The Full Lid
20th March 2020

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Christ I miss being shouted at by the Dalek...

Hi! How's it going? Yeah, me too... Don't worry, it'll pass.

And I've got a plan.
See that? (gestures at nearly three years of previous issues)
More of that. That's the plan.

Content is going to play a little differently here for a while. Lots more book coverage, lots more Netflix and Amazon shows. CHONK Signal Boosts. Wherever possible what I'll talk about will be available digitally and/or free.

That's it. You may not be commuting (PLEASE don't be commuting) anymore but you still deserve something in your inbox which isn't a department store swearing on their mother to cure the virus or a middling restaurant chain offering their sword to the post-virus kingdom you will of course rule.

You want fun? I've got your fun! Come have some fun.

And remember: it's not the end of the world, folks. Just the end of the week.



As They Try To Change Their Worlds
The Oracle Code
Interview with Marieke Nijkamp
The Me of It All
Signal Boost
Signal Boost Bonus Round?
Signing off, Playing Out

As They Try To Change Their Worlds

Netflix have solved one of the puzzles that trip up so many others: they're good at writing children. Especially teenagers in genre shows. Traditionally, this is the place they're most likely to be played by 30-something chesticles called Todd who got their big break right around the first time cellphones could fold.

Nowadays? Not so much.

(And a quick disclaimer here. While you're all lovely, educated cats who would never do the 'Well, Actually' thing I feel obligated to point out that yes I know it isn't a uniform process. I hear very good, and very bad, things about Riverdale, usually simultaneously. Likewise 13 Reasons Why which for all sorts of reasons I wouldn't go near if I was paid to. If they're your jam? Enjoy in peace. These kids are much more my speed).

I attribute Netflix's success in this arena to the way they've completely ignored the traditional family model. While all three of the families I'm about to discuss could be considered middle class or more, none of them would be called 'nuclear'. Adoptions (voluntary and involuntary), bereavement and alienation are the tools these three families are handed. They each build different structures and they all excel.

Editor's note: Spoilers for Lost in Space season 2, Locke and Key, and October Faction follow.

First up, Meet the Robinsons! The photo above is uncharacteristic because they're all in one place and none of them are bleeding, on fire, or in immediate physical peril. Penny, Judy and Will are the first Netflix family that really registered with me and a big part of that is the wildly different ways they each express their intelligence.

These kids are all brilliant and the fact you don't want to smother any of them with a pillow is the show's first achievement. Taylor Russell, who plays adopted daughter Judy, is the oldest here, at twenty five. However, the show uses that casting to reinforce the dynamic between her and her siblings. Judy is the only person of color in the family. She's a direct trauma survivor, having lost her dad on an earlier mission. She's bonded very deeply with her adoptive father and that's both built her up and built her away from the other two. She's a trained doctor too young to practice, a soldier not old enough for war. In one of the show's best episodes to date, 'Run', Judy keeps her dad alive while running over twenty kilometers through hostile-occupied desert to treat his injuries. Along the way she explains what will happen to the family if he dies, flashes back to the times he's picked her up and reminds John of the one thing he needs to hear: he's more than a suit of armor for the family he doesn't think he deserves. Judy is an instinctively diagnostically brilliant field medic with the cold, clear eye of a teenager who met death too early. When she's named Captain of the evacuation ship in the season two finale, the only surprise is how long it's taken for someone to spot the adult in the room is a nineteen year old. 

If Judy is the person you want beside you in a firefight, Penny is the person you trust to you out of one. Mina Sundwall plays the middle Robinson child with a combination of cheerfully opportunistic charm, determination and an artistic and social eye that she keeps hidden. If Judy speaks trauma, Penny speaks people and her social engineering skills become more and more critical as the season progresses. For Don, they place her solidly in the 'little sister he loves and does not want to become him' bracket. For Doctor Smith, a potential padawan in need of a Jedi, morality negotiable. For her mother, she's a puzzle that can't be solved until it is. Penny's an artist in a family of scientists and soldiers, a mouth adrift in a sea of brains. She's the first one to feel lost and the first one to really find her feet, thanks in no small part to the book she writes between seasons. It's also worth noting she backs her sister instinctively at the end of the season. Still an outsider, certainly, but one with a family she chooses to engage with and who in turn choose her.

Will is where I predicted the show would stumble. Will Robinson is the poster child for 'annoying kid genius' and no amount of tired, lazy Wesley Crusher gags will convince me otherwise. Thankfully, the show didn't get that memo and cast Maxwell Jenkins. At fourteen, Maxwell is the youngest cast member and grows about a foot between seasons. His Will starts off uncertain and untested. Jane risks everything to fake his tests to get him aboard. Will risks everything to rescue an alien robot with mysterious intentions. Will is less a genius, more a wild card throughout the first season especially. Judy is the family's Emergency Adult, Penny is the family's Chief of Public Relations and Will?

Will's a kid.

