Weekend Music: Halloween Edition


Happy Halloween!

That’s all I’ve got. You shouldn’t be reading blogs today anyway.

You should be getting dressed for a masque, or buying loads of candy for the kiddies, or setting an empty place at the table, depending on what the day means to you. Whatever you do, observe it, I say. It’s my favorite holiday. TV blogging from Will and Luther tomorrow. Not necessarily in that order. I’ll see you next week.

American Horror Story Freak Show Edward Mordrake, Part 2 Review

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In the second-half of American Horror Story Freak Show‘s Halloween episode, disparate threads from the show’s first act come together, and we get back-stories for Paul, Legless Suzy, Twisty, and another piece of the puzzle that is Elsa Mars. We also see the resolution of Twisty’s murder spree and the evolution of Dandy. (Caution—Spoilers below!)

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The episode is a bit uneven. It starts strongly—we are simultaneously given pieces of Paul’s story and pieces of Legless Suzy’s story. Suzy was born with a spinal  condition that led to the removal of her legs, and that led to abandonment. Her parents left her in an orphanage, and when she grew old enough to leave, it was during the midst of The Great Depression. Paul was born different, and his only escape was to sit in dark theaters watching the latest new film. In perhaps one of the most lump-in-throat moments, he discusses his tattoos with Mordrake–Paul is tattooed practically all over, but there are no tattoos on his face because he couldn’t bear to ruin its beauty. It’s a “pretty man’s face,” he says. With it, and a normal body, he “could’ve ruled the world.”

But these sad stories aren’t what Mordrake and his second head are looking for. He continues his journey to find a “pure freak.” Pepper and Salty are dancing together in the tent. Mordrake smiles a little at their joy, watches them play for a moment, but knows they aren’t who he’s looking for, either. And so he makes his way to Elsa’s tent.

Out in the woods, Jimmy tries to convince Maggie to get off the road. They can’t afford to be caught by the police out in the middle of nowhere after curfew. Maggie is reluctant. She’s a little bit suspicious of Jimmy (who is patently offended that she suggest he’d take advantage of her). But the two are forced off the road by a car, hiding in the bushes until it passes. And there, hiding in the bushes, our two plots converge. Twisty has just had to run after his female captive, who has made a break for it. From their vantage point in the bushes across the road, Maggie Esmeralda and Jimmy see Twisty catch the girl and carry her away. Jimmy elects to follow Twisty and help the girl, and he and Maggie sneak about. Unfortunately, they’re caught by Dandy, who is also lurking in the woods. I must admit an amusement at watching one plot running around in the woods after the other plot and fess up to making lots of bad jokes about it, but it was quite irresistible, the camp of it all.

Back in the tents, Elsa, still buzzed from the opium, from her encounter with Maggie, from her performance, is in rare form. She rambles on about her performance, about the things she wants to work on, but Mordrake silences her, announcing his intention to take a pure freak with him to the grave. Oh, but I’m not a freak, Elsa protests–until the phantoms push her down, reveal her prosthetic legs. Elsa relents, but only slightly.

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We’re in the Weimar Republic in 1932. Germany is war-torn from the first war and just about to see the rise of Hitler. Its citizens are looking for release, and Elsa is an incredibly successful dominatrix in an underground wonderworld of depravity. Pushed to reveal more, to talk “about the legs,” she reveals a hazy, semi-conscious memory of a group of men who come in, push her down, take her legs, leave her for dead. (And I’m left going “hey weird” because one of the men in that room is instantly recognizable to me as a history professor at USM. That kind of thing happens from time to time, seeing people I know on the show, but when they’re Nazi leg-takers, it’s a little disconcerting. The cognitive dissonance is high.)

Anyway Mordrake and his band of ghostly freaks are clearly moved by this conversation, excited about what she has revealed, and they’re about to take Elsa. Meanwhile, I’m going no, no, we need Jessica Lange in the whole season. This is important, dammit. It’s reportedly her last season on the show, so let’s make it count. But luckily, Mordrake hears a small tinkle of music that somehow appeals to his ear, and he’s off.

In the clearing in near Twisty’s tent, he and Dandy are trying to stage a show. They’ve got Maggie Esmeralda tied up and are about to saw her in half, but Jimmy escapes and knocks over Dandy. Twisty seems a little taken by this, and he applauds, but he’s far less amused when Jimmy uses the advantage of the moment to encourage everyone to run and his hostages start to scatter. He’s able to grab Jimmy and take him to the trailer, and Dandy is off hunting the others as Edward Mordrake walks up to Twisty.

