Things I’m Looking at # 37

Preacher:

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Aaaaaah!!!!

The second season of Preacher arrives just in time to take up the slack after the full-course meal that was American Gods. I was really looking forward to this new season. Last season was a bit of surprise hit for some people, and even though I was really enthusiastic about it, I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the characters. I was pretty much just expecting crazy plot, but I fell in love with Cassidy, Tulip, and Jessie, and I’m really looking forward to their interactions this season.

Last season, Jessie was possessed by an escaped Angel, named Genesis, that gave him the power to compel people to do his bidding, got assaulted  by two other Angels, named Fiore, and deBlanc, who were after their lost charge, was invited by Tulip to get back on the road to vengeance against some guy who betrayed them,  and being friended by an Irish vampire, who then fell in love with his best girl. The three of them, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, met a fake God, and the town where all these events,  occurred was blown to smithereens, after things went horribly wrong at the local slaughterhouse. Now the three of them are on the road, looking for the real God, because they got questions they need answered, and I’m certain that yet more batshit adventures will ensue.

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Season two has introduced one of the characters from the books called The Saint of Killers. We get our first glimpse of him when the three buddies are pulled over by some cops, and The Saint guns everybody down. In the first episode alone we’re treated to the sight of one of the cops macing his own balls, Tulip siphoning gas through a piece of intestine (lost by one of the cops during the shooting), while Cassidy tries to get out of the sunlight by hiding under the cars, a man getting his tongue ripped out, a preacher who exorcises his parishioners demons by locking them in cages, and Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy sharing a bed, with Cassidy letting them know that he wouldn’t mind if the two of them had sex in front of him. Sent there by the Jesse’s preacher friend, the three of them visit a Jazz bar/Strip club, where one of the patrons claimed she met God. Cassidy’s shenanigans gets their witness killed.

So the usual, all-around batshittery, really!

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Like I said, when I reviewed the show in the first season, I was not that big a fan of the books because I’m an artistic snob, and hated the artwork. I knew enough about the books to know who some of the characters were, and be excited by Cassidy’s appearance. I have no idea who the Saint of Killers is, or if its an accurate representation on the show. That said, The Saint is really terrifying. As Cassidy would say, “That’s some Terminator-type shite!

Yes, this series can actually be classified as Pulp, and yeah, I do remember from one of my last reviews, that I said I wasn’t a huge fan of Pulp, since I hated Blood Drive, but since I am a fan of Preacher, I guess that means it depends on one’s definition of Pulp. Preacher is everytihng tht Blood Drive isnt. Better acting, writing, cinematograghy, special effects, and characters, go a long way towards a better class of Pulp.

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I mean, Blood Drive and Preacher are basically the same type of show, involving people on the road, doing crazy-ass shit, or having crazy shit happen to them. But Preacher is just much better at it. I guess it’s the difference between an asshole with charm, manners,and a several thousand  dollar suit, compared to an asshole in cheap sneakers and a backwards baseball cap, who keeps spitting on your floor. One of those you date. The other you don’t. Which one you choose is entirely a matter of personal taste.

 

In the second episode we learn that the Saint of Killers was hired by Fiore, who is determined that Jesse not be allowed to keep his superpower, lest he abuse it, which he is already doing. Fiore, in mourning over his dead partner, deBlanc, is working a magician’s show at Mumbai Sky Tower, where he gets killed on stage and keeps coming back, because Angels can’t die. Well, rather they can die, but the only thing that can kill them is The Saint of Killers.

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Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy petition Fiore to call off The Saint, but he refuses. Cassidy asks Jesse for permission to try to persuade him to change Fiore’s mind. There follows one of the funniest, most delightful, interludes I’ve ever seen in a show! Initially you think Cassidy plans on torturing Fiore, but the show uses that as an opportunity to turn a trope on its head, by having him get Fiore high on heroin, and then  romping with him around his hotel room, like two over-sugared toddlers, for three hours. Fiore who was depressed enough to attempt killing himself hundreds of times, since losing hs partner, is having the time of his life. My favorite moment is the two of them building a pillow fort in the middle of the room, and eating ice cream in it.

Jesse asks Tulip to get married and she accepts at first but when an old acquaintance from New Orleans (her old stomping grounds), shows up at the Mumbai, she tells Jesse she has changed her mind, after beating the holy hell out of the man. I love to watch tulip kick ass, with her little tiny self. She must weigh all of a buck’o five. Tulip’s got a lot of secrets, though. Jesse has an epiphany about how to find God, since they learned in the last episode that God loves Jazz. He figures that God might decide to visit New Orleans, someplace Tulip is  reluctant to go. At the end of the show, Fiore’s last request is for The Saint to kill him, since Jesse commanded him to “Find Peace”.

And that’s just the second episode. We got nine more episodes of this crazy shit, people.

 

Cleverman:

Last season we saw the introduction of a new superhero show, set in Australia called Cleverman. All of the primary characters, including the hero are all Native Australians. The show works along the themes of colonization, erasure, and assimilation of Native people into a violent dominant culture.

