In Sanctuary (Angel 1.19) Detectives Lockley and Kendrick converse casually but meaningfully while investigating one of Faith’s innumerable crime scenes. They talk about pithy junk before Kendrick challenges Lockley’s faith in ooga-booga-stuff with unassailable, empirical and logical reason by nailing her with a topical X-Files reference, which Lockley corrects by undercutting Kendrick’s faith in his generally cocky cop-hipness. Whatever. The most remarkable aspect of this interaction is that all of the plainclothed and uniformed cops trooping around the room are sporting blue(-gloved) hands in an episode that aired 02May00, which is just about 28 months before the BlueHands guys made their first appearance on Firefly.
Sanctuary was written by Tim Minear and Joss Whedon, who must have noticed the striking visual peculiariarity of the viagra/TidyBowl-mitts-effect and simply incorporated that unsettling visual event into the repertoir of the disturbingly bureaucratic and lethal Blue Hands duo, like an ace-in-the-hole. The other intriguing similarity resides in the Firefly episode, Safe, in which some stress is placed on the irony of the episode-title in that nobody we care about (not even two very rich generations of Tams) is remotely free of danger — and just as Angel confidently comforts Faith in the certainty that no harm can befall her in the comfort of the sanctuary his ultra-low-profile fortress will afford, a heavily-armed Council of Watchers taskforce descends like nightmare terrorists into her morbid gloom and attempts to put the boot to the big damned hero-vampire, rogue slayer and most anybody dumb enough to be caught in Angel’s subtextual asylum.
I’m not saying that any of these casual observations are important or terribly meaningful, but they’re nothing less than noteworthy, either.
I’ve always said that Angel 1.14 is my favorite episode in that series, citing the fine narrative devices that lead the viewer to the deeper reveal beyond the dear old hackneyed. I don’t remember noticing previously that The Prodigal episode (that directly follows my permanent favorite) drops our titular protagonist into the eternal Oedipal soup in the very same position that Ryan occupies in the preceding hour. Angelus’ consternation arrives with Darla’s incontestible observation, to blight the hellish victory he’s made of his liberated future on the bodies of his parents and the blameless faith of his murdered sister.
I’ve always thought that I’ve Got you Under My Skin speaks with uncommon brilliance, through the horror of an Ethros demon, of the writer’s void. It also opens the cover on a study on the properties of bullying. The thing is that The Prodigal ends by refreshing the infinite uncertainty of the challenged, writerly point of view, and expressing it in the wordless revelation of tragic futility or divine humilation that plays across Liam’s face. A transposed and augmented echo that’s approximately as indescribably cool as the last chord in A Day in the Life.
There’s an allegorical warning there, lurking in the darkness. It’s probably meant to caution those who aspire to be either vampires or writers; not so much to dissuade anyone, as to fairly present the first, unpublicized sacrifice that marks the turf where a person died and a writer arose it its place. Great stories sometimes appear long before we’re ready to appreciate them whole.
“Let’s get to work”, is an unremarkable phrase that ends the series’ final episode as aptly and succinctly as it punctuates the first. It’s a phrase that goes entirely unnoticed on the first pass through the show, yet stands out like a hitchhiker’s swollen thumb sticks out from beneath the tires of the bus, whenever the story’s retold, with the shocking inevitability of half-forgotten prophecy.
I’m just sitting here ruminating about Episode 19 of Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in an exploratory kind of way. Thinking that Faith is a fairly obvious name for a character that may also extend a metaphor made popular by J. Michael Straczynski in Babylon 5. That
- faith and reason are your shoes, you’ll get farther with both.
There are two slayers in Sunnydale, despite prophecy and tradition and common sense which dictate there can be only one at a time…on. the. entire. planet. And Faith (Id) is a trifle unbalanced, perceiving the gift of her slayer powers as unqualified license to satisfy all of her amoral appetites, spurn all personal responsibility for her independent actions, and deny the importance of untoward consequences that flow naturally and logically from the free exercise of those powers. It’s all 5×5 to terminate vampires, but the moment she exterminates one measly human, a scrutinizing circle of social condemnation converges on her judgment and her capacity for reason…which leads her into the ridiculous happy arms of affable, fatherly evil. Faith in The Unknown versus rationally-deduced knowledge of empirical fact; there’s probably a wildly-successful televison show or 50, somewhere in that dogfight.
