Biggest Disappointments of 2016

Here at Speculative Chic, we tend to put the emphasis on the positive (in fact, we do it every week with our column My Favorite Things), but every now and then something just lets us down. Sometimes our favorite TV shows take an unfortunate turn. Sometimes the movies we were looking forward to don’t live up to our expectations. And every now and then, a great-looking book ends up disappointing us.

While we don’t mean to pile more negativity onto what has been — for many people — a trying year, we know that’s it’s important to examine what doesn’t work for us in the media we consume, and then to politely point it out. After all, how else can we expect creators to improve when we never highlight the shortcomings of their creations? Also, we want our gentle readers to understand that just because something doesn’t work for one of us, it doesn’t mean we think any less of the people who enjoyed them (case in point, on of the television shows listed here is a personal favorite of this columnist!).

For the actual disappointments themselves, please read on below. Most — but not all — of the selections below are 2016 releases, and each release was experienced for the first time in 2016.


 

Shara’s Biggest Disappointment was… the Sleepy Hollow finale

Spoilers abound! My biggest disappointment of 2016 was the Season Three finale of Sleepy Hollow. For a show that started out as one of the craziest and delightfully fun shows in my roster which featured not just one, but two awesome, kick ass women of color, Sleepy Hollow forgot that what made the show great. It wasn’t just the weird, idiosyncratic quirks of Ichabod Crane (which was, admittedly, fun), but it was the bad-ass, flinches-at-nothing awesome of Abbie Mills that grounded us and made us love Ichabod and all the crazy the show had to offer. So imagine my utter disappointment and fury when Sleepy Hollow killed off its leading lady in the season three finale! It wasn’t just anti-climatic (Abbie’s had plenty of disappearances and death scares, so death’s power was lost), and it wasn’t just the loss of a female lead, though all of those things absolutely contributed to my irritation. No, it was killing off a leading lady of color and writing it off in such a hamfisted way that made the show all about Ichabod the whole time. Literally, one of Abbie’s last lines is, “My job was to carry you forward.” Oh no, Abbie, your JOB was so much more than that!

Fox surprisingly renewed Sleepy Hollow for season four, but I’ve decided I can’t keep watching. Sure, they’ve hired an actress of color to play the new Witness, but Sleepy Hollow has already lost its magic. Yes, major deaths happen in television (I’m still watching Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead), so I’m used to it. But I spent three seasons watching the show get more and more boring as it shifted its focus from the partnership of the Witnesses to Ichabod’s Family Drama, leaving Abbie in the dust. So R.I.P., Abbie Mills, and may actress Nicole Beharie find a series that knows how to better showcase her talent.

 

Nancy’s Biggest Disappointment was… The Flash Finale

Spoilers for season two of The Flash. Among all of my geeky endeavors this year, nothing left me as disappointed as the season two finale of The Flash. For the most part, the episode just felt a little off, with some clunky dialogue and shaky acting. But the real derailment came at the end when Barry, overcome with grief in the wake of his father’s death, travels back in time to prevent his mother’s murder, creating an alternate timeline. Sounds great, right? Alternate universes! Big character drama! The stuff that season finales are made of.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t make much sense, character-wise.

At the end of season one, Barry learns how to time travel, and discovers that such power comes with consequences. As a result, when he does end up traveling back in time to the day of his mother’s murder in the season one finale, he is able to make the right decision, and not change the past. Later, in season two, he encounters the mythical entity known as the Speed Force, who is responsible for giving Barry his powers. In a haunting, emotional episode, the Speed Force takes on the image of his mother, and allows him the chance to relive a childhood memory, reading a beloved picture book. It was a high point for The Flash, and confirmed that while Barry would always grieve for his mother, that he had accepted the complex reality of her death.

This why was Barry traveling back in time to save his mother just didn’t sit well with me. With his father’s murder fresh in his mind, you’d think that he’d go back to save him, if anything. This mishandling of character left me frustrated and dissatisfied, tainting what was up until that point, a really solid season.

