Friday, June 17, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 22

So this thing really ends with a whimper.

I've kind of scanned ahead a little? And it's a real bummer.

I'm going to make some plot complaints. I know I've made them before but I've been doing this for so long that I end up just reminding myself of certain things and I'm sorry but you kind of brought this on yourself by reading.

So like, usually what you try to do is try to have your character go on a journey or whatever? With an external obstacle and some kind of like, inner sitch that the character is trying to conquer. Right? So you see her improve herself as she overcomes an obstacle. Very satisfying!

Very. But see, in this book, we've got these characters and they've both got significant inner conflicts. Mainly talking about how they're both huge jealousy monsters who don't really trust each other or themselves. Bummer! And on top of that they're having a big fight about having a baby. I think it's fair to think of those things as the internal conflicts since even their fights with each other are, to a significant extent, the result of their own personal shortcomings.

And then we've got the external conflicts, which have never been significant, and have never been effectively tied to the internal ones. For a satisfying resolution, most writers would try to establish some kind of harmony between the external and internal obstacles. EL, though, does something rather odd. She connects all the external obstacles to Christian and not to Ana, even though seems fair to think of Ana as the protagonist.

Leila, who nearly shot Ana, was Christian's ex lover. And although Jack Hyde enters the picture because he starts out as Ana's boss, Hyde seems to see Ana as an avatar for Christian. His hostility to Ana, his threats to Ana--these don't really have anything to do with Ana. They have a bit to do with his general misogyny but mostly they're just collateral damage. It's Christian he cares about.

The Leila situation we've already seen resolved. Leila seems happy enough, because CG threw some money in her direction and money fixes everything. Christian didn't overcome anything. He just gave her money. I guess we could say that CG moved from a disposable relationship to a more serious one but in this book this dude is twenty-six so like. I dunno. Am I supposed to cheer about this? I'm not going to.

And we're about to see the Jack Hyde situation resolved too, and after that, we're going to sort of pretend that everything else worked out nicely too, despite the fact that Ana and CG have been going back and forth with the same problems for three books with no signs of improvement. It's the end of the book, and a baby is on the way, so EL is just going to sort of wave her hands and say, "There! Happily ever after! Print it before anyone asks any followup questions!"

Last point before we go watch the sausage get made:

Ana isn't really the protagonist of this thing. We're in her head, yes, but the protagonist is not necessarily the person from whose point of view the story is told. Ana's contributions to the plot are basically insignificant. She never does anything on her own--even her most impressive acts, like beating up Jack Hyde, are only possible because boys swoop in to provide support at the last minute.

And, as we'll see with one more reveal: Jack Hyde is a figure from CG's pre-billionaire past, and vanquishing him lets CG vanquish some old demons.

Hence, Ana tells the story, but if we want to argue that anyone goes on a journey or overcomes any internal conflicts, we have to say that that person is Christian. Not Ana.

Why bring this up? Well. No good reason I suppose, since there's not really a good reason for any of this. But, I think it's worth noting that this is another way in which Fifty Shades conforms to the most boring, patriarchal conventions of storytelling. Men do plots. Women. . . have babies? I guess so, yeah. I guess so.

Oh but where were we?

Ana Steele is married to billionaire / kink-enthusiast / child-abuse survivor Christian Grey. He is domineering and they are usually upset with each other except for when they're having sex. 

