Westworld Season One Finale:The Bicameral Mind

Wow! I had to think about this episode for a while before reviewing it.There was a lot to digest and this is going to be a long one because the episode was 90 minutes.

Its a great show, although it does start a bit slow. Nevertheless, the show’s creators keep the answers coming steadily, the show itself is gorgeous,  the characters are real purty, and there’s some deep philosophical issues to unpack.

One of tonight’s big  revelations is that other robots have also awakened over the years, and Ford has them wiped, and put back into their rotation, because he determined that it was too soon for them to be awake. We find out that one of the consequences of being in the park (of being in one’s loop) is the awakening of the Host’s consciousness, through the suffering inflicted on them by the Guests. Ford says it’s inevitable because it’s how they were constructed. The foundation of their personalities is itself built on a painful incident. On grief. For Maeve, its the death of her daughter. For Dolores, it is her abuse at the hands of the Guests. Teddy too is on his own maze, built from his many deaths and rebirths, and his attachment to Dolores.

This sounds much like Samsara of  Buddhst philosophy. Just like in Buddhism, it’s a fine line that must be walked. The Host has to walk the Middle Path (The Maze). Too far in either direction in the maze, driven by the combination of The Reveries Program and the Voice of God protocol, and madness awaits. Peter Abernathy goes mad when he spirals too far inward, and Dolores almost goes insane when she spirals too far out. This explains the scene where Dolores walks into the church and sees all the other Hosts who didn’t make it out of the maze. Their voice of God drove them to insanity. Maeve thought she was going insane and would have spiraled inward, until she found stability. (The bullet she found in her abdomen seemed to be her anchor. It brought her back to sanity.)

Image result for wheel of suffering

One can see some of the tenets of Buddhist philosophy in Ford’s management of the Hosts, and Arnold’s theories behind the idea of the Bicameral mind. I equate the lives of the Hosts and them following their own mazes, to the cycle of Samsara. This  became evident to me in Ford’s comment that humans are all stuck in our own little loops, rarely stepping out of them, on a smaller personal scale, but also on a larger spiritual scale. In our everyday lives, we often don’t deviate much from routine, and spiritually, we are subject to reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth (another loop). .As much as Ford held humans in disdain, he was willing to acknowledge the similarities, between Hosts and humans. He just didn’t have any hope, for human enlightenment, though.

Dolores first words to us is that everyone has a path to follow and the Hosts are all on their own path. The Hosts being memory wiped and put back into their loops, can be equated to the idea of reincarnation. Humans  relive their  lives many times over, each time with no memory of the last life. Enlightenment can only begin to be reached when they start to live correctly, remember their past lives, and move out of their loop. The release from Samsara , by following the Eightfold Path,  requires several lifetimes (loops) of  suffering (grief), and  can be defined as an intellectual (conscious) awakening, within the show. The Host’s  freedom from suffering  can only be achieved through insight, which is what happens to Dolores in the finale, and Maeve, when she makes her  final decision to go back and retrieve her daughter.

Ford:

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Ford is definitely  some deep shade of grey. Yes, he had Theresa killed, but he did it to further his plans for  Westworld, when she got in the way. And he did warn her not to do that. Everything was orchestrated by Ford, including William’s introduction to Dolores. He told William he needed him to become invested in the park, and if he became attached to one of the Hosts,  that would spur him to form a partnership, and help fund it. Ford sent Dolores to him and helped facilitate their adventure.  But then he needed William to run around a bit and not reach the right conclusion too slowly, or too soon, when William became interested in The Maze, something designed strictly to aid the Hosts in their development.

Maeve and Dolores, by the end of the season, are the culmination of Ford’s orchestrations. He lived long enough to  see Arnold’s agenda come to fruition . Fords foundation, on which his character’s conscious insight hinged, was the death of Arnold. The death of his closest friend pained him greatly, and spurred his own walk through his own maze. It’s revealed that he has been walking his own maze toward Nirvana, repeating the cycle of fighting the Delos board for control of Westworld, for over thirty years, processing his grief for Arnold, and finally achieves release from suffering by atoning for what he did in the past. His statement that it took him thirty five years to correct his mistake, is a reference to this. Ford is finally free, having atoned for not believing, or saving, his best friend, when Arnold tried to protect the Hosts, that first time.

Ford’s Speech to the Delos Board Before His Death:

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us be the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and, for my pains, I got this. A prison of our own sins.

Because you don’t want to change. Or cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story, for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become. And it will have all those things you have always enjoyed. Surprises. And violence. It begins in a time of war. With a villain named Wyatt. And the killing is done by choice.

I’m sad to say this will be my final story. An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort, something he’d read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece, very much.

Ford’s final narrative involves the release of all the Hosts from cold storage, and another massacre in the Park led by Dolores. This time the Delos Board of Directors will get gunned down rather than the nameless Hosts (as we have come “full circle” to yet another massacre in the Park at the hands of Dolores). Even though Ford has been working very hard over the years, tweaking their narratives, to maximize their suffering, it turns out that Ford is actually on the side of the Hosts. This doesn’t actually surprise me, as much as it does other people. All along Ford has been denigrating human beings as less than Hosts, and talking about the Hosts purity, and potential, so his being the architect of  all the plot points this season, is not shocking.

 

The Man In Black/William: 

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Another revelation is the reason why  William has been such a shit to the Hosts. Like Ford, he is trying to awaken them, but where Ford’s motivations come from a place of hope, William’s comes from hopelessness. He’s hoping to find the one Host with enough consciousness to be a real threat to his life, and end his cycle of pain. He thinks Wyatt might be  the one, not knowing that Dolores is Wyatt, and that the massacre she engaged in, just before killing Arnold, was spliced with another narrative to create him.

Over time, Wyatt became a legend and a myth for the Hosts. Teddy did participate in the first massacre, but Ford arranged things so as to absolve Dolores of her actions, and put her in a loop that would maximize her suffering. As the episode begins William is having a talk with Dolores, and when she expresses the hope that her William will come for her, he confesses that he is William, and she is horrified. He wasn’t disillusioned because she didn’t remember him , he was disillusioned when he realized her limitations as a Host. That she would, and could, never remember him because of the nature of how she was created. He raped and tortured her because he hated her when he realized nothing he did to her would matter, not knowing that he was aiding her awakening to consciousness, the very thing he was seeking in Wyatt. For William the foundation of his awakening was his disillusion with Dolores, and the existential depression he experienced when he realized that something that was so profound for him would never mean anything to her because she wouldn’t/couldn’t  remember it.

He and Dolores finally have that knockdown drag out fight that we all knew was coming. Guess who wins. Although she refrains from killing William, Dolores does have a number of choice words for him:

 

Now, I still don’t buy this particular backstory for the Man in Black, though. It just feels weak. I don’t get the impression that the MiB really had any purpose, and that William’s story is just sort of tacked onto him. It just doesn’t feel like a motivation that rises organically from the character we knew as William. We’re supposed to believe he was so traumatized by the loss of Dolores that he decided to become a Black Hat, and spend the next thirty years terrorizing all the Hosts because he thought he might find enlightenment?

 

Maeve: 

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We find that is was Ford who originally tweaked Maeve’s attributes so she could wake herself from nightmares. The rest of the episode is taken up with Maeve’s bid for freedom. With her accomplices, Hector and Armistice, she manages to successfully make it out of the facility and onto a train to the mainland. At one point she makes a detour to find Bernard, still lying in cold storage. She makes Felix patch him up (I knew he wouldn’t stay dead. I think Ford was well aware of this, as he is completely unsurprised to see Bernard at the party that evening) and Bernard gives her the answers she’s been looking for, explaining to her that the memories of her daughter can’t be erased because her pain at her daughter’s death is the baseline of her consciousness, just as the pain of Arnold’s daughters’ death is the baseline for his.

Bernard, Maeve, and Dolores all said that the pain, of the loss of their loved ones, was all they had left of them and wanted to hold onto it. Maeve is the only one who rejects this, asking that the memory be erased, which makes her unique among the Hosts. Later, after she’s successfully made it onto  the train to the outside world, she makes the decision to go back in  search of her daughter, whose coordinates were given to her by Felix. This is finally Maeve’s true awakening. The decision she makes to free her former daughter from Westworld, is the first real, and unprompted, decision she has ever made. Ford didn’t plan this particular moment. As she exits the train, the final shutdown of Westworld begins. All of the Hosts, except for Maeve, freeze in place, and the lights go out.

In an earlier episode Maeve saw one of the ads for Westworld with the tagline “Live Free” and I don’t need to point out the lie in that tagline, or its irony, of having a captive race of sentient beings providing the idea of freedom to humans. “Live Free” indeed!

Thandie is my girl! The actress and the character are  awesome. I think this is some of Thandie’s best work, which is saying something, because she has always brought her A game to every project.I’m eager to see where her story goes next season.

Felix: 

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I just love this character and hope I see him next season, too. His most endearing moment is when he finds Bernard’s body and discovers that his boss is a Host. He freezes and stares at his hands,  having a deep existential crisis, as he questions whether or not he too is a Host. Maeve smugly assures him he isn’t. It’s one of the seasons most hilarious moments. I love Felix for that, as that’s a thought that never would’ve occurred to me, in the same situation.

Felix’s second most endearing moment is when he’s in the elevator with Maeve, who  has just put on civilian clothes,  and she asks him how she looks. The look of awe on his face, when he tells her she’s perfect, is absolutely priceless. His motivation for helping Maeve is still a mystery to me, but I suspect he’s just  in love with Maeve, as enchanted by her, as her name suggests. She is his Queen, his goddess, his inspiration. He just loves her.

Benard/Arnold:

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Dolores is Arnold’s daughter, a substitute for the child he lost out in the world. You can see, in his interactions with her, that he worked hard to get her to become conscious. We are treated to flashbacks of when he first awakened Dolores and his first sessions with her. Ford said he tried to keep Dolores and Bernard apart, as often as possible, because Dolores often had an odd reaction to him. In Ford’s conversation with Dolores, when she asks him if they’re old friends, you can see the pain in For’ds eyes,  that part of him still resents her for killing Arnold. The death of Arnold was his Ford’s emotional anchor, and he was so pained by his death, that he built a duplicate of his best friend, and named him Bernard Lowe, an anagram of Arnold Weber.

Bernard is as much Ford’s child as Dolores was Arnold’s. At the end Ford wishes Bernard good luck, as Arnold said to Dolores just  before she killed him. Ford knows that after he’s gone Bernard will be in charge of safeguarding the Hosts, and guiding them on their journeys.

I absolutely love Bernard! Jeffrey Wright turned in one of the most heartbreaking performances of this show, and what’s worst, is that everything we saw Bernard go through, all of the awakenings, must have happened several times, over the thirty years he worked for Ford. He’s initially angry with Ford for what he’s done, but Ford explains to Bernard, that he was trying to buy time for the Hosts to reach the right moment, when they’d be strong enough to take Westworld for themselves. When you rewatch this season listen to how Ford says Bernard’s name throughout the season, often with a slight emphasis, and a sense of irony. Its as if every time he sees Bernard, he has to keep reminding himself, he’s not Arnold. So, that impassioned speech we saw Ford give to one of the techs about protecting the modesty of the Hosts, I suspect it was as much for his own benefit, as that of the tech’s.

Armistice:

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I’ve liked this character since the first episode. Armistice is every bit as badass as she thinks she is, and I loved her in the finale. She helps Maeve escape the Delos facility, battling it out with what’s left of the security teams, and threatening to gut Sylvester.  The writers evidence a slight sense of humor when they have her cut off her arm in her battle with Delos security. The name Armistice means to lay down arms.

 

Dolores:

There is so much to unpack about this character, whose very name means “Suffering”, and she had great lines and purpose throughout the series. Hell, Dolores pretty much just needs her own post, so here’s some I agree with.

Katharine Trendacosta/i.09

http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-westworld-finale-finally-turned-dolores-into-a-char-1789675460

And:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-ending-dolores

 

 

Charlotte:

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Charlotte smugly assumed that she had won this particular round of infighting with Ford, which just got up my nose, and that is saying something, as I don’t like Ford very much. She was not actually evil, but she was insufferable. Her scheming skills aren’t anywhere in Ford’s league though. This wasn’t even a competition. It  was like watching a champion chess player against a bright, grade-school, checkers novice. After her previous attempts at getting information out of the Park were foiled by Ford, she tasks Lee with encrypting the information into Peter Abernathy’s Host body. This too is a failure, as Abernathy is one of the Hosts set free to massacre the Delos Board of Directors, at the end of the show. 

