The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 11: “I Ain’t A Judas”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 11: “I Ain’t A Judas”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Home” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Clear” – click here
IMG_0047Rick (Andrew Lincoln) won’t run, neither with Glenn (Steven Yeun) or Daryl (Norman Reedus). But Merle (Michael Rooker) advises of the power of the Governor (David Morrissey). They could get starved out if they try staying. Then Hershel (Scott Wilson) finally lays down the line. Rick once said their group was “not a democracy” and that also comes with the responsibilities of said leadership implied.
Outside, trying to get his head right, Rick runs into his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), who says that he has to stop leading the group. He deserves to have a break, to rest. Not just body; his mind, most importantly. Perhaps out of anything this is what comes through to the man – from the mouths of babes.
IMG_0048For his part, the Governor is still brutal. Amongst his own people, as well. He says that “adolescence” is a “20th century invention” and why? Because he needs MEN and WOMEN to FIGHT. There’s a great parallel to be made between him and other likewise heartless modern Republicans. Willing to send anyone with a heartbeat and cognitive abilities to war. Milton (Dallas Roberts) clearly has reservations, and Andrea (Laurie Holden), well she is going to raise hell over the fact he’s planning to do more at the prison.
Over at the old building there’s trouble. Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) obviously don’t want Merle around, though Rick won’t offend Daryl by kicking his brother out. Surprisingly, Hershel says they shouldn’t underestimate Merle’s loyalty to Daryl. The old man talks with him, equally surprising is the fact the eldest Dixon knows the Bible, quoting scripture and finishing sentences for Hershel.
Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl continue to get closer. She has an optimistic point of view, glad that he’s back. He believes the prison is a “tomb.” Carol only wants him to make sure he doesn’t fall prey to Merle’s bad influence. Daryl’s a good man, she knows it; they all do.
At Woodbury, Andrea asks Milton about the plans at the prison. Then reveals she’s going there to talk to her friends. She wants him to help her out, to prevent other deaths by talking with Rick. Will he aid her? Or is he too far under the thumb of his master? I’d say the latter for now. Meanwhile, we always get these tiny glimpse into the Governor’s psychosis. They’re terrifying moments, often brief. Here we see him hold a lit match close to the bare, wounded eye, as if he’s about to cauterise the thing. Nasty. Great makeup effects work to boot!
IMG_0052Milton, of course, caves and tells the Governor. He’s asked to help her, to keep up the charade. He does, which requires having to help Andrea make a zombie on a leash like Michonne once did. They go at the dirty work, and it is DIRTY! Love it. Shows off some of the excellent effects, giving us a nice taste of zombie blood and gore. Certainly in part due to Greg Nicotero of KNB fame directing this episode.
Then they run into Tyrese (Chad L. Coleman), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and their crew – who look surprised at what they’re seeing, like you would. The new crew are happier to hear that Woodbury isn’t far, and Milton opts to bring them back while Andrea heads onward to her old pals.
In the prison there’s still tough times ahead. For instance, between Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Merle. He tries to clear the air, not necessarily apologising though relating it wasn’t anything personal. “Let bygones be bygones,” he hopes. This woman does not play that shit.
When Andrea arrives Rick & Co. come out to greet her at the gate, ready for anything. Weapons trained. They’re all worried, and Michonne is shocked to see Andrea, not exactly happy. She’s been in bed, literally, with a murderous animal.
Others receive her a little better, but Rick especially is hostile. Andrea’s caught up on the latest tragedies, who died, who’s lost limbs, so on. She also discovers more of the Governor’s lies. Still, they’re all fed up. “Were gonna kill him,” Rick tells her plainly. Whatever it takes. At the same time she’s sweet on him, calling him Phillip.
Back at Woodbury, Tyrese and his group relate they met a crazy man in a prison. This intrigues the Governor. Others in the group are keen to help with Rick. Although Tyrese and Sasha aren’t entirely comfortable, you can tell just by the look in their eyes.
IMG_0053When Andrea goes back to Woodbury she meets with the Governor, telling him they’re in squalor, that Michonne is there, too. He’s drinking, looking definitively sinister in the shadows of his apartment. I wonder, has the visit with her first post-apocalypse friends changed her mind? It doesn’t seem so, not right away. She falls right back into his arms again.
Beth (Emily Kinney) tries to keep spirits up, singing in the darkness of the prison. Giving the place a light bigger than any fire. It’s a teeny ray of hope. A ray of hope nonetheless. Meanwhile, Rick, Daryl, and Hershel weigh their options of what to do about their coming war. The leader says he’s going on a run, and also lays down the law about Merle; Daryl, the good man he is, understands. Everyone is at different places right now, stuck in the same location. Andrea could make a decision to kill the Governor, and doesn’t do it. It could end right there. Instead she allows more destruction to follow.
IMG_0057Always loved this episode. Such a juxtaposition of awful positions everyone is stuck in, from Rick and his mind, to Tyrese and Sasha hoping to fit in with a community, to Michonne and Merle in that prison, and so much more. Great writing from Angela Kang.
Next is “Clear” and there are many things poised to go down. But will they? Will the tension finally snap? Soon, my friends.

