Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Get to the Next Screen: Thoughts on Westworld's Second Season

When I wrote about Westworld's first season eighteen months ago, it was with profound annoyance at the show's reliance on twists and revelations, to the detriment of some of the interesting ideas about personhood and consciousness that the season tooled around with but never really explored.  I wasn't alone in making this criticism, and creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have subsequently backed off some of their more elaborate (and unsatisfying) structural choices.  But the result hasn't been all we could have hoped for.  In 2016, I was annoyed by Westworld.  In 2018, I was bored by it.  Removing the show's central gimmick, it turned out, only revealed a sad truth: that despite its sumptuous production values, gorgeous shooting locations, and amazing cast, what you find at the center of Westworld's maze is a great big blank.  That after producing twenty-three or -four hours of material, this show still isn't any closer to articulating what it's actually about.

I mean, really, what actually happens in season two?  The best of the season's storylines is probably the one involving Maeve (Thandie Newton), which is already a huge warning sign, because on paper Maeve's story is nothing but a great big runaround.  She spends the season chasing after her daughter--despite the very logical objections of almost everyone she meets, who point out that the host in question isn't her child in any way and that the feelings of love Maeve feels for her were imposed by the same people who pimped her out to be raped and murdered repeatedly by the park's guests.  Nevertheless, Maeve insists on her goal, and thus proceeds along a Perils of Pauline-like plot in which she encounters one obstacle and setback after another.  It works mainly because Newton is so amazing in the role, combining wit, humor, warmth, and determination.  Also, because it's the storyline that incorporates the season's two best episodes, each focusing on a different secondary character--Rinko Kikuchi's head geisha Akane, Maeve's counterpart in Westworld's Japanese-themed neighbor Shogun World; and Zahn McClarnon's Akecheta, head of Westworld's mysterious Ghost Nation tribe.  But it's also the storyline least connected to the season's thematic and conceptual load, and impacting the least on the show's main story, the conflict between the hosts and the park's owners, the Delos Corporation.

Meanwhile, easily the worst storyline in the season is also the one that is supposedly driving this conflict, the journey of Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her supporters as they launch the robot revolution.  This is where the bulk of season's violence is concentrated, as Dolores mows her way through humans and hosts alike, and it's probably that--along with her tendency to break out in pseudo-enlightened speechifying--that creates a false sense of significance around this storyline.  But when you look a little closer, it becomes clear that Dolores doesn't really have a plan.  She bounces from one objective to another, and her actions seem designed primarily to produce dramatic set-pieces (and, again, more opportunities for speeches).  Even her final accomplishment, escaping the park in a body built to resemble Delos honcho Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) happens largely because of other people's choices.

Somewhere in the middle is Jeffrey Wright's Bernard, a park administrator revealed last season to be a host.  His storyline features the season's major stylistic flourish, the fact that Bernard's memory has been "de-addressed", leaving him incapable of distinguishing between past and present, between remembering events and living through them.  It's here, as it moves back and forth through the weeks immediately following the breakdown of order in the park, that the show delivers the bulk of its conceptual payload, chiefly in revealing Delos's actual purpose for the park, which the show has teased since its first episode.  This turns out to be using the hosts and the park's systems to spy on the guests in order to model their personalities, in the hopes of later marketing artificial immortality.  (There are, to be clear, some massive problems with this concept, including the never-addressed question of how the park can recreate the hosts' memories, particularly of events that happened outside of it.)  Bernard ends up taking us on a guided tour of the behind the scenes stations where this project is perfected, from Ford's secret lab, where a host copy of company founder Jim Delos (Peter Mullan) has spent decades repeatedly failing "fidelity" tests, to the Cradle, an artificial reality where the guest models are tested and refined, to the Forge, where the copies are stored in their millions, and where the season's final denouement takes place.

