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Spencer Mullen
Apr 18, 2019

Sophie Turner, Epic Games, North Korea, and more in today's daily Link Tank!

A nutritionist has explained the link between eggs, cholestorol, and heart disease.

"The recent news that eating three to four eggs a week is linked to a slight increase in risk for developing heart disease was a bummer for egg lovers. Should you stop eating eggs because of this new finding? The study, published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the association between dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with cardiovascular disease and all causes of mortality."

Read more at Inverse.

Sophie Turner has opened up on her struggle with depression and mental health. 

"Growing up in the public eye cannot be easy. But one thing that’s important, especially for young fans of actors, is the open nature with which some are talking about their mental health. Sophie Turner, who started on Game of Thrones at the age of 15, has been a part of the cultural spotlight for the last 8 years. Now, at the age of 23, Turner is opening up about her struggle with depression and what the comments from fans and trolls on her social media posts did to her mindset."

Read more at The Mary Sue.

North Korea claims that it has developed a brand new weapon.

"North Korea has developed a brand new weapon according to dictator Kim Jong Un, who made the announcement overnight through state-controlled media channel KCNA. But Kim didn’t stop there. Just hours after the news, the country dropped another bombshell, explaining that North Korea wants U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo removed from nuclear negotiations."

Read more at Gizmodo.

Epic Games is upgrading the account security for its users.

"The account system Epic Games uses across all of its products became much more popular when Fortnite launched. The total number of accounts now exceeds 250 million, so Epic is upgrading the system with more two-factor authentication (2FA) options and enhanced password monitoring."

Read more at PCMag.

Here are ten hidden TV clues that foreshadow future events.

"Spoiler alert! Sometimes TV shows shock their audiences with mind-blowing twists and surprises, but the writers are often clever enough to foreshadow these events with very subtle references. Here are 10 of them."

Read more at Mental Floss.

Netflix's new French thriller Osmosis is a twisty and addicting new show.

"Now that we live in the age of the algorithm, our tastes in TV, clothes, and even food decided for us by machines according to sample sets of data, we're constantly asking ourselves if it all really works. Can a machine really pick apart the nuances of the human consciousness and create a formula to flawlessly predict something as esoteric as personal preference? In the latest foreign-language Netflix original series, the French sci-fi drama Osmosis, humans live in a future in which predictive technology is not only the norm, but actually trusted with matching a person with their one true soulmate."

Read more at Thrillist.

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Richard Jordan
Apr 18, 2019

The Thor franchise gets a new lease of life thanks to Taika Waititi, who gives the God of Thunder his best MCU showcase yet

This article contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok and the wider MCU.

"Life is about growth; it's about change..."

With Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in full swing, having already introduced a couple of major new characters (Doctor Strange, Spider-Man) and raised the stakes for the Earth-bound Avengers (in Captain America: Civil War), it was time for the Mighty Thor's third big-screen outing. It's fair to say, though, that the God of Thunder was in need of a bit of a rethink after his largely soulless second adventure, The Dark World. As Chris Hemsworth's Asgardian hero tells his up-to-his-old-tricks brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), sometimes a change can do you good...

The man tasked by Marvel with leading that change was Taika Waititi. And change things he did. The Kiwi helmer used his cheeky humor and trademark quirkiness (honed on movies such as What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople) to light a much-needed fire under the Thor franchise, imbuing the third installment with bags of personality – something that was sorely lacking from its predecessor. 

Ditto the main man himself. Ragnarok showcased a perfect combo of director and star (as evidenced by the hilarious Team Thor shorts that preceded the film's release), with Waititi really bringing out the best in his fellow Antipodean and pushing his headliner's comedy chops to their full potential. Hemsworth has always had the physical side of the character nailed but, with Waititi's help, he gives his most relaxed, most rounded and, dare we say it, most likeable turn in the role yet. 

The same could also be said for Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/Hulk – an appearance that relies a lot more on performance capture than previous outings thanks to ol' greenie's growing sentience. Capitalizing on the buddy-movie chemistry with Thor glimpsed in the first two Avengers movies, Hulk is here given a chance to shine away from the MCU's more crowded ensemble extravaganzas and, just like Hemsworth, Ruffalo grabs the opportunity with both hands.

With Waititi's psychedelic vision allowing Marvel to cross off "full-on '80s fantasy movie" on its genre bingo sheet, Ragnarok's color-soaked visuals, synth-heavy score and vibrant playing grounds are worlds apart from the muted tones and forgettable locales of The Dark World – and the film is all the better for it. 

Gone is the second film's meandering plotting, too; Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost pick up the pace in lightning-fast fashion and rarely lose momentum. Ragnarok's opening 25 minutes alone see Thor defeating fire demon Surtur; uncovering Loki's treacherous plot to rule Asgard; meeting Doctor Strange ("So, Earth has wizards now"); witnessing the death of his dad, Odin (Anthony Hopkins); being confronted by long-lost evil sis Hela (Cate Blanchett); and losing his beloved hammer Mjolnir. Phew.

read more - Complete Guide to Marvel Comics and MCU Easter Eggs in Thor: Ragnarok

As you might expect from a Waititi movie, the humor is really upped this time out, too, and an impressive amount of it lands – even some of the more delightfully juvenile witticisms ("I'm asking for safe passage…through the anus"). Quips come thick and fast, with Thor especially getting much more to work with in the one-liner stakes, but it's the inspired visual gags that really stand out, piercing the film's traditional hero moments – Thor's attempted window escape, Banner's climactic bridge jump – with a knowing wink. 

There's some merciless trolling of MCU movies past, too: Loki's "death" scene in The Dark World is perfectly sent up in a scene that sees a trio of Asgardian actors (some game cameos from Sam Neill, Matt Damon, and Hemsworth's real-life brother Luke) paying tribute, while Age Of Ultron's slightly goofy, Hulk-calming "sun's getting real low" line is used to increasingly useless effect by a blundering Thor.

Humor doesn't mean the stakes aren't high – the film gives us Odin's poignant passing, the destruction of Asgard and an unusually high body count for a Marvel movie (not including Infinity War, obviously). But by making Thor's world funnier, weirder and more dynamic, the franchise finally has a strong identity of its own. Bursting with wit and inventiveness, Waititi's movie really rejuvenates the series, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Cap and Iron Man's best efforts. Marvel's trust in directors with unique voices pays off; in return, Waititi rewards them with that rarest of things: a trilogy closer that's the best of the three by a mile.

