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Arcane Analysis: Season 1 Themes

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Promotional poster for Arcane, 2021
Promotional poster for Arcane, 2021; source: League of Legends Wiki

An exploration of the five key concepts that make the show so intriguing and get us so emotionally invested in its characters

Arcane is an animated series released on Netflix in November 2021. It is based on the video game League of Legends, though you don’t need to have played the game or know anything about it to enjoy the show. At the time of this writing, it has an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 9.2/10 on IMDb.

Off the bat, you’re sure to notice the gorgeous artistry and flowing animation. Some scenes experiment with different art styles, the most striking one being a duel between two characters in episode seven. The fantasy-steampunk world is beautifully crafted. On one side of a bridge, we have Piltover, the tall, gleaming, sophisticated “city of progress.” On the other is Zaun, the “undercity” crawling in trenches and chasms, saturated with noxious fumes and seedy activities.

Netflix screenshot of Piltover, the city of progress
Piltover, the city of progress

And of course, there’s the story itself. There’s a rich cast of characters, and their actions and developments intertwine around some compelling core themes: loyalty, family, progress, communication (or lack thereof), and power. Reflecting on these themes, you’re sure to appreciate this first season more profoundly and get even more hyped for season two—whenever that will be.

Warning: beyond lie spoilers for the full first season.

Loyalty

This is the most salient theme in the series so far. Loyalty is everything. It begins with pink-haired Vi’s loyalty to, and love for, her blue-haired sister Powder. Orphaned by the Piltover-Zaun conflict, they are each other’s only remaining family. Sure, they quickly find a new father figure in Vander and add brothers Mylo and Claggor. But at the end of the day, Vi still loves and defends Powder above all. Even after being imprisoned for years and returning to Zaun to find Powder rebranded as Jinx, Vi doesn’t give up on Powder and still wants the two of them to stick together. Given a choice between an estranged sister and a potential romantic partner (Caitlyn the “cupcake”), she chooses the former.

Zaun’s monocular criminal overlord, Silco, talks about the importance of loyalty when meeting with the other “Chem Barons,” or mob bosses. He claims it’s because they’re all in this together, underdogs trying to break free of Piltover’s chains. But there’s also a deeply personal reason for demanding unwavering fealty from everyone around him: Vander’s brutal betrayal long ago. Failure to comply is punishable by death, as evidenced by Vander and Finn, the tattooed, golden-grilled Chem Baron.

Netflix screenshot of Silco, talking about loyalty
Silco, talking about the most important thing for their objective

Sevika, or “buff Rihanna” as I called her to my partner while we watched the show together, makes a critical decision in the finale to remain devoted to Silco and decline Finn’s proposition. Interestingly, Silco has a fleeting expression of shock and fear as her blade slashes out. Although Silco demands loyalty, he’s not so naive as to expect it all the time. For a terrifying moment, he genuinely did not know whom that blade was targeting.

Silco himself is extremely loyal to his adopted daughter, Jinx. He defends her in front of others who complain about her rash moves and instability. He regularly tells her how important she is to him. She is the only one he trusts with the hex crystal. When asked to hand Jinx over to Piltover’s authorities in exchange for finally achieving his longtime dream of sovereignty for Zaun, he struggles immensely with the conundrum but ultimately chooses to keep Jinx by his side. (At least, that’s what he tells her, and I believe it.)

Topside, we don’t see nearly as much of this theme. Jayce, the inventor cum councilor, agrees to grant his childhood friend Caitlyn the favor of an audience with the Council. That’s about it. Double-timing cop Marcus seals a deal with Silco that winds up getting his colleague killed. Jayce turns on his former mentor and fellow councilor, Heimerdinger, ousting him from the Council. The rest of the Council seems far more interested in increasing their personal wealth than in the populace they’re supposed to protect and support.

Family

In Zaun, families tend to be chosen or simply nonexistent. A “traditional” nuclear structure feels like a luxury here, where people keep getting killed by Topsiders or just dying (directly or indirectly) from poverty. Vander takes Vi, Powder, Mylo, and Claggor under his wing. Silco adopts Powder as his daughter after she is left alone in an alley. Ekko has his commune of Firelights. Intubated mob boss Renni is the only one with a biological family member—a young son—but she loses him when Jayce and Vi infiltrate Silco’s Shimmer facility.

Only in Piltover are blood families able to stay together: Jayce and his parents, rich-girl cop Caitlyn Kiramman with her parents, and Sheriff Marcus and his daughter. Even immigrant Mel has her mother come for a visit.

Yet the families seem more “real” in Zaun, the bonds stronger. Zaunites tend to be more loyal to their chosen families, as explored in the previous section. After his mother pleas with the Council for mercy, Jayce barely interacts with his parents in his quest to bring magic to the masses and his ascension to the Council. Caitlyn feels oppressed by her parents, and her parents don’t appear to appreciate her choices or think she’s ever good enough. We never see Marcus play with his daughter, although presumably, he loves her very much and everything he does is for her. Mel was disowned by her family, and her relationship with her mother is clearly strained.

Image of Vi and Jinx fighting back-to-back
Two sisters against the world; source: IMDb

Of course, Marcus dies, too—so not all the blood families in Piltover are safe. Perhaps this is karma for wheeling and dealing in Zaun.

Progress

The “city of progress” loves this concept so much that they even have a holiday called Progress Day. People here work hard on commerce, research, and new inventions. Yet as much as Piltovians pride themselves on technological and economic advancements, they don’t consider morality as part of the equation. Nor do they deign to share the profits with Zaun. They love counting the land as part of theirs but do nothing to progress the quality of life for the people living there. Besides Heimerdinger, none of the Councilors have even visited it.

In addition to having this insular definition of progress, Piltover seems to think they hold a monopoly on it. They concede that Zaunites could figure out how to use hex crystals and weaponize them because they themselves can already do it. Piltovians are constantly surprised by other things the undercity can do because they assume it’s just a bunch of savages over there. They’re awed by Jinx’s grenade, by the Firelights’ hoverboards, and by the enormous tree the Firelights have grown in their compound. I’m sure the Enforcers would have marveled at Jinx’s mechanical firelights, too… had any of them lived to tell the tale. In the undercity, necessity is truly the mother of invention.

Image of a mechanical firelight devised by Jinx
A mechanical firelight devised by Jinx; source: IMDb

For Vi, progress means a better life for herself and her sister, even if it means leaving the only place they’ve called home. She doesn’t care about wealth or the stupid little blue spheres (except when they’re later imbued in gauntlets that she wears to fight her way to Powder); she just wants to be with the few loved ones she has left. For Silco, it’s all about liberating Zaun from Piltover’s reign. His control of the undercity, though well and good, is but a means to this end. For Ekko, people need to live, not just survive. Progress, therefore, requires healing and health, not only of humans but also of the planet.

(Mis)communication

Communication, miscommunication, and the absence of communication together form the greatest tragedy of the storyline. There’s a reason this theme is the crux of every romantic comedy (two people meet, get together, have a misunderstanding, sort it out, and live happily ever after): it feels quintessentially human, and tugs at our heartstrings like nothing else.

It starts from young Powder overhearing her adopted brother Mylo calling her a jinx. The word sticks in her mind like a splinter and makes her more desperate than ever to help the team and prove her value—to disastrous results. After Powder blows up Silco’s factory, Vi yells at her and agrees she is a jinx. This, the blue-haired girl says, is the defining moment when Powder becomes Jinx.

Vi yelling at Powder, calling her a jinx
Alas, who hasn’t said something regrettable in the heat of the moment?

In the season finale, Jinx is once again lurking around the corner when she overhears Silco’s monologue. Which should he choose: Zaun’s nationhood or his beloved daughter? He doesn’t come to a conclusion on the spot, but Jinx is nevertheless outraged. If only Silco could have talked to Jinx sooner and reaffirmed his unwavering love for her! It might well have saved his life.

And if only Jinx could have heard the Council voting to grant Zaun its independence during that final scene. It seemed the years-long conflict was a mere moment from finally ending. Silco’s dream was about to manifest at last. Now, thanks to this Chekhovian development, hostilities will undoubtedly reignite between the two cities. Who knows how long it will take to resolve them this time?

Lesson for everyone in Zaun? Don’t say anything out loud that you wouldn’t want Jinx to hear. But also, if you’ve got something super important that Jinx should probably hear, make damn sure she is around.

Power

Every fantasy story is, at its core, a story about power. Who holds power, how that power manifests, when and how power changes hands, and how power is wielded to accomplish different parties’ goals. In Arcane, this theme has a few variations.

There’s obviously government control and military force, with battles fought between Piltover’s Enforcers and Zaun’s guerrilla “rebels.” For Topside, this strength is bolstered by international trade through the Hexgates. For the undercity, the production of Shimmer enhances fighters as well as finances. The season finale leaves both sides in a lurch. Most, if not all, of Piltover’s councilors, will surely be dead or injured once Jinx’s shot hits; they need a new sheriff, as well. Silco’s death is bound to cripple Shimmer production and stir up a power struggle among Jinx, Sevika, and the remaining Chem Barons.

The introduction of Mel Medarda’s mother, the ruler of another nation called Noxus, late in the season suggests that international politics could play a bigger role next season. Who is threatening Noxus, and how will this force Jayce and Viktor’s direction of Hextech research? As for Jayce, he still has little political savvy or nuance—another form of power. Though he’s learning quickly, he remains unsettlingly dependent on Mel’s guidance. One might even say he’s susceptible to her manipulation.

Intelligence is an important kind of power, too. Piltover has Jayce, Viktor, and an academy full of researchers and inventors. There’s also Caitlyn, who impressed Vi with her mapping and analysis of the undercity before ever stepping foot inside. In Zaun, the masked scientist Singed, Jinx, and Ekko have all proven themselves to be extremely clever and innovative. Now that Ekko probably has Heimerdinger as a mentor, he may become even more of a key player.

Last but not least, the arcane magic of the hex crystals. This season has just scraped the surface of what’s possible with magic in this world. Viktor seems closest to understanding it, but Jayce and Vi have made rapid progress with hex weapons. It’ll also be very interesting to see what Jinx unlocks next season. And who was that guy who saved Jayce’s life back in the day, anyway? Is there a whole society of mages out there? If so, are they going to make a move on Piltover/Zaun?

The hexcore, one of several applications of hex technology
The hexcore, one of several applications of hex technology

Conclusion

If you’ve never played League of Legends, it’s easy to write off Arcane as “just another video game show.” However, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to know anything about the game to enjoy the series. The world and characters are intriguing, along with the intricate ways they revolve around the five themes I’ve explored here.

Are there any other meaningful patterns or motifs you noticed throughout the show? Let us know in the comments.

“Marvel’s Wastelander: Black Widow” – Episode 3 Review

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title page of marvel wastelanders black widow podcast

Chapter 3 of Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow, starring Susan Sarandon, drops today. SPOILERS for episode 3.

Marvel’s Wastelander: Black Widow Season 1

Episode 1 & 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9
Episode 10

Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow is the latest digital series to come from Marvel’s partnership with SiriusXM and is the third installment in the “Marvel’s Wastelanders” audio epic. Just like its predecessors, Old Man Star-Lord and Hawkeye, the story takes place years after the known event called “V-Day,” a day where the heroes of Earth failed and were defeated by the villains.

The setting for this podcast, specifically, takes place 30 years after “V-Day.” At Midtown Manhattan, in President Red Skull territory, in The Onar, a 161-story apartment complex.

Owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D., who are now reporting directly to Red Skull, the Onar is set up to favor its residents by class status. The uber-rich residents live on the very top floors in penthouses, enjoying peace, quiet, and the best of the best. The residents on the very bottom floors are people typically off the streets, poor, or running away from something or someone. The set-piece is an interesting change of pace from the previous Marvel digital stories. 

With episode three released, let’s take a look at this week’s chapter.

 

Chapter 3 – “Subtext”

Preview:

In order to continue tailing Helen Black (Susan Sarandon), Lisa Cartwright (Chasten Harmon) feeds her boss, Hank Hammond (Justin Kirk), a story to score another 72 hours to surveil Helen.

While listening to recordings of Helen, Lisa comes across a conversation between Helen and Stanley (Michael Imperioli) on their date. Stanley gets a business call from Marco mentioning “apple juice,” and Helen flirts with him and then grills him for information. She wants confirmation that he is a drug dealer, but Stanley swears it’s not drugs.

With Lisa working to find out the motive behind Helen Black’s stay in the Onar, Jordan Temple (Nate Corddry) has been listening to Stanley’s recordings and found that he might have a boss with more secrets to reveal, a man named Bob Elsasser.

Both surveillance analyses make headway on their cases: Lisa drops by Helen’s place and their “partnership” seems to be more clear when it comes to purpose. Jordan’s digging into Stanley and Bob leads to what the origins of “Apple Juice” really is.

Review:

Episode three thankfully gives us a bigger piece of the puzzle that is the Onar. The proposed reveal about what the “Apple Juice” really is was a great swerve and came out of nowhere, and I’m super excited to see where it goes. If “Apple Juice” really is Extremis, it will be great to see how the conflict progress between the residents of the Onar and Panopticog/S.H.I.E.L.D., especially since Stanley and Bob will have the moral high ground. Having the ability to fight against the building’s surveillance puts all the stakes on Jordan and Lisa, which will put Helen in an interesting spot. 

Speaking of Helen, her revealing that she wants the S.H.I.E.L.D. file on Yelena Belova provides a clearer motive for why she wanted to move into the Onar. I am curious to see where the story about her “ex” goes, as she says she lost him to drugs. 

Overall, I am curious to see where the story progresses. I won’t lie, having Lisa and Jordan being the driving narrative forces, giving us Black Widow through surveillance, feels limiting to me. This podcast really shines when it spends time on the lead character so I am hoping that we get more of Helen, with her present in action, not through recordings or reports.

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Marvel Wastelanders: Black Widow stars Susan Sarandon as Helen Black. Written by Alex Delyle (Fear the Walking Dead), directed by Timothy Busfield (Thirtysomething, The West Wing), with sound design and original music by Daniel Brunelle (The Two Princes, Sandra). Learn more at marvel.com/wastelanders.

Yellowjackets – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Review

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(L-R): Christina Ricci as Misty, Juliette Lewis as Natalie, Tawny Cypress as Taissa and Melanie Lynskey as Shauna in YELLOWJACKETS, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”. Photo credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

A Queen Yellowjacket outlives the King. Think about that. Workers tend to die off while tending to the greater good. The male is supposed to die off once the deed is done, but what if the deed was done? What then?

Yellowjackets also tend to fight another off if it’s not familiar and it is in this season finale of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” that when there is no King, Long Live the Queens.

Awaking in front of the bored out tree that would’ve served as the squad’s sacrificial altar, Lottie (Courtney Eaton) and company groggily come to. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) retrieves the knife she almost ended Travis’ life with, a look of worry blended with disgust.

On the outside of the “outside”, Misty (Christina Ricci) gingerly passes her ol’ pal Gloria’s room. Engaging the two nurses, her countenance and excuse for picking up her Tupperware provide a cover story before she escapes with gloves, bags, and oxygenated bleach for Natalie (Juliette Lewis). All things come at a price, and Misty requires one painless gesture on Nat’s part: her countenance at the 25th Reunion.

On the outskirts, however, Travis (Kevin Alves) isn’t feeling very welcome, despite being the sole object of desire from a cadre of teenage girls. Although wounded, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) seems the most vulnerable, as he’s the only person in the godforsaken sticks that means anything to her. His machismo is just as visible as the scar on his throat, but his only mission, for the time being, is to search for Javi, expressly without Natalie’s help.

At the apartment, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) and Taissa (Tawny Cypress) are greeted by Natalie and her “solution”. From where anybody stands, it seems as though the two aren’t exactly welcoming, but seeing as though everybody else IS standing, Misty’s the only one who can help with the one who isn’t.

You would think the act of dismemberment would faze her, but it’s actually having to lie to Natalie’s face about Travis’ while taking an electric turkey carver to her former fling that is turning Shauna’s stomach. She’s also confronting a cruel farce that maybe all of them, Travis included, are just god’s unwanted children and that he just had the spine to show his maker that there was never a god, to begin with.

When faced with a bag of the head and arms of Adam (Peter Gadiot), Taissa is wishing that losing a Senate race was the only thing she had on the plate for this week. Misty’s got that covered, however. All Shauna and co. need do is bury the rest.

Once Lottie, Shauna, Akilah (Keeya King), and Mari (Alexa Barajas) approach the cabin, Jackie (Ella Purnell) is all too swift to cast aspersions over every single member of the team… before Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) reveals that they were all drugged.

Before the spotlight can be put onto Misty (Sammi Hanratty), however, a nice grizzly bear steals it. This isn’t for long, however, as Lottie’s able to approach the beast fearlessly before it lays down, leaving her to stab it clean through the fucking dome piece. The ursine only operates through a system of submission and dominance so I think we now know who the true momma bear is.

With the Class of 1996 frivolities underway, Jeff (Warren Kole) reassures Randy (Jeff Holman) that keeping a cool profile will have no one the wiser about their joint blackmail. It does seem as though if not ears, at least eyes are burning from across the room, as Allie (Tonya Cornelisse) approaches Jeff, clearly shooting her shot. Oh, you remember Allie from the first episode, right? The freshman whose leg was nearly an art piece, compliments of Taissa’s slide tackle? A guess blackmail runs quick and thick, like blood.

Like a lot of high school reunions, there’s a bit more of coulda in her voice than is comfortable. She ‘coulda’ been on that plane. It’s the equivalent of “I coulda’ gotten’ the STD from the QB that won the State Finals.” I think the Z-Gen these days call it ‘clout chasing’.

As Class Chair, Allie’s banking on the girls being there, but legends are never late; just slightly inconvenienced.

While Misty was making an appearance at Gloria’s wake to morbidly drum up what was never there to her daughter Deb (Beverly Breuer), her friend at the morgue was sending the deceased to a nice fireside chat with a few friends: Adam’s head and arms.

Entering the door, on the eve of her election results, Taissa breaks down. Worse for wear, Shauna in the shower breaks down. Natalie tries to pretty herself up for a promise she was sworn to keep.

Whereas one has something political to lose, another has the freedom to lose and the third has nothing to lose, keeping up appearances was always at play.

Before making their grand appearance, Tai, Shauna, and Natalie take one breath out before slinking to the Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” and with Misty by their side in classic 90’s slow-mo, for a moment, they seem not to make, but rather slay the scene.

With Misty wanting to encase the moment for posterity, and with Allie bombing photo-op, reality congeals like rivulets of blood.

As the rest of the team divest the freshly killed bear for sustenance, Misty is neither wanted for help nor trusted. Used to being on the outside is something she can cope with but Van (Liv Hewson) being on the outs with Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) isn’t something that even a Goalie can anticipate. Her only true ally’s outright dismissal of the nigh-death vision is something that plants doubt into her head. Granted, this prognostication may have something to do with what was in Taissa all along, but it ain’t nothing that a big ol’ hug can’t cure, right? Talk about a diss missle.

Speaking of people in fear of being alone, an all-grown Natalie takes the moment to observe their State Champion Trophy, alongside a craftily made trio of pictures of head Coach Martinez along with his two sons, Travis and Javi. My question is, who knew Travis was gone quick enough to stage a memorial?

Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) approaching her side has her coming to grips with the second love of her life killing himself. With now two loves down, one alive, one dead, the threes only make sense to Natalie. In soccer, the way to get to a goal is a three-point maneuver, splitting the defense in order to get that point that’s been waiting in the wings…

With Shauna threatening to spill Randy’s guts before he spills the beans, tequila shots are in order for the table.

Once the rest of the team sits down to the bounty of nature, Jackie isn’t game for an invocation to nature or whatever fortuitous happenstance they experienced together. Just like she wasn’t game for the Shoop session in the first episode. Taissa’s reticent to Van’s suggestion, but she obliges. Ya know who doesn’t care? Nature.

Amid the fake bullshit surrounding them at the Reunion, the table of the survivors seems like the only true energy in the room, so Natalie makes a toast to old friends, with Travis in mind.

The funny thing is once that mind eraser is swallowed, a reminder is shown, compliments of Allie, a microphone, and a slideshow. The cheesy backing track of Enya’s “Only Time” only Kraft’d what we all abhor of moving forward from high school—looking back.

(Her censure on Doug though had me laughing out loud for a solid five minutes though.)

Trying to make themselves the least known entities, they are the class legacy: tragedy. Winners with bigger losers.

In the wilderness though, Lottie expresses victory from sacrifice. Van imploring all to give thanks to something is beyond her, beyond them, with Lottie all in with benediction… all but Jackie with Misty calling her out on not being one in gratitude, which the others take umbrage with.

This leaves emotional baggage between Shauna and the captain being hacked out on the floor for all to see. I for one, think Shauna spilled more with cutting into her bestie’s soul than she did with Adam’s corpse.

With the Crudités, sorry, I mean coup de grâce, Jackie never stood a chance. She’s thrown out to pasture, by Shauna’s word, and though Coach Scott protests, the team makes its own decisions; as one. Glory fades.

Back at the reunion, Jeff and Shauna must take the customary dance of King and Queen of the Court, though the same energy putting on airs to Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” is the amount of energy that Jackie puts into a bundle of sticks with a lighter.

The thing is, what good is a bundle of sticks if the source isn’t reliable?

Hungover from her night out, Misty pays Jessica (Rekha Sharma) her daily visit. The rub is, Misty’s smarter than just giving up a story for fame and fortune. Still, on good faith that she will do, what her captive says what she’ll do, lips sealed, Misty gives up the keys to an outside castle (i.e. freedom).

The next morning has come and the votes are being tabulated. Simone (Rukiya Bernard) wants to be where her beloved isn’t, for fear of their child. With the blinking cursor on a concession speech and her family the same, Taissa is left alone, in the cold, much like Jackie.

Misty, always the observer, knows what an emancipated addict wants. In this case, cigarettes. Extracting them out from the trash bin, the intrepid reporter is on her way. This isn’t to say that Misty is that dumb in the dome, as once homegirl gets out and drives, she’s killed. Yes, cigarettes kill… but fentanyl-laced ones give you a Fast-Pass, without a person to track. Hey, addicts know addicts, no matter the poison.

With Jackie failing to start a fire, Shauna feels guilt, but this isn’t enough for her to back down on the Queen leaving on her own for the winter. The only thing is, she never had the Reigns.

Out in the cold and dark, Natalie finds Travis desperately calling out for his brother—the one he’s castaway for a good portion of his life. Life. That’s a luxury in this climate, as the air is getting colder, and though he rebuffs Nat, he ultimately loves and wants her. They are both scared children and their fear brings them closer in a way nobody else, not even the squad nor Kevyn could ever comprehend.

With Ultravox’s “Vienna” as the soothing soul track to their mutual desperation and ultimate love for each other rings, a plan was put into place. It was there, they just were too blind to see it.

As Jeff and Shauna appreciate a drunken win of the night, Callie (Sarah Desjardins) double cuts the high momentarily but is implored to partake in some popcorn and awkwardness, knowing what had transpired… well, half of it. The other half is ash!

The beauty of a good story is that you can get all that you need, but still find something to nitpick at, thus creating more layers.

Now, if you scrape at layers, it can leave one’s fingers bloodied and flayed.

Politicians keep their fingernails clean, so to speak, so as to leave no traces. Some receipts are more warranted than others, however.

Taissa has won, but with any chain gang, like any team, victories are felt uniformly as much as losses. If one goes down, so shall the rest, headed to the hoosegow, hand in hand.

That night, Shauna and the rest of the squad, cast Jackie into Death’s icy maw. Having the chance to save her, the Defender chooses to save for two. Jackie made her choice.

Of course, on the course, when Simone treks into her wife’s basement, she finds something that wasn’t prepared: a secret.

This isn’t Taissa’s surprise win, nor is it an answer but rather a ghastly revelation to her wife.

Before Natalie can reconnect with Travis, if there is a plane that exists for those who meet their demise in a very Cobain fashion, she’s kidnapped by what appears to be a secret cabal. This is all part and parcel for the others, whether they know it or not, compliments of Lottie Matthews. The funny thing about secrets is they are free to share but also come at a price.

Out in that cold and lonesome, Jackie’s biggest fear has come to life, which is a life worse than death. She’s a captain stripped of her armband. Still, Shauna finds it in her heart to apologize and bring her back into the fold.

Actually, they all welcome her back into warmth… They all accept her with open arms, including the Hunter (William Charles Vaughn).

The cold fact is that Jackie is dead, packed in the newly fresh snow and that is something all the living have to grapple with. Dissension among the ranks coupled with the cordate gift Lottie gives to her tree only assures they’re in for a long winter.

Talk about a win within a loss.

Debt doesn’t have to equate to money. It can be favors and secrets kept. Throughout this season, the squad operated like a team, even when they weren’t one. It’s been a matter of months and within the oncoming cold, minds need to be fed as well as stomachs.

Those woods are lovely, dark, and deep.

There are promises to keep… and yet, so many miles to go before they sleep.

A Discovery of Witches Season 3 Episode 2: Family Ties and Secrets

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In this week’s episode of A Discovery of Witches, things get even more complicated as Matthew discovers a new branch of his family and the vampire murders hit very close to home.

Here are the most important moments:

Jack Blackfriars is Back

When we last left Jack in season 2, he was still a young boy whom Matthew had left in the care of the Earl of Northumberland. Meanwhile, Diana given Father Andrew Hubbard a single drop of her blood as payment for the vampire to also look after her adopted son. In the present, the husband and wife are leaving the South Kensington lab when they are met by Hubbard in the underground parking lot.

The first detail I notice about the priest is that his hair looks fantastic compared his previous style last season. Gone are the whites and he’s got a whole mop of chocolate brown locks now which had me wondering if vampires dyed their hair. In any case, Hubbard tells the duo that he’s looking for them both to return something of theirs. Out comes a grown-up Jack (Toby Regbo) whom Diana instantly recognizes.

Back at the Mayfair townhouse, Jack and the priest both explain what had happened in the past. He had contracted fever and was about to die when Hubbard intervened and made him into a vampire. Matthew is thoroughly pissed because he views vampirism as a curse more than a blessing. Hubbard retorts back that Jack was a young man already when he made his choice and that he was their responsibility and then passed that responsibility to him. He adds in that the boy had gone to the docks every day for years hoping that his parents would be there or that anyone had heard news of them, eventually he was forced to reveal the truth.

Diana tells her son how sorry they are that they left him, but he says he knew that they time walked back to this period. Matthew is surprised that both Hubbard and Jack know this when his wife finally reveals her pack with the vampire priest before they time walked. After the crazy events of the evening, husband and wife are in their room when he expresses his anger in her arrangement. Diana counters that she used her magic to make certain that Hubbard only received one drop of blood and it only contained some of her secrets and none of his. She also says that Hubbard couldn’t let Jack die, could he? Matthew angrily answers that he chose death rather than live without his wife and son and she asks if he wishes he had. His expression softens and answers no because he wouldn’t have met her and now has the chance to be a (bio)dad again. She tells him that Jack has his second chance to be a family with them again.

Things get complicated though when Baldwin shows up to visit while Gallowglass and Jack are working on motorcycles. Jack’s got blood rage and it acts up when the head of the de Cleremonts gets all high and mighty. Baldwin takes him back to the townhouse and takes a savage neck bite to learn that this is the person responsible for all the recent murders. He comes to know Jack’s history with his brother and Diana from the past and so is livid that Matthew would protect him. The witch’s maternal instincts kick into full gear and she uses her power to wrap a steel chain around Baldwin’s neck demanding that she release her son immediately. As he does and she lets go of her own magic, he shows them images of Jack’s victims and tells Matthew that he knows what needs to be done. Diana asks her son if this is true and poor Jack is in agony as he is unable to answer her.

Matthew bends the knee and tells Baldwin that he had no knowledge of Jack’s blood rage, and his brother tells him that he must kill the man. Diana begs her husband not too and instinctively Jack flees. They head to Hubbard and the priest explains that the younger vampire begged him not to tell his parents. Matthew asks if Jack got his blood rage from him and the other man drops another bombshell, Benjamin Fuchs is his sire. Hence, Hubbard is Matthew’s grandson and Jack his great-grandson. We also discover the very horrific trauma that Benjamin inflicted on his grandson because he wanted to cultivate the blood rage in his system. Hubbard was only a carrier, but his maker wanted those with the disease to be a weapon against the de Cleremonts. Benjamin told Jack that he needed to prove he was Matthew’s son by killing and torturing humans. Hubbard tried to stop it, but he could not as he still had other lost souls in his flock to care for. He shares that Jack swore to him many times that he wouldn’t kill again though he understood it was like an addiction for the younger man.

At the townhouse, Matthew wrestles with what to do as he knows how much suffering Jack has already gone through. Diana wants him to bring her son home so that they can help him and protect him, but he asks what happens when the Congregation finds out that Jack is responsible for the murders? Either they will kill him, Baldwin will kill him, or worse Benjamin will do something worse, and no one will care how much pain they inflict on their son. He also adds that to save Jack, he must openly disobey the head of his family which is a war that they cannot win. Diana disagrees and says that a father protects his children when Matthew goes off in search of the missing vampire.

