[sticky entry] Sticky: Hi (version 2.0)!

Jan. 31st, 2014 06:24 pm
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Hello, and welcome to my blog! This is a public blog, please feel free to follow and/or comment in any way you wish.

If I have a fandom, it's probably writing, because I'm interested in techniques and details about writing far more than anything else...but the stuff I'm writing is mostly in the Avenger fandom at the moment (with a few forays back into Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I'm not sure I would say I'm in the Avengers fandom, though. I haven't finished any of those things I'm writing, and I'm generally more of a lurker at the edges of fandoms anyway.

I also post occasionally on random things I'm watching or reading.

If you want to know who I used to think I was and what I was doing, version 1.0 of this introduction can be found here. I think the biggest change is less Buffy and more serious about writing. Though it's still fun too!
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I've been scouring the internet for reactions (it's fun to see what other people think), and have a few more things to say myself, reactions to reactions I suppose...

Minor spoilers? Or maybe not spoilers at all, but cut just in case... )
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I ... am not sure if I liked this movie. But I didn't dislike it! I found it interesting, surprising at times, and ... not the story I wanted, but maybe a story that will be good for the fandom? I'm looking forward to the fanfic and the discussion in a lot of ways.

Driving back from the theatre, which is not a short drive, I tried to remember what the main plot points of this movie were. It took a good portion of the drive. Basically, this movie's plot is connected by a series of wild guesses that turn out to be right.

But it does have fights, quips, exposition, and characterization, concurrent and consecutive. And it does have a plot, and it's a plot that I think could make sense, though I do feel like plot (along with exposition, actually) got a bit short shrifted to make room for fights, quips, and characterization.

Recap with commentary, then more commentary... SPOILERS )
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I was watching a cop show, and the witness was saying something important, and I saw exactly what it meant... And two seconds later, the two detectives' eyes met and then they both leaped over the desk and raced for the door, off to arrest the criminal. And I laughed and laughed because something about that leap over the desk struck me as both funny and delightful.

Thinking about it later, I realized that it was probably the most compact example I've ever seen of a principle I identified when I was trying to figure out nonlinear structures in fiction writing -- i.e. writing in non-chronological order.

The principle is this: if you tell the reader what's going to happen ahead of time, when it actually happens, it has to be more. The movie The Wall has a great example of this, that's the example I compare everything against, but it's all over the place.

In the case I was talking about at the beginning, I don't know if it was on purpose, but I as a viewer got the answer, processed it, I knew what was going to happen...but then a few seconds later when the characters got it, it was generally what I was expecting, but it was also more of a reaction than I was expecting, and that's what made it delightful.

I guess maybe the correlary might be that the further ahead of time you tell what's going to happen, the greater degree of more you have to have when you actually get there. If they'd made the answer obvious five minutes before the characters jumped over the desk, I'm pretty sure that would have seemed utterly silly rather than delightful.

On the other side of the coin...well, take any story that has some revelation that the reader/viewer might possibly guess long before the character does. As long as 1) what's happening in the meantime is important and 2) the character's reaction is big enough once the revelation gets through to them -- especially if it takes it a few steps further than the reader might have predicted -- then it doesn't really spoil anything if the reader/viewer guesses what's going to happen.

Anyway, the funny thing about nonlinear narratives is that when I started thinking about them, eventually I decided that most if not all narratives are nonlinear, it's just that some of them play with it a lot more and make it more obvious. I mean, what narrative doesn't fill in stuff you need to know just as you need to know it, instead of putting it in strictly chronological order?

So if you don't start with the construction of the catacombs beneath the city, you just stick in a bit of explanation when they become relevant (or maybe even some time after they become relevant -- 'oh shit, that's where they disappeared to when we were chasing them several days ago?'), that may be different in degree from The Time Traveller's Wife, but is it really different in kind?

Or take detective stories. Is it less nonlinear because the characters are discovering what happened in the past at the same time the reader/viewer is?

On the other hand, there's Leverage. The thing where they explain how the trick worked, how we got to the ending we just saw...

