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Legion Delivers a Confusing and Very Entertaining Premiere

Bo

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I imagine many people saw news of a new superhero show on FX and reacted lukewarmly. Upon hearing Legion was yet another entry in the already saturated X-Men franchise some might even have scoffed. If you’ve decided you’re not interested in yet another superhero show or X-Men show or have an overly-stuffed television schedule that can’t possibly fit another show, I’m here to tell you to make room. Legion’s premiere was a winner that everyone should give a shot.

It’s stylish, it’s different, and it’s a thrill ride of brain-twisting weirdness unlike any superhero show you have ever seen.

As a warning, this review contains spoilers for “Chapter 1,” as well as a content warning for attempted suicide.

Recap

The episode begins with a montage of main character David Haller growing up from baby to healthy boy to the full manifestation of his powers, which sent his life in a downwards spiral. We quickly get a sense of how badly this change affected him. David becomes violent, begins drinking, starts taking prescription pills, and eventually the montage ends with him hanging himself. It’s quick and effective.

So, not exactly your typical superhero here.

The scene transitions to David’s sister Amy lighting a candle in a cupcake. She is visiting him on his birthday in Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital, and judging by their conversation he has been there long enough to grow used to it, but obviously not long enough for his sister to know he can’t take the cupcake from her.

It is also established that David hears voices and sees hallucinations. He sees them here as well, even as his sister insists he seems better.

Next we see David’s normal routine, which mainly consists of taking his prescribed medication and hanging out with his best friend Lenny. He also experiences more hallucinations. Quick note: Aubrey Plaza is delightful as Lenny. This character was written as a middle-aged man, but when Plaza was cast she insisted they not change anything. As a result she constantly references old TV shows and makes crass, but innocent remarks about women. Combined with her mannerisms, she really comes across as unisexual. She is so much fun to watch.

Also take note of the man in the greenery. They revisit him multiple times.

David and Lenny are watching a man drooling on himself when another main character comes walking down the stairs, one Sydney Barrett. All the while Plaza makes crass remarks. David is immediately drawn to her and tries to talk to her, but when he bumps into her, she does not like it and hurries away.

Legion then gives us another montage (they happen quite a bit) while David sleeps. There are a variety of shots: him as a child and teenager, him hanging himself, a variety of appliances flying around a kitchen, and his brief meeting with Sydney. A voice asks him about a devil with yellow eyes. After a shot of some very strange bald humanoid with a gigantic fat neck (gee, it has yellow eyes!), David’s bed crashes to the ground and breaks. A bunch of hospital staff rush into the room to subdue him despite David’s pleas that it’s not necessary.

I’ll take this moment to say the montages are a little bit exposition-y. Legion tried to pack a lot into its extra-sized premiere and the montages were a necessary evil to do so. As one of those weirdos who likes to see the drawn out details of character interaction, I do look at some of these as a missed opportunity. They did the job, but I can’t help but want more.

From here we see a group therapy session with his therapist, Dr. Kissinger. There’s reference to an incident with another doctor when David stopped taking medication. Sydney joins them and immediately contradicts the doctor’s insistence that David’s issues are mental, and whatever power he feels is not real. Immediately you wonder who Sydney is and what she’s doing there. Her words here are way too specific.

We also learn that Sydney does not like to be touched. She also prefers isolation. When she says that a person’s problems are “what makes you you,” David asks if she will be his girlfriend. She agrees, so long as he never touches her.

Guess what? Time for another montage! This one focuses on David and Sydney hanging out around the hospital. Perfect example of my earlier point despite the montage generally working. It makes their time seem like it took place over a long time, but considering they never wear anything different it’s more likely this all took place in the same day. There is a shot of them walking down the hallway holding a piece of cloth to substitute holding hands that is really adorable.

At the end of the day they stare out a window at the city, and Sydney shows him how she imagines herself outside the hospital. David uses their reflections to “kiss.” What a romantic.

Normally a sequence like this would do little to nothing for me. This one worked, though. Maybe it’s because I suspected something more to Sydney’s interest, or because I was happy to see David so eagerly respect her boundaries. We do still live in a world where such respect immediate from the man towards the woman is uncommon on TV. Whatever the reason, I really loved this. I felt like they actually cared for each other despite their short time together.

Unfortunately, it all comes crashing down when the episode transitions to David being questioned in a room about “the woman who disappeared.” This takes place after he left Clockworks. Another incident has taken place and the man questioning David claims to be looking for Sydney, all the while questioning whether she actually existed.

We quick cut back to Clockworks while Dr. Kissinger talks to David about hanging himself, before just as quickly cutting back to the interrogation (even here it was obvious this was an interrogation). The interrogator initially decides not to talk about David’s past, before sharing a moment with a colleague and changing his mind.

