What if The Butterfly Effect met a restaurateur?
I know, the concept is definitely original, but in a lot of ways, what do you expect from writer artist Bryan Lee O’Malley?
For those who came in late, O’Malley is the creative force behind the mega hit graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim, which translated into the big screen movie starring Michael Cera. That love story with over the top elements and quirky strange humour was one for the ages, giant hammer out of a purse and everything. And now onto my slightly SPOILERISH look at Seconds.
This is the story of Katie, a young lady restauranteur who is desperate to have place of her own to run, so she is sinking all her money and free time into a massive renovation project, all to create a sparkling dining establishment all hers. Sacrifices to achieve this include a boyfriend and some traces of her humanity. But a mysterious person keeps visiting her, someone who lets her correct one mistake that caused harm. This good deed makes Katie obsessive, and suddenly against the rules of magic, she starts bending time to her advantage tons and tons, frivolous and monumental. Cue the awaiting universal backlash.
Katie is a flawed self centered, somewhat controlling, personality who firmly believes she deserves all these changes to her benefit. And any little piece of the new puzzle that goes wrong is simply an affront to what she perceives as her lost perfect picture. She is owed this and plans to take it back. Everyone else simply gets in the way. Even getting her boyfriend back is more about her happiness then his. Her wrongdoing in the breakup is half heartedly admitted, almost an afterthought, before it becomes all about Katie again.
And this is one of the areas where O’Malley falters in this large 320 page graphic novel. Katie comes across as very unlikeable, and unrootable, very early on, with few redeeming qualities. Once she was nice, we get a sense of that from little flashbacks and the fact her ex keeps hanging around, but little sense of why anyone would want to be near her right now. I have a feeling that O’Malley is trying to show that obsessive behaviour makes a person terrible, and Katie’s crazed drive for her own restaurant would qualify for that, but after awhile you realize Seconds is not a modern Moby Dick.
My next issue with this tale is the ending. The universe getting back at Katie is not a surprise, but the explanations for everything magical going on gets muddied up from what the original concept was, and then muddied even further. Methinks O’Malley was striving for way deeper philosophical thoughts here, above and beyond The Butterfly Effect and living the life you have and so forth, and even after multiple reading of the ending I am still trying to fully grasp his over explanations for this Twilight Zone episode.
One big plus for me, and a story thread that does show Katie giving a care about another human being, is her burgeoning relationship with the waitress Hazel. This is one constant in every timeline is her getting closer and closer to this quiet woman, and even more importantly, confiding in her. Hazel is not just a plot device to move the story forward or give Katie some humanity, but she also brings another element to this story, one that is very underplayed.
Early on in Seconds, Hazel is hinted at possibly being lesbian, and sometimes when Katie is around her, they also hint at an attraction to the waitress. This could explain some of Katie’s behaviour towards her ex-boyfriend, now and in the past, since a conflict over her sexuality would cause mental distress. Or O’Malley could be implying that Katie is bisexual and in denial, which again would also cause mental distress. I do wish the story had gone that way instead, not to just be groundbreaking or controversial, but because it would a tale that better reflected our society. And maybe this long realization would help explain Katie’s other behaviors, how throwing herself into building this new restaurant is to take her mind off of issues that have plagued her since childhood.
A side theme in Seconds that give it extra House Points is food. Katie being a chef and much of the action taking place in a restaurant, food talk and creating new dishes is a natural happening. And help makes me hungry while reading.
Seconds is still an interesting read and O’Malley should be commanded for trying something different, moving his voice forward. Maybe he will revisit Katie in the future, and present a kindler gentler, more at ease, soul.
…is currently reading Star Trek Spock’s World by Diane Duane. My second Star Trek book in almost twenty years!!