Discussion! Fulcrum and All That Went Right with ‘Star Wars Rebels’


What follows contains spoilers for season 1 of Star Wars Rebels.

I’ll admit it–I got awfully nervous when, just a minute into the episode “Droids in Distress,” R2-D2 and C-3PO rolled onto the scene.  My brain immediately ramped up with cynical questions, like “How, in a giant galaxy such as this one, do the same two droids appear everywhere?”  I was worried that, like some of the earlier material in the newly-minted Star Wars canon, Star Wars Rebels was going to be prone to cameos and other forced sorts of storytelling practices and get in the way of developing other interesting characters and situations in the galaxy.

I was worried that “Kid, I’m about to let everyone in on the secret” was going to be as good as Rebels got, which was believable, because that was an outstanding moment, especially considering how early in the story that it came.

Fulcrum 1

“Concentrate all fire on…the JEDI.”

It wasn’t long before I’d dismissed my cynicism.  The great moments that the first season of Star Wars Rebels offered were plenty:

  • The Inquisitor’s sprung-trap monologue after breaking our hearts, and assuring us that Master Luminara was, tragically, well and truly dead;
  • Sabine and Hera’s standoff at the fuel depot against the frynocks;
  • the construction of Ezra’s lightsaber;
  • Yoda, but not Yoda;
  • the lightsaber duel and dialogue between Kanan and the Inquistor in “Fire Across the Galaxy”.

These moments weren’t just great show moments; they were great Star Wars moments, moments in which good triumphed over evil, in which the will to survive drove heroes onward, in which masters and students traded knowledge and experience to seek better ends.  It had the texture of an older Star Wars story, and with its Firefly-like cast makeup and carefully regimented cameos, the whole thing felt at least as true to the source material as anything released since the 1980’s.

But when Ahsoka Tano descended the ladder of the Ghost and revealed herself as Fulcrum at the conclusion of “Fire Across the Galaxy”, something that had never happened before in the saga’s history occurred.

Fulcrum 2


It was hard for me to find the words to describe that something until after I’d watched the episode a few times.  That first time, I had the same reaction that most viewers who have followed the franchise almost certainly had when they realized it was her: part joy, part surprise-that’s-not-surprise (the best kind), part “I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO WAIT FOR MORE OF THIS STORY!”  It’s probably not quite the feeling my mother described upon watching The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, but it’s as close to it as a 33-year old like me is going to get, for now.

What makes the appearance of Ahsoka Tano different from other cliffhangers in the history of Star Wars is that it is the first moment in which the context of both the classic trilogy and that of the prequel trilogy felt like they were well and truly part of the same wonderful narrative.  The tone of Star Wars Rebels is unquestionably closer to that of the classic trilogy, from the show’s title, to its use of never-before-depicted-except-as-a-toy vehicles, to its soundtrack, to its cameos.  That probably gets some of us past the cynicism about Star Wars that has become more prevalent in recent years, but I think there’s more to it than that.

The varied responses with which most Star Wars media has been met since May of 1999 fall into a few basic camps:

  • too much explanation;
  • silly allegorical moralizing;
  • shoddy writing;
  • lack of adventure;
  • poorly-conceived characters;
  • pseudo-science;
  • shoddy writing.

Regardless of those criticisms, the Clone Wars-era stories had some great moments, as well, and some great characters.  While they’ll not be universally adored like the classic trilogy, the prequel trilogy and its television show, The Clone Wars, are part of the new canon and, like it or not, have shaped where Disney and the Lucasfilm Story Group can and will take the franchise into the future.

Fulcrum 3

The slaying of Tal Merrik was one of the most indicative scenes of Anakin’s future as Darth Vader that any of the prequel stories gave us.