David talks about the decision to hang himself. He had recently been expelled from college, the voices bothered him terribly, and he decided to end his life despite the voices trying to stop him. Yet apparently no noose was found when the police found him, just David with burns on his neck. He’s asked, after another brief flashback of him telling Kissinger about his mental powers, whether he still believes he has those powers. David says he doesn’t believe that anymore, but asks if that’s why he’s being questioned, if his interrogators think whatever incident occurred is because of some power David has. Also revealed is that this vague “incident” has left some woman dead.

Back in his time at the hospital, Sydney comes to David’s room while he sleeps to tell him she has been approved for release. There’s also more respect of Sydney’s opposition to touching here which I really love. Obviously this news bothers David and he briefly tries to kiss her. I know, this goes against the respect I just said he showed but he does not react badly to being denied. It’s more of a “oops I forgot” moment.

The interrogator asks about her aversion to touching. David talks about not questioning it, since many people in the hospital have something that bothers them. He loses his cool and asks for a break. The interrogator leaves the room and travels through what turns out to gym. Various armed special forces types inhabit the place. He reaches a surveillance area where he talks with an older man, confirming that they know David has powers, and he may be the most powerful mutant they’ve ever encountered.

They believe David is innately aware of his powers but does not understand or control them. The older man wants to kill him but the interrogator asks to be allowed to keep going.

Back with David, he asks for the man sitting across from him to leave. Notice the carving of the dog. I suppose it is somehow related to the dog shown at the end of the previous scene. He slips into a memory of a scene we saw earlier where the kitchen appliances flew around the room. Notice again the yellow-eyed demon.

He returns to normal as the interrogator comes into the room with a bunch of men rolling monitoring equipment into the room. He notices they are all scared of him when he doesn’t immediately comply with them. The interrogator insists they are worried for him, because he is ill, but obviously we know he’s lying. David, however, lets them put the equipment on him.

Finally, we get a look at the incident which landed him in this room, which happened at Clockworks. Sydney readies to leave with Dr. Kissinger. She asks Lenny were David is, and Lenny stalls her by asking Sydney to bring her a candy bar she saw on TV. David comes rushing into the room and kisses her. As they kiss, the camera zooms onto and through David’s mind, showing images of his life.

When the episode returns, we see that the kiss sent both of them sprawling away from each other. David starts panicking while the other patients and staff try to restrain him. The lights go out. David starts walking among the other patients in the dark room, and the yellow-eyed demon shows up again. At this point I think it’s clear that thing means bad news. I was willing to give its evil appearance a pass at first, but something messed up is clearly about to go down specifically signaled by its presence.

The hospital shakes while Kissinger tends to Sydney. It becomes clear it is not actually Sydney. The episode cuts back to the interrogation room where David tells the man questioning him the kiss must have switched their minds. He thinks that was the reason she never let anyone touch her. He again panics, and Chekov’s pen on the table begins to shake.

Yes, I just spoiled you. Reading this means you either know what happens or were reading spoilers anyway.

The interrogator calms David down and asks him to continue the story. We see Dr. Kissinger walk back to the spot where the kiss happened. Sydney/David follows him. They follow the sounds of screaming and pounding fists to the hallway where the patient rooms are. Only the doors are gone and solid wall stands in their place. Eventually they find Lenny dead, half of her body sticking out of the wall.

No! Come on, Aubrey Plaza was so great! She can’t be done already!

Based on the story, David and the interrogator believe that after Sydney transferred into his body, she lost control of his powers and caused the incident which brought David to the room.

Sydney/David is rushed from the hospital despite his pleas that he was not Sydney. A black car pulls up and two people exit it. David insists that his interrogator was a third person in the car. The interrogator insists he’s wrong and that he wants to know who the people in the car were. David finally loses his cool and uses his power to send the pen flying into the interrogator’s cheek. He destroys the room with basically a flick of the wrist before gas is pumped into the room to knock him out.

While he’s out we get some recollections of David and his sister as children interspersed with Sydney sitting at a café somewhere. However, when a waitress walks away it is David sitting there, throwing into question whether the mind switch happened at all. Honestly, this is where the brain-twisty stuff might have been a bit much. It’s never made clear at all what the hell happened here. Was the switch fake? Was this David after their minds eventually switched to normal?

I honestly have no idea. David probably doesn’t either.

The memory continues with David showing up at his sister’s house on Halloween (notice the kids at the door wearing prison pinstripes). Amy and her husband are understandably cautious to see him. After serving him some waffles (David apparently loves waffles), she sets David up in a room.

And hey, Aubrey Plaza is back! Though Lenny is still dead. David hallucinates her, and she blames him for killing her. She doesn’t let him use the excuse that Sydney did it. However, she is not upset about her death. Then she warns him that “they” are coming to find and kill him. David breaks a lamp while panicking, and his sister comes down to check on him. And takes every sharp object in the basement before she leaves. I can’t say I blame her.

