The Good Dinosaur: A Review.

Film: The Good Dinosaur.
Directed by: Peter Sohn.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 100 min.

This is a Pixar-Disney animated “boy and his dog” coming of age, feel good animated film but with dinosaurs and cave boys. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the youngest of a farming Apatosaurus family, loses his father to Disney’s Death-of-parent(s) syndrome while chasing a pesky caveboy varmint. Another encounter between the two causes Arlo to become lost with the cave boy far away from home, and the two have to work together to get Arlo home.

From the technical end of things, we have an interesting juxtaposition of a very cartoonily designed protagonist with some rather realistic blend of scenery and texture and moments of very real moments of physical pain. When Arlo gets hit in the head with a rock, you can almost feel it. The sense of physical presence is always appreciated in a film, if a bit surreal.

The music was refreshingly subdued for a movie from something associated with Disney. If there was any character song numbers in this it likely would have hindered this film, especially given the choice in visuals and a strong technical choice.

Moving on to the character end of things, we have Arlo the main protagonist, who is a bit of a adorkable scardy-dino, yet tries so hard to “make his mark” in his small corner of the world (subtle guys, really *rolls eyes*). His personal journey was interesting to watch, a well done progression of struggle and personal growth worked well through-out his journey back, and Arlo himself is somewhat likable, with Ocha doing a good job with Arlo’s voice, which well wit the main character’s personality, a professional job for his breakout into a big main character role such as this.

Spot the faithful caveboy (Jack Bright) definitely wins the best expressions in this film. We aren’t given much to go on in terms of what his story is, but then again, this is more focused on Arlo, and Spot is the “dog” in this relationship, and not much is expected in terms of character depth for the “dog.” His efforts in keeping Arlo alive was fun to watch, and his design blended better in the rocky outback environment then the dinosaurs’ that inhabited it.

The side characters were fun here and there with the rancher tyrannosaurs family (Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, and A.J Buckley) especially engaging, and the choice to make the antagonists the storm chaser gang of pterodactyls lead by Thunderclap, who was hilarious by the way, more side characters then main protagonist foils was a good choice in this instance. It was very much about Arlo conquering an aspect of himself and that’s where the main conflict should reside, with the storm cult being merely there as incentive for Arlo to overcome himself.

Finally, we move onto the story.

This is perhaps where the movie was somewhat weaker. It wasn’t a bad story, they utilized the overused boy and his dog journey formula well, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a cliché. The premise was promising; the devastating meteorite that many postulate was the reason behind the extinction of the Dinosaurs misses the planet in this reality. Unfortunately the follow through was…well, not bad, but more safe then anything. There was no envelope pushing here, something odd for a Pixar, which at least tries in most of its films whether the execution was good or bad. Here there was nothing overly memorable about the story. It felt like they didn’t really know how to handle the possibilities of the premise, as if they had decided on the relatively safe formula first and the premise second.

The only other nitpick would be that the fact that the caveboy was displaying obvious moments of intelligence and communication with Arlo that should have been reacted to with a great deal more shock or at least some level of surprise, given the fact that the dinosaurs look at these beings as critters worth for killing, eating, or making pets of, in general how humans treat beings with non-sentience. This isn’t the first time that films have done it though, so let’s just throw our hands up in the air on this one and shrug.

Overall, the movie is a decent watch. There is some good animation, some funny and touching moments that really give you the feels, and some decent characters. It is a generally safe film that most ages can watch, if not entirely ground breaking or uniquely memorable, but nevertheless entertaining for an afternoon at the movies.

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Wildfire: A Review.

Film Short: Wildfire.
Directed by: Hugues Opter , Pierre Pinon , Nicole Stafford, Valentin Stoll , Arnaud Tribout and Shang Zhang.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 4.04 min.

This bit of slice of life animation from Goeblin’s animation school is about a firefighter named Ena and her growing fascination with the fire she fights gives viewers a fascinating look at the complex relationship of passion.

There are many different types of passion out there. The romantic passion between lovers, the passion for life, the passion of a calling, etc. it’s all a state of sustained want and/or excitement that drives many individuals in many different and unique ways, both good and bad. This short caught my attention because it displays a moment in the complexities of desire, particularly in the moments that shift from one particular desire to another, evolving on the cusp into obsession, that was explored through the protagonist Ena brilliantly.

