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Nov 25 2013 1:00pm

The Walking Dead Dead Weight Governor

And there’s the Governor we all know and loathe. This time he has a whole pond to play with, rather than just heads in fish tanks. Last week saw Brian pulling himself out of rock bottom with the love of a good woman, a can of spaghetti-o’s, and the world’s most annoying little girl. This week Brian got the old heave-ho and the Governor took his place on the throne.

Martinez makes the big mistake of believing Brian’s con that he really is a changed man, a con Brian himself seems to have bought into. When Martinez expresses doubt at being able to keep the camp safe—a not unrealistic fear, given the circumstances; it’s less being pessimistic about their odds and more being pragmatic about the harsh realities of the Endverse—Brian snaps and kills him in cold blood by bashing him in the head with a golf club and feeding him to a pit full of zombies, all while crying “I don’t want it!” Clearly homeboy’s a wee bit conflicted.

[“Everybody loves a hero.”]

Nov 18 2013 12:00pm

Raise your hands if you were dying to know what the Governor has been up to all these months. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Well, you’re in not-luck with “Live Bait.” Normally, I’d be all for watching David Morrissey brood for an extended period of time, especially in a Jane Austen novel, but not when it comes to his ridiculous villain in The Walking Dead. His reappearance at the end of “Internment” nearly retroactively ruined the episode, and I was not looking forward to his continued existence in last night’s episode. Even now I can’t say my fears were eased, but neither were they stoked.

So. Woodbury. Last season, the Governor went on a vengeance-fueled killing rampage after Rick’s rescue mission. At some point he returned to the scene of the crime and burned the town down. Or, at least one building. Not sure why he’d even bother, catharsis maybe? Whatever. Point is it looked cool having him stand, head cocked and face all a’glower, in front of a burning building.

[“I’m never gonna let anything happen to you.”]

Nov 11 2013 5:00pm

Something magical is going on at The CW. Over the last few years, they’ve quietly become the one of the best channels for genre television, and, more specifically, SFF. In some ways, it’s not entirely surprising. When the scrappy little channel was birthed from the flames in the wake of the 2006 collapse-slash-merging of UPN (half cheesy teen melodramas and half network version of BET) and The WB (half cheesy teen melodramas and half Joss Whedon), few people gave The CW any thought. Home to Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Model, and One Tree Hill, the channel became a laughingstock to the network powerhouses lower down the dial. Everyone joked that the only people watching The CW were hormonal teenage girls.

The CW dabbled in genre fare, offering up Veronica Mars (which it canceled a year after the merger), Smallville (which, by that point, was largely a (boring) young adult melodrama), and Supernatural (which has never managed to secure the larger audience it deserves). But speculative fiction was only a drop in their programming bucket and never seemed to be much of an interest to the Powers That Be.

[“The CW is killing it. In a good way. No, seriously!”]

Nov 11 2013 12:30pm

Well, fellow zombie lovers, we made it all the way to episode 5 before The Walking Dead took its first dip in quality this season. That’s high praise, given the show’s track record. Not that last night’s episode was bad, per se. Just not to the same high standard set by previous Scott Gimple-helmed episodes. It was still a solid episode, overall, even if it was severely hampered by some major plot holes and poorly thought out story logistics.

[“You’re a tough son of a bitch.”]

Nov 6 2013 5:00pm

And now for part two of “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In this very special episode we’re covering new SFF shows: Dracula, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and The Tomorrow People. Be warned, these reviews contain moderate SPOILERS—nothing worse than what you’d get by checking out the show’s summary on its network site, but still, don’t come into this post expecting to keep your televisual virginity intact.

[“Such potential, such lackluster results.”]

Nov 4 2013 5:00pm

Don't Touch That Dial Fall Television Witchcraft

Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In this very special episode we’re covering new shows involving witchcraft: American Horror Story: Coven, The Originals, Sleepy Hollow, and Witches of East End. Be warned, these reviews contain moderate SPOILERS—nothing worse than what you’d get by checking out the show’s summary on its network site, but still, don’t come into this post expecting to keep your televisual virginity intact.

