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.

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 8: “Mercy”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 8: “Mercy”
Directed by Daisy Von Scherler Mayer
Written by Jeff Vlaming

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Alone When It Comes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “This Is How It Starts” – click here
Pic 1For the first time in so long, we see Blake Morrow (Lee Tergesen) in his jail cell. He’s worried. “Its not supposed to be like this,” he laments after a fleeting vision of Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a.k.a “The one who ends it all.” He warns everything’s about to end. To others, the rantings of a crazy man.
And who’s there witnessing his death in the small audience? Dr. Park (Hoon Lee). Hmm. I’m continually interested in the doctor, and we keep getting more.
Pic 1AKyle worries about his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt). But he ain’t doin’ so hot, either. His wound isn’t altogether healed, not by a long shot. He goes back over to the hospital to try finding help under the radar. He finds one of the demon host doctors and strong arms her into stitching him closed. Not long after when he can’t find his mother Kyle winds up getting arrested.
At the same time, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) wants to get his hands on Sidney (Brent Spiner). Although Dakota (Madelyn Deutch) wants to go for a softer approach. She wants to get all the information she can from him instead of letting the rev get too handsy. Anderson manages to get down in the cellar with Sidney, taunting and toying.
So Blake isn’t dead. Not anymore. Park’s brought him back, he has a purpose for the man surely. Hoping to figure things out before the Great Merge comes down. To find out how they can live in the world as they are without having to use humans as hosts.
At least Kyle wasn’t actually arrested. It’s a friend of former Chief Byron Giles (Reg E. Cathey) who picked him up as a favour. Now, these two are trying to figure out what to do next, and Kyle wants to follow the steps of his father before him, as well as see what the people from the Lighthouse know. Added to that Junkyard Bob (M.C. Gainey) is suiting the Giles’ up with ammunition and guns.
Kyle: “It wasnt you
Byron: “Fuck that excuse, it was me. I shouldve been stronger.”
Moreover, we now discover that the demons they have a “collective memory” which Blake is out around Rome trying to tap into so he can find Kyle.
Pic 2Soon enough Megan runs into Blake. He says he was saved by Anderson and Kyle. So now he’s going to find out exactly where one of them is for certain. Shiit. Meanwhile, Kyle looks through the van Bob buried, the corpse inside. Turns out that Helen Devere “needed their light” and stole it from the beacons, like Simon Barnes and his son Kyle, now little Amber. Then Simon mercy killed the damaged beacons. That’s a YIKES moment if I’ve ever seen one.
At the Lighthouse, Megan arrives with Blake in tow. He then ends up talking to young Holly, they bond briefly. Right as soon as Kyle himself shows up. Bigger things are happening at the moment, too. Nobody can coax Anderson out so Kyle finally gets the job done, and they find a butchered Sidney inside, bloody and weak. Alive, though.
When Megan goes to the doctor she’s sent to see, she starts feeling strange. The woman tells her: “We are the chosen ones.” Ugh, this isn’t sounding good at all.
At home, Byron and Rose have dinner by candlelight. Their lives are much more worrisome as of late. They’re posted up with lots of guns. Doesn’t stop Nunez from lurking around outside, threatening him. So he blows her foot off before putting a bullet through her neck. Hot damn, Byron!
Pic 3Before the supposed doctor can do something terrible to Megan, she’s interrupted by Blake. Who strangles the woman to death and saves the day. Is he going to use this AND Megan as leverage over Kyle?
Speaking of, Kyle’s figuring out what they ought to do with Sidney. The white-haired devil talks about the man he chose as a host, a serial killer apparently. Then says the outcast can help him and the others change the world. Yeah, that sounds great.
Over at the coffee shop, Dr. Park and the rest of the council meet once again. Talking of Sidney and his big talk/no action. The doc has his own design on what they need: “Fuck the merge. No, to finally crawl out of the shadows,” this is his plan. Not only that he’s poisoned the other council members. Mutiny is right.
And where’s Sarah Barnes? She’s lying in a bed. Cared for by a man (C. Thomas Howell). Is this the long lost Simon Barnes? If so, whoooooa.
Pic 4Another fine chapter in Season 2. Love that Howell is part of the cast, he’s an awesome character actor with lots of good television roles under his belt over the past decade. Can’t wait for “This Is How It Starts” – the penultimate episode of the season. And Cinemax, you best be ready with that renewal pen; or else!

Unpacking the Puzzle of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME + MISSING PIECES

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 1992. Directed by David Lynch. Screenplay by Lynch & Robert Engels.
Starring Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Phoebe Augustine, David Bowie, Miguel Ferrer, Pamela Gidley, Heather Graham, Chris Isaak, Moira Kelly, David Lynch, James Marshall, Harry Dean Stanton, Kiefer Sutherland, Grace Zabriskie, Kyle MacLachlan, Frances Bay, Michael J. Anderson, Frank Silva, Al Strobel, Calvin Lockhart, & Carlton Lee Russell.
New Line Cinema/CiBy 2000/Twin Peaks Productions
Rated R. 135 minutes.
Drama/Fantasy/Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★
PosterTwin Peaks as a series was, at the core, about very human issues; no matter the dreamy qualities. David Lynch has spent his entire career mainly dealing in surrealism. His aim is the human mind. Far out in the stratosphere as his imagery can get there’s always that humanity. I’ve attributed it to the spiritual nature of his filmmaking. Not religious: spiritual.
Lynch’s interest in things like transcendental meditation and other abstract concepts shows us how he thinks within his creative works. In this vein, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With MeMissing Pieces, and the various surreal scenes throughout the series – continuing now in “The Return” – are a way to understand how Lynch sees the concepts of good and evil particularly amongst human beings.
What Fire Walk With MeMissing Pieces does is serve as the sort of thesis for the entire world of Twin Peaks as a whole. Even though it comes later in non-linear fashion, when considering the film and its previously unreleased scenes this thesis becomes clear in the mind and then you can go back watching the two seasons – now blessed with another 18 episodes – to connect the dots which Lynch allows.
At the middle of the mysticism, mythology, its quirky and surreal esoteric nature, is the story of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). We venture into a tortured world – HER tortured world – in which the spiritual plays a large part. Specifically, we see how evil influence plays a macabre role in the corruption of goodness, of everything that is sweet and innocent.
IMG_0039I get that people feel the film is disjointed. It’s disjointed in a purposeful sense. Lynch and co-writer Robert Engels begin with groundwork. Literally, we start with the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley) – this is the case similar to Laura’s which Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) mentions in the initial Twin Peaks episode. Through this, as we catch the story of Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak), we come across several of the basic concepts that come together throughout the series.
Electricity as an outside influence is constructed as corrupting. Within the Douglas fir-infested world of the town, all the beautiful and isolated nature, electricity comes to symbolise an evil seeping into the natural world. Lynch presents this literally with the inhabiting spirits, such as the nasty, murderous Bob (Frank Silva).
The most significant scene concerning this is twofold. First, we see the electrical pole in the trailer park with the sound of the electricity whooping through its wires. Not long after, we see the Man from Another Place (Michael J. Anderson) explain he is “the Arm” and his sound is that of the electricity; not just that, the sound is similar to a Native American call which suggests further connection to the Earth.
The first instance of electricity? When Cooper initially looks at the body of Laura in the morgue, where he realises the similarities with the murder of Ms. Banks. A light overhead flickers constantly.
RingIn addition there’s other moments which add up to show us how electricity is the major concept concerning spiritual beings in the Black Lodge. For instance, the owl ring we see Laura and Teresa wear is connected to electricity. The Man from Another Place says: “This is a formica table. Green is its colour.” Well, formica insulates from electricity. The owl ring is cut from that very table, which can be seen during both Fire Walk With Me and Missing Pieces when Lynch treats us to a lengthy sequence above the fabled convenience store, where the beings have their meetings (see table below).
Formica Table #2 - Ring Piece MissingSo, wearing the ring is a kind of double-edged sword. It’s a marker to the evil beings, like Bob, and at the same time it’s able to keep the evil from entering them. We see this when Laura wears the ring. Bob lusts after her, wanting to “taste” through her. But he can’t because the formica owl ring pushes him back, insulating Laura’s soul from being inhabited by Bob. This makes it further clear that the spiritual beings – this includes all those above the convenience store, including the Man from Another Place, Mrs. Tremond(/Chalfont) and her grandson, the electrician, the two lumberjacks (one of whom may likely be the Log Lady’s husband) – they don’t only travel through electricity, in a sense they consist of electricity. Which is why Bob cannot enter those who bear the owl ring.
Now, on to the specifically evil beings a bit more. There’s a passage from the Bible, Ephesians 6:12, which references “spiritual wickedness in high places” and this is better understood in consideration of Greek origins . Mainly I’m interested in the fact evil spirits and the devil come from the air, if we go by the Greeks. All spirits come from the air, though the higher air is where the good sit and the lower air is where the evil lurk. This all comes to bear on the lines from the Man from Another Place, once more: “Descended from pure air. Intercourse between the two worlds.”
Furthermore, we know from seeing the various spiritual beings not all of them are evil. Above all it’s Bob who is for certain an evil spirit, as well as the Jumping Man (Carlton Lee Russell) – whom I will discuss later. So the distinctions of the Greeks in seeing evil v. good spirits in the air (this air, I should note, is that directly below Heaven) is clear by the evil and good spiritual beings who frequent the Black Lodge and the room above the convenience store.
Jumping Man FWWMThe good v. evil spiritual beings isn’t only evident in Fire Walk With Me. During the series, Coop comes in contact with the One Armed Man, Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel). He admits to having been corrupted by Bob – “I too had been touched by the devilish one” – though coming to his senses and to the light of God, which changes him. He becomes an agent of good.
However, Mrs. Tremond and her grandson can be seen as at least a neutral force. They come in contact with Laura, and the boy warns her about “the man behind the mask.” Now this is a larger connection, which I believe involves the aforementioned Jumping Man. We have to unpack this, could take a minute.
Masks. Masks. Masks. Don’t forget, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) leaves a mask for Coop in his hotel room in Season 2, Episode 15. This now relates incredibly to the first episode of the new Twin Peaks where Laura removes her face exactly like the way the mask opens in a flash of light for Coop.
So, the man behind the mask young Tremond speaks of is Bob, because we know he was the one “under the fan” – a reference to the staircase and hallway in the Palmer household. This is where Laura feels Bob pull at her, wanting to taste through her mouth. The Jumping Man connects because he has a similar face to the mask young Tremond wears, only his isn’t so much a mask, rather a face; or at least a painted face. Either way it’s as if the Jumping Man is an entirely demonic influence. Whether he’s connected to Bob, I don’t know. The Jumping Man appears dressed similarly to the Man from Another Place, suggesting a doppelganger-type issue.
Also, the Log Lady has a connection to the Jumping Man and the lumberjacks, at least possibly. She mentions in the series how her husband “met the devil” and she continues: “Fire is the devil like a coward hiding in the smoke.” We see the Jumping Man who jumps off and onto a box, partly obscured in clouds of smoke. Likewise, the Log Lady’s husband, a logging man, supposedly met the devil. Not far fetched to imagine that one of the lumberjacks, likely the one played by Jürgen Prochnow, is now a spiritual being up there. Maybe.
Man Behind the Mask FWWMFinally, we come to the human core. Even before we fall into the morbid story of Laura Palmer, Lynch shows us how even the heaviest mythology of Twin Peaks involves humanity. The convenience store is perhaps the best example. While Lynch explores these expansive concepts, existential thinking at the highest level, he remains connected to the real world, rooted in it – these spiritual beings not only look just like humans, they meet in a shabby room situated over a convenience store. In the real world Mrs. Tremond(/Chalfont) and her grandson live in a trailer park. These are ways in which Lynch says that the spiritual and the corporeal are interconnected, by barely a hair’s width. Living right alongside one another, on top of each other.
So it all winds up, all the mythology and the symbolism, into a tale about abuse in a small town, in an otherwise happy family. That outside influence of the unnatural, the evil influence, the electricity, infects the Palmers and eventually drives Leland (Ray Wise) to commit a horrible atrocity.
Part of the disturbing genius in Fire Walk With Me is Lynch makes us sit through Laura’s episode of, for better or worse, mental illness. It’s maybe the most harrowing, intense vision of such an experience in any film I know. Because it is genuine torture, watching Laura bounce back and forth between friends, family, foes, strangers. Never able to explain to anyone exactly what is going on, and even when she does it’s passed off as “not real” by those who couldn’t possibly comprehend her level of spiritual strife.
Laura Palmer Dead FaceAnd this is the bottom line, the chief concern of the film’s thesis statement: spiritual, existential pain.
Lynch’s own interests in transcendental meditation belie his interests on film. Through the story of Laura Palmer, her eventual murder and the forces surrounding the town of Twin Peaks, Lynch is able to address the concept of existential/spiritual pain, how the outside world infects the natural world around us – even inside us.
On one hand, Twin Peaks as a series bounces around joyfully from soap opera romance to 1950s throwback to horror to science fiction and fantasy, and almost every stop in between. For me, it’s exciting and fresh. When I first saw the series 16 years ago it enthralled me and I never let it go from my heart or my mind. On the other hand, Fire Walk With Me and its Missing Pieces are an exercise in dark surrealism and Greek tragedy. This is a macabre, gruelling piece of cinema. One which holds so much more than even casual fans of the series are likely to appreciate.
Soon enough I’ll come back to discuss the original series and its two seasons. If anyone has any further theories, please comment below! For now these stand as my clearest thoughts on the film. But Twin Peaks in all its forms is never far from my mind.