The narrative is constructed in such a way that we are clearly introduced to two different aspects of the main character: Ena the family woman, and Ena the firefighter.

Her fascination and desire for the wild beauty of the flames as she fights a forest fire was portrayed in beautiful rolls of purple smoke and red gold sparks and flames as she approaches the conflagration with this enthralled look on her face.

The flames act also as a symbol for the excitement of the harsh unpredictability that being a firefighter gives her, and her passion for her calling, while the staid little flames, the constrained and tamed moments of controlled fire in her daily life through her moments of contemplation of her matches, her cigarette, and the flames of her son’s birthday cake reflect her more staid and controlled existence as a family woman.

What makes this dynamic between Ena the mother and wife and Ena the firefighter, is that she does clearly love her family, it’s just the staid and controlled life that they represent which is what we see her drifting away from. The filmmakers here did a good job in not making the two lives completely polar opposing, cut and dried from each other, each part is well balanced and seamlessly transitioned.

Overall this was great animated short that utilized a very mature and sophisticated understanding of desire, had a good utilization of dynamics between Ena’s family life and career, some good poignant moments, and a definite artistic visual appeal.

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Une Noce en Enfer: A Review.

Film Short: Une Noce en Enfer.
Directed by: Yannick Boireau, Pierre Butet, Magali Garnier, and Clémence Maret.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 2.52 min.

This French animated short produced from the ever popular GOBELINS, l’école de l’image, tells the colorful story of a little girl named Rachelle who takes her pretend play a little to drastically, much to the pets despair.

Let’s start with the technical, because the animation is definitely where this film shines. There is a presence of individual style here, a great tell of thought in the character designs, the colour palate is just the right amount of shades and tones to make everything pop perfectly, just the right amount of exaggeration where it was needed with very smooth movement and excellent pace.

The little girl was delightfully grotesque and cute at the same time, and the actress who played Rachelle worked believably well and was able to portray a great deal of boisterousness. The expressions on the aggrieved rodent and cat were also chuckle worthy, and the chicken playing the wedding march was amusing.

The story, as short as it was, worked its humour well, escalating quickly and entertainingly all the way through the end credits. Some people might have issues with some of the violence in regards to the animals, but then again, this is not meant to be an innocent cartoon. Its good if one is even slightly disturbed by the darker humour as slapstick as it comes across, that’s part of the point of it, a little girl taking things too far.

Overall, this was a brilliant little short with obvious talent going into its production. It had a well-paced plot, smooth well designed animation, and some supreme funny moments.

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The Muppets “To Hot To Handler”: A Review.

Show: The Muppets.
Season: 1.
Episode: “To Hot To Handler.”
Story by: Margee Magee and Angeli Millan.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 20 min.

In this week’s episode we see more relationships being exercised both romantically and friendship-wise as Scooter’s suave dorkiness is irresistible to Chelsea Handler and Kermit’s over protective instincts in regards to Fozzie cause him to interfere in his best friend’s latest romantic relationship.

Here we see another episode that has been utilizing the teaching-a-moral formula of a type like the kind normally found in children’s shows and actually applying this quite well towards adults with some success. Nowadays there is often little in the way of something both entertaining and trying to teach you something overtly that geared towards adults, yet the show has presented a few episodes now in which they do exactly that by presenting a moral story within the foil of The Muppets by using the adult contemporary humour and cinematic styles and mockumentary sitcom genre, worked through the filter of nostalgia of our favorite puppets, an inherent association for any adult that has ever watched TV growing up. Provided that it doesn’t venture into preachiness, this is something I support in a show.

As usual, any extended dialogue between Fozzie and Kermit is the highlight of any episode, especially when one of the two story arcs is centered on those two specifically. Their friendship dynamic is just so fascinating to watch, evidenced in there hash out with each other at the end of the episode which was funny, enlightening, good for character growth, and clever without degenerating into being syrupy hand hold kumbyah-ing.