  1. Ana takes her top off on a beach while reminiscing about the wedding and Christian gets mad.
  2. They ride a jet-ski back to their honeymoon yacht and riding jet-skis cheers up Christian a bit. Then they have sex. 
  3. Ana discovers that Christian gave her a bunch of hickies and she is angry. But then she gets over it and they look at art together and CG learns that there was a fire in his server room. 
  4. Ana buys a camera.
  5. Ana and Christian return to Seattle. After visiting Christian's parents, they become embroiled in a medium-speed chase on the interstate. After eluding their pursuers, they have sex in a parking lot. 
  6. Ana figures out that Jack Hyde was the arsonist.
  7. Christian bullies Ana until she agrees to go by "Ana Grey" in her professional life. 
  8. Ana is extremely jealous of the architect hired to remodel the new home she will share with Christian. Ana cuts Christian's hair.
  9. Ana discovers that Christian keeps an unlicensed gun in his office. While Christian is away on business, Ana has a few drinks with Kate. When Ana returns home, Jack Hyde has been apprehended during an apparent home invasion. 
  10. Christian spends a whole chapter pouting because Ana went out with Kate without telling him. 
  11. Christian pouts some more and reveals that he and Jack Hyde both used to live in Detroit. 
  12. I don't remember. So probably nothing I guess.
  13. Oh I guess in twelve everyone left for Aspen. And then in thirteen, Elliot asks Kate to marry him. 
  14. Kate says yes and someone touches Ana's butt and she slaps him and then CG hits him.
  15. They go home and nothing happens but Leila shows up at the end.
  16. That Leila thing is NBD but at the end Ana learns that her dad has been injured in a car wreck.
  17. Ana goes to Portland to be closer to Ray while he recovers.
  18. It's Ana's birthday and Ray is recovering. 
  19. Back to Seattle. Ana learns she's totally pregnant. 
  20. Christian is mad at Ana for being pregnant. He goes out and gets drunk with his ex. 
  21. Ana and Christian are fighting a lot. Christian flies to Portland on business. Ana gets a call from Jack Hyde via Mia's phone. 

Right so remember Jack Hyde? He's back and in this book again. But don't worry--plot-wise, we're pretty much going to wrap up everything soon. That's something I hadn't thought of before I started scanning the end--EL was always going to want to do a bit of post-plot wrap-up type of stuff so I always should have presumed that the story, such as it is, wouldn't last us all the way through the end. So don't worry! We're even closer than I thought!

This chapter is a real drag tho. It's very dense with detail, but not meaningful detail. It's kind of a classic mistake--EL sticks us with a ton of business early on, but then when we get to the most meaningful stuff at the end, Ana is going to be unconscious and get filled in on all the details later. Oh sorry. Was that a spoiler? You can't spoil a spoiled system! #Politics #FTB

So he wants five mil or else he's going to kill Mia. 

“I want his money. I really want his fucking money. If things had been different, it could have been me. So you’re going to get it for me. I want five million dollars, today.” 
I think the way EL writes Hyde's hyper-angry dialogue is one of the places where it's most obvious that she doesn't really get American speech patterns or vocabulary. And I mean, that's fine. Why should she, really? But the inconsistencies just kind of break realism and serve as a constant reminder that we are reading a book, written by a writer, and she is making the decisions, not the characters. Examples: Hyde describes Ana as "prick-teasing" and refers to her "prick of a husband" and calls CG a "cock-sucker" and none of it feels terribly reasonable. I can only think of one person I've ever heard use the phrase "cock-sucker" and that was a Providence, Rhode Island cab driver who picked me up before sunrise one morning so that I could go to the airport. He regaled me with tales of the rats he watched in the parking lot while waiting outside for me. "The size ah doze cock-suckahs!" This was fifteen years ago, and he was quite old. I just don't think Jack Hyde is choosing these insults when he's angry.

Ana decides to follow Hyde's instructions and act alone.

I gaze out the window in stark terror as I go over my plan. Get home. Change. Find checkbook. Escape from Ryan and Sawyer somehow. Go to bank. Hell, how much room does five million dollars take up? What will it weigh? Will I need a suitcase? Should I telephone the bank in advance? Mia. Mia. What if he doesn’t have Mia? How can I check? If I call Grace it will raise her suspicions, and possibly endanger Mia. He said he would know. I glance out the back window of the SUV. Am I being followed? 

I like that the second part of her plan is "Change." I don't know what the proper attire is for delivering a ransom, but Ana does, and she's not wearing it. 

I don't know that there's anything wrong with this paragraph per se. I'm just including it because it summarizes what's going to happen next quite neatly and I don't really want to linger on this chapter too long. It's not a terrible chapter or anything, at least until the cop-out way that EL handles the final moments. I don't take issue with the way that EL writes this sequence; my complaint is that this sequence really never should've been a part of this book in the first place. She's just kind of grabbed hold of this lazy thriller subplot and crammed it into her romance and it feels terribly out of place. 

