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Living Loz
10 Reasons to watch Eternal Law, by me, Loz... 
14th-Jan-2012 03:25 am
Life on Mars (Annie's tired of this shit
I need to start with a caveat: this show is not, in any way, brilliant. Its special effects are dodgy, at best. Its weekly supporting cast have an interesting take on acting. The plots --- I cannot even go into the plots because you'll turn away from this post straight away (the overarching plot is 'lawyers who are angels'. I know.) HOWEVER, this is a recommendations post for Eternal Law, airing on ITV 1, Thursdays 9 pm.

1. Sam West's face. This is reason enough to watch this show. But, actually, in more detail: Samuel West can act and he plays the lead character, Zak. West can shift from subtle to loud in a second flat and he does it beautifully in this show. Zak is a conflicted character, who is 9 parts curmudgeon and 1 part love. He can be grouchy, and a bit insufferably smug, and he can be a romantic, and he's amusing. Also, he has a habit of quoting Larkin and many, many other amazing writers. Plus, he is incapable of ironing his own shirts.

2. Not only is it wonderful having a lead character who is black (this still doesn't happen nearly enough, which is why I am mentioning it), Ukweli Roach's depiction of Tom is a glorious ball of wonderful. To paraphrase taurenova, Tom is a fantastic combination of too curious and not curious enough. He is sweet, guys. He is adorable. His utter confusion with humanity is endearing.

3. The main big bad is amazingly hilarious. Tobias Menzies' Richard is also reason alone to watch this show. I described him thusly in the last episode: there is just the right kind of ambiguity and subtlety to him that he isn't unbearably one-dimensional, but also great degrees of over-the-topness that I enjoy immensely. He also clearly ships his character with everyone, but especially Zak. Concepts of personal space? No. Shamelessness? Yes. Oral fixation? Indeed!

4. Zak's love interest --- the reason he almost fell from grace --- is a well-constructed character, not merely a love interest. This storyline is tired and hackneyed, BUT, I love Hannah and can totally see why Zak would love her madly. She's intelligent and compassionate and just this side of fierce. They have awesome chemistry together and their scenes always make me happy.

5. There is yet another excellent female character in Mrs Sheringham, and I sincerely hope we get scenes later this series that help Eternal Law pass the Bechdel test. Orla Brady brings such depth and warmth to a character that I am so glad got expanded in the second episode of the show.

6. So! In many, many ways, it's the characters and their interactions. There are some fascinating and excellent dynamics going on between them all --- things you don't see in all television shows --- the kinds of chemistry that spark inspiration in wannabe writers. To name but a few, the one the show pushes: Zak & Hannah, the one of my heart: Zak & Tom, one that the rest of fandom will love: Zak & Richard, and the one that Matthew Graham dreams about: Zak & Richard & Mrs Sheringham.

7. The dialogue, for the most part, is really good. There's some lovely banter that offsets the 'whuh?' of the weekly plot. There were a couple of shady lines and readings in the first episode, but it was the first episode. You also get lines like "What happens if we get shot in this world?"/"Hurts to buggery.", and "Please don't make the mistake of thinking I give a rat's fart what you think, you pompous little singing twat."

8. This show doesn't take itself seriously at all. It knows it is ridiculous. It's not trying to be Drama. The angel lawyers have gigantic wings that suddenly appear in scenes, with very little rhyme or reason. There are scenes in which angel lawyers smoke cigars on top of York Minster with their wings unfurled! But, and this is important, whilst the cheese is strong with this one, there are also a lot of balancing scenes. There are some good, tasty water crackers being used as a base for the cheese (with maybe a bit of pepper, if that's your thing) so that the taste isn't all boursin.

9. There is so much potential. There are hints that the end of the Earth as we know it may be nigh, so who knows, we may get awesome apocalyptic stuff coming our way. There's the whole angel mythology that could be gone into. There's all the different paths the individual characters could take. From any given episode it can focus more on fantasy or on the everyday. The show could go anywhere! And so could the fanfic!

