Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 5 (Strange Case)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Victoria Mahoney

We’re back with even more of everyone’s favorite gory soap opera!  Last episode found a fun and interesting setup to carry the episode, but sooner or later they’re going to have to make the Sons of Adam stuff be the least bit interesting if it’s what will ultimately carry this show to its conclusion; not to mention how much they have to make up for the utterly dour note that the last episode ended on.  Does the show finally find its footing and give us a cohesive narrative?  Let’s find out!!

We’re going straight to the nitty gritty right off the bat; half this episode is pretty good, some of the other half involving Montrose (Michael K Williams) is pretty underwhelming, and the rest involving Leti and Atticus (Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors) is quite insufferable.  If you’re expecting any real consequences or even acknowledgement of Montrose killing the two spirit woman from the last episode (apparently her name is Yahima while Arawak is her tribe I suppose?), you’re out of luck because Montrose ALSO burned the pages from the Book of Adam they found, and they are discussed with FAR more prominence than her.  Atticus beats the living hell out of Montrose for what he did and spends the rest of the episode sulking while Leti looks concerned which is not a particularly compelling thing to sit thru; especially since the whole purpose of these pages remains vague at best.

Still, as banal as that part of the episode is, it’s more of a subplot occasionally popping its head into a much better primary plot line about Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) which focuses on what this show does best; reframing genre tropes in terms of racial issues and making it both very real and very tongue in cheek.  In case the title wasn’t a giveaway, the episode is more or less a racial exploration of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, and though it’s not the FIRST piece of media to do so, I think it has a bit more going on under the hood than Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde.  Ruby wakes up from her night with William and finds herself in the body of a white woman (Jamie Neumann) which is not how she expected to start the day.  Convinced she’s lost her mind, she throws on a bathrobe and starts wandering the streets of her neighborhood where no one recognizes her and everyone seems slightly on edge that this random white woman is wandering down their streets.  It turns out to be a GOOD instinct because as soon as a young Black man comes up asking if he can help her, a patrol car screeches in and two cops start menacing him; threatening to beat him if he doesn’t confess to molesting her.  Realizing the terrifying power of her own whiteness, she starts pleading with the cops to let him go and that he didn’t do anything which they eventually do and they take her back to William’s house as the cops were told that she ran away from there for some arbitrary reason (she forgot her medication that morning or something).  Ruby’s not happy about this but it’s not like she has anywhere else to go (I think she’s still mad at Leti?), and as soon as she gets in the house she starts to feel VERY sick; almost like her skin is crawling off of her flesh!  As it turns out… yeah, that’s basically it.  She’s carried into the house by William and is laid on the flood (which is covered in plastic wrap of course) to writhe in pain until William comes by with a big butcher knife and carves the white skin off of Ruby who pops out and sheds it like a butterfly coming out of a very bloody cocoon!  See, THAT’S the kind of goofy nonsense that makes this show work!  You don’t see Robert Lewis Stevenson writing anything like that, do you!?  Seriously, after what I just saw, Dr. Hastie Lanyon can talk to the hand!

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 4 (A History of Violence)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Victoria Mahoney

We’re back with even more haunted shenanigans against the backdrop of the ACTUALLY terrifying 1950s, and after the last episode ended up being a refreshing change of pace by telling a straightforward ghost story I’m once again optimistic that this show will live up to the potential I saw in that first episode!  Is this another great story that continues the upward momentum of the series, or is going to be like The X-Files where we alternate between the awesome monster of the week episodes and the less interesting government conspiracy ones?  Let’s find out!!

We start the episode with Atticus’s father Montrose (Michael K Williams) who’s still dealing with the death of his brother George by crawling into a bottle, but on top of that he’s been reading a book he got from George about the Sons of Adam that contains ALL the answers that Atticus and Leti (Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett) have been looking for… and he just burns it; probably in grief but also possibly due to that whole Eldritch Horror thing that Lovecraft liked to do.  Perhaps the book was so horrifying that any mortal man with a shred of conscious cannot read it without losing their own mind, but then Montrose’s motivations have ALWAYS been extremely guarded so it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on with him on an episode to episode basis.