Two slayers in Sunnydale should lead one to the natural conclusion that Buffy, is probably the story’s repository of reason. Um, no. Regroup. (Return with us now to Dopplegangland, where ultra-inhibited Willow meets her evil alternative-self, who’s surprisingly attractive, amoral, and kinda gay [Foreshadow much?]) I’m thinking it’s gotta be Willow because this episode coincides with the (shockingly-arbitrary) natural order of high school seniors choosing which college (destiny) toward which they’ll embark for the following season(s). Willow’s option-identity is exactly opposite Faith’s with regard to offers from Oxford, Harvard, MIT…while the more-amoral slayer (who dropped out of high school long ago) is presented with a decidedly limited number of far-less-illustrious options (that might involve hopping a freight out of town). And this episode’s entitled, Choices. But Willow’s abduction by the forces of mayoral evil (during the theft of the box of bat-spiders) forces the Slayity (Scoobies — I just prefer to call them the Slayity) to choose between rescuing Willow from torture and death or to thwart the mayor’s plans for the box. Oz wordlessly casts the deciding vote. No choice.
I’m going with the college-choice thingy, for now. So if Buffy isn’t the Fort Knox of Reason, I’ve just got to conclude she’s always been the dynamic balance between two terms of an inspired contradiction; the primary target of terrifying evil…who just happens to be a champion evil-ass-kicker. Buffy’s always been the pivotal oxymoron, the neo-iconic contradiction to the hackneyed stereotype of cheerleader victimization, damsel in distress, virgin/whore…and stuff, taking back the knight for refund (and maybe a delicious cookie — I just love the way she delivers that line, as though this show were Sesame Street and she’s a precocious 3year-old). So Faith and Willow represent a cardinal opposition of faith and reason that encompases a rare confrontation between the two of them in the mayor’s office when (to my ear it’s entirely clear that) Willow’s the master of her destiny, while Faith is a leaf on the wind of fatal circumstance. “Tough life? Boo-hoo.” (Do better!) ♫Willow, weep for M.E.♪ (Superego much?)
But, while faith, reason and balance work just fine as a nifty, patented triunity of Goddessnessness ness, Cordelia presents an interesting problem in the narrow confines of my tidy little uberchick-community. In Earshot, she’s the only person who speaks her disgustingly-human mind without restraint, shame, edit or euphemism…and Buffy’s new telepathic ability makes Buffy (Ego) a psychological leper in her tightly-knit knot of hypocrites, who uniformly flee her company — except for Cordelia, who seems never to have met an unpleasant thought she didn’t express immediately, which calls directly back to Out of Mind, Out of Sight; to the soliloquy in which she candidly expresses her preference for being an isolated, ignored and unknown star at the gooey center of popular attention, offering up a fascinatingly paradoxical perspective on the universal human condition of agonizing isolation with relatively-acceptable options. By the way, she’ll become that solitary star more literally, a few seasons later. Ripper Giles is a living validation of the hope of redemption, while Angelus and Spike are unliving examples of that hopey principle. Anyanka and Amy also, kinda. And Wesley will shortly justify some small extension of our charity, because, well, what the Hecate.
So, for now, I’m dropping Cordelia into the Goddess pot of tetrunity, positing faith and reason as opposites to the fist of secrets (Buffy) and the slap of streaming insults (Cordelia), as the four-part manifestation of Joss Whedon’s philosophy of human ecology/psychology/entomolgy. And that makes Xander…? Joss!, the Jimmy Olson of The Daily Hellmouth, the erratic/spurious chronicler and life-restoring resident fuck-up whose attentions and affections wobble from one cardinal female character to the next (serially and in peculiar combinations), forming a kind of eternal pyramid that’s mystically resistant to network cancellation, which Willow chooses to maintain in Sunnydale. Nice Choices. Cookie!
In the best of Cartesian worlds, Faith and Willow define a locus of points on the X-axis; Buffy and Cordelia are on the Y; while Zander/Joss lends canny and inane perspective from the semi-illiterary Z.
I stink, therefore I am. 3D!
