Fargo – Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Lord of No Mercy”
Directed by Dearbhla Walsh
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Law of Inevitability” – click here
Pic 1Open on a concerned Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor), sitting through night until morning worrying about Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after the brutal beating she took at the hands of Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri. She only remembers so much. They did an absolutely savage number on her.
But Nikki isn’t one to stay down, neither literally nor figurative, either. Then there’s Ray, he certainly isn’t going to let any of this stand. A pretty solid, unbeatable team. Capable of anything.
Note: love that opening, silent shot going from night until morning, it’s a fantastic moment of filmmaking.
V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) tells of history, his interests of course lying in food. World War I started “over a sandwich.” Then he tells of the moon landing being filmed on a “sound stage in New Mexico,” which Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) just refuses to believe. Roundabout is the sly, bulimic wolf convincing Emmit (McGregor) and Sy to do more things they don’t really want to do. I can’t help feeling the character of Varga, and his actions/intent, are similar to the shady businessmen we see shambling through the corridors of power today.
The poor IRS auditor (Hamish Linklater) is caught in the middle of all the nonsense. Meemo poses as an upstanding lawyer in order to take care of their problems. Meanwhile, he and Yuri are followed by Stussy and Swango as they plot their revenge and bide their time.
Pic 1AUp at the Stussy offices, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winne Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) arrive to talk with Emmit and hoping to speak with Sy about his vehicular accident. While picking his nasty teeth bloody Varga hears them speaking, so he greases his way into the conversation. The two officers bring up Ray’s name, the homicide of Ennis Stussy, Maurice LeFay, so on. The tangled web of Fargo‘s chaotic world. The officers have connected the dots and believe – what we, the audience know to be true – Maurice, dumb as he was, killed the wrong Stussy. Too many coincidences. And as we know, in Fargo there are rarely any coincidences that amount to nothing.
I worry now. Because Varga’s a dangerous, creepy man. His picture of Stalin on the wall, his Google habits. He’s interested in Ms. Burgle, so he dispatches Yuri to the little Eden Valley Police Department where there’s no computers, only files. Reconnaissance mission. Furthermore, he gives the order on Stussy and Swango: “execute.”
Soon, someone comes knocking at their door as they hide out together. Only it isn’t the V.M. death squad, it’s the police. So, what’s their plan? Fucking bolt. They pack up what they can carry in two arms then pile into the car, heading for a motel. With a tail. Then Ray realises he forgot their getaway cash. He leaves Nikki alone – with Meemo lurking in the shadows – while rushing home.
Pic 2When Ray gets home to get his money, he finds Emmit waiting in the dark. He wants to end their feud. He’s tired. He offers up the stamp to his brother. “You cant give me what was mine from the start,” Ray balks, wanting him to take it back. In a struggle a piece of the glass in its frame smashes, poking into Ray’s neck. He pulls the shard and starts bleeding out all over the place. And his brother stands there, doing nothing. Watching him die.
Emmit makes a call. To whom? Oh, you know: Mr. Varga. He’s an unsettling man, even while listening to a beautiful piece of classical music. The remaining Stussy needs help, and he sure called the right lad. One thing I know is that Emmit thought he was in deep before. He was, sure; financially. At this point it’s beyond any money troubles, he’s in the dirty moral soup.
Varga: “Things of consequence rarely happen by accident
Back at the motel, Meemo waits to kill Nikki. Right before she walks into the room he gets a call, though. Then he’s gone without a trace, and she’s left alive. He’s helping Varga over with Emmit at Ray’s place. Those perpetual criminals have it covered. They’re using Nikki’s wounds, her criminal past, all to make it look as if she killed Ray for being an abusive partner. Yikes, that is coooooold blooded.
And trusty ole Gloria, she’s headed to Ray’s place. She has suspicions. Oh, my. OH, MY!
Pic 3What a wild, unexpected episode. This series only gets better with every season and each episode. So much to love. The characters are well rounded and even downright symbolic at times. Loving Varga and Gloria most this season, as well as – of course – Nikki Swango!
Up next week is “The Law of Inevitability” and I can only imagine the fallout of what happened this episode.

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Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 7: “Expenses”
Directed & Written
by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Off Brand” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Slip” – click here
Pic 1So what does Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) do while he’s not practising law for the next year? Well for starters, community service with the Parks Department. Paying his debt to society. Funny to see a lawyer handed an employee agreement to sign and urged that he doesn’t need to read it all. Jimmy and a bunch of others are given a mechanical grip, a fluorescent safety vest, and sent to pick up garbage. All the while Jimmy runs Saul Goodman Productions hawking commercials. Trying to, at least. He gets docked hours of service for being on his cellphone.
Pic 1AAfter they’re finished Jimmy rushes to do a quick wet wipe wash, strip down, then change, so he can rush off to do a Saul Goodman job at a furniture store. He’s good at directing commercials. Lower budget ones, anyways. Only there’s still trouble selling all the time, as hard as he tries. He and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) still have their office to manage. It’s just one bill after another bill after another. Although he manages. Just barely. He’s killing himself to keep up appearances spending the last cash he has on Chinese food for he and Kim.
Nacho (Michael Mando) goes back to his old buddy with the baseball cards, Pryce (Mark Proksch). He’s looking to do business. He wants empty pills, replicas of the ones his boss Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) takes for his health condition. For $20K. That’s a heft price tag.
Back with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), we see his stash of money under the floorboards. A considerable size. He takes out a hunk to pay for supplies, for the church playground his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) asked him to help build. We see him interacting with other people for the first time ever, really. In the sense that they’re doing normal people things, rather than the criminals we usually see him around. Speaking of, he finds baseball card dummy Pryce waiting for him at work. Needs him to help on the latest job he’s been offered. Mike isn’t interested until he hears Nacho’s name, and even then he still won’t agree.
Pic 2Poor Kim’s so overworked she has to set a timer in the car for 5 minutes, catch a quick bit of shut eye. At Mesa Verde, she starts feeling the pangs of guilt about what’s happened with Chuck (Michael McKean) as her client gloats. There’s eventually going to come a time when she lets that guilt bubble over, and it’ll do something more than just end up as a passive-aggressive moment with a client. She is a good person. I can’t see her living with every last thing Jimmy’s going to put her through.
Kim: “All we did was tear down a sick man
Every single day is a routine for Jimmy now. Like he’s in prison without being IN prison. He rushes from community service work to his wet wipe bath to another commercial set with his faithful crew of industry hopefuls. They head to a music shop called ‘ABQ in tune’ where twin brothers have cold feet about paying so much for a lot of bullshit mostly. He ends up offering it to them for free with a promise they’ll pay the original rate for more commercials after business picks up. Resulting in him handing out all his money yet again. Never getting ahead, and it’s affecting him. The world keeps beating him down.
One of the women from the church (Tamara Tunie) is in the same support group Stacey attends. Mike seems to further connect with her more than they did while working earlier. A genuine relationship with another soul. I love Mike as a character because he’s a good guy. Yes, he ends up in a terrible place doing bad things. Doesn’t change that underneath it all he started as a good man, going down the rabbit hole because of a need for duty; his being to provide for his family. So seeing him and this woman connect, even if it’s only brief, it is special.
And now Mike decides he’ll help the hapless Pryce, another sense of duty calling him to keep providing for the day he’s not around to anymore.
Pic 3Like old times, Jimmy goes out with Kim for drinks. He keeps on keeping up those appearances. At a nearby table they spot someone to pull a quick grift on. Jimmy gets a bit dark, his criminal self coming out further. And in that moment Kim can kind of see the darkness, more than ever. He sort of loves it. What she sees is the lengths he’ll go, that it isn’t only talk. That he will do all sorts of things in order to keep himself above water; many of them illegal. Furthermore, it’s clear to her that even if Jimmy does feel guilt somewhere he’s buried under anger, and that road leads nowhere good. For now, she’s still by his side. Though the clock is ticking.
Nacho meets with Pryce, and Mike. The old fella knows about the nitroglycerine pills, Hector’s heart medication. He advises Nacho about what he’s getting into, then he discovers the whole debacle with Nacho’s dad. No choices left. Mike gives his best advice: once the deed is done, switch the pills back so all looks legit. Smart.
At his insurance company Jimmy meets someone about his policy, wondering about a refund. No dice. He’s paid in full and there’s just no way for them to cash out unused coverage. Not to mention after he’s reinstated the price goes up 150%. Even after his suspension is over he’ll be held down by various rules. Right now his car won’t start, he has no money, he has no family left who cares about him.
He has a use for tears. This shows us more of his duplicitous nature.
Then the younger of the McGills lets slip – yes, purposely – that Chuck had a breakdown in court. Ah, insurance issues headed for the older brother. One small bit of revenge. Only what will it bring? What does this revenge beget in turn? I hope it won’t affect Chuck’s health. That could be the turning point finally for Kim if Jimmy’s responsible for anything serious. He already nearly put his brother out once last season.
Jimmy: “I just need a break. Just one break.”
Pic 4Yikes, this was a solid episode. Intense and emotional. I’m itching for “Slip” and we’re getting close to the end of Season 3. You know that we’ll get a Season 4, there’s no way we can’t get another! The storytelling is damn good it’s ridiculous.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Narrow Escape Problem”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Monica Beletsky

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The House of Special Purpose” – click here
Pic 1Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his brother Ray (McGregor) are portrayed in a juxtaposed couple shots showing how different they are truly, at the same time the latter’s trying to impersonate his brother. Also, the instruments of the score play us through, every character – named by animal – has a sound.
Great opening sequence, from the Stussy brothers to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) helping her man prepare for their latest con, to Sy Feltz (Michael Stulhbarg) keeping an eye on the situation at the office, and V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) who likes to binge eat and throw up apparently. Can’t forget Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), either; fresh off her trip to LA in search of clues about Ennis Stussy a.k.a Thaddeus Mobley.
Loving this season. The characters are incredibly interesting, almost more than ever because there’s a true air of mystery, particularly with Varga.
Pic 1ASo Ray’s pretending to be his brother, looking for the safety deposit box. Nikki does her best to pump him up for the work at hand. She definitely believes in him, which I wasn’t so sure of at the start. Inside he goes for the box, briefly meeting a woman from Bemidji, Minnesota which of course was the setting of Season 1. Ray ends up in the office of Buck Olander (Dan Wilmott), he knows Emmit well. Most interesting is how we, and Ray alike, see the difference between the brothers. At first he finds it uncomfortable. Then uses it to his advantage to get the box opened.
When he gets inside there’s a small bag filled with dog ashes. At least he gets out with $10,000. After Emmit finds out he and Sy aren’t happy, but they have bigger fish to fry with Varga. Their money worries are quite real, and they’d rather not find out what worse a wolf like V.M. might do if triggered.
Plus, there’s Meemo (Andy Yu) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan) up to no good for their eerie, mysterious boss.
Ray: “Buck, if I wanted an opinion from an asshole Id ask my own.”
Meanwhile, Gloria investigates the death of Maurice LeFay, going through his belongings at the morgue. Where she soon comes to find a Parole Board business card amongst them. Only a few steps to Ray Stussy, then a few more to connect him, his problems with his brother and the death of ole Ennis. Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham) thinks she’s digging too deep into something that requires no digging.
Pic 2One thing prevalent in this series is the chaotic randomness inherent in our world.
First, Gloria passes Nikki on the way into the Parole Board offices. Then, as it happened to her previously at another building, Gloria’s ignored by the automatic doors. Will this little nugget come to play a bigger part? It’s the same thing in the washroom when she tries getting soap, water, the sink and dispenser refuse to acknowledge her. There’s got to be more to this, I know it. Random events often come to mean bigger things in the Fargo universe.
So now Ray meets Gloria. She discovers his last name’s Stussy. No relation, of course. But curious to note for our woman of the law. They get talking about Maurice and his death, his involvement in the death of Ennis, that he may have been looking for something at the old guy’s house. When she leaves the balder of the Stussy brothers he’s visibly shook. No wonder.
He has worse problems. Pictures of him and Nikki turn up from their night out gambling. The higher-ups aren’t happy with him. They offer to sweep it under the rug, if it’s just a “one time thing.” So, he has to choose love or his job. They also threaten to revoke her parole if he chooses the former. Eventually he talks them down and leaves his job behind. But if he officially gets closer to Nikki, then it’s increasingly likely that Gloria will be more suspicious about what happened to Maurice, at Nikki’s apartment building, et cetera. Yikes, what a mess. A beautiful mess.
Ray: “They always find a way to screw ya, dont they?”
Gloria: “They try
Officer Lopez, who ran into Gloria while in the Parole Board office bathroom, is over chatting with Sy about the car accident reported. He’s real cagey, too. Not a good poker face. With the big Russian and Meemo lurking around the office it’s never good having a cop around.
Pic 3At Emmit’s door arrives Varga, sniffing out pork chops. He sits with the family and eats. A very nervous dinner, indeed. The sly Brit intimidates while being sweet as a slice of apple pie. And when he’s finished his meal, he goes to the bathroom to keep himself thin with a vomit. Later, the two men talk business, though Emmit does so reluctantly. “Youre living in the age of the refugee, my friend,” Varga tells him cryptically, as he speaks of class war, capitalism, and how when things go to shit nobody will differentiate between a guy who pumps oil or a guy who makes tons of cash leasing parking lots.
Interesting how much Varga knows, of the Brothers Stussy, their struggle. Also note that V.M. has a picture of Stalin on his wall near the computer. What a creep. I doubt he idolises the man. More so he’s the type who thrives under a dictator, one who reaps the spoils of such a situation. A dirty opportunist of the lowest, darkest sort. And Emmit’s right in his cross-hairs.
Note: I suspect Varga’s bulimic tendencies are symbolism, of how the upper class gorge themselves, purging, then gorging; all for the sake of it rather than out of need.
At home Gloria contemplates the case of Ennis’ death. She gets a late visit from Officer Lopez about her visit to the Stussy office. Bringing about the conversation about Ennis, two brothers with the same last name and one living in Eden Prairie. Ahh, the pieces are really falling together now.
Pic 4Love the twisting and turning plot of this season. This episode deepened that to further lengths. Great, labyrinthine writing!
Next episode is “The House of Special Purpose” and I’m never sure what’ll happen in any episode, so I look forward to a new surprise.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 5: “Chicanery”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 5: “Chicanery”
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Written by Gordon Smith