After David goes to sleep, we get the weirdest part of the episode, which says a lot considering how much weird stuff happens. While Sydney calls his name, he dreams of Sydney, Lenny, himself, and the other patients dancing in the hospital. Why is this here? What does it mean? I have no idea. I’ll leave the theorizing to those who know interpretive art symbolism better than I do.

When David comes to, he has been seated in a chair inside the pool in the gym. Powered cables sit inside the water to electrocute him if he makes a wrong move. David, however, laughs, thinking it’s all another illusion. The interrogator drops all pretense of helping him. He says he knows about David’s power, he knows about Sydney, he knows that people came for her the day of the incident, and wants to find her.

David says he went looking for Sydney, and we see the memory of him doing so. He calls the hospital only to be told they have no record of her. He hangs up when he spots the two people from the car earlier and hurries away. Eventually he gives them the slip, but Sydney’s head appears on the back of a man’s head. Then Sydney herself shows up. She tells him this isn’t real, it’s his memory, and she’s been projected into his memory.

Okay, Legion, seriously. This is perfectly timed confusion, and because of the X-Men universe, completely makes sense. Bravo.

The memory rewinds as they walk along, the two chasers back on David’s tail. Sydney tells him he is in a government facility and those people are not cops. She tells him to slide out of his chair and when he sees the lights, stay underwater until he sees her. Then the interrogator’s guys nab him.

David comes to back in his chair in the pool. He realizes the third person in the car he mistook as the interrogator was a woman. The swimming area heats up visibly, making everyone uncomfortable. The interrogator asks again where the girl is. Lights start appearing, and when the interrogator tries to electrocute David the button doesn’t work. David slips into the water and all hell breaks loose.

When he surfaces, Sydney is waiting with the two people from the black car. She introduces the man as Ptonomy and the woman as Kerry, before telling him “Melanie” is waiting for them. The episode ends with a badass breakout scene. They all blast through the special forces with ease, mostly due to a guy we don’t learn the name of who tosses the ground and boulders and shit around to smash people.

I’m just going to call him “The Boulder” until we learn his name. And maybe keep calling him that afterwards.

David eventually stops Sydney to get a reassurance that everything happening is real. Thank you, David! Because seriously, at this point everyone watching probably wonders the same thing. If Legion has taught us anything at this point, we should question everything happening. Sydney assures him this is real, that she came back for him and it’s real and she loves him. Then she reminds him to say it back and he does happily. Seriously, how do I love this relationship so much already? There’s not that much special to it.

legion i love you

Yeah, he was happy to say it.

Melanie Bird (played by the amazing Jean Smart) waits for them, and we cut to black when David takes her hand.

Phew, that was a long, fun, confusing ride.

Review

Legion’s premiere was something else. And to be clear, something really, really good.

I suppose some people will be turned away by the confusing nature of this episode. It jumps timelines from scene to scene, and keeping track becomes tough sometimes. David’s hallucinations make the validity of what you see hard to determine. Not everyone likes shows where you can’t be sure what’s real from moment to moment.

Neither does it help when Legion never clarifies certain things. Maybe I’m just slow to understand the whole mind switch, for example, but they never really explained what happened. Legion will require an investment from viewers; you’ll need to stick out the entire ride and journey into full awareness right along David.

Which is the point of the confusion, of course. We learn the story right alongside him. Our confusion mirrors his own. As the season progresses and David obtains a better grasp of his powers, his grasp on reality should tighten as well. So will ours along with him.

I think Legion actually did a good job establishing David and the world he lived in despite the jumpy nature of the scenes. Within the first ten minutes you had a good idea of what happened to David, how it affected him, what his life was like in the hospital, and how he interacted with those in his life. You also had a decent idea what he was capable of.

Turns out he can save the world through dance.

I suppose not everyone will like it. Some simply don’t take to this style of show. At the very least you need a main character who makes it worth the shifting timelines and plot points. Mr. Robot, for example, would not be half so good if Elliot was an awful character. Many shows fail at narratives like this specifically because of weak main characters, whether because of poor writing or playing second-fiddle to plot.

Which makes me highly appreciate how good a main character David proved to be. After all, character is king. He was charming, he was vulnerable, and he was relatable. He shared the audience’s confusion in ways that make the general confusion of the episode much easier to swallow. Most important of all, David was interesting.

Really, this episode succeeded in making every character they wanted to stick out do so. Lenny was highly entertaining. David sold every scene no matter how confusing. Sydney was a great mix of her own mental illness and a greater knowledge kept secret from David and viewers. The interrogator was terrifying.

Legion hit the mark with everyone. I can’t wait to see what happens with the entire cast moving forward.

And while everyone may not like the confusing stuff, I think the episode did a good job keeping you engaged while you try to figure it out. A big part of that is owed to the style. I’m a sucker for style. My failures to understand symbolism in dance aside, I love a show that flat out looks beautiful. Those familiar with Noah Hawley’s work on Fargo won’t be surprised by Legion’s visual excellence. That show has some of the best looking scenes of any recent television.

