Blood of Zeus

I’m a tad convinced that Netflix has gamers on the board, otherwise it’s a hell of a coincidence that this anime series launched so darn close to the 1.0 launch of Hades.

I took ancient history in university, which had a solid chunk of time spent on Greek history. I’ve had a rather interesting passion for that topic for as long as I can remember. (Roman to some degree, but they were Greek gods transposed for the most part). I do get that there have been hundreds of takes on the Greek pantheon over the years, across all forms of media. They generally get along, in particular around the “main” actors, and their characteristics. Zeus is the leader, mega strong, smart, and sleeps around. Hera is his wife, always pissed at Zeus for his infidelity (this is the catholic lens applied.). Hermes is fast and a messenger, Ares is tough and focus on fighting, Poseidon is either quiet of full of rage (like the sea), and Hades is a mystery to everyone, keeping to himself. Almost exclusively, the gods fight among themselves and humans are just pawns.

Blood of Zeus maintains the broad strokes, but changes the whole Titans/Giants backstory to something significantly different. It attempts to keep arm’s length to the gods in daily lives, but the reality is that nearly all of the storyline is based on the outcomes of a set of poor decisions by Zeus. I won’t say it contradicts the general society’s understanding, but it’s much more fantastical than what we’ve seen in the past (no gorgons here).

That said, with 8 episodes lasting 30m each, the pace is fairly quick. The setup takes a tad longer than I would have liked, but every hero journey starts with reluctance I suppose. The villain of the series is more interesting than the main character, for reasons that would spoil most of the viewing. The bident alone sticks out like a sore thumbs, so there’s clearly a setup for future viewing.

The series does do service to more than just people walking around. There are the Greek staples throughout, such as Cerberus, centaurs, satyrs, manticores and whatnot. There are very BIG things. The 3 fates are there. The characters all have their own drivers, and for some reason, not a single god lies. That was weird to me, cause Greek gods lie all the time. All the characters make decisions that align with their beliefs – I can’t really stress how refreshing it is to watch something that is not plot driven. It does suck that MANY gods are there for a fraction of time and don’t really do anything (Poseidon has 2 scenes.)

The art style is well done, I certainly enjoyed it more than say Dragon Prince. It isn’t as fluid as a film, but then that’s not the point. The character designs are solid, colour choice is well though out, and there are more than a few winks to the viewer.

Of the large slew of Netflix-only anime I’ve seen, this is only the 2nd of which I’ve been able to watch an entire season’s worth. Oh, there are plenty of choices. Dragon Prince got 2 seasons out of me from pure hope of the writing team being able to slightly repeat the magic of Avatar (they did not). If it had not been set in Greek mythology, the story would still have worked, though I doubt my interest would have been as high.

At 30m per episode, this is a digestible anime with a plot that moves. That alone should be enough to warrant a watch.


Start with the trailer.

Like Bel, I consider the Dune book series to be in my top 10 all-time. There’s no possible spoilers for a book like that. Sort of how like everyone know King Kong is supposed to die at the end. The books cover an astounding level of complexity in terms of morals, and what it means to be human. The links to AI (which is from 1965!), religion, mortality, and destiny all come together in an amazing piece.

I think most people are familiar with the David Lynch version, what with Sting in a jockstrap and all. That movie really freaked me out when I was younger, which I guess is the point of all Lynch films. There are a few too many liberties taken here, so that when you read the books it seems quite odd. Netflix has a documentary on Jorodowsky’s Dune. It really seems like a massive acid trip, rather than the B-class movie that Lynch ended up with.

In 2003 there was a Sci-Fi miniseries that covered the first 3 books in the series. That was really well done, and you get to see a young James McAvoy too. It didn’t include the inner monologues, which was a nice change, and it kept the storyline clean rather than disturbing.

What interests me most about this interpretation is the director Denis Villeneuve. He makes incredibly movies and surrounds himself with an amazing team. I’m one of those weirdos who appreciates lighting, color choice, and can identify a director of photography. You look at something like Zach Snyder and his penchant for drawn out set pieces that are more like paintings, or the more signature quick dialogue cuts from Tarantino. You get to appreciate their methods and interpretations.