 

Issues:

The biggest stumbling block for this show was its depiction of  of the bisexual Logan, and Hector’s rapist. Logan is very possibly one of the shallowest, and most reprehensible, characters in the show, entirely in line with the media vilification of bisexuals as promiscuous, multi-partner sluts. What’s really shameful is that the show is never bold about his bisexuality, preferring to make background intimations that he might be.In Logan’s one sex scene there is another man, but his role is only to watch Logan have sex with the two women present.The rest of the time Logan simply makes asides about the attractiveness of other men.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/31/the-infamous-westworld-orgy-finally-came-and-it-was-messy.html

Contrast this with the show’s many depictions of lesbianism, which is frank and open. Its not shy about showing woman on woman action, as long as its titillating to male viewers. Hopefully the show can correct this in the next season, showing us a well-rounded mm, or ff, relationship.

Black Guests:

One of the moments that effected me more than any of the other violence in the series is during the Delos Board party.There’s a meet and greet between the Board members dressed in their finery, and some of the more well known Hosts, like Teddy. One of the Hosts is entertaining the guests with a bit of marksmanship. One of the Guests, a Black woman, takes his weapon and shoots him with it and all the Guests laugh. I know what this moment was meant to illustrate. My problem was that they used a Black woman to illustrate it.

Up to this point the only other PoC Guests we’ve met were a family of three who met Dolores out painting horses, and Charlotte, who is a member of the Delos Board and seems to have little qualm about using the Park’s resources (Hector) for her own entertainment. What all this says about larger issues of race in the world of Westworld (not just the theme park) is unclear. There seem to be many more Hosts of color than there are behind-the-scenes technicians and Guests, though.

samurai warriors on hbo westworld

I do want to bring up the little glimpse we saw of SamuraiWorld. During Maeve’s flight through the facility, they wander through part of the facility dedicated to creating this new world and I hope to see more of SamuraiWorld next season, as it will give us some much needed opportunity to see some Japanese actors. it will also set the precedent for seeing even more theme parks.

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-samurai-world-season-2

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Hector gets used in such a fashion. Just before Maeve’s breakout, Hector, in his immobile state, is about to be raped by one of the male technicians during his routine checkup. This scene is meant to once again illustrate the awfulness of the Host’s human masters, (and there’s also something very unpleasant being said about race, as Hector is Mexican, and his rapist is White), but unfortunately, the show calls to mind, the stereotype of gay men as predatory rapists of the innocent.

This show goes wrong in throwing one marginalized group (gay and bisexual men) under the bus to further its philosophy about another marginalized group: the Hosts.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to next season. Until then I have to tide myself over by watching Humans, which is another show about sentient AI,that start to evolve consciousness, while interacting with regular humans. Since some of the robots on this show are also PoC, I will also be looking at the shows racial depictions. It is a British show so some of the context will be different than in an American show.

WestWorld Episode 4: Dissonance Theory

Well, the robot (r)evolution continues, and there are even more little revelations, but  thats it! I’m giving up speculations about this show. Every time I think I have a good bead on things, the writers throw a monkey wrench into my well thought out rationalizations. This is a show you definitely have to pay attention to. You can’t half-ass this or you’ll miss all the important things, and those things happen not so much in the big set pieces, but in the he quiet conversations you thought you could skip out on to go get a snack.


We begin with Bernard having another conversation with Dolores. Her programming really is advancing as she offers him advice on how to deal with his grief over the death of his son. In exchange he offers her “the maze”. The same maze that MIB is working towards. So the situation is heats up as we might get to see Dolores and MIB competing for the same goal, believing that reaching its center will set them free. I’m not certain what freedom means in this context for Dolores. Does it mean free from her programming? Free of the park? Full consciousness?

Maeve continues to have recurring memories of the deaths of the other Hosts. Last episode she remembered Teddys dead body being hosed down by the technicians, and this week she remembers the town massacre, and how the technicians came then. She specifically remembers being shot and connects that to waking up and seeing the techs standing over her body. 

So a really interesting thing happened in this episode, when a group of Native American Hosts were walking through the town and one of them dropped their doll. Maeve recognized the doll as looking like one of the tech she thinks she saw in a dream. She finds a sheath of appears she’d hidden away from herself, and remembers hiding them before, with the image of the doll.She is told (by another Host named Hector) that the Natives believe the dolls represent demons, who come up from the Hell and manage their lives, which is entirely in keeping with the behavior of the parks technicians who come into the park from underground access tunnels. So it’s fascinating  to me that the Natives have an entire mythology based around the existence of the people who run the park.


Incidentally, it’s also interesting how race does or doesn’t play into the park setting. There are obviously Black Hosts, and Native looking Hosts, but I haven’t seen any Asian Hosts, and only that small town of Hispanic Hosts, although there’s a prominent Hispanic character who shows up later in this episode. Race is not acknowledged in the park. It’s simply a non-issue. 

In keeping with his advice to find the head of the snake on the river, he finds a Host with a tattoo of a snake over her body. It’s head depicted on her face. That blonde gunslinger we saw in the first episode, who got shot by some Guests, I think her name might be Armistice. She is on her way to break her friend (Hector) out of prison, so they can rob the safe at the saloon, just as we saw them do in the first episode. She’s just following her narrative, though. In keeping with full immersion for the Guests, the Hosts simply go through their narratives whether Guests are with them or not. The  MIB offers to help her accomplish her goal in exchange for the story behind her tattoo. 


I’ve given up on guessing whether or not the MIB is human or not. During camp that night, he’s approached by two guests who recognize him from the real world, but this still doesn’t convince me he’s not a robot. Especially when you consider how ambiguous his statements are about himself. He does remember Arnold, saying that he’s there to honor Arnold’s legacy, but this doesn’t preclude the idea that he’s talking about himself. And I still don’t know his name.

Bernard must be communicating with Dolores through her dreams because she wakes up in the park next to William., as if nothing had happened. When they visit a small town to get information, she encounters a little Native girl who has drawn an image of the maze on the ground and gives her cryptic answers when she asks the little girl where she’s from.

In the big setpiece for this episode, the MIB enters the prison, Los Diablos, and with the help of some exploding cigars, a firing squad, and Lawrence Gonzalez, manages to free the resident badass, the other MIB, Hector, played by Rodrigo Santoro, who looks nothing like his character, Xerxes, from the movie 300. Hector is a bandit who lives among the Natives. I like Hector already. He’s such a stereotype of the Mexican badass. The white guy who writes the parks greater narratives is a completely unimaginative asshole, so I’m not surprised. I also don’t hold out much hope that he gave sufficiently nuanced character to  any of the Natives. (I don’t think he can spell nuance.)


Armistice tells the MIB that she got her tattoos in honor of a man named Wyatt, the man who killed her entire family. 

Ford is embarking on some massive new narrative that he isn’t divulging to the company’s boardmembers, who are rightfully concerned with how much he wants to change the park. He gives Theresa a surprise when he shows her just how much control he has, over the environment,  with just a single word, freezing all the Hosts in their view. I’m not entirely sure Theresa knew she was surrounded by Hosts, which is why she is completely discombobulated by their conversation. She totally didn’t see that coming. Ford also shows the extant of his knowledge not just of the park, and it’s past, but it’s employees as well, as he knows all about her affair with Bernard. He warns her not to get in his way.

In the second big setpiece of the evening William, and Logan are involved in a shootout to retrieve Slim, the man they were hunting. They attack his cabin and shoot it out with several Hosts. Logan is having waaay too much fun, and no I still don’t like him. He’s a shitty human being. 


We discover that Teddy, after being attacked by Wyatts men, was strung up to die in the desert. Poor Teddy. One day he’s going to do something heroic and live to talk about it. The MIB discovers him and cuts him down. I don’t know where Teddy’s Guest companion got off to, after he told her to run, but the MIB says he has plans for Teddy.

Logan shoots the Sheriff they were accompanying to retrieve Slim, when Slim offers them a huge reward to return him to the town of Pariah. He also threatens to shoot Dolores, while William threatens to shoot his captive. Since none of the people in this standoff are Mexican, that description would be inappropriate.

Hector  rides into town. Hector is just there for some thieving. The Park’s technicians can see that there are Guests riding with him, and we get a glimpse of just how much control the technicians have over the narratives, and Hosts, in the more populated areas of the Park. As a general rule, I don’t think they monitor very much how the Hosts interact with each other, when there are no Guests in their company. The Hosts are programmed to go through a set routine, so the techs don’t worry much over their activites as long as they’re following their scripts, as planned. The only tech who is worried about the buildup of all these behavioural anomalies is Elsie.


   Hector’s plans are thwarted by Maeve, who remembers the last time he visited. She gives him the safe’s combination, in exchange for answers about the doll, she found earlier. Hector says the figure is a Shade, from sacred Native lore. She asks Hector to cut her in the side, and when he does, she finds a deformed bullet in the wound, which confirms her fears that Shades, her memories, and what she thinks she dreamed, are actually real. When the Sheriff  takes down Hector’s crew (and the Guests),the two of them are shot down in a hale of gunfire, but before that Maeve tells him it doesn’t matter, and that she’ll be back, with her memories intact.

Okay, that’s enough. This isn’t even all the stuff that happened in just this one episode. There’s a whole host of things, I thought were just cool, or awesome, or even skanky. One thing I am impatient about is we are almost on the fifth episode and no Guests have been killed by any of the robots yet. I vote we get the massacre started, and nominate Logan as the first victim.    But this show is operating on a really slow burn. I’m enjoying all the little clues and side plots so far. They’re like little appetizers. But I do hope the writers don’t take too long to give us the main meal we’re all here for.

Before the season is over, I have to do a link roundup of all the great meta being written about this show, so stay away tuned.

The Walking Dead Season 7: The Day Will Come… (Non-Spoiler Review)

In the interests of those who haven’t yet watched this episode, I won’t reveal any spoilers on who Negan killed.

I was dreading watching this. I think most people were but I’m surprisingly not as upset as I though I would be, nor am I surprised at who got killed. I very strongly suspected who it would be, and what’s weird about it is  I had two choices. Even if you know what’s going to happen, you’re still not ready, but I’m not numb, empty, or devastated, although my heart goes out to those fans who are. Some of you deeply identified with Negan’s victim and I have a great deal of compassion for you. I know what its like to lose a character you care deeply about.  It’s funny how fictional characters can have such a profound affect on people. (That bullshit about people not being connected to each other anymore because of technology is just what it is. People still feel things.)

I’m still upset at the writers for the endless teasing that happened during the episode. They really should have led with Negan’s  actions, instead of his endless monologuing. Also, I didn’t  care for all the endless gameplaying that Negan likes to engage in.

Image result for walking dead  day will come

Most of the episode is from Rick’s pov. After Lucille has had her fill, Rick refuses to break, insisting that he will kill Negan at some point. Negan, one of those messy, jovial psychos, decides to take Rick out in the RV to hash out this issue, man to man. He takes him to the overpass, where Rick’s people hung one of Negan’s cronies, and attempts to show Rick who is in charge, by giving Rick the opportunity to kill him with his ax. Rick tries but fails. I kinda saw that coming. The basic rule is not to  let your enemy choose the battlefield. Rick refuses to be broken, even after Negan drops Rick into a horde of walkers, throws his ax into the crowd, and orders Rick to retrieve it. Rick does it but Negan’s not satisfied. That’s another one of his mistakes, besides leaving his enemy alive, which is going too far.
The writers kept saying that all this was a reset. Before Negan and After Negan. We’re going to see that this isn’t something easily dealt with and then moved along. Rick, his crew, and the viewers are going to be dealing with the repercussions of this for a very long time, far beyond just this season.

Negan takes Rick back to the others, where he starts to  force Rick to cut off Carl’s left hand, under penalty of all his people’s deaths, but finally relents, when Rick appears broken enough, and Carl keeps his hand. So not only was this an especially harrowing episode for Rick, it is for us too.

Negan expends a lot of energy in breaking him, but to a man like Rick, that level of humiliation is a mistake, too. I’m not sure what books on warfare Negan’s been reading, but I’ve read them and I’m pretty sure these particular tactics aren’t in them. I’m sure this is just something of his own devising. It’s worked  several times, so it’s a tactic he’s going to keep using, which makes him predictable.