They certainly seem to be up to the task.  Filoni, Kinberg, Weisman, and Beck seem to be in control of where Rebels comes from, as well as where it’s going.  It provides the longsuffering with some closure on Ahsoka’s fate, as well as lays the foundation of how the crew of the Ghost will factor into the Rebel Alliance that first appeared on screen 38 years ago.  The turmoil of the Clone Wars and the furtive hope of the Rebellion co-exist within Star Wars Rebels to fully represent, and expand upon, both eras.

After wrapping up the plots from season 1, the last five minutes of “Fire Across the Galaxy” cemented and reaffirmed all of that. Bail Organa’s blockade runners appeared to save the day, he confirmed the existence of other Rebel “cells” (in desperate need of “alliance”), Ahsoka returned from her exile gloriously, and then, as if all that wasn’t enough, the Dark Lord of the Sith made a steely, wordless descent from a shuttle ramp to do what he does best.  We’ve never seen that synthesis before with Star Wars, and maybe not in any imaginative universe on a scale as large as this.

Star Wars Rebels is thus a new application the best type of storytelling: measured, exceptionally well populated and written, and with a tone that somehow indicates all of the strengths of the franchise, and none of its shortcomings.  The blend of the old and new Star Wars into a cohesive, whole myth respects its past and reinvigorates our long-established love of its future as we head toward December, towards season 2, and the future of Disney’s patronage over the galaxy far, far away.

I’m not one to speculate much, but there are a few things that I’d be over the moon to see in season 2:

  • Fulcrum 4

    “You are all that remains of their religion.”

    The reunion of Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano.  One would recognize the other.  One wouldn’t.  The dramatic irony would probably cause me to explode.

  • More about Hera’s history.  She makes a small appearance in The Clone Wars, as well.  She’s the small child that appears in the episode “Supply Lines” that focuses on her father, the revolutionary Cham Syndulla, and his relationship with the Republic and the Jedi Council.  To see that aspect of her character developed further would be and outstanding use of an episode or two.
  • Ezra’s development as a Jedi Padawan.  Because their fire has gone out of the galaxy.
  • Kanan’s rise to Jedi Master.  From “Spark of Rebellion” to “Fire Across the Galaxy,” his character has become more familiar a Jedi figure than many, longer-established characters.  After the release of six or seven issues of Star Wars: Kanan from Marvel comics, that part of the story should get even more interesting.
  • The construction of the Death Star.  This gets alluded to more in the tie-in novel A New Dawn, so there’s a chance its construction could affect the fates of our Rebels.

There’s so much to look forward to in the Star Wars universe in 2015, and nothing more so than the release of The Force Awakens.  But Rebels is Star Wars to its marrow, and its unique marriage of the old and new has done the improbable: it has merged the two eras with its terrific characters, balanced storytelling, outstanding cast, and superb tone, and season 2 will be a welcome prelude and counterpart to the new film in no small way.

–  Vandal


Discussion! ‘The Man in the Yellow Suit,’ Part 2


What follows contains spoilers for season 1 of THE FLASH.

Before we get to the spoiler-y stuff let me say:

In my previous post I predicted that Wells would be shown as the Reverse Flash.  That’s one in a row!

The Weather Wizard is the star of an upcoming episode.  When they killed Clyde Mardon in the pilot episode I said Clyde was not the Weather Wizard.  The true Weather Wizard was either Mark or Marco depending on your Flash and that we’d eventually he’d try to avenge his brother.  Welcome aboard, Liam McIntyre, THE WEATHER WIZARD!

I have no idea what they plan to do with Grodd, but I hope it centers on his controlling General Eiling, all the toys he brings with him, and a war of domination on Central City.

Eventually someone in authority will find out STAR Labs has a super powered jail cell beneath it holding a number of people who’ve never stood trial.  Hilarity will ensue.  It’ll be even better if a Grodd-controlled Eiling orders the release of the super criminals and wages war on the Flash.  Season 2 beckons!

Ok, enough spoiler space.  Time to talk about what’s really important…

Yellow Suit 2.1

Oh. Yeah.

