I woke up to a text message from BDM that read, “You should do a horror movie piece for Fetchland.”
A horror movie piece? Like a list? But what kind of list? Underrated movies? Good movies? Bad movies? For fans of the genre only? Hell, it’s 5am in the morning so how about a little something for everyone? So here I give you:
Fetchland’s Top 8 Horror Movies That Are Good, Bad, Underrated, Weird , Great, And Game Changing.
It’s 5am kids.
The WFT One Possession (1981) dir Andrzej Żuławski
I found this one a few years ago while on my annual “need to find movies for Halloween I haven’t seen yet” quest.
IMDB describes it as:
A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.
Sounds straightforward right?
I’m going to say these two words to you.
Watch the movie and you’ll understand.
The Crazy Italian One Manhattan Baby (1982) dir Lucio Fulci
You want to watch a crazy Italian horror movie. There’s no drought of those. How about a crazy Lucio Fulci movie? No challenge there. But Manhattan Baby…Manhattan Baby makes The Beyond seem tame.
The Good Movie One Session 9 (2001) dir Brad Anderson
Someone asked me just last week for a good horror movie “not just scary but a good movie from the last ten years”.
I couldn’t think of any. I am not a big fan of modern horror. Give me a few more years to play with and I’d say Session 9. Just the location alone makes this worth seeing. I think the whole movie works on so many levels.
The One That Changed It All One Dawn of the Dead (1978) dir George A. Romero
You wouldn’t have The Walking Dead.
You wouldn’t have the modern obsession with everything zombie.
And it wasn’t Night of the Living Dead that did that.
It was Dawn. It’s the reason horror nerds check out the local Costco and think, this would work. And if you’ve only seen the remake, go watch the original. Kids today.
The Carpenter Movie You Didn’t Expect One Prince of Darkness (1987) dir John Carpenter
I have argued for hours over what is John Carpenter’s best horror film. I say Halloween.
Others say The Thing… which is great.
Some even say In the Mouth of Madness and if you do I’ll walk out of the room.
But you gotta love Prince of Darkness. Come on, tachyon transmissions from the future and Alice Cooper.
The Action Comedy One Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) dir Sammo Hung
I love my kung fu movies. Encounters of the Spooky Kind aka Spooky Encounters gets you the great Sammo Hung at the height of his abilities. This is the one that started the Hopping Vampire craze that was all over the place in the 80s.
The Never Heard Of This One Next of Kin (1982) dir Tony Williams
I found out about Next of Kin watching the amazing documentary Not Quite Hollywood about Australian exploitation films. This movie is an Ozzie giallo if that makes any sense. Just watch the trailer and tell me you don’t want to see it.
The Slow Build Up One Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) dir John D. Hancock
A lot of times you hear someone defend a boring horror movie by saying it’s not appreciated because it’s not filled with gore and has a slow build up. People say that about 2009’s House Of the Devil but I’m not a fan of that movie. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is the movie I talk about that uses atmosphere and little to no blood to create a disturbing story.
[For American Horror Story – Hotel “Devil’s Night” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Devil’s Night John receives an invitation to attend an exclusive Devils Night Soiree.
“Devil’s Night” opens with notorious LA serial killer Richard Ramirez signing the guest book for his standing Devil’s Night reservation at the Hotel Cortez. He then takes his usual course of killing and climbs the fire escape to smash hotel guests sleeping in their beds with a lampstand. One of them starts to get away but James Mason catches her for Ramirez, so he can kill her too. Then John Lowe wakes up to his hotel room phone ringing. It’s Scarlett and she doesn’t feel like trick or treating this year. As he hangs up John sees a giant bloodstain growing on the corner of his ceiling. Something died a bloody death up there for certain.
Speaking of dead, Ms. Evers is scrubbing a bloody sheet when she’s transported back to 1925 and taking her son trick or treating. He’s unhappy with her costume for him – a sheet with two holes cut in it for eyes. Then Ms. Evers talks to another parent and takes her eyes off her son. Then POOF her son disappears but Ms. Evers doesn’t notice until it’s too late and he’s driving away in the back of a car. Then it turns out Ms. Evers is the source of that wretched bloodstain on John’s ceiling. John bangs on the door and she sits with him to tell the tale about losing her son. Turns out it was a killer who took her son and this being the anniversary of his death, she’s quite upset. Then Ms. Evers gets all weird and manic, oddly jolly even. She says she’s got to get to work for the annual Autumnal banquet – Devil’s Night.
It’s interesting to note that Ms. Evers appears to feel terrible for playing a complicit role in the death of her son with her neglect, a similar role to John’s in the loss of his son, Holden at the Carnival. Ms. Evers then perpetuates this pattern of assistance to a killer when she goes to work for James March. So, Ms. Evers believes herself destined to a compliant role in meaningless murder, even if only her unconscious is her guide. John, on the other hand, made his mission in life catching killers but seems to see himself as an impotent victim to their whims over and over. Can the guy catch a killer already? Not yet, it would seem.
Meanwhile Alex has taken the pale and stuck-at-six Holden home. He says the light is too bright in their living room. She hugs him and says he’s finally home when Holden says he’s thirsty. Uh oh. Alex doesn’t get it, though, and goes in the kitchen to pour him juice. When she comes back he’s sucking blood out of the family dog’s furry white neck. She stops him doing it and Holden says he wants his mommy. “I am your mommy,” Alex replies to which Holden adds, “I want the other one.” Then Alex brings him back to the Cortez and watches as he returns to the comfort of his coffin. Offscreen The Countess says, “You must have questions. I have answers,” her voice creepy as F***.
The Countess sits Alex down for a chat and declares herself the savior of neglected children. Alex asks what she did to Holden and The Countess says he now has an ancient virus, a blood disorder that results in vitality and everlasting life. There’s no cure but she can join him, The Countess tells her. All Alex has to do in return is work for The Countess. Alex initially turns down this offer and leaves. Then we see John sitting down at the Hotel Cortez bar. He says his soon to be ex wife told him he was never an alcoholic – that he’s just a control freak. So, totally not being an alcoholic at all, John orders a double martini and downs it.
He’s soon joined by Aileen Wuornos, the female serial killer that Charlize Theron portrayed in the movie Monster. John thinks it’s a costume (Wuornos died via lethal injection in 2002) and is appropriately impressed with how devoted this woman is to the role. Aileen takes him up to his room for a roll around but instead of sexual it gets pretty brutal – not surprising given Ms. Wuornos’s history with cops. She wasn’t called a monster for nothing.
John goes to the front desk to call the cops on Aileen and Elizabeth Taylor tells him about Devil’s Night, the very exclusive annual party James March throws for serial killers and realizes that for some reason John’s invited to the Soiree this year. Elizabeth gives him the invite. When Lowe returns to his room there’s no sign of Aileen but Ms. Taylor has left him a tux for the fancy party and even laid it out on the bed for him. He puts it on like a good boy and heads to the party. Aileen apologizes when he comes in and says she’s just got issues with cops… and men. James March serves them each a glass of Absinthe then introduces himself. John says James March died more than eighty years ago. March gets annoyed then and says that’s what’s annoying about cops; they only care about evidence.
Then each weirdo at the table introduces themselves. First John Gacy then Jeffrey Dahmer, and then John points out the Zodiac killer. John also recognizes Ramirez because they’re from the same hometown. March explains how he built the hotel specifically to hide evidence and he brought John to this dinner to educate and help him. Then Gacy handcuffs John to his chair and the killers talk about how each of them visiting “The Master” in this Hotel educated them too. Clearly “The Master March” helped each of them become better killers.
March then asks Ms. Evers to bring out the amuse bouche and she enters with a young man for Dahmer. He gets his drill and explains that this is how he makes his victims a part of him. Then Dahmer dodges a bullet from John’s gun before drilling the young man’s head. The bullet does hit Dahmer but because he’s already dead, it barely slows his process. He then puts acid in the young man’s brain, turning him into a type of zombie. Meanwhile outside Hypodermic Sally flirts with a hot businessman and gives him an eightball before bringing him to the party where he will play the role of “dessert.” Gacy now has a clown face on for an extra layer of creepitude and each killer then takes a large knife in hand and stabs the businessman in manic tandem.
