Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3 (MAJOR SPOILERS!!!)

Before I start reviewing and getting down to the nitty gritty on 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3, I’m going to warn you of two things. First of all, I am going to go into major spoilers, and yes, I’m going to reveal who killed Bryce Walker, so if you just want a summation, just finish this paragraph and then read the concluding paragraph. I promise not to spoil anything in those. Secondly, I will NOT be diving into my opinions and/or experiences with suicide and what I really think of this whole controversy with some individuals thinking that this show “glorifies suicide.” I will only be delving into what I think the show did to improve upon its image. That being said: 13 Reasons Why Season 3 does the rare “Daredevil Netflix” thing and is the best season of the show thus far. Those put off by the first two seasons, especially the mediocre 2nd one, will be pleased to know that by turning the show into a who-dun-it and tackling more issues in better ways that it completely redeems itself. I say that those naysayers may want to give it one more chance (you don’t have to though, I understand, truly).

And this is coming from someone who thought the first season was masterful (didn’t like the 2nd one that much). I don’t want this to be a terribly long review, so where should I start? Ah, yes. The main focus of the season. As you know, Season 1 dealt with Hannah Baker and her 13 tapes to people on why she committed suicide. Season 2 dealt with the fallout of those people receiving those tapes, and the trial of rapist Bryce Walker. Like both previous seasons, Season 3 plays with time. It starts with taking place 8 months after Season 2, but then switches back and forth between the present, after what happened with Tyler and how he almost shot up Liberty High School at Spring Fling and something that went wrong during Homecoming (revealed much later in the season) and…the murder of Bryce Walker. Yes, one of the worst villains in television history is killed off almost immediately in the first couple of episodes of the season (he’s missing almost right at the beginning).

Changing the show from being a look into why someone committed suicide and the aftermath of a rapist on trial, to a who-dun-it murder mystery, yyet filled with teen angst, issues, and hardship, was definitely the right AND ONLY direction the show could’ve taken (although I do support those that said it should’ve only been a one off miniseries, I can agree with some points of view on that). When Bryce only got 3 months probation this past season for his rape crimes, I didn’t know if I wanted to see what kind of story a Season 3 could tell. But then when I heard that Katherine Langford and co. were done with the character Hannah Baker (she is only referenced several times, there is no past footage of her really, and her mother is only in one episode, Season 2 stretched out her character wayyyyy too much) and then just several weeks ago when the trailer dropped with the tagline: “Who Killed Bryce Walker?” the show immediately caught my interest again. I thought, “oh shit, are they trying to make up for all the anger and frustration of season 2 and they are probably giving this asshole his just desserts, right? Well, yes, and maybe/maybe not.

When I say yes, I mean that yes, they completely make up for their past narrative flaws for season two, and they also make up for the controversial aspects of season 1 by being really careful and handling all the solutions to all the teen problems that are presented throughout this season. The maybe is a bit trickier. With Bryce’s death, they present a question that is asked throughout all the episodes that they resolve by thankfully not having a definitive answer: can people change for the better? When we get to all of these flashbacks of Bryce throughout the season, some of the flashbacks revert to him and his shitty attitude towards life and women, but then, in many instances, it shows that before he died, he might’ve really tried to change for the better…but that the world wouldn’t let him change. It’s a very tricky topic for the writers to put into this season, but then again, if they would’ve had a definitive answer, “did Bryce get his just desserts?”, people would’ve gotten angry at either a yes or a no. They got smart, and instead answered, maybe…but maybe not. It’s up to you.

Now, when starting the season, I immediately noticed that, during the opening credits, there is a separate piece of evidence of Bryce Walker’s murder for each of the thirteen episodes. And then boom!, holy shit, Clay Jensen isn’t the voice of reason this season! Instead, everything is told from the perspective of Amorowat Anysia Achola, or “Ani’ for short, a new student at Liberty High that quickly befriends Clay. Her and her mother also happen care for Bryce Walker’s asshole grandfather, who is sick and mostly resides in bed. So yeah, Ani kind of lives with Bryce. Now some people have had a huge problem with her, especially when you get to episode 7 and it reveals that she slept with Bryce Walker, several times, by not judging him by his past and also revealing the fact that he was actually nice to her. People also love Clay Jensen’s narration as he is the voice of reason for the series and maybe the only almost flawless character.

I’m going to go on the defensive for Ani here, for several reasons. First of all, we need a new voice. I love Clay, in fact I see a lot of myself in him, but in order for him to be a main main suspect in Bryce Walker’s murder, we can’t have him as the narrator this season (I have a feeling they are going to switch back to him for the final season anyway) as it would ruin a lot of the mystery. Also, in order to give some people reason to doubt that Bryce Walker deserved to be murdered, Ani’s point of view is absolutely essential, because without those scenes, the question is answered definitively, and definitely solving some hard questions has been the knife to the throat for the series in the past. But don’t worry, Clay is still a bigger presence than most and has the most screen time. I wasn’t liking what the writers were doing on episode 7 with him, but then episode 8 and 9, they show us their reasons for doing so, and I was completely satisfied with their choices. Clay not being the narrator I feel made him grow as a character this season as well.

