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May 5 2017 2:00pm

Bosch: A Novel Approach to Mystery Television

Bosch has transformed television mystery. For the first time, viewers can experience the closest approximation to a mystery novel as is possible on screen. The pacing, development of the characters, complexity of the plot, simultaneous themes, and detailed touches make Bosch the template for 21st-century mystery television. 

One of the shortcomings of police procedural shows such as CSI, NCIS, and Castle (just to name a few) is that they are light on story outside of the main mystery. With roughly 42 minutes to tell a whodunit, they’re pressed for time. Developments with the characters are sparse, doled out in tidbits such as Grissom’s love of roller coasters, Gibbs’s need to build a boat in his basement, or Castle’s science fiction fandom. These all reveal something more about the characters, but there’s not a lot of exploration. Relationships, too, are drawn out and never dealt with in more than a few minutes of an episode to be pieced together over the course of the season(s). What really happened between Grissom and Lady Heather? Where did Castle and Beckett actually go on dates?

[Read more about how Bosch is changing mystery television...]

Jan 31 2017 3:00pm

Hellish Nature: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.13: “A Good Day to Die”

We’ve finally gone (back) to hell! The last time was at the end of Season 1 where Lucifer discovers Mum has escaped. Now, more exciting, we get to see Lucifer brave hell in order to save Chloe. We get to see how Lucifer’s version of hell is different from classical interpretations.

The very first foray into truly describing hell from the biblical framework is by Dante Aligheri, who described his own journey into and through hell. What he describes is thoroughly organized, with each sinner receiving a specific punishment depending on the type of sin. Lucifer abandons that idea in favor of “a torture of [one’s] own making.” This version of hell is completely customized by each sinner, like a Star Trek holodeck gone wrong, playing on an infinite loop. So, Dante’s circles are nowhere to be found, nor are there rivers, the city of Dis, and demons that run hell’s bureaucracy and administer torture.

Dr. Carlyle is condemned to forever live out his particular hell “until [he] no longer believe[s] [he] deserve[s] it.” This is a far more effective form of punishment than what Dante describes in his Inferno, making each prisoner also into the jailer. Release only comes when the guilt is purged and the person feels that the punishment has fit the crime. Unfortunately for the doctor, even Lucifer has “never seen anyone pull themselves out of [hell],” and he spent thousands of years running the joint.

[To Heeeellllll ... and back!]

Jan 24 2017 2:00pm

Playing God: Exploring the Mythology in Lucifer, Episode 2.12: “Love Handles”

Ah, the dream tease. Lucifer’s writers are clearly having fun teasing us with Lucifer’s and Chloe’s dream, but it also serves to kick off the underlying struggle of the entire episode—that of choice. Chloe is caught, wondering whether she should act on her feelings and what the results of that would look like. When wrestling with a dilemma of what to do, she whispers, “Maybe this time will be different.” We’ve all been there. 

We don’t get our first hint at the mythology of this episode until Lucifer brings up that the killer is “playing God” by presenting Johnny Kane with an impossible choice, hinting that Lucifer knows all-too-well what this means since he’s been through it before. This calls to mind some of the stories where a hard choice was made in the Bible—specifically, the sacrifice of Isaac.

[Between a rock and a sharp place...]

Jan 17 2017 3:30pm

Unworthy: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.11: “Stewardess Interruptus”

The Lucifer hiatus has ended, and we can finally get back to our favorite devil. This episode is pretty low-key when it comes to the mythology, but we still have an opportunity to explore the episode’s theme of worthiness. Specifically, we’ll look at where humanity fits in with angels, demons, and the divine.

For a while, Mum has been nursing a chip on her shoulder regarding humanity, eager to destroy the whole lot of them and blaming them for the disruption of her family. And now, even when she’s found that there are some things enjoyable about them (sex and Italian espressos), she continues to demean them.

[These are a few of my favorite things...]

Nov 29 2016 4:00pm

The Devil’s Truths: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.10: “Quid Pro Ho”

Well, it’s nice to see Amenadiel swoop in and convince Mum not to detonate the bomb, thus saving Chloe. He did so by laying hard truths on her, which is the central theme of the entire episode. We’ve known all along that Lucifer doesn’t lie in this series, but this seems fundamentally at odds with the supposed role of tempter. So we’re left asking: which is the real Lucifer?

One of the names for the devil actually is father of lies, which comes straight from the mouth of Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus reveals that “when [the devil] lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NRSV). Well, there it is—the devil is a liar, and it came from the mouth of Jesus so it must be true. And he would know since he actually spoke with the devil after his famous 40 days in the wilderness. Up swoops the devil with temptations.

