[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: Good News for Bad Guys

[Cross posted at Agony Booth.com]

It’s a great week to be a villain in Storybrooke. This week on Once the writers are handing out happy endings to garbage people, like Oprah Winfrey occasionally hands out cars. Also, if you remove all the obvious concerns about multiple personality disorder, Regina has a nice conversation with herself about the importance of self-love that would make any psychologist giddy with glee. In less joyous news, Captain Hook is trapped on a Bluish Submarine, and Gideon is still a massive douchebag.

In Which the Evil Queen’s Dad Desperately Tries to Get His Daughter Laid . . .

“F*&k my daughter, please!”

After six seasons, Once is clearly running out of ideas for Meaningful Flashbacks That in Some Way Add Insight to Present Day Plotlines. (See example, last week, where they literally re-played the same flashback from a few seasons back, wrote a different ending to it, and then had one of the main characters “forget” the new ending to avoid the inevitable retcon it produced.) This week’s flashback finds the Evil Queen, once again, hunting for Snow White, and generally being sh*tty to everybody she encounters, including her sweet, but utterly ineffectual, father. Then, once again, Tinkerbell appears, so that she can remind the Evil Queen, for the third time now, that the only possible antidote to the villainness’ garbage person-ness, is for her to find the one man willing to bone her regularly. How’s that for a feminist message, ladies?

For a lady so interested in everyone finding their True Love, Tinkerbell herself seems awfully single most of the time, doesn’t she?

Evil Queen, to her credit, doesn’t buy that crap. She doesn’t need a man to complete her! She just needs . . . to commit lots more murders, and continue making everyone around her as miserable as possible!

Evil Queen’s dad (who, to his credit, seems vaguely uncomfortable with his daughter’s penchant for merciless dictatorship and serial murder, but not uncomfortable enough to say use his mother’s spell book to ground the Evil Queen, and keep her locked in a high tower until she reaches menopause) has an idea!

Under the guise of helping Evil Queen find Snow White using his wife’s spell book, Dad brings his awful daughter to visit the statue of a fat naked baby carrying a bow and arrow. It’s Cupid . . . obviously. And apparently looking into Cupid’s arrow will lead you to The Person You Love the Most. Dad believes that once Evil Queen looks at the arrow, she will find Robin Hood, and that he will instantly bone all the garbage-personness out of her. But, more importantly, he will knock her up, and keep her at home, Barefoot and Pregnant Ever After like a good Disney Princess.

[Pause: Am I remembering things wrong? Wasn’t it actually determined in an earlier season that the Evil Queen’s dad is actually The Person She Loves the Most. And this is why she eventually had to kill him, in order to effectuate the Season One curse that started this whole show? Now, we are suddenly supposed to believe that the Evil Queen loves someone she never met more than her own father, who literally stuck by her through six seasons of suffering through the exact same flashback together approximately one million times?]

Anyway, Evil Queen is so not interested in fat babies and their luuuuuuuve arrows. So, she spells the arrow into something that leads you to The Person You Hate Most, assuming the arrow will take her to Snow White. But, SURPRISE! The arrow actually ends up showing the Evil Queen the mirror image of herself. Apparently, no one hates the Evil Queen more than the Evil Queen.

If I didn’t make it clear earlier, this episode is basically a Freshman Psychology Major’s wet dream . . .

A Tale of Two Reginas

Speaking of self-loathing, back in the present day, the now separated into two distinct beings, Evil Queen and Regina are both dead set on murdering one another ASAP. Evil Queen conveniently has Bad!?Robin Hood dig up the Cut Off Your Fate scissors from a few episodes back, so she can murder her better half without suiciding in the process. Evil Queen then ties up Bad!?Robin Hood and uses him as bait to lure Regina into her clutches, so the two can have yet another “Epic” Split-Screen Showdown.

By the time Regina arrives, Evil Queen has actually already sent Bad!?Robin Hood back to the fake Alt World from whence he came. This was a surprisingly nice thing for a garbage person like her to do, except when you consider the fact that Bad!?Robin Hood is still marked for death by Alt World Rumple, which is why he left Alt World in the first place?

Anywhoo, Regina and Evil Queen alternate between sword fighting and throwing their trademark purple magic farts at one another for a few minutes. But eventually Regina bests Evil Queen, and actually has the opportunity to kill her forever. Of course, she doesn’t do it, because killing people is “bad,” and Regina is no longer a Malevolent Serial Killer. Rather, since she cut out the garbage-personness in herself, Regina has proudly joined the ranks of the Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killers.