American Gods – Season 1, Episode 4: “Git Gone”

Starz’ American Gods
Season 1, Episode 4: “Git Gone”
Directed by Craig Zobel
Written by Michael Green & Bryan Fuller

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Head Full of Snow” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Lemon Scented You” – click here
Pic 1Love the opening shot, as the music and the hieroglyphics imply Egypt, but of course we’re actually in a casino, American Egypt. This is where we find Laura Moon (Emily Browning) before she’s Mrs. Moon, dealing cards at a blackjack table. There’s almost a relation to how detached the Egyptian symbols are to the location we find them, and how technology also replaces the everyday, such as how Laura says “I like to shuffle” in a simple response to automated machines now doing her job. Just terrifically written.
Note: Anubis is branded on the playing cards they use as the casino.
The episode’s title – “Git Gone” – is in reference to the bug spray Laura uses at home. She uses it while covering herself in the hot tub outside. A suicide attempt she decides at the last minute she does not want to complete. Next shift at the casino, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is hustling at the tables. When he tries rolling Laura she gives him a few friendly words of advice, telling him not to try his grift there, or else.
Pic 1AOoh, bad luck.”
Except it isn’t, it’s the beginning of their relationship. An interesting one, at that. They head back to her place falling into each other’s arms, and the rest is history. The next morning they’re going over their respective card talents, though his are slightly more magical than hers, even if she’s a pro at dealing them.
We also see Robbie (Dane Cook), whom she later cheated on Shadow with, as they all become a big, happy group. Meanwhile, Laura’s worried about her new man, what happens if he keeps on grifting and stealing. They get around to talking about belief. She doesn’t believe in anything religious whatsoever. Funny when that’s juxtaposed with what we’ve seen so far from Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and all he’s introduced Shadow to since they’ve known one another.
Laura: “And its like everything that made the world anything more than what it is is just is just stories. Just snake oil, but worse because snakes are real.”
Also, a great tune “Queen of the Bored” by Shirley Manson – produced by series composer Brian Reitzell – shows up during a montage of Shadow and Laura, fucking, each of them going about their day. However, it’s more than that. We see how Laura’s going through the motions. She was in a bad space before meeting her husband, and she never recovered or get healthy. Now she’s quickly getting tired of married life. So she decides it’s time to rob the casino. He doesn’t feel good about how things are happening, after she admits being unhappy.
Ahhh, you see where this is going, right?
Directly to Shadow sitting in jail. Serving time for their botched robbery. She wants to cut a deal that would put her in prison, too. But they’d get out faster. He refuses, he accepts his fate. Problem is she can’t do the time, we know that. The night her cat dies is when her affair with Robbie begins.
Pic 2Cut to Shadow getting ready to be released, at home Laura’s prepping the place for his big welcome home party. When he’s still unaware of the nasty affair going on. At the same time Robbie wants to reveal the affair, she wants to forget what they’ve been doing together. The Band’s “The Weight” plays as the two lovers drive, agreeing to let their affair be the last of it all, and Laura gives him a bit of road head. This sends them into oncoming traffic.
Then, death.
Laura finds herself in a strange place. Anubis (Chris Obi) has come to take her to the scales, to see her judgement. She won’t let him take her heart, explaining it’s certainly heavier than that feather. She refuses to go to death, she wants to go home. Anubis isn’t impressed, but then Laura’s pulled away out of sight.
Anubis: “In life, you believed in nothing. You will go to nothing.”
And where does Laura go? Back to her grave. She pulls herself out of the earth into the world again, autopsy stitches and all. She wanders into a field and finds the Children surrounding Shadow, hanged from a tree by the neck. So she does what any woman would in that situation: punches holes through them, punches their heads off, flicking blood everywhere. Now we know who saved poor Shadow in his time of need. Coming back to life has given Laura some exciting abilities. She even kicks one guy in the balls, splitting him up the middle.
She’s a little worse for wear afterwards, one arm literally off her body. But she carries it with her and sews it back on later. Except her stomach’s hurting, too. Being reanimated from death isn’t exactly all the rage. Not to mention all those lingering, terrible memories of the betrayal she visited upon Shadow. When Audrey (Betty Gilpin) walks in it’s a frightening scene, seeing the dead woman who banged her husband. Hilarious and scary all at once. Even more so because Laura has to shit out a load of embalming fluid in front of her.
Pic 3After patching things up, literally and figuratively, Betty and Laura head out on the road. Laura’s dealing with the fallout of being shitty in life, now that she has returned. She continually sees a bright, shining light beaming from Shadow on the horizon; the actual light of her life. Not before the women run into Anubis and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes).
They take her back to the funeral home Mr. Ibis runs, so they can take care of her properly. Get that arm in place, paint her skin a lively colour. “Care and maintenance is needed for your dead body,” Ibis explains. Ah, the joys of coming back to life!
Laura also discovers that when she’s finished with her unfinished love business on Earth, she’ll be taken to death by Anubis once and for all. The Git Gone bug spray is now replaced with fly tape; symbolic of her newfound will to live, ironic in that she had to die to discover it. She sits and waits for Shadow to come back.
So what comes next for them? How does he deal with her betrayal and her reincarnation?
Pic 5What a fucking show! Goddamn I love Mr. Fuller and Mr. Green, they’re amazing together. Such imagination inside an already imaginative story from Neil Gaiman. Their powers of adaptation are strong.
Next is “Lemon Scented You” and I look forward to more madness, more psychedelic sequences, more heavy drama. Dig.

American Gods – Season 1, Episode 3: “Head Full of Snow”

Starz’ American Gods
Season 1, Episode 3: “Head Full of Snow”
Directed by David Slade
Written by Bryan Fuller & Michael Green

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Secret of Spoons” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Git Gone” – click here
Pic 1Somewhere in America, we start with a woman cooking, complaining of her grand children. A hairless cat sits listening to her rant over the food. At the door a strange man says she has died, she must come with him. This is Anubis (Chris Obi): “I am of death.” She is actually lying dead on the floor. It is now time for her to go elsewhere. She is Muslim, and wonders why Anubis is there for her. Because she learned about “Egypt of old” as a girl, therefore he will take her to “the scales.” Love the mythology of the various religions and cultures that comes together in the boiling pot of America. A testament to the genius of Neil Gaiman’s novel.
He takes the woman up through a mountain of building, fire escapes. Then they’re on top of a mountain, where the landscape becomes desert, far as the eye can see. They walk across the sand until reaching the scales. He rips her heart out and weighs it against a feather. Her heart is equal to its weight, so she goes further with Anubis to the Duad. Past which are many worlds. She goes on into a door and his cat pushes her in. Sneaky bastard.
Pic 1ALast we saw ole Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), he lost that game of checkers to Czernobog (Peter Stormare). In the middle of the night Shadow wakes to find the sky doing eerie things, the clouds crowding the city. Up top of the building he finds Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar), staring at the sky with a telescope, doing experiments or something wild. She’s watching a constellation, though takes time to read his fortune. “You believe in nothing so you have nothing,” she tells him. Very telling. Afterwards, she pulls the moon from the sky as a coin, placing it in Shadow’s hand. Then he wakes from his sleep.
Polunochnaya: “Youd rather die than live in a world with bears in the sky
Shadow tries making a new deal, another game of chess with Czernobog for his life. He plays upon the Old God’s vanity, saying one blow from him won’t likely kill anymore. He offers Czernobog a bit better of a deal, still resulting in his death either way. And so they play another game.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) sneaks in to see Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman). He believes she deserves more in life, promising it’ll all get better soon. She tells him that he’s going to fail at his latest mission, that he will be killed. At the same time, the chess game is on, as Shadow plays a tougher game this time around and wins.
Vechernyaya: “I can taste you on the rain. What else can I taste?”
Wednesday: “War
When Shadow wakes in the morning he’s informed they’ll be robbing a bank soon. Now that’s a wake-up call.
Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) is quite the party animal, waking up in a bathroom stall at the bar. He’s kicked out and makes his way along the side of the road. A guy driving (Scott Thompson) stops to offer the hitchhiker a ride. He offers Sweeney a bit of advice before a steel rod flies off a truck impaling him through the face. What a car for Mad to step inside. Then he pours his pockets out trying to find something after the accident, pissed off for having misplaced or straight up lost it.