Now the big problem I’ve had with this show is the convoluted nature of its Mythology, and I’ll give this episode credit for making at least SOME of it clearer.  The Sons of Adam get their power from something called THE LOST BOOK OF NAMES, and there are two sets of deciphered pages. These are the MacGuffins that are driving the narrative throughout the episode as Atticus and Leti are looking for the set of pages owned by Titus (the guy who started the Sons of Adam and is the ancestor of Atticus) which are hidden in some sort of secret vault, while Christina (Abbey Lee) is looking for the pages stolen by Hiram (the ghost in the last episode).  It’s straightforward enough that you can focus on this episode on its own like you could with the ghost story, but also mercifully has enough of the Sons of Adam stuff informing it that some of that nonsense can start to seep in and become easier to understand.

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 3 (Holy Ghost)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Daniel Sackheim

Last week’s episode was a major disappointment, but not so much that they can’t find a way to come back from it.  The characters are still strong and engaging, the aesthetic has a fun pulpiness to it (not dissimilar from Perry Mason), and we’ve seen how effectively they can handle a difficult tone between horror fun and dreadful reality with aplomb, so there’s no reason they couldn’t pull it off again.  Does this show find a way to get back on track after the convoluted mess that was the last episode, or were all their best ideas in that first episode?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Leti in the middle of a church service; staring off in the middle distance with an expression of empty sadness while… um… a Nike commercial is playing in the background.  The spoken word monologue on the soundtrack during this scene is from Nike’s NYC Be True Campaign from 2017 (written by Daisy Zhao and narrated by Precious Angel Ramirez) which seems like an odd pick for something like this.  Also, what exactly IS this?  If this is supposed to be the funeral of Uncle George, then it doesn’t read as such because there’s no casket, no pictures, and certainly no sadness from anyone else there who seem to be singing joyfully with Leti being the odd one out.  Perhaps my cultural signifies for what a funeral scene in a show or movie is supposed to look like are too narrow, but for me it started things off on an awkward note as I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here.

After the funeral we get a quick update on the fallout between the last episode and this one which if you recall ended in the Sons of Adam being destroyed and Uncle George dying of a gunshot wound.  Atticus is taking care of Aunt Hippolyta and their daughter Dee now that Uncle George is gone, and on top of that he has to deal with his cranky dad Montrose who seems content to while away his time drinking from his flask and being a dick to his son.  Seems they’re apt to pick up their relationship exactly where they left it off; icy and cantankerous.  There’s certainly a lot of guilt being felt between the both of them, especially since they decided to not tell Hippolyta and Dee exactly HOW George died opting to go with a hothead sheriff shooting him; a decision that’s certainly weighing harder on Atticus than it does Montrose.

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 2 (Whitey’s on the Moon)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Daniel Sackheim

The first episode did a lot of things right with its characters, it’s setting, and its stomaching churning tension, as well as how well it pulled from its various sources of inspiration to create something that we really hadn’t seen before.  However, by the time we got to the end I started to worry that what made it so good was going to be pushed aside for something that felt more like a genuine SyFy series instead of an HBO riff on a SyFy series.  Does Lovecraft Country keep up the excellent tone and explore its interesting characters in greater detail, or are we already going off the rails only two episodes in?  Let’s find out!!

Despite the grisly ending of the last episode, we start things up here as happy as can be as Lita and Uncle George (Jurnee Smollett and Courtney B Vance) are making themselves at home in this LUXURIOUS mansion while The Jeffersons theme is blasting on the soundtrack.  Lita is trying on all these fancy clothes that JUST SO HAPPEN to be in her size while George is reading all these books that JUST SO HAPPEN to be his favorites, and all the while Atticus (Jonathan Majors) is brooding all by himself as he remembers over and over again the monstrous creatures that nearly killed them the night before.  I mean jeez, buddy!  Get over it why don’t ya?  You don’t see the other two complaining about the nice clothes, the rare books, and the creepy white dude who pops in all over the place like a very smarmy Batman!  White dude by the way is William (Jordan Patrick Smith) who we saw at the end of the last episode that looks like a de-aged Matthew McConaughy, and he is rather cagey with the details of Atticus’s father but is more than happy to go on and on about this magnificent house!