Upstairs, a very troubled Marcus confides in Phoebe that when one of their kind shows signs of blood rage they are killed by order of the Congregation. He also tells her that some time ago, his father was charged with killing his children and their children in New Orleans because he was a carrier. The culling was necessary to prevent exposing creatures to humans, but so little of his family survived.

Matthew finds Jack and the younger man shows his father the miniatures he killed a man for to obtain them. He also says that he didn’t know becoming a vampire would make him sick and because he was already dying, what difference would it make? When he couldn’t control himself, he didn’t want to live anymore but Philippe told him to wait for Matthew who would teach him how to control the blood rage. Jack admits that he didn’t know how evil he would become and that he won’t fight Matthew now, knowing his father has come to kill him. The older vampire however explains that he’s regretted a lot of actions his taken in his life, but Philippe was right that things do change. The two men return home together to the townhouse with a waiting Diana who is utterly relieved. Inside, Jack asks Fernando how he taught Matthew to control his nature and the other vampire explains that all he did was to teach pause and reflection. This disease did not have to be his destiny though it was a hard road ahead. Gallowglass adds that Jack has Diana in his corner, and she would do anything for him.

Once the younger vamp departs the room, Fernando tells his mate’s son not to let Matthew know about his feelings for Diana. Gallowglass says that Philippe charged him with keeping Diana safe and he’s done that for nearly his whole life. The witch is with Matthew now however and one day soon he may need to walk away from her. That day hasn’t come yet though.

Gerbert Gathers Some Allies

In Venice, Gerbert asks Domenico to come on over and shows him an old scroll of the de Cleremont family tree. He asks if the other vampire sees anything wrong with it and then goes on to say that they have hid things they didn’t want known. Gerbert wonders if he can trust him when Domenico argues that he has revealed the blood raged vampire during their meeting. Suddenly, Benjamin enters the room and ominously announces that even the de Cleremonts secrets come out eventually. Domenico thought that Benjamin was dead and Gerbert is ready to take down his mortal enemies.

Matthew Gets Downright Modern

Matthew finally comes to the realization that to protect his loved ones, he needs to form a scion to take responsibility for everyone who’s inherited his blood rage. Marcus and Jack will go with him to New Orleans to convince Marcus’s children and grandchildren to pledge fealty to him.

However, before that he decides to take a leap of faith. Earlier in the episode, Chris and Miriam explain that they need more help in their research into creature genetics otherwise it will push the timeline back of finding a cure for blood rage even further. Matthew of course is against bringing on more humans into the project because that would mean they would have to expose themselves to the group which is risky. Now though, he has a change of heart and decides to move forward with this plan, revealing to a group of graduate students in Chris’s program that vampires, witches, and daemons exist, and they are there to study their DNA. These guys signed NDA’s rest assured.

As Matthew is at the airport with Marcus and Jack, Benjamin gives him a quick call and emails over an old video capturing Jack murdering two frightened humans at the urging of his grandfather. A seething Matthew asks what the other vampire wants and Benjamin replies that he wants a family reunion with Matthew, Jack, himself and Diana.

Final Thoughts

  • Toby Regbo did a wonderful job capturing the struggle Jack is going through and the complexities of his character. There’s an innocence there that’s hopeful after reuniting with his parents contrasted by the many years of horror with Benjamin.
  • The scene between Matthew and Jack under the bridge was powerful stuff, you can see how the elder vampire realizes that he himself isn’t perfect and has done a lot of horrible things. He likely sees a lot of himself in Jack whom you can tell is filled with regret for the things he’s done.
  • The moment Fernando tells Gallowglass that he knows the other man has feelings for Diana, oh man I have been waiting for this! Gallowglass is one of my favorite ADOW characters and I hope he gets to have his own happy ending in a future book.
  • Diana showing her power to Baldwin as she defends Jack was chefs kiss!

A Discovery of Witches can be streamed on AMC, Shudder, and Sundance NOW.

Three Marvel Characters that Disney+ Desperately Needs

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brother voodoo, bloodstone, and machine man

For any die-hard Marvel comics fans, here are a few lesser-known characters that could deserve their own Disney+ debuts

People who have not been living in a bomb shelter for the last fifteen years already know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is hot (If you have, let me be first to tell you that you look great). They’ve been hot since Robert Downey Jr. donned his iron longjohns back in 2008. Now that Disney has taken the reins, Marvel’s been running wild with a bunch of new projects that promise to keep the MCU franchise going for years to come.

Still, it’s hard for me to think of any substantial Marvel character who hasn’t made it yet onto the big screen, Disney+, Hulu, or Netflix. Mind you, not all of these character debuts have been hits (sometimes quite the opposite), with many having barely made a ripple whence they came.

Man-Thing quickly comes to mind. When he appeared in The Man-Thing (2005), practically no one had watched it—something which we should all be pretty happy about.

There are a lot of other Marvel characters though, that have surprisingly made their debut under the radar to most fans. Especially, some relatively obscure characters who had happened to have made it to Netflix.

Fans of Jessica Jones (Season 3) may not have known dormant characters like Greg Salinger (Foolkiller) and Dr. Karl Malus. These characters haven’t appeared in comic books for a while, but in Jessica Jones, they certainly made formidable antagonists.

Even characters like Tilda Johnson (Nightshade) made it into Luke Cage (Season 2). If you were a comic fan, you knew her biggest contribution to Marvel’s continuity was turning the Falcon into a chemically-mutated werewolf. In Luke Cage, though, she’s just plain terrifying as a rejected daughter. The MCU gave her a new life.

Marvel features a lot of these: characters that were either killed off or shelved or not used. That said, I’d like to suggest three relatively obscure Marvel characters that I think might resonate with new audiences. 

Let’s begin with…

Machine Man

X-51 aka Machine Man
X-51 aka Machine Man

Jack Kirby along with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko get credit for coming up with many of Marvel’s greatest creations. However, some of them have been awesome while flying inconspicuously under the radar.

Such a character is Machine Man, created back in 1977. He was written and drawn by Jack Kirby in 2001: A Space Odyssey #8.

Yes, you read that right.

Jack Kirby wrote a comic series based on the premises introduced in Stanley Kubrick’s film as written by Arthur C. Clarke. And it was great.

Originally introduced as “Mister Machine”, Machine Man (aka X-51) was the last of fifty-one artificial intelligence android prototypes. All of them had the potential to reach emotional sentience.

Dr. Abel Stack was a robotic expert who took X-51 and developed his consciousness differently. Stack theorized that if a robot were to think like a man, he should be treated like one. He raised X-51 as if it were his son. He even went so far as to create a human face for the robot.

Meanwhile, the other fifty prototypes went psychotic after they had gained sentience. They were not prepared to understand their own identity. As a result, the project was terminated. Each prototype was destroyed through a remote-controlled self-destruct device. Dr. Stack was in the process of removing the device when the remote signal was sent and killed him instantly.

X-51 survived.

The robot disguised itself as human and went into society under the alias of Aaron Stack, an insurance investigator.

While the character is rarely used, Machine Man springs up in the Marvel Universe from time to time. Recently, he was the main protagonist in the third volume of Marvel Zombies.

As far as finding a place for him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it shouldn’t be too hard. The newly reconstructed Vision is still an open plot hole. If they don’t give X-51 his own limited series run, he could certainly be a supporting character in any of the new upcoming Marvel projects.

 

Brother Voodoo

Brother Voodoo
Brother Voodoo

Being Brother Voodoo means that you’re never alone.

In case you haven’t figured it out, Brother Voodoo practices voodoo. Much like Doctor Strange, Brother Voodoo is an actual doctor (psychologist) who studied the mystic arts of Voodoo.

His real name is Jericho Drumm. When he returned to his native home in Haiti, he found his twin brother, Daniel, the local houngan, dying from a voodoo curse. Daniel made his brother promise to study under his spiritual mentor, Papa Jambo. Jericho did and mastered the voodoo arts based on the Loa, the spirit-gods of voodoo. With that, he also learned how to join his soul and summon his dead brother’s spirit to use to possess other people.

Hence, Brother Voodoo.

Brother Voodoo came onto the Marvel scene back in the seventies when voodoo movies and voodoo zombies were in vogue. However, relatively recently (2009), the character was reintroduced as Doctor Strange’s successor to the mantle of the Sorceror Supreme.

I see a lot of possibilities with this character—again this would be under the Doctor Strange franchise. Both Doctor Strange and Brother Voodoo are cut from the same cloth. As the Darkhold has been reintroduced into the MCU through WandaVision, there is going to be a need for more mystical supporting characters.

Brother Voodoo could also appear in the new Werewolf by Night coming to Disney+. This character might serve as a mystic master as there are mystical monsters around. Having a real magician about could be handy.

 

Bloodstone

Bloodstone
Ulysses Bloodstone, Monster Hunter

While I’m on the topic of heroes fighting monsters, let’s talk about Ulysses Bloodstone.

The easiest way to describe Bloodstone is “Highlander meets Lovecraft’s Cthulhu”.

Bloodstone’s actual origin story goes all the way back to 8250 BCE. That’s the Hyborian Age. The man who would become Bloodstone was hunting when he came upon the extradimensional being, Ulluxy’l Kwan Tae Syn, who was the guardian of the bloodstone, a crystal of great mystical power.

Ulluxy’l Kwan Tae Syn (Marvel’s version of Cthulhu at the time) offered the hunter physical power through the bloodstone—which granted him great strength. The hunter returned to his tribe and told them how they could also have these powers. When they returned to Ulluxy’l Kwan Tae Syn with him, the bloodstone killed them all.

The hunter tried to stop it by destroying the stone. The bloodstone exploded and lodged a large piece into the hunter’s sternum. The rest of the pieces scattered themselves across the planet.

The bloodstone in the hunter’s chest gave him practical immortality. He renamed himself “Ulysses Bloodstone” and vowed revenge against Ulluxy’l Kwan Tae Syn and his agents.

In short, Bloodstone became a monster hunter. Originally his stories were published as a vehicle to write Lovecraftian horror stories where a hunter could battle these terrors.

Ulysses Bloodstone had some decent powers, too. He could press about five tons. He did not age—which was handy because he built a vast fortune through the millennia to fund his missions. People who live that long also have the opportunity to master languages and fighting styles. Bloodstone mastered all of them. Plus, he had an accelerated healing factor and an invisible “third eye” which granted him extrasensory perception.

Put all this stuff together and it’s pretty cool.

The neat thing is that Marvel killed off the character back in Rampaging Hulk #8. However, he has subsequently been brought back in flashback stories of The Monster Hunters in the Marvel Universe (1998) which took place in the 1950s.

This character has never been introduced in the MCU which means he’s a great character to reintroduce in other stories.

Consider the character of Moon Knight. Marc Spector was a mercenary for hire who somehow got mixed up with supernatural Egyptian gods. Why not use Bloodstone in that story?

Ulysses Bloodstone is what I call a disposable character. These largely forgotten characters have no impact on the continuity in the Marvel Universe. Writers have nothing to lose by killing them off.

It’s worked before.

The characters of Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Star-Lord were gathering dust on the shelves for decades before the Marvel series, Annihilation (2006) and Annihilation Conquest (2007) were written. That series launched The Guardians of the Galaxy (as we know them today).

 

Obscure Characters and Easter Eggs

I’ve followed the Marvel Universe for about fifty years. I’m not exaggerating.

My view of the MCU is unique. I know most of these characters when I see them. I find it interesting when I see dead or rarely used characters appear in film.

Interesting is a good word.

I immediately think, “What a great opportunity. This should be interesting!”

When new writers dust off characters to give them a new chance, it’s exciting. For example, in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Doctor Karl Malus was brought back. I was excited. Things would happen. Malus’ experiments caused trouble. The protagonist would need to stop them.

When Phineas Mason (the Tinkerer) appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, it signaled to me that people did their homework. It meant to me that the Vulture would instantly be more dangerous because he had new tech. New possibilities could always happen.

It is magical when you think about it.

The instance that stands out in my mind was when I saw the first Avengers movie. It was a treat because I saw it in a 3D IMAX format. It was like being in the movie. Seriously. I stuck around for the end credits because of course I did.

Thanos happened
What happened? Thanos happened.

And what happened?

Thanos happened.

Ten percent of the audience gasped. The other ninety percent had no idea why because they’d never heard of Thanos.

My friends and I started back to the car and some guy heard me talking to them about Thanos.

“Who is that guy at the end?” He said.

“Thanos.”

“Who’s he?”

And I felt bad because I didn’t have the time to condense everything I knew about Thanos. I couldn’t boil down The Life of Captain Marvel, Jim Starlin’s run of Warlock, and The Infinity Gauntlet for him.

So I just said, “He’s a really big bad scary villain.”

“Oh.”

To him, Thanos was new. To me, it was the entrance of something interesting.

And that’s what we have to remember about Marvel. The mythology is huge. It’s rich in its character resources and movie producers shouldn’t lose an opportunity to reintroduce these lesser-known characters to new audiences.

Marvel Fans Vote In The Second Annual X-Men: Elections

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Marvel fans can make history yet again by choosing which mutant gets to join the latest edition of the X-Men. 

Last year, marked the first-ever X-Men elections! Where Marvel fans from across the globe voted in their favorite candidate, Polaris – yet another popular daughter of Magneto – to be the newest member of the X-Men. In what revealed to be a popular race.

Following the success of last year’s campaign, the folks over at Marvel comics have brought back yet another X-Men Election this year! One that runs from now until 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, January 13. Participants can cast their single vote over at marvel.com/xmenvote

voting choices in the x-men elections

Uncertain who to choose? We’ve listed every choice right here courtesy of Marvel.com

 

X-Men Ballot Nominations:

ARMOR

Hisako Ichiki can create a powerful psionic force field around herself, giving her superhuman strength and durability. She planted the first Krakoan flower on Mars, and as a member of the New Mutants aided her brethren across the globe.

 

AVALANCHE

A long-standing member of the Brotherhood, Dominikos Petrakis used his seismokinetic powers against the X-Men. Though he was killed by the Red Skull, he was one of countless mutants to be resurrected on Krakoa, where he became an agent of S.W.O.R.D.

 

BLING!

A former member of Gambit’s Chevaliers squad at the Xavier school, Bling! has more recently teamed up with Psylocke and her team to defend Krakoa despite still questioning the new mutant nation’s motives. She possesses a diamond-hard body, superhuman strength and the ability to fire crystalline projectiles.

 

FIRESTAR

Angelica Jones is a veteran superhero, boasting former memberships in the Avengers, New Warriors, Young Allies, and the X-Men themselves – in addition to being one of Spider-Man’s most amazing friends. Despite her codename, her powers are microwave-based, allowing her to ignite, melt, or otherwise superheat whatever she targets. She has yet to claim Krakoan citizenship…

 

GENTLE

The first X-Man to hail from the nation of Wakanda, Nezhno Abidemi now calls Krakoa his home. His mutant power allows him to exponentially increase his musculature, giving him almost limitless strength and invulnerability.

 

GORGON

Like the mythical creature of his namesake, Tomi Shishido’s gaze can turn anyone who meets it into stone. Although he possesses many other superpowers, Gorgon’s proficiency with swords is his greatest strength. Due to his skill with a blade, he was able to turn the tide at a crucial moment during the Contest of Swords in Otherworld. Unfortunately, he died doing so and came back… different.

 

MICROMAX

A British mutant, Scott Wright has served as an agent of various agencies of the Crown including MI13 and F.I.6. In the past, he was also briefly a member of Excalibur – and controversially O*N*E* – when he came into conflict with many of his fellow mutants.

 

PENANCE

Monet St. Croix touts herself as a near-perfect mutant specimen, with a wide range of powers and talents. Also, though she once considered it a burden, Monet is now capable of shifting to and from her deadly Penance form at will. She currently is the co-CXO of X-Corp.

 

SIRYN

The daughter of lauded X-Man Banshee, Theresa Cassidy made a name for herself as a member of X-Factor, making use of the same sonic powers as her father. The current X-Factor team was finally able to free her from the influence of the divine being known as Morrigan, to whom she’d sacrificed to save a fellow mutant.

 

SURGE

One of the most powerful electrokinetics on Krakoa, Noriko Ashida can produce devastating blasts of lightning and move at incredible speeds. She’s poised to team-up with her fellow New X-Men alums to protect the next generation of mutantdom.

 

The results of the vote will be revealed during the Hellfire Gala in Marvel comics in June. Marvel Insiders who sign up to vote will also be eligible to participate in a contest, where winners will get drawn into this summer’s Hellfire Gala itself! With entries of this group selected from 1/19 until 1/26th.

Fans can share their vote and campaign for their favorite X-Men using #XMenVote hashtag on social media. Personally, I’m voting for team Armor! 

 

“Marvel’s Wastelander: Black Widow” – Episodes 1 and 2 Review

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title page of marvel wastelanders black widow podcast

Marvel’s new podcast, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow, stars Susan Sarandon as the titular character and premieres with the first two episodes. SPOILERS for episodes 1 and 2.

Marvel’s Wastelander: Black Widow Season 1

Episode 1 & 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9
Episode 10

Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow is the latest digital series to come from Marvel’s partnership with SiriusXM and is the third installment in the “Marvel’s Wastelanders” audio epic. Just like its predecessors, Old Man Star-Lord and Hawkeye, the story takes place years after the known event called “V-Day,” a day where the heroes of Earth failed and were defeated by the villains.

The setting for this podcast, specifically, takes place 30 years after “V-Day.” At Midtown Manhattan, in President Red Skull territory, in The Onar, a 161-story apartment complex.

Owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D., who are now reporting directly to Red Skull, the Onar is set up to favor its residents by class status. The uber-rich residents live on the very top floors in penthouses, enjoying peace, quiet, and the best of the best. The residents on the very bottom floors are people typically off the streets, poor, or running away from something or someone. The set-piece is an interesting change of pace from the previous Marvel digital stories. 

With the first two episodes released, let’s take a look at the journey this Black Widow will be embarking on.

 

Chapter 1 – “Houston, We have a Spider”

Preview:

Helen Black (Susan Sarandon) is a new resident of the Onars, living on the more humble “100 Block,” and is hired to teach a daily yoga class. Wanting privacy, she deals with a noisy neighbor and a yoga student, named Stanley (Michael Imperioli), coming on to her. As the story goes, glimpses of who Helen is comes to the forefront.

In episode one, we’re introduced to a young woman named Lisa Cartwright (Chasten Harmon). Lisa has been hired by Panopticog Solutions, which is a private security company hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. to monitor the Onar for any potential problems. As she is settling in her job, which is to monitor the Onar residents (without them knowing), Lisa comes across Helen Black, who seems to be possibly keeping a secret. After Lisa shares what she heard with her coworker, Jordan Temple (Nate Corddry), he (a very eager employee wanting to make a name for himself) theorizes that it could be one of the Black Widows, due to her mentioning a former employer being a S.H.I.E.L.D. subsidiary. Lisa doesn’t buy it and plays it off as nothing, but once her boss, Hank Hammond (Justin Kirk), mentions she might not be cut for the job, Lisa mentions Helen Black. From there, Lisa is assigned one on one surveillance on Ms. Black to find out more. 

Review:

The first chapter of this story is definitely an intriguing start. Like the previous Wastelander stories, we take another step into this interesting post-war world. Where Old Man Star-Lord was focused on the man and Hawkeye spent time with the old archer and his family, Black Widow splits its time between the older Widow (referred to as a senior citizen) and a young analyst named Lisa. It’s a different approach, using Lisa to spy on the former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative. It kind of reminds me of a previous Marvel podcast, Marvels, which uses news reporters to tell us about the Fantastic Four.

Like any other Marvel podcast, the production value is stellar, and the writing is solid enough to keep me listening to the next episode (or waiting for the new one). Susan Saradon as Helen Black is good, she is a pro after all. I’m excited to see what she does with the character as the series moves. 

 

Chapter 2 – “You See More”

Preview:

Lisa reports for her first day of 24/7 surveillance of Helen Black, meeting with Hank Hammond first to get all her necessary tactical gear. After reviewing the case, Hank mentions he is going to the funeral of a fellow resident to committed suicide. That person jumped out of the window, and his name was Francis Molton. Lisa goes to attend Helen’s yoga class. Though Lisa has a bit of difficulty starting off, she is able to find an in with Helen and scores a private yoga lesson with Black. They do their private session, and Lisa is able to get a little bit of information out of Helen: an ex and a life she is moving on from, but the task is more challenging than expected.

Jordan, who is upset that Lisa has a more “exciting” mission, looks for his own case to chase. He comes across a resident, Stanley Petranella, who is selling “juice” to another resident named Marco (Michael Boxleitner). Jordan thinks that Stan is a drug dealer and pitches to Hank that this is something worth investigating. Hank tries to dismiss this because Stan has ties to people living in the top floor penthouses, the “Deca-Domes.” Jordan finally gets approval for a week of surveillance on Stanley, but Hank warns him the last person to tail him was Francis Molton.

Review:

The second episode really gets things moving. Lisa is a layered character, and I look forward to seeing where her character development goes. Her story let us spend more time with Helen, who was able to shine more during this episode. In the first episode, Helen seems more on the defense, keeping out of the way. After finding out that Lisa is spying on her, Helen reaches out and threatens Lisa to keep spying on her as a mole. Helen is taking control, and she reveals herself as Yelena Belova, the second Black Widow.

The development of Stanley being a connected drug dealer with his romantic pursuit of Black Widow is going to make him an exciting season villain. I am expecting a journey of Black Widow slowly making her way up the Onar ladder, tackling Stanley and the Deca-Domes residents, and a possible Lisa-Jordan conflict down the line. Only Marvel knows, but I am excited to find out.

`

Marvel Wastelanders: Black Widow stars Susan Sarandon as Helen Black. Written by Alex Delyle (Fear the Walking Dead), directed by Timothy Busfield (Thirtysomething, The West Wing), with sound design and original music by Daniel Brunelle (The Two Princes, Sandra). Learn more at marvel.com/wastelanders.

Yellowjackets – Doomcoming Review

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Yellowjackets Doomsday Review

In the long-standing tradition of high school dances, Homecomings have always played second fiddle to Proms. Throw in Cotillions, and they’re just straight third-stringers.

In the penultimate episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “Doomcoming,” we’ll learn that no matter what the pageantry is called, it all ends in one of five ways: drunk, ashamed, naked, bloodthirsty, or all of the above. Wait, that can’t be right.

Once again, picking up where we left off, but Adam’s (Peter Gadiot) biggest misstep wasn’t sleeping with Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), but rather letting a Yellowjacket into his studio apartment. All survivors of the horrendous eight months out there have some trauma affixed and this time, she makes it known.

Frantically rifling through Adam’s drawers (not that kind), Shauna accusatorily lashes out as flashes of sex and trauma flit about in her addled brain… until it all. Comes. CRASHING. DOWN.

What do we have here tucked away in Adam’s desk? The unauthorized story of Flight 2525? And what do we have here in Shauna’s hand? A blade?

Better yet, what we do have on our hands, is one dead body and no feasible alibi.

In the woods, where eating is a matter of toil and not a privilege, Akilah (Keeya King) and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) scrounge up to grubs for the others and at this juncture, the rest don’t blink an eye consuming them cooked. In their eyes, they’re chowing down on fucking marshmallows. Well, all save for prima donna turned fatalist Jackie (Ella Purnell), who doesn’t see the point, prompting Mari (Alexa Barajas) to fetch some Boisin Berry hooch.

Jackie figures, if alcohol is on hand, so should a party be. With an approximation of it being around Homecoming and a Full Hunter’s Moon the night next, plans are laid for a “Doomcoming,” drunkenly welcoming their impending demise.

Ya thought that was grim? What present Shauna finds out while stowing away her dispatch tool in the safe is the little gift that keeps on giving: her diaries. It looks like she’s been sleeping with the enemy longer than she’s been sleeping with the “enemy”.

Asking hubby Jeff (Warren Kole) the glitter’s point of origin has him dead to rights, balls in a vice. A move that was only supposed to put Taissa or Natalie at his mercy only put his beloved’s neck on the line? All for what? A sinking business that was put him in deeper with some loan sharks?

The punchline to that joke is that though he’s paid them off and is convinced nobody has to die is someone already has. Though Jeff got in deep, Shauna got in deeper by getting it deeper.

In preparation for the night’s festivities, costumes, gowns, decor, and all, Misty (Sammi Hanratty) shoots her shot with Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) by asking him to be her date. After a nearly outright rejection, he relents and makes her the happiest girl in the forest.

Elsewhere among the trees, in-the-know Jackie adds fire to the flame, by revealing to Shauna dying a virgin isn’t an option for her, setting her sights on Travis (Kevin Alves). Buzz, buzz

BUZZ word is “kill” upon Shauna admitting to Jeff her deed. After his unmitigated disbelief and her trying to fake him out as if he were on the opposing side, her cunning as an erstwhile Mid-fielder has run dry. They’re on the same team. Jeff never cheated on her. I think they call that in sports an “own goal.”

Sounds familiar, with Jackie advising Misty to go for it with Coach Scott. Self-preservation tends to be as much of a thing with the girls as self-immolation.

Back at ye ole’ happy homestead, Jeff’s willing to take the fall for Shauna, as he’s the one who got them both into this pickle. Shauna refuses, as a not-so-simple act of sacrifice will have rippling effects that will burn down the whole metaphoric house they strove so hard to build. Now that all is out in the open between them and accepting those secrets have lain the foundation for their said house, the only thing to do is buy fire insurance through Taissa and Natalie.

With the Goo Goo Dolls’ “The World I Know” serving as an ethereal backdrop, the girls tie down to gussy up. Misty extracts some hidden ‘medicinal’ help, Jackie does her locks, Lottie (Courtney Eaton) chooses her gown (compliments of Laura Lee), Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) surprises Van (Liv Hewson) with couples’ masks, Shauna struggles with getting her dress on for obvious reasons, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) puts some shade on the windows to her soul, and Travis helps out little bro Javi (Luciano Leroux) with a tie, a timeless move.

With the pot for the stew boiling, there’s only one thing missing- the mushrooms. Mari incorporated them into the stew, so what was intended as a tea for two is now a trip for all. Misty, after all, is never one to show her hand… until she does.

Adult Misty (Christina Ricci) doesn’t let her guard down, however, even with Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) regaling her of stories from the field. Jessica attempts to get under her skin by alluding to the fact, over the course of 25 years, all survivors have maintained correspondence with each other, save for her.

With her only true close-to-the-chest contact on the outs, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is hungry for an answer. Across town, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) thirsts for her life before politics. Though her campaign manager (Michelle Choi-Lee) thinks Simone and Sammy will return, Tai knows what lies dormant… until it doesn’t.

With the candles lit and morale uplifted for just one night, the Doomcoming commences. Everyone makes their entrance, but all eyes are on the Belles of the Ball; Tai and Van who make their relationship official, sealing it with a kiss.

Misty’s worried observations of them consuming the consommé soon melt away as she knows Coach Scott as well is eating up. Though Shauna insists Jackie eat, if it ain’t meat, she’s not game. Instead, she has her eye on another type of carnality and with Natalie icing him out, Jackie seems like a ‘no-brainer.’

Coach Scott raises a toast to both Tai and Van’s union, as he’s truly in solidarity 100%. Lottie seconds a toast to the fallen Laura Lee before leading the group in a slow dance, acapella. What ensues is a fleet moment of escapism where the outside world is no longer a thought, save for some like Misty and Natalie, when reality seems to hit closer than ever.

Under Shauna’s watchful eye, the trap is set; a snare with Travis’ name all over it.

It turns out Jeff knew about Shauna’s past years ago through her chronicling the grisly ordeal. What surprises Shauna more is Jeff’s desire to stay armed with that knowledge because of his love for her. A Midfielder’s versatile in playing both offense and defense but in the case of her feelings, neither was to her benefit. There’s no time for rumination, however, as it’s time to huddle up.

With Natalie providing Coach Scott a proper bottle of booze though refraining herself, the two have a nice sit-down. And by sit down, I mean a nice “zonk out”… along with the rest of the squad. Though they may be a small distance away, everybody is truly in their own world.

Misty does in a moment of lucidity goes to find Ben while others feel the earth swell underfoot. With Shauna’s baby giving her first kicks, Lottie assures the group that starvation won’t be of concern for much longer.

Up in “Dead Guy’s Alley”… I mean “Attic”, Jackie cuts to the chase, placing the moves on Travis. He momentarily pumps the breaks, throwing out the L-Word concerning Natalie, though Jackie’s disillusionment on friendship, and loyalty chops through the bullshit. By virtue of this bleak but refreshing outlook, something ignites in Travis.

As the rest are on the comedown, they notice that Nat and Ben are compadres, but Jackie and Travis are a pairing that is not holy or just. This causes Lottie to lead the swarm, leaving Javi in the dust.

With Travis inside, the squad outside howls and hollers along with the wolves, trekking for the hunt.

Both Jackie and Travis have officially lost their V-Cards. Did you know in house fires, the Point of Origin begins with a “V”?

The group descends upon the house and upon Travis and locking Jackie in the closet may have worked in her favor, as each one takes turns on the young buck, kissing, licking, biting, and tearing before he can jet.

The girls give chase to the “stag.” With a fire in their eyes and a growl in their guts, Javi is only spared by Shauna and told to run.