But then John it shifts as John wakes up in a dusty dark room where Sally says he’s just hallucinating. “Is anything real?” he asks. “I am,” she says. “But you disappeared on me last time,” John remembers. This reinforces John’s pattern of impotence on two levels. He was just watching the killers get to work, unable to do anything about it. Then he doesn’t even know if what he saw was real and with Hypodermic Sally as his source of clarity, John may never again know what’s real and what he can hold onto.
In the final scene The Countess dresses all in red for a ceremonial meeting with Alex. It seems she’s come around on the whole making-a-deal-with-the-devil prospect. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to have Holden back. The Countess tells Alex to surrender completely, kisses her, and then cuts her breast for Alex to drink the dripping blood. The Countess says when Alex wakes she can be reunited with her child for eternity. It’s a pretty quick and no nonsense interaction… The last shot of the episode is Alex laying her head down on the Countess’s lap with a bloody mouth much like what a baby would look like after feeding, just replace the milky mouth with blood.
This is an excellent way to leave us hanging because now we’ve got machines churning on all sides. John’s drinking again, hallucinating, and hot for Sally. Alex is a vampire, and Holden’s back in the arms with his Countess mommy – no clue his other mommy is about to emerge anew on his side of the world this time. Seems like the perfect recipe for mayhem at the Hotel Cortez.
Lots of Fetchland readers already subscribe to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or even Marvel Unlimited.
… Which begs the question: When you have access to an almost limitless plethora of entertainment options, which ones should you pick?
“What’s Free Wednesday” is a weekly Fetchland feature spotlighting something great to read or watch available on one or more entertainment services. “Free” once you’ve paid for it, if you grok 🙂
Standup: Five Sure Things
If you’ve ever been to Times Square in NYC then you’ve invariably been asked the question, “Do you like comedy?” by some otherwise unemployable handing out allegedly free tickets to standup shows that are nowhere near Times Square. It’s not really free because there’s a two drink minimum and the drinks are $20 each but YOU said you like comedy. See that’s the trick. It’s a trick question, isn’t it? Everybody likes to laugh. It’s human nature to like comedy. The lure’s a sure thing with those Times Square fisherman using loaded questions as bait.
We deliver this What’s Free Wednesday as a fetchland version of “Do you like comedy?” only in our case we’ll actually deliver great free laughs and you can drink or not as you choose. With the understanding that we all love to laugh and some peeps are just better at delivering the comedy goods than others, we’ve composed a list of the best standup on Netflix. They’re all guaranteed hilarious – Sure Things and we’ll even give you a little blurb for each to tell you why. Are they in any particular order? Hell, yeah they are – best is #1, as it should be. The world is chaotic enough. Even so… all five are fantastic.
1. John Mulaney: New in Town
Mulaney has mastered storytelling with a voice all his own and even though they’re uniquely John’s, each story’s so well told it feels like home. When he talks about Law & Order Special Victims Unit you’ll realize he’s a true bro who lives in the same afternoon TV watching universe you enjoy. Many of his comedic observations are such perfection you actually can’t believe you never articulated these things you’ve always thought. Mulaney’s Trump joke is so remarkably apt and funny it will hold strong through all of Trump’s future media adventures. In fact, this whole standup special stays funny with repeated viewing and it’s certainly destined to be a classic. Best news of all – John Mulaney has a new special coming out on Netflix November 13th called The Comeback Kid. We can’t wait!
2. Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain
First things first, fast forward fifteen minutes to get to the standup act because the beginning is all what a long road it’s been becoming the amazeballs magical comedy man Kevin Hart story stuff. Let’s just get straight to the funny – right? And once you do, there’s still an entire hour of laughing your buttocks off. Hart talks about personal finances and his personal life; including unforgettable stories portraying his hilarious cokehead Dad and vengeful funeral attendees. What makes him special is that Kevin puts his whole heart out there on stage and keeps it 100% real. He’s the kind of comic that makes you feel like you’re best friends out for the night having the most raucous good time ever.
3. Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe
You gotta love Gaffigan, the palest boy next door in the land. He’s got tons of kids and stories galore that are certain to ring true for anyone with a child. Yes, it’s all true. Going to Disney IS just like spending the day waiting in line at the DMV on the surface of the sun. His spiel on photos hits home and then Jim follows it up with hilarious body talk, the magic of black clothes, gym misbehavin’, and, of course… the glorious delights of food. Gaffigan’s real gift is that he can riff on and personify anything – even socks and make you laugh all the while. It’s a small world in Gaffigan’s comedy and his bit on hotels reminds us that even when we venture out into the big wide world we’re still all apparently staying at the same damn place.
4. Gary Gulman: In This Economy
Netflix, the discman, and The Karate Kid are just a few of the multifarious topics explored in this wonderful comedic adventure. A man so special that on his license it says “kind” next to “eyes,” Gulman sticks to his financial theme throughout and keeps us laughing. He shares his recession-busters with us and portrays a gut-busting hilarious conversation between Bill Gates and Trump. Gulman’s specialty lies in the specific details he reminds us about things forgotten, like the receipt paper from Jiffy Lube – perfect for keeping if you just happen to have a 35 ring binder at home. He’s got an awesome take on things with tightly woven stories that carry you away in an entirely new way of making many familiar topics so funny.
5. Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening
This was Ansari’s premiere comedy special as standup and his enthusiasm is pure electricity. He does his character Raaaandy, a pretty close approximation to the gentleman Aziz, but still the character adds a little bit of fresh funny to the mix. Mainly his comedy comes from that amusing outrage burning within his special Aziz brand belly. His bit on bedding thread counts is a perfect example of this and it really gets the comedy rolling. The best part of this special is when he talks about messing with his cousin Harris. He really brings us into the Ansari world and how much fun it is to play there. There’s only one drawback to the special – some material, about R Kelly and Kanye for example, may get dated. But Aziz is clearly a comedy keeper and his flagship hour seals the deal.
[For Fargo “The Myth of Sisyphus” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
FX Summary: The Myth of Sisyphus The search for Rye intensifies; Peggy overhears a new theory about the Waffle Hut shooter.
Episode two, ‘Before the Law” concluded with the words of H.G. Wells and so it comes as no surprise that episode three’s title, “The Myth of Sisyphus” recalls that absurdist story of the man Sisyphus. This is a show with references up the whazoo. From the Sisyphus myth we know one man pushes a boulder up the hill in an interminable cycle. Because the boulder drops when he reaches the top he always has to start over again, like a hamster on a wheel. Fargo, is, after all, known for its delight in absurdity. This show knows how to stay on theme even as it tells a remarkable story with steamroller momentum.
The Sisyphus episode opens as Ohanzee, the Native American searcher crouches in a blanketed white forest petting a snow bunny and waxing nostalgic for his one room schoolhouse childhood. A magician pulled a white rabbit out of a hat back in Ohanzee’s days of yore. After this memory he walks out of the woods to the Gerhardt house – the dead bunny body hanging from his hand. Then we’re inside the house for a Gerhardt meeting among leaders as they discuss their state of siege. Should they sell, hold out for more, or go to war? Floyd leads the meeting and says the Kansas City mafia are sharks in the sea while the Gerhardt’s are small time in comparison. They’re a peacetime family. Dodd, always ready for battle, disagrees. He wants to pull out guns and start blazing. Floyd takes charge and says she’s not afraid of a war but only as a last resort and on her terms. The suits in the meeting say they’re on the Gerhardt’s side and though they won’t shoot first, they’ll defend the family if that’s what goes down. So, now the Gerhardts know they’ve got some backup from their family business leaders if it does indeed “go down” with Kansas City.
Meanwhile at a smoky hotel restaurant breakfast Joe and Mike of the Kansas City mafia discuss the Gerhardts. There’s no word on Frau Floyd’s answer so far, Joe says. Mike replies, “So we kill ‘em?” and Joe says we listen to the market and let it tell us what we do next. Mike says they still haven’t found Rye, must be on the run. Joe says they gotta find him for extra leverage against The Frau. So, right away we see how Sisyphus is relevant. Following market indicators – especially in the late 1970s – can be just like pushing a rock up a steep slope. People waited in line all day for gas in those days, missing their workday entirely at times. Going nowhere fast.
