Firefly Fridays – Episode 12: “The Message”

Once again, I don’t have to go through the history of how this aired, because it didn’t. What I can say is that this episode is the only one filmed after Firefly was cancelled, because they axed the show the day after filming began.

SUMMARY

The episode starts in a carnival side show in a space station bazaar, where Simon takes Kaylee to see the “irrefutable proof of alien life,” which Simon immediately points out is just an upside-down cow fetus. Kaylee tries to flirt a little, but Simon naturally shoves his foot deep down his throat to the point of kneeing himself in the uvula. I hope this isn’t a new lesson for anyone, but don’t ever describe your date as “the only option.” It doesn’t end well here or in real life. Kaylee leaves in what is described as a “huff,” and Wash and Zoë show up to mock both Simon and the “alien.”

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Intelligent life? If you’re so smart, why are you in a jar?

Mal and Inara walk through the bazaar, with Mal revealing that he’s been unable to fence the Lassiter since stealing it in the last episode. The gun is just too famous to sell, since no one can display it and everyone knows it’s stolen. Inara offers to help find a buyer, but Mal insists that she stay out of crime. Mal goes to pick up the ship’s mail and is joined by Book, River, and Jayne. Mal receives a package addressed to him and Zoë, while Jayne receives a package from his mom. Jayne’s package is a sweet letter and the greatest hat not worn by Indiana Jones. Zoë and Mal open the package they received to find a corpse inside.

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Flashback to 7 years previously, during the war, where Zoë saves a youth named Tracey (Jonathan M. Woodward) from being killed while he eats. She lectures him on stealth, only for Mal to comically defy her teachings by running into the base screaming and firing wildly. Mal, in his typical style, jokes about wanting Tracey’s beans as he reveals that the Alliance is about to roll through with “every damn thing.” The lieutenant in charge is now suffering from trauma and delusional, so Mal gives the command to retreat and regroup. Tracey declares that it isn’t worth dying for the rock they’re on, but Mal says:

“Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone’s carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn’t even know it. The trick is, die of old age before it finds you.”

A missile hits their hiding place, wounding Mal and Tracey. Mal pulls Tracey up to escape, when it cuts back to the present. Mal and Zoë are told by the mail clerk to take the body out of the bazaar. Back on Serenity, Simon offers to do an autopsy, but Mal declines. Zoë finds a tape recorder with Tracey’s last testament. Tracey apparently crossed the wrong people and expected to be killed. His last request is that Mal and Zoë, the two people who carried him through the war, will take him back to his parents to be buried. The crew agrees to help them take him back.

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Back on the station, an Alliance officer named Lieutenant Womack (Richard Burgi) interrogates and threatens the mail clerk, Amnon (Al Pugliese), about the body that was in the mail earlier. Amnon denies knowing about any body, but does say that a package big enough to house one was picked up by Mal earlier. Womack thanks him, then tells his men to light him on fire. After dousing him with lighter fluid, Womack spares him on the condition that he doesn’t warn Mal.

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In my next show, I’m gonna be married to Teri Hatcher.

On the ship, Jayne and Book have a conversation on mortality, with Book being solemn, but Jayne stating that death usually leads him to be active and alive. They talk about how everyone handles death differently, only to find River laying on top of the coffin. They try to move her, but she insists she’s “comfortable.”

In the Dining Room, Mal and Zoë are telling stories about Tracey, particularly one about him snipping off a senior officer’s mustache and then wearing it, when an explosion rocks the ship. Womack has caught up to Serenity. Mal’s worried that he wants the Lassiter, but Womack quickly says it’s about the crate. Mal stalls for time so they can figure out what the Alliance is looking for. A search of the crate turns up nothing, so Mal orders an autopsy. When Simon gets him on the table, he notices that Tracey has been cut open before. When he tries to cut him, Tracey wakes up, screaming.

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This is how Dead Space: Browncoat Edition starts.

Tracey attacks Simon but is quickly subdued. Tracey explains that he took a drug to simulate death in order to get away from the people he robbed. Mal asks what he stole, but Simon interrupts to tell Mal that Simon is having a medical emergency. Tracey explains that he isn’t, he’s just carrying some extra organs around. That’s what he stole. The story is that Tracey was supposed to carry an entire body-full of experimental organs to Ariel, where they would be removed and his original organs would be put in. However, he received a better offer, so he decided to take it, only to find out that his former clients killed his new buyer and are now pursuing him. He faked his death, believing that would throw them off the trail. In the meantime, he and Kaylee exchange some glances indicating that they would like to engage in some “organ donation.” That’s the worst metaphor for sex ever, but I refuse to change it.

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Womack fires another warning shot, reminding Mal that he’s nearby. Mal claims that the shot disabled the docking, so he tells Womack that they’ll have to meet on the planet below, St. Albans, where Tracey’s family lives. Kaylee hides Tracey in her bunk, where they clearly show further attraction. The two ships enter atmosphere, but Mal tells Wash not to land. Book notes that Womack didn’t contact the local Alliance authorities when he entered atmosphere, and Wash pilots the ship into some tight canyons, making it difficult for the Alliance ship to follow. In response, Womack’s ship just goes higher, something that Wash somehow didn’t consider.

Womack begins firing at Serenity, but Wash manages to keep her safe. Wash hides the ship in a tunnel, but the Alliance drops explosives to triangulate their position. They appear to be sunk when Book says he knows another way, but it’ll require letting the Alliance board. Mal eventually agrees, trusting Book. Tracey overhears this, however, and pulls a gun on the crew, telling them that they have to run. When Mal tells Wash to radio anyway, Tracy fires at the radio and the ricochet wings Wash, but Zoë uses the opportunity to shoot Tracey in the chest. Wounded, but still very much alive, Tracey takes Kaylee hostage.

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Mal confronts Tracey, pointing out that Tracey brought all of this on himself. Tracey accuses Mal of being hypocritical, but Mal says that he’s never killed someone who was trying to help him. Tracey mocks Mal and Zoë for their code of honor. The bombing stops, signaling that Wash has told Womack they’re surrendering. Jayne sneaks up behind Tracey and distracts him, resulting in Kaylee getting free and Mal shooting Tracey in the chest again. This time, he’s not going to make it. Mal tells Tracey that Tracey killed himself, Mal just carried the bullet.

Womack boards and finds a dying Tracey. Womack threatens the crew with arrest, but Book appears and tells Womack that he’s aware that Womack isn’t in his jurisdiction. In fact, Womack is quite a distance from his jurisdiction just to avoid any risk of being found out for his illegal activities. So, Book reasons, there’s no reason the Alliance will notice if the crew kills them all. Womack, realizing he’s cornered, backs down and leaves, insulting Jayne’s hat on the way because he’s an asshole.

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Tracey realizes that Mal had planned to save him all along, meaning he’s literally dying from his own stupidity. Tracey asks Mal and Zoë to take him home like he’d originally asked them, so his parents can bury him, before passing away. The crew brings his body to his family, where Kaylee hands them Tracey’s last testament, ending with the line:

“When you can’t run anymore, you crawl, and when you can’t do that, well, yeah, you know the rest…”

Mal remembers how the phrase goes… when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.

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END SUMMARY

Well, this was the last episode filmed, and the last scene filmed was turning over the body of Tracey to his parents. In some ways, that’s pretty fitting, since it’s a somber moment signifying the wasted potential of someone killed through greed and stupidity. The only difference is that Tracey was killed by his own stupidity, whereas Firefly was killed by someone else’s… and also the tendency for the American viewing audience to not want to watch network stuff on Friday night.

The first thing about this episode is that it solidifies the “alien” question within series, establishing that humanity has not yet found life on other planets. The closest we have is the Reavers, which are just mutant humans. Granted, when you consider that we only inhabit like 5-6 solar systems at this point (per the Map of the ‘Verse) and there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, it’s not like we’ve looked that far. However, I love the reveal that a mutant cow fetus, the same thing people used in sideshows for years to fake as monsters, is still being used on people 500 years in the future. I also love that Simon immediately gets pissed that he’s been scammed, whereas Wash plays along with it because he thinks it’s fun.

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This definitely is an upside/downside episode, for me. Let’s start with the upsides: Jayne’s hat is amazing, and I love it, and I would never wear it in a million years, but it brings out an entirely new side of Jayne in such a short period. Really, adding the details that he’s providing for his family who loves him adds a nice level to the character, especially since we tend to think of the tough guy types like him to be orphans or loners. Instead, it turns out Jayne’s kind of a mama’s boy and, well, it works for the character.

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The scenes of Mal and Zoë remembering Tracey, either in flashback or in the dining room, really flesh out some of the Unification War’s story, even though they’re short. It’s a lot of show-don’t-tell about how rough the war was and what kind of people were fighting it. It also makes it clear that not every Browncoat really was fighting on principle, some of them were just people who picked a side based on convenience or heritage, like happens in every war. It’s a level of simple reality added to a nebulous background event that makes it more tangible.

Showing how the crew reacts to death makes for a very good series of character moments, from Simon’s clinical detachment to Book’s quiet contemplation to Kaylee’s sentimentality to Mal and Zoë’s fond remembrances, it really kind of shows how they all deal with mortality. River, on the other hand, can hear his dreams of his family, and probably lays on the coffin to listen to the happy thoughts and feelings coming out of his head.

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Or she’s entering her Goth phase.

The ending is so well done that it still makes me cry a little. It doesn’t surprise me that Kaylee had a crush on Tracey just from hearing his message, because it’s a powerful message whose meaning changes a little every time we hear it, ranging from sounding like a foolish kid admitting that made bad choices to sounding like a manipulative scumbag. But it’s always the same recording, only the context changes, and that’s such a great device for an episode to use. The last playing, however, is a man regretting what he did to the people he should have treated better. Luckily, Mal and Zoë are the better people and, when Tracey couldn’t crawl, they carried him home. The score to this is possibly the best in the series.

