Friday, July 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Knox [ep01.07 & 01.08]

I’m back again covering two more chapters of Serial Box’s Knox. Things are getting I N T E N S E and I’m not sure I can handle much more of this. The series has been so good at building tension while exploring a wonderful cast of characters. Each new person is wonderful and fun and fleshed out and the series has made me care about each and every one of them only to dangle the prospect of their impending destruction over me like the blade of a guillotine. I might literally be on the edge of my seat because I am terrible at suspense but I can’t look away. I must know what happens next, following the chapters as they expertly guide my feels right toward the meat grinder. These chapters continue experimenting with voice and perspective while still keeping Knox firmly in focus, and the result is some seriously nail-biting fiction. to the reviews!

Serial Chapters:

“Down and Out in New York City” by Gabino Iglesias (ep01.07)

No Spoilers: After the lively events at the part and the subsequent mindfuck of a “flashback” chapter, Knox is back in the land of the living and aware, and ready to get back to business. After, of course, dealing with the various people in her life that care about her. But after the diversion that last chapter was, this one gets right back into the swing of things, checking in with everyone and then putting Knox back on track to investigate this weird mystery...before leaving the tracks entirely and showing that in this series, nothing’s over until it’s over and nothing dead until you’re really sure it’s dead. But through that it’s a chapter that focuses on community, and specifically on the people who Knox surrounds herself with, who are with her as she pushes for the truth.
Keywords: War, Portals, Therapy, Queer MC, packages
Review: This series is just hell on my nerves. I swear I feel white knuckled holding on for all I’m worth, whipped between fannish joy at seeing Danny and Pak mentioned in the same sentence (already shipped!) and hot panic and fear as the cosmic elements of the series become a little clearer and fuck, are definitely nothing to mess with (fucking don’t open that package, Danny!). In some ways there isn’t a whole lot I’d consider a surprise (I knew Klein was going to be just as bad as the other two), but that doesn’t mean I don’t jump when the reveals hit. Because however much the vague shape of things might seem evident, seeing things clearly is still a blow, still a shock. Which is a lot of what the series is playing with, in fact--the way that Knox has gained her abilities by seeing horror, by being exposed to things that she should have been able to handle. But she did. And the scars she carries aren’t all physical. Mostly they’re mental and emotional, and part of that is an inability to look away, an inability to ignore the horrors of the world. She has to see, has to try to do something about them, even if it puts her at risk. Even if it’s a terrible fucking idea.

And I love that everyone around her can see that. From Ray to Abe to Klein, everyone can sense from interacting with her that she can’t look away and it’s kinda killing her. The whole confrontation with Klein is great in a high tension oh fuck sort of way in part because of that, because there’s a part of Knox that seems to want to look away, to ignore things. At least...there’s a part of her that recognizes the seeming impossibility of the task of fixing anything. She can’t, and she knows that it would be easier to be able to look away, to just _not see it_ in all that implies. And maybe a part of her is hoping that someone would be able to just throw a switch and give her back the ignorance (often mislabeled innocence) that she lost in that storm when she was a child. So that it’s tempting more than money or vice to think that maybe she could have some relief from it, because in a place like New York it’s omnipresent and immediate all the time. And I love that she chooses always to go back into the burning building. That because it’s always a choice, she always does what she has to in order to make it right--or as right as she can. And here it means having to deal with possible extra-dimensional evil monsters. Yay. Also fuck. Also I am down for this.

And the chapter does a lot of good work with the extended cast as well, getting out of just Knox’s head to give some more attention to Ellen and Abe, allowing them more space to have distinct voices and be more of the story. Noir mysteries tend to be very focused on just the detective, but Knox is definitely not alone in her mission or her work. Even when she’s in over her head, she’s a part of a support network that’s the only reason she’s not dead or committed somewhere. It’s a creepy installment and it pushes things forward nicely, reveals a few twists, and really shows where the series might move with regards to the speculative elements. Which means it seems like things are gonna get finda fucked up. I mean, more. But in the best possible way. A great read!

“The Rifleman’s Rule” by Brooke Bolander (ep01.08)

No Spoilers: Things are certainly getting interesting as a very unexpected guest shows up. Luckily, though, they bring a measure of clarity to the story that means things are really clicking into place now. It also means that the endgame for the first season is very quickly approaching, and the stakes are starting to get higher than a New York skyscraper. The mystery of what happened in Knox’s past, what gave her the visions she’s been plagued with ever since, that’s been largely solved. The mystery of who killed her employer, though, and what the other men in his social club (that might also be a creepy murder cult) are up to...that’s very much still up in the air. But things definitely seem headed for a big ol’ confrontation sooner rather than later, especially with an ending that twists the knife of uncertainty and leaves things teetering on the edge of a cliff.
Keywords: War, History, Snipers, Scars, Queer MC
Review: I told you not to open that, Danny! FFS! But okay, okay, we don’t technically know what happened with Danny and Ellen yet, but I love that this chapter really starts to turn the screws when it comes to emotional stakes. To date, Knox has relied heavily on the people around her, on the found family that keeps her sane and safe. She’s normally the one who takes the danger on herself, only occasionally getting other people involved, and never normally in a way that is all that much a risk. But that seems to be changing. And the fallout from that is that I’m an emotional mess just hoping that the reason for certain silences is that things are just mildly fucked and not that I’m going to be crying all through the rest of the season.

This chapter brings a rather big shift to the series, though, in that it unfolds from a completely different perspective, giving us a look inside the head of a man who was trained to be a weapon and who came back from the war as just that, only aimed against those who fucked his head and his life. It links the opening of the series to the current situation, revealing that Craddock is alive and well after and, not only that, but he and Knox have met before. In the war. In a certain creepy house in the middle of No Man’s Land where an ancient ritual was being performed. And we finally sort of get filled in on all that’s been happening. How this giant cult has been operating across the globe while Craddock has been systematically killing them...with the help of a young girl he rescued from one of the cult rituals seven years ago. And in this we see the different trajectories that Craddock and Knox have been on, but also the ways they’ve been similar, both of them having people they care about--both of them now vulnerable because those people might be in a lot of trouble.

In many ways this chapter is heavy on exposition. It’s bridging what we knew so far to the wider picture, placing this social club in context and uncovering that it’s all linked. Even so, things don’t seem super harmonious among those who are trying to bring through...whatever is beyond the veil that they’re trying to pierce. There are separate agendas and powers at work, and Knox and Craddock, for all that they’re able to compare notes some, are still playing catch-up. The real mystery is still running a bit ahead of them, and while they seemed to be catching up, there’s the feeling that things are about to hit the fan in a big way. Which makes the sense that things might be coming together, getting clearer, all the more illusory. The biggest questions are still unanswered, and this consolidating of information and making of new allies might only be a way to getting all the eggs in one basket so the true powers in the shadows can break them all at once. Whatever the case, I am fully Here For It, and cannot wait for the next chapter. A fantastic read!


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