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Twin Peaks: The Return – The Finale

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The moment has come, one both dreaded and looked forward to. Across a period of 25 years we hadn’t only waited for the narrative’s return – we have also held our breath for a sense of finality. On a grand scope, the waiting game led to this two-part finale, wherein we could finally experience some atonement for the grief and hurt of the series’ cancellation. And that may just be the keyword in matters of intent and dynamic: Atonement. Is some redemption due for Cooper’s uncertain fate in the Black Lodge, for the executive interference that stunted the original run? Yes, there is. But now that David Lynch and Mark Frost are at freedom to do their art as they will it, they also get to choose the means and delivery. Here is the cue for controversy to rear its controversial head.

These days, it seems there are two variants within the Twin Peaks‘ fandom. Such is my observation, anyway. Those who look on the series with nostalgia, and those who do not. Considering the former, one may ask, what precisely did these people love from the original series? Was it the quirks, the coffee and cherry pie – notably absent (for the most part) in The Return? Was it the darkness and the horror – still alive and well? Whatever the case, some have proven blind to one fact: the creators have matured across these 25 years; especially David Lynch, having directed some of his darkest work, notably Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, in this period. Expecting a catering to the past from Lynch and Frost is misguided, if not truly asinine.

Therefore, reception on The Return has been a dichotomy. But at no point may it prove as divisive as the spectrum of thoughts about The Finale proper. Some are quick to decry it; others praise it. Though I belong in the latter, I can clearly see a sensible reasoning to the controversy, as it highlights both the creators’ strengths and weaknesses. Nonetheless, one this is for sure: people will be talking about this for a while. In terms of dynamic, it’s all surprisingly succinct. But there is far more to say on what it suggests.

Brace yourselves.

Part 17
The Catharsis

The first part opens, unfortunately, with a weakness on part of the creators. Though Frost and Lynch are efficient storytellers (we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t), pacing escapes their dominion a few times. Far be it from me to say I, or anyone, could have done better, but nobody likes exposition. COLE reveals some information to Albert (and Tammy by proximity) which he’d withheld. Namely a plan created by Coop, Major Briggs and he to track and defeat an evil entity called “Jowday”, who eventually ended being called Judy. No wonder Jeffries didn’t want to talk about ‘her’ back in Fire Walk With Me. Therefore, this mysterious name that had accompanied us for a while reveals itself as the villain on a greater scope than either BOB or Coopelganger. We may get flashbacks from Part 8 and Part 14, with BOB’s ‘mother’ and the thing possessing Sarah Palmer, respectively.

After hearing Cooper’s message from last episode (and finding that Dougie Jones is Dale Cooper), the FBI folks take off towards Twin Peaks. Evil Cooper is also on the way, which spells a dreadful event to unfold; Naido herself is particularly restless, as she senses his approach. He finally arrives at Jack Rabbit’s Palace/White Lodge, where the Fireman transports him outside of the Sheriff’s Department. Cue intense foreboding at the danger this being represents for the likes of Harry, Lucy, Hawk, etc. Although Mr. C keeps the harmless facade of being Cooper, Andy is quick to pick up that this is not Cooper by the fact he refused a cup of coffee. From here on, the tempo is going to pick up dangerously with several events preceding the ‘boss fight’ at Sheriff Truman’s office.

First, Chad breaks out and holds Andy at gunpoint while he goes to free Naido from the cell. This leads Freddie to bust out as well in order to save Andy’s life and knock Chad out in the process. Meanwhile, Sheriff Truman receives a call from the real Cooper, who’s on the way, making for a tense silence as Booper reaches for his gun to kill Frank. An unlikely hero makes the save in the nick of time, though. Of all people to take out Mr. C, once and for all, it’s Lucy who shoots Evil Coop. Dale arrives shortly after, and everybody gathers in the Sheriff’s office to witness the Woodsmen’s gig, after which, BOB’s spirit emerges from the body. After a gruelling battle, Freddie fulfills his destiny by destroying BOB forever.

Dale putting the Owl Ring on his doppelganger’s finger seals the deal, effectively banishing him for good and giving us that resolution we so anxiously needed. There have been mixed views on the fact Freddie got to do the actual showdown rather than Cooper himself. But we ought to remember, this is not Hollywood. In face of what is to take place, it’s reasonable for a new, strapping young hero to do the physical dimension of the fray. This doesn’t remove the focus from Coop at all, because his work is just about to begin. COLE and the FBI arrive in time to see him through to the first steps.

No Way Back

Here is where things get a little complex. There is a definite sense of fatefulness, seeing all these characters gathered here, all united by two factors. They’re good people, and they’re all confused as fuck – there is plenty they don’t know. Some visual cues, like Cooper’s face as an ephemeral overlay over the scene lead the viewers to think they’re still in the dark about some things. Only Cooper himself seems to be in the know of the whole picture. Naido approaches him, and her facade crumbles to reveal her real self: she is the true Diane. Afterwards, Coop, Diane and COLE (The Lynchian trio par excellence) are transported to the Great Northern Hotel’s boiler room. Here be the source of that humming sound that mystified Ben, Beverly, James and Freddie.