Instead of murdering her self(?), Regina actually takes some of the garbage personness out of the Evil Queen’s heart and trades it for some of her slightly less garbage personness. So now, thanks to some impromptu open heart surgery that would make the makers of the childhood game Operation Proud, the Evil Queen sucks a little bit less than she did before, and Regina sucks a little bit more. Oddly enough, this makes everybody happy.

“I love myself now,” Regina admits to the now only slightly more garbage version of herself.

The pair then hug one another, clean up the mess they made in Regina’s office from all the purple fart throwing and open heart surgery stuff, then sit down for tea together to gossip about boys. Because, of courses, self-love, forgiveness, and self-acceptance are really only important if they can help you get laid right?

Regina has somewhat of a difficult time convincing the rest of the main cast that the lady who spent all of eternity trying to murder them all is now her new bestie. But in less than five minutes, everyone reluctantly allows themselves to be convinced, because we still have another plotline to wrap up after the last commercial break.

Then, Henry calls the Evil Queen “mom” for the first time, hugs her, and uses his Author powers to give her a “fresh start.” I’ll give you two guesses as to where that “fresh start” leads Evil Queen. You got it: back to Alt World, and the bar where Bad!?(BUT CONVENIENTLY SINGLE) Robin Hood is busy nursing his latent alcoholism, and possibly waiting for Alt World Rumple to find and murder him.

But hey, True Wuv conquers all right? So, I think these two sort-of-garbage, arguably not-real, people might just make it to their Happily Ever After together!

“Let’s drink until we forget that neither of us actually exist! Hey, at least that means there’s no chance of my getting you pregnant or giving you crabs!”

Coming Un-Hooked

In less happy news, Captain Hook is still stewing over the fact that he murdered Emma’s grandfather, and hasn’t found the courage to tell her yet, because he thinks it might screw up their impending nuptials. Then, Captain Nemo (Seriously? This guy is still around?) pops by to offer Hook some sage advice. “Tell Emma the truth,” he says. “Or don’t tell her, and forgive yourself. But please stop whining about it, because this storyline is getting wicked depressing.”

Yeah, I know it’s the wrong Nemo. And I don’t care! This one is cuter!

Hook decides on a third option. He tries to use a dreamcatcher to suck the memory of the offending murder out of his brain. This way, Emma never has to know, and he no longer has to feel guilty about this senseless killing (or any of the other 900 or so people he murdered throughout his eternal life). It’s a win / win? Right?

(I mean, at this point, us viewers are all kind of wishing we can forget that Hook killed Emma’s grandfather. So, how can we really blame Hook for doing something we’d all want to do for ourselves!)

“Like for example the time I didn’t tell you that I turned you into a Dark One, and you ended up getting sent to hell as a result. Or the time I didn’t tell you I had a vision of my own death.”

Unfortunately, Emma walks in on Captain Hook using a kitschy hood ornament to suck out part of his brain. This is how she finds out that Hook killed her grandfather, and she’s kind of pissed about it. Note: She’s not really mad about the murder, as much as the whole brain-sucking thing, because that’s just tacky. Emma takes Hook’s willingness to inflict permanent brain damage on himself, rather than tell Emma a tough truth, as a sign that he’s not ready to be her husband. So, Emma sadly returns Hook’s engagement ring to him.

Now fiancé-less and with a woefully un-sucked brain, a Super Depressed Captain Hook tells Captain Nemo he wants to leave with him, possibly forever, on the Bluish Submarine . . . because running from your problems is always the most brave and manly way to deal with them. But then Snow White finds him standing out in the snow, and tells him about how the Evil Queen found her happy ending with Bad!? Robin Hood this week despite both of them being kind of garbage people.

“Hey! I’m a garbage person too!” Hook exclaims excitedly. “That means I can also get my happy ending, despite having murdered your husband’s dad!”

“What?” Snow White asks, shocked.

“Ummmm . . . I said, I think the Evil Queen’s clothes are really rad?” Hook covers poorly.

With a renewed zest for life, Hook rushes to the Bluish Submarine to tell Captain Nemo he’s not going to go on “tour” with him. Rather, he’s going to face the music with Emma, and prove to her that he’s still f*&kable, despite having slashed and burned a portion of her family tree.

So, of course, that douchebag Gideon has to magic himself onto the Bluish Submarine and make it submerge, so Hook can’t get off of it, right? Gideon is the friggin worst!