If you watch the trailer more than once, you’ll notice that most of it is filmed in contrast. It’s practically a black and white film. There are close ups of people’s faces as they live through a moment, or ponder a thought. There’s something about his approach to detail that really brings it to another level.

Really looking forward to it.

Warrior Nun

I knew that whatever I watched after Dark would hit me the wrong way.  It’s like having a 7 course meal then following it up with anything else… it just doesn’t work.

Warrior Nun is a Netflix series based on a Canadian comic book.  Maybe inspired is the better term.  Concept is interesting, there’s a single nun who’s given a halo which provide immortality, quick, healing, added strength, and some extra host-specific abilities.  The lead character here can levitate.  The kick here is that the person chosen for this is more happenstance, and they are reluctant to take on the mantle.  Fish out of water I guess.

The challenges I have with this is that every trope you can think of is used here.  And the first 6 episodes don’t actually do anything.  Sorry, they do, but it’s the same story beats – girl avoids her role and runs away.  At 45m per episode, it’s a massive waste of time.

Episode 7 actually has progress, and feels more like the Flash series by then, at least in terms of team/story building.  Episode 8 somehow has an epiphany moment – a moment which seems like the only reasonable approach.  It isn’t egregious here.  Game of Thrones is a recent example of just mind blowingly poor character decisions.  That’s refreshing.

The lore/world building has a tad too much Dan Brown for me.  Where there’s exposition for the sake of exposition.  It doesn’t appear to serve a purpose.  There are exceptions – in particular one see that advances the persecution of individuals deemed different.   It also, very briefly, touches on the curse of immortality.

There’s no reading between the lines, every card is on the table and you can see the chain of events well before they occur.  You may be impatient waiting for it to occur, but it will.

In that sense, Warrior Nun’s major challenge is managing pace of story.  Once things get moving, it’s good.  One of those shows you can put on while you’re doing something else.

Dark Season 3

Credit where due.  Dark is one of the best shows I have ever watched.  I had put up a post about Season 1 a while back, and it launched pretty close to Stranger Things – so most of the air was taken away.  They share similar first episodes, with a child disappearance.  By episode’s end, Dark decides to just go for it and drop time travel on the table.  I remember thinking that it was risky, given that normally only works well in comedies (Back to the Future, Bill and Ted) and that most sci-fi stories get stuck in the mud (Lost).

Oh boy was I wrong.

It instead spends 3 jam-packed seasons, meticulously playing out card after card of a deck of amazing storytelling, in what often appears to be a random order.  Each and every twist and action has a reason.  Some know more than others based on where they are in the overall timeline, and sometimes, they are just a few minutes apart.  The thing I enjoyed the most was that the series respects the viewer, if the viewer respects the series.  You can’t watch it out the corner of your eye, you’ll miss too much.

I should also mention that the penultimate episode manages to close off nearly every single question posed.  The finale wonderfully closes the entire story, making the arcs feel worthwhile.  I cannot recall the last time any show did that.

Some Spoilers Ahead

The comparison’s to Lost are apt.  Both are sci-fi stories where character decisions have to be taken on faith of the underlying story.  There’s the mystery box (literally in both), and the character motivations/allegiances seem to shift over time.  But Lost stopped thinking before writing in Season 3 (the cages) and went full reactive mode from then on.  Dark never strays.

There’s an old idea about time travel that asks what would happen if you went back in time and killed your grandparents.  In most cases, that means you die, multi-verse be damned.  Dark doesn’t actually let you do it, instead it shows the repercussions of you trying.  Helge’s disfigurement is the present is caused by someone going back in time trying to kill him, to prevent his future self.  But it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point. Time is immutable.

In practice, that means that the series covers nearly every action and consequence, just not in a linear fashion.  People end up being their own fathers, or grandparents.  It feels more like a close ecosystem of cause/effect.  At the end of Season 1 you get to see part of the larger picture with Adam providing a more menacing viewpoint.  Season 2 is a marvel to watch through, and ends with a twist that is evident when you look back.  Season 3 deals with the duality /  mirror effect of all this time travel impacts.  Close to what Fringe delivered, but a better execution.

Interesting bit is the way season 3 is filmed.  The mirror effect is practically applied – stairs that went left go right, right handed people use their left hand.  Scars change.  It’s like an uncanny valley, where you know something is wrong but not quite sure what.  The story takes center stage, and you get the perception that the characters are but characters in a play – or pieces on a chessboard.  That would be accurate, given the themes of determinization.

