5 Disturbing Music Videos

It’s true what they say: Life’s no fun without a good scare. It’s easy to get complacent in life, sitting in front of the computer screen, binge-watching your favorite series for the umpteenth time, idly swiping your thumb across a mobile game, or, heaven forbid, sinking into the squalid depths of reality TV. Every now and then, we need media to make us feel a little unsettled. So here are 5 disturbing music videos to give you nightmares.

“The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.”
-H. P. Lovecraft

5. “Give Me an Answer” by Low Roar

With this video being inspired by Death Stranding, the upcoming game from avant garde game designer Hideo Kojima, you know you’re in for some weird shit. The scene plays out like a short horror film, presenting our protagonists in an eerie situation that immediately starts us wondering which, if any, will survive the strange ordeal to come. With impenetrable symbolism and an uneasy atmosphere, this video leaves us begging for answers that never come.

4. “Push It” by Garbage

The 90’s were a great decade for surreal music videos, and Garbage have always proudly flaunted their otherness. “Push It” features characters disturbing enough to rival any shock rocker’s video, kinky sexiness, appropriate references to the works of Rene Magritte and Stephen King, and a healthy dose of the occult. This cements Shirley Manson’s place as music’s Queen of Weirdos.

3. “Seraphim” by Mishkin Fitzgerald

This beautiful, heartfelt ballad by Birdeatsbaby frontwoman Mishkin Fitzgerald is accompanied by jarringly strange imagery. Figures in hoods, suffocating men, people in bondage or covered in ash, and other characters sit around an angelic Fitzgerald in what looks like a twisted rendition of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The ceiling is hung with nooses, suggesting a dreadful inspiration for this song. It’s frightening, it’s tragic, and it’s stunning.

2. “Feral Love” by Chelsea Wolfe

Straightaway, this video bombards you with uncanny imagery. Wow, Chelsea Wolfe is beautiful, but also I am afraid she’ll wear my skin. These family home videos seem really out of place here. Oh shit, that’s a lot of blood. Wait, were those the twins from The Shining? And what are they going to do to that naked lady? OH GOD, NOT A BUNNY MASK. BIOSHOCK FLASHBACKS.

1. “Here Comes the Rain” by Foetus

One night, I was about to click off of YouTube and go to sleep when I saw this video pop up on my “Recommended” list. Oh sure, I have time to check out one last video before bed. What’s the harm?

I deeply regretted it.

This video steadily takes you further and further into a place you don’t want to go. Watching it feels like watching found footage of a serial killer’s day-to-day life. The drumbeats sound like the kind you’d hear on your way to be sacrificed to some ancient deity. And if you have a dental phobia, you should turn back now. I don’t know what J. G. Thirlwell is up to here, but it’s messed up and I want no part of it.

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“Finish It” – True Detective Season 3 Theory

Warning: Contains spoilers for True Detective Season 3 episodes 1, 2, & 3. Go get caught up before reading. I’m also going to be referencing clips from the trailers that have not been shown in the series proper yet. You’ve been warned.

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I’m gonna cut to the chase: With what was shown to us in the two trailers, and the three episodes released so far, I think we actually have everything we need to solve this mystery.

Let’s go through the where, who, why, what, and when of it all.

Where is Julie Purcell?

While totally reasonable, I think it will turn out to be a fatal error for the detectives to have ignored the tip from that woman who had a dream about Julie. The woman said she saw the girl on a farm, surrounded by snakes. Now take a look at the large photograph in the back of the cork board, behind all the other photos.

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It looks to be an overhead shot of a farm. Surrounded by snakelike rivers.

This is where the detectives will find out she was being held, but, of course, it will by then be too late, and she’ll be long gone.

Who took her? And why?

Her being held on a farm strongly implicates the Hoyt company, who would have good reason to own a farm. It could very well be that they are involved in human trafficking, as was suggested by the documentarian in episode 2. She mentions “The Crooked Spiral,” which seems to be a direct reference to the cult in season 1. I think that ultimately “the Crooked Spiral” and Hoyt are connected, probably as part of a web of interconnected secret societies and upper-class criminal organizations. Pizzolatto has said he’s toying with the idea of having the heroes of the various seasons meet each other at some point. Perhaps they will connect their respective dots, and take down the head of this shadowy group?

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What did Hays leave in the woods?

When Hays receives a visit from the ghost of his deceased wife, she speaks in poetry and riddles, and ominously mentions Hays having left something out in the woods back in the 80s. What could it be?

You don’t have to be a true detective to know this case is going sour fast. With mob violence imminent, there’s a lot of pressure for the case to be closed, even if that means pinning the blame on a scapegoat. I think that when Hays discovers who the culprit truly is, he won’t be able to charge them, because they’re part of the wealthy Hoyt family, and can afford to evade justice. Someone else will be charged, probably the three teens, in order to give closure to the town and curtail their acts of violence. But Hays won’t be able to accept it. I think that, when he realizes this person is above the law, he will pursue his own vigilante justice. I think he kills this person, and shoots them and hides their body in the woods.

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When exactly is Hays?

So, what’s going on with Hays and his memory?

It’s hard to miss the influences of pop culture on True Detective. The series itself is named after an old pulp magazine. The hero of season 3 is named after a Jimi Hendrix song. Season 2 very clearly drew on Twin Peaks at times. Season 1 is centered around the Yellow King and Carcosa, which are both from a Robert W. Chambers novel. And it looks like Lovecraft and D&D are going to be important points this season. Knowing this, my ears perked up during episode 3 when a certain phrase was uttered.

“Finish it.”

A widower, lost in time, hearing the specter of his deceased author wife telling him to “Finish it.” Isn’t that directly from 2006’s The Fountain? Now there could be a lot of reasons for this, including parallel thinking, but I’m just going to go ahead and call it what I think it is: An homage.

