome television moments I’ve seen outside of Hannibal or American Horror Story. Never underestimate the power of crunchy bodily sound effects in upping the ick factor on film.

This week I’d like to focus on these physically suffocated yet stable women, in comparison to the free-roaming yet anxious men and what that seems to be saying about the times.

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