He keeps up the quality here. Legion’s premiere may actually have been better than Fargo here; the colors pop, the clothing feeds into the ambiguity of the timeline, and the cinematography is excellent. It avoids the default drabness superhero shows use to come across realistically. The general design is unique and perfect for Legion’s content. Honestly, even if you’re not sure what the hell is happening (probably by design), you will have fun looking at it all.

The one area the production might fail is the first full-scale fight scene to end the episode. I may have loved The Boulder, but the rest of the fighting came across kind of clunky. People just kind of stand there while the heroes run up and disarm them. I’m also one to hate the Stormtrooper effect. You know, where the highly trained killers can’t hit a target right in front of them with a precise automatic rifle for some reason. No theories about purposely letting the rebels go exist here, unfortunately.

The Boulder!

There are also those who worry the breakout here means Legion might now default to your typical superhero show. The team is assembled, the big bad government is after them, now David will develop his powers and take them down. I’m not worried about that. Noah Hawley is an excellent showrunner who I trust completely. Legion’s premiere gave me no reason to trust him less.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Melanie Bird is less than ideal from a moral standpoint herself, along with those who side from her. Sydney is too perfect, and her proclamation of love too easy considering she worked from the beginning to get David out of the hospital. I love their relationship in the premiere, but I’m not blind. Sydney almost definitely manipulated him.

One thing I can’t comment on is the handling of mental health and psychiatric institutions. It’s quite possible that the portrayal of both was handled improperly or insensitively and I’m unaware. I feel like they treated the issue of mental health with respect; perhaps Lenny is a little too comic relief without any focus on the reason she is admitted to Clockworks. Again, I trust Hawley here, and the nature of Legion guarantees we will see more of Lenny, both in memories and as a representation of David’s conscience.

To repeat my bottom line from earlier; give Legion a shot. Maybe the plot is too jumpy for you. Maybe you don’t think they can take the confusion of the premiere and make something coherent from it. I suppose such fears may prove to be right. I doubt it, though. This is one of the best showrunners currently working and a property full of potential for him to work with.

Legion is weird. Legion is confusing. Most of all, Legion is worth watching.


Images courtesy of FX

Bo

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and continues drifting wearily through the slog of summer TV.

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The Horrifying and Fascinating Tales of Mindhunter

Corentin

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There are not nearly as many articles about Mindhunter on here as there should be, so I’m going to start. Mindhunter is a Netflix original series that came out in October. The show relates the early days of criminal study focused on serial killers, before the name was even coined. The invention of profiling, if you will. As such, a good number of characters appearing on screen are serial killer and the likes, that’s where the horror comes from. And also, where the fascination starts.

I clearly don’t have the skills to analyzes this show like it deserves. This article is more of a love letter to the show. And maybe a way to encourage people to watch it.

Mindhunter takes inspiration from the work of John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler, the two pioneers of criminal profiling, and by the subsequent book written by Douglas. It relates their work during the 60s on profiling individuals we now call serial killers. However, the characters appearing on the screen are originals. A fact slightly disappointing at first, but not done without reason.

No spoilers to fear here, but if you’re already interested in the premise, you can probably go check it out now.

Obligatory warnings

I wanted to dedicate a full section to this one. I feel it’s important.

Full disclaimer: Mindhunter is not a “happy feels” kind of TV shows. By its nature, the story touches on very sensitive subjects. Rape, murder, incest, more rape, disfiguring corpses, etc.

Not that the series actually shows any of that, there are very little, if any, graphic scenes. Most of the time, we’re only seeing characters sitting in a room, discussing. It can be a cell, an interrogation room, an office, a car, anything.  The horror comes from what they are discussing and how. The how being: way too calmly for how horrific it is.

This is where my fascination with the show begins and also where I can see people getting really disgusted by it. Mindhunter is the second show this year to manage stirring a feeling of uneasiness from me. The first was The Handmaid’s Tale. Without going into details, if you feel like you don’t need that right now, please skip this show. Really, it’s not a good idea. The show is unapologetic about its gruesome origins: serial murderers do horrific stuff and the story addresses all of it, if not more.

And while I’m at it. Because most of the show is dialogue, you probably already know that this is going to be a slow burn. The show doesn’t have a lot of action, or twists, or grand events. It’s mainly discussion, slow discussions, not all of them progressing the plot significantly. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it’s perfectly understandable too. Be warned.

Now that it’s said. Let’s get back to why you should watch it. I swear.

The classic subject

Serial killers have been part of pop culture for decades now. From the countless incarnations of Hannibal to entire shows dedicated to the profiling and capture of this specific kind of criminals. More recently, we’ve had series where the hero is quite literally a serial killer.

It’s easy to see why they are fascinating. Most of the time, they are shown or treated like people who are simply compelled to do violence. They can’t help it and that’s a brutal way to talk about the nature of all humanity. You’ve probably heard countless time a killer like this saying to a cop “We’re not so different, you and I. You’ve the same fire burning inside of you.” Or something similar.