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The two sit and have a chat. Twisty is ordered to remove his mask, and I’m waiting tensely to see more than just the snapshot we got a few weeks ago. And it’s a horror–Twisty is missing most of the right half of his face. Mordrake orders him to calm down, to speak, that he’ll understand. And suddenly, we do, too.

Twisty was a clown in a traveling circus. He loved making children happy, but he hated the freaks, who were always very mean to him. When they accused him of enjoying the children’s company too much, he was horrified at their suggestions and at the idea that others in the town might suspect him, and he fled home, to Jupiter. But his mother, who he was coming to find, had died in his absence. A malaise settles over Twisty, and it worsens when his attempts at constructing toys and selling them are met with resistance. He puts a shotgun in his mouth and pulls the trigger but is ultimately unsuccessful at taking his own life. He fashions himself a mask, though, and decides to continue “entertaining the children.” This now means abducting them, killing their parents, terrifying them.

Mordrake is entranced by the story. It leaves his second, evil head weeping. It’s Twisty who is the pure freak, and our deus ex machina clears up this story-line for us by murdering Twisty and taking his spirit to be a part of the freak show. I’m a bit sad about Twisty’s exit from the show though I understand its necessity to the plot.

But the townspeople of Jupiter are happy to have the killer caught, and they show up in droves at the freak show to make those thanks well known. Cue the entrance of Denis O’Hare, which is exactly what I suspected from Maggie Esmeralda’s fortune telling last week—he’s a “talent scout.” Oh dear. Watch out, Elsa. And across town, Dandy has gone home, wearing Twisty’s mask. He runs into Dora, and the two bicker, as usual. But this time he doesn’t stop when he wants to kill her—he cuts her throat before lifting the mask to smile a large, terrifying grin. Dandy has come-of-age.

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Next week, it looks like we’ll see more Dandy and Gloria, Something Bad for Dell and Desiree, and some deviousness on the part of our new talent Scout. And in the coming weeks we’re to get Neil Patrick Harris and Lily Rabe.

Episode Grade: B- Still a solid horror entry, but the deus ex machina ending to Twisty feels too simple, and despite all that happened, I found myself looking at my phone during the last half of the episode for the first time this season.

The Batman Column: Season 1 Finale


Good day, everyone! I know it’s been awhile, but working two jobs has kept me away from blogging for some time. However, I decided to take advantage of a little free time and come back to put together what will effectively be the season finale for my column here at Sourcerer. You, dear readers, have watched my blogging voice grow over the past months as I wrote my weekly Batman column that slowly began to grow into something more. The last couple of posts in that column dealt heavily with the ideas of narrative multiverses and correcting continuity errors by condensing storylines.

I hope to continue that trend when I do return; after all, it looks like Marvel may be headed towards its own Crisis on Infinite Earths with the recent teasers for its latest Secret Wars event that seems to tie into every major story from the past few decades. It’s no secret that Marvel has been playing with its multiverse a bit more over the past few years, with most major storylines featuring orphan characters from defunct universes, as well as time travelers from the past and many possible futures. It’s become a trope in many Marvel books that the timeline is effectively broken and in need of repair. Look for more from me as this event continues to develop.

Aside from my own work, I’ve also missed two very important events for comic book fans, those being Jack Kirby’s birthday (August 28) and Banned Books Week (September 21-27). Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, co-creator of Captain America, creator of DC’s New Gods, and primary creator of most of Marvel’s stable of characters, would have been 97 this year. I would like to wish belated good fortunes to his estate, and it looks like they’ve finally reached a settlement with Marvel over old rights. Further, I hope some of you were able to fit in such superhero stories as Watchmen or The Killing Joke during Banned Books Week last month.

That’s about it for this finale. Look for my column to return in full force in the near future, as well as small periodic posts here and at quaintjeremy’s thoughts. And as for a last comic book recommendation, I urge you all to go out to your local comic shops, talk to fellow fans, find books that will interest you, and follow them with all your heart. Keep the community alive.

I’ll see you all soon.

One more thing before I go

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Even though I said my Saturday Coffee post would be my last until I return from vacation, I can’t leave without announcing that Jeremy, the author of our most popular post, “Is Batman A Marvel Character Trapped in the DC Universe?” publishes his final post of 2014 on Wednesday. (I also owe Diana a Doctor Who review before I go, and I’m going to try my best to get that out.)

