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GAME OF THRONES: Breathers Unite! (Recap S7: Ep 5)

(Cross posted at AgonyBooth.com)

Holy exposition episode, Batman! Let’s see, we got the legitimization of Jon’s Snow’s birth, Cersei’s pregnancy, the triumphant return of That Rowing Guy, and Littlefinger getting exposed for shadiness again (possibly on purpose?). We’ve also got characters moving all across the GOT map at implausible speeds . . . folks that haven’t seen one another in SIX SEASONS . . . magically reuniting to spread tidbits of intel like Fedex packages. But most importantly, we’ve got a small, but scrappy, army of randomly assorted fan favorites heading North of the Wall to go fishing for a zombie to give Cersei as an early Christmas gift.

Let’s do thing, shall we?

Bronn is still alive, and he wants his castle, dammit!

In a turn of events that is sure to surprise absolutely NO ONE, Bronn and Jaime survived their Dragon Evading Synchronized Swim Routine from last week. So, they will both live to be snarky with one other for at least another episode.

Bronn, for his part, is too macho to admit to Jaime that he saved his life, because he likes hanging out with him. So, the mercenary blames his heroics on good old-fashioned opportunism. “I’m not going to let you die until I get my f*&king Castle,” Bronn quips.

Aww, don’t be sad, Jaime. Bronn is just playing hard to get. But seriously, after saving your and your brother’s butts countless times over seven seasons, all the man wants is his own uncomfortable chair. Is that too much to ask?

RIP Rickon, Brickon, whatever your name is . . .

Literally across the lake from Bronn’s and Jaime’s Bromantic Rendezvous, a concerned Tyrion surveys the charred wreckage of the Lannister army left in Drogon and the Dothraki’s wake. Meanwhile Dany speaks with the few Lannister army survivors, offering them the ability to retain both their lives and their freedom, if they pledge fealty to her. “Join or die,” she tells the men, more or less.

Most of the men bend the knee without question, because they see Dany’s Dragon chilling out about five inches away from where they are standing, and they aren’t stupid. Papa Tarly though . . . he’s kind of stupid, so no kneeling for him. (Sidenote: I totally recall Papa Tarly getting burned to a crisp by Drogon in last week’s episode. Guess it was just some other old bald guy. Either that, or I’m psychic like BranBot3000, and “predicted” how this guy would ultimately bite it, a week in advance.)

Dickon wants to die with his dad because of honor, or something. Or maybe the poor sexy dumb-dumb is just tired of people always getting his name wrong. Tyrion warns Dany against the bad PR that may result from her effectively murdering the entire Tarly house. In doing so, he conveniently forgets that the Tubbiest Tarly remains alive, well, and shoveling poo over at the Hogwarts School for the Old and Unattractive.

But Dany will not be deterred, and so a single dragon burp literally evaporates yet another house on the GOT game board . . . most of it anyway.

I wonder if they pooped their pants before they died?

In which, Lady Olenna gets her dying wish . . .

Jaime eventually returns home to Kings Landing with his tail between his legs, to tell Cersei that they are SO EFFING SCREWED. By way of elaboration, Jaime explains to his sister / lover that the Lannister army has no chance in hell of winning this war against an army of insane Dothraki warriors fighting alongside not one, not two, but THREE GIANT FIRE BREATHING DRAGONS.

Cersei, of course, has never been one to listen to reason and surrender, particularly when we’ve still got a season left of the show. So, she changes the topic of conversation to Tyrion, their little brother turned “enemy combatant.” The siblings’ relationship with Tyrion has always been a touchy with these two, one that Jaime would prefer not to broach. But when Cersei casually brings up Tyrion’s “murder” of Joffrey, Jaime reluctantly grants Lady Olenna’s death wish, by admitting that it was the Queen of Thrones, and not Tyrion, who ultimately caused this beautiful scene to occur . . .

Initially, Cersei refuses to believe that Olenna could pull this off. However, when Jaime explains Olenna’s rationale for wanting Joffrey dead (namely that it would offer then-Queen Margaery a more docile and obedient husband to control in her quest for power), Cersei is forced to grudgingly admit that Tyrion was wrongfully accused.

Game, Set, Match, Lady Olenna, from the GRAVE, no less.

Tyrion still gets credit for the whole “killing his dad on the toilet” thing, though . . . which was also pretty cool.

Hi Drogon, I’m home!

After a long day at work burning people’s faces off, Dany and Drogon arrive back at Dragonstone where Jon is patiently waiting for them. Though the King of the North is still a bit creeped out by Dany’s “kid,” he doesn’t want to seem RUDE! So, Jon extends his hand and gently caresses Drogon’s face, because, let’s face it, having all five of your fingers is overrated. Just ask Jaime Lannister!

Interestingly enough, Drogon doesn’t bite off Jon’s fingers OR burn his face! Instead, the dragon gets surprisingly wide-eyed and puppy like, as he moves in closer to Jon for more neck rubs and kisses. (If you recall, Dany’s other dragons had a similarly docile reaction to Tyrion last season.) Is it possible that dragons are actually kind, cuddly, creatures that are just misunderstood by the world at large?

Or, perhaps dragons are just kind to folks with Targaryen blood . . .

Anywhoo, Dany gets a major Lady Boner over this Jon / Drogon exchange, and is all ready to whip out her phone so she can show Jon an entire album worth of dragon baby pictures for him to coo over. “Aren’t dragons beautiful?” The Mother of Dragons inquires breathily.

“Ummm . . . if by beautiful, you mean totally f*&king terrifying, than yes,” Jon replies, more or less.

Well damn, JON! Haven’t you learned by now that it’s never cool to call a mother’s kid ugly to her face? You have to learn to lie better, and fast, or cave sex is never going to happen for you again!

We interrupt this recap to bring you a message from BranBot3000 . . .

BranBot3000 sees the White Walkers in the promo for next week’s episode, so he sends out a group text to all the other characters in the show about his vision. No, seriously, it literally took about ten seconds for the entire rest of the cast all across the Westeros globe to get this information. The Three-Eyed Raven may not have downloaded emotions or a personality onto his server, but the dude definitely has an excellent cell phone data plan with unlimited text messaging capabilities.

In which, Gilly actually tries to say something important, but Sam Tarley only wants to talk about shit.

When the Maesters at the Hogwarts School for the Old and Unattractive get the text from BranBot3000 about the White Walkers invading Westeros, they naturally dismiss it as spam. This infuriates Sam, who came to Oldtown for the sole purpose of learning how to defeat White Walkers . . . also because he really likes books.


Sam is so mad about the Maesters’ nonchalant attitude toward the upcoming apocalypse, in fact, that he totally ignores Gilly when she casually lets slip what may very well be the most important piece of information ever to be revealed on this show.

In a book Gilly is reading, one that is undoubtedly titled “The Game of Thrones Reddit Page,” she inadvertently discovers that Rhaegar Targaryen (Jon Snow’s secret father) actually got an annulment from Elia Martell, in order to have a secret marriage outside of Dorne to Lyanna Stark (Jon Snow’s secret mom).

You know what that means don’t you, Thrones fans? Not only does Jon have Targaryen blood running through his veins, he might very well also be a legitimate Targaryen, one with a claim to the Iron Throne that rivals that of Dany, herself.

“I don’t care how many times a day the Maester takes a dump! I want to fight White Walkers, dammit!” Sam responds angrily.

Ummmm, Sam? Just because you spend most of your day shoveling feces, doesn’t mean every piece of intel on this show is about poop.

Anywhoo, Sam and Gilly ultimately decide to leave Old Town and return to the North to join the fight against the White Walkers. And if the new time logistics on this show are any indication, they should probably arrive there in about fifteen seconds.

Family Affairs

The Dragonstone crew also get their text message about the White Walkers from BranBot3000 this week. So, Jon comes up with this bizarre plan to get Cersei to put the battle for the Iron Throne on pause, and join the rest of the houses in fighting the Undead by . . . retrieving a zombie from North of the Wall, and offering it to her as a gift?

(Ummm . . . just because Dany made dragons into her pets, doesn’t mean you can make zombies into yours, Jon!)

Anyway, the plan involves Tyrion meeting with Jaime in an effort to grease the proverbial wheel. The problem is that Tyrion and Jaime have been a bit on the outs, ever since Tyrion murdered Jaime’s dad on the pooper. So, matchmaker Bronn arranges a surprise date for the pair underground, under the guise of engaging Jaime in a Dragon Killing Machine training session.