Elsewhere, we see a man named Salim (Omid Abtahi) walk through the streets looking somewhere between mystified and terrified of the city. He goes to a Panglobal Imports office for an appointment, though isn’t pleased with how long the wait takes. He waits, literally, all day. For nothing. Such a futile cycle, as he can’t make an appointment in person, only by telephone. So he smiles and heads out. The story of bureaucracy.
Salim gets in a cab and the man driving also speaks Arabic. They chat, reminisce of back home. They likewise lament their struggles in America, the pitfalls, so on. In a gridlock, the cabby falls asleep and Salim winds up seeing the eyes behind his glasses, like “burning flames.”
This man is the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), one of the People of the Fire. They touch hands, sharing a moment of the open desert in their minds. Poignant and touching. Up in a hotel room they meet and fall into one another’s arms. For some psychedelic lovemaking. Next day, the Jinn is gone, everything left behind. So Salim takes the glasses, the sweater, the cab, and heads out to meet the day.
Jinn: “They think all we do is grant wishes. If I could grant a wish, do you think Id be driving a cab? Once I had a man shit in the backseat.”
Mr. Wednesday brings Shadow to the bank he plans on robbing. Although our hero isn’t exactly thrilled with that plan. Particularly after just getting out of jail. Regardless, they head inside for a look. Cameras everywhere. Technology is watching, always. He’s worried about the authorities. I’d be worried about Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) and his ever watchful eye.
The old man keeps telling Shadow to “think snow” and to focus his mind. Eventually, this works, and he falls deep into his own mind. He wakes and the sky is pouring snow. Hmm, very interesting. They go out to eat and then Sweeney shows up, looking for his coin. The one Shadow has, apparently. His lucky one. Left at the grave of Laura Moon (Emily Browning).
Pic 3The bank robbery is about to go down. Real smooth, too. Wednesday uses deposit slips he took from inside, blocks off the night deposit slot and the ATM. People requiring the slot then give him the bags, leaving their names, so on. Then cops show up. They end up calling the number Wednesday gives, the one from the business card he left with Shadow. A perfect circular plan. Money in the pocket.
When will Shadow come to understand the fantastic is a part of life? That the divide is not between real or fantasy, that the mythical can be concrete, vice versa. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing.
Shadow: “Americans know who they are
Wednesday: “They pretend they know, but its still just pretending.”
Sweeney actually digs up Laura’s grave. Except she isn’t there.
She’s waiting in Shadow’s motel room, waiting to see him after so long. But how?
Pic 4What a strange and exciting episode! Love the gay sex scene because it’s great representation, plus psychedelic; two things you’ll not see anywhere else on television, I guarantee. Fuller & Co. are just spectacular, the right crowd to do this adaptation.
Next episode is “Git Gone” which will continue the saga, showing us more of why and how Laura ended up where she did, and what’s next for her and Shadow, and all of them.

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.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 5: “Faithful”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 5: “Faithful”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Dorothy Fortenberry

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Nolites Te Bastardes Carborundorum” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “A Woman’s Place” – click here
Pic 1 (1)Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) continue playing Scrabble. They have a drink in front of a fire. “He likes it when I flirt,” she tells us, discovering this for certain after 34 games. They’re certainly spending quite a bit of time together, which you can also be sure pisses off Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski).
If only she knew her husband was giving the handmaid presents, such as a copy of Beautify magazine that were thought destroyed with all the other supposed feminine things in society reaching out to women. What we see is how Waterford breaks the rules for her, he has feelings for Offred underneath all the patriarchal horror. As she looks through the magazine the women all appear foreign to her in this new world, like “zoo animals” unaware they’re heading into extinction shortly.
Fashback. Moira (Samira Wiley) and June a.k.a Offred debate the merits of Tinder. This is when they first meet Luke (O-T Fagbenle) on the street, as Moira asks him to help pick out June’s profile picture. A cute little meeting at that.
Luke (to June): “You look invincible
In the present, Offred’s helping Serena in the garden, worrying if the wife’s found out one of her several secrets. At the same time our handmaid sees the men around her, from the Commander to Nick (Max Minghella), vying in sly ways for her attention, just like Beautify and Cosmopolitan tell ladies via 10 Ten lists. But more importantly Serena worries her husband may be sterile, she whispers of it in the garden with Offred; she wants to help her get pregnant, via another man. You know exactly who, too: Nick. That’s a lot of conflicted feelings. And is Serena doing this for real, or is she luring the poor handmaid into something worse? I’m inclined to believe the former. For now.
Pic 1AOffred runs into Janine (Madeline Brewer) and others at the eerie, white-walled grocery store. Moreover, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) – Ofsteven now – has returned, genitals mutilated and her soul crushed. She’s adjusting to the new life. Offred wants to know about The Eyes, whether Nick is one of them. Then she discovers something called “Mayday” before being pulled away by her latest handmaid partner, Ofglen #2 (Tattiawna Jones).
We see that #2 is brainwashed. Her life before was that of a junkie, now she’s clean and sees this place as where she’s been saved. That’s sad; you offer a measly little olive branch to the right, vulnerable woman, and she winds up complicit in the patriarchy.
Later that day Serena sneaks Offred out to see Nick; an unauthorised Ceremony Day. Our handmaid thinks about Luke, for the time it’s as if she’s “cheating” on him, though every bit of it’s forced. Flashback to her on a date with Luke. They’re getting to know one another, the first steps of falling in love. Although he’s still married; tsk, tsk. And gradually they teeter along an affair, slipping into the water flirtatiously.
An awkward meet of Serena, Nick, and Offred, as they start their hopefully baby-making exercise. Nick and Offred’s first time, almost as awful as she and the Commander, is juxtaposed with the tender first time of June and Luke in a hotel room succumbing to a waiting passion. Compared to that, the sex with Nick is horrible, between the silence and Serena watching in the background, them barely touching one another aside from the obvious penetration; it’s ghastly. Then they finish and Offred’s brought back home, put away in her room like a piece of fine China.
Pic 2 (1)Poor Ofsteven. Her life somehow got worse than it was previously. Now she adjusts to a life without a literal, physical part of her. We briefly see some woman to woman care, just a glimpse, as she’s offered a slight hand by her female keeper. But Ofsteven recognises the fact there is no escape from the nastiness of a handmaid’s life.
Another Ceremony Day commences at the Waterford house, though everyone’s hiding their respective secret – Fred’s falling in love with Offred, Offred had to have sex with Nick, Serena of course knows about what she helped happen. One of the more horrifying moments of rape, if that’s imaginable, so far in The Handmaid’s Tale. That night Offred confronts Fred about how he touched her during the ritual, with lust instead of merely carrying out the function of intercourse. Oh, the waters are muddying. Fast. Particularly with the Commander dangling things from life before Gilead in front of Offred, as they continue spending time alone together at night.
Furthermore we see that Fred doesn’t care about love, he only likes fucking her. He doesn’t believe in love, or much else other than the twisted biblical law of Gilead. Offred also finds out about what happened to Ofglen during her procedure.
Offred: “We had choices then
Fred: “Now you have respect. You have protection. You can fulfil your biological destinies in peace.”
Pic 3Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.”
Flashback. June asks Luke to leave his wife, to which he agrees easily. They’re in love and they both know it, no sense in denying that. Again, juxtaposed with life in Gilead there’s an emotional depth these scenes reach that wouldn’t be seen if we only watched one portion of June/Offred’s life in long stretches. Edited in like memories, these flashbacks help build the core of the story, and it makes the character development shine.
Offred again talks with Ofsteven. She tells Offred to join with Mayday, to help them in her absence. For the first time Ofsteven tells her friend her name, Emily, but Offred’s pulled away before she can also speak her name. Suddenly we see Emily sneak into a car when one of the men hops out briefly. She speeds off.
An act of driving, something so simple, allows the other women to feel a strange sense of freedom. Women are no longer allowed to do the tiniest activities, such as driving. And even with an armed standoff outside the car, Emily gives them all spirit in her brief defiance of the patriarchal rule. Compounded by running over a man’s head, popping it like a watermelon in front of the crowd. Whoa. I worry for what they’re going to do with Ofsteven after that.
Offred: “Maidez. Help me.”
At home, Serena paints, and Offred comes back following the scene in town with her renewed spirit brewing inside. While Mrs. Waterford talks of a woman’s “requirements” Offred only eyes the sharp objects nearby. The murder of that man may have instilled her with something dangerous, but useful all the same. That night she goes to see Nick in his room, she gives herself to him only this time with much more passion and heated lust.
Thus begins the next step in her own personal rebellion.
Offred: “She looked invincible
Pic 4Another stellar episode, one that bridges the past and present in such a tangible way through Offred(a.k.a June)’s memories. I can’t get enough of the series, especially the acting and the heavy themes presented with such grace. It’s all around a fascinating show, coming around at just the right time in North America certainly.
Next episode is “A Woman’s Place” and I can only begin to imagine what we’ll see go down.