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Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 7: “One Minute”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 7: “One Minute”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Sunset” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I See You” – click here
IMG_0059We get a flashback of the Salamanca brothers as boys, their Uncle Hector (Mark Margolis) sitting in a lawn chair outside while they play. He talks on the phone, definitely about Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). When the boys get into a fight over a toy, uncle decides to teach them a lesson. When one of them grabs a beer from the cooler for him he holds his head under the water. Teaching a lesson on death, life, all the important things, before one brother saves the other.
And now, they’re nasty psychopaths, headed directly for DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), inadvertently due to Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Ah, the random, absurd chaos of the world.
Hector: “Family is all
IMG_0060Jesse (Aaron Paul) heads home after all the shit he and his old partner have been through. Not long after Hank shows up, angry beyond belief. He beats the young man within an inch of his life for the call made about Marie (Betsy Brandt); yet another inadvertent casualty of Walt’s criminal life. Instantly realising what he’s done Hank stops, knowing this could cost him his job. An ambulance is called and his career’s now on the line. Between this an El Paso, his boss George Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) isn’t sure what is going on anymore.
But Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) paints a great picture: “Best thing for you.” He tells Jesse that he’s home free now, after this beating. At the hospital, Walt sneaks in to see his former partner, who isn’t particularly thrilled to see the Paul to his Ringo, as their lawyer puts it. Walt isn’t King Midas, nor is he King Midas in reverse. He’s King Shit; everything he touches turns to absolute diarrhoea. Then there’s Jesse, keeping his eye on the prize: ruining Hank’s life. And cooking meth again. If anything goes wrong? He gives up Walt, even if the older of the two thinks he won’t go that far.
Hank is taken through the legal process, giving his statement to Merkert and other law enforcement. He explains the call about Marie, his bad judgement in going to Pinkman’s place. Furthermore, there are charges being pressed and Jesse looks squeaky clean, no drugs in his piss, not even taking pain meds at the hospital. Looking worse for ole Agent Schrader. When Marie comes to meet her husband he lets out a quick, rare fleet of tears. Just long enough for the elevator ride.


When Walt sees Skyler (Anna Gunn) again she asks if there’s anything he can do for Hank. She doesn’t realise how touchy the whole thing is, nor does she know the extent to which Walt is involved, either. How deep his finger is pressed on the pulse of it all. If the guy didn’t have cancer before this whole thing would give it to him.
At work things are well. Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) has coffee ready, he’s dressed professionally and has everything prepared for the cook. He isn’t so used to the help. Yet something about it pisses him off.
On the road the Salamancas meet a man with wares to sell. He has bullets, guns, bulletproof vests, explosives. They want vests, but need to test them. So they put a bullet in the seller who’s wearing one. Oh yeah – they work! The boys are gearing up for something nasty.
Walt nitpicks the temperature settings Gale used on their latest batch. He claims a different reading than what Gale wrote down. He acts very sour, shutting down production to start over. What is it bugging him so bad? Is there a purpose to the way he’s acting? Might be.
And today, Hank must face the music. His wife would rather him lie. He can’t do that, though. He made a mistake, and as an honourable man he’s got to own up to that. No matter how much it hurts. He admits that since the shootout with Tuco, he’s changed, and may be finished with law enforcement.
Hank: “It wasnt one mistakeIve been unravellingyknow?”
IMG_0065So now we know, Walt feels Gale isn’t working out. He wants to bring Jesse into the fold. Ahh, it makes sense! Bring him in on the operation, pay him, he keeps quiet on Hank’s assault. Walt argues for him best he can, that they have a “shorthand” way of working. He pleads with Gus without seeming TOO desperate. For the time being his request is granted. We’ll see how the whole thing works out. Isn’t always so easy. He presents it to Jesse, 50/50 split on the cash. Except the young man’s finished with Walt. He’s lost everything in his life that’s good, because of their relationship. After all this he’s discovered that Mr. White only cares about himself. As always, using a slithery way of speaking, the former chemistry teacher convinces him to come back to work.
Jesse: “Ive never been more alone, I have nothing, no one.”
With all the information at hand, Hank’s statement official statement given at full risk of the consequences, the DEA suspends Agent Schrader; no pay. He hands over his gun, then prepares to go on a forced vacation, of sorts. He heads down to the parking lot with one good bit of news: no charges being laid from Pinkman. One bit of hope.
On the way to his car he receives a call. Someone tells him there are men coming to kill him in one minute. He looks around, knowing he’s without a gun. In the distance come the Salamancas. They fire on him. He squashes one between his trunk and another vehicle. The other fires again, he takes a bullet in the lower back. With one of their guns in hand, Hank hides from the other brother still able to walk. Hank takes another two bullets. Instead of shooting him, the remaining Salamanca goes for his axe. Hank manages to chamber one last bullet and blows the back out of the guy’s skull, before passing out from blood loss.
IMG_0066CHRIST! One of the more intense episodes of the whole series. Can’t wait to review the next one titled “I See You” and there’s so much about to happen, between the fallout of this latest event with Hank and Gus Fring + Walter’s relationship changing fast.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 6: “Sunset”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 6: “Sunset”
Directed & Written
by John Shiban