Jaime isn’t particularly thrilled to see his brother, naturally. And the two exchange some harsh words about their now-deceased daddy dearest. Nonetheless, Jaime brings Tyrion’s request regarding putting the war on hold in exchange for a zombie prize to his beloved Queen. Cersei is unexpectedly amenable to the idea, especially if it means potentially getting Dany alone in a room, where she could murder her. As it turns out, Cersei was aware of Jaime’s meeting with Tyrion before it happened, but allowed it to take place for this very reason.

As if those weren’t sufficient bombshells for one scene, Cersei also reveals that she’s currently pregnant with Jaime’s child. But this time, unlike with her other three kids, she’s going to publicly out this one as the incest baby that he or she happens to be.

Jaime is thrilled by this news! (Because they’ve done SUCH a great job at making children in the past.) He tearfully embraces Cersei, who returns the affectionate gesture, but not before threateningly whispering in her brother’s ear, “Don’t ever betray me again.”

Hey Fredo, I wouldn’t go on any fishing trips anytime soon, if I were you . . .

Littlefinger: Pot Stirrer Extraordinaire

In other sibling news, Littlefinger seems to have caught on to the tension between Arya and Sansa, and has decided to work toward alienating the sisters from one another. The first part of the plan involves having the men of the Vale publicly denounce Jon and pledge fealty to Sansa, while Arya is present. Though Sansa reminds the men that Jon is their King and not her, Arya doesn’t feel she defends her brother’s honor firmly enough.

Arya tells Sansa as much when the two meet in their parents bed chambers later that day. Arya then accuses Sansa of secretly wanting to rule the North. It’s an accusation that Sansa not so convincingly denies.

Later that day, Arya spies Littlefinger doing his Littlefinger thing of creeping around and whispering in people’s ears. So, naturally, she decides to follow him around like the good little stalker she is. Littlefinger seems blatantly aware of Arya’s presence, but that doesn’t stop him from paying off a servant right in front of her into giving him a “secret” scroll written by Sansa. “The Lady Stark thanks you for your service,” Littlefinger stage whispers, before hiding the scroll (rather poorly, if you ask me) under his bed.

Arya, of course, breaks into Littlefinger’s room and reads the scroll. In it, she finds Sansa’s letter from Season 1, in which she begged her brother Robb to pledge fealty to then King Joffrey as the true ruler of the Iron Throne. (And we all know how well that turned out for both parties to that letter!)

Now, as viewers, we know that Sansa only wrote this letter out of fear for her life, after witnessing her father’s beheading. But Arya will likely not see it that way, which, I suspect is precisely why Littlefinger arranged for Arya to find this information in the way that he did.

Did Sansa instruct Littlefinger to retrieve the letter out of fear that it’s discovery would harm her potential future claim to the throne as Queen of the North? Probably not. But Arya doesn’t know that . . . at least, not yet.

But when did he stop rowing?

Meanwhile, Davos is on a mission of his own. It’s a recovery mission. Specifically, Davos wants to recover Gendry, aka Robert Baratheon’s bastard son, aka the guy Melissandre once tried to murder, in order to prevent HIS possible claim to the iron thrown, aka THE GUY WHO HAS BEEN ROWING A BOAT FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES.

As it turns out, sometime in the past few years, Gendry stopped rowing and began forging weapons for the Lannisters, waiting out the war for the Iron Throne by hiding in plain sight. Gendry is thrilled by Davos’ offer to go on a suicide mission to retrieve a zombie, because it’s the only way he’s going to get any more screen time on the show, at this rate. So, The Rowing Guy heads with Davos back to Dragonstone, but not before murdering a couple Lannister guards with a hammer like he’s Thor.

(Naturally, the pair, with Tyrion in tow, make it across the globe in approximately two minutes.)

Once in Dragonstone, Gendry, against Davos’ advice, quickly outs his true identity to Jon, who seems to like the guy almost instantly.

In other reunion news, the newly cured of greyscale, Jorah Mormont has also arrived at Dragonstone. He and Dany embrace fondly and reunite for about five seconds, before Jorah also agrees to kill himself in a zombie hunt with Jon Snow! Because, why not?

The rag tag group of warriors then set off on a boat toward the Wall, right when Dany is finally getting the chance to question Jon about the offhand commend Davos made last week about Jon surviving a knife to the heart, and being just a little bit undead himself.

Hold that thought, Dany . . .

Like The Suicide Squad (only entertaining!)

Jon, Jorah, Davos and Gendry make it back to The Wall in about sixty seconds! There they meet with Tormund, who agrees to help them in their zombie retrieval mission, though he’s a bit disappointed that his lady crush, Brienne of Tarth won’t be joining them.

Also on the scene and ready to fight some dead guys, The Hound, who, if you recall, rented BranBot3000’s GOT DVD, and, as a result, knows all about the White Walkers, and his new pals Beric Dondarrion (another fellow un-deader) and Thoros.

There’s some initial squabbling amongst this rag tag crew of would-be zombie fighters, who have multiple grudges against one another for things that happened in prior seasons. But count on Super Diplomat Jon Snow (who is clearly the Captain America of this Avengers crew) to get everybody to play nice with one another.

“We are all on the same side,” Jon explains to his mini army. “We all breathe.”

The episode ends with the freshly-minted Team Breathing heading North of the Wall, Armed and ready to kick some zombie butt, or, possibly, fail miserably and become zombies themselves . . . whichever comes first.

 

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GAME OF THRONES: A Foreign Invasion is Underway (Recap: S7, Ep 2)

“When I said I wanted things to heat up between Ellaria Sand and me, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

[Cross-posted on Agony Booth.com]

After a bit of a slow start, Season 7 picks up the pace considerably in “Stormborn,” its second of seven episodes.

The ultimate battle for the Iron Throne finally seems to be taking place in earnest, as allies are gathered, respective battle plans are revealed, and the writers finally do away with those annoying f*&king Sandsnakes! (Well, at least two of them. I think one of them might still be alive. I’d tell you which one, but I didn’t bother learning any of their names.)

Also this week, a deadly battle at sea deals a crushing blow to Dany’s plan of attack; a surprising bit of news put Arya’s murderous fantasies on hold; and the stage is set for a long-awaited encounter between Dany and Jon, one which is sure to be the Meet Cute of the Century.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

On Brewing Storms and Fairweather Friends

It’s raining in Dragonstone, which is making Dany super cranky. Varys notes that crappy weather like this preceded Dany’s birth, hence her nickname “Stormborn,” which I guess would make my nickname, “Cloudy with a Chance of C-Section.”

This assertion, not surprisingly, does little to brighten Dany’s mood, especially since, aside from the weather, Varys’ presence at her Monopoly table is part of the reason she’s so pissed off. Dany is understandably wary of The Spider, due to his part in planning her attempted assassination back in Season 1, and his seeming tendency to back new horses in the GOT race every season: first to Dany’s father, the Mad King, then to Robert Baratheon, then to the Lannisters, and now to Dany herself.

“What can I say? I have commitment issues.”

Varys takes Dany’s challenge to his loyalty somewhat in stride, assuring her that his true allegiance has always been to the people of Westeros, and that, right now, she is their greatest hope. Dany asks Varys to come to her first, if he ever feels like she is not acting in the best interest of the people. And Varys agrees to do so, or else Dany will personally feed him to her dragons.

“It’s lunchtime! We are serving bald guy with a side of rice.”

Speaking of shifting allegiances, the Red Woman herself has also decided to pay the Breaker of Chains a visit.

Is it just me, or is Meli going a bit “cakey” on her makeup this week? Is it because her OLD is showing?

Since her first choice for the “Prince that was Promised,” Stannis Baratheon, didn’t work out so well, Melissandre is now hedging her bets on it being either Dany or Jon. Apparently, the word “prince” in whatever language it is that Lord of the Light worshipers speak could refer to either a male or female. (Something tells me that dearly departed Stannis, the King of Grammar, would have some very strong opinions about this.)

Dany seems to be a bit more forgiving of the Red Woman’s past betrayals than she is of Varys’, probably because she never saw the former take off a necklace and subsequently turn into an old woman, or birth a murderous demon shadow baby out of her hoo-hah.

Though Dany is undoubtedly more interested in getting Jon’s allegiance than she is his alliance, after speaking with Melissandre, she does agree to let Tyrion send the King of the North an invitation to Dragonstone. “Come play with us,” the letter says, more or less. “We’ve got Dragons!”