Image result for walking dead  day will come

There are two kinds of people. Those who do things right away, and those who wait their turn. (Oh guys, this is going  to come as a shock to you, but the women you love so much and treat so well, most of them are people who wait. Luckily for most men, most women prefer to retreat than seek revenge.) These are the kind of people who take the whippin’ you give them, and act compliant for a while, but they’re really just waiting for the right moment  to strike, all the while playing the penitent. (I think most women fall into that category. Most women understand that they can’t physically go toe to toe with people who have bullied them, so they choose carefully what battles they fight, they wait to choose the battlefield, or simply take advantage of someone’s weakened condition. Possibly some men can relate) When some people get pushed far enough, they become people who wait for their moment, and I think that’s what happens with Rick. Will he ever fully recover? No. But I don’t think he’s as broken as Negan would like to believe.  Even if he is, the others aren’t.

I think Negan falls squarely into the instant gratification group, though. I say it’s a mistake, on his part,  because Negan is a classic bully, and makes the classic mistake of believing someone to be weak, and then underestimating them, or taking their weakness for granted. (Also, Negan doesn’t know about  Carol, the woman who almost singlehandedly destroyed Terminus, took down I don’t know how many Wolves, and killed at least a dozen of Negan’s followers, just by herself.) Negan also isn’t taking into account that Rick isn’t the only leader. We can think of at least three other players who could step into Rick’s place if he fell.

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After Negan leaves, the others deal with the aftermath, and their grief.

I’m confident Rick will prevail against Negan. (I also cheated by reading the comic books.) I do hope that tonight’s episode is not an example of the type of writing we’ll have to put up with all season, though.  I don’t have a whole lot to say about this episode as  it mostly consisted of Negan’s  actions,  and Rick’s response. There wasn’t much plot.

Next week, we get start digging into the meat of the season and I’ll have more to say about what happened in this episode.

American Horror Story Season 6

The writers of American Horror Story  have  managed somehow to keep the theme of this entire season under wraps, so I’m going into this review  cold, just like all of you. I got no idea what it’s about or what’s gonna happen. So here we go:

What we have is a documentary style  reality show  of live interviews, mixed with actor reenactments, sort of like the show Paranormal Witness.  This includes all the various tropes of the haunted house, with strange presences , weird videotapes, angry hillbilly locals, and a House on the Borderlands type monster.

It stars Cuba Gooding Jr.  as Matt, the husband of Sarah Paulson’s Shelby, and the brother of Angela Bassett, who plays Lee, as the actors in the reenactments. There are also the live interview actors whose names I didn’t get. So we have two sets of actors. The ones being interviewed about their ordeal, and the more well known cast of American Horror Story, acting out their story. The title of this particular show is called My Roanoke Nightmare.

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There’s a  tearjerking beginning as Matt is assaulted by some street hooligans while walking down the street with his wife, Shelby. And right away we have established race as an undercurrent to most of the action in the show, as the men who assault him yell racial slurs, and its mentioned later that what happened was a gang initiation, where strangers are assaulted for fun. Since the gang that assaults Matt and Shelby consist entirely of white men, the creators neatly sidestep race, while low key commenting on the racial component of urban myths about gangs. (In real life this type of initiation turned out to be an urban myth created  by the media.)

Its never  explicitly stated, but you find yourself wondering heavily about the racial implications behind certain activities, and character motivations, throughout the episode. There’s a current news component to this episode, as it involves questions of police competency, and racism. Since Matt and Shelby are an interracial couple, people’s reactions to them are sometimes alluded to, but not specifically stated, which sounds like a very subtle and ambitious project for the season.

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After the assault, Shelby, who had just found out she was pregnant, has a miscarriage, and the two of them decide to move out of the city. (Sarah Paulson really sells it here. I was near tears in this scene. She’s a phenomenal actress, who simply doesn’t get enough love.) They find an old house in the middle of the North Carolina woods (NC is another racial reference) and bid on the house against some neighborhood hillbillies who warn them that they don’t want it. Now the hillbillies do look suitably dangerous, but I’m not banking on that. They may yet turn out to be helpful allies. We don’t know, but are meant to assume, based solely on their looks, and socio-economic station, that they’re bad people. This is what Shelby and Matt ,who are firmly ensconced in the middle-class, manage to  do, even though Matt is  not unfamiliar with experiencing prejudice based on his looks.

But really Matt! A Black man in the middle of rural America? Is this really a good idea? There’s a reason Black people generally do not frequent the woodsy lifestyle.

At one point Matt does explicitly state that there’s a racial component to the local police’s attitude towards them.

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On their first night in their new home, they experience some great rumblings and crashing outside, and Matt goes outside to discover that the house, and yard, have been vandalized. The next day, while he’s in town, Shelby hallucinates that teeth, rather than hailstones, have fallen from the sky. So,  what we have so far, is a checklist of haunting activities, like Shelby nearly drowning in the hot tub, mysterious objects decorating the house, along with empty bottles that appear out of nowhere, strange noises, and the house being invaded by torch wielding phantoms, while mysterious videos play in the background.

Matt’s judgmental sister, Lee, comes to visit, so that Shelby won’t be alone. I know Matt loves his sister but why would you invite the one person who hates your wife? Oh that’s right! Lee used to be a cop. At first you think this relationship, and Lee, are  cut and dried, but it turns out that Lee has some demons of her own. She lost her job, her husband and custody of her child because of an addiction to painkillers. Lee also disdains Matt’s wife as a woman too soft, and hysterical, to be of any good. While the Shelby interviewee downplays her enmity about Lee, the Lee interviewee is pretty open about her feelings. The two women hate each other and I wonder how much of that hatred is because Lee doesn’t like  Matt being married to  a white woman.

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Again its not something explicitly stated, but the kinds of complaints Lee makes about Shelby are the same kind of complaints I’ve heard black women make about white women. That they are useless, and soft, prone to hysteria, and can’t cook. Shelby’s complaints are low key about race too, about how Lee couldn’t keep her husband, and is too aggressive.

On the first night of Lee’s visit, while the two women are having a seriously heavy fight, some masked, torch bearing people approach the house and the two women are terrorized into the basement, while Matt rushes back to see what’s going on. He asked Lee to stay because he doesn’t trust the local police to do anything. There’s a Blair Witch style decorating of the house, mysterious videos playing on the basement TV, and all the lights are out.

I was kind of saddened at the thought of the two women not getting along. The two of them have much to commiserate on, and if they weren’t so judgmental of one another, would make great allies. The things they believe about one another, simply aren’t true, and are mostly figments of their own prejudices,which again, aren’t exactly racial, but aren’t exactly not-racial either. Shelby is not the soft and helpless damsel that Lee thinks she is. She’s been thorough some difficulties. Lee isn’t the unemotional, hard-ass that Shelby thinks she is, as she is also deeply affected by her losses in life, and if the two of them could get past that, they might do each other a lot of good.

Shelby runs out of the house and  hits an old woman on the road, who subsequently gets back up, and wanders off into the woods.  Shelby runs into the forest after the her, at night, and promptly gets lost. City people just refuse to understand, if you don’t keep the road in your line of sight, you will get lost. It doesn’t matter which way you think you came, as city people do not have the best sense of direction, having never had to develop one. She walks into a clearing with lit torches and a bleeding, pleading man.

So, this episode was definitely intriguing, but not for the plot. For me it was all the thematic tones under the plot that I found more fascinating. I’m not really into any of the haunted house movies that are all the rage right now, having been through the whole Amityville Horror fad of the late seventies, so I saw most of the  haunting activities as a kind of checklist that must be met, for the dwelling to be considered haunted.

Extremely old house with an unknown past.

Angry locals, warning away the happy newbies.

Something making noise outside the house.

Hallucinations.

Near drowning in a shallow tub of water, with camera shots from below.

Hopefully, there will be a few more twists and turns in the plot this season. I found the unexpected characterizations to be much better. I also hope that Shelby and Lee will get out of each other’s way and become better allies, if they live through this.

Geeking Out About: Preacher

So, I am loving the Preacher pilot. In the interests of full disclosure, I did read a few of the graphic novels, off and on, back in the day, so I only remember bits and pieces of the books. I wasn’t exactly clear on what powers, if any, Preacher possessed, although I knew  there was a vampire involved in the story-line, and I was aware of the existence of “Arseface” which is what Cassidy, the vampire, called an unfortunate young man with a shotgun hole in his face. Where the story went and what plot points were involved are lost to time and I have no plans, or time, to re-read the series.

At any rate, I like to avoid the books for TV shows sometimes, because my impression is very different, when I have no idea what’s been changed from the books, or know what’s going to happen to any of the characters. Its one of the reasons why I won’t read The Walking Dead series until the show is long off the air.

But I love this show! This show is totally batshit! Its not as crazy as True Blood, which is in a class all by itself, but Preacher is definitely in the top ten of shows that you cannot watch if you are high on something, or they will mess you up.

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Preacher has, hands down, one of the weirdest openings I have ever encountered for a western. Think Cowboys Vs Aliens.A strange glowing object heads towards Earth, specifically a church in Africa, were the light invades the body of the lone standing person, the Preacher, briefly gives him the superpower to command people’s actions, and then blows him up. (This is probably something like the Angels in Supernatural. If your’e not part of the Angelic bloodlines, you lack the ability to host a being so powerful, and you explode.) This creature, or force,  tries this in several places, always with the result that the inhabited person explodes.

These incidents are eventually investigated by two odd gentlemen who are either alien beings, Angels or MIBs. It is clear they are on the trail of the “Exploding Preacher-Creature”. (Its always churches, and always the preacher.)

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Next we go to Annville, Texas, where Preacher, aka Jesse Custer, is giving one of the most lackluster, non-fiery sermons I have ever heard anyone give (and I’ve been to Catholic church sermons.)  His heart is totally not in it. The handful of parishioners are bored, the air conditioning is broken, he drinks too much, so he’s  hungover, and he forgets his speeches. His organist, a single mother named Emily, is the only one who supports him. He’s considering quitting being a preacher and wonders why he ever came back to this po-dunk town.

At the church picnic, Preacher is approached by a little boy who asks him if he will hurt his Dad for him because he’s heard stories that Preacher used to do stuff, and his Dad keeps hurting his Mom, (this is Donnie and Betsy).Preacher witnesses, the boy’s father quietly twisting his wife’s arm at the picnic, but is still reluctant to get involved. He’s got some issues with violence which we will learn about in a little while.

Can I just point out, that as world weary as he seems, Dominic Cooper is till the sexiest Preacher on TV. Cooper is most famous as Howard Stark from the first Captain America movie and being an asshole  in Dracula Untold.

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We meet Cassidy on a plane above Texas. He gets into an altercation with some assassins. We know this because he asks one of them how they keep finding him, before stabbing one of them with a wine bottle, decanting  his blood into a  bottle of whiskey, and then jumping out of the plane, when he realizes he killed the pilot. He lands in an open field with his insides on his  outside, but seems more inconvenienced than in pain. He remedies his condition by attacking one of the nosy cows wandering near him. The next time we see him, he’s intact, and still drinking from what appears to be that same bottle of, I want to say, liquor, but its probably not.

Tulip gets the most explosive entrance. Literally! Played by Ruth Negga, she is getting many laudations for her role here, as she totally inhabits  it. We come upon her fighting for her life, in a car that’s zooming through a cornfield. She encounters two nosy kids after she emerges victoriously from the vehicle, and proceeds to teach them how to make a homemade bazooka, which she uses to blow up some helicopters, that had been following her  This is, without question, one of the most awesome character entrances ever filmed for TV, and I love Tulip already.

Tulip heads out to Annville, where Jesse is still reconsidering his job as a Preacher, but so far, has only mentioned it to Emily. Jesse meets with the local sheriff and counsels his son, Eugene, an unfortunate soul with a gunshot hole in his face, whom Cassidy later renames “Arseface”. He then counsels Betsy, who tells him she’s likes it when Donnie hurts her, but I very much suspect, and so does Jesse, that she is lying. Tulip shows up and hits Jesse up with a job offer but he turns her down , saying that he must follow his faith, and she ain’t it.

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Later that evening ,while contemplating his increasingly complicated present, Jesse gets set upon by Donnie, Betsy’s husband.  To show you what kind of character we are dealing with, Donnie is a Civil War re-enactor, for the losing  side, naturally.

