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After Oil Webseries Offers Mystery, Corruption, and LGBT Protagonists

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As much as we like to dissect, berate, and praise popular media here on the Fandomentals, every now and again we get the joy of offering a first look at something new. We don’t often get to break news or highlight our contributors, either. So it is with great pleasure that we announce that two of our very own contributing writers—Jessica Naftaly and Shailyn Cotten—have developed an original web series called After Oil.

Premiering this past weekend, May 6th, at the 28th Annual Dusty Film Festival, After Oil follows the story of Briar Dunlap. In the last five years, a global oil crisis that has sunk Briar’s small Appalachian town into a desperate fight for survival. Needing to help, she and her friends deliver food and rations to their neighbors on bike, forming a gang called the “Pahokee Riders”. When one of her youngest Riders goes missing, Briar and her girlfriend Sarah’s fervent search for their friend uncovers a dark secret. Corruption lurks in their small town. A corruption that involves not only the police department but a corporate oil company intent on drilling their land dry.

Check out the teaser trailer here (and if you’re feeling really nice, go watch it on Youtube as well to give them the views).

We’ve talked before about how stories matter. Marginalized communities have to fight tooth and nail for well written, engaging, and nuanced representation. One of the solutions is the creation of our own original content, which is becoming more and more common. Stories written by and about marginalized communities like women of color and LGBT+ persons are increasing as more creators opt out of traditional methods. Web series in particular offer a unique way to reach an underrepresented audience. Shows like Couple-ish, The Fosters, Carmilla, Inconceivable, and, now, After Oil, showcase just how interesting and engaging a web series made by and about LGBT+ characters can be.

You can meet the cast, learn out about the production, and find links to support their work on their website: www.afteroilseries.com. Or, check out their Facebook page and Twitter for updates, news, and other information.

So whether you’re an LGBT+ person yourself or an ally, check out After Oil. It will be premiering online this coming weekend, May 12th.*

*Editor’s Note: Due to changes in production schedule, online release has been delayed until mid-May. To keep to date with information regarding online release, please refer to their website and Facebook. Thank you.*


All Images and Video Courtesy of After Oil

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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The Punisher Gets a Gloriously Bloody First Trailer

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Anyone watching or reading The Punisher goes in expecting a few things; violence, guns, blood, and a man obsessed with all three in the name of vengeance. Well, the first trailer for Netflix’s latest Marvel show delivers all of this in spades.

Jon Bernthal returns to the role of Frank Castle after his screen-grabbing debut in Daredevil’s second season, and his solo show looks every bit as brutal as you’d expect from The Punisher. It takes place after he dons the familiar skull for the first time and revolves around Castle’s attempts to uncover the truth of his family’s murder. Surprise surprise, there’s an actual conspiracy behind it. The trailer mentions multiple government agencies looking to take Castle out, and plenty of shots of Castle fighting them off.

Watch the trailer above and let us know what you think in the comments.

And hey, bonus points for setting the trailer to Metallica’s “One” and even putting in the effort to match the action to it. Plus Karen Page! I’ll always be happy to see Karen Page.

Lots of family, lots of violence, lots of Bernthal being the biggest badass in the room and somehow looking completely tortured by it. Who knows how this show will turn out, but at the very least Bernthal looks like another home run casting choice by Marvel. Though I guess we knew that following Daredevil. Here’s hoping The Punisher does Bernthal justice and doesn’t fall apart by the end the way too many of the Marvel Netflix shows have lately.

The Punisher hits Netflix sometime later this year.


Video and Images Courtesy of Netflix

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Alice Isn’t Dead: Why Am I Alive?

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Review of Season 2, Episode 10 of Alice Isn’t Dead, “Why Am I Alive?”

So soon, we’ve arrived at the end of this season, and what a roller coaster this finale was! Now that my heart has recuperated, it’s time to dwell on the climax of this perfect climax to the second act of Alice Isn’t Dead. Time and time again, this story has proven that it is able to provide meaningful turns of events and disturbing plot twists that don’t solely rely on shock value, but rather add a layer of depth to this narrative deconstructing what America is, or is thought to be. This finale was an incredible and distressing episode that concludes this season’s arc masterfully.

It’s not all that often that Keisha allows herself to really think back to the fondest memories she keeps of Alice and their marriage. At her lowest point, however, captured by the Thistle woman I’ve been calling ‘the Officer’ and about to die gruesomely, she reminisces about the life they shared together, that beautiful and complex love story. She remembers her coming out, her meeting Alice, the slow progression of their relationship from friends to friends with benefits to lovers to wives… It’s an incredibly touching series of slices of life. If only it weren’t intercut with the present conversation with the Thistle woman.

Not satisfied with just killing Keisha and being done with her assignment, the Officer decides to sap the last bit of happiness Keisha holds and provides terrifying answers to questions Keisha has been asking herself. Putting an end to Keisha’s delusion that she must have a predetermined role to play in the war between Thistle and Bay & Creek, the Officer reveals that the two sides are one and the same. The war is an artificial conflict designed by the US government, allowing them to hide a lot of mess and confusion under the pretense of war.