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 1 (Sundown)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Yann Demange

HBO Max is proving to be a darn good service and I’m finding a lot of great series to enjoy, particularly Perry Mason and Harley Quinn, so in the spirit of celebrating the arrival of another good streaming service (and looking for something I can review on a regular schedule), I’ll be watching their latest series which I can only assume is a Once Upon a Time knock off but about scarier monsters, right?  Okay, probably not.  Does this series have what it takes to grip you right away and leave you itching for more episodes, or does the novelty of the show wear off once you get past the title?  Let’s find out!!

The show begins with what I’m sure most of us were expecting when we heard it was called Lovecraft Country; a Syfy channel series with HBO money and gratuitous violence as we see a bizarre WW I trench battle involving flying saucers, alien bikini babes, and Cthulhu themselves being utterly wrecked by Jackie Robinson!  Seems like the kind of show that’s right up my very silly alley, but this is not to be as the show has much more on its mind as it all turns out to be a dream; escaping from a reality that may be more mundane but is certainly one our main character wants to get away from.  Our hero is Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors); a nerdy black kid from Chicago who joined the army, got super buff, and has been moving around the country since the end of his service.  He’s finally returning home because his father, the man he was trying to get away from by joining the service, has gone missing and the last thing he did was send a mysterious note to Atticus requesting his presence in Ardham Massachusetts which doesn’t seem to exist.  Seems like a straightforward enough task, except that this show takes place in the fifties and therefore he can’t just do a Google search and more importantly he has to deal with the terrifying barriers of systemic racism wherever he goes; where even riding a bus is rife with danger and indignities as we learn as soon as he wakes up from his exciting dream. The bus has broken down in the middle of nowhere and the only transportation that’s come to help is a pickup truck sending a very clear message of exactly WHO they’re willing to take.

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Into the Light)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Lou Diamond Phillips

We’re back with another episode of everyone’s third (okay fine, fourth) favorite version of this series!  The lack of impact behind some of these episodes has been a major stumbling block as very few of them seem to resonate as well as even the middling episodes of the original series, but I think they might have swung too hard in the other direction with this one in what seems to be a less than ideal way to redress the issue.  Is this a case of a good idea with a few sour notes in it, or are we sailing right past that into the realm of really bad taste?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with a very dingy looking high school classroom (the windows are really tiny, way high up, and I’m pretty sure they have steel bars on them) where a bunch of disinterested looking teenagers are taking a written test on Romeo and Juliet.  One kid named Ben just turns in a blank sheet of paper which is pretty bad considering it’s worth a third of his grade, and when the teacher picks up the test of an unnamed kid, she reads aloud “Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because they were asshats”.  Now if that was the ONLY sentence perhaps I’d be as dejected as the teacher feels, but frankly, I’ve heard worse opening arguments for a critical analysis of a creative work; just look at this site for examples of that!  Anyway, the teacher in question is Rachel Stark (Samantha Mathis who played Princess Daisy in the Super Mario Bros movie) who’s had just about enough of this nonsense and is planning on quitting her job next week but sadly she’s in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE which means those plans are going to get derailed.  This is another example of an episode that LIBERALLY lifts from an episode of the original series, but I’ll give them credit because the premise is much more malleable and can fit into all sorts of interesting contexts.  The episode in question is The Purple Testament where a GI in the Pacific theater started seeing a glow across the faces of men who were going to die soon, and this episode follows the same basic idea; she sees a screaming man on the bus light up like he’s about to tell a ghost story, and then he drops dead of a heart attack then and there.  Aside from the fact that she just saws someone die right in front of her, this revelation has put her on edge a bit as she saw a similar light on the face of one of her students who was riding a skateboard.  Her boyfriend the school gym coach (Reed Diamond) thinks it’s some sort of latent guilt she’s feeling for planning to quit her job and essentially giving up on the kids, but when she learns the next morning that the skateboarder had died… well, it seems like there’s more at stake than an unfulfilled work life.

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“Oh my gosh, what happened!?”     He was trying to grind the rail right next to Dead Man’s Gulch.”     “And?”     “A mugger ran up and stabbed him.”