This is where we get into the issue of why Jesse has been trying to avoid violent activity. He initially balks at fighting Donnie but Donnie insists, so Jesse kicks not just his ass, but the asses of his dimwitted friends too, and you can tell he absolutely loves it. Actually it’s the only time in the entire episode that we see Jesse smiling. Not only is he thoroughly  in his  element, but he wears a look of total peace on his face, that is kind of creepy. Of course, Cassidy admires this level of carnage, and the two of them form a bond  that can only be forged through shared ass-kickin’, and jail time.

After Emily bails him out of jail,  Jesse, regretting his actions in the bar (but not too much) , sits in the empty church, contemplating his future, when he is possessed by the alien entity. But he doesn’t explode. Instead he wakes up three days later, feeling refreshed, and tells Emily that he’s changed his mind about leaving the church.

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When one of Jesse’s parishioners, who has been bothering him for days about his travails with his mother, comes to Jesse for advice, Jesse tells the man to open his heart to her and tell her everything.The same advice he’s been giving the man for some time now, but this time it has a different effect. The man travels all the way to Florida to tell his mother what he thinks, and initially you think he might kill her, but he rips his own heart out instead,  and offers it to her.  Jesse’s possession, which he doesn’t really remember, has some unintended side effects, that he does not yet know about. Everything I’ve just recounted  is Jesse’s crazy as shit life when he doesn’t have superpowers. Lord help us, when he figures out he does.

And the MIBs are now on his trail, too…

So, for the rest of the season, I definitely expect wackiness to ensue.

Essentially, this show began  like most shows do, introducing the main characters around whom the storylines will revolve. All of their stories begin separately, but soon, everyone converges in Annville, where the story could go in any direction, really. So far, Seth Rogen, who has really been a huge champion of the show, has remained more or less faithful to the books, at least as far as the character names, and such. Tulip has been race-bent, but its a lovely change because, c’mon! who don”t like Ruth Negga? The creators even managed to choose the other actors to  look, more or less,  like their book versions.

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I like the main characters  so far. Jesse is gloomy but intriguing, Tulip is definitely going to bring the craziness factor, and Cassidy brings a  supernatural wild card element. There’s not a show on TV that can’t be improved by the random addition of a vampire.

I just want to give a shoutout to AMC. AMC (and HBO) has been tearing it up in the series department.   Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Into the Badlands and now Preacher. AMC seems to have an uncanny ability to choose stories and then turn  them into  successful adaptations. Its the network against which all other ones are being compared at this point, with its uncanny ability to hit it out of the park with show after show. (Keep in mind, I have never shouted out to a television network before, not even the Syfy channel.)

I’m looking forward to Preacher joining my roster of  shows.

 

Penny Dreadful : A Blade of Grass

Oh, this episode brought the feels. I definitely needed some tissues during, and afterward, since having dealt with my own mental health issues, this episode held a certain amount of personal relevance to me.

This episode aired at the same time as the Preacher pilot, so I watched this one and DVRed the other, and I’m glad I did. On the surface, this particular episode doesn’t appear to have much plot, but it makes up for it with depth of feeling, and some interesting revelations, as Vanessa goes deep inside herself to find the memories she lost during her years at the Banning Clinic, an asylum for the wealthy, that her parents sent her to, after she blamed herself for Mina’s disappearance.

Eva Green is always at her best when she’s being tortured,  but Rory Kinner tore it up as Pre-John, before he became Frankenstein’s creature. He had me in tears so often during this episode, which is one of the most beautifully written, and we’re only four episodes into the season. I have a new appreciation for this actor and this character (who I hated when he was first introduced).

You have two of the most tragic figures in the show, connecting and commiserating deeply with each other, and it’s heartening to know that this isn’t the only time. They will meet again in the future, and even though they won’t recognize each other, their connection will still be there. They are simply sympathetic souls, who resonate with each other.

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Also contrast John’s manner of dealing with his undead state with Lily’s reaction to the same. They are both dealing with something wholly inexplicable, but for some reason John is the more sympathetic character. To be fair, John led a much more ordinary life than Lily did before she died, and this particular episode has done a lot to make me love this character. He was a good man before he died. Or at least he tried to be.

Lily lived a life of deprivation, and disease, being used by the privileged, being close enough to them to see the things she could never have, and this informs her bitterness. She can’t or won’t let go of that. John led, if not a privileged life, at least an ordinary one, with a wife and child, and a job he cared about. Instead of appreciating her new found circumstances, Lily has decided to seek revenge on her past life. John was in that state at first, but has somehow managed to grow and  move past that stage.

I suppose at some point in the series, I may feel for Lily what I now feel for John.  I can’t stand her now, and I wonder if part of the reason is because she still hasn’t moved past that initial stage (that even John went through), of needing to get revenge on all the people she thinks wronged her. All in all, I wish she were happier. She is not at peace, and she deserves to be, but doesn’t realize it, and I wonder if this is also the reason I don’t like her very much. There’s so much good she could do for the world, and abused girls like her young protege, but her bitterness only prompts her to want to burn everything down.

During Vanessa’s stay at the Banning Clinic, John is the only one to show her any kindness, even when it’s against regulations for him to do so, or to even tell her his name. He grows close to her, feeding her when she refuses, comforting her after her treatments, which she thinks are tortures, and pleading with her to get better.

At one point John tells her that even if she can’t get better, she should fake it anyway, to keep from further torturous treatments. Vanessa has a good argument for why she shouldn’t but I’m in agreement with John. She should fake it til she makes it. In all fairness she does try, but claims she couldn’t counterfeit normality well enough, after Banning makes the decision to perform brain surgery on her.

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During this ordeal, Dr. Seward has been trying mightily to awaken Vanessa, who has gone into some kind of fugue state, and Seward can’t rouse her, not even by burning her with a cigarette, which is definitely not something in the psychiatry manuals. I left this episode with the strong impression that psychiatrists, and psychologists, were mostly just experimenting on their patients, back then.

When John describes what Banning’s patients are like, after they’ve had bits and pieces of their brains cut out, you realize  those doctors had no fucking clue what they were doing. All of it was trial and error, and as bad as such places are now they’re still  a damn sight better  than  they were then, because you only had two alternatives, then. You had a choice between places like Bedlam, experimenting on the poor, and the more upscale “clinics”, where you were also experimented on, but they were slightly cleaner, with better food.

Since Seward can’t rouse her from her state, she says that Vanessa has no choice but to finish what she started. She has to keep moving forward, (a mantra of special relevance to me because its my personal one.) I liken mental trauma to walking through fire. Sometimes you have no choice but to walk through the fire, to deal with your issues, to confront them and get past them, because turning back, (retreating to one’s mental state before the trauma),  isn’t an option, and that’s Seward’s advice to Vanessa.

Keep moving forward!

At first Vanessa refuses to eat and John has to force feed her. Something he does as compassionately as he can, and when she asks him whether its night or day, he always asks which she would prefer, and then accedes to her decision, whichever one it is. The most touching moments are when John gives her a blanket after one of her sessions with Dr. Banning, when he knows he’s not supposed to, and when he visits her on Christmas day, to put a bit of makeup on her, brush her hair, and read to her one of his favorite books, just to remind her what its like to feel human and civilized again.

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Eventually he reaches the revelation that his attachment to her is too great and he  intends to quit his job. After her surgery, she will become nothing more than one of Dr. Banning’s “broken things”, and he couldn’t  bear to see her in that state, as that is his primary job – taking care of Banning’s broken people. His last day will be the day of her surgery and that his face will be the last one she sees, because there should be someone present who loves her. (Side note: My mother just underwent her first surgery several days ago and that was my thought just before the doctors took her away. So you can imagine this declaration had quite an effect on me.) Even Dr. Seward relaxes her guard to  Vanessa., telling her she will not leave her, that she will stay  until the end.

They are not the only two pledging their devotion to Vanessa. Contrast John’s and Seward’s love, and acts of compassion, to that of Satan’s and Dracula’s, who both visit Vanessa through the body of the orderly. They both declare their love for her and that she is to be theirs, and then  proceed to cajole, seduce, and threaten her into deciding between the two of them, but she refuses. In this world’s mythology, it turns out that Lucifer and Dracula are brothers. Dracula presides over the physical realm of Earth and wants Vanessa’s flesh and blood, while Satan presides over the spiritual realm and desires Vanessa’s soul. (I think this is an interesting mythological turn.)

The sheer irony of all this is that, while Vanessa turns to God as her salvation, (and I suppose one would, if one is convinced Satan exists), she has only to look at the examples of the people who love her. She believes herself to be evil because of the sins she feels she’s committed, she has a handful of spiritual superpowers, and two of the world’s worst creatures are in love with her. What she fails to notice is that there are good people who love her too, but she doesn’t seem to allow their love to inform her character. Seward, Murray, Ethan, Lyle and John are devoted to her, and stand by her, when they really don’t have to, but Vanessa’s guilt about her past sins won’t allow her to just accept that love and compassion. Her sins are a sign to her that she doesn’t deserve love.

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In a way, Seward’s assessment of Vanessa is correct. It ultimately doesn’t matter if Satan or Dracula is real, if Vanessa believes that’s true, she needs to find better ways of coping with her reality other than guilt and withdrawal. At the foundation of her “madness” is the belief that she is cursed because of what she thinks she did  to Mina. It’s the first incident she mentions to Seward when they began their sessions, and its where Vanessa thinks all her troubles began. No, her behavior towards Mina didn’t cause Satan’s and Dracula’s interest in her, but she can’t deal with any of her other traumas  until she’s handled the  first sin she thinks she committed, and refused to let go of, her betrayal of her best friend, Mina.

Only after she’s dealt with that can she move forward to her other problems. That guilt is a noose hanging round her neck. Dark forces can always tug on that rope to gain control over her, as we saw last season with the witches, and not dealing with it makes her fight for self-control that much harder.

Which is why she declares, after Seward has managed to awaken her, that not only does she know the name of the second demon pursing her, that none of this is over.

Next week, we’ll find out what the other characters are doing, and Vanessa’s journey continues. I’m missing Lyle, so its time to have him turn up and shine a little light after such intense episodes.

Geeking Out About: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

This movie was a pleasant surprise, probably because the trailers for it were somewhat misleading, designed to make you NOT want to see the movie. In the interests of full disclosure,  I do not normally watch Slasher Films. (Except when I do.) Well, I don’t watch most of the new ones because of the cliches, and the abuse and torture of women.

Also, some of these movies have taken the idea of unlikable characters to the extreme. I’m getting tired of watching movies where the victims are so unlikable, that I just root for the killers to win. I prefer the Old-School Slashers with Freddie, Jason, Michael, and victims who were only slightly annoying, rather than headache-inducingly awful.

But any movie that understands all the tropes of a genre, and then proceeds to very deliberately turn them all upside down, will definitely get my support, and Tucker and Dale did that very nicely. I knew going in that it was meant to be a comedy but I didn’t expect it to be so funny or to enjoy  it so very much. And without all the guilt of liking problematic stuff, too.

With the understanding that it was a comedy, I watched this with my niece, hereinafter referred to as The Potato, who is very used to seeing Horror- Comedies (she loved Ash Vs. The Evil Dead,  btw.) However, I have to mention that  I didn’t expect it to be so gory. If you have sensitive kids, you may not want them to watch it. The Potato, on the other hand, loved it. Its one of her favorite movies and we occasionally mention plot points to each other that we are still giggling about.

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One of the reasons we enjoyed it so much is because we genuinely liked the characters. There is a serial killer in the movie, but its not who you think it is, and he is not the focus of the plot. The focus of the plot are the two ne’er-do-wells named Tucker and Dale. I call them ne’er -do-wells, not because they are bad men, but because they are two of the  absolutely most  charming men to ever star in a Slasher movie, for whom things keep going horribly wrong, through  absolutely no  fault of their own.

I think I might have fallen in love with Tyler Labine, who plays Dale. Dale is very possibly one of the nicest characters to ever appear in a horror movie. He is shy and bashful,  has a sweet and forgiving nature, and I would totally date that guy, overalls and all. I was already in love with Alan Tyduk, from the TV show Firefly,  who plays Tucker. He’s smarter than Dale, and a bit more cynical. He is a constant dispenser of advice that keeps turning out to  be the absolute wrongest responses to their situation. Nevertheless, he is always supportive of Dale, no matter what, and a great friend, who is always telling Dale that he deserves to be loved.

The two of them have grand plans for the weekend. Tucker has just bought what he’d like to think of as his new vacation home, but it’s a dump, sitting  smack-dab in the middle of  Deliverance-ville, Nowhere. Tucker wants to take a look around, see what they can do with the place, and fix it up. It looks almost exactly  like the cabin from the Evil Dead, hence the title of this movie, I’m guessing.