Without Jeremy’s help, we wouldn’t be planning this blog six months in advance and recruiting contributors right now. If you enjoyed his seven-month run of of weekly Batman posts and his comics recommendations, you want to look in here on Wednesday. As of now, Jeremy’s planning to return for the spring, and he is just as good with other comics as he is with Batman.code_seal_mar1955

We’re not posting on Monday or Tuesday this week. I’ve stirred things up a bit and  thrown a ton of ideas out into the blogosphere over the past ten days. I want to let things settle while I am on vacation and see where we are when I return.

We’ll have Batman on Wednesday, American Horror Story from Diana on Thursday, and take Friday off unless I decide to load a little weekend music. We will wrap up the week with a Walking Dead/Doctor who double feature from Luther and Will on Saturday. I promise not to publish the Doctor Who review at 2:30 a.m. like I did yesterday.

David is taking this week off, but he will be back. Give Comparative Geeks some love in the meantime. That’s the first blog aside from Part Time Monster I ever linked to. It’s one of only two blogs I’ve given guest posts to. David and Holly are awesome bloggers.

Other stuff:ninja

  • #SundayBlogShare is happening right this minute on Twitter. Sharing links on Twitter isn’t going to get you a lot of reads, but it might make you a friend or two.
  • I’m pretty sure we have a new contributor, but working out details and thinking about how to do the announcement up right. It might be awhile before we’re ready to go with it. I am also talking to three other interested bloggers. Thank you, Taylor Grace, for sharing the call for contributors.
  • I’ll be completely out of touch on Thursday, but from that point on, my vacation requires a lot of standing in line. So I’ll have pretty good visibility from the mobile and tons of free time. Those of you who have email and DM connections will be seen when you send me messages, but keep in mind that every form of text communication from the phone is laborious.
  • The world domination jokes were a hit last week, so have another :-)

If this is your go-to blog and you’d like to try a new one out this week, take a look at Write On, Sisters! They are some fabulous bloggers, especially if you’re into writing. I met them during last year’s A to Z Challenge, and we’ve managed to stay in touch and make friends. I don’t link to them much here, so you may not be aware of them.

Have a great week, all. I’m off to share some links on Twitter.

REVIEWCAP: The Walking Dead S5E02, “Strangers”


Unknown-1So, remember how I said last week that I wasn’t exactly sure how I would be writing these posts, and that some of them might be heavier on the “recap” style of post and some might be heavier “review” style posts?  I didn’t precisely say that?  Crap.  Well, that’s what I meant to say.  Point is, this one’s gonna be less recappy than last week.

Also, I’m gonna be talking about the comics a bit, toward the end, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free for how I think the show’s going to go.

PREVIOUSLY ON THE WALKING DEAD:  Throat-slitting!  Head-batting!  Improbable fireworks!  Reunions!  Bad decisions!  And FIRE ZOMBIES, which in case you aren’t clear from context, are ZOMBIES THAT HAVE BEEN SET ON FIRE.  In other words, the best thing ever.

So: It’s clear from the opening couple of minutes that this is going to be a slower more talky-style episode after the frenzy and horror and OMG FIRE ZOMBIES of the season premiere.  It starts with a bunch of brief character-setting moments, including the most excruciatingly awkward fist-bump in the history of television (you can see Andrew Lincoln wincing, I swear) between Rick and Tara.  They’re all (well, all but that) good moments, they’re just not super exciting.

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There’s lots of walking through the woods.  Michonne reaches for her sword to kill a zombie and is briefly startled that it’s not there.  So… what happened to it?  I swear that was the haft of the thing for the Darth Maul spear last episode, but I don’t remember it getting broken, and she shoulda kept the spear.

Daryl and Carol are taking watch.  Daryl sees some foreshadowing running around in the woods!  And opening credits!

They come back to Rick nearly shooting Daryl, who has been hunting.  He’s captured some bundles of fur, which in no way resemble animals (seriously, any time they try and use a rabbit in this show they may as well replace it with a pink stuffed animal for as good as it looks) and then there are screams.  Carl insists that they go help whoever it is.  It’s Gabriel!  Hi, Gabriel!

He’s in a spot of trouble.
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The gang kills the hell out of the zombies and then Gabriel gets The Questions.  Well, once he’s done vomiting.  Turns out he’s killed no one– no walkers, no people, nothing– he’s just been living in his church, off of the results of a wonderfully-timed canned food drive, and apparently copying the Bible by hand over and over and over again.