Once the Bluish Submarine is submerged Gideon magics himself off of it, so he can murder Emma in peace. Once, Gideon is off the ship, Captain Nemo can regain control of it, and bring it back to the surface, so Hook can get off the ship and help his girl . . . or, at least, that’s what Nemo would do if this show had any sense of logic to it. But it doesn’t, so Captain Nemo and Hook sail away on the Bluish Submarine, while Emma stands by the door of her home, looking sad and awaiting certain death . . .

Until next time . . .

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ONCE UPON A TIME: Boys Behaving Badly

“I know there’s a porta-potty around here somewhere!”

[Cross published at Agony Booth.com]

This week on Once, the writers bastardize Beowulf (which, in their defense, couldn’t be made much worse than it already was). Also this week, Rumple tries twice to prevent his kids from becoming assholes like him, and is sort of / kind of successful, but only based on technicalities? In other news, Alt-World Robin Hood thinks Regina is a stage-five clinger. And the marriage proposal we’ve all been waiting for finally happens . . . but with a slight (kind of crappy) catch.

Stop Ogre-Compensating, Dad!

“Beowulf: Making high school kids miserable in their English classes since 975 A.D.”

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve had the misfortune of reading Beowulf (my apologies to the anonymous dude who wrote it back in 975). But if I recall correctly, Beowulf was a hero who killed two monsters, Grendel and Grendel’s mommy (the one played by Angelina Jolie in the movie), eventually became king, and then died fighting a dragon. (OK, so I may have “refreshed my memory” on the plot with Wikipedia. Sue me!)

 

In the Once flashback version, Beowulf is a major douchebag loser, who lets Rumple defeat the ogres for him, using a specialized Ogre Murdering Sword (because Ogre Murdering Swords were totally the Swiss Army knives of the 900s, everyone had them, but few knew how to press the right buttons to get them to work correctly). Then, the “hero” Beowulf gets jealous of Rumple, because he was too wimpy to kill the ogres himself. So, Beowulf turns the town against Rumple, by saying that Rumple was only able to defeat the ogres because he’s EEEE-VIL. The townspeople believe this naturally, because Rumple wears too many sparkles on his face. And everyone knows you can’t trust a man with face sparkles. (My apologies to Edward Cullen from Twilight.)

What’s worse, according to Once, Beowulf MADE up the monster Grendel entirely, just to lure Rumple into a trap and frame him for murdering some townspeople that HE killed himself! (Some anonymous dude from 975 is totally rolling over in his grave right now.)

So, anyway, Rumple’s other son Baelfire (Memba him?) is all up in his dad’s grill about defeating “Grendel” without using any magic to prove to the town that he’s not actually EEE-VIL, despite all the creepy face sparkles. So, Rumple, wanting to impress his kid, gives Baelfire the magical “you can control me” Dark One sword, to ensure that Rumple stays on the “magic-free” wagon. Then, the pair go off into the forest to fight “Grendel,” who, as I already mentioned, doesn’t actually exist in this bastardized version of the classic tale.

Once there, of course, the father and son duo come upon that douchebag Beowulf, who is totally out to ruin Rumple’s already lousy sparkle-face reputation. “Imma let you finish,” responds Rumple, because that’s what a “good” person on the “magic free” wagon would do.

 

But then Baelfire CONTROLS his dad and makes him MURDER BEOWULF!!!!

 

Almost immediately thereafter, Baelfire starts stroking the Dark One Sword like Smeogol on Lord of the Rings, laughs maniacally while twirling his prepubescent mustache fuzz, and tells Rumple they should use the Ogre Murdering Sword to KILL EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER HAD THE NERVE TO MAKE FUN OF RUMPLE’S SPARKLE FACE!!!

W . . .T . . . F!!!!!

Isn’t this the same Baelfire who ran off to another dimension because he hated all magic, thought his dad was the devil, and was more nonviolent than Ghandi? This is some serious retcon sh*t going on here!

But don’t worry, People Who Actually Care About Plot and Continuity. There’s a fix for that. Rumple just makes Baelfire drink some tea that causes him to forget that he’s actually a shitty human being / murderer with a darkened soul. Baelfire swallows the tea, and is instantly a perfect little angel again. And this, if you think about it, would be a really great and inexpensive way to cure America’s prison overpopulation problem. Just saying . . .

My Handsome Loathsome Hero

Speaking of sons of Rumple who are in desperate need of a spanking, Gideon still wants to murder Emma, the Savior of the Universe, because he thinks this will prove that the Black Fairy is wrong, and he’s a really swell guy. “That makes no sense,” exclaims Rumple, when he confronts his son. “None of this plot makes any sense!”