Denise actually wasn’t bad this episode, which was somewhat refreshing, as there was some good growth for her as a character as well in this episode, and her scenes where she casually reveals her more sorted background of the variety Kermit was looking for in Becky was amusing to witness, and her no-nonsense way of dealing with Kermit actually worked in this episode, peaking her likability up a small notch.

Scooter’s arc was sort of sweet in his initial interactions with Handler and his crush, though that’s quickly lost as the show lays on his character trope a little thick. His conversation with Pepe and Rizzo was mildly amusing, but Scooter was not the strongest part of the show. His best portrayal was in the previous episode where he was boss for a while, utilizing his character trope and challenging and combining it in a situation outside of it; it’s a shame we didn’t see more of that this episode.

Overall, not a bad episode that had some decent Kermit and Fozzie, and Denise moments surprisingly enough, with some good jokes (Dudley and The Electric mayhem in the background), though it suffered from Scooter’s arc somewhat, so not a weak episode, it’s not the strongest one either.

*Episode Promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UsYL1Ve0v0

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Ash vs. The Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 3 “Books From Beyond.”: A Review.

“Boned”, meme using clipart from AVTED, ep. 3.

Show: Ash vs. The Evil Dead.
Season: 1.
Episode: 3 “Books From Beyond.”
Written by: Sean Clements.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 30 min.

The collective squeal of Lawless fans deafens the digital plain this evening as we get our first longer than one minute presence of Lucy Lawless in the opening of this week’s episode as the gang goes to the bookstore for a little story time.

The technical end of things had a more contemporary feel this episode in the special effects that went into the demon that the crew summons to try to get answers, which was not bad for a television show for depiction of a supernatural entity, and was a perfect little sinisterism that rather hearkens back to fond memories of the Silent Hill franchise. Further, The bunch of pickled birds and unborn embryos was also a nice touch for the atmosphere of the store, though why they are their precisely does leave a question mark that will never get answered. Perhaps party treats from Hawkins weekly book club meeting?

From the character end of things, Lawless displays the first instances of good mysterious badassery as Ruby Knowby, doing a decent job of winding the viewers in wondering what her part is in all this is, particularly after her little tete-a-tete with daddy Fork Eye, with a nice edition in a brief bit where she seems to be sensing the book being opened likely miles from her location, seeming to imply some sort of supernatural connection between her and The Evil, which is interesting. Otherwise there wasn’t much else that really stood out character-wise in the episode, which was unfortunate, considering this is where Amanda and the rest of the squad meet up for the first time (though Pablo’s first meeting with her was somewhat entertaining at least).

Another stand-out for the episode was the iteration of the background of the book, which was well portrayed in some well rendered illustration, narrated decently by Hawkins, and the added revelation that someone really stupid or really evil/corrupt could be the only ones to use the book was amusing on part of what it says about Ash, and interesting in part of what it says about Hawkins, though he is not around long enough to benefit much from that. The drawback to this scene, and where viewers are likely rolling their eyes, is the revelation that Ash has to look inside himself to find the answer to stopping it all, rather old hat and overused unless they decided to do something different with it.

Overall not a bad episode, Ruby and the demon being the interesting figures in this episode, and some mildly decent atmosphere in regards to the bookshop (if a little hooky at times), and the first meeting between Amanda and Ash was not as overly interesting as viewers might have hoped, though perhaps somewhat not surprising in how it would play out.

*Episode Promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-OBKqvEgOo

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Jekyll & Hyde Season 1, Episodes 1-3: A Review.

Show: Jekyll & Hyde.
Season: 1.
Episodes: 1-3, “Harbinger”, “Mr. Hyde”, “The Cutter.”
Created and Written by: Charlie Higson.
Running Time: 46 min.
Released: 2015

This ITV British 1930’s period fantasy story is set 50 years after the events from the original The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde classic by Robert Louis Stevenson in which the grandson of the infamous doctor, whom himself is also a Doctor, Robert Jekyll (Tom Bateman) is trying to discover his origins and learn to control his monstrous alter ego amidst a setting of supernatural conspiracy.

This is a rather interesting show in that its neither spectacularly good nor bad, but at the same time has qualities that keep it from tipping into the “Meh” pile, mainly leaving one scratching their head trying to figure out if they liked it and somehow still enjoying it all the same.