Spelling it out like this throws into sharp relief just how nonsensically this project has been designed, as if for no other purpose than to offer consecutive, increasingly dramatic revelations for the viewer.  As Todd VanDerWerff observed in an essay published before this week's finale, Westworld makes a lot more sense if you approach it as something to be "played", rather than watched.  As if the flatness of the characters were intended to make them suitable player surrogates, and the weird, level-like arrangement of its locations and revelations were intended to mimic a player's progress through a game.  But whereas in a game, the sense of accomplishment derived from solving a puzzle or winning a boss fight can obscure a certain thinness in the worldbuilding (or, more precisely, a sense that a world was built for no other purpose than to be discovered by the player in a specific order), there's no corresponding hit of satisfaction that does the same in Westworld.  It becomes impossible not to notice that all the convolutions of plot, all the movement back and forth across the park, is in service of very little.  That the only real purpose of the characters'--and, eventually, the viewers'--actions is getting to the next screen.

It's not that there aren't interesting ideas in the second season of Westworld.  But they all seem to occur in the background, and are rarely given the space they'd need to develop into a coherent theme for the show.  Take, for example, the revelation that park writer Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), pressed for time, used the same storylines and character types for Westworld and Shogun World, so that when Maeve and her companions, the outlaw Hector and his silent, tattooed second-in-command Armistice, arrive in Shogun World's central location, they find their exact counterparts, repeating essentially the same stories and the same speeches, with only superficial changes to account for culture.  It's a profound challenge to the characters' sense of self, to which they each react differently--Hector and his double are suspicious of one another, Armistice and hers are instantly fascinated, and Maeve and Kikuchi's Akane forge a deep bond over their shared feelings of bereaved motherhood.  It also allows the show to at least gesture at the racism implicit in its premise, which it also does in Akecheta's story.

Later in the season, Lee, radicalized by his closer view of Maeve's suffering, sacrifices himself in order to allow her, Hector, and Armistice to escape, but does so while delivering one of Hector's speeches, essentially becoming his own character and further blurring the line between host and human.  Perhaps most interestingly, there is the running theme of host characters--Maeve, Dolores, Teddy--questioning whether they should allow themselves to be driven by emotional attachments written into their programs.  (Though the fact that they all end up making the same choice, to follow their programming, suggests that perhaps this is not as interesting a question as I'm assuming.)

All of these, however, are ancillary to the season's main storyline and revelations.  The most interesting idea suggested by the immortality plotline comes very late in the season, when we learn that the reason the park's system have struggled to recreate the guests in host form--they inevitably reach a "cognitive plateau" and go mad--is not that the system isn't sophisticated enough to model a human, but that humans are too simple.  For the park's AIs, it turns out, humans are a solved game.  With only a few thousand lines of code, they can be recreated with perfect fidelity, their every decision anticipated.

Jonathan Nolan's previous show, Person of Interest, toyed with very similar ideas, but approached them in ways that were compassionate and profound.  Westworld, on the other hand, chooses to take this concept in a direction that is cynical and glib.  "Humans can't change", the AI controlling the Forge explains to Dolores and Bernard, and when a digital ghost of park creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins) appears to Bernard in the Cradle and later in the real world, he insists that humans are incapable of grasping the personhood of hosts, and that violent conflict between the two groups is inevitable.  So in only a few steps, we've gone from "humans are completely predictable" to "humans have no free will" to "humans are incapable of learning to see past prejudices and expanding their definition of personhood."

There's a certain superficial attraction here.  Any avid reader knows that one rarely encounters, in real life, people as complex as the ones you find in fiction, and the last eighteen months in particular have been an education for people like me who grew up on fiction that told us villains were multifaceted and intelligent, only to realize that in the real world, bad guys are petty, stupid, and self-absorbed (and no less dangerous for it).  But simple isn't the same as soulless, and predictable isn't the same as inhuman, and it's not clear that the show realizes this--for example, no one ever comments on the fact that the system's conclusions about people's capacity for change are drawn from a sample made up entirely of people rich and bored enough to pay obscene sums of money in order to play an R-rated version of Cowboys and Indians.  It eventually starts to feel as if the show's dim view of people is less a philosophical standpoint, and more a way of justifying its own inability to write interesting characters.