Elsewhere, brought on by the lustful atmosphere in the cabin, Tai and Van become a meal unto each other in a more romantic way. Complying with Tai’s earnest request, Van takes off her mask, revealing a scarred visage. Taissa is head over heels with this new look.

Unaware of the ensuing carnage, Coach Scott’s epiphany about love has Natalie in her own pursuit. A witness to this inspiring declaration, Misty pounces to Ben’s side, only to be handily rebuffed. He’s had enough and reveals to Misty, the woods, and to the heavens above that he’s gay as the day is long. Live that truth, Coach!

Coming upon the cabin, Natalie finds Jackie captive, but there’s no time for explanation, as the hunt is afoot.

With the bestial caterwaul of the gang in full concert, the ‘deer’ is finally caught and bound.

Before Shauna makes the defining incision to bloodlet, Natalie puts the kibosh to the human kabob. With him set free, Lottie confronts Natalie, for darkness is part and parcel of survival for each and every one of them. All Misty can do, as always, is cheer silently from the sidelines.

The only space she can’t be a fly on the wall, however, is in Adam’s apartment, where both Taissa and Natalie rake Shauna over the coals concerning the corpse counting the lights before them.

With Nat zero inches closer to solving Travis’ murder and Shauna’s DNA all over the joint, the trio is far from being out of the woods, yet, there is one player, however, that can suit up and take the field. Something tells me it’s going to sting Natalie far more than her being out fifty racks.

Misty puts on her finest makeup to dazzle at the Reunion with an approving nod from Jessica. Homegirl might be flipped, after all, wanting to meet with the journalist’s ghostwriter connect for a potential tell-all. Still, Misty openly admitting a desire to break the seal on a 25-year-old mystery might be part of her rouge, I mean ruse.

A ghost materializes at her front door. At Misty’s mercy, Natalie must eat crow in order to make her a part of the team. At least it ain’t eating one another for a change.

One can’t say we’re in the home stretch because it’s not a true race yet. Race against time, maybe, race against hunger, sure, but it’s not a race against each other.

In races, only one victor remains, that’s the rule. These girls act and react in unison, for they are a squad. Now, Travis being the first to go makes sense, as he isn’t one of them. It’s not anything personal, for Heaven forbid if it gets to that, it’s not even called a race- it’s called shirts vs. skins.

Problems Catch Up with Matthew and Diana in A Discovery of Witches Season 3

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Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop - A Discovery of Witches _ Season 3, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMCN/SkyUK

The third season of A Discovery of Witches is upon us at long last and we immediate jump into the aftermath of Emily’s attack, the return of Matthew and Diana to the present, the vampire murders, the Congregation, and the covenant.

The storyline for the series is based on The Book of Life, the third book of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. While there are some deviations from the source material, it still works for the overall narrative, at least for now.

Here are the must know moments:

Steven Cree as Gallowglass, Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 3, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMCN/SkyUK

Sept-Tours in the Present

As Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) time walk to the present, they immediate enter the room where Sarah is by Emily’s side. Emily though is still alive but soon closes her eyes with Sarah then crying out that the other witch is gone. Diana looks shocked but soon rushes to the other two women as the reality of what is happening hits her.

It’s a chaotic period at Sept-Tours with a lot of folks currently in residence, seeking refuge from the Congregation. Agatha Wilson though soon departs and heads to Venice, calling for a special meeting of the ruling council to hold Peter Knox accountable for Emily’s murder. Hamish and Gallowglass arrive some time later and during a meal with the group of vampires, witches, daemons, and humans, they discuss the challenges they face with not just Gerbert and Knox but the vampire murders in Oxford.

Miriam fills Matthew in that there have been a series of brutal killings done by a vampire with blood rage. Speaking of blood rage, Marcus confronts his father for not disclosing that they were both infected with the disease. Matthew says that his son is only a carrier and that there was no need to know, but the younger vampire icily states that wasn’t his choice to make.

The only positive news to come out of this time at Sept-Tours is that Diana is pregnant with twins! During a quiet moment by themselves as the witch processed the death of her beloved second mother, Matthew says that he hears two heartbeats.

Life at French fortress gets even crazier though with the arrival of Baldwin. Previously he was in Venice with Agatha and had learned all about the vampire murders, the covenant being broken by creatures residing in his ancestral home, the return of Matthew and Diana, and the death of Emily by Peter Knox. Gerbert and Knox naturally try to paint the de Cleremonts as the aggressors and the violators of the covenant but Agatha is able proclaim that the elder witch killed a member of his own species. He denies it, explaining that Emily died using higher magic and that he had to defend himself against Marcus. The daemon though won’t be deterred and moves to have Knox removed from the Congregation. She is supported by one fellow daemon, Baldwin, and Satu in a delicious power move. Baldwin is furious that Knox would enter Sept-Tours without invitation and the younger witch is clearly over being controlled. Agatha then calls Nathaniel and tells him to leave France immediately with Sophie and the baby because they are no longer safe there.

Upon returning home, Baldwin is all about exercising his dominance as head of the de Cleremonts. He has a family only dinner where Matthew is allowed to bring Diana, probably because he is curious about Philippe’s blood vow and wants to see if this is true. During the meal, Marcus, Diana, and Gallowglass all voice their opinions how the world has changed and that the covenant no longer makes sense, but Baldwin is traditional and still holds on to the belief of its validity a means to keep their kind safe from humans.

He also appears to know of Diana’s pregnancy and recalls how this isn’t the first time a vampire and a witch had a baby. Baldwin mentions that Matthew would know more about this and that the witches banished the mother and child (they died in the dessert). The head of the family then casually drops that this was around the time his brother sired Benjamin. Matthew reaches his limit and excuses himself from dinner along with Diana.

As the two walk outside and discuss their immediate plans following Baldwin’s announcement that anyone who isn’t a de Cleremont needs to leave in the morning, she asks him about Benjamin. Matthew explains that after the First Crusade he was in Jerusalem and Philippe dreamt of establishing a homeland for creatures. For that to happen though they had to reveal themselves to humans whom they felt they could trust. Benjamin had been one of them, but then the man threatened to reveal their existence and the vampire lost control. Diana realizes that she thinks she met Benjamin in Bohemia where he went by Fuchs (not de Cleremont) and could hear Philippe’s blood vow. Matthew adds that he turned the human into a vampire so that he could not reveal the truth about creatures without outing himself as well. After the geneticist abandoned him knowing the other had blood rage as well and this proved to be an extremely terrible miscalculation.

Meanwhile Marthe, Hamish, Miriam, and Sarah are all having dinner in the kitchen which is honestly a much cozier atmosphere than the serious event happening in the main dining room (missing however is Phoebe). They dedicate the moment to Emily, whom earlier they had held a funeral for at the Temple of Diana.

Another interesting development is the idea of forming a scion. While smoking outside on the grounds, Gallowglass comments to Marcus that this homecoming reminded him a lot of what it was like to deal with Philippe, and it was no wonder that his father Hugh and his mate Fernando struck out on their own by forming a scion. An excited Marcus then tells Matthew, Diana, Ysabeau, and Phoebe that a full-blooded member of the family could form an autonomous branch to chart their own path. Gallowglass adds that Matthew could take anyone he has sired and anyone they have sired. Diana realizes that their children would then not have to fall under Baldwin’s rule. Matthew however is against the idea because he feels it would be turning his back on the family that made him who he is today.

Matthew Goode as Matthew Clairmont, Olivier Huband as Fernando – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 3, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMCN/SkyUK

Moving to London

The following morning, everyone except Ysabeau, Marthe, and Baldwin depart Sept-Tours. This is a change from the books as the group split up with Matthew, Diana, and Sarah (with Fernando) heading to Madison, but this time they all go to London. It’s there where we get our first look at Hugh’s mate as he greets Matthew upon their arrival.

Fernando Gonçalves is one of my favorite ADOW characters and he is wonderfully portrayed by Olivier Huband. I’m so happy that they were able to show a bit of his and Sarah’s relationship in this episode. Fernando offers her coffee and shares a bit of his own story and his grief. The distraught witch says that everyone is focused on scions and vampires with no one talking about Emily. Fernando tells her that he was mated with Philippe de Cleremont’s eldest son, Hugh, for six centuries, yet the patriarch never recognized their union because of his bigotry. When Hugh died seven hundred years ago, his own grief and pain were never acknowledged, but reminds Sarah that her relationship with Emily was accepted by the de Cleremonts (some of them at least!). She realizes that Fernando understands her emotions and adds that the family should acknowledge his loss too. He is hopeful that may happen one day.

Before they left Sept-Tours Sarah gave Diana the page from Ashmole 782 that Emily hid from Knox. Matthew hopes that they can extract DNA from the document to try and learn more about creature genetics. They are still looking to understand the reason their three species are in decline and why some vampires get blood rage (as well as cure for it).

In search of a discreet laboratory to work in, Diana reaches out an old friend, molecular biologist Christopher Roberts. In the Book of Life, Matthew and Diana go to Yale, where both she and Chris teach, to conduct their research on creature genetics there. This time however, Chris is in London and learns about the existence of witches, vampires, and daemons through Diana, Matthew, and Miriam. The witch demonstrates her magic, convincing her skeptical old friend.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

At the end of the episode we see Benjamin in the present get a call from an unknown number who informs him that Matthew and Diana have returned. He then promptly departs and as he leaves his hotel room, we see a few bloodied bodies inside. The poor hotel cleaning staff member screams upon seeing the corpses. He’s apparently been doing some creepy Internet research on Diana.

Back at Sept-Tours, Domenico hands Baldwin an envelope in secret, saying that this contains images from the vampire murders. The devious Italian vampire says that he doesn’t have to be the other man’s enemy.

Steven Cree as Gallowglass – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 3, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Des Willie/AMCN/SkyUK

Final Thoughts

  • In the preview for episode two we see that Benjamin, Knox, and Gerbert all seem to be working together. Makes a lot of sense given their mutual hatred for the de Cleremonts.
  • Satu’s rebellion was fun to watch as she is finally able to stick it to the man!
  • Fernando and Sarah’s scene together was my absolute favorite moment of the entire episode. It was so meaningful to see them in live action because of the beautiful supportive relationship they have in the books. He was really her main pillar of support in after Em’s death.
  • Peter McDonald’s portrayal of Baldwin Montclair was so good! He did a terrific job in showcasing the character’s “my way or the highway” personality and need to control everyone in his sphere.
  • While in Book of Life Emily had already died before Diana returned to the present, it was a small boon for her to see her aunt for even a second before the other woman passed.
  • The relationship between Matthew and Baldwin was so perfectly captured in the dinner scene! The younger brother having to control and hold his tongue in the face of the elder’s arrogant jabs.
  • So far it’s been really fun to see the changes in the adaptation this season and getting to witness characters like Fernando come to life on screen is pure heaven. Can’t wait for episode two!

A Discovery of Witches can be streamed on AMC, Shudder, and Sundance NOW.

‘Marvel’s Wastelanders Podcast: Black Widow’ Premieres January 10th

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The exciting continuation to the Marvel’s Wastelanders podcast begins airing next week

After Star-Lord came Hawkeye, and up next, Black Widow. In one week, the next chapter of the multi-part Marvel’s Wastelanders podcast begins with Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow. The third installment in the post-apocalyptic audio series. 

This 10-episode original scripted podcast is written by Alex Delyle (Fear the Walking Dead) and directed by Timothy Busfield (The West Wing, Peter Quill in Marvel’s Wastelanders: Star-Lord). It also features sound design and original music by Daniel Brunelle (The Two Princes). 

The series stars Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon as Helen Black, and features performances by Eva Amurri (Saved!), Nate Corddry (Mom), Amber Gray (Hadestown), Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie), Chasten Harmon (Elementary), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Justin Kirk (Weeds).

Set 30 years after V-Day (the day all the Marvel villains won), this original podcast follows the story of Helen Black, a woman with a mysterious past who arrives at her new apartment in The Onar, a 161-story apartment complex set in the remains of Midtown Manhattan. Owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D., The Onar is a representative mecca of dystopic wealth and inequality. A collection of uber-rich families – including the media magnate Burge family – occupy the opulent penthouses in the Onar’s highest ten stories. 

On the same day that Helen moves into her apartment, Lisa Cartwright reports for her first day as a Junior Residential Security Analyst for Panopticog Solutions, a private security company hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. to secretly monitor the residents of The Onar. Lisa is assigned to surveil Helen’s corner of The 100 Block and quickly discovers that Helen Black is not at all who she says she is. You can check out the teaser provided by Marvel, below.

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 The series will initially be available exclusively on the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts. Episodes will be widely available one week later on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. 

 

Yellowjackets – Flight of the Bumblebee Review

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It’s always those we discredit that we adore. It’s always those that we hope fly but then are floored. It’s always those in which we hope. It’s. What. We. Hope in. Is. Nope. Welcome to the eighth episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
To believe that nothing is forever, forever takes the truth, and if that is forever…
What is drawn from the youth?

She emerges! After tearfully placing Van (Liv Hewson) on the pyre, there is a faint buzz. Are we to prematurely say phoenix?

To be fair, she wasn’t dead… or just not dead enough. After the switch of trekking south, going back into the cabin isn’t such a bad idea, and who wouldn’t? Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) isn’t giving up on her goalie and as an erstwhile sweeper, it’s her goal to protect. The rest of the team can easily toss the ball of life around, but the woods just kicked an upper 90 and told them to fuck the hell off.

Floundering across the terrain, Van only wishes for death. To be fair, a goalie is the last bastion a squad lives on. This time, it’s with less protecting her ticking clock against a win and more for an inevitable loss. This is where the swarm pairs down to a duo. Van feels the end is nigh and holding her team back is the opposite of her directive. Sometimes you have to take an L just to gain the W.

On a brighter note, we go to more blissful days, when Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) was wading at the pool in Bible Camp. Her choosing to dive in the shallow end is only a portent. Her miscalculation and blood, stain the water, as does her teammates’ faith in her farther along the path. We’ll come to that later.

As she’s resurrected, the poor girl only sees a Jesus cross upon a hot body. This is lust masked as fate, no faith. No. Fate.

At the cabin, Laura Lee wants a sign from a higher up, but she knows, whatever is going to be is going to be.

In her own homestead, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is confronted by her daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins), who found Adam’s driver’s license. This isn’t a good look for her, but attempting to tamp down her daughter’s ire is a futile attempt. This is especially a clusterfuck when her daughter’s digging came up with nothing on him. I guess that’s one more empty grave to dig up.

And just when she thinks she had been on the trail of her daughter’s snot-nosed, sorry, snub-nosed sleuthing, hubby (Warren Kole) arrives with a gift: Reunion Digs!

Back in the cabin, Travis (Kevin Alves) rebuffs Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), as he’s still embarrassed from duty performance wasn’t standing up, shall we say. This leaves Nat in a bid of a bind.

We’ll just transition to Natalie (Juliette Lewis) making herself up for a special date. Now that all she’s loved had left her there’s only one thing to do…

At the one river that isn’t blood-tinged, a younger Natalie meets up with Coach Scott (Steven Krueger), soaking the only foot he has left into the only source that is constant.

Speaking of which, Natalie only has one foot, so to speak, in the river. She knows Coach is gay and his secret is under lock and key with her. What she’s more interested in is Travis is… and he’s not, he’s just “shy.” Coach gives some of the most meaningful lines out of this scene and Steven plays the hell out of it.

Meanwhile, as Taissa dreadfully attempts to forge forward with a worse for ware Van, the half-dead protector basically pleads for the rest to go and seek help. She only wants to die. Tai won’t let that happen, but despite the pushback, they run for the cabin. It’s a hard scene to watch because you want someone to survive, but as you know, fresh meat can only last for so long.

Speaking of eating, as Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) finishes the last of her meal, Misty (Christina Ricci) is getting a call. Oh, no, it’s not a phone call. It’s a call for help.

At the lake, as Travis disrobes to check the fish traps, Jackie (Ella Purnell) catches him. Knowing now what she does, it looks like baby-girl is wanting to spill the tea. Any tea… or more like just black water, which is just called bile.

Natalie’s hook-up for a ‘snowy day’ is there and Misty will have none of her backslidings. Nat’s not someone to fuck around with… and neither is Misty. Homegirl busts into the motel room and snorts up all of the cocaine, saving her from FUCKING UP THIS ENTIRE OPERATION!

It matters to none concerning Travis, who knows the truth. Jackie told him while checking the fishnets. The romance is cut as is Nat’s alliance with the team captain.

As Misty now tries to monitor her BPM’s, Natalie has a new soundtrack to go on. She is now privy to Travis going on the lam and his bank account emptied out before the ultimate demise. Misty was willing to take a bullet, in just. Sorry to say, Natalie took a bullet in the same way, under different circumstances.

At dinner, though the air is tense with Shauna’s family, an angel rings. It’s Taissa (Tawny Cypress) stopping by. I guess all constituents do this, right?

Tai confesses to sleepwalking and whether she chalks it up to nerves around the campaign or trauma, she’s afraid to hit the hay. To quote Morrissey, “This night has opened my eyes, and I will never sleep again.”

Shauna gives up Callie’s bed for Taissa, promising to keep watch over her.

Sleep is good. Sleep is essential… until you’re sleeping on somebody.

The bedraggled rest find nest back at the cabin. Tai and Van are gone and but a flare can survive them.

After one of the worst cheek stitching scenes that can rival Guillermo del Toro’s best, Van is sedated and Laura Lee knows her purpose.

Fixing up Callie’s bed, Shauna and Taissa get to gossip. They fancy on about their lives, where the things that happened didn’t happen. For all we know, Shau would’ve been in Brown University, writing and dating a French mime. For all we know, Tai… would have been exactly where she is at that very moment. Howard and Law School be damned… instincts are instincts.

Accomplishing goals and crushing dreams seems to be the modus operandi of these five, and so-

Given the knowledge that Misty dropped, Natalie goes apeshit without an answer to her question nary a tether to her lead. What friends does she have? These are called withdrawals… until she sees a bit of energy lain out on the carpet. That’s when the addict divorces from the rehabilitated…

Speaking of, coked-up Misty isn’t having any of Jessica’s ransom. You see, she, handcuffed to the bed, still was able to get hold of the Parrot that Misty holds so dear, named Caligula. Misty calls her bluff from snuffing it out, but before push comes to snap, a barrage of shit comes flying her way. With Jessica nearly dodging death and the bird leaving for life, the journalist sees that Misty is in a bad way. As Rick James once said, “Cocaine is a helluva drug.”

In the attic, Taissa tearfully tells the tale of what happened that fateful night to Shauna. Sleepwalking is a bitch. I used to do it. Never to this extent, but I was accused of doing it as a kid. Her guilt keeps her up now and the only rest is Shauna, cuddling her, vowing to keep watch.

With the present Shauna and Tai in bed, looking at each other, prices are made and are due to be paid. Shauna reveals she’s been stepping out, or rather, now, he’s been stepping IN. He makes her feel special, but the same can’t be said of Tai and her wife. It’s been one-sided, and this can only lead to…

…Shauna bringing Adam (Peter Gadiot) a coffee. Oh, this isn’t eggs and bacon either, though the grilling will be swift. He skirted by the Pratt Institute lie. He flirted with the association of being a free spirit. He proposed a getaway with a cabin in the woods. This will either bring out the sleeping beast or bring out the best in her. Either way, aren’t those really two sides of the same coin?

In the cabin, as the rest, well rest, Laura Lee doesn’t. She has a statement and GODDAMMNIT if the birds don’t hear.

She’s going for help from the dead dude’s plane. She’s read the manuals like a Bible, front to back. If a mission were a Mission, this is the time.

She wants Van to get immediate attention, but after reading her journal, fucking Jackie throws Shauna under the bus, spilling the beans on her preggo. Is it petty? Very. Is it smart? Very. Betrayal is in the wings and sadly, those are the only ones that can truly take flight.

Despite Coach Scott’s protestations, with a hellacious fire in her eyes, it’s now Laura Lee’s time to fly.

Just in time for thoroughly modern Natalie to crash in on Narcotics Anonymous. Oh, she didn’t sniff the sweet stuff, or did she? All we know is she wants her former sponsor to deep dive into Travis’ bank account or else they could get into their own shady past dealings. Taking notes, Jessica? That’s called leverage.

At base, the girls thwomp away at the vines that will make a runway, Jackie’s seeming kind of sketchy, and though Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) knows it, it’s all for the greater good.

Which is where we land with Taissa and her wife, Simone (Rukiya Bernard). There are things that are divulged and passes that need to take hold. She shoos her wife and son off for their safety.

Meanwhile, as Shauna gets ready for the big ball, she finds flecks of glitter in her closet. The person that ran away with the bag fell into a bit of glitter. Hmmm…

As Laura Lee embarks on her journey, this will be the closest to God she’ll ever fucking have, as the plane takes off, high into the sky, but despite their high hopes and blue skies, all must turn red and firey while Lottie (Courtney Eaton) goes in the lake and shouts to the heavens. I guess if she had to go out on ablaze, it was of His Glory.

Homecoming? So much for coming home.

We’re on the cusp of the penultimate. Having experienced our first true death in the squad, the stingers are coming out. It was fucked up for Jackie to spout Shauna’s shit under the guise of ‘looking out for the baby’ but it was also shitty for Taissa to keep Van alive in such a cold world… and it’s only about to get colder.

 

 

Yellowjackets – No Compass Review

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The commoners call it finding nature. The religious call it getting closer to God. The Australian Aborigines call it a walkabout. No matter how you split the syntax, the wilderness is a system modern society just isn’t built for, even if you venture willfully into it. In the seventh episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “No Compass”, you’ll see that that goes double if the wild calls you.

Picking up precisely where we left off, a bewildered Taissa (Tawny Cypress) gathers herself in the cornflower blue moonlight and washes up inside. It turns out, scrubbing away dirt and blood isn’t enough to cleanse a past of iniquity that still stains the mind.

Back in the woods, the others try talking down headstrong Tai (Jasmin Savoy Brown) about the rash decision to head south. Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) asks Lottie (Courtney Eaton) about her opinion, as some of the squad places slightly more stock in her since the seance. Being aware of how the rest view her has her sheepishly coming up empty.

Taissa is deadset on her journey, so Akilah (Keeya King) convinces her to take some provisions and though Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) holds steadfast on keeping the rifle, she’s allowed one of the axes and the cockpit’s compass along with a flare gun. Van (Liv Hewson) is adamantly against all of this, but Jackie (Ella Purnell) isn’t holding her back… even if that means nothing but death exists out there.

Laura Lee is flummoxed as to why Lottie didn’t speak up about her vision, but homegirl knows the score. It would’ve fallen on deaf ears. Surveying the fricasseed buck, Lottie extracts a bone that didn’t blacken.

In preparation for her trek, Taissa goes into fight mode, chopping her locks for something more manageable, nearly symbolic of letting go of the excess baggage. Van demands to accompany her, not because she wants to but because she has to. She wants to make a life with Tai on the “outside” and feels inertia is akin to a slow death. She believes in Tai as does Mari (Alexa Barajas) and Akilah, who are game.

Travis (Kevin Alves) plans to go, with the group being bereft of man, but Natalie insists he stay. Without her only beacon of hope, she may do something she’s not alive to regret.

With the girls getting set to head out, Mari’s in possession of the compass, and Van’s handed something of more import: the bone Lottie pulled. She tells Van that the bone will keep her safe as well as telling of a dream involving red smoke and a river of blood.

From what I gather, the fried deer signifies a burnt offering; possibly a Saint. The bones of saints are housed in reliquaries, considered to ward off the bad. What was the last episode called?…

In the cabin, Misty (Sammi Hanratty) is driven wild watching Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) smile talking to Taissa, thus prompting her to make the pack five. Promising she’ll come back for Ben, she hugs him with an air of cringe that’s usually reserved for Larry David joints.

Last embraces are shared before half the team mounts up.

Presently, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) takes the last of a drag nervously as Taissa and Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) pull up. There’s no time for chatter, with Nat providing the $50k, Shauna providing the bag and tracker, and Tai providing the Rover in which Natalie will make the drop.

At the cabin, Jackie confronts Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) about holding out on her and being secretive with Tai behind her back. No amount of feigned stoicism on Shauna’s part can preclude her from giving up the ghost to doe-eyed bestie, save for the true identity of the father, claiming it was Randy. Jackie being Jackie is shocked, but at the moment very supportive.

At the drop-off, Natalie proceeds to take the bag and the risk, placing it in the clothing donation bin, keeping her eyes about her. Awaiting her arrival, Tai and Shauna have a bit of time to catch up. Shauna finds out that Tai funded Natalie’s first stint in rehab because though they have families, whether rewarded by fate or some other outside force, Natalie has nobody and even less with Travis gone.

Who shows up to the party, however, moments after that admission but Natalie herself- bottle of booze in hand. She claims to have bought it off of a clerk at a gas station, but something tells me it’s not the whole story. Now they have a bit of time to all play catch-up!

Along their path, Tai rolls her eyes at the totemic gesture from Lottie around Van’s neck, even when confronted about the fact she predicted two school events around prom court and scandal.

Before Misty (Christina Ricci) can fully enjoy surveilling a semi-nude, sleeping Kevyn Tan (Alex Wyndham), one of her guests has other plans of making themselves heard.

Slightly soused, Shauna’s impatience shows. With small talk in order, Taissa won’t divulge much of her home life, nor the campaign trail, much less what happened to her hand. Sparking up spirits, Natalie spills the beans on her and Kevyn. The giddiness flits away, as the GPS pings. Now, “it is go time.”

With all the girls at the lake, Natalie attempts to initiate Travis, but something’s not jibing. Now, one could chalk these nerves up to his sheer inexperience, especially trying to get a condom on- or it could be something else. I find it of particular interest when he prefers Natalie not to talk romantically, but even that can’t save his lack of ‘gusto’.

He gives up and heads out, leaving poor, glassy-eyed Natalie to her lonesome. Hey, I thought Eros and Thanatos were bosom buddies!

Elsewhere, Jackie attempts to cull a true heart-to-heart with Shauna, unburdened by the ears of others on fire. Some curiosities are assuaged, while others are not, like the night of actual conception. The only truth to Shauna’s credit is not being sure of what the future holds. At least one of the two is being honest with themselves!

While Van regales the group, rehashing a movie she’d just watched, reality creeps back in with the call of the wild in the distance. Taissa asserts that they’ll be fine and proposes a plan to keep watch for added protection before Van can momentarily set their mind at ease going back into the plot of…

While You Were Sleeping playing on her TV set, Misty keeps an eye on her captive, Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma), who doesn’t seem phased by the theatrics. In fact, Jessica seems to be playing fair, informing Misty that Taissa hired her to see if any survivors flipped, spoiling her chances for State Senate. She also knows that Travis wasn’t murdered, but her game of leverage simply won’t work with the erstwhile Equipment Manager/Team Cheerleader.

In the attic, Shauna catches Javi (Luciano Leroux) snooping through her backpack. He claims to want the knife for an “art project” and though at this juncture in the middle of nowhere where any intent is on the table, Shauna relents it.

With her diary as well as her secret contained therein out in the semi-open, Shauna takes the precaution to store it on a support beam.

As the trio comes across the warehouse where the bins are dropped off, Nat believes the driver is in on it, and without hesitation, holds him at gunpoint until the true culprit takes the bag and books it. With Tai tossing the keys to Shauna to pull around the front and Natalie along with Tai on pursuit, the chase is on.

With the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” serving as the blood pumping track, it’s like good ole’ times, with Tai commanding Nat to ‘take the wing‘. The thing is, even with a perfect tackle on Tai’s part, an elbow to the nose is still just that.

With Shauna coming around the bend, Natalie gets one chance as she watches him escape in a car for a shot, but Taissa catches up, deflecting her aim and possibly one hell of a sentence, with the bullet ricocheting.

Natalie swears she wasn’t aiming to kill, reminding the girls they’ve committed worse. Shauna, for one, has had enough of them getting lumped into her pity party but they’re down 50 grand and can’t be sure if they just spill out of spite. Natalie makes an impassioned plea that what they’re doing is bigger than skeletons in the closet and calls them both out as being as unstable as she. And just like that… Natalie goes it herself. Sound familiar?

The decamped Taissa and company come across a river auburn in color. Misty concludes this may be due to mineral deposits and though Taissa isn’t convinced after being reminded of Lottie’s omens, the compass Mari’s holding going bananas has others wanting to regroup. Tai grows increasingly surly as the group grows increasingly worried, especially since according to the soothsayer, the woods don’t want them to leave. With reticence, the quintet carries on.

As Shauna approaches her house who is waiting in the wings but Adam (Peter Gadiot). After the night’s frivolities, the last thing she craves is a lay, but homeboy holds the fucking mirror up to her when she calls him a fraud. What ensues may be adrenaline, truth, or a volatile mixture of both, but cavorting with napalm is in Shauna’s DNA.

While Shauna’s hitting the sheets in one capacity, Natalie is in the other, returning Kevyn’s Glock to its holster before retiring to a bit of cuddling. It turns out none of these girls fully left the beast or vice versa.

At camp, the next night, Taissa takes the first watch as the others bed down.

In her basement, Misty now attempts her hand at leverage, threatening to ship Jessica’s father a whole box of chocolates laced with fentanyl, compliments of his own thoughtful daughter.

Blessed are the overlook’d, for they will salt the earth.