Dale uses the hotel room key he got from Truman (originally facilitated by Jade) to open that door. After saying his farewells to both Diane and COLE, he crosses over into the dark unknown. Here, he meets MIKE, who once more speaks his “Fire Walk With Me” poem. His delivery is still as chilling as the first time, if not more so, and it sets the tone for the next encounter: Cooper meeting Jeffries. He will transport him to the place where he’ll find Judy, who apparently is the symbol represented on both the Owl Ring and Evil Coop’s card. Now, it’s not actually a place, but a date – February 23, 1989. The last night of Laura Palmer’s life. The scene is a black and white rendition of Laura riding with James in Fire Walk With Me.

As opposed to usual feeling of loneliness and tragedy that comes with “Laura Palmer’s theme”, seeing Cooper here, preventing her from meeting Leo and Jacques, imbues it with hope. This is especially true considering she’d seen him in a dream, facilitated by the painting she got from Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont. The colours seep into the scene at the moment she grabs his hand. As a consequence her death is erased from time. So when Peter Martell goes to the shore that morning, he’ll find nothing dead, wrapped in plastic. The tragedy is averted, but something occurs as a consequence. No, I don’t mean a time paradox. In response to Cooper’s intervention, a scorned Sarah Palmer throws a fit, stabbing Laura’s homecoming portrait.

Laura disappears out of existence with a scream as Cooper leads her out of the woods. This won’t be nearly as easy as we thought, will it? This episode comes to a close with Julee Cruise singing “The World Spins“, which we may ruefully remember from Season 2, Episode 9: Maddy Ferguson’s death. That was a tragic failure to prevent a death. Will this prove different?

Part 18
Another Place

All throughout this final episode, there is a strong sense of inescapability. This is first highlighted by the tulpa MIKE creates in the Black Lodge, which ends up filling the gap in Janey-E and Sonny Jim’s lives after Cooper left. This is one end tied for good. After Laura’s disappearance, Cooper finds himself back in the Black Lodge where he has some brief and cryptic encounters with MIKE, the Arm, and Leland – who urges him to find Laura. Dale comes out of the Lodge into the woods, and finds Diane who asks if it’s really him. This question first come off as surprise giving in to relief. However, we’ll notice that from here on out, there’s something different about Cooper. While he is good at heart, he does exhibit some traits from his doppelganger, namely a disposition for violence and a distant tone while speaking.

Together, Cooper and Diane embark on a very special road trip. Their destination is not a place they actually know, rather they’re following the Fireman’s reminders from Part 1. Dale stops the car precisely on mile 430, after which, there won’t be any chance to come back. Diane’s silent anxiety prior to this moment is an ominous hint on what they’re heading into. The sensation is further enhanced by Lynch’s long takes, which help build up tension, and then some. After ‘crossing over’, we find Cooper driving a lonely road at night; unnerving seeing as how closely we’ve associated the image with his evil couterpart. Eventually they stop at a motel for some rest and love making. Here is where things get heavier.

Motion-wise, sexual intercourse between Cooper and Diane is no different to that of willing people who crave each other. But closer attention on Diane’s body language and expression makes all the difference. There doesn’t seem to be any actual pleasure as she rides him; it’s mostly momentum. In the process, she covers his face with her hands, and her anguished face is looking straight at the ceiling. This is not an act of lust, but a desperate act of healing. Diane is desperately trying to reconcile the experience of her rape at the hands of her lover’s doppelganger. The fact that “A Prayer” by The Platters is playing on the background only adds to the contrast of act and mood. If not for the fact this song featured on Part 8 just before the Woodsmen’s mantra, it would fit perfectly for some fucking.

But we can no longer dissociate both song and event in this series. In a similar way, Diane struggles to dissociate Cooper and Mr. C as two separate individuals. As Cooper wakes up alone the next day, it seems the pain of the trauma was too much, so Diane leaves the journey, leaving him a farewell note. In this note, she acknowledges him as Richard and herself as Linda. Thus we got the second reminder from the Fireman. Remember Richard and Linda. This proves Richard Horne a red herring to the theory there was a second Booper kid running around by the name of Linda. But more importantly, it’s a hint that in this ‘world’ or ‘continuity’ sans Laura’s murder, they’re different people. Regardless, Cooper has to go on by himself.