* For a review of the previous episode, “Más” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “One Minute” – click here
IMG_0039Near the border a police officer checks on a family’s property. Inside is a shrine, the statue with a skull face and holding a scythe. At its base is a drawn picture of Heisenberg’s face. Outside are suits hanging on the line. Very suspicious, indeed. And when the officer heads out back he finds the fly ridden corpse to complete the scene. Inside is one of the Salamanca brothers. The other sinks an axe into the officer from behind.
No one is safe. Least of which is Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
IMG_0041He’s busy working over the divorce with Skyler (Anna Gunn), deciding on what to do with Walt Jr (RJ Mitte), explaining it to him and justifying everything so that they don’t have to tell him dad cooks meth. At the same time our anti-hero’s hubris is off the charts, bleeding from his professional life right into the personal.
Those Salamancas! They show up at Los Pollos Hermanos to see Gus. They sit in terrifying silence in the midst of the restaurant.
Over at the Pinkman residence, Jesse (Aaron Paul) shows off his Jolly Rancher-sized crystals to Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), who get high on the product while he watches on. Surrounded by addicts he’s only being given their junkie opinion. He doesn’t realise it isn’t as perfect as Walt’s, which isn’t REALLY that big of a deal. But in his own way a hubris develops. Now, even after the death of Combo, he wants to put his friends back out on the street, in the line of fire.
The whole time Hank (Dean Norris) watches from down the street, his eyes on the house after tracking down Combo’s mom and the RV. Uh oh. And Walt is going about his business as usual, getting into more of it with Gus and the super lab. He has no idea how close his own brother-in-law is to figuring out his drug dealing identity. They’re so near in that criminal v. cop parallel, in so many ways, it’s an exercise in brutal tension at times.


One of the other perks of the lab is having an assistant, a proper one with chemistry experience and training. Walt now has Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) at his side; an enthusiastic soul who’s prepared to learn from his journeyman chemist. Even brought a resume. Has an MA and specialised in “xray crystallography” and he makes a sweet cup of coffee with his elaborately refined method. They get to cooking, like a match made in heaven. They have fun, they play chess between processes. Very different in comparison to Walt and Jesse, in every way imaginable from the lab itself to how they work together. Gale genuinely cares about the chemistry.
So, in a sense, we’re seeing Walt’s genuine love for the chemistry behind the drug dealing, for the first REAL time. Also, it’s nice to see someone like Gale admittedly talking about how he got into that shady business. Basically he’s “definitely a Libertarian,” with an intent on giving people a clean product. They talk a bit more, of chemistry and Walt Whitman; this wonderful poet will come back into play later in the series, take note!
Hank sits waiting for Jesse to do something stupid, to lead him to the RV and break the case wide open. He’s been sitting in his car for what seems like days, fast food wrappers and containers and cups piled in the passenger side. Things work out for Walt, though. He gets a call from Hank wanting to know if he knows anything about Jesse’s RV, setting off alarm bells and whistles like FUCKING CRAZY. The game is on. Walt’s got to do something about their “rolling lab” before his brother-in-law actually finds the damn thing. He calls Jesse and they’ve got to start figuring out their problems.
IMG_0044Saul suggests getting rid of the RV altogether. The boys have no plan. It’s back to Badger and his cousin who owns the junkyard. They’ve got work to do. When Walt doesn’t include Jesse in the mix Badger calls him up. Ah, so many things happening.
The shittiest? Jesse’s leading Hank right to the RV.
Saul: “The Starship Enterprise had a selfdestruct button, Im just sayin‘!”
Preparing to get rid of the vehicle Walt has a walk down memory lane. So weird. Then Jesse shows up, pissed. With Hank on his tail. This is it: either he finds them, together, in that RV, or they manage to get themselves out of hot water.
When the chips are down, Walt gets Saul in the mix to pull them out of the boil. He has a call made saying Marie is in the hospital after a horrible car crash. Hank rushes off immediately, leaving the boys free to get out of there. After his wife calls he figures out the whole thing was a ruse it’s too late because the RV is destroyed.
At sunset Gus meets the Salamancas in the desert. He says Walter will not be killed. He says that if they must kill someone for what happened to Tuco, then they can have Agent Schrader. Whoa.
IMG_0046The green light is lit.
Next is “One Minute” and there are many things about to change. Very quickly.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 5: “Más”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 5: “Más”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Green Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sunset” – click here
IMG_0030We start on a flashback to Walt (Bryan Cranston) when he gave Jesse (Aaron Paul) the money to buy an RV for them to cook. So, Jesse does the smart thing: he takes Combo (Rodney Rush) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) out to the strip club, for lap dances and “Don Perignom,” as he calls the champagne.
After the night’s over Jesse feels a bit shitty. Well Combo has the fix. His mom owns an RV. He takes the rest of Mr. Pinkman’s cash, after the funds were drained the night prior down to $1,400, and lets him take the RV off their hands. Without permission, naturally.
Ah, even the trusty meth lab has its backstory!
IMG_0031Skyler (Anna Gunn) still enjoys her getaways with Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) at his place. He has money, he doesn’t cook meth. What we see though isn’t all rosy. I don’t think that Skyler is as bad as most make her out. However, she’s still cheating on Walt. And her husband’s a bag of shit in his own way, he isn’t such a righteous guy. Remember that Mr. White could’ve swallowed his pride over Gretchen, he didn’t have to make meth. He chose this, and unfortunately cheating on him was the only way to truly get back at Walt right now.
Then there’s the situation with Jesse and Walt, the halved money for the recent deal. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) tries keeping the peace, stuck in the middle, as Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) plays a game pitting the two former partners against one another.
If the boys aren’t careful, they’ve got other problems, as well. Hank (Dean Norris) and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) are scoping out RVs, narrowing down a list of vehicles. They mostly run in to people who aren’t, at all, cooking meth. Making things less and less credible all the time for poor Hank. Worst part is that we the audience know better, so it’s really agonising (in the right ways). At home, Marie (Betsy Brandt) can’t get anything out of her husband, either. Makes theirs a strained relationship, as he’s bottled up tighter than a pressed Mason jar.