I think that this homage is indicative of supernatural elements at work. Both seasons 1 and 2 had supernatural elements, so if season 3 lacked any, it would be an outlier. So what’s the supernatural twist this season? I think Hays is moving through time.

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In The Fountain, the story is divided into three time periods: The past (during the Spanish Inquisition), the present (2006 at the time), and the future (traveling through space). It becomes clear during the film that our hero, Tommy, is able to move his consciousness between these three times, changing the past with knowledge he’s gained in the future. One of the major things he needs to alter in the past is the fact that he never helped his wife conclude her novel. She was writing it when she fell critically ill, and before she passed away, she asked him to finish writing it for her. “Finish it,” is a line repeated many, many times in the film, reminding Tommy of all the things he left undone in the past, until finally, he uses the power of his mind to go back and alter the events.

I think the parallels between True Detective and The Fountain are too strong to be coincidence. Furthermore, when searching Will Purcell’s room, the detectives find a book that mentions Leng. Leng was originally a location in H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, and, if one possesses a strong enough mind, one can cross back and forth between the waking world and the Dreamlands. I think all of this points to Hays possessing the ability, somehow, to mentally jump between these periods in time. Think of the series finale to Star Trek: The Next Generation (spoilers — highlight to read) where Jean-Luc Picard does this exact thing: Mentally jumping from his past, present, and future selves in order to alter the events of all three timelines. There being multiple precedents for this makes it less of a stretch.

The fact that they’ve avoided specifically naming Hays’ mental condition leads me to think that naming it doesn’t matter, from a storytelling perspective, because they’re wrong. He doesn’t have dementia, or Alzheimer’s: It’s something medical science doesn’t understand.

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How exactly he’s able to do this is a mystery that I don’t think will be answered. True Detective thus far has been perfectly comfortable with not answering every question. There’s still so much we don’t know about the Yellow King and what happened during the finale. And that’s OK. In real life, we usually don’t get answers to our greatest questions. And when you’re delving into the supernatural in an otherwise grounded show, it’s sometimes better not to explain everything. It’s also in line with the cosmic horror from which True Detective takes some inspiration: There are things we as humans can never understand about the universe, and attempting to understand them leads to madness.

 

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Prepare to Try – How a Let’s Play Series Changed My Life

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I’ve been a gamer since I can remember. The language and visuals of video games are ingrained in my subconscious to the point where I frequently dream in video game format. I played The Legend of Zelda for hours when I was six, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and obsessively trying to find every temple and every secret, but having to start over again every day because for some reason, my save file never worked. My love of gaming never diminished, either. As an adult, my favorite game became Skyrim, and I explored its realms as intensely as I had explored Hyrule as a child.

When I heard about Let’s Plays, well… While I wouldn’t criticize someone for enjoying them, I thought it was stupid. Why would you want to watch someone play video games while jabbering obnoxiously? I understand watching them for the purposes of finding out good strategies for games you might get stuck on, but just watching a Let’s Play for fun? What are you gaining from that?

Hahaha.

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Well, one day I wanted to see if The Evil Within 2 looked like it was worth buying, so I searched YouTube for a game play video. I clicked on one from IGN, because I figured they would have a quality video with pertinent info. Oh, ugh. There are people talking over it. I bet they think they’re funny, but they’re really just obnoxious. I’ll give this video five minutes. If it sucks, I’ll find a different one.

Oh, wow, they’re actually really fucking funny.

I’ll share with you the joke that convinced me to keep watching the video, because it’s still one of my favorites:

“I didn’t even know there were zombies in it before he said.” “What did you think it was gonna be? Evil Within?” “Well, The Evil Within… so… racism, or something.”

After that video, I was hooked. For anyone reading this who is not familiar, I’ll give you a quick rundown: This series was titled “Prepare to Try,” and it was created for IGN in 2016. It started off as a challenge, pitting a gamer, completely inexperienced with the crushingly difficult Souls-type games, against the original Dark Souls, attempting to finish it before the release of Dark Souls 3, roughly a month later. Rory Powers held the controller, while Dan Krupa gave insight into the rich lore of the series, and Gav Murphy kept the banter going. Eventually, the series grew and produced play throughs of Dark Souls 3Resident EvilBloodborne, Cuphead, and more. All of which I’ve now watched at least twice and still enjoy.

Everything about the series was a pleasant surprise. It was informative, funny, and exciting. At the same time I was laughing my ass off, I was learning about the background of whatever game they were playing. I was also glad to find out how progressive their views were, as they often made remarks decrying sexism, racism, and homophobia. In the wake of fiascos like Gamergate, when so many people associate geek culture with toxic behavior and bigotry, this series stood out as a brilliant contrast to all that negativity. Their zany humor, positivity, and frequent Simpsons joke references charmed me.

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Cut forward to 2018. I’d pretty much never been lower in my life. Financial problems, the death of a friend, and familial turmoil, to name just a few things I was dealing with. It had come to a point where I was pretty sure there was no reason to keep living, and the best I could hope for was the dignity of being able to check myself out of a miserable, humiliating existence. Insomnia set in, giving these noxious thoughts plenty of time to ferment in my head. It was too easy to think of ways to put an end to it all, too many methods that were within arm’s reach. I had to drown out those thoughts. Distract myself. So I’d binge watch Prepare to Try.

I’m not sure why, but it was the only thing that made me smile. I would still be crying, but I found myself laughing through the tears.

Struggling with depression is like climbing up the side of a cliff above a whirlpool. You search for a foothold, a grip, anything to keep yourself from falling, be it friends, pets, hobbies, whatever… Just something that keeps you above the water another day. And eventually those days turn to weeks, months, years, a lifetime. It is about survival. And whether profound or simple, anything that keeps you going becomes close to your heart.