Kaylee’s crush on Tracey also gives her a little bit of a chance to show that she isn’t blindly hung up on Simon. However, ultimately, Tracey betrays that trust. Simon wouldn’t. That’s why he eventually gets to sleep with her… in a few months (or years, in reality).

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This was a really sweet moment.

And that’s a good segue to the downsides, because the Simon/Kaylee thing is only 12 episodes old and it’s starting to get repetitive. One of them needs to learn something. Either Simon needs to work on thinking before he speaks and emotional expression, or Kaylee needs to accept that those aren’t his strong points and Simon cares for her deeply even if he doesn’t express it right. I know that it’s the show’s “will they/won’t they” set-up, but this isn’t a sitcom, you can resolve it through character development and we won’t care as long as it’s natural. Besides, you have a better one going between Mal and Inara, where they actually have reasons not to be together that are logically justified, not farcical.

The villain in this episode is the worst, and not in the sense of “the most evil.” Womack is just barely a real threat at any point. Mal out-maneuvers him for half the episode without really having to do anything but provide lip-service, and he’s ultimately thwarted by Book just pointing out that he’s doing something illegal. Yes, the bad guy is thwarted by someone telling him they know he’s the bad guy. That’s just not a good resolution, I’m sorry. Also, his constant warning shots and waiting kind of stand in contrast to his first action of threatening to burn a man alive. I know he doesn’t want to blow up Tracey’s body, but you cannot portray someone as both ruthless and easily deterred.

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Also, after all the evasion, you walk into the ship with only 2 guys and pistols?

Tracey is too stupid to live and even the fact that he dies from it doesn’t make me feel better. Even in the flashbacks, Tracey only survives because Mal and Zoë save him from his own stupidity, and he expects that again during a deal gone wrong that was always going to go wrong. Look, the idea of finding a better buyer is a time-honored tradition among smugglers, but that idea needs to go to the wayside when you need your buyer to PUT YOUR F*CKING ORGANS BACK IN. You take the offer you have, since they have your small intestine. Then, when his new buyer is dead, he decides to go on the run, but Simon implies that the organs cannot stay in him forever (he’s only an incubator), so, how’s he going to get the organs out and get new ones that work? Then, he chooses to hold the ship hostage rather than listen to the plan, only for the plan to work perfectly. I also don’t like that Mal shoots him, because Mal doesn’t really try to explain the plan well to Tracey, which might have defused the situation. Oh, and Tracey’s accent sucks.

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I’m not a fan.

The theme of the episode, that you need someone to carry on after you die, is great. Really, it’s a great idea that’s portrayed simultaneously literally and metaphorically in the episode, but the fact that I just kind of feel like Tracey was a shitwiggen, which is a word I think I made up just now, lessens any desire I have to see his memory carried. He held Kaylee hostage, for goodness’ sake, he deserves to be dumped out an airlock and a kind lie to be told to his family so they might think he was less of a f*ckbucket. I think it really does speak to the quality of the writing of the message that it still makes me empathize with him during the last scene, even though I don’t think he deserves it.

Ultimately, this episode, for me, is in the bottom-tier. It’s just so hard to recover from a bad villain and an unsympathetic emotional focus of the episode. Again, it’s not bad compared to most of television, it’s just bad compared to the good episodes of this series.

Score: 2 Fireflies (or 1 Cow Fetus in Wash’s Eyes)

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See you next Friday, Browncoats.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Reader Request: Resumes and Jamiroquai’s Dad (My Brother, My Brother, and Me)

So, most of the people who remember when radio shows first started getting adapted to television are probably dead by now, but we have the next best thing: People getting TV adaptations of their podcasts! But, unlike scripted radio shows that translated pretty naturally to television, most podcasts are just two or three people talking at each other, usually spontaneously, that have been edited to sound more coherent. Prior to this entry, I think the only adaptations I’d seen were either documentaries or semi-educational, not particularly talk-based. So, this was a very different experience. Not necessarily better or worse, just… different. It’s like watching a round-table news show, except that it’s funny, everyone knows it’s a little ridiculous, and no one is yelling about what Jesus would want to pay in taxes.

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I enjoyed the heck out of Lore, which is another podcast adaptation.

I knew of Griffin McElroy before this show started, since he’s the founder of Polygon, the gaming arm of Vox media and his name sounds like he should be a linebacker. I didn’t know anything about either of his brothers, Justin and Travis McElroy, but upon first glance I immediately know that Travis is the superior brother, because he has the beard of a Viking that died from an overworked pelvis. The fact that he has the exact tattoo I was going to get (Hylian Crest to cover a port scar) and that the opening to his profile is “Travis has killed before, and he will kill again” confirms this.

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Mancrush achieved.

The premise of the podcast, and therefore the TV show, is that the three brothers humorously answer questions that are either submitted to them by the audience or that they found on Yahoo! Answers. The main difference is that they actually have to do things in the TV show versus the podcast where they generally just have to describe doing things. They also appear to be drunk or high for most of it, but I’m beginning to believe that’s just their natural state. Not that they’re drunk or high all the time, just that a law enforcement officer would think it from their appearance. I’m sure most of you have at least one acquaintance who’s like that.

Update: Nope, pretty sure they’re really f*ckin’ high. Which works, because I am pretty drunk. And moderately handsome sober.

This is the second episode and was the one requested. I watched the first to get a feel for the series, but I didn’t feel the need to review it. It has clowns in it, and I can only stand so many clowns. “So many” being one, if it’s dying. Let’s do this.

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From Left to Right: Justin, Travis, Griffin

SUMMARY

The show starts with the disclaimer:

The McElroy brothers are not experts and their advice should never be followed. They’re just 3 brothers that created a podcast, and they’ve returned to their hometown to tape a TV show. Also, this show isn’t for kids, which I only mention so all you babies out there know how cool you are for watching. What’s up, you cool baby?

It then uses a song by “The Long Winters” as the theme, which I definitely approve of. Apparently, it’s the same theme from the podcast. Since John Roderick from the band hosts a podcast I listen to, Omnibus with him and Ken Jennings, this is even more fitting to me.

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I’m giving a lot of free promotion in this post. I’d be a very bad prostitute.

The brothers introduce themselves, reminding me once again that Travis is the best, by the way he calls himself the “Middlest” brother. I can only assume he’s just finished woodworking and preparing Lattes for an Indie Rock group, given the state of his glorious beard. They falsely introduce the show as Shark Tank, with Justin and Travis listening to Griffin’s great idea: Pornography for birds.

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Fortunately, we’re spared any details when they decide to go to the question they’ll be answering for the episode: Is it okay to lie on a resumé if you know you can do everything demanded of you?

Now, this is actually a pretty old question with a lot of arguments on both sides. None of those arguments will be made here, in favor of some wacky hijinks. Right up front, they declare that resumés are just bullshit and recount old jobs they’ve had and lost. It turns out that one of Griffin’s former employers, who fired him, is Justin’s father-in-law. Griffin says that they’d absolutely hire him back now, so Justin calls him and they all three pledge to interview for the job that Griffin lost.

Now, Justin and Travis decide to wear “business” clothes, which are fairly normal outfits. Griffin complains that he has no business clothes, so they tell him they have an outfit for him, which ends up being… well, I’m just putting the picture below, no reason to describe it.

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But no monocle. No wonder he was fired.

The three decide to “pad their resumes” by taking extremely temporary jobs, about 30 minutes each, ranging from sweeper boy to cupcake decorator to decorative bow designer. Oddly, while most of their employers say they were terrible, one of them says she would hire Travis. Again, he is the best.

The brothers then visit the office of the town mayor, Steve Williams, to ask him to be allowed to be the mayor of the town so they can put it on their resumes. All three are made Mayor for a minute, which they attempt to use to put hits on their enemies and pass such resolutions as “the state bird is abolished” and “the sister city is the moon.”

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The three join their father, Clint, a radio DJ, to get another job on their resume. Justin attempts to DJ for a minute and gets nothing right, including naming Tim McGraw “McGruff,” which, let’s be honest, would be a great duet. They could sing “Live Like You Were Dying (In Jail).”

They go to the Chief of Police to ask for a similar arrangement to the one with the Mayor, but he declines, until they ask to be the chiefs of “Safetytown” the fake roadway they use to teach driver’s ed. They divide it into three zones. Travis names his “New Duckburg” and populates it with fake Vikings because, again, he’s the best. And, to be clear, I wrote the Viking thing at the beginning before seeing this, so I feel so vindicated right now. His wife, Teresa, is there also.

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Life is like a hurricane, here in New Duckburg. Axes, Vikings, Open vests, it’s a Duck-blur.

Griffin names his portion “Chilladelphia,” and brings his wife, Rachel, and his friend Emily. He’s happy because he’s monopolized all of the “resources” in Safetytown, by claiming the water fountain, the bathrooms, and the fake gas station containing go-karts.

Justin, remembering that the episode is about getting a job from his father-in-law, names his town “Chad Pennington,” after his father-in-law’s favorite football player. He’s populated it with his in-laws.

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Travis’s Vikings quickly start raiding the other towns, mostly “Chilladelphia,” taking cars and batteries, resulting in a go-kart chase and some other shenanigans until, apparently, the police force them to stop filming due to their behavior. I don’t know if it’s real, but they say it’s not a bit and they seem serious. Either way, it ends the Safetytown segment.

It cuts back to the main set, where they go over their resumes, giving such tips as “write it on fly paper and stick it to the boss” and “put in a coupon.” Griffin then puts his resume on a scrolling LED board, which is one of the funniest sequences in the episode, including his resume skill entry “Oh Shit, this thing does other colors.”

