• Remembering Sassy Magazine's life advice for teen girls

    The recent news about the return of Twin Peaks got me reminiscing about the magazine that introduced the show to me in the first place – Sassy, the most valuable print magazine for teenage girls to ever exist. It sounds like hyperbole, but compared to its peers — Seventeen, YM, TeenSassy was the only publication for girls that really attempted educational journalism amid its Twin Peaks fashion spreads and celeb interviews with grunge luminaries like Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon. This was well before everyone had the internet. For many, Sassy was like a super cool, trusted, wiser sister who could tell you what to expect at your first gynecologist visit, what to do if you've been raped, why it's important to make your voice heard and vote. The magazine had its regular columns: One to Watch, Cute Band Alert and It Happened to Me, which featured first-person accounts of experiences seldom or never before discussed in print for young women. "I Went to Prison." "I am a Muslim." "My Mom's a Drug Addict."

    Being a bookish, weirdo teen in a small town (Sassy's target demographic), I desperately wanted to write for them. But, alas, my feeble fiction was justly rejected, and I was too young and too far away from the New York City offices to try for an internship. Yet, while I didn't feel comfortable sharing anything heavy enough for an "It Happened to Me" article, I could at least put together a passable question for the much more light-hearted Dear Boy advice column and try my luck that way.

    Dear Boy. An innocuous enough feature. Many teenage girls find the male mind pretty mysterious, especially the mind of an older, famous, possibly cute boy, so Sassy provided a space for that. I wrote in without a thought as to what a man's advice specifically might imply. Is it really mansplainin' when the whole point is to have a girl ask a much older man in a position of social power a personal question? Does any teen girl need to know J. Mascis' opinion on big butts? (He likes them and cannot lie.) Does a parent want Thurston Moore telling their daughter that she'd be "lucky" if some crappy, cheating boy returns her affections? Is any woman anywhere served by Billy Corgan's guilt-tripping tale of woe at being romantically rejected by a childhood sweetheart?

    Every month I would get my subscriber's copy of Sassy in the mail, bound up to my room, close the door behind me, and thumb the pages to the column to see if my question was there. And one day, one issue, in 1994, Mike D of the Beastie Boys answered. My hands shook as I started to read the familiar words under the header:

    My mom was a well-dressed, popular boy-magnet in high school. I am a punked-out loner boy-repellent. I get the feeling she's disappointed in me. To top that off, my dad thinks I am unfeminine. Help! Searching for my real parents."


  • What should the new Twin Peaks be?

    "I'll see you again in 25 years," homecoming queen Laura Palmer promised, from her otherwordly home in the Black Lodge, back when Twin Peaks went off air in 1991.

    Fans of David Lynch and Mark Frost's landmark TV mystery have been speculating and hoping that some big Twin Peaks news was coming. After a weekend of cryptic tweets, this Monday saw real confirmation: Twin Peaks is returning to television as a limited-run series on Showtime in 2016. This is huge news for fans who watched the show during its original run in 1990 — which was a substantial number of people, as ABC hooked a record audience with the tagline "Who Killed Laura Palmer?"

    I came into the fandom through a Peaks-inspired fashion spread in Sassy magazine. If ever I will write a more 90s-era sentence, I don't know. But at the time, Sherilyn Fenn's sultry portrayal of teenage siren Audrey Horne was about as aspirational it got. Before My So-Called Life's Angela Chase and Daria, the 90s had Audrey Horne tying a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue. While she was popular with boys and older men — even saintly Special Agent Dale Cooper was close to committing a felony for her — she wasn't popular. Other female classmates saw her as a threat, but Audrey didn't care; she just wanted to toy with people's hearts and smoke in the girls' room and sway all spaced-out to a smooth Angelo Badalamenti score. No one wanted to be Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen hiding the worst secrets in the world. No one wanted to be Donna, the most vanilla girl in Twin Peaks High.