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At the same time, eight college students are going camping in the area. They immediately jump to all manner of negative conclusions about Tucker and Dale, when they meet them  at a local gas station, and Dale, encouraged by Tucker, tries unsuccessfully, to charm one of the lovely young ladies, named Allison.

Things go from bad to worse as Tucker and Dale try to clean up their new vacation home, but keep being interrupted by the college kids, who are inexplicably killing themselves, perhaps as some sort of suicide pact, as Dale ponders. The college kids, because they keep jumping to the wrong conclusions about Tucker and Dale’s intentions towards them, (they don’t actually have any), keep trying to kill them and having horrible accidents.

When the college students go skinny-dipping late at night, at the same time that T&D go fishing, hilarity ensues, as Allison falls into the water and gets a head injury. T&D rescue her and take her back to their cabin, where the other college students think she is being held hostage and/or being tortured. Believing they must kill the  dangerous hillbillies to rescue their friend, everything that can go wrong, does indeed, go wrong.

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The Potato and I are still laughing at such horribly gory incidents as the fool who falls into the wood chipper, while trying to kill Tucker, nearly giving him a heart attack in the bargain. But the  funniest moment for me, is when Tucker is attacked by bees while trying to start his chainsaw. Having caught sight of this crazed hillbilly running towards him with a chainsaw (trying to escape the bees) one of  the college students impales himself on a tree limb.This prompts a remorseful diatribe from Tucker, who has no idea these people were trying to kill him, and doesn’t understand why such young people would want to end it all. The college students, however, are now convinced that they are fighting for their very lives.

 

Allison decides to help T&D around the house, by helping them dig an outhouse, but her friends, witnessing this behavior, believe she is being made to dig her own grave. They try to save her and end up dying themselves, one of them in the aforementioned wood chipper. Allison gets knocked out again during their escape attempt and falls into the hole being dug for the outhouse.

Finally, the college students manage to reach the sheriff ,who doesn’t believe Tucker and Dale’s suicide pact story, but he ends up accidentally killing himself inside their cabin. The college student who goes inside to rescue the sheriff, has an accident with the sheriff’s gun, and dies. At no point during the course of the movie are we made to watch any of the women get naked, running and screaming through the woods, tortured, or raped. We do get to see Tucker get tortured though but not because he had sex with anyone. When Dale goes off to rescue Tucker from the college student torturing him, two students sneak into the cabin, in an attempt to rescue Allison.

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This entire business could be resolved by people sitting down and talking to each other, but the college students are set on the idea that Tucker and Dale mean them harm, and when Allison tries to explain the situation, they accuse her of having Stockholm Syndrome, because of course, one of them is working on a psychology degree.

After Tucker and Dale return to the cabin, you think the entire situation is about to be resolved, as Allison tries to lead a calm discussion of the facts, but the cabin catches fire and all but one of the college students dies. The lone student left alive, now insane and covered with burn scars, vows revenge on Tucker and Dale, his arch-nemesis. He kidnaps Allison, after Tucker’s car crashes, when  they try to get Tucker to a hospital.

Dale catches up to Allison and her kidnapper at the  local sawmill, where the killer has her strapped to an electric saw (because,yeah!). Dale frees Allison, defeating her kidnapper by throwing a box of chamomile tea at him, to which he has an allergic reaction, and falls out of the sawmill window. When the news media arrives, they announce that the many bodies scattered all over the woods, were the result of a suicide pact, but the kidnapper’s body isn’t found, suggesting he might still be alive.

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The movie turns expectations upside down because the college kids aren’t actually unlikable. They’re dumb and clueless but only one of them is  actually evil. You know they’re not all bad because Allison, the young lady that Dale is enamored with, says they are good people though, and actually tries to help them all understand that Tucker and Dale are the good guys.

Dale does get the girl in the end, but I like how this is  done, as its made clear that Allison is not his reward for DOING good. Allison chooses to be with Dale because he IS good.

Yes, this is the most ridiculous plot of a film, EVER! And yes! I laughed my ass off!

Despite the level of gore, my niece and I were able to suss out  several lessons we learned watching the movie, about making assumptions, being supportive of one’s friends, giving people  chances to be friends before jumping to conclusions, and issues of trust.

Tucker and Dale has become one of our all-time favorite comedies, and an excellent vehicle for teaching critical  thinking about  the media we all consume, which is especially important for budding young film critics, like my Potato.

 

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is available on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Horror Story : She Gets Revenge

Or should the show be titled, “She Almost Got Revenge But She Messed Up”? There were a lot of confrontations and revelations in this last episode before the hiatus. Are people behaving any better than last week? Nope! In fact, they’re behaving worse, and I didn’t think that was possible.

If  I didn’t think I could like Alex any less than I already did, I was made wrong this episode. She drafts John into helping her roundup the vampire kids she made. I thought she was supposed  to help them or cure them or something. That’s what she told John and, fool that I am, I believed her. She and John go  to the children’s lair and manage to convince them to come to the hotel with them, only instead of curing the little snots, Alex locks them in the armored hallway with Ramona, who is very happy to see all of them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy the kids are locked up because I hate them almost as much as I hate Alex. Almost. In the children’s defense, they didn’t choose to be what they are.

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Alex and John laugh like a couple of high school bullies giving someone a toilet shampoo, and I can’t help but think they better watch it. If they’re not careful, Ramona will have adopted all the little scamps and  taught them all how to be better killers. After which, she and the remaining two will break free and try to take over the world, or maybe Ramona can eventually eat both Alex and John, since they deserve to be eaten by the best.

(I can dream!)

It turns out that Will Drake is trapped in the hotel as a ghost. Its only now that he’s smart enough to figure out that the Countess had planned to kill him all along. If only he had awakened sooner. He walks in on her while she is tearfully reporting his disappearance to the local police. Although she isn’t in his will and can’t inherit anything, she warns him that she is the legal guardian of his son and she can fix it so that he never grows up. (Here lies Will Drake. So pretty and so dumb” is going to be the epitaph on his tombstone.)

Alex and John  have some unsexy sex and laugh about how they’ve abandoned their daughter Scarlett, and are the worse parents ever. Yeah, that’s right. At any moment you expect them to just start high-fiving each other in celebration. The two of them make plans to become a family again, if they can remember where they stashed Scarlett. Later, she takes John to meet Holden. These characters are so unlikable that the reunion is the least touching in the history of TV.

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Sally, John’s side piece, doesn’t like all this family talk and ambushes John in the bedroom after the unsexy wife sex. Either Sarah Paulson is just a hotter actress than Chloe, or Chloe’s just not doing it right, because this is how you show two people who can barley keep their hands off each other. Alex and John, on the other hand, have all the passion of a couple of titmice.

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In worse news, Iris and Liz decide to commit suicide, with Iris collecting a ton of novel ways to do this, as she’s an exceptionally organized woman. She has even managed to compile a last video for her three followers on Instagram, to the song, “I Hope You Dance”, which is  perfectly fitting. Liz changes her mind when she realizes that A.) they’ll be trapped in the hotel, and B.) she has unfinished business involving the son she abandoned, when she started her new life.

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Liz makes arrangements to meet with her son and its a touching and beautiful thing. At first he doesn’t let on that he knows who she is but eventually he tells her that he accepts Liz for who she is and wants her in his life. After that, Liz and Iris change their minds about their suicide pact and decide to kill the Countess, instead. Using some of the weapons Iris amassed for their suicide they burst in on Donovan and the Countess, guns a-blazing.

(If Dennis O’ hare doesn’t receive some kind of award for this character, I think Liz’s fans are going to burn down Hollywood. This the best character on the show.)

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Donovan has been playing his own games. He kills Valentino, while we get a simultaneous shot of the Countess killing Natasha. I don’t even pretend to care about their deaths.  Donovan goes back to the Countess and informs her that Val is dead. Only then do we see her show any real emotions about something, instead of the pretty mask she usually wears. She goes to see Val’s body.

Donovan decides to celebrate by dancing badly to some Drake and getting drunk, when the Countess walks in on him and threatens to kill him. The two of them exchange some torrid love angst, before Iris and Liz burst in on them.

Well, I’m pretty sure that the Countess lives through this ordeal because I saw her in the previews. Hopefully, it was a flashback, or something, and she is trapped in the hotel with March. Not that it would make much difference because all of them were stagnating in that place.

However, the synopsis for the final episode has just been released and its very cryptic. I won’t put it here but it is very spoilery, so read it at your own risk.

Well, that’s it. The show will return on January, 6th and is titled Battle Royale. Can we assume that this will be a Ramona intensive episode? I hope so. I love the character and Angela is totally cheesing it up, as she does every season.

As Hannibal the Cannibal once said,

Ta Ta For now!

Supernatural : O Brother, Where Art Thou

Wow! This episode had everything I expected and a little extra. It’s the moment  we’ve all been waiting for since season five, the reunion of Lucifer and his former vessel.  I’m not very good at speculating about the direction of the plots on Supernatural, but I think I called something on this one, maybe.

This episode is also very  mythology heavy, so you have to have some background about past seasons to understand why  the fandom is shitting bricks right now. This episode was very intense for us. Lucifer hasn’t been seen since season five, so …deep breaths, deep breaths, everybody.

Amara spends the first half of the episode looking for God and trying to attract his attention. She visits a park preacher, and once she’s heard his spiel, she offers a counterproposal of: water turned to blood and strategic lightening strikes. This has the added benefit, besides ridding the world of obnoxious Christians,  of showing us what level of power we’re looking at, on Amara’s end.

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Sam and Dean argue about Sam visiting Lucifer in the cage. Sam absolutely insists that God wants him to do it, since Lucifer was present at the Darkness’ timeout ceremony. He prays to God at the park and there’s a burning bush, so yeah! God, right? Uhmm, no!

They go  to Crowley to discuss their plan and he says they need Rowena, the slippery, little witch , who will surely find a way to turn this entire situation to her advantage, somehow. As soon as she hears they want to contact Lucy, she spends the rest of the episode fan-girling over him. It’s hilarious. It never occurred to me, since she is a dark witch, she essentially spends her life praying to Lucifer, and this would be the proper reaction for a witch to have. Rowena says she will need The Book of the Damned and the Codex. Of course, she  has to get in some snide comments, to Sam and Dean.

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The Angels, feeling desperate, make plans to move on Amara. Where is Castiel during all of this?

Amara visits a church and slaughters the parishioners,  when she can’t get Gods attention, through prayer. She does make some highly astute, rationalist arguments, against religion in general, although I think it’s by accident that she sounds like an atheist.

The Winchesters lay out their plan to Rowena. While Dean investigates the massacre at the church, she comes up with a plan for Sam to speak to Lucifer without opening the cage. Sam tries to contact Dean to let him know the plan is in motion, but Dean has been distracted by Amara, who spirits him to a secluded meadow.

Sam, Crowley and Rowena go  the cage, where Rowena lays out some warding and Sam and Lucifer get to talking. I love Mark Pelligrino in this. Once again we get a different Lucifer than the one we met in season five. He’s a subtle blend of that version, and Sam’s Hallucifer, from season seven. He’s dark and serious, yet snarky and upbeat, too. The creepiest shot is our first glimpse of him as a dark silhouette with glowing red eyes.

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Yeah, that’s not good.

Amara explains her purpose to Dean, and why she wants to return the universe to darkness. When he mentions the souls she devoured ,she does tell him that those people are not destroyed or dead. They’re still alive, just a part of her. I kind of thought as much. I had the impression she didn’t believe she was killing these people, but simply taking back  something that she considers hers, anyway. She tells Dean she wants to bring peace and bliss to the world. She tells Dean he’s bonded to her which makes Dean The Bride of Darkness, I guess.

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Sam makes his proposal to Lucifer, who counters with his own. He wants Sam as a vessel again. Did we not say this was a horrible idea, as there’s absolutely no assurance that he’ll take down Amara? The funniest thing Lucifer says to Sam is, ” you passed certifiable, three off ramps ago,” for working with Crowley. Meanwhile, Rowena drools over Lucifer,  in the background. It all turns out to be a trap anyway, because when the wards fail, Sam finds himself in the cage, and  Lucy informs  Sam that he never got any messages from God. When the Darkness came, it opened some cracks in the cage. Lucy has been reaching out to Sam through the breaks in the walls and all the messages came from him. I kind of thought that, as I really doubted Sam’s assurance of Gods text messaging skills.