In The Matrix: Revolutions (go with me here), Agent Smith – a computer program – leaves the Matrix and inhabits the real world body of “Bane”, one of the other people freed from the Matrix.  While Bane’s body remained the same his consciousness was different – the original man was replaced by the consciousness of Agent Smith. To look at him you’d never know the difference but once Neo looks at him – looks through the meat and bone – he sees that it’s Agent Smith on the inside.  When defining “who” someone is, the shell is irrelevant. It’s the consciousness that matters

We know that shell of Harrison Wells is the Reverse Flash.  Despite this reveal – and it was a great reveal – we still don’t know who Harrison Wells truly is on the inside.  Here are some of the internet’s best guesses as to who is Harrison Wells on the inside?  Is Harrison Wells:

  • Eobard Thawne (Reverse Flash) time travelled back to the past?
  • Hunter Zolomon (Zoom) time travelled back to the past?
  • A future version of Barry Allen travelled back to the past?
  • Barry Allen from an alternate Earth?
  • Metron of the New Gods?
  • Abra Kadabra come back from the 64th century?

See what I mean?  Even though we know Harrison Wells is the Reverse Flash WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHO HE IS.

I’ll list what we do know about Wells and see if that helps. We know that Wells:

  • has the powers of the Flash while in the Reverse Flash suit;
  • super-speed powers are spotty while not in the Reverse Flash suit;
  • uses the tachyon device to collect the Speed Force;
  • will kill (Simon Stagg);
  • will remove Barry’s enemies who know Flash’s secret identity – Girder (freed by Wells, killed by Blackout), General Wade Eiling (hand-delivered to Grodd);
  • has access to advanced technology including a sentient computer (Gideon) and a newspaper from 2024;
  • is a widower. His wife was named Tess Morgan and she died in a car crash several years ago; and
  • knew Barry was destined to be the Flash (watched the video of Barry being struck by lightning).

Summed up what we know for sure that Wells

  • will do anything to protect the Flash;
  • drove Barry into becoming a hero;
  • convinced Joe that Barry being a hero is for the best;
  • is driving Barry to get faster and faster; and
  • is concerned with a future “Crisis”.

Sum it up and what does it mean?  A driven scientist who will do anything knows an accident creates a hero.  I do not think it’s a stretch to say that Harrison Wells caused the accident that created the Flash on purpose. Now, we know for 100% sure Wells is the Reverse Flash but we are not 100% sure that Wells killed Nora Allen.  I will go on the assumption that Wells is the Reverse Flash who killed Nora.  We won’t know for sure until that scene is shown at Flash speed in its entirety. If it turns out that he didn’t, I’ll do another post about it.

So why? Why would Wells go back in time and kill Nora Allen?  Because to create the Flash two things need to happen:  Barry’s mother needs to die (giving him the lifetime of motivation) and the and the lightning bolt needed to strike him and bathe him in the chemicals (giving him the powers).  Wells almost certainly caused the STAR labs events. It makes sense that he caused the other as well.

But why? Why is Wells so insistent on creating the Flash?  I think the answer lies in two things:  The “Crisis” in the future newspaper and the fate of his wife, Tess Morgan. For the record, I come up with my own theories but the idea of Wells’ wife being a driving force was not my idea – a tip of the hat to Blaine Pardoe for that lead.  I expanded on what we talked about, Blaine.

What motivates Harrison Wells?

From the future newspaper we know that on April 25th 2024 the Crisis ends and the Flash goes missing. From Wells reaction to the future newspaper having no references to the Flash when Blackout steals Flash’s powers we know that the Crisis – and a successful outcome – is important to Wells. But as I laid out above, Wells is a “bad guy”.  What would make Wells care so much about the Crisis? His wife could.  I think Wells stake in the Crisis is tied to Tess Morgan.