“Well, you see, Dad.” Gideon begins, “It all started when I was a kid reading that ‘My Handsome Hero’ book mom gave me before I was kidnapped, which she believed would be a substitute for ‘good parenting.’ You know, back when she gave me away to that incompetent Blue Fairy to hide me from your evil ass? Anyway, Black Fairy was all like, ‘You want a be a hero? Then, stop me from beating up this other kid in front of your face. And I didn’t, because the book didn’t have anything in it about how to prevent supernatural child abuse. So, now, here I am, ready to make lots of poor life choices, possibly bring about the apocalypse, and use my effed up childhood as a justification for all of it.”

“Cool,” responds Rumple. “Hey, how would you like some nice tea that will make you forget what an asshole you are. It worked on your half-brother!”

Gideon drinks the tea, then shrugs and explains that it doesn’t work on him.

“Why?” Rumples asks, confused.

“Because the plot says so,” responds Gideon.

So, Gideon continues on with his plan to kill Emma, but first he has to repair the Murder Emma sword that broke the last time he tried to fight her and failed miserably, because Gideon sucks at fighting and at life in general. To repair the sword, Gideon needs the blood of the person who made the sword, who just so happens to be . . . wait for it . . . the same useless Blue Fairy that was responsible for losing Gideon to the Black Fairy, in the first place!

“Perfect,” exclaims Gideon, upon learning this new fact. “Everyone hates the Blue Fairy, and now we finally have an excuse to kill her off the show. I really am going to be a hero!”

But nooooooooo . . . Rumple has to go take Blue Fairy’s blood and NOT kill her, so that he can help his son achieve his stupid and misguided dreams, without darkening his already asshole heart. Dammit! We were this close to finally getting rid of Blue Fairy!

Stupid Rumple! Stupid Conveniently Not Working Forget You Are An Asshole Tea!

Sorry Regina, He’s Just Not That Into You

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Alt World Robin breaks into Zelena’s house. “Are you trying to steal the baby I tricked the other version of you into putting into my womb?” The Wicked Witch asks nervously.

“Meh, kids are the worst, especially ones made partly from your gene cesspool,” explains Robin. “I just want you to help me skip town, because your sister is sooooooo needy, and keeps trying to fix me. Just in the past hour alone, she’s sent me like fifty texts. And they all say things like: ‘Let’s go to church together.’ ‘What are your thoughts on volunteering at a homeless shelter? ‘Stop kicking puppies and strangling old ladies, because it’s impolite.’”

“Every once in a while, I’ll reply ‘New Phone, Who Dis? But she never believes me,” gripes Alt-World Robin.

Zelena happens to be sympathetic to Alt-World Robin’s plight. She also thinks he’s hot. So, Zelena and Alt World Robin agree to break the protection spell around Storybrooke and skip town together. Unfortunately for them, the potion they make to break the protection spell doesn’t work when they try it.

Eventually, Regina confronts them both, and apologizes for being a Stage Five Clinger to Alt-World Robin. She even offers to help him find a way to break the spell and skip town!

Robin is so thankful to Regina for this, that he considers possibly even sleeping with her clingy ass. But then Regina’s Evil Queen alter ego turns back from a snake to a human, and she’s way hotter and more slutty than Regina. So Alt World Robin decides to sleep with her instead.

The Moral of this Story?: Nice girls who used to be evil, but used a magic potion to separate their evil selves from their bodies, always finish last. Also, don’t be a Stage Five Clinger. It’s a real boner killer!

“Marry Me . . . Even Though I Killed Your Grandfather, But It’s Cool, Because I Didn’t Know It Was Him At The Time.”

So, you know how last week on Once, Hook found out that he killed Prince Charming’s dad, but let Prince Charming go on thinking that the King was responsible for his death, because he didn’t want to screw up his relationship with Emma? (Because murderous secrets NEVER screw up relationships! Right?)

Pirate boots are known for their excellent insulation.

Well, now Hook has decided to come clean with Emma about the murder, but before he can do that, Emma spills the beans to him that she knows he wants to propose to her. She even gives him the engagement ring she found in his undie drawer, and tells him she will say yes, when he does it. (Way to be presumptuous, EMMA!)

So, Hook temporarily tables his grandpa-murdering confession, gets on one knee and proposes to Emma. And it’s a super sweet moment . . . one that’s totally going to bite the guy with the hook for a hand in the ass sooner, rather than later.