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They go into the final interview with Justin’s father-in-law Tommy Smirl. First, Justin brings in a resume hand-written on butcher’s paper rolls and basically threatens to stop feeding his family. Travis comes in, sticks his resume on Tommy, and states that he is not at all qualified, then fails the test when Tommy offers him a beer. Griffin bribes Tommy with $6. Tommy calls in Griffin’s former supervisor Dwight, who mentions that Griffin, on his first week of employment, asked for a paid vacation to go to Bonnaroo. He leaves the electronic resume in the room as “part of the bribe” as he slinks off. None of them get the job, because the system is broken, clearly.

The three relax in a hot tub, fully clothed, while they try to remember the original question. They answer it with “people will give you any job you want if you bring a film crew.” As of this writing, I’m trying to find a new job, so this might be good advice.

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END SUMMARY

Well, it’s definitely different. It feels like a combination of scripted and unscripted, because that’s what it is. The guys aren’t that used to being on television, which is kind of obvious by the way they slightly avoid the cameras more than most TV hosts. Still, being brothers, they have a natural relatability to each other which carries through to the audience. They aren’t the funniest hosts I’ve ever seen, but they seem more real, which gives the show an earnestness even though it’s a farce.

The premise of the episode is pretty much perfect. Everyone has had to deal with resumé issues, and this just provides a fun parody of all the ridiculous ways people exaggerate it. I think the Safetytown sequence is probably the best, because pretending to be lords of tiny communities is pretty much what these guys were made for. Sad that they had to cut it short. Also, I may actually steal Griffin’s sexual-innuendo filled resumé, as I, too, am horny for teamwork.

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Or Justin’s, which has “Can Run 2 Miles Per Diem.”

I enjoyed this show. It’s not gonna win any awards, but I love the idea of just taking a prompt and running with it. It’s kind of like a Q&A Jackass. The point isn’t that they’re going to answer it, it’s just seeing the weird stream-of-consciousness stuff that they come up with going off of the idea.

I’m probably going to prefer their D&D Podcast “The Adventure Zone,” if I ever get around to listening to it, because watching drunk people try to roleplay is usually hilarious and watching families play games is usually hilarious, so this should be some sort of exponential hilarity. The show’s on VRV and you can sign up for a free trial to avoid paying for it (VRV’s not paying for me, I don’t care if you get free content from them).

Also, Travis is the best.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The Incredibles 2: Great Movie, Pretty Good Message (Spoiler Free)

By the Grouch on the Couch

Well, it’s been 14 years and we finally got the thing that Pixar should have known we’d throw money at, a sequel to Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. I can only assume the delay was because Sam Jackson was busy being in 113 movies in the meantime. Guy’s the only actor who out-films porn stars.

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If you didn’t see the first one, here’s a quick summary of the premise: It’s the 1950s. Superheroes exist. Lawsuits for personal injuries also exist. Lawsuits beat superheroes. Congress makes laws. Laws beat superheroes. Superheroes are forced to retire. Two of them get married and have three kids who also have powers. Now it’s the early ‘60s. The family ends up fighting against a supervillain whose plan is to… make himself a superhero, then sell off technology that would allow everyone to be equal to superheroes. The family beats him, the free world is saved, and superheroes are… still illegal.

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The family is basically a twist on the Fantastic Four. The mom stretches, the dad is super-strong and invulnerable, the daughter can become invisible and create forcefields, and the eldest son is superfast because if he had fire-based powers Disney would have sued. As Disney now owns Fantastic Four, but not their movie rights (yet), I guess that’s a good call. Jack-Jack, in the short that was on the DVD for the film and for a few moments in the movie, is revealed to have a huge number of superhuman abilities (later described as “limitless potential”), much like Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s son, Franklin Richards, whose powers are basically only outmatched by the One-Above-All, AKA GOD.

SPOILER-FREE SUMMARY

So, the movie picks up shortly after the end of the last film… by like 2 minutes. We immediately see the Parr family trying to resume superheroics and get our quick re-introductions. Bob, AKA Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), is the father whose life is defined by superheroics more than his family or career, though the last movie taught him how much more his family means to him. Helen, AKA Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), is the mother who is the more active parent and, arguably, the more successful superhero, except from a marketing and name-recognition perspective. In the last movie, she learned… nothing. She’s basically perfect, so she doesn’t really get a character arc. Violet, the daughter (Sarah Vowell), is a social outcast who has just started to become more open and outgoing. Dash, the middle son (Huck Milner), is the troublemaker who has learned to be more disciplined. Jack-Jack, the baby, is a baby. Their only real friend is Lucius Best, AKA Frozone (Samuel L. Motherf*cking Jackson).

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Basically, the premise is that a guy wants to make superheroes legal again, so he has Helen put her costume back on and fight crime, while Bob looks after the family. Now, the general premise here is pretty interesting because, remember, this takes place in the early 1960s. Bob genuinely seems shocked when Helen proposes that she get a job, because he’s “the man of the house.” Throughout much of the movie, he’s struggling to deal with being a stay-at-home parent, something that he cannot use any of his natural superhuman abilities to help with. It gets even worse when the baby starts to show off his superpowers, which include a number of abilities that make him problematic to babysit.

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Meanwhile, Helen… well, she doesn’t really have any problems being a superhero again. Honestly, that’s one of the things I loved most about the movie, that they didn’t try to portray Helen as having trouble being a working woman again in some attempt to add conflict. Instead, she’s portrayed as strong, intelligent, tactically brilliant, and resourceful as hell. The movie’s supervillain nemesis is a little corny, but still provides enough of a contest for Elastigirl to show off how good she is at what she does.

Without really spoiling anything, at the end of the movie, the family comes together, saves the day, roll credits. If you didn’t see that coming, I have to assume you don’t know how childrens’ movies work.

END SUMMARY

First off, everything about this movie, from a technical and storytelling standpoint, was amazing. The characters are well-crafted, the dialogue is amazing, the locations are creative, the villain is pretty well done (see below), and the pacing is basically perfect. I almost think it’s better than the original, honestly. The animation is wonderful, but I found it funny that it really highlights exactly how much Pixar’s animation has improved in the past 14 years, because even the explicitly cartoonish and exaggerated characters from the previous film are now given an extraordinary amount of detail. They’re still less realistic than they could be, but the hair movement and muscle movement in some of the scenes is really elaborate. And the message about the power of family is always good. I loved this film the whole way through, right until something started bugging me on the ride home.

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Alright, so, a lot of people had issues with the message of the first movie, since the main family is naturally gifted with superpowers, while the villains are all people who use technology to even the playing field (Bomb Voyage, The Underminer, Syndrome). It gives sort of a “the special are genetically special and trying to change that is evil.” Some people called it reminiscent of Ayn Rand, but those people apparently never read Ayn Rand. While it’s true that Rand believed that society should support the superior people (i.e. the wealthy) at the expense of the lesser peoples (i.e. the working class), the concept of a superhero would have offended her sensibilities, since she claimed altruism was the worst thing in the world in her essay collection The Virtue of Selfishness. Yes, that’s actually its title. Even if Mr. Incredible does enjoy superheroics because of the fame it brings him, he still risks his life constantly to save other people for no reward. When he is stuck at a desk job, he still is trying to help people within the insurance company, to the point that his boss threatens to fire him for it. So, no, not Rand, never Rand. If you’re going to criticize something, read the thing you’re criticizing first (*cough* Everyone on the internet *cough*).

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Still, the idea that people born with gifts are heroes and people who use their minds are villains isn’t stopped during this movie. As far as I can recall, there is no Batman equivalent in this. There is no tech-based superhero like Iron Man. There doesn’t even appear to be someone like the Hulk or the Flash, who has artificially-granted superpowers, although the movie doesn’t really explore this much. My point is, they definitely didn’t shy away from that criticism. And, let’s be honest, when you go into “some people are born genetically superior” territory, you really open up a lot of issues that tend to rhyme with “Race-based Bin-o-slide.” But, the movie does try to at least portray that there are superheroes in every country, from every genetic background, which I think is them trying to equate superheroes not to race or ethnicity, but to people born with natural aptitudes. If you look at it from that lens, the movie’s message is “use your natural talents to the benefit of everyone,” and it’s only people who choose to use them for selfish reasons or out of spite, that are bad. After all, all the villains are naturally superhumanly intelligent in order to make their devices, but they could easily just do what Syndrome suggests in the first movie: Sell all of their gadgets and make everyone super. It’s meant to be villainous in the way that Syndrome is suggesting it, but, seriously, how is that a bad idea?

Well, in this movie, we’re actually given hints that some other people have done exactly that. While the movie still takes place in 1963 (based on The Outer Limits airing in one scene and the fact that the last movie took place over several months), we see some technology which is far ahead of its time, like digital video files and a commercial mag-lev train. So, maybe, there are some people who are using their talents for the betterment of mankind. Granted, you’d think that Syndrome’s patents alone would have moved us forward 50 years, but maybe he just kept most of his stuff secret. Still, the movie series does have a tone of “super-strong = good, super-smart=bad,” which, to be honest, is a common thing in superhero comics (Superman v. Lex Luthor). Without a Batman or a Mr. Terrific or a Tony Stark to counter it, though, it does just stay at “strong good, smart bad.” And I’m not a fan of that message, even if not deliberate.

Incredibles2LexLuthor
A villain… who regularly advances science by decades.

But, all of that aside, I’d like to address another message that really comes up more in this film. The premise of the film is a debate about whether or not we should have superheroes. It’s pretty similar in some ways to the debate in Captain America: Civil War, only in this one every country has a ton of supers, as opposed to Civil War, where there really are only a hundred or so on Earth until the Inhuman spread happens… and even then, it still seems like there are less than a few thousand (I’m not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).  And that debate is something I’m gonna address more in the future, but for now, let me state how I see both sides, at present.