Take, for example, the one human that Westworld does try to imbue with complexity, the Man in Black, AKA William (Ed Harris).  Not unlike his storyline in the first season, he spends the second refusing to be rescued after the robot uprising, and insisting on his right to pursue Ford's latest "game".  In doing so, he becomes convinced that the entire park exists for his benefit, including the human staff and, ultimately, his own daughter Emily (Katja Herbers), whom he kills.  But in his own focus episode at the end of the season, we learn that William has become obsessed with the park because he believes that it holds the key to his inner darkness, something that he has concealed from most people in the real world, covering for it with philanthropy and lies, and which is only suspected by his wife.

To state the obvious, this type of person--a complete sociopath, who somehow doesn't realize this about himself until his thirties, and then spends the next thirty years trying to hide his true nature while simultaneously becoming obsessed with a consequence-free murder playground--doesn't exist anywhere except in (rather pulpy) fiction.  But the problem with William is less that, and more the fact that the version of this character that Westworld offers is extremely unconvincing.  William feels more like an engine for story and shocking moments than a person--he's as inhuman as the most unaware of the hosts.  And while that might be a point the show is trying to make, it doesn't make watching him--or the fact that the narrative refuses to kill him off, despite multiple opportunities and the plain truth that his function in the story has ended--any more tolerable.

One of the frustrating aspects of trying to talk about Westworld is that for any criticism you can mount of the show, there's an equally valid defense of "yes, that's the point".  As VanDerWerff writes, for example, the flatness of the characters--humans and hosts alike--may very well be taken as a deliberate reflection of the show's belief that nobody, whether biological or artificial, can transcend their programming and core directives.  But plodding through the second season of Westworld, I was forced to come to the conclusion that there isn't a point to all these points.  That even when the show hits on interesting ideas, what it does with them is almost inevitably shallow.  The second season finale seems to promise the same sort of leveling-up as the first.  The surviving self-aware hosts have been packed off to their own artificial world where the humans of Delos can't harm them.  Maeve is recaptured, though some of her human allies may be in place to help her.  Bernard and Dolores escape the park and vow to fight for the future of their race, and against each other.  Once again, the show is promising that if we just stick with it, just move along to the next screen, we'll get to the real story.  But after two seasons of wheel-spinning, is there any reason to believe that Westworld has anything to say?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Shows of Summer, 2018 Edition

Summer is properly here, and with it all the TV shows deemed too weird or too niche to make it in more prestigious weather.  I admit that I've noped out of several shows whose flimsiness felt appropriate to the season but not really to my taste, like the virtual reality procedural Reverie or the Castle-in-reverse detective show Take Two.  And on the other hand, some more serious fare, like FX's Pose, felt a little more earnest and heartfelt than I can take right now in the sweltering heat.  But here are a few shows that hit the exact sweet-spot between shlocky and highbrow, and helped me greet the summer (in my air-conditioned living room) with appropriate flair.
  • A Very English Scandal - I'm a little surprised that this BBC miniseries hasn't received more attention from people in my various feeds, since it seems to tick so many boxes of stuff people like.  Hugh Grant, in full Paddington 2 smarm mode, plays Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the British Liberal party (precursors of today's Liberal Democrats) during the 60s and 70s, who is also a closeted gay man.  Ben Whishaw plays Norman Scott, Thorpe's former lover, who over a span of years intermittently contacts and harasses Thorpe, asking for money, favors, or just acknowledgment that what they had existed.  Thorpe decides that his best course of action is to kill Scott, to which end he enlists a cabal of increasingly dim and incompetent middlemen and assassins, which leads to a botched attempt, a trial, a public scandal, and the end of Thorpe's career.  The whole thing comes to us (via a nonfiction book by John Preston) from the pen of Russell T. Davies, who takes the opportunity afforded by this improbable but nevertheless real historical event to discuss the lives of gay men in mid-20th century Britain.

