Contributors: Read this, plz. A to Z Stuff!

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I’m posting this late and pinning it to the top of the page because I need to get it out there but I don’t want to interrupt our normal features to do that. I’ve been working over the last couple of weeks to get our schedule nailed down through the spring and streamline my own content production. Here’s where I am with the overall scheme.

  • We have a few features that don’t need to be interrupted in April. These fall mostly on Mondays and Fridays. On those days, we’ll have two posts. Otherwise, the A to Z will be our only written post of the day.
  • We aren’t starting a new run of anything until we get done with April, but I am open to pitches for features to begin in May.
  • I am going to do my best to keep the Tuesday/Wednesday photos going here in the afternoons, but depending on how the next couple of weeks go, that may or may not happen.

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Let’s Play Planescape: Torment! Episode 4

by William Hohmeister

Last time on Planescape: Torment!

Breaking stuff leads to a level-up, and an encounter with a ghost leads to a vague prophecy!

In case you missed it, Nameless helpfully wrote down Deionarra’s prophecy:

I encountered the ghost of a woman named Deionarra, who prophesied that I would meet three enemies, but ‘none more dangerous that myself in my full glory’. They are shades of evil, of good, and of neutrality given life and twisted by the laws of the planes.

Ep4_Image1She said that I would come to a prison built of “regrets and sorrow,” where “the shadows themselves have gone mad.” Here, I will be asked to make a terrible sacrifice… for the matter to be laid to rest, I must “destroy that which keeps me alive, and be immortal no longer.”

Deionarra disappears, and Nameless discovers Morte can’t see her. So he’s a crazy amnesiac scar monster. Although maybe a skull isn’t the best barometer for reading Nameless’ mental weather. Hey, no one else has talked to him yet, maybe even Morte isn’t real…

MORTE PLEASE BE REAL.

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Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 4-6

Aaaaaaaaaand we’re back this afternoon for another three-episode review of Netflix House of Cards Season 3. If you’d like to see episodes 1-3, check here, and as always, watch out for spoilers!

Episode 4

My husband is now convinced that Frank Underwood is Satan himself, or at least the writers’ incarnation of him. I am almost convinced.

But first, let’s back up a bit. We need to talk about Heather Dunbar, the solicitor general, because we her argument to the Supreme Court, and that means that She Is Important To the Plot.

We saw Dunbar a bit already. She prosecuted Walker, apparently. And she’s working on a case in which a drone strike killed and injured civilians, and she’s been given permission to declassify some aspects of the incident to achieve the state’s desired result in court. In the Supreme Court she defends the actions of the state, and when asked why she prosecuted Walker but defends this action of Underwood, she lays it down to presidential authority–you can “prosecute presidents but not the presidency.”

Meanwhile,  Remy and Jackie have figured out that Dunbar is Important to the Plot, too. They show up at Arlington (just after a funeral that Frank has attended) to tell Frank to be wary of Dunbar. She’s from a wealthy family, very wealthy, and she’s ambitious. They think she’s about to run for president.

Yeeeees. Frank needs a formidable adversary.

But Frank doesn’t think so, of course. He’d rather make Heather another offer, and so he does. One of the Supreme Court justices tried to retire earlier in the year to spend more time with his family after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but Frank would not accept his resignation. Anyway, he figures now Justice Jacob can retire and Heather Dunbar can become a Supreme Court justice. She accepts, but I can’t help thinking something is fishy.

Now Frank must meet with one of the survivors of the drone strike who is suing the administration. He tries to justify his actions, to assure the survivors of their necessity, but there is of course no satisfaction for losing one’s family and one’s legs in a drone strike. And Frank is told as much before the survivor leaves, angry and hurt.

AmWorks (Frank’s semi-adorable pet name for his America Works Program), is also in trouble. Republicans aren’t going to let it pass, of course. Ayla, a reporter who has been badgering Seth Grayson for more information, pushes Frank too hard in a press conference. She questions his views on gay rights, throwing out implications about an American citizen who has been taken prisoner in Russia after a Russian gay rights protest. Of course, the actions get Ayla removed from the White House after a bit of politics between Grayson and the Correspondents Association. It’s not terribly surprising, even if it’s a bit cowardly, that a reporter who hit that hard might be asked to hand in credentials.