Jessica was with Travis before his demise. Her story tracks, even going back to buying him a bottle of whiskey to loosen his tongue, though he wouldn’t squawk. This leads to his bank account being closed after his death- info only Jessica has the resources to.

At least one is more calculated in her approach because Shauna sure as fuck isn’t. She and Adam have slept in with Jeff (Warren Kole) freshly home. Her teenaged tactics barely work, suggesting he hide in the closet. Silly as it seems, it works!

Her teammate isn’t faring better, as Kevyn notices his holster not being buttoned, leading him to find a missing bullet in the chamber. Confronting Natalie is cringeworthy, as she probably tells the truth about robbing a liquor store while lying about how the cartridge was spent. What’s even more painful is how she dismisses a top-notch guy to save her own fucking bottom.

Before Shauna beds down, she finds that Javi did actually did whittle out something: a premonition. Her diary is also gone from the plank and into the hands of a very betrayed Jackie. So much for the support, beam.

Let’s add one more log onto this fire, as the faint howling of wolves wakes up Taissa, perched in a tree. You read that correctly.

With the amulet around her neck and a flare gun in her hand, she leaps down only to find her squad trying to fend off two wolves. Van is getting rend asunder, and the flare gun isn’t saving anybody, so the ax is her only hope.

She hammers it into the lupine before scrambling to her beloved, finding the result being an amateur in the pros. The rest look in abject horror, but Tai’s words: “…the woods don’t give a shit about us.” Listening now?

Using your hands isn’t dirty unless you make it so. This isn’t soccer.

Though a slow burn, this episode was where a localized flame gives to a forest fire. Given the ongoing mystery, a small part of me wonders if Javi has anything to do with this all. We’ve seen Travis treat him like shit when none of the girls did. I’m still left in the dark without an answer, but fire can fend wolves and the dark… until it dies.

‘Hawkeye’ Episode 6 Review: So This Is Christmas?

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It’s Epic Musical Christmas Finale Time! 

Tis’ the season! The end of the season in the Disney+ Hawkeye finale! Just in time to see Kate and Clint save Christmas. In the final episode every established conflict in the show thus far finally comes to a head, seeing Kate and Clint’s journey. With Kate finally acknowledging Clint was not only a mentor but her hero, and Clint acknowledging that Kate really is his partner. An emotionally touching journey filled with lots of heart and holiday cheer! 

Whereas last week introduced The Kingpin, this week sort of resolved his arc rather quickly, seeing this MCU crime boss and tracksuit mafia leader come head-to-head in a final showdown we didn’t even know was coming until last week. The final battle brings the three major Hawkeye plotlines to resolution. Yelena confronts Clint over the death of Black Widow, Kate tries to save her mom and absolve her family’s sins by taking on the Kingpin, and Maya deals with her confidant and the murderer of her father: in challenging her former bff, Kazi. It’s chaotic, yet somehow, works in a satisfyingly tie all loose ends to make it in time for Christmas sort of way. 

First and foremost for MCU fans, it was really nice to see Clint and Yelena come together to grieve Natasha’s death. There was fighting and some exposition, though it was quite therapeutic for both characters, as both some much heavy baggage carried was sort of alleviated by listening to each other. The beautiful part about this series was most definitely resolve and resolution, with both Yelena and Clint confessing how much they both loved Natasha and how much regret Clint’s been carrying regarding his biggest failure: his inability to take the fall.

Now to be fair, it’s obvious that lots of Yelena wanting to kill Clint was placed mostly for the sake of conflict. The refreshing thing was not only that she didn’t, but that we still got to see her fully capable abilities while having some gem-of-a-moment bantering and comedy between her and Kate. Effectively building even more chemistry between the future Widow and Hawkeye, in what’s promising to be a very entertaining future partnership down the line. 

What’s weird I think about the series was seeing the Kate versus Kingpin final battle. A Kingpin who somehow was even more resilient/powerful than when we last saw him. It’s semi-unbelievable he’s this strong but he did serve as a perfect boss fight for Kate. However, I will say that the leadup did feel somewhat anti-climactic only in the sense that Kate and Kingpin had no actual stakes against one another having only discovered each other’s existence in this episode. If anything, the real battle/resolution was more of Kate’s own taking agency against her own mother’s sins. Getting her convicted while putting the family behind her.

Kingpin on the other hand was seemingly killed by Maya. All for a nod directly to the comics. Maya’s story was surprisingly involved in this series, and though she didn’t get as much screentime to look into her origins as much, the show did give her enough of an arc for her to attain vengeance against her former uncle/mentor, the Kingpin. Given that this is the comic book world, it’s highly doubtful this end is permanent. D’Onofrio is amazing in the role and it would be a disservice to end the Kingpin’s journey here. 

Finally, the best thing about this episode was easily the battle sequences. Moments where everyone partakes in saving the day while Clint and Kate finally get to team together – much to the excitement of Kate Bishop (whose infectious enthusiasm rivals only Peter Parker’s in my opinion). The fact this battle happens to take place at Rockafeller Center, on the ice rink, in front of the gigantic tree, is about as Christmas as it comes for any sort of holiday story. Add-on some Swordsman Jack and the Larpers, and yeah, this was a ridiculously campy yet positive holiday TV series. One that I think fits the family-friendly vibe of Marvel and was sorely needed at this moment in time. Almost as needed as this gem of a Christmas Avengers Musical:

The Take

Hawkeye was a fun show that brought the character of Kate Bishop to light while letting Clint let go of his past with Natasha. A positive affirming experience and great holiday message about family. Bringing in Kingpin was needed for a big-bad and the series overall was funny. I do look forward to seeing where both Hawkeyes go, and more importantly, am excited for all the future ‘Good Boy!’ moments of Lucky The Pizza Dog.

 

The Witcher Season 2 Review

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Fans of the books and video games rejoice! The Witcher Season 2 delivers a sheer perfect adaptation 

The Netflix television series The Witcher was a surprise hit back in 2019 generating over 500 million viewing hours for its first season. Coming from a franchise whose fandom was as equally interested in Andrzej Sapkowski’s original stories, as much as they were enamored with CDPR’s series of video games, this franchise was a rare gem in that it was already a successful novel, video game, and comic book series, before considering its screen adaptation.

Tastefully, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich knew just how important this was for its fans. The execution of her vision has been neigh shy of fantastic in keeping faithful to the books, but also, keeping some aesthetics of the Witcher video games. A series that I, like millions of others, ended up downloading and playing through thanks to the success of the Netflix TV series. 

This is why Season 2 of the Netflix series was a big deal for its fandom. Which I’m proud to say, only delivers in quality for its sophomore season. Whereas season one was a tale about destiny, this one is much more about family. Though not in the ways most were expecting regarding Yennifer, Geralt, and Ciri. 

How The Series Compares – Season 2 Review

Picking up just after the battle of Sodden, where Geralt and Ciri are looking for Yennifer, the series takes a rather hard right turn. Going in a direction unexpected by exploring more of the things we loved about the original season: Geralt’s monster of the week, but also, Yennifer off doing things in an assertive – out of my way at all costs – sort of fashion. Fans of the video games will also absolutely love that this season takes a lot of liberties in pulling from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt regarding both the lore and its aesthetics, as there are A LOT of cities and kingdoms and even characters featured that you’ll almost immediately recognize from the game.

At the same time, there’s also a bit of The Witcher short stories referenced in episode one as well as the beginnings of the Blood of Elves saga featured in Season 2. Overall, the story goes in a very different direction than fans were probably expecting. Whereas last year featured episodes investigating monsters such as Strigas and Dragons, this one is fascinating in that we spend a lot of time establishing the world.  Less Geralt’s escapism on his adventures with Jaskier and Yennifer, and more about his time parenting Ciri as we learn about the lore and nature of Witchers from the father figure of all remaining Witchers, Vesemir.

Now, one of the most brilliant aspects about The Witcher as a series has been its take on morally grey ambiguity. How monsters are often misunderstood as less-than monsters, and how people are often eviler than the very creatures that are being hunted. Season 2 kickstarts some of this with an adaptation of the short story ‘A Grain of Truth’. A sort of retelling of the beauty and beast fairytale with its own Witcher twist much like last year’s pilot episode, which was actually a retelling of the fairy tale of Snow White but with Renfri. 

With the exception of the pilot, however, this season is mostly set in the Witcher’s home of Kaer Mohren. It’s focused on Ciri’s training and Geralt’s relationship with her and his fellow Witchers. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the story, there are also a lot of political intrigues. Especially in regards to what’s happening with Fillavandrel’s surviving Elves and Tissai’s council of mages, who are increasingly becoming more paranoid after their very close defeat that ended the first war against Nilfgaard. 

It goes without saying that the writing is incredibly tight this season. In season one, fans felt Ciri was a bit underdeveloped, though, in this one, her growth and destiny take the front and center of this story. Watching Tissaia, Yennifer, and Ciri, there’s a lot of development of character from when we first see everyone to where this season actually ends. The writing is also a lot more fairly distributed in terms of screentime, which is rather impressive given how much each character gets to accomplish in a short 8 episode season. 

Henry Cavill still nails it as the gruff hero that is Geralt of Rivia, though it’s really Freya Allen’s Ciri that stole the show for audiences in season 2. There’s a lot of finesse needed in showcasing a Ciri who is looking to take control of her own destiny, and I think Allen does a phenomenal job of winning over the audience to root for her character, her development, and her destiny.

I also think Anya Chalotra and MyAnna Buring are fantastic as Yennifer and Tissaia this season. As Yennifer’s original storyline continues to be layered as someone who incessantly has to prove how strong she is because of how difficult her life has been; while Tissaia, shows us an unprecedented amount of vulnerability we’ve yet to see until now. Mostly, in that, she genuinely cares about the people she loves. 

One bad thing about season 2, however, is the end of the Witcher adapted short stories. Which are honestly some of the best things about the books and are seemingly somewhat finished, especially as Ciri and Geralt are now together. There were also some other small nitpicking differences in how some of the monsters are used this season. Particularly, the Leshen, which was always a strong Witcher monster, though seems somewhat of a shallow usage here. I also was not a fan of the revealed villain this season, as it felt more like a convenient plot device to tie everything together, than an homage to the substantial story/role that character plays. That said, I did like a lot of references made this season about the end of days, which serves as great foreshadowing for the series. 

Elven racism is really touched upon in this season, as humans hate almost anyone with magic. I thought this was a great throughline to introduce for world conflict down the line. One that coincides well with some of the new players we meet this season. Racial tension also sets up for some very major storylines within the books, showcasing the plight of the elves, how each kingdom responds in turn, and most importantly – the build-up of the background intrigue regarding Niilfgaard and Fringilla. 

Overall, season 2 delivers in almost every way you can imagine building upon the lore, the kingdoms, the relationships, and the overall tensions that the first season wasn’t able to touch upon. It seems like Netflix has itself a gem here that will last multiple years. And I for one, am very excited, to follow even more Witcher stories for a long time.

 

For Recaps Of The First Four Episodes Of Season One Check These Out

Henry Cavill is Geralt in Netflix's The Witcher
Henry Cavill is Geralt in Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’. PC: Netflix.

The Witcher Season 1 Recaps: Episodes 1+2

The Witcher Season 1 Recaps Episodes 3+4

Yellowjackets – Saints Review

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Is prescience a thing?

Some say leave it to the Cards. Some say leave it to the Stars. Others say leave it to the Good Book. In this sixth episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “Saints”, I think augury isn’t entirely out of the question.

Young Lottie Matthews (Neli Kastrinos) is in the back seat of her parents’ luxury car. As her father Malcolm (Thomas Nicholson) laments the rising gas to his wife Emilia (Tanya Jade), crippling fear is internalized by the little girl until she shoots out a piercing shriek just as the light turns green. As both staunch the histrionic, a big rig suddenly careens into an unlucky commuter, killing him instantly.

Though mom-dukes can’t get a handle on her gift, daddy doesn’t see Lottie as some prognosticator but rather a headcase primed for therapy.

Out in the wilderness, Akilah (Keeya King), Van (Liv Hewson), and a surly Mari (Alexa Barajas) forage for what little nature bestows. Her losing patience leads to mocking Lottie (Courtney Eaton) for the other night but homegirl gets in a good dig before proceeding towards a clearing where she spots it: a buck with crimson, shedding antlers. Van goes to cool things down but sees nothing at what Lottie’s spotted. It’s still feeding, though, in Lottie’s eyes, the feeding has yet to begin.

At the 2400 Court Extended Stay, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) bumps into blast-from-the-past Randy (Jeff Holman), fresh from his divorce. To keep her alibi airtight, she cites “book club” as her reason for being there. That’s the funny thing about Jersey- you’re either out of your town or you’re in for life. I’m not shitting on my state, but true Jerseyans know how the game plays.

In this case, book club isn’t a tawdry liaison with Adam but rather a meeting of the minds along with Tiassa (Tawny Cypress) and Natalie (Juliette Lewis) to bandy about theories of not only Travis’ murder but also the fifty fat-stacks blackmail tethered to the motherfucker.

Shauna’s bemused having not received the cryptic postcards everyone else got. All three, however, agree not to include Misty (Christina Ricci) in their cabal… but it matters none, as the plucky personality has a little secret of her own. She’s been pilfering patients’ prescriptions for some time and only time will tell what she plans to do with ’em.

In the kitchen, Shauna ruminates on the postcard before hubby non grata Jeff (Warren Kole) reminds her of the traditional birthday brunch for Jackie. This is juxtaposed with Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) in the agonizing throes of childbirth as Jackie (Ella Purnell) guides her through it with Misty (Sammi Hanratty) helping deliver what can only be considered something so fowl, only David Lynch could have thought it up. She got through it and that’s the point. Hey, winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Back at the falls, an au natural Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van share an intimate moment together alone, massaging each other. Tai’s wickedly dirty nails are offensive to Van, but she’s the forgiving type. What’s more disconcerting is her partner’s unwillingness to be open about what they are and even more unsettling, Taissa’s determination to find civilization, cost be damned.

Though Taissa tries to surreptitiously retire back to the attic, Shauna’s awake, and Tai’s joke reveals this isn’t her first subconscious rodeo. The scarier thought Shauna can control in waking life: feticide, DIY style. The bigger bombshell dropped on her teammate though is whose baby she’s carrying, but Taissa swears to get them all out of there by heading south, baby included.

At the Taylors, Mrs. Taylor (Gabrielle Rose) gifts Shauna a ceramic rabbit (her favorite animal), as if Shauna was her daughter’s proxy. I think the more fitting word that ends in a “y” is creepy. Though Adam keeps hitting up Shauna, Mr. Taylor (Kevin McNulty) brings up the subject of Callie, which only raises the awkwardness when both offer to cover her college tuition while belittling Shauna’s inability to provide. Having her fill, Shauna excuses herself.

Checking the rabbit snares with Jackie, which comes up bare Shauna is starving. Jackie does bring up a hunger stronger than that in her gut and such is in the heart. Shauna listens to her bestie pine for one whose seed she’s carrying, but what makes her woozy isn’t the hidden onset of fatigue from doubled-hunger but rather the fact Jackie made Jeff wait for sex. It all seems like a lot, but being the good friend she is, Jackie relents her ration for her bestie. That ain’t making the aural flood of guilt any better!

Meanwhile, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and a very overeager Travis (Kevin Alves) make the fuck out in the only place where quietude and commiserating can co-exist: the blood-splattered cabin of their downed plane. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers, and though Travis is ostensibly frustrated at his lack of prowess, Nat isn’t one to give up someone she clearly like-likes.

Approaching camp, schoolyard jabs are aimed at the two until Jackie takes Natalie to task, casting light on her alleged reputation. Before the pot can boil over, Taissa breaks it up and the two go to their respective corners with Misty admitting to Natalie of a secret boyfriend as well. Good on ya.

Though Taissa’s attempts to withdraw from a joint account are fruitless, Simone’s (Rukiya Bernard) ire leave baby girl beyond reproach. Simone didn’t just see a dishonest stranger at the press conference, she saw something more bestial, and it kind of scares her. Regardless, their son Sammy (Aiden Stoxx) is paramount to Simone and should be to Taissa as well.

Entering Jackie’s room for the first time in ages, Shauna surveys the quarters of a ghost, possibly more pristine than it was left due to her grieving parents. To be fair, this was all just to view Adam’s flirty texts, but Shauna gets a little bit more than she bargained for.

While thumbing through Jackie’s diary, she’s taken back to when they were freshmen, Shauna reciting a script on how she’ll ask for her friend if a guy named Jeff likes her. It’s very sweet and pure, nary a disillusioned intent in the air.

Speaking of specters, Jackie shows up to the party to remind Shauna that it totally was her fault, but that the young know not what they do. Before they can make amends, Jeff shows up and is handed a picture of him and Jackie in those halcyon days. All she wants now is get through dessert.

It doesn’t seem as though that won’t be much of a problem, however, as the Taylors’ further needling Shauna prompts Jeff to spill the beans on them fucking behind their little angel’s wings before uplifting his wife. Let’s call that a half-point in the cheating bastard’s favor.

Elsewhere in town, things are fairing so well for Taissa and Simone, as Dr. Sandlow (Katey Wright) informs them that Sammy’s dissociative/fugue state may take more sessions to snuff out the problem. The bigger problem at hand isn’t what’s floating about in Sammy’s head, but rather what is in Taissa’s. Her clouded mind had her nearly liquefy a cyclist on the way home much to Sammy’s dismay.

At the cabin, Coach Scott (Steven Kreuger) has ‘the talk’ with Travis. Now that ole Pops is six feet under and six feet away from his makeout spot, a surrogate father can only come in the form of he. Girls talk and if Travis is going to play, according to Coach, they shouldn’t have to pay with an extra mouth to feed, so Ben hands Travi his stash of jimmies. With Van indisposed, Coach is now playing goalie!

In the motel, as Nattie cleans her rifle, she’s informed that Taissa’s fucked, family-wise which means they’re fucked financially. Natalie’s on the move though, always with a plan… though it seems the plan may have found her.

Sauntering up to her pristine Porsche, Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) rolls up… with food! Fuck, I don’t care if I am straight, this guy is a steamboat of a dreamboat. Sturdy. Nice to look at. Always dependable.

Anyway, he follows Natalie to the dealership, where she sells the goods for I would assume an easy penny. This teammate is down for the cause and her past must be as buried as the initial six.

It’s sleepytime in the cabin and all seems calm, save for Lottie, who hears something. Extracting the lamp from the hung antlers, masterfully shot as her being an eight-pointer, she ventures into the outside only to find Tai voraciously gobbling dirt. I guess we know where those filthy from before originated.

On the ride home, Jeff is more ‘honest’ than he’s been in a long time. He claims to not be ashamed of their life, of their family, but Jeff also chalks it up to them being young and dumb and at least ONE full of cum.

Though his speech attempts to instill some comfort in her, his “I love you” doesn’t seal the deal but rather is the type of shit you buy at the dollar store just to fix a crack that wastes the whole tube.

At the soccer game of Kevyn’s son, Natalie is only happy to be a spectator but also as the nonplussed One, taking the position his ex-wife would have had. After a brief introduction and a bit of sage advice from the team’s great striker, both can revel in a maneuver tried but seldom successful.

At the cabin, Taissa finds the remnants of the same in the form of a bra that was missing some components.

After asking Lottie where Shauna went and calling her nuts for asking her for eating dirt, Tai goes on the hunt for her friend. Guess her dirty nails from before didn’t come from anywhere, remembrance be damned.

For some guidance and console, Lottie goes to Laura Lee (Jane Widdop), the only one that may not see her as the others do and there’s only one way to discern what is what.

With gut instincts guiding her way through the forestry, she comes across Shauna, about to crudely commit what Laura Lee would burn her at the stake for.

Instead of stopping her, however, she wants to help her.

This is interspersed with Lottie’s baptism. The shots, along with the music have an air of Midsommar, but it’s because something big is about to happen, and it does.

Through a confluence of extreme pain, tears, regret, meditation, and revelation, things are revealed. It’s the most powerful and telling montages yet, so I won’t spoil it.

At the end of the game, Kevyn consoles a traumatic Natalie, locking hands with her, which only reminds her of Travis’ first time on the plane.

He insults by insinuating, but also incriminates by his inaction.

Before the tension can be released, they must be, as a deer is seen skirting by.

As Misty watches both Natalie and Kevyn get busy through her Owl-mister, she mixes up something in her mortar and pestle and rings up someone special, Jessica Roberts. Is she willing to give up the goods?

As Shauna looks over Adam’s BUZZ, Jeff is out for his affair. They may both have a bit of a short-hand, though unspoken, so she may actually get her nut yet!

The one who isn’t going to have a good night is Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma), meeting with Misty in the parking lot only to be drugged and dragged, lest she drops a dime on her. But bed-bound is more of Misty’s speed.

Nat and Travi bringing back bounty to the squad isn’t fairing so well. Though Coach Scott assures the girls shedding antlers is normal, it is only when Shauna guts it when maggots are rife in the fucker and this can only go south.

Speaking of which, now that Lottie realizes she’s not batshit, Taissa only wants to head south come first light. So much for another dance party.

After a night of carnality, grown Natalie gets a BUZZ. Tonight’s the night, and I ain’t talking about that Redman song (which samples Flight of the Bumblebee).

That morning, Taissa, animalistic, at a tree under what seems a pale moon, chomping at the loam as well her fucking hand is awakened by the BUZZ.

After all that, the plot thickens as the blood is wont to do. Things said aren’t as sticky as those unresolved. The writing, as always, is on point, but it just leaves me, as every horror mystery should with a big, WTF?

The Mighty Marvel Holiday Special – Happy Holidays, Mr. Howlett

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Infinity Comics Holiday Special

This X-Men holidays story about a grouchy Wolverine has a surprising amount of heart.

Tis’ the season for the happiest of holidays! In this latest Marvel Unlimited one-off series entitled Happy Holidays, Mr. Howlett, the X-Men throw together a gigantic holiday soiree. It’s a large-scale celebration commemorating every December denominational holiday.  All done in good taste for a very cute X-Men celebrates the holidays sort of theme.

In this Marvel Holiday Special, every member of the X-Men team contributes in both the decorating and partaking of holiday festivities. There’s a bit of all the original X-men in this one. With archangel putting up the Christmas star, Ice Man sculpting up an ice dreidel, Gambit running a children’s magic show, and Psychlocke chopping up an ice sculpture using her psi blades. Heck, do you like Beast? Because not only is he in this special, but he’s also, dressed as a Santa Claus for all the girls and boys!

It’s a campy heartwarming issue with one very special catch! 

Because just like in all the great holiday specials of old, there’s always one character who just doesn’t seem to love the spirit of Christmas. And this team’s cranky cantankerous old Grinch is none other than the whisky drinking cigar smoking Wolverine. Whom despite everything positive all around him, seems to absolutely loathe this Holiday scene.

In this new Marvel Holiday Special one-shot, we see none other than the festive Jubilee try and prod at what has gotten Wolverine so grumpy. As creators, Ryan North and Nathan Stockman, deliver on an oddly good holiday short filled with all your favorite themes and a surprising twist that weirdly sees our Wolverine in a rarely sentimental limelight.

As he goes out with an old…

Well, you’ll have to read the issue and find out!

Jubilee tries to bring Wolverine Christmas cheer

The Mighty Marvel Holiday Special is available on the Marvel Unlimited App.

 

‘Hawkeye’ Episode 5 Review: Ronin

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It’s been a week of Marvel fans getting exactly what they wanted, especially in the penultimate episode of Hawkeye

Spider-Man: No Way Home debuts today. With its villains and rumored Spider-Man cameos and social media buzzing about at the seams, calling it one of the best Spidey-films of all time. No Way Home has gotten stellar reviews thus far, with high expectations that this will be the first big billion-dollar box office hit for Disney for the first time since the pandemic began. 

Why do I mention this? 

Well, the new Spider-Man movie is not the only bit of fan service that Marvel is delivering on right now in terms of arachnid-themed superhero characters. Last week was the return of Black Widow’s sister, Yelena. Which was hinted at, showcased, and on kickass display during the final battle of last week’s Hawkeye episode. A beloved new character featured during last Summer’s Black Widow movie, Yelena Belova was easily the new mantle taker in Natasha Romanov’s fond farewell. 

Played by Florence Pugh, Yelena’s personality in this one is a lot less stoic; a reminder of her all-fun and witty confidence showcased in last summer’s Black Widow. Full of funny wise-cracking jokes and that thick self-assured Russian accent, Yelena’s stellar scenes stand out during her fun girls’ dinner with Kate. Though the beginning of this one delves on some rather tragic backstory as to where she has been this entire time, having been Thanos Snapped into the future… where she learns that her sister is no more.

Yelena’s current status is that she’s on a revenge mission against her sister’s killer: Hawkeye. Though the circumstances as to how and why she’s doing this, do prove to be a plot thread that drives together everything within the Hawkeye series.

Mostly, however, Yelena is there to serve as a bit of a foil to Kate. Seeing as though these two actresses may be the future of the franchises, with Yelena as Widow and Kate as  Hawkeye, there’s a lot of promise to be had that’s seen here for the future of both young women’s franchises in the MCU. The story between both women in episode five is portrayed all for good tension, and even better, character reveals – emphasizing Yelena’s knowledge of the Clint Barton as a weapon plotline, and stressing how much Kate really shouldn’t trust her mentor.

Thus far, the Hawkeye Disney plus series has been mostly a nod about the passing of the arrow. One where Kate Bishop starts to learn the ropes and takes on the mantle of her mentor. Even though it’s sad given how long Jeremy Renner has been with the franchise, and it does seem like in this episode we’re getting resolutions to possibly end his storyline, I do think this series does set it up well in terms of Clint’s closure? Especially, as at this point, we see Hawkeye as a rather tired and broken man – guilted-ridden for his murders as Rhonin, and even more downtrodden, over his role in the death of Natasha… even though we the audience know he was entirely not at fault. 

Overall, the Ronin conclusion is sort of letting Hawkeye’s remaining demons be put to rest. It’s also a strange bond that brings his and Maya’s (Echo) stories to a head together, in what’s easily the most controversial revelation of the MCU Disney+ series to date, and the big thing almost everyone has been excited about on the internet.

BIG SPOILER TO FOLLOW

Because the biggest plot twist for this episode and the big reveal that almost everyone on the internet is going crazy over: was the reveal that Maya’s father had actually been double-crossed. The Ronin was tipped off about the tracksuit mafia, under the orders of none other than the Kingpin himself! Played, yet again… by beloved Netflix Daredevil TV series star: Vincent D’Nofrio!!

It’s a heck of a plotline and some serious fan service, as folks have been strongly wanting to bring back the Netflix series into the MCU fold. With this, being the first time we can finally see it come slightly to fruition. Though we the audience won’t know to what extent, I do think seeing Kingpin added to this universe (and possibly MCU Spider-Verse?) will do nothing but add on some truly deep layers to the Marvel MCU.

With only one finale left and one of Marvel’s biggest villains brought back, there’s a lot to be excited about for Hawkeye! We’ll do a special feature about it next week.

Yellowjackets – Blood Hive Review

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Inherited things can be difficult. If your parent dies, something as simple as a train set could be a burden to keep up the legacy and maybe just as painful.

That pales in comparison to something that was bred into you. I’m not talking about skill but rather a curse. There’s no running away from that. Welcome to the fifth episode of Yellowjackets titled “Blood Hive.”

In spite of their plight, the girls still seem to filch a few moments of happiness with a dance party. As Montell Jordan’s iconic “This Is How We Do It” serves as the track on which team spirit keeps chugging along, the squad is momentarily in sync as one to the joy of Misty (Sammi Hanratty), Coach Scott (Steven Kreuger), and Travis (Kevin Alves). That is until the batteries and no matter how much Van (Liv Hewson) tries to remedy it, turns out the entertainment found them.

Footsteps in the attic give way to an air of dread. Lottie (Courtney Eaton) is shocked others heard it as well. Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is hardly convinced, but Mari (Alexa Barajas) proposes it could be the corpse. Lightening up the room, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) suggests something a bit more grotesque, but Jackie (Ella Purnell) dismisses it all before Coach Scott suggests they all hunker down for the night. Sleep tight!

The next morning, ever the early bird Misty checks on Coach Scott rest, but gets an “eyeful-more”. It’s perfectly okay to be in awe of one’s splendor in the morning! Touching it, however, isn’t, causing Coach to erupt at her and not in a good way!

Sleeping beauty Jackie is wrested from her slumber by Natalie. Having cramps isn’t any excuse either, as the whole team is synced up.

As Akilah (Keeya King) readies makeshift tampons for the team from gauze, a primped Jackie notices Van and Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) doing laundry while Taissa and Nat chop wood. Akilah reminds her that of the two pots boiling, one is for the ‘bloody soldiers’ while the other is breakfast. Before she can indulge in the spoils of others’ labor, Mari reminds her that nobody eats for free, demanding she fetches more water.

At the lake, Jackie notices Lottie in pajamas, waist-deep in it, mind deep in a trance staring out. Jackie writes it off and attempts to fill the pail. Hauling over the fucker only 3/4 full and slamming down on the ground from exhaustion isn’t impressing the girls at chow time either, though we do catch a glimpse of Van making eyes at Taissa. I mean, we all knew it was coming.

Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) offers to help, but Jackie’s curious as to why she’s so chipper. Being late doesn’t sit well with the poor girl, but thankfully Jackie is none the wiser, thinking she’s still retained her V-Card.

In 2021, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) flirts in her kitchen with her new toy, Adam, negating her motherly duties of making breakfast. Daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins) seems to not mind, as she plans to head out tonight. It’s Halloween! and she’s most definitely heading out into the city although according to her mom-dukes, she’s most definitely not. She’s on candy duty, as attends ‘Book Club’.

Even when Jeff (Warren Kole) enters, mom can’t catch a break, staring deceit right in the handsome face. He offers to go, but he isn’t the only one that can pull the wool over another’s eyes.

In her hotel room, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) gets a call from Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) with the unfortunate news that Travis’ system was clean. Though the hottie coyly asks for reciprocation in the form of a date, Nat has bigger fish to fry by eating crow.

Cutely clad in cat ears and Halloween scrubs, Misty (Christina Ricci) picks up. Though she doesn’t get an apology from Natalie, she does agree to reach out to someone that can hack Kevyn’s files. Though shit is starting to get serious, Misty can’t help but celebrate the holiday by scaring a few trick or treaters with taking her patient off life support for a few moments.

Back in the wilderness, Shauna realizes her breasts are getting more tender, so in order to throw the scent off, she falsifies her own rag with deer blood just before Taissa can catch her in the act. It’s a clever move, but only if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to see it.

With Taissa (Tawny Cypress) trailing in the polls by a large enough margin to throw in the towel, Simone’s (Rukiya Bernard) comforting her only brings something from her past to her doorstep- a howling wolf, in plain view, just outside. Though her killer instincts kick in, armed with a letter opener, she finds nothing in the street, only to come back to “SPILL” marked across her front door in red paint.

At camp, though Shauna’s entered her ticket in Aunt Flow’s bucket, Jackie doesn’t exactly care. Fed up with disdainful eyes all on her best friend, Shauna takes the diva aside and tries to teach her how to pop the kneecap of a deer. After refusing to even put in a little effort on preparing sustenance, Shauna’s at the end of her rope as well.

Jackie’s best asset is the pep she brings to the table, and Shauna concludes with even if she had shown more of that boost of morale to a limited goddamn hope situation, she wouldn’t be so fucking iced out. With the team needing their leader back, Jackie’s necklace is returned to her.

As Sammy (Aiden Stoxx) returns from trick-or-treating with his two mothers, Taissa notices a new flyer sent out by her opponent, mud-slinging about how she’s hiding from the truth. Simone thinks her rock should spill on the dude’s junkie daughter, but she chooses to go high. I suppose it matters none, as while putting away her son’s costume, she notices a can of red paint under his bed.

They must be reading Fifty Shades of Grey because Shauna gets her mask on with Adam (Peter Gadiot). Though uncomfortable with her age difference from the attendees, she attempts to enjoy the night.

Deep in the woods, Travis and Natalie attempt their marksmanship. Though his eye is on some menu choices, her aim is on him. His excuse is being deep in the crimson apiary, so it’s clear what he’s not exactly used to, and through a short, flirty anthropological lesson, the scent of the hunt takes hold.

Grown Natalie is visited by Misty, bearing a diffuser for her stress. The rub is that her contact wants to meet in public to discuss the terms of their deal. Natalie isn’t phased.

Speaking of bringing up evidence, Sammy’s confronted by his parents with the red paint. Though he swears he didn’t do it but rather ‘the bad one’ aka a lady in the tree. His reticence only is punctuated by a violent outburst.

In a super blood-red Chinese restaurant, “Stallion99” (Nikolai Witschl) meets “AfricanGrey”, but it’s really the girls that hold the cards. Though he wants in on the operation, he’s at the mercy of a simple flame, thanks to Misty spilling the gasoline Natalie siphoned from her car all over his dick.

At the cabin, both Van and Taissa get to steal a makeout moment for themselves before Mari screaming fucks it all up. Swearing there’s something on her, Taissa makes the tasteless joke of it being the ghost. To diffuse the situation, Jackie ebulliently tries to capture the omnifarious spirit of the team with a silly seance. Though Laura Lee’s protestations run high, Shauna reluctantly backs up her girl for the sake of unity and most are for it. Shit, since there’s no goddamned pitch around, this is the only game they can play as a team.

Among the half-naked crowd about 20 years their junior, Natalie’s letting loose with Adam and enjoying herself! As we now know with the survivors of this ordeal, good times are an illusion… much like the ghost of Jackie, that’s been staring at her. She goes to chase after the haunt of regret, only to find something worse: her daughter.

Shit like that doesn’t take the shit-caked cake though, as Adam goes to comfort Shauna in front of Callie’s very eyes. She’s shaken, but ‘stick in the mud’ mom takes her to at least get sobered up with Molly in her system.

At the homestead, Taissa is censured in her own House. Simone thinks that her play for State Senator is draining her away from a relationship with their son and more eating away at herself, physically as well as mentally. Painful as it is, Taissa will expel herself from the running.

While Misty tries to offer Coach Scott tea with the swelling in the part that is actually chopped, Jackie instructs Shauna on how to set up the candles, with all on the marks on the floor. As they try to ‘get rid of a ghost’, Natalie finds the round in her shotgun was one, with Travis toying with her. The chase is on and only ends with one way- a kiss. I believe their score is now tied.

As Natalie studies the morbid photos of Travis’ autopsy, she finds nothing but ligature scars that make her sting. Misty finds of the scene interesting spots that resemble wax stains and when all compiled, through a black marker, she links an ancient symbol. This is the scar on all the backs of the postcards survivors received.

Back in a happier land, Shauna speaks to her impaired daughter about Adam, but before beans are spilled, “Callie” knows that Jackie came between her and Jeff. The bomb is dropped that her daughter wore her uniform, gifted to Shauna for her 40th by her ‘rents. “Callie” is compromised, letting her true sadness for her mother shine through. This isn’t her daughter. This is her better angel.

As Jackie anoints the team with blood and earth, she summons the spirit with Shauna as the conduit. As Shauna identifies herself as ‘Jacques’, the others laugh. This is the basest of all emotions in times of impending stress. Though Jackie finds it annoying the girls aren’t taking this seriously, the pendulum swings for some of their queries, including Misty’s if someone she digs likes her back.

As frivolity ensues above, Taissa is prepping for survival whilst Laura Lee is studying one of the only useful ‘good books’ – a Cessna Skywagon 185 manual. It’s not enough though to keep Javi (Luciano Leroux) and Taissa from observing what all the fray is about.

Javi asks the most obvious question, which is if they will all perish in the woods.

This prompts some unknown force to send Lottie into a panic before becoming bestial and then French, speaking to the group. As the interpretation goes, ‘It must spill blood or else…’ but just as Laura Lee tries to get Coach to intervene, the violent vomit ensues.

With Lottie banging her head on the window and all of the girls in a panic, only Laura Lee throwing a Bible thrown at her can bring the Banshee to her senses, bring their teammate back.

At her morning press conference in front of the house, Taissa, backed by family is about to concede when suddenly the cards change her perception through the word SPILL. It is the only way that the wolf within takes over, not using her son’s vandalism to capitalize on a lie, but rather to once and for all stand for what she experienced in the wilderness. Politics is a bloody game, so sayeth the survival when certain chips are down.

Though wifey’s spooked the fuck out, the press is eating that shit up.

Back that fateful night, Ben Scott knows that Misty poisoned him. He simply wants to know why, though the answer is clear on both of their ends. She’s underaged and he wants to control the beast inside. Though agreeing to just keep it their secret, lest it becomes more prurient.

Let’s be honest, though, Taissa is only in denial sleeping in the attic to prove nothing happened and it only takes Shauna to grant her company.

Back at home, a hungover Callie, her real daughter is back, trying to blackmail her mother. The only catch is that survivors are one step ahead, so Shauna gives her a bit of a life lesson on cause and effect or at least mutually assured destruction. You don’t play a playa.

In the attic, that same ethos holds true, as Taissa knows she’s pregnant. Secrets painted on lips are the only vanity the girls have to survive.

Shauna searches up her results without being a cause célèbre like the one who knew her secret from the way back, but hers truly makes a stately visit to the rat-trap that is Nat’s digs.

Explaining the whole situation, both receive a text and with that, Misty’s mister was just surveilling all along. Though she’s enjoying popcorn, was this all her doing?

This episode had the most action that I’d seen since the first episode. That isn’t a bad thing. Holding one of the plots on the spookiest night made this all shine through even better. Affecting and affection are at times one and the same, but the series has me in a hold, not wanting to let me go and gasping for where the next thing lies. My guess? It’s possibly where the first true victim is.

 

‘Hawkeye’ Episode 4 Review: Partners, Am I Right?

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kate bishop and clint barton in hawkeye episode 4
Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye in Marvel Studios' HAWKEYE. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Because sometimes partners are made to be broken. 

What’s best about the Disney+ Hawkeye series thus far has been just how grounded Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton truly feels. Usually the cool and level-headed archer, there’s an unprecedented degree of vulnerability to be witnessed in the Clint Barton story shown throughout the Hawkeye series thus far. Whether it’s lamenting over the recent events in Avengers Endgame, in particular, the loss of his best friend Natasha; or the slow budding yet nonetheless trust-building experiences audiences have watched these past few weeks in seeing Clint get closer with Kate Bishop, his young protege, there’s just a humanizing element to Hawkeye that hasn’t been portrayed before. Especially, in regards to his desire to be with his family and seeing Clint play father and husband during the holidays.

Part of this tension in the series can be felt with how this Hawkeye past backstory, referenced directly from the source material in the My Life As a Weapon comic created by Matt Fraction David Aja. It is a tale of Hawkeye which comes into direct conflict with the Hawkeye of the present. And I’m not talking about the bullseye one-shot trick arrow mastermind, but rather, the broken-bodied dad who just wants to spend a Christmas movie marathon with his family, but instead, settles for a day tutoring Kate on how to bullseye coin flips and watching movies with Pizza Dog. 

Episode 4 sees the two finally becoming the partners we knew they were meant to be. With Clint finally giving Kate the due credit for her abilities. He gives her kudos on her ability to catch onto clues, but also, values her skills as a fighter. As she’s grown into someone Clint cares about, as noted by how he distances himself from her, just like all things he cares deeply about in his life – for their own protection from himself and his past sins. Seeing the human side of Hawkeye comes with a lot of pain. And apparently, a ceaseless supply of freezer items for ice packs – this episode, being frozen strawberry daiquiris.

We also see the return of the LARPers. Who are more fun than serious in terms of a side plot, as apparently, all it takes is a rumor to be friends with an Avenger to get them to tamper or steal evidence from their police precinct locker. 

Oh and there’s a big return of a character we all knew was coming in this one. Yet, without certainty as to what role their character will play. We have, however, seen every sign of hints that Hawkeye would tie back to the MCU albeit in smaller-form gang-related conflicts, and less, end-of-the-world Avengers level threats. Which is a refreshing change of pace.

Though all is well with mom, it does seem like there are signs that Eleanor Bishop knows more than putting on. And given that we’re in a superhero world where almost every security firm turns evil for the same plot twist, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Eleanor playing a bigger hand behind the series’ nefarious schemes all along.

Overall, this episode is about getting to know your partners well and the potential of losing the very people you can get close to… but being willing to take that risk anyway. It’s also, a very merry Hawkeye Christmas theme. 

 

On Disney’s ‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Lucky Delivers’ 

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hawkeye

We Breakdown What We Can About Clint Barton, Kate Bishop, and The Dog That Took The Internet By Pizza

Three episodes in on Marvel’s Hawkeye Disney+ series and thus far reception has been positive. The show, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner, is a street-level beat-em-up Christmas special! Serving both as an origin story for the new Hawkeye in archer Kate Bishop, as well as a ‘Clint just wants to be home for Christmas’ tale.  

We break it all down on Talkin’ Hawk on The Workprint Podcast. Available on Google and Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

The first three episodes of Hawkeye have been nothing but fantastic. With a positive RT score of 92 and a whole lot of shoutouts to cheesy holiday‌ ‌action movies (think Die Hard but with Clint Barton) there’s a lot to like about the new series.

In Hawkeye, the infectiously enthusiastic and fast-talking Kate Bishop — who has easily become my favorite new MCU hero — plays protege to the more grizzled yet family-man oriented, Clint Barton. A man mourning the loss of his best friend, Natasha Romanov. Her death is something Clint wants to put behind. Especially, as he seeks to return to his family in time for Christmas. 

The show has been a fun low-key journey featuring battles set in New York city against mobsters such as the tracksuit mafia; there’s also a mysterious assassination plot tied to Kate’s family. But one of the biggest add-ons and stars of the series, featuring the bestest of boys, has been none-other-than Pizza Dog! Known in the comics as Lucky.

 

‘Lucky The Pizza Dog’ 

With gifs, memes, and even his own Funko Pop, Lucky, the one-eyed dog has taken the internet by storm. After a few close encounters where Kate Bishop risks her life to save the dog from the Tracksuit Mafia, we see the adorable Retriever soon travel with Kate and Clint in the Disney+ Hawkeye series and even, live in their place. Audiences quickly learn that Lucky really likes pizza, inevitably leading Kate to name him none other than, Pizza Dog! 

Now, there are few things better in this world than pizza. But co-releasing a comic written and drawn by Jason Loo right on the debut of Hawkeye, comes pretty close. ‘Lucky Delivers’ is a quick one-off story that coincides with Lucky the dog’s debut. In it, we get a fun tale of Lucky investigating the case of Kate’s missing pizza. All verbal and language-free (because dogs don’t understand English silly!) and even encounter, his very own Pizza thieving supervillain!  

Written and drawn by artist Jason Loo, who’d created such hits as The Pitiful Human-Lizard, this short one-off is sure to melt your hearts in the cheesiest ways and is available through the Marvel Unlimited application. And if that wasn’t enough to get your love of Hawkeye and Pizza Dog started, the actor who plays Lucky even has his own Instagram!

We’re three episodes in on Hawkeye. With three episodes remaining, we’ll be sure to cover each episode every week.

 

 

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Yellowjackets – Bear Down Review

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Friendships are a funny thing. They can vacillate. They can also stay true. In team building, they can be solidified. They can be gelled. However, when the chips are down, enemies can become friends and vice versa. In this fourth episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “Bear Down”, we’re shown that a friendship braid can take as many twists as it makes turns.

Spirits rallied, we’re all refreshed, right? Staring death in the face with a plane going down, you’re thinking about everyone but yourself, yes? Unless it’s your dickhole of a father. Tray tables up. Natalie is about to take a bit of a landing.

Awaking from her slumber, she (Sophie Thatcher) attempts to comfort Lottie (Courtney Eaton), but even burying the guy can’t help her.

“Bad Things Happen Here.”

Now “adult” Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is en route, with Misty (Christina Ricci) on call and she’s on a mission to prove Travis wasn’t a suicide case. Misty seems all in, with an alarming sense of alacrity… but the girl has other plans in mind, without her.

While cheerleader Misty (Sammi Hanratty) is trying to soothe a very pissed-off Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) with a song to get over a simple berm (i.e. step), Travis (Kevin Alves) is trying to hunt for food (i.e. squirrels.) After licking off an unsuccessful round, Coach Scott takes hold of the weapon to teach one of the girls how to use it.

This doesn’t sit right with Natalie. I wonder why…

In the palatial double-wide, she was raised in, grown Natalie confronts her mother, now on oxygen, amid the filth and fray, a guest enters: her former self. Sneaking in the ghost of Kevyn Tan (Sean Martin Savoy), she relives a simpler time. When the world could be shuttered off and the only thing more intimate than a kiss was a black nail painting sesh…

…And when the alcoholic, nay, rage-a-holic father (Derek Hamilton) storms in and slut-shames his daughter.

Now that we’re back in the sunny, bright reality of the fallout years later, Natalie gets to redeem the only vestigial ray of sunshine in that dark of a place: her mixtape for Kevyn.

As an adult, Taissa prims and proppers herself for glad-handing, but her creepy child, Sammy (Aiden Stoxx), has eyes on her. Though they dismiss him, there is an ominous air to this heiress.

Coach Scott teaching his adopted squad how to shoot a gun isn’t helping until Travis irks her to be a fitting marksman. Just imagining her dad’s half-blown-off head was enough impetus.

Though Nat gives up a leaf to Javi for writing, as all of this shit transpiring is bonkers, the depression is still felt.

Painting her lips, Natalie remembers her transgression. Her husband Jeff (Warren Kole) is a rake anyway, so fixing up and looking sharp isn’t the worst of crimes.

Speaking of target practice, Coach Scott has live rounds, a starving team, and a will to live. Though Travis licks off most of the shots, he’s not above pointing it at another, and Ben knows this.

His aim is true, but the bullseye for his affection is truer. Natalie can spoil shells with accuracy, but maybe not her adult life.

Not one to be beating around the bush, Nat relays to her bestie the script. Travis killed himself. Or did he?

There’s a true flirting and flitting about, but Misty also has a script too. Granted, it’s culling from geriatric patients, but the news is news.

While Nat follows Travis into the woods, knowing they may have a few more months in the shit, a grown Taissa (Tawny Cypress) meets up with Robert Garrity (Ben Wilkinson). Though niceties are lobbed, there exists pain in these woods. Smiles and handshakes can’t shake what is about to happen. On the menu? Pig.

As Nat and Adam surveil the liquor store, her proposing a guy isn’t the smoothest approach, but they could get fucking lit with cheap vodka and half bottles of fruit juice. Ah, memories.

As Misty knocks back a choco-tini, she’s also got Natalie’s six. It’s too bad reciprocity in Nat’s vocabulary.

At the mixer, Taissa’s being proposed by a lot of business partners. Though they may her ears, they most assuredly don’t have her eyes. That is saved for the decapitated pig… or deer head. Her memory is foggy.

Never mind the white wolf that is following her, white as the ghosts that are chasing her.

All this stress is making her want to spark up a drag, speak up to her constituent Diane Rafelson (Lauren K. Robek) and spill up all those beans. This can only go south.

Detective Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) spots Misty and though the girl’s been keeping a close eye on her, the emotion isn’t seconded. It matters none, however, as Jessica Roberts has a target on her back.

Never mind that Shauna and Adam are having a grand time. We almost forgot that she was chained to the bullshit of a husband. Never mind that his potentially winning shot means she has to let him in on a big secret. We almost forgot that she mentally is still in high school. She kicked the ball to him, so it’s his game to win.

Back in ‘halcyon days’, Akilah (Keeyah King) attempts to protect Misty, but bigger things are at hand. A newfound downed plane. Is it a fresh hope or a scaring off the team captain, who almost got her pretty face shredded off by the blades of something new? Lottie knows something is in the woods but is too scared to tell.

They can’t leave.

Adult Taissa is being smoothed over by Diane, but her sharing deets aren’t exactly on the table. These things are not easily found, neither are they wanting to be.

This matters more so than anything when a defender tells someone else to kiss-off. This isn’t a celebration, this isn’t a lie either. This is truth incarnate and the dirt digger is pushing herself more into the loam.

While Nat squirrels around Kev professed his love for her back in high school, we go back to the forest. Travis isn’t losing this battle and neither is she. Tackling him to the ground, a ring is paramount. Yes, it’s gross and ghoulish to steal it off a corpse, but this is now live. This is now what constitutes living. Welcome to the real world, baby.

Natalie brings the ring back by cutting the shit off. I mean I guess there was no one way around it, to his consternation.

This girl isn’t a rake, and neither is he. His PTSD isn’t holding up well, but neither is she’s. Natalie’s drunk stature isn’t computing, but neither is Keyvn’s.

It doesn’t help that she sent him off packing.

Oh, forget her unpacking. It’s nearly her unpacking. There isn’t some super Saiyan thing! This is one standing and only one.

At the bridges’ edge, Adam tests Natalie. This isn’t his first rodeo but neither is it his.

At the edge of dying, dad lets his daughter knows how to take the safety off. Bad start off to a nightmare.

You just offed a deer and lost your father, but you couldn’t give a fuck for either.

Once Liv sees the stuck deer, all is settled. I mean, dear, isn’t it?

Bleeding the deer out isn’t a question, but slitting the neck is a try. Misty is the only GAME in town, but Shauna offers. They’re eating good tonight!

As they feast, Misty troubles up Coach. It wasn’t her fault, except it was. She simply wants to take care of the hobbled dude.

She also wants to take care of Shauna. Travis is found dead. Her hubby isn’t finding her happy. This shit sucks for all involved.

I’m not aware of the falderal of this crap, but I’m aware of a troubling sign. Warnings abound and I can’t help but be found helpless as a viewer.

The talent in these videos is phenomenal. Our better protectors may lay sweetly but on top of our better halves, they are still dead. This isn’t fucking over our graves, nor is it kicking our dirt. This is a sticky situation. This is our death.

Hey, maybe this is the nicest place to rest next to a god, lest you forget it.

There are worse places to expire.

Unconventional Conventions: What Is DerpyCon? 

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derpycon 2021 logo

For the past decade, Derpycon has brought happiness to guests of all ages by being a fun low-key convention. Which for many, was the first step needed to feel like life was back to normal.

The convention circuit is alive and well again. This fall marked the return of the in-person nerd symposium, with Dragoncon in Atlanta, Pax West in Seattle, GenCon in Indianapolis, and even — I kid you not — the Necronomicon out in Tampa, the centralized hubs for all things unconventional have returned. With the largest showcases in New York Comic-Con, having gone live this past October, and the world’s biggest convention, San Diego Comic-Con, expected back again this past Thanksgiving weekend. 

But how did we even get to this point? This strange time period in history where every sundry of fandom began having its own unique assemblies?  Well, the rise of the convention began late in the 1930s. During the first-ever ‘World Science Fiction Convention’, or Worldcon, a small not-for-profit event done in conjunction with the historically lauded ‘World of Tomorrow’.

the original world of tomorrow in black and white
A rare photograph of the original World of Tomorrow

The second most expensive event ever created on American soil, The World of Tomorrow’s sole purpose was to distract and entertain. To uplift the American spirit by giving it hope for a better future. At a time where the country was suffering from the woes of the Great Depression. The World of Tomorrow was a carnival about scientific possibilities. It inspired much about contemporary science fiction, later, even serving as the architectural design template for Disney’s Epcot Center.

Worldcon on the other hand? This was sort of The World of Tomorrow’s nerdy step-sibling. Meant to be more of a geeky basement sideshow while the big futuristic fair was going on.

Yet, of these two events, it was actually Worldcon that had ended up having more staying power. Mostly, because it was cheaper to produce. In the following years since their debuts, it was Worldcon that became the mecca for all things science fiction. Serving as host to Science Fiction’s most prestigious accolades in the Hugo Awards, and later, the Chesley Awards. Noteworthy guests in attendance of the first-ever Worldcon were writers Isaac Asimov, John W. Campbell, and even, an unknown fanzine magazine editor known as Myrtle R. Douglas. A woman who, along with her boyfriend, literary agent Forest J. Ackerman, became the progenitors of the first conventional ‘Fan Costume’ — better known today as the popular subculture of Cosplay.

Popular as these early Science Fiction conventions were, due to the onset of WWII, priorities shifted in terms of entertainment. As draft enlistments increased, conventional gatherings for all things entertainment became less-and-less appealing. But it was around this period, that a different medium began to circulate around the American zeitgeist. Where easy-to-read colored picture magazines, sometimes serving as US military propaganda, grew ever-increasing in popularity. Marking the beginnings of a new cultural phenomenon we now know as the Golden Age of Comic Books

A boom arrived in America just after the great war. Spending was lavish for those who returned home. The 1950s into the 1960s saw an unprecedented interest in pop culture and Maddison Avenue advertising sold ads at every corner of opportunity. Taking a page out of the classical Science Fiction Conventions, comic enthusiasts followed suit by placing ads out and hosting their own, creating tiny gatherings of comic interest across the nation. Over time, the convention had evolved, becoming popular, elaborate, and widespread, until one very unique convention stood out during the dawn of the 1970s.

It was called the Golden State Comics Convention. It was little more than what the original Worldcon had to offer, with only 300 people in attendance and a tiny signing and meet-and-greet, all packed into a small hotel basement. The convention did, however, feature a few creative legends in its first attendance. These included the creator of Captain America: Marvel’s Jack Kirby, along with the acclaimed science fiction author: Ray Bradbury. 

The GSCC was a major hit in the community. It would later be renamed the one and only, San Diego Comic-Con, known by today’s standards, as the greatest held yearly convention in the world. From just a humble gathering of just a few hundred attendees turned into a yearly phenomenon of thousands, and later, hundreds-of-thousands, over the course of four decades, with over one-hundred million dollars worth of profits made in the city of San Diego during convention season, and no stop in sight for SDCC’s size and scope. At least, up until it all came to a blinding halt when the pandemic began. 

crowd at san diego comic con
A normal crowd at San Diego Comic-Con before Pandemic

Last year, held almost no in-person conventions. Something which hadn’t happened since the early days of WWII. Through much effort, along with vaccines, mask mandates, and a lot of sanitation measures, conventions are now back, and things have seemingly gone back to normal. 

But what is normal? Statistically speaking, unvaccinated children and those at higher comorbidity risks, especially for people of color, have had a much more disruptive experience with Covid-19 — making attendance at such large-scale events feel somewhat… terrifying. 

Since the pandemic began, an unprecedented amount of women have left the workforce, with childcare costs hitting an all-time high due to labor scarcity, and the cost of living growing desparingly high due to inflation and unprecedented supply chain constraints. The great resignation is seeing people quit their jobs in historic numbers. It’s gotten so crazy, that we as a nation, have already almost forgotten that this year actually began with an assault on Capitol Hill. The first time a mob had ever breached the chambers.

Also, there are Covid variants now. Another wave of Delta cases is on the rise right now, with an even greater risk of the new Omnicron variant. The death count for Covid-19 has now crossed over 750,000 people in this country alone (at the time of writing this) and is on pace to more than triple the number of American casualties lost during WWII (291,557).

Suffice to say, I don’t think things are back to normal. Nor do I think it ever will be. I, like many others who’ve encountered loss-after-loss over the past year, am on the more reserved side of Covid-19, and would rather have tested the waters on a smaller in-person convention circuit, than say, New York Comic Con’s 150,000 attendees this past month. 

Which is why I was ecstatic to find that the last convention I attended pre-pandemic — which just so happens to fall on the smaller volume scale of attendance compared to those historically germ-riddled cesspools aforementioned above — was having an in-person event again. The delightful DerpyCon. Returned after a two-year in-person hiatus and one DerpyCon online. 

charlie explains a derpycon

DerpyCon is a New Jersey multi-genre convention that began in 2012 with a focus on anime, gaming, sci-fi, manga, comics, and more. The convention has run every October since its inception in Morristown, NJ. Its first big event was in 2014, with a guest list of only 700 attendees, but since then, has only gotten bigger, doubling in size and space. Branding-wise, DerpyCon attracts a lot of the Bronie community, as it’s seemingly named after Derpy, the googly-eyed My Little Pony from the popular animated series, later turned-internet meme. The convention administrators do claim, however, that this is of no relation.

This year, Derpycon was set at the Hyatt in New Brunswick, NJ, the city that I’ve called home for the past decade. Like so many others, I wanted to do an in-person event again, and so, feeling slightly more courageous after a third vaccine, l thought DerpyCon would be the best convention to cover. So I intended to cover it as a journalist…  

But also, went a trip down memory lane about life before the Coronavirus…

 

Day One

In the facile attempts of pretending that life is good and back to semi-normal, we at first, remember the very things that make us human. Needs. Desires. The moments that take the breath away. Platitudes of hope spoken in stark contrast with the cognitive dissonant reality of anxiety. Comparing ourselves to the existential other and how we choose to act by comparison. The fear of missing out. The longing for human intimacy. For some, it was finding solace around groups of people. For others, it was the very things about the external other people that absolutely terrify us. 

Which is why it took me ninety-six seconds to decide to touch the door handle. 

I don’t touch such things on bare skin. Not anymore, at least. Not without gloves or sanitizer or the sleeves of my shirt jacket. At the very least, sometimes, while a door is being opened, I like to play a game of swiftly leaping through the gap, getting by via the seat of my pants, hopefully, without touching a thing, right after someone opens it. Trying best to hold my breath as I pass within less than six feet of distance as air particles are exchanged with this random degenerate stranger. Masks on both our faces be damned. Air particles are how disease happens. Because, when you’re that close, it can travel through the sides of a facemask, and into the very nostrils of a paranoid weirdo humanoid, such as myself.

Thankfully, the other, rotating main set of doors I’d neglected to see, allowed for ease of access into the Hyatt hotel. Capacious enough to maintain six feet of distance while slowly rotating people ins-and-out contact-free. I had gotten through the door. The hard part was over. The rest was getting back in the saddle.

Immediately, left of the entrance, was a series of rocks stacked atop of one another. A tranquil cairn of stones attached by invisible rods that stood tall as stalactites, jutting from out of the ground. It was an artificially recreated cavern. The prime location for a photo op — which is what the people were doing on those rocks both at that moment and throughout the weekend. 

Conventions are places to take selfies. Upon entering, was no exception. Fall was, after all, the season for photographs, Halloween costumes, and Cosplay. A reminder that the moment just had to be encapsulated on Snapchat or Instagram. Else it never happened. A scary reminder ‘You Only Live Once’, unless, of course, you’re dead.