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.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 4: “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 4: “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Leila Gerstein

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Late” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Faithful” – click here
Pic 1After Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) being subjected to genital mutilation, and Offred (Elisabeth Moss) not yet pregnant, suffering the misogyny of fellow woman Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), some might think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale couldn’t get any worse. Right?
Wrong.
Offred’s been banished to her room, “thirteen days so far.” She is under lock and key, worse than usual. She likens herself to an explorer in the room, rather than getting too carried away with memories. She explores the closet where her uniform is, but then lays there on the floor. There she discovers NOLITE TE BASTARDES CARBORUNDORUM scratched in the door’s frame. Translation: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Flash to Offred and Moira (Samira Wiley). We get bits of their lives in the well-scribed dialogue, including that the handmaids aren’t allowed to write. Another piece of the patriarchy’s dirty puzzle.
Pic 1ACommander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena don’t have much of a relationship, which isn’t exactly a surprise. “Weve got good men working on it” is his answer when she tries to give valuable input; albeit input into the patriarchal madness. Still, that divide between her place in that society and where she believes herself to be is always clear. More and more to herself, as well.
After fainting Offred is taken to the doctor by Serena, the first fresh air and sun she’s felt on her face in nearly two whole weeks. Even the rain is a delight to her after such isolation. She remembers Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) giving a lecture to the handmaids about possibly getting pregnant, moving in with their “new family” and such. They speak of “the ceremony” where the handmaids must have a rapey threesome on their fertile days. What we’re seeing is a lesson in complicity, in normalisation. Lydia and the patriarchy are conditioning these women to accept this hideous assault, justified with the Bible in perverted wisdom.
Aunt Lydia: “That is his word, dear. And we shall abide.”
At the doctor’s clinic Offred prepares herself for an exam by the doctor. It’s eerie, as he stands behind a sheet and her lower half is obscured. Far too clinical in an oddly puritanical manner. Doctors can’t even look at their patients, they must keep a sheet between them; not while peeking at the lady parts! Disgusting and weird. This adaptation of Atwood is chilling. Offred’s narration tells us that “sterile is a forbidden word” because their society of men has convinced themselves they are infallible. Even worse, the doc suggests he impregnate her because if the Commander’s sterile – many of them are apparently – then it’ll all be blamed on her, of course. Yuck.
Just viciously ugly. A stark look at the nation of Gilead. A place threatening not only the physical lives of women like Offred, it threatens their sanity even worse than today’s society (which is bad enough).


Today is breeding day. Offred’s been examined, cleared for what’s to follow. She goes back home and plays the part for Serena, asking to be let out from her room. No sympathy, though.
Flash to Moira and Offred. They trick Aunt Elizabeth (Edie Inksetter) into the bathroom where they take her hostage. They lead her through the building’s basement where they shock her, making her strip, so they can use her uniform. They tie her to a pipe then head off outside.
Back to the ceremony, breeding day. Except Commander Waterford breaks the rules a little. Things are supposed to proceed in a specific fashion. Instead he comes in to make another Scrabble date. Hmm.
Serena: “Blessed be the fruit
Offred: “May the Lord open
And so goes the ceremony, or at least it would if Commander Fred could stand at attention. He has… issues. Makes things twice as awkward having wife and rape mistress on his bed, so he walks out. Yeah, that’s no good for anybody. When Serena goes to help him out it’s like they’re no longer used to physical contact; sex has become no longer about pleasure, it is about power and breeding. He refuses a blowjob from her, too. Is Fred catching feelings? Ugh, gross. Either way, Offred doesn’t have to be assaulted for one night, at least.
Worse is how Offred internalises the misogyny, believing she is “not blameless” in that she could’ve shown him more affection, when he came to her before the ceremony. That is terrible. But what the writing does cleverly, in this not-so-hyperbole dystopian future, is outline how women internalise the hatred, many times totally unknowingly, and this happens TODAY. Not just in this terrifying Atwood adaptation. Remember that, men!
Flash to Moira in her Aunt costume taking Offred through the city. They see everything decimated, street signs removed and replaced, corpses brought through the square bloodied in a heap. In a subway station they look for a train to Boston. So militarised, every place they go. Then, as Offred talks to an armed Guardian, she lets Moira go off on the train by herself, as she’s taken back to the city. After her attempt to flee with Moira, Offred’s taken to Aunts Lydia and Elizabeth, who visit nasty tortures on her, whipping the bare soles of her feet like something straight out of the Old Testament.
Pic 3Pic 4Back to Offred, who uses Moira as inspiration to not let those bastards get her down. She goes to see Commander Waterford. They play Scrabble, he drinks and tells her of his trip to Mexico. THE MOST IRONY EVER: he complains a word she plays is archaic; such a perfect line for a man dominating an archaic society! On the shelf as she fetches a dictionary, she notices one for Latin, too (“knower of Latin, scratcher of words“). Once the game is finished they make a date again for after the next ceremony. And Offred does her best to try manipulating Waterford with that bittersweet element which at once gives her power and holds her down in Gilead: femininity.
Something that gradually comes out is the keeping of knowledge, how men and the patriarchy try keeping women down by filtering what they’re expose to and taught, or outright excluding them from knowledge (writing, language, et cetera). Of course that’s how authoritarian systems work.
We get a little montage of the power of women in the end. We see Offred recovering from her punishment having tried to escape. Other women bring her food at bedside, giving her strength and support. Through Waterford’s tale of the previous Offred, this Offred is given a renewed sense of life.
Offred: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.”
Pic 5Probably my favourite episode of the series so far! On top of that, Hulu renewed it for another season. How damn good can it get? Love so much about this episode, but as usual I’m excited for the next one. “Faithful” is next week; I wonder how much deeper we’ll go into the devastating patriarchal nightmare that is the reality for these poor handmaids.

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.

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 5: “The Common Good”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Common Good”
Directed by Ti West
Written by Chris Black & Adam Targum

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The One I’d Be Waiting For” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Fireflies” – click here
Pic 1Flashback to Simon Barnes (Justin Randell Brooke) and the ‘work’ he was doing. We see that Simon has the same power as his son Kyle (Patrick Fugit) would later inherit. Although the father tried he couldn’t figure out how to stop “the Great Merge” as the woman calls it before biting off her own tongue. Demonic possession at its finest.
And years later, Kyle stands in the midst of that same room where his father and Junkyard Bob Caldwell (M.C. Gainey) tried to purge Rome of the coming infestation. Will he carry on the legacy, still? Or change his ways to save their little West Virginia town?
Pic 1AAllison (Kate Lyn Sheil) is still at the hospital, taking her medications and doing as she should to get better. She looks vacant, as if her entire soul is sucked out. But she does keep a picture under her pillow to remind herself of her daughter, life outside those crazy walls. Problem is there’s a whole other issue of the possessed going on at the hospital, a mini-infestation within the town. A microcosm of the horror going on  all over. A creepy patient at the hospital mentions Allison’s “little firefly” and then disappears in the darkness. Terrifying.
In other news, Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) is suffering at home with her mother Jeanne (Kathleen York) with all her overbearing Christianity. Not just that. When Kyle comes to see her, Megan says she can’t be around him. Her daughter Holly believes in the demons, all the madness swirling around their family. And though it hurts, Kyle knows what’s best for those around him. Unfortunately that means distance.
Chief Byron Giles (Reg E. Cathey) has his hands full, too. The police station is overrun with people worried about devil worship, sacrifice, inexplicable violence. They want truth about what’s been happening after Patricia was murdered so viciously. Giles settles everyone down, but there’s a lot of unrest. Least he has a strong, good woman like Rosie (Charmin Lee) behind him. She’s willing to star investigating all the wildness, and he’s rightfully concerned. He wants to make sure they know who’s the problem, who’s infected with demonic presence, or else it might cause people to turn on one another.
Giles: “We have to get the right ones before we really start to get our hands dirty
Pic 2At the hospital, Allison worries about the strangeness she’s seen. The eerie patient with the beanie speaking of her daughter. A boy locked in a cell, even though they don’t treat children in that facility. She talks with the doctor, whose disposition doesn’t seem altogether friendly or helpful. There’s definitely trouble rising at that place.
Sidney (Brent Spiner) is doing his thing up in that barn, preparing for whatever comes next. He receives a visit from Mayor Owen Boyd (Toby Huss), asking about the coming plans, Patricia’s boy. What the mayor hears isn’t exactly comforting, either. More so chilling. Sidney is a fiery, yet cool customer. A dangerous entity.
And what about The Beacon? Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) goes back up to see what’s going on at their backwoods cathedral, met by Dakota (Madelyn Deutch) whom he last talked to when he showed up. She paints a different picture of their worship than what he previously imagined. She reveals a mark on her back; previously possessed and then saved by somebody. Could they be people healed by Simon?
With Jeanne and her father Doug (David Alexander), Megan finally reveals to them what Donnie did to her those years, raping her in the house as they did “nothinbut go to church” and ignore the problems going on under their nose. All the while, a fly buzzes near, and we can definitely tell more and more that Megan isn’t free of her demonic passenger.
Back in town, the Chief and Kyle finds Mayor Boyd calling a town meeting to discuss how things are being handled by the authorities. Ah, the influence of Sidney is seeping further into the people, the citizens of Rome. Boyd wants Giles to go get Sidney. Although we can be sure this is a trap of nasty proportions. Simultaneously, Sidney is helping peel the dead skin off Aaron’s (C.J. Hoff) back, training him to be worse, more evil by the minute. Like an apprenticeship in terror.
Sidney: “Power is meaningless if you cant apply it judiciously, when it has a purpose.”


That night Boyd leads Giles and Kyle to where the devil lurks up in that barn. They head inside only to find that the mayor is one of those demons. He isn’t like the others, at least he pretends he isn’t; he thinks Sidney is a psycho. Furthermore, he makes a deal with Kyle: take care of Sidney, the demons will leave him and his family alone. We find out more about the world of the demons, that it’s been “collapsing” for a long while. They’re trying to find a new home.
Bob runs into Aaron, and he isn’t afraid of the kid. Even with a gun in his hand: “Big gun for a little turd.” Suddenly, Sidney shows up and puts Bob in a predicament. He wants to know about the secrets Bob found out. With more pressure on him, he gives up that the demons were made more powerful by the beacons, people such as Kyle, and of course we know his father was one, as well.
The town meeting is called and everyone arrives at Rome Elementary. Now, Giles tells his wife they’ll have to get their hands dirty; no longer can they easily suss out who is a demon, who is not. Mayor Boyd gives his speech to the citizens trying to assure them things will work out fine. While Kyle sits in the audience he looks around and feels unease in the eyes of the people. Moreover, Boyd announces that Giles is stepping down, and Office Nunez is interim chief. Uh oh!
Pic 4Byron storms the mic to say his piece. While he does a cough overtakes him, he then hits the floor. Rose runs up and gets tossed aside by the mayor. People block Kyle from going up. The demons are loose! He and the Rev fight through using Kyle’s power and then Giles is gone. Whoa, this is not good. They locate him on a school bus out back. He isn’t well, becoming violent. Kyle goes to touch him and takes a stab in the gut.
We also come to know there is another, like Kyle. He was present in the meeting. But whom? Is it Kyle’s daughter Amber? Is someone else hiding amongst the townspeople?
Anderson comes to help Kyle. They wrestle with the possessed Giles. Soon, Kyle is ripped up into the air with the chief, suspended above the ground with Rose, Megan, Anderson watching. Kyle grips onto Giles tight, then the black tar spews out from inside and they drop down below.
Giles may be safe. However, our hero is bleeding out on top of a bus, the piece of metal still dug into his guts.
Pic 5AWHAT AN EPISODE! I constantly say this, I know. But it’s true. Outcast not only consistently deepens its character development, it likewise goes headlong into the series mythology with new strides each episode. Excited to see “Fireflies” next. I’m thinking there’ll be more Amber now, and that maybe, just maybe, she and her dad have a reluctant family business ahead of them. Plus, I’m glad Giles isn’t taken fully by the demons; he is awesome!