The Scream

Dale Cooper drives through Odessa, Texas on the lookout for something. Soon enough, he finds a clue on a Coffee Shop: Judy’s, of course. His demeanour, actions and speech are all a disturbingly strong shade of Mr. C in this place. After telling off three cowboy dudebros harassing the waitress (Francesca Eastwood), he disarms them all with scary-vicious competence, a tint darker than ‘Dougie’ disarming The Spike. He then basically holds EVERYONE at gun point, while demanding the waitress give him the address of the other waitress, who hasn’t come to work lately. I swear, this kinda sounds like the Terminator looking for Sarah Connor. Still, he kills nobody; Coop’s still Coop – he’s anti-hero Coop.

So, ‘C-800’ arrives at the address. The visual cue of the paramount importance to this place is the Utility Pole number 6, which we’ve seen several times during The Return and in Fire Walk With Me. There is audible electricity crackling in case we didn’t remember the appearances above. And who’s that at the door, if not Laura Palmer, having aged as she would have, had she not been murdered? Except, she is not Laura Palmer – her name is Carrie Page, which falls in line with ‘Richard’ and ‘Linda’ instead of ‘Dale’ and ‘Diane’. Cooper doesn’t go Kyle Reese with the whole “come with me if you want to live”, but he does tell her he needs to take her to Twin Peaks as he believes Carrie is truly Laura Palmer.

Carrie acknowledges that she’d tell him to leave, if not for the fact that she’s in a pickle, needing to get out of Texas quick. Yes, a dead body in her living room seems a sensible reason to skip work and put some distance from her current location. So, Dale and Carrie embark on the second bit of the road trip  – a lengthy drive up north. Upon arrival, Coop locates the Palmers’ house, but finds that Carrie doesn’t recognise the house, and the Palmers don’t live here. In fact, the house’s new occupants have never heard of anyone of the Palmer family. There is no link whatsoever with the narrative of Twin Peaks here, much to Cooper’s confusion. None, except for one. It was a Mrs. Chalfont who sold the house to the current owner, Alice Tremond (Mary Reber).

Fealing defeated, Cooper wonders aloud what year is this. You can tell the desperation in his voice. Carrie then hears Sarah Palmer’s voice calling for her from within the house, thus bringing the memories of all the horror back into her mind. As Carrie screams in terror, the lights on the house shut down, and the scene fades to black, bringing The Return to an end, and a flood of questions as immediate reaction for the viewer. There is no performance on the Roadhouse to nurse our feelings as the credits roll. Only a dismal melody with an opaque image of Laura whispering on Cooper’s ear.

It’s an ending, but what kind of an ending is this? Happy? tragic? good? bad? uncertain? gratuitously confusing? lazy? astounding? I’ve heard arguments for all these adjectives. My personal input: brilliant. I need not justify my opinion (I’ve gotten shit because of it by some zealous fans on Facebook groups) but I’ll give my personal thoughts.

Final Thoughts

What was my personal reaction at seeing the finale for the first time? Bewilderment, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this. I knew it would be naîve to go in expecting nothing but a wholesome triumph for the good guys, and a suitable comeuppance for the evildoers. In a way, we did get that (at a huge price) – but the setting had never been (even in the original run) a mold for a traditonal story of good vs. evil. It could never be that simple; it’s not Game of Thrones, for fuck’s sakes: there’s no plot armour, there’s no guy gets girl (though it’s incest, which is okay now, for some reason). Thus I was prepared to acknowledge my essentially humble position as a viewer. For I don’t hold the cards, the creators do.

I dared to feel surprised, which is precisely what defined my experience of the original run. Not even on second watch, but merely on actually reflecting upon what I watched, I got a sense of clarity on the Finale. The mood was bleak, but there is plenty in there to read triumph in Cooper’s journey. Then, I reasoned that Cooper was the Magican from MIKE’s monologue. Braving a broken temporality, a duality of worlds, he longed to see the way to defeat evil, to defeat Judy. Therefore, he fire-walked through peril and doom for this purpose. That’s what I extrapolated then, and my understanding only got more nuanced, more open to explore new interpretations.

I understood that, at its core, the narrative of  Twin Peaks is not about eating donuts with coffee; it’s about carrying a light into some of the darkest depths of human existence. Outside of it, the constant subversion to expectations on entertainment back in the early nineties, and now in the 21st century are whole delight of its own. Thus, Twin Peaks: The Return expanded upon the mechanisms of storytelling, explored new depths and altogether, did more than replicate the experience of those magical first seasons. It surpassed it. Now, one would be hard pressed to find a series with no narrative faults, and The Return isn’t one such series. It does have its flaws in narrative and pacing, and unexploited imagery and characters (What the fuck happened with Audrey?). But the graces definitely outshine the flaws.

Now, many series give the viewer a tightly packed outcome on the final episode. But not many leave enough room for either a new season that might or not happen, and could still hold on its own if it didn’t. And few still engage the audience’s imagination and reasoning like Twin Peaks did across the entire run. Across the series, film and books’ length, Lynch and Frost have given us the hints, the motifs and cues to generate discussion and theorise. Therefore, we can partake of the discourse in a far more active way than we may with an air-tight finale. Encouraging this kind of communcation with the medium is something that has been attributed to the likes of George Lucas (when his reputation was worth something). Thusly, we can expect fan theories and fanfics galore. Here’s a personal favourite.