[“Screw the Charmed reboot. What the world really needs is The Craft.”]

Nov 4 2013 10:00am

The Walking Dead season 4 episode 4 Indifference

It only took 3 showrunners and 4 seasons, but The Walking Dead has finally come into its own. We’ve had a run of 4 straight good-to-very good episodes in a row—an unprecedented feat. My big fear at the end of last season was that, what with the introduction of the ex-Woodburyites, the prison would become Hershel’s farm 2.0. Gimple and his writers have (mostly) figured out how to balance the quiet talky scenes with the action-y horror spurts in such a way that they don’t feel dragged out or jarring. Gimple has obviously learned from the mistakes of the past and has done everything he can to redress the problems. He’s proven the show can handle the gross-out zombie violence and the slower but equally as important moments of character development. And with the recent, not so surprising news that AMC has renewed the show and Gimple for a 5th season, it looks like we’re in for a good, long haul.

The 4th episode of the season split its time between the two traveling groups, giving the audience a much needed break from the depressing prison and fretting over the plague and giving the plot a breath of fresh air, literally. Rick and Carol got some alone time as they went to scour the suburbs for painkillers and cough drops, while Daryl, Michonne, Stookey, and Tyreese wandered back around to the vet hospital then headed the long way home. Fun times were had by all.

[“It was a nice watch.”]

Oct 28 2013 12:15pm

So far we’re 3 for 3 in good episodes this season; well done, Gimple. “Isolation” is one of the slower turns that we’ve seen in a while for The Walking Dead. Fortunately, it was a well-used slowness, one that developed characters badly in need of it while not being boring or meaningless.

In order for the story about the plague wreaking havoc in the prison to work, the audience has to care about what happens to more than just Rick and co. To that end, background characters are finally being given more agency, which allows the audience to get to know them outside the context of being cannon fodder. (It also allows us to grow attached to and then grieve the loss of characters we care about without having to whittle down the core group of Rick, Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Hershel, and Carl.)

[“We all got jobs to do...We don’t get to get upset.”]

Oct 22 2013 3:30pm

Dying is My Business Nicholas KaufmannSo, Trent. No last name, just Trent. He’s just this guy, you know? A guy who can’t remember anything from more than a year ago, when he woke up in New York City. He knows how to do everyday things, and can keep his newly created memories, but everything else is gone, vanished, non-existent. Or so he thinks. Even worse, Trent can’t die. Well, he can die, but he can also come back by stealing the lifeforce of the nearest living thing. Given that his chosen profession requires associating with various ne’erdowells and ruffians, he dies a lot, and the list of souls he’s stolen grows longer and longer.

Trent is “rescued” by Underwood, a crime boss who tortures people because he doesn’t have anything better to do. He convinces Trent he can help him find answers to his situation, but only if he works for him as a Collector—a fancy name for “thief.” Underwood sends him on a routine job to retrieve a mysterious box, and instead Trent walks into the middle of an attack by a pack of gargoyles on a werewolf and a witch, two more sets of competitors for that frakking box. Trouble is, someone else is waiting in the wings to get their corpse-y hands on the box, too. Trent soon finds himself wrapped up in a war between a necromancer and her army of zombies, a gargoyle battalion and their seemingly invincible king, and a pack of magic-enhanced thieves, with nothing less than the fate of New York City at stake.

[“It’s not as easy as it looks to come back from the dead.”]

Oct 21 2013 12:30pm

Fun fact: The season 4 premiere of The Walking Dead got the highest ratings of any non-sports show in cable history. According to Nielsen’s Live+Three Day returns (ratings that include those watching live and the first three days of DVR viewership) brought the total to 20.2 million viewers. It even beat out High School Musical. By 2 million. And 13.2 million of that 20.2—65%—were in the key 18-49 demo, and that’s *without* counting in the Live+Seven Day returns. If I lost you at all those numbers and jargon, let me translate: HOLY FRAKKING FRAK.

After the troubled high from the season premiere last week, The Walking Dead settles into some good old fashioned storytelling in “Infected.” A clear, not illogical and idiotic multi-episode arc is starting to appear, and, surprisingly, it doesn’t entirely suck. And once again, Greg Nicotero delivers on some gag-inducing, skin-crawling zombies.