In Which Cersei Tries Her Hand Playing Nice

Meanwhile in Kings Landing, it’s been an entire week, and Cersei apparently hasn’t yet lifted her lazy ass off that Iron Throne. (Maybe there’s a part of it that turns into a toilet?) She’s serving up some major fake news and alternative facts about her enemy Dany to gain the loyalty of Sam Tarly’s dad and his army, who, up to this point, have fought for the Tyrell family, which is now aligned with the Mother of Dragons against Cersei.

Cersei’s arguments don’t initially hold much water with Papa Tarly. But Jamie ultimately reigns him in, by appealing to the older man’s inherent sense of racism. (You may recall this being the same Papa Tarly, who basically disinherited his kid just for shacking up with a Wildling.) You see, Dany’s army includes Dothrakis and eunuchs, while Cersei’s is basically . . .well . . . a bunch of skinny white guys with most of their balls (but none of their dignity) in tact.

Eh, playing nice has never exactly been a Lannister strong suit anyway . . .

Later in the episode, Cersei finally gets up from her uncomfortable chair to check out a new dragon killing toy, which looks, more or less, like a really large slingshot with a massive sword attached to it . . .

Sam Tarley: The New Doctor McDreamy?

Cool tattoo, Bro!

In other Tarly news, the non-racist one has just got a promotion at the Hogwarts School for the Old and Unattractive. He’s a doctor now, apparently!

“You’ll never guess the great idea I read about in ‘Curing Greyscale for Dummies’ today?”

Doctor Sam has read one medical book, and, therefore, decided that he can cure Jorah of his extra bad case of psoriasis, i.e Greyscale. Sam’s “super scientific” idea for a cure? Basically, he’s just going to cut that shit off!

The good news is that this seemingly awful idea is probably going to work, because why bother taking the time to show this on the show if it doesn’t? The bad news is that we have to be subjected to watching Sam chop into Jorah’s scaly body, like he’s a piece of juicy stake, for at least three minutes.

And this makes me wonder: was the whole reason for our being forced to watch the Sam Shovels Poop Music Montage last week, just to establish how exactly he wound up developing such a strong gag reflex?

Hot Pies and Good News for Arya

 

We segway directly from Sam cutting into Jorah’s flesh to Arya eating meat, because the writers of GOT clearly don’t want me to snack during this show EVER!

While en route to Kings Landing to kill Cersei, Arya pays a visit to her old pal Hot Pie for (1) a quick bite to eat, and (2) a quick recap of everything that has been happening on the show, while she’s been off washing dead guys feet, trying on masks, and being temporarily blind over at the Burgerless White Castle for two seasons.

Hot Pie informs Arya in short order that (1) the Boltons are dead; (2) Jon killed Ramsey in the Battle of the Bastards;

and (3) Jon is now King of the North.

With all the blows that Arya (and really, all the Starks) have been dealt since Episode 1, it’s nice to see her get some good news for a change. And though she hesitates for a brief moment, Arya ultimately decides to put her plans for killing the Queen on hold, and heads North, rather than South, so that she can reunite with Jon, and, though she doesn’t know it yet, Sansa too . . .

Speaking of reunions, while en route to Winterfell, Arya encounters a pack of wolves, one of whom has been REALLY eating her Wheaties . . .

Arya determines that this wolf is her very own direwolf, Nymeria, now leader of her own pack. Arya prevents her own wolf-mauling by revealing her identity to the large she-wolf, and inviting the animal to join her on her trip back to Winterfell. The she-wolf, however, ultimately abandons Arya, leaving her crestfallen.

 

Arya brightens shortly thereafter, however, upon determining that the wolf who swiped left on her wasn’t Nymeria after all!

So, it was just another abnormally large she-wolf, who just so happens to understand the human language, and appears to know Arya, personally?

Dany’s Plan of Attack

Dany’s social calendar is very full today, as we rejoin her attending yet another meeting, this time, with her new allies Olenna Tyrell, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand of Boring Dorne. All three women insist that Dany attack the Iron Throne immediately. Dany, however, offers up a more conservative approach, one that she hopes will help minimize casualties, and ensure that there is actually a population left living in Westeros for her to rule over, once the war is over.

Dany’s plan of attack is two-pronged. It involves the Greyjoy fleet and Tyrell armies attacking the outer areas of the capital, cutting the Lannister army off from food and supplies, while the Dothraki and Unsullied armies invade the Lannister home base in Casterly Rock. The three women seem impressed with Dany’s reasoned leadership, undoubtedly viewing it as a welcome change from all the other crazies and dumb-dumbs, who have ruled Westeros, since this show started. Olenna, however, warns Dany not to rely too heavily on the advice of men like Varys and Tyrion, and not to be too “soft.” “Be a Dragon,” Olenna tells Dany sagely.

A Very Steamy Bon Voyage Party of Two

Because we haven’t had a sex scene on GOT in a while, we get one here between Missandei and Greyworm, when the former confronts the Unsullied Leader for not saying goodbye to her, before leaving for battle.

Greyworm admits to Missandei that he never feared anything in battle until he met Missandei. For the first time in his life, he truly has something to lose if he dies while at war. Though Greyworm doesn’t come out and tell Missandei he loves her, it’s fairly heavily implied. Missandei responds to this admission by doing this . . .

And I know what you are thinking! But there are plenty of ways this could still end up being a good time! After all, last I checked the Unsullied still had full use of their tongues . . .

Don’t Touch My Sister, Mister!

Having a decidedly less good time than Missandei and Greyworm is Jon Snow, who is getting some serious push back from his fellow Northerners about his decision to visit Dany, which he decides to do, both to gain the dragon glass his army needs to defeat the White Walkers, and to obtain her vast army’s help in doing so. Even Lyanna Mormont appears a wee bit pissed at Jon for his decision.

Leading the charge against Jon’s decision is Sansa herself, who has developed a real knack for publicly flouting the authority of her bro. Sansa feels that Dany might be setting a trap for him, and that he should send an emissary to Dragonstone in his place. Jon nixes the idea of sending an emissary, but appeases Sansa, by leaving her in charge of babysitting the Northerners while he’s away.

Emboldened by Jon’s seemingly playing right into his devious plan for Sansa to end up Queen of the North, and ultimately rule the Iron Throne (with him as First Lady, naturally) Littlefinger takes it upon himself to follow Jon down to the crypts, and gush lustily and highly inappropriately over both Catelyn Stark, i.e. Jon’s adopted mother, and Sansa herself. Jon responds to this as he should, by throwing Littlefinger up against a wall and strangling him just a little bit.

 

It’s OK Jon. Sansa’s a tough cookie, who has gotten pretty good at coping with creepers.

In fact, I’m pretty sure this series is going to end with Sansa feeding Littlefinger to the same dogs who ate Ramsey Bolton. It’s been a few episodes since they last fed, and I imagine they are mighty hungry by now.

Give Your Uncle a Kiss!

“Is it Friday yet?”

On the boat home from their Dragonstone meeting, Yara and Ellaria Sand waste no time going to pound town on one another. And they could care less that Yara’s brother Theon is in the room while they are doing it. “A foreign invasion is underway,” puns Ellaria seductively.

Seriously, everyone has to stop making Theon watch their sex stuff. It’s not cool!

That cheesy porno line turns out to be prophetic, unfortunately, as Sassy Gay Best Friend to Cersei Euron Greyjoy and his fleet lay siege to Yara’s fleet of ships, setting them on fire, and murdering virtually all the men on them, in a fairly epic battle sequence.

Euron, for his part, Captain Jack Sparrow’s his way through the experience, taking the occasional break from his various stabbings and joustings to mug for the camera and taunt Yara and Theon. “Give your uncle a kiss,” he jokes to his niece at one point during the proceedings.

“This Euron guy should really tone it down. He’s sooo over the top.”

 

During the siege, two of three annoying Sandsnakes meet quick and uneventful deaths, and I still can’t, for the life of me, remember either of their names. (And now I never have to remember them! HOORAY!)

The other annoying Sandsnake goes to protect her mother, and the two of them end up being captured by Euron’s men, which, I think is supposed to be part of Euron’s “Gift” to Cersei. (Personally, I would have preferred a Visa Gift Card, but that’s just me.)

Another potential “Gift” to Cersei? Yara, who Euron ultimately disarms and holds at knifepoint, as he taunts Theon to come rescue her.