And because this thriller element has been jammed in here at the end, the stakes feel remarkably low. There's no risk of anyone dying except maybe Hyde. That's a real possibility I suppose. I can't say I'm even certain that Hyde even has Mia, so I'm not worried about her being hurt. Could well be that this is just a ruse and he's spoofed her phone number or stolen her phone. Whatever. We're just going to try to get through this, is what I'm saying. We're just going to get through this pretend danger so that we can stew on the bland happily-ever-after that's due once it's properly wrapped up.

Ana runs to grab the checkbook. Note on that: CG is rich, I get. But he has $5 mil in his checking account? For reals? I guess I've never been a billionaire and won't be for probably several more years at least, but I can't imagine that CG got all rich by leaving his money in checking at zero interest. I guess I would buy it if this were a business account, since they may well keep that much liquid capital around. Ana's name probably isn't going to be on that account tho. But the personal checking shared by CG and Ana? Five mil? Dunno guys. I just dunno. 

What else does she grab while she's there in the money / stolen gun area? You guessed it!

After a moment’s hesitation, I grab the pistol, check to ensure it’s loaded, and tuck it into the waistband of my black slacks. I may need it. 
WHOA. So Ana is totally going to shoot Jack Hyde! I mean, the gun has been introduced; it's going to be fired. I mean, unless, somehow, it isn't fired, but that would just be nuts so yeah of course it's totally going to be fired. Nothing nuts ever happens in this trilogy. Seriously tho: don't put a gun in your pants. This has been a safety message from Plaxico Burress. 

Ana fakes out her bodyguard by calling him over to one part of the apartment while she ducks into the elevator and soon she's running off to the bank. 

Here's a pretty typical Fifty Shades moment: Ana is mistreated by some low-ranking lady at a fancy-pants institution and then name-drops her husband and every door is open. It's not good. We've seen this kind of mild comeuppance a bazillion times already, in this book, in other books, in movies. And it just keeps happening again and again and it's like, really? Really? I hate that all the women in this series are the very worst and I hate that the way Ana scores points for herself is exclusively by bringing her husband into things. "Hey I have no particular value of my own, but my husband is rich." It's gross every time and I hate it.

“I’d like to withdraw a large sum of money.” 
Ms. Insincere Smile arches an even more insincere eyebrow. 
“You have an account with us?” She fails to hide her sarcasm. 
“Yes,” I snap. “My husband and I have several accounts here. His name is
Christian Grey.” 
Her eyes widen fractionally and insincerity gives way to shock. Her eyes sweep up and down me once more, this time with a combination of disbelief and awe. 
Right? So this bank lady is just a monster for no reason? In my experience in Seattle banks, you're much more likely to receive treatment that is kind of annoying friendly and a bit over the top. It's also possible that Ana is not in a regular Joe Lunchpail kinda bank, in which case it's even more ridiculous that she'd be greeted with such skepticism. Whatever. This book is awful, but at least it's awful in the same ways again and again so we can all get used to it.

The fancy banker is like, "NP we totally got five mil." But then Ana's ID has her old name on it and the banker literally says "This is highly irregular" as though that were a thing that anyone in the entire world had ever said ever. And anyway the banker totally calls CG and then CG and Ana talk and of course CG thinks that Ana is leaving him and Ana is like, "Whut? Why would he think that?" even though it's completely obvious why he'd think that and she totally should leave him. Ana says she is leaving because she remains determined not to tell anyone what she's really up to because of Jack Hyde's threats. So for the time being, Ana tells CG that yes, indeed, she is leaving him, just like in all my fanfic. 

After calling Jack to arrange a ride, Ana sneaks out the back of the bank with the money. This seems v dangerous to me--getting into a car sent by the kidnapper? Basically means Ana is handing over the money and herself and has no assurance of Mia's safety. Or even that Mia was ever kidnapped in the first place. Whatever. 

Bank people help Ana load her millions into an SUV and Ana recognizes the driver--Elizabeth. I have no idea who this is but I guess she works at the publishing house with Ana because Ana says "Nice to see you outside work." I wonder if this was like a big reveal to any other readers. I doubt it. Pretty sure Elizabeth is an extremely minor character. If EL had really wanted to blow our minds she should've brought in Leila or CG's other ex whose name I totally forget. That woulda been better I think.