[“I’ve got you under my skin.”]

Oct 14 2013 10:00am

And we’re back with the fourth season of AMC’s (and one of basic cable’s) biggest hit, The Walking Dead. In season 1, the zombies kept the rag-tag band band of survivors constantly on the move and hunting for a cure. The show functioned more like an extra-long zombie movie, with scene after scene of nameless, lineless extras run through the grinder. For season 2, the slashed budget pushed the writers into creating more or less a season-long bottle episode out of Hershel’s farm. It was a time sink in the worst way, with everyone turning into idiotic ciphers and backstabbing cockwaffles. No one was interesting, no one was likable, and CARL WOULDN’T STAY IN THE GODDAMN HOUSE.

Last season, the writers tried another tactic. Instead of running in mindless fear or holing up in the most boring place on earth, Rick and company split their time between building a fortress out of a prison and going on walkabout in the surrounding countryside. It was an action-heavy season to counteract the sandboxed previous season. But at least the (defanged) Governor kept popping up to piss people off and wreak havoc. And we got rid of Andrea. There’s always a silver lining.

[“Because I don’t want to be afraid of being alive.”]

Oct 8 2013 10:00am

In September of this year, football player Chris Kluwe compiled several previously written articles and even more never-before-published essays into a book with the greatest title in the history of titles, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities. I drove to a library 3 counties away just to get a copy the day it released. Now I wish I’d just bought the darn thing in the first place, because it’s killing me to not dogear every page and underline all my favorite quotes (in other words, to underline every sentence on every page).

BUS came about when Kluwe was inundated by requests from publishers begging him to write a football memoir. Every athlete ends up releasing a dull, ghostwritten autobiography about how [insert sports team] changed their life and how much God loves them and blah blah blah. Kluwe shucked tradition and wrote an intensely profane and profanely intense series of personal and opinionated essays, articles, poems, and listicles on every topic imaginable, from politics to philosophy, theology to technology, introspection to activism. He takes on Ayn Rand and the moons of Saturn with equal aplomb and fervor.

[“Everything Is Better With Dinosaurs”]

Oct 3 2013 10:00am

Warm Glowing Warming Glow Fall 2013 televisionThe Fall 2013 television season has just gotten underway, and it’s already disappointing. “I’m not nearly as excited about this as [network] thinks I should be,” is the theme of this season’s new crop of shows.  It’s still too early to get the ball rolling on cancellations, but, depending on how you look at it, it’s also a fairly good/completely depressing sign that we haven’t had any outright flops. In other words, it seems like studios have decided this year to take as few risks as possible while also pushing creative boundaries.

[“Thanks to TV I can’t remember what happened 8 minutes ago.”]

Sep 24 2013 12:00pm

Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyY’all know about Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, right? Hapless human Arthur Dent gets dragged all over several universes and time periods after watching Earth get destroyed to make room for a hyperspatial express route. His best friend, Ford Prefect, is an alien with a nearly unpronounceable name who writes planetary travel articles for said Book. The pair wander around, get into trouble, almost die multiple times, murder a whale and a bowl of petunias, steal a spaceship with an Infinite Improbability Drive, and make sandwiches.

Adams came up with the original idea while lying in a field, drunk, staring up at the stars and wondering if anyone had ever written a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe but for space. As it turns out, no one had, so he did. And it was glorious.

[“Is there any tea on this spaceship?”]

Sep 23 2013 10:30am

Orwell Banned Books Week 1984

You can’t have a Banned Books Week celebration without George Orwell. I first read Animal Farm when I was a kid. Don’t recall how I got my hands on it or why my mom didn’t take it away. For years I thought it was a nice tale about talking animals, though the pigs were kind of mean. Babe was plusgood, and Charlotte’s Web was doubleplusgood, but Animal Farm was fine enough. When I reread it—and read 1984 for the first time—in my Political Science class senior year of highschool, I realized just how far over my 8-year-old head the Soviet critique and Bolshevism went.

