Series Review – Girlboss

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Girlboss is about twentysomething misfit Sophia and how she builds her vintage clothing business, Nasty Gal. While building her business, she has to deal with a hernia, unsatisfied customers, neglected friends and other vintage sellers who disagree with her methods. The show is full of colourful characters and fantastic fashion.

From the beginning the main character, Sophia, is insufferable. She walks over everyone else to have her own way, acts like she knows absolutely everything and expects others to be endeared by her quirks. Her best friend, Annie, is not much more likeable. This made the first couple of episodes hard to get through. And yet, there was something about the show that made me keep watching.

The story was intriguing enough and the aesthetic fantastic. Watching Sophia go through all that vintage clothing, while well-dressed herself, inspired me to go back to my favourite thrift shops and experiment more with my own style myself. Also, to get my bangs cut again. And go to San Francisco.

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Her entrepreneurship was very inspiring too. She’s not a girl you expect to succeed, but she turns out to be highly resourceful. She actively solves problems and is shown to have good business sense. Together with showing her vulnerability, she becomes a lot more likeable over the course of the series. In the final episodes I was happy to see her succeed with her business and really felt for her when she was unexpectedly betrayed.

Unfortunately, only snippets of the building of her company are shown. Most of the storyline seems to be about Sophia’s personal life, her relationships and struggles (unlike what the trailer suggests). I would have liked to see more about the business side of it. The best episodes are the ones which center on some facet of Nasty Gal, like ‘Ladyshopper99’ in which Sophia goes through every resource to satisfy a disgruntled customer. The ones which are more about Sophia’s relationships, like ‘Top 8’ and ‘The Trip’, I could have done without.

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The humour in the series is here and there. Sometimes it’s hilarious, like in the dialogue or in the portrayal of certain characters. Other times it completely misses the mark. In the already mentioned ‘Top 8’ for example; I kept waiting for those outlandish flashbacks to become funny, but they never did.

It was inconsistent in tone too. The text messages and sales popping up on the screen, to name some, seemed out of place. Those didn’t fit with the rest of the tone/aesthetic the series was going for. In ‘Vintage Fashion Forum’ the incorporation of the internet was brilliant though. I loved how they showed the interaction between the characters on the forum and in the chatroom.

If you like stories about female entrepreneurs, vintage fashion and Wes Anderson type humour, give Girlboss a shot. Even if you don’t love the main character, you may find yourself binge-watching it late into the night.

Series Review – The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

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I don’t usually watch shows on a whim. Television series are an investment in time and attention. I usually want to make sure that I spend my time and attention well. So I’ll browse through IMDb, gather reviews and question people who’ve already watched it. This kind of research is also an investment in time, I know, but that’s not the point. Point is, I like to know that a show is good before I watch it.

One night, I saw a series called The Lizzie Borden Chronicles appear on Netflix. That title, the beautiful cover picture and Christina Ricci’s mischievous smirk were all that I needed. I watched two episodes that very night.

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Oh, it is glorious. The characters, costumes, setting, storyline, dialogue… Perfect.

It starts with Lizzie Borden getting acquitted from the murder on her parents, to the outrage of the town. She and her sister get difficulties with the inheritance. Lizzie goes out of her way to fix those difficulties and start anew. At first you feel sorry for her, but it soon becomes apparent that she needs nobody’s pity. It was such a delight to see how consistently Lizzie solves all her problems. Christina Ricci is at her best in this role. She effortlessly goes from a cold-blooded killer to a sweet, innocent girl and back again. Completely steals the show.

Of course, the other characters and performances are fantastic as well. Like Emma Borden. I did not find her that interesting in the beginning, but halfway through the series she won all my sympathy. Poor Emma has to endure so much from her psychotic sister.

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The storyline gets increasingly absurd, which only adds to the fun of the show. It goes from a legal fight over an inheritance, to a private investigator’s ill-fated quest to prove Lizzie’s guilt, to difficulties with local gangsters, to dog abuse in the neighbourhood. There are even two genuinely touching romantic subplots. This show goes in so many directions, but somehow it all works together, for the first six episodes. Unfortunately, it does not keep up this momentum for the last two episodes.