    A first, and obvious, point of comparison for A Very English Scandal is this spring's The Assassination of Gianni Versace.  Both are true crime stories that use a shocking act of violence as a jumping-off point for a discussion of the lives of gay men in a society where their sexuality is no longer illegal, but still incompatible with "respectable" life.  But Assassination--despite stunning central performances from Darren Criss as the serial killer Andrew Cunanan, and Finn Wittrock and Cody Fern as two of his victims--is perhaps a little too self-serious.  Scandal approaches the same subject matter with significantly more humor--the other point of comparison I found myself returning to while watching was I, Tonya, and like that movie the miniseries is a very black comedy in which everyone is an idiot, but also afforded great sympathy and moments of dignity.  Taking its lead from Thorpe himself, a dynamic, magnetic rogue who seems to get things done through sheer force of personality, Scandal refuses to take any of its events very seriously, even as it circles around some genuinely awful truths--that Thorpe was right to believe that being outed would destroy his career; that the British press were far more interested in the details of his sexual relationship with Scott than in the fact that he ordered a murder; and that the sexuality of his victim (and the fact that Scott, unlike Thorpe, lived openly as a gay man) made it highly unlikely that he'd face consequences for his actions.

    Much time, therefore, is spent on minutiae, on manners that only lightly conceal a naughty or even depraved truth, and on the silliness of all these efforts to keep up a respectable face.  Whether it's Thorpe trying to maneuver his way into a relationship with a naive Scott without ever calling it by name, or trying to maneuver his way out of it, once he gets bored, by pretending that they were never more than friends.  Or Scott's constant harping on insignificant details--a running gag is his complaint that Thorpe promised to replace his lost national insurance card but never did so--as a substitute for the recognition he so clearly craves.  Or the would-be assassins' bumbling, movie-inspired attempts to lure Scott to his death with promises to protect him from other, nonexistent killers.  There's great humor in all of these sequences, but interspersed with them are moments of genuine emotion, when the mask of English detachment slips and one sees what's behind it all--a real, and entirely justified, fear of being found out.  When Thorpe tells his only real friend (Alex Jennings in a performance that rivals his turn as the pickled, peevish Edward VIII in The Crown) that legalizing homosexuality will not give gay men dignity or freedom, and that he would take his own life if he were ever exposed, there's a sudden lurch into genuine vulnerability that is almost too much to take.  Other scenes--Jennings pointing out that despite his effeminate presentation and obvious triviality, Scott's willingness to face up to daily public censure and potential violence by living openly as a gay man suggests a strength that other, more dignified characters lack; Thorpe explaining that one of his reasons for choosing Scott was that he seemed unlikely to be violent towards him, as other one-night stands often were; a conservative peer who is co-sponsoring the bill to decriminalize homosexuality painfully reminiscing about his brother's death by suicide--all combine to make the point that while this particular story may be a silly one, the pain and injustice that underlie it are real, and reverberate to this day.

  • Marvel's Cloak & Dagger - Five years into Marvel's TV project, it's possible to identify three distinct schools.  There are the ABC shows, perpetually hobbled by the need to conform to the network TV model without the skill to pull it off in an entertaining way; they occasionally throw up good material (the first season of Agent Carter, mainly), but for the most part aren't worth your time and attention.  There are the Netflix shows, incredibly exciting when they first appeared but very quick to squander their most interesting ideas (not to mention their potential for political storytelling).  And in the last year, we've gotten the Freeform shows (formerly known as ABC Family, Freeform is an ABC-owned channel for youth-oriented material).  These tend to be characterized by more adventurous visuals and an emphasis on real-world class issues that extends to filming in poor and sometimes dilapidated locations, something that hardly any other MCU product attempts.  But they also tend to wallow in soap-opera storylines to the detriment of their ostensible superhero premise.  No sooner did we bid farewell to Runaways--which started out like gangbusters only to stall due to its unwillingness to actually let its title characters run away--than the channel has released Cloak & Dagger, which demonstrates the same frustrating combination of promise and glacial plotting.