First appearances: Ragnarok introduces a trio of memorable characters who all threaten to steal the show at various points throughout the movie. First up, there's Jeff Goldblum going full Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the eccentric, twisted ruler of trash planet Sakaar. Then there's Thor's stone-man buddy Korg: a laid-back, Kiwi-accented Kronan ("Ah yeah, nah...") – mo-capped and voiced by Waititi himself – who nabs some of the film's best lines.

And finally, we have Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, a hard-drinking, ass-kicking Asgardian warrior who's immediately easy to root for and who sparks instant onscreen chemistry with both Thor and Banner. A future Avenger, perhaps? Props go to Blanchett, too, for her deliciously larger-than-life turn as Thor's big bad sis, the goth goddess Hela – a formidable foe who finally provides a real match for our titular hero.

So long, farewell: Unfortunately, it looks like that's the last we'll see of Blanchett's Goddess of Death, who's consumed by the fires of Ragnarok that destroy Asgard in the film's finale. Same goes for Hopkins as Odin, who bows out with a small but underrated appearance – his hilarious mimicry of the duplicitous Loki ("Shit!") at the beginning of the film is a genuine highlight, as is his mid-finale pep-talk ("Are you Thor, God of Hammers?"). It's the end of the line for the Warriors Three, too, although they don't exactly get the best send-off: Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Zachary Levi), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) are all casually murdered by Hela after mere seconds of screen-time to make way for the (admittedly more interesting) new characters. 

Best quip: "Piss off, ghost!" Korg has the best reaction to one of Loki's infamous illusions.

Standout scene: It'd be remiss of us not to mention the bruising Hulk vs Thor fight in the Grandmaster's gladiatorial Contest of Champions arena, an exhilarating superhero smash-up that's since become the source for countless gif reactions ("Yeeeesssssss!"). But the most spine-tingling moment for us is when a newly lightening-charged Thor lands on the Rainbow Bridge to join his fellow 'Revengers' in the fight against Hela's undead army, the four heroes battling their way through swathes of zombie soldiers (and in Hulk's case, the giant Fenris Wolf) to the banging tune of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." Great stuff.

read more - Thor: Ragnarok Ending Explained

It's all connected: Thor: Ragnarok contains a few key MCU references, mostly throwbacks to previous Avengers movies and setting up Infinity War...

• In his opening speech, Thor tells us he "went searching through the cosmos for some magic colorful Infinity Stone things...didn't find any." At this point in the MCU, we know the whereabouts of five stones – even if Thor doesn't: the Space Stone is on Asgard, the Reality Stone on Knowhere, the Power Stone on Xandar, and the Mind and Time Stones on Earth (with Vision and Doctor Strange respectively). The only one left to find is the all-important Soul Stone...

• In the fighting pit, Thor experiences the same smash-y beating from Hulk as Loki does in Avengers. "Yes, that's how it feels!" the God of Mischief gloats. 

• This is actually the first reunion between Loki and Banner since the Battle of New York. "Last time I saw you, you were trying to kill everybody," says Banner. "Where are you these days?" He gets a typical Loki response: "It varies from moment to moment."

• While Thor is telling Korg about his lost Mjolnir, he tells him it was "made inside the heart of a dying star." We'll get to visit that star – aka Nidavellir – in Avengers: Infinity War, where Thor helps the dwarf king Eitri to forge a new weapon known as Stormbreaker.

• Thor's password for the Quinjet that brought Hulk to Sakaar is "Point Break" – the nickname Tony Stark bestows on him in Avengers.

• The recording of Black Widow asking Hulk to turn the Quinjet around, as seen in Age Of Ultron, is played back, finally managing to make him transition back to Banner. We learn that the events of Ragnarok take place two years after the Battle of Sokovia.

• In Odin's treasure room, Hela walks past a "fake" Infinity Gauntlet, the Frost Giants' ice-blasting Casket of Ancient Winters from the first Thor movie (a relic she describes as "weak") and the Tesseract ("That's not bad"). Loki passes the Tesseract when he goes back into the vault to resurrect Surtur, and we can presume he takes it before leaving Asgard, seeing as he's in possession of it at the beginning of Infinity War.

Credit check: Two additional scenes here. The mid-credits sting sees Thor and Loki on the Grandmaster's ship, which is housing the Asgardian survivors, debating the merits of going back to Earth. "Don't worry brother, I feel like everything’s going to work out fine," Thor says optimistically, before they are confronted by Thanos' looming spaceship.

read more - Thor: Ragnarok Post-Credits Scenes Explained

After the credits, we get to see the fate of Goldblum's Grandmaster, who tries to talk his way out of a Sakaarian rebellion, declaring it a "tie." "This revolution has been a been a huge success. Yay us!" he says. "I’ve been a big part of it... You can’t have a revolution without someone to overthrow..."

What are your thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok? Have we missed your favorite moment or reference? Let us know in the comments below...

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Kirsten Howard
Apr 18, 2019

The Gifted has been nixed after two seasons...

Sad news for fans of The Gifted - Fox has cancelled the X-Men series after two decent seasons.

Variety announced that the decision has been made to end the show this week. We'd previously learned that Legion, over on FX, is also being wrapped up, as both Netflix and Fox say goodbye to their Marvel titles ahead of Disney's decision to launch its own streaming service this November.

Set in the X-Men universe and focusing on a family on the run from the government after finding out that its youngest members have super powers, Matt Nix's The Gifted was an ongoing tale of mutant survival that had a strong fan base, but the series' ratings weren't terrific during its second season, dropping to 1.95 million from a strong audience of 3.31 million in the first season.

Stars Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont, Blair Redford, and Coby Bell will all be on the hunt for new gigs now, so don't be surprised to see them turn up on your screen in something new in the coming months.

The second (and last) season of The Gifted ended back in February, and the story was only getting bigger, with more effects-based expansion on the horizon - TVLine notes that a less expensive show may have been able to carry on with the viewing numbers that The Gifted had, but unfortunately it's not a show that can stand up to a massive budget cut at this stage.

Whether Disney+ will bring us any new X-Men shows in the next few years remains to be seen.

More if we get it.

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Daniel Kurland
Apr 18, 2019

The ‘80s Twilight Zone had overlooked classics from some of horror's most prolific directors. We dive into the series' best episodes.

The premiere of Jordan Peele's modern take on Rod Serling's classic anthology series has put The Twilight Zone back on everybody's minds.

The two reboots of The Twilight Zone that predate Peele's current version don't have as sterling of a reputation as their predecessor, but the ‘80s Twilight Zone remains a fascinating anomaly because some pivotal horror directors like William Friedkin, Joe Dante, and Tommy Lee Wallace all helm installments. Wes Craven even leads the pack and directs a whopping seven episodes, and George R.R. Martin penned five episodes!