[“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”]

Sep 17 2013 3:00pm

I hate to break it to you, but Sleepy Hollow is not a good show. It’s a hilariously ridiculous show that is also more entertaining than it has any right to be. But it’s so, so, so very not good. There’s just no way it could be. It’s so completely out there, Bryan Fuller couldn’t even make the concept work. If they shed some of the more crazytown bananapants aspects, or, hell, just fully committed to them, they might have something. But they won’t, making Sleepy Hollow dead man walking. This show won’t see the end of its seven year tribulation, no matter how strongly it hints at it.

[“The answers are in Washington’s Bible!”]

Sep 13 2013 1:00pm

All Our Yesterdays Cristin Terrill Cristin Terrill debuts her fantastic authorial talents with All Our Yesterdays, the first in her two book YA thriller series. The tale revolves around spoiled, sheltered, naïve teenage Marina and hardened, weary, battle-ready young adult Em. Em hates and fears the Doctor, the man who hunted her across the country, imprisoned her, and tortured her for information she doesn’t have. Em loves Finn, the boy in the cell next to her, the boy who ran with her, hid with her, and kept her sane. After months of psychological and physical abuse, Em discovers a note hidden in the drain of her cell with a cryptic message written in her handwriting. The note is impossible, but very real. It gives her instructions she has no choice but to accept, and if she succeeds she will alter the entire course of history and reality.

[“You have to kill him.”]

Aug 30 2013 11:00am

Welcome to Night Vale

In the darkest spaces between nightmares and hallucinations is a place unlike any other. The town is populated by hollow-eyed messenger children and ominous hooded figures, haunted by non-existent angels and towers of roaches in deer masks, and tormented by a tiny underground army and wheat and wheat byproducts. A hellscaped sky stretches its gaping maw over the Sand Wastes and Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, and citizens who aren’t busy battling their evil doppelgangers or being converted into buzzing shadowpeople defined only by the absence of light in the vague shape of a torso and limbs go about their daily lives and try not to get on the bad side of the City Council or the Sheriff’s Secret Police.

Welcome to Night Vale.

[“Did you know there’s a Faceless Old Woman who secretly lives in your home?”]

Aug 16 2013 10:00am

Kelly Armstrong OmensOlivia Taylor-Jones has everything a beautiful young socialite could want. Her well-to-do family, though clouded by the early death of her father, affords her endless luxury and comfort. Her charming fiancé has his own swimming pool full of money and growing political aspirations to match. Her profession is light enough to not be intrusive, but charitable enough to make her look like a shining example of womanhood. She’s also bored and aimless, which means it’s the perfect time for something unexpectedly awful to happen. In her case, she and the rest of the tabloid-obsessed world discover her real parents are infamous serial killers Pamela and Todd Larsen, and that her adoptive parents were awarded custody after her birth parents were arrested.

To rub salt in her wounds, her adoptive mother flees to Europe to cope with the revelations, an act Olivia—aka Eden Larsen—interprets as abandonment. When the man she loves pushes her away to protect his upcoming campaign, she cuts all ties and goes into hiding, albeit poorly. Several life-threatening experiences later, Olivia winds up in Cainsville, Illinois, a small town in the middle of nowhere practically dripping with dark secrets. Nothing in the township is what it seems, and everyone knows more than they should about things that go bump in the night.

[“Ewch i ffwrdd, bran!”]

Aug 14 2013 5:00pm

The Bone Season Samantha ShannonPaige Mahoney is a 19-year-old clairvoyant. Her specialty is dreamwalking, sending her spirit through the ether and into someone else’s dreamscape. She lives in a dystopian future version of London, one of many European cities crushed by the iron grip of the Scion security force. Queen Victoria’s son King Edward VII held a séance that supposedly resulted in a voyant-related killing spree, or so the legend goes. Ever since, Scion has focused all their power on routing out paranormals and locking them in the Tower of London to torturous ends. Those who can hide from the Evil League of Evil often trade one prison for another in the form of crime syndicates. That’s where Paige is when Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season opens; she works for a powerful group out of the Seven Dials in central London, and accidentally kills someone with her psychic powers.

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