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Sabrosito” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Off Brand” – click here
Pic 1In a flashback, we see Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) helping older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) settle. Things were obviously in turmoil for the guy at that point. A fine chef, though. He’s having Rebecca (Ann Cusack) for supper, Jimmy, as well. And we see that he hasn’t exactly told EVERYBODY about his issues with electricity.
After supper Rebecca and Chuck talk of Jimmy’s success as a lawyer, then what she’s been up to, jet setting and all. They seem to do well talking together. The younger of the brothers watches on with a sad yet loving looking.
Then we see Chuck start to lose it as her cell goes off, nearly passing out as she gets closer. He tosses the thing across the room. But still can’t admit to his illness. This is the reason Jimmy looks at his brother with those eyes.
Pic 1AJimmy’s at the vet with a fish, meeting that greasy animal doctor. He’s looking for a “light touch” to help him out with a discrete job. And so the story goes. Meanwhile, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is out kicking ass for her clients at Mesa Verde, as usual. Although she has to tell them about the allegations Chuck’s made against Jimmy. They don’t let it drive them away, which is great for Kim. But somewhere down the line she is going to get screwed over so hard. I just know that, sadly.
Readying themselves for Chuck’s testimony everybody is doing what they can to limit his exposure to electrical sources. Particularly, Howard (Patrick Fabian) is doubting his old pal/partner’s usefulness, effectively blaming him for what his brother did; in terms of PR, anyways.
So the legal battle truly begins for Jimmy and Kim. While the older brother goes hard for a disbarment, Kim hopes to do her usual good work for the youngest McGill. She argues that the case is more about a strained personal relationship and Jimmy deserves to remain a lawyer, that he is “an asset” in fact to the community. The testimonies begin with Howard, who gives his account. Then faces Kim in cross examination, as she gets him to eventually show a bias, the relationship between Chuck and Jimmy.
Then comes the tape. But Jimmy stalls the court before it can be played. Only for so long. Everybody hears what he admitted to his brother.
Pic 2Chuck: “I love my brother, but Ted Kaczynskis brother loved him, too.”
The court has to prepare for Chuck’s illness. Cellphones are confiscated. Lights are turned off, clocks taken from the walls. The whole nine yards; except for Jimmy, who says he left his in the car (yeah, right). On the way inside Chuck bumps into a man – a familiar face from Breaking Bad, Huell (Lavell Crawford). Hmm, interesting! And a little bit of an origin as to how he came to work with Jimmy, the man who becomes Saul Goodman.
So Chuck starts telling the court all about his little brother, the tape, so on. He paints himself as some grand investigator, and then feigns love for Jimmy, blah, blah. On cross examination, suddenly Rebecca appears in the back of the room. Chuck needs a break then. The two of them talk. She’s surprised about the illness, him keeping it secret.
When cross examination continues Jimmy takes the lead. He asks about the recorder, how Chuck handled it with his sensitivities to electricity; involved using space blankets and all that jazz. All getting around to Chuck using his illness to lure his brother. Then he breaks out the pictures Mike (Jonathan Banks) took at the older McGill’s home, to show how far his illness has gone.
Jimmy: “You need to see Chuck through my eyes
Pic 3This gets them into questions about when the illness first started – the divorce, et cetera. Chuck acts calm and measured, not freaking out like his brother might’ve hoped. Jimmy gets onto the electrical sensitivity, motioning for his secretary – she has Huell come into the court. He’s planted something on Chuck, revealed after Jimmy pulls a little parlour trick to snag him. Chuck spent an hour and a half with a cellphone battery against his chest in a breast pocket.
Prompting an outburst that shows exactly how badly the older brother hates the little one. Finally. An ugly moment for all to see.
Pic 4What a spectacular episode! In the top three of the series as a whole, absolutely. With no doubt. Loved this, so personal and so intense. Just impressive work.
Next week is “Off Brand” and I’m thinking we’ll see more of Gus Fring, too.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 3: “The Law of Non-Contradiction”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 3: “The Law of Non-Contradiction”
Directed by John Cameron
Written by Ben Nedivi & Matt Wolpert

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Principle of Restricted Choice” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Narrow Escape Problem” – click here
Pic 1Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Mann) is at an awards ceremony, the Singularity Awards. He’s won Best Sci-Fi Novel for The Planet Wyh. Could his stories of aliens somehow connect with the interests in aliens from Ted Danson’s character in Season 2? Hmm. Either way, Mobley winds up at the bar with a man named Howard Zimmerman (Fred Melamed), a film producer. Might be the big time for young Thad. He’s whisked off to make his novel into a “major motion picture” with a studio. Although things aren’t exactly as they seem.
Howard leads him on with starry promises. “Tit for tat” is how things get done, so he tells the young gentleman. Prying money from him, as he snorts at least some of it up his nose. Isn’t hard to see where this is headed. Poor, innocent Thad is getting grifted. Hard. One thing leads to another and he’s also into the drugs, as well. He keeps on writing, but those are the least of his worries now.
Pic 1AA beautifully animated bit brings us to Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) on a plane, reading The Planet Wyh. A man next to her (Ray Wise) asks about it and they have chat. Everyone around them stares at their phones, and he laments the change in times. Me too, Mr. Wise. Me, too.
Gloria’s on a trip to California hoping she’ll find out more about the elusive Mr. Mobley – a.k.a Ennis Stussy – going off a few books, newspaper clippings. What’ll she discover? I’ve pondered it ever since we saw the first glimpse of his books.
At the motel checking in she chases down a thief, or tries to, anyway. She winds up talking to a cop named Officer Hunt (Rob McElhenney) and asks if he could run information for her, re: the case. A possibility. In her room Gloria finds a box, in the closet. A strange box with a switch that opens then closes itself. I actually laughed out loud a bit. Not the weirdest thing about most motel rooms.
We see the difference between ‘small town folk’ and the ‘bigger city crowd’ as Gloria’s one of the only people at a diner, again, not using a cellphone constantly. She asks around about Mobley, tracking down a waitress; the one who helped seduce Mobley into the dark side now near 30 years sober. “Its basically nothing but a dream,” she tells Gloria rather than dredge up those haunting memories.


At a bar Gloria meets Officer Hunt. The difference between city v. small town is so painfully awkward. A funny and brutal scene, sort of sad the way she’s treated. Meta moment for Fargo, as many viewers get a chuckle out of the Minnesota accent. But then Paul (Wise) shows up again. He makes her feel more comfortable the way he acts, they can actually talk like human beings.
More of the Android Minsky and The Planet Wyh. Great animation that I’m glad was included. Sort of helps with the at times surreal feel of the series. In this moment it’s like a dream in Gloria’s mind as she falls asleep.
The next day she’s up again searching for clues about Ennis’ previous life as Thaddeus. She goes to the Writers Guild of America and finds a script for the novel’s adaptation; curiously misspelled as Planet Why. The producer’s credit leads her to Zimmerman, living in a long term care facility. He’s in terrible shape. She asks her questions about Mobley, and old Howard goes on about “quantum something” – physics, I’d imagine. Nothing much concrete, though.
At night a note is slipped under Gloria’s door. Then we’re whisked back to Thaddeus discovering his girl used him, he and Howard. The young man’s crushed, particularly when she lays into him with vicious words. Howard chokes him then gets whacked in the brain with a cane over and over. Thad nearly kills them both before running out. But as Gloria sees it in present day, it’s only “a story.” Or is there more to the Mobley connection? Yes, you know damn well there’ll be more down the line.


We see the aftermath of that bad night years ago. Thad packing his suitcase frantically. A picture perfect dual image: the award he won and the blood on his hands. Sort of nastily poignant. At the same time, a parallel shows us Thad puking in the toilet at the thought of his deeds versus Gloria noticing a stamp for DENNIS STUSSY & SONS company on the rim of the toilet in her room; only the D is worn off. It meant a new life, new beginning for Thad.
More of the Android Minsky and his adventures, the wild animations. One of the most unique episodes of the whole series, honestly. Dig it or not, you’ve got to give Hawley & Co. their due.
Gloria and her son Nathan (Graham Verchere) say goodbye to Ennis at the funeral home, a weary life behind the old man. She gets information about fingerprints from the murder scene. Maurice LeFay, of course. How long until Ms. Burgle gets herself closer to Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)? Not too long, I’d bet. It’s gonna get real complicated real quick, and I, for one, cannot fucking wait. Such an interesting setup already. Also, what’s Gloria doing with that weird box from the motel? Keep your eye on that.


Loved the episode, it was so unique. Amazingly written, as well as flawlessly directed by John Cameron, also a producer on the series. Next episode is “The Narrow Escape Problem” – with a title like that, you can be sure there’ll be excitement, a few thrills in the darkly comic world that is Fargo on FX.