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*The Cleverman is an important figure in many Australian Aboriginal cultures. Series creator Ryan Griffen describes the Cleverman as “like the Pope of the Dreamtime … the conduit between the present and the Dreaming”.[6] The version in the television series combines many Cleverman traditions from different Aboriginal clans to create a superheroic version, with powers relating to the Dreaming’s connection to past, present and future.[7]    ——–Wikipedia

 

Koen has reluctantly accepted his position as the new Ceverman after the death of his uncle, who was the last one, and has begun to take steps to protect The Hairy People from a culture of exploitation and enslavement by the government. I didn’t review the last season and there’s a lot to explain, since its a very dense show, that requires close attention, especially if you’re not Australian. So here’s the Cleverman page on the Sundance website, which will give you a quick 101 on who the characters are, what’s going on and who’s is doing what to whom. The first episode of this season drops you right into the middle of everything, so if you didn’t watch the last season, you will need a quick catch-up:

http://www.sundance.tv/series/cleverman

 

And an AVClub review:

http://www.avclub.com/review/aboriginal-fantasy-cleverman-too-busy-building-wor-237354

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This season, Cleverman is attempting to foil a plot by the Australian  government, to destroy the Hairy People, by giving them a drug that will assimilate them into human society. So they’ve introduced a sickness they claim to be curing, and giving them this drug. They’ve also been kidnapping them, breaking up their families, and conducting medical experiments  on them. All of this is fairly graphically shown, so  keep that in mind while watching. At last some of this is being facilitated by Cleverman’s cousin, who  last season, used to hold a  Hairy People Fight Club, in the area of town where the Hairy People, and the Indigenous population, had been corralled

I’m having some difficulty watching the show because it just strikes too close to home, on a realistic level, and I can’t make it through a single episode without yelling at the TV, so I had to cut my viewing short. And I was also having trouble watching the fascistic nature of the plot. Its the reason why I’m not really into watching dystopias right now.

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But this is a great show. It’s very deep. It has good representation for my criteria although, if you’re a member of an Indigenous culture of any kind, you may have more stringent criteria than I do. It might also be too upsetting to watch because the plot does not mince around.

 

 

Will/ The Strain

Other shows I’ve checked out, and won’t be watching again, are Will, a show about the life of William Shakespeare which I found too dense to get into, and The Strain, which I continue to hate despite its change of venue, to Philadelphia, after NY blew up.

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Now, If you’re a student of Shakespearean Literature than you will  love this show because it chronicles the writing of his various plays and whatnot. its written by a couple of scholarly type guys and it shows. Its also full of pretty people being loud and boisterous,, and lots of ribaldry. I guess this is the show’s attempt to seem racy. I tried to like it, but I don’t think I was in the mood for it, as all that authenticity was giving me a headache.

I tried to watch the first episode of The Strain’s fourth and final season. I didn’t get past the first twenty minutes. I figured out what it was I hated so much about this show. Its the characters. I just hate them. Outside of Quinlan, and Fet, none of the characters are even trying to be compelling, and the villains are just ridiculous. The show also just isn’t scary. At least not to me, but the one review I read of the show the reviewer loved it. I just can’t agree. If you like the show, there’s nothing wrong with that, but  you have very different criteria, than I, for liking it.

Since NY blew up last season, the apocalypse has started t in earnest, as the resultant ash cloud has blocked out most of the sun’s UV rays, allowing the Strigoi, as the vampires are called, to walk around in daylight, menacing the populace. The setting has moved to Philly, and the first annoying thing I saw was an ad for a vampire/human organization called The Partnership, which is mostly designed to separate humans from their blood.

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Let me get this out of the way first: Many of the people in the ad were Black, although no more Black people were seen in the rest of the episode, even though it takes place in Philly, which has, quite possibly, one of the most recalcitrant Black populations in America. Apparently, rebellion against authority is only for White guys, since the two Black people I saw are shown  just rolling over for it.

This really pissed me off because I know, in the real world, you can’t even get Black people to do things they want to do, if you  give them an order to do it. Black people (and Puerto Ricans) will decide NOT do something, just to spite you. So I found it hard to believe there were no Black or Brown people rebelling, or creating some kind of Human Underground. C’mon! Marginalized communities would be the first ones to act up. And no explanation is given for why they’re all absent. Were they all wiped out? Eaten? Maybe we’ll find out later in the season but I won’t know because I’m not watching.

 

Castlevania: 

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I watched the first few episodes of this series, which is based on the arcade game from the 80’s. I do have fond memories of watching my brothers play it,  because I wasn’t particularly interested in playing it myself. I’m not that type of gamer, really. I don’t get attached to characters too much, or follow plots that closely, so I can’t tell you if the anime has anything to do with the plot of the game.

But I enjoyed the cartoon, which is about a guy named Belmont, a monster hunter from a disgraced family, going up against Dracula, and the Church. The Church is responsible for burning Dracula’s wife as a witch, and he’s so pissed off that he didn’t receive an apology, or even a tribute for his dead wife, that he unleashed a horde of batlike demons into the world to destroy humankind.

I spent a not inconsiderable time muttering at my TV about this one too because, as is natural, the villains are villainous, and  annoyingly unreasonable bullies. The Church is trying to use the approach of the demon horde to consolidate their power, and deflect attention away from the fact that the release of the demons is their fault. There’s another group of monks, truth tellers, that the Church is trying to wipe out because church officials don’t want word getting out that the demon apocalypse is their fault.

