A to Z in April 2021

N is for Nancy Wheeler

Generally speaking, the teens in Stranger Things are my favourites – though really the kids are getting so old now they could also be teens now. Anyway! While I could wax lyrically about Steve Harrington, Jonathan Byres and Robin Buckley (and they may make an appearance later on this month), today is all about Nancy Wheeler.

I love how much confidence she gets over the course of the series and how she keeps a level-head when dealing with monsters. She’s always questioning things and running her own investigations and it’s clear she’d be a great reporter when she’s older – and if she wasn’t dealing with the sexist attitudes of her bosses.

It’s kind of a small thing but I love how she’s the one who’s naturally good with a gun. She practices a bit and then in any situation where monsters are attacking and there’s a gun lying around, whether it’s a handgun or a shotgun, she’ll just pick it up and start shooting, and hitting, the target.

I often feel like Nancy gets an unreasonable amount of hate and that makes me want to defend her even more. I think some of it is from season one where she wanted to spend time with her boyfriend Steve and her best friend Barb was kinda being a bit clinging/they were growing a part a bit and a lot of people related to Barb and therefore where on her side. Personally, I never saw the fuss about Barb, she was nice but I easily liked Nancy more. Then there’s how she treated Steve during season two which I do agree was not great and she should’ve at least properly apologised because he wasn’t a terrible boyfriend, she just wasn’t great at telling him what she was feeling.

I really like how Nancy’s relationship with her mum and younger brother develop. There’s a really nice scene where she tells her mum about all the stuff she has to put up with at work and they commiserate together. With her brother Mike, they are typically siblings who always argue and annoy one another but they also work together really well, and she does her best to protect him when they’re dealing with monsters.

Nancy is smart and studious and kind and brave. She’s incredibly loyal and determined, and she’ll always do what she can to seek out justice and reveal the truth of what’s going on in this town. I love both her relationship with Steve and Jonathan and if there was any justice the three of them would’ve ended up in a polyamorous relationship as they all balance each other out really well.

M is for Mark Watney

The Martian is one of my go to comfort films. I love how it’s a story about people working together and the good in people plus it’s also very funny and has a great soundtrack. I also think it’s one of the best adaptations and I love the book a lot too.

Mark Watney is the greatest botanist on the planet Mars after he accidentally gets left there by his crew when they think he’s dead. I love him in both the film and the book. He has such a wry and sarcastic sense of humour as he just has to get on with things to survive.

Obviously, Mark has to be smart to be on a mission to Mars but seeing how he copes with no one with him and no support from NASA for the longest time actually shows how capable and resourceful he is. Though he did blow himself up once after he miscalculated how much oxygen was in the air.

I think Mark just works as a character because he feels really human and real in an extraordinary situation. He has moments where he gets angry, sad and frustrated at the situation he’s in and he is a realist in the sense that he is well aware of the fact he is stuck on a planet with limited resources so there is a good chance he’ll die before he’s rescued. He knows all the ways things could go wrong for him but he continues to work through the problems as he can’t see himself giving up.

I think what really shines through, even though they don’t have a lot of screen time actually together, is the banter and camaraderie Mark has with the rest of the crew. He’s a likable person even if he makes jokes about other people’s jobs and says they’re less important than his. Mark has a bit of an ego, but for a guy who survives Mars I think that’s allowed.

L is for Leïto

Banlieue 13 and its sequel Banlieue 13: Ultimatum are some of my favourite films. They’re action-packed, fun and have interesting characters dynamics but Leïto is my favourite.

He’s one of my favourite type of characters. He’s a low-level criminal but he does bad thigs for good reasons. Like in the opening scene you realise he’s stolen a load of drugs from a gang in order to destroy them and he keeps the area around his apartment block free of drugs and gangs.

Leïto is a realist or perhaps even a cynic. He’s grown up in an area that’s been forgotten about by the government and everyone’s had to fend for themselves. There’s no schools, no parks, no police, it’s a lawless area but Leïto has a code that he sticks to. I also like the fact that while he’s not strictly affiliated with any gang, the gang leaders all respect him and are willing to listen to him. He’s the one that brings them all together in the final showdown in B13: Ultimatum. Plus, even random teenagers in the neighbourhood know that Leïto is someone they can go to for help when they’re in trouble.

Leïto is street smart and resourceful and is quick at thinking on his feet. While he always sets boobytraps around his apartment building and has different ways to get in and out the place quickly, sometimes it does seem he has luck on his side as he’s not one to make thorough plans.

His relationship with Damien, an undercover cop, is great. They compliment each other a lot in terms of fighting style and personality though it takes time for Leïto to trust or even like him. But that’s the thing about Leïto, once he does like someone, he’s loyal and protective. Leïto and his sister Lola have one of my favourite sibling relationships on films because it’s clear they know each other so well.