From the technical end of things, the special effects are not horrible, but they had some not so impressive moments. For the impressive end, the construction of the Harbinger was rather “WTF?” which is always delightful to be surprised with when watching a television series, and there was some decent, though somewhat standard, fight scenes that were decently choreographed but have yet to demonstrate any sense of realism (no one looked like they were hurting in this), but the lead’s face as he goes about beating the gizzards out of a bar full of drunkards was rather delightful, and you can tell that Bateman was having fun, always a plus when portraying this type of character.

But then you get the overall visual construction of Hyde 2.0, and while the actor does a brilliant job as Hyde, he’s a little too pretty in his Hyde form to be believable.

As for the Lobster armed whatever-it -was monster…yeah, I had Bewitched flashbacks let’s just say, which at this time I don’t know if it’s part of its charm on purpose or part of its problem so early into the season.

The sets were well done, with the architecture and mise-en-scene in general doing an excellent job depicting the period, looking engaging and believable, giving you a good feel for the action they were depicting and the emotion they wished to engender in the viewer for an upcoming scene.

Now for the character end of things, our lead, Robert in his Jekyll personal was not overly well portrayed. He was rather…well, other than the initial Hyde inducing fit and screaming, he was not as real in his emotional reactions to something such as not being quite as devastated by the loss of his entire family to a fire for cheese sake, and though Hyde is enjoyable the first episode and some of the second, by the third, he’s beginning to lose some of his lustre of appeal as a possibly supernatural-esque Id personality that’s been equated with a demon.

As for the main antagonist Captain Dance (Enzo Cilenti), it’s hard to get a grasp on his motivations. Perhaps it’s because it’s still a bit early in the show, he feels a bit too much like being evil for the sake of evil villain type, a sort of one dimensional lack of complexity, much like his femme murderess lackey. His physical construction was interesting, and definitely raises some questions, adding to his mystery which is good, so hopefully they will utilize some of that further in. As for the actor, he did a good job coming across as the amoral apathetic, which is a nice touch in contrast to Jeckyll/Hyde. We will have to see if he develops more as the show goes on.

The side-characters though is where this show shines.

The plucky Hils (Ruby Bental) is a definite A+ fun character as she treads the line between quirky and strong detective-ish type with a good practical intelligence. She stands out uniquely from her fellows, even if there are a few cliché things that are also part of her character (a crazy woman driver? *Slaps hands to face dramatically* how utterly droll!) it’s more her dynamic with other characters that she shines, with her best moment being with Belle (Natalie Gumede ), another strongly performed character, as they try to grill each other while simultaneously trying to drink each other under the table in episode 3. Bental does a brilliant job in her portrayal and has a great voice that fits well with the character.

Ravi (Michael Karim) Robert’s adoptive younger brother, with his own separate story arc in his journey to try to help his brother, is interesting in that at first he came across to much like an eager puppy, but through his own independent adventure is developing into something more, and less predictable, you can’t always tell where he is going to end up or what is going to happen to him. He presents an opportunity for the show to display a character that grows in reaction to the events around him, and the Karim does a good job in portraying the inherent earnestness of his character without being annoying.

The story overall meanwhile is…well, it’s not bad, but there are elements here that have been used a lot, and there are some clichés and tropes that make it a bit difficult to be original (the catalyst for Jekyll to stay in England for example), though the pacing of the plot progression is pretty good, particularly for Ravi.

The secret supernatural enforcing group is manned by some well-acted characters, and present an interesting element of extra conflict for the plot, but they present more like a smaller version of the several other cut out super-secret agencies out there, and didn’t do anything as yet to make them stand out, though they do provide some potential for extra conflict later one for the lead character, and there are some genuinely good characters that is fun to watch, they just need to define the organization more distinctly from the rest.

As you can see, this show has an odd mixed bag of both good and bad qualities so far, making it difficult to pin it down conclusively. Some of the characters are good, particularly the side characters, the time period is portrayed well, and there is some serious talent here, but the more unfortunate special effects, clichés, and tropes, and the unrealistic reactions of the characters to certain scenarios make it difficult to fully like it. Overall I recommend watching it because it is interesting, despite its weak points, and what’s good is good enough to keep you somewhat invested in the show, and thus worthwhile to watch.