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I soon found that my experience wasn’t unusual. Within the following that sprung up around Prepare to Try, there were many who said the series had helped them cope with their depression. Joining their unofficial Facebook group, I found that their fans are some of the nicest damn people on the internet, being very supportive of each other and happy to talk with fellow fans who reach out in the midst of personal struggles.

There’s a recurring joke on Prepare to Try: When struggling with some simple task like going up an elevator, opening a door, etc, they’ll ask, “Is this a Boss?” and laugh at the absurdity of laboring with what’s literally the easiest part of the game. But in a way, silly as it sounds, that’s a great metaphor for living with depression. Sometimes, getting out of bed and making breakfast is a Boss. Cleaning your room is a Boss. Walking to the store is a Boss. Things that should be easy become arduous under the weight of depression, and sometimes you beat the Boss, and sometimes, you just have to try again.

I never expected to gain so much from watching people play video games. It sounds so ridiculous. It’s one of the last things I would have thought would help me fight against my suicidal inclinations, but there’s no denying that it gave me great comfort in one of the worst periods of my life. I think their Bloodborne play through, in particular, is a great analog for life: You’re not equipped for this, everything is trying to kill you, there are spiders everywhere, and nobody has any idea what’s going on, but you keep trying. And sometimes you have to respawn and start all over again with nothing, but you keep trying.

You. Keep. Trying.

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I’d like to mention that, while the Prepare to Try series has ended, Rory, Krupa, and Gav have moved on to found their own channel, RKG, and will be releasing their long-awaited play through of Dark Souls 2 very soon. I encourage you to check it out, as well as the content on their old Prepare to Try channel on YouTube.

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Can You “Win” Black Mirror: Bandersnatch?

 

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Disclaimer: Contains spoilers for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Author’s note: I’m going to be referring to Bandersnatch as a game in this article, because it makes more sense to use this word within this context.

Since its release, Black Mirror‘s interactive nightmare Bandersnatch has drawn people into its labyrinth in search of secrets. While it seems that all possible endings have, at this point, been discovered, it is still up for debate which ending is the “true” ending. While, cinematically, the “5-Star” ending might seem the most in-keeping with Black Mirror‘s usual vibe, there’s something about it that seems too obvious. It doesn’t subvert our expectations, it just plays into them. We expect Stefan to end up like Jerome F. Davies, descending into a rabbit hole of paranoia and violence. Nothing about this ending is surprising.

As a gamer, I went into Bandersnatch with the mindset that I needed to get the “true” ending, and I knew well that the “true” ending isn’t always the most obvious. Silent Hill 2 and Bloodborne are prime examples of the true endings being the more depressing and unsettling. In my mind, the true ending to this unconventional story wouldn’t be the easiest to get, it wouldn’t be found at the end of the most conspicuous path, and it wouldn’t be one of the copy-paste endings with a review at the end. Seeking the highest rating for Stefan’s game was only playing into expectations, and going for the easiest answers. Notice how the first REAL choice we are given in Bandersnatch is whether or not to work at Tuckersoft, and making the more obvious choice of accepting the offer leads us to an unsatisfying ending, for both Stefan and ourself, the player. It’s only when you make the risky choice that you can progress. This fact, to me, is very telling of what the true ending of Bandersnatch is meant to be.

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There are many ways to lose a game. There’s far fewer ways to win. You can finish the game, get a review, and be fooled into thinking that you’ve successfully gotten the high score, but you’ve only done what the game expected you to. Only what it wanted you to. You played into the programming, and were controlled just as much as Stefan was. Bandersnatch expects you to go mad, kill your father, and finish making the game. To really beat the game, you have to get Stefan away from the dark fate Bandersnatch has planned for him.

There is only one ending that has you diverge from the path of slavishly completing the game. Only one that fulfills the Stefan’s wants and needs, not those of the player. Only one that actually frees Stefan from the endlessly cycling maze.

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The “TOY” ending, where Stefan goes back in time, finds Rabbit, and embarks on the fateful train ride with his mother, resulting in his spontaneous death in the current time line.

Changing the events surrounding his mother’s death is the only way to truly break Stefan out of the endless cycle of madness, murder, and imprisonment. While the result of changing history is bleak, it is the only ending that does not result in Stefan’s imprisonment, and is (arguably) more merciful. In his death, he is actually freed from the maze. It is the only way he can escape the confines of Program and Control.

Think about it: Throughout the course of Bandersnatch, we’re told over and over again that we need to break free. We’re challenged to escape the limitations of the programming, as impossible as that seemingly is. While we are still controlling Stefan no matter what path we go down, it is possible for us to choose a path for him that gives him closure, and allows him to rest in peace rather than driving him down a path that destroys him and everyone around him. No matter how you slice it, the “TOY” ending is the one that causes Stefan to suffer the least. It also allows him to confront his personal demons, rather than him being driven mad by them.

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We are constantly being told, don’t give in. Don’t make the easy choices. Don’t go for the obvious paths. In a sense, we are playing against the game Bandersnatch itself. The premise of the game tricks us, suggesting that the only goal we have is to complete Stefan’s video game. But doing that only causes him suffering, and surrenders to the trappings of obvious and easy answers. It’s easy to give in. It’s easy to let Stefan become single-minded and only care about the game, letting his own life fall to shambles as a result. What’s harder to do is to look for the deeper, more obscure path, and release our Pac-Man from his programming.

 

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review – SPOILERS

Unpopular opinion: Newt Scamander is a far more compelling hero than Harry Potter ever was.

Okay! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get this started.

Oh, by the way. Spoilers are freely written below, so, read at your own risk.