I also want to give a massive shoutout to the music in this series.  I listen to the opening credits everytime.  And each episode carries some poignant song that reflects the themes of that episode.  I often found myself finding that song outside of the series, just to get some time to reflect.

The series gets so complex that Netflix has an accompanying webapp to help out.  Really well done, as you can set the spoilers to only apply to the episodes you’ve watched.  It comes with a  timetravel timeline too, which makes a world of difference in understanding how everything fits together.

I’d be remiss not to mention that the series is filmed in German.  There are English voiceovers, or subtitles, to your leisure.  Both are of great quality.  Given the visual aspects are important to the story, I prefer the voiceovers.

I am setting expectations a tad high, but to me this is the new gold standard in sci-fi story telling.  Heck, just story telling in a visual medium.


Miyazaki on Netflix

If you don’t know who Miyazaki is, then let me introduce you to one of the best animated film directors of all time.  Where Christopher Nolan & Quentin Tarantino are today’s “pure film” masters, in the animated world it’s Miyazaki all the way.

On Thursday, the larger collection of his works was released on Netflix here in Canada, eh?  I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

Miyazaki tends to follow a set of themes in his stories, which I guess go counter to most mainstream media.

  • Feminism is a consistent theme.  Most of the films have female protagonists and focus on their complexity.
  • Love is throughout, but in the esoteric/family sense.  The major plot points are resolved through empathy and sacrifice.
  • Environmentalism is key where the world is a goal, not the individual.
  • Peace and pacifism.  The protagonists rarely use any violence, and any death’s are mourned rather than celebrated.
  • Magic/mysticism are facts of life.  “Normal” worlds are seen as strange.
  • Grey antagonists pervade.  It’s frankly amazing how complex these folks are – Lady Eboshi / Princess Mononoke in particular.

What you end up with are films that package a moral journey of resolving conflict through dialogue and sacrifice.  How many films play in North America work that don’t have a gun in them, or violence as the core of the story?  The stories come in tight, and with multiple layers.  There’s a whole lot of show, don’t tell throughout.

Which leads me to the actual animation.  It’s still hand-made today, and the cells are all overseen to perfection.  Miyazaki is a micro-manager / perfectionist in this regard, so that the characters all feel natural.  Tiny scenes that don’t move the plot, but move the character are throughout.  Some scenes focus on silence, just to prove that point.

So last night I watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Other films came before then, but the general consensus is that this is the real starting point of his major work.  For a film from ’84, you can see the ripples across other forms of media.  Chocobos come from here.  Metal Slug copied a ton of the art.  If you’ve seen a post-apocalyptic movie, odds are there are scenes pulled from here.  The tapestry scene in the opening credits gives all the background you need to know in about 15 seconds of still, abstract images.  Even the Ohm changed the way creatures in sci-fi were displayed forward.

If you have the time, pick a Ghibli/Miyazaki film, sit back, and enjoy.  It’s going to a better choice than 95% of the rest of stuff that’s streaming.

Tales from the Loop

You may have seen Simon Stålenhag‘s art in the past.  It’s post-modern, where technology is disused and strewn about, but technology we don’t yet have access to.  I think it looks really neat.  The artist has a foundational world he builds from, where a company called the Loop has driven most of this.

Amazon picked on the idea and built a series from it.


What follows next will include some spoilers, and as with most sci-fi, it’s a good idea to avoid it.  tldr; it’s closer to golden age sci-fi, with a slow burn, self-reflection, and not a whole lot of answers.

*spoilers ahoy*

The first episode wastes little time in taking advantage of the sci-fi setting.  Mysterious object + little girl = cool adventure.  If you’re following along, then you see the twist before it happens, but it still resonates.  The framing of this episode keeps in that “weird things are normal” for the rest of the series, and gives a Loretta the anchor position.

Second episode tracks an old trope of body switching and goes to the logical conclusion.  Which is distressing, quite frankly.  More like Black Mirror than what people are used to.  It leaves some giant unanswered questions.

The third one takes a familiar short story trope and teens into it.  But not teens in the stereotypical sense, more so in the sense of lack of experience.  Everyone can identify with this story, as we all go through our own growth, and how it seems completely isolated from the rest of the world.