Until next time, folks!

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Once Upon a Time: A Not So Charming Ending

(Cross posted at Agony Booth.com)

This week on Once, we finally found out who murdered Prince Charming’s dad, and it actually wasn’t who you thought it would be . . . until it ended up being exactly who you thought it would be. In other news, someone is getting married . . . maybe. In still other news: Alt-World Robin Hood is a bad kisser, and also kind of a douche.

Let’s hop to it.

Sir Robin of Sucks-ley

How about we get the side plot out of the way first, yeah? Snow White stays asleep through most of this Charming-centric episode, on account of that whole “the couple can’t both be awake at the same time” curse. (Yeah, that’s still a thing.) But the writers do drag her out of bed briefly, once at the beginning, and once at the end of the episode, to talk to Regina about her love life.

That’s right folks, Snow White has officially been relegated to “Sassy Best Friend in a Rom Com” status on this show . . . except, she’s not that sassy. Also, at this point in the show, Regina’s probably tighter with Emma, than she is with Snow White. So, I guess we have to downgrade that role to “Not-So-Sassy Second Best Friend in a Rom Com.”

Anyway, Regina’s all “OMG, Snow I just brought Alt World Robin Hood to the Real World. And he looks just like Dead Robin, because they are both played by the same actor. So, obviously, I am like out of my mind excited about this, because he and I are going to have so much sex that they are going to have to change the name of this show to Once Upon a Porno.”

To this, Snow responds, “Aw hell nah, Girl! You trippin! Have you even watched the first five seasons of this show? Given your luck with men, Alt World Robin is probably either going to be brutally murdered while you watch, in another two episodes, or is going to literally end up being Lord Voldemort (seeing as this series is playing faster and looser with what constitutes “fairytales” and “copyright infringement” with each passing week).

Regina promptly ignores Snow’s advice, like any good Rom Com romantic lead must do, at least for the first 65 to 72 minutes of the movie. She then rushes off to find Robin Hood in the streets where he’s making himself right at home in this new land, by mutilating a basket of small puppies, while attempting to decapitate the Sheriff of Nottingham with his trusty bow and arrow. (OK, OK, the puppy mutilation part is a lie, but you see where I’m going with this, right?)

Really, I just wanted an excuse to post this picture. So cute!

 

Regina manages to stop this Very Public Murder, which she must do because the only other law enforcement official in town (Prince Charming) is currently taking a nap. (Well . . . I guess there’s Emma. Wait . . . is she still a law enforcement official on this show? Or did she quit that job when she got promoted to Savior of the Universe? These are the burning questions that plague me, when I write recaps at 1 a.m. on a work night.)

The Reformed Evil Queen then promptly notices that Robin Hood got a boo-boo on his hand, in the course of his attempted decapitation of another human being. “I have just the thing to fix this,” Regina says excitedly. “Come to my evil lair of potions and spells that you can eventually use to destroy this town, as the probable next Big Bad on this show, and I’ll clean that boo-boo right up, you poor baby.”

(Seriously? Man up, Evil Alt-World Robin Hood! What’s the matter? No one wears Band-Aids anymore? You can even get one of those cute ones with the cartoon characters on them!)

In the Evil Queen’s old evil lair that apparently now doubles as a pediatrician’s office, Regina wastes no time curing Robin’s boo-boo with magic instead of Band-Aids, and sticking her tongue down his throat, in short order. The good news is that he kisses back (otherwise, that would be super awkward). The bad news is the kiss is totally gross, probably because secretly evil Alt World people have notoriously bad dental hygiene.

“Snow, wake up, I made a terrible mistake,” Regina tells her narcoleptic friend toward the end of the episode. “Alt World Robin is a bad kisser, which means he’s probably crap in bed too. What a waste of a perfectly good portal jumping slot. I knew I should have invited Alt World Ryan Gosling instead!”

 

“That should be the least of your problems,” Snow scolds. “Look outside, Alt World Robin is running through the streets carrying your Evil End the World Music Box that he stole from your lair, while punching out The Pope and kicking a baby.”

“Really?” Regina responds. “I should probably do something about that . . . once I finish this delicious mug of chamomile tea you gave me. Is it Sleepytime Brand?”

“Ugh!” Snow groans. “I’m so sick of this sh*t. I’m going back to bed. Wake me up when something interesting actually happens, like the inevitable Apocalypse in two episodes.”

Meanwhile . . .

Cold Case: Charming’s Dead Dad Edition

So much homoeroticism between these two in this episode . . .