[Read more about the devil's truths...]

Nov 22 2016 4:00pm

Evicting the Devil: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.09: “Homewrecker”

Last week, Lucifer dropped the bomb that Earth was his home all along—a revelation that Mum eagerly wanted to exploit—and this week, we see Lucifer struggling to hold onto that home in the face of eviction. However, while Lucifer may not see heaven as his home, he was still tossed out on his ear—although what that looked like is harder to imagine.

Lucifer is losing Lux to some zealous real estate developers and proudly claims that none of them will be able to evict him, saying the “last time it took the power of God” to do so—which is how most people will remember the story going. Biblically, however, we have to go back to the Revelation of John, where we see “the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Rev 12:9 NRSV). This is again where the angel Michael defeated Satan in battle.

[How about a little Sympathy for the Devil?]

Nov 15 2016 1:00pm

Death’s Blade: Exploring the Mythology Behind Lucifer, Episode 2.08: “Trip to Stabby Town”

The sword of Azrael returns this week, but angelic weaponry is nothing new to the Bible. In fact, the first appearance of such is at the end of the Garden of Eden story when God “placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24 NRSV). 

So angels and swords go hand in hand. But we still don’t know much about Azrael. As discussed in other articles, most angels are never given a name. The clear exception to that is Michael. Azrael, attributed as the angel of death in Jewish Mysticism (as Azriel), doesn’t make a named appearance in the Bible.

We do, however, have the angel of death, and she (as the shows specifies “the angel of death is a chick”) makes a very famous appearance in the Exodus story: the tenth plague. The death of the first born is significant not just because it echoes the beginning of the story when Moses was born, but because it clearly changes gears from all of the other plagues. Moses has his mojo going in a pattern. God tells him what to do; Moses takes up the staff and does it. This time, however, there is an elaborate ritual that the Israelites must follow. They have to mark their doors with blood from a sacrifice. When they do this, “the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter” (Exo 12:23 NRSV).

[Read more about the mythology in “Trip to Stabby Town”...]

Nov 8 2016 2:00pm

A Worthy and Otherworldly Adversary: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.07: “My Little Monkey”

In many ways, last night’s Lucifer was a continuation of the previous episode where Lucifer revealed his true identity. Now, he’s realized, “Being me seems to be a problem, doesn’t it? Everywhere I go, someone gets hurt.” His answer, then, is simplicity. “I need to be not me, instead, someone better, more helpful, more … boring.” But who is the true Lucifer he’s trying to escape from? For that, we have to look at the phrase “devil’s advocate.”

The phrase means to take the opposing viewpoint, usually for the sake of argument. However, the true origins of the phrase depend on the Bible. The book of Job gives us our first coherent look at Satan, who has frequently been synonymous with Lucifer. Satan is a Hebrew word that has been translated in many ways, most commonly as adversary, but also accuser and, more rarely, advocate. So, in truth, devil’s advocate is redundant because the devil is the advocate.

But the advocate of what or whom? The same can be asked for adversary and accuser.

[The many faces (and roles) of Lucifer...]

Nov 4 2016 2:00pm

Infernal Origins: Exploring the Mythology of Inferno

In Inferno, we once again have Dr. Robert Langdon using obscure knowledge about literature, history, and art to solve puzzles. And with this go around, we focus on the works of Dante Alighieri, who wrote the Divine Comedy—the highlight of which is Inferno.

Langdon is correct about the modern conceptualization of Hell. Dante literally wrote the book on it. Part of the reason it was so popular was because he wrote it in Italian instead of in the more scholarly Latin. This made it accessible to the common people. Literacy in the Middle Ages is hard to come by, but generally referred to someone’s ability to read and speak Latin fluently. By being in the vulgar Italian (well, Tuscan), Dante’s writing allowed access to a work on a religious subject that didn’t need to be interpreted by a priest—definitely a first for the time.

[Of course, you don't have to take my word for it...]

Nov 3 2016 2:00pm

Demons Within: Exploring the Mythology of Angels & Demons

Angels are quickly and visibly present in Angels & Demons through the use of statues, but the demons are much more subtle. The first clue is not in the film, but is present on the cover of the book. The font used is an ambigram—like that of Illuminati in the film—so that the title reads the same when inverted. This tells us where the demons are: alongside the angels, hidden in plain sight. The test then becomes how to differentiate the two, which is the basis for the book.