The series debuted on CBS in 1985 and ran for two seasons before being canceled due to lackluster ratings. A third season was commissioned with a new creative team, though it was solely for syndication purposes.

Since The Twilight Zone from the '80s can be a treasure trove of unseen content from some of the most prolific directors from the horror genre, here's a guide to the top 15 episodes by the revival’s biggest directors.

The Twilight Zone 1x23 The Shadow Man - YouTube
“The Shadow Man”

Directed by Joe Dante; Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon

What's so great about this story is that it presents itself like a cautionary fable or an innocent monster in the closet tale. It's no surprise when it turns out that the Shadow Man that lives under the boy's bed is real, but what does come as a shock is when he decides to weaponize his new Boogeyman best friend. 

Further Reading: The Twilight Zone 2019 Reboot Review (Spoiler-Free)

The design on the Shadow Man is simple, yet effective, with its blacked-out negative film look. Furthermore, the simple rules of this monster that get repeated ad infinitum, "I am the Shadow Man and I’ll never harm the person under whose bed I live," yet those basic rules become the protagonist's very undoing, too. This feels like a heightened episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? or Goosebumps in the best way possible, and all of the kid actors feel authentic. The twist here is also fantastic and it's a great example of when less can be more with horror.

The Twilight Zone - 1985 - Wordplay - Season One - YouTube
“Wordplay”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon

“Wordplay” features a bonkers concept where a salesman goes crazy after everyone else in the world starts speaking English in a jumbled order. People say things like, “She's gonna be here in five minutes and I can't think of any place to dinosaur.” “Anniversaries” become “throw rugs,” “dogs” are now “encyclopedias.” It’s also smart that this dilemma is prompted by a salesman who is overwhelmed by the names of all of the complicated new products that he has to learn. The story takes that stress and then extends it to the entire human language.

More: The Twilight Zone: Comparing Every Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

The episode’s premise comes in slowly and subtly, where it seems like people just have mental slip-ups, but then “Wordplay” moves into overdrive. The salesman slowly gets frustrated as he thinks everyone is just using stupid new slang at first. It’s also just fantastic to watch this guy flip out and say “dinosaur” about a dozen times in ten seconds. Eventually his “regular” sentences don’t get through to anyone and he can’t accomplish anything. It’s particularly grueling when he prays to God and worries if this Higher Power can even understand what he’s saying. The episode’s ending is so damn good and pretty much turns into a variation on Dogtooth. This problem doesn’t get solved, but rather he’s just forced to adapt to it. At the same time, it’s also an uplifting conclusion because it shows the perseverance of man and how he wants to fit in here rather than just give up.

The Twilight Zone 1x22 Dead Woman's Shoes - YouTube
“Dead Woman’s Shoes”

Directed by Peter Medak; Based on the Story by Charles Beaumont; Teleplay by Lynn Barker

Peter Medak may not be as well known as Craven or Friedkin, but he’s the director responsible for The Changeling, two episodes of Hannibal, and what's arguably the best episode of Tales From the Crypt, "The New Arrival." Medak does an impressive job with this update/remake to the original series’ episode, “Dead Man’s Shoes,” but this arguably does an even better job with the story. It goes further with the idea as the killer now has a much more personal connection in the end. The story basically plays with the idea that a pair of fancy shoes can make someone look super attractive whenever they wear them. It’s a quirky idea and a creative spin on the whole “walk a mile in another person’s shoes” adage.

further reading: The Words of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Are More Relevant Than Ever

Helen Mirren is front and center in “Dead Woman’s Shoes” and she destroys it. There is also some exceptional camerawork that lingers on the titular shoes before we understand how important they are and it keeps the owner’s face a mystery. Towards the end, the reflection in a mirror projects her old self. It’s a smart, effective little moment. This actually turns into a rather compelling murder mystery and revenge story the deeper it goes on. It’s exactly the kind of redemption tale that The Twilight Zone is all about. Even better, the shoes are just abandoned at the end because they’re too dangerous, yet their danger lives on! All of this also makes for a great companion piece to Medak’s film, The Ruling Class.

The Twilight Zone 1x01 Shatterday - YouTube
“Shatterday”

Directed by Wes Craven; Based on the Short Story by Harlan Ellison; Teleplay by Alan Brennert 

Curiously, a lot of Wes Craven’s Twilight Zone entries are about duality and sometimes even literal doppelgangers in more than one occasion, but “Shatterday” is certainly the most striking example. The story approaches the concept from a unique perspective that almost functions like a dark riff on “The Prince and the Pauper.” As the two versions of the same man switch lives, they begin to understand the human condition, how important decisions are, and a successful man gets completely destroyed and reduced to trash. It examines the process of how a man can become a shadow and when the self splits in half, but it does so in a literal manner. The bleak ending makes a strong statement since it’s the first installment of the ‘80s Twilight Zone.

Bruce Willis does exceptional work in the episode as both takes on Nubbins, and it’s from a time in his career where he actually cares about his performance. Craven makes this all feel deliciously ‘80s, especially with the pan flute-happy soundtrack. The effect when one of the Nubbins becomes more of a "Shadow" is also a subtle, but helpful and creepy touch. 

Twilight Zone 2x12 The Road Less Traveled - YouTube
“The Road Less Traveled”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by George R. R. Martin

“The Road Less Traveled” features a powerhouse of talent; Craven directs a script courtesy of George R. R. Martin, who wrote five episodes of the series. The story functions as a creative commentary on guilt towards the Vietnam War. It’s another entry that attempts to deconstruct the idea of the monster in the closet, but this digs much deeper. This isn’t a story where the vulnerable girl is in danger, but instead it’s the dad who is plagued with trauma. His lies about the war cause a grizzled war vet version of himself to show up as the “monster,” which turns this into a haunting little story.

further reading: The Twilight Zone: Revisiting George R.R. Martin's Episodes

The father’s double is a smart, frightening way to personify his guilt. He's plagued with war flashbacks that he never actually had. The best part of “The Road Less Traveled” is that it doesn’t vilify this other, but rather it tries to show him compassion and improve his life. In the process it looks at how war itself is powerful enough to completely change someone. It’s a particularly beautiful ending, even if the special effects are especially cheesy.