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I heard a lot of bad press about The Crimes of Grindelwald, some of which I agreed with and understand: The ending twist is dumb and overcomplicates things for no justifiable reason). However, I think everything up to that point is refreshing, entertaining, and engaging. There was not a moment I was bored, tuned out, or disinterested. Even during the action scenes, which I usually lose interest in quickly, I was attentive and excited. Come on, how can you tell me Newt riding a cat-dragon thing into battle is not awesome?

The film is visually stunning, and not just with the fantastic beasts themselves. The various locales, action sequences, and sorcery are varied and just beautiful in general. Our journey into new corners of the Wizarding World is highly enjoyable. The addition of a circus of magical creatures (as shady as it was) is an interesting concept worth further exploration. I loved the statue portal, personally. And there are clever things like this sprinkled throughout, showcasing J. K. Rowling’s amazing world building talents. Whenever something from the Harry Potter films appears, it doesn’t come off as a cheesy Easter egg or callback, but instead is well-integrated a just being an established part of this world.

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The final battle with Grindelwald is perfection. The build-up creates a quiet, unsettling tension. You sense the threat. You feel enclosed by the crowd of enemies. You know not everyone is going to make it out of this. The best thing I can liken it to is a boss fight in a video game. Grindelwald is intimidating in his careless confidence, and the heroes are humanized by the fact that they know they’re likely to fail, but have to serve their duty. There are real stakes. Mortal blows are all too near. I appreciate the bluff, making the audience think that Leta would join Grindelwald, which would have been an easy, predictable turn of events. It shows the uniqueness of Fantastic Beasts that they used the opportunity to redeem Leta. If only she’d been developed properly…

I liked that despite Newt’s dislike of his establishmentarian brother, after Leta’s death, they support each other in an emotional embrace. They had lost someone they loved, and both knew this was what mattered in the moment. Lesser films would have taken the opportunity to cause more strife between them in order to build a cheap, easy conflict that ultimately just hinders the plot. I could imagine them fighting over who Leta loved more, who Leta should have married, et cetera, et cetera… You know, cliches.

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One gripe among viewers and critics was that the format was boring. There wasn’t much of a sense of urgency, no obvious character arcs, and overall it just seemed to be a bridge to the next film. I will say this, and it is highly subjective: As a jaded film lover who’s seen so many movies that I can usually predict what will happen next, down to the lines about to be delivered, I am happy to see a film successfully (key word) pull off a different format. It’s not just transitioning from action sequence to action sequence, from problem to problem. I find that format frustrating, and leans on the fact that the easiest ways to write a script is to use the format of, “The characters to this, BUT encounter an obstacle. Then, they do this. BUT, there’s another obstacle.” Instead, the characters are given a direction, a goal, and they move towards it. They achieve it, and then they are presented with a new direction. There’s a progression, not just a series of “whoops, we made a mistake and we’re fucked because someone was an incompetent idiot.” I get tired of the plot being driven by the characters being fools. I appreciate seeing a hero using their wits to move forward.

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One of the complaints I heard was Queenie joining Grindelwald. It might seem like an excuse, sure, I will give you that, but my casual assumption was that she was under the Imperius Curse. If that turns out to not be the case, I will admit, it is inexplicable and dumb.

One critic even accused Queenie of being a Harley Quinn rip off. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Is this critic somehow unaware that Harley and Queenie’s accent is a real one that actual humans have? Furthermore, classic Hollywood films are full of women that fit Queenie’s mold much more closely than Harley Quinn. Has this professional critic never seen a classic movie? You lose credibility for me on that point. It’s a stupid assumption that shows a lack of knowledge of your subject matter, and a general lack of culture.

(A lot of Queenie hate, I notice.)

Of course, a great multitude of criticisms involve Nagini, and the unexpected revelation that Voldemort’s snake Horcrux was once a woman. I’ll admit, that’s a surprising left turn, but I don’t see it as necessarily bad. I hope Nagini gets further developed, because I think she could be interesting. I don’t think the portrayal of Nagini as an Asian woman is racist, especially as the actress herself wasn’t concerned with it. It’s too complex and issue to delve into here, so I’ll leave it at that. As for other problems with her character, I’ll get back to Nagini in a minute.

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Unfortunately, due to the large cast of characters, some great characters don’t have much to do, or are passed over for characters with more immediate importance. Jacob, Tina, and Nagini are probably the most major victims of this. Tina just happens to be present during scenes, but doesn’t actively affect the events much. Jacob is pretty much only there to interact with Queenie. Nagini is just introduced, and then promptly set aside for (hopefully) later development. A shame.

I do have my share of “are you fucking kidding me” moments, however. First off, Newt saying without a hint that he was joking that if he traveled abroad, he’d be thrown straight into Azkaban. Does the Wizarding World have no scale for varying crimes? It’s absurd. Allied with Voldemort? It’s Azkaban for you. Drunk in public? Hope you like Dementors. Loitering? Enjoy spending the rest of your life in an endless void of despair. It’s ridiculous (no pun intended). If it was supposed to be a joke, they should have telegraphed that better.

I also agree with the complaint of Nagini and Leta being underdeveloped to the point of us not being particularly interested in them. While Leta does prove herself a general bad ass for her attempted assassination of Grindelwald, we don’t know much about her other than 1) Newt is in love with her, and 2) she unintentionally killed her baby brother. It doesn’t give us an opportunity to relate to her, actually makes her downright unlikable, and doesn’t give us a picture of her character as an adult.

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Finally, my biggest complaint is Ezra Miller’s overacting, which crops up throughout the film, but really culminates in the final scene, where he blows out the window. Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me? Don’t do that face. Don’t do that ugly face. Nobody does that face. The way he pursed his lips and scrunched up his face really killed the mood for me. What should have been a shocking and emotional moment (despite it being a lame twist) instead made me grimace, and laugh at the absurdity of his exaggerated attempt at emoting. He really is the Anakin Skywalker of the Potterverse. I hope they’re smart enough to kill him off soon. I don’t see his character as becoming interesting or in any way redeemable.