Fourth explores our ability to cope with death at different states of our life.  I rewatched this episode, because it felt like too much to absorb in one sitting.  The premise of a bound lifespan and knowing this, is a freaky concept.

Fifth loses steam compared to the others, as it relates to episode two and the lengths a grieving father/husband will go to protect his family.  This is a hard concept to pull off, since many people can’t empathize quickly enough with the situation, and the actions taken rely more on sci-fi knowledge than human instinct.  Since the setup is weak, the follow-through doesn’t hit.

Yeah, I didn’t like this one either.  The idea is really cool, what if you travel to a parallel dimension and meet yourself.  Would you get along at all?  Where did the dimensions split to make another you?  Could you fit in?  All great questions, but the writing and acting here isn’t very good.

Every series needs a flashback episode to contextualize a given character, and this is the one that does it for one-armed George.  The story tried to hit a few too many beats at the start, making for a muddy middle.  The final act opens up a whole different set of questions for the world.

The final episode tries to close up as many of the questions as possible.  Where every other episode is more of an anthology, it’s not possible to watch this one without having watched all the other ones.  As a parent, this one hit me like a damn truck.  The series went full circle, going back to its tenet that time is a curse.  I reminded me a lot of the intro for Up, where in a seemingly simple montage, an entire life story is told, and you get to feel every bit of it.  The thing that really hits, is that no one questions why or tries to correct it, they just accept the fate and try to make the best of it.

Which is a general character theme throughout.  When people try to fix a problem, they generally make it worse.  Those that accept that life has given them a bad hand and move forward all seem to get better.  It’s not a world of regrets, it’s a world of growth.  Even if that growth is not what people wanted or planned.


Tales from the Loop is a solid series.  It’s not for everyone because it doesn’t fit the mold of sci-fi in 2020, with Michael Bay blowing everything up.  It’s a story about people, dealing with people, and making the best of a bad hand.  Optimistic in the tragedy.  I could use more of that.

Idea vs Execution

I’m battling the flu, and that allows for some Netflix binges while I’m conscious.

I’ve watched Dracula (if you liked BBC’s Sherlock, you’ll like it), Locke & Key, and In the Shadow of the Moon.  The last two really made me think about the difference between a solid idea and solid execution.

Some MAJOR spoilers ahead.

Locke & Key

Based on a successful comic horror series, it’s taken years to get an adaptation.  The Netflix version is much more fantasy, which removes nearly all of the possible tension.  The second issue is that anything set in a realistic setting requires a higher fidelity to logic.  Otherwise you get into a deus-ex-machina situation where “magic” always saves the day.  The main antagonist wants the keys but can’t take them from the Lockes.  But somehow, they can physically attack the family… which seems like a giant loophole to collect the keys.

This means that another level of tension has to be applied, and here it’s the YA threat of high school drama.  It’s quite poorly executed, spending a solid chunk early in the setting, then ignoring it for a few episodes, only to jump back into it later.  Tyler in particular waffles all over the place, with inconsistent altruism and selfishness.

The final episode has the natural twist, that the teens clearly pick up on but ignore.  They do their thing, knowing it’s dangerous.  See, if I told you that by opening a door, the stuff behind the door would try to attack you, would you close the door by pushing (thereby protecting yourself from the other side) or pulling (exposing every part to the other side)?  That level of stupid is infuriating, given the general level headed seen in all other episodes.  Then you get flashbacks to explain the final twist… and somehow you have to assume that the bad guy is able to pretend to be a FULL TIME STUDENT for weeks, all while impersonating other characters at the same time.  That’s some impressive dedication.

The good thing about Locke & Key is that it’s entirely watchable by the family.  My 7 & 9 year old can grasp nearly all of it.  The characters are interesting, and they want to know what the next key does.  In that sense, the execution of the series is super solid.  It’s the idea itself that needs some work.  Maybe season 2 will do better.

In the Shadow of the Moon

A sci-fi time travelling whodunnit, more in line with Twelve Monkeys.  The main storyline follows a policeman chasing a killer who appears every 9 years, and becomes obsessed with it.  To the point of losing touch with everything else.