And that's the point. His fundamental belief in the decency of people could play as cheesy but instead is optimistic and admirable. He makes the right call not because it's easy but because he knows instinctively what the right call is, a remarkably heroic feat for a 14 year old. He has a purity of vision the other two may have passed by, but together the three of them create the complete Robison package: technically brilliant, emotionally savvy, deeply principled. 

And speaking of what happens when siblings team up...
Meet the Locke kids from Locke & Key.

If the Robinsons' trauma is inflicted on them BY their parents, then the Locke kids' trauma is inflicted ON their parents. The three are caught up in the murder of their father in an intimately complex, accidental and deeply plausible knot of consequences that messes Tyler (Conner Jessup) especially up so badly he can barely see past it. Jessup is the designated adult here, the show using the same trick as Lost in Space to cast an alienated older sibling. But where Judy finds determination and grit in her distance, Tyler runs as far as he can from the others. Convinced, for most of the season, that he's responsible for their dad's death Tyler is a likable, cautious tank of a kid who has decided the best thing he can do is suffer so others don't. That, oddly, has some resonance for me and the way the show brings him out of himself is genuinely very sweet and subtle. Especially as where Judy is listened to by her siblings, Tyler's missed way too many meetings and has to run to catch up.

Bode, his younger brother played by Jackson Robert Scott, has the situation handled pretty much from the get go. Scott is the best element of this strong cast by some considerable distance because he both is and is playing a kid. Bode is impressionable, focused, immensely creative and has sculpted the trauma he can't fully remember into a tool that fits his hand rather than a shield to hide behind. One of the show's best early moments sees him realize their adversary uses keys and literally gumming up every lock in the building. One of the best later moments sees Bode walking around the house with a dime store lightsaber flashlight his only weapon.

This is the kid that notices stuff. This is the kid that wraps his arms around a breakfast plate and protectively hisses 'no fighting in front of the bacon!'. Bode Locke is a kid you want on side.

Kinse Locke is the kid you want in front of you. Kinsey, played by Emilia Jones, is the proof that what forged the Robinson kids has thrown the Locke kids onto a painful journey of self discovery. Tyler is hiding behind a shield of guilt, Bode is determined to engage with the world he's been told to hide from. Kinsey, powerless and terrified in the events that define them, decides she'll never hide again and uses the Keys to remove her sense of fear altogether. When that almost gets multiple people killed, she finally gets the distance she needs from it to see it's finite. Kinsey isn't just her fear. But Kinsey is lessened without it and the show's most powerful work comes in the later episodes as she engages with that horrifying, necessary idea.

If the Robinson kids are their parents, filtered through a kaleidoscope then the Locke kids are their trauma and it's fractured, rebuilt and forged into keys.

And then there's the Allens.
My favorite thing about culture is that everyone takes a different path through it, and the connections inherent in those paths possess an intrinsic validity that transcends individual experience and enhances or challenges any understanding of the fictional topography.

That sentence was a flex.

It's also true. Witness October Faction and its exploration of Geoff and Viv's parents.  An every day story of monster huntin' folk, the show's core is the gloriously-laconic dynamic between Tamara Taylor and JC McKenzie's Delores and Fred. Married hereditary secret agent monster hunters who are nowhere near as together as they think they are, Dee and Fred dote on their teenage kids Viv (Aurora Burghart) and Geoff (Gabriel Darku). We learn this is in no small part to the fact Dee and Fred were part of the monster hunting SWAT team who slaughtered their community and then 'adopted' the orphaned infants.

It's a little more complicated than that but as the show begins, Viv and Geoff are the most traditional of the teens we meet here. Both are played by twenty-somethings, which works given the twins are seventeen and hurtling towards independence. Both are educated, eloquent and pretty secure in themselves. Everything that follows that first episode challenges them to the core.

Darku's Geoff gets slightly more to do. Fiercely confident, able to see dead people and gay, Geoff has a lot on his plate and Darku balances his on-the-surface eloquence with escalating panic brilliantly. His best scenes are shared with Praneet Akilla as his rival and sort-of (then very) boyfriend, Phil. The two, alone, are raging bags of hormones, one with a mouth, the other with a cannon for an arm. Together you can see the two young men relax, realizing they can be who they truly are even as just what that is becomes far more uncertain for both of them. It's well observed, gentle, raw and sweet writing that avoids the worst gay tropes and establishes Geoff as very much his own man by the season's end.

Viv, played by Aurora Burghart, has a subtler, but no less effective journey. A rational, artistic, scientific-minded feminist suddenly being confronted with the possibility she's psychic, Viv spends most of the season badly rattled. Viv has the emotional distance of Judy Robinson but without the benefit of training. She almost refuses contact with others because Geoff is so desperate for it but when she does finally come around, she does so completely. Viv is very much both her mothers' daughter, and the show ends with her embracing that strength in every way. Not to mention with not only a happy gay relationship but with the birth and adoptive mother of the two children teaming up to defend 'our children'. Family is what you choose it to be in October Faction and Geoff and Viv choose very wisely.