Regardless of the polarity of opinion, this will be in the tongue and head of the viewers for a while. It’s the kind of thing that invites you to rewatch. Not merely to experience it again, but to rethink it, and discover new things beneath the image. Through intent, delivery and aftermath, Twin Peaks: The Return has proved exceptionally ambitious. Having reached the ending, was it worth it, all those 25 years? Of course it was.

Thank you for reading.


Twin Peaks: The Return – Parts 17 & 18 Credits
Directed by David Lynch
Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch
In loving memory of Jack Nance
All images are courtesy of Showtime

 

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Queer Eye Isn’t Just for the Straight Guy Anymore

Meg

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So have y’all heard? I’m finally back after my months’ long hiatus—and so is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy! Sort of…

Netflix’s reboot of Bravo’s cultural juggernaut is now simply Queer Eye, and, as the catchphrase says, it’s about more than just a makeover. With a new cast and new trails to blaze, the new Fab 5 tour the Atlanta metro area offering makeovers and life advice for more than just poor schlubs with bad beards.

For those needing a history lesson, the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (QEftSG) premiered on Bravo in 2003 and ran for 5 seasons. Though the cast changed a little, the original “Fab 5” are generally cited as Ted Allen, Carson Kressley, Thom Filicia, Kyan Douglas, and Jai Rodriguez. Basically a straight guy was nominated (usually by his desperate girlfriend or wife) to get a “queer eye” makeover: the Gays know food, fashion, decorating, grooming, and culture, right?? Let’s bring it to the Straights!

The original boys: Carson, Thom, Kyan, Ted, and Jai. That is a LOOK, Carson.

While the show was immensely popular almost overnight, it did of course earn some criticism, especially from the LGBT community. First of all, without setting off any debates, the word queer is deeply controversial. Some people consider it a slur that should be put to rest, while others proudly use it as a reclaimed term. Whatever your POV on that subject, many believe it iffy to give everyone and their brother the idea that they can throw a word like that around willy nilly. It’s a sensitive topic.

Also, of course, there are a lot of stereotypes the original (and the reboot) reinforce. Oh you’re gay! Of course you know how to dress and decorate your apartment! Again, not to start something, but stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Whatever else it did, the original Queer Eye reinforced the GOOD stereotypes, not the bad ones, and it helped put to rest (for some people, anyway) the idea of the “predatory gay.”

Meet the New Boys…

The reboot follows the same formula as the original, with 5 bright and chirpy (Ted Allen, chirpy??) gay men, each representing a “category” that needs a makeover: food, fashion, interior design, grooming, and culture.

From l-r: Tan France (walk walk fashion baby), Karamo Brown (culture and Serving Looks), Bobby Berk (design and making me cry), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming, henny), and Antoni Porowski (avocados).

In the original, the culture category always reminded me of “Heart” from Captain Planet. How is “Heart” an element? How do you make over someone’s “culture?” The main thing I remember from QEftSG is that Billy Joel is lame and it’s important to make eye contact when shaking hands.

Sorry, I digress. We’ll get to Karamo later.

If you compare the pic of the original group to this new one, I think you’ll notice something. The first Fab 5 were a great group of guys, but only one of them is brown. It’s not exactly a diverse selection. The new cast includes a Black man and a Muslim (who’s married to a Mormon), and it’s refreshing to see more than just the cookie cutter cute white boy.

I’m not going to get into some sort of ranking thing here, because that annoys the beejeezus outta me. I love them all, okay!? Each episode focuses on some aspect of one of the guys’ stories: Bobby and his religious upbringing, Karamo’s struggle as a gay Black man, Jonathan’s small town upbringing, Antoni’s love of avocados, or Tan’s need to bring the French tuck to the wider world; and as such they’ve all earned a solid place in my heart.

Obviously those last two are tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t want to get too heavily into it since this is just a general overview. Look for season 2 episode breakdowns starting next week.

More Like a Glow Up

A glow up and a makeover are basically the same thing, aren’t they? And a makeover is a makeover is a makeover, right? I mean, someone’s nominated, they get swept up into a whirlwind of “I can’t believe you WEAR this!” and after some fighting about it, they emerge at the end with a whole new look, right?

Right??

Tom, the “victim” from Episode 1, “You Can’t Fix Ugly.”

Except Tom up there doesn’t look that different. Sure, his beard’s shorter, but overall he looks like himself…just polished a bit.

That, to me, is what sets Queer Eye apart from other makeover shows—even its gay dad, the original QEftSG. The boys don’t try to make the contestants (or “Heroes,” as they call them) into someone else. They accept each person’s style as his (or her) own and just give them a nice glow up. Queer Eye is never about tearing down, only about building up.