Theon responds to this by . . . blubbering and jumping into the sea, where he sits on piece of driftwood, and views the wreckage of his sister’s battle dreams from the water, Rose from Titanic style. A real Westerosi hero, that one!

“I’ll never let you go, Yara. I’ll never let you go!”

As for Yara, some might think she died off screen at her uncle’s hand, but I, for one, highly doubt it. After all, on this show, if there isn’t a ten-second close up of you bleeding profusely from your spinal column or face, you are probably still alive and kicking.

The guy on the left? Probably dead . . .

The girl on the left? Will likely live to inappropriately PDA another day . . .

And so, thanks to Sassy Euron and his flare for dramatic “gift giving,” Cersei has dealt her first fatal blow to Dany’s battle plan by eliminating a sizable portion of her ships.

But I wouldn’t count the Mother of Dragons out just yet. She still may well be the Prince-ss That Was Promised.

Until next time!

 

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ONCE UPON A TIME: A Black Fairy Tale

(Cross posted at Agony Booth.com)

This week on Once, Rumple continues his trend of contemplating doing the right thing for about five seconds, before effing up AGAIN. (But hey, major points for character consistency!) Also this week, Captain Hook chooses a best man for his wedding. And the Wicked Witch of the West learns to drive . . . (and by “drive,” I actually mean run people over with her car).

What can I say? It’s the week before the series’ much ballyhooed musical episode, and the showrunners have clearly put all their season’s eggs in that basket. So, let’s get this one out of the way, shall we?

A Rude Awakening

Rumple uses some stinky dead dragon’s baby breath (Dany Targaryen would most definitely not approve) . . .

. . . to finally awaken the still shady as heck Blue Fairy from her plot-convenient coma. Almost instantly, the gang is peppering her with questions about the whereabouts of the other half of the Kill the Black Fairy Wand. But then, sweet, sensitive, Snow White intervenes and . . . strangles the Blue Fairy?

Just kidding! Apparently, “Snow White” is actually the Black Fairy in disguise. And “Prince Charming” is actually Stepford Gideon. But still, watching Snow White wrap her hands around that self-righteous Blue Fairy’s neck is mighty cathartic and satisfying. Admit it!

Before the whole “attempted murder” thing, the Blue Fairy did manage to reveal that the missing wand half is located in the center of Storybrooke, which means that a good portion of this episode will literally involve a scavenger hunt, a la Blue’s Clues.

Get it, Blue’s Clues, because she’s the Blue Fairy, and there’s that kid show with the dog where they . . . ahhhh, never mind . . .

While the rest of the gang play “fetch the stick,” Rumple, Emma and a “kidnapped” Stepford Gideon head to the dream realm, where Rumple will attempt to interrogate his son as to where the Black Fairy has hidden his heart, which she is still using to control his ass. Another Scavenger Hunt item! This episode really is Blue’s Clues . . .

The Birth of Two Baddies

Once in Dream Land, Gideon admits that he has no clue where the Black Fairy has hidden his heart (which, kind of makes sense, because if he knew where it was hiding, wouldn’t he just take it back?) But, just when this whole Dream Walk thing seems like it’s going to be a total bust, Emma and Gideon get all shrinky on Rumple, and encourage him to use this “Dream Vacation” as an opportunity to find out the real reason the Black Fairy abandoned him as a child.

“How exactly would I go about doing that?” Rumple inquires dubiously.

“Why not try inappropriately fondling that baby blanket randomly sitting on that empty crib in the middle of the forest?” Emma suggests.

And because Rumple is the kind of guy who wakes up comatose fairies with the halitosis of dead dragon babies, he figures, “Why the heck not?”

The fondled baby blanket reveals to Rumple that his mom wasn’t always a Black Fairy. In fact, she wasn’t a fairy at all. She was just some random lady who gave birth to a newborn boy, and then promptly learned from her fairy godmother (Tiger Lily), and her fairy godmother’s boss (the odious Blue Fairy) that her son is destined to be a Savior.

Yup, you heard right. Rumple was supposed to be a Savior . . . like Emma . . . and Aladdin, and just about every fourth character on this series.

Of course, as has been beaten into our brains ad nauseum since the beginning of the season, being the Savior means you are destined to die in a battle against the Ultimate Evil. “No way,” exclaims not-yet-Black-Fairy. “My kid is not dying just to save all you losers. Apocalypse, schmockalypse.”

“Well, EVERYONE dies eventually,” argues Tiger Lily. “Let’s not forget that these are the middle ages, and, based on those rags you are wearing, you are poor as sh*t. So, basically the chances of your kid surviving past the age of five would be slim at best, anyway. At least, as the Savior, your kid is guaranteed to reach puberty before he croaks, which in this era is the equivalent of old age.”

“I don’t care!” Not-Yet-Black-Fairy insists. “I’d rather my child die as a toddler from the Black Plague, than die at age 28 to save the lives of folks as obnoxious as the Blue Fairy.”

“Well, that makes total sense,” agrees Tiger Lily. “Blue Fairy is the WORST!”

And so, because the prophecy about the Savior apparently states that the person who will be born in the same winter as baby Rumple and bear a crescent moon scar on his or her arm, Tiger Lilly and Not-Yet-Black-Fairy run around fondling the arms of every baby born that winter. And no one finds the fact that they are doing this the least bit creepy.

When all the newborns prove themselves arm-scar free, Not-Yet-Black-Fairy decides to up the ante by turning herself into a fairy herself, so that she can break into the “fairy vault” and perform some kind of dubious spell to save her son. The spell involves like killing all the babies in the world, or something? This, on one hand, seems a wee bit extreme. On the other, like I said, all these kids are basically marked for death anyway for being poor and medieval, so no huge loss?

When Tiger Lilly tries to stop Rumple’s mommy from ridding the world of babies, Rumple’s mommy rips out Tiger Lilly’s heart. And it is this act of evil causes Rumple’s mommy to morph from “Garden Variety” fairy to “Black Fairy.” (Because performing temporary heart surgery on a recurring cast member is way worse than planning the mass genocide of all the world’s newborns?)

Oh, and P.S. Black Fairy now has a crescent scar on her arm, which means that it is SHE who is destined to murder her own son, as he battles to save the world.

Black Fairy, you have a collect call from “Irony.” Do you accept the charges?

Road Rage

Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, the Wicked Witch is still majorly bummed out that she can no longer make green farts come out of her fingertips, or use those green farts to assemble furniture from IKEA. (Since when did Storybrooke get an IKEA, or any chain store for that matter.)

So, sister Regina tries to cheer the Wicked Witch up by buying her a car (a green one naturally). The erstwhile Evil Quen even offers to teach her sibling how to drive, so the latter can effectively ditch down and head to NYC before the apocalypse arrives. “You can take my adopted kid Henry with you, because there is noooo way that gawky-looking kid’s contract is getting renewed for Season 7,” Regina adds.

“Not even if I write myself into the script? I am The Author, after all?”

So, Regina attempts to teach the Wicked Witch how to drive. But, as it turns out, driving is way harder than broomstick riding, and Zelena kind of sucks at it. Midway into the lesson, Regina gets a call from Snow informing her that the other half of the Murder the Black Fairy wand is probably hidden at Granny’s.

So, Regina cuts the lesson short and books it there, ASAP. At Granny’s, Regina easily locates the wand half behind the juke box. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Black Fairy is there too. Regina and the Black Fairy quickly decide to duke it out in the middle of the street, Wild West style, as people on this show tend to do, whenever they have disagreements.

Just when it seems like Regina is about to lose, the Wicked Witch shows up out of nowhere and RUNS THE BLACK FAIRY OVER WITH HER CAR! And it, is awesome!

In fact, it’s so awesome that I think we need to watch it again . . .

And again . . .

And again . . .

Black Fairy survives though . . . unfortunately.

Matricide Maybe?

After their vacation in Dreamland, Rumple tells the rest of the gang that (1) (SURPRISE) he’s a Savior too; and (2) it looks like HE, and not Emma, will be tasked with murdering his mommy to save the world.

Rumple meets Black Fairy in the woods to murder her. It is there that she reveals to him the rest of the story. Apparently, the Black Fairy had the opportunity to give up her evil powers to save her son. But, instead, she opted to cut off her SON’S powers, to erase his fate as Savior. As punishment for this, the Blue Fairy banishes the Black Fairy to another realm, and THAT’S why she abandoned Rumple, because the Blue Fairy had a restraining order against her. Not, you know, because she hated Rumple, like he originally thought.