The simplest theory is that during the Crisis, Flash was one second too slow in saving Wells wife and that’s why Wells went back in time  – to push the Flash to be better so he’d save Tess. That’s possible but I have another theory.

I don’t think Wells wife died in the early 2000s as he claimed.  I don’t think she died in the Crisis either.  In fact, I don’t think she died at all.

I think Harrison Wells wife is really Dr. Tina McGee, the scientist at Mercury Labs who built the tachyon device stolen by Reverse Flash / Wells.  When you see them in their police station scene they clearly know each other but more than that – they talk like they have a long history.  In fact, when Barry threatens to expose some things going on at Mercury labs, McGee responds by saying Barry is very much like Harrison.  The disdain in her voice is EXACTLY how a ticked off wife would talk to her husband.  Bank on it. She’s Tess Morgan.

Something happened during the Crisis – perhaps Harrison somehow causes the Crisis – but somehow Tess Morgan is thrown into the past.  She assumed the name Tina McGee (conveniently using her same initials).  “Harrison” (whoever he truly is in the year 2024) taps into the Speed Force.  He travels into the past to rescue Tess but they exist now before the Speed Force has been created.

Yellow Suit 2.2

Nice to meet you, Mrs. Wells.

She blames Harrison for this predicament.  Neither of them can get home because travelling forward requires more power than they have available. The only person capable of creating the power levels they need is Barry.  Harrison creates STAR Labs and engineers the events that lead to the “anomaly”. Harrison realizes that the lightning bolt is only half of the “Flash Creation Equation”. He uses what little speed force he has collected to travel back in time again and kills Nora Allen, setting Barry on his fateful path.

In my last post I posited that Barry and Reverse Flash would fight “through time” and that part of that fight would take place on the night Nora is killed.  Barry now knows he will time travel and fight the Reverse Flash when Nora is killed.

I could see Barry figuring out it’s Wells that murdered Nora and attacking him setting off the very events that lead to her death.

I can also see a Flash / Reverse Flash fight – a fight engineered by Wells – in the particle accelerator causing the very anomaly that creates the “accident”

Geez but this time travel stuff is fun, isn’t it?

Now that I’ve laid out what I think is going on let’s go back to the beginning:  Who is Harrison Wells?

It may be easier to describe who does not fit this story:

Metron is a New God.  Wife problems are beneath him. It was a nice theory for a moment, but no.

Abra Kadabra seeks adulation and applause.  Wells hasn’t sought anything like that since STAR Labs blew up.  He’s out

An Alternate Earth Barry and a Future Barry would likely still have some semblance of Barry’s big heart and heroic streak.  Wells has shown himself to be conniving and manipulating.  Not big hearted and heroic. They are both out.

That leaves Hunter Zolomon and Eobard Thawne.

As I said in my last Flash post, I think they have merged the two attitudes into the body we call Harrison Wells.  The question is which personality is the dominant one. WHO IS HARRISON WELLS?

The answer is Thawne.

Zolomon was a cop with a troubled past who gains powers by accident. Thawne is a future scientist who gains his powers on purpose by replicating the events that create the original Flash.  A scientist who gains powers on purpose?

While my new thoughts on the role of his wife and the Crisis change Wells’ motivation, I think the core of my original thought remains true.  Harrison Wells is really Eobard Thawne.  He recreates the Flash’s powers but something goes wrong (The Crisis???) and he winds up in the past having to create his greatest enemy in order to save his wife and return to the future. The story elements of insert Hunter Zolomon’s “Make Flash a better hero” characteristics are worked into his personality as Wells needs to create and build the Flash but underneath…under the meat and bone…lurks Eobard Thawne.  The Reverse Flash.

What do you think fans? I’m willing to listen to any argument for or against.  Lets hear it!