Actually, I'm not sure what that is. Some other principle. Probably the one that says 'you can lead the viewer down the garden path of thinking things are going one way when they're actually going another, but you have to play fair and have a full explanation for how that happened -- the shorter the explanation, the better'.

Or maybe 'if you're hiding something, you have to hide it in plain sight'.

(There were a few episodes of Leverage where I knew exactly what had happened and got really impatient waiting for the reveal, but usually Leverage worked well for me.)

But actually this stuff about the reveal in Leverage reminds me of the classic detective story scene where the detective explains everything.

Food for thought: what's the difference, structurally, between a detective story and a heist/con story like most episodes of Leverage? Is the main difference the presence of a reader/viewer analogue inside the story?
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Somehow I ended up thinking about the next Captain America movie. Now, I haven't read any of the comics, so I feel like I've got a pretty major handicap here in terms of predicting what's going to happen, since these movies seem to be based on comics plotlines... and yet.

I read an article that was talking about the comics Civil War plotline and what it might mean for the MCU, and it said that the comics plotline was about a conflict about registration of superpowered individuals, and Tony Stark was on the side of government registration. As the article pointed out, this makes very little sense with respect to MCU Tony Stark, who thumbs his nose at the Senate, at Coulson, at Fury, and at anyone in authority at all times. So he's going to go to bat for government registration?

So yeah, that's pretty much a non-starter in terms of plotlines in the MCU, IMO.

And really, Tony vs. Steve is going to be weird when it's Steve's movie. Seriously, I can't see how that could possibly work when Tony has his own movies, his own established plotlines and character arcs.

Plus, Tony and Steve are not great friends who happen to fight like the dickens, as I gather they are in the comics. They're vaguely associated at best.

So basically, I can't see Tony vs. Steve being very satisfactory.

But "Civil War" -- that basically promises brother fighting brother, right?

So Captain America: Civil War has to be Steve Rogers vs. Bucky Barnes, am I right? That's a brother vs. brother that really makes sense, and a relationship arc that has been the heart of the first two movies. IMO, it basically has to come to a conclusion (and hopefully a reconciliation) in the third movie.

This got really long... )


Feb. 11th, 2015 12:17 am
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I used to seriously think that I was good at plot because I could always figure out what happened next.

Now I think maybe if I was better at figuring out how it all fits together and comes to a resolution, then maybe I could consider myself good at plot.

I still think I'm pretty decent at character, though.
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Why are all the good story ideas always so long?

And why is my attention span so short? I have a days to weeks attention span, in general... but what I really need is a months to years attention span.
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If The Bletchley Circle did not already exist, I feel like I might appreciate Agent Carter more. But it does exist, and the comparisons are obvious, and The Bletchley Circle wins so much in my book. I.e. you don't have to be drowning in really unpleasant sexism in order to make a very clear point about sexism, for one thing. You can have more than one awesome woman. Etc.

But it is good to have many things in the world, even if some of them are more to my taste than others, and considering and I did keep watching for two hours, I do believe I'll at least watch it next week. (It helps that it's a mini-series.)
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20,742 words total in published complete fanfiction. (Most of it written in December.) On the other hand, I have about 90,000 words in first draft of a novel, so it wasn't a bad year for writing overall, as long as I keep working on said novel/series and finish it eventually.
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What Dreams
15,357 words

Chronicles of Chrestomanci fic that takes a look at what it means to be Chrestomanci (or tries, at least) in the context of a recurring problem that crops up at a number of different points in Christopher Chant's life.

Two things. One, it's actually not easy to write about a character as a main character whose role in terms of storytelling is usually support character. And not just support character, but the really powerful support character who makes resolutions possible. I felt if I dug too deep and showed (or created) too many weaknesses, I'd be doing the character a disservice. Hopefully I struck a balance.

Two, I was horribly pressed for time, and got to that point where my brain didn't want to process any words associated with this story any more. Next year, I think I'm going to write something shorter, so it doesn't take so long just to read through for typos, never mind anything else.

Oh, three, I noticed there's a plot hole and figured out how to fix it a few days after Christmas, but I didn't think it was fair (or something, do I mean proper? useful?) to revise it at that point.