Lou’s in his cop car on the way to Fargo when Hank calls him on the police wireless to say they identified the prints on the Waffle Hut weapon as Rye’s. Then Lou enters the courthouse offices where the Judge worked and talks with Fargo police detective, Ben Schmidt in the waiting area. Schmidt tells him all about the Gerhardts, the main gist being that Lou’s better off with his own prints on the gun. Ben says he’s never heard of Mike Milligan or the Kitchen Brothers but he’s certainly intimidated by their mere mention. Schmidt repeats his recommendation to take the fall rather than get involved with the Gerhardt clan just for good measure.
Then Ohanzee guts his bunny in the Gerhardt kitchen while talking to Simone, Dodd’s daughter who wears the bluest blue eye shadow a girl’s ever worn in the world. She says they should check out Rye’s apartment and he says, “Show me.” Meanwhile Betsy gets her hair done at the salon where Peggy works when Hank comes in to put up a WANTED FOR MURDER sign in her front window. He’s wasting no time posting Rye’s picture all over town now that they found his prints on the gun. Then right on front of freaking-out-Peggy Betsy shares her theory about the shoe they saw in a tree at the Waffle Hut. She guesses the exact scenario that happened with Peggy hitting Rye. Peggy immediately chips in how that’s such an unlikely possibility. Who would just drive off with a body on the hood of their car? Hank says he’s inclined to agree with Peggy but Betsy ends the convo when she says maybe they should look for a car rather than a person. This sends Peggy pronto off the the butcher shop to enlist Ed on a mission to deal with their car. Peggy pulls him away claiming “family crisis” and then on their way home they see the WANTED poster of Rye and it stops them in their guilt-ridden tracks. Sisyphus indeed.
Back in Fargo, Lou continues to hang out in the courthouse waiting area when he sees nervous typewriter salesman, Skip pacing and fearful right by the dead Judge’s office. Lou and the detective follow anxious Skip out to his car and check his ID. Turns out he’s there for the hearing Rye was supposed to handle but (given the death of Judge Mundt) it got postponed. Lou aptly says to Schmidt, “He’s a squirrelly fella. You oughta take him down to the station.” But Ben-the-dismissive-detective quickly brushes off the idea with you can’t take every guy that had a case with the judge downtown, can ya? Clutching his get-out-of-jail-free-card tightly, Skip drives straight to Rye’s apartment from there but finds Simone, the Gerhardt daughter with blue eyeshadow magic inside rather than Rye. He enters, hesitant and then it turns out Ohanzee is there too, hiding behind the door. Simone figures out who Skip is right away and notes that he came there to “not pay her uncle” so she seductively pulls him by his patriotic tie right out the door to take him for a ride with the Ohanzee, who she calls “Red Man,” all sensitive like.
Ed drives Peggy out to a tree he had in mind for a fake accident. She got the idea for this plan from her drunk uncle who used the method for all his accidents over the years. First he’s crash the car boozed up on Old Milwaukee, then he’d sober up and have the fake accident for insurance purposes. It’s inspiring stuff. Right before Ed drives the car into the tree she tells him he’s her knight. Well, her knight gets whiplash in the process but still manages to hit the tree the right way… the second time. Much like Sisyphus, Ed keeps covering up Peggy’s mistakes and following her advice only to find more awaits on the other side of each wretched little cleanup nightmare.
Back in the Gerhardt kitchen Bear tells his enthusiastic son not to get involved in Gerhardt family business, even if Dodd’s daughter is deep in the mess. Bear and Floyd want him to go to school and become something else – something other than just another shady as F*** Gerhardt, presumably. Bear makes his declarations extra clear by pointing an enormous turkey leg around to give weight to his words – like a 1970s Henry VIII.
The next scene brings us to the Gerhardt front porch where Floyd recognizes Ben Schmidt right away. She asks Schmidt about Lou but Solverson introduces himself, straight backed and eye contact in place. He’s solid. Bear comes out on the porch then and the cops ask both Gerhardts what they know about the dead Judge Mundt. Lou says they need to talk to Rye. Floyd says that’s not gonna happen. Lou stands strong and explains that Rye’s wanted in connection with three murders. He doesn’t want to be forced to shoot some people. Then Dodd shows up, macho man extraordinaire in a leather newsboy cap. We own all the judges – what would be the point in killing one? Lou stands strong and lets Dodd know that he’s the one who found the gun, not Schmidt. Dodd gets right up in Lou’s beautiful face and says, “Let’s dance.” Then Lou asks them about Mike Milligan and Kansas City. Nobody says a word on that topic. Right then Dodd gets called away by Bear’s son on other business, “Ohanzee called and wants you to meet him at the dig.” Floyd and Bear back away going into the house. “Give him his gun back now that he’s on his way,” she says to her muscle men about Schmidt.
On the drive away from the Gerhardt house Schmidt appears to think that the whole confrontation went well, presumably because they’re still alive. Lou, instead, remains disgruntled. Lou then suggests they get a warrant. Schmidt says, “From what judge? You heard Dodd they own most of the town.” This is the signal that it’s time for Lou to give up on Schmidt. He’s rolled the boulder up that hill for the last time. Getting out of Schmidt’s car with a polite, “Thank you.” Lou then investigates the typewriter shop only to find the calm and impenetrable Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers waiting inside. He’s got a gun on them but then they have a gun on him too – it’s the High Noon standoff everybody’s been talking about throughout the episode. Lou stays solid and even makes a buttsex joke at Mike’s mother’s expense. Mike likes the way Lou’s unfriendly, so polite about it. As Lou starts to back out of the shop, gun still raised and pointed, Mike quotes Nixon, “Peace with honor,” and says Lou doesn’t have to go. They’ve already seen everything there is to see at the typewriter shop. So, Mike has the Kitchen Brothers keep their guns raised and pointed at Lou and they’re the ones to leave the typewriter shop.
Lou stops next at a gas station where the attendant tells him about UFOs visiting from above and says that he doesn’t believe aliens visit to probe people. He thinks the aliens are more benevolent than that. Lou brushes it off as a fool talking into the wind. He’s got crucial stuff on his mind like murder, the mafia, and Mike Milligan. Then we see a city bus lit up and crossing town like a glowworm in the dark night. Ed, his neck ina brace, and Peggy sit together on the bus. She comforts him that their plan worked and, though they seem to have the whole conversation telepathically, it rings true of a duo forever bound by a terrible secret and the infinite quicksand they have to shovel to dig their way out of trouble.
Lou comes home to find Hank on his couch and says he had a real “High Noon” kinda day; first with his visit to the Gerhardts and especially later when he ran into Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers at the typewriter shop. “Maybe two pieces of cake then,” Hank promptly concludes. Meanwhile Dodd and Ohanzee put Skip in a deep grave-like hole dug in a snowy field. They tell him to lie down in the hole and begin to dump a literal truckload of tar on him until he caves and tells them Mike Milligan is who they want. He’d come by the day before looking for Rye and has “probably found him by now.” The truck stops mid-dump just for that info, then goes ahead and buries Skip dead. Dodd then tells Ohanzee he’s gotta drive to that Minnesota town and find Rye. Anybody who gets in his way, just kill ’em.
In the last shot of the episode something sticks out of the tar and the camera focuses on it pretty hard but what is it? Maybe an alien communicator of some sort or perhaps some evidence of Skip underneath. It’s unclear what it is and just enhances the mystery of what could possibly happen next. This episode brilliantly delivers a story that makes little progress by focusing on the frustration inherent to spinning one’s wheels. The theme rings true of most investigations, high noon standoffs, covering up lies, searching for what can’t be found, and waiting for answers that may never come. It’s a sign of exceptional storytelling that the narrative flies forward even as the characters get nowhere. Even those of us who watch remain a Sisyphus of sorts because even as the story whirls ahead – we remain relatively clueless. The audience experiences that palpable frustration and dread right along with the characters yet the story keeps us wanting more Fargo anyway.