As a Feminist, I feel I have to address the elephant in the room. Johnny Depp, and his spousal abuse. I honestly don’t feel comfortable with the fact that I technically supported him by paying to see this movie. I think his career should die. I think Grindelwald should have been recast, despite the fact that it would be jarring and possibly confusing to some more casual moviegoers to suddenly see a different actor in the role. I will admit, Depp did an excellent job as an actor. This role made me realize, before he started getting cast in trash like Alice in Wonderland and The Lone Ranger, he was actually a superb actor. This doesn’t excuse him being a deplorable human being, and I don’t think wife beaters should be given such high profile jobs.

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Ultimately, despite everything The Crimes of Grindelwald had going against it, it succeeds in being a unique and engaging experience, equal or surpassing its predecessor, and is a worthy entry into the stories of the Wizarding World.

 

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5 Easter Eggs in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

Warning: Contains spoilers for the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just what it claims to be. It’s a throwback to the supernatural television shows marketed to teens that were proliferate in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, which could revel in the kitschy and absurd, but also tackle dark subject matter and serious issues. It’s already stirred up controversy for multiple reasons, and not for the reasons you’d probably expect. However, those heavier themes are to be tackled here at a later time. For now, let’s set those topics aside, and get into the things every true nerd hungers for — EASTER EGGS!

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1- The Names

There are many names with significance in Sabrina. Besides more obvious ones like “Spellman” and “Salem,” here are some names with more remarkable meanings:

  • “Puttnam” and “Hawthorne” were the names of families involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Ironically, the name “Wardwell” is probably a reference to warding spells, which are used to repel evil spirits.
  • “Faustus” is taken from the play Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wherein the main character sells his soul to the Devil.
  • “Scratch,” as in “Old Scratch” or “Mr. Scratch,” is a nickname for the Devil.
  • The mentioned-but-never-seen “Doc Phibes” gets his name from the titular character of the 1971 horror flick The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

 

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2- “Criminal”

Of course you noticed the inclusion of Fiona Apple’s 90’s hit “Criminal” in Chapter 7: Feast of Feasts. However, if you’ve never seen the music video for the song, you might not get the connection. The video portrays the then-18-year-old Apple in her underwear, and lounging around with other teens on the floor, in what looks to be the aftermath of a party. The images are highly suggestive of some risque stuff going on, a lot like what’s taking place in Prudence’s room at the time.

 

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3- The Weird Sisters

The term “Weird Sisters” has its origins in the Norns of Norse mythology. They were three prophetic witches who were the daughters of a seer named “Wyrd.” The term was later anglicized to “Weird” and used in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. It just goes to show, trios have always been powerful in witchcraft. The number can represent past, present, and future; the maiden, the mother, and the crone; the Rule of 3; father, mother, and child; the Furies; the Fates; and too many other examples of the power of the number three to recite here.

 

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4- Other horror references

Besides names of characters, Sabrina contains some homages to the horror genre. Some include:

  • On a couple of occasions, characters refer to the blessings of Satan as “delicious.” This most likely is pulled from a famous line in the 2015 horror film The Witch, in which (SPOILERS – highlight to read) the Devil asks the protagonist, “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” The scene in Chapter 10 where the Devil coaxes Sabrina to sign the Book of the Beast, he whispers in a way reminiscent of the Devil in The Witch.
  • Chapter Five is titled “Dreams in a Witch House,” a slight variant on the title of the H. P. Lovecraft story Dreams in the Witch House.
  • Chapter Six shows Harvey wearing the same outfit as Johnny Depp’s character during his death scene in Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • The Spellman house has the same stained glass skylight as the ballet school in 1977’s witchsploitation film Suspiria.

 

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5- The exorcism

The incantation for the exorcism in Chapter Six contains references to many significant figures in Witch/Wiccan culture. Apart from the mythological characters, there are several historical figures, including:

  • Anne Boleyn, the wife of Henry VIII, who was accused of bewitching Henry to make him marry her. Her being a witch was also said to be the reason for her later miscarriage.
  • Hildegard of Bingen was a German Benedictine abbess, but became respected by modern Pagans as a healer and mystic.
  • Mary Bradbury and Tituba, both women who were accused during the Salem Witch Trials, but manage to avoid execution.
  • Moll Dyer, a witch said to have lived in Maryland in the 1600s. Her spirit is still said to haunt the area where she was killed.
  • Sybil Leek, one of the most prolific writers on the subject of modern Witchcraft.

 

That’s it for now, but I will certainly, in the future, dive deeper into the themes of Sabrina and possibly put a couple theories out there. So stay tuned!

 

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The Problematic Treatment of Titans’ Heroines [Spoilers]

In lieu of a standard review of Episode 2 and 3, I’d like to address a trend that has been bothering me in the new Titans thus far: The problematic portrayal of the female heroes. Many bloggers have already covered the disturbing behavior of Dick Grayson, and with Beast Boy so far barely getting any screen time (which needs to change ASAP, I’m stoked to see him more), there’s not much to say about the male heroes at this point. Hopefully, once they are more fleshed out, I will be able to discuss their portrayals, whether good or mad or neutral. For now, I’m going to focus on our heroines, Raven, Kory, and Dove.

Before delving in, I’d like to make a few distinctions. There will be spoilers for the first three episodes of Titans, so if you’re not caught up, I recommend stopping now. Secondly, my references to the comic book materials will be drawn solely from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez run on The New Teen Titans from the 1980s. As I am not as familiar with their iteration in the more recent New 52, I will not be talking about it. Furthermore, as a Progressive Feminist, this article will be written with that mindset. If you don’t care for that, you may wish to click away from this, rather than sending us hate mail. Much appreciated.