KING COBRA’s True Crime Penetrates the Broken Heart of Gay Porn

King Cobra. 2016. Directed & Written by Justin Kelly; based on the book from Andrew E. Stoner & Peter A. Conway.
Starring Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater, Molly Ringwald, James Kelley, Keegan Allen, James Franco, Robby Johnson, Rosemary Howard, & Spencer Rocco Lofranco.
RabbitBandini Productions/Yale Productions/SSS Entertainment
Not Rated. 91 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 2.54.37 PMBefore I heard of this Franco-produced flick I’d not actually heard of the real life owner of Cobra Video, Bryan Kocis. He founded the gay porn studio, but also dealt with various legal struggles throughout his life: from charges of sexual assault on a minor, corruption of a minor, to bankruptcy and more. A difficult life, indeed. If even the basics of this tale are true, Kocis was a deviant who believed he fell in love, all the while exploiting the boy he said he cared about.
King Cobra is a fast tracked version of the Kocis story, with Christian Slater playing a stand-in for the real man, a man named Stephen. The object of his affection? Sean Paul Lockhart, a.k.a gay pornstar Brent Corrigan; played by baby-faced Garrett Clayton. What comes out is a story full of themes from the post-modern American dream to obsession to the struggle for love in industry where people aren’t people, they’re merely objects to be owned; by a producer, by millions.
Going in I thought there’d be a cheap exploitation aspect to the film. Not saying there isn’t a fair bit of skin. Director-writer Justin Kelly includes as much as he has to, in order to further explore the betrayal and deception at the heart of the story. And this, above all, is what matters most – the broken hearts left behind in the wake of the porn industry.
It’s known that the real Lockhart has said this story has “contempt for queer culture” and that it mocks pornography. The first I don’t agree with, whatsoever. Especially when the men are shown in an honest light, at all angles, never judged. As for the mockery of porn, I don’t agree; however, I do think it’s critical of the industry. Of how we allow the buying and selling of people, all culminating in the shocking real events that the story illustrates so vivid.
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 2.57.46 PMThe dark side of the industry is in full effect throughout King Cobra. Aside from the relationship between fictional Kocis and Lockhart, which brings up issues of sex with a minor, the plot goes even darker with Joe (James Franco) and Harlow (Keegan Allen); most of all the latter. Harlow’s story is sad – the saddest – full of despair and loneliness and a search for happiness that’ll surely never end. The hurt of his character is terrifyingly real, and Allen plays him with a haunting, dead-eyed look.
Harlow and Joe represent the desperate side of the industry, the men who resort to prostituting themselves. On the other side, Stephen’s obsession with Lockhart turns their relationship into one of pimp and prostitute, too. Like a pimp, Stephen wants total control over Brent, so much so he makes the whole thing into a personal and legal battle; something which goes terribly wrong, for all of them. Meanwhile there’s Lockhart in the middle just trying to make money and find a nice man. Like a postmodern American DreamNightmare.
Moreover, Stephen represents a side of the gay community we don’t often see when we get those normal, positive looks at regular gay men and lesbian women (which are important in their own ways for representation). What he, and his real life counterpart Kocis, illustrate is how some men almost go back into the closet even though they’re out. They don’t fully accept themselves. In his case, it’s because he likes underage boys. It gets so bad that Stephen lives in a “cookie cutter community” and he’s there amongst his neighbours, all the while he takes Brent and other young men inside, out by the pool, and films them fucking. He lives in the open, though keeps a barrier up between him and the world.
KingCobraImmediately, the stylised cinematography with its neon glow and filtered shots grabs attention. We feel as if we’re in an actual porno most times, not from the actual bare skin onscreen but the visual style. At other times the frames are draped in shadow, the way most of the characters are all under a cloak of darkness, living their lives on camera yet also behind it in the figurative dark spaces of life from one trick to the next.
The performances hooked me in. Allen is my favourite, he’s intense and brooding without being overtly animated; he makes you feel the darkness of his character Marlow. Alongside him as Joe, the ever interesting Franco provides us with a ferocious, unrelenting character whose sexual appetite does not mix well with business.
Still, the best performance of all has to be from Slater; his late career is proving full of surprises from Nymphomaniac to Mr. Robot and this film. Stephen isn’t a likeable character, he’s a sleazy guy. But Slater doesn’t play him sleazy, he somehow imbues the guy with a heart, no matter how dark. He’s a desperately clingy man, one who uses his powerful position as producer to rope in young boys with whom he can play, and hopefully control. He’s sad, he’s nasty. And there’s so much humanity to this otherwise monstrous man with Slater in the role.
What I love most about the character is that the writing allows him to be who he is, instead of trying to pretend like the gay community can’t have any bad apples. The real Lockhart’s criticism feels unfair, though admittedly I’m not a gay man and so my opinion isn’t the be all, end all. That being said, I think the best representation for any community, any race (et cetera), also involves those bad characters along with the good.
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 3.45.27 PMThere’s a major loss of innocence in King Cobra. One thing Marlow makes very clear is that everyone has a story. What people see on that screen, the flesh and the orgasms, is the end result of victimisation, of broken hearts and broken dreams. It is what comes at the end of a long road of pain. I don’t care if you think that’s not cool of me. Personally, I don’t support the porn industry. Nor do I judge anybody; I used to watch it, then awhile back made a personal pledge not to engage with it any longer. I just don’t think it’s healthy, you can’t fault me for that.
Neither can you fault the film. These characters are real people, if not dramatised for the sake of entertainment. Their story is largely real and is, aside from what actually happened to Kocis a.k.a Stephen, also the story of many others who’ve been sucked into the undertow of the exploitative, violent industry of pornography.
King Cobra doesn’t ask or answer any big questions. It looks deeply at the damage done to people who’ve fallen prey to the predators in the industry, as well as those who were preyed upon before and then came to the industry later only to be re-victimised. If you have a level head about the topic in general, this movie’s for you. There isn’t any judgement. Then again, people like Kocis deserved to be judged, only they don’t deserve what he got, either.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 4: “Sabrosito”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 4: “Sabrosito”
Directed by Thomas Schnauz
Written by Jonathan Glatzer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Sunk Costs” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Chicanery” – click here
Pic 1We get a glimpse of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) visiting the big boss man of the cartel, Don Eladio; you know the guy. We’ve been here before, those of us who so loved Breaking Bad. Hector’s there with a man named Ximenez (Manuel Uriza), who chose not to run away with money and did the right thing for his boss(es). They also bring news of an ice cream shop, The Winking Greek, named for him. Bolsa turns up, too. He has a Los Pollos Hermanos shirt, and the Don enjoys it. Although Hector says they ought to be called the “Butt Brothers” which suggests more about Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Long have we believed him to be gay, which is fine! But these old school gangsters obviously feel different, at least some of them. He certainly makes big, big money for Don Eladio, who’s happy to humiliate Hector in front of everyone while comparing his meagre pile of money to that of the Los Pollos Hermanos delivery.
I love that this series is providing us a better look at many characters, not only Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Because this world is populated with a lot of different people, many of whom were already worthy of more interest on Breaking Bad.
Pic 1AAfter a look into Hector’s past, we see the present. Where Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) sits in his car watching the groceteria from which Salamanca and his crew work.  He also gets an update on his granddaughter and her mom, that they’re settled in at their new place doing well. This is where we also see the start of Mike’s other life bumping up against the one he loves so much, his family; or what’s left. He chooses the right thing, for now. But the interesting thing about this compelling prequel is knowing where the characters are headed, watching that fate spell out in front of us/them.
Finally, we see Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) again. He and Hector roll into Los Pollos Hermanos to see the old man’s old pal. Only Gus isn’t around, so things get kind of tense. The whole place is on edge, especially with sketchy Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) and Nacho mean mugging on the perimeter of the store. Hector walks in behind the counter, nobody stopping him. Displaying a scary level of authority in front of everyone.
Meanwhile, upstanding citizen Gustavo Fring, local business owner, is over at the fire department delivering chicken and a kind word. Before he has to take an urgent call, alerted to the situation in his restaurant. When he returns his staff is waiting, under watch. Gus lets his employees go, full pay for the day and back to work tomorrow. Then he heads back to his office to chat with Don Hector. The old man says Gus will be his “mule” to bring product north, as well as uses a pen to clean his shoes on the desk like a rotten bastard. A nasty power play. We know how it all comes out in the end, but the trick is there’s a long, hard road to go before getting there. As always, Mr. Fring has a way of doing things. And I can’t wait to see how Hector ends up how he is in Breaking Bad, barely a shell of a man.
Pic 2Victor tries to drop off a package of money to Mike at his toll booth. Only the old fella won’t take it, refusing all that cash. Then off Victor goes again. Right now, Mike’s still resisting the temptation of a wholly criminal life, if only for the sake of his family.
In the meantime, Gus also has to explain the previous day to his staff; they’re all, naturally, very concerned. He apologises, offering them counselling, extra pay. One of the employees asks who the men were, so their boss says he once paid them money for protection, back when he first opened a restaurant. We see, more than ever, the act that this man puts on in his daily life. It was only just touched upon during the original series. Better Call Saul allows us a look at the deception in a much deeper sense, as well as the additional back story we receive makes for some of the best character development on television.
Gus: “This is America. Here, the righteous have no reason to fear.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is calling around to find out about any appointments Chuck (Michael McKean) has made for repairs. She discovers the place, after many calls, then cancels it. At the same time, Jimmy’s doing work on his case to make everything in court go smooth as possible.
Then over at Chuck’s, instead of a repair guy Mike shows up with his toolbox; ahhh, tricky, tricky! He drives the older McGill away with the use of power tools, so much so Chuck has to go upstairs. One of my favourite scenes this season. Our sly handyman runs the drill then takes snaps of the house from all angles. He brings the pictures and other tidbits to Jimmy for leverage. This won’t be the last time they meet, though. Just a seeya later for now.
Jimmy: “You, my friend, are the Ansel Adams of covert photography.”


That night, Gus goes to see Mike about Hector’s driver(s), the money he wouldn’t take. He makes an offer, to work for him. That’s a choice Mike isn’t willing to make blindly: “Thatd depend on the work,” he tells him. What follows is Gus making clear the reason he wants Hector alive, for now, is that a “bullet to the head would be far too humane.” What I can’t wait to see more of is how Mike slips further into deciding to work for the man.
On to a meeting with Chuck, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), and Kim and Jimmy, in the dark of course. Everyone is so concerned about the oldest McGill, his electrical sensitivity. Poor guy. The agreement for Jimmy’s confession is community service, et cetera, then Howard and Chuck nitpick the language on paper to their liking. Then the prosecutor wants an apology, one of a sincere nature. So the younger brother lays bare his regret. He also owes restitution; a little over $300, down to cents for the cassette tape. Yes, Chuck is cheap. In every way.
Kim knows there must be a duplicate of the tape; Chuck reveals it was the duplicate his brother smashed. He also tries to intimidate, but she is not one to back down. Not to mention the fact she and Jimmy are always hunting.
When Kim meets him downstairs, all she says is: “Bingo
Pic 4Yeah, baby! Love Kim. Need more of her, all the time. This was a solid episode, and next week is “Chicanery” which I know will be an exciting one again. Dig the flashback to Don Eladio and Hector, as well as more Hector in general. He is a wild old dude. Can’t wait to see what’ll happen next in all the different plots running through this series.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 2: “The Principle of Restricted Choice”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 2: “The Principle of Restricted Choice”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “The Law of Vacant Places” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Law of Non-Contradiction” – click here
Pic 1Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) goes over the crime in her head. She digs into the box she found at the Ennis’ place in the floorboards. Inside are several Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Mann) novels, she flips through them to see if there are any little notes or anything significant stuck between the pages. Nothing. There’s a newspaper clipping of Mobley winning a Golden Planet award. A photo of a woman, signed. She says Ennis Stussy and Mobley are “one in the same.” Hmm.
Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregory) and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) go see Irv Blumkin (Hardee T. Lineham) about their problem with Mr. V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) and their stupid, illicit deal. The two men are clueless, it’s almost amazing how they got as far as they have at this point in life. A curt commentary on many ‘successful’ businessmen, to my mind. Either way, Emmit still has problems with Ray (McGregor), the stamp. Although Sy says he doesn’t want the stamp, he wants his brother’s life; the “green monster.”
Watching Irv operate a computer, let alone Google, is absurdly hilarious. When he manages to search Varga, a webcam turns on and takes a picture of them. Then everything shuts down. Now that can’t be a coincidence, can it? That Varga is sketchy. His teeth alone are the stuff of nightmares. Even with that grill of rotten chompers he’s somehow charming, in the way he speaks to others like some villain from a fairy tale whispering in the ear of others along the peripheries.
At a lot Sy and Emmit control, Varga’s parked a big rig truck. What could be inside? Something sinister? “Slave girls,” Sy wonders? Who the hell knows. They’re trying to cover their asses while bigger things are happening, and have been a long while, without their knowing.
Pic 1AGloria meets with Moe Dammick (Shea Whigham). He’s a bit more of a rough character than some of the cops we’ve seen on Fargo, which is a welcomed touch. There’s already a tension between the two characters, as well. He’s her new boss, and wants to lay down the law at the office. He also wants her to take time off, after the death of her stepfather Ennis.
She goes out and starts investigating. A store owner says a Russian man came in – though, he doesn’t remember it was only a shirt with Russia on it (that’ll cause something to fuck up at some point) – and tore a page from his phone book; we know that man was Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy), but the information’s been mangled by this bumbling man.
Ray is checking on the death of Maurice, at the very same time. It’s been logged as ACCIDENTAL. Making him a very happy man, putting more pieces of the puzzle together for him. All the while the guy’s brains are being scrubbed off the sidewalk over in front of the apartment where Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) lives. Things look as if they’re going well. She’s busy trying to put together a new job, to make more money. Ray would rather get “out of the woods” before anything else. She says there’s something wrong with his “chi.” Blocked up. Not good. Sometimes it’s like she strings him along, though it also looks at times like she loves him. She is damn dedicated, that’s for sure.
Ray: “I never killed anybody before
Nikki: “Well me either. Lifes a journey, yknow.”