My Mets fandom is pretty well-documented. From me in an orange Mets hoodie slumped over my computer, as Carlos Beltran took a called strike three half a world away, in the Pro Tour coverage to the hundred-odd followers I lost while posting incessantly about “sportsball” throughout the playoffs. There is no way I could possibly write an objective World Series preview so I reached out to someone who could — Toby Wachter. Okay…he can’t either but as he documents below he is much more rational than I when it comes to the NY Mets. — BDM
Like most gamers, I tend to be a fairly logically minded person. One of the many reasons I love baseball is that seemingly everything is quantifiable, from wins over replacement players to calculating open market value for any player in dollars. You can even run studies on whether intangible concepts like “clutch” are quantifiably true. More than ten years removed from the release of Moneyball, this is old hat news: most professional sports teams now use some form of advanced analytics.
This viewpoint is particularly bad in my situation, because I’m a Mets fan. Mets fandom usually requires some form of optimism that is irrational at best, delusional at worst. One particular memory that stands out in my mind is walking back to the subway in 2009 after going to a Mets game with BDM, as he told me he felt the Mets offense was better than the Phillies. This was a Met squad that featured such luminaries as Jeff Francouer, Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis and an age 40 Gary Sheffield. The Phillies offense that year was pure bonkers, with Howard, Rollins, Werth and Chase Fucking Utley all in their prime, with an inexplicable awesome season from Raul Ibanez thrown in for good measure.
Needless to say, Brian has always been quick to rush to an optimistic assessment of all things Mets. I’ve consistently been the ass who is impulsively compelled to splash cold water on any and all rays of hope. But I just have to listen to my brain over my heart.
“No Brian, Josh Thole is not a regular, everyday major league catcher.”
“Nick Evans is actually trash.”
“Josh Satin’s best trait is actually his crazy eyebrows, not his bat (and no, he’s not the second coming of John Olerud).”
But something crazy happened. The Mets are in the World Series, and in my humble opinion, they should be the favorite to win. For real, looked at objectively; not just in BDM’s world of “Jeremy Hefner is going to be a solid cog in the rotation for years to come”.
So, as repayment for years of playing “No, that’s just not realistic”, here are seven entirely rational reasons why the Mets are going to win their first championship in 29 years.
1: Infinite Heat
The Mets postseason rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz is worthy of all the praise heaped upon it. Every expert from ESPN to MLB Network has said there is no rotation in baseball history comparable where pure stuff is concerned. If you’ve looked at any sports broadcast or newspaper since the World Series matchup was set, you’ve seen how no team throws more 95mph+ pitches than the Mets, by a wide margin.
Those same media outlets are pointing to the Royals’ ability to hit 95mph+ better than any team in the league. Okay. That’s tracking results on one pitch, not on sequences. Anyone who has watched the Mets aces can tell you while the speed is the foundation, they mix in offspeed pitches and breaking balls quite well. When Thor brings the hammer curveball after a steady diet of 99mph, it’s entirely unfair for the batter.
Contrary to popular belief, the Mets rotation is not made up of fastball throwing robots, but human beings that can come in with a gameplan and mix pitches to break up the batter’s rhythm.
On subject . . .
2: Contact, Schmontact
Sure, you can talk up the Royals “putting the ball in play” all day long. Yes, they were ranked #1 in contact this season. It’s legit. But if the Mets can carve up a powerful Cubs lineup with power in every spot, they can do the same to a singles happy Royals team. I’ll certainly feel more comfortable with Harvey, deGrom or Syndergaard pitching with men on base to a guy unlikely to hit a home run than I did when it was Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber or Kris Bryant in that same spot.
When your whole plan is to make contact and do the “paper cut the pitcher to death” thing, it just means you need to beat one of these pitchers multiple times in an inning. The Royals ranked 11th in slugging this year, and 24th in home runs. This is not the stuff of nightmares with men on base. Go ahead, hang out at first base and have a chat with Lucas Duda (what you’d actually talk about with him, I have no idea). Maybe try to steal second and if that works, have a chat with Wilmer Flores about bottling tears and turning them into walkoff power through gypsy magic. But that’s probably where the adventure on the basepaths ends.
Game 6 featured a Royals fan doing his best Jeffrey Maier impression to boost a ball into a home run, and then some pretty shoddy ball and strike calls by the umpire at a critical moment for the Jays (tying run at third with less than two outs).
To be fair, some of this is due to persistence on the part of the Royals. They put the ball in play, and when that happens, bobbles by otherwise sure handed fielders can happen. But let’s contrast to how the Mets got here: they grinded through a five game series against the Dodgers where two of the three best starters in the National League (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) made appearances in all but one. For an encore, they swept a juggernaut offense in the Cubs, and took out the other best pitcher in the league (Jake Arrieta). One of these things is not like the others.
4: The Ace That Isn’t
At the trade deadline, the Royals were the first team to jump into the “Rent an Ace” market, giving away some young talent to get Johnny Cueto for the stretch run and playoffs. This was done with the knowledge that he wouldn’t be in their future after 2015, as he was in his walk year and many big market teams were primed to pony up the absurd amounts of money necessary to lock up his services (a luxury Kansas City can’t afford).
Cueto had posted an ERA under 3.00 every season since 2011, and ranked second in Cy Young voting for 2014 with 20 wins (if you’re the kind of person who cares about that sort of thing). 2015 looked to be more of the same, with Cueto posting a 2.62 ERA for the going nowhere Reds.
For whatever reason, since jumping to Kansas City, he posted a 4.76 during the regular season, and has been on a short leash in October. The Royals didn’t get what they thought they were trading for, and being unfamiliar with the player, they’re struggling to address what’s wrong. There was some thought that Salvador Perez was too big a catcher and wasn’t setting up the glove low enough, for one theory. Ned Yost sounded entirely puzzled whenever asked by media.
How can you fix a player that’s been in your organization for a few months? You can try, but it’s guesswork. When asked what they can do to get Cueto right, Ned Yost sounds like a manager with a player he rightly doesn’t know very well, and is grasping at straws to figure out a solution. They’ll have to throw Cueto out there because it’s what he’s there for and it’s not like they have many better options. Bad for Kansas City, and certainly not a good spot for Johnny’s bank account come this winter.
5: Lucas Duda Unleashed
Lucas Duda is the baseball version of The Incredible Hulk. Sometimes, he is a mild mannered large beast of a man who is as weak as a baby bird with a bat. He swings at bad, low breaking balls and makes you tear your hair out.
But after weeks upon weeks of watching him put down so many doughnuts, eventually he gets into one. The confidence goes up, and he turns into an otherworldy tater mashing machine. His last such streak during the summer featured eight home runs in seven games. A good number of Mets winning streaks during the season were powered by Duda literally carrying the team’s offense.
In the deciding NLCS game against the Cubs, the Hulk woke up and Duda hit two doubles and a home run, bringing in five RBI. It’s a shame he has to sit for almost a week after that performance, but Duda’s hot and cold streaks seem to be based more around confidence than timing. I expect we’ll get The Good Lucas Duda for the World Series, who can carry the Mets offense just as well as Daniel Murphy did during his hot streak. Three of the four Royals starters are average at best right handed pitchers, setting up Duda for a great series.
6: Ned Yost’s Follies
I’m in the camp of believing there are three kinds of managers: a select few who can actually add wins to your team (Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon), those who actively lose your team games (Matt Williams, and . . . I’ll just say Matt Williams again here), and the vast majority are fairly neutral. I’ll put Terry Collins into that bucket. If Ned Yost is in the neutral bucket, he’s teetering on the edge and closing in on “loses you games” territory.
For a very recent example, in the clinching ALCS game Yost put Kelvin Herrera out for the 7th, and brought in Ryan Madson in for the 8th . . . who promptly gave up a huge home run. Questionable on two levels: why is Madson the 8th inning guy over Herrera, and why not bring Herrera out for a second inning when you’re trying to keep the lead and go onto the World Series?
The Royals 2014 postseason saw plenty of questionable decisions by Yost: in the Wild Card game alone he called for a botched double steal, and inexplicably brought young starter Yordano Ventura into a key spot pitching out of relief, where he promptly gave up three runs. There were plenty of other questionable decisions throughout their 2014 postseason. Almost every time, despite making a bad call, his team managed to bail out the manager. At some point, Yost’s “misplay, but topdeck, I win!” luck has to run out.
7: Who Have You Faced Lately?
Pitchers the Royals have faced in the postseason: Colin McHugh, Scott Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh (2), Marco Estrada, David Price, Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey (who departed for the sins of the Wilpons so we may have Thor and d’Arnaud, praise his name, still a Met in spirit), Marco Estrada (2), David Price (2).