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I will first address Raven’s loss of agency. In the comics, Raven is the one who brings the Titans together. Knowing the arrival of her father, the dreaded devil Trigon, is imminent, she takes action, finding heroes with specific characteristics that will be able to take down the fiend. At first, she is portrayed as a woman with unshakeable willpower who is in control of her emotions. It was only later that we discovered that she was someone who needed help. She could be vulnerable and tender, and she truly loves her friends, despite her icy demeanor.

In Titans, the writers have opted for the inverse. Raven is, straight away, a damaged individual who needs protection. She’s basically helpless on her own. Even when she does “save herself” from dangerous situations, it is actually the dark spirit inhabiting her that takes action. Yes, Raven is much younger than she is in the comics. But I feel it would have behooved the show to show her as an old soul, with wisdom remarkable for her age. No, she doesn’t need to be perfect. It would make sense that she is less disciplined and more flawed. But, I would have liked to see Raven possess more agency, and more able to defend herself.

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Our next subject is Kory. Volumes have been written on the unfortunate wardrobe, and I fully agree it was a poor decision to dress her in such a way. It’s an odd choice, and led to a lot of PR problems that sadly dissuaded many from watching the show. It wasn’t worth it. Kory is vastly different from her comic book portrayal, showing almost no relation to the endearing but powerful alien girl we came to love. Don’t get me wrong, Kory is a compelling character in her own right, but if you’re going to do an adaptation of Starfire, you need to retain some of the traits that have made her such a classic character. Kory is all toughness, no heart. And that was what made us love Starfire: She beautifully juxtaposed a warrior identity with compassion. She could be filled with fury, she could luxuriate in a pool party with her friends, she could be tender with Dick, and merciless with her enemies. She was naïve, but she had convictions. This complexity is what made her beloved by fans.

Minor gripe: When Kory meets Dick, sparks should have flown. They’re one of the best couples in the DCU, and the show needs to do justice to that.

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Finally, we come to Dove. And my goodness, despite a good performance by Minka Kelly, and a comics-accurate costume, I have a lot of problems with Dove’s characterization. I’d like to first call your attention to the Women in Refrigerators trope, a term coined by veteran comics writer Gail Simone. I suggest perusing the page linked above, but the basic idea is that there are countless female comic characters who are mistreated in various abhorrent ways, often of a sexual nature, solely to provide motivation for the male characters. In Titans, Dove is not only weaker than she is in the comics (though her male compatriot Hawk is depowered as well), she is given a previously nonexistent sexual history with Dick Grayson, and is swiftly put into a coma before we can really get to know and care about her.

Why? What does this do to service the plot, other than to give emotional motivation to our brooding male heroes. It actually robs the story of an intriguing character. Okay, sure, she’s in a coma, which is TV code for “She’ll definitely positively absolutely be back soon,” but in the meantime, her absence is just a testament to the fact that writers often don’t care about their heroines, viewing them more as plot points than as active protagonists in their own right. I’m not saying writers don’t create complex, amazing female characters. I’m not saying such unfortunate treatment doesn’t befall male characters. I’m saying, by and large, these kinds of tropes are imposed upon female characters.

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Within her first episode, Dove gets refrigerated. Raven’s adopted mother, Angela, is also refrigerated in her first episode. Rather than develop her into Raven’s biological mother, Arella, whose actual name is Angela, they kill her off to motivate Raven. Arella, also a fascinating and powerful character, who stands against Trigon and leads the forces of Azarath, seems to be inconsequential in the context of the show.

I would like to sum this up by saying, I don’t hate everything about the heroines in Titans. I honestly think the show is worth checking out. As I mentioned earlier, Kory is an intriguing character, and, while she’s not our Starfire, she could go to some very interesting places. Raven could grow into a stronger, solid character in her own right. And Dove is comics accurate and likable. As I said, the show has potential.

All that said, my biggest complaint is the way Raven drinks her coffee. There’s a handle there for a reason: So you don’t burn your hand holding the ceramic cup. Because coffee is hot. Drink your coffee like a normal person, Raven! Jeez. Also, Raven likes pineapple on her pizza. It’s canon. Get it together, people.

(I have no life, help me.)

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Iron Fist: Is Danny Rand on the Autism Spectrum? [No Spoilers]

With the recent news of Iron Fist‘s cancellation, it’s sad to look back at the two seasons we were given and think about what might have been. While it was certainly the weakest of the Netflix-Marvel collaborations, the nonetheless holds the potential to be as amazing as the others, should he be taken down the right path. The time seems ripe for speculating where the character could go from here, if this iteration is kept alive within the Marvel-Netflix universe, or even brought into the larger scale of the MCU. How could Iron Fist find his footing again?

One of the first things that struck me, when I first watched Iron Fist Season 1, was how different Danny Rand was from the other heroes he shared his universe with, and not really in a good way. He was a typical straight white male from a wealthy family, like so many superheroes, including but not limited to Batman, Iron Man, Green Arrow, Reed Richards, and Ted Kord. Compare this with the other three members of The Defenders: Matt Murdock, a blind man, Jessica Jones, a woman who suffered sexual abuse and PTSD, and Luke Cage, a black man living in the impoverished Harlem. It would make a lot more sense if Danny was also a minority of some kind.

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YES. I know what you’re going to say. “The SJWs have to shoehorn in minorities in everything.” Look: If a tactic is working, DON’T CHANGE IT. The Defenders work GREAT as a group of minorities. It’s just part of the cocktail that makes these characters all so compelling. Furthermore, Marvel Comics made their name by publishing comics that catered to subcultures, minorities, and the disenfranchised. Perhaps the most famous example of this are the X-Men, who themselves are metaphors for racial minorities, LGBT+, and anyone else rejected by mainstream society. So, if you want the SJWs to get out of Marvel Comics, you’re decades too late.