The next time we see Rumple he’s putting the “Black Fairy’s” black heart on the dinner table at Granny’s (super unsanitary), and returning Gideon’s heart to him, so he doesn’t have to be a Stepford kid anymore. Everyone is super proud of Rumple for murdering his mommy and saving the world.

Yup, suuuuure. That’s “exactly” what happened. Rumple learns that the woman he thought despised him actually loved him all along (in her totally psychopathic and effed up way, but still!), and murders her OFFSCREEN, right after she graciously tells him the location of her son’s heart. And the writers, for whatever reason, decide, not to squeeze every possible bit of angst out of this most iconic moment in the history of the series.

“Great!” Emma exclaims. “Now that I no longer have to save the world, I can finally get married to Hook in a tacky venue that my dad will positively hate.”

“Cool,” says Hook. “I’m going to ask your teenage son to be my best man, because I like him, and not at all because I have no male friends my own age . . . no male friends at all really, except maybe your dad, and I killed his father, so, awk-ward!”

“Sounds good,” answers Emma. Then, we can spend the last three episodes of the season having hot, drama free, sex with one another on camera,” posits Emma.

And if you believe all that, I have a very nice bridge to sell you in Brooklyn . . .

Annnnd . . . we are right back where we started . . . AGAIN.

So, you can imagine my complete lack of surprise when Rumple meets the Black Fairy at night, right smack in the middle of a public street in the last two minutes of the episode. (But no one sees them there, because Plot.) The pair congratulate one another on pulling the wool over the eyes of the most gullible fairytale characters on the planet (most notably the one who claims her “superpower is telling when people are lying.”) Mother and son then plot to murder Savior Emma, once and for all, on her wedding day, because that’s what sh*tty people do. Having logical motivation for one’s actions is for p*ssies.

And that was “The Black Fairy” in a nutshell.

See you next time, Oncers! There will be music! There will be dancing! The second-hand embarrassment you will get from watching alone will be worth the price of admission . . .

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ONCE UPON A TIME: It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN!

Never gets old . . .

(Cross posted at Agonybooth.com)

It’s the end of this show, as we know it, folks. The biggest of Big Bads has finally arrived to battle the Save-iest(?) of Saviors! But first, we’ve got some CGI spiders to mutilate, and a pirating adventure to endure. Also, Henry’s got some gross white goo in his eyes, and that “Evil” Author from last season just really wants Hamilton tickets, dammit!

So, without further adieu, let’s talk about “Mother’s Little Helper.”

Along Came a Spider

Last week we got a CGI Kraken, and this week we got the large furry spider from the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Honestly folks, if a CGI Dumbo doesn’t make an appearance before this series ends, I will be super upset.

But before we get to Ole Spidey, let’s talk about Gideon. He’s in Emma’s house, asking her to help him murder the Black Fairy. Emma’s all, “See, I kinda would have maybe helped you. But then you tried to murder me, and banished my boyfriend on a bluish submarine, where he almost got murdered by a CGI Kraken. And then you threatened to hurt me again, so, ummmm . . . yeah . . . I’m going to pass. Next time just say ‘please.’ A little politeness goes a long way when you are basically hiring a hitman for your surrogate mother.”

To prove she’s serious about the whole “not helping” thing, Emma throws Gideon against a wall using her lightning fingers and gives him a pretty gnarly nosebleed, which, for all you Gideon haters out there, was actually pretty cathartic to watch.

Emma experiences a change of heart soon after though, when Rumple reminds her that basically every bad thing that ever happened to her throughout this entire series pretty much indirectly stemmed from the Black Fairy. (It much more directly stemmed from Rumple himself, but let’s not get too picky here.) Emma then finds Gideon at the clock tower, and agrees to help him kill Black Fairy, but only if Gideon agrees to give her back the Savior Murdering sword he stole from her, and also un-banish her boyfriend.

The two frenemies shake hands over their newly established detente, and head over to Mickey Mouse’s house, where supposedly Emma’s savior magic can be used to open a portal, so that Emma can get to the Black Fairy and murder her ass. Unfortunately, someone beat the pair to the house . . . and by “someone” I mean a Big F*&king Gross Spider.

Gideon and Emma try running away from the Big F*&king Gross Spider for a little bit. But then Gideon turns on Emma, pushes her into a giant spider web (which literally appeared out of nowhere . . . is that how spiders work, because I don’t think spiders work that way, not even Big F*&king Gross Spiders?). Dark One Junior then steals back Emma’s Savior Murdering Sword, and runs off, leaving her to die by suffocation, wrapped up in a spider web like a mummy.

Well, that was kind of rude! Your social networking skills could use a little work, Gideon . . .

Never Trust a Pirate

Speaking of untrustworthy douchebags, Captain Hook challenges fellow fictional pirate villain Blackbeard to a game of cards, in the hope of winning from him a magic bean he could use to portal back to Emma in Storybrooke. Blackbeard agrees to play, but only if Hook agrees to give him his ship, the Jolly Roger, if he loses. Hook ultimately does lose the card game (but only because Blackbeard cheated).

Ahhh, but there’s a twist. Hook admits to Blackbeard that his ship is back in Storybrooke, and Blackbeard can only get to it by using the magic bean, and taking Hook with him. It’s admittedly a pretty savvy move by a character who isn’t always known for being the sharpest tool in this show’s shed.

Unfortunately, because Gideon’s curse has prevented Hook from properly portaling back to Storybrooke, Hook and Blackbeard end up in, of all places, Neverland, where the pair of pirates are promptly chased and shot at with arrows by a hoard of angry Lost Boys (I use the term Boys loosely, because they all look about 40-years old).

Blackbeard finds canoe near a body of water, and quickly knocks Hook unconscious, so that he can escape Neverland on his own, leaving Hook to do battle with the Lost Boys solo. Of course, Hook could have totally fit in the canoe too, but Blackbeard doesn’t care. Just like in Titanic, Jack could have totally fit on the piece of wood Rose was resting on, but she let him freeze and drown anyway. I never understood that about Titanic . . . Maybe Rose was an asshole all along, just like Blackbeard, and we just never knew.

Anyway, I hope you brought along your shell phone, Hook. Because you are going to really need to phone a friend, right about now. Just don’t call Rose from Titanic, if you value your life.

Writer’s Block Can Make You Evil

Speaking of needing friends, Regina finds herself totally at a loss for how to break the sleeping curse that is preventing Snow White and Prince Charming from ever appearing in the same episode together, thus saving the Once production crew a lot of money in actor salaries. So, she decides to give Henry a grocery list of potions that might help her on this front.

Side note: Whatever happened to Henry’s girlfriend? Is she also under a sleeping curse, due to budgetary restrictions? Last season, the show introduced an entire high school of kids from the Land of Untold Stories, and this kid still hasn’t managed to find one other friend under the age of 35, except for said MIA Girlfriend. Is it any wonder he’s slowly turning into a mixture of Norman Bates from Psycho, because of the whole Mother Obsession thing, and Jack from The Shining, because of the whole Writer Turned Crazy Person thing?

Anyway, as Henry is writing the list, his eyes go all milky white, and he starts jotting pages and pages of jibberish into his notebook before passing out. When Henry awakens he has no clue what it was he was writing or why, but it looks suspiciously like “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

Assuming that Henry’s sudden prolific, albeit crappy, writing abilities have something to do with his Magic Author Powers (up to this point, the so-called “Author” has only been shown writing one sentence at a time, and even then, only when the plot requires it.), Regina and Henry pay a visit to the “asylum,” where the show stores all Big Bads that managed to make it through their season without being murdered. There, they find Other Author Isaac.

Other Author Isaac is willing to instruct Henry and Regina on the former’s sudden Eye Goo Problem, but only if Regina gets him out of the asylum and into a porsche headed to NYC. Also, Other Author Isaac wants Hamilton tickets, because who doesn’t?

Regina agrees to Isaac’s requests (well, minus the Porsche and the Hamilton) only to learn that (1) Henry’s author powers are taking over his body and could eventually make him evil (thus making my The Shining reference all the more relevant, if I do say so myself); and (2) Emma’s battle with the Black Fairy is coming soon, which means the end of the fairytale book, and, possibly this series.

Not for the “Feint” of Heart

Speaking of the Black Fairy, this week’s flashback sheds some light on her parenting skills, and why they will undoubtedly earn Gideon a lifetime of crappy therapy courtesy Jiminey Cricket. First, we see in live action, the tale earlier hinted at by Gideon, of how the Black Fairy tortured Gideon’s boyfriend Roderick when the two were kids, just to prove that Gideon wasn’t brave or heroic enough to save him.

