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The Walking Dead: No. Eff you, you effing eff.

Even before the end of season 6 of The Walking Dead, I was so over this show. Having watched it religiously for 6 years, (even suffering through season 2), as a loyal fan, I felt completely disrespected by the showrunners. This is one of the highest-rated shows on television. There’s even a show AFTER the show, where the sole purpose is to talk about the show for ANOTHER HOUR. And yet, for whatever reason, The Walking Dead has turned away from even attempting to write compelling storylines, and instead has chosen to throw cheap tricks at us, for nothing more than a lazy grab at ratings they don’t even need.

The Walking Dead spent almost all of last season crawling along at a glacial pace, telling the same goddamn story they have been telling from the beginning–you either accept this new world as corrupt, or you believe there is salvation still to be had (except you’re wrong, you freaking idiots). Our heroes arrive at a town in Alexandria, Virginia, which has managed to escape the worst of the zombie outbreak. The people living there are naive to the reality of the world. And so we spend yet another season watching the consequences of people either choosing to accept it or not choosing to accept it. YAWN.

The thing that has always angered me about The Walking Dead, is that the show spends time making you care about these characters, only to rip them away from you, usually by the next episode. There’s a huge difference between killing a character for the sake of the story to move forward (i.e., Hershel), and killing a character just to kill them (i.e., pretty much everyone else). That’s not entertainment.

Let’s talk about the shit the show pulled with Glenn last season. He seemingly fell off of a dumpster and had his intestines ripped out and eaten before his very eyes. Several episodes later, we learn that the other guy on the dumpster had fallen on top of Glenn, and HIS intestines were being eaten, while Glenn pulled himself under the dumpster until all the zombies eventually shuffled away.

Why. Why would you do that? Why would you tell that story? It’s not a story! It’s a cop out. It’s a ratings grab. It’s bullshit. It’s disrespectful to the fans.

And then let’s bring in Negan–the show’s new Big Bad, who has been hinted at for quite some time, and has excited the fan base who has read the comics. Negan is pure evil. And everyone knew he was going to kill someone.

Of course, I tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the finale to find out: Who was Negan going to kill? Pulling the SAME SHIT they pulled with Glenn’s dumpster dive “death,” The Walking Dead hyped this finale up, only to make us wait until the next season to learn everyone’s fate.

Of course, I was not even the least bit excited to learn who got killed. The Walking Dead marketed the forthcoming death(s) as a game; as a teaser. Posting videos to their Facebook page of each character and asking, “Is this the end for Maggie?”, “Is this the end for Daryl?” No, I don’t want to play that game! These are characters that I care about. I have been with these characters since the beginning. I love them all. I don’t want to take bets on who is going to die!

So, season 7 opens with an extreme close up of Rick, sweating and wearing a smear of someone else’s brains on his face. People sobbing around him. Horrifying, horrible, awful stuff. Where is the entertainment value in this? We learn fairly quickly that it was Abraham who took the bat to the head again, and again, and again, until his head was nothing more than a puddle of blood on the ground. Where is the entertainment value in this?

Later in the episode (and the point at which I stopped watching), the bat is brought down on Glenn’s head. He didn’t die right away though. His eyeball popped out, and he struggled to say one last thing to his pregnant wife as she knelt horrified and hysterical, watching her husband (and a beloved character, plus one of the only Asian men on TV right now) ALSO have his head beaten to a soup of blood. Where is the entertainment value in this?

Not only did it happen, but we had to watch it. Violence for the sake of violence. Gratuitous horror for the sake of gratuitous horror. Why? Why?

I’m not buying Jeffery Dean Morgan’s portrayal as Negan–if this is supposed to be a psychotic, maniacal villain, Morgan is just not selling it. I imagine there are few actors in this world who can deliver the line “pee pee pants city” with any kind of believable conviction to make it not ridiculous. Negan doesn’t scare me, he doesn’t seem unhinged. Which makes the violence even more unnecessary than it already is. If the story is to demonstrate a psychopath, then yeah, maybe the brutal deaths would have been warranted. But Jeffery Dean Morgan is just not pulling that off. He’s not a worthy adversary to Rick. And frankly, I’m sick of seeing Rick’s sweaty hair in his face as he trembles in baffled agony at the events unfolding before him.

What I find particularly disturbing is the reaction of the audience to Negan. They couldn’t wait for this character to show up. Knowing how horrible he would be. Jeffery Dean Morgan is undoubtably a babe (Denny Duquette forever and ever amen), but what was this that I saw at Hot Topic last night:

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The description of this shirt on the Hot Topic website is:
“You really like the bad boys, don’t you?!

This fitted black tee from AMC’s The Walking Dead features a black & white photo design of Negan and his bat Lucille with text that reads “I (heart) Negan.”

There are not enough emoticons in the world to depict how I am feeling. This character BEAT THE LITERAL BRAINS OUT OF TWO CHARACTERS. HE’S NOT A BAD BOY, HE’S A SICK TWISTED MOTHERFUCKER WITH NO REDEEMABLE QUALITIES.

Seriously, what the actual fuck am I looking at? Negan is not a misunderstood emotionally unavailable man with a secret heart of gold and the ability to be saved if a woman loves him enough. This disturbs me to my core. Why aren’t more people angry about this? Where is the entertainment value in this?!?