Three families, three sets of children and three radically different solutions to the problems they face. The Robinsons are a Swiss Army knife of determination, skill and heart. The Lockes are a bloodied and unbowed group of warriors, patching their wounds with the cause they've inherited. The Allens are the children of two worlds, uncomfortably find their place in both.

Despite it all, the kids are alright.

Lost in Space, Locke & Key and October Faction are all on Netflix now.
Chillhop Yearmix 2019

We've been running these lo-fi mixes in the background for a while and they're lovely.

The Oracle Code

DC's new line of YA graphic novels are new, but already one of the strongest takes on these characters in years. The genius move here is simple; get some of the best creators in the YA field, give them characters they're passionate about and get out of their way. That's how you get The Oracle Code.

Marieke Nijkamp is a structurally smart, character-first author and Oracle is the perfect character for them. It takes Barbara Gordon, the future Batgirl, and not only addresses the worst thing to ever happen to her but does so in a manner that re-frames it, and her, completely.

Here, Barbara isn't paralyzed by the Joker but via a combination of adventurousness and horrifying luck. Much younger than she's often written, Babs is checked into the ACI or Arkham Clinical Institute to begin learning how to live her new life. She's murderously angry, terrified, her best friend won't talk to her and her father can barely look her in the eye. And that's even before the first disappearance...

Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano have an instinctive grasp of the character, making every beat nuanced and effective. Preitano's nervy but grounded character work is perfect for a book like this and Babs has rarely looked more determined. But both have a welcome eye for human physicality and gesture too. Babs' growing strength, her best friend's guilt pushing him further away. It's all on the page, and all painfully, clearly drawn. Likewise the way the ACI gradually comes into focus, and characters and places shift into full colour, as Babs gets to know them. 
You can see the level of detail and character.

What only becomes apparent when you read the entire book is just how cleverly its structured. There's a keen eye for physical and verbal nuance here which makes the final act especially fun. I particularly liked a sequence colorist Jordie Bellaire lights in classic Joker purple and green, using color as a code for danger. There are some truly brilliant artistic gear changes too. Preitano's flashbacks are gorgeous, shot through with curdled fairy tale beauty thanks in no small part to colourist Jordie Bellaire and letterest Claylon Cowles. All four bring wit and subtlety to the book, their love of the character running deep across the page.

My all time favorite element is a perfect example: Babs thinking in scattered jigsaw pieces that slowly assemble as she solves the case. And, as importantly, as she finds her sense of self again.

That's what really stays with me about The Oracle Code: the way so much is worked into it. It's a great haunted house mystery and an excellent alternate origin for one of DC's all-time greats. But most of all it's a story about a brilliant young woman not only realizing she's far more than her trauma, but being placed at the heart of a story which is a road map for processing that trauma. Barbara Gordon is a hero like no other, right now we need her more than ever and she couldn't be in safer hands. 

The Oracle Code is out now. You can find Marieke online here, Manuel Preitano here, Jordie Bellaire is here, and Clayton Cowles is here.
Best of Saib
The composer responsible for Joshua Weissman's soundtracks and one of my absolute go-to's right now.

New reader? Find The Full Lid archive here.
Toss a coin to your writer over at my ko-fi.


The Me of It All

  • Over at SciFi Bulletin, you can read my other, slightly less in-universe review of the new Dalek Escape Room as well as a look at the most recent episode of The Walking Dead.
  • Ou est la blog? Ici la blog! Twice a week, Something Good will bring you a thing that is objectively good and available for free online. I would LOVE suggestions for this so do get in touch.
Coffee Shop Lo-Fi
Like if you animated Nighthawks when it came back from a date with Blade Runner and wanted to tell you all about it.

Signal Boost

The 'please show me wonderful creative things, Alasdair' edition. If you've got a project you want boosted, something you're doing to help pass the time for the folks isolating or just something you found that's good, free (and legal obvs), get in touch via Twitter.

Signal Boost Bonus Round?

There's a MASSIVE bow wave of fun free things, signal boosting initiatives and offers of help doing the rounds at the moment. I'm contemplating a second TFL every couple of weeks which is just one giant topical Signal Boost.

Is that something that would be of interest? Let me know on Twitter.

Signing Off / Playing Out

Friday night, folks. We made it. Great job. Relax, de-stress, do something nice for yourself. We've got 2400 plus episodes of podcasts right across four shows if you want them, and the Team KennerStuart Instagram is always on. Likewise the Twitters.

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you if you can, and if you spend it on yourself this week instead, go with my blessing. Joy is where you find it and we could all use to find a bit more right now.

The play-out slot this week was hotly contested. For a long, long time, it was Changes by David Bowie because of the lyric I referenced earlier and, well, almost everything else.

BUT! Lovely as it is, it's also maaaaayyyybe a touch on the nose. So in a last-minute swerve, it's now this by The Lab Rats. Because I will ALWAYS show up for jovial supernatural rap. Know what else I'll always show up for?
The Full Lid.

See you next time, folks. Take care of yourselves and those around you.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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