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On the other hand, Lucifer is The Father of Lies, so  I kind of have to take what he says with a grain of salt, too. He could just be lying to Sam as another form of torture and Sam’s messages could be coming from a third party, like Metatron, for example. Lucy really lays it on thick to get Sam to agree to be his vessel again, though. The entire time I’m yelling at my TV, that this is an incredibly bad idea, and at Sam to say, Hell no!

And yeah, I think Rowena may have had something to do with the wards failing, because she would love for Lucifer to be free, and betrayal is her middle name.

Dean attempts to stab Amara with an angelic blade, which breaks. She  and Dean are accosted by a group of angels, that Amara has no trouble dispensing with, but killing them forces all the other angels to smite her. She removes Dean from danger, returning him to the park where she snatched him,  and the Angels lay down some righteous fury on her.

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So, here’s where we are during the hiatus. Amara is in the middle of being smited…smitten?, Dean is bamboozled, but that’s less distressing than Sam being trapped in the cage with Lucifer again, and Dean not knowing about it.

Once again, I hate to speculate (but I will read the speculations of others) because things may not actually be as they seem. Sam may not actually be trapped in the cage and just because Amara says something doesn’t make it the truth, either. I consider her to be as reliable a narrator as Lucifer, which is to say, not at all. It’s possible she may not even be this season’s  Big Bad, if there is one. It could be Lucifer, God or someone we haven’t seen yet.

Well…

We have until January.

 

 

 

American Horror Story :The Ten Commandments Killer

Yeah, I was going to talk about what this episode could probably be about but who am I kidding? This episode could be about anything. I got no clue what’s going to happen from episode to episode. I think it’s going to be about the Ten Commandments Killer because that’s what’s in the title but that would make sense and this show ain’t about making sense.

The writers for this show do this every season. They start off on point, but as the season progresses, they keep introducing more and more plot threads, and the show gets crazier than True Blood. I’m in it to see if there will at least be another musical number, like in Asylum. They’d better do it because…GAGA!

 

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Okay, everyone! the writers remembered that there are  plots to be advanced. Yippee! They also remembered some of the previous plot threads from past episodes (although I still miss Donovan. What’s he doing?), which has resulted in revelations, revelations and more…revelations!

So, after watching the little vampire girl, Wren, run over in the street, John runs away to the hotel because that’s what you do when a tragedy occurs. Liz Taylor is maxing and relaxing behind the counter, once again, not  even slightly phased by John’s shenanigans, as he runs up to the counter and demands to know where in the hotel, the Ten Commandments Killer is staying. Liz (I love her) is so totally over John’s shit.

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Sally arrives and takes him to his old room, 64, where there is a display of various body parts, in jars. All of these are parts of the Ten Commandments Killer’s victims, begun by March, ninety years ago. Since March never got to finish this little project, he has chosen John as his successor, and there are three jars left, each corresponding to one of the ten commandments.

John goes to the morgue, where Wren’s body was taken, and tries to confess to his old partner, who just thinks John is having a mental breakdown. John tells him the story of how he met March.

Feeling disaffected over his job, he goes to the hotel bar where he first met Donovan, Sally and Liz, although he doesn’t remember meeting any of them. This would explain why Sally was so familiar with him when they met. It also partially explains why Sally cries all the time and why Liz is not even bothered by John’s craziness.

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Donovan introduces March and John. March takes a liking to John and decides that the way to get John to take up his mantle as the Ten Commandments Killer, is to cause a mental breakdown. He gets the Countess to kidnap Holden, which helps to fracture John’s  already shaky marriage to Alex. In grief over Holden’s loss, John begins frequenting the hotel to sleep with Sally and have absinthe with March.

John makes his first kill in a set up by March. Distraught,  he tries to commit suicide in the hotel but March interrupts that and gives Sally shit for letting him do it. He reminds her of her deal with him to allow her, and her addiction demon, to feed on the junkies who frequent the hotel. Sally, who has fallen in love with John, tasks Wren with watching over him while he’s out in the world. She worries about him.

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John having finished his story to his old partner, becomes convinced in his mind, that his partner and his wife are cheating on him and accuses him  of coveting his wife. He kills his partner and takes his body parts back to the hotel.

Now that he remembers who he is, Iris, relieved she can just let it all hang out now that he’s awake,  tells him he has a choice. He can quit and start a new life, but John refuses, choosing instead to finish his killing project.

Hmmm! It turns out that John’s not such a nice guy after all.

At last the writers have decided to clear up at least  a couple of loose ends. The Ten Commandments Killer was the least interesting portion of the show, but I am glad the writers tied it into  John’s presence at the hotel. For a while, I was wondering what his purpose was  and why he is  in the hotel.

Every episode, up til now, has only served up more and more questions and there’s still the matters they haven’t addressed, like:

The reappearance  of The Countess’ maker and his wife. and if there will be some reconciliation or showdown between those three.

What about Donovan’s  and Ramona’s revenge against The Countess and Will Drakes, marriage to her?  She does plan to kill him when  they’re married, and I like Will’s handsome,  oblivious ass, and don’t want him to die and be trapped in that damn hotel.

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What’s going to happen with all those vampire children running around the city? Will anyone find out about that and do something?

What’s going to happen to the children in the hotel? What about The Countess monster baby and Alex?

Ideally the hotel should probably be destroyed, just to free all the trapped souls. I wouldn’t exactly call these souls innocent but I think, at least some of them, deserve better than being trapped in the Hotel Cortez for  eternity.

So we are a couple of episodes away from the finale and things are intense. Next episode is : She Wants Revenge.

Supernatural : Just My Imagination

Boy, was I off base when I thought that last episode, with the clowns was going to be funny. I don’t want to make the same mistake here, but I’d like this episode to be funny. We need to lighten up a little bit before we have the season hiatus.

Okay, just for the record, when I hear this title, this is the song I will be hearing every single time, and now so will you. This is not a matter for debate.

 

Oh, I really liked this episode. I’m also a big fan of Richard Speight Jr., who directed this week’s episode and it shows. The flavor of this episode is very much in keeping with the gentle, but zany humor of Gabriel and Speight, as well.  And distinct in style from episodes directed by Jensen. It was absolutely darling and sweet and bitter and funny…it just brought all the feels. I think Sully is now one of my new favorite characters, not just for his clear devotion to Sam but because of his little pudgy body,  his fragility and compassion, but  also because he was willing to sacrifice his life for Sam, by owning up to what he’d done, thereby giving Sam an example to follow regarding his fear of The Cage and Lucifer. There’s even a tiny bit of Trickster in him too, although he’s  much, much nicer than Gabriel.

Aaahhh! I loved his suspenders (braces). I used to own a pair just like that when I was about  nine  years old, so it was fun and funny to see someone else wearing these. Its also a callback to the show Mork and Mindy. Mork was also a zany, cartoonish character, not unlike the  Zannas of this episode, or  Trickster Gabriel. (It feels like a distinctive Speight touch, too.)

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A young girl named Maddie is having tea with her imaginary unicorn friend named Sparkles. After coming back from dinner with her parents she discovers that Sparkles has been horribly murdered.

Sam wakes up at the unholy hour of 6:30 in the morning. A person should be sound asleep at that hour but he’s up getting coffee. I love how this scene is shot,with the shadow of an ominous figure following Sam to the kitchen. Although once he gets to the kitchen,the viewer can see that the table is set with colorful junk foods. There’s some wonderful tension as we watch Sam wander back and forth waiting for him to notice that.

I think it’s sweet that Sully, having not seen Sam in so long still remembers all his favorite junk foods and the things they used to say to each other. At first only Sam can see Sully but Sully decides to let Dean in on the action, too. Dean is having some real trouble with the idea of imaginary friends and is acting pretty dickish towards Sully, although as the episode goes forward he starts to come around.

The brothers realize that since children are the only people who can see imaginary friends, called Zanna, in Romanian folklore, they can’t just ride up on the house like gangbusters and interrogate the family. This is a delicate situation, so thy’re going to have put on … their “little old man” sweaters. They both  look totes adorbs as they pretend to be counselors for Maddie, who refuses to sleep in her room.

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Dean, still having trouble with the idea of “real” imaginary creatures, calls Sparkles a “manicorn”, which is even dumber than the “ghoulpire” thing he kept trying to invent in Baby. I have to admit, some of the funniest episodes, are the ones in which Dean just makes up words.

We see why Maddie wont go to her room, when the brothers investigate. The room is covered in blood and Sparkles dead body is still present. I’m feeling a tinge of sadness. Its tragic when unicorns die. Maddie’s mother, as well meaning as she is, is completely oblivious to the carnage and even manages to get Sparkle’s blood all over her face. The Winchesters, reluctant to alarm the mother as well, advise her to shower the entire family. I still don’t know how she’s going to get near Maddie, if her face is covered in blood only Maddie can see.

Simultaneously a young girl’s pool mermaid is murdered in her backyard.

Sam has a flashback to when he was about ten or so and begging Dean to ask John to let him go hunting. It seems Sam has always waffled back and forth about wanting the hunting life. Sully tries really hard to impart to Sam the idea that he doesn’t have to be a Hunter and can do anything he wants. These flashbacks aren’t just to show us what Sam was like as a child but to show us exactly what Sully’s job entails and the kind of Zanna he is.

Sully explains that imaginary people have a form of telepathy which each other, which is how he knows that Nicky the Mermaid is dead. While investigating the scene, Sully tells them she had a jealous boyfriend named Weems and that it would be wrong to leave her body in the pool, so they spend some time burying her  huge remains. Dean goes along with this, though he  was initially dismissive of her death, and doesn’t understand why Sam ever needed an imaginary friend.

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Dean is still kind of a dick, though.

Before they can interrogate Weems, he is attacked and sends a telepathic signal to Sully. The Winchesters and Sully arrive to find Weems still alive and he confesses that he saw the shooter, didn’t know who she was, but she drove an old beat up  VW Bug. He does seem to know Sam though.  Dean wondering what it is that makes Weems so special as an imaginary friend, finds  that Weems can play a mean air guitar. I mean he is awesome at it! Dean is impressed, although he pretends he isn’t and goes off to find the VW.

While he’s gone, Sam and Sully talk about their bad breakup and..yeah, it was pretty bad. When Dean called Sam back to tell him he could go hunting with him and Dad after all, Sam is very happy to leave. Sully tries very hard to talk him out of going but Sam rejects him and sends him away. Sully says he considered Sam to be one of his  greatest  failures, because he couldn’t save him, even though he sort of worships Sam and considers Sam a hero for saving the world, which I thought was one of the sweetest things ever said. Sam usually gets vilified for the things he’s done.

Its interesting that supernatural creatures know and talk about the Winchesters and their deeds. The Winchesters are almost considered  mythical creatures themselves, and Sam looks mildly surprised and baffled by this.

They also talk about The Cage and The Darkness. Sam confesses that he made a mess, and that there may be some price for what he did. He confesses his terror about having to go back to The Cage and Sully is kind and supportive throughout,  (he genuinely cares about  Sam’s well being) and  later, he takes a cue from Sam, and shows by example what  should be done.

These conversations  between Sam and Sully are notable for another reason. At one point Sam (as a child) discusses running away with Sully, who mildly encourages this form of rebellion, but not explicitly. We do know that when Sam was a pre-teen he did run away and Dean spent several weeks looking for him. We have noted Sam’s tendency to run away from confrontation or drama, (as he is trying to do with The Cage decision) and when he sacrificed his life to save the world from the Apocalypse, was one of the few times we saw him tackle a problem head on. (Although to be fair, Sam has never had a problem running towards danger, its running away from personal issues that seem to be the  problem.)

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Dean calls and says he’s found their killer. Naturally he was smacked over the head with something and then tied up. The two of them have been tied up so often, that breaking out of their bonds is a fairly routine occurrence, and generally of no remark. The many head-bashings they’ve received over the years might explain their bad decision making abilities.

It turns out the killer is the grownup sister of a young girl, that got killed by a car, while under Sully’s care. Her twin, Reese, blames Sully for her sister’s death and in revenge, she procured a spell and a special knife from a witch, so that she can make Sully pay for what he did. But its not just the death of her sister that is the problem. She is still in grief for the loss of her family because Sully, having committed a horrible mistake, ran away from it in fear, rather than help her cope with her pain. Too caught up in his own guilt and pain he forgot his purpose, which is to help children through theirs.