While Brown’s inspiration may have come from the artwork of John Langdon—who lends his name to the protagonist Robert Langdon—ultimately, the concept of demons hiding within is taken directly from the Bible. The Old Testament has a few scattered instances of demons and many more which are retconned—such as Jacob’s famous wrestling match being with a demon despite the verse naming him as a man (which is alternatively translated as angel or even God).

[Read more about the mythology behind Angels & Demons...]

Nov 2 2016 12:00pm

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary: Exploring the Mythology Behind The DaVinci Code

With the final film in the Robert Langdon trilogy, Inferno, hitting theaters recently, we thought it'd be apt to explore the history and mythology of a series so steeped in it. Over the course of the next 3 days, we'll explore each story—The DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Inferno—and the mythology that help shape and create such a controversial series!

Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code certainly shocked readers and viewers with its arrival and assertions about the Catholic Church. It pushed ideas that had not seen the light of day for centuries, and people started asking questions—specifically about Mary Magdalene.

Who was she really? And what about her gospel?

[Learn more about the mythology behind The DaVinci Code...]

Nov 1 2016 2:00pm

Seeing the Real Lucifer: Exploring the Mythology Behind Episode 2.06: “Monster”

Last night’s Lucifer gave us a glimpse of Lucifer without the mask. However, descriptions of Lucifer don’t come easily. In fact, the only descriptions within the Bible are reserved for John’s Revelation, which is steeped in so much metaphor and prophecy that it’s hard to sort out what’s what. John refers to Satan as “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns” (Rev 12:3), which actually sounds more like the Tiamat from Dungeons & Dragons (I miss that cartoon).

All other mentions of the Devil do not describe him, only mention him. At best, we might have his words, but not a physical description. It’s not until the Middle Ages does Christianity attempt a depiction of Lucifer, nearly all of which have monstrous elements—giving him horns, goat or chicken legs, claws, wings, tail, etc. The most famous visual depiction is that found in the Codex Gigas, believed to have been written in the 12th or 13th century.

[Read more about the mythology behind “Monster”...]

Oct 25 2016 3:30pm

Angel Throwdown: The Mythology Behind Lucifer, Episode 2.05: “Weaponizer”

This episode quickly escalates with the appearance of Uriel. Mythologically, Uriel has many titles and is attributed with many different roles, including being the angel that guarded against Adam and Eve’s entrance back into the Garden of Eden and the angel who checked the doorways for the Passover sacrifice. None of these have any basis in the Bible, however. All of the attributions come from books from the Apocrypha, which are largely excluded from the canon.

In fact, angels are rarely named in the Bible—Michael and Gabriel being the most prominent examples. Raphael fills out the number three spot, and because there are four cardinal directions, Uriel takes the fourth.

[Read more about the mythology behind “Weaponizer”...]

Oct 18 2016 12:00pm

Maze Gets Hammered: Exploring the Mythology Behind Lucifer, Episode 2.04: “Lady Parts”

Finally, we can delve into Maze. I’ve been itching to look more closely at this wonderful character, and she finally opened the door. During the epic girls’ night out, Maze tells us she “was forged in the bowels of hell to torture the guilty for all of eternity.” First, that sounds like a crummy job to have, and she’s not happy to have that job for eternity. Maze has been struggling to find her place in the world, away from Lucifer, and her origin explains why.

The wording is very specific—that she was forged, like a piece of iron, like a tool to do a specific job, similar to the implements she brandished in front of Mum a couple of weeks back. The implication here is that she doesn’t have a soul and that, as a being, she’s struggling to understand a purpose beyond the one for which she was made. Her revelation doesn’t indicate who forged her, but she has been tied to Lucifer from the beginning so the Magic 8 Ball would likely tell us, “Signs point to yes.” Hopefully we’ll know more about this as the season progresses.

[Outlook not so good...]

Oct 11 2016 10:00am

Lucifer’s Punishments: The Mythology Behind Episode 2.03: “Sin Eater”

This week’s Lucifer focuses on the idea of punishment and manages to encompass all the main characters in the theme while also bringing in a startling mythological revelation about a part of the Bible that never mentions Lucifer.

The big reveal is passed off as a joke—one of many, such as “great balls of fire,” “hot pants,” “weekend at Burnie’s,” and “his burning bush”—but the last is where we take notice, as Lucifer reveals: “That was actually me, by the way, so don’t tell anyone.”

[Read more of the mythology of “Sin Eater”...]

Oct 4 2016 11:30am

Mum’s Manipulations: The Mythology behind Lucifer, Episode 2.02: “Liar, Liar, Slutty Dress on Fire”

The episode picks up right where the first one ended, with Lucifer’s Mum. This time, however, we get her point of view, as her celestial being inhabits various recently deceased bodies. This is actually our first stop on the episode’s mythologically packed tour.