Twilight Zone 80's 1x02 A Little Peace and Quiet - YouTube
“A Little Peace and Quiet”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by James Crocker

Time freezing stories are plentiful throughout The Twilight Zone. This one features an overstressed mom with too much on her plate who can stop and resume time with the help of a necklace. One of the strongest elements about this entry is how it begins to seed the topic of nuclear fallout so that when it dominates the final act it doesn’t feel like a sudden development. Rather brilliantly, the protagonist gets caught in a situation where she's frozen time to avoid the bomb that's about to drop, but it forces her to stay frozen because if she does resume things she'll doom the world. It's an ending of isolation that's arguably even more tragic than "Time Enough At Last" because it removes her from her family and teases the idea of life, even though it's not really there.

further reading - Nightmare On Elm Street Comics: A History Lesson

The best thing about this story, and the area where Craven's talents are the most on display, are the moments where time is frozen and people are caught in these twisted tableaus. This is most effective in the episode's final scene where a nation in panic and the crowded streets of an evacuation are frozen in various stages of dread. It's a chilling image to go out on.

Twilight Zone "Button, Button" - YouTube
“Button, Button”

Directed by Peter Medak; Based on the Short Story by Richard Matheson; Teleplay by Richard Matheson

“Button, Button” is vintage Twilight Zone at its finest and it even pulls from a Richard Matheson story for its inspiration. This is the classic “push this button to get one million dollars, but someone will die” parable. If you’ve seen the movie The Box, then you know this classic story, but this does feel like a grunge-y, angry ‘80s version of Matheson’s idea. The characters in “Button, Button” that are taxed with this difficult decision are like low class Coen Brothers miscreants.

Medak effectively creates mounting tension and anxiety throughout the episode. Details like how the mysterious salesman is often filled in with shadows and looms over his subjects’ personal space go far. This is the best kind of morality play and quickly this “simple” decision tears apart a marriage. “Button, Button” approaches the topic from all of the reasonable angles, but this story isn’t about how to solve the problem, it’s about the human condition and guilt.

The Twilight Zone - Dreams for Sale - YouTube
“Dreams for Sale”

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace; Written by Joe Gannon

Horror director Tommy Lee Wallace was a protégé of John Carpenter. Wallace edited both Halloween and The Fog for Carpenter, but would go on to direct Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Fright Night Part 2, and the It miniseries! Wallace directed a handful of Twilight Zone entries, but “Dreams for Sale” is his most moving contribution. The story presents a married couple blissfully at a picnic, but as this slice of heaven goes on, it turns out that this is just a constructed fantasy that’s beamed to their brains while they’re stuck in a much harsher reality.

further reading: The 13 Best Final Girls in Movie History

Wallace knows how to overexpose the story and have reality distort and break every so often to hint at the twist that’s to come. The first half is primarily in the fantasy and the second half has the protagonist wake up only to be perplexed by the reality that she’s actually in. “Dreams for Sale” is also only ten minutes long and incredibly poignant and haunting in that time. There are clear parallels between this story and the original series’ “Next Stop, Willoughby,” or Black Mirror’s “San Junipero,” but also, you know, The Matrix. It uses fantasy as a literal escapism from reality.

Twilight Zone 80's - 1x45 - Personal Demons TZ Episode from the season - YouTube
“Personal Demons”

Directed by Peter Medak; Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon

“Personal Demons” is astounding for its audacity alone. This is essentially a therapy exercise for writer Rockne S. O’Bannon or the kind of thing that you’d get dared to write, but never actually follow through on. These conditions don’t necessarily make for a great installment of The Twilight Zone, but it’s such a bold, fascinating experiment that it’s hard to deny. The story features a surrogate for writer, O'Bannon, who's also a TV writer named O'Bannon, who suffers from writer block that's basically personified by a brood of distracting demons. Eventually O'Bannon breaks this curse by writing about the demons, which is presumably the actual script for the episode that you just watched. This is an extremely high concept, but at 12 minutes, it's worth the risk. A full half hour of this would be too much, but “Personal Demons” stands out for its bizarre “real life” quality. 

The Twilight Zone 1x11 Nightcrawlers - YouTube
“Nightcrawlers”

Directed by William Friedkin; Based on the Short Story by Robert R. McCammon; Teleplay by Philip DeGuere

In “Nightcrawlers,” Friedkin presents a story that's set entirely in a diner, which makes for the perfect moody, claustrophobic setting for a story. “Nightcrawlers” confines a bunch of strangers together, but then chooses to play this story against war trauma when a mysterious drifter comes in and begins to recount his torturous time in combat. “Nightcrawlers” feels like a piece of theater in so many respects and it's full of painful, eloquent monologues about life and death. It feels like Friedkin taps into some of the same manic energy that he’ll bring to the table decades later in Bug. “Nightcrawlers” goes to the same dark, paranoid places that are full of flying flop sweat, but this story also adds a supernatural touch and a pitch-black ending that doesn't hold back.

Her Pilgrim Soul by Alan Brennert - TZ - S1 E12-1. - YouTube
“Her Pilgrim Soul”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by Alan Brennert

Set in a high tech science lab in the future, “Her Pilgrim Soul” contains what is by far the best set design and effects out of any of Craven's Twilight Zone offerings. This is also the longest of Craven’s contributions and I’m not exactly sure if this needs to be nearly a full-hour, but it’s fair to say that the more that you see of hologram Nola Granville’s life, the more the story connects.

further reading: The Best Horror Movies on Netflix

This installment focuses on the communication between a hologram and two skeptical scientists, which results in a quirky, human look at holograms that works. “Her Pilgrim Soul” posits that a soul has been reincarnated in a computer and whether such a thing is even plausible. This hologram also grows at the rate of ten years a day, so the scientists see her go through many phases of life. “Her Pilgrim Soul” provides an unusual take on childrearing and life, especially when it takes one scientist away from his wife and he becomes obsessed with this hologram. The episode also gains points for how it’s a surprisingly positive story where this hologram fixes the scientist’s marriage. Love prevails, poetry is recited, and there’s a happily ever after.

The Twilight Zone 1x05 Chameleon - YouTube
“Chameleon”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by James Crocker

“Chameleon” is a black-and-white morality play that riffs on America’s paranoia over space and science fiction during the 1950s. It’s a meditation on faith and identity that feels reminiscent of The Thing or Annihilation and there’s a legitimate mystery here that’s hard to predict.

Twilight Zone 2019: "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" Review | "The Comedian" Review

Astronauts become confounded over the appearance of a camera box that can apparently teleport, trap, or disintegrate people. This item cannot be understood and it turns into an issue of faith versus science. When Brady, the missing astronaut, returns from the camera box, NASA insists that he’s different or that something about him has changed. The episode chronicles NASA’s efforts to get to the bottom of this and determine what’s this “chameleon’s” goal. Matters gets even weirder when Brady starts to morph into different people and then, eventually, a nuclear bomb that’s set to explode in two minutes.