The one thing that has been completely constant throughout all three seasons is the incredible acting by the entire cast. Three seasons in and every single person on the show, no matter how part big or small, have all made their character multi-layered, not just one dimensional, to the point where it feels like you might know them in real life. The two standouts though are of course Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay, and surprisingly David Druid, who plays Tyler. As you know, Tyler almost went on a school shooting spree at the end of season 2, and I was surprised how carefully the fallout of that was handled (except for one of the final scenes of the season, where everything could come back to bite him in the ass anyway). Obviously, they hinted that they were going to help him out and intervened before he started shooting up people, but the resolution on how no one found out and how they handle his behavior going forward was pretty realistic and inspirational.

That surprised me because I thought I might have to suspend some belief at the beginning of the explanation but as time went on, that route taken proved to be more than efficient storytelling. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there is a scene between Clay and Tyler toward the latter half of the season that almost made me tear up. You’ll know which one it is, and in any other dimension, both Dylan and David would get Emmy nominations. Also, I know people don’t like Ani, but newcomer Grace Saif I thought did an adequate job in being our new narrator, and I think she’ll get the chance to maker her character more well rounded and likable next season. And I know everyone loves to hate Bryce, but Justin Prentice gives us his best performance this season, showing a side to Bryce we didn’t even know was there.

Going back to answering questions and having resolutions on many of the trials and tribulations of these teens, this season manages to provide some kind of exploration of a solution instead of definitive answers, which completely works in the shows advantage. There is great tension building with multiple extravagant payoffs that just strengthen the season and series as a whole. I could get into it one by one, but there is even a moment of looking at suicide a way the show hasn’t presented before, with two characters that manage to overcome it and try to get help to make their lives seem better. If there are a couple of episodes that are going to incite controversy this time around those would be episode 2, 7, and the finale, 13. Episode 2 because it tackles abortion, episode 7 I already mentioned that Ani sleeps with Bryce Walker, knowing full well what he had done in life to be the person he is today, and the last episode, maybe, because of how they wrap up “Who Killed Bryce Walker?”

Okay, now is that paragraph where I’m going to reveal the who, what, where, when, and why and how the situation seems to be handled right now (I have a feeling there will be lingering ramifications in Season 4 before the kids graduate), so if you’ve been reading and haven’t gotten to the reveal of who murdered Bryce Walker, and don’t want that spoiled, stop reading and go to the last paragraph. The season tries to trick you multiple times, as everyone has multiple reasons for wanting Bryce dead. In fact, Zach reveals that he beat the shit out of Bryce on the pier, and turns himself in because he doesn’t want Clay, who is innocent btw, taking the rap. Turns out though, after Zach beat the shit out of him, he left him conscious, and records show that Bryce got water in his lungs before he died, and someone comes to the scene right after Zach leaves. Who is it? Alex…with Jessica in tow. Bryce had told Jessica initially that he wanted to meet her on the pier because he had something to give her, and Alex came for back up. Bryce wanted to give her a tape, confessing all his rapes and apologizing for everything, and he wanted to tell her that she could use the tape as she saw fit.

He was claiming he was trying to get better, but as Alex tried to help him up (both of Bryce’s legs were broken by Zach), Bryce unfortunately screamed out that he was going to kill Zach for what he done. Alex took this as meaning Bryce was never going to change, and pushed him over the bridge and watched him drown, as one arm and both legs were broken so he couldn’t swim. And the resolution to all this? Alex gets away with it. The students banded together to frame Monty (the sadistic fuck character that sadomized Tyler with a broom stick last season, the reason Tyler was about to do a mass shooting) after Monty was arrested because Tyler finally went to the police about what Monty did to him. Monty is conveniently killed in prison (I was afraid they were going to show that scene, stirring up more controversy, but again, wise decision by the writers, they didn’t). Alex’s dad is a cop, and put two and two together and knew his son really did it, but accepts the Monty evidence as true. So basically it’s all resolved as a “dead bury the dead” (the title of the last episode ) kind of thing, and cased closed.

Even though there are little hints and clues where the frame up of Monty might not hold up and likely Alex gets his penance for killing Bryce in season 4, I actually really loved the resolutions. Even though it showed a little more of where Monty was coming from with his monster of an attitude in every season (hence asking the question if Monty deserved it, but not giving a concrete resolution), I think the sadistic fuck deserved what was coming him. In many ways, he was worse than Bryce and probably would’ve caused much more harm in the future than Bryce, who was possibly trying to get better. And Monty technically didn’t get killed because of the frame up, he went into prison because of what he did to Tyler, and while we weren’t told what he did to get himself killed, it infers that he probably had an attitude with one of the inmates who didn’t take shit.

Yes, what Alex did was wrong, and he’ll probably end up not getting totally away with it by the time the final season comes to pass, but that’s the whole message the season is trying to ask, “what do we ultimately deserve for our actions?” It also tries to prove that not everything can be tied up in a pretty bow, and I ultimately loved where they went with it. I do want to know what happens in the last season and will eagerly await its release probably about a year or more from now. As Clay says in one of the final scenes, they all maybe deserve some bit of happiness in the future, as the past year or so has been grim and dark as fuck. I really do hope the writers find some way, some logical way, to bring the series to a close with each of the characters, some more than others, finding their happiness. Some of them truly deserve it, I believe. Anyway, discuss with me via FB messenger or in person if you’d like to talk about it further as I just looked to see how fucking long this review was and realize I need to wrap it the fuck up.

