The Sinner – Part 1

USA’s The Sinner
Part 1
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
Pic 1Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) works in a warehouse, looking after business for a heat and air specialist company at which her husband Mason (Christopher Abbot) works. They’re a simple family, they have dinner with his parents a couple times a week and the grandparents look after the kids. Cora calls her husband a “mamas boy” for all the time they spend with them. Not to mention they work with pops at the company, too. A nice, quaint life.
At the same time it’s predictable. Friday nights are for fucking, just like everything seems to have its place, every aspect of their lives is plotted out. She has to take a pill before they get in bed. Doesn’t bode well for their relationship as we see it from the omnipotent angle. Something about Cora’s vacant eyes when they have sex is chilling. This is not a happy woman.
Bowing to the more patriarchal aspects of marriage and motherhood, she looks like a woman stuck. Not that she doesn’t love her husband or their child. She loves them so much that she appears to have forced herself into a life that isn’t what she wants. All this is without words, as well. All by way of Biel’s expressions, the way she looks at others. You can see her existing in her own head while the world goes on around her.
There’s a great metaphor in how, when they go swimming Cora goes out past the rope on her own, past where people are meant to swim. Like it’s something she has to do, compelled to. She puts herself under the water and holds her breath awhile, long as she can.
She returns to her husband freaking out a bit. “I wanted some quiet,” she tells him.
On the beach, a young couple groping catches her attention, making her feel strange. Out of nowhere Cora attacks the man, stabbing him in the neck with a steak knife, stabbing his chest, over and over telling him to “get off her.” Before Mason can pull her away, it’s over. He’s bleeding out. People are screaming. Nobody knows why it happened.
Problem is, neither does Cora. Naturally she’s carted off by the cops.
Pic 1ALooks like this is a case for Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), a bit of a grizzled dude with rough fingernails, possibly liver troubles from drinking, or could be something else. Either way, he’s out on the beach faced with the murder of the poor young dude at the hands of a stranger. Along with Detective Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood). Plenty of witnesses. But if they want to find a motive, this one’s like a needle in a massive stack of identical-looking needles.
There’s something in Cora’s past. We see glimpses of her upbringing, her praying. Only brief. It’s clear that we’ll find at least partial answers there. I don’t think this is going to be as simple as some exploitative abuse angle, though there’s no telling just yet. It simply feels bigger, more complex than that.
The detectives are meeting with Cora, laying out the next steps in what will happen from here on. They advise her to call a lawyer. She refuses. Knowing what she did, yet not sure why. She can’t produce any reason for doing so. Also, what are the shots of the black wallpaper in her head? Or is it the pattern of curtains, a duvet? Is it a key to unlocking her past? We’ve seen it a couple times now, directly linked with her. Visions. Puzzle pieces to some kind of trauma in her childhood.
Cora: “I just did it. And I dont know why.”
Pic 2Nice audio touch, as Cora suffers in her cell for the night without her medication and the sound that played on the beach before she killed the man pounds in her ears, like it’s coming through speakers. She sees images of her crime flash through her mind. So, she drops to the floor. On her knees, in prayer.
Dt. Ambrose is a troubled dude. The black fingernails aren’t liver damage. They’re bloodied, bruised fingernails from having them stepped on by a lady friend of his he goes to see now and then. Lord, Harry. Bit of S&M, baby! Dude does enjoy his drink, though.
Everyone’s life is torn apart. Mason is having a hard time, he hasn’t gone to see his wife since she’s been in jail. It’s tough. He was there, having witnessed the murder. Not understanding from where this bout of rage exploded. He mentions to Dt. Ambrose what she said after the attack to the girlfriend of the man: “Youre okay. Youre safe. Hes gone now.” As if she were saving the woman from something.
Pic 3We’re offered a glimpse of Cora as a girl. She’s meeting her sister for the first time. Her mother, essentially, blames her for the sick new baby they have. That after her, there was no more strength left in the mother for another child. All this under the guise of being a test from God. Already we can see there’s a religious angle to whatever trauma Cora experienced when she was young.
Finally, Mason goes to visit her in jail. He’s struggling to understand it all. The cruel irony is that she is in the same boat. She’s willing to admit maybe there’s “something wrong” with her. He’d rather believe it was a momentary lapse, a psychotic break out of nowhere. So obvious there’s far more to the story lurking below. On top of everything, they’re going to have to figure out where to go from here, in their relationship. She accepts what’s coming, from jail to her husband maybe having to move on. That’s not something he’s ready to hear.
Dt. Ambrose goes to see the others present when the victim was killed. The girlfriend, specifically, though she’s sedated. One of the guy’s present doesn’t have much to say, until the cop starts poking at him for not having tried to save his friend. This prompts what he’s looking for: the guy mentions his friend grabbed her by the elbow, that he was a strong guy, and it’s strange because he didn’t do anything. Ambrose susses out it was like “he let her kill him.” As if he knew her, recognised her after the first stab in his neck, then let what happened happen.
Could it possibly be? Will Ambrose pursuit it even if Cora doesn’t know it herself?
Pic 4Man, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. Then I realised Antonio Campos was directing this episode, and I’m willing to watch anything he does or is involved with, full stop. Biel impressed me, big time. Look forward to Part 2.

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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.