Twenty-eight years later, the Black Fairy instructs Gideon to hunt down the person who stole her keys, and that person winds up being Boyfriend Roderick all grown up. Roderick begs Gideon to help him sneak into the Black Fairy’s study and use some Magic Eight Ball looking thing to call the Savior and get help to defeat the Black Fairy. But before they can do that, the Black Fairy finds the two guys and punishes them both. She punishes Roderick by turning him into a spider, and squashing him under her shoe. (That’s two too many spiders in this episode, as far as I’m concerned. Bugs are the worst!)

She then punishes Gideon by . . . taking his heart out of his chest, controlling him, and using him to trick Emma into helping him open the portal to free her from the outer realm and bring her into Storybrooke.

Well, at least now we have an explanation for Gideon’s utter douchebaggery! Then again, maybe Gideon is just a garden variety douchebag like Blackbeard or Rose from Titanic, and the whole evil fairy holding his heart thing is just a distraction from that basic truth. The world may never know . . .

Back in present day, Rumple saves Emma from permanent mummification and kills the Big F*&king Gross Spider, which is great, because, as I said, bugs are the worst, whether they are giant CGI versions, or normal-sized ones that used to be your childhood boyfriend.

And yet with the Black Fairy in Storybrooke, Gideon under her control, and her son Henry potentially going full-on Evil Author, Emma’s got a lot more to worry about now than a bad case of arachnophobia.

Until next time, Oncers!

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[Cross posted at Agony Booth.com]

This week on Once, Storybrooke finally gets a new bar! Snow White gets wasted! Emma becomes that cliché lady who pours her heart out to a bartender! Aladdin and Jasmine learn that sometimes all it takes is a little tongue action to save the world! And Captain Hook delivers a very important message on his shell phone!

It was a busy boozy episode . . . one that featured a giant CGI octopus . . . for about two seconds. So, let’s get on it, shall we?

IT’S TIME TO RELEASE THE KRAKEN!

Too soon?

A Disney Princess, An Evil Queen and a Savior Walk Into a Bar . . .

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? But the Bar Crawl (Can you call it a crawl if it only involves one bar? Is it more of a Bar Sit?) was actually the highlight of this week’s episode . . . for me anyway. For one thing, it only took six seasons, but Storybrooke finally found itself a hangout for its residents that isn’t snoozy Granny’s. So what, if it seems like the only patrons of Aesop’s Tables are fat old ugly Vikings? It has potential dammit.

Because after a few “artisanal” drinks, who knows? Maybe a Viking like this . . .

. . . could end up looking like this . . .

It all starts with Emma finally breaking the news to her dad that her fiancé killed her grandfather. Prince Charming, who, just a few episodes ago was all revengey and murderous ragey, when he thought that old rich guy killed his dad, just seems slightly bummed by the fact that his buddy and soon-to-be-son-in-law did it. This is probably because the writers are SO DONE with this whole Dead Dad storyline, and so am I!

Anyway, Emma’s still kind of sad and broody over the fact that she thinks Hook abandoned her in exchange for living out the rest of eternity on a bluish submarine with Captain Nemo, but apparently not broody enough for Regina. Regina, who is super into therapeutic emoting and “getting in touch with your feelings,” ever since she cured her case of multiple personality disorder this past week, by sending it into another dimension with a guy who looked like her dead boyfriend, decides that getting Emma drunk as a skunk, and enabling her alcoholism, is the healthiest way to deal with her pal’s tendencies toward emotional repression.

 

So Regina and Snow White trick Emma into hanging out with them at Storybrooke’s new bar(!), Aesop’s Tables. There, Snow White gets so wasted after two sips of alcohol that she picks a fight with a couple of Vikings and makes fun of their silly hats, which is actually kind of racist, I think. She then challenges the dudes to a game of darts . . . probably to make up for the whole being racist thing.

Elsewhere in the bar, Emma pours her heart out to a sexy bartender over Captain Hook’s abrupt departure, while dabbing her dewy eyes on a bar napkin. (Important later.) And just like that! Emma’s Emotional Repression is cured, and for way cheaper than the cost of a session with Jiminey Cricket the Terrible Shrink Who Doesn’t Understand Rules of Patient Confidentiality! And the moral of that story, boys and girls? Alcohol RULES, can solve all your problems, and help you beat Vikings at darts!

Much Adieu About a Kraken

Meanwhile, back on a bluish submarine, Captain Hook can’t get back to Emma’s realm without the blood of a Kraken to help steer the underground ship across portals. Fortunately for Hook, there’s a Kraken just chilling outside the submarine, patiently awaiting its demise for this exact purpose. Unfortunately, for Hook, stupid Aladdin and Jasmine pop up in the water at the worst moment, and scare the Kraken away . . . you know, because Evil CGI Octupuses (Octupi?) are super frightened of unarmed folks in row boats.

Then, the writers remember that they never resolved Jasmine’s and Aladdin’s storyline about saving the kingdom of Agrabah from about a year ago, so Hook reluctantly invites the couple onto the bluish submarine with him, even though it’s totally not his submarine. Hook is absolutely that friend of yours who you let crash at your place for a few days, only to come home from work to find that he’s eaten all your Lean Pockets, used up all your toilet paper, and invited 12 of his closest friends to watch the Lakers game on your couch.

Apparently, Jasmine and Aladdin have spent an entire year wandering around a forest aimlessly looking for a lost kingdom. What’s worse, all this time, these two incredibly hot people never once decided to use one another’s bodies as scratching posts. They haven’t even so much as kissed!

Seriously? I know monks who are less chaste than this. No, really, some of my best friends are monks, and they can be pretty randy, when they want to be . . .

I Got The World on a String Ring . . .

Through a flashback, we learn that (1) Jasmine and Ariel are pals, who gossip about boys, and occasionally ride one another’s magic carpets, and (2) Jafar once tricked Jasmine into agreeing to marry him, so he could hide her entire kingdom inside a wedding ring, for no other reason than that he’s evil, and hates people.

I feel you, Jafar. People are the worst! They can all go hide in rings for eternity, as far as I’m concerned!

Back on the bluish submarine, the ship appears to be taking on water, thus forcing Hook, Jasmine, Aladdin, Nemo and the rest of the crew to abandon it, by using Aladdin’s temporary status as genie to “wish” all of them to a nearby island, so they don’t, you know, like, drown and stuff.

This island just so happens to be the place where Jafar is currently hanging out. We know this because the bluish submarine has a sort of GPS on it that locates Man Pain, and there’s no Man Pain like a Disney Villain Man Pain.

Also, conveniently, this is the island where Ariel and Prince Eric live in a shack decorated by Ariel’s obvious hoarder problem (She’s got gadgets and gizmos of plenty, whositz and whatsits galore. You want thingamabobs, she’s got twenty!) Quite a step down from the palace where you used to live, huh Prince Eric?

Anyway, amongst all her scary hoarder items, Ariel actually has something useful: Red powder that can turn Disney villains into creepy walking canes! OK, kind of random, but definitely something Captain Hook should consider taking back to Storybrooke in a doggie bag for future use . . . I, for one, can think of a lot of annoying Once characters, I’d like to see turned into creepy walking canes!

Armed with the knowledge that she’s literally just one sneeze away from vanquishing her greatest nemesis, Jasmine finally defeats Jafar!

But wait, what about the whole “kingdom stuck in a ring” thing, and the whole, “my boyfriend’s my genie slave” thing. Well, apparently, all Jasmine had to do this whole time to solve both of these problems was stick her tongue down Aladdin’s throat! So, True Love’s Kiss resolves this entire year-long storyline that nobody really cared about in the first place, in literally two seconds.

The moral of this story? Chastity is for suckers, so make out with hot men (or women) in the woods, whenever you get the chance. You just might be saving the world from eternal ruin by doing so!

Speaking of eternal ruin . . .

You Used to Call Me on My Shell Phone . . .

Now stuck in the no-longer-encased-in-a-ring Agrabah, but still unable to get in touch with Emma, Hook finally encounters a stroke of luck when hoarder Ariel presents him with another surprisingly useful item: a shell phone. “I have a phone just like this at home,” exclaims Hook. (That’s not even a joke. He actually utters this cheesy line!)