Perhaps it was being in front of a large group of people again. Maybe, it was just the general longing for fellow humans kicking in. But walking into again DerpyCon, after two years of everything terrible that’s happened, felt like an aura of strange familiarity. This ineffable essence, an overwhelming blanket of belonging merely seconds upon entering. I gazed at the large grey open-spaced entrance hall of a convention hotel and breathed in a mouthful of cloth… sighing in relief. This was home. 

Already minutes late, I boogied to the upstairs Press Ops. Signed in and was given one of those adorable custom-made Halloween-themed press badges. Looking at it reminded me of the Walking Dead badges NYCC had been giving out for the past decade. But the image of DerpyCon’s press badge was of a Funko-Pop-looking horde of chibi-zombies ravenously chasing after a journalist. A spot-on depiction of what it was like doing a press junket in a large-scale convention. 

The badge came with a colorful Welcome to DerpyCon pamphlet map, along with a surprisingly free copy of Ayn Rand’s Anthem that was freely being handed away. Immediately, I thought Ayn Rand was a befitting comic giveaway, especially since it was Halloween weekend during the second year of a dystopian-influenced pandemic that conveniently spared the rich — a narrative Ayn Rand’s writing specializes in (Fun fact: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was the inspiration behind the horror videogame: Bioshock). 

The main hall of Opening Ceremonies was the staging ground where those who run DerpyCon gave the rundown about this year’s events. Finding a spot near the back and squeezing my way in between two cosplayers: a One Piece Pirate and a muscularly toned Hello Kitty, I sat and listened to the Chairmen talk about keeping an eye out for DerpyCone. DerpyCon’s Where-is-Waldo mascot strategically placed around the convention that was little more than a decorated traffic cone dressed in an emoji. 

derpycone 2021

They also shared about the return of the awkward in-person gathering. A celebration that we had conventions again, so long of course, as all participants had a vaccine or negative Covid-19 test and wore a facemask. 

Walking about the convention after dispersing, I noticed a good number of cosplayers in attendance scattered throughout the convention’s long halls. Loki variants were by far were the popular costume of the season, but I also ran into a group dressed as the cast of Stranger Things — ghostbusters edition. The venue was much more open-spaced compared to DerpyCons of the past, as there was plenty of space where people could do photoshoots, sit to rest on the carpet, or even — as strangely often was the case — set up a game of twister with just for kicks. 

The layout of DerpyCon went like so: 

On the ground floor, past the main stage, was an artists alley full of vendors selling an assortment of convention goods and loot, as well as a few tables where famous anime-adaption voice actors were signing autographs. Past the two exhibit halls, at the back of the Hyatt, was a room for check-in. With a tabletop room for board gaming to the right of it, and a manga library to the right of that. On the upper level, were three panel rooms of 30 to 40 person occupancy, a room for cartoon karaoke, a tiny projector room that ran internet memes 24/7 throughout the entire convention, and a Video 9 ¾ room that played not Harry Potter, but rather, different anime and horror movies over the course of the weekend.

But the Creme de la creme for the convention this year? An entire gaming floor dedicated to consoles from every era, along with arcade cabinets, digital projectors, a large flatscreen for multiplayer tournaments, a DDR-like dancing game, and even two dedicated machines for pinball. It was here, where, as is expected during a convention, I ran into a few familiar faces. Friends I haven’t caught up with in a minute, and so, decided to traverse with on day one, taking in what the convention had to offer. 

The first event we attended was Kareoke. Where a DJ played songs submitted via a QR code — the entire process being contact-free. There were a lot of Japanese anime songs selected. The smell of teen spirit in the air, as many in attendance, were young high schoolers and college kids. Youthful young adults with the furor of pent-up liberation, a high-energy mix of candy and cosplay, as they rocked out to their favorite Anime Karaoke themes. 

A teen girl wearing a loose-socked and short-skirted Kogal schoolgirl uniform sang an entire rap straight out of memory from RWBY. Which for older folks who don’t understand this level of difficulty, is like the equivalence of singing the Barenaked Ladies ‘One Week’ rap out of memory. Afterward, a different fellow, not in cosplay, but still as fervently high-strung in spirit, sang the entire theme song to Undertale. 

If you listen above… there are no lyrics to the theme song in Undertale. Just sound effects and strange sound-defying mouth noises. In a strange recitation that drew the applause of this crowd. Making me feel the folds on my face sag into my first wrinkles — because I was officially: old.

When the event began its Disney-themed karaoke battle, and the inexorable selections of Disney power ballads were chosen, gems such as Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ or Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’ — because Disney is all about going places, apparently — we decided to check out the rest of the convention. Feeling less aged by escaping out of the children’s wailing space (To be fair, everyone loved Karaoke, it’s me who acts like a cantankerous old fart despite the fact that my work often requires me to be a glorified man-child).

Now, there were a lot of panels to check out throughout the weekend. Day one featured talks with voice actors Damian Mills, Dani Chambers, and Cynthia Cranz, all of whom I should have asked for interviews from, but didn’t. The first big panel I did attend was a history lesson about demon spirits of Japan. A panel aptly titled: ‘Yokai Girls Gone Wild’.

In it, cultural anthropologist Charles Dunbar spoke about many Japanese myths including the story of the Kitsune — the Japanese trickster fox. It was an informative panel. Surprisingly, con-like — meaning the crowd was small, the conversations engaging, and that discussions, both before-and-after the lecture, were had, as just about everyone in the room pined over their favorites about Japanese mythology.

You can see a clip of Charles doing the talk from years ago at Nekocon above 

After learning a lot about Yokai, DerpyCon’s adult-themed portion of the convention began, where only individuals 18 and older could attend events. This year, the highlight of the evening was easily the performers: BubblePop Burlesque. A geeky group of cosplay-loving body-positive performers who do… well, Burlesque shows, across different conventions in the US. 

We sat in the middle of the main hall cheering on as the performance began. For those unfamiliar, Burlesque is all about hype, with this one featuring women and men of all genders and sizes, performing differing acts while asking for encouragement from the crowd, as well as tips. 

Some of the acts in the show were a kinky ditsy Pokemon enthusiast, a toned yet sleepy slender man in a nap sack, and one performer who liked to step on Legos in their bare feet while doing a striptease. Respectful of privacy, I will omit names and specifics, including the things that were shared in the post-show Q-and-A amongst guests, friends, myself, and some of the performers. I will say, attending this show did forever change my perspective of kitties, and for that matter, the usage of the phrase: “Who’s ready for some Giant Anime Tit-Tays?!?”

Still, I must stress, in the two years I’ve attended, DerpyCon has proven itself to be a rather shame-free environment. With the convention, on the whole, being open to self-expression and being very LGBTQ-friendly. 

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a panel with some of the members of ’The Clockwork Dolls’, who are a Baltimore-based Steam Punk Historical Fantasy band. There was a talk about LGBTQ issues, where band member, Sam Lee (who goes by Allison Curval), and I had a really informative discussion about transitioning. I asked her about a predicament regarding one of my best friends, who is a trans man that, like actor Elliot Page, had gotten surgery as well as testosterone injections to transition. 

I wanted to ask about the stigmatization for being passing versus-non-passing transgender. Which to be honest, I really did not understand, though was seeing more and more in my immediate LGBTQ social circle community, that I was always assuming, were supposed to be allies? The response I got was enlightening. 

I learned that day, as is almost always is the case, that life is… certainly complicated. It all really depends on who you’re asking. Just as there are multigeneration feminists, there are as well, multigenerational trans rights activists, each with their own different views and stories to be heard. That every single person going through their journey of gender expression is different, even amongst the community. The importance being: in understanding the other person’s need to be understood, especially in relation to how they identify and in relation to my own actions (and the heteronormative cis-male perspective), and how we express that identity into the world. 

I learned that at DerpyCon from Sam all those years ago. I don’t think you get that type of conversation from a celebrity interview or an afterparty at New York Comic-Con. 

 

Day Two

The second day at DerpyCon was spent with an entirely separate group of friends. This included one of my AAA contacts from the gaming industry, along with my comics illustration partner for one of the graphic novels I am working on. Which is why it was a uniquely different day. One full of reminiscence. Memories of life before things turned.

Saturdays are almost always the busiest for a convention. They’re the days most people have off. When the children are out of school, and the parents, often go seeking for things to do with their kids. Saturdays are also almost always fully booked from start to finish, meaning there’s something that can be done at every hour on the hour, so it’s best to plan accordingly. 

We spent the afternoon checking out the artist alley. There was a lot of art, plushies, games, and 3D prints for sale, including this cute little Blastoise-dressed Pikachu I posted in the header. The board games and retro games selection ranged from all sorts of goods from the 1980s into the early 2000s. There was a VR racing game setup in a tiny corner next to a portable racing rig, along with several artists who’d drawn manga and anime-inspired artworks, along with the occasional Steven Universe or DCAU fan-prints. In the back, several bins of DC and Marvel comics were being sold, along with some Funko pops and figurines. It was everything you’d imagine being sold in a small convention market, which is honestly, the best place to find rare collectible gems if you know what to look for. After spending money on all this loot, we packed some items away into the car and then explored the things I wasn’t able to do, yesterday. 

Like a vortex of attention-deficit disorder, the distractingly compelling meme room upstairs called upon innocent bystanders like a siren asking, ‘come meme with us’. It was a darkened room with about 20 red cushioned chairs, where a projector that played memes the entire weekend, was left on repeat. We’re talking cat videos, the latest TikToks, and all things trending on the internet. Curious to sit down for a small respite, just like everyone else, we ended up staying for a while. 

The video playing was a sketch parodying the slasher genre. Where the victim, a high-pitched screaming black male — who was taking the role of a white and helpless Karen in a horror movie — took their sweet time in running away from what might actually be the slowest serial killer in history. All from the point of view of the serial killer. The Karen proceeded to scream, then made a sandwich, shared a blood-curdling yelp, and then, decided to warm up and then eat a slice of pizza. Afterward, Karen did a bit of his taxes, and even, fit in a bit of bike cardio, right before the murderer finally crept up and decided to finally go stabby-stab. 

It was hilarious, to say the least, and after a bit of ugly crying out of laughter, I decided to leave the room while my friends kept enjoying more memes.

I walked over next door to the Video 9 ¾ room, which yesterday, played the horror movies Plan 9 from Outer Space and Phantom of The Opera. At the moment, the room was running the first five episodes of Cowboy Bebop, likely given because of the soon-to-be Netflix TV series. Rooms like the Meme and 9 ¾ rooms are really meant for taking breaks at DerpyCon. Though I didn’t spend a lot of time in 9 ¾ because there was a group of teens who were taking up the space to play twister, something which seemed to happen a lot at DerpyCon on a Saturday. I figured, at least it was a free room for use while anime played in the backdrop. One away from the public foyer and the public Derpy gaze.

After leaving the video rooms behind, we headed to the lower tabletop area, which I was concerned about yesterday given all the hand germs, were copies of the Oregon Trail. And that was oddly it. An entire board game room and all they had was a game from my childhood, where I was constantly dying of explosive diarrhetic Dysentery. Or so I would leave on my headstones each time my party failed to reach Oregon.

There were station stations next to hydration stations in every room throughout the convention, and it was obvious given how low the hand sanitizer was in the board game room, it was often being utilized here. There was a good chance the other games were temporarily being cleaned when we checked it out. 

I spoke with my DerpyCon contact that day, regarding all the efforts made to keep the convention safe, there was a lot of sanitation done between every event along with a whole lot of effort being made to protect people with just a skeleton crew and a whole lot of infectious positivity. Which made me relieved. 

Apparently, this weekend, also held tournaments for Settlers of Catan in the game room. We didn’t partake but winners who did would actually qualify for the US championships. Something which I didn’t even know existed until that day. Feeling slightly disappointed with the game room, I was pleased to run into Charles Dunbar again, who was actually there to set up a round of Existential Dread. 

And though I was initially excited as I thought this was going to be us philosophizing about life while playing the Jenga-built horror scenario game known as Dread, I was wrong. Because there actually is a game called Existential Dread. A review of it is linked below.

Heading next door, we checked out DerpyCon’s manga library. Where a group of guys who checked people in at the door, were actually playing rounds of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game. Which was also, a popular cosplay theme of today (I would learn more why, tomorrow).  They asked us to check in our IDs and ironically, my illustrator apparently knew some of the group, having been a frequent attendee of AnimeNext in the past. 

The room itself was surprisingly small. There was a series of round tables set up for reading, and to the left, about two library rows of selected Manga. Browsing through, I recognized almost none of the titles save for a few Warcraft books and some Bleach. 

It was then, that a skinny man in a light blue shirt, about early-40s and looking awkwardly out of place, began perusing the selections across from me. He asked, “Weird, huh? All these mangas. I recognize none of it.”  

“Yeah, me too. There’s a ton,” I replied, and then squatted to inspect the lower shelves to see if anything looked familiar. “There are these World of Warcraft books. That’s about it though. Most of the things I was into were from circa 2004. ”

“Same here. Adult Swim era, right? Ever watch Fooly Cooly?”

“I love Fooly Cooly!” I said a bit overly excited, “Eccentric bass guitar battles?” 

“Sexy bossy alien girl next door? Weird world-ending monsters? What’s not to like?!”

It was at that moment, I felt like a teen again. And, weirdly enough, I think, so did he. That’s sort of the magic of conventions — it brings you back via the story. To that moment in time where it all meant something to you. Before life swept it away with the responsibilities of the now…

“The music was kitsch. I was really into that intro that scene back then, but now? Do they even show anime in Adult Swim anymore? It’s weird though because my kid? Well, she’s really into it. It’s a lot more accepted now. Even cool.” 

“Nice! Yeah, I’m jealous. I kinda wanna show my niece and nephew one day, the things I like to watch. I started with Steven Universe, right? But the kiddo’s terrified of monsters. Still too young,” I laughed remembering that one time when I showed my nephew the children’s series. He had curled into a terrified little hedgehog ball and nuzzled his way under my armpit, scared when one of the Crystal Gems had bubbled one of the centipede monsters. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old’s your kid?”

“Fourteen. She’s the best. But um… well… I-I kind of only have her for the weekend,” he said with an uncomfortable change in tone, “It’s complicated.” 

“Oh?!” I replied without pressing the issue. 

“I just thought we’d bond over this trip? But she’s off with her friends. It’s good. It’s just… I… don’t know what to do? I’m just here… trying to see if I can find something she’d like… talking to a complete stranger… Not how I pictured the weekend going.”

He looked at me with a look of guilt. I wasn’t sure what to say. Painful public silences say more than words, and so, feeling incredibly uncomfortable for about ten seconds, I tried for positive reinforcement, “Well… Um… You picked a good place to be! You know, they are playing some anime upstairs? A Cowboy Bebop marathon is happening… Just an idea. Maybe you can show your daughter?”

“Maybe. Thanks,” he said in fake reassurance, “What you here for anyway?”

“Journalist. Trying to capture the DerpyCon experience. You here for the whole convention?”

“Just today. I don’t… get custody often,” he said with a complete lack of conviction, “I dunno. It’s hard. Ya know? All of this. Everything. Life was already pretty intense before. But this pandemic? It just made being able to see her even harder. I only get this small window to try and do so much? It’s like, no matter what I do, the universe has a way of saying nothing I do is good enough this year. I’m just… I’m tired of feeling so alone.”

I don’t really remember what was said after that. I did try to reassure him. Shared with him, all that I’d seen throughout the convention, including everything that you’ve read thus far, reader. But honestly, this was kind of hopeless. It wasn’t really about the convention. It was someone sad wanting another person to hear their story.

When we realized we didn’t want to spend too much more time in the library, given all the big events happening, we grabbed our badges and left. The main event of Saturday was the Masquerade Cosplay showcase, which was basically the best costume competition, but sadly, given how popular the event was, we couldn’t get inside as the room was at max capacity. 

So we went people gazing. Around the convention at that moment, there were a lot of werewolf outfits. And kitties. And… bears. In fact, I began to notice a theme. That there were a lot of people upstairs in furry costumes on Saturday evening. People dressed in animal skin costumes from head to toe, who were often, to the side somewhere, who then disappeared for chunks of time throughout the convention — but I digress.

After showing my friends the karaoke and game room, I was starting to feel famished. Having to meet with his girlfriend for dinner, my illustrator parted ways with us, while me and my gaming friend, went for some grub in New Brunswick.

The city of New Brunswick itself has a lot of history. The aptly nicknamed ‘Hub City’ is home to Alexander Hamilton’s alma mater, the Old Queen’s Campus, later known as Rutgers University. The only school from the classical 1700s United States to reject Ivy League status. Atop of this, New Brunswick is home to the NJ State Theatre, one of the state’s oldest performing arts venues. Likewise, its Courthouse serves as the premier law institution within the county. 

More importantly, New Brunswick is home to Johnson and Johnson, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company — which influences just about everything built about the city from its numerous hospitals, medical research facilities, restaurants, and even its infrastructure and architecture layouts. If Resident Evil’s Racoon City were an actual living-breathing place in real life, it would most likely be New Brunswick, New Jersey. Which was all the more reason it was the perfect place for a Halloween convention. 

We began with a walk across George Street. The heart of the Downtown district. Named after the benevolent despot King George I, the Duke of Brunswick, George Street was where you went to drink when you were too old for College Avenue, but just old enough, where you were a semi-working adult, high-functioning alcoholic. 

There was a 10% discount for convention attendees at many of the local food joints. There was some of the savoriest pork-broth at Ramen Nagomi, the exotic new Cambodian featuring homemade Chili Mayo at Cambo Box, outdoor jazz music and pub venue at the George Street Alehouse, and another popular city brewpub known for their in-home beer distillery at the Harvest Moon Brewery. However, given that Blackthorne was the official late-night venue of DerpyCon 2021, and the fact it was quite literally across the street from the convention, we choose to eat there for the evening.

Touting food and drink specials as well as late-night musical entertainment at this Irish-themed tavern, Blackthorne had a decent selection. Plus, a pint of foamy-headed Guinness on draft, along with some bangers and mash, or better yet, a creamy shepherd’s pie, did sound divine at the time. Carbs and beer being refueling essentials for an all-day convention. 

But to be honest, being at Blackthorne reminded me of days before Covid. When this place was a New Orleans-themed Jazz Bar called the Old Bay. Back then, the Bay was the place to be for late-night 12 a.m. romps with local musicians and artists, meeting fellow young locals, and going on a cascade of dates, both amazing and awful and on some occasions, swinger-friendly. 

The manager of the Old Bay, a buddy of mine from my bar-rat days, had actually left the joint when the original owner had died and decided to open his own bar down in New Orleans. All during the heart of this Pandemic. It’s called Jinx and this was sort of his dream. The realization that life had to be had now, at the moment, because no one knows when the next one of these possible world-ending events will be on the horizon. 

I heard recently that comedian Craig Robinson has been visiting recently. Which was poetic, given that Tommy was a stand-up comedian in the scene in-town. The city was also home to the famed NJ comedian Vinny Brand, who owned the Stress Factory Comedy Club, right across the street. The venue hosted shows with some famous stand-up acts such as Drew Carrey, Gilbert Godfried, Dave Attell, and even, Chris Rock. I even remembered taking a date to the Bay one night after seeing Louis C.K. live in the city — before the comedian’s shitty revelations. 

It’s fair to say, my entire 20s were in this town and a lot of it was at this bar. Fistfights and stop signs. Alcohol and cigarettes. That time we were kicked out by Ed, for puking in one of the outdoor flower pots after a few too many. A flood of memories overcame me, and during dinner, I couldn’t help but talk about some of them. Just like I am right now. Though there was one particular story that came to mind…

One evening, about five years ago, on a light snowy day in the front of the Old Bay, I was smoking one of my red cowboy killer cigarettes, when I had met a beautiful woman at the small church across the street. She was in the graveyard. Slender, with long blonde hair, a petite physique, and piercing blue eyes. She was doing her best to tiptoe about as to undisturb the graves, and smiled and awkwardly waved hi, in her white winter coat, highrise skinny jeans, and fingerless hand-knitted mittens. Intensely focused, she was taking photographs of some of the gravestones from the 1800s with her DSLR. 

Curious, I approached and asked what she was doing. She smiled and laughed slightly embarrassed, saying that she wanted to see if she could capture a ghost from the past in a photograph. I was love-stricken, in a strictly chemical way, in a way that my brain acknowledged that my emotions were irrationally propping this princess up on a pedestal and it would be better to ask her to the bar to get to know her. 

I learned that she was a violinist in town for a concert at the State Theatre, working as an orchestral musician for some famous musician, whom to be quite honest, I didn’t really much care for. Possibly, Rod Stewart, though again, I can’t really remember. I told her my story, my mental health job, and more importantly, my dreams of being a screenwriter. 

She shared with me what it was like living in LA. Touring across the nation as a concert violinist, a dream job in every way up until it wasn’t, and that sort of conflicting loneliness that affects you when you’re spending too much time on the road for too long — and never at home. I asked her why she’d chosen to play the violin. She said that she never really thought about doing anything else because she loved doing it. And it made her happy. She asked me why I write… 

“You love it though, right?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, does it make you happy?” 

“I think… it’s familiar. That gives me comfort. But I don’t know if happy is the right word. I really don’t know how to be happy. The same way I don’t know how to not write. Sometimes, I think it’s a lot easier to express the things I want in words, rather than in real life? I can control the story here. But real life? That gets complicated. It’s scary. People are terrible to each other. Things get bad. People die. That’s sort of my story. I don’t think happiness is why I write… the truth is, writing is the only way I know how to exist without feeling so hurt at the end of the day.”

After dinner, we returned to DerpyCon and went back into the gaming area — which was arguably the best thing about the convention. The games available were many, including Street Fighter, Donkey Kong, House of The Dead, Uncharted 2,  Persona 4 Arena, Pump Prime 2  (a DDR-like machine), Turtles in Time, Tekken 4, Halo 2, Crash Bandicoot, GTA: Vice City, a whole lot of Sonic, and a whole lot of Mario Kart — for every generation. Oh, and Soul Calibur, Centipede, and Jak and Daxter. The entire gaming dungeon was run by the Save Point store, which sold old console games from every generation. And after some Aladdin and Turtles in Time, we played Mario Kart, and then called it a day.

Actually, no. Then, I took my friends to the Bubblegum Pop Burlesque show. This time, it was a Halloween-themed event. Almost everything was slightly different.

 

Day Three

On the final day of DerpyCon, smack-dab during Halloween itself, were a lot of people dressed in Yu-Gi-Oh cosplay. Including a few with a full-on arm deck holder, just like in the Anime. I saw some Seto Kaiba’s, Dark Magicians, Dark Magician Girls, and really, just a surprising amount of Yu-Gi-Oh fans — myself being a closeted one of them. Having grown up with the show, and playing the card game with my best friend as a young teen, it actually only occurred to me on that last day: that the reason there was so much Yu-Gi-Oh was that it was the convention’s biggest guest.

And so, I attended a Q and A with two voice actors from the show. Erica Schroder, whom many may recognize as the voice of Mai Valentine/Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh, Nurse Joy from Pokemon, Emma frost in X-men, or best of yet: The Pokemon, Eevee. 

Though with Erica, doing a digital Q and A via a gigantic projector behind her in the main hall, was voice actor, Dan Green. An actor whose voice many anime fans may recognize as Mewtwo, Entai, and of course, the titular character of Yami and Yugi Moto, in the hit children’s animated series and Pokemon rival: Yu-Gi-Oh!  

Like actors Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Calista Flockheart (Ally McBeal), Dan Green was actually, a Rutgers New Brunswick graduate himself. He was here doing several digital panels, as well as promoting The Heart of The Cards Podcast. I assumed DerpyCon had him as to guest for this very reason. 

During the panel, Dan revealed his absolute love of the Campbellian myth. How he’d learned to really embrace it during the time of quarantine, and really, how Monomyths influenced almost everything in storytelling. Meanwhile, Erica replied to a question regarding the fan-shipping, or desire to see two characters romantically together, in regards Joey and Mai from Yu-Gi-Oh; and how, on one funny occasion at a different convention, the two actors pretended to recite their character’s love — in a Shakesperian accent. 

After several other questions, the actors talked about what changed during the pandemic, such as the rise of the at-home studios. As technology with zoom-like programs became standard and people generally loved doing the work from home. They spoke about how voice acting is not what used to be 20 years ago and compared it back then to now. 

For instance, Dan revealed they had actually never got a full script for Yu-Gi-Oh. Just brief character descriptions, where you’d have to travel into the heart of the city, into a recording booth, and be given directions. With maybe about 10 minutes of prep time for a 5-minute booth session. 

Erica shared that it was much harder back in the day because the actors really had to really absorb the script and release their take on the material almost instantaneously, compared to nowadays, where long practices could be recorded and edited over long periods of time, for a single perfect take. She stressed the need for improvisational skills back then, as often, you’d only get 2-3 line takes right away.

After the panel, Ericka stayed for autograph signings as Dan did a voice acting guide online with any guests in the main lecture hall. I did a rundown of the convention with the group of friends I was with, and then we broke for lunch, making it back only in time for closing ceremonies. 

It was revealed at Closing that due to the Delta Variant, there were only 3 months to plan for DerpyCon compared to the usually 18-months to prepare for a program. When asked for possible improvements for next year’s Derpy,  they mentioned more card game tournaments being a possibility with Magic The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh in the future. The closing events also gave away prizes, gift cards, and loot. We also learned that 1,387 people were in attendance over the weekend.

 

Unconventional Conventions

A lot of the convention work between program guides, posters, talent, logistics, and dates, is all in due thanks to these overworked volunteers. Folks who run these conventions and struggle to make it happen without the large-scale budget of a big Comic-Con. They are the unsung heroes of these little happy gatherings, who do the work for the same reasons I choose to write: because we just know that we should. That doing so makes the world hurt a little bit less, and that just maybe, that little joy of escape is more than enough to warrant the need for them.

There’s a certain love to be had of smaller conventions. The friendships made, as well as the stories crafted along the way, which honestly, I feel is a lot more intimate at a small con than at some of the large-scale ones. What I really like best about smaller conventions, is that the towns themselves sort of become a character in the experience. Small conventions can bring out a whole culture of fandoms, and really, serve as sort of a testament to the resilience of folks wanting things to get back to normal. Wherever there are ideas, and more importantly, whenever there are stories, you’ll find a convention.

I don’t know if things return back to normal. Nor, do think that they should. But I will say, that in regards to this new reality of conventions coming back — whether under weird guidelines, happenstance coincidences, and living-on-a-prayer hopes that there isn’t some massive new outbreak — I think they’re important.

Maybe, from now on, all conventions from now on are just unconventional conventions. And that’s okay, so long as they’re there, as we figure the next part out.

 

 

 

Yellowjackets – The Dollhouse Review

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Courtney Eaton as Teen Lottie in YELLOWJACKETS, "The Dollhouse". Photo credit: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME.

Sometimes, when you’re weary and wandering in the woods, anything can be a place of refuge… until it’s not. Welcome to the tertiary episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “The Dollhouse”.

At the crash site, Van (Liv Hewson) shares a few kind words about the deceased. With detritus of the wreckage providing the departed’s only tombstones, all six of the departed have a semi-proper resting place.

Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) leads the living in prayer, igniting a flashback in Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) being a child, watching her dying Nana (BJ Harrison). With this, she breaks from the pack.

Presently, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) has her own problems to deal with, as a new smear ad has hit the airwaves, zeroing in on speculation of her past. Simone (Rukiya Bernard) advises her not to capitulate to the political beast, but rather put that energy toward her son.

Meanwhile, Shauna’s (Melanie Lynskey) watchful eyes are zeroed in on Jeff (Warren Kole). She tests her ‘beloved’ by asking him to pick her up from dropping the van off for repairs around 4, the exact time his mystery text from the last episode asked to meet. He insists work is paramount. At least something fucking comes first in that relationship.

Elsewhere, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) finds little reprieve from Misty’s (Christina Ricci) dating history. At a gas stop, she finds that Misty had torn out her battery cable. Now they have no choice but to be road besties! Misty emerges with chocolate for her road pal and jerky for herself. I’m with Nat on this one- really, Misty, really?

At camp, supplies are VERY scarce, so rationing is key. As Van doles a little out, Travis (Kevin Alves) snatches a whole fucking snack, much to the protestation of the others. Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) reminds them losing his pops entitles him to be a cock for the moment. Even Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) saccharine optimism is wearing thin for the squad… with no rescue for 72-damned-hours!

The dude’s tantrum isn’t without merit, throwing the mini pretzels at Javi (Luciano Leroux) with a tension you could still cut with a knife.

Unsurprisingly upbeat Misty (Sammi Hanratty) insists Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) nibble on something she snagged as part of his pain pill regiment, giving off eery maternal vibes.

Lottie (Courtney Eaton) goes to check her survival kit for the anti-psychotics. She may be down to her last one.

Taissa swoops in with news of a lake some miles away. Jackie still holds out adamant hope of rescue, but those words are fastly falling on deaf ears, so Taissa then puts it to a vote.

Those in favor of waiting for death top out at Jackie, Lottie, Laura Lee, and Mari (Alexa Barajas) while the opposition, including Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), handily outweighs it.