Genesis is quite clear that man and woman are “[made] in the image of God.” Nowhere does it specify that God—or the Goddess—have any kind of flesh, though. She is completely incorporeal, an intelligence without physical substance, a divine soul. Maze corroborates this later in the episode by speculating that she “couldn’t hurt [Mum] because [she] [wasn’t] human.” But now, residing in human flesh, Mum is fully vulnerable to all of the weak spots in a human body—beginning with a head-butt, and ending with Lucifer stabbing her in the arm with a screwdriver.

[The ol' one-two combo...]

Sep 22 2016 2:30pm

The Case for Cultural Appropriation & Assimilation in Kevin Smith’s Dogma

Kevin Smith’s Dogma is a biting and insightful look at many mythologies and modern religions. And while some of it is a little sharp, there is insight in its critique as well. Smith attempts to present a unified system of mythological entities borrowed from different cultures. This idea, though, is not his own, as nearly every culture in the world attempts the same in order to justify its own cultural supremacy.

Smith borrows Loki from Norse mythology. As anyone who is familiar with Marvel’s Thor (the comic or the film adaptation), Loki is not really a nice guy. He wants to destroy things, play tricks, and generally just cause mischief. The angel in Dogma, then, is a perfect incarnation of Loki, but Matt Damon's version has been reassigned to be an angel instead of a pagan deity.

[Maaaatt Daaamonnnnn....]

Sep 20 2016 12:00pm

Lucifer’s Family Problems: The Mytholgy Behind Episode 2.01, “Everything’s Coming Up Lucifer”

The Season 2 premiere of Lucifer had to cover some interesting ground after last season. Season 1 left us with a couple of major revelations. First, Lucifer has a mother. Second, she had been condemned to Hell. These two ideas alone dominate the entire first episode of this new season. However, let me assure you, while the explanation of Lucifer’s mother is unorthodox, the Bible can support the idea.

When Lucifer gives Linda the story behind his “Mum,” he sticks to the beginning of everything—the creation. This is appropriate, though it’s couched in Lucifer’s particular vein of storytelling, with lines such as: “They had sex. The only trouble was, they were celestial beings, so that moment created the universe,” and, one of my favorites, “Dad started going into the garage and tinkering with a little project he called humanity.” Everything Lucifer is referencing comes from Genesis Chapter 1, and it is here that we find the basis for Lucifer’s mother.

[I wonder if she calls him her “Sweet Lou”?]

Sep 12 2016 3:30pm

Fox’s Lucifer and the Free Will of Angels

The show Lucifer begins with a major yet subtle assumption regarding angels that has far-reaching effects. Angels in the Bible are often depicted as servants of God, carrying out specific tasks such as guarding the Garden of Eden from Adam and Eve’s return, stepping in to avert a sacrifice (Isaac’s), destroying wicked cities (Sodom and Gomorrah), heralding births (Samson, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and others), among other tasks. But are they simply automatons carrying out God’s will?

Lucifer has this idea at its heart; Lucifer was thrust into the position of watching over Hell, despite not wanting to do so. It would be easy to say that Lucifer, as a fallen angel, is not bound by the normal rules, yet how do we explain Amenadiel’s actions? He wouldn’t have the same freedom since he’s still working directly for God. The show is free to use artistic license to neatly sidestep such problems to make the show entertaining. However, the mythology found in the Bible is less flexible, but has some interesting things to say about angels.

[Ask the angels...]

Aug 25 2016 3:30pm

The Problem with the Vampires in Blade

Blade is one of the older successful superhero films, appearing at a time when people had renewed interest in vampires. But, there has always been one thing that bothered me about the portrayal of vampires in Blade—they were weak.

Much of the fear regarding vampires relies on the idea that they are nearly unstoppable forces, requiring groups of people to dispatch even one. But, the opening action scene of Blade shows a club full of hundreds of vampires easily dispatched by Blade using an arsenal of weapons. Yes, the weapons are specially designed with vampires in mind, including stakes, silver bullets and blades, ultraviolet lights, and garlic-infused “mace.”

When struck, the offending area of the vampire (often the heart or head) simply disintegrates, melting away into nothingness. Blade is a one man, vampire-slaying army, whereas, in other portrayals, a single vampire could cause the same level of destruction among humanity by shrugging off nearly every weapon known to man.

So why did the writers of Blade choose to weaken vampires? Well, obviously, this is a box-office action flick, but I think there’s a deeper story going on. I think Blade has a subtle, hidden fight of mythology vs. science.