SPLIT’s Horror is Part Shyamalan Style & Part Terrifying McAvoy

Split. 2017. Directed & Written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Izzie Coffey, Brad William Henke, & Sebastian Arcelus.
Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures
Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★★
POSTER SplitPlenty of people wrote M. Night Shyamalan off long ago. I agree that The Happening-era was grim. But I was one of the few who enjoyed Lady in the Water, and I still love The Village. Since I first saw The Sixth Sense and then Unbreakable the year after in theatre, where both blew me away equally, Shyamalan’s forever been a filmmaker I keep my eye on.
When he came back swinging with The Visit, another one I LOVED, I knew he’d again begin impressing us all. Now, he’s given us Split; his best film to date.
The talk I’ve seen has mostly, rightfully, centred around the lead performances from James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. What impressed me even above their incredible work is how confident Shyamalan is, once more, in his directorial abilities. No more is he merely relying on twists, which seems to be where he went wrong for a while; focusing too hard on surprising people when his best work has always been style.
Well, he’s provided plenty style on which the audience can feast, conjuring up pure suspense and terror like the magician we know he can be, and along the way he still twists and turns a bit for good measure.
Split1First thing impressed me was the dialogue, particularly from the three young girls (Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, & Jessica Sula). There are so many typical films where people say the same old lines, in the same way. Far too much horror where writers – without irony like Wes Craven or The Cabin in the Woods – have their characters doing unbelievably stupid things, past the point of stretching our disbelief. The girls are logical, for the most part, and especially Casey (Taylor-Joy), whose past informs her present.
Casey is who roots the entire film, despite McAvoy’s ecstatic and dark work as the ultra-interesting villainous character. She is who provides us with an emotional olive branch into the plot and the story’s arc. Her character immediately draws the audience into her emotions, her personal history. Right from the moment you see her, the dialogue introduces us to the character, it’s obvious there is a well of secrets behind her eyes. Taylor-Joy is someone I’m excited to see more of, between this and The Witch she’s proven herself as an actress whose abilities are well beyond her years. Also love to see a legitimately excellent acting talent whose interests, at least for the time being, lie in the horror genre.
Split2Shyamalan’s directing has never been better. Much as I love The Sixth SenseUnbreakable even more than that, he tops himself here in a number of ways. The camera movements are spectacular in their revelatory motions, with suspense leering around each corner. He manages to do jump scare-like moments without them feeling stale like they do in lesser horror pictures. Because it’s in the tension.
For instance, McAvoy’s multiple personalities creep into the frame, both literally in his actions and figuratively through the lens of the camera. Sometimes it’s him lurking into frame, such as when The Beast finally appears in full to us; other times the camera cuts or pans to a revelation of a personality, or we get to see other characters’ reactions to him which elevates the shock to a much higher level.
When we first see The Beast up close – his skin, his muscles, his arms, then finally his face – it’s a genius sequence. Poor Dr. Karen Fletcher (the always awesome Betty Buckley) is the one to experience the plot moment, as we watch with eyes wide in horror. And what happens when he turns up, I won’t ruin; it is savage, yet subtle and eerie to the point of a chill running up the spine. Exciting stuff, my favourite scene by far.
Another moment I love – SPOILER ALERT! SPOILERS AHEAD! – is the end, before the very final scene, when Crumb has escaped. He’s talking in his various personalities, and Shyamalan uses the mirrors around him to frame the faces, as if they’re all in the room despite being inside one brain. Simple, effective use of reflections which reflect the multiple personalities.
Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 10.56.59 PMWhereas Taylor-Joy’s Casey is the emotional counterweight of the story, giving us someone with which to spend the wild ride, McAvoy’s performance as Crumb (and his 20-odd other personalities) is a shining star of the film. He gets into a mental and physical space that we only see every so often from actors, whether it’s De Niro in Raging Bull, Bale in The Machinist or any other similar role.
His multiple personality disorder as the villain is aided by the intensity of his dedication, in that he gets to a point where every personality stemming from the character of Crumb has different facial ticks, they use mannerisms respectively according to their affect, the inflection in their voices change and one even has a speech impediment, another uses McAvoy’s natural accent while the Dennis personality has an unsettling, baritone-d accent different from the others, too.
Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Ahead!: There’s a moment with Dr. Fletcher when Barry, the sweet fashion designer, reveals that it’s actually Dennis who’s taken “the light” during their therapy session. McAvoy uses his face in such a way that you forget about the dialogue, you pay less attention to any sound, then you zero in on his expression. Gradually his face melts from Barry’s toothy smile to the more serious, sombre look of Dennis, and I’m telling you, it is enough to raise the hairs on your arms.
Split4This is a 5-star affair. All the way. There’s not a thing I feel needed changing, I’m of the belief that M. Night Shyamalan’s turned a corner. Realising those twists, while awesome when executed correctly, aren’t the answer to his filmmaking magic, he’s perfecting his best capabilities through a combination of storytelling and style. And yes, for a couple flicks he fell off track. He either went one way or the other, instead of using his gifts in tandem.
Most of all, the guy is an original filmmaker. Even his failures show promise because of the fact he swings for the fences, every last chance at bat. Hopefully the renewed confidence Shyamalan has obviously felt since The Visit scared up a storm will continue to allow his best foot to step forward on his next project. Something I don’t doubt, not for a second.