Ray goes to Emmit’s place. At 10:30 in the night, imagine that? Goes to show the disconnected brothers, one a buttoned down family man and the other a semi-regular guy. It’s fun to watch McGregor play off himself, a hard thing to do. Yet each of the Stussy brothers is different. Their mannerisms, how they talk even under those Minnesota accents. While Ray apologises to his brother, inside the house Nikki tracks down the stamp’s location. It was moved. In its place is the picture of a donkey; an ass. She discovers the receipt for a safety deposit box in the office desk. Then leaves her bloody tampon in the drawer. What she doesn’t know is that the stamp wasn’t moved, the frame’s only being fixed.
Ah, the ole Fargo comitragedy of errors!
Moreover, we get a look at Meemo (Andy Yu) and his friend Yuri from the Old Country. They toss an old man over the side of a parking garage, then walk away like they just finished playing a game of basketball. Dark and hilarious. Now there’s more of a Russian-ish connection coming into play, I’m very interested to see that unfold.
Later, Emmit gets a call saying Irv jumped off his garage.


Gloria’s making arrangements to have Ennis buried, she and her boy Nathan (Graham Verchere). They can’t track him back past 1980, before he married her mother. He’s a bit of a mystery, especially considering her mom passed already. He didn’t really have friends. Gloria is stuck on the Mobley theory, which ought to prove for more interesting story in upcoming episodes.
In a diner Sy visits Ray, unhappy about the break-in. They certainly don’t have any kind of good relationship, not even a working one. Sy says Ray won’t ever speak to his brother again; “nonnegotiable,” he claims. Appears the guy’s got a temper, which Ray doesn’t take to nicely.
At the office Emmit finds Varga kicking around suddenly, like a wisp of fog out of thin air. He’s got Yuri and Meemo with him, too. They’re taking up some office space. They’ve got plenty of boxes of… files? Already being wheeled into an empty wing. We’re coming to see V.M’s shadiness. In a way, he represents others outside America today while Sy and Emmit are the stupid men at the helm of the nation currently in 2017; as he says, they think the deal “can be changed” but once you’ve started down certain roads there’s no stopping. “Youre trapped,” Varga explains. He further assures the audience of what happened with Irv. Nasty dude.
Pic 4Loved this second episode! Hawley did a great job writing, and the characters have started opening up. I particularly have interest in Varga, whose purpose becomes clearer with this episode and specifically the final few minutes. Awesome stuff.
“The Law of Non-Contradiction” is next week.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 3: “Sunk Costs”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 3: “Sunk Costs”
Directed by John Shiban
Written by Gennifer Hutchison

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Witness” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sabrosito” – click here
Pic 1We start in familiar desert territory. A Los Pollos Hermanos delivery truck drives down a desolate road. As if signifying what’s in the truck, as if we didn’t know, and how long this has been going on, the sneakers on an electrical wire above drop from their perch to the ground.
Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) gets a call from Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) on the cell he’s found on top of a gas tank cap in the middle of a road. He’s told to “expect two cars momentarily.” The man himself arrives in sombre, black attire. Mike wants to know why he received the DON’T note. Gus relates that Hector Salamanca needs to stick around; at least for a while. But the problem is there have been threats, nasty business. What the owner of Los Pollos Hermanos explains is that, as long as the “hurt” Mike doles out to Hector is kept on a business level rather than a physical, fatal one, then he won’t interfere. Well, we know there’s more to Mike and Gus’ eventual relationship, so it’ll be interesting to watch it all play out. Now, Mr. Ehrmantraut makes clear he’s “not done” with Salamanca, and that he understands Fring wants to disrupt the guy’s business because they’re in drug competition.
It’s excellent to see the back story of these characters coming together.
Note: love how the camera frames Mike and Gus in positions of power; they’re on a flat, straight road, yet the shot shows them on an angle which puts Gus higher up on the plane than Mike. Very interesting, great filmmaking techniques are often used in this series (as it was on Breaking Bad) and that’s a huge reason why this is GREAT TELEVISION!
Pic 1AIn other news, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) must deal with the fallout from rushing in on brother Chuck (Michael McKean), smashing the tape recorder in a rage. He’s having a cigarette, finding the number he has for a bail bondsman. To see the brothers fall further into despair is ugly, considering the older brother’s planning on pressing charges. All under the guise of being for his younger brother’s benefit. I’m not sure if he’s being honest, or if it’s because he never wanted to see Jimmy succeed in the beginning. For his part, Jimmy tells Chuck that he’ll die alone.
Then it’s off to jail in a montage for the unlucky lawyer, the man we’ll someday know as Saul Goodman, lawyer to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
What about Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn)? She’s busy, as usual. Doing the tough job of living life in the same hemisphere as the McGills. Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) arrives to tell her he’s been fired, and worrying about Jimmy. And now she knows that her good buddy is sitting in lockup, clad in orange. In court he pleads Not Guilty; Kim turns up as his attorney, though he’d rather represent himself. He refuses to let her have any part, then he’s bonded out at $2,500 and gets back to the office to plead his case to Kim, to let her know he’ll fix things. Somehow.
Jimmy: “I fucked up
At a doctor’s office, Mike – or, Mr. Clark – goes in to see a “mutual acquaintance” to retrieve a package. He tucks it away in his trunk with the sniper rifle he’s carrying. Hmm, ominous. More trouble is certainly headed Hector Salamanca’s way.
Pic 2Jimmy’s trying to get an old law buddy to help with his case. Looks like it won’t pan out, seeing as how they’ve worked closely in the past. This takes the wind out of his sails a bit. More scheming ahead, just wait. Meanwhile, Chuck is meeting with an attorney about what’s happening next in his brother’s case. She isn’t going to take it easy on him, wanting to make sure lawyers aren’t held to a lesser standard. I only wonder: will his condition make it difficult, or cause issues, in court? Should be fun to watch.
Back to Mike, in the desert again. A place we Breaking Bad lovers realise he knows all too well by the time Walter enters his life. The old fella is out putting drugs in a pair of red sneakers, tossing them up on a nearby wire; the worn out shoes we see finally snap off the line some time down the road, as evidenced by the ALTO sign without the bullet holes shot through it yet.
He then sets up camp on a hill with his rifle, watching through binoculars to see who’s approaching on the road. A pair of men come to look under a sort of trap door in the desert floor; is this the same one Mike later goes to in Breaking Bad when he and Jesse make collections? Either way, Mike plays a game with the men. Then he shoots one of the shoes as the truck passes, letting a thin powder flow over the truck, catching on its rear step. Whoa. That’s fucking sneaky, dude. When the truck is stopped for inspection, a drug dog picks up on the scent, and voila! Another Salamanca plot foiled, another plus for Fring’s business. I can see already how the meth kingpin will come to find Mike and his services invaluable.
Going back to the opening scene, we understand this as being an illustration of how Gus now owns the route, that it’s a sign of his, for a long while, undisputed power. Where Hector’s trucks once ran, the opener shows us that Los Pollos Hermanos takes that route, well into the future, and the bullet-riddled ALTO sign shows that there are many wars to come.
While everything else is going on, Kim and Jimmy are dealing with the “boxed in” situation he finds himself in with Chuck. So, what next? She suggests he isn’t alone, that he needs her. But I can’t help feel this is a one-way ticket to the nail in the coffin for their relationship. Maybe not next week, or the week after. Just sooner than later.


Another great episode. Many say this show is slow. Part of why I dig the series is because it burns, slowly, and if you don’t dig it that’s fine. Don’t say the show isn’t good, because it is, it lays out the groundwork for great characters and compelling, well-written plot. Good on the writers and producers. Next week is “Sabrosito” and I know we’re seeing more of Mr. Fring, too.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1The finale of Season 2 opens, years ago, as a boy – little BB with the red shoes – is chased into the old church, past that familiar gate. Someone grabs him and smashes a rock into his head. The man removes the gate, takes the kid, then at the lake tosses him in tied to the thing. Others watch on, then they leave, disappearing into the mist. Are they spirits? Watching on as history is repeated and repeated?
I have a feeling we’re soon going to learn more in this last episode.
Pic 1AHap and Leonard (James Purefoy & Michael K. Williams) reminisce on religion’s “strong medicine” v. its “strong poison” in relation to Rev. Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), his insane murders. A devastating thing for their East Texas town to wallow in, as the church holds a ceremony for all the boys lost. Everybody’s there, from Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy) to Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack), Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson), and many more. The greasy, insincere Sheriff takes the pulpit, shelling out verbal sympathy for the families. Blah, blah, blah. And certainly our heroic pair get no thanks or recognition for their role in, essentially, solving the case on their own. Best of all, in this scene we get to watch Hap and Leonard do their BEST buddy comedy routine, with a lot of pitch perfect dialogue.
Hap: “I aint never been more proud to be an atheist than I am today
Leonard: “Amen to that
Stella and the other mothers who lost their boys do know the truth, that the eponymous duo are the ones who actually figured out what happened, giving them all closure.  Sadly, Hap still has one worry – that Hanson and Ms. Grange are getting together. Likewise, Leonard comes home to find Raoul, who’s tracked down Ivan’s (Olaniyan Thurmon) father; the kid is going home. And much as our man tries to pretend like he’s hard, Leonard is going to miss him; their bonding over Huck Finn and his adventures was sweet. Also, I’d love to see Raoul and Leonard get back together. They’re good.
AND POOR MEEMAW! I miss her. In her wake, Florida and others are left reeling with the news of the reverend, a man who pulled the wool over all their eyes. Left without Meemaw’s wisdom to get through it all.
Florida drops a bomb on Hap: “I always saw myself with a black man.” This is a gut punch. Whoa. Poor fella.
Hap’s got other things in mind, though. After seeing a curious number of angel figurines at Meemaw’s place while he and Florida pack everything up. Across the way, Leonard hears Chester speak to him from somewhere else, saying that the work isn’t done. Hap and Leonard now believe that BB was killed by someone other than the reverend. And I’m pretty sure we all know that someone was Sheriff Valentine Otis, who’s receiving a visit from Dt. Hanson about those red shoes and the very same line of questioning as our duo have on their minds.


Hap and Leonard get talking to Hanson’s partner Charlie Blank (Douglas M. Griffin). He’s reluctant to say much, after his trouble from shooting TJ. But they’re further on their journey now. Towards the truth. They’ve got their eye on the big bad sheriff. Only he’s got his eye on them, too. He’s much too craft. Then, at the diner, they notice the waitress Miriam has a chain: it reads BB.
The boys go see Miriam at home. They show her the BB chain, which shocks her. Such a sad thing to watch, especially when she’s been serving that old bastard every day at the diner. All that’s left is what Hap and Leonard will do, while they try to figure out how to handle Valentine, and when’s the best time for that. Not only is the history of BB with them, the history of the deaths of their fathers, covered up and forgotten is at their backs.
Leonard: “Things change, Hap. People dont.”
They lay what they know at Valentine’s feet. They want to know the truth, about everything. He acts nonchalant about the entire thing. A revelation comes: BB was Valentine’s son, he wears the same chain with the initials around his neck. The mystery thickens. “That boy was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me,” he explains, and how he couldn’t claim the kid because of the “colour of his skin.” Then they reveal that Fitzgerald never killed BB, which disturbs him terribly.


And who killed him? Just as it’s revealed, we see Judge Beau Otis walk in. He’s visibly upset by the talk. We know now, it was the rightful son upset over the illegitimate child his father had with a black woman who killed the boy. WHOA! Holy fuck, did not see this coming. Great suspense and mystery in the writing led to this moment. The father knocks his son into an empty pool nearby, splitting his head open wide. A sort of strange, bittersweet moment as Hap and Leonard watch the man who killed their fathers die at the hands of his own.
In the meantime, Hap his dad’s old repair truck fixed up with the nice, fresh decal on the side for Bud Collins’ business. He and Leonard head out for a drive, where they bring the old gate back to the church and put it in place again. Full circle, as the two put it.
Leonard: “Yknow, in the end, its always me and you.”
Hap: “Just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto
Leonard: “Yeah, wellcmon Tonto.”
And as they leave the church, the spirits of those who died there, the boys, those taken by the KK, and sweet Meemaw, they appear again in their rightful places, able to move on from the darkness.