The Ghost of Prince Charming’s father haunts his son in the middle of the night to remind him that the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death are a dangling plotline that the show has decided to dredge up again just in time for Captain Hook’s and Emma’s impending nuptials.

That’s right folks. Captain Hook has decided he wants to pop the question to everybody’s favorite Savior. He even went out and bought a ring. Surely, the answer to this Dead Dad Mystery won’t do anything to get in the way of Hook’s dream of marriage to Emma, will it?

So, Prince Charming is pretty uncharacteristically manic throughout most of this episode. (Lack of sleep and hallucinated conversations with ghost dad’s will do that to you.) He quickly enlists Captain Hook’s help in breaking into his daughter’s shed, and stealing her magic Deux Ex Machina. (Hey, we wasted at a third of the episode on Alt Robin’s boo-boos and poor French Kissing skills, so we gotta solve this mystery ASAP.) Hook reluctantly agrees to conspire in Prince Charming’s misdemeanors against his adult daughter, but, fortunately, draws the line at going into Emma’s bedroom stealing her diary, and searching in her underwear drawer for drugs and condoms.

And you do the Hokey Pokey, and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about! *Clap, Clap*

The Purloined Deux Ex Machina informs Prince Charming and Hook that Charming’s dad was last seen in Pleasure Island, a realm featured in the film Pinocchio. And, wouldn’t ya know it? Pinocchio just so happens to be back on the show in a recurring role! This is doubly important, as Pinocchio not only happened to see Charming’s dad, shortly before his untimely demise, he is also The Author with All The Answers to Everything That Happens on This Show!

Through a mixture of flashbacks and Pinocchio narration, we learn that Charming’s dad was a poor drunk who was forced to give up one of his twin sons to Rumplestilskin, in exchange for purchasing the ailment to an illness they both were experiencing at the time. A few years later, Charming’s dad is getting soused at a pub, when the king stops in to inform everyone that his son is missing. The king’s son, just so happens to have the same name as the kid Charming’s dad gave up, James. So, of course they have to be the same person, because who the heck names their kid “James,” right? (I mean, apart from roughly ten percent of the population at any given moment in American history.)

Charming’s dad, who, up until this point, didn’t give two flying f*cks about the kid he did get to keep, is now completely dead set on rescuing the one who is now a rich prince. Baby Charming gives pops a lucky coin for the road, which later ends up being found on his rotted corpse. (Should have gone for a rabbit’s foot or four leaf clover instead, maybe?)

Rumplestilskin, who, as we know, has a soft spot in his heart for screw-up dads hoping to reunite with their kids, so they could screw them up even more, rather willingly offers Charming’s dad the current whereabouts of James. It turns out, the little schmo ran off to Pleasure Island.

Once in Pleasure Island and with a little help from Plot Device Pinocchio, Charming’s dad finds James, who informs his errant papa that he ran away from home, because he doesn’t want to be a knight and murder people. “Would you rather be the dirt-poor son of a drunk shepherd, in danger of losing his farm, and constantly on the verge of homelessness?” Charming’s dad asks hopefully.

“HELL YEAH!” James exclaims, because sometimes kids are dumb.

Unfortunately, for Charming’s dad, the King easily hunts down him and James, takes back his prodigal adopted son, and orders his henchmen to murder Charming’s dad and make his death look like an accident.

Upon learning the “truth” about what happened to his dad, Charming wants to murder the King HARD! Captain Hook tries to talk some sense into him, and ends up handcuffed to a bike rack for his troubles. When Charming confronts the King, (who is already in jail, by the way) the latter has no remorse for what he’s done AT ALL! This even further infuriates Charming. But just before he can avenge his father’s death, Captain Hook frees himself from the bike rack to stop him.

Just kiss already, you two!

Captain Hook somehow convinces Prince Charming that vengeance is kind of overrated (and HE would know!). This heart-to-heart talk causes (1) Prince Charming to break down in tears, and (2) the two enemies-turned-bromantic-buddies to share the manliest of back pats with one another. So, Captain Hook, of course, sees this as the perfect opportunity to ask for Charming’s blessing for him to marry Emma. (Smooth move, buddy! Get him, while he’s feeling soft, vulnerable and mushy.)

Charming whole-heartedly gives Hook his blessing and welcomes the erstwhile villain officially into the royal family, as the future Mr. Emma Swan (because, let’s be honest, she TOTALLY wears the leather pants in that relationship).