Having told Keisha everything, she attempts to kill her, only for Alice to barge into the room and shoot her, saving Keisha from a violent death. Alice then apologizes, asserts that she was wrong and asks Keisha to come with her.

The duality of tone has never been more pronounced that in this episode. Keisha and Alice’s story is lovely in and of itself, of course, but even more so in context of the present day events of the episode. The conversation between Keisha and the Thistle woman is just so cruel. Introspective as ever, Keisha tells us her queer story, her first girlfriend, her coming out, then how she met Alice, and it’s absolutely gorgeous and raw and real. It almost makes up for how brutal the rest of the episode is. Almost…

But let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s not first time that this show pulls an Alice ex-machina. The same thing happened in “Thistle”, the finale of season one.

“So, my wife wasn’t dead. That’s good to know. That’s new information.” − Season 1, Episode 2 (“Alice”)

These two appearances could not be any more different. In “Thistle”, Alice barged into Keisha’s truck to warn her about the foolishness of her plan, but couldn’t sway Keisha from doing as she wanted. Despite her terror, Keisha was feeling empowered, maybe unreasonably so, and she was completely determined to launch her attack on the Thistle Men. She had nothing left to lose, and yet, one season later, she’s lost even more. In this encounter, she’s now completely helpless, her attacks against the Thistle woman amounting to nothing, and Alice is not a mere apparition to warn her of the danger, but a life-saving rescue. Rather than being the attacking party, Keisha has been captured and assaulted.

Yet this is only the culmination of the events of this season. Where season one was more focused on Keisha learning to accept her anxiety as a core part of her person, something that is going to accompany her no matter what, season two was a narrative of Keisha dealing, again, with the grief caused by Alice’s departure. Slowly, she’s been inching towards acceptance, and in the previous episode even reached the conclusion that she had to give up on her hope to find Alice again in the foreseeable future.

And now that she had accepted that, she’s found her again. A repentant savior who swoops in to kill the bad guy, and get the girl again? I found that a bit jarring, though not unpleasant.

Juxtaposed with that narrative, Keisha’s memories of how Alice and her got together are all the more heartbreaking. She used to be the one afraid of commitments. She used to want to be in the closet, to just be friends, to not really be dating. The added bitterness comes in with the fact that for all commitment-shy she was, Keisha was the one who got abandoned. Everything is so completely in line with Keisha’s restrained personality, and it’s an incredible story that so many queer women, including myself, can see reflected in their own lives in one way or another. Memories of intimacy slowly being created, of compromise and hope and learning to grow together into an adult relationship. If only it weren’t for the bloodthirsty assassin punctuating the memories with her threats of violent murder.

Just as an aside, I mentioned in my review for last episode that I had some reservations about the way the narrative treats Keisha’s homosexuality. They’re no more than reservations; this isn’t meant to be a callout or anything harsh of the sort. I think the writers and performers of Night Vale Presents have proven time and again that they care deeply about LGBT+ representation and have always provided it at the core of their stories. All gay characters on any of their podcasts are played by LGBT performers, including Keisha played by Jasika Nicole. They’re doing a lot already and I don’t mean to bash on any writer who tries, for fear that writers stop trying.

Alice Isn’t Dead is a horror story and by default, this means there is going to be trouble and that the character is going to suffer to some extent. That just comes with the genre. Keisha as a character has always been treated with respect by the narrative in the sense that her emotions are validated and her identity is acknowledged and explored.

Nevertheless, this episode was particularly difficult for me because this touching story around Keisha’s sexuality was being told at the same time as all of Keisha’s hopes were being broken down, leading to a violent assault on her. Not to mention that the Thistle woman specifically pointed out that Alice may very well have known about the horrible fact that Thistle and Bay & Creek aren’t really opposing sides, really nailing down once again how deep Alice’s betrayal runs.

There is a trope too often used of queer women suffering and this was toeing the line perhaps too fiercely for me. However, I won’t call this discomfort a real criticism in the sense that, just when I was really feeling uncomfortable as I was listening and wasn’t sure if I liked how much the narrative piled onto Keisha, Alice fell from heaven at the exact right moment. Probably the fact that Keisha’s troubles were specifically linked to her being a lesbian was hard to go through for me. Whatever, I lived, Keisha lived, and it’s all in the past. Stories about gay women suffering are of course allowed, but I think that the line between that and gay women suffering because of their same-sex relationship is hard to find and a narrative can appear to be trauma porn the closer one comes to that line.

Anyway, the story is getting grimmer and grimmer indeed. Throughout the season, Keisha had run on the idealistic vision that, if Bay & Creek opposed Thistle, they must have been at least overall on the side of good. This kind of dual thinking is also behind her description of Thistle,

“No, I-I mean you’re actually monsters. You’re not human. You’re something, I dunno what. You’re predators.”
“Mmm.. Well, that is close to the truth, I suppose. But very judgy. Just because we’re not human, we’re monsters? Humans can be pretty monstrous.”