The general lack of attachment to anything but the killer puts the protagonist in an exposition mode.  You’re never rooting for him, since there’s no empathy as he’s not attached to anything.  He doesn’t make bonds over time, he loses them.

The sci-fi part however is very solid.  The limits around time travel, the impacts, the technology, the social impacts… it just works.  It’s that bleeding edge sci-fi, that’s you feel is just at the tip of our fingers, enough that you know it’s not real but that it’s possible.

The downside is that the sci-fi part is only about 30% of the film, with about 50% more of a procedural detective story.  And you need a rather solid actor to transition across 30 years for you to even remotely care about…there’s some solid mis-casting in this area.

So here we have a movie where the idea itself is amazing but the execution is lacking.  Which, I find after spending 30+ years engulfed in sci-fi, is the default setting and the reason short stories are so much better to explore an idea.

Getting Better

Hiccups and all, both are worth the watch.  No one bats 100%, and they both excel in their own areas.  Just hope you don’t have to get the flu to watch ’em.

Rise of Skywalker

I’m a fair bit conflicted about this movie.  The Last Jedi had some major plot holes and infuriating character developments, but it was generally consistent on its message – the past does not dictate your future.  Rise of Skywalker pulls a massive 180, and instead says that your past entirely defines your future.  Aside from Luke being a Force Ghost, you can pretty much ignore the entirety of The Last Jedi… every “major” development is ignored/retconned.

*Spoiler inbound*

Rose Tico

I’ll be the first to say that the Finn/Rose arc in TLJ was weak.  Rogue One did the whole “shades of grey” thing a lot better.  But to have her have a minute of screen time, and the Finn relationship entirely ignored, is plain absurd.

Finn’s Secret

There are 2 major plot beats that focus on Finn having a secret to tell.  Never gets a chance, never comes back into the conversation.  He’s also made general, by another general (Poe) who stays general himself.

Holdo Manoeuver

The big plot hole of TLJ, where a lightspeed ship can destroy another, is called a one-in-a-million chance.  Which either makes Holdo a force weilder (since Luke used the force to destroy death star 1), or the luckiest person alive.

If you’re watching the end of ROS, over the moon of Endor, you see another First Order ship destroyed by the Holdo manoeuver.  Least it sure looks like it.


A big plot point is that to destroy a nav beacon (exposed to the elements) you need to attack on the ground.  While a really neat set piece, it’s beyond dumb when you consider all the aerial acrobatics in episodes 1-8.  Two shots and this thing is down… next.  Also dumb that the enemy would leave this entirely out in the open.

Final Order Resources

A planet that no one can get to.  Hidden for at least 30 years.  Has the resources to build a modern fleet, with ships that each have a planet destroying weapon onboard.  Must have some amazing clone facilities on this planet to staff these ships…a plot point the First Order deals with by kidnapping people from planets.

The Magic Trick / Deux Ex Machina

Apparently Rey and Kylo can teleport things with their mind across planets.  Which looks frikkin’ cool, granted.  But the whole dyad in the force gimmick reeks of plot device to make things look cool.

What I mean here is that Star Wars succeeded because it was small people in a large world, trying to find their place in it all.  In these last 3, we have superhuman people that are able to conjure miracles, which dramatically lowers any sense of risk.

Ben’s Redemption

It had to happen, and the trigger for it is ok.  He apparently loses the ability to talk from that point forward.  From the start, the sequel trilogy had him set up as the ultimate bad guy who would redeem himself.  Which he does, but the really bad guy cheapens it.

Knights of Ren

Silent monks to walk slow, carry a big stick, have no force powers, no guns, no lightsabers.  With the buildup around these folks… major disappointment.


He makes for an intimidating bad guy, I’ll grant that.  But there’s no explanation of how he survived, this new dark magic where all the Sith live in one emperor, how he can summon lightning to disable an armada.  How he somehow let his kids (?!) become good (?!) people and take away his grandchild.  How pretty much everything about Rey is because she’s his grandkid.

Also, Snoke was apparently a hand puppet.  True story.

The Good Bits

The photography is well done, as are the set pieces.  The lightsaber battle over a raging sea is impressive.  The escape from the capital ship even more so.  Music is still top notch and gets you into the space.  Zori Bliss is a neat addition that adds some larger impact to the ongoing events.  Exegol is straight out of Knights of the Old Republic and it looks amazing.


