Friday, January 03, 2014

The Horror Of...New Year's Night, Hogfather Part 3

I guess I'm stretching this holiday out a bit into a second day. Well, a new year needs more than a single day to be gotten used to. New years are a lot like new shoes, except it's pronouncedly harder to return years for a different color.

But things have gotten serious in this matter of the Hogfather (Hence a more serious hat today.). As we saw last night, Death has had to literally step into the Hogfather's boots.

But what Death can do is limited. He can try and spur belief by making the Hogfather's rounds. But even then, Teatime is at work with magic to quash what belief there is in him.

Someone else is needed. The Wild Card.

At the start of Hogswatchnight the governess, Susan Sto Helit is at work, putting her two charges to bed. She is reading to them, and giving them an object lesson.

Susan is played by Michelle Dockery. She is better known these days for being in Downton Abbey. She was also in Hollow Crown and Hanna. This was one of her first roles outside of theater. Her Susan is young, but world weary. She's also conflicted. She wants to be normal. She isn't. She's anything but that. But she's striving to fit in with the real world.

If you are curious about her history, I suggest you read Soul Music. It's about a younger Susan who ends up following a musical group. It's also been animated, back in the 90's.

She's readying for a classic Jack and the Beanstalk. Finishing up the story she sums up the lesson. Jack committed a long list of crime. Murder. Ecological terrorism. Theft. Trespassing. But he only benefited from his crimes. Because he was a hero. And no one asks awkward questions of people, if they are labeled heroes.

Finished, she tucks the two in. Twyla and Gawain are curious about the night. Also, is the Hogfather real? Susan asks them if it matters really, if they get the presents. They pause for a moment, then tell her that it is.

She just tells them that if they don't believe, there won't be any presents.

Susan is working hard to be a serious force, and also teach the kids to be sober and unromantic about the world.

"Michelle? I just finished Season 3, and now I can't sleep."
Later, Susan settles in. She takes out a book and reads for awhile. But she can't stay settled long. Twyla appears at her door.

The monster in the basement is troubling her. She wants Susan's help with it.

So Susan gets what she needs for the job, a fireplace poker. The two head down the stairs to the main hall, and the door to the basement.

But they don't make it all the way. The parents are throwing a Hogwatchnight party. And seeing the spectacle of a governess and child striding around with a poker gets some attention.

They ask what is up, and Twyla explains that she's having Susan handle a monster in the basement. The dad thinks he understands. It's psychological. Pretend to kill a monster, and a kid feels better.

Susan just agrees.

Always awkward when everyone needs the toilet at the
same time.
Everyone is eager to leave the party and watch Susan at work. So she leads them to the basement, and then they wait outside with Twyla. This must have been an amazingly boring party.

As they wait they begin hearing louder and louder banging. It is quite a ruckus.

Then Susan reappears, awkwardly looking at the waiting adults, and her bent in poker.

The dad asks if his daughter feels better now. She says she is feeling better. The daughter explains that Susan has taught her to not get scared. Get angry instead.

"So that's swinging?"
The spectacle done, all the adults filter away, to the party (and booze).

But Susan and Twyla watch for them to all leave the area. Then Susan goes back into the basement and drags out a large sack.

She drags the sack through the house to a side door. Then she tosses the sack out. She then warns the thing in the sack that it should never return to the house.

That business done, Susan settles in for the night, again.

But Twyla is back again. A monster is under her bed.

Susan gets another poker and heads in. She goes to the bed, grabs under the bed, and yanks out a boogeyman.
"Okay. I know this looks bad..."

Powers of Death, or a Terminator. You decide.
She has no patience for creatures coning into the house, and scaring the kids. So she warns it off again. And to emphasize the point, she gives the boogeyman The Voice.

For a moment, she unveils her repressed nature, that of Death. It sends the boogeyman fleeing.

Yes, Susan has a touch of Death to her. It runs in the family. Suffice to say, her mom was raised by Death, and her dad was employed for a short while by Death. The result of their marriage was Susan. And her whole life, she's never been remotely normal.