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.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Scott Kosar

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Body” – click here
* For a recap & review of the series finale, “The Cord” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is being booked into the police station, going through processing. Well, Mother (Vera Farmiga) is there, too. Love the excellent use of the idea of the double personality. How we see both Mother and Norman in the frame at once, as others only see the latter. Mother’s not happy to hear about the next steps, that her boy is likely headed to jail. Sweet, young Norman wouldn’t do well behind bars.
Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Thieriot) are finally back together. She didn’t want him to be alone dealing with all the madness. Now, she also discovers her mother is dead, dredged from the lake. Murdered. And Dylan knows “it was Norman.” It’s not just the fact her mom is dead. It’s the fact Emma lived there in White Pine Bay, being around Norman and Mother so long, and she had no idea that this budding psychopath lurked in his skin. That one day he would do something so horrible. Such a feeling of deception, a truly deep betrayal.
Pic 1AThe Bates Motel is a scene of massive interest, various law enforcement teams searching the grounds, metal detectors, crime scene investigation. Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) and a team are inside the eerie house, where Mother’s room remains untouched, and obviously her son’s been sleeping in her bed like a creep. A veritable house of horrors, if there ever were one. Outside they find luggage belonging to Audrey Decody, Emma’s mother. Downstairs, there’s poor Chick (Ryan Hurst), shot in the head by the still fleeing jailbird former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell).
Speaking of Alex, he’s like a man with nothing at all whatsoever to lose. No telling what his next move is, part of the fun.
Meanwhile, Emma reels from the news about her mother, about Norman. I also feel bad for Dylan because, despite his own troubles and mistakes, he never wanted any of this, for himself or Emma. “You didnt bring Norman into my life,” she tells him. Things between the two of them aren’t easy, and she isn’t sure what this means for their relationship.
Lawyer Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) visits with Norman/Mother. They speak of the coming trial, what he/she ought to expect. They have to discuss their “approach.” Y’know, keeping Norman alive. She wants to go for an insanity plea. Love this sequence, too. The editing cuts us from Mother speaking to Norman taking over. There’s a real battle happening inside that one body.
Norman: “Everyone has multiple personalities, Julia. We pull out what we need when we have to.”


The trouble between Dylan and Emma is compounded by the fact Julia wants him in court to sit behind Norman, to support his brother. It’s very difficult for him to turn his back. Not that a serial killer deserves sympathy. But this is the enjoyable part of this Psycho adaptation, is that Norman isn’t only this disturbed killer, we’ve seen a much more expanded, complex vision of who Norman Bates is and how he reached this destination. Because slashers are great, I personally love them.
But Bates has always been a more interesting character than a slasher; Hitchcock’s film and Peeping Tom from Michael Powell gave birth to the genre. He’s had more to him even in the little we get to see his psychosis through Hitchcock. Which is why I think Bates Motel is a worthy piece in the makeup of Norman Bates as a character, as it doesn’t squander the prequel. It does the story and the characters justice.
Alex is still out on the run. He gets gas and runs into a man interested in the late ’60s-era car he’s driving. Just a friendly thing, but enough to fuel more paranoia for a man escaping the law. And everywhere he goes he’s still reminded of Norma, the fact that Norman is a killer, so on.
In court, Dylan shows up to support his brother regardless of the trouble it causes; hard to turn your back on family, particularly the crazy ones. A preliminary hearing. First up is Sheriff Greene on the stand, who talks about the murder of Blackwell, as well as Sam Loomis and Emma’s mother. To see Norman listen to the recounting of his crimes along with others, probably the first time he’s actually faced them, it’s chilling. Now we’re seeing people heap blame on Dylan, for knowing there was something deeply wrong with his brother and not doing something about it. That’s unfair as a judgement.


Emma says goodbye to her mother in a quick cremation ceremony. She brings the ashes out to the woods and scatters them on the open air. Sort of a fitting tribute for a woman who so obviously lived a travelling lifestyle, away from her family. Sweet, but definitely simultaneously bitter. She and Dylan keep putting their best foot forward together, though it’s unclear how well that’ll work in the long run.
Before leaving Emma goes to visit Norman. It’s a painful thing, as he puts on his best act. Although it’s all but clear Mother is operating the controls for that conversation. Not accepting the blame, the best defence. And Emma knows, she asks: “Wheres Norman?” Then the conversation shifts with Mother talking directly to her. Ah, the psychosis is so very evident, in full view for the first time for her.
Not long later Alex puts a gun to Julia in the parking lot, pushing his way inside the station. Closer to Norman. He puts everyone at gunpoint, making the officers hug the floor. He takes things slow, being careful, disarming them. Another officer shows up and gets a bullet to the shoulder.
Romero gets to the cell, then Norman is taken out as the officers are locked inside. He almost chokes the young man to death before letting go. He piles himself, Norman, and Regina into a car, then they’re headed to wherever the son put Mother’s body. Shiiiit.


What a spectacular penultimate episode to this series! Wow. I’m consistently amazed by this series, and now and then it really takes me for a perfect ride. I think Season 5’s been my favourite of all, honestly. They’re swinging for the fences and producing the best Norman Bates prequel that they could have done. Last episode is “The Cord” and I believe that’ll be in reference to the cord connecting Mother and Norman, the figurative umbilical cord still attaching the boy to his mom? Maybe. We’ll see.

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.