  • Hannibal's last supper "Mizumono" finale review [s2, e13]

    Twelve episodes — and twelve weeks in show-time — have all been leading to the final confrontation between Jack, Hannibal and Will. It wasn't quite the cathartic conclusion viewers would have expected from the opening minutes of the season premiere, what with Jack knowing several episodes ago that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper. Yet the last twenty minutes of "Mizumono" were no less devastating or shocking. Or perplexing and even a little frustrating. Fresh off the post-credits coda, I'm feeling a lot of feelings.

    It's the tension between Jack's man and Hannibal's pupil that pulls us through the talk-heavy first half of the episode. And I don't say talk-heavy as a bad thing. "Mizumono" felt as weighty, dark, and urgent as any Hannibal finale should. And a lot of this was due to the continuous countdown clock audible in almost every scene, winding down once the circle of time that began in "Kaiseki" closed as Jack walked into Hannibal's kitchen.

    But how much does Jack really know about Hannibal? Seeing Gina Torres return as Bella made me think the catalyst for the epic showdown between Jack and Hannibal would have something to do with the former learning about the latter's hand in his wife's attempted suicide. And their continuing therapy. Really, Jack never told Bella to stop seeing Hannibal? But that wasn't the deadly revelation hinted at in the opening scene. The fight was brought on more by Hannibal's nose and FBI investigator Kade Purnell forcing Jack's circumstances, not an emotional reaction. Which feels a bit deflating, after weeks of teasing talk of reckoning.

    Bella was there to provide Hannibal with a different perspective on finality and forgiveness, which comes into tragic play later as Hannibal orchestrates a finishing move in his chess game. While Jack's plan has of course seemed half-baked from the start, Hannibal's felt much more decisive. And dare I say romantic? Let's face it, this show is one long slow waltz between Hannibal and Will. If it seemed like Hannibal wanted Jack's approval before running away with Will, it was intentional. It fit. But Jack cannot approve of Hannibal winning the tug-of-war for Will's soul and, as Will points out, Jack wants justice and he's never going to forgive Hannibal for what he's done. And Jack doesn't even know a fraction of what Hannibal's done.

    Neither does Will.

    That counting clock? It did more than close a narrative time-loop. It was also the sound of Hannibal turning back time to create a new world for a new family, a family Hannibal's been trying to build since the first season. If I loved the callback to Abigail's shattered teacup two weeks ago, here the image really paid off. Hannibal wanted to surprise Will with the resurrection of their daughter, the pieces of a shattered teacup coming back together.

    The last act of Hannibal's second season was a bloodbath to rival the Red Wedding. How frightening was it to see the real Hannibal, once the person-suit came off and he was… I wouldn't ever call Hannibal a cornered animal, but his freedom was threatened and he needed to have the upper hand. And if Jack thought he had an ace up his sleeve in Bedilia, well, Hannibal had Bedilia and Abigail. He won. Forgiveness, Hannibal-style.

    Will's betrayal hit Hannibal as hard as Hannibal's betrayal hit Will last season. But did Will really change Hannibal, as he claimed? Hannibal, having gutted Will and slit Abigail's throat just like her biological father once did, is still a psychopath. He doesn't seem more human. If anything, Hannibal is more himself than ever. We know what Will got from Hannibal, what he could have had had he chosen to be a true friend, and what he lost of himself in his pursuit. But what did Will give Hannibal really? Besides a broken heart?

    That answer, like Will's reckoning and Hannibal himself, eludes him.