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 4: “The One I’d Be Waiting For”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 4: “The One I’d Be Waiting For”
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Not My Job to Judge” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Common Good” – click here
Pic 1Patricia (Melinda McGraw) still lives life expecting her boy to come home. She wonders where he is, laying a sandwich and cheesies out on the table in case he comes home. She reads the Holy Bible before bed. She doesn’t know the truth, about Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), not about Sidney (Brent Spiner).
Then Aaron shows up in the shadows. All burned up. Pissed off. I’m concerned now for his mother. The closer he remains, the closer she is to the devil himself.
Kyle (Patrick) and Anderson are talking with Junkyard Bob about Kyle’s father. He was a man wrapped in mystery, it seems. At the same time Aaron calls the Rev with ominous warnings. When he rushes to her place he and Kyle find Patricia bled out on the carpet viciously. On the wall in blood is a pentagram. She dies before Kyle can finish calling 911.
Pic 1AMegan (Wrenn Schmidt) and her daughter Holly (Callie Brook McClincy) sit in a restaurant eating. Mother not sure of what she’ll do next. When she sees the young man bussing her table she remembers a quick piece of her possession, meeting him in her early demonic trance. Now that’s eerie. Megan and Holly head back to their motel room, throw on some television. Things are okay… for the time being.
Things for Anderson ain’t ever getting easy. He’s got Kyle, even Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey). But he’s falling further into a hole, farther away from his faith. If he isn’t careful he might fall and never be able to get up. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, he takes Kyle in the car and calls Aaron to tell him they’ll be waiting at the church.
Officer Nunez (Briana Venskus) goes to see Sidney about what Aaron’s done to his mother. She also found Evelyn Bailey (Claire Bronson), who escaped the junkyard cage she was put in. She likewise tells him that Kyle let her go, which interests Sidney a great deal. They’ve got lots of work to do, too. Big, big plans afoot.
At the church, Rev says the man he was is “useless” to him, to anybody. Kyle says they’ll lose themselves if they go too far, then what’s the point of it all? None. He wants to be a husband, a father. He wants a life. Then, they’re trapped as a molotov cocktail flies in the window lighting the place ablaze. Luckily they get out alive.
Kyle: “No matter what this fight looks like in the end, I wont let my family hate me for it.”
Pic 2Megan wakes in the motel: Holly’s not there. She is down a nearby hallway getting change from some stranger. Turns out the girl told him mom’s a murderer. Now that could be trouble. All the same, how long can Megan run from what she did to her husband? Yes, it was under possession. But still, to have it all go down like it has, his death the way it looks to others. A sad story.
Awhile later she and Holly end up at grandma’s house.
Meanwhile, Giles isn’t happy about the lack of trust between him and the Rev. He doesn’t want to lose him as a friend, and wouldn’t like to see him end up dead, or worse. Kyle is the only cool head to prevail. He knows they’re all in it together. If not, it doesn’t work.
The Mayor of Rome (Toby Huss) receives a little visit from Sidney after hours. They’re in league together after all. He’s supposed to be helping those demons, as part of the deal with the devil the previous mayor made. Looks like Giles is next on Sid’s chopping block.
Sidney: “I guess youll have to decide how much more blood on your hands you can live with
And what about ole Junkyard Bob? He knows the history of the place, probably more than that foolish mayor. Still, like Kyle he doesn’t know much more about the demons than what he’s seen. He also realises what he and Kyle’s father were doing did nothing whatsoever. All it did was lose him his life, essentially. He talks about a place Mr. Barnes owned over on Shadow Lane, too. Maybe this will unlock further clues, toward understanding himself, his family, the demonic predicament of Rome, West Virginia.


Jeanne (Kathleen York), Megan’s mother, gets her daughter and granddaughter ready for a night’s stay. They have troubled history, seeing as how Megan feels her parents loved their fosters more than their real children. Those are the least of her worries right now, though. Family trouble means shit when you’re up against the devil’s army, and one of those soldiers is right up in her head probably still kicking around somewhere.
After a call from Aaron on his mother’s phone, the Rev takes off from the station. Another dumb move. I can understand why, he loved Patricia. And the fact he went through so much guilt feeling he killed the kid, only to have the kid return and stab his mother, leaving her dying in her own blood. It’s rough to be Anderson at the moment.
Over at Shadow Lane, Kyle gets into the trailer his father kept. A whole ton of research lining the walls, in boxes. Books, papers, maps with INCIDENTS OF VIOLENT OUTBREAKS circle and lined off everywhere. He also finds a purse with an ID inside for one Helen Devere; the woman in the ground. He finds a door in back where there’s a chair, restraints on its arms, tarps surrounding the room and blood streaked on them.
And Anderson, he finally faces down Aaron as they meet where Sidney’s old lurking ground was burned to rubble. The Rev tries to pull the boy out of a “river of shit” by using faith rather than more violence. Only the young man has a different idea, pulling a gun. He promises something big and bad is coming. He also instructs Anderson to pour gasoline all over himself.


Before the Rev gets lit on fire Kyle makes it there in time, and Aaron takes off into the woods. He takes a tumble, but he’s far from them. He’s back in the devilishly loving grave of Sidney. To do more terrible things in the dark of night.
Downstairs at Jeanne’s place Megan says goodnight to her daughter. They have a little better of a conversation than they did before. Megan promises Holly that she is the most important thing in her life; Holly now believes in the power of prayer to keep “the monster” away.
Over at Patricia’s house, Anderson goes on, forging forward through the darkness. He starts by cleaning the bloody pentagram from the wall.
Pic 5What a great chapter. Man, this series is fascinating! Every episode is another surprise, a a genuine great progression of writing and character together. Dig it.
Next is “The Common Good” and I’m itching to see more of M.C. Gainey’s Junkyard Bob. I want to know more of the past, in Rome, of Bob’s relationship with Kyle’s father, and more on the father in general. Excited!

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 3: “Late”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 3: “Late”
Directed by Reed Morano
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Birth Day” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” – click here
Pic 1Offred (Elisabeth Moss) hears about what happened to Ofglen (Alexis Bledel). She was taken in a black van. Whisked away. She was a “member of the Resistance” and those are CHOICE WORDS for 2017. “I didnt even know her name,” Offred a.k.a June laments. Now the girl is gone. Disappeared in some cell, in an unknown place.
When they slaughtered Congress, we didnt wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didnt wake up then, either. They said it would be temporary.”
Flashbacks to June and Moira (Samira Wiley), jogging together and listening to tunes. They have a nasty confrontation with a guy in a coffee shop. He drops the word SLUT on them and this gets Moira particularly pissed. Open misogyny already, long before the patriarchy clamped down. June has troubles with her bank account, and later she sees men with guns come to the office where she works. A troubling development. Their boss has to let them go, required by law; all the women are gone. Ominous, as an army arrives. Not the regular US army, though.
In the present, Offred is tended to by Rita (Amanda Brugel), who’s suddenly more a fan of her. This shows us what goes in the minds of the women bent under the state. She didn’t care about her before. Since she hasn’t had a period yet, Rita deems her more worthy. Because she may be pregnant. Suddenly Offred, even in the eyes of other women like Rita in servitude and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) in lesser servitude but still shackled, is more than nothing. For now. Until she’s given birth, like poor Janine (Madeline Brewer).
What Margaret Atwood’s book did well, as does this adaptation, is present how difficult life can be between women when the patriarchy has trodden them into near dust. She shows, through characters such as Serena and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), that the ruling class of men oppressing women likewise leads to the oppression of women by other women. Devastating consequences in many forms.
Pic 1AOffred tries comforting Janine, who slips further into a bad mental state. She starts thinking she is free, that she can do what she wants because of her ability to conceive. Fine to think she can eat lots of ice cream. Not fine if she pushes it too far in that militarised zone. I hate to think what may happen to Janine. I truly worry, especially since she believes her Commander is in love.
Later we see Serena try justifying herself, in a way, to Offred. She says that she’s “blessed” to have her around. I can’t help thinking that’s a load of shit. Then there’s Nick (Max Minghella), I haven’t sussed out his purpose or what he’s up to, ultimately. Maybe he’s the reason Ofglen isn’t around anymore, maybe he isn’t. He has a properly nihilistic view of their new world, believing it’s useless to try acting hard: “Everybody breaks. Everybody.” And this time around, he’s taken her to a black van. He advises her to tell them whatever she knows. Uh oh.
Flashback to June and Moira, before the fall. Women cannot own property by law anymore; not money or a house, nothing. They’re starting to shut America down after the terrorist attack in Washington awhile back. Women are systematically being jailed, in every sense. Moira makes a good argument for why the #NotAllMen crowd need to shut up, because the heinousness of men is too terrible for us individual men to worry about being separated in name from the crowd. We do too much damage. In The Handmaid’s Tale, this is presented all too clear, in every bit of its rawness.
Luke: “Should I just go in the kitchen and cut my dick off?”
In the present, Offred is questioned by a man and zapped by Aunt Lydia. They want to know more of Ofglen, what they talked about, any mentions of unpatriotic activities, so on. Then up comes the subject of lesbianism. Touchy, especially when breeding stock and a known lesbian come into contact. According to their world Ofglen is a “gender traitor” and you’ve heard similar words before from rabid racists who use the term race traitor for white people empathetic/sympathetic to people of colour. In fact, this society expressly forbids the use of the word gay.