You know who the target customer at Hot Topic is? Teenagers. Teenagers. TEENAGERS. (And me, but we’re not talking about that right now.)

The Walking Dead is one of (if not THE) most popular shows on television right now. Its scope stretches far and wide. Its marketing suggests entertainment in violent death, and now it glorifies villains. This shirt has a man on it, holding a bat that is dripping in blood, with the words a middle schooler would doodle on the sides of their looseleaf paper. Do you like me? Yes. No. Maybe. Circle One.

No. No. Fuck you The Walking Dead you fucking fuck. This show is dead to me. And yet, like every dead thing on this show, it rises back up from the dead and crawls toward me with evil intentions–it’s already been renewed for two more seasons.

 

Backstreet’s Back ALL RIGHT (or someone else, spoilers duh)

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Game of Thrones is back! Jon Snow is back! Even Ned Stark is back (kinda). It is an exciting time to be tuned it to Westeros, because Game of Thrones is entering uncharted territory. That’s right, this season they are going off book, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Because, seriously, have you read the 5th book? I tried. I tried so hard. I got maybe a quarter of the way through (which, in my defense, is like 300 pages) and I just couldn’t do it anymore because NOTHING. IS. HAPPENING. Do I need 3 pages of Tyrion musing about turtles? No. And honestly, that is really all I remember from the 5th book because literally nothing else happens. And so it is with extreme excitement that I let this season take me beyond the books to heretofore unseen places and storylines, with nary a turtle in sight.

And I’m okay with the show runners doing whatever they want to this story, because it is going places and I am 110% here for it. A brief recap of where we left off last season:

In King’s Landing, Cersei gave a little too much power to a religious extremist group who imprisoned her, as well as Margaery and Loras Tyrell for the sins of incest, homosexuality, etc. Cersei confessed to her crimes so she could be released, but in exchange had to walk the streets of King’s Landing naked and shamed in front of all of the people she has ruled (who obviously hate her, for good reason because she’s a total bitch). As of the opening of season 6, the Tyrell’s are still held captive, refusing to confess.

In Dorne, Jamie travels to fetch his niece/daughter, Myrcella, and take her back to King’s Landing. Myrcella is very much in love with betrothed Dornish Prince, Tristane, and doesn’t want to leave. Ellaria Sand returns to Dorne, mourning Oberyn Martell, who got his skull crushed by the Mountain during a duel (it basically exploded, I’m still not over it). She is hell-bent on vengeance and seeks help from the Sand Snakes (a group of Oberyn’s bastard daughters, both by Ellaria Sand and other women), who are also interested in avenging their father. Oberyn’s brother, Prince Doran, wishes to maintain peace. So the sand ladies take things into their own hands (and whips), poisoning Myrcella just before she gets on the boat that is to take her and Tristane back to King’s Landing. Myrcella tells Jamie that she knows he’s her Uncle-Father, and she’s okay with it. But then she dies.

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Heyyy Uncle-Father

In Braavos, Arya is still training with Jaqen H’ghar and all the weirdos at the House of Black and White. She insists that she is “no one” when asked but she is still holding on to a part of Arya that she doesn’t want to let go. Jaqen obviously knows this. A man knows a lot of stuff. He knows that Arya assumes a disguise in order to murder one of the men on her hit list (Meryn Trant who, it turns out, was into molesting kids almost as much as he was in to cutting people’s heads off, so no one is even remotely sorry that he’s dead now). BUT, since Arya disobeyed orders and acted in her own interests, she’s blind now.

Across the sea, Tyrion emerges from his smuggling after killing his father with an arrow to the crotch. Varys came along too and tries convincing Tyrion to join the Targaryen cause. Ser Jorrah, who is depressed and in Daenerys’ exile, comes across Tyrion and kidnaps him to take him to Dani to try and win retribution (I guess?). On their way there, they are attacked by stone men who infect Ser Jorrah with greyscale (though he has revealed that to no one–and I can’t help noticing he’s still going around touching everyone he pleases!). Tyron meets Dani and joins her Queen’s Guard. Ser Jorrah enters the fighting pits to impress the queen because the dude just cannot take a hint. Then the Sons of the Harpy show up, trying to assassinate the queen. Jorrah saves her, and it looks like a pretty stick situation, until DROGON comes out of nowhere, obliterating Dani’s enemies as she mounts him and together they fly away into the sunset! BUT then she gets kidnapped by the Dothraki.

At Winterfell, Roose Bolton legitimizes his bastard, Ramsey, and arranges that he marry Sansa Stark. Sansa is brought down from the Vale by Littlefinger, who she trusts (girl, that’s a mistake), and he leaves her there with her future husband. Theon, of course, is there (or at least what’s left of him is there. That does not include his penis. That’s gone forever). Surprising no one, Ramsey brutally rapes and tortures his new bride, but Sansa and Theon manage to escape and run away.

Also at Winterfell, Brienne and Pod had reached out to Sansa pre Sansa getting married and offered their protection, which she denied (girl, that was a mistake). Stannis marches on Winterfell (girl, that was a mistake) and his army is completely obliterated. Brienne comes upon a dying Stannis and avenges the gay love of her life, Renly, by chopping off Stannis’ head. Everyone collectively breathes a sigh of relief because no one likes Stannis because he’s so boring plus he just burned his daughter alive.