Pic 4CAn amazing Season 2! With a distressing, dark cap at the end where we see a tree with a noose in it, and in the yard a woman finishes putting KKK linens on the line. OH, baby. Give Joe Lansdale, Nick Damici, Jim Mickle & Co. the greenlight, SundanceTV! We need a Season 3. Pronto. With plenty of mojo.
Pic 4D

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 1: “The Law of Vacant Places”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 1: “The Law of Vacant Places”
Directed by Noah Hawley
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Palindrome” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Principle of Restricted Choice” – click here
Pic 1Year 3.
1988 in East Berlin. A man is interviewed by an officer, though claims he’s not who officer believes he is, a man named Yuri Gurka. Seems they’ve got a problem. “That state would have to be wrong” for all this to be an issue. Surely, that can’t be correct, can it? I see where this is headed. There’s a murder, which puts this poor man, not Yuri, at a disadvantage when up against the crumbling Soviet.
Now, we head into Minnesota during 2010 for our current timeline story.
Pic 1AEmmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) are conducting a bit of business, as a 25th anniversary party for Emmit and his wife Stella. Afterwards the celebration goes on happily. In attendance is their daughter Grace (Caitlynne Medrek), as well as brother Ray (also Ewan McGregor). And the much more greasy-looking brother is there to get a meeting with Sy and Emmit. It’s been some time, evidently.
They do a little catching up, awkward as that goes. The tension is clear. Ray obviously feels lower class compared to his brother; Sy’s like the best friend who’s more like a brother than the brother himself. We’re also introduced to Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the fact Ray wants to get her an engagement ring. This brings up issues of money, plus some betrayal over a stamp collection, “vintage” stuff worth tons of cash.
The relationship between Nikki and Ray is a weird one. Likely she’s using him, but too early to judge. He’s a cagey one, too. So, I wouldn’t count anything out. Nikki says they’re “simpatico to the point of spooky” and he’s inclined to agree. Be interesting to watch more of them together, love McGregor and Winstead’s odd chemistry.


Ray is a parole officer – where he met his latest girlfriend – spending his days drowning in paperwork and piss. No short of characters he encounters. And no doubt we’ll see some kind of ethical murkiness rear its head; well, more than already with Nikki. You can’t help imagine what kind of plans Noah Hawley has for a main character with that profession in his quirky, twisted little world of Fargo.
At a bar Ray meets with Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy) who’s recently failed a piss test. This P.O is a little more lenient on those under his care. He wants Maurice to help him out with a robbery; quid pro quo, poof, vamoose, and the problems go away. If he can get his hands on the stamp in Emmit’s office.
Sy and Emmit have business to take care of late in the evening. Simultaneously, Maurice lurks around waiting for the right time to strike on his mission; he’s a little busy smoking a joint and talking to his shrink via speaker phone in the car. Then he loses the paper on which Ray wrote the address; it flies out the window, into the snowy roadside. Does he remember? Or will this cause unintended consequences? I’d vote on the latter.
When Emmit gets to the office he finds V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) waiting for him. He’s from their lender, Narwahl. Says they don’t need to pay back the money, apparently. It’s an “investment” he tells them. Followed by cryptic talk of “singularity” and “continuity.” Hmm, a few strings attached. Seems the boys got in over their head and didn’t ask questions before jumping in deep.


Chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) is at home celebrating her son Nathan’s (Graham Verchere) birthday. They’ve got a bit of a fractured family; modern by most standards. Another interesting family for the series.
A great tune, as always, plays (Adriano Celetano – “Prisencolinensinainciusol“) us through while cards are being dealt in a regional tournament. Dream team Swango and Stussy hit the tables together to make themselves a big a payday.
Poor, stoned Maurice, searching out the address he lost, remembering it incorrectly and headed in the wrong direction. Headed right for Eden Valley, where Gloria’s the law. Then the guy winds up going to Ennis Stussy’s – no relation to the twins, far as we know – place, where Gloria just left. She turns back to get the model he made for her boy, then finds the place in shambles, door open. The old man taped to a chair, dead. After looking around awhile she locates a hidden compartment in the floor with a box in it; inside, old books, a figure, and more.
When Maurice goes to see Ray, things are messy. The misunderstandings are only just beginning to pile up. It’s about to get wild, and nasty. Particularly when the parolee goes crazy on him, pulling a gun. However, Nikki’s always thinking. As Maurice leaves the apartment, they drop an air conditioner on his head obliterating him. They’ve got a plan and everything. A convenient way out.


This is the beginning of what’s sure to be an interesting Season 3. Such a great premiere, and I know there’s even greater things to come.
Not sure how the East Berlin moment earlier plays into the whole thing, though there’s a Russian connection: Maurice is wearing a shirt in the bar with RUSSIA written on it; maybe nothing, or maybe something. Who knows.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Mabel” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sunk Costs” – click here
Pic 1Chuck (Michael McKean) is locking up for the night, having a cup of tea before bed. Diligently making sure the doors are locked, peeking through the windows. He has someone watching out at night, sitting in the dark at all hours. He’s waiting for something to happen. Anything.
Pic 1AA couple guys are waiting with a tracker. From a distance Mike (Jonathan Banks) watches them with his own tracker. He’s getting closer to figuring out who has a beat on him, his comings and goings. Could this all be a test? Is someone recruiting him to test out his skills? Or just somebody keeping tabs on a crafty guy like himself? Hmm. Whatever it is, Mike’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
And then he follows a guy, in the night, into morning… all the way to, you guessed it: LOS POLLOS HERMANOS! God damn.
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is meeting with a woman named Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker) applying for a job in the office. She meets with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), too. They check out her resume, her experience, so on. They need somebody organised, to keep the place afloat. Kim isn’t sold, but Jimmy wants to hire her. Something like this is going to play directly into the plot, at some point in Season 3. When, exactly? Francesca will play a big role, in some way, shape, or form. Maybe she’ll wind up seeing Jimmy do something shitty, or she’ll flip on him for some reason, or who knows.
Mike calls Jimmy at the office: he wants him to go into Los Pollos Hermanos, to keep an eye on things, the guy with the bag whom Mike previously followed. Ah, the beginning of how Mike and Jimmy come into contact with Mr. Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Jimmy has breakfast starting out his spy duties. Soon the man with the bag arrives and our hapless lawyer tries to keep him in his sight.
FINALLY, our first look at Gus in a couple years! He sweeps up around where Jimmy sits, and the man with the bag, too (does he sweep something up from the guy? Is that their sneaky system?). Mike gets no information that helps from Jimmy, walking away empty handed. For the time being.


Mike keeps on Los Pollos Hermanos, determined that he’ll find out what’s been going on. It’s a tiring job, one he no doubt was prepared for all those years as a cop. Soon, a black SUV pulls into the restaurant rather suddenly, backing into the rear out of sight. Then it’s gone again in a rush. Who’s driving? Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), our old pal from Breaking Bad. Another lead to follow.
At the McGill/Wexler offices, Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) can’t go in, so he phones Kim. She goes out to meet him and he’s so obviously stressed, with the information he knows from hearing Chuck’s clandestine tape. He wants to tell Jimmy about it, but doesn’t want to get in trouble because of helping his friend. So, he opts for Kim, whose view of Jimmy has once again shifted.
Gimme a dollar,” she tells him – the same he did with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman when they had him in the desert, hood over his head. They’ve now got attorney-client privilege. He spills the beans, involving his emotions over Chuck, wanting to cut him some slack mentally. Only the tape exists now. Note: when Kim’s talking to him, and he’s peeling tape off the newly painted wall, at first (before he gets frustrated) he uses the technique his big brother Chuck taught him last episode; he can never escape him, even when Chuck is screwing him over, eternally.


Still following that tracker, Mike is out in the middle of nowhere. He’s lead to a gas cap in the road, a cellphone waiting on top. And surely when it rings, on the other end are instructions for where to go.
In other news, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) is sneaking around in the neighbourhood near Chuck’s place trying to remain unseen. They have a little secret meet. Howard’s getting impatient with all the nonsense, all the money spent on private investigators, et cetera. All in the name of trying to snag Jimmy for his crime. He wants to get on with “alternate strategies” and finish with Chuck’s paranoia.
No sooner do they finish their conversation does the younger brother show up, pissed off and ready to beat down the door. Which he does. He flies into a rage and calls out Chuck over his betrayal. He breaks open the desk to find the tape, then cracks it into pieces. Could likely mean only more trouble for Jimmy, as there are witnesses to his frustrated outburst.


Man, oh, man! What’s next for the Brothers McGill? Nothing good.
Coming up is “Sunk Costs” and I’m so intrigued to see more of Gus + Mike, as well as what Jimmy must deal with in the fallout of his actions here in this episode.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Joe R. Lansdale

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “No Mo’ Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams) have found the carnival at the end of the Idaho-like bus route. They see the ghost of Chester, we see them as boys. And the old man tells them, once and for all: “Finish this.”
Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) is dealing with Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and it isn’t all roses, either. At the same time, Hap and Leonard are staking out at Meemaw’s (Irma P. Hall) place where she looks after young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), who’s not entirely loving being shut in. Lord knows I love me some Meemaw! Ms. Hall is a treasure, and you can see her having fun playing the role. In other news, TJ (Kelvin Brown) helps our boys sneak out of the house under Sneed’s (Evan Gamble) nose.
TJ: “Nobody expects the retard
And now, Hap and Leonard get themselves labourer jobs with the carnival to go undercover, to try rooting out the killer of those boys. Is it all so simple? Well they run into an old friend, the flexible and fun Judy Punch (Bonnie Morgan); she’s too “old for the pole” nowadays, so, carnival it is!
Pic 1AOur titular heroes are on the constant lookout for any clues as to who killed the boys. Everything is suspicious, from behaviour to tattoos to look; anything could mean danger. Leonard drops a nice Ray Bradbury reference calling a tattooed carny serving food The Illustrated Man. They ask Judy if there are any noticeable candidates, and she suggests a few possibles giving them something to chew on. She also gets her hands on employee files for Hap, as well as hopes he’ll put a couple hands on her, too. Instead, he clings to responsibility. To do right by the missing, murdered boys that have piled up over the years. Somehow, despite her wonderful abilities, he refuses. Now that’s some strength, especially for ole Hap.
Judy: “I may not be as limber as I used to be, but I can still do more with six inches than a monkey can with a hundred feet of grapevine.”
Then there’s Leonard, searching the trailer of the tattooed guy. Turns out he’s a big bear of a man in the bedroom, ready to play. And those tattoos, they’re for sobriety. Poor Leonard barely makes it out alive, away from the sexual tyrannosaurus.
Back at Meemaw’s, Ivan is bored out of his mind. Can’t stand reading. Though she tries to show him the joy of it, that it helps you live a life inside the pages without having to always go out, letting you get into the trouble with Huck Finn without having to get into the trouble yourself. But the kid isn’t down for that.
Pic 2Hanson and his partner follow Florida to a garage, where she finds her own way inside. Where Hap and Leonard have been putting up their investigation links, the pictures of the boys, everything they’ve discovered so far. Leading the detectives right to it all. And y’know what they think immediately. Moreover, Sneed tracks them to the carnival, so an APB is out, as Ivan happens to stroll in. Another boy in danger.
In Judy’s trailer Hap and Leonard look over the employees, but the latter’s not sure they can take on an investigation of this size, just the two of them. Police are likely better equipped, yes; do they care as much? Doubt that. Regardless, the cops are already there, searching them out. As is Florida, trying to find them first. She finds Hap, and Leonard tries to get the Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) to get his group of kids out of there in case something bad goes down. After all, it’s the “third Saturday of every October” and tonight is that night.
This whole sequence is edited to perfection, taking us from Hap to Florida, to them together, to Leonard. Hap and Leonard writer Joe R. Lansdale’s (who wrote this episode) daughter is in this episode, too; we see her now and then. But this sequence is so well done, executed with expert directing and writing in combination.
Best part – Leonard saves Hap from arrest on the back of a horse! So Texas, so awesome.
Pic 3When they get out to the crypt, they find TJ there. With Ivan in the car. The big man says he’s “making angels” and that he put Ivan to sleep. Shit. A shotgun cocks in the background, then out comes the Reverend Fitzgerald. He and TJ were doing God’s work, supposedly. WHOA! I actually wondered if this was the case, the reverend that is – I didn’t see TJ coming – but dismissed it, and this surprised the hell out of me.
Rather than go down like that, Hap and Leonard get the jump on Fitzgerald. Then TJ joins in the fight. The boys break out into a brawl, as Leonard kicks the shit out of the (un)holy man with some of that military training. Before much else happens the cops arrive, to find the rev with a shotgun trained on the boys. Nothing more can be said before Fitzgerald turns the gun on himself and blows his face off. Poor TJ wanders out into things, as well. And Hanson’s partner fires on in him preemptively. Brutal stuff. At least Ivan’s not dead!
Now the corpses of those 13 boys in the crypt are uncovered, what Hap and Leonard had been finding out on their own is given credence instead of them getting blamed. Heroes who won’t get any credit, most likely.