THE DARK TAPES: Fresh Indie Found Footage

The Dark Tapes. 2017. Directed by Vincent J. Guastini & Michael McQuown. Screenplay by McQuown.
Starring Emilia Ares Zoryan, David Banks, Jonathan Biver, Sara Castro, Michael Cotter, Denise Faro, Brittany Fisheli, Jo Galloway, Aral Gribble, Shane Hartline, David Hull, Clint Keepin, Casey James Knight, Shawn Lockie, Matt Magnusson, Anna Rose Moore, Tessa Munro, Jake O’Connor, Cortney Palm, David Rountree, Katherine Shaw, Wayne River Sorrell, Meredith Thomas, Brittany Underwood, Julian von Nagel, Ryan Allan Young, & Stepehn Zimpel.
Thunder Road Incorporated.
Not Rated. 98 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller

★★★1/2
Dark Tapes 1Director Michael McQuown sent me a screener for his and co-director Vincent J. Guastini’s independent film, The Dark Tapes. I’d heard of it awhile, hearing plenty of good things. Not overhyped; hyped just enough. I’m always ready to dig in on a found footage flick, no matter how tired the sub-genre seems to get with so many low budget efforts being pumped out simply to get a director and some actors a credit to their names.
The Dark Tapes isn’t a perfect movie. There are a few missteps that could’ve been avoided to make the whole thing more effective, certain tapes in the lot aren’t as good as others. Often anthologies suffer from this fate. The lesser tapes are still good. There’s nothing bad here. Each tape, regardless of its setbacks, has an eerie quality to it respectively.
McQuown and Guastini use a meagre budget wisely, choosing to use effects sparingly and, for the most part, they work. This is one of their best moves, because they don’t set the bar too high yet clearly focused on staying creepy. There are standouts in the series of tapes, presented through the narrative of being proof of government conspiracy-type stuff, the truth the powers that be suppress and keep from the people – a couple deserve their own full-length treatments. Certain segments stand up with some of the best of the V/H/S series (no surprise considering Guastini is not only an effects guy, he did work on the third entry, Viral).
Dark Tapes 2My only beef, and I’ll get to this first before discussing what I enjoyed so much, is that the directing is mostly excellent. Then, they choose to show us too much. For the longest time what we only get glimpses of in frame is what drives the pulse-pounding terror. As you can see in the photo above, that’s a startling shot. Love that moment; freezing the frame only compounds the fear. However, the directors lose some of that momentum later when they choose to show this demonic figure up close for too long. They try offsetting this with the use of camera glitches (et cetera). But it never makes up for the undoing of the fright from seeing the creature long enough we can start picking out some of the less stellar aspects of its creation.
The rest of the tapes are presented with brief shots and bits that are framed properly so that the low budget qualities don’t glare. And honestly, it’s only the one main demon in the “To Catch a Demon” segments that comes off as cheesy, which is late in the game. Otherwise, in the “Amanda’s Revenge” tape, the creatures (or whatever you want to call them) look legitimately gnarly, in the best horror sense. Particularly in that tape, we get some wonderfully old school film shots, the rickety frame, catching a presence in the distance, and it’s so genuinely perfect for the type of eeriness for which this segments is aiming.
Dark Tapes 3The tapes have an overall framing narrative, though I think that while there’s a connection between the tapes as a whole, it isn’t as connective as the filmmakers might hope. Mostly, I don’t feel that the connections are tight enough. The writing is interesting, at every turn. I can’t help think McQuown could’ve brainstormed something better to make them all into the cohesive unit the beginning (and mid-credits) speech we hear wishes it’d become. If this were tighter then it would’ve greatly improved the film.
But the stories, they’re fresh. Even in the moments some of them don’t exactly work as intended, they’re innovative. I found “The Hunters and the Hunted” was my favourite because it caught me so off guard once the revelation came, until then I expected a run of the mill bit of paranormal shlock; a proper twist, if there ever were! Also enjoyed “Cam Girls” except the end devolved into a ham-fisted mess. Before that it was wildly creepy, the editing made it feel very kinetic and full of horrific energy; while it falls apart later with absolutely no subtlety and a ton of unnecessary exposition that could’ve been given to us through imagery earlier (a missed opportunity), this segment  was insane.
And “Cam Girls” has an underlying metaphor in it, about our porn-obsessed culture that involves men watching women through their screens performing, some thinking they’re falling in love just by watching. If only the plot of this segment were worked out better, it’d be a devastating short.
Dark Tapes 5For a low budget, non-studio film, The Dark Tapes has an impressive production value. This is one of the things that keeps even the lesser pieces involving, it’s better than the average indie found footage attempt. With so many of these sub-genre flicks saturating the market, incredibly easy to make on a shoestring to non-existent budget, it’s nice to see what’s so obviously a labour of horror love come to the screen from these directors.
Sure, not every segment is perfect. A couple are scary as hell. And like I’ve yammered on, even in those segments which don’t measure up there’s still things to pique your interest. If anything, the effort the team on this film put in is astounding. Kudos to them all, I certainly hope that McQuown and Guastini do more, whether it’s in found footage that’s up to them. Without a doubt they’ve got horror sensibilities.
The Dark Tapes, warts and all, is one of the better found footage movies I’ve seen as of late, running the gamut of horror, thriller, and science fiction with relative ease. Like Tales of HalloweenHolidaysV/H/S, and Southbound, this is an anthology worth dipping into for a fright.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 8: “The Body”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 8: “The Body”
Directed by Freddie Highmore
Written by Erica Lipez