The movie feels like pandering, and a general lack of understanding of the issues with TLJ.  Rogue One was an amazing movie, set in the same world, constrained by the plot and timeframe.  It still did an amazing job at character building and consistency.

I’d go into a tangent about how George Lucas’ success is almost entirely due to an amazing editor (his ex-wife), and how the lack of editing here is apparent… but this post is long enough.

ROS is an ok movie.    Could have used another 6 months to a year in the bacta tank.



Stranger Things 3

Better than season 2.  Spoilers I suppose.

Stranger Things is an odd one.  Clearly, it’s an homage to the perception of the 80s, with very little basis on the actual 80s people lived through – so it comes across as super meta (anyone under 30 won’t get most of the references).  It’s also a mix of sci-fi/horror, of which there’s very little in today’s market.  Finally, it’s Netflix’s flagship series now that OITNB is on a downward trend.  That puts a LOT of eyes on it, and I can only assume a fair amount of pressure to deliver.

Season 3 follows the familiar formula – a bad force captures a character, there are bad scientists, Eleven has super powers, threat averted in final episode, cliffhanger.  What Season 3 suffers from is character bloat, or rather character redundancy.  Set in ’85, the kids are now 14/15 and Back to the Future is all the rage.

Let’s talk about the additions first:

  • Alexi – Used entirely for exposition as the portal can’t be closed without the information he provides over multiple episodes.  When the info is transferred, he naturally dies.
  • Murray – Was in season 2, but more as a nutso.  Still eccentric but the only real purpose here is to translate Alexi’s Russian.  Irrelevant otherwise.
  • Karen Wheeler – Mike’s Mom and used to project defeatism and regret.  Her chat with Nancy was tragic.  She does a great job representing “normal”.
  • The Russians – The super stereotypical bad guys, following every trope possible, including the inability to aim their guns.
  • Robin – Steve’s partner in slinging ice cream.  An older, female version of Dustin.  Stand-out this season.
  • Erica – Lucas’ sister realized she’s a nerd.  Audience surrogate for most of the story.

And the regular crew.

  • Eleven – fluent in English, goes through some self-discovery, loses her powers by the end.  Given that 99% of the heavy lifting is done by her powers, there’s no way to continue this series if those aren’t returned.
  • Steve – Honestly, he’s more of the star here than Eleven.  He rolls with every punch and has come miles from his start in Season 1.
  • Dustin – Same ol’ Dustin, though a bit more confidence. Most of the story triggers off his actions.
  • Max – Plays a ton of roles here.  Catalyst for Eleven’s growth, comic relief, voice of reason, Billy’s sister… a really strong role.
  • Lucas – Feels like he’s less present, though also the one who’s matured the most by the end.  His actions in face of fear are impressive.
  • Joyce – The derangement is gone and instead replaced by pure focus.  Sure, the focus was there before, but now it seems more tempered by her experience.
  • Nancy & Jonathan – It’s really frustrating to see kids act smarter than these two, and some seriously poor writing when it comes to their relationship.  Only saved by the fact the 2 actors clearly have good chemistry (and are dating).  I will say that Nancy with a gun is impressive.
  • Hopper – Episode 1 and Episode 8 are good.  Everything in the middle makes him look like a rageaholic.  Hopper’s strength lies in the excess of calmness, with odd bursts of emotion.  This season is the opposite and you lose a lot from it.
  • Billy – Episode 1 is great.  Then he becomes a blank faced bad guy until the last 20 minutes of the season.  His arc makes no sense, and the redemption even less so.  All he needed was a hug?  Really?
  • Mike – Even more useless than Season 2.  He’s the catalyst for many of the other character changes, but does little himself.
  • Will – Bad-guy detector, and only when the bad guys are 20 feet away.

The season splits up most of the crew into 4 teams, and has them join up near the end.  Which for story purposes I get.  The downside is that some storylines are really weak compared to others.  Steve/Dustin/Robin/Erica absolutely shine.  Eleven’s feels like Degrassi High.  Joyce/Hopper is like a bad rom-com.  The less we talk about Nancy/Jonathan the better (which is less about sexism than it is about a child in an adult’s world… which really seems lost on the writers.)