Which leads me to: The Wall. Where all kinds of shit is going down. Like the White Walker army attacking and killing the crap out of the Wildlings. Stannis was at the Wall with the Red Woman, his family, and Ser Davos. Stannis’ daughter, Shireen, and Davos had formed a special friendship as she taught him how to read. This girl is like the sweetest little thing you ever could see. She also survived greyscale (so don’t give up hope, Ser Jorrah!). But perhaps greyscale would have been preferable to what did happen to her, which was death by fire. Melisandre saw Stannis’ victory at Winterfell in the flames but he needed to make a sacrifice of someone with king’s blood. Well, in his general vicinity, that was pretty much only Shireen. And Davos wasn’t there to save her, as he had already headed towards Winterfell. The fire was lit and this poor child was burned alive. All for nothing because Stannis lost anyway (which Melisandre was really bummed out about).

So, finally, we come to Jon Snow. He who knows nothing. He with the fantastic hair that looks so amazing when snow falls in it. The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Murdered. Stabbed to death by his own Brothers. The closing scene of the season is Jon Snow lying dead in the….well….in the snow.

Thus began the year of speculation! Is he really dead? Turns out yes. But does he stay dead. No he does not.

(Okay, I guess that recap wasn’t so brief but I had to set the stage!)

Game of Thrones hit the ground running this season, pushing the story forward at a quick but satisfying pace. In the 2 episodes that have aired so far, already 3 significant characters have been killed (Balon Greyjoy, Prince Doran of Dorne, and Roose Bolton). Sansa was rescued by Brienne. Tyrion unshackled the freaking DRAGONS (in a heart-pounding scene for sure–could he have dragon’s blood in him? Hmm?). Melisandre was revealed to be secretly super old (which absolutely none of us saw coming). Ramsey brutally murdered his father’s widow and newborn son (it was grisly and completely unnecessary that we had to watch/hear that. Too far GoT. Seriously, too far). The more boring storylines (and by that I mean nothing has really happened yet): Arya is still blind, and Cersei and the Lannisters are plotting their revenge.

But now we get to the most intriguing storylines. First, Bran is using his mystical white eye warg powers to insert himself into moments in the past. The first of these puts Bran at Winterfell, where he sees young Ned Stark practicing sword-fighting with brother Benjen, as his sister Lyanna rides up on horseback. We also see Hodor, but he was a boy named Wylis back  then and could still speak English. The preview for next week promises more flashback scenes. GIVE ME RHAEGAR FLASHBACKS AND GIVE ME THEM NOW. My hopes and dreams are that these scenes will culminate in the reveal of the highly popular theory that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. I’m thirsting for that story, and the show better quench it because I deserve it! We all deserve it.

And finally, we’re back to Jon Snow. Surprising probably no one, he does come back from the dead. Melisandre sensuously washes his wounds (so many abs, so many abs), cuts his hair (tone it down lady, don’t cut it all off), and mumbles a bunch of Valyrian (I think) over him, all resulting in Jon Snow drawing breath and being alive again. YES.

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The show has consistently done a good job of taking the story from the books and condensing it down, either eliminating minor characters (or storylines) completely or replacing them with more important ones. (See: Sansa Stark as Ramsey’s wife, instead of Jeyne Poole from the books who is masqueraded as Arya. So confusing. Or Ellaria Sand as the one pushing for a war with the Lannisters, instead of introducing a new character to do so.) And now that they have surpassed the plot of the books, they’re doing something even better: Removing all boring moments from the books and giving the fans storylines that are interesting and satisfying.

As of the end of book 5, Tyrion had yet to meet Daenerys. In the show, not only has he met her, he now advises her and befriends her dragons, all while maintaining a comedic wit that the show desperately needs to break up the horror of most other plots. I have no idea what’s going on with Sansa in book 5 but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much further than the Vale. In the show, she has now escaped Ramsey, learned that Bran and Rickon are alive, reunited with and forgiven Theon, and has been saved by Brienne. And on and on it goes for each character. And now, the icing on the cake, we are getting flashback scenes. I’m so excited I feel like I’m taking a ride on that dragon, soaring over my enemies (namely father of the realm G.R.R.M., the maintenance people who won’t come and fix my bathroom ceiling, and any and all haters). I cannot wait to watch the rest of this season.

Side note: Do you think anyone is going to get raped this season? Who am I kidding, it’s Game of Thrones, of COURSE someone is getting raped.

Why ‘The Walking Dead’ is Still Unwatched on My DVR

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SIGH. I’m starting to really get tired of The Walking Dead’s shit. Over the past 6 seasons, the show continuously got better and better. And yet, it was getting better at telling the same damn story. That story being: Who are we after the world collapses? And, also, this is the world we live in now, you have to adapt to it.

Well, fuck, I’m bored as hell with that! The first half of the current season was spent introducing us to a slew of new characters that we all know are gonna die eventually and probably pretty soon. All of these characters have had the privilege of living behind the walls of a neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, where some temporary geographical circumstances had the worst of the zombie mobs kept away from this pristine little place. All of the people inside are, obviously, totally oblivious to how the world works now. In marches Rick and his merry band of badasses who have seen some truly horrific shit, and now they have to co-mingle with a group of doofuses and, boy, do they butt heads! lol

Except, you know what? I already saw HOW many seasons of people accepting this new world? I’m over that. I got it! It sucks and you either die or you live. I don’t need to see the character development of some rando Joe Schmo who’s going to die in the next 30 minutes anyway. I don’t even need new characters! Stick to the main characters you still haven’t killed, they’re the only ones we care about.