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Inseparable” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Visiting Hours” – click here
Pic 1Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) has turned himself in, as Dylan (Max Thieriot) was nearly consumed whole by his psychosis. Now Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) is at the house, asking questions, while Norman begs for his medication, to be taken away from that place where Mother (Vera Farmiga) lurks in the shadows. He is all but literally screaming out for help. This is another reason why I love the adaptation of Hitchcock and Bloch’s Psycho(s), because it’s twisted into something very familiar yet wholly unique. Whereas the Norman we saw in Hitchcock was utterly insane, his life as Mother basically hidden from his own view, Highmore’s Norman is one who recognises he is crazy and wants that to change, or at the least be contained.
So on he goes to the station where Sheriff Greene interrogates him about Blackwell and an unidentified corpse of a woman. The young man’s mind is fractured into so many pieces it could take years before all of it comes as a proper puzzle. But right now, he can’t even get help. The sheriff thinks he’s a “child” who adopted an “adult affect” and that this story’s a made-up, tall tale.
And what a microcosm of modern mental health! The guy is calling for someone to aid him in combating his own thoughts, his own dark mind. All she can do is believe it’s a cry for attention. Norman knows, though; he knows that he has killed, more than once.
Pic 1AThey lock him in a cell for the night. He gets his medication, thankfully. I only wonder, how will even a night play out stuck in such a tiny space with Mother yapping? Well, she antes up and sticks her fingers down her boy’s throat to make him spew the pill. Can’t have him being medicated, away from her influence. Then, as Mother, he bashes himself unconscious; or at least that part
Note: Highmore directed this episode, and right away in this scene he does this interesting shot where Norma cradles Norman, and they’re framed through the upright toilet seat, as if the world is enclosed with the frame itself, a world where only the two of them exist.
At the diner, Dylan talks with an attorney, Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), about his brother. He mentions that Emma’s (Olivia Cooke) mother showed up at the motel, then suddenly disappeared. Highly suspicious, to any eyes.
With Mother calling the shots she’s out demanding to leave the station. Using all her powers to persuade Sheriff Greene. This doesn’t work. The sheriff puts Norman under arrest, and Mother’s LIVID!


Ah, my man – Charles ‘Chick’ Hogan (Ryan Hurst). He’s back and listening to John Denver. He sees that the Bates Motel is awash in law enforcement of all kinds: “Oh, deary, deary me,” laments the big guy. He was there to bring over a bit of taxidermy, only to find the place in upheaval. He’s glad to hear Norman isn’t dead, that’s one good thing.
Julia goes to speak with Norman, hired by Dylan. Things are difficult due to his apparent confession. Compounded by the fact he gave them places to look specifically for bodies. Norma’s still operating the controls, hoping to figure out how she and her boy can weasel out of the confession; you can see the wheels turning, as Mother smiles back through Norman’s eyes.
And Dylan; oh, Dylan! I want him to get back home to Emma and the baby. It scares me the longer he’s in White Pine Bay, away from his family… too close to Norman, and Mother.
So we’ve got Julia doing her best to represent Norman. He’s so different when in his Mother persona, even Sheriff Greene sees that but just can’t explain it. Norman talks a good game about being in love with Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), then seeing Sam cheating behind her back. He says Madeleine came to her one night, telling him Sam was dead, out in the woods. WOW! Mother’s actually trying to pin this on the innocent wife, shedding tears through Norman and everything. What manipulation.


The sheriff goes to speak with Madeleine about her husband. To investigate the bizarre claims of Norman. Things are about to get quite interesting, especially once the cops go looking around at the old well in the forest.
Dylan gets a visit from Sheriff Greene. They’ve identified the corpse of the woman in the lake – Audrey Ellis, Emma’s mother. His worst suspicions confirmed. “I understand loyalty,” the sheriff tells him, advising that families can be destroyed by far less than the darkness that’s swallowing his whole currently.
In other news, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is leaving Maggie’s (Jillian Fargey) place. He found his gun. Only, what’s next for him? What is his endgame? He’s already back at the motel, staring up at that creepy house. He goes inside, seeing the ghost of Norma on the stairs, the painful memories everywhere.
When he goes downstairs he finds Chick, typing away working on his book, listening to the tapes he made of Norman. Alex demands to know why he’s there, so Chick explains the friendship he had with young Bates. After their talk, Romero’s curious where Norman put Mother’s body. Then he puts a bullet in Chick’s brain.
Police have come across the well Norman/Mother spoke of, where he says Madeleine rambled about putting her husband’s dead body. Sure enough, there it is, right where they left the thing. Too many weird pieces for Sheriff Greene to understand yet. She goes back for another chat with Norman; only brief, to say he’s been charged with killing Blackwell and Emma’s mother, as well.
Shit. Mother’s plans didn’t work out like she expected.


This was a fantastic episode directed by Highmore! A talented young gentleman, I hope he directs some films eventually. Lots of promise in the direction here, a good eye.
Up next is “Visiting Hours” and we’re getting so close to the grim finale. I can’t even imagine how it’ll play out at the end.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”
Directed by Steph Green
Written by Freddie Highmore

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Marion” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Body” – click here
Pic 1Now that Norman (Freddie Highmore) has killed Sam Loomis, there’s a little of issue of disposing of the body with which he has to deal. Luckily he’s got Mother (Vera Farmiga) to help. She’s old hand at these kinds of things. The two split psyches each take their own respective duties, as she handles all the bloody, messy bits. To help protect her boy from the nasty truth. Regardless, he’s having trouble with the entire situation.
Norma: “You wanna play with the big kids, you gotta act like the big kids.”
Worse is the fact the pair find that in the nearby lake, their dumping grounds, a body’s pulled from the water. Norman worries about Jim Blackwell’s corpse being found, that Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) will catch them. While Mother and her boy argue, they slap one another across the fact, and the large wedge between them opens up, as Norman finally figures out this isn’t the first time they’ve been out dumping bodies under cover of night. They dump Sam in a well in the woods, but it feels too rushed.
Pic 1ABack at the motel Norman runs into none other than Sheriff Greene, who’s there to talk about what they found in the lake. “Multiple bodies” and one of them Mr. Blackwell. So Norman plays his game trying to keep his secret life under wraps, as the sheriff’s still wondering about all the connections, as well as whatever Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is up to since his escape. A tense conversation between Greene and the young man. He’s just barely hanging on to the mask.
Speaking of Romero, he’s recuperating in bed at the home of an old friend. She’s taken care of his wound, now he’s on bed rest and eating breakfast. Lucky for him he has anyone, particularly after his early exit from jail.
More every minute, Norman worries about what’ll happen if the authorities come snooping around. He has to figure out what to do with Mother, so that nobody finds her body. An awkward moment; almost like the roles have reversed temporarily, and Norman is shielding Mother from the harsher truth of having to move her body. Such a strangely compelling scene. And of course any time we see the body it’s a – I swear this isn’t meant to be a pun – cold reminder of what is really going on inside that creepy house. Either way he takes Mother’s body out to a special place in the woods where the ground is nice and cool, to preserve her until she can come home.