One thing you’ll notice in the two promo images above: the “straight guy” looks pretty terrified to be surrounded by the Fab 5 in the first one, but in the second one he’s clearly engaged in the process and much more comfortable. Yeah, this group has to deal with some bullshit (Tan was asked by at least two Heroes if he’s a terrorist), but it’s a different culture now, and the idea of wearing pink or patterns doesn’t seem to be as terrifying to the average Joe as it was in 2003.

More than a Makeover

I don’t want y’all to think I have something against the term “makeover,” because this headline is lifted directly from the show’s tagline. And it is much more than a makeover show. Episode 1 has a man who basically thinks he’s too old to be attractive anymore, and he starts off telling the boys “you can’t fix ugly.” Over the course of 45 minutes you see him blossom again (not to sound cheesy) and realize that life ain’t over till you’re dead, and ugly is pretty much just a state of mind.

“I’m startin’ to look like a president!” (source)

Episode 3’s Hero is a Trump-supporting cop (!!) who ends up connecting with Karamo over the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. Episode 4 is about a gay Black man who’s struggling to come out to his stepmother. While every episode has made me cry a little bit over something, hearing the boys’ coming out stories and seeing AJ read a letter to his dead father in front of his stepmother as his coming out had me bawling.

Plus this happened, so really it was a win/win. (source)

Some episodes are better than others, obviously. None in season 1 really dragged me down, though as I flip through the episode list on Netflix I don’t remember much about episode 5. Except that’s where we first learned about Bobby’s religious upbringing, and how hard it was on him to be rejected by the church he loved for being gay.

Hang on sorry I need a tissue…

Where Have You BEEN??

But none of this is news to y’all, because you’ve all devoured both seasons of Queer Eye like starving lions on the savanna. Or, I mean, if you haven’t, it’s in your queue. Just waiting for a quiet weekend when you can mainline all 16 episodes.

Otherwise what are we even DOING here?! In a world where grimdark rules the day and every new headline makes you want to rip out your hair, why are you letting a gem like Queer Eye go unwatched?! Why are you letting all that beautiful positivity pass you by??

In case I’m not expressing myself clearly enough, Queer Eye is a show you NEED to watch. Ration it, despite what I said above. Sure it’s re-watchable, but nothing beats the feeling of the first time you hear a Karamo Pep Talk or seeing the Hero’s face light up from something as simple as a pair of pants that fits.

This show, like I said before, is about telling people it’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to be confident and do traditionally “feminine” things (like moisturize). Also the focus on “dress up for your woman; make her proud that you’re with her” is so great because how often do we hear that we have a to dress for a man? Men rarely put in any effort toward that on their wife/girlfriend’s behalf, and the message that hey!! Women want that too!! And it’s a good thing to do!! Is so important.

Antoni shows them it’s okay to cook. Bobby reminds them that they deserve nice surroundings. Karamo helps give them confidence to take on their challenges. Tan helps them merge their individual style with an updated, modern look. Jonathan teaches them how to make their outsides match their insides.

Basically…

Gay Jesus speaks! (source)

Watch Queer Eye, y’all. Warm your heart. Cry a lot. Refresh your soul.

You won’t regret it.


Images curtesy of Netflix and Bravo

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‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Comes up Short

Jeremiah

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is stupid with two “o’s” and in all caps. It’s schlock. J. A. Bayona, the director, knows it’s schlock and leans so far into it, it almost topples over. The first Jurassic World was an exercise in enduring tedium. Fallen Kingdom is better, technically, but it’s still not worth two hours of your time.

The characters of Fallen Kingdom are caught in a Cold War of idiocy. Each side threatening to out-dumb the other. If you remember how dumb the characters were in the first Jurassic World you’ll understand how astounding a feat Fallen Kingdom is. Although it’s not the characters’ fault, not really. They’re just written that way.

Fallen Kingdom can be divided into two parts. Quite frankly you can divide the film up into more parts than two, and scatter its ashes across the ocean. The first part is getting the dinosaurs off Isla Nublar. Dear reader, you might be asking yourself, why would they be trying to get the dinosaurs off the island?

The answer, while not in the wind, still blows. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former head of the Jurassic World theme park, is now the head of a PETA-like organization for the dinosaurs. The volcano on the island where the man-eating dinosaurs live is about to explode and cause an extinction level event. The sane reaction is, “Oh goody.” Claire’s reaction and those of her fellow organizers is to rally to the dinosaurs’ cause. To be fair, she is also the same person who thought the Indominus Rex was a good idea. Her history of good decisions is bordering on nil.

A dying billionaire called Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) offers Claire a chance to save the dinosaurs. Because welcome to 2018 where we want to go to the island with the active volcano and rescue the untamed genetically engineered murderous beasts. Lockwood has an island, presumably one he bought on Craigslist where all shady secretive billionaires sell their islands.  