    Final(e) Bites:

    • That post-credits coda. Damn, Bedilia! I was expecting her even less than I was expecting Abigail. How much is she in on? And when? And how? Is she accompanying Hannibal by choice? Jack didn't have a tail on her? She didn't seem to be faking that fear of Hannibal. But I must say, I'm stoked to see more of Gillian Anderson next year.
    • We saw so many characters tonight except for the two people I was actually expecting to see reappear: Miriam Lass and Dr. Chilton. Hey, Bryan Fuller's said "Serpico survived a bullet to the face." I wouldn't be surprised. Guess we have to save something for next year.
    • While I wasn't expecting Abigail, I'm going to be a little obnoxious and say I called Abigail's resurrection in episode four. That has to be what Beverly Katz saw in Hannibal's basement before she died. It's so nice to get a little smug satisfaction. And it was still a big goddamn shock. Of course, I wasn't as shocked as Alana because Abigail didn't push me out of a damn window.
    • Alana's been a weakly-written character most of the season, but I was just starting to like her a little again tonight. I'm glad we had time for one more Hannibal-style nightmare sequence, with Alana being swallowed by dark water, foreshadowing her final act spent in the rain. "I feel poisoned." And seeing her finally being on Will's side again was welcome. Will seems to hold less of a grudge than me and the most jealous Hannibal/Will fanfic writers. And then she shows up at Hannibal's dinner party to rescue Jack with an unloaded gun. Are you fucking kidding me?! Worst. FBI agent. Ever. Ever. Tragically stupid. That was really the only missed note in the finale… once again Alana was reduced to the helpless girl trapped in a horror movie. It was cheap and I want better writing next season. And Alana didn't even tell Will there was another homicidal person in Hannibal's house. She may have whispered "Abigail" and Will didn't hear, and I can overlook that for the sake of the big dramatic reveal, but still. Useless.
    • A logic nitpick: Will took a taxi to Hannibal's place? Did he call Uber to get a pick-up in the woods behind his house? I can barely get a cab from Manhattan to Queens but Will can get one from Wolf Trap, Virgina to Baltimore, Maryland? How can these characters visit each others' houses so much and so quickly? Sometimes I can ignore it, but not when cabs are in the mix.
    • I'm guessing that obviously Will survives his wounds; so does Jack. Abigail I think is gone for good and Alana's the wild card.
    • My Friday nights are going to seem so empty without new episodes of Hannibal and the active fan community.
    • Palate Cleanser of the Season: Getting a third season. Will reuniting with Winston. (tie)


  • Hannibal sets the table for the season finale [s2e12]

    "We're maintaining our position on the event horizon of chaos." An eloquent assessment from Hannibal and a fitting one for a penultimate episode of the season that played out like a beautiful fever dream.

    Hannibal, ever curious and in no small way narcissistic, wants to hear exactly how Will would kill him. It involves man-eating pigs. And why did Will tell Mason about Hannibal's manipulations? "I was curious to see what would happen." Anyone not a psychopath might be offended by such honesty and using one's own words against them, but to Hannibal, it's more proof that they are deeply bonded. But no one is very clear on what that means. Will is definitely telling himself he's playing a long game, ever the excellent fisherman, but like that tangle of fish Hannibal feeds to Jack, no one knows who is chasing whom because it's clear that Hannibal knows more than he's letting on. And he's always up for another meal.

    But is Jack betting on Hannibal knowing? Or is he feeling a little overconfident? (more…)

  • Hannibal has serious daddy issues [s2e11]

    First things first: We've got two more episodes to go before the season finale. Not the series finale. Hannibal has escaped the NBC chopping block and will live to see a third season. (My condolences to Community fans. NBC giveth and NBC taketh away.)

    As we approach the last chapters of this season-long twisted romance between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, Will's creation of a wendigo in his own image is complete. The symbol of his deeply denied euphoria in murder, both real and staged, is now equal to his adversary's own beast and ready to strike. Will needed to get to this place to face his foe — this courtship has been building since Will sent the orderly in the Baltimore Hospital to kill Hannibal back in the fifth episode of the season. While Will's circumstances behind bars necessitated that he send a surrogate to do such distasteful work, it was the first time he consciously decided to kill someone and that moment of weakness was all Hannibal needed to worm his way deeper into Will's psyche. That Will can use his lapse in judgement to make himself more appealing to Hannibal's ego is definitely one way of taking lemons and making bloody lemonade.

    But again, knowing his enemy to defeat him is costing Will too much.