864 words

My very first Yuletide treat ever :) It's in the same fandom as the first one (Chronicles of Chrestomanci) but this one is about Angelica Petrocchi, whose spells always go wrong, and Roger Chant, who likes to tinker with spells.

The Boy in the Crystal Ball
1949 words

Sequel to Spellmaker. Since it's not written for Yuletide, I don't know if anyone will read it, but oh well. I wanted to write it.

Oh, and if you like Diana Wynne Jones, I received a lovely Tale of Time City fic: http://archiveofourown.org/works/2791754

But of course I like it, it does everything I asked for, down to the butter pies :)
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I think it's because I'm paying attention to structure while writing things that are short, that I'm starting to feel very repetitious.

This is (probably) okay. At least, I'm going to assume it's okay, because structure is repeatable in a way that other things aren't... Actually, other things are probably more repeatable than I think too. But structure is more repeatable without it being a bad thing. ...Probably.

I'll have to come back later and see if I notice all this repetition when I'm not right in the middle of writing.
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1. Ever since I started paying as much attention as I have to spare to structure, a) I'm pretty sure I've grown a lot as a writer and b) half the time I feel like I don't know how to write at all. You'd think these would be contradictory, but I guess it's got something to do with having more options to go to but less idea how to use them properly or how to even tell if they're being used properly.

2. I really want to write Yuletide treats! I need to finish my mired-in-structural-problems-but-the-end-is-in-sight assignment first, though.

3. Actually, the thing you're not writing always looks easier to write than the thing you are writing, yes? So maybe the treats wouldn't be as easy to write as I think. But if I write even one treat, that will be better than I've done in the past two years, so one can hope.
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It is sad when you've written about 7,000 words and the first 3,000 of them are, without exception, boring. Fixable (I'm pretty sure), but still sad.
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Journal-based online roleplaying as my main form of writing for many years has left me sorely deficient in the art of plotting. Trying to write a novel that has a bunch of plot, I am feeling that.

And ironically enough, I feel like what I really need to do to fix it -- besides keep plugging away at plotty novel -- is to have a tabletop game drop into my lap. I don't especially want to go looking, but see, the kind of roleplaying I've mostly done is freeform, all about characters interacting. It didn't really reward characters who want to do things. But I remember tabletop really rewarded being able to come up with plans and actions, and that's a lot of what plot is, right?

It's also worth mentioning that the thing that's taught me the most about plot in the shortest amount of time was when I did the Buffy Remix, and rewrote a plotty story in my own way. That was really amazing, and I should have done remix again this year, but...you can't really guarantee you'll get something plotty, can you? I don't think someone would learn much from my stories, for example...

In other news, I'm starting to think my antagonist may be not a person but more like the shape of the world and the forces of history. Hey, it worked for Guy Gavriel Kay in The Lions of Al-Rassan.


Oct. 21st, 2014 10:04 pm
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Dear Yuletide Author,

Thank you in advance for your writing! I hope this letter will be helpful to you, but obviously it's all optional, and in some cases, just putting ideas out there.

In general, I prefer stories with some amount of plot. Either gen or something centered on a relationship is fine, but I'd rather not have any explicit sex, or sex as the main point of the story, please. I like things that are fairly close to the spirit of the original in these fandoms.

Starfarers Series, by Vonda N. McIntyre - Basically, you cannot go wrong with this. Write about any of the characters in the whole series, I love them all. Write about OCs if you'd like. Write about the squidmoth or about any of the other alien species in general or in particular, write about Starfarer, the ship, and its future... I'm especially interested in the future, what happens next, and how Starfarer fits into it. How does Starfarer's mission hold up to the return to Earth? How does Earth respond? Where does Starfarer voyage next, who lives on Starfarer, what does the future look like after the events at the end of the last book? I'm also especially interested in alien biology and societies, alien politics, human politics as it relates to space travel... I also like the spirit of openness of Starfarers, and the aspects of it that are a lot of diverse people together on a starship, so if you want to write something that highlights that sort of thing, that would be lovely as well. Oh, and the archeology art project is my favorite side plot in the series, for what it's worth... Really, anything that evokes anything about this series.