I will point out some scenes that have some great weight.

  • Nancy & Karen’s kitchen chat about chasing dreams.  Karen gave up on hers, and the pathos here helps drive Nancy to commit even more crimes in search of the story (which should be hyper obvious given the past 2 seasons).  If Nancy was smarter, then this would have had a different impact.
  • Hopper’s funhouse battle, as well as the basement battles are more rip-offs than homage to classic 80s action films.  Gregori’s Arnold/Terminator vibe really helps sell it.
  • Steve & Robin’s bathroom chat.  There’s an undercurrent that Stranger Things is just a story concocted from the imagination of the Breakfast Club to fill up time.  This scene really drives that point home.  Every beat here is well earned and dramatically changes the group dynamic forward.
  • Hopper’s letter.  This season is all about the transition from one stage of life to the next.  Seeing the kids understand that they are no longer kids.  The letter shows that Hopper understood that fact, and offered some solid advice.  Sure, overly sentimental, but it’s the Hopper than should have been there across the season as he was in season 2.

Frankly, if Stranger Things ended here, I’d be content.  There’s very little growth left for any of the characters, unless Mike & Will decide to actually do something.  The stakes can only get higher if it threatens more than Hawkins, and it’s hard to imagine anything other than a group of Elevens being purposeful in that situation.  The series needs less characters, and more focus.  There are stakes – since every kid is invincible.

Clearly Netflix needs a Season 4 more than the actual series does.



I Am Mother

Good but not great.  **SPOILERS**



There’s a very old sci-fi trope of the twisty story on who’s the bad guy.  The Simpson’s had a super take on this with their Treehouse of Horrors bit on “How to Cook Humans”, taking it to the nth degree, which itself was a riff on the a Twilight Zone episode.

The beats are simple.  An innocuous setup, a set of new data that changes your perspective, another twist, and then so on… until it’s over.  You get this emotional swap of who is actually the bad person in the story, and as the elements are gradually uncovered you come to your own conclusions.  Usually the final step of the story is some sort of ethical commentary.  When these stories are well done, the characters move the plot forward.

I Am Mother hits all these notes and takes an insanely frustrating turn at the mid point because it’s the plot that moves the characters forward.  There’s a much-too-thick amount of foreshadowing, where nearly every scene from 25% to 75% feels like it was written over a box of donuts, and filmed for a class in high school on exposition.

The concept that a sheltered (but not smothered) individual would swatch allegiances with the drop of a hat makes little sense.  The backstory for the stranger makes little sense.  The idea that no one thought that a robot would record audio is baffling.  When they do decide to run away and fall into a massive cornfield, never pausing to wonder why this exists on a desolate planet…Why is there a dog a few hours away from this robot farming operation?

When it reaches the summit of tension, the explanation provided seems insanely obtuse.  Like one of those elaborate Rube Goldberg machines, but spread over what appears to be centuries.  Things have to happen perfectly as planned, or the thing just falls to pieces.  And that the Mother robot somehow thinks that now is the time for the child to lead the next advent of humanity… after what appears to be 2 days of pure chaos.  What?

This is one of those sci-fi short stories where it’s better to have many more questions than answers.  Cut an hour from the film, put some scars or soot or something on Hillary Swank so that she doesn’t look like a CLONE of the protagonist, and there’s a solid idea here.

Main Issue

All of those details are things a lot of people will look over, but the purpose of sci-fi is to explore an idea.  And the idea here is that meritocracy is a valid form of government.  Many utopias are built on this concept (Star Trek TNG took this argument to the extreme).

The main problem with a meritocracy is that the people within the system must absolutely believe in it, and anyone who doesn’t has to be removed.  In this story, Mother did just that by killing anyone who wasn’t in that mindset.  When Mother leaves, the Daughter apparently has to maintain that mindset as it’s pretty friggin’ clear that if she doesn’t, Mother will just wipe everyone out again.  This infers that the Daughter will need to either teach, convert, or kill every new human.  Alone.  Where a perfectly programmed robot could not achieve that over many, many years of effort.

Which I suppose could mean this is a never ending cycle.  Which ARQ did excellently.


Decent film to watch if you don’t get invested in the concepts.  Otherwise, the film simply reaches too far without the ability to deliver.