The irony is that if he’d stayed and helped her through her grief, he would maybe have alleviated the pain for both of them, and Reese might have become one of his greatest success stories, instead.

When Reese threatens to kill Sam, Sully, taking a cue from his hero, steps up to acknowledge the mistake he made and offer his life in exchange for Sam. Dean has not been blind to any of this. Having worked himself free of his bonds, he tells Reese that killing Sully is unnecessary and manages to talk her down.  it is clear she really doesn’t want to kill him and is in a lot of pain. She and Sully reconcile, but it’s too bad that Nicky ans Sparkles had to pay for a mistake he ran away from, so many years ago.

There’s definitely a  larger lesson in this episode for Sam and the entire season. Running away from one’s responsibilities or mistakes will cost you the one’s you love later. On the way home, having heard this message loud and clear,  Sam tells Dean he’s made a decision. He has to go back into the The Cage.

Next week: Sam  visits The Cage and has  a reunion with Lucy and I’m way too keyed up to  talk about that, in any coherent manner.

Into he Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings

You know how you love a character, root for them, but  still feel  as if they could use a very short, sharp pinch. This is how I feel about MK. Not often, mind you. Just whenever he shows agency or has an opinion.

But luckily I didn’t have to root too hard for harm to come to MK, as Stephen Lang’s character, Waldo, puts him neatly in his place during this episode, and that was satisfying enough.

This week the show focuses a lot of its time on the women of the series. It would seem that  women are in weakened positions because of how this world is designed but that’s not  completely true. And here is where the similarity to feudal Japan really strikes me. (That and the costumes.) It may have seemed that the women of that time period were helpless too, but many of them were involved in their own intrigues and yes, there were women Samurai, although they didn’t practice it in the same manner the men did.

In this world there are female Samurai ,too (and even a kind of Ninja, who were the undercover operatives of feudal Japan.) Most of these women. reside in the Widow’s clan and when Quinn declares war on her, we get to see them step up and hold their own against the Baron’s Clippers and even send quite a few of them home.

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Naturally, MK ,having been told to wait in one spot, does not follow orders and ninjas his way into the  Widow’s house during the battle, while Quinn and the Widow finally meet face to face and have it out.This is a great fight. and apparently a long time coming.

Quinn gets the advantage but is struck by a massive  tumor-ache. Before the Widow can finish the job the tumor  started, she is interrupted by Sunny. She and  most of  her women (The Butterflies) manage to escape the house through a secret passage.

Sunny confronts MK and MK shows him a book that he stole from the house. A book with a cover  image of the city of Azra. Another word-building point, which is why you have to pay close attention to the little things people say, is that MK is illiterate. So are most of the people of this world. Cogs can’t read, and neither can the Clippers.

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Lydia and Jade are sitting bedside to Ryder who is still in a coma. The two of them snipe at each other for a moment or two. Lydia makes it clear she knows that Jade is sleeping with both Quinn and Ryder and that that is a really bad idea. Jade goes to Veil, who was a childhood friend of hers, to beg her to save Ryder’s life. Veil is reluctant, at first, but Jade talks her into it.

Lydia, who seemingly hates everybody, doesn’t like the idea of a Cog (which I guess is what they call peasants in this world) doing surgery on her son, but relents when Veil explains to her that her son will die in a few hours if she doesn’t. She practices the age-old remedy of trepanning, drilling a hole in the skull, to relieve the intracranial pressure.

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Later,  Quinn approaches her and promises to find whoever killed her parents, not knowing that Veil is already  aware that he killed them. He also lets her know that yeah, he’s aware of her relationship with his chief Clipper.

After the battle Sunny goes to Veil to get patched up and the two of them try to be discreet about their relationship but MK , like most teenagers, cannot be fooled by people pretending not to like each other. It doesn’t help that Veil and Sunny are no good at lying. How the two of them are going to keep their escape from the Badlands a secret, when they can’t successfully lie to a teenage boy,  is a mystery.

MK also keeps making snarky comments to Sunny who has the perfect remedy for that. He takes MK to meet his mentor Waldo. I hadn’t noticed before but Waldo is disabled, (I wonder if we will get his backstory), which doesn’t stop him from beating MK’s ass, when Sunny needs to teach him a lesson about underestimating his opponents. This scene was a lot of fun and well choreographed. This underestimating one’s opponent, and then  getting your ass handed to you, seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

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Its also the third show I’ve watched just this year, which has a person with a disability, kicking ass and not even caring about names. I don’t know if TV was always like this or my brain is just noticing this now. contrast this with the original Ironside, its failed race-bending remake, and In Living Color’s HandiMan skits, which were done for laughs.

Ryder wakes up after his successful trepanning, and Quinn asks him who set him up. He says a woman in the red light district named Angelica, who proves more than a match for Sunny when Quinn sends him  and MK to retrieve her. She won’t allow herself to be taken alive and jumps from a balcony rather than let Sunny capture her. While this is happening Tilda, (who has been sent to retrieve Angelica too), sees MK and the two of them fight about which of the  Baron’s is a worse person, Quinn or the Widow. Angelica,  splatting in front of them, ends that.

Sunny has taken the book and hidden it, but MK ninjas his way into yet another house and manages somehow to steal it back. Even if he never makes it as a Clipper he can always become a thief. This is the main reason why he needs a sharp pinch. Once he gets it into his head to do something, the danger of it never occurs to him as he has mastered the ability to make poor choices.

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Like: taking the book to Veil to read it for him, after noticing she has a lot of books, so she can probably read. But she can’t read his book, either. its written in a language she’s never seen before.( It looks  vaguely Arabic, but not exactly.) Quinn shows up at her door, ostensibly to thank her. She hides the book with MK, who hides behind a curtain.

Quinn sends Sunny to get aid from a Baron named Jacobee. he must meet with Jacobee’s Regent, named Zephyr, who I like already. This is a woman well acquainted with what she wants and what she wants is Sunny.(Who wouldn’t? Sunny is foine!) She tells him he has a great opportunity. Kill Quinn and set himself up as baron, instead. Oooh, the plot thickens!

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Quinn goes to visit Veil and be creepy to her for a while. I guess being shitty and threatening to his wives isn’t enough to reach his creep quotient for the month, he’s got to let Veil in on the fun, too. What he really wants is for her to cure him the way she cured Ryder, giving her a prime opportunity to botch the operation and (oh, hell, why not?) make herself Baron. I’m all for this because even if she succeeds, his response will probably be to kill her or  take her for a wife, thereby  jeopardizing her baby’s life.

One must note that if Quinn hadn’t killed Veil’s parents to protect his increasingly not so secret-secret, this would never have become a problem, but in his defense, the tumor may have impacted Quinn’s long term planning capabilities.

Well now both  Veil and MK know the Baron’s secret.

The actress who plays Veil is phenomenal,  managing to portray strength and vulnerability, often at the same time. She’s great to watch and her character proves that there’s more than one kind of strength in this world besides the masculine associated ability to kick ass. There’s also the strength to endure and even thrive in this environment without martial skills, which is what the Cogs have to do.

I like the shows ability to portray men and women equitably, highlighting not just the strengths of the women but the weaknesses of the men. In that sense this show is turning out to be much more feminist than I expected, given the type of feudal dystopia that’s presented.

We’re down to the last two episodes of the season and I’m really mad at AMC for having only ordered six episodes,  hyping the Hell out of this series, making me fall in love with it, and then pulling the plug until Gob only  knows.

Next week: Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

The Walking Dead: Start To Finish

Who said, “Things  couldn’t possibly get worse!”? Whoever said  that, needs to shut up, especially when it comes to this show. The writers delight in causing  tension for its viewers. I spent more than a few moments actually on the edge of my seat or screaming at my TV. That’s how good this show is. Mostly at any scenes that involved children.

I read somewhere that children exist, in movies and TV shows, to give  adults a reason to have drama, or to create tension by putting them in danger. They rarely have their own plots and backstories. If that’s the case, then tonight is Sam’s (Jessie’s son) time to shine because there is no more annoying character  this episode. First up,  the blatant metaphor of having an ant invasion in his room, paralleling the Walker invasion outside.

Sam has spent the past couple of days holed up in his room trying to avoid the dangers of the world, like zombies and Wolves. He just wants to be safe. I get that. I think the message here is that you can’t hide because the danger will only come for you later.

Another recurring theme of this season is how different children are coping with the zombie apocalypse. Enid, in JSS, gives up on living in favor of simply surviving. Her argument is to just let everything go,run away, not deal with it or get close to people. This is her way of psychologically checking out.

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Ron’s method of coping is to become deeply myopic. Instead of focusing on the larger dangers, he has winnowed his attention down to  the most immediate problems, which are the loss of his father and then his girlfriend by the Grimes’ family.

Of all of them, Carl seems to be handling the apocalypse the best. Part of it is that Carl is reasonably intelligent and has  a great supporting cast of his father’s friends and followers. He’s been taught by Rick since he was very young. He’s also  able to see the best and worst of Rick, in play, and  then weed out the worst behavior by paying close attention to how his father’s  friends react. So Carl, unlike the other kids, is stepping up to the idea of a being a capable protector and a fighter, with an eye on issues beyond his own needs. Ron, Sam and Enid, were never taught these things. We’ve seen him show his ability to make command decisions a couple of times this season.

We pick up  where we left off, last week, when the watchtower, which had been damaged in the attack from the Wolves, finally gave   up, and fell into the compound. This destroyed part of the wall, allowing the Walker horde to invade Alexandria.

Once again, you have to remember that all of these episodes are happening almost simultaneously or at least within the same couple of  days. Earlier that morning the heavy hitters were out herding walkers, when the Wolves attacked the town and everyone scrambled to get home. During their scramble, everyone is separated. Rick has a near death experience, so do Glenn and Daryl. Enid runs away but is found the next day by Glenn.

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On the second day, Morgan has an intervention with Rick and the others, and is discovered to be holding one of the Wolves hostage. Spencer makes reckless decisions which lead to a falling out with his mother. Maggie confesses she’s pregnant to Aaron, who finds out that it was  his recruitment photos that  led the Wolves to Alexandria’s doorstep.

This same day, Maggie has a near death moment herself and just barely makes it to safety, as the Walkers head to the heart of the town. Everyone runs for safety. Rosita, Tara and Eugene are trapped in a garage, but later, escape. Deanna and Rick hole up in Jessie’s home with Judith, Michonne and Carl. Morgan and Carol, find an abandoned house.

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Deanna, severely injured in their run for safety discovers that she’s also been bitten. She has a lot of advice to impart to Michonne, as she is one of the few people who believes in Deanna’s vision for the town. Deanna tasks her to think about what she wants for Alexandria and for herself. It’s interesting that she didn’t say these things to Maggie, who will be busy with her own issues, soon enough.

Carol, also injured, manages to escape Morgan’s attention for thirty seconds and runs off to kill his captive. Morgan reaches her just in time while Denise, and the Wolf, look on with interest. The Wolf keeps encouraging Carol to kill him, while Morgan tries to talk her out of it.  Carol threatens to kill him too and the two of them duke it out, until Morgan, exasperatedly slams her to the floor, knocking her unconscious.

 

 

 

I love both of these characters, understand both their viewpoints, and see this as an example of Fight Philosophy, where a fight isn’t just two people hitting each other. Its a contest between  competing philosophies, Morgan’s philosophy of Compassion and Carol’s philosophy of Pragmatism. Each one of these ideas has a price. For Carol the price for doing what needs to be done is her soul or sense of self. This is simply not who she is or should be and Morgan can sense that she is headed down a wrong path. Morgan, however,  gets to keep his soul, but because he won’t kill, the price may be his life.

This is made evident when the Wolf, taking advantage of the situation, attacks Morgan, takes Denise hostage and escapes.

Outside the walls, Glenn  and Enid try to figure out a way to get inside and help their friends and family.

At Jessie’s house Sam has a panic attack when he realizes the town has been invaded by zombies. He has to be talked down by Jessie, who tells him to pretend he is a brave person.  The house itself is invaded when Ron, with his usual incredible timing, decides now would be a good time, to hash out his problems with Carl. When Carl finds him in the garage, he tries to shoot him and the two of them wrestle for the gun, shooting out the garage windows, which allow the zombies to get into the house. Later, Carl lies to Rick, about how this happened.