Walt finally gets talking with Gus about his “ploy” to get him back cooking. But the thing which is clear is the fact Walt can’t let go of the business. He can’t help ragging on Jesse, for not cooking the product as good as himself. What Gus does is use the man’s hubris against him. Smart as he is, Walt is so full of it that he can’t resist falling into the trap. Because what’s waiting for him is the opportunity of a lifetime.
He’s taken to an industrial laundromat Gus owns. There, behind a piece of machinery, they go downstairs to a lab that’s been setup, top of the line and state of the art equipment. Like Christmas for the chemistry nerd. Walt gets an instant science-erection. Not just the lab. There’s no way to trace the chemicals, as they’re ordered in for the laundry service, employees are trustworthy and trained, chemicals are filtered out with the laundromat steam.
Walt still refuses. What will make him break?
At home things aren’t as bad, though not good. Love the imagery in one shot at the dinner table: Walt on one end of the table and Skyler at the other, a wall between them literally dividing them as is the wall of their own choices, their mistakes, so on. One great thing about Breaking Bad is the use of visuals, in many forms. This being one fine example. Something so simple becomes powerfully resonant in terms of themes.
IMG_0035At the office Steve’s being celebrated as he prepares to take the place of Hank in El Paso. Poor Agent Schrader. He looks crazy to others, and in some ways weak. I can’t blame him not wanting to go back after seeing what he saw, a head on a tortoise exploding and maiming, killing people? That’s fucked up. All the same law enforcement is what he chose, DEA at that. Furthermore, Hank’s inability to deal with his problems and talk, to anybody let alone a doctor of any kind makes it the hardest. Although he’s validated when getting himself closer to that RV. Baby steps.
In other news, Walt is granting Skyler the divorce for which she asked. But does she still want it?
Back to Jesse and Saul, who’ve got a meeting on the books with Mr. White. They have to talk about the halved cash and what’s to be done. No love between the two former partners, that’s a definite. Rather than comply with any of what Jesse wants, Walt has decided otherwise. He gives back the half of the money and he’s going back in business with Gus. $3 million dollars for three months of work with only 5% going to Saul.
Walt (to Jesse): “Im in, youre out.”
When Hank goes to see a Mrs. Ortega about her RV, we see it’s the same place where Combo took the one he gave to Jesse. From his dear ole mama. Closer and closer we see our man Hank getting nearer to Jesse. In turn, he gets closer to Heisenberg, his own brother-in-law.
IMG_0037Another damn good episode. Lots of tension building between Jesse and Walt, which isn’t anything new. The steam is getting ready to release, and things will implode eventually. One way or another.
Next episode is “Sunset” and we’re also getting closer to another implosion, or explosion, in Hank Schrader.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”
Directed by Scott Winant
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “I.F.T.” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Más” – click here
IMG_0005At a gas station, Jesse (Aaron Paul) stops and fills up the RV. He doesn’t have enough cash to pay, then offers all he can: the blue meth. Takes a bit of convincing, especially with a cop lurking around. The worst part of it is that Jesse is pulling more people into the unclean web he’s been living in for the better part of the past few years. He wants to get away from that person he was, though as long as he’s in that world it’ll never happen.
Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) receives a visit from Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) about the situation between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), who’s just banged her boss Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins).
Worst is the jilted husband’s headed for the office, to pay him a visit. Something Mike and Saul would rather keep contained, if possible. Bad news for everybody any time Heisenberg’s true identity shows up noticed by any authorities. Also, Walt looks pretty foolish in his, albeit justified, bruised masculinity trying to break the window at the office before security shows up. Everyone in there knows exactly what’s going on, too. Real awkward for them, Ted, and Skyler.
Before anything gets too crazy Mike arrives to cart him off to their mutual lawyer. Saul tries to talk some sense into him. But it isn’t long before Walt figures out he’s business partner is keeping tabs on him, real close. “Thats just my meticulousness,” Saul explains. After a bit they wrestle. The relationship’s begun to sour. What our anti-hero needs to remember is that he’s got other people watching him, and a sinister chalk marking on the street outside his house is a grim reminder for the audience, as well.
Saul: “Oh, boo hoo, ‘I wont cook meth anymore.’ Youre a crybaby, who needs you?”
IMG_0006Walt has troubles at school, then tries putting the moves on Carmen (Carmen Serano) when they meet in her office to talk. He is out of sorts, taking the betrayal of Skyler in their marriage in strange ways. He isn’t the only one feeling strange, either. Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) are at odds over his going to El Paso. Particularly after the last brush with death. Before he can go into the airport he gets a call: more blue meth. He decides to stay; both as a way to further his vendetta against the mysterious Heisenberg and as an excuse not to go, because of the fear inside he won’t talk to anyone about.
After Walt takes a sabbatical from school – “indefinite,” he says – Jesse turns up outside the school to chat. He wants to meet the distributor, to get back into the business. He’s sober, but won’t give up the meth money dreams. His former partner wants no part of it, though Jesse has his heart set on it. He’s cooked his own blue stuff. Only Walt calls it inferior, “my formula” and “mine” are the words he uses. Suddenly he becomes full of anger, resentment. Another relationship going sour; more like already there, long ago.
Meanwhile, Skyler faces backlash in the office over the affair with Ted. They keep having one, despite that. And there’s a spark, too. They have chemistry, which makes matters worse.