The Netflix version of Iron Fist was not well-received by fans, who criticized the writing and performances. Danny Rand comes off as an oblivious, disconnected, inconsiderate jerk. But, what if there was a reason that Danny has issues with his social interactions? What if there was a reason Danny doesn’t understand the way he acts comes off as rude? What if there was a reason Danny can’t communicate properly?

What if Danny Rand is on the autism spectrum?

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Danny shows a lot of behaviors associated with Asperger’s, a condition on the autism spectrum. Symptoms of Asperger’s include difficulty with social interactions, trouble empathizing with others, and a need for calmness and routine. Even Danny’s constant word-vomiting about K’un Lun and his defeat of the dragon Shou Lao, despite peoples’ reactions, mirrors the way people with Asperger’s can be hyper-obsessive over one particular subject. He tells anyone he meets that he’s “the immortal Iron Fist,” unable to understand that no one knows what that is.

Yes, all of these things could have alternate explanations. After all, Danny did leave the typical world and spent the majority of his life in K’un Lun. And he did fight the dragon Shao Lao, which is definitely something to be proud of. Why wouldn’t he want to talk about it often? This crystallization could account for Danny’s childlike demeanor, but it also doesn’t really explain everything. After all, it’s not like people don’t mature in K’un Lun. Why wouldn’t Danny be a more disciplined person, able to speak politely, be patient, and empathize with others?

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Iron Fist makes a lot more sense if you believe Danny is on the autism spectrum. All the other Defenders and their supporting cast are either disabled, mentally ill, or minorities. If Danny was revealed to be on the autism spectrum it would make his character more sympathetic, and give representation to people on the spectrum.

So, Marvel, if you want to hire me, I’m great at revamping problematic characters…

(Editor’s note: I also came across someone on Reddit who had similar thoughts. The thread is worth reading, in my opinion.)

 

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‘Titans’ Episode 1 Review [Minor Spoilers]

As someone who’s read DC comics since she was 8 years old, I have been following the development of the new Titans series since it was announced. As the train wreck progressed, it became more and more cringey and painful as a fan to see some of my favorite characters ever being mutilated beyond recognition. The horror. It got to the point where, after hearing the first reviews, I had decided I was no longer going to give it a chance.

After a couple of beers, I changed my mind.

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I can say many terrible things about the first episode. My main takeaway, however, was that it was surprisingly not as agonizing to watch as it appeared from the trailers. Mind you, this is just the first episode. There is plenty of time for it to go downhill, especially with the DCEU’s track record. But for the first episode, I was prepared for the worst and was surprised that it wasn’t entirely loathsome. Like I said, there are a lot of terrible aspects to the show that I can bemoan all day (and I will do so in a minute), but, overall, Titans’ first episode isn’t as bad as the CW superhero shows like Supergirl and The Flash, but is nowhere near the lofty level of the Marvel-Netflix series that it aspires to match.

The first thing we must get out of the way is this: These are not the Titans you grew up with. And I don’t mean that in the cool, edgy way. I mean it in the “they made no effort to retain the aspects of these characters that make them who they are” way. The characters visually barely resemble their counterparts, and the same goes in terms of personality. Let’s go character by character and pick them apart.

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Dick Grayson straight up mutilates and, from the looks of it, potentially murders some thugs, which will no doubt add fuel to the “Batman and family don’t kill” controversy. Yes, in the comics, Dick has a lot of resentment towards Bruce. He can be dark, obsessive, and driven, like his mentor. But Dick will never be Bruce. He retains his humanity, whereas Bruce will purposefully discard it in order to reach his objective. The difference between the characters is the prioritization of their feelings and empathy.

Raven, as far as the first episode goes, has exclusively been called “Rachel.” I don’t care, I’m calling her Raven in this article. My main complaint about Raven is that she seems to have been aged down considerably, after having started out her existence as one of the older Titans. I feel that this naive, overly-emotional take on her doesn’t suit the character. For those that don’t know, there is an actual story-related reason that Raven doesn’t express emotions and it’s very, very freaking important. I don’t hate Teagan Croft as Raven, but I feel she is too young for the role. Raven, in Titans, comes off as a Goth Tumblr blogger who writes about how nobody understands her and does Photoshop portraits of herself with her eyes oozing blackness. The portrayal is juvenile and one-dimensional.

Starfire, who so far has been referred to by the alias “Kory Anders,” is just … not Starfire. Anna Diop looks beautiful, despite the terrible things the wardrobe department did to her, and she does fairly well in her role in the episode. But the character is not Starfire. Instead of the strong but naive and free-spirited girl we know from the comic books, Kory Anders is a femme fatale with amnesia, embroiled in a plot more easily likened to a spy thriller than to a sci-fi superhero story.

Beast Boy appears for maybe a minute out of the entire first episode, so I can’t do much analysis on him, which is a shame, because out of the entire cast, I’d say I’m happiest with their choice for Beast Boy, and I think he will be the closest to his comic book counterpart, which will be a welcome change of pace.

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The writers for the show don’t seem to understand what makes these characters great. Raven’s Soul Self makes an appearance in the show, but its nature is completely inverse from its nature in the comics. In the show, it is a representation of Raven’s inner demon, whereas in the comics, it’s the opposite: The Soul Self is the pure part of Raven, whereas her body is evil. Dick Grayson is portrayed as a gloomy, disillusioned brute, which is a shame, because he’s the only one who got a good costume. Starfire just isn’t Starfire.

So now that we’ve established the characters we are dealing with, we can delve into the plot and script, and the pros and cons therein.