He needs Claire because the tracking devices embedded in the dinosaurs are connected to a system which needs Claire’s handprint to be turned on. If you think that’s convoluted, brother, wait until the movie gets going. Lockwood and his right-hand man Eli (Rafe Spall) also want Blue, the intelligent ‘good’ raptor from the previous film. Of course, there’s only one man who can find her, trap her, and get her on board the transport vessel safely.

But Sam Neil’s Dr. Alan Grant hasn’t gone near the franchise since the third Jurassic Park movie so we’re left with Owen (Chris Pratt). The Jurassic World franchise is developing an annoying talent for being the one cinematic universe in which Chris Pratt is dull, obnoxious, and insipid. Pratt’s Owen is a self-involved jerk who has mistaken arrogance and cluelessness for charming.

Which brings us to the curious case of Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire. Not since the Lara Croft films has a franchise come so close to fetishizing its heroine quite like the Jurassic Worlds. Much was made about Claire’s heels in the first movie. Her introduction in Fallen Kingdom is a sort of sly nod to the previous installments backwards thinking. Still, Claire’s current outfit isn’t much better. A tight bodice showcasing sweater and a pencil skirt all but drawn on. She trades this outfit quickly for fatigues and comfortable hiking boots. Which would be ideal if not for the myriad of ways Fallen Kingdom seems to find to put Claire in humiliating or painful situations.

Bayona seems to delight in putting Claire in situations where she has to screech, cry, squeal, or bleed. It would be one thing but the rest of the heroes seem to get along fine. Claire’s friend and colleague, Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) the feisty punk rock paleo-veterinarian and ex-marine is captured but somehow never is made to squirm. Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) is the hapless IT guy along for the ride who stumbles from time to time but is allowed to escape with his dignity intact.

On the island, they meet the head of the excavation operation Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). Levine plays Ken with such a manic glee you’d swear he’s a long-lost cousin of Snidely Whiplash. When you see Levine in a movie your mind instantly jumps to assuming he’s a bad guy. Fallen Kingdom has Levine exploring new heights of skullduggery mixed with bouts of boneheadedness. Ken has a habit of stealing dinosaur teeth from the gaping maw of the beast itself. It’s shocking Ken lives as long as he does.

Owen, Claire, Franklin, and Zia make it off the island in the nick of time. Only to discover the shady secretive billionaire’s right-hand man had a nefarious plan all along. Eli is going to sell the dinosaurs on the black market. Thankfully he has Gunnar (Toby Jones) the premiere black market auctioneer.   

As absurd as all this may seem I assure you it’s even more ludicrous if you happen to watch it. Bayona, however, packs Fallen Kingdom with the best. While Pratt may disappoint, Cromwell, Jones, Levine, and Howard do not. Toby Jones plays a southern fried dandy; a toothy smile with a malevolent twinkle in his eye.

More than that though Bayona and his cameraman, Oscar Furara, lend Fallen Kingdom a striking visual sense.  Idiotic though it may be, Fallen Kingdom is jammed with evocative imagery well above its source material. As they leave the island, the volcano exploding, we see a brontosaurus stranded on the dock bellowing mournfully to the passing ship as clouds of earth erupt around it.

With each passing installment of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies, we begin to truly understand how masterful and unique the first Jurassic Park really is. It’s technical and storytelling mastery remains untouched by any other movie in its franchise. The Jurassic World movies especially seem to have forgotten the core of what the other movies are about.

Jurassic Park is a monster movie. I’m old enough to remember being terrified of Velociraptors because they could open doors. As children, we tend to believe such wild things can be stopped by mundane things such as light and doors. The thought of a monster that could open a door was the stuff of nightmares.

Odd then that Jurassic World should ask us to sympathize with the dinosaurs. Jurassic Park was about people trying to get away from the island and the dinosaurs. Every subsequent movie since then has been about rushing back to the island and bringing the dinosaurs to the mainland.

It’s telling of Bayona’s sensibilities as an artist that the monsters should be deserving of our sympathies. In Bayona’s defense, he sees the dinosaurs as children do. Terrifying but fascinating things that seem lost and out of place.

Bayona’s earlier film When A Monster Calls was a startling ellagic beautiful tale of loss and mourning. I found myself left largely cold by the scenes rooted in reality. Here Bayona has fled reality totally. While he has made not a good film he has made a markedly better film than the previous one.

Every bit of this nonsense is from Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Their script is one part morality tale in which only the bad people die. The other part being a shrieking folktale in which nothing makes sense because it’s being translated by people who don’t speak the native language. Trevorrow wrote and directed the previous Jurassic World and I all but fell asleep. He also directed last years bonkers fable-esque Book of Henry. Having seen Fallen Kingdom I can now say Trevorrow is the foremost practitioner of unhinged melodrama. Had he been the sole writer I imagine his heedlessness and Bayona’s unique evocative eye may have made something truly spectacular.