Over at DEA headquarters Hank and partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) keep chasing the blue meth connection. Problem is they’re all too often getting information from idiot junkies. Aside from that Gomez isn’t thrilled with what they’re doing lately, feeling that his partner’s reaching for a case.
At his office Saul’s visited by Jesse with his bag of blue. He wants a meet with the distributor. However, something tells us it won’t be easy for him to get a meet on his own. Speaking of the man himself, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a full report on Walter White’s cancer, his mental state, et cetera, from Mike. Plus he lets him know the Salamanca brothers marked the house with a chalk scythe. Moreover, Gus agrees to do a deal with Pinkman. Because he wants to get to Heinseberg, to motivate. He wants to do business, and bad.
Hank finds himself at the gas station where we saw Jesse in the beginning. He questions the girl who took the meth. Agent Schrader gets what he wants, eventually. She tells him about the guy who came in, trading for gas. But there’s not much to tell, outside a basic description. Add that to the fact she remembers the RV. Nothing to really go on. Not until Hank discovers an ATM outside; one with a camera inside. This will give him a picture of the vehicle. Uh oh.
Later, Jesse receives money from Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui). Only half. Why? “Thats your half,” he’s told. You know where the rest is headed.
IMG_0010There’s now a choice on the table for Hank: go to El Paso, or stay. He puts it off, saying it’s about the Heisenberg case. Finally, he has to make the choice. He decides to stay and keep chasing the blue meth, despite how it looks to anyone else. His boss knows there’s something up, everyone does. It’s up to Hank to sort that out for himself.
Walter heads on down the road and hears that Donald Margolis, father of Jane, has shot himself. Then he stops at a red light. Victor pulls up quick, tosses him a bag full of cash: “Your half.” This confuses Walt, but we understand. He will too. Soon enough.
IMG_0012Another excellent episode. Further down the rabbit hole we go.
Up next is another solid chapter called “Más” and that means MORE in Spanish.

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 10: “Home”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 10: “Home”
Directed by Seith Mann
Written by Nichole Beattie

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Suicide King” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “I Ain’t A Judas” – click here
IMG_0020Rick (Andrew Lincoln) watches the prison yard. In the distance he sees a woman in a white dress by the graves and their crosses. It’s Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), who isn’t really there at all. She stands in the white juxtaposed against the dirt of the graves, flies searching for the smell of corpses, buzzing in the air. Then Lori disappears. Suddenly, she’s outside of the gates. He goes running after her, which catches Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the others a little off guard. Because the man is literally losing his mind. Faith has to waver, even just a bit. They’ve put it all in this man, to lead them and protect them, to give them hope. And here he is hallucinating his dead wife. For someone like Michonne who’s only come to know them all recently, this is shocking. Rightfully so.
IMG_0021In Woodbury, Andrea (Laurie Holden) is trying to come to terms with how she feels about the Governor (David Morrissey), reconciling that with what she knows of him, the person he is after all she’s discovered. She worries about her friends back at the prison. He wants her to be the interim leader until he gets his shit together: “We need you
Out in the woods together are Merle (Michael Rooker) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), alone and arguing. The older brother doesn’t want any part of Rick or the prison. He assumes they’re all dead anyways, once the Governor raises hell. Back at the prison Glenn (Steven Yeun) starts figuring out the reinforcements in the various wards, to prepare for an invasion. He wants to end the whole thing. Hershel (Scott Wilson) thinks otherwise, he thinks they ought to get out and worries Woodbury is now on alert, possibly even headed for them as they speak. Truly, there are no good options. Either way Glenn decides they’re “making a stand” and they’ve all got jobs to do now.
Milton Mamet (Dallas Roberts) is always tinkering with some experiment or another. He gets a visit from the Governor wondering if he’ll stick around, praising his help. He’s surprised. Yet we can see what his leader is doing, he’s sizing Milton up. He also wants him to keep tabs on Andrea. Hmm, interesting. And not really the right guy for anything covert. For a smart, science-oriented guy, Milton’s both cowardly and kind of a weakling-type.
Glenn goes to see Maggie (Lauren Cohan), wanting to talk about their problems. About what happened during their invasion on Woodbury. She tells him what happened in that room with the Governor. It’s almost more about him than it is her; that’s the problem. He makes it like there’s some relief for HIM that she wasn’t raped. But it was never about him, it was always a threat to her. She was being used, and could’ve been assaulted viciously while Glenn was mostly concerned for how HE would feel if it did happen. Tsk, tsk, dude.
An excellent scene to follow is when Axel (Lew Temple) gets a lesson on how to load, cock, and handle a gun from resident bad ass Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride). I love her. One of the greatest in the entire series. A great actress given the chance to shine through an especially well-written character.
On the road Merle and Daryl come across a family on a bridge in trouble with walkers. While the older of the two is content to make fun, laughing at them, the younger rushes in to help. Or try, anyways. Another show of Daryl’s good, honourable heart, as opposed to his ruthless brother. Goes to show that nature v. nurture doesn’t always turn out how you expect between two siblings. Fuckin’ Merle even wants to rob the family after his brother helps. Except Daryl ain’t having that. After it all we see the scars that the younger of them bears having been left alone with their abusive father all those years when Merle left.
Merle: “I tried to kill that black bitch. Damn near killed the Chinese kid.”
Daryl: “Hes Korean
Merle: “Whatever, doesnt matter, man. I just cant go with you.”
Daryl: “Im the one thats walkinaway. But youre the one thats leavin‘. Again.”