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Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-15-20)

AEWDYNAMITE

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT

We’re back with another week of A Cody and His Pharaoh; the post-apocalyptic wrestling show that I keep coming up with bafflingly tortured names for!  Still, as hard as it is to make these puns, it’s not NEARLY as difficult as them continuing to try and put out shows in this environment.  Thankfully they’ve supposedly got content through May taped so that challenge is over for the time being, but having a lot of matched to show us doesn’t mean that they’ll all be good ones, so is the collection they have here the cream of the crop, or are they already scraping the bottom of the barrel?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with yet another Jake Roberts promo, only while last week he was sitting in chair in front of a roaring fire, I’m pretty sure this one was shot in a particularly dingy bathroom stall.  He says what he says EVERY week which is that Lance is so amazing and that anyone in his way will be utterly destroyed; including Colt Cabana who may be a great wrestler but is nowhere NEAR Archer’s league.  Is this Roberts just blowing smoke up Archer’s ass?  Well we’re about to find out as once again we start the show with his match!

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Colt Cabana Vs. Lance Archer

I kind of feel sorry for Colt Cabana all things considered.  He came in JUST as the COVID-19 crisis started to happen in the US and so it feels like he was pushed to the sidelines while other new people like Brodie Lee, Matt Hardy, and especially Lance Archer are still getting at least some form of push given the circumstances, and frankly there’s no way in heck that they’re gonna halt Archer’s momentum by having him lose in the first round.  Still, this should hopefully be a good showcase of his talents and why he got such a big reaction when he first showed up at AEW.  Before the match even begins Lance Archer decks someone in the audience, so I don’t really like Cabana’s chance’s here considering just how vicious they’re portraying his opponent.  Colt Cabana does hold his own pretty well and they do a great job of putting him over despite how clearly it is that he’s not going to win this match.  He’s in control for a good chunk of the match and is clearly a great wrestler (I’m getting a better sense of him here than at the PPV), but the key is that Lance is an unstoppable slab of meat; a force more so than a man.  Against any other opponent, even top guys like Cody or Omega, I could see it coming down to the wire and Cabana winning in an upset.  Against Lance though, no matter what he throws against him the man will not yield and Colt can only do so much before he is simply overpowered.  It’s kind of like what they’ve been trying to do with Jake Hager, but I think it’s working a lot better with Lance; mostly because he looks good outside of squash matches.  Colt Cabana won’t give up and is taking more punishment than any one person should ever take, but Lance eventually lifts him up for the Blackout (not an easy feat considering Colt is a pretty big guy himself) and drops him down for the pin.  I actually liked this match quite a bit, and while Colt may not have won here he definitely proved himself to anyone who had no idea who he is or what makes him so beloved by the fans.

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Rewind)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Kevin Bray

The episode follows Jonah Beach (Eddie Kaye Thomas who played Finch in the American Pie films and the titular Freddy in Freddy Got Fingered); an obsessive gambler who may have a decent amount of skill but squanders it on his single minded pursuit of “beating the house” which in this case means beating this dude named Trevor (Ben Bass) who owns the place.  Jonah’s girlfriend April (Marisa Coughlan who was… also in Freddy Got Fingered oddly enough) works as a waitress at the casino where he spends most of his time and is either overwhelmingly empathetic to his plight or completely in denial of his gambling problem.  They have a nest egg set up for a restaurant in Florida which Jonah wants to raid for one last chance at the card table and thankfully April tells him no which is certainly the RIGHT decision but puts poor Jonah in a funk as he leaves the casino with nothing more than three bucks to his name.  A homeless with a mysterious shopping cart challenges him to a coin toss for the three bucks in his pocket, and after Jonah wins the toss he’s gracious enough to give the man the three bucks anyway.  See?  He’s not such a bad guy even if he WAS in a Tom Green movie!  The homeless man is so moved by Jonah’s generosity that he pulls a tape recorder out from his cart and gives him to him as a gift which Jonah ruefully accepts as the alternative could possibly upset the guy.  He starts fiddling with the thing at the bus stop, and wouldn’t you know it; the darn thing is MAGIC!