It's weird that Ana doesn't react to Elizabeth with terror. The fact that a familiar face is working with Jack either means that A) Jack and Elizabeth both plan to go on the run forever once they have the money or B) they're planning to kill Ana and therefore aren't worried about Ana recognizing Elizabeth. Right? Because that would make things pretty difficult around the office I imagine. "Hey how was your weekend? Besides the part where you extorted five million dollars from me? That part seemed like it went ok for you but what about besides that?"

Elizabeth makes Ana dump her phone, so of course there's no possible way that CG could track Ana, obvs. No possible way. 

Elizabeth tells Ana that Jack wants to receive the money from Ana in person. Ana becomes convinced that Jack has some kind of hold over Elizabeth. Like blackmail or sorcery or whatever.

And in that moment I know that he does. Something so awful that she’s prepared to do this for him. I wonder briefly what that could be. Theft from the company? Something from her private life? Something sexual? I shudder at the thought. Christian said that none of Jack’s PAs would talk. Perhaps it’s the same story with all of them. That’s why he wanted to fuck me, too. Bile rises in my throat with revulsion at the thought. 
Well. That makes little sense. Elizabeth must be getting a pretty good cut of the 5 mil. That's the main motivation. Jack has been completely disgraced so he couldn't possibly hold any sway with Elizabeth's employers. And once she helps with this, she must be planning to never go back to work again, so how could Hyde coerce Elizabeth with anything work-related?

Plus, methinks Ana puts the cart before the horse a bit. What--Jack Hyde wants to sex people so that he can coerce them? If you can remember back to book the second, Jack Hyde was trying to coerce Ana into having sex with him and I completely forget how. But anyway: "You're going to have to help me with this kidnapping if you don't want me to tell everyone how I coerced you into having sex with me against your will" is not a very good threat.

Anyway. They get to where Jack is waiting:

“Well, lookee here.” Jack emerges from a small, boarded-up doorway on the left of the building. 
So like. The doorway is boarded up? Like with boards? And Jack comes out of that doorway? Guys I'm getting real sick of this book is what I'm saying. Because what the shit EL James? Could you maybe draw me a picture of how this works? So like, maybe there's no door? But an adult man can kinda like duck through the boards? Because it's not boarded-up well? I don't know! I don't know at all!

Anyway Jack attacks Ana. Knocks her down with a smack to the head and then kicks her in the ribs. Lucky that Ana brought that unlicensed gun that her husband stole from his ex-girlfriend when he sent her to that mental institution! Because Ana totally shoots him in the knee.

That part is fine I guess. But the part that's not fine is the total deus ex machina of an ending to the mayhem. Ready for the ending? Here you go!

Fuck! Jack bellows. I turn to face Elizabeth, and she’s gaping at me in hor- ror and raising her hands above her head. She blurs . . . darkness closes in. Shit . . . She’s at the end of a tunnel. Darkness consuming her. Consuming me. From far away, all hell breaks loose. Cars screeching . . . brakes . . . doors . . . shouting . . . running . . . footsteps. The gun drops from my hand. 
“Ana!” Christian’s voice . . . Christian’s voice . . . Christian’s agonized voice. Mia . . . save Mia. 
Darkness . . . peace. 

Right so I guess next chapter we'll learn about how CG got to Seattle from PDX so mutterflushing quickly and how he knew where to go. The answer to that will doubtless be something extremely complicated and unlikely but whatever. I wonder if CG was chasing after Ana to protect her or. . . hey remember what happened last time Ana said she was dumping CG? Way back in book one? He showed up at her house and was like, "We're doing sex now anyway." Maybe CG was just rolling in for some breakup sex, whether Ana wanted it or not. Who knows!

You will, next time! Me too. But I'm getting really good at forgetting big chunks of this book. It's a thing I do for my sanity and whatever. So I'm saying I'll probably forget it soon enough.

But yeah back to my principle complaint: it's awfully tidy to have CG show up like that. And it's awfully tidy for Ana to lose consciousness so that EL can have someone summarize events for her. It's like Rocky saying to Bullwinkle, "Bullwinkle! Don't tell me you passed out and missed the plot again!" But hey. I guess it gets me out of here a little faster so that's something.

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