The pilot episode of Alias presents a styilish whirlwind of information that shoots out at the audience like a torrent of unrelenting Cool from a gilded firehose. It isn’t recognizably boring or flawed…until about 55 minutes into the episode, when Sydney Bristow races down a staircase in a public building with semi-automatic pistols blazing from her fists as she shoots the hinges off a fire door, then kicks the door down without breaking stride, while craftily and resourcefully continuing to elude her heavily-armed pursuers. Bullshit!
There are a couple of glaring flaws in the scenario I just described:
Doors leading into stairwells open into stairwells (since the Triangle Shirtwaiste Factory Fire of 1911). Kicking down a door from the stairwell side — even if the hinges were magically removed or shot away — could not permit you to pass fluidly through to the floor below. The door would have to fall into the stairwell side of the opening. (Disbelievers should consult the Uniform Building Code, or explore a stairwell door in any office building). The absurdity of Sydney’s solution to the door problem completely prevented me from wanting to give a crap about the stylishly presented whirlwind of information (largely exposition) spewing from the Alias firehose. More-or-less unfortunately, the bulk of Season 1 awaits me this Christmas holiday weekend before I can send the DVDs back to NetFlix. Alias watching is taxing. Lots of television and movies isn’t Show Business at all, it’s Tell Business.
The other flaw, apart from the door problem (that would have gummed up Sydney’s fast-paced, fluid escape from her pursuers), is that hinges on a closed firedoor don’t sit flush on the surface of the frame to be shot away (like a corral gate), they’re recessed into the reveal at the hinge-side of the frame; so a handheld disintegrator pistol from some episode of Star Trek might eliminate all three hinges swiftly, but the configuration of the frame (its stops) would still prevent the door from falling in the desired direction. I stumbled over a stupid trick that prioritized storytelling style over substance. I don’t want to look more closely for subtler cheats. Alias is slimy-slick and interesting, but taxing.
Alias, on the strength of this otherwise insignificant moment in the pilot episode, doesn’t bother to earn the respect that’s absolutely necessary for this audience-member to bother following its rapid-fire permutations of narrative. Buffy does.
Xander, in an episode I just passed through (The Wish, I think), at one point bars the entry of a mob of Xander-loving girls through the paired opening to the school library. He pushes a heavy card-catalogue-desk up against both doors. Moments later, Giles pulls open the active door from the corridor side, and enters the library. It’s a tactical error in barricade-maunfacture that Xander makes quite frequently. And it’s exactly the kind of pointless, swashbuckling actionism that underscores comedic flaws in his intermittenly-manly yet deeply heroic and intolerant character. These flaws in Xander’s self-image naturally flow into his final confrontation with Jack O’Toole near the end of The Zeppo, when Xander’s (not particularly manly) capacity for self-sacrifice undercuts the dead bully’s lust for self-preservation (ironic). Cowed, O’Toole defuses the bomb. Xander leaves the boiler room triumphant. O’Toole mutters a promise to make Xander’s life a living hell, as Oz, in the form of a werewolf, bursts into the boiler room to re-kill and devour O’Toole, which explains why Oz is “oddly full” the next day when Xander offers him snackfood. Tidy. Earned. Fascinating attention to cohesive storytelling detail.
Doors, by the way, are far more wonderfully interesting machines than you probably think they are. I’ll ramble on in this post for a while, but if the stuff I’m writing here leads you to explore any door of your choosing in minute detail (or two) I’m very happy to have been of some small service to you.
Joss sometimes speaks (in interviews and commentaries) of the inflence of True Believers on their social environments. These scraps of information serve to shed particles of light on his use of True Believers as a force for ungood in Mutant Enemy stories, but gradually hypotheses form. The Eliminati in Bad Girls are, for example, sword-wielding vampire warriors whose numbers decrease prodigiously because of their true belief in a bigbad pile of excrement who somehow inspires their unswerving alliegence, while barely lifting a finger. I wish Joss would take the time necessary to define his use of industry terms more clearly; moments, beat, moves, earn, undercut…there are lots of them that don’t necessarily yield useful information when other people use or explain them.