In short, I loved 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3 and could talk all day about why I think it is the best season of the three and how the show has redeemed itself from the awkward storytelling and decisions of season 2 and some of the controversial moments of season one. You can tell I really like a season/series if I’m reviewing it literally the weekend after it was released. It really did strike a great chord with me, and I hope the momentum that writers seemed to have possessed this year just keeps on going and we get a fantastic 4th and final season. I was ultimately surprised on how they managed to not let the story drag, it being still thirteen episodes and not a shorter season like other series have recently done. I’m guessing we will still get thirteen episodes the final season, being that 13 is in the series title for crying out loud, I just hope that these characters find that state of melancholy, they’ve been through some traumatizing shit.

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Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: VERONICA MARS (Season 4) **MAJOR SPOILERS**

It’s been out for a month now, and even though my headline says “binge watchin'” it actually took me a month to finally finish VERONICA MARS SEASON 4, which says a lot, as I am a huge Veronica Mars fan. Yes, I am going to get to THAT spoiler, THAT ending, but this season has a whole mess of problems other than THAT gut wrenching twist. To start, I feel like I need to reveal something about my knowledge of Season 4 before you read the rest of this review, my own little stupid twist if you will. After watching the first episode without knowing shit, I went ahead and took a peek at what happens at the end, including the who dun it, and the death of one of the main characters that has gotten fans up in arms, claiming they will not watch another season if it happens to be made (it probably will, and I call bullshit, you’ll watch it). Knowing what was going to happen, combined with having to wait to watch it with my wife, combined with my 2 year old always being around (this series definitely not suitable for him) are all factors why it took so long to watch. Thinking back on everything though, had I binge watched it all in a day, not knowing what would’ve happened before then, I would’ve still come to the same conclusion. Veronica Mars Season 4 is the worst thing to happen to Veronica Mars.

Yes, that includes the very mixed Season 3. For me, the first two seasons of Veronica Mars are masterful, and the movie is pretty decent. Season 3 has some greatness in it, but the main problem with it is that I just didn’t really much care for the overarching plots of the series, the Hearst college rapist and then figuring out who was Dean O’Dell’s killer. The greatness came from the non-overlapping story arcs. The individual cases. All these television shows nowadays mostly consist of individual episodes that solve one mystery/murder/what have you every 42 minute segment, but then the whole season has one big overlapping narrative that is usually a question posed in the season opener and then answered/resolved by the season finale. And here in lies the main problem with Veronica Mars Season 4, it ONLY has a overlapping narrative. In the 8 episodes that were all made available on Hulu the same day, there are NO INDIVIDUAL/MULTIPLE cases for Veronica Mars and co. to solve, it’s just one, and it is dragged out for SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNG, and ultimately is a disappointment, because I guessed the culprit in the first episode before I spoiled myself, and I was guessed correctly (TBH, I was 3/4th’s right).

The one and only main plot of these 8 episodes asks the question “who is the Neptune Spring Break bomber?” In the first episode, a local hotel/motel called The Sea Sprite is bombed, and then throughout the rest of the episodes more places and people are bombed. Who is doing it and why? Let me answer that with another question, who cares? Who is ultimately doing it and why (there in the end being two answers and two whys) comes off as a big disappointment. I put major spoilers in the title because I’m only going to reveal the last minute twist that has die hard fans stark raving mad. Let’s just say that the reasons behind everything are ho-hum at best, and have been done countless times before across countless movies/tv shows. If you want a hint, think of I Know What You Did Last Summer mixed with elements of the bad guys’ scheme in The Brady Bunch Movie and you have your answer. Overdone, over played, and the fact that all 8 of these episode are dedicated to this plot and this plot only, and that the episodes stretch from 50 minutes to one hour, and you can see how frustratingly long it all feels.

If this main plot was filled out over a course of a regular season of Veronica Mars back when it was on WB/CW, but with non-related individual cases each episode, it maybe could’ve fared better. Key word is MAYBE. But with all the information that is gathered during the course of the season, I could’ve even seen this bomb plot played out and solved in one or two regular individual episodes. There really isn’t that much too it. Sure, there are B and C plots that involve congressmen, bar owners, and the Mexican Cartel out for revenge for someone who was killed/injured in the main explosion, but ALL OF IT surrounds the bombings, and it just wasn’t that interesting to me. I didn’t care. The difference between me and the regular hard core base of Veronica Mars fans is that I honestly think they enjoyed most of the season and that the only thing that ruined it was the very last minute, stupid, bullshit, dumb, lazy, idiotic, written only for the purpose of being shocking and not at all to help advance realistic character development, twist that had all of them screaming their vile language and hatred toward creator Rob Thomas: The Death of Logan Echolls.

That’s right, Logan Echolls (a character from the first episode of the first season, the ultimate love of Veronica’s life) dies at the very, very end of Veronica Mars Season 4. There are no take backs. It’s true that we don’t see a body and we only see the explosion, but there is no question about it: he is dead (if it ever turns out Rob Thomas was joshing everyone and in Season 5 it tries to pull off the “Alias Season 5 Michael Vaughn faking his death” twist to protect him and everyone else all along, all of Thomas’s credibility as a storyteller will go straight out the window). But we are all pretty certain Logan is dead as there is a long enough epilogue that mentions a funeral, a sweet endearing voice message from him to Veronica, and then her leaving Neptune for good to help others because she just can’t take that city that has caused her so much pain anymore. And then there is also Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell doing multiple interviews explaining why Logan Echolls had to die. It was to keep the noir-ness of Veronica Mars intact and that they couldn’t imagine writing more stories of her solving more mysteries while she had a boyfriend or husband waiting back home. BULL and SHIT.