Twilight Zone Private Channel - YouTube
“Private Channel”

Directed by Peter Medak; Written by Edward Redlich

“Private Channel” is certainly sillier than the other entries on this list, but at a tight 10 minutes it’s easy to get on board with its caustic storytelling. When an airplane goes through a lightning storm, an idiot’s Walkman gains the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. In turn, this weirdness leads to this troubled moron overhear that someone onboard wants to blow up the plane. With its concise runtime, “Private Channel” cuts right to the chase and chooses to reason with the terrorist as the means of resolution. The lead character flips the premise on the enemy, and after the terrorist hears the frightened thoughts of all of the passengers, he stops. This installment may be pretty pat and dumb in its performances and presentation (“Jambo!”), but it feels like a classic Twilight Zone.

further reading: The Best Horror Movies on HBO

Twilight Zone 80's 1x20 Dealer's Choice - YouTube
“Dealer’s Choice”

Directed by Wes Craven; Written by Donald Todd

“Dealer’s Choice” isn’t as revolutionary as Craven’s other installments, but it gains some points for how it revolves around a literal deal with the devil and that in this situation, it’s the dealing of cards. It’s also commendable that “Dealer’s Choice” is a bottle episode that contains all of its action to the poker game that goes on with the Devil. It helps boil down this idea and makes the premise feel even more intimate. As the episode plays out, the gang of elderly gentlemen fears that the Devil is there to claim one of their souls, but they..

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"A Traveler," The Steven Yeun led hour of The Twilight Zone reboot, is the story of one man's heroic quest for a slice of pie.

This The Twilight Zone review contains spoilers.

The Twilight Zone Episode 4

When it comes to science fiction, the devil is in the details. Hell, when it comes to any piece of narrative art, the Morningstar remains in the minutiae. 

That’s what makes the beginning of The Twilight Zone Episode 4, “A Traveler” so promising. The first quarter of “A Traveler” establishes its tone and world more effectively than any of the other three offerings thus far (save for maybe “The Comedian” and Kumail Nanjiani’s deliberately awful Second Amendment joke).

The first thing “A Traveler” presents to the viewer is the northern lights. Then the camera pans down and we’re in a cop car, speeding through the frozen darkness with Yuka (Marika Sila) and her drunken brother Jack (Patrick Gallagher) in the back. Through Yuka and Jack’s uncommonly smooth expository dialogue we find out everything we need to know about this place. 

The Twilight Zone has taken us to Iglaak, Alaska. It’s Christmas Eve and Yuka has booked her brother on public intoxication and is bringing him back to the police station to sober up in a holding cell. It’s all OK though because police chief Pendleton (Greg Kinnear) has a Christmas tradition of pardoning a prisoner every Christmas. Jack will be eating pie with the rest of the station (and assembled townspeople) in no time.

Even once they arrive at the station, “A Traveler” keeps up its unusually natural expository dialogue. Captain Pendleton further explains his Christmas ritual of pardons and in such few words perfectly encapsulates the tension between the white Americans like him who have “tamed” Alaska and the native locals like Yuka and Jack who must tolerate their presence…and the military Chainey Listening Station they brought with them.

By the time the titular “A Traveler” mysteriously turns up in a cell next to Jack, the episode barely even needs the now familiar Jordan Peele beginning narration. Many Twilight Zone episodes take on the general structure of a joke. There’s a setup, in which the “normal” world is established and the “punchline,” in which that normal world is lifted up to reveal something far more sinister and weird. “A Traveler’s” setup is about as good as any episode of The Twilight Zone can hope to achieve. The punchline, however, is ultimately disappointing. 

further reading: The Twilight Zone: Comparing Every Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Part of the problem arises from just how damned intriguing the sudden arrival of A Traveler is and all the unused storytelling possibilities he represents. The dapperly dressed man (played by Steven Yeun) says that he is part of an extreme tourism movement and travels the world over looking for unusual places to travel to. He loves traveling so much that he’s even legally changed his name to “A. Traveler.” Sure enough, his California license card says just that when Yuka checks out. He says he’s come to Iglaak, Alaska to be “pardoned” by the famous Captain Pendleton in is well known Christmas pardoning ritual. 

For an all too brief moment within the episode, it’s pretty exhilarating to imagine the routes “A Traveler” can take. A Traveler could be an intergalactic criminal, exploiting the de facto laws of Earth to really receive a pardon for his many space crimes. He could be a ghost of Christmas past, coming to rattle the white Alaskans into being less awful. Or he could just be an individual with a vested interest in getting poor Jack his pie. 

The truth, however, turns out to be the least intriguing option. It also robs Yeun of the chance to further explore the character’s inner-workings. A Traveler is an alien who wants to…say it with … to conquer Earth. He’s come to Iglaak not for any compelling reason other than the fact that the Chainey Listening Station is an important communications hub fro the country. 

In terms of both science fiction and The Twilight Zone, an alien species bent on world domination is as ho-hum as it gets. A Traveler’s strategies for taking over the world are as equally uninspired. Despite possessing powers untold, he seems simply content to turn the residents of Iglaak against one another by spilling all their respective tea over Christmas eggnog. He even eventually tells Yuka that Captain Pendleton has been selling secrets to the Russians, which is not as Earth-shattering a revelation as “A Traveler” thinks it is. 

Still, despite how uninspired the revelations within “A Traveler” are, the setting they take place in are still unique and add a level of poignancy to the proceedings. Much discussion of this Twilight Zone reboot has revolved around how it will seek to reflect the diversity of the world in 2019 more so than in previous incarnations. “A Traveler” is an excellent example of how that can, in theory, help the show tell new stories…even if it doesn’t work to tremendous effect here.

further reading: The Twilight Zone Review

The concept of an alien invasion being presented as analogous to the invasion of white America to the natives of Alaska is a powerful one…and it’s certainly not one I can remember seeing on television. In fact, being able to draw comparisons between an extraterrestrial invasion and a sadly terrestrial one mitigates a lot of what’s boring about the episode’s back half. It’s thought provoking at the very least. It also certainly helps that Marika Sila gives what might be the best performance on this iteration of The Twilight Zone thus far as the capable and thorough Yuka. 

Yuka is the ideal heroine for a story like this. When presented with something impossible, she does what any good cop or hero would do: she puts in the work to try to figure that shit out. While everyone else is getting drunk with their new mysterious traveler, Yuka throws on a headset and starts making calls to gather useful information. It’s important to the context of the episode but it also helps endear the viewer to the story’s quiet protagonist. 

Still, despite the strength of its lead character and clever approach to invasion metaphor, “A Traveler” just isn’t able to pull off that invasion as well as it needs to. So much of our best science fiction is allegorical. “A Traveler” knows this and seems to almost get too excited in presenting the allegory. A Traveler is very blunt with Yuka and Jack about how a possible alien invasion could benefit them and their culture. Jack even concedes “maybe things will be better with you guys in charge.”  That is an observation that belongs to the keen-eyed viewer, not a character onscreen. The characters have a story to concern themselves with. 