I also really don’t need characters like Morgan believing that there is still redemption to be  found in all humans, and that killing is a mistake. Nobody has time for this shit, Morgan. I know you’re plot point one, but see plot point two: This is the world we live in now, adapt to it!

Not only am I just generally bored with the storylines, but the show gives us so much awful and hardly any relief. I know it’s a show about zombies eating people and people killing people. But the audience does get invested in these characters. Not only are they consistently killed, but we’re also hardly ever given some happy moments or satisfying ones.

Take the shit this season pulled with Glenn and the dumpster–we thought he was dead (which was awful), now he’s alive (but the reason is bullshit), and for most of this season, we’ve been waiting for Glenn and Maggie to be reunited. It happens, but WE don’t see it. I briefly saw Glenn walking toward Maggie in the infirmary after the zombie shitshow was over and all the annoying characters got eaten. I thought I was going to punch something. You put me through all of those hours of agony, and then you don’t even give me anything in terms of a reunion? Nothing? You couldn’t give me Glenn’s hand on a baby bump, or a simple kiss? Am I machine without feelings?

And people die now just to die. Their deaths don’t add anything to the story. Hershel’s partial beheading was the last death to really mean something to me on this show. His character was important. He had become a voice of reason and a leader. He was a good man. And killing him pushed the show’s storyline ahead.

Beth’s death? EFF. THAT. That was ridiculous. And what is Maggie going to do if Glenn dies? She’ll be sad. The end. What intriguing storyline can there possibly be with that? They’ve run out of character arcs for these people, so now they’re just doing cheap tricks (like pretending to kill Glenn) and recycling old storylines with new people.

And now I hear all of this talk about Negan, from the comics. I hear that he’s a horrendous person. I hear that he kills a beloved character by bashing his brains in with a baseball bat. So Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead is sitting unwatched on my DVR. Because here’s what I’ll find when I hit play: Boring overused storylines, death and pain and no satisfaction or gratification, and the promise of terrible things to come. I just don’t know if I can do it anymore. Nah, you know what, I’ll probably just go watch it.

No, wait, there was a moment of satisfaction recently. When that weird kid got eaten by the zombies. Finally. Yeah, that part was great.

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Tiptoe through the tulips indeed, Sam.

 

‘The Newsroom’ Controversy: Oh, Shenandoah

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My relationship with The Newsroom has always been a struggle. Initially, I loathed it to the point where if I was in the room when it was on I would put my hands over my ears and go “la, la, la!!!” so I wouldn’t have to listen to that dialogue delivered so fast and mechanically.

Then I actually sat down and watched it (more accurately, I was stuck on a 9-hour flight back from Budapest and it was available on my tiny little airplane seat screen). And I found it entertaining enough to marathon the first and second seasons whilst overcoming a particularly bad upper respiratory infection. I am one of the few people who thought the second season was great but even though I like the show, I also recognize how exhausting and pretentious it is. It’s so strange to both like and hate something with equal fervor.

So I’ve been approaching this third and final season of The Newsroom in a resigned sort of way. The episodes annoy me, but not enough to make me really feel anything. And I guess that’s the thing about The Newsroom—for being so dramatic I’ve rarely felt any emotion towards it. I apathetically like it and dislike it at the same time.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised at this past Sunday’s episode, entitled, “Oh, Shenandoah.” Upon its conclusion I found the episode to be emotional, intriguing, and satisfying. There was one part that I found a little problematic in how uncomfortable it made me, but overall I liked it a lot.

But that part that made me uncomfortable really, really upset a lot of people. This specific subplot of the episode had Don tracking down a college girl named Mary who started a website where victims of sexual assault and rape could go to name their rapists publicly. Charlie told Don that he had to do a story about this website on his show, and that he had to get both Mary (who started the website after being raped), and the man she was accusing of raping her, to go on the show face-to-face live on air. Don sought the girl out to convince her not to go on the show.

Don thought it would be a bad idea to put a rape victim and her abuser on live television together, and I think everyone would agree. The girl however, was eager to do it. She was aware, and angry, that she would never have a trial, never have a jury, never have justice. She wanted to publicly call out the man who raped her.

Then it starts to get a little befuddling. Don has some good intentions with his desire to keep her off of his show (the public will slut-shame her, they will attack everything about her), but he also has some really bad opinions. Namely, that morally he has to believe the accused rapist’s story, which is that the girl wanted it and was begging for it. He took on an innocent-until-proven-guilty-stance and said that his real problem with airing the story was that her website was dangerous. That anyone could go on there and accuse anyone of rape and it could ruin a potentially innocent man’s life.

Okay so, there’s a lot of problematic stuff here. First, to by default not believe a woman who says she has been raped and question whether she is making it up, and chalk all of that up to “morality.” The fear and shame that she won’t be believed is precisely the reason many women never come forward and say that they’ve been raped. And therefore why many rapists are never punished. Second, and more importantly, to believe it is more important to protect a hypothetical few innocent men than to address the very real and very rampant issue of rape on college campuses and how that issue is overlooked, thrown aside, and demeaned every single day. Again, all in the name of moral obligation.