You are telling me that they couldn’t have maybe had some team ups and him and Veronica solve some mysteries together? Fucking please. Rob Thomas’ explanation makes zero lick of sense and I think he just wrote Logan Echolls death just to be shocking because he probably realized that the rest of the season sucked and wanted to go out with a literal bang. If his death was hinted at throughout all 8 episodes and planned better, maybe it would’ve made sense. But there are literally little to no foreshadowing hints, until about 10 minutes before it happens. And the fact that Echolls gets blown up right after Veronica and him get married was just soap opera cliched drama bullshit. It’s all a farce. He is essentially saying that Veronica Mars can’t have a happy ending doing what she does. I don’t think that is necessarily true. I agree it has to be true for a character like Jack Bauer, who defends the country from terrorists and a whole other bunch of violence each season, but not Veronica Mars. I think Veronica can have a happy life and ending but also solve these noir-like mysteries. I think that maybe Rob Thomas has finally lost touch with one of his characters/franchises. It’s really sad.

It would’ve made more sense if maybe Enrico Colantoni exploded in the car instead of Logan, as the whole season pointed to him becoming too frail and absent minded to continue being a private investigator, but nope, at the end it reveals he was getting frail because of a bad combination of prescribed meds, but it’s all fixed and he’s perfectly okay. Then it should’ve/could’ve went boom, he gets killed in the car explosion anyway, fate claiming its final victim for the season as that grim fate was foreshadowed all season long. But nope, Rob Thomas doesn’t know how to connect the dots. It’s a Game of Thrones type shame. But as I was saying, Logan Echolls’ death wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the season, but it will be the only thing fans will painstakingly remember. What everyone should be focused on was that the main mystery narrative was overlong, stretched way too far out, boring, and predictable, ultimately leading to no one really wanting to ever revisit it again, and just stop at the end of the movie, and consider the story done.

Man, I make it sound like there was nothing good to come of this season. That’s not necessarily true. Before that final death, all of the character development was spot on from seasons past with that little lessons that they learned from previous interactions sneaking its way into their personalities. The dialogue is as original, crisp and witty as ever, making that and the character interactions the only things that made this season even watchable. The fan service was nice, seeing characters from the past show up in little tiny arcs/conclusions here and there (I won’t spoil those), I just wish that maybe Percy, who was Veronica’s right hand man in the first several seasons, had more to do, but his reason for not being in the game anymore are completely legit. Then you have new characters played by Patton Oswalt and the great J.K. Simmons, who I kind of felt were wasted given their talents, especially Simmons. Oswalt had a little more meat to his role, but his character, Penn, could’ve still been written better.

I can’t just be one to write off Season 4 as fan fiction and non canon. It happened. We wanted more Veronica Mars, and we got more, just not the more we were deserving or expecting. Maybe Rob Thomas can course correct if there is ever a Season 5 or another movie. And I don’t mean course correct by bringing Logan Echolls magically back to life, I mean go back to the basics: have one overarching mystery with little hints and bits of narrative development in each episode, but then each episode has its own self-contained case to solve. If it is a movie, have a non-cliched, cool kind of mysterious caper, like the first movie was but just make the sequel bigger and better. Basically: Make Veronica Mars Fun Again or Make Veronica Mars Mysterious Again, whatever your fan slogan might be, it’s probably the right one. This season was too gritty, predictable, and the narrative was fucking abysmally lazy. It wasn’t mysterious and it wasn’t fun. Those are the only two ingredients needed to make those sweet, sweet Marshmallows reappear for another course.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE BOYS (Amazon Prime, no spoilers)

Were you expecting something else? Maybe a review of the wildly and negatively talked about 4th season of Veronica Mars? I’m in a mood to review decent things today, so my scathing review of that time wasting trash will have to await a different mood for a different day. Let’s talk about something that was just released last week and I watched all 8 tightly woven narrative episodes within a three day time span, THE BOYS, where you can catch it on Amazon Prime Video. The Boys is the refreshingly different comic book television show based on a comic book that has a drastically different take on superheroes and how they would be perceived in our modern day. I want to underline the word drastically a billion times. It is up there with Bosch and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as one of the streaming platforms best shows.

The different concept? The Boys is about superheroes and the real nitty-gritty behind the scenes of their ‘heroic’ endeavors. In this world, super people are downright negligent, daft, create a shit ton of collateral damage and sometimes, are really evil sons of bitches. How evil? Murdering and rape evil. Yeah, scary right? Anyway, one day a young adult named Hugh Campbell (played by Jack Quaid, son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid no less!) is walking down the sidewalk with his girlfriend Robin when she suddenly disappears in a cloud of blood and guts with Hughie still holding her hands. A fast travel superhero named A-Train just ran through her in a hurry, stops for a second to just say he can’t stop, and keeps going. Hughie wants payback, but the huge company named Vought, that sponsors a bunch of superheroes including The Seven (imagine a corporate owned Justice League), wants to just give Hughie a $48,000 check in damages as long as he signs a non-disclosure agreement. Distraught, Hughie runs into Billy Butcher (played by the great Karl Urban), a guys who claims he is FBI tasked in bringing down these negligent super people once and for all by making them actually responsible and atone for their giant mistakes.