10. Eternal Law's entire ethos seems to be: "Sometimes you will be sickened, sometimes you will be enraptured, but --- and I give you my word on this --- you will never be bored." And so far, this has held true. I've never once been distracted by anything but that which is going on in the show (Sam West shirtless, what.) The plots may bamboozle me, I may shake my head at the handwaving, but then there will be another golden character moment, or a funny line, and I'll forget about that entirely.

In conclusion: as long as you don't expect anything more than a relatively light-hearted ridiculous show about lawyers who are angels, this is extraordinarily entertaining. It's not even that it's so bad it's good (though it can be, of course. Some of it is, I admit it. Some of the joy is in mocking the show, mid-watch.) But no! It has a lot of good in it, all on its own. It has well-developed characters played well. Apart from the so-called special effects, it's actually made fantastically, with interesting, but not jarring camera-work. It has many wonderful shots of York. And it's charming. Very charming. It's charmed me and I am exactly the 9 parts curmudgeon Zak embodies.

This entry was posted on both LJ and DW. This post has comment count unavailable DW comments, \o/
13th-Jan-2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yes and yes to yes all of these. Especially 1 through 4. The main characters are immediately engaging (I love Richard too, BTW).

But for me there's a sweetness to the show, a beguiling innocence that's unlike anything I can think of, that has hooked me like nothing else.

I haven't had time to watch ep 2 yet so I suspect my secret hope is about to be blasted while it's still a seedling, but... I'm hoping MASH pull a gay-friendly rabbit out of their hat and reveal that Zak's biggest handicap isn't that Hannah doesn't recognise him, but that Zak/Hannah v1.0 was a lesbian relationship.
14th-Jan-2012 12:02 am (UTC)
Cham... did we discuss your final wish before? Because that is TOTALLY want I wanted. HOW ARE WE SO BRAINTWINNED? (But. there may be lines in ep 2 that contract this. :()
14th-Jan-2012 12:30 am (UTC)
We did not discuss it, and I was kind of hoping we'd have a chance to chat live so that I could squee properly (comments are so limiting), so... it's the old braintwinning thing again, yeah.

But I just, two minutes ago, finished watching episode 2. And yeah, my heart sank just a little bit during that spray of pronouns. Not that anything I've seen from MG or AP left me confident they'd put a gay character that front and centre, but still. Ah well! There's always AU fic >:-D

And now I'm gonna scroll up and read your actual post, yay ♥

P.S. Am keenly feeling the lack of Eternal Law icons, must resort to Monty Python 'God' icon, boo :-(
14th-Jan-2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Icons, you say? Maybe you did not see these in the billion posts I made yesterday?

I liked that scene, despite the pronouns. I can't figure out whether it's better or worse that Hannah just thinks Zak disappeared on her.
14th-Jan-2012 12:43 am (UTC)
I liked the scene too, not to worry. It's just... I would have been happy to wank that particular fantasy just a bit longer. Never mind!

And ooh, I did not see your icons -- maybe because I was averting my eyes from anything Eternal Law-related until I had a chance to view the ep.

Better or worse than what, by the way? Than Zak 1.0 having officially broken up with her? Hmmm, I think it scores worse in the emotional-wounding department, for sure, but far better in the angst-o-rama category. Hannah will be Untrusting and Wary and Conflicted. Although she did extend that offer of a drink, so perhaps not mortally wounded? (BTW I loved the small huffy noise and the ponytail-toss she did at the end of the corridor after being rejected! Adorable <333)
14th-Jan-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Better than believing Zak dead, actually, which is what I thought she might do.

I loooove Hannah.
14th-Jan-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
I love Hannah too ♥

Ah, but if she thought proto-Zak
was dead, then at least she could properly move on. Which clearly she can't. It doesn't surprise me they wrote it this way, it's much more painful when someone simply disappears and you have no idea why, your mind goes crazy trying to work out a solution which it can never know.

*goes off to snarfle an icon or two*
14th-Jan-2012 01:42 am (UTC)
Yes, which is why I said I couldn't decide if it was better or worse.

Not everyone who has a stupid, human heart can move on when the person they love dies. If, for instance, she hadn't known why? He'd been clipped in a hit-and-run?

