In the second episode of Hogfather, Susan, Death, and the wizards all race to save belief. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Hogfather.
I’m so happy. SO HAPPY. This really, really felt like the book in all the important ways, and I could tell how much thought and care went into this adaptation. Let’s discuss!
- I enjoyed that while the “introduction” to this episode was the same as the previous one, it was merely to introduce the Discworld. We basically got dumped right back into it.
- This film also deeply understood that the wizards are mostly useless except when they sort of accidentally stumble on the answer? Hex played a much bigger part in things. AND HEX WAS DONE SO WONDERFULLY.
- I truly cannot get over the “Anthill Inside” logo. Look, part of the difficulty of doing Pratchett is that his books have a density to them in terms of wordplay, language, and references. And yet, someone figured out how to make a visual joke that was exactly in the spirit of Pratchett’s sense of humor and also provided a laugh that pretty much only book fans would get? They showed the ants multiple times, but they never explained onscreen the importance of them. Just a brilliant, brilliant moment, one of many that told me that the people making this got the importance of Hogfather.
- I enjoyed the portrayal of Bilious, too, especially since he’s an integral character in understanding how magic, belief, and existence work on the Disc. I tried as often as I could to think about what this experience would have been like if you watched this without knowing about the book. Bilious needed to be both a god and utterly ignorant. He couldn’t know why he just suddenly appeared in the world, and Rhodri Mielir did an amazing job with the physicality needed to pull off this part of the story.
- The same goes for the execution of the sudden appearance of multiple gods! I love the variance in size, in species, in absurdity. That scene where Ridcully heads down to the laundry room had the exact same energy as that infamous scene from Community where Troy entered the flaming room carrying a box of pizza. EXACTLY THE SAME ENERGY.
- Looking back on Hogfather, it was clear that not everyone in Teatime’s crew would survive, and this movie gives off a little bit of a slasher vibe? Well, if the slasher was “childhood fear” combined with “Teatime in touch with the terror of his childhood.” And lord, the movie DEFINITELY made sure to make Teatime’s “childlike” thinking a very textual thing, which was so pleasing to watch. But it doesn’t do that thing where it exonerates him for his monstrous behavior. Indeed, once Susan arrives at the Tooth Fairy’s lair and confronts Teatime, it’s very clear that he never grew up in the ways that he should have, and has instead let his obsessions grow into this murderous desire of his.
- The only part of this that I have a criticism about—and it’s relatively small—is that there are some pacing issues early in this episode. I felt like Susan spent a long time at Unseen University just… watching other people do stuff? And I get that that’s partially so that we see how inept and roundabout the wizards are. Because Ridcully does get Bilious partially sober with that mix of “everything,” including some wow-wow sauce, so there’s some success? But I just felt it stretched a little thin at that point. Otherwise, this moved along very nicely!
- Even if his parts weren’t the biggest, Ed Coleman really did a fantastic job as Ponder Stibbons. Probably the only character here aside from Death, Banjo, and Teatime who was close to what I had in mind for them. He definitely had to be the youngest of the wizards, and Coleman gave him that youthful, academic curiosity that we see in the books. Bravo!
- Actually, let me also compliment David Jason as Albert, who has to act opposite of a character that can’t make facial expressions, yet still manages to exude emotions. (That, in and of itself, was an accomplishment for the record.) I loved getting to see Albert come to life, particularly in how David Jason added depth to the Hogfather mythos by explaining why hope mattered, a message that Death later imparts on Susan in a different context. But it’s also an important scene because it plants that seed in Death’s mind: Why is the world unfair? If the Hogfather has the power to grant anything to a person, why uphold the same systems in place?
- That question is all over this film and the book, too. Why? Why care about this? Why value human belief? Why does any of this matter?
- Susan already has the answer before Death tells her, though, and you can see it in her interactions with those in the Tooth Fairy’s tower. So many of the emotional beats I wanted to see are still here, especially when it came to Medium Dave and Banjo. Banjo’s belief not just in the Hogfather, but not being violent towards women, is what allowed him to break free from Teatime’s control. Susan sees how belief is what fuels the tower’s ability to protect itself, since that’s how multiple of Teatime’s crew are killed off. And then there’s THE Bogeyman, who had to change their purpose in life in order to stay relevant. In doing so, they built a place that protected children. So Susan already knew the importance of human belief on a smaller scale, and Death helped her extrapolate that on a larger scale.
- I made this comment in the video, but I enjoyed that the film also had those very Pratchett-esque tonal changes. The scene with the Bogeyman was so sad!!! The scene where Medium Dave’s and Banjo’s mother appears as their worst fear and begins to verbally abuse them? TERRIFYING. But these scenes still make narrative sense alongside all the others, and that’s not an easy thing to do.
- Banjo and his puppy oh my GOD
- The emotion when Susan saves the Hogfather but then thinks he died!
- THE MONOLOGUE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BELIEF!!! They kept it in, nearly word-for-word! That was probably the ONE thing I needed to see the most.
- The whole final exchange with Teatime was also done beautifully. Y’all, I knew what was going to happen, and I was still on the edge of my seat. I can barely believe how good Marc Warren was at this role, and yet here’s all the evidence!!!
- It’s clear that there’s a history (and familial love!) between Death and Susan, even though most of it has to be established through dialogue. We never meet Mort of Ysabell, but that whole backstory is still mentioned. Rather, we have to believe that Death is her grandfather, and by the end of this film, it felt real. Which, again, is an achievement when Death is… well, Death. There are a number of factors that make this work so well. The dialogue. The script. Ian Richardson’s voice work. Whomever was actually Death beneath all that. Ugh, it was so damn good!
This was a treat to watch and pull-off, and I hope this little surprise brought you some joy. I’ve got to do lots of Patreon stuff to prepare for the end of the month, but hopefully I’ll be able to do a film or two in August! Thanks for waiting for this.
The video for Hogfather, part 2 can be downloaded here for $1.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– Not only that, but my very first pre-order campaign is now live for North American readers! If you submit proof of pre-order, you can get a limited edition print that comes with the book.
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