Only thing is, someone has to tell Meemaw the truth. Hanson comes to do it, but Leonard offers. So it’ll be easier from someone she knows personally. Oh, just thinking of it breaks my heart. She takes it on herself, believing it her fault. She did all she could do for the boy, the rev turned him bad, manipulated him. “I thought if I just loved him hard enough…” she tries explaining to Leonard. Meemaw believes the devil followed her after that church was burned by the KKK all those years ago. Bless his heart, Leonard tries convincing her that’s not the case. And she does make a good point about the transformative power of love – Chester changed Leonard, Florida changed Hap.
Then we’re given another blow. Meemaw, as if done with life, gives up and dies right there in front of the pair. Like all of life’s unfairness toppling around us, in the background while they lament Judge Beaut Otis celebrates re-election. Nasty stuff.
Pic 5God damn you, Joe Lansdale! For making me cry tonight. Bastard (I actually love you, man). What an episode. Didn’t think the series could get any better, and then it tops my expectations. “No Mo’ Mojo” is next, the Season 2 finale. SundanceTV better give us another season or I’ll riot.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Witness” – click here
Pic 1We start Season 3 with another black-and-white flash forward into the future of Jimmy McGill a.k.a Saul Goodman a.k.a Gene the Cinnabon manager (Bob Odenkirk). Nancy Sinatra croons “Sugartown” as we watch his daily life at the Cinnabon in the mall. Far from where we saw him in Breaking Bad, juxtaposed beautifully with the place we follow along in the current timeline of Better Call Saul; one of the fascinating parts of the writing and the progression of characters is how Gilligan & Co. pull off making his journey into a, at times, non-linear adventure. In turn, this keeps things fresh even though we already know where Jimmy/Saul ends up down the road.
What I’m most interested in is where Gene goes from this point post-Breaking Bad, or if he continues on in his purgatorial existence, a fitting end for a greasy guy such as himself. Eating lunch alone on a bench he winds up seeing a sketchy young man who looks to be hiding, in trouble. Rather than let the kid go on, he rats him out to the cops. Then in a burst he tells the kid to say nothing, and advises him to get a lawyer. That old Saul came loose, even for a second. Gene’s not as measured as he once seemed. Later while glazing some buns he passes out. Yikes.
Pic 1ATo the current timeline. Jimmy and Chuck (Michael McKean) are back where we left them, when the younger brother confessed to his brother believing no one else would hear. Not knowing Chuck was hiding a tape recorder the entire time. All the while Jimmy thinks everything’s well, or at least stable. A situation he can manage. The brothers reminisce about being younger, triggered by The Adventures of Mabel which Jimmy finds in Chuck’s bookcase. For the first time, they actually seem like brothers. Not for long, though. The older of the two reminds with an ominous tone: “You will pay.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is doing her best to keep her chin up, too. Despite the rollercoaster of a life she has sitting next to Jimmy. He’s not exactly a dream dude to be involved with in business, or in friendship, love, et cetera. Eventually I have to believe Kim won’t be able to reconcile her morality with being on his side. She already knows he’s not on the level, but just doesn’t realise how deep the well of deceit goes. But as always, the problem is that Jimmy’s such a likeable loser that it’s very tough not to root for him.
Jimmy: “For ten minutes today Chuck didnt hate me. I forgot what that felt like.”
Meanwhile, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) hears Chuck’s tape of Jimmy and the confession. Certainly the secret recording isn’t enough to hold up in court; Chuck knows. So why have the tape at all? Does it involve Kim?
Of most interest to me is Mr. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He was out in the desert, and found a note telling him to get away. A warning, but from whom exactly? Mike does the smart thing, speeding away from the scene then checking his car for any kind of devices; nothing. He heads to a scrapyard and has a closer look. And I mean a CLOSER FUCKING LOOK. Mike uses every last ounce of his training to look through the guts of his car, inspecting each inch with precision. Like he can smell it yet can’t seem to find the thing.
Finally, he discovers something hidden in the gas cap. THE GAS CAP! An ingenious, tedious place to hide a tracking device. That’s some next level deviousness. But now Mike has some idea, a starting point leading to whoever’s keeping an eye on him so close.


Jimmy receives a visit from Captain Bauer (Brendan Fehr), one of the military gentlemen whose eyes he pulled the wool over when needing to cut a commercial. Anyways, he’s not happy. Slick talkin’ Jimmy tries to sell him a load of horseshit, that doesn’t work. Either Jimmy takes the ad down or “therell be hell to pay.” He doesn’t dig that, so he threatens to take it to court and win. The captain advises him, in his own way of speaking, that eventually Jimmy’s going to get what he deserves. From the flash forwards and seeing Breaking Bad, we know this to be true.
With his newly acquired knowledge, Mike switches out his gas cap to head off after work. At an old warehouse he meets his friend the veterinarian (Joe DeRosa) to get himself some gear. Pricey, too: $1,000.
Back to Kim, over at Mesa Verde she’s doing great work. As always. Worse still she knows the treachery, the guilt eats her. How long before it eats her alive? Every time she hears about Chuck and his supposed mistake, it’s like a stab in the gut. Also, in the office – that rainbow… any imagery connections to that in Season 2? I’d like to revisit that.
Over at Chuck’s place, he has to get Ernesto to help him change batteries in the tape recorder. The thing is on when he changes them, he hears a bit of Jimmy confessing. This sends the old gentleman into a fit of anger, trying to make sure Ernesto won’t ever tell anybody about what he’s heard. “There could be terrible consequences,” Chuck convinces him with a torrent of quasi-threatening language.
Pic 3Mike, Mike, Mike; what will you think of next? He’s like the counter-intelligence king of the streets, using all that police knowledge from busting criminals, learning their ways, to fuel his own criminal enterprises. Except right now it’s like espionage, trying to discover who’s on the other end of the surveillance on him. He’s reversing the cat and mouse aspect of the dangerous game that’s being played, or at the least trying to do so. And he loves pistachios. Fucking loves them. I don’t blame him, either; they’re great.
After a long night of waiting, Mike sees a vehicle stop. Someone retrieves the GPS tracker from the gas cap then they’re off into the night fast as they came. So, Mike has a lead on where they’re headed.
Want to take a guess? Might have something to do with Los Pollos Hermanos, maybe?


Great start to the season! I don’t care if people say the show’s slow moving. It’s meant to; the storytelling and the character development and the plot moves are all spectacular. Great music and score, as well. Excited for “Witness” next week. Welcome back.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by Abe Sylvia & Ione Lloyd

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1A young Hap and Leonard are at the fair. Even back then Hap was in love with Florida, though worried he wasn’t good enough. And the pair loved one another, Hap and Leonard, even then. Unafraid to show their affection for each other. In the garage, present day, Hap (James Purefoy) wakes to find Sneed (Evan Gamble) and a few other cops there to arrest him. Now he’s in a cell across from Leonard (Michael K. Williams), in for the arson he committed. Hap’s in for kidnapping Judge Beau Otis, whom he recently discovered is epileptic; wonder if that’ll come into play again down the road, or if it had anything to do with his killing of their fathers. Hmm.
Pic 1ASheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) has a talk with Hap about whether he’s a “troublemaker.” He does not want any trouble with his brother; he is poised to be the new county judge. So it’s either leave things alone with Beau and go home, both he and Leonard, or else it’ll look grim. And no more digging around where neither of them belong. Some rough talk. In an interrogation, Leonard’s dealing with Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and his racist partner, neither of them being too friendly. As always, Mr. Pine won’t do the dance, not for a black cop or a white cop or anyone else that wants him to tell lies about himself.
Leonard: “And we aint no brothers. Slack or no slack.”
At least he’s out of jail, and Hap, too. Neither of them immediately see a way forward. It’s all over, so Hap heads out to work and Leonard goes to check on Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon). They did their best. That’s all they can do, right?
Florida (Tiffany Mack) has an awkward meeting with Hap at the diner after she didn’t show up for his and Leonard’s arrest. It wasn’t hooking up that made her stay away, it’s the fact they’re constantly in trouble and poking around in some dangerous business. What I love about this episode so far is that Hap seems to be having some strange daydreams, from hooking up with Florida to the Village People. Over with Meemaw (Irma P. Hall), Leonard and Ivan get closer. Then Leonard notices the picture of the church on her mantle, where the gate stood. A troubling thought. It was long ago, when Meemaw was a girl. She tried putting out the far the Klansmen set, burning her arms. Such a sad thing to see when she tells Leonard of what happened that day.


Dt. Hanson is looking at the child’s body in the morgue. His partner Charlie is worried that he’ll be caught “tampering” but it’s only the fact he knows there’s more afoot. Hanson pushes on, he’s starting to feel there is more than meets the eye. Suddenly, Sheriff Valentine arrives, as the detectives hide. The old man is there to visit the body. He has the shoes. Holy fuck. And with the detectives watching on unseen he puts the little red shoes right in the body bag, signing off forms for the medical examiner. Washing his hands of the situation, the body off for cremation. Or so he thinks. There is no way Hanson will let this sit on his conscience, at least not forever.
I love how, using the same line of dialogue, Hap and Leonard both figure out the gate is from a church. It’s just excellent writing, and they each deliver the line is such different yet similar ways that the respective scenes are perfect. Hap does a bit more investigating, trying to figure out if the church he’s located is the one where the gate stood years ago. During a charity boxing event at the church, he gets in on a boxing match and things get heated in front of Florida and the audience as Hap and the pastor throw fists. Ultimately the white boy goes down, not without a decent fight.
Meanwhile, Leonard’s tracking down information on the church. And he’s haunted by the ghost of his uncle Chester, as well as Illium Moon.


Leonard: “Goddamn peckerheads all think alike
Hap: “I thought it was great minds
Leonard: “In your case, peckerheads.”
The pair are getting closer and closer, finding their way to where Old Hope church used to stand. All that’s left are the bricks of the foundation, nothing much standing. Then they fall right through an old, broken floor. Through the basement they find coffins labelled with years. Inside, more children. Disturbing, to say the least. Now the boys have got themselves a handful; way more than that, two arm loads. They set themselves up an investigation, connecting dates, names of the missing boys. An elaborate puzzle they’ve got to put together, because it looks as if whoever’s been taking those boys and killing them isn’t done with whatever they’d planned.
Hanson and his partner are distraught over what they’ve seen. Although it’s the former who’s more interested in actually digging out the truth. Not just that they’re in the dark, struggling for clues. Hap and Leonard are further ahead in their investigation than the actual police force. A great testament to the lack of care put into missing black children; we think it’s bad today, it was even worse in the ’80s.