Van jacks the plane’s compass, Shauna indicates their destination on its exterior, Coach Scott is carried out on a makeshift stretcher and off they go to a source of hope stronger than Jackie’s fleeting words.

On the trek, though Jackie rebuffs Shauna’s offer for a sip of water, Taissa is thankful for her vote, though Shauna is in the dark as to whether it was the right call.

Outside of Jeff’s furniture store, Shauna sits and waits like an animal stalking until, gift box in hand, hubby heads to his car and makes a break for it. The hunt is on, leading her to a hotel lobby. To be fair, who the shit didn’t see this coming?

Along their hike, the girls come across the true reality of their surroundings: an eviscerated black bear being picked clean by a turkey vulture. A wolf can kill anything if the pack’s big enough…

At the park with Sammy, Taissa gets a ring from Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma). So far, recon shows nobody’s talked, so Taissa wants her to keep digging, lest she is the lucky recipient of an October Surprise. Jessica says fuck integrity, starting with her opponent’s junkie daughter doing three stints in rehab with a buried arrest. Before she can agree, she must first tend to her son’s fit of anger on the playground. Though Taissa apologizes for him, Sammy’s (Aiden Stoxx) eyes hold zero remorse.

In the woods, Van leads the way, but Taissa is acutely aware of someone or something watching.

Taissa plays their son’s tantrum off, but Simone is worried. Apparently, the other kid claimed Taissa was a ‘cannon ball’ so she believes if they must hit back politically, justice begins at home. Taking away Sammy’s doll only incites an infernal stand against his mother. Though reproved, both parents are pretty fucking shaken.

Before the girls could lose all team spirit in the woods, their first real win appears before them: a massive lake. This prompts elation and disrobing, as the hard-earned win takes form in a bit of a swim. Even stick in the mud Travis gets in on the fun, splashing Natalie. Mari questions if Travis, shirtless and wet is turning hot. Natalie silently considers the thought.

Misty and Natalie finally arrive at Travis’s spot in the boonies. After a knock doesn’t suffice, Natalie takes matters into her own elbow, breaking the glass. They survey the house, with Misty going on about Travis possibly having flown over the cuckoo’s nest.

As Misty checks outside, excited about rummaging through his refuse, Natalie scouts about. She finds the only flannel shirt he’d in the wilderness as well as a photo of the both of them from presumably happier days. She suddenly spots his visage in the mirror only to turn around to nothing. Emotion runs high in this one, though her insouciance precludes her from ever showing those cards.

At the lake, while Misty flirts with Coach Scott, Taissa notices Van in the water in more than a friendly way as she braids Akilah’s (Keeya King) hair. Shauna notices Jackie purposefully bonding with Lottie on the beach to make her jealous.

At the house, Misty arrives with a paystub from a ranch, raising flags because the bottle of booze out on his table is rather expensive. The jig is up, however, as they’re caught by local law enforcement since they broke and entered. On their knees with hands up, Natalie has full confidence in having the true upper hand.

On the other hand, luck doesn’t favor Shauna, attempting to blag a keycard to loverboy’s room. Being with Homeland Security isn’t a line that has looks good on her until rakishly handsome Adam (Peter Gadiot) plays along, saving her from a potential scene. He’s there to grab a martini at the bar and invites her to partake. She reluctantly accepts.

Speaking of those in need of a legit bailout, Misty and Natalie are clean in the slammer. Natalie confronts her cohort about her rigging the trip. Misty’s intentions were simple- with two cars, she was fearful Natalie wouldn’t accept her company.

No time for rumination, as Natalie is granted her call.

While Taissa is doing a bit of research on her opponent’s daughter, Natalie reaches out. Turns out that Tai funded her rehab, but this time it’s different. It’s for Travis and though Taissa claims Travi went ghost on purpose, no amount of plaintive words from the jailed can keep Tai from hanging up.

As the girls are having chicken fights, Van notices Taissa noticing her. Among the frivolity, Lottie notices beacon yonder. It’s not her meds wearing off either, as they all notice.

What they find is a moss-covered log cabin. Lottie senses something off about it, but the rest of the girls continue on in to find the walls adorned with cobwebs, deer skulls, and animal pelts. They also find what may be ritualistic candles alongside a bowie knife. The foul stench ain’t making this find any more Disney either.

Scouring the place for anything of use, Jackie comes across food, but after finding it rancid, Jackie doubles down on her wanting to stay by the plane. Oh, baby girl, you may have been the captain but have you kept eyes on your manager? Looks like she may be taking your spot!

Overwhelmed, she darts outside to anoint the gnarly rash on her thigh and let the deep-seated emotions surface. Shauna notices. Van lightens the mood inside by unveiling the big stack of found porn to the girls. This clearly was a hunter’s home, and from Lottie’s gut, maybe not the most kind of spirits.

Travis snags a mag and ventures out into the woods with Javi in tow, wanting to see. Nervously chewing the gum he was commanded to spit out before, big brother puts the ‘lock on him, asserting that their dad, Coach Martinez was a dick. Natalie witnesses this from afar.

With Natalie back in the cage, Misty’s now up for her singular cell.

At the hotel bar, Adam relays his story to Shauna as to why he quit the NYPD to move back to Jersey, but all she can do is keep her eyes fixated on the lobby. He’s concerned.

“We are who we pretend to be. So we must be careful in who we pretend to be.”

Shauna fesses up, grabbing the attraction of Adam even more. In that honest moment, both notice Jeff and a blonde stroll through the lobby. Her cover story is blown and she bluntly asks Adam why he’s there. His honest answer is that something might have drawn him there, as he doesn’t ask the universe where and why he’s needed- he simply heeds the call.

Misty returns victorious, having called Kevyn Tan. He’s been texting with Misty, convinced she’s Natalie because she’s posed as her. Misty merely craves a chat partner on the ride home anyway, but there’s only one problem- going home isn’t on Natalie’s agenda.

As flies begin to pester a very ripe Coach Scott, Shauna tries to make amends with Jackie, citing what’s wrong or right in the wilderness isn’t so black and white.

She’s scared and just wants her best friend, so Jackie offers her bestie some empty words of comfort: the worst is behind them.

That’s when Coach Scott down falls from swatting the flies, cursing the heavens on high for keeping him alive. He backhands Misty as if she were his biggest gadfly, but the outburst doesn’t phase her. The girls firsthand get to see the nurturing nature of one that has been overlooked. The woods know no emotion, so at least someone has to goddamn compensate!

As young Taissa (Bailey Burr) comforts her perishing grandmother, Nana notices a man with no eyes. So does Taissa. This apparition shows as it takes sight.

Adult Taissa attempts to make amends with Sammy. His one simple query is why his own mother isn’t liked. Her diplomatic response speaks volumes of her character and conviction. He knows she isn’t the bad one, but her inquiring who else is has him keeping mum.

This gives her pause just before reaching out to her opponent, notifying him of his daughter’s drug arrest. This is a mere warning shot because, to be honest, the most dangerous people can still rain down terror with one less bullet.

Venturing outside of the cabin at nightfall, Taissa approaches Lottie. The girl has a really bad feeling about the place, but the hell if Taissa is going to let her teammate be devoured by wolves, so in she must go.

It seems as though Shauna takes full advantage of the hotel, as she enters room 2106 with a reluctant Adam advancing inside. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em! Mehh, poor choice of words.

That night, something awakes adult Taissa from her slumber, just as it did her teen self that first night in the cabin. A montage reveals all three generations of Taissa being drawn to something she’s feared all along, culminating in a tasty surprise that had Lottie convinced the whole time.

Misty and Natalie approach Willow Brook Ranch. Proceeding inward, they find a strung-up Travis (Andres Soto), causing Natalie to break down. Misty toughens her up for the moment, as they hear sirens in the distance.

On the car ride, Nat’s convinced that Travis didn’t off himself. Misty hands her the last thing he wrote: “TELL NAT SHE WAS RIGHT”.

This episode was a lovely build-up to things that can only go horribly south. The character building with Taissa throughout the years was a nice prelude to horrors on the horizon. Misty’s demure is also something of interest, seeing as though she was never officially on the field in any capacity. If this is their pitch, let’s see if they all play their positions right.

Yellowjackets – F Sharp Review

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yellowjackets f sharp

Previously on getting fucked in the eyes of a goddamned god:

The girls freak out, as everything and everybody is in chaos. Misty’s (Sammi Hanratty) irises grow only larger, enamored by the impending shit they’re about to come in contact with. In this second episode of Yellowjackets (Showtime) titled “F Sharp”, maybe this is one of those times.

We cut to Misty, back in middle school. The peal of her phone sends her running to her big lips phone. I always wanted one of those, not those fucking stupid hamburger phones that were more of the rage. Who the fuck answers a thing to a thing you eat?

On the other end is Becky informing the poor girl that they heard through the grapevine that she had anal in the janitor’s closet. The laughs on the other end are palpable, but long live fucking threeway calling, the fucking bane of all gossip. They proceed to make fun of her, calling her out on being too ugly for a position where the face isn’t even requisite. I know that pain, but more on that later.

“Opinion is the wilderness between honest and ignorance.”

This will serve Misty well now since the cabin crew couldn’t take their fucking seats for landing! I mean, one could take a bump, but with teammates skewered through and others grasping onto dear life, vanity is not out of being saved.

When those fucking chips are down, getting out of a firey and flashy flight can be instinctual and instructional. Only the prettiest come out the other goddamned side with scars and life.

As Jackie (Ella Purnell) tries to wrest Shauna’s (Sophie Nélisse) soul out of her drugged-up corpus, the other bandy together to force the emergency door open. A door that was meant for water, complete with a waterslide, not terror and despair.

Oh, did I mention fucking regret? As Van (Liv Hewson), their last line of defense is left fighting the grips of Death as Jackie bails Shauna out to safety. Damn, girls, you have yet to compete and you’ve already just lost.

As the carnage revolves around her, Shauna ‘takes a good hard look at her life.’ Taissa questions about Van before the cockpit explodes, rocketing her to the afterlife.

Misty, being the only one to search for immediate finds Coach Scott (Steven Krueger). After a concerted effort of lifting a wing off of his leg, the team isn’t prepared to tell him the truth that his right leg is looking like pasta at Sunday dinner- a meal that didn’t sit right with most of them.

A slightly singed Van is still alive though!

Before anyone can celebrate, Misty emerges with an ax, chopping off the poor bastard’s limb to the unmitigated dismay of the squad. Before this can sink in, Misty reminds her fam of the goal at hand- save those who still have a pulse, including Coach.

In the present, Misty (Christina Ricci) is on a killer of a date, who reluctantly agrees to stay for one last drink. The gal sure knows how to pick ’em!

Back in the thick of it, young Misty instructs the crew exactly how to tend to the survivors. She’s a one-woman Red Cross, but even so With that, Jackie dismisses her. Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) knows that the only antiseptic may lie in Natalie’s (Sophie Thatcher) bag for obvious consumption… but they decide to use Jackie’s astringent anyway. Shit, in these woods, the only way you can look ugly is if you’re not fucking sharing!

In 2021, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is getting a call. We’re miles away from her home, but never too far away from pain. Callie (Sarah Desjardins), on the other line, vapes, not giving a fig about the meat that should be thawed for dinner. In trying to explain what it looks like, Shauna gets into a bit of a pickle. I mean fender bender.

Instead of taking the blame for the encounter, she simply calls him an asshole. He seems to be flirting, asking for her number, as he can ‘claim injury’ but the funny thing about a choice encounter is you don’t know who really is OR can be the victim.

The unsettling thing about this is no formality is involved. They scrawl numbers on their arms as if they were back in high school. This suave wolf low-key excites her.

Cut to a one-on-one interview with her and hubby, Jeff (Warren Kole). The inquisition out of the gate concerns intimacy. For them? Non-existent, through so many words. “Busy” and “late nights” are the gospel they both sing. Speaking of honesty and ignorance, the therapist wants them to share something behind closed doors they’ve never divulged before the shared act of carnality.

A present Misty is dropped off by her date, and therein lie the popular two-person conundrum of when to leave. In her defense, a younger version would know what to say and when to say it, but the years have done their job. Rust knows no age.

After asking him to come inside, she’s rebuffed.

Old wounds never truly heal, girlfriend, they just become beautiful scars. Physician heal thyself as well!

Taking pity, he proceeds in but Natalie (Juliette Lewis) awaits a more exciting night, rifle in her clutch. Check, please!

The postcard of those Canadian Rockies with a hieroglyph on the back had brought them together to surely not tear them apart.

As Nat follows Mist into the kitchen, barrel not two shots before a Pollock painting, Misty shows she was the recipient of one as well. They’re about to have a night of hard drinks and harder facts to figure out what the hell is going on.

At the bar, Natalie is in recovery mode by way of drinks. They say alcohol could set your memories in cement as well as leave them in quicksand.

Misty’s built a whole case file while her ‘superior’ just feels that this should be tackled head-on. This includes Jessica Roberts, whom Misty thinks is a joke, but Natalie finding Travis’ license is a bit of a game-changer.

This is before the girls are gifted drinks from a grown-up goth, Kevyn Tan (Alex Wyndham), detective. In Jersey, though it may never be a ghost town, a town never forgets ghosts.

Back in the thick of it, with teen Misty performing as a one-girl-triage, Javi (Luciano Leroux) looks for his father. Natalie is left up to find Travis (Kevin Alves) until she finds him. He knows the game and though she prompts him to go help his brother, he does so with ire.

In her nice estate, a grown Taissa (Tawny Cypress) can breathe, but she can’t. Though her child can forgive the gift of food, her wife cannot.

“Between honest and ignorance.”

A simple Door Dash and quick entrance can’t buy off the family and her better half knows it. She isn’t convinced the politi-talk saves their child from failing at school and it certainly doesn’t save their communication. Maybe putting him in public school was a mistake. Maybe she wants better for her child. Maybe she wants an Elite.

As Shauna and a very cut Jeff in the boudoir disrobe for a night of fucking, he suggests that she be something else. Basically, anybody that isn’t with a romantic flank.

Requesting that she leave her shirt on with him doing the same, the duo feebly attempts roleplay, though, on all intellectual levels, this fails all the same. Adult problems come into purview, as her getting into an accident, leaves her sitting on the bed and him cranking elsewhere.

Going back to the crash, Shauna consoles Jackie as to why Van now harbors a hatred of choosing one life over another. This isn’t team building 101. It matters none, as Shauna comes with a bottle of menstrual cramp pills that could heal someone else. Laura Lee finds her stuffed salvation until her lily-white heaven is met with well-read death with Coach Martinez’s spiked demise on a tree.

Even with the girls in a state of panic, Jackie tries to rally them to get him out of the tree. Van isn’t happy about being left for dead, but the team rallies together until Travis goes literal ape to get what is simply a body.

Though the team bands together to bind him for a softer landing, what the branch breaks lie something sweeter. The tree bears bloody fruit. Misty realizes this very quickly.

We thus come onto the first symbol carved into a tree, which is exactly what had been on everybody’s postcards.

Though shaken, receiving one herself, Taissa hasn’t a moment for rumination. She’s to take care of her son, though normal bedtime stories carry no truck. Instead, the only way to connect with her son is through a flashlight with shadow animals, only leading her to the trauma of facing one in real life. A blood-thirsty wolf. It’s the wilderness, baby!

Taking her kid about the block means nothing as yet signs rule around her kid, him choosing to draw pictures about a woman that stalks him at night.

With a grown Natalie trying to thaw out the steak, she’s met with a new meet. It’s Adam (Peter Gadiot), talking about her rear-ender, which she ate. A little too close to home, if you’re calling it.

He calls to afford her free everything in exchange for one date.

His cavalier approach doesn’t sit well with her, and though she bristles at the sight of thawing gristle, she hates more lagomorphs feasting on her new lifestyle.

This animalistic thing kicks in and not only does she butcher the fucker, but also serves him on a plate to her family with purpose.

Flash to a younger Shauna guiding Javi into a first of many, with Misty carrying the first of many with the team. Natalie offers Travis a swig from her flask, as he’s going to need it before she takes one last swing.

In her post-youth, Natalie is kind of a mess, a punk rocker with nowhere to go but hit up Travis’ old phone has it rebuffed all the same. The rejection would swing in acute pathos that a ’90s movie would welcome if she weren’t so obtuse.

This isn’t the ’90s.

It’s 2021 and any fur over your eyes may pale in comparison to the wool that may be pulled over them.

In Melanie’s ‘fine life,’ she consumes meat at the familial gathering with as much revulsion as you’d think.

This table may be set, but the family is far from it. The chili is on point, with a period, but her explanation of how it’s made leaves her loved ones with a question mark.

Cue: Portishead “Glory Box”.

The felled girls spark a fire for their first night outside of camp, with a business jet as their graveyard. As Lottie (Courtney Eaton) guns for her pills to save face, Shauna consoles Javi from a cold world around a warm fire, Liv securing their death by eating Corn Nuts (a Heather reference), whilst Tiassa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) congratulates Lottie saving Allie from this pain.

A dead team is awakened. Maybe it’s hunger. Or maybe, gathered around that fire for one night, they just knew which ones to befriend or worse. Either way, it was a gorgeous moment these sisters on the field will never have again.

Misty views it otherwise because this isn’t a fucking hair-braiding experience but rather survival. Heating up the ax, her survival is her only turn-on.

Before Shauna can fess up to a few of the iniquities and lies, a scream is heard. This will be the only time Misty can show her prowess before the real shit goes down.

Speaking of which, modern Jeff is ‘spent’ on modern Shauna. Oh, no, she didn’t kid about the rabbits. Those were foreplay. She hears his phone going off only to realize he’s been two-timing her. How instincts didn’t kick in before, I don’t know.

Outside of dwindling flames, the team slumbers as one unit. It’s the first thing they did together since winning the Regionals and nearly fucking dying. All slumber, but Misty, looking over them like a den mother.

As she takes leave to pee, she overhears how invaluable an asset she is to their survival. She discovers the all coveted black/red box, still intact.

We all have secrets. So why not harbor yours?

As Natalie is about to fly away in her Porsche Carrerra (I mistakenly thought was a 911 last time to fit in with the theme), she’s in need of help, as the dang thing didn’t start, beautiful as it is.

Misty seizes the opportunity to pull up and take a fellow Yellowjacket under her wing, under Nat’s proviso that she pilot the Fiat, the best tourin’ from Turin.

This means a road trip for both of them as Wilson-Phillips punches out on speakers with her captive, once a leader, now just beginning to chew her ear off (for now figuratively).

With that, young Misty proceeds to bash the team’s only source of saving. Pulling out its last guts, she finds to be the referee maybe better than die as a bloody nobody.

Maybe things can exist as black and white.

This gives us more insight into what an observer can do with a team under will and guidance.

This second episode off the bat hit me hard as well. I remember being in middle school, getting a call from a friend of a crush on a three-way finding out she wasn’t into me in middle school. The rejection wasn’t as brutal as Misty’s, but it stung all of the same. Go, Yellowjackets!

Day of the Dead Episode 5 Review & Recap

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a bride holds the arms of what used to be her mother
DAY OF THE DEAD -- "Til Dead Do Us Part" Episode 105 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Kristy Dawn Dinsmore as Amy -- (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

 

Okay, now we’ve definitely finally hit our stride as not only is this one a fun adventure into zombie wedding season, but this mid-season episode also ends on a good cliffhanger. All for some actual progress.

Cam’s story was oddly really good in this episode. There’s a lot of growth seen here, about a boy being forced to grow up and challenge his world. Thus far, Cam’s really been the voice of goodness and righteousness in the series, and though he talks big, this episode finally sees him walk big. His is the only main plot amongst the series that feels like it’s actually going somewhere. 

Meanwhile, Jai’s story was awesome in that it was a lot of what audiences have been wanting to see (zombie outbreak in a unique location, like his wedding). It was also a beautiful sendoff, in that we see him finally step up against his in-law, ask for what he wants, and play the hero by saving his wife. Likewise, I think Natalie Malaika, who plays Lauren Howell, has thus far been fantastic. The only issue is that she really isn’t given much to work with in the scripts as it’s so far been a throwaway, don’t do drugs, reference hit over our heads again-and-again.

The issue still remains the same though. That it’s obvious to me, that this series is more comedy than dramatic zombies. It’s really a lot like Z-Nation, which makes me more than anything, actually, just miss Z-Nation. Which I think is a problem. I think more than anything though, this story feels slightly hampered by the fact that there are too many people and too many parallel storylines. Honestly, the two most interesting plots thus far to me are mostly Jai’s and the Bowman trio. Both of which, have little to do with the A-Plot of the story, and a lot to do with the fact that their storylines have been pretty funny. Though I am curious to see how it all pulls together.

To recap:

 

Day of The Dead Episode 5: Til The Dead Do Us Part

a wedding party in day of the dead
DAY OF THE DEAD — “Til Dead Do Us Part” Episode 105 — Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Dejan Loyola as Jai Calvert, Kristy Dawn Dinsmore as Amy, Victor Zinck Jr. as Shawn, Garry Chalk as Herb — (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

Cutoff at both ends of the bridge, Luke is about to be overrun by zombies before his father, Trey Bowman, shows up with a pickup truck. He splatters the surrounding zombies to a pulp. When Trey’s car stalls, Luke finds his own, then picks up his dad. The two drive away. Later, Trey reveals that he cares a lot about Luke (not knowing that he’s not his son). Luke thinks that Paula doesn’t care about either of them. Trey reveals to Luke that he was going to leave his mother for Nicole, the campaign manager, who was very sweet and open and sexually into weird things. Trey then shares that Paula was once like that much to Luke’s disgust about hearing his parents’ sex lives. Trey admits that he feels like he’s done nothing with his life but Luke reassures him that he just saved his.

Back at the lower zombie research levels, a shootout begins at point-blank range between Sarah Blackwood, McDermott, Logan, and the guards. Miraculously, nobody gets shot at first and even Rhodes arrives to join in to help Doctor Logan. After a long and drawn-out gunfight, eventually, McDermott gets shot. Sarah leaves him behind as per his request to deliver a message and find help. Logan re-captures McDermott and then orders Rhodes to find Blackwood…again. When McDermott wakes, he’s locked in a cage for experimentation with the original zombie that bit him, who is revealed to be alive since the 1700s. McDermott screams to Rhodes that the Doctor is playing mad scientist. Doctor Logan, who is obsessed with curing death, reanimates a rat. 

Still there this whole time, Sarah arrives and holds Rhodes hostage at knifepoint, takes his gun, and aims it at the doctor. They release McDermott, who while looking at his severed finger and the wedding ring of his deceased wife, reminds Logan that dead-is-dead. Suddenly, the zombie breaks free of its tethers and attacks McDermott. Sarah reveals she was special forces and attacks Rhodes, who gets the jump on her yet again. McDermott gets a chunk bitten out of him by the zombie. Sarah gets the zombie off of him and McDermott then throws a chemical at him and lights him on fire. Before dying of his wounds, McDermott tells Sarah to share everything they’ve learned with the Police Captain. 

zombies angrily looking past in day of the dead
DAY OF THE DEAD — “Til Dead Do Us Part” Episode 105 — Pictured in this screengrab: Zombies — (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

At the police station, Mayor Bowman calls Trey and Luke to no avail. Cam talks with her and we learn that he and Luke, who were former best friends, have been fighting for over a year. Mayor Bowman tells him whatever they’re arguing over won’t last forever. Cam later radios his dad and tells apologizes about their fighting, saying that he’s willing to stay. Now crying, Cam reveals that he hopes McDermott is okay. Luke and Trey get to the police station. Using the CCTV, Paula checks the streets and sees that the zombies are everywhere except the Paymart. The group and the now fully together Bowman family load up on guns to organize a holdout at the Paymart for anyone, not safely locked away at home. 

At Jai and Amy’s wedding, we see Amy’s mother gets her heel stuck on the extravagant deck. She hears something from below the floorboards and sees a zombie. Inside the bathroom, Amy is still crying, though exits and talks to Jai when she learns that her dad forced a prenup. Zombies begin eating the guests. Amy’s mom tries to hide amongst the chaos, as Jai leaves to help everyone escape. When Amy’s distraught mom tries to for some reason, save the wedding cake, she is pulled underneath by a zombie and eaten as Amy’s left with nothing but her mother’s arms in her hands. When things worsen, Jay carries Amy away in his arms, and they escape with Shawn and his father-in-law. Inside the reception hall, now surrounded by zombies, Shawn confesses his love for Amy. He tries to defend them, only to get his eyes gauged out immediately. Fighting back desperately, Lauren arrives with a cleaver revealing that she hasn’t skipped town yet. She helps them escape and they get a notification about the emergency shelter in the Paymart. 

At the end of the episode, McDermott dies but is soon reanimated as a zombie.

 

Yellowjackets – Pilot Review

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yellowjackets showtime pilot review

Everybody knows about soccer, but do you really know the positions in a unit they play? Most are aware of the Goalie, but there are the Backs that are always the last line of defense before a ball can even come close to the goal, the Midfielders that play double duty and to me have the hardest of jobs, and the Offense, which must have precise aim and speed to score. In the new series Yellowjackets (Showtime), we’ll learn that though no position is more important than the next, sometimes teamwork makes the dream… a nightmare.

We open up on a barefooted girl, darting through wintry woods. With eyes carved into trees, there are eyes watching. Bestial shrieks abound, so why wouldn’t she take a knee? This is not a coach commanding it. This is the team requesting it. She muscles on before finding her new bed- a set of spikes with her little heart necklace dangling in the wake. GOAL!

A fur cloaked figure observes the fresh kill from on high. This is called a victory.

An annoying reporter queries others… as if they were there for the goddamned event. Those that happen to answer don’t know a fucking thing about them, save for a woman in assisted claiming they forgot about Trigonometry. I was never good with math, but the only way a ball hooks around is to split the defenders and get that point. It was always an addiction of mine before I was told I was to be a Sweeper. To kick the ball away. To put the ball into the other fielder’s side. Basically, I was called to protect if others couldn’t in a moment of crisis. I was happy doing that. I was good at it.

Welcome to 1996, where a team orchestrates their damnedest game, not because they want to, but rather because it’s in their blood. The soccer ball is one with you being nearly magnetic. This one is sadly dropped due to teammate Allie (Pearl Amanda Dickson), whose lack of fight or flight on the green is a threat to the team’s survival. Through the speed and determination of a core group, the adrenaline sends the victors into a primal chant of “Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” These are your Yellowjackets.

Backed by the ever so familiar Smashing Pumpkins which I’d played on the guitar so much as a teen, we’re greeted by scores of Jersey shore scenes until we check in with team Captain Jackie (Ella Purnell), in the midst of being intimate with her beau Jeff (Jack DePew). After brushing her teeth for ‘spotless’ reasons, she takes a good hard look in the mirror fidgeting with that fucking necklace. I always hated team captains.

Waiting is teammate Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) in the car. Spotting Jeff making a surreptitious escape from the palatial estate, Jackie emerges, donning a shit-eating grin. Did I say I hated team captains?

Shauna admits to having seen her boy to jet, she admonishes her friend about an unspoken rule of distractions before a huge game.

You don’t fuck, you don’t jack or jill off. That shit is verboten because you want to keep that energy pure and pristine.

Jackie decides that showing up to college virginal is a mistake, redirecting the conversation about their dorm at Rutgers next year. Still, they bask in the moment of glory as State Champions. This is a golden moment, not to be fucked up by anyone.

Welcome to 2021, where a grown-up Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) fucks herself with pictures of her daughter’s boyfriend before hazily going about her day. On her way out, she notices plants in the yard are being eaten by rabbits before a woman introduces herself as Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) from The Star-Ledger.

She’s contacted her before, but now Shauna can tell her in the flesh to fuck off, even with idiots espousing her story. All she can offer are main deets: plane crash, two teams of girls to hunt and scavenge for nineteen months until ultimate rescue. Blah, fucking blah. Though Jessica promises advance as co-writer, this survivor isn’t on board. Trauma is a bitch and I wouldn’t for all the tea in China drink it.

Elsewhere, a woman is in meditation overlooking a beach. Ohh, how sometimes in movies this looks so good but I’ll be a few years out if my liquor well runs dry. This is Natalie (Juliette Lewis), clearly at a rehab. As she approaches, flashes of dragging the bloodied body along the lily-white snow enter her mind, stringing her up on a tree like a deer as another, face clad in a fur pelt observes. Blood lets. Life lives.

In the session, Natalie sits serenely as another grouses about the episode that landed her in jail. We all know that anger can be helpful and Nat cosigns to that, chiming in about “keeping the tiger in the cage.”

As it is her last day at the resort, her imparting words of wisdom ring eerily calm, as one is to find purpose. Her time spent out in the wilderness led to a life of continued vice when the true cause was being lost after being found. I can relate, save the bloodletting.

Younger (Sophie Thatcher) in 1996, she’s punked out, chugging cheap swill with friends a day before her leaving for Nationals. I’ve done that before because I hated school. My only outlet of aggression was sport. When a car pulls up calling for her to flash, her friend concedes, causing them to peel out with Natalie putting an exclamation point on it, chucking the bottle of hooch right at their back window, causing them to jet. Oh, she’s a fighter on the field.