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The animation is very good, with some nice fight scenes. I usually avoid a lot of anime series because they’re too fast paced, and the characters have a tendency to talk too much, in extremely high pitched voices, which just makes my head hurt. But I liked this one. The people have actual motivations for doing stuff, even if I disagree with their actions, and they all talk like regular people.

So, if you’re a fan of the game, you could do worse than spending an evening with Belmont, who is a total bad-ass, and  Dracula. Castlevania is available now on Netflix.

 

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I also watched The British Baking Show and Game of Thrones. I enjoyed the Baking Show because British reality shows are wholly unlike American reality shows.  For one thing, there’s less bragging, and competition from the empty headed contestants, and more a feeling of camaraderie. The British shows don’t look as if they’re trying to get rid of the Black people and women as quickly as possible and the hosts are really funny.

I like the process of watching the contestants learn to bake something, I like looking at the inventiveness of the end results, the judges aren’t mean for meanness sake, but seem honest and forthright, about the results, and the way they choose the winners seems fair. If you have a bad episode, as a baker, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re out. It has to be a consistent thing. By the end of the series some of the baker’s have had several bad events.

 

I have no idea what to think of Game of Thrones. I want to like it. I like parts of it. I’m mostly a casual viewer, who has only watched a few of the more popular episodes. I know who the top five characters are, and the ones I like the most, Jon Snow, Brienne, and Arya and Sansa Stark. I’m much more interested in what’s happening in the north, at The Wall, then I am with what’s going on in the south, even though I realize all of these things are linked.

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 I don’t know who that guy is that’s been stalking Brienne.I think his name is Torm, or Torman) but he is hilariously, and very obviously, smitten with her. Brienne mostly looks annoyed and puzzled at his insinuations, and I can explain why that’s funny. I often have that same look on my face when people flirt with me. I can’t imagine why they think such a tactic would work with me, and puzzled about whatever I might have done, to make them think it would.

He longs for eve nthe faintest scrap of attention from her. Last night, after Brienne thoroughly trashed some guy  she was training with the sword, he walked up to the man and happily told him how lucky he was.

And of course, Twitter was right on it!

Tormund be looking at Brienne like

I’m going to keep watching it (not reviewing it) because I’m curious as to where it’s going to end, and how my favorites end up. Notice that there are some popular characters I didn’t mention, and that’s because I don’t care a single bit, about what they get up to, on the show.

 

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American Gods Season One : Come to Jesus (Part One)

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This  took some time to write because so many delicious things happened in the finale. I’ve been pretty busy and tired this week, but I’m determined to get this post out, doggonit! I’m also  going to have to do this in installments, because its already long enough. The next post is about the series as a whole, including its future incarnations, and an entire post devoted to speculation about the show’s lead, Shadow Moon, and his relationship with Wednesday.

Fuller and Green pulled out every stop in Come to Jesus. This episode was funny, cute, and awesome, in ways I wasn’t expecting. And that ending? Wow! This episode was also just gorgeous. The cinematography was  incredible, from Bilquis backstory, to the final scenes featuring Ostara,  tonight’s episode belonged to the women.

We open with Shadow and Wednesday, looking bored, while Nancy crafts new suits for them from spider silk, of course. Why am I not even surprised that he’s a tailor? It’s Easter holiday, and the two men plan to visit the goddess for which the holiday is named. For that, they need to look presentable. Nancy’s  house is an arachnophobic nightmare, though. All of his tailoring scenes, and even the clothing, is crawling with tiny spiders. (I think the spider’s are making the fabric, and there’s a giant loom in the background. How do I know this? I used to have  that kind of loom when I was a child.) I was a little squicked out by the spiders, though. If you have severe anxiety about spiders, then skip this scene. What’s interesting is that all of these gods have animals associated with them, and that they communicate with. Wednesday has his ravens, and the wolf we saw in A Murder of Gods, Nancy has his spiders, Ostara has bunnies.

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Afterward, we get another gorgeous scene of Nancy telling a story, despite Wednesday’s protestations, and Nancy’s  signature catchphrase, “Angry gets shit done!” is aimed, this time, at Shadow, who is pissed at Wednesday for killing Vulcan. This episode has so many favorite moments, this is simply the best episode of the season. Mr. Nancy generating his own spotlight is hilarious! (I just love this character!) At first I thought Nancy was going to tell the story he told in the book, about how the monkey got the lion’s balls, but no, he tells Bilquis’ tragic backstory, which is a very neat way to tie her to the other characters we’ve met this season, and tie her presence in this episode to Easter. How he knows her backstory is anyone’s guess, unless he’s making it up (in the book, he and Bilquis never meet) but it’s fitting that he be the one to tell her story here. I think Nancy is probably a little in love with her too, and it makes sense, in this series universe, they would’ve met.