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The Leftovers Season 2, “Lens.”: A Review.

Show: The Leftovers.
Season: 2.
Episode: 6, “Lens.”
Written by: Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta.
Running Time: 57 min.
Released: 2015.

In this episode we start to see the fallout of the missing girls and what it might mean as both of the main cast families try to make sense of themselves and each other in the wake of the event.

In this episode, the strength lies in the character dynamic between Nora (Carrie Coon) and Erika (Regina King) as mothers who have lost their children to mysterious circumstances. Erika Dealing with the recent disappearance of her daughter was realistic and fraught with well-developed tension and drama as a figure repressed by the pretend ideal of a loving family out of a sense of guilt that she can’t talk about with her husband due to his intolerance of unusual circumstance/non-normative things. She represents a type of explanation to tragedy that is the more unbelievable, and self-inflicted mentality no matter how ridiculous it may sound to an outsider or doubter in her reasoning, in this case represented by Nora, being aggressive and lashes out at someone who tells her that her belief is wrong.

Nora meanwhile is trying to separate herself from her own tragedy, in no way believing she is at fault for it until she is confronted by the disappearance of the teens within a day of her moving in next door. She believes in the mythos of Miracle, or desperately wishes to, moving her family to the town in an effort to avoid both her past and present problems. The disappearance of the girls forces her into challenging her perceptions and in her anger at the rupture to her own belief, she throws a rock through Erika’s window in a fit of rage.

The beauty of it is that despite the women both containing a certain hard logic to the here and now, they also, contrastly, and hypocritically, have a non-logical belief that drives them. Both emphasize the very real aggression that many people have when their belief systems are challenged, even if they can’t be explained logically to others, a cycle of this particular non-logical based rage coming full circle when Erika returns the favor to Nora’s window when Nora challenges her belief in her fault for her daughter’s disappearance.

The subtext of meaning in this episode was very well couched through Nora and Erika, and applause should be given to the brilliant writers for so well presenting multiple layers of extra social commentary within the overall social commentary, something this show is very well at doing as a hopefully continual running theme.

All in all, a good and interesting episode that utilized its characters, subtext, and themes well, as well as dropping a few little plot bombs to hook viewers into the next episode.

Ash vs. The Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 2 “Bait.”: A Review.

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Show: Ash vs. The Evil Dead.
Season: 1.
Episode: 2 “Bait.”
Written by: Dominic Dierkes.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 30 min.

In the second installment we see Ash and his motley crew sit down to a dinner with a questionable amnesiac and her sweater wearing husband as Ash and Pablo ride to Kelly’s rescue, meanwhile Amanda is closing in on Ash as she tries to figure out what happened during the night she killed her partner.

Oh yes, the glorious slashy goodness was to be had this episode, filled with so much collateral blood spray you can practically smell the stocks rising in Towelette Wipes. Poor Pablo gets splashed so much by blood that one could play a drinking game for every time he’s hit and get properly sloshed before the end credits.

The camera work had some creativity this episode, some nice angle shots and some sort of gun mounted camera shot that added a nice effect to the off kilter atmosphere that this show is saturated in, and the over the top almost 80’s/early 90’s slasher special effects that we also saw in the first episode was continued with a nice creative moment of slashery as Ash gives final notice to his boss.

Pablo also grew on viewers a bit this episode, the character dynamic that is evolving between him and Ash was great to watch, filled with good balance of humour and hero worship, and Pablo armed with his broken bottle beside Ash as they readied for battle was just to precious to behold.

Overall an enjoyable episode with some good Campbelling, perhaps not overly plot rich or character developing, but an enjoyably violent romp nonetheless.

Sorry no Lawless sightings this episode folks.

The Muppets, Season 1 “The Ex-Factor.”: A Review.

Show: The Muppets.
Season: 1.
Episode: 6, “The Ex-Factor.”
Directed by: Randall Einhorn.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 21 min.

Entering episode six of the show and finally we see the return of Kermit’s new girlfriend with a character arc in which he frantically tries to find her a birthday gift, while guest star Kristin Chenoweth (You’re a Good Man, The West Wing, Pushing Daises, Wicked, etc.) meanwhile agrees to a little road trip with The Electric Mayhem.