Hap and Leonard are trailed by the police on the latest leg of their adventure. They pop in to see Stella at the salon. She’s sly, as are the other ladies sitting around getting their hair done. Great moment as Stella tells the cops to find her missing son while they’re so concerned with tracking down the pair. Then the other mothers show up. Hap and Leonard are the only ones looking for the missing boys.
Love the sequence set to Johnny Cash’s “Wayfaring Stranger” as the pair ride a bus, all the young black boys and girls around them. What would otherwise be a beautiful sequence of all the smiling faces, the youthful innocence, is a tragic sight; seeing Hap especially look at them is like a gut punch, knowing any one of them could go missing and barely anyone would flinch as is the case with BB and the others. Haunting sequence, one of the best in the series as a whole.
Pic 4DArriving at a carnival, now knowing part of their map of the missing boys links to the busses and Idaho, Hap and Leonard have more to go on. BB’s little body has been cremated, but the shoes aren’t gone yet.
The next episode is “Pie a la Mojo” and it looks intense! Pumped to see what goes on next in this stellar adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s characters and novels.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by John Wirth

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Some little black boys and girls play near a graveyard, some hide and seek. Off in the distance are hooded Klansmen on their way towards the church. The children are rushed into a basement, as the white hoods march closer with gas and ropes fashioned into nooses. But one little girl doesn’t make it down, witnessing the burning of her church, the hanging of a groundskeeper. A brutal, vicious moment. She continues to count for hide and seek; better than watching.
Pic 1APresent day, we see Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) on their way up to Moon’s cabin, talking about Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack). When they arrive, they find a van in the river with Moon inside, dead. Now the pair worry for what happens to Leonard. Hap wants to move the body, though his trusty buddy tells him: “Thats bad mojo.” The chemistry between Purefoy and Williams is so charming and undeniable, they’re perfect as Joe R. Lansdale’s eponymous characters. Instead of reporting anything to the police the boys sink the van further in the river, to keep on with their own investigation. They also stumble upon the steel gate to which the child under Chester’s house was tied; where the hands remain.
Florida goes to talk with Judge Beau Otis (John McConnell) about recusing himself from the Pine case. She uses the information about Hap and Leonard’s fathers against him, though he acts high and mighty, refusing to bend. She pulls a nice little power move before leaving, eating one of his fries.
At home, Hap goes over clues in the case, putting together all the evidence he can gather. Looking over maps, newspaper articles. Meanwhile, Leonard looks after Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), cooking for him and trying to imbue the boy with a sense of personal responsibility. He then gets a visit from Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) with a warrant to search the place. Ivan takes off, tossing the secret box he holds onto Melton’s (Sedale Threatt Jr) roof. Hmm.


Florida wants the boys to talk to Moon, so Hap’s got to do some covering. Wonder if it’ll take long before the truth comes out. Time being, “dirty old man” Hap can’t keep his eyes off Ms. Grange. She has her hands full with the case, butting heads with Dt. Hanson over Officer Sneed (Evan Gamble) lurking around after assaulting Leonard. Worse than that Sneed spied Ivan tossing that box. Can’t imagine where that’ll lead; someplace nasty.
One good thing – Hap and Leonard find Ivan stowed away in the truck, and he says he knows where the gate came from, he can take them there. One bad thing? Hanson and Florida go to find Moon, and the detective comes across evidence suggesting he’s nowhere to be found. Uh oh.
That good thing, it ain’t so good when Hap and Leonard end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, and a group of neighbourhood women surround the boys. They want them to hand over Ivan. Afterwards, they go to see Stella (Shirlene King), the lady in charge. When they tell her about investigating the disappearance of all those boys, she’s got information that may help – the gate came from a church – and it’s possible her boy was one of the boys taken.
Leonard: “Aint no runninfrom your shadow
Judge Otis shows up at the gas station where Hap works. For a fill-up, and a talk about Leonard. A sassy talk, especially for a man who’s a judge and killed a couple people while driving drunk. For that, Hap cuts up some equipment under the guy’s hood and lets him go on.


Stopping at a store, Leonard comes back outside to find Ivan gone. And a cheap cigar left behind smoking. Sneed? I’d bet on it.
Broke down on the road, Judge Otis is met by Hap in the tow truck. He busts out one of the guy’s windows, then forces him into the woods. He tells the Judge a story about an old man and the dog he loved, a bad, sour dog. One day a kid was bitten by the dog, right in the chest, in the heart. Before Hap can bash the Judge’s head in, he nearly has a heart attack. He leaves the man in the woods to run off eventually.
At a diner, Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy), father of Beau, has a talk with Florida. About jobs, who’s doing them well, who isn’t, on top of what’s been going on in their little East Texas town. Looks like the Otis family are a gang of alcoholics, a running familial trait. Not only that, they love making threats. “Be careful,” Sheriff Valentine warns Florida before heading out.
And Leonard, he goes to see Sneed. Catches him in the bath. Just so happens Leonard brought a bit of salt, a radio; to get the conductivity going for when he tosses the thing in – except the unsuspecting officer doesn’t realise it’s a battery-powered radio. He also grabs a handful of Sneed’s balls, squeezing, looking for info about Ivan. Sneed gives up information about Melton, which is where he brought the boy. Leonard goes to Melton’s, finding Ivan shot up with drugs by the nasty dealer and his friends; he brings the kid to Meemaw (Irma P. Hall) then goes to clean up the neighbourhood.
Pic 4AFlorida goes to tell Hap he needs to lay off Judge Otis, or else Leonard’s ending up behind bars. She wants him to be honest, about everything. He reveals that Moon is dead, though she knew. And a bit of honesty goes a long way to getting the two together, which Hap was leaning for since he met Florida.
While they get down, Leonard gets busy. As in molotov cocktail busy, tossing some fire into Melton’s place and watching it burn. On the roof, the box burns, too; what was in it exactly? We’ll never know, likely. Something to incriminate Leonard, and luckily Ivan chose not to leave it at Chester’s for anyone to find.
What’s most interesting? Meemaw has a photo on her mantle. One of a church, and standing in front of it is the gate to which that child’s body was tied. This is the church we saw those Klansmen attack in the opening scene. BOOM!


What a stellar followup to the second episode. Just awesome adapted writing, the characters are so vivid and intriguing. Purefoy, Williams, Mack, everyone is doing a fine job with the performances. Can’t wait for “Bad Mojo” next week! What do you think the boys will get up to? And can Florida help Leonard avoid the slammer?

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Abe Sylvia

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon) wakes in the bed at Leonard’s (Michael K. Williams) place, a bit disoriented and rightfully scared. Then he runs into the old man from the van. He chases the boy, but Ivan gets the jump on him. The old man finds something hidden in a vent on the wall, like an old lunchbox.
Ivan escapes then waits in the weeds for a chance to run. Only he can’t once a bag is thrown over his head and he’s whisked off.
Pic 1ALeonard’s in jail, of course. Fingered in a lineup by Melton (Sedale Threatt Jr), who got pissed on last time by Mr. Pine. He meets with his attorney Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) and Hap (James Purefoy). Things don’t look great. They’re okay, for now. Except he’s got to ride out the weekend in jail. The police are also flooded with lots of black women, looking for their missing children, wanting to know more about the investigation. Heartbreaking and tragic.
Florida and Hap try to rally the mothers, all of them knowing the police aren’t doing anything for the missing kids. So it’s another case of Hap being placed in a position to help; both the community and his best friend Leonard. However, the mothers all reveal that Chester Pine came to them in a suspicious way, every last one remembering his name. Very troubling. We discover Chester put Florida through law school. Huh! Then again, as she notes: “Thats what they do.” As in those who prey on children.
One of the officers interviews Leonard, along with a sac of oranges, a hammer, some books. Old torture techniques. In the meantime, Hap tries to get in to see his buddy with some Nilla wafers. He’s too drunk. And Leonard takes a hard beating before Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) stops the psychopath cop.
Pic 2At a black church Hap shows up to sit with Florida, stopping the congregation in their tracks. She refuses, so Meemaw lets him have a seat in her pew. Hilarious to see him clap with no rhythm next to all those happy, celebrating black worshippers. Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) preaches about the sheriff’s department not helping. And right then Sheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) strolls in to take the pulpit. He and Judge Beaut Otis stand up there together, Valentine talks about trying build bridges, blah, blah, blah. Nobody’s buying it; not the congregation, not Hap, either.
Meemaw (pointing to Hap): “You see that man standinthere? That is the only white man I like.”
Otis: “What about Jesus?”
Meemaw: “Jesus wasn’t white
In his cell, Leonard gets a visit from a creepy old man. Is he the man from the van? He does some voodoo stuff, sprinkling a line of salt in front of the cell. He hands over a book. One about cowboys, from Leonard’s childhood. Inside are hollowed out pages containing a chicken’s foot. Next day is court. No bail for Leonard and a trial in six weeks. Judge Otis is definitely one of the racists running things behind the scenes in East Texas.
The bombshell? Otis is the one who ran down Mr. Collins and Mr. Pine on that dark, rainy road. Holy fuck. Hap now has something he can hold over the judge’s head to get Leonard out on bail.


With Leonard out, Florida and Hap try to get him laying low. He isn’t happy. Worse still, he doesn’t like that they’re leaning towards Chester being involved in some shady shit. Either way the truth is coming out. Whether it’s a truth Leonard can handle dealing with is another story. But he packs up and gets ready. Meanwhile, Raoul is worried about Ivan. This leads Leonard to discovering his broken cowboy that’s been there since he was 9; the one Ivan smashed on the man’s head. This and the pennies on the windowsill, a chicken foot hanging from the ceiling, all leads them to a man named Elia Moon – the eerie old man, who also spends quite a deal of time near children.
Off go our two brave self-made detectives. They find a shack up in the woods, booby trapped, the entire place covered in dead animals and skins. They stumble onto the old man hiding in a closet. He’s been waiting. An odd duck, though seemingly harmless. He says Chester was actually trying to figure out the mystery of the missing boys before he died.
At the same time, it’s revealed Melton is the one holding Ivan. And he wants the boy to hide something at Chester’s house.


Over at home Leonard sees Ivan is back, acting like nothing’s wrong. Later, Raoul also reveals to Leonard he’s been seeing somebody. Upstairs, the kid a box Melton gave him: is there incriminating evidence inside? I’d bet on it.
Hap gives an alibi for Leonard in 1986. They were seeing a Howard Hawks double feature: The Big Sleep and Red River. Or y’know, that’s what he says. “Devotion” as Florida puts it.
Back at Elia’s place the old man is worried about “bad mojo” in the air, as all his hung up beer bottles start falling from their strings and smashing all over the ground. An omen? It sends Elia off in a rush. He sees a vision of a little black boy, covered in blood. Right before he drives into the river. Another blow to the case for Leonard.
Pic 5Just a perfect followup to the first episode in Season 2! SO MUCH MOJO.
Bring it on, baby. Give me more.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
Pic 1AThere’s a dark secret buried, one that Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) will soon stumble upon. This season we open on someone disposing of a young person’s body, tying them, then dumping their corpse in a lake. Terrible things go on unseen. But it doesn’t take long for them to emerge for all to see.
Back again to the world of the ever fantastic Joe Lansdale!
Hap’s picked up the remains of Trudy; ash in a box. And while he loved her, that’s one less giant mess in his life. Everything for him is messy, from relationships to his piece of shit car door. He gets by for now working as a mechanic. In other news, Leonard’s at home getting a hard back massage from his boyfriend Raoul. He’s got problems with neighbours, too. Nothing that a cane can’t stop, or a bit of piss in the face. What I love about Leonard is he’s gay and black in the late ’80s, so there are bound to be more situations that arise from that, living in the South and all. A little later, he steps through a floorboard in his dead uncle’s old place: now he’s found the secrets long ago covered up, forgotten about.


Leonard: “The dead dont give a shit about what happen toemtheyre dead.”
The two friends go digging under Chester’s floorboards more, inspecting the skeleton they’ve found. It’s a child, a small one.  Same sneakers as the one dragged from the lake. Now Leonard wonders if his uncle knew, especially considering how long Chester lived there and how decomposed the body is currently. So, what next?
A kid runs off with Trudy’s ashes, sending Hap and Leonard on a chase. Then the box gets tossed into a garbage truck driving past. Instead of letting it get away, Leonard stops the truck to get Trudy back.
The boys alert the police to the body under Chester’s house, which marks the place as a crime scene. But you just know them two are gonna get up to something soon enough. The old lady across the street doesn’t believe Chester had anything to do with the body, though the police – Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) in particular – are investigating with suspicion. And someone in a van lurks around the neighbourhood. Very likely the one responsible for that body’s existence.
Leonard talks with Dt. Hanson at the precinct, as Hap talks with another detective. Some uncomfortable conversation comes up when Hanson says “you people” enjoy little kids; he means homosexuals. Nasty. Likewise, Hap faces scrutiny about his status as a conscientious objector during Vietnam, all the mess they got into with Trudy and the rest of her friends. After all that they discover there were no feet or hands or sneakers on the body. Was this the work of the man in the van? Hmm. Either way, a lawyer named Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) arrives to help the boys in their predicament.
Florida: “Dont underestimate mecause Im beautiful, Mr. Collins.”
Pic 2I love watching Hap watch Leonard and Florida pass the hot sauce between each other, putting a load on their food. Such a perfect look, as he tries to get himself a taste and they just keep on shaking the bottle.
After food they start picking through the mystery in their neighbourhood. Meemaw across the street offers what little help she can. Hap and Leonard keep an eye on Chester’s place from hers, and they also have a heart to heart about Trudy. In the morning they meet Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), who does a bit of preaching, though neither Hap nor Leonard are too interested in religion. He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah, fittingly foolish with a proud gay man at the table.
When Leonard goes over to check on his house, he finds Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), the kid who stole the ashes. He’s nearly dead from an overdose. Unable to locate the kid’s parents, Raoul convinces Leonard to take care of the boy for now in their place, to which he very reluctantly agrees.
One of the detectives goes to meet Hap at the garage where he works. He wants to know more about the sneakers they saw on the body. On top of that he’s suspicious of Leonard being a “darkie” and all. And you know are man doesn’t approve of that shit, so he dismisses the detective rather fast.
Pic 4Trying to dump Trudy’s ashes off a bridge, Hap drops the box in the river. Like the man he is he goes in after it diligently. Then he scatters them onto the water around him, soaking in Trudy, and strangely happy.
At home, Leonard puts Ivan to bed. When he takes the boys shoes off he sees his name written on them, similar to the BB on the red sneakers. Suspicious? Or nothing at all? Either way, right now Leonard’s being taken in by police. Great, now Hap’s going to have to get his ass in gear while his friend is locked up behind bars.
And outside the house sits the man in the van, watching. Who is he?