And this, my friends, would be an excellent, happy, and satisfying way to end this episode.

So, of course, the writers had to go and screw it up.

Two minutes before the credits roll, Pinocchio Plot Device comes scooting by on his motorcycle with the pages of the fairytale that made up the flashback in this episode. Hook glances down at them and sees the face of Charming’s dad. This causes him to remember that it was not actually the king’s henchmen, but Hook himself, who murdered his possibly-soon-to-be-wife’s grandfather, during the course of a robbery of those same henchmen.

Oops. Well, THAT’S AWKWARD! We are probably going to want to leave that little yarn out of the wedding’s champagne toast . . .

Until next week, folks!

 

 

 

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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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Filed under netflix, The Santa Clarita Diet, tv series review, Uncategorized

Black Mirror Mini-Binge: A Beginner’s Guide To Entering The Void

Cross posted on Agony Booth.com

With a series title based on the black, yet translucent, and sometimes eerily sinister-looking, screen that stares back at you from your sleeping smart phone or tablet, the British-based television anthology Black Mirror has slowly (but surely) garnered cult status, since its UK debut back in 2011. Touted by many as a modern-day Twilight Zone for Technophobes, Black Mirror’s standalone, but thematically related, episodes sagely (and often savagely) tackle the inane nuances of modern day conveniences, while, at the same time, contemplating the various ways in which said conveniences could potentially lead to the catastrophic downfall of society as we know it. Needless to say, it’s not uncommon to finish watching an episode of Black Mirror, and feel just the slightest bit like slitting your own wrist, because the vision of the future it presents is so gosh darn bleak.


This is not to say that Black Mirror is a bad series. On the contrary, most of the time, it’s a pretty friggin awesome one. In fact, on numerous occasions, I’ve found myself utterly spellbound by a particular episode’s creative insightfulness, not to mention the sheer delicious terror it induced in me while watching. On just as many occasions, topics presented during the episode have sparked spirited, sometimes very angry, conversations among my friends regarding various forms of social media and modern technology and their inherent downsides.


And yet, Black Mirror is certainly not for everybody, nor is it appropriate for all occasions. As such, it’s not the kind of show for which I’d advocate binging all four seasons of the series (comprising just 13 episodes in total) in a single sitting. That would likely be way too intense, even for the toughest, most mentally stable, of television viewers among us.


No . . . Black Mirror is most definitely the kind of show best absorbed in moderation, much like fine wine, double fudge brownies, sex, and the Home Shopping Network (if viewed while feeling particularly insomniatic and thus vulnerable to cheap advertising ploys).


Fear not, television fanatics and eclectic cult series connoisseurs! I have a relatively risk-free solution to the Black Mirror Conundrum. For those planning to embark upon a steady diet of Black Mirror, I propose the following fail-safe Introductory Mini-Binge. It’s only three episodes long. Just enough to whet your appetite, and get you used to Black Mirror’s unique flavor, without immediately sending you into uber-depressive strait-jacket territory. Let’s explore, shall we?


Recommendation #1: The Entire History of You: Series 1, Episode 3


Sites like Facebook and Instagram, even the photo cache on your cell phone, have made millions of dollars by capitalizing on the rose-colored world of human nostalgia. Not too long ago, a trip down memory lane required flipping through the pages of a carefully cultivated photo album or heavily autographed yearbook, rewinding a lovingly shot, albeit slightly amateur, home video, or retrieving the plastic key that unlocks the childish scrawl adorning a long unopened diary.


Now, you’ve got Facebook creepily combining with music all your digital photos, in order to create a “Your Year in Review” montage. Anyone with an internet connection could probably find at least one of your baby pictures online, if they looked hard enough. And your own cell phone exists as a constant daily reminder of that ill-advised drunken selfie you and your friends took in the public restroom of a gross dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 3 a.m. that one hazy Saturday night.


In the Entire History of You, Black Mirror takes this unsettling-if-you-really-think-about-it concept one step further. It contemplates a computer chip in your brain that records everything you see and hear for purposes of instant (and, if you aren’t careful) obsessive repeat viewing. Anyone who has ever said or done something stupid, and then aggressively punished themselves for it, by replaying said stupid actions or words over and over again, ad nauseum, each time finding a new and improved reason for self-loathing, could probably imagine the egregious self-harm they could inflict upon themselves, if given the opportunity to actually re-watch in unfiltered HD-TV full color, their own darkest moments.

