Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Knox [ep01.09-01.11]

I’m staring down the barrel of the last episodes of Serial Box’s Knox season 1 and I’m not sure my body is ready. To now the series has blended supernatural and cosmic horror with historical fantasy in a noir-tinged New York between the two World Wars. Knox and her allies have been mostly on the defensive to this point, but that’s about to change. The full picture is finally coming together and, more importantly, they are completely out of options. If they’re going to save the day and each other, they’ll need to work together and give it there all, and even then, against the weight and power of a vast malevolence, do they even stand a chance? Well, let’s get to the reviews and find out!

Serial Chapters:

“The Woman Who Wasn’t There” by K Arsenault Rivera (ep01.09)

No Spoilers: Things seemed to be going so well for Knox. She found a new ally and finally started putting the pieces together about her past, about what her powers are, about everything. Too bad someone knocked over the table while she was searching for the next piece. Now the things she thought were stable in her life--her friends--have been put in danger, hurt, nearly killed. And it’s her fault. Which doesn’t exactly mean she’s in a great place to make Good Life Decisions. In fact, the mistakes just might compound as the situation grows outside her control. The series continues to be tightly paced, tense, and wonderfully written. The characters pop and the cast keeps getting incrementally bigger. Which makes me worry what the body count is going to be when the smoke clears at the end, but for now I’m too busy holding on tight to give it too much thought.
Keywords: Books, Kidnappings, Queer MC, Billiards, Found Family
Review: You thought shit got real before? Shit. Just. Got. Realer! And okay okay that might be a little over the top but things are definitely brought home to Knox and Craddock this episode, even as we get a fuller picture of the people in Knox’s life through a brand new and very welcome viewpoint, Dakota Slim! Because, well...when Knox screws up and gets Danny attacked and a whole hospital of people exposed to a dangerous drug because of where she thought the Codex would be safe...she sort of retreats back to her few comforts (drinking and Dakota). I like how the series has done the head jumping thing, and I like Dakota’s take on things, that she’s more willing to walk away from a bad situation even as she’s not willing to do so when people need help. When Knox needs help. And I love that she has to go and rally the troops while Knox does what she always does and goes off on her own. Or, well, with Craddock, but same difference. The piece is definitely building to a confrontation now, and from what Danny hints at it’s not going to be pretty. But now everyone’s heading to the same place, and the next two chapters are probably going to wreck my feels. Probably definitely.

On a strange little aside, I was kinda confused that suddenly Danny seems to have a more serious partner, Franklin. It’s entirely possible that I just missed him earlier but his appearance made me a little confused before I just rolled with it because, well, more queer people is always appreciated! We also just get to see a lot of people interacting as Dakota meets up with the rest of the gang, and it’s great how complex and carefully the chapter handles that. Not only does Dakota meet Ray (the ex-husband), but also Ellen (the’s complicated), and everything about that screams awkward and strained, but at the same time everyone there is connected to Knox. Once more, despite her kind of shitty way of trying to protect people by pushing them away or leaving them behind (which seems particularly guilt-induced at the moment, given what’s happened to Danny and Craddock’s ward), Knox does need the people around her. And they don’t seem ready to disappoint. Really the chapter does a great job of pulling everything together from the story so far--the characters, the plot, the setting--and sets it onto a single path. The beast, a hungry thing, on a track taking Knox into danger.

The mystery elements of the story are mostly gone now, replaced by a more thrilling suspense and supernatural feel. The walls are closing in around Knox, threatening to cut her off from help, and for the moment she’s helping them to do it. Which is a great study in guilt, Knox dealing with A Lot of feelings and unable to really get ahead of them. Not when people in her life keep on telling her she’s wrong. Ellen. Craddock. It’s a difficult chapter because, while they’re not entirely wrong about her being a mess sometimes, they’re also making things worse. Which isn’t what she needs at all. And I just love where the series is going and can’t wait to find out what happens next. A great read!

“Eppur si Muove” by Gabino Iglesia (ep01.10)