Hughie joins him but little does he know that Billy is more of an unconventional tactic freelancer with an unconventional team (hence the title, The Boys) doing whatever it fucking takes to bring down these inept super people. Hughie actually starts to befriend one of The Seven, the newly initiated Starlight (who isn’t like the others) and Billy has his own reasons why he wants to take the supes down, but the lesser said about those two story lines, the better. In fact, I’m really not going to talk about plot anymore, as the pot boiling story is a great journey and is better left unspoiled. Other than Billy and Hughie. The Boys also include Frenchie, a French mercentary; Mother’s Milk, a dangerous yet polite and well spoken man that doesn’t really want to rejoin the gang after past exploits; and there is a female member of the boys, but the less about Kimiko, played superbly by Karen Fukuhara, with more to do her than her role in DC’s Suicide Squad, the better.

I want to go off track here for a second and say how much I love these new television series that are only 8 to 10 episodes. Almost literally no filler to get it to 13 to 16 episodes, it really is refreshing. You can get a very tight story and a bunch of fully developed character arcs without having to add inane filler D, E, or F subplots or any repetitive narrative dialogue. You either pay attention to the show or have to rewind, there is no recap. Now while 8 episodes can seem rushed like Stranger Things Season 3, with The Boys, it’s absolutely perfect. It was fun, fresh, didn’t feel bloated yet had me craving more in a more conventional healthy way unlike say infuriating cliffhangers such as Veronica Mars Season 4 or even aspects of Stranger Things Season 3.

When watching The Boys, you might get the feeling that this depiction of real superheroes in our modern day world hits a little too close to home. All the capitalism, corporate sponsorship, red tape, lies, manipulations, secrets, and political agendas, feel very similar with what we are going through now. And that’s the great part about it, that feeling of realism this television series brings even though you have more than 200 superheroes flying about. It certainly depicts things better than Hancock with Will Smith did. I love how all the superheroes in this are satires of the ones in real DC Comics. For example, Homelander is a satire on Superman, The Deep is a satire on Aquaman, A-Train is a satire on The Flash, Queen Maeve is a satire on Wonder Woman, and so on and so forth. And the action in the action scenes is realistic too. When Homelander uses his laser beams heat vision to slice through ‘bad guys’ he really does ‘slice’ through them. You get flying blood, dismembered parts, the works.

And the acting is all there too. Like I said, Karl Urban is fantastic in this and is the linchpin of the series. But EVERYONE does a good job, such as Laz Alonso’s cool yet calm demeanor as Mother’s Milk, Jack Quaid is phenomenally nervous yet bold as Hughie, and Erin Moriarty sizzles with new found bravery as the newest member of The Seven, Starlight. All of the acting and action always teeters the line between over-the-top comic book-y to abstract realism and the tone is perfectly balanced. If you are sick and tired of the formula that Marvel and DC films have brought time and again to the theatrical experience, this show slaps you in the face with a new twisty take on the genre. These 8 episodes are certainly worth anyone’s time if interested. Hey, the show was already renewed for season 2 before the premiere of this first season and they start production soon, so if that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will. You will have a fun time with The Boys, I guarantee it.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (major spoilers)

It’s my birthday, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of notifications on messenger asking me about my in depth thoughts for STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (other than my short little tiny paragraph of my summation earlier this week), so here is an in depth review! A present from me to you…on my own fuckin’ birthday. Jk, jk, I love writing these things. But be warned, I’m just going to start running my mouth, and since a lot of people have finished the entire short 8 episode season by now, there’s no telling what I’ll start spouting out, so major spoiler warning from here on out. The third season of Stranger Things is a vast, vast, vast improvement on the very kind of….I don’t know….just there second season which felt like just a retread of Season 1 (even though I still liked it). It doesn’t however beat the glorious first season, and there are reasons for that, which I’ll get to in a bit. But needless to say, I really really really enjoyed Season 3, I just wished that it didn’t have any minor problems where it could’ve completely blown the first season out of the water.

I loved the whole Starcourt Mall, The Meat Monster, Scoops Ahoy, the Russian Commie Thread, Alexei, Billy being possessed, all the new elements that were brought to the table. When Will started getting goosebumps at the back of his neck again when they snuck into see Day of the Dead I was rolling my eyes, hoping that they weren’t going to do him possessed thing all over again a la season 2. Thankfully he just has a ‘sense’ now since he was in the Upside Down for so long and is not the actual entity. Making Billy that entity (who was already established as an asshole last season) and then having a minor little arc of redemption felt a little refreshing. The whole thing is like a giant 8 hour summer, retro horror/thriller, fun for the whole family movie where the first 2 episodes are all set up and the last 6 are fast paced pay offs. The only problem with this is that the whole thing feels a little rushed (although I’d rather it be rushed than strung out into 13 episodes with a bunch of needless filler) and that character development is sacrificed for plot the majority of the time. Let me explain.