Glenn’s taking too much on himself and Hershel wants him to step back. He doesn’t want him to end up dead, especially when he trusts him with the life of his daughter. Can’t tell Glenn what to do, though. He’s headstrong, he wants to be a leader when Daryl is missing and Rick is “wandering crazy town.” Can’t blame him, he has those instincts. He’s a smart cookie, too.
Still pushing the limit of sanity, Rick walks along the outer grounds of the prison. Hershel calls to him from the other side of the fences, worried about Glenn, the whole place sort of going to shit without his influence. Rick admits to seeing Lori, hearing her and Shane on the phone before. Instead of making him feel crazy, the old guy reassures the former sheriff that things will be okay, but it won’t bring him back inside just yet.
Then from nowhere a bullet blows Axel’s brains out. The Governor has arrived, he and his men firing on the prison as Rick and the crew take cover, firing back. A truck comes flying in through the gate. The back opens and walkers come piling out into the field causing chaos. Before Rick gets bitten, Daryl puts an arrow into a walker’s head, as he and Merle emerge through the trees. The Governor and his boys back off leaving the chaotic mess, and the prison gang just barely make it out by the skin of their teeth.
What now? All hallucination and no protection makes Rick a mad boy.


An intense one. Particularly due to the relationship between the Dixon Bros, which I always love. On top of that this is one of the most psychological episodes, as we’re seeing the dark depths of what’s going on in Rick’s mind.
Next is “I Ain’t A Judas” and it’s my favourite-titled episode of this season. Also, another fun episode!

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 9: “The Suicide King”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 9: “The Suicide King”
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Written by Evan Reilly

* For a review of the previous episode, “Made to Suffer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Home” – click here
IMG_0013And so the fight between Daryl and Merle Dixon (Norman Reedus & Michael Rooker) is ready to happen. The Governor (David Morrissey) sees fit to that. With Andrea (Laurie Holden) pleading for him not to have them fight “to the death” and cause more brutality.
Merle seems to initiate things. It’s just a ploy to start an escape with his brother. He’d do anything for him and that’s more than obvious time and time again.
It’s then that Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the others push forward in their assault. The whole place is a mess of smoke, gunfire, screams. No longer are the streets of Woodbury safe, as once they were. People are killed, injured. Safety isn’t guaranteed, not when there are warring factions against one another. The mad Governor stalks through the place like a man now completely soulless. If he ever were anything different.
IMG_0014Rick and his crew gather up Merle and Daryl, then they all head off on the road again. Further up along that road in the morning, they meet Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), neither of whom are too happy to see ole Merle with their friends. Things definitely aren’t going to go easy from here on in. Plus, Rick learns more about Michonne from Merle, who lets slip about her leashed walkers, et cetera. It isn’t until Rick pistol whips him does Merle shut his mouth.
In the prison, Hershel (Scott Wilson) helps patch up Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and his friends. Beth (Emily Kinney) looks after baby Judith, Carl (Chandler Riggs) watches over the cell block. The new group makes friends with Hershel and Co. but it’ll be a different story once Rick gets back. For damn sure. Not because Hershel or any of the others are stupid. It’s due to the fact former Sheriff Grimes has his lawman instinct still kicking, as well as the fact he’s sort of half insane at this moment in time.
The rest of them move their way back to home. Daryl decides he and Merle have to head off on their own, as the others obviously are conflicted over the oldest brother. Rick doesn’t want to see it happen. Although there isn’t a whole lot he can do to stop Daryl once his mind’s made up. Sad to see him go for now. Not so sure he’s all that well off with Merle. But he’s his own man.


Tyreese and his group are making their own decisions, too. They’ve got to figure out how to navigate the situation at the prison. He and his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) try to impress, as well as keep their own people on the right path. Nothing’s ever easy.
On the road, Glenn and Rick are at each other. Nobody can get on the same page. At the same time, Woodbury is gone to the dogs, as well. Andrea roams the streets putting down walkers after everything goes south. She realizes the citizens are not like her, she is not like them. Unfortunately, she’s more like The Governor. Although even he’s not like her. He is another beast altogether.
Andrea soon finds out more than she can handle. The reality of who she’s dealing with, who The Governor is, finally comes to light. For her part, Andrea tries to keep the rest of Woodbury on the same side, giving them hope and a little strength.
At the prison, Rick arrives in one piece. Physically. His mental state is still not great, not after losing Lori tragically in the prison’s tombs. He’s got the baby crying, everything descending on him. How long can he keep it together?
Others are doing their best to keep it together, too. Hershel and Glenn talk about things; personal stuff. The father inspires his daughter’s man, even with only a few casual words. That’s how good the old man is for everybody. He cares about those around him: “Youre like my own son, Glenn.” He also talks to Maggie, encouraging her not to let silence rule between them. No good for any relationship, not before the zombie apocalypse, and not after, either.
IMG_0018Rick wants to get Michonne up and running again, though she isn’t quite ready to travel. They need more hands to help in the fight at Woodbury. So our fearless leader is introduced to Tyrese and Sasha, the rest of their group. He wants to know about them, how they “got this far.” He’s not entirely pleased they’re even in the building. They try to make themselves useful to Rick. He isn’t having it, even with Hershel pleading the case. He’s slowly losing part of himself, his humanity. By turning away others this is what happens, regardless of the situation, the worry of more mouths to feed and people to protect and ways to get infected.
Hershel: “Youve got to start givinpeople a chance
It all gets really tricky once Rick starts seeing dead Lori standing on the walkway, and he’s talking to himself. This worries everybody. When his gun comes out, they’re all scared, and Tyrese leaves with his people. Not a good sign.
IMG_0019What an intense episode. The end always gives me chills. Rick’s losing his grip and someone has to pull him back in.
Next up is “Home” and it promises big, exciting developments.