Note: Once again, only the barest bones of this comes from the book. This series follows the foundation, and spirit, of the books, but is very heavily embellished with lots of extra stuff.

http://nerdist.com/american-gods-history-primer-bilquis-a-k-a-queen-of-sheba/

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Bilquis  is a very, very old Queen, (Sheba) with her own temple, and congregation. We’re talking about 3,000 years ago, in ancient Iran, where she was incredibly powerful, and openly worshiped. Of course, you could visit her temple, and worship her if you wanted, but you would very probably be eaten. It’s a beautiful, sensual scene that doesn’t feel gratuitous. Fuller has an unerring talent for crafting sex scenes that are titillating, without being raunchy. Bilquis was so powerful then, like a spider, she just liquefied her companions (whole groups of people), before sucking them into her vagina. Where, according to Technical Boy, they spend an eternity worshiping her in the Vagina Nebula, as she feeds off their energy.

Nancy narrates how various patriarchies went out of their way to destroy her, and failed. That handsome young man with the crown, I believe just represents royalty in general, and no God in particular. At the height of her powers, she devoured kings too. Later, as men became more and more desperate to control and contain her and her followers, out of fear and hatred, they resorted to violence, which seemed to work. As the centuries passed she fell on harder and harder times and, like Nunyunnini, was slowly forgotten, even by herself. Unlike him, she was still potent enough to be revived. As long as people wanted what she had to give she could still take sustenance. Bilquis’ story is a perfect metaphor  of the suppression of female sexual agency and  power by patriarchy, which is why it was important to Fuller that she be a  dark skinned Black woman. In the history of America, Black women have had little sexual agency, they’re bodies often exploited by men for labor and reproductive purposes. We’ve all been taught that woman’s sexuality needs to be carefully harnessed, and are only just now moving away from this concept in the US.

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Also, women who look like the gorgeous Yetide Badaki, are rarely shown as sexual icons in  media, or  as women who own their sexuality, serving no one but themselves. Women  who use their sexuality for their own ends, often have their sexuality heavily policed by men and women of all races. Witness how black women like Beyoncé, and Serena Williams have been vilified by social media for expressing themselves, slut shamed by respectability politics, and made to seem less than white women who have engaged in the exact same behavior, but are considered empowered when they do it. The true irony,  in this scenario, are white women who think the freedom to express their sexuality is something only reserved for them, and who seek to suppress and castigate WoC for expressing theirs.  Bilquis story is all the more tragic because, as Bilquis’ power diminishes, she comes to accept this shame and self hatred, along with her lowly status. She isn’t just forgotten by the world. She forgets her power.

The  passing eras, and her rise to power again, are beautifully rendered by the changes in costume and makeup. We see her in her original jewelry, at the temple. There’s a scene of her in a disco, with a huge Afro,  reminding me of Wednesday’s first statements to Shadow about his mother. (I do wonder if the show will go that route with her. It would be a nice touch, and explain a number of odd things about Shadow, who we still have no backstory for.) She even takes another WoC ,as her lover and I’m sure there are fans who loved this representation of WoC pansexuality. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolt,  she is exiled from her homeland, along with many of her followers, and years later, watches in despair, as ISIL destroys her last temple. Later, she finds her lover again, but she is dying from AIDS, which has been seen a punishment for people  who are considered too free with their sexuality.

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Bilquis is, once again, visiting her display at the museum. She is so ancient, that almost no one now alive knows what any of the  objects representing her were for. She is visited by Technical Boy, (who is wearing yet another shitty, ridiculous hairstyle) to whom she owes a huge favor, as he was the one who found her when she was at her absolute lowest ebb, homeless, and sleeping in the gutter. He offers her tribute in the form of a modern dating app, which is where we find her in episode one. What he has tasked her to do, we’re not sure, but she’s meant to meet everyone at the House on the Rock, a place of major importance in the book.

Nancy says Bilquis is reluctantly on the side of the new gods, and that Wednesday needs to collect another ancient goddess as her counterpoint.  During all Bilquis’ scenes, we get some idea of what her powers are, and while she’s not at her height, she possesses the ability to charm, beguile, or seduce any human being. Who she is meant to turn this power to at House on the Rock, is unclear. Wednesday, or Shadow? Nevertheless, it’s clear she’s not entirely willing to do Technical Boy’s bidding, and there is hope for her breaking her deal with TB, because we notice she is not carrying her phone, or using her app, when she seduces one of her travel companions.

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On the way to Easter, Shadow dreams about climbing a mountain of skulls. This is his prophecy about the war, hanging  over his subconscious like Wednesday’s storms. On some level, he knows and believes in what’s happening, but refuses to commit, and Wednesday calls him out on this. No matter how angry he gets at Wednesday, or pretends to, he still likes the old con, and I think Wednesday is counting on that fondness to keep him by his side.  Shadow also sees the White Buffalo again, and the World tree, Yggdrasil, which is also a representation of the War of the Gods (Ragnarok) spoken of in Norse mythology.

**Ragnarok (Old Norse Ragnarök, “The Doom of the Gods”) is the name the pre-Christian Norse gave to the end of their mythical cycle, during which the cosmos is destroyed and is subsequently re-created.

—– http://norse-mythology.org/tales/ragnarok/

When Shadow wakes up, he finds that he and Wednesday are being chased by bunnies. It turns out that the bunny that overturned Laura’s truck was not sent by Easter, although it is her animal to call, and they report to her. I thought that was one of the cutest things ever. The bunnies try to stop Wednesday  from reaching his destination too, but unlike Laura, he is unimpressed. He just runs them over, which makes Shadow give him the side eye. So the bunny’s job seems to be stopping uninvited  people from reaching Easter’s home, I guess.