–  Vrin

Review! The Strain, Ep. 1.12: ‘Last Rites’ [Spoilers]


We open at the Stoneheart group with Eichorst visits a dying Eldritch Palmer who’s demanding the Master change him into a leader level vamp.  “He’s the Master. He does or he does not

The Crew (Setrakian, Eph, Nora and Fet) return the pawn shop after unsuccessfully attacking the Master.   Setrakian regroups next to his vampiric heart-in-a-glass and we flash back to Young Abraham buying a horse in Albania, 1967.   He returns home to his wife Miriam excited that he’s found the Master.  He rides his new horse to the ruined castle where he believes the Master resides. Lowering himself down a well, he finds a vampiric hidey hole similar to the one he’ll find 37 years later in the NYC subway. Exploring, Setrakian finds a vampire nest! The Master speaks through a vampire telling Setrakian that the sun is setting and he is far from home. Setrakian bolts and finds Eichorst has taken the rope he’d used to lower himself into the well.  Setrakian climbing out of the well only to find his horse disemboweled.  He runs home and arrives to find it empty.  Later, in the darkness, his vampiric wife and kids return and Setrakian is forced to kill them. He “keeps her alive” by taking her bloodworm infected heart with him.  That’s disgusting.  Dutch returns to the pawn shop, surprisingly un-vamped, and she’s brought “a win” with her.  She can hijack the Emergency Alert System to put Eph on every TV and radio station for 30-40 seconds.

Meanwhile, Gus abducts Creem at gunpoint looking for guns and ammo.  They retrieve Creem’s weapons cache from his dockside office where Gus finds out about an interesting “special container” of Creem’s.  Surprise! It houses a bunch of vamps!   Gus gives Creem a gun and though they’re under attack, Creem immediately fires at Gus!   They fight each other and the vamps simultaneously until Gus gets the drop on Creem and knocks him out.  They’re saved from the attack by the Vampire Assassination Squad who kill the attackers, kidnap Gus and leave Creem alone with a vampiric bad-guy pile.


“What the hell just happened?”

Fet and Dutch resume their flirtmance as she sets up the broadcast equipment on the roof where we learn that Dutch’s father got her into hacking. Also, she specializes in passionate, destructive relationships.  Fet thinks these are the best kind.  Is there any way this ends well?  Any way at all?

Eph nervously begins his speech.  He’s from the CDC and he warns of the plague, “this Strain” while he shows Redfern’s autopsy pictures, warns that infected loved ones return to hunt their families and advises that sunlight kills them before being cut off.


The More You Know, starring Dr. Ephraim Goodweather.

As the broadcast finishes, vampires attack the pawn shop!  Rushing into the apartment, the crew finds Gabriel Bolivar stinging MarielaI knew he’d be back!  Fet and Eph attack Bolivar, trapping him as vamps led by Eichorst break through the windows and doors!  The crew retreats to the basement with Fet carrying Mariela!  They gather their guns, knives, swords as the vamps break into the secret lair.  Nora cries over her mother but somehow summons the strength to kill her before she turns. This is incredible! Setrakian leaves his wife’s infected heart behind as they flee.

At Stoneheart, the Master finally visits Palmer and rewards the old man by turning him.  The episode ends with Palmer dancing in the rain….

That was an amazing episode.  They nailed Dutch/Fet’s flirting, Eph’s nervous, over-wordy speech and Setrakian’s loss and resulting passion.  However, the star of the episode was the complexity of Mariela.  The unspoken parallel between last week’s memory disease being treatable and the Strain virus demanding death was simply outstanding and difficult to watch.

What does this week’s parallel between Setrakian’s flashback killing of his wife and Nora’s killing of her mother mean for Eph and Kelly?

This episode:  10/10 – It’s so rare that TV writers get things right.  This episode got EVERYTHING right.  Brilliant.
The Strain:  10/10 – If you’ve missed it up until now binge watch it before next week’s season finale.