Remember the scene in the last episode where Dustin is trying to get that number from his girlfriend Suzie (the joke is that she might not be real), this mathmatical number that will unlock the place where Hopper and Joyce need to get into to turn those keys and close the gate the Russians kept trying to keep open, probably hoping to weaponize the creatures and attack America? Where Dustin had to prove his loyalty to Suzie before she would give him this number by singing with her the theme song to The NeverEnding Story? Made you get all goosebumpy and all memberberry inside right? THAT SCENE IS A GOD DAMN JOKE AND COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. It was a waste of time for all characters involved and if she would’ve just given him the number and then they could’ve sang it to each other, the gate could’ve been closed much faster, it could’ve served both story and character development at the same time, and Hopper might not have ‘died.’ I’m putting ‘died’ like that because, like everyone with a brain, I don’t think they would kill off one of their best and complicated characters. David Harbour is a master in the role, and like I always say, “no body, not dead.” Unfortunately I’m afraid they are just going to resolve the situation like they did with Eleven in season 1 and 2 where she ‘died’ but really just ended up back in the Upside Down place.

Other character development problems: Max and Lucas, who got together near the end of season 2, have virtually no character development between the two this season, they are together the whole time, barely an argument. She has a small arc with her brother Billy but it is completely rushed and half-assed. Eleven and Mike break up for the stupidest reasons other than to get some funny scenes between her and Max. All he had to say was, “Hopper told me to spend less time with you,” and everything would’ve been solved. The relationship between Eleven and Hopper, the father/daughter angle, is good in the first two episodes, and then they are separated the rest of the time, everything meaning to tie together in a sappy yet sweet letter at the end. If there was anything that season 2 got completely right, it was the relationship with those two. The Jonathan/Nancy lover thing, that was again, done better in Season Two, is kind of like the Max and Lucas thing here, they have a couple of arguments, but ultimately love each other and everything is okay. Thank goodness the acting all around, especially from Millie Bobby Brown, is top notch, other wise all these problems would’ve bothered me more.

Fortunately, there are some very, very good character moments that about evens everything up developmental wise. Hopper and Joyce’s relationship is the best it has ever been this season and has a pretty solid arc. And remember that last minute Steve and Dustin friendship near the end of season 2? Here, it is full blown brilliant and is even combined with a great arc between Steven and a new character named Robin (played by Maya Hawke, who looks just like her mom, Uma Thurman) that works with him at Scoops Ahoy (I want to work there). Even though they are in the mall (and the secret Russian underground base) basically the entire 8 episodes, every scene with all of them together work perfectly, including when Lucas’ sister joins the fray later in the season. Also that weird conspiracy theorist dude from season 2 that helped Nancy and Jonathan get together gets a cute, little, but strong and effective arc with a Russian turncoat, a scientist nerd by the name of Alexei, who loves Cherry Slurpees and Burger King but is empathetic with the American’s plight. Also, the CGI and special effects this season are amazing. The Meat Monster is the greatest horror to come out of this series, even more enjoyable than the original Demogorgan.

So basically because of some character development problems and that the 8 episodes went by way too fast, it did not beat Season 1 for me, but at times it came incredibly close. Blew Season Two out of the water, but to be fair, I still do like that season, and love this series. With Season 3, The Duffer Brothers have finally found their groove with the series, relying less on just nostalgia references and more on story and group dynamics. And when there are references, it isn’t just to say, “hey look! Remember this!” anymore, but is often introduced to be a foreshadowing plot point or a joke that hits hard and is immersed in the overall story. And it’s just fucking fun as hell. The 8 episodes went by fast because I completely gave myself to that world and everything in it. I would complain about that long wait times between seasons (it was almost two years! Oct 2017 – July 2019) but if that’s how long it takes to tinker it, and give us a great, almost greatest, season like this one, everyone involved can take all the time they need. Now all they need to do is just end it all next season, or at the most, Season 5, so the whole thing doesn’t become stale. *coughlikeHouseOfCardscough*

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Reviews: THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) Part 5 of 5 – The Blue Scorpion and Blurryman

Two weeks ago I started Part 4 of 5 with a **sigh** but thankfully I’m starting this one with a **whew**. Two weeks ago brought us two of the worst Twilight Zone episodes of not only this revival run, but of all time. They were ham-fisted with over the top social commentary which dragged the episodes into the gutter. I was crossing my fingers that these last two episodes were saved for last because everyone there knew that they were something special and wouldn’t disappoint. And thankfully, they were right. They are the two best episodes right under Replay, my favorite episode this season. Especially the very last episode, which I really can’t tell you anything about, as the trailer for it doesn’t ruin a damn thing. And neither will I. So until next year, let us enter one last time into my review of the reboot of…The Twilight Zone.

The Blue Scorpion

Thankfully, The Blue Scorpion really doesn’t have any kind of social commentary to it. And the episode is very straight forward with an ending I didn’t really expect. All of this worked in its favor. The tale is simple: a man named Jeff (played by the great Chris O’Dowd) inherits a rare and mysterious gun from his father, who had just killed himself with it. A special bullet comes with the gun, and on the bullet a name is inscribed, his own, Jeff. The gun also comes with a set of rules with how to handle it, weird rules, one of which being, don’t ever keep it in darkness as the gun is scared of the dark. Also in the middle of a nasty divorce, Jeff now has to navigate through this hard time in his life with a gun that seems to be speaking to him with Jeff becoming obsessed with it every moment it is in his possession.

Like I said, the story is pretty straightforward, and the episode is brought to life by Chris O’Dowd’s performance, which other than Sanaa Lathan, is probably the best performance in this new run of 10 Zone episodes. He has to display grief, obsession, compassion, fear, any emotion you can think of he goes through it here, and pulls it off in spades. I was also surprised by the end of the episode. I thought for sure I knew what direction it was going to go in, but the episode slapped my face in the end, and went in a completely different, more thought provoking direction. I kind of loved that my expectations were subverted in this instance.