A Tale of Time City, by Diana Wynne Jones - I am fascinated by Jones' horseshoe of time. I'd like to know more about any of Jones' future history, and what it's like to live in any of those ages. (If you can work in butter pies (my favorite) or something else that we've seen in its Time City context and put it into a historical context, all the better :) I would also love a story that expands on the notion that people in history know about and visit Time City. What kind of experience is that? What kind of effect does it have on ordinary visitors? Do weird things ever happen to them because they're visiting an unstable era which is not connected to history? We see Time City from the inside in the book, even Vivian becomes an insider, but I'm especially interested in seeing it from the perspective of a complete outsider who might not understand everything about it. Feel free to use characters from the book or not, whatever you prefer; I don't really have a preference. (I like all the characters, but they're not really what interests me about this fandom).

Dragaera, by Steven Brust - Tazendra, Aerich - Please no actual romance between Aerich and Tazendra, but all the friendship ever, very much yes. If you'd like to include Pel and Khaavren and have a general phoenix guard friendship story, I'd be good with that too. My favorite books are The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years after, I never really imprinted on the later Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy, though it is set during a very interesting time, so if you want use the events of that trilogy or ignore it or go AU with it, that's fine with me. Anyway, specifically, some little adventure from their time as phoenix guards? Or Tazendra and Aerich living in the same neighborhood in the country -- I don't believe we see much of their other neighbors, though, so something about how they fit into their neighborhood social scene could be interesting. Something Jane Austen-esque (the neighborhood social scene being very important there)? Sharing an adventure that pops up in the neighborhood? Something about what Aerich being Tazendra's leige means to her? Or to him? Something about how their natures as Dzurlord and Lyorn interact? They're sort of opposites, but get along well, and compliment each other in a lot of ways. Oh, and I've been sounding very light-hearted, but if you want to do something more serious and not purely light-hearted adventure, I'd enjoy that too. Taking on the immediate aftermath of Adron's disaster?

Like I said, hopefully that's helpful, and thanks again!
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Fanfic for L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, written for Gen Fic Swap ([personal profile] genficexchange).

3390 words.


Oct. 8th, 2014 01:49 am
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I was looking through the tagset making a list of fandoms I might want to offer...and it turned into a list of things I really wouldn't mind rereading. Probably not the best way to actually decide what to sign up for, though.

Also, there was a Three Men in a Boat tv show? The things you learn...
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Connor manages to be majorly creepy with only minor events and expressions. Especially creepy when you know how it's going to turn out with him, but I think he's probably coming across as a bit creepy even without knowing.

This episode advances the plot, so that's good. It's nice when all your characters aren't bespelled and on the wrong side.

I wonder what Fred was thinking when she was talking with Angel about being all alone. It's easy at this point to forget how long Fred spent alone and hunted in Pylea, and they don't exactly remind you of it here, in fact the dialog about being new to being a fugitive almost sounds like they've forgotten.

It was very clever of Fred to figure out the blood connection. And to figure out how to take advantage of it.

Back to Connor, though, I feel like there's a lot of "what's going on" (Connor got the cliffhanger ending, for example) that could be time better spent actually delving into what it means that this is happening rather than trying to keep the audience fooled or whatever. Okay, two episodes ago, Connor made a choice, and this time around I know that he's still basically making the same choice, getting deeper and deeper, which is important, and which could be questioned and explored in various ways if they weren't trying to pretend that Connor was under a love spell like everyone else. I don't know. I think they're overdoing it, but I'm not adamant on that point.

Oh, but also, Connor actually has a lot in common with Fred in terms of being stuck in demon dimensions and having issues related to being alone, so if I were rewriting this episode, that's what I would try to bring out.
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This episode is sort of silly. I mean chilling. I mean...

Okay, I admit it, I just can't get into the plot that everyone has been taken over by a love spell. I am entertaining the hypothesis that it's supposed to be funny (sometimes I miss a certain kind of funny), but the first while until Fred snaps out of it was just plain boring to me. I suppose love spells always have a failure mode where the actual character under the spell disappears and therefore nothing has any meaning, and it's that much worse when it suddenly happens to all the characters. Oops. (I could see them trying to do under a spell but the character still matters, but...it wasn't enough for me. Nothing new there, perhaps? Nothing that moves anything forward? I'm not sure.)