How can I not share the opening sequence of Banlieue 13?! It’s a perfect example of Leïto’s parkour skills as he uses his environment and other people’s momentum against them.

K is for Kaz Brekker

I’m currently reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, the sequel to Six of Crows, and it’s just affirming the fact that Kaz Brekker is a great character.

Kaz isn’t a nice person. No, honestly, this isn’t one of those loveable rogue kind of characters, he is actually ruthless, cold-hearted, and conniving. He values money and power and is known for doing any job no matter how dangerous if it gets him either of those two things. Kaz is great at figuring people out and exploiting both their weaknesses and their talents in order to achieve his aims. He is a master manipulator.

Kaz is a part of The Dregs, one of the gangs in in the city of Ketterdam, and he quickly rose through the ranks to be an influential figure. He inspires loyalty through fear but also through his honesty. For a thief and a liar Kaz and does tell the truth but really only when it’ll get him something. I love Kaz’s intelligence. He’s had to learn the hard way how to survive in this seedy city and he’s learnt how to make shrewd investments in both people and property. He makes plans within plans and often only tells people the bare minimum of what they need to know to get the job done. Kaz does not trust easily and he’s always considering his and any opponents moves three steps ahead.

The fascinating thing about Kaz is that slowly he does start to care for other people – or maybe just one person in particular. Actually, care about them, not just what they can do for him. To what extent this may change him as a person I’ve yet to find out.

I’m really looking forward to the Shadow and Bone Netflix show which is released next week. Kaz and his fellow Crows are going to be in it so I’m looking forward to seeing how they bring this character to screen – because Kaz Brekker can be a nasty piece of work at times.

J is for Johnny Lawrence

I have not fallen so hard and fast for a character as I did with Johnny Lawrence for a long, long time.

I never watched the Karate Kid films growing up. In fact, I watched the Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake long before seeing any of the originals. Because I’m a completist, when there was a lot of talk on my Twitter feed about Cobra Kai after it arrived on Netflix last autumn, I went and watched all the films (even the Hilary Swank one), before starting the series – a series that immediately became one of my favourites and a lot of that was to do with one Johnny Lawrence.

Johnny Lawrence is not typically a character I’d love due to his drinking and often self-destructive behaviour but because of the writing and William Zabka’s performance I couldn’t help but root for him. He’s a disaster but he tries. He’s caught up in his past a lot – his teenage glory days – and doesn’t know how to be a father to his son, but what he does find is that he can be a good sensei.

I love his relationship with Miguel and how it’s so unfortunate that he can be such an unusual but good father figure to him but not to his own son as there’s no history between them or expectations.

I love how Johnny appears to be an insensitive caveman when it comes to things like equality but with the help of Miguel and Aisha, he soon realises that in his dojo it doesn’t matter if you’re small, nerdy, a loser, or even *gasp* a girl – as long as you’re badass. He’s a surprisingly great teacher. He has to unlearn some of the bad things he was taught as a teen but as he does that, he becomes a better person and a better teacher. He wants his kids to be strong and capable, but he also wants them to fight with honour and not become bullies like he used to be.

Johnny is such a complex character and one that definitely needs a lot of therapy because there’s definitely a load of trauma tied to his father figures there. He’s blunt and tough and is useless with modern technology, but he’s also caring and he becomes so soft around his old school friends like Bobby. Sure, he has a bit of a short temper whenever he’s around Daniel LaRusso (they sure know how to push each other’s buttons and they’re both as bad as each other) but Johnny tries to do better. He often makes a load of mistakes or goes about it completely the wrong way, but most of the time his heart is in the right place.

I just love Johnny Lawrence a lot and will always be rotting for him – even when I want to smack him over the head for how he forgets about his son.

I is for Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood

I’ve already talked about one Lightwood sibling in this A-Z in April Challenge and now it’s time for another one!

Izzy is a character that I always liked but as the show progressed and you got to see different sides to her, she became one of my favourites. She’s comfortable in her own skin and is more than happy to wear tight and revealing clothes (in part to annoy her parents) and to use her looks to get what she wants – whether that’s acting as bait for a demon or charming someone for information.

Like her brother, Izzy is very loyal to her friends and will fight for what she believes in. she’s not afraid to stand up to authority, even if it’ll get her in trouble. That being said, she’s often the more level-headed one out of her friends and siblings. She works through a problem and keeps calm under pressure.

I love how compassionate and caring Izzy is. She has a big heart and is always ready to make new friends. She doesn’t differentiate between Shadowhunters and Downworlders and she can see both friends and foes in all of them. She’s supportive and protective of her friends too, and always encourages her brothers to go after what will make them happy. That protectiveness can get a little much for her baby brother Max as she worries about whether he’s ready to fight, even though she was the one to train him.

Izzy balances out her friends and family so well. She’s smart, a brilliant fighter and teacher, and she’s a great person to go to for advice. She goes through a lot over the course of the show but even though she may falter at times, Izzy shows everyone, and herself, how strong she truly is.