On the one side, the supers, who want the freedom to do good works and help people without the government getting in the way. On the other, the government, who see supers as a giant problem since they’re basically destructive vigilantes who are not held accountable for most of their actions. Since the focus of the movie is on the supers, who do you think seems more reasonable in the narrative? Hell, at one point, a government agent says that politicians don’t like altruism, because they don’t understand it. That’s mostly true, if a cheap generalization that reflects poorly upon the American people, but that’s not why you wouldn’t want superheroes fighting in your cities. You don’t want supers because they cause a ton of collateral damage. The movie even acknowledges this when they state that A) when Mr. Incredible tries to thwart crime, he causes a huge amount of the city to be destroyed and B) when it’s revealed that his cost/benefit analysis to the city is not good. That’s actually why they choose his wife, who can avoid collateral damage and casualties, to be the face of superheroics. And that’s where we kind of run into an issue.

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See, no one should have a problem with Elastigirl being a superhero. She’s well-trained, she prioritizes minimizing casualties and collateral damage, and she tries to avoid conflict when possible. In an age of Man of Steel, this is a reminder of the right way to do things. But what about Mr. Incredible? He’s done nothing to earn being a superhero besides being born super-strong and deciding to help people. His attempts to stop one of the villains takes out several buildings. In the first film, failing to effectively dispose of a bomb (like, by throwing it upwards?) results in him having to stop an elevated train, causing massive injuries onboard. While a good Samaritan law would probably protect him when he saves a suicidal jumper, this one is probably a lot more ambiguous and might actually have cost him his immunity from liability, since he’s saving them from what could be considered his own reckless actions.

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Oh, and supers can wreck your livelihood for petty reasons.

And what about all the public works? The movie actually points out that it’s easier to just let some of the villains get away with insured funds than to risk destroying significantly greater amounts in property by fighting them. It actually reminded me of an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, where the girls blow up a multi-million dollar bridge to stop robbers from stealing a few hundred dollars. It’s pretty reasonable for this to piss off city managers. Since supers have been illegal for like 12 years at this point, clearly the authorities actually have ways of dealing with supervillains that’s worked pretty well. It’s not like supers are shown to have a positive effect on crime rates, the world seems more peaceful in the present, if anything.

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Look, if you can do good, you should, but doing good recklessly can often result in a net bad. And “good” is so nebulous in the real world that it can be a troublesome to even determine it in the first place unless you have both a strong moral compass and a keen mind to direct it. So, is the government in the right? Well, no. In both Civil War and here, the responses to superheroes are too extreme (and moreso in the Marvel Comics “Civil War”). Some superheroes like Elastigirl and Captain America are a net positive that are only slowed down by government control. Superheroes like Tony “I create all of my own villains” Stark, the Hulk, and Mr. Incredib-ly Destructive are not, unless they’re in a situation where the alternative to their involvement is mass devastation. The key here is that your solution doesn’t have to be either “all supers are relatively free from consequences” or “no supers can exist.” There are a ton of fictional worlds that figure out a reasonable middle ground. While they don’t elaborate, hopefully, the movie has found one in the new superhero laws.

Then there’s the villain’s monologue justification for why they hate supers. Basically, it’s that relying on supers prevents people from being able to grow and take care of themselves. This basically suggests that humanity should be more Darwinian, with the weak dying off so that the strong can continue, and only those who become strong deserve to. This doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but the movie does make a point that relying solely on help from others does cause issues. Just like with the other issue above, this one is presented as a bit of a binary, with the good guys saying “you can count on others.” Again, the truth is, you can’t always, but most of the time you can. However, since we seem to have an outbreak of mistrust in our fellow man running throughout the world, I do support a movie saying that you can count on other people to help you.

So, basically, the messages in the movie might not always be the clearest, but I think overall it’s not that bad. It’s a kids’ movie, after all, and it hints at some debates about the balance between government regulation and personal liberty that have been going on since the dawn of time. That’s pretty ambitious. Overall, the general message of the movie is “just be a good person and do good things for others,” so I really can’t get down on it too much, and it’s such a great film in general that it’s hard to criticize it. Just see it for yourself.

JOKER’S REBUTTAL

Just see the movie, guys.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews. If you want more from the Grouch on the Couch, check out his rants here, and wait a few weeks for another big entry.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The Grouch on the Couch’s Father’s Day Awards

By: The Grouch on the Couch

Well, I made a list of fictional moms, so it only seems fair to do a list of fictional dads. Just like before, I picked a number, in this case 6, then picked 4 at random from a list of fictional fathers. These aren’t the “best” fathers, but they’re the ones I remember.

THE “CHANGE-OF-LIFE DAD” AWARD

George Banks (Steve Martin in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II)

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We only see George Banks at two points in his life. First, when he finds out that his 22-year-old daughter is going to marry a man she only has known for six months. Despite the fact that George doesn’t particularly like his new potential son-in-law, it becomes obvious that he just always loved her being “daddy’s girl” and doesn’t want that to change. Still, by the end of the first movie, he’s accepted that it’s part of life that your kids will leave, but that they’ll still love him. The second time we see George, it’s as he becomes a grandfather and, at the same time, a father again. Managing to panic simultaneously about being too young to be a grandfather and too old to be a father, George really embodies two natural fears of most men at the same time.

Steve Martin’s performance in these films always managed to be hilarious while not being disingenuous. The things that George is feeling are the things that many people in his position would feel. Despite that, he is a loving, caring father and a decent husband, though his wife, Nina (Diane Keaton), is pretty much better than him at dealing with anything. George isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty real. Also, every scene of him bonding with his kids over basketball is gold.

THE “DAD YOU LEAST WANT TO MESS WITH” AWARD

William Munny (Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)

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Unforgiven is one of the best Westerns ever made, because it’s the anti-Western. Everything that always seemed noble and idealistic about the Western Genre is run through a blender and mixed in with heavy doses of reality. The central bounty in the movie, for example, is offered by a group of prostitutes after a man disfigures one of them for laughing at the size of his genitals. Not something I remember from Roy Rogers.

The main character of the film, William Munny, is a retired gunman who is convinced to take up the bounty because otherwise he’ll lose the farm and his children’s future. In order to spare his kids from ever having to do what he’s done, Munny tracks down the cowboys. However, at the end of the film, he has to face down an entirely different posse to ensure his family’s safety and to avenge a fallen comrade. The movie, which up until this point has gone out of the way to say that there is no “cowboy who rides into town and faces down a posse without dying” then proceeds to show Munny doing EXACTLY THAT. He kills a dozen men brutally all by himself, then returns home to his family, where he, again, swears off killing.

THE “BEST DAD, WORST HUSBAND” AWARD

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire)

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Daniel Hillard isn’t the best husband. He basically dumps every responsibility in the marriage on his wife and it really isn’t that surprising when she can’t take it anymore. Due to his instability, he’s only allowed limited time with his children, something that doesn’t sit well with him, but that anyone in social work would probably agree with. But, rather than, you know, working on getting a better job or making a better home environment for his kids, he decides to A) gaslight the hell out of his now-ex-wife and B) dress up as a 60-year-old English woman and be the children’s nanny. These are not the responses of a person who you want watching over kids, something the movie flat-out tells you when a judge restricts his custody further after he’s exposed.

There’s no doubt that Daniel loves his kids. At one point he compares them to air, because he can’t live without them. And that’s really the biggest redeeming thing in the movie. As Daniel says, he can only admit that his actions were crazy because he could not live in a world where he didn’t see his kids more and, being a creative person rather than a logical one, this was the best solution he could come up with. With almost any other actor, I think this movie would fail, but Robin Williams never wavers on this being a man doing what he thinks is right. So, yeah, he went overboard, but he’s still a pretty good father, especially by the end of the movie, where he’s finally taking more responsibility for his parenting.

THE “DAD WHO DEFINED OVERBOARD” AWARD

Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase in the Vacation Films)

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Clark W. Griswold dreams big. Everything he does has to be big and bright and extreme, but it’s all because that’s how he thinks family’s bond. Credit to him, by the end of every film, the family does seem to be pretty tightly-knit, although his kids are usually recast by the next movie. From amusement parks to Europe to Vegas, Clark takes his family on wild adventures that often result in some form of legal trouble and marital strife, and it’s almost always directly his fault. And when they stay home for Christmas, well, as his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) notes “we’re all in hell.”

However, the best thing about Clark, for me, will always be his rants. Usually, at some point in the movie, something will go wrong that isn’t Clark’s fault, and Clark will snap. These are typically so hilarious that even the cast has trouble pretending to be scared by Clark’s conduct, rather than laughing their asses off. I end this entry with a quote from the best one: “Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

THE “CUTEST PAIR OF POPS” AWARD

Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Modern Family)

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Cam and Mitchell are adorable. Mitch is an uptight, introverted, worrywart who is overly focused on work and his father’s approval while Cam is the free-spirit who loves to go out and make friends. Hell, any photo of the two of them kind of makes it obvious. Mitch usually wears something conservative while Cam’s outfit’s a little more flamboyant. I love the hell out of Cam’s shirts, too. Despite this, Mitchell is often the more sensitive when dealing with confrontation while Cam, who is a former football player for University of Illinois, is more blunt and willing to use his intimidating size. However, as cute as they are in their “opposites attract” marriage, they’re better as parents.

Cam and Mitch adopt their Vietnamese daughter, Lily, at the beginning of the series, and from then on are two loving fathers, constantly doting on their little bundle of joy. While Lily didn’t speak for the first two seasons, after she starts verbalizing, she quickly starts to pick up the funniest parts of both of her fathers: Cam’s over-the-top drama queen emoting and Mitch’s sarcasm and wit. The two often run into conflicts over how they want to raise their daughter, with Cam being more experimental and Mitch being more traditional, but they ultimately manage to give their daughter the best of both worlds.