Don’s opinions enraged me. But the scene didn’t. A lot of people walked away from that scene as if the point was to advocate Don’s opinions. That his opinions are the one’s that we as the audience are supposed to side with, because Don is one of the show’s “heroes.” But if you watch that scene, the person who wins (in my opinion) is Mary. She never backs down from her convictions that what she’s doing is right. She says, “There’s not going to be a trial, there’s not going to be an arrest, and there’s not going to be an investigation. Mine is going to be one of the 700,000 untested rape kits so I started this website. This isn’t revenge, it’s a warning, it’s a public service announcement. Do not go on a date with these guys, do not go to a party with these guys. They’re avoiding jail and you think I’m being too harsh? Yeah bitches be bitches, I get it. Yes, I think there’s a chance and I weighed the cost benefit. If another girl got raped because I didn’t say anything, or because someone else didn’t say anything…”

Don is usually a likeable character (insomuch as any character on this show can be “likeable”). His ultimate concern, it seems, is that by going on the show Mary won’t get the justice she’s looking for and could potentially hurt innocent people in the process. And I can see what he’s saying, I guess, but the problematic thing is that in this episode, Don silences a conversation about rape before it even begins to protect innocent men whose lives might maybe someday be harmed by it.

Don’s opinions on rape are baffling and infuriating but many people in this country have opinions on rape that are baffling, infuriating, or worse. It was very, very annoying that Don spoke in a tone of voice as though his was the voice of reason, and Mary was an over-emotional, hysterical victim who should be doubted. But in the end, I don’t think the takeaway from that scene is Don’s thoughts that using the internet as a platform to confront rapists is reckless and wrong because an innocent person could get hurt. I think the audience is meant to side with Mary. I think the driving point of the scene is what Mary says at the end of it: “No, you can’t imagine. Do you want to hear the advice I get? I mean this is real advice, in pamphlets. Say you have a boyfriend. Wear a wedding ring. I’m supposed to protect myself from a man by pretending I’m the property of another man. And of course there’s no shortage of fashion advice. When you came in here, you wanted to go to a public place because you were scared I’d cry rape. I’m scared of getting raped. I’m scared all the time. All the time. So you know what my site does? It scares you. It scares the living shit out of any guy who thinks even once of putting his hands on someone without invitation.”

Mary’s voice is the one that should resonate from that scene. The fact that in the plot of the show, Don silences it by not putting it on his show, doesn’t mean that America didn’t hear it, or that The Newsroom necessarily believes that’s the right thing to do. Mary may not have been given the opportunity to confront her rapist, and Don’s opinions on the matter are abysmal, and the episode ends. But the conversation doesn’t end just because the credits rolled. After all, what are we all talking about?

My Cat From Hell and the American Dream

Guys, I recently fell down this weird rabbit hole where I watched like 7 hours of My Cat from Hell. For anyone unfamiliar with this gem, My Cat from Hell is a show on Animal Planet starring Jackson Galaxy (real name Richard Kirschner): a cat behaviorist by day, and a musician by night.

So when does he find time to groom his beard like this?

So when does he find time to groom his beard like this?

Jackson travels across the United States of America in his pink convertible ­­­to the homes of people with rambunctious and problematic cats. Once there, he assesses the situation with his calm demeanor and knack for just really getting along with cats. Cats act like dicks for all sorts of reasons: their environment, the people in their lives, sometimes even feline illnesses. Mr. Galaxy won’t give up until he figures out why your cat attacks you and pees on your stuff.

Jackson will calmly and without fear enter the room where the cat has been corralled and spend some quality one-on-one time with the alleged demon, where he usually discovers the cat is actually pretty nice.

Then the real drama begins. If this cat can get along with a chap like Jackson Galaxy, then what the deuce is going on in this home that’s making the cat go crazy? See, this show isn’t just about how Jackson can unite a cat with its owners; it’s about how Jackson can really get to the root of a familial problem and solve it together, as a team. You’ll see such telenovelas as the guy who kicked the cat ONCE but only gently with one toe, or the woman who doesn’t want to get rid of her cat even though it attacked her child. Jackson Galaxy is a level-headed, unbiased presence who just wants people to enjoy these majestic creatures, damn it!

However, his job doesn’t seem hard. After the third episode I was like, “Okay I could have figured that out.” There’s not what you would call a wide range of stories going on here, or even moderately entertaining drama.

But I love the dream behind My Cat from Hell. That you can just reinvent yourself into a pseudo-intergalactic musician with a guitar case full of cat elixirs and be successful. This is the American Dream, people! You love two unrelated things? Why not be both of them? Jackson Galaxy is unafraid of who he is and that’s why he’s compelling. That’s why I can’t turn off the TV when there’s a show on that marries the concepts of cats and perceived outcasts, which is really just the internet on Animal Planet.

My Cat from Hell knows exactly what it is: A slightly absurd show that capitalizes on the fact that it’s sometimes really funny when cats are jerks. God bless America.

Thoughts on ‘Insurgent,’ Featuring the Chewbacca Defense

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Buckle up, because this is going to be a rough fucking ride

I know that this is not about television but I have so many scathing feelings about this book that I need to release them in a safe space. Also, an unbelievable amount of spoilers follow, so if you haven’t read Insurgent yet and you want to, probably don’t read this or DO WHATEVER YOU WANT I DON’T CARE.