That’s a whole lot of “good, not great”; the only aces in the bunch are Keuchel and Price. Keuchel shut down the Royals in his start, though granted he’s a control artist and not a flamethrower like the Mets staff. The “David Price can’t pitch in the postseason” noise is just as silly as it was with Kershaw before this year. He pitched an excellent Game 2 until the aforementioned Goins/Bautista debacle unraveled everything, and performed quite well in Game 6 removed from two solo home runs.
Point is, the Royals have faced two aces this postseason. One carved them up, the other actually pitched excellently if not for a few bad pitches, or one bad defensive cue behind him. In the World Series, they’ll be facing three legit aces, and one not too far behind that tag in Steven Matz.
On the other side of the coin, the Mets have faced Greinke twice, Kershaw twice, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. The three times they didn’t get an ace were Brett Anderson, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel. All were either shellacked, or chased out of the game early.
Aside from “coin flip to see if he’s an ace or terrible” Johnny Cueto, the Royals rotation is made up of unstable, easily tilt-able hothead Yordano Ventura (scouts actively encourage opposing batters to try and get under his skin), along with journeymen Edinson Volquez and Chris Young (the tall, old one from Princeton, not the terrible former Mets outfielder turned adequate Yankees platoon guy). Past Mets teams have had issues with handling average pitchers like these. Sometimes, this pops up and I get 2011 Mets PTSD; for example, their inexplicable ability to hit National League punching bag Matt Wisler this season. But I’m going to remind myself that it’s easier to hit against average pitching than great pitching. The Royals rotation is “good” on the right days, and certainly nowhere near great.
Teams That Are Good at Baseball Things Win Baseball Games
The media is pumping up the Royals as the team that “does things the right way”, “makes things happen on the basepaths”, and every other cliché you can think of for a team that doesn’t do the things most great baseball teams do. At the end of the day it may not be the most romantic notion in the world, but 98mph heaters and three run homers are better at winning baseball games than hitting singles, stealing bases and making contact.
If Matt Harvey shows up for Game 1 as himself despite the long rest, I expect the Mets will sweep the first two games in Kansas City, with deGrom going in Game 2. My overall prediction: Mets in six, though I’d love to see them win it in five and celebrate in front of the hometown crowd.
[For The Leftovers‘ “Orange Sticker” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
HBO Summary: Orange Sticker The Murphys are left reeling after Evie’s disappearance; Kevin returns home with no memory.
Episode four, “Orange Sticker” shifts perspective yet again on the earthquake, this time from Nora’s point of view. She wakes up and life’s a wreck. Kevin’s disappeared, a dog/wolf runs down the street portending the chaos from whence they came, and the neighbor’s kid is missing. It’s a lot to digest and Nora passes out on the hardwood floor. Once conscious she tries to turn on a TV but they have no cable yet. She opens the computer but they have no Internet yet. She places a call to 911 but they think Nora’s a nut. Then Kevin comes in the front door, sweaty, dirty, and hot as hell. She hugs him and gasps with relief but then turns her back to pick up baby Lily and return to bed. The ghost of Patty leans on the doorjamb to tell Kevin he’s got some explaining to do.
The next morning Kevin can’t find his cigarettes or phone and says they must be at the waterfall – he woke up there without memories from the earthquake. It’s all blank for Kevin between falling asleep and waking at the river in the exact spot where the teen girls went missing the night before. A park ranger knocks on his door and asks him bring his truck and winch to help at the crime scene. So, Kevin and Nora drive there to help with the rescue/ search effort. Nora tells him he should look for his phone and if he doesn’t find it just say he dropped it today while helping out. She can think on her feet, that Nora.
Meanwhile Jill’s home with baby Lily and the broken faucet prompts her to approach Michael Murphy, the source of obvious sexual tension she’d felt at the bbq birthday party the night before. He fixes her leaking sink and then Jill asks why he’s not helping look for his sister, Evie. Michael says Jill won’t understand his ease because of her lack of belief in God… but he knows Evie has departed. Instead of getting weirded out by Michael’s odd certainty about this and his shirt buttoned all the way to the tippity top, Jill seems turned on and gets all doe-eyed. She thanks him for “saving her” even though all he really did was fix a leaky faucet.
Then Nora shops at a Stop n’Shop type place for Wild Turkey and smokes for Kevin. While there she sees the old guy Michael visited and prayed with. His name’s Virgil and he tells Nora, sight unseen, that he’s sorry for her loss. She’s a little freaked by it and the shopkeeper tells Virgil he can’t come in there and do this shit – apparently it’s not his first time creeping out a stranger at the store. So, Virgil apologizes sincerely and leaves.
In the next scene Kevin keeps looking for his phone in the now dark night of the crime scene while Patty bugs him the whole time. She knows where the phone is, which is frightening whether she’s real or in his head. Then Kevin’s just leaving the scene when John Murphy drives up and offers him a ride home. On the dashboard is the unopened gift from Evie. Kevin asks about it and then John, who didn’t drink just the night before, downs a beer and drives right past their homes toward the edge of town where the campground is. Kevin says,”Thought you didn’t drink,” and John says his daughter’s missing now. Guess it’s understandable – loss changes things, especially drinking habits.
John tells Kevin he obviously bought that broken down house for three million because he wanted to feel safe but, “there are no miracles in Miracle.” Then John rushes out of the truck at the campground to throw some angry accusations at peeps and then speed off, tires squealing. He pulls the truck up to the prophet Isaac’s place, grabs a baseball bat and starts heading for a house, fury personified. Kevin senses something wicked this way comin’ and stops John. I used to be a cop. If I talk to him I’ll know what’s up, etc. Kevin convinces him that he can talk to Isaac and find out if Isaac has John’s daughter. Then Kevin knocks on a door saying “Security” but out of the corner of his eye sees John losing his shit and flailing that baseball bat at the nearby house. Unfortunately, THAT’s the house where Isaac is. Plus it turns out Isaac, no dummy, has a gun and shoots John in the gut. Blessing them with a poetic goodbye, Isaac then says “there’s nothing more dangerous than a man who don’t believe in nothing.” Kevin drives John to Erika, his doctor wife, for some gut fixing.
Back at the Garvey household Nora shares a beer with seventeen-year-old Jill and discuss Kevin’s “sleepwalking.” Jill gets all deep and says it’s probably stress and wherever you go there you are. Then she tells Nora how Michael thinks his sister, Evie departed. Nora says there’s no way that’s what happened. This was her job, after all, when she did those Departed insurance claim investigations. She tells Jill the story of a man who pretended to depart so he could run off on his wife. There was only one Sudden Departure, she explains. Nora’s confident on this point – certain. Then Kevin pulls up to the back alley behind the clinic where Erika works and passes off John to his wife. He watches while Erika calmly fixes his wound, pulls Evie’s unopened gift out of John’s clutch to set it aside, and asks no questions.
Nora then visits her brother, Preacher Matt, at his church and asks if this town is real. She confronts him on his promises about Miracle and says it’s all been the same shit since they got there, missing teenagers and natural disasters, etc. Matt responds that his wife, Mary, came out of her catatonia the first night they were in Miracle. They’d talked all night just like old times. The next morning when they woke up she was back to her catatonic state but it was enough evidence for Matt that Miracle is the real deal.
Meanwhile, Jill visits Michael on his porch at night to return his wrench. They take note of the Department of Sudden Departure Verified orange sticker on his house front. There’s one on her house too, she says, what does it mean? He says before the park rangers took over Miracle the government went to each house to “check if it was true,” a perfect parallel to Nora’s visit with Matt. Everybody just wants to know it’s really true – that they’re safe here in Miracle. Then Jill and Michael each admit they’re alone. They look into each other’s lonely, sad eyes and hug.