 

Lane’s Biggest Disappointment was… Jessica Jones

There were a whole lot of things I watched or read that I didn’t enjoy in 2016, but I wouldn’t call them disappointments. For me to be “disappointed,” I would have needed to anticipate something, to have expectations of something being great. And for whatever reason, I didn’t have a lot of big anticipated movies or books this year. I had high expectations of Captain America: Civil War, and that was met — because my expectation was “fun violence” and “Chris Evans being cute” and hey, the movie delivered. Other things, I had no expectations for, if they failed to entertain, that didn’t really bug me.

So something that actually disappointed me? If pressed, I’ll say Jessica Jones. I know it’s a 2015 show, but I didn’t get Netflix until this year. I really really wanted to love this. Jessica Jones was pretty much the reason I joined Netflix. I love off-putting heroines with superpowers, and I thought that the storyline was great, the actors perfectly cast, all of that. But the story just started to drag for me around episode 6 after the reveal of her history with Luke’s dead girlfriend. I loved that episode and thought, okay, I’m ready to get this story all wrapped up. To realize there were another 6 episodes to go? It somehow sucked all the energy away. I’ll finish them at some point — I liked the characters too much to give up completely — but I wanted and expected Jessica Jones to be glue-me-to-the-screen TV.

 

Sherry’s Biggest Disappointment was… Labyrinth

My biggest disappointment for the year 2016 is going to make me very unpopular, but I hope you all will hear me out before you get the torches and pitchforks. For me, it was the movie Labyrinth. I know, I know, it’s a classic, everyone loves it, OMG! David Bowie! So here’s why it was a disappointment for me. I never saw it when it first came out. I was certainly the right age to see it when it did, but it just wasn’t my thing. And even if it was, I rarely got to go to the movie theater, so it probably wouldn’t have been a top choice. So all these years later, with my geek-cred in jeopardy, a friend of mine invited me to watch a special showing in the movie theater. Quite frankly, after so many years of hearing how amazing this movie was, I think my expectations were perhaps too high, especially since I had up to that point pretty much avoided knowing anything about the movie itself. So yes, the puppets were great, it was fun to see Bowie as the Goblin King, but I really could have done without seeing the movie itself. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I’m too old to be watching it for the first time. It just didn’t have the magic for me that it has for everyone else.

 

Janicu’s Biggest Disappointment was… Armada

My biggest disappointment of 2016 was Armada by Ernest Cline. I adored Ready Player One and recommend it to a wide audience: pop culture nerd, gamer, fan of the eighties, puzzle hound, it brings on the nostalgia whilst pulling you into the story of an epic treasure hunt. Armada tries to tap into that same feeling of nostalgia and urgency, but it fails to replicate it. In Ready Player One these concepts felt fresh, in Armada they felt forced. The effort of shoehorning any and all nerdy eighties references into Armada was a tangible thing, and as a reader, I felt the slog of it. I think the fundamental issue is that Armada‘s plot was weak and derivative and the story relied more on the gimmick of nerd references than actual character development and world building. In the end I felt like I was being hit over the head repeatedly by the same device. This was my most disappointing read of the year.

 

Tez’s Biggest Disappointment was… Cainsville

SPOILER WARNING FOR KELLEY ARMSTRONG’S CAINSVILLE SERIES.

Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series starts well, with an irresistible premise: a woman finds out she’s adopted…and her biological parents are serial killers. There’s an urban fantasy element, of course, which plays a bigger role with each new book.

The first book, Omens, is the best of the bunch as it involves one of my pet interests: MK Ultra. Book 2 is also pretty good, but Books 3 and 4 have been disappointing, including 2016’s release of Betrayals.

Reincarnation and love triangles don’t appeal to me, but they are all here in Cainsville. Not even a beloved author like Kelley Armstrong can make them work for me. As Olivia’s employer, Gabriel’s presence serves a purpose. But Ricky is simply here for love interest status, and to create drama. I rolled my eyes when learning he’s in a motorcycle club, which was one of the most popular tropes in romance when the series began. So his character came across as the author jumping on a bandwagon, even though Ricky’s a biker because of the Wild Hunt subplot.