The strongest parts of this episode had to be the characterizations and some of the dynamics such as Chenoweth who was in top form in this episode, you can tell she was enjoying herself, and worked off the Muppet characters beautifully. Her interactions with the band were hilarious, and were by far the best part of the episode, Ms. Piggy during her reactions to Denise and Kermit was also very entertaining, reflecting a good balance of maturity and revenge on Kermit quite well, and a nice little side moments for cementing Scooter’s character and Uncle Deadly’s (I would enjoy seeing an episode with a story arc with just those two characters).

Getting the Muppets outside of the studio for a large portion of this episode was also well handled, utilizing some of what a pottery barn and a band van in the middle of the dessert could provide; though a part of you wonders exactly where the fictional filming crew of the Muppets lives is sitting during some of these scenes.

The weaker part unfortunately lies in the return of Denise since her conspicuous absence since the first episode in the opening, and this time the creators have given her a bit more of a fleshing out, but other than a decent one-liner delivered to Kermit, which was admittedly funny, the filling out felt rushed and haphazard, and wasn’t particularly helped by her lack of presence since the first episode. I doubt this will cement her or the relationship of Denise and Kermit in the minds of the viewers yet, though Kermit’s uncomfortable position between his current girlfriend and his ex was portrayed quite well on his part. You believe his presence within the awkwardness of this relationship is at least real.

What would work well for Denise’s character is if there was an episode that just had her centered in a story arc of her own, perhaps working as a Marketing representative and less like being there for the sake of Kermit. Another episode sometime after she’s established as an individual character somewhat, can be perhaps an episode with her and Ms. Piggy having to work together directly. While the later may sound a little old hat in terms of it being seen before, there is this needed conflict between the two, both to resolve the plot point, and as a sort of catharsis for those viewers who are not keen on Denise an what she implies in her relationship with Kermit. You can see hints that this episode was trying to do some of that a bit her and there, but not really.

A good episode for laughs, characterizations, and dynamics with some creative scenes and a well set up sequence of events on part of Ms. Piggy, but Denise’s own rounding out as a character could use a bit more work, so a mixed, though enjoyable, episode.

Episode Promo (i laughed a little I admit when I saw this): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5baqZURRhXk

The Leftovers season 2, “No Room at the Inn.”: A Review.

Show: The Leftovers.
Season: 2.
Episode: 5,”No Room at the Inn.”
Written by: Damon Lindelof & Jacqueline Hoyt.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 51-58 min.

Another amazing episode from The Leftovers writing and production staff this season, and arguably one of my favorites so far which centers on Matt Jamison and his latest set of trials yet again as he is confronted with both unexpected news regarding his wife and being unable to get back into Miracle after returning from an annual check-up.

Much like the first season, the Matt-centric episode is filled with the familiar struggle and turmoil that illicit sympathy for this man who never seems to cut a lasting break in his life. The tight sequences of each escalating trial the man is besieged with, commingled with seeming moments of giving the guy a breather from the bad luck only to have it lead to more misfortune, yo-yo’s the viewer in a sense of constant dread about the man’s fate.

The episode does an amazing job of keeping you guessing and gives an excellent catharsis to the episode at very end when he takes to the rack, oddly fitting for this particular character in his personal arc, and at the same time setting a sequence of events into motion for the other characters, particularly in regards to his sister now in an escalating anxious family situation.

There was some decent score choices this episode, displaying the standard fare of superior understanding of conveying extra meaning and plot enrichment with their audio that is part and parcel of this show, particularly this season, tuning the audience spectacularly.

If there was anything negative about the episode, it did have a feel of repeating the success of the last season’s Matt-centric episode formula, but the previous episodes have assured that this isn’t too much of a repeat of the first season, at least not overtly if there is. As long as established growth and progression is displayed for his character and not forgotten in the next season or further into this season, then it shouldn’t be an issue. This was a needed episode plot-wise anyway and well-constructed despite being repetitive in formula.

Overall an enjoyable drama filled episode that added an extra layer of world building, character building, and smartly utilized its technicals and actors to convey both the narrative and moral of the episode splendidly.

*Episode Promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UEZgsaMh8Q

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