In the meantime, Ofglen spends her days with a mask covering her mouth, brought from one place to the next in shackles. She tries appealing to the baser needs of the guards, though they won’t bend. She is branded an “abomination” but sentenced to “redemption” because she is “fruitful.” Not a good omen, that’s absolutely positive. Ofglen’s lover is taken to a vacant lot where she’s lifted on a crane and hung by the neck. One of the slowest, most brutal death scenes without graphic violence that I’ve EVER SEEN! Ofglen is then carted away to her own, perhaps even slower punishment.
Nick goes to see Offred, bringing her ice for the stun stick wounds she suffered. There’s more to him, even if he’s complicit in the entire thing. He plays the whole nice guy card while alone with her, acting as if he could be the hero. But again, similar to what Moira spoke of in the earlier flashback, men are not the answer, they are the problem here; the nice ones, too. The women, eventually, are going to enact revolution. Whether it’s painful and bloody on the way is an entirely other situation. It will be women, though. They will not be saved by any men in this world, nor do they need it.
We flashback to a protest, before America fell to fascist, authoritarian government. A spooky rendition of “Heart of Glass” plays while the violence breaks out, the militarised police with their guns bearing down on the innocent protesters, male and female alike. Guns start firing, then Moira and June finally realise the serious depths of what is happening around them. A tragic, emotional sequence as the two women run for their lives and hide.
Pic 3Offred’s discovered she isn’t pregnant after all. Therefore, no more special treatment, and more of that skin crawling sex with Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), held down by Serena as she watches on. Yuck. And once the infertile Mrs. Waterford hears the news, it’s not pleasant. At all. Fucking horrifying, actually. The woman is mad, driven mad by her complicity in the whole debacle. Then she tells Offred: “Things can get much worse for you.” Something that’s actually hard to imagine at this point.
Pic 4We see that Ofglen’s been brought to a stark white facility. She finds there’s been a procedure done on her while she was unconscious. Aunt Lydia reveals her real name: Emily. She says things will be easier for the girl now. “You wont want what you cannot have,” Lydia tells her. Oh, man. Harsh. Like an Atwood vision of body horror.
By the way, the song playing at the end is “Waiting for Something” by Jay Reatard. Great tune for a whopping moment.
Pic 4AThis was maybe my favourite episode. It gave us a window into before the fall, as well as other horrors in the new world of the authoritarian patriarchy. I can’t wait for the next episode. Very glad to have had the opportunity to preview these before the premiere!

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 2: “Birth Day”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 2: “Birth Day”
Directed by Reed Morano
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “Offred” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Late” – click here
Pic 1Offred (Elisabeth Moss) tries to escape the breeding rape of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), held down by his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). The sex is not just a visceral sexual assault. It is symbolic of women like Serena who’ve been complicit with the patriarchy, holding other women down figuratively, literally, in every kind of way. A brilliantly disturbing metaphor.
Under his eye
Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) gets closer to Offred, they talk of who they were before they were trapped in that nation-state of misogyny. We find out that churches are being dismantled, everywhere. And so do they still worship God? They read scripture, they’re Conservative people. What exactly is the patriarchal nation-state up to? Regardless of that Ofglen tells Offred about a “network” of women. They’re ultra secretive, obviously.
Offred: “There has to be an us because now there is a them.”
Pic 1ANot entirely sure what Nick (Max Minghella) is doing, if he’s a force of good or another arm of the male authority. He seems to like Offred, but again it could be less than valiant. He’s not exactly a Commander, a higher-up. He is the proletariat, a worker. He relays to Offred that Commander Waterford has called to see her. She’s ushered into the birthmobile by Rita (Amanda Brugel); the thing is like a hearse, which is brutally ironic. At once, life and death touches. They are, in fact, living death.
Offred: “Theres a smell coming from that room. Something primal. Its the smell of dens, of inhabited caves. Its the smell of the plaid blanket on the bed where the cat gave birth once, before she was spade. Its the smell of genesis.”
Offred – or, June, as she was – flashes back to when she was pregnant, before everything changed. It’s a creepy atmosphere, as people chant outside the hospital, praying for the babies in the face of the fertility plague. But no time for daydreaming, June! Real life is too nasty now to let daydreams take over long. The atmosphere is creepier in the present, as the infertile wives pamper the handmaids getting ready to give birth, a ritualistic process from which the women almost derive pleasure. So odd. They’re all led into a room where Janine (Madeline Brewer) is in labour. Everybody tells her to breathe, calming her down. Although Offred does the most for her, in less creeper fashion.
Flashbacks to June in the hospital post-birth show us how bad the fertility plague became; her baby Hannah was the only one to have survived while she was there, others dying. A sad image shows rows of empty basins in the children’s ward where June walks aimlessly. Like rows of graves in a cemetery.


Offred does well priming herself to survive that brutal place. She does what she’s supposed to do with grim servitude. She keeps her June alive by smiling in the mirror, remembering who she is on the inside. As long as she doesn’t forget, June’s never lost to Offred.
In the room with Janine another woman is brought in and the two of them push, breath, going through the birthing process with the aid of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), Serena and the infertile wives. Turns out the other woman is one of the infertile wives; they go through the whole thing as if actually pregnant, an unsettling ritual. It’s scary to watch. As if a church service has gone wild, the chanting like a hymn. And when a “fine and healthy girl” is born they rejoice. In the midst of all the cruelty, the terror, is that miracle of birth; life in the fields of death.
Such raw subject matter in a dystopian setting. The baby is ripped from Janine, given to the infertile woman, and she lays in bed with it as if she’d just given birth herself. Whoa. Margaret Atwood’s source novel expertly scared already, disturbing and all too prescient. With visuals, the score, the expertly acted characters, it’s all so effective.
We flashback again to June and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) in the hospital, before the fall of America. A woman’s broken in and stolen Hannah. This is what the infertility plague did to people, the mania it caused. Luckily they get the child back. This illustrates the terrifying climate before the authoritarian iron fist crushed American women into submission; they were already suffering, now they suffer more.
Pic 3Janine is still seen as useful. She has to breastfeed the child before she’ll be torn away once more. She sings Bob Marley to her daughter. That intimate connection between mother and child is too strong a bond to simply break with one snap. There’ll be more trouble with this concept as the episodes progress.
Beyond the Commanders door” is somewhere nobody, not even Serena goes. Offred has been summoned to see him. She only assumes something bad, relating it to the typical horror trope of a young woman stupidly descending into a dark basement believing her boyfriend is there, only to meet a bloody end; maybe allegorically, she’s correct. In she goes, sitting with Waterford. They play Scrabble together, in expected awkwardness. Like a good citizen, she spells out NATION first on the board. After they finish she even tries out humour on him; he enjoys it. They plan on another date when he’s back from out of town. Creepy, yet you can see Offred working to figure out what she can do to keep herself alive in that tyrannical palace and city.
Most interesting is that Offred is finally rediscovering her power as a woman. Although she’s in this weakened state because of the ruling class, she starts figuring out that she still holds sway over men, because they are the weak ones. They’re the ones who’ve done this because they are afraid of the power of women, what they hold over them with their sexuality; it’s all they can think of, the wretched, oppressive patriarchy of that place. But a wrench is thrown in the mix, too. No longer is Offred paired with Ofglen, another woman comes in her place. Well, she’s Ofglen; just not the same one.
Things are… never as they seem.


What a great episode to follow-up on the first! I loved it. Can’t get enough already, I’m hooked. You’ll love it, too. Especially if you’re a fan of Atwood’s book.
Next episode is “Late” and it promises more terror, more dark comedy, more powerhouse acting and directing, as well.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 1: “Offred”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 1: “Offred”
Directed by Reed Morano
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Birth Day” – click here
Pic 1AThis adapted series from Margaret Atwood’s blistering novel begins with a car being chased down a road, police close behind. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) sits in the back with Hannah (Jordana Blake) next to her; Luke (O-T Fagbenle) drives, fast as he can. Soon they’re stuck in a ditch and they have to get out and run. They go quick in desperation, their destination supposedly not far off. Gunshots blast in the distance, so Offred picks her child up and runs. After some time they hide, but men with guns lurk too close for comfort. They eventually leave.
Although it’s clear this is a world full of dangers. It isn’t long until the men catch up with them and take the child from her mother. They’re taken out of the woods and back to the place from which Offred so badly hoped to escape.
She is a handmaid. She’s forbidden to be herself; a woman. Or rather, she is made to be only woman. As in, nothing other than her biological sex – determined by the ruling class: man.
She’s kept in line by Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who shovels the shit of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and others like him. Offred is at her new posting, seeing as how the last one didn’t… work out. There is much woman-on-woman hate here. In the days of hyper nationalist women today, ushered in heartily by Trump and Co, it isn’t hard to see Strahovski channel people like Ann Coulter or Kellyanne Conway (among many) who seem to be women bent on destroying other women. And what all that can lead to, which is this authoritarian, patriarchal nation-state they live under.
Pic 2 Offred: “A handmaid wouldnt get far. Its those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself given a cutting edge, or a twisted sheet and a chandelier.”
Poor Offred and other women go through the motions. They’re in permanent servitude. There’s definitely a hierarchy of men, too. But then again, that doesn’t matter because they’re the oppressing and ruling class, the dominant gender in this horrific world. Guys like Nick (Max Minghella) do the ‘lower’ work like labour as The Commander struts about his mansion. Meanwhile, Offred and Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) walk in pairs, they wear their uniforms.
Note: The headdress they wear is intriguing and in terms of costuming this series is off to a major start, such impressive work! They’re essentially a less-covered, Conservative version of a veil. Also, they’re blinders. Like horses would wear. Fucking grim, Margaret! Nice touch. Likewise the cinematography already is spectacular – so rich, at the same time it’s grim even in the light of day in the midst of a forest. Courtesy of Colin Watkinson (shot Tarsem Singh’s 200 visual feast The Fall).
Life in this nation-state is terrifying. Offred and Ofglen see three men hung on a wall as they walk through the otherwise beautiful city: a priest, a doctor, and a gay man. We see Offred in flashbacks to life outside in the real world, with a friend named Moira (Samira Wiley). Then they’re in a classroom, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) talking of God and how he “whipped up a special plaguethe plague of infertility.” And we see Offred meet eyes with Moira, now both in the same, awful place. These women in the room are fertile. They’re intended to bear children; this is their purpose to men. Lydia is another self-hating woman whose purpose is to keep other women in line. A little worse, though. She has a stun stick she carries, zapping anyone who talks too much. Those aren’t the worst punishments. The breeding stock women are treated almost worse than others; one of them is punished by having her eyes plucked out. Don’t need eyes to have babies. Yikes!
Aunt Lydia: “This will become ordinary
Pic 2BCeremony Day is coming up, so this means Offred must be washed, cleaned to the utmost care. Like a “prized pig.” At the same time, it’s hard for her to forget life before the state and its tyranny. She longs for her daughter, hoping that she won’t be forgotten. It’s a brutally real emotion and Moss quietly portrays it with great nuance.
The breeding women sit in a circle, as one of them is made to confess supposed transgressions for leading on boys. Lydia makes them all chant “Her fault” in response. When Offred doesn’t say the right words, a woman steps in and slaps her face (that’s Margaret Atwood, by the way). Then she succumbs, falls in line; in her place.
There are many rules living with The Commander. One reason why Serena is so bitter towards Offred is, clearly, she is infertile, and hates her for somehow being able to bear children. Well, Ceremony Day isn’t the easiest especially. A bit of reading from the Bible, some mechanical sex as Offred is held by Serena who looks her husband in the eye, and he stares back. Holy fuck; pardon the double pun. Afterwards, it’s more than awkward. The environment of the house is straight out hostile. “Get out,” Serena tells Offred once the dirty deed is complete.
At night the girl with her eye plucked out, Janine (Madeline Brewer), is having troubles. She’s going a bit crazy, talking to herself. When Moira tries to stop her, we find out a bit of information. About the Colonies, where people clean up toxic waste, where they get radiation poisoning and their skin peels off and they die. One place is as bad as the other, just in different terms.
All the handmaids are brought to a field where a stage is setup. Offred hears that Moira was sent to the Colonies. Likely dead. No time to mourn, they have rituals to perform and everyone lines up to kneel on their pillows while Aunt Lydia speaks onstage. A man’s been convicted of a rape, and sentenced to death. We see the disconnect between state and individual, as the state sanctions widespread dehumanisation of women, lets the Commanders rape and impregnate women. Yet this lower man, still a rapist, is held to a different standard. These men are used to let the handmaids take out frustration. Capital punishment is carried out by their hand, as they beat him to death. All their hatred for the state is purged on this single individual. Such a strange, terrifying concept.