Hook uses the shell phone to connect with Emma, and tell her that he didn’t really dump her ass. He just got trapped on a bluish submarine by the guy who is trying to murder her, and almost eaten by a CGI Octopus. Well, isn’t that a relief!

Speaking of the guy trying to murder Emma, “Aesop the bartender” pops by Emma’s house late at night to reveal that he’s actually Douchebag Gideon, son of Rumplestiltskin and would-be-murderer of Emma. As it turns out, Gideon posed as the bartender and made Emma think that Hook abandoned her, just so he could make Emma cry, collect her tears, and use them to close off portals to other worlds, like the one Hook would need to get back home.

(Did you know Savior Tears close portals? Neither did I. Neither did the writers, I presume, until about five seconds before writing this episode.)

Do they have to be real tears? Would artificial tears work just as well?

Apparently, Gideon doesn’t want to murder Emma anymore. (Because the whole “Emma is fated to die” plot is SO last week!) What he really wants is to blackmail Emma into helping him kill the Black Fairy, by using her now-trapped-in Agrabah fiancé as leverage.

Really Gideon? She’s the Friggin Savior! Killing villains is kind of her thing! You moved a submarine across dimensions, then created an entire bar (which was cool) and a whole new sexy face (which was weird and random) to get Emma to do your bidding, when, really, all you had to do was ask . . . (or shove your tongue down someone’s throat . . . or throw red powder onto someone and turn them into a walking cane . . . because those are all ways to solve problems on this show that are easier than what you did.)

Until next time!

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ONCE UPON A TIME: It’s an Alt World After All: (Season 6, Episode 11 Recap)

(Cross posted at AgonyBooth.com)

Welcome back to Storybrooke, folks!  It’s a magical, mystical land where characters leave, die, and return from the dead, age (or don’t) whenever they feel like  . . . a place from which Continuity and Logic escaped together on a romantic vacation about 3.5 seasons ago, and haven’t been seen since.

But that’s OK, because it’s also a land that allows us to see a fat old unwashed version of Captain Hook fight an occasionally wooden, occasionally young, occasionally absent Pinocchio, in front of a massively large tree that can magically move from a forest to inside a workshop, whenever Plot requires it to do so.

Let’s jump right back in, shall we?

It’s a Hard Knock Life for Swan

It’s winter in the early 90’s.  So, it makes sense that young Emma conveniently finds herself homeless on what appears to be the set of the Broadway musical Rent.  Emma is cold, so she’s burning pages of a rather antique, rare, and expensive-looking story book for kindling.  After all, rare and expensive storybooks are super prevalent on the “mean” streets of Minneapolis . . . almost as prevalent as crack pipes and hypodermic needles.

(But wait, if she burns a book that’s her only source of income, how will she pay her rent?  This year’s rent?  Next year’s rent?  RENT! RENT! RENT! RENT! REEEEEEEENT!  Sorry . . . I got a bit carried away there, for a moment.)

Anywhoo, an age inappropriate older gentleman is watching Emma.  He approaches her, and starts making small talk about the fairytales in the book she’s burning, like any seasoned pederast would do.  Emma openly admits to this creeper that she has no family, and no one would be looking for her, were she to suddenly go missing.  (EMMA NO!  What kind of fairytale character-turned-sassy-self-aware-street-urchin are you?  Have you no sense of self-preservation!)

But just when you are thinking that this story is either about to take a very dark turn, or Chris Hansen from To Catch a Predator, is going to pop out of the trash can and launch a citizen’s arrest, you remember that this is Once Upon a Time, when the dumb actions of characters only have real consequences when The Plot desires it.

So, the creepy-maybe Pederast (who ends up being a young version of Pinocchio?) convinces Emma to turn herself in to child services . . . but only after he inspires her with a recounting of his favorite fairytale, The Ugly Duckling, a tale of redemptive transformation that would be doomed to become the theme of superficial high school rom com films for decades to come.

“What’s your last name?”  Child Services Lady asks Emma pointedly at the end of this flashback.

“Swan,” replies the girl, with the self-assuredness to know that she’s going to look like actress Jennifer Morrison in about twenty years.

Tree to Be, You and Me

 

Meanwhile, over in present day Alt World, a not-so-dead, not-aged-a-day, possible vampire or zombie, Robin Hood has stolen Regina’s and Emma’s jewels.  And the shock of seeing her dearly departed love back in the flesh caused Regina, and consequently Emma, to miss their chance to jump into the portal back to Storybrooke, and stand around staring at one another for three months, while the show went on hiatus.

Fortunately, Emma sees a tree (because they are in a forest, duh!).  And this reminds her that, back in Season 1, her baby self and Pinocchio were able to travel inside a tree-turned-into-a-wardrobe to another universe.  But who will build the wardrobe?  Why Pinocchio himself, of course!

Emma and Regina visit Emma’s real-world friend, Pinocchio, who, in Alt World, is a “humble” puppeteer who makes clones of himself for a living.  Emma quickly fills Pinocchio in on this season’s ridiculous plot, and Pinocchio is instantly totally cool with it, because this hour-long tale (45 minutes with commercials) doesn’t allot him any time for reasonable skepticism.  Puppet Man  agrees to build a wardrobe that will get Emma and Regina back to Storybrooke.

Except .  . . wait, where’s Regina?  It appears that in the literally two seconds it took Emma to explain to Pinnochio the plot of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time, Regina escaped, but not before penning to Emma a two-page missive on why she was leaving.  (Evil Queens write fast!)  Apparently, Regina wants to take another ride on the Robin Hood train, zombie or no zombie, before she leaves Alt World for good.  (I hope, for her sake, the sex lasts longer than the letter-writing did.)

“I never wear pants for this precise reason. ‘Always be prepared.’ That’s my motto.”

Little Orphan Angsty

Meanwhile, back in Real World, Prince Charming is super cranky, because he hasn’t slept in days.  (If you recall, he and Snow White are still under that sleeping curse thing where only one of them gets to sleep at a time.)  He’s dead set on killing the Hooded Man who is fated to “murder” Emma Swan during an improbably street duel at the end of the season.  The same Hooded Man who just so happens to be the adult version of Rumple’s and Belle’s baby-just-last-week boy Gideon.

Both Belle and Rumple try to reason with their bratty man child, who apparently turned 28-years old in three months (I’ve heard of rapid aging on TV shows, but this is ridiculous!).  They gamely explain to him that murdering the lead of a series at approximately the same time it’s been earmarked for likely cancellation, before he’s had any screen time, would not be the savviest career move for him.  Also, that killing is bad and stuff.

But Gideon, who has been raised by the Evil Black Fairy for either three months or 28-years, we still aren’t sure, will not hear it.  He is convinced that murdering the Savior will be the only thing that allows him to become a Savior himself, thereby proving to his Evil Stepmother that he is not evil . . . by doing something that is really, really evil.

 

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Upon failing to convince her son to spare Emma’s life, Belle approaches Prince Charming to reveal the identity of Emma’s would-be killer.  “Promise me you won’t murder my son, who is about my age, and whom I didn’t raise . . . even if he murders your daughter, who is about your age, and whom you didn’t raise either?”  Belle pleads.

Prince Charming reluctantly promises not to kill Belle’s kid, Mr. Whiny McEmo Pants, but you just know he’s got his fingers crossed behind his back when he says it.  So, all bets are off.

Robbing Robin?

 

Back in Alt World, Regina tries to put the movies on vampire or zombie Robin Hood, by cornering him in a bar, and asking him whether he has a happy life, despite the fact that he’s clearly not getting laid regularly. (Hint, hint, wink, wink).  Through their conversation, we learn that Alt World vampire or zombie Robin Hood is a swinging single, who doesn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor, like his alter ego, rather, he steals from the rich to give to himself.

This is clearly not a deal breaker to Regina, who, after all, is a serial killer.  (Nobody’s perfect?) But before she can take vampire or zombie Robin to pound town, the pair get arrested by the Sheriff of Nottingham.  (Can vampire/zombies get blue balls, I wonder?)  The good news is that Regina’s and Robin’s arrest is short-lived, as they are promptly rescued by Alt World Rumplestiltskin, who Regina had helped break out of prison earlier in the season.  The bad news is that in Alt World Regina, as the Evil Queen murdered Belle.

So, Rumple locks both Robin and Regina in a tower, where he plans to murder them both.

But then Robin breaks him and Regina out of the tower, because, you know, breaking and entering is kind of “his thing.”