He leads the group to the church, but not without making a couple of incredibly inappropriate jokes about how maybe he’s leading everyone into a trap.  Rick checks the church out; it’s all good, and then Abraham tries to get everyone to go to DC with him and Mr. Obviously Not A Scientist, What the Hell is Wrong With You People.  Everyone declines.  In order.  It’s kind of hilarious.

More character stuff.  Rick talks to Carl about how he’s never safe, ever.  Carl is looking like there’s a Carl’s Not In the House moment coming up.  Rick questions Gabriel about how he’s been staying alive, and he mentions that there’s one place nearby he hasn’t cleaned out yet because there are too many zombies.

Field trip!

The first shot?  The crew they sent along is Rick, Michonne, Sasha, Bob, and Gabriel.  In other words, Rick and four black people– two of whom are a black man who’s been on the show and the new black man on the show.  So… Bob’s gonna die, then, right?  Because that’s what happens when this show introduces new black guys; they have to kill off the old one.  And we’ve already seen Morgan is coming back this season, which makes me fear for Tyreese, too.  Well, crap.  I liked Bob.  He was the only black man left on Earth who was named Bob.  That’s gotta be worth something.

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So the Crew of At Least One of Us is Doomed find their storefront.  There’s a hole in the floor, the basement is flooded, and the basement is full of zombies.  And, of course, all the food.  Do they find something long and sharp– like, say, Michonne’s spear that she had last episode– for stabbery?  No, of course not, we’ve gotta find an excuse to kill Bob, so we gotta climb down and use the shelves to keep the zombies away from us while we stab them at close range, because that makes perfect sense.  This works until Gabriel freaks out and runs away after clearly recognizing one of the zombies, at which point they knock a shelving unit onto a bunch of them (zombies can’t drown, you morons) and save Gabriel.

And then Bob gets dragged underwater.  And bitten no, of course, I’m not bitten, I’m just fine, don’t inspect me for bites, I’m okay.

This bit has really awesome zombie makeup, btw:

images(Interesting point: at this point in the series, the zombies are decayed enough that Sasha is able to brain the one that bit Bob didn’t bite Bob with the corner of a green plastic recycling box.  Those don’t normally shatter skulls.)

Back to the church.  Detective Carl has found some sinister signs that there is sinisterness afoot.  Namely, knife marks around a window outside the church– and, more worryingly, the words “YOU’LL BURN FOR THIS” carved into the wall.  Carl points out that this “doesn’t mean Gabriel’s a bad guy for sure.”  Pff.

Later, they’re celebrating, and Abraham gives a dumb speech about how they need to be dumb and go to DC with the dumb creepy guy who is OBVIOUSLY NOT A SCIENTIST.  The characters aren’t too bright this season again so he talks them into agreeing to go.  You know what’s in DC?  MILLIONS OF ZOMBIES.  MILL-EE-UNS.  Morons.

More character moments.  Carol tries to flee in a car.  Daryl talks her out of it.  And then a car with a white cross zooms by them– it’s the same car that kidnapped Beth!  Daryl and Carol jump into the car and take off after it.

Bob shares a tender moment with Sasha and goes outside to cry.  He’s totally not bitten everywhere at all, guys.  And then– wham.  Rifle butt to the back of the head.  And a zoom in on another weird marking on a tree, like we saw last episode and I’m not sure I mentioned.

Unrelated picture!

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And then something real interesting happens.  Bob’s been kidnapped by Gareth and his people, including, in a moment of supreme annoyingness, the dude who Tyreese apparently didn’t beat to death last episode, because again, bad decisions seem to be a theme this season.  Gareth gives Bob the exact same speech, word for word, that Chris gave to Dale in issue 63 of the comic book.  And… oh, crap:

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That’s, uh, a chunk of Bob he’s gnawing on there.  Because they’ve amputated Bob’s leg at the knee.  And they’re eating it.  Right in front of him.  He tastes surprisingly good, Gareth says.

Cut to credits.