No Spoilers: Well here it is, the big blowout fight everyone’s been waiting for. It starts with a bang and a monster and only gets bigger and badder and more fucked up from there. Morgan finally comes face to face with the truth of what’s been happening, with the whole story behind this little mystery, and the cosmic horror gets turned up to eleven. Bodies do definitely hit the floor in this chapter, and probably not who you think it’ll be. This is peak Shit Hitting The Fan as a creepy cult finds that Knox has some friends that are even scarier than their hate. It’s a lot of fun, even as it’s kinda terrifying, and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Keywords: Rituals, Guns, CW- Suicide, Queer MC, Portals, Possession
Review: Well fuck. Here’s the part of the campaign where all the enemies have gathered into one place and it’s Good Guys vs Bad Guys in a brawl to see who will come out on top. Knox doesn’t exactly enter it in a good way, captured along with Craddock and told that she’s actually at the center of all of this. In a way it makes sense. She’s been a part of it since that day on the battlefield, in No Man’s Land. She’s been a part of it thanks to the horrors she’s seen. But I love that in the midst of it all, it seems like there’s been something of a mix up. A path that got crossed. Because for all that Knox has been at the heart of this conspiracy, the victim of an elaborate web of lies and violence and dark magic, she really doesn’t fit the bill for the Unknowable. She’s not like the cultists who worship it. To her it’s just another leech, another corruption that needs to be rooted out. However it might have touched the others with the sight, with Knox it seems to have made a mistake, and it’s gonna cost.

The action here is wonderfully visceral, the perspective growing wider still to give glimpses of Ray, Danny (my fave!), Abe, and even newcomer Tommy (Teamsters hooooo!). For me it’s really drawing a point to the idea that the world is lost, that humanity is inherently corrupt. A strange view to have for people who also believe in the inherent superiority of white people, but it’s a combination that’s often found because what it does is put white people in control of a corrupt system that they get to exploit and leverage for their own benefit. It makes them the masters and everyone else the servants. And they believe so fully in their power, in the idea that power corrupts, that they continue forward in their plans assured that it will work. And then they run into Knox. And her friends. And the idea that corruption is not an inevitability. That not everyone abuses the power they have. That there are many people even who have known hardship and pain and horror and will do everything they can to not pass that on. And for me that’s where the series has been moving, away from the fatalist grimdarkery of having people needing to embrace the corruption in order to get anywhere, to survive, and towards a vision of cooperation and integrity. I’m really just loving the found family dynamic of the whole project, and this chapter provides a thrilling, at times gutting, but also kind of triumphant ride that had me hooked throughout. A fabulous read!

“The Dead Reckoning” by K Arsenault Rivera (ep01.11)

No Spoilers: Well, the previous episode ended with Knox in...a new way. And the reality of that is explored here, the decision to fight and the decision to walk away, both carrying with them their own consequences, their own rewards. After the thrills and chills and spills of the chapters leading up this, there isn’t exactly a break, even as the pace of the action slows, as the prose spends all its time with Knox and her past and her demons. As she confronts the darkness that’s been forced into her and has to make decisions that people think have already been decided for her. And at the end of all of that there’s still a gun and the silence that lingers after the damn things fires. There’s Knox, and her desire to fight against the weight of fighting something that seems endless and inevitable. And it’s a rewarding, fantastic cap to what has been one of the best books of the year.
Keywords: Death, CW- Suicide, Soup, CW- Hospitals, Queer MC
Review: All good things, right? Well, not without a fight, because now that Knox is, well, dead, she’s still not out of the woods. Detached from her body, the Unknowable inside her is still trying to keep her connected. Is still trying to corrupt her. And she’s not having any of it. What I love about that is that is reveals just how privileged a position it is to be a cynical asshole. How it comes from affluence, rather than pain. It’s easy enough for them, when they see corruption that doesn’t immediately favor them, to want to flip the board over and call it a wash, to declare themselves winners, in fact, because they were the ones doing the flipping. For Knox, though, and her friends, they’ve always been dealing with a corrupt system and the options have always been fighting back or dying. They’ve chosen to fight, and they know the cost of that despite their best effort can still be everything. Which is partly when Knox seems so at peace letting go, because she at least bought something with her death, at least thwarted one evil scheme.

And I love how, by trying to draw her back to her body, to her life, the Bad Guys essentially get the opposite of what she wants. They think they’ll weaken her resolve by reminding her of what she’s giving up, what she can’t do when dead. And they’re right. But Knox isn’t the type who’s going to be seduced by easy. She’s reminded of what she wants and she’s angry enough about losing it without actually permanently defeating the Bad Guys that she decides to come back. But not before kicking their asses all over again. And I’m sure her decision to come back might have more lasting effects than just this, if the series continues. If it doesn’t, though, then it’s a wonderful moment of second chances. Where Knox sees not only the good she can do but knows she has to be good to herself, has to take the care she can get, has to appreciate it, because it’s the magic that allowed her to keep her sanity and her soul. And the ending is just so sweet. There are hints of shadows, promises of more to come, and a few lingering plot threads that weren’t neatly tied up (or snipped), but on the whole it’s another Serial Box project that has come through on providing a fully satisfying ending to its first season. The character arc is amazing, the cast is all wonderful, the danger and the horror are intense, and it’s just SO GOOD. So really, if you haven’t given this one a shot yet, I fully recommend doing so. A fantastic end to a phenomenal first season!


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