Obstructionist Bunnies!

Easter is, naturally, celebrating Easter, but she’s celebrating it with all the various Jesuses, which I thought was hilarious. This is notable because Jesus is treated just like any of the other gods in the narrative, and most of the current versions are present at the party. The whole damn thing was just deeply, deeply funny to me, including the scenes where, whenever any of the Jesuses got near a light source, a halo would appear, and Shadow’s meeting with Jeremy Davis’ regular white guy Jesus, AKA Jesus Prime, for some reason. I did see Hippie Jesus, Black Jesus, and even a baby Jesus. Some of the Jesuses I couldn’t pinpoint, although I am told Mexican Jesus managed to resurrect long enough to show up.

Your basic guide to Jesus:

 

What do you call them? A flock? A gaggle? A Halo of Jesi?  But it’s the details that really fetched me up, and made me laugh out loud. From the flock of sheep that follow Ostara in all her outdoor background shots, to the tiny halo on the infant Jesus, being nursed by a woman dressed like old-school Mary, to  the jellybean stigmata of the Russian Orthodox Jesus, and the bunnies that poop jellybeans, it’s an incredibly rich, and thoroughly charming backdrop. And if I was a bit dubious about Ostara, at first, I was totally in love with her by the end of the episode.

 

On Ostara:

https://www.thoughtco.com/eostre-spring-goddess-or-neopagan-fancy-2562488

https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2013/03/easter-and-ostara-converging-traditions/

Easter receives several uninvited guests, along with Shadow and Wednesday. Laura and Mad Sweeney, Media and Technical Boy also arrive. The meeting of Shadow and Easter is just cute in the books but they’re shown here as being much more smitten with each other, which is a good foundation for Easter’s actions towards Shadow later in the series. In the book, she is delighted to meet Shadow and flirts shamelessly, in that way that only Southern Belles can get away with. The two of them are just the most darling thing I’ve ever seen on this show. Shadow blushes like a shy teenager with his first crush, and while she offensively refers to him as pink chocolate! she gets a pass, because I wholeheartedly agree.

That boy is foine!

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Kristen Chenoweth is wonderful in this role. I was prepared to be annoyed by her because of the trailer, (and because Chenoweth has a sordid past as a Broadway singer),  but she turned out to be a delightful character who, like a lot of southern women, is warm, gracious, and mushy, on the surface, but has a backbone of pure steel underneath. Easter is not happy that Wednesday is crashing her party, and upsetting the Jesuses, who are very nice men.

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Laura and Sweeney also arrive, but unfortunately, Easter is unable to resurrect Laura, as Sweeney requests. Looking deeply into Laura’s eyes, Ostara sees the shadow of a raven, and the face of Mad Sweeney, and determines  that Laura was killed by a god. Since Laura was killed through Wednesday’s machinations, Ostara cannot interfere in  another god’s plans. Laura figures that Sweeney knows more than he’s been telling her and tortures the truth out of him. It turns out, Wednesday isn’t just responsible for Laura’s death, but just as I suspected, is also responsible for that perfect casino heist that went horribly wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, being guarded over by Loki. You need to ask yourself why Wednesday would go through so much trouble, to procure a nobody, from nowhere. Easter also admits that the other gods have been talking about Shadow too, speculating who he is, and why he’s with Wednesday.

I like how they’ve kept Laura’s decomposition consistent. She’s definitely getting to the liquid stage, as her eyes have become milky, and she coughs up maggots. She can’t even begin to hide her smell now, (in the books she covered it up with perfume), and she has her own halo of flies. In the meantime, Shadow has a conversation with one of the Jesuses about the nature of belief. I laughed too hard at Jesus setting his drink down, and losing it in the pool he was floating on top of,  because Drunk Jesus!

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One of Easter’s bunnies whispers in her ear that Media has arrived, also without  invitation. Before I start gushing about Gillian Anderson in this role, I need to give some backstory. Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade was released in 1948, and starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The plot involves an older veteran dancer, who replaces his older partner with a young dancer, he hopes to mold in his image, until he finds himself falling in love with her. The faceless drone we see Media dancing with, is dressed in a replica of his suit, from the movie, and Gillian is wearing a pink replica of Judy Garland’s dress from the movie’s title scene, at the end. The drones are even attempting to dance like Astaire. Media mostly speaks in quotes from the movie. From her opening statement about Easter’s heart beating faster, to the mention of their date, these are all quotes from the movie. Guess how I know this!😊😊😊

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Unlike Wednesday, Easter didn’t turn down Media’s offer of aid, although she never asked for it either. In exchange for making certain that Easter traditions remain popular (eggs and chocolate), Easter has gotten a significant boost in her reputation, and followers, even if she has to share her holiday with the Jesuses. In exchange, Media requests her loyalty. When Wednesday approaches, he is confronted by Media and Technical Boy, but he upsets their plans, winning Easter’s loyalty with a combination of lies and tribute. He tells  her the Shadow-unapproved story, that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods, for taking his side in the coming war, and making him a sword. He also offers her a sacrifice.