The last two seem awkwardly tacked on, after the main storyline was resolved in the sixth. A lot of new characters and a new setting are introduced. The main characters are on a new journey, which starts and ends abruptly. It would have been so much better if those two episodes had been fleshed out in a second season. Then we could also have enjoyed the performances of Michelle Fairley and Chris Bauer for longer. What a waste to only feature them, and the characters they played, in one or two episodes.

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Other than that, nothing negative to report about The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. I can highly recommend it. If you enjoy dark period pieces, black humour, quirky anti-heroes and detective-type stories, do check it out.

Rating: 8.5/10

the end of penny dreadful?!

(spoilers ahead)

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Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). – Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_1579

when i innocently logged into netflix today to watch the new episode of penny dreadful, i had no idea what was in store for me. i thought it was just another episode of the week. it seemed like there were still some more episodes in store, counting them by number. of course, looking at what last week’s episode had set up, i should have suspected something. suddenly there was a big climax and the dreadful words ‘The End’.

it took a while to process.

however, now that i have gained some distance, i have to admit that it was a spectacular finale. i’m sad that i don’t have an episode to watch forward to next week & that vanessa died though. vanessa died! what! i was considering possible deaths for almost all the other characters (really crossing my fingers for frankenstein), but vanessa! i did not see that coming at all. it does make sense, but it did seem like a very bleak ending. earth has nothing but suffering in store, so better to take an early train to heaven. the religious thinking behind it is so typically 19th century; fascinating in such an otherwise modern show.

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speaking of that big plot point, the scene in which it played out is done fantastically. the way ethan goes up the stairs, all the candles, vanessa in the white dress, the prayer at the end, & the acting of both of them… wow. the aftermath, in which the other characters grieve for her, is also beautiful. it’s the little things, like how frankenstein hugs ethan before he leaves. aww. in a sidenote, that hug was also one of those things that redeemed frankenstein a bit. he was such a jackass this season.

there are so many cinematographic things that i could praise in these two last episodes. london covered in fog. the woman singing to her child integrated with the edited opening credits. our heroes entering the slaughterhouse. dorian in his empty room flooded with light. the burial. the creature reciting the poem at the end. so many things. this whole season was on a much higher level than the previous ones. i loved all the new characters too. catriona hartdegen, oh my god. her character is slightly anachronistic, but so fabulous. i love her intelligence, attitude, & how she saves so many male characters at some point. dr. seward is also badass. inventive interpretation of the dr. seward of bram stoker’s dracula. i love how many more coloured people there are this season too. of course they had to do something after killing off the one black character, but i choose to see it in a more positive light.

as for the storylines of the other characters, they were wrapped up nicely. i was glad to see the vulnerability & change in lily. brute strength aside, she becomes a much stronger character towards the end. we also got to see a new side of dorian, though he of course goes back to how he always was. fitting for his character. the creature has a predictable sad ending. however, it was interesting to see how he deals with it.

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frankenstein i have already touched upon. this season he was significantly more monstrous than his ‘monsters’. he pissed me off more with each episode. yes, he was devastated by all that had happened, but that is no excuse. in the second to last episode he finally recognised how wrong he had been, in another beautiful scene with lily. & then he is reunited with our heroes, just in time. interesting how he then immediately seems to become more heroic himself. it does seem that it was his isolation more than anything that led him down that dark, dark road. anyway, his clumsy way of fighting later provides some chuckles in that otherwise dire situation. luckily he has miss hartdegen to save him.

& then there are ethan & sir malcolm. it is touching when ethan calls sir malcolm ‘father’. even for the viewer it is comforting that, though vanessa died, they still have each other. vanessa! before the episode had ended, i already thought there was no way they could go forward from here. penny dreadful is vanessa’s show after all. it’s good that they ended with this season. the plotline of vanessa eternally being hunted by some demon/the devil was already getting stale in this one. looking at it as a whole i did love it though. it had its faults, & it had jackass frankenstein, but it is definitely worth a re-watch. the whole of the show is. it is so complex, centered around loveable, intriguing characters, & an aesthetic delight. i do think this show will stay one of my all-time favourites.