At the hospital Erika tells Kevin that Miracle may not be a miracle but her daughter Evie certainly was. Though she and Michael are twins Evie was born two months earlier, a preemie who weighed only a bit more than a pound at birth. So, even though John says there are no miracles in Miracle Erika believes it’s an exceptional town. Just like Evie is an exceptional girl. Kevin leaves and Patty gives him a lecture series on his way home – all bitching and accusations, about why he tried to kill himself. Turns out that’s what he was doing during the earthquake. Patty says Kevin tied the cinder block to his ankle and jumped off the waterfall. She says he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to die. If it wasn’t for the providence of the earthquake, he’d be gone. People who love their families don’t do that. Kevin looks at her and says he doesn’t want to kill himself and she replies that he’s entitled to his opinion. Then she explains that the girls vanished. Poof. Just like that.
Once home Nora reassures Kevin that she trusts he had nothing to do with the disappearance of the girls but can’t wake up alone like that again. So, she takes out a pair of handcuffs from his cop days and they handcuff themselves together for a good night’s sleep. Symbolism, baby. Then we see Jill wake up and roll out of bed to look outside and across the yard where Michael is scraping the orange sticker off the front of his house.
The things that make us feel safe can be as simple as knowing where our phone is or having an “Orange Sticker” of verification from a government office. Safety can also be as complex and deeply resonant as having our lover beside us when we wake up or knowing where our children are. Details in the episode touch on these vulnerabilities and their opposite – the certainty of feeling safe. Nora runs into a stranger who seems to know all about her lost family, giving her a sense that she wears a neon sign to broadcast her deepest, raw wounds to the world – not exactly a safe feeling. Michael’s belief that his sister departed gives him certainty and peace while everyone around him loses their mind with worry. He feels safe in his faith and that’s why he doesn’t care if people think he’s crazy. Speaking of crazy, there’s Kevin and the ultimate feeling of being unsafe – is he losing his mind? Did he try to kill himself? What the hell is up with Patty? And now he’s gotta sleep handcuffed to his lady. Thus, “Orange Sticker” explores many facets of safety: from the biggies like trust, faith, certainty, sanity, and hope to the minis like where’s-my-effing-phone and if-I-don’t-open-the-gift-I-can’t-be-disappointed. One thing is for certain, this episode opens up numerous new questions but still, it’s artistry and emotion are a gift that doesn’t disappoint.
[For American Horror Story – Hotel “Mommy” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Mommy Alex is pushed to her breaking point after Scarlet stirs up memories of Holden.
The episode opens as Tristan, the douche, returns to the James March suite with a snakeskin blazer and new attitude. He’s consulted Google and is thus now a James March groupie. Tristan tells March he’s “the greatest serial killer who’s ever lived,” and appears to seek a mentor in Mr. March. Tristan now realizes killing is awesome. James then advises Tristan to put his murder palace to good use so Tristan the douche settles into the suite, making himself comfortable like douches do, but then Claudia and Will Drake enter in a flurry of beautiful and say it’s time for him to go.
In the next scene we hear Alex, John’s wife, in voiceover saying she always wanted to be an amazing pediatrician. Like many women today, Alex wanted to have a career saving kids but (perhaps ironically) she didn’t necessarily want them for herself. Then her baby Holden roused a teutonic shift inside her and Alex finally found her soulmate in her son. But then he disappeared at the carnival and the love of her life was gone. It wrecked Alex. Over the next year she attempted suicide and barely survived. Next we see a family therapy session with Alex, Scarlet, and John discussing Scarlet’s Hotel Cortez Holden story. Alex is angry that Scarlet keeps telling this story and it’s completely creeping her out.
At the Hotel Cortez Claudia (Naomi Campbell) prances around her room in lingerie, bodaciously British one minute and getting stabbed repeatedly by Gabriel in her bed the next. Then Detective John Lowe is checking out yet another Ten Commandments Killer crime scene. This one’s a gossip blog where employees have tongues nail-gunned to their desks and other such symbolic stabbyness. John gets it right away, quoting appropriate scripture and then heading “home” to the hotel. But just as he enters the Cortez the post-murdering Gabriel falls into his arms, bloodied and gasping toward death. On the way to recovery at the hospital Gabriel confesses to killing Claudia and says it was because he thought she was Sally. But when John comes back to the hotel Claudia has “checked out.” John puts the cuffs on a tearful, predatory Sally, falls under her sexual spell, and then just as he’s about to succumb and bang her POOF she disappears. Boner killer.
Next we see Tristan apologize to Will Drake for the runway debacle. The douche claims he’s clean now, pointing out that he even somehow managed to fix that pesky facial scar he’d made with a knife at the runway show. Then Tristan mounts Will and it’s make-out-city, he pulls out a switchblade for some stabby time but The Countess stops him just as he’s about to stick it to Drake.
Meanwhile The Countess’s last loverboy, Donovan, returns to the Cortez as well, apparently to bitch out Iris for being terrible mother she was and tell her how much he hates her. He’s leaving for good and tells her to kill herself as a final adieu. Then Donovan’s off to suck street junkie blood and even makes it pretty far down the pier. But his escape is quickly curtailed by Ramona Royale, the stunning Angela Bassett, who deposits him in her car trunk. As seems to be a lifelong pattern for Donovan, he’s helpless and back in the clutches of a powerful woman.
Next Alex shows up at the Cortez bar and tells John he needs to give up his obsession with control. Might as well have a drink, she suggests. Then Alex hands him divorce papers and says it’s time to move on. John drops to the floor and says he’s not OK and there’s something wrong with him. She has to stay. The scene shifts to Will Drake and The Countess talking in sensual riddles and then kissing until he’s hard beneath her, even though he’s allegedly gay. Of course, Tristan then takes that opportunity to interrupt -jealous as can be. The Countess leaves a mystified Drake on his own to manage the tentpole in his pants and powwows with her douche loverboy in another room. She shares her diabolical plan with him. Having lost all her money to Madoff, she’s gotta marry Drake and get all his money before she can kill him. Tristan will go along with this plan as long as The Countess includes him. Meanwhile, in a parallel scene Alex tries to relax the distraught John and he manages to entice her with some smooching but then ruins it and turns her cold when he wants to “make another baby,” so she leaves. Out in the Cortez hallways Alex sees Holden, who looks up at her and says, “Hi, Mommy,” but it’s eerie and terrible instead of sweet.
Ramona gives Donovan a blood transfusion to get the junkie blood out of his system. So, while he’s hooked up to the blood boosting machinery Ramona relates her glamorous backstory. A whirlwind career as a blaxploitation actress in the 70s and The Countess’s longtime girlfriend paints Ramona as an intriguing sex maven. The Countess and Ramona paired up in the 70s and stayed a duo all the way through the 90s. But then Ramona met and fell in love with Mo – a hip hop/rap star that Ramona turned into that special Countess brand of vampire all on her own. So, The Countess had to destroy Mo. She’s gotta be the only Queen Vampire creator in town. Now, Ramona’s found her perfect time for revenge and she’s back in the Queen’s town and hellbent on destroying those child vampires at the Cortez. She enlists Donovan’s help. He then admits The Countess dumped him and rips a snag into her plan. Thus, Ramona’s not interested in Donovan anymore. Sayonara, pretty boy.
Meanwhile Sally’s helping out Iris with a lethal dose of drugs after making her promise not to, “haunt my hallways, bitch.” Donovan then returns to the hotel and sobs his sad story at the bar, no job, no home, no girl, etc. Elizabeth Taylor, the remarkable Denis O’Hare, serves him moonshine and reminds Donovan that nobody will ever love him as much as his mother, Iris. Back in Sally’s room, Iris isn’t dead yet because the drugs aren’t working. So, desperately seeking Iris’s demise, Sally puts a plastic bag on her head and ties it tight then sits across the room to put her legs up and smoke with her back facing the dying Iris. Then Donovan knocks on the door but it’s too late… his mother’s dead. He can’t have that now that he realizes he needs love. He saves Iris with the vampire virus. Now the mother Donovan hates will live forever. But at least somebody will love him.
The episode title “Mommy” really cuts straight to the theme of this episode. It’s all about mothering and the love therein with all the potential nightmares that can entail. Alex represents the worst thing in the world, the death of a child. And Iris symbolizes the next worst thing, a child who hates you for bringing them into the world. But the Countess and Ramona also stand strong as archetypal mother figures – just in a much more complicated and messy way, the American Horror Story way.
Lots of Fetchland readers already subscribe to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or even Marvel Unlimited.
… Which begs the question: When you have access to an almost limitless plethora of entertainment options, which ones should you pick?