For my money, this skeeves way more than the head-bashing and throat-slitting last week. And it gets directly to why I think The Walking Dead is one of the greatest adaptations from one medium to another that I’ve ever seen.  Because they’re doing the “Hunters” arc here– and, again, Robert Kirkman wrote this episode, and he wrote the comic books the episode is based on, and Gareth’s entire speech here is lifted word-for-word from the comics.  This show uses the comics as inspiration but they do not give one single crap about trying to be faithful.  If the show wants someone to die who is alive in the comics– like, say, Andrea, they die.  If they think it’s more interesting to keep someone alive for a while– like, say, Shane, who was dead almost right away in the comics and survived until the end of Season Two in the show– they stay alive.  And they remix storylines as they see fit.  See, I think I know what’s coming in the next couple of episodes, right?  Because I know what happened next in this arc in the comics.  But in the comics, this happened to Dale, who was already missing one of his legs– which is a thing that happened to Herschel in the TV show– and Dale had been bitten.  And that made things interesting.  In the show, Dale died three seasons ago, and Herschel lost a leg, and got beheaded by the Governor.  In the comics, Dale lost a leg, and got eaten by the hunters– and Tyreese was the one beheaded by the Governor, although he killed Herschel too, but in a different way.

This is great.  It means that the show can hit the high points of the comic series, but that the people who have been following them never really know what’s going to happen.  And it’s one of the best things about the show.

NEXT WEEK ON THE WALKING DEAD:  Oh, so very many jokes about this TV show. tumblr_static_c7dkxjfmskgg084wowsk4cgosAnd, no doubt, absolutely insane amounts of brutality to go with it.

Is it next Sunday yet?

 

Doctor Who Review: Series 8 Episode 9, “Flatline”

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by William Hohmeister

I think I’m ready to love again. Jamie Mathieson, will you marry the Doctor and become showrunner? You wrote my favorite episodes of Doctor Who series 8: “Mummy on the Orient Express” and this week’s episode, “Flatline.” I actually like Clara (Jenna Coleman) again! Longtime readers know I generally see no good in Clara’s character. She’s used so… generically, like a stand-in for a real Companion. “Mummy on the Orient Express” kept her out of view, but “Flatline” gives her a chance to act in a uniquely Clara way.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) tries to drop Clara off after their latest adventure, but lands in Bristol. As he tries to deduce a solution to the problem, Clara points out something more worrying: the TARDIS’ door has shrunk. The Doctor and Clara squeeze through and find a shrunken TARDIS outside.

tardis_flatline“Flatline” introduces cool ideas about dimensions of space that I think the writer stole from Flatland. The interior of the TARDIS is infinite; the exterior is the size of a police box. As Whovians know, this leads to many humans gushing “It’s bigger on the inside.” The Doctor guesses that something is leeching power from the Tardis, causing it to shrink. He goes back inside, while Clara explores.

Clara meets Rigsy (Joivan Wade) and Fenton (Christopher Fairbanks) cleaning up Rigsy’s graffiti. Rigsy tells her of missing people, and shows her a mural that depicts each person from behind. She asks for his help, and goes back to get the Doctor.

Here’s where the show took a turn it really needed: the TARDIS has shrunk to the size of a paperweight and the Doctor is trapped inside. Clara picks it up, and we find out something really cool: the Doctor can adjust the TARDIS ’ weight. Since the Tardis is infinite, it would also be infinitely heavy if not for the weight adjustment. Usually it weighs as much as a police box, but now Clara can pick it up and stow it in her purse. It’s a great piece of world-building that I really liked.

Why is the TARDIS ’ size so important? The Doctor, just able to fit his hand throughclara_flatline the door, passes Clara his tools: sonic screwdriver, psychic paper, and an ear piece so he can communicate. Clara picks up Rigsy to investigate the homes of the vanished people, and introduces herself as: “The Doctor. Doctor Oswald.”

The episode unfolds as you expect from here: investigation, discovery, running, enlightenment, running, taking control of the situation, running, and a final plan. Clara drives each of these moments instead of the Doctor, however. The Doctor provides exposition, but he does not play a crucial role until the end. And the Doctor himself has admitted that sometimes he just talks until he hears a solution he likes, making him sort of an exposition-machine even to himself.

Clara plays the Doctor’s role in a way I think is unique to her. We’ve seen other Companions – Rose and Donna come to mind – play at being the Doctor. Rose was terrified (“The Christmas Invasion”) and Donna nearly died (“Journey’s End”).

Clara is a human Doctor, and she’s very efficient at it. She tells Rigsy the truth – or at least part of it – and when he tries to leave Clara shows him the Doctor and the Tardis. While investigating one home she pretends to be MI-5 to get PC Forrest’s (Jessica Hayles) help. The Doctor decides the vanished people must be in the walls of the house; in a moment worthy of the Looney Tunes, he passes Clara a sledgehammer through her purse. Clara explains simply: “Apparently they’re in the walls.”

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