Dylan (Max Thieriot) has come back to White Pine Bay, after hearing of his mother’s supposed suicide. Being back in the house is like a punch in the gut for him, knowing there is more to the story of her death. Walking around the house, he can feel his mother there. Her presence isn’t gone, barely even a bit. The place is a mess, dishes in the sink, and Norma’s high heels are kicked off in front of one of the chairs. One truly eerie shot there. Dylan tries to act normal with his brother, not immediately throwing suspicion and guilt around. They actually act like brothers, for a moment. Until Mother comes lurking in the background. Big brother does express his worry for little brother living alone, not seeing his doctor, and he wants to stay a few days to help Norman smooth life out. Hmm, not sure how that’ll play out with Mother creeping. Her room is virtually untouched, like a shrine.
In his friendly hospice, Alex wants to find his gun, but his friend hides it from him. She doesn’t want him running off and doing more stupid shit to dig his hole deeper. They’re friends from growing up in White Pine Bay, she knows him through and through. And she can tell this has to do with Norma Bates.
At home, Mother worries about having Dylan around. She calls him “misguided” and plays the Him v. Us card. That he’ll make things too difficult, he can’t be part of their life now. Just Mother and her little boy, that’s the way it was intended. Will he go along with it? Can he convince Dylan that everything’s swell and he can go on back to his life with Emma and their new baby?
Out trying to get his brother more medication, Dylan discovers Norman’s doctor has been missing for over a year; there’s no way his brother had coffee with him recently. Yikes. Everything gets trickier when Dylan also runs into Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). She’s looking for Sam. The missing people on the possible list are piling up.
Pic 3Norman’s cooking a nice dinner for he and his brother. Life seems grand, music plays. All appears right. Certainly Dylan can’t shake what he knows, or what he thinks he knows. He brings up Sam Loomis, they have a conversation about what Norman remembers. He makes up a little(/tall) tale. It all devolves as the younger of the two gets upset over his older brother “meddling with the truth.” All Dylan wants is to protect him, to help him heal and get better. He tries convincing Norman to take his pills again.
Then it all goes haywire. Mother comes out to speak with her oldest boy. She doesn’t want her baby taking the medication, effectively making her go away. Unfortunately, there’s only room for one of Norma’s children. She tries to kill Dylan, Norman holding back the knife in her hand. The two personalities wrestle, as Dylan watches on in horror. Norman manages to overcome her.
He goes to the phone. Dials 911. And he reports himself for the murder of Sam Loomis before Mother can stop him.
Pic 4WOW! Just, damn. I didn’t see that ending coming. This puts the last few episodes into a wild frame, not exactly positive what the endgame is but I’m excited to watch it unfold. The next episode is “The Body” and I’m wondering if we’re about to see some truly disturbed, insane acting from Highmore once he and Mother are under lock and key.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 12: “Spiritus Mundi”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 12: “Spiritus Mundi”
Directed by Sian Heder
Written by Coleman Herbert

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Defiance” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Mercy” – click here
Pic 1In the woods, Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell) finds herself lost after fleeing the car with Sean (Paul James), his mother, and the cult deprogrammer. Now she can’t find her way through the darkness, calling for Cal (Hugh Dancy), for anyone to come get her. Then she gets pains in her stomach, her baby could possibly be in danger.
Meanwhile, Abe (Rockmond Dunbar) talks with Eddie (Aaron Paul) about Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and her blackmail, facing a “4 years minimum sentence” for what she’s done to the Meyerists who once unburdened in the faith and hopes of privacy. So, how do these two men go about navigating the waters ahead? Eddie believes Abe needs to make his own choice, in regards to what he ought to do with the information he’s gathered.
At the compound in one of those little white rooms, Cal and Sarah interrogate Richard (Clark Middleton) about taking things to Eddie behind their backs. At the same time, Felicia (Adriane Lenox) is likewise interrogated. Whereas Richard gives them bullshit, Felicia doesn’t mess around and tells them the truth – Steve (Keir Dullea) and the Light intended on Eddie taking up the cause. Nevertheless, Sarah feels betrayed by Richard particularly, wanting to label him a denier. Later when Bill (Brian Stokes Mitchell) arrives, he’s not pleased with what Felicia’s been doing behind his back; he’s also more realistic, in a way, than his partner. He doesn’t believe in the Ladder burning her, calling it all a story, which seems to drive a deep wedge between them right away. She’s not ready to “atone” for anything Cal, Sarah, or Bill want her to, and this really looks like it eats them all up inside; Cal most.
Eddie: “Sleep the sleep of the just