“What’s Free Wednesday” is a weekly Fetchland feature spotlighting something great to read or watch available on one or more entertainment services. “Free” once you’ve paid for it, if you grok 🙂
Two uniformed police officers sit down across from one another, waiting to order, at a local doughnut shop. Behind them is a window looking out at the parking lot, and, prominently, their defenseless cruiser. Logan Echolls, the show’s admittedly-sometimes-uncontrollably-angry male lead paces up… And then starts bashing the cop car with a baseball bat!
The police take a hurried look out the window, basically snap their necks meeting eyes, then dash off screen (presumably into action outside).
… The scene drops.
Does this scene make any sense?
Why did Logan do that?
Before you can finish processing the straightforward-yet-utterly-confusing action that just occurred you realize the truth: Bashing a cop car in doughnut shop parking lot makes plenty of sense if you’re trying to get thrown into jail. Awfully efficient, in fact.
The camera cuts to a local jail cell, where a pair of sexual predators lounge, bruised, waiting for trial. One of their intended victims was Logan’s best girl, the eponymous Veronica Mars. This second mini-scene ends with Logan flexing his fist in the foreground.
We’ve seen everything we have to.
These two short scenes — back to back — take maybe a minute; and together kind of sum up everything I like about my all-time favorite television show. The storytelling is super tight… Like I said, it takes maybe a minute. You’re confused, or at least disoriented, for a sec… But then it all makes sense (and no one has to explain anything to you, or even say a word). Most of all, it’s so completely unexpected (but, again, makes perfect sense contextually). It’s Veronica Mars in a single bite.
If you aren’t familiar with Veronica Mars, it’s basically Nancy Drew… If Nancy Drew were an asshole. Veronica is a young female detective (in high school in the first two seasons, college in the third), who solves cases and kicks up trouble. She is nominally the “hero” of the show, but one of the things I love about it is that while she pulls for the underdog… She isn’t all that squeaky clean. Veronica is a master manipulator, often solving her problems via blackmail or somehow getting leverage on her enemies or even allies. She works with a dangerous biker gang, is constantly humiliating the local constabulary, and can’t ever seem to do what her dear old dad asks.
She is a blue collar girl in a wealthy town, so there is a powerful undercurrent of class in the storytelling, about how wealth and privilege can swallow up justice, but also about how wealth and privilege are no guarantee of happiness. If you like Downton Abbey there might be something for you here.
But I think I fell in love that time Veronica infiltrated a video game club dressing up in a Japanese school girl costume, complete with high socks, necktie, and black wig. Her theory? Her mark there — whoever he was (she didn’t know yet) — would be unfamiliar with any girl who wasn’t “Japanimated”. So she got Japanimated! It is a show that clearly takes a mighty swing at girl power… While being able to laugh at these kinds of tropes and use every part of the buffalo.
While Veronica Mars typically treats one episode at a time, undoing a single injustice each week, each season builds slowly against a larger mystery. Witty dialogue and slow burning, sustained, world building are both strengths of this show; it is very much a “writers'” show, with wordsmiths and fiction fabricators among its most vocal fans. Its guest stars span Paris Hilton, a then-undiscovered Jessica Chastain, and even the Bluth kids from Arrested Development in a very different context. If you fancy yourself discerning — but will still appreciate a young Kristen Bell in a plaid miniskirt — you’ll probably like Veronica Mars.
BDM and I talk about television quite often on the Top 8 Magic podcast; one of our listeners — many years ago — suggested I try Veronica Mars after downloading one of those tv chats. Taking him up on his recommendation is one of my favorite things I ever took away from the podcast experience. I can’t recommend any show more highly… Plus, it’s free on Amazon Prime!
[For The Bastard Executioner‘s “Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
FX Summary: Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen Wilkin and Lady Love come to grips with condemning an innocent man to death.
“Gawain Maddox was an executioner killed in service to your husband. I am one of the hooded bandits he pursued.”
So begins the confession of Wilkin Brattle, the eponymous Bastard Executioner, to Lady Love Ventris.
Love takes it shockingly well (especially given the fact that she’s been slowly falling for the ostensible commoner since almost the second episode).
Wilkin tells her, explicitly, some of the things we’ve been piecing together since the Pilot. He was a knight in Longshanks’s army; his commander — Ventris — sent Wilkin and his legion into a deliberate ambush. Wilkin survived, and fled into Wales where he took up another life.
Why is he confessing, and to Love, at this point?
Mayhap we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
At the outset of “Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen” a rebel is brought to Castle Ventris, to receive “a death most agonizing” … The rebel is responsible for the death of Lady Pryce! A rebel, he was ordered to murder Lady Pryce by none other than the Wolf… A thick-waisted, red-bearded bear of a man.
We know, of course, from “Piss Profit/Proffidwyr Troeth” that none of the rebel’s story is true; Wilkin is the one who burned Lady Pryce to death (even if he didn’t intend to), and we know that the Wolf is anything but thick-waisted and red-bearded. The rebel is taking the fall for Lady Pryce’s death for some reason other than actually being guilty. It turns out he was headed to debtor’s prison — a debt that would have taken three generations to clear — and that if he takes the fall for Lady Pryce’s murder it secures the future of his family in Castle Ventris.
“You use his life as currency?”
Wilkin finds Vampire Bill’s behavior here deplorable.
It isn’t just a question of this week’s unsavory execution. All kinds of stuff goes down in Ventrishire throughout “Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen”.
The Archdeacon of Windsor remains at Castle Ventris. He gathers up prisoners, conscripts the chapel, and uses it to rip off prisoners’ shirts, looking for “heretical marks” (tattoos, like the ones Annora has). He finds none.
Understandably, Father Ruskin wants to know what’s going on in his chapel, and the prisoners are mum. Berber tells him the Archdeacon was 1) looking for heretical marks, and 2) told everyone to stay quiet or the heretical marks would appear. They both know the heretical marks in question are quite literally tatooed on Annora. So, Berber asks the priest to warn her in the caves. Though the Archdeacon and his men are sworn to Christ… “they serve another.” Of course they’re overheard, and Ruskin will inevitably be followed.
The knights of Ventris (with Toran and Wilkin in tow) attack a nomad — NOT REBEL — camp… And do some murdering. One of the knights kills a woman in her tent, and plants the daffodil-and-dagger rebel mark on her. One of the knights responsible for the grisly events of the Pilot is killed by nomads; Toran and Wilkin are terrified that Corbett will blame them and take revenge on their loved ones.
Back at Castle Ventris, the twins approach Wilkin and tell him to meet Love in her bedchamber. Isabel tells Wilkin that the twins don’t serve Love… “I’m surprised those giggle wenches aren’t already warming Corbett’s bed,” before she dismisses him.
But while Wilkin was at Love’s, that gave Corbett the chance to strike. Calo, prisoner in the yard, is first ambushed, then beaten to death by Corbett, who puts the murder weapon in the hands of a nearby sleeping yard boss. Before he kills Calo, we learn a bit about Corbett’s childhood. He was the favorite plaything of a deranged halfway house manager, who called him Little Lamby as he sent his “gnarled meat into [Corbett’s] innocent bottom.” Well, that explains at least some of it!
The death of a friend (and all the other stuff) on his heart, Wilkin attempts to turn himself in and take responsibility for the death of Lady Pryce. He confesses to Love. It’s he, not the supposed rebel, who should be put to death. Wilkin has no interest in yet another innocent person being “punished” at his hands.
The next two things that happen are either quite surprising or completely telegraphed depending on your level of cynicism. First off, Wilkin and Lady Love lock lips. Then Wilkin tells”his Love” he had a vision of a boy child he believes to be theirs. But presumably the boy child will never come about given Wilkin’s confession. He asks for a few moments of reprieve before the end and goes to Jessamy in order to give her what she’s wanted since the second episode. He tells her she’s a good woman, a good wife, and a good mother. Then a millisecond after smooching Love, makes sweet love to his fake-wife.
First base and home run out of the way, Wilkin makes his way to the torture chamber and tears Petra’s cross from the Reeve’s neck, rallies Toran, and looks to be about to finish killing everyone he’d set sights upon. Until Love comes in, orders everyone to put down their swords, and calls the swordplay “a foolish boys’ test of virility” which appears to be medieval slang for dick-measurement. But not before Toran calls Wilkin “Wilkin” in front of the opposing knights. Love’s respite or no, the jig is officially up across the board.