Here, we see Odin for the first time this season. In an awesome display of power,Wednesday shows Shadow his true face, and speaks his many names.

 

 Odin’s backstory:

http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/odin/

Now once again we come back to the idea of sacrifice. By offering Easter the  deaths of his enemies, he gives her enough power to free her from the bargain she made with Media. Throughout the series, he has outlined the basic idea of godhood, and how it works. Give a little, and get a little in return, whether it be worship, tribute, prayer, or sacrifice. It’s fairly simple. Quid pro quo! If you dedicate something precious to a god, you will receive something in return, although not necessarily what you asked for. Media, Technical Boy, and the other new gods, have corrupted this arrangement, and think this makes them more powerful than the old ones. They have never seen the old gods powers fully unleashed, and have nothing but disdain for creatures they see as old and weak, the way so many young people view the elderly.

It’s not that Media and Technology don’t affect the world in some way, but they can’t control the seasons, rainfall, or lightning. They cannot truly control anything on the physical plane, and are not grounded in the real world of human physical sensation. Bilquis can compel people to love her and eats them, Wednesday can control the weather and destroy them, Vulcan can make weapons that kill them. As I said in an earlier post, the old gods are physical in a way the the new gods are not. The new gods are virtual, ephemeral. They promise dreams and fantasies, but give little or nothing  in return, for all the attention humans give them. Or rather, what they give in return for human attention is just as ephemeral, shallow, and unreal as they are.

And this is Wednesday’s key to his argument with Easter. Media can’t really give her power. She can influence humanity and she can tug on their bargain to procure Easter’s loyalty, but with the influx of direct power from Wednesday’s sacrifice, she no longer needs Media. The new gods can aid and abet, cajole, promise and seduce, but they can’t really offer her a sacrifice. It’s not just about human attention. Power comes from being offered tribute.We saw this with Bilquis and Technical Boy earlier. If it weren’t for the bargain she made with him, she would be capable of devouring him too. He doesn’t have nearly as much control over Bilquis as he thinks he does, and he is too shallow, and ignorant, of who she is, to know what he has awakened. The same way he underestimated Wednesday,  in A Murder of Gods, Media has underestimated the degree of power she is dealing with regarding Easter.

But I also said that neither side in this war is  good or bad. There’s no right or wrong from a human perspective. Gods have their own concerns and most are only concerned with what humans  can give them. This mindset (and Wednesday’s actions towards Easter) is the key to understanding why Wednesday wants this war, and why he’s willing to kill Laura to procure Shadow for himself, and is also willing to unleash untold misery on humanity, by encouraging Easter to take away the harvest season.

Wednesday did the same thing to Shadow that TB did to Bilquis. He found her at her lowest point and offered her a chance to regain power. Wednesday orchestrates the complete destruction  of Shadow’s life, and at his lowest point, when Shadow has nothing and no one, he steps in, and offers him a way out, winning his loyalty. If you want a clue as to who Shadow is, think about why Wednesday would want to collect him, and why he needs Shadow to believe.

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We see an awesome display of power, and some truly gorgeous cinematography, as Easter, high on the sacrifices given to her by Wednesday, unleashes the full meaning of her name, as Goddess of the Dawn, and kills off all the plant life in a several mile radius of her home. Humanity can have Spring back when they pray to her for it.

 

My  favorite moments were all the wonderful details like:

Mr. Nancy’s interjections in his scenes with Shadow.

Media’s presence this entire season, which is in keeping with the fact that Fuller is an out gay man, has been a showcase of gay icons. Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Judy Garland, are all extremely popular gay icons, from the forties through the sixties.

The Security Rabbits jobs are to stop traffic on the road to Easter’s home, so they can see who is in the vehicle, and then report the occupants back to Easter. I suspect this is what the rabbit that caused Laura’s accident was trying to do. No one approaches her home without her knowing about it , except in the case where Wednesday killed them all.

The deviled eggs at Easters party. It was a tradition in our house to eat those every Spring.

Easter’s tiny halo.

The tiny polka dots on Shadow’s suit.

That poor waiter who was wearing an egg shaped helmet.

The tiny cookies shaped like hands with red centers representing the stigmata.

Wednesday connecting Spring Break raunchiness to the worship of Easter.

The diversity of Easter’s party guests.

Those ridiculous striped silk robes Nancy made Shadow and Wednesday wear while awaiting their new outfits.

Easters slightly tattered finery. If you look closely enough, the flower in her hat has just a bit of rough edging.

When Media’s hat blows off during the storm, that’s also a scene from  a Judy Garland movie.

Shadow disapproves of Wednesday’s buunycidal behavior.

*In part two, I’ll discuss my thoughts about Shadow Moon, and in part three I’ll talk about the costumes, cinematography, and visual aesthetics.

 

Hannibal Season Two Finale: Mizumono

And so we end with a perfect cap on this season. We began in episode one, with a forecast of how the season would end, with a massive knockdown fight, between Jack Crawford and Hannibal. How did we get from them being friends to that point? The rest of the season is really just a flashback, to how we reach that moment, and its aftermath.