Hank (Peter Friedman) goes to tell Eddie that “they know” and that everything is over. I get the feeling this is going to push Eddie into a dangerous space. Because he knows he’s right, in many respects. But it’s now a question of whether he wants to push things past the breaking point, and whether the Meyerist cult is going to retaliate in an unsettling way. How far is Sarah willing to go, now that she’s gone so far over the line? She wonders if Steve was right, though. About Eddie. After which Cal tells her: “Steves words mean nothing.” If so, for real, how can they go on believing what they believe?
Out on the town, Eddie tracks down another denier. A bartender who was kicked out for supposed subordination. All due to a run-in with Cal, because he was getting ahead and Cal wasn’t at the time; Steve was favouring someone else. The guy seemed to have loved Meyerism, for what it was, an enlightening experience of self, but it was Cal, those competitive, weird bits that were the destruction.
Cal and Sarah try reassuring everyone, after Richard’s betrayal, that things are going well, and that going forward they’ll be fine. Big, big talk. Hawk (Kyle Allen) and Noa (Britne Oldford) look on proudly. Russel (Patch Darragh) goes to Cal alone to tell him he wants to help “maintain law and order” however possible. Although Hank’s still not sold, even if he pretends to accept things as they lie. And Abe, he drops off his tests about the water in a car – Sarah’s car – in the parking lot. I wonder what this will set in motion.


Out finding more deniers, Eddie convinces others he wants to change the movement. To reform certain policies, to make Meyerism what it’s meant to be and not some insane cult. In the trees, Sarah lurks, watching. He confronts her and tells her the movement can be better. He also lets slip he knows of the blackmail, that the deniers could testify against her. Eddie speaks ominously when he says to his wife: “One way or another, you will be punished.” Whoooa, that was an intense moment courtesy of both Mr. Paul and Ms. Monaghan. When she’s on her way back home a vehicle stars chasing her, ramming the car from behind, before it pushes her into a guardrail and flips her car, crashing hard. What timing, after Eddie’s harsh yet plausible words.
Poor Richard wakes up in a homeless shelter, nowhere in the real world that will take him after many years under the veil of Meyerism. Life hasn’t exactly turned out how he expected. He goes to a law school, tracking down a man named Jeremiah (Brian Yang); someone he knew in another life, before the cult. Jeremiah’s married to a nice man, kids, the whole deal. Richard needs a couch to sleep on, but his old friend – a lover, most definitely – can’t oblige after two decades. Sad to see the ruin of a life like Richard’s after believing in a faith that ostracises and pushes people away, often in a violent emotional manner, now coming out the other end worse for wear.
Everyone’s worried about Sarah, she hasn’t come home, she hasn’t called. Cal and Hawk assume she’s with Eddie; the two of them and Hank try calling around to find out where she’s disappeared. And Mary, she’s still lost, too. Having complications when her water seems to burst.


In the hospital, Sarah wakes with luckily only a broken arm. At her bedside is Cal. She tells him she was run off the road. More paranoia for them and the movement. She also tells Cal that Eddie knows, of the money, the blackmail. Will this lead them to Abe working undercover? If that’s the case, I worry for him. I never stop worrying about Eddie, either. Only takes a suggestion for Cal to believe he had anything to do with Sarah’s accident. He then takes his suspicions to Hawk, which could make things get ugly. Cal knows what he’s doing by telling him. Rotten and manipulative.
Abe is busy building his case. People are brought in to videotape their statements, bringing out all about Sarah taking money from those who once unburdened themselves to Steve and the movement.
Back at his place Eddie discovers Hawk waiting, angry. This is disgusting to watch. Cal has manipulated the kid into hating his father, believing the worst of him. He is so far gone he’ll never come back. He wants Eddie to leave, won’t even call him dad anymore. And it breaks the well-meaning father’s heart to hear and see.
At the compound Mary is found on the roadside, bloody, unconscious. Her baby happy and healthy, it seems. For the first time Sarah looks at the child, then at Cal, and realises who the father is, truly.


Eddie: “Theres a fine line between a tool and a weapon
Going to see Eddie, Richard pleads for him not to leave. He wants them to help people, to actually do good instead of letting the bad overcome all the Meyerists worked for over the years. For his part Eddie isn’t willing to fight, not any harder than he has already. Will he come back?
Everything for Sarah and Cal has changed. Just in the way she looks at him, it’s evident. He apologises without her saying a word. “I was asleep,” she tells him re: his true self, his behaviour, the bodies and wreckage in Cal’s path. She already knew. However, what does she do now that she’s “wide fucking awake” after all this time? Things have really taken a turn, in all respects, during this episode.
While everyone in the movement has a ceremony for the baby, Richard shows up, declaring Eddie Lane as the true leader. He locks everyone inside their little church, calling Cal a “snake” and yelling for anyone nearby to hear. He heads to the records room. As Sarah and a guard try to get in, Richard produces a gas can; is he really going to light all those files, the tapes, himself, and the whole place on fire? An excellently edited sequence sees Richard pouring gas as Eddie fills his car with gas elsewhere; Eddie feels something happening. Haunting score, intense cuts, perfect acting.
Before Richard lights the place, he urges Sarah to run. And she obliges.
Pic 4BWhat an intense episode! WOW. Richard sacrificed himself to something greater, for real. No Ladder, no Light. He sacrificed himself, and now where does the movement go from here? Likewise, does this put a wrench into the works for Abe or does he already have enough information to bury Sarah, Cal, and the entire cult? We’ll see.
Only one episode left, titled “Mercy” – and then it’s Season 3, or bust. I hope they’ll give us another one, depending on how the season finishes. Excited to watch what’ll unfold.