Seemingly-heroic acts of terrible violence are perpetrated by dedicated followers of vengeance, mock-rebellion, nonsense, the whims of unprincipled leaders…these True Believers don’t get much respect from Whedon, who has them break store windows, sacrifice civilians, kill, mame, loot and destroy…usually under the cover of darkeness, various forms of flobotnam or simply out of deranged and misguided values. These seeming-heroic acts of violence seem to fit into my view of his perspective on various forms of cowardice — unlike Angel’s surprising confession to Buffy in Amends that the demon within him is an insignificant threat to civilization compared to the weak and cowardly man he was even before the demon possessed him. Human frailty, imperfection, and deep aspects of universal human character drive these stories. Flobotnam is smoke that mirrors window-dressing. Sometimes a window is a mirror that unites the viewer (rather than separating us from) the enactment of fantasy on the other side of it; quite often, when the fantasy is produced by Mutant Enemy.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t as good as it gets. I mean, for example, that the “play-all” (episodes) option on Alias DVDs is vastly superior to the Buffy format (which requires lots of cursor movement and/or remote-control clicking and interminable waiting between episodes for the annoying bits of redundancy and loudness, to which I objected in the previous blogpost). But the good stuff (narrative content) that flows from Buffy episodes is vastly more valuable to me personally than the stuff that flows from Alias, LOST, Fringe and Heroes, because it’s about stuff that interests me in the real world. The other shows dwell on moral particulars that only exist in their own storyworlds. Buffy’s writers use the embarassingly manifold flobotinous devices (of mystical instrumentality, incantation and possession) unabashedly to tell informative tales about real people’s real problems.
Most fantastic television builds fanciful stories about apocryphal science (Fringe) or covert operations (Alias) or a bizarre array of contradictions that were never properly explored on Gilligan’s Island (LOST) about entertaining problems people don’t have — see Heroes for an endless litany of choices you’ll never have to make;
- if I slip back in time to save my mother’s life, will I step on more history-changing butterflies than if I save my girlfriend’s life? or
- is confessing my invulnerability to yet another guy who can fly an aspect of my dysfunctional and marginalized identity? or
- when does Heroes exceed the velocity of entertaining fun to become instructvely meaningful?
It never, ever will. That’s not its purpose. It’s about commerce, like other forms of utilitarian pornography that don’t bother to earn the permanent respect of any audience by teaching us anything useful.
Whedon’s fancies (in terms appropriate to David Milch) are meaningful and applicable to Murrow’s observation that television can teach. For all the Byzantine complexities of the shows I’ve mentioned, and dozens of others, the lessons are rich in information about stylish presentation, the limits of fantasy in audience-engagement, mirth, manipulation and crafty storytelling, but Buffy’s my chosen channel of engagement with entertainment. It’s less concerned with its smoke&mirrors than with helping me make sense of the real world: And yet it strives a good deal harder than most television to preserve several coherent layers of narrative consistency internally, within its constructs; so that the doors of perception swing meaningfully, as though a rare respect for the expertise of below-the-line crew (and other Ordinary Americans [like the national and global audience]) were just as important to ethical storyelling as the inevitable high-profile showrunning bullshit.
Whedon’s fanciful ideas about reality are instructive, as are those of David Milch (e.g., the functional utility of the Miranda Warning, as practiced or taught by Bill Clark).
I’ve hours of the first season of Alias to wade through before I sleep again. One of us will slay the other. I plan on playing computer solitaire while cruising through the DVDs, so I’ll probably have nothing more to say about Alias…I hope not.
My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has, for years, been the eleventh of the first season, Out of Mind, Out of Sight. I’m fond of the fundamental notion that people can be rendered invisible by the oxymoron of concentrated social negligence and focussed indifference, and then there’s Cordelia’s brief, casual, touching soliloquy in which she details the isolation from which she cowers, deep in the cover of her own cruel popularity. Also the intriguing link between Sandollar Televison’s Marcy Ross and the bigbad Marcie Ross at the heart of this episode, which reminds me that Joss did (Toy Story) time at PIXAR long before Violet Parr appeared/disappeared in The Incredibles and the words in Marcie’s text at the end of the story require a pause-button to read John Lennon’s lyric. This stuff was designed for broadcast, but was always meant to be revisited multiplatform.