    The Cloak and Dagger of the title are Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy (Olivia Holt), two teenagers who, as we learn in the pilot but as they are still figuring out, were granted superpowers by the same industrial accident, and who have a mysterious connection that they don't entirely understand.  The show spends a lot of time on their respective, complex situations.  Tyrone is the surviving child of an upwardly-mobile family whose parents, still scarred by the shooting death of his older brother, are frantic for him to buckle down and fly straight, and terrified that this won't be enough to protect him from a world that frequently victimizes young black men.  Tandy is living on the streets, running scams on rich college students, occasionally dropping in on her alcoholic mother, who is still trying to prove that the accident that killed Tandy's father (the same one that gave her and Tyrone their powers) wasn't his fault.  These are both well-drawn settings, and the fact that the show takes its time to introduce us to them, as well as the fact that it's drawing out our understanding of Tyrone and Tandy's powers, is not unjustifiable in itself.  What's less understandable is the show's reluctance to put its two leads together, instead pairing them with other characters who are obviously less important because their names aren't in the title.  This is particularly true of the two leads' respective alternate love interests--Tandy's devoted boyfriend Liam (Carl Lundstedt), and Evita (Noëlle Renée Bercy), a girl in Tyrone's school who makes her interest in him clear.  Both are decent characters, but since it's clear that they are merely hurdles on the path to Tyrone and Tandy getting together, it's hard not to resent the time spent with them.

    Nevertheless, there are things in Cloak & Dagger that make me think it's worth sticking with.  The show makes much of its New Orleans setting, not only using it to comment on race, racist policing, and corporate negligence, but drawing on its history for its own storytelling.  In a dream sequence in the third episode, Tyrone is seen dressed like an 18th century chevalier, which is perfect for a New Orleans story but not something you see in most superhero shows.  Another interesting note is the show's use of religious imagery.  Tyrone goes to a Catholic school and has a mentor in one of the priests who teach there, who challenges him to use faith to overcome his anger over his brother's death.  Tandy squats in an abandoned church and is drawn to images of angels.  Most gratifying given the show's setting, voodoo has already been introduced into the show's cosmology, with Tyrone visiting a priestess who sends him on a vision quest (this is actually one of the better uses to which the show puts Evita's character, who is one of the vectors through which Tyrone explores black New Orleans culture; the other is his father, a former Mardi Gras Indian).  These aren't elements that have shown up in other MCU shows, and they offer the possibility that Cloak & Dagger will be able to strike its own path rather than following a familiar template.  But for that promise to be realized, the show's plotting need to kick into gear.

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock - I haven't read the 1967 Joan Lindsay novel on which this miniseries is based, nor watched the 1975 Peter Weir film adaptation which is generally considered to be a masterpiece.  I did, however, know the basic details of the plot (and, apparently like a lot of other people, made the mistake of assuming that it was based on a real event).  On a summer afternoon in 1900 Australia, a group of girls from a rural finishing school go on a picnic at Hanging Rock, a magnificent natural rock formation.  Three of the girls and one of the teachers go exploring and don't return.  One is rescued after a few days, and the others are never seen again.  The investigation into the disappearance dredges up the secrets of the school's imperious headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard (Natalie Dormer), and stirs up currents of tension and resentment among the school's remaining students and teachers.

    The Victorian girls' boarding school as a hotbed of repression, hysteria, and overheated imagination is practically a cliché, especially in the Gothic genre to which Picnic at Hanging Rock clearly belongs.  But the Australian setting puts its own spin on the proceedings.  The miniseries' visuals stress the overpowering, baking sun.  One can almost feel the late summer heat wafting through the screen.  Victorian ideas of propriety are, of course, completely unsuited to this setting, and much is made of the way the girls are confined by their dress--being permitted to remove their gloves is depicted as an act of liberation.  The sound design, as well, often overpowers the characters' dialogue with jangling, modern music, or sounds of nature and of animals which are foreign to the characters' European-trained expectations (one of the missing girls complains that the Australian scenery is "wrong" and needs taming).  The soundtrack reminded me of a similar approach in the recently-concluded The Terror, a show I didn't get around to writing about, but which is on my list as one of the best TV series of 2018.  Despite taking place in very different parts of the world, both stories are ultimately about Victorians encroaching on an alien landscape and trying to remake it in their image, only to end up swallowed up by it.  Though the miniseries touches only lightly on the significance of Hanging Rock to Indigenous Australians, there is a constant suggestion that the rock is a place of power, and that the missing women have somehow plugged into it.