As it is we’re stuck with a genetically mutated Indominus Rex crossed with a raptor which gives us the Indominus Raptor. A name so uniformly silly even the great and charismatic B.D. Wong can’t say it with a straight face. Paradoxically, the dumbest part of the movie is also the best. For about ten minutes Fallen Kingdom does become a monster movie as the Indominus Raptor hunts a little girl through a gothic mansion. For that brief period of time Fallen Kingdom begins to unequivocally work as Bayona captures the Gothic and tense mood of the surroundings.

It doesn’t last long and before you know it we’re back to the humdrum lunacy. Though we do have a hint of a story involving clones sadly that storyline goes nowhere. It only leads to a little girl pressing a button that opens a door and allows all the captured dinosaurs to escape into the world. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I hate kids.

Fallen Kingdom has bouts of fun but too often the fun is trampled by its lugubrious stupidity. Pratt’s Owen at one point is passed out on the ground, drugged, and wakes to an encroaching pool of lava. What follows is a protracted physical comedic scene more at home in a Jerry Lewis movie than Fallen Kingdom.

Bayona ladens Fallen Kingdom with visual callbacks to Jurassic Park. He does so in such a way that never detracts from the movie itself. If you catch it fine if you don’t it still holds a shot unto itself.

Fallen Kingdom isn’t awful but it isn’t good either. I laughed when one of the secret organizations at the black market dino auction made the highest bid of the night, twenty-five million dollars. It seems there is no end to the havoc caused by the Great Recession. I can’t recommend actively going to see Fallen Kingdom. But if you happen to find yourself with some friends and they offer to pay and you have nothing else to do, you could do worse.

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Honest Conversations and Unfortunate Insensitivity on Cloak and Dagger

Bo

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Content Warning: This review discusses suicidal ideation and attempted suicide, as depicted on the show. 

Last week’s episode of Cloak and Dagger ended with Tyrone and Tandy together and finally ready to discuss why exactly they have new superpowers insistent on bringing the two of them together.  Both their lives have been tossed upside down, and the only consistent thing in the tragedies of both their lives is each other. Maybe it’s time to sit down and talk about it? That’s exactly what “Call/Response” did this week. Unfortunately, to mixed results.

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Time to Talk

“Call/Response” continued Cloak and Dagger’s attempts at interesting episode structure by weaving together forward plot momentum in and out of the previously mentioned conversation between its heroes. This conversation lasted through the entire episode as Tandy and Tyrone hashed out what their powers are, what they do, how they experience them, and what their dreams from last week meant for each of them. These two had a lot to talk about.

For a good 90% of this conversation, I liked the direction of it. The honest and open-ended nature was refreshing. For the first time since they acquired their new powers, they held nothing back regarding what had changed, what they were going through, and how it affected them.

It moved both characters appreciatively forward. Even better, you could see how the conversation positively affected both in the scenes from the next day, when both acted on everything they discussed. Cloak and Dagger thus did a good job timing subjects of conversation with next-day action. Like you’d expect, these scenes were not exactly subtle about it, but so long as the point is made what does that matter?

Through their conversation, Tyrone and Tandy finally started acting against their instincts. They challenged their perceptions of the world. Tandy made an honest effort to learn about her mother’s boyfriend Greg and found out he was genuinely interested in her mother and trying to help. She made an effort to embrace the hope she always rejected before. Her experiences have shaped her towards cynicism in everything. Life is a giant scam where everyone uses everyone else to get ahead, and you see this in her own method of making money. For her to open her mind to the possibility of Greg proving her wrong was a significant step forward.

Tyrone faced his own challenged perceptions, naturally based around his brother’s murder and murderer. He considered Tandy’s argument about his place in the world and where his privilege truly stands, as well as the destructive path his actions led him down. The failed trip to the police station was one important step, but the truly important moment was his field trip with his father to Otis’s old Mardi Gras Indians stomping ground.

(By the way, add another cool twist on New Orleans culture to Cloak and Dagger’s credit.)

Through this trip, Tyrone found new perspective on his father and brother, as well as his own anger. His father stressed the importance of finding a channel for his anger. And he might have found his way via the suits the Mardi Gras Indians create, and the taking on of his brother’s unfinished suit. Tyrone needs this outlet and focus for his anger. He struggled with it throughout the first three episodes, even to the point of trying to shoot Detective Connors.

Even better, all this character development provided the biggest plot movement yet.  Tandy’s determination to get along with Greg led to direct involvement in the Roxxon lawsuit he represented her mother in. It also led to Roxxon killing Greg for presumably getting too close. There should be no escaping the consequences of Greg’s death. Tandy’s mother will suffer. Who knows whether her determination to take the corporation down will wax or wane. Tandy herself visited the burned office to retrieve documents from Greg’s safe, so she certainly won’t let this go.