Because of that, you’ll probably start Mindhunter with already a good idea of the characters you expect to see.

Mindhunter manages to grab your attention by going all out with its portrayal of the serial killer. And by that I don’t mean that they try to outdo all the other story with the gore and the rape and the murder. The serial killer portrayed are real, they existed, so it’s hard to invent. However, the show can take the time to present, sometimes in great details, what they did and how. Always through dialogues alone, of course.

As a result, and without showing anything but some people talking, the show feels more authentic. The serial killers are not romanticized, weirdly enough. What they did is told to us in horrifying simplicity. There is no long-winded description of how smart they are. How they planned everything and how meticulous they were. How hard it was to catch them. They did this horror, and now the point of the show is to understand why.

80% of the show, basically

On that note, the actual profiling and trying to understand is a good part of the show so I won’t spoil it too much. But, just like the killers, this part is treated with a realistic tone that adds a lot to how terrible the whole deal is. You can expect to hear a lot about the killers’ mother and their absent father.

What really drew me in, and what I’m expecting to work with most people, is the absence of glamour. That’s a very difficult line to follow and I might be entirely wrong on that. Mindhunter doesn’t put the killers above us mere mortals.  Yes, it pinpoints the weird fascination those people draw from us, but it also takes times to deconstruct them.

Those killers are embodiments of our horrors because they have very little care for our social construct. But they are mainly sick people, shaped partly by their family, by society, and by themselves. The show accepts that they are here to fascinate us, but it also doesn’t romanticize them.

Even the best of them all.

Ed Kemper

This character had to have his own subsection. He embodies everything good, and horrifying, about this show.

The charming beast, really

When talking about serial killers like this, if you’re going to show them, you want good actors. If not very, very good actors. The acting in the entire series is pretty much on point. But you really must admire Cameron Britton for his portrayal of Edmund Kemper. The second he enters the room for the first time and start talking, you’re in. Mindhunter only starts to truly shine there.

The camera emphasizes his size and posture, making him intimidate the characters, and you, by his sheer presence. But it’s when Ed starts talking that the show becomes fascinating. He can go from the calm, almost candid demeanor of an unsuspicious innocent, to the cold, cruel and morbid humor of a monster. He shows just how damaged he is. Then how easy it would have been for the police force to ignore him.

Maybe his performance will be too much for some. It’s sometimes a little too slow, too weird, to feel completely human. For me, it sold the show. There is this delicate balance in his acting. There is the monster completely accepting of who he is, and then there is the mask he can take whenever he wants. To make us forget what he truly is.

As the series goes along though, the fascination the viewers feel for the killers starts to get mirrored. Kemper himself slowly gains interest in one of our main character. Holden Ford.

The true point

Mindhunter would have you believe it’s a show about serial killers. It’s not. It’s a character-driven story, from start to finish. The serial killers are here to emphasize the different reactions of our main cast to this kind of horror.

Holden Ford (played by Johnathan Groff), Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) are all original characters. They are only inspired by their historic counterparts. A choice that I found weird at first. If you’re going to talk about something real, why not pay proper homage to the people responsible? But this way, Mindhunter is free to do as it pleases with these characters.

These three have different perceptions and interests in serial killers, of course. All reflections of the audience potential reactions.

The dream team

Bill Tench is a cop, working for the FBI for years. He only sees in them the criminals and cares to understand only so he can do his job better. That also mean he can go as deep with them as his young colleague is willing. There is disgust and anger for the killers. Weirdly, he’s the character less likened to the audience, since he doesn’t seem fascinated by his study. He looks into the eyes of the killers and only find fear.

Dr. Mitford, however, is fascinated by them. But more in a professional way. It was always her job to study the human mind. Those who aren’t functioning “normally” can only make her curious. It’s helped by the fact that, for obvious reasons, she can’t go near them. There is a distance kept between her and the criminals, making it difficult to see how disturbing it can become to talk with someone like Kemper. We can expect this divide between the three to grow as the study goes.

And finally, there is the “true” main character. The one introducing us to the show and who props most of the plot forward. Holden Ford is probably the closest to the viewers. His fascination for the killers and their mind goes beyond his work. Not that it is morbid either, it’s simply a curiosity that’s difficult not to understand. One that stems from his experience with disturbed people and from a real need to do better. To help.

I wouldn’t call Ford a very likeable protagonist, he can actually be a douche from time to time. Yet I hope you’ll find yourself fascinated by him and his evolution. Just as Holden finds himself captivated by the killers he meets. He’s the character most affected by those meetings, even as he tries to be the one in charge.

Quite simply, he stares into the abyss the most out of anyone. And, as always, the abyss stares back. His fascination for the macabre mirrors our own, maybe a little too much.

Holden leans forward, Bill backward. Look mom, I’m analysing.