Ok.

The tagline of this book is “One choice can destroy you” and it’s never more true than if your choice was to read this book.

Everything that happened in this book made me want to SCREAM, starting with Tris and Tobias’ relationship. ESPECIALLY their relationship. I really liked Tobias/Four in the first book. I liked that he admired Tris’ bravery, believed her strength was unquestionable, trusted her judgment and her ability to complete a task, and loved her for herself. This book is like a 180 and I don’t understand it.

I understand that you need to create conflict between 2 characters to make a story interesting, and I understand that usually in the second book of a young adult trilogy, the characters are fighting or apart for much of it. But in this book, the author seems to have just made the characters fight because she needed to find conflict SOMEwhere between them. It felt forced, ridiculous, and untrue to the characters as I understood them in book 1. There were so many times where I was like, “Wait…is this a fear simulation?” because I couldn’t imagine Tobias would call Tris an idiot or they would fight over something SO UNBELIEVABLY STUPID to the point where they don’t speak to each other for a week.

Tris’ major struggle in this book is her guilt over killing Will in book 1. It consumes her. Which is actually an interesting plot. Tobias is angry with Tris because she can’t communicate to him the depth of her guilt and grief (um, she’s 16), and she can’t understand how to move forward (um, she has PTSD). Her guilt is compounded by her additional anguish over her parents both dying to protect her, and her in-the-moment decision to save Hector instead of Marlene during one of Erudite’s simulations (um, hello, Christina was standing right there and she saved NO one, and seems cool with it. Tris, how were you supposed to save 3 people?).

Because of this, Tris has a death wish. In fact, she straight-up says she wants to join her parents in whatever great beyond exists. She has so much of a death wish that she sacrifices herself without even considering the very stupid thing she is doing and the inevitable consequences her choice will have. Again, this sounds like an interesting plot but the PROBLEM is how god forsakenly annoying Tris and Tobias are throughout all of it.

In this book, Tobias is angry that Tris won’t communicate with him all of her emotions over killing Will and watching so many people die. Tobias just yells at her about how much she sucks at communicating when he sucks even more at it. It doesn’t make sense. Tobias sees that Tris can’t even pick up a gun, and he (okay I guess I understand this) get’s angry at her that she continues to put herself in dangerous situations without any protection or regard for her own safety. And yes, that’s a problem, but the real problem is how he doesn’t seem to address her desire to die—first at all, and then with any kind of gentleness. In fact, he gives her an ultimatum at one point and says that unless she stops wanting to die he’s going to break up with her. And, like, okay, but also WHAT?!?!

Tobias no longer sees her as brave because he sees her as reckless. But throughout the two books, we’ve read about how in Dauntless there sometimes is no difference between the two. Tobias says he fell in love with the Divergent Tris—the one who wasn’t only one thing but was many things. But this is unfair. Because Tobias admits, while under the Candor truth serum no less (oh my god, what is my life), that he truly believes he belongs in Abnegation, and that the only reason he chose Dauntless was to protect himself from his father. Tobias leans heavily toward Abnegation and is a weaker Divergent than Tris, yet resents Tris heavily leaning towards Dauntless when I fail to see the difference between what they’re both doing.

Not to mention throughout the books, the characters discuss how maybe there is little difference between selflessness and bravery, and so how much difference is there really between the core values of Abnegation and Dauntless? Whenever Tris actually points out obvious and semi-intelligent thoughts like this, Tobias flies off the handle, at one point even telling Tris that she didn’t understand the Abnegation-kind of selflessness that he did. Except for all Tobias’ claims that he’s truly Abnegation, he acts more like a freaking Dauntless than anybody (again, what is my life, how am I writing these sentences).

Tris winds up risking her life in the dumbest way possible, to the point where I wanted to reach into the book and freaking smack her across the face. She marches into Erudite headquarters to turn herself in as Divergent, to ensure that no more Dauntless are killed. Except, TRIS YOU ARE AN IDIOT (I guess Tobias was right, but I don’t support a boyfriend calling his girlfriend a mean word like “idiot,” even if he IS right). Tris, what do you think the Erudite want with a Divergent? They want to experiment on you, fool, so that they can control the other Divergent. You think this is going to save anyone? No, you’re just helping the enemy make it worse.

And, of course, Tobias follows her like 7 hours later. But instead of being angry, he’s all loving and sacrificial. He tells her that he has a plan to get them out of there and asks her to hold on for 2 more weeks. He also tells her that he can’t stop her from deciding to die but that he knows that she won’t, because she is too selfless to leave everyone behind. Then he touches his lips to hers (they do a lot of lip-touching in this book. I assume it means kissing but I kind of picture a lip fist-bump of sorts and it’s only one of the many instances where Veronica Roth’s writing is a bit perplexing but I digress). Tris’ thought is that Tobias is wrong and she actually wants to die very badly and can’t wait. THIS IS SO MESSED-UP AND PROBLEMATIC. Her character is depressing and personality-less and oh my god I have like 100 pages left to read.