The central conflict so far is: Everyone is looking for Raven, while Dick is trying to protect her. This is almost like an inversion of the 1980’s Titans’ origin story, wherein Starfire arrives on Earth, pursued by the Gordanians, and Raven brings the team together to help her. The shifting of the power dynamic, changing Raven from the authoritative position, to the victim in need of protection, to me, diminishes her. And for clarification, in the 1980’s comics origin, Starfire is not diminished by needing help, as she is still an active participant in the fight against her attackers. Raven in the 2018 TV show, is mostly running away and looking for help.

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I’d say, other than character portrayals, the worst part of Titans is the dialogue. Conversations are generic, uninteresting, and unrealistic. They do not keep you engaged and tend towards the predictable. There is nothing truly clever or shocking, though it tries very hard to be both. Some of it makes no sense whatsoever, sounding very little like anything that a real person would say. (“I don’t care about your emotional problems!”) I’ve heard people praise Titans for its use of humor. In the first episode, I can say, what I did see of humor was very little and very cringeworthy. I’ll let you know if that changes, but for the meantime I’m going to put a big red “NOPE” stamp on Titans‘ use of humor.

The main villain of the first episode appears in what is probably the worst scene of the entire hour. His dialogue is pure, uncut exposition, literally explaining what the viewers are supposed to feel about him and his allies. At the same time that we’re told too much, we’re also not told or shown anything that will actually make us feel invested in him or his cause, one way or another.

The soundtrack is painfully disappointing, despite being composed by Clint Mansell, whose scores so beautifully enhanced such films as Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain. His work on Titans comes off as derivative and dull.

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So, overall, what do I have to say about Titans’ debut episode? It’s bad. It’s not good. But it’s not the absolute steaming pile of garbage I expected. It’s not as bad as the DCEU’s big screen disappointments like Suicide Squad or Justice League. It’s slightly better than DC’s CW series The Flash and Supergirl, mostly thanks to its ability thus far to stay away from hackneyed romance plots and soap opera drama, both of which plague the CW series. With time, the willingness to cut out the weak parts, and temper the better aspects, Titans could potentially be good. It’s nothing to write home about. The costumes are still awful, the script is laughable, and the concepts are poorly executed.

What would it take for me to say Titans is good? The characters need to be better developed. Convince me these aren’t just some emo-tinged fan fiction versions of the complex characters created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Show me that there’s true respect for the source material. Give me a killer version of Trigon, Brother Blood, or Deathstroke. Really make me believe you know what you’re doing, show runners. Prove me wrong, that this show will slowly devolve into a dumpster fire like the rest of the DCEU.

Also, please stop with the wigs.

 

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Netflix’s ‘Maniac’ Review (No Spoilers)

With such hit series as Stranger ThingsBlack Mirror, and Ozark to live up to, Netflix is under a lot of pressure to release the next great dark horse success. With Cary Fukunaga of True Detective and Patrick Somerville of The Leftovers as the director and creator respectively, you could expect great things from their latest effort, the limited series Maniac. The only problem is, you could expect a lot of bad things, too.

I could not have been more blown away by the first three episodes of Maniac. Stylistically and thematically, it heavily draws on the works of Philip K. Dick, the mind behind Total Recall and Minority Report. Like Dick’s stories, Maniac plays on themes of paranoia, isolation, and insanity. Our story follows two characters, Annie and Owen, who are both struggling with mental illness and family conflict. Their paths lead them both to a trial for a new pharmaceutical that promises to eventually do away with therapy, by resolving peoples’ psychological issues through induced dream-like experiences. During the course of the trial, we learn about the skeletons in Annie and Owen’s closets, and attempt to resolve these issues by going over them.

Again. And again. And again. And again.

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For at least five episodes, as the trial goes into the “B pill” testing phase, they go over the same information, and the plot goes nowhere. While the first three episodes do a good job of setting a tone, constructing a world, and getting us invested in our characters, all the episodes in the middle completely undo that. Rather than making good use of the world they’ve already done an excellent job in establishing, Maniac goes off in haphazard and pointless directions for no apparent reason other than to do something ‘wacky,’ because, apparently, going on inexplicable and self-indulgent tangents is a proper substitute for actual substance these days.

While there is some tongue-in-cheek humor established early on, by the middle, the series has gone off the deep end into over-the-top goofiness. It’s a true shame, because Jonah Hill and Emma Stone are better in this series than I have ever seen them before, and really proved that they have grown as performers since they appeared together in 2007’s Superbad and can deliver grown-up, mature, and compelling performances. While they still give good performances in the episodes after, it loses much of its impact in the flood of irredeemably lame gimmicks. By the ending, the series has regained some of its form, but, overall, it’s just a completely different show by then, and I hardly care what happens to the characters.

 

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Besides the terrible excuse for humor, the episodes in the B-pill phase have another inexcusable flaw: They essentially present us with a mystery to which we already know the answer, rendering the investigation next to pointless. And, in case we somehow didn’t get the “metaphors,” we’re given a lengthy exposition scene, explaining to us in unnecessary detail exactly what it represented. For clarification, but without spoilers, here’s what we sit through: First, we witness the back story of our characters. Then, we sit through a “dream sequence” full of metaphors for the back story that we just witnessed. Finally, the character explains their back story again, and how the metaphors tied in with it. This recycling of information over the course of multiple episodes is mind-numbingly boring, and absolutely killed my interest in the characters, their struggles, their development, their resolutions, etc. As much as I had empathized with them previously, I now just wanted to get to the end of the series so I could be done with it.

It’s a tragedy to see something as amazing as Maniac‘s first three episodes lead into something as trite, dull, and uninspired as its remaining episodes. What could have been a masterpiece ended up just a lot of failed potential. I wish I could whole-heartedly recommend this series to you. As it is, I’m left warning you ahead of time, you’ll never get to see the ending to the amazing story you’re presented with. Instead, you get to watch a so-stupid-it’s-offensive sketch show with some sci-fi wraparound.

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