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Legion – Chapter 8

FX’s Legion
Chapter 8
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Chapter, click here.
Pic 1Now that the Interrogator (Hamish Linklater) has returned, we see flashbacks to his encounter with David (Dan Stevens), his injury and subsequent recovery. At his bedside waits Daniel (Keir O’Donnell); it appears they’re partners, as well as having an adopted child together. The poor guy rests in bed, recovering, and he’s left with burns all over his body. “Theres my handsome guy,” Daniel says reassuringly, yet we’re juxtaposed with the mangled scar tissue on his partner’s face as a jarring visual. He has a Jack Nicholson’s Joker moment – except much more subdued – asking for a mirror, seeing his new face for the first time, too. Thus begins a long period of rest, trying to get better. When he gets back to work he says fuck desk duty. He’s “going to war” and finishing what was started that day at the pool.
Need to note that the visuals of the series are gorgeous and well conceived. On top of that, Jeff Russo’s score is haunting, it’s a huge part of the show’s atmosphere. Russo has done good work before, I’d vote that this is his best yet. Accompanies the psychedelic, surreal feel of Legion in such an appropriate way. The music has such an ’80s feeling at times that it’s wonderfully throwback.
Now the Interrogator and his SWAT members have David, Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), Syd (Rachel Keller), all of them at gunpoint. Ready to die. Except David disagrees, using his powers to make a human totem of the SWAT team. Instead of letting Ptonomy shoot the Interrogator, David takes the time to build bridges instead of burn them. Problem is, Daniel and everyone back at D3 are watching through the eye of the Interrogator.
Pic 1AAnd worse, David worries that schizophrenia still grips him. That everything happening is an elaborate dream. Syd tries convincing him either he accepts his powers are real, or else they’ll never get out of the trouble they’re in.
David: “Im so sick of myself. This only works if its not about me.”
At Summerland, Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) tries to wrangle everyone together, as Cary (Bill Irwin) keeps an eye on David’s halo. She wants to find out more about D3 with the Interrogator in their keep. The halo, however, is losing juice. They’ve got to figure out what to do; about the Shadow King, Farouk, that Devil with the Yellow Eyes. And fucking Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), still talking. Always talking. Then there’s Cary and Kerry (Amber Midthunder), fighting over what happened between them on the astral plane, and she is pissed. A lot of tension happening.
Melanie’s also distraught over the situation with Oliver (Jemaine Clement), who still can’t remember her. They agree to have dinner together, she hopes he’ll soon remember. Sad to watch her essentially left behind by him, albeit not intentional. Either way, she has the Interrogator – he says his name’s Clark – with whom she must deal. He mostly has threats for her. Doesn’t faze Dr. Bird: “You better learn to fly like a bird because the age of the dinosaur is over.”


So Clark’s sat down with David, who seems more in control than ever. Which is less comforting, more scary than I expected. “You dont have to be afraid,” he tells Clark, over and over and over. Then things start getting strange. Syd finds herself in more of the dream world, faced with a creepy, decaying Lenny, appearing to her as the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, its true form. She has to face the evil down, and she does – explaining how they’re cutting it out, like doctors do with a tumour; cut it out, burn it. Only Lenny says she’s a part of David now. To get her out, David must go, as well.
Clark: “Youre gods, and someday youre gonna wake up and realise you dont need to listen to us anymore.”
David: “Isnt that the history of the world? People of different nations, different languages learning to live together?”
Poor David goes weak. Syd explains to Clark about the parasite, what it is and how they plan on ridding David of it. I wonder, will this guy succumb and help? Regardless of that, all the while D3 is listening holding the Peacemaker at bay, for the time being.
With Clark back in holding with Kerry, the others go to work on David – Oliver, specifically. He and Cary detect a second set of brain waves within their subject’s head. Hopefully they can fix it while leaving David’s mind intact. As Pink Floyd and Tom Stoppard plays, they work away, and David flashes back through memories in his past, Lenny struggling harder and harder inside to get out.
David’s lost in a sea of memory, right back to being an infant. And the Devil with the Yellow Eyes lurks right behind. He confronts it, calling Lenny out from within. He wonders of his identity, without Lenny. Who and what he is without that part of him. “Are you my phantom?” he asks. “What happens to me when you’re gone?” Like a child, first dealing with the prospect of life without their imaginary friend. Then the parasite chokes David, trying to kill him. Can he survive without Farouk? Must he die?


Doing the unthinkable, Syd tries saving David by kissing him on the lips. Transferring the parasite into herself. Oh, shit. Off come the gloves, both figuratively and literally. Going from Syd to Kerry, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes uses her ass kicking skills to start a lot of trouble. Even Clark tries to stop it before getting tossed aside like trash.
Then we have a face off between Kerry possessed and David, healthy, powerful again. They fly at one another with full speed and power, blowing each other back. And Oliver, he winds up in the way of things. While the Summerland facility is in chaos, he walks out and drives off on his own. Right after he’d just remembered his wife, too. A sad, unexpected consequence of David’s battle with Farouk.


On the road, Oliver rides with Lenny shotgun. Another powerful mind latched onto by the nasty parasite. What’s going to happen next? Who knows. One thing’s for sure, Season 2 is going to be wild, in all sorts of ways. Also a great inclusion of “Children of the Revolution” by T Rex in the last scene. Beauty way to close out an awesome season!
An after credits scene sees David tracking Lenny and Oliver, knowing they’re headed south. They’re also visited by a strange orb. It scans David, then sucks him inside. Carrying him off elsewhere. WHOOOA!
Pic 4Pic 4ACannot wait for next year. This was one of the best series to have premiered in years, honestly. Lots of good stuff out there, but Noah Hawley is on another level. Between this and Fargo? One of TV’s auteurs, for certain.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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