Holden is also interesting because we don’t know a lot about him at first. The more we learn, the more curious we become. He doesn’t seem to fit perfectly into the “normal” mold we have for a hero either. I’ve already seen a few articles attempting to diagnoses him. There are different theories. I’ve seen him called a sociopath mirroring those he tries to profile. Some explain his social behavior by a form of autism.

I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about, so I don’t have an opinion on that. It doesn’t really matter. In the end, Holden is a complete character, not necessarily a nice one, that becomes slowly as fascinating as the killers he’s trying to interview. Watch closely for his evolution during season 1.

For him, and all the other characters, I’m looking forward to season 2 and their dive into the abyss.

Some more nitpicks and conclusion

Mindhunter got reviews all around so I doubt this article will convince you if nothing else did. But still, I needed to say all of that. I’ve avoided talking about David Fincher and his directing because that’s far from my specialty, but some shots will make you feel like you’re in a cinema. There is a vision in this show that you won’t find everywhere.

That’s also a source of issue with it. Sometimes Mindhunter seems so focused on its purpose that it can become obscure to someone without established knowledge on some subject. Mainly, most episodes open on short scenes depicting a famous American serial killer. Someone that apparently people immediately identified from the time frame and the place. As a European, it was hard for me to understand. Someone had to explain it to me.

In the same idea, the characters tend to drop some names as if they were common knowledge. I’m guessing people who haven’t read or seen a lot about serial killers can get a bit lost at points.

I don’t think it takes you away from the show, but it’s something to be aware of before starting.

Apart from that, Mindhunter has a very strong narrative, entirely character-driven. It captures the pop culture fascination for serial killers while forcing us to really take in the horrifying nature of their crimes. If you’re looking for something like this, please give it a try.

 

Also, as a Frenchman I’m mandatory obligated to say it. Holden Ford looks like our President. It’s very jarring. That is all. I’m sorry.


Images courtesy of Netflix

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Fun Home: Broad City Takes Us ‘House-sitting’

Sarah

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I would like to raise a toast. A champagne-with-raspberries toast to Ilana Wexler, who this week made a breakthrough in her personal development, worked through some of her own shit, and helped her friends work through theirs. This week, Ilana was the matriarch, because Ilana was house sitting for Heidi Strand, and brought her brood for a magical weekend in the Fun Home.

Heidi Strand, if you’ll recall, is the obscenely wealthy mother of Oliver Strand, the young boy Ilana occasionally babysits for and who adopted her “Yas Queen” catchphrase in one of the most iconic episodes of Broad City ever (S2E8 for those who need a refresher).

Thus was born the infamous GIF that rocked the world.

Oliver is stressed AF because of his standardized testing for babies, so Heidi is taking him in an Uber helicopter to detox in the Hamptons. As you do. It’s pretty incredible that Heidi trusts Ilana with her enormous home but here we are: she hands over the keys, and the fun begins.

First it’s just the OG pair, Abbi and Ilana. Ilana gives Abbi the tour, starting with the laundry room, which features four huge washer-dryers. They dump in all their laundry, gleefully set the knobs, and proceed to dress up in Heidi’s clothes and ascend the multi-story spiral staircase to the piéce de résistance: the Master Bath. It comes complete with every ethnicity of marble (Asian, Italian, Peurto Rican, etc.) and A BEDET.

While Ilana sits herself on the bedet and toggles through every setting via the screen on the wall beside her, orgasming a few times in the process, she manages to hold a conversation with Abbi, who is Tinder-ing. She sees her high school English teacher. Ilana convinces her that teachers are the ultimate fantasy and to definitely swipe yas, do not swipe nas. Abbi does it, and they match, so she invites him to the Fun Home and changes from one of Heidi’s gowns into some of her resort wear.

Master Bath Face™

Meanwhile, Jaime shows up with his laundry, and relays that he has gone through with the circumcision he’d been contemplating to deal with his chronic yeast infections. He therefore cannot under any circumstances get hard, lest his stitches pull out. So he heads to the laundry room and tries really hard not to be turned on by anything, which proves difficult.

The next person to show up is Lincoln, with his own laundry in tow, and right behind him is Mike Birbiglia! I legit got excited about this until I realized that it was for sure going to get creepy between him and Abbi, but we’ll get there. Ilana introduces Lincoln to Birbigs, and manages, with only a little bit of revulsion, to introduce him as her boyfriend. Good job trying out labels, Ilana! Then she takes Lincoln to the laundry room, the first stop in every Fun Home experience.

Laundry Kweens

Abbi tries to flirt with Birbigs, but can’t help but be a little weirded out. Especially when she tells him that she always thought of him “like that” and he responds that he always thought of her “like that” too. So she runs to find Ilana, who’s having the time of her life in a farting party with Lincoln, to enlist her advice. Ilana tells her that all teachers jerk off to their students, and that as a society we should be thankful for those ones, because the other ones end up in the news.