Oh, and there’s Doug, still searching for Rachel. Gavin (guinea pig hacker guy) is pressing him for a passport in return for the work he’s been doing. But Doug wants him to do more. Gavin finds Rachel’s former roommate/lover, Lisa, at an AA meeting and strikes up a conversation with her. I want the doe eyed girl to run away, but she doesn’t, of course.They never do.

And things are still getting worse for Frank. Jacobs no longer wants to give up his spot as a Supreme Court Justice. Frank pressures him, but Jacobs is honest with Dunbar about the pressure. Cut to a news conference and Heather Dunbar announcing her candidacy for president. (Hooray!)

Doug approaches Dunbar, asking for a job. He’s tired of being shut away from the Underwoods. At least he says so. Somehow I doubt this is really a turn of loyalty, and so does Dunbar, who in any case isn’t eager to align herself with Doug’s brand of politics.

It’s about this time that a very despondent Frank has the priest from the Arlington funeral dragged out of bed and brought to speak with him in church. When the priest walks out of the room, Frank sidles up to the crucifix at the front of the church and talks to Jesus.

For a moment, anyway. Then he spits on the crucifix (cut to me, covering my mouth; it’s funny what shocks us). And when he tries to wipe away the spit, he knocks down the crucifix, and it shatters (cut to me, covering my mouth and laughing; it’s funny what’s funny). Frank picks up a piece of Jesus—the ear—and walks away muttering about having Jesus’ ear. Cut to me laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

Husband is now firmly assured that Frank is the writers’ incarnation of Satan. I just want to watch…

Episode4

Episode 5

Jackie and Frank are discussing their plan for the election. Jackie is running but will drop out, and when she does, Frank will give her a place on the ticket. Makes sense, I suppose. She’s there as a distraction and to pull in votes that she’ll bring with her as VP nominee.

There’s also Heather Dunbar to contend with. She’s not sure yet if she wants to hire Doug, and her main adviser isn’t either. What Dunbar is certain of is that she wants to run to the left of Frank. She’ll play up her stance on gay rights (and I’m struggling a little with this part, because I’m not quite sure where/why Frank’s stance on gay rights became negative; it almost doesn’t make sense, given his prior trysts) and use the imprisonment of Corrigan, the American citizen jailed in Russia, as a way onto the platform.

Ah, yes, and I’m sure we’ll all wondering about AmWorks, too. Part of the federal coffers that Frank has to raid for his AmWorks plan are disaster relief funds. The head of Homeland Security gets fired in the midst of this because of his objection to Frank’s ideas. No one else dares to object, of course.

Ayla’s replacement at the White House shows up in the form of Kate, and she’s a welcome introduction. Kate’s good at figuring things out. She’s gutsy and quick-witted, and I don’t doubt for a moment that she’ll be more difficult to contend with than Ayla. She quickly finds the fired Chief of Homeland Security and breaks the story. Frank is furious, of course.

And Claire is having trouble at the UN. Her inexperience is showing, and the settlement she’d almost negotiated to circumvent Russian objections and put a peace-keeping mission in place in the Jordan Valley begins to fall through. Frank agrees to put in troops without passing it through Congress.

Then there’s this weird moment in the bathroom, when Claire invites the Russian ambassador in with her as she readies to leave. She informs him, while she’s peeing (what’s with the peeing this season?!), that he’s been out-maneuvered.

And Doug is Up to Something. He gives Dunbar Claire’s old journal, which would prove that her abortion was not after a rape and that she lied during a televised interview. It’s damning evidence to have on a first lady, and it’s dirty business. Dunbar says she would never use such information against another woman. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that journal.

Frank, meanwhile, has hired Thomas Yates, a quite-brilliant-and-beautifully-handsome novelist to write the story of AmWorks. I foresee Frank having another sexual adventure with this one. And AmWorks is starting in Washington. There’s Freddy in the line, oh Freddy, another that I hoped would be back this season. I just wish it weren’t under such circumstances.

episode5

Episode 6

First, a bit about Doug and Gavin, and then off to Russia. Gavin is still pretending to be Max, a former alcoholic and junkie, at local AA meetings, to get Lisa to open up about Rachel. He pretends to have recently lost a lover (ugh); he pretends to be HIV positive (UGH). She takes him under her wing and begins to talk about Rachel. And Doug is still flirting with his physical therapist, who looks a bit like Rachel and pays attention to politics.