All season long ,we’ve watched Will Graham, thoroughly unburdened by the illness he was suffering  in that first season, at the top of his game. Most of this season chronicles Will’s  fall from grace. In his efforts to capture the Chesapeake Ripper, he finds himself in spiritual, and emotional, alignment with Hannibal. After failing to get any traction on his accusation that Hannibal is the Ripper, Will, in collusion with a newly believing Jack, after  Beverly’s death, embarked on a campaign to take down Hannibal, by cozying up to him, winning his trust, and gathering  evidence of wrongdoing. Hannibal being too canny for that plan to work, didn’t enter into their equations, and Will found himself being drawn  further down the rabbit hole of Hannibal’s machinations. Hannibal’s goal is  to make Will realize that he is just as much a killer as Hannibal, and make him his partner in death.This culminates in the death of Randall Tier at Will’s hands, in self-defense, and the seeming death of Freddie Lounds.

In this episode everything comes to a head. Jack’s predicament in allowing Will’s plan, Will’s predicament in lying to Hannibal, and the actual fate of Abigail Hobbes is revealed.

Hannibal sends Jack a letter, inviting him to dine with him and Will, and he accepts. Will and Jack discuss this Last Supper, while finalizing their plan to catch The Chesapeake Ripper. Alana is filled with doom and gloom and nightmares, as she begins to realize exactly what’s been happening, and what Hannibal is. She hasn’t been sleeping and is filled with dread that Hannibal has laid a trap for all of them.

Jack is finally successful in finding Hannibal’s therapist Bedelia Du’Maurier, who had gone into hiding, after she felt threatened by Hannibal. In his interview with her, Bedelia warns Will that Hannibal will find a way to prevail. She explains what hold Hannibal has over her. Will and Jack offer her immunity from prosecution for her testimony against Hannibal. An astute observer, she can somehow tell that Will’s loyalties have been severely compromised, and that it is Will’s weakness that will hand Hannibal his victory over their plans.

Image result for hannibal bedelia gif

Bella Crawford is dying in the hospital of lung cancer. Hannibal visits her and they discuss forgiveness. She says she forgives him for saving her life, and letting her die in this manner, but in return, Hannibal has to save Jack, the way Hannibal saved her. She has no idea that Hannibal didn’t save her out of caring or friendship, but as an exercise to see  what would happen, and to distract Jack from his hunt for The Ripper. She never discovers that Hannibal not only doesn’t keep his promise to save Jack but makes plans with Will Graham to kill him.

Nevertheless, Bella’s words about forgiveness come back to haunt Hannibal in season three. Unbeknownst to her she (and everyone he has met) does have an effect on him. In fact, even though Hannibal later claims that Will and the others had effected no change in him, that is a lie. Since becoming involved with the FBI, and knowing Will, Hannibal has developed close relationships with many people he would otherwise have never met. Remember  season one, when  Hannibal was a profoundly lonely man, who didn’t realize just how alone he was. After involving himself with Will, he became surrounded by people who cared about and trusted him, and although that did not prevent him from killing any of them, it has affected his attitudes and behaviors in small ways that will  play out in season three.

Will is clearly conflicted about Hannibal. As he makes plans with Jack, he also helps Hannibal destroy evidence in his office. While the two of them burn Hannibal’s files,  they make plans to run away together. Will is cagey about the commitment but it all becomes moot anyway, when Hannibal, with his keen sense of smell, scents Freddie Lound’s hair shampoo on Will’s clothes. Will had just had a meeting with her to ask her not to write any more stories involving Abigail, and to let her rest in peace, as he makes plans for Hannibal’s imminent capture.

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Will and Hannibal discuss what would happen to Hannibal if he were ever captured and Hannibal says he would live inside his Memory Palace, (something peripherally mentioned in the Silence of the Lambs), which is a place deep inside his mind, which resembles the foyer of the Norman Chapel in Palermo. Foreshadowing: This is information that Will uses to find Hannibal in season three.

Just as Hannibal has his Memory Palace, Will also has one. Fishing in the river.We saw Will visiting this place when he was in prison. At the time, Hannibal as the RavenStag, or the ManStag, was often shown infiltrating Will’s private mental space, illustrating that Hannibal (and Abigail) were never far from Will’s thoughts. Later, in season three, Will easily visits Hannibal’s Memory Palace. As an example of how intertwined their thoughts are, by that point, its not immediately clear to the viewer, whose mind we’re visiting, Will’s or Hannibal’s.

While having dinner, Hannibal asks Will to just leave with him, and not inform Jack, but Will lies to Hannibal, saying that Jack deserves to know, and puts forth the idea that Jack be killed. Hannibal doesn’t require that Jack die but he allows Will to keep lying to him. He was hoping that Will would come clean but he didn’t. Hannibal makes other plans at this point.

Kade Prunell, the Special Investigator, has caught wind of Jack’s plan. She aims to put a stop to it because its a complete violation of the law, and a private citizen’s rights. Claiming that the imminent death of his wife has compromised his logic, she suspends Jack from his position as Director. Jack, now free of any legal obligations to capture Hannibal alive, surrenders his gun and badge. Alana comes to his defense, arguing that the only way that Hannibal can be captured is in the act, , but Kade won’t hear of it. She tells Alana that Jack and Will are to be arrested for what happened to Randall Tier. Alana calls Will, to warn him about the warrants put out for his and Jack’s arrests, while Jack visits Bella in the hospital one last time.