THE “DAD EVERYONE SHOULD TRY TO BE” AWARD

Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith in The Andy Griffith Show)

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Mayberry isn’t real, and neither is someone as almost unfailingly good as Sheriff Andy Taylor, but they weren’t supposed to be. Andy Taylor was a single father whose wife died shortly after childbirth and set out to raise his son, Opie (Ron Howard), with the help of the woman who raised him, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). Throughout the series, Andy always tends to be seen as folksy and naïve, but with a deep font of wisdom and virtue beneath, and those are the values he tries to pass on to his son. There’s already an entry on this site about one of the best examples of Andy’s parenting, but any given episode is likely to show an example.

It’s pretty telling that one of the most famous images of father-son bonding is the opening to the show, of Andy and Opie heading out to go fishing, Opie running ahead and playing with the rocks while Andy watches over him with a steady stride.

THE “DAD YOU SHOULD PROBABLY NOT BE” AWARD

Hal Wilkerson (Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle)

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Malcolm in the Middle was a show about people who were pretty much failures. The eldest son, Francis (Christopher Masterson), is such a problem that he ended up dropping out of military school to go to Alaska, all in the name of spiting his mother. The next son, Reese (Justin Berfield), is a criminal to the extent that he has a regular cell at the jail and refuses any scholastic endeavors, intentionally failing to graduate once. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz), despite being a supergenius, is constantly in trouble and jeopardizing his future by trying to keep up with his two older brothers. The youngest son, for most of the series, Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan), is also extremely intelligent and talented, but is typically the victim of his big brothers’ antics. The kids are so misbehaved that it pretty much takes the iron will of their mother, Lois (Jane Kaczmerak), to keep them in line. And that’s because Hal doesn’t really step up much.

Hal’s not much of a disciplinarian, he often joins his kids in troublemaking, and he often gets so caught up in fads and obsessions that he ignores his family. Moreover, it’s all because he loves banging his wife. No, really, in one episode, Hal and Lois can’t have sex for 2 weeks and become successful parents and people. But, Hal’s not a “bad” dad. He loves his kids, even though they drive him nuts, and he does try to help them when they’re in trouble. At the end of the series, though, it’s revealed that everything he and Lois do is part of Lois’s master plan to have Malcolm become the best president in US History, which… makes it better, maybe?

THE “BEST ADOPTED DAD” AWARD

“Uncle” Philip Banks (James Avery on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

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Philip Banks was a rebel in his youth. He was a civil rights activist in Selma in 1965, he heard Malcolm X speak, and he was the first black child to use a white toilet in North Carolina during segregation. Then, he got a scholarship to Princeton, then went to Harvard Law, and became super wealthy with a mansion in Bel-Air. He has three kids of his own, and then agrees to take in his wife’s nephew, Will (Will Smith), with whom he constantly spars. Will thinks that Phil is a sellout, while Phil says Will doesn’t show him enough respect for all the work he put in helping to advance race relations. This isn’t helped by Phil’s son Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who acts like a stereotypical WASP. However, as the series goes on, Will slowly becomes a part of the family.

Then, there is the episode where Will’s dad, Lou (Ben Vereen), comes back. Now, up until this point, they hadn’t really addressed what happened with Will’s dad, but it turns out that he just abandoned his family after Will was born. He comes back, trying to bond with Will, who quickly grows close to him, before trying to leave again. Phil angrily confronts Lou about shirking his responsibilities as a father, which Lou quickly just says he “didn’t want.” Lou then leaves Will again, leading Will to tell him off in one of the most emotional scenes on TV, before finally hugging Phil, with Phil finally being the father Will never had.

THE “BEST DAD IN FILM” AWARD

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird)

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Atticus Finch will consistently top any list of best fictional lawyers, but I also have to put him on here as a great father. Atticus is one of the few people in fiction to really try to teach his children the lesson that it doesn’t matter what people think of you as long as you can look inside and know that you’re doing the right thing and that it’s never worth fighting someone just over name calling. In both the movie and the book, we’re shown how much it hurts his daughter Scout to think of her father as a coward, though she later realizes that’s the last adjective to put on him.

At the end of the film/book, Atticus has proven that he is the best man within the town, but, rather than ending with the trial or the departure of Boo Radley, the book ends with Atticus calmly holding his daughter before carrying her in to bed. That’s the real triumph, that, after the events of the story, Atticus returns to just being a normal father, devoted to his children from the beginning to the end.

I’m not considering the “sequel” book when making this determination, just the film. In Go Set a Watchman, people felt betrayed by Atticus Finch now being an advocate for segregation. What’s interesting is that, apparently, this may be because it was written first and Atticus Finch was based on Harper Lee’s father, who originally favored segregation before later supporting integration by the time Lee re-wrote the book into To Kill a Mockingbird. So, it’s possible that Atticus’s reversed opinions is based on the order of authorship being reversed. Still, at the end of that book, the message is that Scout still loves her father because her father loves her and has always been supportive of her even when they disagreed, so he’s still a pretty great dad.

I dedicate this to my own father, to whom I am a perpetual disappointment, but who I respect above all other men.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews. If you want more from the Grouch on the Couch, check out his rants here, and wait a few weeks for another big entry.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Firefly Fridays – Episode 11: “Trash”

Hey, I don’t have to say anything about this episode’s airing order, because it didn’t ever air during the original run. Yay?

SUMMARY

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I considered making this all the images in this post. Really.

The episode opens with a naked Mal sitting on a rock in the desert saying “yeah, that went well.” It then flashes back to three days earlier where Mal is meeting up with a former comrade-in-arms and current smuggling buddy Monty (Franc Ross). Monty and Mal chat before Monty reveals he’s just gotten married and wants Mal to meet his wife, Bridget. When Bridget arrives, she and Mal immediately pull guns on each other, because she’s Mal’s ex-“wife” Saffron (Christina Hendricks) from “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” Monty separates the pair and Mal explains. Saffron denies Mal’s story, but accidentally (or not, she’s really clever) uses Mal’s full name, resulting in Monty abandoning her on the planet with Mal.

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HE SHAVED HIS BEARD FOR YOU, DEVIL WOMAN!!!

Saffron attempts to seduce Mal, but he rebuffs her. She begs him for a ride, saying that she’ll die if she’s left on the lifeless planet they’re on now. Mal seems less than concerned about that eventuality. Then, Saffron tells him she had a heist planned with Monty that is worth a lot of money and she’ll let Mal in on it. Mal pulls a gun on her as Serenity lands on the planet.

Back on the ship, Mal is taciturn, confusing the crew. Inara invites him to her shuttle, which makes him suspicious that she’s trying to manipulate him for some reason. It’s revealed that the conversation is based around the fact that Inara hasn’t had any clients in weeks because Mal keeps picking jobs on planets too poor to afford her. She asks Mal if there’s a reason, but he denies it, then says that he’ll find her a planet full of “Lonely Rich yet appropriately Hygienic” men. She tries to ask him about a middle ground, but Mal, having had a bad day, quickly tells her that he’ll stay out of her “whorin’” if she stays out of his “theivin’.” Inara points out that Mal’s recent jobs haven’t made any money, then accidentally calls him a petty thief. Mal tries to disagree, but the point has been made: Mal’s been small-time lately. Mal starts to say that he could get a big job immediately but stops short. He leaves and goes to a crate in the cargo bay. Inside is Saffron. Mal tells her he’s willing to listen to her about her heist.

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It’s like a spider who knows how to unzip flies.

Mal and Saffron join the crew for dinner, where Saffron explains the job: steal an artifact called “The Lassiter” from a rich guy named Durran Haymer (Dwier Brown). The Lassiter is the first hand-held laser ever made and is basically priceless… except in the sense that people would pay a fortune for it. Saffron states that Haymer made his fortune off of making bio-weapons for the Alliance during the war, which allowed him to steal from rich neighborhoods by gassing them and taking their valuables. Saffron has Haymer’s schedule, security codes, and a layout of his compound, so it should be an easy job to walk in, grab the gun, and leave.

Wash asks Mal why Saffron is even on the ship, but Mal deflects. Jayne asks why Saffron doesn’t just do it herself, but Saffron admits that while she found a way IN to the compound, she hasn’t found a way out. Inara enters and tells Mal that Saffron cannot be trusted, but Mal rebuffs her. Zoe points out that Inara is right, but Mal says that he’ll be watching her the whole time. Zoe agrees to help, then punches Saffron in the face.

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This smile is unique to people who are about to punch someone in the face.

Mal sends Jayne to tell Simon and River to stay hidden so that Saffron won’t figure out they have a bounty on their heads. River hints again that she knows Jayne betrayed them, this time by saying things with female pronouns so that they could apply to Saffron, but then saying “Jayne is a girl’s name.” After Jayne leaves, River says that he’s “afraid we’ll know.” Simon takes this seriously.

Inara tells Zoe she’s going to be off the ship while they’re on the heist planet, Bellerophon. She warns Zoe not to let Mal alone with Saffron. As the heist plays out, the scene flashes back and forth between the planning and the execution. Mal and Saffron go in through a backdoor, blending in with help hired for a party at the estate. The plan is that, after they get the Lassiter, they will dump the gun in the trash, which is automatically removed by drone. Kaylee will hijack the drone to bring the trash bin to the middle of the desert, where they will retrieve it. However, in the process of reprogramming it, Jayne gets electrocuted and knocked unconscious.