Another flashback to Offred and Moira outside, to when the former first believed she was pregnant. We see the original fears of women before the authoritarian state. Offred worried about a miscarriage, but she had Moira, her husband. She wasn’t kept under lock and key. Now, she’s in that tyrannical place without Moira.
Ofglen: “Was there ever a before?”
We see the further disconnect between the women, how they’re nurtured to distrust one another. Ofglen and Offred understand each other better as they talk more. We discover that Ofglen, in her real life, had a wife, a son named Oliver. They were able to flee to Canada while she was caught on the border without a passport. So many families divided, torn apart. So many women destroyed, abused, and much worse.
At the Commander’s home there’s a big meeting of men, all the while the women scuttle about preparing dinner and alcohol and everything else the patriarchy requires. And again there’s more disconnect. Offred can see how Serena, though more privileged, is just another woman to the men; though she has a seemingly better life than the rest, she is still excluded and set aside.
Furthermore, we now know Offred’s name was and is June. And she intends to survive this tyranny. Some way.
Pic 4What an episode! Wow. I’m more than impressed, and satisfied as a fan of the novel. I’m excited for the next episode. Been grateful to get to see the first few episodes before the premiere.
Next is “Birth Day” and you can be sure, it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 10: “The Cord”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 10: “The Cord”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin & Carlton Cuse

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Visiting Hours” – click here
Pic 1Here we are at the series finale! The title of the episode refers to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) talking to Mother (Vera Farmiga) about “the cord” between their hearts connecting them. Well, I bet it’s about to be cut, or snap in two. One way or another.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has Regina (Aliyah O’Brien) and Norman in the car, heading to where the young man put Norma while he was off taking care of everything else. No telling how far the vengeance will go, or if it’ll even happen. Who knows where any of this is headed.
I know it’s nowhere any good. He lets Regina go, then he and Norman are left to trek in the woods by themselves.
Pic 1ASheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) is picking up the pieces after Romero’s daring break-in to find the object of his revenge. She brings Dylan (Max Thieriot) in to tell him what happened, as well as to try figuring out where they may be gone. “He took him somewhere to kill him,” says Dylan with grim confidence.
What’s super interesting about the back half of this final season is how the older brother is concerned for the younger’s mental health. He knows he’s dangerous, but also there’s the knowledge that Norman is mentally ill; there is something wrong with him and there has been a LONG TIME. No one ever helped, Mother made it worse, now he’s a lost cause. Much like real life many want to only concern themselves with the crime, instead of paying attention to the terrible reasons for why it happened. And not always as easy done as said, which Dylan understands.
In the snowy woods Romero starts seeing the disconnect in Norman’s brain, between him and Mother. Although, unfortunately, he doesn’t quite comprehend it yet. Not enough to save him, as Mother takes over duties and remedies their situation. Once Alex helps uncover the cold corpse of Mrs. Bates he lets his guard down long enough to get himself killed by having his head smashed followed by a couple bullets from his own gun. In his dying words the former sheriff taunts, and Mother comes to tell Norman she has to leave. There’s no longer any need for her to protect him.
The cord’s been cut.
Romero: “You killed your own mother. You cant hide from it.”


Norman wakes up to Mother, next to him in bed. Things are bright and sunny and beautiful. She isn’t dead, they’re together. She makes breakfast for them. Only it’s all illusion; or, better put, delusion. He’s still in the snow bleeding, remembering happier times with Mother before they moved away from their old home. What a creepy sequence. As if he and Mother are first heading to White Pine Bay all over again, the beginning of a new life.
After all the horror, Norman Bates has gone back home.
In town, Dylan gets together with his old pal Remo Wallace (Ian Tracey), who’s still working for a marijuana grow op but a bigger, better one. They reunite, reminiscing on happier things. Remo’s brought him a little package: a gun. What for, exactly? Protection? Perhaps it’s a tool, a permanent and fatal medication for his ailing brother.
Speaking of Norman, he’s literally lost in delusion. Believing it’s the first time they’ve come to the motel, that he’s setting the pace up for business. A woman and her kids come to stay, which already scares me. With him hallucinating, forgetting, remembering things as current day, it’s a volatile place to be; anywhere near the Bates Motel for that matter.
Norman calls Dylan and this makes his delusional mind even clearer, saying that they’ve gotten to the “new house” and so on. Jesus. It’s just another reason for Dylan to think about whether he should help solve his younger brother’s problems permanently.
Pic 3Mother’s corpse is put away in her room, as Norman prepares for dinner with his brother. This is a tense moment leading up to their meal. We can feel Dylan struggling within. He calls up Emma (Olivia Cooke) and tells her what’s happening. She, obviously, suggests to call the sheriff, but he thinks it’ll end with cops rushing in, his brother dead. Their phone call is devastatingly emotional, as it could be the last time they ever talk. W’re about to find out.
Dylan readies himself to go up there with his gun. He also sees there are guests in the motel, whom he goes to warn. After they flee Dylan goes to the house, where Norman is happy to greet him, busy cooking supper. He tries to break through the psychosis, the delusional thought. However, it becomes terrifying for him once he sees that Mother is literally there for dinner with them, dead and half frozen at the head of the table. Actually makes him vomit.
Then everything gets intense. Dylan pleads with Norman to see the truth. Afterwards, young Bates grabs a knife and goes toward his brother who takes out his gun. “I just want to be with her, Dylan,” he says. When he charges at his brother with the blade Dylan is forced to shoot him. As Norman slips away he sees a vision of Norma, alive again, waiting for him out there in the forest with open arms, together once more.

Pic 4CA rendition of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” plays while the cops flood the Bates Motel, the woods where they locate Romero’s dead body. We see the motel go up for sale all over again, that old, eerie house with all its secrets sitting up on the hill, waiting for new owners to give it life. Emma and Dylan are still together, living happily after all the terror. And out in a quaint graveyard sits the Bates grave, Mother and her boy eternally in the ground. Noticeably, his side is a little empty while hers is filled with praise. Oh, Norman.
Pic 5What a great series! Loved the end. Even though I expected Dylan to be the one to finish off the legacy, I also didn’t know how it would go down. Great stuff, horrific and dramatic and all around excellent. An amazing adaptation, as I’ve said time and time again. Kudos to the entire cast and crew for a job well done.

Lynch’s BLUE VELVET is Like Disturbing(ly Good) Literature

Blue Velvet. 1986. Directed & Written by David Lynch.
Starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, Brad Dourif, & Jack Nance.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG)
Rated R. 120 minutes.
Drama/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★
Pic 1David Lynch is one of my favourite filmmakers, his directing and writing equally fantastic. My dad told me about Twin Peaks when I was young (it was on TV when I was about five years old), so in my teenage years I discovered its magic. This lead to seeing Eraserhead with a few friends in a dim lit basement, which blew my mind. On and on through Lynch’s catalogue of work I went, eventually watching his early short films opening up a whole other door into his mind as an artist.
Blue Velvet is a surreal film. Not as steeped in it as much as his other work, though full of surrealism nonetheless. It’s through the absurd Lynch taps into this element, alongside his modern noir-ish plot that digs deep into the underbelly of idyllic American life. What makes the movie so exciting is the dangerous story, looking at this darker side of suburbia in a small logging town, fittingly named Lumberton.
Lynch has said this film inspired Twin Peaks; the way in which he blends the darkness with the absurdism is strangely compelling. There’s an explicit scene or two, depravity taking the reins in violent fashion. Mostly, Blue Velvet takes place in a space where violence is always possible, never far; its threat is debilitating to the progression of everything from innocence to love. The central character Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) finds himself pitted against the psychotic, Freudian villain Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), faced with either accepting his role in a hierarchy of violent men or rejecting the male violence which underpins the light and goodness of Lumberton.
Pic 2The now iconic opening of the film is perfect, designed like the meticulous opening sentence of a piece of great literature. Lynch starts with those typical images of American life, things he remembers from the 1950s: white picket fence, bright red firetruck with waving firemen followed by the bright red roses of a luscious garden, the beautiful houses like boxes in a row.
He immediately smashes the gorgeous, American Dream-type feeling with Mr. Beaumont, Jeffrey’s father, having a stroke while watering the garden. As if innocence is starting to shatter with it, a child in a diaper wanders up while the man seizes on the lawn. The hose spurts water, and Lynch goes into a slow motion shot, the sound likewise slowed – the dog snaps at the water’s stream, his face looking vicious and snarling, his sounds become sinister. What a perfectly thematic opener. I honestly don’t know how this could’ve been improved; because it couldn’t.
This first sequence is a thesis for Blue Velvet, ending in its statement where we zoom in and the camera takes us into the grass, into the dirt, right to the insects crawling in the earth. An image that sticks with us, coming up again in the end. But it effectively shows us what Lynch is doing, and plans to do throughout the plot – put a microscope over the lives of those in a quaint town. In this story, that involves a young man under threat of violence invading his life, maybe even his very soul.
Pic 2AIts a strange world, isnt it?”
Jeffrey’s dropped into a Freudian nightmare of a world, perhaps one to which Oedipus could relate; in a symbolic sense, anyways. He is lured into the dark side of his town by a sliced off ear, yet more importantly the story begins with his father’s brutal stroke. He loses the male influence in his life, falling prey to corruption.
Frank’s arrival is surreal in itself. He switches between two personas – Daddy and Baby. He treats Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) as Mother. At the sight of her vagina, and with a gas mask dose of amyl nitrite, he goes from Daddy to Baby, then back again. Likewise, after there’s a change in Jeffrey. Without his actual father around he adopts Frank, albeit subconsciously (perfect for a Freudian analysis), as Daddy. And where his family didn’t introduce him to the darker side of Lumberton, Dorothy and Frank become his surrogate parents, leading him down the garden path to the truth; no matter how disturbing.
This is quickly evident when he leaves Dorothy’s apartment following the first time we meet Frank in his erotic rage. We’re whisked directly to a dream sequence of Jeffrey remembering the events, then he wakes and there’s a strange moment where he seems relieved, touching the wall near a figure: the figure may be, to him, something else entirely but it looks like a vagina dentata sort of image. The influence of Daddy is transforming Jeffrey’s image of women into something dangerous; tying into one of the film’s themes being his journey, as a young man, trying to reject the violence of the male gender through the lens of how his surrogate Daddy treats the surrogate Mother.