(They are in jail.  They are out of jail.  They are back in jail.  They are back out again.  They are alive.  They are dead.  They are good.  They are evil.  Sometimes watching this show gives me whiplash.)

Captain Un-Hooked?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Alt World, Pinocchio is trying to carve a wardrobe out of a magical tree, when a fat old drunk arrives to kidnap Emma.

Holy crap!  It’s Captain Hook!  Alt World has not been kind to you, my friend!  I would definitely recommend staying home from the high school reunion.

Emma is easily able to disarm her erstwhile boyfriend (who, let’s face it, even when he’s good looking, slim, and half-sober, has never exactly been the sharpest hook in the bait box), but in doing so, breaks Pinocchio’s magic make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel.

How will Emma and Regina get home now?  You are going to have to wait at least a commercial break to find out!

Death versus Savior: Round 1

 

Ultimately, Emma is able to use The Ugly Duckling’s tale about “believing in yourself” to convince Pinocchio that, gosh-darn it, he can create a wardrobe with a magic make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel, even if that magic-make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel has been broken in half by Captain Hook’s fat ass!

(Sidenote:  Is that what The Ugly Duckling was about, “believing in yourself”?  Because I don’t think that was what the fairytale was about . . . at all!  I thought it was about growing out of your “awkward phase.”  It’s easy to “believe in yourself” when you are a hot swan, who used to be a pubescent duckling.)

In the very next scene, the massively large tree has been instantaneously turned into a beautiful wardrobe and transplanted to Pinocchio’s workshop, because apparently, magic chisels can literally move mountains.   Now, if you recall, from Season 1, a Magical Wardrobe can only fit two people.  This was why Snow, Charming and Emma couldn’t all travel to another realm together, thus setting the stage for the events that launched the series.

In present day, this would mean that only Emma and Regina could travel back to Storybrooke and Vampire or Zombie Robin Hood would have to remain behind.  Fortunately, as I mentioned, Continuity and Logic left this series long ago, and are probably sunning themselves on a remote island off the coast of Mexico by now, while raising their two kids, Credibility and Character Development.  And, because of this, Regina invites Vampire or Zombie Robin Hood to join her and Emma back in Real World, and he instantly agrees.  Why?  Because he’s a dude, and dudes will generally do anything for sex . . . even if that sex happens to be with a deranged serial killer.

Back in Storybrooke Emma confronts Gideon her would be murderer, and has a duel with him.  But it’s not The Duel, because she’s wearing a winter jacket, and the Emma is The Duel is just wearing a white tank top.  (Emma is destined to die in better weather, apparently.)  Gideon loses this duel, but disappears before Emma can finish him off.

Then, Gideon heads up to the clock tower and breaks it, because that’s what bratty man children do, when they don’t get their way, and fail at murdering the lead character in the series, whose very existence on that series keeps them employed.  They break things.

And that’s all that happened this week on Once.  Next week, we get to watch Prince Charming beat the crap out of Captain Hook.  That should be fun . . .

 

 

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Binge or No: Netflix’s The Santa Clarita Diet

(Will be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com)

Zombies are the new vampires, that’s for sure. So, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to make them more physically attractive, grant them spacious homes in Suburbia, and give them white-collar jobs. The Santa Clarita Diet is about as pro-zombie as a television series can get . . . minus the gag-inducing scenes filled with vomit, and the occasional image of a limb grossly detaching itself from the human body . . .

The ten-episode thrill-omedy, which premiered on Netflix February 3rd, stars Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond, a West Coast suburban realtor, whose recent infection with a zombie virus has given her a renewed zest for life, and a passion for eating men’s balls off . . . literally. (This isn’t your mother’s “Mmmm, Braiiiiiinnnnnnns” type zombie. Sheila is way less wasteful, when it comes to munching on parts of the male anatomy. Oddly enough, no females were harmed in the making of the first season of the series. Is that sexist?)

Early promotional spots for the series actually skirted the whole “Sheila is a zombie” issue entirely, and instead cleverly featured the cast touting the benefits of a “new diet” that offers its participants “tons of energy,” and “makes them look great.” Sheila, herself, is a testament to this, as Drew begins the series looking rather frumpy (and with something disturbingly weird going on with her eyebrows), then subtly becomes more glamorous with each passing episode . . . until the last two, but that’s another story.

In fact, if it weren’t for (1) Sheila’s new zombie-like dependence on her id making her increasingly impulsive, hungry, and reckless; and (2) the whole “murdering people is wrong, and disposing of bodies is hard work” thing, zombie-ism, at least as it’s portrayed in the series, would seem like a pretty workable lifestyle.

As for Sheila’s supporting cast, we have Timothy Olyphant playing waaaaaay against type as Joel Hammond, Sheila’s mild-mannered nebbish of a realtor husband, who’s supportive faux cheeriness, as the body count piles up, borders on frenzied and manic. Basically, this is the kind of role you’d see Matthew Broderick playing, if this series came out about ten-years earlier.

Rounding out the main cast are: Liv Hewson as Abby, Sheila’s and Joel’s rebellious daughter (who is way cooler about the fact that her mother occasionally murders the neighbors, and feasts on human flesh in her spare time, than I would be); Sklyer Gisondo, as Abby’s nerdy and way too-loyal friend / paranormal enthusiast, Eric, and Dan Palmer and Richard T. Jones, as Sheila’s and Joel’s feuding cop neighbors, Rick and Dan.

The Santa Clarita Diet also features Nathan Fillion in a cameo that’s either truly thankless, or patently hilarious, depending on how you view it.

As for the series itself, I think it takes a few episodes to find its footing. The show seems to struggle early on, at least in my opinion, to strike the appropriate balance between comedy and horror. For example, in one scene, you might see Sheila and Joel bathed in blood and guts, as they try to bury the gnarly organs of body that the former just devoured in the woods, without being discovered by the cops.

And then, in the scene immediately following that, Sheila will be depicted, clad in a garbage bag, chasing after, and unsuccessfully attempting to wrestle, a rooster, like she’s a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon?

The series also takes its sweet time in finding the unique voices of its characters, in ways that go beyond them just spouting cheesy zombie and murder puns to one another for 25-minutes. The writing for Sheila, in particular, suffers in the early episodes, as we are told that the realtor mom’s personality has changed drastically, since she was infected, but have to take the rest of the cast’s word for it, as she begins showing signs of infection within the first five minutes of the series.

I was actually planning to discontinue the show after the first two episodes, but soldiered on, and found myself completely hooked around episode four. Around that time, the writing for the series becomes tighter, the jokes funnier, and the main characters become more consistent and relatable in their personalities.

In particular, I found the acting of the teen characters on the show, Abby and Eric, very strong. Their story line adds a sort of sweetness, and a touch of realism to the series, that I think would be lacking otherwise.

Another important point to note, before you venture into The Santa Clarita Diet is that it’s pretty friggin gross. As in, don’t watch it while you are eating . . . EVER! Maybe you folks who just love watching The Walking Dead, and really dig body horror, will be totally cool with this. But I found my eyes averting the screen pretty much any time one of the characters projectile vomits (soooooooo much vomit on this show), or a painted toenail pops off and rolls under the coffee table, or Drew’s Sheila is seen slowly and messily gorging on an arm, while looking much like a baby eating her first spaghetti and meatballs dish. These kinds of scenes amount to roughly a quarter of each episode’s run time, so be warned.

As for trademark zombie lore and the series’ central mystery, i.e. how Sheila came to be infected with the zombie virus in the first place, there isn’t really much there, at least in the first season, which focuses more on the inconveniences and unintentional hilarity of suburban zombie living than any sort of complex rules and/ or zombie origin stories. The mythos that is presented is rather vague and superficial, though I suspect that aspect of the show will be built upon, should The Santa Clarita Diet be picked up for a second season. Still, this might annoy some of you paranormal enthusiasts out there, who tend to like a bit more world-building with your blood, guts and gore.

In short, if you are someone who: (1) likes a good laugh, and a unique take on an old reliable horror movie stable, (2) doesn’t mind lots of gross shots of vomit and disemboweled corpses, (3) doesn’t care too much about origin stories, and (4) is patient enough to get through a rough first few episodes, The Santa Clarita Diet might be the lifestyle change you are seeking. And by “lifestyle change” I mean “five hours seated on your couch watching a show on Netflix, while not eating.” (Did I mention before that you shouldn’t be eating while watching this show?)

Verdict: BINGE IT . . . with discretion.

 

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