The rest of the episode is pretty great too. I’ve said it a dozen times times, but the one constant great thing in these episode is the cinematography. Every shot is wonderful to look at. This episode felt like it could’ve made a run with the classic Twilight Zone episodes of long ago. It felt like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together with no strain on trying to make pieces fit that wouldn’t. It is definitely an episode I would like to revisit down the line.

Blurryman

I really can’t talk about this episode all that much. I can only describe it by the log line on IMDB.com “A writer is haunted by a mysterious figure.” I can tell you that Seth Rogen and the great Zazie Beetz are in this episode, and I can also tell you that while I was worried about Seth Rogen’s acting at first, the episode pulls the rug out from under you very early in where you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Have I said too much? I don’t think so. The real star of the episode is Zazie Beetz, who other than being in Atlanta and playing Domino in Deadpool 2, is fantastic and needs to be in more things in general.

My third paragraph I’m going to describe how they can make season 2 of The Twilight Zone better, as I don’t know what to say anymore about this episode. I guess I can say the writer of this wrote the so-so episode The Comedian and this is definitely an improvement. This episode was also directed by Simon Kinberg, who next week makes his theatrical directorial debut with Dark Phoenix. He did a pretty good job and everything about the episode looked and felt cool. But yeah, I could tell you to expect the unexpected in this episode but my jaw was almost on the floor and my interest piqued less than 5 minutes into it. The last thing I will say is that if you think you’ve gone meta before in different television shows, this episode brings a whole new meaning to that word. But yeah, I ranked it high on the list of new episodes because Blurryman did something different, which I appreciated. The only thing that took away from it was the horror element that didn’t really work in the middle of the episode.

Anyway, we already know that Twilight Zone has been renewed for a second season. But where do we go from here? Another clue I can give you is the last episode might put a wrench into things…maybe. Whether it is a good wrench or bad wrench remains to be seen. Will they take it in a new direction after certain revelations are brought to light. I do hope that Jordan Peele comes back, and that maybe he even has time to write and direct his own episode. We’ll see…will he come back? That’s a question I hope is answered soon. My advice for season 2? Get better writers. The directors and actors are notch but a lot of the stories and scripts could use some work. Out of ten episodes, only 3 are great, 3 are good, 1 is so-so, and 3 are absolutely terrible. It needs a better batting record, and maybe have no terrible episodes next season. Bringing back a beloved series is always going to have a bumpy start, but with careful consideration and care, it could rise up back to greatness. In The Twilight Zone, anything is possible.

Ranking of Episodes

  1. Replay
  2. The Blue Scorpion
  3. Blurryman
  4. Six Degrees of Freedom
  5. A Visitor
  6. Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
  7. The Comedian
  8. Point of Origin
  9. Not All Men
  10. The Wunderkind

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Reviews: THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) Part 4 of 5: NOT ALL MEN and POINT OF ORIGIN

**sigh** And the new series started off so well. At the worst I thought I was going to be reviewing one really good/great episode and one really mediocre/terrible one these last two reviews, but alas, I got two not so great ones for you. The only thing that separates them from being worse than the terrible episode The Wunderkind is the acting. Minus Six Degrees of Freedom, these last several episodes fail because of them not just for the eye rolling, hitting the present day social commentary nail on the head, but that it keeps hitting you on the head long after the nail is already in there. I really hope that the show runners know what they are doing and saving their best two for last (although I this point I highly question it). At least Jordan Peele’s intros are still fascinating to watch. I wish he was writing and directing episodes.

NOT ALL MEN

Like I mentioned in the above paragraph, the only thing that separates this one from being worse than The Wunderkind is the acting. Taissa Farmiga, Rhea Seehorn, and Ike Barinholtz bring out incredible performances, but the social commentary in this is so in your face, it makes the twist at the end even dumber, and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard anything about men being offended by this episode (Don’t worry, I’m not). The plot is basically after a meteor shower, the men in a town grow absolutely nuts and with psycho and animal like behavior. Taissa Farmiga and her sister Rhea Seehorn, try to navigate the strange and destructive behavior while trying to escape the town.

Clearly an episode inspired by #MeToo, it doesn’t work because it tries to hard to say, “do…do you get it?” Yes we do, after the first 5 minutes we get it, but instead of pushing forward the plot and doing something different, characters just keep explaining the same insane behavior just with different vocabulary. And then the twist at the end basically just gives the entire episode a WTF moment and you feel as though you wasted your time. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give away the twist on here, but I’ve given you context clues to figure out what is probably is. I can also say that at least the episode looked good as well and had the same gorgeous cinematography as the other ones.

I do appreciate an episode that actually made me fear Ike Barinholtz. Usually a funny man and one of the best performers on the old MadTV (haha, kind of get why he was cast now), he is absolutely ruthless in this. I’d like to see him play more psycho characters in the future. Rhea Seehorn has always been a good actress, like on Better Call Saul, and here she’s just as convincing as someone scared out of her fucking mind. The best acting goes to Taissa Farmiga though, who I thought was terrible in The Nun as I thought she was only good for wide eyed facial expressions and that is it. Here, she is completely convincing as the woman trying to escape the harsh environment of men just suddenly going mad. Great concept, terrible and horrible execution.