Mal and Saffron make their way to the gun, only for Haymer to walk in on them. Rather than being furious or suspicious, he’s thrilled to find out that his wife is back. Yolanda, as Saffron is known by Haymer, has apparently been missing for 6 years. The entire time, Haymer has been looking for her, clearly worried for her safety and still in love with her. Saffron concocts a story about having been sold into slavery, saying that Mal was a good Samaritan who gave her a ride back. After Haymer steps out, the pair finish the theft while Mal observes that this is the only husband Saffron has that she actually seems to care about. Saffron restates that Haymer is a monster, but Mal doesn’t seem to buy it.

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HE’S A HUG MONSTER.

He says that Haymer is her actual husband, leading her to pull a gun on him just as Haymer returns. Saffron tries to cover, but Mal quickly confesses. Saffron ends up aiming the gun at Haymer, upset at the fact that he now knows who she is. Mal draws his own hidden weapon, forcing her to drop her gun. She asks Haymer if he really thought she would stay with him in his private castle. He says he hoped, which she calls foolish. He says he pities her, which she mocks, until he reveals he called the police the moment he found them, saying “I love you, Yolanda, but I couldn’t think for a second that you actually came here for me.” On cue, the police approach the house. Saffron knocks Haymer out.

Mal and Saffron escape from the police, either using the security system to buy time or through brute force, until they make it back to the shuttle. On the ship, Mal and Saffron talk. Mal points out the Saffron could have stolen the Lassiter any time in the last 6 years but cared enough about Haymer not to until she had no choice. Saffron admits that she did try to make it work with Haymer, but ultimately couldn’t. Mal remarks that he’d seen her without clothing but had never seen her naked before. He tries to comfort her, only for her to pull his gun out of his holster. She forces him to strip, telling him she’s going to leave him in the desert.

Back on Serenity, it’s revealed that Saffron sabotaged the ship’s steering, meaning that they can’t make the rendezvous. Saffron abandons Mal in the middle of the desert, naked, before going to the drop site for the Lassiter. There, she digs through the trash dump until Inara ambushes her. Inara reveals that she and Mal had planned for Saffron’s betrayal, knowing that she would believe Inara’s anger at Mal would be genuine. She traps Saffron in the trash bin, then leaves.

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In Serenity’s infirmary, Jayne awakens to find out that he’s paralyzed from the neck down. Simon explains that he knocked out Jayne’s motor functions to keep Jayne from exacerbating the spinal damage from when he was knocked out. Jayne asks if his spine will be okay, but Simon doesn’t answer, instead asking how much he got for selling them out on Ariel. Jayne denies it and calls for help, but the only one nearby is River. Simon leans in and, in one of the most oddly badass moments in the series, tells Jayne that he will never, ever, harm Jayne. Simon says that he doesn’t know if Jayne’s going to betray them again, but Simon is going to trust him and Jayne should do the same. It’s an amazing moment that really drives home how unusual Simon is as a protagonist, having someone who betrayed him completely at his mercy and just forgiving him.

FireflyEp11SimonJayne

River, on the other hand, helpfully reminds Jayne that, if he tries it again, she could kill him with her brain. It’s never addressed as to whether or not she can actually do that, but since she kills a man with a pen in the R. Tam Sessions without blinking and kills a room full of Reavers without taking a hit in Serenity, it’s probably a moot point. If she can’t give Jayne an embolism, she could probably just rip his organs out in alphabetical order with a pair of scissors.

FireflyEp11MalNaked

Back in the desert, Mal repeats the opening scene, saying “that went well,” but it’s revealed that he’s talking to Inara. She questions if it really went well but Mal says that they got the loot, so it’s a win. Inara points out that her intervention was the failsafe, but Mal jokingly asks her how sad she’d be if she hadn’t gotten to play her part. Inara responds “heartbroken.” Mal walks back to the ship naked, acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary, evoking reactions from Kaylee, Zoe, and Wash. He ends up smiling at the desert as they take off.

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END SUMMARY

It’s hard to say it, but this is a solidly bottom-tier episode for me. It’s still a pretty enjoyable hour of television, but it just isn’t as great as other hours of this show.

One big drawback is the Inara reveal. It just… it makes sense, but it also really doesn’t make sense. Based on the dialogue at the end, Inara had been in on the heist since before Mal took Saffron out of the crate, since they told the crew about it before they saw her. But, how exactly did that conversation play out? Inara calls him out for being a petty thief, and Mal goes “what a coincidence, I picked up Saffron and she might have a big heist that she’s definitely going to screw us on if it’s real. Want to bail me out if she manages to outfox all of us?” It just seems like there was no way for Inara to be so far ahead of the game based on the conversation they were having before the heist.

Another is that this is the third heist episode, but it’s not as fresh as “The Train Job” or as fun as “Ariel.” I mean, yes, they’re thieves, so there were going to be heists, but that means you need to lean harder into the other aspects of the show to keep it fresh, and this episode doesn’t really play to Firefly’s strengths. The dialogue is great, as is the acting, but this is judging Firefly in reference to itself, so those were pretty much gimmes from the beginning and don’t count for much.

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Not enough of the blend of Western and Sci-fi that we find in the others.

What really bothers me, though, is Saffron. In “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” Saffron has everything about her plan in place well before she’s onboard, down to her smallest actions designed to sow discord or create arousal. The only mistakes she makes are underestimating Wash’s love for Zoe and not being able to improvise perfectly when she runs into Inara, and her plan STILL goes off mostly without a hitch if Jayne can’t pull off a perfect series of shots while flying through space. She’s about 3 minutes from taking out the entire crew, even with the troubles.

But, in this episode, she screws up by calling Mal by his name right off the bat. Now, if this was part of her plan to get on Mal’s ship, that’s one thing, but it never feels like that. Instead, it comes off as Arsène Lupin tripping over his own feet. (If you didn’t get that reference 1: read the Lupin books by Maurice Leblanc, they’re amazing, I promise, and 2: think of it as Carmen Sandiego being blinded by her own hat and running into a wall). At that point, she’s almost abandoned in the desert to die because she’s left alone with a guy who she openly tried to murder. Then, despite supposedly having Haymer’s schedule, she picks a time he’s at home for the heist and, when busted, she doesn’t realize that Haymer’s not buying her cover, allowing him to call the police. She’s just nowhere near the amazing level of antagonist she was in her debut.

FireflyEp11SaffronGun
Which is why she relies more on guns in this episode.

Part of this is because they really wanted to go into her background, and the only way to really do that in this setup is to have them get caught. The revelation that she had an actual husband and dreams of normalcy is a lot to add to the character, and a great decision, but the episode kind of over-indulges in it by having Mal and Saffron have the same kind of talk about it two or three times. And, again, while it fleshes out the character, the WAY in which it is done reduces the amazing image of her as someone who is both independent and almost completely in control from “Our Mrs. Reynolds.”

Now, counter to all of this is the fact that Christina Hendricks’s portrayal of Saffron is still amazing and, even if they might make her a little less competent, she’s a great character who manages to almost succeed except for Inara’s intervention. So, overall, she’s still a plus to the episode.

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The rather large portion of the episode dedicated to reprogramming the trash unit is intense, but it also takes longer than it probably should. The show has action in it, but the strength of Firefly has always been the characters, and we don’t get much of that from those scenes.

Simon’s scene with Jayne remains one of my favorite moments in the TV show, because it really brings home how powerful it is to forgive an enemy, but moreso when you have them completely at your mercy and tell them that you won’t hurt them. Since humanity has a tendency to turn towards revenge and selfishness first (as Jayne did), it was great to see someone go the other way. Simon proves he’s the bigger man.

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And River… is River

Also, just on a side note, this is one of the few episodes where the characters invoke the fact that they sometimes speak random Chinese. When Inara calls Mal petty, she corrects herself to 琐细, which Mal says is “Chinese for petty.” The Chinese language drops throughout the series have always been a great touch, since it points out that it’s not just America that survives into the future and it makes sense that the other major power (based on predictions from 2002) would be China, since it had the population and the manufacturing ability to migrate to space if pushed.

And, finally, I’m going to give credit for naming the planet Haymer lives on “Bellerophon.” In Greek Mythology, Bellerophon is the man who slays the Lycian Chimera, a monster which is three animals combined into one (Typically, a dragon/snake, a goat, and a lion). Saffron is a woman who is notable for being a combination of many different female characters she plays, leading to Mal referring to her as YoSaffBridge at one point just to drive it home. Haymer is the only man who ever got her to care about him. Just like Bellerophon, Haymer took the Chimera’s heart. Whether that was intentional or not, I still think it works as a reference.

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Plus it looks like Bespin.

Overall, I just never liked this episode that much, but it’s still better than most of the stuff on television. I’d probably like it more if I really appreciated a naked Nathan Fillion, but, alas, I don’t. Update: Also, he was wearing a picture of Joss Whedon to cover his junk. Just figured people should know that.

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Still, fair’s fair.

Score: 1.5 Fireflies (or 1 Lassiter)

FireflyEp11Scale

See you next Friday, Browncoats.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf: Truth in Advertising and a Modernist Poem

In the pantheon of vs. media, this movie will always hold a special place, for much like Jem, this film is truly, truly outrageous. Unlike Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator, this movie doesn’t waste time with “set-ups” or “emotions” or “logical character arcs,” it just shows us what we came here for: A Sharktopus fighting a Whalewolf.

BACKGROUND

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So majestic.

So, this is the third Sharktopus movie. In the first movie, the government asked a mad scientist (Eric Roberts) to build a bio-weapon. He combined a shark and an octopus to create it, making a monster which can walk on land or swim through the sea, and also has spines and sharp clawed tentacles for reasons I can’t remember and don’t want to look up. The movie ended with them blowing up the monster.