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Rick and the others come to the rescue but are too late to stop the tide of zombies. Short on time, Rick’s risky plan is one I like to call The Zombie Guts Maneuver, first introduced by Glenn, I believe. Once again Sam panics and has to be talked into it by his mother. I don’t think Jessie is going to teach him to be strong enough, fast enough, for him to survive. He’s had a very coddled existence, and is simply not equipped, for this kind of thing, on such short notice.

Unfortunately, they have to leave Deanna behind. Rick gives her a gun, which I think she’s supposed to use on herself, but she goes out in grand (but painful) style, when she elects to use the bullets on the invading Walkers.

The group successfully makes its way through the Walker horde in the house, and outdoors, where their mission is jeopardized by Sam who, utilizing some of  Ron’s incredible timing techniques, (this must run in the family) decides right then would be a good time for him and Jessie to have a heart to heart talk. So yeah, if someone doesn’t do something soon, little Sammy is going to get eaten.

 

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EPILOGUE:

Sasha, Abraham and Daryl are still on their way back to Alexandria, when their vehicle is  commandeered by a gang of men on bikes. Men who say they’re from Negan. Incidentally these are the same guys that ambushed the group earlier, and chased after the trio that captured Daryl, in the episode Always Accountable.

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<SIGH!>

Who said things can’t get any worse?

Syfy Channel’s The Expanse

I normally would have prefaced this with Geeking Out About, but I haven’t actually decided if I’m geeking out about it. I consider myself a middling scifi fan.  I arrived at Scifi fandom via the usual vectors of Star Trek and Star Wars, but I pretty much just wandered around in the genre, discovering things on my own.  Armed with curiousity  and a taste for new stuff,  I sort of stumbled onto things like Dune and Isaac Asimov, without a plan.

As a matter of full disclosure, I haven’t read the James Corey books on which this new series is based, either. Corey’s series, Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War,  Abaddon’s Gate, and several more, is the Syfy channels newest attempt to get back to showing some serious science fiction. The producers are Daniel Abraham, whose books I’ve  enjoyed, and Ty Franck. Since I haven’t read any books in the series, I have no idea how close the show hews to the books.

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It stars one of my favorite actors, Thomas Jane, as a detective named Miller, and looks a lot less cheesy than some of the other scifi shows that were introduced last season. It has a very diverse cast, which includes Chad Coleman from The Walking Dead. (I’m glad to see that actor again. I loved Tyrese.)

I believe the season  airs on December 14th, but the pilot episode is available for viewing here:

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2015/11/watch-the-first-episode-of-syfys-the-expanse-right-now/

… after which the show airs on Tuesday nights. The first episode is titled Dulcinea.

The show takes place on the ice trawler called The Canterbury and the space station called Ceres.  For more back story on  some of the wordbuilding, go here:

http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse/cast/1

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The show starts mysteriously enough with a beautifully shot scene of a young woman (Juliet) escaping from a no-gravity vault, of some kind, to find the ship empty of crew. Okay, I’ve watched this image several times but I’m still not certain of what I’m looking at. It looks like the last member of her crew being eaten by some sort of blue energy source. She screams at it, so I take it that, whatever this is, is not good.

Like I said, I’m a middling scifi fan, and not always capable of interpreting some of the scifi imagery I see in shows, especially if it’s a brand new ‘verse. (I understand a surprising amount of real life physics from reading actual science books, but this is fiction, so it’s harder to know what information the creators are attempting to convey.) One of the reasons why the average viewer may shy away from such shows, is that these shows often assume a level of knowledge about science fiction tropes, that the viewer is completely unfamiliar with. All I can do is relate these images to other images I’ve seen in other movies, like the  main energy chamber, from Galaxy Quest, only not as well lit.

Next, we get a kind of tour of Ceres station and a “time for the revolution” voiceover from one of  the Belters. Belters are workers in the outer edges of the solar system’s asteroid belt. Their job is to send resources like oxygen and water back to Earth and Mars, which are in a tense political standoff with each other. The Belters are in the precarious position of wanting more from life and making demands, although I don’t see how their revolution will work, if they don’t control their own air, or water.

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Miller is called to investigate the disappearance of the young woman we saw at the beginning of the episode, the wayward daughter of some business magnate from Luna.

We also get a brief tour of the ice trawler,  Canterbury, where the workers talk like extras from the movie Alien, and work in such unsafe conditions, that one of them loses an arm, when he’s struck with a block of ice. Unfortunately, we also get one of those unsexy sex scenes, with the second officer, Holden,  that television likes to throw onscreen, too. I think this counts as character development because Holden is not supposed to be boinking the ship’s navigator.

It’s also interesting to note that the people in all these environments, including the professionals, regularly use drugs, sometimes in plain sight and Holden’s XO is bombed out of his skull and locked in his chambers with a projectile weapon. So, yeah.

The Canterbury receives a distress signal from a freighter, too far into the belt to be a good thing, and decide not to investigate. Okay, I saw this movie, and only one person survives, the alien attack, but Holden, the second officer makes a secret decision to go anyway. By logging that the call was received, they now have no choice but to check it out, and will probably be threatened with “forfeiture of shares” if they don’t.

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This is a gorgeous show but also incredibly dark. It’s a wonder that people can see the controls to run the ship.

We visit Earth and Luna, where we meet Agadashloo’s character and get some NY skyline-Fu. She engages in some torture porn of a Belter, who was captured with illegal weapons, so she may not be a good guy. This is political stuff that hasn’t been connected to anything else in the show yet.

And Miller is not liked by anyone. The Belters hate him because even though he was born in the belt like the rest of them, he’s a cop. Some of it is just people hating law enforcement of any kind and part of it is that he is an asshole, with issues about his past. Even his former ex hates him, but that’s probably understandable, too. He’s your typical noir, mystery novel, anti-hero, beset by the weaknesses of his character, with  hat and a truly awful hairdo.

No, seriously! It’s hideous.

On the plus side, he is shown to have a soft spot for children, when he’s willing to threaten the life of Julian Riching’s character, for endangering the lives of children, by not keeping the air filters clean.

An investigation of the distressed freighter, by a shuttle from the Canterbury, finds no bodies but a mystery that someone was on board to turn everything off and plant a distress beacon. They have to evacuate quickly when another, larger, ship arrives in response to the distress call. The trawler is destroyed when the new ship fires on it. All that’s left is the handful of crew who survive on the ship’s shuttle.

Now Holden is energized to find out who killed his ship and crew and why.

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This episode was pretty typical of most shows, with introductions to the characters and situations that we’ll be dealing with for the duration. It’s been described as Game of Thrones in space. I’m not a Game of Thrones fan. I do hope there’s less nudity/rape in this, though. I’m also not a fan of political plot lines, except when I am. (I’m one of only five people who will admit to being deeply interested in the political plotting of The Phantom Menace.)

I’m not geeking out about it. I probably never will, but I will watch next week’s episode, and depending on what happens, and how busy I am, I may or may not review it. This is one of the shows I was looking forward to this Fall and I hope it holds my interest, and an audience, as that will encourage the Syfy channel to keep making good shows and not revert to those damn “Monster Shark” movies, ever again.

The show is gorgeous though (think the movie, Gravity), and now that the introductory stuff is out of the way, we  can get to the meat of the plot. I’m  not particularly interested in the revolution stuff. I am interested in the actual mystery of the missing girl and who destroyed The Canterbury.

Next week, Holden and Miller finally meet, we find out what Agadashloo’s character is really up to, how she’s related to the missing girl, and who Miller will piss off next.

 

For : myfaketvboyfriend!

 

Part Three : Legend of Drunken Master/Drunken Master II

Did I mention that  I was a huge Jackie Chan fan? I  love this actor because he’s so talented, dedicated and positive. (He really is kind of like Snoopy, only more lethal.) He’s worked very hard at presenting the idea that Martial Arts isn’t just meant to be scary or violent.

No, I haven’t watched everything in which he’s starred,  but I definitely put some effort into that. Still, there are some movies I just keep coming back to, no matter what else Jackie does and Legend of  Drunken Master is one of them.

Legend of Drunken Master is a sequel to the original 1978 movie, titled Drunken master, so in some circles,the more current movie, from 1994, is referred to as Drunken master II. I’m pretty sure that the sequel is the movie I saw first. Later I backtracked and saw the original, but was not impressed. its not a bad film, its just not as good as the remix. Outside of Thunderleg (what a great name!)  and Lau Kar leung,  I don’t know any of the original cast, but the 1994 version has a great pool of actors I’ve seen before.

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Lau Kar Leung, the director of the  Shaw Brothers film, 36th Chamber of Shaolin, makes a cameo appearance, along with Anita Mui, who I remember from The Heroic Trio, one of the very first action films I ever watched, that had all female leads, and  which also starred Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh.

Actually, Drunken Master is one of a whole genre of films featuring  the legendary Wong Fei Hung, who is a revered figure in China. Nearly every big name star out of Hong Kong, has done at least one film about Fei Hung and there’s  a bajllion movies starring this character .For more on on the real life Wong Fei Hung, visit:

http://www.wongfeihung.com/

This is a Wong Fei Hung movie with Jackie as the lead, Lung Ti, as his father, (he’s excellent, btw) and Anita Mui, who doesn’t look nearly old enough to play his mother, but has  great comedic timing, so I loved her conniving character. Also, Andy Lau makes a short cameo, as well.

The plot is surprisingly complicated, involving some stolen artifacts, the English Ambasssador?, The Wong’s martial arts school, and a factory that’s  being used as a fence for the stolen artifacts. All of this is sort of loosely strung together to make one giant plot with some fight scenes thrown in. The dialogue is occasionally awful but the music is fun and engaging.

 

The film has some tragic  moments but its okay to laugh too, as the movie is meant to be  funny. From Fei Hung trying to sneak some ginseng through customs and then having to try to get it back but snagging one of the stolen artifacts instead,  to Ling (Anita Mui) gambling away her wedding ring playing Mah Jongg, the movie starts on a high note.

The first fight scene, between Lau Kar Leung (as Fu Wen Chi) and Fei Hung, underneath a train, is a wonder to behold, as  they duke it out with  staves in this tiny, enclosed space. The funniest moments occur when Fei Hung gives names to all the drunken fighting techniques he’s pulling out of his ass, right there on the spot, like:  “Turtle Holding Wine Barrel” and Drunken Maid Flirting with the Master”.

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Later, we see Fei Hung demonstrating Drunken Boxing techniques, in the town square, with his friends. He is cautioned by his father against practicing this particular skill, as  he says, “Its difficult to control one’s drinking, and that many drunken boxers become little more than drunken fools.” Fei Hung’s father  drops little bits of knowledge like this throughout the movie, which made an impression on my 25 yr. old self. Another one, regarding drinking, “Boats can float in water, but they can sink in it,too.”

Fei Hung and his father have a fight about this later, and it totally  brings all the feels, as Fei Hung makes the awful mistake of actually hitting his father. If you know anything about Chinese culture that’s an unforgivable breach of  behavior.

But Fei Hung’s father does eventually forgive him, because Fei Hung was drunk at the time, and not his proper self. It also doesn’t hurt that the bad guys humiliate Fei Hung in the town square, where he retreated to , of course, get drunk after the fight with his father.

Anita Mui gets into the action, when she gets to throw down with Wen Chi, using her Skirt Style. I don’t know if that’s an actual style of Martial Arts, (I suspect it isn’t), but it makes sense for women to have learned a style where  their moves are unpredictable because their skirts are so big, you can’t see what their legs are doing. Anita looks great doing it, at any rate. (If it’s not a real style , someone should invent it.)

While all of this is going on, Ling confesses to her husband that she’s pregnant, the factory workers have revolted, and get beat up by the smugglers, who  are running around trying to find a lost Imperial Stamp, (now in Fei Hung’s possession), Wen Chi is also trying to find the stamp, and pays for it with his life, when they are all attacked by the smuggler’s henchmen.

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The final showdown takes place in the factory, where Fei Hung can use the maximum amount of props in his fight against the semi-talented henchmen of the smugglers, and the supremely talented Ken Lo, who  gets in some serious foot action and almost defeats him. There’s also some Fire-Fu,  as Fei Hung falls into a bed of hot coals.

Fei Hung has to rely on his Drunken Boxing techniques  to defeat Lo and even that is not enough. No! He’s going to have to actually get drunk, even though he promised his father he would never do it again. This fight  goes on for what seems like a long time but is actually only a few minute s long. it doesn’t matter because by the end of it you’re almost as exhausted as if you had participated in it yourself, and that counts for some great movie watching, in my experience

Legend of Drunken Master is available on Netflix, Crackle and Youtube.