Back at Annora’s caves, Father Ruskin warns the woman — covered in the heretical marks; which are not heretical at all, but presumably angel-speak.
The Dark Mute stands guard, all covered in his Teutonic Knight gear; we learn a little bit about him, and he still isn’t mute. It seems that there will be a four- or even five-on-one battle impending (depending on how useful Father Ruskin and Annora are), but that awaits in another episode.
“Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen” ends with the rebel drawn and quartered at Wilkin’s signal. If you’ve never seen a man’s arms and legs torn from his body by horses running in opposite directions, “Behold the Lamb/Gweled yr Oen” can help you check that one off the old bucket list.
The biggest questions remaining are:
Now that basically everyone who matters knows Wilkin is Wilkin… What does that mean for his position?
How is Annora going to get out of being found out by the Archdeacon’s men?
This is a Kurt Sutter show so it is unlikely the Dark Mute is just going to kill them all.
How about Love’s fake pregnancy and Corbett’s machinations at marrying her to Pryce? Corbett, at least, knows the “Baron was barren” and no heir is currently gestating in the Baroness…
[For Scream Queens‘ “Seven Minutes in Hell” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Seven Minutes in Hell In an attempt to protect herself, Chanel makes a decision that puts Zayday in a position of power.
The episode opens on the vote for Kappa house president. When it’s a tie Chanel rushes off to weep in her closet… but this turns out to be a fake tantrum because she too voted for Zayday. It seems Chanel doesn’t like being the top target for the Red Devil as Kappa Prez. Let Zayday die in her place kinda thing. So, then Chanel says screw the tie and formally declares Z acting president. Zayday throws a slumber party to celebrate and she’s even got reasons. She cites two inevitable truths for every slumber party: someone will experiment with lesbianism (Number Three) and secrets will be revealed. Number Three immediately demands that they play spin the bottle so her fantasy can become real. When Number Three then kisses Predatory Lez (Sam) they finally arouse their mutual lust. So, Z was right about one of the slumber party inevitabilities anyway.
Then somehow the Kappa house doors and windows suddenly lock solid and they’re all stuck inside playing spin the bottle with no “dickies” around and the two lesbians already paired off. Chanel explains that a few weeks before she had Chad turn the whole house into a panic room with a failsafe security system so they can all be safe inside from the Red Devil. So, somebody must have flipped the switch and locked the system. Hester points out it’s also a great way to kill them off one by one as they have no means of escape. Then the lights go out.
Meanwhile at a frat house intervention Chad gets mocked for sleeping with the Dean and a security guard (Denise) because it’s super weird to sleep with so many oldies. Though he says the sex with fossils was awesome, Chad makes a solemn promise to focus on screwing only popular girls from now on, especially Chanel even though she cries a lot when they do it. Then the frat bros decide the best next steps for them to re-establish their manhood is a panty raid at the Kappa slumber party. It’s on like Donkey King and even better Chanel calls Chad begging him to come save Kappa – princesses locked in a sorority house. He’s like we’re headed that way anyway and takes this opportunity to confess to sex with the Dean and Denise. Then Chad and his bros break into Kappa easily. But the Red Devil, right outside, promptly axes their armless frat brother, Caulfield Mount Herman. The rest of the frat bros managed to get inside Kappa house before doing “all they can to show Caulfield the dignity of watching him die.”
Then it’s pep talk time at Kappa as Zayday – belly ring glinting in the moonlight – convinces a panicked Grace they can overcome their current problem. They just have to stick together and stay strong, blah blah blah etc. Meanwhile she’s talking about playing a game of Truth or Dare with some sorority girls, not climbing Everest. They plan to try to find the killer using Truth or Dare because everybody knows that nobody ever lies playing such a sacred game. Chad sputters out a lecture series about how INDEED you really truly honestly can’t lie. Fer sher they’re gonna find the killer this way.
Tension rises during Truth or Dare when Grace asks Sam what Number Three’s deepest secret is and Sam reveals Charles Manson is Three’s father at the same time Number Three says she’s got sexy urges for Sam. Two cats out of the bag in one shot. Out of anger Number Three then dares Sam to go sit in the spooky secret basement bathtub. Sam apologizes for exposing Three’s Manson family secret as she heads for the tub. Once there, the Red Devil knocks her down and Sam says, “Show me who you are first,” so, the Devil takes off their mask but we don’t see. Sam says, “I knew it was you,” then the Red Devil puts the mask back on and a plastic bag over Sam’s face, pulling it tight.
Chanel then interrupts Hester hitting on Chad in the kitchen for the millionth time and reacts with a spectacle for everyone at Kappa to make note that she and Chad are doing Seven Minutes in Heaven together. They start making out in a closet but barely begin before she says she wants to be girlfriend/boyfriend again… only Chad can’t have sex with anyone else. He has to pinky swear. So, because Chanel’s super gullible and her Dad’s uber rich, Chad pinky swears yes – mainly because she’s so easy to trick. Just then we hear Hester scream. She’s discovered Sam’s dead body in the bathtub. Chanel immediately accuses Hester of being the killer and they all agree it’s suspicious so they’ll lock her in a closet for now.
Meanwhile Number Five makes out with hot-but-boring Roger (brother of the recently deceased Dodger) but then the Red Devil rushes in and nail guns his pretty face to death. The Devil spares Number Five but she’s totally ungrateful and starts screaming while clutching her tiny tiara as the Red Devil slips away. Her screams bring the rest of the crew up to her room so now they all accuse her of being the killer. Grace throws some logic into the mix that none of them could have done it. Then Chanel accuses Grace’s puppy dog, Pete. He’s been gone all night, after all and isn’t that super convenient?
Then with all those accusations out of the way they discover a trap door leading to a hidden tunnel system in the closet and climb down into it. The tunnel is lined with portraits of all the previous Kappa presidents and Chanel explains the history of each one to Zayday. Chanel knows an AWFUL LOT about the tunnel. Then the Red Devil shows up with an axe for each of them and the chase is on. Just as Devil’s about to decapitate Zayday, Chanel saves her with a blow to the back of the killer’s head. When Zayday points this out to Chanel afterward, Chanel says saving her was purely selfish. No way Chanel could survive the Red Devil without allies, she claims. Saving Zayday only to sacrifice her later seems to be the idea…. Chanel’s in survival mode.
In the final scene of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” Kappa house is unlocked and yet another investigation is underway. Dean Munsch finally found her scapegoat in Kappa house and says she’s ready to declare that as long as students and faculty aren’t involved in any way with Kappa, they’re safe. Wes arrives to say he’s going to take Grace away and keep her safe but she says she won’t go. Then he gives up ridiculously quickly. Grace gets a text from Puppy Dog Pete that he’s suddenly available to make out – suspicion creeps onto Grace’s face. Then Chanel Three and Five cry on each other’s shoulders that the last people they made out with got killed right after. They pep talk each other and make a pact to outlive Chanel. Lastly, all the Kappa girls celebrate still being alive with a dance party. Chanel got them each a set of custom made pink nunchucks and it’s time to get down to Modern English singing Melt With You as the Red Devil watches from just outside Kappa House.
The jokes were flying fast in this episode, especially between Chad and Chanel about how much the each hate having sex with the other. Because they’re so over the top, Chanel and Chad are the most clearly defined and funny characters. We know what they’re going to say and do – no surprises and lots of laughs. Meanwhile the other characters remain in various formative stages but Grace and Zayday are clearly the buddy hero team with their main goal simply being to catch the Red Devil killer. Grace has Daddy issues baggage and Pete the Puppy Dog up her butt half the time and Zayday’s a little power hungry but otherwise they’re pretty standard buddy detectives. For many reasons we know these two aren’t the killers.
So, let’s go out on a limb this time and say the killer is team Chanel and Chad. These characters aren’t going anywhere – they’re locked into this storyline like the sorority girls stuck in Kappa House. Also both could easily get minions to do their dirty work: pretending to be victims of the Red Devil, playing the Red Devil, or providing an alibi. What’s their motive? Not sure, but it’s probably a sex thing since they both seem so frustrated.