The second movie, Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, involved a scientist finding Sharktopus’s egg and regrowing it, while another mad scientist (Robert Carradine) combines a pterodactyl and barracuda DNA to create another monster. At the end of the movie, Sharktopus makes its way into the Caribbean.

Sharktopus3Pteracuda

SUMMARY

10 seconds into the movie, Captain Ray Brady (Casper Van Dien VI) shows up to a funeral, on his own boat, that he is too drunk to attend or remember agreeing to host. Within 30 seconds, Sharktopus attacks the boat. It is now clear that this movie doesn’t believe in foreplay. It’s here for the f*ckin’, so grab the back of the couch and get ready for a ride. Sharktopus eats the coffin for the funeral, then the widow, resulting in Ray asking if they already paid.

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He’s now 49 years old. Really.

It then cuts to Ray in jail for boating while intoxicated and losing the widow at sea. Apparently, the police in the Dominican Republic don’t accept the “Sharktopus got her” excuse after the last three guys made it. Of course, the arresting officer is his ex-girlfriend, Nita (Akari “I played a completely different character in the last movie and no one cares” Endo), who is immediately tasked with tracking down a doctor who has been conducting illegal experiments in the Dominican Republic, Doctor Reinhart (Catherine “I’m literally a princess” Oxenberg). We see Reinhart and her assistant, Nurse Betty (Jennifer Wenger), performing procedures which really seem to be overboard for the Dominican Republic. Hell, they seem overboard for Chechnya in the early 90s. The only person to turn her down is an aging baseball player named Felix Rosa (Mario Arturo Hernandez).

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Rosa goes to a bar to hit on two young women but gets shot down and humiliated, leading to him drunkenly returning to Reinhart for her experimental procedure to make him great again. Unfortunately for him, the doctor is, in fact, a mad scientist (which happens a lot in this universe), who decides to mutate his DNA. After the first treatment, Rosa feels great, but quickly demands another, giving himself a blast of radiation, seemingly killing him. Meanwhile, the two young women run into Nita, who watches them get killed by Sharktopus, because that thing can appear out of nowhere.

Ray is bailed out by his first mate, Pablo (Jorge Eduardo De Los Santos), who borrowed the money from a voodoo priest named Tiny (Tony Almont). It turns out that Tiny wants the Sharktopus’s heart in repayment, not because it contains any mystical powers, but because the Sharktopus is trending on social media and Tiny thinks he could absorb its popularity to get laid. Yes, this is an actual thing in a movie that exists and was said by an actor who was paid to say it.

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You did a great job, man. Cash that check proudly.

Reinhart kicks Rosa’s dead body into the water, where Rosa begins to mutate. Reinhart takes him back to her lab, where his body is now decayed-looking, having claws with flipper-like webbing instead of hands. Reinhart realizes that the mutation needs another stimulus and, being a mad scientist, decides that it’s the full moon. She exposes him to the full moon, but we don’t see the result.

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It’s this. And also, so majestic.

Ray and Pablo are preparing to kill Sharktopus, but they’re joined by Nita, who forces her way onto the expedition. Back at the lab, Nurse Betty returns to find Reinhart passed out on the couch. Reinhart then reveals that she gave Rosa some blood, but that he needs more, specifically Betty. Rosa appears, now a combination of a killer whale, a gray wolf, and a man, a Whalewolf, and chases Betty through the town and into the ocean, where he eats her. Ray, Pablo, and Nita find the Sharktopus and attack it with a harpoon gun, but this just annoys Sharktopus. It attacks, knocking Nita into the water. When it attempts to kill Nita, however, it runs into Whalewolf, briefly skirmishing, allowing the crew to get away.

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Goodbye, Betty. You were the breast.

Ray returns to the dock to treat Nita and fix the engine that they blew in the escape. The group watches a parody of The Bachelor which is hilariously poorly scripted, and ultimately attacked by Sharktopus, which eats the winning girl. Nita heads to the show’s filming site. At Reinhart’s lab, the doctor tries to housebreak the now lupine-brained Whalewolf, but finds it impossible, so she releases it into the city. At a nearby Rec Center, two gangs are fighting, but are interrupted by Sharktopus and Whalewolf, who start eating the gang members and brawling until Nita and another officer detonate random gas tanks nearby, engulfing them in explosions.

Ray and Pablo are trying to avoid fixing the boat and finding Sharktopus, but Tiny uses his voodoo to force them to go back to work. They apparently try to build a weapon out of household objects, but find that they’re too incompetent to make anything useful. Meanwhile, the Bachelor parody has started filming again, miles away from the last site, but neither of the remaining girls wants to win, based on what happened to the last girl. They believe the winning flowers are cursed. The director grabs the flowers and lectures the girls about being foolish, but is eaten by Whalewolf. Whalewolf returns to the lab, where Reinhart says she’s leaving, because her experiment was to create the perfect human, and Whalewolf isn’t human.

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The movie dares to portray The Bachelor as tasteless.

Nita and her partner decide to investigate Reinhart, who is trying to flee the country. She tries to have the local animal shelter adopt Whalewolf, but Whalewolf realizes what’s happening and attacks her. Nita arrives to find a dying Reinhart before being attacked by Whalewolf. Ray gets attacked by Sharktopus and Pablo saves him by cutting off one of Sharktopus’s tentacles. They bring the tentacle to Tiny, hoping that it will suffice, but Tiny instead banishes them from the town, which I guess he can do.

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He’s Casper Van Dying to meet you. Yes, that was the best joke I had.

Ray calls Nita to say goodbye, but finds Nita wounded on the other end of the line. They head to the clinic and rescue her from Whalewolf, but it pursues them in a loose Jurassic Park parody. Eventually, they run into Sharktopus as well, resulting in the two monsters battling again, destroying property and killing crowds of people. Nita and Ray make it to the hospital, where they start to look for a way to get rid of the monsters. It’s revealed that Tiny might be able to gain some level of control over Sharktopus using the tentacle which Ray brought, so Ray plans on having Tiny get the two to fight, but it turns out Tiny plans on controlling both of them to take over the island. Tiny tries to have Ray killed, but Ray steals the Sharktopus voodoo doll and escapes using his “Drunken Nut Punch Kung Fu Juju,” which is exactly what it sounds like, if you think it sounds like pretending to be in a martial arts movie and hitting people in the balls.

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Surprisingly effective.

Nita realizes that, since Whalewolf used to be a baseball player, he’s going to head to the baseball diamond, where she and Pablo set up a giant electrified net and call in a airplane bombing run. Tiny pursues Ray, until Sharktopus arrives and eats Tiny. Thinking he’s controlling Sharktopus, Ray tries to befriend it, but it turns out that he hasn’t figured out how to work the idol and is attacked by the monster, who for some reason is now acting like a cartoon hunter pursuing wabbits rather than the unstoppable killing machine from earlier. It chases Ray to the baseball stadium. Meanwhile, Nita finds Whalewolf drinking out of the stadium toilets and lures it onto the field. The two fight, resulting in Whalewolf throwing Sharktopus into the net, killing it. Ray distracts Whalewolf with a pitching machine until the jets arrive and blow up Whalewolf. Ray and Nita kiss because they can. The last shot is of another voodoo priestess resurrecting Sharktopus from its leftover tentacle.

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END SUMMARY

This movie doesn’t mess around. From start to finish, almost every scene is Sharktopus or Whalewolf killing someone or trying to. Most monster movies believe in a slow build-up, but not this movie. One minute in, it’s got a Sharktopus, 15 minutes in, it’s got a Whalewolf, and they fight for the first time 10 minutes later. The rest of the movie is just humorous set-ups for the two to fight or murder random people.

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It reminds me of one of those trends in modernist poetry -or maybe post-modernist- where the poem has all of the extraneous words removed from the lines, causing it to jump directly from image to image. This movie just goes straight to the next scene, often with a jump-cut, and doesn’t try to do establishing shots or anything to give the audience time to adjust. While that doesn’t make the movie very emotional or give any stakes to the scenes, it tries to keep the interest by just keeping almost every scene intense throughout the movie, basically, there’s no rise and fall, since all the scenes that don’t feature the monsters are too short to really allow the audience to relax.

Sharktopus3EzraPound
Can’t remember the poetic style, but it’s similar to verbless.

This doesn’t really work as well in film as it does on the page, but it still is at least a pretty interesting way to go about it. Honestly, it might work if the movie was, well, better than Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. I think it’d be a very interesting structure for one of the more over-used horror models, like an alien invasion or a kaiju attack, but keeping the monsters constantly on the offensive from minute one would be really expensive if you don’t want them to look like crap.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s a reference, but Casper Van Dien’s character is named Ray Brady, which sounds like a play off of ROY Scheider as Martin BRODY from Jaws. Also also, despite the fact that they’re never on-screen together, Van Dien and Oxenberg were married at the time of filming, but got divorced after it aired, which I just find interesting. It wasn’t THAT bad, you two.

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Look, this isn’t poetry, and it isn’t even quite as good as Sharknado or Lavalantula, but it still has its good points. Plus, it has Casper Van Dien cockshotting 6 guys in sequence, which is the natural follow-up to playing Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers (kidding, I love that movie). I won’t say it’s worth your time, but if you enjoy SYFY movies, this is definitely one of the more entertaining ones.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Rick and Mondays – S1 E2 “Lawnmower Dog”

Okay, so, I’m definitely going to keep this series going, because, shortly after publishing the first post, I won a contest from Wisecrack’s “The Squanch” podcast (which you should listen to, as both myself and my Grouchier counterpart have now both stated we like their channel). When I got back home, I found this Pickle Rick figurine waiting for me. I consider this a sign from the universe.

PickleRickFigurine

And yes, it’s on the sofa from which I compose these wonderful works of critical non-fiction.