Tyrone’s plot movement was not so direct, but still meant something. He learned of his brother’s training to be a “Spy Boy” for the Redhawks, a role in Mardi Gras parades involving moving ahead of the Big Chief but was described in this episode as someone responsible for scouting the unknown to seek oncoming trouble. The unfinished suit Tyrone adopted also largely resembles the signature look of Cloak in the comics.

And of course now you also have to wonder if Roxxon will involve themselves with the Redhawks.

There was definitely a lot of good content in this episode. At this point Cloak and Dagger is close to establishing a base quality that this episode certainly matched. Unfortunately, the end of the episode left a real sour taste in my mouth. One reason due to plot, and another for some poor handling of a very sensitive subject.

Insensitivity and Stalling

You saw the content warning, so let’s dive right in. The episode-long conversation between Tandy and Tyrone breaks down at the very end, when conversations about privilege turn into insults and eventually lead to Tandy admitting to suicidal thoughts. In his anger, Tyrone tells her that if she wants to die so badly, she should just do it.

The next day, in the aftermath of Greg’s murder, Tandy restrains her hands and feet and jumps into the ocean, clearly planning on killing herself. She eventually resurfaces when her powers trigger and she cuts the ropes binding her hands.

I will say this: my final judgment will depend on how this is handled moving forward. Right now it feels like a really cheap use of suicide. There are some things you must always take care to portray responsibly when telling your story, and this did not feel like a particularly responsible way to handle Tandy’s thoughts of ending her life. I worry this was nothing more than an attempt to end the episode with high drama, and that the distasteful implications are unrecognized.

Now, we do need to see where it goes from here. If Tyrone recognizes the terribleness of what he said and apologizes for it, and there’s a genuine effort to understand the mistake he made, this can pass by without issue. And it’s not like the idea that Tandy might have suicidal thoughts came from nowhere. Considering her immense survivor’s guilt and lack of connection, I can certainly understand how thoughts of suicide enter her mind. Thing is, I don’t think you can just throw it out there, have a main character yell at her to just go ahead and kill herself, have said character try, and then move on from it. It all happened so quick and dirty that I can’t help but feel like it may have just been there for drama.

I hope it’s needless to say that using suicide just for drama is an awful idea.

Cloak and Dagger needs to follow up respectfully on Tandy’s attempt. Suicidal tendencies are a serious concern that must be handled delicately and with a purpose. And unfortunately, this is an easy fallback too many shows rely on without the proper care needed. I hope Cloak and Dagger doesn’t.

My second, lesser, and plot-related concern is the argument that led to Tyrone’s insensitive words. Namely that, to me, it came completely out of nowhere. The two of them spent the entire episode having  a calm, respectful discussion. Even sensitive subjects between the two caused little drama. Then all of a sudden a piece of genuine advice blows it all up and leads to an unnatural argument over privilege. Which leads to Tandy mentioning her suicidal thoughts and Tyrone’s comment.

This development renewed my worry from last week over these two being kept apart too long. It seems clear that the real, ground-shaking forward movement on Cloak and Dagger won’t take place until Tandy and Tyrone unite. “Call/Response” spent 90% of its runtime heading in this direction. Then it all fell apart.

I certainly understand how a conversation over privilege could lead to heated tensions, especially with backgrounds like Tandy and Tyrone have. Still, this felt so artificial. It almost felt like Cloak and Dagger attempting a superficial, ham-fisted discussion of privilege without any real meat. The main goal seems to be keeping the two main characters apart. It’s the absolute worst attempt the show has made regarding the privilege debate. Scenes like Tyrone walking into the police station and looking around, only to find a sea of white faces, speak volumes more than this conversation did.

While we’re certainly not back where we were at the end of the second episode, we’re a little too close for comfort. Both characters seem like they will tackle the plot alone. And you know they will tackle it ineffectively. The whole idea (at least to me) is that they won’t truly make progress until they team up. I’m also reaching a point where I will start to distrust the moments where they appear ready to team up if this goes on for too long.

In one moment, they undid a great deal of the work the 40 minutes before hand strove hard for.

I’m all for character development, but here’s hoping Cloak and Dagger avoids this mistake in the future. And here’s hoping Tandy’s suicide ends up as more than a way to create drama feeding this mistake.

Other Thoughts:

  • I was delighted when Greg turned out to be a good guy. Damn shame they killed him in the same episode he turned out as such.
  • Tandy’s mother is seriously tragic. I worry we’re heading in a self-harm direction with her as well.
  • I also loved learning more about Tyrone’s father, Otis. He seems to harbor a lot of the same barely repressed anger that his son does. I hope we get more of him and his history with the Redhawks.
  • Roxxon is still paying for the rights to the plot of ocean with the collapsed rig. This suggests to me that whatever gave Tyrone and Tandy powers still slumbers beneath the water.
  • Sometimes Tandy and Tyrone have some really good banter…and then sometimes I wonder how it can be so off.

Images Courtesy of Freeform

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