As the girls amp themselves up in the locker room, Jackie calms Allie, the only freshman on Varsity down. This is an honor, but the only one she’s concerned about is being asked to a prom. The girls are worried about her on-field performance, but Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) assures that will not happen.

Before the pep rally, in Coach Martinez’s (Carlos Sanz) office, Jackie is given a little pep talk of her own about being a leader bringing the team together, being her only true asset to the team as other players are clearly more skilled. Trust me, being called into any office, much less your coaches can’t spell anything good.

At the rally, the red carpet in yellow in blue is rolled out, including Equipment Manager Misty (Sammi Hanratty) leading the cheer as she gets to take care of them. Let’s give it up for the eqp man, as they do the dirty work. They are one above scorekeeper.

In 2021, Shauna nearly shits herself as Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress) ad for state senator flashes across the screen. She slide tackled her but good mentally.

In that Turner household, Taissa and wife with son pose for a profile in Jersey Monthly. The photographer reminds Taissa of her trauma, calling her an inspiration. In any sport, we call that a yellow card…

…1996. Taissa confers with Shauna, Natalie, and Lottie (Courtney Eaton) about freezing Allie out (i.e. she can’t lose what she can’t touch.) The other three don’t feel kosher about the plan, but an omerta is entered. Though not a cool play, it happens in games.

Misty sets the field up, grinning ear to ear before it’s off to the races with drills. Oh, they are grueling, but to be the best of the best, repetition leads to reputation. Before Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) brings it in to orchestrate a scrimmage between JV and Varsity, Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) insists on prayer. It’s not as if they are warriors on the battlefield, right?….

Once Allie starts fucking up, Taissa chooses to switch sides (to toughen Allie up). The tension builds to a single, solitary slide tackle to the virgin, compliments of Taissa. Let’s just say the sound effect was just as fucking gruesome as the aftermath.

In the locker room, the morale is as down as their fresh meat. Jackie seizes the moment to inject some soothing words falling on cloth ears.

Adrenaline is running, but you know who’s not? Allie.

In the present, we’re introduced to Shauna’s daughter, Callie (Sarah Desjardins), dripping with as much sarcasm as her mother when she was her age. She asks her daughter if Ms. Mendez will let her retake the Trig test (call back). Her daughter finds their commonality banal, citing what the reporter mentioned earlier about her mother “taking a good hard look at her life.”

On the eve of the team leaving, Shauna’s getting prepped for a party she would rather not attend. Jackie does mention that a troglodyte named Randy will be at the party, and against her initial protestations, Shauna shows up to the woods party (a staple of Jerseyans) in the red dress Jackie gave her to get laid in.

Outside of the rehab center, a weathered Natalie enjoys the last of a cigarette before being picked up by a cab. She requests LAX.

Back at the party, a lonely teenaged Shauna looks longingly as Jackie seduces a very in love Jeff. After Randy (Riley Baron) dedicates a beer bong hit to her, a liquid couraged Shauna approaches Taissa at the watering hole, wanting her to fess up to a hitjob. Before the girls can knuckle up, Jackie commands all to follow her.

In their powwow, Jackie has each of the girls say something “nice AND true” about each other, and though it starts out as disingenuous, it grows into something more sincere. They need their heads fucking right before heading into a potentially life-defining game.

While Jeff drives Jackie and Shauna home, Natalie stays and trips out on acid, with it taking effect to the backdrop of PJ Harvey. Through a roaring fire, she can see Misty observing and then disappearing. Intercut with is presumed the council carving and roasting their fresh win, we catch a glimpse of who is at the high seat, set with a headpiece of antlers.

On the ride home, Jackie asks Jeff to drop her off first. The teammates exchange seats and hugs, before Shauna’s on her way before demanding Jeff pulls off to the side. She’s not going to vomit, but rather get something else out of her system.

Jeff has a new look and it’s not what he wants. Her requests not to impregnate but rather to profess love, however false don’t seem to help any narrative…at least to him.

In the present day, Shauna’s daughter is now gone for the night. The matriarch decides to eradicate the precious bunny eating away her shot at normalcy the only way she knows how- violence. After washing the blood away, Shauna takes the card Jessica left, leading her to the safe, passing pictures of her family, including hubby Jeff. Oh, ya think she would be in position if she went to Brown?

With safe opened, she extracts a few old notebooks before taking out a burner, and with taking one glance at the card, she dials.

As the embers wane, the girls get ready. Jackie packs her bags, Natalie takes one last drag, Laura Lee prays, Lottie takes her morning antipsychotic, Van (Liv Hewson) slaps her drunken mother awake, Misty watches a drowning mouse, Taissa kisses her parents goodbye, Coach Martinez packs in his boys and Shauna packs away her early admittance to Brown before heading out. Families or lack thereof, am I right?

Both Varsity and JV pile into the private charter that Lottie’s dad funded. It’s overheard that they are traveling to Seattle from Jersey from a flight plan that will have to head a bit farther north to elude the storm system, thus flying over the Canadian Rockies, but Jackie soothes Shauna’s anxiety with valium in addition to arming her with her necklace so “nothing can touch her.” Aww. Friendship. Loyalty.

In the diner (a Jersey staple) sits Shauna. She flashes back to entering a haze as the trip commences until her approaching party snaps her out of it. It’s Tiassa. Shauna slides her the card, claiming that upon research, there are no legitimate credentials. This doesn’t mean much to the incumbent, but to Shauna, it means the world. Tiassa broke the pact to say as few things as possible whilst staying out of the public eye. If there’s digging to be had on her as a politician, everyone is fucked.

Natalie cracks open her storage unit housing a beautiful small Porche housing a big beautiful rifle. According to the manager of the facilities, she might as well have been a ghost coming to haunt it. She thinks being back in the good ole’ Garden State will be good for her, what with catching up with some good ole’ friends.

Cut to the council of seven in the ivory woods.

As the eighth brings a wooden tray of the prepared long-pig, the leader allows the rest to take a hunk of sustenance.

In this day and age, there’s an orderly. This is Misty (Christina Ricci). Delivering her patient a daily dose, she’s only met with silence and disdain. After her bedridden act of insolence, the former Equip Man revokes the morphine privileges for the night. Do not fuck with her. Misty knows pain. Or rather enjoys it.

Misty exiting is spied on by Natalie in her 911.

We spy with our wicked eye to past, others back out into the hunt whilst the fur-masked servant lifts up her disguise to reveal a face to put on those blooded-stained glasses. As maws tear into their earned meal, Misty flashes a glint of a grin before joining in on the hunt, panning over a vast and lush mountain range of possibilities of where to live and where to dine.

This episode spoke volumes to me. It was tart as the cranberries Jersey is known for (not our Tomatoes), snarky as any teenage-rage piece, and a work that anyone might’ve read in high school. The music fit the fictional setting of Wiskayok, NJ. As a former soccer player, I’m reminded of a similar event when I put someone in school out of it for a year with a simple slide tackle. I felt horrible as Taissa. The only difference is, I had to sit in front of my victim next year in math class.

Things can nosedive in a brutal way from here, but I guess this is why they call this a Pilot.

Day of the Dead Episode 4 Review & Recap

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DAY OF THE DEAD -- "Forest of the Damned" Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Daniel Doheny as Luke Bowman, Trezzo Mahoro as Trent -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

 

The positives for episode four are that it seems like the zombie conflict is finally coming to a head. Everyone is admitting slowly but surely, that there’s a really bad situation going on. We’re finally moving into the reactive phase.

Still,  every week this show does frustrate me as both a viewer and reviewer. In this one, the acting during every kill shot and death shot felt outright atrocious. It’s very, exaggerated, I’m dying in slow motion, kind of bad. The absurdity of the plot and choreography of the events does feel kind of clumsy and haphazard as well. Like there wasn’t a lot of time to figure out how to showcase these action sequences or where to block characters, especially in the McDermott compound battling scenes. Though I think the part that I really disliked was the outbreak becoming overrun by zombie moments. As due to the framing, a lot of scenes made me question… why didn’t they just run around? As there’s a lot of open spacing to dodge or flee away. 

I think at this point, I’m just happy that we’re one step closer to seeing how we get to the end. I also, really like everything regarding Jai, Cam, and the Bowman family’s scenes. Because they feel somewhat motivated to go somewhere and are at the least, very funny. I absolutely don’t care at all for anything regarding the Fracking organization or why this is happening in the first place. Which is probably not a good sign if they keep going in this direction, especially, because these are the very same storylines that hold the closest similarity to the actual Day Of The Dead movie.

So overall, it’s an irritating episode, though still filled with the occasional laughs, for a series that really depends on Characters and the funny moments in between. 

Here’s our recap:

 

 

Day Of The Dead Episode 4: Forest Of The Damned

DAY OF THE DEAD — “Forest of the Damned” Episode 103 — Pictured: Zombies — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

Phone out of service, Luke flees from a series of several zombie attacks in the forest, believing it to be the urban legend of the Enfields family whose bodies were at the bottom of the lake. After abandoning Luke, Trent believes he’s found the party, only to find the remains of a zombie massacre he mistakenly believes was a bear attack. When both boys flee, they find each other again in the woods, only to get surrounded by zombies. They hide but almost get caught. Trent then shows Luke the bodies at the party. 

Elsewhere, Jai mourns the loss of Mrs. French. Cam realizes his phone is missing, likely destroyed in the explosion, and so borrows Jai’s. Cam sees all of Jai’s notifications and the Doctor remembers: his wedding is right now. Lauren drives him to the country club, but first, drops Cam off at the Police Station. Inside the station, the Mayor talks with police chief Gloria about the situation and still wants to keep the outbreak hidden for the sake of her own public opinion. When Cam arrives to tells them it’s zombies, Gloria doesn’t believe him, and so listens to the Mayor in not calling in the State for help.

Lauren drops Jai off at his wedding. Before he leaves, he gives her antibiotics to take but Lauren is hesitant to take them, given her past pills addiction. At the wedding, Jai tells Sean the town is overrun with zombies. Sean doesn’t believe him and locks Jai into a room, forcing him to get dressed for the wedding anyway. Finally, dressed, Jai eventually confesses to his wife that there are zombies, but she throws up in the bathroom thinking Jai just doesn’t want to be married. Despite his pleas, his new family ignores Jai and he asks his father-in-law, Herb, to reassure the guests all is alright. At the photo booth outside, zombies start eating some of the guests. 

At the drill site, Logan is still trying to figure out what is happening, while Detective McDermott is kept repeatedly sedated. We also notice his jumper: with the name Bub on it, the same name of the intelligent zombie protagonist from the original Day of The Dead. Elsewhere, Sarah Blackwood, rifle in hand, finds that the mysterious fracking organization is rounding up the zombie form below. She follows and investigates, just as the detective also happens to break loose, with both exploring the compound from different locations. Eventually, the Detective takes out the soldier who was keeping him sedated, killing him with the same needle right into the chest. 

Doctor Logan studies the cells of the zombie from the pit and sees its cellular reanimation. McDermott gets the jump on her, finally taking the chance to get some much-needed answers. At that same moment, Sarah goes about the compound rifle in hand but encounters an armed guard beside the emergency call button. After a scuffle, she ends up shooting him, which sends him falling back into the alarm. McDermott takes Doctor Logan hostage as Sarah arrives with the rifle aimed at a guard. After a standoff, a gun fires…

Back at the police station, Cam looks at his dad’s desk and finds a bottle of whiskey and a picture of him, himself, and their mom. The Police Captain is overwhelmed with calls and notices that none of the officers are at their posts. Everyone is missing and in a state of emergency. Admitting that she was wrong, Captain Pike calls the state troopers in. Mayor Bowman, now concerned, calls her son Luke to check that he’s safe.  At that very moment, Luke and Trent get overwhelmed by zombies. Trent flees and leaves Luke stuck on a bridge surrounded by zombies at all ends.  

What We Do In the Shadows Season 3 Finale Review: The Portrait

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The only thing you can’t beat is an unbeaten heart.

This is the finale of What We Do In the Shadows titled “The Portrait.”

We open in on the traditional standing for a painting, a Portrait. All are in attendance, including the Baron (Doug Jones) and the number one Vampire…. their Hellhound.

Guillermo knows how vampires grieve in that they don’t… especially with one of their own. Whilst standing, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) bums out everyone by prompting a good word in Colin’s (Mark Proksch) death. Oh, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) stands up for him being included in the portrait that Donal Logue is painting.

Guillermo realizes since the balance is askew, with a new one taking his Boringness’ place. Hint hint.

We also learn that Donal took up the arts in season 2 for Grounded for Life. The fact that they took the time and painted the cast of Grounded for Life, and the Front Gate of CBS Radford, the ER gaffer (all courtesy of the Donal Logue Collection).

As he’s making magic with vegetals and regaling the crew with his stories of being on set that seems to bore the others to tears, we now are supposed to believe their Rembrandt can fill Colin’s absence.

Among the straight-faced bickering about how Colin is no longer with them, Nandor takes a stand. I mean, outside of the position he cannot move from. He’s out, with only the panache one of Half Baked’s best punchlines.

The insolence doesn’t sit well with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), but the group needs to all let out some steam before the real words flood out. We’ve just lost cabin pressure.

There’s a reason for this outburst. Nandor’s having a shitty year. From all episodes, he’s been left with a shuddering shoulder romantically, and you have to be freezing to leave a vampire out in the cold!

You factor that in with the death of one of his own. It’s got someone cogitating about what life is really all about as an eternal. His ennui goes into worry when Guillermo gets a hold of this news.

He can finally confront his feelings with his Master, though Nandor can’t even follow his own non-beating heart. The fact that he isn’t Nandor’s ‘carry on’ for his walkabout doesn’t sit well… nor does Guillermo.

He is no longer in servitude to his master, though, even in departing, Nandor thinks him such. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts.

Nandor knows that Nadja and Laszlo (Matt Berry) want a fucking vacation and he’ll be damned if he’s the last one standing ‘like a fucking loser.’ Ouch. Stakes in Guillermo. A strike on the vampire slayer.

Nadja is having a row with Laszlo as he cannot clearly accept Colin Robinson’s ghoulish demise. Let’s be honest, we could make an Odd Couple spinoff.

Nadja wants to reignite a wet bundle of sticks hubby with a trip to the UK. His inconsolable dick is still limp in honor of what was through this season was an unexpected gift… him and Colin actually bonding.

And though Nadja storms off from her hubby’s BRO-ner, Guillermo has things to attend to with her. Chiefly, her co-leader. This leads to an amazing VCR video of a special vampire explaining what transpires when taking the helm of a Council means. It leads to one of the highest positions in England. This is fate calling. Nope. It is text bombing you. Instead of being a big fish in a little pond, she can be a goddamn shark across the pond.

The only problem is her flank. Laszlo swears off Jolly Ole’ and never wants to touch toe on the soil.

Guillermo’s freaking out because he believes the band is breaking up and he doesn’t want to be as his master says the sole fucking loser.

Though Guillermo tries to get Laszlo to already his homeland more, in the midst of crafting a sonata for his fallen brethren, we learn a few tidbits. Clubs in London are recursive with which you are born into. ALSO, he was expelled from a lineage of drinking and brotherhood and decided to make a new start in America. This new birth seems to be something recurring.

Though Guillermo is trying to play Laszlo against his beloved, the time on the Portrait is ticking. How do you get everybody back together when there is no everybody? This is not simply a family picture. These are combined years of pain, love, and triumph. Fuck your 90s K-Mart family photos. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing (though they have a few to spare).

Guillermo isn’t winning over any fans with his Master, especially since the Guide (Kristen Schaal) is totally digging on his travel channel.

Nandor is super happy for once and wants to embark on something that is out of his reach.

This calls all to finish the Portrait.

At the final standing, Guillermo brings to light (hisss) something very important. Though Laszlo swears he’s immutable to Colin’s passing, though Nadja craves for England with Lazzie vehemently swatting that fly down, Nandor announces his resignation with bellicose fashion.

We also find out why the English lad was expelled. He chose love over stature. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes I’d seen in all three seasons.

This prompts her to reveal why she wants to go to England, for she’ll be on the high table, the upper crust. Even the Guide didn’t know about this knowledge.

With their jubilation riding high, Nandor thinks it’s his time for his journey. Guillermo thinks differently, and with the portrait finally finished, Logue out!

It’s a pity the same couldn’t be said for Guillermo and Nandor. They are no longer Master and Servant. It is a battle of wills as much as it’s one of the emotions with ensuing violence. It is in spite of Nandor thinking that his Familiar’s skills are something of a novelty that we see the kitten has claws.

Only back to the wall, hackles up, we truly see what our mettle is made. This includes proving this Master that he’s the sole protector of him, nearly threatening to kill him, just to show he’s capable.

The thing is this was a fight that was brewing, whether we wanted it or needed it. Fomenting or not, sometimes you just need to work out your feelings through an unflinching stance.

This ultimately works out, as Nandor’s convinced that his familiar is indeed a bodyguard and would like him to continue that throughout his journey.

Should this succeed, Nandor on Al Qolador will give Guillermo that what he wishes for most. He says his word is his bond, and I’m all for it. We can use a new Familiar in the house next season.

Though Guillermo’s happy saying that goodbye he wasn’t in the first act, he’s seriously not happy saying goodbye.

The Guide happened to get Nandor a bon voyage card with the Wraiths signatures, shitty as they are. Nadja gives her deuces, and gathering up her hubby, they are ready to fly… or sail.

Back at South Amboy Train Station, NJ, Nandor awaits a train. It is the Gold Standard of us mortals, though he’s incapable of knowing that.

At the NY/NJ Port, Guillermo helps Nadja in her coffin off to England. There’s only one problem. Laszlo’s shipping off Guillermo with his wife to the homeland.

the train station, a forlorn Nandor must choose to stay or go without his beloved Guillermo. He chooses the latter.

We learn that Lazslo’s subterfuge was at his own expense. He wants Guillermo now to be her bodyguard, though, by his own admission, she needs no one to keep her safe.

We also are keen to in the homestead, Laszlo is not exactly alone. We have a new addition or remix to the family in the name of baby Colin Robinson! That energy they siphoned had to go somewhere!

As we close out the season, Laszlo hangs the Portrait. And we are welcomed to a new type of horror… an already growing at an alarming rate baby Colin Robinson.

Overall, this season was a rollercoaster, but like a really good one. One of those unyielding old-school wooden ones where you don’t know if you’re going to fly out because it was constructed fantastically, but the bumps are wicked hard to stomach. You emerge from it not knowing what happened, but your agency will totally recommend it to your friends and will happily go on it again. Kudos to the writers this season. This was a true work of art.

GTA San Andreas Remaster, Forza Horizon 5 and More Coming to Xbox Game Pass in November

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Xbox Game PAss

November is bringing nine big titles to Xbox Game Pass in its first two weeks. November 2nd brings the much-anticipated debut of Minecraft Java and Bedrock Editions to PC. Included amongst the releases are four Day 1 debut titles that include: GTA San Andreas, Unpacking, Forza Horizon 5, and Football Manager 2022.

The full list can be found below:

Minecraft: Java and Bedrock Editions (PC) – November 2
Unpacking (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – November 2

It Takes Two (Cloud, Console, PC) EA Play – November 4

Football Manager 2022 (PC) – November 9
Football Manager 2022: Xbox Edition (Cloud, Console, and PC) – November 9
Forza Horizon 5 (Cloud, Console, and PC) – November 9

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – The Definitive Edition (Console) – November 11
One Step from Eden (Console and PC) ID@Xbox – November 11

On November 15, the following games will be leaving the service:

Final Fantasy VIII HD (Console and PC)
Planet Coaster (Cloud and Console)
Star Renegades (Cloud, Console, and PC)
Streets of Rogue (Cloud, Console, and PC)
The Gardens Between (Cloud, Console, and PC)
River City Girls (Cloud, Console, and PC)

Source: Xbox Wire

‘Ghostrider: Kushala’ and The Importance of Representation with Taboo and B. Earl

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ghost rider kushala

The dynamic duo of B. Earl and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas talk about writing comics, the matriarchy, and native representation in Marvel’s ‘Ghost Rider: Kushala.’

Both a Sorcerer Supreme and a Ghost Rider, the Spirit Rider Kushala storyline is easily one of Marvel’s wildest stories. A redemption story about a Native woman who becomes the Spirit Rider after learning to tame her desire for vengeance, there’s a lot to enjoy about this line, which is why it’s exciting to see the legacy continue with protagonist, Olivia Obtera. 

Though let’s be clear about something: Marvel’s ‘Ghost Rider: Kushala’ is not your traditional heroes’ journey. Instead, it’s a tale about tradition, native representation, and most importantly: family legacy. We interview writers Taboo and Benny Earl to get a better understanding of this journey. Below, is an abridged version, though the podcast features the full interview and more! 

The Workprint podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 

 

So first, what went into the creation of Olivia Obtera, and is she based on anyone in real life?

Benny: “Well, we can dive into how we always pull from our real lives, and you can probably say Olivia is Taboo’s daughter in like 15 or 20 years?! But really, it’s that idea of connecting her back to her lineage. As children, oftentimes you’re told where you come from but you don’t always get that full grasp. Glimpses, photographs, maybe? Especially if you grew up in the 1980 or 90s and didn’t have the internet. So I think Olivia is someone doing deep dives to figure out Kushala and where she comes from.”

Taboo: “As far as the connection between personal life and inspiration. We always love celebrating the matriarchy and empowering our leads, especially women. I am a proud girl dad. I’m proud of being a father of a daughter, but I also was raised by my grandmother, and she was the Matriarch of my tribe. The person who inspired me to go after my dream and aspirations. Kushala was a direct reflection of the love and support that we have for highlighting women leads and heroes to be the matriarch of our story. 

Even Olivia, being grounded as a mother too, is really relatable to us because we also deal with parenting issues. In fact, that’s how we built our duo. Benny and I met at Comic-Con and bonded over our mutual love of toys and comics, but also, about being fathers. We’re called the dynamic duo because we are fathers and we make content for our kids.”

Kushala is not only the Spirit of Vengeance but also a Sorcerer Supreme! What was the biggest challenge about the lore regarding such an epic character?

Benny: “Well, we had done Werewolf By Night and created Jake Gomez, but Kushala already had a backstory that we had to respect from Doctor Strange and Sorcerers Supreme by Robbie Thompson. We thought, how do we make that our idea as well? A Ghost Rider and Sorcerer Supreme?! Because people can call her a mary sue but I don’t think that’s true. I think in many ways, having power that comes from vengeance is uncontrollable. The fact that she had to be a sorcerer supreme to learn just how to control it became this balance of understanding who she was through her own journey of identity. So what we leaned into was the setup of having Olivia Obtera as our hero. It’s Kushala’s story but it’s Olivia’s having to take her in. 

It’s this idea that Kushala is bigger than one being. She’s all these beings, a multifaceted character. The fact she has the vengeance of a god planet inside of her? It’s like if mother earth got pissed and destroyed the multiverse, and then that vengeance fell through a black hole, created a whole new multiverse, oh and by the way? Kushala picked it up and now this planet is getting all screwed up! That’s what we’ve been dealing with in handling the story.”

Is there anything about different elements of Apache tribes, customs, and cultures that are in the worldbuilding of this comic?

Taboo: “One of the beautiful things of being as involved with indigenous communities is being able to make relationships and build trust with different heroes. With this story, we brought in an Apache relative in Tony Duncan to give us their blessing and use authentic representation. It’s part of our company’s motto to make sure we always highlight heroes in the indigenous community. Because even though I’m native, I don’t always speak for all of us, so I need to be sure I’m bringing the right relatives to speak with regarding certain nations and tribes. 

It’s something we made a point to highlight and champion because we’re creating heroes from the indigenous communities to be part of this journey. Even Kenneth Shirley, another relative who’s part Navajo, just getting that blessing and sign-off so that we’re not speaking where we don’t necessarily know the right things to say in far as the representations. I never wanna speak out of line, which is why it’s important to always bring in those relatives.”

Benny: “For me, I’m not Native, so this has been an amazing journey of learning, and being blessed to have these resources and folks that have been generous in their time and sharing. In fact, in Spirits of Vengeance, there’s a scene where Kushala is attacking the Leviathan and we didn’t have her say anything, and our editor Sarah Brunstad, asked us if she could have a line. So we called up Tony and we asked him what she could say and he recommended having her scream “HEEEEECHAAAAAAA!” It’s the things you wouldn’t think about but we’re lucky to have the ability to make that call asking what she’d really say?”

Taboo: “Ya know the conversation we talked with Tony regarding Sedona and this San Marcos band? You know, I didn’t know there were different bands for different clans, and it says something to me as a student, learning about the different nations, tribes, bands, and clans, that was very informative too. So it’s been a learning experience for me too, and I never claim to know everything about being Native, I’m still a student, man.”

What is the most challenging thing about working in a comics medium versus other forms of art?

Benny: “Honestly, writing comics is the most fulfilling because you have so much opportunity to get immediate gratification. I worked in film my whole career, and sometimes, it takes years pitching or attaching the right talent. What we love about comics is that we can go and jam, like music I think in a lot of ways, but more visual where we work with our artists. Except that you’re using the page and the ability to play with a reader’s time and engagement in the storytelling, along with how the art moves through space.”

Taboo: “For me, I come from the music industry, but I’m also a storyteller that started in my backyard playing with G.I. Joes, creating stories, creating my own worlds in my head. It kind of bleed into writing lyrics and being a socially conscious storyteller. About what was happening in the communities, or happening around the world, or things like 9/11, which is why the Black Eyed Peas wrote ‘Where’s The Love.’ That storytelling. That energy is something I came in, and with Benny’s lead, really fined tune what I bring in as a freestyling MC to sort of have a ping pong session with Benny, where he crystallized and fine-tuned it. Whether it’s paneling or vertical comics, it’s always a learning experience for me and I’m proud and humble to learn every day.”

What is the one thing you hope audiences take away from what you’ve created?

Benny: “I fell in love with philosophy over the pandemic. I’ve always been a student of it but never really embraced it as much as I did during this time. It was really that deep-diving into all those different philosophers and that trajectory philosophy from the beginning to where we are now, with different types and schools. In this comic, that was a lot of the threading I wanted to put in. Giving people some groundwork to play with without hitting people over the head about questioning and ourselves and trying to understand where we as humans, who have not existed that long on this planet, what our role is and where we are and where we’re going, and how we need to stop being focused on this: we screw it all up we just blast off to mars! This is a story of choices and how choices lead to cause-and-effect causality iterations and where we’re going and how being connected to the earth and to the universe is really what will save us in the end.”

Taboo: “I’ll also add. One of the important things to take away is, even though we are the face of this writing team, we can’t do it without our team. It’s a winning dream, it’s a dream team, from our editor, illustrators, and letterers, we can’t do it without our team. So I have ot acknowledge our team from Werewolf by Night to Kushala.” 

Do you have any words of Inspiration for any persons of color looking to make a comic about their families or cultural experiences? 

Taboo: “So, as a kid that was always feeling like I wasn’t enough. Never Mexican enough. Never native enough. Because I was born in Los Angeles, my Spanish was broken, I always felt like I didn’t have a place. I didn’t fit in. I always felt not enough. As I started to evolve and got older and understand the blessing of being proud of who I am, and really embracing all the cultures, I felt like keeping that messaging going and inspiring kids to hold onto that same energy of being enough and being proud of who you are. Faith, background, spirituality, gender, all of that. It’s important for kids to hold onto those aspirations of being proud of who they are. Let alone, people from marginalized communities and underserved communities of different ethnic backgrounds. The reality is we’re blessed to be Marvel writers to create storytelling for those who don’t have that same opportunity. We want to honor and celebrate those as well, heroes without capes, from different communities, as we like to call it, a mosaic of culture.” 

Benny: “I think Tab said it best. I can speak on a personal level, when I was 11, I was in love with creativity, art, Marvel. I dreamed of making Marvel comics and cut to 30 years later, and we get to. At the end of the day, it’s that thing of sticking to your guns and following your dreams and heart. The hard work does pay off and it’s about surrounding yourself with amazing people. As Tab said about team, the team is everything. Tab and I talk every day. He’s my brother. He’s family. That’s what it comes down to. These people you want to spend hours and hours? Years of your life with? Yeah, man! That’s what it comes down to, that’s how we connect and how we create together so that the big thing is always finding the people you relate to that are going to grow with you. Surround yourself with a great community.

I think, for all of us, we should never limit ourselves to where we can put our creativity. It’s never too late to be creative. It’s never too late to play an instrument. I think, so often people say I can’t because I’m too old, there are always excuses, but at the end of the day, you don’t have to be a Marvel writer to enjoy writing comics. you don’t have to be a Black Eyed Pea to enjoy making music. I think we should always embrace our creativity and not put it behind us.”

And that’s it regarding Kushala but there’s a lot more conversational talk featured in the podcast where we chat about the Dynamic Duo’s favorite comics, their upcoming projects including a documentary on the Black Eyed Peas on the sunset strip, and their biggest reveal: is working with acclaimed toy designer, David Vonner. As Angry Foot — a persona created by Taboo from years ago — is being turned into a character set within his own universe. If you’d like to learn more, take a listen to the podcast.

New issues of Marvel’s ‘Ghostrider: Kushala’ debuts every Thursday on the Marvel Unlimited app from now until the end of November. A special thank you again to Marvel Entertainment, Taboo, and B.Earl for this awesome opportunity.