“A Traveler” would have benefitted from more trust - both more trust in its characters and the audience. Thankfully, this isn’t a total wash as parts of “A Traveler” present intriguing concepts that are rare to television, despite how ineffectively presented they may at times be. And even more thankfully: Jack finally gets his pie.

Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek and TCA member. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad

Review Alec Bojalad
Apr 18, 2019
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Chris Longo Nick Harley
Apr 18, 2019

Anthony Carrigan, the actor behind Barry's Chechen mobster "friend" Noho Hank, discusses what's it store for Barry Season 2.

Barry, HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy now in the middle of its second season, is primarily a vehicle for co-creator, director, and star Bill Hader. However, actor Anthony Carrigan is consistently stealing scenes and winning over the hearts of viewers with his eternally sunny Chechen mobster Noho Hank. Cheerful, polite, and optimistic, Hank is a ray of sunshine in an increasingly dark series, but even he isn’t immune to the encroaching darkness.

In Barry Season 2, Hank finds himself with more responsibility while working alongside Bolivian crime boss Cristobal. Hank has an incredible amount of respect and admiration for his new collaborator and feels pressure to to please him while simultaneously serving the interests of the Chechens. When a new threat pushes its way between Hank and Cristobal’s tight-knit operation, we see Hank’s sunny side flipped on its head as he tries to return to the comfortable new status quo he’s built in his partnership with Cristobal. We sat down to talk to Anthony Carrigan about this new side to Hank, the Chechen’s instantly iconic look, and what we all can learn from the merry mobster.

DEN OF GEEK: How was Noho Hank’s arc for season two pitched to you?

ANTHONY CARRIGAN: Well, it was really cool because up until that point, we've kinda seen Hank really at Goran's side. It was really refreshing to talk to Bill [Hader] and Alec [Berg] about what the new season had in store and just to kind of see this new side of Hank because obviously he's got a lot of responsibility, he's got a lot of pressure, and he's not necessarily dealing with it very well.

It's like you back someone into a corner and they're going to respond. At the end of the day, Hank is Hank, this sunny, joyful dude but he's also a mobster. Sometimes mobsters threaten people and have a little bit of darkness in them. It's true.

Was it fun to explore that darker side this year rather than playing almost solely as the comic relief in season one?

It's always really fun to be stretched in different directions. It's an actor's dream to be able to do a lot of things with a character and have a character that's so multifaceted that you can kind of cover a range of emotions. I lucked out this season and had such a good time. It goes to some really, really crazy places as the season progresses.

The show has a lot of fun exploring Hank’s relationship with Cristobal in the early part of the season. How did you approach the dynamic between those two characters? It’s is a bit different than Hank’s relationship to Goran in season one.

He sees Cristobal as  kind of like birds of a feather. Here's this guy who's just really changing the industry of crime in a really conscious manner, and I think Hank obviously takes a real shining to that and this partnership is really important to him.

further reading: Everything Coming to HBO Now and HBO Go

When someone comes in to threaten it, it's like there's another rooster in the hen house, that other rooster being Ester, then it certainly sets the stage for conflict.

We’ve never seen a depiction of the mafia like this before. 

Yeah, it certainly flips it on its head but I think that's what’s so funny about it is who you end up rooting for. A lot of the time, it turns out to be the bad guy.

Do you think audiences are rooting for Hank?

I hope so. Bless his heart. He really does try his best and I don't know, I love Hank. I'm in his corner, I want him to survive. I want him to get the Iron Throne, you know?

One of my favorite bits early in the season is when he was in disguise going into Lululemon. Are there more disguises we're going to see Hank in as the season progresses?

Are there more disguises? I'm not sure if there are more disguises but there are definitely looks. I mean, that's one thing you can leave up to Hank is he's always impeccably dressed and dressed for the right scenario. You'll see some interesting ensembles that Hank will break out.

What’s the wardrobe process on set like for Hank? 

It's actually a really fun process because as you develop the character, you go in and they give you options. You look at things and the more you play a character, the more you can just sift through things and be like ‘ooh yeah, this thing really works or this thing doesn't at all.’ It's like the spirit of the character is telling you what it wants to wear. It's weird. I'm not possessed or anything by a Chechen mobster, it's all good.

Do go for the most extra stuff because that plays into the character’s spirit?

Sometimes, but then I don't know, I also kinda like to keep it a little bit subdued because you don't want the character to turn into a cartoon. You know what I mean?

Why do you think he is so fiercely loyal to Barry up until this point?

I think from the get go, he sees Barry as this kind of Jason Bourne-type figure. He's this really cool assassin and he really looks up to him, and admires him, and wants to be best friends with him, and to just have a really solid working relationship. Barry is obviously not that into it, but also Hank certainly plays a role in helping Barry. It's certainly a fun dynamic, that's for sure.

Do you have a favorite part of this early part of the season?

The Lululemon store, that was really, really fun. We could not stop laughing. It's sometimes really hard to get through a scene because it's just too funny. You're acting opposite Bill Hader and he's making you crack up so hard, and you're also making him crack up too.

further reading: Best New TV Shows of 2018

The scene outside of the acting class, where Hank shows a little bit of a darker side, was really fun. That was the closest that Hank has been thus far to the acting class and to that whole world, which up until that point was kept pretty intact and pretty compartmentalized.

Bill Hader wears so many hats on that set. How do you chart his growth as a creator and director from season one to season two?

It's so funny because it was the kind of thing that from season one, you couldn't quite tell it was his first time just because he was so on it. I think it just shows that it had been something he really wanted to do for so long.

He was finally getting the opportunity to do it and he was just on it. He was on it the entire time. You really wouldn't be able to tell it was kind of his directorial debut but this season, he feels really confident and you really can't tell that he's doing so much although he is.

Almost everyone I talk to about this show mentions your character or your performance as one of their favorite elements of the show. What has this last year been like for you, playing a fan favorite character? 

It's been wonderful. It's been crazy. I love it when fans are just really appreciative of the show and they're getting something out of it, they're being moved or they're getting an opportunity to laugh their faces off. That's always super, super welcome to hear. I don't know. I'm all for it and the fans are always so sweet too. 

Barry Season 2 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Tony Sokol
Apr 18, 2019

Trees grow in Brooklyn. In Greenwich Village, Rick Kelly reclaims older wood for Carmine Street Guitars, we learn in this clip.