Review! The Big Bang Theory, Ep. 8.1:


In case you haven’t heard, The Big Bang Theory has moved to Monday night—because Thursday Night Football has taken its previous berth, which is just fine, even though it gives the DVR a workout, you know, with Gotham on Fox at the same time. (Aside: It will be interesting to see how Mondays go with Dancing with the Stars on ABC, The Big Bang Theory/Mom/Scorpion on CBS, The Voice on NBC, and Gotham/Sleepy Hollow on Fox. How will that turn out?)

That said, BBT returned with two excellent first-run episodes on September 22.  In the first, “The Locomotion Interruption,” we find that Sheldon’s efforts to run away from his problems—e.g., moving away from string theory research, the comic book store’s devastating fire, Leonard and Penny’s engagement, and Amy’s desire to further their relationship by moving in together—have left him pantsless, possession-less, and down to a single sock in train station in Arizona. He raves like a hyper-intelligent lunatic begging for help, but none of his fellow travelers will come to his aid. Finally, he is taken to a police station, where he calls Leonard for help.

Meanwhile, Penny has cut her hair and has an interview to be a pharmaceutical rep for the company Bernadette works for—this likely to fill the void (in her bank account) left by her departure from The Cheesecake Factory to pursue her lackluster acting career full-time. At first, she’s a bit intimidated by the interviewer (wonderfully portrayed by the excellent Stephen Root), but they soon find a reason to bond.


Hurrah! THE BIG BANG THEORY has returned!

Also, Howard—coached by Raj—is dealing with the friendship (or more) that has formed between his mother and out-of-work former comic book store owner Stewart.

This episode is about taking chances and conquering fears, and it is truly funny. Sheldon’s time in the police station alone is worth the price of admission:

    • “There’s lots of books called ‘Sherlock Holmes’, and there’s no books called ‘Officer Hernandez’.”
    • “Sherlock Holmes liked to use cocaine to sharpen his focus. But I’m sure those Cool Ranch Doritos are doing the trick.”

Seeing Penny take on a new role as a pharmaceutical rep is interesting because it (a) makes Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s new haircut really work within the confines of the show—a trivial thing, I know, (b) shows that she’s coming to terms with reality and growing up a bit more, and (c) gives her some interesting screen-time with Bernadette, who’s always a delight.

Sheldon’s relationship with Amy evolves ever-so-slightly in this episode, too, and that’s a real pleasure—since Shamy has become the best TV couple to root for since Caskett. The writers truly know what they’re doing with The Big Bang Theory. The characters have somehow grown—in their careers and in their relationships, yet they still feel familiar and continue to engage.

It’s The Big Bang Theory.  C’mon.

I will be back tomorrow with a review of Monday’s second episode, “The Junior College Solution.”

– Mou

Review! Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: ‘Iron’ [No Spoilers]


After the socks-offknocking twist at the end of Wonder Woman, Vol. 2: Guts, it was always going to be difficult for Azzarello and Chiang to keep the steady, dramatic climb going–the story had to apex somewhere, so it’s no surprise that Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron takes a step back in terms of storytelling quality, especially as it doesn’t really offer a resolution of any kind.  It’s a decent volume with a few good moments, but unfortunately the disconnect between this book and Diana’s personal adventures in Justice League as well as an uneven and anticlimactic conclusion to the “Zola’s baby” story arc move this one further down the backlog than the preceding volume.

WW V.3

New swords, fire and war with gods; just the escape a girl needs after a long day of fighting against an invading Atlantean army.

Azzarello’s writing remains witty and incisive at times, but the plotting in this collection really struggles with pacing.  The heroes’ reaction to the theft of Zola’s baby at the conclusion of Vol. 2 lacks the urgency with which that collection ends, and after some wandering around and meeting of various other Olympians and demigods, a lumbering story forms around the Diana and Lennox’s search for the child.  By turns, the central plot is interrupted with a new adventure in Antarctica (fodder for the “Zeus’ disappearance” arc), some funny scenes with a now-mortal Hera and a surly bartender, and a sparse check-in with Apollo and Artemis.  All of the elements are more or less familiar to the story, though the appearance of an “old god” in the Antarctica plot really seems disjointed with the rest of the story.  I think I see where the story is heading, but the fulfillment of this collection didn’t quite gel with the promise of the previous one.