Now that we know that there are not two sides, but rather one artificial conflict controlled by the government, what hope is there left? Keisha had been hoping to eventually find her role on the side of good, but if that side doesn’t exist and if that side sent the Thistle assassin to kill her, what more is there to do to survive?

Alice’s arrival is timely on all accounts. Even on this account, she might be able to provide sorely needed answers. Indeed, if Bay & Creek are not distinct from Thistle, then it means that they sent the Thistle woman to kill Keisha. But looking at the timeline, she has been following Keisha all season. The first time we heard of her was in the first season’s finale and she was already tracking Keisha before season two officially began. This means that Bay & Creek did not mean to kill Keisha just because she had seen their base. They intended to kill her even before that. Presumably just after the slaughter of Vector H, but maybe even before that, who can say? The Thistle men were already chasing her throughout season one. Alice has so much to answer for.

“I was wrong, I’m sorry, I’m… Will you come with me?”

In the same vein, we used to assume that Alice was on the Bay & Creek side, but now that it’s been revealed that the sides are an illusion, where does that leave her? When she killed the Thistle woman just now, was she going rogue or was she acting out her expected performance in the artificial war against Thistle? Was she doing what she was supposed to do? Was she ever even working for Bay & Creek, or has she been investigating the artificial war from the very, very beginning? Where is she inviting Keisha? What is the specific wrong she’s apologizing for?

Even now, we have many questions without answers. It felt like season one was more focused on Thistle and season two a bit more on Bay & Creek, but even as time goes on, we know next to nothing about either of them, much less of the larger conflict. It sometimes feels like we’re not supposed to know, as part of the atmosphere.

“Who knows what we want? We’re a blank force of terror, we’re groping hands in the dark, pulling you into the shadows. We’re snatchers. Who cares what we want?”

Then there’s the dark horse in all this: Praxis. We know absolutely nothing about Praxis. When Keisha tried to broach the topic with the Thistle woman, she was rapidly shut down. This wasn’t without reminding us of the intense, focused, and almost fearful reaction from the Bay & Creek worker Keisha spoke to earlier in the season. I’m guessing the answers to this mystery are to be found in season three, if at all.

Another element worth mentioning is once again how political this show is.

“We love the taste of blood, because it tastes like freedom. You people, you restrict yourself so much. We have no restrictions. Why would I ever hold back because it might harm someone else? Am I them?”

Just like Alice Isn’t Dead constantly peels back the layers of America and its many odd landscapes. Neither does it shy away from deconstructing even the most basic American values, like freedom. This has been the case from the beginning, with Keisha pondering how freedom is a neutral notion and not inherently positive. Such deconstruction is necessary, too. In a political climate such as the current one, we need stories to dive deep into what the country really is, what American culture is about at its core; Alice Isn’t Dead has always provided this angle of analysis, both the good and the bad sides, if there even are such things.

All in all, this finale is a strong closing point to an incredible season. It was a harsh conclusion to the chase that had been happening in both the background and foreground of the whole season, and the new beginning of Alice’s sudden return is a promise of an equally strong third season. She has a lot to answer for.


Featured Image Courtesy of Night Vale Presents

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It’s Baaaaaaaaaack! Fuller House Season 3 Trailer Drops

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For nostalgic fans, the announcement that Netflix was rebooting the much beloved Full House series was roundly met with excitement. Though some of that excitement definitely waned once viewers finally watched the new product, Netflix has continued to support Fuller House, renewing it through at least a third season. Today, said third season’s trailer has officially dropped.

What can we expect from the third season? Well, pretty much more of the same. Whether you’re a discerning critic or not, it’s hard to argue that the safe formula has been successful for both the series and the platform. Relatively inexpensive to produce compared to shows like The Get Down or Sense 8, Fuller House doesn’t have to hit the highest of highs in return ratings. Moreover, it’s a safe show for the kidlets to watch, and still mostly tolerable for said kidlets adult guardians who happen to be in the same room.

Yes, some of the humor is still stilted, some of the jokes can fall on the side of problematic, and the show seems to still love falling heavily on the side of cheese. That said, it’s mostly harmless fluff. Considering the world nowadays, it’s safe fluff, and a reminder of sitcoms of yesteryear, where everything always worked out. In fact, other shows and networks with the same tone have been seeing record rating increases. Netflix has had similar success with the also revamped Norman Lear comedy, One Day at a Time (though this series was met with more critical acclaim, and a devoted fanbase, particularly among queer women).

Fuller House is not going to be a masterpiece, but it looks like goofy, escapist entertainment… which some of us could probably use a little of.

Fuller House stars Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, and Andrea Barber. The third season will premiere Friday, Sept. 22.


Image and video courtesy of Netflix

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