On the other hand, the bit where Fred is all alone and everyone else gets Jasmine-ized was actually really chilling. And I'm glad to see Fred doing stuff. About time.

The random guy on the street who attacks Jasmine and then Fred goes to see in the hospital is doing way too much work in shaping the narrative here. Like, everything he says turns out to be totally on the money, even though...I mean, okay, it's possible that a random guy would turn out to be a "kill the monster" "you've been called" kind of guy, not to mention "don't tell anyone", but it's pretty convenient too.

The writers are still holding their cards pretty close to their chests here re: what's actually going on (besides the obvious, Jasmine not what she seems), but it's got really good forward momentum too. One of the very best cliffhangers so far. Actually, I think I'm going to go watch the next episode now.
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If you have a character in something original who is partially based on (or shall I say inspired by) a character from a certain canon (shares story roles and some traits), and then you write fanfiction about a certain canon using some of your completely original characterization from said original character in order to flesh out a canon character (because, unsurprisingly, it fits the canon character just fine too), does that make your original character less original?

Or, in order to keep up the pretense that your original character is totally original (like anything ever is), do you need to make a clean break?

Yes, the idea of originality has been bothering me lately.

There is probably no actual answer to this kind of question.
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Spoke too soon. "My sweet" is not a very satisfying tip-off that Cordelia is the beastmaster when it could have been Wesley reading it in the book Angel was trying to recreate from memory, for example. Or finding evidence of Cordelia's spellcasting or link to the beast or something tangible. I suppose on second thought, possibly Angel wouldn't have reacted well to Wesley interpreting prophecies in a way he didn't like, all that history considered, but he could have been a grown-up and decided to test it. That would have been cool and interesting.

But seriously. Angel decides Cordelia, who he loves, is evil based on the beastmaster sounding "girly"?

As for the rest, where to start?

Okay, big picture: I am dubious about the pacing here. At the beginning of the episode, when Connor saves Cordelia when she's surrounded by Angel & co. who all know she's evil, I was like please no, let's not drag this out any more. Just when it looked like things were starting to resolve, don't pull Cordelia away... And then...suddenly I felt like they went from dragging to fast forward.

That detective recap I was talking about wanting earlier so it would clarify things...I think it took maybe two minutes, tops. Look, here's what happened, okay let's get going now.

It's like...you know, it's actually sort of weird, that they don't deal with the emotional repercussions of anything in the episode, because usually it's all about the emotions in the Buffy-verse, but this episode -- the episode where the past is supposed to come clear -- is not about the past. It's about the future, about Cordelia's octopus-woman baby being born, about Connor making a choice...

The revelations get a bit buried.

Things we don't even get to see:

1) Angel figuring out that Cordelia is the beastmaster. We know he did figure this out (probably not the instant she said "my sweet"?), and was sure enough to set a fairly complicated trap for her; we don't see it.
2) Connor reacting to Cordelia asking him to kill an innocent. We know he decides to go out and find a virgin to bring back, we don't know how he actually reacted.
3) Any specific rethinking of the past because Cordelia is evil. (Arguing about whether or not it's actually Cordelia doesn't count...but like, for example, did Cordelia have sex with Connor when she was confused, or when she was evil? Is there supposed to be a difference between those two states? It whirled by so quickly I missed it, and I don't remember the exact sequence of the beginning of the season. I guess it doesn't matter?)

And speaking of revelations -- so, everything that has ever happened ever to anyone on the show was all a part of some big evil plan? Sorry, I don't buy it. I liked Gunn's speech about how you have to act as if your actions count, because even if they don't always, you never know when they will...but if your big revelation can be so easily dismissed, it's not a very big revelation, is it? If you really want to do "It was all a plan" (and I think that would be super-cool, actually) then you have to provide a little support to your argument. A lot of support, characters fighting and losing the battle to not believe it would be better.