Now for the Underwoods.

Frank and Claire have gone to Russia to try and smooth things over with Petrov and secure the release of Michael Corrigan. Claire goes to the prison cell to speak with Michael Corriganwhile Frank goes to Petrov’s office.

The assumption is, of course, that Frank will have a much more difficult time convincing Petrov to allow Corrigan to leave than Claire will have convincing Corrigan to do what is necessary to leave. But when what is necessary turns out to be Corrigan reading a statement of apology and the other 27 people who were arrested staying in jail, Corrigan refuses.

(Nevermind that the other 27 people are Russian citizens over whom Claire has no jurisdiction. And while I understand the reluctance to apologize, to say some of what was written on that page, is that worth staying in prison in a foreign land? Is it worth dying for)?

Claire refuses to leave the cell without Michael and asks that she be able to speak to him privately, with no electronic bugs. They talk about their respective marriages, and for the dozenth time at least this season, we’re aware that there’s trouble between Claire and Frank. Real trouble.

When the bug is removed from the cell, Petrov becomes even more distrustful of the Underwoods. And let’s be clear–none of this is because of what he believes. Petrov admits to Frank that he knows the law is barbaric, but the law is to preserve tradition, and therefore he will uphold it.

Back in the cell, Michael wants to think about what to do, alone. Claire decides to take a nap. And somehow, her nap turns into the sort of nap that one doesn’t wake from even when someone commits suicide beside one. (HOW?!?) She sleeps through Michael Corrigan hanging himself from the bars of his cell window with her scarf.

Naturally, everyone is scrambling a bit. They’ve come to take home an activist but must return with a corpse. Frank and Petrov come up with a plan to continue the deal, saying that their plan was to release Michael that day. Claire can’t hold her tongue, though, and she lashes out at the law and at Petrov. Publicly. This will not end well.

And then Frank and Claire have a fight. They have THE fight. She made him president. He made her ambassador. It’s a vicious fight that relies on words, and the words, oh, do they sting. They’re murderers. He’s a coward. It’s a delicious implosion 3 season in the making.

And then it’s over.

Episode6

Agent Carter Finale Review: Valediction, Season 1 Episode 8

Last week I talked about how the penultimate episode felt like it did not stand alone, that it needed the finale. Well, said finale has come and gone, and maybe I was right and maybe I wasn’t. I actually watched “SNAFU” again with Holly as part of watching the finale, and a couple of pieces I missed (maybe while jotting down notes?) helped bring the episode together, like that they mentioned running a test with the Stark tech – and thus the movie theater madness. So “SNAFU” might stand alone better than I thought, but it is still nice to watch them together!

Because this episode was more than just the conclusion to the previous episode: it was the capstone to the whole series. So it not only concluded recent events, it drew back to early ones, like issues with Peggy’s housing, or like the Captain America radio drama. We know what Leviathan was after, and why. We know why the early henchmen had no voicebox. We have confirmation that it was the hypnotist who lured them to Europe. This episode neatly tied up these sorts of lingering questions, while also finishing out the arc on the different characters. We even find out who robbed Stark! And along with all this, we emotionally close the door on Captain America: The First Avenger and turn to the future: and the future is SHIELD.

Agent_Carter_Official_Logo

Recap

The SSR is still reeling from the tragedy they just experienced, and the death of Chief Dooley. But a new case to investigate of course pops up: a theater full of people who killed each other. They are in and investigating, and Sousa finds the nearly empty canister that it all came out of. I say nearly empty as it sprays him with enough of the gas to have him murderous and trying to kill Thompson. Granted, that shouldn’t take too much, but it happens.

We also find out that the gas sears the throat, so Sousa is lucky he didn’t get too much. But this is why the Leviathan agents were the way they were – it marked them as survivors of this gas. Why would Stark make a weapon like this?