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.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

American Gods – Season 1, Episode 1: “The Bone Orchard”

Starz’ American Gods
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Bone Orchard”
Directed by David Slade
Written by Bryan Fuller & Michael Green

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Secret of Spoons” – click here
Pic 1Right from the opening credits, American Gods pulses with energy with music from Brian Reitzell (music supervisor on Hannibal and composer for 39 episodes, among other credits). Dig it already.
We watch as Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) writes of a ship on the ocean, full of Vikings headed for land. They touch shore and head inland, noticing nothing but insects, snakes, all the nastiness. Then dozens of arrows tear down one man, as the others watch the woods in anger and fright. “They did not yet have a word in their language for miserable,” Ibis tells us. They reached out to their old gods for protection, for salvation. In order to get their god’s attention, many men sacrifice one eye (Odin, I imagine) for him. But nothing comes. So they burn men alive, and still… nothing. After that they went to war against one another to summon their war god. Blood flows thick and hideous and savage.
And their god, he does not rear his head. So they go back to their homes, and never speak of “that New World again” for fear of its being out of their god’s reach. What would become America lives somewhere other than under the eye of any god. Poignant, no?


Present day in America. We watch a man named Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) pumping iron in a jail yard, listening to a wiry little white dude named Low Key Lyesmith (Jonathan Tucker). They talk about prison, how it changes a man and his mind, his actions. He spends his time thinking of how much he loves his wife, Laura (Emily Browning); when he isn’t working out, that is. He teaches himself coin tricks, whittling through the hours.
Most of all, we see that Shadow is different. Something about him is intriguing, he sees and smells and interprets the world differently than those around him. In dreams he walks through a terrifying orchard full of bones, the trees alive like a malevolent vision of The Wizard of Oz, and in the distance he sees a noose of jagged bones drop from a tree’s branch. Ominous, particularly with white boys in the yard around him threatening death. He’s actually being released early, though. Because his wife died in a car crash. A bittersweetness that could never be undone.
So Shadow goes back out into the world he once knew, now a free man and a widowed one. “Do not piss of those bitches in airports,” Low Key tells him while remembering a conversation they had woodworking in jail. Lots of free man v. prisoner talk; you must learn to adapt to your environment, inside or outside. With Shadow unable to get home right away he sits in an airport and waits for his flight, lost in his head. He witnesses a man (Ian McShane) at the check-in looking rather dishevelled and sort of insane who gets himself bumped into First Class. And once Shadow finds trouble with seats on the plane, he’s bumped up, too. There he meets the raving gentleman: his name is Mr. Wednesday, and he is one crafty character. He knows quite a bit about Shadow, just from looking at him, so they get to talking and discover they’re fellow grifters. Perhaps a job opportunity, who knows until thy get where they’re headed.
In the meantime, Shadow has terrifying dreams. Of a massive tree, from underneath a buffalo-like creature with horns, breathing fire walks towards him. Then he wakes up and the plane’s landed. He decides to get driving for the rest of his trip instead, stopping along the way to scream into the sky as “Torture” by The Everly Brothers plays on.


Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) is in a bar where she meets a man named Paunch (Joel Murray). They’re dipping into the online dating, or at least online something. She brings him back to a luscious bedroom drapped in velvety, red curtains, blankets, pillows; candles for the mood. They get down to business, she tells him: “Im not what I once was.” And then she asks him to pray to her, as if she’s a goddess. Something possesses him, he speaks to her like a man kneeling before a deity. She pushes him between her legs, and then he is no more. Like she swallowed him whole. A new life in her eyes glowing.
At a bar, Shadow gets himself a bit of food. He also runs into Mr. Wednesday all over again. He isn’t happy, either. Doesn’t much want to hear of this job the guy talks about, until Wednesday appears to know more than he should about his life. Worse still, Laura died in a car crash with Robbie. Nobody to which he can go home now. And so, the job prospects are suddenly looking better.
Out of nowhere, Shadow meets Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), the tall “leprechaun” from Ireland. They’ve got a link: Wednesday. A big, happy, working family. Sorta. Either way, the just released prisoner sees an opportunity in front of him; a sketchy one, all the same. Reluctantly, he puts himself at the service of the mysterious man, albeit with conditions and terms of employment. We likewise see Sweeney is even better at the coin tricks than his new buddy. He also likes to fight. And I mean he LIKES(/LOVES) to fight.
Wednesday: “Youre my man now


Heading back to Eagle Point, Shadow goes to pay respects to his deceased wife. Furthermore, he discovers the truth about his wife and Robbie. She was giving him a blowjob, according to Robbie’s wife Audrey (Betty Gilpin). Ouch. What a way to find out, at Laura’s funeral no less. He says goodbye, in another taste of the bittersweet; mostly bitter.
Later on the road at night, Shadow experiences something strange. He hears fireflies buzzing in a clearing by the road, though they disappear as he comes close. He finds a strange little device out there and it leaps at him, enclosing his head inside like a helmet.
Then we dive into an eerie, dream-like state. Like a simulation. He meets Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) – who smokes synthetic toad skins – and his boys. Shadow must produce answers about his work for Wednesday, or else face the wrath, which could mean death. The kid wants to know about Wednesday’s plans.
We’re seeing the Old Gods v. the New Gods (a.k.a technology, in this case). This is the beginning of war. And Shadow is caught in the middle. He’s beaten by the faceless henchmen, then dragged into a field and hung from his neck. Until the rope breaks and the henchmen are cut down bloodily around him in a field of gore.
Technical Boy: “Were not just going to kill you, Shadow. Were going to delete you.”