But, OF COURSE, at the moment they’re about to kill Tris (except not really, obviously, that sneaky asshole Peter can’t be in Tris’ debt and has a plan to save her life), Tris actually realizes, “WAIT. I WANT TO LIVE.” She screams her desire to live in her own head as she believes she’s dying and realizes that it would be a much better way to honor those who have died (especially the ones who sacrificed their lives for her, hello) to just continue living. And obviously Tobias has known this all along so why didn’t he just TELL her? (That last part is my thought, not Tris’.)

So after they escape Erudite headquarters it seems like FINALLY we have some character development. Tris has her revelation, Tobias loves her, and it’s time to move the plot forward.

Only Tris disagrees with Tobias’ course of action to move ahead in this war, so instead of talking to him about it, she just goes behind his back. She lies to him. And then she aligns herself with Tobias’ abusive father to learn integral information. Understandably she is afraid to confide in Tobias that she believes his father and is choosing to follow him in this way—Tobias hates and fears his father more than anything. And I understand how Tris feared she would lose Tobias because of how much of a betrayal Tobias might view this act. But if I were Tris (and I wouldn’t be, because I’m not a moron), I would much more prefer Tobias be angry and betrayed at something I tell him I’m going to do, than be angry and betrayed at something he learns I lied to him about doing.

Tris does it anyway, aware that she will lose Tobias if she moves forward, but seeing it again as another selfless act, and the only way she can get the important information they need for the war. Just when I thought Tris and Tobias could learn to communicate, Tris makes the same freaking mistake she has made, having learned nothing, as if the past 270 PAGES NEVER EVEN HAPPENED JESUS CHRIST.

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So beyond the horrifying character development, there is also just the flatness of the characters in general. They’re really not interesting, and lack much of a personality. Anything that’s supposed to be funny—like a group of characters just joking around with each other—just…isn’t funny. It’s part of the problem with Veronica Roth’s writing. Tris narrates the story in first person present tense yet seems to have access to things a first-person narrator wouldn’t have access to. She’ll close her eyes but then see Tobias do something. She’ll meet a character and then 3 sentences later talk about how the character did something “uncharacteristically.” Tobias and Tris’ love scenes are strange too. Mostly chaste, they wrap their hands around each other’s necks a lot (not in a strangling way, I presume), which is a strange place to put your hands when you’re kissing someone (or touching lips or whatever the hell they do). They put their hands up the backs of each other’s shirts (not the front? Why not the front?), trace each other’s necks with their unnaturally long fingers, and touch lips. It’s bizarre.

And then there is who Veronica Roth chooses to kill. Which so far is like basically every minor main character. And it feels more like she’s doing it be like, “Hey, this is going to be that kind of book that is shocking because I’ll kill anyone, no one is safe” more than to be like, “Hey, this is the cost of war.” Because she chose to kill Marlene when there were 2 other minor characters standing right there that she could have killed instead. One of the characters you just met in THAT SCENE. But no, she chooses to have Marlene, one of the few characters with a bit of a personality, throw herself off a building during an Erudite simulation. And she has Tris choose to save someone she barely knows, over her friend. Why? I can’t see the motivation here. It felt like the seventh Harry Potter book all over again, where J.K. Rowling was like, “Well, let’s just kill people.” Like, okay, I get why Dumbledore had to die but Dobby? DOBBY?

(It also feels like The Walking Dead, with Roth taking the time to make you like a character just before she kills them.)

The only thing that saves this book is the climax and the end. The climax where Tris actually does some badass stuff not because she wants to die or because she aims to be selfless but because she believes it’s the right thing to do, no matter the consequences. This is a character I can get behind. Even better than that, Tris FINALLY tells Tobias off, yelling at him and calling him out on his bullshit. Hallelujah! Tobias ends up seeing the error of his ways I guess but he never says sorry. Their make-up scene is pretty quick, like 3 pages before the end, with Tobias just telling Tris that she was right (eh, I’ll take it).

The ending was…confusing. But at least it was interesting. There is much of this dystopia that doesn’t really make sense to me, but the ending was interesting enough (that there is an entire society out there, separate from Tris’, where humanity has crumbled and people have lost their minds or something) that I’m willing to give the third and final book the benefit of the doubt. Though I do know the giant spoiler part of how that book (and the series) ends and I’m already mad about it so we’ll see.

At least the Divergent movie was pretty good. And by “good” I mean Theo James is really hot.

Theo James

Especially with non life-threatening facial wounds

‘The Following’ Wears Its Sophomore Season Well

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The Following, Season 2

The Following, debuting its first season in January of 2013, had an interesting premise and a lot of potential but suffered from poor execution and over-the-top writing. The premise: Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is a serial killer and author who garners a cult following which finds inspiration in the works of Edgar Allen Poe. This following helps him to escape prison and begin writing his next novel, whose central character is FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), the man who put Carroll behind bars.

The premise is intriguing, especially with the added element of Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre work from which to draw imagery inspiration. However, the execution left something to be desired. Though the characters weren’t quite one-dimensional: Ryan Hardy was destroyed by the Joe Carroll case; shot in the chest and requiring a pace maker, he became an alcoholic to escape the demons that still haunted him, and believed that death followed him wherever he went. Joe Carroll wanted to write his next novel (his first one was a flop) centered on destroying Ryan Hardy’s life. Add to that mix that Ryan was in love with Joe’s ex-wife Claire, and that Joe had a young son, who he was intent on being reunited with, and I was still intrigued. Also compelling was the fact that the central characters come to learn that people in their lives that they’ve known and trusted for years were actually followers of Joe, who were placed there so that they could strike at the opportune moment.