H is for Holland March

The Nice Guys is one of my favourite action/comedies – it is just so good! That is mostly down to the trio of main characters, Holland March, his daughter Holly, and his unlikely co-worker Jackson Healy. My favourite of the three is Holland.

Holland March is a disaster and I love that about him. He drinks too much, is self-destructive, self-loathing, and isn’t always a great dad though it’s clear he loves his daughter a lot. He’s also incredibly clumsy and, for all intents and purposes, a classic screw up.

All that doesn’t sound like a pretty likeable or great protagonist but there’s something endearing about Holland and how useless he is. Maybe it’s because he and everyone around him expects him to fail that when he doesn’t it’s such a surprise – to him and everyone else! Holland’s a private detective and it’s not always clear whether he’s a good one. But sometimes his ability to think outside the box (whether due to his intelligence or the copious amount of alcohol in his system) means he sees things other people don’t.

Holland March is easily agitated and is not one to keep calm in a crisis but somehow he still manages to make things turn out OK for himself. How he doesn’t die over the course of the film is truly a miracle. Also, just how he/Ryan Gosling screams in this film always makes me laugh.

G is for Garrett McNeill

Superstore is a show that I only started watching this year after five seasons were added to Netflix. I’ve only just started season five and hope to get through it soon as the sixth and final season is coming to UK TV later this month, so I want to be all caught up.

There are a lot of great characters on this show that I really like, and a lot of them grew on me as I made my way through the seasons, but one that I liked very quickly was Garrett.

Garrett is sarcastic and brutally honest and sometimes it’s a little hard to tell if he actually likes his co-workers because of how often he plays pranks on them but when there’s that moment where he does admit he considers someone his friend, it’s all the more impactful because of what came before it.

I think Garrett is one of the most truthful representations of a shop worker out of the whole cast of characters. He does the bare minimum of what needs to be done in order to not be fired. He doesn’t love his job, it is just a job, something to pay the bills and while he mostly likes his co-workers, he’s not overkeen on spending a load of time with them outside of the store. All of which is very relatable in my opinion – I worked in a shop when I was a teenager and dealing with customers is often a thankless task.

One of my favourite things about Superstore is how a lot of the characters do develop but still keep their core personality. Garrett can be a horrible person who lies and puts blame on other people for his mistakes, but then he can also do things for others when he sees something truly matters to them. He’s funny and honest and will tell people what they need to hear, even when they don’t like it. Garrett’s quite charismatic though so it doesn’t always sound as awful as it could.

F is for Jessica Fletcher

There is something so calm and soothing about Murder, She Wrote, even if dead bodies seem to appear wherever Jessica Fletcher goes. It’s a show I remember watching as a young child and is probably the thing that first introduced me to the murder mystery/crime genre. I’ve recently discovered that there’s a TV channel that often shows Murder, She Wrote nearly all day so it’s been fun having it back again as an easy watch kind of show.

Jessica Fletcher is a widow, former teacher, and a mystery novelist but probably most importantly she’s the best amateur detective the costal town of Cabot Cove has ever had. She’s smart, capable but also endearing and kind. The fact that she’s an older woman means she can talk to people and be more approachable than some of the actual detectives or police officers. She’s often unassuming so takes potential witnesses or perpetrators by surprise with her quick thinking.

I especially like it when she ends up in a big city and there’s a murder because how city cops often push her thoughts and insight aside often comes back to bite them. There’s just something almost therapeutic about an older woman outsmarting young men who think they know everything.

In true crime show fashion I love how it’s the smallest details or previous unconsidered conversation that sparks Jessica’s understanding of how a murder was committed and who did it. The way she pieces things together and then reveals all to the murderer and the police is always satisfying.

E is for Elizabeth Sloane

Miss Sloane is one of my favourite films of recent years and that’s mainly down to the titular character, Elizabeth Sloane, and Jessica Chastain’s performance as her.

Elizabeth Sloane is a cutthroat lobbyist and isn’t a particularly nice person a lot of the time. She will use and manipulate people in order to get the results she wants. She’s not afraid to bend or break the law either. There are moments where it seems like she is making genuine connections with people but you’re never really sure of her motives or how genuine she actually is.

Elizabeth Sloane is one of my favourite types of character. She is incredibly smart and forward-thinking. She’s the kind of person who treats her job and her goals as a game of chess, always looking three moves ahead and setting out plans to counter her oppositions possible actions in anticipation of whatever they might to next. She can predict peoples reactions so well that a lot of the time she’s in complete control, or if she’s not she soon will be. She has plans and backup plans and hardly ever lets anyone in on her schemes because the less people know, the more likely she can herd them in the direction she wants.

On a more superficial note, I absolutely adore the costuming in this film and every single one of Elizabeth’s outfits is incredible. They are the perfect example of office chic and the way she is dressed just exudes power and competence.