POINT OF ORIGIN

And with this episode, we get the nail on the head a billion more times with social commentary, this time on immigration. Okay Twilight Zone, go home, you’re drunk, we get it. You need to now take your social commentary episodes and scale them back a little bit. You need build everything up, maybe even mix several social commentaries in (but not so in your face) at the same time to have a meatier episode. Yes, immigration is a hot button issue, but you can only state the same issue so many times using different words, and in this case, dimensions (you’ll see what I mean).

I did catch that the mask that Ginnfer Goodwin wears in this is an exact copy of those of the ‘normal’ faced people in the classic episode “Eye of the Beholder.” That was a nice little homage to the old. And her and James Frain’s acting was really good. And yet again, the episodes visuals and everything technical looks good. It’s just the story isn’t there. Well it’s there, but it doesn’t go further to get where it needs to go. It just stays in one place and doesn’t take it to more interesting and thought provoking levels. The whole plot is that after a rich white woman’s Mexican housekeeper is detained by the U.S. Government for not being a legal citizen, that rich white woman is also taken, but for different reasons that I will not spoil.

But again, you can guess where it is all going based on the fact that I said the only commentary on this is immigration. Where is home, truly? Why can’t we escape a wretched place to live a better life and people just accept it and try and help? Aren’t we all technically immigrants? Why is the US being a fucking bully? All those questions are asked a billion different ways, but none of them are really answered. Just another one of those “be careful, because it can happen to you” episodes. Those episodes are long and gone, we are currently in 2019. You can’t just recycle old stories and do them the same, you gotta have a better hook, instead it is the same rusty one Hollywood has used to fish a billion times over. I won’t finish this sentence again but, you know, great concept…Replay

Ranking of Episodes

  1. Replay
  2. Six Degrees of Freedom
  3. A Visitor
  4. Nightmare at 30,000 Feet
  5. The Comedian
  6. Point of Origin
  7. Not All Men
  8. The Wunderkind

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL, AND VILE (Netflix)

Whether or not you like and enjoy EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL, AND VILE depends on what kind of movie you are expecting. If you are expecting for Zac Efron to go around and brutally kill women for two hours just to see what made the serial killer tick, you are going to be very, very disappointed. Or if you are smarter, like me, and go into it expecting a deep character study, sort of a personality mystery/thriller, while seeing Zac Efron takes his acting to the next level, then you are in for a treat. I happened to really like this film, and that’s because going into it I knew it didn’t go around just showing how he murdered women and got away with it. I knew that it was going to have kind of a “did he or didn’t he?” mystery vibe (even though we know how it all ends). Combine that narrative with an analysis of how this one deranged psychopath got away with everything because of the way he could talk and convince people (maybe even himself) that he was innocent. As the latter type of movie, it is one helluva character study.

The movie actually only shows one woman abduction and no kills at all. It’s quite bold and brilliant. It is more of a courtroom drama once Bundy actually gets caught near the beginning of the film because of a normal traffic stop, and then it shows how he tries to study up as a lawyer and try to talk his way out of jail time and even the death penalty. He even tries to manipulate his current girlfriend and convince her there is no way that he did those things. Oh, and he escapes from prison several times too. If anyone who didn’t know who the hell Ted Bundy was or didn’t have a clue that this was a real story, the movie could’ve successfully make that audience member confused whether or not he actually he did those unspeakable acts. But since the movie knows none of us are that stupid, it tries to make you think about Bundy’s personality, actions, and way with words/women so that it earns the narrative it is trying to tell: that monsters come in many manipulative forms. And because of Zac Efron’s incredible performance, it earns that slight doubt that could be formed in the back of your mind.

If there is only one thing to watch this movie for, it is because of Zac Efron. It is easily his best performance and I would probably stand up and cheer if I hear that he is nominated for an Oscar next year. He is just that damn good, and it isn’t just an impersonation. He embodies all of Ted’s ticks, mannerisms, and way with words so well that Efron basically became what I know of Bundy right before my very eyes. It is so frightening but the acting is so good you can’t take your eyes away from the screen. Lilly Collins is good too as the current girlfriend that can’t decide whether she truly believes Bundy is innocent or not, but Kaya Scodelario steals the female performance from under her as a former protege of Bundy’s that increasingly becomes obsessed with him and his innocence for all the wrong reasons. And the end reveal of Bundy just slightly showing Collins character who he really is, is a pretty powerful scene in itself. The movie alone is also worth watching between Zac Efron’s and John Malkovich’s banter between one another in the courtroom.

Would a movie that actually featured Ted Bundy committing all those horrible acts, maybe add thirty minutes onto the film to incorporate it, be that great and/or better than this film? I honestly don’t think so. I think if we got that movie people would’ve complained that it glorifies violence against women and it would’ve put itself in a public relations nightmare just to promote the film to get people to see it. The filmmakers made the right approach. How did those close and distant to Ted Bundy see him? How did he get away with all that horror for so long? Not how did he kill this girl and watch Zac Efron try to recreate murder events. Plus, if you want to dig deeper into the psychology of Ted Bundy, the director of this film also did that ‘Ted Bundy Tapes’ documentary series that is also on Netflix anyway. They make quite a marathon/double feature. Like I said, your appreciation of this films depends on what you’re expecting out of this. Expect a really good character study, and you’ll be out of the woods with a grin on your face and thoughts about it afterwards. Expect a re enactment of the murders, you will not have a killer time.