    At the same time, Picnic at Hanging Rock deals with the traditional components of Gothic stories--sexual hysteria, adolescent girls rebelling against their swiftly-approaching womanhood and its attendant limitations, and the vicious, self-imposed trap of female propriety.  Mrs. Appleyard turns out to have a dark past, which she compensates for by playing the correct, respectable matron to the hilt.  She collects damaged, vulnerable women as her students and employees, but it's never clear whether she does this out of genuine fellow-feeling or the desire to have someone to exercise her power over.  Either way, she ends up developing twisted, abusive relationships with all of them, incapable of reaching past her own tragic past and her desire to erase it.  The three girls each have a horror of their looming adulthood--Miranda (Lily Sullivan), the daughter of a rancher, dreams of returning to farm life but knows that she will soon be married off; Marion (Madeleine Madden), the biracial, illegitimate daughter of a rich man, struggles with both her limited future prospects, and her attraction to women; cosmopolitan heiress Irma (Samara Weaving) has money but no real family, and she latches on to the visiting nephew of one of the town's leading families, who in turn is more interested in the stable boy.  Orbiting the three girls is charity case Sarah (Inez Currõ), who fruitlessly tries to combat Mrs. Appleyard's attempts to impose normalcy (and save the reputation of her establishment) after the disappearances.

    There's a lot of interesting material, but perhaps not enough to sustain a six-hour miniseries.  Picnic at Hanging Rock drags towards its middle, when it seems that its story is branching out in multiple directions--Sarah's long-lost brother and her years in an orphanage; the school's French mistress's affair with a local businessman; the Bible-thumping deportment teacher's seeming horror at her students' rebelliousness, mingled with her own desire for freedom; even a romance between two of the school's servants--that don't seem to have much to do with one another.  There is perhaps a little too much reliance on wordless flashes to the missing girls in their diaphanous white gowns, too many attempts to create atmosphere that end up coasting on it.  Picnic at Hanging Rock is not a plot-driven story--another thing that most people know about it is that the mystery isn't solved--but nevertheless the miniseries wallows in its plotlessness a little too much, veering off on tangents instead of trying to come to a point.  The ending, despite its openness, is quite powerful, but nevertheless one wishes that the middle were a little more tightly-constructed.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discusses Catherynne M. Valente's new novel Space Opera.  As I discuss in the essay, this is seemingly an odd choice--Valente's Hitchhiker's Guide-inspired comedy about a galaxy where species prove their right to exist among civilized nations by competing in space-Eurovision is pretty far outside the boundaries I had previously defined, of works that engage with concrete political and social issues.
To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations. ... Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.
Valente not only creates a setting where art and music are the most important thing, but also touches on how central culture is to our existence as thinking, feeling people.  Plus, it's a really fun book.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Review: Lost in Space, Season 1 at Strange Horizons

This week at Strange Horizons, I review the first season of Netflix's re-reboot of Lost in Space.  Like a lot of people I found the entire notion of remaking a silly little space-pioneering show from 1965 (after a failed reboot movie in 1998) rather bizarre, and I can't say that the show has proved that this was something that needed to happen.  What it does achieve, however, is to demonstrate how you can take an unnecessary concept and execute it with intelligence and sensitivity (something that the makers of, to take a recent example, Solo: A Star Wars Story completely failed to accomplish).  I still don't think we needed a new Lost in Space, but the show we got has interesting characters, good storylines, and does some things that I'd almost given up on seeing in a genre show, such as construct coherent and compelling episode plots.  That said, because this is a reboot that is ultimately an attempt to monetize a familiar IP, the end of the season is a lot less interesting than its beginning, working overtime to get the characters to the canonical Lost in Space form, despite the fact that the new one it had originally presented was a great deal more interesting.

One thing I didn't find space for in the review, but which feels important to note, was my disappointment in the total straightness and cisnormativity of the show.  All of the characters we meet are implicitly straight.  All of the romances presented or suggested on the show are straight.  Though the characters spend a lot of time around other space-bound colonists, who, like them, are divided into family units, none of them have same-sex couples as parents.  All of the children are presumed to be straight and cis, and none suggest that they might be realizing otherwise.  This is particularly disappointing given that Netflix's other big kid-oriented show, A Series of Unfortunate Events, is cheerfully LGBT-friendly, dropping frequent mentions of gay couples into the story, and even featuring a non-binary character.  So it's not a matter of the target audience, but simply the show's creators making no space in their future for queerness, something that we should have long ago moved past.