So there’s plenty to like in Out of Mind, Out of Sight. It remains my favorite sode, but close on its heels is I Only Have Eyes for You, which comes near the end of the second season to foreshadow the season finale showdown between Angel and Buffy by turning them into gender-role-reversed dolls playing out an unresolved script enacted by mismatched lovers forty years earlier (40 centuries?). What appears to be a discrete, episodic, 43minute short story really isn’t, because it so greatly enriches, cures and flavors the contradictions that culminate in the season’s very-serial, un-reconcilable conclusion. Meredith Salinger and John Hawkes bring impressive chops, and I always liked James Whitmore, Jr. (even when he’s only directing), and Marti Noxon’s some kind of branding touchstone for me. (“Irreconcilable” is the wrong word.)
There’s also a thing involving the 50s that accentuates Mutant Enemy themes that always heighten the recognizable paradoxes of choice & consequence, appearance & reality, vengeance & redemption — as though those things we had “yesterday” (standards) lend judgmental dimension to everything that plays out contemporaneously at the end of the 20th Century. The Angel episode, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been…wields that discrepency brilliantly, like an inescapable weapon. By Out of Gas on Firefly, the scathing edge of backstory was so finely honed it isolated vital organs (of the riveted) absolutely imperceptibly…but the effect is nearly identical to the noir presentiment of inevitable surrender to an utterly distasteful fate; used car dealer(s) pimping junk, wooing Jayne into betrayal of his previous crew, Zoe’s contempt for Mal’s flying car, Wash contemplating modifications, Kaylee caught starkers in the backseat while she toils beneath the hood. (I think that everybody in the 50s strove to appear adult and middle aged, which looked especially strange on us kids.)
Recruising Buffy is a wonderful treat. It’s like gazing through a telescope backward and looking for thematic similarities to show themselves in the context of DollhouseHorribleDriveWonderfallsFireflyAngelBuffyToystoryWaterworldSpeed and information gleaned from interviews. It’s fun to keep revisiting a body of masterworks-in-progress. Aspects that once seemed set-in-stone transform like treasured, moth-eaten butterflies because I bring a different set of stones on each successive pilgrimage. (Veiled cathedral reference with a hint of gallows humor [masquerading as windows humor; because I don’t do gallows.]) I also don’t do emoticons with punctuation symbols; well, not here.
Interestingly, Mutant Enemy products are always about real life in ways that LOST and Heroes are not. In fact, the entertainment values (that woo the crap out of an audience) often disguise the bedrock aptness of salient points, and only upon revisiting these stories do specific diagnoses and potential paths to remedy for universal human conditions become clearly visible behind the joys of clever language, layers of wit, knowing winks, cheesecake/beefcake, abundant humor and cool flobotnam. They’re stories about people in remarkably familiar situations. Not cinematic manipulations, not superpowers, not idiosyncracy and formulaic media-enabled nonsense. Okay, less rote and manipulative than most popular shows built for more popular networks, but lots less locked into bait-making…with frequent revisits, the moves grow less novel, but the moments emerge like amendments to the viewer’s constitution…chief among which is the right to be wrong in every previous assessment.
If Hansel and Gretel are society, the breadcrumbs that lead them to permanent gifts of culture come from bakeries with familiar names that build strong imaginations 12 ways. Mutant Enemy’s one of these. They’re rare. That’s all I’m saying.
Oh yeah, the downside: I’d download all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if I could afford to do so, to fix what’s wrong with the DVDs:
- Slow down the vitally-important credits so I can fucking read them.
- Drop the volume of the music that runs under credits.
- Make the volume of commentaries independantly variable.
- Always engage subtitles because the language in performance is often underarticulated, and at least as important to me as the extra-verbal interpretations of the actor(s).
- Edit out the terribly redundant “Into each generation…” speech that intrudes on the top of early episodes and usually leads directly into the same too-damned-loud credits-music that runs under titles.
Point 4 deserves the additional note that Joss Whedon’s adventures in graphic novelty (X-Men, BtVS, Angel, SereniFly) have always suffered (in my opinion) from a devastating lack of continuity from panel-to-panel, as though the actors in his television shows were absolutely necessary to communicate the flow of context between moments that are storyboarded into a hell dimension devoid of coherence. It’s WAY too easy to blame the illustrator/penciler, because this enthusiasm for Whedon-narrative led me to the graphic novels of Brian Kellar Vaughn, whose stories are wonderfully fluid when rendered by a handful of splendid collaborators. So Point 4 is partly a criticism of young actors who generally speak/mumble their lines too quickly for my taste, and it’s a reminder that the success of a television showrunner doesn’t necessarily signify unqualified genius in every medium. I won’t part with the bucks necessary for experimental editing of the intellectual property owned by 19th Century Fox Home Entertainment…yet. There’s plenty of stuff I can fail to accomplish in the meanwhile.