Howard Stark shows up at the SSR to clear that up. They move past their desire to arrest him, and listen. It wasn’t a weapon, but was designed as a stimulant for the soldiers, to keep them going. Well, that didn’t turn out at all, instead leading to murderous rage etc. So a general deployed it at Finau, the mysterious World War II battleground that kept coming up, that Chief Dooley had been investigating, which Howard Stark had visited (where he saw what the gas could do – he wasn’t happy), and where the hypnotist (who now has two names I don’t know how to spell so he’s keeping his title) survived in a gas mask, plotting revenge.

Stark says that this gas is called Midnight Oil, and that they likely have ten more canisters of it – enough to make much of New York go mad. They seem to be there with that in mind, to punish Stark by having him see his creation destroy his home city. So Stark offers himself as bait – because then they can control what their opponents are doing.

I want an American cheeseburger, and a press conference. Wait... Found on http://comicbook.com/2015/02/25/agent-carter-season-finale-valediction-recap-with-spoilers/

I want an American cheeseburger, and a press conference. Wait…
Found on http://comicbook.com/2015/02/25/agent-carter-season-finale-valediction-recap-with-spoilers/

Flash to the hypnotist and Dottie, heading into an airfield. Dottie is out procuring them a plane, via violence, and the hypnotist is in a car listening to the radio – where he hears that Stark will be at a press conference. I love the exchange that followed:

“A new opportunity has arisen.”

“Just since I left the car?”

Couple scenes on, they’ve captured Stark, and taken him to a hangar with one of his hidden planes. It was Dottie who robbed his vault! Which is made better by the fact that he can’t remember her name – which does not amuse Dottie nearly as much as it amuses the audience! The hypnotist then uses a different tactic than he has before. Before, he did positive sorts of hypnotism, to befriend the SSR and get away with things. With Stark, it’s a hypnotism of pain: taking him to his greatest failure.

And his greatest failure is not having found Captain America. The one thing he has done that has caused any good to happen.

So he is easily convinced to go flying out, thinking he is hunting for Cap – though he actually has the deadly payload of the Midnight Oil onboard and he’s headed for a large collection of soldiers. It’s V-E Day.

The team shows up, and send out their only pilot to stop Stark – Jarvis. Meanwhile Peggy fights her way past Dottie to the radio, to try to talk Stark out of it. It’s a close thing – Jarvis almost has to shoot Stark out of the sky. However, Peggy connects with Howard over their shared love for Captain America, the best among them.

But seriously, don't mess with her. Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep8/

But seriously, don’t mess with her.
Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep8/

The good guys win, the hypnotist is taken into custody, Dottie escaped. Stark gives Peggy and Angie one of his “smaller” homes to live in. And Jarvis has the best gift – stolen from Howard, who thinks it was lost in the struggles with Leviathan. Captain America’s blood. This Peggy takes out and, in an emotional scene, pours it off of what I am pretty sure is the Brooklyn Bridge.

He was just a boy from Brooklyn.

The Biggest Spoiler

It’s time for a lightning round, and first and foremost, the final scene! The hypnotist is in a Hannibal-Lecter-esque face mask, so he can’t speak. However, his cell mate talks enough for both of them.

Arnim-freaking-Zola. And Hydra begins again.

Final Thoughts on Dottie

I’m happy Dottie lived and escaped, because I have to admit her fight scene with Peggy was not satisfying. It was kind of “yay, Peggy won, of course Peggy won, title character.” Of course, she got kicked out a window, so Peggy did a pretty good job of the fight, but still. We’ll be seeing her again.

I also like that we found something that could get under her skin. After how much work she put into creating her cover identity, after brainwashing and being taken apart and rebuilt into a life as a weapon – Stark didn’t remember her. It was such an insult to her. And he keeps guessing names, and getting them wrong! At the end, he thinks he remembers it, and talks about the “steel trap” of his memory – but I doubt that was it either.

Final Thoughts on Agents Thompson & Sousa

While Peggy is headed off to get to the radio and fighting Dottie, Thompson and Sousa are on their way to face off with the hypnotist. And like last week, Thompson has good advice – don’t let him speak.