Poor Hannah, either way.
14th-Jan-2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Ah, good point. Either way it involves complicated grief. Yes, poor Hannah.

And now she's working for Richard. Lovejoy help her!
14th-Jan-2012 01:48 am (UTC)
Lovejoy, or Mountjoy? Because in one, I'm imagining Ian Shane, and in the other, Stephen Fry. But either way, I am happy.
14th-Jan-2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Brain fart!!!

Yeah, I meant Mountjoy. Lovejoy!!! Now that would be an interesting god to have to deal with.

I'm intrigued by our glimpses of the Almighty's personality, by the way. He seems a bit... capricious? And theatrical, certainly. This Russian box business for example.

I'm also wondering, just a little bit, if God and the Devil might not be the same entity. But that's probably too screwy...
13th-Jan-2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
Did not even read this post. BUT! I scrolled down my flist and saw the icon set you made, went "Is that Sam West?!", double-checked with IMDB, added to my torrent queue.

So you successfully sold me on it anyway. =P
14th-Jan-2012 12:03 am (UTC)
It is Sam West and he's excellent in it. Oh man, I am totally buying the DVDs when they're out.
13th-Jan-2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
I'm just downloading...:)
14th-Jan-2012 12:03 am (UTC)
13th-Jan-2012 11:34 pm (UTC)

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14th-Jan-2012 12:38 am (UTC)
I sincerely hope we get scenes later this series that help Eternal Law pass the Bechdel test

Strictly speaking, Mrs Sheringham's scenes with Anna probably qualify, as neither was speaking about a male love interest. But then Anna isn't a principal character, so meh? We'll have to wait and see if Mrs Sheringham and Hannah ever have a scene that doesn't involve discussing Zak. Well, we can hope.

There are scenes in which angel lawyers smoke cigars on top of York Minster with their wings unfurled!

It's so Wim Wenders I can't even. Actually... I remember adoring Wings of Desire when I originally saw it -- the first half of the film, at least. It was the idea of silent, invisible sympathetic companions who can comfort in no meaningful way that really struck me.

Which reminds me, just what does "Don't interfere" mean? Isn't representing someone in court interfering? The Angelic Prime Directive is very obscure.
14th-Jan-2012 12:45 am (UTC)

It probably didn't help that I had no clue as to why Anna was behaving as she was.

I am unacquainted with Wim Wenders, so this is a reference which is sadly lost on me.

And I am inclined to say that nobody knows how the 'no interference' rule is supposed to play out. Especially not Zak, who seems to ignore the directive anyway. Especially not Ashley, who I suspect is taking a very Star Trek approach to it --- setting it up and then contradicting it every episode.
14th-Jan-2012 12:57 am (UTC)
Ah. Wings of Desire (a.k.a. Der Himmel über Berlin), directed by Wim Wenders, 1987. (Yes I am old.)

Clip here.

...although it amused me even then that everyone on the Berlin subway thinks such meaningful and/or gloomy thoughts. Where are the people thinking "Do I have parsley stuck between my teeth?" or "Bloody subway, just get me home in time to watch Hill Street Blues"...

I think maybe? just possibly? "Don't interfere" is code for "Hey Zak, don't use your magical ability to reveal people's hidden thoughts, karmic outcomes etc. to these yere mortals." (As he did with Anna and, just possibly, Jenny. He should be in the Federation, shouldn't he?)

Anyway I'll see if I can find a better clip from WoD with the two angels gazing down solemnly from a height, gargoyle style. It's the enduring image in my brain, although admittedly it was probably reinforced by the poster:

ETA: Summary of film here on Wikipedia. Spot the many similarities! *cough*

Edited at 2012-01-14 01:06 am (UTC)
14th-Jan-2012 01:47 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for this.

Would you recommend it? If so, is it in the same way I recommend EL, or the same way I recommend LoM?
14th-Jan-2012 01:51 am (UTC)
Hmm, I'm not sure? I remember liking the first half very much, but was unable to suspend my disbelief for the trapeze artist (har har). OTOH it would be a really interesting exercise in terms of seeing just how many influences show up in Eternal Law.
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