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“Oh crap, this thing is covered in LSD isn’t it?”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Another Life)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Risa Bramon Garcia

I’ll admit that when I first saw this episode ALL those years ago, I didn’t get it.  It wasn’t like Tagged (an episode we’ll get to soon enough) which covered similar ground but ACTUALLY HAD a supernatural twist to it; from what I remember it was just a dude having flashbacks which feels a bit low key for a TWILIGHT ZONE episode.  Thinking back on it as I sit here ready to rewatch this story after so long, I may have been too naïve or ignorant to really understand what we was really going on under the hood, so let’s take a look with fresh eyes and see if there’s something to learn from all of this!  Is this a classic episode that just failed to connect with me, or will I learn that I was right to be nonplussed by it all along?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Marvin Gardens (Wood Harris who’s been in a lot of stuff recently including Dredd, Ant-Man, and the show Empire) who is out on his morning jog when police sirens start to blare behind him.  Nervously, he starts to turn around and even begins to put his hands up… but the patrol car just speeds by him.  We find out that Marvin is a successful rapper living out his dreams after escaping a life of poverty.  He’s got a great and supportive wife (Kimberly Elise), a loving son who he’s a great father too, and he’s even working on an album that will make him even richer than he already is now!  Everything is looking great for Marvin… except that he keeps having these hallucinations of a police interrogation where he was beaten mercilessly and told to confess to a crime he didn’t commit and being called Dwayne; a name he doesn’t recognize.  Now already, this has got some great ideas that are being conveyed with nuance even if the performances and the LAVISH RAPPER LIFESTYLE comes off a bit cheesy.  It appears that Marvin has some past trauma with the police that’s left him with some serious scars which are now manifesting as full on delusions despite the fact that he escaped from all that and he has everything he could ever want.  Well maybe another controller for his son’s Nintendo GameCube, but other than that…

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“Hey can I have a turn?”     “No!”     “Well what about two player mode?”     “MOM!  DAD’S BEING MEAN!”     “Hey!  I’m the one who bought this for you!”     “AND HE’S SWEARING!!”     “Fine!  I can take a hint!”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (The Path)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Jerry Levine

This series claims to have two remakes of classic Twilight Zone episodes which we’ll get to soon enough, but I’m calling bull pucky on that because this episode we’re discussing today is ABSOLUTELY based on one of the classics from that original series.  Now that’s not necessarily a BAD thing as the whole reason this show exists is because of how good the original series was, and using some of those ideas in a modern context can certainly produce some interesting results!  Heck, the Jordan Peele version of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet was a BRILLIANT reworking of the fear and paranoia that was the true essence of that original episode even WITHOUT the creepy (and yet somehow adorable) gremlin dude!  Is this a similarly great remix of a classic episode, or is this a worse cover than Limp Bizkit’s version of Faith?  Let’s find out!!

The episode follows Ali (Linda Cardellini); a writer for a lousy knock off Enquirer rag where she writes stories about dying celebrities or hobbits living in Jersey, and while it’s certainly fun to write about that kind of nonsense it’s not the most noble or fulfilling career you could have as a writer.  While getting her caffeine fix at a local coffee shop, she overhears a man giving a woman advice regarding “her path” and some vague platitudes on how she should follow it.  Her interest piqued, Ali goes over to meet the man named Kanayo (played here by Method Man) and finds out that an opportunity awaits her, but she must seek it out first.  Sounds like your standard Cold Reading nonsense, but she goes back to the office and decides to call about a resume she submitted and as it turns out they were having trouble reaching her!  Her coworker and best friend Seth (Colin Cunningham of Falling Skies fame) thinks it’s all a big coincidence, but Ali is not so sure and she goes back to Kanayo several times hoping to get more advice and perhaps find the clearest way to follower her “path”.  Now if you’re ever seen more than a handful of episodes of the original Twilight Zone, this should all sound very familiar as it’s more or less a remake of the Nick of Time; a story where William Shatner and Patricia Breslin have to contend with a fortune telling napkin holder that seems to accurately predict the future.  Now the thing is, the more I think about this episode the closer I think it gets to working… without ever actually getting there.  It’s SO close and it has a few ideas that work for an update to this story, but where Nick of Time was tight and well thought out, this one fumbles with its weighty topics and never finds the right balance.

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“You’ll be in a few Avengers movies.”     “That’s good!”     “But only playing Hawkeye’s wife.”     “Oh, that’s bad.”     “But you’ll be in A Simple Favor!”     “That’s good!”     “After being in both Daddy’s Home movies and before starring in The Curse of La Llorona.”     “I don’t like this game anymore.”

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