Abbi still isn’t convinced, so Ilana puts it to her this way: when was the last time she jerked off to JTT? The teenage version of JTT? Abbi realizes it was just the night before last (which, okay), and is comforted by Ilana’s assertion that all older people jerk off to teenagers and all teenagers jerk off to older people. The circle of life.

Ilana goes back to Lincoln and they lie on the master bed. They have a conversation about brunch and shared Google calendars and Lincoln starts to read the newspaper. Just then, Ilana catches a glimpse of a book on the nightstand called “Is your relationship stale?” She immediately freaks out about commitment and frantically tells Lincoln that they haven’t had sex in forever. He points out that they had sex an hour ago and he has a refractory period. They then sit across from each other at a fancy table in a Fun Home nook somewhere and decide that they’ll give it a year and then check in. No forevers. It’s cute and there are jokes about spaghetti and Doritos (see: previous fart party). I enjoyed this scene very much.

Fear Of Commitment Face™

Meanwhile, Jaime is wandering the Fun Home and seeing sex and penises literally everywhere, even in the antique map of Europe Italy looks like a penis. So he hides under the mountain of stuffed animals in Oliver’s dark room, crying and begging his penis to stay weak while he stays strong.

Unfortunately, this is the exact room Abbi and Birbigs decide to stumble into while making out, and start to role-play the teacher-student thing while lying on Oliver’s bed, unaware of a horrified Jaime just feet from them. Abbi goes along with the role-play until Birbigs pushes her face back with his hands in order to make her look 17 again. This is the last straw for both Abbi and Jaime, who tell him how gross he is and that he should leave. Jaime is actually glad, since seeing that exchange killed his impending erection.

Just as Birbigs is getting dressed and about to leave, a fire alarm goes off, and all of the Fun Home inhabitants gather on the street. One of the firefighters that comes explains that they used a dryer that was only supposed to dry silk and that’s what caused the dryer-fire. Nothing is really damaged and the motley crew are relieved, bidding farewell to Birbigs, who heads off down the street to that song from The Breakfast Club—you know the one.

Bye Birbigs

Overall, this episode was pure fun, except for the creep-factor of Mike Birbiglia, English Teacher, which…that’s not my humor. But to the credit of the Broad City team, and Abbi Jacobsen who directed this episode (her second of the season, and they’re both winners), even when this kind of storyline happens, this show keeps the ball firmly in the woman’s court. It broaches sexual tabboos while maintaining the power and autonomy of the central (female-identified, in this case) characters.

I give this episode 9.5/10 privately owned Baroque sculptures.

Until next week, kweens!


Images Courtesy of Comedy Central

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Legends Double Whammy: The Rise of Mallus and The Wonderful Helen

Matthew

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Major events happened in Legends of Tomorrow in the past two episodes, but they still handled their lighter tone quite well. This time, a double review of episodes five and six, so let’s dig in!

“Return of the Mack”

The Legends track down an anachronism in Victorian London where an actual vampire seems to be on the loose. The start out by visiting a morgue and speaking with the local coroner. As the team finds out the doctor is wearing a 2017 watch, they make the man spill the beans: he had found it in a body that had “fallen from the sky,” which he examined and then buried.

Thinking this body would be connected to the vampire situation, they go to the cemetery and end up finding Rip Hunter there, on his own journey after the vamp. It turns out he thinks this particular anachronism is related to Mallus, a powerful being whose name has been whispered throughout all of time and space. To go on this mission, Rip had to go rogue against his own foundation, the Time Bureau.

Using Nate as bait and after he gets captured easily, the mystery is solved: some cult members, which include Stein’s eccentric ancestor, are seeking to revive a secretive corpse using the blood of the great people of London and the occult powers of the Blood Moon.

The Legends put up a rescue mission, but as usual, things do go south: Nate is retrieved, but after Zari’s creepy participation in a séance hosted by one Madame Eleanor, a fight does start in the main hall. To make matters worse, the team finds out that the body that is going to be resurrected belongs to one Damien Darhk, after his death at the hands of the Green Arrow.

This leads to new conflict between Sara and Rip. Sara believes they should make a move to ‘kill Darhk for good/keep him from being resurrected,’ but Rip wants to let things go their way, at least for a little bit, in order to reach Mallus during the ceremony. Rip ends up agreeing with Sara, but goes rogue once again, locking the Legends inside the Waverider as he goes on with his plan.

As the séance involved Madame Eleanor speaking for Zari’s sister, the new team member had exited the ship beforehand so that she could ask the medium to speak with her brother again and apologize for leaving him to die after ARGUS’s attack. However, she ends up tricked by Eleanor and hands her totem, which soon she learns was a bad idea.

The main event begins as Eleanor uses her own powers and the totem’s to speak for Mallus. Rip crashes the party, but his efforts to stop this nonsense are in vain: Damien Darhk lives. Despite getting Time Bureau’s employees there to help the fight, the Darhk and Eleanor combo prove to be too powerful, and Rip comes very close to dying. The Legends arrive just in time after escaping the Waverider to save Hunter from death.