What a spectacular start to Season 2! Love, love, love this series. Lansdale’s writing, his characters, the atmosphere, it is all palpable in the adaptation by Damici and Mickle.

I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE & Justice in the Real World

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Directed & Written by Macon Blair.
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye, Christine Woods, & Robert Longstreet.
Film Science/XYZ Films
Not Rated. 93 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★1/2
img_0007Ever since seeing him in the fantastic indie Murder Party, Macon Blair draws me to his work. Just a couple years ago Jeremy Saulnier went ahead and gave him the spotlight in the story of amateur but passionate revenge, Blue Ruin, and last year Blair also turned up as a neo-Nazi with a heart still beating somewhere deep down in the immensely impressive Green Room.
A year after, Blair comes to us via Netflix with I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, starring Melanie Lynskey (who along with her role in “The Birthday Party” from anthology horror movie XX is experiencing a big surge in her great career) and Elijah Wood. Channelling energy no doubt gleaned from his time working in front of the camera for Saulnier, Blair writes and directs like he’s been doing it for ages. The pacing, the directing, his tense, darkly comic, and at many times his cathartic script all make for an inventive debut feature. Even better, the timing of this film is on the nose; when North America’s been gripped by a steady stream of hate billowing out of the aftermath from the 2016 U.S. elections. I don’t think Blair anticipated such relevance, and wanted to just make a solid crime-thriller. Despite authorial intent, his work feels perfectly at home in this world heading on from 2017, surely expressing the feelings of many Americans in the story’s reluctant yet driven to the brink protagonist.
img_0008Everyone is an asshole. And dildos.”
The opening moments are awesomely comic and dark, as well. From an old lady’s vulgar last words to an awkward parking lot encounter, a look of existential frustration on the face of our protagonist Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) as oblivious shoppers cut in front of her in the cashier line or don’t bother picking up items they knock off shelves, to dog shit left on her lawn and a random man in a bar ruining the latest book in a series she’s reading – Ruth’s introduction to the viewer is a concise explanation of the film’s title. Watching her life in these short, informative bursts during the opener is a proper visual thesis.
Blair’s story is at once familiar and totally unique in its own skin, as we see the age old tale of person pushed to the limits of what their humanity and pride can tolerate. Ruth refuses victimhood any longer. After suffering the myriad of small injustices offered by the world on a daily basis, she snaps when a truly shitty act of criminality forces her past the point of silence, towards reclaiming her life via vengeance. Only, as in real life, the film shows us how even well-intentioned revenge doesn’t always go as planned. Perhaps the greatest aspect of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is its dedication to reality, in that it refuses to deny the messiness of being human.
img_0009Ruth: “What are we doinghere, this world?”
Tony: “Trying to be good. Or be better.”
A large focus of the plot becomes the idea that, in today’s society (and for a long time), the focus lies more on what a victim must do to prevent being victimised, rather than preventing and punishing criminals properly. We see this particularly in the case of rape victims, which contemporary internet culture and social media has made even worse, as women who’ve been sexually assaulted and raped often hear what THEY should have done instead of society working on the men who commit such atrocities.
For instance, the police officer assigned to Ruth’s case all but refuses to take her seriously. All because she left her door open. This is just about the epitome of the idea that victims are treated like they’ve done something wrong. The cop keeps bringing up the fact she left the door open, so it negates her troubles; there are better things to do for cops than worrying about people who are asking for it. And that’s the bottom line, that the police, sometimes, would rather blame someone for what they did to supposedly bring on the crime than do work to find the criminals responsible. Because sure, she left the door open, that’s still not an invitation to be robbed – robbery is still illegal – exactly how a woman getting too drunk or wearing sexy clothes is NOT an invitation to assault or rape or anything else. Not sure if this is what Blair was getting at. Regardless, he gets to the heart of the issue with Ruth’s journey towards civilising her small pocket of the world. And further than that, how the police won’t help and make it harder for her to find justice, we see how many people in this crazy world are pushed to take matters into their own hands and find vigilante justice.
img_0010There’s so much, too much, to love. A scene involving an old man pawnbroker morphs from a hilariously sneaky scene into something more surreal, slightly horrifying, though entirely funny in a grim sense. Then there’s one bloody, climactic moment of pure violent madness before the last few scenes that works wonders. Continually, from plot events to bloody violence, the film sticks to the idea of real life. Events occur as in real life: spontaneous, weird, ugly, brutal. The plot heads in unexpected, dangerous directions, as Ruth winds up from where she’d ever anticipated at the beginning, reflected in the blood and cracked windpipes and stabbed stomachs Blair offers up on screen.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore has everything I expected. One of the most fun, and equally wild, film experiences I’ve had over the past year, definitely a contender for the films I love most at the end of 2017. Lynskey is pitch perfect in the lead, both innocent and strong in her own right, flanked by Elijah Wood in a role he owns; the others in the cast fill it out with class.
Blair does more than I could’ve imagined. I knew his debut would go over well because he’s got an old school sensibility about him as an actor; this translates to his directing with force. Every move of the story feels expertly paced, each scene directed and shot with precision. A crime-thriller that resonates with the modern state of America. Plus, yet another huge reason why Netflix deserves credit for letting directors – from TV shows to fictional and documentary features – take the reins of their vision and steer it how they see fit.

DAHMER: The Eerie Psychological Biopic

Dahmer. 2002. Directed & Written by David Jacobson.
Starring Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Artel Great, Matt Newton, Dion Basco, Kate Williamson, Sean Blakemore, Christina Payano, Tom’ya Bowden, & Mickey Swenson.
Blockbuster FIlms/DEJ Productions/Peninsula Films.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Biography/Crime/Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-7-50-50-pmI’ve long been interested in the criminal psychology of serial killers. In no way am I ‘fans’ of them, as certain sick puppies out there describe their interest. What’s so compelling is trying to figure out how the human mind could possibly warp so savagely, twisting into the wretched form we find in serial and spree killers, vicious murderers, criminal sociopaths, so on.
Jeffrey Dahmer is someone I studied in high school, as well as university. I wrote a long paper on him for a Law course, which brought me into the hideous world of his crimes. He is one of the most reprehensible of all American killers; that’s saying something, too. A lethal concoction of alienation, an inability to accept his own homosexuality as normal, and a deep, sick desire to find a willingly compliant sexual partner led Dahmer into the darkest path possible.
Director-writer David Jacobson’s Dahmer is far more powerful than most give it credit for, and if this was your first time seeing Jeremy Renner – as it was for me – the quiet intensity of his performance is a massive part of that power. The film takes us headlong into obsession, cannibalism, on a journey through Dahmer’s memories of a dangerously wasted existence.


Starting out we get a brief view of Jeffrey Dahmer (Renner) working at the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate factory, where he was employed in January of ’85. It isn’t simply the job that makes this starting point interesting. A few minutes into the film Jeffrey sits in the break room. He has three chocolate men (Santa maybe) in front of him on the table, as he starts in on chowing down on a sandwich; saving the chocolate fellas for a succulent dessert. An uncomfortably scary moment. A bloody, chocolatey metaphor for his crimes, like we’re about to see a horrific Willy Wonka prequel. Perhaps the best way to start out the events of Dahmer’s life.
What’s scariest to me about the screenplay is how well it makes Jeffrey appear outwardly normal – quirky, odd, though normal. And the disarming looks of Renner, his charm, they him all the more worrying; his seemingly normal qualities to the outside world are what many peopled noted about him later in real life. Before the first 15 minutes are out, the viewer’s been immersed in the criminal life Dahmer crumbles into, already too familiar with his nasty routines. The first turning point is when Jeffrey eyes a department store mannequin, long before those who don’t know his real story discover his affinity for mannequins – and why – further leading into his ultimate fantasy of an unmoving, quiet sex partner, or a sex zombie, as Dahmer himself believed.
screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-7-53-58-pmI love that Bruce Davison plays Lionel, Jeffrey’s father. He and Renner have wonderful chemistry. Their scenes together ratchet up the suspense because there’s this wait, a hope that maybe Lionel will discover these atrocities. Yet, as we know by the real story, this will never come. For instance, the box scene where father and son, alongside grandma, argue over a little box the former kept as a boy – clearly, Jeffrey has something inside he doesn’t want his father, or anybody, to see. There’s so much tension here, a lot of emotional acting from both men. A real heavy dose of personal drama, likely akin to what Lionel truly experienced with his son. It’s the revelation of what’s actually in the box afterwards which truly shocks, disgusts, and the tip of that Dahmer iceberg suddenly grows into a mountain.
However, the gay bar scenes are the most unsettling. This is one of the really psychological scenes, as Jeffrey seemingly steps outside of himself. He sees the image of himself, a bit younger and nerdier, standing alone across the street. He then heads inside the gay bar. While this is an exploration of Jeffrey’s sexuality, worse than this it is his discovery of the perfect hunting grounds. Jacobson directs this to perfection, as the alienation of Dahmer becomes painfully clear. The social awkwardness of Jeffrey is evident, and then his menace reveals itself after he starts initiating non-consensual encounters with gay men he drugs. Moreover, Jeffrey longed for a willing sexual partner, one that goes beyond consent: he wanted a lifeless man, to use, to not be judged by, and to degrade at his own will. The sexual violence here is sickening, although there’s a slight bit of restraint. During this sequence, Andrea True Connection’s “More More More” playing over top, the editing and the lighting, everything is so eerie. We watch as Jeffrey finally transforms from that awkward, shy, closeted gay man into an unfeeling, drunk, hideous monster right before our eyes. Later, the monstrous qualities of Dahmer come through even better – the lighting in his apartment, his bedroom and bathroom specifically, are tinted red, like a men’s room in Hell’s basement. And while the movie wears on, the lighting gets darker, as we get a further grip on this man’s evil.


What I love most is the screenplay. Jacobson gives us a full look at Dahmer’s life in the way that we follow the killer through his mind. Flashing from past to present, back, forth, is not only a narrative choice. Jacobson gets the viewer into the headspace of Dahmer. The past events of his life obviously affected his psyche deeply, and so we slip in and out of memories – mostly bad to rotten – in order to make the film feel like an experience of Jeffrey’s life through his thought process. Notice the significance of the events which bring him back to specific stories. Through this, we see the uncomfortable pain that at least partly dragged Jeffrey into a life of depraved murder.
Dahmer is a hugely underrated bit of horror. The entire film as a whole is upsetting because you’re forced to both watch Dahmer commit horrible crimes and simultaneously peer through the window of a despicable man’s undoubted, deep sadness. You’re never asked to like him, but the narrative makes us have to watch his story from a certain standpoint. A great move from director-writer Jacobson.
There’s a lot to enjoy about such a macabre horror, from cinematography to the music (which really helps the atmosphere; the score and soundtrack alike work well in combination). It’s the imagery I find most striking. So I leave you with this: watching his first murder, Jeffrey becomes a tragic sort of figure (even if he was an inexcusable cyst on the human race), and skipping to the present timeline of the film after witnessing that event we then see him cut a dead man open, reach inside, all to literally try touching someone’s heart. Maybe not a pretty image. A deafening image in its own right.