    A Will-digo wasn't the only thing Will fathered this week — his encounter with Margot last week left her pregnant. And being pregnant means Margot's in danger because Mason's life is in jeopardy if Margot can provide a legitimate Verger heir. But before Will learned all of that, he learned he was going to be a dad in a pretty strange joint therapy session with Margot and Hannibal. Did she request Will's presence? Did Hannibal? Normally he's so concerned with patient confidentiality. Except for when he isn't. And what was behind Hannibal telling Mason that his sister was pregnant? Was he feeling like his murky relationship with Will was being threatened by Margot and a baby? Was it jealousy? Was it necessary to Hannibal's design?

    While Will wrestled with his feelings of impending fatherhood, Hannibal, too, talked about his feelings on being responsible for someone — his late sister Mischa. And in a wonderful moment of resolution, Abigail Hobbs. I loved to pieces Hannibal's reference to the shattered teacup, calling back to a season one scene when Abigail stood in Hannibal's kitchen, high on mushrooms. Hannibal's murder of Abigail has hung over him and Will all season, as both men saw themselves as fathers to the damaged young girl. In another bit of fancy camerawork, both men also saw themselves in each other as Hannibal explained that Abigail's death was needed to give birth to Will. While Hannibal didn't like killing her, God makes sacrifices to the greater good. Will's pain was real. And so was Hannibal's, yet his hubris is second only to Walter White's.

    Alana did more than have sex with Hannibal this week, so that's an improvement to her storyline. This big conspiracy to capture Hannibal is requiring Inception-levels of explanation. Alana watching Will as Jack watches Hannibal and Will and Will watches Hannibal and Hannibal watches Will watch him. No wonder Alana's feeling paranoid. It seems like every man in her life is out to use her as a kind of bait or an alibi or a weapon. I really liked Will's cool reaction to her showing up on his doorstep to accuse him of murdering Freddie Lounds and the way he quickly turned those suspicions around on her boyfriend after Freddie's corpse was turned into Shiva, pointing to a duo of murderous co-conspirators passing ghoulish love notes to each other.

    It certainly sounds like two people she knows. Loved the moment of realization when Hannibal smelled gunpowder on Alana's hand. Does he suspect Will put her up to it? When Jack and Will spoke of luring in Hannibal, they had agreed Hannibal would know when they were lying. After everything that's happened, is Hannibal really convinced of Will's rebirth?


  • Hannibal's long(pig) con "Naka-Choko" [TV Recap, S2E10]

    "Boundaries will always be subject to negotiation," Alana tells Hannibal. It's almost like she's watching this show.

    This week's offering was another "palate cleanser" course in Japanese cuisine and that slice of ginger became much, much more literal. Yet "Naka-Choko" seems to be a retread of last week's themes — the growing intimacy between Will Graham and the serial killer he's trying to snare as well as Will's further descent into his psychological darkness. After Dr. Lecter sent his former patient Randall Tier to basically get murdered by Will, we saw Will fully commit to his role as the bad doctor's star pupil. We saw Will cross that line last week and, naively perhaps, thought the journey ended there. But in a show with cannibalism at its grim heart, there's always room for more. (more…)

  • Hannibal's not-so-lovely bones: "Shiizakana" [TV recap S2E9]

    Hannibal - Season 2

    Analogy: it's what's for dinner. While last week's episode of Hannibal saw Dr. Lecter and Will Graham reflected in a pair of men with a similarly corrupted power dynamic, "Shiizakana" compares Will's inner animal with another hungry beast borne of Hannibal's unique therapy. The hour moved quickly, but wasn't quite my favorite outing of the season. It felt a bit like more set-up (or wheel-spinning if you want to be rude) as we see the finale shimmering on the horizon. Or maybe I'm just impatient because I want to see exactly how Will and Jack land their prize trout. (more…)

  • Hannibal: Guilt is a divine beast of burden in "Su-zakana" [Season 2, episode 8 recap]

    In an episode named after a Japanese palate-cleanser, there certainly wasn't a lot of refreshment to be found among (or within) all the dead horses, Nietzschean fish and damaged souls that this hour contained.