The storytelling itself has suffered. It’s become characterization via dialogue info-dump. Though rather than having a character explain their motivations and conflicts, someone else tells them. E.g. “You’re acting like this because…” It seems like telling, rather than showing, and it’s annoying.

Cainsville has dropped from 4 to 3 stars in my eyes. Hopefully 2017’s release of Book 5, Rituals, can redeem this series that started with so much potential for greatness.

 

J.L. Gribble’s Biggest Disappointment was… The Magicians Trilogy

Usually when you read the source material for a story that has been turned into a movie or television show, the written version blows the visual out of the water. Because of how much I absolutely loved season one of The Magicians on SyFy, I bought the entire trilogy of books and brought them with me on vacation last spring. While I was immersed in the story and finished all three books, I was ultimately so disappointed by the characters themselves that I could have cried. Despite its problems as a television network in the past, SyFy is doing amazing work with its current programming, and The Magicians television show improves upon so many of the flaws of the books, especially in regards to characterization, while remaining true to the heart of the story of Fillory and Brakebills University. I’m glad that there are no more books to suffer through even as I’m thrilled for many more seasons of the show to come.

Note: Season two of The Magicians returns to SyFy on January 25, 2017. You can read my full reviews of the book trilogy at my personal blog (The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land).


So what let you down in 2016? Any thoughts on our biggest disappointments? Let us know in the comments below.

27 Comments

  • sharonpatry December 29, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Oh, god, the Sleepy Hollow finale!!!! I completely forgot how craptastic that was.

    Reply
  • J.L. Gribble December 29, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I genuinely think I’d blocked how dull Armada was from my mind, because otherwise that would have been my biggest disappointment of the year, as well. I’m so excited to see Ready Player One on the big screen, though!!

    Reply
  • Shara White December 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Jessica Jones did hit a weird snag in momentum, I remember, but it is worth continuing, especially for the end.

    Reply
    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      I felt that way about Luke Cage. I think some of these Marvel series could do with a slightly shorter run. They start so strong out the gate, but sometimes they get lost in the middle.

      Reply
      • Shara White December 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm

        I’m struggling to feel any real urgency with Luke Cage. I think we’re through four, maybe five episodes, and I’m already distracted by other shows, which is unfortunate. I’d second the shorter seasons.

        Reply
    • Janicu December 30, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      I agree. I found it tough to get through because the villain was SO CREEPY and it was mentally TIRING worrying about what would happen, but the ending was good.

      Reply
  • Ron Edison December 29, 2016 at 11:07 am

    All the DC TV shows seem to follow a similar mood and formula–I’ve given up on ARROW and FLASH. I did like THE MAGICIANS, but the last couple of episodes were a bit of a slog and I don’t think I’ll tune in for season 2. (My wife still rants about the books.)

    Reply
  • nuyangwriter December 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I should have thought of this earlier, but the Johnny Depp reveal in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was for sure one of my biggest disappointments! Especially since Colin Farrell did such a great job as Percival Graves!

    Reply
    • Shara White December 29, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Losing Colin Farrell was disappointing for sure. The jury is out on Johnny Depp, because I want to see what he does with the character, but Colin Farrell’s character was really compelling, and I was sorry to see him go.

      Reply
    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Good choice. I really felt that reveal just lacked the punch that it was clearly going for. It was less “OMG it’s him” and more “huh, that guy.”

      Reply
  • Lane Robins December 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Oh god, Sleepy Hollow. So damned disappointing! So much so that I think I erased it from my mind. Sorry to hear about Cainsville swirling toward the drain. I loved the first three, but haven’t read Deceptions yet. And I’m usually with you 100% on love triangles, but in the first three books at least, I kind of liked this one. Gabriel’s undoubtedly the endgame, but holy heck is he a hard man to care for. Ricky’s a much easier choice. So it was a triangle that made sense!

    I think the thing that kills me about the Armstrong books, as much as I like them so far, is that I’m actually more interested in the twisty real world stuff–her serial killer parents and their games, and so forth, than all the magic that’s beginning to take over.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Yeah, when we decided to do our biggest disappointments, I knew immediately that the death of Abbie Mills would be it for me. I’m still bitter about it, and for weeks after the finale, I wanted to rant on my blog, but so many other sites were doing it far better than I could. I won’t watch season four. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t.