Wood resonates, as Ricky Kelly points out in this clip from the upcoming documentary Carmine Street Guitars, that's why he chooses old growth and white pine in his custom guitars. You can hear the difference in the sound. Kelly makes his guitars from the “bones of old New York," reclaimed white pine beams frame from buildings constructed in the 1800s.

Directed by Ron Mann, Carmine Street Guitars captures five days in the life of Carmine Street Guitars, where musicians like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Patti Smith picked, strummed and bought. The film doesn't only capture the store: it encapsulates a passing moment in time.

"Once the center of the New York bohemia, Greenwich Village is now home to lux restaurants, and buzzer door clothing stores catering to the nouveau riche," reads the official synopsis. "But one shop in the heart of the Village remains resilient to the encroaching gentrification: Carmine Street Guitars. There, custom guitar maker Rick Kelly and his young apprentice Cindy Hulej, build handcrafted guitars out of reclaimed wood from old hotels, bars, churches and other local buildings."

further reading: How Johnny Cash's Uncovered Audio Tapes Turned Into A Documentary

Nothing looks or sounds quite like a Rick Kelly guitar. Kelly was born on Long Island and became fascinated with trees by watching his grandfather, who was a woodworker. Kelly was studying sculpture in college when he noted the tones of ancient woods brought deeper tones on the electric guitars he was building than factory-built guitars. Kelly first opened shop in Greenwich Village in the late 1970s before settling into Carmine Street Guitars in 1990.

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law, A Night on Earth) gave Kelly some wood from his loft for a guitar he wanted built for himself. This introduced the guitar craftsman to pine which was lumbered 200 years ago in the Adirondacks’ virgin forests for the construction of the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, the Village, Bowery, and today's Soho and Tribeca.

"You can't buy wood like this in a lumber yard," Kelly says in the clip. He used the wood in electric guitars based on the Telecaster design from Leo Fender.

You can watch this exclusive clip here:

The new documentary Carmine Street Guitars opens April 24, 2019. Want more stories like this? We have a full music section here!

Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFKRead more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

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Stephen Harber
Apr 18, 2019

One of the creators of Into the Badlands sheds some light on the mysteries surrounding its most enigmatic location.

Into the Badlands season 3 is the show at its best. The acting, the writing, the production — it's doing that "firing on all cylinders" thing, basically. 

One of my personal favorites touches this year is the extra (and noticeable) attention to detail the production design has put into creating the immersive world of the series. One of the most visually striking sets this year is that of the Meridian Chamber, which plays a huge role in Season 3's truly epic story arc. So, naturally, we had to ask oone of the show's creators, Miles Millar, all about it. 

"We spent many, many months in Ireland [where the show is filmed]," Millar said. "I think for us, [Into the Badlands is] a very singular show with the costumes and the sets and the story. It’s not a show we could ever take our hands off, so our fingers are in everything and on everything."

read more: How The Fights Scenes of Into The Badlands Come Together

That includes the look and feel of the Meridian Chamber, the once and future gateway to Azra.

"The Meridian Chamber was loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome," Millar said. "The Pantheon is the oldest concrete structure in the world and has this amazing press concrete roof."

This design reference was updated to fit Badlands' post-apocalyptic proclivities by combining elements of technology from our past that would seem high-tech to Barons and Dark Ones alike.

"That’s the idea of ancient civilization and new technology," Millar said. "The consoles and control panels are based on the soviet power station I think in Soulvakia or something. So we got moulds of those."

"It’s this idea of the old and new together," Millar added. "The old tech in this sort of supernatural or spiritual dimension as well with the chi and the dark-eyed ones. So it’s sort of like this almost paganistic as well, stone hengey with the monolith, a combination of all these different elements that hopefully form this original looking set...The idea of the raked sand is obviously from Japanese culture and zen gardens. You have a lot of different elements coming together to make a whole."

Read the latest Into The Badlands review here

While we had him, we also asked Millar to tease the upcoming series finale of Into the Badlands, which, um, may or may not feature the Meridian Chamber during its runtime. 

"We really wanted to give the story an ending, but also always leave a few side doors open,"  He said. "This world is going to continue in one form or another beyond the show. So I think for us, especially with Sunny and The Widow and all of the characters who’ve literally been on the journey since the first episode, it’s been how do you really give them the best emotional send-off you can give them?"

Will the Meridian Chamber lead Sunny, Bajie, Tilda, and The Widow to their happy endings...or ultimate fates? Find out by watching the final episodes of Into the Badlands airing Mondays at 10PST/9C on AMC.

Keep up with all our Into the Badlands season 3 news, reviews, and more right here.

Stephen Harber is the creator of the Batman/Doctor Who Adventures, a fanmade webcomic tribute. Read more of his work here, and follow him on Instagram @onlywriterever.

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Matthew Byrd John Saavedra
Apr 18, 2019

What we know about The Last of Part 2, including latest news, release date, trailers, and much more!

Yes, one of the greatest games of the previous console generation is getting a sequel. Fans hoped that Naughty Dog might find a way to return to the world of The Last of Us, but the nature of the original game's ending left some to speculate that the developers had said all there was to say about the adventure of Ellie and Joel. 

It's not entirely clear exactly what the story will be this time around, but the ominous and fearful tone of Ellie's looming threats suggest that this will be a story of revenge. The recipient of said revenge seems to be fairly obvious based on context clues in the trailer, but in the interest of not completely outlining the ending of the original game, we will not speculate on their identity here.

Speculation is all we have as it concerns the release date for The Last of Us Part 2, however. It appears that the game is still very much in development, which means you shouldn't hope to see it before late next year at the earliest. Neil Druckman, the title's creative director, took to the PlayStation Blog to clarify that the eventual release of the game could be "a ways off," and to assure fans that Naughty Dog is only making a sequel to this game because they feel they have a new story that is worth telling. 

Further Reading: 40 Best Games to Play in 2019

Well, we're sold. Here's everything we know about The Last of Us Part 2:

The Last of Us Part 2 News

The Last of Us Part 2 writer and director Neil Druckmann confirmed on Twitter that the team has shot the final scene of the game. The post obviously doesn't reveal many details, but it does seemingly confirm that The Last of Us Part 2's development is not finished and might actually not be done in time for a 2019 release. If it does come out this year, it will likely be sometime during the holiday season. 

The Last of Us Part 2 Release Date

The Last of Us 2 doesn't have a release date as of yet. 

The Last of Us Part 2 Trailer

At the Sony E3 2018 conference, we were treated to a brilliant and highly cinematic - also possibly very scripted - gameplay sequence from The Last of Us Part 2. Check it out now. 