The problem with all of that, however, is how melodramatic and ridiculous the show ended up being. After Carroll escaped prison and met with his followers at a giant estate that became their headquarters and hideout, he managed to kidnap his ex-wife and son, and yet still allude the FBI for an entire season despite the fact that he stayed in one place for most of said season. The FBI was seemingly incapable of accomplishing anything. The characters of the cult were annoying, dispensable, and always doomed to fail—which made them boring and predictable.

Joe Carroll himself was the biggest problem of all. He was supposed to be brilliant and charismatic, but he strutted around his mansion screaming about metaphors and reciting his own terrible prose that it was hard to believe that he could ever inspire dozens of people to not only follow him, but to become murderers.

Ryan Hardy was a tortured person who was forever one step behind Joe Carroll, and forced to feel bad for himself as people around him died. The story was predictable, the ending foolish and laughable (Joe Carroll appeared to “die” by blowing up in a lighthouse, but his face as he screamed, “No! Noooo!” behind a wall of flames was so absurd that it had to be staged). The season ended with Ryan believing Joe was dead, and reconnecting with his love, Claire, only to have one of Joe’s followers pop out of nowhere and stab the both of them.

And now we get to season two. Which is such a markedly different show that I am shocked and pleasantly surprised. When season two opens, it’s been a year since Ryan and Claire were stabbed, and you learn immediately that Claire did not survive. But Ryan turned his life around—he quit the FBI, he goes jogging, he’s sober—and works as a criminology professor in New York. But at night, he becomes a secret vigilante, hunting down the remnants of Joe Carroll’s followers (called “Carrollers”) outside of the law.

Removing Ryan from the FBI was one of the best decisions this show could make. Ryan Hardy became so boring and tortured acting as the good guy. Playing by a specific set of rules, where else could his character go except to remain tragic and stuck repeating the same damn plot points? But Ryan Hardy as vigilante? So much better. He seeks revenge, and he will kill. Oh, and he believes Joe is alive.

And of course Joe is alive. He’s living in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere with a prostitute who wrote to him in prison, and her daughter. He’s in hiding, with a glorious beard and an attempt at an American accent. He claims he has reformed, and hasn’t killed anyone since he staged his own death. And it seems it’s true—he is truly struggling with his identity.

But when a cult of copycats, wearing Joe Carroll masks, storm a New York subway and murder a car of people shouting, “Resurrection!” and “Ryan Hardy can’t stop us,” it unfolds a chain of events far more interesting than anything that happened in season one.

Suddenly, there is a new cult, trying to draw Joe out of hiding, and it works. And Ryan Hardy continues to work outside the law (except with the help of his law-enforcement niece, which conveniently allows him to continue to have access to tracing phone calls and the like) helping to erase the ridiculousness of the first season with the FBI appearing to be completely incompetent.

The new cult is the best part of this season (and the show, I believe). Led by an art dealer named Lily, the cult is a hodgepodge of international orphans that Lily picked up over the years and formed a family (they all call her Mother) of twisted psychos. It’s clear that Lily wants Joe to complete that family.

What set this season apart for me right from the start was how it actually works as a suspenseful and creepy show now. Credit has to go predominantly to the brilliantly talented Sam Underwood (who is really good at playing psychos), who plays a set of sick and twisted twins—Luke and Mark. Luke slicks his hair back and Mark wears his on his forehead but you don’t need that small physical distinction to tell them apart because Underwood is a master. Luke is more assertive, more cruel and violent, but more charismatic (the kind of charisma that I think James Purefoy is lacking as Joe Carroll). Mark is bashful, shy, almost sweet, and struggles with emotion.

Together, they murder for their mother and then “have fun” with the body. It is implied that Luke enjoys having sex with corpses, but Mark likes to talk to them as though they were alive. Luke and Mark are chilling and strange.

And yet I find myself most drawn to this family of psychopaths this season. Ryan Hardy’s storyline takes a backseat to the intrigue of this new strange cult, and I find myself actually hoping that they don’t get caught, so I can see how they handle situations next. The characters are wholly more interesting than anything we saw from season one, and the show made a smart decision to kill off almost all of the original members of Joe Carroll’s cult, leaving only Emma (who they’ve somehow made less annoying, though I don’t know how). Gone, too, are the Edgar Allen Poe references and inspirations, which were becoming tedious and contrived.

Even Joe Carroll is a better character this season. He doubts himself, questions his identity, and feels failure—as a writer, as a leader, as a father. When we see Joe murder this season, we believe that he is a serial killer who takes pleasure in the sick things he does. There was some disconnect with that in season one but, removed from his cult, there is more of a realness to him that makes him more believable.

I truly had no idea how The Following could pull off a second season without just repeating the same storylines from the first season. But it’s like watching a completely different show. They removed the elements that weren’t working, took the characters out of settings that were doing nothing for them, and introduced a slew of truly intriguing and scary characters. The acting is better and the writing is better. Whereas the first season was utterly predictable, I believe this season has the potential to shock me—and I hope there will be twists. I truly struggled to get through the entirety of the first season. The second season has done the unthinkable: Made me excited to tune in every Monday. Should I say it? I’m going to say it: I’m a follower.