And like last week, when Dottie kicked Sousa’s butt, Sousa didn’t listen! The hypnotist got the drop on Thompson, and Sousa comes walking in, gun drawn. And lets him start talking! And hypnotizing! SOUSA WHY DON’T YOU EVER LISTEN! And Sousa turns his gun on Thompson! Oh no! And then… oh wait, nope, down goes the hypnotist. Thompson is confused, as are we… until Sousa pulls out his earplugs. Well played, sir.

The other scene of note with these two is towards the end. A Senator comes in to thank the SSR for a job well done, looking for the agent behind it all – looking for Agent Thompson. Obviously. And Thompson pauses a moment, looks back at Carter and Sousa, and then he takes the credit, walking back to talk further with the Senator in the Chief’s office. Likely his new office.

And Sousa turns to Carter and says he is going to march in there and set the record straight. Not even really just for himself, but for Carter. But Peggy smiles and says that she knows her own value, and it doesn’t matter if no one else does. I would add that the final juxtaposition of the two was in this – as it shows that Sousa does not necessarily know his own value, and is still looking for validation from others.

Found on http://news.yahoo.com/recap-agent-carter-not-valediction-152000960.html where they also said "I can’t recall the last time a serialized drama got some [sic] many things right."

Found on http://news.yahoo.com/recap-agent-carter-not-valediction-152000960.html where they also said “I can’t recall the last time a serialized drama got some [sic] many things right.”

Final Thoughts on Howard Stark

Stark, after all that’s happened, wants to destroy all of his inventions – or at least the dangerous ones from the vault. Still in his future are things we know from the movies, like Stark expos, working with Whiplash’s father on the Arc Reactor, hiding secret messages to his son, and getting killed by Hydra. He has a lot of reasons to be paranoid, and we definitely see the beginnings of this here.

Questions

Did it feel “comic book?”

To the last, I would say the show kept from feeling too comic booky. Sure, there was a crazy evil chemical that drives people crazy that was going to be deployed over a whole city… but that’s really just the comic book version of chemical warfare, so it’s not so far from believable. The hypnotist turned out to be just really good at hypnotism – there had been theories that his ring is magic (or alien), but if so then Sousa’s earplugs shouldn’t have worked. Right? It all ended up pretty human. I would even say that Leviathan seems like it might have been a fairly small organization, mainly centered around the hypnotist and his few remaining folks from the Russian war efforts. But maybe there’s more! Hopefully we get a second season to find out…

Did it feel like you needed to have watched the other movies and shows?

This episode was the emotional conclusion to Captain America: The First Avenger. Well, for everyone but Captain America. In the movie, we get to see Cap’s reaction. He breaks out, heads into Times Square, and it brings him up short. He talks to Nick Fury, and he claims he’s good with ending up 70 years in the future. Except… he had a date.

However, for characters like Howard Stark – who we know hunted for Cap – and for Peggy Carter – said date – we didn’t get to see what their future looked like, their life. The rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is happening 70 years later. But this show kept it in the past, kept us with the events that mattered in that time and place, instead of drawing in all the connections for the future continuity. This episode held to that… right up to the end.

Because sure, having Arnim Zola in prison there, waiting, is a follow-up from First Avenger. But it’s also a prequel to Winter Soldier, as we know that one day, Toby Jones will be playing a talking computer – the immortal Herr Zola. Brain in a 1970’s computer. Hydra. This was a huge teaser for what I can only assume is a season 2 which will have much more to do with the rest of the MCU!

Did it matter that it was a female lead?

And finally, the final thoughts on the lead, Agent Peggy Carter. Hayley Atwell has been amazing. She is playing the character who was the equal of Captain America, while also reminding us just how hard a thing that is to be. But in this episode, she gets to be the grieving, vulnerable person just a bit. But in a good way. She gets closure. I think from here, she’s ready to move on, confident, with a purpose, and not giving a damn what the men around her think. I really hope there’s a season 2, because she is a storm that can’t be stopped.

As of this writing, I see no confirmation on a Season 2 yet, but I really see no reason why this is not going to exist! I would say: count on it.

Thank you for reading my series review of Agent Carter! It’s been a fun show to follow. For a different perspective on the show, my wife Holly wrote a review on my main blog, Comparative Geeks. You can find me there after this, geeking out on any number of things!