An amazing, fascinating adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, one I’m currently reading. Next episode is titled “The Secret of Spoon” and already they’re doing interesting things. Not that I ever doubted they would, with Bryan Fuller in the mix.
So much more to come!

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.

You’ve Got Horror for Days? THE VOID’s Got Cosmic Dread for Weeks

The Void. 2017. Directed and Written by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski.
Starring Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Won, Mik Byskov, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding, James Millington, Evan Stern, & Grace Munro.
Cave Painting Pictures/JoBro Productions & Film Finance
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Sci-Fi

★★★★1/2
POSTEREveryone goes on and on about how this movie’s influenced by The Thing, which I’m sure is definitely true. I’d argue it’s more Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness than any of the master’s works. Others go on that it’s Lovecraftian, though I don’t agree totally; the filmmakers say it was their influence, and that’s fine. As I often preach, artistic intent doesn’t always have to equal concrete meaning to the audience.
Most of all, this is an original bit of sci-fi-ish horror on its own. Sure, it draws bits of heart from films co-writers Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski likely grew up watching. It throws back to the 1980s. To give their influences too much credit is to do a disservice to their horrific originality.
Many movies post-2010 seem to feel like throwback means an ’80s-type electronic score and a dark yet vibrant look. The Void has a wicked score, the sound is perfect. Best is the fact the team behind the film went with expert practical effects for the various creatures and abominations. Add these technical aspects to solid performances from one of my latest genre favourites Aaron Poole, as well as the great Kenneth Welsh (Windom Earle from Twin Peaks). This makes for one fine ride into the heart of darkness.
TheVoid1The Lovecraftian influence, the Carpenter roots, they’re fine. Gillespie and Kostanski are what matters. Their story, particularly how it’s told, works wonders on the suspense and tension which builds so dreadfully over the course of the first third of the film. Their directorial work is startling, with grim delight. We start out with an act of violence that’s inexplicable; at the time. From there, the writing-directing team unravel a tale of a cult offering sacrifices to an otherworldly entity called from the cosmos.
Production design on this one all around is fantastic. The location of the hospital is like they found a facility in the middle of nowhere, cultivating a mood all of its own. In addition, the costumes for the cult add to that atmosphere by sort of crashing down on top of the audience. When we first see them it’s a shocking moment, oh so excellent.
Not to mention the cinematography of Samy Inayeh (The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh; another great flick with Poole starring) makes everything feel hazy, terrifying, like a feverish nightmare even before the descent into utter madness and hell. The visual style is most definitely part of what gives it a throwback feel. The biggest part of that essence is the practical effects work, up there with some of the best in the genre.
TheVoid2Kostanski has an extensive background in makeup effects. He’s doing stuff on the new It, he worked on ClownGirlHouseHannibal, and even worked as an uncredited prosthetics shop assistant for 2005’s Capote. Point being, he knows his shit. He uses his chops here, alongside Gillespie, whose resume is as impressive having worked on It and Suicide Squad as assistant art director (both of which his co-director and writer worked on). He was a graphic designer on Hannibal, too. He served as assistant art director on Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, and the underrated found footage 388 Arletta Avenue is his first art directing credit. These two artists together did something on this film which amazes, in the best horror kind of way.
The creatures involved in the descent to hell, as the characters of The Void explore the hospital basement, are totally wild! Some of the best stuff out there, truly. I can see why The Thing is used as comparison. Particularly when it comes to the final monster we witness birthed; like a combination of pieces of living things. A vicious finale creation. That isn’t it, though. Throughout the movie we see various creatures, and you can’t forget the other practical effects like the blood, et cetera. That seemingly simple stuff can often get lost in the shuffle for other, lesser horrors. Not these guys. The attention to detail is what drives this whole effort home.
TheVoid3Above anything else, the end and what the film builds to from the start is the payoff. I won’t spoil it. Just to say that I love the vision these guys brought to the visuals. There’s something wholly original in the way they presented the other world, where Dr. Powell (Welsh) intends on going. Those last shots are perfection, impressing upon us without words the tiny speck that is humanity on the entirety of the universe. Gorgeous, if not also disturbing.
I gave this film a 4 and 1/2 star rating (out of 5) because The Void does what two other similar movies, Baskin and Last Shift, didn’t do despite their awesomeness: it shows us an end result. What I mean is that those other two films, kick ass as they are, sort of end in a place where there’s ultimately no traction. Not saying nothing happens, if you check my reviews of them both I’m actually a huge fan (I’ve seen Baskin at least a dozen times).
The Void goes a step further, not only in its inventiveness and practical effects monster work, it also opts to go full-on cosmic. In this way, I concede that they touch on Lovecraft and his rightful idea about man’s insignificance to other much greater, larger, non-human entities out there in the universe; gods, if you will.
Again, I don’t like to lean so heavily only on influence. Gillespie and Kostanski deserve what’s due – praise, for a breathtaking wave of pure terror, start to finish. They’ll live on with this film, though I cannot wait to see their next project. These guys are the real fucking deal.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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.