The kids are a bit disappointed. They wanted to see her kick him around. But she's had enough of that for Hogswatch.

She tucks them in, again. And they ask more questions about the Hogfather. They are struggling with how he could be. How can he do everything he does?

She's confused by all their new found skepticism. But she finally settles them in.

She then heads out of the room, and walks the house a little, lost in thought.

Standing down in the parlor, she's interrupted by an intruder. A raven. It somehow gets in the house, and in annoyed that the walnuts aren't eyeballs...because it can talk, to her. Actually, she known it well. She tells it to get out. She doesn't want it there, or anyone from her past. As it leaves, she can feel a change coming into the room.

"Really, grandfather? Cosplaying?"
The clocks slow to a stop, the air in the room stills. Someone is coming.

And then she hears the movement in the chimney. She waits for the figure inside to appear. As she feared, it's her grandfather. And Death looks ridiculous in red robes and beard.

Then Albert works his way down the chimney.

She wonders what is happening. Why is Death dressed up? Is it a sick joke? Is it a plan to ruin her life? She isn't having it.

He is apprehensive about explaining things. The best he can tell her is that the Hogfather is gone. No other human word can explain.

As he avoids explaining why he's stepped into the Hogfather's role, Susan is provoked to find out more. He hedges with her, and she's left unsure as to whether Death has taken the Hogfather.

She's also annoyed at the idea of Death acting as the spirit of Hogswatch.

And how is Albert in the real world again? This Death explains. They are in the special congruent reality created for the Hogfather. It means many of the rules are suspended (something Death will soon take advantage of). Albert isn't loosing his last seconds. Presents can be given to millions in one night. And Albert isn't dying...In this case, from the millions of pork pies he has eaten (and one turnip).

She tries to again get her grandfather to explain where the Hogfather is. But he tells her to just forget he was there. She can't involve herself, it's not allowed (There are rules.).

With that, Death and Albert exit.

This only resolves Susan to find answers. She quickly checks the kids, and then returns downstairs.

She focuses on unleashing her nature once again. She enters the congruent reality Death was in, and the clocks stop again. She also changes slightly. Her hair grows out into a less restrained and more regal design, and her proper close become a black dress and cloak. She is the granddaughter of Death once again.

Nothing will keep her from the answers she seeks.

Heading outside, the snowy night is frozen in the moment. Also, as she willed, Binky (Death's horse), is awaiting her. (He didn't have much else to do, seeing as Death is using hog locomotion.) Getting atop Binky, they ride off.

The Auditors appear for a moment. They are worried to see another player appear. But they are far more relaxed when the decide she's mostly human. Then she can be killed.

At another home, Albert chastises Death. Death should know better. Telling Susan to stay out of the problem will only provoke her. It will only draw her into the fight.

Death agrees, it would be wrong to draw a human into this business. Hence why he tries to warn her off.

Death pauses and says he probably should have known better. In fact, he offers the idea that some might think he did know better when he went to that house. That he wanted to entice his rule breaking granddaughter to act.

But he adds, "I couldn't possibly comment." (It's an in joke for Ian Richardson. It's a very famous line from House of Cards.)

And this won't be the only time Death looks to Susan to clean things up (). She is useful to have as family. Death is confined by rules. And as the ages have gone on, he's become more aware of them.

He appreciates his function in the world. But sometimes he questions a given case. He does carry out his duties effectively. But once in awhile, he pauses (It's how he once found himself with a daughter.). It's why he has become more open to letting people challenge him to games, to prolong their lives. He isn't even above cheating, and losing, to give someone a second chance at life. (One of many reasons the Auditors want rid of Death.) It makes him one of humanity's greater advocates.

Still, Death's hands are tied for the most part.

But Susan is on the trail now, and she doesn't give a toss for the rules. When she wants answers she will go to the hub and back for answers. And she's not above asking uncomfortable questions, or facing down an assassin.

But that's all for tomorrow.

All of our parties will finally meet. The sun may rise. And the Hogfather may still be.

It will come down to Susan being sure things end right. Be ready for blood on the snow.

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