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.