The reverse could be problematic too. I could imagine after a particularly shitty day, it would be rather tempting to get lost for days in the vortex of that awesome summer you had junior year of college, where every day was sun-filled, and every night was a party (or, at least it seemed that way at the time).
Picture a successful young professional, who gets home from a bad day at work to find a strange man in his house, who may, or may not, be schtupping his wife on the regular. You could imagine how dangerous this particular type of technology could be in the hands of such an emotionally volatile man, both for himself and those around him.


Yes, the view of future society painted by the Entire History of You is a pretty ugly one. But it’s one that will definitely make you think about the unspoken benefits of selective memory, forgetfulness, and plain old outright ignorance, specifically, the ways in which, those, seemingly negative qualities of human nature could, in some ways, save us all from our own ever-approaching insanity. (Fun Fact: Robert Downey Jr. actually optioned this episode for a full-length film . . . another solid reason to check it out, if the above hasn’t succeeded in swaying you.)


Recommendation #2: Fifteen Million Merits, Series 1, Episode 2


For better or worse, reality television has become a mainstay of prime-time television viewing. And why the heck not? It’s cheap to produce. It’s mind numbingly addictive to watch. And it’s oddly refreshing in its emphasis on real, flawed, “average” individuals, competing for your attention, as opposed to the beautiful airbrushed heartthrobs and starlets of television yesteryear . . . the ones who seemed genetically pre-designed to make us all feel so gosh darn inadequate.


Fifteen Million Merits is a not-so-subtle commentary on reality television, as well as our society’s increasing reliance on using avatars and “virtual selves,” to carry out our own personal fantasies in a pixelated online world, without the “hassle” of having to getting out of our pajamas and actually leave our homes.


While the Entire History of You takes place in the not-so-distant future, inside a world that looks suspiciously like our own, Fifteen Million Merits contemplates a universe that’s a bit farther removed, and yet not entirely incomprehensible, especially in light of our society’s current trajectory toward an increased living out of our lives online.


In this alternate version of our world, men and women live entirely through their avatars, working and exercising compulsively, not to better themselves, but to buy shinier duds, and better opportunities for the computerized creatures designed to represent them the digital world.


Our main character in this story, Bing, has grown surprisingly complacent with this new unreal world. We watch him in the first few minutes of the episode, simply sleepwalking through the virtual annoyances of his daily life. But then, he meets Sybil from Downton Abbey, and promptly falls in love with her. (As men do!). After that, all bets are off.


Fifteen Million Merits is fascinating in its deft, and surprisingly believable, world building, excoriating in its commentary on modern media and its compulsive need to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and horrifying, when you recognize how close to real life the world painted in this episode happens to be. In short, it’s a can’t miss hour of television for any burgeoning viewer.

Recommendation #3: San Junipero, Series 3, Episode 4


Since my first two Black Mirror episode introductory picks were admittedly pretty darn dark, I figure it’s time to lighten things up a bit, with what may very well be Black Mirror’s most optimistic, heart-warming, surprisingly pro-technology, episodic feature to date. If the Entire History of You’s underlying purpose is to warn viewers of the dangers of nostalgia and living in the past, San Junipero exists as its idealistic counterpoint. This episode, which takes place, almost entirely in a glossy, almost-too-perfect, embodiment of 1980’s California, views both nostalgia and memory as a circuitous route toward eternal happiness, love, second chances, and, yes, immortality.


Shy, bookish Yorkie, a child of the 80’s, never had the chance to experience much in life. That is until she enters the virtual world of San Junipero, enters a dance club filled with strangers, and encounters the effervescent, free-spirited, Kelly, a wild child, who is hiding secrets of her own.


This surprisingly fun-filled, oddly “happy,” installment of the Black Mirror franchise has a little twist in it, one that I won’t spoil for you here, thought the more observant of you will likely catch on to it, within the episode’s first fifteen minutes. Suffice it to say, this episode has a heck of a lot more heart than most Black Mirror installments, and it’s certainly a good deal more optimistic. Yet, despite its deceptively simplistic, lighthearted, nature, San Junipero has a lot of intelligent things to say about the nature of mortality, love, relationships, and the legacies we create for ourselves and one another just by following our dreams and giving in to our own desires.

If Entire History of You and Fifteen Million Merits left you feeling super depressed and wary of the future of humanity, this third Black Mirror pick will ensure that you can wake up tomorrow, fully capable of getting out of bed, and maybe even put an extra spring in your step as you do it.

So, there you have it, my top three picks for a healthy introduction into the dangerously addictive world of the Black Mirror. Are you ready to dive into the void?

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