SUMMARY

Jerry is watching TV when Snuffles, the Smith family dog, comes up and gives him a begging look. Thinking that Snuffles wants to go outside, Jerry opens the door, but Snuffles instead pees on the carpet. Jerry, frustrated that the dog doesn’t understand commands, asks Rick to make the dog smarter. Rick halfheartedly warns against it, but quickly acquiesces so that he can leave with Morty. Rick puts a helmet on Snuffles which appears to make him roughly as intelligent as… I’d say a child.

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Rick takes Morty to the home of his math teacher Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson). Morty has been failing math (despite the fact that it is unbelievably low-level), so Rick has decided to go inside Goldenfold’s dreams and plant the idea to give Morty an A even though he doesn’t deserve it. If that sounds like Inception, that’s because it is, and Rick is shameless about ripping it off, then takes shots at the film’s defenders, including Morty.

Inside Mr. Goldenfold’s dream, Rick and Morty find themselves on a plane, similar to the original set-up in Inception. Rick and Morty pretend to be terrorists hijacking the plane to increase Morty’s grades, but Goldenfold actually fights back, controlling the dream. The pair end up grabbing one of Goldenfold’s fantasy women, Mrs. Pancakes, (Melique Berger) from the show everyone in the Rick and Morty multiverse seems to watch, and being sucked out of the plane. Unfortunately, Goldenfold has landed the plane and built a device which will save Pancakes while killing them. To buy time, Rick and Morty enter Mrs. Pancakes’s dreams.

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At the next dream level, Rick and Morty are in an S&M dungeon filled with strange creatures, as well as a heavily sexualized version of Summer. Despite Rick being immediately willing to join the interspecies orgy, he draws the line at incest (note: somehow no Game of Thrones references are made here). Unfortunately, refusing to have sex with Summer alerts the sub-subconscious that Rick and Morty don’t belong, so they knock out a Centaur and go into his dreams.

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I wish they’d put him in a gimp mask so I could call him Gimp-taur. But, it’s not to be.

At this dream level, the pair are in a boiler room which looks really familiar if you love Robert Englund. It’s red, rusty, and contains a small, creepy, child chanting a rhyme about its chief inhabitant. The two are quickly attacked by Scary Terry (Jess Harnell), who is described as a “legally safe knock-off of an ’80s horror character with miniature swords for fingers instead of knives” who calls people “bitch” all the time. Rick and Morty flee to another dream level by knocking out the creepy little girl, but they find out that Scary Terry can travel between dream levels to keep chasing them. Eventually, they hide for hours until Scary Terry gives up looking for them and goes back to his house.

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Meanwhile, Snuffles has been slowly gaining intelligence over the night. First, he attempts to talk to the Smiths, but can’t vocalize properly. After failing, he finds a panel in the front of the helmet which opens to reveal that only 1 of the 5 battery slots are full. Snuffles goes to the junk drawer and puts more batteries in. A little while later, Snuffles now has a mechanical arm and the helmet is able to interpret his thoughts, allowing him to speak (using Rob Paulsen’s voice). Jerry starts to take off the helmet but is stopped by Summer. Snuffles then watches a documentary on the history of dogs, builds several exo-suits and other intelligence-boosting helmets, recruits other dogs, and then confronts Summer and the Smiths over the treatment of dogs by humans… specifically their taking of his testicles. Snuffles, now calling himself Snowball, reveals that he plans to turn the tables on humanity.

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(Sigourney Weaver Voice) GET AWAY FROM MY TESTICLES, YOU BITCH!!!

Back in the sub-sub-sub-subconscious of Mr. Goldenfold, Rick and Morty follow Scary Terry back home where he lives with his wife Scary Melissa (Berger) and infant son Scary Brandon. That night, they go into Scary Terry’s dream… only to find that it’s just Scary Terry being mocked at school for not knowing the answers to pop quiz questions and forgetting to wear pants to class. Rick and Morty stand up for him in his dream, befriending him. When Scary Terry awakens, he has been incepted into being friends with them, resulting in him carrying them back through all the dream levels as a favor, finally incepting Goldenfold to give Morty an A in math.

Rick and Morty return home to find that there is a small army of dogs planning to take over humanity stockpiling weapons at the house. When Morty asks what happened, Rick casually outlines what we saw happen, while still saying he doesn’t know for sure. The two rescue the Smiths, but Jerry gets everyone captured again by thinking that he could pee on the weapons to make them his property. This is a plan so unbelievably dumb that it actually justifies how Morty could fail math despite being Rick’s grandson.

The dogs are shown conquering the world and reducing humanity to secondary status with the exception of Morty, who is treated as Snowball’s prized pet and given women and luxury. Rick reappears, supposedly a year later, and reveals that this is all a dream from the first night. Rick has gone into Snowball’s head with Morty, and dream time combined with dog time has allowed a night to become a year (though, if you do the math, it should actually be about 6 months). Rick poisons Morty, which leads to Snowball realizing that doing to humanity what humanity did to dogs makes them just as bad. Snowball awakens and leads the dogs off planet to form a Dog World.

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I guess all the animal shelters are for cats now.

END SUMMARY

No matter how many times I see this episode, it just never sticks out in my mind, but every time I re-watch it, I find myself laughing my ass off.

First, the references. The title’s a reference to The Lawnmower Man, about a scientist who increases a mentally handicapped man’s intellect to the point that he becomes cruel and ambitious, which is basically the plot of Snuffles’s story. They openly state the dream-jumping is from Inception and all-but-state that Scary Terry is Freddy Krueger. Snuffles’s new name of Snowball is a reference to Animal Farm, a story about animals overthrowing humans and something covered on this site before.

Scary Terry is one of my favorite parts of this episode. First, I love his design, since, rather than the burn-victim look of Freddy Krueger, Scary Terry appears to be made of purple testicle skin, which is somehow more off-putting. Second, the fact that he has a very boring and typical homelife when he isn’t terrifying and murdering people in their dreams is hilarious. Third, after watching this, whenever you watch the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies, it becomes so much more obvious HOW OFTEN Freddy says Bitch. It’s interesting that it seems to increase as the series got more ridiculous, almost like “Bitch” just provides an easy thing to call someone… which is why that’s Terry’s answer when caught off-guard in his nightmare. Which brings me to the last reason I love him: Scary Terry’s nightmares are the things that everyone has a nightmare of at some point, getting embarrassed in school, even years after you’ve graduated in real life. Compared to the kind of over-the-top craziness that usually defines the nightmares in the Elm Street franchise, this is just a freaking hilarious juxtaposition.

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I also love that they parodied Krueger’s signature “1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you” song, but this one goes way past the 5 verses that Freddy uses. We see it getting to Q and R with no sign of it stopping.

One of my other favorite parts of the episode is that none of the Smiths actually consider the implications of granting Snuffles intelligence, even though Rick warns them about it. The closest we come is Summer saying that it’s wrong to “endow a creature with sentience and then rip it away,” but when pressed about why, she just says it’s “Indian giving.” Beth actually points out that it’s not going to go well but does nothing about it. Despite all of the media about this exact situation, including the film that gives this episode its title, not one of them bothers to consider it. As someone who writes about pop-culture, this is a frustrating accuracy about people: Despite a concept being addressed in fiction repeatedly, no one ever actually relates it to their situation… which massively undermines the entire point of good fiction. Still, it was funny for the warning signs to be so over-the-top and yet completely ignored here.

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Yeah, this is the point where you stop giving the dog batteries, guys.

JOKER’S CRAZY THEORY CORNER

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I have a weird theory that Rick actually planned for everything with Snuffles to play out pretty much as it did. See, when Jerry confronts Rick about the dog, Rick goes to the garage and comes back with the helmet. It seems like it was specifically made by Rick in that 30 seconds or so, rather than something that Rick just had sitting around. I say that because Jerry suggests that Rick “whip up” something and Rick doesn’t correct him, as well as because the helmet perfectly fits Snuffles.

If Rick made the helmet for this situation, though, why did he put 5 battery slots in it? And why put them in a place that the dog could put the batteries in? He clearly knew how smart Jerry would want Snuffles to be and Rick already stated that making Snuffles smarter than that would be a thread Jerry wouldn’t want to pull. It seems like a weird flaw to over-design the helmet like that, especially for someone of Rick’s intelligence who was in a hurry.

RickAndMondayS1E2Snuffles4.png
And it already had a output ports for thought to voice transmissions.

Well, that’s because Rick wanted Snuffles to find the extra battery slots. Rick knew that the Smiths would abuse Snuffles’s new intelligence (such as Summer making him her footstool) and wouldn’t try to figure out what he wanted when he tried to talk to them. So, Rick figured that Snuffles would try to increase the helmet’s power and gave him a simple way to do it. After that, it was basically inevitable that Snuffles would realize that dogs have been mistreated by humanity (he doesn’t have testicles, after all), and stage a revolt that would result in the imprisonment of the Smiths. That’s why he immediately and dispassionately recites a summary of what happened in the episode when they return: Because he set the events in motion that led to it.

So, why would Rick do this? Well, because A) he’s Rick and B) Jerry was annoying him. Jerry was basically threatening Rick into using his god-like science wizardry, so Rick decided to go ahead and cut that off by satisfying Jerry’s wish in such a way that he would never ask him to do it again. And I’m pretty sure it works, since I can’t think of another time Jerry asks Rick to make something in the series.

On the Meta-level, I think it’s also possible Rick did this just so he could end the episode with a pitch for Justin Roiland’s failed series idea “Dog World,” which is why Rick even calls Snuffles “Ruffles,” the name of the Dog World lead character, at the beginning of the episode. He was setting this up even then as a fallback for if the show gets cancelled. After all, this was only episode 2.

Overall, I give this episode a

B+

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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