WW V.3.2

Cliff Chiang’s stylish approach to WONDER WOMAN makes for some of the best sequential art in the New 52, but when others take over for an issue or two, the story loses a lot of that style.

Style-wise, Azzarello doesn’t miss a beat with his script, but Wonder Woman might be the one book in DC’s New 52 that absolutely hinges on its artist’s relationship to its writer.  As I’ve noted before, Cliff Chiang’s pencils fit the setting and the story of this version of Wonder Woman perfectly, but the issue with the art in Vol. 3 is the same as it was in Vol. 1: Blood: when somebody else takes over for Chiang, it’s very jarring, like the whole tone of the book changes in an instant.  Chiang’s covers each present a Diana that we only get when he is at the drawing table, and when he’s not, the story seems less distinct.  At these moments, I read the book faster, found myself flipping forward to see when Chiang returns to work, always glad when he does.  We have yet to see a full collection of Wonder Woman in which Chiang maintains a steady presence, but as he’s a busy man, this likely can’t be helped.

5.5/10 – Vol. 3: Iron isn’t a bad collection, but in comparison to the previous collections of the New 52 version of Wonder Woman it comes across as weaker: its story has a little less direction, its artwork still suggests that there are a few too many cooks in the kitchen, and while much still has to occur in the quest to save Olympus, the twists and turns of this volume slow things down overall.  It’s not worth skipping altogether, but there are other Volume 3 collections from the New 52 that should come first.

– Vandal

Review! The Strain, Ep. 4 – ‘It’s Not For Everyone’ [Spoilers]


Eichorst and Palmer hire a female hacker to “take down the web” for NYCs major corporations. They don’t want pics of what’s about to happen getting out. Can that be done? I guess.

Eph and team begin an autopsy of Redfern.  Among other biological abnormalities, they see his man parts have gone the way of Gabe’s.  However, nothing is more abnormal than the SIX FOOT LONG WORM EPH PULLS OUT OF HIM!! Ugh!

Eph calls this a ‘stinger’.  That seems inadequate.

Eph calls this a ‘stinger’. That seems inadequate.

Anne-Marie, the wife of survivor #3 Ansel, returns home to find Ansel and their dog missing.  Her search leads outside as she finds their dog’s collar atop blood spotted snow and tracks it to their dog whose neck has been torn open.  She finds Ansel has tied himself up in the shed and locked the door. Ansel, in the midst of his vampire change, charges her but tells her to run before he loses control.  She flees in the nick of time.

Flash to Eph’s team, cleaning up the mess that was Redfern.  As they do, Jim admits to Eph and Nora that he let the van with the soil-filled coffin van through the airport.  Eph punches Jim and leaves, Nora right behind him.  They need another victim to confirm what’s happening.  The pair heads back to Emma’s house.

Back to Anne-Marie burying the dog. A nosy neighbor comes by to complain about the growling noises coming from the shed.  He’s had it UP TO HERE and admits to hitting the dog in the past.  Channeling her inner Little Shop of Horrors, Anne-Marie invites the neighbor/jerk to “teach the dog a lesson” in the shed.  He’s obliges, gladly.  She slams the door and lets Ansel enjoy a jerk sandwich. A low, sated growl is Ann-Marie’s reward.

Ansel always liked his meat Jerk style…

Ansel always liked his meat Jerk style…

Gus and his friend Felix steal a car, bring to a chop shop and try to sell it.  “Phones and internet are down”, the chop shop guy says. The hacker’s done her work.