      Lane, did you ever read Kelley Armstrong’s thriller series, starting with Exit Strategy? Those were FANTASTIC.

      Reply
      • Lane Robins December 29, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        Shara, I did! Just this year as a matter of fact! And now half my workplace is reading them. I also really loved City of the Lost, which may be my favorite book of hers to date.

        Reply
        • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 29, 2016 at 4:50 pm

          The fact that City of the Lost is a thriller and not urban fantasy means that I have been able to recommend it to so many more of the patrons at my library. It was one of my favorite books of last year

          Reply
        • Shara White December 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm

          City of the Lost? What is this book? I have not heard of it.

          Reply
          • Lane Robins December 29, 2016 at 10:48 pm

            Kelley Armstrong’s newest thriller. Slipped out last May. I just stumbled over it at the library. It’s got all her trademark elements, but they really work here. Rough gist: Homicide detective with a murderous past takes her friend (fleeing an abusive BF) to a city where people lose themselves. It’s isolated in the wilderness and losing themselves can mean a lot more than simply shedding their old identities. Naturally, Casey (the heroine) has to solve a murder. It’s really enjoyable.

          • Shara White December 30, 2016 at 1:34 pm

            Well, thanks to this conversation, I’ve not only bought this book, but discovered a new (to me) Nadia Stafford novella, so WIN.

    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 29, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      I found Deceptions fine, but it was a step down from the first two. Now I’m really nervous about reading Betrayals!

      Reply
  • Janicu December 30, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    I think watching LABYRINTH as an adult is just not the same. It needs to be watched when you’re young and impressionable and it can seep into your subconscious. As a movie it’s OK, really, but the dreamlike aspects and what it hints at don’t work if you are already adult (aka: growing up, possible first crush territory, and all that comes with that). This is the type of movie to be looked back in in nostalgia, and thus may not leave as big an impression if you already figured that stuff out. That’s what I feel like.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 30, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      I didn’t see it until college, and sadly it didn’t work its magic on me either, I think for the reasons you describe.

      Reply
    • sherrypeters December 30, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      Exactly. I really wanted to like it but am just not the right age to see it for the first time. I saw it with someone eho has a lifelong crush on Jennifer Connolly because of the movie. And I can see how seeing it as a child could make it influential on your life and so seeing it as an adult brings back a lot of that magic and influence an nostalgia which is necessary to have when watching it at my age. I think the same goes for a lot of movies. Star Wars is one of those. A friend of mine who saw it for the first time as an adult didn’t care for it.

      Reply
  • sherrypeters December 30, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I’m having trouble getting into Jessica Jones. I enjoyed the first couple of episodes but feel no draw to go back for more. That makes me a bit sad.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 30, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      Yeah, that’s how I’m feeling about Luke Cage (though I loved Jessica Jones. Did you like Daredevil?

      Reply
  • weaselofd00m January 1, 2017 at 12:23 am

    I just finished listening to “Armada” on audiobook. Count me among the severely disappointed!

    Reply
  • Kelly McCarty January 3, 2017 at 1:10 am

    I’m really disappointed to hear that Armada isn’t good because I loved Ready Player One. My biggest disappointment was Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. I loved the first book, Annihilation, in which four female scientists undertake a secret mission to the mysterious Area X, a region that has been cut off from human civilization for unknown reasons. It’s weird and completely creepy, in a good way. But the next two books fell apart and VanderMeer committed one of my biggest pet peeves–literary authors writing in speculative genres who think it’s cute to be vague about the central mystery of their stories. I just read 500 pages, you jerk. Tell me what happened.

    Reply
    • Shara White January 3, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      I can’t say I’d call VanderMeer a fundamentally literary author. He’s definitely got a literary style, no doubt, but I think he’s always been part of the speculative fiction circles. Then again, I’m a big fan of that trilogy, answers or no. 😉

      Reply

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