I think our most valuable cultural endproducts reflect the contributions of collaborators more than we’re disposed to believe. Auteurs, studios and expensive logos may be lightning rods for attention, but under-hyped people below the line-of-sight are probably more indicative of quality in the endproduct than the famous names that garner most of the attention. So I want to see credits clearly and follow people like (for example) Jose Molina,whose work with Mutant Enemy led me to Castle, which also involves Nathan Fillion, but the lightning rod was Molina. So I’m inclined to believe that modern storytelling (transmedia or whatever) is and has always been far more rooted in the complex relationships, skills and dedications of the armies of people who make them than the reputations of branded auteurs, studios and networks. You follow the money. I’m following the people.
I’m saying this entertainment stuff is
- of people,
- by people and
- for people
…a whole lot more than it’s about business plans, MBAs, egomania and box office receipts. And probably shall not perish from the earth when things (like the fortunes of media moguls) change. Things do.
I found a lot to like last night in the iTunes rental of a very photogenic movie that reminded me of Buffy Summers taking up residence a the lip of another hellmouth. A plucky, prickly, idiosyncratic, female hero contradicts my sixty years of Dudly DoRight programming. I like that kind of a lot; but upon reflection, this morning I’ve begun to see a certain resemblance in Coraline to the desperate American themes that flowed out of 9/11.
Coraline Jones’ dissatisfaction with intractable governance by her modern, negligent, (and wired) distracted parents leads her to explore a new domain in which more-attractive alternatives eventually reveal themselves to be an incontestible evil presence that threatens the security of her homeland.
Maybe I’m responding to the film with ingrained male chauvenist resentment for the subordination of maleness in a story that features three females in positions of preeminent power, and maybe it doesn’t matter. The most intriguing consideration is that the source of evil in this movie receives no particle of sympathy, which reminds me of our president’s near-simultaneous Nobel acceptance speech in which the presence of absolute evil in the world justifies the inevitablity of war. It’s a point of view that negates for me the attractive platitudes about hope and change that raised a contradiction into preeminent prominence.
I really liked the film, but I find the reality nauseating.
Not long ago, I mentioned an interest in learning more about India’s struggle for independence from Britain. Unfortunately, I NetFlixed Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy as a DVD tele-remedy for my woeful ignorance. It’s one tough slog for several reasons.
Everybody speaks English in this 6hour presentation. Nobody speaks American, and the various characterizations of famous and notorious personages weigh in with interminable passages of important exposition that’s more or less incomprehensible, while millions of Hindus and Muslims are busily wreaking profoundly irrational vengeance against one another and kicking the crap out of Sikhs. The entire native populations of India come off as relative nutbags as the representatives of Britain appear to be ingenious, resourceful and steadfastly rational. This is not the story I need to learn anything about the release from colonial bondage of a people engaged in the successful search for freedom (from the box of intellectual property confusion). It’s, instead, the ideosyncratic tale of a landscape of victims, as far as the eye can see, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is even worse, although the Le Carre interview in TTSS‘s special features is deeply and remarkably insightful with regard to the conscientous consequences of maintaining imperial dominion.
“Ideosyncratic” isn’t spelled correctly, but it says precisely what I mean; that an ideational agenda (supporting the benevolence of despotism) underlies the quirky and more-or-less entertaining recitation of docu/fantasy events that compose the theme of all three stories. The idea at the root of that common agenda is that incarnate evil exists and must be violently opposed.
In Coraline, that evil is an older, desperately-loving and empty version of Coraline Jones. In The Last Viceroy it’s an undefined age-old history of religious intolerance. In Tinker…it’s duplicitous indifference in the imploding-vacuum consciences of our best&brightest undercover patriots. But in all three stories, the villain is an interesting and familiar two-dimensional stereotype whose point-of-view is underrepresented, except as a terrible force that thwarts the good guys. The good guys ultimately win, and the benevolent, confusing despotism of copyright law prevails.
Max comes closer than anything I’ve read or seen to a sympathetic demonstration the rationale of evil incarnate; self-interested opportunism. That’s good enough, for now.