Over to Eldtrich Palmer who gets the news that internet, phones are all dark.  The smarmy Secretary Pierson, of Health and Human Services, enters.  Palmer tells her the army removed the JFK flight bodies because a bio-weapon got loose and convinces her it’s no longer a threat just before collapsing.  That’s sort of the truth, I guess. He wakes up and is convinced he needs a liver transplant.

Eph and Nora arrive at Emma’s house and arrive to hear children’s music playing in the basement. Of course it’s the basement. They descend and find a balding Emma standing in the corner.  She shoots her stinger at the pair a few times before Setrakian, appearing from nowhere, cuts her head off with his walking cane sword.  Emma’s newly risen father appears and tries to sting Setrakian, getting his stinger cut off for his trouble. Setrakian says some cool Romanian phrase and dispatches him.  “Don’t let the worms touch you” he warns.  “Infected have to be killed. There’s no other way”.  Nora can’t handle it; she’s a doctor and used to saving her patients not decapitating them.  Eph tries to convince her but she’s not ready.  “There has to be another way” she says before leaving.  Eph and Setrakian set the house on fire as the episode ends.

Bradley’s portrayal Setrakian is terrific.  His mastery of a serious, no-nonsense delivery is perfect for this role as it’s clear that not heeding Setrakian’s warnings mean death.

10/10The Strain is the best new show on TV. It’s must-see every week. I’m 100% hooked.

Review: Brandon Sanderson’s ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ [Spoiler-free]

The Emperor's Soul

THE EMPEROR’S SOUL won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 2013 and contributes meaningfully to the existing Cosmere.

Be it a thousand-page installment of a 10,000 page epic or a hundred page novella centered on the introduction of a second magic system to an already-existing world, Brandon Sanderson writes better fantasy than anybody else going. The Emperor’s Soul, the 2013 Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, takes on the second of these tasks and through a simple, well-plotted structure and a dynamite conclusion that makes superb use of the newly-introduced Cosmere system of Forging, becomes as deep and engaging a contribution to Sanderson’s universe as any of the other 8 far-lengthier volumes of the series.

Set on the world of Sel of Elantris fame, this volume introduces Shai as a Forger–a person who can interact with an object or person’s ontological history and rewrite it. A old table can become a polished dining surface; an old wall can become a beautiful mural; a dead emperor can, perhaps, live again. This last challenge forms the crux of the novel’s plot as it follows Shai through the circumstances that bring her to the Rose Empire’s seat and make it necessary for her to undertake the most difficult Forging of her young life.

As always, Sanderson’s development of characters and ability to develop and control a plot with several threads remains the novella’s greatest strength. In just over 100 pages, Sanderson introduces another side of Sel we’ve not seen (though he drops a number of hints to assure us of our current position in the Cosmere), a heroine whose personal history becomes instantly intriguing thanks to an opening prison sequence reminiscent of Vasher’s first appearance in Warbreaker, and as always, sequences that make use of the magic system in ways that are as integral to the plot as they are exciting and interesting to read. Its conclusion certainly doesn’t have the emotional payoff that reading a novel from The Stormlight Archive, but that aspect is part of a novella’s nature, rather than a perceived weakness. The final two pages of The Emperor’s Soul carry as much impact as anything he’s written.

In the end, this novella does all of the impressive things that any of Sanderson’s novels do, at a length far more modest. We get a look at another fascinating and well-applied system of magic that absolutely MUST make another appearance, either in a sequel volume to this one or a book that merges these two aspects of Sel. Regardless, The Emperor’s Soul is another remarkable, memorable, distinct, and high-quality contribution to his Cosmere and another warrant to the argument that Sanderson is the best writer of fantasy to come along in decades.

As a novella, and as a Cosmere story that doesn’t inform anything else going on in the larger Shatter-verse at the present time, it’s not the kind of book that demands immediate attention, either on account of its length or its content.  It’s a beautifully written contribution to Sanderson’s body of work, however, and would fit in nicely between any of the lengthier volumes in his impressive collection.

– Vandal