Jeffrey walks to and from the hospital during the day and everything is bright, beautiful, positive. In the evening this changes, suddenly even the normal things don’t feel right. For instance, a moment many never catch when the first night scene sees Jeffrey out for a walk in his neighbourhood: a man stands in the grass as his dog on a leash stands on the sidewalk, a reverse of what you’d see like he’s being walked, you almost expect him to squat, drop a coil. One early indication of the surrealism Lynch employs.
Part of the surrealism is that idea of the twisted, half-Freudian and half-Oedipal journey on which Jeffrey goes. Because not only does the story dive into the underbelly of Lumberton, the story itself dives into the subconscious mind. This is best represented in the shot from Lynch after Jeffrey’s discovery of the ear – the camera closes in, further and further, right into the ear canal; figuratively, and literally because the orifice is an ear, into the mind. So, our trusty director dips us into that subconscious, in every way. Once you begin peeling back the layers they shed like skin.
The other surreal moments, the best, involve Frank most of all. First, there’s his amyl nitrite through the gas mask. On the surface that’s absurd alone, but coupled with the whole Daddy idea, you see that Jeffrey’s father has to breathe through a tube while Frank uses the surgical gas mask to inhale his drugs; a weird double image. The doubling continues, too. Frank is captivated with music, in particular the song “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” – the doubles return here, with Dorothy singing Vinton, suave Ben (Dean Stockwell) singing Orbison. And Stockwell’s little performance is so unnervingly odd. Strangely enough, the scene that weirds me out most. We see him singing, holding an electrical cord lamp lighting his face, and Frank stares at him, mouthing Orbison’s words, almost in a trance. An addition to the psychosis of Frank, suggesting something behind his fixation that we don’t need to know to find terrifying.


The violence is likely the most surreal of all: the Man in Yellow is dead on his feet, in literal fashion; Lynch shows us a close-up of Dorothy’s chipped tooth in her red lipstick-ed mouth then a little later Frank paints Jeffrey with lipstick and slaps him around, too; Frank’s crew stands by watching in complacence as he commits various unpredictable acts in a violent rage. Just as surreal as the absurdist situations in which Jeffrey finds himself throughout the film, from finding an ear in a field (the ants call to mind an image from 1929’s silent short film Un Chien Andalou) to witnessing the ritualistic sexual assault by Frank on Dorothy.
One of the reasons Lynch’s film acts as an excellent piece of visual literature is how he ties off the imagery. Whereas in the first couple scenes we go into the dead ear’s canal, the camera takes us back out of the ear later, except it’s Jeffrey’s ear, alive and in the sun; a transformative journey, from darkness into the light (a visual motif we see in the use of light Lynch employs in many scenes). In addition, the rightful Mother and Daddy are restored once Frank is dead; Mr. Beaumont is recovering well, the sun is shining, the backyards of suburbia are back to their dreamy quality again. Finally, while the darkness still exists – the robins feed on the bugs, the extent of Frank’s connections and the bad people in Lumberton remain unknown – a lightness is restored.
These elements help Lynch suture together his masterpiece of neo-noir surrealism. One of the greatest films made in the 20th century, a work of dangerous art.

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.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 13: “Mercy”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 13: “Mercy”
Directed by Jessica Goldberg
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Spiritus Mundi” – click here
Pic 1Here we are: the final episode of The Path‘s Season 2! What a ride it’s been, I do hope that we’re getting another season. But first, let’s see where this one ends.
Last we saw, Richard (Clark Middleton) was about to set himself and the compound, specifically the archives room where all the unburdening tapes – the blackmail weapons – are kept.
Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and Eddie (Aaron Paul) are together with their daughter. They’re living a different life, out in the real world, in a seaside Canadian town. “Are we safe now?” Summer (Aimee Laurence) asks.
Is this a vision of the future, a life beyond Meyerism and its cult for the Lanes? Or are we seeing a dream? It looks like reality. We then see Cal (Hugh Dancy) go back to his little room with Mary (Emma Greenwell) and their newborn baby. It looks as if the Lanes finally made it out, all of them – well, aside from Hawk (Kyle Allen) it seems.
Everyone else is moving on, three weeks after the birth of Emma’s child. The events of the previous episode set off a series of repercussions that everyone’s still learning how to deal with, still understanding. Sarah’s confused; her daughter wants her parents back together, but mom isn’t entirely sure. The entire web of relationships is fractured, possibly beyond repair. Sarah tries justifying what she did with the blackmail, yet also harbours deep guilt over Richard’s death.
Pic 1AThe Meyerists continue trying to move past Richard’s death, the fire. They all lay cacti and plants at the site, a sort of ceremony. Meanwhile, Hank and Gab (Peter Friedman/Deirdre O’Connell) wonder how things will continue, as Bill and a reluctant though present Felicia (Brian Stokes Mitchell/Adriane Lenox) assure them – Cal is “good for the movement.” Right. The fearless leader’s too busy licking his wounds over Sarah that it’s a wonder he can concentrate at all. Between that and having a lovechild with Mary, one everyone’s gossiping about behind their backs.
It’s nice to finally see Eddie, Sarah, and Summer living a normal life away from the compound; too bad Hawk’s brainwashed. The three walk on the beach, they spend time in the open air without having to do any creepy, weird shit. They’re an actual family again, bound by themselves instead of some cult nonsense. More than that it’s clear Sarah’s never actually fallen out of love with her estranged husband.
On the street, Eddie runs into Abe (Rockmond Dunbar). He’s not happy that his case essentially up and ran away. He came to see Eddie, to “bring him back” to his people. Whatever that means.
Pic 2At the centre, Hawk gets an envelope from his mother reading DO SOMETHING WITH IT – the results from the Clarkesville water tests. Hmm. There’s something bigger, more major coming with that whole plotline. I’m just curious to see where Hawk takes it, and whether it changes him.
Abe drops Eddie home. Following nearby is Russel (Patch Darragh), too. Inside are the former Deniers, all meeting to figure out what’s their next step. Eddie tells them about his visions, how it isn’t clear. It’s not about seeing the finish line; he’s on a journey, like the rest of them. “I dont know if Im the one,” he tells them. He’s unsure, even with the blessing of Steve Meyers (Keir Dullea). Nevertheless there are people who now count on him, who BELIEVE in him. Of course Russel brings information back to Cal – Sam Field isn’t who he said he is, he’s been in league with Eddie. And he tells Cal of the Deniers, their hope to reform Meyerism. That doesn’t sit well, either.
Cal’s fragile psychological state is scary. When he goes home to Mary she’s asking questions about Eddie. This further reveals that Cal believes “people don’t know what they want.” He has contempt for others. But Mary’s smarter than he understands. She tells him: “You are what we want.” And she suggests something must be… done… with Eddie. So the two have a chat when Cal shows up down at the Deniers HQ. He acts quite threatening, as well as too sure of himself, full of ego. None of his behaviour will drive Eddie away, though. Unless it comes down to Sarah.
Pic 3Speaking of her, she’s out experiencing the world, dinner at a friend’s place. Then comes the questions of where she came from. Why nobody can Google her. So on. Sarah gets paranoid, so she and her daughter sneak out the bathroom window and run. They head to their house, grab a few things, and they take off. An intense scene, with a pounding score.
Hawk walks in to find Eddie, Cal, and Libby Dukaan. Troubling, not to mention the fact his father appears not as enraged or defiant as normal. A little later Cal talks about Eddie, saying he’s willing to drop all he believes in to help Sarah; funny, as this shows that Cal cares most about the movement and himself. Sadly, Mary can’t see that, not yet. Although she’s full of spite enough to try and twist things up for the father of her child; the identity of whom she reveals to Hawk, in order to stir up some trouble.
Sarah heads for the border with Summer, determined on doing the “right thing” so that her daughter can be proud of her. Will she turn herself in? Is that actually her plan? Meanwhile, Hawk goes to see his dad. He discovers the truth of Eddie as Steve’s chosen one to lead the movement. He also finds out that his dad got Libby to pay back the people Sarah blackmailed. But this also means there’s nothing going ahead with the water tests. Eddie further believes he isn’t the one to lead. Through it all, Hawk, the one who was so brainwashed, falling away from his dad, may be the one to convince him.


A great sequence cuts parallel between Eddie preaching about mercy and Cal practising a speech about loss. What we see is how Cal has to rehearse his movements, whereas the compassion for others, the speech, it all comes easy to Eddie; like a natural extension of himself. This is THE GREATEST SEQUENCE OF THE SERIES! Hands down. And all the while as we visually comprehend the differences between the opposing leaders, Sarah wanders a rock maze, trying to rediscover her own way on the path. Just amazing filmmaking here in this scene, from writing to editing to score.
One good thing, I suppose, is that Cal comes into his own as the father of Mary’s child. They name him Forest Roberts, due to his being born in the wilderness.
Sarah confronts Eddie about his choice to reverse the blackmail. He assures her that her life “will be hell” and she won’t need to look for punishment, not from the law or anywhere else. For once, she’s now the one who wants to walk away and have a family, away from a cult. She doesn’t want him to “go back inside.” She worries it’ll wash away what’s good about him.


At the compound, Ascension Day is underway. Sarah walks into the midst of the celebration, as Cal preaches his rehearsed speech. Everyone eats it up, too. They love it and him. They sing songs of Meyerism, acting like a big, happy family. Then they’re distracted by a noise from out at the gate. The Deniers have come, Eddie leading the crowd. Hank even lets them in willingly.
What a stunning moment! Some greet Eddie, others leave. Perfectly Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place” plays in the background. Soon, people walk from out behind Cal, joining the rightful Guardian of the Light. A change is coming. Just a case of who, and what, is left standing when all is said and done.
Pic 6Pic 6AI LOVED THIS FINALE! Even better than the Season 1 finale, as well. Spectacular work, especially now as we sit on the edge, waiting to see how Cal moves forward – no doubt treachery and violence are on his path – and how Eddie handles the movement, plus I can’t wait to see what Sarah chooses as her own personal way forward.
Hulu: renew this, or feel my wrath.