    Instead, "Su-zakana" opens a new and final book of the season, introducing a new paradigm for Will and Hannibal's very distorted friendship. Hannibal doesn't realize how apt a metaphor the trout he served to Jack and Will really were. They were eating their own tails, much like Will hopes Hannibal will; by using himself as live bait to draw the doctor in with seductive promises of what Will might reveal in therapy, Hannibal's own curiosity will be what brings him down.

    To be an effective lure, Will's also trying to hide in plain sight, using honesty as a cover for his deeper lie. So we get awkward dinner conversations about who accused whom and who tried to have who killed first. It's enough to make you wish Margaery Tyrell would show up and exclaim "Oh, look! The pie!" Only this is Hannibal, so the pie would be made out of dead people instead of dead pigeons. (more…)

  • Nightswimming with Hannibal: "Mukozuke" review [s2e5]

    This is the second time since the premiere that we've opened Hannibal with a visual juxtaposition of how similar yet different Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter are. This go round it was meal preparation. Some slices of Beverly Katz as the cornerstone of a healthy sadist's breakfast. Will can brood in his prison cell and retreat to his memory palace and toy with Dr. Chilton and even get all strapped into an iconic mask for a prison transport, but Will is no Dr. Lecter.

    We know this. Will insists he knows this, but I think this episode was the first time Will, in all his new found clarity, knows he could be Dr. Lecter if he wanted.


  • Hannibal's justice is more than blind in "Hassun" [s2e3]

    The trial of Will Graham gets off to a bloody start in this week's episode of Hannibal.

    We open with a disorienting dream of Will BBQ'ing himself in an electric chair, then get a mirroring scene, set in reality. The morning of the trial's opening sees Hannibal and Will suiting up for the day in their contrasting homes. A well-appointed room, a dungeon cell. Cufflinks and handcuffs. It was a pointed visual reminder of how connected these two intelligent psychopaths are. For the whole hour, we see witnesses on the stand talking about Will—but the subject could just as easily be Hannibal. Because, after all, we know it was Hannibal, "the smartest person in this room." I loved and hated Hannibal's secret little smirk: his weaknesses are really showing. If Mads Mikkelsen is playing Lecter as the Devil, then he's doing a great job of giving us glimpses of the Devil's sin: pride. (more…)

  • Hannibal's terrifying gaze inward, in "Sakizuki" [s2e2]

    Hannibal's premiere hit the ground running, but it felt like half of an episode. We barely even met the "artist" behind the giant corpse-eye mural, because there was so much fallout from Will's incarceration. And this new artist still isn't much of a big deal in "Sakizuki," despite racking up the show's largest tableau to date. It's more of an elaborate metaphor.

    And that's perfectly fine. Because this show isn't about a killer of the week. It's about Hannibal. And Will. And how both intelligent psychopaths manipulate the people around them to paint their own reflections. Of course, one is doing it to protect his terrible secrets (and the contents of his fridge.) The other is trying to prove his innocence. But make no mistake – Will must know that by directing attention onto Hannibal in his own way, he will be putting his friends at risk. As viewers, we saw at least Crawford's confrontation with Hannibal, but I'm most concerned about the immediate safety of Beverly and Alana.


  • The return of Hannibal Lecter

    Expectations have weighed heavily on Hannibal since NBC first announced the project. Did we really need another procedural about serial killers, even when it's the genre's most notorious antihero? And how could Hannibal, on network TV, hope to stay true to the source material in Thomas Harris' novels? Despite these challenges, Bryan Fuller's insanely stylish thriller delivered a grim and sophisticated meditation on the corrosive power of violence—with one hell of an impressive cast.

    Renewed at the last hour after disappointing ratings, however, Hannibal's second season comes with different aims. Its new low-pressure Friday night time slot offers space to maintain high dramatic standards and serve fans of the Silence of the Lambs canon. (more…)