After Rip’s betrayal, Sara makes the hard-ish decision of calling in the Time Bureau to take Rip away, as the dude simply has no loyalty, going over the captain’s wishes for his own agenda. Honestly? Go, Sara. This call yields good results and, apparently, the Legends get permission to do their thing. PLUS, and I say this with a lot of excitement, we can look forward to seeing Sara and Agent Sharpe stop being catty to each other.

Meanwhile, Jax gets Ray to help him out in breaking up Firestorm. The first step was breaking the psychic connection, at least temporarily, as a trial. This process goes well, but despite Jax’s good intentions, Stein gets upset with it. However, as the episode goes by, vague things happen which propel Stein change of heart as he realizes he really wants to spend the extra time with his grandson. Therefore, he agrees to the break up without any further resistance.

“Helen Hunt”

A long take starts us in 1937 Hollywoodland where a blonde woman walks into a movie set causing all sorts of trouble because all the men are focused on her. As coincidences go, this is a big one: she enters the set of a movie portraying Troy and gets instantly cast as herself given her identity is no one less than the Helen of Troy.

At the Waverider, Ray is trying to separate Firestorm through some sort of weird science that ends up blowing up in their faces, quite literally. The result is a Freaky Friday situation in which Jax and Martin swap bodies, leading to all sorts of age jokes and funny shenanigans. As Sara puts it in a meta way, “It must be Tuesday.”

The Legends take notice of the anachronism in Hollywood as history got changed and, to get their mojo back, they decide to go forth for what would be an easy mission while they can’t solve their Damien Darhk problem quite yet. Upon arrival, they notice how this new method actor is making the rounds, prompting men to fight for her and Nate recognizes her as Helen of Troy.

Meanwhile, Martin is having the time of his life meeting his boyhood crush Hedy Lamarr, a brilliant scientist-actor of whom he is especially fond. Sara, Zari, and Amaya try to get Helen to go with them quietly, but she is reluctant due to the way she is treated in Troy, having been locked up and an excuse for war-waging among men for years. To make matters worse, as she runs away, they soon find out she is being managed by Damien Darhk. The man himself tries to achieve a parlay with Sara, telling them to go away and let him tend to his evil businesses or else he will kill all the Legends, one by one.

Sara takes her time to discuss the indecent proposal with her crew, but ultimately, they decide to fight Darhk. Sara enlists only the women to retrieve Helen this time as even the guys on the team fell victim to her “curse” of making men fight for her. They go to her current location and successfully convince her to go willingly given the Hollywood studio heads’ fights were escalating to gunpowder levels.

As they return to the ship, the electronic problems they’ve been having all day — from the comms being down to Gideon shutting down — are all a ripple effect from Helen’s one pompous day at Hollywood. It turns out that Helen’s appeal discouraged Hedy Lamarr from pursuing her dreams which not only included movies but patented technology that would eventually pave the way for the advanced technology on the ship.

Thus, the mission can’t end yet as the team still need to get Hedy back on track. As the onboard Lamarr Stan, Martin volunteers as tribute. However, Damien and Eleanor find them together and, having his proposition ignored, the fight begins.

As the legends go after Martin, Helen is left to the care of Zari and Amaya who even hands Helen a knife so she would not be defenseless. Kuasa, the “water witch” from team Darhk/team Mallus enters the Waverider and knocks Zari out (sidenote: the team is referring to Zari as Z now, and I just wanna say that it’s very, very cute). Kuasa proceeds to have a word with Amaya, and she reveals herself as Mari McCabe’s older sister and, therefore, Amaya’s granddaughter which sort of explains why she is a totem-bearer. However, before Kuasa can reveal some important plot information, Helen stabs her with her knife, and she perishes.

Back outside, Damien and Sara decide to have an oldfashioned League fight, without magic. As Sara suddenly becomes an expert assassin again (her skills come and go as the plot demands, as you are all aware) and gets ready to kill Darhk, Eleanor interferes with magic and reveals herself as Darhk’s daughter. As Eleanor readies to kill Sara, Hedy tells Martin and Jax to fuse which is something they were afraid of doing after their swap.

Fortunately, it all works out with Firestorm who is now stable and gets the best out of the Darhks, who retreat away. The crew gets back on the ship as they are now ready to leave Hollywood as the Hedy Lamarr situation has been resolved. Still, they still have Helen aboard, who is feeling miserable about having to go back to her shitty life. Her arguments get the best of Zari who, through a loophole, takes her to the same period as she went missing, but a much better place than Troy — a nice, Greek, aesthetically pleasing, and well-saturated place where only women are allowed. The episode closes with what we already knew: that place’s name is Themiscyra, which was WONDERFUL, like, hell fucking yeah, Legends of Tomorrow, you just blew my wig to the stratosphere.


Images Courtesy of The CW

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