The Last of Us Part II – E3 2018 Gameplay Reveal Trailer | PS4 - YouTube

Here's another trailer:

The Last of Us Part II - Teaser Trailer #2 | PS4 - YouTube

Next, feast your eyes on the reveal trailer for The Last of Us Part II:

The Last of Us Part II - PlayStation Experience 2016: Reveal Trailer | PS4 - YouTube
The Last of Us Part 2 Story

At PSX 2016, Naughty Dog director and writer Neil Druckmann shared the first bits of Last of Us Part 2 story details, including what the focus will be in the sequel. Druckmann revealed that Ellie is the star of this installment and that the game takes place several years after the original. Ellie is 19-years-old in The Last of Us Part 2

Druckmann talked a bit about the tone and direction of the sequel's story, saying that while the original was a story about love, "[Part 2] is about hate." He also confirmed that this game will exclusively continue the story of Ellie and Joel instead of jumping to other characters.

It looks like The Last of Us Part 2 will have a couple of connections with Westworld. It's been revealed that Halley Gross, a writer on the show, will be co-writing the game's story with Neil Druckmann, who wrote the first game. 

Additionally, Westworld actress Shannon Woodward will have a role in the game. No details on her character were revealed. Her casting was revealed in a tweet:

It's also been revealed that Bruce Straley, who directed the first game, will not return for the sequel. Instead, Druckmann will be directing the game. 

The Last of Us Part 2 Music

Writer/director Neil Druckmann confirmed that Gustavo Santaolalla, the composer of The Last of Us' wonderful score, will also create the music for the sequel. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9

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A shockingly final The Magicians finale leaves only the most introductory of cliffhangers for season 5 and a slew of unexpected endings.

This The Magicians review contains spoilers.

The Magicians Season 4 Episode 13

No one ever accused The Magicians of being afraid to take risks. Any pat endings, and there were a couple, were completely waved aside by the sheer magnitude of what Quentin did to save the world not only from the twin unkillable gods but also from a potentially omnipotent autocrat. We finally got a payoff to Penny’s mysterious meeting at the underworld elevator, and a surprising addendum to the musical episode actually outdid the original all on its own. Plus the ending was one of the most complete conclusions this series has ever seen even though it sprinkled in several new storylines for season 5.

But before we get carried away by the poignancy of Quentin’s sacrifice, we sadly can’t overlook all of the fast forwarding that took place with many of the season-long conflicts, starting with the quick dispatching of the Monster’s sister, who took an axe to the back almost as soon as the episode began. Granted, Quentin and Alice only had enough of a magic upgrade to seal off the one bottle, but the defeat of such a powerful being after taking all season to assemble her seemed a bit rushed, no matter how much we might want our heroes to succeed.

Similarly, Everett’s manipulation of the Library to serve his own plans to become a god was a season-long arc that ended without a single display of power and with an unclear understanding of how he could have used the essence of Monster to complete his transformation without endangering himself as well. His defeat was spectacular but only as a secondary effect of Quentin’s heroic minor mending. And what are we to make of the Monster’s learned appreciation for the quiet wonder of Earth just before he’s banished to the Seam? Or Dean Fogg’s Monster confusion spell that allowed Margo to take an axe to her best friend’s stomach? These too-quick conclusions left us with momentary dissatisfaction; there’s no denying it.

Further Reading: The Magicians Season 5 Release Date, Cast, News

Take Julia’s story arc, for example. Didn’t it seem odd that one moment she was lying in bed with the Binder hovering over her trying to get Penny to decide between making her a human or a god, and then suddenly she was talking to Quentin about the Sister’s plan to punish the old gods? Her anger at Penny for choosing selfishly, understandably, and predictably to keep her human while condemning her to a life without magic was obviously meant to be reactionary and temporary, but the whole sequence seemed choppy as she reconciled herself to being unable to help in the final mission.

How odd that it took Quentin’s death to really start things going in the right direction for The Magicians season finale! After Quentin and Josh’s hilarious journey to the realm of the old gods (which as usual was perfectly prosaic), it once again was perhaps a bit too easy to find the Seam inside the mirror world, which was practically right around the corner from where they entered. While the cooperation of the hedge witches to maintain the second incorporate bond may not have been the uprising we were predicting, the use of a minor mending spell to defeat both antagonists was beautifully conceived. The slow motion was particularly effective in communicating to the audience that, yes, this is really happening.

The executive producers of The Magicians explained the finality of Quentin’s death in a statement: “Before we began this season, we entered into a creative conversation that included the writers, executive producer and director Chris Fisher, Lev Grossman, our partners at UCP and Syfy, and Jason Ralph. The choice for Jason to leave the show was arrived at mutually, with much respect for the story, fans of the show, and a shared sense of deliberate, essential creative risk. We want The Magicians to visit strange and fascinating new places, and we know we can't get there by treading the same garden path others have before us. So, we did the thing you're not supposed to do — we killed the character who's supposed to be ‘safe.’ In real life, none of us are safe.”

What a way to go! Quentin’s Dickensian journey with Penny, viewing his own fireside wake, was about as heart wrenching as things could get. With objects of significance being burned and “Take On Me” providing surprising harmonies and heightening the emotion of the scene, you couldn’t ask for a better send-off for Ralph and his character. Eliot’s late entrance, emerging from the darkness, and Quentin’s particularly pained expression upon seeing his friend back in his own body was priceless. And with “one last look” at Grover’s Corners, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Ralph should feel proud of his curtain call.

More: The Magicians Season 5: 10 Questions to Answer

Strangely, the epilogue scenes that set up The Magicians season 5 were no less powerful from having to follow such an important sequence as Quentin receiving his Underground metro card. Magic appears to be springing back everywhere in the world, perhaps stronger than before, and the Library wants Alice to help them reform the Order. Perhaps even more surprising was the 300-year time jump in Fillory with a Dark King having ousted Fen and Josh long ago — are Brittany Curran and Trevor Einhorn also not coming back? But the most poetic of the bunch was when Julia throws a deck of cards in the fire to mourn her lost friend and regains her magic with the same words Quentin uttered in the series premiere: “Holy shit! I’m doing this!”

As a result of such an amazing ending, the earlier flaws in The Magicians season finale are mostly overlooked. If it weren’t for the unevenness of the second half of the season, perhaps the pat endings would have been more jarring, but as it was, they almost were expected. We saw magnificent character arcs particularly for Margo and Kady this year, and although the payoff never really happened for either, the conclusion, however tragic it might be for Quentin, was satisfying overall. What The Magicians will look like without its main character is anyone’s guess, but with this ensemble cast, anything is possible.

Keep up with all of the news and reviews for The Magicians season 4 here!

Listen to the latest Sci Fi Fidelity podcast:

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Acast | RSS

Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.

Review Michael Ahr
Apr 17, 2019
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