Will calls Hannibal. Just as this whole thing began, that first season, with Hannibal’s phone call to Garrett Jacob Hobbes, (just because he was curious what would happen), Will’s phone call to Hannibal sets in motion a series of events that will end in tragedy for everyone in Hannibal’s orbit, and have repercussions far into their futures, as it sets off what fans  know as The Diner Rouge, The Red Dinner, where everyone’s  paths cross.

Jack arrives early for dinner at Hannibal’s home. They exchange pleasantries, but they both understand each other very well, in this instance. They begin to fight.

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Hannibal bests Jack and Jack locks himself in the walk-in cupboard, with a near mortal wound to the throat. Alana arrives to find Hannibal trying to batter his way in to finish off Jack. When she attracts his attention, he tells her that he tried, very hard, to keep her ignorant of what he is, expresses regret that he has to say goodbye to her, and as a courtesy, tells her she should flee. She fires at Hannibal but Hannibal had earlier removed the bullets from her gun.

Now she flees. She runs upstairs with Hannibal in pursuit, although he leaves the  kitchen knives behind. Alana is shocked to encounter Abigail Hobbes in an upstairs bedroom. Abigail pushes her out the window, and heads downstairs.

Will is just arriving. He finds Alana broken on the front steps, but alive. She warns him about Jack, while he calls for Emergency Services, then he goes inside where he finally sees that Abigail is actually alive. Shocked by this turn of events he doesn’t try to defend himself as Hannibal approaches. Hannibal says it was meant to be a surprise, the three of them going away together, as one big happy family. But that will never happen now. Just as Hannibal had his moment of complete understanding with Jack, Hannibal and Will have their moment. Hannibal is full of righteous fury about Will’s betrayal and deception.Will knows Hannibal is going to kill him and he accepts that he deserves it. What he didn’t count on was Hannibal taking Abigail away from him, again.

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To show Will his power, and to punish Will for his betrayal, (even if Will did renege at the last minute and warn him) Hannibal stabs Will in the stomach, but doesn’t kill him, although he easily could have, and as Will lays dying, Hannibal cuts Abigail’s throat in front of him. We end as we began, in season one, with Will clutching Abigail’s throat trying to save her life. Killing Abigail is also a moment of defiance because Will said he  affected Hannibal’s life for the good. Killing Abigail is Hannibal’s way of showing Will how little he changed him. After all, if he had changed him, would he be able to do this? But Will, in complete understanding, knows that the very act of killing Abigail, in defiance of Will’s assertions, is in itself, evidence of how much Hannibal has changed.

It’s also Hannibal just being petty and angry. He claims Will didn’t affect who he is, but he allowed Will to get close to him, and trusted him. Will did to Hannibal what Hannibal was doing to Alana, and that betrayal hurts. Its one of the reasons Hannibal kept himself aloof from other people all those years. Not just to protect his secret life, but the understanding that emotional connections would compromise his survival instincts. This is him showing Will that he is not compromised.

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But of course Will affected him, or he wouldn’t feel so much pain.

And this is not something out of character for Hannibal. The entire time that we’ve known Hannibal, he has tried to maintain a facade of equanimity, and dispassion, most of the time (I imagine for most of his life). He’s not emotionless. He has a deep well of emotion, but he maintains a rather impassive veneer. When he does get caught up in his emotions, and allow them to take rein, usually people die, and the Diner Rouge is no different event.

Most of the time we see Hannibal killing others from a place of clinical detachment. Killing is just something he thinks needs doing. This season we’ve seen him kill from emotion, at least once , when he killed the Judge who threw out his testimony during Will’s trial. He was insulted and outraged at his treatment, feeling lonely because of Will’s absence, and killing the Judge fell in line with removing an obstacle to his happiness. (Remember, before he decides to kill the Judge, there’s a scene of him sitting alone in his office, realizing exactly how much he played himself, when he had Will arrested, and how much he misses Will.)

At the end of season one Hannibal frames Will for survival reasons. At the end of season two, he is still in a mental  place, where he thinks more of himself, than he does the people in his orbit. He is still very much a selfish creature at the end of season one. But all during season two he has allowed himself to  care about Will, the only person he has ever allowed himself to have emotions for, since the death of his sister Misha, and he gets betrayed for his trouble. He’s not just mad at Will. He’s angry that he got suckered. Not ever having built up any kind of immunity against even the most the casual pains that human beings can inflict on each other, Hannibal is like a dangerous child, lashing out at anyone who hurts him.

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Having officially burned all his bridges, he steps out into the cleansing rain, believing that this part of his life is over, and that he can begin anew, casually stepping over Alana’s prone body, without even checking to see if she’s still alive. She meant nothing to him except as a means to control Will. He only made overtures to her when it looked like she might fall for Will, and only kept up a relationship with her so that Will couldn’t.

The final coda to this episode is Hannibal on a plane bound for Europe in the company of his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du’Maurier.

 

I started writing these reviews because I couldn’t find any good meta for this show that had been written after season two. I just decided, rather than scouring the internet for it, I should just write something myself.

Next up: The entirety of season three in my Hannibal re-watch.

 

 

 

 

 

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:

Image result for robert ford westworld

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.

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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.

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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.

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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