I don't know, maybe the point is that it's a stupid revelation, and you're supposed to ignore it as the random word-spewage of evil demon Skip who was just trying to throw Angel & co. by saying that. And they're better than to be distracted by that. Okay, I can live with that.

But getting back to revelations again...the first time I watched this, I was absolutely livid about the revelation that Cordelia hadn't ascended to a higher plane because she was worthy, but rather because it was all an evil plan. I hadn't really liked that Cordelia became a higher being stuff, but eventually I figured that in order to watch the show, I had to accept it, because that's what they were doing with this show. So I did. I WORKED at suspending my disbelief over that. And then, seventeen episodes in, they say "What, you believed that load of shit? Stupid you." Well, you know, it's not my fault I believed it, you're the one who forced it on me and didn't give me anywhere else to go.

This time around...you know, I still think it was stupid storytelling and very dismissive of the viewer, but whatever. That specific revelation is not actually the biggest thing they're doing here, and it's pretty clear that at this point, trying to understand the past is not actually where they're going with this story, so ... whatever. Go with it.

One more objection, and then I'll talk about what I like.

So. Connor. Last episode he was questioning Cordelia about her sending him to kill Angelus. Who he's always sorta wanted to kill anyway, who he was brought up to hate, etc. This episode, he goes off to get an innocent to kill, no questions asked. I sort of get it in terms of storytelling -- they wanted to have the Darla scene, with the high stakes of the girl already being there, and then have "Cordelia" vs. "Darla" showdown in which Cordelia wins by appealing to Connor's desire to belong and be special and have a special family and everything will be okay if only we kill this girl.

I just think it's too much too quickly. That one step -- Cordelia says "Go get me a girl to kill" and Connor does it, no questions asked (that we see, at least) -- that's the step that breaks my suspension of disbelief.

I don't like that Connor ends up being part of killing the girl, but I can see all the steps from getting a girl to kill and then killing her. It's like...once he fetches the girl, he's already sort of committed. He could still back away, but he's taken the first step. Darla has to convince him to turn around, to negate what he's already done, and she almost got there, but not quite. But if Connor is really conflicted (and I do think he is, he's not completely lost to evil Cordelia's lies), then Cordelia should have faced a similar reluctance to get him to act in the first place, to go out to get the girl with the purpose of killing her...and apparently she didn't. I think that is a flaw in the narrative. A convenient flaw, one that makes the way things turned out seem practically inevitable, because it shapes the argument and Connor's direction to make it seem more believable. But still, a flaw.

Now, onward to what I like about this episode.

Speaking of Connor's dilemma, I thought it was a neat trick that somehow the reality of "Darla" became more important to the argument about what Connor should do than the actual question about whether or not killing is wrong. I sort of feel like he did it because he didn't trust "Darla" (and who can blame him, because however right she was, I certainly have no idea who that actually was or whether she's trustworthy) and because he felt he has to trust Cordelia...because he has to protect Cordelia and his child.

Connor's best is turned against him, his impulse to protect...along with his worst, his desire to be special, his desire to hate and distrust.

I like how the idea of the champion comes up again, Connor is called Cordelia's champion...

Cordelia says that Angel has been telling Connor "Lies meant to keep you in your place so he can control you" -- which is, of course, more precisely what she has been doing. It's hard to even keep track of all the lies that she's been telling.

I do not know what to think about Angel going off to kill Cordelia alone. I feel like this has all kinds of echoes from stuff that's happened earlier...I mean, back in Buffy, Buffy faced a similar situation with Angel, destroying the person she loved to save the world...and she came with a sword too, in fact. And there's been a lot about Angel and being alone this season...and Conner being alone, for that matter. And you know, everyone being alone when you come right down to it.

I suppose the other big thematic element here is choices (and possibly deception). "We make our own choices," Gunn said. And choices are brought into question, choices are manipulated, choices are stated to be all part of some big plan. "It has to be your choice," Darla tells Connor. Angel has a big choice to make about Cordelia (but he comes too late).

So yeah. The way to my heart is through my head, and this episode didn't make it very far through my head, but it's got its good points.
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